Day 11 - Lions, Zebras and Yetis, Oh My! (Part 3)


The walk to Asia went quickly. Along the way, we saw Everest again, which made the kid very excited that we were headed in that direction! I had wanted to run over and pick up a fastpass for Everest before our meal, but we were cutting our ADR window pretty closely, so I decided against it.





We checked in, and were told they would call our name as soon as our table was ready. While waiting, the kid simply had to collect all of the pennies! It was smart of them to place this in the waiting room where it can appropriately tempt children and collectors of all ages!





I love this restaurant. It's so well themed, with lots of bric-a-brac to look at and unique sculptures, etc. I could quite literally spend 15 - 20 minutes just walking around and soaking it all in (which, I may have done in the past, and couldn't help but to walk the whole restaurant this year, though I didn't gape as much as I'd like to...wouldn't want to stand in front of someone's table while they are eating and snap pictures of the decor behind them! I'm weird, but I'm not that weird!).





This year we got to sit upstairs, which was the first time we've gotten to do this. I really enjoyed it! We had a great view of the staircase. This doesn't sound interesting, but when you consider all the decor in the restaurant, there's plenty of eye candy to keep you interested.


I got the Lettuce Cups for Two. The server did note that this appetizer does require that two people use their "appetizer" sections of their credits for it, but he allowed me to use the kid's appetizer to obtain these delicious little goodies!





They come with minced chicken breast seasoned with oyster sauce, soy sauce, and I couldn't place the rest of the flavors, but they were very sweet, very Asian. It comes with matchstick carrots and bean sprouts for added crunch and a delicious Saigon Haison sauce to top it all off. The dish is very similar to one served by P.F. Changs, but that doesn't make me like it any less. Last year I got the Seared Ahi Tuna (though, that could have been the year before), as I recall, and that is excellent as well...but this year I felt it was time for Lettuce Cups!





For an entree, I had the Orange Chicken. Tempura Chicken, broccoli, carrots with a sweet honey sauce. Very good! Also, tempura chicken is one of those dishes that it's easy (and common) to find it's under-cooked, or more often, overcooked. This chicken was delicious and perfect! The jasmine rice had black sesame seeds on it, which was a nice touch. I completely enjoyed this dish and would definitely get it again!


The kid got...well, take a guess!





For dessert she got some Vanilla Ice Cream, and I had Fried Wontons. Every time I eat here I eyeball the Mango Pie, but I always end up getting this decadent dessert...it's so darned good. Skewers with fresh pineapple and wontons filled with sweetened cream cheese, served with vanilla ice cream and a honey vanilla drizzle (is your mouth watering yet?). They go a step further and warm the entire dish (except for the ice cream, of course), which really makes the ice cream's cool nature stand out even more. It's great to get a bit of ice cream and a 1/2 wonton or piece of pineapple. The temperature and sweetness just explodes. It's awesome, and one of my favorite desserts on the Parks...it's fun, it's tasty, and it's unique!





Filled, and generally happy (we've had a lot of food today...but it's hot and a lot of walking, so we deserve the treats!)...we exited the restaurant and happened upon these guys performing.





I, personally, loved it, but unlike the Street Party in Africa, this didn't interest the kid much at all. But, she had her reasons. See, this was looming in the distance!





We went by the line, and it was posted as a 35 minute wait, but I could see it snaking up into the part of the queue that I hate...if you've ever been in it, it's terrible, especially in the middle of the day. It's the part that snakes around the outside rear of the queue area, and even with fans going, it's a nightmare of a wait. The kid agreed (I would have waited if she wanted to)...but, instead, like any seasoned park goers, we checked out FPs! The return time was between 4:45 and 5:45. Park closes at 6p tonight, and we had a 7:40p ADR at Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jikos)...so, I suggested that we snag two FPs and then leave the park, go back to the hotel and chill for a bit, change, and come back later!


The kid liked this idea. She toddled off to get the FPs (she seems to enjoy that I let her do some things "by herself" now, even though I'm actually monitoring her the whole time...she's at that age when she's starting to be enthralled by independence. The parent in me hopes this stops at getting FPs. <grin>). While she did that I got us a drink to share for the walk back to the front of the Park.


We made it as far as Nemo before the kid began to complain she was hot and tired (frankly, I was surprised she lasted this long). To her credit, she didn't try and pawn off Nala onto me...but she did offer to carry my day pack if I'd carry her on my back. They were just starting up the show, and we haven't seen this in a while...so, I offered that we stop to see it.


There was a Disney CM in Security Guard dress standing outside calling out "Come and get your free A/C! Best A/C in the Park! You'll wish you had gotten here 10 minutes earlier to enjoy this A/C!" Cute...


Anyhow, she declined, and I accepted her proposition as long as I could put her down when we got to Flame Tree. She wasn't exactly sure where that was (though I knew exactly where), but she still agreed. So, on my back, we high-tailed it past Dinoland USA and off to Discovery Island!


Here, I sat her down...but she still was hot. She ran off to the shade provided by the shops / venues along the side of the walkway. To be fair, I was burning up too. I'm not sure what the temperature was, and it certainly wasn't the hottest I've experienced at Disney (in fact, the weather this year has been rather mild, and shockingly short on rain so far)...but, I decided to try something.





I'd seen these all over the Parks this year, and don't recall seeing them before. I must admit to being curious how well it worked. I was sure it was a gimmick, but I'm ok with gimmicks! And, who knows, maybe this is the next major advancement in summer Park enjoyment for the heatmidity (yes, I just made that word up) challenged!


So, basically, it's a lemon extract infused wet washcloth. That's it. It's cold because the mixture of oils encourages evaporation (and, in many cases, Disney displays them chilled, so they are even cooler). Fresh out of the package, they work extremely well...but leave your skin feeling like you just used an exfoliant (like Sea Breeze or Stridex). On a hot day, this clean and cool feeling is actually quite nice. However, the odor (while sort of pleasant)...is strong. Supposedly you can use this over and over again, just by getting it wet. But, I found that we used it to...well, no delicate way to say this...wipe off a lot of sweat. And, I prefered to wash it before using it again.


After you wash it, it turns into a regular washcloth. So...was it worth the $6-8 (I don't remember the exact price) some odd dollars we spent on it? Nope. But, was it fun for this one experience on a hot day? Absolutely! The kid and I kept swapping back and forth, and even held little races towards the end (my idea to keep her moving) to see who would "win" rights to the towel until the next "race". As you can imagine...she won quite a few of these (though, when we reached the caves in Oasis, I purposefully beat her because I wanted some of the cooling goodness!)...


As we hiked out to the bus stops, something occurred to me...why is the entrance to Animal Kingdom so open and covered with pavement? I'm sure it has something to do with the animals, but I'd like to know why. It seems to me that covering this area with tents (like EPCOT between Innoventions) or random trees, or really anything that doesn't turn the front gate area / walk to the Parking Lot / Buses into a trek through a concrete desert...would be a good idea?


Once we got to the bus stop, the kid wanted a Fanta Orange (her favorite soda, and she only gets it here, according to her)...so, while she waited at the bus stop, I walked to the nearby soda machine and scoured our penny machine quarters to come up with $3 to buy one...because, as usual, the credit card reader on the machine didn't work. When I pressed the button, I got this.





I think the soda machine was trying to let us know that we really needed to have some regular water. Soda doesn't dehydrate (that's a myth), but it doesn't do it as well as pure ol' water does. I thought the kid would be upset that it wasn't what she expected, but she wasn't. She gladly drank half of the bottle before I even got the first sip! (thanks Soda Machine Spirit!)...


On the bus she dozed off (pretty normal for her to do so, and it had been a busy few days for us), and when we got back to the hotel I carried her to the room.


We came back to a neat little friend to say hello to us!





I let her nap for an hour, and before waking her up I went down to get us some fresh drinks from the beverage bar at the food court.


Ok, somewhat of a gripe, but I've never seen this bar clean. Ever. I don't remember CBR or Pop's bar every looking like this on a regular basis. It's not that people aren't staffed to clean it...it's just that they don't seem to accomplish anything! I've watched it a few times, and a lot of it seems to be related to the inefficient manner in which they care for the bar (and it's design). I'm quite familiar with how messy beverage bars can get, and there are lots of little tricks (like, I dunno, hot water to melt spilled ice, etc.) to keeping them under control. I've not seen that here, and I almost feel sorry for the poor CMs who take care of it because every time I see them they seem overwhelmed...





When I woke her, she watched Disney XD for around a half hour (Phineus and Ferb, I think...though it could have been Suite Life) while I got ready. That is one nice thing about doing the cruise beforehand, I actually had some decent outfits to wear! Last year I skirted the edge of their dress code with nice golf shorts and a polo. This year I actually had dress shoes and slacks to go with my new 100% bamboo Polo I picked up in Costa Maya!


Then, the kid took a shower and generally refreshed herself. She decided to wear her flower dress, but with her swimsuit underneath. See, she wanted to go swimming at the pool after we got back from dinner. Magic Kingdom had late night extra hours (till 1a) tonight, so I figured I'd ask her after dinner. In either case, the swimsuit worked fine, and the dress hid it perfectly.





But...things didn't work out. Bus mishap number one. We hit the bus stop at 4:50p or so, plenty of time to make it to Animal Kingdom...but I was still calculating bus times on the familiar Pop/Aoa or CBR schedules, not the unpredictable schedules of Port Orleans French Quarter (where you sometimes share a bus with Riverside, sometimes you don't...)...yeah, we had to go through all the Riverside stops, which took another 20 minutes, and then there was the stop at Blizzard. It was obvious to me that by the time we made it to Animal Kingdom, there was no way we'd make it back to Everest in time for our FP, much less be able to do the ride. Were the kid, er...not a kid, perhaps we could have pulled it off. But, I'd rather we fall back on another plan.


So, I suggested we do mini golf at Blizzard! This went over very well (she loves mini-golf). We didn't keep score, but the kid is scary good at it. She had a few bad holes (I stopped counting after 5 tries), as did I (also stopped counting after 5)...but for the most part we blew through the course. More than one couple allowed us to play through...





Next year, I'll need to ask that her mom pack her real putter and wedge that I got her, and we may try a few real golf holes. She's much better at putting than I am, and is pretty good with her wedge (10 yard shots for an 8 year old, not bad...she isn't a semi-pro, but she likes golf, as do I, so I plan to nurture that!). I wish Disney had a par 3 course for her where we could work on her drives as she gets a bit older...They do have a few "family" courses where we can play a good "best ball" game, I think, though next year is probably a bit early for that. I may take her out on a game where I let her do the close approach and putting...


Anyhow, after the game, we headed off to Animal Kingdom Lodge...and here's where the buses wen't awry again!


We waited nearly 40 minutes for a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge. I wasn't really all that surprised, or upset...but there were two buses that stopped at our same bus stop that were from Hollywood Studios (which we shared a stop with), and there was one Guest who was extremely upset...


Very upset...


So much so that when the bus finally arrived, she spent the whole trip back complaining about how dirty Animal Kingdom Lodge was, and how her daughter (who had recently graduated High School) had said that for her "before college" trip she wanted to stay at AKL, and how when they checked in it took them both 3 - 4 moves to find a room that was "semi-clean" and that they couldn't stand the rooms they were offered because, well, her daughter has "terrible allergies" and can't stay in a "dirty room".


She mentioned that she also had done a cruise recently, so I thought I could divert the conversation to that...big mistake. I got to learn about how the Magic is a terrible ship with ratty carpets.


<sigh>


Yeah, I'm a bit picky about being organized, but that was a bit more than I could take on the ride back. So, I adopted the "Yes...yes, that is interesting" look on my persona and suffered through...as did a few other people who surrounded us, from what I could tell.


Soon enough we were at Jambo House!





It felt good to be back, but the kid was a tad upset...see, she thinks they used "real giraffes" for the carpets.





She came to that conclusion last year while we were waiting for our Jiko seating...and I had hoped she'd forgotten it this year. She had not...


Anyhow, we checked in at Jiko, and had some time to burn, so we went back to the Savannah Walk.





We enjoyed the Animals, but the kid had something else on her mind once she saw the venue...Marshmallows!





It seems we hit them just at the right time. Go figure! <grin> (Actually, the whole day today is pretty much a clone of a day we did last year where the marshmallows were a surprise...this year, I planned it such. Not that I'll tell her!).


So, after getting a free stick and marshmallow, she was roasting away. How did they turn out? Well, lets taste...





Hrm...looks good...verdict?


<Continued Next Post>

Day 11 - Lions, Zebras and Yetis...Oh My! (Part 4)





Yep, perfect!


Time to go check on our reservation!





We still had some time to burn, so we wandered downstairs and outside to check out the pool area. We've never walked this part of the hotel before, and it was just as nice as the rest of the hotel.





Were it not for the location on the property, I would seriously consider a stay here. The kid really wants to do a Savannah View, but for the price of a Deluxe, I think I'd rather do Polynesian. <shrug> Still a pretty hotel though!


Finally our restaurant buzzer went off. Oh, I hadn't mentioned this. When you check in you are given a buzzer, just like the ones they use at resort food courts when you have to wait for your food. I found that, while the range is limited, you can go out on the Savannah Walk and other parts of the Jambo House section of the hotel. I wouldn't try going over to Kidani with it <grin>...but who knows!


Anyhow, the time had come!





I love this restaurant, ever since a trip report turned me on to it when I was planning last years trip. We enjoyed it last year, and I had to do it again this year! Our seater pointed out the hidden mickey just above the open-fire grill (which is in the Front of House, for all to see...they also have a semi-open kitchen here, and it's fun to stop by and see chefs preparing meals for other guests.


I think my favorite part of the decor, however, are the "bird lamps"...





Though, the kid swears they are really Pterodactyls because "their wings are pointed!". <shrug>


The bread came with the spiced butter. The butter was chilled, which I think detracted a bit from it, so I let it warm up to room temperature before diving into the bread. I seem to recall last year that they had more than one type of bread...but maybe I'm remembering wrong. Still, it's a tasty start to the meal!





The kid ordered fruit for her appetizer, and asked for extra grapes. A few minutes later our server brought her a good sized bowl filled to the brim with a few small bunches of grapes. The kid was in heaven now...





However, she didn't like the blackberries, so those were donated to me! How thoughtful of her!


The Dining Plan only includes one Appetizer, but I wanted more! So, I ordered two. One, of course, I'd have to pay for, but that's ok. It's not like I get to eat here all the time!


I got the Grilled Wild Boar Tenderloin. This has Mealie Pap (I've already spoken about how much I enjoy Mealie Pap), Chakalaka and is seasoned with White Truffle Oil and Micro Cilantro. This is all served on a tomato salad with olive oil and a variety of spices. I had it last year and remember it being absolutely fantastic. Well, it certainly lived up to that memory. I quickly devoured this, and actually wished I'd ordered two!





I also got the Fire-roasted Oysters on the Half Shell. This is served with Lemon, Butter, a home-made hot sauce, horseradish and smoked tatsoi...all on a bed of sea salt. These were ok. I wanted to try something new, and I haven't had Oysters in a while, so I thought this would be a good choice. And, while I have no complaints, there was nothing spectacular about them. I certainly would try something else on a future visit, and avoid these.





Now, on this whole trip I haven't had a truly excellent steak yet...and even though I had Le Cellier coming up later in the week, I really wanted to have one...and, if any place was going to give me a unique beef experience, I would expect it to be Jikos (can you tell I'm a fan?)!


Last year I got the Seared Barbarie Duck Breast, and it was fantastic. This year I got the Oak-grilled Filet Mignon, served with pole beans, spoon bread and a South African red wine sauce. As a side note, the server did offer that if I wanted I could substitute the pole beans and spoon bread for Mac and Cheese, which used to be the way they served this dish. But, I decided to try the newer recipe.





The kid, however, did not! She wanted her steak and mac!





Those brown things under her steak are roasted sweet potatoes. She didn't like them very much, so it was another thing that was donated to my plate during the meal.


As usual, the kid wanted to "play fancy", and had her soda in a wine glass. Our server played around with this calling it her "Non-alcoholic Bubbling Chateau de Sprite, 2013 vintage." Very cute! I, on the other hand, wanted something with my meal. I asked our server to choose for me, mostly because I hate staring at wine menus like I have any idea what I'm looking at.


She chose Black Pearl, a South African vintage. 2010, I think. Anyhow, it was very good, and paired wonderfully with my steak.


The manager stopped by part way through our meal, and while I really can't complain about this, she did upset the kid. See, the kid was picking at her food, mostly because she wanted to cut the steak herself. Now, I'd already offered quite a few times to do it for her, but she's learning her own independence, and it wasn't harming anyone for her to do it herself. Had the restaurant been packed, I may have insisted that she let me cut it just to speed up our meal so they could turn the table...but it wasn't. So, I was letting her enjoy herself.


The manager walked up and noticed this, and took it upon herself to cut the kiddo's steak for her...even though the kid and I both asked her not to. However, I didn't press the issue, and the kid is far too polite when it comes to authority figures (adults) to do so either. And, I really can't be upset with the manager, she was just trying to help (and did so with a very good attitude), but after she walked away the kid frumped a bit that "I wanted to do it...they never let me cut my own steak". Oh, if you want some background, that's coming from the cruise, where the service team cut her meal for her every night.


Anyhow, this didn't stop her from devouring it all (except for the few bites I stole...I love that mac and cheese!), and soon it was time for dessert!


The kid got the same thing she got last year, deconstructed 'Smores. Not that I blame her...this dish is awesome!





She had great fun picking away at everything until she discovered she could dip her spoon in the chocolate mousse / toasted marshmallow fluff and then rub it in the chocolate snagging the little candy coated toasted rice balls. I was able to snag a bite...but just barely!


Myself, I decided to try something new this year, again. Last year I got the Cinnamon-Chocolate Flourless Cake, I think. This year I went for the Chocolate and Tea Safari. This had Vanilla Rooibos-Tanzanian Chocolate Cake (yum), Free Form "Kit Kats" (yummer), and Green Tea Ice Cream (yummest!). I liked getting a small portion of the ice cream and then some of the chocolate cake. It was a good dessert, and I would certainly do it again! It came with a candy straw as a garnish, but the kid snagged that! I didn't even get a bite...so it's not in the picture.





I had wanted to get some fresh coffee in a coffee press, but my server informed me this makes 6 cups! Yeah, I love coffee, but no way after such a full meal (and a full day) could I down six cups! So, I just opted for a regular cup (same blend, and it's VERY good!).


Meal over, we stopped by the ornate restrooms (ok, odd thing to mention, but I love these restrooms), and then went up to catch a bus. We needed to hop through one of the parks to get back to POFQ. Our plan was to go swimming tonight while I did some laundry. Plus, the kid wanted to try and do the marshmallow roast at our resort!


We had two options to hop tonight. One was through Magic Kingdom, as they had extra magic hours going until 1a. The other was Downtown Disney. Since DTD is closer to our resort, and it has two stops to choose from, I decided to do that. Also, it was the first bus to show up...though the Magic Kingdom bus came soon after. We boarded and the ride was painless.


However, once we got to DTD it was NOT painless. The bus dropped us off and we walked to Stop 1, where we shared a bus stop with Saratoga Springs (which, I should note, is right next door!)...


Well, we waited. And waited. And waited.


And then we waited some more. During this time the 3 families we joined initially had turned into a small mob. A bus showed up, but it was for Saratoga Springs. We watched as 3 CBR buses passed, a few Pop / Art of Animation, and quite a few Monorail Resort buses...but no Port Orleans Buses. About 30 minutes later, another bus made a move for our stop, and you could cut the mob anticipation in the air with a knife.


Nope, this bus was also for Saratoga Springs. You could tell that the 40 or so people waiting were getting extremely frustrated. They were hot, tired, kids were getting restless. We were now well off schedule, having arrived around 9:45p, I thought we'd have no trouble getting back to the resort by 10:30 so the kiddo could swim for an hour or so before bed, but now it was getting closer to 10:35, and we'd been waiting 45 minutes.


DTD was just nuts tonight too, it seems. More than once I saw someone pull into the bus queue lanes thinking it was the entrance to DTD. One guy slowed down next to me, and I approached his car to give him directions...but he waved me off, and punched his GPS. Um...dude, that GPS already put you into the bus loading lanes where you are not supposed to be. Maybe you should pay more attention to the signage? Oh well...


Also, looking at the line of frustrated Guests, I just knew that when the bus finally showed up, it was not going to be a comfortable ride. Lots of double strollers, lots of cranky looking parents, and lots of tired kids. So, I made an executive decision...we were going to take a taxi! The kid liked this idea. So, we walked over to the taxi stands behind World of Disney.


The first Taxi we came upon was a Mears (big surprise, eh?), but the guy refused to take us if we didn't pay cash. This really frustrated me, as I don't carry cash regularly anymore. So, we went off to an ATM to get some (there's one near World of Disney). Since we were in the area, we stopped in there for a moment, and it was chaos as well! So, we walked over to the toy store and the kid picked out a princess from there. Then we got some cash from the ATM and went back to the Taxi Stand.


The man who picked up our fare this time wasn't nearly as picky, and gladly took us on our way to our destination. By now it was 10:45...


I'd had this feeling that as soon as we walked away from the bus stop, a Port Orleans bus would pull up. Well, as we passed by the stops I glanced over at Stop 1, and it was still mobbed. Either the bus hadn't come, or lots more people showed up. Still, for $12, it was a nice change to avoid the craziness that was the bus transit that night!


We got back to the hotel at 11p, almost on the dot. The kid paid the cabbie, and immediately ran off to the pool. I followed along. She quite literally whipped the dress off and asked for her goggles, and was off swimming. I ran up to the hotel room briefly while she sipped on a drink at the table and snagged my laptop and got caught up on some things.


Too tired to do Laundry, we stopped around midnight, and made our way up to the hotel room. We turned on Disney Channel, and the kid got ready for bed.


She hit the bed, and before I knew it I heard a soft snore coming from under the covers. Yeah, the kid sleeps "under" the covers...wierd little child!


So, that's our day. Long, fun, and full.


So, on to the meal plan analysis!


To break even we need to spend around $127 a day on dining. Today we spent:
Tusker House Breakfast (2 credits used)
Me - $31
Kid - $17


Yak and Yeti Lunch (2 credits used)
Lettuce Cups for Two - $13.99
Adult Crispy Honey Chicken - $18.99
Wontons w/ Pineapple - $8.99
Adult Coke - $3.25


Kids Tenders - $8.49
Kids Sundae - $1.99
Kids Sprite - $2.25


Tax - $4.05


Snacks
Drinks (x2) - $6


Jiko Dinner (4 credits used)
Kids Filet w/ Mac - $12
Smores - $6
Fruit -$3


Adult Filet - $44
Coffee - 2.59
Boar Appitizer - $16
Chocolate Dessert - $10
Tax - $6.09


Total = $216.47


Blew the plan out of the water...though we did use 8 dining credits today. Tomorrow shouldn't be so deep, as we only have one ADR.


Next, Day 11 - The N'awlins Spirit!

Day 12 - That N'awlins Spirit! (Part 1)


Magic - 2 (Bartender at Marti Grogs, Awesome CM in charge of Activities, The staff (several different members) at the Rose & Crown, Illuminations!)
Peeves - 0 (Near Perfect Day!)
Breakfast - None
Lunch - None (me), Chicken Nuggets, Apple Slices, Grapes, Nesquick (shared...the nuggets and fries)
Late Lunch - Jambalaya, Bread, Soda (me), Chicken Nuggets, Apple Slices, Grapes, Nesquick (kid...yes, she had this twice)
Dinner - Scotch Egg, Grilled New York Strip Steak and Fried Fish, Roasted Peach Cheesecake (me), Soup of the Day, Steak and Chips, Ice Cream Sundae (kid)
Snacks - 2 Coffees (free) (me), Fanta (free) (kid)
DP Credits - 42 - 5 = 37 Meal, 32 - 0 = 32 Need $127, used $109.93
Steps - 21,794 Steps, 10.55 Miles, 53 "Very Active" minutes, 3716 Calories Burned


Ah, N'awlins. Deep history, unique culture, amazing food, and charming architecture. After several very busy days, we needed a day off!


And today was the day!


So, let me backtrack to the previous day for a moment, with two addendum.


1) Minnie Mice!


When we got back to the hotel last night, I wanted a stiff drink. It had been a long day, and while overall it was nice, the general chaos at DTD combined with the kerfuffle with the buses had left me feeling on a low note. So, we stopped by Scat Cats on the way back to the room. I told the bartender that I really wasn't in a mood to decide what I wanted, and he could surprise me. After asking a few questions, he nailed down my tastes, and produced a fantastic drink! So, thanks Mark the Bartender...you made my night much better.


I sat the kid at the bar with me, and she announced she would like a drink as well. Mark asked her what she would like, and I chimed in "Do you know how to make a Shirley Temple?" "Sure, but around here we call that a Minnie Mouse!"


Well, the kid is now addicted to Shirley Temples...er, I'm sorry...Minnie Mice! This, I find amusing, because when I was around her age I remember my father taking me to the Officers Club with him, where I became addicted to two things...Shirley Temples and Escargot. So, I'm passing the torch!


2) We had a "Dine with an Imagineer" scheduled for today at 11:30a, and I've been meaning to call and cancel it. Not that I didn't want to do it, but I really thought it was a bit much, considering how busy our "vacation" has been so far. I wasn't excited about it, and if I wasn't, I was sure the kid wasn't. I tried to call yesterday (Sunday) to cancel it, but it was within the 48 hour window, so it wouldn't matter if I cancelled it or not...they were going to charge me the full amount anyway.


So, fast forward to this morning. I woke up around 8a, snagged some coffee and took a shower. Then, I spent the next few minutes tracking down the direct number for Brown Derby. See, I had decided that, even though my card was going to get dinged, we really didn't want to go do Dine with an Imagineer again.


Were I not travelling with the kid, I probably would have forced myself to do it, but she was tired, and we'd had two very long days. I really didn't want to test her patience. I'm sure she would have behaved herself well, and probably enjoyed it (she enjoyed last years experience)...but, really, we needed a day off.


As I said, I'd been meaning to cancel this, but with everything else that had gone on coming back from the cruise, it had slipped my mind. So, I wanted to call and let them know that we would not be coming, as they all eat as a group and I didn't want them to hold up the meal thinking we were held up on a bus or something. It was simply courtesy.


The first number I was given by 407.WDW.DINE was the managers direct number, which went to a voice-mail. On the voice-mail they gave a number to the "Cake and Special Request" line, which I called next. I was connected to a CM who said "Yes, I just finished printing out the menu's for you all!". Bingo, this was whom I needed to speak with!


So, I informed her of our situation...and she did make the comment that the Dining Line is supposed to inform us that the experience really is for children 10 and up...which I countered that the kid enjoyed it last year when she was 7. There is no reason to think she wouldn't at 8. And, as I said, she probably would...but, I really didn't want to get her up, get her dressed, slog our way to a bus, wait on the bus, possibly get routed through Port Orleans Riverside, walk back to Brown Derby and do a 2 hour experience.


Nope, I needed a vacation from the vacation...and yes, I shamelessly used the kid as the excuse! <grin>


So, I let the kid sleep in. And that is exactly what she did, not crawling out of bed until nearly 11a. While she slept I caught up on work...and as it turns out, skipping Dine with an Imagineer was a very good choice...as this is a Monday, and even though I'm on "vacation", after a week of me basically being connected through internet only on the ship, today things were crazy.


I won't get into all the details, but basically I spent a large portion of the day putting out needless panic and pointless fires. A large portion of my job is keeping people calm, because I work with several people who like to panic at the drop of a hat. To make matters worse, there was an update the other IT guy did on Friday Afternoon to our Finance Software, and the result was that they couldn't cancel contracts on Saturday. Not a major deal, but it does cost us money when the cancellation process fails, so of course there was a lot of pressure to get this corrected.


The good news is we can retroactively deal with this, so it's really not a reason to panic...but that didn't stop it.


The other thing that came out was the General Manager (head of all of the sales team) freaked out that the "Finance Contracts" were wrong. Well, no, they aren't. And if they were, then they've been wrong for 5 years. She was looking at the wrong place on the contract, so her math which she was convinced "proved" they were wrong...was faulty.


I wasn't too upset about this, because I myself when auditing and not paying close attention, have made this exact mistake...but, it didn't help that she was running around getting all the other management team and execs up in arms about it. I ended up having to explain how to calculate a finance contract through a webex meeting and a conference call before the day was over. <sighs again>


Had she been correct, then potentially we could have quite a serious loss on our hands, but she wasn't. So...<shrug>


So, that was most of my day. The kid, on the other hand, had much more fun. We went down to the pool...and while I was stuck on my laptop, she played in the pool!





All day. Yes...all...day...


Last year we worked on her swimming, and this year she spent a lot of time in the pool. She had a lot of the same concerns at the beginning of the trip that she had last year. She didn't like water on her face, she would only swim with her goggles on, and she freaked out too easily instead of allowing her body and natural buoyancy to take over.


But, after the Dolphin Encounter at Costa Maya made her question her fears...because she really wanted to meet and interact with the Dolphins...since then she has been a swimming fanatic. It's like a wall broke, and now she's ready and willing to try just about anything!


It's exciting to see, for me, because I think that being a strong, or at least a comfortable, swimmer is an important life skill.


While at the pool, she made a series of friends, including a few "Englands". I said, oh, you mean they are British? "No, they are Englands." Oh, so they are English? "No, they are Englands!" Oh, ok...we'll deal with that later! No reason to argue about it now! <grin>


We also went for a walk around the hotel, did some shopping in the gift shop, and even poked our head into the arcade (though the kid didn't want to play, to my surprise...I need to get her to spend some time in there before the trip is over because I've got leftover credits on our card from Contemporary!)


About halfway through the day my laptop needed some juice, and so did I! Not wanting to ask the kid to leave the pool, I did a search for plugs, and found that Marti Grogs (the pool bar) has two, one located in each of the far corners. So, I grabbed a seat and snagged a Pina Colava and a Long Island Iced Tea to "pay" for my electricity theft! I struck up conversation with the Bartender, who was lots of fun. There was also another lady there who's daughter is in the College Program, and we all chatted about Disneyworld for a while.


At Marti Grogs they have these rocks, and that caught my interest. So, here's the story. People leave rocks, many autographed or otherwise interesting, when they visit. These are regulars of the resort. At the beginning of each shift, the tender on duty chooses a dozen or so rocks from their collection that they wish to put out. They use these to hold down receipts, and just as general bar bric-a-brac. I think this is neat, and I lamented that if I'd known, I would have picked up a unique rock on one of our port of calls to add to the collection.


The Tender gave me the address to mail it to, so I'm thinking I may stop by Stone Mountain when I get back home and get a rock from there to add to the collection!


The kid participated in all of the afternoon activities, which were lots of fun. She especially enjoyed the "cold water balloon" game, which is basically a game of "hot potato", but with a water balloon filled with cold water. She lost twice, and it was funny to see her get the balloon popped over her head by the CM, and then see her shriek with joy as she ran into the "warm" water of the pool! I did notice that a two kids got into a spat over who had the balloon last, but the CM handled it beautifully, asking them both to stand back to back as she popped the balloon over both their heads.


Of course, the little girl who thought she didn't have the balloon when the music stopped (she, in fact, did have it) accused the other boy of cheating, but as I said, the CM handled it beautifully, and soon after the game was changed. Soon all was forgotten. Ah, the beauty of children and short attention spans!


I also did laundry during the day (no reason to be this close to the laundry facilities and not take advantage!). I had brought change, but was surprised that the laundry here, like the Fantasy, has also been converted to a card only system with a central control panel. As you can imagine, based on my terrible experience on the ship, I approached this with dread.





However, I am pleased to report...the system works extremely well! The only thing I would note is that if you want to do a "second dry cycle", you'll need to open the dryer door for 20 - 30 seconds or so to allow the dryer to report to the control panel that it is "no longer busy"...


Regular washes are $2, heavy washes are $2.25. 60 minutes of drying time is $2. Overall, I enjoyed the system. No issues at all, and frankly I like not having to pack cash or change for the laundry anymore. I also vastly preferred the interface and instructions presented by the system when compared to the one on the Fantasy.


We had a late lunch where the kid...again...had her normal Chicken Nuggets and Fries. I tried the Jambalaya, which was excellent!


So, after a long day of enjoying the best our little fake N'awlins had to offer, it was time to head off to our ADR. So, off to EPCOT!


No reason to get fancy today, we are just going to a "pub", so I tossed a Sundress on the kid, and I took a shower and put on some new clothes. It is nice to feel fresh...something I wouldn't have done so often on previous trips, but as I've said before...the cruise spoiled me!


\


The bus ride was pleasant, though we did route through Riverside again. I don't think this would bother me if it was every time we rode the bus, but I still haven't figured out how to predict when it will happen (I'm not sure I will ever be able to). I have read people complain about bus service at Disney before, especially Caribbean Beach, which I have stayed at twice, but I must say, this is the first visit where the Bus service has irritated me. I've heard people say CBR has terrible service, but honestly, this on again / off again style of service, where you ride could be 15 minutes, or it could be 45, I find extremely frustrating.


Perhaps my expectations are changing, or perhaps I just am finally noticing what others have already noticed about the service...but, I personally think it's just that the bus service for French Quarter stinks. I'd discount my opinion if I hadn't already done 3 other trips where I've used the buses extensively. I've still got another week here, so perhaps that view will change...


I think part of my frustration is that, without asking the driver, there really is no way to know until you get to the stop sign if you are going to continue on to Riverside, or go left and head off to the park. You can't judge it by crowds on the bus alone...so, you are waiting for the bus automated announcement to either play the park spiel, or the resort spiel. <sigh>


One other thing I will say about Port Orleans Bus Service that I do like is that the bus stops are towards the front of the queues...much closer than CBR or Pop. At EPCOT, for example, the stop is much closer, something I love, especially when the kid is dragging her feet at the end of the night!





We strolled back leisurely, stopping by the Cool Spot to grab some free sodas to sip on as we strolled back to the Jolly Ol' Pavilion...the kid also took some pictures of local wildlife...as she is fond of doing.





We checked in and was issued a pager. There was a couple in front of us who obviously had no ADR and cut in front of us (going into the obviously marked exit, not the entrance), but I didn't say anything. They seemed upset when they were told there would be a long wait, and walked away obviously heated.


Today was beautiful. The band was playing Bohemian Rhapsody, and I was thoroughly happy. I adore the UK pavilion. They pack so much to see and do into such a small place! When we checked in, I requested that we get an outdoor seat, and stated that I didn't mind waiting for a while if that was required. A man whom I assume was a manager (or at least he was over the hostess stand) was there, and he smiled and said "We'll do the best we can, but just so you know we do have a VIP viewing section for Illuminations if you are seated inside. Just let your server know." I grinned and responded "Ah, so you know exactly what I'm trying to do!" (get outdoor seats for the show...the only reason I booked so late at 8p). I guess this shouldn't have surprised me, but it did.





He responded, with a wink, "Yes, sir. We get it all the time, that's why we have that section." Well, that's good to know. I still wanted to sit outside though! The weather was pleasant, and I didn't want to have to relocate away from my food for the show!


So, pager in hand I suggested to the kid we should walk back to the toy shop and check out what new merchandise was back there. We started to cross the street and had barely reached the front door when our pager went off!


Man, that was quick!





We were seated in a table with a nice view of the lagoon. However, we did have a row of tables in front of us that were full of Guests, and while I wasn't upset by the seating, I privately hoped they wouldn't realize the prime real-estate they had and would leave early!





Note the umbrella...well, I wasn't bothered by that. I knew they put down all the umbrellas before the show!


For appetizers, I already knew what I wanted! Scotch Eggs!


So, as a side note, I actually attempted a few times to make this dish for myself. This was my most recent attempt, a few months ago!





Here's what they served me!





So, critique? Well, I like my egg better. I worked hard to get it to stay soft boiled, and this egg was clearly hard boiled! I also used a spicy breakfast sausage which I preferred over their sausage, however I think their sausage ratio was better...it's harder to pack that sausage around the evenly than it seems! They also serve it with a spiced mustard based sauce, which is delicious. Much better than the Colmans I served mine with. So, I took notes this year...I loved the fresh cracked pepper, the slicing (presentation) and the watercress greens with a splash of vinegar were a delicious addition! I know what I'll be making in the coming weeks! I did find that the toasted bread added nothing to the dish. I could see it if the egg was soft boiled, so there is yolk to sop up, but since it wasn't...instead I used them to sop up the soup. Soup?, you say? Read on...


The kid ordered the soup for her appetizer, but didn't like it...so it ended up on my side of the table. It was sweet corn chowder, and was ok. Nothing to rave about, but not bad either. Especially with the pint of Bass Ale I ordered!





I want to mention our server here, before I forget, and I wish I'd gotten his name. He was hilarious. He was quite cheeky with the kiddo, which she appreciated, and I enjoyed him (and tipped him) accordingly for great service. No real stand out moments, just constant attention and great attitude.


For entrees, the kid had steak and chips. This led to some amusement, as she said "I want fries, not chips!"...I said, "Here, fries are chips!". It took a few moments for her to catch on, and then she said "Oooohhh, like my England friends say!" Yeah, again, not getting into the English vs England convo with her right now...so, I just said "Yes, exactly."





I ordered the Grilled New York Strip Steak and Fried Fish. This came with a Yorkshire Pudding, Mashed Potatoes and vegetables with a tasty red wine reduced sauce. It was tasty. All of it! I didn't finish it, but only because we'd had such a late "lunch" earlier! If I could have made more room, I would have!





The showtime was approaching, and the torches were lit!





The family across from us, with a great rail view, had left, and I asked our server if we could snag it for the show. He said, sure, why not!


So, we moved over our plates, and settled in. Soon, it began!





While there were plenty of views that night that are just as good (EPCOT wasn't crowded at all), something about eating and watching this spectacular show is special...at least I think so!





Soon "Earth" joined the show...





With flair(s), of course!





LOTS of flair(s) (again, pun intended!)





The show was fantastic, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as always.


Kachow!





<Continued Next Post>

Day 12 - That N'awlins Spirit! (Part 2)


Ahhh, fireworks!





Soon after our dessert arrived.


The kid had an Ice Cream Sundae. Sprinkles made it a win for her!





I had the Roasted Peach Cheesecake with Almond Brittle. It was pretty good. I also had coffee with this, which really went well with the dessert. It's not overly sweet, in fact, like a cheesecake should be, it was rather savory. Not an amazing dessert, but a very nice end to a wonderful experience.





Oh, I should note, the cherry in the picture is from the kid's sundae. She...doesn't like marachino cherries (blasphamy I tell you!)...


Stuffed, we slowly strolled back out of the park to head home. As usual, I couldn't help myself but to take pictures of Spaceship Earth.







Whoops...no picture says the kid! <grin>


But, I did snag this one...which I like a lot.





A rather short bus ride (I do like that even when we share busses, French Quarter drops off before Riverside)...and we were back in the room and both of us were soon knocked out.




Meal Plan Analysis time again!


To break even we need to spend around $127 a day on dining. Today we spent:


Sassalouga Lunch (1 credits used)
Kids Chicken Nuggets - $12


Sassalouga Late-Lunch (2 credits used)
Jambalaya - $17
Kids Chicken Nuggets - $12


Rose and Crown Dinner (2 credits used)
Scotch Egg - $9.49
Coke - $2.99
Surf and Turf - $30.99
Peach Cheesecake - $5.49


Kids Soup - $2.19
Kids Sirloin - $8.84
Kids Soda - $2.99
Kids Sundae - $1.75


Tax - $4.76


Total = $109.93


Fell shy today of the total needed. But, with the overage yesterday, we're still coming out ahead!


Ok, Disheads, Tune in at the same Mice-Time, at the same Mice-Channel for the next installment...Day 13 - Eating Surf and Turf on my Surf and Turf!

Day 13 - Eating Surf and Turf on my Surf and Turf! (Part 1)


Magic - 0 (In fact, I had a negative experience today overall)
Peeves - 2 (Bad food, bad service)
Breakfast - None
Lunch - Charbroiled Octopus, Flash Fried Nori Wrapped Tuna, Coral Reef Lobster Orecchiette Pasta, Baileys and Jack Daniel's Mousse (me), Salad, Meaty Macaroni, Brownie a la Mode (kid)
Dinner - Canadian Chedder Cheese Soup, "Waterkist" Heirloom Tomato, "Le Cellier" Mushroom Filet Mignon, Maple Creme Brulee (me), House Salad, Filet with fries, Chocolate Moose (kid)
Snacks - 2 Coffees (free) (me...yeah, I get this every morning), Cheetos, Dips, Sprite, Popcorn (kid)
DP Credits - 37 - 6 = 31 Meal, 32 - 4 = 24 (yes, don't question the math, it seems I left out a few snack credit uses over the past few posts, so this catches me up! Considering I've been over the $127 a day every day except yesterday, this just helps the cause that it's worth the money!) Need $127, used $205.37
Steps - 17,831 Steps, 8.68 Miles, 48 "Very Active" minutes, 3438 Calories Burned


Another lazy day...such a lazy day. We started out by going to the pool!


I organized and inventoried our souvenirs, making a short list of people we needed to focus on.


Other than that...we did nothing. Absolutely nothing! And it felt so good!


While the kid swam, I made several trips back to the fountains for free drinks. On one of them I noticed that they were swapping out fridges.





I wish they'd swap out ours...not having one is rather annoying. But, moving on...


We did have a lunch ADR at EPCOT, and as the time approached, we went off and caught a bus.


The kid didn't want to go to lunch, she was having too much fun swimming.





Tough...we had an ADR, and I really wanted to meet it as it was Coral Reef, a restaurant we haven't done in a while and is one of my favorites!





Yep, sorry kiddo...tough cookies! As you can tell, she was quite happy to go! <wink>


Once we got there, she perked up a bit though. We had time to burn, so we wandered over to Test Track to see if we could snag some Fast Passes. Um, no go. In fact, all the Fast Passes for the whole day had already been distributed! That's crazy!





Line outside the door...hot day...no FastPass...sorry, Test Track. We'll skip you for now!


We stopped by the Cool Wash. I love this little place, as does the kid. I offered to get a Frozen Coke, but she didn't want one. I probably should have gotten one anyway, because I wanted one! But, instead we kept walking. Oh well!





I wonder what it is about Coke and the word "Cool". Cool Wash, Cool Spot...it's like some marketing guy came up with the idea that if you name it "Cool" then it will automatically be just that!


Then again, I can't claim false advertising. The Cool Wash has water mists, and the Cool Spot has free drinks and Air Conditioning! So, they are both certainly "Cool" in my book!


We snagged some FPs for Mission: Space with a return window between 1:30 and 2:30. Since our lunch reservation was for 1:15, I figured this would be easy for us to hit the back end of the FP window, and sneak a ride before heading off to do other things.


We headed over to Innoventions East...because the kid wanted to do T. Rowe Piggy again...of course, that's in Innoventions West, but the kid was positive that it was in "Innoventions"...and when she saw the sign, she wanted to go. So, I let her lead the way.





Nope, wrong place!





We played for a bit in the Test Limits lab. I never really liked this exhibit much. I mean, it's ok...and the kid enjoys it...but I wasn't sad when we were done. Plus, it was crowded today. Kids were running around uncontrolled, snaking spots in line and just generally acting...well...like kids.





We then kept walking and found Habit Heros. I thought this attraction was closed, but I guess not. It looked interesting, but neither the kid or I wanted to wait in the line to experience it (this will become a theme today)...so, I made a mental note that we should stop back by later, and we kept going.





Stormstruck. Oh, and the kid likes her Cheetos. <grin>





We walked over to Innoventions West and checked out the line for Piggy. It was wrapped around the entire queue, so we decided not to do it. Especially when we passed by and saw there were another 5 or 6 groups inside the secondary queue!


So, we moved on. We had enough time to squeeze in a quick ride still, so I gave the kid a choice. Either we could do Living with the Land or Figment. She chose Figgy, so we walked over there. As we got closer, I realized, today really was nuts at EPCOT (I later realized, this was an Extra Magic day...duh...I should have known better!)...The line for Figment was out the door! I haven't seen that in years...


Most of the queue is air conditioned, so I would have waited, but I didn't want to press our luck with our ADR, so we moved on over to The Living Seas.





Disney Research was outside doing a survey about the restaurant. We were a bit early, but I figured I'd go ahead and check in and see if they could accommodate us. When we went inside, the kid immediately remembered the restaurant!





Where she saw great fun, I saw a crowded waiting area...and I had serious doubts as to if we could be seated early. But, I approached the Hostess Stand anyway. One thing I noted here that I haven't seen elsewhere is that they have a privacy screen on the computer monitor, which makes the screen blurry unless you are looking directly at it. Then again, this screen is mounted well above the desk, and is an easier view than the others I've come across so far, so this makes sense.


In the back of my mind I wondered if they had to add this people people were snaking ADRs? I imagined a family showing up, glancing at the screen, and saying "Yes, I'm the Jones Family, party of 4". I'm not sure if this is the reason it's there, but I still found the mental image amusing.


The hostess was lukewarm at best. Didn't even crack a smile as we checked in. I've felt more welcome at airport baggage services...but, she did process our reservation and handed us a pager. We were instructed to wait, but all the seats were taken up by hot looking families also waiting for their dining, so we went back outside. The kid ran over to the water fountains and grabbed a drink while I waited in the shade. It wasn't a very long wait, and soon we were seated!





We were in one of the booths along the back wall...which can easily seat 6. Since there were some 2 top tables along the aquarium, and plenty of people in the waiting area outside looking fed up with their wait, I wondered why the seating team would give us such prime large party real estate considering we were a party of 2. I also noticed the restaurant was about 1/3 empty. What exactly were those people crowding up the waiting area outside waiting for?


While I looked over the menu, the kid took my camera and snapped photos of the aquarium. "Mr. Ray" and his "family" became regular visitors during our meal, and the kid was constantly pointing them out whenever they swam by the windows!





I really wanted the Filet and Shrimp Appetizer. I normally get this here, and it's my favorite. But, it was no where to be found on the menu! When I asked my server about this, he informed me that the menu had been changed by the "new chef" and that was no longer offered. I made a comment that this was a shame, as it was one of the best appetizers at Disney. he replied that the new chef "doesn't listen to opinions", or something along those lines.


Odd...


So, I decided on the Flash Fried Nori Wrapped Tuna. It comes with a "Yuzu Soy Syrup" (don't ask me what that is) and Wasabi Cream.





It was lightly fried, and the tuna was only partially cooked. This I loved. The Wasabi Cream was tasty, but I didn't really taste any of the familiar "bite" that is common with Wasabi...it was more like a spiced mayo. Overall this was tasty, but I don't think I would normally want three of them. It is a very heavy appetizer, due to the fried crust. Think of it like a tuna based fried coconut shrimp. The taste and texture was very similar.


Anyhow, like I said, heavy on the stomach. After one, I'd really had enough to quench my desire for the dish. But, it was tasty. This would be a good appetizer to share among two or more adults!


There was an odd salad underneath that had shredded carrots and some other ingredients I couldn't quite identify. It reminded me of the salads I sometimes pick up at the Korean Market down the street from my house. It was not good...rather bland really. It felt more like a plate decoration than a coherent part of the dish.


The kid had returned and she got Apples for her appetizer. No need to post a picture of those...it was just a sliced Granny Smith apple. However, this was perfect for the kid! She LOVES Granny Smith Apples, and they were soon all gone.


While ordering, I noted an Octopus Appetizer. I pointed it out to the kid, partially as a joke, and she dared me to try it. So...not allowing myself to be shown up by an 8 year old, I said yes! Of course I had to pay for one of the two appetizers I got, but my honor as a person who will try anything once was on the line!


Actually, I've had Octopus before, even raw, but I didn't inform the kid as she was in awe when the dish came out. It still had suction cups on it!





Of course, she turned down trying it (she should have, it was excellent). Oh yes, this is a must try if you eat here. For the squeamish, don't worry, it tastes a lot like chicken, both in flavor and texture. Just close your eyes and pretend it clucks!


This came with a Mediterranean Potato Salad and a Grilled Lemon. And, I could go on for a while about it, it was that good...so I'll try to keep this short. The Octopus itself was grilled and very well seasoned. The Potato Salad was also tasty, and used Golden Mini Potatoes, chopped black olives, sliced yellow and red bell peppers, chopped zucchini, sliced white shallots and seaweed. This obviously was made in advance and marinated, but it had a fresh taste. I couldn't place my finger on the whole marinade, but it was delicious! The whole dish was then splashed with olive oil and fresh chopped cilantro.


My gosh was this dish excellent. I wish I had ordered two (and I almost did!).


So far the meal was off to an excellent start. But, that didn't last.


The kid got the Meaty Macaroni...and she hated it. I tried a bit of it, and it was bland. Also, there wasn't a whole lot of "meaty" sauce on it. While the presentation was good, after a few bites all the "sauce" was gone basically leaving you with a bowl full of unseasoned bland pasta. I didn't blame her for not finishing it.





But, that aside, the kiddo is easy to fix with a stop by any Quickservice, so I didn't fret too much about her entree.


I ordered the Coral Reef Lobster Orecchiette Pasta with White Chedder and Basil Oil. I hadn't had a good warm pasta dish in a while, and Lobster Pasta is one of my favorites! This was also a "Signature" Entree, the recommendation of the server, and the only entree to carry the name of the restaurant in it. So, it must be pretty good, right?


<Continued Next Post>

Day 13 - Eating Surf and Turf on my Surf and Turf! (Part 2)


Wrong.


Dead wrong.


So, lets get started...first, the dish took a long time to come out. I only noticed because I was trying to keep the meal around an hour so we could use our Mission: Space FastPasses...otherwise I probably wouldn't have been so mindful of the time. So, lets chalk the slow service up to me being extra sensitive to time during this meal, shall we? But, that doesn't explain what happened next...





If that doesn't look appetizing, don't worry, it gets worse. I dove in, anticipating sweet lobster goodness, and instead the lobster was bitter. The whole thing tasted...off. To make matters worse, there wasn't enough sauce to even begin to cover up the rancid taste of the lobster. Now, I know shellfish is one of those things, like fruit, that can vary in taste. And, had it just been bland, like Lobster can sometimes be, I wouldn't have minded at all. But, this wasn't bland, or lacking flavor...it definitely had flavor. Bitter flavor.


I thought that perhaps I'd gotten a bad piece, as that can happen as well, so I dug around in the pasta and found another good looking chunk of lobster and tried it on it's own. Yep, bitter...almost rancid tasting. It's the lobster. I thought, ok, well, I'll pick around the lobster, but either it had ruined my taste buds or it had ruined the sauce, and now all I could taste was this sour lobster all over the whole dish.


To make matters even more interesting, I noted that the pasta had an odd texture, outside of just being bland itself... Upon inspection, there was a reason why. It wasn't cooked thoroughly!





See that darker color in the middle of each "ear"? Yes, that's raw pasta. This just added to the total "off" nature fo the dish. If you've ever made some shells and cheese at home and not stirred or salted/oiled the water and they clump together semi raw in the middle, that's exactly what this tasted like. This isn't "Al Dente", I make my own pasta, I know what "Al Dente" is. This is...ahem...<Gordon Ramsay Voice> IT'S RAW!!!!!


They did sprinkle some breadcrumbs on the top, which is an interesting idea if the rest of the dish hadn't been so bland and poorly executed.


It was just...nasty. Nasty on a plate.


I know I've gone on quite a bit about it, but it really upset me. I think what bothered me even more was that not once during the meal did I get a table check from the waiter or the manager. The waiter showed up simply to "change courses", not asking how everything was or if we were enjoying ourselves. Now, anyone who has waited tables for more than a week should know, it's extremely important to do your follow-ups.


Especially after food is delivered, and even more important to do so if you are not the one delivering the food yourself (which is common at Disney restaurants, including today at Coral Reef). It's not because you care if the Guest is enjoying their food (even if you do care), it's because you want to get their buy in and consent that they accept the meal as delivered, and therefore proactively avoid angry guests.


The guest shouldn't have to get up to track you down to let you know the food wasn't good. Nor should they have to wait until you've decided that they've "had long enough" to eat their meal before they see you again. This is basic Service. And something that Coral Reef failed big time at today.


So, first...I will not be ever get this dish again. It's basically a poorly executed lobster macaroni and cheese. Second, by this point, I was done. Done with Coral Reef. Done with my waiter who kept disappearing. Done with the frantic looking manager who was busing tables in a 1/3 empty restaurant while CMs stood along the side of the restaurant gossiping. Done with the whole experience.


I didn't complain because I didn't want any more food, I didn't want a comp, I didn't want apologies for a dish that should never have made it out of the kitchen in that state. And, since I felt I couldn't be satiated (and frankly I was in a very testy mood and probably wouldn't have said very kind things about the dish I was served...), I didn't see any sense in complaining. If the dish made it out of the kitchen past the Expediter and the Food Runner in that condition, then obviously any complaint I had would have fallen on deaf ears anyway. They had shown me, by the condition of the entree, that they obviously didn't care.


I just wanted to leave and put the whole thing behind me. I pushed my plate, barely touched, to the edge of the table along with the kid's meaty macaroni and waited for my Server to kindly show himself...which felt like an eternity (but probably wasn't). When the Server noticed that we had barely touched our entrees, and had even pushed them away, to the opposite side of the table, it should have been a tip off that something was wrong. But, no, he didn't even bat an eye as he cleared our dishes away.


Ok, I'm going to end my rant here, I think you get the idea that I was upset and in a rather low mood. So, time to move on to more pleasant things. Dessert!


Now, if there could be one saving grace for the rather bad turn this experience had taken...it would be dessert. And wow, did this shine. I'd rank it up there with one of the best desserts I've ever had at Disney (and that's saying a lot...Disney has great desserts!)


I got the Baileys and Jack Daniels Mousse with a Caramel Crisp. And, it was fantastic. The small balls are rice puffs that had been rolled in dark chocolate. The kid loved those, and I only got a few! (She has sneaky fingers!).





I quite literally couldn't stop eating this. The flavors melded so perfectly, and the added crunch from the rice balls was a nice addition to the texture. The only part of the dessert I didn't understand was the caramel crisp. This really didn't add anything to the dessert. The caramel had a slight burned flavor to it (easy to do with caramel) and it was, as you'd expect, not crispy at all. Rather, it was chewy. I would think that a nice sugar crisp would do far more justice for this dessert. Just my opinion.


The kid got a brownie and ice cream. This too was excellent. The kid was especially excited by the printed white chocolate Nemo.





So, outside of the entree, and some gripes about service, this was overall a pleasant meal. To be fair, I've eaten at this restaurant many times, and it is among my favorites. So, I'm sure today was a fluke. But, that doesn't change my experience.


Luckily the Disney Researcher wasn't outside when we left. I did note on the way out the waiting area was still mobbed with guests. Just weird, as the restaurant wasn't even close to full...oh well...


So, I've alluded to how the lunch dragged along (mostly me waiting for the server to show up)...and that meant that the entire meal took a bit over an hour and half...and this meant that we missed our FP window for Mission: Space. I asked the kiddo if she wanted to stay, but we both agreed that EPCOT was still packed. We did swing by Piggy again to check on it though (we loves us some Piggy Banks!).


The line was still long, though better than before. So, we walked around the Innoventions building to see if it got any shorter on our return.


As we walked around, I finally discovered what the little "Play it Safe" house that the kid loves so much is really for. Fireman Meet and Greets! Two Firemen from the Reedy Creek Fire Department were out there giving a very neat presentation. The kid didn't want to participate up close, but we did stop and watch it for a little while. One interesting tidbit I learned is that, before re-breathers were invented, many firemen grew long mustaches. When they had to enter a burning building, they'd soak the mustaches and put the hairs in their mouth to filter out the smoke.


Interesting.





The Fire video game was closed due to the presentation, and we didn't want to wait for it to open back up again, so we went back over to Piggy, and saw the line was still long. So, we decided to leave for the day. The kiddo wanted to go swimming, and I was fine with that!


When we got back to the hotel, this fun guy was hiding in a corner!





The kid went off and swam for a while as I caught up on various things from the table. We facetimed her Mom so she could show off her "new moves" in the pool, and that was fun. Facetime really is a neat way to keep in touch with relatives back home.


I decided that some adult refreshments were in order, so I got myself a spicy Bloody Mary and a Skinny Girl Coconut Mojito!





The Bloody Mary was awesome, and I was so happy the bartender included extra olives to munch on.





The Mojito was also equally excellent, and quite refreshing in the heat. I crushed the fresh mint with my straw to get a nice added kick to the drink. I don't think the bartender (Shelly) skimped on either drink because I was feeling quite...um...happy...by the time I finished both drinks.


Our ADR for dinner was approaching...this was the last day of full ADRs for the trip, and it was Le Cellier. No way were we missing out on this! The kid loves it (It's my steak place), and I adore it. So, mouths watering, we went back up to the room to change for dinner.


The kiddo wanted to bring Nala with her (she has become quite attached to that stuffed lion), and I consented. We left to go catch our bus.





It was a wonderful night, quite cool overall. We strolled leisurely back to Canada. Our meal awaits!


As we walked I called Disney Dining and booked us a lunch for tomorrow at Whispering Canyon. I had a full day planned for us tomorrow doing lots of things...none of which involved going to one of the Parks...but, I still wanted to eat lunch!





Soon, we were there!





I had booked this with a rather late ADR. My goal was to stroll out of the park after closing, when the park was nearly empty. However, when checking Park Hours, I found out that, as I mentioned earlier, tonight was EM hours for EPCOT. So, that was a bust. Thankfully we had a great late night stroll last night after Rose and Crown. Walking out of EPCOT after closing is one of my favorite things to do. Especially when the park is desolate. EPCOT is a beautiful park, and I love seeing it when it's cool and quiet.


When we arrived they were rather busy. They confirmed our reservation and told us we could wait inside or outside, and they'd track us down. Inside was crowded, so I let the kid wander down to Kidcot at the bottom of the hill to make some fans while I waited closer to the restaurant.


Soon, we were seated. Of course, the star of any meal at Le Cellier comes at the beginning of the meal.





The bread is good, but the Pretzel Bread is the best, hand down. Worth a visit just to consume this! I wish they sold it elsewhere on the property, as I'd easily make it a point to stop by Canada to pick up one of these tasty treats on a World Showcase day! Add to this the spiced butter...oh my, it's almost a religious experience!


I was in the mood for some wine, but when our Server suggested the Beer Flight, I remembered how much I enjoyed it over at Biergarten...so of course I said yes!





This had three beers, and if I mess up the spelling, forgive me. From left to right, the first was Ephemere. This was a light ale, very fruity. Not spectacular, by my taste, but worth a try. In the middle, another pale a white ale, Blanche de Chambly. This was very light, slightly dry and almost tasted like champagne. On the far right, the dark ale, Trois Pistoles. This was a robust beer with a sweet, but heavy, taste. Lots going on in that beer, and I'd love to have a full mug of it some day while munching on some Pretzel Bread (nothing else would be required).


The kid went a bit less alcoholic with her choice, and had a Shirley...er...Minnie Mouse in her Wine Glass.





For appetizers, I had to order the Canadian Chedder Cheese Soup, made with Moosehead Beer (eh) and Nueske's Smoked Bacon (crumbled on top along with chopped chives). This is a must for any visit to Le Cellier!





I'd love to rave about the soup, but this year I just can't. It tasted like someone had dropped a salt lick in it. I took a few bites, and was a tad upset. I pushed the dish away, and like earlier, made a mental note that my server didn't even bat an eye that the soup was barely touched (the garnish was still visible even) when she went to clear it from the table. I promise, I am not trying to be difficult, but this trend of rather lackluster inattentive service was starting to grate at me, especially after the cruise where pretty much everyone from the staff at Cabana's and Flos to your dinner staff is quite literally observant of your every need, down to the finest details.


See, told you I was spoiled on the Fantasy!


I also wanted to try the "Waterkist" (a brand I assume) Heirloom Tomato Salad. I love a good Tomato Salad, and I was smacking my lips hoping for something as good as the stuff I picked up at Biergarten a few days ago. This came with house made mozzarella, tomato gelee, lavash, micro basil and sprinkled with Minus "8" Vinegar.





So, if any of that didn't make sense, lets review, now that you can see the picture of it.


The "Lavash" (lah-vash) is a flatbread, it's the thing on the top right of the salad. It...was tasteless and brought nothing to the dish. The Tomato Gelee are the little clear Geletin Cubes towards the front of the plate. Also, brought nothing to the dish. It didn't carry any strong flavors at all. It was more like eating unflavored knox gelatin. Maybe I'm not sophisticated enough to appreciate "tomato jello blocks"...but, I didn't. The micro basil was pureed and also sliced and sprinkled through the salad, and that's the green stuff you see on the bottom. The Minus "8" Vinegar, I believe...they used the balsamic version for this dish...as there was clearly balsamic on it, but used sparingly. Considering th cost of Minus 8 ($30 - $35 a bottle USD), this doesn't surprise me!


Those little things that look like watermelons...are...cucamelons. They look like watermelons, but taste like a seedy cucumber. The kid found these fascinating, but didn't want to try one. While interesting, I didn't think they brought anything to the dish.


Here's a better look at them up close.





With all this going on, this was a very busy dish. It would have been nice if the Server or Runner had some basic knowledge about the dish itself, and had enlightened us as to what was going on with it. To me, that is part of the Signature Dine Experience. The waiter telling you how awesome and unique your dish is, even when it's not!


So, final analysis for this? Well, sometimes the flavors and textures didn't blend well, but overall...this was excellent! Though, I didn't like the cucamelons very much. The House Made Mozzerella was awesome. I'd certainly check this out if you are looking for a lighter start to a meal here.


The kid got a house salad that looked quite tasty, but she barely touched it. I find that amusing because last year she devoured the salad here, and according to her mom she loves salads!





For an entree, the kid was easy to please. Ribeye grilled medium with pole beans and of course...French Fries! I had a bite of her steak, and it was delicious. Oh, and tonight, she cut the whole thing by herself!


Me, well...it was a tough choice. I looked long and hard at the Dry Aged 51 Day Ribeye, but there is one dish that this restaurant is known for, and another dish (like Scotch Eggs) that I try and make for myself at home.


This is the famous "Le Cellier" Mushroom Filet Mignon. This is AAA Canadian Beef Tenderloin served with Wild Mushroom Risotto, Pickled Pearl Onions and topped with a White Truffle-Butter Sauce. Oh my!





And here's my pale attempt to replicate this dish from a few months ago.





Yeah...there's looks better! It tasted better too, though I liked mine! <grin>


I did not like the pickled onion. I don't seem to recall this from previous visits...is it new? Well, to me it was very sweet and just clashed with the whole dish. The filet, as expected, was amazing. Cooked perfectly with a wonderful crust. The mushrooms, risotto and sauce were also remarkably good. So, overall a winner of a dish!


<Continued Next Post>

Day 13 - Eating Surf and Turf on my Surf and Turf! (Part 3)


Now, we were ready for dessert. The kid had, well...what every kid who goes there should have. The Chocolate Moose!





As you can see she was so ready to dig into it that I had to snap the picture quickly! They make this by rolling a firm chocolate mousse in chocolate powder. Then they add M&Ms for eyes and nose, and finish it with white Chocolate maple leaf horns and a white chocolate tongue. It's just a cute (and tasty) dessert!


Myself? Well, I got another Le Cellier staple. The Maple Creme Brulee.





Again the kid snagged my cookie straw, and the raspberries were a touch sour...but overall the dish was excellent, as always.


Now, this whole experience has been pretty good, except for my lackluster server who did all sorts of things that bothered me. Again, it took forever to pay. She did worse than disappear, she ignored us (paying more attention to the two tables immediately next to us, not 2 feet away). When she wasn't ignoring us, she was awkardly standing over the table. When she presented the dessert menu she barely let me look at it before she scurried off with the menu and some used plates in hand.


She didn't engage the kid at all, in fact seemed to not like the fact that I had a child with me. Sorry, this is Disneyworld! Get over it.


I found myself looking at the server in the neighboring section wishing we'd been seated two tables over (Joelle was her name, see...she was so interactive and fun with her tables that I even remember her name...my server, I couldn't even begin to tell you...though, I'm sure it's on my receipt).


<sigh> Grass is greener perhaps? Or maybe I was just still overly sensitive from the less than stellar experience at Coral Reef earlier? <shrug>


So, like most restaurants this trip, the server had scanned my card into the RFID reader at the beginning of the meal. But, after a long wait to pay, she came back and said that I didn't have a dining plan. Um...excuse me? She double checked the DLX on my card, and promptly apologized, and then disappeared for another long period, I assume to try and get this all sorted out. I kindof felt sorry for her at this point, as the computers seemed to be full of gremlins tonight.


We walked leisurly back through EPCOT. I offered the kid that we could stay and do some EM hours, but she wanted to rush back to the hotel to go swimming...something that I'm not going to discourage since she now has a new found love for it!


So, back to the hotel it was.





And then off to the pool for a late night dip!





So, there you have it. Day 13. Lots of activity doing nothing at all! <grin>


<sing this tune in your head as you read the next part>


[MEDIA=youtube]mS7Z6LvJesE[/MEDIA]


"Dining Plan, Dining Plan, does everything that a Dining Plan Can. It's a plan, a Dining Plan, eat all you want on the Dining Plan. Get fat! Purchase the Dining Plan!"


To break even we need to spend around $127 a day on dining. Today we spent:


Coral Reef Lunch (2 credits used)
Tuna Nori - $12.99
Coke - $2.99
Lobster Pasta - $28.49
B&J Mousse - $7.99


Kids Apples - $1.75
Kids Meaty Mac - $7.24
Kids Brownie Sundae - $1.75


Tax - $4.93


80.71


Le Cellier Dinner (4 credits used)
Tomato Salad - $12
Coke - $2.99
Filet - $44
Creme Brulee - $8


Kids Salad - $4
Kids Sirloin - $12
Kids Drink - $2.19
Kids Mousse - $8


Tax $7.48


Since I was off on snacks, lets assume an average cost of $3 per snack, and 8 snacks, that's $24.


Total = $205.37


Again, completely took advantage of the plan. While we used two credits for dinner, consider that we didn't use any credits for breakfast. So far, so good!


So, Disheads, Tune in at the same Mice-Time, at the same Mice-Channel for the next installment...
Day 14 - The Actuarial Price of a Child's Tears!


(yeah, I'll let you ponder that one for a bit...I promise, it is relevant to our experience tomorrow!)

Day 14 - The Actuarial Price of a Child's Tears


Magic - 1 (Ketchup)
Peeves - 1 (Insurance Actuaries!)
Breakfast - None
Lunch - Western Chips, Chuck Wagon Angus "Bacon and Egg" Burger (me), Fruit Cup, Chicken Strips, Cookie (kid)
Dinner - Meatball Sub (me), Mac and Cheese, Apples, Grapes (kid)
Snacks - 2 Coffees (free) (me), Fanta, Nesquick (kid)
DP Credits - 31 - 4 = 27 Meal, 24 - 0 = 24 Need $127, used $76.64
Steps - 17,831 Steps, 8.68 Miles, 48 "Very Active" minutes, 3438 Calories Burned


Today I had absolutely nothing planned on the parks at all. And the kid was excited!


She bounced out of bed this morning and got dressed and ready in record time. She knew what was coming, as I had informed her last night before she went to sleep. See, I had planned that we would head over to Ft. Wilderness and take advantage of the extra-curricular activities over there.


The itinerary was...after getting to Ft. Wilderness...


We'd start the day going fishing off the dock (not a guided excursion or a boat rental). They have this at Port Orleans Riverside as well. For $6, you can rent a pole and bait for half an hour and fish (catch and release, of course) a stocked section of the lake. She's never gone fishing, and was uber excited for this.


After this, we'd go for a pony ride. Originally I was planning that we would do a horseback ride, but she has to be 9 years old for that (due to insurance requirements). I didn't know this until I called yesterday to confirm final details, like cost and hours of operation. But, I was informed over the phone that the Pony Rides would be running from 10a until 5p as well, so I thought, cool, we'll just do a Pony Ride. For $5, I'm sure the kid will enjoy it all the same. She loves "horsies", and of all the activities planned, I think this is the one that she was most looking forward to!


After our Pony Ride (I figured we'd go on a few back to back) we'd head over to Wilderness Lodge and eat at Whispering Canyon. After lunch, it would be back to Ft. Wilderness to check out the Archery Lessons - Disney runs a 2 hour Archery Class at Ft. Wilderness. I only found out about it shortly before the trip (thanks to whomever on the forums mentioned it!). The kid was actively excited about this, pretending she was Merida and bouncing around the room shooting off "air-arrows" at various things pretending she was hitting the bulls eye!


This would leave us at around 4:45, so from there we would either snag a boat, or more likely a taxi, over to Polynesian to check out the Luau at 5:15!


After that, the plans were wide open, and I strongly suspected the kid would want to return to the hotel to...you guessed it...go swimming!


Anyhow, so while the kid was bouncing around the room, I was not. I had not slept very well last night, and I'm really not sure why. I woke up every few hours, and just didn't feel very well rested at all. But, a hot shower and a few cups of coffee, and I was ready to leave.


I was not, however, ready to handle the buses or a park hop to get to Wilderness Lodge, so, to the kid's excitement, we took a taxi!


Oh, and of course Nala had to come along for her "big day"!





Oh, and as Nala (through the kid) informs me...you should never forget to "stop and smell the flowers"...





The cabs at French Quarter sit right across from the front unloading zone, in the parking lot. As it turns out, the driver we had a few nights ago was the same driver we had today! Soon, we were off...





The kid covered our cab ride, of course.





And, we were here! When it comes to overall theme and impressiveness, Wilderness Lodge is my favorite of all the Disney Resorts. Even Animal Kingdom Lodge (which is impressive of it's own right). It just feels comfortable, with lots of little things to look at like replica headdresses, wonderful art, and unique architecture. I can see why so many people call this resort their "home" when at Disney.





After a quick stop by the gift shop to pick up some drinks for our fishing expedition (I had some chips already in my bag), we headed off to the bus stops to catch the connector bus that goes to Ft. Wilderness. For those not familiar, there is a bus that runs between Wilderness Lodge and Ft. Wilderness...so, this is the easiest way (outside of driving, I think) to get over there...hop through the Lodge. Plus, the resort is so darned pretty, why not give it a quick walkthrough?


On our way out, the kid spied this...





Most of the models we've run across have been the Magic or the Wonder...but this was the Dream... We had fun for a few minutes looking at our Sister Ship, and pointing out where our room was, admiring the little details, and just generally remembering how much fun we had on that part of the trip.


Anyhow, soon we were off on our connector bus! I remembered from last year that deer are pretty common along this route, so I mentioned to the kid that she'd want to keep her eyes peeled.





Pretty soon she'd spotted one!





Soon, we were there! Ft. Wilderness is a huge resort, and the only area I'm familiar with offhand is the area around Hoop de Doo.



The kiddo decided she wanted to do the Pony Ride first, before fishing. Why? Well...because she saw this!





And these cute little guys!





Of course...she also discovered that while "horsies" are cute...My Little Pony doesn't do justice to their rather...um...natural smell!





She was so excited. Running back and forth between the stalls pointing at the feeding ponies, commenting how beautiful they were, or how cute they were, and trying to decide which one she wanted to ride on first!


We walked back to where the Pony Rides are. This is rather neat, especially if you have a smaller child. They use miniature ponies, and they have a wandering path through the ranch that you lead your kid through on the ride. For $5, this is a great deal, and a unique experience, I think. The kid was peering into the grooming shed and asking questions of the CM who was grooming a stunning albino pony...when I spotted this.





The kid is more than 48 inches tall. I wasn't exactly sure how to break the news to her. She was about 4 inches too tall to do the Pony Ride, and about 40 days too young to do the full sized Horse rides.


I was torn. I didn't know how to break the news to her...watching her eyes so lit up and knowing how excited she was about this whole experience...


But, I had to tell her.





It didn't go over well. What you can't see in that photo is that she is crying. Now, my kid is emotional (what child isn't), but one thing she very rarely does is throw fits. When she's upset, she gets quiet...and gets a very specific look on her face. It's not quite a pout...more like she's just dead to the world. In some ways, this is worse than throwing a fit, if you know what you are looking for. But, at least she doesn't bother those around her...who probably don't even realize she is upset.


Well...here...she almost reached the snapping point, as we walked back to the buses. She was inconsolable. I tried to take a picture of her teary eyes (yeah, big mistake Daddy)...and she snapped at me "DADDY, NO PICTURES!"





We stopped for a minute and I just held her, and she broke loose. Tears streaming down her cheeks, weeping into my belly lamenting that her much anticipated experience was not going to happen...at least not this year.


I felt awful, and we sat for a bit while I waited on her to collect her emotions.


Eventually, she had herself under some form of control (though, she was still obviously disappointed and sad), so I offered that we could go off and try some fishing (something else she had been very excited to do)...but her mood to do anything was shattered at this point. "I just want to go back to the hotel."...she kept saying.


<sigh> What can I do? My heart was broken for her. Had I known this would be an issue, I would never have set up her expectations, and I would have steered her far away from anything horse related! So, while it was one of those unpleasant lumps that life sometimes deals to you, I did feel a bit personally guilty that I played a part in her current disappointment.


We took the shuttle back to Wilderness Lodge, and I took a gamble and headed over to Whispering Canyon. I tried to drum up some sympathy (not for anything special, but hoping for an enterprising CM to catch on that the kid needed some help changing gears) by explaining why we were early for our reservation and why the kiddo was looking a bit sad.


No CM bit on the bait to make some magic, BUT they did have Lincoln Logs! The kid was immediately attracted to these, as she has a rather decent sized set at my house that she enjoys playing with when she visits. The restaurant wasn't busy, so I let the kid play for a while...a long time actually, probably close to a half hour. I'm sure this confused my server, but if he'd paid attention to my story which I told him when placing our drink orders, he'd have understood why I was giving her plenty of space to reset her mood. But, he didn't. So...<shrug>


Anyhow, after a while, she had cheered up...some...





Though, she did have a slight relapse when they did the "pony ride" game around the restaurant. Yeah, not thinking, I asked her if she wanted to do the "Pony Ride" when the staff announced they would be doing it.


"I can't, I'm too tall and too young!" she exclaimed, and started to pout again.


Whoops.





So, on to the meal. I ordered the Western Chips. This came with three dips. Venison Chili, a Cheese Dip and fresh Salsa. All were excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed dipping a chip in the cheese sauce and then scooping up some of the tasty chili! This is another Appetizer that was a bit much for just me alone (though I devoured all the chili...it was that good!), but a perfect one to share with more than one Adult.





The kid had...well, I shouldn't even bother anymore...Nuggets, fries, fruit and cookies.





If she lays an egg soon, it won't surprise me...she loves that chicken!


Glancing at the menu I realized that I hadn't had too many burgers on this trip, and the Chuck Wagon Angus "Bacon & Egg" Burger was looking pretty tasty on the menu! It comes with Tillamook Chedder and Chipotle Ketchup. The egg is cooked over-medium, so be prepared if you get this for yourself...it is a MESSY experience. Yolk will go everywhere. I'm glad they chose a rather sturdy bread for the bun. It is awesome, and this will be something I attempt to make when I get back home. It was so very good. In fact, right now, I'm craving another one!





<Continued Next Post>

Day 14 - The Actuarial Price of a Child's Tears (Part 2)


The kid finally joined me, and...well...she wanted some Ketchup. A CM passing by noted this, and called out "Hey, we need some Ketchup over here...KETCHUP OVER HERE!" and pointed at the kid.


A few minutes later a table from across the restaurant came over with around 20 bottles of ketchup in their arms. The kids from that table (2 boys around age 10 and 12, I'd guess) had huge grins on their face at the "joke", and loved piling up the bottles in front of the kiddo.





Now, if you've been following along, you've probably guessed by now that the kid considered Ketchup one of the major food groups. She was in heaven! She dressed her fries and nuggets using various bottles.


A few minutes later, we heard the call "KETCHUP, I NEED SOME KETCHUP OVER HERE"...and it was our turn. The kid grabbed about 4 bottles, and I was somehow able to pile the rest into my arms, hands and pockets. When we got to the table, all those years of working in restaurants kicked in and I made a big deal out of it...approaching the table asking "Who needs ketchup?" Of course, the adults (about 6 adults, and 4 kids) pointed at the kids at the end. I walked up and gave one bottle to the first kid. Then two to his brother. Three to the little girl. Then I "pulled a bottle" out of the first kids ear. Grabbed two more and plopped them down in front of the little girl...yeah, you get the idea. I hammed it up. The kid then showed up with her bottles and decided to join in the fun by calling out "Ketchup, fresh ketchup, get your Ketchup here!" and handing them out amongst the adults.


The table was laughing, and I hope it made their day. I know the kid and I enjoyed it. And, finally I began to hope that her mood was taking a turn for the better!


Fat and happy, and moods seemingly reset, we wandered out into the lobby. The kid said she'd like to go to a water park, and I agreed (anything at this point to reset her mood fully)...so, we were off!





Here, we stumbled upon something very cool. Oversized games! They had Checkers on one table (like the set you'd find at any Cracker Barrel)...but the rest were far more unique. For example they had a deck of playing cards that were the size of my head! Imagine playing a game of Rummy with those, or even better...Bridge! <grin>


They also had oversized Chess set up.





I thought about setting up the board with a one move mate and leaving a note for someone to "solve" it...but someone sat down before I could.


However, one oversized toy really captured the kids attention. The giant dominos!





Of course she didn't want to play bones (domino slang, for those unfamiliar with the term), but she wanted to have them all knock down in sequence! I obliged. The first version I encircled her with them, and let her (er...Nala...rather) start the chain reaction. However, the second go around I got more creative.





This attracted some attention, and when we tipped it off, there was a small crowd (5 or 6 people, nothing major) there to see Mickey collapse!


The kid thought this was quite funny (and I thanks my lucky stars that it went fairly smoothly!)...I have video of it somewhere on my memory card, and may upload it later in the thread if you all are curious.


Then we went for a walk out to the pool. Like Animal Kingdom Lodge, we've never walked this part of the resort...merely looked at it through the glass. Well, here, you really can't do that. It's such a well themed area.





Along the way the kid tapped me on the back and asked for the camera. Seems she found a friend that she wanted to snap a photo of!





Lets just get this over with, Wilderness Lodge is impressive!





The theme, the feel, the decor. I really enjoy this resort (yes, I know I already said that, but it's worth mentioning it again!)


However, I did find the pool a bit underwhelming (though I appreciated how the stream flows all the way from the lobby to the pool, that's very cool.)





Also, we made it just in time to see the Geyser shoot off!





The show went on a lot longer than I expected it would, and after a bit we decided to go ahead and move on with our walkthrough.


While we were walking, it started to drizzle, and they closed the pool. Uh oh...no Water Park, it seems.


On the way back to the taxi (yes, she wanted to go back to the hotel, not to a park...especially now that it was raining and a Water Park was out of the question for the time being...), we came upon this. Not something I would expect to grab the kid's attention, but it did, and she insisted I read names of all the rocks to her and she had several questions about them (some of which I couldn't answer...yeah, every parent has gotten those! Sorry, I'm an IT guy, not a geologist!)...





We went back to the resort, and I wish I could report that we did some more amazing things today, but we didn't. The kid napped for an hour, and when she woke it was still drizzling. I asked if she was ready to go to the Luau (we were cutting it very close on time already), and she emphatically said...No. So, even though it will ding my credit card (AGAIN, first Imagineer and now this!...and THIS is why I dislike ADRs!)...I am not going to force her into something just because it's booked. It's no fun for either of us.


So, we went swimming, or rather, she went swimming. And, she had a blast. We facetimed with her mom, and the kid had a blast showing off her new swimming "skills" and going down the water slides.


So, it stinks we missed the Luau, but the kid enjoyed the evening, playing with her "England" friends (lots of Brits at the hotel!), and as a result, so did I.


For dinner, we ate at the Sassalouga Floatworks. Well, really, we ate at the pool...I went off and got our food after checking with her new found "England" friends that they didn't mind keeping an eye on her.


I had the meatball sub. It was decent...pretty much the same meatball sub they serve at every Food Court on property I'd imagine.





The Pasta Salad was awful though, so I'll be skipping it in the future. It was basically...just pasta.


The kid had...wait for it...something new! Mac and Cheese!





She loved this meal, and it was gone quickly. I let her swim for a bit longer, and then we headed back to the room to call it a night. Early day tomorrow!


So, on with the Dining Plan Breakdown! We asked 1000 people this question..."What value did you find with the Disney Deluxe Value Plan?" Survey says!


<ding ding ding>


To break even we need to spend around $127 a day on dining. Today we spent:


Whispering Canyon (2 credits used)
Egg Burger with Fries - $16.49
Coke - $2.99
Western Chips - $11.99


Kids Chicken Strip - $7.24
Kids Cookie - $1.75
Kids Fruit Cup - $2.39
Tax - $2.79


Sassalouga Floatworks (2 credits used)
Meatball Sub - $17
Kids Mac and Cheese - $13


Total = $76.64


Serious deficit today, though I still think I'm ahead for the week. You may note that I don't list a few items, especially for Floatworks purchases. This is because I'm not presented with a receipt that has the true price on it, so I'm having to jot it down quickly as I check out. I also don't bother to list the drinks and desserts we get along with the meals. I have quite a collection of Vitamin Waters, sodas and rice crispie treats started using these allotments!


Regardless, had we gone to the Luau, which was the plan for tonight, we probably would have come out ahead again, but with everything that happened, the kid just wasn't in any sort of mood...and I needed her in a good mood for the coming activities tomorrow!


Next up, Day 15 - Do the Danes do it Better? Lego find out!












- - - Updated - - -

Day 11 - Lions, Zebras and Yetis, Oh My! (Part 3)


The walk to Asia went quickly. Along the way, we saw Everest again, which made the kid very excited that we were headed in that direction! I had wanted to run over and pick up a fastpass for Everest before our meal, but we were cutting our ADR window pretty closely, so I decided against it.





We checked in, and were told they would call our name as soon as our table was ready. While waiting, the kid simply had to collect all of the pennies! It was smart of them to place this in the waiting room where it can appropriately tempt children and collectors of all ages!





I love this restaurant. It's so well themed, with lots of bric-a-brac to look at and unique sculptures, etc. I could quite literally spend 15 - 20 minutes just walking around and soaking it all in (which, I may have done in the past, and couldn't help but to walk the whole restaurant this year, though I didn't gape as much as I'd like to...wouldn't want to stand in front of someone's table while they are eating and snap pictures of the decor behind them! I'm weird, but I'm not that weird!).





This year we got to sit upstairs, which was the first time we've gotten to do this. I really enjoyed it! We had a great view of the staircase. This doesn't sound interesting, but when you consider all the decor in the restaurant, there's plenty of eye candy to keep you interested.


I got the Lettuce Cups for Two. The server did note that this appetizer does require that two people use their "appetizer" sections of their credits for it, but he allowed me to use the kid's appetizer to obtain these delicious little goodies!





They come with minced chicken breast seasoned with oyster sauce, soy sauce, and I couldn't place the rest of the flavors, but they were very sweet, very Asian. It comes with matchstick carrots and bean sprouts for added crunch and a delicious Saigon Haison sauce to top it all off. The dish is very similar to one served by P.F. Changs, but that doesn't make me like it any less. Last year I got the Seared Ahi Tuna (though, that could have been the year before), as I recall, and that is excellent as well...but this year I felt it was time for Lettuce Cups!





For an entree, I had the Orange Chicken. Tempura Chicken, broccoli, carrots with a sweet honey sauce. Very good! Also, tempura chicken is one of those dishes that it's easy (and common) to find it's under-cooked, or more often, overcooked. This chicken was delicious and perfect! The jasmine rice had black sesame seeds on it, which was a nice touch. I completely enjoyed this dish and would definitely get it again!


The kid got...well, take a guess!





For dessert she got some Vanilla Ice Cream, and I had Fried Wontons. Every time I eat here I eyeball the Mango Pie, but I always end up getting this decadent dessert...it's so darned good. Skewers with fresh pineapple and wontons filled with sweetened cream cheese, served with vanilla ice cream and a honey vanilla drizzle (is your mouth watering yet?). They go a step further and warm the entire dish (except for the ice cream, of course), which really makes the ice cream's cool nature stand out even more. It's great to get a bit of ice cream and a 1/2 wonton or piece of pineapple. The temperature and sweetness just explodes. It's awesome, and one of my favorite desserts on the Parks...it's fun, it's tasty, and it's unique!





Filled, and generally happy (we've had a lot of food today...but it's hot and a lot of walking, so we deserve the treats!)...we exited the restaurant and happened upon these guys performing.





I, personally, loved it, but unlike the Street Party in Africa, this didn't interest the kid much at all. But, she had her reasons. See, this was looming in the distance!





We went by the line, and it was posted as a 35 minute wait, but I could see it snaking up into the part of the queue that I hate...if you've ever been in it, it's terrible, especially in the middle of the day. It's the part that snakes around the outside rear of the queue area, and even with fans going, it's a nightmare of a wait. The kid agreed (I would have waited if she wanted to)...but, instead, like any seasoned park goers, we checked out FPs! The return time was between 4:45 and 5:45. Park closes at 6p tonight, and we had a 7:40p ADR at Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jikos)...so, I suggested that we snag two FPs and then leave the park, go back to the hotel and chill for a bit, change, and come back later!


The kid liked this idea. She toddled off to get the FPs (she seems to enjoy that I let her do some things "by herself" now, even though I'm actually monitoring her the whole time...she's at that age when she's starting to be enthralled by independence. The parent in me hopes this stops at getting FPs. <grin>). While she did that I got us a drink to share for the walk back to the front of the Park.


We made it as far as Nemo before the kid began to complain she was hot and tired (frankly, I was surprised she lasted this long). To her credit, she didn't try and pawn off Nala onto me...but she did offer to carry my day pack if I'd carry her on my back. They were just starting up the show, and we haven't seen this in a while...so, I offered that we stop to see it.


There was a Disney CM in Security Guard dress standing outside calling out "Come and get your free A/C! Best A/C in the Park! You'll wish you had gotten here 10 minutes earlier to enjoy this A/C!" Cute...


Anyhow, she declined, and I accepted her proposition as long as I could put her down when we got to Flame Tree. She wasn't exactly sure where that was (though I knew exactly where), but she still agreed. So, on my back, we high-tailed it past Dinoland USA and off to Discovery Island!


Here, I sat her down...but she still was hot. She ran off to the shade provided by the shops / venues along the side of the walkway. To be fair, I was burning up too. I'm not sure what the temperature was, and it certainly wasn't the hottest I've experienced at Disney (in fact, the weather this year has been rather mild, and shockingly short on rain so far)...but, I decided to try something.





I'd seen these all over the Parks this year, and don't recall seeing them before. I must admit to being curious how well it worked. I was sure it was a gimmick, but I'm ok with gimmicks! And, who knows, maybe this is the next major advancement in summer Park enjoyment for the heatmidity (yes, I just made that word up) challenged!


So, basically, it's a lemon extract infused wet washcloth. That's it. It's cold because the mixture of oils encourages evaporation (and, in many cases, Disney displays them chilled, so they are even cooler). Fresh out of the package, they work extremely well...but leave your skin feeling like you just used an exfoliant (like Sea Breeze or Stridex). On a hot day, this clean and cool feeling is actually quite nice. However, the odor (while sort of pleasant)...is strong. Supposedly you can use this over and over again, just by getting it wet. But, I found that we used it to...well, no delicate way to say this...wipe off a lot of sweat. And, I prefered to wash it before using it again.


After you wash it, it turns into a regular washcloth. So...was it worth the $6-8 (I don't remember the exact price) some odd dollars we spent on it? Nope. But, was it fun for this one experience on a hot day? Absolutely! The kid and I kept swapping back and forth, and even held little races towards the end (my idea to keep her moving) to see who would "win" rights to the towel until the next "race". As you can imagine...she won quite a few of these (though, when we reached the caves in Oasis, I purposefully beat her because I wanted some of the cooling goodness!)...


As we hiked out to the bus stops, something occurred to me...why is the entrance to Animal Kingdom so open and covered with pavement? I'm sure it has something to do with the animals, but I'd like to know why. It seems to me that covering this area with tents (like EPCOT between Innoventions) or random trees, or really anything that doesn't turn the front gate area / walk to the Parking Lot / Buses into a trek through a concrete desert...would be a good idea?


Once we got to the bus stop, the kid wanted a Fanta Orange (her favorite soda, and she only gets it here, according to her)...so, while she waited at the bus stop, I walked to the nearby soda machine and scoured our penny machine quarters to come up with $3 to buy one...because, as usual, the credit card reader on the machine didn't work. When I pressed the button, I got this.





I think the soda machine was trying to let us know that we really needed to have some regular water. Soda doesn't dehydrate (that's a myth), but it doesn't do it as well as pure ol' water does. I thought the kid would be upset that it wasn't what she expected, but she wasn't. She gladly drank half of the bottle before I even got the first sip! (thanks Soda Machine Spirit!)...


On the bus she dozed off (pretty normal for her to do so, and it had been a busy few days for us), and when we got back to the hotel I carried her to the room.


We came back to a neat little friend to say hello to us!





I let her nap for an hour, and before waking her up I went down to get us some fresh drinks from the beverage bar at the food court.


Ok, somewhat of a gripe, but I've never seen this bar clean. Ever. I don't remember CBR or Pop's bar every looking like this on a regular basis. It's not that people aren't staffed to clean it...it's just that they don't seem to accomplish anything! I've watched it a few times, and a lot of it seems to be related to the inefficient manner in which they care for the bar (and it's design). I'm quite familiar with how messy beverage bars can get, and there are lots of little tricks (like, I dunno, hot water to melt spilled ice, etc.) to keeping them under control. I've not seen that here, and I almost feel sorry for the poor CMs who take care of it because every time I see them they seem overwhelmed...





When I woke her, she watched Disney XD for around a half hour (Phineus and Ferb, I think...though it could have been Suite Life) while I got ready. That is one nice thing about doing the cruise beforehand, I actually had some decent outfits to wear! Last year I skirted the edge of their dress code with nice golf shorts and a polo. This year I actually had dress shoes and slacks to go with my new 100% bamboo Polo I picked up in Costa Maya!


Then, the kid took a shower and generally refreshed herself. She decided to wear her flower dress, but with her swimsuit underneath. See, she wanted to go swimming at the pool after we got back from dinner. Magic Kingdom had late night extra hours (till 1a) tonight, so I figured I'd ask her after dinner. In either case, the swimsuit worked fine, and the dress hid it perfectly.





But...things didn't work out. Bus mishap number one. We hit the bus stop at 4:50p or so, plenty of time to make it to Animal Kingdom...but I was still calculating bus times on the familiar Pop/Aoa or CBR schedules, not the unpredictable schedules of Port Orleans French Quarter (where you sometimes share a bus with Riverside, sometimes you don't...)...yeah, we had to go through all the Riverside stops, which took another 20 minutes, and then there was the stop at Blizzard. It was obvious to me that by the time we made it to Animal Kingdom, there was no way we'd make it back to Everest in time for our FP, much less be able to do the ride. Were the kid, er...not a kid, perhaps we could have pulled it off. But, I'd rather we fall back on another plan.


So, I suggested we do mini golf at Blizzard! This went over very well (she loves mini-golf). We didn't keep score, but the kid is scary good at it. She had a few bad holes (I stopped counting after 5 tries), as did I (also stopped counting after 5)...but for the most part we blew through the course. More than one couple allowed us to play through...





Next year, I'll need to ask that her mom pack her real putter and wedge that I got her, and we may try a few real golf holes. She's much better at putting than I am, and is pretty good with her wedge (10 yard shots for an 8 year old, not bad...she isn't a semi-pro, but she likes golf, as do I, so I plan to nurture that!). I wish Disney had a par 3 course for her where we could work on her drives as she gets a bit older...They do have a few "family" courses where we can play a good "best ball" game, I think, though next year is probably a bit early for that. I may take her out on a game where I let her do the close approach and putting...


Anyhow, after the game, we headed off to Animal Kingdom Lodge...and here's where the buses wen't awry again!


We waited nearly 40 minutes for a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge. I wasn't really all that surprised, or upset...but there were two buses that stopped at our same bus stop that were from Hollywood Studios (which we shared a stop with), and there was one Guest who was extremely upset...


Very upset...


So much so that when the bus finally arrived, she spent the whole trip back complaining about how dirty Animal Kingdom Lodge was, and how her daughter (who had recently graduated High School) had said that for her "before college" trip she wanted to stay at AKL, and how when they checked in it took them both 3 - 4 moves to find a room that was "semi-clean" and that they couldn't stand the rooms they were offered because, well, her daughter has "terrible allergies" and can't stay in a "dirty room".


She mentioned that she also had done a cruise recently, so I thought I could divert the conversation to that...big mistake. I got to learn about how the Magic is a terrible ship with ratty carpets.


<sigh>


Yeah, I'm a bit picky about being organized, but that was a bit more than I could take on the ride back. So, I adopted the "Yes...yes, that is interesting" look on my persona and suffered through...as did a few other people who surrounded us, from what I could tell.


Soon enough we were at Jambo House!





It felt good to be back, but the kid was a tad upset...see, she thinks they used "real giraffes" for the carpets.





She came to that conclusion last year while we were waiting for our Jiko seating...and I had hoped she'd forgotten it this year. She had not...


Anyhow, we checked in at Jiko, and had some time to burn, so we went back to the Savannah Walk.





We enjoyed the Animals, but the kid had something else on her mind once she saw the venue...Marshmallows!





It seems we hit them just at the right time. Go figure! <grin> (Actually, the whole day today is pretty much a clone of a day we did last year where the marshmallows were a surprise...this year, I planned it such. Not that I'll tell her!).


So, after getting a free stick and marshmallow, she was roasting away. How did they turn out? Well, lets taste...





Hrm...looks good...verdict?


<Continued Next Post>

Day 11 - Lions, Zebras and Yetis...Oh My! (Part 4)





Yep, perfect!


Time to go check on our reservation!





We still had some time to burn, so we wandered downstairs and outside to check out the pool area. We've never walked this part of the hotel before, and it was just as nice as the rest of the hotel.





Were it not for the location on the property, I would seriously consider a stay here. The kid really wants to do a Savannah View, but for the price of a Deluxe, I think I'd rather do Polynesian. <shrug> Still a pretty hotel though!


Finally our restaurant buzzer went off. Oh, I hadn't mentioned this. When you check in you are given a buzzer, just like the ones they use at resort food courts when you have to wait for your food. I found that, while the range is limited, you can go out on the Savannah Walk and other parts of the Jambo House section of the hotel. I wouldn't try going over to Kidani with it <grin>...but who knows!


Anyhow, the time had come!





I love this restaurant, ever since a trip report turned me on to it when I was planning last years trip. We enjoyed it last year, and I had to do it again this year! Our seater pointed out the hidden mickey just above the open-fire grill (which is in the Front of House, for all to see...they also have a semi-open kitchen here, and it's fun to stop by and see chefs preparing meals for other guests.


I think my favorite part of the decor, however, are the "bird lamps"...





Though, the kid swears they are really Pterodactyls because "their wings are pointed!". <shrug>


The bread came with the spiced butter. The butter was chilled, which I think detracted a bit from it, so I let it warm up to room temperature before diving into the bread. I seem to recall last year that they had more than one type of bread...but maybe I'm remembering wrong. Still, it's a tasty start to the meal!





The kid ordered fruit for her appetizer, and asked for extra grapes. A few minutes later our server brought her a good sized bowl filled to the brim with a few small bunches of grapes. The kid was in heaven now...





However, she didn't like the blackberries, so those were donated to me! How thoughtful of her!


The Dining Plan only includes one Appetizer, but I wanted more! So, I ordered two. One, of course, I'd have to pay for, but that's ok. It's not like I get to eat here all the time!


I got the Grilled Wild Boar Tenderloin. This has Mealie Pap (I've already spoken about how much I enjoy Mealie Pap), Chakalaka and is seasoned with White Truffle Oil and Micro Cilantro. This is all served on a tomato salad with olive oil and a variety of spices. I had it last year and remember it being absolutely fantastic. Well, it certainly lived up to that memory. I quickly devoured this, and actually wished I'd ordered two!





I also got the Fire-roasted Oysters on the Half Shell. This is served with Lemon, Butter, a home-made hot sauce, horseradish and smoked tatsoi...all on a bed of sea salt. These were ok. I wanted to try something new, and I haven't had Oysters in a while, so I thought this would be a good choice. And, while I have no complaints, there was nothing spectacular about them. I certainly would try something else on a future visit, and avoid these.





Now, on this whole trip I haven't had a truly excellent steak yet...and even though I had Le Cellier coming up later in the week, I really wanted to have one...and, if any place was going to give me a unique beef experience, I would expect it to be Jikos (can you tell I'm a fan?)!


Last year I got the Seared Barbarie Duck Breast, and it was fantastic. This year I got the Oak-grilled Filet Mignon, served with pole beans, spoon bread and a South African red wine sauce. As a side note, the server did offer that if I wanted I could substitute the pole beans and spoon bread for Mac and Cheese, which used to be the way they served this dish. But, I decided to try the newer recipe.





The kid, however, did not! She wanted her steak and mac!





Those brown things under her steak are roasted sweet potatoes. She didn't like them very much, so it was another thing that was donated to my plate during the meal.


As usual, the kid wanted to "play fancy", and had her soda in a wine glass. Our server played around with this calling it her "Non-alcoholic Bubbling Chateau de Sprite, 2013 vintage." Very cute! I, on the other hand, wanted something with my meal. I asked our server to choose for me, mostly because I hate staring at wine menus like I have any idea what I'm looking at.


She chose Black Pearl, a South African vintage. 2010, I think. Anyhow, it was very good, and paired wonderfully with my steak.


The manager stopped by part way through our meal, and while I really can't complain about this, she did upset the kid. See, the kid was picking at her food, mostly because she wanted to cut the steak herself. Now, I'd already offered quite a few times to do it for her, but she's learning her own independence, and it wasn't harming anyone for her to do it herself. Had the restaurant been packed, I may have insisted that she let me cut it just to speed up our meal so they could turn the table...but it wasn't. So, I was letting her enjoy herself.


The manager walked up and noticed this, and took it upon herself to cut the kiddo's steak for her...even though the kid and I both asked her not to. However, I didn't press the issue, and the kid is far too polite when it comes to authority figures (adults) to do so either. And, I really can't be upset with the manager, she was just trying to help (and did so with a very good attitude), but after she walked away the kid frumped a bit that "I wanted to do it...they never let me cut my own steak". Oh, if you want some background, that's coming from the cruise, where the service team cut her meal for her every night.


Anyhow, this didn't stop her from devouring it all (except for the few bites I stole...I love that mac and cheese!), and soon it was time for dessert!


The kid got the same thing she got last year, deconstructed 'Smores. Not that I blame her...this dish is awesome!





She had great fun picking away at everything until she discovered she could dip her spoon in the chocolate mousse / toasted marshmallow fluff and then rub it in the chocolate snagging the little candy coated toasted rice balls. I was able to snag a bite...but just barely!


Myself, I decided to try something new this year, again. Last year I got the Cinnamon-Chocolate Flourless Cake, I think. This year I went for the Chocolate and Tea Safari. This had Vanilla Rooibos-Tanzanian Chocolate Cake (yum), Free Form "Kit Kats" (yummer), and Green Tea Ice Cream (yummest!). I liked getting a small portion of the ice cream and then some of the chocolate cake. It was a good dessert, and I would certainly do it again! It came with a candy straw as a garnish, but the kid snagged that! I didn't even get a bite...so it's not in the picture.





I had wanted to get some fresh coffee in a coffee press, but my server informed me this makes 6 cups! Yeah, I love coffee, but no way after such a full meal (and a full day) could I down six cups! So, I just opted for a regular cup (same blend, and it's VERY good!).


Meal over, we stopped by the ornate restrooms (ok, odd thing to mention, but I love these restrooms), and then went up to catch a bus. We needed to hop through one of the parks to get back to POFQ. Our plan was to go swimming tonight while I did some laundry. Plus, the kid wanted to try and do the marshmallow roast at our resort!


We had two options to hop tonight. One was through Magic Kingdom, as they had extra magic hours going until 1a. The other was Downtown Disney. Since DTD is closer to our resort, and it has two stops to choose from, I decided to do that. Also, it was the first bus to show up...though the Magic Kingdom bus came soon after. We boarded and the ride was painless.


However, once we got to DTD it was NOT painless. The bus dropped us off and we walked to Stop 1, where we shared a bus stop with Saratoga Springs (which, I should note, is right next door!)...


Well, we waited. And waited. And waited.


And then we waited some more. During this time the 3 families we joined initially had turned into a small mob. A bus showed up, but it was for Saratoga Springs. We watched as 3 CBR buses passed, a few Pop / Art of Animation, and quite a few Monorail Resort buses...but no Port Orleans Buses. About 30 minutes later, another bus made a move for our stop, and you could cut the mob anticipation in the air with a knife.


Nope, this bus was also for Saratoga Springs. You could tell that the 40 or so people waiting were getting extremely frustrated. They were hot, tired, kids were getting restless. We were now well off schedule, having arrived around 9:45p, I thought we'd have no trouble getting back to the resort by 10:30 so the kiddo could swim for an hour or so before bed, but now it was getting closer to 10:35, and we'd been waiting 45 minutes.


DTD was just nuts tonight too, it seems. More than once I saw someone pull into the bus queue lanes thinking it was the entrance to DTD. One guy slowed down next to me, and I approached his car to give him directions...but he waved me off, and punched his GPS. Um...dude, that GPS already put you into the bus loading lanes where you are not supposed to be. Maybe you should pay more attention to the signage? Oh well...


Also, looking at the line of frustrated Guests, I just knew that when the bus finally showed up, it was not going to be a comfortable ride. Lots of double strollers, lots of cranky looking parents, and lots of tired kids. So, I made an executive decision...we were going to take a taxi! The kid liked this idea. So, we walked over to the taxi stands behind World of Disney.


The first Taxi we came upon was a Mears (big surprise, eh?), but the guy refused to take us if we didn't pay cash. This really frustrated me, as I don't carry cash regularly anymore. So, we went off to an ATM to get some (there's one near World of Disney). Since we were in the area, we stopped in there for a moment, and it was chaos as well! So, we walked over to the toy store and the kid picked out a princess from there. Then we got some cash from the ATM and went back to the Taxi Stand.


The man who picked up our fare this time wasn't nearly as picky, and gladly took us on our way to our destination. By now it was 10:45...


I'd had this feeling that as soon as we walked away from the bus stop, a Port Orleans bus would pull up. Well, as we passed by the stops I glanced over at Stop 1, and it was still mobbed. Either the bus hadn't come, or lots more people showed up. Still, for $12, it was a nice change to avoid the craziness that was the bus transit that night!


We got back to the hotel at 11p, almost on the dot. The kid paid the cabbie, and immediately ran off to the pool. I followed along. She quite literally whipped the dress off and asked for her goggles, and was off swimming. I ran up to the hotel room briefly while she sipped on a drink at the table and snagged my laptop and got caught up on some things.


Too tired to do Laundry, we stopped around midnight, and made our way up to the hotel room. We turned on Disney Channel, and the kid got ready for bed.


She hit the bed, and before I knew it I heard a soft snore coming from under the covers. Yeah, the kid sleeps "under" the covers...wierd little child!


So, that's our day. Long, fun, and full.


So, on to the meal plan analysis!


To break even we need to spend around $127 a day on dining. Today we spent:
Tusker House Breakfast (2 credits used)
Me - $31
Kid - $17


Yak and Yeti Lunch (2 credits used)
Lettuce Cups for Two - $13.99
Adult Crispy Honey Chicken - $18.99
Wontons w/ Pineapple - $8.99
Adult Coke - $3.25


Kids Tenders - $8.49
Kids Sundae - $1.99
Kids Sprite - $2.25


Tax - $4.05


Snacks
Drinks (x2) - $6


Jiko Dinner (4 credits used)
Kids Filet w/ Mac - $12
Smores - $6
Fruit -$3


Adult Filet - $44
Coffee - 2.59
Boar Appitizer - $16
Chocolate Dessert - $10
Tax - $6.09


Total = $216.47


Blew the plan out of the water...though we did use 8 dining credits today. Tomorrow shouldn't be so deep, as we only have one ADR.


Next, Day 11 - The N'awlins Spirit!

Day 12 - That N'awlins Spirit! (Part 1)


Magic - 2 (Bartender at Marti Grogs, Awesome CM in charge of Activities, The staff (several different members) at the Rose & Crown, Illuminations!)
Peeves - 0 (Near Perfect Day!)
Breakfast - None
Lunch - None (me), Chicken Nuggets, Apple Slices, Grapes, Nesquick (shared...the nuggets and fries)
Late Lunch - Jambalaya, Bread, Soda (me), Chicken Nuggets, Apple Slices, Grapes, Nesquick (kid...yes, she had this twice)
Dinner - Scotch Egg, Grilled New York Strip Steak and Fried Fish, Roasted Peach Cheesecake (me), Soup of the Day, Steak and Chips, Ice Cream Sundae (kid)
Snacks - 2 Coffees (free) (me), Fanta (free) (kid)
DP Credits - 42 - 5 = 37 Meal, 32 - 0 = 32 Need $127, used $109.93
Steps - 21,794 Steps, 10.55 Miles, 53 "Very Active" minutes, 3716 Calories Burned


Ah, N'awlins. Deep history, unique culture, amazing food, and charming architecture. After several very busy days, we needed a day off!


And today was the day!


So, let me backtrack to the previous day for a moment, with two addendum.


1) Minnie Mice!


When we got back to the hotel last night, I wanted a stiff drink. It had been a long day, and while overall it was nice, the general chaos at DTD combined with the kerfuffle with the buses had left me feeling on a low note. So, we stopped by Scat Cats on the way back to the room. I told the bartender that I really wasn't in a mood to decide what I wanted, and he could surprise me. After asking a few questions, he nailed down my tastes, and produced a fantastic drink! So, thanks Mark the Bartender...you made my night much better.


I sat the kid at the bar with me, and she announced she would like a drink as well. Mark asked her what she would like, and I chimed in "Do you know how to make a Shirley Temple?" "Sure, but around here we call that a Minnie Mouse!"


Well, the kid is now addicted to Shirley Temples...er, I'm sorry...Minnie Mice! This, I find amusing, because when I was around her age I remember my father taking me to the Officers Club with him, where I became addicted to two things...Shirley Temples and Escargot. So, I'm passing the torch!


2) We had a "Dine with an Imagineer" scheduled for today at 11:30a, and I've been meaning to call and cancel it. Not that I didn't want to do it, but I really thought it was a bit much, considering how busy our "vacation" has been so far. I wasn't excited about it, and if I wasn't, I was sure the kid wasn't. I tried to call yesterday (Sunday) to cancel it, but it was within the 48 hour window, so it wouldn't matter if I cancelled it or not...they were going to charge me the full amount anyway.


So, fast forward to this morning. I woke up around 8a, snagged some coffee and took a shower. Then, I spent the next few minutes tracking down the direct number for Brown Derby. See, I had decided that, even though my card was going to get dinged, we really didn't want to go do Dine with an Imagineer again.


Were I not travelling with the kid, I probably would have forced myself to do it, but she was tired, and we'd had two very long days. I really didn't want to test her patience. I'm sure she would have behaved herself well, and probably enjoyed it (she enjoyed last years experience)...but, really, we needed a day off.


As I said, I'd been meaning to cancel this, but with everything else that had gone on coming back from the cruise, it had slipped my mind. So, I wanted to call and let them know that we would not be coming, as they all eat as a group and I didn't want them to hold up the meal thinking we were held up on a bus or something. It was simply courtesy.


The first number I was given by 407.WDW.DINE was the managers direct number, which went to a voice-mail. On the voice-mail they gave a number to the "Cake and Special Request" line, which I called next. I was connected to a CM who said "Yes, I just finished printing out the menu's for you all!". Bingo, this was whom I needed to speak with!


So, I informed her of our situation...and she did make the comment that the Dining Line is supposed to inform us that the experience really is for children 10 and up...which I countered that the kid enjoyed it last year when she was 7. There is no reason to think she wouldn't at 8. And, as I said, she probably would...but, I really didn't want to get her up, get her dressed, slog our way to a bus, wait on the bus, possibly get routed through Port Orleans Riverside, walk back to Brown Derby and do a 2 hour experience.


Nope, I needed a vacation from the vacation...and yes, I shamelessly used the kid as the excuse! <grin>


So, I let the kid sleep in. And that is exactly what she did, not crawling out of bed until nearly 11a. While she slept I caught up on work...and as it turns out, skipping Dine with an Imagineer was a very good choice...as this is a Monday, and even though I'm on "vacation", after a week of me basically being connected through internet only on the ship, today things were crazy.


I won't get into all the details, but basically I spent a large portion of the day putting out needless panic and pointless fires. A large portion of my job is keeping people calm, because I work with several people who like to panic at the drop of a hat. To make matters worse, there was an update the other IT guy did on Friday Afternoon to our Finance Software, and the result was that they couldn't cancel contracts on Saturday. Not a major deal, but it does cost us money when the cancellation process fails, so of course there was a lot of pressure to get this corrected.


The good news is we can retroactively deal with this, so it's really not a reason to panic...but that didn't stop it.


The other thing that came out was the General Manager (head of all of the sales team) freaked out that the "Finance Contracts" were wrong. Well, no, they aren't. And if they were, then they've been wrong for 5 years. She was looking at the wrong place on the contract, so her math which she was convinced "proved" they were wrong...was faulty.


I wasn't too upset about this, because I myself when auditing and not paying close attention, have made this exact mistake...but, it didn't help that she was running around getting all the other management team and execs up in arms about it. I ended up having to explain how to calculate a finance contract through a webex meeting and a conference call before the day was over. <sighs again>


Had she been correct, then potentially we could have quite a serious loss on our hands, but she wasn't. So...<shrug>


So, that was most of my day. The kid, on the other hand, had much more fun. We went down to the pool...and while I was stuck on my laptop, she played in the pool!





All day. Yes...all...day...


Last year we worked on her swimming, and this year she spent a lot of time in the pool. She had a lot of the same concerns at the beginning of the trip that she had last year. She didn't like water on her face, she would only swim with her goggles on, and she freaked out too easily instead of allowing her body and natural buoyancy to take over.


But, after the Dolphin Encounter at Costa Maya made her question her fears...because she really wanted to meet and interact with the Dolphins...since then she has been a swimming fanatic. It's like a wall broke, and now she's ready and willing to try just about anything!


It's exciting to see, for me, because I think that being a strong, or at least a comfortable, swimmer is an important life skill.


While at the pool, she made a series of friends, including a few "Englands". I said, oh, you mean they are British? "No, they are Englands." Oh, so they are English? "No, they are Englands!" Oh, ok...we'll deal with that later! No reason to argue about it now! <grin>


We also went for a walk around the hotel, did some shopping in the gift shop, and even poked our head into the arcade (though the kid didn't want to play, to my surprise...I need to get her to spend some time in there before the trip is over because I've got leftover credits on our card from Contemporary!)


About halfway through the day my laptop needed some juice, and so did I! Not wanting to ask the kid to leave the pool, I did a search for plugs, and found that Marti Grogs (the pool bar) has two, one located in each of the far corners. So, I grabbed a seat and snagged a Pina Colava and a Long Island Iced Tea to "pay" for my electricity theft! I struck up conversation with the Bartender, who was lots of fun. There was also another lady there who's daughter is in the College Program, and we all chatted about Disneyworld for a while.


At Marti Grogs they have these rocks, and that caught my interest. So, here's the story. People leave rocks, many autographed or otherwise interesting, when they visit. These are regulars of the resort. At the beginning of each shift, the tender on duty chooses a dozen or so rocks from their collection that they wish to put out. They use these to hold down receipts, and just as general bar bric-a-brac. I think this is neat, and I lamented that if I'd known, I would have picked up a unique rock on one of our port of calls to add to the collection.


The Tender gave me the address to mail it to, so I'm thinking I may stop by Stone Mountain when I get back home and get a rock from there to add to the collection!


The kid participated in all of the afternoon activities, which were lots of fun. She especially enjoyed the "cold water balloon" game, which is basically a game of "hot potato", but with a water balloon filled with cold water. She lost twice, and it was funny to see her get the balloon popped over her head by the CM, and then see her shriek with joy as she ran into the "warm" water of the pool! I did notice that a two kids got into a spat over who had the balloon last, but the CM handled it beautifully, asking them both to stand back to back as she popped the balloon over both their heads.


Of course, the little girl who thought she didn't have the balloon when the music stopped (she, in fact, did have it) accused the other boy of cheating, but as I said, the CM handled it beautifully, and soon after the game was changed. Soon all was forgotten. Ah, the beauty of children and short attention spans!


I also did laundry during the day (no reason to be this close to the laundry facilities and not take advantage!). I had brought change, but was surprised that the laundry here, like the Fantasy, has also been converted to a card only system with a central control panel. As you can imagine, based on my terrible experience on the ship, I approached this with dread.





However, I am pleased to report...the system works extremely well! The only thing I would note is that if you want to do a "second dry cycle", you'll need to open the dryer door for 20 - 30 seconds or so to allow the dryer to report to the control panel that it is "no longer busy"...


Regular washes are $2, heavy washes are $2.25. 60 minutes of drying time is $2. Overall, I enjoyed the system. No issues at all, and frankly I like not having to pack cash or change for the laundry anymore. I also vastly preferred the interface and instructions presented by the system when compared to the one on the Fantasy.


We had a late lunch where the kid...again...had her normal Chicken Nuggets and Fries. I tried the Jambalaya, which was excellent!


So, after a long day of enjoying the best our little fake N'awlins had to offer, it was time to head off to our ADR. So, off to EPCOT!


No reason to get fancy today, we are just going to a "pub", so I tossed a Sundress on the kid, and I took a shower and put on some new clothes. It is nice to feel fresh...something I wouldn't have done so often on previous trips, but as I've said before...the cruise spoiled me!


\


The bus ride was pleasant, though we did route through Riverside again. I don't think this would bother me if it was every time we rode the bus, but I still haven't figured out how to predict when it will happen (I'm not sure I will ever be able to). I have read people complain about bus service at Disney before, especially Caribbean Beach, which I have stayed at twice, but I must say, this is the first visit where the Bus service has irritated me. I've heard people say CBR has terrible service, but honestly, this on again / off again style of service, where you ride could be 15 minutes, or it could be 45, I find extremely frustrating.


Perhaps my expectations are changing, or perhaps I just am finally noticing what others have already noticed about the service...but, I personally think it's just that the bus service for French Quarter stinks. I'd discount my opinion if I hadn't already done 3 other trips where I've used the buses extensively. I've still got another week here, so perhaps that view will change...


I think part of my frustration is that, without asking the driver, there really is no way to know until you get to the stop sign if you are going to continue on to Riverside, or go left and head off to the park. You can't judge it by crowds on the bus alone...so, you are waiting for the bus automated announcement to either play the park spiel, or the resort spiel. <sigh>


One other thing I will say about Port Orleans Bus Service that I do like is that the bus stops are towards the front of the queues...much closer than CBR or Pop. At EPCOT, for example, the stop is much closer, something I love, especially when the kid is dragging her feet at the end of the night!





We strolled back leisurely, stopping by the Cool Spot to grab some free sodas to sip on as we strolled back to the Jolly Ol' Pavilion...the kid also took some pictures of local wildlife...as she is fond of doing.





We checked in and was issued a pager. There was a couple in front of us who obviously had no ADR and cut in front of us (going into the obviously marked exit, not the entrance), but I didn't say anything. They seemed upset when they were told there would be a long wait, and walked away obviously heated.


Today was beautiful. The band was playing Bohemian Rhapsody, and I was thoroughly happy. I adore the UK pavilion. They pack so much to see and do into such a small place! When we checked in, I requested that we get an outdoor seat, and stated that I didn't mind waiting for a while if that was required. A man whom I assume was a manager (or at least he was over the hostess stand) was there, and he smiled and said "We'll do the best we can, but just so you know we do have a VIP viewing section for Illuminations if you are seated inside. Just let your server know." I grinned and responded "Ah, so you know exactly what I'm trying to do!" (get outdoor seats for the show...the only reason I booked so late at 8p). I guess this shouldn't have surprised me, but it did.





He responded, with a wink, "Yes, sir. We get it all the time, that's why we have that section." Well, that's good to know. I still wanted to sit outside though! The weather was pleasant, and I didn't want to have to relocate away from my food for the show!


So, pager in hand I suggested to the kid we should walk back to the toy shop and check out what new merchandise was back there. We started to cross the street and had barely reached the front door when our pager went off!


Man, that was quick!





We were seated in a table with a nice view of the lagoon. However, we did have a row of tables in front of us that were full of Guests, and while I wasn't upset by the seating, I privately hoped they wouldn't realize the prime real-estate they had and would leave early!





Note the umbrella...well, I wasn't bothered by that. I knew they put down all the umbrellas before the show!


For appetizers, I already knew what I wanted! Scotch Eggs!


So, as a side note, I actually attempted a few times to make this dish for myself. This was my most recent attempt, a few months ago!





Here's what they served me!





So, critique? Well, I like my egg better. I worked hard to get it to stay soft boiled, and this egg was clearly hard boiled! I also used a spicy breakfast sausage which I preferred over their sausage, however I think their sausage ratio was better...it's harder to pack that sausage around the evenly than it seems! They also serve it with a spiced mustard based sauce, which is delicious. Much better than the Colmans I served mine with. So, I took notes this year...I loved the fresh cracked pepper, the slicing (presentation) and the watercress greens with a splash of vinegar were a delicious addition! I know what I'll be making in the coming weeks! I did find that the toasted bread added nothing to the dish. I could see it if the egg was soft boiled, so there is yolk to sop up, but since it wasn't...instead I used them to sop up the soup. Soup?, you say? Read on...


The kid ordered the soup for her appetizer, but didn't like it...so it ended up on my side of the table. It was sweet corn chowder, and was ok. Nothing to rave about, but not bad either. Especially with the pint of Bass Ale I ordered!





I want to mention our server here, before I forget, and I wish I'd gotten his name. He was hilarious. He was quite cheeky with the kiddo, which she appreciated, and I enjoyed him (and tipped him) accordingly for great service. No real stand out moments, just constant attention and great attitude.


For entrees, the kid had steak and chips. This led to some amusement, as she said "I want fries, not chips!"...I said, "Here, fries are chips!". It took a few moments for her to catch on, and then she said "Oooohhh, like my England friends say!" Yeah, again, not getting into the English vs England convo with her right now...so, I just said "Yes, exactly."





I ordered the Grilled New York Strip Steak and Fried Fish. This came with a Yorkshire Pudding, Mashed Potatoes and vegetables with a tasty red wine reduced sauce. It was tasty. All of it! I didn't finish it, but only because we'd had such a late "lunch" earlier! If I could have made more room, I would have!





The showtime was approaching, and the torches were lit!





The family across from us, with a great rail view, had left, and I asked our server if we could snag it for the show. He said, sure, why not!


So, we moved over our plates, and settled in. Soon, it began!





While there were plenty of views that night that are just as good (EPCOT wasn't crowded at all), something about eating and watching this spectacular show is special...at least I think so!





Soon "Earth" joined the show...





With flair(s), of course!





LOTS of flair(s) (again, pun intended!)





The show was fantastic, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as always.


Kachow!





<Continued Next Post>

Day 12 - That N'awlins Spirit! (Part 2)


Ahhh, fireworks!





Soon after our dessert arrived.


The kid had an Ice Cream Sundae. Sprinkles made it a win for her!





I had the Roasted Peach Cheesecake with Almond Brittle. It was pretty good. I also had coffee with this, which really went well with the dessert. It's not overly sweet, in fact, like a cheesecake should be, it was rather savory. Not an amazing dessert, but a very nice end to a wonderful experience.





Oh, I should note, the cherry in the picture is from the kid's sundae. She...doesn't like marachino cherries (blasphamy I tell you!)...


Stuffed, we slowly strolled back out of the park to head home. As usual, I couldn't help myself but to take pictures of Spaceship Earth.







Whoops...no picture says the kid! <grin>


But, I did snag this one...which I like a lot.





A rather short bus ride (I do like that even when we share busses, French Quarter drops off before Riverside)...and we were back in the room and both of us were soon knocked out.




Meal Plan Analysis time again!


To break even we need to spend around $127 a day on dining. Today we spent:


Sassalouga Lunch (1 credits used)
Kids Chicken Nuggets - $12


Sassalouga Late-Lunch (2 credits used)
Jambalaya - $17
Kids Chicken Nuggets - $12


Rose and Crown Dinner (2 credits used)
Scotch Egg - $9.49
Coke - $2.99
Surf and Turf - $30.99
Peach Cheesecake - $5.49


Kids Soup - $2.19
Kids Sirloin - $8.84
Kids Soda - $2.99
Kids Sundae - $1.75


Tax - $4.76


Total = $109.93


Fell shy today of the total needed. But, with the overage yesterday, we're still coming out ahead!


Ok, Disheads, Tune in at the same Mice-Time, at the same Mice-Channel for the next installment...Day 13 - Eating Surf and Turf on my Surf and Turf!

Day 13 - Eating Surf and Turf on my Surf and Turf! (Part 1)


Magic - 0 (In fact, I had a negative experience today overall)
Peeves - 2 (Bad food, bad service)
Breakfast - None
Lunch - Charbroiled Octopus, Flash Fried Nori Wrapped Tuna, Coral Reef Lobster Orecchiette Pasta, Baileys and Jack Daniel's Mousse (me), Salad, Meaty Macaroni, Brownie a la Mode (kid)
Dinner - Canadian Chedder Cheese Soup, "Waterkist" Heirloom Tomato, "Le Cellier" Mushroom Filet Mignon, Maple Creme Brulee (me), House Salad, Filet with fries, Chocolate Moose (kid)
Snacks - 2 Coffees (free) (me...yeah, I get this every morning), Cheetos, Dips, Sprite, Popcorn (kid)
DP Credits - 37 - 6 = 31 Meal, 32 - 4 = 24 (yes, don't question the math, it seems I left out a few snack credit uses over the past few posts, so this catches me up! Considering I've been over the $127 a day every day except yesterday, this just helps the cause that it's worth the money!) Need $127, used $205.37
Steps - 17,831 Steps, 8.68 Miles, 48 "Very Active" minutes, 3438 Calories Burned


Another lazy day...such a lazy day. We started out by going to the pool!


I organized and inventoried our souvenirs, making a short list of people we needed to focus on.


Other than that...we did nothing. Absolutely nothing! And it felt so good!


While the kid swam, I made several trips back to the fountains for free drinks. On one of them I noticed that they were swapping out fridges.





I wish they'd swap out ours...not having one is rather annoying. But, moving on...


We did have a lunch ADR at EPCOT, and as the time approached, we went off and caught a bus.


The kid didn't want to go to lunch, she was having too much fun swimming.





Tough...we had an ADR, and I really wanted to meet it as it was Coral Reef, a restaurant we haven't done in a while and is one of my favorites!





Yep, sorry kiddo...tough cookies! As you can tell, she was quite happy to go! <wink>


Once we got there, she perked up a bit though. We had time to burn, so we wandered over to Test Track to see if we could snag some Fast Passes. Um, no go. In fact, all the Fast Passes for the whole day had already been distributed! That's crazy!





Line outside the door...hot day...no FastPass...sorry, Test Track. We'll skip you for now!


We stopped by the Cool Wash. I love this little place, as does the kid. I offered to get a Frozen Coke, but she didn't want one. I probably should have gotten one anyway, because I wanted one! But, instead we kept walking. Oh well!





I wonder what it is about Coke and the word "Cool". Cool Wash, Cool Spot...it's like some marketing guy came up with the idea that if you name it "Cool" then it will automatically be just that!


Then again, I can't claim false advertising. The Cool Wash has water mists, and the Cool Spot has free drinks and Air Conditioning! So, they are both certainly "Cool" in my book!


We snagged some FPs for Mission: Space with a return window between 1:30 and 2:30. Since our lunch reservation was for 1:15, I figured this would be easy for us to hit the back end of the FP window, and sneak a ride before heading off to do other things.


We headed over to Innoventions East...because the kid wanted to do T. Rowe Piggy again...of course, that's in Innoventions West, but the kid was positive that it was in "Innoventions"...and when she saw the sign, she wanted to go. So, I let her lead the way.





Nope, wrong place!





We played for a bit in the Test Limits lab. I never really liked this exhibit much. I mean, it's ok...and the kid enjoys it...but I wasn't sad when we were done. Plus, it was crowded today. Kids were running around uncontrolled, snaking spots in line and just generally acting...well...like kids.





We then kept walking and found Habit Heros. I thought this attraction was closed, but I guess not. It looked interesting, but neither the kid or I wanted to wait in the line to experience it (this will become a theme today)...so, I made a mental note that we should stop back by later, and we kept going.





Stormstruck. Oh, and the kid likes her Cheetos. <grin>





We walked over to Innoventions West and checked out the line for Piggy. It was wrapped around the entire queue, so we decided not to do it. Especially when we passed by and saw there were another 5 or 6 groups inside the secondary queue!


So, we moved on. We had enough time to squeeze in a quick ride still, so I gave the kid a choice. Either we could do Living with the Land or Figment. She chose Figgy, so we walked over there. As we got closer, I realized, today really was nuts at EPCOT (I later realized, this was an Extra Magic day...duh...I should have known better!)...The line for Figment was out the door! I haven't seen that in years...


Most of the queue is air conditioned, so I would have waited, but I didn't want to press our luck with our ADR, so we moved on over to The Living Seas.





Disney Research was outside doing a survey about the restaurant. We were a bit early, but I figured I'd go ahead and check in and see if they could accommodate us. When we went inside, the kid immediately remembered the restaurant!





Where she saw great fun, I saw a crowded waiting area...and I had serious doubts as to if we could be seated early. But, I approached the Hostess Stand anyway. One thing I noted here that I haven't seen elsewhere is that they have a privacy screen on the computer monitor, which makes the screen blurry unless you are looking directly at it. Then again, this screen is mounted well above the desk, and is an easier view than the others I've come across so far, so this makes sense.


In the back of my mind I wondered if they had to add this people people were snaking ADRs? I imagined a family showing up, glancing at the screen, and saying "Yes, I'm the Jones Family, party of 4". I'm not sure if this is the reason it's there, but I still found the mental image amusing.


The hostess was lukewarm at best. Didn't even crack a smile as we checked in. I've felt more welcome at airport baggage services...but, she did process our reservation and handed us a pager. We were instructed to wait, but all the seats were taken up by hot looking families also waiting for their dining, so we went back outside. The kid ran over to the water fountains and grabbed a drink while I waited in the shade. It wasn't a very long wait, and soon we were seated!





We were in one of the booths along the back wall...which can easily seat 6. Since there were some 2 top tables along the aquarium, and plenty of people in the waiting area outside looking fed up with their wait, I wondered why the seating team would give us such prime large party real estate considering we were a party of 2. I also noticed the restaurant was about 1/3 empty. What exactly were those people crowding up the waiting area outside waiting for?


While I looked over the menu, the kid took my camera and snapped photos of the aquarium. "Mr. Ray" and his "family" became regular visitors during our meal, and the kid was constantly pointing them out whenever they swam by the windows!





I really wanted the Filet and Shrimp Appetizer. I normally get this here, and it's my favorite. But, it was no where to be found on the menu! When I asked my server about this, he informed me that the menu had been changed by the "new chef" and that was no longer offered. I made a comment that this was a shame, as it was one of the best appetizers at Disney. he replied that the new chef "doesn't listen to opinions", or something along those lines.


Odd...


So, I decided on the Flash Fried Nori Wrapped Tuna. It comes with a "Yuzu Soy Syrup" (don't ask me what that is) and Wasabi Cream.





It was lightly fried, and the tuna was only partially cooked. This I loved. The Wasabi Cream was tasty, but I didn't really taste any of the familiar "bite" that is common with Wasabi...it was more like a spiced mayo. Overall this was tasty, but I don't think I would normally want three of them. It is a very heavy appetizer, due to the fried crust. Think of it like a tuna based fried coconut shrimp. The taste and texture was very similar.


Anyhow, like I said, heavy on the stomach. After one, I'd really had enough to quench my desire for the dish. But, it was tasty. This would be a good appetizer to share among two or more adults!


There was an odd salad underneath that had shredded carrots and some other ingredients I couldn't quite identify. It reminded me of the salads I sometimes pick up at the Korean Market down the street from my house. It was not good...rather bland really. It felt more like a plate decoration than a coherent part of the dish.


The kid had returned and she got Apples for her appetizer. No need to post a picture of those...it was just a sliced Granny Smith apple. However, this was perfect for the kid! She LOVES Granny Smith Apples, and they were soon all gone.


While ordering, I noted an Octopus Appetizer. I pointed it out to the kid, partially as a joke, and she dared me to try it. So...not allowing myself to be shown up by an 8 year old, I said yes! Of course I had to pay for one of the two appetizers I got, but my honor as a person who will try anything once was on the line!


Actually, I've had Octopus before, even raw, but I didn't inform the kid as she was in awe when the dish came out. It still had suction cups on it!





Of course, she turned down trying it (she should have, it was excellent). Oh yes, this is a must try if you eat here. For the squeamish, don't worry, it tastes a lot like chicken, both in flavor and texture. Just close your eyes and pretend it clucks!


This came with a Mediterranean Potato Salad and a Grilled Lemon. And, I could go on for a while about it, it was that good...so I'll try to keep this short. The Octopus itself was grilled and very well seasoned. The Potato Salad was also tasty, and used Golden Mini Potatoes, chopped black olives, sliced yellow and red bell peppers, chopped zucchini, sliced white shallots and seaweed. This obviously was made in advance and marinated, but it had a fresh taste. I couldn't place my finger on the whole marinade, but it was delicious! The whole dish was then splashed with olive oil and fresh chopped cilantro.


My gosh was this dish excellent. I wish I had ordered two (and I almost did!).


So far the meal was off to an excellent start. But, that didn't last.


The kid got the Meaty Macaroni...and she hated it. I tried a bit of it, and it was bland. Also, there wasn't a whole lot of "meaty" sauce on it. While the presentation was good, after a few bites all the "sauce" was gone basically leaving you with a bowl full of unseasoned bland pasta. I didn't blame her for not finishing it.





But, that aside, the kiddo is easy to fix with a stop by any Quickservice, so I didn't fret too much about her entree.


I ordered the Coral Reef Lobster Orecchiette Pasta with White Chedder and Basil Oil. I hadn't had a good warm pasta dish in a while, and Lobster Pasta is one of my favorites! This was also a "Signature" Entree, the recommendation of the server, and the only entree to carry the name of the restaurant in it. So, it must be pretty good, right?


<Continued Next Post>

Day 13 - Eating Surf and Turf on my Surf and Turf! (Part 2)


Wrong.


Dead wrong.


So, lets get started...first, the dish took a long time to come out. I only noticed because I was trying to keep the meal around an hour so we could use our Mission: Space FastPasses...otherwise I probably wouldn't have been so mindful of the time. So, lets chalk the slow service up to me being extra sensitive to time during this meal, shall we? But, that doesn't explain what happened next...





If that doesn't look appetizing, don't worry, it gets worse. I dove in, anticipating sweet lobster goodness, and instead the lobster was bitter. The whole thing tasted...off. To make matters worse, there wasn't enough sauce to even begin to cover up the rancid taste of the lobster. Now, I know shellfish is one of those things, like fruit, that can vary in taste. And, had it just been bland, like Lobster can sometimes be, I wouldn't have minded at all. But, this wasn't bland, or lacking flavor...it definitely had flavor. Bitter flavor.


I thought that perhaps I'd gotten a bad piece, as that can happen as well, so I dug around in the pasta and found another good looking chunk of lobster and tried it on it's own. Yep, bitter...almost rancid tasting. It's the lobster. I thought, ok, well, I'll pick around the lobster, but either it had ruined my taste buds or it had ruined the sauce, and now all I could taste was this sour lobster all over the whole dish.


To make matters even more interesting, I noted that the pasta had an odd texture, outside of just being bland itself... Upon inspection, there was a reason why. It wasn't cooked thoroughly!





See that darker color in the middle of each "ear"? Yes, that's raw pasta. This just added to the total "off" nature fo the dish. If you've ever made some shells and cheese at home and not stirred or salted/oiled the water and they clump together semi raw in the middle, that's exactly what this tasted like. This isn't "Al Dente", I make my own pasta, I know what "Al Dente" is. This is...ahem...<Gordon Ramsay Voice> IT'S RAW!!!!!


They did sprinkle some breadcrumbs on the top, which is an interesting idea if the rest of the dish hadn't been so bland and poorly executed.


It was just...nasty. Nasty on a plate.


I know I've gone on quite a bit about it, but it really upset me. I think what bothered me even more was that not once during the meal did I get a table check from the waiter or the manager. The waiter showed up simply to "change courses", not asking how everything was or if we were enjoying ourselves. Now, anyone who has waited tables for more than a week should know, it's extremely important to do your follow-ups.


Especially after food is delivered, and even more important to do so if you are not the one delivering the food yourself (which is common at Disney restaurants, including today at Coral Reef). It's not because you care if the Guest is enjoying their food (even if you do care), it's because you want to get their buy in and consent that they accept the meal as delivered, and therefore proactively avoid angry guests.


The guest shouldn't have to get up to track you down to let you know the food wasn't good. Nor should they have to wait until you've decided that they've "had long enough" to eat their meal before they see you again. This is basic Service. And something that Coral Reef failed big time at today.


So, first...I will not be ever get this dish again. It's basically a poorly executed lobster macaroni and cheese. Second, by this point, I was done. Done with Coral Reef. Done with my waiter who kept disappearing. Done with the frantic looking manager who was busing tables in a 1/3 empty restaurant while CMs stood along the side of the restaurant gossiping. Done with the whole experience.


I didn't complain because I didn't want any more food, I didn't want a comp, I didn't want apologies for a dish that should never have made it out of the kitchen in that state. And, since I felt I couldn't be satiated (and frankly I was in a very testy mood and probably wouldn't have said very kind things about the dish I was served...), I didn't see any sense in complaining. If the dish made it out of the kitchen past the Expediter and the Food Runner in that condition, then obviously any complaint I had would have fallen on deaf ears anyway. They had shown me, by the condition of the entree, that they obviously didn't care.


I just wanted to leave and put the whole thing behind me. I pushed my plate, barely touched, to the edge of the table along with the kid's meaty macaroni and waited for my Server to kindly show himself...which felt like an eternity (but probably wasn't). When the Server noticed that we had barely touched our entrees, and had even pushed them away, to the opposite side of the table, it should have been a tip off that something was wrong. But, no, he didn't even bat an eye as he cleared our dishes away.


Ok, I'm going to end my rant here, I think you get the idea that I was upset and in a rather low mood. So, time to move on to more pleasant things. Dessert!


Now, if there could be one saving grace for the rather bad turn this experience had taken...it would be dessert. And wow, did this shine. I'd rank it up there with one of the best desserts I've ever had at Disney (and that's saying a lot...Disney has great desserts!)


I got the Baileys and Jack Daniels Mousse with a Caramel Crisp. And, it was fantastic. The small balls are rice puffs that had been rolled in dark chocolate. The kid loved those, and I only got a few! (She has sneaky fingers!).





I quite literally couldn't stop eating this. The flavors melded so perfectly, and the added crunch from the rice balls was a nice addition to the texture. The only part of the dessert I didn't understand was the caramel crisp. This really didn't add anything to the dessert. The caramel had a slight burned flavor to it (easy to do with caramel) and it was, as you'd expect, not crispy at all. Rather, it was chewy. I would think that a nice sugar crisp would do far more justice for this dessert. Just my opinion.


The kid got a brownie and ice cream. This too was excellent. The kid was especially excited by the printed white chocolate Nemo.





So, outside of the entree, and some gripes about service, this was overall a pleasant meal. To be fair, I've eaten at this restaurant many times, and it is among my favorites. So, I'm sure today was a fluke. But, that doesn't change my experience.


Luckily the Disney Researcher wasn't outside when we left. I did note on the way out the waiting area was still mobbed with guests. Just weird, as the restaurant wasn't even close to full...oh well...


So, I've alluded to how the lunch dragged along (mostly me waiting for the server to show up)...and that meant that the entire meal took a bit over an hour and half...and this meant that we missed our FP window for Mission: Space. I asked the kiddo if she wanted to stay, but we both agreed that EPCOT was still packed. We did swing by Piggy again to check on it though (we loves us some Piggy Banks!).


The line was still long, though better than before. So, we walked around the Innoventions building to see if it got any shorter on our return.


As we walked around, I finally discovered what the little "Play it Safe" house that the kid loves so much is really for. Fireman Meet and Greets! Two Firemen from the Reedy Creek Fire Department were out there giving a very neat presentation. The kid didn't want to participate up close, but we did stop and watch it for a little while. One interesting tidbit I learned is that, before re-breathers were invented, many firemen grew long mustaches. When they had to enter a burning building, they'd soak the mustaches and put the hairs in their mouth to filter out the smoke.


Interesting.





The Fire video game was closed due to the presentation, and we didn't want to wait for it to open back up again, so we went back over to Piggy, and saw the line was still long. So, we decided to leave for the day. The kiddo wanted to go swimming, and I was fine with that!


When we got back to the hotel, this fun guy was hiding in a corner!





The kid went off and swam for a while as I caught up on various things from the table. We facetimed her Mom so she could show off her "new moves" in the pool, and that was fun. Facetime really is a neat way to keep in touch with relatives back home.


I decided that some adult refreshments were in order, so I got myself a spicy Bloody Mary and a Skinny Girl Coconut Mojito!





The Bloody Mary was awesome, and I was so happy the bartender included extra olives to munch on.





The Mojito was also equally excellent, and quite refreshing in the heat. I crushed the fresh mint with my straw to get a nice added kick to the drink. I don't think the bartender (Shelly) skimped on either drink because I was feeling quite...um...happy...by the time I finished both drinks.


Our ADR for dinner was approaching...this was the last day of full ADRs for the trip, and it was Le Cellier. No way were we missing out on this! The kid loves it (It's my steak place), and I adore it. So, mouths watering, we went back up to the room to change for dinner.


The kiddo wanted to bring Nala with her (she has become quite attached to that stuffed lion), and I consented. We left to go catch our bus.





It was a wonderful night, quite cool overall. We strolled leisurely back to Canada. Our meal awaits!


As we walked I called Disney Dining and booked us a lunch for tomorrow at Whispering Canyon. I had a full day planned for us tomorrow doing lots of things...none of which involved going to one of the Parks...but, I still wanted to eat lunch!





Soon, we were there!





I had booked this with a rather late ADR. My goal was to stroll out of the park after closing, when the park was nearly empty. However, when checking Park Hours, I found out that, as I mentioned earlier, tonight was EM hours for EPCOT. So, that was a bust. Thankfully we had a great late night stroll last night after Rose and Crown. Walking out of EPCOT after closing is one of my favorite things to do. Especially when the park is desolate. EPCOT is a beautiful park, and I love seeing it when it's cool and quiet.


When we arrived they were rather busy. They confirmed our reservation and told us we could wait inside or outside, and they'd track us down. Inside was crowded, so I let the kid wander down to Kidcot at the bottom of the hill to make some fans while I waited closer to the restaurant.


Soon, we were seated. Of course, the star of any meal at Le Cellier comes at the beginning of the meal.





The bread is good, but the Pretzel Bread is the best, hand down. Worth a visit just to consume this! I wish they sold it elsewhere on the property, as I'd easily make it a point to stop by Canada to pick up one of these tasty treats on a World Showcase day! Add to this the spiced butter...oh my, it's almost a religious experience!


I was in the mood for some wine, but when our Server suggested the Beer Flight, I remembered how much I enjoyed it over at Biergarten...so of course I said yes!





This had three beers, and if I mess up the spelling, forgive me. From left to right, the first was Ephemere. This was a light ale, very fruity. Not spectacular, by my taste, but worth a try. In the middle, another pale a white ale, Blanche de Chambly. This was very light, slightly dry and almost tasted like champagne. On the far right, the dark ale, Trois Pistoles. This was a robust beer with a sweet, but heavy, taste. Lots going on in that beer, and I'd love to have a full mug of it some day while munching on some Pretzel Bread (nothing else would be required).


The kid went a bit less alcoholic with her choice, and had a Shirley...er...Minnie Mouse in her Wine Glass.





For appetizers, I had to order the Canadian Chedder Cheese Soup, made with Moosehead Beer (eh) and Nueske's Smoked Bacon (crumbled on top along with chopped chives). This is a must for any visit to Le Cellier!





I'd love to rave about the soup, but this year I just can't. It tasted like someone had dropped a salt lick in it. I took a few bites, and was a tad upset. I pushed the dish away, and like earlier, made a mental note that my server didn't even bat an eye that the soup was barely touched (the garnish was still visible even) when she went to clear it from the table. I promise, I am not trying to be difficult, but this trend of rather lackluster inattentive service was starting to grate at me, especially after the cruise where pretty much everyone from the staff at Cabana's and Flos to your dinner staff is quite literally observant of your every need, down to the finest details.


See, told you I was spoiled on the Fantasy!


I also wanted to try the "Waterkist" (a brand I assume) Heirloom Tomato Salad. I love a good Tomato Salad, and I was smacking my lips hoping for something as good as the stuff I picked up at Biergarten a few days ago. This came with house made mozzarella, tomato gelee, lavash, micro basil and sprinkled with Minus "8" Vinegar.





So, if any of that didn't make sense, lets review, now that you can see the picture of it.


The "Lavash" (lah-vash) is a flatbread, it's the thing on the top right of the salad. It...was tasteless and brought nothing to the dish. The Tomato Gelee are the little clear Geletin Cubes towards the front of the plate. Also, brought nothing to the dish. It didn't carry any strong flavors at all. It was more like eating unflavored knox gelatin. Maybe I'm not sophisticated enough to appreciate "tomato jello blocks"...but, I didn't. The micro basil was pureed and also sliced and sprinkled through the salad, and that's the green stuff you see on the bottom. The Minus "8" Vinegar, I believe...they used the balsamic version for this dish...as there was clearly balsamic on it, but used sparingly. Considering th cost of Minus 8 ($30 - $35 a bottle USD), this doesn't surprise me!


Those little things that look like watermelons...are...cucamelons. They look like watermelons, but taste like a seedy cucumber. The kid found these fascinating, but didn't want to try one. While interesting, I didn't think they brought anything to the dish.


Here's a better look at them up close.





With all this going on, this was a very busy dish. It would have been nice if the Server or Runner had some basic knowledge about the dish itself, and had enlightened us as to what was going on with it. To me, that is part of the Signature Dine Experience. The waiter telling you how awesome and unique your dish is, even when it's not!


So, final analysis for this? Well, sometimes the flavors and textures didn't blend well, but overall...this was excellent! Though, I didn't like the cucamelons very much. The House Made Mozzerella was awesome. I'd certainly check this out if you are looking for a lighter start to a meal here.


The kid got a house salad that looked quite tasty, but she barely touched it. I find that amusing because last year she devoured the salad here, and according to her mom she loves salads!





For an entree, the kid was easy to please. Ribeye grilled medium with pole beans and of course...French Fries! I had a bite of her steak, and it was delicious. Oh, and tonight, she cut the whole thing by herself!


Me, well...it was a tough choice. I looked long and hard at the Dry Aged 51 Day Ribeye, but there is one dish that this restaurant is known for, and another dish (like Scotch Eggs) that I try and make for myself at home.


This is the famous "Le Cellier" Mushroom Filet Mignon. This is AAA Canadian Beef Tenderloin served with Wild Mushroom Risotto, Pickled Pearl Onions and topped with a White Truffle-Butter Sauce. Oh my!





And here's my pale attempt to replicate this dish from a few months ago.





Yeah...there's looks better! It tasted better too, though I liked mine! <grin>


I did not like the pickled onion. I don't seem to recall this from previous visits...is it new? Well, to me it was very sweet and just clashed with the whole dish. The filet, as expected, was amazing. Cooked perfectly with a wonderful crust. The mushrooms, risotto and sauce were also remarkably good. So, overall a winner of a dish!


<Continued Next Post>

Day 13 - Eating Surf and Turf on my Surf and Turf! (Part 3)


Now, we were ready for dessert. The kid had, well...what every kid who goes there should have. The Chocolate Moose!





As you can see she was so ready to dig into it that I had to snap the picture quickly! They make this by rolling a firm chocolate mousse in chocolate powder. Then they add M&Ms for eyes and nose, and finish it with white Chocolate maple leaf horns and a white chocolate tongue. It's just a cute (and tasty) dessert!


Myself? Well, I got another Le Cellier staple. The Maple Creme Brulee.





Again the kid snagged my cookie straw, and the raspberries were a touch sour...but overall the dish was excellent, as always.


Now, this whole experience has been pretty good, except for my lackluster server who did all sorts of things that bothered me. Again, it took forever to pay. She did worse than disappear, she ignored us (paying more attention to the two tables immediately next to us, not 2 feet away). When she wasn't ignoring us, she was awkardly standing over the table. When she presented the dessert menu she barely let me look at it before she scurried off with the menu and some used plates in hand.


She didn't engage the kid at all, in fact seemed to not like the fact that I had a child with me. Sorry, this is Disneyworld! Get over it.


I found myself looking at the server in the neighboring section wishing we'd been seated two tables over (Joelle was her name, see...she was so interactive and fun with her tables that I even remember her name...my server, I couldn't even begin to tell you...though, I'm sure it's on my receipt).


<sigh> Grass is greener perhaps? Or maybe I was just still overly sensitive from the less than stellar experience at Coral Reef earlier? <shrug>


So, like most restaurants this trip, the server had scanned my card into the RFID reader at the beginning of the meal. But, after a long wait to pay, she came back and said that I didn't have a dining plan. Um...excuse me? She double checked the DLX on my card, and promptly apologized, and then disappeared for another long period, I assume to try and get this all sorted out. I kindof felt sorry for her at this point, as the computers seemed to be full of gremlins tonight.


We walked leisurly back through EPCOT. I offered the kid that we could stay and do some EM hours, but she wanted to rush back to the hotel to go swimming...something that I'm not going to discourage since she now has a new found love for it!


So, back to the hotel it was.





And then off to the pool for a late night dip!





So, there you have it. Day 13. Lots of activity doing nothing at all! <grin>


<sing this tune in your head as you read the next part>


[MEDIA=youtube]mS7Z6LvJesE[/MEDIA]


"Dining Plan, Dining Plan, does everything that a Dining Plan Can. It's a plan, a Dining Plan, eat all you want on the Dining Plan. Get fat! Purchase the Dining Plan!"


To break even we need to spend around $127 a day on dining. Today we spent:


Coral Reef Lunch (2 credits used)
Tuna Nori - $12.99
Coke - $2.99
Lobster Pasta - $28.49
B&J Mousse - $7.99


Kids Apples - $1.75
Kids Meaty Mac - $7.24
Kids Brownie Sundae - $1.75


Tax - $4.93


80.71


Le Cellier Dinner (4 credits used)
Tomato Salad - $12
Coke - $2.99
Filet - $44
Creme Brulee - $8


Kids Salad - $4
Kids Sirloin - $12
Kids Drink - $2.19
Kids Mousse - $8


Tax $7.48


Since I was off on snacks, lets assume an average cost of $3 per snack, and 8 snacks, that's $24.


Total = $205.37


Again, completely took advantage of the plan. While we used two credits for dinner, consider that we didn't use any credits for breakfast. So far, so good!


So, Disheads, Tune in at the same Mice-Time, at the same Mice-Channel for the next installment...
Day 14 - The Actuarial Price of a Child's Tears!


(yeah, I'll let you ponder that one for a bit...I promise, it is relevant to our experience tomorrow!)

Day 14 - The Actuarial Price of a Child's Tears


Magic - 1 (Ketchup)
Peeves - 1 (Insurance Actuaries!)
Breakfast - None
Lunch - Western Chips, Chuck Wagon Angus "Bacon and Egg" Burger (me), Fruit Cup, Chicken Strips, Cookie (kid)
Dinner - Meatball Sub (me), Mac and Cheese, Apples, Grapes (kid)
Snacks - 2 Coffees (free) (me), Fanta, Nesquick (kid)
DP Credits - 31 - 4 = 27 Meal, 24 - 0 = 24 Need $127, used $76.64
Steps - 17,831 Steps, 8.68 Miles, 48 "Very Active" minutes, 3438 Calories Burned


Today I had absolutely nothing planned on the parks at all. And the kid was excited!


She bounced out of bed this morning and got dressed and ready in record time. She knew what was coming, as I had informed her last night before she went to sleep. See, I had planned that we would head over to Ft. Wilderness and take advantage of the extra-curricular activities over there.


The itinerary was...after getting to Ft. Wilderness...


We'd start the day going fishing off the dock (not a guided excursion or a boat rental). They have this at Port Orleans Riverside as well. For $6, you can rent a pole and bait for half an hour and fish (catch and release, of course) a stocked section of the lake. She's never gone fishing, and was uber excited for this.


After this, we'd go for a pony ride. Originally I was planning that we would do a horseback ride, but she has to be 9 years old for that (due to insurance requirements). I didn't know this until I called yesterday to confirm final details, like cost and hours of operation. But, I was informed over the phone that the Pony Rides would be running from 10a until 5p as well, so I thought, cool, we'll just do a Pony Ride. For $5, I'm sure the kid will enjoy it all the same. She loves "horsies", and of all the activities planned, I think this is the one that she was most looking forward to!


After our Pony Ride (I figured we'd go on a few back to back) we'd head over to Wilderness Lodge and eat at Whispering Canyon. After lunch, it would be back to Ft. Wilderness to check out the Archery Lessons - Disney runs a 2 hour Archery Class at Ft. Wilderness. I only found out about it shortly before the trip (thanks to whomever on the forums mentioned it!). The kid was actively excited about this, pretending she was Merida and bouncing around the room shooting off "air-arrows" at various things pretending she was hitting the bulls eye!


This would leave us at around 4:45, so from there we would either snag a boat, or more likely a taxi, over to Polynesian to check out the Luau at 5:15!


After that, the plans were wide open, and I strongly suspected the kid would want to return to the hotel to...you guessed it...go swimming!


Anyhow, so while the kid was bouncing around the room, I was not. I had not slept very well last night, and I'm really not sure why. I woke up every few hours, and just didn't feel very well rested at all. But, a hot shower and a few cups of coffee, and I was ready to leave.


I was not, however, ready to handle the buses or a park hop to get to Wilderness Lodge, so, to the kid's excitement, we took a taxi!


Oh, and of course Nala had to come along for her "big day"!





Oh, and as Nala (through the kid) informs me...you should never forget to "stop and smell the flowers"...





The cabs at French Quarter sit right across from the front unloading zone, in the parking lot. As it turns out, the driver we had a few nights ago was the same driver we had today! Soon, we were off...





The kid covered our cab ride, of course.





And, we were here! When it comes to overall theme and impressiveness, Wilderness Lodge is my favorite of all the Disney Resorts. Even Animal Kingdom Lodge (which is impressive of it's own right). It just feels comfortable, with lots of little things to look at like replica headdresses, wonderful art, and unique architecture. I can see why so many people call this resort their "home" when at Disney.





After a quick stop by the gift shop to pick up some drinks for our fishing expedition (I had some chips already in my bag), we headed off to the bus stops to catch the connector bus that goes to Ft. Wilderness. For those not familiar, there is a bus that runs between Wilderness Lodge and Ft. Wilderness...so, this is the easiest way (outside of driving, I think) to get over there...hop through the Lodge. Plus, the resort is so darned pretty, why not give it a quick walkthrough?


On our way out, the kid spied this...





Most of the models we've run across have been the Magic or the Wonder...but this was the Dream... We had fun for a few minutes looking at our Sister Ship, and pointing out where our room was, admiring the little details, and just generally remembering how much fun we had on that part of the trip.


Anyhow, soon we were off on our connector bus! I remembered from last year that deer are pretty common along this route, so I mentioned to the kid that she'd want to keep her eyes peeled.





Pretty soon she'd spotted one!





Soon, we were there! Ft. Wilderness is a huge resort, and the only area I'm familiar with offhand is the area around Hoop de Doo.



The kiddo decided she wanted to do the Pony Ride first, before fishing. Why? Well...because she saw this!





And these cute little guys!





Of course...she also discovered that while "horsies" are cute...My Little Pony doesn't do justice to their rather...um...natural smell!





She was so excited. Running back and forth between the stalls pointing at the feeding ponies, commenting how beautiful they were, or how cute they were, and trying to decide which one she wanted to ride on first!


We walked back to where the Pony Rides are. This is rather neat, especially if you have a smaller child. They use miniature ponies, and they have a wandering path through the ranch that you lead your kid through on the ride. For $5, this is a great deal, and a unique experience, I think. The kid was peering into the grooming shed and asking questions of the CM who was grooming a stunning albino pony...when I spotted this.





The kid is more than 48 inches tall. I wasn't exactly sure how to break the news to her. She was about 4 inches too tall to do the Pony Ride, and about 40 days too young to do the full sized Horse rides.


I was torn. I didn't know how to break the news to her...watching her eyes so lit up and knowing how excited she was about this whole experience...


But, I had to tell her.





It didn't go over well. What you can't see in that photo is that she is crying. Now, my kid is emotional (what child isn't), but one thing she very rarely does is throw fits. When she's upset, she gets quiet...and gets a very specific look on her face. It's not quite a pout...more like she's just dead to the world. In some ways, this is worse than throwing a fit, if you know what you are looking for. But, at least she doesn't bother those around her...who probably don't even realize she is upset.


Well...here...she almost reached the snapping point, as we walked back to the buses. She was inconsolable. I tried to take a picture of her teary eyes (yeah, big mistake Daddy)...and she snapped at me "DADDY, NO PICTURES!"





We stopped for a minute and I just held her, and she broke loose. Tears streaming down her cheeks, weeping into my belly lamenting that her much anticipated experience was not going to happen...at least not this year.


I felt awful, and we sat for a bit while I waited on her to collect her emotions.


Eventually, she had herself under some form of control (though, she was still obviously disappointed and sad), so I offered that we could go off and try some fishing (something else she had been very excited to do)...but her mood to do anything was shattered at this point. "I just want to go back to the hotel."...she kept saying.


<sigh> What can I do? My heart was broken for her. Had I known this would be an issue, I would never have set up her expectations, and I would have steered her far away from anything horse related! So, while it was one of those unpleasant lumps that life sometimes deals to you, I did feel a bit personally guilty that I played a part in her current disappointment.


We took the shuttle back to Wilderness Lodge, and I took a gamble and headed over to Whispering Canyon. I tried to drum up some sympathy (not for anything special, but hoping for an enterprising CM to catch on that the kid needed some help changing gears) by explaining why we were early for our reservation and why the kiddo was looking a bit sad.


No CM bit on the bait to make some magic, BUT they did have Lincoln Logs! The kid was immediately attracted to these, as she has a rather decent sized set at my house that she enjoys playing with when she visits. The restaurant wasn't busy, so I let the kid play for a while...a long time actually, probably close to a half hour. I'm sure this confused my server, but if he'd paid attention to my story which I told him when placing our drink orders, he'd have understood why I was giving her plenty of space to reset her mood. But, he didn't. So...<shrug>


Anyhow, after a while, she had cheered up...some...





Though, she did have a slight relapse when they did the "pony ride" game around the restaurant. Yeah, not thinking, I asked her if she wanted to do the "Pony Ride" when the staff announced they would be doing it.


"I can't, I'm too tall and too young!" she exclaimed, and started to pout again.


Whoops.





So, on to the meal. I ordered the Western Chips. This came with three dips. Venison Chili, a Cheese Dip and fresh Salsa. All were excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed dipping a chip in the cheese sauce and then scooping up some of the tasty chili! This is another Appetizer that was a bit much for just me alone (though I devoured all the chili...it was that good!), but a perfect one to share with more than one Adult.





The kid had...well, I shouldn't even bother anymore...Nuggets, fries, fruit and cookies.





If she lays an egg soon, it won't surprise me...she loves that chicken!


Glancing at the menu I realized that I hadn't had too many burgers on this trip, and the Chuck Wagon Angus "Bacon & Egg" Burger was looking pretty tasty on the menu! It comes with Tillamook Chedder and Chipotle Ketchup. The egg is cooked over-medium, so be prepared if you get this for yourself...it is a MESSY experience. Yolk will go everywhere. I'm glad they chose a rather sturdy bread for the bun. It is awesome, and this will be something I attempt to make when I get back home. It was so very good. In fact, right now, I'm craving another one!





<Continued Next Post>

Day 14 - The Actuarial Price of a Child's Tears (Part 2)


The kid finally joined me, and...well...she wanted some Ketchup. A CM passing by noted this, and called out "Hey, we need some Ketchup over here...KETCHUP OVER HERE!" and pointed at the kid.


A few minutes later a table from across the restaurant came over with around 20 bottles of ketchup in their arms. The kids from that table (2 boys around age 10 and 12, I'd guess) had huge grins on their face at the "joke", and loved piling up the bottles in front of the kiddo.





Now, if you've been following along, you've probably guessed by now that the kid considered Ketchup one of the major food groups. She was in heaven! She dressed her fries and nuggets using various bottles.


A few minutes later, we heard the call "KETCHUP, I NEED SOME KETCHUP OVER HERE"...and it was our turn. The kid grabbed about 4 bottles, and I was somehow able to pile the rest into my arms, hands and pockets. When we got to the table, all those years of working in restaurants kicked in and I made a big deal out of it...approaching the table asking "Who needs ketchup?" Of course, the adults (about 6 adults, and 4 kids) pointed at the kids at the end. I walked up and gave one bottle to the first kid. Then two to his brother. Three to the little girl. Then I "pulled a bottle" out of the first kids ear. Grabbed two more and plopped them down in front of the little girl...yeah, you get the idea. I hammed it up. The kid then showed up with her bottles and decided to join in the fun by calling out "Ketchup, fresh ketchup, get your Ketchup here!" and handing them out amongst the adults.


The table was laughing, and I hope it made their day. I know the kid and I enjoyed it. And, finally I began to hope that her mood was taking a turn for the better!


Fat and happy, and moods seemingly reset, we wandered out into the lobby. The kid said she'd like to go to a water park, and I agreed (anything at this point to reset her mood fully)...so, we were off!





Here, we stumbled upon something very cool. Oversized games! They had Checkers on one table (like the set you'd find at any Cracker Barrel)...but the rest were far more unique. For example they had a deck of playing cards that were the size of my head! Imagine playing a game of Rummy with those, or even better...Bridge! <grin>


They also had oversized Chess set up.





I thought about setting up the board with a one move mate and leaving a note for someone to "solve" it...but someone sat down before I could.


However, one oversized toy really captured the kids attention. The giant dominos!





Of course she didn't want to play bones (domino slang, for those unfamiliar with the term), but she wanted to have them all knock down in sequence! I obliged. The first version I encircled her with them, and let her (er...Nala...rather) start the chain reaction. However, the second go around I got more creative.





This attracted some attention, and when we tipped it off, there was a small crowd (5 or 6 people, nothing major) there to see Mickey collapse!


The kid thought this was quite funny (and I thanks my lucky stars that it went fairly smoothly!)...I have video of it somewhere on my memory card, and may upload it later in the thread if you all are curious.


Then we went for a walk out to the pool. Like Animal Kingdom Lodge, we've never walked this part of the resort...merely looked at it through the glass. Well, here, you really can't do that. It's such a well themed area.





Along the way the kid tapped me on the back and asked for the camera. Seems she found a friend that she wanted to snap a photo of!





Lets just get this over with, Wilderness Lodge is impressive!





The theme, the feel, the decor. I really enjoy this resort (yes, I know I already said that, but it's worth mentioning it again!)


However, I did find the pool a bit underwhelming (though I appreciated how the stream flows all the way from the lobby to the pool, that's very cool.)





Also, we made it just in time to see the Geyser shoot off!





The show went on a lot longer than I expected it would, and after a bit we decided to go ahead and move on with our walkthrough.


While we were walking, it started to drizzle, and they closed the pool. Uh oh...no Water Park, it seems.


On the way back to the taxi (yes, she wanted to go back to the hotel, not to a park...especially now that it was raining and a Water Park was out of the question for the time being...), we came upon this. Not something I would expect to grab the kid's attention, but it did, and she insisted I read names of all the rocks to her and she had several questions about them (some of which I couldn't answer...yeah, every parent has gotten those! Sorry, I'm an IT guy, not a geologist!)...





We went back to the resort, and I wish I could report that we did some more amazing things today, but we didn't. The kid napped for an hour, and when she woke it was still drizzling. I asked if she was ready to go to the Luau (we were cutting it very close on time already), and she emphatically said...No. So, even though it will ding my credit card (AGAIN, first Imagineer and now this!...and THIS is why I dislike ADRs!)...I am not going to force her into something just because it's booked. It's no fun for either of us.


So, we went swimming, or rather, she went swimming. And, she had a blast. We facetimed with her mom, and the kid had a blast showing off her new swimming "skills" and going down the water slides.


So, it stinks we missed the Luau, but the kid enjoyed the evening, playing with her "England" friends (lots of Brits at the hotel!), and as a result, so did I.


For dinner, we ate at the Sassalouga Floatworks. Well, really, we ate at the pool...I went off and got our food after checking with her new found "England" friends that they didn't mind keeping an eye on her.


I had the meatball sub. It was decent...pretty much the same meatball sub they serve at every Food Court on property I'd imagine.





The Pasta Salad was awful though, so I'll be skipping it in the future. It was basically...just pasta.


The kid had...wait for it...something new! Mac and Cheese!





She loved this meal, and it was gone quickly. I let her swim for a bit longer, and then we headed back to the room to call it a night. Early day tomorrow!


So, on with the Dining Plan Breakdown! We asked 1000 people this question..."What value did you find with the Disney Deluxe Value Plan?" Survey says!


<ding ding ding>


To break even we need to spend around $127 a day on dining. Today we spent:


Whispering Canyon (2 credits used)
Egg Burger with Fries - $16.49
Coke - $2.99
Western Chips - $11.99


Kids Chicken Strip - $7.24
Kids Cookie - $1.75
Kids Fruit Cup - $2.39
Tax - $2.79


Sassalouga Floatworks (2 credits used)
Meatball Sub - $17
Kids Mac and Cheese - $13


Total = $76.64


Serious deficit today, though I still think I'm ahead for the week. You may note that I don't list a few items, especially for Floatworks purchases. This is because I'm not presented with a receipt that has the true price on it, so I'm having to jot it down quickly as I check out. I also don't bother to list the drinks and desserts we get along with the meals. I have quite a collection of Vitamin Waters, sodas and rice crispie treats started using these allotments!


Regardless, had we gone to the Luau, which was the plan for tonight, we probably would have come out ahead again, but with everything that happened, the kid just wasn't in any sort of mood...and I needed her in a good mood for the coming activities tomorrow!


Next up, Day 15 - Do the Danes do it Better? Lego find out!