Disney Vacation Club Archives

March 12, 2018

Disney Vacation Club's Moonlight Magic


Gary Fisher
AllEars® Guest Blogger

How often have you wished that you could have the Magic Kingdom all to yourself with no lines? Moonlight Magic is a complimentary, after-hours event offered to Disney Vacation Club Members that comes close to doing just that.

We participated in Moonlight Magic at the Magic Kingdom on February 6. The event lasted from 9 p.m. until midnight, but Members and their guests could enter the Magic Kingdom as early as 6 p.m. without a regular ticket, and were given a special arm band like for some other after-hours events. These are distributed at the main gate, at DVC resorts, and at one of more locations inside the park for those guests who are already inside. The full party must be present and a photo ID and DVC Membership Card must be presented. A guide map is provided that lists attractions that are open, special activities, and locations for food and refreshments.

Most popular attractions were open with very short or no lines. They actually started letting people with arm bands enter attractions when the park officially closed at 8 p.m. We rode Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan (no wait!), Voyage of the Little Mermaid, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (also no wait!). Splash Mountain was the only major attraction that was not open.

DVC provided free refreshments at several locations, including hot dogs, chicken nuggets, snacks, beverages, and Mickey ice cream bars. We enjoyed a quick meal at Columbia Harbour House, and then later got a Mickey bar at Storybook Circus.

One unique feature of Moonlight Madness is an abundance of photos with characters, found at 15 stations around the Magic Kingdom. The photos are taken by Disney's PhotoPass photographers, which for anyone with a Gold or better Annual Pass means free photo downloads.


What's great is not just that there are so many photo stations, but that they include characters that are rarely seen, such as Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed from The Lion King; Esmeralda and Clopin from The Hunchback of Notre Dame; Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, and Little John from Robin Hood; the Big Bad Wolf and Three Little Pigs; and many others. We saw long lines for Moana and Oogie Boogie (from The Nightmare Before Christmas), and I am sure others were as popular, but the lines we waited in were reasonable.

All of the characters were very personable and took plenty of time to interact with each guest, listening to comments and responding with gestures. Watching the Hippos and Ostriches from Fantasia interact with guests was a comedy show all by itself. We had photos with Baloo & King Louie, Mickey and Minnie, and Marie. Marie’s cat gestures magically brought back memories of the affection from our own beloved cats from many years ago.

The climax of the evening was at 11:30 p.m. -- an exclusive and spectacular fireworks show that was as good as any we have seen at Disney World over the last 45 years. The mix of music and fireworks was perfect, with impressive aerial choreography. We watched from New Fantasyland, which allowed a great view of those fireworks above Cinderella Castle as well as the high ones from behind Fantasyland. Although you don't get the combined view like you do from Main Street USA, one advantage to this location is that you are almost directly beneath the biggest fireworks.


DVC has been presenting Moonlight Magic for about two years now. These events have been held at a specific park over a few nights only once a year and have capacity limits, so snagging a reservation is difficult. DVC opens up reservations a few months before an event, and allows for up to the number of guests on a resort reservation, or six total people if not staying on property. Those with confirmed DVC resort reservations get priority before the event is opened to other Members, and the events always fill to capacity quickly. Only Members who are fully eligible for DVC Perks can make a reservation, and must be present to enter the event.

We are fortunate to have also attended Moonlight Magic at Animal Kingdom (September 2016) and Epcot (December 2017) during prior trips, so we have seen it develop and become better each time. Each event included the most popular attractions, some food and refreshments, music performances, a dance party, character photos, and a chance to meet DVC executives. The food offerings have improved each time we have attended, with the Magic Kingdom having the best options yet, including some vegetarian selections.

The Animal Kingdom Moonlight Magic was the most laid back, which fit the setting of that park. Our highlight that night was a nighttime Kilimanjaro Safari. The Epcot evening included most attractions in Future World, plus Mexico and Norway, and also had custom fireworks at 11:45 p.m. The fireworks were not as good as those we saw in Magic Kingdom, but they were still "ours." Epcot's event went until 1 a.m., so it was really surreal to wander an almost empty Future World at that time of night. Our most interesting experience that evening was viewing the Pixar Shorts right at 1 a.m. with fewer than 10 people.

We will do any of these Moonlight Magic events again if we get an opportunity. Like the Disney parks, it is hard to say which one is "best," but the Magic Kingdom was our best yet, with Epcot a close second.

If you are a DVC Member, check out the upcoming events on the DVC Member pages. If you are not a DVC Member, find one who will invite you to tag along!

Read about the Moonlight Magic experience at Animal Kingdom!

August 26, 2014

Recreation and Relaxation at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

Andrew Rossi

While Part One focused on an overview of Disney's Vero Beach Resort, we will now start to delve into all that the resort has to offer. The resort is really one that caters to all types of vacationers, from those who are looking to stay constantly active to those that just want to relax. It is the type of vacation destination that allows you to do as much (or as little) as you like.


Enjoying the Sun and Surf on the Beach:
One of the most alluring aspects of Disney's Vero Beach Resort is its location on Florida's Atlantic coastline. No matter where you are at the resort, you are just a short walk away from the beach. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rent, but resort guests are also allowed to bring their own chairs. For those looking to play on the waves, boogie boards, sailboats, jet skis, kayaks, and banana boats are all available for rent at the beach as well.


Playing by the Pool:
For those that would rather spend their time by the pool than on the beach, the resort offers plenty of space to lounge and relax. The pool area has numerous lounge chairs available, but there is more to do here than just soak up the sun.


Dominating the pool area is the "Pirate's Plunge," this 163-foot water slide spirals around the pool's signature lighthouse and can be enjoyed by all members of the family. Keep an eye out for the "Pool Games" on the recreation schedule because this is where, amongst other activities, children and adults alike can be timed coming down the slide to see who can get from top to bottom the fastest.


Adjacent to the water slide is the Tiger Lily Play Area. This is a special splash zone for children where they can play on a pirate ship complete with water cannons and their own miniature water slide.


For those kids that want to play out of the water, there is also a nearby playground.


The kids can also keep themselves entertained in the air condition of the nearby Blinkers Arcade.


In this same area, guests can also find Port Holes, a nine-hole miniature golf course themed to Peter Pan. While not up to the same quality as Fantasia Gardens or Winter Summerland at Disney World, this course is still fun and entertaining. Plus, a round of golf for non-DVC Members is just $2 and only $1 for DVC Members.


As guests make their way around the course they have to navigate around ships wheels, treasure chests, and shark fins. A couple of the holes are actually quite challenging.

If you are looking for a little more activity in your day, the pool area is also where you can also find the Anchors A-Weigh fitness center, which features a good variety of exercise equipment.


One final component of the pool area is Eb and Flo's Rentals. This is where guests can visit for any of their recreational needs. A good number of the rentals available are actually complimentary. Among these are shuffleboard (which can be played on the adjacent court), tennis racquets, basketballs and footballs, as well as bocce and croquet. These latter two can be played on the resort's beautiful sports lawn right in front of the Inn.


This lawn is actually named Lasorda Field after former Dodger's manager Tommy Lasorda. It is yet another way the resort pays homage to the history of Vero Beach, which form many years served as the home of Dodger's Spring Training.


Eb and Flo's is also where you can rent bicycles. At just $5 an hour for DVC Members and $7 for non-Members, bicycles are a great way of getting out and seeing some of the area surrounding the resort. There are actually a few bike trails that are located near the resort that take you along the Indian River and allow you to enjoy more of the natural beauty of the area.

Eb and Flo's also has a variety of board games available to rent. These are complimentary and can be brought back to the guest rooms to play. If you are looking for DVD and Blu-Ray rentals, these are available (and also complimentary) at the Island Grove Packing Co. in the resort's lobby.

The Lake Side:
Just across the street from the resort is additional recreational area for guests to enjoy. Situated around a beautiful lake, this area is accessible via a tunnel than runs beneath the street.


With most guests enjoying the beach or the pool, this area may go unnoticed by many but actually has a lot to offer. This is where you will find the resort's tennis and basketball courts as well as areas for beach volleyball and soccer.





Around the lake guests can also find the Treasure Trail. This is a quiet nature trail that allows guests to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Throughout the trail there are a number of signs that point out the various flora and fauna native to the area.


The Spa:
If you want to pamper yourself while on vacation, then The Spa at Disney's Vero Beach Resort is the place for you. The spa is located right inside the Inn adjacent to the lobby. Featuring everything from messages and facials to manicures and pedicures, the spa takes relaxation to a whole new level.


Organized Activities and Excursions:
Disney's Vero Beach Resort features a variety programs that are great for all members of the family. For kids, there are a number of organized activities just for them. Among these are the Disney Discovery Club, which is for children ages 4 to 12 and allows them to take part in scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, outdoor activities, and other fun programs. For older kids there is the Teen Geo Challenge, where teens ages 13 to 19 learn new skills on a resort-wide scavenger hunt using GPS technology. There are also TeeNightz where teens ages 13 to 19 gather for a night of sports, games, and trivia around the campfire.

For the entire family there are adventures that take place both at the resort and the surrounding areas. Fishing Fundamentals allows guests to learn the basics of fresh water fishing at the resort's private lake. The Lagoon Adventure takes guests to the nearby Environmental Learning Center at the Indian River Lagoon for a hands-on interactive experience. Here guests will have the opportunity to catch and release a number of different native fish and get up close encounters with other native wildlife. The Kayak Adventure also takes guests to the Indian River Lagoon for an afternoon paddling around the lagoon's waterways and small islands. There is also the Pelican Island Bike Tour that allows guests ages twelve and up to explore the nation's first wildlife refuge along with a naturalist who will help identifying the many plants and birds native to the area.

If you are visiting the resort from May to October there is also the Turtle Outing. This special excursion allows guests to learn more about sea turtles and get an up-close view of them during nesting season. Turtle Troop is a similar experience just for kids ages 7 to15 where they learn about sea turtles as they walk on the beach, identify tracks, and discuss nesting behaviors.

The resort's recreational offerings even continue into the night with a campfire every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday evening. Ingredients for S'mores are available for purchase.

The Surrounding Area:
With so much to do at the resort many guests may just opt to stay there, but the surround area offers even more to see and do. Nature lovers can enjoy the beauty of Sebastian Inlet State Park, the Sebastian River Preserve, and the McKee Botanical Gardens. For those looking to do a little shopping there is the nearby Indian River Mall (which also features an AMC Movie Theater) as well as the Outlets at Vero Beach. The surrounding area also features a number of both private and public golf courses as well as a wide variety of restaurants.

With so many different activities and excursions available both at the resort and the surrounding areas, Disney's Vero Beach Resort offers something for everyone. Whether you are visiting the resort following a trip to Disney World and just need to relax and wind down or maybe a stay at Vero Beach is your vacation, there is more than enough to do that will keep all members of the family entertained. No matter what you do while visiting, one thing you can expect from Disney's Vero Beach Resort is that the service and quality are up to the high standards you would expect from any other Disney resort.

See past blog entries by guest blogger Andrew Rossi here.

March 28, 2014

Disney Vacation Club Member Magic at Splitsville


by David Abel
AllEars® Guest Blogger

Back in February, Disney Vacation Club announced "Member Magic," featuring a collection of discounts and events especially for Vacation Club members. One of the new events featured is Member Night at Splitsville Luxury Lanes™ at Downtown Disney. My traveling party during the Flower & Garden festival opted to experience this new event, so we booked a 5 p.m. session the first week of March. (At the time, there were 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. sessions. Now the DVC Members' website indicates only a 6 p.m. event.)

We arrived at Splitsville a few minutes early and checked in at the main desk, providing our names and shoe sizes. Once our shoes were ready, we were escorted to our lane, lane #1 along the windows on the first floor. We soon found out we'd be joined by another family bringing the total number of bowlers on our lane to eight!


As with any bowling outing, the event was only as fun as you make it. We had two full hours of bowling time, but with everything going on (including the food to be talked about shortly), we only bowled one full game and about four more frames.

With the package, which cost $188 for a party of four, we each received a 'Signature beverage' (a glass of beer or wine, or a refillable souvenir [soda] cup), a shared appetizer (one for every two people) and an entree. We ordered the Blazing Chicken and Alley Nachos for our appetizers, and then we ordered a Steak Fajita Bowl, Cheeseburger Deluxe and two Cheese Pizzas.

When a server came for our drink order, I asked for a raspberry ginger ale and was told they didn't have that. When I commented that I thought they had a 'Coke Freestyle' machine, I was told that wasn't included in our package, so we just ordered four regular sodas. The server brought us our beverages and then he never came back. I noticed DVC members at other lanes receiving the souvenir cups for the Freestyle machine. These members told me that the cups were included, so I asked the server taking care of the lane next to us, and she brought us our cups.

The food pretty much came all at once and we hardly had enough room on the table for all of it!


At the end of the event, we were given a 'bill' even though we had pre-paid. The waiter explained that we didn't need to pay it, but that it was only 'informational,' as gratuity was not included. On our way out, I asked about the 'special gift' listed on the website and we were each given a pair of Splitsville socks.

So how do I really feel about the event? Having been a Disney Vacation Club member since the very beginning, I must say this is the most disappointed I've been with anything related to DVC. Most of this disappointment falls directly on Splitsville, but some I feel also falls on DVC.

In the recent issue of Disney Files Magazine, there's a description of the event: "The special package includes an extended bowling time of an hour and 45 minutes with shoe rental, a shared appetizer, a select entree, a signature beverage and a special Disney Vacation Club gift, all for a fixed price that represents a significant savings off the regular cost of a standard bowling session with equivalent food and beverage. Special decor and entertainment, including music by Radio Disney, add to the festive atmosphere."

The 'extended bowling time of an hour and 45 minutes' is confusing as that's the time shown on Splitsville's website for 6-8 people, and we actually bowled for two hours. Maybe this is a misprint in the magazine.

The amount of food, coming as it did all at one time, was too much for the tables at the alleys, especially since we had eight people bowling and eating. I would have preferred to have the appetizers while we bowled, and then the entrees afterward (when our bowling clock was done ticking).

Maybe I set my expectations too high, but I don't really consider a pair of Splitsville socks to be a "special Disney Vacation Club gift." I was hoping for an exclusive pin designed for the event.

I also question whether the "fixed price represents a significant savings off the regular cost." As I said before, I was charged $188 for the four people in my party. By my calculations, the regular cost of our event was $213.80, indicating there was indeed a 12 percent savings. However, had we really been there "on our own," we would have used our Tables In Wonderland card on the food and beverages and we wouldn't have purchased the Splitsville socks. Our bill would have been $167.84, which would have been 10.7 percent less than the DVC's "significant savings" price.

As for the special decor, there were balloons tied to the ball returns. Maybe there was music by Radio Disney, but we didn't really pay notice to that. We didn't see or meet any representation of Disney Vacation Club, or anything that made it really special.

Splitsville was hosting a major reception event the night we were there, and the whole second floor was dedicated to that. I wonder if that event had not been going on, would we have had a different experience? I really hope other members have better feelings about this event than I did.

August 26, 2012

Ama Ama: Aulani's Signature Dining Experience

Andrew Rossi

In my last entry I talked about the various dining options available at Disney's Aulani resort in Ko Olina, Hawaii. Of all the restaurants at the resort, however, there is one that stands above the rest. If you were to only dine at one restaurant at Aulani, Ama Ama would be the one not to miss. The restaurant is to Aulani what California Grill is to the Contemporary or Yachtsman Steakhouse is to the Yacht Club resort, a fine dining experience that offers unparalleled service, atmosphere, and cuisine. At Aulani, Ama Ama provides a dining experience unlike any other and one that is truly unforgettable.


One of the greatest attributes of Aulani is its breathtaking location. Sitting right on the beach and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the resort highlights the natural beauty of its surroundings.


Aulani is also a resort meant to celebrate Hawaiian culture, history, and traditions. Ama Ama does both of these, showcasing the island's natural beauty and its unique culture. While Hawaiian heritage plays an important role in the restaurant's theming, it does so in more subtle ways. This starts with the restaurant's name as the ʻamaʻama is a tasty local fish immortalized in popular Hawaiian songs. Ama Ama celebrates not only the fish, but also the fishing settlements along the coast dating back to the 12th century. A very distinctive cuisine also plays an important role in Hawaiian culture and at Ama Ama the gourmet chefs use fresh local ingredients and island flavors to create dishes that combine both traditional and contemporary elements. What truly makes this restaurant special, however, is its location which helps make it a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience.

Location, location, location. At Ama Ama this is what takes precedence above all else. Situated right on the beach, the restaurant is designed to highlight the beautiful view.



What makes the dining room so unique is that it is open-air, which maximizes the views of the nearby ocean and allows you to enjoy the practically perfect Hawaiian weather.





Every table in the restaurant is positioned in a way to offer diners an optimal view. It is said a picture is worth a thousand words, and these pictures of Ama Ama do not even do it justice.




With an atmosphere that relies primarily on its tremendous views and location, there are few decorative elements and details inside. However, although very minimalist in style, the restaurant is not without a backstory. According to legend Auntie and Uncle (who are the fictional family incorporated in much of Aulani's lore) have a beach house with roots which go back to the 1800s. The original house was part of a fishing village and was added to over time as the family grew. Thus, each room represents a different generation and has a slightly different feel, going from the traditional to the more modern.

Throughout the restaurant there is subtle theming that pays homage to Hawaii's fishing heritage. For example, in one part of the dining room you can notice fishing nets draped from the ceiling rafters.


The restaurant also has a degree of refinement. In fact, just like when dining at a Signature restaurant in Disney World, there is a dress code. Men are asked to wear khakis, slacks, dress shorts, and collared shirts; for ladies capri pants, skirts, dresses, and dress shorts are acceptable. Those clothing items not permitted in the restaurant include tank tops, swimwear, men's hats, cut-off pants, and torn clothing.

This more refined feel is set as soon as you set foot inside Ama Ama. Diners enter the restaurant through a glass-enclosed entryway with a modern-looking light fixture.



The first element of the dining room that greets you is a beautiful fountain and reflecting pool.



There is even live entertainment for guests to enjoy during the course of their meal.


The dining room's overall upscale feel makes it geared more toward adults rather than families with small children. The restaurant's low lighting makes for a more romantic dining experience. Still, I found the overall atmosphere to be very calm and relaxing. Whether enjoying a beautiful Hawaiian sunset or dining under the stars, Ama Ama's atmosphere is absolutely awe inspiring; simply put, it is paradise.

The Menu:
Matching the restaurant's refined and upscale atmosphere is a gourmet menu that highlights traditional Hawaiian flavors and ingredients with a contemporary flare. While the menu rotates to highlight seasonal ingredients, the dinner menu focuses primarily on sustainable seafood as well as steak and pasta dishes.

For starters there is a Big Eye Tuna and Sea Asparagus Poke Martini ($18.00) that is finished tableside. Other appetizers offerings include the Hamakua Mushroom Tart ($16.00), the Ama Ama Seafood Platter ($26.00) featuring sustainable catch ceviche, crab legs, jumbo shrimp, and Goose Point oysters, the Ama Ama Chopped Salad ($18.00) with crispy wanton strips, bacon, avocado, and a house-made ranch dressing, Island Field Greens ($12.00) with a paypaya vinaigrette, Kahuku Corn Chowder ($12.00), and Maui Onion Soup Au Gratin ($12.00).

For entrees the menu is very diverse. For those in the mood for seafood there is the Hawaiian Sustainable Catch (market price) prepared either pan seared or grilled, topped with your choice of lemon-caper brown butter or tomato-ogo, and served with island vegetables and potato puree. There is also a Seafood Paella ($37.00).

For steaks the menu features a Grilled New York Strip Loin ($41.00) topped with a shallot-red wine sauce and served with potato puree and farmer's market vegetables and a Grilled Angus Filet of Beef ($49.00) creamed swiss chard and soufflé potatoes.

There is also a Cider-Maple Roasted Chicken Breast ($33.00) accompanied by gnocchi, maitake mushrooms, broccoli florrets, and baby carrots, Rack of Lamb ($46.00) served with roasted root vegetables, potato gratin and topped with a garlic-lemon thyme jus, and for vegetarians a Local Spring Vegetable Pasta ($27.00) with a basil pesto and toasted garlic bread crumbs.

If you want additional side items there are also a variety of options including Asparagus Gratin ($8.00), Hamakua Mushrooms ($9.00), Sauteed Broccoli ($7.00), Souffle Potatoes ($8.00), Potato Puree ($8.00), and Brown Rice ($4.00).

You might also want to save room for dessert as there are some delectable choices such as the Coconut Panna Cotta with chilled passion fruit broth, Liliko`i Meringue Mousse with caramelized bananas, Hawaiian Chocolate Cake with Ka'u coffee cream and caramel, Floating Island with guava, strawberry, and lychee sorbet, and Pineapple Tarte Tatin with caramel cream. All desserts are $10.00.

When we sat at our table we were first brought some fresh multi-grain rolls. This was a great way to start the meal as the rolls were served warm, crusty on the outside, and soft on the inside. Along with the bread was brought butter and two different types of Hawaiian salt to help add a little extra flavor.


For an appetizer our sever strongly recommended the Maui Onion Soup Au Gratin ($12.00). I was a little hesitant about spending that much for soup, but decided to give it a try. The size of the soup itself made it worth the price as it was more than enough to split with another member of my party. In taste, the soup was very similar to a standard French Onion Soup. One thing that I did notice about the soup, and it might have to do with using Maui onions, was that it had a slightly sweeter flavor than a regular French Onion soup. The soup also came topped with a generous amount of cheese and I would not hesitate to say that this was one of the best onion soups I have had anywhere.


For an entrée I decided on the Rack of Lamb ($46.00) served with roasted root vegetables, potato gratin and topped with a garlic-lemon thyme jus. The lamb itself was so tender with just a little bit of fat that added a little extra flavor. It was grilled perfectly so that it was slightly charred on the outside but once you cut into it, it was still juicy and moist. The garlic-lemon thyme jus that topped the lamb really complimented it very well. I actually found the sauce to be fairly mild and light in flavor so as to enhance the taste of the lamb without being too overpowering .


I was a little disappointed with the root vegetables. To start, they were not cooked very well so they were on the crisp side. Also, some of the vegetables also had very strong, distinctive flavors. I was not exactly sure what types of vegetables they were, I definitely noticed some onion and squash, but in appearance it looked kind of like a ratatouille. The real star of the meal was the potato gratin. Not only were the potatoes cheesy and creamy in flavor, but they came wrapped in a flaky pastry crust.

Overall, this was a very high-quality meal. The dishes featured a great combination of a variety of flavors and utilized fresh, native ingredients. In addition, the presentation was exquisite. In sum, the meal was everything you would expect from a Signature Disney restaurant.

One thing that was very impressive about Ama Ama was the number of servers the restaurant had. The sever-to-guest ratio was such that each server only had a couple of tables to wait on at a time. This meant that the servers could be very attentive to their guests. Indeed, throughout the course of the meal my server was continually checking in on our table to make sure we were enjoying everything; he was able to take his time with us rather than having to rush around from table to table.

Not only was my server was also extremely helpful and informative when it came to the menu, but he was also a great source of knowledge about the resort and the surrounding area. With dishes using so many local Hawaiian ingredients, he took time to explain the various dishes and offer recommendations. He also asked us about our plans and what we were going to see and do on the island, giving us some local insider tips and advice. Overall, the meal progressed at a very relaxed pace that really allowed you to fully enjoy your food as well as the beautiful setting in which you were dining.

Dining on a Budget:
Ama Ama is not the type of restaurant that you can really dine on a budget, but if you are staying at Aulani it is definitely worth the splurge. How many times are you going to have the opportunity to dine in a restaurant like this? One possible way to save a little money is the Ama Ama Menu for Two. For $115 this includes an Appetizer Sampler, a Bone-In Rib Eye Steak For Two served with potato puree, hamakua mushrooms, and broccoli with you choice of shallot-red wine or béarnaise sauce, and Hawaiian Chocolate Cake for dessert.

Ama Ama is also open for breakfast and lunch, which allows you to experience the same beautiful atmosphere and breathtaking views as dinner but with a menu that is slightly less expensive.

The Overall Experience:
I really do not think that my words can truly do justice to Ama Ama. Like the rest of Aulani, this restaurant takes advantage of the natural beauty of the resort's location. Aulani has everything you would want from a Hawaiian vacation; it is quiet, relaxing, visually stunning, and completely immerses you into the culture, history, and traditions of the Hawaiian Islands. Ama Ama does all of these things as well. While its location is the true highlight of the dining experience, the subtle details of the restaurant's décor and its locally-inspired menu of both traditional and contemporary Hawaiian cuisine should not be overlooked. Dining here is an experience unlike any other I have had at any restaurant Disney or otherwise. To sum it all up, at Ama Ama you truly feel as though you are dining in paradise.

See past reviews by Guest Blogger Andrew Rossi.

August 3, 2012

Dining in Paradise at Disney's Aulani Resort

Andrew Rossi

I recently had the tremendous opportunity to stay at Disney's Aulani resort in Ko Olina, Hawaii. This was my first ever trip out to our fiftieth state and I could not have asked for a better introduction than staying at here for a few nights. Aulani is everything you would expect from a Disney resort in terms of quality, theming, and detail and all this is added to the fact that you are in such a breathtaking setting.


I have had the opportunity to stay at many of the resorts in Walt Disney World and I would not hesitate to say that Aulani trumps them all in terms of sheer beauty and grandeur.


Of course, no trip to Aulani would be complete without sampling some of the resort's cuisine. Here I will offer an overview of the various dining options available at Aulani.

Aulani is a resort that is meant to celebrate Hawaiian culture, history, and traditions. This is evident from the moment you enter the resort's lobby. As soon as I entered the resort I was struck with the same sense of grandeur that I get when stepping into the lobbies of Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World.


With its high ceilings and beautifully intricate artwork, the Aulani's lobby helps set the tone for the rest of the resort. It is a resort that is built to showcase its location. Indeed, it seems as though no matter where you walk in the resort you are treated to breathtaking views of the ocean or other forms of natural beauty.



Enhancing this natural beauty is the artwork found throughout the resort that goes a long way in immersing you into Hawaiian traditions and culture.


Another way to be immersed into Hawaiian culture while staying at Aulani is dining at one of the resort's restaurants. Aulani's restaurants present traditional Hawaiian cuisine and, just as with the rest of the resort, do so in beautiful settings that honor Hawaii's natural beauty and its people's artistry. Here are the various dining options available at Aulani:



Makahiki is named for the annual Hawaiian harvest festival held in Oʻahu to celebrate the season of bounty and peace. The story of the Makahiki festival is brought to life in the restaurant's dining room with a series of elegantly composed, jeweled murals which depict scenes of feasting, games, and celebration.


The dining room also has large windows that allow in plenty of light and bring in some of the natural beauty from outdoors.


There is also a very unique lighting fixture where the lights look like fruit growing along the branch of a tree.


The restaurant offers a buffet breakfast served from 7:00am-11:00am, an a la carte lunch from 12:30pm-3:00pm, and dinner from 5:00pm-9:30pm that offers the option of either buffet or a la carte. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday breakfast at Makahiki is transformed to "Aunty's Breakfast Celebration" and features some of your favorite Disney characters. Cost of the breakfast buffet is $27 for adults and $14 for children nine and under. However, on the days with characters the cost of breakfast increases to $32 for adults and $18 for children nine and under. The dinner buffet is $43 for adults and $21 for children nine and under.

The buffet is divided into different sections to highlight the various components of Hawaiian cuisine. At breakfast this includes a Continental section of fruits, yogurt, pastries, and bread pudding; the Western section features scrambled eggs, vegetable frittata, both pork and Portuguese sausage, corned beef hash, baked ham, pancakes, waffles and French toast; the Chinese/Japanese section contains grilled and seared island fish, noodle salad, miso soup, and fried rice; and there is also a Live Action Station where they prepare made-to-order omelets.

At dinner the buffet features a wide variety of offerings. The Starters section includes field green salad, Asian noodle salad, sushi, and soup of the day; there is a section of Seasonal Seafood on Ice that has shrimp, marinated squid, and oysters on the half shell; the Entrée section is comprised of huli huli style chicken and guava barbeque ribs; the Asian section features Chinese pork buns, fried noodles, wok-fried vegetables, and assorted tempura; the Grill section includes kalbi short ribs, soy steaks, and lamb osso bucco; the Seasonal Vegetable section is comprised of island sweet potatoes with macadamia nut butter, and sautéed bok choy; and the Dessert section features mango cheesecake, apple cobbler, bread pudding, molten chocolate cake, and cream puffs.

When it comes to the a la carte menu, lunch offers a lighter fare comprised primarily of sandwiches, salads, and pizzas including an interesting create your own section:


For dinner the a la carte menu features appetizer offerings such as Shrimp Cocktail ($12.00), a Blue Crab Cake ($13.00), and Caesar Salad ($7.00). Entrees include Grilled Teryaki Salmon Filet ($27.00) served with Japanese noodles and stir-fried vegetables, a Pan Roasted Ahi Tuna Steak ($28.00) with peppercorn sauce, wasabi mashed potatoes, and tempura asparagus, and Fafalle Bow Tie Pasta ($21.00) with seasonal vegetables and a creamy basil pesto. The dessert offerings are comprised of a New York Style Cheesecake ($7.00), Chocolate Cake ($10.00), and Apple Pie ($7.00).

The Olelo Room:


Located adjacent to Makahiki is a lounge known as The Olelo Room. Olelo is the name of the Hawaiian language and the lounge's unique décor features wooden representations of common objects and labels that convey their Hawaiian names.




The lounge is open from 6:00am-10:00am for a Continental breakfast featuring house-made pastries, fresh fruit, breakfast sandwiches, and specialty coffee drinks. The lounge then opens again from 5:00pm-11:00pm and features live nightly entertainment and an assortment of dinner appetizers.

The Olelo Room's appetizer offerings are a great option if you are looking for a lighter and more relaxed and casual dinner. Some of the offerings include Oyster Shooters ($16.00), Kobe Beef Sliders ($15.00), Kalua Pork Nachos with Pineapple Salsa ($14.00), Sweet-and-Spicy Guava Barbecued Chicken Wings ($14.00), and Crispy Calamari ($15.00)with spicy Luau and sweet Chili Dipping Sauces. The ʻŌlelo Room is also a great place to stop by for a drink before or after a meal offering tropical cocktails, mai tais, mojitos, margaritas, new twists on classic cocktails, fruit-infused sangria, Hawaiian beers, and wines.

Mama's Snack Stop:
If you are just looking for a quick bite to eat there are actually not too many options at Aulani. One such option is Mama's Snack Stop located right in the middle of the resort's main pool area. The brightly colored stand is certainly hard to miss and its location makes it very convenient for grabbing a quick snack while lounging by the pool.


The menu includes a variety of "dogs" that come on your choice of either a soft roll or crusty bread. There is the Local Red Frank ($5.75), a hickory-smoked all beef hot dog, Portuguese Sausage ($5.75), an All-Beef Hot Dog ($5.75), and a Buffalo-Ranch Fried Chicken Tender "Dog," basically a fried chicken sandwich ($6.75). The menu also features Fried Chicken Tenders ($9.95) served with French fries. The dogs do not come with fries, but a side of fries or Maui chips can be purchased for $2.95. For something sweet there is a Macadamia Nut Pineapple Cupcake ($4.50). Mama's Snack Stop is open from 10:00am to 7:00pm.

Papalua Shaved Ice:


Right next to Mama's Snack Stop is another of the resort's snack options. Shaved ice is a very popular local favorite and a very refreshing treat while sitting in the sun by the pool or on the beach. For $3.75 this is a great value if you are looking for a quick snack. The shaved ice comes in a wide variety of flavors including watermelon, mango, grape, strawberry, green tea, pineapple, orange, lemon-lime, cherry, guava, banana, root beer, and vanilla. This definitely seems to be the resort's most popular snack options and I witnessed many people around the pool area enjoying one of these frozen treats.

One Paddle, Two Paddle:


Tucked in an out-of-the way corner of the main pool area is another of the resort's counter service dining options. If you are not specifically looking for One Paddle, Two Paddle it is very easy to miss and one of the odd things is that it is only open from 5:00pm to 8:00pm. The menu features an assortment of sandwiches, wraps, and salads that make it a good option if you are looking for a lighter meal:


Off The Hook:


Aulani's main poolside bar is Off The Hook, featuring an open-air bar area with big screen televisions and ample seating to enjoy a tropical drink or a bite to eat.



Designed to resemble a fisherman's seaside shack, including decorations such as cowry-shell lures, shark-tooth knives, and fishhooks, the bar offers great views of both the main pool as well as the beach.


If you are looking for a refreshing drink to cool off while sitting beside the pool, the bar features mai tais, piña coladas, Blue Hawaiʻi, Long Island Ice Tea, signature cocktails, wine, sangria, margaritas and Hawaiian beers.

For lunch, from 11:00am to 5:00pm, Off The Hook serves the same menu featured at One Paddle, Two Paddle. The menu changes at dinner time to an assortment of appetizers that make it a great option if you are looking for a lighter meal while enjoying the Hawaiian sunset or while sitting under the stars. One of the appetizer highlights is the build your own seafood platter. This offers a choice of Oysters, Prawns, Alaskan Crab Legs, and Sustainable Catch Ceviche served with chili pepper water and cocktail sauce. It is priced per piece with Oysters $1.50 each, Prawns $3.50, each the Sustainable Catch Ceviche $7.00, and two once Alaskan Crab Legs $11.00 each. Other appetizers include Spicy Korean Fried Chicken Wings ($12.00), Kobe Beef Sliders ($15.00), and Hoisin Barbecue Pork Riblets ($14.00. If you are in the mood for something sweet there is the Miniature Dessert Sampler ($13.00) that includes Chocolate Mousse with Toasted Brownie, Coconut Panna Cotta with Braised Pineapple, and Macadamia Nut Cheesecake with Guava Pate de Fruit.

Wailana Pool Bar:


Located next to the resort's quieter secondary pool, the Wailana Pool Bar offers the same selection of drinks found at Off The Hook in addition to serving the same menu as One Paddle, Two Paddle from 11:00am-5:00pm. The nice thing about this pool bar is that its more out-of-the-way location makes it less crowded than Off The Hook. It is also a great place to grab a cocktail before enjoying Aulani's Starlit Hui, which is held on the lawn adjacent to the bar.


'Ama 'Ama:


Aulani's signature dining experience is Ama Ama. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, if you are staying at Aulani this is definitely a restaurant you do not want to miss. The highlight of the restaurant is its open-air dining room that offers amazing views of the ocean. The chefs here use fresh local ingredients and island flavors to create distinctive Hawaiian dishes that combine traditional with contemporary.


Breakfast is served here from 7:00am to 10:30am, lunch from 11:30am to 3:00pm, and dinner from 5:30pm to 10:00pm. I had the good fortune of dining here for dinner during my stay which I will go over in greater detail in my next review. Here though is a look at the restaurant's breakfast and lunch offerings.

Breakfast features many traditional items, but with a Hawaiian flair. There is the Three Egg Omelet ($14.00) served with Aulani Potatoes, Sweet Potato and Portuguese Sausage Hash ($15.00) accompanied by poached eggs and marinated hearts of palm, Poached Eggs with an Island Crab Cake ($17.00) topped with a soy-wasabi hollandaise, a Belgian Waffle ($13.00) with grilled island pineapple and salted caramel sauce, Chocolate Milk-Dipped Haupia Bread French Toast ($15.00) stuffed with bananas and peanut butter 15.00, and Whole Wheat Pancakes ($13.00) served with island papaya and coconut syrup. The menu also features two Bakery Baskets: the Classic Flavors, featuring a Cinnamon Roll, Croissant, Almond Bear Claw, and an Apple Fiber Multigrain Muffin ($8.00) and the Hawaiian Flavors, which includes Guava Fan, Coconut Cream Pocket, Croissant, and an Orange-Macadamia Nut Muffin ($8.00).

Lunch features appetizers such as Hearts of Palm and Grilled Jumbo Shrimp ($16.00), Ahi Tuna Tempura ($13.00) with mustard and pickled vegetables, Crispy Curried Chicken Firecracker ($13.00) with mango, and a Kahuku Corn Chowder ($9.00) with taro and salmon. The menu's sandwiches are all served with a choice of sweet potato fries or an island field greens and include a Kalua-Roasted Pulled Pork Sandwich ($14.00), Crab and Lobster Roll ($24.00) with wasabi mayo and cucumber, Roasted Chicken Salad on Ciabatta ($14.00), Char-grilled Vegetable Sandwich on Foccacia ($12.00), and an Angus Chuck Burger ($18.00) with caramelized balsamic onions and Vermont white cheddar. If you are looking for something a little more than just a sandwich the menu also includes Today's Hawaiian Sustainable Catch (Market Price), Grilled Sirloin Steak ($24.00) with sautéed mushrooms and sweet potato fries, and Goat Cheese Ravioli ($23.00) with local baby vegetable stew.

Disney's Aulani Resort is pure paradise. It has all the little magical touches that you would expect of a Disney resort added to its absolutely stunning location. If you are looking for a relaxing and care-free vacation, look no further than Aulani; the toughest decision you will have to make during your stay here will be whether to sit by the pool or on the beach. The resort's various dining offerings match perfectly with the overall feel of the resort, presenting an array of both classic and contemporary Hawaiian cuisine.

My only complaint about the resort are that the dining options are somewhat limited. The resort could definitely benefit from the addition of a food court, another counter service restaurant, and maybe a more casual and economical sit-down restaurant. As luck would have it, the Disney Parks Blog just recently announced the addition of two new quick service dining locations at Aulani with construction set to begin in September. Aulani is still in its infancy and I expect the resort will continue to grow, develop, and add new experiences through the years, which will help make an already great resort even better.

See past reviews by Guest Blogger Andrew Rossi.

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