First glimpse

My Disney Dream diary part one – Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

Oh, the Disney Dream.  The delightful, delicious, delovely, delectable Disney Dream.  Regular readers will know that I adore all the Disney Cruise Line ships, but there’s something about Disney Dream in particular that makes my heart sing. I think it’s because my first ever Disney Cruise was on board the Disney Dream.  I just love everything about it – the restaurants, the fabulous AquaDuck water coaster, the gorgeous restaurants, the gorgeous cocktail bars, the sumptuous spa…  So, if you’ve ever wondered what a cruise holiday on board a Disney Cruise Line ship is like, wonder no more.  Sam (my oldest son) and I kept a diary during our cruise trip last week, and here’s part one.

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Disney Dream

Gorgeous new luxe foodie experiences on board with Disney Cruise Line

As regular readers will know, I’m a huge fan of Disney Cruise Line. DCL’s fleet comprises four beautiful ships: the first, the recently reimagined Disney Magic, originally set sail in 1998, closely followed by Disney Wonder in 1999, both with the capacity to welcome 2700 guests on board.  Then DCL launched two larger ships, Disney Dream in 2011 (my first, and favourite – with the incredible ‘AquaDuck’ – the world’s first ‘watercoaster’ at sea), and the Disney Fantasy in 2012, both longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall, and with a maximum occupancy of 4000 passengers.

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Guacamole at La Malinche

The UK does Macy’s: my top five things to do in Sarasota

So if you pop in occasionally, you’ll know that Mr English and I recently spent a while in Florida, visiting the Macy’s stores in both Orlando and Sarasota.  We particularly loved Sarasota – it’s a beautiful area and there’s bags of stuff to do as well as a really cool foodie scene.  We whittled our favourite experiences down to five really fab experiences:

Christmas at Macy's

Christmas at Macy’s

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Bobbi Brown at Macy's UTC

The UK does Macy’s – the new Macy’s at UTC Sarasota

So next on our wonderful trip to Florida, we hopped back into our amazing Mustang and headed down to Sarasota, to the brand new Mall at University Town Centre (UTC for short).  The brand new Macy’s there is utterly fantastic, and very state of the art.  We joined store manager Kerry Yelle for a tour of the store.  She’s understandably pretty proud of the place and pointed out several really cool features that are unique to this ‘smart store’.  The lighting, for example, has been designed to be sustainable and the lamps don’t need replacing, plus the changing rooms have lights that only come on when you enter, to save energy.

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Wonderland logo

Dining options on board Quantum of the Seas

So last time I told you all about Quantum’s incredible technology.  It really has transformed nearly every aspect of the guest experience, from super speedy check in and luggage tracing, right down to the dining.  Guests can reserve at iQ stations, by the new app, by phone or in person and with 18 restaurants and 14 bars to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Table staff take orders on a tablet, keeping them where customers need them most, in the restaurant,  and this technology will track you no matter where you eat, so if you love a glass of champagne while you order, or if you have any specific dietary requirements, this will all be logged and the information will be available to each restaurant when you arrive.

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The gardens at Le Manoir

The Raymond Blanc Cookery School at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons with Kenwood Chef Sense

Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to Raymond Blanc’s beautiful Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire.  I’ve wanted to visit for ages, so I was beside myself with excitement.  As I drove up, I dithered outside the front gate in my car, not really knowing what to do, and instantly, a friendly gentleman in an immaculate suit rushed out to help, escorting me to the reception and driving my car off to park it for me.  First impressions?  Pretty darned good.

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Chip and Dale

Video: fabulous Disney dining and the free dining offer – just one week left!

So if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I headed over to Orlando last month to check out the fantastic dining options at Walt Disney World.  Here’s my video report from my trip.  Remember, you’ve only got one week left to book your 2015 holiday and take advantage of the free dining offer.  Read all about it here!

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The signature warm chocolate-banana torte at Citricos

Free dining with 2015 Walt Disney World holidays!

Our lovely visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando seems such a long time ago now.  I’m already pining for the sunshine, for Anna and Elsa, and, more importantly, all that amazing food.

Once upon a time (see what I did there?) I think most people thought that all you could probably eat while you were at Walt Disney World parks and resorts was junk food, or maybe Mickey-shaped ice creams.  Now, people are starting to realise that Walt Disney World features some of the best dining in the world, whether you’re after a snack, quick-service, grab and go option, or proper fine dining with table service.

So what can you expect?

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Frozen cupcake topper

How to make Disney Frozen cupcakes – a masterclass with Chef Jeff

One of my absolute favourite adventures while we were in Walt Disney World was a special, money can’t buy visit to Chef Jeff, Executive Chef at Disney’s beautiful Contemporary Resort, one of my top five Walt Disney World resort hotels.  Chef Jeff and his team are responsible for all the patisserie for the resort, from gorgeous special occasion cakes, to the wonderful cupcakes available in the café.

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The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

The incredible Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

So as I mentioned recently, I’ve been in Orlando for a few days with my friend Laura, experiencing the fabulous food (plus the odd ride, parade, and other lovely things) available throughout Walt Disney World.

One of the highlights of Walt Disney World for me is Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  I adore the showbiz theming – it feels like a real movie set, with all the main areas seamlessly blending into each other.

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Family English on the Allure of the Seas

The Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas: a guided tour

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, I’m pretty sure that you’ve noticed we’ve been cruising on the Allure of the Seas around the Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean challenged the boys to have a really active high-adrenaline cruise and I think we managed it, what with zip-lining, surfing on the Flow-Rider, snorkelling, power rafting and much more.  And while the boys were doing all this, it left us lots of lovely free time for lazing, eating out, sunbathing and a few cocktails too!  Here’s how we got on:

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Pizza in Rome

Food for thought in Italy

For food lovers, Italy is without a doubt one of the best places in the world for dining out. While the usual classics like pizza, pasta and ‘mamma’s tasty meatballs’ are indeed delicious, the culinary scene is vast and varied throughout the country. Italy boasts some incredible quality and a diverse range of flavours as each region has, over time, cultivated its own unique cuisine. In order to source the very best in Italian fare on a dreamy Tuscan city break or a fabulous Roman holiday, consider a few things to tantalise your taste buds.

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Manhattan

The beautiful NCL Breakaway: restaurants and entertainment

So as you’ll see from part one of my cruise diary from my trip aboard the NCL Breakaway, we were mightily impressed with all the facilities on board.  A big part of  ‘cruising like a Norwegian’ is the amount of flexibility in the choices you have: gone are ‘formal nights’ and, indeed, formal dressing for most of the restaurants, and instead you’ll find informal dining at a time that suits you.  That’s not to say you can’t push the boat out, dress up and have a proper evening out, oh no – they even have a name for it: Norwegian’s Night Out is your chance to get dolled up in your favourite outfit and have some fun, but if you want to wander to the buffet in your shorts, that’s fine too. Read more

Disney's BoardWalk Bakery

Cupcakes at the BoardWalk Bakery, Walt Disney World, Florida

So if you follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook (and frankly, why wouldn’t you? There’s cake, beaches, ships and the lunatic whippet of mass destruction makes the odd appearance too), you’ll know that I’ve been visiting Walt Disney World, Florida.  I have loads to tell you – there’s news of the opening of the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a review of the frankly beautiful Disney’s Wilderness Lodge resort, and masses of food, fun and breaking Disney news (Avatar!!).

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Indian tapas at Mother India's Café

Edinburgh for food lovers

Last year I visited Edinburgh, home of my fellow food-loving friend Erica.  We toured some amazing restaurants and markets and decided to make our ‘Foodinburgh’ trip an annual occurrence.  If you think Edinburgh is all haggis, neeps and tatties (not that there’s anything wrong with that – I had my first taste of haggis too, delicious!), then think again, it’s a serious destination for food lovers, with no less than five Michelin starred restaurants and a fabulous array of affordable restaurants and cafés.  I’ve put together a list of my favourites so far, but I’ve got a feeling this could change –  we’re already planning Foodinburgh 2014!

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