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Frozen Out: Searching for an Elsa doll at Disney World

by on April 10, 2014 10 Comments

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Elsa doll Disney World

Searching for an Elsa doll or toy at Disney World? Join the club! (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

My family up north doesn’t necessarily share or understand my theme park obsessions, but every so often they call upon my Orlando expertise. Recently, my young niece lost her mind over Frozen (much like half of America, it seems) and wants an Elsa doll more than life itself.

Unfortunately, it seems Barbie-sized “Sparkle Princess” figures of this frigid sister are scarcer than snowmen in summer, as toy stores throughout the New York and Philadelphia regions are chronically out of stock. So I gallantly volunteered to play the heroic uncle by finding one and bringing it to her during my upcoming visit. Surely it would be simple to find an Elsa doll inside one of Walt Disney World’s infinite gift shops…or so I foolishly thought.

I was so wrong.

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How to Pick the Best Disney Cruise Line Port Adventures

by on April 10, 2014 9 Comments

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t_logo_fbWith so many options offered, many cruisers are frustrated trying to find the best Disney Cruise Line port adventures. Because no one person would ever have the time or money to try them all, we’d like to offer up some tips to help you sort through your options.

What are you actually getting for your money?

Take a hard look at the description of your excursion. It is just transportation to a destination and back? Is there a meal included? Many Caribbean beach excursions are simply putting you on a bus and driving you to the sand. You’ll return to the ship with everyone else, regardless of when you’re ready to go. For parties of more than 2 people, you may be better off taking a taxi to your destination (don’t forget to budget for the round trip and gratuity). As an example, the St. Martin Beach Bash Tour consists of transportation to the beach and fruit punch, and will run a family of four nearly $150 for two hours on the beach. We suggest taking a taxi to Maho Beach to see something truly extraordinary and saving your real beach time for Castaway Cay. Read the rest of this entry »

D-Tech Me Experience Returns for Star Wars Weekends

by on April 9, 2014 4 Comments

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©Disney

©Disney

One of the more popular activities for Star Wars Weekends is returning again this year. The D-Tech Me experience is back for this year’s event and is where guests can have their faces cast on a mold of a Star Wars figurine.

This year, there will be four exciting options to choose from. They include the previous two: the Carbon-Freeze Me mold (similar to what happens to Han Solo in Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back) and the Stormtrooper mold.  New this year are molds of the Alderaan Princess and the X-Wing Pilot.

The process works as follows: Guests will take part in a 3D face scan. From, there, the scan will be sent to a 3D printer. Once created, the figurine will be mailed to guests in approximately 7-8 weeks. (International shipping may take a bit longer.)

The experience will take place in Darth’s Mall, a special merchandise location only available during Star Wars Weekends.  This year Darth’s Mall will be located on Soundstage 1, between Toy Story Mania and the Studio Backlot Tour.

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Celebrate Earth Day at Walt Disney World

by on April 9, 2014

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©Disney

©Disney

Earth Day (April 22) is always special, but Walt Disney World makes it even more so, because both Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom get in on the celebration.

Starting at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the park puts on an exciting party…The Party for the Planet. Here, guests can experience a myriad of activities to help them learn how to connect with nature and be more conscious of conservation efforts. This year’s event revolves around the upcoming Disneynature movie, Bears, which debuts in theaters on April 18. Some of the fun guests can participate in includes:

  • Pick up a Party for the Planet postcard, which will found at a display located in the front of the park.
  • Learn about the brown bear – a tie-in the movie, Bears.
  • Take part in nature activities. Read the rest of this entry »

Updates to Disney’s Hollywood Studios Ride Ratings

by on April 9, 2014 13 Comments

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A mother from Ellicott City, Maryland, sent us this question last week:

Do you provide a description of how you come up with your star ratings for rides?  I’m not talking about the age-related ones, but the authors’ rating.  This question came up when we were reading about Magic Carpets of Aladdin.

As it happened, last week was also when the Unofficial Guide staff got together to review the ratings for every attraction in Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando.

The authors’ rating is the consensus opinion of the Unofficial Guides’ authors. And while everyone’s got personal favorites and criteria, all of us agree that the basic rating system functions something like this:

***** Attractions rated five stars  are iconic attractions by which all others are judged. These are generally combinations of great storytelling, attention to detail, and technical achievement, all done on a grand scale. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal is a good example, as is Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom.

**** Four-star attractions are generally either done on a smaller scale attraction, like Mickey’s PhilharMagic, or it’s a headliner attraction that has aged technology or content (e.g., Living with the Land).

*** Three-star attractions are usually budget-friendly rides that Disney uses to increase the capacity of a particular area. Magic Carpets of Aladdin was the example we discussed most often here.

** Two-star attractions are usually older, lightly-themed carnival rides, such as Mad Tea Party, or in the case of Stitch’s Great Escape, a rare attraction with so little merit that it can’t be recommended.

* One-star attractions are either simple diversions that Disney promotes as an attraction, like Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade, or the ride has material weaknesses in story, theme, ride experience, and maintenance, and should be avoided.

There are no zero-star attractions in Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando. Also, an attraction can earn (or lose) half a star if it’s slightly better (or worse) than similar attractions.

Here’s a list of the Disney’s Hollywood Studios attractions whose authors’ ratings have changed in the 2015 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and a short explanation for the change:

Citizens of Hollywood *** 1/2  One of the best sets of roving street performers in any Disney park, you’ll find this comedy troupe on Hollywood and Sunset boulevards, dragging unsuspecting tourists into the antics. Previous rating: none Read the rest of this entry »

Is Disney Cruise Line Fun for Adults?

by on April 8, 2014 5 Comments

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The Rainforest is reserved for adult guests

The Rainforest is reserved for adult guests

One of the most frequently asked questions about DCL is “Is Disney Cruise Line Fun for Adults?” Because the Disney brand is so firmly associated with family entertainment, many people who are new to cruising, Disney Cruise Line in particular, or even to Disney parks wonder if there’s anything for them onboard the Disney ships. I see the question every day when I check out the DCL section of Cruise Critic. When I tell people that I co-wrote a book about DCL, they ask “what’s there for adults to do onboard?” Now, I know telling the people who read this blog that Disney is as much an entertainment company as a family company is preaching to the choir, but hopefully anyone else out there who Googles “will I have fun on a Disney cruise if I’m not traveling with children?” will find this article.

Nassau

One of these ships might not be a “party ship”

A little history, I will take my 11th cruise (yay! Platinum Castaway Club, baby!) next month. all but one of those cruises were solo or with a friend or my partner. The other cruise was with teenagers who we couldn’t get away from Vibe, so it was nearly like not cruising with kids too. It’s safe to say adult cruising is my normal. And if I didn’t think it was fun, there probably wouldn’t have been a book written about it. Of course as a big Disney fan, I also think that Walt Disney World is a great place for folks without children. If you  enjoy the whimsy and artistic touches that make Disney parks a good experience for adults, you’ll have fun on their ships.

One caveat, I’ve been in port in the Caribbean when other ships are there. How do I say this? DCL does not seem to draw the same crowd as some other lines. If you’re looking for the party ship, Disney isn’t it. On the other hand, those cruises tend to be less expensive by a long shot, so…win, win, you know?

When I first began thinking about this article, I compiled a list of adult activities onboard. I came up with the spa, the bars, tastings…pretty much all great ideas for folks who drink and don’t mind a bill at the end of the cruise. That seemed a little lame. So I kept thinking…. Read the rest of this entry »

Walt Disney World Crowd Report – March 30 to April 5, 2014

by on April 7, 2014 5 Comments

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Last week we saw crowds fade to levels lower than that of the previous week. It appears that Sunday was the last day of a Spring Break peak that was followed by busy but manageable crowds. Our predictions did very well with none missing by more than two index levels all week. We also correctly predicted differences between park crowd levels on most days.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up day-to-day last week.

The Crowd Report

The Crowd Report

 

The Walt Disney World Crowd Report
March 30, 2014 to April 5, 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

While predictions for Magic Kingdom (7) and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (5) proved accurate on Sunday, we underpredicted Epcot and Animal Kingdom by two levels. Soarin’ averaged 86 minutes (we predicted 65) while most other attractions were only off by a few minutes. Similarly, Animal Kingdom’s higher than expected crowd level came from mostly from one attraction, Kilimanjaro Safaris. We predicted a 26-minute average posted wait while the observed value was almost double, at 50 minutes. Resort-wide, the crowd level ’7′ ended up the highest level we would see all week. Read the rest of this entry »

New Ride Details for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

by on April 7, 2014 19 Comments

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Construction views back in February

Construction views back in February

When will it ever open?! I think that’s how all of us feel about this much anticipated attraction - Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. It is the final piece of the New Fantasyland expansion at the Magic Kingdom and we have watched, with bated breath, as it has grown up in the land.

While we still don’t know the exact opening date (though rumors have indicated May 2, keep in mind those are still rumors…nothing official has come from Disney yet), we are getting closer to the opening of the attraction, as I have come across some brand new information, detailing what you can expect with this new attraction. Let’s go on a journey, shall we?

First, we will start with the queue. As previously mentioned, this will be an interactive queue, and there will be three different interactive sections. You enter the queue and pass by a cottage as you make your way towards the mountain. You will then enter the mine of the Seven Dwarfs. Here, Doc will have a series of tasks that need to be completed, and you are invited to help!

First, guests will begin by sorting the jewels. Guests are asked to match jewels by color and shape as they flow down a wooden trough (created by touch screen video screens). After that, they will then wash the jewels by using a musical water spigot. Make sure to listen, as each spigot plays notes that together should create a familiar tune. Finally, guests enter the vault, where they see wooden barrels with stones. As the stones are turned, the ceiling above transforms.

Ok, so now we are going to get into the actual ride spoilers. If you want to be spoiled, click on to continue…

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April 5, 2014: Epcot Observations and Muppets Scavenger Hunt

by on April 7, 2014 11 Comments

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Hi, everyone! Glad you’re able to stop by for a look at the beautiful, sunny weather at Epcot on April 5, 2014! I have a lot to show you, including the new Muppets Scavenger Hunt that just started today. As always, I have lots of photos and video to share. If you were hoping for a look at the Flower & Garden Festival you can look here, this week is more about random fun in the park. Of course, this time of year you almost can’t take a photo without capturing some lovely flowers. So why don’t we start there?

IMG_0877

Pretty, aren’t they? But just so you don’t miss the full experience, I grabbed a few seconds of the tram ride in. Doesn’t it feel like you’re really there? :)

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New Muppet Scavenger Hunt At Epcot

by on April 6, 2014 3 Comments

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Muppets Scavenger HuntIn an effort to promote Muppets Most Wanted, a brand new scavenger hunt has been introduced to Epcot’s World Showcase. The scavenger hunt starts with guests stopping to pick up a clue packet in the World Showcase Plaza. From there, they can choose to take part in one of two missions: Team Napoleon or Team Eagle. (These are the two law enforcement agents in the movie.) During the hunt, guests are on a search for the famous villain, Constantine.

After you pick up your clues and choose your mission, you will then go around World Showcase, solving the clues at various checkpoints found around the World Showcase countries. There are three checkpoints for each mission. Your clue packet will include documents and information on how to solve the case.

Luckily, the game is short enough that if you wish to do both missions, you should be able to accomplish them in one day.

It appears to be an interesting little distraction and especially fun for you Muppet fans! The scavenger hunt is expected to take place for the remainder of Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival. (P.S.: Be on the lookout for a review from Daisy about this experience tomorrow!)