Loews Portofino Bay Resort is my resort of choice while visiting Universal Studios in Orlando. The beautiful re-creation of the famed seaside resort village of Portofino, Italy truly gives you the feeling of a piece of Italy in Orlando. I have stayed here on several occasions and continue to come back because it is exquisite in every way. The rooms are spacious and luxurious designed with superior quality and make you feel like a V.I.P. while you are a guest. You will feel the grandeur as you enter the lobby.

The service here is impeccable. This upscale resort is worth every penny because it includes complementary Universal Express passes for each guest in your party. The Universal Express pass allows you to skip the lines on many of the popular rides at the Universal Parks, including all of the Harry Potter attractions. You will also receive one hour early entry into the parks allowing you to beat the crowds. Water taxi service is available from this resort which provides easy access to the parks.

IMG_4791

If you are looking for a fun hotel catering to children, try a Despicable Me-themed Kid Suite with a Garden or Bay View. Parents can have privacy in a beautiful master bedroom with a king bed and the kids will have a connecting room with 2 twin beds shaped like Minion missiles.

The grounds and pools are always beautiful and well kept. Portofino Bay offers 3 swimming pools. The Beach pool is a lively pool ideal for families. It has a waterslide and a sandy beach. The Villa pool has a more serene atmosphere. Lastly, the Hillside pool offers more privacy. It is great to be able to return to your resort for some poolside relaxation after spending an active day at the parks. The Mandara Spa promises blissful renewal of both mind and body and offers a variety of spa services and treatments, a complimentary fitness center, and exclusive steam and sauna facilities.

IMG_4771

Each evening at sunset, the Harbor Piazza hosts nightly Italian musical performances, including Opera Singers, which really adds to the ambiance of this magnificent resort. It is a delightful way to end the day.

There are many restaurants onsite at Portofino Bay serving a variety of menus, including Mama Della’s Ristorante, Trattoria del Porto, Sal’s Market Deli and the superb Bice Ristorante. Dining and ambiance at this onsite resort is part of the wonderful experience at staying at a Universal resort.

portofino

This resort holds a special place in my heart because of the incredible memories my family has made there. Loew’s Portofino Bay Resort offers onsite guests the opportunity to enjoy time away to rest, relax and enjoy a little piece of Italy.

Contact your Me and The Mouse Travel Specialist to book your next vacation to Universal Studios Orlando!

Traci Perjak
Travel Specialist

If you are sailing on a Disney Cruise and looking for adult onboard activities, Disney offers tasting events for guests that are at least 21 years old. This is a fun activity that you can experience on select days, generally sea days. I have personally experienced the tastings with a group of friends, but I have also signed up for wine tastings by myself. It is a fun and comfortable environment and a great way to meet other people on your cruise.

Disney Cruise Line Tastings!

Here are a few examples of the types of tastings offered, but they can vary by sailings and the length of the cruise:

 

  • Wines Tasting hosted by a sommelier
  • Beer Tasting
  • Martini and Tequila/Margarita tastings
  • Rum Tasting
  • Cognac Tasting
  • + A variety of other options based on availability

 

Beginning July 13, 2017, you are now able to reserve our tastings online after your booking window opens in the “Onboard Fun” portion of the screen. This is an easy way to start planning your activities prior to leaving home. If the sessions are booked when attempting to schedule them online, you can check with Guest Services after you board and they will direct you the location to see if spots have become available.

Disney Cruise Line Tastings!

Happy sailing and we hope you enjoy your cruise!

If you’re ready to book your next Disney Cruise, contact a Me and The Mouse agent today! We’d love to help plan your next voyage, and help you figure out the ins-and-outs of a Disney Cruise!

Janene Jaroscak

Travel Specialist

To Infinity and Beyond!

Toy Story Land at Walt Disney WorldHowdy, Howdy, Howdy!!!  Toy Story is one of my favorite Disney movies, and I am super excited to announce that coming summer 2018 Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be home to a new Toy Story Land!  The idea of this new land is similar to that of Cars Land at Disneyland, it is an all immersive land where you actually feel like you are walking around Radiator Springs {such a fun land to visit}!  The new Toy Story Land will shrink down guests and become Andy’s new toys!  

The new 11 acres of Andy’s backyard play area you will be full of Toy Story fun! You will find 2 new amazing attractions 1. The Slinky Dog Dash Family Friendly Rollercoaster and 2. Alien Swirling Saucers. Toy Story Mania will continue in operation and has actually extend its track for a longer and even more entertaining ride.

The Slinky Dog Dash will be a coaster that the whole family can enjoy. The track {designed by Andy using his Mega Coaster Play Kit} will stretch, as long as Slinky Dog can, throughout the new land.

Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World

Toy Story Land at Walt Disney WorldThe other new attraction will be Alien Swirling Saucers.  This attraction is inspired by the first film and Andy’s visit to Pizza Planet.  In the film, Buzz and Woody were stuck in the claw game.  The claw makes a big appearance during this new attractions as it looms over riders that are spinning and swirling in their toy flying saucers trying to keep away from the aliens as they try to catch you with “The Claw”.

Toy Story Mania is a beloved attraction by many and it will be getting even better.  The fan-favorite attraction will be adding even more track with the opening of this new Toy Story Land. Guests will also get the chance to travel under Andy’s bed. They will see an amazing carnival that Andy has built.  

If you’re ready to check out this new addition, 2018 packages for next summer are already being reserved!  Be sure to contact a Me and the Mouse Agent for more information and to get your families visit to Walt Disney World and Toy Story Land planned! We know you are going to love this new expansion!

Beth Rodgers

Travel Specialist

Starting November 18, 2017 and running through January 6, 2018, you can celebrate the holidays at Universal with special entertainment, including an exciting new transformation in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

Universal Orlando Resort Holiday Activities - Hogwarts

Included with your admission ticket to the Universal theme parks:

  • Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is extra magical. It will include festive decorations, special sweets and treats, entertainment, and a beautiful new projection show up on Hogwart’s castle that is sure to delight all Muggles.
  • Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s as Santa Claus is joined by the Minions. You’ll also see some of your favorite characters from Madagascar and Shrek!
  • A live re-telling by the Grinch of the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular.
  • Mannheim Steamroller returns with live performances of Christmas classics on select nights.
  • Holiday activities and exclusive benefits at Universal’s on-site resorts.

A separately ticketed New Year’s celebration, EVE, is sure to be the biggest party of the year at Universal’s CityWalk.

Universal Orlando Resort Holiday Activities - Minions

Included in your Universal package:

  • A stay in one of Universal’s beautiful on-site resorts. Choose from Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
    • Guests staying at the Royal Pacific, Hard Rock, or Portofino Bay hotels also received unlimited Express Passes for participating rides and attractions.
  • Early Admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – one hour before the general public!
  • Free transportation within the resort. A water taxi is a convenient and fun way to explore other resorts. The parks and CityWalk are all in close proximity to each other.
  • Charging privileges throughout the resort.

Universal Orlando Resort Holiday Activities - Grinchmas

BONUS inclusions if you book the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Exclusive Vacation Package.:

  • 4 night hotel accommodations
  • 3-Park, 4-Day Park to Park ticket
  • Breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron in Universal Studios
  • Breakfast at the Three Broomsticks in Universal’s Islands of Adventure
  • One Shutterbutton’s Photography Studio session in Diagon Alley.

Packages for the holiday celebrations include visits to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s exhilarating new water park, Volcano Bay.

Holiday packages are booking now, so contact a Me and the Mouse travel specialist to reserve your favorite resort! To make your visit even more magical, combine visits to Universal Orlando with Walt Disney World and get the best of both resorts during the holidays!

Nancy Wideman

Travel Planner

We are so excited with the latest Universal announcement! A brand new, thrilling Harry Potter inspired ride will be making its way to Universal’s Islands of Adventure in 2019. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade has already been a place of fun and excitement, but now this fan-favorite spot will offer more to guests!

We don’t know everything about this new thrill ride, but we have been informed on some special information. Take a look below at some of the latest details!

  1. This is a brand-new, thrill ride that will take you deeper into J.K. Rowling’s famous Wizarding World. You will become more engrossed in the Wizarding World as you journey along this ride. You will encounter some of your favorite characters and creatures. This new ride will be unlike anything Universal has ever created, and they are sure it will sure to be a favorite for the entire family!
  2. If you’re a Potterhead than this ride is for you! The new attraction will be one of the most highly-themed coaster experiences at Universal. This means lots of fun and exciting Wizarding World items and memorabilia. The ride combines a new level of storytelling with {of course} an action-packed adventure! There will also be a few surprises along the way that will have you coming back for more!
  3. Universal’s award-winning creative team has been collaborating with Warner Bros, and the incredible production design team from the Harry Potter films. You can be sure to see and experience a top-notch, fan favorite ride!
  4. This ride will be the absolute perfect addition to the thriving town of Hogsmeade. This new attraction will transport you into a new and thrilling place and will draw you into more exciting Wizarding World adventures!
  5. Universal will be permanently closing the Dragon Challenge on September 5th to make way for this incredible new thrill ride. The last day of operation for the Dragon Challenge will be Monday, September 4th. Be sure to take advantage of the last days of the Dragon Challenge before its closing.

Keep checking back for more updates! We can’t wait to hear more from Universal about this fun new attraction!

Ready to visit the incredible and amazing Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Contact an agent today to book your next Universal or Disney vacation! All Me and The Mouse agents are highly trained in both destinations!

The live action movie release of Beauty and the Beast brought a new generation to love this classic love story. Emma Watson’s character displays a beauty that stems from self-sacrificial love and looks beyond her circumstances to find true love. If you are ready to create your own Beauty and the Beast themed vacation when visiting Walt Disney World, visit these must see attractions as Disney beckons you to “Be our guest!”

Magic Kingdom

Start your day at Enchanted Tales with Belle. First, explore Maurice’s cottage and workshop, and then enter the wardrobe room. Some audience members will be selected before each showing to participate in a heartfelt retelling of the story along with the help of Lumiere and Belle.


Gaston’s Tavern is a great place for a snack during your day. Treat yourself to a warm cinnamon roll and LeFou’s Brew. You can then meet Gaston outside his Tavern and get ready to pose for your picture.

Create your own Beauty and the Beast Vacation!

Looking for a souvenir? Bonjour! Village Gifts includes all types of merchandise that feature Belle, the Beast, and all the magical castle characters. Bring home a t-shirt, doll, Chip mug, or Belle’s favorite souvenir, a book.

Be Our Guest is one of most coveted dining reservations on property where you can eat in Grand Ballroom, the Castle Gallery, or the West Wing. Breakfast and lunch are quick service meals {reservations required} while dinner offers full table service. At dinnertime, save room for The Grey Stuff which is definitely delicious! While not an official character meal, the Beast will often greet guests in his private library after dinner service only. Create your own Beauty and the Beast Vacation!

Epcot

Belle’s quiet village is located in France so it’s not a surprise that she often appears in France for meet and greets over in World Showcase. Perhaps, you’ll find her near the water fountain at the front of the country.

If you are looking for another dining opportunity, Belle is often not only a frequent visitor at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, but often the host princess at the front of the restaurant. Located in Norway, Akershus is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and features multiple princess greeting opportunities. Please note that occasionally Belle has other royal commitments and does not guarantee her attendance at the restaurant.

Hollywood Studios

Create your own Beauty and the Beast Vacation!With multiple shows per day, the Theater of the Stars hosts a 25 minute musical production of Beauty and the Beast Live. Watching this Broadway style performance will bring you back to the first time you saw the movie and you will fall in love again with the tale as old as time. 

For one last meet and greet opportunity, you can look for Belle at Character Palooza. She some times appears at Character Palooza – an unscheduled character meet and greet from 4-7 located at Hollywood Studios on select days.

Beauty and the Beast is a beautiful story that comes to life in Wal Disney World. Step into the story retold as Walt Disney World invites you to be their guest!

Ready to plan your Beauty and the Beast vacation? Contact a Me and The Mouse agent today! We are highly trained in all things Disney, and we’d love to add a little extra magic to your next vacation!

Michelle Browne

Travel Specialist

IMG_1201The official opening of Star Wars Land is still a few years away. However, you can still find an abundance of Star Wars themed experiences awaiting you at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can hurdle through space on a galactic adventure with Star Tours, watch in awe as your youngling participates in Jedi Training, and end your night with a bang by marveling at Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular – and that’s just the beginning of the Star Wars fun! There are so many awesome adventures to choose! It’s hard to pick a single favorite.  However, one of the best parts of Star Wars is the characters and getting to interact with them is every fan’s dream come true.

 

Disney is all about creating magical character meet and greets for guests and Star Wars fans will not be disappointed. While on your vacation, make sure you head over to Star Wars Launch Bay to see for yourself. As you make the journey from the front of the park, make sure to be on the lookout for a Stormtrooper or two. They may want to check to see if you’re a rebel spy while you snap a quick selfie. Once inside Launch Bay, you’ll be able to meet more of your favorites. Have your Magic Bands or PhotoPass cards on hand because there will be a photographer at each of the meet and greet locations ready to capture your memories. However, I suggest passing your cell phone off to one of the character attendants at each experience so they can capture the exchange on video as well, since these are some of the most memorable meet and greets on property.

traci2

Chewbacca will welcome you with open arms {and the best hugs in the galaxy} when you join him in his control room. Kylo Ren will pace menacingly in the corner and question your loyalty to the First Order as you join him for a picture. It’s always fun to convince him that you’re part of the Rebel Alliance and see his reaction! The newest addition to Launch Bay’s offerings is BB-8 who wins the prize for cutest interaction of all time. His attendants and photographers are trained in droid language and will gladly translate for you as he whirs and beeps in friendly conversation. Last, but definitely not least, stop by and say hello to the Jawas as they roam. They enjoy trading with travelers, so make sure you bring something interesting to offer them. If they accept your trade, you will receive a mystery item in return!

The lines for Chewie, Kylo, and BB-8 are all separate, so you can pick and choose or see all three! Meanwhile the Stormtroopers and Jawas roam and have no set times or lines! They make for fun experiences if you’re short on time or with young ones who aren’t a fan of lines. No matter the path you choose, may the force be with you!

Are you ready to experience an out-of-this-world meet and greet? Contact us today! We’d love to help you plan your next Disney or Universal vacation!

Traci Perjak

Travel Specialist

 

If you’re a regular visitor to the Disneyland Resort’s Downtown Disney District than you probably have seen construction going on for the newest edition! Splitsville Luxury Lanes, a family-friend restaurant will open later this year! Splitsville has already been a huge hit at Walt Disney World with its unique combination of dining, bowling and live entertainment! It’s been a huge fan favorite, and we can’t wait to see the new unveiling this winter!

The Space!

 

Disney’s development team is creating another spectacular environment for families. It will fuse modern and retro styles for a lively, but comfy atmosphere for guests of all ages! This new space will be over 40,000 square feet and 2 stories of entertainment! It will feature floor-to-ceiling windows and lots of outdoor seating to look out over Downtown Disney District. Plus as an added feature there will be live entertainment daily – lots of fun for the entire family!

Family Fun

Splitsville Luxury Lanes at Downtown Disney District will be an exciting destination offering families a unique combination of dining, drinks, bowling and entertainment! There will be 20 bowling lanes throughout the location, four dining areas {indoors and out}, two billiards tables, 25+ flat screen TVs, and the ability to host live performers and DJs.

Splitsville headed to Disneyland

Dining

It doesn’t stop there! Splitsville will also have a wide selection of menu items. It will feature classics like hand-tossed pizza and gourmet burgers, but it will also include specialities such as grilled avocado with ahi tuna and filet sliders. Last, but not least, don’t forget the Splitsville speciality the “Fantasy Roll”. This fresh-rolled sushi is sure to make you come back for more!

Ready to plan your next Disney Destination Vacation? Contact a Me and The Mouse agent, today!

 

 

Nothing screams summer more than a S’more. Mmmm!! The Ganachery at Disney Springs has added this as a seasonal offering to their menu, and friends, it’s to-die-for! I highly recommend you taking a short trip to Disney Springs and giving this sweet treat a try!

Let’s Get Started!

The magic begins once you order the dessert at the front counter. You take a laminated card over to the window to the kitchen area. The construction begins with a homemade soft graham bottom with a subtle hint of cinnamon. {I know, it’s off to a great start!} The next layer includes 2 of my favorite sweet treats, chocolate and caramel!!  A generous layer of their very own caramel chocolate ganache.  YUM!! As with any other traditional S’mores the next layer is marshmallow.  If you have never had a homemade marshmallow you are missing out.  The chef shared with me that they make them daily and often they must make them multiple times per day for this specific dessert! In fact, the first time I attempted to try this dessert, they were sold out because they were awaiting the next batch of marshmallow to set!  A traditional s’more roasts the marshmallow over a flame,  but that would be very difficult to pull off in their kitchen. Instead they have a hand held flame torch that the chef utilizes until the marshmallow square, which is almost as big as the graham square, is golden brown and extra gooey!

1. Prepping the Marshmallow

S'more Disney Style! - The Ganachery

 

Then a thin sheet of chocolate is placed upon the warm marshmallow.  Again, the chef applies the handheld torch to melt the chocolate.

2. Adding the Chocolate

S'more Disney Style! - The Ganachery

 

Then the top graham is applied!  The final touch is yet to be applied!  The chef placed the s’more in a paper container and then she pulled out a Mickey silhouette stencil! Of course, nothing is complete without Mickey Ears! The metal stencil was placed on the top graham layer and a generous helping of confectioners sugar was applied!

3. Finishing Touch

S'more Disney Style! - The Ganachery

 

The process of making the s’more took a little less than 3 minutes and was worth every mouth watering second!! Now it was time for eating!!!  The graham layers were soft and light and easy to bite through!  The ganache as well as the top layer of chocolate was nicely melted and gooey.  The combination of all of these amazing layers was brilliantly constructed and complimented each other.

 

I have yet to meet a dessert that I think is too sweet.  I did somehow end up with the confectioners sugar on my shirt, but honestly I didn’t even notice because I was very involved in savoring every bite!  I also had multiple other guests inquire what I was eating!  This indulgent dessert costs $8.  In my opinion, it was worth EVERY penny! It was an incredible treat. I can honestly say, I have thought about this dessert at least once per day since I first enjoyed it and cannot wait to get back for another!  Make sure to stop in the Ganachery on your next trip, it will not disappoint!!! 

 

Eager to plan your next trip to Disney to try this delightful treat? Contact a Me and the Mouse agent today. All of our travel specialists are highly trained in both Disney and Universal vacations! We look forward to helping you plan your next vacation and finding some amazing sweet treats!!

Missy Zolecki

Travel Specialist

At Disney’s California Adventure

Looking for something a little special to do while you’re at Disneyland in California?  The World of Color Dining Package is definitely something you’ll want to do.  The World of Color show is the most impressive and fanciful nighttime extravaganza Disney has ever produced.  It’s accompanied by momentous music as well as stunning fire, fountain, fog and laser effects.  Not only will you get a reserved viewing location, but you’ll also be treated to delicious food at one of the three restaurants that offer this package.

 

First, start off by selecting the restaurant you’d like to eat at.  There are three different restaurants with the World of Color Dining Package.  

  • Ariel’s Grotto
  • Carthay Circle Restaurant
  • Wine Country Trattoria

 

World of Color Dining PackageAt each of these restaurants, you’ll enjoy a full-service, 3-course meal during lunch and/or dinner plus a non-alcoholic beverage.  The restaurant that we selected was Ariel’s Grotto.  We were able to choose from a soup or salad and had a variety of options for our main meal, including a surf and turf option.  To end the meal, we were each brought out a dessert with a sampling of three different types of desserts.  The food was amazing and was just what we needed to continue our day at the park until it was time for the show.

 

When it was time to get ready to view the World of Color, we headed to our reserved viewing area.  We were ushered down to our choice of unobstructed viewing area.  Once the show began, it was amazing.  It was nothing like we had ever seen before.  To create the approximately 19,000 square-foot projection screen, nearly 1,200 fountains shoot water 200 feet into the air. Watch the water dance and the perfectly timed pyrotechnics explode!

 

As the show’s extraordinary elements are woven into a kaleidoscope of imagination, the spectacle sweeps and expands across Paradise Bay, while the astonishing soundtrack lifts your spirits, spanning decades of Disney movies―from the classics to the most recent releases.

World of Color Dining Package

This package is something our family will definitely be doing again during our next visit!  A word of caution when selecting your viewing area for the World of Color Show, the closer you stand to the water, the more likely it is that you’ll get a little wet!  

Are you ready to experience this one-of-a-kind show?! Contact a Me and The Mouse agent today to book your next Disney Destination Vacation Package!

Leigh Miller

Travel Specialist