Saturday, July 26, 2014

Disney's Ohana Bananas Foster Bread Pudding Recipe at the Polynesian

Ohana Bread Pudding

5 eggs
3 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cup sugar
8 cups french or 'Ohana breakfast bread

1. In bowl mix eggs, milk , salt, sugar and nutmeg. Set aside.
2. Cut bread in medium pieces, place on cookie sheet pan put in 350 degree oven.
3. Bake bread until lightly toasted, about 15 minutes. Remove bread and place in egg and milk mixture.
4. Place mixture in a greased 10-inch cake pan and bake at 325 degree for 1 hour.
5. Let stand 5 minutes, serve hot with ice cream.

4 oz sugar
4 oz brown sugar
4 oz corn syrup
4 oz unsalted butter
1cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1cup spiced rum
1cup banana slices

1. Combine sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and half of heavy cream in a large pan. Bring to a boil and slowly add remaining heavy cream keeping mixture at a steady boil.

2. Add spiced rum and flambe.

3. Candy will brown slightly; cook 3 minutes until candy forms into a firm ball in cold water. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Add sliced bananas. Serve warm.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Royal Caribbean Cruise to Alaska

A few years ago my husband and I took a Royal Caribbean Cruise to Alaska.  We traveled in the month of August.  It was honestly one of the best trips we have ever been on. The food, the views, excursions were just awesome!

 No journey stays with you, like an expedition through Alaska. From the blue ice of massive glacial fields to the stunning grandeur of the scenery and wildlife, everything in Alaska is big, bold and absolutely breathtaking. Including the adventures.

Royal Caribbean takes care of all the planning, transportation and lodging for you. Travel in comfort in their deluxe motorcoaches and on the wilderness express, our luxurious, plush glass-domed traincars that offer panoramic views of the grand Alaskan frontier. 
A Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise and cruise tour will take you to some fascinating ports of call and cities. You'll see legendary places, cruise past glacial fjords and experience nature in a way you've never imagined before.
Some itineraries include

Enjoy some of the shore excursions like
The Summit

Adventure to the 3,292 foot Summit of White Pass by mini-bus in just 1.5 hours!  Step off at scenic viewpoints for breathtaking photos!  Your mountain guide will pass on a century of stories. You will see Dead Horse Trail, the White Pass Railroad, Pitchfork Falls, Moore Bridge, and numerous glaciers and peaks during your personalized small group experience.  Stop at the Summit and US/Canada border before returning.  Bring your passport.

Medenhall Glacier
Enjoy a narrated motorcoach drive along the Gastineau Channel on your way to one of
Juneau's most inspiring locations - the Mendenhall Glacier. Your driver will talk about the history of Juneau, provide you with glacier tidbits and discuss what life is like in the capital city as you navigate down the Mendenhall Valley. You will have over an hour to enjoy the solitude and beauty of this natural wonder. Walk along the short trails, including a fantastic photo point where you can capture an unobstructed view of this river of ice. Inside the visitors center, view interpretive exhibits or watch a short film on the glacier's history and browse the gift shop

Klondike Summit & Historic City Tour
Your journey begins with viewing Skagway's historic downtown area filled with wooden boardwalks and false fronted buildings as your driver/guide shares stories about the famous and foolhardy who lived in Skagway during the gold rush. You will then travel 3,290 feet above sea level to the infamous White Pass Summit. Along the way, learn about the hardships and daily life struggles the stampeders faced. On your return trip back into Skagway, make a short visit to the historic Gold Rush Cemetery, the final resting place for many of Skagway's colorful characters. Bring your passport.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake

Savor the aroma of wild salmon, grilling over fires of fragrant alder wood in a rain forest alongside a creek and under translucent domes that protect you rain or shine. Choose from grilled salmon, Cheechako Chicken, Chilkoot Baked Beans, Tongass Wild-Rice Pilaf, to Gold Rush Potatoes and a robust selection of other sides, salads and beverages. A local musician sets a festive mood. And, just when you think you've had enough — bring on the blueberry cake for dessert! After your meal, roast marshmallows over a campfire and stroll to the Salmon Creek waterfall and view the remains of the Wagner Mine, learn about the natural history of the area and try your hand at panning for gold.

Not only do you get to do all of these wonderful excursions outdoors you also get to enjoy the ship.  


Onboard, dining is about more than just food. Think ambience, variety and the flexibility to decide when and what you savor. From casual to sophisticated, cupcakes to canapĂ©s, sample an array of options – many of them included in the price of your cruise. Pair meals with a beverage package and enjoy savings on your favorite drinks.


When the ships hit the high seas, the excitement of Casino Royale kicks off. Try your hand at our card tables, spin to win at roulette, and hit it big time with the pull of a slot machine. With late hours,a wide variety of games and great payouts, it's the prime place to have a great time while sailing to your next destination.


Royal Caribbean is the only cruise line to offer Tony Award-winning entertainment. World-class performers from across the globe come together on their ships to WOW you from morning to night. Catch Broadway musicals, the DreamWorks Experience, ice-skating spectaculars – plus thrilling casino action, live comedy and music, bars, clubs and much more.

Service and Accessibility

All the conveniences you enjoy on land? They have that covered. From Internet service to dry cleaning to accessibility features, their ships are equipped with helpful amenities to enhance your vacation. And it's all delivered with friendly Service.

So if you are having a hard time deciding on where to go on your next cruise, why not give Royal Caribbean a try.  You will not be disappointed!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review of Disney's Aulani Resort & Spa on Oahu, Hawaii

The resort is located in Ko’Olina, on the leeward side of Oahu, about 30-40 minutes from Honolulu Intl’ Airport. Ko’Olina is a much quieter area than the hustle & bustle of Waikiki.

The moment you pull up to the resort, you will be in awe. We were greeted by name as soon as we stepped out of the car (how the heck did they know who we were?!). We arrived a bit earlier than our room was ready, but that was no issue. The bell hops took our belongings, gave us our key cards for our room, and little gifts for each member of the party. I received an Aulani pin, and the kids received Menehune necklaces. We were given a brief tour of the grounds, and were told we could go right out and enjoy the resort while we waited for our room. We decided to take advantage of the time by walking across the street to the ABC store, and stocking up on drinks and snacks for our room.


      Once we returned from the store, our room was ready, and our luggage was brought straight to the room. We had an island view standard room, which included a mini fridge. There are studio and larger rooms that feature kitchenettes.  We had 2 queen beds, with the cutest pineapple & Mickey head designed quilt (available for purchase in the gift shop). There was also a carved wooden lamp of Mickey & a surf board (also available for purchase). In regards to the island view, I would recommend upgrading to pool or ocean view, or just sticking with standard view. The only difference between standard & island view is how high up in the resort you are. 


Once we were settled in, we changed into our swimwear, and headed for the pools! We first went to get our towels & daily wrist band, as resort amenities are for registered guests only. Once we had those, we went straight to Waikolohe Stream (lazy river). My boys were not in the water more than 10 minutes before they started screaming “best vacation ever!!!”. I knew right then & there, the money was well spent.

We enjoyed the lazy river for a while, before they were ready to check out the Menehune Bridge (a water play structure). There is now also the new Keiki Cove Splash Zone, where kids can run & around and get wet, without having to get in a pool.


 The boys made many friends, and spent many hours playing in the Waikolohe Pool (the main pool, with zero entry). There are also 2 waterslides, one which drops you into this pool, the other into the lazy river.

The slide that drops you into the lazy river, you ride down on an inner tube, and the slide for the pool, you just go on your bottom (we LOVED this one). There is also the Ka Maka Grotto (infinity pool), which is for families. We spent variety little time here, as the pools are much smaller than the Waikolohe, and the kids didn’t feel they could play as hard. The views from this pool are amazing. There are also cabanas that can be rented for full or half days at the pools.

                We spent some time at the lagoon, were you can also rent beach toys. The water in the lagoon is very calm, and there is some sort of netting to help keep the big fish out of the lagoon. We walked the path from the Aulani lagoon, around the neighboring resort, to some beach that was behind private property (no beaches on Oahu are private, so feel free to explore the beaches). We had heard that earlier dolphins and sea turtles were spotted, but we must have missed them, as we didn’t see a single one.

Since we missed them, we decided it was best for us to see some fish! We headed back to the resort, to experience Rainbow Reef (private snorkeling lagoon). They offer single day passes, or multi day passes for the length of your stay. They also provide all the equipment needed for snorkeling. The water in this lagoon is pretty cold compared to the other waters we had spent time in, so it took quite a bit of adjusting.

We took turns snorkeling, so one of us could always go over the viewing windows and take pictures of the others of us snorkeling. It just took a few attempts for my boys to learn how to snorkel, next thing I knew, they were on the other side of the ‘reef’.  When you finish in the snorkeling lagoon, there are warm showers in which to rinse off.


Ready for some Disney characters?! Characters are featured at various times throughout the day, and each character does not appear every day. They rotate. Characters found at Aulani are Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Chip, Dale, and Stitch. Pluto did not want to ride in the cargo space on the plane, so he stayed back on the mainland.

All of the above characters do meet n greets, except Goofy, he appears different times during the day and does entertainment at the pools. And guess what?! He gets IN the water!! We got a kick out of that!

Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy can also be found at the character breakfast, Mahahiki.

     There is also Aunty’s Beach House, which once my kids were introduced to it, I could not peel them away. It is a free child care service; that’s right, free, for kids ages 3-12. There are premium experiences offered at an additional fee, and each of my boys did one of those. These are available on a first come, first serve basis, and you can sign up for them when the Beach House opens in the morning for any day during your visit. Your daily ‘Iwa (daily newsletter) is left in your room nightly during turndown service, and lets you know what activities will be offered the next day, and at what time and location. One of my boys picked the experience ‘Fish are Friends’. This activity took place over lunch, so it included his lunch in the cost. The kids also got to make fish food, and they went up to Rainbow Reef to feed the fish. They also received drawstring backpacks, and a copy of Disney’s Oceans on DVD. The older of my two boys did an experience called “Surfs Up with Chip n Dale”. This event took place over dinner time, so it included his dinner meal. The kids then had time to decorate mini surf boards, which they got to keep, followed by a dance party with Chip n Dale at Aunty’s Beach House. They got a drawstring backpack as well, although a different one. There are more premium experiences offered than just these two, some are kids only, some are for families.

                In addition to Aunty’s Beach House, there is Painted Sky, for teens ages 13-17. Painted Sky is a teen hangout area, much like those on Disney Cruise Line, where teens can play video games, go on computers, participate in other activities, as well enjoy their own spa treatments.

                Speaking of spa treatments, there is Laniwai, Disney’s spa for adults. Laniwai is open daily, and offers a variety of packages from facial treatments, to various massage therapies, to couples massages, and more. Most spa treatments last roughly an hour.

                In addition to the adults spa treatments, there are various areas around the resort that are adults only, so if you are traveling sans children, there is still some areas you can be tucked away in tranquility. There is the Wailana Pool, for resort guests over 18 years. The resort was undergoing renovations when we visited, and this pool was not yet open. Now I need to go back, and see this pool for myself! In addition to these adult only spots, there is also yoga & fitness centers, as well as golf featured at Aulani.

There are also many activities for families to enjoy together. There are various excursions that can be booked through Aulani, such as a catamaran experience, and there are even activities right on Aulani property, some of which are free of charge. There are movies under the stars, which were being offered twice a week during our stay, stories around the fire pit, and the Starlit Hui, a Hawaiian cultural show complete with hula dancers. In addition to these free activities, there are premium experiences for families as well, such star gazing and Hawaiian art classes.

                Tucked away on the side of the pools, are lockers and showers that can be used for free while you enjoy the pools. In this same room, there are computers with printers should you need to print something, such as boarding passes. Next door to this room, is a family activity room. Some of the Hawaiian art classes are held here, but they offer more than just this. They have a TV, where I believe you can watch movies. There are books and puzzles that can be enjoyed, as well as a decent sized collection of movies that you can rent over night for $2-3 each, limit of 2 per night. We often picked up a movie at the end of our day, and would watch it until we fell asleep. There is also an activity offered here, that is kind of like a cross between hide & seek, and a scavenger hunt. You are given a device to take around the property with you, and you follow clues.

                My youngest & I also created our own adventure on our last night. Aulani has many, many hidden Menehune around the resort, there are likely over 200. And they are EVERYWHERE. From hiding in bushes, to being in Rainbow Reef, to hiding in elevators, and more. This is a fun, and free activity, and can really send you off all over the resort.

                There resort also features two gift shops, where in addition to souvenirs they sell a small assortment of food & drinks for those of you staying in rooms with kitchenettes. Even frozen pizza! You can also purchase your refillable mug here, to use around the resort.

                Food. How have I not mentioned food?! Aulani features a few different type of dining experiences, from beachside dining such as ‘Ama ‘Ama, to the above mentioned character dining, to pool side dining at Off the Hook, and quick service such as Mama’s Snack Stop. There are also places that sell shave ice (amazing!), as well as Mickey Bars. Aulani also offers cocktail lounges, and of course, room service.  Reservations are recommended for ‘Ama’Ama and Makahiki. At Off the Hook, you can use their dining tables, or, you can remain in your beach chair and one of the waitors/waitresses will take your order and bring your food to you.

                There are also a few options for dining off property, within walking distance, such as Roy’s and Monkeypod. They are located over near that ABC store I mentioned earlier, as well as some shops. I am sure there are also dining locations within the surrounding resorts, but we did not explore them.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tell your Story ~ with Adventures By Disney

Adventure may not be part of our everyday lives.  And if you aren’t used to traveling, especially far away, it can be quite intimidating.  That is why I’m so excited about Adventures By Disney.  They take away the intimidating parts by handling everything for you, and the service is the impeccable Disney service we all know and love.  Adventures By Disney is all about telling a story…about destinations, family experiences, and local culture.

During an ABD event, we met an actual Adventures By Disney guide.  He was not only knowledgeable, but he was the kind of guy that my kids would love to tease and torment (always looking for ways to entertain the rugrats).  One unique feature is that every Adventures By Disney tour includes TWO guides…and one of them is always native to the area you are visiting.  They also bring in local talent, like musicians and storytellers, so you really immerse yourself in the story of the destination.  Special features, like seeing parts of National parks most people don’t get to see, or skipping the lines at the Eiffel Tower, are included…as well as countless other features.

They handle most meals, bags (you don’t transport your own bags!), transfers, clothing recommendations, and many, many other details that most people would spend days agonizing over, especially if it is a jaunt out of the country.  They vette the local companies they use, so their ziplining, rafting, and other adventures are all led by the safest local companies imaginable.

How would you like to look out your window and see a volcano in Costa Rica?  Or spend the night in an actual castle in Germany?  Learn how to make pizza from a real Italian chef in Tuscany?  Or, closer to home, explore American history in Philly and D.C. in a way you can’t even imagine? How about touring New York with a backstage pass everywhere you go? Adventures By Disney opens up all those opportunities, in the authentic way Disney is known for.

The coolest part about it is Disney has an "in".  Let me explain what I mean by that.

When my husband and I went to Italy (on the Disney Magic) one of the greatest disappointments was the Sistine Chapel.  Don't get me was stuningly beautiful.  But the experience was marred by the tourists.  They were loud and obnoxious.  Every few minutes the guards would yell "Shhhhhhh".  The roar would die down for a minute or so then gradually rise up again.  It was crowded, hot, and the people kind of smelled, and we were there in April, certainly not the heat wave season.  It made me very very sad.

A fellow Mickey Time member on Facebook is currently on an Italy Adventures By Disney.  She posted photographs of a nearly empty Sistine Chapel.  She said that she and her husband sat on the floor of the chapel and just had time to look around and absorb the magnificence.  It appeared to be a very spiritual, moving experience, the exact opposite of my own experience (and I had a private guide at 150 Euro just for the few hours we were at the Vatican!).  THAT is Disney's "in".  They get "in" where everyone else can't go (not in the same way, anyway).

Now, don’t go expecting Mickey Mouse.  And, although the tours are recommended for five and up, most of them suggest a higher start age.  There can be a lot of walking and exploring, although there are other choices for those that don’t want to zipline, for example.  Adventures By Disney IS adventurous, so you want to make sure your kiddos are up to it.  They also have adult only Adventures available.  You may think “why would I go on a Disney trip with no kids?”  Well, my husband and I were fortunate enough to go to the Mediterranean with Disney, sans kids, and it was among the top 10 experiences in my entire life (I had to put it behind the wedding and children being born out of duty, or it would be in the top five).

I gave a lot of thought to this, because quite honestly, this vacation is expensive.  So I did a comparison of what you receive that is included in the tour, and although you are paying more upfront, you quite likely could either save money or spend just a bit more but worth every cent.  The tours are smaller, with two guides, and the Disney name gets you far…your tours will include things that most tour guides would never have permission to do.

Many of us are not World travelers!  But maybe we could be, if the opportunity was secure and safe, with the scary details taken care of.  Who better to trust those details to than Disney, where attention to detail is legendary.  Those of you that have been reading my blogs for the last couple of years know I’m a big Disney fan…but there is a bigger reason than I just love a dressed up Mouse.  Service is unmatched, and trust is firmly established, which is really important when I’m planning a vacation.

The guide told us funny stories about some of his adventures.  Once, on Halloween, the guides surprised the parents by wrapping the kids up like mummies in toilet paper and took them trick or treating to all the guests’ cabins (they were on a Southwest adventure).  Another time, a young boy wanted to see a moose, but was in the wrong National park for a moose…and it was his birthday, so the guides put a moose hat on him and everyone sang Happy Birthday.  Just little touches that make your adventure more memorable!

Tell YOUR story…and check into an Adventures By Disney vacation.  Not a World traveler?  No problem…there are Adventures right here…even one to Disneyland in California!  I want my children to grow up and experience the World…and with Adventures By Disney, I might get to do some of that with them while they are still young!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Frozen Premium Package at Disney's Hollywood Studios Frozen Summer of Fun

I went to Disney's Hollywood Studios on July 9th 2014, and I did the Frozen Premium Package (VIP) because I really wanted to see if it was worth it (I don't have girls, but I do have 2 boys who have seen the movie numerous times). OK here are my own opinions since some of you might be thinking of purchasing this package:

 1. The Check-in process was a little bit confusing there was a sign that said "Check-In" with an arrow and we stood in the line for about 5 minutes before we were told, oh no that’s the wrong line…what?! ok, ok. we moved.

 2. We did get pretty good seating for the welcoming parade, front and to the left of the stage in front of the sorcerer hat, there is a special seating (only sitting on ground) for kids, 1 adult per 1 kid, so if you are a family of 3, someone is getting to stand in the back of the crowd...I spoke to a few families that ran into this problem.

3. The welcoming parade is very short, I am used to longer parades like at Magic Kingdom, it just felt very unfinished.

There was a float that was just a house, I didn't really get that, I figured maybe Sven or Olaf should have been on it...really don't know. The Frozen sisters got on stage said a few words and the crowd sang an excerpt from Let it Go, and it 'snowed' on the street, then it was all over.

4. We also had to choose a time for the VIP seating for the Frozen sing along which was located back and to the left of the Muppets 3D building, they had several different times to choose from. I made my 9 year old boy go to this, maybe if I had a girl I would have enjoyed it more...BUT, lol, I thought it was kind of cheesy, I thought it would have been more like a play (for example Beauty and the Beast in the same park) it was 2 people standing on a stage telling us the movie, and then when they got to the part of the story where there was a song, there was a follow along, crowd sing along. cute.

The Frozen sisters did make brief appearances, as did that one guy…you know, the funny looking Donkey? Kristoff! Also my son really didn't like the end when it snowed on him, just a heads up for you parents that may have kids with autism, or some other form of sensory disorder, I mean he REALLY didn't like it.

5. We did get front and center viewing for the fireworks at the sorcerer’s hat and a dessert party, but dummy me, we had JUST eaten at Hollywood & Vine at 7ish for dinner so we were pretty full from the all you can eat buffet (and my phone died by this time so no photos, oops) also it didn't say anywhere on the paperwork we received, but before the desert party you have to check back in at Min and Bills Dockside Diner, I had to ask several different CM's and none knew ANYTHING about the premium package or dessert party. And actually I had a CM pull me aside and ask me what the blue frozen lanyard was all about that I had hanging around my neck because she "keeps seeing people wearing them but has no idea what they are for or about".

So that’s my run down of the Premium package, was it interesting to experience? Yes. Would I Purchase it again if I had the chance to? No.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Characters in Flight at Downtown Disney, Balloon Ride!

How do you know you are at Walt Disney World? Well the first thing you might see is a massive helium balloon flying 400 feet above Downtown Disney. This happens to be the world’s largest tethered balloon, known at Disney as Characters in Flight. It was created specifically for Disney by a Paris based company named Aerophile. The balloon incorporates images of ‘flying’ Disney Characters, like Tinker Bell, Dumbo, Aladdin, and more. This flight gives guests a 360-degree aerial view of Walt Disney World for 8-10 minutes. As of Spring 2014, a single ride costs $18 for adult and $12 for children (tax not included). The basket can hold up to 30, of which 29 are guests at a time. The flights take off quite often; however, the number of trips and capacity may decrease depending on wind. Disney has also upgraded the experience by offering photo memories ranging from $15 to $25 depending on the package.

I’ve personally been on this – and the views are amazing! I have aerial photos of the Contemporary Resort, Hollywood (MGM)Studios, and Downtown Disney. And of course, me and my fiancĂ© in the basket. So now I ask you, what Disney features or attractions can you spot on your flight?

By Agent Cassie