Saturday, 30 April 2016

Staying onsite at Universal Orlando Resort



Hi guys and welcome to my first ever Dis After Dark blog post :) 

Have you stayed onsite? … At Universal, I mean. No? Well let me tell you about it !

When I visited Orlando with my parents in my teen-rock years, I’d look at the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal and think "YES ! WHEN I AM OLD AND RICH AND MARRIED TO A ROCK STAR THAT IS WHERE I AM GOING TO STAY !"
Well..now i’m old(er)….and not rich…and certainly not married to a rock star (unfortunately)…but I stayed there anyway - and it was AWESOME.
So awesome in fact, that I think I'll probably stay onsite at Universal each time I visit, until the sight of Hogwarts Castle and The Hulk from my hotel window bores me (if that’s even a thing?!)

If you’ve been on any Disney/ Universal planning forums you’ll see endless amounts of people who enjoy booking 1 or 2 nights onsite at certain hotels at the Universal Orlando Resort, and rave about receiving free express passes. (Hard Rock Hotel, Portofino Bay and Royal Pacific) These are the premier and preferred hotels.

Considering express passes start at $59.99 per person for a two park ticket - Universal are giving you a great deal ! 

But express passes are definitely not the only perk of staying onsite.
It takes five minutes to walk from Hard Rock to the entrance gate of Universal Studios.  Five minutes of gorgeous palm trees, lagoons and butterfly gardens. You even get your own little bag check desk.

The pool area is fab and never seems over crowded, they show movies at night on a huge screen above the pool and the bars serve the BEST margaritas I’ve ever had (shout out to Rob the bartender for giving me a 2 week hangover and then face-timing my mum - *embarrassed* ) 
Cabana Bay even has it’s own lazy river !

The restaurants are world class. If you love Italian food, Mama Della’s in Portofino bay, actually have opera singers serenading you whilst you eat their fantastic dishes! Cabana bay has an entire food court - so even picky eaters like me are guaranteed to find something that they’ll enjoy.

What’s more, is you even get to enter the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter a whole hour before it opens !

If you’re a lover of Universal and you haven’t stayed onsite, I 100% recommend looking into it.

Check out my video below for more on why I love staying onsite!




Amanda



And don’t forget to check out my water taxi POV video here :https://youtu.be/sChPnp9bID4

Friday, 29 April 2016

Staying at Windsor Hills Condo (Off Property)


My family and I decided to save our DVC points for our stay in June and try out a Condo in Windsor Hills Community only two miles from WDW property. http://www.windsorhillsrentalvillas.com/


I went on VRBO.com and reviewed a few of the resorts and then I came upon the Condo known as Key Largo at the Windsor Hills resort. I contacted the owner Rob and worked on a price. It was very easy, I put a deposit down and paid with my paypal account.


The owner sent me the necessary papers and I signed, scanned and emailed them back to him. At that point he sent me the rest of the information on how to proceed and what to take to the gate to gain entry in the community.


I was very pleased with the Condo. I have stayed at many places on and off site. The Condo was very cozy and well appointed. It has a keyless entry. The community of Windsor Hills is very nice. Some of the amenities it has are:


  • Giant community heated pool.
  • Monthly parties and events!
  • Spiral water slide, fountains, and family sized hot tub!
  • Amazing clubhouse with billiard room, video arcade, movie theater and more!
  • Free Wi-Fi at Clubhouse • Business Center at the Windsor Hills Clubhouse.
  • Windsor Hills Sundry Shop with all your basic needs!
  • Lighted tennis, basketball and sand volleyball court.
  • Professional putting green to practice your game!
  • Picnic & Barbeque area.
  • Unique castle themed playground.
  • Guest Services to assist with all local information.
  • State of the Art Fitness center.
  • 24 hour gated security.
  • Playgrounds throughout the property.
  • Shuttle bus service to all the parks and shops (small charge).
  • RV and boat parking available.


  • I did not use the amenities because we were at the parks most of the days until the pool closed. I did find out that the guest choose the films that play at their movie theater that plays a few times a day. On our last day I did use the computer to print our boarding passes. The first 10 minutes are free and .75 each page print.


     I used the pin code on the keypad to enter the Condo. The Condo itself was very nice, very comfortable and homey. The place has so much room. The beds were very soft and plush and the Master Bedroom has a king size bed; however, its very high off the ground which made it a bit difficult for me to get on being that I am only 5'2 but it was very well worth it. The girls room was cozy with two beds and a t.v. and their own bathroom, which was very nice because two teenage girls can take a long time getting ready in the morning.


    I loved the use of the full kitchen for coffee in the morning and ice tea in the evening. If I was staying longer I would love the use of the kitchen for full meals but because we were at the parks all day we really didn't get a chance to use it.


    There is a washer and dryer and we did use that on our last night there. I love to do a load of laundry before we leave so we don't come home with a bunch of dirty clothes.


    The condo also has an xbox if your family likes to play video games.


    I would highly recommend this beautiful Condo to any family that want a nice roomy place to stay off property. Its cheaper than a hotel and you get a full living area.


    I hope you enjoyed my review on this Condo. Please check it out if you can and if there are no dates open for your vacation than check out VRBO.com and look at the other Condo's in the community.


    The Condo comes with a few items such as
  • One roll of paper towels
  • One sponge
  • One dishwasher detergent
  • One pot of coffee & a few sugars, stirrers, etc.
  • One load of laundry detergent
  • One roll of toilet paper per bathroom
  • Sample Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Soap & Facial Soap
  • All linens and towels provided
  • Air conditioning
  • Flat screen HD TVs with cable
  • Complimentary WiFi access
  • Fully equipped kitchen complete with all major appliances, dinnerware, flatware, pots and pans, garbage disposal, dishwasher, coffeemaker, toaster, and microwave
  • Washer/Dryer
  • Haridryer(s) in each bathroom
  • Ceramic tile
  • Carpeted bedrooms
  • Complimentary use of the community amenities
  • Convenient parking
  • Screened in Lania





















  • Skipper Canteen

    I was able to secure a table at the newest Magic Kingdom restaurant, "The Skipper Canteen". I was joined by my husband Joseph while my teenage daughter Jenna and her friend had plans to eat at Crystal Palace later with me because they read the menu at Skipper Canteen and did no like the sounds of most anything there. Knowing I would be with the girls in the evening later I was set to just order appetizers and share a dessert. I have always wanted to try the restaurant and my husband was very excited to try it as well.


    The theme is inspired by the jungles of the world. The food is designed around the Middle Eastern, Asian and South America.


    It was very easy to secure a table as I went on My Disney Experience and selected the time. When the time came around I checked in at the podium and gave them my cell phone number in which they would txt me when the table was ready. The seating was very adventurous with a few cushy wicker high back chairs in the main check in room and then the room right off of that there is a very cool ceiling fan and another seating area.


    Shortly after we sat down the txt came to let us know that our table was ready. We were sat in the S.E.A. room. There are three rooms that you can dine in and they are the Crew's mess hall, The Falls family room and The S.E.A. room each designed in that fashion.


    We were looking forward to the corny jokes and puns but sadly the Skipper we had said she was tired and honestly for us there were no jokes.


    We were brought a lovely Ambasha bread with a delicious honey dip. The bread is amazing and the honey dip is insanely good, its very addicting; however, my husband did not like the bread at all.


    Then it was time to order our drinks and I could not believe that had my favorite Club Cool drink at Epcot, the Fanta Melon and it was unlimited refills. It was so good and refreshing. My husband just order a water with lemon. Then it was time for the appetizers. Joseph order the S.E.A. Shu Mai and I ordered the Ginger of Croc Soup. The soup was very spicy to me and had quit the bite to it. Joseph's Shu Mai was quit good, it has both pork and shrimp in the filling, You get five pieces of steamed Gyoza skinned wrapped mung bean, pork and shrimp dumplings.


    On to the dessert. We both ordered the Coconut bar with pineapple-basil compote. The dessert although good was not worth the amount we paid. It is light in flavor and small but very pretty.


    Honestly, I think Skipper Canteen is a nice respite from the traditional burgers in the park. Its a beautifully decorated space with a lot of character. I have heard rumor that the menu is experiencing an overhaul as I type this. I will go back and try a full meal the next time and give a more in depth review. On a separate note this restaurant does not accept DVC discount.






    Thank you for letting me share this review with you.


    http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2015/12/13/first-look-jungle-navigation-co-ltd-skipper-canteen-restaurant-in-disney-world-yep-the-jungle-cruise-restaurant/

    Gurgling Suitcase Bar at OKW

    While on my recent vacation I had the pleasure of going to my home resort at OKW. I was not staying there; however, I did manage to go for a quick day visit.


    One of the places I like to visit while there is the Gurgling Suitcase bar. Its a small bar quietly nestled in between Olivia's and Good Foods to go quick service, that offers many drinks and although I could have order an alcoholic drink I went with my traditional cherry coke. This bar is very quaint and fun. There are a lot of shadow box art on the wall with various donated license plates, patches, and DVC Member family photos. It has a very Old Key West feel, a true Floridian feel. The bar keep was very friendly and helpful. The door is always open and the feel is very much inviting.


    There is not much seating available; however, you can take your drinks out to the boardwalk or head into the lobby lounge at the check in area for a nice air condition treat They offer the standard Disney bar menu with several cocktails and the like but also offer specialty cocktails that you can only get at this charming hole in the wall. The specialty cocktails are the Sultry Seahorse: Disaronno amaretto, creme de banana, pineapple juice, orange juice and a float of cherry brandy, the  Turtle Krawl: Coconut rum, spiced rum and white rum with pineapple, orange and key lime juices the Woo Woo: Vodka, Peach Schnapps & Cranberry and lastly the Bocce Ball: Disaronno amaretto & OJ.


    If you are looking for a truly relaxing getaway, stop over at the Gurgling Suitcase at the Old Key West resort.





    http://www.wdwforgrownups.com/articles/old-key-west-resorts-gurgling-suitcase-bar

    Dis After Dark Welcomes Amanda & her Vlog to the Team


    Welcome


    Amanda




    We have the pleasure of welcoming Amanda (@BostonWhite) to our blog pages & hopefully the podcast too.  I found her vlog on YouTube last weekend whilst researching our trip in 2017.  Her love for Disney, Universal & Halloween Horror Nights is infectious & I reached out to her immediately. I urge you all to go & watch her vlogs & follow her on twitter.  Amanda will be posting short blog posts along with her vlogs in our blog in the coming weeks.

    Podcast Of The Week


    Podcast Of The Week

    Scare Zone
    Halloween
    Horror
    Nights
    Podcast



    In this episode of Scarezone host Logan Sekulow (WDW Today) introduces Christopher Ripley (Dis After Dark) as a member of the cast. Chris wrote the book Halloween Horror Nights: The Unofficial Story & Guide.  They discuss their personal background with HHN Orlando and give their thoughts and a historical perspective on Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the first house announced for 2016. 

    Later in the show Logan interviews Julie Zimmerman, the co-creator of Halloween Horror Nights.  Julie spends nearly a half hour discussing the creation of HHN - from its very humble beginnings to its thriving success. This is an interview you won't want to miss.


    Listen via


    Google Play




    Thursday, 28 April 2016

    Drury Inn (Off Property)

    There is one hotel in the Disney World area that really caters to there guest.


    This is a little secret I am very excited to share with our readers. https://druryhotels.com/locations/orlando-fl/drury-inn-and-suites-Orlando


    The hotel is the Drury Inn & Suites is located at 7301 West Sand Lake Road
    Orlando, FL 32819
    P: 407-354-1101
    F: 855-827-1699
    It is very conveniently located next to a 7-11 and you can see the Orlando Eye from the resort. The hotel offers many amenities, such as free local calls, free wi-fi, free parking, free breakfast buffet, free popcorn and soda and a free kickback nightly (which is dinner) with alcoholic drinks (3 per night per person). The rooms are roomy and have an option for a two room suites with a bedroom and living room with pull out couch and kitchenette. They also have a very nice indoor/outdoor pool and gym. The staff is very knowledgeable and nice, they go above and beyond to help their guest.

    We have stayed at two other Drury Inn's in St. Louis and Illinois and all offers these amenities. We saved money on dinner every night we could eat in.

    One of the really nice unmentioned perks in the complementary shower gel, shampoo and conditioner that is in big condensers in the showers and the brand H20 the same brand Disney has.

    The dinners consist of such items (change nightly) as Pasta with meatballs, salads, soups, chili, macaroni and cheese, nacho's, chili dogs and other items. The drinks include margarita's, different cocktails and beer as well as some wines.

    Everyone I spoke to has never heard of this hotel; however it clearly has a following.

    I've included some photo's. Please let me know if you ever do decide to stay at the Drury and let me know what you think. Think of the money you could save on dinners, breakfast, and even drinks.


    Lunch at Artist Pallet in Saratoga Springs Resort

    When I visit WDW I truly enjoy going to the different resorts to explore the different food options and recreation options the have. On my recent visit I had lunch at the Artist Pallet in Saratoga Springs resorts. I have stayed at the resort years ago and also had enjoyed a spa treatment and after lunch at Artist Pallet. I was very excited to see if it was as good as before or not.


    Artist Pallet is in main building called the Carriage House where guest check in. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/saratoga-springs-resort-and-spa/artists-palette/


    There are three total restaurants at the resort, The Turf Club bar and grill, the sit down restaurant called the Paddock and the quick service restaurant called Artist Pallet. They offer flat breads, soups, chili, salads and subs as well as the traditional desserts at most all quick service restaurants, such as yogurt parfaits, cupcakes and rice crispy treats among others. The seating area is so pretty with lovely colored chandlers which represent some amoebas and jelly fish. Art works from New York painter Laura Fayer dot the walls. It is very peaceful and relaxing.


    I grabbed a tray and got in line which was very short. I order my food and the very nice CM gave me a number and told me they would bring the food to my table. I quickly grabbed a drink and went to pay for my bill and went to sit down.


    In less then five minutes I was brought my lunch. I had order the Italian Flatbread Sandwich - Ham, Salami, Mortadella, Provolone, Lettuce, Tomato, Red Wine Vinaigrette, and Mayonnaise wrapped in a Flatbread with House-made Chips $11.49)                                           
    and the Greek Salad with Chicken - Mixed Greens, Greek Vinaigrette, Chicken, Black Olives, Cucumbers, Feta, Red Onion, Pepperoncini, and Tomato $10.69)                                           
    (and my husband order Spicy Italian Beef Sandwich – Roast Beef, Provolone, Horseradish Mayonnaise, Arugula, and Hot Relish with House-made Chips or Vegetable Slaw – $10.59 and a cup of chili and a cup of pineapple.


    My flatbread sandwich was very good, very soft bread, with a touch of tangy dressing, fresh ingredients such as lettuce and tomatoes, the meats were very good and the cheese plentiful. I tasted the chili and it was a very hearty blend, very thick. My husband Joseph said his sandwich was spot on and so tasty. Each entrée came with house made chips and were very nice. Of course the pineapple was refreshing and good.


    After we ate lunch we decided to walk into the next room which there was a billiards table, of course I had to play and try to beat my husband. The room was filled with comfy chairs and a flat screen t.v. with remote. We played a game and sadly I lost but I did have a good time.


    I would highly recommend to anyone looking to have a peaceful retreat from the parks to take a look at Saratoga Springs resort and have a meal and explore the beautiful landscape. In fact, this is my favorite thing to do.






    Wednesday, 27 April 2016

    The new DVC Member Lounge not open yet!

    I just returned from a recent visit to Walt Disney World. I was very excited to check out the new DVC Member lounge at Epcot. Its suppose to be amazing, with charging stations, computer use, printing capability and dedicated DVC Wi-Fi as well as complimentary soft drinks. Its located above the Figment attraction, in the ImageWorks second floor. This is where the famous "Rainbow Tunnel", was located, Michael Jacksons favorite attraction. My phone needed to be charged. So I made my way over to the lounge. Sadly though it was closed and the CM's had no idea when it would open. I will be back in June to see if it opens then. I will post more about the lounge in June.
     http://www.themeparktourist.com/news/20160104/31171/2016-dvc

    Sunday, 24 April 2016

    #DaDpubsnack04 In which one of our Heroes is on a coach going up the M1


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    Tonight's 4 are:

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    oh & Paul W is on a coach going up the M1 as he records, after shitty Watford FC got bummed by Palace

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    If you "LIKE" us, then you'll "LOVE" 

    S.T.R.I.K.E. The Marvel Cinematic Podcast With A British Twist

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    Check out this episode!

    Saturday, 23 April 2016

    A Disney Secret...

    We've just seen the latest Disney offering, 'The Jungle Book' and to be fair, it was a great movie; probably one of the best of these live-action versions that they've been making recently.

    So if you haven't seen it yet, go see it, it's well worth it; for everyone else, continue reading as we have a theory we'd like to share with you...


    The movie starts like all the Disney pictures, fireworks, village in the distance, a train comes past and the camera pulls out to reveal the infamous castle, little jingle and then the movie begins.  Nothing unusual there.... but wait did we notice something different!?


    Above is the classic Disney Studios logo, this is the one that is on before 99% of Disney movies, but Jungle Book didn't use this one, it used this one...


    Only a minor tweak, but looking closely one can clearly see that the castle before us is none other than Disneyland California's Castle, but why?  The answer might lay with what happens next.  The camera then turns and pull out slower, we're soon enclosed in jungle foliage and an eerie jungle-type song begins to play, an altogether familiar jungle-drums like song.  We're soon in the jungle, following a waterway and then the movie begins.  You can hear a snippet of the track here (main titles).



    Now here's the theory: this movie isn't set in the jungle, its set in Adventureland.  Adventureland could be defined as whatever you like, but whatever you perceive it to be, it is IN Disneyland (plus Disney World etc).  Some have suggested that the logo is done in this way to represent the film's heritage with the original animated version, which could be true, though we'd be more inclined to say that the end of the movie with the 'The End' book credits is more in keeping with 'classic Disney pictures', it certainly harks back to the 50/60s movies for sure.

    BUT, why does the camera turn?  Why does it show the Disneyland Castle and not the usual castle?  Why does the near exact same music as Adventureland begin to play?  Could it be that the film doesn't just take place inside a Disney park but it in fact set in the Jungle Cruise?  Maybe...

    Perhaps this movie is 'Adventureland' the movie, following in the footsteps of the damp squib 'Tomorrowland', perhaps we will see a Liberty Square movie too, and maybe even a Main Street or a Frontierland movie.  Or perhaps, Disney's next live-action movie of 'Beauty and the Beast' will be the Fantasyland movie?

    For whatever reason, you can't deny that this Easter egg is kinda suggesting that the movie IS SET inside a Disney park!  Which whatever way you look at it, this is sort of brilliant.

    What do you think?  Let us know below!

    Jungle Book review - A best seller or plulp fiction?



    Going back a couple of months I was not overly looking forward to seeing the Jungle Book.  I love the original animated version, as do many, and the recent fashion for Disney live action recreations has been patchy.

    I saw the trailer and it looked alright but again did not grip me.  Then the reviews started coming out and were overwhelmingly positive.  Even my favorite film critic Mark Kermode (hello to Jason Isaacs) was very positive about it.

    Right, I thought, if its good enough for Mr Kermode its good enough for me so off I went with Mrs D and we squeezed into a packed cinema at our local World of Cine (other cinemas are of course available).

    Did I like it?  Yes I thought it was very good.

    The story is essentially the same as the animated version but with a bit more depth as to Mowgli's back story and the reasons why Shere Khan wants him as a pub snack.  The jungle graphics are spectacular and the CGI characters are excellent for the most part, especially Baloo and King Louie, once or twice I felt they were a bit false or unnatural but I am being picky again.  The use of music is very clever with touches of the original songs and music for the most part and one almost full on song from King Louie.

    One watch out, this film is scary in parts and you should think twice about talking very young kids.

    Overall I did not feel it totally lived up to its hype from the reviews, I was expecting a 9 out of 10 but it is a solid 8, so no complaints.  I guess I just built up my expectations a little too much.  The end credits are very clever and worth staying for and my only spoiler is that you don't need to stay to the very end as there is no bonus scene.

    Good job Disney, everybody wanna be like you hoo hoo.  

    Thursday, 21 April 2016

    Shopping around & The Disney Dining Plan

    Kenwood Travel
    For months now, my beautiful Wife, Kerry, has been shopping around & comparing prices for our Florida holiday next year. Do you give it all over to a Travel Agent? Do you D.I.Y. some of the holiday or all of the holiday? Do you drive while over there or use the transport provided? Park tickets???? The list goes on & on. Next year is a special year, for the first time ever we are staying all holiday in resort hotels. The first few days of the holiday are in The Hard Rock Hotel on Universal Property. It's the best hotel on property & also the closest to the parks. Its literally a T shot away from The Gates of Universal. We then planned to stay in a Disney Moderate then The Contemporary Resort to finish up. Thats were the problems started. Disney is prohibitive when trying to park hop & keep your Disney Dining Plan. Basically when we checked out of The Moderate we'd also be checking out of the Dining Plan & we'd be on our own in The Contemporary, fending for ourselves!


    Before Free Dining

    We decided that this wasn't an option & chose to pay the extra cost & stay for the full vacation in a Deluxe Resort instead. There would be more cost involved but some of this would be offset by not having to upgrade from the basic Dining Plan to the full Dining Plan. Oh wait, we didn't even have a confirmed Disney Dining Plan confirmed. In fact rumors were everywhere that this year was going to be the first year that it wasn't offered???? Then last week Disney dropped the bomb, YES, The Disney Dining Plan was back & it was going live on 21st April 2016! This does a couple of things to you. Firstly you start to panic, secondly if focuses your mind.
    Firstly, we like to book early so fly drive is best, but you can pay well over the odds for the car hire so shopping around is best, put in the leg work & it'll pay off. Flights vary massively & its not always best to book direct with say, for example Virgin Airways or Thomas Cook because if its flight only you have to wait till eleven months before the trip & I can't handle that so fly drive it is, so again Virgin Holidays might be too expensive.  Travel agents have deals direct with them to buy blocks of seats so you really have to shop around.
    Next you need a starting point with Disney to see their pre Dining Plan price, please look above at the left hand picture. They are brilliant, They allow you to make a booking at that price to confirm your room then after the Dining Plan launches, for £50, they'll let you change your booking to incorporate it & the bonuses. Look to the picture on the right for the extras. LOOK AT THE PRICE!!! Whats all that about?

    Before The Plan went live Kerry asked me to ring Kenwood Travel a London based Travel Agent we've used before.  I spoke with a friendly agent named Ali & she was on the phone to HELP & help she did.  The Flights offered were cheaper than the price from Virgin Holidays & she was able to add Premium Economy to the return leg, something that speaking withVirgin, they'd been unable to do at this time.  The car hire was extremely competitive & she knew her stuff.  She's been to Walt Disney World & knew what she was talking about.  This wasn't just a business transaction, this was two like minded people sharing their experiences about WDW.  After confirming the booking & taking the deposit to secure the booking, I mentioned that we would still do the Walt Disney World part of the booking ourselves.  She begged me to get the quote direct from Disney then phone her straight away.  I did & Ali was able to get us everything the same as Disney for cheaper.  Kenwood Travel have basically done everything for us, flights, car, Hard Rock, Park Tickets & Walt Disney World.

    The moral of the story is shop around, do your homework & be flexable.  It'll pay off in the end