Month: July 2015

#TripReportTuesday – Taking on the Springs & the High Seas – Let the Memories Begin!

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Day 1: Checking In to Spring Stay #1


When I left you last, we had just driven under the glorious Walt Disney World sign officially welcoming us to Disney property & like a “tale as old as time”, I just couldn’t contain myself!

I need to back up a little because I had forgot to mention that during our final routine gas stop while on the Florida Turnpike, I had received a text message and email from Disney letting us know that our resort room at Coronado Springs was ready & it was only 10:42 AM! This was awesome because check in was not until 3:00! The text message/email even told us what room we had and said that since we had MagicBands, we could go straight to our room without having to visit the front desk to check in. Remember that one of the functions of MagicBands is to act as your room key. This was the first time we got to use this new service of bypassing the front desk since it was just launched this year. In order to opt into using this service, you need to complete the Online Check In process on My Disney Experience and have an active MagicBand and obviously provide them your cell phone number. Online Check In can be completed 60 days in advance.

Knowing that our room was all set and waiting for us, we followed the magical purple street signs to Coronado Springs for our first ever stay at a Walt Disney World Moderate resort.

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^^Excuse the bad quality, I took the picture at the last minute before turning!^^

After minimal navigation, we checked in with the parking lot guard who scanned our MagicBand to ensure we were registered guests and not some crazy people and we were on our way to the Casitas area of the resort.

Coronado Springs is a large Spanish/Southwestern themed resort which also houses a convention center. The resort is basically one large loop which I imagine probably makes for a nice jogging trail. There are three sections your room can be located in: Casitas, Cabanas and Ranchos.  I was actually pleasantly surprised that we were put in Casitas because that area is usually reserved for conventioneers, but there must’ve not been any events during the two nights we were there or if there were, they were relatively small. The Casitas area is near El Centro, which is the main hub of the resort where you will find guest registration and concierge as well as the resort’s restaurants (Maya Grill and Pepper Market) and gift/convenience shop (Panchitos). Our location to El Centro was super convenient especially when we wanted to grab a quick bite to eat, which we would need to do soon since we had not had lunch yet.

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^^Deceiving Signage ^^

We arrived at the Casitas parking lot and hopped out of the car to locate our room. This is when I had wished we had visited the front desk because we could not find our room and the Cast Members always give such good detailed directions! Our location was Casitas 3 room 3324, which was located on the third floor. I must say, the signage for Casitas needs to be a little better! Each of the Casitas buildings has its own set of elevators and stairways, and it can get quite confusing  and we often found ourselves at a dead end even though we followed the sign! At one point we had thought we had made it to Casitas 3, but we were still in Casitas 1. Finally, after much exploring, we found the correct elevator bank. After lots of long winding hallways, we arrived at our room and prayed that our MagicBands would unlock the door so that this wasn’t all for nothing. Luckily for us, they worked!!!

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The room was nothing overly special, just your standard hotel room, but we found it clean and comfortable which is just what we expect. Now that we had a better idea of where our room was, we headed back to the car to grab the rest of our luggage and actually found a stairway which acted as a shortcut to our room, so the walk turned out to not be so bad in the end. Since we were only staying 2 nights, we did not need to unpack everything and didn’t need to use Bell Services.

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We took some pictures along the way which really capture the beauty of this resort. Around every corner there were fountains and lush greenery which made for a very picturesque landscape. You will also notice in most of the pictures, there are no people in sight! A lot of the popular Deluxe Resorts on property are always so busy because of the amenities and proximity to the parks, but we found Coronado to be a nice & quiet retreat. We hardly encountered anyone else in the hallways until we reached El Centro or The Dig Site (main pool). Looking back at these pictures, I really love the colors of this resort!

2015-05-08-12h58m11 ^^Our View!! So pretty!^^

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Once we finished unpacking, our stomachs gently reminded us that we had not had lunch yet. We knew we had dinner reservations at Le Cellier in a few hours which is located in Epcot, but there was no way we could hold out until then because Disney makes us hungry! We decided to hit up El Centro to check out their quick service restaurant: Pepper Market.

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Pepper Market has lots of different options from sandwiches/burgers to pasta to Mexican favorites such as quesadillas and nachos which is what we opted to share! As you can see, the Nacho plate was HUGE and it was delicious as were the quesadillas. There are so many options at Pepper Market to suit every taste and it is always nice to find a place with a good variety of options! Not all quick service locations are so lucky in that respect.

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After a very satisfying lunch we checked out the rest of El Centro and visited the front desk to receive our welcome packet with the park hours and resort happenings schedule. While the option to bypass the registration desk is a nice addition, I actually missed the whole traditional check in process where you get to interact with the Cast Members, especially if you are celebrating a birthday or other occasion. I definitely recommend the express check in service if it is a resort you have stayed at many times, but if you are a first time visitor to Walt Disney World or even that particular resort in general, I think it is wise to visit the front desk and get some assistance from the always knowledgeable Cast Members. As for the Welcome Packet documents, it would be nice if they could deliver that to your room upon arrival if you do decide to use Online Check In, which they may indeed do, I just didn’t give it a chance to check it out. What can I say, I am impatient. Maybe I will test that out on our next trip.

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^^ 3 Caballeros are the cutest!^^2015-05-08-13h37m37^^ Love that Donald!^^

With our bellies full and check in process officially complete, it was almost time for our first FastPass+ reservations so we were off to explore the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (Epcot)!!

 

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#TripReportTuesday: Taking on the Springs and the High Seas – Intro

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We recently returned from another wonderful trip Home to Walt Disney World followed by our first ever Disney Cruise and, boy oh boy, are we hooked on this sort of touring plan. There is nothing quite like running all over the parks we know and love, after all, it is our Happy Place. The best part about this trip, was that we knew once the park fun ended, we would be relaxing on a majestic ship and gorgeous beaches–all with a Disney touch! I think we even may have found a second Happy Place!

I get a lot of questions from people asking about what month is best to visit Walt Disney World and I must say that May is one of our favorite months to visit! There is usually little rain, the humidity hasn’t reached its ridiculous point yet, but it is still hot (very important to northerners) and there may be special events going on during your visit such as the International Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot and Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Not to mention, the crowds are much more bearable than Spring Break & Summer time. This was our third time visiting in the month of May and once again, it did not disappoint!

We stayed our first two nights at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. We then switched over to Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort for 4 additional nights, followed by our 4 night Bahamian cruise on the beautiful Disney Dream.

Since this was our first voyage on a Disney Cruise, we definitely learned a lot along the way. Originally, I was going to just do a boring old review of the Disney Cruise experience, but then I thought doing a trip report would be way more fun, but could still be very informative at the same time, plus it gives me a way to relive the trip which I so miss. And since our journey didn’t start with the cruise, I thought it would be helpful to share the way we roll when we are in Walt Disney World. After all, a lot of what I learned about Disney came from reading other people’s trip reports–so trip reports hold a special place in my Disney heart and I wouldn’t know half of what I know without them! With that said, let’s get this show on the road! (pun intended)

Day 0 – Travel Day


Ah, travel day. This is the most exciting day because you know you still have entire trip ahead of you. I like to keep my travel days as stress free as possible and I do that the only way I know how: by planning and over planning and then planning some more. Notice a trend? I am not a last minute packer-sure there are the essentials I need to pack the day of such as eyeglasses, toothbrushes and cell phone chargers, but the rest of it had pretty much been packed for over a week. In fact, I start packing what I can usually 3 weeks before. I have OCD when it comes to packing, you should see the lists I compile to ensure I do not forget anything.

This trip’s packing planning had to be even more strategic because we needed clothes for the cruise as well and I had to make sure we enough of everything so that I didn’t have to do laundry while on vacation. I don’t think there is anything worse than doing laundry on vacation except maybe cooking. Either way, both are just too ‘real life’ for me and isn’t that the point of vacation? To escape real life and live the dream of no responsibilities?

Anyways, I had to plan what we would wear to the parks, on the cruise and find a the most effective way to pack our Fish Extender gifts. (See This Post for my Detailed Explanation of Disney Cruise Line Fish Extender exchanges). Luckily, our choice of transportation is by vehicle and not airplane, so I had a little more flexibility when packing. Oh that doesn’t fit in the suitcase? Throw in the backseat! It works for coming home too, we never have to worry about our purchases because we can always ‘throw it in the backseat!”

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Before Leaving for Walt Disney World Make Sure You Have Packed:

  • MagicBands/Park Tickets – So you can get in the park right away.DSC_0825
  • Cell Phone/Charger – So you can brag on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to all your friends that you are in Disney and they aren’t
  • Camera/Charger/Memory Cards – So you can remember all the awesome memories.
  • Money & IDs (Passport for Cruise) – So you can purchase things and be allowed on the ship–obviously.
  • Trip Itinerary – So you know where you are supposed to be and when. (This is probably on your My Disney Experience App, but I would also have a written copy just in case you lose your cell phone or technology fails.)
  • Disney Ear Hats/Headbands and/or Shirts – So you can rock your DisneySide, if you have one.
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We left on a Wednesday evening, so I had to work my real job the entire day. Which is another reason I need my travel day to be stress free. We got our awesome sitters settled in with our pets, packed the remaining odds and ends in the car and were on the road by about 7:30 PM.

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Overall, our road trip was pretty uneventful. The weather was picture perfect and we luckily didn’t hit any major traffic and we were able to stop for the evening in Valdosta, Georgia at around 5 PM.

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Stopping for the evening or driving straight through seems to cause a big debate among road trippers. We have done it both ways and definitely prefer to stop, eat a good meal, shower and sleep in a real bed. That way, in the morning, we are refreshed and only have about a couple of hours of driving left to go before we arrive at our Happy Place. Plus, it keeps us more on a regular schedule. We have found when we drive straight through, we are exhausted the entire next day and it takes an extra day or two to get back on track.

After our restful evening, we were back on the road the next morning where we took part in our tradition to stop at the Florida Welcome Center for free orange juice.

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We took a selfie, because going to Disney World requires one to take a selfie, and continued onto the Florida Turnpike (this is where I always begin to play Disney music in the car and start to squeal with joy). Soon, we made it on to Interstate-4, more squealing and Disney music can be heard in the car, louder this time.

Before you know it,  we were driving under this glorious sign welcoming us home!

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Goodbye to The Magic of Disney Animation Building

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It seems like every few months, I am doing a post bidding farewell to something at Hollywood Studios. Recently, Disney fans have said goodbye to the Backlot Tour, the iconic Sorcerer’s Hat, the American Idol Experience, the Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow and now the Magic of Disney Animation building, which closes its doors today. I was honestly okay with the closure/removal of the all the rest, but the closing of the Animation building is stinging a little.

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The building was once a working animation studio where guests could witness animators working their craft. In fact, Mulan, Brother Bear and Lilo & Stitch are some of the most famous Disney animated features which were almost entirely produced in that building.

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Eventually, Disney Animation’s Florida division was shut down, but the building remained and featured a short film with Mulan’s Mushu showing guests through the process of Disney Animation. After the film, guests were invited to play at some of the interactive animation activities in the building. The building had various meet & greets such as Sorcerer Mickey, The Incredibles, Wreck It Ralph & most recently Hiro & Baymax from Big Hero 6.

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But the best part of the Magic of Disney Animation was the Animation Academy which was a drawing class in which a Cast Member walked you through step by step how to draw a Disney character. Of all the times we went, I think we repeated drawing the same character once. It was always new and exciting because you never knew who the animator would choose as the lucky character to draw.

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^^Husband’s Flawless Mickey^^

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^^Mine…I like to call this Mickey’s Allergic Reaction^^

The Animation Academy was one of my absolute favorite lesser known attractions at Walt Disney World. Many times, we would bypass the Mushu movie and just enter through the back of the Animation Gallery store to just hop in line for the class which really never had too long of a wait. While my works of art were not always pretty, (as if you couldn’t tell) it was fun to feel like an animator and made you appreciate the hard work that goes into creating the animated Disney movies we all know and love. The class was a nice, quiet break away from the hustle and bustle of the park and I loved how they always enforced the fact that they do not provide erasers and there is no such thing as a ‘mess up’ or a ‘bad’ drawing. Speaking from experience, this really helped the non-artists/perfectionists/children with their self-esteem. :)

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^^Vampire Minnie…although the Animator thought it was creative^^

Disney has confirmed that the Sorcerer Mickey meet & greet will be relocated to a new area near Studio Catering Company, however no mention was made of Hiro & Baymax or the Animation Academy nor what would become of the area, just that they are working on a new experience and details would be forthcoming. The Animation Gallery store will remain open until August.

With yet another closure at this park, it once again solidifies the fact that some big changes are coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and hopefully those details are finally revealed at the upcoming D23 Expo in August 2015. Whatever the changes may be, I surely hope they find a way to bring back the Animation Academy in some form or fashion somewhere in Walt Disney World.

Here are some of our other works of art thanks to the Animation Academy!

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^^Buzz Lightyear. (Left – Mine / Right – Husband)^^
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^^Grumpy (Left – Husband / Right – Mine)^^
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^^Jiminy Cricket^^

 

 

 

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