Peru 3/23/13 Trip Report

Discussion in 'Adventures By Disney' started by Bobo912, Apr 16, 2013.

  1. Bobo912

    Bobo912 DIS Veteran

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    I’m going to try to write a trip report. It may take a while for me to get through the whole trip, but I’ll do my best. We enjoyed this trip, but both DS and I agreed that it didn’t quite measure up to our previous ABDs. Although we really enjoyed our fellow travelers, the group was too large (44) and, IMO, it negatively impacted the experience. More on that later.

    First, a little possibly useful information for future travelers…
    There are 220V and 110V outlets in the bathrooms of all 3 hotels. US style plugs work - you don’t need adapters.
    Bring packs of tissues or wet wipes. Many restrooms don’t have toilet paper.
    Carry hand sanitizer everywhere you go. Many restrooms don’t have soap either.

    On to day -1 (the pre-day)

    As part of the Adventure Insider program, ABD arranged for a town car to pick us up at home and transport us to the airport. This is a great perk. Friday morning, I received a text message informing me that our ride was on the way. Shortly thereafter, a very pleasant gentleman picked us up at our door and deposited us at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Everything was arranged and paid for in advance by Disney, including the driver’s gratuity. It was really convenient.

    We flew on Delta. I know a lot of people have issues with them, but we’ve flown Delta quite a bit lately and had very good experiences with them. It was an uneventful flight – my favorite kind. There were a lot of kids on the flight, so I suspected that some of them might be other adventurers arriving a day early, and that turned out to be the case, but I didn’t find that out until the next day. We landed on time in Lima. Another plane or planes must have arrived the same time as us, because the line for immigration was huge. The area is not air conditioned – at least not in any way that I’m accustomed to – and we were hot and uncomfortable. There were plenty of immigration stations, but no one manning them and definitely not enough agents to handle the number of travelers. The line moved at a snail’s pace. After nearly 1 ½ hours standing in line we made it through immigration. By that time it was after midnight. We picked up our luggage, went through customs and exited to the area where all the drivers were waiting for arriving travelers. A placard with the word “adventure” immediately caught my eye, but it was not our driver. It was somebody from Thomson Family Adventures. I saw names for other tour companies and plenty of signs with individual’s names on them, but no Adventures by Disney. We walked all through the crowd of drivers and nada. We made another pass and another and another and still no driver. The area is not large and our driver obviously wasn’t there, so I thought if there were other guests from our group arriving at that time, maybe they were gathered somewhere nearby. So we walked a few steps to the exit area, snack bar, and information desk, all of which were within sight of where the drivers were waiting for guests. We didn’t see any groups waiting or any Disney placard, so we went back to where the drivers were congregated and looked again. About every 10 seconds a taxi driver would ask us if we needed a ride and I would say “no thanks, we’re expecting our driver.” One of the taxi drivers even looked for the driver for us. I figured I better try to call ABD and find out where our driver was, but my cell phone said “device not registered”, and I had no idea what that even means. (I looked it up next day online and I found instructions that said turn off the phone and remove and reinsert the SIM card and that fixed it, but unfortunately, I didn’t know that at the time). I went to the information desk to ask for help, thinking that if I call the hotel maybe the guides will be there, but I didn’t have the hotel phone number. That was my fault. I expected ABD to be perfect and I was unprepared, so my warning is don’t become complacent. Always be prepared for something to go wrong. Anyway, the very nice girl at the information desk looked up the number and called the hotel for me. I told them my problem and asked them if they could get in touch with the guides. They said they would connect me to somebody and I thought at first they were connecting me to the guides, but I think they were connecting me to the driver or his company. There was no answer, so I left a message, not really know who I was leaving a message for and I’m sure sounding like a crazy woman. I couldn’t give them a number to reach me since my cell phone wasn’t working, so all I could do was tell them where we were waiting and go back and look for the driver some more. Having read warnings about the taxis in Lima, I was afraid to take a taxi without knowing which companies were safe. So I got some change and used the pay phone to call the hotel and they told me which company to use. After around and hour and a half of looking for the driver, I found a Green Taxi (that’s the reputable company) and we left for the hotel.

    I asked the taxi driver how far it was to the hotel and he just sort of chuckled. He proceeded to drive us through the scariest neighborhoods I’ve ever seen. We passed through areas where there were rowdy mobs in the street, which seemed menacing at the time, but it turned out Peru had won a World Cup match that evening and they were probably just people celebrating. But the worst part was when the driver turned down dark streets that were little more than alleys and I was thinking to myself surely this isn’t the way to our hotel. We drove though slums and down garbage lined streets. I kept thinking we could be robbed, killed, and dumped on one of these dark streets and nobody even knows where we are. We finally got away from the scary neighborhoods and onto a highway that passed by the ocean. Still wasn’t feeling comfortable. Then we drove up this really bumpy street into Miraflores, where the streets were filled with rowdy mobs again. It’s a fairly nice neighborhood, but that night in the dark, with me already frightened, it didn’t look so good. Finally, we turned a corner and there was our hotel. We paid the driver, and the fare was very reasonable. He was really a nice man, and not a thief or murderer. :) At 2:30AM we finally checked into our hotel. The man at the front desk told us that earlier a group with Adventures by Disney had arrived from the airport. Turned out there were 16 other people on the same flight as we were. Apparently, the driver left before we got through immigration. I’ve gone over the situation again and again, and I can see no way that we could have possibly missed the driver if he had still been at the airport. This was the most stressful and frightening experience I have ever had while traveling. So much for the promised hassle free vacation. :( I was too upset to sleep and worried that this was going to spoil the rest of the trip for me and DS – it didn’t though.

    The guides had left a note for us at the front desk saying they would be in the lobby to greet guests the next morning at 9:00AM – 11:00AM and then another time that I don’t remember later in the day. So DS and I went down at 9:00, but they weren’t there. They showed up around 9:30. Besides the two regular guides we had one shadow guide. I told our guide about the mix-up at the airport (this was the first they heard of it - the driver did not inform them that we were missing) and he called the vendor who said the driver “didn’t see us”. I’m not sure who he was looking for, but I was looking for him and he wasn’t there. Anyway, later in the trip, I was reimbursed for the cab fare. But the money didn’t matter. Most of you know I’m a single parent and I travel alone with my son. I choose to travel with tour companies because I’m not comfortable traveling to other countries with my child, especially when I don’t speak the language. Being picked up at the airport is a big deal for me, especially on this trip, so this was terribly disturbing and disappointing. If this had been my first trip with ABD, it would have been my last.

    There are no activities scheduled on the first day of the tour, since most people arrive late in the day. We didn’t do much. We walked around a bit and went out for lunch, but since I was so stressed out and didn’t get any sleep the previous night, all I wanted to do was go to bed early.

    I wanted to write about something good before I stop, but it’s getting late. I promise the trip gets better from this point on.
     
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  3. tufbuf

    tufbuf Disney Addict!

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    Sorry to hear about your arrival! I would have been disgruntled too!! Glad to hear things turned out well at the end. Can't wait for the next installment!!

    Who were your guides?
     
  4. dizneekrazee

    dizneekrazee Fullfilling my bucket list, one vacation at a time

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    So sorry to hear that!! We had a horrible driver in Lima (not with ABD). And just FYI, winning a soccer or game or not, the streets in Lima looked just as you described when we were there. I literally wanted our driver (not that bad one, that was after Cusco), to drop me off at the doorstep to our room. Lol
     
  5. SingingMom

    SingingMom DIS Veteran

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    You poor thing! I would have gone crazy! That is my most important piece of an ABD tour... Pickup and delivery, especially in a foreign country. That is why I won't book an extra night after the tour. I want my guide to put me in the cab back to the airport! LOLOLOL I have booked an extra day before our Germany ABD this time, but we are staying at the same hotel and we get in during the day, so if there is transportation mixup it might be easier to solve.

    I am also a little apprehensive about a larger group. I think we are at 38 right now, with 13 children. Our first ABD was 22 with 2 children and our daughter who was almost 19. Three of the 22 were 2 shadow guides and an ABD manager. It was perfect. We still keep in touch with most of our fellow adventures!

    I keep warning our daughter this trip will be great, but possibly not as magical as that first one!

    I hope that was the worst part of your trip and the rest was wonderful for you!!

    "SingingMom" ....Sent from my iPad using DISBoards
     
  6. Grifdog22

    Grifdog22 Barking Mad!

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    I wonder if this is a Peru issue? When we went to Peru with ABD, there was someone at the airport with a sign with our name, sent by ABD, who picked us up but took us to the wrong hotel and disappeared before we realized what had happened...and no one at this hotel lobby spoke English...very difficult time...we found another hotel guest coming in who did speak English, and ultimately we took a cab to the correct hotel. Our guides kind of shrugged it off...and no we were not reimbursed for the cab fare (It wasn't much). Our other trips were nothing like that, however. But the rest of the Peru trip was great but I agree with you, it's bad to get off on the wrong foot.

    We had a small group, and it was otherwise a great trip. We LOVED Peru. I hope the rest of your trip was better!
     
  7. DisneyKevin

    DisneyKevin Kelvis Moderator

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  8. sayhello

    sayhello Have Camera, Will Travel Moderator

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    Wow! I am so sorry you had such a bad experience! I'm with you. If going to a foreign country (especially one where I don't speak the language) and/or arriving late at night, I want ABD there to pick me up. I don't want to have to figure it out on my own. I would have been just as freaked as you!

    Honestly? I'd complain to ABD. They need to re-examine their vendor and their procedures, if he was able to leave without you, and never reported that fact to ABD. I'm sure if the driver had mentioned that you were missing to the Guides, they'd have done something about it.

    What kind of phone do you have? I just got my first smart phone, so I won't be getting a loaner from Verizon this time around, but it will be useful to know if that SIM card thing might be something I'd need to do.

    I wish I was getting that Insiders pickup/drop off for my Greece trip. There was a lot of back & forth on what transferred from the Philly ABD and what did not, and apparently the home airport transfers did not. Ah, well. At least all of the transfers in Greece (both pre- & post- days) are included. That was important to me.

    Sayhello
     
  9. sayhello

    sayhello Have Camera, Will Travel Moderator

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    Kevin, thanks, that's a good point and good to know. Do you guys have a 24 hour hotline that we should carry with us for such an occasion?

    Also, now that I think about it, if you have travel insurance, they frequently have a 24 hour concierge service that you could call in an event like this. I don't know that they could contact ABD for you like a TA could, but you'd at least have someone helping you through the situation. ETA: Usually most of these concierge numbers can be called collect.

    Sayhello
     
  10. Bobo912

    Bobo912 DIS Veteran

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    Thanks, everybody, for commiserating with my misery. :) The trip did get much better. And thanks, Kevin, that is good to know. I'm not sure I would have been able to call anybody, since my cell phone decided not to work. I never figured out how to call the ABD emergency number. There were pay phones in the area, but the credit card slot was blocked and when I tried to just dial the number I got a message in Spanish, which I didn't understand. The people at the information desk were kind enough to help with a local call, but they couldn't place international calls.

    Regarding the phone, Tobi, I have a Samsung Galaxy. I got this phone from T-Mobile last summer before our Europe trip. I specifically changed carriers to T-Mobile because they had the best international coverage. I didn't buy a different SIM card or do anything special to make the phone work outside the US. I never had an issue with it in Europe. And once I got it working, coverage was very good in Peru, as well. From what I read on the internet, the people who had the "device not registered" problem were not roaming, so I don't think the problem was related to being out of the country. I guess it's just a glitch that can happen any time. It occurred one more time later in the trip, but I just turned the phone off and back on and it started working again.

    Grifdog22, that concerns me that you had an issue with your airport transportation too. Our guide didn't seem too surprised or concerned either and he did mention that ABD doesn't usually reimburse in that situation (He just volunteered that information. I didn't ask to be reimbursed). I didn't think much of it at the time, but I guess that indicates that they have had this situation enough to have established a pattern of not reimbursing taxi fare. If there is an ongoing problem and they aren't addressing it, that is bad. Maybe they have changed vendors and they just can't find a reliable one. :confused3

    tufbuf, our local guides were Harvery and Rudy (the shadow guide) - both are new Adventure Guides, but have worked with ABD before as local experts. Mike Hage (ABD has a multiple Mikes) was the other guide. They were all great. We also had another young lady, Sandra, traveling with us from a tour company in Peru that works with ABD. The reason we had all these extra people was because there was a tour coming up right after ours that was a media tour and they were going to be shooting videos, so they were trying to prepare for that.

    As soon as I have time I'll post some info and photos from the days that were much more enjoyable than the pre-day. :)
     
  11. sayhello

    sayhello Have Camera, Will Travel Moderator

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    Bobo912, I have a Samsung Galaxy S3, so I imagine it will work the same as yours. I've never had an issue with international coverage with Verizon, but up until now, I've had to borrow a Global phone from them. I'll just file the info about the "device not registered" message.

    I just recalled, that the trip insurance concierge numbers usually say they'll accept collect calls from anywhere (because I think they recognize that you may be having an emergency somewhere you can't easily call). I wonder if the information desk would have made a collect call for you.

    Sayhello
     
  12. Bobo912

    Bobo912 DIS Veteran

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    It never occurred to me to call the insurance number. I was so flustered it's lucky I could think of anything. I just checked and the insurance policy lists a "Toll Free" and a "Collect" number. Too bad I didn't think of that at the time. When I was looking for the ABD emergency number, I had the insurance info I my hand, but didn't think to call them. The information on the ABD emergency number in the Adventure handbook just says "Please note the international number is not a toll-free call". If I had been able to reach either number they probably would have just told me to take a taxi anyway. Next time I'll be better prepared. When things go right so often, we get lulled into a false sense of security. :)
     
  13. tufbuf

    tufbuf Disney Addict!

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    Does T-Mobile have better international coverage than AT&T? I'm pretty happy with AT&T's international coverage. It even has cellular at sea which is neat when we cruise.

    I was trying to remember our ride from the Lima airport to the hotel. We also arrived near midnight but we saw the ABD person right away. We rode a cab and it was a nice pleasant drive. Since DH spoke decent Spanish, he made conversation with the driver. I don't know if he took us to the normal route, but we drove on their version of the Pacific Coast highway which was scenic and clean. He pointed out things to us, like the seafood restaurant that juts out of the Pacific which is one of the best in the area. It was neat to see the Pacific Ocean on that side of the globe since we have been to the other side as well (Asian side).
     
  14. Tozzie

    Tozzie DIS Veteran

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    I had the same issue when I went to Ireland, i had 2 days pre tour, I called ABD because I wasn't calling my travel agent at 2 am( that would have been the time difference) . ABD told me to take a cab and that i would be reimbursed so they do reimburse you. It was a little different because it was Ireland so there was no languarge barrier and it was relatively safe.

    I think BOBO and Grifdog should both write a letter to ABD regarding the experience, it is possible that the home office doesn't know about the issue since that doesn't seem like something they would ignore.
     
  15. Bobo912

    Bobo912 DIS Veteran

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    Thanks, Tozzie. I'm seriously considering Ireland for next year, so I guess I should be prepared in case something goes wrong there too. Although, I wouldn't be as frazzled there as I was in Lima. I filled out the post-trip survey and I also sent an email bringing the situation to ABD's attention. Hopefully, they will be able to do something to make the airport transport go more smoothly for future travelers to Peru.
     
  16. Gonecruisin

    Gonecruisin novice

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    La Chica is talking about going to Peru next so I'll be following this closely. Thanks for the honest review so far. I like to have all the good and bad info so I can be prepared for anything. Can't wait for your pics!
     
  17. Bobo912

    Bobo912 DIS Veteran

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    I forgot to mention anything about the hotel in Lima, the Casa Andina Private Collection. Our room was a fairly standard room for any reasonably nice hotel. It was clean, comfortable and well maintained, but rather small and nothing particularly special. On the other hand, the room we had for the afternoon once we returned to Lima at the end of the trip was a very nice, large room, but we didn’t get to use that room for very long, since we flew home that evening. There is a lovely pool located on the 3rd floor. The fitness room overlooks the pool, so if you are so inclined, you can work out while your kids are in the pool and still be able to keep an eye on them. The hotel’s wifi was slow, but not the worst on this trip, and it was free. There is a bar in the lobby area, a quick service restaurant that has sandwiches, salads and pastries and a sit down restaurant, which also serves a breakfast buffet. We had dinner in the restaurant and the service was slow, but our server was very pleasant. There were several restaurants within easy walking distance. The neighborhood seemed safe enough, but the guides did warn us to be cautious when we ventured out of the hotel. I didn’t use it, but there was an ATM in hotel, which is convenient if you haven’t exchanged any money yet. I didn’t take any photos of the room, but if you go to the Casa Andina website you can see them. Our first room was a “traditional” and our second room was a “superior”. I did take a picture of this art work, which was fodder for a lot of juvenile jokes, which is too be expected since we were traveling with a lot of juveniles. :)

    [​IMG]

    Day 2 – the day the tour really starts
    We were instructed to have our luggage out by 6:30AM. We were scheduled to leave the hotel at 7:30 to catch our flight to Cusco. I put our bags out a little before 6:30 and then we went down for the breakfast buffet. Breakfast was kind of hectic and rushed. The hotel has a large buffet that appeared to have a very good selection. But since all 44 of us, plus the 4 ABD folks, showed up for breakfast around the same time, it was a bit crowded. I made the mistake of getting in line for the omelet station, which was slow. I didn’t really get to check out the rest of the selection on the buffet or enjoy my breakfast, since I felt rushed. We should have gone down earlier.

    We all got on a big bus and were taken to the airport. The guides handed out our boarding passes and we all went through security and on to our gate. Then our flight was delayed. I got the feeling that this happens often. I believe the flight was delayed by a little more than an hour. Finally, we were loaded on to a shuttle that took us out to the plane sitting on the tarmac. DS and I tried our first Inca Cola during the flight. Not sure if DS had another during the trip, but it was the last one for me. It tastes a lot like bubble gum and it is too sweet for my taste. We were warned that the approach to Cusco was “interesting”, and it was a bit bumpy, but not too bad. At the airport in Cusco I encountered my first restroom where there was no toilet seat. There was toilet paper though, but it was outside of the stall, so you had to get what you needed and take it in with you. The restrooms took some getting used to. This is my advice: wherever you are, if there is a toilet with paper and a seat you should use it, even if you don’t need to. While we were waiting for the bus, I started feeling strange, but just a little. We all got on a bus for the ride to the Center for Traditional Textiles in Chinchero, which is at a slightly higher elevation than Cusco. They greeted us with lemonade that I believe was the best lemonade I’ve ever had. We were served an outdoor lunch of traditional Peruvian food – some good, some just okay – and wine for the adults. I was feeling a bit light-headed, so I had my first coca tea, but it didn’t seem to help at all, but it tasted okay. We were given a weaving demonstration, and an opportunity to buy some of the hand woven textiles. The women at the center make the yarn, dye it and weave everything by hand and it takes a couple of weeks just to make a ball of yarn. If these items were made in the US they would cost a billion dollars – well, maybe not that much, but they would be expensive. The kids dressed up in some ponchos, hats and other traditional Peruvian clothing. It was cute. I would post a photo, but I don’t think I should post photos of other people’s kids on the internet, so I’ll just post a photo of the ladies who work there, since there are already lots of photos of them on the internet anyway.

    [​IMG]

    Every time I stood and moved around, I felt loopy, so I found a shady place to sit down and waited while everybody finished shopping. I heard a few other people say they were feeling the effects of the altitude too. We left Chinchero and drove to the Sol y Luna resort, which is at a lower elevation and I felt fine after that. I guess I adjusted, because I was not affected by the altitude at any point during the remainder of the trip, not even when we went back to Cusco or during the fairly strenuous hiking.

    We arrived at Sol y Luna around dusk. The guides handed out our room keys and a member of the Sol y Luna staff showed us to our casita. He said we were lucky because we had received an upgrade. Our casita was huge. There is free wifi, but it is terribly slow.

    Here are some photos.

    The casita from the outside.
    [​IMG]]

    The entrance
    [​IMG]

    We were told the fireplace and the music system were an upgrade.
    [​IMG]

    And the bowl of fruit and tray of treats. Wish I had thought of taking a photo before we ate some of the sweets.

    [​IMG]

    The awesome bathroom

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Most of the rooms don't have TVs, but we had one. I was a bit disappointed because I thought it would be good for DS to do without a TV, but he didn't watch it anyway. I watched a little. They had more English speaking stations than in Lima. I was watching a news show one night from the bed, and there were captions on the bottom of the screen. I had to get out of bed and walk across the room to read them. They need a bigger TV or a smaller room. :)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Our patio
    [​IMG]

    We got settled in and then we were off to the welcome dinner. I think the place where we met may be new or at least remodeled since one of the guides mentioned that it was a new restaurant. We didn’t eat in the restaurant, but met in the bar area, where we had some appetizers and a Pisco Sour. If you wanted a different drink, it was at your own expense. The kids had lemonade. I tasted of DS’s and, unlike the lemonade at lunch, I believe this was the worst lemonade I ever tasted. We had the usual introductions – one member of the family introduces the rest and tells everybody what they are most looking forward to. After that the guides introduced themselves and Mike handed out the Adventure Insider pins. At least half of the families on this trip were returning guests. We then moved outside for the Pachamanca.

    Here is the menu:

    [​IMG]


    Here is Chef Nacho and his assistants preparing the pit.

    [​IMG]


    While dinner was cooking in the pit, we were entertained by the “Andean Gods Theater”. I love this sort of thing. Here is a snippet of video of the show. I got the heads of the little girls sitting in front of me, but the video isn't too bad. I hope you all can see it. The link worked the first time I click on it, but I just got a blank screen the second time, so let me know if it doesn't work.

    [​IMG]

    I thought this meal was going to be awesome, but honestly IMO it wasn't very good, although some people seemed to like it . Except for the chicken, the meat was tough. The vegetables were dry and needed seasoning. There are desserts on the menu, but I don’t remember having any. Maybe I’ve just forgotten, because I didn’t eat a lot of dinner, so I can’t believe I skipped dessert! The good thing about this meal was that DS tried everything and even liked the Chimichurri sauce, which I was surprised that he even tasted, since it’s green. The entertainment and company was great, so I really enjoyed the dinner, even if the food was a bit disappointing.

    We went back to the casita to get some rest. After seeing the weather forecast and reading about Sol y Luna I was afraid that our room was going to be cold at night. But actually it was too warm. I didn’t need those wool socks I packed to sleep in. I left the windows open every night and I still woke up during the night feeling hot. The high temps during the day were only in the 60s, but 60s felt warmer in Peru than it does at home. I checked the temperature one morning before we went out and it was 55, so I expected it to feel cool, but it didn’t. I don’t understand that, but I’m glad it wasn’t cold.
     
  18. sayhello

    sayhello Have Camera, Will Travel Moderator

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    Oh, cool! Pics! That casita looks amazing! What a great room. :thumbsup2

    Glad the altitude issues didn't last. It still scares me a bit.

    You can upload your video to photobucket, and then use the link it gives you. You'll end up with a large "thumbnail" in your report, and if people click it, it will take them to the video on photobucket, where it plays. (At least that's how it worked last time I did it!)

    Sayhello
     
  19. tufbuf

    tufbuf Disney Addict!

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    Yeah, they gave you a special room! I don't recall treats in our room or fruits. That's a great plus!!!

    I enjoyed the pachamanca, I mean the effort alone in preparing that one meal is astounding! I remember Chef Nacho. He is the body builder, right? I enjoyed Peruvian food - the quinoa soup, quinoa cereal and their ceviche!!! The thought of it makes my mouth water! Yum!!

    Can't wait for the rest of your report, Bobo!!!
     
  20. Bobo912

    Bobo912 DIS Veteran

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    Thanks! I added the video.

    Totally agree about the effort in preparing the meal. It was a show in itself. I think I had heard too much about how spectacular the food in Peru is prior to the trip and my expectations were too high. We did have some really good food. The food on the night when Chef Nacho did the cooking demonstration was great. I wish I had the recipes for the quinoa soup and the pumpkin soup they serve at the restaurant at Sol y Luna.
     
  21. Boardwalk_bride

    Boardwalk_bride Married in WDW :)

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    Thank you so much for doing a TR! It will definitely help me (and I am sure others) prepare for the trip.

    Out of curiosity: did you happen to see if there was anything special set aside for vegetarians? I am worried it will just be vegetables and wondering if I should bring some protein bars.

    I am sorry to hear about your arrival issue. That is really scary!
     

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