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ECHO Travel; Greg O'Keeffe foundmuch more on themenu at Mickey's homeland than burgers Bite-sized look atWalt'sworld.

CEASELESS good manners, enthusiasm bordering on the insane and customer service which is so staggeringly good it unsettles the average Brit - just a few things you are guaranteed to experience in Walt Disney World.

And without being cruel, another guarantee is the prevalence of, to put this, excessively well-fed Americans.

OK Walt Disney's magical utopia is primarily (but very much not exclusively) for kids and the average nine-year-old won't give a hoot about any of these things, but the adults holding their hands are bound to notice them.

It's easy to assume that Disney ticks every box for a perfect family holiday apart from the food because, well, it's fast food all the way isn't it? Burger and chips ad infinitum? The reality is quite the contrary. We enjoyed a stay at Disney's splendid Beach Club Resort and, in between exploring the various parks, sampled the fine dining on offer. Surprisingly, there was lots of it.

The plan was to eat 'Disney' for breakfast, lunch and evening meal while packing as much theme-park related fun in between as possible.

After our first meal I was already looking a lot less judgementally at the heavier Americans, because they're fighting a losing battle when it comes to portion size.

We headed to the Beach Club'sYachtsman steakhouse where one of our group braved the 23oz porterhouse steak.

After polishing it off impressively he declared it the best steak he'd ever tasted and I can vouch for my smaller but still delicious 16ounce effort too.

Next day we were taken to the Beach Club's Cape May cafe buffet to tuck in while Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck came over to the tables to say hello. On offer was, well pretty much any breakfast food from the western world you could care to name.

Bacon (that tough, crispy US type), sausages, eggs (cooked every way), muffins, biscuits (the US bread cake style), beans, home fries, sauteed potato and grits. That was just one counter.

With full bellies we headed off to Epcot, aka the educational park with the gigantic golf ball. My last trip here, and to the Magic Kingdom, was as a hyperactive eight-year-old so it was a pleasant mix of nostalgia and relishing the new features.

One of the best was the test track ride, a simulation of one of the rigorous safety checks they do on cars using crash test dummies. As with most rides at Disney you become engrossed in the background story dreamed up by the 'imagineers' (designers who create the Disney landscapes and rides), until you're ready to be catapulted at high speed around a test track. Great fun.

Luckily our stay coincided with the international food and wine festival in the world showcase (Epcot's spectacular strip of mini 'countries'), so lunch involved cuisine from Brazil, New Zealand and Poland among others.

Come night time and once again you're spoilt with choices. As with many Disney restaurants, the classy Citricos, based in the Victorian opulence of the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, doesn't make you feel like you're eating in a theme park. After a day of seeing the Disney brand everywhere, it's nice to enjoy the change of pace somewhere which could stand alongside any swish restaurants. Disney have some interesting offers to encourage people to go for their holiday and inclusive meals packages. The Disney Dining Plan provides three plan choices to satisfy different budgets and appetites. All include at least two meals and a snack for each night of a Disney resort stay. And Walt Disney World Resort offers a broad range of accommodation - 23 resorts that vary in price, allowing guests to pay for only the amenities they want. As the weather warmed up to the mid 80s (not bad for October) we took in the wondrous Animal Kingdom. After a snack amongst the anamatronic apes and elephants in the rainforest cafe, we travelled to a near-perfect recreation of a Nepalese village to jump onboard

Expedition Everest. It's not for the faint-hearted this one - but it is as close to a proper white knuckle coaster as you're going to get in the Animal Kingdom, and if you don't jump when the Yeti lunges at you then you're braver than me. That evening we ate in one of the best restaurants I've eaten in. African-themed Jiko, in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, oozed quality and my swordfish main was the stuff of culinary legend. No trip to Disney can be considered complete without a visit to the Magic Kingdom and long-established family favourite attractions like Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain. Luckily our trip coincided with Halloween, a date Americans mark in typically larger than life style, so we also enjoyed Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party carried off with the usual aplomb and showmanship. There were no surprises in terms of the Magic Kingdom, Disney's flagship park is still a breathtaking spectacle. The real surprises of this breath-taking trip were the excellently diverse fine dining and the assortment of top notch and affordable accommodation.


RIDE OF LIFE: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad atWalt DisneyWorld
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 17, 2009
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