Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Ultimate Honeymoon Report

The following is the report that I posted on Intercot, the discussion board I write on. So, to make some abbreviations more understandable for non-Disney folk, here's a quick guide before getting started:

DH = Dear Husband
CBR = Caribbean Beach Resort
DDR = Disney Dining Plan
DME = Disney Magical Express
ToT = Tower of Terror
MK = Magic Kingdom
RnR = Rock 'N Roller Coaster
EE = Expedition Everest
CM = Cast Member

Day 1 – Arrival Day

I was having one of those “I’m-too-excited-to-sleep” months (yes, not just a night, a month) waiting for our trip to the World. My last trip was in 2001 so needless to say I was due for a fix even after going to Disneyland in ’05.

Surprisingly, I was able to sleep the night before our flight. I guess my excitement just wore me out. But, our flight was at 7:30 that morning. There had been a lot of problems with our airline (Midwest) earlier in the week doing checks of their MD-80 planes. So, many flights to the Orlando area were canceled. There had also been some heavy fog that canceled flights leaving a lot of people scrambling to get out of Milwaukee early on a Saturday morning.

Thank goodness my Dad instilled a “get-to-the-airport-three-hours-early” rule in me because I have never seen so many people at Milwaukee’s airport before. It took us a half hour to check-in plus another 45 minutes with the TSA. We barely had enough time to get breakfast (there’s a Cinnabon at our airport so it’s a kind of treat when I fly) and say goodbye to my brother and Dad.

The flight made it off the ground on-time (without some passengers who had yet to make it through security). DH hates flying so he gets really tense and anxious. But finally the 2.5 hour flight was over and we made it to sunny Orlando.

I just love being greeted by an airport tram that has the smell of wet athletic sock and a dirty diaper, but at least I was somewhere 40 degrees warmer, right? Plus, we’re on our honeymoon. Even better!

This was our first time using Disney’s Magical Express. In retrospect, DH and I probably won’t fly on a Saturday again since it seems like the busiest time. But, we didn’t actually wait long at all to get on a motor coach to Caribbean Beach Resort. We got lucky and were put in the line that was the next to get out of the airport.

So, we made it to CBR around noon. There was quite a line of people out the door of the Custom House (the registration building at the resort). There were also a lot of people waiting to catch a DME back to the airport. My only gripe with registration is that they didn’t seem to have a lot of people working – only four with a line of people going out a door. It took us at least 45 minutes to an hour before we were all checked in. Our room wasn’t ready, but the Cast Member gave us a number to call at 3 p.m. to find our room number in Trinidad North.

So, we took the Internal Bus on over to Old Port Royale (the main hub with the food court, shopping, arcade, concierge) to get our refillable mugs and relax for a bit. I’ve never gotten a refillable mug before, but I’m so glad I did! It’s one of the best buys in the all of the world. I don’t think I drink more lemonade than I do when I’m in the World. It was great because DH is an early riser. He would head to OPR while I was still asleep or in the shower, get me some lemonade, and it was just a great start of each day.
Once our room was ready, we called Bell Services. They had all of our bags, even the ones from DME. So, we were able to freshen up before dinner that night. (But, still remember to pack a carry-on, folks!)

We had dinner ressies that night at Boma (feel free to read my post on that over in the Dining Section). I was very surprised. I went in not knowing a whole lot about African cuisine and came out loving many of the new and bold flavors.

I was also very impressed by the grandeur of Animal Kingdom Lodge. With its large picture window overlooking the savannah, artifacts from African tribes, and knowledgeable cast members, DH and I would definitely think about staying here on a future trip. We have some amazing pictures of the Watusis and the zebras in the savannah. Plus, there’s cozy seating around a fireplace where you can hear native storytelling. There’s even a certain aroma to the building that whisks you across an ocean to a different continent.

After dinner, we decided to head to the Boardwalk. We wanted to enjoy some dueling pianos at Jellyrolls, but apparently they were closed for a private party that evening. So, we just strolled along the area peeking into shops. We loved the Wyland gallery even though we can’t afford anything right now. I was a little disappointed with the arcade at ESPN Club. I remembered something bigger, but it was packed with screaming kids and even louder adults trying to restrain the kids.

So, after that we were beat and decided to call it an early evening at head back to the resort. Since it was still warm, we went for a swim in the quiet pool of Trinidad North. It felt so nice since it was heated. There were a few families enjoying a night swim, but most were still in the parks. That would be us tomorrow since it was a first full day in the theme parks and, of course, we’re headed to the Magic Kingdom!

Day 2 – Magic Kingdom

We didn’t feel we needed to be to the park at rope drop since Extra Magic Hours was going to keep us there until 3 a.m. So, we slept in until about 8 and had a semi-relaxing breakfast at OPR’s food court. There isn’t that much of a selection. The usual Mickey waffles, French toast, eggs, sandwiches, grab ‘n go, etc. The Mickey Waffles were surprisingly fluffier than I remembered and the strawberry sauce they came with added a nice sweetness.

This was our first time on the Disney Dining Plan so we were still getting the hang of things. We didn’t realize that you could get four juices for two people. It was a lot of OJ! I guess they expect people to get a coffee and a juice. But as we found out, the DDP gives you a LOT of food that sometimes is hard to get through it all. And trust me, I like to eat.

Finally, we boarded a bus for MK. As the music started playing, I couldn’t help but feel like a little kid again. Then, you see the top of Space Mountain. You can see a glimpse of the Main Street Railroad Station. You finally know your months (even years) of planning are done and you’re home. I couldn’t help but get a little teary-eyed walking under the train station, looking at all the attraction posters, smelling the popcorn and cotton candy from a nearby vendor. Hearing the laughter of a little girl getting a balloon, made me remember getting one of those rubber Mickey-shaped happy toys when I was her age.

But no time for nostalgia…rides!? Where are the rides?!? Then, my ADD kicks in. We have to do this, this and this. Get a Fastpass for this. DH is having problems keeping up. He always jokes how he needs one of those harnesses for me like some parents have for their kids because I’ll just run off on my own.

It’s tradition for me to ride the Tomorrowland Transit Authority first. Get the lay of the land. Plus, it was DH’s first ride. It was a bit chilly our first few days, so it got breezy overlooking Stitch’s Great Escape, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin and other attractions. But, then you hear those screams coming from Space Mountain! What a thrill!

Since the park was open so late in the evening for resort guests, we were able to get a lot done during the day even with a mid-afternoon rain storm. We enjoyed a nice nap at the hotel before heading back to dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern (see Dining section for review).

I think the highlight of my day was having my first turkey leg. I’ve always seen people with them and laughed. But, I wanted to see what the whole hub-bub was about. Man, was it the juiciest, biggest turkey leg I’ve ever shared. There is no way that one person can finish that thing by themselves. I don’t know what kind of turkeys they use or what they inject them with, but they’re good. One is enough per vacation. But at least now I know there’s a picture of me with oil dripping down my arm gnawing on a large piece of poultry.

Spectromagic was as amazing as always. But, Wishes was a tear-jerking experience. The music and the beauty of seeing fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle, it’s just something everyone needs to see. I swear I saw some of the explosions look like Mouse Ears, or maybe that was the turkey leg brine talking, but it was pure magic. Having my hunny hold me and seeing him even wipe a little tear away was one of the best memories of our vacation!

We tried out best to make it to 3 a.m. How many people can say that they were in the Magic Kingdom past bar time, right? Well, we hit a wall somewhere around 1 a.m. and riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. So, we’d have to wait another day to finish the MK mountain range. It was just too chilly for Splash Mountain and Space Mountain you have to get me on a good non-motion sickness day (I also had an inner ear infection while I was on vacation. Not fun).

So, up next is fun at Epcot’s World Showcase and Fantasmic!

Day 3 – Epcot’s World Showcase and Fantasmic!
Since we had such a late night, we slept in. What a treat! Normally, I need to be up by 4 a.m. for work. DH is generally an early-riser, but even he took a few extra hours in stride. We decided we’d take Epcot slow, doing bits and pieces since it’s so spread out and it can be a bit overwhelming and overload the senses.

Brett was in the mood for sushi, but since no counter service sushi places in the Japan pavilion have an extensive menu and are covered by the DDP, we decided to try Lotus Blossom Café in the China pavilion. Honestly, as much as I love Epcot, I’ve never been to the China pavilion to eat. The menu is small, but I had the sesame chicken. Nothing spectacular, but it was filling with the large amount of white rice, plus a dessert of red bean ice cream. I really enjoyed the ice cream. DH had the ginger ice cream and it was really tasty with huge chunks of ginger. Very refreshing! Plus, they had boba tea (or bubble tea), a very cool and refreshing, almost slushy-like drink that has gelatin or tapioca beads in the bottom. You need to use a spoon or really large straw to drink it. It hasn’t really caught on everywhere, I’ve found, except cities with large Asian populations, so it’s a real treat when I can find it.

After lunch, we backtracked to Mexico to take a ride on the Gran Fiesta Tour. I have to say I miss El Rio del Tiempo. It was kitschy but it had Cheech Marin in it! The new take is even more colorful and at least it introduces new generations to the Three Caballeros. The shops in the pavilion are pretty much as I remember it – the woven ponchos, sombreros, random knick-knacks, glassware, and tequila. Still, there’s a bit of magic when you walk inside a fake Mayan pyramid to find it to be dusk in the middle of Orlando.

We then made our way to Norway to experience the Maelstrom. I don’t know why I always get tense before I go on that ride, but I do. It’s not at all scary, but I always think those tricky goblins are going to make the drop worse than it really is. The wait was about 20 or 30 minutes. But since I hadn’t been on it in nearly seven years, it was worth the wait. I just couldn’t seem to remember where the hidden Mickey was on the large mural in the loading area. For some reason DH thought it was on one of the ships, but I didn’t have time to see it. Oh, well. We bypassed the movie. I doubt it’s been changed in a few years, right? So, I did some browsing in the shops. I absolutely LOVE the Norwegian wool sweaters. I have a fake one but it’s just not the same. But, I can’t bring myself to spending close to $300 on something I’ll just wear during the winter.

Finally, it was nearing our dinner ressie. I made a semi-early ADR at Le Cellier in the Canada pavilion. So, we made our way over there to gander at the gardens and the shops. I think the second-level shop facades should really be open. Otherwise, I didn’t find much to do besides the O Canada! Film. We checked in a few minutes early and were seated fairly quickly. The restaurant was far from full. You can read the full review in the Dining section. I was very impressed. DH and I both agreed that Le Cellier will be on our must-do next trip to see if it’s just as good.

When dinner was over, we hopped on one of the boats outside the International Gateway to Hollywood Studios (I kept slipping the entire trip wanting to call it MGM). We decided to fit in Fantasmic! It was just about 7 p.m. when we got to the Studios and we saw a huge line outside Tower of Terror. We quickly found it was the line to the Fantasmic amphitheater. The theater filled up really fast when they opened the doors up 90 minutes before the 8:30 p.m. show. My butt fell asleep as we waited so long. We didn’t have much to do just being two of us, so we called our families while we waited. There was also a family in front of us with a very obnoxious teen son who kept yelling at his parents and siblings trying to save an entire row of seats for about 5 people. I thought the vein in DH’s head was going to explode if this boy shouted one more time.

But, it was all worth it once the lights went down. We’d seen Fantasmic at Disneyland, but it’s not the same. Everyone crowds around the Rivers of America sitting on the ground. I liked being able to be elevated. I felt I could see more of the show. There were a few minor differences, but otherwise it was just as spectacular. I always get a little verklempt when the steamboat rolls buy with all the characters and Steamboat Willie is steering.

It was a pretty fabulous and full day. We ended it by going to our room and watching old Disney cartoons on Channel 98. By the end of the week, we cycled through all the cartoons but it was fun nonetheless since I hadn’t seen most of those back when the Disney Channel played old cartoons on Mousterpiece Theater. (Bet you haven’t thought about that show in a long time!)

When we came back to the room, someone from the hotel had left an envelope on our bed. It was a certificate from the Disney Wedding people congratulating us on our honeymoon. It was really cute. So we put it next to the signed picture we got the day before from the CM in the CBR gift shop of Mickey and Minnie.

Day 4 – Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios

It was up early today to be at Animal Kingdom for park opening. Let me say: It was freakin’ cold! I was bundled up in a hoodie and long cargo pants. It took until at least 2 p.m. for the sun to burn off the chill. But, I’m glad we braved the Arctic!

Kilimanjaro Safaris was amazing! I’ve been on it once before when the park first open in 1998. We barely saw any animals. But, this day animals were EVERYWHERE! Our truck even got stopped by a bunch of rhinos in the road. They had to call ahead to get them cleared so we could safely pass. The only thing we didn’t get a good glimpse of was the lion. So, score one point for it being cold that day because the animals like the briskness!

Brett was like a little kid on the safari. He took SO many pictures (this is why I have over 800 photos to go through now for a scrapbook). He got some amazing candids of the lowland gorillas on the jungle trek. And there are some other great shots of the tigers.

After the safari, we jetted over to Asia to grab Fastpasses for Expedition Everest. We had about two hours to spare, so we grabbed lunch at the new Yak ‘N Yeti counter service. The portions were ginormous! They serve up Asian-style food in take-out containers. I had about a quart of rice, veggies, and ginger chicken. I barely made a dent in it. But, it was still yummy. I was really nervous about riding EE so I took my ginger pills (someone on Intercot recommended I take that instead of Dramamine and, surprise, it worked wonders!)

Finally, the wait to ride was over. The CM in the loading zone made us wait so we could have the front row. It was amazing! The view from the front is absolutely incredible. We could see resorts, parks, miles and miles. It was so gorgeous! But, then….

The speed and ferocity of the ride took me by surprise. I barely caught a glimpse of the Yeti except for a claw, or maybe it was a leg. I still don’t know. By the end of the ride, my mouth was all dry from pure shock. Now, I’m not a huge coaster fan and I have a huge fear of heights, but I’d definitely go on it again, but I’d have to ride close to the front. I definitely recommend asking a CM to sit in front. It’s just amazing what you see!

My ear infection didn’t do too well with all the jumbling about, so we passed on Dinosaur. It was too cold to go on Kali River Rapids. But, we decided to take in The Lion King Show. Brett’s seen the Lion King on Broadway and he loved the AK show. I really liked the tumble monkeys. They were really fun especially when they did some of the tricks on the high bar. DH and I were both pretty beat from EE, so we decided to head back for naptime.

We watched some more cartoon before heading back to DHS for dinner at 50’s Prime Time Café. Man, it was packed! I’ve never seen the place so loaded. The hostess said a stand-by wait time would be three hours (and that was around 7 p.m.) The food was OK, nothing spectacular. You can read the whole in-depth analysis in the Dining section. I was just a little peeved that our waitress kept thinking we were from Michigan. Oh, well.

After dinner we strolled through some of the shops before beating the Fantasmic crowd to the busses. We made it a pretty early night since we’d be back to the Studios in the morning.

Day 5 – Hollywood Studios and Epcot

It was another early morning for the newlyweds. DH finally needed his thrill ride fill. Me, not so much. So we got to Hollywood Studios for park opening. I could really see any of the little soiree with the family yelling, “Lights, camera, action!” and what not, but we ready to make a mad dash for Tower of Terror and Rock ‘N Roller Coaster.

The plan was: Brett would get in line for ToT while I get a Fastpass for him for RnR. Worked pretty well. He had a return time for about 10:40 a.m. so when he got done with ToT (I had a chance to browse the gift shop at the exit and grab a coffee), we did the Great Movie Ride.

DH is a huge movie buff. If my vice is Disney, his is movies, in general. He’ll just go to Best Buy to see what’s new on DVD. Anyways, the ride was a little of a disappointment to us both. I think we only counted in the last montage about six, maybe seven, movies from 2001 to the present that have been added. Alas, it’s still cool to feel like you’re on the runway with Rick and Ilsa from “Casablanca”. But, I felt old when I heard a kid behind me say, “Dad, ‘I’ll be back’, that’s from that ride we went on at Universal!”

Oh, kid…if you only knew where that line came from…

When we got out of GMR, the High School Musical 2 show was about to start. Yes, I’m an HSM2 fan! So, I was lined up with all the kiddies singing the songs. It was fun since a couple parents were singing along with me. I didn’t feel as dorky. LOL.

Finally, Brett’s time to ride RnR was up. So, I found a nice shady spot and waited. He loved it (as I figured). He swears I’ll be able to do it since it’s in the dark and the loops, “aren’t that bad.” Righhhhht.

By then, we were getting hungry, so we took the Friendship boats again over to World Showcase. We decided to do The Land first. So, we had lunch at the Sunshine Seasons Food Faire. This has always been one of my favorite CS stops. I must admit I like the changes. I had a very large portion of roast pork with mashed potatoes and carrots, plus this excellent fruit tart (they called it a fruit star). Plus, the CM at the bakery gave us free chocolate chip cookies! What a sweetie! They were quite yummy since dinner wasn’t until 8.

We made it through the Future World attractions except Soarin’. There weren’t any Fastpasses left and I wasn’t waiting three hours. I figured I’d been on it in Cali, so I was good to go. Plus, Mission: Space probably wasn’t good for my ear. We did get through the Seas with Nemo & Friends. I was a bit disappointed. It seemed more like they took scenes from the movie and just put them in the ride. I thought you’d actually learn more things during the portion on the “clam”-mobiles from Mr. Ray and the class than trying to find Nemo…again.

But, the aquarium was a lot of fun to look at. I could just stare at the fish for hours. I even overheard a guy say, “Why don’t they have fish like this at the Milwaukee County Zoo?” DH and I turned around, laughed, and he mysteriously disappeared before we could say something to him. If you’ve ever been to our zoo, you would have laughed, too.

As for the new Imagination, I like that there’s a lot of Figment and some of the changes are pretty cool. But, I guess I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Dreamfinder. We also made it a point to take today to look more closely at some of the Flower & Garden exhibits. I really enjoyed the hydrangeas in France. They looked identical to my wedding bouquet (which was silk). And, of course, we stopped to look at the train between Germany and Italy. I never noticed how much detail there really was – like the little green house.

But, my highlight for the day was the American Adventure. I’ve never been one for really getting into history all that much, but now that I’m older I find myself reminiscing about things a lot more. I was always kinda bored by the attraction, but I felt immersed in the storytelling. It may be a watered down version of our country’s history, but I was still very proud to watch it. And since I haven’t seen it post 9/11, it was hard not to get teary-eyed when you see the WTC towers up in smoke.

The other highlight of my day was dinner at Rose & Crown. (You can read the whole review in the Dining section) We had a waterside table just in time for Illuminations. It was one of our most romantic meals ever! Despite it being very chilly, I couldn’t have wished for a better night!

Day 6 – Free Day

We had early ressies for Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom. And with EMH, that meant 8 a.m. So, up bright and early again! There was a little problem with finding our ADR, but with the confirmation number it got sorted out. It looked like there were a few families having problems with the system saying they were booked for the next morning.

DH absolutely loved it! Eeyore took the cutest picture with him, draping his ear over him and his Red Sox hat. Then, there was the cutest little boy next to us, Warren, who was celebrating his birthday. He was soooo precious! Brett is still saying how he wished he could take a picture with him, but then is like, “Is it weird to want to take a picture with someone else’s kid?”

We didn’t have a set plan for the day, so we decided to do some attractions in MK again plus finish some attractions like Mickey’s Philharmagic. I absolutely loved the new 3-D show. It has all the best Disney songs plus it’s really funny. I was amazed at how they had transformed that space from the Lion King show that was there previously. We decided we’d save Splash Mountain and Space Mountain until the next day, so we went back to chill by the pool since it had finally warmed up!

After our relaxing time by the pool, we ended up eating a quick dinner in the resort food court. The double-bacon cheeseburger was pretty good before heading to Fantasia Gardens where we got attacked by a bird on the 9th green. I guess there’s a nest there and the mother bird is very protective. She hit DH in the arm and me in the back. Needless to say, I just threw my ball instead of hitting it on that hole. I think the golfing Gods will let me take a Mulligan on that, right?

By that point, I was over the bird attack, and we ended up going to Downtown Disney Marketplace. It seemed like it took forever since we had to stop at all the Epcot area hotels – Swan & Dolphin, Yacht & Beach Club, and Boardwalk. I don’t remember all of them sharing a bus before. I could only guess they’re trying to save on gas.

But, we strolled the shops but it was a sensory overload with all the different shops with colorful Mickey icons and screaming children. My feet, shins, and knees were aching by this point in the week. So, I was whining all the way to the West Side. I remember when there was a bus stop at West Side. To my surprise, it wasn’t there anymore, so we had to back track back to Pleasure Island. Loooong walk when you’re legs are throbbing in agony. Finally, after another lengthy bus ride we made it back to the hotel so I could sleep it off for our last full day!

Day 7 – Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios

Well, only one full day left in the World. We slept in a bit before heading to MK. Today was the day to conquer the last two mountain ranges – Splash Mountain and Space Mountain.

First up, Space Mountain. Not being a huge roller coaster nut, I’ve only been on it once before in 1998. I just remember a lot of screaming as I rode with my best friend from high school. I did better this time around, not so much screaming, but instead, I was just huddled next to the lap bar trying to maintain my center of gravity. It’s really funny how in the dark you seem like you’re going so much faster in that ride, when you’re going no where near as fast as a ride like EE. But, I was a big girl. I made it through one ride. Off to my least favorite mountain next…

Splash Mountain and I have always had a love/hate relationship. I like the furry, lovey dovey animatronic story that relates to the Briar Patch, but then all of a sudden the singing birds and bunnies are gone and you head up that long lift hill to be tormented by a bunch of vultures before that tumultuous drop.

Again, the wedding buttons came in handy (or so DH thinks). The CM puts us in the front of the log. Needless to say, I was glad it had finally warmed up during the week, because we were soaked from the waist down.

Well, we accomplished everything in MK. It was time for one last spin on the train and some a leisurely stroll along Main Street. It’s always so sad when you have to leave MK for the last time. We got some spectacular photos of the castle that day since it was so sunny with clear blue skies. We even managed to get a cute photo in front of the garden by the train station. One of the few “couple” photos of the week. But, now it’s off to the Studios to experience Lights, Motors, Action!

It was nearing the lunch-hour peak and we were getting hungry. So, we made a “quick” stop at Toy Story Pizza Planet. The line was ginormous. But, we ended up finding a semi-quiet table outside and quickly devoured our pizzas. Surprisingly OK. I probably liked the crusts the best. Now, just need to jet off to LMA!

I thought such a popular new attraction would have more showings than two or three per day, but LMA! didn’t. Even so, the large crowd and being seated in the upper five rows of the theater still surprised us. DH was excited to see some burning rubber. I liked seeing Herbie the most, and honestly, some of the stunts were kinda cool, even for someone who doesn’t live for action movies. I thought the whole premise that they were shooting a movie was unnecessary, but whatever works for the plot. I was most impressed to see that they had several different “hero” cars, and that some were driven from the back seat, while others were remote control. Very interesting if you want to know some ins and outs of Hollywood.

When we were done with the stunt show, we decided to take in the Backstage Tour. I must admit that I was very disappointed. I felt that in the amount of space that they take you in the trams, you could have walked the distance faster. Besides Catastrophe Canyon, you don’t really see much besides the “boneyard” of old props. While I did enjoy seeing the bone cages from “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and the ship from “Flight of the Navigator,” I don’t think I’d do this again for a long time. I just miss seeing the old facades of houses that you used to drive by (eg. The Golden Girls house).

Finally, our time in the parks was up. Back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner. Tonight was our splurge. Off to Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge. The ride to dinner was fairly seamless except for a little wait at Epcot for a bus. But, we got to the lodge a bit early so we were able to look at the babbling brook that starts in the lobby and then makes its way out the building to form the pool area.

We checked in at the desk and we only waited about five minutes for our table. We didn’t have a seat overlooking the erupting geyser, but we did overlook a cute little courtyard. Our waiter, Jim (I hope that’s his name), was absolutely amazing! He was helpful, courteous, and really helped to make our last night magical. His wine selections for our wine flight were spot on and he even knew how to recommend the perfect cooking temperature for DH’s buffalo steak. I go a lot more in-depth in the food aspect in the Dining Section, so be sure to check that out!

I was just so amazed at our experience. I’m glad we waited until the last night for this one. It was a special and romantic time that really took the whole Disneymoon to the next level for us. From the personalized menus to the complimentary champagne toast, CM’s at Artist Point (and across the World) go above and beyond to make your time a magical one.

We lingered at the hotel a bit looking in the shops. Our bus ride back to the hotel was an adventure, but we didn’t mind it taking so long since it was our last night and we didn’t have any pressing engagements. All in all, it was one fabulous last day and evening!

Day 8 – Departure Day

This is always the saddest part of a Disney journey. The day you have to check out. Especially after such a great last day and night, we really didn’t want to have to finish packing up and say goodbye to our home away from home. In an effort to prolong our stay, I managed to book a 7 p.m. flight back to Milwaukee. That meant we didn’t have to be at CBR to pick up the DME until 4 p.m.

So, we were all packed and ready to go by 10 a.m. Bell services picked our bags up and stored them until we needed them that afternoon. And off we went for our last shopping binge at the Marketplace.

We picked up some really cute kitchen towels and a Mickey chip and dip platter for our new place. DH also picked out a set of ornaments at the holiday store that has one for each park. We also both bought a Mickey polo shirt. I was hoping to get one of the Vera Bradley-esque paisley print bags, but they didn’t have the pink pattern in the size I wanted and the blue was too much like the purse I have at home. (DH already thinks I have a bag issue.) We also picked up the final souvenirs for our family members. We got our nephew one of those cute and cuddly “My First Disney Bears” that was dressed like a pirate. So adorable!

My hunger pangs were kicking in and we had been dying to try the Earl of Sandwich. The crowds had been huge there all week, but we braved it anyways. We both really enjoyed the food here! If there was one of these in Milwaukee, we’d be in trouble. The bread had this crunchy, toasty outside but was soft and warm on the inside. It was like magic in my mouth with the bleu cheese and the roast beef combining. But DH one this battle of ordering with a spinach and creamed mushroom chicken sandwich topped with parmesan. It was this ooey-gooey goodness. Plus, the cookies that we could get with the DDP were soft and huge!

Well, we didn’t have any more shops to hit, so we decided to head back to the hotel and chill at Old Port Royale. Got a few more dollars worth out of those refillable mugs. Strolled the little shops. People watched as other guests were checking in for a week of magic just like we had done seven days before.

Finally, the time rolled around. DME was ready to get us. There was a little snafu and somehow the bus was overbooked. DH and I didn’t have a seat. Hey! No problem. I didn’t want to go home anyways. Oh, right…need money to pay for my next trip, so guess we do have to go home. The driver asked a family in the front to put their daughters in their laps, and then we were off.

A few hours later we were back in Milwaukee. Tired, exhausted, beat. But, not wanting to be home. Our honeymoon was absolutely mousetacular (Is that a word? If not, I’m coining it!) I couldn’t have asked for a better time. Even with some chilly weather to start the week and some transportation mishaps every now and then, the hiccups couldn’t outweigh the quality time I got to spend with my hunny.

I hope you all enjoyed reading our trip report because I really enjoyed writing them!!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Artist Point Review

Day 7 - Artist Point

Well, if you've made it on this culinary journey, we've tried everything from African and Canadian to family fare and more. Now, it's the sad point in this trip...our last review.

We wanted a special night to remember for our last full day at the World. We decided to go for Artist Point at WL with its northwest feel.

Everything about WL is huge. The building itself is designed to resemble both Yellowstone's Old Faithful Inn, and also a bear. Our waiter, I believe his name was Jim from Orlando (I'm awful with names), was super-friendly and helpful. Whenever we asked about an ingredient or something about the meal, he knew the answer or would go check. Even the dining room manager came to check on us several times.

I guess I knew this would be a special evening when I looked at the menus. On the bottom was printed "Artist Point would like to Congratute the BrewCrew26 Party on your recent marriage!" Well, it didn't say "brewcrew26" but it actually had our last name on there. But, it makes for a great keepsake!

Jim brought us a complimentary champagne toast to start the evening. While the dining room manager brought us a complimentary appetizer of the potato chive pot sticker with edamame, spinach and soy vinaigrette. It was so tasty! The pot sticker was oozing with potatoey goodness while the soy vinaigrette added a nice punch.

This was the one night we would splurge. So, DH started off with the smokey portobello soup with roasted shiitakes and chive oil. All I can say is, "Wow." This soup was so incredibly good. The smoothness of the soup's texture and then the flavor that the shiitakes added. There were actually several different types of mushrooms and some of the chunks of 'shrooms were quite hefty.

I started off with the Duck Confit with the pear anjou frisee salad with a cherry vinaigrette and duck prosciutto. I was surprised by the taste of the prosciutto. It tasted so much like traditional Italian prosciutto and nothing like the richness of the duck. You basically get 1/4 of a duck that is crispy, juicy and fork tender. It was enough to be a meal on its own.

For entrees, DH had the buffalo steak with sweet potato gratin and sweet onion jam. The sweet potato gratin was crunchy and filled with hazelnuts. It was a great accompaniment to the buffalo steak that was done medium rare. Jim suggested nothing over a medium for the buffalo since it cooks different than beef. It was so tender and not-at-all gamey.

I enjoyed the beef tenderloin with potato truffle fries and wild mushrooms. The mushrooms were very earthy and flavorful compared to a traditional button mushroom au jus. The truffle fries were a decadent surprise that nearly melted in your mouth. And the beef was done to perfection and topped with a wild mushroom butter that added even more to the grilled flavor.

For dessert, we shared the Artist Point Cobber made with seasonal berries and homemade black raspberry ice cream. The cobbler was ideal with a crunch almost like a tart shell. The ice cream would be a dessert itself but paired nicely with the fresh berry assortment of blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

We also indulged in the wine flight. My favorite was the Three Rivers Late Harvest Gewurztraminer from Walla Walla Valley. It was a sweet, almost ice wine that tasted nothing like a wine. It was almost like a very sweet fruit juice.

I would go back to Artist Point in a heart beat. The service and the food were nothing short of amazing. It can be hard to find this kind of restaurant in some large cities. My hat's off to the chef staff.

Well, I hope you enjoyed our TS round-up! Thanks for reading even if it was a little long-winded!

Crystal Palace Character Breakfast Review

Day 6 - Crystal Palace Character Breakfast

Our day started off with a little confusion. Crystal Palace lost our ressie. But since we had a confirmation number they were able to accomodate us. From observation, it looked like several other families were having problems with their ressies that day. One woman was on the phone with WDW-DINE while talking to a host trying to figure out what happened to their ressie.

Even with the confusion, we were seated just after 8 a.m. right near the windows. There was another newlywed couple right next to us. The CMs put Mickey pixie dust in the shape of hearts on both tables. The other couple (who had a different waiter) also got a signed picture from Winnie the Pooh and friends. DH was a little bummed that our waiter didn't have one for us.

The Crystal Palace buffet is mostly the same favorites - pancakes, waffles, bacon, egg, fruit, cereal, breads and muffins. I really enjoyed the corn beef hash fritatta. It was light and fluffy. There was a touch of onion, too. My other favorite (I went back three times for it) was Pooh's Puffed French Toast. The best way to describe it is like a beignet but instead of powdered sugar it has granulated sugar. It was so light and fluffy and mmmmm (I'm almost drooling on my keyboard)

The waiter told us it could take up to an hour to get through Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet. But they were going through tables pretty fast. If you happen to be in the buffet line and not at your table, they won't stop and wait for you. So, if you see them getting close, make a run for the table otherwise you'll have to wait for them to make another round trip.

There's was a cute little parade with the characters carrying hunny pots and balloons and the kids following them. At one point there was a back-up and Eeyore had to nudge some kids along. We also enjoyed the little boy, Warren, next to us who was celebrating his birthday. He was just adorable! The look on his face when Pooh stopped at his table was priceless!

It's been a long time since I had eaten at Crystal Palace and was happily surprised with the outcome. We were done a little after 9 a.m. so we were pumped to get through MK attractions again before the huge crowds made it into the parks.

Up next: Our last meal at Artist Point...

Rose & Crown Pub and Restaurant

Day 5 - Rose & Crown Dining Room

I had made an 8 p.m. ADR in hopes of getting a seat on the waterfront in time for Illuminations (my favorite nighttime show!!). We got to the restaurant about a half hour ahead to check in and see what are chances were.

We got lucky. It was a pretty chilly evening. Being from Wisconsin (and DH is originally from Vermont), we're used to cold. But, we didn't expect it to get this cold in Central Florida. Thank goodness I had my sweatshirt and long pants on. DH still only had shorts and a polo shirt on. Of course, he wouldn't listen to me and get a sweatshirt at one of the nearby shops.

But, anyways, we got seated around 7:45 p.m. on the waterfront. There was a light standard in front of us, but it didn't really impede our vision of the show. Plus, right next to us, there was an awning that had heat lamps so DH could stand under there to thaw out.

Our waiter was amazingly helpful. He gave DH complimentary tea throughout the night to keep him warm. He also stopped to chat with us about his hometown and to tell us a little bit more about the food.

We started out with the cheese platter (we were on a cheese kick for a few days). There was a cheddar, a stilton in a puff pastry and one other cheese that I can't remember. Served with crackers and fruit. It was a great starter. I enjoyed the stilton a lot while DH enjoyed the cheddar. Stilton is very bleu cheese-like and pungent so if you don't like bleu cheese or gorgonzola types, this will definitely be a lot stronger and less to your liking.

For entrees, DH tried the Bangers & Mash. I was surprised how flavorful the "bangers," or sausages were. Coming from an area with heavy German immigrants, our bratwursts tend to be on the spicy side to gain flavor, but the bangers were still flavorful, but not at all spicy. I enjoyed the Leg of Lamb served with mixed greens. It was a bit fatty and the greens, like mint and sage, added most of the flavor to the dish.

Our dessert came just as Illuminations was starting. DH had a warm pudding dessert (he tried all efforts to stay warm!). While I indulged in the guinness cake. Since it was so chilly out, the desserts got cold fast and as we were watching the show and not paying attention to food, the cake got a little cold and tough. I assume when it's piping hot it's amazing.

It was probably one of the most romantic nights of our trip. Being able to sit with my hunny, sip a nice glass of wine, eat really good food, and watch an incredible show. I'd definitely recommend other couples try to land a seat on the patio for the show. But if it's chilly remember to pack a blanket or the proper clothing!

To my surprise, DH didn't get sick (or at least not yet) from turning into a human icicle.

Up next: Crystal Palace character breakfast...

50s Prime Time Cafe

Day 4 - 50's Prime Time Cafe

50's Prime Time Cafe is a must-do for my family every trip. I don't know if it has to do with a sado-masochistic nature of being verbally assaulted by your server, or just having a light-hearted time, but we always enjoy it!

I have never seen the restaurant as full as this night. We had 7:05 ressies. The Tune-In Lounge and lobby area, plus the outside, were packed with families waiting to get a seat. We overhead the hostess say that without an ADR the wait would be three hours. Three hours!? The park wasn't even open that long but people seemed to want to wait and see.

We were finally sat after about 15 minutes in a room in the back of the restaurant. Our table was in a corner next to some windows that were a bit drafty. I was wishing I had worn longer pants and had to wear my jacket during the meal.

The service, while insulting and funny, was a bit overwhelmed. Our CM would disappear for long spurts of time and then forget that she needed to bring a refill or that she needed to take someone else's order in the section. But, she was very good in making it known that we were newlyweds. There was also a couple for Texas who had gotten married a week before. The CM would try and see what couple was more lovey-dovey and point it out to the rest of "our cousins". Too bad she kept calling us the couple from Michigan (we're really from Wisconsin).

...Maybe there's a Milwaukee, Michigan?...

As for the food, we indulged in the fried cheese served with crackers and grapes for an appetizer. It was so tasty! It wasn't like a fried mozzarella stick, but it was a spreadable herb cheese. Maybe like a Rondele or a cream cheese herb dip. It was a great way to start the meal. Plus, DH had a chocolatey milk shake (tasted very Hershey's-like) and I enjoyed the cherry cola. There's nothing like real cherry syrup in a Coke compared to the fake stuff!

For our main course, DH had the fried chicken. The skin was so crispy and good. The mashed potatoes were lumpy and also quite tasty. I enjoyed the pot roast. The fork-tender beef melted in your mouth. The vegetables were soaked in the gravy goodness and the mashed potatoes paired perfectly underneath it all.

For dessert, DH attempted to eat the S'Mores. I think he got chocolated-out with the shake. But he did pretty well. The serving size of the S'mores is a lot smaller than I remember it. I remember back in the mid-90s a huge plate full of maybe 12-16 S'mores vs. the 6 that he got. I ordered the apple cobbler, which was more apples than cobbler. And, the cobbler was more just toasted oatmeal than a real crust. It pretty much just turned into a soupy mess once I tried to get through it.

I'd definitely have to re-think coming here again. It's food that I could make at home and it probably would taste better. You're mostly just going for ambience. Plus, the menu hasn't really changed since the first time we ate there nearly 15 years ago.

Up next: Rose & Crown...

Le Cellier Review

Day 3 - Le Cellier

This is another of the new restaurants for me to try (others being Boma, Artist Point). I was very impressed with the service, atmosphere, and the quality of the food.

Being on the DDP, this was such a great find. You're basically breaking even with one meal plus you get high-quality food that rivals the steaks from other more well-known restaurants.

We had a 4:50 ADR for Le Cellier. So after enjoying some of the World Showcase (we needed to relax after a long day and night in MK), we made our way to the Canada pavilion. Not only is the landscaping breathtaking and great for pictures, the CMs in the area are so friendly.

We checked in at the podium and waited less than five minutes to be seated. In the dining area, we were seated in the "Ontario" section. Our hostess said that all the areas are separated by one of the Canadian provinces. I couldn't really tell the difference by any noticeable architecture. It all looked like deep tones of wood, with the flickering of candlelight upon white linen table cloths.

We were seated next to a gentleman vacationing alone who was very nice and we talked to him a bit about the DVC and how the steaks are aged in the basement. He makes it a point to come several times a trip.

We started off by sharing a bowl of the cheddar cheese soup made with the Moosehead ale. It was amazing! I could eat bowls of it and not want to eat anything else. Add on top of that the pretzel breadsticks (there's also sourdough and multi-grain, also exceptional) and you have an uber-incredible dipping sauce. The hint of bacon and the rich cheese lent so much flavor. And unlike many beer cheese soups I've had, you aren't left with a heavy beer aftertaste which can sometimes be bitter and overpowering.

DH had the mushroom filet mignon served with a wild mushroom risotto and fried onions. I enjoyed the 14-oz NY strip with baby yukon potatoes and a side of asparagus. Both steaks were incredibly done. Cooked to perfection. The tenderness was almost unreal. You barely had to chew. The beef almost melts in your mouth. DH's risotto was creamy and the wild mushrooms lent another level of flavor to his dish. The asparagus, all five stalks, was a little pricey for a side dish costing more than a pound would at the grocery store. It was also a tinge overdone and had lost its "bite," or crispness.

For dessert, DH enjoyed the adult-version of the chocolate mousse, while I indulged in the child's "chocolate moose", a cute and almost too picture-perfect to eat indulgence. But, the maple leaf cookies for antlers were crispy. A red shortbread tongue was tasty along with the decadent mousse filling. And the chocolate cake that topped the mousse was moist and tasty.

Overall, Le Cellier will probably be one of the restaurants we stop at every trip now. I hope the DDP higher-ups don't remove it from one of the participating restaurants because it presents a high-class service environment to families who normally wouldn't be able to enjoy such fine cuisine.

Up next: 50's Prime Time Cafe...

Liberty Tree Tavern Review

Day 2 - Liberty Tree Tavern

This was our first full day in the parks and probably our longest since EMH kept MK open until 3 a.m. Well, we tried to burn the midnight oil, but we hit a wall by 1 a.m.

I also forgot to mention in my first post that this DH's first time eating TS on property. And for those who didn't know, it was also our honeymoon trip.

We had dinner ressies at Liberty Tree Tavern for 7 p.m. So after enjoying a mid-day nap at the hotel, we made our way back for dinner. We were welcomed to quite a large line of families at the entry way, but were kindly escorted inside since we had ADRs.

The lobby, with all of its revolution-era kitchen equipment and furniture, is fun to look at. I enjoyed just taking pictures of the light fixtures. From the waiting area, you can see a second floor landing that leads to the restrooms. Flanking both sides are two large dining rooms, mostly filled with large groups of families.

LTT serves up family-style fare. A pre-fixe menu includes family favorites like a tossed mixed green salad with a house strawberry vinaigrette, roast turkey, carved beef, pork in a honey glaze, green beans, mashed potatoes, Stouffer's macaroni and cheese, stuffing, and an apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream.

I think the triptophan in the turkey led to us hitting our early wall during EMH, but at the time, it tasted just like Mom's on Thanksgiving. The gravy that accompanied the turkey was smooth and didn't taste like it came from a jar.

But, my favorite was actually the beef. Tender, done to a perfect medium, with a little au jus. It paried great with the mashed potatoes and the green beans.

The only let down, not to LTT's fault, is the Stouffer's Mac & Cheese. DH and I used to LOVE Stouffer's frozen entrees as a special weekend treat, but they recently changed their recipe sans trans fat. It just isn't the same leaving a grainy cheese texture that rivals fake, or no-fat cheese. Plus, you can't get a good brown crust with the new recipe. If you're a mac & cheese purist, I'd pass on it.

The dessert was a traditional apple cobbler with ice cream. Nothing special. But the characters, like Minnie, Goofy, Chip & Dale made the experience more special and probably enhanced the food.

If you're looking for a good way to meet some of the big name characters, I'd suggest LTT. Especially since they're wearing Colonial-era clothing that you can't see elsewhere in the parks.

Up next: Le Cellier....

Boma Review

It has been so hard for me to write these posts. It finally means that vacation is over and I'm really home.

But, we had some incredible TS meals during our stay April 12-19. These are going to be "fairly brief," but if anyone wants more information on something I'd be happy to share since food is my other obsession!

We were on the DDP, but didn't use it for Boma in lieu of using 2 credits for Artist Point on our last evening.

Day 1: Boma, AKL
We had a 5:05 ressie. Got to the lodge early so we got some great pictures. It's so massive and breath-taking. We're definitely thinking of staying here our next trip. We checked in around 4:40 before the restaurant opened. The CMs were singing and beating drums to get everyone pumped up. The food smelled amazing!

Our waiter was so helpful. He sat down with us to explain the set-up with the pods. The main entrees like beef and fish on the far right, sides and salads in the center, a kid's island, fruits and then desserts on the left.

Some of the highlights for me were the couscous salad, black bean hummus, spiced chicken, fufu (it was kinda like a sweet potato), and the banana bread pudding. I absolutely loved it.

The meat was so tender and juicy all across the board. DH enjoyed the prime rib which had an incredibly flavorful rub. The chicken had a crispy skin, not at all spicy, but the earthy rub was amazingly bold and different. We were surprised how you didn't need to salt or pepper anything which is the indication of a highly-skilled chef.

The soups were also delectable. I thoroughly enjoyed the bean soup. It wasn't like a traditional split-pea soup, but it had several different layers of flavors which defintely made my mouth happy. DH raved about the carrot soup, which was almost dessert like, with its creamy texture and sweet attributes.

I wouldn't recommend Boma for someone who isn't that adventurous of an eater or who's finicky. It's a great place for large families. There are several large tables that seat more than 6 or even 8 people. The large windows make for great views of the pool area. And the thatched roof makes it seem like you're really in a hut.

Stay tuned...up next is Liberty Tree Tavern!