Opening Night Dinner at Sebastian’s Bistro – A Disney Dining Show Review

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If you’ve seen a few episodes of the Disney Dining Show, you know that there is a tremendous amount of context that must be included with each Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort restaurant review. These eateries have history; they have a reputation among both fans and critics alike that can easily influence the level of service and food quality a guest expects when they show up come mealtime.

That is why the lot of us — Pete Werner, Steve Porter, guest-diner Eric, and myself — absolutely jumped at the chance to experience dinner at Sebastian’s Bistro, the new Caribbean-inspired table service eatery that is just one of the results of the Caribbean Beach Resort’s lengthy construction phase.

Seeing as how Sebastian’s is brand new, not just newly reopened or re-imagined, we didn’t have any previous experiences or culinary baggage which could lead to preconceived notions.

Yet with Disney dining, there is always some sort of precedent to go by. It might seem unfair to compare this new establishment to Shutters — Caribbean Beach‘s notoriously disappointing, previous Old Port Royale table service offering — yet as we found out during our meal, much of the staff were actually Shutters veterans.

With that in mind, this opening night proved to be truly surprising.



*If you’d care to digest your food review in watchable form, our video discussion of Sebastian’s is embedded at the bottom of this article. For all other Disney Dining Show reviews and discussions check out DISUnplugged.com, where you’ll also find a vast catalog of shows to satiate all of your Disney curiosities.

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Seating

We checked in 10 minutes prior to our 8:40 pm reservation, and were seated by 8:50. The cast members seemed friendly and knowledgeable from the start.

Our server Miguel, of whom I will speak in more depth in the service section of this article, promptly gave us an explanation of the tone of this new establishment combined with menu highlights and drink recommendations. This process was executed well. Although it may seem like an arbitrary compliment, a hassle-laden check-in and seating process can truly set a bad tone for the rest of the night.

This was our first impression of a brand new eatery, and it was done in such a fashion as to build anticipation for the meals to come.

The Decor

While Sebastian’s Bistro certainly had the air of a just-opened eatery — with clean, uniform paint on the walls, polished floors betraying not a single scuff, and upholstery unmarred by any loose threads — there was an element to the crisp cleanliness that did not play to it’s favor for some of us. First though, a brief description.

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Sebastian’s consists of two dining areas aesthetically separated by one well-placed booth, both featuring a consistent table layout. As you take a hard left just after the host station and decorative partition, you’ll walk through an initial dining area with four-person tables on the floor, a procession of two-person tables lining the windows, and a row of booths hugging the interior wall. That trend continues throughout the larger dining room, only with the addition of some larger tables on the floor space.

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Utilizing a clever design, both areas convey a sense of intimacy while also avoiding the feeling of clutter or claustrophobia that occasionally accompanies it. Guests heading to the restroom will have no difficulty navigating around servers running dishes, and this gives the building a sense of ease and relaxation. Even the most high traffic area in a restaurant, the dreaded kitchen-adjacent table, appeared like a comfortable candidate for family dining. From the waterfront-view window seating (perfect for romantic couples’ dining) to cozy booths and accommodating tables, there did not appear to be a bad seat in the house.

Make no mistake, though, this restaurant is not large by any means. Much of the spaciousness comes from the floor layout and vaulted ceilings of the main room, which are braced by soft-colored timber with a calming aqua floral seaweed design.



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The lack of clutter, and lack of decor in general, help create an expansive space within the natural constraints of the small structure.

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The aforementioned lack of distracting decor does have its downsides, though. What is included among the restaurant’s accent pieces gains even more attention. Within a sea of off-white walls and subtle gray wainscoting, eyes are naturally drawn to the only sources of vibrancy in the area.

With a few creative choices, this would serve as a strength. Sadly, many of the designer’s aesthetic additions seem uninspired and droll. Our friend Eric said the feeling was reminiscent of a Holiday Inn. If I had to choose a culprit for that statement, I’d blame the art and upholstery. I felt that the overabundance of whites felt sterile — an acceptable word for a kitchen, a great adjective for a hospital, but completely out of place for a dining room.



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While I was remarking on the poor choice of chandeliers, our superlative server Miguel (proving that no question would be left unanswered on his watch) quickly let us know that they were merely placeholders for custom designs on order. Sebastian’s, it seems, still has a few finishing touches to add. I doubt these will drastically alter the feel of the place, as the building we saw was nearly identical to Disney’s concept art released earlier.

On the incredibly unlikely chance that anyone involved with the restaurant reads my review, I believe that by shifting the decor slightly away from Caribbean-inspired and closer to Caribbean — maintaining a focus on quality, not quantity — Sebastian’s could quickly transform from comfortably sterile to charmingly inviting.

As it stands, the location is utterly devoid of theming. The decor isn’t Caribbean enough to bill itself as Caribbean-themed, yet aside from a few paintings featuring the bistro’s titular crab from The Little Mermaid, it can’t accurately be described as Disney-themed.

While it is in my nature to over-analyze what makes for good dining decor, it is also in my nature to strive for accuracy. Sebastian’s does have some truly positive design elements, they are just moderately detracted from by its choice in accents and upholstery. While it is obvious that the color choices are meant to be enhanced by the daytime sun, decor should be chosen that works well in any weather, day or night, and doesn’t lack personality like Sebastian’s Bistro’s dining environment.



The Food

Drinks

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Gold Medallion – $11.50 Cruzan Disney Select Single Barrel Rum, Beefeater Gin, Bols Apricot Brandy, and Orgeat (Almond), with Orange and Lime Juices topped with Soda Water – $11.50

Eric’s was not expecting the combination of rum, gin, and brandy to be nearly as palatable as it was, but the flavors paired well together and he enjoyed this drink

Caribbean Smuggler – $10.50Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum and Parrot Bay Coconut Rum with Cranberry and Pineapple Juices

This libation left Steve with a slight headache, which he attributes to its high sugar content. He found it to be tasty, but it probably won’t be his first choice next time.

Mutiny Punch – $4.49 A blend of Raspberry, Pineapple, Lime, and Cinnamon topped with Fever Tree Ginger Beer

I am always extraordinarily pleased when I see a unique nonalcoholic cocktail on the menu. Honestly, I rarely even care if it’s any good, I just appreciate restaurants attempting them. This offering happened to be excellent. I am not a fan of sweet drinks, which is why I go for these beverages instead of a soda, and the contents of my glass were crisp, refreshing, and interesting. The undertone of the ginger beer served as a perfect base to pinpoint the other flavors, and the cinnamon was a delightful addition.

The Peach Comber – $4.49 Fruity mix of Orange, Lemon, and Peach topped with Soda Water

Pete ended up satisfied with his choice, and although I’m not a fan of peach drinks myself I have to admit that I tried a sip (separate straw, because not contaminating your boss is a safe career move) and it was very good.

Appetizers

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Jamaican Meat Pies – $12.00 with Guajillo Chili Sauce

I generally don’t begin with my favorite dish; I enjoy building up to it. I feel these Jamaican Meat Pies really set the standard for what I could expect from this restaurant throughout the rest of my night, so I felt obligated to begin this culinary journey with my personal favorite of the appetizers offered.

You can get some version of these guys anywhere; that’s why I chose them. I’ve had good versions and bad, all for less than $4 a pop. The recipe is generally pretty simple, spiced meat inside dough, but sometimes a simple recipe leads to the widest variation of quality.

I just had to know how a Disney restaurant would handle this dish. I found out, and am very happy I did. At $12 for the pair, these things break down to $6 a pop. If Disney had the resources to serve this street-food-style (or park-food-style) it might be all I’d ever eat. The dough was perfect on its own, but the seasoned meat inside was delicious. Like almost every other dish in the place, it came with an accompanying sauce that was flavorful and fun — the pies were so tasty on their own that I barely used it.

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Caribbean Pull-apart Rolls – $12 with Guava Butter, Mango Chutney, and Jamaican Jerk Oil

Firm on the outside, soft and buttery on the inside, a flavor so rich and sweet that it open its doors to its saucy neighbors and warmly welcomes them to hop inside and stay for a while.

The accompanying butter, oil, and chutney are creative and flavorful; this dish could represent with just a box of Triscuits as a tasting platform. Yet, the true stars may be the fresh-made rolls themselves. I know that they were fresh made, because they had run out of them and created this batch just for us. I don’t know if a better sauce administration tool exists than these pull-apart beauties.

The table ranked the sauces and found ourselves in agreement. The chutney was alright, but the least impressive of the trio. The guava butter was perfectly suited for those with a penchant for rich flavor. The Jamaican Jerk Oil though? I may lose composure and leave this article unfinished as my brain sinks into a repeating loop of flavor memories from which my fragile mind can never return.

Disney, if you’ve made it this far into the article: Sell this stuff out of a plastic bottle in convenience stores, market it as a health beverage, watch your profits skyrocket. The FDA lets tons of that stuff slide these days. I will promise to drink a minimum of 3 pints per day.

Grilled Jerk Chicken Wings-1Grilled Jerk Chicken Wings – $12 with Cilantro-Lime Crema and Carrot Ribbons

I think that half of our party found this to be their favorite appetizer. While I don’t agree with that opinion myself, you may have noticed that these appetizers haven’t faced a lot of harsh criticism so far. Our favorites appear to just be personal preference, and many of us switched our opinions with each new dish that we sampled.

The wings were sizable and delectable. I was a bit worried about Sebastian’s treatment of jerk seasoning going into this meal. Disney isn’t known for accurately replicating spicier cuisines. Their burden to bear is a need to make every meal have mass appeal. I’ve eaten countless Louisiana-inspired dishes on property completely devoid of the spice that the region is world famous for. So Sebastian’s task was to take a style that most people enjoy spicy, remove the kick, but keep the flavor. At this, I think they managed surprisingly well.

While not my favorite on the table, you’ll likely never see me turn down a chance to consume a few of these avian appendages.

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Crab Cake – $14 with Watercress Salad and Herb Mayonnaise

I enjoy a good crab cake. I’ve can honestly say that I’ve got a pretty solid background of crab cake experiences. What I can’tsay, is that I have eaten every crab cake on Disney property. I think Steve Porter can.

I don’t know why. I’ve been present for so many instances of Steve’s crab cake consumption, yet clearly a small fraction compared to the infinite number of these Disney dishes he has devoured. I am desperate to find out my friend’s secret crab cake-related backstory. Did his great-grandfather invent the crab cake, launched under the name “the Porter Patty,” only to have his ideas stolen by charismatic con artist and so-called “inventor” of the Baltimore Crab Cake, Crosby Gaige? Now, Steve feels the need to spite-gobble all of these falsely attributed seafood staples?

That is simply one of many theories, but experience has taught me that the best source of Disney crab cake information was seated just a question away.

Steve thought this was clearly the best crab cake on Disney property. It was one of the best crab cakes the rest of us had tasted anywhere. The consistency was tender yet stable; it neither fell apart nor required any effort to cut with a fork. The recipe didn’t skimp on the crab, which was seasoned to a fine flavor. Once again, the sauce pairing of herb mayonnaise was brilliant — it didn’t distract from the flavor or overwhelm it, it simply added something extra with hints of acidity and a pickled taste to it.

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Marauders Snacks – $15 Tostones, Arepas, and House-made Crackers with Black Bean Hummus, Guacamole, and Pico de Gallo

This shareable assortment was probably the lowest on our list, which says a lot because it was quite good. Each of the accompaniments was constructed from quality ingredients. The tostones and arepas were tasty, and the house made crackers were highly salted and worked exceptionally well with the guacamole.

This dish takes fewer risks than the others, but generally delivers on its promises. The price tag is a bit surprising, as at $15 you may want to try another starter, particularly the comparable pull-apart rolls. Given the cost vs. quality of the other dishes, I’m a bit unsure as to why this one warranted a higher price.

Overall

Not a bad dish sampled, we all came to the conclusion that each appetizer offering was well worth its asking price.

Entrées

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Slow-cooked Pork Shoulder – $25 with Black Beans and Cilantro Rice, Corn Tortillas, and Mojo Sauce

Our knowledgeable server Miguel describes this dish to Pete as “a deconstructed taco.” Pete was of the opinion that were this to be reconstructed it would be the best taco he’d ever had.

The pulled pork was tender and saturated with flavor, and although the sides may seem simple they were prepared surprisingly well.

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Sautéed Shrimp and Tamales – $23 with Peppers and Salsa Verde

No stranger to shrimp or tamales, this dish was Eric’s entrée of choice. He thoroughly enjoyed the meal as whole, with a special nod to the tamales and salsa verda. All of the elements combined well with each other so that each ingredient could be enjoyed on its own, but the flavors acting together changed this dish from simple to remarkable.

His singular complaint was that he would have appreciated a greater presence of shrimp.

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Sustainable Fish (cobia) – $25 with Mash Plantain and Escovitch Sauce

Neither Steve nor I had ever eaten cobia before. I throw myself into the mix because naturally we all sampled each other’s meals (using separate forks, because not contaminating your coworkers is good for workplace morale). That being said, I agreed with all of Mr. Porter’s observations on the featured sustainable fish.

Flaky, juicy, and flavorful, their preparation of the cobia was on point. None of us had ever heard of Escovitch sauce before, and had I ever eaten it I was probably unaware, so I can’t speak to its authenticity. I can speak to its flavor, which did wonders to compliment the delectable fish.

I am not a fan of plantains in any of their forms, but everyone else at the table absolutely loved the side of mashed fruit. If you enjoy plantains even a little bit, you’ll probably love it as well.

Caribbean Goat Curry-2

Caribbean Goat Curry – $24 with Cilantro Rice, Lime Crèma, and crispy Yuca

I saved mine for last not just because I can speak on it the most thoroughly, but because this dish is probably the least appealing to a large audience, which is a problem that I mean to rectify.

I’ve had some form of this dish many times, usually home cooked, and always wonderful. Sometimes it’s been milder, sometimes spicier, but many Americans’ natural aversion to goat is hindering some great culinary experiences. Aside from the protein source, another reason this dish seems inaccessible to many is the preparation style. Most times I have eaten it, the goat was chopped into chunks — bone and all — and mixed in with the rice. That means if you’re eating your rice with a fork you’ve gotta go to some extra effort to get that goat off the bone. Totally worth it, but a hassle nonetheless.

I was curious as to how Sebastian’s could take such a meal and make it Disney-resort-guest-approved. Hard to believe, but they did. Some at the table were surprised they enjoyed goat, some were surprised by the unique preparation; every one of us was caught off guard by the creative take on traditional cuisine.

The goat was not dissimilar to Pete’s pulled pork in texture or tenderness, possibly slow-roasted in a similar fashion and without the any extreme chewiness that animal is sometimes known for.

I am not much of a yucca fan, but the crispy shaved slices which topped the dish, when eaten in the same forkful as the goat and cilantro rice, managed to create a wonderful diversity in texture which served to shine a spotlight on the delicious collusion of differing flavors.

If you aren’t turned off simply by the word “goat,” please give this spectacular dish a try. My very real concern is that as menus change over time, the overlooked goat dish will be cut in favor of something more universally appealing.

Overall

Just as we experienced with appetizers, none of our orders were regretted and we found them each to be worth the asking price.

Desserts

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Floating Island – $8 Fresh Caribbean Fruit and Meringue with Guava and Guanabana Sorbet

Uninspired and boring, this dessert was simply sweet for sweet’s sake. The texture could have proved a bit fun had more flavor been present, but it was a mild sorbet on top of a sugary yet flavorless meringue.

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Message in a Bottle – $8 Coconut-Rice Panna Cotta, Pineapple, and Mango-Lime Sorbet

While the serving style of this offering was an aesthetically attractive concept, it’s a shame when I find the arrangement of the food in its container to be more intriguing than the dessert itself.

Once again, very low on flavor and the texture of the panna cotta mixed with sorbet didn’t win anyone over.

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Mile Marker Zero – $9 Iced Key Lime Pops with Sea Salt and a Tropical Fruit Sauce

For an instant we were worried that Sebastian’s had spent so much energy on its earlier offerings that they just didn’t have anything left for their desserts. Luckily, Mile Marker Zero came to save us from ending our meal on a boring note.

While probably not for everyone, this is another example of divergent flavors harmonizing to create a unique experience. Salted, bitter dark chocolate mixed with a sweet yet tart Key lime pie lollipop made for a fun and exciting finish to our evening’s culinary adventure.

The Service

In a word: exemplary. Our server Miguel was engaging and enthusiastic while never being overbearing. He knew the menu inside and out, down to the smallest details.

When we dine for a review, or just for fun, we latch onto knowledgeable cast members and throw out as many questions as we can think of. Miguel not only always had an answer, but he never struggled or hesitated. While the serving staff trained for around a month or so prior to opening, were we not already aware that it was opening night we would have assumed they had been working at this establishment for years.

Service was expertly paced, and we never felt rushed or were left waiting. The place operated smoothly, and once again emphasis must be placed on how good of a sign it is if things go this well on opening night.

Overall

As I had mentioned in the beginning of this review, much of the Sebastian’s Bistro staff also worked at the previous Old Port Royale table service location, Shutters. This new dining experience is leaps and bounds over the former restaurant. Whether this is due to changes in management, greater resources, or just a better concept is unknown to me, but the result is all that matters.

With the exception of a few dessert options, everything we ate was a mix of surprising and comforting. Service was warm and welcoming yet efficient. The decor could use a few improvements, but the overall design makes great use of its space.

I would like to see a few meals here that didn’t play it so safe where heat is concerned, stuff that packs a bit of a kick, but Disney aims to please the masses so I understand why they avoided that direction.

All in all, everyone at our table gave Sebastian’s Bistro an 8.5 or 9 out of 10. A tremendous showing for opening night dinner — let’s just hope they maintain that same level of service and quality going forward.

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Salt and Straw Celebrates Grand Opening in Downtown Disney

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Salt & Straw, the new ice cream shop in Downtown Disney, celebrated its ribbon cutting this morning at the Disneyland Resort!

The Portland-based company is known for its hand made ice cream, made in small batches with local ingredients, such as cream from family-owned Scott Brothers Dairy in Southern California.

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The new shop features handmade sculpted lighting fixtures, red-and-white-striped exterior panels, and an abstract totem pole made of stacked ice cream cones and scoops.

The menu features “taste-provoking” flavors, including monthly and seasonal specials, in cups or handmade waffle cones. Hand-packed pints to-go are also available. New flavors are available on the first Friday of each month.



October flavors include The Great Candycopia and Mummy’s Pumpkin Spice Potion.

According to co-owner Tyler Malek, “what you get at Salt & Straw is far from a tasting experience and more like a journey through ever-changing stories about food, art and ice cream.”

Source: Disney Parks Blog

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Freeform to Air ‘Decorating Disney: Halloween Magic’ on October 14

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As part of their 31 Nights of Halloween, this weekend Freeform will present Decorating Disney: Halloween Magic.

The special, hosted by Cierra Ramirez (The Fosters), goes behind the scenes at Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort, and Disney Cruise Line. Imagineers and decorators discuss how they are able to transform the parks and cruise ships overnight with spooky decorations.

Look for Decorating Disney: Halloween Magic on Sunday, October 14th at 8/7c.

Here’s a preview of the special:



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Cost of Drink, Soda Packages on Royal Caribbean Going Up Next Year

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Royal Caribbean is raising the cost of their drink and soda packages on 2019 cruises from 10-40%. These packages let guests enjoy unlimited drinks during their cruise.

The Deluxe Beverage Package, which includes cocktails, wine, beer, bottled water, fresh squeezed juices, premium coffees and teas, and fountain sodas is going up about 10%. Current pricing for guests that book onboard is $57-$63 per day. In 2019, the price goes up to $63-$70 per day.

The cost for the Premium Refreshment Package is changing as well. This package includes premium coffees and teas, bottled water, fresh squeezed orange juice, non-alcoholic cocktails, and fountain sodas. Onboard, pricing is currently $26-$29 per day, but in 2019 the cost will be adjusted to $29 per day.

The biggest increase is for the Classic Soda Package, which is going up over 50% on some cruises. The package which includes fountain sodas (plus a souvenir cup) is currently $8.50-$9.50 per day. In 2019, onboard pricing will be $12.99 per day.

The prices for all packages listed are for packages booked once onboard a cruise. Discounts are typically offered when packages are booked online in advance of the cruise.



As always, packages cannot be shared by guests and all adult guests of legal drinking age in the same stateroom must purchase the same drink package.

Source: Cruise Fever / Royal Caribbean

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Disney Offers Fox Deal Concessions for EU Approval, Review Deadline Extended

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While the United States Department of Justice’s antitrust division approved The Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox properties back in June, both companies have been awaiting a decision from European regulators that would allow them to proceed with the $71.3 billion deal. They may be waiting a little bit longer, as the EU have just pushed back the deadline for the merger’s review until mid-November after Disney submitted a proposal of concessions to the European Commission on Friday, October 12th.

What Disney’s proposed concessions are is unknown.

While the initial deadline for a judgement on the deal was set for October 19th, the European Commission has moved the date to November 11th so that they will have an opportunity to speak with customers and competitors prior to their decision to move forward or seek more concessions.

Both companies involved are preparing for 21st Century Fox’s transition over to Disney, and Fox executives have recently stated that their new corporate structure should be in place before the deal is transactionally official on January 1st of next year.

Source: Reuters



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Disney Confessional: Three Disney Mistakes I Learned the Hard Way

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Everyone gets it wrong at some point. Even the best of us have days where everything turns upside down, and our inner pro could easily be mistaken for a Disney amateur. Whether you are searching for some consolation for the Disney mistakes you have made yourself, or perhaps you are just looking for a laugh, here are three Disney mistakes I learned the hard way.



Mistake Number One: Someone is always watching

I previously shared this story with the DisBoards group on Facebook, and since it gave a few people a laugh, I thought I might share it with you all as well.

Coming from Australia, we tend to visit Disneyland California far more frequently than we can enjoy Walt Disney World due to the additional distance required to get there. As one can imagine, during our (almost) annual visits, I have become extremely familiar with all our favorite rides at the Disneyland and California Adventure parks, especially Tower of Terror (now known as Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout).

For those of you unaware, it was (and still is in Walt Disney World) a delightful little ride that invites you into the creepy world of the Twilight Zone (and a false sense of security), before dropping you 130 feet (40 meters). During all the commotion, your photo is taken as a wonderful keepsake of what your face looks like being pulled down faster than gravity would naturally allow. Ah, the memories.

So, when we make the venture over to Walt Disney World, one would think I know what I am doing, right? Oh no, no, no, my little tulips, oh how wrong I was…



It was a hotter-than-average evening in January, and our family was hurrying from the airport to catch the very last night of the Osborne Lights at Hollywood Studios. We stopped off at the hotel so I could change out of the clothes that my son so kindly vomited on in the plane. At this point, my mind was racing. The excitement of being here, the pressure of getting to the park in time, keeping my (then) four- and 7-year-olds from killing each other while I got changed. Good times.

The snow filled the air of Manhattan where we boarded the plane, dramatically different to the balmy 100 or so degrees we were greeted by in Orlando that evening — I was hot, rushed and possibly not using my best judgment. I stripped off, threw on some cooler attire that could be easily located in the top of the bag, grabbed the kids and headed out the door.

The trip to the ferry and then on to the park was quite lovely, a mood-altering atmosphere that became the antidote for my rushed and slightly panicked exterior. The sun had set long before, and the darkness that surrounded made every light sparkle a little brighter, both literally and metaphorically. It was distractingly beautiful.

Having small children at the time, it had been quite some years since we had made it all the way from Sydney to Florida and it would seem many things had changed, including the introduction of MagicBands. I suddenly felt like my late grandfather looking at these newfangled contraptions as though they were an essay written in Korean. To be clear, I don’t speak or read Koreancanso; this is a symbol of something very confusing. After a delightfully crowded stroll through the Osborne Lights, we tapped our Magic Bands to FastPass our way to the front of the line at Tower of Terror.

After an extremely short wait, we were through the doors and sat in the front row of our elevator. I must say I usually do feel more comfortable and less exposed in the back row of any plunging elevator of doom; however, the boarding process was so fast that I didn’t have much of a moment to hesitate. We began to ascend to greatness, unaware that the events of what would happen next would bond us together for a lifetime.

We reached the top, and having forgotten to have put on a replacement supportive undergarment for the.. ahem.. girls… I decided to very tactfully take advantage of the darkness and make some adjustments to compensate for my lack of a bra before deciding to give up and physically hold them down in anticipation of the drop to come. There I was, one arm across my chest and the other across my excitable seven-year-old just in time to be pulled down at 39mph (63kms). Predictably it was an exciting ride, particularly at night. I exited the ride feeling clever that I hadn’t coped a whack in the face from my own chest.

Upon returning home to Australia a few weeks later and reviewing my (then) Photo Pass, I was stunned to see that Disney now offer a fantastic little video of the top of Tower of Terror before that delightful drop. There I am, in all my glory. Adjusting and securing my chest in anticipation of the scream-filled dive to come.

I would like to formally apologize to anyone who was also riding Tower Of Terror that fateful night and has secured themselves a copy of this atrocity. I have vowed to wear, not only a better bra but also a ski jacket and a beanie on all future TOT rides in an effort to counteract this experience.

Remember friends, even though it is dark before the photo, you are not alone.

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Mistake Number Two: Drink More Water

Everyone tells you to drink lots of water when visiting Walt Disney World in Florida. It’s hot and humid, and you can become quickly dehydrated.

I already drink a lot of water. I am just one of those people. Not because I have some impressive strict health regime or because I am aware of dehydration. I just like it. Mix that together with the fact that we come from Australia where we put on ten jumpers and shiver like penguins if the temperature drops below 50 degrees, I tend to think, ugh, I’ve got this. Yes? Hot and humid is my “thing.”

It was our second day at the Magic Kingdom, and the winter temperature had dropped from a balmy 110 down to a brisk 48 degrees. Even more unlikely to have a dehydration issue one would imagine. Right?

Wrong Again.



We had just finished the better half of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom when my eyes rolled slowly into the back of my head, and I made a not-so-graceful decent to the ground, narrowly missing hitting my head thanks to the quick thinking of my sister. Growing up with a sibling that is close in age to you gives you both ample time to become familiar with each other’s something-bad-is-about-to-happen faces. Something I became extremely grateful for when my head did not crack open against the concrete due to Casey’s dash to catch me. Ten seconds later I was feeling the cold, hard cobblestones beneath me. I was already worrying that we would be late for our next FastPass window even though it was ambitious to think I was going to get up from the ground without the assistance of several people.

Now I am sure that some thought I must have been overwhelmed by the amazement of Mickey’s PhilharMagic; however, the paramedics that arrived after I came to had a much less glamorous story to tell. I was dehydrated and had an adverse reaction to some over-the-counter anti-travel sickness medication that I collected from the hotel lobby.

After a stern lecture on how I would be sent to the hospital if I passed out again on the property, I was put into a wheelchair and my sister wheeled me back to our hotel. After I was safely back in the confines of my Epcot-facing hotel room, my family went off to enjoy the parks and let the kids recover from the ordeal. The beautiful cast members at the Magic Kingdom gave my family a handful of open FastPasses to any attraction, a gesture that I will be eternally grateful for as my children were able to go with family and enjoy their evening with a little extra magic to take their minds off everything.

Remember kids, it’s all fun and games until someone collapses in Fantasyland and gets sent back to the hotel in a wheelchair. Drink all the water.

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Mistake Number Three: Respect The Water Rides

It gets hot walking around the parks all day; even in winter, both Anaheim and Orlando can experience warmer than expected temperatures. Anyone who has not adequately dressed in multiple light layers to accommodate these varying conditions can easily find themselves a little overheated. It is moments like these when we can make terrible, horrendously regretful mistakes, like thinking a small splash on a water ride might even be refreshing. If you have not followed the running theme of this article then let me catch you up, this line of thinking would be profoundly incorrect.

The truth of it is, a Disney water ride is a temperamental soul, one that can to make or break the rest of your day depending on its feelings, not all that different to a three-year-old. Yes, that’s it, think of rides like Splash Mountain and rafting attractions as three-year-olds, possessing the power to lightly spray you with a delightful pixie-dust sprinkle of refreshment or spitefully drench you with a contentious wave of startling bitterness.

One year, our first trip in the midst of so-called winter, I laughed off the ponchos my family members were wearing, instead opting to enjoy the crisp, delightful dusting of Splash Mountain goodness. We made our way up the first two inclines, and as we circled the elevated outdoor section of the ride, I became witness to what was occurring two logs ahead of us as they plunged down the first small drop. It was not good. I quickly stripped off my light jacket and wrapped it around my son in front of me, ensuring his safety from the oncoming surge of water but leaving myself exposed to the unforgiving elements. This wasn’t going to go well. And sure enough, I exited the ride drenched from head to toe, dripping wet. At midday, it was a bit funny as I stood in the sun next to Winnie The Pooh trying desperately to dry. At 2 pm, it was less funny as I decided to bite the bullet and buy an overpriced sweater to change into. At 6 pm, the joke was over as my shoes make a graceful squelching noise with every step. By 10 pm we made our way back to the hotel where I was destined for a hot shower, and my shoes made a beeline for the trash can.

No one likes a poncho. Even for those of us that (now) swear by them, it’s not because we love ponchos or are under any misguided impression that a giant plastic tent is a particularly attractive look on anyone. It is for one reason only, and that is to stay relatively dry. If you are boarding a ride where 95% of people are wearing ponchos, pay attention. These are your people. Take the hint and get yourself some cover because chances are you will be in for a wet ride.

If it is summer when you are in the parks and you want to get wet, have at it, though my advice in those instances is to raise your feet up, especially in Disneyland’s Splash Mountain. The single file configuration of the logs often cause a flood of water to spill over the sides, down your legs, and into those lovely memory foam walking shoes you are wearing. They won’t remember much after that. Anchor your feet upwards, under the sides near where the handles are located to give your shoes the protection they need to survive the rest of the day. Getting soaked might feel freeing but wet socks hours later is for chumps. I speak this to you as a former chump.

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I hope you have enjoyed a few examples of how even Disney pros end up learning the hard way. What have you learned the hard way on Disney or Universal vacation?

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Upcoming ULA Launch from Cape Canaveral Might Provide Nighttime Show for Park and Cruise Guests

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UPDATE 10/16/18: The weather forecast is 80 percent positive for a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral just after midnight tonight (12:15 a.m. Wednesday).

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is standing on the launch pad, carrying the AEHF-4 military satellite for the U.S. Air Force at the top. There’s a 20 percent chance that cumulus clouds could halt the launch, so it’s not certain if guests at Disney, Universal or SeaWorld parks in Orlando will be able to see anything. Weather conditions sometimes mean rockets and their contrails are visible from Orlando, about an hour drive west of the launch sites on Cape Canaveral. Nighttime launches are particularly visible if weather is clear.

ULA released a photo of the rocket as it was rolled from the Vertical Integration Facility to the pad.

A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force is rolled from the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex-41. (Photo courtesy of ULA.)

A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force is rolled from the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex-41. (Photo courtesy of ULA.)


If you’re visiting the Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando resorts, or cruising from Port Canaveral on Oct. 16 or 17, you may get a chance to see a cool nighttime rocket launch.



Some of the night launches are even visible from Disney World and Universal, especially from tall buildings and hotels. (For more about seeing rocket launches from the parks, see previous story.)

Causeways or roadsides around the port and the Titusville area are also popular locations for viewing, provided they have room to pull over safely and aren’t restricted.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) confirmed Friday, Oct. 12 that it was targeting 12:15 a.m. on Oct. 17 for the attempt. Launch times change pretty frequently sometimes, so make sure to check when the day gets closer.

The Atlas V rocket is in final preparations to launch the fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite for the U.S. Air Force. It’s set to leave earth from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

That’s just north of Port Canaveral, where Disney Cruise Lines, Carnival and other big ships leave from.

The two-hour launch window opens fifteen minutes after midnight, and the live launch broadcast on ULA’s website will begin Oct. 16 at 11:55 p.m.

The Atlas V 551 is the most powerful in the Atlas fleet and produces two and a half million pounds of thrust at liftoff. It previously launched such missions as New Horizons, the first mission to Pluto, and the Juno mission to Jupiter.

“We are proud to launch this critical satellite for the U.S. Air Force, and demonstrate our strong support of our nation’s national defense and the warfighter community,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs.

The satellite system, developed by Lockheed Martin, provides global, survivable, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters.

The rocket stands 197 ft. tall. The Atlas booster for this mission is powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne provided the five AJ-60A solid rocket boosters (SRBs) and RL10C-1 engine for the Centaur upper stage.



ULA has delivered 130 satellites to orbit that aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, conduct science experiments, provide critical capabilities for troops in the field and enable personal device-based GPS navigation.

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New Online Planning Tools, Date-Based Tickets Launch Today at Walt Disney World

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As we previously announced, today is the day that the Walt Disney World Resort launches their brand new online vacation-planning tools as well as their date-based theme park tickets and pricing.

Just as before, guests will have all the same options to purchase their park tickets including visiting any Guest Services location upon arrival, using the My Disney Experience app, and through authorized travel professionals and ticket sellers.

Guests can now see and access numerous new online planning tools which include park offering overviews and travel tips from the Disney Parks Moms Panel who provide customized suggestions and tips based on each guest’s personal preferences.

Additionally, guests will be able to buy their tickets using the new online interactive calendar, which will display different ticket prices based on the dates chosen to visit. The video below offers a quick overview showing how the new process works.

“Compared to previous pricing*, some tickets have decreased, increased or stayed the same, depending on the start date and length of the ticket. For example, a guest purchasing a 3-day ticket with a start date of February 10, 2019, will now actually pay $4 less per day than they would have before. A Guest purchasing a 6-day ticket with a start date of this Thanksgiving will now pay a little more – an average of $5 per day – since it’s one of the most popular times of year to visit.”



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*Usage windows differ between previous and new tickets. Prices are for 1 Park Per Day Tickets, effective October 16, 2018, and are subject to change.

Source: Disney Parks Blog

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Walt Disney World Raises Fees to Park Vehicles at Their Theme Parks

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In addition to the new ticket pricing structure, the Walt Disney World Resort has just increased their theme park parking fees effective today.

Regular automobiles will now have a fee of $25 (up $3 from $22), oversized vehicles will be charged $30 (up $3 from $27), and preferred parking will now cost $50 (up $5 from $45).

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Walt Disney World Annual Pass Prices Have Increased Effective Immediately

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In addition to parking fee increases and the new date-based ticket pricing structure that rolls out today for Walt Disney World theme park guests, prices have unexpectedly increased for all Walt Disney World Annual Passes today with the exception of the Water Parks Annual Pass.

Take a look:

Water Parks After 2 Annual Pass (Florida Residents only)

  • Increased from $75 to $79

Epcot After 4 Annual Pass (Florida Residents only)

  • Increased from $279 to $289

Disney Weekday Select Annual Pass (Florida Residents only)

  • Increased from $289 to $319

Disney Silver Annual Pass (Florida Residents only)

  • Increased from $439 to $479

Disney Gold Annual Pass (Florida Residents and DVC Members only)

  • Increased from $589 to $609

Disney Platinum Annual Pass

  • Florida Resident increased from $729 to $749
  • All other guests increased from $849 to $894

Disney Platinum Plus Annual Pass

  • Florida Resident increased from $829 to $849
  • All other guests increased from $949 to $994

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