Sunday, 29 December 2013

If you read one article about Disney Dining, make it this one.

Any one who follows Mrs Banks on Facebook knows that time has just disappeared with Christmas and birthdays and travel to Sydney and dining reservations. I am now enjoying my summer holiday and have the chance to sit and relax to prepare these posts for a couple of weeks - in between bouts of chopping things with my new chainsaw!! Oh - how The Ken Man knows me so well......  

OK .. On with the show! Here's a post I started writing about 2 weeks ago: 

It's all fuss and excitement and crazy internets clicking here tonight!

If you want to secure your favourite table service Disney dining reservation you have to book 6 months in advance - and that day is almost here past for me!!  (ha ha ha - that shows how long it takes me to write a post)

guess what I'm doing tomorrow evening?? (source: pscalculator )
Only 4 more sleeps until (now after) Christmas Day - but I feel like it's already arrived as I go crazy with the dining reservations!

We have some underlying rules to follow with our dining arrangements, including:

  • We want to try lots of different things
  • We can't eat everything (dang!) SO a la carte dining more often to give more control over the amount of food purchased and consumed.
  • We are happy to split large dishes, and taste each other's meals - also happy to hoard if it's too good to share!
  • Limit buffet attendance. (Usually poor food items and some of us have limited intake.)
  • Enjoy meals with others.
  • No cheap and nasty park food - hot dogs, burgers and dreaded Disney fries (oh, I shiver just thinking about Pecos Bills - ewwwwww - and where they ask you not to spit. Well not in front of women and children.)
Please don't make me go here (source:Disney food blog)
  • Let your friend wear stretchy pants

By getting online the moment bookings opened I was able to get everything I wanted - some of which are very coveted bookings! Here are some highlights from our bookings so far:  (the links will allow you to see the current menus)

  • Breakfasts - Staying in Boardwalk Villas gives easy access to fabulous breakfasts including Greek style Kouzzina (21st); Captain's Grill (22nd) and Kona Cafe (26th) (the home of REAL coffee in WDW). We are also visiting Safari Donald at Tusker House (24th) for Harambe style.
Kona Cafe's Tonga Toast. My precious ....

 Early American-inspired waiting hall with stone fireplace, benches and chandeliers
No, Please, your quiet enjoyment of the meal will be thanks enough for these coveted bookings:

  • Le Cellier - the Canadian Steakhouse (21st). This small underground wine cellar serves it's signature dishes: cheddar cheese soup and Filet mignon on truffled mushroom risotto. Oh sigh.
Main dining area of Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot 

Now the category: "Everyone is arriving in Orlando now. Let's all go out together for a meal"
  • The Crabby Shack! Fulton's Crab House will be hosting at least 10 of us on the 25th. Will you join in for more than you can eat seafood?
lobster tails, crabs, prawns, clams, oysters - served on platters, in towers, in buckets!
  • On the afternoon of the 26th, we shall be raising our pinkies and ensconced at the Grand Floridian Resort's Garden View Tea Room for Afternoon Tea. It's all cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off and scones with jam and cream.
(source: wdwinfo - read their full review including menu)

And now here's a booking that will be a highlight of your trip - the all new California Grill! (26th)

Closed for 8 months in 2013 to undergo a complete overhaul, I am so excited to see this new look and new menu. One thing that hasn't changed - location. It is still on the roof of the Contemporary Resort and every meal offers premier viewing of the Magic Kingdom fireworks show!

Our last evening in WDW will finish on a high note! (source: DisneyFoodBlog - read their full review)
Who cares about pictures of the restaurant or what's on the menu. Because FIREWORKS!

UPDATE: I have now secured a 2nd California Grill dinner booking for Sunday 29 June - when everyone will be in Orlando.

If you would like to come meet everyone and join in, please contact me ASAP before seating books out! As is the case with Zontians, the more the merrier!

Are you a foodie? What type of cuisine do you want to enjoy in Orlando?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Kill, Refurb, Marry - Thrill Rides!

For the life of this blog, I have deliberately avoided discussing the theme parks.

well - except for this - my precious:

Oh - how I love everything about this baby
Resorts - yes! Restaurants, events, tours - yes, yes, yes.

But park rides - no.

I suppose I just presumed the average Zontian would not be interested.   And there is MILES of park info and blogs available. Well, this is it! Your one chance to read my views on the theme park rides. Pay attention, it will be over quick sticks!

 Kill Refurb Marry Blog Hop

Mouse on the Mind and This Happy Place blogs are once again hosting the Disney Blog Hop - and this month they chose Thrill Rides!
There may be bunnies, kittens and chocolate inside here for all I know - cause I've never been inside
I am pretty easily excited, so most of the rides at WDW give me a thrill - of some kind. yep - I can be tragic. So I am going to restrict my definition of "thrill ride" to the faster speeds, gravity pulled, freefall drops, discombobulatory  things.

But hey - this time the joke is on them - cause I don't do thrill rides!  The topic should have been Thrill Ride Chicken Exits (yes Tower of Terror Chicken Exit* - thinking of you) - cause I know all about those! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.


OK - let's get to business.


anything with free fall airtime. Really. These things are just clogging up my park when I could be having more 3D simulators, or that hi-tech Harry Potter Hogwarts ride. that free fall drop makes me feel soooo ill, and ruins my happiness for several hours. So if I had to pick the most evil of all WDW resort thrill rides it would be my photo above - the Rock and Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios. I have no idea but it has a loop in the track. In the dark. Why anyone needs that is beyond me - so let's get this waste of space out of the way and build my previous idea for the Aristocats ride - with kittens.


Now Test Track gives me a slight thrill - in the fast bit at the end. And I know it just had a refurb - but I still feel like it is missing a lot in that opening part.  And I appreciate that fixing Disco Yeti at Expedition Everest ain't gonna happen - but that is the only thing wrong with that ride.

The one really in need of a refurb is Splash Mountain. Not that I have ever ridden it. I mean, have you ever seen the freefall on the front of that thing?  4 seconds of torture.

So how do I know it needs a refurb - cause every Disney blog and chat board in the WORLD rabbits (you see what I did there? brer rabbit.....) on about how there are blown light bulbs, animatronics not working, Million dollar bunny wasn't chasing their log etc etc.   The announcement that the 2014 standard 2 week maintenance will now be 10 weeks brings hope they are whipping out the screwdrivers.

Just fix the thing, so we can all get back to whining about the Stitch Won't Escape and Go Away Experience.


Cause I only have eyes for you ...... Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Everything good about Disney is encapsulated within this ride
There is a deep and rich back story, fantastic and thorough theming, awesome safety announcement, and NO FREE FALLS - just speed and turns. Oh - how I spent years looking at you from a distance - too scared to try. Then one day your beckoning was too strong to resist, and I instantly fell in love and found my thrill ride courage!

BTMR made me a more confident, better person!! Now I sky dive INTO other planes! Now I taunt honey badgers with mongeeses (what is the plural?) BTMR changed my entire life!

And this:

You stare at him, and he just stares right back. And that's when the attack comes. Not from the front, but from the side -- from the other two pigs you didn't even know were there.
A bobcat standing on a cactus. (source:
The world's most intense cat scratching post.

Finally - BTMR is not from a movie, has not been made into a movie, has not had Disney animated characters, like Pinocchio, jammed inappropriately into it.

I can't wait to sit inside your little mine train carriage and hurtle around your track again.

* I should have known there would be a chap called "DisneyElevators" who takes video of elevators. Probably friends with those Disney Bus Spotting guys


Learn more about the parks and rides: click on the links below and get more Kill, Refurb, Marry Thrill Ride stories:

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Set free your Enviromentality

Urrgghhh .... here in Australia, we've just had a change of federal government, and with flip on a whole bunch of policies, including their environmental posture.

We're getting coal mines onshore from the Great Barrier Reef;  abolishing the carbon tax; and just today I read a story about a Council who were proposing building a highway through the middle of the a koala high traffic zone.


but our blog is not about bemoaning or activitism for Australia's environmental causes.

It is with much pleasure I remember that I can go on holiday and all around me eco - tourism activities are underway - in more ways than you'll ever be aware.

Disney, as the huge gorilla in the playground, recognise their responsibilities for social citizenship and leading the way. You'll be amazed at the lengths they go to be as enviro friendly as possible.

Physical America — the land itself — should be as dear to us all as our political heritage and our treasured way of life. Its preservation and the wise conservation of its renewable resources concerns every man, woman and child whose possession it is.
- Walt Disney

There are a vast array of green activities undertaken at WDW, some obvious, and some that you'll never know are going on.

Disney tell stories of annually:
  • recycling enough paper to make a trail from Anaheim to WDW and back again, twice
  • recycling 18 million plastic bottles - turning them into "red carpets"
  • 200,000 + LED lights on Cinderella's castle, which are so energy efficient, each night only takes the same amount of electricity as 3 loads of washing in a dryer.
Uncle Walt had a soft spot for the big cats, and launched a slew of keen conservation programs.  I am not going to cover their conservation or community contribution activities today - that's a whole separate post.

This first video covers a whole range of activities - it is set in Disneyland, and all these things happen in WDW too.

I love how they use the french fry oil!! Although it still not enough to make me willing to eat Disney fries - blerghhhhh.

What is getting the big "thumbs up" from me is that our resort - Boardwalk Inn and Villas - has just had it's decade long "Green Lodgings" designation renewed from the Florida Dept of Environmental Protection.  You saw a lot of the ways they run the resorts in the videos - sorting your recycling, using recycled and biodegradable materials, water and electricity management.  (The Marriott also has this certification)

The ESPY's is a show produced by the Disney sports arm - ESPN, who have a HUGE Wide World of Sports at the WDW Resort (Where too much sport is barely enough!). Funnily enough, I've never visited....... hmmm ....I wonder why? Let's just go to the video - and see more eco stuffs at WDW

Don't scratch yourself on that recycled toilet paper.

Actually, in a slightly weird story, there are a slew of Disney fans who are unhappy about the new unbleached, uncoloured recycled napkins. Turns out they were collecting the old printed ones and are sad that not every single thing in their Disney holiday has been Disneyfied.

Say 'goodbye' to the precious printed napkin    (source: disneyblog)
But from where did the idea spring for all the scratchy recycled paper? From their expansive 5 year Paper Sourcing and Use Policy. This policy not just covers the paper they use, it also includes actions for supporting sustainable fibre sources, responsible forest management, moving from timber fibres to grass and bamboo, and minimising consumption of such products.

In 2012, Disney announced 50% achievement of its goal for zero net direct greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing electricity consumption by 10%. Just in October WDW was awarded Sustainable Florida's Best Practice Award for turning out the lights when they left the room.

Unlike the new Australian government about to dump our Carbon Tax, Disney have their own internal "carbon price" imposed on each of their divisions for their direct emissions footprint. The higher the footprint, the more that Division pays. They also support forestry carbon projects around the world, in deforested areas; and are corporate signatories to the Rio + 20 Conference Valuing Natural Capital

source: Valuing Natural Capital

And to close, my favourite eco-fact: Overhead winch motors used to raise and lower scenery for the Disney shows generate electricity during the lowering process which is fed back into the power grid. How cool is that?

So - I'm relaxed on a Disney holiday - knowing that I don't have to buy into the rampant consumerism, and have an enjoyable eco-holiday!

So have I convinced you yet? What do you do to support sustainability principles?