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On my visit to IPW 2015 I had the pleasure of visiting the Boathouse restaurant.
I do love all things nautical and I was not disappointed in the theming of this area. It is outstanding in every aspect.
Attached to the Boathouse is a shop called "Ships Store".
Selling nautical items. Some novel and unique. If you want to buy a vintage outboard you can. But it might take you over your baggage allowance on the way home a little.
At over $2000 each I didn't buy one. But they do look nice.
One thing I did nearly buy is an oar. For $60 you can have your own message put on them. But I was pushing the weight limit for my suitcase so I didn't this time. There is always a next time.
Firstly let me take you on a trip around the marina. You can walk through the restaurant to get to the Dockside Bar. Always a popular place in the evenings.
A nice place to relax and grab a drink and some food.
It is quite a large bar with plenty of seats around.
There is also outside seating around the marina too.
This is one of my favourite spots. I could spend hours sitting here with a few cools beers
As you walk around the marina there are more outboard motors to add to the theming.
And some sort of UFO boats.
Now the boats. There is an impressive array of vintage craft on display. This is "Alter Ego" a vintage jet boat.
Complete with an information plaque.
There is a Venetian boat that can be privately rented.
And a boat that looks like a pink Cadillac.
How about a couples trip in the oldest boat in the marina. It is actually steam powered and will be available for private hire.
The marina is a stunningly themed place and I can see this being a major attraction in Disney Springs. I know it is somewhere I will always be heading to when I visit.
The restaurant. As you enter you are treated to an impressive display of shellfish in the raw bar.
Once again no expense has been spared on the theming of this place.
It even contains a real Chris-Craft boat.
Which has been converted to a special booth. It looks really good too.
I did ask some random people if I could take their photo.
There are several sections of the restaurant with slightly different theming.
A more formal white linen area. All overlooking the marina.
Another bar area.
A couple of the restaurant areas are set aside for private events.
Another event area. I actually missed out on an IPW private party for 150 here on the Tuesday evening as I was somewhere else. I would have loved to have come here that night too. But only so many hours in a day.
While I was here I had a quick lunch. It was my last day and I only had a short time before I had to get to the airport for my return flight.
A few have said that the restaurant is expensive so I was determined to prove otherwise. You can have a great meal and drink here and only spend around the same price as the other main restaurants in Disney Springs.
The Boathouse is run by the Gibson group of restaurants out of Chicago. They own several restaurants specialising in steak and seafood. So they are a great fit to run this restaurant.
They have a signature burger known as Gibsons "Sandwich King" Burger. It is prime beef with Cherry Peppers and Jalapeño with spicy mayo.
I was interested in this for a couple of reasons. Firstly as I mentioned before I wanted to prove you could do this on a budget and secondly I wanted to see if they could pull off the burger without overdoing the spice.
I love spicy food but often with burgers you find they just over do the chilli and you can't really taste anything else. Not the case here. I was very impressed with the subtle flavours. The chilli didn't overpower the meal. The meat was cooked to perfection and was really juicy. The picture doesn't do justice to the size of this meal. It was huge. Far too many fries even for me.
So my opinion of this new restaurant for Disney Springs. All in all it is simply an amazing venue. I loved it and will be back time and time again.
I love the look and feel of the place. The staff were really attentive and pleasant to be around. There was none of the stuffiness that you can get in some of the top end steak houses in Disney. And yes you can do it on a budget too. My meal was $27 including the beer. Lunch in a nice setting with great service for just £17.50 each. You can't really complain at that can you?
This will be a popular place for many years to come. Give it a try. I know you won't be disappointed.
Is it a car? Or a boat? Well it is both.
The Amphicars at Downtown Disney are certainly drawing a crowd now. There is nothing like watching a car drive down a ramp and into a lake and after surviving that then motor round and drive back out again without sinking and keeping the passengers dry.
So what makes this so special? For one thing you don't see this being offered anywhere else. You can get a ride in a car/boat with your own Captain right in the heart of Downtown Disney.
So what do you get?
For $125 you can have a trip around the lake with up to three passengers. This comes complete with a Chauffeur or Captain and lasts around 20 or 30 minutes.
They actually run 9 Amphicars in total with around 5 or 6 in use per day. The others are rotated through the shop to keep them in tip top condition.
As you can imagine these boat cars do require a lot of maintenance.
Off you go down the ramp with an impressive splash. You might get a few drops on you but certainly not wet.
In fact in the whole trip around the lake you remain dry. It can get hot out there so remember the sun screen ( note to self for next time )
If you have never seen an Amphicar before then here is a little info and history.
They were built in Germany in the 60s. They were designed and sold for the US market with around 4,000 produced between 1961 and 1965 when the company went bust. They did have a stock of them so some were registered as late as 1968.
They are powered by the old Triumph Herald 1147cc engine situated in the back of the vehicle with a 4 speed transmission powering the rear wheels.
There is a second gear lever powering the twin propellers under the rear bumper. This provides forward and reverse and the main gearbox can be left in neutral while in the water.
As you enter the lake you can see the amphibious tank they can use to rescue any cars that break down. This tank, complete with tracks, can haul a car right up the ramp if needed.
The Captain will give you a guided tour of the lake and answer any questions about the Amphicars too.
As I have always loved the Amphicars I asked about the changes they had made to them.
Basically they are stock Amphicars with upgraded bilge pumps to keep the water out. Plus the standard carburettor has been replaced with modern fuel injection for smoother running, reliability and it is better for the environment.
Some general shots of the trip around the lake. As you can imagine people tend to wave at you a lot on your voyage. It is quite novel and attracts a lot of attention.
Coming in to land.
You drive onto a turntable where they rotate the car ready for the next guests.
So what did I think? Well actually it was a lot better than I was expecting. I have always admired Amphicars for their novelty value. A restored Amphicar would set you back around $60,000 - $100,000 dollars to buy and they do require a lot of maintenance. So the $125 price tag is actually quite reasonable. If there are 3 of you that works out to only £27 each. So yes that is well worth it for the experience alone.
There have been a lot of changes to Downtown Disney on its transformation into Disney Springs.
On my last day I decided to get as many photos of the new stores to share with DIBB members.
D-Tech sells phone accessories and cases. You can even customise them and have them printed while you wait.
WonderGround is a gallery.
There are some nice Boutique style shops in the Co-op
The Trophy Room sells sporting shirts etc.
One that a lot will like. The Bakery.
The new ice cream shop has not opened yet. But they have the menu up.
A fashion jewellery store. Erwin Pearl.
Sound Lion. Selling headphones.
This one is always packed out.
I think they did a double take when they saw me walk in. No one wants to see me in running Lycra
Well I guess they do sell these. More my style.
There are plenty of changes and new shops at Downtown Disney. So if you are going soon you might see even more new things.
It was my last day and I was returning to the UK on the Virgin flight at 7:35pm. So to fill in the time I walked to Downtown Disney to get some last minute photos when it wasn't so crowded. As I have never managed to get on the Balloon ride I decided to give it a go.
While queuing for tickets the wind was picking up and they were restricting the amount of people riding the balloon. I thought knowing my luck I would not get on.
My luck got a little better. As they would not let us buy tickets until the previous riders had disembarked I got chatting to a lady behind me. She was a ex-pat from the UK who lived in Orlando. She was with her mum who was visiting from the UK. She had bought a Groupon for three but her husband didn't want to come. So she gave me the ticket. Great, a freebie!
Just after take off. A view of the new Hanger bar that is still under construction. Right next to the Boathouse.
Across the lake is Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort.
Looking down from the centre of the balloon.
A wider shot showing the major building work underway.
As you go up there are several times the cable jerks. But the pilot does tell you just before each one so you know to expect them. It was getting blustery now so we were being bounced around a little.
The Cirque du Soleil end of Downtown Disney has escaped the destruction.
The same cannot be said with the area around Planet Hollywood. Even the dome will be transformed into and observatory starting in January.
It is a good job most of this is hidden behind boards when walking around on the ground.
If you get to Downtown Disney or Disney Springs as it will be called soon then I would recommend going on the Characters in Flight balloon. For $18 it is well worth it. Or even better if it is free
The grand finale to the IPW event was on Wednesday evening at Universal Studios.
The menu and events guide
The only down side to the evening was actually getting into the park. They had so many characters lining the street that everyone stopped to take photos. Which meant that it took us 35 minutes just to get in.
There was so much confetti everywhere. I would hate to clear that lot up.
Finally in and walking to the food and drink. Obviously the most important thing
Food tables setup in all the different areas.
Again plenty of drink available everywhere.
Still one of my favourite all American places in Universal. They had setup some tables for the guests to gather round.
Off to Diagon Alley.
Into the Leaky Cauldron for Fish And Chips.
The heat lamps didn't make for a great picture though. I wouldn't say they were traditional British fish and chips but they weren't really red.
Now off to get some Butterbeer ice cream.
Butterbeer ice cream. Like soft serve whippy with a twist.
Now for the only ride I managed all evening. Escape from Gringotts.
I love the theming inside the bank. You sort of don't mind queuing when you have so much to look at.
Off for some more food and drink before the epic finale on the lake.
Those heat lamps again. It was so dark by now it did actually look just like the picture.
Now to get a spot for the Cinema Spectacular.
Another great evening and a fitting end to IPW. These evenings just go by far too quickly. They need to be 6 hours long just to give you more time for the food and rides
On the way in the coach to the SeaWorld event it started to pour down.
As we got off the bus they handed us the blue SeaWorld ponchos. Much needed but it meant that no one recognised anyone else. I ended up spending the whole evening on my own as I couldn't see anyone I knew.
It was such a shame for SeaWorld as they had put so much effort into bringing in plush seating areas that were now covered up.
The sea of blue. Anyone recognise anyone? No me neither
One thing that made the evening though was the food. A spectacular array of different food in themed lands around the park.
The food was superb and I felt the need to sample as many dishes as I could
They had some novel ideas for serving. This station rotated the trays and you grabbed what you wanted.
The bar in Antarctica was made of real ice and lit from below.
Plenty of drink on offer. Actually I spent so long taking photos and eating that I forgot completely to grab a drink.
Some more photos of the food available.
The bar areas were setup everywhere. You could not fault the staff. They were out in the rain serving and cleaning.
Everyone tucking into the food and still having fun.
The nice seating areas weren't really used as it was so wet.
I did manage to get on Kraken. In the front row as it just stopped raining for a bit. When we got the the top of the first hill the sky lit up with forks of lightening everywhere. We then spent the whole ride with a spectacular light show.
Needless to say we were the last ones on for a while.
I managed to watch Blue Horizons but they has to stop the show at the high wire part because again the lightening was relentless.
Then on to the new Clyde and Seymour show.
Sea Lion High is a great improvement over the pirate show.
A walk through the shark tank to get to Shamu stadium for the finale.
The stadium welcomed the IPW guests.
I had never seen One Ocean at night. It was more atmospheric with the lighting.
A firework finale to the evening.
With 300 local school kids brought in to celebrate, waving flags.
It was another great evening if a little wet. OK I was completely soaked and completely shattered. But everyone took it in their stride and especially the Brits stuck it out until the end. Hey we are used to a drop of rain aren't we
IPW host lunches for all 6,500 attendees in one sitting. This is a sit down two course lunch.
Monday: Chicken Salad. Seated as a guest at the round table of Merlin (Legoland Florida).
Tuesday: Beef Salad. Seated as a guest at the table of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.
Wednesday: Turkey Roll, Ham, Cheese and Salami Roll with Potato salad and cuscus.
Each day they had planned entertainment over the lunch times.
Monday saw the old rock band Foreigner. With their classics such as 'Cold as Ice' and 'I Want to know what love is'.
Tuesday's lunch was presented by the city of New York who brought some of the Broadway's shows to the stage at IPW.
NYC Center Stage, in conjunction with Broadway Inbound. The event, hosted by David Hyde Pierce, better known as Frasiers brother Niles, showcased live performances by the casts of Aladdin, The Book of Mormon, Fiddler on the Roof, The Lion King, Matilda the Musical and On the Town.
Aladdin the Musical.
It looks like it should be a good stage show.
They flew in the 28 piece orchestra from New York to play for us.
David Hyde Pierce was a fantastic host. He really has great wit and perfect stage presence to keep the audience attentive.
The Matilda was actually a former Matilda. She had outgrown the size for the role in New York. They also brought in the Orlando junior choir to sing along with her.
Next up was Fiddler on the Roof. A show that has not even opened yet.
It was actually very dark for this scene so the camera had real problems picking up focus. But the actor only had one rehearsal for this performance the day before as there is no show yet.
The grand finale of the day was the entire cast of the musical 'The Lion King'. Specially flown in from Broadway just for us. They filled the stage and also the aisles with actors twirling birds. Anyone that has seen this fabulous show will know how dramatic the performance is.
Wednesday was brought to us by Disney.
Many will recognise the signature chocolate covered strawberries that are seen around the parks and restaurants.
For the entertainment we were taken through a video on the development and building of each park. At the end of each segment we had a performance relating to that park.
First up was Magic Kingdom and a performance of 'Right Down the Middle of Main Street USA'
For Epcot we had the Voices of Liberty.
Hollywood Studios gave us Be Our Guest from the show Beauty and the Beast.
And Animal Kingdom finished off the performances with In the Big Blue World from Nemo the Musical.
The whole cast along with the five characters. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy came back out to say goodbye. A fitting end to the trio of IPW lunches.
I was very impressed with the staff that managed to seat over 6,000 people with good food and perfect presentation.
The shows were all top class and presented with perfect precision. Well done the the organisers and IPW for the success of these lunch session.
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