Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

 

This year’s event runs from Sept. 28 – Nov. 12, 2012, and is included with Park admission. Demonstrations and seminars that share mouthwatering recipes, preparation techniques, and general food and wine education, can be added to your vacation for an additional fee.
• Culinary Demonstrations: Celebrated chefs and beverage professionals offer helpful tips and tasty samples at these 45-minute culinary demonstrations.
– Offered daily at 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm
– $11 and $14 per person, tax included
• Wine/Beverage Seminars: Meet a featured winery principal or beverage expert, learn a handful of tips and sample the selected wines/beverages.
– Offered Monday through Thursday at noon, 2 pm and 4 pm; and Friday through Sunday at 2 pm and 4 pm
– $11 and $14 per person, tax included
• Mixology Seminars: A mixologist demonstrates the art of preparing trendy and classic cocktails, then serves you the final product. Cheers!
– Offered daily at 6 pm
– $14 per person, tax included

Disney Cruise Line – Disney Fantasy

written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist

I just returned from my Disney Cruise Line vacation on the inaugural sailing of the Disney Fantasy after dry dock and WOW – the Disney Fantasy is a magical ship!

My husband was cruising with me and we chose a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah for our first Disney Fantasy experience. Disney Cruise Line has thought of everything to ensure first-rate comfort and convenience during your voyage. The verandah is a private sanctuary where you can watch the sun rise, bask in ocean breezes and enjoy your morning coffee or an evening beverage. We have never felt cramped or crowded in our stateroom when cruising with Disney. The Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah design features include:

  • A sitting area with a couch, TV and desk
  • A heavy privacy curtain to separate the sitting and sleeping areas
  • A “split bath” (in most) that includes a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
  • A leather-upholstered ottoman with hollow inside storage
  • Cabinets with storage space in the living area
  • And my favorite feature – Elevated wooden bed frames for under-bed storage of suitcases and other large items
  • For the kids (or kids at heart), a mural of Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Wendy and her brothers soaring through a starry sky reveals itself when the upper-berth bed is pulled down!

 

 

 

 

This inaugural sailing included 2 full days on Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, consistently rated by Disney Guests as their favorite port of call – and MY favorite port of call when cruising with Disney!! Castaway Cay is reserved exclusively for Disney cruisers and the ship will dock right at the island to allow you to come and go as you please while enjoying experiences such as snorkeling, boating, swimming and sunbathing and bicycles can also be rented if you want to explore the island’s nature trails. While all areas of the island can be reached by walking, an island tram offers four stops to help you easily get where you want to go.

Your “Key to the World” card will work for all purchases on Castaway Cay except at the local post office where you can send mail to your loved ones back home with a Bahamian postage stamp; the post card postage rate is approximately $0.65 USD each. Dining is also included as part of your cruise package with covered outdoor restaurants serving burgers, BBQ chicken and ribs. Alcoholic beverages are available for purchase and, if you are traveling without children, Disney offers “adult only” areas at Castaway Cay – Serenity Bay is a secluded beach exclusively for adults (where you just might encounter Captain Jack Sparrow strolling the beach!) and families can have fun together at the Castaway Family Beach.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are runners and Disney Cruise Line offers a 5K on Castaway Cay. It’s very informal but you do get race bibs and a medal at the finish line. If you want to participate in the 5K on Castaway Cay, you can register at Guest Services when you board your cruise. Your registration ticket, “Key to the World” and photo ID are required the day of your event to participate. The 3.1-mile out-and-back event is free and family friendly; it’s open to walkers and runners ages 10 and older. The race takes place first thing in the morning on the island, typically with a meeting time onboard of 8 am. The vibe of the event is casual, a fun experience worth the early wake-up!

 

 

 

 

Cruising with Disney is a very casual experience – I wore simple dresses and flip flops while my husband wore shorts and polos – even to dinner. The only exceptions are if you reserve adult only dinging experiences at Palo or Remy which both have dress codes. We enjoy the rotational dining exclusive to Disney Cruise Line, experiencing a different restaurant and menu with the same servers each evening. And, unlimited room service is also included!!

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to exceptional dining experiences, Disney Cruise Line offers many entertainment options including Broadway-like musical productions, viewings of recently released Disney movies, character meet & greets that you often cannot find at the parks, deck parties, dance clubs, karaoke, trivia and so much more!  There is definitely enough to keep you busy on a Disney Cruise if you aren’t the lounging at the pool or beach type.

A few new experiences now offered on the Disney Fantasy include Sweet on You, Tiffany & Co., and something just for kids, Star Wars: Command Post and Marvel Super Hero Academy.

The whole family can indulge in frozen desserts that satisfy your confectionery cravings at Sweet on You, a brand-new specialty ice cream emporium located just outside Cabana’s featuring 20 hand-crafted gelatos, 16 ice cream flavors, 32 tempting toppings, homemade chocolate, truffles, a large selection of candy and more!

Disney Cruise Line now hosts the world’s premier jewelry and iconic American luxury brand, Tiffany & Co., with an exclusive store aboard the Disney Fantasy. Indulge your most dazzling fantasies and peruse Tiffany’s timeless designs and discover why their quintessential little blue box is known around the globe!

At Star Wars: Command Post younglings can battle the Dark Side like never before. This hidden Resistance base transports new recruits to a galaxy far, far away—Disney’s Oceaneer Club, to be exact! Young Rebels can train with some of their favorite heroes from the legendary film saga and connect to holographic models of the Millennium Falcon, an X-Wing Fighter spacecraft or even the Death Star via the interactive “holotable,” a high-tech control hub that provides one of-a-kind Star Wars adventures and may even come face-to-face with First Order Stormtroopers!

At Marvel Super Hero Academy young trainees will learn the values of courage, compassion and responsibility alongside some of Marvel’s mightiest. The Marvel Super Hero Academy is an innovative experience where kids can master the mystic arts under the mentor-ship of Doctor Strange. Immersive gaming and interactive portals help beginners unleash their inner strength, become Avengers and discover the true meaning of “super powers”!

 

 

Everything Star Wars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is THE PARK for everything Star Wars!  To help you plan your Hollywood Studio’s visit, below is information about everything Star Wars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

*Please check your My Disney Experience Mobile App or Times Guides available at the park for fireworks and show times.
Star Wars Locations in the Park:

  • Hollywood Boulevard (HB):
    • March of the First Order
    • Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away
    • Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular
  • Echo Lake (EL):
    • Star  Tours – The Adventures Continue
    • Star Wars: Path of the Jedi
    • Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple
    • Tatooine Traders
  • Animation Courtyard (AC):
    • Star Wars Launch Bay
    • Star Wars Launch Bay Theater
    • Kylo Ren, Chewbacca, and BB-8 at Star Wars Launch Bay

  Rides:

Star Tours – The Adventures Continue (EL) (40″) *offers Rider Switch
Make the jump to hyperspace—and to a new destination from Star Wars: The Force Awakens—during a 3D, motion-simulated space flight. *New for 2017, voyage changes, switching back to randomized beginnings, and final destinations will include scenes from the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

*Tip: FastPass is available for this experience and is recommended.

Shows and Stage Shows:

Star Wars: Path of the Jedi (EL)
Watch a 10-minute retelling of the blockbuster Star Wars saga and get a peek at the future of the galaxy.

Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple (EL)
Watch younglings train in the ways of the Force and put their skills to the test against the Dark Side!

*Tip: Arrive before park opening to register your child, ages 4-12, for this experience. Your child must be present at the time of registration to participate. Registration is located at the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost located between the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! and the 50’s Prime Time Café.  Availability is limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Be flexible with your schedule to accommodate training times.

Star Wars Launch Bay (AC)
Check out movie props, snap photos, screen videos, and greet Star Wars heroes and villains. *New for 2017 Star Wars Launch Bay will feature new props from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Star Wars Launch Bay Theater (AC)
Watch a behind-the-scenes video and see how a new generation of filmmakers is designing the future of the Star Wars saga. *New for 2017 making-of footage can be seen in the attraction’s behind-the-scenes film, “Meet the Makers.”

March of the First Order (HB)
Watch and listen as Captain Phasma, a ruthless commander, leads her squad of Stormtroopers up Hollywood Boulevard to Center Stage.  *This experience provides a great photo or video opportunity too!

Star Wars: a Galaxy Far, Far Away (HB)
Witness the power of this live show that brings iconic Star Wars moments to life. *New for 2017 Advanced Weapons Research (AWR) Troopers from the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will debut during a new scene. AWR Troopers are encased in specialized Stormtrooper armor with a dark, ominous gleam.

*Tip: If you have seen this show previously or the viewing area in front of the stage is already full, stand behind the stage during the show and then just to the left facing side of the stage as the show is ending and you will see the Star Wars characters as they exit, sometimes getting a fist bump or two, for great photo opportunities!  Another good spot to see the characters enter and leave the stage (if you have already seen the show) is in the Great Movie Ride courtyard.

Fireworks:

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular (HB)
Conclude your day with an out of this world fireworks finale bursting with Star Wars music and magic which includes a celebration of the theatrical release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

*Tip: Cast Members will ask everyone stand up before the show starts. The best location is, of course, front and center stage – but you will need to arrive early to snag a spot! If the front section is full, the next best spot is center to the stage just to the right of the handicap area behind the section taped off for a walkway or any spot center to the stage will be a good viewing area. There is no stage show, everything happens on the screens mounted on the stage or in the sky. Watch for the light sabers too!

Star Wars Character Meet & Greets:

You can find these characters in Star Wars Launch Bay (AC).

  • Kylo Ren
  • Chewbacca
  • BB-8

*Tip: Wait times can be long but the lines do move quickly, so don’t be intimidated by a long wait time – at least it’s air conditioned! If you are a Disney Visa Cardmember, just present your Disney Visa card for a special character meet & greet offered daily from 11am to 4pm. Also, during the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party is a great time to experience the characters as wait times are 20 minutes or less. Characters may vary daily for this offer.

Photo Opportunities:

Snap a photo in Star Wars settings or next to replica movie props to prove that you visited a galaxy far, far away.

Shopping:

Tatooine Traders (EL) is located at the exit of Star Tours.

Special Events & Tours: 

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party
Watch the fireworks from a reserved viewing area with Star Wars-themed desserts and drinks—plus receive a souvenir stein.

*Tip: Advance reservations are highly recommended.

Star Wars Guided Tour – New for 2017
This seven-hour guided tour will be led by a Star Wars “all-in-the-know” tour guide. You will blast off on Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, get an in-depth, insider’s tour around Launch Bay, and enjoy Star Wars-themed menu items at Backlot Express. Plus, Guests age 4-12 will have an opportunity to participate in Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple. And, the finale of this unforgettable day includes themed sweets and specialty beverages at Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party, which also includes reserved viewing for the fireworks show and a souvenir stein.

*Tip: This experience is highly recommended especially if you are a Star Wars fan! The cost for the tour compared to the cost for the dessert party is a DEAL! Plus, this BONUS, if you have younglings that want to participate in the Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple experience, doing the tour provides the opportunity to participate without the need to arrive before park opening to sign up.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios park admission is required for both experiences. Additional fees apply for these separate ticketed experiences.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is already packed with Star Wars attractions, entertainment, and shopping… but new additions are debuting all the time. The Star Wars experience at Walt Disney World Resort will also include a Star Wars-themed Land, the largest single-themed expansion ever added to a Disney theme park!

 

 

 

Review of the Norwegian Escape

written by Sara Toerner, Travel Specialist

One Word Review:  AMAZING!!

You’ll LOVE the Norwegian Escape ship IF:

  • You enjoy flexibility in your cruise experience, not set dining times and stuffy tuxedo dinners (though a Dress Up night is offered on many sailings)
  • You are a solo traveler. NCL’s Studio Suites are innovative and cost-effective for the solo traveler; a great way to meet other solo travelers.
  • You have been dissatisfied by value cruises
  • You enjoy large ships with PLENTY of entertainment, shows, dining options, and activities
  • You are annoyed by dated cruise ships. The Escape debuted in 2015.
  • You are an upscale cruiser: The Haven’s luxurious staterooms, restaurant, and courtyard/pool are exclusive to Haven guests and feature an array of impressive benefits.
  • Fun is on your cruise agenda, but so is relaxation.
  • You’re traveling with kids or you’re traveling without. Escape offers both adults-only areas and kids-only clubs.
  • You enjoy the latest, the greatest, the newest, or the most innovative things in life.

NCL’s most innovative ship ever built, the Escape, is ready to whisk you away to the Bahamas and The Caribbean from Miami. Get ready to escape on one of the newest and most exciting ships on the seas! Indulging in every whim is what unforgettable vacations are made of. Get ready to chase sunsets on The Waterfront. Explore a world of exotic flavors with two new restaurants from Iron Chef Jose Garces. Get closer to paradise with two quintessential Jimmy Buffett venues: Margaritaville at Sea and the 5 O’clock Somewhere Bar. Sip on some of Napa’s best blends at The cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar. Or try our unique specialty cocktails, hand-crafted by Bar Lab. Be dazzled by Broadway hits like After Midnight. Discover a new world of Freestyle Cruising on Norwegian Escape.

Ready to experience the Escape first-hand?

Express Transportation at Walt Disney World®

written by Jennifer Hart, Travel Specialist

Do you ever wish that you could spend more time enjoying all 4 theme parks? Or maybe even visit all 4 parks in 1 day? Now you can, and Disney has made it even easier than before. If you have a Park Hopper ticket or are an Annual    Passholder, you can now add the Express Transportation option and give yourself more time to play. Disney’s Express Transportation option picks you up and drops you off inside the parks….no need to go through a second line for baggage check or wait in a line to re-enter a park at the gate. Start your day in one park and when you are ready to change to a different theme park, simply make your way to the Express Transportation check-in location and a Cast Member will escort you to your bus.

The Express Transportation option is available to guests with a valid Park Hopper ticket or Annual Passholders.  To purchase your ticket, visit any ticket window or Guest Relations inside a park, Disney Springs ticket window, your hotel concierge, or a kiosk at the check-in locations.  The day you purchase is the day you can begin using it.  Advance purchase is not available.

Pricing is per guest (ages 3+).

  • Single Day, is valid for the day of purchase only and is $19 per person.
  • Multi-Day, is valid for 7 consecutive days beginning on the day of purchase and is $29 per person.

Here are the check-in locations at each park.

  • Magic Kingdom: near the exit of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Epcot: the east side of Spaceship Earth
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios: the courtyard in front of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom: near the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris

The Disney Express Transportation service:

  • Departs approximately every 30 minutes.
  • Runs each day from 10:00 AM until park closing.
  • Travels directly between each of the theme parks, it does not stop along the way.
  • Drops you off inside the park, so you are ready for fun from the moment you arrive!
  • Gives you unlimited transfers between all 4 theme parks, for as long as your Express Transportation ticket is valid.Several of us used this on a recent trip…it was so easy to hop from park to park.  We made it to all 4 parks in one day and never felt rushed since we saved so much time.  It is definitely the way to go if you are pressed for time, on a quick get away and want to maximize your park time, or trying to mark the 4 parks in one day off your bucket list!

 

Disney Vacation planner in O’Fallon IL

O’Fallon, IL is where it all started, and now we help families all over the world!  Debi Mitchell, the owner of Wish Upon a Star with Us helped her family and friends with their trips long before officially getting into the travel business.  Back in 2002 she had four young children at home and was no longer teaching elementary school. Having moved around following her husband’s military career she needed to be able to be flexible and was just looking for a fun hobby that she could call her own.   Debi heard about a travel agency in the northeast that was hiring people with experience visiting Disney World.  It was right up her alley as she and her family had many many trips already under their belt to Disney World and on the Disney Cruise line.  She worked for a few different agencies over the years but then decided she wanted to be able to manage her own agency, focusing on customer service and personal details.  Wish Upon a Star with Us is rooted in the belief of  helping families as we would want to be treated, along with giving back a portion of every commission to non-profit organizations.

Debi is a firm believer in having the personal experiences that enable us to better help the families that come to us for assistance with their trips.  Having first-hand knowledge of all the Walt Disney World Resorts, Disneyland resorts, the cruise ships, and even all the restaurants allows us to better help our clients.  Debi focuses on continuing to gain those experiences such as visiting Disney World when a new restaurant opens or traveling to Hawaii to see Disney’s newest resort, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa.  All of the agents at Wish Upon a Star with Us work together as a team.  They know they can call Debi to ask about a detail or even correspond with each other to get the best information to help a client.  When we can describe the view out the window of Bay Lake at the Contemporary or explain how the rooms are designed at Art of Animation (because we personally have stayed there), these details help our clients to make more educated decisions about their trips.  We feel it is important to explain differences and benefits, but will always try to help families decide what is best for them.  What is ideal for one family is not always the right choice for someone else.  We feel our role is to help you figure out what is the best plan of action for your family.  We will then help you with details that you may not have even thought about in order to make your trip go smoother.  We are partners in helping to make your trip more magical.  “Two heads are better than one!”  If we can help you come up with ideas, talk through decisions, and work together with you, then we have succeeded in helping  you spend your vacation dollars more wisely and have the trip that you desire.

Debi opened an office close to O’Fallon  in Collinsville, IL in early 2012.  While all of the agents, including Debi, still work from home, the office in Collinsville gives them a headquarters.  They use the friendly office space to meet families, have a central phone number, and keep the neat Disney memorabilia they’ve collected over the years. Debi also chose Collinsville so she would be close to her children’s school as she still volunteers over there frequently and helps with the band program weekly.  So our humble beginnings started in O’Fallon, IL but we feel so blessed to have agents all over the United States now.  With the internet we are able to help families that are located all around the world, many of them also military families returning home to visit loved ones and looking for a vacation together.

We hope you will choose us to help you with your trip to a Disney destination!  Since there is no charge for our planning services when we book your trip, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.  Please contact us at info@wishuponastarwithus.com or contact an agent directly on our contact page.

Art of Animation Pictures

We have pictures of Disney’s Art of Animation resort!

check out the Art of Animation page under the resorts for all of our pictures. Next week I will be posting more pictures as I move into my room on Wednesday, complete with TWO bathrooms (good thing because I will have two teenage girls joining me), a kitchenette, and room to sleep six people. Disney —you have done a great job with this resort and I have a feeling it is going to be a favorite of many families!