Disney Cruise Splurge – Chocolate and Liquor Tasting

It took a few tries, but we finally booked the Chocolate and Liquor Tasting on a Disney cruise.  We’d wanted it to do it for a while but the tasting was either sold out or didn’t fit with our other scheduled plans on previous cruises.  This time the stars aligned perfectly and we really looked forward to this tasting experience.  We were not disappointed!

Disney Cruise Splurge – Chocolate and Liquor Tasting

We’re no strangers to the various beverage seminars offered on Disney Cruise Line.  We’ve learned about beer, wine, whisky, mixology, and even martinis (which we never even drink!).  All have been enjoyable, but the Chocolate and Liquor seminar was my all time favorite and I’d do it again in an instant.

What Made this Tasting Special?

Other seminars focused specifically on the various flavors, histories, qualities and origins of the featured beverages.  What’s special about the Chocolate and Liquor seminar is that it’s also about science and taste buds.  Yup…it’s a lot more than booze and candy…who knew?

The food offered isn’t just chocolate.  We also combined Parmesan cheese with various beverages.  Several different types of chocolate.  And cheese.  It was amazing and entertaining and educational all at the same time.

If you have adventurous taste buds, this is the tasting for you!  It’s all about how the various combinations change the taste of each element.  Our host, Denis, was passionate about his subject matter, but also hilarious and made the experience extra fun.  The liquors offered were champagne, Cabernet, port, and whisky.  The chocolates ranged from white to dark – some were pieces and some were melted.  The Parmesan cheese was the kind served from that gigantic wheel of cheese in Palo (if you’ve not been there, we highly recommend both brunch and dinner).  

If I remember correctly, this tasting was $35 per person (September 2018) and we thought the price reasonable for the samples offered, the lessons learned, and the entertainment factor.  There’s a lot of liquor so we recommend eating before attending this seminar!  We had a big brunch just before our tasting and it worked out well.  If you want to try this, book as early as possible and keep your fingers crossed – It’s popular!

Have you tried any of the tastings offered on a Disney cruise? What was your experience like? Would you try the Chocolate and Liquor seminar?

Who Would Love Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts?

Here in Louisiana, festivals are an entertainment staple.  Small towns and big cities alike pride themselves on offering unique experiences and some, like my personal favorite, Abbeville’s Giant Omelet Celebration have a rich history and are quite popular.  For me, there are three essential components that all festivals must do well:  Food, Music, Arts & Crafts.  Epcot’s festivals are no exception to the aforementioned rule and as one might expect, those Disney folks go all out in the three main categories.  In it’s third year, Epcot’s newest addition to the festival lineup proves (for 39 days) that Disney festivals are the best.

Who Would Love Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts?

Epcot's International Festival of the Arts

Let’s talk about the food!  It’s fancy.  13 food studios, spread throughout the park, offer hungry guests delicious and artistic selections.  In 2018 we tried a dish from the American Adventure pavilion and it was as tasty as it was good looking.  Foodies will find plenty of culinary specialties to enjoy.  See the full menu here.

Epcot International Festival of the Arts

What about music?  There’s a concert series and it’s extra special.  Featuring Disney on Broadway stars, the Festival of the Arts’ concerts are uniquely different from those offered during Flower & Garden or Food & Wine.  Take a peek at this year’s lineup and tell me you wouldn’t want to give it a listen.

Epcot International Festival of the Arts

Arts and Crafts…well, maybe just arts.  But it’s awesome Disney art by Disney artists and it’s displayed all over the place.  Last year the weather was awful during our short visit to the festival (we were at WDW dropping Joseph off for the Disney College Program).  We felt cheated that we didn’t have more time and less rain.  We loved checking out all the art styles and wanted to buy something, but time got away from us.  I’m not letting that happen again this year.

Epcot International Festival of the Arts

Okay, so the Festival of the Arts checks off all the necessary boxes, but WAIT there’s MORE!  You can speak with the visiting artists and attend seminars and workshops.  Let’s not forget about Figment’s Brush with the Masters Scavenger Hunt!  (On my must-do list.)  Also, guests can put themselves into famous art classics for excellent and hilarious photo ops. (This year, I hope to pose for photos not wearing a rain jacket!)

Epcot International Festival of the Arts

Our last experience at the Festival of the Arts left us wanting more, so we’ve blocked out lots of time to enjoy all it has to offer. Stay tuned for more about the festivities when we get back.

Have you been to the Festival of the Arts? What did you enjoy the most? Is it on your Disney radar for something you’d like to do one day?

Walt Disney World’s Most Lovable Moments

It’s been ages since I did a Five on Friday…which is weird since I’ve got so much Disney floating around in my head all the time and I love lists. Today for your (hopefully) thought-provoking enjoyment, I’d like to share my thoughts on my five favorites…

Walt Disney World’s Most Lovable Moments

1. Early Morning

For early risers (like me!), dawn and the anticipation of what the day has in store is one of the best vacation moments ever. When we’re at a resort on Bay Lake or Seven Seas Lagoon, the boats’ horns as they start their day and sometimes the sound of the train in Magic Kingdom adds to the excitement. In the early morning’s still and relative peace, knowing what awaits makes those first moments after waking particularly special. On clear days, the sunrise never disappoints. I love to step outside to savor my first cup of coffee and soak it all in.

2. Cast Members at Their Best

Cast Member in Norway Pavilion

It seems like it would be nearly impossible for Walt Disney World to exceed expectations. Let’s face it; the bar is high! But it happens regularly and there’s nothing more magical. On every visit, we manage to find passionate Cast Members adding immeasurable happiness to our vacation. It might be custodians playfully photo-bombing our pictures or mopping the image of a favorite character onto the pavement. Sometimes it’s parade attendants dancing or striking up conversations with us while we wait. Park greeters with extra enthusiasm and a sincere welcome add a certain special something. Then there are those cast members in stores or serving in restaurants who have the uncanny ability to make you feel like the most important guest in the World. I’ve said many times that Cast Members can make or break a Disney vacation. (Here’s what I’d tell them if I could.)

3. The Unexpected Lull

This can happen any time of the day, on any day of the year. Once, Raymond and I rope-dropped Disney’s Hollywood Studios during the week after Christmas and found, to our amazement, we could see and do an amazing number of attractions that morning despite the holiday crowds. If you’ve ever checked My Disney Experience and found crazy-low wait times for some of your favorite attractions, you have discovered the unexpected lull. Sometimes the lull lasts an entire day, sometimes the lull is relative and momentary – like that time in June 2017 right after Pandora opened when Megan and I caught an unbelievably short 90-minute standby line for Flight of Passage. Once, with the parks closing and hurricane Matthew bearing down on us, we snagged a last-minute ADR at California Grill!

4. Disney Surprises

They’re everywhere! Once we were walking to our room at the Grand Floridian and that Cinderella’s gorgeous horse-drawn coach passed right in front of us! It might be seeing a new baby animal in Animal Kingdom or watching a duck and ducklings in Magic Kingdom or Epcot. It could be as simple as finding a previously overlooked or new Hidden Mickey. Unexpected character interactions are always special and often hilarious (like this one). We once just happened along at the right time to enjoy Magic Kingdom’s Flag Retreat for the first time. In the rush to get from attraction to attraction and do as much as possible, I think a lot of guests miss the surprises. They’re there if you look for them and they are awesome.

5. When It’s Time to Go Home

One thing I can say with absolute certainty after nearly three decades of Walt Disney World vacations…We always leave wanting more. With new restaurants, lands, attractions, shows, nighttime spectaculars on the horizon, planning to go back is always on our minds. The fact that I appreciate how convenient and easy it is to check our luggage in for our flight home right at our resort and catch the Magical Express, I’m always a bit sad. No matter how long we stay, I always leave feeling like I needed a little more time. I hope it’s always that way. Planning the next Disney trip, no matter how far away it is, is almost as much fun as going there.

Your turn! What did I miss? What would you consider Walt Disney World’s Most Lovable Moments?

Disney World – January Winter Blues Cure

Nothing beats the post-holiday winter blues like a Walt Disney World vacation! In 2015, 2016, and 2018 we vacationed in February for runDisney’s Princess races. In 2017, we went in April for Star Wars races. This year? We picked January and not for the runDisney events. In fact, our carefully chosen 5-day getaway is (supposedly) during an uncrowded week. Fingers crossed!

Disney World – January Winter Blues Cure

Raymond and I have planned plenty of dining and FastPass+ action (more on that in a second), but we’ve also left extra-generous, unplanned blocks of time for being completely spontaneous. This does not mean we will be wasting this precious Disney time. Oh, no, quite the contrary!

We’ll be staying at the Villas at the Grand Floridian, so we’ll have easy access to the Senses Spa’s fitness center. We like exercising on vacation and, on this trip, we’ll have plenty of time in the morning on most days.

Unplanned time means we can indulge in one of our most favorite Disney vacation activities – Resort Exploration! I’ve mentioned the Resortloop Pub Crawl (highly recommend this!) and enjoying lunch and/or dinner at resorts other than where we’re staying. During these leisurely visits to our favorite resorts, we’ve had some of the best, most memorable vacation experiences. (I think this entire topic deserves its own blog post, so watch for it coming up soon.)

Free time in the parks means we can snack, shop, and people-watch at an unhurried pace. At Disney Springs, we can grab a cocktail and check out the different and varied musical entertainment offered there. Look, we were once among the believers in hard-core, 15+ hour days of non-stop attractions and park-hopping. Our family motto was: We’ll rest when we’re dead. Now we know that a slower pace isn’t any less fun. In fact, we have time to discover previously unnoticed magical details (and more Hidden Mickeys too).

What DO We Have Planned?

Let’s start with food. We’ve booked meals at Narcoossee’s (on the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Grand Floridian and one of our favorite places to end a park day), Rose & Crown (hearty, reliably tasty, and the UK Pavilion is among our favorites in World Showcase), Wine Bar George (new to us in Disney Springs), Yak & Yeti (haven’t eaten at this particular Animal Kingdom gem in too long), Sanaa (the bread service!!!), and The Hollywood Brown Derby (giving it another try after a disappointment).

Now on to the FastPasses. We may not have booked three per day, but quality over quantity was my driving factor. We’re visiting Magic Kingdom a couple of times and locked in Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Haunted Mansion, and Space Mountain. The absence of Splash Mountain may seem like a glaring omission, but January weather is often unpredictable and we don’t want to be soaked and freezing.

In Epcot, we snagged Frozen and Spaceship Earth, choosing to spend most of our Epcot time enjoying the Festival of the Arts rather than attractions. In Animal Kingdom, we’ve got Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, and Flight of Passage. Finally, we went a little crazy with the Studios and over a couple of visits managed to book Toy Story Midway Mania, Tower of Terror (x2), Rock’n’ Roller Coaster (x2), and Slinky Dog Dash. If park attendance is low-ish (as predicted), we should be able to fit in plenty of other attractions everywhere as we please.

Now that you know what we have planned and unplanned, what do you think? What restaurants and attractions or activities would you have chosen differently? If you’ve been to Wine Bar George, we would love some recommendations!