Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Weekend Wear-abouts: Epcot Flower and Garden Preview + Booking our Honeymoon Disney Cruise +Universal Studios (and a small rant)


Let me start by saying that our weather hasn't looked like the above picture in quite a few days. We were slogged in with rain, cold weather, and overcast skies for a good four to five days. While I know I can't complain about the weather here in Florida to those who are going through a rough winter up north, we Floridians sure do get used to seeing the sun every day. So this, up there? That was a welcomed sight on Monday morning.

On Friday, I ventured out to Epcot to check out what had been set up so far for the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. Like I said, it was overcast and chilly; I don't think it got out of the 50's that day. So, these pictures aren't as vivid as they could be; guess I'll just have to go back on a sunny day, darn.

I spied some Lilly lovin' ladies on my way in.

Cold, grey skies. And lots of birds.

You may remember my affinity for succulents from this post. So you can imagine my excitement to see them being used in displays around the park.

Funny story here. As I was walking up by Spaceship Earth, I heard a marching band. Odd. I caught them right as they were passing by the Fountain of Nations and tried to catch up. Man, they were moving fast. I did some speed walking and was able to follow them toward Journey Into Imagination and snapped a pic right before they disappeared backstage. Not sure why they were there, but it was a first for me. Then I heard this podcast by the guys over at Retro Disney World, and it made me chuckle when they talked about Ronald Reagan's Presidential procession at Epcot in 1985, complete with marching bands. 

Thanks to the Disney Hipsters of tipping me off to these guys, the Paul McKenna band. Catch them in the UK- they're so, so good.

Mexico had some beautiful flowers. Along with succulents, I also love air plants. They showcased them in a really unique way here.

One of my favorite Flower & Garden details was back in full bloom (see what I did there?!) again this year. They line the wheelchair ramp/walkway leading up to the Mexico pavilion with trees full of orchids. Catch these early in the festival, because they begin to peter out mid-festival. They're so beautiful though. 

So Saturday it rained. And it rained. And it rained. (The Living Seas, anyone?!) 

John and I stayed in all day and didn't do much, aside from finishing our Harry Potter marathon. Oh, and WE BOOKED OUR HONEYMOON CRUISE ABOARD THE DISNEY FANTASY! That's right, we're going on a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise with stops in St. Maarten, St. Thomas/St. John, and of course, Castaway Cay. We're staying in a verandah room.  

This will only be my second cruise ever, and my first Disney cruise. If you've got any tips or advice about this boat, or our ports of call, please fill me in. I've been doing tons of research by reading trip reports, some of my favorites being by Kelly aka sweetpea_1993 over on the WDW Magic forum. In fact, she's the one who put the bug in my ear about Disney cruises, when I stumbled upon her TR's a few years ago. We also booked through Tammy at Storybook Destinations based on her recommendation. Tammy's been great, I'd recommend her in a heartbeat. 

So, Saturday was spent reading about our cruise. We'll be eating at Palo twice, Remy once, partaking in Pirate Night, scuba diving off of St. Maarten, touring St. John, and doing  whole lotta nothing in Castaway Cay (well, snorkeling and bike riding, thanks again Disney Hipsters for that rec.)

You know I'll be filling the blog with my clothing purchases and packing list leading up to the trip, so stay tuned. 

The sun returned on Sunday (fitting), and John and I headed to Universal. We have Annual Passes here, but don't go nearly as often as we go to Disney. It's a bit farther away, and as much as I try to go in with an open mind, I just end up being disappointed and constantly compare it to Disney while I'm there. I like the thrill rides, and there is some neat stuff, but I don't know. The professionalism, cleanliness, pride of the 'cast members', nostalgia, layout, whimsy...is just lacking, with the exception of all things Harry Potter. Again, in my opinion.  

I'll give you a few examples. (Feel free to scroll on down and skip this little rant altogether)

We stopped at Moe's in Citywalk on the way in to Universal. John hadn't eaten all day (this was around 2 pm) and was hangry. You know what I'm talking about, and I can so relate because when I get super hungry, I become an angry bear. Watch out. 

We're in line at Moe's and John orders nachos. The lady behind the counter asks him what kind of meat he wants. He says something like, "Hmm, what are my options..." while obviously looking around to see where they are listed. The lady just stands there looking at us. A good 20 seconds goes by (which doesn't sound long, but is in the moment) with John still looking, and the lady still is not offering up any help. I'm sure she could rattle off the meat options in her sleep. I finally found it on the menu and told him. I know, it sounds so trivial, but come on lady. Work with us here. 

Our Annual Passes allow us Express Pass entrance to most attractions after 4pm. We were walking in to the Mummy ride and approached the employee, who apparently needed to scan our passes. (This is why we wear the stylish lanyards around our neck while there. Oh, and there's a reason why John is sporting a fanny pack too, see below.) So we walk up and she just stands there, holding her little scan gun. We look at her. She looks at us. Instead of saying something along the lines of, "May I scan your ticket please?" she just holds up her gun. We paused for a few seconds, and she waves the gun around in front of her face in a 'come on already' gesture. Again, little things, but things that really stick out to me as unwelcoming and unprofessional. 

Speaking of unwelcoming...

Below is the Krusty burger from the Simpsons area. It tasted as bad as it looks. But curly fries are always good!

Krusty burped in my face during the Meet & Greet. I told him I just ate some of his burger and felt the same way. 

One area that's really nice is the little 'Central Park' spot that goes by the water. I like the shaded trails, birds, and foliage. If only there were more benches in the shade, this would be one of my go-to spots for sitting and people watching.

J.Crew Factory denim shorts (old, similar here) // Gap tank top (old, similar here) // J.Crew linen cardigan (old, similar here) //  Havaianas flip flops

I wear rubber flip flops, like Havaianas, when I think it might rain. As much as I love Rainbows, they're horrible when they get wet. They stay damp, stain the bottom of your feet, and can be really slick. 

Also, above is a perfect example of what I wear during these Spring months when the weather doesn't know what it wants to do. A light sleeve for layering, a tank for when you're in the hot sun, and shorts. The outer layer can also be used to cover your head in case it decides to rain. In the summer, you know the rain is coming, so pack a rain jacket, poncho, or umbrella.  

I'm not a fan of Spongebob, but I am a fan of puns.

My fiancé is such a cutie.

Lacoste t-shirt // J.Crew shorts // Quicksilver hip pack (it's not dorky, if you call it a 'hip pack')

John uses this when we tour Universal because they don't allow any bags or loose items on most rides. Sunglasses? Get a locker. Cell phone in your pocket? Get a locker. My Dooney wristlet that I loop through my belt loops and wear like a make-shift fanny pack? Get a locker. Granted, the lockers are next to each attraction that mandates this, and are free for an amount of time, but it's still a pain. And forget about taking a camera on any ride. I heard an employee yell at someone on the Cat and the Hat ride to "PUT AWAY THE CELL PHONE! NO PICTURES! NO CAMERAS!" once. Cat and the Hat is akin to the Winnie the Pooh ride, for comparison sake. Pretty tame. Plan accordingly. 

So! We were really excited to get back to Diagon Alley after finally finishing the Harry Potter series. It all makes so much more sense now!

This ride. THIS. RIDE. It's intense. But so, so fun. I feel my age when I ride it though, and can only do it once per visit. They videotape your ride, and you can pull it up on kiosks and watch it after. Do it, it's hilarious. 

Sidenote: There's an entrance/exit to Universal Studios back by Rip Roarin' Rocket. It opens an hour or so after the park opens, but is a nice, uncrowded area, and cuts off quite a bit of time if you're walking between the Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Come back tomorrow for a look at the new Magic Kingdom hub and Cinderella Castle shrouded in fog. That was a first for me. I'll also be showing you a Lilly dress I already bought for the cruise, a gem of a walkway between two deluxe resorts, and will fill you in on our D23 Early Screening of  Cinderella. John and I are going tonight-- yay! 


  1. You sound like me... no park compares to Disney. Even as a child when we would venture over to Sea World or Universal I always felt like "Take me back to Disney!" Nothing compares. This is lncmom from ig by the way- I always come up anonymous on comments. I soooo enjoy you posts on visiting the parks, I'm a fellow Lilly lover and I discovered you through Dixie Delights! We just booked our second Disney cruise on the Fastasy for April 2016- you're going to LOVE it- especially Castaway Cay!!

    1. Oh HEY! Nice to put a 'face' with a comment, hee hee. Yeah, maybe I wear rose-colored glasses, but Disney just does it right.
      Aww man, Amanda from Dixie Delights is the best. I bet I've gotten half my readership, and just as many IG followers, thanks to her. What a gem. And I CAN'T WAIT to go on the Disney Cruise! Thanks for commenting!

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  3. Hey Ashley! Do you ever have people do guest posts on your blog? We had Dapper Day this past weekend and I thought it would be fun to do a post about dressing for Dapper Day! Let me know!

    1. I've never really thought of it, but I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to do it! And I would LOVE just as much for you to be the first one! Send me a post and I'll put it up- yay!!

  4. Hi! Just found your blog recently thru Dixie Delights. Love getting my Disney fix from your posts and IG!! Just had to comment to say we went to Universal on our last trip there w/ the sole purpose of seeing the Harry Potter area....I felt the exact same way you did! The customer service, grounds, etc were just not the same. I found myself hurrying everyone along after we finished at HP so we could get back to Disney. I would be tempted to go back now that HP has been expanded...but who knows. We are hoping to take our first cruise next August, so I'm excited to hear about your planning and experience : )

    1. Sweet little Amanda has sent more love my way through her blog- she's priceless! Glad to hear my sentiments about Universal aren't just my own... there's really nothing quite like that 'Disney magic.' But it is worth going back to see all of the new HP stuff. It's pretty fab. I'll keep the blog up to date with our planning for our cruise. In the meantime, thanks so much for reading!

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  6. I agree, Ashley, nothing compares to the magic of the Disney parks. Universal is fun, but I find myself seeing things that are just not "Disney style"; Harry Potter will bring me back again and again though to Universal; one of my favorites for sure.
    I love your denim, striped tank, and red sweater look....love it. Also, thank you for the Havaianas tip about wearing them in the rain. I am a flip flop wearing girl year-round; tennis shoes, for me, are for the gym/exercising and running 5ks :) Looking forward to my first Disney one this fall!
    Happy Cruising on the Disney Cruise Line! I went on one with my sister in 2004, Hurricane coming through, so we missed Castaway Cay. I know you will have a magical time!

    1. You are just too sweet, reading and commenting. I agree, Uni is fun, but it's hard to compare to Disney when I'm as versed in it as I am.
      I too am a flip flop girl; I lived in CT for four years, and one of the hardest parts was wearing real shoes for most of the year!
      Bummer to hear your Castaway Cay day got rained out. Funny story; my first ever cruise was last August on the Royal Caribbean, and we had a tropical storm come up which caused us to miss the private island day. And that's what I was looking forward to the most! That, compounded with other factors, really left a bad taste in my mouth about cruising, but since it was my first one, I chalked it up to that specific cruise line/ship. I'll give Disney a chance, and if they can't turn around my opinion of cruising, I don't know what will. One of my biggest worries is that we'll have poor weather on our Castaway Cay day- I honestly think I'd cry. But positive thoughts, right?!?

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