Tammie’s Take Thursday: Is the Haunted Mansion too scary for my child?

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Excitement is building, only 73 more days until I return “home” and the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party ads keep me singing along to “Grin Grinning Ghosts…”

Which has me reflecting on a question I get asked a lot, “Is Haunted Mansion too scary for my child?” My first response is always, “He/She is your child you know he/she best.”  That said, I am one of “those” mothers who drags her child onto rides crying and screaming, because…

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Truth be told this mom is a bit selfish when it comes to theme parks and rides, I do not want to miss anything.

Your visit to the Haunted Mansion begins through an interactive queue graveyard that will keep everyone (including) adults entertained as they wait to enter the mansion.  Look closely and you wild that the gravestones and crypts pay tribute to the Imagineers involved in creating the Haunted Mansion. The retheming of this area is simply magic, the time passes away quickly and if you are like me, you will wish the lines would slow down so you could play more.  The queue is great area to begin introducing your child to some of the things that they will see inside, far Less scary in the Florida sunlight.

Touring Tips… 

IMG_1955Just before you venture inside, find the tombstone of Madame Leota.  Her tombstone is unique as it contains her portrait, which occasionally comes to life!  If you watch closely enough you will see Leota open her eyes and look around.  This creepy effect is short lived making you question what you just saw. 

 

15180261078_a0981cd44fYou will then be invited inside by a maid/butler and ushered into the parlor where the walls will literally close in and stretch around you.  Does the ceiling go up or does the floor go down? (At Walt Disney World the room stretches, while at Disneyland it is an elevator).

WARNING:  A voice will surround you and truly the first scary moment will come at the end of the narration when the lightning flashes above you and the ceiling is opened. The organ music you hear in the stretching room is Grim Grinning Ghosts slowed down. In fact, it is the only song you hear during the ride and it gets faster as the ride progresses, till it climaxes in the graveyard.

Touring Tips…

maxresdefault (2)Have a few glow sticks for small children to be able to see with (and for you to see them). This part of the attraction is quite dark.

Want to avoid becoming a ghost when the walls open to the ride loading area?  Stand under the painting of the girl with the parasol because it’s where the door to the ride opens.

Hold firmly to your child’s hand when the door opens to the loading area, there is no “line” system and people tend to make a mad dash to the buggy loading area.

DoombuggiesOnce you leave the stretching room to be loaded into the “Doom” buggies.  Note that you will be loaded using a moving walkway.  This can be scary for children to try to get in while the sidewalk is moving beneath them.  Once in your buggy, the bar will lower itself (don’t be like me and keep pulling on it).  The buggy will then take you on a tour through the mansion and then finally through the graveyard.

Touring Tip…

Your buggy may stop during the ride, do not panic the ride is not breaking down.  What is happening is that a guest that needs assistance to get on or off the ride is being helped.  Disney Cast Members must stop the ride to stop the moving sidewalk in the loading area.

Along the way you will meet Madame Leota.  Madame Leota’s face is Leota Toombs, an Imagineer who created designs for many Disney attractions. And the ghost bride, watch the portraits closely and hold your teenage sons closer, she might just be looking for her next groom.

My favorite room is the Dining Room Scene.  Why?  I can remember as a child it featured in the opening clips of the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights.  Great memories of watching this show with my sisters. The ballroom dancing ghosts are the result of the Pepper’s Ghost Illusion. This effect is made by illuminating objects and reflecting onto a pane of glass!

Touring Tip…

When you enter the dining room scene with the dancing ghosts take a close look at the dining table. You should be able to spot a hidden Mickey in the plates.

Right before you enter the graveyard, you die! You fall from an attic window when your doom-buggy turns backward, and you go down to the graveyard scene. Notice from this point on in the ride that the ghosts don’t acknowledge you because you are now one of them. Here I feel the ride takes on a more upbeat tone, ironic since most people fear a graveyard at night.  The music gets faster and LOUDER, there is a party going on in the graveyard and the ghosts become sillier.  Look out for the ghost opera singer and of course the singing quartet.

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As you leave the graveyard, make sure you have not picked up any hitchhiking ghosts (check in the mirror carefully).

1 in front ofNow back to the original question.  Is haunted mansion too scary for my child?  Bottom line is to know your child…

Can they handle dark rides?  Build up to Haunted Mansion by first taking a ride on Peter Pan’s Flight.  If that ride goes well, then ride Pirates of the Caribbean.

Can your child separate reality from pretend?  If they can’t, you will certainly want to skip this one.

The great thins is that if ANYONE (including you) find the queue and the stretching room overwhelming you can ask a Cast Member to show you the exit before entering your doom buggy. There is always a “Too Cool for this Ride” out, do not be afraid to use it when needed.

It is always a good idea to know your ride.  If you go to YouTube and search Haunted Mansion you will find many POV (Point of View) videos.  Watch a few of them so you are prepared when the time comes to comfort your child if need be or to prepare them for what is next.

 

My 5-year-old loved Haunted Mansion his first time, but I also prepared him in advance for the ride.  One of our movie nights leading up to our trip featured the Eddie Murphy/Disney Movie of the same name, Haunted Mansion.

In the Haunted Mansion, you come face to face with nine hundred and ninety-nine happy haunts. The Mansion is full to the brim with eerie details, creepy ghosts, and sight gags. It is the perfect balance of spooky and funny, just make sure that you don’t become number one thousand.

Touring Tip…

Want to see and experience the Haunted Mansion at it’s finest hour?  Come and visit during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party!

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Tammie’s Take Thursday:  Refurbished Rooms at Coronado Springs Resort (CSR)

Up until last fall, Disney Coronado Springs Resort had never been on the top of my list to stay at.  After staying there last November, I find myself asking “Why not?”. This little hidden gem between Disney Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom quickly soared to the top of my list as a favorite moderate resort.   Disney Coronado Springs theming is inspired by northern Mexico and the American Southwest and set around a 22-acre-lake.

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Currently, Disney Coronado Springs Resort is going through a major construction. Walt Disney World is adding a 15-story tower to Coronado Springs Resort which will add 500 rooms to the resort and be located near the main complex, El Centro.  

Honestly, I didn’t even notice the construction except for when I was arriving or departing the resort and never heard anything. I am not going to share much about the resort as a whole, since by the time I stay there again everything will have changed.  But I will tell you that I found the pool, “Lost City of Cibola” to be excellent and the grounds beautiful.

 

Disney Coronado Springs is divided up into 3 sections, the Ranchos (Southwestern Cattle Ranch), Cabanas (Mexican Beach Resort) and Casitas (Spanish architecture from Mexico).  In addition to the tower being built, there are ongoing room refurbishments to the existing rooms during the expansion of Disney Coronado Springs. This is my take on the room renovation in the Ranchos Section ….

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When I received my room assignment text for the Rancheros, I was not pleased for several reasons… I wanted to be in a refurbished room, this section is the farthest away from El Centro and to me seemed most like the environment that I am from in my everyday life (I like to have new experiences on vacation),  but as I made my way to my room I found myself appreciating the walk (er, hike in the rain) thanks to the beautiful job Disney has done with the landscaping.

When I finally found my room (that is a whole different story), I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the door because this is what I was expecting…

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but I want I got was one of the newly refurbished rooms.  (Disney Magic Moment)

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The room has a beautiful modern,clean and  airy look to it in rich earth tone colors. The 2 queen beds are on a raised platform (leaving a wide open space underneath to store suitcases) and have massive headboard with reading lights above each bed.  

Between the two beds is a nightstand with enough convenient USB ports to charge all of your devices at once, telephone and a small thank you gift for putting up with the construction. The in-room safe is located in the middle of this table. I love the 3 Amigo artwork located throughout the room, just enough Disney to remind you where you are.

Across from the beds is one very long desk with built in drawers for storage and many more USB outlets.  I loved the reading light at the desk. There is also a mini-fridge, a Keurig coffee maker with coffee pods and ceramic mugs to drink from, and a HUGE flat screen television.  In the corner near the window is a nice comfortable sitting chair. In all of the refurbished rooms across different resorts, Disney is removing the carpet and laying laminate type flooring, here wood laminate.  I find this a welcome change and so much cleaner feeling overall.

The bathroom is separated from the sleeping area with barn doors.  I love being able to shut the bathroom off from the rest of the room.  The bathroom has a double marble vanity with lots of counter space and cupboards.  The closet has been replaced with a stand-up unit that houses the ironing board and iron.  The bathroom itself is pretty basic, but the rain shower head was delightful.

Rancheros section was so far away from the main part of the resort, El Centro, but the bus stop was right out the door which was an added plus for wanting to get to the parks quickly. The actual walk to El Centro only took about 10 minutes, I could have taken the bus as the last stop was El Centro before leaving to the parks but then I would have missed the beauty of Coronado Springs.  The “Dig Site” was a short 5 minute walk.

When selecting a resort, my biggest WANT is to be able to come back and relax after a full morning or day in the parks.  

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There’s something to say for being able to return to the resort with the ability to enjoy the most relaxing atmosphere possible. Can I come back and truly relax at Coronado Springs?  Yes, I from everything I experienced at Coronado Springs Resort it fits the relaxation requirement, so much so that I know recommend this resort to my clients despite the construction as my first choice in moderate resorts.

Looking for advice where to stay for your Walt Disney World Resort?  I have personally stayed most of the on-site Walt Disney World Resort Hotels and can give you an honest opinion on the rooms as well as the relaxation factor, just ask and when you book your vacation with me I will do everything possible to make the hotel stay just as magical as your park moments.

Tammie’s Take Thursday:  Rivers of Light

Rivers of Light is a nighttime show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and is located in the park’s Discovery River lagoon surrounded by Asia, Dinoland, and Discovery Island.  The nighttime spectacular uses music, boats, floats, water screens fountains, and fire to showcase the wide and vast world of animals and nature. The show (including pre-show) lasts about 30 minutes and the stadium seats about 5,000 people per show.

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The show begins with actors? dancers? performers? moving throughout the stadium seating filled with guests toward boats that are similar to a Chinese Junk (this takes about 15 minutes).  I have to admit that I was a little confused as to what the story was and their purpose. Later I learned that these performers were shamans. (Apparently, I did not do my background research BEFORE I saw the show).   The show begins when the Shamans board the boat and begin conjuring up the forces of fire and water to reveal the incredible natural world we live in, which is projected on a huge water screen at the back of the lagoon set to a soundtrack. Lotus flower lantern floats join the boats, along with color changing floats in the shape of an owl, elephant, turtle and tiger.  Throughout the show water fountains and fire also help to move the show along.

Last fall, I was was fortunate to be able to see Rivers of Light and here is my take on Rivers of Light…

DISCLAIMER:  These are MY opinions!  I tell clients that you need to experience things yourself if you are interested, different strokes for different folks. So please see the show if you are interested and form your own opinions.

So what did I think?

Eh…it was enjoyable.

The show is visually mesmerizing and beautiful. Disney has done an excellent job with sound, light, fire, visual effects to offer a much needed evening experience in Animal Kingdom.  And I like that this make Animal Kingdom a full day park, wait no I don’t because that means more people. But…

I found the show to be slow and lacking any kind of storyline to move it along.  The show seemed all over the place and scenes that did not connect to each other. There is no grand finale, it just seems to end. I have to admit after about 10 minutes I found myself wishing I was riding Expedition Everest behind me. I can’t imagine how antsy a child could get, oh wait I can.  I was seated by several children under the age of 5 and they were done about 5 minutes into the preshow and the actual show really did not seem to interest them but for a couple of times (usually when the fire effects were in use).

There is no “Disney” in Rivers of Light.  Call me strange, but Disney has so many incredible animal stories that I would think somehow that they could incorporate the music and images from these movies.  I know Disney wants Animal Kingdom to be all about conservation and protecting the natural world, but come on you could use familiar animal characters to help tell the story.

There is  not much you might call “spectacular” in this nighttime spectacular beyond being visually beautiful.  Spectacular to me is something that keeps me on my seat and wanting more…cue Wishes in the Magic Kingdom.

So how do you plan to fit it in your day?

First, DON’T WASTE AN ADVANCED FASTPASS+ (made at 60 days) on the show.  Also, don’t use a FastPass+ while you are in Animal Kingdom unless it is the end of the day and nothing else is available.  There generally are 2 performances each evening and the Pandora being opened the days of the difficulty in getting to see the show are gone, most guests prefer to experience Pandora at night (you can do both with planning).  If you decide to go stand-by, the last performance of the day will be the least crowded. I recommend lining up standby 45-60 minutes prior to showtime during peak crowd times.

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The best way (and probably my favorite) is to get a Rivers of Light Dining Package,  I loved my meal at Tiffins!. It does not cost you any extra to get a FastPass+ along with your meal, but you must book the package as just eating at the restaurant does not get you a FastPass+. This is the safe choice to make sure that you have a seat for Rivers of Light.  And if you go this route, I would opt for the earlier showtime so that you can explore the bioluminescence of Pandora or jump in the standby line for Flight of Passage (if it was not an unreasonable wait time). If you do have a FastPass+ for Rivers of Light, I recommend being seated about 30 minutes prior to showtime.  There is a 15 minute pre-show and the area will go dim about this time.

Despite all of this I do think that Rivers of Light is worth seeing, at least once. And you can bring food and drinks in with you…so BEFORE YOU ARE SEATED pick up some cute Lotus Flower light-up food and beverage items sold at nearby stands and BECOME PART of the show.

Have you seen Rivers of Light? What are your thoughts? Please leave your thoughts, reactions and comments.

Need more tips and help planning your Disney or Universal Vacation?  Contact me today for a free, No-Obligation quote and let’s start planning.  Remember all of my services are complementary when you book your vacation with me!

Tammie’s Take Thursday:  When is the Best Time to Ride Kilimanjaro Safari?

kiloLions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!  Okay maybe not bears and you can see the tigers in Asia, but if you get lucky you will see some lions.

Disney Kilimanjaro Safari is an exceptionally realistic imitation of an actual African photo safari where you and 35 of your closest new friends will aboard an open safari vehicle and be sent off into a simulated African Savannah habitat  Where you might get lucky and see…

Antelopes, Baboons, Black rhinos, Cheetahs, Crocodiles, Elephants, Flamingos, Gazelles, Giraffes, Hippopotamus, Hyenas, Lions, Okapis, Ostrichs, Warthogs, White rhinos, Wildebeests, Wild dogs and Zebras

Recently I was helping out a client in planning her itinerary and a question came up when was the best time to take a safari.  She had read that it was best to ride first thing in the morning. While I tend to agree that morning is the best, the way that Disney Imagineers have created the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction, anytime is a good time (except for in the middle of the day in the summer and I am just like the animals, avoiding the heat).

Through the careful placement of salt licks, fodder like hay and grass, and fresh water supplies, the animals are encouraged to stay close to the roads so that you can see them when you ride by in the safari vehicle. Additionally, Disney uses air conditioned rocks and other temperature “tricks” to coax the animals to stay within view of the guests on the safari ride.

Disney uses water features, moats, electric fences, and natural barriers to keep the animals within their proper areas. Additionally, cattle guards, wires, and chains are placed on the ground to prevent the animals from crossing into other areas. And of course all of this is hidden from guests.

I have ridden the Kilimanjaro different times of the day on every trip and each time the safari is different.  Recently, I rode late on a afternoon in November near Sunset and had probably the best safari ride I have ever had. I saw several animals that I had never seen before including the hyenas and the black rhino.  The animals were all quite active, in complete view and close to the safari vehicle.

On my next trip this fall, I am planning to experience the safari at night. Disney Imagineers have installed a baseball stadium–size wall of graphics displays at the far end of the tour’s savanna grasslands. When turned on late in the day, the displays are programmed to simulate the dusk of a setting sun for hours on end. It provides theme park guests enough light to see those animals still roaming around. Disney also spent a year acclimating the existing animals and new nocturnal species to life at Disney.  I understand the actual safari pace is slower at nighttime and many animals are more active, while it is almost impossible to see other animals.

There are a few things that you need to know before you take off on your safari…

  • If you are taking photos, keep in mind that the vehicle does not always stop.  Be prepared to snap at anytime. Most stops are rolling stops. Drivers do their best to stop in places where big animals can be spotted.
  • You can expect long lines beginning 30 minutes after park opening until mid afternoon.
  • Sitting near the front of the safari truck will lessen the bumping that you feel as you travel. Sitting near the back of the truck will make the ride feel more bumpy and jumpy.
  • The ride can be rough and some people get scared crossing an “old bridge” that seems to collapse under your truck.
  • The ride lasts for about 20 minutes.
  • Each safari jeep hold 36 passengers with up to 5 people across and there are not seat belts.
  • Try to sit on the left side of the vehicle (side farthest when you board your jeep) since most of the animal sanctuaries are located on that side.

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I guarantee that no safari ride will be the same.  No matter matter what time of day, rest assured that it will be an “Hakuna Mata” adventure, sit back and enjoy the safari.  And when you get off you will find yourself at the start of the Pangani Forest Trail,make sure that you explore this trail for closer looks at some the animals you saw on the safari as well as few new ones.

Bonus Fun Facts

  • Kilimanjaro Safari is 110 acres and It is the largest attraction in all of the Disney parks with regard to area covered. The entire Magic Kingdom theme park is 107 acres and could fit into just this one attraction in Animal Kingdom.
  • Disney acquired all animals from other zoos and reputable breeders instead of taking them from the wild.
  • Look closely at the flamingo island during the safari, take note of the island’s shape for a Hidden Mickey.
  • The elephants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom produce a ton of poop every single day which Disney even recycles and uses as fertilizer on the grounds across the Disney property.
  • Each evening the animals are called into their enclosures for the night by audio cues which include drums, whistles, horns, bells, and duck calls!

Tammie’s Take Thursday: Review of Tiffins

Follow me long enough and you will find that the real reason I run and vacation at Walt Disney World is for the food.

Most days, my inner foodie is locked away.  Although I live in an area where we have more dining locations per capita than any city in the United States it is hard to unleash that adventurous foodie side of me with a Steak House on each corner, don’t get me wrong…I am “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner” kind of girl.  Between Disney trips, you will find me pouring over menus, stalking trip reports and following several Facebook groups and blogs dedicated to Disney Food in search of the next tasty morsel I must try.   My Disney Food list often dictates my daily park schedule as I always have my dining list written before I have a trip, I am just that serious about Disney Food.  

One of my favorite things to do each trip is to splurge on 1 special meal each trip, a where I dress up and ignore the prices on the menu.  My splurge meal has to meet a few criteria:

  • Great Atmosphere
  • Interesting Food choices that push me out of my box
  • Amazing Dessert

Well that certainly narrows it down, almost every table service at Walt Disney World meets this criteria, for this trip I added that it had to be someplace new.

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Tiffins in Animal Kingdom caught my attention, although you could not tell that from how many times I made this ADR (Advanced Dining Reservation) and cancelled it in the 6 months leading up to my Heigh Ho/Bucket List trip as I just could not get timing worked out in my overall schedule.  Finally, it came down to being able to get a FastPass for the Rivers of Light performance with my meal, that WOW factor I suppose.

The first thing about Tiffins that caught my attention in my “Disney research” (aka blog lurking) was that Tiffins was more than just a signature restaurant, it’s a gallery of art and mementos gathered by imagineers while planning Animal Kingdom. If you love Animal Kingdom (minus Pandora), like I do this is the place to truly appreciate the park and look behind the scenes.  

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What is a Tiffin?  It is a fancy name (proper English-Indian) for not only a midday meal but the vessel used for the meal.  

I was running a little late to my reservation, thanks to the filming of the Disney Parks Christmas program or should I say I was a little distracted by who was filming…

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It was really hard to pull myself away from Darrius smooth voice, (I know he is Hootie, but I am a country fan) but I knew the meal I had visioned in my head for 6 months was about to become a tasty reality.

My check in went pretty quickly, since I was dining at the beginning of dinner service.  It was not long before I being lead to my table…

Tiffins is divided into 3 galleries or dining rooms.  The Grand Gallery is the largest where the animals (Tree of Life) is celebrated.  The Safari Gallery celebrates Eastern and Southern Africa and the Trek Gallery, Asia.  Tiffins also has a lounge, the Nomad Lounge which can be accessed through its own separate entrance or from the check in station inside.  The Nomad Lounge is an ode to the “What wisdom would you give to other travelers?” and it on the top of my Disney food list for my next trip because it has a different menu with lots of interesting offerings!  

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I was hoping to be seated in the Grand Gallery, but instead I ended up in the Trek Gallery which actually represents my favorite place in Animal Kingdom, Asia.  The Disney table gurus knew exactly where to I needed to be seated.  The first thing that struck me was how bright the room was, thanks to a huge wall of windows looking into the “wilds” of Animal Kingdom.  You would never know that you were in a theme park when looking out these windows.  The sunlight did dampen my celebration somewhat, but then I would have missed the beautiful view.  

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Looking around, I knew I was seated perfectly to enjoy all of the artwork and mementos.  Hanging next to me was probably the items that I take the most pictures of in Animal Kingdom (yes, even more than the Tree of Life), the Tibetan Prayer Flags.  They seemed to flutter above the corner booth.  And then there is this guy…

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And you know how much I love going on an expedition in hopes to encounter him! One thing I will do next trip, is to get up and look at each of the displays more closely than afar.  

If I was feeling uncomfortable about dining by myself, my Cast Member server Julie made sure that  those feelings evaporated from the moment I sat down.  In fact, she helped me make my first decision, what cocktail should I have…

Hightower Rocks (Casa Dragones Blanco Tequila, Watermelon, Sweet-n-Sour, Lime Juice). What a refreshing and light drink. Julie also brought out the complimentary Tiffins bread service.  The bread consists of Pomegranate Focaccia bread with a mix of Pomegranate, Molasses, and Olive Oil on the side. Oh my, I had forgotten what high quality olive oil tasted like which gave the dipping sauce a more savory flavor despite the molasses.  And the bread was nice, too!  I was proud of myself, as I actually paced myself with the bread plate.

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For my appetizer course, the olive oil made made want more so of course I decided upon the Heirloom Tomatos and House-Made Mozzarella (Toy Box Tomatoes, Smoked Olive Oil, Fig Vincotto). My only complaint, I wanted more!  Such a beautiful dish, not sure what the little watermelon looking things are called but they were fun!

When it was time to decide on the main course, I already knew what I was ordering months ago (although secretly I was having an inner battle with myself over the duck, next time)…

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Wagyu Striplion and House-Smoked Brisket (I told you I was a “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner” girl) which included rainbow carrots, Peruivan Purple Potatoes, Sherry Shallot buter, and a guava demiglaze.  This was my opportunity to sample Wagyu beef, and I seized it. I was a little disappointed the appearance when this dish was served, I was expecting a lot more color.  What the plate lacked in color, the beef made up for it in flavor.  I had died and gone to steak paradise…tender, flavorful and most importantly cooked to MY perfection.  I savored each bite, thankful that the bread plate in front of me and my choices up until that point allowed me to really enjoy the meat!

Now to my favorite part of any meal…dessert!  Again, I knew what I was ordering 6 months ago because most of the time I base my Disney ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations) on the dessert.  I simply had to try the…

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South American Chocolate Ganache with a beautiful glass of Zuccardi Malamado Malbec Port.  I know this looks like a very tinny serving, but don’t let the size fool you, like it did me. This was the very best dark, rich Chocolate that I have ever had. This is meant to be slowly savored!  And accompanied with the glass of wine with it was the BEST DESSERT, sorry Narcoossee’s Almond Crusted Cheesecake, you have been bumped to #2.

At the end of the meal, Julie brought me an unexpected surprise, and not it was not the check, along with my River of Light Fast Pass.  

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Remember how I said that I like to celebrate by dressing up and not looking at the prices.  Well, I did not get to dress up (thank you again Southwest Airlines) but I did not look at the prices until the check came.  

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Please do not freak out. Yes, I know this is for 1 person, but remember this was my splurge meal, my treat to myself and I don’t look at prices.  Also, it came with a FastPass and if you priced each component of my 3 course meal you would find I saved a lot going with the fixed menu. Not all Disney restaurants are this pricey, this is a signature restaurant (fine dining in Disney terms). And don’t worry, I left a very nice tip!  Trust me, the portion sizes look small and they are but I can honestly tell you I left full and not uncomfortable.

If you are a fan of Animal Kingdom, are more adventurous eater, and want a place that takes you away from the theme park craziness, I recommend Tiffins! My dining experience was a masterpiece that exceeded my expectations both in atmosphere and food.

How about exploring your inner foodie side at Walt Disney World.  I have lots of great suggestions for your next meal, and it does even have to break the bank.  Although, it is fun to splurge!  Book your Disney vacation with me, and I will make sure that your taste buds are happy!

Tammie’s Take Thursday: Flight of Passage (FOP)

Be warned there will be a few spoilers in this post…

It’s been no secret that I am not a huge fan of the movie, Avatar.  It’s a beautiful movie from a scenery aspect but has a very predictable story line that at times is long and slow.  I have also felt like Disney missed the mark by making it an entire land in Animal Kingdom.  To me the area could have been better served by adding North American story lines like Brother Bear, Bambi, and Pocahontas; but I am not the Imaginear.  I must say that though in terms of rides/attractions Disney certainly hit MOST of the marks I look for in a great attraction with Avatar:  Flight of Passage (FOP) and technology wise finally come close to what the “dark side” (aka Universal Studios) of Orlando has been offering now for over 7 years with the Forbidden Journey. But before I tell you more about the ride itself, let’s discuss the journey to get on this attraction which starts WAY before ROPE DROP.

There are 3 things that you need to know about Flight of Passage before you arrive, motion sickness is REAL, wait times are UNREAL and getting a FastPass is DIFFICULT.

Motion Sickness is REAL

Guests need to beware and respect the “Motion Sick” warning to this ride.  Flight of Passage last 4 minutes and you no not want to feel sick for 4 minutes (and probably the rest of the day). So if you are prone to motion sickness, like Mr. Grumpy, you might want to take precautions or skip FOP because the combination of the movement of the vehicle and the action on the screen might be too much for you. But what is worse than motion sickness…

Wait Time in UNREAL

The worst thing about Flight of Passage is the wait time, I have seen it posted 15 minutes after park opening at 3 hours and later in the day at 5 hours.  Let me assure you from talking to people in that line and experiencing it that guests WILL wait 5 hours to ride Flight of Passage so that line will not go down until park closing, but what makes this wait really frustrating is that obtaining a….

FastPass is DIFFCULT

A FastPass is hard to get for FOP, even if you are able to book at the 60 days.  If you are waiting until the 30 day mark, a FastPass is pretty much not going to happen.  Animal Kingdom is on a tiered system FastPass system and both the attractions, Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey, in Pandora are Tier 1, so you are going to have to stand in line for one of the rides in Pandora.

Honestly, until the opening of Toy Story Land in 2018 and Star Wars in 2019 I do not see wait times coming down anytime soon nor the availability of a FastPass.  So how do you combat the wait time and no FastPass?  Book your vacation through me and I will be happy to share my tips on how you can to ride both Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey BEFORE the park officially opens and NOT use a FastPass in what I am calling the Na’vi Shuffle. I have spent months stalking trip reports for tips on how it can be done, and I HAVE DONE IT.  Now you have used my vacation planning expertise and have made  relatively in one piece to Flight of Passage…

You can expect stunning views of the floating mountains as you venture through a bioluminescent rainforest that is taking over the ruins of the abandoned RDA building.  I will say that Imaginears have done an amazing job bringing Pandora to life.  It is beautiful to the eye and you will feel like you have entered another world.  Don’t be afraid to stop and take pictures while you are in line, there are lots of beautiful selfie spots (or maybe you have made great friends with the people with you in line for the last 5 hours since you did not use my complimentary traveling planning services).  Once have made your way through the rainforest the line will then enter a cave adorned with Na’Vi paintings and then into the abandoned RDA building and now research laboratory of the humans who’ve settled on Pandora.  Here you will fine various experiments showing how the study of Pandora wildlife is progressing, including a suspended animation of a Na’vi avatar inside a giant, water-filled tube. Most disappointing for me during my whole journey through the queue was that I was constantly moving and not being able to focus on the small details built into every Disney attraction that brings the experience to life.  Disney does an amazing job keeping you stimulated as you spend 5 hours in line.

Once you are though the queue, you are lead into a 16 person chamber to prepare for your flight. There are actually 2 chambers, with 2 different videos and interactions.  Although I experienced both chambers my first 2 flights on FOP, but the 3rd flight I only was in the first chamber and walked through the second.  I am not sure why other than I am guessing it is a crowd manage technique. 

When you are done preparing for your flight you are lead into a room with what looks like 16 stationary bicycles without pedals and handed a pair of 3-D googles and to board the “bike.”  Once all preparations are done for your the room goes dark, there’s a flash of light, and you become “linked” to the Na’vi surfing a banshee and flying through Pandora.  The ride is beautiful, similar to what you would experience on Soarin’ but more intense.

Disney technology has caught up to Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter in terms of motion simulator, but Universal will always have the edge with Forbidden Journey and Escape from Gringott’s in my opinion.  Why?  There is no storytelling with Flight of Passage, nor with Na’Vi River Journey which for Disney is a huge let down and disappointment because to me Disney is stories and beloved characters.  Again, I reference back to why Disney should have gone with the beloved stories of the Americas.  None of the scenes from the screen playing in front of me could I relate back to the movie, Avatar which makes me not vested in a story line with the banshees.

Will I ride Flight of Passage again? Of course I will, it was beautiful and FUN to feel like I was flying but only if I can get a FastPass and not have to get up so early.  There are other rides in Animal Kingdom that I would prefer to wait for or use a FastPass for, because they don’t leave me emotionally empty wanting more.

Remember that when you book your Walt Disney World  Vacation with me, I will give you my honest opinions as well as help you successfully do the Na’Vi Shuffle without waiting in 2-5 hour lines!

 

 

Tammie’s Take Thursday: Satu’li Canteen

sat3I like to think of myself as a #wannabefoodie and one of the things that I love the best about Walt Disney World is being able to explore that side of my personality. This last trip #home I challenged myself to explore new dining options, one of them being Satu’li Canteen in Pandora:  The World of Avatar, the newest “land” in Animal Kingdom. Even though I am not an Avatar fan by any stretch of the word, I have to admit that as food photos began surfacing across Disney pages I found myself intrigued and knew this would be one of my stops my next trip #home.

Satu’li Canteen is a quick-service dining location, meaning you order from a counter (or in my case, mobile ordering from the MyDisneyExperience App). In true Disney storytelling format there is a backstory. Basically, Satu’li Canteen is an old abandoned RDA mess hall that has been turned into a dining stop by ACE (Alpha Centauri Expeditions) and it welcomes all travelers to Pandora as well as serving as a cultural hub for the Na’Vi.    The restaurant is beautifully decorated with a balance of Na’Vi Art, natural elements and yes, even a few remains of the RDA mess hall.

Before I get to the food, let’s talk about ordering your Na’Vi food adventure.  Disney has created yet another way for you to bypass lines, this time ordering lines for your quick service meals… Through the MyDisneyExperience App on your smartphone you literally can get off of Flight of Passage, order your meal as you walk through the gift shop and by the time you get to the doors of Satu’li Canteen you have received your alert that your meal is ready for pick up.  But if you do this, be prepared for glares from other travelers to Pandora who are standing in line just to order. The whole ordering experience was so fast, easy and convenient that I used many more time throughout my trip…the best time bypassing the half hour wait for my Dole Whip float in the Magic Kingdom.  

 

The immersive atmosphere into Pandora does not stop at the décor, but extends to the food as well.  The food literally looks like it is from another world, but the flavors are still recognizable even for those picky eaters.  I might add that this is probably the healthiest menu at Walt Disney World.  

 SATU’LI CANTEEN MENU LINK

24174358_1858091034204079_7687925889694963672_nSo what Pandorain delights did I partake in?

For my main course, I selected the Cheeseburger Pods (steamed bao buns stuffed with ground beef, ketchup, mustard, pickle and cheddar cheese) along with a side of roast vegetable chips topped with a vegetable slaw.  I LOVED THE CHEESEBURGER PODS!  They were moist and flavorful, what a great spin on a cheeseburger!  The chips were a little soggy due to the vegetable slaw, as I was more interested in the pods and taking the perfect picture, but had great flavor.  The slaw on the other hand was a huge disappointment as it was really lacking in any flavor.  I was expecting a punch of acidity since this did not appear to be a cream based slaw, but I got nothing but the little bobo balls where a fun touch.  

For “Ber’ri” I went with the Blueberry cream cheese mousse with passion fruit curd, which honestly tasted more like lemon.  This has to be the prettiest dessert I have ever seen and has almost surpassed my love affair with Narcoossee’s Almond Crusted Cheesecake as my favorite dessert at Walt Disney World.  I wished I would have ordered several of them, perfect texture and flavor.  And even though it was barely 11 am, no judging, I had the Dreamwalker Sangria (white sangria with a hint of blue curacao and grapes for theming effects).  I was certainly not worth the $9.50 I paid for the glass, but it was fun!

The meal I had been dreaming of and planning for 6 months was more than I expected and did not disappoint.  The only disappointment was that I did not make back to Satu’li Canteen to try the rest of the menu, but that is what the next trip is for right?