Memory Maker

Don’t you love those silly pictures taken on the rides, or can you stare of that precious picture
over and over of your kids meeting Mickey for the first time?

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Disney offers a magical addition to your package called “Memory Maker” that captures all of
those moments to relive over and over again.

One question that all Upon A Star Agents get asked about often is, “What is Memory Maker
and is it worth it?” For those of you who have never been, or who haven't been in sometime,
Memory Maker is essentially an enhanced version of the PhotoPass service.

Memory Maker includes every picture that is taken in the park as a digital download. This is
much more convenient than the old PhotoPass CD -- especially since many newer computers
don't even have CD/DVD drives as a standard option. Now when we say every picture, we mean
every picture -- even the on-ride photos! We know where every on-ride camera is, and usually
plan to do something funny when we know a photo is going to be snapped.

Normally, we would never buy these photos after stepping off of the ride, though, opting to
spend our money on other souvenirs; but with Memory Maker, we have the luxury of reliving
each and every funny moment.

There are also lots of photo opportunities as you walk around each park. Go ahead snap that
picture in front of Cinderella Castle, or over by the Epcot Spaceship Earth icon, even below the
Hollywood Tower of Terror, or in front of the Tree of Life. There are so many photo ops to be
had.

Don’t forget to ask about extra magic shots! The fun shows up when you look at the photos on
your My Disney Experience account. There are also amazing on-ride videos!

When you pre-purchase Memory Maker at least 3 days before you arrive, you only pay $169 (as of the date of this post) and you could end up with 100s of photos to share. What a great way to create memories with your family!

Contact your Upon A Star Agent for more information about Memory Maker and how to add it to your Walt Disney World Resort package!

Co-authored by Valerie Robbins & Patti Stewart

Dining at Maria and Enzo's

If you've followed along on any Upon A Star adventures or social media accounts, you probably know that Disney Springs is a rapidly changing and rapidly growing place! In fact, it was recently listed in a travel blog as one of the top 20 places to visit -- and I couldn't agree more!

On our recent trip in January, Brady & I ventured with our friends down to Disney Springs several times - after all, a foodie's gotta eat!

Maria and Enzo's is one of the newest eateries. It's themed - stick with me here - like an airport! The back story is that Maria and Enzo had a small bakery in the airport, but when it closed, they converted the whole thing into a dream restaurant (with the help of the owner of the Edison next door - but that's another blog post!). 

As you might imagine, this restaurant serves Italian food. The views are fantastic -- overlooking the water -- and the food I had was wonderful.  I loved the whole look and feel. There were travel & aviation posters lining the walls, and the room had an open and airy feel.

In addition to the main seating area, there is also a "First Class Lounge". There are no outside views, but it does have tablecloths! Due to the diners, i couldn't snag a picture of those tables.

But let's talk about the real star here - the FOOD.  I love Italian food! And I really enjoyed everything! The menu is somewhat limited, but very good. The first picture was our appetizer, the Arancini di Carne (fried rice stuffed with meat ragù, peas and mozzerella).  For my entree, I had the Busiate con Granchio (spiral pasta with lump crab meat) -- it tasted fresh and was so delicious! Brady had the Rigatoni, and our friends had the Spaghetti. Desserts were the Cannoli and the Sicilian Ricotta layered sponge cake.

All four of us were impressed with our food - and with our server! Martina was amazing - be sure to request her table when you go!

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In terms of pricing, you are definitely going to pay over $20 per entree. Disney Dining Plans are not yet accepted; but for me, I don't mind paying for a great meal every now and again.

Want to try it for yourself? Let your Upon A Star agent know that Maria and Enzo's is a must on your next trip -- we will set it all up for you. 

Buon Apetito! 

12 Days of Christmas: Day 11! ✨Frozen Ever After Sparkling Dessert Party✨

Reserve VIP seating for your family with a super fun way to experience Epcot’s Illuminations: Reflections of Earth nightly spectacular! 

First, you’ll have special seating with perfect views of the fireworks. Second, indulge in “Frozen” themed desserts & drinks while surrounded by a wonderland of themed decorations. Nibble on Living Rock Crispy Bonbons, Anna’s Blue Velvet Cupcakes, Duke of Weselton’s Cheese Fondue & much more! Sip on lemonade, punch or “melted snow” and then after the grand finale, you’ll be led to the Norway pavilion for a ride on the Frozen Ever After attraction!

Contact your Upon a Star Agent to add this special event to your Disney package!

 

Explore World Showcase with Remy's Ratatouille Hide and Squeak!

It's now October, and Epcot's Food & Wine Festival is in full swing! Brady and I had the opportunity to swing by a couple of weeks ago, and as always, the offerings are fabulous! Something that is done each year is Remy's Hide & Squeak, which is essentially a World Showcase scavenger hunt. I've always been curious, so this year, I figured I'd give it a go!

First, you need to pick up your materials.  These are available for $5.99 (plus tax) at locations in Future World and at Traders in World Showcase. Watch for the sandwich boards advertising that you can purchase a map at that location.

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The storyline of your hunt is that Remy is trying to find the ingredients for his famous Ratatouille... and you need to help! Here are your materials:

Map and Stickers for Remy's Ratatouille Hide & Squeak

Map and Stickers for Remy's Ratatouille Hide & Squeak

As you spot Remy in each country, place the sticker with the ingredient he's holding on your map!  When you're finished, you return your map to one of the purchase locations to choose a prize! Don't worry - you get to keep the map, too. 

Now one twist I experienced was that I did this hunt 2 days after Irma roared through Florida. As such, Remy was moved inside to safety.  Normally he's visible outdoors in each location; during my stay, though, we found need to search inside each pavilion, which was a fun challenge!

Once I successfully completed my mission, I returned my map and got to select from one of 4 Remy-themed keychains.  Here's the one I picked - isn't it cute?!

My prize!

My prize!

Ready to help Remy? There's still time to get down to Food & Wine Festival this year! Contact one of our amazing agents for more information!

22nd EPCOT Food & Wine Festival Bands Announced!

This year during EPCOT's Food & Wine Festival, a record 32 musical acts will perform as part of the Eat to the Beat Concert Series!

The festival, which runs for 75 days, will host these performances on the America Gardens Theatre stage throughout the festival. Eleven new-to-the-festival bands, including Baha Men, Kenny G., Squeeze, 10,000 Maniacs, and others, join 21 fan-favorite musical acts for a diverse lineup of pop hit makers

Guests also can tune into their favorite returning bands that will include festival opening act Delta Rae.  Concerts take place at 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. daily and are included in the price of your EPCOT admission ticket.  Take a look (songs are listed to help you identify the act)! Which ones are your favorites?!

  • Aug. 31-Sept. 1         Delta Rae “Bottom of the River”
  • Sept. 2-3                  The Hooters NEW! “And We Danced”
  • Sept. 4-5                  Baha Men NEW! “Who Let the Dogs Out”
  • Sept. 6-7                  Fuel “Shimmer”
  • Sept. 8-10                STARSHIP starring Mickey Thomas “We Built This City”
  • Sept. 11-12                Lauren Alaina NEW! “Road Less Traveled”
  • Sept. 13-15               Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah”
  • Sept. 16-17               Sister Hazel “All For You”   
  • Sept. 18-20              Air Supply “All Out of Love”
  • Sept. 21-22              David Cook “Light On”
  • Sept. 23-24              Everclear “Santa Monica”                   
  • Sept. 25-27              Sugar Ray “Every Morning”
  • Sept. 28-29              38 Special “Hold On Loosely”
  • Sept. 30-Oct. 1         Mark Wills NEW! “19 Somethin’”
  • Oct. 2-3                   American Authors NEW! “Best Day of My Life”
  • Oct. 4-5                   Christopher Cross “Sailing”  
  • Oct. 6-8                   Devon Allman NEW! “Ragged and Dirty”
  • Oct. 9-11                  Dennis DeYoung: The Music of STYX “Come Sail Away”
  • Oct. 12-13                Taylor Dayne “Tell It to My Heart”
  • Oct. 14-15                Jeffrey Osborne “On the Wings of Love”
  • Oct. 16-17                Postmodern Jukebox NEW! Various Hits                 
  • Oct. 18-20               10,000 Maniacs NEW! “Because the Night”
  • Oct. 21-22               Toad The Wet Sprocket “Walk on the Ocean”
  • Oct. 23-24              Kenny G NEW! “Songbird”
  • Oct. 25-26              Billy Ocean “Get Outta My Dreams”
  • Oct. 27-29              Tiffany “I Think We’re Alone Now”
  • Oct. 30-Nov. 1        Hanson “MMMBop”
  • Nov. 2-3                  Blue October NEW! “Into the Ocean”
  • Nov. 4-5                  Living Colour “Cult of Personality” 
  • Nov. 6-8                  Boyz II Men "End of the Road"
  • Nov. 9-11                 Big Bad Voodoo Daddy “Go Daddy-O”
  • Nov. 12-13               Squeeze NEW! “Black Coffee in Bed”

Festival-goers can also enjoy Eat to the Beat Dining Packages at 15 popular Epcot restaurants, guaranteeing a breakfast, lunch or dinner reservation and confirmed seating at a same-day Eat to the Beat concert. Talk to your Upon A Star Agent about the Food & Wine Festival and about booking you a dining package! 

Pandora: The World of Avatar

Well it's been about 2 weeks since my first amazing journey to Pandora -- the World of Avatar. And I've gotta say... I can't wait to go back! With all the hype about Star Wars Land, it seemed to me that things were pretty quiet on the Pandora-front.  I'm always excited to see something new, though, and so I've been not-so-patiently waiting for what was promised to be a spectacular new land in Animal Kingdom. And then... I was privileged enough to be invited to the media event! 

From the first moment we walked in, I was totally immersed. Completely and utterly amazed. Stunned.  The Imagineers truly were able to bring the Valley of Mo'ara to life.  The floating mountains, beautiful flora, and gorgeous water features were so amazing to look at.  I loved speaking to the Cast Members working with "Alpha Centauri Expeditions"... they were all truly in character, telling us details about what each plant was. 

So a bit of back story: Alpha Centauri Expeditions is the company that transports humans into Pandora, helping us to view and experience the culture of the Na'vi. In fact, they are the ones who sent me my invitation!

One of the features in this new land is "Flight of Passage".  In the Na'vi culture, riding a Banshee is a rite of passage - and so of course this is something I had to Sivako ("Rise to the challenge" in Na'vi) and experience for myself. OH MY GOODNESS.  I have to say that I have a new favorite ride.  All of the hype is absolutely true! I'm not normally a fan of screens (except Soarin' of course!)... but this was so completely different than I expected! I could literally feel the breathing of the Banshee... feel its wings... and I gasped, yelled, gazed in wonderment, and had all the feels throughout the ride.  And the queue... wow! Gorgeous!

And that's a good thing, as wait times have been reported as high as 400 minutes.  FastPass is key on this one, folks! Sadly, the FastPass queue cuts out much of the beauty of the standby queue.  So, try to wait for it sometime when it isn't 6 hours! 

The other new attraction is the Na'vi River Journey. And wow! It is simply beautiful. A gentle boat-ride lets you see much of Pandora in all of its bioluminescent splendor. And at the end, you pass the Shaman ... and that animatronic literally made me say "wow!". The realism was incredible! 

And as beautiful as it is by day, it's even more amazing at night!

And then there's the food.  The Satu'li Canteen is a quick service restaurant right in Pandora.  The restaurant itself is beautiful, and the was quite impressed with the food! I sampled a little of everything from the lunch menu during the preview, and then my husband and I went back for breakfast on opening day.

You can even order & pay for your food through your My Disney Experience app, so all you have to do is pick it up!  Right now this feature doesn't work with the dining plan, but we did see people taking advantage of it. 

There is also a refreshment area called "Pongu Pongu"... which is Na'vi for "Party Party"! I tried the Night Blossom - it was delicious! And pretty....

I also loved the Wind Trader's gift shop and all of the cool merch! And of course, I had to buy a Banshee...

This is a screen shot from the video I posted on Instagram! @uponastarjenn  Head over and check it out to meet Esmeralda!

This is a screen shot from the video I posted on Instagram! @uponastarjenn
Head over and check it out to meet Esmeralda!

What an amazing experience! If you can, be sure to get down to Walt Disney World to experience Pandora: The World of Avatar! Your Upon A Star Agent would love to help you and give you tips to make the most of your time there! 

New dining heading to Disney Springs

Disney Springs is bursting at the seams with awesome new dining options! Here's a sneak peek of what's to come:

The Edison will be opening later this year. Modeled after it's sister location in Los Angeles, The Edison will be a lavish, industrial gothic restaurant and bar with live entertainment. The live entertainment will include  contortionists, aerialists, DJs and more. It will include classic American Food, craft cocktails. 

Also opening later this year, Wine Bar George. Master Sommelier George Miliotes brings a wine list of over 100 different varieties. Cheese, charcuterie and small plates will be served to complement the wine selections. There will also be special events and guest wine makers conducting fun wine education. 

Portobello Country Italian Trattoria will be replaced by a new Italian concept. At the helm of this new project is Top Chef Master and James Beard Award Winner, Tony Mantuano.  

2018 will bring us several new locations as well! Chef José Andrés’ will be opening Jaleo, a Spanish inspired tapas location. Jaleo will be a multi-level restaurant which will feature Spanish-style sandwiches on the first floor storefront. 

Also in 2018, we will see a new concept by Wolfgang Puck. Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill is inspired by Puck's dishes at his world renowned Spago location. The restaurant will have a classic farmhouse look with a touch of elegance. Expect comfort food with a Mediterranean flair!

There's always so much to do at Disney Springs! Let our travel experts help you make the most of your time there. Contact us here today!

 

VIP Tour Experiences at Walt Disney World® Resort Part 2

A couple of weeks back, I posted about some of the amazing VIP Experiences that are available at the Walt Disney World® Resort.  Of course, Part 1 focused on my favorite topic - food!  Again, more detail can be found If you want even more detail, check out the Divas Dish Podcast where I shared live from my hotel at the Grand Floridian (Episode 68). Click this link, or grab it on iTunesI Heart Radio, or Stitcher.

So today, let's focus on a VIP Tour.  Simply amazing. If you want to truly feel like a Rock Star, this is the way to roll! Your Tour Guide is a very knowledgeable Cast Member who will be your personal escort through the parks. Basically, they ensure that you see what you want, when you want, with no waiting.  They will take you into the FastPass line of every attraction - even the most popular!  You bypass bag check.  You are driven right to a special entrance, where your band is scanned and you walk right into the park with no lines.  It couldn't be easier!

Yep - I went to Tower of Terror first!

Yep - I went to Tower of Terror first!

And did I mention SNACKS?! Private VIP guides really do think of everything!  Our guide, Kirk, was phenomenal.  So knowledgeable and friendly! It was fun getting to know him and fun getting to ride the rides with him! He found out that I love Hidden Mickeys, and so he spent time pointing out the hard-to-find ones.  Did you know that there are 3 of them in Soarin' Around the World™? I bet that 3rd one is the one you'll struggle to find! 

Oh you know, just your normal Tower of Terror selfie...

Oh you know, just your normal Tower of Terror selfie...

Kirk even helped us park hop! We went from Disney's Hollywood Studios® to Epcot®  - again no bag check line or line to use the touch point. In the space of 2 hours, we had done 4 big ticket attractions!  The amount of time saved was amazing.  

Private VIP Tours are available for up to 10 guests. If you are with a larger party, you'll just add another guide -- this ensures that the personalized experience stays, well ... personal! The cost varies based on season from $400-$600 per hour (7 hour minimum).  This cost is well-worth it, especially during those extra-crowded times of year! Your Upon A Star Agent can book this for you or even add it into your package. 

There are also half day VIP Tours available that are not private; they will, however, take you through the parks to focus on either "thrill rides" or "classic rides".  These are not personalized to your family, but they are a great way to tour if the full VIP Private Tour isn't in the budget this time around.

More to come - watch for Part 3 about "Early Morning Magic" at Walt Disney World® Resort!

VIP Disney Experiences - Dining Events (Part 1)

What a fun but crazy month! We here at Upon A Star Travel have been hard at work planning magical vacations and checking out new offerings for our clients!  I had the opportunity to check out some VIP Experiences down at the Walt Disney World Resort this past month, and let me tell you - I am super excited to share.  If you want even more detail, check out the Divas Dish Podcast where I shared live from my hotel at the Grand Floridian (Episode 68). Click this link, or grab it on iTunes, I Heart Radio, or Stitcher.

Of course, the magic of Disney is unsurpassed; but, if you are someone who likes just that extra special touch, never fear! Disney has it covered! So, let's start with one of my favorite topics ... FOOD. 

Of course, thinking of upscale, VIP cuisine in Disney, your mind may go immediately to Victoria & Albert's.  This is a 5-Diamond Restaurant located on the 2nd floor of the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. I've often heard about the amazing food, and this is a place that had always been on my bucket list.  Let me say - it lives up to the hype! WOW!

So first of all - GO HUNGRY.  This is a 7-course meal, and it can be done with or without wine-pairings. Everything was absolutely delightful. Even if you aren't sure about a particular dish, trust me - it will taste amazing. 

And they even had this really cool way of brewing coffee for dessert - and as a coffee snob - trust me when I say it was fabulous!

Looks like a science experiment, right? Very neat to watch.  

Now we ate in the dining room, but there is also the option to do the Chef's Table. 

Speaking of Chef's Tables... did you know that you can request a special Chef's Table? Whether you're heading down for business or just having a special family gathering, Disney can coordinate a beautiful experience. 

It was such a neat experience watching the chefs prepare your food at the On-stage Kitchen. The head chef then described each and every course - it really brought the food to life! Oh, and as you might imagine, it was absolutely fabulous!

I also experienced the dessert portion of the "Highway in the Sky Dine Around" on the roof of the Contemporary.  The desserts were perfection, and of course, so was the view of the fireworks!

Another fun dining experience was "Savor the Savanna" at Disney's Animal Kingdom... but that's a post for another week! Stay tuned for more of this series very soon!
 

Interested in booking one of these experiences? Contact your Upon A Star Agent today!