Uncategorized

A Look at the Refurbished Fort Wilderness Cabins

by on July 7, 2016

The cabins at Fort Wilderness went through a refurbishment that began in fall of 2015 and was completed in early 2016. To learn all the great things about the cabins you can read my blog post from last year. In this post I will give you a glimpse of the changes that have been made to the cabins.

The most dramatic upgrade is in the kitchen, which has been completely replaced. The stove is gone with a two burner stovetop and a microwave/convection oven combination as the new cooking area. At the end of this post, I will share my experience cooking in the oven.kitchen

The bathroom got new cabinets and countertops. The bathtub is fiberglass.

sink

The bench at the dining table now has a back cushion. The murphy bed was replaced with a large TV and a six drawer dresser. The sofa has been replaced with a larger double size sleeper sofa. The child’s table and chairs are gone. The window coverings have also been updated.

living_room

 

sofa bed

With the refurbishment, the pantry and a small TV were removed from the side of the kitchen. The new space seems to be missing something, like maybe a side table was supposed to be there.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Updates to Last Week’s Crowd Calendar Actuals

by on June 30, 2016

We had a minor problem posting our actual crowd levels for June 25-28, 2016, so we’re posting them here temporarily.  The developers fixed the sites for dates beyond June 28.

Here are the crowd levels for June 25-28.

WDW Magic Kingdom Epcot Hollywood Studios Animal Kingdom
Pred. Obs. Pred. Obs. Pred. Obs. Pred. Obs. Pred. Obs.
6/25/2016 6 6 6 6 4 6 7 4 7 10
6/26/2016 7 6 6 7 5 4 8 6 7 3
6/27/2016 7 10 7 10 6 6 8 7 8 9
6/28/2016 8 9 8 10 8 8 7 9 8 7

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Dinner at Cabanas: A Review from the Disney Dream

by on June 28, 2016

As the saying should go, if you starve on a cruise ship, it is by choice alone. At any time of day there is always something to eat. For many, the highlight of the day is typically the main dining for dinner, where themed dining rooms and a carefully crafted menu combine with a little bit of Disney magic for an unforgettable meal. Sometimes it can be too much of a good thing, however, and there may be reasons why you want to skip main dining. Perhaps you don’t feel like dressing up. Maybe you want a quieter meal. You might have even overslept and missed early dining. Thankfully, on select nights, there is another option–dinner at Cabanas.

On my most recent cruise on the Disney Dream, my husband and I tried dinner at Cabanas. Here’s our experience:

Because it was pirate night for our cruise, I was wearing jeans and a pirate t-shirt–something that I would have felt awkward wearing to Royal Palace (where we were assigned that night). Because dinner at Cabanas is more casual, my outfit was not out of place at all. The dining room is changed a bit from breakfast and lunch service. You have two servers assigned to your table, just like in the main dining room. These are servers who are training for the main dining room, and so they go over the top trying to be attentive to whatever you need. The dining room itself has placemats and fun “Cabanas-style” napkins, plus glass plates and glasses–a step above the plates and cups at other meals.

DSC03822

Unlike the main dining rooms, where you have a set time to show up, you can show up without a reservation at any time during Cabanas’ dinner service (which on our cruise was 6:30-8:30). When we arrived at the beginning of the dinner time, we checked in, gave our stateroom number, and were seated immediately. Due to lower seating capacity, if there is high demand, you may have to wait for a table.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Animal Kingdom at Night: What You Need to Know

by on June 22, 2016

©Disney

©Disney

Ever since the Animal Kingdom Park opened in 1998, guests could only enjoy the park during the day as it regularly closed at dark. Fortunately, that has now changed! On May 27th, Animal Kingdom introduced new extended hours and rolled out a variety of new nighttime entertainment and experiences. However, it’s important to note that Animal Kingdom is a different creature at night; and its signature nighttime show, Rivers of Light, and new land, Pandora – The World of AVATAR, haven’t even made their debuts yet. So, if you’re planning a night venture to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park in the near future, here’s what you need to know…

KilimanjaroSafaris4

Kilimanjaro Safaris Artificial Sunset

Opt for a Sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris

When Animal Kingdom first announced it was staying open after dark, it also promised a nighttime version of the park’s famous Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction, but with a constant sunset! While it sounds awesome and was highly anticipated, it has been met with criticism since it debuted. Why? The problem is that animals can’t be controlled. If they don’t want to be in view of the safari vehicles, they won’t; and while this is true of the daytime safaris as well, the animals are still often visible. This is not the case at night, even with new lighting effects.

Speaking of lighting, I can say that I was impressed with the constant sunset. While it wasn’t totally realistic, it looked fantastic and the glow and shadows from the effect looked great. I was, however, completely fooled when it came to the artificial moonlight towards the end of the safari, but it still did little to reveal the animals.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Shanghai Disneyland: Photos from Opening Day

by on June 17, 2016

As you likely have heard, the Shanghai Disney Resort opened in Shanghai, China on June 16. The wonderful Elisabeth Lackey, who answered many questions on the Disney Moms Panel, was kind enough to give us an update on her trip to Shanghai. A lengthier report will come once she returns to the States, but here are some photos she sent from opening day. She also added that crowds, while heavy, were more manageable than she expected and they got to experience more attractions than they expected.

Look for her full post in the next week or two, but first allow us to whet your appetite:

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

On the Pulse Tragedy and How You Can Help

by on June 13, 2016

Hi everyone. I know this is a break from our usual policy of sticking to theme parks and other travel destinations. However, the tragedy that occurred in Orlando over the weekend hit us all very hard–we have employees, researchers, and many friends that live in the Orlando area. Beyond that, I feel that it is all our duty as Americans, as people, to do whatever we can in the face of these acts of hatred.

Our community of readers, fans, and subscribers has always been friendly, inclusive, and helpful. This is the time for that to continue and strengthen. Both of our current authors of Best Week Ever–Julia and Dani–are Orlando locals and both contributed to this post.

After this, we will mostly be returning to our regularly scheduled theme park and travel items. We have always treated travel as an adventure and escape, and continuing to discuss it is one way we can help, however slight that help may be. Be excellent to each other.

– Brian McNichols, Blog Manager 

 

For my Best Week Ever article that would have run later this week, I spent the past couple days enjoying the amenities of a Grand Villa at Saratoga Springs, exploring Disney Springs, and living the laid back Florida life that so many of us know and love. With my in-laws on the way to the airport, I opened my laptop to start writing up that Best Week Ever, only to be stopped short by the headlines, tweets, Facebook notifications, and more all jumping to the forefront on my Sunday morning computer screen.

By this time, there will be so much said about the dozens upon dozens of vibrant lives cut short or altered forever due to the act of a hateful murderer at the Pulse, and yet no amount of words can ever truly be enough to ease the pain of those who are grieving and hurting. We say (and we do so with deep conviction) that our thoughts and prayers are with those families because we wish we could make it better, and because we don’t know what else to say, knowing we can’t make it right.

Some of the lives lost were tourists, seeking to enjoy a night of fun in The City Beautiful. Some were our friends, family, loved ones, co-workers, and more, relaxing from another week of Florida life. Every single one has loved ones. Every single one has a story. It is my hope that those stories can be shared as a celebration of life far more powerful than the tragedy of their deaths.

For those who will not live to see another sunrise, their best week ever is one in the past, shared and talked about and remembered by those who love them.

For the rest of us, once we have been able to grieve in our own way and in our own time, we honor the memory of those lost by bringing joy and magic back to the World and our world.

This week was not the best week ever for many people in the Orlando area, because it is impossible to say “mass shooting” and “best week” in the same breath. And yet, even in the midst of the tragedy, we saw people in all walks of life coming together to show that Orlando has some of the best people ever. First responders, medical professionals, and regular citizens on the street providing immediate care for those in need. A reporter holding a mother desperate to find news about her child. Social media filled with phone/Twitter/Facebook trees and prayer trees to help people find out about their loved ones. Lines at blood banks that stretched hundreds deep—so many that most were filled to capacity and had to turn away donors for that day. People who came out to those blood drives to provide sunscreen and water and other supplies for those waiting in line. Local businesses rallying support for everyone from the affected families to the first responders and beyond.

Cast Members are often reminded that they make the magic for the guests. In this town, where the Cast Member spirit extends far beyond those who work at Walt Disney World or in the tourism industry, we know that we all have an interest in making the magic for each other.

The Best Week Ever series will return next week, as we continue to find ways to make and share magic with readers far and wide. In the meantime, wherever you are, take some time to make magic for each other.

For more information about how to provide tangible help to those affected by the Pulse nightclub shooting tragedy, here are some resources.

For locations to donate blood in the Orlando area, visit www.oneblood.org or www.redcrossblood.org

Financial donations for the victims and their families can be made to the GoFundMe accounts created by Equality Florida at www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund or The Center at www.gofundme.com/29bubytq

 Counseling resources are available by dialing 211 or through the Orlando LGBT community center at 407-228-1446

And to report suspicious activity, call Florida’s See Something/Say Something hotline at 855-FLA-SAFE (855-352-7233)

 

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Disney Hacks #4: Magic Kingdom Shortcuts

by on June 10, 2016

disney-hacksDid you know that when you first walk into the Magic Kingdom, you’re actually closer to parts of the Jungle Cruise than you are to Casey’s Corner at the end of Main Street U.S.A.? Seems crazy, because from that point in the park, it would take you several minutes to walk to the queue of that attraction. The reality, however, is that if you were to walk through the large doors by the Harmony Barber Shop where the parades enter and exit and walk to the west, you’d find yourself at the backside of the Jungle Cruise (which also houses the backside of water!) within a few steps; as the crow flies, you are very, very close to the Jungle Cruise the moment you walk into the park.  

 

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a shortcut that would zip you backstage and directly where you wanted to go?  Heck yeah, it would!  Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to save the general public the trouble of walking all the way around to the Jungle Cruise, but there ARE several shortcuts or alternative routes within the park that will help those in the know move around much more quickly — sometimes because they are less congested, and sometimes because they are just more direct. Read on to learn more about Magic Kingdom shortcuts!

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Seven Things to Skip on a Repeat Disney Cruise

by on June 8, 2016

If you are preparing for your first, second, or even third cruise, I highly advise NOT following the suggestions listed here. (Instead, check out my Seven Must-Dos on Your First Disney Cruise here.) Everything that I list in this article is worth doing, especially if you are new to Disney Cruise Line. I recently sailed on my fifth Disney Cruise (three on the Dream, two on the Fantasy), and decided I wanted to mix things up a bit. Although there are several activities, foods, and so on during a Disney Cruise that are “must do” items on my list, I skipped some of those items to change things up a bit. In the end, I found that there are benefits to skipping even very popular activities on board. On upcoming cruises, I won’t likely skip everything that I skipped on this cruise, but there may be some activities that I won’t do every cruise. Here are some suggestions for repeat cruisers on what to skip on a Disney Cruise.

 

1. Skip the Sailaway Party

An air-conditioned window view at Vista Café or a deck chair are far more relaxing (and cooler) than the sailaway party.

A window view at Vista Café or a deck chair are far less crowded than the sailaway party.

I’ve watched many other ships leave port, but the level of excitement on a Disney Cruise is much more tangible than on other cruise lines. I think the reason behind that is the infectious energy of the Sailaway Party. But to mix things up a bit, or if you want to avoid the blistering heat that can happen on some cruise itineraries, grab a drink, and sail away from a more comfortable and quiet location. On our most recent cruise, we sat for a while in the air conditioned comfort of Vista Café on the Dream, and then headed outside to play some shuffleboard so that we could hear the ship horn. On the walking track, there are several places with loungers, if that’s more your speed. And, of course, if you have a verandah room, you can enjoy sailing away from the comfort of your stateroom.

2. Skip Heavy Entrees

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

SATURDAY SIX: Movies and TV Shows That Were Filmed at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on June 4, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Movies, Television Shows, and Music Videos shot at the Universal Orlando Resort. Loyal readers have gone with us down the rabbit hole to see all the Walt Disney locations used in the Hulk Hogan TV show Thunder in Paradise. Then we checked out the times our favorite sitcoms like Boy Meets World and Full House that went to Disney World. Today we are taking I4 West across Orlando and checking out which movies, television shows, and music videos were filmed at the Universal Orlando Resort. Now, Universal Studios Florida is still a working production studio with several sound stages, and has been the home to such shows as Family Feud, TNA Impact, and the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. However today we are going to look at productions which  – for the most part – filmed outside of the sound stages, allowing us to see our favorite Universal rides, hotels, and characters. So sit back, follow along with us on your Comcast cable box, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt “Kimmy Finds Her Mom!”

Season 2, episode 13

We’re going to start off our list with the newest of the bunch, as this particular episode aired in April of 2016. I have to personally begin with a mea culpa. I have never seen an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s one of those shows (along with Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, and Veep) that we’re all supposed to watch. But there is just too much good TV on right now to keep up with everything. I will say this after watching just one episode of Kimmy Schmidt, I’m immediately going back to watch the entire first and second seasons. It reminded me of two of my all time favorite comedies: 30 Rock and Parks and Rec.

While Kimmy Schmidt the show didn’t have as much making fun of the theme park world we know and love (unlike Roseanne, which skewered the parks) it was top to bottom the funniest show I have ever seen involving a theme park (this also includes the more recent episodes of The Middle and Modern Family which went to WDW and Disneyland.) The A-plot of the show involved Kimmy Schimdt finally tracking down her mother, played by the incredible Lisa Kudrow (Friends and the must-see The Comeback.) The B-plots, which involved one character finding herself in the middle of the Washington Redskins owners, and another over at the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, were just as good as the main storyline.

kimmy_usf

Kimmy arrives at Universal Studios Florida.

kimmy_hollywood

The Minions, Olive Oyl, and stilt walkers from The Mummy in the Hollywood section of USF. This led to a wonderful scene where Kimmy was mistaken for a meet and greet character and families kept lining up to take their picture with her just because others were.

kimmy_expresspass

Kimmy and her mom buying Universal Express to ride Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. I just could not believe my eyes at this point. This would be similar to a sitcom at Walt Disney World  having a character make ADRs 180+10 days out.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Walt Disney Work: Best In-Park Locations to Get Substantive Work Done

by on June 2, 2016

TouringPlans logoIf you’re one of the increasingly small number of people that can go on vacation and legitimately not have anything work-related to worry about while you’re gone, feel free to skip this article. Also, I’m very jealous.

For the rest of us, however, the reality nowadays is that even though you’re on vacation, there is still stuff happening back at the office, and your work doesn’t necessarily stop while you’re gone. My wife used to get on me for checking email while on vacation, saying things like, “Relax, you’re supposed to be on vacation!” It’s a great thought, but for me and I’m sure many of you, the fact that I can stay on top of messages as they come in and the resulting knowledge that nothing terrible is happening in my absence is what allows me to relax while I’m on vacation. I wish it weren’t that way, but that’s reality in this day and age for many of us.

Most of the time, just monitoring what is going on is sufficient, but from time to time, you might actually have a need to accomplish something substantive, and it can’t wait until that evening when you get back to your room. I know it’s happened to me, and if it hasn’t happened to you yet, well, brace yourself, because you’ll likely have to deal with it at some point. If you’re lucky, you can just bang out a quick email while you’re in line and get it sorted, but sometimes you’ll need to actually separate yourself from the magic for a moment to address your non-magical responsibilities. Read on to see where the places places to go are when you need a little bit of thinkin’ time!

Criteria

The reality is that between background music, children, and scream-inducing attractions, finding a location where you can legitimately get true peace and quiet in the parks is well nigh impossible. For me, whether I need to hop on a conference call or craft a detailed email, the most important criteria I look for is finding a spot that has enough separation from the masses that I can hear myself think and where the music isn’t so loud or melodic that it’s distracting — calliope music isn’t very conducive to serious thought. Additionally, because Florida can be intolerably hot, having some shade is going to be an important component to this as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print