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Friday, April 27, 2012

Photo Friday: A morning cruise

A morning cruise on Bay Lake
Welcome to another Photo Friday.

Well, I've been saving this one for a while.  This is perhaps my favorite early morning shot of all.  This was taken days before the 2010 Half Marathon in January.  I was in a room on the Bay Lake side of the Contemporary tower taking shots of the sunrise when I saw this launch making it's way towards the far side of Discovery Island.  I was especially taken with the light fog on the water, the birds in the distance and the subtle glow of the sunrise.

I hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tip Tuesday: Fastpass revisited

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

I've made several posts in the past about the Fastpass system at Walt Disney World.  Until recently, I often encouraged guests to disregard the later time posted on the Fastpass ticket as cast members were only concerned with the initial time.

Well things have changed as they often do at Walt Disney World and now cast members are enforcing the later return time.  What this means for you the guest is that now you have to more carefully consider when and for what you get a Fastpass.  No longer can you go grab a pass for your favorite attraction and hold on to it for use later in the day when the crowds are highest.  Now you have to use that Fastpass during the stated window or not use it at all.

So how does change impact the way you tour the parks?   Let's examine a few different scenarios.

Rope Drop
To standby or Fastpass.  That is the question.  Personally, I still say go standby if the posted standby wait is 30-40 minutes or less during the first hour of the day.  Keep in mind that you can always get a Fastpass after you come off the attraction, which likely will be for much later in the day - which allows you to enjoy other attractions before using that Fastpass. 

Mid-Day
Here's where the changes to FastPass may have the greatest impact.  I suspect (and time will tell if I'm right) that the more strict enforcement of Fastpass windows may mean that more Fastpasses will be available later in the day as fewer people opt to get a Fastpass early in the day since they can't hoard them anymore.  This longer availability of Fastpass may have an impact on standby lines.  Some argue that Fastpass actually increases standby line time and less Fastpasses used during the day will help shorten wait times.  I'm not so sure.  I can see the argument, but I also know that there are only a limited number of Fastpasses allotted per hour, so the total impact on wait times is pretty minimal.  The same number of people who were in Fastpass would be in the standby line anyway, so it's a wash.

In any case, you need to be much more cognizant of when your Fastpass windows are open.

Evening/Night
By this time, most Fastpasses are usually gone.  As mentioned before, there's the possibility that more Fastpasses will be available later in the day, but I think by evening, they should be all gone.  So the overall impact by this time should be minimal at most.

Now even though Disney's more strictly enforcing Fastpass return times does this mean you can no longer have more than one Fastpass at a time?  NO.  You can still hold more than one, depending on when your first Fastpass window opens.  See this post from January 2009 for more.

Hopefully the changes to Fastpass won't impact your time and your enjoyment of the parks.  Just remember, it's not all about racing from attraction to attraction.  Take your time and enjoy the (Walt Disney) World around you!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tip Tuesday: ESPN Club

ESPN Club

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, I wanted to highlight an often overlooked dining option at Walt Disney World that may be the closest thing to nirvana for sports fans - the ESPN Club!

Located on the far eastern side of the boardwalk (closest to Epcot) is the ESPN Club.  This is a restaurant and bar that serves your typical sports bar fare from nachos to buffalo wings to hot dogs and hamburgers.  There are three sections - the SportsCentral main dining area, the Sidelines Bar and the Yard, which is a gift shop and arcade.

What makes this very different from your hometown sports bar is this little thing called ESPN.  That's right - the restaurant is a show.  Often the cast members will have camera going inside and will interview guests about sports topics.  The live events take place at different times, so you never know when you might find yourself on camera.  Sometimes sports celebrities will stop by, so keep your camera handy.

Beyond the live events, the ESPN Club is a fantastic place to catch the game, and watch another game, and another game and yet another game.  In all the ESPN Club has more than 100 monitors displaying more than 30 different channels.  In the center of the SportsCentral room is a 108-square-foot screen!  Talk about real-life sports!

I've spent many an afternoon watching baseball, football and soccer at the ESPN Club -- and I'm not alone.  On days when major sporting events are taking place, be prepared for a long wait. 

Why the wait?  Well, the ESPN Club doesn't take ADR's (Advance Dining Reservations).  Yep - all walk-ups.  Locals will flock to the ESPN Club on gameday, so it's not unusual to have a wait time of more than an hour (and sometimes a lot more than an hour) to get a table in either the SportsCentral room or the Sidelines Bar.

Here's a little tip -- the bar has seating areas too.  Being a bar, it's bar-style seating with smaller tables, but you can still order from the complete menu.  If the line for the SportsCentral room is pretty long, see if you can get a table at the bar - often the line's much shorter.  There are plenty of televisions there as well -- just not the jumbo screen.

The ESPN Club is a fun place for lunch or dinner even when there's not a huge game on.  We've often been able to walk right in for an early lunch around 11:30 a.m. or noon. 

One other tidbit about the ESPN Club -- no takeouts.  So if you're staying at the Boardwalk, unfortunately you won't be able to get a basket of dingers to take back to the room.  Sorry.

After lunch or dinner - take a moment to browse the Yard for some ESPN merchandise (though the selection is pretty limited -- if you really want ESPN stuff, I suggest the Clubhouse over at ESPN Wide World of Sports).

So check out the ESPN Club on your next trip - it's a great place to catch the game!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Photo Friday: Test Track hidden Mickey

Test Track hidden mickey

Welcome to another Photo Friday!

In honor and memory of the original version of Test Track, which closes for a major refurb this weekend, I thought I'd share a photo from the queue.  Test Track has to have one of the best queues in all of Walt Disney World, with all the different tests running and equipment on display.  It also may be the queue with the most hidden Mickeys in it.  I've found at least five, including this hidden Mickey (in my opinion), which is created by three black circles on an engine to your right just as you enter the standby line. 

Hopefully these hidden Mickeys will survive the refurb, which is expected to be complete sometime this fall.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tip Tuesday: Dealing with check-in delays

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, I thought I'd walk through some options when it comes to delays in the check-in process.

Ideally, you'll arrive at your resort (via Magical Express, shuttle, or own car), you'll walk right up to the desk, get checked in and go right to your room to drop off any bags before heading out to the parks.

That's the ideal scenario. 

Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen, especially if you're checking in during the early to mid morning hours, which is when many people (understandably) want to arrive so as to maximize their first day at Walt Disney World.

What ends up happening is the cast member at check-in will inform the guest that their room isn't ready yet (again, understandably because most people don't check-out until mid-day), and will take down contact information so the resort can contact the guest when the room is ready.

So now you think you're a bit stuck.  You've got all this luggage.  What are you going to do with it?

No worries.  You've got a couple of options - and I've done both without too much fuss.

Option 1:  Go ahead and have bell services take your bags
Bell services can store your luggage until your room is ready.  Just have a bell services cast member collect the luggage you want to store and they will give you a claim ticket.  Once your room is ready, simply call down to bell services, give them your name and room number and they will bring your luggage right to your room, usually within about 45 minutes.  Keep in mind that you will not have any access to your bags once bell services takes them until they're delivered to your room, so if you need things for the day, like diapers, cameras, food/water, sunscreen, be sure to take them with you before bell services stores your luggage.

Now you can go on to the parks and enjoy your day.  You will get a call and/or text to let you know your room is ready.  Keep in mind that if you checked-in during the morning hours, you should be prepared to not have a room ready until the afternoon, so make sure you bring everything you may need for a full day in the parks.

Option 2:  Leave it in the car (if you have a car)
If you think you may need to have access to your luggage while you wait for a room to be ready, you can always leave your luggage in the car, provided you have a car on property.  Simply park in the self-parking lot (valet might not be a good idea as you won't know where your car is), and then you can return to your car should you need something.  Once your room is ready, you can drive your car back to the main entrance to drop off your luggage, or you can just bring them up from the parking lot.

Hopefully these tips will help make your check-in process go a little smoother.

Until next time!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Photo Friday: A southern Easter

Easter parade on Main Street USA

Welcome to another Photo Friday!

Being Easter weekend, I thought I'd share a photo from 2008 when I was at Walt Disney World for Easter.  This is part of the Easter Day parade at the Magic Kingdom.  As you can see, dozens and dozens of female cast members don antebellum southern belle dresses and parade down Main Street USA to help celebrate Easter.

The photo above doesn't do this sight justice.  It's really something to behold - another great reason to be at Walt Disney World for Easter!

Happy Easter everyone!

Friday, April 6, 2012

National Princess Week is April 22-28

Beloved Academy Award®-winning actress, singer and bestselling children's book author Julie Andrews, in collaboration with Target and The Walt Disney Company, introduce the first annual National Princess Week. During this enchanting week-long event, taking place April 22-28, children across the country are invited to celebrate the sparkle and wonder of every princess - real, aspiring or imagined.
"Throughout my career as an actress and author, I've encouraged children to use their imaginations and dream big," said Julie Andrews. "Joining Disney and Target to create National Princess Week is an extension of my work - a moment in time for children to celebrate their individuality and let their inner sparkle shine."
Throughout National Princess Week, Target will showcase a variety of products designed to engage every princess, including:

  • 10th Anniversary release of a very special two-movie collection featuring two modern-day fairy tales, "The Princess Diaries" and "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement" – starring Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway, and available for the first time ever on Blu-ray™.


  • Target guests will also find Julie Andrews' "The Very Fairy Princess: Here Comes the Flower Girl!" co-authored with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, and published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. It is the latest publication in their critically-acclaimed No. 1 New York Times best-selling "The Very Fairy Princess" children's franchise. The book follows a little girl, Geraldine, through her adventures readying for her aunt's wedding and the magic that happens when she helps others.


  • Fans of Disney's beloved princess characters will find an array of themed merchandise at Target stores and Target.com. Items include Blu-rays, books, toys, bedroom d├ęcor, games and more, inspired by Disney's classic animated films including "Beauty and The Beast," "The Princess and The Frog," and "Tangled,"starting at just $5. Guests can view the full selection of products by visiting Target.com/Princess.

"Disney and Julie Andrews have inspired the imaginations of generations of children and families," said Casey Carl, Target's senior vice president. "We're excited to bring that magic to Target guests everywhere and offer them an opportunity to create a princess experience through rereleased Blu-rays, books, toys and other merchandise."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom card list

The official Disney Parks Blog has released a list of most of the cards in the new Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom card game.  Cards range from super rare, rare, uncommon and common.  The super rare list (10 cards) will be announced in a few weeks, so says the blog.

So for all you collectors out there... here's your checklist!


SUPER RARE (TBA)
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

RARE
11. Apprentice Mickey’s Broomsticks
12. Belle’s Mountain Blizzard
13. Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blaster
14. Doris’s Bowler Hat Attack
15. EVE’s Laser Blast
16. Fa Mulan’s Dragon Cannon
17. Flynn Rider’s Flying Frying Pan
18. King Triton’s Trident
19. Lythos’s Rock Titan Boulder Throw
20. Maurice’s Wood Chopper
21. Maximus’ Horseshoes
22. Merlin’s Fireball
23. Monstro’s Water Spout
24. Nibs’s Neverland Assault
25. Rapunzel’s Hair Whip
26. Robin Hood’s Magic Arrow
27. Simba’s Roar
28. The Fairy Godmother’s Pumpkin Bash
29. The Giant’s Giant Stomp
30. Tinker Bell’s Pixie Dust
31. Violet’s Force Fields
32. Woody’s Cowboy Lasso

UNCOMMON
33. Aladdin’s Lamp
34. Bolt’s Super Bark
35. Cinderella’s Magic Ribbon
36. Colonel Hathi’s Righteous Stomp
37. Eeyore’s Gloomy Cloud
38. Frozone’s Ice Blast
39. Lightning McQueen’s Ka-Chow
40. Mickey’s Magic Beans
41. Mike’s Grand Entrance
42. Pinocchio’s Sawdust Blast
43. Prince Phillip’s Enchanted Sword
44. Snow White’s Housecleaning
45. The Headless Horseman’s Exploding Jack-O-Lantern
46. The Mad Hatter’s Tea Time
47. The Queen of Hearts’s Card Army
48. The Sugar Plum Fairies’ Dewdrop Spiderweb
49. WALL-E’s Trash Crunch
50. Yen Sid’s Sorcerers Hat

COMMON
51. Aurora’s Rose Petals
52. Baloo’s Coconut Cascade
53. Caballero Donald’s Pinata
54. Dash’s Whirlwind
55. Flower’s Flowers
56. Gopher’s Demolition Dynamite
57. Grumpy’s Pummeling Pickaxe
58. Lumiere’s Candle Blast
59. Mowgli’s Swinging Vine
60. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
61. Pocahontas’s Colors of the Wind
62. Pongo’s Soot Bucket
63. Prince Naveen’s Army of Frogs
64. Pumbaa’s Odorous Gas
65. Quasimodo’s Bell
66. Rafiki’s Wisdom Stick
67. The Blue Fairy’s Wand Wish
68. The Woozles’ Woozle Nightmare
69. Thumper’s Mighty Thump
70. Tiana’s Hot Sauce

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tip Tuesday: Room requests

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

A common question many planners are asked is how guests can go about requesting a room in a certain area of a resort.  Guests may want to be close to a bus stop, close to the main building (where the resort dining options are located), close (or not close) to the elevator, nearby the pool, or just want a good view.

I often make room requests - many times I'm trying to get a partial resort view (while still staying in the standard rate rooms).  I enjoy the ability to watch fireworks from the convenience of my own room.  Depending on where you stay, you can sometimes make your room that much more convenient without having to upgrade to a higher category room (like water view or preferred).

So when should you first make a room request?  I usually include my requests when I (or, rather, my MouseFanTravel agent) makes the initial booking.  Now keep in mind that when you're (or an agent) is making a booking, you're working with the central reservation system, not the individual resort.  Your booking information (including room requests) aren't usually transferred to the individual resorts until about two weeks out from your arrival date.

So, it's a good idea to follow up your initial request with a phone call directly to the resort front desk about a week out to confirm your request.

Then, when you arrive at check-in, you'll want to again, triple-check with the cast member to see if the room you've been assigned meets with your request.  If you didn't get the room you want, talk with the cast member and see what  you can work out.  Here is one place where patience and politeness can often be rewarded.  You might not get exactly what you requested, but you just might get something pretty close.

Before you arrive on property, it's a good idea to do  your homework.  I mean go and look at resort maps to determine which area you want to be in.  This will help you be more familiar with the resort when you talk with cast members to find a suitable room.

Room requests can be fairly simple.  Just have some patience, politeness and understand you might have to compromise on your request.

So when you hear, "Welcome home!" you'll be starting a magical time at Walt Disney World!