Carnival Cruise Line vs. Disney Cruise Line: Food Edition

I had the opportunity to take a cruise at the end of January on Carnival Cruise Line’s Elation.  Exactly one year prior, I was aboard Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Magic ship.  I thought I would do a comparison of both lines, just to see which I liked better.  You can see my stateroom comparison here.

Starters

I found lots of interesting starter courses aboard CCL.  One evening I had a cold strawberry cream soup with mint that was out of this world.  There were spring rolls with a lovely dipping sauce, escargot, and salads.  I enjoyed all the starters I tried.

Entrees

All the entrees I ordered were very attractively arranged and were delicious.  I had maybe one or two that I wasn’t totally impressed with, but I also had the same experience aboard DCL.  One thing that I did like about CCL’s menu is every night there was a “Didja” option as in “Didja ever try…?”  That option was a more exotic dish, like fried alligator or escargot. And on the flip side, there was a comfort food option.  One night they offered meatloaf and mashed potatoes which I had to have.  I love a good meatloaf and theirs was pretty good.

Desserts

I love dessert.  All the ones I tried were really great.  The apple pie CCL offered was amazing!

Breakfast and Sea Day Brunch

We had breakfast every morning in the main dining room and it was such a treat!  Since we had two sea days, we got to have Sea Day Brunch twice.  You can’t go wrong with omelettes prepared anyway you like, not to mention the Eggs Benedict and the Blueberry Pancakes!

Buffets and Pizza

We only ate at the poolside buffet twice on our sailing on CCL.  I found it pretty good, but the burgers were not the best I’d had.  The pizza was fair.  We never ate at the indoor buffet, but that was only because we wanted the pampering of the main dining room.

Drinks

On CCL, soft drinks are not free like they are on DCL.  We (really I) started jonesing hard for a Diet Coke, so we decided to spring for the Bottomless Bubbles program.  For $6 per day (based on your length of cruise, paid in one payment) you can have all the soda you like.  I have to admit, having to pay extra for Diet Coke really bums me out.  DCL’s got a good thing going with that.

Specialty Dining

Our CCL cruise did not have any specialty dining options like Palo or Remy.

Overall, I felt like CCL and DCL were comparable on food taste, food presentation, and quality.  However, I have to give DCL the advantage because a) they have complimentary soft drinks, b) I prefer their rotational dining set up, and c) Palo.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Cabins at Fort Wilderness – Resort Review

FTW2

There’s a well-kept secret of sorts on Disney property…a standalone cabin that will hold larger families (up to 6), with a fully-equipped kitchen, 2 full size beds, and a set of bunk beds, and a private parking pad.  Where can one find this fabulous gem?  At Disney’s Fort Wilderness, right close to the action in the Magic Kingdom area!  Just a short boat ride away from good ol’ MK, these little wonders are perfect for families who like some space to spread out, needs more beds for more little bodies, or just want the convenience of a kitchen to prepare meals every day.  We stayed in a cabin as a family of 5 and found the layout to be ideal for us.

Let’s start with the bedroom.  There’s a full size bed and twin bunk beds here, along with a small vanity area with electrical outlets, so one can get ready in the morning here instead of the bathroom.  There’s also a (very) small closet here.  You’ll also find a small chest of drawers, flat screen TV, and nightstand between the bed and bunks.  My husband took the full-sized bed, while my then 9- and 7-year-old sons took the bunks.

FTWMeanwhile, on the other side of the bedroom door (yes, a door! yay!), there’s a hallway with a bathroom (full size, long vanity, shower/tub combo), a housekeeping closet, and then your kitchen.  The kitchen is fully equipped, right down to paper towels, dishes, utensils, dish soap (but they will do the dishes for ya!), coffee, creamer, etc.  Truly everything you could need to put together a meal.  To the side of the kitchen, you have an eat-in dining area with a large table with seating for 6.

Moving into the living area, you have a full size Murphy bed, sofa, small table and chairs (child size), and another flat screen TV.  I co-slept with my then not-quite-2-year-old daughter in the Murphy bed and found it very comfy.

Once outside, you have a private deck with grill and a private parking pad.  The resort itself is vast.  They have an internal bus system that most find very confusing.  We decided to make it easy and rent a golf cart, which you can do up to 1 year in advance, but we got lucky and got one on-site.  The golf cart was great fun for the kids and a lifesaver for us.  We were able to park right by the marina and take the boat to Magic Kingdom every day without a long walk.  We thoroughly enjoyed tooling around on our cart but be aware that it does add about a good chunk of change to your total cost.  (Carts are currently $59 per day, pre-tax.)

I would absolutely, positively, 100% recommend a cabin to any family looking for a little more space and a little more bang for your buck!

Walt Disney World Refurbishments Spring 2015

Magic Kingdom
Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid- Feb 2 – Mar 3, 2015

Harmony Barber Shop- Feb 16 – Mar 30, 2015

Stitch’s Great Escape!- Mar 1 – Mar 2, 2015

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin- Mar 4 – 5, 2015

Peter Pan’s Flight- Mar 5 – 6, 2015

Pirates of the Caribbean May 11 – Sep 25, 2015

Jungle Cruise- Apr 13 – May 8, 2015

It’s a small world- Apr- 14 – 17, 2015

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad- Apr 27 – 30, 2015

Liberty Square Riverboat- Aug 4 – 10, 2015

Dream Along with Mickey- July 19 – Aug 22, 2015

Liberty Tree Tavern- Jul 6 – Nov 19, 2015

Cinderella’s Royal Table- Jan 5 – Mar 6, 2015

Epcot
None

Hollywood Studios
Lights, Motors, Action- Apr 20 – Apr 24, 2015

Voyage of the Little Mermaid- Sep 7 – Sep 10, 2015

Animal Kingdom
Flame Tree BBQ- Jan 5 – Apr 22, 2015

Creature Comforts- Jan 5 – June 14, 2015

Blizzard Beach
Closed for annual refurbishment Jan 4 – Mar 14, 2015 

Transportation
Monorail February 9-12, 23-26 and March 2-5, 2015 from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m

The Walt Disney World® Resort Monorail System will undergo refurbishment that will impact the Resort and Express monorail beams on select days in February and March. During these times, Monorails on the Resort beam will travel between Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Magic Kingdom® Park. Monorails on the Express beam will now make an additional stop at Disney’s Contemporary Resort as they travel between Magic Kingdom Park and the Transportation and Ticket Center.

Monorail service will continue to be available from all stations while this work takes place. Monorail operating hours will remain unchanged. Guests may note a difference in the way they board the Monorail and should allow for additional travel time to reach their destinations. Guests staying at impacted Resorts will receive in-room communication upon their arrival.

Resorts
Animal Kingdom Villas –Jambo House Lobby Floor Refinishing. Work will be done in sections so only portions will be out at a time. Jan 6 – Mar 6, 2015

Art of Animation -Finding Nemo Schoolyard Wet Play Area- May 26 – June 29

Little Mermaid Flippin Fins Pool- Mar 2 – Mar 3, 2015

Beach Club Resort- Guest Room Renovations-Guests will not be accommodated in the affected areas but it is possible that some noise could travel while work is in progress (between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily). Oct 13, 2014 – Aug 22, 2015

Yacht Club and Beach Club -Stormalong Bay Pool – Lazy River -During this time, bridges three and four will be under refurbishment and the lazy river/snorkel area will be closed. The remaining portions of the pool will remain available to Guests. Feb 2 – Mar 3, 2015

Contemporary Resort- Contemporary Feature Pool- Mar 9 – 11, 2015

Polynesian Village Resort- General Construction through March 2015
Pool construction through Spring 2015

 

Disney’s Swan Hotel- Guest Room Renovations- Work is scheduled to take place between 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily. No guests will be accommodated in the renovation area as to minimize impact on the guest experience. Aug. 20, 2014 – TBD

 

This information is provided by Disney and is subject to change at any time

Mardi Gras 2015: Disney Style

You may or may not remember that I’m from Louisiana and down here we love a good party.  Personally, I love a good party with a Disney theme!  We just had our Mardi Gras celebration and my local small town parade was Disney themed so you know I had to be there!  This particular parade was family friendly and a ton of fun.  My kids and I had a blast!

I set up a gallery of all the photos I managed to take while still catching beads.  I’m a Mardi Gras Multitasker!  Enjoy!

Podcast Episode 41: Non-Park Day Activities

Join us and special guest, Lee, as we talk about all the fun things you can do on your Disney vacation that don’t require a park ticket.  It’s always a good idea to take a break from the crowds and do something a little lower key and we have plenty of tips to help you make the most of those days.

Happy listening

Listen to Desktop

Listen to iTunes

Guest Blogger Danielle Brabson: Disneyland’s Fantasmic & Dining Package

World_of_Color_projected_logo

Whenever we go to Disneyland I always like to take advantage of the Dining Package options for shows like World of Color or Fantasmic.  Here’s the reason I do it. I want to see a show and I have to eat so why not combine them and make it easier on myself? Selecting the Dining Package for a show or entertainment eliminates additional wait time to get a FASTPASS to see the show all while enjoying a relaxing meal. We usually plan at least one nicer sit down meal on our trips and I always coordinate this with a show.

On a trip to Disneyland last year, when it was just myself and my daughter, instead of our entire family of five, we splurged and got the Dining Package option for Fantasmic. It included assigned seating to view the show and a dessert box. It was FANTASTIC. This box of goodies did not disappoint. It was filled with different cheeses, grapes, crackers, and wide variety of desserts. Desserts were a mini cheesecake, lemon tart, chocolate lava cake, a jelly filled cookie with chocolate on the bottom (that was by far my favorite), a couple of macaroons and shortbread. A drink of your choice (water, milk, pop or hot chocolate) was also part of the deal. We were able to sit and eat all this while watching the show.

Doing some research for our next trip I found that Disneyland changed their dining options with Fantasmic. Initially, I was sad and disappointed (I’ve been dreaming of that cookie since that last trip!!) until I saw the new options.  While they no longer have assigned seating, they increased their Dining Package options to include a sit down dinner meal, a meal on the go, or a desert option.  Selecting any of these options will get you a FASTPASS (without having to wait in line) to a reserved viewing area.

For the sit down restaurants, you can select the Blue Bayou or the River Belle Terrace. It’s a three course meal that includes a starter, entrée and dessert, with a set price for both adults and children. The Blue Bayou is a great restaurant, it’s actually located in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride which gives it a fun ambiance. It’s a little more “formal” than the River Belle Terrace. Last time our family ate there the meal was awesome. It was enjoyed by the whole family which is sometimes quite a feat with a couple picky eaters.  River Belle Terrace is a little more casual and also provides a yummy menu as well. Our family has also enjoyed dinner at River Belle Terrace, their roast beef is phenomenal!

If you’re short on time or don’t prefer a sit down meal, you can still take advantage of getting the reserved viewing FASTPASS, by reserving a Grab & Go meal from Aladdin’s Oasis.  You’ll reserve your Grab & Go meal and then pick it up at your reserved time. You can eat it when you’re ready! There are a limited amount of these meals so book your reservation online or by calling before your trip!

The last option, which is probably going to be my favorite, because well it’s dessert, (and boy does Disney know how to do dessert) is a sampler of sweets and a choice of drink. You’ll pick up this yummy goodness from the Honey Bear Restaurant, which is over by Splash Mountain and is pretty close to the Fantasmic viewing area.

The Fantasmic show itself is pretty cool. It includes a bunch of different things going on from live action, animatronics, lights, fireworks and lasers. It’s pretty cool in that it’s Mickey’s dream and it includes many different characters from all across the Disney spectrum. It’s on the water and Tom Sawyer’s Island. The water adds a lot of visual entertainment as you catch the reflections of things in the water as well as the images being displayed both in and on the water.

If you haven’t seen it, you need to experience it at least once, and why not take advantage of the Dining options at the same time! Make sure you check the schedule for the viewing times.

Candlelight Dinner Processional Review: San Angel Inn (Part 1 of 2)

Candlelight Pro

Disney has so much to offer all year round and Christmas is no exception. In fact, all the extras around the holidays actually makes this time of the year more special for many families. Some are inclined only to come during the holidays to take advantage of the many different “extras”. Yes, I know it feels like the holidays JUST ended but it is time to start thinking about taking a Disney trip and deciding between Spring Break, Summer, Food and Wine (or Fall as it sometimes is called) and the Holidays.

If you are thinking about visiting Walt Disney World during the 2015 holiday season you will want to think about the Candlelight Processional and if you are considering the Candlelight Processional I highly recommend the dining package. Typically the Candlelight Processional (“CP”) runs from the end of November through the end of December. It runs only on certain nights and the schedule will start coming out around the beginning of July. Last year, the lunch and dinner packages went on sale July 9th. Now, the schedule of dates may be out then but the celebrity narrators at each date’s performance are not confirmed until closer to the actual dates. The CP is open to everyone (with park admission) and takes place in
Epcot at the American Gardens Theatre. There are three shows a day: the American-Gardens“lunch” show was at 5pm and the “dinner” shows were at 6:45pm and 8:15pm. What I mean by this is if you purchase the lunch CP dining package then you will get reserved seating at the 5pm show and if you purchase the dinner CP dining package then you receive reserved seating at either the 6:45pm or 8:15pm show, depending on your reservation time.

epcotWe had visited Walt Disney World many times during the holidays and had considered going to the Candlelight Processional but every time we passed by the extremely long line for general seating it was always such a turn off we never made time for it. We kept getting recommendations to go but to purchase the dining package – and so in 2013 (a little over a year ago) we decided to bite the bullet and try it out. Basically, you purchase a reservation at one of the participating Epcot restaurants and with that package it is a ‘pre-set’ price in which  you receive an appetizer, entree, dessert and a non alcoholic drink (or one full buffet depending on the restaurant type). Now, first I will admit it is a lot of food. It is more than the dining plan and it is more than most would order if on their own. But, remember this dining package could save you hours of time waiting in line. I am serious about hours, especially as you get closer to Christmas and more locals come out. I have seen and heard where people line up and wait up to two hours! I personally, would pay a few dollars just to not wait so to get a little extra food and try some different options for my money seemed like a good idea (and it was)! We decided to make our dining package reservation at San Angel Inn which is located inside of the Mexico Pavilion (it had been a few years since we had visited this restaurant so it was good that we got to try it out again). We made our reservations so we could see the 8:15 pm show (which meant our dinner was around 4:30pm, so early for us, but we had a light lunch and hey it is vacation we can always cap off our night later with some ice cream if needed). So, we purchased the package (for those wondering it was about $68 per person/adult and $18 per child) or if you are a smart cookie (or work with a great travel agent like one of us Dole Whipped agents then you may have a Disney Dining plan and for 2 Table Service credits you are all set and paid up – minus the tip!)

San Angel InnFor those of you that have never been to San Angel Inn – go! Run! It was wonderful and you can not beat the ambiance (unless you are at Blue Bayou in Disneyland and it runs head to head). What could be better than eating in a restaurant that is right next to a boat ride and eating while watching the beautiful boat and happy families floating around with the Three Caballeros.

My meal started with a beautiful Ensalada Cesar (also know as a Caesar Salad). Other appetizers served at our table in the group include: Sopa Aztexa (Tortilla Soup) served with fried tortilla strips, avocado, cheese and pasilla pepper and the favorite Tlacoyos de Chilorio which are corn cakes topped with black refried beans, pork chilorio, queso fresco, sour cream and green tomatillo sauce.

For the main attraction I could not resist the carne asada which was so well done I carnebelieve it may have been my all time favorite carne asada and just thinking about it makes my mouth water! My carne asada came with a cheese enchilada,mexican rice, black refried beans, guacomole, onions and red bell peppers. We also had at our table Mole Poblano (because who does not need a little Mole sauce in your day?) and came out to be roasted chicken served with poblano rice and a wonderful mole sauce. Last I will mention the table favorite (as well as a chefs favorite) the Lomo de Puerco en Pipian which translates to pork tenderloin served over roasted vegetables and “pipian” ( a mix of pumpkin, chiles and almond sauce). Does it all not sound amazing? Well, if you think it sounds amazing then you will love it.

And yes, we should have all ordered and shared different desserts but we all wanted the Helado De Dulce De Leche (caramel ice cream). We had it before and were fighting over who got to order when we realized we could all order it and get it…no one needed to share. So, that is what we did and no one regretted it!

San-Angel-Inn-Epcot-DiningSo basically – if you have not been to San Angel Inn then I hope you go and if you are planning on going around the holidays it is a great time to save some waiting time for CP and get a lot of great food.

Because this event review is for both the Candlelight Processional and the dinner package and San Angel Inn it is a two-part series. I know your anticipation to hear about CP might not be as heightened as it could be because now you are crazy hungry but I promise you there is a lot more to come – including funny stories, beautiful people and a potentially wonderful experience and future memory for you and your family. So keep reading Dolewhipped.com to find our exactly why you should (or should not) make CP a priority for your next holiday trip.

Walt Disney World Park Tickets

There are a few choices you can make when purchasing tickets for your next Disney vacation if you are not doing a package. All tickets can be bought from a single day up to 10 days in a single ticket. All tickets must be used within 14 days of first use.

The first is the Base Ticket. This is a ticket that allows you to get into a single park per day. If you are doing a one day base ticket and wish to get to Magic Kingdom this park is slightly more expensive than Animal Kingdom, Epcot or Hollywood Studios.

A step up from the Base Ticket is the Park Hopper. The Park Hopper allows you to visit more than one park in a day. You can use it to visit all four in a single day or to just visit one. This ticket affords a lot of flexibility in your vacation. You can plan to visit one park in the morning and then go to another in the evening for dinner. Or if you aren’t sure which park your children or you will enjoy most this ticket is very helpful. If you keep finding yourself wanting to go to Magic Kingdom for a dole whip and a spin on the Haunted Mansion this ticket can make that happen.

Another option is the Water Parks Fun and More. This ticket option allows you access to Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon Water Parks, Disney Quest, Winter Summerland and Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course, Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course, and ESPN Sports Complex in addition to your theme park visits. If you purchase a 5 day Park Ticket with Water Parks Fun and More option you can have up to 10 days of fun. Or if you want to visit Blizzard Beach and Disney Quest in the same day this will use 2 allotments of the 5. For a little bit more of a fee you can combine the Park Hopper with the Water Parks Fun and More for a fun-filled visit.

Disney will run specials on Military Salute Tickets. Generally these are a 4 day Park Hopper ticket discounted and have to be purchased on base or at Shades of Green. These do have an expiration date as well.

Another way to get discounted tickets is by being a Florida Resident. Details can be found by signing into your Disney account for more information.

And lastly if you are planning a vacation that is over 10 day or more than one vacation within a year of each other an Annual Pass might be the correct ticket for you. With Annual Passes there may be black out dates and exclusions so it is always best to check your options before making this purchase.

Lastly if you feel you didn’t purchase the correct ticket for you there is always the option of upgrading your ticket at Guest Services in the a parks. You will pay the difference if you choose to add days or the Park Hopper option or even if you are going to upgrade all the way to an Annual Pass it is all possible so you don’t feel stuck with what you have.

Podcast Episode 40: Epcot Area Resort Dining

Join us this week as we discuss all your dining options in the Epcot Resort area! This includes everything within BoardWalk Inn, Beach Club, and Yacht Club! We also have ex-Cast Member Chris back on the show with us! If you’re thinking of staying in the Epcot area, you don’t want to miss this show!

Happy listening!

Listen to Desktop

Listen to iTunes

Carnival Cruise Lines vs Disney Cruise Lines: Staterooms

At the end of last month, I had the opportunity to take a Carnival cruise from New Orleans to Cozumel.  Now, I know we normally talk about Disney on this blog so I thought we could compare Disney Cruise Lines to Carnival Cruise Lines just a bit.

Now, I’m a die-hard devotee to DCL, but they don’t sail out of New Orleans at present, but Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian do.  And this Carnival cruise was cheap!  It cost us $600 including travel insurance for two adults for a 4 night cruise!  You can’t beat it!  Disney Cruise Lines would have cost us a lot more, not only for the cruise itself, but because we would have had travel costs to Florida as well.

In this installment, we will just discuss the staterooms.  Our ship was the Elation and our room was an Oceanview on Deck 5 (Main).

Room size

The Elation rooms in this category around approximately 185 sq ft and slept 2 people.

A similar Oceanview stateroom on DCL is approximately 214 sq ft and sleeps either 3 or 4, depending on the ship.
Advantage: DCL

Bed Arrangement

In this particular stateroom you could have either twin beds or you could have them pushed together to make a king.  While my husband and I prefer a king, I hate how the beds separate in the night leaving a crack down between the two beds.  On the Disney ships, this category room would come with a queen bed and a sleeper sofa.

Advantage: Draw – My husband and I prefer the king, but hate the beds separating. Disney has an actual queen bed.

Bathroom

Carnival only has one bathroom in their staterooms and they are teeny tiny.  Disney has split baths, meaning there are two rooms.  One houses a toilet and a sink, while the other has either a shower or a tub/shower combo and a sink.  This gives you more space and allows more than one person to dress at a time.  While the Carnival was adequate for me and my husband, if we’d had our kids with us, the split bath would be preferable

Advantage: DCL

Room Setup and Amenities

Our Carnival room did not have a sitting area other than the bed, and a stool at the vanity.  A comparable DCL room would have had a sofa.

Our Carnival room had an old style tube TV that felt very dated, while all the DCL fleet have flat screens.

Storage in the Carnival room was adequate.  We were able to store our empty luggage under the bed until it was time to repack.  Same goes for DCL.

Room service is available free of charge on both ships.  Both had nightly turn down with towel animals and chocolates.

Both fleets have very well-maintained rooms by friendly staff.

Advantage: DCL, just for sitting area and TVs.

I think what we can take away from this is that, while DCL is preferable and more spacious and luxurious, Carnival is not to be written off completely.  We had a great time and our room was adequate for our needs at a price we could afford.