Sunday, February 21, 2016

Epcotiversary: Italy

We celebrated this Epcotiversary a bit early this month since I had a Junior League meeting on the night of the 16th. It worked out perfectly, however, since my brother and his family were in Epcot that day. 

My Disneyfied niece, Amelia, brought three of her friends with her. Amelia and another girl were Disneybounding as Belle and Snow White. 

Our first stop was Test Track; this pregnant mama sat it out, along with my hubby and sister-in-law. Then we headed to France where the non-pregnant adults got mimosas, and we all had breakfast pastries. Epcot's bakery is the only place in World Showcase that opens before 11:00 am (with the exception of Akershus in Norway). 

As we left France, Belle was out meeting guests with no line. Amelia had to stop and get a picture with her Disneybound doppleganger. 

Since we picked Italy out of the Epcot mug for this month, lunch was at Via Napoli. It's nice that they let you order a half and half pizza there- I always go with classic pepperoni because it's just SO GOOD; John chose a white pie. We also had salad, and shared a pasta dish. There was enough food for us to have leftovers for dinner- what's better than Via Napoli for lunch? Via Napoli for lunch AND dinner, that's what. 

We continued our stroll around the World and stopped in Germany at Karamell-Kuche. My favorite treat there is the caramel and marshmallow swirl- it's just enough of a sweet treat. After getting our caramel goodies, we continued on. 

The weather was pretty darn cool, but the sun was bright and the sky was this beautiful blue that only happens during a Florida 'winter.' Honestly, February is my favorite month here. The temperatures are lovely and most days are clear and sunny. The parks aren't too crazy. In my opinion, it's the perfect time to visit Walt Disney World. 

John and I parted from the rest of the crew in Mexico, where they went off to ride Grand Fiesta Tour. He and I had lots of errands to do, since it was the last weekend before we were set to move. 

On our way out, we snapped a (WINDY!) Spaceship Earth Selfie. It was another wonderful Epcotiversary- can't believe there's only two left, and then we celebrate our ONE YEAR!! 

North Face Jacket (old, but my next puffy coat purchase will be this Patagonia jacket) // Lilly Pulitzer Scarf (old print, similar here) // Jessica Simpson Maternity Jeans (yep, maternity jeans. Can I just say, SO comfortable. I may never go back to regular jeans again...) // Ugg Boots // Club 33 Dooney and Bourke Handbag

Thanks for reading! XOXO, Ashley 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dressing for a Disney Cruise: Embarkation Day Part 1

Ahoy, mates. Let's shove off on our Honeymoon cruise on the Disney Fantasy, shall we? (Note: I started this post, eh, about eight months ago. And here we are...)
I should mention that we booked our cruise through Tammy at Storybook Destinations, and can't recommend her enough. There are no additional fees for booking through them, AND you get onboard credit. She answered our (many) questions and was accessible at every moment; I remember emailing her around midnight one night, and she promptly responded! She even threw in a few surprises in our stateroom! Again, can't recommend her or Storybook Destinations enough. There's no reason NOT to book with them. DO IT!

After spending some time in the Magic Kingdom for the Coolest Summer Ever 24-Hour Day, and a memorable night in a villa at Bay Lake Tower, we were ready to hit the high seas!

We chose to drive ourselves to the cruise terminal and park our car in the covered garage. It was costly but we factored it into our budget, and the convenience totally justified the cost. That said, we needed to leave Orlando around 9:30 in order to make it to the terminal at Port Canaveral by 10:30.

We grabbed a to-go breakfast sandwich at Contempo Cafe (got the kid's meal, which came with a turkey and egg sandwich on goldfish-shaped bread with two sides and a drink) and hit the road.
Upon arrival at the port, we followed the signs to the Disney Cruise terminal. We pulled up curbside where I jumped out and we pulled out all of our luggage. John took the car and parked in the parking structure, and was back with me within five minutes.

Meanwhile, an attentive Disney cruise line CM took our checked baggage, we took our carry-ons, and headed into the terminal.

You'll have to show your passport and cruise info at a kiosk before heading in; once through, we decided to hit the loo on the outside of the terminal before getting into the lines inside. Maybe TMI, but just want you to know your options. ;)

Next, we jumped in line for the security scanner. This line only took about 10 minutes. We were a bit nervous that our rolling suitcase carry-ons would be too large to fit through the belt, but they made it just fine. Then it was up the escalator and into the main terminal room.

From there, it was into another line. This one moved quickly. We got to the counter, checked in and got our Key to the World card (your room key and charge card, basically), and decided to head to the 'upgrade desk' to see if there were any options for upgrading our stateroom. This was all the way to the far right of the row of counters; there was one family in front of us, and we waited about 10 minutes before speaking with a CM. There were a few options for room upgrades, but they were only in the aft of the ship, and after doing some research, I knew we didn't want to be there. (I'll do a stateroom post too.) We passed on the upgrade, which was just as well as we had meticulously chosen our starboard side, 8th floor forward veranda room.
We were Boarding Group 7, I believe. Once they begin boarding the boat, it moves fairly quickly. From the time we got into the security scanner line, to the time we boarded, was probably half an hour, tops. Again, we were an early boarding time which totally helps.
Once our boarding group was called, we filed through the giant Mickey head and into one of three lines for a photo op. This took a bit of time and is optional. Next time, we'll probably skip it. From there, it was up a ramp and into the lobby- just before we walked onto the ship, a CM asked our family name and announced us to the cruise ship atrium as we walked in. Talk about feeling special!

John and I had done a ton of research and knew a.) there were several things we wanted to sign up for once on the ship and b.) this is best done ASAP to be sure you get what you want. As soon as we boarded, we hooked a right and got in line at Guest Relations. Here we booked our spots for the Castaway Cay 5K and dropped off our pillowcase for character signatures (this is a feature that sadly was discontinued fleet-wide as of August 2015). We also wanted to book several adult beverage seminars, which all needed to be handled in the nightclub area. Armed with a map, we made our way.
When we arrived to the nightclub area, we were given a list of all the days and times available for various seminars. Our main goal was a Mixology class, which we LOVED and highly recommend. We also signed up for a late night whisky tasting, and a chocolate and champagne tasting. There is a fee for each seminar, ranging from $20-$35(ish) dollars per person.
Our next stop was Senses Spa. I had read that you could get a day pass to use the Rainforest Room (consisting of several different showers, steam rooms with aromatherapy, heated lounge chairs, a hot tub and more), so that was our goal. 

Unfortunately, upon entering, we were hit with a sales pitch and pressed to buy, buy, BUY all the packages. We were told that the day passes only go on sale once 7-day Rainforest Room passes have all been sold. Apparently there are only 100 or so of the cruise-long passes, which run around $150 per person. We didn't want to be locked in and feel that we had to use it enough to make our monies worth, just simply a day pass to test it out. We were told to call every day in the morning to see if any were available. Again, we were told to BUY the cruise-long pass so as not to miss out!!! No thanks. We took a peek at the workout room and left, not to return again. It really left a bad taste in our mouth. Everyone, everywhere on the cruise was so accommodating and went out of their way to make our trip top notch. This was the only place that we felt a sales push and bit of pressure. Maybe we did something wrong, I don't know. If you have any insight as to how to get a day pass for the Rainforest Room, please share! 

Anyway, here's a look at the different seminars and classes offered through the spa. This was not our specific itinerary, but I guess the offerings are the same for all the 7-day cruises. 

Lilly Pulitzer for Target Pants // BRIDE Tank from Target // On John: Trader Sam's Grog Grotto Button Up

Ok, with business taken care of, we were ready to relax. Our room wasn't ready yet so we headed to the adult pool area. Be mindful that whatever you carry on with you, will have to be schlepped around with you until your room is ready, which is often a few hours after boarding. Hence our rolling suitcases. This is also the only time to explore ALL areas of the ship, as the kid's areas are restricted to children once the cruise begins, and the adult spaces are relegated to adults, etc. The first few hours in port are a good time for everyone of all ages to tour all spaces, if you so desire.

We didn't.

Instead our priority was to find a little nook to sit in, order an adult beverage and hit up the lunch buffet. Cabanas is open for this, but it was swarmed with people, so we opted for the grab-and-go options that were poolside, carried them to the adult pool and posted up there. 

If that's not the picture of relaxation, I don't know what is. 

Ok, I know this was a crazy long post already. I'll pick back up with the rest of our day as we checked into our room, etc. With too much info in this post, I'll break it down into some handy bullet points below. Any questions, just ask! 

*I hesitate to put this in here at all, since it's now null and void, but I guess it's worth mentioning. Used to be that you could bring as much booze as you could carry on; NOT CHECKED, mind you, but carried on. We used our rolling suitcases for this and wrapped our full-sized bottles of alcohol in bubble wrap.  These went through the security scanner without an issue. Combine this is the free soda and tea available by the pool deck, and we saved a pretty penny when imbibing on the ship. 

*You will have to choose an embarkation time when you book your cruise. Get earliest embarkation time possible to avoid crowds and maximize ship time.

*There are several option for getting to the cruise terminal- Disney transportation, hired cars/taxis, or driving yourself. We chose to drive, which was extremely easy and convenient, albeit a bit pricey. With this option, John was able to drop me off curbside and park. Super simple. 

*Parking is $20/night in a covered, secured garage right next to the terminal. Very convenient and in our opinion, worth every penny.

*Bring a bit of cash to tip the baggage handler.

*If you want to look into upgrades, head to the appropriate desk after checking in.

*Do your research into staterooms and areas of the ship. This can be found by searching Disney cruise message boards and Google. Tammy from Storybook Destinations writes cruise-centric articles for which are chock full of helpful info. 

* The pre-boarding photo is optional; you can save a bit of time by bypassing it.

* Head to Guest Relations as soon as you board to set up various activities, including:
- Frozen/Princess meet and greets (free, separate tickets required; these go fast.)
- Castaway Cay 5K

* Adult beverage seminars need to be booked at the nightclub area; Guest Relations can direct you there.

*Cabanas is open for a buffet lunch on embarkation day; apparently one of the other restaurants is open for a table-service option too, but it doesn't open for a few hours after the ship starts allowing passengers to board. There is also pizza, a build-your-own burger bar, fresh fruit, cold cut sandwiches, and other options poolside if you don't feel like battling the madness which is Cabanas.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Dressing for Disney: Epcotiversary in Norway and Japan

John and I doubled up this month for our Epcotiversary and visited two countries in one visit. This worked out well as the 16th of this month (January) fell on a Saturday and we had some extra time to spend in the park, rather than cramming it in after work on a weekday like we usually do. 

When we drew the countries out of the cup, I jumped on to My Disney Experience to see if we could get an ADR at Akershus, since we haven't eaten there. Part of my plan when devising this whole Epcotiversary thing was for us to be able to eat at every resturaunt in World Showcase (we've hit most of them; this would give us a good excuse to visit the ones we often overlook). I found us an ADR but when we checked the price for the meal, we just couldn't justify spending that amount on something that neither of us were really all that excited for. You see, when it's just John and myself, we don't really love to do the character dining. If we have a group or a kid with us, it's fine, since the conversation flows a bit better. But with just us, it can feel a bit... awkward. Combine that with the fact that Akershus is filled with face characters who you actually have to carry on a convo with, instead of fur characters that just pantomime in reaction to whatever you say, and we were really sweatin'. 

So, long story short, we canceled our reservation and decided to get lunch in Japan and dessert in Norway (hello, school bread!). 

We stopped in Starbucks on the way in- decaf iced soy latte for this pregnant mamma

Then we hopped a Friendship boat across the World Showcase Lagoon on our way to Japan.

With a bouncing bundle of joy on the way, John and I have done a bit of budgeting and decided to keep our costs down by eating at a quick service restaurant. We headed up to Katsuri Grill. John got the spicy ramen bowl and I had the tempura shrimp bowl with a side salad. They were both really yummy. I especially liked John's with all the veggies, but I was scared to order it due to the 'spice' factor. I hate to admit it, but I'm kind of a spice wuss. I like and appreciate the flavor, but I don't have a high tolerance for spicy. I envy those people who can eat REALLY spicy things, and wish I could, but alas, I cannot. 

We ventured counter-clockwise around World Showcase after lunch. The temple in China is getting a facelift. 

Finally we arrived in Arendelle Norway for dessert. The line at the Kringla bakery was out the door! Errybody wanted them some school bread. 

I was also going to get one of the heart-shaped waffles with strawberry jam in the middle, but THEY DON'T HAVE THOSE ANYMORE!!! Sadness. So I waffled (ha!) between the cloud horn and the cream puff, neither of which I'd tried before. We went with the cream puff, and while it was okay, I wouldn't order it again. That school bread though. That. School. Bread. 

We had errands to run so we left Epcot after dessert. One Spaceship Earth selfie and one monorail picture later, and we were out. 

Thanks for reading! XOXO, Ashley