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About Our Agent Bloggers

All Agents are College of Disney Knowledge graduates, with some also holding additional specialties like:   Accredited Cruise Counselor, Universal Specialist, Sandals & Beaches Specialist, as well as other destination specialties.   Our Agents are experienced travelers.  If your specific agent hasn’t experienced “it”, there is someone in the Agency that has; so you have access to first-hand, experienced advice.  That’s how we can provide you this experiential based travel planning service!  We are an entire Team working together!

Our Agents will ALWAYS, without fail, no exceptions – tell you the truth and do what they say.

Trained. Traveled. Trusted.  It’s Who We Are.

 

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Disney Dining in Style-Yachtsman Steakhouse

Posted by on 7:00 am in Thoughts and Opinions | 0 comments

Disney Dining in Style-Yachtsman Steakhouse

Erin Buchanan
1.19.20

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This hidden gem can be found at Walt Disney World’s Yacht Club Resort. Their backdrop consists of rich wood beams, crisp white table cloths, and nautical décor. This ambiance is perfect for couples as well as the entire family. Guests planning to dine here are asked to abide by the minimum dress code requirements but dressier attire is also welcome! Men must wear khakis, slacks, or dress shorts, and collared shirts. Jeans may be worn if in good condition. Sport coats are optional. Women must wear Capri pants, skirts, dresses, or dress shorts. Jeans may be worn if in good condition. Clothing items not permitted are tank tops, flip-flops, swimsuits, swimsuit cover-ups, hats for gentlemen, cut-offs, torn clothing, and t-shirts with offensive language and/or graphics.

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This restaurant is considered a Signature dining experience, which means it will take two dining credits per person if using the Disney Dining Plan. Advance reservations are highly recommended and can be made up to 180 days prior to your visit. They do have a lounge if you would like to order a drink while waiting to be seated. They offer an amazing list of wines as well as specialty cocktails and beer. The wait staff are more than happy to help with pairing wines to each of the entrees, so feel free to ask for help! Once you have ordered your drinks, you are treated to bread service. The basket offers a few different choices of rolls and is served with butter (topped with sea salt) and roasted garlic. This is something very unique and I look forward to it every time we visit! The first course includes cold appetizers, salads and soups. In the past we have had the Caesar salad, French Onion Soup, and the Lobster bisque, which were all amazing! The menu’s star, though, is definitely its lineup of steaks! One thing to keep in mind when looking over the menu, they do specify which items are included on the Disney Dining plan and which are not. So, if you are using credits make sure to keep this in mind. You always have the option to just pay for the extra item(s). They also offer other land and sea choices if you are not a fan of beef. The accompaniments (sides) are served family style. This works great because we all get to sample different choices. The Children’s menu is simple with offerings of beef, chicken, fish, and pasta. They also offer a plant-based entrée for those who don’t eat meat. If you have room left, they offer an amazing dessert menu! We love the Crème Brûlée. My kids absolutely love the puzzle made of white chocolate and served with warm chocolate chip cookies! It is served with a paint brush and edible icing to paint on!

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Whether you are celebrating a special occasion, or just wanting to have a wonderful steak dinner, Yachtsman Steakhouse is a wonderful choice!

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If you would like any more information on this or any other vacation experience please give me a call! I would love to help! 601 832-1561 or Erin@wishesfamilytravel.com

 

 

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Disney’s Memory Maker: Best Souvenir Ever!

Posted by on 7:00 am in Thoughts and Opinions | 0 comments

Disney’s Memory Maker: Best Souvenir Ever!

Shaina Brainard
1.18.20

Without a doubt, Disney’s Memory Maker photo package is a must-have for families, couples, and travel groups alike. It allows you download access to all of your photos taken by Disney PhotoPass photographers. Those photos could be pictures of hugs with your favorite character, excitement while riding Space Mountain, or capturing that classic family photo in front of the iconic Cinderella Castle.

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Having Memory Maker also allows you to take advantage of all the fun MagicShots around the parks. What is a MagicShot? It’s a photo that is staged by the photographer to add a little pixie dust to your picture. You never know who may show up in your next photo! Kids love MagicShots!

 

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And for all the parents who find themselves typically snapping the shot, you can enjoy being in the vacation photos with your family! It’s as easy as scanning your MagicBand with the photographer or at the photo viewing station, and they will be added to your PhotoPass collection on your My Disney Experience account. And for some ride photos they will automatically be added to your photo collection without even having to scan.

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Memory Maker can easily be added to your package at time of booking for a discounted rate. You can choose to add Memory Maker after your trip, but at a higher cost. Also, because Memory Maker does take a few days to activate, be sure to add Memory Maker at least four days prior to your vacation or there is a possibility not all of your photos will be included. For ease, I suggest adding it at time of booking your vacation or shortly thereafter.

Whether you want to hang your photos, turn them into a photo book, or simply share them on social media, there is no doubt you will want to treasure those memories for years to come, and Memory Maker is the best way to do that!

I would love to assist you in planning your next Walt Disney World Vacation. Please reach out to me at shaina@wishesfamilytravel.com or contact your trusted Wishes agent to start discussing your next vacation! **All photos included in this blog are my personal photos included in one of our recent Memory Maker purchases.

 

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“Never Tell Me the Odds” Han Solo

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“Never Tell Me the Odds” Han Solo

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Tiffany Morse
1.16.20

“Never Tell Me the Odds,” famous words from Han Solo.  Have you ever wanted to go on an adventure with him? Pilot the Millennium Falcon?   I was finally going to get that chance, forty-two years in the making……

Recently, while at Hollywood Studios in line and drinking coffee at 5:15 a.m. The energy and feel of the crowd was completely contradictory to the day before, where we were marched in unceremoniously.    The excitement was palpable and contagious. Just before 6 a.m., the Imperial March began to play and all of Hollywood Boulevard was surrounded by storm troopers.  It was amazing.  They marched us into Batuu. When we approached the rock cave to enter, everyone got silent on their own and as people began to pass under the stone archway,  exuberant shouts of glee were heard.  We walked in, quickly found Smuggler’s Run and started taking some interesting pictures on the way in as it was dark.  We talked to a cast member outside about using Rider Swap and she said whomever had the child or baby in our case had to stay outside of the building with the baby.  They scanned our Magic Bands and then two of us rode the ride and one held the baby.  When the two of us came off of the ride , we switched I went back with one person through what I am guessing will eventually be the Fastpass Line  and the other person in our group took the baby.  It was really easy and very quick. 

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The queue was incredible.  I wanted to go slower to catch a look at everything.  As we went through the line,  it was a hanger where you were given directions from Hondo Ohnaka.  Then proceeded on where you entered the Falcon and were divided into your groups,  being given your card with your assignment and helpful information on it.  There are 6 positions, 2 pilots, 2 engineers, and 2 gunners.  The engineers sit in the very back and have to hit button to “repair the ship.”  If you get motion sickness, this is something to think about as you can close your eyes if needed and just hit  the button. 

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Then we came into the room with the famous chess game where we took a quick picture and then you are off to see how much cargo your team can acquire.  One of the ways this attraction is different, is that your actions will direct your journey and outcome.  If you have a pilot that crashes , you crash and feel it.  It is similar for the engineer repairing the ship and the gunner.  Your experience will be different each time.  The first I was an engineer and I did pretty well.  The second time , I was a gunner and liked that better.  You can put it on automatic(you just have to hit a button) or manual and you to aim.  It was incredible.  I have wanted to be in the Millennium  Falcon since I was five.  I was on cloud 9 when we stepped off and went downstairs.

While we were riding,  the other members of our group had been doing fabulous photo ops, and talking to characters.  After a quick trip to the “refresher,”one took the baby and we went up to the cast member at the exit.  She scanned our Magic Bands and we were off through another entrance so you do not have to go through the long due line again so the rider swap works well, I was so thrilled.  The second time I was a gunner and it was joyous.  You could put it on either manual(where you have you aim and fire ) or automatic(where it aims and you just have to hit the button).  I chose automatic and had a blast with the realism. 

I also love that each ride is a completely different experience depending on the crew with you and how you all perform.  You can also get to different points in your mission based on how well you preform and how much bounty you collect.  It is a thrilling, new adventure every time. Til the Spire.’

New thrills will be arriving in Batuu in the next few months, to book your interstellar travel to Batuu or another destination contact me at: tiffm@wishesfamilytravel.com or 678-770-4144.

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A Show-Stopping Lineup of Broadway Stars to Take the Stage at Epcot International Festival of the Arts

Posted by on 4:00 pm in Thoughts and Opinions | 0 comments

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by , Editorial Content Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

The Epcot International Festival of the Arts, held Jan. 17 – Feb. 24, 2020, at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, celebrates the very best in visual, culinary and performing arts by bringing in professional artists to share their talent and expertise. Returning to the festival this year is the Disney on Broadway Concert Series, with three daily performances headlined by Broadway stars who reprise favorite songs from past performances in award-winning shows.

Heidi Blickenstaff and Gavin Lee will be among the first performers to grace the stage of America Gardens Theater for this fan-favorite concert series. Heidi is best known for her starring role as Ursula in Disney on Broadway’s “The Little Mermaid.” Gavin received a Tony Award nomination for his Broadway performance as Bert in Disney’s “Mary Poppins” and most recently played Lumière in the 25th-anniversary production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.”

The duo will perform five nights of shows beginning Jan. 18, including a special performance alongside fellow Broadway legends Alton Fitzgerald White and Kissy Simmons. The Disney Parks Blog sat down with Heidi and Gavin this past December to learn more about their upcoming performances at Epcot. Check out the video below for more information!

Here’s the full lineup of show-stopping talent for the Disney on Broadway Concert Series:

  • Jan. 17, 20, 21 and 24 – Kissy Simmons and Alton Fitzgerald White (“THE LION KING”)
  • Jan. 18, 19, 22 and 23 – Heidi Blickenstaff (“The Little Mermaid”) and Gavin Lee (“Mary Poppins”)
  • Jan. 25 – Special performance featuring Simmons, White, Blickenstaff and Lee
  • Jan. 26, 28, 29; Feb. 1, 2, 5 and 6 – Kara Lindsay (“Newsies”) and Kevin Massey (“Tarzan”)
  • Jan. 27, 30, 31, Feb. 3, 4, 7 and 8 – Liana Hunt (“Newsies”) and Adam Jacobs (“Aladdin”)
  • Feb. 9 – Special performance featuring Lindsay, Massey, Hunt and Jacobs
  • Feb. 10, 12, 13, 18, 19, 22 and 23 – Ashley Brown (“Mary Poppins”) and Josh Strickland (“Tarzan”)
  • Feb. 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20 and 21 – Syndee Winters (“The Lion King”) and Michael James Scott (“Aladdin”)
  • Feb. 24 – Special performance featuring Brown, Strickland, Winters and Scott.

All shows are performed at America Gardens Theatre and are included with theme park admission. The best way to experience a performance is by reserving a Disney on Broadway Dining Package, which guarantees seating for one show on the day of the dining experience. Packages at participating Epcot restaurants are now booking; visit ArtfulEpcot.com or call (407) WDW-FEST to make a reservation.

Stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for videos featuring all of the Broadway stars performing at this year’s Epcot International Festival of the Arts!

 

Originally Published: https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2020/01/a-show-stopping-lineup-of-broadway-stars-to-take-the-stage-at-epcot-international-festival-of-the-arts/

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TIPS FOR RUNNING UNIVERSAL’S EPIC CHARACTER 5K AND 10K RACES

Posted by on 7:00 am in Thoughts and Opinions | 0 comments

TIPS FOR RUNNING UNIVERSAL’S EPIC CHARACTER 5K AND 10K RACES

Running is half the fun

Stephanie DominguezStephanie Dominguez

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Had you told me as a child that I would ever run for fun, I would have probably laughed so hard and for so long. Growing up, I had severe asthma and anything in the great outdoors triggered it. I had accepted that “being athletic” was never going to be my thing.

It wasn’t until 2011 that I had a simple, yet life-changing thought that inspired me to change my life:

“I would never survive the zombie apocalypse.”

I know, I know. This isn’t exactly inspiring or even remotely poetic, but I was so angry at the thought of being zombie food. I would totally survive the zombie apocalypse if I could simply run. So I ordered running sneakers, made a killer playlist, and read every blog on how to run. I went from not being able to run for longer than a minute to running four half marathons. Since Running Universal’s Epic Character 5K and 10K races are around the corner, I wanted to write my very own blog to share tips that will help others run Universal’s Epic Character races.

SIGN UP FOR THE RUN 

That was the biggest milestone for me. No longer was I thinking and planning about signing up for a 5k. I had actually done it. The truth is, if I waited until I felt ready I never would have signed up.

Today, signing up for races is one of my favorite activities. Not only does it keep you accountable, but you can begin preparing with a timeline in mind. It gives you tangible goals to strive for and gets you hyped up for a run. Extra bonus points when you sign up with a friend because then you automatically have a training buddy.

So, if you’re on the fence about signing up for Running Universal’s Character 5K or 10K run, don’t be! Reach out to friends, make an Instagram Story, create a Facebook post or use a carrier pigeon. I guarantee someone else wants to run this inaugural race and is just waiting for a running buddy to reach out i.e.: you.

REPEAT AFTER ME, “I LOVE RUNNING!” 

“Fake it till you make it” is a cliche for a reason. And that reason is because it works. When I approached running as a chore, it became one. So, I retrained my brain. I lied enough until it became true. And wouldn’t you know it? I love running now.

I used to say this through clenched teeth with a sarcastic smile and heavy eye-roll, but eventually, it became something I believed.

Maybe it was simply the fact that it became routine, or perhaps it’s because I achieved my goals, or pushed past my own limits. Maybe it was the endorphins. (What’s that saying again? “Exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy.”)

Who knows, after you train for Running Universal’s Character races, you might start craving a good run after a long-work-day-and-even-longer-traffic-day. I can see it now, runners around the world training to outrun velociraptors.

TAKE IT ONE STEP AT A TIME

You can’t force yourself to run one mile overnight. When I first started “running”, I would actually do a mixture of walking and jogging because that’s about all I was capable of at the time. And that’s OK!

Months after this walking and jogging mix, I found myself being able to simply jog without breaks. On one particular day, I ran my heart out until my running app blared celebratory horns through my headphones. It turned out I ran my first consecutive mile.

The point is to just be kind to yourself and remember that running is a continuous process of not giving up and it’s mostly mental. Try switching between walking, jogging, and sprinting. Now, again. Make it routine. Before you know it, you’ll be training for an Ironman in the Serengeti. Not quite there yet? Don’t worry, Universal Orlando Resort has running trails throughout the destination to help you train. Tap here to get a map of the jogging trails.

NEVER SKIP YOUR WARM-UP AND BREATHE (YES, I SAID BREATHE) 

Never skip a warm-up or good stretch. Running injuries are very real and can happen if your body isn’t prepared. As someone who has had non-running related workout injuries, I’m a big advocate for stretching. Work on some basic warm-ups or even start with a brisk walk to warm up your muscles.

And breathe! This might sound silly, but when people begin to run, breathing goes out the window. In fact, many new runners breathe from their chest instead of their diaphragm. This causes new runners to gasp for breath and experience tightness, or pain in the chest or back. The solution? Get into a routine that allows you to run in step with your breathing. I start by inhaling through my nose for two steps and exhaling from my mouth for two steps. This will create a steadier pace, calmer mind, and allow for endurance running. Look up 2:2 running pattern if you want to learn more about this.

MAKE A KILLER RUNNING PLAYLIST 

A playlist will make or break your run. This isn’t only coming from me, this is just science. The BPM (beats per minute) will keep your breathing and running pace in a consistent zone, so you won’t over- (or under) do your workout.

My personal favorite is a playlist full of songs that are high BPM’s with low ones.

REWARD YOURSELF 

You did it! Or, well, you’re going to do it.

Reward yourself with new workout clothes, a Voodoo Doughnut, or your next fun race. In this case, as I’m prepping for Running Universal, I will be rewarding myself with a themed Universal running outfit.

I’m not going to lie, this is also for the fun pictures I’ll be able to take around Universal Orlando Resort. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I like doing races that have exclusive views and character moments. Did I really run if I didn’t take a character photo? It’s so cool to have been a part of an experience that not everyone participates in. Oh and plus, did I mention the medals? I promise they look so cute you’ll want it for your own collection. I’ve started collecting my medals, so I’m always so excited by the races I’ve completed.

So thank you, zombies, and the hyped-up media apocalypse of 2011 for making me into an athlete. If it wasn’t for that, I would still actively avoid any and all forms of running.

Tell me, what are you looking forward to most for Running Universal’s Epic Character 5K and 10K Race? Share your tips and excitement in the comments below.

Originally Published: https://blog.universalorlando.com/whats-new/tips-for-running-universal/

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Dining on the Disney Cruise Line

Posted by on 7:31 am in Thoughts and Opinions | 0 comments

Dining on the Disney Cruise Line

By Kelly Rodriguez

Is it true that a cruise ship is truly a floating buffet? Well, let me tell you more about the food options on a Disney Cruise Line ship and I’ll let you decide.

What are the Dining options on the cruise ship and what’s included is a frequently asked question I receive.

For breakfast you have 3 wonderful options:

Cabanas, which is the wonderful buffet that’s open during the day and located on the aft of the ship. They have so many amazing choices to choose from! This is my favorite way to enjoy breakfast because everyone gets what they like!

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You can eat in the Main dining room, however at breakfast your table and waitstaff will not be the same as dinner.

Or if you like to watch the sunrise from your balcony and want a quiet, more peaceful breakfast, you can order room service.

What are my lunch options?

You can enjoy a wonderful buffet from Cabanas again, room service or the wonderful food court outside of the pool areas.

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Dinner is my favorite! Each ship offers two dining times: main and second seating. Main is usually in the 5:15pm to 6pm hour and second is around 8:15pm or so.

If you chose not to eat in the main dining rooms you have 3 other options, Cabanas buffet, poolside at the food court area or room service. I highly recommend the dining rooms. You can also schedule an adults-only dinner at Palo or Remy on your cruise planner.

You have rotational dining that will be found on your Key to the World card. You will rotate through three restaurants and be presented with a different menu each evening. You will have the privilege of having the same wait staff each night so it’s like they become part of your family by the end. You can choose to eat with just your family or another family as well depending on table size. Don’t be afraid if you don’t like something at dinner to ask for something else or if you love something to ask for seconds!

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You switch with the other dining time schedule when you go to Disney’s live show. They offer a different show nightly, so if you have the main dining you will go to the show during the second dining time. Then the second dining time will come from their show while you were eating and have dinner. It is first come first serve for seating at the shows!

On Pirate’s Night they have a late-night buffet after the fireworks. My dad and husband also stumbled upon some late-night snack offerings in the adults only areas.

On Disney’s castaway cay they have Cookie’s BBQ 1&2 buffet style, which was simply delicious! They had burgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, corn, fresh fruit, sides, cookies and ice cream for dessert!

On the Disney Dream we got to eat in Animator’s Palate, the Royal Palace and The Enchanted Garden. We got to eat at Animator’s Palate twice. During one night Crush from Finding Nemo was near us, and on the second night it was a Pirates of the Caribbean theme.

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From the dinner menus down to the wait staff, food, the presentation, timing, it all truly blew me away! Everything was simply amazing! They brought the kids food first and it came so promptly. The wait staff knew each of our names the first night, which was impressive. By the end of the 4 nights they felt more like family. Also, something I learned on this cruise was if there was something you loved from another dinner that you had earlier in the week chances are they were serving it each night in that same dining room and can get it for you!

*They do have drink stations on the same deck as the pools with coffee, tea, pop, and a non soda option that are complimentary! I recommend bringing your own tumbler to fill to Keep your drink cold! These are found on deck 11 on the Dream and Fantasy.

 

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Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safari – Jambo!

Posted by on 2:21 pm in Thoughts and Opinions | 0 comments

Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safari – Jambo!

By Leandra Hernandez

A must do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the Kilimanjaro Safari. Your safari will take place in a real safari truck driven by a highly trained safari leader and will last approximately 18 to 22 minutes. Depending on the time of year, time of day, and lots of other factors, each safari experience is different.

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Make sure to keep your eyes open for hidden Mickeys along the Safari. I will give you a hint, the flamingos live on a very special shaped island!

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One of the highlights of the safari has to be the lions! Did you know you can hear a lion’s roar up to 5 miles away? The lion and lionesses tend to be present on the large rock that are heated and cooled depending on the weather to keep them comfortable! Maybe you will get to hear the lion roar on your safari (I recommend going at dusk for this truly unique experience) you will never forget it!!

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Make sure to look all around as you journey through the different areas of the safari, from the Ituri Forest to the Serengeti Savannah to the Safi River Valley there is so much to see! The entire Magic Kingdom could fit inside the 110-acre safari!

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Your driver will do their best to point out as many different animals and aspects of nature as possible, you may even get held up by a giraffe or ostrich crossing the road! Nothing is cuter than a baby giraffe blocking your way, but make sure to stay seated and never try to call the animals to you!

When you finish up your exciting safari, make sure to never say goodbye, but to wish your guide Qua Harini, which means Go Well in Swahili!

Leandra Hernandez – Wishes family Travel

leandra@wishesfamilytravel.com

(270)860-4444 cell phone call or text

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Disney Villains After Hours at Magic Kingdom

Posted by on 1:57 pm in Thoughts and Opinions | 0 comments

Disney Villains After Hours at Magic Kingdom

By Kenni Rich

Want to take a walk on the wicked side? Pack your potions, indulge your inner villain and get ready to experience Disney Villains after the park closes in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort.

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Disney Villains After Hours offers low attraction wait times, edgy entertainment, sinfully delicious food and event themed merchandise. My family and I took a walk on the vile side at this limited entry, separate ticketed event where we enjoyed three hours of fun after the park closed to the general public. What we loved about this affair was the villain inspired theming. As soon as the event started, tones of red, black and gray were projected onto the buildings along Main Street USA, Tomorrowland and Adventureland. Villainous music filled the park and set the tone for the evening. Over 20 attractions were open and two had villain inspired surprises. Space Mountain featured eerie music during the ride and Pirates of the Caribbean had live pirates in the queue and within the attraction. My son loved interacting with the pirate who was trapped inside the dungeon.

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Villains Unite the Night, is an all-new stage show in front of Cinderella’s Castle starring Meg, Jafar, Hades, The Evil Queen, Maleficent and many others. During this 20-minute show, Hades awaits the alignment of five planets, following a revelation that states when they come together, he will rule the universe. Of course, Hades plan doesn’t go as expected when a group of Disney Villains gather to showcase their powers. The show is offered three times during the event which gives you plenty of opportunities to see the villains in action.

Something that has never been done in Magic Kingdom and is now one of my personal favorite experiences, is Maleficent slinking her way through the park. She makes her appearance twice during the night. What is so neat about this is that she starts her journey in Frontierland and makes her way to Cinderella’s Castle while breathing fire and while surrounded by a group of dancers. Definitely a must see!

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Guests are allowed to pay homage and dress up as their favorite character, which is a wonderful option as this is the first time this has been allowed at an After-Hours event. Just make sure you become familiar with Walt Disney World’s dress code and costume guidelines prior to your vacation. Another reason I loved this themed event was the villain inspired food and beverages for purchase. Hades Temptation and Yzam’a Llama Potion will keep you hydrated while Hades Nachos and the Not So Poison Apple Cupcake will keep you full. If you prefer the Disney classics, bottled beverages, ice cream novelties and popcorn are included with the price of admission and can be found at snack carts throughout the park. Being evil never tasted so good!

My family and I really enjoyed this event. Who doesn’t love lower attraction wait times, snacks and entertainment? This is the perfect option to maximize your time when you vacation at Walt Disney World.

I would love to help you plan your next Disney vacation! Email me at kenni@wishesfamilytravel.com for a complimentary quote.

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Top Questions (& Answers) That I Get Asked Before a Booking

Posted by on 7:00 am in Thoughts and Opinions | 0 comments

Top Questions (& Answers) That I Get Asked Before a Booking

By Erica Kocher

Between meeting new people at events, people I meet during travel, and with friends that are booking their own vacations and then realizing how overwhelming it can be, I must confess, I have had a lot of inspiration to write about most of the questions that I get asked.

I am often asked questions, such as:

  • When is the best time to go to Disney?
  • How can I get a deal on tickets?
  • Why should I stay on property when it’s cheaper to stay off?
  • Which park is Harry Potter in?
  • Why would I pay a travel agent when I can book it on my own?
  • Can you price match vacation prices?

When is the best time to go to Disney?

Let’s start with the most common question “When is the best time to go…,” In the past this was easier to answer. I used to tell people that if children were in school then the crowd levels would be lower. Now, there are so many special events happening throughout the year that it is a little harder to calculate. Holidays are still the busiest time to visit the parks. I have personally traveled to Walt Disney World on all major holidays just to get a feel of how busy it really is. Any time there is a special event such as a race weekend with Run Disney or festival at Epcot, the crowd levels are going to be higher. On a recent trip, a cast member told us that the lowest crowd levels are the week after Thanksgiving and the week between New Years Day and the Disney Marathon.

Another thing to consider when trying to figure out the best time to go to Walt Disney World is weather. If you are looking for sunny and warm weather for swimming, the winter months can become a bit too cool for swimming. The Disney resorts have heated pools, but you do have to get out of the water eventually. If you are sensitive to heat and humidity, then from May-September you would want to avoid central Florida. It is very hot and humid during these months. It is not uncommon for it to rain daily in Florida. Bring a poncho and dry set of shoes and enjoy the parks anyway. Typically, August through November is hurricane season. Walt Disney World has had to close temporarily because of hurricanes only 5 times since opening in 1971. They have plans in place to keep guests as comfortable and safe as possible if it does occur. My personal favorite months to visit are March, April, late-October, & November because of the typically beautiful weather during these months. The important thing to remember is that no matter when you visit, you need to pack appropriately. With a Wishes Family Travel advisor planning your vacation, we will help you be prepared for all aspects of your trip, including weather.

How can I get a deal on tickets?

When it comes to ticket pricing, getting a “deal” is tricky. Disney can release promotions at any time and as you agent, I am trained to watch for and apply those promotions to your qualifying travel package. Sure, you may see cheaper tickets from third party vendors, but Disney even suggests that you purchase directly with them or an Authorized Disney Travel Planner. If you book with a third-party vendor to save a few extra dollars, then Disney does not always honor those tickets. In my research, I have read some very disappointing stories of Disney Park guests who have learned this lesson firsthand.

My suggestion is that if you are going to Walt Disney World or Disneyland on a budget, then book though an Authorized Disney Travel Planner and let us look for a promotion that will lower the cost of your trip for you. Also, you can purchase Disney Gift Cards through wholesale stores often at a small discount to save you some money. I have even purchased Disney Gift Cards with my Target Red Card and saved 5% on my gift card purchase. You can book a Disney vacation by placing a $200 deposit down and then pay off the trip with those discounted Disney Gift Cards.

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Why should I stay on property when it’s cheaper to stay off?

Yes, you can often find prices at Orlando area hotels slightly cheaper than Disney Resort Hotels, but by the time you add all the “perks” of staying on Disney property to your vacation price, it often comes out cheaper than staying off property. Some of those perks include free Disney transportation from the airport and around all of Disney property, free parking at the parks (if you choose to drive), the ability to add the Disney Dining Plan to your vacation, and Extra Magic Hours at the Parks.

Disney’s Magical Express can pick you up from Orlando International Airport (MCO) and take you directly to your resort hotel. Then each hotel has Disney transportation that can take you to the parks & to Disney Springs. Even if you have dining reservations at another resort, it is possible to go to get to that resort using Disney transportation (with a transfer). Not to mention, Disney transportation is extremely fun! Disney transportation takes you by bus, boat, monorail, and now by air on the new Disney Skyliner.

If you choose to drive to the Orlando area or rent a car while you are there, you will pay $25 per day for standard parking and $45-50 per day for preferred parking. You will be charged to park at the hotel per night, and the cost ranges between $15-25 depending on which level resort you are staying at. Your parking at the parks is included in your vacation package, so even if you are at a Deluxe resort and paying $25 a night, then you come out even on parking charges.

I have personally travelled with the Disney Dining Plan and without it to research the convenience of having it. Let me say, I will not travel to Walt Disney World without the dining plan again. Besides the “all-inclusive” feel that you get when having a dining plan added to your vacation, it saves you worry and hassle. When I didn’t have the dining plan, we paid $30 less than we would have paid for the dining plan BUT, we ate less food and we were constantly looking at the price of items on the menu. With the dining plan, if you want the most expensive meal on the menu, you can get it. Walt Disney World offers three levels of dining plans to meet your family’s needs.

While Extra Magic Hours are not something that you can buy, you do pay for park tickets and Extra Magic Hours allow you more time in the parks with lower crowd levels. I have tested out different ways to make Extra Magic Hours most beneficial for my clients. When you book your vacation with me, I will share those tips and secrets with you so that you make the most of your time in the parks.

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Which park is Harry Potter in?

This is a common mistake often made. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located at Universal Studios which is a different company than Walt Disney World. So many clients are disappointed to learn that they were incorrect in thinking that Harry Potter is part of Walt Disney World. I do specialize in Universal Parks, so I can help you add tickets to Universal Studios to your vacation.

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Why would I pay a travel agent when I can book it on my own?

This biggest perk of booking with a Wishes Family Travel concierge agent is that our services are completely free of charge. That’s right, you don’t pay any more for your trip if you booked through me or on your own. The commission we earn is paid directly from vacation supplier. What you are missing out on, if you book on your own, is all the services we have to offer you. For no additional charge, why not have all the benefits that your vacation supplier has to offer PLUS all the services we offer.

If you are someone who believes strongly in supporting small businesses, you are also helping support my business by booking your trip though me. If you book directly with Disney, the planning fees are already included in your price, but Disney gets to keep that money. Honestly, you can get all my services and pay no more than if you booked directly through Disney on your own! It’s a win-win for both of us.

 

Can you price match vacation prices?

With some destinations, we can match prices, if it is a special that is offered directly from that supplier. If it is a third-party company (such as online travel services or big wholesale suppliers), we can not match their prices. Often the discounted price that they are offering you is what is the already built in commission that they will get paid by the destination supplier. What you are not getting by booking with them is any planning services and the experience that a Wishes Family Travel Concierge Agent has to offer you. That experience that we have is invaluable. We love hearing your travel stories and seeing your pictures taken during your trip. When booking with us, you have a friend on your side to help you along the way.

Are you thinking about a visit to Walt Disney World? I am an agent with Wishes Family Travel, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner agencyAs your agent, I’ll help you with everything from finding your perfect package to grabbing those hard-to-get dining and FastPass reservations. I work with all Disney Destinations around the globe. Best of all, my services are complimentary for clients. You can contact me at 1-618-514-5536, or email at erica@wishesfamilytravel.com or through my Wishes Family Travel – Erica Kocher Facebook group.

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8 Must-Try Dishes for Your Italy Cruise

Posted by on 7:00 am in Thoughts and Opinions | 0 comments

8 Must-Try Dishes for Your Italy Cruise

By: Norweigan Cruise Line Blog Staff

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1. Cicchetti

As you walk through the streets of Venice, you’ll undoubtedly pass countless bàcari, or cicchetti bars, along the way. Cicchetti are small plates of food, typically enjoyed with a glass a wine. This is Venice’s answer to tapas in Spain. Some cicchetti bars specialize in fried dishes, while others may primarily feature fresh fish, cheese, meat, etc. It’s not uncommon to see people doing a “cicchetti crawl” to try as many dishes as possible. These inexpensive bars are where you’ll find most Venetians socializing at lunch or before dinner. It’s not uncommon to see gondoliers taking a break with a few cicchetti in hand as well.

There are numerous bàcari where you can eat cicchetti, including Do Mori. Legend has it this was a spot frequented by Casanova, and it’s also believed to be the oldest bàcaro in Venice.

2. Gelato

No matter which ports your Norwegian Cruise Line Italian itinerary visits, you can’t leave Italy without trying gelato at least once. While its translation might mean “ice cream,” gelato has some notable differences. Gelato contains less butterfat, is denser, is served slightly warmer, and has a more velvety texture.

When searching out artisanal gelato, look for natural colors and ones that have ingredient lists on display. And, while the fluffy, overflowing gelato displays look pretty, those often have more air, resulting in less flavor.

3. Pizza

The humble pizza is one of the most beloved dishes in Italy. There are two main types — Neapolitan-style, with a thick and fluffy crust, or Roman-style, with a paper-thin crust. If your cruise stops in Naples, eat Neapolitan-style pizza, and if you’re in Rome, eat Roman-style pizza.

Naples is especially famous for its traditional Margherita pizza, which resembles the Italian flag in color and may have been named after Queen Margherita of Savoy.

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4. Arancini

If your cruise stops in Sicily, don’t miss trying traditional Sicilian arancini. Arancini is creamy, rich risotto shaped into a ball, breaded, and deep-fried. Traditional fillings include meat sauce, cheese, and shredded ham. Depending on whether you’re in western or eastern Sicily, you may hear them called arancina or arancino.

Arancini are not to be confused with suppli, which are typically found at pizzerias in Rome. Suppli are usually oblong in shape and traditionally are only filled with rice, a tomato-based sauce, and a large piece of mozzarella cheese.

5. Carbonara

Carbonara is a pasta dish that is often linked to origins in Rome. It’s made with guanciale, hard pecorino cheese, egg, and pepper. While spaghetti is one of the more common types of pasta used, it’s not uncommon to see carbonara made with linguine, fettuccine, rigatoni, or more.

Many restaurants may serve carbonara, but that doesn’t mean they all get it right. It’s deceptively simple, but some people will alter it by adding cream or substituting bacon for guanciale.

6. Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Bistecca alla Fiorentina is arguably Florence’s most famous dish. This is a large T-bone steak from a Chianina cow that was raised in Tuscany. The outside is fire-grilled, while the steak remains rare on the inside. This is not a steak you should ask to be cooked to your liking, or you may risk offending the chef, as Florentine tradition says the steak is cooked only one way.

It is cut from the loin above the rump but below the rib cage. Higher cuts will have the fillet while the lower cuts do not. On a menu, these will be described as bistecca nel filetto and bistecca nella costola. Florentine Steak is huge, typically anywhere from two to eight pounds, so bring a friend and share one steak.

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7. Tiramisu

Tiramisu is probably one of the most well-known desserts in Italy. Traditional tiramisu is typically made with ladyfingers that are dunked in espresso and then layered between mascarpone and egg custard. Finally, chocolate powder is sprinkled on top.

When seeking out the best tiramisu, ask if it’s made in-house. Rome is regarded as one of the best cities to try it, including Barberini Caffetteria and Pasticeria, which serves tiny tiramisu portions in dark chocolate cups.

8. Carciofi alla Giudia (Jewish Artichokes)

Artichokes are probably not the first food that comes to mind when you think of Italy, but they play an important role in ancient Roman cuisine. Carciofi alla Giudia, Jewish-style artichokes, are the oldest Roman dish from the Jewish quarter. The artichokes are quickly fried, which crisps the leaves and adds a nutty crunchiness.

You can also find the artichokes served alla romana, which is where they are simmered with garlic and mint. In the spring, also look for vignarola, a stew made with artichokes, peas, fava beans, guanciale, romaine, and pecorino cheese.

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If you’re planning an Italy cruise, make sure you reserve plenty of time onshore to enjoy some traditional foods. While walking through various Italian cities, you’ll see everything from street food stalls to upscale restaurants. From pasta to desserts, Italy offers a wide variety of delicious foods to try on your upcoming Italian cruise.

Originally Published: https://www.ncl.com/travel-blog/must-try-dishes-for-italy-mediterranean-cruise-norwegian

 

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