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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Gotta Love The Camera

I have come to the frightening conclusions that I have a love/hate relationship with my digital camera.  Our GE point and shoot has some lovely features, such as rechargeable battery, a large display screen, multiple settings, and 5X optical zoom.  I remember purchasing it on sale several years ago.  It has become a necessary accessory to document the doings in our life that end up in photo books, holiday cards, and this blog.

My discovery was fully realized the other day when I was picking out photos for the digital photo book I was making, but it has been a long time coming.  I can recall deleting several photos from downloads for being less than quality.

Yet, there are times when I am surprised by a photo or even thrilled.  Like this one taken at Lights, Motors, Action at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  I must confess that I know this climax moment is about to happen and have the camera ready.  Though, I’m still surprised that my little camera caught all of this in one shot!

Yet, this same camera, took this less than quality photo at Les Chefs de France.

The camera went with us to the balloon races and caught this great photo.  That same evening, the camera was having a difficult time opening the lens cover the whole way when turned on and we got photos with shaded borders due to the faulty operation.

The photo has gone with us to multiple swimming locations and I have captured some amazing photos from distances.  I’m still amazed at capturing the boy coming out of the tunnel slide at the pool.  This meant that I couldn’t see him until he was at the opening, and yet, got the shot from across the pool.

And, yet, the same camera gives less than wonderful photos on the same day.

As I write this, I wonder if it isn’t the camera, but the operator.  Especially since I’m not ready or willing to purchase another camera at this time, I am going to have to learn to love my camera again, or at least appreciate it for what it can do.  And, possibly play with the settings some more and see if we can up the percentage of pictures.  I am also grateful that I’m working with digital here and photos can easily be deleted and SD cards erased.  Imagine if I were still using film!

Friday, June 29, 2012

"Are You Getting Excited?"

“Are you getting excited?” our travel agent asked when I phoned her yesterday to update our credit card information—it had expired—as she will be making our ADR’s on Monday and would need the updated information for the credit card hold on our reservations.  She was glad I had called to take care of that little detail as she would have hit a stumbling block on Monday and would have needed to contact me to get the information.

Anyway, we had a good chat and she posed the question stated earlier.  My response, “Yeah, we are excited, but our trip is still about six months away.”  It was a less than enthusiastic response and it made me consider our level of excitement.

When I stopped to think I realized that I am more excited than my response sounded.  We already have two new sets of shirts for our upcoming trip and ADR’s planned and will be made shortly.  While the actual packing hasn’t physically begun, it has mentally.  A shirt for the boy hanging on the hook of the bedroom door is an indication of things to come.

The husband is already counting down to sleeping on the sea.  He loves being rocked to sleep by the ocean and said he can’t wait to walk by a massive Christmas tree every day and see and smell a big Gingerbread house.  He was also talking about being in the ocean at Castaway Cay.  He may be more excited than I had originally thought.

I then told him that we could take some time while at Walt Disney World and view the holiday decorations at various resorts.  He was game!

The boy has already planned his time in the kids’ club.  He got new swim goggles and we talked about how they could go with us on our trip and be used at Castaway Cay. 

“Are you getting excited?”

They key word in the question is “getting” and the answer is “yes” and a little bit more every day!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Disney Cruise Line Announced Disney Magic and Disney Wonder Second Half of 2013 Itineraries

While some Disney Cruise Line guests are anxiously awaiting the 2014 itineraries—like us, DCL had yet to inform guests what the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder would be doing for the remainder of 2013.

No more guessing as itineraries were released yesterday. 

The Disney Magic will be spending the summer of 2013 in Europe and will return to the port of Miami sail dates beginning October 27, 2013.  No dates yet as to the transatlantic cruise and it looks as if the Magic will be have almost 30 days for an extensive dry dock for updates.  Will Enchanted Art be added?

Once in Miami, the Disney Magic will sail offer three, four, and five night cruises from Miami to the Bahamas and Western Caribbean.  If a stop at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay is a must for your sailing itinerary, be careful which itinerary you book, as the sailings including both Grand Cayman and Cozumel do not include a stop at Castaway Cay.  All the other Caribbean and Bahamian itineraries do include Castaway Cay.

As for the Disney Wonder, it will offer guests a Vancouver to L.A. sailing in early September followed by a 14 night cruise through the Panama Canal to then make Galveston, Texas its home port for the remainder of 2013.  Do you like how the Magic and Wonder will have traded places as the Magic will be in Galveston during the Fall and Winter of 2012?

The Disney Wonder will offer six, seven, and eight night sailings to the Western Caribbean.  Note that none of these sailings make a stop at Disney’s Castaway Cay.

These offerings are yet to be noted on Disney Cruise Line’s web-site for booking.  You are welcome to call DCL directly or contact your travel agent.

There are still some unanswered questions with the release of this information.  When will the Magic make its way back across the Atlantic?  Will the Disney Magic dry dock in the U.S. or in Europe?  Will the late release of itineraries for the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder stave off the release of the 2014 itineraries?

The response to the itineraries was somewhat “ho-hum” as no new itineraries, destinations, or ports were announced.  My speculation is that due to higher fuel prices and a slow recovering economy, DCL wanted to stick closer to “home” so to speak.  And, it will most likely mean the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy will continue to provide the Bahamian and Caribbean itineraries from Port Canaveral for 2014 due to the extended contract with port authorities.

The Williams Family will wait patiently for the 2014 itineraries to be announced.  We are hopeful to rebook our next cruise on the Disney Fantasy while on-board the Disney Dream.  Wish us luck!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Have Failed As A "Disney" Wife

I have failed as a “Disney” wife.  Nine trips, another one on the way, and still, I have failed.

Yesterday, I casually mentioned to the husband that our ADR day was next week.  He looked at me and said, “What’s an ADR?”

I replied, “Advanced Dining Reservation.”  He’s still looking at me trying to figure out what I was saying.  No recognition.  Okay, I need to contextualize this for him.  “At Disney.”  Oh, then he got it.

It was at that moment that I felt like I had failed and I told him.  So, he challenged me to give him another Disney term.  Okay, “TTC.” 

The guessing began.  Tomorrowland Transit Authority.  No, that didn’t work.  Transportation.  Ticket and Transportation Area.  He was getting closer.  Ticket and Transportation Center.  He got it.  Great!

“Where is the TTC located?”  I was willing to accept a variety of answers, 

His was, “The monorail takes you there.”  I will quit while I’m ahead, or he is with his answers.

The husband reads each blog post, and when I searched the posts with “ADR” it had 54 hits, meaning that 54 blog posts contained something about “ADR’s”.  27 posts contained “Advanced Dining Reservation.” 

Anyway, the good news is that we are six months from our next Disney Cruise and Walt Disney World stay!

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Week of Frugal Family Fun

The Money Saving Moms web-site offered the challenge for frugal family fun.  Well, we got in a week of frugal family fun!

It started week-end before last as we took in multiple performances of the latest OCP production “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”  The musical is funny and the songs stick in your head.  We are all still humming the melodies and the boy has made parodies of the songs.  Now, we took in the performances for free because the husband was in the show and I was manning the sound booth, so the boy was a tag-a-long—but still fun!

On Monday evening, the Scout troop hiked a local area. Cost, other than the initial registration fee for Scouts—Free!  The husband took the camera and captured some great photos.

Tuesday, our local library hosted a clown performance—Dizzy The Clown.  The performance was free and afterwards, the boy checked out books at the library.  The library also has an awesome summer reading program that offers various prizes, such as free personal pan pizzas, zoo passes, Iowa Cubs tickets, free books, etc.  All for free!

Wednesday evening, we headed to the local Municipal Band concert.  Our community boasts the longest playing municipal band in the state, as the band didn’t stop playing during one of the World Wars.  Concerts are offered weekly through the months of June and July and we take advantage of—free!

Friday night, we crewed for the Hot Air Balloon Races—click here to read more—and had a evening of free fun followed by fireworks.

On Sunday, we stopped by the Healthy Family Festival in a local park.  The boy got to play a new video game along with some other games for prizes including water bottles and toothbrushes.  While there were some games and items that required purchases, we took advantage of the free games.  The boy also got a personal tour of a fire truck with one of our local firefighters.

And, I got to see the Gatlin Brothers perform at our local event center for free, as I volunteered to take tickets and usher guests to their seats on Sunday evening.

I was telling the husband about the frugal family fun challenge and our week of frugal family fun and he said that all it took was a bit of research.  I agree!

What are your ideas for frugal family fun?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

An Evening of Hot Air Balloons

Up, up, and away, in a beautiful balloon. . . or so as the lyrics go.  Friday night, the skies of our city will filled with hot air balloons and we were literally in the middle of all of it.

We arrived at the park with a picnic dinner, well more of a cooler dinner.  We got a great place to park—backed in to make leaving after the fireworks much easier.  When we settled and ate our dinners, I sent text messages to the balloon race coordinators telling them that the Williams Family was at the park and willing to help with whatever they needed.

When the boy and the husband were done eating, they took off for a walk and discovered some geese nearby.

By the time they returned to our van, we were being paged to go help crew a balloon for the fun flight that evening, which would be followed by the Night Glow.

We headed off across the field ready to crew.  This is when we met Chris Reinhart from Alta—we crewed for him last year—click here to read more.  It was quick work to reacquaint ourselves and we loaded into his truck to find a spot to launch the balloon.

After checking out two different potential launch locations, it was decided that the winds were not consistent enough for safe flying.  The consensus was that the balloons with local sponsors would give it a try.  One balloon launched, went up almost a mile, and then came back down in almost the exact same location as it had launched.  The point was to try to get the ring off the pole in the middle of the fun flight field.  You can’t do that if the winds won’t carry the balloon in the right direction.

We headed back to the field and waited to get ready for night glow.

None of the balloons that did launch made it near the fun flight field.  Some years, there have been several who have made it close!

Soon, the chase vehicles were pulling into the field to launch balloons for Night Glow.  Night Glow is when most, if not all of the balloons set up on the field and then provide a spectacular sight for on lookers as they all “glow” at the same time.  It is incredible!

The Williams Family crewed or help to set up the balloon.  I was on the guide rope this year.  Careful, as the rope can pull you off the ground if you’re not careful!

Soon the balloons were all up and glowing. 

Some like to collect the balloonists' card throughout the Night Glow event.  The boy was no exception and gathered quite a few.

It takes some coordination to get all of the balloons to glow at the same time, but the event announcers make it all work!

After the Night Glow, we got the balloon down and put away.  No easy feat in the dark.

We made it back to our van for some cool drinks and snacks from the cooler with 5 minutes to spare before the fireworks.  It was a great evening.  Community, family, fun, and adventure!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Surviving Summer Heat at Walt Disney World

It’s summer time and the heat is on!  Even though we are located smack dab in the middle of the Midwest, the temperatures at our home have been higher than at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the past few days, and it’s not the first time.  Ironic, isn’t it?  Anyway, it is a bit of data that I use to combat the “why would you ever go in summer?” question.

In addition to having your body already adjusted to the summer heat and humidity that a visit to the Walt Disney World Resort will give freely to your vacation, there are other ways to beat the heat.  We learned many of them when touring the parks last July.

Tour the parks early.  Yes, it’s vacation, summer vacation at that, and you want to sleep in.  Don’t!  The parks are coolest and least crowded early in the morning.  You get to beat the crowd and the heat.  The complete opposite of this tip will also work, but it may mean that you become nocturnal.  And, that is to sleep during the day and hit the parks later in the evening and take advantage of the extended park hours typically found during the busier summer months.  I know someone who is allergic to the sun and sunscreen, so this might be the only way she will get to experience Walt Disney World.

Take breaks.  I offer this advice somewhat tongue in cheek, as we typically don’t follow it or shall I say, have never followed it.  The husband will chuckle when he reads this and I want to take some huff out of his puff before he blasts me for offering this as a tip.  So, more gently, it is advisable to take a break at your resort with a swim in the pool or a nap in a dark, cool room during the mid-day heat.  But, we are here to say that you can survive, and quite well, I might add, without taking the breaks.  Especially, if you are not touring the parks late at night.

Pack for the weather.  Light weight, light colored clothing works best.  There are now several lines of clothing that offer sun protection as well.  Hats, visors, sunglasses can all go a long way in keeping cool.  An umbrella can offer both protection from sun and rain.

Hydrate.  Drink plenty of water and then drink some more.  We tote one refillable water bottle and then take advantage of the free cups of ice water at counter service locations.  So, when we order lunch, let’s say, I will order the beverages that come with our lunch along with 1 or 2 large cups of ice water.  We take the ice water with us, but order it with our meal so we don’t have to wait twice at the counter—more efficient!

Tour strategically.  This tip is offered in addition to the tour the parks early tip and can help if you don’t plan on taking a break from the parks.  It goes something like this. . . know which attractions will offer respite from the sun and heat and hit those in the afternoon.  For example, within steps of each other at the Magic Kingdom are Enchanted Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree, Hall of Presidents, Haunted Mansion, and It’s a Small World.  I know—they are in 4 different “lands” but trust me, you could count the steps from one to another.  Enchanted Tiki Room and Country Bear Jamboree are back-to-back.  Anyway, all of the attractions mentioned are inside, in air conditioning, and offer moments to sit.  A guest could easily kill two hours of park time with these 5 attractions.  You could also add on Peter Pan’s Flight and Mickey’s Philharmagic for just a few more steps!  There’s a late afternoon at the Magic Kingdom.

In EPCOT—The Living Seas Pavilion and The Land Pavilion both offer significant indoor entertainment and attractions during the late summer afternoon.  If you find yourself on the opposite side of Future World, Ellen’s Universe of Energy is almost a full hour of sit down, enjoy the dark, in an air conditioned attraction.  Who wouldn’t leave refreshed and revitalized?

If you’re in Hollywood Studios—Tower of Terror and Rock-n-Roller Coaster both offer well themed indoor queues and headliner attractions.  Another option is to hit the Animation Courtyard for Playhouse Disney, Magic of Animation, and Little Mermaid—all inside and with seats.  Add on One Man’s Dream and the Great Movie Ride for even more air conditioned comfort.

Animal Kingdom—well, this park isn’t billed as one of the hottest parks for no reason.  There just isn’t as much air conditioned comfort here as there are in other parks, but that is changing.  Finding Nemo the Musical is offered inside in air conditioning, as is Festival of the Lion King.  Problem is, they are far from each other.  Dinosaur also offers some sit down, albeit quick, comfort from the heat and so does It’s Tough To Be A Bug.  News is that Beastly Bazaar—a shop on Discovery Island, is being remodeled as an air conditioned character meet and greet location. 

So, yes, you can too beat the summer heat at a Walt Disney World park with a few essentials and a bit of a plan.  We survived and so can you!

What are your beat the heat strategies for park touring?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Hugging, Kissing, Loving Kind of Place--A Tribute to Disney and Dads

Since some of the best hugs come from Dads, this post is a tribute to Dads and Disney.  Disney can be a hugging, kissing, loving kind of place, as the following pictures demonstrate.

Happy Father’s Day to all Dad’s and especially to our favorite—the husband!

I’m so grateful that we caught the Disney bug at the same time and he is always ready to play!