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Friday, February 27, 2015

Photo Friday: Viva Donald!


For this week's Photo Friday, I thought I'd share a random shot from my most recent trip to Walt Disney World (January, 2015).  This is from the Grand Fiesta Tour attraction at the Mexico pavilion.  Every time I ride this attraction, I make sure to check on a well-known hidden Mickey, that is shown in this shot.  Can you see it?

Enjoy and Viva Donald!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Magic Bands and FastPass+

Welcome back for another Tip Tuesday!

This week, I wanted to get into the differences between Magic Bands and FastPass+.  Many in the Disney fan community have strong feelings (both positive and negative) about Magic Bands and FastPass+.  Many guests can easily think that the two go together, which is not exactly the case.  So I thought I'd go through what each does and how they can be related.

MagicBand
Put simply, a Magic Band is the same thing as the old Key to the World card guests used to use during a stay at Walt Disney World.  Instead of a plastic card, guests receive a rubber-like bracelet.  It uses the same RFID technology as the old card.  Just like the old card, the band serves as the guest's room key, charging privileges and PhotoPass (now Memory Maker) ID.  Also, just like the old card, the band can hold park tickets, if tickets are loaded onto the account.  So why did Disney go to Magic Bands instead of the cards?  For one thing, the cards are much easier to lose or misplace.  It is far easier to have  your ticket, room key and everything else right on your wrist.  Oh, one thing about security in case you're worried about someone stealing your band and using it to charge purchases or get into the parks - guests must still use a pin number when charging and the biometric scanners are still used at the parks, so there's really no point in stealing a band.  If a band is stolen, Disney can very quickly deactivate that band, making it truly useless.

FastPass+
In the old days (I'm starting to sound like some old guy), guests inserted their ticket card into a machine and out came a FastPass ticket allowing the guest to return at a certain time.  There was one hitch, though -- the guest had to enter the park and go (sometimes run) to the FastPass machines to get a pass.  There were plenty of times where the line for the FastPass machines were longer than the standby lines in the attraction itself, especially at park opening.  So Disney created FastPass+, which essentially, is an advance reservation system for FastPasses.  Guests go online to the MyDisneyExperience site and make reservations for up to three attractions in one park for a certain day (Disney is tweaking this site and it is likely that soon guests will be able to get passes for attractions and different parks in the same day).  These advanced reservations can be done up to sixty days in advance, eliminating the need to be in the parks and to rush to an attraction, or at least that was the theory.  Guests are still running around the parks at rope drop.  The one benefit here is that guests can use the MyDisneyExperience app while in the parks to change their FastPass reservations (either change the time or the attraction).  When it's time for a guest to visit a certain attraction, they place their Magic Band against a reader and are then permitted to enter.

There is one problem with FastPass+ that, I understand, Disney is working to address.  Once the guest has used up their three advance FastPasses, they can go to one of several FastPass kiosks located in the parks to get additional passes, but they can't do this online using the MyDisneyExperience app.  However, what's happened is that, again, the lines for the kiosks are getting longer than the standby lines themselves.  Apparently, Disney is working to modify the app so guests can schedule additional passes online instead of having to wait in a long line for a kiosk - and those lines are LONG!  When I was at WDW during Marathon weekend (which is a slower time of year), some people were waiting nearly an hour just to get to a kiosk.

Many of the guests who have problems with the Magic Bands are actually upset with FastPass+ and not the bands themselves.  I have to agree with some of the criticisms.  In all, FastPass+ is a pretty good idea, but it does require some tweaking, particularly once a guest has used up all the original passes.  Further, Disney needs to add the ability to book passes for attractions in multiple parks in the same day.

As the Magic Band technology spreads to other parks around the world - Disneyland is due to start using Magic Bands in the near future, it's important for these kinks to be worked out.  One thing remains the same - that families can have fun together and can even do so in a spontaneous way.  There's so much to do at Walt Disney World that isn't covered by FastPasses, as I am constantly reminding people.

What are your thoughts about Magic Bands and FastPass+?

(correction:  FastPass+ reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance, not 6 months - my error!!  The article has been corrected above.)

Friday, February 20, 2015

If there's one thing you can count on...

It's that Disney will raise the prices of tickets at their theme parks.

According to several published reports, this weekend, Disney will raise the prices of tickets at Walt Disney World.  This year, Disney is crossing a major milestone - the $100 mark.  A one-day, one-park ticket for the Magic Kingdom will now cost $105 per person.  This is the first time in history any single-day Disney park ticket has cost more than $100.  While this price increase is not surprising, it is in another way - crossing the $100 mark is a big deal in the minds of consumers. 

Take a look at this chart of one-day, one-park prices since this type of ticket became available:

Click for a larger view.
What's readily apparent is that ticket prices have been steadily increasing at a rate of anywhere from 0 to 20% each year, with the average price increase being about 6%.  This kind of annual rate increase is not common in the world of business.  The price for most items hasn't risen a steady 6% each year for the past 33 years.  For instance, gas in 1982 cost about $1.19 a gallon and milk cost about $1.49 a gallon.  If gas prices followed this same rate of increase, gas would cost about $9.43 a gallon and a gallon of milk would be more than $14! 

It is true that even at $105, a one-day, one-park ticket is a better overall value than, say, a round of golf at your local course.  With greens fees today running at least around $50 a person, the cost-per-hour for golf is far high higher than that of a day at the Magic Kingdom.  Even so, I continue to be concerned that Disney is slowly pricing itself out of range for lower income families.  That one-in-a-lifetime trip may become a not-in-my-lifetime trip because the prices are getting so high.

Attendance is just as high as it has ever been, so guests seem to be willing to pay the constantly higher price.  I'm just worried that there will, someday, be that point where too much becomes too much.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

DisneyDaddy returns to WDW Mousenger podcast

I had the opportunity to again join my friend Rod Wheaton on his WDW Mousenger podcast.  We talked all about RunDisney and why we enjoy Disney running events.  Be sure to tune into an upcoming edition of WDW Mousenger to catch the show!


Friday, November 21, 2014

D23 eliminates silver memberships, to offer Gold Family option in 2015

In an email to members today, D23, the official Disney fan club, announced they will no longer offer D23 Silver memberships as of today.  Current D23 Silver memberships will still be honored until renewal time when those members will be offered the opportunity to upgrade to a Gold or Gold Family account.  For those who may not recall, a D23 Silver membership included an official membership card, membership certificate, access to D23 special events and D23 special discounts and member access D23.com as well as extra special surprises.

In addition, D23 announced they will offer a new Gold Family membership, where a member can include up to three guests at various D23 events.

To read the entire email, click on the photo below.



Friday, October 10, 2014

Photo Friday: Farewell to a bear

click for larger view
It's Friday and you know what that means!!! Photo time!

With the closing of Malestrom earlier this week, I wanted to say goodbye to one of my favorite parts of this attraction - the giant polar bear that you speed by as you go "back, back, over the falls..." and then stare at as you pass into the next show scene. 

We can only hope this big guy will find his way into Arendelle.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Another chance to win a Disney trip

As you know, I'm a fan of entering sweepstakes to win Disney trips -- and as some of you know, I did win one Disney trip back in 2009.

So when I run across opportunities for you to win a Disney vacation, I feel I need to share.  This one is presented by the rental car company, Alamo (which, by the way, offers discounts to annual passholders).  This contest is open until Nov. 2, so good luck!

Here's a news release from Alamo:

Alamo Rent A Car, the official rental car of Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, is offering the chance to win vacations this fall with its “From Coast to Castle” sweepstakes. From now until November 2, 2014, participants can visit Alamo’s Facebook page or the From Coast to Castle website to enter daily for a chance to win their choice of one of the following three unique Disney vacations:

Disney Cruise Line Prize Package: Climb aboard the Disney Magic for a seven-night cruise vacation experience unlike any other. This package for four includes round-trip airfare, complimentary onboard dining experiences, pre-paid gratuities, a $500 Visa gift card, a $500 Disney Gift Card and more.

Walt Disney World Resort Prize Package: Enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience for four at the Walt Disney World Resort, complete with round-trip airfare, seven nights' accommodations at a Walt Disney World Resort deluxe hotel, four seven-day Magic Your Way tickets with Park Hopper Option, a Tour Guide for up to six hours, a $500 Visa gift card, a $500 Disney Gift Card and more.

Disneyland Resort Prize Package: Journey to Anaheim, Calif., for an adventure for four at the Disneyland Resort. The vacation package includes round-trip airfare, seven nights' accommodations at a Disneyland Resort deluxe hotel, four seven-day Park Hopper tickets, a Tour Guide for up to six hours, a $500 Visa gift card, a $500 Disney Gift Card and more.

“We know that many families want to experience the magic of a Disney vacation, but with so many great Disney destinations available, we wanted to give the winners a choice,” said Rob Connors, assistant vice president of brand marketing for Alamo. “So whether their dream vacation is aboard a Disney Cruise Line ship, or on a trip to Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort, we’re letting the lucky winners decide.”

The sweepstakes features eight weekly entry periods with one winner selected each week and runs September 8 – November 2, 2014.

Participants can enter the sweepstakes three times per day. Alamo Rent A Car is also offering three easy ways to earn bonus entries:

Design a Postcard: After registering for the sweepstakes, participants will be given the option of earning up to three additional entries per day by creating Disney-themed postcards. Registrants can follow the links and instructions to choose their vacation (Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort, or Disney Cruise Line), upload a photograph to the postcard frame, and decorate their postcard.
Tell A Friend Program: After finishing a postcard design, participants can submit the names and email addresses of up to three friends with whom to share their postcard and details about the “From Coast to Castle” sweepstakes. For each referral of up to three friends, participants earn one additional entry per weekly entry period.
Share on Twitter: Sweepstakes registrants will be given one bonus entry per weekly entry period for sharing the sweepstakes on Twitter.

For more information and a copy of the official rules, visit the Alamo Rent A Car “From Coast to Castle” sweepstakes website at www.fromcoasttocastle.com.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Photo Friday: Catastrophy Canyon no more

Click for a larger view
It's time for another Photo Friday!

With the recent closing of the Backlot Tour at Disney Hollywood Studios, I thought I'd share a photo of one of the great moments of this attraction.  While I'm eager to see what's next for the studios, I will miss this scene from the Backlot Tour where guests got an up-close experience of a major special effects shot.  I especially enjoyed seeing the shock on people's faces just after the moment you see here when tons of water appears to pour over the ride vehicle. 

Farewell Backlot Tour!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tip Tuesday: Finding Divine



Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, we're heading to Disney Animal Kingdom (Captains - this is for you!) to talk about one of my favorite hidden treasures - Divine!

If you've never seen Divine, and she can be easy to miss, you're missing out on one of the best examples of live character entertainment in all of Animal Kingdom.  As you can see from the photo above, Divine is a cast member on stilts dressed all in leaves and other foliage.  Her gangly shape is barely humanoid in form, so, I suspect that's why some people pass her by.

She often can be found along the pathway between Africa and Asia.  This photo was taken of Divine near the Africa side of this pathway.  She tends to hide in areas with a lot of foliage, so it's easier for her to blend in.  Her "appearances" often are listed in the Animal Kingdom times guides, so be sure to check that out so you know when to keep an eye out.  Don't think you're going to get a photo with Divine, she's not that kind of character and, obviously, she doesn't do autographs.

If you do run across Divine, be sure to stay and people watch for a bit.  You'll be surprised how many people will pass right by.  Also be sure to pay attention to how she moves.  The cast member really does go fully into character, making slow, vine-like movements.  You could almost imagine this really is a creature made of vines.

On your next visit to Animal Kingdom, take a few minutes and appreciate the incredible performance of Divine - she's one more example of how Disney takes the theme park experience to a whole new level.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tip Tuesday - dealing with changes at WDW

You are not the first to pass this way... but soon, you could be the last...

On this week's Tip Tuesday, I'm opening Pandora's Box.  Yep, I'm going to talk about the changes coming to Epcot.  There have been a lot of strong opinions about the recently announced Frozen attraction that will replace Malestrom in Epcot along with the new slate of live entertainment coming to World Showcase (replacing very popular attractions like Off Kilter).

So here's the deal:  Walt Disney World is always changing.  That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, just look at all the changes that came to the Magic Kingdom with the expansion of Fantasyland (with great fanfare, I might add).  So why is there so much backlash about changes to Epcot and is that ire justified? 

Before you get your hackles up, hear me out.  Let me start by asking myself a few questions.

Me:  Are you in favor of the changes to the live entertainment acts in World Showcase?
Me:  I'm not sure yet.  I want to see what Disney brings in before I decide.
Me:  Are you in favor of the changes to Malestrom?
Me:  I'm not sure yet.  I want to see what Disney does before I decide.
Me:  Well do you think Magic Bands are a good idea?
Me:  I'm not sure yet.  I want to have more time to try them out before I decide.


Do you sense a theme here?  The point is that before we go and bash some of the new ideas proposed by Disney, I think we need to give things a chance.  To put it simply, I trust Disney to do what is best to make the parks as successful as they can be.  Remember, Disney is in the business to make money along with making guests happy.  Sometimes those two goals work hand in hand and sometimes they work against each other.

So while I may have some reservations about some of the proposed changes coming to Epcot, and I'll share them in a second, I also trust Disney to make sure that changes have the same level of quality and guest appeal as that which is being replaced.

So what are my reservations about these changes? 

Well, I'm fine with changing Malestrom to a Frozen attraction.  The Snow Queen story (Frozen is based on the Hans Christian Anderson story of the Snow Queen) has it's origins in Scandinavian culture, so it makes sense that the Norway pavilion would be home to a Frozen attraction.  I'm not as fine with the entire Norway pavilion being changed to become the city of Arendelle.  The Norway pavilion should, in my opinion, still tell the story of Norway.  I trust that Disney will keep the "spirit of Norway" alive in the pavilion.  As I said above, I want to see what Disney does before I decide if this is a good change or not.

As for the entertainment changes coming to World Showcase, I am cautiously optimistic that the new acts will be at least as good as the ones departing, especially Off Kilter.  I think the reason so many hardcore fans are upset about this change is that these acts have been in World Showcase for so long that people have developed a deep loyalty for these acts.  I can understand that there are plenty of reasons for acts to leave and new ones to come in.  To be honest, there is a time where it's time for fresh content.  How many of you are starting to say it's time for Wishes to end and a new fireworks show to come to the Magic Kingdom?  Same thing applies here.  New isn't always bad.  Yes, I had the same reaction many of you did when I read that Off Kilter is being replaced by some sort of "lumberjack" show.  Many of you immediately thought of the "I'm a Lumberjack and that's OK" song from Monty Python.  It's ok to admit it - I did.  I trust that Disney will ensure that the new shows will be just as high quality. 

So when the next announcement comes from Disney, and I expect some whoppers at the D23 Expo in August, let's all take a deep breath and give these new ideas a chance before we rush to judgement.

Alright, I've had my say -- I'm sure some of you are dying to throw in your comments so now's the time -- go for it!  Post your comments below!