Florida

Magic Kingdom (Part 2)

IMG_4279For our second day in Disney World we planed out going to Magic Kingdom. I will admit I felt 1-day in Magic Kingdom was more than ample since I’ve been to Disneyland many times. To me, both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland are very similar, but I just prefer Disneyland instead. I felt like Magic Kingdom was missing all the best parts of Disneyland (For example to just name a few: New Orleans Square, full version of Pirates, the Matterhorn, Indiana Jones)

We started our morning in the park by going to Starbucks for coffee and pastries. Starbucks is a newer addition to the parks within the last few years. I found the drinks to be similar in consistency with Starbucks outside the park. One highlight is Starbucks does have a Disney collection of the You Are Here mugs for each park, which I made sure I purchased in each park.

After starting off our morning with coffee, we used our first of three FP+ reservations for the day. The first FP+ was for Thunder Mountain, which is pretty similar to the version of Thunder Mountain in Disneyland and always a great ride.

Not long after our FP+ for Thunder Mountain was our second FP+ for Pirates of the Caribbean. At that time the ride was broken down, but we were told we could come back later in the day to use our FP+ or we could use it for another ride. We came back around 5-hours later and were able to use it then instead. Now I will say we wasted the FP+ on Pirates of the Caribbean because it is not the same full version that is in Disneyland. A good 5 to 10-minutes of the ride is missing, plus one of the drops as well. In my opinion Disney really dropped the ball on this version and it is no where near as great as the original in California.

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The top one is certainly my motto!

While we had waited for Pirates of the Caribbean to reopen we decided to get lunch at one point. This is where we started to run into issues and were a bit disappointed with Disney World. Any sit-down service restaurant we tried was completely full and could not take any walk-ups. This completely frustrated us to no end and prevented the spontaneity we are used to in Disneyland. We knew this was an issue in the evenings and was the reason we made dining reservations, but I had no clue we would run into this problem at lunch. So after trying multiple places for lunch, we finally gave up (even on fast-casual restaurants that were packed) and decided on a corndog. Now the corndogs in Disneyland are pretty famous and are amazing (plus they are like no other corn dog I have ever had), but sadly the Disney World corndogs do not live up to the amazing Disneyland ones. They are much smaller and the batter does not even compare. Plus they are really expensive for what you get! Overall this part of the day was just a disappointment and made me miss Disneyland more.

After lunch and we were waiting for Pirates to reopen we went on some rides like Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World. For those familiar with Disneyland, neither of these rides have the Holiday or Christmas overlay. Another ride we went on a few times was the People Mover, which is an easy but fun no-brainer ride. We made sure we went on this a few times since it is no longer in Disneyland (Note:The People Mover was removed years ago in Disneyland and was replaced by Rocket Rods, which also later shut down unfortunately). Another stop during the day was the Carousel of Progress.

At one point we did head back to the hotel for a break in the afternoon and went backIMG_3974 into the park in the evening. In December Orlando was hot and humid, which is a bit unusual for December in Central Florida. We had really hoped for some cool weather like previous years, but 2015 was a hot year in Florida (even after living in Florida for the last couple years, I still haven’t gotten used to the heat).

For dinner I decided on the Plaza Restaurant, which is at the end of Main Street and is near the entrance to Tomorrowland. Some of the reviews online were negative about this restaurant, but we all really liked it. The Plaza Restaurant is one of the less expensive sit-down dining choices with service in the parks and is typical American food (like burgers and sandwiches). I wouldn’t hesitate to eat here again in the future, if I ever go back to Disney World. I had the hamburger while everyone else had the reuben sandwich. All the food was pretty good and the service was attentive without being over-the-top. Overall the Plaza Restaurant was a good choice for a late meal during the fireworks.

IMG_4271After dinner we walked around some more while waiting for our final FP+ time. Since we had some time to kill we rode the Little Mermaid Ride. The ride said it had a 10-minute wait, well we walked right in. The 10-minutes we realized was about the time it took us to walk through the queue though. I was surprised the ride queue was so long for this ride, especially since it didn’t seem like a popular attraction. The ride was cute and definitely for those with little kids (which is clearly not the case here).

Our final stop of the evening was the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which is a newer roller coaster at Disney World. The ride had a crazy long line even at 9:30pm at night and I was happy I made FP+ reservations for it. Everything I read beforehand noted this ride can have long waits and this was the case in December as well, so I highly suggest making a FP+ reservation. This was a fun ride but it does go by really quick and before you realize it the ride is over. If you like easy roller coasters and Snow White, this is definitely a fun/cute ride. I’m happy I was able to go on it once during our visit.

Afterwards we walked through some of the shops and took some pictures of the Christmas decorations at night. We watched the “snow” fall on Main Street too, which is always a fun thing to watch during the holidays at Disney. After this we then headed back to the hotel for the night.

Magic Kingdom (Part 1)

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During our stay over the Christmas holiday we decided to visit Magic Kingdom before Christmas day, due to numerous websites and reviews reporting after Christmas would be madness in Magic Kingdom. The following days after Christmas Magic Kingdom was closed for entry to various ticket holders due to reaching capacity. We were all really happy we went to Magic Kingdom before Christmas Eve and day.

For our first day in the park, we didn’t make any dining reservations since we had originally booked the dessert party later in the evening, but that was cancelled on us by Disney. Since we arrived at the park earlier than we had planned, we checked out the new Jungle Navigation Co Ltd Skipper Canteen.

In December the restaurant was not taking reservations since it had just opened a few days before we arrived. At this time you could tell the cast members were practicing various jokes and memorizing a script since many of the cast members were using the same exact phrases. Luckily our waiter did not partake in the corny jokes during our meal.

We had around a 15 to 20-minute wait before being seated in the “secret dining room.” The restaurant has a jungle cruise theme obviously and the food is inspired by “exotic” cuisines around the globe.

We started with the falafel appetizer and we all really enjoyed this. The meal also came with bread and a honey dipping sauce (the dipping sauce is fantastic). For my entree I ordered the Char Siu Pork, which was great and the meat surprisingly tender! Everyone else ordered the “A Lot At Steak” Salad, which was a Thai marinated steak salad. Overall a great new restaurant addition to Magic Kingdom.

After our late lunch/early dinner we waited for our FP+ reservation time at the Jungle Cruise (Jingle Cruise in December). In December the ride was decked out in Christmas decorations and all the jokes were holiday inspired. Afterwards we walked around since it was getting late and we had a FP+ reservation for Holiday Wishes.

Originally we had booked the dessert party for the first night, but Disney cancelled our reservation due to overbooking. To make up for the cancelled reservation Disney gave us a FP+ reservation for the firework show and a $100 gift card. The FP+ reservation for the firework show was new to us and gave us access to a fenced off area to watch the fireworks without having to stake out a spot for hours.

The fenced off area opened up about an hour and a half before the firework show started. Before the fireworks started there were  also two different shows in front of the castle. The first was A Frozen Holiday Wish, which was a castle lighting ceremony. The castle lighting is actually very pretty, minus all the Frozen hoopla. The second show was Celebrate The Magic, which is a musical light show focusing on various Disney stories. Celebrate The Magic starts around 15-minutes before the Wishes Fireworks show begins. This show was really great and showcased what seemed like some of the forgotten Disney movies.

The real highlight though of the evening was the Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season. The firework show seemed to be around 15 to 20-minutes long and of course put everyone in the Christmas spirit. Once the show was complete we decided to head back to the hotel after the drive from Miami that morning.

Disney Magic Band and Fastpass+

This was my first experience with the Disney Magic Band during our trip. The Magic Band is a relatively newish part of the Disney experience in the last couple years at Disney World. So far the Magic Band and Fastpass+ is at Disney World and hopefully will remain only there. Disney may think the Magic Band and FP+ is great, but I actually have mixed feelings about the entire experience.

First off, the positives about the band is everything is now connected to one item. The Magic Band is your room key, park pass, FP+, and even a credit card if you want. This did make the experience in Disney easy because you didn’t have to worry about losing a paper ticket or room card, since everything was connected to a band on your wrist. When you enter the park or line up at a FP+ queue, you will just tap the RFID chip to a sensor in order to gain admittance.

The Magic Band is one size only, but a portion of it is removable for those with smaller wrists. The band is rubber and will glue to your wrist in the heat (one of the major annoyances with the band, especially when you don’t like anything on your wrist). The band does have a RFID chip in it that connects to virtually everything you may need during your Disney experience (basically Big Brother is watching your every movement).

Before you get to the park you can order your Magic Band online, which will then be shipped to your home. Make sure the address is connected to your home address and not a travel agency. There are multiple colors to choose from and your name will be on the back of your band. If you don’t do this ahead of time, you will just receive a grey band. In the park you can buy further items to customize your Magic Band, which know of us partook in at all.

Now the annoying part of the Magic Band is the FP+ aspect. I personally hated having to make FP+ reservations before getting to the park. If you are staying at a Disney World hotel, you can make reservations 60-days before check-in. If you aren’t staying on property, you can make reservations only 30-days before arriving. If you don’t make any FP+ reservations, it will be hard to actually get a Fastpass at the parks over popular times at Disney. The Disney phone app does allow you to change your FP+ reservation time, but when you are there in the high season there can be little to no flexibility in changing the FP+ time. This also means you have to plan out everything ahead, which to me lost the Disney Magic. I felt like we were on time constraints a lot because we knew we had to be somewhere at a specific time all day. 

Another aspect I found frustrating is you could only make reservations for a FP+ in one park each day. For example I wanted FP+ in Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios for the same day, but was only able to pick one park.

Overall the system to me loses the Disney feel of spontaneity and forces you to plan out your entire experience in even more detail. We actually did not end up using a lot of the FP+ reservation times because we got tired of the rigid time schedules. I personally like the old system of getting a Fastpass when you are in the park and having to get them throughout the day.

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort French Quarter

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We stayed at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort in December over Christmas. The property is a moderate hotel and is one of the smaller Disney resorts at Disney World. We decided on the Port Orleans Resort French Quarter after reading some of the reviews online and looking at various other resorts in Disney. Since it was over Christmas, some of the next level up resorts were costing an arm and a leg to stay at.

Check-in for Disney World resort hotels is completely different from the last time we stayed at a Disney hotel. Now everything is online and you can receive a text message once your room is ready. Your Magic Band is also the key to your room. Since we got to Orlando earlier then planned, we did stop by the front desk since we weren’t sure of the process at that time for check-in. The check-in experience is really easy since everything is done online ahead of time, but we did all feel the Disney magic was no longer there.

Our room was ready within an hour after getting to the resort. The room was basic since this was a moderate resort, but there was a mini-fridge. We used the fridge to store water bottles since the tap water is not the best in Orlando. The resort did feel more adult oriented because of its size and seemed to have less kids than some of the other properties. 

Since this resort was not on a monorail line nor had boat transportation to any of the parks (boat transportation is available to Disney Springs), there was a bus service. Bus service is actually a major part of the Disney resort and is common at all the hotels. For the most part the bus system was convenient and easy. Only twice we found the system to be irritating. One time we waited for the bus to Magic Kingdom for over 40-minutes. Another time the bus to Epcot stopped at the Riverside resort as well and added a good 20-minute drive to Epcot, which thankfully was the only bus experience with multiple stops in December.IMG_3962

One of the major highlights at the Port Orleans French Quarters is the beignets in the restaurant. The beignets are made fresh to order and are fantastic. This is the only thing we had at the food area during our entire stay. We ordered beignets twice and both times they were delicious.

Overall the resort was nice for the price and quiet, though it really did not have the Disney feel like some of the other Disney resorts we have stayed it.

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