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The Cruiser goes to Disney World

Posted 03-29-2018 at 09:16 AM by PhantomCruiser
Updated 01-30-2019 at 07:34 AM by PhantomCruiser (Goofy formatting?)

My thoughts on Disney:
Now that we’re back from Spring Break and a long stay at the House of the Mouse I thought I’d collected my thoughts enough to put them down in one place in a (hopefully) coherent fashion. Disney can be overwhelming, there’s a lot of information in many different places, between what friends, neighbors and various other blogs say is a “must do” and finding out what actually works for you can be vastly different. This is just the view of a regular dude.
Some of you might know that the Mrs. Cruiser and I were awarded custody of a little one (she’s 7 now), the back story isn’t important right now. What is important is that 7 is almost the perfect age to visit the Mouse Empire. Stuff is still magical, the princes and princesses are real, the rides are exhilarating and yes, Cinderella really does live in that castle. Normally we cruise during our vacations, I’m a sailor and the sea calls. But for the reasons listed above I thought that the little one would really enjoy Disney (and I was right).
For naming conventions my actual daughter is generally kiddo (she’s 24). The little one that we have custody of is kiddo has the initials of B. B. and I call her (of course) BB.

So last summer I started into the planning phase. I did this all myself, a travel agent might help, ymmv, but this was all on me. Starting out with the Disney web site, of course, it’s got a lot of data on it. In Florida there are the 4 major Disney parks and a host of resorts (Disney owned and otherwise). The Disney web site is pretty expansive, multiple tab browsing or even multiple monitors will make the planning much easier. Also take notes. There is an option to chat with a Disney Vacation Planner who can answer questions you have (remember them notes you took?)
I wanted to spend a full day at each park, with an option to leave and come back later if that’s what anyone wanted to do. Given transportation, parking and distances involved I opted for a Disney resort. After some searching around and reading reviews I centered on Port Orleans, Riverside.Also with the resort, everyone in the party gets a Magic Band.This thing can be dangerous, not only is it your room key, but it can be linked to a credit card and you have purchasing power with it.You can restrict the use of it, who wants a 7 year old running around with all that stuff they just “Have to have?”
The Resort: Riverside and the French Quarter resorts are neighbors, indeed at one time they were one single resort. For whatever reason, they’ve been split in two.From what I’ve gathered, they are also the best of the moderately priced resorts on site.One night we went over to the French Quarter resort to eat, they specialize in Cajun/Creole food whereas Port Orleans is more seafood.Both restaurants are pretty good.I give a nod to the ‘Quarter for their desserts.Love those King Cakes, just the right size and I don’t have to share.Also I think the ‘Quarter had been more recently renovated, their dining hall looked a bit more up to date.Nothing wrong with Riverside though.Also, getting in to the resort you have to pass through a security checkpoint.If you are not on the list as a guest, you’ll be turned around.You can bounce from one resort to another via the shuttle busses, but you can only gain initial access to the resort in which you have reservations.
I opted for a “preferred location” as a room choice, our building was #14 in the Alligator Bayou and it was right next door to the main building. One set of stairs and about 100 yards and we were in the restaurant, easy peasy.
The Dining Plan: Not essential, but worth taking a look at. You can bring your own snacks and drink into the park (no booze) and save yourself a lot of money, but somebody has to carry it all.Still a bag of skittles is a lot cheaper at the dollar store than in the parks.I opted for the middle plan, this gave us each one table service meal, one quick service meal, and a snack per day.Is it worth it?Maybe.With some planning you can come out ahead on the deal.I can see where it’d also be a loss.There are so many places to eat it is incredible.This probably caused me the biggest worry.Unfounded, it all worked out.I’ll list the places we ate later.
Photopass: I got it, probably a wash as far as costs go. You know when you get to a place and a photographer shoves a camera in your face?Or how everyone at the end of a ride has to walk past a kiosk and see their faces during the ride?Or all those characters posing for photo ops?The photographer zaps your Magic Band and you have those pictures available in moments.Download, share, print out later.You also get an IP release, so you can get them printed at a shop after the vacation.
Park Hopper option: After talking with some dudes at work I passed on this.Do everything you want to do at the park you’re in for that day.Bouncing between parks is easy to do, but it takes time.You’ve already paid for the time right?It’s not an efficient use of it.So, a big “no” to the park hopper.
OK planning done. If you are using a resort stay, you don’t have to pay in one lump sum.Stretch it out over several months if you need to.Set up a Disney account and download the “My Disney Experience” for you smart phone and watch your email.As zero hour approaches you’ll get an opportunity to customize the Magic Bands

Travel Day: An early morning start in order to avoid Atlanta traffic. It rained on us and there were some delays on the road.Arrival in Orlando was supposed to be 2:30 pm.Thanks to a car on fire, some construction, and Orlando traffic, actual arrival time was around 5 pm.We had a dinner reservation for later.So the wife and kiddo, with the boyfriend of kiddo took the water taxi to Disney Springs.Little one and I took up residence poolside.Nice pool, I had a hammock all to myself for hours.There’s a small waterslide that BB enjoyed.
The restaurants: I was concerned about making reservations for a group of people and wanting everyone to have something they liked on the menu.This info is available on the web, worth looking at.
Day one: The little one and I had our quick serve meal there at the resort.I had a BBQ something or other, BB had pizza.Dinner was Boatwright’s, also there at our resort.Mmmmmmm, damb good.
Day two: Lunch (table service) at the Liberty Tree Inn inside the Magic Kingdom. It’s mostly familiar (to Americans) comfort food.Again, good eatin.
Day three: Epcot. Table service at the Nine Dragons.Dang that was good.Kiddo, her boyfriend and the Mrs. Cruiser left early.BB and I stayed until around 6 or so.Quick service meal was at the French Quarter resort.
Day four: Animal Kingdom. BB and I got up early and hit the park ahead of everyone else.She and I had a quick service meal at The Flaming Tree BBQ (OMG!Best quick service meal during the vacation).BB had ribs and chicken, I had a pulled pork sammich.The rest of the crew had their lunch at the Yak and Yettie.They report that they were not impressed.Kiddo ate at the Flaming Tree later and was much happier.Table service was late.8 pm in Africa at the Tusker House.This was planned particularly for BB as it was a character dining thing.Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy all patrol around for photos and general shenanigans.There is a pattern that the characters make to ensure that each table gets hit by each character, as well as handlers to ensure that nobody gets left out.The look on BB’s face was worth the price of the vacation.I am so very, very awesome.
Day five: Disney studios.Wife opted out of this park.Table service at Mama Melrose’s, it’s clearly Italian and we were all very happy with it.BB got spaghetti and meatballs and I’m pleased to announce that she said mine is better.My sauce recipe comes from my grandmother.She had to make something to copy what my granddad got from the mom-n-pop places that he visited during WWII.So again Spaghetti de la Cruiser totally rocks.
Kiddo and her boyfriend bailed early, BB and I stayed on for a while and were back at the resort around 5. A road trip for all of us to Disney Springs and our final quick service meal at Raglan Road (an Irish place).Many places at Disney Springs take the dining plan.We still had a table serve credit for the wife (Mama Melrose), so…Back to our resort, via the French Quarter.Wifey was able to trade her table service meal for snack credits.And we proceeded to finish out all the remaining snack credits for the road trip home.
Things to keep in mind: If you stay at the resort and you have the dining plan, your meals are good for every night you stay at the resort. Meaning you can go eat as soon as you get there.
Disney Springs: Has a parking garage, it’s also free to park.As soon as you get off the escalator your nose is assaulted by whatever deliciousness is being cooked nearby.It’s a really cool place, wifey said it was really crowded Sunday night when we got there, but on Thursday night it wasn’t too bad.Music is everywhere and I think there is something for everyone to enjoy.
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  1. Old Comment
    PhantomCruiser's Avatar
    Dang that's a wall of text. But at least I got my thoughts down.
    Posted 03-29-2018 at 09:21 AM by PhantomCruiser PhantomCruiser is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Nicholas Kang's Avatar
    Wow, I am kind of hungry after reading your blog.

    That's a nice plan. You must had a whale of time with your family there!

    Looks like I need to do some planning before visiting Orlando's Disneyland in the future. I have been to the one in Hong Kong when I was 10/11 (can't recall the exact age).

    Talk about trip planning. These days DIY-style homework is a must for many before they travel. I still remember looking up Google Maps and some transportation websites searching for routes to travel from my hostel here to the airport, the library and some shopping complexes in downtown Kuala Lumpur. It might be a hassle having to spend hours looking for the most time-saving and efficient way of travelling, but when you arrive at the destination and get to do what you want, the hard work pays off and it all worth it.

    (Will certainly PM you in the future before going to Orlando's Disneyland. )

    Time for dinner!
    Posted 03-30-2018 at 09:48 AM by Nicholas Kang Nicholas Kang is offline
    Updated 03-30-2018 at 11:11 AM by Nicholas Kang
  3. Old Comment
    PhantomCruiser's Avatar
    A few things I forgot...

    The resort - one thing you get at the resort is a mug that you can use at the drink stations (at the resort, not at the parks). All you can drink, unlimited refills. After you check in and start wandering around, head towards the restaurant and you should see the mugs on display. Grab on and go through the line as if you were going to pay for it. Tell the cast member at the register that you are picking up you mug and need it activated. All too easy.

    The food again - There is a series of youtube videos by a group "Disney Food Blog". Lots of good information and you get to see what you're up against. When I said there was a lot of places to eat. Man I ain't joking. Also you can hit up their web site and get some information for printing out.

    After watching some of the videos, BB had her heart set on the "Rose Gold Mouse Ear Cupcakes". Which are supposed to be available at the main street bakery (not too far inside the park, follow your nose). BUT is being very close to St. Patricks Day, they didn't have them. She was disappointed but settled for the green frosting mouse ear cupcake. It must have been good, she didn't want to share and had frosting and chocolate on her nose, both cheeks and even managed to get some on here forehead. I'll be using that picture as a wallpaper for a while

    The next day at EPCOT after riding "Soaring" the group wanted to grab some breakfast at the grill (inside the same building). And as we approached the counter the first thing we saw was that coveted rose gold mouse ear cupcake. Seriously though it was all lit up and angels were singing as far as BB was concerned. It was delicious!
    So even if something it's available at the place where it's supposed to be, doesn't mean you might not find it elsewhere, just keep your eyes peeled.

    I missed my opportunity for the Cheshire Cat tail though. Next time Disney... Next time...
    Posted 04-07-2018 at 10:20 AM by PhantomCruiser PhantomCruiser is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Artlav's Avatar
    Wow, that was quite a bit more involved than the accidental visit i had.

    Haven't realized you can get an entire vacation centered around one of these parks. Given the size of ones in Florida compared to Paris one and there being kids involved i guess that's not too surprising.
    Posted 05-26-2018 at 09:58 PM by Artlav Artlav is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Frilock's Avatar
    Yeah If you're going to take a Disney vacation, Florida is the one to go to. Your best bet is actually to get one of their vacation packages. If you do it right, the only thing outside of the package itself you need to worry about is the plane ticket to Orlando, Disney will cover literally everything else!
    Posted 06-09-2018 at 04:53 PM by Frilock Frilock is offline
  6. Old Comment
    PhantomCruiser's Avatar
    After all this time I finally remembered to update something. BB was watching the food blogger channel again and it keyed a memory.

    If you have the time, it may be worth stopping by guest services, and I'll tell you why. If it's your first visit to the Mouse Empire, or you are celebrating something (wedding, birthday, anniversary, whatever), you can get a button/pin to wear on your shirt. We'd gotten BB a "First Visit" button at Epcot. BB wore it for the rest of the trip. It was a quick and easy souvenir that only cost about 90 seconds in the guest services queue. Also, with the pin, you might get some individual attention by one of the cast members.

    Also, those hard working cast members are as human as the guests. You paid for entrance to the parks, and being cordial costs nothing extra. Example: After the wife, kiddo, and boyfriend of kiddo abandoned BB and me in the Magic Kingdom, we followed our noses to the pretzel kiosk. I had on a shirt I'd gotten from New Orleans years ago; as it happened, the cast members managing the pretzels were from NOLA and Metairie. It was slow at the kiosk and we chatted for several minutes. They asked if I liked NOLA and I responded with my love for the food and music, and how I thought the best jazz clubs were uptown (despite the French Quarter having more exposure). I suppose they agreed. The very nice lady said that Mickey was picking up the tab for the snacks and BB and I enjoyed pretzels and lemonade.

    Later, at the Animal Kingdom. Flame Tree BBQ. BB and I had made our order and were waiting at the counter. One of the cast members noticed BB's pin and asks if she's having a good time, she said yeas, and told him how much Expedition Everest scared her (awesome coaster btw). He laughed and said she was very brave and welcomed her to the Animal Kingdom. A few minutes later, he checked to see about our order as he thought we'd been waiting too long for our food. After some small talk, our food was delivered, along with some key lime cupcakes with a comment about how well behaved and patient BB was waiting for our meal.

    Last night at the resort: Wife said BB had gotten a cupcake from a cast member at the restaurant just for being awesome.

    So, BB got some free stuff. Once without a pin, twice (that I'm aware of) with a pin. All unexpected. After watching some of the youtube blogs, this is something that cast members do on a regular enough basis, enough to be a unexpected surprise), but not often enough to where people should feel entitled to a freebie.
    Posted 01-30-2019 at 08:00 AM by PhantomCruiser PhantomCruiser is offline

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