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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Saturday, April 30, 2011

An Unglamorous Topic

I want to talk about ponchos. While not a glamorous topic, ponchos and Walt Disney World, go together like peanut butter and jelly; like salt and pepper; like Wills and Kate (I couldn’t resist!).

Inevitably in the most magical place on Earth, a little rain must fall. Therefore, it might behoove guests to be prepared for that rain. Hence, the ponchos. . . or any rain gear for that matter.

Our rain battling supplies include several disposable ponchos. They can be had for 88 cents at your local Wal-Mart store in the camping section. Almost each time I find myself at my local Supercenter, I grab 3. Our entire supply goes with us each trip to Walt Disney World with 3 of the ponchos in our day bag or backpack each day. (The one day I didn’t put them in our backpack, it rained!)

We also have a couple of small umbrellas that fit into our day bag while at the parks. They can be used for both rain and sun, if one is in need of a little shade while waiting for a parade, show, or in an uncovered queue.

We have also picked up some reusable ponchos that come in their own colorful carrying case—one color for each of us, and the boy’s is a child size. These get packed in our luggage as well and head to the parks with us.

We also have in our, now extensive, collection of ponchos, ones that were given to us on our Adventures By Disney tour that we didn’t use. The day we were at Arches Nation Park—click here to read more—it began to rain (I would call it a sprinkle) and our ever prepared guides whipped out the prepackaged ponchos and passed them out to us, the guests. They are sturdy ponchos with the Adventures By Disney logo. Cool! We have packed these, but haven’t used them.

OK, so let’s say that ponchos and umbrellas don’t make it on your packing list and you find yourself in the most magical place on Earth experiencing that, almost daily, afternoon rain. What should you do?

Well, one thing would be to pay for the Disney ponchos that you will easily find in stores, especially when it starts to rain. While these ponchos can be a bit expensive, they come with an exclusive Disney guarantee. If your ponchos gets ripped or torn, just take it to any store on property that sells ponchos and return it for a new poncho. It’s like L.L. Bean!

If you don’t want to pay for gear that will keep you dry, you have the option to wait out any rain. Stores are a great place to do this, but caution—others are thinking the same thing and the stores can get crowded. You can also make your way to your car or resort for shelter.

The best bet is to make sure that rain gear does make it on your packing list, so you can enjoy the potentially uncrowded touring of the parks that rain and preparation for rain produce. But more on touring in the rain in another post!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Royal Wedding

I’m hooked! I’ve started referring to the television as the tele and spoke to the husband using a British accent.

The long week-end for the Easter Holiday has allowed me to get hooked on the Royal Wedding and the pre-Royal Wedding shows being broadcast in TLC, BBC, Lifetime, and Wedding Central. The husband is wondering when it will stop. I told him to hold on. . . it’s only for a week.

My DVR is whirring almost continuously and it is set to record multiple channels for hours on Friday to catch the Royal Wedding live!

Oh, the speculation. . . Who will design the dress? Who will get the throne next? Is Harry more popular? Why the same ring? Is she too skinny? Who will do her hair? How is Kate the same as Diana? How are they different? Where will they live? Where will they honeymoon? And, when will there be children? It’s almost exhausting to think about.

Yet, I am just as caught up in the excitement as the half a million people who will line the wedding route and the billion people who will be watching on Friday as Kate and Wills take their vows.

Even folks at Walt Disney World (you knew I would get it in here somewhere) are getting into the act with special Royal Wedding viewing activities being hosted at the Swan and also the Wedding Pavilion at the Grand Floridian. 

Here’s to Friday! Cheerio!

Enjoy this video:

A Big Fat Check!

My first Ebates “Big Fat Check” arrived in the mail. It wasn’t due to be mailed until mid-May, but I got an e-mail informing me that it was being mailed early.

Now, the check was only for sixteen dollars and change, so it wasn’t a huge amount by any means, but it meant $16 in my pocket—which is a good thing. It also meant that ebates.com’s rebate system is real—and it really works. . . if there are any skeptics reading this post.

So, how can you get a “Big Fat Check”?

First, register at ebates.com using your e-mail address. The whole process is free!

Then, anytime you go to make an on-line purchase, log on to ebates.com first, and using the list of stores, find the store you are looking for to make your purchase.

Click on the store. But before you click “shop now”, scroll down the page and check out the various coupon codes or discounts that are available to you. No more hunting for on-line coupon codes before making a purchase—they are all in one location!

When you find a coupon code, click on “shop now” beside the coupon code or at any time while your on-line store is on the screen.

A new window will open with an image of a ticket, including a ticket number. This screen will appear quickly and go away quickly to reveal your on-line store. Don’t worry about it, as it is easy to track those ticket numbers under “My account” on ebates.

Once your on-line store appears, begin your shopping as normal. When you “check out” at your on-line store, the coupon code you clicked on above will appear. When you are finished with your on-line shopping experience, your “cash back” will appear on your ebates.com account in about 72 hours. You will also be notified via e-mail that cash back has been posted to your account.

Repeat the above steps for all of your on-line shopping!

Ebates.com has changed the way I shop, especially on-line. For example, when our home computer printer needed printer cartridges—which can be a bit pricey—instead of heading to Wal-Mart, I logged onto ebates and made my purchase for cartridges at walmart.com using the site to store delivery method. A few days later, I picked up the cartridges at the store, with a portion of my payment in my cash back account on ebates.com.

Ebay is also on ebates. I log into ebates.com then head to ebay. If I’m doing a “buy now” purchase, then all is good. If I place a bid, I then wait to log back into ebates when the bid is up and I have “won” the item before making the purchase to make sure that ebates.com registers the ebay purchase. I didn’t worry about finding the ebates ticket number for my original ebay visit, just opened a new shopping ticket to make my purchase.

I also made a purchase at an online store that didn’t show up within 72 hours on e-bates. I just logged into ebates and found the form to contact them about the issue. It was easy and the matter was resolved within a day. Using the ticket numbers helps them find the on-line purchase and the amount of the purchase.

I have been able to combine special offer codes as well when “checking out” of the on-line store. If I clicked on a coupon code at the beginning of my purchase, then that code is attached to my order and I have still been able to enter another discount code, that I had access to via e-mail or another special promotion at “check out” to reduce my total payment even more. And, while that also reduces the amount of cash back for ebates, I would much rather pay the lower price!

The husband also uses the ebates account. No need to create a separate account, as we share an e-mail. He made an on-line purchase using a gift card he received as a gift and still got cash back on ebates. Talk about a gift that kept on giving!

If you haven’t tried ebates.com, I highly recommend it. Click here to read more about ebates.com.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Unconventional Easter Egg Hunt

The week-end before the official Easter holiday, our local YMCA hosted an unconventional Easter Egg hunt by placing eggs in the pool for a splashtactular egg hunt, or egg dive (as referred to by the boy).

The kids were divided into age groups, with the 10-12 year olds going first, the 8-9 year olds going next, followed by the 6-7 year olds, the 4-5 year olds, and the 3 and under came next. Children under 5 were accompanied by adults or older siblings. Each group had 10 minutes to hunt for eggs in the pool. All the egg hunters were awarded prizes!

The eggs were spread throughout the pool—even the 9 feet! Some of the eggs floated and some sank. The sinkers required rocks!

When the splashing and hunting for eggs were complete for each age group, the kids put the rocks back into the eggs, put the eggs back together, and threw them back into the pool for the next group.

At the end of all the hunting, the pool was available for open swim. Many of the participants took advantage of the time for a plunge. What a fun and unique event. We look forward to next year!

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Cast Party for OCCP's The Secret Garden

What’s a show without a Cast Party? For the cast and crew of OCCP’s The Secret Garden, the Cast Party was a celebration of weeks of hard work.

The cast party was held after the last performance in what is referred to as the “Studio” at Bridge View Center and was decorated by a group of volunteers with a garden theme.

The food was catered by Bridge View as well as each parent bringing a food item to share. There was plenty of food and it was yummy!

Another parent made this terrific cake—it looked like the secret garden! On one side, the names of all the kids in the show were written in icing.

A D.J. was on hand to provide music for dancing. Kids of all ages shared the dance floor!

Then, it was time for Karaoke-- a new featured added for this cast party. OK, you have a bunch of kids who are into theater and performing. What do you think is going to happen when you add a microphone and music into the mix? Yep, that is exactly what happened!

The boy wanted to go first, but he hesitated as he hadn’t experienced Karaoke before, so another cast member took the reigns and performed the first song. What was neat about this was that many of the other kids gathered around to watch and see how it all worked. They formed a semi-circle around the performer with tall ones in the back and small ones in the front—no need for direction giving needed, they did it automatically and made sure that everyone who wanted to see could.

So the boy went 2nd and it wasn’t too long before he was adding his own vocal stylings during the musical interludes.

There were others who came next. Then, something happened, that made me question whether I was dealing with an 8 year old or had fast forwarded in time 10 or so years. The boy came back to where we were seated and asked for a pen. I dug through my bag and found one. He then began writing his song request for Karaoke on a napkin—including his name and the title of the song. With the pen returned, he gave his song request to the D.J. and within a few minutes he had the microphone in his hand again!

Fun was had by all and the cast members left, after saying good-bye, with a token from the show, which was also garden themed. What’s a show without a Cast Party!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It Paid To Stay Up Late

90 days out was our target. Our target to begin the on line check-in process for our upcoming Disney Cruise. At 90 days, we could also book our port adventures, also known as shore excursions. We hit the 90 day mark on Wednesday—at midnight Eastern Time. Since we live in the Central Time zone, it meant that I could access our Disney Cruise Line reservation on-line at 11:00 pm Central (also midnight Eastern.)

So, at 11:00 pm Tuesday night, I logged on using our log-in and password along with our cruise confirmation number and was able to reserve our port adventures. All of the adventures we wanted were available for the times we wanted. Yeah! If we had wanted to reserve spa treatments or dining at Palo or Remy, I would have been able to do this, too. If we needed to reserve nursery times on-board, those would have been available to us as well.

The rest of our on line check-in wasn’t available at the same time, so I logged in the next day and completed the rest of our on line check-in. It was easy!

Your target date for booking port adventures will vary depending on your level in Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Club—click here to read more. Depending on your level—based on the number of Disney Cruises you have sailed, your date for booking will be different. Also, your cruise must be paid in full to reserve your port adventures on-line and complete the on line check-in. Disney Cruise Line’s on line check-in is available up to 3 days prior to your cruise.

When I completed the rest of the process later on Wednesday, I was able to select our port arrival time—which is something new for Disney Cruise Line and helps manage the now larger group of cruisers due to the new, larger ships. An early port arrival time, 10:30 am -11:00 am, was available for us and I took it! Since we are flying in the day before our cruise and staying at the Hyatt at Orlando International, getting to the port early will be a breeze using Disney transport. Boarding usually begins around 11:30 and getting on board early is one way to maximize the value of your cruise. Click here to read more about your first day on-board.

It paid to stay up late and get a head start on reserving popular port adventures. Now, we wait! Oh, and pack!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

OCCP Did It Again With The Secret Garden!

 Our local children's theater group produced another fantastic performance with the classic story of The Secret Garden.
 The Secret Garden was the first show of a 3 show season for 2011.  Annie and God Rest Ye Gerry Mentlemen are being readied for the stage yet this year.

 The Secret Garden had an all children cast with 40 plus youngsters from our community portraying various roles.  Many of them used a British accent to add authenticity to the performance.

 Here's Mary, Master Collin, and the Nurse.  In addition to acting challenges, finding authentic props, such as the wheelchair shown above, prove to be quite a challenge in producing a period piece.

Here's the boy in make-up, getting ready for his performance.  He portrayed one of the Sowerby children as well as a Fairgoer in the production.

 Ready for the stage at Bridge View Center!  As you can see, Bridge View Center is a great facility for theater productions.
 In addition to the Cast, a show requires a Crew.  Parents, former OCCP actors, and volunteers man behind the scenes.

 Here's the husband ready to pull various curtains and move props on and off stage.

 That's Jennifer, who heads the crew backstage.  Armed with a script and a headset, she is "in charge" of the show backstage from beginning to end.  The headset allows her to communicate with the other side of the stage, the person on lights, and me, on sound.

 While I didn't take the picture of the husband, as seen above, I'm thinking there is a bit of acting going on in this particular shot.  I know pulling the ropes is hard work, but. . .

 Here's the prop cabinet, complete with lock and low level  lighting that allows for secure storage as well as being able to see the props in a dark backstage area.

 This is Bridge View Center's theater from another point of view.  The theater can seat around 700 people, but can squeeze in 900 with additional seats if needed.

 So, while the show is in motion, the children not on stage are busy backstage waiting for their cues.  This is referred to as the green room.  Kids bring toys and activities and there are typically snacks available.  It is a chance to meet new friends, as the picture above demonstrates. 

After the show, the cast head to the lobby to wait for their adoring fans.  The boy is ready to greet them!

Ah, flowers for the actor!  Those flowers came from Ann and Kathy who came to the show and brought Grandma along.

And, the show couldn't go on without the dedicated directors, Becky and Marc.  OCCP is a labor of love for them and they work well together.  Thanks to both of you for all you do!

To read about another OCCP production, click here.

To follow OCCP on Facebook, click here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dreaming of a Private Cabana on Castaway Cay

Ever dream of being on a tropical beach with the blue ocean beckoning you to play, a hammock for you to take a snooze and feel the tropical breeze, and an attendant who checks on you to make sure you have everything you need? If so, a private cabana on Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay may make your dreams come true.

With the expansion of the Disney Cruise Line fleet, Disney made a few enhancements to the already wonderful Castaway Cay by adding private cabanas that guests could rent for their day at Castaway Cay. There are 21 private cabanas—17 on the newly expanded family beach and 4 on Serenity Bay, the adults only beach.

This little spot of paradise does not come cheap with the daily rental of $499 for the family beach and $399 for Serenity bay. The maximum guest capacity is 6 per cabana, with the option adding guests at the family beach for $50 per person.

At the family beach, your cabana rental will include a well stocked refrigerator with non-alcoholic beverages for you and your cabana mates, fresh fruit, chips and snacks, towels, sunscreen products, sand toys, snorkel equipment, floats and tubes, and bike rental. You can also push a button to page an attendant to bring you anything else you might need or to get you access to a bar attendant. Did I tell you that portions of the expanded family beach are reserved just for cabana guests? Guests are encouraged to take any unused sunscreen products and beverages with them as they return to the ship.

At Serenity Bay, the cabana rental includes all of the above except the sand toys and snorkel equipment.

Each cabana has its own hammock and fresh water shower located outside the cabana.

When you reserve your cabana, either on-line prior to your cruise, or at the Port Adventures Desk, you are given a layout of the cabana along with bracelets the night before your Castaway Cay day. Upon arriving at the island, guests who have reserved a cabana check in at the special desk for cabana guests and are then driven to your cabana on a golf cart. A golf cart and attendant will also pick you up at your request so you can make your way back to the ship or to other amenities on the island.

Sounds amazing doesn’t it? Yes, except for the price. For us, as a family of 3, the cost is exorbitant, but if we find cabana mates who are willing to share the cost and space, it makes the price more reasonable and more equivalent to other port adventure costs. $499 shared among 6 people is about $83 per person making the cost more in line with say, parasailing which is $79 per person.

Also, from what I am hearing and reading on the web, all is not paradise for the cabana guests. Steel drum music is piped into the cabanas on the family beach with no guest control over volume or being able to turn the music off. My prediction will be that guest feedback will bring a change, as Disney Cruise Line asks for feedback from all guests on every cruise. Other reports indicate that the cabanas on the family beach are quite a ways from restroom facilities.

The cabanas on Castaway Cay are a series of private rentals the Disney has been offering for guests to enhance their experiences while cruising or at the Walt Disney World Resort—specifically at both of Disney’s water parks. Guests can reserve shade structures with similar amenities as the cabanas at both Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Also, other premium spots can be reserved at either water park for a fee. A way to profit? Maybe. A way for guests to relax and be assured that details, such as finding a spot on a beach or at a water park are already taken care of? Yes, that too. Is it worth the price? What do you think?

Enjoy the video tour of a slice of paradise below: