Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Nautical Disney Adventure - Day Four

Rainy, rainy, rain.  Broken record, right?  The skies hadn't closed up yet and dried us off so we decided to tackle a wet Magic Kingdom.  We made it to the gates in enough time to see opening and start a slippery walk to Space Mountain.  We stood outside for about five minutes before the ride officially opened and we could walk through the queue.  Space Mountain is always so exciting to me because I can't remember where the turns are and I actually feel like it's pretty thrilling.  The downside... I get beat up to no end.  It's a win/lose game.

After walking out of Space Mountain we immediately noticed something was off in Tomorrowland.  There were no guests, just cast members.  We started to walk to the restrooms only to make it a few steps and be stopped by a cast member telling us that Tomorrowland is closed until further notice.  We couldn't access the hub through Tomorrowland so they were pushing everyone out of the area and into Fantasyland.  About 30 seconds later we noticed a handful of firefighters pointing up towards the Astro Orbiter and/or the PeopleMover.  We tried to look around while we were being rushed out but we couldn't see anything interesting.  As we crossed past The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the big construction walls opened up and a few fire trucks came out!  It was all so exciting!  I hurried and got out my digital camera in the rain because I couldn't miss capturing the action for my blog.

We changed our plan of attack and just went on some of the Fantasyland rides before the lines got too long.  This was a smart idea because every single time we got off of one attraction, the posted time would be higher.  Haunted Mansion was excitedly up next!  Barbara and Ben were most stoked about Haunted Mansion and it turned out to be a ride that we'd repeat over and over throughout the day.

Columbia Harbour House opened up at 11 a.m. and we were right there for it.  Ben got the shrimp meal, Matt and Barbara got the tuna sandwich, and I ordered the new lobster roll.  Everyone felt like you got a lot of food for the price of one counter service credit.  The lobster roll was good but I'm not sure that it was as great as the Lighthouse Sandwich which is what I usually get.  Everyone else loved their entrees and their dessert as well.  We sat at a table on the bridge/walkway crossing and noticed that when we were done eating, the rain was done pouring!  This called for a trip to Frontierland.  We grabbed FastPasses for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and then hit up Splash Mountain before the rain kicked in again.  I don't know if I get as excited to ride any attraction like I do with Splash Mountain.  I think next time I'm going to see how many times in one day I can ride it.  Sounds like a crazy awesome plan.

The gang decided to go into Adventureland and go on Pirates of the Caribbean.  Without fail, some idiot in the boat ahead of us was taking pictures.  Just one I want a solo trip on this attraction with no flash photography that blinds me or ruins the effects!  *off soap box*  I convinced everyone that we need to see the new Enchanted Tiki Room.  Everyone thought it sounded dopey but I just had to go see the "new/old" renovations.  I gotta say... it was still lame.  Haha.  Sorry, Walt and the awesome Imagineers that spent a lot of time working on this attraction.  We left and my friends turned toward me and said, "Yeah, Stacey!  That was worth it!  NOT!"  Ha!!  Oh well, provided us a good laugh at least.

Our Big Thunder Mountain Railroad FastPass return time was up so we rode that and then headed back into Adventureland for a very special event.  Barbara's first dole whip float.  Many pictures to commemorate this happy moment.

We found out that the big drama in Tomorrowland was!  Some wires caught fire or something on the Astro Orbiter and it wasn't a big deal but they had to evacuate the area to make sure all was well.  Tomorrowland opened back up in the afternoon so we finished up Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and then called it good.  We left the park via the monorail and headed over to the Polynesian to walk around and show Barbara and Ben where we got to stay last year when I won a trip through Orbitz.  The grounds are so lush and tropical at the Poly.  I feel like I'm transported somewhere else all together.  And with a quick monorail ride I somehow ended up at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.  We were about a half hour early for a our reservation time (or so I thought) but we checked into 1900 Park Fare early at about 5 p.m. anyway because the boys were tired and getting cranky.

The gal that checked us in was super enthusiastic that I was going to be eating a vegan meal.  She started talking about Chef TJ and raving of his culinary abilities.  I already knew all this so I just let her go on about him to her hearts content.  Chef TJ is my bud.  We go way back.  About 2 years back to when he worked at 'Ohana.

The "family photo" in front of the cheesy backdrop at 1900 Park Fare was so awkward but we definitely participated.  My group was seated in the back room, away from the buffet and entertainment.  That didn't bother me so much because it seemed less chaotic there.  People poured in quickly and filled up the tables.  Our waitress was really attentive and fast so our drink orders came rather quickly.  Barbara was feeling a bit (or an insane amount) awkward so she ordered alcohol right away and downed it embarrassingly fast.  The boys got pop and I enjoyed a margarita.  I'd like to point out that the woman that checked us in (Chef TJ's BFF) noted something rather funny on our parties ticket.

It took a little while for Chef TJ to come over and chat with me.  He was really busy with food allergies all over.  I told him as long as there isn't any mushroom on my plate then we're good.  Chef TJ showed me around what was meat free on the buffet while Barbara, Ben, and Matt got their plates filled up.  I took some soup, a little salad, and some veggies.  It was all really good and I shouldn't have gotten that because I ate a lot of it.  I knew Chef TJ had a lot to bring out to me but I had a hard time being patient.

Let's take a look at Barbara's plate.  Since she started at the kid's buffet table, she got the Mickey plate, not knowing that there were regular round plates for adults.  This provided me a good laugh when I got back to the table.  Barbara's favorite foods included the Caprese Salad and Strawberry Soup.  She also got a free cupcake for her birthday!

Ben's favorites were the Salmon (which he actually said was exceptional) and the Caesar Salad.

Matt's plate is the most chaotic of them all.  A love of macaroni and cheese and pizza led him to the kid's buffet as well.  He also really liked the Caprese Salad and Caesar Salad.

Shortly, Chef TJ appeared in front of me with what could only be described as a masterpiece creation.  Vegan spring rolls and homemade chips with hummus.  I couldn't stop myself once I started devouring this.  I just kept repeating, "This is sooooo good!"  I knew I should stop because more would be coming but it was so difficult!  Even Barbara flipped out and said she wished she'd said she was vegan so she could enjoy Chef TJ's food.

Next up for me was my favorite part of the meal... grilled romaine with a tasty horseradish sauce and pistachios.  It's worth mentioning that I hate horseradish.  This was so different, though!  It had a kick to it and I'm pretty sure had some type of drug that made me keep eating.  My stomach was filling up quickly and I began to wonder if Chef TJ had an entree for me or if he was considering this my entree.  I wanted to try more but my tummy was hurting!

Of course, there was more food from my main man TJ.  A HUGE plate of tofu and veggies.  While I was trying to make a dent in this, my friends were all done eating their dessert.  Even though I was totally full, the word dessert was music to my ears and Chef TJ had told me to hang tight because he was bringing me something good.

Out came a tower of fruit, sorbet, and vegan ice cream held together with a long wooden spear.  He whipped out a bottle of Hershey's chocolate syrup and went to town!  I thanked Chef TJ up and down for all of his hard work and got a quick picture with him.  I might love him a little.  Though, my stomach still hates him a little for the delicious torture.

Now to touch on the characters of this meal.  Prince Charming was incredibly thin but charming.  Cinderella was beautiful but too quiet.  The step-sisters were a hit and even Barbara, incredibly weirded out by all characters, chatted it up with them.  I even got her to take a picture with one of them!  Lady Tremaine was the same that I'd met a year prior at the Magic Kingdom.  She was good but a little young for the part.

We noticed that the waitstaff and bus boys (an older gentleman in particular) were OUTSTANDING!  They were all so quick and polite.  We all couldn't stop watching this older guy haul tail and stack plates and cups in seconds flat.  Truly, we were impressed.

Ben, Barbara, Matt, and myself all got on the monorail and headed back to the Magic Kingdom for some nighttime fun.  We pretty much got a seat right away on Main Street U.S.A. and saved each others seats while we went to the restroom and looked around in shops to pass time.  Main Street Electrical Parade was a good time for all of us.  I think after seeing both that and SpectroMagic, I like Spectro a little better.  Maybe it's just because it reminds me of my first trip to Walt Disney World but I sort of miss the scary clown people and the dancing fireflies.

We wanted to go down to the tables out in front of The Plaza to get a good view of the castle's entertainment but everything was roped off so we headed up right beside the Wishes Dessert Party and enjoyed their good view.  I LOVED LOVED LOVED watching The Magic, The Memories, and You.  What sucked was that we couldn't actually make out any of the pictures on the castle to see if we were on any of them but the special effects were still super cool.  While we loved Wishes and it's cheesy, emotional glory, we were bummed that Tinkerbell didn't fly that night.

To make ourselves feel better after missing Tink, we thought a ride on Mad Tea Party would lift our spirits.  Crammed into one teacup, the girls instructed the boys to NOT spin the cup.  Well, they didn't listen which resulted in hysterical laughter and near vomiting.

We headed over to ride Haunted Mansion a couple of times.  The line was a walk on so we took advantage of it.  Next up was Fantasyland where we got on a boat ride through the land of children in "it's a small world."  About half way through I must have dozed off and Ben noticed.  Suddenly I felt a finger halfway up my nose.  I jumped and gasped loudly.  Almost everyone in the boat turned and looked at me.  My gang couldn't stop laughing along with a woman in front of us.  Glad I could provide entertainment via embarrassment.

That wasn't the last time I'd embarrass myself for the night.  In Mickey's PhilharMagic, we just got seated when something funny was said or happened and I laughed so hard I snorted loudly.  The 30 something guy next to me could not stop laughing.  His wife asked him what was so funny and he said, "The girl next to me just snorted."  Oy.

Matt got his one wish for the whole day.... to ride Jungle Cruise.  I pretty much find this ride boring and repetitive.  It is safe to say that while the ride is incredibly meh, it's much better at night than during the day.  I don't think Barbara and Ben were that impressed with Matt's beloved attraction.  Glad I could prove a point.

Our night was over and we headed back to Caribbean Beach Resort for the night.  Our last full day at Epcot was ahead of us and we had to be well rested!

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Nautical Disney Adventure - Day Three - Part Two

Friends.  Check.  Disney.  Check.  Ponchos.  Check.

The downpour that we'd been experiencing hadn't stopped but we pressed on with the night to celebrate Barbara's 24th birthday at Downtown Disney.  We waited a little while for a bus.  That didn't surprise me at all since all bus transportation to Downtown Disney blows chunks.  Once the packed bus made it to Marketplace, we got off at the bus stop and saw a sea of people waiting for busses.  Again, no surprise.  

The Christmas store was our first stop and we spent quite a bit of time in there having fun and looking around.  I pretty much saw it as an opportunity to take pictures with my cool new camera.  I found an ornament that I wanted so badly but with a $50 price tag I had to walk away.

Ponchos back on, we made our move to Goofy Candy Co.  I had never been inside and wanted to look around at all of the cool treats.  The horrible weather made the candy store packed so I couldn't really take any pictures.  We didn't purchase anything... just looked around.  We did get a craving though so we headed for BabyCakes NYC.  I have a serious obsession with BabyCakes and I'm so glad that it exists.  Barbara and I bought some brownie bites, donuts, and toasties for breakfast the next morning.  I was super happy that Barbara didn't buy any cupcakes because she had a special BabyCakes surprise coming to her that very night!

It was about a half hour before our reservation at Raglan Road but the rain caused us to have no desire to shop so we decided to check in early to dinner.  It was totally nuts in there when I checked us in because so many people had the same idea as us.  I told them we were celebrating a birthday and would like to be seated as close to the entertainment as possible.  I was told it'd be a while and that was okay with us.  We hung out in the adjoining gift shop for a while and eventually we were seated.

Our table was RIGHT in between the band's stage and the dancers' stage.  Best seat of the house.  Our waiter promptly came over and right away we liked him.  He had this... way about him.  He was chill, yet attentive.  I could really tell he was listening to us and cared about serving us.  Our drink orders came quickly which rocked because we were ready for some alcohol.  I got one of the infamous beer flights in Walt Disney World, the Four Provinces.  This consisted of Swithwicks, Harp, Guinness, and Kilkenny.  While all were delicious, Kilkenny won me over.  Funnily enough, both Ben and Matt ordered that as well and loved it.  Matt and Ben both had two more throughout the night and I ordered one after my flight was finished.  Barbara's drink was on the speciality menu but I was too busy drinking my beer to write the name of it down.  So, just know... it was yellow and it was so good she ordered another.

We placed our entree orders and enjoyed the awesome Irish band play.  A couple got married that night and had their celebration dinner at Raglan Road.  The band invited the sweet couple up on stage for their first dance.  While the moment was beautiful, Barbara (a bridal consultant) and I couldn't help but notice how God awful this woman's bustle was.  Also, the Irish dancer dude looked a lot like some celebrity but I couldn't figure out who.  Someone please help.

Entree time!  Here is Ben's medium rare 10 oz. steak.  Ben said the following about his steak, " of the best ever."  There you have it.  Everything paired perfectly with the steak and it turned out to be a fantastic meal.

Mussels.  A crock 'o' mussels.  I'm salivating now just looking at the picture of my meal.  I can't even explain how perfect this was.  I was actually stunned.  The broth, the leeks, the bread soaked in the delicious broth.  I can't talk about it anymore... I'm starting to have a craving.  Excuse me.

Matt and Barbara both flipped out over the fish and chips that they ordered.  They said the tartar sauce was so out of this world.  Barbara got some ranch dressing to dip her fries in only she got this amazing ranch which was unexpected.  I love that standard fish and chips was amped up and made a really delicious meal.

After dinner, as I was ordering another beer, I asked the waiter (without Barbara hearing) if the cake was in the back for us from BabyCakes.  He knew exactly what I was talking about and told me just to give him a sign when I wanted him to bring it out.  He asked if I wanted candles in it and of course I accepted that offer.  I just figured we could do without the candles and it'd be no big deal.  About ten minutes later, he came walking out with this beautiful purple and pink cake.  Following him was another waiter with a plate of miniature cookie sandwiches straight from BabyCakes NYC!  Gah!  I was so excited!  We were already so full but HAD to dig into this masterpiece!  I placed an order ahead of time with BabyCakes for an 8 inch, Blondie birthday cake with vanilla frosting.  All four of us could not believe how amazing it was.  Even Ben, super meat eater, said it was one of the best cakes he'd ever tasted.

Our waiter came by the table and assumed we didn't want the dessert that came with the Disney Dining Plan.  Matt said, "Oh, yeah we're good."  I did not stand for this.  We paid for that dessert and we were going to get it so I could review it.  I got our waiters attention and Matt corrected himself and said we would like to order dessert.  The boys got the Strawberry and Apple Crumble.  Super delicious.  Barbara got the Bailey's Brule Tart which she said reminded her more of cheesecake instead of creme brulee.  I thought it looked that way as well.  She said it was really tasty though.  I only get one dessert when I'm at Raglan Road... the Bread and Butter Pudding.  Oh sweet heavenly angels... this was great.  I could only take three bites before I felt my stomach come dangerously close to exploding.

Above is the massacre of desserts.  Feast your eyes on this table overflowing with sugary goodness.

Our waiter boxed up the leftover cake and cookies for us.  This became our breakfast and snack for the rest of the vacation.  We're not ashamed and never will be.

We crashed so hard after we got to the room.  Exhaustion from such a fun and rainy day.  Best birthday in WDW ever?  I think so.