Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Disney Cruise to Alaska Trip Review ~ Part 9 ~ Final Sea Day

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. What to do on this last day? Don't sulk! It's not over until it's over, and Disney keeps the activities and fun flowing. Explore the beautiful ship, and stop walking by the future cruise sales desk...you know you want to book it, so do! There are special discounts and perks for booking on board, and you can change this booking to sail up to 24 months in the future, so why not? There is no better cure at the end of a vacation than to have a new one on the horizon.
How about taking in a first run move at the Buena Vista theater?
Maybe there's time for one last swim or specialty coffee.
Since you're away from a port, the shops are open and happy to help you finish up last minute shopping.
Dinner is a special event the final night, and seems to always offer Beef Wellington.
This almost makes the last night on board tolerable.
 The staff put on one final show in the dining room and then there's a farewell show in the Walt Disney Theater. Trivia!
This one comes up quite a bit, so here's some freebie points for you. What was changed in the picture of Walt Disney at the entrance to the theater? (he originally had a cigarette in his hand).
Our final show was a special one, since it was a Vacation Club Member's Cruise, and we were treated with performers that had been in Disney Broadway productions such as Mary Poppins, Tarzan and Lion King.
One more glass of wine on the balcony and one more Alaskan moon topped of a perfect vacation.

(Disembarkation tip! They will want you to put out your bags in the evening, (except for carry ons) and attach on them character tags that will determine when you're supposed to get off the ship. The idea is you leave your room for breakfast, never to return, then hang around and totally clog up all walkways and open areas on the ship until it is time for your character to leave. You then go find your luggage in a giant place that has tons of luggage divided up by the characters. After going through this several times, we discovered it's just easier to carry our own luggage off the ship. No having to put pajamas, etc., in the carry on to carry off since the regular bags were long gone. We went to breakfast very early, left the bags in the room, then just grabbed it all and walked off. The hardest part of this is getting past the folks who were trying to figure out what line to be in to co-ordinate with their character. The only bonus to having your bags taken off the ship for you is to save you a bit of walking with them. Really not worth the hassle in my opinion. We found it much easier to just carry all our stuff off, so will do that from now on)











Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pumpkin Cheesecake ~ Disneyland Resort ~ My Take

As a huge pumpkin fan, I was happy to see the Disney Parks Blog publish six great pumpkin recipes from Disneyland. This is one of those, and it's a big winner. Available seasonally at many locations, such as Jolly Holiday Bakery CafĂ© and French Market, it's always best eaten in the park, but if you want a flavorful taste from your favorite spot, but aren't able to make it there, this recipe will fit the bill.

Crust Ingredients
1 1/2cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup melted butter

Cheesecake Filling
3 (8ounce) blocks cream cheese, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
15-ounce can pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
5-ounce can evaporated milk
chocolate syrup, for drizzling

In a bowl, combine crushed graham cracker, sugar and ginger. Melt the butter and stir into mixture. Spray bottom and sides of a 9"springform pan. Press crust mixture into bottom of pan using your hands. Place pan on a large piece of foil and wrap tightly up sides and around pan

Cheesecake Filling
Preheat oven to 325. Beat cream cheese, brown sugar and granulated sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment ( I don't have a paddle attachment, so just used the regular beaters). Scrape down sides of bowl.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl. In another bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg until well combined.
 Add pumpkin mixture to cream cheese mixture, beating until well combined. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add evaporated milk, mixing well.
Slowly pour cheesecake filling onto crust mixture in prepared pan. Drizzle with chocolate syrup.
Place foil wrapped pan inside a larger roasting pan. Place on center rack and carefully add enough hot water to reach halfway up sides of springform pan.
Bake 1 hour, or until center moves only slightly when shaken. Turn oven off and crack open oven door. Allow to cool inside oven for 1 hour, then remove pan from water bath and cool on wire rack. Cover top of pan with foil and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
Wrapping foil around springform pan prevents from the water bath from getting into the cheesecake. The slow cooling inside the oven prevents cheesecake top from cracking.
My take: This was a softer cheesecake than you traditionally see. I may have added a bit too much evaporated milk since I only had a full size can and guessed. Allowing it to cool in the over worked like a champ! Not a bit of cracking on the top. My springform pan is 10" so the cheesecake was a bit 'flatter' than I'd like. Next time, I'll prebake the crust a bit to set it so it stays crisper, as I found the crust a tad soggy. This is just a nitpick...this is a great full pumpkin flavor cheesecake.







Monday, September 14, 2015

Disney Cruise to Alaska Trip Review ~ Part 8 ~ Ketchikan

Welcome to my favorite port! Ketchikan, another town in Alaska only accessible by boat or plane,  is at the base of 3,000 foot Deer Mountain. Ketchikan's economic past of being a logging town is now focused on fishing (Salmon Capital of the World) and tourism.

We experienced three excursions at this port: Mountain Point Snorkeling Adventure, Duck Tour and Lumberjack Show. All were well worth the time and price.
The Duck tour begins with a city tour loaded with fun facts. For example, in Ketchikan many houses are located along steep staircases, which are classified as streets. Yes, that means that Postal employees get to trek up steep staircases that go on and on, to deliver the mail and city employees get to clear them of snow. As the guide pointed out, you only forget your car keys in your house once.

Ketchikan has very temperate weather, with lows in winter only averaging in the 30's. What you might find unbearable is the wind, which whips the city with fury.
Off we went into the water for a tour of the area around the bay. This is a great place to see bald eagles, as there is a fishery right at water's edge which provides plenty of food.

The town area is loaded with shops with much the same mass produced stuff as the other ports. There are some nicer upscale shops, but it seems the area has been overbuilt and some shops had an air of desperation trying to get you to come in.
The Lumberjack show is well done and rousing with the "US" competing against "Canada". Where you sit in the stadium determines which team you root for.
 The snorkeling excursion is reached by a 30 minute ride, and you are provided with dry suits. Another well done experience, not cold as you'd think, and a highlight of the trip for those who enjoy snorkeling.
Who wouldn't like to remember their Ketchikan day with this Disney totem pole?
Farewell, Ketchikan...I hope to see you again one day.











Friday, September 4, 2015

Disney Cruise to Alaska Trip Review ~ Part 7 ~ Juneau

Bright and early in Juneau! We all started flowing off the boat about 8 AM, heading off to adventures. We chose the Mendenhall Glacier and Rainforest Garden for our excursion.

The capital of Alaska, Juneau is named after gold prospector Joseph Juneau, and is classified as a rainforest. You can only get to Juneau by sea or air, as there are no roads connecting the city to the rest of the state.
Our first stop was Rainforest Garden, an area reclaimed after flooding and entirely man made. You're taken through the area on little expanded golf cart vehicles...think Disney's parking trams. Listen to the guide and learn many great details about how Steve Bowhay single handedly created this magical garden.
 A highlight of the gardens are the unique Flower Towers, which are dead trees uprooted and sunk into the ground,  then made alive again with flower gardens planted among the roots.
As a side note, we found the delightful little gift shop to have the most authentic and reasonably priced local made items on our entire cruise, so check it out.
Back on the bus and off to the stunning Medenhall Glacier. This is a s close to a glacier as you can get without taking a more adventure filled excursion.

Although you can see the glacier from the visitor area, take the time for the short and easy hike along Nugget Falls Trail. There are several options to hike and explore, but Nugget Falls seems the most moderate with the best and quickest access to the glacier and waterfall.

Up close and personal you'll find yourself marveling at the gorgeous glacier while feeling the spray of Nugget Falls. Simply stunning. We did hear a large crack from the glacier while on the trail, but did not see any calving.
If you have time, explore the well laid out Visitor Center for a short film, interactive exhibits and to feel Mendenhall Glacier Ice (which feels a lot like Tracy Arm Ice.)
It's nice to be back on the boat for a relaxing evening, sip on a the Drink of the Day (Farmer Fusion Colada) and enjoy Toy Story the Musical, the evening show.