Something that I'd told myself I'd do more on this trip was just relax. So this morning, I got up, headed to the adult pool deck, got myself a cappuccino, and spent some time in a chair overlooking the water, reading. It was so peaceful, and I really enjoyed my time.
After some time, I went back to the room so that we could get ready, for Palo brunch! We were really looking forward to this. We'd eaten at Palo for dinner time one cruise and it didn't quite live up to our-especially DH's- expectations. But we'd heard great things about brunch, and we had some ship credit, so we went for it.
We checked in at the Palo/Remy desk, and waited for our name to be called in Meridian bar. When it was, we were walked through the food tables by a gentleman, who described the layout (seafood, cheeses, meats, fruits, pastries, desserts, etc) as he took us to our table.
Some holiday decor inside:
We were then introduced to our server Mariane, who explained to us that we could help ourselves to the buffet-style food that the host had shown us, and order what we wanted from the hot menu as well. Fair warning, oh reader. You know we like to eat, so don't be shocked at the amount of food. Just know we did not necessarily finish it all, but we had so many things we wanted to try.
We started with complementary mimosas (which was one of two drinks you could choose 1 of)
We placed our hot food orders, and then proceeded to the buffet items. One host standing at a metal warmer on a stand, made the lid open to say "eat me" or something like that, I can't quite remember what. But I definitely grabbed one of them, they were delicious!
I spent some time photographing everything before I really filled my plate up. DH also made a trip with my camera as well, so some are through his eyes.
Fair warning: MANY FOOD PHOTOS AHEAD!!
Meanwhile, our soups had arrived- tomato for me (delicious) and celery for DH (he liked it, but isn't a big soup person, so he didn't finish it all)
Marianne offered to take our photo for us, which resulted in a photo I love:
We were right near a window (but a booth obviously so much better than the tables right next to the windows), so we enjoyed looking out to sea. We were moving very slowly and could see other boats from time to time.
Then some of our hot foods started rolling out...Eggs benedict for me
Much to Marianne's dismay, like I mentioned earlier, we weren't able to finish much of what we ordered. It doesn't take long at buffet style meals to get me full, and DH was still trying to pace himself so that he could try multiple items, and we had some left yet to come out! Once we explained this to Marianne, she was fine...she had just been worried that items were not to our liking, but trust me-they were! I don't think there was one item I didn't like! (out of the things I tried, that is...I'm not a seafood eater so can't comment on that)
Chicken parm. We had heard such good reviews on this item, and it was really good!! (though DH still says the one he makes here at home is better).
A lasagna of some sort. DH likes to get his money's worth at all-you-care-to-eat places, just saying.
So, hopefully you are not too tired of food photos, because after brunch, we went back to the room to change, and I got the suitcases packed-everything we wouldn't need that evening or next morning. We also attended the show that evening, because it was a new one for us since our last sailing- Beauty and the Beast.
After that, it was dinner--tonight in Enchanted Garden, and that's where my photos pick back up again- with more food, sorry not sorry?
Our tablemates were cracking us up on their tale from their Remy experience (Crystal was not a fan because she's a self-proclaimed very picky eater but Dane loved it). I also recall that we needed to explain all about the debarkation process to them, because they didn't know that any bags that you wanted DCL to move off the ship, needed to be in the hallway by 9pm that evening, which they probably wouldn't make!
I started with the Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tower (this was a first for me) and I loved it!
and I also had the Thyme and Garlic Brioche with mushrooms and leek stew w/ buttermilk cream, also very good
DH had the lobster ravioli
For mains, I went with the slow roasted prime rib...meh
And DH was feeling seafoody, so he got 2 dishes- the scallops and the sea bass
For dessert, I know DH ordered two things, I ordered one thing, and then our server brought out a cake to celebrate our Anniversary (which our travel agent must have put on our reservation because it is actually in August). Incidentally, I forgot to mention that on the second night, our tablemates- Dane specifically- mentioned that us ordering more than one item in each category the night before blew his mind--he never knew you could do that!
We thanked our server and assistant server, said goodbye to Dane & Crystal, and made for our room.
The final picture I have from the cruise portion of our trip, is the blanket animal left for us by our stateroom attendant:
The following morning, we ate at Enchanted Garden (if you want to sit-down eat, breakfast is available at the place you ate dinner the night prior). After that, it was a fairly easy debarkation. This was the first time we decided not to do the Express Walk-off, where you can leave the ship as soon as its cleared by customs, but you have to take all of your belongings with you, DCL will not take any luggage for you. So there was a bit of a line, that we weren't used to, but it moved just fine, and as we were not heading home, we weren't in a rush.
One thing that I forgot to mention on the cruise side of the trip report--
our Mixology partners were on the tram from Serenity Bay to the family beach, and then after I got off there, continued on with DH to the ship. Then on our final night, while I was in our stateroom relaxing and reading, DH went up to the smoking deck off of Meridian, and ran into them out there. They shared their bottle of champagne with DH, which was made by a friend of his. They chatted about cats, and that he was a WDW Cast Member who worked in a number of restaurants.
I was in the room, wondering what was taking him so long. He finally came back and said that they said I could join them, but since I was already in my bed mode, I declined. They were a very nice couple though!
So, after clearing customs, and departing the port, we were on our way to WDW! I chatted with my Dad a bit on the phone, and then found out via facebook that my best friend was still on property! She and her wife, and some cousins had spent a week at WDW but were delayed a day in going home due to a winter storm, so we decided to meet up once we got settled and knew our plans better.
On the way, upon looking in MDE app, I noticed we already had been assigned a room! That was a first!
At one point, as we were on WDW property, near AKL as I recall, the car ahead of us stopped to allow a car coming from the opposite direction, turning across us, to make the turn. Then the next car, and the next car, and the next car....I'm not exaggerating when I say he let at least a dozen cars, if not more go. Now, I'm all for letting a car or two go, but not when I'm in full motion and have to stop, especially with a car (us) right behind! It was ridiculous. I believe we even honked our horn, finally.
When we arrived at AKL Kidani Village, we parked in the garage, and took the elevator up. This was all new to us. It took us a bit to get our bearings, especially going from a parking structure to the elevator doors opening to the hallway of the lodge!
We found our room, but before using our Magic Bands to unlock the door, we noticed that there was a Magical Express envelope still hanging on the ****. We didn't want to enter if the room was still occupied, and as it was so early in the morning, we were wondering if it was a mistake that we got the room assignment so early.
So we headed down to the front desk to inquire, and the CM there checked on the computer and said that the previous guests were checked out. But he came with us to the room to be sure. Sure enough, the room was clean and ready for us, so not sure why the housekeeping staff didn't take the envelope off of the door?
That solved, we unpacked a bit and I took some pictures of the room.
Something DH just reminded me of, regarding the night he was out at the bar deck with our Mixology mates...he did try to contact me using DCL's cruise app (think MDE but for cruises...it has showtimes, your reservations, menus, etc). Since there isn't cell service out to sea, you use this app while your phone is in airplane mode. You can select friends that you can text through the app. What we didn't know, is to text someone, they have to have the app open in the background. So I never received his messages. Had I gotten them earlier, I would've gladly joined him/them. Just in case anyone is cruising, thought this might be good info.
So after bringing our luggage in the room, and freshening up a bit, we headed out to explore. Our main motive for staying at AKL for this one night, was our thinking that while we always wanted to stay here, we weren't sure if it made the most sense for us when our trip involved visiting the parks (as this one would not). Not being sure if we'd get the chance to stay here again, we definitely wanted to explore what it had to offer. We started out taking in the views on the different balconies/terraces.
We wandered around, inside mostly, at first. We walked down one hallway until we realized that it was just rooms. We did take time to look at all of the various art displays on the walls here and there.
We didn't make it up to the Jambo House, but the Kidani Village lobby is beautiful as well.
So, we got a bit confused though. Even though it was pretty cold, we wanted to at least see the Kidani pool and pool area. But we couldn't find it! We saw the sign for it but just could not make sense of where to go for it. We ended up walking all of the halls, down to the first floor, everywhere.
We shopped for a bit in the gift shop, since we had no clue where we needed to go. As crazy cat people, we liked this cat pin set.
So, after wandering around for so long, we finally asked at the front desk, how to get to the pool, and he directed us. Walking there, I took a few pics. Once we got there, we just looked around the area, and at the bar. It was pretty cold so I don't recall anyone being in the pool.
So as we were standing near this area, we noticed an observation point to look out over the savannah. There was a CM standing there, I assume to talk about the animals or answer questions. She noticed my camera, and asked if I wanted some close up pictures, so I said sure. She waved us over and let us through a set of double gates, and we were on the savannah level! The pictures didn't turn out quite as nice as I'd hoped, because being on that level meant that there was a fence right in front of us, but it was so very nice of her! We did catch her name, but I'm not going to mention it, because DH asked her if we had to keep it on the down-low or could we tell people she let us in and she said not to. Not sure if she was joking but I will keep her name out of it, lol.
You'll have to pardon the blur on the lower part of the pics--it was the fence.
We walked along the building, just outside the fence of the savannah, talking with the CM. After a bit, we turned and went back out with her, and thanked her for the special magic.
After that, we headed back to our room. I think we both attempted naps but only mine took (which is weird because I don't typically nap and DH does). Regardless, my nap was probably only around 45 mins or so. Then I showered, we got changed and headed out for our evening. It being so cold sure messed with what I had planned to wear, so I had to change my outfit plans, which took me awhile because of my limited wardrobe (basically anything that was still clean from the cruise), but we also tried to stick with things that would be appropriate for our dinner (unlike many other people that had the same dinner, but we'll get to that...)
Once that was sorted, we headed to the bus stop (again had to ask where to go). It took quite a bit for our bus to get there, because we had jusssst missed the MK bus. It probably was a bit longer than 20 minutes, so we were a little later than we meant to be...where were we going?
She and her wife had been there all week, but their flight got delayed due to weather in Pittsburgh, so they weren't leaving until that night. So we met up at Captain Cook's at the Poly. We had a blast chatting for a bit, and learning that Penny and Mel bought into DVC that stay!! (This will come into play in the pre-trip report I will be starting soon)
After visiting a bit, we parted ways because they had to make their way to the airport. I wanted to introduce DH to Trader Sam's. Penny and I had such a great time there a few trips back. We put our name on the list but were given quite a big wait time. We weren't even sure if we'd have time to get in, but we hung around and shopped in the gift shop there and before too long we were paged, much sooner than expected. We were told it was standing room, but we managed to find seats with some other people. We shared the Hippopotomaitai. I don't think DH enjoyed it as much as I did, but the drink was good (if expensive). We didn't really stay too long, as it was quite crowded. Plus, we needed to take the monorail to scoot over to the Contemporary for dinner.
Once there, we shopped for a bit, and through texting with my sister, found a Moana doll and a Rapunzel doll for my niece for Christmas (though we didn't purchase it here, we would do that tomorrow at DS). We also looked at the gingerbread house.
Then we checked in for dinner- our first time at California Grill!
When we checked into the podium, the lady informed DH that once in the elevator he would have to remove his hat (it was a fedora type, not a ball cap, just for reference), which he knew and was already planning to do. He always removes his hat for meals.
Once we got upstairs and to our table, met our server, we looked around. There were MANY people in shorts, hats, tank tops, etc. So while I didn't mind the reminder about the hat so much, I stressed over finding from my limited amount of clothes, something that would be considered appropriate for Cali Grill. So I wasn't really pleased with this aspect of our dinner already.
Braised beef short rib wontons....so good!
DH had the Two Ducks One Stone, so this was the duck confit with scallion pancakes course.
The waiter had asked us if we wanted to wait until after the fireworks for our meals, or did we want him to bring them out. We told them to bring them out, but thankfully, he didn't quite listen but it worked out better. After we finished this course, we went out to the observation area.
While the fireworks were amazing, as always, aside from the couple beside us who took photos of themselves the entire time, it was also freeeeeezing out there so I was glad when it was time to come back in and finish dinner!