Disney Cruise Line Adds Frozen Experiences to Summertime Cruises

Disney Cruise line has announced the addition of special “Frozen” cruises to their summer 2015 itineraries, setting a brand new course for the Norwegian Fjords and Iceland! The “Frozen” summer itineraries are available on two of their cruise ships, the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder as a special tribute to their blockbuster hit, “Frozen”. Pick your vacation dates, climb aboard and visit the Norwegian Fjords, Iceland, Northern Europe or Alaska this summer. Experience the majesty of the Scandinavian mountain ranges, fjords, geysers, breathtaking glaciers and storybook villages that inspired the creation of the film, while visiting Copenhagen, Oslo, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Reykjavik, Kirkwall, and Dover. Northern European cruises sail the Baltic waters and explore Stockholm, Helsinki, and St. Petersburg. Alaskan adventures depart from Vancouver, traveling to see the many wonders of Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.

Disney’s “Frozen” magic comes alive for a full day of entertainment as guests join Queen Elsa and her friends from the Kingdom of Arendelle as they throw a royal party!  In the morning, guests will awaken to find the ship’s atrium decked out in glistening icy décor fit for a queen. Throughout the day, meet and greet favorite Disney “Frozen” characters Queen Elsa, Princess Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and other friends from the kingdom.   “Anna’s Chase for the Chocolate” scavenger hunt and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” activities add excitement to the day. Sample delicious Nordic-inspired meals and learn to dance in the traditional Scandinavian fashion at the “Maypole Swirl and Twirl”.  The evening really comes alive with “Freezing the Night Away with Anna”, an action-packed extravaganza hosted by Queen Elsa, Princess Anna and friends.  Giant snowflakes, snow-covered boulders and an icy pond set the stage for the evening’s festivities as the upper deck of the ship comes alive with music and entertainment. Sing along to all your favorite “Frozen” songs as the show continues with plenty of fun and dancing. “Club Frozen”, the on-board nightclub for adults offers frozen drinks and more!

Norwegian Fjords sailings are scheduled for departure dates June 6th, June 20th and June 29th.  Northern Europe departure dates are May 30th, June 13th, July 10th and 22nd.  The Alaska cruises depart from Vancouver on June 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, July 6, 13, 20, 27 and August 3, 10, 17, 24, 31. For more information, visit www.Disneycruise.com  or contact your travel agent.

Buying Disney Vacation Club: Retail or Resale?

Buying Disney Vacation Club: Retail or Resale?

What is the Retail vs. Resale Debate?

If you’re considering buying Disney Vacation Club membership you have two options: purchasing directly from Disney (retail) or purchasing from a current DVC member interested in selling his/her vacation club contract.

It’s no secret that you’ll pay more for your vacation points if you buy from Disney. However, buying on the resale market could mean missing out on a few Disney perks.

Here’s the good news: regardless of whether you choose retail or resale, either one will get you a great vacation at the happiest place on Earth!

Benefits of Buying Disney Vacation Club from Disney (Retail)

The process of becoming a DVC member is swift and easy when done through Disney. Your points are available quickly, enabling you to make reservations sooner than if you purchase on the resale market. You can also purchase the exact number of points that suits your needs, as long as you fulfill the minimum requirement, which is usually between 100 and 200 points.

The other significant benefit of buying Disney Vacation Club from Disney is that you can use your vacation points to make reservations with the Concierge Collection, the Disney Collection or the Adventurer Collection. The benefit to these is that you often can choose the length of your stay, but the resort options are extremely limited and subject to availability. The collections also represent a poor value for the cost of vacation club points, and are typically better purchased with cash.

Drawbacks of Buying Disney Vacation Club from Disney

It’s expensive! There’s just no getting around it, buying retail will cost you. Part of this is also that Disney will probably try to sell you the newer, more expensive properties. That’s great IF that’s what you’re looking for, but otherwise it might cause you to miss out on an opportunity at one of the other resorts they are not actively trying to sell. Also, there’s no negotiating with Disney; the stated price is the final price.

Benefits of Buying Disney Vacation Club on the Resale Market

The most notable advantage of buying on the resale market is the price. You will almost definitely save money through resales. Despite the addition of nominal closing costs, the savings can amount to tens of thousands of dollars. If you see a promising opportunity but it’s slightly above your budget, you can always try to negotiate a more fitting price.

Another significant benefit is that the resale market often has more options. You’re not limited by developer (Disney) inventory. You’re far more likely to find the resort of your choice at an affordable price from current owners.

Despite what many people believe, some resale companies can provide financing options for buying Disney Vacation Club. This can help make the purchase even more affordable if you prefer payment plans.

One of our favorite things about buying on the resale market is the personalized attention you can get from a broker. Serving your interest is to their benefit, so you don’t have to worry about any hard sells or getting taken advantage of.

Drawbacks of Buying Disney Vacation Club on the Resale Market

As mentioned above, purchasing DVC membership on the resale market means that you won’t be able to use your vacation points on Concierge Collection, the Disney Collection or the Adventurer Collection. For most DVC members this isn’t a drawback at all because they wouldn’t spend their vacation points in that way, but it’s all a matter of perspective.

Buying Disney Vacation Club on the resale market also takes longer than buying retail. From inquiry to closing, the initial purchase typically takes about 60 days, and then you have approximately another 3 weeks of Disney processing before you can use your vacation points. If you’re planning ahead, this shouldn’t be a big issue, but if you’re in a rush to book a vacation this could be a deal breaker.

Questions of honesty and trust are often associated with the resale market, and some of these concerns are well-founded while others are all stigma. There are unreputable resale companies out there, and buying through ebay or from someone on a forum or discussion board comes with inherent risks. We don’t have experience with every resale company out there, but we’ve experienced nothing but quality service from Fidelity Resales, so that’s our recommendation.

Buying Disney Vacation Club is All About You!

We said it before and we’ll say it again: regardless of whether you choose retail or resale, either one will get you a great vacation at the happiest place on Earth! Which one you choose depends on your personal needs and what you hope to get out of a DVC membership.

Questions, concerns, opinions? What are your experiences with purchasing DVC membership? Let us know in the comments section below!

Disney Restaurants You Must Try

Whether you’re a sophisticated foodie or a just a hungry vacationer that appreciates stupendous flavor, these Disney restaurant suggestions are sure to pique your appetite.

Before diving into our evaluations, here’s what you won’t find in this article:

  • Quick-service restaurants or food carts around the parks
  • Victoria and Albert’s – this luxury dining experience is definitely one of the most illustrious Disney restaurants, but we excluded it due to the exorbitant prices and the fact that children younger than 10 are not permitted
  • Every single restaurant on Disney property – we’re all about the best, or at least, what we consider the best. If you don’t agree with our picks, we’d love to read your opinion in the comments section toward the bottom of the page

Le Cellier Steakhouse

Located in the Canada Pavilion of Epcot, Le Cellier resembles exactly what it sounds like: the wine cellar of an elegant chateau. Rich wooden furniture, stone archways, and candle chandeliers add nicely to the refined décor.

Le Cellier is open for both lunch and dinner, but reservations are highly recommended for either as this is one of the most popular Disney restaurants.

Must-Try Appetizer: “Le Cellier” Seafood Salad ($17)

Must-Try Entrée: Dry-Aged Boneless Rib-Eye ($49)

Must-Try Dessert: Maple Crème Brûlée ($8)

Even though there are vegetarian options (House-made wild Mushroom Ravioli), this restaurant really specializes in steaks and seafood. If you’re not much a meat-eater, Le Cellier Steakhouse probably isn’t the best choice for you. Like most Disney restaurants, there is a children’s menu which includes pasta, chicken, salmon, and sirloin.

Click here for the full menu.

Visitors have said:

“One of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. Everything about this restaurant was amazing. The atmosphere was rustic and elegant. Every minute detail was thought through, from the subtle Canadian theme to how the menus lit up in case you have difficulty seeing in low lighting. Our server was excellent and extremely helpful with the menu. She took time to explain how every dish was prepared and gave her recommendations. We ordered two appetizers to share between the five of us- the cheese soup and classic poutine. The cheese soup was to die for! It was devoured within a minute of being placed on the table…. The steak was perfectly cooked and the risotto was the best I have ever had. The lamb and aged rib-eye were also excellent choices. Dessert was an amazing maple creme brule. Some of us also ordered the smokehouse chocolate bar, which was basically a fancy smore that actually smelled like a campfire. Everyone was so full but could not stop eating! We ate every last bite of the meal. The bill was very high ($350) but we paid with the Disney dining plan. It was easily worth the double credits. This is a meal that none of us will ever forget.” – posted on TripAdvisor

Jiko – The Cooking Place

Jiko features some of the most unique culinary offerings available at Disney. This is a great place to go if you want to experience spices and flavors that you won’t taste anywhere else. Jiko combines African, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisine into a delectable medley of gastronomic options.

Must-Try Appetizer: Crispy Duck “Bobotie” Roll ($12)

Must-Try Entrée: Spicy Botswana-style “Seswaa” Beef Short Rib ($46)

Must-Try Dessert: Ghanaian Chocolate and Kenyan Coffee Pot de Crème ($11)

Click here for the full menu.

Like the Animal Kingdom Lodge where Jiko is located, the atmosphere is generally pleasant and laid-back. Two wood-burning ovens and the golden savannah sunset wall give the restaurant an alluring ambiance, but we wouldn’t call it particularly unique.

Visitors have said:

“This is probably one of the best fine dining restaurants located within Disneyworld. Everything from the decor to the ambience to the service was outstanding. The extensive wine selection is 100% South African. The bottle we had was excellent. The food is delectable. I had the monkfish which was cooked to perfection. My wife’s short-ribs was mouth-watering and super tender. The cuisine is a blend of African, Asian fusion and they worked very well together. Prices are a little steep but well worth every penny.” – posted on TripAdvisor

California Grill

California Grill is our all-around favorite Disney restaurant. The food isn’t quite as extravagant as Victoria and Albert’s, but it definitely qualifies as fine dining. Disney cites the price at $30-$59.99 per adult meal, but that figure would be tough to meet if you’re interested in appetizers, drinks, and/or dessert. That being said, the prices are not unreasonable for the quality. It will all depend on your appetite but expect to pay $120-$150 for two adults.

California Grill has an impressive wine list that includes over 300 options, and there is also a hardy selection of craft beers and cocktails. The dinner menu is constantly in flux, taking advantage of seasonal specialties and innovative market-inspired cuisine. Below are some of our top picks:

Must-Try Appetizer: Sonomo Goat Cheese Ravioli ($15)

Must-Try Sushi: Spicy Kazan Roll ($26)

Must-Try Salad: Crispy Rock Shrimp Salad ($18)

Must-Try Entrée: Lamb Porterhouse ($49)

Must-Try Dessert: Warm Homemade Fritters ($12)

Click here for the full menu.

On the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort where California Grill is located, you’ll have a remarkable vantage from which you can view the lagoon, Cinderella Castle, and the Magic Kingdom Fireworks Spectacular. If you’re dining before or after the fireworks show your reservation entitles you to view the fireworks from the lounge or outside observation deck. We recommend eating around sunset, enjoying the gorgeous twilight view, and then returning for the fireworks.

This is a very popular Disney restaurant, so you will definitely want to make a reservation (up to 180 days in advance) for seating in the main dining area. If you’re comfortable eating at the bar, those seats are available on a first-come-first-served basis and reservations are not accepted.

Visitors have said:

“My husband and I booked this restaurant a few months in advance as we were celebrating our Honeymoon in Disney. Upon arrival at the Hotel, the California Grill checkin is on the 2nd floor and you are escorted up to the restaurant via elevator. From the moment we arrived they walked us to our table whilst explaining where the observations decks were for each park along with a brief description of the kitchen. The service was second to none and we didn’t feel at all rushed. The food was simply amazing, I highly recommend the bison! We were on the dining plan and it is certainly worth 2 credits. For anyone considering this restaurant, you won’t be disappointed!!”– posted on TripAdvisor

Be Our Guest Restaurant

Confession: We haven’t actually visited this restaurant yet, since it was recently added to Magic Kingdom as part of Fantasyland. However, it definitely makes our personal must-try list. The restaurant is located inside Beast’s Castle and the dining room resembles the ballroom scene straight from Beauty and the Beast. Archways, chandeliers, mosaics, and all of the elegance fit for a princess make this a must-see. Critics have given the cuisine rave reviews, so below are our first picks of what we hope to try.

Appetizer: Mussels Provençal ($12.99)

Entrée: Thyme-scented Pork Rack Chop ($23.99)

Desserts: The “Grey Stuff” (Chocolate Shell, Cookie Crème topped with Lumiere’s special “Grey Stuff”) ($4.19)

Click here for the full menu.

Be Our Guest offers quick-service dining for lunch, but we’re aiming for the full sit-down dinner experience in the evening. The prices are relatively moderate, ranging from about $15-$30 per adult.
If you’ve dined at Be Our Guest, be sure to let us know in the comments section below. We would love to hear more about this spectacular new restaurant.

Visitors have said:

“The best dining experience in Disney World. Lets begin with the decor, it is the Beast’s castle. A cast member calls your party’s name and lhuge castle doors are opened for you to enter,it is a very large restaurant with a few rooms that all have magic touches. The food was superb, my family ate the steak, scallops and shrimp, chicken and pork chops, all were delicious. The staff was wonderful and after dinner the Beast makes an appearance and you go to special area to take pictures. With the special touches in each room you feel like you are in the movie.” – posted on TripAdvisor

Flying Fish Café

All of these restaurants are “must-try,” but if you’re a seafood lover like we are, Flying Fish Café should be your first stop. Located at Disney’s BoardWalk, this lively themed restaurant features an open kitchen, beautiful murals, and stylish modern décor.

Wine connoisseurs rejoice! Flying Fish has an extravagant wine list to complement any of its artisanal cheeses or delectable entrees.

Must-Try Appetizer: Yellowfin Tuna Tartare and Crispy Tempura Tuna-Vegetable Sushi Roll ($18)
Must-Try Salad: Mozzarella di Bufala alla Caprese ($15)

Must-Try Entrée: Brioche-crusted Cool Water Rainbow Trout and Pan-roasted Bay Scallops ($34)

Must-Try Dessert: Pine Nut and Almond-crusted Ice Box Blood Orange-Mascarpone Cheesecake ($8)

Note that Flying Fish also has non-seafood options that include an Angus New York Strip Steak, and Ancho-Chicken, and these are great too! – posted on TripAdvisor

Additional Great Disney Restaurants

  • ‘Ohana – Disney’s Polynesian Resort
  • Monsieur Paul – France pavilion at Epcot
  • Chef Mickey’s – Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Citrico’s – Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
  • The Hollywood Brown Derby – Hollywood Studios

Think we’re missing something? Mention it in the comments section below!

Which is the Best Disney World Water Park?

In the left corner, the ski resort-themed Blizzard Beach, which opened in 1995.

In the right corner, the tropical Typhoon Lagoon, which opened in 1989.

Which one will triumph through eight rounds of scrutiny?

Round 1: Water Park Theming

Despite the waterslides and pools, Blizzard Beach maintains the appearance of a ski resort, complete with snow, boulders, evergreen trees, and a ski lift leading to the peak of the 90-foot-tall Mt. Gushmore. Holiday music adds to the ambiance.

Blizzard Beach water park

Typhoon Lagoon water park

Typhoon Lagoon resembles a more conventional water park with palm trees and beach themes, though unlike your average waterpark, in the center towers Mt. Mayday, a watershed mountain topped with a stranded shrimp boat.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Round 1 Scorecard:

This round was pretty even. The Blizzard Beach theme is definitely more unique, and also a bit more inclusive, but Typhoon Lagoon’s theme spurred our sense of adventure and summer fun. Let’s call this one a draw.

Round 2: Pools

Melt-Away Bay at Blizzard Beach water park

Blizzard Beach’s Melt-Away Bay is 1 acre of gently undulating waves flowing from the waterfalls that trickle down from Mt. Gushmore. Tubes are available on a first-come-first-serve basis. It’s a great place for relaxing, though finding a chair by the pool is a challenge.

Typhoon Lagoon on the other hand, is home to one of the world’s largest wave pools. The intensity varies from gentle waves to 6-foot swells, so this isn’t the place to fall asleep floating on your back! Tubes are not permitted, but you can get surfing lessons here, which we think is way cooler.Surf Pool at Typhoon Lagoon water park

Round 2 Scoreboard:

Typhoon Lagoon’s Surf Pool is truly a world-class attraction. This one is a unanimous decision in favor of Typhoon Lagoon.

Round 3: Classic Waterslides

Blizzard Beach is probably best known for Summit Plummet – one of the fastest and tallest free-falling waterslides in the world. Riders plunge 120 feet, reaching speeds of 55 mph before careening along the remainder of the 360-foot-long run. This one is intense, so make sure your bathing suit is tied tight!

If that’s a bit much for you and your crew, try Slush Gusher, a speed slide that propels riders to 50 mph. There is also Snow Stormers, a series of slides that offer a milder trip aboard toboggan mats. Similarly, Tobaggan Racers is a mild race between 8 contestants down a 250-foot-long shalom-style course.

Typhoon Lagoon Water park slideThe slides at Typhoon Lagoon do not require as much courage. Humunga Kowabunga is a series of three 214-foot slides that propel riders through caves and dark tunnels. Additionally, the three Storm Slides whisk riders through waterfalls and caves before dumping them in refreshing pools.

Round 3 Scorecard:

Blizzard beach dominates this round with Summit Plummet heavily contributing to the landslide.

Round 4: Inner Tube and Raft Waterslides

Double Dipper at Blizzard Beach water parkDownhill Double Dipper is another highlight of Blizzard Beach. These 2 side-by-side slides allow riders to race against a competitor and reach speeds up to 25 mph. Then there’s also Runoff Rapids, a series of 2 open slides and a single enclosed slide. Unfortunately, riders are required to carry their tubes up to the start of this ride, but the burden is definitely worth bearing.

At Typhoon Lagoon you can’t miss our personal favorite: Crush n’ Gusher water-coaster. This is the waterslide equivalent of a rollercoaster. Crush n’ Gusher’s water jets propel riders up hills as well as down steep drops.

There’s also Mayday Falls, which is the highest and longest ride at Typhoon Lagoon, but certainly not the most intense. Keelhaul Falls is another option, and this is definitely the most mild of all the tube slides.

Round 4 Scorecard:

Crush n’ Gusher blasts Typhoon lagoon to a clear win in this round.

Round 5: White-water Raft Rides

Teamboat Springs is another of Blizzard Beach’s world-class attractions. It is the world’s longest family white-water raft ride at 1,200 feet-long and accommodates up to 6 passengers at a time.

At Typhoon Lagoon the whole family can hop aboard Gangplank Falls where 4 riders tumble through water effects and rock formations for 300 feet.

Round 5 Scorecard:

There’s no denying it — Blizzard Beach is the obvious winner in this round.

Round 6: Lazy Rivers

At Blizzard Beach you’ll find Cross Country Creek which circles the park and carries riders into a very cool themed cave.

Cross Country Creek at Blizzard Beach water park
Castaway Creek at Typhoon Lagoon water park

Castaway Creek in Typhoon Lagoon is 2,000 feet-long and a bit more serene than its counterpart at Blizzard Beach.

Round 6 Scorecard:

Both lazy rivers are great places to relax, but Typhoon Lagoon’s Castaway Creek had more of the mellow experience we love while floating around the park.

Round 7: Children’s Attractions

Kiddie Slide at Blizzard Beach water parkSki Patrol Training Camp at Blizzard Beach is the prime spot for kids who aren’t ready for the more intense slides. It’s basically a super-cool water playground with a few tame slides and a pool. Also in this area is T-Bar, a zip line exclusively for children under 60 inches tall and an adjacent waterslide.Kiddie Pool at Blizzard Beach water park

 

For even younger Blizzard Beach visitors, Tike’s Peak is a water play area for children smaller than 4 feet tall.

Typhoon Lagoon’s options are more limited. Ketchakiddee Creek is also for children under 4 feet tall and includes mild slides, music, fountains, waterfalls, a shallow pool, and play area.

Round 7 Scorecard:

Blizzard Beach takes this round by a hair. T-Bar is what really secured the win. We would love to see an adult version of this ride.

Round 8: Unique Features

There aren’t many waterparks out there with a chair lift. This one-way trip to Mt. Gushmore is definitely the most unique aspect of Blizzard Beach, but be aware that the line can get very long.

Typhoon Lagoon’s Shark Reef is a very cool experience that we highly recommend. If you’re an avid snorkeler or diver, this might not be up to your standards. However, if you don’t have a lot of experience exploring coral-reef environments, this is your opportunity to swim with live sharks and tropical fish. We thought it was a lot of fun, but the water was very cold!

Round 8 Scorecard:

Although the chair lift is a nice touch on the wintry theme of Blizzard Beach, we think that Shark Reef is a lot more impressive, and a lot more fun.

The Best Disney World Water Park Final Decision:

TYPHOON LAGOON!

It was close. Really, really, REALLY close, but Typhoon Lagoon edged out Blizzard Beach in the final round.

Truthfully, both parks are fantastic. You and your family will have a great time at either park. At the end of vacation, it’s all about having fun and creating memories, and both parks will help you accomplish that mission.

TRIP TIP: If you’re planning to visit either of these water parks, we highly recommend entering the water park with a set gameplan. Which rides are you heading to first? The most popular ones are best to hit early, but the park will empty out later in the day. Keep in mind that Central Florida is prone to severe thunderstorms in the afternoon, especially during the summer. Prioritize the attractions that you are most interested in, and map your route ahead of time so that time isn’t wasted at the park. Here are some handy maps for reference:

Blizzard Beach Water Park
Typhoon Lagoon Water Park

Have you been to Blizzard Beach and/or Typhoon Lagoon? What do you think about our Splash Showdown? If there’s something you think we missed, or something you don’t quite agree with, let us know using the comments section below. We love to hear from readers!