Monday, March 10, 2014

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival 2014

Date of Visit: March 8, 2014

Last year was the first time we got to go to the Flower & Garden Festival and we spent days exploring it, getting all the stamps in the passport, and trying different food offerings.  This year we only had one full day at the parks, so we mainly focused on trying foods we did not try last time whether they were new or we just did not get to them.

My favorite new thing we tried was the lemon scones at the Buttercup Cottage in the United Kingdom Pavilion.

At the Fleur de Lys in the France Pavilion, Mom and I tried the gnocchi with vegetables and mushrooms.  Mik tried the duck confit, which ended up being his favorite thing he tried.

While we did not get much time to take in all the different garden areas, we made sure to show Mom the Bonsai Collection because last year Mik got totally inspired by it.  Dad even bought him a bonsai growing kit and books.  A year later and Mik has not started his bonsai, but he is still planning to.  We just have not finished getting settled in from the move last year and are going to move again this year, so he does not want to start until he knows he will be able to make a real effort at training it.

While enjoying the Bonsai Collection, he also tried out the Hanami Sushi from the Hanami booth in the Japan Pavilion.

The final thing Mik tried was the lemon cheesecake from the Primavera Kitchen in the Italy Pavilion. He did not really like it because it tasted more like plain cheesecake and he expected it to be more fruity.

We finished our day at the festival with my favorite from last year - the Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade from the Pineapple Promenade.

Destination Info:

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort - Grandstand 1 Bedroom Villa

Date of Visit: March 7-9, 2014

Last year for this exact same weekend (first of Flower & Garden Festival) we stayed at the Saratoga Springs resort in an accessible studio.  This year again we ended up at the Saratoga Springs because we were not planning to go this year and booked even closer to last minute.  We did not even try for an accessible studio since we found it too small last time and booking only a week in advance ended up with a regular one bedroom.  It ended up being a much better experience, except that we could not use our annual passes on our magic bands because I accidentally linked this reservation to my account and the last reservation with the magic bands was linked to mom's and you cannot have them linked again through another email address (at least not easily).

The first thing that made this stay at Saratoga Springs better than last year is that we could control the thermostat in the room.  That was the biggest thing that made me leery of even trying a larger room at Saratoga Springs.  I don't know if they got rid of them everywhere or just certain areas of the resort do not have them, but glad we could override it and it made for a much more comfortable experience.  Although, instead we noticed the fans in the bathroom go on by motion sensors and that's a little annoying and energy wasteful seeming.

While we did not have an accessible room, we have done regular one bedrooms before and they have always been spacious enough.  Only thing that Mik really could use is bars in the bathroom, but since this trip was just only one full day here he did not spend much time in the room by himself to really need that this trip.

We did notice it would not have been navigable in his power chair, but the foyer area when you enter the room is still spacious enough to just park it there when you come in and be out of the way.

Again, we found the fold out couch to be annoying.  It is extremely hard to get out.  I do not remember that being hard at Animal Kingdom Lodge a few months back, so maybe it is more of an older resort issue or just our luck at Saratoga Springs.  At least with the one bedroom, you have more space overall and it did not seem crowded to have it out the whole time.

One of the things I liked best about being in the Grandstand area of Saratoga Springs is that it is the first spot the buses stop on the way through Saratoga Springs.  Last time we were at the Springs and when going to the parks first thing in the morning, we often had to wait for another bus to come because the bus would be full by the time it came to us and they could not accommodate a wheelchair.  That was not an issue at the Grandstand, although it is possible it could be later in the day when the buses are full coming back and it seemed few if anyone ever got off when I did at the Grandstand.

Destination Info:

Disney's Saratoga Springs
1960 Broadway
Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Walt Disney World: Epcot - Soarin'

Date of Visit: January 10, 2014

Previously we have always avoided going on Soarin' at Epcot because it just seems wrong that it is flying over Calofornia and your not at Disneyland/Disney's California Adventure.  Since we didn't really have any rides we wanted to use our Fastpass+ selections on, we decided to finally give it a try while also trying out the Fastpass+ with our Magic Bands for the first time.

Overall it was not bad.  It is pretty much the same, but the queue is super boring. I don't know if the regular queue has anything interesting, but the Fastpass one certainly doesn't.  Fastpass is the only way we do it at California and at least there you still walk through the California Aviation Hall of Fame. Of course, we would have thought that odd to have hear, but really thought there would still be something.

While Soarin' remains one of the easiest transfer rides to do with Mik and now that he is big transferring to rides is something we don't do much except these easy ones. However, it just is not the same as doing it in California and we probably won't do it in Florida again unless they ever change the movie to be Soarin over Florida.

Destination Info:
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom - Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid

Date of Visit: January 9, 2014

While this ride has been open our past couple trips to Walt Disney World, we have always skipped it because the line is long and we have enjoyed it regularly at Disney's California Adventure.  This trip we decided to try it out at the Magic Kingdom finally because we could choose it as one of our Fastpass+ options.  In the end, though, we got to the park for 8 a.m. Extra Magic Hours and just went through the regular queue instead of waiting over an hour for our Fastpass+ time.

Under the Sea - Journey of the Little MermaidUnder the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid

We really enjoyed the queue and actually would not have minded if there had been a wait, as there is a lot to see and it's nicely themed for the ride.  We only got to just walk straight through it, though, since the only wait was after we got to the front and were directed to the wheelchair area to wait for the wheelchair accessible vehicle to come around.

Under the Sea - Journey of the Little MermaidUnder the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid

For the most the ride is exactly the same as at Disney's California Adventure.  However, there is one huge difference.  The wheelchair vehicle is actually a clam like the rest of the vehicles except it does not have a tall back.  It did seem roomier than the accessible vehicle at Disney's California Adventure, but we really like the King Triton's chariot theming of that one better (also, have heard that one referred to as the wave vehicle).  This Magic Kingdom one just ends up looking like an odd clam.  Overall same ride experience, though, and it is nice that they can efficiently load wheelchairs and only slow down the ride rather than have to stop it.
Magic Kingdom
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom - A Pirate's Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas

A Pirate's Adventure: Treasures ofthe Seven SeasDate of Visit: January 11, 2014

A Pirate's Adventure is something I had wanted to do on our December trip, but forgot to try out since we were busy with the holiday parties (Mickey's Very Merry Christmas and D23 Holiday Splendor).  When we were doing Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom at the cinema on Main Street a cast member asked if we had tried it and described it to us, which not only reminded me I wanted to try it out, but got Mik interested in it.

We did it right after we got to the Magic Kingdom around park opening and it ended up being a good time to do it with not too many people around in Adventureland.  You start by enlisting in a building past the Pirate's of Caribbean ride (almost in Frontierland).  We thought it was funny they wanted to make sure you knew it was not the ride when you entered the queue, as apparently people often enter thinking it is a ride.

A Pirate's Adventure: Treasures ofthe Seven Seas

A Pirate's Adventure: Treasures ofthe Seven Seas
When you enlist you get a magic talisman that is used to begin your adventure and activate the different symbols you have to locate on your treasure hunt. There are five different maps and after you put your talisman by one of the screens it tells you which map to pick up as well as what symbol to go to first.
A Pirate's Adventure: Treasures ofthe Seven Seas
We ended up only doing one adventure.  It had us find three different locations/symbols.  At each one when you out your talisman to the symbol it told part of the story and then lit up the symbol of where to go next until the end it told you to return to where you enlisted if you want to search for more treasure.
A Pirate's Adventure: Treasures ofthe Seven Seas
Overall it was fun to see it activate different things, especially the skeleton coming out of the water at the end.  It reminded Dad and I of the different adventures we did when we stayed at Aulani that led to us activating different things including making the volcano erupt and the lobby floor light up.  Mik seemed to think it was okay, but the very first symbol we activated was a gun and it made a loud gunshot sound that totally surprised us and leading Mik to not really like the adventure due to him not liking loud noises.  At the second spot, it was a cannon and he made sure to cover his ears before we activated it and since he was ready it didn't bother him.  Mik did say that some other trip he may be interested in doing more and Dad and I most definitely will.

A Pirate's Adventure: Treasures ofthe Seven Seas

Destination Info:
A Pirate's Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas

Magic Kingdom
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Our First Trip with Magic Bands

Magic BandsDate of Visit: January 8-12, 2014

Our Walt Disney World Marathon weekend trip was the first time we got to try out the Magic Band technology.  I liked them from the start because we were able to choose our colors and actually add our annual pass to it easily before we left.

The Magic Band is great for when entering the room, as you don't have to dig out your key to the world card and it is hands free.  It was especially useful this trip since we were on the Club level at Animal Kingdom villas and needed it to take the elevator to our floor.

Mik found it as much trouble as ever for entering the theme parks.  He did not have too much trounble holding it up to the Mickey, but we did have to make sure we went to the ones that were on the same side as the hand he was wearing it on because he couldn't reach across himself and put it up to it.  They had to reset his fingerprint every other time, though, as it never matched since he is unable to get his finger to consistently be on the reader.  It is not that big a deal, but kind of annoying they recommend putting someone else's finger on it instead because that would lead to just as much trouble since some trips Dad and I switch up who takes him to the park and then you don't have the matching finger and have to reset anyways.  Bottom line Mik wishes they did it by photo like they do at Disneyland, but now that all passes work with the new technology and the parks are turnstile free the wait for someone to come do an override is just a few extra seconds usually.

Magic Bands

The other issue Mik had with the Magic Bands was that he didn't like the feel of it.  That we fixed by purchasing a fabric band that it fits in.  He especially liked that because we found some Star Wars ones

Magic Bands

Dad and I enjoyed adding Sorcerer Mickey charms I bought in a 3 pack.

Overall Dad and I like the Magic Bands.  It was especially good for the marathon because it was much easier to run with than a key to the world card, which he would have needed to get back up to the room if he didn't have the magic band.  However, Mik's magic band began to drive me nuts by the end because he kept ending up playing with it and causing it to become undone.  I'm not worried about losing it in general because he always has annual pass for the park and is with us to get back in room, but if certainly will not put charging privileges on his in the future due to it being easy for him to lose, although even to charge one would still need to know your pin, so mainly would just be a minor inconvenience to lose.

Destination Info:
Walt Disney World

Lake Buena Vista, FL

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas: Kilimanjaro Club at Jambo House

Date of Visit: January 8-13, 2014

The Kilimanjaro Club with its complimentary food and beverage offerings throughout the day was definitely the highlight of our stay at the Animal Kingdom Villas - Jambo House.  It was particularly convenient with our room being just two doors down from it.  The only problem we had with it was that only the tables nearest the lobby overlook were tall enough for Mik to roll under and even those he could not roll all the way up to due to the large center post.

Kilimanjaro Club

Mostly the table thing was not a problem as usually one of the three were available, especially when we went to breakfast right at 7 a.m.  However, there were times when it was crowded and the only option was other tables, but we mainly only noticed it at dessert time and walking by during the later breakfast hours (around 8:30/9).  For dessert, we just ended up bringing them back to the room.  Breakfast would have been annoying if we had to do that, but since we like eating early it was always quite empty and we had a choice of table.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Kilimanjaro Club

Sunrise Offerings (Macheo) and Adventurous Awakenings (Miamko) - They start serving coffee and juice at 6:30 a.m. and then breakfast from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.  Mik loved the croissants, as that is what he usually gets in the parks for breakfast.  He said they were smaller than in the park, but since you can get as many as you like it does not matter.  They also have other pastries, bagels, oatmeal, quinoa, cereals, and fruit.  There is also yogurt in the beverage fridge, which is also there all day.

Safari Snacks (Vitafunio) - From 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. they have a variety of snacks out including granola bars, yogurt covered pretzels, spiced nuts, trail mix, goldfish, and kettle chips.

Chai (Afternoon Tea) - Tea time is from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Of course, there is tea during this time.  There are also scones, cookies, and biscuits.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Kilimanjaro ClubAnimal Kingdom Lodge Kilimanjaro ClubAnimal Kingdom Lodge Kilimanjaro Club

Twilight Offerings (Kisikusiku) - This wine and cheese evening offering was probably our favorite, although dessert was always good, too.  This offering is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and was good enough to be dinner for us every evening we were able to be at the resort for it.  The cheeses were only okay, but the hors d'oeurves were great, especially the spoons with shrimp and the salmon cakes.  They also have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches over in the kids area.

Club Level DessertsAnimal Kingdom Lodge Kilimanjaro ClubAnimal Kingdom Lodge Kilimanjaro Club

Evening Indulgences (Rehema) - Desserts and cordials are available from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.  There were always sugar, chocolate chip, and oatmeal raisin cookies as well as brownies and rice crispy treats.  The other things seemed to rotate.  These include a pineapple upside down cake, chocolate and raspberry dessert, pumpkin cheesecake, and blueberry dessert.

Destination Info:

Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas - Jambo House
2901 Osceola Parkway
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-8410