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Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Disney Magic Gets a Facelift

Disney held their “Monstrous” press event on Friday and Karl Holz, President of Disney Cruise Line, along with imagineers announced that the Disney Magic, will be getting extensive upgrades during a dry-dock stay in Spain in September and October of this year.  The Disney Magic was the first ship in the Disney fleet debuting in 1998 and was voted as Best Large Cruise ship by Conde Nast Traveler earlier this year.

Imagineers plan to keep the classic Disney elements while infusing what has been learned from the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.

Here is what is in store for the ship:

The new AquaDunk will be added to the ship.  This multi-story water slide will "drop" guests when the floor is removed from the bottom of the slide, send them over the edge of the ship, and have them land on the deck below--which would be Deck 10 on the Disney Magic.  This water slide is a thrilling addition to the ship and an obvious play on the AquaDuck which is featured on the Disney Dream and Fantasy.

 Alas, there will be no more Mickey pool on the Magic as the area is being re-themed to the Aqua Lab and will feature a new slide that is family friendly.  Previously, only children could take a turn on the Mickey slide.  In addition to the Aqua Lab--which is also featured on the Disney Fantasy in a bit of a different form--a new covered splash zone will be available for little guests not yet potty trained and ready for the pools.  The Disney Dream and Fantasy have Nemo's Reef, so this new area will most likely be similar.

Still on the upper Decks, what is currently Topsiders, will now be transformed into Cabanas which is similar to the Disney Dream and Fantasy.  Instead of buffet, it will be stations and the theme will take guests to Australia and the Great Barrier Reef to find Nemo and friends.
Another restaurant transformation that is long time coming is Parrot Cay will now be Carioca's with a Brazilian theme and getting it's name from Jose Carioca from the Three Caballeros.  This new main dining room will have a different look for day and night, much like The Enchanted Garden on the Disney Dream and Fantasy.
Animator's Palette, a favorite with guests, will get technology updates.  As Imagineers put it, when the ship debuted, it featured the latest technology which is now past its prime.  
The adults spaces on Deck 3 Forward will be getting a facelift with newly designed spaces featuring Fathoms.

The children's spaces will also be enhanced with new theming and updated technology.  When the boy heard about the Avenger's themed space on the Oceaneer's Lab he was so excited and then disappointed to hear that by the time we sail on the Disney Magic again, he would be too old for the Lab.  Hint--if you kids are old enough to use this space, cruise soon, as they will love it!

Even the Lobby Atrium which spans Decks 3, 4, and 5 midship is getting and updo during the dry dock.  A lighter color scheme along with a staircase being removed are included in the plans.  Helmsman Mickey will still be on the statue, but he will have a new glimmer and shine.

In addition to the above enhancements, guest staterooms will be getting an overhaul.  While no specific details were released, cruisers are hoping for the "higher" beds that are featured on the Disney Dream and Fantasy that are tall enough for luggage to be stored underneath.  Since the staterooms on the Disney Magic are already a bit larger than the Dream and Fantasy, any space saving updates are sure to make the staterooms seem even larger.

This cruiser is also betting that features like interactive art and Midship Detective Agency will also be added, as they are favorites with guests.

So, a new-like ship and new itineraries make sailing on the Disney Magic more enticing than ever.  What are you waiting for?  Call Disney Cruise Line or your travel specialists today!

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Bit of Disney Mail Last Week!

Disney mail came our way last week! 

Our new shirts arrived.  When we ordered them on-line at Zazzle.com the color said “butter” but looked more cream than yellow, but upon arrival, the shirts were definitely butter yellow and look great.  I was also pleased with the design—“No Wreck-In’ Our Disney Vacation” on the front.  Our “touring” schedule is on the back with all our trips including our July 2014 sailing on the Disney Fantasy.

Two new Disney pins from Magically Speaking also arrived in the mail this week.  They were winnings from a weekly photo contest to identify a place somewhere at Walt Disney World.  I could identify from the bricks in the photo that it was taken in Pixar Place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The husband asked if I wanted the ins for my lanyard.  When I replied that I wasn’t sure yet, he let me know that if they were on his lanyard he would never trade them.  He tries to be so subtle with his hints.  The boy just told me he wanted the Pluto pin.

And of course, any free Disney stuff is welcome.  The 11 X 14 art print was a gift for watching a Disney Vacation Club webcast.  We have four others so this one, too, will be framed and hung on the wall.

It is fun to get Disney mail!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Disney Cruise Line Guest Letter About Stateroom Decorations and Over-the-door Hanging Organizers

Disney Cruise Line Guests will be greeted with the following letter in their staterooms:

Dear Guests,

We are glad that you have joined us aboard the Disney (Choose Ship)!

As you may be aware, it is important to us to keep our facilities looking their best for all our guests.  As part of our commitment to this area of focus, we ask that you do not affix anything to your stateroom door utilizing tape or any adhesive, including removable gel adhesives.  We have found that these adhesives damage the finish on our stateroom doors; therefore we ask that you limit door decoration to those of the magnetic variety.

Concurrently, we ask that guests not use over-the-door hanging organizers as they have been found to scratch and/or disfigure stateroom doors and trim.

Guests found with damaged doors are assessed a $100 damage fee per incident to cover the cost of repairs.

Your attention to this matter will greatly assist us in keeping our shipboard environment looking ship-shape.  Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact Guest Services, Deck 3 Mid-ship.

If interested, magnetic door decorations are available for purchase in our merchandise area.  For your convenience, magnetic strips are also available at Guest Services.

We appreciate your cooperation and hope you have an enjoyable sailing.


What is the Williams Family “take away” from this letter?  We knew and understood the no adhesive rule for decorating stateroom doors—click here to read more—and had been following that rule since we started decorating our stateroom door.  Yet, still saw guests taping items on their doors or door frames.  The letter is a less confrontational way to remind guests of the rules rather than sending a stateroom steward to remind a guest. 

Having magnet strips available at Guest Services is a nice touch, though it doesn’t say if there is a charge for those strips or not.  If someone sails and obtains magnetic strips from Guest Services, please let me know if there is a fee.  I may want to take advantage of this particular service.

Offering guests the opportunity to purchase magnetic door decorations is also another great idea on Disney’s part.  I haven’t seen the selection but am various curious.  And now the dilemma. . . do we make our own door decorations and bring them with us or wait and purchase on board?

What strikes me as the most unique part of the letter is prohibiting the use of “over-the-door hanging organizers” which can be found as a traveling tip in almost any cruising guidebook to maximize storage space and help organize guest belongings.  We have used an over-the-door hanging shoe organizer for one trip to store toiletries on the top and shoes on the bottom.  Guests needing this type of system will now need to get creative and find a way to hang it in the closet.  Better yet, find a hanging organizer for use in a closet.  While those exist, they are more “shelf” like and would be okay, but the movement of ships and need to store smaller items other than just shoes may open the market for a hanging system ideal for a closet but with more pockets than shelves. 

I appreciate Disney Cruise Line being upfront and proactive by informing guests of the expectations.  I also appreciate how they offer guests an alternative such as being able to purchase door decorations or obtain magnet strips.  As always, Disney Cruise Line is finding ways to enhance the cruising experience which is one of the many reasons we keep coming back.

Have you cruised with Disney recently?  If so, did you receive this letter in your stateroom?

Friday, April 26, 2013

What's Your Favorite Disney Park? Ours Is Disney's Hollywood Studios

Everyone has a favorite Disney park?  What’s yours?

After ten trips, our favorite Walt Disney World park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, has stayed in the top two, often running neck and neck with another close favorite, EPCOT. When we tell people that Studios is our favorite parks, we get questioning looks, and sometimes grunts.  A family we were helping plan their first trip were avoiding the park altogether in their park touring schedule and that was fine;  I made no comment and focused on the parks they were going to visit.  But, then they asked, “What is your favorite park?” and I had to tell them the truth.  I didn’t mean for them to rethink their touring plans, which they didn’t change in the end, but it did make them rethink a little bit about skipping Studios, at least for their first trip.

I wonder if some potential Hollywood Studios goers get the park confused with Universal Studios located on the other side of town.  After all, they both have “studios” in their name.  And, while potential guests know about Tower of Terror and Rock-n-Roller Coaster, they may not know about the other shows and attractions.

So, what makes Hollywood Studios our favorite? 

Rides:  Toy Story Mania is simply our family’s favorite attraction.  We compete, love the theming, and are thrilled each time we ride, which is typically 2-3 times per day at the park using both the stand-by line and Fastpass.  The husband and boy love Star Tours and ride it as much as possible during each visit.  They predict which story line they are going to get and try to sit in the seat that will be featured on the screen, etc. 

Shows:  Studios has 5 stadiums/theaters that can hold thousands of people for shows throughout the day.  Lights, Motors, Action is a treat every time we see it.  Beauty and the Beast has been seen by our family one time, with hopes of another time.  American Idol Experience offers guests a chance to vote on performances.  Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is a must do for us and then there is Fantasmic, Studios’ nighttime spectacular with multiple shows during peak travel season.  A guest could spend all day being thoroughly entertained just by the live shows.  Add in Muppets 3D, Little Mermaid, the Backlot Tour, Playhouse Disney for the young set, and the Magic of Disney Animation and you really do have a day of being entertained without setting foot on a ride.

Characters:  We have found that characters are plentiful at Hollywood Studios with some that cannot be found at other parks.  Meeting and greeting characters if part of our fun when visiting a Disney park.

Relaxation:  Yes, we often find ourselves relaxing at Studios.  Due to the show times, it is easy to plan the day without feeling like we are rushing from one attraction to another and we build in some downtime to leisurely eat and the boy enjoys playing in the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure Playground.

Size and Crowds:  To quote a Cast Member, a slow day at Magic Kingdom has the same size crowd as a crowded day at Studios.  Put simply, there are fewer people who visit Studios, which comes as a surprise when we see thousands of people spill out of the Lights, Motors, Action stadium.  Studios handles the crowds well and it doesn’t “feel” crowded when we move from one location to another.  The size of the park also makes it easy to move back and forth between attractions.  We can spend all day traversing the park without having aching feet.

Guest interaction:  Hollywood Studios, we have found, really lives up to the tag line of “find yourself in the action” for our family.  Between appearances at the Backlot Tour and Indiana Jones for the husband, and Jedi Training Academy for the boy, our family spends part of each visit being “in the action”; something we haven’t found as much in other parks.

Hollywood Studios does top our list for favorite Walt Disney World theme park.  What’s your favorite?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

We Will Be Eating For Free Using Gift Cards From Swagbucks!

We will be eating for free on our next trip to Walt Disney World!  Huh?  Eating for free?  Yes, we will be eating for free for two meals during our upcoming trip to Walt Disney World using gift cards purchased with Swagbucks for Rainforest Cafe and T-Rex Cafe.  We could even use them at Yak and Yeti if we were planning to dine there.

After earning Swagbucks, I redeem them for the gift cards.  A $10 gift card for Rainforest Cafe  is 1,000 Swagbucks.  Then, I print the gift card which includes a scannable bar code and take with me on our vacation.  And, since we have ADR's for both T-Rex Cafe and Rainforest Cafe, we will be able to eat for free at both locations. 

Have you signed up for Swagbucks yet?  If not, now is a great time as new members earn 50 Swagbucks by including the following code when you sign-up:  SPRINGIN2SWAG. 

There  are many ways to earn Swagbucks while interacting with the web-site.  Here are just a few:
  • Shop & Earn
  • Search
  • Watch (SBTV)
  • Play (the Swagbucks Games portal)
  • Answer (surveys, daily polls, tasks)
  • Discover (special offers, coupons, toolbars, NOSO)
 So, go ahead and start earning.  Click here to get started.  It's fun, easy, and free!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy 15th Birthday, Animal Kingdom!

Happy Birthday, Animal Kingdom!  For 15 years you have been entertaining and educating guests and this Earth Day marks your Birthday! 

Animal Kingdom is the largest park at the Walt Disney World Resort with plans for it to increase in size with Avatarland planned in the near future.  Already construction is taking place to move Festival of the Lion King closer to Africa, a section of the park, to make room for Avatarland. 

Over the years, Animal Kingdom fought the reputation of being an overrated zoo and Mickey could be found advertising that it was "Natazu".  Even today, some guests refer to Animal Kingdom as a "half-day park" most likely due to it closing earlier than other parks and no nighttime spectacular with fireworks.  But even without nighttime hours, after all the animals do need to sleep, or fireworks which would spook the animals, Disney's Animal Kingdom is full of treasures and we seem to never be done exploring.

 Kilimanjaro Safari is a highlight for guests of all ages that puts you up close and personal with a variety of animal life.  The ride is also fun and adventurous. 
We recommend an early morning trek on the Safari or during an afternoon rain shower.
Festival of the Lion King is our favorite live show at Animal Kingdom--which is high praise given that Finding Nemo the Musical and Flights of Wonder can also be found at this park.  I just can't help but sing along and smile the rest of the day after this show.
 The various nature trails immerse guests and it is difficult to remember that you are at a theme park.  Interactive stations throughout the trails provide guests information and Cast Members or volunteers are nearby to answer questions.
Gorillas and Tiger, oh my!  Each of these majestic animals can be found along the nature trails at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
 Want thrill rides?  Animal Kingdom has them!  Dinosaur and Expedition Everest top the list for thrill seekers.  Kali River Rapids is another fun family attraction with an environmental lesson.

Disney's Animal Kingdom also has loads of character interaction opportunities and more of these are moving indoors to protect guests and characters from the elements.  Do you know who that blue ant is?  It's Flik from A Bug's Life.

Thumper and Miss Bunny
 And, like every Disney park, Animal Kingdom offers families opportunities to make memories.  Take Gui-Tar Dan as an example.  He created a song for the boy on the spot--click here to read more.
 The Tree of Life Garden can be found near It's Tough to Be A Bug, a hilarious 3-D feature located in the hollows of the Tree of Life.  Don't miss it!
 We also found some magic photos.  Gotta love baby Simba!
Looking for the afternoon parade?  Animal Kingdom has one!  Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade happens daily.  Just check the Times Guide.

Kids need to blow off some steam?  Take them to The Boneyard, a giant playground with slides, climbing features, and pit to dig up dinosaur bones.  While The Boneyard has two sections--you get to the other side by walking through the dinosaur skeleton, it only has one entrance and exit.  Go head, explore!

Obviously Disney's Animal Kingdom has offered our family many memories and we hope is it has for yours too.  And, we wish Animal Kingdom a very Happy Birthday and look forward to its new offerings over the years to come.