Ranking World Showcase Pavilions

View of World ShowcaseI’m thinking Disney thoughts (aren’t I always?) and today they’re about World Showcase.  I know it has to do with the latest episode of the Mighty Men of Mouse Podcast – which I always listen to on the day it comes out.  I started thinking about my experiences in Epcot’s World Showcase over the years, how I feel about the different pavilions at this particular time in my life.  And if those feelings differ if the pavilions belong to countries I’ve actually visited versus the ones I only dream of visiting (or not).

So the meandering thought process goes, and thus the decision to rank the World Showcase pavilions – just for fun. When this is over – I really, sincerely want to know how your own ranking compares to mine.  I’ve put a lot of thought into my feelings and reasoning.  Mostly, my decision was based not on general appeal, or even logic, but how much I want to visit a particular pavilion and how much time I spend there.   Please comment what you’d change and why.  Let’s get started!

Ranking World Showcase Pavilions

11.  Morocco:  (I have never visited the actual country)  I walk by.  If there’s entertainment, I walk by more slowly.  Epcot's Morocco Pavilion / Spice Road TableRaymond likes to grab a cup of coffee there sometimes, but the dining choices don’t appeal to the picky eaters in my family.  Sometimes we browse the shops and once, Megan and Joseph got henna tattoos there.  It’s nothing negative, this pavilion is generally off our radar.IMG_7118

10.  Norway:  (I just got back from the actual country and my vacation was amazing.)  I used to love this pavilion and would, in the past, have put it much higher in the rankings, but in its current condition, sans ride, unappealing (to me, right now) princess dining buffet at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, lack of entertainment…it doesn’t do justice to the incredible beauty and culture of the country it represents.

9.  China (Never been there):  I love the way this pavilion looks.  I love the entertainment I’ve seen there through the years and the merchandise is always novel and fun to check out.  We’ve never chosen to eat there, but high marks for atmosphere and flair.

8.  Mexico:  (I have visited Mexico and enjoyed it very much.) It’s just ME – the place is awesome, but I’m married to a man who categorically dislikes the taste of Mexican food (unless you count Taco Tuesday at our house as Mexican food).  Great food has a serious impact on pavilion rank placement and sadly, I’ve not had a meal other than a quick counter service lunch.  Mexico PavilionI adore Donald Duck and Fiesta Donald is fun, sweet, and adorable!  The ride, shops, and musical entertainment (Mariachi Cobre) are all great!

7.  Canada:  (I’ve been to Vancouver and, very briefly, Toronto)  The beauty and grandeur of this pavilion evokes the beauty and grandeur of the actual country.RM-Le-CellierClean, beautiful and breathtaking – Canada (the pavilion and the country) brings back many happy memories.  (I may hate the Lumberjack Show, but don’t hold it against the pavilion…or the country.)

6.  America – I live here and I am very patriotic.  I just don’t get much out of the pavilion except for the Voices of Liberty!  I can’t say enough about what a great show they put on and how I love listening to them echo in the pavilion’s atrium.Voices-of-Liberty

5. France (I have been to France and it was wonderful):  Great restaurants, beautiful buildings, this pavilion is an enchanting place to spend time.  What I saw of France is well reflected here.  Epcot's France / Window DisplayI especially love it during Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival – they pull out all the stops.

4.  Germany (I’ve not been there, but am half German):  I love the pavilion itself – it is so warm and welcoming to me!  IMG_7112I love Sommerfest and any kind of beer they’re serving at the beer kiosks (by strapping young men in lederhosen).  I love the shops there and, if I can find a seat in the courtyard, am happy to spend quite a while soaking up the atmosphere.  Makes me want to go to Germany!

3.  Italy (I have been to Italy and LOVED it!) – This pavilion does the best job (to me) of evoking the feeling of its home country.  IMG_7103The meal, snack, and beverage choices are plentiful.  The wine shop is a particular favorite of my – they’ll send my selections to the front of the park for me to pick up on my way out.

2.  United Kingdom (I’ve not been there…yet):  There’s such beauty and charm in this pavilion.  So much to take in, loads of details, great food and drink and wonderful entertainment (British Revolution).  RM-Rose-and-CrownI love the Rose & Crown – both the pub and the eatery (I highly recommend the pub’s Single Malt Scotch Flight, if you’re a Scotch fan).  I also adore Yorkshire County Fish Shoppe.  And the beer.  See?  This is why it made it to #2!

1.  Japan (Never been to the country):  What this pavilion lacks (to me) in outward appearance, it makes up for in holding my attention.  I like the food, while it’s not on my must-do list, I think it’s good.  The Matsuriza (drum performance) is very cool.  What makes this pavilion #1 to me right now?  IMG_3815The Mitsukoshi Department Store!  It’s not about shopping – it’s about seeing the incredible assortment of Japanese goods and cultural items.  I could stay in there all day and never see everything!  Swords, bonsai tree kits, chop sticks, kimonos, teas, saké, clothing, toys, books, the pick-a-pearl counter, and – best of all – the amazing candy/snack room full of an incredible assortment of Japanese treats.

There is no right or wrong – no definitive, absolute ranking of World Showcase Pavilions.  It’s a jumble of feelings, memories, interests, and priorities.  What makes one country’s pavilion “better” than another will be different for each of us – how would YOU rank the World Showcase pavilions?

Disney Cruise Line – What’s the Food Like?

DCL-DessertI watch what I eat very closely and eat healthy food most of the time.  On vacation?  Not so much.  I love vacation food and look forward to it as something special to be experienced on our Disney vacations.  Especially on our Disney cruises!  It’s completely different than planning those Disney World advance dining reservations 180 days pre-vacation.  The cruise line’s rotational dining, among other things, will ensure I visit different restaurants with a wide variety of menu choices.  The only reservations we worry about are at Disney Cruise Line’s adults-only dining options.  If I’d never sailed on Disney Cruise Line, feeling the way I do about my vacation food, I’d be wondering…

Disney Cruise Line – What’s the Food Like?DCL-Bread

1.  You won’t go hungry.  There are opportunities to eat morning, noon, and night.  Picky?  Don’t worry – Disney’s used to that and will pull out all the stops to make sure you never walk away unsatisfied.  Whether you’re craving something sweet or savory, light or totally loaded with decadent sauces (and calories), you’ll find it on a Disney ship!DCL-Entree4 DCL-Entree5 DCL-Fish-Entree

2.  Gluttony isn’t expensive.  Only a couple of food items are not included in your cruise fare:  Snacks for movies & shows, certain similar snacks on the room service menu, and adults-only dining.  Alcohol and specialty coffees are not included either, but soft drinks are.  When you order soft drinks with dinner or help yourself to them at the beverage station on deck, there’s no extra charge for that.DCL-Scallop-Appetizer DCL-Entree3 DCL-Entree2

3.  Bottomless pits are welcome.  I vacation with one, I know this to be true.  Joseph is 20 now, but still has that ridiculous teenage appetite.  He’s about 5-foot-ten and weighs maybe 145 lbs. (maybe).  Nearly evening of our cruise he ordered an appetizer, TWO different entrees, and dessert – and cleaned every plate!  Our servers April and Andres never batted an eye….just kept the food coming.  OH, to have that kind of metabolism!DCL-Entree DCL-Dessert3 DCL-Dessert2

4.  The options are unbelievable!  Fast food?  Yep – pizza and snacks, and soft-serve ice cream.  Breakfast buffet?  You betcha (and it’s awesome!)  Room service?  Sure!  Loads of choices – two of our favorites include the “All Hands on Deck” cheese platter (makes a great afternoon/happy hour snack) and breakfast foods of all sorts.  Bring me coffee – I don’t feel like going out.  What else is fantastic?  Pub grub!!!  O’Gill’s Pub in the grown-up nightlife area of the ship puts out a spread in the evening that will certainly satisfy your late-night cravings!  Even little churros are there to really make you feel Disney-ish.DCL-O'Gills-Pub-Grub-Sweets DCL-O'Gills-Pub-Grub2 DCL-O'Gills-Pub-Grub

5.  Upcharge for adults-only dining…Worth it!!!  On the Disney Magic and Wonder (the only two ships we’ve sailed on, so far), Palo is the place to be for an excellent Italian dinner or seriously unbelievable brunch.  We book at least one meal at Palo on every trip.  I LOVE talking about Palo and plan to be back soon with another review!  (My fave Palo dessert is here.)DCL-Palo-Menu-CoverIf you’ve sailed on Disney Cruise Line, what’s your favorite menu item or restaurant?  What tips on Disney Dining would you offer?

Disney’s Magic in Norway – Bergen

Bergen-sceneryOn Thursday, June 11th, we arrived at our final port of call, Bergen.  All ashore time was scheduled for 7:45 am and we were to be back aboard by 5:15 pm.  Our family intended to make the most of the time we had in this incredible city!  Of all the things we’d done and the amazing places we’d visited on this vacation, Bergen was my favorite port.

We were up, had eaten breakfast in Cabanas, and were waiting at our assigned group meeting area in Fathom’s for the day’s excursion:  Walking tour of Bergen (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) with a visit to both the Hanseatic Museum and the overlook on Mount Floyen. Bergen-Ship-in-Harbor Bergen-Norway-Waterfront Bergen-Norway Bergen-Norway-Buildings We love history and Bergen has wonderfully well-preserved buildings dating back to the 18th Century in the Bryggen area of the wharf.Bergen-tour-guide

Our group headed off the Magic and found our guide, Elena, waiting for us on the dock.  Elena, originally from St. Petersburg and married to a Norwegian, was cheerfully enthusiastic and full of interesting facts about Bergen’s past and present.  She was a wonderful guide and took time to answer questions and make sure everyone had plenty of time to take pictures of all the amazing things we saw that morning.  Bergen-TowerWe walked from the ship to the museum, stopping along the way to learn about Bergen, which was originally founded on a Viking settlement in 1070.  We walked past the Bergenhus Fortress and Rosenkrantz Tower and learned about Bergen’s medieval history before making our way to the Hanseatic Museum.  Bergen-Hanseatic-Museum-ExteriorHere we were able to see how the German merchants who ran the sea trade in Bryggen lived and worked.  One building,  Finnegården, originally owned by merchant J. W. Olsen, gives visitors an excellent look at living and working conditions during Bryggen’s heyday.  Bergen-Hanseatic-Museum3 Bergen-Hanseatic-Museum2 Bergen-museum-old-photo Bergen-museum-seals If you’re into history, this place is incredible!  Norwegian fishermen supplied the stock fish for the merchants, cod being the most popular.  The fish, once dried, had a shelf-life of 4-5 years and was shipped all over Europe.  Cod liver oil and other fish products were also produced. Bergen-Hansiatic-Museum1 Bergen-Museum-artifacts

Moving on from the museum, we walked a short distance to the building where we would catch the funicular to Mount Floyen and end our tour with a spectacular view of Bergen.  The crowds were heavy and Elena did her best to keep us entertained while we waited for our turn to board the funicular.  Bergen-funicular-viewBergan-to-Mt.-FloyenThis enclosed tram runs up and down the mountain all day and is a popular mode of transportation for the people who live on Mount Floyen as well as tourists.  The view was spectacular, but it was cold and windy on that mountain!  Thanking Elena, we headed back down to Bergen to find the fish market and lunch!Bergen-View-from-Mt-Floyen

This was such a treat!  At the fish market, customers can check out the different vendors’ fresh fish, select a meal combination, and wait at a patio table for the selected fish to be cooked and served.  Bergen-fishmarket-counter Bergen-fishmarket-selectionThe choices were amazing!  Cod, shrimp, whale steaks, oysters, crabs, salmon, and much more – cooked while you wait.  Our seafood was served with potato salad, a green salad, and a couple of slices of rye bread.  Bergen-fishmarket-display Bergen-fishmarket-seatingWe ordered what our server called “light beer” (due to the low alcohol content street vendors are restricted to serving) to enjoy with our meal.  As we placed our orders with the sweet young lady at the counter, she had one question for our family, “Are you from the Disney ship?” When we told her we were indeed sailing on the Magic, she wanted to know what was a Disney ship? We had fun explianing it to her!  Bergen-fishmarket-tableI feel terrible for not taking a picture of our food for you!  One minute we were waiting for our meal, then the server brought our plates, and the next thing I knew, I was scraping up the very last bit of potato salad with my last bite of bread.  Delicious!!!Bergen-Street

Until reaching Bergen, we really hadn’t done much shopping for souvenirs.  Fortified by our excellent lunch, we had plenty of time to explore Bergen’s shops – and explore we did!  The shopping in Bergen was really fantastic – we were glad we’d waited.  (No, we didn’t purchase any Disney dolls, but there were plenty to choose from!)  Bergen-Window-Shopping Bergen-shopping-area Bergen-Moose-Leather-shopCraftsmen and artists had workshops attached to small shops selling everything from jewelry to moose-leather goods.  We shopped in antique stores, Christmas stores, clothing boutiques and the artists’ shops.  Bergen-manhole-cover Bergen-cobblestones

Dried Fish Statue

Dried Fish Statue

Megan and Joseph went one way and Raymond and I another – we had as much fun exploring as we did picking out our souvenirs and even had time to relax over beers in an Irish pub.  When we found the giant dried fish statue, we were able to tell some puzzled tourists what it was and its significance to Bergan’s history.  Bergen-Irish-Pub Bergen-Pub-interiorOn the way back to the ship, I stopped trying to resist the lure of the bakeries!  Megan and I selected treats to munch on while we walked.  Bergen-bakeryI can tell you this:  Skolebrod (School bread) in Norway is incredible!!!  Dense, moist, loaded with custard and generously sprinkled with coconut, it was the perfect snack and a wonderful way to end the day.Bergen-Skolebrod-wrapper Bergen-Skolebrod

Ahead of us that evening would be the Freezing the Night Away deck party and the next day would be our last at-sea day – our vacation was winding down, but we felt like we were getting to see and do so much fun stuff!!!  I’ll be back to let you know how we ended this fabulous vacation.  Thanks for reading!DCL-Frozen-Menu

As always, if you have any quesions about this trip (or any of our other ones), I’ll be happy to tell you what I can.

Links to the other parts of this trip report:



Random Stuff: Wantable Style Edit vs Stitch Fix

After my third Stitch Fix, I got to thinking – do I just like to shop too much?  Is this whole stranger-selecting-my-clothing thing just not doing it for me?  Is it Stitch Fix?  Is it ME?  Why am I not having more success with this than one or two items per box?  This is way too much drama for something that’s supposed to be convenient and fun!

Did I decide to quit?  No, I did not.  I decided to add another clothing subscription box to the mix and see what happened.  Crazy, right?  I thought I might get a better feel for the whole concept, if it could possibly work for me, and if I should keep going or throw in the towel.  Enter Wantable Style Edit.  Wantable has been around for a while in the subscription box business with a fitness wear box, an accessory box, and an intimates box – the Style Edit is new to their lineup.  Same deal as Stitch Fix – it’s a $20 gamble.  Keep something and the $20 goes toward the purchase price.  Return it all and lose the $20.  Five clothing items, selected just for me, delivered right to my door with that same very tempting 25% discount for keeping everything in the box.  There’s a different style survey to complete online and I added a note that my daughter was getting married soon and I was looking for some dresses to wear to showers, rehearsal dinner, and the like.  I also mentioned that my favorite store is Anthropologie.Wantable-Cover

There’s no denying that Christmas-morning feeling that accompanies the box’s arrival.  It’s SO exciting!  When I opened the box – WOW!  Three dresses and two shirts in a variety of colors and all suitable for, in my final assessment (except for one shirt), a much younger woman who’s WAY more comfortable (and secure) wearing super-short, spaghetti-strapped clothing.  Yikes.  I DID say my daughter was getting married, which should indicate that I’ve reached a certain age – without coming right out and saying, HEY! I’m FIFTY years old!  Even if I were statuesque, thin, and gravity had left me alone through the years, I would still not want to dress like my daughter.  The one who’s getting married.  Call me crazy, but I think she’d be embarrassed if I showed up for a bridal shower with most of me showing.  I know I’d be mortified.

Even though one of the dresses was only $24 and I could have kept it for an additional $4 above my already-paid styling fee, I returned every item in the box.  NOTE:  I was very careful taking pictures to NOT show my thigh dimples to you as they were peeking out from beneath the bottoms of those very short dresses.  Here are the details:

Twill Tape Belted Sleeveless Dress by Mystree ($65.00) – Had this dress been two inches longer, it was the item I liked the most.  It felt like something I’d find at Anthropologie, which was what the stylist, Madeline, said she was going for in her note.  The colors and pattern were beautiful.Wantable-print-dress

Amelia Dress by BB Dakota ($75) – The horizontal stripes and white/orange combination threw me off at first, but I ended up really liking this dress.  It was just, again, way too short and I’m anti-spaghetti strap (I hate strapless bras!).Wantable-Style-Edit-Striped-Dress

2-Tone Dress by Freeway ($24) – This dress had components I like – bra-friendly top, flattering shape, handkerchief hemline, well-lined in colors that look terrible on me.  The front middle was also super short.Wantable-Style-Edit-cream-and-purple-dress

Side Ruffle Tank by BCBGeneration (bonus priced at $34, regularly $68).  Again, I loved a few things about this item – the navy color, the dressy fabric, and the price.  The sides with the ruffles were split and the straps were too thin – I ended up feeling like this top would not be age appropriate for me.Wantable-navy-top-with-ruffles

BB Dakota Dasia Top ($68) – Described this way, “Beautiful Fall floral print and easy fit make this lightweight top the perfect choice for your transitional wardrobe!” For me, the print was too loud, the colors unflattering, and the shape, yes, I’m saying this after all of the above – too matronly.Wantable-gray-and-purple-blouse

(My Wantable Style Edit unboxing video can be seen here.)

Wantable Style Edit vs Stitch FixStitch-Fix-July-Cover

Enter my fourth Stitch Fix.  Once more, I tweaked my style profile and this time I asked for three specific things:  A white cardigan, dark-washed jeans, and the polka-dot pants from Fix #3, but in a different pattern.  Paige was my stylist (4th different one) and delivered on all three requests.  Also included was a fit-and-flair dress and a knit, A-line skirt.  Here’s how these turned out…

The knit skirt was my style – unfortunately it was too small and too short.  It was painful to see, so I’m saving you from the horror.  If the knit skirt had fit, I would have saved it for cooler weather and paired it with tights and booties.  Sigh.  Gilli Kelsey Skirt ($54)Stitch-Fix-Skirt

The Ezra Malley Scoop Neck Pleated Fit & Flare Dress ($64) was very bright!  The material had a nice texture, but was very thin and unlined.  Once on me, there was nothing likable about this frock.  Not. One. Thing.Stitch-Fix-Dress-Fit-and-Flare

The pants I requested – Margaret M Emer Printed Straight Leg Pant ($98) were in a very cool floral print on a black background.  Unfortunately the print was unfriendly to my curves – I love these pants for comfort and style, but couldn’t keep them.Stitch-Fix-Floral-Pants

Kut From The Kloth Maribel Straight Leg Jean (a.k.a. Stevie, $88) – I asked for jeans and while I was hoping for a more solid indigo or black, I can not deny that this style fit well, was the perfect length (I almost always wear heels of some type), and felt wonderful.  I hate shopping for jeans and find it every bit as painful and traumatic as buying swimwear.  These dreamy denim britches seemed made just for me.Stitch-Fix-Kut-Marabel-Stevie-Jeans Stitch-Fix-Kut-Stevie-Jeans

Mak Jaclynn 3/4 Sleeve Button-Up Cardigan ($38) – It’s a plain white cardigan.  Like a perfect white tee, you have to treasure a good one when you find it.  It’s more substantial than those tissue-thin cardis that are all the rage at JCrew and Banana Republic, and that’s exactly what I like about it.   I can wear it to work a million times and I will certainly get my money’s worth.Stitch-Fix-Cardigan

So…100% returned from the Wantable box and another 2-out-of-5 kept from Stitch Fix.  I love the excitement of getting the box and trying on clothes in my own home with the ability to shop my own closet for mixing and matching.  I dislike losing a $20 styling fee.  I’m looking at it this way – my favorite places to shop are about 100 miles from my house.  I’d spend money on gas and lunch and take up the better part of an entire day to visit those stores and still might come home empty handed.  So, my next Wantable Style Edit will arrive in August and my next Stitch Fix is scheduled for September.  I’m optimistic that these next two boxes will help me make up my mind once and for all about my future with clothing subscriptions.  I’ll be back.

(Stitch Fix #4 unboxing video can be seen here. and blog post here.)  If YOU are interested in trying Stitch Fix and you use my referral link, I will receive a credit.  My Wantable referral link is here (I’ll receive credit there, too, if you use the link to sign up).  If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.

If you’re getting a clothing subscription box and are having better luck than I am, I’d love any advice you’d care to offer, please.