Thursday, 29 June 2017

My 2017 Disney character meets

Even though I love going to Walt Disney World with all my heart, I'm not very good at one of the main Disney trip staples - character meets.

As soon as I get to the front of the character interaction queue, I get all shy and awkward (even more so than usual) and never really know what I'm supposed to do. Do they want me to talk to them, even if they can't talk back? Should I go in for a hug? How long should I stand there with them? What should I do with my bag and should I take my sunglasses off? Will they think it's a weird that a woman in her 30s wants a photo with them on her own? Yes, I do overthink the simplest of things.

However, despite my reservations in this area, I always make sure I meet a few special characters for those all-important photo opportunities. I thought I'd share this year's character meets on my blog... all three of them!

First of all, I absolutely have to meet Pluto on every trip as he's my favourite Disney character of all time. This year, I'd even ordered a pair of custom-made Pluto ears from Closet Geek Site beforehand so I made sure I wore them to Epcot on our second full day in preparation for our reunion. He got adorably excited about the ears... I love him. 

Next up was a new character for this year - Baymax! Big Hero 6 is one of my favourite modern Disney films and I'm still amazed that the animators managed to make two circles and a line look so cute. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get my photo taken with my favourite healthcare companion, and I must admit that getting wrapped up in a squidgy Baymax hug was very comforting. Thankfully (mostly for his sake rather than mine), he was stationed in an air-conditioned room!

Lastly, I took the opportunity to meet one more new character for 2017. When I saw that Olaf was meeting guests in Hollywood Studios and the wait time wasn't ridiculous, I just had to join the queue. I needn't have worried about character interaction on this occasion as it was very much a 'get in, pose for one photo, get out' policy. As I'm sure you can imagine, Olaf is a very popular character attraction! I'd already exhausted all my character meet social skills by this point as I'd met Baymax on the same day, so I wasn't disappointed by the brevity of this visit. 

Although most die-hard fans probably meet more than three characters in an hour on their typical Disney trip, I'm pretty pleased with my total considering my slight phobia of character meets! Do you have any 'must meet' characters on your Disney trips? 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Five things I've learnt about Lush

After posting four food-tastic blog posts since I got back from Walt Disney World last month (read the latest one here), I thought it was time for a change of topic this week.

I know I'm hideously late to the party, but I've become a very speedy Lush convert/addict over the last six months after deciding to find out what the Snow Fairy fuss was all about. Since that first plunge into the wonderful world of Lush, I've learnt lots of things which surprised me.

1. Snow Fairy IS worth the hype

I've become accustomed to people shrieking about Snow Fairy over on Twitter and Instagram over the last few years, so last year I decided to try it for myself to find out if it was really that good. I now regret buying such a tiny bottle! It really does live up to all the hype and I can't wait for it to be released again in October/November. I'll definitely be picking up a bigger bottle as well as a few other products from the Snow Fairy range. As an aside, I'm currently using The Comforter shower cream which is nearly as good (but not quite)!

2. Bubble bars are just as good as bath bombs

I used to think Lush was all about bath bombs and little else. I was wrong! I've tried quite a few bubble bars (The Comforter, Unicorn Horn, Pop in the Bath and Brightside) and I actually enjoy using them just as much as I enjoy a good bath bomb. They're better value for money as one bubble bar can be used four or five times, the ones I've tried so far all smell amazing, and who doesn't love a bath full of shimmery bubbles? 

3. Lush is about so much more than bath products

As I've already stated above, I used to think Lush was just a bath bomb shop with a few other bath products thrown in. It turns out I was very wrong on that one! As well as the shower gels I've already mentioned, Lush sells a wide range of products from lip scrubs to shampoo bars to toothy tabs to face masks. Two of my favourite products so far are the Rub Rub Rub shower scrub and the Silky Underwear dusting powder, and Lush's hair products are next on my 'need to try' list. Once you start trying a few different products from Lush, I can guarantee that you won't be able to stop. 

4. Absolutely everything is instagrammable

It's no secret that I love all things instagrammable, and most Lush products definitely tick that box! Whether I'm updating my Instagram story or adding an image of a new product to my feed, I'm always guaranteed excellent content from Lush. Even the packaging is aesthetically pleasing, and so strikingly branded. The only downside is that my photos never capture the glittery sheen produced by lots of bath bombs and bubble bars!

5. I want to make friends with every staff member

Before I went in to a Lush store voluntarily for the first time, I always thought they were intimidating and stressful. I couldn't have been more wrong! All the staff at the Cardiff store are incredibly welcoming and I honestly want to ask them all to be my friends. However busy they might be, a staff member will always ask you almost straight away if you need any help. The first time I went in to Lush and was clearly completely clueless, a lovely staff member went through lots of products with me and recommended a few things for me to try based on my preferences. Her choices were obviously spot on because I keep going back! This sounds ridiculously corny, but a visit to Lush really does brighten up my day (as well as my Instagram feed). Also, if you haven't visited the new Cardiff store yet, you really really need to. 

What are your favourite products from Lush? Do you have any recommendations to share with me? 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Dining in style at Walt Disney World

Last week, I blogged about some of the table service restaurants we visited while we were on holiday last month. This week, as promised, I'm going to focus on signature restaurants.

As I explained in my last post, signature restaurants are worth two credits each per person on the Disney Dining Plan as they're generally in a prestigious location and on the pricey side. These restaurants are all very deserving of their 'signature' tag and provide a dining experience like no other.

We used our Disney Dining Plan credits on the first three restaurants I've featured - Narcoossee's, Citricos and The Yachtsman. Although Morimoto Asia is classed as a signature restaurant, the food isn't hugely expensive which means it feels like a waste of credits, so we paid for that meal out of our spending money. And, last but not least, you can't use the dining plan in Shula's Steak House but it would definitely be a signature restaurant if you could!

Just like in the standard table service restaurants, you can order a soft drink, main course and dessert with your dining plan credits. You then need to pay for the service charge, alcoholic drinks, starters and sides. I love it that the Disney Dining Plan gives you the option to visit these amazing restaurants in such an affordable way!

Get ready for some serious food envy...

Narcoossee's, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

This is one of my favourite restaurants in the world due to its amazing location and lovely food and drinks. I had a Mango Mojito, Black Angus New York strip steak, and the strawberry shortcake for dessert. We stood outside on the balcony to watch the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom in between our main course and dessert... a definite perk of this restaurant! At roughly $150 for two people, it's well worth using the Disney Dining Plan.  

Citricos, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa 

This was the first time we'd visited Citricos and it was one of our favourite meals of the holiday. There was a lovely atmosphere in the restaurant with a beautiful view of the Grand Floridian, and the food was really delicious. I drank a Solerno Prosecco cocktail and chose the oak-grilled beef filet for my main course. I ordered the lemon-scented cheesecake for dessert and could have eaten it ten times over! Again, the bill came in at roughly $150 for two people. 

Yachtsman Steakhouse, Yacht Club 

We ate at the Yachtsman on our last night and definitely saved one of the best until last. We had a view of the Yacht and Beach Club's pool from our table and had a really friendly waiter. Even the complimentary bread (and accompanying baked garlic!) was amazing. I ordered the 10-oz Black Angus filet mignon for my main course with caramelized onions on the side, and went for the carrot cake for dessert. Absolutely delicious! With a couple of glasses of wine, this meal came to roughly $160 for two people. Again, a complete steal on the Disney Dining Plan. 

Morimoto Asia, Disney Springs 

I love the decor in Morimoto Asia and eating here always feels like a special occasion. The portions aren't massive and don't come with rice, so just bear in mind that you might need to order a couple of extras. I ordered a Strawberry Ginger cocktail, the chicken dumplings to start, and the orange chicken for my main. As I mentioned above, we decided to pay for this meal as the bill came to roughly $80 for two people - definitely not worth two Disney Dining Plan credits each when you compare this with the prices above. 

Shula's Steak House, Dolphin Hotel  

One of my favourite meals of the holiday. You feel completely immersed in high quality as soon as you set foot in Shula's and the food is absolutely stunning. I ordered my favourite Blueberry Martini to drink and barbecued shrimp stuffed with basil for my starter. For my main, I chose the 8-oz filet mignon and we also ordered grilled asparagus spears and mashed potatoes on the side. This restaurant is very pricey but completely worth it as a special treat!

I didn't realise until I wrote this post that I ate steak in nearly all the signature restaurants we visited... would you believe that I'd never even tried steak until our honeymoon nearly three years ago? 

Have you tried any of these signature restaurants? Do you have any more recommendations to share with me? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Using our table service credits at Walt Disney World

I've already blogged about snacks and quick-service dining since coming back from Walt Disney World last month, so you've probably guessed that it's time for me to focus on the Disney Dining Plan's table service credits!

We had 14 table service credits each over the course of our two weeks in Florida. Most restaurants in Walt Disney World take one credit per person per meal, but there are a few 'signature restaurants' which are more expensive and worth two credits per person per meal. These restaurants are clearly marked on the website, and your server will also make you aware of this before you order to make sure you don't have an unwelcome surprise at the end of your meal.

With each table service credit (or two at a signature restaurant), you receive a refillable soft drink, main meal and dessert. It's important to remember that the standard 18-20% service charge isn't included in the Disney Dining Plan, and you'll also need to pay for any alcoholic drinks, starters or sides.

I'm going to blog about the restaurants where we used one credit each for today's post, and I'll be blogging about the signature restaurants we visited next week. There were way too many photos to include them all in one post!

Tony's Town Square Restaurant

Our first table service meal on our first full day at the Magic Kingdom. This was MASSIVE but really tasty! I'm disappointed that I apparently forgot to take a picture of my dessert... I must have been too excited about being back in the most magical place on earth. 

Rainforest Cafe 

Rainforest Cafe in Disney Springs isn't somewhere we eat every time we visit Walt Disney World as it isn't one of our absolute favourites, but we always enjoy it when we do eat there. We treated ourselves to cocktails too as they have such a fantastic selection. 

Yak & Yeti 

Yak & Yeti is a table service restaurant in Animal Kingdom - a new restaurant for this year and one of my favourite meals of the holiday! I'm honestly still dreaming about this amazing meal and would highly recommend this restaurant. 

Tutto Italia

Another first for this holiday - Tutto Italia in Epcot's Italy pavilion. A lovely quiet meal in authentic Italian surroundings, and I particularly enjoyed my panna cotta dessert. 

Via Napoli 

Via Napoli is also in Epcot's Italy pavilion and is one of the restaurants I absolutely have to visit every time. I still maintain that they serve the best pizza I've ever had, and the pistachio ice cream is out of this world!

Nine Dragons

Nine Dragons is situated in Epcot's China pavilion and is always a holiday staple for us. I order the Canton Pepper Beef every time as it's too good to miss out on!

Teppan Edo 

Another new restaurant for this trip, situated in Epcot's beautiful Japan pavilion. Eating at Teppan Edo was such an amazing experience! Guests sit in groups of 8 around a table, and each table has its own stove and its own chef. Your food is cooked in front of you using the simplest of ingredients, and it all tastes spectacular. 

Jungle Navigation Skipper Canteen 

Yet another new restaurant for this trip. Although this wasn't one of our favourite meals of the holiday, it was still delicious. We skipped dessert on this occasion as we wanted an ice cream from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor instead... perils of eating a table service lunch at the Magic Kingdom. 

What's your favourite table service restaurant in Walt Disney World? Keep a look out for my next blog post on our favourite signature restaurants! 

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Quick-service dining at Walt Disney World

If you've read last week's snacktastic post, you'll already know that the Disney Dining Plan was tagged on to our holiday booking this year and we took full advantage of all the delights it offered us.

We had 14 quick-service credits each to use up over the two weeks. A quick-service restaurant is usually a cafeteria-style or counter-service venue where you order or take the food items that you want, pay for your food then sit down to eat your mealA quick-service meal for two can range from roughly $20 to $40.

14 quick-service credits for a fortnight might sound very manageable if you've never seen the size of the average quick-service portion... they're pretty big, even for me. Bearing in mind that we also had 14 table service credits to use during the two weeks, we had to do some serious meal planning! Luckily, food is always one of our highlights on every holiday which means we love meal planning and talking about where we're going to eat next.

Here's a photographic summary of the quick-service restaurants where we used our credits this year...

D-Luxe Burger in Disney Springs is one of our favourite quick-service restaurants which is why we ate here three times! You get a burger and a drink with your quick-service credit and we used snack credits for the chips. 

You really can't go wrong with an Earl of Sandwich and we ate here three times too. Although we should technically only have a sandwich/wrap and a drink with our credit according to DDP rules, Earl of Sandwich also throws in a snack (such as a fruit pot or a packet of crisps). 

Orange chicken from the Lotus Blossom Cafe in Epcot's China pavilion. Amazing quality! 

Quick-service credits are always useful when you want to eat a quick breakfast at your resort. Here's the amazing bacon and egg croissant from The Artist's Palette at Saratoga Springs! 

My standard breakfast at The Artist's Palette on our first and last day... I promise you that Mickey-shaped waffles taste better than normal-shaped waffles. 

Pepperoni flatbread from The Artist's Palette for lunch.

Our first meal at PizzeRizzo in Hollywood Studios. PizzeRizzo replaced Pizza Planet in 2016 but the pizzas in both restaurants are suspiciously similar!

We also ate at the Flame Tree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom but I didn't take a photo as we ate our meal outside and it was dark... I'm far too much of a perfectionist when it comes to my beloved food photos. 

In spite of our careful planning and excessive eating, we had two quick-service credits left at the end of the holiday. When this happens, you're given the option to exchange each quick-service credit for three snack credits. This enabled us to choose six big bags of Disney sweets to take home with us, free of charge. 

What's your favourite quick-service restaurant in Walt Disney World? I'll be blogging about table service restaurants next time so keep a look out for that!