This week Disney announced Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays presented by AdventHealth, taking place November 27 through December 30, 2020. This magical event will feature delicious food, fun activities for the whole family, and the chance to see some Disney characters in their holiday finest.

At this year’s festival, enjoy a global celebration of seasonal cuisine at the Holiday Kitchens, located throughout EPCOT’s World Showcase, including three kitchens inside the World ShowPlace Events Pavilion. Indulge in festival favorites like the slow-roasted turkey from the American Holiday Table, pork schnitzel at the Bavaria Holiday Kitchen or the beef bourguignon from the Yukon Holiday Kitchen. 

As you sip, savor and sample your way through the Holiday Kitchens, you may spot some of your favorite characters – dressed in their holiday best – traveling through World Showcase to spread holiday cheer. Keep an eye out for Queen Anna and Elsa in the “Frozen Holiday Promenade,” and Mickey Mouse and his pals making merry on the “Mickey and Friends Holiday World Tour.” And we can’t forget about Santa Claus! When Santa visits EPCOT during this festive time of year, he’ll take a grand horse-drawn tour around World Showcase, calling out happy holiday wishes to all.

Be sure to visit America Gardens Theatre to enjoy the sounds of the season from Voices of Liberty, who will share favorite carols through their incredible harmonies. Mariachi Cobre will bring to life Las Posadas, a celebration of Mexican holiday customs through music and dance. Over at the Canada pavilion, JAMMitors will grace the Mill Stage with their playful percussion. And, enjoy the shopping, sights AND sounds inside World ShowPlace as fan-favorite JOYFUL! A Celebration of the Season will bring you on an uplifting journey through R&B, gospel, contemporary and traditional Christmas and holiday music. 

The Holiday Cookie Stroll returns this year, with a complimentary cookie as a reward for completing the confectionery collection. The delicious array of sweet treats to choose from will include cookies from five different locations throughout the park. You can also pick up an adorable cookie jar to collect all of your cookies, available for purchase at the Holiday Markets throughout World Showcase, while supplies last.

To share holiday traditions from around the world, everyone’s favorite snowman from Frozen invites kids of all ages on the new “Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Expedition,” a festive adventure around World Showcase to round up holiday traditions Olaf misplaces. You can purchase the expedition map at Mouse Gear, Disney Traders, or World Traveler at International Gateway, then look for hidden Olafs throughout the World Showcase pavilions. Once they find them all, they’ll receive a gift worth melting for (while supplies last).

The holiday season across the rest of Walt Disney World begins November 6, 2020, with seasonal celebrations at Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Disney Springs, and Disney Resort hotels.

For a free, no-obligation quote for a Disney World vacation, contact me here.

Disney announced today that the global celebration of the visual, culinary, and performing arts will return to the Walt Disney World Resort early next year, as the Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts is set for Jan. 8 – Feb. 22, 2021.

The Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts offers fun for the whole family. Here is Disney has shared with us of what to expect when the event debuts in January:

  • Indulge in over 15 Food Studios serving culinary art all around World Showcase
  • Explore and purchase the brilliant and diverse work of Disney and other invited artists on display in marketplaces encircling World Showcase Lagoon
  • Step into the scene at special photo locations scattered around the park
  • Participate in a paint-by-number mural that serves as a collaborative art project for all
  • Watch as visiting artists create magic right before your eyes
  • Catch performances by favorite EPCOT musical artists Mariachi Cobre and the JAMMitors.
  • Join an artful scavenger hunt and search for Figment around World Showcase
  • Shop for festival-exclusive merchandise

We’ll have more details on the Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts as Disney announces them.

For your free, no-obligation quote for your Disney World Vacation, contact us here.

Back in July, I had the pleasure of staying at Couples Tower Isle. This beautiful all-inclusive, adults-only, couples hotel is located in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. This property was built in 1949 and was the first resort built on Jamaica’s undeveloped north coast. In 1978, the founder, Abraham Issa introduced the “all-inclusive, couples-only” concept to Jamaica, and the Tower Isle was renamed, Couples Ocho Rios. The property was again renamed years later as Couples Tower Isle.

While this resort has been renovated, the art deco architecture remains.

The Pool Grill – Open for lunch and dinner as well as late night food service.

I found many things to love about this resort, but the food was definitely a highlight! There were many restaurants to choose from, however with COVID-19, not every restaurant was open every day, so we had to plan our meals out to make sure we hit as many restaurants as we could. Reservations are required for dinner at most restaurants and it was super easy to make them the app for our entire stay.

We ate most of our meals at The Patio which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They offer both a buffet (currently modified with a server plating the items you select) and an á la carte menu. Our favorite meal was at 8 Rivers. This restaurant has a glamorous 1950s era feel, serving classic food while incorporating local Jamaican and Caribbean ingredients. Reservations are required and a dress code is enforced. Dinner at The Verandah was also a treat! The website describes it as, “For those nights when you crave continental cuisine at its finest.” While it was continental cuisine, the chefs elevated it in both the fusion of flavors and presentation.

One restaurant that we did not get to try was Bayside. I heard incredible things about the casual and candle-lit Asian restaurant situated on the sea.

This resort is very romantic and great for couples celebrating their honeymoon or anniversary. They do offer nightly entertainment with live music and dance shows including resident band and cabaret performances, but the resort gets pretty quiet at night.

While there are garden view rooms, most guest rooms face the Caribbean Sea, many with views of Tower Isle. Tower Isle is a small private island for au naturel sunbathing. The beach here is small but private so you will not encounter vendors trying to sell you anything. During our stay, the water and beach were full of seaweed and there were red flag warnings, so we didn’t spend much time there. Luckily there are two pools, one with a swim-up bar that we enjoyed.

Every room features air conditioning plus a ceiling fan, private balcony or patio furnished with wide cushion seating and an outdoor table, large bathroom with a shower or tub, IPOD/MP3 player, satellite flat-screen TV, coffee maker, iron and ironing board, in-room safe, complimentary minibar that is refreshed daily, and nightly turndown service (the turndown service is currently on hold due to COVID-19). The furniture in the rooms felt a bit dated, but the rooms were clean and comfortable. The bed was so comfortable, we slept like babies.

Being a travel agent, I do have the opportunity to stay at a variety of resorts. Couples Tower Isle is now one of my favorites. The hotel itself felt special with its art deco architecture. The views were incredible and the staff was lovely! This resort felt like home to me. I think it is a great choice for a couple looking for a quiet, relaxing getaway.

To see more of this resort and the other Couples Resorts I visited on this trip, visit my YouTube channel

After traveling to Jamaica at the end of July and having such a good experience, I jumped at the chance to go to Cancun last week. Spoiler alert, it was quite a different experience. 

I flew from Grand Rapids to Chicago and on to Cancun. Both of my flights were full, in fact, over-sold. American Airlines was still implementing the same safety protocols — mandatory face masks, no in-flight service, and asking all passengers to remain seated during the duration of the flight. Unlike a few of the other airlines, they are not leaving the middle seat open. 

Other than the flight because being completely packed, it was fine. I wasn’t super comfortable, but I wore my mask and face shield and tried to relax. For this trip I was traveling alone, so I think that made me a bit more on edge. 

While in Jamaica, the resorts where we stayed were around 20% occupancy. There was social distancing and serious safety precautions. For this trip, because it was hosted, I was not able to select the resort for my stay. Our group of travel agents were placed at the RIU Palace Peninsula in the Hotel Zone in Cancun. 

The resort was at 60% capacity which was the government allowance at the time I traveled. This felt like a lot to me. The resort didn’t feel crowded, but felt very full.

RIU Palace Peninsula

During COVID-19, everyones comfort level is different and I understand that. Personally, I traveled within my comfort level and am pointing out the practices and protocols that bother me. In my opinion, The RIU Palace Peninsula did a lot of things “right”…

  • Hand sanitizing upon entry to the hotel.
  • Washing/wiping of your shoes upon entering the hotel. 
  • Thermal temperature taken as you enter. 
  • Social distancing markers at check-in and at the buffets. 
  • Plexiglass barriers are the front desk. 
  • Enforcing masks be worn in the lobby and when you order at bars (with one exception). 
  • Elevators were marked for 4 guests per elevator.

However there were a few things that I felt they did very wrong and these few points bothered me. A LOT.

  • Buffets were still self serve with shared serving utensils (I was told they were changed out every 30 minutes and did see them changed once).
  • Social distancing was almost never followed by guests, especially at the buffet where guests would come right up behind you. In my experience when I hung back, guests would cut right in front of me.
  • Tables were not spaced out and there were no outdoor dining options.

I had quite a few problems with my stay at the RIU Palace Peninsula, as did almost all of the agents that I traveled with, but that’s a story for another day. Don’t ever request to stay there because I won’t send you. It was that bad.

The good news is that I visited 8 other properties in Cancun and saw and learned a ton! There are many resorts where I would feel comfortable staying and booking clients during this time. I think that the biggest takeaway from this trip is that to travel during COVID-19, you need to understand the protocols of each resort and where they fall within your comfort level. This is why traveling during this time is so important for me to do for my clients.

Will this experience deter me from traveling again soon? Absolutely not!!! Having visited two different countries now within the last 90 days, I feel comfortable traveling at this time and hope to get on a plane again soon! 😉