Celebrating Dr. Seuss at Sea aboard the Carnival Imagination

Celebrating Dr. Seuss at Sea aboard the Carnival Imagination pin

Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Suess, was a man of many talents. He was a writer, artist, cartoonist, animator, and publisher who took on the “Dr. Seuss” pen name during his college years at Dartmouth and Oxford. Though he started his career as a scathing political cartoonist and illustrator for advertisements, he is best remembered today for his children’s book series, which include The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Horton Hears a Who. Suess always highlighted the important of everyone’s unique traits, and his stories have inspired kids to read and create for generations.

Celebrating Dr Suess at sea aboard Carnival Imagination decorated room

When we went on our last cruise aboard the Carnival Imagination, we were delighted to discover that Carnival Cruise Lines possessed the rights to use Dr. Suess’s iconic characters and imagery in their Seuss at Sea events for kids. Kids and parents can make memories with a character breakfast, an interactive storytelling activity, a character parade, and various artistic activities. This event is perfect for younger kids who love the stories of Dr. Suess and the art of reading.
Celebrating Dr Suess at sea aboard Carnival Imagination menu


The Character Breakfast

We enjoyed the character breakfast in the Spirit Dining Room at the back of the ship. Dining started at nine AM but families were lining up by eight thirty, and the venue was seating people half an hour early. The room for the breakfast was small, so parents should get a reservation ahead of time to guarantee a good table.

Celebrating Dr Suess at sea aboard Carnival Imagination dinning

The venue played various songs from the Suess musical. While these songs added to the ambiance, they were rather loud. Parents who require a table away from the music amplifiers should arrive early and talk to the host.

Celebrating Dr Suess at sea aboard Carnival Imagination yogurt

The decor of the dining area was detailed and whimsical, perfectly in theme for Dr. Suess. The entire eating experience was five bucks total, and the food was delicious. Kids could order from a Suess booklet many interestingly colored items and foods lifted directly from the Suess universe.

Celebrating Dr Suess at sea aboard Carnival Imagination pancakesThese items included “Moose Juice n Goose Juice,” funky colored french toast, pancakes, and waffles, and the famous Green Eggs and Ham. Many of the items were ladened with sugar, so parents should be careful and watch what their kids consume. In our opinion, the best item on the menu was the sunny side up green eggs and steak. The green eggs were delicious, well cooked, and soft. The menu also featured plenty of standard items for those who might be picky about the wacky colored foods.

Celebrating Dr Suess at sea aboard Carnival Imagination waffle

As other character breakfasts, this one too had guest appearances by Thing One and two, Sam I am and the Cat in the Hat.While the two ‘Things’ did walk around, Sam and the Cat stand in one spot and guests are expected to line up to get a selfie with them.

Character Parade and Story Reading

Kids could also enjoy the onboard character parade, walking alongside familiar Suess characters. The Suess-a-Palooza started at the Xanadu Lounge on the ship’s ninth deck at two PM. Excited passengers, staff, and various Seuss characters walked from here to the casino. Other passengers stood to side cheering. This event can be a lot of fun, especially for smaller kids, but some kids might get overwhelmed by the crowds and sounds. What is nice about this event is the fact that kids can choose to either participate in the parade or stand off to the side, able to leave at any time.
Celebrating Dr Suess at sea aboard Carnival Imagination eggs

The Story Reading took place in the Dynasty  Theater. We liked the decor, as the stage was decorated like an open tent. The concept is for fellow passengers to play read the Cat in the Hat, bringing it to life with props.The staff selects both kids and parents to play the different characters, so if you feel up to it, you can choose to volunteer. This fact makes for hilarious and memorable improv moments, especially from younger kids.

Celebrating Dr Suess at sea aboard Carnival Imagination table

Our Takeaway

All events are fantastic for families cruising with small children. It can sometimes be difficult to find something on a cruise line that will entertain kids who might not be old enough to participate in or enjoy typical cruise activities. Seuss at Sea entertains children while also encouraging reading and storytelling.Our son with autism brought up how incredible it was that Dr. Suess had this entire world of characters in his head, and compared him to Belgium’s Herge.
Celebrating Dr Suess at sea aboard Carnival Imagination things

Autism Travel Tips

  • The ship typically schedules the popular breakfast on sea days. Make sure you book it in advance.
  • If your child is noise sensitive you may want to pack earplugs or headphones. They play loud music at the breakfast on multiple loudspeakers.
  • Most tables seat eight to ten people. Should you wish to sit at a smaller table, mention it to the hostess that seats you.
  • The venue accommodates special diets. Make sure you notify the Maitre D’  the night before.
  • There is no restriction on the number of items you can order. If your kid is a picky eater you can order several items for him or her to try.

Celebrating Dr Suess at sea aboard Carnival Imagination ice


Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans



Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans pin

The Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans is a sight to see. This grand restaurant has been open since 1890 when it was owned by Emile Commander. Over time, the restaurant switched owners, first to Frank G. Giarratano in the 20s, then to the Morans in 1944. Thirty years later, the Brennan family took over, painting the outside the iconic “Commander’s Blue” that makes the restaurant so distinct as well as redesigning the interior, adding large windows, and putting in custom paintings. Today, the restaurant is a culinary icon for the city, serving great New Orleans staples in a high-quality environment.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans floor

The Décor 

The building is hard to miss with it’s white and teal striped siding reminiscent of a whimsical Disneyland Main Street restaurant. The inside rivals any modern fancy dining room. Old-fashioned chandeliers light the room and elegant brown and lavender walls which boast elaborate designs. The tables are all decked out with white tablecloths and a single miniature lamp. Wide open windows and mirrors help bring more light into the room while giving the illusion of an even larger space. The décor and the setting make for a great anniversary or birthday meal.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans window

The Food

The cuisine is a blend of Creole and Louisiana flavors. Patrons can try various unique dishes such as shrimp beignets and turtle soup, and of course traditional dishes such as gumbo.

The food is a bit upscale and certainly on the more on the expensive side. However, as we found out, the food is well worth the price (and the Yelp reviews agree). When we visited the Commander’s Palace, I had a Nellie, which consisted of rye whiskey, dark rum, orange liqueur, bitters and citrus and cost a whopping ten dollars! But as soon as I started drinking, I found it was worth every penny. My husband ordered a big daddy of Grand Mariner with fresh squeezed lemon and likewise enjoyed his order.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans meat

The must-try dish is their famous Commander’s Bread Pudding Soufflé with Whiskey Sauce. It is a delicious sweet dish with custard that anyone in the family is sure to enjoy.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans menu

Try it at home

There are a few recipes posted on their website for those who want to try their hand at some Louisiana cooking once they get back home! If anyone in the family has something they love, parents can ask the staff if they can track down the recipe before leaving. Of course, there are always adaptation recipes, like this one for the Bread Pudding Soufflé. But the staff is typically more than happy to give interested patrons the authentic recipe from the source.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans dessert


We recommend making a reservation online or over the phone for those planning their trip to New Orleans. The restaurant takes phone reservations at (504) 899-8221 between nine am and nine pm daily.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans kitchen

Dress Code

There is a dress code at Commander’s Palace that families should know about before visiting. The best way to sum up the required attire is Business Casual. They specify on the website that gentlemen must wear collared shirts and closed toe shoes, and jackets are preferred. No one can wear shorts, flip-flops, t-shirt, sweatshirts, or sweatpants, and jeans are discouraged.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans dish

There is a particular environment that the staff likes to keep up down to the last detail in the restaurant. As an example, one woman on TripAdvisor mentioned that when she came to the restaurant in a black dress, the staff switched her napkins from white to black.

The surprise factor as we discovered is the staff encourages patrons to visit the kitchen!

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans bread

Location, Hours

The Commander’s Palace Restaurant is located at 1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130. It sits at the corner of Coliseum Street in the Garden District, close to the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. Visitors can enjoy the complimentary valet parking service at the restaurant if they drive there.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans chef

The restaurant is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. They temporarily closed to prepare for dinner for a few hours. The restaurant then opens again for dinner hours from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • There isn’t a ton of room between tables, but there is typically enough room to have a conversation without shouting. Parents of children with autism might want to request a quiet table away from the center.
  • The restaurant is not necessarily wheelchair friendly. However, some tables could accommodate a guest in a wheelchair.
  • The restaurant does occasionally play live Jazz music, during brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Parents of children for whom this might be a problem should request a table away from the performers.
  • The restaurant does offer some private dining options. These are usually for large parties, though interested families of four can reserve the Chef’s Table.
  • Some of the food items, particularly the alcoholic drinks, can take a while to prepare and bring to the table.
  • Kids with no smell sensitivities might get a kick out of touring the kitchen to see how the cooking is done.

Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids


Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids PIN

When traveling to a new country, whether one is adult or child, the best way to learn about your vacation locale is through its cuisine. With Israel being a melting pot of cultures brought about not only by immigrants from around the world in the last century and a half but also by locals who have been there for decades; one finds a rich history and broad influence of flavors from European, Ottoman, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern to name a few. For those planning to visit Israel here are our Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids.

Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids salad



One of the things that Israel is renowned for is its fruit and vegetables. From the fruit of the land, amazing salads are produced, and Tel Aviv is fast becoming the go-to place for vegans. Also, the salads can double up as dips, side dishes or even be a meal on their own. Rich in vibrant color and flavor; each dish is a culinary adventure in its own right.

Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids chopped

Travelers can enjoy garbanzo bean hummus paste with the ground sesame seed tahini, or the roasted red and yellow bell peppers in their marinade to the finely diced, or a simple Israeli salad of cucumber and tomato and a drizzle of vinegar and olive-oil dressing which is almost a national dish.

Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids dip

There are dozens of ways to prepare eggplant from smoked, to oven-baked or deep-fried; mixed with mayonnaise or garlic and lemon; the options are endless, and the same goes for cauliflower. A top favorite is Tabouleh with its finely chopped parsley, and mint and travelers shouldn’ forget the olives and pickles. Lots of olive oil, herbs, and garlic are used in the making of the salads, and they can make the most hardened carnivore enjoy their meal.


Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids dishes

Falafel and Schnitzel

Israel’s version of the German-Viennese veal or pork dish is the Schnitzel – a thin preparation of chicken breast; breaded and fried, served with chips or in a pita with salads, hummus, and tahini. This dish is a staple in the local diet. You can buy it from street vendors or order it in restaurants, bought frozen and ready to heat and eat. It is not uncommon for Schnitzel to be on a typical Israeli family’s menu at least once a week.

Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids pita

Not to be outdone, the vegetarian counterpart made from the very versatile chickpea is the renowned falafel. Specially prepared chickpeas are shaped into little spheres and deep fried. Containing Mediterranean herbs and Middle Eastern spices this dip bursts with flavor. Also served in a pita with chips, hummus, and salads, it is Israel’s top street food.

Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids falafel


Known as kebabs and kebobs in other parts of the world, in Israel, they are called Shipudim – cubes of meat – typically chicken thigh meat, beef or lamb -skewered onto sticks of wood or metal and barbecued on an open fire. In the open-air markets or restaurants and from street-food vendors, Shipudim combine Middle Eastern and Mediterranean culture. One can get Shipudim served with salads and pita bread as a substantial midday or evening meal.
Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids meat


Found at most social gatherings, making easy school lunches, served at picnics, parties, and other events; Bourekas are a street food and make great travel food too! These pockets made with phyllo pastry layers and filled with potato, spinach, cheese or mushrooms, more than likely have their origin in Turkey. Interestingly, their various geometric shapes and sesame or poppy seed toppings indicate their filling. Triangles with poppy typically mean mushroom. Round with sesame are filled with white Bulgarian cheese, and the cylindrical ones are stuffed with potato. The spinach comes in a tube spiral, and a pizza flavor roll-up became available in the last decade and is a favorite for many.
Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids burekas

Huevos Haminados

The very name is a giveaway as to its Spanish origins; a simple yet beautiful preparation of hard boiled eggs traditionally served at Passover or on the Sabbath introduced to Israel by Sephardic Jews. Boiled in tea leaf and coffee-ground infused water, the shells take on a dark purple-brown hue and the egg white a creamy-beige. Cooked for that many hours, the proteins and sugars in the egg change structure and the egg becomes nutty in flavor and soft in texture. It is traditionally served with bourekas described above.

Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids egg



A signature dish of Israel, eaten traditionally for breakfast, lunch or dinner is a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, all-in-one-pan meal. Shakshuka consists of eggs poached in a stewed sauce of tomatoes, peppers, and Middle Eastern spices. In addition, some chefs add spinach for a variation on the theme. One typically eats Shakshuka with cheeses, salads, and fresh-baked bread or pita.
Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids shakshuka


Pronounced with a guttural ‘h’ at the back of the throat, the Sabih is basically a Middle Eastern sandwich consisting of hummus, fried eggplant and sliced hard-boiled egg. It can be served between two slices of bread of your choice, or a pita pocket or in a wrap. Also, one can add ther toppings like a sour cream or spicy harissa, and it makes a very filling and tasty vegetarian meal.
Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids sabih

 Za’atar bagel

Take a bagel, add Za’atar and what do you have? A very traditional Israeli staple found in bakeries, sold on the streets and open-air markets as well as in the grocery stores. Za’atar is a typically Middle Eastern plant, sometimes known as hyssop and a herb from the oregano family. The name Za’atar is also used to describe a mixture of herbs with sesame seeds and other spices used not only in baking but also in meat dishes. If you are looking for an inexpensive snack, get a za’atar bagel! This savory ringed bread dough-based treat is baked and then topped with olive oil and the green and fragrant spice mix.

Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids lunch

 Hanukkah donuts

Unlike in the USA where there are donut shops, it is rare to find sweet deep-fried treats for sale. However, a few weeks before Hanukkah (which falls anywhere between November to December according to the calendar of Judaism) there are donuts in abundance. The sufganiyot come in ring form topped with chocolate, and different colored frostings; plain and decorated with sprinkles. But more commonly associated with this religious holiday are the jelly-filled ones with powdered sugar on top. In recent years the fillings have become more creative and exotic. Fillings range from dulce-de-leche, chocolate and vanilla cream to cappuccino!
Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids jelly

 Liquid refreshments

Even in the colder and wetter season in Israel, being in the Middle East and Mediterranean means that most of the year is hot. Therefore, Israelis have come up with some delightful liquid refreshments for hydration and enjoyment, apart from very necessary water. Served at restaurants and bought from street vendors or in grocery stores you will find a few of these healthy and refreshing treats.

First off, there is a drink called ‘Lemo-nana’ which is lemonade with ‘nana’ which is mint. Extremely thirst-quenching on a hot day, don’t leave Israel without trying it. Also, you can try freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices available in the markets, from street vendors and drink bars in shopping malls.

Whether you like carrot and beetroot or grapefruit and orange or a combination of them all, you can mix and match your drinks and enjoy them for a very reasonable price.
Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids drink

Another very refreshing drink to try is Almond water, a sweet cordial which has its influence in northern Africa. With added rosewater, the flavor of almonds shines through.

Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids bottles

At the southern tip of Israel is a kibbutz called Yotvata. This location is famous for providing the whole country with something called “Choco,” from the Hebrew word for chocolate. It is a little sachet with a cup volume of chocolate milk! With just the right amount of sweet and the right amount of chocolate, taken straight out of the fridge, it is the perfect drink on a hot day and has been satisfying locals and tourists for six decades!

Ten Must-Try Israeli Foods for Families with Kids dessert


Taking Your Kid with Autism to Medieval Times

Taking Your Kid with Autism to Medieval Times pin

Our autism travel experts get questions about Medieval Times quite a bit. For those who don’t know, Medieval Times is a two to four-hour long dinner/show found in nine US locations and themed after a medieval knight jousting tournament. Visitors enter a replica castle and experience a night of fighting, food, and merriment. One can see live horse tricks and falconry at many of these events.

So should or shouldn’t parents take children to Medieval Times? It honestly depends on the child.
Parents who decide to go should make sure to plan ahead and ensure their child knows what to expect.  Here is a list of factors that parents of children with autism should consider before experiencing Medieval Times.

Taking Your Kid with Autism to Medieval Times green


The show itself involves lots of noise, often magnified by microphones, from the actors and live animals. For example, one of the most distinctive loud noises is a whip cracking used several times near the end. The show itself also utilizes incredibly loud music. Finally, there is also the sound of the crowds to consider. There’s often hundreds of people sitting in a close, indoor space, many of whom get incredibly excited about the show. While the show isn’t consistently loud, the sounds of the crowds and the show combined can rise to surprisingly high levels.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Parents of children with noise sensitivities should ask for a table all the way in the back of the stadium. This table should ideally also be away from the center of the loudspeakers and “King’s Booth.”
  • Parents should bring earplugs or noise canceling headphones.


The show does frequently use strobe lighting, as well as sudden changes in lighting and light color. The arena can change quickly from fully lit to nearly pitch dark, which can be disorienting. Throughout the show, most frequently at the beginning, lights move fast over the crowds, which can mean that people watching the show will have a light shine in their eyes at some points.

Taking Your Kid with Autism to Medieval Times red

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Parents of children with light sensitivities can have their child wear sunglasses to help with sudden light changes.
  • Children who have sensitivities to strobe lights could wear special strobe glasses.
  • Several vendors walk around the area selling light up items. Parents of children who might be afraid of suddenly being in the dark should consider purchasing one of these as a fun mini nightlight.


The food at Medieval Times is a huge part of the experience. Guests eat food off of metal plates and bowls with no utensils. The Medieval Times menu usually offers tomato soup, garlic bread, half a chicken, corn, potatoes, and a pastry. However, there is a vegetarian menu as most locations, offering various meals such as bean stew with carrot sticks and hummus. Each meal comes with a tankard that “wenches” fill and refill with the drink chosen by guests as they sit down. Unfortunately, there’s nothing outside of the regular or vegetarian options regarding food offerings. Those observing limited diets or tastes might run into problems at this establishment.

Taking Your Kid with Autism to Medieval Times food

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Bringing a little light, or purchasing one of the light up objects sold by the wandering vendors, might be an excellent idea for parents with children who have not eaten in the dark before and might swallow a small bone.
  • Be sure to request the vegetarian option during booking for family members who need it, and ask about exactly what will be in the meal as it is subject to change.
  • Parents of children who deal with OCD or would otherwise be uncomfortable with eating food with their hands can pack plastic utensils. They should also make sure their child has quick and easy access to a napkin at all times. Near the end of the show, the “wenches” will bring moist toilettes around so everyone can clean their hands.


As mentioned before, there are often hundreds of people packed into the “theater in the round” arena space. Guests are seated in long rows on benches, and getting people in and out of the area can take a long time. Those who have to go to the bathroom and get stuck between two people usually have to hop over the chairs, involving a lot of physical dexterity. Once seated, everyone is very close to one another and often cheering, laughing, or booing loudly.

Taking Your Kid with Autism to Medieval Times knight

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Parents should sit as far back as possible. They should also sit their child at the end of the row so that the child isn’t stuck between two people and can quickly leave if they need to go to the bathroom or decompress.
  • Parents might want to research times when the tournament is less busy, as there will be fewer people there and the chances of being in a row with no other families are much higher.


Medieval Times is a show that involves live animals and actors. The show both lists on their website and frequently reminds patrons on the site that no one should bang their cups or throw items into the arena for risk of upsetting the horses. Some of the shows include a falconry portion where a falcon will fly over the heads of the audience members. Guests are frequently reminded that they should not reach up for the falcon as it flies overhead or otherwise confuse it, as the falcon has sharp talons. And of course, while many guests heckle the Knights as part of the show, several of the same rules of watching a theater production still apply here in regards to treatment of actors.

Taking Your Kid with Autism to Medieval Times horse

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Parents should be watchful of flighty children, particularly during the falconry segment.
  • Children should sit at the end of the row in case the parent needs to take them outside of the area for a moment to calm down.

Have you taken your kid with autism to Medieval Times? What are your tips?



Beachside Relaxation at Marriott Rio De Janeiro

Beachside Relaxation



Last month, while visiting the beautiful Brazillian capital of Rio, we stayed at the JW Marriott Rio De Janeiro. The five-star property, located at 2600 Avenida Atlântica in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, contains approximately 245 rooms and suites and faces the famous Copa beach front.

We chose to stay at this hotel for both safety and location reasons. After hearing stories of security challenges in the Brazillian capital, we wanted to make sure that we stayed in an upscale spot that was filled with tourists and well guarded by the police. Moreover, since this was our first time and we had heard about Copa beach, we wanted to experience it firsthand by staying nearby.

Beachside Relaxation at the JW Marriott Copacabana sunset

What Makes it Family Worthy?

The hotel is close to several shopping areas and a fifteen-minute drive to major shopping malls in Rio, as well as various eateries along Avenida Atlantica. This establishment is a short walk away from the famous Copacabana Beach, and a private section of the beach is reserved for Marriott guests. The local subway station is likewise only a few blocks from the building.

Fellow Travelers

This hotel mainly hosts vacationers, solo couples, and families that wish to be close to the beach and enjoy the waterfront.

Beachside Relaxation at the JW Marriott Copacabana chair


The spotlessly clean public areas of this building had darkly hued neutral colors enhanced by elegant touches of metallic colors. Patterned chairs and carpets in other sections of the hotel gave the building additional “old world” pizazz.


Because of the safety concerns, I had called the front desk and asked for a hotel limo to pick us up at the airport. Somehow, the order was lost. After realizing the mishap, we ended up booking a cab straight from the airport when we arrived at night, which sped on the freeway like a bat out of hell. It got so bad that we were all praying to get to the hotel in one piece since the driver did not pay attention to our pleas to slow down. When we finally arrived, the personal was apologetic and checked us in as soon as they could. The hotel also sent us a small welcome dessert plate as an apology, which we thought was a nice touch.

Beachside Relaxation at the Marriott Rio De Janeiro drink


We stayed in connecting rooms on the 16th floor, 1620 and 1618. Both rooms had excellent views overlooking the beach area.

The cozy rooms contained fluffy pillows and comfortable bedding. The furnishings in both rooms were similar, with the only significant difference being that one had two double beds and the other featured a king sized bed.

The nightstands in each room held an alarm clock, a phone, and some complimentary bottled waters. There were also lamps over the beds with several electrical outlets near the nightstands that were excellent places to recharge both our phones and our I-pods. We were grateful that, as Marriott Gold members, we were provided free wifi.

Beachside Relaxation at the Marriott Rio De Janeiro bed

One of the main perks of staying at this particular Marriott was the copious amount of storage space provided for us. Both our rooms had well-lit, wooden paneled closets that contained irons, hangers, and bathrobes for our use. A large cabinet that also housed the in-room safe was provided to hold even more of our personal belongings. There was a small foldable luggage rack in the room as well, but we had plenty of places to put our gear and didn’t even need to use it.

The rooms had a desk area with a large chair and well as a small sitting area with a lovely armchair and footrest. Hotel guests should also take note of the coffee making supplies and large LCD televisions provided in the rooms.


The bathroom was fairly standard for the Marriott and contained the usual amenities of soap, shampoo, conditioner, and lotions. The room’s walls were in hues of brown with speckled granite tile floor that matched the sink and countertop. There was a combination shower/bathtub with a curtain and a grab bar.

Beachside Relaxation at the Marriott Rio De Janeiro bathroom


The hotel has a 24-hour reception desk. It also is home to an especially detail oriented concierge service that has won several international awards. However, we commend the professional staff at the Marriott Rio for their stellar service and the way they accommodated our son with autism.

Patrons who tire of going to the beach may want to check out the hotel’s rooftop swimming pool instead, or book treatments at the luxurious onsite spa. Those trying to stay fit will be happy to know that the hotel has a gym overlooking the nearby beach so those exercising can do some “people watching” while on the various machines.

Beachside Relaxation at the Marriott Rio De Janeiro sink

Should hunger strike, travelers can dine at one of the two onsite restaurants for some delicious snacks or Italian grub.

Executive Lounge

The executive lounge at this particular Marriott is fabulous. From the incredible breakfast spread that it offered with colorful fresh cut up fruit to the elaborate happy hour, we never went hungry. The Happy Hour had so many different appetizers and complimentary drinks to choose from that we never made it to a sit-down dinner in the city.

On the day we stopped by, the lounge staff was serving a vast assortment of finger foods and sandwiches. Those with heartier appetites had the option of enjoying spicy chicken soup or stew and rice. A large tray of bread served to round out the repast.

Beachside Relaxation at the Marriott Rio De Janeiro food

The executive lounge also provided to go breakfasts and snacks, which is an unusual feature for these lounges. We loved the fact that even if we took an early morning tour, the lounge supplied us with a boxed breakfast to go.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The room bathtub has grab bars, but bath mats are not provided so travelers should pack their own.
  • The rooms have thick drapes that do a good job blocking out the light. Therefore, light sensitive individuals should not worry about getting plenty of sleep.
  • The hotel is not pet-friendly, so allergy sufferers need not worry about pet dander in the rooms.
  • Although it has incredible views of the Copa beach, the room windows are small and do not open.
  • There is no lifeguard at the pool. Because of this, visitors need to be watchful if their kid can’t swim.
  • If your kid is an escape artist, ask for a room that doesn’t face the atrium since it can be dangerous if they lean over.

Beachside Relaxation at the Marriott Rio De Janeiro end


Family Fun at the Memphis Peabody Hotel Brunch

The Memphis Peabody Hotel is a beautifully decorated remnant of the old south, with a full buffet and marching ducks. It is an experience enjoyable for all the family, where adults can enjoy the delicious food and even the youngest children can enjoy watching the ducks. 

In 1869, the original Peabody Hotel opened in Memphis, Tennessee; expanding and relocating 56 years later to its current location. Named for George Peabody, this hotel beautifully reflects the era, and it has earned a place in the National Trust for Historic Preservation – The Historic Hotels of America.

Family Fun at the Memphis Peabody Hotel Brunch tableLocation and Parking

Located at 149 Union Ave, Memphis, TN, the hotel is about 15 minutes from the Memphis International Airport and downtown. Its proximity to other Memphis landmarks makes it central and convenient. For a fee, there is both Valet parking on the premises and Self-Parking a block away from the hotel.


Family Fun at the Memphis Peabody Hotel Brunch duck home

There is lavish décor through the lobby, and decorations are granite and marble in contrast with the more modest restaurant. It is spacious with tones of pale greens and tans, and the area feels warm and welcoming lending to the history and air of the old South.


Family Fun at the Memphis Peabody Hotel Brunch statue

Unique Traits

What makes The Peabody Hotel uniquely famous is its marching ducks. The ducks, five in number, live on the roof in a duck penthouse. Twice daily, these ducks take the elevator down to the lobby to march across the lawn at 11 am and 5 pm. The march is popular and attracts many visitors to the hotel especially the kids. Expect to call on the early side to catch a good seat on the floor near the ducks if you want to see them up close and personal. The marching duck tradition began 90 years ago, and many guests come to experience and take advantage of the Ducky Day Family package.

For fans of the web-footed quacking marchers, they will be happy to hear that the Peabody restaurant incidentally does not offer duck anywhere on the menu and has a lovely brunch on Sundays that locals and travelers enjoy.

Family Fun at the Memphis Peabody Hotel Brunch sleeping duck


The brunch is catered by the Capriccio Grill between 11 am and 2:30 pm and you can make reservations online. The presentation of the delicious eats is a visual delight! It is elaborately laid out, and there are high standards in their meal preparation. From the breakfast items like cereals, muffins, cheese grits and sausage grits, eggs, breakfast potatoes to the more brunch and lunch items on the menu; it feels like a cozy diner. The salads are colorful; fresh vegetables and fruits whole or prepared and elegantly presented. A generous selection of bread, cheeses, cold cut meats and smoked fish is available. In the hot food section, there are other typical Southern cuisine items like Butternut squash ravioli, baby-back ribs, ratatouille, fried chicken, mixed vegetables and garlic butter shrimp. At the carvery, they have prime rib, calamari, and deep-fried ravioli. Finally, the dessert table is simply beautiful. The in-house chefs have prepared mousses, tarts, cakes, cookies, crème brûlée, croissants, cakes and even a hot chocolate pie.

Family Fun at the Memphis Peabody Hotel Brunch deli

Out of all the dishes offered what surprised us the most in a good way were the items dipped in chocolate at the dessert table such as potato chips, pretzels, and bacon, which turned out to be a firm favorite.

Family Fun at the Memphis Peabody Hotel Brunch chocolate

The staff was incredibly friendly and replenished our drinks in a timely manner. They regularly cleared the used dishes to make room for the new dishes filled with food offerings.


Autism Travel Tips:

  • If you don’t want to wait in line, then book to come later after 1:30 pm. This is best for those that prefer avoiding crowded places.
  • Seating is comfortable with the tables relatively far from each other, so customers don’t feel cramped.
  • The lighting in the area is a combination of natural and artificial, and the noise element is lower as the tables aren’t too close to each other.Family Fun at the Memphis Peabody Hotel Brunch lobby
  • Since brunch tends to be a longer experience, antsy kids can get coloring books, or parents can bring tablets. Our son found the lobby self-playing piano fun and spent quite a bit of time watching it.
  • As the food is served buffet-style, most diets can be accommodated. However, if you travel with someone with severe allergies to any ingredients make sure you ask the server about it before you dine.

Family Fun at the Memphis Peabody Hotel Brunch pin


Family Dining at Jumbo Kingdom Floating Restaurant


Family Dining at Jumbo Kingdom Floating Restaurant Hong Kong


At the Jumbo Kingdom Floating Restaurant in Hong Kong, guests can enjoy fine dining in a beautiful environment. As you dine on fresh, delicious seafood, you can see the lavish sights inside the building as well as the city from across the harbor.

In what is known as the Typhoon Shelter of Hong Kong’s Aberdeen Harbor, you will find one of the world’s largest floating restaurant complexes in the form of the amazing Jumbo Kingdom. Established over four decades ago, it has been in operation ever since, except for a hiatus for a few years after a severe fire.

Recently it underwent a multimillion dollar upgrade and transformation. It is remarkably pretty to look at and an interesting place to eat, offering sightseeing, shopping, and a unique dining experience off of dry land.


Jumbo Kingdom Floating Restaurant

Even though it is called “floating,” the entire Jumbo Kingdom is not entirely bobbing out on the bay, as it has a stable concrete foundation in most parts. Nevertheless, the only way to get to it is by a swift boat or ferry ride from the promenade. One approaches the jetty on old-fashioned ramp-steps which segue to wooden planks on a deck.

There, while you wait for the complimentary vessel that takes you to the Jumbo Kingdom, you can admire the size and design of the colossal creation from afar. It is breathtaking at night with the façade resembling a great circus tent and magnificent imperial palace or fairytale castle.

Decoration and Dining

Family Dining at Jumbo Kingdom Floating Restaurant


The Dragon Court restaurant is known for its fine dining and is so large it can cater to well over 1500 guests. It is divided into various large rooms and banquet halls, all decorated with garish colors, oriental statuettes and of course, enormous golden dragons. Adorning the walls are portraits and photos of the many celebrities and royalty who have eaten here over the decades.

Jumbo Kingdom Floating Restaurant

There are beautiful aquariums full of lovely-looking inhabitants for display, not eating. Since this restaurant specializes in seafood, there are other aquariums and tanks with live fish also on display outside of the dining area.

Diners can take a tour of the tanks, surrounded by moving conveyor belts. In this way, a guest can see that the facilities and sea creatures are clean, that the guests can see what they will be eating and that guests have respect for what they will be eating, as this is culturally significant. There are marine mollusks and crustaceans, a myriad of shellfish and a vast assortment of live seafood as well as crates in water and conveyor belts transporting buckets containing freshly dressed oysters, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, squid and more!


After the tour, there are steps up to the Dragon Court on the first deck, and there are quite beautiful mosaics on the wall, the décor depicting the Ming Dynasty as well as more contemporary artwork too. For a small price, there is the possibility of dressing up as the King and Queen in Imperial robes. It’s perfect for photos!

As mentioned before, the Jumbo Kingdom is vast, and the whole complex can hold 4500 people. In some spots, you can look out of the window and see the pier and the  Hong Kong skyline.

They prepared the Cantonese cuisine near our table, and we were able to watch the chefs prepare the meal while we waited. We had the first course of sautéed shrimp with green pepper followed by the cooking of “Drunk Shrimp” over an open flame; done as a flambé, which is still on fire when set on your plate. The menu is diverse, and the experience is a novelty.


Autism Travel Tips:

  • There are many stairs and uneven ramps in the Jumbo Kingdom complex. Getting to the restaurant and up to the top deck, as well as the tour of the tanks involves climbing. It is not easily accessible for those needing the use of wheelchairs.
  • The tour of the tanks with all the sea creatures can be an unpleasant and overwhelming sensation for those who are sensitive to smell.
  • It can be crowded, and the noise level can be high, so make sure to reserve a place before peak time.


  • We preferred to take an organized tour for safety reasons and to see the city at night.
  • In general, bathroom hygiene is of a lesser grade than in the US, and you can expect in some places traditional bathrooms which you cannot sit on.
  • There are very few accommodations for special diets. There is a language barrier, and in a best case scenario you’ll get a menu with a picture of the food, but there’s no way to verify ingredients.




Yucatan Cuisine at Chichen Itza Restaurant ,Los Angeles

Yucatan Cuisine at Chichen Itza Restaurant ,Los Angeles sign

We were first introduced to the Yucatan-inspired Chichen Itza restaurant when our son, Steven, started studying at USC, and he happened to mention that he and his friends go there on regular basis.

So, last Sunday when we went to visit him, we figured we would try it and see how it measured up to the dishes our family had previously sampled during our many visits to Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

Yucatan Cuisine at Chichen Itza Restaurant ,Los Angeles menu

The restaurant is located in a warehouse-like building hidden in an area that looks semi-industrial near the 101 freeway in South LA. The building is part of a very quaint re-done mini mall called Mercado La Paloma, filled with eateries and Central American souvenir stores, owned by a nonprofit organization that strives to help establish sustainability in the L.A. neighborhood by providing jobs and housing for residents.
Yucatan Cuisine at Chichen Itza Restaurant ,Los Angeles shadow

For a small restaurant in a non-descript area of South LA, the restaurant has been featured several times on the local news and national stations. It has an A rating for cleanliness and has plenty of parking in front of it. There is also ample seating that it shares with the other food venues in the indoor mall.
A favorite of all the USC students and others working in the area; the restaurant can get somewhat crowded during lunch and dinner hours. But that doesn’t seem to deter the restaurant’s staff which still manages to cook and serve the orders at a relatively fast pace considering it has such a small kitchen; which by the way is open so patrons can see the dishes as they are being prepared.

Yucatan Cuisine at Chichen Itza Restaurant ,Los Angeles kitchen

As mentioned before, there are plenty of seats available in the well lit indoor Plaza where one can sit at the table and wait for one’s food order to arrive after prepaying at the cash register.

Yucatan Cuisine at Chichen Itza Restaurant ,Los Angeles seating
For guests with antsy kids that can’t wait patiently at their table; wandering about and checking out the trinkets sold in the nearby stores is a good option.
The day that we went, there was almost no line for ordering, but we could see the line moved relatively fast.

Yucatan Cuisine at Chichen Itza Restaurant ,Los Angeles souvenirs

The Food

The restaurant menu is rather extensive which makes for difficult choices when it comes to ordering.If you are a first time visitor and are there with friends, I recommend ordering several items to share so you can get a taste of the diversity of the dishes.

We liked that their menu, displayed over the cash register area, included a short description of dishes alongside pictures for those who had never tasted this type of cuisine before or had trouble understanding the written explanations.

Yucatan Cuisine at Chichen Itza Restaurant ,Los Angeles salad

The venue offers several authentic drinks that you should try – the Horchata, Jamaica, Guanabana and Aqua de Chaya.
Their appetizers include crispy fried tortilla Panuchos, fluffy corn tortilla Salbutes, Longaniza Asada, which is a smoky chorizo dish, and Kibbeh, which is a Lebanese-influenced dish of three beef cuts and bulgar wheat meatball-style patties.
The restaurant also features four types of Tamales, several different tacos filled with fish, pork, beef and chicken, and some sandwiches and sides that are perfect for lunch – all priced at under ten dollars each.

Yucatan Cuisine at Chichen Itza Restaurant ,Los Angeles drinks

Their main dishes are a little more pricey ( 12$-18$)  and include the delicious pork dish Poc Chuc; the suitable-for-vegetarian-tortilla Papadzules and their signature Pibil dish which is offered either with pork or chicken.
We had their Cochinita Pibil, which is delicious pulled pork, slow-roasted in banana leaves and marinated in achiote. The meat was tender and incredibly juicy topped with pickled red onions, and not surprisingly w tasted as good as its Mexican counterpart.

Yucatan Cuisine at Chichen Itza Restaurant ,Los Angeles chicken

The winning combination of jicama and orange in the restaurant’s orange jicama salad paired exceptionally well with our  Cochinita Pibil; so make sure you get an order to share for the table as the portion is large.
Since we were a party of five and the restaurant portions looked on the generous side, we shared an order of their Tacos de Chicharron and their Tacos de Cochinita Pibil along with their Torta de Polo Asada. The Torta that filled with mesquite grilled chicken, black beans and roasted onions with a side of potato salad chips and the homemade bread turned out to be a good choice.

Yucatan Cuisine at Chichen Itza Restaurant ,Los Angeles entree
Furthermore, we decided to sample all the four drinks and see which one would get our vote. Hands down the Horchata was best with the Jamaica a close second for those who like sweet beverages.

Yucatan Cuisine at Chichen Itza Restaurant ,Los Angeles phibil

The server who brought our order to the table was very friendly and quite knowledgeable in the nuances of Yucatán cooking. He took pride in explaining the achiote spice used in several of the dishes as well as the different types of pickled onions the chef uses.
According to our server, the way the onions are diced  (vertically versus horizontally)  affects the taste and determines whether the pickled onions will be milder or stronger.

Yucatan Cuisine at Chichen Itza Restaurant ,Los Angeles onions

We were pretty full by the time we ate everything but couldn’t pass over the opportunity to sample the restaurant’s version of bread pudding in almond syrup, so we took an order to go. According to our son who is an avid bread pudding connoisseur (he left no trace of it within the hour) the texture was doughier than the English version and a bit sweeter.

Yucatan Cuisine at Chichen Itza Restaurant ,Los Angeles bread pudding
Our takeaway

Overall, we had a lovely experience and were surprised not only by the excellent quality of food but by the friendliness of the staff who patiently answered my son’s questions and gave us all an impromptu, brief lesson in Mexican cooking.
Chichen Itza offers excellent value for money and diners can enjoy a satisfying meal for anywhere between $15 and $40.

You can find the Chichen Itza restaurant at 3655 S Grand Ave #C6, Los Angeles, CA.
Limited parking is available in the lot right by the Mercado, and if you find a spot there, you get your parking ticket validated by the restaurant. Grand Avenue has more availability for parking.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonalds


Located at 600 N Clark St, Chicago, Illinois, this Rock and Roll McDonald’s also nicknamed the 50Th McDonald’s after the company’s gold anniversary celebrations were held on the premises.

We stopped by for a quick lunch and family visit to explore the fast food museum after we had read about it in a couple of travel sites.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s street

The Restaurant

It is one of the busiest restaurants in this chain and relatively large; being able to seat up to 300 people in its two-story building about three times the size of regular McDonald’s venues.This flagship McD is an entirely free-standing restaurant boasting two drive-thru lanes, a McCafe and comprehensive dining room complete with enough parking and free Wi-Fi. It aspires to be eco-friendly and has two vegetation-covered Green Roofs.

Open 24/7, this McDonald’s menu is typical of most international branches with their usual range of burgers, chicken and fish selections,  salads, snacks, and Sides as well as their Breakfast choices and, of course, their Happy Meals for kids.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s statues

The McDonalds Museum

What makes Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s unique is their museum the second level of the restaurant features several display cases showcasing the brand through the ages; covering a range of topics from history and development of their company to their merchandise.

The complimentary museum starts with how McDonald’s has contributed to the national and international community in the form of donations to various charities both local and worldwide. Then visitors get to see how McDonald’s has branched out to many countries across the globe; Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and China to name a few.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s escalator

The exhibits then segue into the history display starting with the first McDonald’s  opened back in 1948 all the way up to the present day. There are archived pictures and memorabilia of the very first McDonald’s restaurant along with the first franchise purchase.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s museum is divided into different sections; each is representing a decade and includes the merchandise, furniture, uniforms, décor, and even menus of that era.
Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s seating area

There are many keepsakes; from overhead lamps and lighting to uniforms, happy meal toys collectibles like Lego, Furby dolls, Disney toys, to original menus.
 There are furniture items from each decade where one can sit and reminisce, even listen to the music hits of the time, completing the nostalgic ambiance.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s wall

Our son with autism, a McDonald’s fan, got a kick of seeing the various historic menus, including the one showing the introduction of the iconic Big Mac.
As in other ‘touristy’ spots this restaurant offers items like t-shirts, hats, ties and other memorabilia in the form of key rings, curios, and other mementos for purchase.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s 70s seats

Autism Travel Tips

  • Anyone fascinated with the history of the fast food chain and their happy meal toys will find this nostalgia-laden spot delightful-our son with autism did.
  • There is an escalator between the floors which is convenient for those who are unable to or prefer not to take the stairs.
  • Those kids fascinated with riding up and down will have fun since there are lovely views of the entire facility from the second story.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s toys

  • The restaurant aims to seat and feeds customers quickly and efficiently and, generally speaking, there are no long waiting times or lines.
  • The day we visited there was a  group of teens including the birthday girl heading to a local quinceanera party, all dressed in formal wear that came in for a quick bite.
  • There is free Wi-Fi, so if your child is bored or antsy, it is possible to keep them occupied with an iPad or other handheld device and the restaurant also has plasma screens that can be an excellent source of distraction.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s dresses

  • As it is a busy place, the noise level can be substantial but easily blocked out by headphones if your child is noise-sensitive.
  • The menus are bright and engaging and come with accompanying pictures for those who are unable to read.There is a children’s menu as well as gluten-free options.

Norwegian Cruise Lines Breakaway Ice Bar


Recently we had the opportunity to go on a Norwegian Cruise Line voyage. We vacationed onboard the new Breakaway that first set sail in April 2013, and travels from New York to Bermuda during the northern hemisphere summer months and to the Bahamas and Caribbean in the colder months.

Norwegian Cruise Lines Breakaway Ice Bar sign

The Norwegian Cruise Lines Breakaway is a state of the art cruise ship offering its passengers outdoor attractions in the form of pools, water slides, rope course, a climbing wall, as well as a basketball court, 9-hole mini golf course, and a jogging track.
The ship is equally impressive with its indoor facilities featuring an ultra modern gym, a spa with relaxation and treatment rooms contributing to the vacation atmosphere of the ship, as well as shopping facilities, an art gallery and children and youth clubs.
Then, of course, there are over a dozen of restaurants and bars both on the outside and decks for the thousands of travelers onboard to sample and enjoy.

Norwegian Cruise Lines Breakaway Ice Bar bar

The Ice Bar

On the Breakaway’s elegant Deck 8, travelers will find a unique watering hole in the form of a sub-freezing temperature Ice Bar. The idea is not new and was first introduced back in the 1990s in the  Ice Hotels; the

The idea is not new and was first introduced back in the 1990s in the  Ice Hotels; the Icehotel in Sweden being the first permanent location that is still in existence.
Over the years, Ice bars became quite trendy, so it wasn’t a surprise when the concept was adopted and taken onboard by Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Norwegian Cruise Lines Breakaway Ice Bar statue
An ice bar had already made the Norwegian Cruise Line famous when the Epic, (Breakaway’s older sister) was featured on Chilloutpoint.com website as one of the best Ice Bars of the world, so naturally, company officials opted to continue the winning streak and put one on their newest ship too.

The venue is small and can fit 25 guests at any given time.
The process is simple: passengers pay, then wait to go in and can stay for 20 minutes if they can stand the cold for that long. The entrance fee covers two alcoholic drinks as well as a warm coat and gloves.


The Ambiance

The  Bar’s decor is a sculpted winter wonderland scene of New York City made out of transparent colorless ice and is lit with bright blue lighting that makes it look modern and mysterious.
It includes sculptures of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, the Statue of Liberty and a giant chair that becomes a dare to sit in because you can freeze your private areas off by doing so.

Since almost everything in the bar is constructed or sculpted of ice including the bar table, the walls, the floor, the door and even the drinking glasses, the venue makes for an unusual attraction to see.

Norwegian Cruise Lines Breakaway Ice Bar chair

The Menu

The locale menu is relatively simple with six specialty vodka cocktails inspired by the city that the ship sails out of: Spiked Apple Juice, Broadway Dreams, Yellow Cab, Times Square Lights, Central Park and Rock Center.
There are also two non-alcoholic drinks offered for passengers who are either underage or don’t wish to consume alcohol appropriately named  Lady Liberty and Coney Island, both fruit-based beverages.


Autism Dining Tips

  • The Ice Bar admits children too and has non-alcoholic beverages on their menu for them.
  • The bar can be crowded, and it is important to make reservations especially so you don’t have to wait in long lines
  • The venue is highly popular, so travelers need to make reservations as soon as they get on board since the spots fill up fast.
  • It is important to talk to your kids about the dangers of frostbite and warn them against holding their bare skin next to the ice for prolonged periods of time.
  • It is freezing and even though the Norwegian Cruise Lines Breakaway Ice Bar staff give you a hooded coat to keep warm, it is important that kids wear closed shoes and socks.
  • Though it is interesting to see, the venue doesn’t offer any entertainment, so younger kids might find it boring after the first few minutes of exploring the place.

Norwegian Cruise Lines Breakaway Ice Bar menu



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