Friday, February 24, 2017

Ears the News: February 24, 2017 Edition

Welcome to the latest edition of Ears the News

Brought to you by our friends at

Details emerge on operational impacts during Caribbean Beach Resort renovations.

Work is expected to last for two years, with Martinique and Barbados islands to become unavailable from May 2017.
Photo courtesy of

Old Port Royale Food Court, Shutters at Old Port Royale and Banana Cabana Pool Bar will be closed during some of the refurbishment, beginning May 2017.

Temporary dining options will include:
  • A Caribbean-style buffet for breakfast and a la carte offerings for dinner.
  • A selection of grab-and-go meals available for purchase throughout the day in three island markets in the Aruba, Jamaica and Martinique regions of the resort.
  • In-room pizza delivery will remain available. The menu includes pizza, sandwiches and pasta.
  • Coca-Cola Freestyle machines will be available throughout the resort for Guests to refill their resort mugs.
  • A new quick service location will open near Trinidad island this summer, featuring a walk-up quick service window as well as Guest services assistance in the evenings.
The main Fuentes del Morro Pool and the resort's leisure pools will continue to remain available.

Disney is providing guests with a $25 Disney Gift Card per room for each night of a stay at check-in.

Disney has indicated that the Caribbean Beach Resort will be reimagined with new additions to the resort’s current marketplace, Centertown, including new waterfront dining and retail shopping areas. This centralized location will offer the resort’s guests more convenient access to services, amenities and dining.

Changes have been made this week to guest entry at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

The secondary sidewalk entrance that runs alongside Guest Relations is now closed to arriving guests. This walkway was popular with guests arriving from certain areas of the parking lot, avoiding the lengthy walk around the resort bus stops and to the main entrance area.

All guests are now being directed to the main security screening area in-front of the turnstiles.

The secondary sidewalk is still available for guests leaving the park.

Walt Disney Imagineering has shared the first in a new series of videos, giving a first look inside Pandora - The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Portfolio Creative Executive Joe Rohde also explains how Avatar fits within the original concept of Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Pandora - The World of Avatar will officially open on May 27, 2017. 

Trouble viewing the video? Click here to view the video on YouTube.

Disney's Contemporary Resort is offering a new fireworks viewing experience beginning later this week.

Celebration at the Top costs $99 per person plus tax and gratuity, and includes canapés, a selection of sushi, a selection of flatbreads and other small plates. A complimentary bar offering craft beers, California wines, cordials and coffee will also be available.
Photo courtesy the Disney Parks Blog
Following the food and drink in one of the California Grill's banquet rooms, comes a viewing of the Magic kIngdom's Wishes fireworks show.

To conclude the night, petit four desserts are available in the private banquet room.

Reservations can be made now for dates beginning February 26 through to March 26 via 407-WDW-DINE. Valet parking is included with the cost.

Disney has released new details for the new character dining experience with Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, Ariel and Prince Eric at Disney's BoardWalk.

Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria al Forno will cost $34 for adults, and $20 for children, beginning April 2, 2017. Breakfast will be available from 7:30 AM to 11:00 AM, and is 1 credit on the Disney Dining Plan.

Breakfast will begin with a choice of a mixed berry parfait or fresh fruit salad and a frying pan of pastries featuring braided breakfast bread and clam shell pastries. Entree choices will include:

“Shipwreck al Forno” 
Calzone with scrambled Eggs, Soppressata, Bacon, Sausage, 
Blend of Cheeses and Sunday Gravy 

“Golden Frittata” 
Prosciutto di Parma, Piquillo Peppers, Green Onion, 
Pecorino Romano and Roasted Potatoes 

“Tangled Eggs” 
Tomato & Basil Scrambled Eggs, 
Fresh Mozzarella, Sunday Gravy and Roasted Potatoes 

“Two Eggs Poached Under Water” 
House-made Fennel sausage, Parmesan, and Sunday Gravy 
over Golden Polenta and Toasted Ciabatta 

“Tower of Pancakes” 
Seasonal Buttermilk Pancakes with Bacon or Sausage 

“Royal Breakfast” 
Oak-Grilled Steak, Cheesy Egg Torte, Asparagus, 
Crispy Onions and Roasted Potatoes 

“Swimmers di ‘light'” 
Smoked Salmon Egg White Omelet with Spinach, Mushrooms, 
Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Roasted potatoes 

Photo courtesy the Disney Parks Blog

Kids can choose a Mickey Pancake, Mickey Waffle or a “Little Royal Breakfast,” which will feature an egg, bacon and toast.

Reservations are now open at 407-WDW-DINE or online.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Review: Lunch at Grand Floridian Cafe!

Helloooooo, Disney Fans! 

     I hope you're having a "grand" week! I got to have a lovely brunch with a friend last week, at the Grand Floridian Cafe, and I wanted to share my experience with you, partially because I know that since you're reading this blog, you'll enjoy hearing about it, and partially because then I can call it "work" and not "being lazy and avoiding cleaning the house".

     To me, the Grand Cafe is one of the rare "hidden gems" of Disney Dining. It's not crazy-popular, but that's probably just because when it comes to The Grand, Narcoossee's, Citricos and Victoria & Albert's tend to steal all the fame, not to mention the character meals at 1900 Park Fare. But this unassuming cafe is worth making the visit for. 

     I have dined here a couple of times before, and had somewhat mixed reviews of it, but more recently, I have found the Grand Floridian Cafe to be more consistent and on point. This visit was no exception, so let's get down to it!

Grand Floridian Cafe Lunch 

Location: First floor, off of the rear of the main lobby of the Grand Floridian

Parking/Transportation Situation: General Resort Parking or Valet Parking available. Monorail service from The Magic Kingdom, The Contemporary, The Polynesian and The Transportation and Ticket Center. (If using Monorail Service, allow approximately 30 minutes transportation time, depending on where you're coming from.) Boat service from The Magic Kingdom or The Polynesian. (If using Boat Service, allow 30-45 minutes transportation time.) Bus service from The Studios, Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs.(If using Disney Bus Transportation, allow 1-1.5 hours transportation time.)

Meals Served: B, L, D

Characters/Entertainment: None

Type of Cuisine: American, highlighting Floridian fare

Type of Menu: A la carte

Pricing/Dining Plan: $/ 1 Table Service Point Per Person

Full Menu: Grand Floridian Cafe Lunch Menu

Atmosphere: Bright, trellised cafe

Dress Code: Theme park casual

Guests Who Would Enjoy This The Most: Couples, those that enjoy a more classy, refined atmosphere, without the stuffiness or the formal attire.

Level of Difficulty of Getting a Reservation: Easy

Fun Stuff for Kids: Coloring pages only.

Rating of Appeal to Kid-Diners: Are we done yet???

Stand out Dishes: Caramelized Onion Soup Gratinee, Lobster Benedict, Steak and Eggs, Dessert Sampler

Best Use of Dining Plan Point: Miso Glazed Salmon ($25) + Dessert Sampler ($12) + Smoothie or Frozen Cappuccino ($5.50) = $42.50

Experience: The Divine Ms. M and I, (no, not that one), made our reservation for the Cafe the night before, with no issues. There was plenty of availability. We booked an 11:05 am reservation, figuring we'd be the first lunch seating, and we were, but what I had NOT realized was the the Grand Floridian Cafe has changed their menu and is now offering a combined breakfast/lunch menu. Awesome surprise! I'm getting ahead of myself though...

     Ms. M and I drove to The Grand separately, and met up inside. She checked us in right at 11am, and by the time I stepped out of the restroom a couple of minutes later, she was being walked to our table. You can't ignore the bright, airy beauty of the Cafe. The windows look out over the main pool and the gorgeous garden areas, and inside, there are lots of cute, ornate and elegant touches.    

     Our delightfully sweet server greeted us quickly and educated us on the new(ish) menu. What's really nice is that you do have the option of ordering a more breakfasty choice like French Toast or Mickey Waffles, or something more suited for lunch, like a Reuben Sandwich or a pasta dish. But I also really enjoy the variety of "add-on" items. It allows those with the "heartier appetite" (ahem) the option to get pancakes with a lobster tail on the side, or a burger, with some cheese blintzes. Ok, maybe not the best combos, but you get the idea. You can really mix it up. 

     I knew before we even made the reservation that I was going to have French Onion Soup. I had ordered it on my last visit here and remembered how awesome it was, so it was a no-brainer. I went ahead and put that order in with our drink orders. Then we turned our attention to the entrees.

     After a quick peruse, and much debate about the merits of breakfast over lunch or vice versa, Ms. M decided on Lobster Benedict and I chose the Kobe Burger. I was disappointed to see that the Surf and Turf Burger, complete with butter poached lobster tail is no longer offered. Now, I could have added lobster as a side and made the burger that way, but I decided that the burger would be great as is. Once we had our orders locked and loaded we could focus on gabbing away, catching up on the details of our lives. (Work, work, work, drama, drama, drama, kids for me, men for her, lots of laughs about both.) Only about five minutes after ordering, out came Ms. M's mimosa, my water, and my dreamy onion soup!

This pic does it no justice, since I order it without the crouton, causing the cheese to sink,
so here is one from the last time, when my husband ordered it...

It looked, and smelled, amazing! And I gotta say, kids, this is STILL the best French onion soup I have ever had. EVER. And I have had French onion soup in France. Real France. Not Epcot. It was not too salty, not too sweet and had a rich, flavorful punch to it. I was doing a happy-food dance in my seat. Ms. M said her mimosa was also very good and she enjoyed sipping it was we waited.

     While we continued to gab, we enjoyed the beautiful view out the large windows, and got ready for some more foodie heaven. Entrees were out about 15 minutes after we ordered them. My burger looked great!

It was served on a brioche bun, with melted Swiss cheese and sweet onion jam. It usually comes with arugula mayonnaise, but I'm not a mayo girl, so I handed the side of it off to Ms. M to have with her side of fries. Oh, and there was also a wire basket, filled with piping hot seasoned fries, too! And not just any fries... STEAK fries! Steak fries are like, the BEST fries known to man. I love the thick cut, and golden crispiness to them. They had a orangey seasoning on them, which turned out to be Old Bay seasoning. When I cut into my burger, I did notice that it was not medium rare, as I had ordered, but more medium well.

I wasn't thrilled with that, but to me, medium well is at least still edible, so I didn't bother saying anything to the server. And it all turned out fine, because the burger was still delicious! It was juicy and flavorful and the onion jam is an awesome, sweet accompaniment. The fries were crispy on the outside and soft in the center, as I had hoped, but the seasoning was overwhelmingly salty to me. There was a LOT of seasoning on them and I was just not digging it. When the server returned to the table, I apologized and said I really wasn't enjoying the fries, and she quickly got me a new, fresh order of unseasoned fries, which were heavenly. 

Mmmmmm.....steak fries!
     Ms. M's Lobster Benedict looked insanely good, even though it's not something I generally would enjoy. Hollandaise is NOT my jam. But the plate was super vibrant and colorful, thanks in part to the Marinated Tomato Salad that came along with the poached eggs, lobster tails and English muffins. 

     There was a good amount of lobster meat on the muffins, but the eggs were a touch over-cooked, making them less "poached" and more like a over-medium egg. That was disappointing to Ms. M, since part of the whole Benedict experience is the runny egg that you can smother everything in. Don't get me wrong... Ms. M still loved her meal and I even caught her doing a bit of her own happy-food dance. She also got a side of the seasoned fries, and she liked the Old Bay seasoning just fine. I'm a wimp when it comes to seasonings though. I'm ok with that.

     After lunch, we did decide that since Grand Floridian Cafe offers their desserts in small, individual sizes, we could each suffer through one. Ms. M picked the Chocolate Mousse and I chose the Mocha Pot de Creme. (For those of you that do not like to choose, you can do the Sampler, giving you a single portion of each dessert, pictured below.)

     Our desserts, along with Ms. M's tea, came out within five minutes, and they both looked delicious! My pot de creme was just adorable, served in an espresso cup, with a chocolate straw and a chocolate espresso bean on top. And it was the silkiest, most delicious coffee-flavored cream ever! And it was a perfect serving size. Just about three spoon's worth. As someone who almost NEVER turns down dessert, at ALL Disney restaurants, it'd be nice to have a  taste of something without always filling myself silly. Hear that, Disney restaurants??? I would like all locations to offer mini desserts, please. Hop to it! (At some point, they'll realize that I have good ideas, I swear.) 

     Ms. M was pleased with the mousse, though she didn't find it to be anything too remarkable. I felt the exact same way the last time I had it. Good, but nothing to write home about. Still Instagram-worthy though. 

     After all that yummy goodness, and the fantastic company and conversation, I couldn't help feeling like I had a "grand" afternoon. We paid the bill, and waddled out to our cars. We were both really pleased with our lunches and were so happy that we had gotten together for some good food and lots of fun. 

Nothing like a meal with a view!
Will We Be Back?: Heck yeah! Next time I may try a breakfast item, just to switch it up. Or maybe that burger again with some Mickey Waffles on the side. Yeah..... that sounds about right!

     And there you have it! Another review and another great meal. Be sure and check out the Grand Floridian Cafe for lunch next time you are on Disney property. Need a reservation? Talk to your friendly travel agent over at Kingdom Konsultant Travel, and they'll be happy to hook you up!

     And if you're a Disney Foodie, like I am, make sure you "Like" and "Share" a brand new, Disney food-centric Facebook page, Dining a la Disney. Created by the owner of Kingdom Konsultant Travel, Pam VanSyckle, the new page will showcase Disney food and drink pictures, reviews and tips, all shared by you, the Disney fan community. So what are you waiting for... come on and join in! Share YOUR favorite Disney food pictures, (aka Disney Food Porn), tips and tricks! 

     As for me, I'll see ya next week, live from the opening of the International Flower and Garden Festival! 

- Jenn aka "Tink"

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Disney Cruise Line Announces Summer 2018 Itineraries

In case you missed it, yesterday Disney Cruise Line announced their Summer 2018 itineraries!

In 2018 Disney Cruise Line will visit the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Norway, Iceland, Alaska, the Caribbean and the Bahamas.

Bookings open for these Summer 2018 sailings on February 23, 2017.

Booking early has many advantages including the highest availability of staterooms to choose from and some of the lowest prices.

Contact your Kingdom Konsultant Travel Agent to get more information or a free price quote for your next Disney Cruise.

Email to book your Disney Cruise and receive our onboard credits!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Ears the News: February 17, 2017 Edition

Welcome to the latest edition of Ears the News

Brought to you by our friends at

Disney introduced new ticket pricing for its Walt Disney World theme parks on Sunday February 12, 2017.

With the Park Hopper Plus Option, Guests can visit more than one theme park on the same day and are entitled to additional visits to the following other gated attractions:

  • Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park 
  • Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park 
  • DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park until closure in the summer 
  • Disney's Oak Trail Golf Course (greens fees for one round of golf) 
  • ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (valid only on event days, some events require an additional charge) 
  • Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course (one round before 4:00 PM) 
  • Disney’s Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course (one round before 4:00 PM) 
Tickets Expire 14 days from first use, and issued tickets expire on 12/31/2018. 

Below are the full list of ticket prices:

2 Day Park Tickets
2 Day - Adult $211.94, Child $199 - 2016 pricing was Adult $215.16, Child $202.35
2 Day Hopper - Adult $275.84, Child $263.06 - 2016 pricing was Adult $273.71, Child $260.93
2 Day with Park Hopper Plus Option - Adult $291.81, Child $279.03

3 Day Park Tickets
3 Day - Adult $329.09, Child $309.92 - 2016 pricing was Adult $308.85, Child $289.68
3 Day Hopper - Adult $392.99, Child $373.82 - 2016 pricing was Adult $367.43, Child $348.26
3 Day with Park Hopper Plus Option - Adult $408.96, Child $389.79

4 Day Park Tickets
4 Day - Adult $394.05, Child $372.75 - 2016 pricing was Adult $346.13, Child $324.83
4 Day Hopper - Adult $473.93, Child $452.63 - 2016 pricing was Adult $419.61, Child $398.31
4 Day with Park Hopper Plus - Adult $489.90, Child $468.60

5 Day Park Tickets
5 Day - Adult $415.35, Child $394.05 - 2016 pricing was Adult $362.10, Child $340.80
5 Day Hopper - Adult $495.23, Child $473.93 - 2016 pricing was Adult $435.59, Child $414.29
5 Day with Park Hopper Plus Option - Adult $511.20, Child $489.90

6 Day Park Tickets
6 Day - Adult $436.65, Child $415.35 - 2016 pricing was Adult $378.08, Child $356.78
6 Day Hopper - Adult $516.53, Child $495.23 - 2016 pricing was Adult $451.56, Child $430.26
6 Day with Park Hopper Plus Option - Adult $532.50, Child $511.20

7 Day Park Tickets
7 Day - Adult $457.95, Child $436.65 - 2016 pricing was Adult $394.05, Child $372.75
7 Day Hopper - Adult $537.83, Child $516.53 - 2016 pricing was Adult $467.54, Child $446.24
7 Day with Park Hopper Plus Option - Adult $553.80, Child $532.50

8 Day Park Tickets
8 Day - Adult $468.60, Child $447.30 - 2016 pricing was Adult $404.70, Child $383.40
8 Day Hopper - Adult $548.48, Child $527.18 - 2016 pricing was Adult $478.19, Child $456.89
8 Day with Park Hopper Plus Option - Adult $564.45, Child $543.15

9 Day Park Tickets
9 Day - Adult $479.25, Child $457.95 - 2016 pricing was Adult $415.35, Child $394.05
9 Day Hopper - Adult $559.13, Child $537.83 - 2016 pricing was Adult $488.84, Child $467.54
9 Day with Park Hopper Plus Option - Adult $575.10, Child $553.80

10 Day Park Tickets
10 Day - Adult $489.90, Child $468.60 - 2016 pricing was Adult $426, Child $404.70
10 Day Hopper - Adult $569.78, Child $548.48 - 2016 pricing was Adult $499.49, Child $478.19
10 Day with Park Hopper Plus Option - Adult $585.75, Child $564.45

The new Geyser Point Bar & Grill is now open at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, part of the expansion of Wilderness Lodge to incorporate new waterside Disney Vacation Club villas.

The eatery can be found in the heart of the Copper Creek pool area, with lounge seating and a walk up window for all-day quick service dining.
Photo courtesy of

Geyser Point Bar & Grill is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with a lounge offering specialty drinks.

Breakfast is served 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM, lunch and dinner is from 11:00 AM to midnight, and the lounge is available from 11:00 AM to midnight.

Roaring Fork Snacks and Trout Pass Pool Bar both close for refurbishment beginning today, with Roaring Forks reopening later in 2017.

Geyser Point Bar & Grill breakfast menu

Smoked Salmon Everything Bialy

Scrambled Eggs
with a choice of Smoked Trail Sausage or Bacon served with Potato Hash or Fresh Fruit

Egg White, Spinach, and Feta Breakfast Wrap
served with fresh Fruit

Maple Cinnamon Pancakes
with Apple Compote served with a choice of Canadian Bacon, Trail Sausage or Bacon

Eggs Benedict
with House-made Canadian Bacon on a Cheddar Biscuit served with Potato Hash or Fresh Fruit

Crab Cake Eggs Benedict
served with Potato Hash or Fresh Fruit

Seasonal Fruit Plate
with Lavender Honey-Yogurt

Steel-cut Oats
with Dried Fruits and Nuts

Yogurt Parfait
with Seasonal Berries and House-made Granola

Kids' Meals
Scrambled Eggs
served with Bacon or Sausage and Potato Hash and choice of small Low-fat Milk or small Dasani® Water

Mini Buttermilk Pancakes
with Maple Syrup served with Bacon or Sausage and choice of small Low-fat Milk or small Dasani® Water

Granola, Apples and Strawberries
with Honey Yogurt Dip and choice of small Low-fat Milk or small Dasani® Water

Geyser Point Bar & Grill lunch and dinner menu

Burgers & Sandwiches
Photo courtesy of
Lump Crab Cake Sandwich
with House-made Canadian Bacon and Spicy Cabbage-Carrot Slaw

House-Smoked Salmon BLT
with Lemon-Caper Mayonnaise

Smoked Turkey Sandwich
with Lettuce, Tomato and Cranberry Mayonnaise

Classic Bacon Cheeseburger
with Tillamook Cheddar, Lettuce and Tomato

Bison Cheeseburger
with Tillamook Cheddar, Sweet Onion Straws, Lettuce, Tomato and Marion Berry Barbecue Sauce

Grilled Portobello Salad
with grilled Portobello, Zucchini, Roasted Red Peppers, Tomato, and Multi-Grain Salad with Goat Cheese Dressing

Grilled Chicken Salad
with Arugula-Romaine, Apples, seasonal Berries, Hazelnuts, and Red Wine Vinaigrette

House-Smoked Salmon Salad
with Arugula-Romaine, Apples, seasonal Berries, Hazelnuts, and Red Wine Vinaigrette

Seasonal Fruit Plate
with Lavender Honey-Yogurt

Kids' Mickey Check Meals
Mickey Check Meal - Grilled Chicken Strips
served with dipping sauces and choice of Apple Slices or Vegetable Sticks and small Low-fat Milk or small Dasani® Bottled Water. Meets Disney Nutrition Guidelines for Complete Meals without substitutions

Mickey Check Meal - Finger Food Sampler
sliced Smoked Turkey, Tillamook Cheddar, Spiced Apple Jam, Grape Tomatoes and Sourdough Crisps served with choice of small Low-fat Milk or small Dasani® Bottled Water. Meets Disney Nutrition Guidelines for Complete Meals without substitutions

Kids' Meals
with Grapes and Danimals and choice of small Low-fat Milk or small Dasani® Water

Chocolate Brownie Mousse
with Caramel Popcorn and Toasted Meringue

Seasonal Pie

Morimoto Asia and Master Sommelier George Miliotes are joining forces to bring a special dining event to Disney Springs - "Wok and Wine."
Photo courtesy of

The event costs $150 per guest (excluding tax and gratuity) and will take place on February 28, 2017 at 7:30 PM. Tickets are available in advance online.

The special collaboration wine dinner created by Executive Chef Yuhi Fujinaga will showcase a selection of modern Pan-Asian dishes. Master Sommelier George Miliotes will pair each course with wines that will be served at his upcoming wine bar in Disney Springs. The dinner is priced at $150 per guest (excluding tax and gratuity) and will feature the following:

1st Course:
Bluefin Toro Tartare, soy caviar, Jamon Iberico Crisps
Dom Ruinart Rosé Champagne, France 

2nd Course:
‘Bag of Pho’ local lionfish, Hudson Valley Foie Gras dashi, mitsuba, rice noodles
Raats Original Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch-South Africa

3rd Course:
Slow Roasted Crispy Baby Pig, Chinese black bean trotter jus, hot spring Jidori egg
Selbach-Oster Riesling Feinherb, Mosel-Germany

Dessert Course:
Green Tea Panna Cotta
Broadbent Colheita Madeira, Portugal 

Additional performances of Rivers of Light have been added during the show's opening weekend.

Originally planned to be shown just once at 7:30pm this weekend, two extra shows have been added at 8:30 PM on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Photo courtesy of

The weekend lineup now looks like this:

  • Friday February 17 - Rivers of Light at 7:15 PM and 8:30 PM 
  • Saturday February 18 - Rivers of Light at 7:15 PM and 8:30 PM 
  • Sunday February 19 - Rivers of Light at 7:15 PM and 8:30 PM 

Disney has also opened up FastPass+ reservations for the additional shows.

Trainers and birds from "Flights of Wonder" are now making appearances in other areas of Disney's Animal Kingdom, bringing the unique experiences to guests outside of the "Flights of Wonder" theater.

Small stages in Harambe and DinoLand U.S.A. are the home for the new shows, with each appearance featuring a couple of birds showcasing their unique behaviors.

In DinoLand, the show explains the link between birds and dinosaurs, and takes place daily at 3:30 PM and 4:30 PM.

Showtimes in Harambe are not published, but keep an eye out on the stage close to Tusker House.

The birds and trainers can still be seen in the usual theater location daily, at 11:30 PM, 1:30 PM and 2:30 PM. The mini in-park experiences are expected to run through to the end of March 2017.

Disney has announced that it will begin a major expansion at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort.

The centerpiece of the expansion is a 15-story tower that will add 500 guest rooms, including suites and concierge level services. Overlooking Lake Dorado, the tower will offer rooftop dining with views of the surround theme parks and resorts.
Photo courtesy the Disney Parks Blog

The new tower block will be located near to the current main entrance, convention and lobby area.

“For many of our guests, magical memories begin at one of our 27-themed resorts each and every day,” said Joshua D’Amaro, senior vice president of Disney Resort Hotels and Transportation. “At Walt Disney World Resort, we continue to expand our portfolio and invest in new resort developments that allow even more guests to be immersed in all that a Disney resort has to offer.”

Also part of the project is a refurbishment of the current resort rooms, and the addition of floating gardens and an island oasis that connects the resort through a series of bridges.

Disney's Coronado Springs Resort currently offers 1917 moderate priced rooms, inspired by the American Southwest and regions of Mexico. Opened in 1997, the resort was Disney's first moderate convention hotel, and features a 220,000-square-foot convention center.

An opening date has not yet been announced, but construction permits have been filed, and expect work to begin imminently and continuing for the next 2 years.

Disney has also confirmed plans to redevelop its Caribbean Beach Resort hotel, but stopped short of offering any specific details.

Part of the Coronado Springs Resort expansion announcement, Disney indicated that the Caribbean Beach Resort will be reimagined with new additions to the resort’s current marketplace, Centertown, including new waterfront dining and retail shopping areas. This centralized location will offer the resort’s guests more convenient access to services, amenities and dining.

Permits have already been filed for the expansion project, with the addition of 7 new buildings that will include one large multi-level building, which appears to be home to a large number of guest rooms.

Plans show that the new large building will occupy land that is part of the existing Barbados village of the resort, which will presumably be demolished for the expansion. Disney has confirmed that Martinique and Barbados islands will be unavailable from May 2017.

Along with new construction, there are also changes planned for the roadways and retention ponds.

Work is expected to begin in 2017, with completion in 2019. It isn't clear yet whether Disney Vacation Club villas will be part of the development

Height test balloons were spotted over the resort in September 2016, leading to heightened speculation that a new development was imminent.

Star Wars Launch Bay at Disney's Hollywood Studios will soon be home to a meet and greet with BB-8.
BB-8 will appear from April 14, 2017, beginning on the first Star Wars Galactic Nights event. Kylo Ren and Chewbacca, who are currently available for meet and greets, will continue to appear at Launch Bay.

Launch Bay has recently been updated with memorabilia and artifacts that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

5 Reasons to Visit Fort Wilderness

Hey there, hi there, ho there, Disney Fans!

     I hope those of you who are in the Northern part of the States have been able to dig your way out of the snow safely. Looks like it was a crazy week up there! Us Floridians are back to warm temps around here, but I'm not rubbing it in. Simply reminding you why you should get your butt down here soon!

     This week, let's mosey on over to a unique and fun destination on Disney property, that many Guests often skip, without realizing what they are missing. That's right, we are talking about Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground! So, gather round, partners! Here's 5 Reasons To Visit Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground!!! Yeeee-haaaw!!!!!

1. Stick-To-Yer-Ribs-Good Dining!

     One of the often overlooked restaurants on Disney property is Trail's End, located next to Pioneer Hall at Fort Wilderness. You can access the dining hall by taking a boat over from The Magic Kingdom, or by bussing from another Disney Park or Disney Springs. If you're driving, you can park at the front of the campground, and take the internal bus system back to the Settlement area. It's an all-you-care-to-eat delight of country goodness, whether you visit at breakfast, dinner, or even brunch on weekends. (Lunch is offered a la carte most days.) At breakfast, you'll find everything: Mickey waffles, fresh fruit salad, eggs, skillet potatoes, and so much more! At dinner, smoked meats take center stage, including pulled pork, ham, turkey, chicken, sausage and beef. There's also fried chicken and ribs, along with tasty country sides like cornbread, green beans, mashed potatoes, peel and eat shrimp, baked beans and more, PLUS a yummy dessert bar, lined with banana pudding, red velvet cake, lemon bars and strawberry shortcake. And the best part???? This is one of the cheapest buffets on Disney property! And due to their somewhat out-of-the-way location, you can almost always get a reservation. My family and I dine there about once a month or so. We LOVE it!

     Looking for some entertainment with your meal? There's a super fun, (and often forgotten about), dinner show that you need to know about, called Mickey's Backyard BBQ. This outdoor, covered hoedown includes an all-you-care-to-eat BBQ dinner of burgers, chicken, ribs and more, and a live show that features cowboy rope tricks and a country band. You'll also be joined by Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Chip and Dale, all in their country garb, and ready to hit the dance floor with you for a line dance or two.

     But the real superstar of Fort Wilderness is The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue! The only indoor dinner show on Disney property has been around since 1974! That makes it only three years younger than The Magic Kingdom itself! Millions of Guests have seen and loved the show. In fact many, like my husband, have seen it twenty times and more. The country-style singin', dancin', goofin' around show features six actors who are there to make you laugh, clap and stomp your feet. The food is an all-you-care-to-eat feast of fried chicken, ribs and all the fixin's, and beer and wine are included as well. The show is a "Must Do" for anyone that has not seen it yet. Every Guest HAS to "Hoop it up" at least once... though I'm pretty sure that once you have seen it, you'll end up going again. And again.

2. Get Movin' in the Great Outdoors!

     If you're an active person, there's TONS for you to do at Fort Wilderness! In the Meadow Recreation Area, you'll be able to challenge your fellow Campers to a game of volleyball in the sand court. In the Bike Barn you can rent bicycles and helmets for your whole family, or rent cane fishing poles and fish right from the docks. Throughout the 700 acre campground, you can enjoy swimming poolsbasketball courtsplaygrounds, and plenty of jogging paths. It's so much fun to bike or run among the huge cypress trees! Keep your eyes open for local wildlife, like deer, armadillo, opossum, peacocks and more!

Awww... this pony is soaking up the sun!
     There are two "tours" available at Fort Wilderness. The Wilderness Back Trail Adventure is for ages 16 and up, and it will take you all around the Camp Ground, on high-powered, two-wheeled, all-terrain Segways. The second option is for ages 7 and up, and will consist of a 90-minute Fort Wilderness Archery Experience, where you can learn to let your inner Merida shine!

     Looking to get off your feet a bit? Saddle up and take a horseback riding excursion, or if the water calls to you, from the marina you can rent canoes, kayaks, motorized boats, or even go on a waterskiing or motorboat fishing tour! If you want to enjoy the scenery, but don't want to have to exert yourself at all, rent a motorized golf cart for an hour or two, and get lost driving around the wooded paths. (Not literally lost. When I stayed at Ft. Wilderness when I was a teen, my Mom and her best friend decided to take a golf cart out to pick up groceries from the Trading Post, and they ended up over at The Wilderness Lodge, totally lost. At least they find it hysterically funny... NOW.) There's so much to do and most activities are open to ALL Guests, regardless of whether or not you are staying onsite. (Pools are open to Camp Ground Guests ONLY.)

3. Keep the Youngin's Entertained!

    Kids of all ages will have a ton of fun here too! Aside from all of the outdoor activities mentioned above, there are great playgrounds onsite, the largest of which is right next to Trail's End.

    Everyone will LOVE Tri-Circle-D Ranch! The Ranch is located next to Pioneer Hall, and is home to pretty much all of the horses that work on Disney property. You can stop on by and visit Cinderella's little white ponies, or pop into the barn to see the huge horses that pull the trolleys on Main Street. Patting and feeding is not allowed, but little ones over the age of 2, under 80 lbs, and under 48", can ride a pony, for a small fee. The Ranch is a really fun place to spend some time, and enjoy something a little different from what you see in the parks.

4. Rip-Roarin', Fun-Filled Nights!

     Spend an evening at Fort Wilderness and you will have a blast enjoying some really unique activities! Start with a 25 minute wagon ride through the Camp Ground, or a private horse-drawn carriage ride, offered evenings, (weather permitting). During the holiday season, the carriage rides become "sleigh rides", with the carriages decked out in lights and garland. It's a festive and romantic date night outing.

     You can catch the higher fireworks from Wishes, complete with piped in music, from the beach by the boat dock. You can even see the Electrical Water Pageant as it passes by!

     One of the most fun nighttime activities in all of the "World" takes place at Fort Wilderness. Right near the Meadow Trading Post, folks gather 'round a nightly campfire for marshmallow roastin', camp song singin', and movie viewin' under the stars! Chip and Dale join a guitar or banjo-playin' musician, as you whoop it up and enjoy watching the stars twinkling and the fireflies lighting their night lights. Each night a family friendly Disney movie is shown after the musical part of the evening. Some nights, usually during the busier seasons, two movies are shown back to back. It's a really fun occasion, whether you stay for the music only, or all the way until the movie credits roll!

5. Make Yerself at Home!

     Fort Wilderness is a really amazing place to stay. Unlike any of the other Disney Resorts, the Camp Ground has three different types of accommodations. Since it is most commonly used by those with campers or RV's of their own, the Camp Ground provides hook ups (at a pretty reasonable cost) so that you can enjoy your own home-away-from-home, right on Disney property.

An RV with awning parked on a cement pad in a campsite after a rain
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     Don't have an RV? No problem! You can rent your own Cabin in the woods! The Cabins sleep up to 6 adults, and have a full, albeit small, kitchen. The bedroom has one set of bunk beds and a double bed, plus there is a pull-down double bed in the living room wall. Unfortunately there is only one bathroom. Two bathrooms would make this a really perfect accommodation for a larger family, but the single bathroom can be tricky.

A bench and a sofa near a dining and kitchen area with a table, wooden bench, 2 chairs and refrigerator
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A log cabin with a walk path to the steps leading to the porch and front door
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     Looking for a cost-efficient way to stay on Disney property and don't mind roughin' it? You can rent a tent at Fort Wilderness, complete with your own parking space, power sources, picnic table and charcoal grill. There are nearby hospitality buildings with showers and restrooms, by each pool.

Tall trees and bushes frame a campsite with cement parking pad and a picnic table
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     Staying onsite at Fort Wilderness means constant access to all of the fun recreational activities described up above, plus an internal bus system, transportation to the parks, and all of the benefits that Disney Resort Guests enjoy. It's especially cool if you stay at Halloweentime or Christmastime, when Campers usually go all out decorating their campsite with lights, blow ups, and every holiday decoration you can imagine. It really is a sight to see!

     Whether you visit for a meal, for some fun, or to stay for a while, Fort Wilderness is sure to provide your family with all kinds of rustic fun that you'll be talking about for years to come. And whenever it's time for you to mosey on back home, you'll hear the Cast Members saying, "Ya'll come back now, ya hear?" And you will want to, as soon as you can!

     For information on rates and availability, or to book tours, excursions or dining reservations, contact the crew at Kingdom Konsultant Travel! They will help you plan some country fun into your Disney trip.

     Until next week, have a good one, ya'll!

- Jenn aka "Tink"
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