Skeletons Museum – Orlando, FL

Maybe this was something I should have held off on until we got closer to Halloween, but It was just too interesting not to review.  At the I-Drive 360 site I had left the main building and headed out back to a courtyard with various store fronts for your usual chains like Walgreen’s, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.  I had barely walked a few feet outside when one of the signs caught my eye.

Skeletons Museum of Osteology.  With a strange morbid curiosity I walked inside and found myself in a gift shop.  Just inside one of the doors I found a penny machine.

This style of machine I find more often than not, rolls most designs short, but these actually came out pretty nicely.

The images on these coins were as strange as this place.  They included as you can probably guess skeletons of a Giraffe, a Wallaby, a Sea Otter, and a Piranha.  I will admit the gift shop was interesting with some models, puzzles and t-shirts all with various skeletons on them but I wanted to know what was inside the museum.  Curiosity just got the best of me so I paid for a ticket and headed in the back.

When I was a kid we had a history museum in our city that we would visit quite a few times during a year.  Mostly because I was obsessed with Dinosaurs, and that was the closest place that I could spend hours looking at Dino Fossils.  The Skeleton Museum had that same type of feel to it just with skeletons of any animal you could imagine.

As you can see in the above picture there were exhibits with Cheetah’s, Horses and people.

All different types of large cats of every different shape and size.  I’m not a snake fan, but there were some really cool skeletons of a King Cobra and a Boa Constrictors.  They were interesting but creeped me out at the same time and I had to quickly skip past before it came to life.

All the way in the back was some very large animals including a Giraffe, Elephant and Hippo.  The museum would around these different exhibits with similar groupings of creatures.  Eventually I made my way back towards the exit and just near the restrooms was a second penny machine.

I didn’t ask at the front desk as the employee was pretty busy with customers, but my guess is that you can only access this machine with a paid ticket.  But the one out from in the gift shop can be accessed during operating hours free of charge.

This second set of pennies had skeleton designs of a Pelican, a Cheetah, a Killer Whale and a Sea Horse.

I forgot to mention that all of the coins from both machines had a backstamp on them with the Skeleton Museum’s logo.

After I had my fill of flesh-eating beetles and skeletons I headed out of the museum.  It was definitely a unique place to visit, but if skeleton’s are not your thing this is probably something to skip.  There wasn’t anything stomach turning inside, but sometimes skeletons are just creepy.  The museum had a huge selection of skeletons and lots of information about them and how they are collected, and displayed.  If you are looking for something different while your on I-Drive make sure to check this place out.

Sea Life Aquarium – Orlando, FL

Continuing my day at the I-Drive 360 area I had just finished up with Madame Tussauds and had a few other places I could check out.  There was a small kiosk that would let me experience a 7-D attraction.  I have no real idea what that means, but the people seemed on the ride as I went by seemed to be screaming pretty loudly so I decided to keep moving.  All the way on the other side of the lobby was something more my speed.

The Sea Life Aquarium was tucked into the back corner of the building but don’t let the little store front deceive you this place was pretty big inside and had a lot of exhibits.

A nice little feature they had was tank just outside by the ticket window.  This way the kids had something to look at while you wait in line to buy the tickets.  The entrance fee was very reasonable and I always like to think most of it is going to help feed and take care of the sea creatures.

The exhibits throughout range from Amazon fish, to local creatures found just off the Florida shores.

The tanks appeared to be all well-kept and clean, plus the fish were of all shades of colors which are just beautiful to look at.  There is something mesmerizing about watching fish swim lazily around a tank.

There were also some larger tanks for bigger sea creatures include sharks, rays and sea turtles.

Another cool thing was a touch tank with some star fish, and other small sea animals that you can gently touch.  There is a staff member always nearby to help ensure the animals aren’t harmed, and I must say that is a constant battle as some of the children do get kind of rough with the poor creatures.

After finishing up all the areas of the aquarium I found myself back in another gift shop with the usual plush animals, t-shirts and things I just really don’t have room for anymore.  But in the area over near the cooler filled with soda and bottles of water was something I always have time and space for.

This four design hand crank machine has a nice cabinet decorated with sharks and a pretty blue color of the ocean.  You can kind of see it to the left of the machine but there is a change maker right beside it should you not come prepared with coins to press.

The set of pennies included The Touch Tank, Jelly Fish, an Electric Eel, and a Shark.  These designs are similar to other aquariums but I guess that’s to be expected with the most popular creatures always being available.  To make these a little more unique all the coins do include the Sea Life Aquarium logo.

I’ve definitely been in larger aquariums but this is kind of a greatest hits place.  It’s not too large but not tiny either.  It took about an hour or so to go through the entire thing and really spend some time at each exhibit.  With my pennies pressed I was off to check out another museum of sorts that I had never experienced before.

2017 Nickel Set – Trolley Treats California Adventure, CA

Just this past week the second set of 2017 dated Nickels was made available at Disney California Adventure Park.  I have heard rumors that California will be soon dropped from the name of this park which seems a little strange, but I don’t get paid the big bucks to make those decisions.

Located over at the Trolley Treats Candy store is where you will be able to access this new machine, and while you’re there may as well pick up a candy apple or other sweet treat.

As I mentioned above this machine has 3 nickel designs available for pressing.  California Screamin’, Paradise Pier, and A Bug’s Land.  All of the coins also include 2017 which means these will only be around for a limited time.

Madame Tussauds – Orlando, FL

A year and a half ago I visited my very first Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in New York and was both intrigued by it and creeped out at the same time.  You can read out it here.  After moving down to the Orlando area my family has spent most weekend over at the Disney parks as we just feel like we are on vacation.  But as I truly hate to say this, after a while we wanted to do something else (gasp!).

One weekend I had dropped my mother in law off at the Florida Mall so she could get out of the house and do some shopping.  I had already exhausted that mall and wasn’t interesting in spending more time in there.  Instead I headed over towards International Drive and hit the jackpot.  From a distance I could see this huge ferris wheel type attraction and that just drew me towards it.  It’s known as the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye but more on that in another post as that was the finally to this little side adventure.  This road side attraction area was called the I Drive 360.

After parking in the lot (free parking by the way) I entered the building and came into a huge lobby type area with quite the assortment of things to do.  I first came across Madame Tussauds near the entrance so that’s what I headed into first.

Of course there is an entrance fee but they do have a free wax celebrity outside that you can pose with for free.  I couldn’t resist the draw of this place so I paid for a ticket and headed in.  There are the standard figures of Presidents and historical figures, but this location had a few I didn’t find in New York which I guess is due to their Florida connection.

Dan Marino hall of fame quarter back for the Miami Dolphins was definitely a busy guy with football fans.

Stephen Spielberg, I’m guess due to his relationship with Universal Studios?!?!  Sure sounds good to me.

Steve Jobs.  Now this could be due to his popularity with many Apple fans, but I liked to think it was due to his contribution with starting Pixar Animation.

Of course how could they not include Walt Disney.  This was a very busy figure with lots of people crowding around to get a selfie.  It was very cool to see a lot of different celebrities from the one I visited in New York.  As with the other location once I was done with the exhibits I found myself in the gift shop.  I figured I had spent enough money on the entrance ticket that I didn’t need any souvenirs but did spot one that was inexpensive and right up my alley.

Thankfully I always come with a pocket full of change for just these types of situations.  There were four designs available in this hand crank machine.

The pennies pressed nicely and had images of Madame Tussauds Orlando, an Astronaut, Orlando U.S.A., and a Movie Clapperboard.  All the designs did have the Madame Tussauds logo and I always like when these attraction chains have the city on the coins.  It helps make each set of coins a little unique, and fun to collect each location.

Now I will let you know that this machine is available just outside the gift shop so you do not need to pay the admission cost to use the machine.  But if you have the time I would recommend it as it’s a unique experience and a fun way to make your friends jealous of the celebrity sightings you had on your vacation.

Last Great Movie Ride & Once Upon a Time Gift Shop – Hollywood Studios

The time is getting closer for a few attractions at Walt Disney World to have their last guest on board.  Over at Hollywood Studios it was announced recently that The Great Movie Ride would be closing down to make way for something brand new (opening in 3-5 years I’m sure).  This was a ride that has been around as long as I can remember, and I know that we went on in numerous times when I was young.  With my parents not being thrill ride people, these were more the family friendly rides we could all enjoy together.  I’ve been trying to figure out a time to go and ride this one last time before it closes for good on August 13th, 2017 and today was the day.

Located right at the end of Hollywood Boulevard the famous Theatre can be seen as you first walk into the park.  Word definitely has gotten around as the wait time for this ride has been over an hour the last week or so.  Disney even listed the blackout dates for some levels of annual pass holders so they can come and experience the ride one (or more) last time before it closes.  Luckily a fastpass is not hard to get, so I was able to walk right on with my wife, daughter Hanna, and my father.  Hanna had never been on this ride before but I really wanted to her experience it at least once.

We walked right through the queue, and were led towards our ride vehicle.  For the first time we were sat in the very front row beside our tour guide.

This is a trackless system which is kind of cool, and the idea is that we are going in side some of the most famous movies ever made.

Of course this being Disney we couldn’t forget one of the most beloved live action movies Marry Poppins.

I always loved seeing these detailed sets that you got to drive through.  Depending on the rotation the experiences can change.  There is always a moment where some action is taking place around the vehicle like a shoot out between gangsters or bank robbers in the old west.  On our tour our tour guide was removed and replaced temporarily with a gangster.  My daughter Hanna was not impressed.

Our trip continued through the jungle scenes from Tarzan and Jane.

Next was one of my father’s all time favorite movies Casablanca and the famous goodbye scene.

One of the last scenes we went through was following the yellow brick road through Oz.  But as you may guess we were stopped by the Wicked Witch.

Before we knew it our final ride was coming to an end.  It’s not the most thrilling ride, but the sets are still really cool to drive through and you can’t beat some of these movies you get to visit.  It will be sad to say goodbye when it finally closes, but at least we got one last trip.  After we headed outside I had one other stop to make.

Walking down Sunset Boulevard as if we were heading towards the Tower of Terror there is quite a row of souvenir shops down this way.  Just down near where the Beauty and the Beast stage show is situation is a gift shop called Once Upon a Time.

Inside this gift shop has the usual t-shirts, sweaters, coffee mugs, and tons of plush toys.  They also have a quite a lot of princess dolls but I’m sure that’s the same in most Disney gift shops.

Just inside one of the doors to the gift shop was the first of two new penny machines just placed on stage today.

Both of these machines are the 8-Design touch screen models that have taken over the parks.  They are growing on me despite the hardcore collector in me really wanting to use my own pennies.

The first set is a new numbers set of eight designs from Disney’s very first animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  The designs as you can probably guess include: Snow White, Grumpy, Dopy, Doc, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy, and Bashful.

Across from the first machine is the second 8-Design machine that upon a quick glance looks exactly the same, but does include a different set of designs.

This second set is from Beauty and the Beast which is fitting since the stage show is right next door.  The designs in this set include: Belle & the Beast, The Enchanted Rose, Beast, Belle & her Prince, Lumiere & Cogsworth, Chip, Mrs. Potts, and Gaston.

It was getting a little late, and we were getting some rain and wind from nearby Tropical Storm Emily so we decided to call it a night.  These new machines were my excuse to finally come to the park and kill two birds with one stone.  New pennies and one last tour on The Great Movie Ride.

Main Street Electrical Parade – Disneyland, CA

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of fireworks shows and parades.  Some have been fairly entertaining, others really disappointing, but one has stuck with me for years.  Out in Disneyland years ago I was about to leave the park early but was convinced by a friend to stick around for the parade.  Wow and I ever glad I decided to stay, as I witnessed a really amazing show.

Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade is an experience you shouldn’t miss.  With the lights in the park turned off and the floats coming down the street lit up like your crazy neighbor’s house for Christmas mixed with a fantastic Disney soundtrack just blew me away.

There are of course your standard Disney characters, and iconic images from your favorite movies.

i

It even includes one of my childhood favorites, Elliott from Pete’s Dragon.  The unique look to these floats with all the individual bulbs just makes them familiar but different at the same time.  Now what does this have to do with pressed coins?  Well just recently a new pressed penny machine was located in the Main Street Penny Arcade celebrating this parade.

When I saw a photo of these coins I just had to have them.  The detail of each design if really amazing and the use of the individual dots recreates that unique bulb look of the floats.  The designs include the iconic Mushroom with Butterfly, Elliott from Pete’s Dragon, and To Honor America.

How could I not include a picture of the backstamp which are becoming a Disneyland standard.  The designs include the Main Street Electrical Parade font, with some nice surrounding trim.

I know all the Disneyland enthusiasts will hunt me down for this, but I hope that some day the Electrical Parade gets packed up and transported over to Florida so I can see it in the Magic Kingdom.  Sorry I’m selfish and really want to see this parade again as it’s just that great, and unfortunately I don’t know when my next trip to California will take place.  For now I’ll have to settle for these new pennies, which as you can see from the pictures isn’t a bad trade-off.

PizzeRizzo’s Restaurant – Hollywood Studios, FL

I’ve mentioned in the past that I used to live in New Jersey, and was about an hour away from New York City.  We had some of the best pizza places around, and yet after moving down to Florida finding good pizza can be a little challenging.  Then thrown in Disney Theme park pizza and it’s really not very good.  Of course there are a few shining places like Via Napoli in the Italy Pavilion at Epcot, and I will admit I like the new Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza at Disney Springs.

I remember a few years ago visiting Hollywood Studios and was looking for some penny machines that were located near the Muppet Courtyard in a quick service restaurant called Pizza Planet.  This was an homage to the restaurant and specifically delivery truck found in most Pixar movies as an easter egg.  I grabbed a small personal pizza as a snack and don’t think I ate more than a slice, it was just you not very good.  I’m not really a pizza snob and have eaten and enjoyed a lot of crappy pizza, but this just didn’t do it for me.  Fast forward a few years and I hear the rumors that Pizza Planet is closing for a Muppet’s Themed restaurant and I get intrigued…until I hear that it’s another pizza place.

The quick service restaurant was named PizzeRizzo after the Rat from the Muppets.  As you can probably guess I was just got in any rush to try this pizza, so I have avoided it since it had opened.  However that all recently changed when I saw online that two new penny machines were placed inside this restaurant so I figured I may as well check it out.

There are two floors with a lot of tables and seating throughout.  It’s decor on the main bottom floor looks like it’s straight out of a classic New York Pizzeria.

Just inside the set of doors roughly in the middle of the restaurant is where the first penny machine was found.

The designs included a nice image of the PizzeRizzo Logo with the famous Rat himself, Syndrome from The Incredibles and Anna & Elsa from Frozen.  The last two coins used to be located at another store in Hollywood Studios but had been removed a year or so ago.

The ordering area is pretty spacious to accommodate large crowds which undoubtably pack in here during busy times of the day.

The large stair case leads you upstairs to the second floor which is just more seating.

There was also access to the outdoor balcony area with more tables.  But with the heat in Florida lately you’d have to be crazy to sit out here and enjoy your lunch.

Back inside there is a separate area themed like a gaudy New York wedding ballroom.  The blue seems like it would get annoying after a while and mess up your rods and cones in your eyeballs.

   

Near the doors that take you out on the balcony is where the second penny machine was situated.

This machine seemed a little out-of-place.  The cabinet was nice but the designs just didn’t make sense in this Muppet themed restaurant.  The designs included an old one that has come back The Walt Disney Studios Logo, and two new ones of Tinker Bell, and Stitch playing in the sand.

There were some interesting caricatures on the wall, and even the trash can seemed to have a little New York attitude.

After I had finished walking around the entire restaurant I decided it was time to head out.  But what about the Pizza?  I am sorry to say that I really did plan on eating here, and had heard the pizza was better than its predecessor.  However as you can see from all the pictures above this place was completely deserted and not operational on this day.  I don’t know why, maybe it was in-between lunch and dinner service but this seems like a place that would pretty much be open all day.  I went around 6pm and would have thought that’s prime time dinner service, but it was not serving any food.

A friend of mine had eaten there previously and said it was much better than Pizza Planet but I’m not sure if that’s really an earth shattering review.  Above is a picture of the new pizza and tiny side salad.  I will make sure that I try this at some point in the future, but to be honest the picture isn’t making me rush over there any time soon.

Either way I’m not here as a food critic and you should always be sure to enjoy whatever food you like.  I’ll stick to collecting pressed coins and try to keep you up to date on new machines, and can always snack on Churros and Dole Whip.

Mickey’s Star Traders – Magic Kingdom, FL

In years past when I would hear about new penny press machines becoming available in Disney World I would have mixed emotions.  Mostly excitement that there were not coin designs available, but a little sad knowing that it may be over a year before I could get down there to use the machine in person.  Thankfully I have a great network of fellow collectors that help me acquire these coins to keep my collection up to date, but there is nothing I like better than using the machines myself.  But now that we live down in the Orlando area it actually took me a moment to realize that hey I can just get up and go to the park after work and get these new coins.  It’s kind of been a slow learning curve but makes for some fun little evening adventures.  This past week was one of the first where I was checking my favorite press coins.com website and was surprises to see a new 8-design penny machine in the Magic Kingdom.  It took all my strength not to just bail out on work immediately, but I managed to complete by shift and then head over to the park to get these brand new designs.

After driving over to the ticketing and transportation center, going through security and jumping on the monorail into the Magic Kingdom I started heading down main street.  The castle is always so beautiful in the background even with the ominous clouds gathering overhead.  Now that I can go more often I like the opportunity to take my time getting to places inside the park instead of always having to run to our next fastpass or dining reservation.  It makes for a much more enjoyable visit.  Once over in tomorrowland I walked past Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and Stitch’s Great Escape and hung a left past the Merchant of Venus store (click the link to see the penny machine located in this store).  Sort of across from the speedway and beside Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe is a little store called Mickey’s Star Traders.

Inside as always are bottles of soda, candy, plush characters, t-shirts, et al.  This was home to one of the few Quarter Press machines on property and thankfully that machine is still here but it was moved to the entrance closer to Cosmic Ray’s.

Confession on the picture above, I had visited the park about a week before this current trip I’m writing about and took the above machine picture.  This is in the old location, but the machine and designs are still exactly the same.  I know there are some eagle-eyed readers that would have called me out on this being the old spot so I figured I better cop to it immediately.

It’s funny on this machine there is still a sticker that says “All Brand New Designs” but these designs have actually be here for quite a while now.  They include Mickey & Pluto in a Spaceship, Zurg from Toy Story fame, and the Tomorrowland Logo.  Now it’s on to the new machine.

This machine is located where he old machine used to be, and is at the entrance closes to the restroom area.  It’s still inside the store which is nice so you can get a break from the heart in some blasting AC.  The machine is an 8-design touch screen version.  You can get 1 design for $1, or all 8 for $5.  I’m sure you know what I got.

As I’ve mentioned before these are penny like tokens that usually press pretty consistently and are nice and shiny.  I’m still waiting to see how they hold up over time.  The designs in this set are of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Buzz Lightyear, Stitch, and Mr. Incredible all with the Tomorrowland Logo and in some form of spacesuit or space travel.

While using this machine I overheard a couple talking about it and they said something I hadn’t heard of and tested out to make sure I wasn’t wrong.  They said that if you only pick to press 1 design you don’t get to choose the design, but rather the machine randomly picks it for you.  This is NOT true.  I actually pressed a single design just to try it out, and actually let the couple watch while I did it.  If you are either short on extra change (this does accept credit cards or Apple Pay) and you only decide to press 1 coin you do get to pick which one you want.  I wasn’t sure if this was a common misnomer people thought happened with these machines so I figured I would bust that myth immediately.

It was starting to get dark, thankfully the rain had held off and as I headed through the Tomorrowland terrace I got a quick look at the new castle projection and fireworks show “Happily Ever After”.  This took over for the much beloved “Wishes” fireworks show but from what I have seen and hear this is a much needed upgrade and will just blow you away.  I haven’t seen the whole show yet and have it on my to do list to get out there one night just to check it out.  But here is a shot I got as I was heading back to my car.  Until next time keep on collecting!

South of the Border – Dillon, SC

So I’ll start off by officially announcing that we have moved to Florida.  I think I have mentioned this in brief passing in some previous posts which also explains all the short trips to Orlando over the last few months.  This was partly due to Family and partly due to work but it was a big move for our family and we are taking this new adventure one step at a time.  Of course being in the Theme Park capital of the world is also going to help everyone with that transition.  Anyways, we have been here about a month so far and still have boxes all over the place.  As I was going through some bags I found a pressed coin that I was able to press on our moving trip down to Florida.  The first day we drove to North Carolina and stayed in a hotel.  The next day we got up early and hit the road.  By the time we crossed the border into South Carolina we were all ready for a quick bathroom stop.  As luck would have it we had been seeing billboards for about 50 miles advertising THE MUST STOP PLACE South of the Border.  We saw the exit sign and did as we were told.

As you exit the highway you can this huge character known as Pedro showing the way.  We pulled right in the parking area below this huge sign.

It’s actually a very interesting area to wonder around.  There are different stores, restaurants, a gas station, reptile museum, and a huge fireworks store if that’s your thing.

The buildings, and colors of this place are very unique but interesting at the same time. We didn’t want to spend too much time here as we still had a long drive ahead of us but we found the restrooms inside a building called Mexico Shop East.

Of course you know the restrooms wouldn’t be right at the front but instead all the way towards the back.  This way you can walk through the huge store of souvenirs and all sorts of crazy nick knacks.

You can get carried away buying some of this stuff if you aren’t careful.  My kids were in heaven with all the toys but we had very little room available in our car at the moment so we limited them to one small toy to keep them occupied for the next 8 hours.

The penny machine that is located in this store is right inside the main door you enter when coming in from the parking area.  It’s a 1 design electric press and still costs only 50 cents plus your penny.

   

On the left is a close up of the marquee sign on the machine with instructions on how to use it.  Since there is only one design you pretty much just put your coins in the slide and push it back.  A few seconds later and your new pressed coins drops out the bottom.  As you can see the finished coins did press a little short, but the design still came out pretty nice.  There are notes on pennycollector.com that there is another machine in one of the restaurants but it has the same design.  I didn’t have time to try to find it to confirm but their website is usually pretty accurate in my experience.

Thankfully I had some extra quarters and pennies stashed away in my car.  I’ve said it over and over again you just never know when you will come across a machine you didn’t know about.  After seeing the machine I went back to my car grabbed some change and added another cool pressed coin to my collection.

Disney Cruise 2017 – Port Canaveral, FL

For our 5th wedding anniversary my wife and I decided it was time to take our long overdue honeymoon.  When we first got married we had a lot going on in our lives and just figured we would take our honeymoon when things slowed down and before we knew it 5 years had passed.  So this was the year we were going to change that and decided to take a cruise to the Bahamas.  Of course being the Disney fans that we are the Disney Cruise Line seemed right up our alley, except we were leaving our girls behind to stay with grandparents (gasp!).  We missed our girls every day, but the quite and slow pace of our long weekend trip was just what we needed to relax and just recharge.

We were scheduled to check-in at 10:30 am so we got up early and headed over to Port Canaveral in plenty of time.  This was our first cruise so we weren’t sure exactly what we were doing but Disney made it very simple.  We parked in the garage right across from the terminal and as we walked over towards the security area our ship was in the distance waiting for us.

After checking in and getting our boarding group number we sat in the waiting area of the terminal.  Over to the far side of the check-in desks was something I kind of thought I may never actually get to see or use in person.  They have two pressed penny machines here with Disney Cruise Line designs on them.  However, these machines can only be accessed by passengers on the ship.  If you are just passing through there is no way you can get to these machines.  I first found out about these machines months ago and have been scouring online sources trying to acquire a set but to no avail.  But now I was going to be able to use them in person and add some hard to get coins to my collection.

   

The first machine situated on the left side had designs of the Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy and Disney Cruise Line with Mickey.  Our cruise ship for the weekend was the Disney Dream so it was cool that they have coin designs specifically for each ship in the fleet.

   

The machine on the right side also had three designs including the other two ships: the Disney Wonder, Disney Magic, and Disney’s Castaway Cay (pronounced Key) which is Disney’s private island in the Bahamas.

Each of the pressed pennies have a backstamp on them of the Disney Cruise Lines logo.  This was a nice touch as most of the pressed coins in Florida don’t have backstamps which are almost the norm out in California.  With these special pennies pressed and safely stored away our boarding group was called shortly after.

You get to walk through this cool “hidden mickey” although it’s not really all that hidden.  Next you get your picture taken, before the staff on board ask for your family name and announce you onto to the ship.

Above is a picture of the main atrium that you walk into, I took this from one of the higher decks to get a better shot of the chandelier and entry way.  Your cabin’s aren’t ready until later in the afternoon and there is a fun Sail Away party up on the main deck where all your favorite Disney characters help celebrate the beginning of the cruise.

There are constantly things to do on board, and the food is pretty much always available.  We spent the first evening exploring the ship and my wife took full advantage of the Spa.

We had a stateroom on the seventh deck with a balcony that made for some really amazing mornings.  Watching the sun rise and even peek through the clouds like the above picture were very magical.  It was really nice to sit out an enjoy the crashing waves, with a coffee in hand and sea air all around you.  If you look closely in the distance you can even see another cruise ship.  On Saturday morning we decided to check out the Enchanted Garden restaurant for breakfast.

The Disney cruise lines have what they call rotational dining so your evening dinner location changes each night.  The rotation is listed on your room card, and we were scheduled to eat here for dinner but opted for a different kind of buy-up option that I’ll go over in a bit.  So we figured since we would miss this place for dinner why not go inside for breakfast.

Inside it’s themed like an English Garden which also kind of reminded me of the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom theme park.  For breakfast they had a huge buffet with all types of your usual offerings, including fresh fruit, pastries, breads, meats, and of course eggs, bacon, etc.  Since most people seemed to be leaving early to explore our first port of call this place was pretty calm and very little lines for the food which was nice.

Our first port of call was Nassau in the Bahama’s.  We eventually headed off the ship for a bit to walk around.  I didn’t have an excursion planned so instead we just walked around and did a bit of shopping.

The locals were very nice, but can be a bit over bearing.  You are constantly being called after to come and buy things they are selling or trying to get you into their cab for a tour of the island.  It was never overly aggressive but can get a little uncomfortable if you aren’t used to that.  We go through the main area by the dock and headed a few blocks inland towards the main street and there were a lot of standard tourist shops to check out.  After a couple of hours we decided to get back on the ship and lay out in the sun for a bit.  This was a vacation after all we couldn’t come back from the Bahama’s without a tan.

The ship does have two adults only restaurants that you can make reservations for.  I booked the reservations a few months ago to ensure we could get a table, but it did seem like you could still make late minute reservations on board if needed.  As I mentioned these restaurants are not completely covered by your usual cruise cost.  There is an up charge but is pretty reasonable for what you get.  One of the restaurants is called Remy’s which is based on the Pixar movie Ratatouille and is obviously French inspired.  We decided to try the other restaurant called Palo which is an Italian inspired dining experience.

There was a dress code for this restaurant.  It wasn’t too outrageous in requiring a tuxedo or anything.  But there was no swim wear and for men they requested either a suite, or dress pants and shirt.  For the ladies a dress or pant suit was acceptable.  The inside was beautiful and we were informed by our hostess that the interior was actually designed as if you were in Venice Italy.  I’ve never been to Venice so I’ll take their word for it, but it was really an exceptional place to have a meal.

During the initial booking of the cruise I mentioned that we were celebrating our wedding anniversary which definitely worked out in our favor.  The hostess seated us at a nice private table away from the other tables with a beautiful view of the ocean as the ship made its way to our next port.  When the menu came it was explained to us that the Palo experience can take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  We were in no rush so this was fine with us.  They do offer a chef selection menu where you get five courses picked by the chef and matched with accompanying wines.  Or you can do the a la carte menu which is what we opted for.  Your first course is an antipasto which is created table side from a huge cart with a wide assortment of cured meats, cheese, roasted veggies and olive oils.  Next was our appetizers which my wife selected a potato gnocchi, and I went for the fried calamari and shrimp were was all really fresh, tender and fantastic.  There was then an intermezzo of lime sorbet to help cleanse our palette before our main entrees arrived.

My wife got the filet over puree cauliflower with two sauces a red wine reduction, and a Gorgonzola white sauce.

I opted for the Lobster pappardelle pasta.  Both were beautifully plated and tasted fantastic.  However we were getting pretty close to our bursting point, and there was still desert on the way.

As our last course our server recommended the souffles which Palo is known for.  They initially only had a chocolate version, but recently have added an amaretto version.  So we ordered one of each and they were both fantastic.  The chef even came out at the end to ensure everything had been satisfactory which was a really nice touch.  With our stomachs bursting we slowly walked back to our cabin to relax for a bit before the fireworks show later that night as part of the pirate party.

The next morning we arrived at Disney’s private island in the Bahama’s Castaway Cay.  It was another gorgeous day in the low nineties, but the sun was blazing.

As we exited the boat we decided just to walk to the beach instead of taking the tram.  It wasn’t too bad of a walk and was just nice to work off those extra calories we had ingested at Palo the night before.

The picture above is of the famous Mount Rustmore on the island.  You eventually come to an area with various souvenir shops with t-shirts, coffee mugs, pins, and of course beach supplies if needed.

We eventually did need to hop on a separate tram to get over to Serenity Bay which is an adults only area.

My wife and I had a couples massage scheduled in a cabana over in this area right on the beach which was an interesting experience.  The massage was about an hour, but seemed to go by way to fast.  We were very relaxed after that and spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the beach, sun and water.  Before we knew it we had to head back to the ship before it left to take us back to Florida.

For dinner that night we were scheduled at the Royal Palace.  This was another French inspired restaurant that loosely reminded me of Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom.

The food here was nice, not Palo quality but still very good.  My wife and I both started with the french onion soup which is a guilty pleasure of ours.  My wife had a horseradish crusted salmon which she really enjoyed, and I had a sliced sirloin.

With dinner complete we wanted to try to enjoy the ship for a few more hours and wandered around on the top deck.  Eventually we headed to bed and when we woke up the next morning we were back in Port Canaveral.  We had a nice quick breakfast back at the Royal Palace and then were able to disembark the ship.

Overall it has been a fantastic little trip and the much needed sleep and relaxation make for a great vacation.  I would highly recommend the Disney Cruise Line, and we are hoping to go again in the near future maybe when our girls are a little older.  If you do take a Disney cruise don’t forget to bring some change so you can press those elusive pennies as they will be a great addition to your collection and are highly sought after by collectors.  Happy cruising!