18 April 2014

Disney at Easter time

I've never been to Walt Disney World around Easter before because we typically go during Thanksgiving for the Christmas decorations. But I think Easter is just as wonderful a time to visit.

The Flower and Garden Festival is going on in Epcot, which is a beautiful, colorful spectacular of flowers and Disney-themed topiaries to be found all around the park. There are also special "outdoor kitchens" featured in the World Showcase where each country has even more food (and drink) options to try. Most of the food options are redeemable as a snack on the Disney Dining Plan, which is amazing because I was able to try things that cost almost $6 for free. Disney also provides a fun "passport" with all of the topiaries, gardens, and food options to try with a checklist and places for stamps you can acquire from each station. It made my competitive streak kick in and I tried to do everything, but only 2 days in Epcot wasn't enough time! I would have spent longer in Epcot this time around if I had known how much more there was to do.

Minnie egg hidden in plain sight

In addition to the Flower & Garden Festival, Epcot also has hidden Easter eggs featuring Disney characters all around the World Showcase. You can purchase an egg map with stickers, match the sticker to the egg's location, and bring the completed map back to the store for a prize. The prize was a small plastic version of one of the eggs you found on the hunt, but it was still something new and exciting to look for. Between the egg hunt, passport, and finding all the topiary places for the festival, I was in full scavenger hunting mode!

Another awesome Easter feature we found in the resorts was the edible egg creations made by Disney chefs. The Grand Floridian and Contemporary resorts had large displays with eggs over a foot tall decorated with painted Disney scenes, edible sculptures, and flowers that were truly amazing to behold (and smell!).

Egg selections from the Contemporary

14 April 2014

Port Orleans Riverside

Princess Room (2012)

Aladdin in the carpet
I'm back at Disney for what feels like the millionth time, and I'm spending my second stay at Port Orleans Riverside (formerly Dixie Landings). Last time I stayed in one of the princess suites, which had amazing Disney princess-themed decorations like the flying carpet from Aladdin made into the carpet, the genie's lamp as a faucet, and a bayou "fireworks" show made into the headboard.

Genie's lamp faucet

This trip we are staying in Magnolia Bend, which has a plantation theme. There are 4 named sections in Magnolia Bend -- Acadian House (where we stayed), Parterre Place, Oak Manor, and Magnolia Terrace. Both Parterre Place and Oak Manor feature princess rooms. The décor in our Acadian House room is different but just as nice, and these rooms have a more "grown up" feel to them. Definitely more fancy than princessy. I still like the princess room better for the touch of Disney in the details, but for adult visitors these rooms would probably be preferable (and are cheaper).

Acadian House room (2014)

One of my favorite things about staying on the Disney property (besides the transportation to and from the parks) is the Disney Dining Plan. This is a huge money-saver that also allows you to know up front how much your food will cost, and in many ways allows you to try more things than you normally would since more than just an entrée is included. Last time we had the Deluxe plan which included an entrée, appetizer, dessert, and drink for lunch and dinner which basically left you in a food coma by the end of the day. This time, on a simpler plan only the entrée, dessert, and drink are included. It's still a lot of food, but it's nice to be able to indulge by trying things I would never order if I were paying out-of-pocket for meals.

 Resort guests also get a free refillable mug with the Dining Plan, which you can refill with coffee, soda, water, hot chocolate, and maybe even more in the resort's food court. But now they are "smart cups" and the drink dispensers know when your refills run out. At first I thought this was an awesome innovation, but it's become more like the biggest unnecessary hassle I've experienced so far. I got a Coke out of one of the machines that came out like brown water because the syrup was low. So, no big deal... I go to another machine. Then I find out the catch to the smart cup. You have to wait 3 minutes between refills. The drink machines won't dispense liquid other than water without a cup in the tray, and the Cast Members say there is no way to override the machine or the refill waiting time. So by the end of the big fiasco with waiting and trying another one that was also empty I had to wait 30 minutes to get a drink. Time is scarce in this place where you have to wait on everything (rides, food, buses) so waiting on a drink for that long is completely unacceptable. And having no way to override the cups when there is a problem is just poor design.