Push Away the Screen – My birthday

Things are about to shift in our household. I start a full time out-of-the-house job on June 30. That means I have to take vacation time when I want time away for the first time in about 10 yrs. My older daughter starts senior year of high school so she will be working on essays, scholarships, standardized tests, etc. And my younger daughter is learning to drive.

No matter how big she gets, she's still mini-me!

No matter how big she gets, she’s still mini-me!

Brian decided it was time for a family vacation before any of that kicks in – and within 2 days of mentioning it to us at dinner he had the whole thing planned. One night we were talking about where we might want to have dinner near Disney, and the next day he had an itinerary ready, down to a Fast Pass for the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride.

We decided to go back to the Caribe Royale, where we stayed last Sept. We liked their pool with slide and waterfall, food, poolside cabana and room amenities (the pool bar even has the same friendly bartender). We also learned that they now have “dive in movies” – family-friendly movies out by the pool at night (“Madagascar 3” and the new-to-DVD “Frozen” while we were there) and they have their own award-winning pastry chef who makes all the sinful goodies on property.

Smoothies by the pool after getting wisdom teeth out - PERFECT!

Smoothies by the pool after getting wisdom teeth out – PERFECT!

Here’s how you can take advantage of this Hot Spot all summer:

Summer Splash Package

  • Valid for travel June 1 – September 30, 2014
  • Rates start at $129 per night, plus tax for one bedroom suites
  • Breakfast buffet for two people daily in Tropicale
  • Daily high-speed internet
  • Guaranteed 1pm late check out
  • DOUBLE Stash Points (must be a Stash Rewards member)
  • 25% off every 3rd night
  • Terms: Package and rates are subject to availability. Blackout dates may apply. Package is available for suites and villas, but villas may be sold out over certain dates. In order to receive Stash points you must be a Stash member.

We had a 2-room suite this time. The room we walked in to from the hall had a pull-out sofa bed, desk, fridge, microwave, mini-bar, tables and chairs. The 2nd room had the bathroom with sink outside (which we like so 2 can do hair and makeup while the 3rd showers), and 2 queen size beds.

Once they learned it was my birthday, we came back to our room to find a decorate-your-own-cookies platter with chocolate chip cookies, frosting and mini M&Ms. 🙂

Milk & Cookies for all!

Milk & Cookies for all!

For the first time, we ate at Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Village. It’s not at the theme park or the main lodge, but if you bus to the main lodge you can stroll the path to get there. It is Indian and African food at its best, and most of the meals are you-pick-two so you can try a variety of flavors. For the 4 of us with 4 desserts (we never do that!) and drinks for Brian, it was about $130, which is our typical expenditure for 4 “adults” at a Disney restaurant, only this one was over-the-top delicious! 

The restaurant opens at 5pm, and our reservation was for 5:30, but we arrived at 4:30 so we could watch animals out back and shop without feeling rushed. Grazing zebras, giraffes, and other fuzzy friends were just a few feet away, and tortoises were visible through a window by the restaurant as well.

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Seen in gift shop - a book made from Poop.

Seen in gift shop – a book made from Poop.

At 5pm, a short drumming show announced the start of meal time, and at 5:20 we put our names in with the hostess. We were seated quickly, and our server, Ken, was funny and gave great recommendations.

We started our meal with 3 flavors of Naan bread and 3 dips to spread on top. Alice, who had just had her wisdom teeth out and only wanted mushy foods, ordered Potato and Pea Samosas and Chana Tikki – chickpea patties. I think she had soup too. Brian had Butter Chicken and Spicy Durban Shrimp with basmati rice, and Wendy had lamb and the kids dessert of Peanut Butter Mousse and Eggless Chocolate Cake. I had Paneer Tikka, Chana Masala and basmati rice. Everything was superb!

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My birthday dessert

My birthday dessert

After Sanaa we went to La Nouba, the Cirque du Soleil show that is based at Downtown Disney. Brian and I had seen it years ago when it first opened, but we are Cirque freaks and really wanted the girls to see it. Although we were in the 2nd to last row of the audience to save some $$, there’s really not a bad seat in the house. We loved strolling the south hall and stairwell, looking at the wall of framed clown photos! What a way to spend a birthday!!

For the first time in 17 years we decided to return to the Living Seas restaurant at EPCOT. We thought the girls would get a kick out of the HUGE aquarium inside. The menu there, however, was unimaginative and none of us left feeling like it was anything special – for the same price tag as Sanaa without desserts. So not worth it.

That weekend at Disney was also Gay Days and Star Wars weekends. The lines were LONG, and we were thankful that Brian made our fast passes online in advance. We also spent mornings in poolside-cabanas reading and splashing, and hit the theme parks later in the day when younger children might have already melted and gone home.

A friend let us know that The Studios might be too full on Sunday to enjoy, so we went on Saturday. For the first time, Alice and Wendy were old enough to volunteer for the show before the Backlot Tour ride. They starred in the 1pm showing of “Harbor Attack”, and we got plenty of photos and videos. It was another throwback to our honeymoon, when Brian and I were in the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.

Harbor Attack Extras

Harbor Attack Extras

We also took a little break in the A/C in the back of the studios where you can take a drawing class, and we all drew Winnie the Pooh. Then Alice beat me at Toy Story Mania.

Pooh bear drawing class

Pooh bear drawing class

blogtoystorymaniaWe rode Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Roller Coaster – thankful that Alice’s sore mouth wasn’t bothered during the fast-paced Aerosmith ride. We also saw Boba Fett, Darth Vader, Sand People and many other Star Wars characters wandering even though it was not our intention. Added bonus!

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I was teaching him to say “Selfie”

We also brought a game for the hotel room, so we could come back and shower, eat sugar, and play a family game before bed.

Once, while in line for The Pirates of the Caribbean, we were talking to the young man running the ride, and he said he had never seen any of the Johnny Depp Pirate movies! I was shocked!

Sunday was out last day in Orlando. We checked out of the Caribe Royale and headed back to EPCOT, where we met up with our friend Grayson to graise our way around the World Showcase countries and munch on whatever we wanted.

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Grayson has a Disney pass too, so we could play all day!

I split a delicious avocado margarita with Brain in Mexico, had an egg roll in China, got perfume samples and rode the Maelstrom in Norway, shopped in Germany and Japan (Kiki comics!), had apple pie in America, got slushies for the kids in Morocco, shared fish & chips in Great Britain, listened to Off Kilter in Canada, got photos with Pooh and Tigger and rode Test Track. I think we headed for home at 3:30pm.

blogpoohhug blogpoohfriendsWe’ve been to Disney a zillion times. It seems to me that there’s been a huge shift in the last 2 years where fast passes and restaurant reservations are much more of a requirement to avoid 90 minutes lines than ever before. But we have lots of tips and tricks if you are planning a vacation there. And if you don’t need to rely on Disney bus service the whole time, check out the Caribe Royale, especially if you have a large group or want a full kitchen and laundry. Their suite options are wonderful! Enjoy your stay!

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