Welcome home!

We will be hearing those magic words on our next Disney vacation, because on our last trip to Walt Disney World, we became members of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC).

Welcome Home! Heading to the DVC Centre at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.

Heading to the DVC Centre at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.

This decision took us a long time to make–it’s a huge commitment–but at the end of the day, we know that whether we visit every year or every three years, we will see the value in it. Especially as prices continue to rise at Disney-owned resorts.

DVC can make sense if you are looking to vacation at Disney often. Membership (whether you purchase resale or direct from Disney) comes with some perks, including discounts on dining, merchandise, and sometimes park admission.

We were able to purchase our points at the Villas of the Grand Floridian (VGF) before they sold out in mid-April. I’m so glad we did, because the small size of this resort can make booking difficult if you don’t have the home resort advantage.

The overall purchasing experience was relatively low-pressure and, dare I say, fun. We also received a $50 Disney gift card just for taking the “tour” at the DVC Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa sales centre.

So, what’s next for DVC? The Polynesian Villas and Bungalows are currently being promoted as the new hot item (more on that later this week). Rumour has it that Wilderness Lodge will receive more DVC units in the near future, with the possibility of over-the-water cabins being developed in the next few years.

Have you ever considered DVC membership? Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments section below.

 

 

Review: 1900 Park Fare

For a first time Walt Disney World visitor, a character dining experience is a must. At our first visit last May, I was pleasantly surprised with the character breakfast offered at 1900 Park Fare.

Getting "Mad" at 1900 Park Fare!

Getting “Mad” at 1900 Park Fare!

As guests of the Grand Floridian, Walt Disney World’s flagship resort, we made a point to make reservations at several restaurants onsite including 1900 Park Fare, the Grand Floridian Café and Narcoossee’s.

Even the quick-service option, Gasparilla Island Grill, exceeded our expectations–we ate on the Grill’s beautiful patio overlooking Magic Kingdom’s horizon on many mornings. Sigh.

Mary & Me

Mary & Me

The character breakfast offered by 1900 Park Fare is a unique one, partly due to the character selection offered. Where else can you find Mary Poppins, Alice, the Mad Hatter, Pooh Bear and Tigger?

This nostalgic group really gave me that warm-and-fuzzy feeling of being young again (and at 30-years old, with two young children of my own, it gave me some much needed youthful recharging!).

Of all the character meals that we enjoyed during our trip, this one stood out for the immediate likeability of the characters and setting. Booking a later brunch (10:30 a.m. on a Friday) resulted in unprecedented one-to-one attention.

Alice played a game of hide-and-seek with our two-year-old!

Mary Poppins gave me pointers on parasols!

Hide and seek!

Hide and seek!

The breakfast buffet itself provided a great variety of traditional breakfast foods (and made-to-order omelets) and some signature items too. The restaurant’s infamous sweet strawberry soup had us all talking–and trying to recreate it at home!

Check out this menu for details on the buffet offering and pricing.

Ultimately, making a later reservation for brunch provided great out-of-pocket value, and got us through a good part of the day touring the parks until dinner.

However, my all-time favorite hour to make reservations is first thing in the morning (especially if you are dining in the parks) as it allows you to get a head start on touring. For example, if you make a reservation at 8 a.m., you can always pop out around park opening/9 a.m. to grab your first Fastpass. This can help you see more attractions first thing in the morning.

It was one of the less expensive character dining options, but allowed us to meet five characters that would have otherwise been the subject of long line ups in the parks.

Personally, I prefer character dining to waiting in long lines for character meet and greets. It’s more relaxing, it’s air conditioned, and you are able to have the characters come to you.

What character dining experience is your favorite?

Review: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is Walt Disney World’s flagship resort and crown jewel. And yes, it is grand, in all senses.

From the moment you walk into the five-storey lobby of the Victorian era-themed Grand Floridian, you are overcome with turn-of-the-century (the one before last) elegance, and an aroma that I can’t quite put my finger on. It slightly reminds me of Rainkissed Leaves by Bath and Body Works (which, sadly, I heard is now in the process of being discontinued).

Our experience, from beginning to end was unbelievable in terms of customer service. Staff–from bell services to lobby concierge and store clerks–all personified an era long gone (in personality, and uniform).

We booked a standard room, which sleeps up to five people, plus one child under three in a crib. I’ve heard that if you’re lucky, you can be upgraded for free to rooms with theme park views, or even the luxurious club level. Our room, situated in the Boca Chica building, was a ground floor room with views of the pool and grounds. At this resort, that ain’t a bad thing.

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Our room felt oversized, even with the five of us (mom, dad, two small kids and grandma) piling in. The room décor is very traditional, and some may say outdated, but I felt that it provided a cozy feeling that made me feel at home. It also stayed true to the overall Victorian nature of the grounds. If not for anything else, the beds at the resort are amazing, and I would stay here just to be able to put my head down to sleep at night!

With two pools and an Alice in Wonderland-themed splash pad, the resort is a great place to cool off on afternoons when you are taking a break from touring the parks. With a variety of eateries–including Gasparilla Island Grill, the Grand Floridian Café (a hidden gem, in my opinion), 1900 Park Fare, Narcoosees, Citricos and the prestigious Victoria and Albert’s–plus pool side quick service options, there is much variety to offer your palate. Tennis courts, boat rentals, a white sand beach, convention centre and a spa round out other amenities. Oh, and I forgot, shopping. Several stores in the main building can also help you pass the time as you navigate through the unique merchandise offered at this resort.

We often found ourselves sitting outside Gasparilla Island Grill morning and night. In the morning, we would start our day enjoying the early sun on a patio overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon and Cinderella Castle. By night, it became the place to watch the nightly Wishes fireworks at Magic Kingdom (second to being in the park itself).

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The monorail, Disney’s most exciting form of transportation, was accessible through the second floor of the main building. The length of the entire ride to Magic Kingdom was two minutes! A quick sneeze and we were at the front gates of Magic Kingdom, ready to start our day at rope drop and beat the lines.

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I could go on forever about the Grand Floridian. Overall, the resort provided a level of courtesy, elegance and recreation opportunities that made for an amazing vacation.

Looking forward to provide more in-depth reviews of the Grand Floridian’s restaurants in upcoming posts!