Chef Mickey’s Breakfast, May 23, 2015



In the Grand Canyon Concourse of the Contemporary hotel is Chef Mickey’s an all you can eat buffet style breakfast.


With the food allergies, Disney sends out their chief at each restaurant to go over the food options.  Chef Mickey’s held true to that form. The Chef made some gluten free Mickey pancakes and said that the meats and fruit were safe in the buffet.


Of course what would a place like Chef Mickey’s be without the Fab 5.  Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto and came by for a visit.  Of course Goofy had to spill the water – poor Goofy!


Chef Mickey taking some time out of the kitchen to say hi to his guests


Minnie and the kids


Goofy and the kids


Goofy after spilling the water


Happy Birthday hug from Goofy


Chef Donald and the kids


Pluto and the kids


Magic Kingdom May 22, 2015

Walt Disney World‘s Magic Kingdom

When we made our plans for this trip, we originally didn’t realize we were going on the one day a year when the Magic Kingdom doesn’t close – Disney’s 24-Hour Summer Kick-off Celebration.  An All Nighter that didn’t involve school or work at the most Happiest Place On Earth… Awesome!

Walking Right Down the Middle of Main Street USA


This was our first trip with the new MagicBands and the FastPass+ system.  It’s a great concept all you need is your wristband for access to the room, parks, purchases, and fast passes, but as you can read elsewhere, it is a little buggy, but they are working out the issues.  The one non-obvious think about them is you have to align the Mickey head on the wristband perfectly with the Mickey head on the receiver (and sometimes hold it there for a while).  The other downside to these is that my Disney Vacation Club (If you decide to join DVC, tell them I sent you :) ) membership is not encoded in them, so I had to present my DVC card to get the discount this time; while during past trips it was written on the room key.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train



A springtime opening is planned for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a rollicking family-style coaster and the crown jewel of New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom Park. Walt Disney World Resort guests will be treated to an exciting, musical ride into the mine "where a million diamonds shine" as the lovable world of Sleepy, Doc, Grumpy, Bashful, Sneezy, Happy and Dopey comes to life. One feature will be first-of-its-kind ride vehicles mounted in cradle-like pivots that allow the vehicles to swing back and forth during the ride. Adding to the fun, the journey will be accompanied by beloved music from the Disney film classic. On their adventure, riders pass by animated figures of Snow White, the Seven Dwarfs and playful forest critters. The attraction will complete New Fantasyland, the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history. Walt Disney World Resort is in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)


Waiting in line for the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  Unfortunately it broke down, but the good news is that we waited there long enough that the Cast Members eventually gave out Fast Passes to return later.      

Some pictures of the balloons on Main Street USA.  I’m thinking background images for my phone.  


Additionally, we hit all of the “E” ticket rides at the Magic Kingdom.  We had FastPass+ for Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Railroad, and the Tomorrowland Speedway.   Patty and I rode Space Mountain while Laura and Ryan experienced Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.  We also enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean considering we were about to set sail on our Caribbean adventure.


We spent a little extra time in Tomorrowland because the Tomorrowland movie opened that weekend, so we thought we’d do the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover in honor of the movie.

TTA at Night

TTA at Night

Later that night we finally got to do the Seven Dwarfs ride and by chance we hit it just as the fireworks for Wishes Nighttime Spectacular were going off.  We had panoramic views of the fireworks going on all around us as we twisted and turned on the track.  That was awesome!

Ok, now on to the all Nighter, right?!?  Not for us.  We decided to be good and go back to the room by 10 pm., so we would be rested for the first day of the cruise.  Probably a good call after all.


Bay Lake Tower, Disney World Suite 8634


We’re finally on our trip.  First stop, is Walt Disney World.  We flew down one day early to make sure we made the cruise.  We are Disney Vacation Club members so we’re staying on points.  

DVC Welcome Home

Since it’s only one night, we decided to try a Grand Villa at Bay Lake Tower which is connected to the Contemporary hotel.
Room 8634 is a 3 bedroom, 2 story suite capable of sleeping 14 comfortably.  For us it was completely overkill, but that was part of the fun.

The suite includes this beautiful full kitchen (stove, refrigerator, dish washer, microwave). 

full kitchen at Bay Lake Tower

Images of the living room.

view out the living room window


entertainment center


Kids in the upstairs bedroom window overlooking the living room


Modern Art Concept


Master Suite 

Master bedroom


Master Shower


Master Bed Headboard


All with this magnificent views.


Contemporary Courtyard at Night


Contemporary Hotel during a lightning storm


Parabolic view off one of the 3 balconies of the room


Bay Lake Tower Pool

Top of the World

Bay Lake Tower’s Top of the World bar is exclusive for Disney Vacation Club members with views of Bay Lake, the Seven Seas Lagoon, the Magic Kingdom, and the resorts on the Monorail System.



General pictures around BLT





Hidden Mickey in the base of the chandelier of Bay Lake Tower


Thank you gift from Walt Disney World


Pre-Cruise Documents

We are only a couple weeks away from taking our cruise.  All of the paperwork is done and now we’re just waiting to leave.

Cruise Booklet

You will get a booklet similar to the one below.  Take the time to read it carefully.  Everything in the book is relevant to your trip.   

 DCL luggage tags

These little things are truly magical, but be careful when playing with magic.  You want to put them on your bags only before you want them to disappear.  The luggage handlers at Orlando International Airport (MCO) are going to collect any bags with these tags and send them to the cruise ship.  If you aren’t going directly to the cruise ship from the airport, don’t put them on.  If you are staying at a Disney resort, make sure you put them on right before you don’t want to see them until you arrive on board.


Do you need passports for the cruise?  The answer depends on where you are going.  Most of the Caribbean doesn’t require them, but on your journey if we did the side trip to Tortuga, Passports are required.  If you want to be safe, get and take your passports.



The Government has put together a great central resource for traveling abroad.  You might want to do some research on the places you’re visiting and get a general understanding of the countries  you are visiting.  Under the Safety and Security title they discuss crimes to be wary of.  Common sense and a general awareness of your surroundings is typically all you need for Disney destinations, but if you aren’t an experienced traveler…take some time to check out this page.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

STEP is a free service from the Department of Stat that registers you with the local embassy in the case of an emergency.  Consider registering especially if you choose to do your own adventures instead of Disney’s Port of Call adventures.


If you don’t fly much, you might not be interested in this, but we decided to go for it for this trip.  While Dulles International Airport (IAD) tends to be quick to get through security but we are going to return through MCO on the way back gets bogged down a lot.

Packing for the Cruise

So I’ve been mostly silent so far, letting Shawn do most of the blogging about the trip. That is because he makes most of the reservations. I then figure out how to get us and all the stuff we need packed…..

So if you’ve ever read a blog about cruising, there are a few things you already know. The first being- the staterooms are small!  And if that isn’t hard enough, cruises have dress codes at dinner, formal parties and on the Disney ships- pirate night. Which means Ina given day you need 2-3 different outfits (and don’t even get me started on the shoes!  

Packing for the trip is a challenge even for a veteran traveller (like me).  And I can also tell you from experience that it isn’t fun furiously searching for a shoe when you are late for dinner.  The way to have a stress free vacation is to get your stateroom organized. 

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way- bring hangars. I like to bring used dry cleaning hangars.  The beauty to this- at the end of your trip you can leave the hangars behind to make room in your bag for a few more souvenirs. 

I would plan to bring several, but if you runout and want more, check the laundry rooms on the ship. There is usually a collection from previous guests. And of course, you can always ask your room steward for more. You may also want to bring clothes pins to help hang pants, skirts, etc.  Hanging will also help wrinkles fall out.  But Imore on wrinkles later. 

So I’ve learned that the walls on the Disney ship are magnetic. So this time around I’m bringing heavy duty magnetic hooks. Thea Weill be places to hang lanyards with our room keys, excursion backpacks, etc.  also, I’ve read that Disney no longer allows over the door hooks due to damage to the stateroom. I was considering bringing padded shelf liner (or the stuff you can put under rugs to stop them from sliding). I’ll probably bring those as backup, but I’m planning on using the magnetic hooks for the shoe rack as well. 

I’m actually bringing two. One I will oily use for shoes and I plan to put that on the door that can connect the rooms (since we aren’t traveling with extended family this trip).  One will probably go on one of the walls and I can use it for things like clean socks and underwear. Or maybe other small things- water bottles, toys, and  maybe sunblock. 

I also have a hanging rack for the shower. Disney does provide shampoo etc.  which is great, but unfortunately my super sensitive skin just doesn’t like it so I bring my own. It’s really too bad, because I love the Disney products. Shawn loves them too. 

So my other packing tip- plan to do laundry. That is correct- I’m advocating chores on vacation. I used to go I incredible efforts to launder and pack every item of clothing for the kids so I could be laundry free. Only to then be stressed once u get home to get it all washed again. Now I bring about 60-70% of what I need and wash while at sea.  

I know it doesn’t sound like fun, but it isn’t too bad.  So, in order to do this, I pack a few laundry supplies. The laundry detergent packs are fabulous, but I have just brought powder or liquid.  If I bring powder, I measure it out in snack size ziplock bags (buy quality freezer bags) and then put them into a outer bag- just to be safe from leaks. No need to bring quarters on the Disney ship- you scan your room key and charge to your account.  And never fear- they do sell laundry soap on board of you forget. But supplies are limited and they at not have your favorite type. 


So I wanted to give you a quick update on what we used and what we didn’t.  I ended up not using the shoe racks. We just didn’t seem to need them. But the magnetic hooks were Fantastic!  Each of us had hooks for our swim suits, goggles and sun shirts. I used a hanger to help hold the shirts and my suit. This allowed them to dry quickly in the cool, air conditioned state room. We also each had a hook for our stateroom lanyards. We couldn’t hang anything very heavy- far less than the 20lbs the magnets were rated for, but it still helped immensely with suits and lanyards. I think I’ll add a few more next time.  

I also recommend packing a small bag to take to the pool to hold keys, phones, sunblock, kindle, goggles, etc. No need for towels- the ship provides those at the pool. 

Overall, we were well packed. The bagged outfits for the kids was awesome. It helped them focus on getting dressed and they always had mom-approved outfits w/o a fuss! I will certainly do that again!  

Pei Wei, Sterling, VA

Today we went to Pei Wei for lunch.  We were surprised that their Gluten free menu was greatly reduced.

Laura got the GF Vietnamese Rolls.  They were pretty good.  She wished they were deep fried.


I ordered the Mongolian Style Steak with Fried Rice. It was pretty good, but not gluten free.


The kids shared a Gluten Free Sweet and Sour Chicken with white rice.  We were split on the taste.  Laura and Ryan liked it while Patty and I felt we’d have better.


Mon Ami Gabi, Reston, VA

Mon Ami Gabi

Product:3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)
Service:4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)
Accuracy:3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)
Gluten Free Options:2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)
Average:3.4 Stars (3.4 / 5)

Laura, Ryan, and I ate at Mon Ami Gabi for lunch today at their Reston Town Center location on this beautiful day in May.
Reception was a bit awkward.  On a day like today we would have loved to eat outside, but they said it was a 20 minute wait, even though the tables were half full.  We ended in up sitting inside, but close to an open wall, which made it a little better.

They knew we were gluten free, but brought bread.  The waiter noticed the gluten free menu and offered gluten free bread, but brought out enough for just one of us.  He did correct this too.

After that things got better.  I ordered the Make Your Own Bloody Mary.  We’re getting closer to our May destination review so I’m always there in my head.  They bring out the Grey Goose Vodka and send you over to the fixing bar.


Make Your Own Bloody Mary

For lunch Laura had the scallops, Ryan had a kids hamburger (no bun) and I had the steak with bernaise sauce.  Both were good meals, but I think we’ve had better.

Mon Ami Gabi Scallops

Mon Ami Gabi Scallops


Mon Ami Gabi Steak

Mon Ami Gabi Steak

I would go back, but I’d try something else next time.


Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint, Sterling VA 

Product:5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)
Service:4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)
Accuracy:3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)
Gluten Free Options:5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)
Average:4.4 Stars (4.4 / 5)

I love this pizza!  Ok, I should probably have built this article up to this point, but it’s my blog.  Seriously, the pizza is great at Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint. The ingredients are fresh and there is a plethora of combinations to make everyone happy.

As previously reported, our family has allergies to gluten and intolerances to dairy.  Maddio’s creates awesome pies for us too.  When we order the gluten free crust we tell them it is due to allergies.  They immediately stop everything and clean the counter tops, change gloves, pull out cooking trays dedicated to the gluten free pizzas only, and they use toppings from sealed containers.

The Sterling location does a lot for the community.  They host school spirit nights and fundraisers for the community.  Giving them a real hometown feel even in the megalopolis of Northern Virginia.

It’s a place where everything is fresh, from the pizza dough that’s made in-store each day to the locally-grown veggies that are delivered every morning.
It’s a place with almost limitless options. First you choose whether you want a handmade pizza, gourmet salad or toasted panini. Our pizza has 3 different dough options, 6 different sauce options and over 45 different cheese, meat or veggie toppings.
It’s a place where you build the pizza … without getting your hands dirty. You talk directly to the pizza maker and tell them exactly what you want. “A little more of this.” “A little less of that.” “And can I add that too?” Until it’s exactly how you want it.

It’s a family joint. It’s a hangout. If you’re looking for a restaurant franchise, it’s a perfect, new franchise opportunity.

It’s a place where all this comes together to make the perfect pizza. Your perfect pizza. So come to Uncle Maddio’s and see if it’s your kind of place.

They are struggling a little with their phone in orders, though.  Laura can’t eat their cheese, so we order a gluten free pizza without cheese.  Unfortunately, the pie makers are having a difficult time understanding why someone wants a pizza without cheese.
The management team of Chris and Chris have done everything possible to make these errors up to me. They are actively working with their team to get special orders right.  So they’ve earned my loyalty.


Grooming Lounge GL Signature Facial

Product:5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)
Service:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)
Accuracy:5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)
Average:4.8 Stars (4.8 / 5)

This week I had a GL Signature Facial from the Grooming Lounge located inside Tyson’s 2 mall in McLean, Va. The Grooming Lounge is dedicated to the hair and skin care needs of men.  Their facials exemplify this goal.

The facial is an incredible 75 minutes long.  It consists of a facial wash, citrus scrub, and other creams make the experience totally awesome.

The hard part is the black head extraction, but it only lasts a few minutes… So man up.

Since the Grooming Lounge specializes in serving men, the products they use are all masculine in nature and the esthetician knows men’s skin needs; so you don’t feel like its a woman’s shop trying to adapt to a man’s needs.

After the facial, the session concludes with a arm, shoulder, and upper chest massage.  A nice touch to the overall experience.

At the end of the experience I felt a couple of pounds lighter in the face and my skin looked great too.

I definitely recommend this treatment to any guy out there that has ever had an ok facial or has ever wanted to try one.


Disney Cruise May 2015 30 Days and Counting

Disney Cruise Line

Product:5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)
Service:5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)
Accuracy:5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)
Gluten Free Options:4.8 Stars (4.8 / 5)
Average:5 Stars (5 / 5)

We are inside 30 days until our May cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy and boy are we excited.  You would think it was our first cruise based on everyone reaction to the upcoming date, but in reality we are pros at this.  We love Disney Cruises because it is the only cruise line to offer activities for all different age groups with designated areas for kids only, teens only, adult only, and family areas.  We have sailed with Disney on board the Magic, Wonder, and Fantasy in the past with destinations to the Caribbean, the Bahamas, and Alaska.  Every journey has been a great success and with a little bit of Disney magic, this trip will be another awesome voyage.

Disney Cruise Ship


Our trip is called the 7-Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise on Disney Fantasy – Itinerary A, which is a fancy way of saying we are leaving on a 7 Night cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida with stops in St. Maarten, the US Virgin Islands, and Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island in The Bahamas).  During our cruise we will be experiencing Spa treatments on board, Adult Dining, and Port Adventures in St. Maarten and St. Thomas.

“St. Maarten, an island evenly and peaceably split between France and the Netherlands, is a Disney Cruise Line Caribbean Cruise port of call. Once the site of numerous sugar cane plantations and military strongholds, the West Indies island of St. Maarten/St. Martin today is a popular tourist destination characterized by festive nightlife, local handicrafts, exotic drinks, decadent shopping and gorgeous beaches. The 2 territories occupying the island hold the distinction of being the smallest to exist separately on one sea isle.”


“St. Thomas and St. John of the U.S. Virgin Islands make up one of the exciting ports of call on a Disney Cruise Line Caribbean Cruise vacation. Once largely occupied by Dutch-owned sugar cane plantations and pirates of the Caribbean, they are today some of the most popular tropical tourist destinations in the world.”


“Reserved exclusively for Guests on Disney Cruise Line Bahamian and Caribbean cruise vacations, Castaway Cay Disney's Castaway Cayis Disney’s private port-of-call paradise. On this island, enjoy tropical leisure activities, such as snorkeling, boating, swimming and sunbathing.”

May 2015 Cruise Itinerary


Planning started months ago.  Picking a cruise date, selecting itinerary, getting passports, signing up for kid clubs, selecting port adventures, spa treatments, adult dining, and making payments on your upcoming dream vacation are all part of the fun while waiting for your voyage.



US PassportAll members of the party are required to have Passports for entry in and exiting out of the country regardless of age.  Whatever you do, make sure your Passport is valid and has at least 6 months left on it prior to sailing.  And make sure you have them with you in your carry-on belonging when you arrive at the Embarkation port.  I have seen many people scramble to find their passports, some have them packed in their bags destine to go directly to their state room and others left them at home.  Disney (and any other cruise line you take) will not let you on board without them.


 Kids’ Clubs

The kids love going to the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab designed for kids 3-12.  Mine demand that we pick them up for dinner, but enjoy spending many an hour in the club.  There are all kinds of activities including story time, making flubber, and character visits.  Sign up online from the cruise website under Online Check-In and pickup a wristband either from the port prior to sailing or from either of the clubs and you’re ready to go.

Oceaneer ClubDisney’s Oceaneer Club is a children’s activity center located on Deck 5, Midship on the Disney Fantasy. It is the perfect place for children 3 to 12 years of age to immerse themselves in the imaginative worlds that only Disney could create, while performing on stage, playing games and enjoying a wide variety of supervised activities.

oceaneer club2

Oceaneer LabDisney’s Oceaneer Lab is a play space designed for children and dedicated to adventure and exploration—located on Deck 5, Midship aboard the Disney Fantasy. It’s an ideal location for children ages 3 to 12 years of age to play games, perform educational experiments and enjoy a wide variety of supervised activities throughout the day. A seemingly endless supply of toys, games and Disney movies make Disney’s Oceaneer Lab the perfect oasis at sea.

For kids between the ages of 11 and 14, Disney Cruise line offers the Edge.  Our kids aren’t old enough yet for this experiences, but we’ll report back when Patty experiences it for the first time.

Disney's EdgeEdge, a tweens-exclusive space located at Deck 13 inside the Forward Funnel aboard the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy, as well as on Deck 2, Midship aboard the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder, is a scenic spot where kids ages 11 through 14 can play videogames, watch television, listen to music, surf the Internet and partake in various activities with kids their own age.

For kids between 14 and 17, Disney has their own special club on board all of their ships called the Vibe.

Disney's VibeVibe, a teens-exclusive space located at Deck 11, Midship aboard the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder, and Deck 5, Forward aboard the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy, is a hip hotspot featuring an indoor lounge and breezy sundeck where teens ages 14 through 17 can listen to music, watch television and play videogames inside—or catch some rays and splash it up out on deck.

Port Adventures

Once you make final payment and you’ve approaching your cruise date, its time to sign up for your port adventures.  Disney goes to each of their ports of call and researches the suggested adventures listed on their website.  They make sure that there are recommendations that will meet your party’s level of enjoyment – whether its a high impact hike, a relaxing day at the beach, an underwater adventure, or something kid friendly…Disney has you covered.  They’ve even tried out these adventures so they know exactly what their cruisers will experience.

Port Adventures—shore excursions that have been specially selected by Disney Cruise Line—provide you and your family with the very best recreation, leisure and sightseeing each destination has to offer. When you book a Port Adventure, you’ll receive an unforgettable experience ashore along with the peace of mind that comes with having Disney do all the planning. Whether sailing into the DCL Port Adventureshorizon, exploring an under the sea world, pillaging with pirates or splashing through the waves on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Port Adventures set the course for a whole new way to add even more magic to your Disney Cruise Line vacation.

Reserve a Port Adventure with Disney Cruise Line—instead of booking an independent tour at the Port—and you can be sure to enjoy a hassle-free excursion with all of the service, quality and fun that you would expect from Disney.


For cruises leaving from Port Canaveral, Disney provides transportation to and from Disney's Magical ExpressOrlando International Airport and/or the Walt Disney World Resort hotels.  We will be DCL Busstaying the night before the cruise at one of the Walt Disney World hotels, so we will be taking Disney’s Magical Express from the airport to the resort.  Walt Disney World offers this complimentary motor coach transportation to and from Orlando International Airport and select Walt Disney World Resort hotels, with complimentary luggage delivery.  U.S. and Canada Reservations: (407) 939-1936

The next morning we will take transportation provided by the cruise line to the port.  We are flying into Florida the day before in case of any issues with the flight down (we really don’t want to miss the ship) and we’re staying at Disney World because we are Disney Vacation Club members and using their transportation to help mitigate any issues getting there.

Driving to the port is easy to do if you chose your own method of transportation.  Just make sure you are on time…they don’t hold the ship for tardy guests at any of the port including the home port so plan to be very early.


Adult Dining

Adult dining is highly recommended.  A 4 star experience for just a few dollars more.  On all four ships you can experience Palo, but on the Dream and the Fantasy they have a second adults only experience called Remy.  You can sign up for adult dining from the registration page or once on board at the front desk of the desired restaurant.  There are brunch and dinner options available so be sure to choose the option that works best for you.  For this cruise Laura and I will be dining at Remy.

DCL Palo“Palo on the Disney Fantasy is an intimate, Adult Exclusive restaurant serving traditional Northern Italian cuisine with a contemporary twist for dinner nightly. Brunch is available select dates on cruises lasting 4 days or longer. These premium dining experiences are available at a fee, and are not included in the cost of price of your cruise

Along with its exquisite cuisine and upscale atmosphere, Palo offers ocean views and an elegant décor—a perfect romantic setting for Guests 18 years of age or older.”


“Remy on the Disney Fantasy is a romantic Adult Exclusive DCL Remyrestaurant located on Deck 12, Aft that serves the finest in French-inspired cuisine for dinner. Offering the most elegant dining experience on board, Remy boasts sweeping ocean views and a warm, sophisticated décor—the perfect intimate setting for Guests 18 years of age and older.”


Spa Treatments

Disney offers many spa treatments on board all of their ships.  The   You’re on vacation and what better way to start relaxing then with a Swedish massage especially after dealing with packing, the chaos of the airport, kids screaming (even if they aren’t yours).  Even if spa treatments aren’t you’re thing or if you’ve never experienced one before consider making a Spa visit while on board it just might be the magic your vacation needs.

DCL Senses Spa and Salon

Senses Spa & Salon offers therapeutic and beautifying personal care services for men and women in an impressive onboard retreat, spanning Decks 11 and 12, Forward of the Disney Fantasy.”