Jolly Holidays Tuesday

Tonight is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, so we’re going to try to take the morning easy.  We get up when we’re ready – which for me means by 6:30, and the rest of the crew by about 8:30.  I offer the kids breakfast now, pool later or reverse, and of course, they are kids.  They want to go to the pool NOW.  The AKL pool is so nice.  It’s a zero entry pool, which means you don’t climb down steps, you go in like you do at the beach, and the water gradually gets deeper.  It’s also HEATED – YAY!!!  The air temperature is still a bit cool – low 70’s – but the water feels pretty good and the kids go right in.  The water slide is closed, since there are no life guards on duty yet, but I don’t think the kids would use the slide anyway.  We hang out at the pool about an hour and a half, and the girls have worked up an appetite for some breakfast.  We head on up to the room, and I throw breakfast together while Jim puts the kids in the shower, then while they eat, I hop in the shower.  We are going to head to Downtown Disney to get Granuaile’s silhouette done.  I have one of each of the other girls at age 2, so it’s her turn.

 We arrive to find out that the silhouette booth won’t be open for another 20 minutes, so we go into the World of Disney to do a little shopping.  The check out line is pretty long, so Jim ends up taking Granuaile over to the silhouette stand and Eilis and I check out with our purchases.  Because we spent $50, we also picked up an adorable snowman throw blanket for only $10 more!  A great addition to the holiday decorations at our house!

With Granuaile’s silhouette in hand, we take a ride back to the hotel for Jim to take a call for work and for us to eat lunch and change for the party.  We are out the door by about 4:30 to head to Magic Kingdom, and that puts us there just in time to see the transformation of Cinderella’s castle!  Oh my gosh – it’s so beautiful!

We have a dinner reservation at Liberty Tree Tavern.  Uh oh.  Something got stuck.  I’m not really sure what it’s called, but stuck is what it feels like.  It’s when I eat something that seems to stick somewhere in my upper chest region.  I feel lumpy there, and I feel like I should throw up but often can’t.  It’s such an uncomfortable feeling, and I end up making 3 trips to the bathroom, praying to be able to throw up or for the walking to help it move down.  Finally, it did move, and I felt better.  I also got great pictures of the kids with the characters, so that made the meal worth it, despite not being able to eat much.  And, as a bonus, they only charged me a kid’s price!

The party is wonderful!  I love the special events at Disney World.  The party was sold out, but there didn’t seem to be lines for anything.  The kids rode a few rides, we saw a fantastic Christmas parade, the fireworks were amazing.  This year, in addition to giving guests hot chocolate and sugar cookies, you could also select apple juice and apple slices – they were a huge hit with my kids.

We ended up staying at the park until just past 11 o’clock.  Tomorrow will be a long day at EPCOT, and I know the girls will be tired.  They are back at the hotel and in bed around 11:45, but both of them fell asleep in the car on the way home.  That will certainly help in the morning 🙂

Jolly Holidays Monday

You know when you plan the perfect vacation, and everything is falling into place, and you can’t wait to get started, watching the kids enjoy themselves and then you start to relax and enjoy yourself?  Yeah.  Ain’t happenin’.  This is a Skamarakas family trip – did you expect the Brady Bunch?

I woke up early this morning – what else is new? – and went to the bathroom before waking Jim and asking him if he wanted to get up early with me, eat breakfast out on the balcony watching the animals before the kids got up.  He reluctantly agreed.  I quickly made breakfast for Jim, grabbed a protein bar for myself, and sat outside.  Then had to go to the bathroom.  Then ran back outside.  Then had to go to the bathroom.  Yes, ladies, you might recognize this as a symptom of a urinary tract infection.  I drink a gallon of water – give or take an ounce – and hope for the best.  The plan is to go to SeaWorld, then hit Walmart for a few things I didn’t know I needed – cranberry juice and Azo tablets – and to pick up a bag of groceries that never made it into our shopping cart yesterday.  We also left a bunch of stuff at Jim’s mom’s house, but I realize how low in importance it is when the pain from the UTI kicks in. 

We get the kids up, dressed, and fed, and we are on our way to SeaWorld.  The gallon of water is helping minimally, and I am in such great discomfort walking around SeaWorld that by 1 o’clock, I really can’t stand it anymore.  We decide to head out of the park and grab some lunch and then hit Walmart for the stuff we need.  Not sure where we want to eat, Jim starts heading down International Drive from SeaWorld, and we figure we’ll find some place we’ve never eaten to try, and then we pass Cafe TuTu Tango.  This was one of our favorite places when we lived in Orlando, but we haven’t been here in years.  If you have never been, this is a tapas style restaurant – basically, a menu full of appetizers.  It’s perfect for someone who has had gastric bypass surgery!  We choose a few things we think the kids will enjoy – steamed dumplings, chicken pizza, scallops, hummus and chips, and black bean soup.  It really makes a full meal for everyone at the table, and the girls are given pictures to color of Backyardigans characters – Granuaile’s favorite.  Another of the neat things about TuTu Tango is that they display the works of local artists all over the walls, and when the girls are done their pictures, the waitress brings them tape so they can add their art to the beautiful displays.  Eilis puts a price tag of $2 on hers – a bargain at twice the price.

Bordering on agony, I am finally on my way to Walmart.  I grab a six pack of diet cranberry juice and the box of Azo, a nightgown, since I forgot to pack one, and we get the groceries that we left behind the day before.  I pick up a rotisserie chicken for dinner, and we are on our way back to the hotel.  Tonight in the lobby there is a craft set up.  The kids can pay $5 and make a Christmas ornament using dyed broken ostrich egg shells.  We pay for Eilis to do one – the money goes to animal conservation – and she happily sets about making a blue giraffe, which, of course, is exquisite 🙂  They give her a button which says she has helped with animal conservation, and we head up to the room for dinner.  The Azo is kicking in THANK YOU MAKERS OF AZO!!, and I am finally feeling a little bit better.  I take the girls downstairs and at the gift shop, they are getting ready to hold a parade.  The kids get to choose an instrument from the shop, and they parade around the immense lobby of Animal Kingdom Lodge singing, “We are in Africa!” over and over again.  It’s so much fun for the kids, they want to do it every night of the vacation!

We head back upstairs, have a bedtime snack of cookies and milk (thank you, Jim, for the nice cookies you picked up for the kids – they loved them as much as you do), and head off to bed.  No rush to get out tomorrow, since the plan is just to go to Magic Kingdom for the Very Merry Christmas Party.

Jolly Holidays, Sunday

I am up way too early.  My internal alarm clock seems permanently set on 6 something in the morning, and I don’t know how to break the habit!  I may have to find out during Christmas break!

I get up, and quietly start to pack our stuff.  At some point, Jim wakes up, and he starts getting himself ready.  When the girls get up, so as not to disturb anyone, I give them cereal and juice, and then I start to get them ready to go.  At that point, Dot and Russ wake up, and the kids decide they need “second breakfast” – a hot and delicious eggs and bacon, which certainly makes them forget the cereal they have already eaten. 

We take our time, load up the car, and we all head to CiCi’s Pizza for lunch. When lunch is over, we head to our hotel – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  This is our first trip “home” as Animal Kingdom DVC owners.  We checked in and found our room was not ready, so we headed over to do the grocery shopping.  The thing I like best about the villas at DVC is the kitchen and laundry facilities in your room.  It’s a great money saver to have the ability to make some meals – especially breakfast – and to keep snacks and drinks handy.  And going home with all clean clothes is AWESOME!  We hit Walmart and do our shopping, picking up more than we need of everything (come on, who doesn’t do that at Walmart?).  By then, we can check into our villa.

I had booked a 2 bedroom, working on the assumption that my mom would be coming with us.  She doesn’t feel up to it, and we have a ton of room.  The thing is, this is a lock off – meaning it’s really a 1 bedroom and a studio that are opened up at the connecting door to make it a 2 bedroom.  I feel a little cheated here, because I have tried to change our reservation to a 1 bedroom several times, only to be told they are not available.  They could have made another family happy by closing this unit off. 

This is, as I said, our first trip to AKL villas, and they are GORGEOUS!  The counter tops are all granite, and the color scheme is very earthy.  The CM who brought up our luggage tells us that AKL is now the largest African museum in America, and every piece in the unit is authentic – from the carved wood headboard and armoire to the art work.  I love how they incorporated things from The Lion King – my all time favorite Disney movie.  The room is just beautiful.

We have a nice dinner – Granuaile’s favorite – hot dogs.  And then we sit on the balcony and watch the animals.  We also have a great view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks, and we watch them each night that we are in the room.  We headed to the gift shop and rented a couple of movies, and Granuaile falls asleep early.  We’re visiting SeaWorld tomorrow, so we’re trying to be well rested.  The rest of us head to bed about 11 with no plan to rush getting up in the morning.  They’re saying the weather will be beautiful all week.  I can’t wait!

EPCOT Candlelight Processional

If you are spending any part of your holiday season in Disney World, this is a not to be missed event that will have you wishing you could come back to Disney every year at Christmas time.  This is a very popular, celebrity hosted event, and there are two ways to get in to see it.  Anyone who purchases a ticket (any ticket – annual pass, seasonal pass, park hopper, single day ticket) into EPCOT center, can go to see one of the three nightly performances that takes place from the day after Thanksgiving up until the day before New Year’s Eve.  There is no extra charge to go and see this spectacular holiday event.  HOWEVER…

Disney sells what are called Candlelight Processional Dining Packages.  These packages include your dinner at one of the participating restaurants and reserved general seating for one of the three shows.  The packages are sold at three different price levels, depending on the restaurant you choose.  For example, Tier I is about $30 per adult (not including tax or gratuity), and you are limited to the Garden Grill restaurant or the Biergarten.  Tier II is about $39, and includes restaurants like the San Angel Inn and the Rose and Crown Pub.  Tier III, the most expensive at about $46 per adult, includes the most restaurants.  With that package, you can dine at Chefs de France, the Coral Reef, and Le Cellier, and a few others.  The meal includes an appetizer, an entree and a dessert.  Alcoholic beverages are not included, and park admission is still required – this price does not include your admission to EPCOT. 

With the package, you will be able to enter the American Gardens theater, and everyone who has purchased a package is escorted in first.  There are no reserved seats, just the guarantee that you will have a seat in the theater.  As the line of package purchasers begins to dwindle, they then allow those people who have not purchased packages to file in to the theater.  People line up at least 30 minutes prior to the start of each show to get standby seating, and closer to Christmas, I have seen people waiting an hour or more.  You are NOT guaranteed a seat if you do not purchase the dinner package.  If you have your heart set on seeing a particular celebrity perform this event, I HIGHLY recommend the package.

The show itself is a 150 member choir, providing the music that weaves together a retelling of the story of Christmas.  The story is told by a celebrity narrator, and in the past, the narrators have included Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump, CSI:NY); James Caviezel (Passion of the Christ); Rita Moreno (Broadway); and other stars of stage, screen, TV and music.  The music is beautiful, the story is, of course, beautiful, and the experience is one of the best for your money at Disney World. 

If you plan on doing a dinner package, book it as soon as possible once the packages are available.  They do sell out, as the restaurants book up quickly.  You DO need to make an advanced dining reservation when you purchase the package.

And look for the CD of the Candlelight Processional when you leave.  We find ourselves listening to it at all times of the year!

EPCOT Irish Dancers

Anna is an expert on what goes on at Disney – she is the Anna in DIsney Anna. And as a mom of a champion irish dancer, she was answering and participating in many discussions around DIsney and Irish Dancing

Yahoo! Groups : IrishDancing Messages :707-736 of 960723, Re: Digest Number 176, Anna Skamarakas, Wed 5/3/2000 … Anna Skamarakas,
Thu 5/4/2000. 732, Re: Epcot Dancers, Andrea Willoughby, Fri 5/5/2000 …
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/IrishDancing/messages/707 – View old version on the Internet Archive

Disney Magic review

Name: Anna Skamarakas
Email: jims@msn.com
Age: 33
Occupation: Stay at Home Mom
NumberOfCruises: 1
TravelAgent: No
Ship: Disney-Magic
SailingDate: July 30th, 1998
Itinerary: 5 day Maiden Boyage to Nassau and Castaway Cay
FoodDiningRoom: 90
CruiseDirector: 0
CabinComfort: 90
FoodRoomService: 50
CruiseStaff: 95
CabinAmenities: 90
FoodLidoDeck: 50
DiningRoomService: 95
CabinQuietness: 80
FoodMidnightBuffets:
CabinSteward: 80
ShoreExcVariety: 50
FoodVariety: 75
DeckService: 0
ShoreExcValue: 50
GoodForHoneymoon: 75
CasinoStaff:
PrivateIsland: 95
GoodForFamilies: 80
LoungeService: 25
TenderService:
GoodForSeniors: 65
BeautySalonStaff:
EntertainmentLounges: 80
WheelchairAccess: 25
ExerciseFacilities:
EntertShowLounge: 85
OverallPortsofCall: 80
BeautySalon:
EntertainmentPoolside:
CruiseActivities: 70
Casino:
AirSeaProgram:
MedicalFacilities: 90
ShipCleanliness: 90
EmbarkDisembark: 20
DiscoNightclubs: 85
DeckSpace: 90
Stabilization: 95
ShopsOnBoard: 80
SpaceRatio: 90
OverallCruiseValue: 50
Submit: Submit Review
Date: 04 Aug 1998
Time: 22:11:39
Remote Name: 153.35.28.178
Remote User:

Comments

We had high expectations, as this was our first cruise and the maiden voyage for a company that is reknowned for customer service. The ship was
beautiful, very nostalgic and very clean. Our stateroom would have comfortably accomodated a family of four or five. It had a beautiful verandah, which
we thought was quite unique. There was no midnight buffet, something we had been told not to miss by friends who had been on cruises before. Instead,
at around 11:45 PM, snacks were passed through the lounges on trays by waiters – one pass per room. That was very disappointing.

There are four
dining rooms, one of which is for adults only and requires reservations and a $5 service charge. Within the first hour of boarding, this restaurant was
completely booked, leaving ourselves and many other guests disappointed again. The other dining rooms were all lovely, and the food was delicious
(although the waiters themselves apologized a few times for the small portions). The ice cream parlor was open only for about 2 hours in the afternoon,
as was the hot dog/hamburger stand. You could get pizza until 1 AM, but the room service menu was extremely limited. Children are well taken care of
with the Oceaneer’s Club. They have planned activities for children over the age of 3. Our 6 year old daughter loved it.

Adults, however, had little to do
during the day other than read, hang out at the pool, or watch television. The ship board movie theatre showed two movies daily, both of which were
animated Disney features or one Disney cartoon and one second run movie. There was a nightclub area called Beat Street, which offered a jazz club,
country and western music, and a comedy club. There were only two shops on board, aside from the counter where you could buy liquor and cigars.

Both shops were lovely, but the wait time to check out with purchases exceeded an hour and a half. Our handicapped mother was also on board. She
had great difficulty getting on and off the ship, and without the aid of a wheel chair, she tired easily going to and from areas of the ship. With a wheel
chair, it was extremely tight fitting into the elevators and hallways. Disney has a number of bugs to work out, not the least of which are checking the
plumbing and air conditioning systems. There were a number of stateroom bathrooms not working, and several of the rest rooms in the common areas
were closed from the first day on. Also, we had to pour butter into our rolls one night because there was no air conditioning in the dining room, and it
took 3 of the 5 days for our stateroom air conditioner to work properly.