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January 2016 Archives

January 4, 2016

Celebrating New Years Eve at Universal Orlando

Deb's Digest Blog

(There aren't as many photos as I would normally have in blog like this, but I didn't plan to do a write up. However, after seeing some of our Facebook photos, I started getting lots of questions so ... here you go!!!)

Yes, you read that right, I celebrated New Years Eve at Universal this year. Allow me to explain how that came to be.

About 4 years ago we did NYE inside of Epcot. I'm glad I did, I don't need to do it again. In fact, I decided that I didn't want to celebrate inside a park anytime soon.

Last year we were lucky enough to have our Bay Lake Tower wait-list come through and celebrated NYE at the Top of the World! It was great fun and didn't have the crush of people like the theme parks would.

So for 2015, I totally missed the first couple days to book Bay Lake Tower and thus wait-listed two types of rooms (the max you can wait-list). Unfortunately, neither of those came through this time. What to do?! The only type of non-theme park event at Disney was at California Grill for $600/per person. Much more than we wanted to spend. We might have been tempted by the Countdown to Midnight Party at the Yacht and Beach Club (announced in December) if it had been announced much earlier plus initially you had to have a room reservation (which we didn't have).

About mid-October friends from the West Coast told us they were coming to Orlando and had gotten tickets to the Portofino Hotel (at Universal Orlando) NYE Party in the piazza. It sounded great. So, we purchased tickets and booked a room at the Lowes Portofino Bay Hotel. (Still secretly hoping our wait list for BLT would come thru).

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We have never stayed at Universal and thought this was a good reason to try. We already had Florida Resident Annual Passes so tickets weren't an issue. Booking at their equivalent of a Deluxe resort, we got not only 1 hour early entry to the Harry Potter areas each morning but we also got Universal Express Passes (think FastPass+ without having to plan).

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The Marina view room at Portofino was less than a Disney deluxe resort during regular season. The cost of the Universal Express Pass Unlimited for both parks for the 4 days we were there would have cost over $700! So when we added it all up, we thought it was a good deal!

So let's fast-forward to December 31st! We had our $149/each tickets for the Party in the Piazza - a wonderful area of the Portofino hotel overlooking the harbor. The theming was very well done! The party began at 8:30pm but you could check in and be seated around 8ish. Yes, there were assigned seats/tables - but listen to this.

About 5 days earlier we get a phone call from the resort confirming we were attending the party. Then we were asked if there were any others who had purchased tickets that we would like to sit with!!! Why, yes, there are two other couples. What are their names? Ok, I found them and we'll make sure you are seated together. I almost fell off my chair!!! Seriously!

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We arrived got checked in, handed a wine glass and were escorted to our seats, a very nice table for 6! We were thrilled. There was time to wander around and check out the food and beverage offerings and get our photo with the ice sculpture.

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At 8:30 all stations began serving. Think of it as a mini-party for the senses but with guaranteed seating.
The ticket price got you unlimited food, a large assortment of white and red Italian wines, bottled water and sodas. If you wanted beer or spirits, there was a cash bar. There were 2 bars (each with 2-3 bartenders) and there was never more that a few people in front of you waiting. Each of the restaurants at the resort had food stations set up. There were multiple stations on both sides of the table area serving the same items and again, barely any waiting for food.

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A DJ played the entire night so if you wanted to dance you could go over to that area and enjoy~!

Everyone working the event was friendly and in a great mood. The folks clearing plates always asked if you were done before removing them. Tables stayed clean.

We all agreed the food was most excellent. The small plates included: short rib on toasted polenta cake, baby lamb chops (omg, I don't like lamb and these were amazing and so tender) with an herbed polenta, a seafood pasta, seabass, arranchini (rice balls with tomato sauce), very tender Prime Rib and a couple other things I can't remember.

And then the desserts -- we were blown away by the dessert arranged for the party. All tiny bite size pieces of goodness so you could sample lots of items and not waste food! Plus there was a huge Bananas Foster station which we never made it to.

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Around 11:30 party hats, noisemakers and lighted glow sticks (about 2 feet long) were handed out. Of course, there was a countdown and then a short fireworks display at midnight.

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We all agreed this party was well worth the $149 price tag and would love to return sometime.

Thank you Portofino for a fantastic evening.


January 26, 2016

La Nouba - Worth Seeing -- Again!!!

Deb's Digest Blog

Recently I had the opportunity to see Cirque Du Soleil's La Nouba at Disney Springs. Although I had seen it twice before, it's been more than 10 years since my last visit.

Since the show debuted in 1998, La Nouba has entertained more than 9 million guests at more than 7,100 shows. More than 20 percent of the current La Nouba cast are original performers. I was pleased to see some of my favorites are still there, but there are also two brand-new acts that recently have debuted. (Both appeared relatively early in the show, which kind of surprised me.)

B-Boy

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B-Boy is a trio that performs acrobatic tricks and moves, including flips and spins, to music. Think "Break Dancing!" "Josh Ortiz (“Incredible Josh”), Jean Carlos Lloret (“Bebo”) and Dmytro Li (“Flying Buddha”) hail respectively from the Bronx, N.Y., the Boston area and Ukraine and are performing together for the first time. All three have been dancing since their youth and bring their own unique styles to the act."

I'll be honest, while I was entertained, to me this isn't the jaw-dropping act that most are, but the tweens sitting behind me certainly enjoyed it a great deal!

Aerial Bamboo

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Now the other new act, Aerial Bamboo, is most definitely jaw-dropping! Although this is the first U.S. appearance for the Russian couple, they have traveled the world performing their gymnastic and acrobatic acts. The Aerial Bamboo art form originated in China. The pole is suspended from the ceiling and was originally made of bamboo. However, now the pole is stainless steel, and when you see the act, you'll wonder how it was ever done with bamboo!

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Mesmerizing from beginning to end, I sat on the edge of my chair intently watching as the couple performed. At one point, Ekaterina is held only by her husband - his arms, feet and teeth, as he hangs by his feet or arms above the stage. And, mind you, there is NO net underneath them that I saw!

I was thinking Aerial Bamboo was my new favorite La Nouba act until my other favorites took the stage.

The Diabolos

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Diabolo is a Chinese yo-yo and is a children's game. The four youngsters hold two sticks (with a string between) and juggle the wooden spool in amazingly complex and difficult maneuvers. I was so glad to see they are still part of La Nouba.

The Aerial Ballet in Silk

The silks -- which combine physical beauty, strength and grace -- arguably are one of the most recognized acts in La Nouba. As the performer ran across the stage, it was as if he were running on clouds and just floated in the air. The artist truly becomes one with the fabric throughout his performance.

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Last but certainly not least, the Titan and the Power Track/Trampoline.

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You will see the solitary Titan lurking throughout most of the show. He is an intriguing character.

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I remember the firsts time I saw this act I could have sworn he was walking vertically up the side of the building. This high energy acrobatic display does not disappoint!

The blockbuster performances are interspersed with short, comedic acts, such as the "clowns." They were very funny at first, but as the show went on I wished their bit was shorter.

Adding to the one-of-a-kind performances is the fact that the music and songs are performed by live musicians and an amazing singer. Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba, which is performed exclusively at Disney Springs, is simply outstanding entertainment. If you have never seen it, or haven't seen it in a while, put it you your list! It can be a date night that includes one of the many places to eat at Disney Springs or an evening for the whole family to enjoy, perhaps followed by a visit to Ghiradeli.

Purchase tickets by calling 407-939-7600 or via My Disney Experience, or via the web: https://shop.omniticket.com/wdw/wcq/

There are four categories of seating in the theater. Tickets range from approximately $65 to $155 (including tax) for guests 10 and older. For children ages 3 to 9, prices range from $53 to $125. Periodically, discounts are made available to Florida residents and Disney Vacation Club members. For section and seating information, visit: https://shop.omniticket.com/wdw/wcq/seating.cfm

Shows are held most Tuesdays through Saturdays at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. The show is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes with no intermission.

Here is a preview of La Nouba:

All photographs and video property of Cirque du Soleil.

DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of Cirque du Soleil for the La Nouba performance I attended in January 2016. This did not affect my review; my opinions are my own.

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About January 2016

This page contains all entries posted to Deb's Digest in January 2016. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2015 is the previous archive.

February 2016 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.