Jun 06

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – Review

Last December I went to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for the first time.   It’s a special ticketed event celebrating Christmas at the Magic Kingdom. For 2012 the dates are November 9 to December 21, check the schedule for exact dates.  Tickets to the event allow entry to the park at 4pm, but the party doesn’t start until 7pm.

Terye and I started with an evening walk through of Swiss Family Tree House and then rode Jungle Cruise.  Both were unique experiences at night and both were empty.  At night there were a few interesting views of the Magic Kingdom from the Swiss Family Tree house.  Jungle Cruise is just at cheesy at night, but the darkness gives a different atmosphere.

After those rides we went on line for the Seven Dwarfs, we got on the line a little before 7pm and there was an hour wait.  But, it is one of the few opportunities to get photos with all of them so we waited.  The dwarfs were really cute, and some of the kids there were really funny.  Like the kid who realized he was standing next to Grumpy and ran away.  While we waited we did each take an opportunity to take a quick walk around the park, I got us some free hot chocolate and cookies, one of the benefits of the event.

We got out of the seven dwarfs a few minutes before the parade and with the low crowds (one of the benefits of events like this) we got a decent spot.  The parade had some nice touches, like Scrooge McDuck.

After that I planted myself in the circle in front of castle with my camera and tripod so I could photograph Holiday Wishes.  While we waited we got to view The Magic, the Memories and You, where they play music and show pictures of people in the park throughout the day, they did use holiday colors on the castle for this show.  Holiday Wishes were really nice, though Disney always has great fireworks, I particularly liked the colors they used.

Our last event of the night was the Christmas show in front of the castle.  Another nice little show and a chance to see the characters in holiday garb.  After that we decided to head back to the hotel.

One disapointment was a lack of Christmas Party merchandise, we only saw 2 T-Shirts and they weren’t anything special.  But the party is great if you would like to get photos with characters, there are some special characters and if you go early the lines aren’t as bad.  When I saw Captain Jack Sparrow he only had a few people in line waiting.

There are a couple benefits of ticketed events like this; low crowds, cookies, hot chocolate, special parade, special fireworks and some other shows.  I’m not sure the $60 price tag is worth it.  I enjoyed the event, as did Terye, and I’m glad I went.  But, if I return to Disney during Christmas in the next few years I would probably skip it.  But I do think it’s fun for a first timer.

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Feb 15

Disney World Tours

On my last trip to Disney World in October of 2008 Terye and I did two tours. The first was the Keys to the Kingdom tour, the second was a Segway Tour of World Showcase at EPCOT.

The Keys to the Kingdom tour is a 4 and a half hour tour where you learn some of the secrets of Walt Disney World (primarily the Magic Kingdom) and get to see some backstage stuff at the park. The tour starts on Main Street and our guide, Johnnie, showed us some of the names in the windows and told us the origins of those names. We learned about the 4 “keys” – Safety, Show, Courtesy, and Efficiency. Here are some examples of these: Safety – when they do bag checks at the park entrance they are looking for glass (among other things) – glass cuts people when it breaks. Courtesy – You’ll notice that cast members use a 2 fingered point, it’s apparently friendlier then the one fingered point. Show – cast members use the Utiladoors to move from land to land at the Magic Kingdom, you’ll never see a cast member from Fronteir Land in Tomorrow Land. Efficiency – you’ll notice that menues have limited choices at the parks and resorts, it makes it easier and faster for you to choose your meal. We went backstage in the area between Adventure Land and Fronteir Land. This is the area where they keep and service parade floats – we got to see many of the parade floats being tested. We got to ride Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, and had a nice lunch at Harbor House. At the end of the tour we finally got to see the Utilador, which was very exciting. There is a whole network of underground tunnels under the Magic Kingdom which allows cast members and stuff to move around the park without being seen. They’re similar to something you would go through if you worked at a major sporting arena (that’s the best example I have since I worked in one,) but with just a little bit of a Disney flare to it. An interesting fact for all you recyclers out there. Although Disney does not have recycling bins in the parks, they do sort all garbage by hand, so rest assured that your cans will be recycled.

It was a great tour, Terye and I really did enjoy it. It was a little over 4 and a half hours. It does involve a fair amount of walking, but we did have many breaks from the walking, sometimes with the chance to sit down. If anyone is interested in the tour though I suggest doing it after you have spent a day or two in the Magic Kingdom so that you can better enjoy the tour.

The following day we did the Around the World on a Segway tour at EPCOT’S World Showcase. This is a 2 hour tour. The first hour is spent learning to ride a Segway, which is a lot of fun. The next hour you get a guided tour of World Showcase with one break in the middle. We rode through most of the “countries” and got some tidbits of infomation about them. It was nice to get to see World Showcase without people in it, you could appreciate things a little more, too bad we weren’t able to take pictures while riding the Segways. The Segways were sooooo much fun to ride. I wanted one after the tour, though I don’t think one would be very useful in my regular life. I will warn that they really do kill the feet and legs. You can’t really move your feet around when you’re on the segway since you use your legs and feet to control it. Although I wanted to go longer on it, I don’t think my feet could do much more. Next time I’ll have to try the Segway tour at Fort Wilderness.

Feb 08

Walt Disney World – All Star Sports

In October of 2008 I went to Disney World for a week with my friend Terye. Since we didn’t anticipate spending much time in the hotel room we decided to stay at a value resort. After researching them I knew that the All Star Sports resorts had recently been refurbished, so we decided to stayed there. We stayed in a Surf building near the pool, this is a “preferred building” at the resort.

I wasn’t overly impressed with the resort, though most of that has to do with what Terye and I anticipated we would be doing. The room size was on the small side, which we knew and wasn’t a big deal. It was just fine for 2 adult girls – not sure how 2 adults with 2 kids deal though. I liked the layout of the bathroom though, with the tub and toilet in the room and the sink separate. But the lighting was HORRIBLE. I’m lucky I didn’t look like a clown when I went out. Terye hated the programming on the TV, though it’s really not surprising what they had. Every ABC, Disney and ESPN channel that ever existed, and that was about it. Ok, they did also have the other basic channels – NBC, CBS, Fox.

The dining wasn’t anything to write home about. There is just the end-zone food court, which I didn’t think would bother me so much. But the pizza sucked (which meant I wasn’t into any of the Italian foods). The grilled food was just ok, the one breakfast I had wasn’t that fresh. Terye and I had at least 1 sit down meal a day and this just didn’t really fit in with our dining habits. After a long day at the parks we liked sitting down and having a nice meal at a restaurant, instead we were stuck with a mediocre quick meal. Fortunately we had dinner reservations somewhere else most nights.

The biggest disappointment was the lack of hot tub. I’m not a huge hot tub person, but after a long day in the parks it would have been wonderful to dip into one, but they didn’t have one. I don’t know how I missed this, but if I had realized it we might have chosen a different resort. Also, the pool was large, but was often packed with hordes of kids, especially at night. I was shocked by how late parents were keeping their kids up at night. There would be kids running around the pool area at 11pm.

In short, I would recommend the All Star Sports resort for people on a budget and only if there are 2 or 3 people in the room. Or for people just going down for a couple days and will be using it as a place to sleep, not for people who are looking for a resort experience.