Observations

Kindness Creates Cast Member Magic

by on August 10, 2014

t_logo_fbWhen traveling through Walt Disney World, we all face frustrations. On vacation, it’s quite easy to give into the frustration. I’m no expert on Disney, but I do watch people quite a bit. Instead of facing the frustration with anger – try flipping over – and greeting with a friendly face. On a Disney World vacation in 2013, we decided to embrace the joy. It paid off tremendous dividends. Why? Multitudes of reasons. Usually Disney Cast Member Magic. Why should you? Easy.

You’re not that guy. Let’s face it, kids. We’ve all been somewhere. A place that someone has exploded all over a Cast Member. And trust me, I know how getting riled up and letting loose on some defenseless person can really make you feel good. Frankly, it sometimes does let off some of that steam. And often, you might win that battle – and get what you want. But you’ve sacrificed your level of dignity – and perhaps the dignity of people in your party without even knowing it. I was on a bus on the way back to our resort, and for whatever reason, a left turn light wasn’t working. The driver waited through five lights before moving slowly out into traffic, and going around the block to get to another entrance to the resort. A person on the bus started loudly complaining about the speed of the trip – and her kids became more noticeably embarrassed. When the bus arrived, we waited for the guests to get off the bus, and thanked the driver profusely. We compared the driving of the Disney drivers – SUPER SAFE to the Mears drivers – MUCH different. While we lost a few moments, we all exited happy.

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Observations from Epcot: July 30, 2014

by on August 2, 2014

observations from Epcot

Take a stroll around Epcot with us without having to leave your air-conditioning! (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Following my Frozen-filled visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios last week, I found myself back at Walt Disney World a few days later for some observations from Epcot. As a child, EPCOT (as it will always be capitalized in my heart) was my favorite WDW park, and the massive Beard/Abrams coffee table book on the park’s creation remains among my most prized possessions. As everyone knows, Epcot’s attractions (especially in Future World) have been radically overhauled over the past 2 decades, and now I rarely visit the park except during the fantastic Food & Wine or Flower & Garden festivals.

My first mid-summer Epcot experience in several seasons started on a sweet note, as I snagged a parking spot along the center aisle; there is nothing worse than having to walk a football field’s length just to get to the tram.

Spending a lot of time at Universal Orlando lately, I’ve been frustrated by how slow their entry procedures are, even after new ticket scanners were recently installed. In contrast, the turnstile-free entry at Disney’s parks has become my favorite element of MyMagic+. Scanning a MagicBand usually seems swifter than swiping a barcode, and the finger scanners at Disney are still far faster and more reliable than Universal’s new biometric readers.

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Observations from Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Week of July 28

by on August 1, 2014

observations from Disney's Hollywood Studios

Does Disney’s Hollywood Studios hold up in a post-Diagon Alley world? (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

“It was the best of rides, it was the worst of rides…”

With deepest apologies to Charles Dickens, today I present a Tale of Two Parks. As regular readers may have noticed, I’ve been spending a lot of time these past few months at Universal Studios Florida, documenting the debut of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley. But USF isn’t the only movie-centric theme park in Orlando. So on Monday, July 28, I stopped by the other Studios for the first time in forever — or at least since Star Wars Weekends — for some observations from Disney’s Hollywood Studios. How does DHS stack up in the age of Harry Potter’s newest expansion?

First, a bit of background. The origins of DHS and USF will forever be entwined, as Michael Eisner accelerated the opening of Walt Disney World’s third gate to upstage Universal’s first Floridian attraction. Though it was announced first, Universal Studios Florida opened a year after Disney/MGM Studios (as the park will forever be known in the hearts of long-time fans) and was initially hobbled by famously malfunctioning E-Tickets like Jaws and Kong. MGM sported only a half-day slate of entertainment upon its debut, but added major rides like Star Tours and Tower of Terror during its first decade, while Universal used that time to tame its balky headliners and add effects-driven shows like Twister and Terminator 2.

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Planning for Spontaneity: Disney World Counter Service Meals

by on July 30, 2014

By nature, our family tends to over-plan. On one vacation, we even set aside specific time to ‘be spontaneous – within our own limitations.’ But for some reason, our quick dining – while generally guided – wasn’t set in stone. On our first day in Epcot, we chose Sunshine Seasons, one of the jewels of counter service dining in the parks, according to all the checks we’d made. We began enjoying our Asian-infused lunch until our only adventurous eater started to look a little queasy. The sights and aromas had overcome our (somewhat) melodramatic child. Thankfully, she was only four. And we didn’t stick around for the clean-up.

A nice variety of food offered at Casey's Corner, but tough to locate an indoor seat.

A nice variety of food offered at Casey’s Corner, but tough to locate an indoor seat.

Since then, we have planned all of our meals. For many Walt Disney World vacationers, counter service fills up half – or more- of our theme park dining. Plenty of information exists for table service restaurants: menus, meal reviews, countdown to reservation times, and strategies for landing the elusive meal spot. Comparatively little exists for the compulsive planner when it comes to quick service. While outlining burgers and nachos may seem overly obsessive, building a plan – with a back-up, too – may save time, effort, and enable you to put more enjoyment into your vacation. If nothing else, you might slide a column into your managed spreadsheet for your ‘other’ meal.

Counter service restaurants participate uniquely with the Disney Dining plan. Almost all table service restaurants in Disney World parks are on the meal plan, but only some counter service restaurants are. Some will serve snacks only. The leg conundrum for me seems the strangest. Some places – like the pork shank legs at Min and Bill’s in Hollywood Studios-Covered. Gaston’s Tavern in Magic Kingdom-Not covered. You can use a snack credit there, just not on the shank.

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Taking Disney World by Storm

by on July 20, 2014

First of all, I am not a meteorologist. I don’t even play one on TV.

That being said, I have thirty years of experience in Orlando weather, including doing extensive research on hurricanes.

The 2014 hurricane season has begun, and the year marks the tenth anniversary of Orlando’s “Year of Three Hurricanes”. In this article, I’ll cover the issue of hurricanes and Orlando’s famous thunderstorms as well as how to avoid them and vacation around them.

Orlando street view the morning after Hurricane Charley in 2004.  Photo by Thomas Cook

Orlando street view the morning after Hurricane Charley in 2004. Photo by Thomas Cook

Officially known as “tropical cyclones” but colloquially as hurricanes, the massive summer storms are one of the most powerful and dangerous natural events on earth. The amount of energy released in one day by an average cyclone in producing rain (which is 400 times greater than the wind energy) is equal to the yearly energy production of the U.S.

So you’re thinking hurricanes and Florida go hand-in-hand like Vermont and snow, right? Well, sort of. Florida is a big state. Not only in terms of square miles, but it’s long. For instance, it takes 12 hours to drive from Key West to Pensacola.

Of course, every mile is a potential hurricane target, but Walt Disney World is only some 40 miles square. Additionally it’s in the center of the state, relatively far from the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. This means every time your local news tells about a hurricane in Florida, it’s unlikely to be passing close to Disney world.

The U.S. government started regular tracking of tropical cyclones in 1851. Looking at those statistics gives excellent news: The frequency of a hurricane passing through the Walt Disney World area in any year is 1 in 10. A 10% chance each year is all local have to worry about. Want even better news? If you’re visiting for a week or two, you have an even smaller chance of having to deal with one of nature’s super storms.

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: July 17, 2014

by on July 17, 2014

Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World! I have tons of Frozen fun to share, but to start let’s pop over to Epcot. While the weather has been incredibly hot, the skies have been beautiful! Check out those blue skies and fluffy white clouds! 

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I wasn’t just there to admire the skies, though. I’d heard online that personalized bottles of Coke were available for free. It wasn’t something I was excited about but I wanted to check it out for you guys. I got there about 15 minutes before the posted start time thinking I’d beat the rush. As you can see from the photo below, I could not have been more wrong! There must have been 100 people in line! I quickly decided that Coke bottles were not newsworthy and moved on. ;)

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: July 10, 2014

by on July 10, 2014

Hi Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever, and for me it really was amazing! I went to Disneyland!! If you can believe it, we only planned this trip a few days in advance! I did pop over to take a look at the Frozen Summer Fun – Live now that I’m home, but I’ll need a full day in the Disney’s Hollywood Studios to really do it justice. With that in mind, I’m excited to share my trip with you. We’ll be back to regularly scheduled Walt Disney World coverage next week. Let’s start somewhere delicious. This special cupcake was available for the 4th of July. The cake was apple flavored, and it tasted even better than it looks! 

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I wanted the first picture to look generic for the holiday, but now I have to show off Sleeping Beauty’s quaint castle. I love the lush trees all around. I remember when the Magic Kingdom had more trees, before hurricanes came through and took care of them. Did you know you there is a walking tour inside the castle? There are display windows that tell the story of Sleeping Beauty. I took too many photos to share them all. (It’s tough to whittle 1,000 photos down to about 30!) But you should look it up for your next trip.

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Magic Kingdom AtMousePhere: Main Street, U.S.A. Music

by on July 8, 2014

t_logo_fbHave you ever tried to watch a movie without a soundtrack? I have watched behind-the-scenes documentaries of movies and TV shows where they show a dramatic scene or huge action sequence, and it sounds…well…dull. But once that soundtrack is inserted, with the ebbs and flows matching the feelings and actions on screen, suddenly the scene pops!

With this in mind, can you imagine walking down the streets of Magic Kingdom park in Walt Disney World without any of that music coming out of the speakers? Maybe you’ve never really paid attention to the atmospheric soundtrack, but that music subliminally creeps into your psyche and gears you up for wherever your feet take you!

If there was no music, the only thing you’d hear is the noisy people around you. And let’s be honest: anything that helps keep your mind off of the loud discussions, crying, or crabbiness surrounding you and keeps you in your “magic zone” is a welcome one!

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Observations: June 17, 2014: A Magical Evening

by on June 23, 2014

I hope you’re ready for a magical evening, because earlier this week the rain finally stopped, and I couldn’t wait to get back to the Magic Kingdom! Before we get started I wanted to remind everyone that the new monorail schedule goes into effect in just a few days. Be sure to check it out.

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Actually, maybe the monorails not being around isn’t such a bad thing because it took me almost 40 minutes to get from the parking lot over to the Magic Kingdom gates. I can’t complain, because I did end up in the most magical place on Earth, but I would’ve liked to have been there earlier than 8pm! In any case, you can see this time of year I had plenty of sunlight left to take photos for you. :)

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Observations: June 1, 2014 Lion King Reopening

by on June 5, 2014

Jambo, Everyone! Welcome to our look at the very blustery opening day of the Festival of the Lion King. When FastPass+ were released just a couple days before, I jumped at the chance to see this show return after a six month closure. Unfortunately, I was only able to reserve the last show of the day. Around 1pm I couldn’t wait any longer and decided to head to the park and attempt to get into the 2pm show through the standby line, even though it was drizzling outside. The new theater looks great and fits in perfectly with the rest of Harambe.

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I arrived at the theater at 1:45pm and hopped in the line. It wasn’t as long as I’d expected, but I noticed people were only trickling in a few at a time. When I was closer to the podium, I was advised that only standing room was available for the show. I didn’t remember this from the old theater, so I decided to check it out for you guys. Basically, Disney is allowing guests to stand on the staircases around the seating areas and at the very back of the theater. I was pushed off to one side, so my photos didn’t turn out at all. The below photo will give you an idea what this view is like. Full disclosure: this is an older photo from the previous theater.

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