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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shutters on the Disney Dream

With four Disney cruises under our belts, we have had our fair share of experiences with ship’s photographers.  On our most recent Disney cruise aboard the Disney Dream, we were impressed, even amazed, with the service and amenities provided to us by the ship’s photographers that radiate from Shutters.

Shutters is the official name and location for photographic activity aboard each of the Disney ships.  Shutters aboard the Dream is located on Deck 4 midship, overlooking the Lobby Atrium. 

Guests are welcome in Shutters at almost any time and can find their portfolio—where prints of all photos taken are stored-- which is designated by a Disney character, a color, and a number.  We were green Mickey, Number 75.  We found the kiosk designated by Mickey at the top, the green row of portfolios, and then portfolio number 75.  Sure enough, our photos were there. . . all of them.  The photo portfolios are stateroom specific and about an inch or so thick—with the pocket on the right side when you open, so be careful.  More than once we saw guests get their portfolio and then dump all the photos when opening it. (Note—our portfolio was filled twice with prints of various photos and when I emptied it, the Shutters’ staff held the prints behind the counter in a stack for me until the end of the cruise.)

Guests can also find their photos taken by ship photographers at any of the digital photo kiosks located throughout the ship.  Just tap your Key to the World card—also your room key—to get started using the touch screen.

Most of the time, the photographer will ask for your Key to the World card to slide through their computer machine to designate the pictures to your stateroom.  Other times, the face recognition technology that is now a part of the enhanced Shutters experience aboard the Dream will allow photos to end up in your stateroom’s portfolio.

Ship’s photographers can be found almost anywhere, but usual location include character meet and greets, portrait sessions held in the evenings in the Lobby Atrium, near the pools, in the restaurants in the evening, at Castaway Cay, and even in the water at Castaway Cay!

When I told the husband that I was going to be writing about Shutters, he said that there would be pros and cons.  I asked him to think of some cons.  He couldn’t.  And, I had a difficult time, too.  Rather than pros and cons, I’ll include what we did and what we learned:

  • We purchased the Shutters photo CD.  I had budgeted around $300 for photos on our cruise, so when the price was $249, I was pleased.  I made the purchase the first night on board, but wasn’t able to get the CD until disembarkation morning.  This is because all purchases, including photo packages are fully refundable, should you change your mind.
  • A black and white print out of thumb nails of the prints was included in the envelope containing the photo CD.  This helped to delay gratification of actually seeing the pictures on the CD until we got home!
  • Since we had already purchased the photo CD, I let the photographers know that when it came time to take pictures.  They seemed to appreciate knowing that ahead of time and could snap away.  We also took fewer photos with our camera when ship’s photographers were available.
  • Know that the pictures that come on the photo CD do not have the decorative boarders with specific dates, etc.  To get those, you have to purchase specific prints.
  • After you purchase the photo CD, any prints that you purchase, including print packages are half price! 
  • So, in addition to the photo CD, I also purchased the lowest priced print package—to get photos with boarders, etc.  I paid HALF!
  • You can get an on-line copyright release for photos that you purchase at Shutters.  Click here for the link.
  • Photo CD’s are stateroom specific.  That means if you have people in more than 1 stateroom, you have to purchase more than 1 photo CD.  (You see, sometimes guest change the sleeping arrangements when booking more than one stateroom and this is one example of when things go haywire when that happens.)
  • Prints come in two sizes:  8 X 10 and 6 X 8.  If the photo taken was meant to be an 8 X 10 print, you will not be able to have it remade into a smaller print or vice versa when purchasing the prints at Shutters. 
  • You will have a difficult time finding 6 X 8 frames.  Trust me on this.  So, I don’t know why the prints come in that size, but since our first cruise in 2007, it has been the same story.  Solution:  I purchase a large frame—say 18 X 20 and put multiple 6 X 8 prints inside.  An 18 X 16 frame will fit six of the 6 X 8 prints perfectly!
  • You can purchase cameras and camera supplies at Shutters along with prints.  On one of our cruises, I asked them to download the pictures I had already taken on my camera to a disc.  The price was steep—around $16, but it was before we could get our hands on 8 GB SD cards!
  • You can also have holiday cards made year round at Shutters with photos taken on the ship.
  • We took advantage of various portrait options each night before dinner.  I say before dinner, as inevitably someone would spill something, so we were much more camera ready as a family before dinner than after.
  • The photo CD comes with the original images, print ready images, and copyright releases.  And, can still be edited by changing the “Read Only” status.
  • The photo taking opportunities begin at the Port Terminal when characters appear along with ship’s photographers and continue through the pre-boarding photo taken just before boarding the ship.

What I am continually amazed by is the struggle people have when deciding whether or not to purchase photos and then which photos when the first dilemma is solved.  I watched people agonize over photo purchases, but not flinch at the purchase of a $45 sweatshirt or other souvenir.

My personal philosophy and bias is showing here, and I think I have written this before, but I have yet to see family vacation photos sold at garage sales, but I have seen vacation merchandise and souvenirs sold at garage sales, on e-bay, etc.  The memories the photos hold will never be “outgrown” or “wear out” over the course of time.  For us, the photo purchase was a priority.  We budgeted for the purchase and planned to take advantage of photo opportunities.  And, anyone who has priced a professional photo session near your home—on land—would be pleasantly surprised with the prices that I paid and the quality/quantity of photos I brought home. 

Over the course of our cruises, my relationship with Shutters and the ship’s photographers has changed; similarly to my changing relationship with Disney Photopass photographers in the parks—click here to read more. 

On our first cruise, we had some photos taken, but didn’t purchase any.  On our second cruise, I purchased a punch card that could be used to purchase so many prints—8 X 10’s took 2 punches, 6 X 8’s cost one punch.  There were two more prints I wanted, so I purchased those separately when my punches were all gone.  On our third cruise, I purchased a photo package, upgraded to another package with more points, and then upgraded again before the end of the week-long cruise, just paying the price difference in the packages each time.  I wanted more pictures and needed more points!  The cost of the photo CD during that cruise was $399, and I just couldn’t justify the cost.  The price of the photo CD on our last cruise--$249—was right!

The service we received was incredible.  One of the Cast Members working at Shutters—Grace—recognized us from our last cruise on the Disney Magic.  My relationship with Shutters and ship’s photographers is solidified and I look forward to fantastic photos on our next, and 5th, Disney cruise!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hunting For Disney Photopass Magic Photos

Did you know that I love Photopass photographers?  This is a long time coming kind of love, as there was a time in my Disney relationship that I did not appreciate all that they could do.  I have come to my senses and know that a trip to Walt Disney World isn’t complete without pre-ordering my Photopass CD (I pay $50 less if I purchase it before I go on my vacation), and taking advantage of as many Photopass photographers as I can.  I tell them every time, that they put the vacation back in my vacation, especially for me, the family photographer.  I actually get to be in the pictures!

And, since our last visit to the World was our 8th trip, I have plenty of photos of us near the park icons.  So, this trip, in addition to the more traditional photos, we hunted for Photopass “magic photos.”  You know the ones that the photographers take and add something a little magical later, for you to see when you purchase or download your photos.

Rumor on the street is that there are somewhere around 100 different magic photos.  I even asked for a list and was told the list is strictly secret; magical.  The husband and I even tried to come up with a list of our own and failed miserably.

So, on this trip, we asked the Photopass photographers about magic photos.  Here’s what we learned:
  • Certain magic photos are limited to certain parks or even certain locations in the parks. 
  • The training of the Photopass photographers vary and that may limit the magic photos that they are able to use.
  • If the camera a Photopass photographer is using is on a tripod, no magic photos will be taken.  Only when the camera comes off the tripod will magic photos be offered.

On our hunt for Photopass magic photos we found some old favorites along with new ones.

The husband’s favorite was with Darth Vader.  When visiting with one photographer, he suggested that if guests hung out near Star Tours at Hollywood Studios during Jedi Training Academy, that you could ask the photographer at the end of Jedi Training Academy for magic photo with Darth Vader.  It worked!  You see, the only time a Photopass Photographer is at Star Tours is during Jedi Training Academy, so catching them right after is the best timing.

The boy now asks Photopass photographers if they have magic photos and is happy to participate.  Just a note, guests don’t see what is going to be imposed in the photo until they look at their photos on-line or at a Photopass location in the park, so it can take some acting to get the right pose.  I think the boy does a great job!

Enjoy our photos and the next time you find yourself at the Walt Disney World Resort, see what magic photos you can conjure from Photopass photographers.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade at Disney's Animal Kingdom--We Were In the Parade!

We call it the “zone.”  We know when we’ve hit the zone when our park touring is going smoothly, everyone is happy, our timing is right on, and we have left room in our schedule for unexpected magic.  We knew we had hit the “zone” on our day at Animal Kingdom, just before we headed to Festival of the Lion King (click here to read more);  we could feel it, and sure enough, we continued in the “zone” throughout the rest of the day!

And, that’s when the magic struck, Disney magic of course.  After meeting Flick, taking in It’s Tough to Be a Bug, we were headed to the bathroom and then lunch, at Flame Tree BBQ.  But on our way to the bathroom, I noticed a Cast Member standing at the entrance to the Character Landing.  I got his attention and gave him a thumbs up, as if to ask, “Is it open?”  I got a thumbs up signal back, so we skipped the bathroom and headed down the path to meet Winnie the Pooh and friends.  There were more guests behind us than in front of us, but we still had a chance to visit with Noah, a Cast Member working the meet and greet.  After many hugs, smiles, and photos, we headed back up the path.  Now, bathroom break then lunch. 

When we exited the bathroom a Cast Member, Scott, got our attention and asked us if we knew about the afternoon parade.  Yep, Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade.  We knew about it.  Then, he asked if we wanted to be in the parade.  You bet!  We were given directions, that he wrote on a map, to meet him at the big wooden gate to the left of the safari entrance at 3:10 pm.  Got it!  We’ll be there!  We were soaring through the rest of the afternoon—Everest, Kali, etc.

Around 3:00, we gathered at the big wooden gate.  There were others waiting, as they had been chosen to be in the parade, too.  Scott appeared and gave us some directions:
  • No photos or videos backstage.  What happens backstage stays backstage.
  • We were given a Photopass card along with a special certificate that allowed us to download photos taken of us in the parade for free.  We were told the two locations along the parade route to look for our photographer and be sure to smile and wave!  And, introduced to our photographer, Christina.

There was actually one family that didn’t show up, so Scott picked another family as they walked by the gate to be in the parade!

When we were taken through the door near the big gate, we were given lockers to put our bags, etc.  We were given safari hats, with Mickey ears of course, and vests to wear.  We were also given ear plugs.  The cast members indicated that the speakers were on the float and it could get loud.  The husband wore his, the boy wouldn’t, and I chose not to.

Soon we were seated on our float—the hippo.  Dancers and Minnie in her truck were right behind us.  There were seatbelts in the float for us to put on to make sure we stayed secure.  Safety first!

Being in the parade was a magical experience!  We waved, smiled, and were even recognized later that day and later that week by other guests for our participation in the parade.  Scott made our day!

When Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade circled back to Africa and through the big wooden gate, we got off the float, returned our “costume,” gathered our belongings, drank the cold water that was given to us, and watched as the rest of the parade came through the gate.

We thanked everyone and said our “good-bye’s”.  Then it was time to head to Dinoland as we had more to do before leaving the park.

On our bus to the Polynesian—we had an ADR at ‘Ohana’s, so we took the bus from Animal Kingdom to the Poly, people were sharing about their day and we added that we had been chosen to be in the parade.  A man asked, “How do you get to be in the parade?”  Good question!  While we don’t have a specific answer, we can say that Disney magic happens when you least expect it and for us, it has been when we are making our own Disney magic—hitting the “zone.”  If you expect Disney magic, or spend time searching for it, the magic may remain elusive or hidden. 

We certainly had a magical day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!  Thank you, Scott, Noah, and Christina!

The Williams’ Family has had the good fortune of experiencing even more Disney magic.  Click here to read about being Family of the Day at EPCOT.  Click here to read about us being in the Family Fun Day Parade at the Magic Kingdom.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom

 Who hasn't hummed a tune for Disney’s The Lion King at one time or another?  But after you experience Festival of the Lion King at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the songs will be going through your head for . . . awhile!

For us, Festival of the Lion King at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a “must do” for any visit.  You can find the theater in the round located in Camp Minnie Mickey, across from the character greeting trails.  Know that there are specific times for the Festival of the Lion King shows throughout the day.  Check your Times Guide for specific times.

Since we went to Animal Kingdom on a day with Extra Magic Hours in the morning, we were in the park an hour early, along with other Disney Resort guests who took advantage of Extra Magic Hours.  So, we were able to catch the first showing of the day of Festival of the Lion King.

We arrived at the outdoor queue about 30 minutes prior to show time and were some of the first in line.  This is a great time to have a snack and a drink—either have one with you or grab one on the way.  You are welcome to have your snack while waiting in line, but no food or drink are allowed inside the theater.  We had packed snacks and water and I had grabbed a cold Diet Coke on the way to the line.

We ended up in the lion section of the theater, as each of the four sides represents one animal.  You’ll find out what I mean when you see the show!

When the show begins, a guest is selected from each section to help demonstrate the animal for that section.  Guess who was picked?  You got it!  The boy!

Now, he has seen this show a few times and knows what is going to happen.  He was even sitting in a row ahead of us, to get a better view, etc.  So, when the Cast Member/Performer began to look for a volunteer, the boy was at the ready.  No hesitation.  He was thrilled!

We enjoyed the rest of the show, humming, singing, clapping, swaying, and smiling.  The music is joyful!

There’s another opportunity for guests to join the show towards the end for the finale.  Again, the boy was at the ready and jumped at the chance.  He was able to parade around the theater shaking a maraca and being a part of the show.

Experiencing the performance can make your heart sing.  Being a part of the show just makes it sweeter.  It is all a part of Disney magic that makes your Disney vacations even more memorable, even more special, and it finds you when you least expect it.

This isn’t the first time the boy has been a part of the Festival of the Lion King.  Click here to read more.

And, the next time you find yourself at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, be sure to catch a performance of Festival of the Lion King!