In the Shadow of the Mouse

Secrets of a theme park obsessed local who lives next door to Mickey, with annual passes to every Central Florida park

Quick Disney media event check-in: I rock my Disney side

I promised to issue full reports on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train event at Walt Disney World this week, so here’s  quick installment from the first night (if you missed my previous article, you can find it here). The festivities kicked off with a Rock Your Disney Side party at Epcot, followed by Illuminations viewing. The party was packed with delicious food, wine, margaritas, and other drinks, and some great entertainment. However, I have to admit that the Disney characters were a big highlight of the night.

There were many traditional favorites on hand, like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, who dressed up in their formal wear to celebration the 25th anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios:

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Goofy was there to promote Blizzard Beach:

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There were lots of characters from the Festival of Fantasy parade on hand, but the “Sleeping Beauty” contingent is my favorite:

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Several Cast Members from Festival of the Lion King also paid a visit:

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There were even living statues in the entryway:

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But perhaps the best surprise was having Anna and Elsa sneak up on me as I was grabbing a photo with Olaf. I didn’t even know they were coming, and suddenly there they were!

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Disney definitely knows how to throw a party, and I consider myself very lucky to attend. Here’s one last photo to show how my night ended with a perfect view of Illuminations:

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Stay turned to “In the Shadow of the Mouse” for continued coverage, and follow me via @themeparkwriter on Twitter for live updates as we progress toward the dedication ceremony for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train on Friday.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse.

Stay tuned for live reports on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train from Walt Disney World

Update: Scroll to the bottom of this article for a video ride-through of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and go here to see the next part of my report.

In addition to my HypeOrlando blog, I’m also a long-time theme park writer for Examiner.com, which means I get to cover many major events at Walt Disney World. This week, the big news is the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train event, which includes a media party and previews on Thursday night and a Friday morning dedication ceremony.

Watch my HypeOrlando “In the Shadow of the Mouse” column, as I’ll be covering all the fun right were, as well as on Examiner. Highlights will include a full review and video of my first ride on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the very last piece of the New Fantasyland expansion.

I’ll also be sharing information about MyMagic+ and multi-generational Walt Disney World vacations. I already know all about the joys of using FastPass+, which I’ve written about previously. If you’d like to know just how valuable FastPass+ can be, hop over to this new post, where I explain first hand just how much of a time-saver it can can. In the meantime, here are some photos from check-in day for the event, including the swag and an absolutely adorable special Magic Band commemorating the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opening:

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My ticket to ride for Tuesday:

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Swag! I especially love the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train chocolates, which are almost too cute to eat:

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One more swag item:

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Keep watching “In the Shadow of the Mouse” and follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter for updates over the next several days. Meanwhile, here’s Disney’s official ride-through video. I’ll post my personal ride within the next day or two:

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse.

The wonders of Walt Disney World FastPass+: Turn a 3-hour wait into 10 minutes

b7FastPass+ is the next generation of Walt Disney World’s FastPass service. Instead of going to a machine and getting a paper slip, you make ride, show, and attraction reservations right from your home computer before your trip. Of course, you can also book them at kiosks in the park, but doing it early is the best way to ensure that you’ll nab a time for the most popular options.

At the moment, nothing is more popular than “Frozen” sisters Anna and Elsa. They do a meet and greet at the Magic Kingdom, and wait times routinely skyrocket to three to four hours…if you don’t have a FastPass+. Granted, if you want to get one, you need to be online at the very moment you’re eligible to grab one. That date varies, depending on whether you’re staying at a Disney resort, coming in with a day ticket, or using an annual pass. Resort guests get to book at 60 days, while day ticket holders and annual pass holders have to wait until 30 days out.

So is it worth obsessively waiting for your booking date and making a frantic grab for a FastPass+ online? In reality, that sort of thing isn’t without precedent. Those who want to book a popular meal like breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table have been doing it for years. The only different now is that instead of frantically dialing a phone, you’re banging away at computer keys.

Yes, it’s a little hectic, but I have to say “Yes, it’s worth it. It’s worth it 100 percent.” Case in point: I’ve been dying to get a photo with Anna and Elsa, but there’s no way I would spend three to four hours in line to do so. I’m a local, so I wouldn’t be using up a big chunk of my vacation time, but I feel sorry for guests who are in Florida for a limited number of days.

Thankfully, I had a FastPass+; when I arrived at my designated day and time, the line was already three hours. I touched my Magic Band to the reader and headed into the FastPass line Princess Fairytale Hall. I was meeting Elsa and Anna literally within ten minutes.

Granted, your experience may vary, as things can happen that cause delays. When I left, the posted time for the princesses next door (Cinderella and Rapunzel) was 70 minutes, and the FastPass+ line was 30 minutes. That’s still a big time savings, but I found it ironic that Elsa and Anna’s FastPass wait was shorter.

If you have must-dos for your upcoming Disney vacation, FastPass+ is your friend. You might have to get a little frantic to make sure you grab the attractions and times you want, but once that’s over, you can relax and enjoy your trip. You’ll get to do those must-dos, no matter how big the crowd.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse.

Join me this week for a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train review from Walt Disney World

stickyWhen the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opens at the Magic Kingdom, it will mark the completion of the New Fantasyland expansion. The area already has attractions like a Little Mermaid ride in Eric’s castle, Enchanted Tales With Belle, and the impressive Beast’s castle, which houses the Be Our Guest Restaurant. While Snow White’s Scary Adventure is history, the new ride will bring part her story back to the Magic Kingdom.

Although it’s a family coaster, meaning the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will be suitable for everyone from Junior up to Grandma, it will still have a unique feature: trains that sway on the track. So what’s it like to ride this new attraction? I can’t tell you yet, but watch for my full report this weekend. I’m lucky enough to be attending a special media event that includes a preview of the brand-new coaster. I’ve got my “ticket to ride,” as you can see in the photo accompanying this article.

I’ll experience the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train for the first time ever on Thursday. I’ll have a video to share shortly thereafter, but in the meantime, enjoy these five videos that were recently posted in the Disney Parks Blog to whet everyone’s appetite for the new ride.

First, here’s one on the design:

Next, here’s a visit to the construction site. It sure looks a lot different now, with the ride just about ready to roll:

Here’s an early ride-through rendering:

Now take a peek inside at the dwarfs and mine:

Finally, here’s a CGI ride to get you excited for the real thing:

Watch for a full report on my Disney adventures, which start on Wednesday. In addition to riding the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, I’ll also be trying out MyMagic+ and learning about all the good stuff coming up at the Disney parks.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse.

SeaWorld Viva La Musica runs thru May 17: 5 tips to help you enjoy the festivities

b23SeaWorld Orlando kicked off its annual Viva La Musica Latin festival on April 26. Every Saturday through May 17, the festival will continue with lots of special food kiosks, music, characters, shopping, and headliner concerts. Chino y Nacho kicked things off, and the remaining bands are La India on May 3, Victor Manuelle on May 10, and Olga Tanon on May 17.

I was there for opening day and can highly recommend pretty much all of the cuisine, especially the empanadas and chimichurri beef. I also have a few tips to share, based on attending Viva La Musica at SeaWorld every year. If you plan to attend, these five tips will help you get the most possible enjoyment out of this lively festival:

1) Get to the park at opening time.

Noon is kickoff time for Viva La Musica, but SeaWorld typically opens at 9 a.m. Arrive early for two reasons: first, to avoid the crowd, and second, to make the most of your time. You can pack in a lot of rides and other attractions before the Bayside festival area opens.

2) Eat early.

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Granted, noon isn’t early, but what I mean is, make getting food your priority rather than shopping and browsing. You can always do that later, but the food lines get progressively longer so your best bet is to grab some of the delicious Latin cuisine as soon as the Bayside area opens. Then shop, watch the local bands, and meet Shamu and the others characters at your leisure.

3) Go to the Ports of Call seating area to eat.

b27People tend to gravitate to the first tables they see, and there’s a limited number of seating right out on the main Bayside drag. However, many people don’t realize that they can just cross the path and find nice, shaded seating in the Ports of Call area. There’s a sign at the entrance, but most people blow right by it. That means it’s rarely crowded, so grab a table and enjoy.

4) Buy reserved seating for the main concert.

As soon as the festival area opens at noon, you’ll see a pack of people rush for Bayside Stadium to stake out good seats. That’s certainly one way to do it; it doesn’t cost you anything extra, since the headliner concerts are included with your park admission. However, it’s a lot easier to just buy a preferred seating package, which includes food and a great concert seat. Then you have more time to enjoy the park instead of holding a spot for hours. If you do go with the “grab a seat early” approach, there are restrooms and concessions nearby so you can take a potty break and get something cold to drink.

5) Stay late.

There’s no reason to leave SeaWorld as soon as the main concert is over when the park is open later. Stick around and make a day (and evening) of it. There are still more rides to ride and animals to see. You can even go for a second round of food if your stomach is sufficiently recovered from lunch.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse.

FastPass+ must dos at the four Disney parks: Grab these attractions

Now that FastPass+ is a thing, what rides should you grab when your booking window opens? As an annual pass holder, I’m at a disadvantage as I can only make ride and attraction reservations 30 days out. However, if you’re staying at a Disney resort, you can do it a full 60 days before you check in, as the Walt Disney World website explains. Either way, here are my suggestions for the FastPass+ ressies to grab at each of the four parks:

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Two words: Elsa and Anna. If you don’t want a multi-hour wait to meet everyone’s favorite princesses, this is the FastPass+ reservation to snap up as soon as it becomes available. Otherwise you’ll wait two hours, three hours, or possibly even more, depending on the crowd level. The second best option is a viewing spot for the Festival of Fantasy parade. Yes, you could go for a major ride like one of the mountains, but both Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain have interactive queue lines that give you something to do while you’re waiting, and most of the Space Mountain wait is indoors, in air conditioning. Waiting in those lines is preferable to standing out in the sun for an hour or more to stake out a good parade spot.

Epcot

Soarin’ is the main attraction here, although Test Track can get some pretty wicked wait times in the summer. Still, Test Track has a single riders line if your family is willing to be split up in separate cars. I’d rather get a Soarin’ FastPass and do Test Track as a single.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Toy Story Mania or Fantasmic. Toy Story Mania has obnoxious lines during the peak season, and Fantasmic attracts huge crowds that become something of a mob scene. Granted, the Tower of Terror and Rock n Roller Coaster are also popular, but their wait time rarely approaches Toy Story Mania. Better yet, Rock n Roller Coaster has a single riders line, so use the heck out of that if others in your party are amendable to the idea.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

b6Kilimanjaro Safaris or Kali River Rapids in the summer. The safari is the signature ride here; you can usually get on with little to no wait if you rush to it early in the morning. Otherwise, just grab a FastPass and rush over to Expedition Everest instead. Yes, Expedition Everest offers FastPasses, too, but it has a single riders line, so that’s a wiser option if you don’t want to waste your precious FastPass allotment. However, if you’re visiting in the dead of summer, opt for Kali River Rapids instead. The line gets very long as people seek a good soaking to cool down in the vicious Florida heat.

Those are my personal suggestions. Sure, there are many, many other options, so work your FastPass+ selections around your own family’s tastes. Yes, it might be hard to plan something as detailed as your ride and show preferences that far in advance, but there’s also a big plus side. Once you make your reservation, you know for sure that you’ll be able to do the things that matter the most to you, even if the park is packed to capacity.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse.

MyMagic+ gets better on April 28: Park hop and make more FastPass+ reservations

temp31FastPass+ is the next generation of Disney’s venerable FastPass system, which savvy mouse fans have used for years to slash their wait times. With MyMagic+ and Magic Bands, guests have been able to book their FastPasses for rides. shows, parades, and even character greetings before they even reach Walt Disney World. Why wait three hours to meet Anna and Elsa or waste an hour staking out a spot for the Festival of Fantasy parade (pictured at right) when you can make a handy dandy reservation?

Only problem is, in the old days of FastPass, you could keep getting more all day. Once you hit the time frame for one, you could get another as long as there were still times available. Not so with FastPass+, which capped you at three and forced you to get them all for a single park. That kept you from the freedom of park hopping if you preferred to split your day between multiple parks.

Today company chairman Tom Staggs announced on the Disney Parks Blog that, starting on April 28, the three FastPass limitation will disappear like the Cheshire cat. You have to start out with just three FastPasses, but once you use them, you’re free to get another…and another…and another…until you don’t want any more or until they’re all handed out for the day, whichever happens first.

As an annual pass holder, I love the fact that FastPass+ is now pretty much in line with the old system. In fact, it’s even better because you can grab three rides or attractions in advance without worrying that you’ll get to the parks, hoping for an early time on Soarin’ or Toy Story Mania, only to get caught behind a tour guide getting FastPasses for his group of 200 via one of the old machines.

Better yet, you can park hop under the new system. Let’s say I want to grab three rides at the Magic Kingdom, then pop over to one of the other parks. As long as there are still times left for Soarin’ or Kilimanjaro Safari or the Tower of Terror, I can head over to Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, or Disney’s Hollywood Studios and extend my fun.

The only potential downside to the new system is that if you get one of your first three FastPasses for a late attraction, you probably won’t have much of a selection when its time to get your fourth. For example, if you book reserved viewing for the Festival of Fantasy parade, you’re tied up until 3 p.m. If your kids (or you) really, really want to see Anna and Elsa and the only available time is 5 p.m., you’re in the same boat.

As a local, I’m not too worried about those limitations, since I don’t have to fit everything into a compressed time period. If you’re a tourist, it will take a little planning, but you’re much better off having access to the additional FastPasses. Grab the first ones for early times if you can so you have the most possible freedom for the rest of your day.

Staggs says more MyMagic+ enhancements are coming, so stay tuned for future ways in which that cute little MagicBand can give you a smoother Walt Disney World experience.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse.

Great American Pie Festival on April 26 and 27 is sure to sate your sweet tooth

Celebration, Florida, has some fun annual events. It goes to the dogs during Posh Pooch, has falling leaves of the paper variety in the fall, and even imports an ice skating rink and soapy “snow” in the winter. However, if I had to pick a favorite, I’d have to say the Great American Pie Festival. Every year the American Pie Council brings this celebration of the crusty treat to town, leaving a swatch of people in sugar comas in its wake courtesy of the Never-Ending Pie Buffet.

temp32The buffet is the highlight for most people, including myself. It’s exactly what it sounds like: an area packed with various pie vendors like Village Inn and Publix who hand out their wares to any and all who pay the $10 admission fee, or half price for kids and seniors. Some of the booth offer other accoutrements like ice cream, coffee, and cheese, too, but pie most definitely takes center stage.

I’m a huge Village Inn fan myself, since their pie is virtually identical to Baker’s Square, which I enjoyed in Chicago all the way back to its initial incarnation as Poppin Fresh. I enjoy the pie at Perkins, but nothing can beat a big, creamy, chocolatey hunk of Bakers Square French Silk.

I’ve been attending the Great American Pie Festival for almost ten years now, so I remember its humble beginnings. It’s always attracted a crowd, but once upon a time that crowd was rather modest. Now, I advise getting there early because word is out and it attracts hoards of people, all eager to indulge in as much sugary bliss as they can get their hands on. The lines for the most popular booths get quite long, so go to the buffet as soon as you arrive. Yes, I know the crafts and contests and cooking demonstrations will try to tempt you away, but you can always go back to those later.

Pie isn’t the only food on hand, so if you need something to offset the sugar, look for the various food trucks. Between the edibles, entertainment, and booths for browsing, you can easily spend a whole afternoon at the Great American Pie Festival. Add in the regular Celebration attractions, like the lakefront walking path, run-through fountain, horse and carriage rides, bike rentals, and downtown shopping and you’ve got yourself a weekend plan.

Bring the kids along, as the Great American Pie Festival has plenty for them to do. They can try their hand at making a pie, get messy in a pie eating contest, enjoy crafts, and cut loose in the kids’ area with bounce houses and other fun and games. They’ll even find a few characters on hand to pose for photos. Heck, I enjoy the characters, too. Here are a few I met last year:

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If you’d like an overview of the Great American Pie Festival, check out the video below. It only scratches the surface, so if you have time this weekend, I recommend coming out to experience it for yourself:

Celebration is located just off I-4 and 192 and also easily accessible from the 417 tollway. Look for me there; I’ll be be one guarding a big, creamy slice of French Silk.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse.

Carnival Sunshine review, part 2: Everything old becomes new again

I’m sorry for the delay in posting part two of my Carnival Sunshine trip report, but things were so hectic with only two days on the ship that I had to wait until I returned to land. I’m home, so here is part two as promised (if you missed part one, you’ll find it here).

The Carnival Sunshine is new in a couple of different ways. It’s new to Port Canaveral, and it’s new in terms of name, but it’s actually the former Carnival Destiny. The Sunshine incarnation counts as new because it was almost completely gutted and transformed into a ship that looks nothing like its original 1996 self. You’ll know it from the moment you spot the water park area before you even board:

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I was pleasantly surprised from the moment I boarded the Sunshine and stepped into the eye-catching lobby. I can’t review the boarding process itself, since things went a little bit differently for the media cruise. However, it looks like it would be very standard and smooth: go through security, check in, get your boarding number, and get on the ship when it’s called.You even get to grab a photo with a giant towel animal on your way in (those who have cruised before will understand the whole towel animal thing; otherwise, you’ll learn in the future installments of this Carnival Sunshine review).

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The atrium decor is very dazzling and in-your-face, as you can see from the photos. That made it a great gathering place in general and the perfect spot for a lively party on the last night of the cruise, complete with Cruise Director Jaime performing YMCA on the bar and a rain of Mardi Gras beads for the crowd.

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My next surprise was the size of the staterooms. I’ve sailed on Disney and Royal Caribbean, and the former has good sized rooms, while the latter tends to have small accommodations. On the Sunshine, I was struck by the wideness of the hallways, and the room itself was a very comfortable size, with a bed, seating area, desk space, and storage niches. There were plenty of outlets to power my various electronic devices, and even a real hair dryer vs. the anemic built-in models on some ships.

 

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I was particularly happy with the bathroom, which didn’t have the micro shower that’s so typical on cruise ships. You actually had enough space to move around without the shower curtain sticking to your back or butt. The Sunshine even had some interesting toiletries that included Breath Right snore strips, are handy in close quarters with a snorer.

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I was also impressed with the spa, which is on a par with newer ships, especially in terms of the thermal suite. Heated tile loungers are all the rage, and the Cloud 9 spa has ten of them looking out onto the water. I only got to enjoy one for a short while because my cruise was so brief, but I would normally have spent a lot of time there.

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The workout room was very extensive, too, and that’s a good thing, given the caliber of the food served on board.

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The Carnival Sunshine has two main dining rooms and three specialty restaurants: Cucina Del Capitano (Italian), Fahrenheit 555 (steakhouse), and Ji Ji Asian Kitchen (the name is self-explanatory). Due to time constraints, I only got to try Ji Ji, but the meal wowed me. I’ll got into details in a future installed of my Carnival Sunshine review, but suffice it to say that I’d eat there every night of the trip if I could. That opinion comes from someone who likes really good Chinese and Thai food but who often has trouble finding it.

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The adult sun and pool and relaxation area was also gorgeous, although I never had a chance to hang out there.

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The show venues were very nice, and I loved how the Liquid Lounge can go from theater to disco. I thought the seating wouldn’t be good for viewing a show, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the rock show. It makes great use of the screen behind the performers. The only thing I didn’t like in terms of the lounges was the fact that the comedy show is in Limelight Lounge, which fills to capacity almost instantly. Thus, I didn’t get to see any of the comedy shows.

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Still, that was only one small disappointment in an overall amazing cruise. I’m sure I could have gotten in if I’d had more nights to try. One thing I have to say about Carnival: there’s always something going on. Literally, there are always multiple options for something to do.

Stay tuned for the next installment, coming soon!

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse.

Part 1 of my Carnival Sunshine adventure: A night’s stay at Port D’Hiver Bed and Breakfast

temp4As promised, I’m doing a full, day by day trip report on my Carnival Sunshine adventure. I’m part of the media crew welcoming the Sunshine to her new home in Port Canveral, and I’m going on a two-day sampler cruise starting on April 17. Tonight, I’m getting a head start on the fun by spending the night within spitting distance of the ocean at the Port D’Hiver Bed and Breakfast in Melbourne Beach.

Port D’Hiver is located in a historic home that dates back to 1916. Don’t let that worry you; it has all the rustic charm of the past with present-day conveniences like flat screen TVs and wi-fi in the rooms. And comfy rooms they are! Each one has its own name and personality. I’m in Walter’s Suite, a newly renovated room in the main house with never-ending balcony space and a lovely view of the ocean. The bed looks so big and comfy that it might just be hard to tear myself away from it to head to Port Canaveral and the Sunshine tomorrow.

I think that the famous breakfast will probably draw me out of my slumber. This is my first time at Port D’Hiver, but I’ve read a lot about their sumptuous morning feasts. I’ve already enjoyed their freshly baked cookies, which are always available downstairs in the common area, and had tasty chicken salad and veggies with hummus at the late afternoon snack time. There’s beer and wine at snack time, too, so it’s a perfect way to relax before dinner.

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There are quite a few restaurants within walking distance of Port D’Hiver, so I’ll be checking one of them out tonight and reviewing it later. In the meantime, I arrived as early as possible and spent some time enjoying the pool spa. Normally I’d head across the street to the ocean (beach chairs, umbrellas, coolers, and towels are provided), but it’s a grey, blustery day, so the warm spa was calling my name.

temp11When I lived in Chicago, I always headed out for my cruises the day before to allow for any travel delays. I typically bid for a hotel near the airport on Priceline or booked something through Hotwire. Now, I can see that it would have been nice to come out as early as possible and book a place like Port D’Hiver for a relaxing pre-cruise experience. It’s about 45 minutes away from Port Canaveral, so you have plenty of time to eat (breakfast service starts at 8:30 p.m.), then head off to your cruise ship. I’m local, but many rental companies let you rent a vehicle at the Orlando Airport and return it near Port Canaveral. Then you hop their free shuttle to the ship.

My only regret so far about my stay at Port D’Hiver is that it’s so short.I’m so grateful that they hosted me on this pre-cruise stay to give me a chance to sample such a wonderful little spot right in the midst of the A1A madness.

I’ve already had a chance to enjoy the spa, soak in the ocean view from my balcony, and enjoy Florida beer and snacks. It’s only about 90 minutes away from the Disney area, so you can easily add a night or two here onto a Disney trip. If you’re lucky enough to be a local, it’s the perfect nearby getaway. Here are a few more shots:

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For part two of my trip report as I board the Carnival Sunshine, go here.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse.