Monday, 22 November 2021

Disney Magic at Sea - Dining Experiences

this seems likes so long ago but the food was soooooo good that I felt like it deserved a post of its own! As this was my first cruise, I'm not sure whether rotational dining is normal on a cruise ship but I felt like they did it really well on the Disney Magic and it was nice to have the same waiting staff but different scenery and shows each night. The service aboard is second to none and nowhere more so than at mealtimes!

Animators Palate - Evening Meal

Ironically enough, I wasn't bothered about the Animators evening but it was one of the best experiences of the whole cruise for us. Lovely, lovely art work on the way in:

And on the walls which starts in black and white and changes to colour:

When you are first seated you are asked to draw a person (no mocking - I'm not an artist):

Then the lovely food starts arriving. For my starter I had "Sliced Serrano Ham with Manchengo Cheese and Olive Tampanade:

Absolutely bloody gorgeous (apart from the olive, yuck!!). For my main I chose Ginger Terayki-dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin served on Wasabi Mashed Potatoes with Bok Choy and a Tamarind Barbeque reduction. It was literally michelin starred fare but so good I was a truly terrible blogger and ate it without taking a picture! For dessert, Walnut Sticky Toffee pudding with Ice Cream:

O had a lovely ice cream sundae:

The absolute best part about this though is when your animation comes up on screen and not only that but you get listed as a guest animator:

Rapunzel's Royal Table - Evening Meal

Tangled is mine and O's favourite Disney films so we were really looking forward to this night unfortunately O was super sea sick and didn't manage to eat much. The waiting staff were so lovely though and really looked after us both especially O. One of them suggested that she eat a green apple in orange juice and within 15 minutes she started to feel better!! 

The restaurant is gorgeous and right down at sea level too:

My starter again compared to michelin starred food that I've eaten before and I chose a Ravioli "Tiroler" filled with Pulled Beef and Portabello Mushrooms tossed in a white wine reduction served with Roasted Carrots and Pearl Onions, absolutely delicious:

The main that I chose was "Captain of the Guards" Roasted Prime Rib of Beef with a Double-baked Potato, Broccoli, Sweet Roasted Carrots and a red wine veal sauce. It's literally the biggest piece of meat I've ever been served in a restaurant but again I was so eager to tuck in that I forgot to take a picture! For dessert I ordered the Birthday Cupcake Sundae which was given to O as she was starting to feel better and I didn't fancy the sound of any of them so the lovely waiting staff let me order dessert from the kids menu and I had a chocolate fudge cake:

We were sitting at table 1 and from here it was quite difficult to see and hear what was happening on the stage when the entertainment was happening but the way they did the lanterns was spectacular even if you can't see if from my pictures:

Outside of the formal dining, there were several drinks stations serving soft drinks, tea, coffee and hot chocolate that were all included in the price. There was also a great choice of lunch buffet, pizza, burgers, sandwich bar, snack bar that you could get food almost all day at each outlet. I think we managed to try most things:

Lumiere's - Breakfast

Soooooo disappointing but I think the reasons are twofold: 1) because we got the breakfast rotation for Lumiere's so no fancy food and 2) It was the one I was looking forward too but as it was breakfast there was no entertainment. Choice of items on the menu was amazing though and fab American pancakes with syrup were my choice. We also had to eat at 7am as we were disembarking so I didn't take any pictures of the food, just our sad faces as we got off the ship:

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about the food choices!?!

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Disney Magic at Sea - UK Staycation Cruise

I started writing this when we had just got back from the most magical trip with Disney at Sea as part of Chick's 18th birthday celebrations (seems to have taken me ages to finish!!). It was the most amazing time that I even feel compelled to blog for the first time in a couple of years, hurrah! I cannot even begin to describe the magic of the trip but I'll give it a try. Such a fab ship for a start (if somewhat hidden behind our ears!!)

Obviously one of the most important parts of the trip is the ears.....

Picture taken whilst we were waiting the results of our covid tests!! With these particular pairs, mine were oldies from a previous Disneyland Paris trip and O's were a new purchase from Etsy as Sully is her favourite: 

The first of the magic and fairy dust appears with the announcing of each family as you board the ship and are then greeted by Mickey and Minnie which is just the cutest thing!! Next up was a talk about how the app works - you need to use this to do or find out anything on ship - and then food! I'll do a post just about the food and restaurants because it was all just so incredible not only the food but the entire dining experiences but yum, buffet:

 Then after an explore and a few selfies, the next thing for us (was obviously!) something water based:

Luckily the weather was fantastic and the water super warm, if not too warm for an open water swimmer:

Lots of gorgeous water based activities for kids but also an adult only area for over 18's:

We actually spent quite a lot of time in this area as kids aren't even allowed to walk through and it was nice to have 5 minutes away from Disney mayhem and to be able to swim in a non-kiddy contaminated pool. Alcoholic drinks were not included but were reasonably priced although O still wasn't able to drink as it was over 21's only for alcohol! I still managed to enjoy a cocktail or 5 ;)  

I'm all about the sea so the view for me was incredible. You would never guess we were just in the North Sea:

Our room was the cheapest available (even though still expensive in my opinion!) but was again super cute. It was a good size space for the two of us but with three teenage kids, I'm not sure how we would've had enough room for all of us to move around comfortably:

Disney detail everywhere which I absolutely love:

One of the things that I had no clue about prior to embarkation was that some families decorate their entire cabin door with magnets and photos. Luckily the very nice children's activities team came to our rescue and enabled us to join in:

Also, as you would expect a wide range of characters around the ship:

Our favourite and funniest meet 'n' greet was Spiderman:

This picture makes me howl with laughter every time I look at it.

And last but not least, Broadway standard shows which made us cry with joy:

Literally the most magical time ever!

So, what didn't we like? Well, there wasn't much I didn't like but there were a few things that surprised me. One was that the kids pool area was tiny and packed all of the time to the point that there was a time limit of how long children could be in there. My boys certainly wouldn't have enjoyed it. The buffet was open for breakfast and for a couple of hours at lunch but it would have been nice to have a buffet option in the evening rather than mainly fast food as an alternative to fine dining. I also felt that we were rushed off the ship very early on the final day so they turn around for the next group.

Outside of that the only things I would do differently would be to go for at least three nights and add in the photo package. I didn't book that prior to the cruise because a) the packages were stupidly expensive and b) I didn't think we would like any of the photos. Once onboard we took pictures of the ones we liked and then assumed we could order them afterwards but this doesn't appear to be the case. I'm super sad that I missed out on these but still think they are prohibitively expensive....... but I would order them next time as it would've finished off the trip nicely to have the professional shots.

In my opinion, the cruise was really expensive - when I first started this blog, there is no way I could have funded this kind of trip so I know that I am now in a very privileged position. I paid approximately £700 for the two of us for two nights which only included 1 afternoon and 1 full day and on debarkation day we were back at the car by 8am. For me the standard of the shows, food and the incredible levels of service were reflected in that price that I paid and matched Michelin starred restaurants and for a special occasion it was worthwhile. It's unlikely that we would ever be able to afford for all 5 of us to go on a Disney cruise unless they reintroduce UK staycations or we win the lottery. Haha!

If you have any questions then please let me know as I'm happy to talk about it until the cows come home! This is not a sponsored post and as you've probably guessed from the above I paid full price for the trip myself ;)

Monday, 9 September 2019

Harvest Moon Retreat - 42 Acres

Are you looking for something exciting and new to do this weekend? How about trying a yoga retreat in Somerset? Your home for the weekend is the stunning 42 Acres retreat in Frome. Set on 42 acres of private land, a tranquil retreat space cocooned by seven hundred acres of ancient woodland. Sustainability and comfort are at the forefront of the 42 acres vision, with reclaimed materials used to outfit the interiors of the property and full use of renewable power, self-generated through biomass and solar. The retreat looks at a healthy, yogic lifestyle and will be offering a vegetarian diet consisting of pure, simple, natural foods to optimal promote health and digestion. Meals will be lovingly prepared by resident chef, using delicious, locally sourced organic produce!

The amazing schedule includes the following:

Friday 13th September 
Arrive and settle into your room
Unwind from your travels with a cup of herbal tea and healthy treat. An excellent opportunity to meet your fellow voyagers
Evening practice; gentle Restorative yoga to ground you from your journey with guided meditation and soothing sounds
Welcome supper prepared by the 42 Acres Chef
Evening Kirtan - chanting mantras to open your heart and mind to the weekend ahead
Retire to bed.

Saturday 14th September: Full harvest moon
Optional AGNI HOTRA - Sacred sunrise fire with morning mantras
Freshly brewed herbal tea/coffee available and a light fruit snack
Early morning contemplations, honouring silence until our asana practice (an ideal time for journaling and self-enquiry).
Flow slowing morning practice with pranayama and mediation 
A nourishing breakfast prepared by the 42 Acres Chef
Free time for walking, exploring, reading, or a massage
Delicious lunch prepared by the 42 Acres Chef
Free time - walk outside, take a treatment, rest whatever you need
Evening practice: Yin yoga with an alchemy crystal sound bath
Sumptuous dinner prepared by the 42 Acres Chef
Full Moon dance ritual; dress in white to honour the harvest moon through dance and free movement
Retire to bed, or option to stay up late around the campfire for Vedic storytelling with warm milky drinks.

Sunday 15th, September 
Optional AGNI HOTRA - Sacred sunrise fire with morning mantras
Freshly brewed herbal tea/coffee available and a light fruit snack
Early morning contemplations, honouring silence until our asana practice (an ideal time for journaling and self-enquiry)
Vinyasa yoga, invigorating and rinsing the whole body, soothing the mind and peeling away any remaining layers of stress
Nourishing breakfast prepared by the 42 Acres Chef
Active meditation with chanting 
Our final lunch prepared by the 42 Acres Chef 
Retreat closing circle and farewells 

It sounds so relaxing and amazing! Can't wait to see and hear more about it. For more details click here.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Looking to keep your 15 - 17 year old entertained this Summer?? The National Citizen Service (NCS) can help!

I don't know if you've heard of the National Citizen Service (NCS) but they are a brilliant organisation who do great things with 15-17 year olds. I'm very lucky to have been involved (from the sidelines) right since their inception in 2011 when in my day job we recruited some amazing Leaders  to help set up this fantastic service. 

So what is NCS? 

NCS believe that if you give young people the right tools, opportunities and respect they will change the world around them.  The aim of NCS is to bring together young people from different backgrounds to help build a more cohesive and engaged society. This year more than 100,000 teenagers will come together to develop their skills and build community projects together. This summer your teen could be having fun while building their confidence, making new friends and learning life skills that can’t be taught in a classroom. O is desperately awaiting her move to year 11 so that she too can take part.

So what is the programme all about? NCS is open to 15 to 17 year-olds across England and Northern Ireland. There are four phases to the programme starting with a 5 day residential with activities like abseiling and canoeing:

The second phase of programme puts your teen through a series of challenging activities to take them out of their comfort zone and develop strength of character - although I'm not sure O needs this developing if I'm honest ;) It also develops the leadership skills necessary to succeed in the workplace and, as a HR Advisor, I can tell you that this will set them apart in the workplace. They can also use this time to develop a CV or update your UCAS statement. This time is also residential and is usually spent away in university dorms or similar.

Phase 3 is the social action phase where your teen puts everything they have learned into action by helping out in the local community with a project of their choice and then on to phase 4 time for a celebration celebration. Time to get together with their group and celebrate everything they've learnt and achieved over a fantastic Summer:

What a bonding experience it would be and invaluable to mix with others from a variety of backgrounds. The whole experience including food, accommodation and travel costs just £50 and bursaries are available on a case by case basis which is amazing value for such a fabulous experience.  Support is also provided for young people with additional needs.

There are still places available for Year 11s to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity and don't worry if you have already made plans for the Summer, NCS will endeavour to find a programme that suits your family plans. For more information or to sign up now visit the NCS website.