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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!  It is the last day of March, the birds can be heard singing outside as I draft this post, and surely Spring is on its way.  Mother Nature is teasing and taunting this year with the promise of warmer weather, leaves on trees, and green grass.  The husband said the other day he would rather mow the grass than blow the snow off the driveway—I’m holding him to his words.

The Easter Bunny made a Disney delivery to our house with a Wreck-It Ralph DVD and Epic Mickey 2 game for the Wii.  There was a bit of disappointment as it seems there is a new Mario game that was just released that was being wished for that the Easter Bunny didn’t deliver, but gratitude will triumph.

We hope that all Disney travelers this past week found joy and renewal in their spring vacation.  A text message came from a “phone a friend” family thanking us for the tips and indicating they had a great time at Walt Disney World.  That is fantastic as crowd levels were at their peak this week.

We, too, are anxiously anticipating the immersion into the “Disney bubble” during our next Walt Disney World vacation.  Folks ask why we prefer to stay on property and in addition to the convenience of location and transportation, theming and service, it is the retreat from the real world that we appreciate.  Ah, it is regenerative. . . at any time of the year.  Our feet may hurt, but our souls will be joyous after a Walt Disney World vacation.

Wishing you and yours a Happy Easter and a spring full of delights!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Love of Lists!

I love lists!  Lists let me get the “to do’s” and “need to remember’s” out of my head and onto paper.  There are lists for everyday life:  shopping lists, to do lists, even calendars are like organized lists with events to be remembered each day.  There are lists of things to accomplish at work and at home.  Some liken the lists to goals.  Goals, for me, are ambitious; lists have tasks that can be tackled and crossed off.

The husband appreciates lists.  He remembers better if things are written down or he makes his own list of tasks.  Though he does prefer a limit to the number of items that can be on his list.

Then there are vacation lists. . . my favorites!  If traveling to Walt Disney World, there is a list of ADR’s or Advance Dining Reservations, along with times and confirmation numbers.  There are lists of park hours and extra magic hours for various days while we are at the most magical place on earth.  Some might even have a list of attractions, Fastpasses, and shows at the parks.

Our packing list is actually several lists combined—one for each person, toiletries, paperwork, and other items needed for the vacation.  The boy has his own list of things that go in his personal bag which typically includes toys and games.

From the packing list a shopping list for the trip is generated.  So far on our shopping list for our upcoming trip includes items such as moleskin, a pillow case, waterproof cameras, new tennis shoes for the husband, Photopass +, and a grocery order with Garden Grocer.com (click here to read more about GardenGrocer.com).  I was able to cross off a few items yesterday which is always a great feeling!  The pillow case is for collecting autographs and a 2-pack of plain white pillow cases was less than $6 at Wal-Mart.  We’ll wash both, pack one, and save the extra for our next trip!  Wal-Mart also had one time use waterproof cameras for less than $7 each.  I snagged 3 of them and that will give us 4 total as we had one left over from our last Disney vacation.  These cameras are great for use at swimming pools and water parks.  The husband picked up a new pair of tennis shoes that he will break in a month before our trip.

Then there is the wish list.  The wish list includes things that would be nice to have but are not needed, such as a new suitcase.  We have learned the hard way that wheels on the bottom’s of suitcases get broken and broken quickly.  So, we found a suitcase last August at T.J. Maxx for a steal that had wheels built into the body of the suitcase.  It, along with some of our older suitcases, housed our belongings for our trip in December.  While the wheels of the new suitcase made it, one of the decorative tags from the manufacturer didn’t it and was broken off.  We have plenty of other suitcases we can use, they just don’t have wheels.  Inconvenient, yes.  Necessity to purchase new, no. 

Other items on the wish list include a new set of matching shirts.  Yes, I tortured myself by designing a new set on Zazzle.com and even added them to the “cart” but haven’t hit the purchase button yet.  Even with a 10% off code, they were still expensive and Zazzle no longer uses Ebates for cash back on our purchase.  I’m waiting for a better discount code, then we’ll see.  Nice to have, yes.  Needed, definitely no—we have plenty of sets of matching shirts to get us through multiple days of our next trip. (click here to read more about matching shirts.)

Ah, the joy of making lists and crossing off items when done, finished, completed, is not lost on me or my family.  In fact, lists help us get organized and stay organized which leads to simplicity and efficiency.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Golden Mickeys on the Disney Dream

In our “best tips for a Disney Cruise” post—click here to read more—we recommend seeing the Broadway caliber shows while sailing.  The Golden Mickeys is one of those shows specifically designed for Disney Cruise Line and is a must see, even for us as we have seen it multiple times.

The Golden Mickeys is a play about an awards show. . . think Oscars or Grammy’s. . . where guest attending the “award show” are greeted on the red carpet.  The interviews are then broadcast live into the Walt Disney Theater where the audience is waiting.  Rona Rivers is there to greet and interview guests.

Okay, this is where having sailed multiple times and having seen The Golden Mickeys multiple times comes in handy.  The boy knows that guests are going to be interviewed, so he plants himself near the red carpet in the entrance to the theater to wait and be interviewed, while his dad and I get seats in the theater for the show.  Then it happens; he ends up being interviewed and the interview is broadcast into the theater where his loving mom is ready with the video camera to capture the event.  See video below:

The boy comes beaming into the theater after his interview and settled in to watch the show.  Yes, he can find us, as we typically sit in the same location in the theater for all of the shows.  While we were waiting and watching the other guests get their on camera moment, we were approached by a Cast Member who asked the boy to be in the show.  Of course he said yes.

Now, this next part has also happened before.  Several children from the audience are selected prior to the show to join a Cast Member in the front row who will then shuffle them off to the wings at the appropriate time, don them with beards and hats, and they will then appear on the stage during the Snow White scene dancing as the Seven Dwarfs.  The boy was selected to do this during our second Disney Cruise—a seven night sail on the Disney Magic in the Mexican Riviera.  When their part is over and they have returned their “costumes” the children rejoin their families in the theater.  We later asked the Cast Member the selection criteria and were told the following:  willingness on the part of the child, not taller than the actors on stage, solid shoes or sandals—no flip flops.  The boy met all of the criteria and was within eye sight of the Cast Member selecting children.

Photos are strictly forbidden during the shows so we have no photos of the event, but a certificate did appear on our stateroom door commemorating the magical moment.

The Golden Mickeys typically is performed on formal or semi-formal dress nights on the cruise so guests can look their best for the red carpet event.  Our 5 night sailing on the Disney Dream had semi-formal evening on Christmas.  We did dress up a bit and had photos taken before dinner and at dinner.  Because it was an “at sea” day, The Golden Mickeys also had a matinee performance, in addition to the two evening shows, prior to the dinner seatings and we took advantage of the early show.

Of course there is a thrill for the boy when being on stage and screen and then there is the magic of the moment.  At the same time, as a parent, I get glimpses of the grown-up version of our son while on a Disney vacation; his independence, planning, willingness to try new things and take risks, and confidence.  Those moments, too, take you by surprise and add to the memories of a magical vacation.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Decorating Your Stateroom Door

As if wearing matching shirts every day while on a Disney vacation isn’t enough to stand out in a crowd, we also decorate our stateroom door while sailing the high seas with Disney.  Please know, we aren’t the only ones, and our door is decorated less intricately than many others. 

To decorate our door, we find images that we like or create images that represent us or our vacation.  Magnets are used to attach the images to the metal door—no tape!  We find magnetic tape that comes in a roll very helpful, but magnets can also be purchased in strips or there is magnetic paper that can go through your printer, then just trim the image with scissors.

Hanging the decorations is one of the first things we do when our stateroom is ready.  I pack the door decorations in our carry-on bag that goes with us onto the ship in the zipper pocket on the inside of the lid.  This way the decorations stay flat.  Unzip, stick, and I’m done.

Some people rotate their decorations or add new daily.  It is fun to walk the corridors of the ship and see the various decorations.  It also makes finding our stateroom easier in a hall where the doors look the same.

Now, back to the “no tape” rule which is a long standing expectation from DCL.  It is my understanding that if a guest uses tape and peels off paint, they will be paying for the paint job.  Well, just a few doors down from us a couple must have been celebrating an anniversary and taped balloons around their doorway.  Those balloons stayed taped the entire cruise.  So, while I don’t recommend using tape to secure decorations and I don’t want to be responsible for paying for a paint job, just know that no one is going to rip the decorations down or ask you to take them down—as far as I know.

On another note, those metal doors sure do come in handy!  We also packed magnetic clips that we hung on the back of the door and on the bathroom door that kept track of lanyards, Navigators, excursion tickets, etc.  Horizontal space is at a premium in a stateroom, so using the magnetic clips to hang and display needed items was a helpful organizational tool.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Walt Disney World Guests Experience Park Closings and Tornado Warnings

Tornado warnings, mechanical breakdowns, and park closings, oh my!  These are just a few of the things Walt Disney World guests have been faced with the past couple of days.

Sunday afternoon brought Severe Thunderstorm Warnings, Tornado Warnings, and Wind Advisories to the Orlando area.  This would make for some difficult travel to and from Orlando as well as difficult park touring. 

Blizzard Beach experienced mechanical breakdowns and had to close on Sunday, but eventually opened on Monday.

On Monday, Magic Kingdom closed mid-day due to reaching capacity.  The park re-opened entry a few hours later.

Also on Monday, Typhoon Lagoon closed due to cold temperatures in the area.

So, how do guests either avoid or make the best of circumstances like those mentioned above and still enjoy their vacation?

  • Pack appropriately.  Ponchos, umbrellas, layers for sudden cold snaps—even at the end of March, and at least two pairs of shoes so there is still a pair to wear while the others dry out.
  • Get up and out early to head to your park.  Guest heading to the Magic Kingdom on Monday who had a leisurely morning, were denied entry as the park was already at capacity.  Guests arriving at or before park opening, made the most of the morning and were the most likely the ones leaving to make room for late arrivers.  Yes, I know it is vacation but if you want a lazy vacation, head to the beach.  Walt Disney World is fun, but it requires some effort.
  • Have an alternative plan.  If a park closes, such as Blizzard Beach, don’t let it ruin your day by having an alternative plan in mind.  Play a round of miniature golf at nearby WinterSummerland, head to Downtown Disney, or explore your resort. 
  • Keep an eye on the weather.  It can take some doing, but figure out what channel weather forecasts are broadcast and check it out before heading to the parks or better yet, the night before.  If the forecast calls for rain, know that Studios and EPCOT are some of your best choices.  If it is just rain—no lightening—a trip to the water park or pool may be just the ticket, as those will stay open as long as there is no lightening and you may experience diminished crowds.

Know that a little rain can fall in any vacation and be prepared.  As I have said before, there are inherent risks in any travel but being prepared is half the battle; your disposition is the other half.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Downtown Disney To Be Transformed Into Disney Springs

Downtown Disney to be transformed into Disney Springs by 2016.  The plan is for the current retail and dining hot spot to double in size and have the same intricate theming found in the parks and resorts.

Disney Springs gets its name from the interconnecting springs and waterways planned to connect the four outdoor neighborhoods.  Disney Springs will take its cue from vibrant water front communities in Florida and will feature a signature water tower and grand entry.

The Marketplace will remain in its current location, but expand, including World of Disney the largest Disney store.  An over-the-water pedestrian bridge is planned to connect Rainforest Cafe and T-Rex Café.

The West Side which already features entertainment, dining, and retail venues will feature an elevated spaces that will provide shade and birds eye views of the activities featured below.

A new edition, The Landing, will be located in the current location of Pleasure Island and will feature dining, retail, and waterfront views.

Also new, The Town Center, will be located in what is now a parking area.  Slated to offer retail and dining opportunities this space will also a promenade and grand entrance to Disney Springs.

Speaking of parking, the plan is to build parking ramps during the expansion and Disney has already requested permission to redirect traffic via an off ramp of the nearby highway that would lead directly into Disney Springs parking.

Disney Springs will be greatly anticipated by guests and fans and will also offer a boon to the local economy with an estimated 1,200 construction jobs and 4,000 operational roles upon completion. 

As Disney fans and frequent visitors to Downtown Disney, we can’t wait to see what the outcome of this expansion and re-theming.  It will take us a while, however, to get the new name into our vocabulary. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Disney "Phone A Friend"--Taking More Calls

Disney “phone a friend” and “email a friend” was alive and well this week--click here to read more about "phone a friend".  Seems our family’s reputation for knowledge of Disney continues to widen.

The phone rang and it was a co-worker of the boy’s soccer coach who was taking their family of 5 to Walt Disney World this week.  They wanted to know about the best way to use their 4 day park ticket as they were arriving on Sunday and leaving Thursday.  Before I could help, I needed some information, like if they were staying on property, etc.  Yes, they were staying on property at the new Art of Animation Resort in a Cars suite.  Sweet!

They had already been on the Williams Family Blog looking for information—thank you!  I looked up park hours for them to get the most of their arrival day and went from there.  At one point, both adults were on speaker phone so I could explain how to use Fastpass and the benefits of using Fastpass.  They knew they were going during a busy time of year and wanted to know if they still needed to use Fastpass.  YES!  Use Fastpass no matter when you go!

They have my cell phone number and I hope they have a great trip.  It’s their family’s first trip to Walt Disney World. . . how magical!

“Email a friend” came next with an email from a former colleague who I actually visited with at the grocery store.  Their trip was a multi-generational excursion to Walt Disney World for a week and the pre-teen grandchild was bringing a friend.  They had questions about seeing and doing things beyond the Disney bubble—SeaWorld, Universal, Busch Gardens and wanted to know how many days of park tickets to purchase.  My recommendation was to consider how many days they would be spending at the “other” parks and then purchase the number of days of park tickets they would use on property.  Water parks was another area of interest.  While Typhoon Lagoon is a personal favorite, I suggested Blizzard Beach as this family loves to ski and they might find Disney’s take of a ski resort gone water park amusing.  Knowing this family, I couldn’t help but highlight Walt Disney World Resort’s world class golf courses. 

They also wanted to know ways to “not spend an arm and a leg” on dining.  My suggestion was to eat a larger meal, table service, as a late breakfast or lunch, as typically dinner is more expensive.  I also suggested taking snacks and drinks into the park and how to get a free glass of ice water at any counter service location.

They, too, have my cell phone number and can call or text with any questions before or during their travel.

Each of these families will plan and have a Walt Disney World vacation that fits for them—meeting their interests.  Walt Disney World offers a vast array of activities, attractions, and choices—making it a fantastic destination—where no two vacations are the same.  There is more than one way to do Disney.  And, with our Disney background, hopefully I have steered them in directions that will help them have a magical vacation. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

No Spring Break Travel This Year

Here we are on the eve of Spring Break and the suitcases are not packed and ready to go.  Alas, we are not traveling. . . to Disney or any other destination.  And, that is okay for a variety of reasons.

One reason is that Spring Break, for us, and Easter share the same week this year.  That makes travel more expensive and Disney travel more expensive and crowded. I had a phone call from a family that will arrive on Disney property on Sunday.  Magic Kingdom hours were already posted as 8:00 am until 1:00 am without Extra Magic Hours and that means Disney is expecting large crowds.  The last time we traveled during a Spring Break/Easter week was 2008 when we went to Universal and SeaWorld, avoiding Disney altogether.  Our bus driver was taking guests to and from both Universal and Disney Parks.  She told us horrific stories of the crowd levels at Disney.  Great for Disney, just not for us.

Another reason is that we have already paid in full our July trip, a full 4 months ahead, and the travel coffers are empty.  Our travel agency was offering a cash back incentive for paying off our trip by mid-March and we have already received a sizable check.

And, we have quite a bit of experience traveling to Disney during Spring Break with trips in March of 2009, 2010, and 2012.  Each trip the husband got to celebrate his Birthday at Disney and we enjoyed EPCOT’s Flower and Garden Festival.  He even got a Disney Cruise, our first one, during Spring Break in 2007.  He will be celebrating at home this year.

For those traveling during Spring Break, we wish you great weather, safe travels, and fantastic family memories.  No vacation is complete without a story!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

5, 4, 3, 2, 1. . . Pixar Pal's Countdown to Fun Is Done!

Alas, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has announced the end of Pixar Pal’s Countdown to Fun daily parade.  This short, but fun afternoon frolic that will have you humming the rest of the day will parade for the last time on Saturday, April 6, 2013.  No word yet about a replacement.

April 6, 2013, will also mark the end of Disney Channel Rocks traveling show that performs daily at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in front of the Sorcerer hat.  The show travels down Hollywood Boulevard on a rolling stage to the courtyard in front of the Sorcerer hat, makes a loop, parks, and becomes the backdrop for this 20 minute show that includes audience participation. 

These daily entertainment features at Disney’s Hollywood Studios have morphed multiple times throughout history.  Camp Rock came before Disney Channel Rocks and Block Party Bash came before Pixar Pal’s Countdown to Fun, so it is really no surprise that changes are taking place.  The question about what those changes will be remains unanswered.

It will also be interesting to see how long Wreck-It Ralph and Venelope keep their place of honor greeting guests at the Magic of Disney Animation—click here to read more.  Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a Nov. 1 and May 1 rotational timeline, giving each set of characters in this location approximately six months.  One might anticipate Mike and Sully would be featured next, as they have a new movie premiering in June, but since they already have their own meet and greet location at Studios, there would be no need to duplicate. 

Since I venture a guess a time or two, I predict the traveling show will return with some sort of Austin and Ally or A.N.T. Farm theme.  Both of these shows on Disney Channel feature talented musicians and would be an appropriate off-shoot to the parks.  I have no clue about what the daily parade could morph into, but I’m sure Disney will come up with something creative; they always do!

Monday, March 18, 2013

When Guests Break Rules It Isn't Magical

Safety, service, show, and efficiency are the pillars behind wonderful and magical Disney experiences with safety being number one.  Disney wants you, as a guest, safe and does everything they can to maximize guest safety.  So, why do guests want to overlook safety and break rules?

I’m not talking about obvious guest safety issues like climbing over barriers or going into unauthorized areas, more of the “if Disney doesn’t know we won’t tell them” kinds of potential safety issues.

I was participating in some message boards yesterday and was shaking my head at the number of people asking “would it be okay if. . .” followed by a definite Disney “no no.”  One example was a family planning on a 2 bedroom villa that will sleep 9 people and asking if they could sneak in 2 more.  Would Disney know?  Yes!  Each of those 11 people would need a Key to The World Card upon check in—unless they all have Annual Passes—and Disney would do the math.  The reason for the limit of people in the room is fire codes and safety; not to inconvenience guests.  There are so many different size room options at Disney, pick one that fits your family and your budget.

Speaking of budget, a parent and four children were going to stay at Disney Resort, but finances fell through and the plan was to then rent a tent spot at Fort Wilderness campground.  While not technically breaking Disney rules, it was breaking rules of sensibility as the parent had a health condition that would be exacerbated by the heat and walking—they were going in the summer—only to be greeted by a tent at the end of the day.  Others tried to convince of shortening the number of days, etc.  Finally, the parent decided to keep saving and go next year.  Excellent choice!

Another in the category of “not enough room in the inn” was convinced their family of six could fit in a room at Port Orleans Riverside (which can sleep 5 in some rooms) as the youngest in their family was a toddler.  Disney wants the names of people in a reservation no matter their age so again, this most likely wouldn’t pass Disney muster.  And, I have stayed at Port Orleans Riverside and while the rooms are lovely, it would be pushing it for a family of four in terms of space, let alone a family of 5.  They could get two connecting rooms at a value resort for about the same amount of money and end up with more space and two bathrooms.

No one wants Disney to slide in the “show” pillar as we all want to be immersed in the Disney magic that we know and love.  Nor do we want Disney to lack in efficiency—something I love when I visit.  And guests would revolt if our beloved Disney service suddenly became lacking or subpar.  So, let’s continue to help Disney with safety.  Let’s follow the rules and not ask for the rules to be set aside for us or try to sneak around and pull something off under Disney’s nose.  It is to the benefit of all of us.  Besides, I don’t think I could relax and have a magical vacation if I was worried about being caught.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Will Carnival Cruise Line's Troubles Keep Guests Off the High Seas?

Carnival Cruise Line is having a tough time lately.  A ship sinking off the coast of Italy a few months ago, a ship stranded and having passengers sleeping on the decks just a month ago, and now three more ships in the news with power outages, mechanical failures, virus outbreaks, etc.  What effect will this have on the cruise industry in general?

Well, according to statistics, more folks are choosing to cruise than ever before whether it is on Carnival or another cruise line.  Someone I know is sailing on Carnival in a week and has the “surely it can’t happy to me/us” feeling.  I, too, am hoping for the best for them as it is their first time taking a cruise.

Of course, with all travel there are some presumed risks.  That’s why folks get travel insurance; for coverage for the unthinkable.  At the same time, I admire the passengers for their perseverance during uncomfortable and inconvenient times at best and horrific at worst. 

I was wondering how many passengers on the Carnival Dream that were flying home from St. Thomas had Passports?  Many cruisers in the Caribbean basin still rely on a birth certificate only while sailing rather than pay for a Passport.  Those without Passports would have had a difficult time making it through customs and immigration at their final destination from St. Thomas with just their birth certificates.  This is why I highly recommended to a family of 5 getting ready to take their first cruise this summer that they get Passports, even though the cruise line didn’t require Passports.  The family chose the costly option of Passports.

So, how could one protect themselves or be prepared for an unfortunate situation on the high seas?
  • Travel Insurance.  We purchase travel insurance for all of our cruises.  There is just too much at stake with flights, sailings, etc. 
  • Schedule departure and return flights with some wiggle room—especially if traveling during the winter.  We like to fly the day before we sail and are willing to delay our return flight until later in the day when we disembark the ship or the next day.  We have also been known to extend our vacation and fly a few days later.  This wiggle room allows for less worry about “getting to the ship on time” and getting to the airport on time.  Even Disney ships have been known to be late getting into Port Canaveral because of wind and weather.  Most recently, an arrival time to Galveston was significantly delayed due to weather. 
  • Pack a flashlight.  If the power goes out it can be difficult to find your way in a stateroom or hallways.  We have a little kit that includes duck tape, clothes pins, magnets, etc. that goes in our suitcase.  It sounds a little like MacGyver, I know, but you never know when a toilet lid won’t stay up, or a curtain won’t stay open/shut, or a suitcase gets a tear, or a zipper breaks.  Trust me, these items have come in handy!
  • Don’t unpack.  We are just fine living out of suitcases for the duration of our cruise.  A couple of things might get hung up in the closet like a nice dress or pair of pants.  Otherwise, it is to the suitcases we go each day to get dressed.  Not unpacking makes packing easier and if I had to leave a ship quickly, I could be ready in minutes.  I know, many people take advantage of all the drawers, shelves, and closet space and then store their empty luggage under the bed.  That just doesn’t work for us, as I would have to teach my family a new system of where everything goes!  I would then be bombarded by questions regarding the location of things.  It saves me time and anguish to leave items packed.  For us, the pop-up laundry hamper goes in the closet and receives dirty clothes, shoes go on the bottom shelf of the closet, and pj’s go in one drawer to be worn again the next night; everything else is in suitcases—one per person.
  • And, once you have done everything you can to prepare for a hopefully unlikely event, relax and enjoy your vacation!

Some industry experts believe the quick turnaround of ships in ports is leading to the mechanical breakdowns and lack of cleaning that lead to virus outbreaks.  And, cruisers would complain that they are herded off the ships too early and want to get into their staterooms as soon as they board, leading to even more pressure to provide excellent guest experiences while at the same time making the ship suitable for the next round of passengers. 

Personally, I can wait until 1:30 pm or even after to get into my stateroom if that means it will be cleaned.  Still, the wipes come out as soon as we are in and surfaces get a rub down—TV remotes, phones, door knobs, sink handles, drawer pulls, etc.  (I do the same in hotel rooms and on airplanes so this isn’t just a practice for staterooms.)  Part of my patience is that we have prepared to wait for our stateroom by bringing on board any items we might need during the duration—swim suits, sunscreen, and clothes for the evening, etc. 

What has been happening to the Carnival ships is unfortunate and can give cruising in general a negative connotation.  Will these events stop us from sailing?  Definitely not!  The husband would say that if other guests decide not to sail, it will just make more room for us.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Flo's V-8 Cafe on the Disney Dream

The husband and I were lamenting the other day because we miss “our ship.”  It was near dinner time and we were wistfully reminded of the ease of obtaining food on the Disney Dream.  In addition to the three main dining rooms and Cabanas, Deck 11 offers even more choices with Flo’s V-8 Café.

Taking a nod from Cars, Flo’s V-8 Café features Luigi’s Pizza, Doc’s Grill, and Fillmore’s Favorites.  These three “counters” are located mid-ship on Deck 11 on the Disney Dream and feature their own “road” painted on the floor.  Guests can get their tank refilled typically from 11:00 am until late in the evening, 11:00 pm or midnight.  Hours of operation are posted in the daily Navigators.

Luigi’s Pizza offers a variety of pizza toppings and features a “pizza of the day” advertised on a sign on the counter.  The boy’s favorite is BBQ chicken pizza.  Various selections are displayed in the glass case and you order by the slice or slices.

Doc’s Grill is known for its burgers and then some.  Hot dogs, brats, fish burgers, chicken strips, fries, veggie burgers, and chicken sandwiches can all be found on the menu.  A wide selection of condiments are available just across from Doc’s Grill.

Fillmore’s favorites features salads, fresh fruit—either the whole fruit or cut and sliced in a bow, yogurt, deli sandwiches, wraps, pasta, and grilled panini sandwiches.

As you can tell this is the place for a quick meal or a quick snack.  With self-serve ice cream just around the corner, and drink stations on the other side of the pool, it is hard to imagine ever having to leave this area.

Having now sailed 10 nights on the Disney Dream, we have figured out how to make the most of Flo’s V-8 Café.  Here are our hints and tips:
  • The square plates at Luigi’s pizza are great for carrying drinks from the drink station.  One plate can hold 4 cups.  So, we ask for a plate from Luigi’s and head to the drink station to get our drinks then return to Luigi’s to place our order.  The plate of pizza goes on top of the drinks.  Stacking the plates and the drinks makes it easier to carry if you are taking it to your stateroom or another location.
  • Hold the fries.  At Doc’s Grill if you are ordering for more than one person but don’t have extra hands, ask them to put more than one “entrée” on a plate and then hold the fries or put a few on the side.  We can get a cheeseburger, chicken strips, and brat all onto one plate—again, easier to carry.
  • All of these locations share the same kitchen.  If you want pizza and a cheeseburger, tell them at either location before taking your plate.  The crew will pass your plate to the next counter inside the kitchen, other items will be added, and you can pick up your plate at the next counter.  The crew prefers this rather than you handing them a plate that you have already taken from the other counter to have additional food added at the next counter.
  • If you are eating anywhere other than Deck 11, be sure to use the midship doors to get to the midship elevators as they open automatically.  For me, this is the best addition to the Disney Dream as usually just one of us heads out to get a snack for all of us.  Multiple plates and drinks means hands are full so an automatic door is appreciated.

When people ask me why a Disney Cruise vacation is our easiest vacation, especially if traveling with children, I give examples of how easy it is to feed your kids on the ship.  If the boy is hungry, we can get him fresh fruit, pizza, and a glass of milk within minutes and it is all included in the price of our cruise.  Imagine trying to do that at a Disney park!  And, now that he is older, he is able to do that for himself; all you can eat pizza and ice cream equals paradise for a 10 year old boy.

What if you are sailing on the Disney Magic and Wonder?  Well, these same offerings are available on Deck 9, with Pluto’s Dog House, Goofy’s Galley, and Pinocchio’s Pizzeria, they just aren’t as conveniently located as Flo’s V-8 Café.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Disney Photopass Now Offers Attractions+

Disney Photopass has added Attraction+ to its lineup of offerings.  Guests can now purchase an Attractions+ card and get digital downloads of the photos taken on select attractions for $44.95.  After riding the select attractions, guests can present their Attractions+ card to the Photos Sales Center attendance and the ride photo will be added to the card.  Guests can then access the photos via the Photopasss website.  The card is good for 14 days and the photos must be claimed within 30 days, the same as other Photopass products.

Participating attractions include:
  • Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom
  • Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin at the Magic Kingdom
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Rock’n Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • Dinosaur at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • Test Track at EPCOT.
While Attractions+ adds to available Photopass services such as the Photopass CD (either pre-order or after your trip), Photopass +, and other gifts and photo books, I am wondering what the benefit of the Attractions+ card really is and who might be taking advantage of Attractions+. 

With attraction photos already available included in the purchase of Photopass+ and available to be added to Photopass when purchased at the attraction I am still confused about Attractions+.  The only folks who may get the most out of their money when purchasing the Attractions+ card would be those who are not taking any other Photopass photos and have no interest in the Photopass CD.  If a guest was planning on purchasing a Photopass CD, paying to upgrade to Photopass+ (getting both attraction and dining photos—click here to read more) is less expensive than adding Attractions+ to the regular Photopass service.

So, let’s say I am a teen or young adult traveling to Disney with a group of friends or a team and I want to have all of my ride photos.  Now, if I purchased each of them separately, it would be about $20 per photo and I would take home an 8 X 10 photo from the desired attractions listed above.  But if I am savvy, I could purchase the Attractions+ service and get digital access to the ride photos.  If I wanted prints, I would have to wait until I could order prints either from Photopass or another location for an additional fee.  But I would certainly have digital access and could share them electronically after accessing my Photopass account.  In this instance, Attractions+ makes sense! 

Yet, how would this teen or young adult be made aware of this offering?  Will Disney advertise the service beyond the Photopass locations?  Could the guest purchase Attractions+ while viewing the photos from Splash Mountain and decide then and there to make the purchase without having to traverse the park to Main Street and the Photopass location on Town Square?

There is no mention that Attractions+ can be purchased prior to a visit to Walt Disney World, so purchasing on-site is the only option at this writing.  I hope leaders of team travel are privy to this information and can steer the demographic most likely to take advantage of this offering in the appropriate direction.

Am I missing something?  Am I so blinded by the bright lights of Photopass CD’s and Photopass+ to see the magic behind Attractions+ and the potential it has for guests?  And, I am ever so curious about how it is being marketed and to whom.  Please chime in and let me know if you see more to this addition to the Photopass line-up than I am seeing currently. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Disney Trading Pin is Coming My Way!

I won, I won!  I won a contest in the Magically Speaking newsletter.  Each Magically Speaking newsletter features a “Lost in the World” photo and readers can email where they think Ms. Lost has found herself (no pun intended) at the Walt Disney World Resort.  A winner is randomly chosen from the correct answers and receives a Disney trading pin!

My correct guess was of a photo taken in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, specifically Pixar Place.  It was the color and design of the brick that gave it away.  And, having taken many photos for the Williams Family Blog feature “Where in the World. . .?” I, too, see Walt Disney World through a different lens sometimes.

The Magically Speaking newsletter is published by the Mouse for Less website—click here to read more—and comes via email.  Mouse for Less is sponsored by the Magic for Less, an authorized Disney travel agency.  While they specialize in Disney travel, I have never felt pressured to book my travel through them, but do enjoy their newsletter and other features.

Magically Speaking is just one way I continue to get my Disney “fix” and gain updated and insightful information to share; call it research. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

We Have 27 Admissions to "Lesser Parks"

We have 27 admissions to lesser parks.  27 admissions?  Lesser parks?  For our upcoming trip to Walt Disney World, we added Water Parks and More Fun to our Magic Your Way Ticket.  This option comes at an additional fee, which was reasonable given that we already had a 9 day ticket.  The Water Parks and More Fun option allows us the same number of admissions to lesser parks as our 9 day park ticket.  So, 3 people times 9 day ticket equals 27 admissions.  Lesser parks include both Disney water parks—Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney, golf courses, and miniature golf before 4:00 pm.

When the husband and boy found out that we could use this ticket option at DisneyQuest, the research began.  I found them both pouring over a guide book on Sunday morning.  The 5 story indoor arcade that includes ride simulators was calling their name.  And, with the admission covered, it is unlimited play once inside.  Only food, beverages, or other trinkets would be additional costs.  We already have at least one stop to DisneyQuest, located on the West Side of Downtown Disney, in our plans, yet could see where a second visit could fit in.  The husband read the best advice and that was to wear a watch as it is easy to lose track of time.

Miniature golf before 4:00 pm sounds like another great option.  We have played at Fantasia Gardens, one of two miniature golf courses on Walt Disney property.  The courses are well themed and are quite enjoyable.  Since we rely on Disney Transportation, the only issue is getting to the courses, as there are no direct bus routes.  The last time we took a boat to the Swan/Dolphin and then walked across the street.  I’m sure we will figure it out and make our way to at least one miniature golf course during our stay.

Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach are also considered “lesser parks” and our admission is included.  Both of the water parks are on our list for our upcoming trip and we may visit one of them twice! 

So, 27 admissions may sound daunting yet with our plans we will use most if not all of them definitely getting our money’s worth when adding the Water Parks and More Fun option to our park tickets.  If we planned to only go to one water park, it would be more economical to pay the one day admission.

We look forward to informing Williams Family Blog readers of all our adventures!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Swagbucks Equals New Winter Coat For The Boy

Combine Midwest winter weather, frugality, and a need for color coordination and you get an interesting mix when it comes to purchasing winter outwear for a growing and rambunctious boy.  Somewhere in our son's early years, I decided that his winter outwear would be black and red.  This decision has paid off over time as items were outgrown or broken and needed to be replaced.  For example, the black snow pants still fit, but he outgrew his boots--new black and red boots to the rescue.  I knew the new boots would still match the rest of his winter apparel wardrobe, therefore reducing costs of replacing other items just because they didn't match.

Shopping, okay browsing, winter clearance items is also made easier due to the color combo commitment   Even if that bright blue jacket is the right size and price, since it doesn't match, it doesn't get purchased.

Recently the zipper broke on the boy's winter jacket.  My first impulse would be to replace the zipper, but this would be the last winter for the coat anyway as the boy continues to grow.  So, I jumped on-line and found a new coat for a reasonable price at Amazon.  What made the deal even sweeter was paying no money out of pocket for the coat, as I had accumulated enough Amazon gift cards through Swagbucks to cover the purchase of the new coat.

Earning Swagbucks is easy--by Searching as you would any internet search engine, Shopping and Earning, watching Swagbucks TV to get the latest news and entertainment, and taking advantage of special deals and offers.  The coat purchase earned me even more Swagbucks as I went to Shop and Earn before choosing Amazon, and children's clothing was an earning category on Amazon.

Redeeming Swagbucks is easy, too.  Amazon gift cards are just one of the many categories Swagbucks users can choose to redeem their Swagbucks earnings.  450 Swagbucks can be redeemed for a $5 Amazon gift card that never expires.

So my recent purchase checked off several boxes. . . the boy's new coat is black and red still matching his boots, snow pants, backpack, and lunchbox, it cost me no money out of pocket and I actually earned even more Swagbucks for making the purchase.

To get started earning Swagbucks click here now.