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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Norway's Stave Church

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week we're going to seek "peril and adventure" at the Stave Church in Epcot's Norway Pavilion and the "Vikings: Conquerors of the Seas" exhibit -- something all too many people pass right by.

Quick quiz: Did you even KNOW there was anything inside the Stave Church and that you could go inside? If you're like most guests, the answer is no.

The Vikings exhibit presents a historically accurate view of three Viking leaders, Erik the Red, King Olaf, II and Rognvald. Disney and international Viking scholars collaborated to research fabric, clothing styles and artifacts from ancient times, and were even based on examples unearthed by archeologists.

Rognvald, a Viking raider from the late 800s

The exhibit features three life-like presentations of each key leader in Norway's Viking past. As you can see, each presentation is life sized and was recreated with as much authenticity as possible. As I was walking through this exhibit, I halfway expected these guys to come to life, like in the Kingdom Keepers books. Fortunately this didn't happen. In front of each presentation is a small sign explaining who each Viking was and their importance in Norwegian history.

But wait, there's more. There also are several displays of ancient tools and weapons used by the Vikings. It's possible these are elaborate recreations, but they certainly looked like the real thing.

Remember, part of the charm and reason for World Showcase is to learn about different lands and cultures. Exhibits like "Vikings: Conquerors of the Seas" are an integral part of World Showcase and yet another hidden treasure you shouldn't pass by.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Photo Friday: Go With the Flow!

Welcome to another Photo Friday!

Back in June 2010, I saw Finding Nemo: The Musical for the first time and fell in love with this show. The sheer spectacle combined with great musical numbers makes this show a must see at Disney Animal Kingdom.

In one scene, Marlin and Dory finally make to to the EAC (that's the East Australian Current for you non-fish out there) so they can travel to Sydney and find Nemo. During his time in the EAC, Marlin learns from Crush the turtle about the need to let kids explore and discover on their own, something I have to keep telling myself -- let the kids try things on their own. They might not succeed the first time, but that's how learning happens. Every time I see this shot from that number, I'm reminded of the simple lesson:

So just go with the flow!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Hurricanes and Disney

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!
(Yes, it's Wednesday. The "great" East Coast earthquake kept me busy yesterday.)

While the East Coast is still reeling from the Virginia earthquake (the center was about 150 miles from here), another major natural disaster is taking aim on the Caribbean and the East Coast shoreline.

All this talk of hurricanes led me to today's tip -- how Disney handles hurricanes.

There are two different sections of Disney that I'll discuss when it comes to hurricanes -- Walt Disney World (including Disney's Vero and Hilton Head resorts) and the Disney Cruise Line. Then I'll discuss what you should do to be prepared should tropical weather impact your trip or cruise.

Walt Disney World
The chances of a hurricane-force winds itself hitting Walt Disney World are nowhere near as likely as the coast, though if a major storm where to make landfall in Florida, it is possible that WDW could see winds in excess of 74 mph.

Disney keeps a close eye on tropical systems and has been known to close the parks should weather conditions become too dangerous for guests. The first time the Disney parks closed due to hurricanes was for Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Since that first closings, the parks have closed for hurricanes several times in the last 12 years (it closed twice in 2004 for Hurricanes Charley and Frances).

In the event the parks are closed, guests usually are asked to stay in their resort. Cast members plan different inside events and activities including movie showings, special in-resort character meet-and-greets and more to ensure the Disney magic remains strong. Once the parks and weather conditions are safe for guests again, Disney will let you know so you can resume enjoy the parks.

If you're planning a trip to Walt Disney World and you see that a tropical system may interfere with your travels, you do have several options for cancelling/re-booking, depending on how your booked your trip.

IF you booked directly with Disney:
Disney's temporary hurricane policy is effective in the event a hurricane warning is issued no more than 7 days before your scheduled arrival date by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) for the Orlando area or for your place of residence. It is also effective in the event a hurricane warning is issued for the Vero Beach area or Hilton Head Island area for Guests traveling to those destinations. Once that NHC warning has been issued, you can cancel and/or re-book your WDW vacation without any change fees. This DOES NOT apply to airfare.

IF you booked with a travel agency:
Disney's temporary hurricane policy DOES NOT apply. You will need to contact your travel agent to make arrangements. I talked with Vicki Damanti, my own agent with MEI & Mouse Fan Travel about how they handle hurricane-related cancellations and/or changes. She said that since Mouse Fan Travel is a no-fee agency, any possible change fees would come directly from the suppliers, including airfare (which can be expensive). One of the great benefits of working with a Disney Specialized travel like Mouse Fan Travel is that if you have to make last-minute changes, you don't have to spend hours on the phone. Just contact your agent, and they'll do the work for you.

Disney Cruise Line
The Disney Cruise Line handles hurricanes a little differently than Walt Disney World. First, being a ship, it can move out of the way while a hurricane passes by. Second, should weather make a particular port inaccessible, the ship can simply go to an alternate destination. "The wonderful thing about a cruise vacation is that we can easily modify our itinerary or course to avoid inclement weather and still provide a great vacation experience," Rebecca Peddie from the Disney Cruise Line explained to me. "Should changes in itineraries become necessary, information will be available to guests on our website at or through our reservation center," she said.

Anyone booking a cruise also has to bear in mind that cruises do operate during the traditional hurricane season and changes in the itinerary always are possible, should extreme weather arise.

So if a hurricane is forecast for the Caribbean (or other cruise destinations), what should you do? To be honest... nothing. Really. Ride it out. Disney's not going to put any guest in harm's way and will (literally) go out of their way to make sure your cruise experience is a pleasant one. Well, you may want to do one thing: pack some Dramamine (or other motion sickness medicine) because you might experience some rough seas, even though the cruise ships (especially the Dream and the upcoming Fantasy) are so large you might not feel the sea swells.

If you really feel like you have to cancel/re-book, then you need to carefully read the terms and conditions before you consider taking any action because you WILL incur change fees. Depending on how much in advance you make your changes, the fees can be staggering, and your trip might even be completely non-refundable. Basically, once you book a cruise -- you need to be prepared to go on that cruise be they fair or foul seas.

Additional Considerations
However there is one way you can cover yourself should things go completely awry (not just due to hurricanes, but anytime) and that's by acquiring trip insurance.

MEI and Mouse Fan Travel's Vicki Damanti says trip insurance is strongly recommended for anyone booking a cruise because the chance/cancellation fees are so high. Insurance is suggested for those booking trips to Walt Disney World, especially longer trips with higher total costs. Damanti has one reminder for anyone thinking about purchasing trip insurance to protect against hurricanes: You have to purchase insurance BEFORE a storm is named. Once a storm is named, you can't purchase insurance to cover yourself should that storm interfere with your plans, so you do need to decide if you want travel insurance well in advance of your trip.

All this being said, I need to pass along another important piece of advance from Vicki: "Use some restraint," especially when it comes to hurricanes. There's a very good reason for this advice. Hurricane forecasts have a tendency to change frequently. One day a storm might be forecast to hit central Florida, but 24 hours later, the forecast track has changed and central Florida is in the clear. This is a common occurrence, as has been seen with the constantly changing forecasts for Hurricane Irene (which as of this post, is forecast to brush the North Carolina Outer Banks.) Days earlier, this same storm was forecast to make landfall in central Florida.

The key point is stay informed and be prepared. Here are a few links to monitor when tropical weather potentially causes problems:

Hopefully, you'll never have any reason to worry about a hurricane causing problems on your trip, but should a storm arise, you'll know what to do and what to expect.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

PhotoFriday: Aladdin's Magic Carpet

Welcome to a belated Photo Friday!

With everything going on at the D23 Expo, I sort of forgot to post a photo for Friday -- so here you go!

I happened to catch this photo one cold morning during the 2010 marathon. I had just run the half marathon the previous day and we were in the Magic Kingdom just as the majority of the runners had passed through.

The kids wanted to ride Aladdin's Magic Carpets and lo and behold there was Aladdin and Jasmine riding the carpets themselves! Of course, I quickly snapped a photo!

Until next Friday...

Friday, August 19, 2011

D23 Expo Parks and Resorts: A giant case of Anticipointment

The Parks and Resorts presentation for the 2011 D23 Expo just wrapped up. Thanks to Lou Mongello, I was able to watch it in the "box," though there wasn't really anything worth watching. There were a few new updates about existing projects, and a few new announcements about some experiences at Disneyland.

All in all, I came away from this presentation with a gigantic sense of anticipointment (which means coming in with great anticipation and leaving with great disappointment).

Sorry, Disney, but this entire presentation was a huge letdown. Disney HAD to know that fans were expecting some major news and got NOTHING. Much of this year's presentation was a re-has of 2009 with a few nuggets of new information, which Disney immediately shared on the official blog seconds later:

All in all, Disney really needs to re-think their approach when it comes to these big presentations at future D23 Expos. If they're not giving attendees a big WOW, they will end up with a big FAIL.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New contest for Pixie Hollow announced

Coming to Disney Channel this fall, “Pixie Hollow Games” is a world premiere television event where fairy talents from all over the Hollow gather to compete in a thrilling athletic competition. To prepare for this exciting television special, the Never Council wants to know how YOU will train for the Pixie Hollow Games!

The fairies and sparrow men in Pixie Hollow are busy training for the Pixie Hollow games and for three weeks the virtual world of Pixie Hollow, will celebrate the Games by hosting the “How Will You Train?” art contest. The contest, which runs from August 16 - September 6, invites Disney Fairies Fans to draw and share how they will train for the Pixie Hollow Games, with the grand prize winner receiving the ultimate viewing party kit.

The ultimate grand prize winning party viewing kit includes everything needed to enjoy the “Pixie Hollow Games” premiere on Disney Channel, including:

  • Flat-screen TV

  • Blu-ray/DVD player

  • Disney Fairies Blu-ray/DVD collection

  • Party supplies featuring the Disney Fairies

  • 5 one-month Pixie Hollow Membership Cards for you and your friends

Ten first prize winners will receive 1 One-Month Pixie Hollow Membership Card and the Disney Fairies Blu-ray/DVD collection. To enter the “How Will You Train?” art contest, fans can submit their art either by U.S. Mail or by Internet via

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Following the D23 Expo

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

Well the D23 Expo starts in just a few days, and if you're like me you're NOT GOING TO BE THERE!

So what's a stranded Disney nut to do in order to stay in touch with everything about the Expo?

There are a few resources to monitor to stay current with all the happenings at this year's Expo.

The first is the official D23 Expo Web site, where you can get news, schedules and shop for some exclusive D23 items. Disney has an extension of the official site for smartphones at You'll also want to follow the following D23 Social media feeds:

Twitter:!/disneyd23 (D23 hastag is #d23expo)
RSS feed:
Blog: http:

It's a good idea to closely monitor these feeds as Disney could possibly surprise online fans by providing coverage of certain presentations. You never know what magic Disney might make.

Lou Mongello from and Celebrations Magazine will be broadcasting live from the Expo for the entire event. You can watch the live stream (from the Collector's forum, sorry not from the actual presentations) and can chat with hundreds (maybe thousands) of fans at I've been in "the box" many times before and was in "the box" for nearly the entire D23 Expo in 2009 and I'll be in "the box" this year as well!

Ricky Brigante from InsidetheMagic is planning to provide a lot of playback coverage from the D23 Expo as well, so keep an eye on his site for coverage of major events.

Finally, keep an eye on this blog as I'll be posting major updates as well.

Let's hope we have some big news to celebrate this weekend!!! Enjoy the Expo!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My wish list for the D23 Expo

As we all wait with baited breath for the 2nd D23 Expo to start in Anaheim, CA, I can't help but wonder what amazing announcements may come from this ultimate Disney fan event.

If you recall at the last D23 Expo in 2009, Disney shocked everyone when they announced the rumored massive expansion of Fantasyland at Walt Disney World was, indeed, TRUE!

But wait, there was more... Disney also confirmed that Star Tours 2 was finally coming.

So what's in store for this year's Expo? Fantasyland's construction is well underway and should be completed in another 12-18 months or so. The huge expansion to Disney California Adventure is nearly completed as well, so I don't think we'll see anything new about those projects.

While no one (outside of Disney) knows for sure, here's my best guess and a few wish list items:

  1. Original Hyperion Wharf concept changes into some sort of "World of Color" evening attraction: Disney announced about a month ago that the Hyperion Wharf project was put on hold while they evaluated some "new opportunities." My thought is that Disney realized that just a new shopping/dining area wasn't enough. It need to be "plussed up," and with the recent success of World of Color, something of the sort would be perfect for the former Pleasure Island area.

  2. Soarin' over... somewhere else: Soarin' is my favorite attraction at Walt Disney World, but, I have to admit, it's time to stop flying over California. With the recent refurb at Star Tours where guests have multiple possible destinations, I think the same concept can and should be applied to Soarin. Sure Disney can keep the original California tour, but add in some additional scenes. Soarin' over the Blue Ridge Mountains, Soarin' over New York City, Soarin' over D.C. (if Homeland Security would permit it), Soarin' over Florida... the possible tours are endless. Having multiple random destinations with a digital projection (no more lint-riddled film) would greatly increase the re-rideablilty of this attraction.

  3. Grand Floridian DVC resort: This one's all but a done deal. It's been widely reported that Disney is planning to build a DVC resort at the Grand Floridian Resort, so just go ahead and make it official.

  4. Pirates 5: Another in the "done deal" category. Disney's still raking in the gold from Pirates 4, so a Pirates 5 is a no-brainer and there's word the script already is in development. Don't expect to see Johnny Depp reprise his appearance as Jack Sparrow (sorry, that's Captain Jack Sparrow) like he did in 2009.

  5. Major addition to Animal Kingdom: This is definitely one from the "wish list," though DAK really needs it, especially where Camp Minnie Mickey is. The lack of genuine attractions is what's really hurting Animal Kingdom. Don't get me wrong, I like this park, but it just doesn't stand up to the other three in terms of attractions.

  6. A new hand-drawn animated feature: I really hope we hear some sort of announcement in this area. While Princess and the Frog wasn't the most successful of films in terms of box office gross (really a victim of bad timing more than anything else - it was released against Avatar), it was one of the most beautifully drawn and written stories Disney has created in a long time. I would love to see the commitment to hand-drawn animation continue.

  7. Incredibles 2: It's time for the Incredibles to have another Incredible adventure. While I doubt this will be announced, I do think we'll hear a lot more about...

  8. Monsters Inc., 2 (prequel): Disney has talked about this already, though there's not much out there right now. Don't be surprised if there's a new trailer or some sort of teaser shown.

  9. TRON Legacy 2: Speaking of sequels, TRON Legacy was pretty successful and Disney has dropped several hints at continuing the story of Sam Flynn. I suspect we may just hear about a new story involving the son of Kevin Flynn (Sam) vs. the son of his arch rival Ed Dillinger (Ed. Jr.). I think we just may see the return of the dreaded Master Control Program as well.

  10. D23 Expo 2013 coming to Orlando: When the first D23 Expo was announced, Disney said the Expo would be in Anaheim for the first four years. Well, that was in 2009. In 2013 it will be four year later, so I think will be time for Disney to bring the Expo East.

So there you go, my top ten predictions, however wild and/or unrealistic, for possible announcements at the D23 Expo. What do you think? What other announcements do you expect? Post a comment!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Photo Friday: The sad truth about showbiz

Welcome to another Photo Friday!

This week, it's my sad duty to give you the hard facts about the REAL world of showbiz, as is so eloquently shown in this photo that can be found the the Muppets store across from Muppets 3D at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Trust me... I have to be right! Right?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Running at WDW

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

Well, the clock's ticking away, which means there's only five months left until the 2012 Walt Disney World marathon. Yours truly is running in the main event this (well, next) year, and I'm training hard (more like hardly training) for the massive 26.2 mile race.

During today's run, I was thinking about when I had done some training runs this summer while at Walt Disney World, and I thought this would be a good tip to share for those of you who might want to get in a few K's during your stay.

There are so many places to run at Walt Disney World that there's no way I can possibly cover them all, so I'm going to share some of my favorites. I've not personally done all of these, but these are the ones I hear the most about.

Let's start off with the Magic Kingdom area.

Contemporary/Polynesian/Grand Floridian

There are two good courses to run along the Seven Seas Lagoon. The first course (shown above) runs from the entrance to the Contemporary Resort past the entrance to the Magic Kingdom and to the end of the Walkway Around the World (and back). Total distance is about 1.7 miles.

The second course begins at the rear of the main building at the Grand Floridian, along the Walkway Around the World, past the Wedding Pavilion, through the Polynesian Resort and to the entrance of the Transportation and Ticket Center (and back). Total distance is about 2 miles.

Wilderness Lodge/Fort Wilderness
There are a ton of paths all through the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness areas. I personally haven't run here, but I understand they're popular among many runners.

Epcot area resorts

The whole Epcot resort area practically was made for running. There's a great loop course which can start pretty much anywhere. For the purpose of description, let's start at the entrance to the Beach Club. Follow the main walkway toward the Swan and Dolphin, go over the bridge and over to the fountain at the Dolphin. Go around the fountain and back over the bridge to the road running behind the Boardwalk. Follow this road to the pool area. Go around the half-circle of the pool area and back to the main walkway toward Hollywood Studios. Follow to the main entrance (or as close as you can get) and turn around, going all the way back to the Boardwalk. Go along the main boardwalk and across the bridge, turning right toward the Epcot International Gateway entrance, then turn around and go to the main entrance for the Beach Club. Total distance is about 3.1 miles (or a nice 5K).

Most of the other resorts have some nice running areas, so no matter where you are you can find some pavement to pound. Just as the concierge desk where some good running areas are if you're unsure.

And if you're running in the marathon next January, keep and eye out for me! I'll be the one in the WDW Radio Running Team Shirt trying not to pass out on the side of the road.

Happy running everyone!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Photo Friday: Are you joinin' the crew?

Welcome to another Photo Friday!

This week's photo comes from the Tortuga Tavern in Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom, where there's a new little Disney detail I'd like to share.

Located on a chest in front of a window across from and to the right of the main ordering stations is this book showing the crew of the Black Pearl and Queen Anne's Revenge. Did you happen to notice that a certain well-known pirate has scratched out Barbossa's name and replaced it with his own?

Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate's life for me...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Take the Ferry

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, I wanted to remind you about a charming piece of Walt Disney World history that still is in operation to this day.

Of course, I'm talking about the Magic Kingdom ferryboats.

For those guests traveling from the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) to the Magic Kingdom (and back), there are two options to do so: take the monorail or the ferry. All too often most guests will decide to head to the monorail and make their way around the Seven Seas Lagoon. While I'm a huge fan of the monorail, there are other options to get to the Magic Kingdom (and back), going across the Seven Seas Lagoon on the ferry.

Why, you might ask? Well take a look at this view:

Where else would you get such beautiful and magnificent view of the Main Street Train Station with Cinderella Castle in the background? The way the ferry comes around one particular island and slowly reveals the entrance to the Magic Kingdom is like the curtain slowly opening on the show.

There are three ferry boats currently in operation at the Magic Kingdom. Originally known as the "Magic Kingdom I", "Magic Kingdom II" and the "Kingdom Queen," the boats were renamed to the "Admiral Joe Fowler," "Richard F. Irvine" and the "General Joe Potter" respectively. Each boat can carry about 600 passengers fully loaded. Each boat has two covered decks. I personally recommend the top deck as it affords beautiful views of the Magic Kingdom and the resorts surrounding the Seven Seas Lagoon.

On average, it takes about five minutes to cross the one mile from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom. Depending on the line to board the express monorail, the ferry might be a quicker option. It also can be a more relaxing option, especially when you think about riding in a packed monorail.

Also, with word that Disney is planning to stop monorail service just one hour after regular park closing (not after evening Extra Magic Hours), the ferry might become a more popular option.

The next time you're heading into the Magic Kingdom from the TTC (or heading back), take the ferry and enjoy your journey!

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