Archive for January, 2011

Is Remy Worth It?

One of the most asked questions about the dining on the Disney Dream is “Is Remy worth the $75 per person surcharge”. Just for all of you wondering this question, I decided to “bite the bullet” and experience both Remy and Palo on the Maiden voyage and this sailing we are currently on.

We went to Remy on the second night of our Maiden Voyage sailing. This was also Pirate Night. We had dinner at 7:50 pm so allowing for even 2 ½ hours would get us out in plenty of time to see the fireworks.

We checked in for our dinner at the reception desk outside of Palo, Remy and Meridian. The door to Remy was closed, but shortly opened and we were led in. My first impression was “this is very elegant”. It was quiet and felt very formal, though we never felt underdressed with slacks and a blouse for me and a sport coat for my husband. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. There were two others there that night who saw me arrive, but didn’t feel comfortable calling out my name so I would see them. I don’t suggest this is a bad thing, just trying to give an impression about how the feel of the room was.

It was cozy inside of Remy. I had walked in the room earlier on the cruise during the day, but the feeling you got in the room that night was so different. The special champagne cocktail was prepared tableside and served to us all. A bread tray was brought to us by another server and we selected our bread which was placed on our bread plate by the server. A bread basket was not left on the table but there wasn’t any problem getting additional bread if desired.
We were given a little morsel from the kitchen. It was a deep fried tomato consommé. I cannot figure out how you bread and deep fry a liquid, without it getting mushy, but they did it. I could have easily eaten a bowl-full of these, though we just received one each.
We had a choice of a set menu – Saveur or Gout – or we could order A la carte. There was a wine pairing available for an extra $99 per person to go with either of these menus. My husband chose the Gout menu. I went a la carte. As a result, I had one less course than he did.

Our next course was of course Ratatouille. This was very yummy and was served with an olive oil ice cream. Wow! I have never had something so decadent. I then had an Alaskan King Crab appetizer. The presentation on this dish was fantastic! My next selection was the sea bass. Wow, that’s all I can say about this one.

We ordered a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape to accompany the next course – Australian Wagyu beef. The sauce that accompanied this cut of meat was better than anything I can remember in recent memories. The beef was outstanding! I had a sip of wine when I started with the beef and it paired very well together. Before I knew it though, I had eaten all of my entrée and hadn’t had any more wine, it was just that good alone!

Next we had a cheese course. There was goat cheese, gouda, two kinds of blue cheese, two kinds of gruyere cheese, and brie. We each had a little of each. After the cheese it was time for dessert and here was the only “problem” with the meal. It wasn’t truly a problem however. I ordered a fantastic half bottle of wine. It was wonderful! But when my dessert came, the wine was too sweet for the dessert which was a lemon crème dessert. The lemon dessert was so tart, but also sweet which made it liven up my taste buds. I set the wine aside until the dessert was done and then finished the wine after dinner.
After dessert, we received another dessert. Chocolates, caramels, tartlets, elephant ears, homemade marshmallows and lollypops were served. This was a nice ending, though not expected. I noticed sometime during dessert that there was a reflection on the glass. Upon further pondering, we realized this was the fireworks! It was nearly 11:00 pm!

It was finally time for the check. Since we had been told that the $75 fee does not include gratuity, we added on a gratuity. With service charge, gratuity and wine, our price came to just over $300. We didn’t leave the restaurant hungry, but I would say we were satisfied. I didn’t feel stuffed, I felt good. As we left the room I mused “I wonder if there are openings in here on our next sailing?”

After another day or so, however, I realized that $75 a person is a lot of money so I decided we shouldn’t do this on our last cruise. Still unsure if the extra charge was worth it however.

Last night we dined at Palo. We had a fabulous server – Julia from Germany. We immediately thought that Remy was going to have a hard time matching up with Palo.

Palo’s menu was very familiar with a few new additions. Here we could also order as much as we’d like. We started with a couple cocktails from Meridian. The Antipasti is different than on the Magic and the Wonder. A cart was brought over to us and the platter was prepared tableside. There were some new selections and we settled on a bit of everything – fennel, eggplant, pepper, Parmesan cheese, beef and parma ham. A bread selection was placed on the table as well.
We ordered a four cheese pizza, Sicilian Pesto shrimp, braised beef ravioli to share and the sea bass and tenderloin. Everything was wonderful and I quickly filled up. After the main course, I needed to get up for a minute or two so that I wouldn’t feel so full. It was at this point that I made my decision.

Remy is absolutely worth the $75 per person service charge! Both venues were fabulous in their own ways but with Palo I felt more at home, warm and filled up. At Remy, I felt elegant, tried some incredible tastes and left feeling satisfied. I don’t know if I will book Remy each time I sail on the Disney Dream or Disney Fantasy when she comes out in 2012, but I will continue to book Palo each time. Remy will be reserved for special occasions. Keep in mind I cruise more often than most. If I was cruising one week a year, I would absolutely want to go to Remy each and every time.

Thank you Disney Cruise Line for giving us two uniquely different yet equally exceptional venues for us adults to enjoy while on this amazing vessel.

Secrets of the Disney Dream

Ok, maybe not all of these are true “secrets”, but they are not known by all so I thought I would let you in on the scoop.

First in the cabin. When you walk in, to get the lights working you are required to insert your Key to the World card in the slot above the light switches. When you pull this out, you have a few seconds to up to 10 minutes of light from the main three lights in the room. All other auxiliary lights, TV and heating/air-conditioning are turned off or switched to a lower energy consumption setting. What they don’t tell you is any card will work in the slot, not just your Key to the World card. We tried a business card and that worked as well. Keep in mind that a paper card however will get pretty beat up in the slot, but a plastic card of any kind (magnetic strip or not) will do the trick. Now, this defeats the purpose of energy conservation, but you can just pull the card so that it isn’t in tight and the lights will go off. We leave the card in the slot and then when we come back to the room, only have to push the card in and we’re set! I like this method better because I don’t have to put my card in a slot to get into the room so there is no need to remove it from the lanyard.

iPod Docking Station. To make this dimmer, just press the snooze button when the alarm is not going off and the clock will get dimmer.
Need a nightlight? You have a few options in the room without bringing one from home. If the main cabin lights are off, there is a switch on the desk marked Nightlight. The main cabin light by the sofa will light dimly.

The wave phones glow when they are on. We take one of the phones and put it in the bathroom. Instant nightlight! If they are too bright in the main cabin, just turn the phone upside down in the holder and the light will be significantly reduced.

Finally, the main cabin lights in the room will dim! There are toggle switches for the bathroom, bed lamps, desk lamps, etc, but the main cabin lights have a push button (though they look like a toggle switch, they return to the same position). If you push and hold the button, the lights will either dim or brighten, depending on where they were set before.

Ever wonder how much time it look to spell out DISNEY DREAM on the side of the ship in cabin lights? It wasn’t as difficult as you would think. All of the stateroom lights are on a network and each have their own IP address. All the crew had to do was send the command from a central location as to what rooms to turn on and viola!

There is a portable hairdryer in the bathroom, but there isn’t an outlet there to use it so you will have to take it to the desk. The hairdryer will fit in any of the outlets as they are adapted already for 220V plugs. However, the power will be significantly reduced. You will want to unplug the wave phones and use that outlet to get 220V power.

On to the stateroom hallways! Have you ever walked off the elevator and were not sure which way to go? Where is forward and aft? Which side is port and which is starboard? There are a number of tricks to help out, without even looking at any signage! While in the elevator/stairs lobby, the elevators are all aft, while the stairs are all forward. In the aft elevators, the enchanted art is all on odd decks and in the forward elevators, it is on the even decks (this may not be true in every situation, but this is what we found). When you get into the hallways, the first way to tell where you are is by the stateroom numbers. The first number is the deck you are on (or if a five digit number, the first two digits are the deck number). The third digit from the end tells you which side and towards the forward to midship or towards the aft area. If the number is 0, you are on the port side midship to forward. If it is 1, you are on the port side, aft. If the number is 5 you are on the starboard side midship to forward. If it is 6, you are on the port side, aft.

Who wants to know numbers though on vacation? Look on the carpet. You will see a world map there. If the map is upright, you are facing forward. If it is upside down, you are facing aft.

Look at the cabin doors. If there is a fish next to your door, you are on the port side (four letters) or left side of the ship facing forward. If there is a seahorse, you are on the starboard side (both start with S) or right side of the ship facing forward. If you see a starfish, somehow you got into the concierge area of the ship. Personally, I think the starfish should be on the regular decks because of the word “star”, but they aren’t going to change it now!

Finally, you can look up to the lights. On the bottom there is a Mickey icon. The head of the three circles points towards the forward end of the ship. The ears point towards the back of the ship. On all but the concierge decks, there are also lines from the medallion. One comes off the “chin” of the icon and one each comes off the “ears”. So if you don’t see the medallion, but see the lines, one line in the middle of the light points forward and two lines going towards the walls points aft.

We are certain there are more “secrets” to learn, but this is what we have found so far.

The Bus is going where?

We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village earlier this month. It’s a beautiful, amazing, peaceful resort but, unless you only go the Animal Kingdom theme park, you need to plan on a longer bus trip to get to the parks.  Not a bad trade-off for having the opportunity to see giraffes and zebras from your balcony.

One morning the Hollywood Studios/Blizzard Beach bus arrives. First, it was 40 something degrees and second, Blizzard Beach was closed for its annual rehab. I’m thinking “must be how the sign is programmed”.  As we head to Studios we hear “we’re stopping at Blizzard Beach in case there’s someone who needs to be dropped off or picked up at the Winter Summerland mini-golf course.”  Say what?????  The bus is going where???

Sure enough, we pull into a parking lot with, surprise, every space available and not a soul in sight. We go to the empty bus stall and open the doors where no one exits and no one enters.

Here’s a thought Mickey. If you’re sending all the buses to no man’s land to pick up and drop off invisible mini-golf pros, you’re using a lot of gas and wasting a lot of time. Why not have the bus driver ask if anyone wishes to go there and have a Cast Member assigned to Winter Summerland to notify the dispatcher if a bus is needed for a pick up.  Just sayin……..

Kids Sail Free on Select Disney Alaska Cruises

 

Book either a Verandah or Oceanview stateroom and kids ages 17 and under, traveling with two full-fare guests in the same stateroom, sail free on seven night Alaska cruises departing from May 3 through June 7, 2011.

This offer is only available for U.S. and Canadian residents and is based on double occupancy. It is limited to Categories 4A through 9D and is subject to availability. Government taxes and fees and port excursions are excluded and certain restrictions apply. The Kids Sail Free offer cannot be combined with any other discount or onboard credit.

Disney’s Wild Africa Trek…..the real story

I’m one of the “friends” who went into the wilds of Africa with Tracy and her husband Bill. My daredevil crew consisted of myself (Regina), my hubby Gary and my daughter Caitlin.

This all started with yours truly. I heard about this new tour and suggested we see what it was all about. After I booked it, I made the mistake of looking at the video. SAY WHAT???!! THERE’S A ROPE BRIDGE???!!! I am going to die. Laugh all you want but in the waiver there it is; Disney’s not responsible if you fall, trip, stumble, break a bone or croak.

 I signed my life away and next I’m asked to step on the “magic square.” Hey wait a minute!! I’m a weight watcher’s dropout and I know exactly what that is, it’s a scale!! No one other than “magic square” man can see what I weigh, but sir, if you read this, I can assure you the extra 50 pounds is from the sweatshirt I had on.

 I’m handed a stunning mesh vest that looks like something from a medieval torture chamber. It has all sorts of straps and clips dangling from it. There’s a bungee type cord that’s anchored in the center of the back with a clip that attaches in the front. I’m asked my name and it’s written on the top of my very own keepsake water bottle. While trying to cram it into the pocket it has to fit in, I smear the writing and am henceforth known as “Smudge-ina.”

Next we’re told to unclip something and re-clip it around our thighs so we’re harnessed into the vest. After 5 minutes of pulling on this and tightening that, I still can’t get it right. One of the guides asked if it would be okay if he could help me get it tight enough. As the poor guy is down there, no doubt considering a career change, I just had to say it: “I’ll bet this wasn’t in the job description, was it?”

They start us off on a practice rope bridge. The first thing I notice is there are some big gaps between some of the slats. Hmm…that waiver is starting to have a lot more relevance.

We now embark on what I refer to as “the walk of shame.” Yes, there we are, strapped and harnessed into our spiffy vests and strolling right through Harambe, aka the busiest part of the Animal Kingdom. We’re getting just as many looks as the chick I saw earlier who was wearing fishnet pantyhose over her flag themed denim shorts.

We walk through the gorilla section and I’m watching the visitors watching us watching the apes. Thankfully, we’re finally taken off the pavement and into the “wild.”

As luck would have it, we come across a researcher working with the hippos!! (Yes, I was gullible enough to think this was some amazing coincidence.) We’re clipped onto a metal safety bar so we can get a closer look. It really was a fantastic encounter. The researcher is tossing chunks of fresh fruit to the hippo. After he chomps on one treat, he opens his enormous mouth waiting for another. It was just like watching a king-size baby bird. Hippos have the biggest, pinkest tongues!

Wait!! What’s this! Our guide is told the road is washed out and we need to take another route. Well, it did rain the day before so maybe; just maybe, we don’t have to go across the dreaded rope bridge. WRONG!! This was the shtick they use to get you on it and once again I was stupid enough to believe it.

Finally, the part I’m dreading has arrived. We climb up the steps and there it is, not one but two, count ‘em, two rope bridges. My bungee vest clip is attached to an overhead safety line and off I go.

Hard to believe, but I’ve gone my whole life without crossing a rope bridge. I’m guessing they all have honkin’ huge gaps between some of the slats, a few of which resemble broken planks. So, not only am I wishing I did some leg stretches in preparation for this, I’m standing on what feels like toothpicks over a pit of crocodiles. (There is netting under the slats in case you miss, but I really didn’t want to test it out.)

HEY!!! I MADE IT!! Just call me Smudge-ina, Queen of the Jungle!! I’m ready to be clipped onto the crocodile overlook. Heck, I’m ready to wrestle one of those bad boys.

At this point, we’ve been trekking for close to two hours. I’m very happy to hear we can remove the vests so I unclip, unzip and get into the truck that’s waiting for us. We’re driven into the regular safari route, but with a big difference. We stop several times so we can move around (within the truck) and take pix.

We’re driven to a beautiful overlook with tables, chairs, binoculars for us to use and phew!!  Bathrooms!!

When I booked the tour, I was asked about food allergies and let them know there are certain things Caitlin can’t eat. I was impressed when I was asked who had the allergies and we were assured that none of the items had tree nuts, strawberries or celery. The food comes in two tiers of tins and is absolutely delish.

We’re driven through the final leg of the safari and return to “civilization”. We’re given our photopass cards and the code for the complimentary photo CD. They tell us that it will take about a week for them to be in the system. In other words, they want to make sure you’re home before you see the pix of yourself tripping over roots and looking like an extra from a Crocodile Dundee movie.

For myself (I normally don’t do heights) and my daughter (not a fan of crocs, the real thing and the shoes), it was a once in a lifetime experience. Still, we were very happy we did it. It was unique, we both conquered some real fears we each have and we fell in love with that big goofy hippo.  As for my hubby, just call him Gorilla Gary. He’s ready to trek again.

This is Smudge-ina the Safari Queen signing out!!

Disney’s Wild Africa Trek

Since the Wild Africa Trek is a new tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we decided to give it a try.  We joined our friends for this tour and had a great time.

It was a cooler day and our only regret was not wearing warmer clothing.  We checked in behind the Dawa Bar and were asked to sign a waiver.  Once everyone was checked in, they took us to the base camp to get fitted for our harnesses. They gave us lockers to use if we had items that could not be taken on the Trek.

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Inside the Disney Dream

We’re on to the inside areas on the Disney Dream! When you first come onboard you are in the Atrium on deck 3 of the Disney Dream. Immediately to the right is Guest Services with an area to sit across from the desk. To your left in the middle of the ship is the Royal Palace. Moving through the Atrium, you will have an elevator bank of six on the right. On the other side of the elevators is the Bon Voyage bar. Next to the bar right in the middle of the port side of the Atrium is a sitting area. On our sailing, a desk was set up there for some of the media. Just to the right of the entrance to the Royal Palace is a grand staircase going down to deck 2 and one going up to deck 4.

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