Dr. Seuss is on the Loose!

Last Summer, our family embarked on our first Carnival Cruise Line vacation.  We sailed on the Carnival Paradise out of Tampa, FL and enjoyed the ports of Key West and Havana, Cuba while on our 5-night adventure.  Cruising is one of my favorite family friendly vacations as there is something on the ships for everyone!  Carnival has teamed up with Dr. Seuss to create family fun that highlights some familiar favorites.  On board, we participated in just about every Dr. Seuss event possible with our two boys who were 2 and 5 at the time.

Dr. Seuss Parade and Story Time - Families met in one of the lounges and were greeted by the enthusiastic kids club staff.  Our boys were regulars in the kids clubs and they found some of their favorite counselors.  The staff entertained families with singing and dancing until our Cruise Director, Jamie, came out to introduce the guests of honor.  As each of the four Dr. Seuss characters arrived (Sam I Am, Thing 1, Thing 2, and the Cat in the Hat), kids were handed musical instruments.  A few lucky families were asked to carry parade banners.  They then lined up the characters and families to march across Deck 5 to the large Noramandie theater on the other side of the ship.  Along the way, we all chanted "Dr. Seuss is on the loose!" while the kids were happy to comply with the request to make as much noise as possible.  Once we arrived at the theatre, kids were invited to sit on stage and parents were asked to take a seat in the theatre.  Caleb was a little timid to get too close to the characters, so he and I grabbed a seat up in the balcony.  Jamie told everyone that they were about to read the story of The Cat in the Hat, but first she solicited helpers.  Picking both kids and adults, Jamie assembled a cast to help tell the story.  My husband was selected to be the Cat in the Hat.  I think the fame went to his head as he was greeted by many kids and parents the rest of the cruise!

Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast - For a small fee, guests can register to attend the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast that is held on one of the "at sea" days.  The cost was just $5.00 per person and we were able to register at a small table the day we boarded the ship.  Our breakfast was the final at sea day and it didn't disappoint!  The menu was beautifully themed to highlight some Dr. Seuss inspired creations and the breakfast choices were delightful to children.  One of them included french toast that as coated in Fruit Loops - talk about a sugar rush!  Kids and adults can choose from such dishes as the ever popular Green Eggs and Ham or a whimsical Truffula Pancakes to name just a few.  Throughout the meal, characters came to each table and then they also positioned themselves at the front of the restaurant for additional pictures.  The dining room was also decorated with really cute Dr. Seuss accessories.

Other Dr. Seuss Fun - Carnival Cruise Line has also partnered with Build-A-Bear Workshop to create a Build-A-Bear At Sea Experience.  This opportunity featured a chance for kids to make a Cat in the Hat in addition to some more traditional bears or animals.  My boys of course wanted to each make the Cat in the Hat to remember their fun time on the ship.  One of the evenings also featured photo ops with Dr. Seuss characters prior to dinner.

The Dr. Seuss experiences on our Carnival Cruise lead to some pretty amazing moments for our family.  The boys enjoyed the opportunity to interact with some of their favorite stories and each activity provided family fun on the ship!

Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria al Forno

Character meals are a must-do for most families when visiting the Walt Disney World Resort.  So when I new experience becomes available, Disney regulars like ourselves can't wait to try it out.  When we visited in December, we were lucky enough to grab a morning reservation for Trattoria al Forno to try the new Bon Voyage breakfast.  The dining experience promotes adventure and it surely doesn't disappoint.

The Characters - Not going to lie.  I'm pretty sure I was more excited about the characters here than anyone else in our party.  While the standard Disney line is that characters are always subject to change, the regulars here are Rapunzel, Flynn Ryder, Prince Eric, and Ariel.  Yeah - you read that right. . .two Disney GUYS!!!  Grown women will swoon once being hit by "the smolder" - trust me, I know.  As in most of the other dining experiences, a parade happens during breakfast to get little ones up and moving around.  The characters were great with everyone and the restaurant is relatively small so characters make their way around quickly without feeling rushed.

The Food - Again, this restaurant hits it out of the park.  Each table begins with a pastry assortment inspired by Tangled and The Little Mermaid which is served in a frying pan - of course!  Diners then get to choose from a menu which entree they would like and food is freshly prepared and delivered to the table.  I really enjoy this option compared to the up and down craziness of buffets.  The food was also different then what you find in most Disney restaurants.  I had the Swimmer's Delight - an egg white omelet with smoked salmon, goat cheese, spinach, mushroom and tomato with a side of roasted potatoes.  It was imaginative, themed perfectly with the entire meal experience, and delicious!

The Location - Trattoria al Forno is located on Disney's Boardwalk adjacent to Epcot.  We took a car service from our hotel to Disney's Boardwalk Resort to access the boardwalk area and then had a quick walk to the restaurant.  The location is perfect for spending a day in Epcot which is exactly what we did!  When you finish breakfast, you are very close to the International Gateway entrance to Epcot.  Bonus - you get to skip the crowds entering the park as this is a far less popular entrance.  You could also do this for breakfast when visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios as it's only a 20-30 minute walk or a brief ferry boat ride away.

I was absolutely thrilled with this character meal!  I wish my hubby would have been feeling better that morning to enjoy all that the meal had to offer.  The kids enjoyed the kids menu and had fun meeting some favorite characters and mom got to eat egg whites with goat cheese while swooning over Disney princes - does life get much better?!?

Have you checked out breakfast at Trattoria al Forno yet?

I love you. I know.

And I love Han Solo.  This summer, Star Wars fans will be sure to fall in love all over again with Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story.  We finally got a long awaited look at the film during the Super Bowl on Sunday.  On Monday morning, another teaser trailer was released during Good Morning America.  In case you missed it, here is our first look at the film.

From Walt Disney Studios and Lucasfilm, here's what you can expect:

Board the Millennium Falcon and journey to a galaxy far, far away in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY, an all-new adventure with the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo befriends his mighty future copilot Chewbacca and meets the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the Star Wars saga’s most unlikely heroes.

The film stars Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Paul Bettany.

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY opens in theaters everywhere on May 25th!

I know that I can't wait to see the latest Star Wars adventure and I hope you're just as excited to join me Memorial Day weekend in a galaxy far, far away!

Collecting Character Autographs in Walt Disney World

Meeting characters is a highlight of any Walt Disney World vacation - for both the young and the young at heart!  Photos are a great way to capture those memories and many people enjoy collecting autographs from their favorite characters to also bring home a piece of the magic.  Below are a few different options for recording those signatures.

Disney Autograph Books - On site and online, Disney sells autograph books for visitors to use.  The books range from a simple book of blank pages for characters to sign to larger books that hold pictures from your trip alongside the autographs you collect.  On a plus side, these books are readily available and easy to carry being small on size.  Brody keeps his old autograph books in his closet and occasionally will go back to look at them.  Books start at just $7.95 so if you are in a pinch in the parks, it's not an overly expensive option.

Disney Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters (or another character book) - This is my new favorite option!  We bought this book from Amazon for less than $10 prior to our trip.  It's a nice hardcover book that features some of Disney's most beloved animated characters.  Each page has a picture and a brief description of each character.  The idea is that when you meet each one, they sign their page.  This is a nice book to keep on a shelf and revisit time and time again when you return from your trip.  I also enjoy that we can bring it back on each vacation and try to collect more and more signatures.  On the downside, it is larger than the Disney Autograph books in the parks and not every character is in the book.  We were easily able though to work around both of these minor concerns.  With our little ones, we still carry a backpack in the park so carrying the book wasn't a problem and we just had characters without a page sign on the front or back cover.

Wall Displays / Pillowcases / Etc. - I have seen people post about bringing various household items for characters to sign too.  While I have never done this personally, it may be something that we do in the future.  One example may be a photo mat that would hold one of your family photos from the parks or maybe a wooden letter.  I've also seen people hand characters pillowcases or t-shirts to sign too.  Perhaps the most creative I've found were the people who brought a frying pan to have Rapunzel sign!  While these appear to be great, creative ways to display character signatures when you return, I have always worried about carrying some of these items as they can be a bit awkward in the park.

At the end of the day, what you carry in the park is all about what makes you and your family happy! There are so many creative ways to collect character signatures and a quick Pinterest search will show you endless possibilities.  What are some of your favorite ways to gather signatures while on vacation in Walt Disney World?

Decadent Desserts and Fantastic Fireworks!

If you have a sweet tooth and crave a little VIP experience, you won't want to miss the Happily Ever After Fireworks  Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace in Magic Kingdom.  On our most recent Walt Disney World Resort vacation, our group decided to try this out and we weren't disappointed.  I have never done one of the paid dessert parties while visiting Walt Disney World for a few reasons - namely it seems crazy to pay for premier fireworks viewing that you can ultimately get for free.  However, the experience was well worth it!

First of all, you'll want to note when booking that there are two options for the Happily Ever After Fireworks Dessert Party.  While both begin with a dessert smorgasbord at Tomorrowland Terrace, there are two different viewing locations when it comes time to watch the show.  The first is to remain on the Tomorrowland Terrace where seating is available, but, from some reviews I've read, viewing can sometimes be a bit "off" as you are looking at the castle from an off-center location.  The other option, which we happened to select, was the Garden Viewing.  This takes you front and center with a prime location to watch the nighttime spectacular.  This is the same as the old FastPass+ viewing location if you ever used that during Wishes.  With the limited number of tickets sold, there is so much room available, you won't be crowded at all!

Stepping back to the beginning, when you arrive at Tomorrowland Terrace, you are greeted by a cast member who checks you in and gives you a wristband depending on your viewing location.  On the night of our party, the fireworks were scheduled to begin at 9 and our dessert party began at 7:45.  No worries if you're not there right on time though as it's simply an open buffet.  The desserts were quite delicious and there were certainly plenty to choose from.  My personal favorites were the chocolate covered strawberries and the chocolate fountain with fresh fruit and marshmallows.  There was also a beverage station that featured a selection of juices, including the ever popular POG juice (pomegranate, orange, and grapefruit).  There was also a selection of hot tea, coffee, and hot chocolate - which was very popular on our December night as temps were in the 30s during the dessert party.  Another added perk during dessert time is the private bathrooms for the party!

Around 8:45, we made our way down to the reserved viewing location.  It felt great to be able to walk up to a prime spot without having to be sitting and saving our seats for 90 minutes!  The show began promptly at 9 and it was AMAZING!  I'll have a separate post devoted to the show itself, but the new Happily Ever After is not one to miss.  As I mentioned earlier, we had so much room around us, Brody actually held his own dance party throughout the fireworks.  When the show ended, cast members showed us to the back of Main Street USA to exit.  While this is not a reserved exit for those in the show, it's a handy tip to remember if you're near Tomorrowland Terrace to view as there were a lot less people heading that way then the normal crowds on Main Street USA.  You still merge back with the crowd at the train station to then exit the park, but it gets you down there much quicker.

View from the Garden Viewing Location
Overall, the Happily Ever After Fireworks Dessert Party was enjoyable for our group.  Is it something I would splurge on every trip?  Definitely not.  At $59 per adult and $35 per child, it's an added expense that certainly is not a necessity.  But it was very convenient, great viewing location, and good food.  If you're looking for a special treat on your next Walt Disney World vacation, check it out!

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