Category Archives: Disney

Diz Piks!

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In no particular order… Some pics from December’s Disney Trip!

Planning Your Disney Cruises – Starting Out, Setting Sail

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I wrote an article for the fun and informative Disney site Fat Hobbit! Here’s an excerpt, but you should really go there and read it all!

Upper Decker, DuskYou’re curious about a Disney Cruise but you have a lot of questions: What’s the best ship to choose? Can adults survive on cruise ship full of kids? Can kids survive boredom while in the middle of the sea? Is it all burgers and chips dining? Where can I pet a dolphin? Stick with me, kid, I’ll show you the ropes!

First, I’m going to tell you about the basics: the “where”, the “how” and “how much?” and in future articles I’ll get to all these questions and more. So let’s get right to it, shall we?


Set Sail!

Let’s start at an easy point: Where do you want to go? Disney has mirrored its itineraries with all the other major cruise lines out there, so there’s no real surprises in where they go. Currently Disney travels to Alaska, the California Coast, Bahamas, Canada, Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, the Mexican Riviera, Europe and a Transatlantic cruise too. Their site can give you the rundown on each destination. Since every cruise line uses the same ports that can accommodate the big ships, there’s not much difference in terms of destinations between Disney and the other guys.

How does Disney compete in the cutthroat cruise business?

Continue Reading Over on Fat Hobbit!

So Long, Not So Long!

501st, Disney, Toronto, Travel 3 Replies

UntitledI rarely apologize for anything that goes up here. But I feel I do have to apologize for not putting ANYTHING up here in a while. No empty promises that I’ll “do better”, just hope you’ll keep me in your RSS feed.

What has been happening with me? A few things…

Our Xmas Disney trip continues to steamroll ahead. Two weeks ago we passed the “reservation threshold” where we are no able to make dinner reservations in the park. Since we chose to take the free dining plan (after an email sent to me in error from the Disney Corp offering free meals to American residents, we called and wrangled that out of them – alas I won’t be getting those emails any more), we’ve been booking fun and fancy places to dine all over The World. Back to the Sci Fi Drive In! Kona toasts! Le Cellier for lunch (that was a hard one to get. Took us a couple tries.)!

Last weekend we counted our twonies and loonies and discovered that we’re already saved up enough pocket change to afford the base model rental car for the vacation. We’re continuing to save so anything we get from here on in will be an upgrade. Wee!

We’re starting to think about reserving excursions for the cruise. Possibly back to the Atlantis water park, possibly some sort of “pet a seal/dolphin/poisonous sea anemone”, but I’d be happy with just wandering the streets of Nassau taking pictures. Whatever we do, it will be fun! Of course Castaway Cay will be spent at the Adult Beach with NOTHING TO DO. I. Can’t. Friggin’. Wait.

Two last big hurdles: paying off the balance (owchie) and getting our flights finalize. Since we’re going Toronto >> Orlando >> Burlington VT >> Toronto we’ve got some options, including a credit on JetBlue airlines ALREADY for a revised flight. So we’re thinking of leaving from Buffalo to use up the credit. This is still being hotly debated: will we make it to the airport on time if the weather is crap? Will the bus be gross (duh!)? Will JetBlue bump us again? We shall see…

Two weeks ago I was accepted into the 501st – Canadian Garrison! You are now reading the blog of “TD 6595”, my call numbers, based on my birthday and a number I thought sounded ok after. I couldn’t get the one I wanted (EDWH – Dad’s initials. Pouty face) so I settled for “ease of use”. I’ve already trooped with some of the guys at the Toronto Autism Walk a couple weekends ago. My next trooping is with the guys at ComiCon in August. Enough time to get my gun set up… I hope…

I’d talk about Pride, but to be honest I don’t really care about it – we haven’t made any plans nor have we been invited anywhere so… meh. SharkBoy and I will be walking around a few times over the weekend but mostly to get some fun pictures. I should feel political, what with our fat, stupid, homophobic mayor insisting he has other obligations than attend a function that brings in millions of dollars into his city (which I’m convinced he actually hates – scroll down to June 15th). Sigh. I could go on. The world is watching. And I’m embarrassed.


You Like to Watch – The 6 Best People Watching Spots at Disney

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This sounds like a no brainer, right? Watching people in one of the most crowded places in the northern hemisphere should be easy. Stop. Look. Done. But you can do it in style and/or in comfort. And here’s where I take you to some of the best spots within The World. Hold my hand! Weee!

6. Downtown Disney. Back when Pleasure Island was a tight knit group of nightclubs, sitting on the sidelines at night was a great place to watch people behave badly within the World. Now, with the clubs closed due to escalating violence (See? See??) DTD isn’t much of a party. However, there is one fantastic pressure point around DTD that when pushed, creates explosive drama: I’m talking about money! Sit near the Legoland shop and see the tears flow as parents pull kids away from the vats of bricks. Sit near the Disney Vacation Club kiosks and see adults argue about just how much points they can afford. Sit over by the Christmas Shop and watch people recall horrid holiday meltdowns. One other plus about this place is that it’s full of Florida locals too, since there’s no cover to get in. And if you’ve ever watched 10 minutes of local Orlando news, you know the heat makes you do/wear crazy things.

Perfectly Perfect5. Epcot: The Pavilions. Literally any place you stand or sit within the World Showcase area of EPCOT will provide you with a merry-go-round of people and their wonderful emotions. Areas of note: Mexico and Germany are more “drinky” than most spots so if you’re hanging out there, you’re going to see some hot messes, especially if it’s warm out and the $15 tequila shots are flowing! The gardens outside France, nearer to the bridge is a nice place to sit – it’s a bit of a bottle neck from England on to the other pavilions, and offers some nice tree shade.

4. Behind the Castle. People stream through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle constantly – it’s a rite of passage (ha!). But if you’ve just walked through the castle from the hub, hang a left and plop yourself near Cinderella’s fountain. If you’re lucky you’ll see the Three Ugly Sisters with Lady Tremaine, who schtick I could watch for hours. Also, you get to judge the tiny princesses coming out of the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique. “Oh honey… this ain’t Toddlers and Tiaras.”

Chug chug3. Atop the Liberty Belle. Be first in line for the riverboat, claw your way up the stairs and plant yourself on the top deck, centre, for fantastic human views. You’ll slowly pass people devouring turkey legs and greeting characters (which is another post…). As the ride passes Big Thunder Mountain, try to get people to wave at you. My fave new park pastime is getting photos of people’s faces on rides. The Liberty Belle offers a fantastic spot where you’re nearly level with the roller coaster, right after they hit a hair pin turn. After that, sit and relax for the rest of the ride. SEE VIDEO BELOW!

2. Writer’s Stop. Tucked in between the Sci-Fi Dine In Theater and the narrow walkway onto the Streets of America, there is a small coffee shop called the Writer’s Stop cafe. It’s so small (and up some stairs if you’re coming from the SoA side) that most people miss it as they’re zipping by. Grab yourself a carrot cake cookie (Cream cheese filling? OHMYFUCKINGGOD!!) and sit in the narrow window in the front. Watch people try to get reservations at the Sci Fi Diner (that’s another post…) or try to figure out where the hell they are in the park. That corner seems to be spot where people get lost (that’s another post…). It’s also possible to see random Star Wars characters wandering too and fro. As SharkBoy says: Chibooki!

Castle view from the Tomorrowland Transportation Authority1. Tomorrowland Transit Authority. Some would say the lamest ride ever. But I say it’s the best 20 minutes of fantastic bald patch counting in the entire world. The ride is high up above the crowd so your judgmental gaze is literally unseen and you’re whisked past some awesome people rest spots, like the toilets outside Space Mountain. Mark my words, I’ve seem some awesome melt downs there (that’s another post…).

Honorable Mention: Disneyland. I don’t talk about DL much because I’ve only been there twice but know that there are two rocking chairs on a porch midway along Main Street USA. Get there early, grab a muffin and a tea and watch the people stumble over the trolley tracks to get to Star Tours first. You’ll be glad you did.

UPDATE! I forgot my husband did a fantastic video of the Liberty Belle:

The Top 10 Dead Zones of Walt Disney World

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A few weeks back I read a post on a Disney forum from a woman asking where in The World a nice private place to propose to her girlfriend would be. There were some good responses (mine’s below) and that got me to thinking: WDW boasts that they have more land than they know what to do with, so where are the most under used bits within all the parks?

I want to share with you some of the more vapid areas of the beloved World: places that might not be the busiest they could be. Not necessarily un-fun, just unpopulated.

10. The dock between Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and Tomorrowland. If’ you’re standing in front of the castle, at “2:oo” there is a spoke that runs out into the back ends of Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. There is a little path that leads down to a covered “dock” where very few people venture to (see illustration). However, the last time SharkBoy and I were there, we saw about 30 Brazilians napping under the awning. Weird. But endearing!

9. The back end of Camp MinnieMickey. Walk into the camp, past Pocahontas Story Time theatre, past the Lion King theatre and its exit, you’ll find a nice quiet area near the queues for the Mickey/Minnie/Goofy character greets. So quiet is this area that you can grab a nap or make a private call. They do have a wandering minstrel who sings improvised camp songs on a wireless headset, so the place does get a bit sing-y every so often, but for the most part, it’s a nice landscaped area to enjoy a quiet moment.

8. Paths beside The Tree of Life. The snakey paths in and around the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom do offer some privacy from time to time. The paths are excellent short cuts to Africa if you want to by-pass Asia or get right to Camp MinnieMickey from the entrance or a great way to get lost trying to get to “It’s Tough to be a Bug”. So you will see people on the paths but they’ll be rushing past for the most part. Take a moment and look up at the tree and revel in the fact that you’re looking at an old decommissioned Mexican oil rig covered in slooshy cement animals.

7. The exit of Dinosaur. As you exit Dinosaur there is a very large underused dinosaur garden in and around the ride. Sure there’s kids mindlessly running around roaring like long lost reptiles, but they clear out fast when the parents realize they need to move on to the next thing. Also, there is a great set of underused water fountains there that I suspect is 90% kid slobber free. Drink up!

6. Streets of America. I mentioned this in the last numbers game, but I have to say again that the area near the San Fransisco mural, near the Singing In the Rain photo op, is possibly the only quiet area in all of Hollywood Studios. Unfortunately it’s not the prettiest. Just some billboards for ABC shows or upcoming features in the park.

5. Most areas between country pavilions, EPCOT. There is about a 5 to 10m “dead zone” between each pavilion in Epcot, put there to ease the transitions between countries. Some have character greets stationed there, some are smoking sections and a couple have inviting benches. On the opposite side of the walkway, lake side, there are always spots for you to hold up and watch the ducks swim by. Nearer to Italy, there is an area with faux gondolas and a small dock/bridge that goes out over the water. It’s away from most of the crowd and has a great view of the lake.

4. Morocco. This pavilion is a maze.  when you enter, just to your left, is a small exhibit of Moroccan clothing within a “typical” house courtyard. Follow that around and you will come across a Fez shop and a very popular restaurant. Search out the Aladdin photo op background and if there’s no characters, you can actually plop yourself down on the pillows and enjoy a moment to yourself.

3. The boat docks on any Seven Seas Lagoon hotel. There may be one or two adventurous families waiting with you on these docks, burnt out from taking the Monorail around the loop to get to Magic Kingdom, but for the most part, the boat service is greatly under utilized with the Deluxe hotels. They are a bit far and few between, you might be waiting for a little while to catch a boat, but if you’re in no rush, it’s a great, mellow way to get to the park. Take a moment to do a panoramic turn and see just how much land Disney owns…

2. The Wonders of Life, EPCOT. Shut in 2001, this pavilion behind Universe of Energy seems to have been doomed from the start. Wonders of Life was the first pavilion to get a thrill ride installed (Body Wars, long since gone) but it lost its sponsor and started a slow journey into obscurity. Disney tried to pump some action into it with a fat-shaming exhibit that was taken away as quickly as it was announced – apparently the tone was too harsh for some child-rearing critic. The pavilion is used for the home base for rotating functions like the Flower and Garden show or the Food and Wine show, but mostly it just stands behind Mission: Space unused, gathering dust. However the landscape is still kept up so that makes it a great place to chill out away from the NASCAR families running to Test Track.

1. The two rocking chairs just below Fort Langhorn, on Tom Sawyer Island. This was my suggestion to the lesbian couple mentioned at the top of the post. Over on Tom Sawyer Island, there are lots of spots to sit and relax. For example, where they park the Liberty Bell when not in use was going to be a small restaurant/snack bar with ample seating area, now only populated with rocking chairs that look out onto the Haunted Mansion queue. But that’s not the spot. If you walk towards Fort Langhorn, and keep to the left of the structure, you will find a small path that leads to a dock with just two rocking chairs on it, overlooking the more curvacious run of Big Thunder Mountain. SharkBoy and I found these chairs and sat for a spell. It was one of those quiet spots within the World, amongst the crazy, the crowds, the loud, where you can actually clearly hear an uncredited Imagineer say “You’re Welcome!”


The Top 7 Pukey-est Rides at Walt Disney World

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Most of us have an excellent inner ear. As I get older, mine is becoming overworked, like Michael J Fox in front of a Dance Central Kinect game. I’ve found that in the years that I’ve been going to Disney World (and Land), I’m becoming progressively more susceptible to wanting to vomit on certain rides. Yay! Incentive to travel with me!

So hang on kids, we’re going to spin this mother out!

7. Star Tours. I’ve felt discomfort on this ride once, only after SharkBoy mentioned that he felt REALLY sick after we rode it 3 times in a row. And it really wasn’t a motion sickness kind of ill, no it was more like “If I have to pass by that $150 statue of C3PO in the giftshop one more time and not be able to afford it, I will barf in a fanboy sadness” kind of ill. Despite that, I could have gone 4 more times. The 3D is much better than the original, but I do miss Pee Wee Herman’s little robot voice.

6. It’s A Small World. Aguh! That song! Ha! You know I had to mention it. But seriously, why is all the world represented within Florida’s ride EXCEPT FOR CANADA? That makes me sick. At least California’s ride has a Mountie wedged in between Uganda and Sweden. Seriously!

5. The Mad Tea Party Teacups Ride. The ride is simple. Your cup spins in a clockwise direction while the floor spins in a counter-clockwise direction. You’d think the opposing movement would counteract any kind of dizzying factor. No. Afterwards the need to chunder yawn is quite great. And it doesn’t help that Cosmic Ray’s deep fried goo is wafting over in the direction of the exit to the ride.

4. Mission: Space. Sure you can choose “Less Intense” or the full on experience, but you’ll not escape the fact that you’re still spinning around in a circle to recreate any level of G force. The first time I did this ride I thought I was seriously going to faint – but weirdly enough not until I was well outside the ride, walking down the long hallway to the gift shop (no expensive robots for sale this time). To take my mind off projecting my breakfast at an alarming rate, I started to sing Chris Cross’ “Sailing (Theme From Aurthur)“. Seriously, you’d think it would have some sort of opposite effect but it worked. I’ve since tried both ride variations and depending on how greasy my breakfast was that morning, the level of pukeiness varies.

3. Rockin’ Rollercoaster. Dark. Fast. Corkscrew loop de loop. Aerosmith screaming in your ear. ‘Nuff said.

2. Tower of Terror. Not so much vomity, more like “pit of your stomach visiting your throat” kind of feel. Combine the entire lead up story with the actual ride and you have a recipe for spew.  The ride is no less awesome because of this, though. Personally, this ride hits all my panic buttons more so than any other ride in WDW. To this day I will never forget the “legs getting chopped in half” scene in Damien: Omen 2.

1. Expedition Everest. Always… always… the same spot. I can pinpoint it with perfect clarity. The spot where I want to open my mouth and eject the contents of my stomach. “Where?” you say? As soon as the coaster starts into it’s backward run, as soon as we’re plunged into darkness, there is a low and long curved dip that goes down, in reverse and circular clockwise direction. When we enter into the chamber where the Yeti tears up the track a la Tibetan shadow puppetry, I literally miss the rest of the ride trying not to barf on my fellow Expeditioners. After a while the feeling goes away but it usually takes a nice calm walk through the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

Honorable Mention: Disneyland’s Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin – while the ride will make you sick, the constant announcements that you should not be sitting on the railings will make you ill.

The Top 5 Rides Disney World Could Bulldoze And No One Would Notice

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Two hundred and fourty five. That’s how many days from today we have to prepare for our Disney Cruise and Park vacation and I’m going to start offering up my opinion about The World and all that makes me love/hate it.

Let me get the glaring joke about the title out of the way first: I am sure that postbear will look at the title and say “ALL OF THEM”. Okay that’s done.

Here’s my list of rides that are of no value at all to guest experience. This doesn’t mean I don’t like them or that they’re not fun, I’m suggesting that maybe over time, they’ve lost their spark or that they were last minute ideas implemented without thought of how time would treat their existence. Here we go, in order of Meh to Wah!

5. Rafiki’s Planet Watch. If you’ve never been to this pavilion, I would recommend you sit it out. The train ride alone was created by someone in the Disney Imagineering department who has way more patience than your average person. First, you wait for a train to bring you to the pavilion. And wait. And after what seems like a lifetime of waiting, you wait some more. When the train does arrive, you and a few hundred strollers jam their way onto the small train. The seats are similar to Disneyland in that you’re sitting looking “inward” to the park and parts of the service roads that supply the Animal Kingdom’s vast veterinary areas. You’d think that would be interesting to see, but they’re basically parking lots and square buildings. Once at the station, you have a good 5 minute walk to the pavilion, which admittedly is a nice trek, but the payoff is a let-down. The building is interesting – full of animal facts and real veterinary bays where doctors actually work on poorly animals, but you can scoot through all this in 20 minutes. If your child is fully engulfed in RCS (Restless Child Syndrome) then that means another 20 min wait for the train to get back.

4. Studio Back Lot Tour. This Tour should be an exciting lesson in how movies are made, yet the inclusion of Michael Bay talking up Pearl Harbor makes my lunch come burbling back up. Example: In describing the Tram part of the tour, Wikipedia states without any sense of irony: “A highlight in the building is the room full of tires used for the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.” A. Room. Full. Of. Tires. There are gems you get to see while on the ride, like the vehicle boneyard (The skip from Return of the Jedi!! The sun-faded ship from Flight of the Navigator!!) and they do take you through the costuming department of the park which is a glimmer of how “Studio-esque” Disney use to be in Florida. But then you’re shuttled through a  part of the ride where you’re scalded and wetted, much like the Universal/old Earthquake ride, sans The Rock. I know you’re going to say that this ride is integral to the whole “studio” theming of DHS and taking it away would make the park less “Hollywood”. To which I agree and realize this whole point could have been avoided if Disney just got rid of the Michael Bay video at the beginning.

3. Streets of America. Once part of The Studio Backlot Tour, it’s now just a round-about way of getting to The Muppet/Phineas and Ferb attractions stuck in behind Star Tours. Don’t get me wrong here, I like this area – the “set” is amazing, but it seems rather underused. They could fill it with a small parade or street performers or more character greets, instead of being a lengthy, mood killing transition between two arms of the park. Occasionally you’ll see characters along these empty fake streets, but they’re transitioning with you – on their way to their stations, which does add to a feeling of discovery but there’s usually nothing back there. Mimes would certainly jazz up the place.

2. The Great Movie Ride. This has to be the weirdest ride in all of Disney World. And I mean this across all it’s parks. Originally it was going to be a pavilion at Epcot but Michael Esiner thought that it would make a great basis for an entire theme park and thus, Disney Hollywood Studios (nee Disney/MGM Studios) was created. The ride that spawned a park has guests sitting on long church-like benches as a narrator gushes about how terrific movies are, while slowly being dragged past recreated movie scenes with animatronics: think “It’s a  Small World” ride infused with “Jungle Cruise” but with utterly unfunny jokes. Some of the animatronics were freshened up 10 years ago and the rest are still running well 23 years on, but depending on where you sit and how late in their shift the ride narrators are, you will always have a different ride. If you’re in the back rows of whatever ride vehicle you get, the Narrator will always sound like “Rrrarrrarlovemooorrvviesrarrarrra…” Past the be-horsed John Wayne, past the robotic Clint Eastwood, I always shake my head when the Narrator, now replaced with (spoiler!) a 30s Gangster or a cornball Cowboy, has to drive us through the set of Alien. The two genres slammed together are so incongruent my brain crawls into the furthest reaches of my skull. The ride remains a tomb to how movies will never be made ever again. It’s also the perfect example how Hollywood licensing will screw everything that is cool and fun into a ball of incomprehensible garbage. On the upside – It’s one of the very few high volume rides that doesn’t exit into a gift shop!

1. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Know that this is the ONLY ride in all of Magic Kingdom I have a beef with. First of all, it’s stuck within an area that without the ride, use to blend seamlessly from British colony structures, to Caribbean flair. Disney stuck an “Arabian” gift shop smack dab inbetween the Indiana Jones merch (Where… is… Oh right, the Jungle Cruise is pretty Indiana Jones) and the Tiki Room to try to transition the surrounding structures but it’s still a big old eyesore. I think I hate it because it’s a regular ride you’d find with any travelling toothless carney caravan. Okay Dumbo is exactly the same, but wait until you see the new Dumbo opening now in the Fantasyland expansion. Mind blowing opulence. Even though Disney plussed the ride with a spitting camel and brightly coloured theming, you can’t disguise that it’s a regular, fairground ride.