Thursday, October 15, 2015

2015 Epcot Candlelight Processional Narrators

The holiday season is one of my favorite times to visit the Disney Parks.  The parks are always decorated so beautifully, and it always seems as if everyone is even happier than usual.  Strolling through the decorations, seeing it *snow* in the parks, having hot chocolate....ahhhh....

I have written before about the Candlelight Processional, as it's a very popular event and is frequently standing room only (often with long lines waiting to get a seat for the shows.) If you are not familiar with the Processional, it is part of the Holidays Around the World celebration at Epcot and is a re-telling of the Christmas story with celebrity narrators, a large choir singing traditional and contemporary Christmas songs, complete with a symphony orchestra. 

Continuing with tradition, it is held in the America Gardens Theater at Epcot, it will be presented three times nightly (beginning November 27th and continuing until December 30th.)  The showtimes are at 5 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.  Want the BEST way to see the show?  Book a Candlelight Processional Dinner Package and get guaranteed seating for the show.  Dining packages include an appetizer, an entrĂ©e, a dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage at select Epcot full-service restaurants (or one full buffet where applicable). (Dining packages do not include park admission.)  Contact your DreamFinder agent for more information on booking one of these dinner packages.

Here is the list of narrators for the 2015 Candlelight Processional (subject to change). 

11/27 – 11/29 — Gary Sinise
11/30 – 12/3 — Neil Patrick Harris
12/4 – 12/5 — Whoopi Goldberg
12/6 – 12/8 — Joe Morton
12/9 – 12/11 — Ana Gasteyer
12/12 – 12/14 — Meredith Vieira – NEW
12/15 – 12/17— America Ferrera – NEW
12/18 – 12/20 — Chandra Wilson – NEW
12/21 – 12/23 — Daniel Dae Kim – NEW
12/24 – 12/26 — Edward James Olmos
12/27 – 12/28 – Blair Underwood
12/29 – 12/30 — Amy Grant

So who will be the narrator for your Candlelight Processional?

Book your holiday trip to Walt Disney World today and take advantage of DreamFinder Travel's FREE Santa Mickey Hat/Holiday Minnie Ears promotional offer!  Click here for your complimentary no-obligation pricing quote.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Epcot's Food & Wine Festival by the Numbers

Epcot's Food & Wine Festival.  By far one of my favorite times to visit Walt Disney World (well, other than the holidays!)  Being a self professed foodie and wine enthusiast, the festival is a wonderful time to just take in the sights and sounds of Epcot, and enjoy amazing food and wine from around the world.  The festival is believed to be the largest Food & Wine Festival of its kind in the world.  

There are so many wonderful events that you can attend, with great seminars and culinary gastronomy.  One of my favorite Festival offerings is the Premium Package.  This will be the second year that this is offered, and it provides "VIP" treatment from Noon until 8:00 p.m. Monday - Thursday of the Festival.  This includes cast members to get your food and beverage selections for you, as well as shaded areas to relax, eat and drink the festival offerings. The Premium package also includes admission to one Illuminations Sparkling Dessert Party, a culinary demo or beverage seminar, a wine glass, special Festival theme MagicBand, and a bottle of 20th celebration Festival Wine and more.   Later this month we will blog more pictures as we "show you the world" of Food & Wine and the Premium Package advantage.  Also, be sure to keep a watch for a live periscope video from us of the festival as well.
Today I'm going to just leave you with some "Food & Wine Festival by the numbers" to chew on!  

Contact your DreamFinder Travel agent today to make reservations to attend the Festival.

Here are 20 fun facts about the 20th festival celebration.
  • ·         Now 53 days long, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival began in 1996 with a first run of 30 days
  • ·         At the 2015 festival, a record 30 global marketplaces will include the new Sustainable Chew, Chew Lab and Artistry of Wine & Cheese marketplaces
  • ·         Producers of ABC’s “The Chew” will tape 5 episodes of the show before 5 festival guest audiences numbering in the hundreds for each show
  • ·         The 20th festival will feature 32 new marketplace dishes and 75 new cocktails, beers, wines and ciders
  • ·         In 1998, 200 domestic and international wines were poured at the festival. This year, at marketplaces and premium events, more than 300 domestic and international wines will be offered
  • ·         More than 60 wineries and more than 40 breweries from around the world, including local craft beer operations, will be represented at festival marketplaces
  • ·         The 20th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Cookbook by Pam Brandon and the Disney Chefs features 75 recipes from the global marketplaces that span the entire 20 years of the festival.
  • ·         3 Rockin’ Burger Block Parties and 5 Party for the Senses grand tastings will take place at World Showplace during the festival run. In all, the festival will feature 193 premium events ranging from Signature Dinners and Food & Wine Pairings to Beverage Boot Camps and Festival Events in World Showcase pavilions
  • ·         Guest chefs and Disney chefs numbering 250 will present culinary demonstrations and will cook for festival events
  • ·         Celebrity chefs and visiting culinarians from 6 countries and 26 U.S. states will participate in the festival at culinary demos, book signings, and special tasting events and dinners
  • ·         Nearly 400 culinary demos, beverage and mixology seminars will take place during the 53-day festival
  • ·         During the new Remy's Ratatouille Hide & Squeak festival scavenger hunt, guests can help Remy scour the park for the ingredients to make his signature dish, ratatouille.  Along the way they will find 12 Remy statuettes hidden in each of 11 countries of the World Showcase and at the African Outpost location.  Guests can redeem the 12 stickers they collect for one of 6 special pins at Port of Entry.
  • ·         159 Eat to the Beat concerts will be performed; 4 musical acts will appear for the first time at this year's festival featuring entertainment ranging from rock and soul to fun and blues.
  • ·         The Marketplace Discovery Passport was introduced in 2010 for the 15th annual festival; today the free passport will feature pages with all 30 festival marketplaces that guests can have stamped during their dine-around-the-world culinary adventure.
  • ·         More than 1,200 fireworks will explode each night over World Showcase Lagoon in IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth nightime spectacular
  • ·         Chase is the festival’s presenting sponsor for the 4th year; its Chase Lounge at American Adventure Parlor features guest amenities that include complimentary beverages and comfy furniture where guests can chill out and recharge
  • ·         The Ocean Spray Cranberry Bog, back for a fourth year, is filled with 900 pounds of the tart red fruit and is accessible to cast members who wear waterproof waders
  • ·         100,000-plus desserts, including the Chocolate Cherry Explosion and Strawberry Basil Champagne “Toast” at Desserts & Champagne Marketplace, are expected to be served
  • ·         In 1997, during the festival’s second year, festival planners introduced the first Grand Tasting culinary extravaganza; in 2002, the event was renamed and moved to World Showplace as Party for the Senses, now featuring up to 50 food and beverage stations and breathtaking entertainment by Cirque du Soleil’s “La Nouba” performers
  • ·         At the new Artistry of Wine & Cheese, each keg of premium wine on tap will hold the equivalent of 26 wine bottles, eliminating bottle, cork, cardboard and paper waste from labels. Recycling and repurposing of glass bottles and corks from other marketplace locations will be part of the 20th-year festival story

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Disney Math

Disney Math
(by DreamFinder Agent, Kim Merrill)

Disney Math:  Loosely defined as budget manipulation to do what you need to do to get back to whatever forms of Disney therapy you desire. Case in point:

One of my Facebook groups had someone post their rationale on how they were going to purchase their annual pass.  This involved brown bags, Starbucks Via’s, and various other ways to carve out the funds needed for that much-desired AP!

Target gift cards.  Tips and tricks of the trade:  Using Target’s red card gets you 5% off the gift card price.  Over time, this can save a good chunk of change on a Disney vacation.

Dollar stores are great places to pre-purchase glow in the dark necklaces and bracelets that kids love to wear at night in the parks.  And if you plan to hit those stores the day after Halloween you can get them at half-price.

Booking your next cruise onboard.  True no-brainer!  10% off and an onboard credit by Disney (and thru your Dreamfinder Travel agent as well if you designate us as your agency) as long as you comply with their terms and conditions and blackout dates.

And………my ultimate Disney rationalization.  Time for a confession here people. Last week I sort of accidentally registered for another race.  But it was for a really, REALLY good reason.  I WANT to do the inaugural Disneyland Paris half-marathon next fall.  Not sure I can make that happen, but if I do, wouldn’t it make sense to earn the special chateau-to-chateau medal they are creating for this race?  Like the coast-to-coast medal they have here in the US for running a half-marathon on both coasts in the same calendar year, there is now going to be a medal for running a half marathon on two continents.  No brainer, right?  So that would require me running something here.  One quick visit to the runDisney website showed me that the Tinkerbell  half marathon still had spaces available, and it’s conveniently timed over Mother’s Day weekend.  Honey……..I already got my Mother’s Day gift!!!

Want to use some creative Disney Math and book your next vacation?  Contact DreamFinder Travel today, and ask for Kim.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

What is rotational dining?

by DreamFinder Travel agent Kim Merrill

Today I wanted to take the time to highlight one of the details that places Disney Cruise Line head a shoulders above the competition:  Rotational Dining!

Disney outfits its ships with not just one or two, but THREE main dining rooms, and with all things Disney, they are beautifully themed with menus to match.  But you know what?  You don’t have to make reservations or fight to get into these restaurants during your sailing.  With rotational dining, you get to visit all 3 on a three-night cruise, and begin to repeat them on four-night and longer cruises! 

The other beautiful detail is that you are assigned to a dining team (or they are assigned to you?).  You are given a table number, the same for all three dining rooms, and your servers follow you from dining room to dining room.  How is that a benefit, you ask?  How lovely would it be to have your favorite non-alcoholic drink delivered to your table shortly after you sit down without having to ask?  Your servers get a feel for your likes and dislikes, and in true Disney fashion, take care of the details seamlessly. 

So how do you know what rotation you are assigned to?  Well, there are two ways. The first is the most obvious if you have never been on a Disney Cruise.  In your stateroom, you will find a “ticket” that lays out which dining room you will eat at each evening, as well as the time to arrive.  The other, far more convenient method, actually involves your “key to the ship” card:

Take a look at the card above.  I was on the Disney Magic on the dates shown above.  It was a 3-night cruise, and if you look at the bottom line that starts with “dinner”, you’ll see that my dining time was at 8:15pm.  You also see that I was assigned to table 20, but you may also see “CLA”.  That right there is my dining room rotation!  “C” stands for “Carioca’s”, “L” stands for “Lumiere’s”, and “A” stands for “Animator’s Palate”. For a longer cruise, these letters begin to repeat, but not necessarily in order, so that’s why I said this is a great way to keep track of where you’re going to be.   You need this card to get in your stateroom, so most people adopt a lanyard to wear around their neck to hold it!

Rotational dining is included in your cruise fare.  Disney's ships also have two adult-only restaurants to choose from if the adults need an adult outing, but if you choose not to do this, your cruise experience will not be diminished in the least!  More on the adult-only options at another time.

As I mentioned, the menus change from restaurant to restaurant, and also from night-to-night.  They do not repeat, so you will not be culinarily bored (I’m not sure that’s a word, but hopefully you get the point).  Your servers take your order, and typically, it’s a four-service meal: Appetizer, soup/salad, main dish, and dessert, however, you can order whatever you want (and as much as you would like.)  No appetizer pique your interest but want soup AND salad?  No problem.  Two entrees?  Ok!  And most importantly, if Mickey Bars are your thing, they carry them on domestic cruises!!

Hopefully this gives you a bit of info so that you can hop on board and just relax!
But wait! ”What is that giant K on the lower left of the card” you ask?  That has nothing to do with dining: That is your lifeboat drill station!  (I'll cover that at another time!)

Can't wait to cruise and find out more?  Visit the DreamFinder Travel website today and request your complimentary no-obligation pricing quote to find out just how affordable it can be for your family.