So following on from part one of our awesome adventure to see the live final of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway at Walt Disney World, here’s part two of our fabulous Florida photo diary. Friday started with some safari fun at Tusker House, with a delicious African-themed breakfast with Mickey and friends. If you’re thinking of booking a character breakfast, this is a fab one to choose: the setting is gorgeous and after an early start, a delicious breakfast, and some musical fun with a host of characters, you’re all set to head out into Disney’s Animal Kingdom to enjoy your day at the park. Plus you get to hug Safari Mickey and dance with Donald Duck, I mean, what’s not to love?!
This year is a seriously busy one for Disney, with the opening of a whole new world (see what I did there?) as well as loads of other new events and attractions. If you’re planning a visit this year, here’s a little Walt Disney World update, so you can find out what you can expect to see and experience while you’re there.
…and some old favourites. So last time, I told you a little about Walt Disney World Resort, Florida’s fabulous free dining offer. This time, I thought I’d bring you an update on some fabulous new experiences at Walt Disney World, including stunning new dining options and new attractions. I’ve also added in a few things that aren’t new, but that I experienced for the first time too. So sit back, grab a cuppa, and I’ll begin… Read more
While we were at Walt Disney World Resort, Florida last week, I was lucky enough to catch a press conference about everything that’s new and coming up at the parks. There’s exciting news of two new lands: a Star Wars themed land, and a new Toy Story land, plus more information on Pandora: The World of AVATAR, which is coming in 2017. We also had some sneaky peeks of attractions and shows that are due to open, including Rivers of Light and new nighttime Kilimanjaro Safaris. Step this way for all the news (by the way, I had to write really, really quickly while people were talking so please excuse any errors or omissions):
I’m off to Florida in just two weeks’ time and I’m RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED. I’ve been promising my gorgeous niece, Amy, that we’d take a trip together, and when this one came up I knew it would be perfect for some quality auntie time. We’re heading off with a couple of really lovely friends including my homie Liz to possibly my favourite place in the world, Walt Disney World, for a couple of days of theme park fun (and to visit the new Disney Springs area, which has been on my list – more of this in a minute), and then we’re off to the Bahamas on Disney Cruise Line’s beautiful ship, the Disney Dream for some relaxing, a bit of pampering, and a bit of beach time on Disney’s heavenly private island, Castaway Cay. If you haven’t planned your holiday yet, here are five fantastic reasons to visit Walt Disney World Resort, Florida this year:
One of my favourite things to do at Walt Disney World Resort Florida is to take a sunny walk around World Showcase at Epcot. The best smelling part, bar none, is the amazing Karamell-Küche in the Germany pavilion, the home of Werther’s Original, where you can sample all sorts of yummy treats made with the famous caramel: cookies, fudge, and – my favourite – salted caramel brownies.
1 Meet Puck at Seaworld’s new Antarctica
Seaworld’s brand new Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin attraction is now open. Visit the frozen South Pole with Puck the baby Gentoo penguin, who is ready to tell you all about penguin life in this brand new area complete with icy winds, icebergs and hundreds of penguins in the largest artificial penguin habitat ever built. A new 8 seater trackless ride whooshes you through this frozen land.
2 Feed the giraffes on the Serengeti Safari at Busch Gardens
You might be in Florida, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a proper African adventure. Book the Serengeti Safari and you can travel in an open truck across the 65 acres of Serengeti Plain, spotting zebra, ostriches and all sorts of other wildlife. There’s also an opportunity to hand feed the giraffes – one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had.
3 Drink butter beer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
A visit to Florida isn’t complete without a visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, one of two areas that make up Universal Orlando Resort. Stop and grab a butter beer at the cart before charging off to choose your dragon on the Dragon Challenge coaster, or wander through Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on the magical ‘Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey’ ride.
4 Watch the fireworks at Epcot
One of my favourite parts of any Florida trip is watching the beautiful IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth show at Disney’s Epcot. The show is a 14-minute extravaganza of fireworks, lasers and water effects that melts even the hardest of hearts. The show takes place every night at the World Showcase area.
5 Spot gators at Myakka River State Park
Of course Florida is so much more than just theme parks. Sarasota boasts stylish shopping, fabulous white sandy beaches and the Myakka River State Park, one of Florida’s oldest state parks, stretching across 57 square miles of woodland, wetland and prairie. The area is great for camping, fishing and cycling, but my top tip is to take one of the amazing boat trips where you can see alligators, eagles and all manner of wildlife. Entry to the park is just $6 a car.
6 Go circus crazy at the Ringling Museum
While you’re in Sarasota, don’t miss the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Don’t be fooled by the title, the Ringling is the most incredible place, with 20 acres of gorgeous Sarasota seafront, the most beautiful, breathtaking mansion, an interactive Circus Museum and a breathtaking model circus.
7 Segway around St Pete’s
St Petersburg is located on a peninsula curling out into the Gulf of Mexico and is attached to Tampa by a causeway. One of the best ways to see this beautiful area is to take a Segway tour. Tours are suitable for families (but children need to be minimum 75lb) and will take you both into the city and along the pier.
8 Visit historic John’s Pass Village
While you’re at St Pete’s take time to visit John’s Pass, a beautiful old fishing village where you can shop ‘til you drop, go on a boat tour or even hire jetskis. If you’re lucky enough to visit in October there’s a wonderful seafood festival (October 25/26/27, 2013), but at other times, get your seafood fix at the iconic Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
9 Encounter Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center
Over on the Space Coast there are more incredible beaches, plus the Kennedy Space Center. Take a guided tour, indulge in some astronaut training, watch an entire launch countdown re-enacted in an actual mission control centre, and from later this month you can visit Space Shuttle Atlantis which is going to be permanently exhibited at Kennedy, jam packed with interactive encounters, simulators and exhibits. A once in a lifetime experience.
10 Surfs up at Cocoa Beach
While you’re on the space coast, take time to spend a day at beautiful Cocoa Beach, visit the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop to kit yourself out, then hit the surf! Later on, take a wander along historic Cocoa Beach Pier for dinner and drinks as the sun goes down. Heaven.
For more information, click on Visit Florida.
Where to begin?
Well, after champers in the V Room at London Gatwick and an easy flight into Orlando (I love Virgin Atlantic, I do) and the excitement of being picked up by Disney’s VIP service (woo!), we headed to our hotel for the night, the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. The place is absolutely vast – 65 acres to be precise – and has an equestrian theme, based on a real place called Saratoga Springs which was famous in New York in the 1800s. The resort is made up of lots of different self-catering villas all set in lush landscapes around a huge lake. It’s just beautiful:
We headed out to Epcot at Walt Disney World to the Hacienda restaurant based in the Mexico part of the park. The food was amazeballs, as you can imagine. And check out the margaritas! The one on the left was mango, blueberry and basil, and mine was an avocado margarita (yes, really) with Tequila, melon liqueur, fresh avocado, agave nectar and fresh lime. It had an amazing Hibiscus salt rim as well. Yummers:
The next morning, after a really lush breakfast, we headed off to Port Canaveral to board the ship (don’t call it a boat, you just upset the crew!). This was our first glimpse:
It really is a huge beast. And by this time we were so excited there was quite a bit of squeaking coming from Liz and I. Through customs, we were welcomed into the foyer by no other than Minnie Mouse:
About the Disney Dream
- The ship itself takes about 4,500 passengers and weighs 128000 tons.
- It’s all-inclusive on board, apart from booze and some of the adults only fine dining experiences (oh, the food – I’ve got a lot to tell you about the food). There are 6 restaurants, plus 3 food court areas including a pizza restaurant, fast food joint and ice cream parlour open ALL DAY! So basically you can stuff yourself silly all day (which we did, of course).
- It’s home to the Aquaduck, the world’s first on-ship ‘water coaster’: a 765ft water ride, a section of which actually goes out over the side of the ship.
- There are 1,250 staterooms (that’s what you call the cabins, although I managed to show myself up by calling ours a ‘chalet’ on several occasions).
- There are three pools: an adults-only, two children’s pools – one Mickey-shaped one for tiddlers, plus a lovely splash area for tiddlers with little fountains and jets.
- There is an amazing adults-only entertainment area with nightclubs, lounges and bars.
- There are tons of kids clubs, from a nursery for teeny guests (3 months to 3 years), through the Oceaneer Club and Lab (3 to ten years), Edge (for ‘tweens’), right up to the amazing Vibe – an entire area for teenagers 14 – 17, including a club, a great outdoor area with pools, and dedicated entertainment staff. Once registered, teens get a special card which opens the teens-only door – no adults allowed!
- It’s a cash-free ship. Everything is charged to your ‘Key to the World’ room key, and settled up at the end of the cruise by cash or credit card (but watch out, the shops are fabulous).
The staterooms are certainly compact, but you don’t spend any time in them. There’s one of those beds in the ceiling too which is great fun to sleep in and has a starry ceiling!:
‘Sailing Away’ is absolutely phenomenal. There’s a huge party on deck with a show (and lots of characters, naturally) and loads of people line up on the shore to wave goodbye (including a police car with its lights flashing). As the ship glides out of Port Canaveral the ship’s horn parps the first few notes of ‘When you wish upon a star’. It’s just amazing (we were there with a film crew – this is Paddy the Producer’s ear):
So we were off! LOADS more to tell you, but in the meantime, if you want to see more photos from our Disney Dream trip – check out my Facebook page: facebook.com/englishmumdotcom