How to Navigate Walt Disney World in the Summertime ~ A local’s perspective

Walt Disney in the summertime. What can I say? It’s hot! Disney World’s peak time used to be summertime but as people realize just how hot it can be in Central Florida, many fans have opted to visit during the winter months where the weather in Florida can be glorious. But for locals, it’s hard to get Lightening Lanes for popular rides and even just a hotel room on property for that matter. It’s tempting to see lower waits and hotel discounts in summer and pass it up. So, we brave the heat and go when crowds are less. But we need the make the time there valuable and magical. Below are some of my ideas for making the most of your summer stay at Walt Disney World.

Ride the indoor rides like Little Mermaid

I recently went to the Magic Kingdom on a Saturday in June and in the middle of the day. I will be quite honest, I struggled with the heat and I live in Florida! There are some parks that have more tree coverage (Animal Kingdom) and some where the sun can just beat you down (Hello Hollywood Studios and MK – Frontierland/Tomorrowland). During this trip, we decided to stay on property for a night at Pop Century Resort so we left early and headed to the hotel pool. The heat was taking it out of me, several rides were down, and frankly, I was getting a little cranky in the heat.

Our plan was to skip the main parks the next day and head to Typhoon Lagoon and so did everyone else! It was packed. I’ve never had to park so far from the entrance which seemed like we were parking in Disney Springs.

Try going to a water park like Typhoon Lagoon

The trip felt rushed and as I stated above, hot. I feel like we didn’t make the most of our time and even forfeited our coveted Tron Lightcycle virtual group time (b/c we weren’t in the hot park). But, we live here and can visit whenever we want, right?

Having said this, next time we will have a better plan for the summer heat. While the above 1 night stay may be good if you are not going to a water park and the temps are cooler, I don’t recommend it for summer. The next trip will include a 2 night stay so that we have time to relax, escape the heat, and enjoy more of what Disney World has to offer.

Check out some of the shaded trails at the resorts

The best option, in my opinion, is to arrive on a Friday night around 5:00 to the resort hotel. This time should ensure that your room is ready and you can go straight there without checking your bags. Using online checkin via the My Disney App is super simple and I would recommend it. Prior to arrival, check Disney Genie + and reserve any lightening lanes or ride reservations at this time for later in the evening.

After you’ve settled in your room, plan to take a few minutes to explore the hotel and grab some dinner at the restaurant or food court. At this point, Annual Passholders can go to any park of their choice, so plan to head to the park of your choice around 6:30-7:00. Another thing to keep in mind with Florida summers is that is can usually rain in the late afternoons and you won’t want to get soaked. If you are in the park though, stay. The rain is a good thing in that it cools everything down and you can be at the front of the line for the outdoor rides once it opens back up. By the evening, things have cooled off, the sun is going down, and there may be nice breeze. The parks can be very pleasant at this time. Plan to spend some time at the parks until closing and head back to the hotel for a good night’s rest.

Go to the parks at night

Don’t rush to leave during a rain storm. Let it pass. It’s cools everything off and you can get in line quickly after rides reopen

The next day would consist of a park in the morning, until the heat gets too intense, and then back to the hotel for a swim or a rest. This time could also include a massage at one of the Disney spas or a nice lunch at Disney Springs. I also like checking out different resorts so maybe a quick trip to one of the deluxe resorts for a drink and stroll around the grounds. If you do decide to go to lunch at a hotel or in Disney Springs, I recommend making reservations in advance. This is a good time to relax, cool off, and plan your evening. I have personally fallen victim to too much over planning and have felt at times, that I am running through the parks to make lightening lane times or dinner reservations on time. The point of the relaxed afternoon, is to relax. Don’t rush. Give yourself time to enjoy the resorts, Disney Springs, the pool, the spa, the gardens. At some resorts, you can take a carriage ride or a boat ride. That might be a nice option as well. There are many options outside of the parks to choose from.

Ahhhh…. the hotel pool

Hang out and relax at the Disney Beach

That evening, your choices are open to visit another park, maybe check out the Drawn to Life Cirque Du Soleil show at Disney Springs or Hoop De Doo Revue. This will require some planning and reservations but there is more to do at Disney than just the theme parks. Besides, when you are local and can visit the theme parks anytime, it might be a nice change to do some other activities at the resort. Most hotels have a marshmallow roast and poolside movies. There is also mini-golf at Fantasia Gardens and Fairways and fun activities at Disney’s Boardwalk. This past trip, my son and I decided to just relax and ride the Disney Skyliner from Pop Century to Epcot. We didn’t even go into Epcot and just turned right around and rode it back. It was breezy and relaxing and that was all we wanted to do.

Roast marshmallows at your resort in the evening

Ride the Skyliner in the evening, over and over again

On your final morning, you may want to check out another park and sneak in some lightening lane passes in the morning. Check out for hotels is usually 11:00 so you can always just pack your bags and leave them in your car or with baggage services or try to make it back to the hotel prior to check out time. It’s up to you but you will want to take advantage of Sunday mornings in the park and prioritize those rides, parades, or character meets given that you can snag some reserved times once Disney Genie opens for hotel guests at 7:00AM.

Snag early Lightening Lanes on Sunday morning

Regardless of how much heat you can handle at Disney World, there are a few thing you should always remember to do such as :

  • Wear sunscreen
  • Eat cool treats. Indulge in those Mickey bars and icy drinks
  • Wear lightweight clothing that dries quickly
  • Plan to ride those rides with an indoor queue and AC
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Invest in the neck fan
  • Leave before you get too overwhelmed and cranky from the heat

    There are many options to try at the Walt Disney World resort that can help you beat the heat. Again, some of this requires some planning. So, yes, you can have a fun, relaxing time at Disney World in the summer without rushing around in the heat. The good part about this is that if you didn’t see something or ride something that you wanted, remember…. you’re a local. You can come back next weekend and ride it then!

Salmon Peri Peri with Tomato Salsa and Chickpea Salad

Tasty and delicious. This is a simple yet healthy dinner option that offers exotic flavors with half the calories. Salmon Peri Peri (Swahili for Pepper Pepper) is spicy and flavorful while the chickpea salad is cool and refreshing. I don’t eat much red meat but I do order salmon quite a bit and enjoy trying it in a variety of ways. This one is a must keep in my recipe book.

The chickpea salad can be served as a side dish as it is here but also as an appetizer. Pair this meal with a crisp Chardonnay and it’s the perfect summer dinner.

Salmon Peri Per


  • 1/4 cup sambal chili sauce
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs paprika
  • 1 Tsp Italian seasoning
  • 4 salmon fillets
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbs fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Salmon

  1. Whisk the chili sauce, oil, Italian seasoning, paprika, salt and pepper in a bowl
  2. Coat the salmon in the mixture and let is sit in small bowl to soak up the flavors for 2 hours in the refridgerator.
  3. Heat the oil mixture in a skillet over medium heat and cook approx 4 min per side or until done (your preference).

For the Tomato Topping

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and spoon over salmon when read to serve.

Chickpea Salad


  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs minced garlic
  • 1 Tbs minced ginger
  • 1/2 small jalepeno pepper, minced and seeds removed
  • 1 Tsp tamarind paste
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2-3 Tbs of fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded diced
  • 1 tomato diced
  • 1 Tbs parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a small saute pan. Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. cook until the garlic is slightly gold. Set aside until the mixture is room temp.
  2. Mix the tamarind paste into the mixture.
  3. Add the onion to the mix and refrigerate until cold.
  4. Pour chickpeas into a medium bowl and add the spice mixture, tossing to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate for an hour.
  5. Right before serving, add the cucumber, tomato, lime juice, and parsley.
  6. Serve chilled or at room temp.

Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

Kona Cafe is a long time favorite of many Disney fans. Located on the second level of the Polynesian Resort, this cafe infuses Asian flare into traditional American dishes. It’s an open-air restaurant that exposes restaurant patrons to the beautiful atrium of the Great Ceremonial House. So if you like people watching, this is your place. This restaurant is considered a table service meal if you use the dining plan. It’s a hidden gem that should not be missed and I believe it’s a good value for the money (and cheaper than Ohana).

Welcome to the Polynesian Village Resort Hotel

Kona Cafe

Inside Kona Cafe

Tonga Toast

Kona Cafe has an excellent breakfast menu and yes, you can order the famous Tonga Toast here. This resturant is known for their breakfast but offers a separate lunch and dinner menu as well. I went for lunch and thoroughly enjoyed my meal. The options are fewer but no less delicious. I ordered the Keiki Lemonade (a non alcoholic drink), the Kona Stir Fry with chicken, and Key Lime dessert. A bread service is provided for both the lunch and dinner meals.

Keiki Lemonade

Bread Service

Kona Stir Fry

I actually took my dessert to go and enjoyed it later that day as the stir fry meal and bread left little room for dessert at that time. However, if you do decide on dessert at the restaurant, I recommend the pineapple coconut bread pudding. It is the same one you would order at Ohana so if you can’t get a reservation at that restaurant, fear not. You can still eat this wonderful dessert at Kona Cafe.

I would highly recommend Kona Cafe as a table service option on your next visit to the Disney parks. It’s easy to get to via the monorail and once you are at the Polynesian Hotel, you can take advantage of the beautiful walkways next to Seven Seas Lagoon after your meal.

Sedona, AZ and the Grand Canyon

I’ve never spent much time in Arizona except for the occasional work trip to Phoenix which never allowed for any exploration outside of the immediate area. If I saw a cactus, I felt like my trip was complete. How wrong my misconceptions were of this beautiful area, specifically Sedona and the awe inspiring Grand Canyon. I was amazed at how the climate and landscape changed just 2-4 hours north of the Phoenix metropolis. From the desert, to forests, to snow capped peaks, and the gigantic hole in the Earth. What a lovely area of the country to explore.

Sedona Arizona

Sedona, AZ was my location of choice. Situated in the Coconino National Forest, this beautiful spot consists of incredible rock formations, hiking/biking trails through Pinyon pine and Juniper forests, and incredible sunsets which illuminate the surrounding red rocks in this area. It is also known as a spiritual place due to the vortex energy associated with the area. A vortex is described as the natural intersections of electromagnetic earth energy. Some say that the forces can be felt physically and spiritually. These energy centers are located in known sites around Sedona such as Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock. It is a wellness destination for many due to its healing energy and most hotels offer some type of yoga and meditation classes.

Sedona also has a lively arts scene with more than 80 art galleries and international film and wine festivals. There are also many shops/spas that offer workshops and tools for wellness and enlightenment.

Day 1

Our first day consisted of a hike to Cathedral Rock and a stop at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. While I love to hike and usually do not mind heights, I was a little unsure about hiking to the top of Cathedral Rock. The path plateaus with a panoramic view of the area and that is a good place to stop, relax, and take in the beautiful views of the area. Word of warning if you plan to go to the top: you will be climbing up a sharp incline with no path and nothing to hold onto. I tried it but was too scared that I would slip and fall so I ended up coming back down very carefully… on my butt!

After our hike we stopped by the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Catholic church carved into the red rocks. A service was beginning so we were not allowed in at that time but what a beautiful place to worship and see God’s creation!

Afterwards, we headed to our hotel, The Sky Rock Inn, and got settled in before heading to dinner for the evening. The hotel has the most amazing views of Sedona. The hotel offers outdoor yoga and meditation classes each morning and live music every evening by the bar. There is a also a healthy continental breakfast served each morning to fuel you up for your hikes and excursions and don’t forget about the pool to cool you off afterwards. Sky Rock also offers a variety of alternative healing and complementary therapies such as Vortex healing, Chakra readings, and even star gazing. This hotel is is also within walking distance of several hiking trails in the area. The rooms are a bit dark but there are plans to update and renovate the guest rooms within the next year. There is also a free shuttle that runs every 30 minutes to take guests from the hotel to the uptown shopping district. I highly recommend this hotel as it adds to the overall Sedona experience and the views are spectacular.

Day 2

Our next hike was Boyton Canyon. This hike was originally supposed to be 10 miles but we cut it short to 6.5. The views are wonderful but the intense sun was beginning to wear on us so it was back to the hotel for a quick lunch and dip in the pool. Time to relax before dinner at Soundbites (dinner with a view).

Note* Always bring water, a snack, and sunscreen. While the weather may be in the 70’s, the sun is intense and you are in it all day when hiking these trails. Be prepared.

Day 3

Today consisted of an excursion to the Grand Canyon. I have never been there before and I must say that there are no pictures that can do it justice. This is a place than should be experienced in person because it is so vast and awe inspiring. We stopped at several lookout points along the south rim of the canyon to take the obligatory photos but again, the view was incredible and one that is hard to describe. I will say that there are some very “brave” (ignorant in my opinion) people who feel like they must take selfies at the edge of the cliff or the experience must not be real. Please, don’t be one of those people! Accidents happen and it’s the second leading cause of death in the Canyon.

We stopped for lunch at the El Tovar Hotel, located in the Grand Canyon. Set in a lovely dining room overlooking the Canyon, our lunch was relaxing and leisurely. This would be an excellent place to stay if you plan to spend a day or two exploring the Grand Canyon.

Day 4

Our final day included a short hike along the Adobe Jack trail (within walking distance from the hotel), some pool time, shopping time, and the Pink Jeep tour. Let me just say that I had no idea what to expect from the jeep tour and I was not prepared for that excursion whatsoever. The jeep tour is off road (expected) but along a route where you will ride over extremely large rocks as you bounce your way to the top of the overlook (not expected). This ride wasn’t just bouncy, it was extremely rough! I did not expect us to ride over the amount of rocks along this trail and all I can say is thank goodness I did not have any nausea, back problems, neck problems, or a pregnancy to contend with. I would advise anyone who does have those issues to not go on this tour. It states as much in the waiver that you sign before getting in the jeep. Mind you, the views at the top are exquisite but they are views that you can get on some of your more relaxing hikes were you don’t need a back brace after the excursion ends. In retrospect, I would have skipped this tour as this is not my cup of tea. But, if it is your thing, go for it. It’s quite the wild ride.

Our trip wrapped up with a lovely dinner at The Cowboy Club and then it was back to the hotel for a cocktail around the fire pit while overlooking this view one more time.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Sedona and would happily return for another visit, maybe with a few more spa treatments included (especially after that jeep ride : )

Jaleo Restaurant – Disney Springs

I am a huge fan of Spanish Tapas since discovering this cuisine in my 20’s in Chicago. Therefore, I couldn’t possibly pass up trying Jaleo at Disney Springs. My reservation was for lunch during the middle of the week so the crowds were a bit less.

For those of you not familiar with Tapas, the plates are designed to be shared with others at the table. Savory paellas, superb sangria, Spanish cheeses, wines and sherries are just a few of the delicious Spanish dishes and drinks you will enjoy with Tapas.

Per Jaleo’s website: Jaleo at Disney Springs®, is located in a one-of-a-kind retail, dining and entertainment district located in the heart of Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. This Jaleo is the biggest and most spectacular location yet, housed in a dynamic, multi-level space. The menu features an extensive variety of tapas reflecting the rich regional diversity of traditional and contemporary Spanish cuisine in addition to a variety of authentic paellas cooked over a wood fire in the restaurant.

Jaleo was created by Jose Andres, an internationally recognized chef and holder of two Michelin stars. So, I pretty much assumed this was going to be a delish meal and I was not disappointed.

This was my first time visiting Jaleo so I stuck with the dishes that I knew and loved. Here’s what I tried:


Is it possible to eat tapas and not get Sangria? I didn’t think so. The hardest decision here is deciding between the white sangria or red sangria. I opted for the red sangria.

Pan con Tomate

Toasted slices of crispy bread brushed with fresh tomato. My first dish was the Pan con Tomate topped with manchego. This bread is brushed with tomato and extra virgin olive oil and topped with a slice of manchego. I could have eaten this by itself and been perfectly content. Simple. Flavorful. Wonderful.

Patatas Bravas

A plate of fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and aioli. These cripy on the outside, soft in the middle potatoes sit atop a spicy tomato sauce dotted with a garlic flavored aioli. Again, it can be a bit spicy but this is a must try at Jaleo. (If you do not like too much spice, you can always ask for the sauce on the side.)

Gambas al ajillo

The very famous tapa of shrimp sautéed with garlic. Such a simple dish packed with intense flavor. Shrimp are cooked and served in a rich, garlic flavored olive oil sprinkled with a pinch of red pepper flakes and parsley. The best part of this dish is dunking a piece of crusty bread into the sauce. Order this one and enjoy.


A classic Spanish custard with ‘espuma’ of Catalan cream and oranges. An elegant Spanish dessert that is not to be missed, if you have any room left.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Jaleo. There are so many different menu items that I want to try and I am certain that I will go back soon to enjoy more.

25 Ways to Age with Grace

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.

~Sophia Loren

elderly woman carrying shopping bags
Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva on
  1. Practice yoga, stretching or Pilates to stay flexible, and prevent the aches and stiffness that are often erroneously attributed to aging.
  2. Take a new class; never stop learning.
  3. Travel often. Visit the places you’ve always wanted to see. Don’t feel guilty about it.
  4. Keep up your appearance.
  5. Forget what you’re “supposed to do”. You do YOU.
  6. Learn a foreign language now. It’s makes you more interesting and keeps your mind sharp.
  7. Mentor someone younger. It’s a great way to help one another understand a different generation.
  8. Have regular facials, massages, acupuncture, etc. Self care is important at any age.
  9. Get dressed up and go out at least once a week. Make the effort. Raise your style standards and show up as the elegant woman that you are.
  10. Find role models to follow. Even as we age, we still need someone to admire and look up to.
  11. Find the balance between trying to look 20 and giving up on your appearance. Don’t worry about the latest Hollywood celeb who is 50 trying to look 20. Be and look elegant. You want respect not gossip.
  12. Don’t be afraid to fall in love again. It’s never too late.
  13. Don’t dress in a frumpy manner. Age is not an excuse to let yourself “go”.
  14. Keep an air of mystery. Let the younger generation put their lives on social media, not us.
  15. Sleep on quality mattresses.
  16. Continue volunteering. Those who are the happiest are those who give back the most. Find an organization you want to support and give your time and support to the cause.
  17. Realize that you’re more than just a mother/grandmother, father/grandfather and live where you want to live and do what you’ve always dreamed of doing
  18. Remember that age does not give you the right to say whatever is on your mind, courtesy still counts.
  19. Buy classic clothing of the best quality you can afford
  20. Tell people about the good things in your life, rather than the aches and pains. Trust me, no one wants to hear this.
  21. Drink champagne more often. You’ve earned it.
  22. Attempt one thing every year that you never thought you could do.
  23. Go for walks after dinner.
  24. Tell your children how proud you are of them and why.
  25. Learn the art of graciousness

Chocolate Chip Brown Butter Cookies

These cookies are delicious and never fail to please. They were gone in a jiffy, lasting no more than 3 days in our house. They were such a hit, that the boys requested that I make them again. I think the secret ingredient that makes these cookies so delicious is the browned butter. I mean, nothing tastes bad with a little extra butter, right? Add in the chocolate and it’s cookie paradise.


  • 2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups old fashioned oat
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chunks or chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Add the butter to a skillet set over medium heat. Cook until the butter begins to brown, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a heatproof bowl. Let cool 5 minutes or so. How to Brown Butter.
  3. After the butter has cooled, mix in the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla, mixing until smooth. Add the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Then, fold in the chocolate.
  4. Roll the dough into rounded tablespoon size balls and place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 9-10 minutes or until the cookies are just beginning to set on the edges.
  5. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet. They will continue to cook slightly as they sit on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with flaky salt (if desired).
  6. Enjoy!

Cruising with Norwegian Cruise Line

With a plethora of vacation options to choose from, which weighed heavily on our decision, my husband and I decided relaxation was in order and a seven night Caribbean cruise would do the trick. Based on timing, cost, and the destinations that we ‘wanted’ to see, we booked our cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line – Getaway (NCL)for a relaxing mid summer trip. The cruise itinerary included stops in the Bahamas (at their private island), Virgin Islands (St Thomas), Dominican Republic (Punta Cana), and Puerto Rico (San Juan). We paid in full and began planning our excursions. And then…..

We received a message from NCL about 3 weeks prior to our departure date that our itinerary had changed. We would not be going to St Thomas at all and our day at Punta Cana had been canceled and moved to Amber Cove DR. We would have to spend an extra day at sea. There was no explanation given and no money refunded. Our excursions were canceled (that money was refunded), and we would have to wait until new excursions were posted to re-book. Because the cruise line reserves the right to alter itineraries as needed, we could not cancel without losing money that we had already spent. I was not happy and this had already put a bad taste in my mouth for the trip.

I had cruised twice before, both times with Disney, and my husband had cruised with Royal Caribbean, so these were the expectations that we had going into our trip. Both had provided excellent service and it’s what we expected from NCL but that is not what we experienced and we hadn’t even begun packing for the trip.

Check in Process

Upon arrival at the port, I proceeded to drop off our bags while my husband parked the car. I hadn’t “checked in” via the app in time so I did not have my room number. They looked it up, tagged the bags, and we got in line. And then we waited, and waited, and waited, and waited. The check in process, once we made it past the COVID check, took over 1 hour. The reason: “computer issues”. Once we finally received our room key, we made our way onto the ship and to get settled in. We noticed that one of our bags had already been delivered but the other two were missing. We were told by the staff that they would eventually be delivered. So again, we waited, and waited, and waited and at 5:00 pm (before the ship left the dock) we decided to go and look for our missing bags. Sure enough, there they were in the baggage room, un-tagged and on the floor. I still have no idea how the tags were not on our bags but I guess the positive is that at least they made it onto the ship.

Once we unpacked and got a snack, we decided to download the cruise app and start booking some activities. This is a standard feature with most cruises and it allows you to see your excursions, dining options, shows, and activities on the ship. Great idea except that the app was offline and all activities would need to be booked by calling or waiting in another long line at the front desk. We decided to at least get our dining reservations booked by calling and reserving our choice of restaurants for three of the seven nights of our cruise. Everything else would have to wait.

Ship Activities

After dinner our first night, we decided to take a stroll on the upper deck, grab a drink and a deck lounge chair, and possibly listen to some music by the pool. Sounds nice, right? Except, on this ship, they begin picking up and stacking the chairs as soon as the sun starts to go down. There was nowhere to sit and no one in the pool. Why? The reason, it seemed to me, is to drive people to the casino or to the shows on the lower decks. So far, my idea of relaxing cruise with a tropical drink had resulted in almost lost luggage, a mediocre buffet, and a smoky casino. Might as well have been in Vegas.

Speaking of pools, there were four on the ship. One was in the spa (you had to pay to access), one was in the VIP section (yep, only for VIPs), one was a kiddie pool (only available to kids), and one on the main deck for everyone else. I cannot tell you how packed that one available pool was. There was no place to sit and almost no way to access it during the day due to the large number of people in there. I decided to pay the money and go to the spa. At least there was a pool there I could use.

Once our in cruise app began to work, we were able to access the ships activities. Some could be booked directly via the app and some required sign up in person. I decided to take a painting class on our extra day at sea and attempted to sign up earlier that morning to ensure my spot. After one hour of asking multiple cruise attendants and going to three different spots, I was able to find the sign up desk for art class. No one seemed to know where to go or how to sign up or that it even existed. This was apparently the the case with several activities that required in person reservations.

We decided to try the two shows offered aboard the Getaway and overall the quality was not bad. One show, Million Dollar Quartet, was spectacular. It’s a jukebox musical that dramatizes the 1956 impromptu recording session at Sun Records featuring Johnny Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. (The actor that played Jerry Lee was exceptional!) The other show during our cruise was Burn the Floor which features a variety of Latin dancing including the samba, rumba, etc. Definitely a show to see if you like lots of Latin Ballroom dancing.


NCL is unique in that guests can book dinner at a variety of restaurants at the time that works for them. Guests are not given a dining rotation with a specific time to eat. There were a variety of restaurants to choose from and most were very good. Some do require reservations and some are first come, first serve.

The buffet, while robust, was not memorable. It provided standard cruise fare and was a nice option for a snack.

I do want to mention the Mojito Bar. This bar specialized in, you guessed it… Mojito’s and they were yummy. My husband was a frequent visitor and tried each one : )


Unfortunately, during this trip, I got food poisoning and I do not know when/where this took place. And while I will not point fingers at the cruise line (it could have happened during an excursion), I was very disappointed by the lack of medical care. At 2:00AM I decided to hobble down to the nurses station only to be told they would not see me unless I paid $200 upfront and they would not take insurance. They didn’t even open the door! This was the piece de resistance for me. To not help someone in need unless you pay upfront (given that we’ve paid quite a bit to be on this ship in the first place) was unacceptable. I basically stayed in the room for the next day and half and didn’t recover until after I got home.

Excursions/Great Stirrup Cay

There were a decent number of excursions to choose from based on our three ports of call and I will write a separate post on this as these can apply to a variety of cruise lines. We did stop at NCL’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay, which was a lovely island but with too many zip lines. They do have many activities to choose from such as snorkeling, beach games, paddle board rentals, and cabanas for rent.

Be advised that NCL requires a tender boat to get from the ship to the island whereas some other cruises dock directly next to the island allowing guests easy access to the ship. The line to get onto the tender at the end of the day is long so plan accordingly. Also, there are no bike rentals on the island.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I was not impressed by this cruise line. I thought the overall communication with guests, both before and during the cruise, the issues with technology, the change in itinerary, and lack of pools/outdoor “space” were poor. I’m sure NCL has other ships that may be better equipped to offer a 7 day Caribbean cruise but this is not it.

Sunflower Butter, Hershey Kiss cookies

Who doesn’t love a yummy Christmas cookie? Baking Christmas cookies is one of my favorite activities at Christmas and this recipe is a family favorite. My kids love this cookie and let’s just say, they don’t last long in our house. But with both boys having a peanut allergy, I have to get creative and tweak the recipe a bit using Sunflower Butter, instead of peanut butter. To me, it tastes just a good as the original recipe but of course, you can use either butter option.

I’ve already made one batch and yes, they are now gone. Guess I’ll be making more of these in the coming weeks. Happy Baking, friends!


  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup Sunflower butter (or peanut butter, your choice)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Hershey Kisses to go on top
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the butter, sunflower butter, and sugars in a bowl until smooth and combined.
  3. Add in the egg and mix until smooth.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Slowly, add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and combine to form the cookie dough.
  6. Add a few tablespoons of sugar to a small, separate bowl.
  7. Scoop the dough into balls using about 1/5 Tbs of dough. Roll them between your hands and then into the sugar. Place them on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
  8. Bake for about 12 minutes. They should spread slightly and be golden on the bottom. Once baked, place the cookies on a cookie rack.
  9. Quickly, place a Hershey Kiss in the center of each cookie.

Enjoy, and try not to eat them all at once!

October: Outings and Occasions

Happy Halloween! How has your October been going? Ours has been pretty busy with school, work, football, and a few Halloween activities. I can’t believe that the holiday mad dash is about to kick off right after this. Does this energize you or do you find yourself dragging? Personally, it energizes me at the start and then by the time the holiday itself arrives, I’m over it.

Halloween at Home

My goal this year was to just pick and choose a few activities to do and Halloween decorations to put up. I wasn’t planning to break the bank on this one. I had plenty of decor left over from previous Halloweens and I added a few lights to round out the display. My kids are teenagers so Halloween has taken on a different feel. They still dress up and want candy but we don’t search for the perfect costume like we use to. A scary mask and some face paint usually does the trick. Still, our neighborhood goes all out and everyone sets up tables for the trick or treaters at the end of the driveway. I always make sure to have plenty of candy, allergy friendly items, and dog treats (love the dog costumes) on hand.

Below are a few Halloween touches that I placed on the table by our entryway.

The Entryway Table

Pumpkin Lights

Disney’s Magic Kingdom

This month, we went to Disney and Zoo Tampa, Creatures of the Night for some Halloween fun. I mean, Disney always goes all out and for some, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party is a must see if you’ve got little ones.

Tampa Zoo: Creatures of the Night

I cannot say enough about the Tampa Zoo (yes, that Zoo from Secrets of the Zoo on Nat Geo). The zoo itself is excellent and I recommend a visit on any day when you are in the Tampa area. But, they go all out on Halloween, and Christmas too.

From ‘scary’ costumes and haunted houses to themed food, treats, and entertainment, its an event not to be missed.

Scary Monsters
Through the Haunted Tunnel
Haunted House

Happy Halloween

Before the trick or treating starts, I always put together something fun and special for the kids, and for me and my husband. You are never too old to enjoy Halloween, right? Graveyard nachos and some brain juice should do the trick… I mean, the treat.