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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mickey Mouse Getting Fastpass

Mickey Mouse is getting a Fastpass! Huh? That’s right. The Mouse himself, since moving from the now demolished Toontown Fair, will be greeting guests inside the refurbished Exposition Town Hall with Fastpass added along with an interactive queue slated to open this spring. (Click here to read more about Disney’s Fastpass system.)

This announcement, along with others, were a part of the Disney Investor’s Conference held last week.

Exposition Hall is located to the right on Town Square, just after the tunnel under the railroad. Exposition Hall is one of our favorite stops, with the mini-theater and memorabilia that could be found in the way back. Exposition Hall is a stop for all things Photopass along with an assortment of accessories to purchase. We like to get our family picture taken in the small studio, but alas, it was closed for refurbishment when we were there in November.

Will the new reference of Exposition Hall Theater, now mean the queue to Mickey will include the mini-theater in the back? Will the “interactive queue” mean using the cut-outs already at the back of Exposition Hall as a part of the queue to get to see the Mouse himself? (This would be similar to the queue at Buzz and Woody’s Picture Shootin’ Corral.)

As far as this character meet and greet becoming a Fastpass queue, we will have to consider whether or not to take advantage of that given our typical touring plan. I wouldn’t want to grab a Fastpass for Mickey on our way in the gate and then have to wait longer to grab that Splash Mountain Fastpass. I’m sure this will be a similar dilemma for other Disney guests. We’re more likely to queue up to meet Mickey and send the husband off to get the Fastpasses, yet, like most character meet and greets—and the previous Toontown schedule, it is likely that the meet and greet won’t begin until well after the Magic Kingdom opens.

The upside to this will be that Exposition Hall will now get more guest traffic, as guests typically speed on by. We have rocked in the white wicker rocking chairs out front and watched the world go by—literally. We have meandered the recesses and found ourselves smiling and relaxed. We have utilized the friendly Photopass staff at their stations. And, we have eaten at Tony’s, which is just next door and shares one of the smallest bathrooms on Disney property with Exposition Hall.

No date has yet been set for Mickey to appear at his new meet and greet location.  Rumor has it that the Disney Princesses may be joining this location as well!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Celebrating My Birthday

Yesterday was my 45th birthday. And, while we didn’t celebrate by attending a Disney Park, there were some Disney surprises sprinkled throughout my day.

The husband made Mickey waffles for breakfast. Nothing like saying good morning to and with the mouse and they tasted delicious. Of course, they were eaten with Mickey silverware!

The boy decided to give me a special gift. Inside the gift bag were a stuffed Mickey Mouse and Pluto. They were from his collection, but he was insistent that I keep them. We compromised on sharing them. He just knew I would love them. He has no idea how special it was that he was willing to give me something of his for my gift.

A special surprise arrived for me at my work, through an internal mail system. Inside the envelope was a box with a small note that read: “Smile. Disney Dreaming.” Inside the box was a pair of Mickey Mouse stud earrings. You know the ones with the three crystal circles that form the silhouette of Mickey Mouse. Wow, was I surprised. And, there was no indication of who sent them. What a wonderful mystery surprise just for me.

July 14, 2014 Note:  The secret of the earrings was revealed Saturday evening!  A friend and colleague confessed to sending the special earrings!  I replied with a happy hug!  

What was even more surprising was the husband’s reaction when I brought them home. He was a bit miffed by the mystery. I had no idea that he would react that way, but isn’t it sweet that he could be potentially jealous after all these years? When he realized that the mystery wasn’t bothering me, he was fine. I am overwhelmed by the generosity and thoughtfulness of the surprise.

We also added a new piece of furniture to our living room as a birthday gift. A chair that had outlived its usefulness went to the curb and a new leather rocker recliner is now in its place.

My day ended with the treat of a banana dream pie made especially for me by the husband. That and many birthday wishes from family and friends. It was a great day!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

My 2011 PassPorter's Walt Disney World

It takes many tools to plan a great Walt Disney World vacation. One of my favorite and most useful tools, is PassPorter’s Walt Disney World book. PassPorter is more than a guide, it is also a planning tool, organizer, journal, and potential keepsake. And, I’ve got the 2011 edition in my hands!

I received a phone call from my local bookseller on Friday informing me that my PassPorter had arrived. I picked it up before they closed! In addition to being able to purchase PassPorter from any seller of books, you can also purchase it on-line, directly from the PassPorter store at http://www.passporter.com/.

Table of Contents

I have several editions of PassPorter, dating back to the 2006 edition. I also have several editions of the PassPorter’s Guide for the Disney Cruise Line, and am awaiting the new edition due out sometime in April. We travel with our newest edition of PassPorter, as there is useful information included that can be helpful on your trip, and for the Walt Disney World edition, all of your travel information can be included in the back. . . but more about that in a moment.

Some of the features I like about PassPorter is the depth of information that is included. I have never seen a guide book provide as much information, if not more, about the resorts—rather than just the theme parks. Here are some pages about our favorite resort—Port Orleans:

Click on Photo to Enlarge

As a reader, you get a sense of the layout of the resort, the layout of your room, and the amenities provided at the resort. I also love the other guest ratings and the transportation information—how long it typically takes to get from Port Orleans to the theme parks.

Fold Out Map

I also enjoy the fold out maps for each of the theme parks. These can be very helpful as a guest can get the lay of the land before landing in a theme park. Typically, guests receive park maps as they enter the park. This way, you can have the map of the park prior. If you look closely at the map, you can see the dotted lines with numbers like (2:30), which is the estimated time, in this example 2 ½ minutes, to walk from one spot to another on the map. Love It!

There is a section dedicated to each theme park with descriptions and ratings for each attraction. The Kid Tips and Tween Ratings can be helpful in deciding the appropriateness of various attractions when traveling with children. Height restrictions, if applicable, are included with the descriptions of each attraction. Touring plans for families and adults are included for each park.

Guests planning a Disney vacation can sometimes struggle with the “where do we eat?” question. Enter PassPorter, with its comprehensive coverage of restaurants both in and out of the theme parks. Here’s a sample page from the EPCOT Eateries:

Click to Enlarge
PassPorter has helped me to easily decide and answer the question of “where do we eat and when?” 180 days prior to our trip—which is when we make our Advance Dining Reservations or ADR’s.

Journal/Keepsake Pocket Pages
We have covered the parks, the resorts, the restaurants, so now for the back portion of the book mentioned earlier. Located in the back of the book are several “pocket pages” where travelers can record their travel information and keep a journal of their trip. The pockets allow you stash receipts, ticket stubs, unused Fastpasses, photos, napkins, etc. This is where your PassPorter can turn into a keepsake. Some have reported getting out last years PassPorter with all the info inside to help plan for and budget for their upcoming vacation. The pockets can be a scrapbookers delight, with a place to stash the little items that may find their way into a scrapbook.

For me, I use PassPorter to record all of our traveling information—confirmation numbers for flights, tours, and dining. It helps me keep track of when we will be in each park and helps us plan each day of our vacation. I also use my PassPorter as a reference; a go to when I have a Disney question or potential dilemma. I also enjoy reading the little hints and tips for putting even more magic into our Magical Vacation sprinkled throughout the book.

The other thing I like about PassPorter, is that it is written by a family. . . with kids, so they know their stuff when it comes to family travel.  The tone or voice of the book is just that too, like a friendly neighbor giving you advice about traveling to the most magical place on earth, which is much better than corporate drone that you might find in other guide books.  They also have a team of reviewers, who are also seasoned Walt Disney World travelers, who review the information before it is published.  (OK, I must admit that I would really like to work with them. . . a dream job!) 

So, now that I have my 2011 PassPorter’s Walt Disney World book in my hands, I’m simply having a wonderful planning time!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ordered New Matching Shirts for Our Next Trip!

Zazzle.com was offering a pretty good Presidents’ Day week-end sale on custom t-shirts this week-end. While I missed the deadline for 50% off our order, I did get 20% off and had a $10 off coupon code for even more savings.

It has become tradition for us to wear matching shirts while traveling to Disney—click here to read more. We have upgraded to wearing them on our flights to and from as well.

What’s neat about Zazzle is that you can design your shirts and save them to your account on their site. So, the shirt that we purchased, I had actually begun to design some time ago. Finishing the design and ordering went very fast, which is a good thing if you are trying to take advantage of a sale.

As you can tell from the photos, I customized both the front and back of the shirts. You can even upload your own images if you want. We have found that Zazzle offers plenty of designs to choose from.

Another neat thing about Zazzle, is that you can still get access to your design, even after you ordered. I told the husband that I had ordered shirts and he wanted to see them. Voila! Just logged into Zazzle and there they were. Not very many web-sites offer that feature.

You can also e-mail your design to friends and family along with a discount code from Zazzle. If you do this, Zazzle sends you a discount code to your e-mail. Yeah!

My only regret from the purchase yesterday was not checking ebates.com to see if Zazzle was one of their stores. It was! I checked too late. Had I logged into our ebates.com account and then clicked on Zazzle, I would have received 10% back from ebates AND had access to a free shipping coupon code. The husband said, “Next time.”

We are getting even more excited about our vacation. I called Disney yesterday to check on tour availability for July—planning something special! The dates aren’t out for July yet. A very nice lady told me to check back in March and then thanked me for calling Walt Disney World. Ah, just knowing that I was talking to someone who had her feet closer to the mouse than I did made me feel better! Our trip will be here in no time!

Monday, February 21, 2011

I got my hands on a D23 Membership Magazine this week-end. Thanks, Liz!

I was impressed by the magazine. . . it’s cover, the photos, the size, and the stories.

Let’s start with the size. The scanned photo above represents about 60% of the actual front cover. We’re talking 11 X 14, if not larger. The magazine, while not incredibly thick, is large and requires both hands, or laying it flat on a surface, to read it. It’s a “coffee table” magazine, not one you would throw in a bag to take to the beach or pool to read.

The photos were incredible and enhanced the stories. I got to read about the people behind the voices of the Fab 5. The people are celebrities in their own right and have been crowned Disney Legends, as has Sir Elton Hercules John, who has a long time musical association with Disney.

I loved the story about Walt and his family as travelers. Walt did love all forms of transportation. . . something our family can personally connect with.

Seeing images of the luggage tags and receipts for the Disney family cruises was incredible. Connecting his first cruise in 1935 to his last in 1966 made for an emotional response to the story. It is amazing that these artifacts are included in the Disney archives.

Let’s talk about the Disney artifacts for a moment and the fact that they actually exist is a tribute to the man and the company. Others who have been associated with companies other than Disney have often personally profited from artifacts. Let’s take Adam West for example. When he knew that the Batman show was being cancelled, he backed up a truck to the studio door and took as many artifacts as he could, while the others were infighting and their backs were turned. He has since parlayed those artifacts out in small, yet profitable doses.

The opposite happens to those involved with Disney. They want the artifacts to be a permanent part of the Disney archives. I think that speaks volumes about how the Disney Company treated others and the legacy of Walt himself.

And, while a significant collection of Disney artifacts exists, there are others who collect what may not be a part of the collection. There was an interesting article in the D23 magazine about a collector of Disney items, including an 800 pound spare Dumbo ride car hanging from his ceiling. For this man, there truly is an elephant in the living room.

While we haven’t succumbed to D23 membership, I enjoyed the magazine the membership provides. Thanks again, Liz!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mousejunkies! The Conclusion

I finished reading Mousejunkies! by Bill Burke. (Click here to read about whether or not I am a Mousejunkie.)

The book is a quick read and for anyone in need of a Disney fix, this book would do the trick. It did it for me, as our trip is still about 150 days away. When the author and his fellow Mousejunkies described their favorites, I could easily picture them in my head, which took me to my happy place; the most magical place on earth.

There were parts of the book that I readily agreed with, like using Fastpass—click here to read more—and the emotional power of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth at EPCOT. I enjoyed their take on crowd levels at the park and how 2 of the Mousejunkies contributors favor New Year’s Eve at EPCOT and 4th of July at the Magic Kingdom, even though the crowd levels are insane.

I appreciated their take on favorite restaurants as we have some of the same favorites. Crystal Palace and ‘OHANA’s made the list. But Chef Mickey’s had mixed reviews and the ABC Commissary at Hollywood Studios, according the authors, is to be avoided at all costs. We have actually eaten dinner there, and found it no worse or better than other counter service restaurants.

Which leads me to the parts where I disagreed. The authors gave a thumbs down to waiting in line for anything, but especially waiting in line to meet and greet characters. Our opinions differ here, as we enjoy meeting the characters and will continue to wait patiently to see them. Our longest waits have been for headliner characters at the Magic of Disney Animation. Characters from Bolt, UP, Lotso from Toy Story 3, and Sorcerer Mickey have elicited the longest waits. The Fairies, when at Toontown Hall of Fame, have had killer wait times. The Princess line seemed to move quickly and the meet and greet was very efficient, but the Fairies. . .not so much (click here to read more.) There seemed to be lines crossing over where guests got confused, and Fairies traipsing from one side of the room to the other to greet guests, etc. Yet, we’re still going to wait in line.

The authors gave the advice of not waiting in line for anything, including rides and attractions. They said to just keep walking. . . that there would be an attraction without a line. They also put down commando type touring where the day is planned and guests try to get as much out of the day as possible. They also admitted to doing this kind of touring early in their Disney days—before becoming Disney Vacation Club Members.

Hence, that now they can walk by attractions and decide to not wait in line. Once guests have experienced Disney multiple times, they can then pick and choose which attractions to take in, but a first time Disney guest, may not have that luxury. First time guests may not know that will be returning and want to get as much out of their vacation as possible. We have skipped rides and attractions, now that we have been there 7 times and have tried it before. We don’t expect to hit everything, as we know it is highly likely that we will be returning. But other guests may not be in that same boat.

Speaking of boats, the author and contributors of Mousejunkies! tried a Disney Cruise and didn’t like it. Huh? It had something to do with being ill with a stomach virus, rough seas, being confined to a state room with Patch Adams playing continuously on a loop on one of the TV channels, and Hurricane Irene, but they didn’t give it another try!

An entire section of the book was dedicated to bathrooms at Disney. Smallest, cleanest, dirtiest, most obscure, etc. This part of the book made me smile, but I was confused when the cleanest bathroom at the Magic Kingdom was described as being near Guest Services—just turn right when you enter the park near the hub. OK, that description didn’t make sense. Guest Services are on the left in Town Square. And, yes, there is a lovely bathroom nearby and it’s HUGE! I’ve used it myself numerous times. One of the bathrooms that they said is too small for the area it serves if the bathroom near ‘OHANA’s. I agree! It is for guests at the bar, Kona CafĂ©, and ‘OHANA’s and it is a three seater. On top of that, ‘OHANA’s gets lots of families and therefore, a mom and tot, have a difficult time fitting into a stall. Been there, done that! But I think they left off 2 other small bathrooms that could have made the list. The bathroom at the Crystal Palace and the bathroom at Tony’s in Town Square. The bathroom at the exit to Lights, Motors, Action! was heralded as huge and clean—as it only gets used when the 2-3 times show daily exits, not the regular guest use that other bathrooms get.

I’m glad I read the book. I wouldn’t recommend it for a first time or new Disney guest. It is not a guide book and some of the information in the book is obsolete or has changed significantly. It’s more like eavesdropping on a lengthy conversation about Disney amongst several Mousejunkies with lots of Disney experience between them. There’s a new Mousejunkies! book due out later this spring. I’m curious if the new book shows any changes in opinions about all things Disney.

Friday, February 18, 2011

From One Show to Another

The Williams Family wrapped up the production of one show and has jumped into the production of another show.

Last week-end, OCP’s Luv took to the stage at Bridge View Center. The husband and the boy earned walk-on parts at the beginning of the play. Since the setting was on a bridge/pier, the director wanted to add some authenticity to the setting and asked for a couple of actors to portray fisherman. Voila! Enter the husband and the boy. I must say, they did a great job acting and pretending that the area around the stage was water!

I got to see them from afar, as I was in the sound booth, handling the music and sound effects. I must say that this was the first show the required a sound effect playing continuously throughout the production—the sound of waves and water. I had to stay on my toes for this one.

There was a surprise for the audience at the end of the show—the appearance of Jr. Let’s just say the boy enjoyed having Jr. backstage. Here’s a video:

Just when Luv was about to hit the stage, OCCP, the children’s version of OCP, hosted auditions for their next production—The Secret Garden. The first read-through for that cast was held during “show week” of Luv.

And, now, The Secret Garden is in full rehearsal mode with a full cast. And, yes, the entire Williams Family is involved. The boy is playing the parts of one of the Sowerby children and a “fairgoer.” This is his umpteenth time being in an OCP production—I have actually lost count—I know his first one was when he was 3.

The husband will be behind the stage pulling the curtain and I will again be in the sound booth handling sound. The family that does theater together, stays together. . . I guess. I do know it makes for a great time when we are all there together.

OCP and theater have a history with our family and families. Both of my parents were involved in OCP at one time, both on stage and behind the stage. I remember auditioning for a show—The Sound of Music—as a child. Didn’t get a part, but did get to see the play. I remember attending many plays as a child. Most of my time on stage was at dance recitals. I did have a part in a school play in ninth grade. It wasn’t until I was an adult, in my 30’s, that I auditioned for an OCP production, got the part, and met the “ to be” husband. He and I were actually cast as husband and wife in one production. We hadn’t started dating yet, but had by the time that show hit the stage. The rest is history!

The husband was involved in theater throughout high school and actually majored in theater and drama in college. He has been on stage, behind stage, and directed numerous OCP productions. I guess it comes as no surprise that our entire family is now involved in theater.

Maybe the secret isn’t that it’s theater, but something the whole family can be and is involved in. I liken to Disney. (You knew I would get it in there somehow!). One of the reasons we enjoy planning to go to Disney, going to Disney, and reminiscing about Disney is that it is a shared experience for our entire family. We all get involved with every aspect. From the boy packing his stuff—you should hear that conversation—to our talks about where to eat, as we all have different favorites—it’s the experience that brings us together as a family. So, in addition to theater, maybe it’s-- the family that does Disney together, stays together!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Am I A Mousejunkie?

Am I a Mousejunkie? I think the answer might be yes.

I’m reading Mousejunkies! Tips, Tales, and Tricks for a Disney World Fix by Bill Burke. And, I am definitely in need of a “fix” as am significantly stuck between the last trip and the next trip being just over the horizon.

A friend, who is also a Mousejunkie, told me about the book. I looked it up on Amazon.com and read a few pages. I was laughing out loud. People nearby thought something had happened, but it’s not unusual to laugh at a screen of any kind now a days. I then phoned our local bookseller and ordered the book. It arrived on Friday. When I brought it home, the husband looked at the book and me, and said that I finish it by Sunday. Well, he’s not quite correct, as it is Sunday and I’m not done reading it yet.

In the Glossary, there is a definition of a Mousejunkie: “People who are obsessed with all things Walt Disney World—can sometimes seem to have their own language. Acronyms, nicknames, and shortened versions of longer titles pepper their conversations. Venture onto any Disney-related online community and you’ll be overwhelmed by Mousejunkie-speak.” The Glossary goes on to provide those definitions for the shortened versions of common Disney words. The husband gave me a quiz while I was putting away the dinner dishes Friday evening. He said I passed with flying colors. Not everyone knows that HDDMR is a shortened version for Hoop Dee Do Musical Review. It’s Disney text speak!

Another part of the book that got me was how Bill Burke slowly discovered many of his friends, coworkers, and acquaintances had been hiding their own Disney secret obsessions. He describes playing poker one evening as his friends, when the CD shuffle hit the soundtrack for Wishes—the nightly fireworks display in the Magic Kingdom; how he spied another person sporting a subtle Mickey Mouse on their watch.

“Spend more than five minutes talking to me and I’ll figure out a way to insert Mickey Mouse into the conversation. It can be annoying, but I have no qualms about the fact that I am a hard-core Walt Disney World fanatic, and I know how to do it right.” That’s Bill Burke’s words, people, not mine. Even though those words could be used to describe me, too.

So, am I a Mousejunkie? Yes, I am. And, therefore, my family is too. And, while as a mother of an 8 year old I never thought I would be using the word “junkie” is describing me, him, or our family, I believe in this instance, it is accurate. For us, Disney is a family obsession.

The boy asked if I had found any new videos on-line showing the new ship, the Disney Dream, and all it has to offer. The husband regularly checks the pin availability on-line. He was searching for Disney Dream pins just shortly after the Maiden voyage. Yep, they were available, but pricey.

We have Disney soundtracks in the cars as well as in the house. Most meals are consumed using our silverware with the silhouette of Mickey Mouse gracing the handles. I already have plans for Disney salt and pepper shakers purchase for our next trip, only to be given quality descriptors by the husband. Decorative: yes. Utility: only if it meets these criteria. (I didn’t know he had specific criteria for the salt and pepper shakers.)

We have a tendency to congregate with other Mousejunkies at functions. We were at a wedding a while ago and found another couple who are also self-confessed Mousejunkies. We began showing all of the Disney items we were wearing at the time. A shirt, a tie, watches, earrings, gloves, and a purse were among the items being displayed between the 4 of us. Yep, Mousejunkies.

In reading the book, I have discovered that some Mousejunkies have it much worse than we do. They make even more frequent trips to get their mouse fix than we could even imagine. So, while we may annoy our friends and co-workers with our Disney tales and anticipation, there are other Mousejunkies that would consider us novices.

So, while I wait the 150 plus days for our next Disney vacation, I am going to get my “fix” by finishing the book. And, I might just finish reading it today!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Photos: Disney Cruise Line's Disney Fantasy Receives Keel Laying Ceremony

Photos: Disney Cruise Line's Disney Fantasy Receives Keel Laying Ceremony

I Got A Text Message From the Magic Kingdom

I got a text message from the Magic Kingdom Thursday morning. It was from our friends, who decided to leave the bitter cold and snow drifts of the Midwest to visit Orlando for the week.

The text message said: Guess who opened Magic Kingdom today? Yeh, us! Their family, two adults and two pre-teen sons were selected to the be the family that rides into Main Street Station on the train with all the Disney characters and throw confetti when the park officially opens. They have been picked before, several times. It’s all part of Disney magic for them!

They picked a great week to head to the Walt Disney World Resort. While the weather was a bit on the cool side a few days, it sure beats the -30 wind chills being experienced in their hometown. Also, park attendance on Super Bowl Sundays is usually quite low.

Speaking of the Super Bowl, I also got a text from them on Tuesday that they had a great surprise at the Magic Kingdom by being treated to the Green Bay Packers Quarterback Parade. They were there!

Here’s the video:

They have been to the Walt Disney World Resort more than a few times, and I am predicting they will continue to return many more times. “You’re going there again?!?,” they get asked, just like we do. They smile confidently and say, “Yes, we are going back again.” If those other people asking only knew more about the magic at Disney. . .

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Disney Dilemma

We have our summer vacation planned. Whew! I know, it’s only the middle of February and we know
what we are doing for our family’s summer vacation five months from now. Yep. But, it wasn’t without much deliberation, consultation, planning, and a bit of a dilemma.

We knew we were cruising on the Disney Dream this summer. . . in July. . . during our anniversary. We had rebooked while on board the Disney Magic in December of 2009, as guests who rebook on board get a discounted price and an on board credit offer. We also knew that we wanted to combine our cruise with a visit to the Walt Disney World Resort and parks.

The dilemma was trying to decide to do the parks before the cruise or after the cruise. Hmmm. . . there were pros and cons both ways.

If we did the parks before the cruise, the cruise would be a relaxing end after several days of park touring. We would have experienced lots of magic at the parks before our cruise. Transportation from the parks to the cruise would be seamless and taken care of using Disney transportation and luggage handling.

If we did the parks after our cruise, there wouldn’t be as much letdown at the end of the cruise, because we would be heading to the parks. Our feet wouldn’t hurt when we got on the cruise after touring and we would be well rested to tackle the parks after our relaxing cruise. (OK, Disney cruises don’t have to be all that relaxing as there is activity almost around the clock. . . I’m just making it sound very relaxing AND it CAN be relaxing.) Transportation from the cruise to the parks would be seamless and taken care of using Disney transportation and luggage handling.

We did finally decide on a plan.

Here’s what a Disney Mom had to say about our dilemma:

So, our plan—well, it involves a little of both before and after the cruise.

We plan to fly to Orlando the day before our cruise embarks. We have done this before and it just makes flying less tense; less worrying about making it to the ship on time. But, previously, we have stayed at the Hyatt at Orlando International before heading to the ship the next day. This trip, we are taking the Magical Express from the airport to a Walt Disney World Resort. And, we are trying out a new resort this trip.

We deliberated as to whether to purchase theme park tickets for this day, but decided against it. Instead, we will head to Downtown Disney for a meal and to get us into the Disney spirit. Our resort offers boat service to and from Downtown Disney.

The next morning, we plan to head to the Magic Kingdom—not to tour the park, but to head to the Polynesian for breakfast at ‘OHANA’s with Lilo and Stitch. When we return to our resort, a Disney bus will take us to the port where the Disney Dream will be waiting for us.

Upon returning from the Dream, we will then spend the next 6 days touring the parks. So, a little bit of Disney before the cruise, and a lot of Disney after the cruise!

Disney dilemma: solved!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The More Things Stay The Same, The More They Change

The more things stay the same, the more they change. Seems this typical axiom is a bit reverse when it comes to Disney.

The Williams Family blog is just a month shy of being 1 year old. And, I was thinking about how much change has gone on at the most magical place on earth since I started writing about it. Yet, the Magic Kingdom, even all of Walt Disney World Resort is still, mostly the same, even though many things have changed.

Let’s take Magic Kingdom for example: Friday will be the last day guest can find Princesses at Toontown Hall of Fame or Fairies in Pixie Hollow. Ariel’s Grotto is nor more as is Pooh’s Playful Spot. And, Snow White’s Scary Adventure is on the list of things to go away as the Fantasyland Expansion continues.

Just last week, guests experienced using lap bars as they rode Splash Mountain. Space Mountain got a total redo and let’s not even bring up the short lived Stitch show on the stage in Tomorrowland. Speaking of Tomorrowland, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority was renamed within the last year.

Shall we also mention the changes to Cinderella’s Castle? Ok, not so much structural changes, but how the castle is lit or displayed at night with “The Memories, The Magic, and You” projected onto the castle each evening.

Animal Kingdom has added dining options with its “picnic lunch” reservation and an exciting new tour behind the scenes on a Wild Trek.

Studios has changed the daily “parade” and how kids get into Jedi Training Academy, and the characters found at the Magic of Disney Animation. High School Musical 3 was traded for Disney Channel Rocks. And, how the characters met in the courtyard in front of the hat are now sporting new outfits.

For EPCOT, change is the standard, the norm, as this park hosts varies experiences throughout the year—the Flower and Garden Festival, the Food and Wine Festival.

Adventures By Disney is offering new tours this year and Disney Cruise Line added a whole new ship along with a first itinerary to Alaska.

When guests experience Disney, they are exposed to the “show.” Walt never wanted guests to know or experience the behind the scenes workings of how the “show” was created or delivered. He wanted guests to be transported to a magical place, a happy place. A place full of fantasy, dreams, and wishes. And whether guests came in 1971 when the park opened and returned in 1991, Walt wanted guests to have the same magical feeling when experiencing Disney or Walt Disney World.

Well, he’s done it. Guests do experience the magic each and every visit. Even when so many things change between visits, the magical Disney experience stays the same.

What is even more interesting is how the giant Disney machine is able to change and adapt so quickly. This doesn’t happen as quickly or as easily in other organizations. Can you imagine a Disney Imagineer saying that they just don’t want to do something or just can’t do something when it comes a change that will be happening to the parks, resorts, or cruise line?

Instead, I imagine a creative place to generate ideas and possibilities. A place where one ideas breeds 100 more that are better or build on the original idea. A place where creativity synergizes people, teams, and productivity. And, again, a place where the more things stay the same, the more they change.

Ah, Disney! Thanks, Walt, for the most magical place on earth!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Does Time Equal Money?

Does time equal money? This is a question that has been asked over and over again. In the business world, the answer is yes. Even planning for a family vacation, people consider the cost of time over flying as a variable in their planning.

Time is a non renewable resource. There is a finite amount—minutes in an hour, hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in a year and so on. And, the finite amount varies for each of us. So wouldn’t that make time more valuable than money?

This subject is on my mind as I face a long week ahead—between work commitments and a short term volunteer commitment. I’ve done both before, just not in the same week. And, I was lamenting a bit about how my time was going to be used in the upcoming days. . . and not feeling like I had much control over it. But, that is only for the short term; a week.

But it did get me thinking about time and how it is spent. How sometimes other people spend our time for us and sometimes, well, most of the time, we get to decide. How sometimes time feels wasted. Maybe that is why we have learned to multi-task.

I have found that one of the best ways to spend time is with my family, especially while on vacation. Just last night, the boy asked if we could go on another Adventures By Disney trip. I replied that we might. Then I asked him why he wanted to do that again. He could name numerous memories from our trip that was over a year and a half ago. What a memory! But also, what an example of how time was spent to create memories!

So, does time equal money? No. Time is more precious than money. Time equals memories.

How will you spend your minutes?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Toontown Character Meet and Greets Being Relocated

Toontown in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World will see its last guests on Friday, February 11, 2011. Due to the Fantasyland Expansion, Toontown is closing and the character meet and greets typically found in the Judge’s Tent or Toontown Hall of Fame are being relocated.

Mickey and Minnie’s meet and greet is moving to Tomorrowland near Space Mountain.

The Disney Princesses are being relocated to the Adventureland Verandah, just to the right as guests cross the bridge into Adventureland.

This is the relocation that has me the most puzzled as I’m wondering how three Disney Princesses will work out here with a usually long queue, Photopass photographers, etc. I had heard that the Princesses were going to be located in the back of Exposition Hall on Town Square at the Magic Kingdom. Rumor on the web is that Exposition Hall isn’t ready for them yet. Hmmm. . . that portion of Exposition Hall was under renovation when we were there in mid-November.

Anyway, look for the Princesses to be relocated again sometime in the future. Eventually the Princesses will have their own areas in the Fantasyland Expansion.

The Disney Fairies are being relocated to EPCOT, near Innoventions East and Mouse Gear. In March, during the Flower and Garden Festival, there was a Disney Fairy Garden near this location, so I’m wondering if this will be the new backdrop for the Fairies. We’ll know more on February 12.

I had originally heard that the Fairies were headed to Hollywood Studios, but alas, that is no longer the case.

What will be interesting is how the mamas and papas will handle the wish for their darlings to meet both the Princesses and the Fairies, as this wish used to be accommodated at the Magic Kingdom, and within relatively close proximity to each other. If it were me, I would book a character meal at Akershus in Norway at EPCOT—click here to read more. The only princess you are apt not to find in EPCOT is Cinderella as she rarely leaves the Magic Kingdom.

But who knows, with these changes happening, we may see more traffic at EPCOT to meet characters, especially with the convenience of EPCOT’s Characters spot—click here to read more --and the abundance of Disney Characters throughout World Showcase. We met 11 characters around World Showcase during our last visit to EPCOT.

For us, meeting and greeting Disney characters is an essential part of any visit to Walt Disney World. We wish everyone happy hunting for their favorite Disney character!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Aqua Duck On The Disney Dream

Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Disney Dream, offers the first ever water coaster at sea aptly titled the Aqua Duck, since after all, Donald Duck is the Admiral of the Disney Dream.

Aqua Duck is a play on words from the ancient Roman aqueducts that populated the European countryside and were used to transport water, goods, and people from one place to another. What is interesting is that some people speaking of the Aqua Duck actually slip up and say “aqueduct” instead. It is a subtle yet noticeable difference.

I’m waiting for when the boy studies ancient Rome in whatever grade and the teacher begins instructing about aqueducts and the boy raises his hand and says “Yeah, I’ve been on that.” I imagine intrigue and/or confusion on the teacher’s part at that point. We’ll have to do some explaining before the boy gets to that grade about the difference.

Anyway, while we have yet to be on the Dream and ride the Aqua Duck, dreaming about riding, planning riding, and talking about riding the “duck” continues to populate our conversations about our upcoming vacation.

We were excited to learn that the height requirement to ride the Aqua Duck was 48” just prior to the Christening and Maiden voyage cruises. Then just after the Maiden voyage, Disney Cruise Line changed the requirements. 48” to ride, but 54” to ride alone. Seems that some young riders were getting stuck—not having enough weight—and Cast Members would shut down the Aqua Duck and walk the tunnel to get the stuck riders out. Hence the change in height restrictions. (As of Feb. 28, 2011--the height requirement has changed again.  42" to ride with another person and 54" to ride alone.  This will allow younger riders to get a chance to try the Aqua Duck.)

So the boy’s dreams of riding the Aqua Duck are different now, unless he grows 3 inches between now and July. While possible, highly improbable. The husband and I are ready to ride, too. Wouldn’t miss it!

Donald Duck himself christened the Aqua Duck during the Maiden voyage during a special ceremony. Water was added to the Aqua Duck from both Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, both Disney water parks. Typhoon Lagoon boasts a land based water coaster—Crush ‘n’ Gusher. Then Donald Duck completed the christening by riding the Aqua Duck. What a rush!

Enjoy this ride through video of the Aqua Duck: