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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

Sunday, September 29, 2013

All Disney Questions, No Answers

And who is that person in our photo?

This time of year, I am full of questions; Disney questions.

What will be the theme for 2014 and when will it be announced?  The Year of the Ear and Limited Time Magic is about to come to an end.  What is on the horizon for 2014?

Will a new parade replace the Dreams Come True Parade that is ending in December?  The rumor mill says “yes.”  What will it be and will it be connected to the theme for 2014?

How will the new Guests with Disabilities program work?  After so much scamming and profiting going on with the Guest Assistance Card, Disney went back to the drawing board to come up with a new program.  Limited details are available at this point—probably to keep potential scammers uninformed, and yet it goes into affect in just a few days.

How will pool hours at themed pools be enforced?  Disney announced that strict pool hours at resort themed pools will be kept and enforced.  Does this mean fences?  Security?  Alarms?  While we haven’t broken the posted pool hours, the areas remain open to guests.  Quiet pools at resorts will be available 24/7.  There are no hot tubs at quiet pools though, and sometimes that is what is calling my name at the end of a day of park touring.

When will MagicBands and Fastpass + be fully operational?  Each week there are announcements of more of the features going “live” for testing purposes.  I can’t wait to see how this impacts our next trip.

Is Disney’s Rapid Fill program keeping folks from stealing soda?  I just have to ask as I witnessed members of sports teams just walking up, taking a cup, and start filling it with soda.  I asked them if they had paid for it and they gave me a sheepish, “I already did” look, but when I stood my ground, they ended up going to the cashier to pay for the cup.  I am more curious about this question than anything else.

When will the 2015 itineraries be announced for the Disney ships?  Curiosity is getting the best of me on this one.

With the launch of the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app for the Fantasy, when will the other ships be added?  That’s right, two weeks ago, guests sailing on the Disney Fantasy could download and launch the app and have access to ship information, daily Navigator’s, menus, photos from Shutters, etc. at their fingertips.  The options for this app are incredible as more components could be added.  What if this app and MyDisneyExperience were eventually linked and there was a MagicBand that could go from ship to shore?  Oh, the wonder of it all.  And, if Disney was looking for a family to try it out, we would be happy to next summer!

If only I could be a fly on the wall in the backrooms of Disney where Imagineers are hard at work and Disney execs are making decisions. . .

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Disney Decibels--Or How The Most Magical Place On Earth Can Be Noisy!

Complaint?  Not really.  Warning?  Maybe.  Suggestion?  Possibly.  Consideration?  Definitely. . . to take into consideration that Walt Disney World is noisy!

When people talk about guests becoming overwhelmed or over stimulated it is usually in reference to the sights and SOUNDS of Walt Disney World.  And, while our family has been numerous times, it was during our most recent trip that the Disney decibels were quite noticeable.

There were occasions that even though the husband and I were right next to each other standing or sitting we could not hear each other talk unless we raised our voices.  Not that we were trying to have a lengthy or in-depth conversation, just checking about where we were headed next or if someone needed to use the restroom or get a drink.  Same was true for the boy—we had to listen hard, over the din, to make sure we could hear and understand him and vice versa.  If any of us noticed something that we wanted to point out to the other, it was difficult to communicate over and through the noise.  And, isn’t that what magical memories are made of?  Sharing and noticing together?  Even the bus rides to and from the parks were full of music and announcements, fan and engine noises, making it difficult to hear and therefore talk.

One of our favorite Walt Disney World guide books when giving information about restaurants indicate the various noise levels at each.  This same information is also provided for rides, shows, and attractions.  On the Jungle Cruise?  If you get placed near the engine, forget it.  You will be able to hear the guide—mostly, but not your neighbor.  Tomorrowland Indy Speedway?  Even getting near the attraction is noisy.  Want to discuss your touring plan for Magic Kingdom?  Do it before the opening ceremony as during or after it will be too noisy, as well as crowded as guests enter the park.  In the audience at Lights, Motors, Action?  Be prepared to talk about the show later.

In Disney’s defense, the sounds are all a part of the theming.  As guests move from one location to another, the “show” changes and guests are to be immersed in the sights and sounds (and sometimes smells) of that location.  And, that is part of what we love about Disney.  And, I still get goose bumps when the bus round the corner into Magic Kingdom and the trumpets swell in the music announcing that we have arrived at the most magical place on earth.  Yet, when the noise level makes it difficult to communicate with fellow travelers it can be bothersome and it is almost as if ESP is needed—but that is for another post.

Yet, there are some noisy that we thoroughly enjoy such as the slapping of the falling water at the Fountain of Nation in EPCOT, coordinated with music of course, and the holiday songs along Main Street U.S.A. at the Magic Kingdom and along the Streets of America at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. 

There are also moments on Disney ships that are noisy.  Announcements in the hallways and public spaces—although those lesson after the first day and guests become trained to listen for the dings, deck parties, bus rides to and from the port, and even restaurants can be quite noisy.  Especially Animator’s Palate on the Disney Dream—click here to read more.

So, why did we notice the noise more this trip?  A few reasons come to mind.  It was our longest trip to date—12 days immersed in the magic.  We had lots to talk about and wanted to talk, so the noise that kept us from communicating was noticeable.  On shorter trips, we could talk and review on our way home or other quiet moments.  We are much more familiar with the parks and resorts now and therefore subtleties intrigue us and we wanted to share them with each other.

Will the noise keep us from returning?  Definitely not.  Though, I do want guests to be aware that the most magical place on earth is and can be noisy.  Be prepared for that and take advantage of the quiet moments to communicate with your family or traveling party.  This will save frustration at other times, when the noise makes it difficult to hear and understand each other.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mickey and Minnie Meet and Greet in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Yes, Walt Disney World is teaming with Disney characters for guests to meet and greet.  And, many of the character greetings have been moved to indoor locations for guest and Cast Member comfort.  There are also various meals featuring character greetings.  And, while we have experienced many character interactions, there was one from our most recent trip that really stood out.  Maybe because it was new, but I am sensing it was more than that.

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Adventurer’s Outpost on Discovery Island just across from It’s Tough to Be A Bug’s exit, is a new character meet and greet for Mickey and Minnie.  The outside of the building is non descript and guests who are trying to make their way from Asia to Dinoland may walk right past if they don’t know what is inside.  We did know, and opened the door to join the queue.

As in Disney fashion, each entry through another doorway builds anticipation.  First the large room with the queue line back and forth.  Then a doorway leading to a smaller room, and then finally, the characters along with handlers and a Photopass photographer.

Mickey and Minnie were in their adventurer gear complete with a collage of their travels in the background.

So, what made it special?  Well, the photographer did a great job capturing both posed and not posed moments.

Also, Mickey and Minnie noticed our anniversary buttons and made a heart shape with another signal that could be translated into asking how many years.  We told them eleven.  More hugs and congratulations ensued.

The husband enjoyed the interaction so much, he wanted a photo of his own with two of the fabulous five. 

We also noticed two other people in the room with clipboards furiously writing.  When we asked, we were told to ignore them—hard to do.  When we encountered the clipboard people again at Pete’s Silly Sideshow, we got the lowdown that they were there to offer feedback about the character interaction; observers of sorts. 

I can also give feedback and let them know that the time and attention given to our family from that single meet and greet at Disney’s Animal Kingdom was a highlight of our trip and one of the best character meet and greets we have encountered.

So, the next time you are traversing the path between Asia and Dinoland, check out that small, nondescript building.  You never know what kind of magic can be found inside.

Monday, September 23, 2013

One Call To Our Travel Agent And Airline Tickets For Trip #12 Are Purchased

Airfare for trip #12 has been purchased.  For July?  Already?  Yes and yes!

Trolling airline prices, setting price alerts on Kayak, and even checking out a new airfare site, hipmunk.com keeps me in the loop for flight prices, times, trends, etc.  I was watching fares climb and then descend.  Everything in my gut said buy.  So, we did.  And, two days later the price climbed $65 per ticket. 

When I called our travel agent to make the purchase, she called me back just a few minutes later to let me know that the prices were a handful of dollars higher at an airport 60 miles closer than the one we were booking our flights to and from.  She said she might make more work for herself by telling me but wanted us to know.  (Oh, just another reason why we love her!) 

I told her that I already knew the prices for that airport but while the prices were only a bit higher, the times for the flights were not as good.  Early morning as compared to later in the morning; one requiring an overnight stay prior to flying as opposed to driving that morning.  She laughed and I thanked her for checking.

Buying airfare is like gambling and figuring odds of winning.  Knowing price trends for various airports, airlines, and destinations helps.  I have also found, after several trips, that there is also a cycle with flights out of various airports being better deals some years and then not so much other years. 

When I was visiting with our travel agent, I told her I thought it was funny that we booked the flights first and then will fill in the middle, though we already know what we want.  She didn’t think it was funny to do the flights first at all.   Let the planning begin!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Tremaine's

You just never know who or what might pop around the corner when you are at the most magical place on earth and that is exactly what happened near Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel in the Magic Kingdom.

The boy decided to ride the Carousel and then returned with one of the Tremaine sisters.  Seems Drizella and Anastasia were possibly looking for some face time with the Prince near his Carousel and decided our boy was princely enough for them.

The boy escorted one Cinderella’s stepsisters to the area in which they planned to meet guests and then got some great face time with the entire family, including Lady Tremaine, also known as Cinderella’s wicked stepmother.

It is interactions such as this that make guest experiences even more magical. 

Have you met the Tremaine’s?

Monday, September 16, 2013

10 Out Of 11 Disney Princesses

10 out of 11 isn’t bad.  That’s how many Disney Princesses we met during our summer 2013 vacation.

I am so glad the boy and the husband enjoy meeting the Princesses.  Not all 10 year old boys would be accommodating.  I must also say, that the Princesses seem to enjoy greeting our boy and that definitely helps.

Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus in the Norway Pavilion in EPCOT was a Disney Princess haven.  We met 5 Disney Princesses here, including Aurora, Ariel, Snow White, Cinderella—on a rare appearance outside the Magic Kingdom, and of course the host, Belle.

Mulan and Jasmine were both found in EPCOT in their respective pavilions.  Mulan was in China and Jasmine, along with Aladdin was in Morocco. 

Merida and Tiana were both greeting guests in the Magic Kingdom.

Ariel was also found in her grotto greeting guests.  So, we were able to meet her with fins and feet!

Cinderella and Rapunzel were also in the Magic Kingdom at Town Square Theater on Main Street U.S.A. Note:  The Princess meet and greet location in Magic Kingdom in Fantasyland opens this week.

The only missing Disney Princess is Pocahontas.  The husband and boy caught a glimpse of her at Animal Kingdom while on the way to Festival of the Lion King, but alas, no picture and greeting.  We have met her, and Meeko, before though.  Sounds like we will need another trip!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Do You Wear Shirts To Match The Characters You Meet?

“So, do you wear shirts to match the characters you meet?” asked a colleague who just learned about my love for Disney and was looking at pictures I had on display at work.  Well, short answer, “yes, sometimes.”

Longer answer. . . there is much more planning and thinking that goes on behind that magical picture of us meeting Ralph wearing shirts with Ralph on them.  In order to have our shirts and characters match, we have to know what characters are available to meet.  Having met Ralph and Venelope before at Disney’s Hollywood Studios—click here to read more—and knowing that they were still going to be there for our upcoming trip, it was a safe bet to custom design shirts featuring them—click here to read more.  Of course, that has to be done in enough time prior to a trip to get the shirts made and shipped.

A short cut, would be to make a stop at Design-A-Tee at Downtown Disney and have shirts made that day to wear during the rest of our trip.  Click here to read about Design-A-Tee.

Once the shirts have been designed or bought, then there is the making sure you are wearing them the day you are going to the park that features the characters.  Again, Ralph and Venelope are only at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so we wore our shirts on a day we went to that park. 

Then, there is the finding and meeting of the characters.  Checking the Times Guide to find out when the meet and greets take place; making sure you know the location.  This is about precision, not chance.

Of course, we took it another step farther.  We also had shirts featuring Mike and Sully, so we wore those shirts on another day we visited Hollywood Studios and made sure we met the characters.

Why do we do this?  It is fun!  It gets recognition and the characters love it.  Characters we have met have very much enjoyed seeing themselves featured on our clothing or pins.  While Disney characters try to spend time making guests feel extra special during the interactions, the character’s reaction to seeing themselves is definitely extra special.  Other guests enjoy our shirts as well.  We get questions and comments and are happy to respond. 

So, do we try to match our shirts to characters?  Yes.  And, we try to match the shirts to the occasion as well.  We donned our Mickey polo shirts when dining at Chef Mickey’s and then proceeded to Magic Kingdom to meet some Princesses and other characters.  Our preppy prince was a hit with the ladies. 

When we had breakfast with Stitch, we wore our Stitch shirts.

Spirit of Aloha dinner?  Mickey Hawaiian shirts were packed and worn for the occasion.

For me, it is all just part of the fun of planning for a magical Disney vacation.  And, it makes packing a breeze, too!

P.S.  Thanks to Disney Photopass Photographers for capturing all of our magical moments!