Thursday, May 26, 2011

Spotlight on La Cantina de San Angel in Epcot (Quick Service)

by: Brook W. - agent at Mouse World Travel

Earlier this year, my family and I had the opportunity to visit the newest addition to Epcot's awesome variety of Quick Service Restaurants - the La Cantina de San Angel, which is part of the Mexico pavilion in the World Showcase.

La Cantina is nestled right along the waterfront of the World Showcase Lagoon.  It is open for lunch and dinner.  During the lunch period there is both outdoor and indoor seating, but during dinner hours, the inside portion of the restaurant is turned into a sit-down Table Service.  We arrived at 8:00 pm for a late dinner.

Illuminations was just one hour away and this place was BUSY!  Many people were coming into this restaurant, ordering a drink or two, in hopes of snagging a table along the water for a great Illuminations view.  So, if you'd like to take advantage of that - arrive early and enjoy your food and drinks slowly!

That was not on our agenda for the evening, so we determined we would take any table that happened to open up.

But, first things first, let's figure out what to eat!

The menus is not vast.  Beef tacos, chicken tacos, cheese empanadas, "loaded" nachos, or nachos and guacamole.  The tacos and empanadas come with a side of pico de gallo and tortilla chips.  During my visit the guest in front of me asked about getting Spanish rice instead of the tortilla chips and the Cast Member affirmed that he could - but he changed his mind at the last moment and went with the chips, so I cannot completely confirm that this is an option...but it doesn't hurt to ask!  It is not listed on the menu.  The corn tortillas and guacamole are both handmade.

Desserts are churros with a caramel sauce, or Paletas - which are traditional Mexican fruit popsicles.

For Kid's Picks the choices are chicken tenders or a cheese empanada.  They come with tortilla chips, fruit and a beverage.

There are a few alcoholic drinks, the typical Coke products, bottled water, hot cocoa and Jarritos and Sidral - which are two traditional Mexican sodas.

After we ordered, I waited for my food and started to take in the details of this beautiful restaurant.

Food in hand, I navigated the crowds to my waiting child and husband.  We had found a table fairly quickly despite the number of people at the eatery.

 This is not a great picture, but it shows the seating over the waterfront.  The little cart on the right has napkins, straws, all that sort of thing.  It also has two types of salsa-a red and a green.

My 3-year old's choice for this meal were the chicken tenders. Many of the Quick Service restaurants serve basic chicken nuggets for the kids; however, these were full, white-meat chicken strips that you find generally in the adult meals (they taste much better than the kids nuggets!).
My husbands choice was the cheese empandas.  

And mine, the beef tacos.

We also received one cup of nacho cheese sauce.  This wasn't anything special, or spicy - just your basic nacho cheese sauce.  Standard is good sometimes...why fix what isn't broken?!

All three of us enjoyed our food!  My husband said the cheese empanadas were "good, not great", but he didn't leave one morsel behind either.  My beef tacos were DELISH!  I have nothing bad to say about them!

For dessert, both my husband and I chose the churros with caramel sauce.  The picture shows one portion.  They were hot and fresh.  The caramel dipping sauce isn't your traditional thick caramel, but is much thinner and an awesome compliment to the churro.

The churros are not only delicious, but they also make an excellent sword!

After our meal our bellies were full.  We were happy.  La Cantina was a hit.  We enjoyed it immensely despite the crowded status.  It was worth dealing with the crowds for!!

Matter of a fact...we liked it so much...we ate there again in our trip!

This time around, my husband chose the beef tacos that I raved over.  He agreed with me, they were a clear winner!

I chose the chicken tacos.  They were good...but not as good as the beef, in my opinion!

And the little dude chose the cheese empanada this time.  Which, as you can see, comes plain-unlike the cheese-loaded adult portion.  It's similar to what a deep fried grilled cheese would be, so naturally, my son really liked it!

And dessert....we couldn't resist...more churros!

All three of us agree that this is an excellent addition to the World Showcase options.  If you enjoy Mexican food, don't pass this one up!

Watch for my future review of the La Hacienda de San Angel, which is the Table Service portion of this restaurant.  I'm already drooling in anticipation of my meal!

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Disney Fantasy Experiences!

The Disney Fantasy™, the new Disney Cruise Line® ship set to debut next spring, will bring to life many of the innovative features guests love on the recently launched Disney Dream™ including AquaDuck — the world’s first shipboard water coaster.  But new design elements and guest experiences will give the Disney Fantasy™ an identity all its own.

The Disney Fantasy™ is the second of two newly designed Disney Cruise Line® ships that take the family cruise experience to new heights. Sister ship to the Disney Dream™, which entered service in January 2011, the 4,000-passenger Disney Fantasy™ will sail week-long Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral, Fla., with its maiden voyage scheduled for March 31, 2012.

“Animation Magic” at Animator’s Palate

Like Animator’s Palate on the Disney Dream, the venue is wall-to-wall whimsy inspired by a classic animation studio. Throughout the restaurant, pillars are fashioned like huge pencils and brushes. Character sketches, maquettes (three-dimensional character models), film strips and other tools of the animation trade adorn the room.  As a special nod to Mickey Mouse, the dining room chairs feature red and yellow colors and a trademark design – Mickey Mouse pants with two bright yellow buttons.

Upon entering Animator’s Palate, guests are surrounded by artwork featuring their favorite Disney characters.  Guests get a sneak peek into the origins of these beloved characters through concept art, storyboards and character studies. 

As guests are seated at their tables, they are invited to draw a character of their own using a simple template on their placemat.  Then, just before dinner, house lights dim and a sprinkling of pixie dust illuminates the room.

Imagery is revealed on several large monitors showing animated, black and white drawings of Mickey Mouse.  Mickey then places the Sorcerer’s hat upon his head which transforms him, as well as all of the other pencil drawings shown throughout the room, from black and white to color.

Mickey then invites guests to sit back, relax and enjoy a taste of animation as a montage of memorable food-themed moments from Disney and Pixar films set to “Be Our Guest” begins to delight guests.  After the “Be Our Guest” number is complete, animated curtains are drawn on the monitors for a brief intermission. During this time, guests are encouraged to complete their own drawings, if they have not already done so, so they may be whisked off to Mickey Mouse who is conjuring a magical final act.

While guests enjoy dinner, the restaurant’s walls fill with classic Disney and Pixar characters gathering food, eating and drinking together, and celebrating over meals.

After dinner, the animated curtains are opened on the screens and Sorcerer Mickey returns for the exciting finale.  With a flourish and musical crescendo, Mickey works magic as only Disney can do.  Mickey conjures the guests’ drawings – now fully animated and brought to life – into the onscreen action.

A parade starts as Mickey leads the guests’ drawings in a march across the screens around the dining room.  The animation of the drawings becomes increasingly more elaborate, and then the drawings step into scenes from beloved Disney movies and skip, skate and dance side-by-side with characters such as Mickey Mouse, Jiminy Cricket, Cinderella and Snow White. 

At the conclusion of the show, Mickey returns to say “so long” to the guests and, as he does, credits roll on screen showing each guest’s name listed as a guest animator. To commemorate the experience, each guest will have their character drawing returned to them, with an added touch… a golden seal proclaiming them an Official Disney Animator.

Europa Nighttime Entertainment District

On the Disney Fantasy, adult guests step into a world that’s all their own at Europa – a nighttime entertainment district exclusively for guests 18 and older that features sophisticated bars and trendy lounges inspired by the very best in European travel.
  • La Piazza is a lounge that draws inspiration from Italian cities and their decorative outdoor plazas. The bar is modeled after a colorful vintage carousel. Venetian masks, romantic couples’ booths and a classic Vespa with a sidecar add Italian flair.
  • Skyline
  • Skyline is a chic bar that provides ever-changing birds-eye views of stunning European city skylines that transform from day to night. Skyline’s “windows to the world” give guests a glimpse of spectacular locales in panorama such as Paris, London, Barcelona, Athens and St. Petersburg.
  • O’Gill’s Pub is a rollicking Irish bar with modern-day twists.  Dark woods, brass accents and a selection of Irish beers create the perfect pub atmosphere where guests can sip a pint while watching live sporting events on one of several high-definition televisions.
  • Ooh La La is inspired by an elegant French boudoir adorned with velvet tufted walls, Victorian furniture and Louis XIV-style chaise lounges. A sensuous color palette is accented with ornate framed mirrors, gold details and a “jewel box” feature bar backed with sparkling diamond-like facets.

The Tube
  • The Tube transports guests to a vibrant metropolitan club via the London Underground. Guests “mind the gap” as they walk across a Tube route map, lounge among mod furniture, pose by a red English phone booth, dance atop an illuminated Union Jack dance floor and enjoy cocktails at a bar inspired by Big Ben and London’s many train stations.
“Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular”

A new ship means new main stage entertainment at the 1,340-seat Walt Disney Theatre.  New to Disney Cruise Line, “Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular” takes the stage on the Disney Fantasy.  During this Broadway-style production, guests laugh along with the wise-cracking Genie and the cast from the classic animated Disney film, “Aladdin.” 

In this fast-paced musical comedy, Aladdin is back as the “street rat” of Agrabah meeting up with a Genie who grants him three wishes, battling the evil Jafar, and falling in love with Princess Jasmine.

Many of the classic scenes and songs from the movie are re-created on stage and some of the action even spills out into the aisles, like Prince Ali’s jubilant arrival in Agrabah on the back of a stallion. Magic lamps, wise-cracking genies, princesses and evil wizards are all part of this musical production. And of course, an Aladdin production would not be complete without a magic flying carpet scene, which combines mechanical wizardry with state-of-the-art projections, allowing Jasmine and Aladdin to soar as they perform a heartfelt duet of “Whole New World.”

Many of the songs from the movie are featured in the 45-minute musical production, including “Friend Like Me,” which is performed as a lively, Las Vegas-style production number featuring special effects, illusions and more than a dozen dancing genies. Composer Alan Menken, who created the original soundtrack with songwriters Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, composed an original song for the stage production entitled “To Be Free.”

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

When young princesses-to-be make their royal entrance at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, they are greeted by their very own Fairy Godmother-in-training who transform them with magical makeovers such as the Disney Diva, the Pop Princess or the Fairy Tale Princess. A variety of royal treatment packages include combinations of hairstyle, shimmering makeup and nails. Princess costumes, complete with crown, wand and shoes also are available.

Exclusive to Disney Cruise Line, Captain Mickey Mouse, Princess Minnie Mouse and First Mate Minnie Mouse makeovers plus special Under the Sea packages will be offered. 

On pirate party nights aboard the Disney Fantasy, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique transforms into the Pirate’s League, where swashbuckling boys, girls and grownups can get ready for the pirate life.

Each guest checking in at the plunder-filled pirate’s lair gets an official pirate name.  Then it’s off to Muster Station for applications of beards and bandanas, swords and scars, earrings and eye patches – all done with the savvy skill of a pirate master who shares his own tales of sea-sailing adventures.

After the new buccaneers recite a sacred pirate oath, they are officially part of Captain Jack’s motley crew, leaving their old identities behind.  The shipmates and scoundrels are then turned loose on their pirate vessel.

Guests can choose from two pirate packages – First Mate (includes bandana, facial scars tattoos, fake teeth, earring, eye patch, sword and sheath) or Empress (includes bandana, shimmering makeup, face gem, tattoos, nail polish, earring, eye patch, sword and sheath).

Atrium Lobby – Mademoiselle Minnie Mouse

The magnificent three-deck atrium lobby on the Disney Fantasy is reminiscent of grand ocean liners of the Golden Age.  Art Nouveau-inspired details and patterns in hues of vibrant blue, green, pink and gold lend to the sophistication.  Glamorous and graceful design elements include a sweeping grand staircase, towering fluted columns, grand piano and an exquisite marble and stone inlay floor. A focal point is a cascading chandelier of stained glass and crystal beads.

The pièce de résistance of the magnificent space is the atrium lobby statue – Mademoiselle Minnie Mouse.  Inspired by travel of the 1920s and 1930s, Minnie, cast in bronze and dressed in vintage fashion with a parasol and steamer luggage at her side, serves to welcome all guests who board the ship.

Royal Court Restaurant

At Royal Court restaurant, guests are immersed in the lavish surroundings of an elegant dining room fit for a grand palace.  Royal Court takes design inspiration from the classic Disney films “Cinderella,” “Snow White,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Sleeping Beauty.”  Décor features ornate details and custom furnishings and fixtures that incorporate iconic symbols from the films – glass slippers, apples, roses and tiaras.

An Austrian glass chandelier is a focal point, while eight custom brass and glass lighting fixtures modeled after Cinderella’s coach adorn the room.  Hand-crafted mosaic tile murals of the princesses – Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Jasmine, Ariel and Sleeping Beauty (Aurora) – and their princes grace the walls.  Inspired by the mosaic tile murals in Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, the Disney Fantasy mosaics are beingmeticulously created by skilled Italian craftspeople using more than 200,000 individual tiles, with 23 mosaic panels depicting six  different vignettes.

With careful attention to detail, many of the restaurant’s features are modeled precisely from the inspirational films. The Royal Court’s chandeliers, chair backs and columns with marble bases and fluted tops are fashioned after those seen in “Beauty and the Beast.”  Wall sconces, decorative patterns, throne-style chairs and the circular floor plan are recreated from “Cinderella.”

The Disney Fantasy will depart on her maiden voyage March 31, 2012, and will sail out of Port Canaveral on seven-night Caribbean itineraries – alternating eastern (St. Maarten and St. Thomas) and western (Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel). Special Eastern Caribbean sailings in November and December 2012 stop at St. Thomas and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  All Disney Fantasy itineraries include a stop at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

At Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on the Disney Fantasy, aspiring young princesses and pirates receive the full fairy tale treatment with pixie-dusted and piratical makeovers at this very special salon. Animator’s Palate on the Disney Fantasy brings the magic of Disney animation into the dining room with a new show called “Animation Magic.”  The dinner show celebrates the magic of Disney animation and allows families to create and participate in a whole new way.