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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Disney Cruise Line Fleet Tops Condé Nast Traveler's List of Best Cruise Ships




The February 2012 Condé Nast Traveler announced the 100 Best Cruise Ships in the World and Disney ships take the 3 of the top 4 slots in the Large Cruise Ship category.  And with only 3 ships in the fleet as of right now, every Disney ship made the list!

Large Cruise Ships
Overall Score
Itineraries/ Schedules
Shore Excursions
Disney Magic
90.7
92.3
84.9
Celebrity Eclipse
88.8
83.2
68.3
Disney Dream
88.8
81.1
79.1
Disney Wonder
88.8
86.3
79.4

The Disney Magic had the highest Overall Score and the top score for Shore Excursions based on votes from cruisers.  A summer in Europe most likely helped to boost ratings in this category as well as Itineraries and Schedules. 

The Disney Dream did not fare so well in the Itineraries and Schedules category, most likely due to the limitations of the Bahamian 3, 4, and 5 night cruises with stops in Nassau and Castaway Cay.



Large Cruise Ships
Crew/Service
Cabins
Food/Dining
Disney Magic
96.0
90.4
84.7
Celebrity Eclipse
93.7
96.9
90.6
Disney Dream
90.7
92.6
88.9
Disney Wonder
95.6
90.4
84.1

The Magic topped out the charts for Crew and Service, especially compared to the Disney Dream.  A new and inexperienced crew on their first 6 month tour is most likely the reason.  We experienced this while sailing on the Dream in July.  Interestingly, most of the crew members we spoke with, from Entertainment to Wait Staff to Housekeeping, said that they were planning to jump ship to the Fantasy.  Most stated reasons such as more tips due to the longer itinerary and the Entertainment staff would have more time off;  instead of a show 4 out of 5 nights, it would be a show 4 out of 7 nights.  So, will the Dream eventually get a seasoned and experienced crew?

The Dream did come out ahead in the Cabins category.  Those inside virtual portholes are a guest favorite.  Demand for inside staterooms on the Dream has outweighed demand for outside staterooms, which is unusual in the cruise industry.  The newness of the staterooms most likely adds value to this category.

Disney had ho-hum scores for dining with the Dream edging out the other Disney ships.  The newly themed Animator’s Palate is most likely a contributor, but was not our favorite while on board—click here to read more.  The addition of Remy to the adults only restaurant selection of Palo on the Dream gives the Dream an edge in the dining category. 


Large Cruise Ships
Activities/ Facilities
Design/ Layout
Number of Passengers
Disney Magic
92.7
94.0
2,700
Celebrity Eclipse
89.7
95.3
2,850
Disney Dream
96.3
90.7
4,000
Disney Wonder
91.8
93.4
2,700


The Disney Dream sailed past the competition in Activities and Facilities.  The Aqua Duck, Goofy’s Sports Deck, Interactive play floors in the children’s areas, and an expanded character meet and greet list are most likely the reasons behind the Dream’s competitive edge.  The Disney Fantasy with even more water features will give the Dream a run for its money by next year in this category.

Where the Dream fell short was in Design and Layout.  I’m sensing the Dream’s awkward deck layout with the inability to traverse the ship fore to aft on any deck lowers the score in this category.  Our stateroom was on Deck 5 and we had great access to elevators and the ability to traverse the ship on our side.  Guests on the other side of the ship would have had to use our side or the stairs to get to the rest of Deck 5 or Deck 4.  With the addition of a main dining restaurant, Enchanted Garden, on Deck 2, guests had to use the midship elevators or staircase to get to the restaurant.  Only Decks 3 and 4, along with the top decks 6 through 11 provided guests adequate access to the entire ship without using the stairs.  Also, the aft elevators being located in the middle of Cabanas, a restaurant, may feel a bit strange.  Let’s see how the Disney Fantasy fares in this category.

As a Disney Cruise Line fan, it is no surprise to see the fleet make it to the top of the list for Best Large Cruise Ships.  Disney Cruise Line has a way of exceeding expectations and has one of the biggest return cruiser rates of any cruise line.

When the cruise industry is being looked at with a more critical eye due to the recent Costa Concordia tragedy, it is great to hear and read some good news about cruising.  Reports are that booking rates for the industry are down about 10% and cancelations are running about the same.  With 19 million cruisers sailing the high seas this past year, our family looks to be part of those numbers in 2012. 




Saturday, January 28, 2012

Winners of Week 2 "Help Us Pack"



It’s the end of the 2nd week of “Help Us Pack” where you, readers of the Williams Family Blog, are voting to decide what sets of matching shirts we will pack and wear during our next trip to Walt Disney World.




This week it was the battle of the green t-shirts and the winner was our one eye favorite from Monster’s Inc.  with an “I’ve got my eye on you” message on the back from Roz.




We purchased these shirts while at the Magic Kingdom in March of 2009.  They were located on kiosks in Tomorrowland just outside Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.  We have only worn them once (well at least to Walt Disney World)—November 2009, so it will be great to wear them again.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Disney Magic and Disney Wonder Sail in 2013




Venice, Miami, Vancouver, oh my!  Oh my is sure right as fans of Disney Cruise Line learned about the 2013 itineraries for the fleets two oldest ships, the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder.  2013 sailings for the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy were announced in October—click here to read more.

There is no more wondering about the Wonder who had four Mexican Riviera sailings canceled for December 2012.  Instead, the Wonder will be cruising through the Panama Canal and making Miami its home port for several holiday sailings in December 2012.  A 14 night repositioning cruise through the canal followed by a 7 night Eastern Caribbean Holiday Cruise and a 6 night Western Caribbean New Year Cruise are scheduled for December 9, December 23, and December 30, 2012.  Interestingly, only one of those itineraries, the 7 night Eastern Caribbean Holiday Cruise, allows guests to stop at Disney’s Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas


Miami will continue to be the Wonder’s home part until May 2013 offering 4 and 5 night sailings to the Bahamas and Western Caribbean destinations.  Ports include Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Key West, Nassau, and Castaway Cay.

Then it’s back to the west for the Wonder after another repositioning cruise through the canal to make Vancouver, British Columbia a home port for 7 night sailings to Alaska from May through September 2013.  There are no other itineraries available for the Wonder after September 2013.

Now, about the Disney Magic—Galveston, Texas will be the home port of this ship from December 2012 through May of 2013.  An Eastbound Transatlantic cruise is next followed by a glorious summer in the Mediterranean.  The itineraries rotate 4, 7, and 12 night sailings with Barcelona, Spain as a home port.  Ports of call include Nice, Naples, Florence, Rome, Venice, Croatia, Malta, Athens, Mykonos, and Turkey depending on the particular sailing.

Also, interestingly, there is no Westbound Transatlantic cruise scheduled and no sailings for the Magic after August 2013.

Basically, we’ve got the first 8-9 months of 2013 covered for the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, while reservations and itineraries exist for the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy until December 2013. 

Time for some rumination. . Will extended dry-docks to update the older ships be scheduled for the end of 2013?  Will guest favorites, such as the Aqua Duck, be added to the older ships?  What about virtual portholes for the inside staterooms, another guest favorite?  Will the Magic stay in Europe for an extended period of time? 

After the long awaited announcement for the 2013 itineraries for the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, this Disney Cruise Line fan is left with more questions than answers.

So, will we be sailing in 2013?  I’m not sure.  Since our next Disney Cruise is slated for December 2012, it would be a short turn around to sail again in 2013.  And, while the European itineraries are tempting Alaska seems to be an area we are more interested in visiting right now. . . well, Alaska and Hawaii.  Yet, changing the home port from Seattle—which the 2012 Alaska sailings are using to Vancouver—home port for 2013, makes airfare more expensive. 

Another dilemma is considering the boy and the kids club.  When he is 10, he’s in the Oceaneer’s Club, which is a state of the art facility on any ship.  But when he turns 11, which he will in 2013, the location for the Tween group on the Magic and Wonder is a converted area on Deck 2 midship, rather than the state of the art location in the forward funnel—the Edge—on the Fantasy and the Dream.  We are leaning more towards the newer ships until he is old enough for the Teen club, which again is quality on all of the ships.

What I do know for sure, is that we will have our next cruise picked out by the time we board the Disney Dream in December of 2012 and will be ready to rebook on board.  We’ll be Gold Castaway Club Members by then and ready for even more perks! (Click here to read about Castaway Club.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"America Is Open For Business"



President Obama delivered a speech from the Magic Kingdom last Thursday, January 19, 2012.  It’s not that I had a team or roving reporters from the field;  I had friends who happened to be visiting Walt Disney World Resort and were texting me to keep me informed.  President Obama declared in his speech to support tourism that “America is open for business.”  So what does all of that mean?

Why Magic Kingdom?  Walt Disney World Resort has over 32 million guests per year, but actual numbers are a well guarded industry secret.  Cinderella’s Castle is an icon recognized world wide and is known as one of the world’s most photographed locations.  What would be a better backdrop for a speech to support tourism?

Also, the location could be controlled . . . access, etc.  My friends indicated that the Magic Kingdom would close after the first 25,000 guests entered the gates.  Guests were routed through a backstage area in Tomorrowland to gain access to the park, and then were allowed access to other areas of the park by walking behind Cinderella’s Castle.  No crossing the hub, which was blocked for the speech and security reasons.  There was also no access to Main Street, U.S.A. until the speech was over and the area had been cleared.  Ironic, isn’t it?  While the idea of America being open for business was touted, guests were unable to get to Main Street, U.S.A.  Get it?

Anyway, Walt Disney World Resort compensated guests who might have had some limitations to making magic during their vacation due to the Presidents’ visit by offering extended hours at other parks, more entertainment options at other parks, and a nighttime fireworks display at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Way to go Disney!  Another reason we keep coming back!

What does it mean that America is open for business?  I watched the 11, almost 12 minute speech on line later on Thursday.  The President proposed that travel visas be easier to obtain in more countries and processed faster for countries, especially China, India, and Brazil who have growing middle classes and economic means to travel.  Another proposal was marketing our country world wide as a tourist destination for National Parks, iconic cities, natural beauty, historic destinations, and theme parks.  The basic theme is that tourism is a way to grow our nation’s economy.  I can get behind those ideas.

What does it mean for us?  Interestingly, the Disney boards and forums are popping right now with complaints that Brazilians have taken over the parks.  Yes, there are many Brazilian tour groups that make twice annual pilgrimages to Walt Disney World—January and July.  Complaints about the large noisy groups, line jumping, and public displays of affection abound.  We were last at the World in July and witnessed line cutting, washing of hair in bathroom sinks, and attempts to guard Fastpass machines—which is a story the husband loves to tell—from members of various Brazilian tour groups.  I hesitate to claim that all Brazilian tour groups behave in this manner, and obviously we aren’t paying attention to those who are operating within expectations.

My personal response to the unacceptable behavior is to make eye contact with the offenders and say, “no” which is understood in many languages.  The husband would say that I have a “presence” and it came in handy a few times during our trip in July to at least temporarily halt inappropriate behavior from members of Brazilian tour groups.  But, I would do the same for offenders of any nationality.

Having visited foreign countries myself, I would never knowingly commit a social faux pas and I’m sensing that many visitors to our country would feel the same.  And, to quote Oprah, “when you know better, you do better.”  So, let’s make sure our guests know better.  My idea:  Provide a TV channel to be played at the Disney Resorts, or even throughout Orlando, that instructs on park rules, expectations, and etiquette in multiple languages.  I know there would be a way to advertise park amenities, products, or services throughout the messages, making it multi-purpose.  This same idea could be used in other heavily traveled tourist destinations.

So, it may mean crowds at certain destinations . . . even beyond theme parks. 

What about languages?  While many visitors to the U.S. already speak English, I certainly hope that the folks who are in charge of placing staffs at National Parks, historic destinations, iconic cities, and theme parks are considering multilingual employees or employees with various language capabilities.  It may be beneficial to have tourist information in multiple language formats just like we find directions for assembly for electronic devices and toys.

I volunteer at our local events center.  In fact, I have spent time there the last 3 out of 4 days.  The center provides a location for events big and small and a home for theater productions.  The center has been fodder for controversy among members of our city and city council, as expectations for the center to be profitable or not be a burden to tax payers have surfaced.  When volunteering there on Saturday, I was able to inform a fellow citizen that event centers such as ours, even in bit cities, do not typically run in the black.  Their purpose is to offer events and draw crowds so that other local businesses—restaurants, shops, gas stations, and hotels make a profit.  The more people in our community who understand that the better.  The same concept is behind “America is open for business.”   Let’s offer our National Parks, iconic cities, historic locations, and theme parks to the world so that our businesses can make a profit.  That’s an idea I can get behind.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

We're Packing These Shirts!

 These shirts went to Utah with us.
We wore them hiking in Arches National Park
July 2009 


Thanks to readers’ votes, we are packing these shirts and wearing them on our upcoming visit to Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney World

For our 9th trip, I thought we would let you help us pack by voting on shirts each week.  Then, we will pack and wear the shirts with the most votes.


 March 2009
Walt Disney World


We have several matching shirt sets to choose from! Click here to read more about our matching shirts.


March 2010
Walt Disney World

Thursday, January 19, 2012

No 2013 Itineraries for the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder Yet



Disney Cruise Line postponed its grand announcement from Miami, home of Carnival Cruise Line owner and operator of the Costa Concordia,  originally scheduled for Wednesday, January 18, 2012.  Speculations were that the 2013 itineraries for the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder would be announced, and even the end of 2012 itineraries for the Disney Wonder after cancelling four Mexican Riviera itineraries for December 2012. (Click here to read more about the Wonder's itineraries being canceled.)

Enthusiasts will just have to wait.  Disney Cruise Line doesn’t want any of their announcements clouded by the Concordia tragedy which happened on Saturday, 100 years after the sinking of the Titanic. 

Who can blame them?  Though, they are running out of time.  The Disney Fantasy is set for its Maiden Voyage on March 31, 2012.  Disney Cruise Line wouldn’t want any announcement to be overshadowed by news of the christening and inaugural voyages of the Fantasy.  And, the 2013 itineraries for the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy have been released since October, 2011. (Click here to read more.)

Cruise line and travel reporters have their ears and eyes focused in Italy as more mysteries of the Concordia crash are uncovered.  Another reason to postpone any industry announcements.

So we wait. . . for the announcement of the date of the announcement, and then the announcement itself.

Rumors and speculation abound with hints at Caribbean ports being reserved with a now unnamed Disney ship.  European ports of call have the Disney Magic for specific dates.  Will there be transatlantic cruises?  Panama Canal cruises?  Cruises from Miami?  Only time, and Disney Cruise Line, will tell.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Our Last Trip With The Boy As A Kid



We are less than two months away from our next Walt Disney World trip, and it will be the last trip for the boy as a kid.  What?  Yep, his last trip as a kid.  I don’t mean that we won’t ever return to Walt Disney World or that he will be an adult before he goes back.  It’s just that he is 9 right now and in Disney terms is considered a child.  When he turns 10, he is no longer a child in the eyes of Disney.  That means a higher price tag for his tickets, being able to order from the adult menu at both table service and counter service locations, and a more expensive trip in general.

Often, I hear or read about families trying to decide when to take their children on a once in a lifetime trip to Walt Disney World.  The dilemma seems to be finding the magical age between being able to remember the trip and being able to handle the perceived stamina a Walt Disney World trip requires.  My caution. ... don’t wait too long.  The price goes up once your child is 10 or older and the list of reasons not to go and activities that get in the way gets longer.  There’s a reason children under 3 are FREE at Walt Disney World—free entry into parks and free to eat off an adult entrée or buffet at restaurants.

The boy in two months will have had 9 once in a lifetime trips to Walt Disney World so we don’t wrestle with the dilemma of when to take him.  It was great at every age he has been when we have visited the most magical place on earth.  Just last night, I was requested to find videos of Coronado Springs, the resort we are trying on our next trip.  Particularly, he wanted videos of the themed pool.  Once I found them, I was directed to leave him alone, but the conversation traveled from the computer to the kitchen.  “Mom, when are we going back to French Quarter?”  “Mom, does Coronado Springs have a kids club?”  Soon, I could hear the songs of Splash Mountain followed by the boy’s audible gasp.  It must be the big drop down Slippin’ Falls!  So this is how a 9 year old prepares for a Walt Disney World trip.  Research via video.  When he was younger, pictures were his favorite along with multiple readings of “Guide to the Magic for Kids”—click here to read more.

I’m excited about our future Walt Disney World trips; the one in two months and the ones that have yet to be planned.  When will the boy want even more independence?  Will we be ready to give it to him?  When will he want to bring a friend?  (Already he suggested that his 10th birthday party be at Walt Disney World—at least he dreams big!)

There are moments that seem so normal for our family, such as when the boy is telling us his preference to eat at Les Chefs de France and disappointed that we won’t be dining at Teppan Edo this trip.  Yep, our then 8 year old wanted to eat French and Japanese food, but was okay with missing Chef Mickey’s, a buffet meal with characters.  Hmmm. . . I shared this story with a fellow Disney fan and we both laughed.  Maybe this should be normal for every family she quipped.  Yes, maybe it should be normal. 

We are looking forward to our last Walt Disney World trip with the boy as a kid.  But trust me, we are still dreaming—and planning—for trips when he’s not a kid anymore, at least by Disney standards.  And we will always be kids at heart, especially at Walt Disney World.

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Shirts For Our Next Trip To Walt Disney World!

I love a great deal!  During our family holiday gift exchange, it was everything I could do to not shout, “I got yours free.  And yours. Free.  Free.  Free!”  But that story is for another time when I am more certain friends and family are not reading the blog.  Having said that, I was able to check off another item on the getting ready to go to Walt Disney World “to do” list and score an incredible deal at the same time!

Zazzle.com, our favorite on-line retailer of customizable shirts was having a 50% off sale.  A few clicks of the mouse and three t-shirts are on their way!

What’s great about Zazzle is that you can design any time and save the designs “in progress” in your account.  That way, this morning when the incredible deal showed up via e-mail, the purchase was made even faster as the designs were waiting for us.  I had actually put the shirts in our on-line “cart.”  I just entered the discount code!

I’m not sure what I am more excited about. . . the shirts, the deal, or the upcoming trip to Walt Disney World!  Most likely all three!

Our purchase was even better, as I went through Ebates.com to make the purchase and 10% of the purchase went into my Ebates account.  (Click here to read more about how Ebates works.)  My next “Big Fat Check” will be coming soon!

So, here are our shirts!  We can’t wait to wear them!  Click here to read about why we wear matching shirts.





And, if you are planning a trip to Walt Disney World, or any vacation destination for that matter, and want to design and customize your own shirts, be sure to check out Zazzle.com!  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Planning A Walt Disney World Vacation? Let's Get Started!



More Walt Disney World trips are planned in January than in any other month.  Sounds good, but I am only speculating and with good reason, as January is Disney month at AAA.  I have also been told more times in the last week about future Disney trips than I have in a while.  Disboards and PassPorter Community forums get hit with more questions about planning a Disney trip this time of year than any other.  With all of this in mind, let’s get started planning a magical Walt Disney World vacation!

What are the dates of my trip? 
Some people have flexibility in the travel dates, other have firm dates of travel.  It is important to solidify the dates of a trip, even keeping flexibility in mind.  Walt Disney World often offers discounts for specific travel dates and some travelers adjust their itineraries to take advantage of these offers.  The Walt Disney World web-site has a listing of the offers.  A Disney reservationist or your travel agent can also help you.

How are we getting there?
Car, bus, train, plane—and for those cruising out of New York this summer, ship.  Those are pretty much your choices, as biking or walking would be a bit prohibitive.  Budgets and time often determine the answer to this question.  Some combine modes of transportation as they may be planning to visit other destinations, such as the beach, while in Florida.

Remember that Walt Disney World offers free Magical Express service from Orlando International Airport to Walt Disney World resorts.  This service includes luggage handling to your resort, if your flight lands in Orlando before 10:00 pm.  If your flight lands after 10:00 pm, guests will pick up their luggage and baggage claim and take it with them on Disney’s Magical Express to their resort.

Disney also offers free transportation via bus, boat, or monorail throughout the Walt Disney World Resort, so unless other destinations beyond Walt Disney World are planned, guests do not need a car.

Where are we staying?
The answer to this question has a sub-question:  Are we staying on property or off?
Off property?  There are many hotels, vacation homes, time shares, and condo rentals available for guests wishing to stay in the Orlando area.  Some off-site hotels offer shuttles to various theme parks and attractions.  There may be a fee for shuttles and they typically run at scheduled intervals.  If using a car, remember to add in parking fees at the parks into your budget.

On property?  If you want to be immersed in Disney magic, have access to free Disney transportation, and enjoy Extra Magic Hours in the park just for resort guests, then staying on-site at a choice of 22 different resorts may be for you.  There are a variety of options available from deluxe 3 bedroom villas to cabins at Fort Wilderness that sleep 6 people to resort rooms at moderate and value resorts.  When guests stay on-site, the next question is value, moderate, or deluxe resort?  Budget, location, and the number of travelers often determine the answer to this question.  For example, a family of 4 wanting to stay at a resort on the monorail line, could choose from the Grand Floridian Resort, the Contemporary Resort, and the Polynesian Resort, which are all Deluxe level resorts.  Their location is reflected in their cost.

What about dining?
Guests staying in villas, vacation homes, cabins, or condos may elect to do some cooking or prepare simple meals during their Disney vacation.  Others may choose to rely on the immense array of dining options available at the Walt Disney World Resort that includes counter service—or quick service locations, over 100 table service restaurant options, signature dining experiences, dinner shows, and character meals.

For many, a stay at Walt Disney World Resort just wouldn’t be complete without at least one character meal and there are many to choose from!  You can read about our experiences at Chef Mickey’s, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Akershus Princess Storybook Dining, ‘Ohana’s, 1900 Park Fair, Hollywood & Vine, Tusker House, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, and Crystal Palace—just click on the links to read more.

Guests staying at the Walt Disney World Resort have the option to add a Dining Plan to their room and ticket package—Quick Service, Basic, and Deluxe plans are available. (Click here to read more about Dining Plans.)

What about park tickets?
Okay.  You know when you are traveling, how you are traveling, and where you are staying.  This will help you decide how many days of park tickets you want or need.  The basic park ticket is the “one park per day” ticket.  If you use it to go to Magic Kingdom, then that is your park for the day.  You will be able to enter and exit the Magic Kingdom throughout the day, but will not be able to go to another park that day without adding the “Park Hopper” option to your tickets.  If you are planning a lengthy stay, but know you won’t be at the parks everyday, then purchase fewer days on your park ticket.  Another option is to add the “Water Parks and More” option to park tickets that allow entry into the Water Parks and Disney Quest at Downtown Disney.

It’s helpful to have your dining plans made when deciding about park tickets, as you will know which days you want to be in which parks for dining purposes.

Planning a Walt Disney World vacation can sometimes be overwhelming due to the options that are available and number of choices and decisions that are made, but answering the above questions first, will get you started.  A travel agent, an experienced friend or colleague, or the internet can help tremendously.  Hence the reason for this post!

Sometimes future Disney travelers get caught up in planning the “perfect” Disney vacation.   Just know that you are going to Walt Disney World and there is more than one way to have a magical vacation experience.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Attraction Photos Make Great Souvenirs

We buy the ride photos.  Yep, we are some of those people you see standing in line at the photo counter in the shops at the exit to attractions.  This was brought to my attention by the husband’s sister over the holiday break.  She was admiring all of our Splash Mountain photos. . . there are many!  But none from our last trip to Walt Disney World, as we didn’t ride Splash Mountain that trip.  It is however on our list of attractions for our next trip.

Why?  Well, they make a great souvenir!  The boy rode Expedition Everest for the first time on our trip in July and capturing his expression was priceless.  The girl in the photo was riding by herself in the single rider line and ended up with us on the ride, and in the photo.

I would also like to mention that while all of the photo counters have the technology to zoom and edit, only the Cast Member at Expedition Everest took the time to do that and make our photo even better.  We thank him!

The cost is less than other souvenirs.  The least expensive photo is the 8 X 10—counter intuitive, I know.  Price is typically $18.95 or so and sometimes there are photo and frame purchase specials.  Be sure to ask about those.  This price is less expensive than some of the other souvenirs that you might be tempted to purchase.  And, it doesn’t take up much space in the luggage on the way home!

On our November 2010 trip, we rode Splash Mountain twice in a row—using Fastpass of course.  Oh, the dilemma of having two ride photos to choose from.  But, Disney had thought of everything and had a way of putting both photos in the 5 X 7 size on one photo sheet.  Voila!  Problem solved.  We brought both photos home with us.  I’ll I had to do was ask.

There are many other attractions that have the ride photo imbedded:  Tower of Terror, Space Mountain, Rock’n’Roller Coaster (I think as I don’t know for sure!), and Test Track.  I’m also not sure about Haunted Mansion. . .

Test Track has the option of adding your ride photo to your PhotoPass account just by scanning your Photopass card with the appropriate picture.  We love that!  (Click here to read more about Disney’s PhotoPass service.)

We wish other rides would have photos—Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, and if Haunted Mansion doesn’t have it already, we think it would be appropriate.  The trick for us would be to get the whole family in one shot, as can be done with the attractions already incorporating a ride photo.

If you do decide to purchase an attraction photo, know that you don’t have to carry it with you all day in the parks.  You can have the photo, and frame if you desire, delivered to the front of the park to pick up when you exit, or if you are staying at a Disney Resort, you can have it delivered to your resort—it will go to the resort gift shop—and pick it up the next day.  Easy and convenient.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Another Reason We Love Our Travel Agent




We love our travel agent and yesterday, she proved again why she has earned our loyalty.

We have had our 9th trip to the Walt Disney World Resort reserved since September.  We made  a change about a month ago to a different resort to save some money—no problem.  Our travel agent was able to find which resort would offer the best savings.

Yesterday, we made a significant payment on our trip.  Before processing, she checked again to make sure we had the best deal.  Then, because January is Disney month at AAA, she added the bonus gift to our package.

We are receiving a framed Lion King film cell!  I can’t wait!  For the trip. . . and the art!

Our travel agent has helped us with this trip and 8 others to Walt Disney World, four Disney cruises and has the reservation for our fifth, an Adventures by Disney tour, and a trip to Cancun.  Over the years, we have received luggage, gift cards, backpacks, and even a digital picture frame.  There’s something to be said for loyalty!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Williams Family Applies for My Yard Goes Disney!



As soon s the first episode of “My Yard Goes Disney” aired last spring, we were hooked.  The DVR was set to record every new episode and we would watch it as a family.  The boy even called the show “my family goes Disney.”  I think that is somewhat appropriate.

We were transfixed by the transformation that took place in each backyard and the Disney magic and pixie dust sprinkled in each episode.  It wasn’t long before our dreams turned to being a family whose yard goes Disney.

So, we applied!  We took pictures and video and submitted them to JayTV in Ohio who handles the casting for the show and is connected with HGTV.

Here’s the video:




We got an email back within a couple of days stating that our application would be reviewed and thank you for applying.  The e-mail also had our responses on the application including the questions about our connection to Disney. 

Then, we got another e-mail a couple of days later with a release form attached.  We needed to give permission for our video and pictures and any other images to be used.  No problem!  The e-mail also stated that our application would be reviewed by the end of January.

This dream is a wish the boy’s heart makes!  We’re hopeful for some Disney magic and pixie dust!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Airlines Have 3 Weeks to Meet Truth In Advertising Regulation




Airlines have until January 24, 2012, to advertise airfares that include all government fees and taxes.  Some airlines are already adhering to this regulation, which was part of a dozen passenger protections that the Transportation Department proposed in 2010 and adopted last spring.  Currently, airlines can advertise a low price with an asterisk or footnote with fine print indicating additional fees and taxes.

Is this why consumers are seeing and feeling an increase in airfare?  When all airlines come on board by January 24 what effect will it have on airfare prices?

Our favorite airline, AirTran, has been adhering to this regulation for some time.  I can’t tell you exactly when, but when I find an on-line price and multiply it by three, that is the cost of our airfare.  No surprises when I hit the “next” button or “submit” or “There is only one seat left at this price” messages—this one I see when checking fares for Allegiant.

Because consumers will be able to compare equally—fare to fare—with this new regulation, airfare may actually decline. . . at least for a bit.  Airlines, who already compete viciously for passengers, may feel the need to lower published fares, at least initially so that consumers don’t get sticker shock.

Fees and taxes can add on to the price of airfare.  Passengers taking flights with stops pay fees each time they land or take off at an airport.  Taking a trip outside the country?  Your return flight may cost you more due to taxes and fees for returning to the United States.  Even certain countries have special fees when you leave them via air—The Bahamas is an example of this type of fee.  Now we know why we see specials for money off flights or free companion airfare or complimentary days of stay with a certain length of package.  Flying into Nassau—not bad.  Flying out—expensive!

I’m sensing that my Kayak and Southwest Airlines apps on the iPad will require updating come January 24, as all airlines adjust to the new regulation—that they have had almost 9 months to get ready for.  They are down to 3 weeks!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Reflections of 2011 and Goals for 2012




Happy New Year!  It’s 2012!  And, if the Mayans are correct, we’ve only got until December 22. . . the husband said he will not be happy if the world comes to an end that day, as we have a Disney Cruise scheduled.  I just laughed.  How can you be unhappy if the world has come to an end?  Anyway, it is the end of one year and the beginning of another and the time that most people reflect on their life, goals, dreams, and aspirations.

As I reflect on 2011, I am grateful for so much;  our family, friends, memories, laughter, and learning.  I am also grateful for good health.  After a bit of a “it’s a tumor, but not cancer” moment this year and watching others succumb to health issues, reminds me to be grateful for good health.

Memories—we have done so much and captured so many memories over the years.  The Williams Family Blog is a testament to those memories.  At some point, I don’t remember exactly when, the husband and I decided to spend money on experiences rather than “stuff.”  I was visiting with a fellow Disney fan who was experiencing the “how do you afford to keep going back” question from others and she said, “we are way past the souvenir stage.”  Yep, I can understand that.  You go to Disney for the experience of going.  That’s what we try to do with our life—have more experiences and less “souvenirs.”  This is another reason why I don’t understand why people on vacation agonize over photo purchases—I know, I have written about this before!  The husband’s sister was visiting over the holidays and was admiring our Splash Mountain photos.  She said, “Oh, there’s so many to pick from and you get them all.”  Yes, I typically do—get them all, if we can swing it.  To me, photos are a part of memories. 

Rather than make resolutions, I’ll set some goals for 2012.  There are some things I want to do more of.

I want to read and write more in 2012.  Doing both of these makes me happy.  I have a friend who swims every morning—good for her!  We were talking about how doing what we love each day makes us happy and have a better day.  I am happier when I write in the morning and she is happier when she swims in the morning.  We can both tell—in ourselves—how it feels different when we haven’t done those things.  And, yes, we could write or swim later in the day, I suppose, but when I wake up with words in my head ready to go on paper, it almost “hurts” to wait to get them out and that same “flow” doesn’t always happen later in the day.

I want to move more in 2012.  My body feels better when it gets more movement.  I’m still working out the details of this one, but I know it is something I want to do.

I want to laugh, love, learn, and listen more in 2012.  I was visiting with the husband about a social function I went to recently.  He then spoke some words that rang pretty true and got me to thinking—“you are more of a people watcher than interacter.”  I do watch people.  I love watching people!  So, the goal of listening more means interacting more.  I can do this!

I want to continue to save money in 2012.  By this I mean two things—one, save money on everyday purchases and two, save money for trips and experiences.  I enjoy saving money!  I went to the grocery store the other day with a goal of spending only $10.  The total came to $22, but I wrote the check for $10, thanks to coupons.  I hear people saying that they wish they could do that or that they just don’t have time or don’t see the value, etc.  That’s okay.  I’ve converted more than one person standing behind me in the check-out lane and clipping coupons or taking advantage of specials doesn’t take a huge amount of time.  The boy was with me on this recent shopping excursion and when another coupon popped out of the machine at the register he quipped, “Mom, we sure are smart shoppers.”  I agreed.

The theme in all of my goals for 2012, is to do more of what feels good; what makes me happy,  I don’t mean that in a hedonistic or selfish way, but in a way that is healthy.  A friend and colleague of mine recently passed away.  She was involved in theater, much like our family, and had a favorite role—that of Auntie Mame.  Auntie Mame is actually one of my favorite “old movies” with the main character played by Rosalind Russell.  There’s a lesson from Auntie Mame—“Life is a banquet and some poor suckers are starving to death.”  Her other line I love was, “You gotta live, live, live!”  That’s my plan!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

One More Disney Day--2012



Nostradamus I am not, but I did get some of the predictions correct for the big New Year’s Eve announcement from Disney—One More Disney Day. (Click here to read more about the speculation.)

Indeed, the speculation regarding a 24 hour park opening was correct.  Beginning at 6:00 am on Wednesday, February 29, 2012, both the Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World and the Disneyland Park in California will be open for 24 hours.  It is the first time ever this has happened!

While this event may make history—it’s never been done before, guests at Walt Disney World right now get 18 hours of Magic Kingdom fun due to the high capacity of the park.  With Extra Magic Hours, Magic Kingdom was open from 7:00 am until 3:00 am.  After an 18 hour opening, 24 hours won’t seem like such a big deal. 

Also, the 24 hour celebration is only for Disneyland Park and Magic Kingdom.  What about parks around the globe?  What about the three other parks at Walt Disney World?

And, I was correct about the free night promotion—for One More Disney Day.  Guests can spend an extra night free at either a Disneyland Resort Hotel or a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel when they book a Room and Ticket Package for 3 nights or more, between February 26 and March 10, 2012.  The purchase must be made before Jan. 31, 2012.  This special is great for those who can make it during this time.  I was hoping for a year long special of some sort.

Just a note:  in March of 2009 and 2010, we took advantage of two different specials of “buy 4 nights, get 3 nights and tickets free” that were being offered at the time.  Yes, I know that Disney is cutting back on specials.  I’m just saying that the “free night” when compared to past offerings isn’t that great of a deal.  And, since it requires a “Room and Ticket Package” won’t be the best deal for Annual Pass holders—who want room discounts.

What I hadn’t predicted was the 60 days of trip giveaways.  Starting Jan. 2, 2012, guests can enter every day for a chance to win one of 60 vacation packages for 4 to either Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort.  Guess who has entered once already!  Click here to enter.

There was no news about the Disney Wonder and what it will be doing in December 2012, after Disney Cruise Line canceled four Mexican Riviera sailings.  There was no news about itineraries for 2013 for the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder.  Some are hoping/predicting that this news will happen in mid-January.  If Disney Cruise Line waits too long to make these announcements, it may interfere with the press about the launch of the Disney Fantasy, set to make its maiden voyage on March 31, 2012.

Time will tell what One More Disney Day will be for the rest of 2012.  Maybe other promotions will follow this initial offer.  And, I’m curious to find out who will be in attendance at the Magic Kingdom on February 29, 2012. 

Happy New Year!