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January 19, 2011

"Let the Memories Begin" Kick-Off

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As you may have read, Disney is christening its newest ship, the Disney Dream, on January 19. As a precursor to the christening ceremony and cruise, a special event was held Tuesday night in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom for an assortment of guests, including members of the media, who were also treated to a briefing on what's new and what's next in the parks as Disney launches their new "Let the Memories Begin" campaign.

Many of the plans discussed at the briefing were announced earlier in the day, but the briefing, and the subsequent interviews we were able to conduct later, shed a little more light on them.

The briefing began at the Philharmagic Theater, with Al Weiss, president of Worldwide Operations, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Weiss stated that there were more projects in the works than ever before in the company's history and recapped additions to Disney parks around the world.

Weiss then introduced Walt Disney World Resort's president Meg Crofton, who officially kicked off the "Let the Memories Begin" campaign by talking about how memories were at the core of everything they do at the parks.

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"Ultimately it's not about the bricks and mortar," she noted. "Every time we add an element we think about the emotional experiences we're creating."

Crofton detailed several recent park additions or new "immersive experiences", such as the Wild Africa Trek experience which started a few days ago at Disney's Animal Kingdom. She also highlighted such features as the interactive queue area at The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, and the new "Tangled" Play and greet that allows children to play with Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder.

As she revealed that the renovated attraction "Star Tours" would reopen on May 20 - in 3D -- Crofton also had the chance to tease the audience a bit. Imposing music from the "Star Wars" films began to play, announcing the arrival of Imperial Stormtroopers and Darth Vader himself. "Now that's what I call 3D," Crofton joked as the villain and his entourage strode out of the theater.

Eric Jacobson, Senior Vice President of Creative Development, Walt Disney Imagineering, then took the stage to outline some of the major changes coming to Fantasyland as part of its current expansion project. Some of the changes were previously announced last year, like Under the Sea: Journey of The Little Mermaid, but there were several new attractions just announced today.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will feature first-of-its-kind ride technology that allows the cars to swing back and forth a bit as it takes riders both inside and outside on a journey starring the Dwarfs and even Snow White. The Scary Adventures of Snow White will close as a result, but on its site will be the new Princess Fairytale Hall, which will host a variety of princesses, including the newer members of the royal family, Tiana and Rapunzel. Finally, fans of the gentle coaster, Goofy's Barnstormer in Toontown will be happy to hear that it is being slightly rethemed, but will still feature Goofy. Redubbed The Great Goofini, . the storyline will have Goofy as a stunt pilot who is part of the Storybook Circus, new home to Dumbo All of these attractions will start "rolling out" in late 2012.

You can watch Deb Wills speak with Jacobson about the Fantasyland changes below:

Alan Bruun, associate creative director at Walt Disney World Entertainment, was tasked with introducing the new 10-minute castle show that is tied to the Let the Memories Begin campaign.

"The Magic, The Memories, and You," features photos of visitors to Walt Disney World taken during the day, and then projected on the castle in the evening. This basic description, however, fails to take into account the special effects also used to create an almost 3D effect and bring the castle to life.

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According to Bruun, as many as 500 photos shot during the day will be projected onto the castle -- but these photos are all selected individually, in a process that Bruun says involves as much 'high touch" as high tech, and then are interwoven into a "story" that tells the guests' experience.

After dinner in Frontierland and desserts in front of the castle, we had the chance to see the new show first-hand. I was skeptical at first as to whether watching photos of strangers would be entertaining at all. But after viewing the show, I must say I was pleasantly surprised and impressed. Some of the special effects are simply amazing, the music is stirring and of course the finale with fireworks is the perfect end to any show. I don't want to ruin all the surprises, but if you don't mind spoilers, we recorded the show here:


Tomorrow is a whole new kind of experience for me, as we take to the "high seas" and I get my first taste of cruising on the brand new Disney Dream! We'll have lots of photos and hopefully we'll get the chance to write a bit, if our luck with the internet holds out.

Follow Deb Wills and me on Twitter as we send mini-updates whenever we can:

Deb Wills = @AllEarsDeb
Deb Koma = @dcdeb_allears

January 20, 2011

First Photos from the Disney Dream

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Well, here we are at Castaway Cay! It's a gorgeous day, and we've been so busy -- there is so much to see! The ship is immense, and we're taking photos like crazy, but this is the first time we've been able to get online. I'm just going to share some random photos for you to whet your appetite... we'll have much, much more tomorrow!

Entering Ship

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Our State Room

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Oceaneer's Club

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Nemo's Pod (Kid's Play area)

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Lounge at The District

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Wild Boar at Royal Palace Restaurant

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January 23, 2011

Disney Dream -- Dining Overview

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If you're like me, one of the best parts of any vacation is finding new places to eat. Well, we found lots to enjoy on our too-short stay on the new Disney Dream.

For families, the Dream offers your basic fast-food options at Cabanas and Flo's Cafe, with counters themed after various characters from the Disney-Pixar film "Cars," both located on Deck 11.

Cabanas is a food court, with 16 specialized food stations, each designed like a beach cabana with colorful awnings. Disney details decorate the area, including a flock of seagulls from the Disney-Pixar animated film "Finding Nemo." Two hand-crafted mosaic tile walls -- each more than 25 feet in length -- depict an underwater scene from "Finding Nemo." In the evenings, the restaurant transforms into a table-service casual dining experience, where dinner entrees are cooked to order.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some photos to give you an idea of the area and the fare.

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Flo's Cafe, which includes Luigi's Pizza, Fillmore's Favorites and Tow Mater Grill, is for those looking for a quick bite to eat near Donald's Pool on Deck 11. Pizza, sandwiches, and the like are on the bills of fare.

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There are also frozen treats available in the Donald's Pool area on Deck 11. Eye Scream (with a Monsters Inc. theme) and Frozone Treats (The Incredibles) feature ice cream and smoothies, respectively.

When it comes to table service restaurants, the Dream has several moderate spots that range from simple to elegant.

The Enchanted Garden is a casual restaurant inspired by the gardens of Versailles. By day, the restaurant feels like a brightly lit conservatory, not unlike Walt Disney World's Crystal Palace. There are trellises with green arches, and custom glass "flower" light fixtures drop down from above. More than 600 light panels arch across the ceiling like a glass canopy.

At night, the ambience magically transforms to an evening scene with a twinkling field of stars overhead. The light-fixture flowers "bloom" and become infused with color, wall sconces open to become beautiful folding fans, paintings are illuminated in a nighttime perspective and the centerpiece fountain is basked in shimmering light.

Breakfast and lunch are buffet, dinner is full-service, with specialties such as grilled New York strip steak, pan-seared sea bass and lobster ravioli.

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Royal Palace is inspired by classic Disney films like "Cinderella," "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Sleeping Beauty." There's a hand-blown centerpiece chandelier with glass slippers and marble floors, and gold accents around the room.

At Royal Palace, guests feast on dishes such as lobster and jumbo shrimp, escargot, Dijon-roasted rack of lamb and beef tenderloin with lobster medallions. The wine list features an excellent selection of Old World wines. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at this restaurant.

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Animator's Palate is a "re-imagined" version of the signature Disney Cruise Line restaurant that brings the magic of Disney animation into the dining room. The venue is decorated with an animator motif, reinforced by pillars throughout the restaurant fashioned like huge pencils and brushes. There are character sketches, maquettes (three-dimensional character models), film strips and other tools of the animation trade. Scenes and characters from popular Disney and Disney-Pixar films adorn the walls. As a special nod to Mickey Mouse, the contemporary dining room features red and yellow colors and a trademark design -- Mickey Mouse pants with two bright yellow buttons.

But after diners are seated, the restaurant is transformed: You're magically transported to an undersea world with views of a coral reef all around, setting the stage for a special visit from Crush, the sea turtle from the Disney-Pixar film "Finding Nemo." More than 100 video monitors on the walls of the restaurant are involved in the dinner show experience. Crush character swims from window to window, "working the room," engaging guests in real-time conversation about his life and world.

The cuisine combines fresh flavors with culinary flair, with selections such as smoked salmon tartare, stir-fry vegetables, lemon-thyme chicken and a trio of veal. Wines from California and the Pacific Rim complement the menu.

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Of course, you can always dine in your room. Room service offers you the chance to feast on fresh, made-to-order meals in the comfort of your stateroom.

But if you're looking for something a little more refined, the Dream can accommodate you. Two "adult" dining options are sure to please.

I was lucky enough to dine at Palo the second night of our two-night cruise. I knew from reading about Disney's Magic and Wonder that Palo was an upscale Italian restaurant exclusively for adults, but I had no idea that the whole experience there would be so special.

Palo features a semi-circular design, with floor-to-ceiling windows and raised banquettes along one side. Custom art, warm wood tones and rich red, green and gold jewel tones create a refined, Italian-inspired décor.

Palo features both antipasti selections and six different kinds of pizzas to start with. It also has fresh pastas, seafoods and meats prepared with Italian touches. Desserts include classic tiramisù and Palo's signature chocolate soufflé, which I must admit is worth the half-hour wait it takes to prepare!

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Finally, there is Remy. Remy, Remy, Remy. While I didn't have the chance to experience an actual meal in this exclusive restaurant, billed as the Disney Cruise Line's first-ever premier dining spot, I did attend a private tasting there, which allowed me a glimpse of the decor and a few bites of what's on offer.

From the outset, you know this is a special place. Dining at Remy requires an additional charge of $75 per person, in addition to the cost of wine and alcoholic beverages. Wine pairings selected from the French list are an additional $99. Plus there's a dress code that requires men to wear a dress jacket, dress pants and shoes (ties are optional). For the ladies, cocktail dresses, evening dresses, pant suits or dressy skirts and blouses are the options.

Located on Deck 12 Aft, across from Palo, Remy features French-inspired, gourmet cuisine by two award-winning chefs, Chef Arnaud Lallement from l'Assiette Champenoise, a Michelin two-star restaurant just outside Reims, France, and Chef Scott Hunnel from award-winning Victoria & Albert's at Walt Disney World Resort. The entire concept is executed by executive chef Patrick Albert.

The decor borrows, subtly, from the hit Disney-Pixar film "Ratatouille." The softly lit main dining room with seating for 80 is designed in art nouveau style, while the famous Remy character is subtly and artfully integrated into the design of the upholstery. A private Chef's Table dining room, Chez Gusteau (inspired by the fictional Paris restaurant in "Ratatouille"), seats eight. Guests also may be seated in the glass-walled wine room, Remy's Vault, amid more than 900 bottles of wine.

Dinner at Remy starts with a signature chilled Taittinger Champagne cocktail made tableside, followed by eight to nine small courses complemented by a stellar wine list. Menu items include smoked bison with fennel salad and blood oranges; lobster with vanilla, bisque and lobster roe foam; wild loup de mer; Australian Wagyu; a tomato tart with Parmesan espuma; coastal turbot with vin jaune sauce and gnocchi, and young pigeon pie with foie gras, spinach and tomato. Desserts include a vanilla-poached pear and a dark chocolate praline with cocoa sherbet.

From Remy's Vault, 22 wines are selected as the best of the best, presented by white-gloved sommeliers in an elegant velvet box that opens like a book with the name of each wine engraved on a silver-plated plaque. The list includes a 1947 Château Cheval Blanc, another nod to "Ratatouille" (the wine requested by the movie's food critic). Considered one of the best vintages in the world, a single bottle of Château Cheval Blanc retails for $25,000.

As you can see, dining on the Disney Dream, does indeed range from the sublime to the ridiculous!


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You can find the menus for many of these restaurants HERE. (More menus are being added daily, as fast as I can type!)

NOTE: Members of the AllEars Team were invited on this media cruise, which was paid for by the Disney Company.

January 29, 2011

Disney Dream - Kids' Activity Centers Overview

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Families vacationing with children of any age are familiar with the many associated perils -- from the refrains of "Are we there yet?" and "I'm bored!" from the older kids, to the disasters of running out of formula, or baby food, or diapers in the younger ones.

You need not worry about encountering these dangers on the Disney Dream, which clearly illustrates how Disney has listened and responded to guests' concerns and suggestions for improvements.

Disney has a special space for every age group, and each has its own unique characteristics.

"it's a small world" Nursery

Starting with a place for the littlest ones, there's the "it's a small world" Nursery. Located on Deck 5 midship, infants and toddlers ages 3 months to 3 years can enjoy a whimsical world inspired by the classic Disney theme park attraction and original artwork by Disney Legend Mary Blair.

A boat in the center of the room "floats" on a river pattern along the soft-surface floor and is surrounded by colorful, kid-sized tables and chairs for toddlers to enjoy crafts, books and games.

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Upon entering the nursery, which operates until 1 a.m., parents and children can meet and interact with counselors. Parents wishing to check on their children without disturbing them can glimpse into the nursery's main play area through a one-way window. The ratio of counselors to children here is the government-mandated 1:6.

In the nursery's main play area, children are surrounded by three-dimensional façades resembling the nursery's namesake Disney attraction. Interactive, hands-on features such as horns that honk, wheels that spin and buttons to press are sure to delight curious kids. There's even a collection of Disney character costumes for dress-up time.

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The nursery has strollers for the counselors to use, in case there are children who prefer to snooze or sit in those.

At the back of the nursery, a separate room with a serene motif and a calm, quiet atmosphere is reserved for naptime.

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Disney's Oceaneer Club

Located next door to the nursery, also on Deck 5 midship, Disney's Oceaneer Club is open to 3- to 10-year-old children.

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Before children can even enter into this magnificent space they have to wash their hands -- just one of many ways that Disney is trying to stop the spread of nasty germs on the ship. To make it a little more fund and interesting, they have special machines to do the cleaning for them. The children insert their hands into the opening's, soap and water is applied and voila! They are good to go.

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The central rotunda is the main gathering place. Here, Disney characters created with fiber optics twinkle across the ceiling. The focal point of the rotunda is a stage where children can create and star in their very own theatrical performances, participate in storytelling sessions and meet such Disney characters as Tinker Bell and Peter Pan.

The rotunda has a 103-inch plasma screen for watching movies and for interactions with Crush, the sea turtle from the Disney"Pixar motion picture "Finding Nemo." Crush stops mid-stream in his digital undersea environment to chat, play and joke with kids in live, unrehearsed conversations.

Also located in the rotunda is a Magic PlayFloor. A cruise industry first, this interactive floor allows children to engage in group activities where their movements control the action. There are 16 games that can be played on the Magic PlayFloor, with such descriptive titles as "Carl's Stomp 'n' Pop" and "Goofy's Grasshoppers."

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Disney Cruise Line youth counselors also will use the Magic PlayFloor during storytelling times, so children can "fly" over the streets of London with Peter Pan, help their frog feast on a bug banquet themed to "The Princess and the Frog" and race cars around a track just like Lightning McQueen from "Cars."

In Andy's Room, the world of the Disney"Pixar "Toy Story" films comes to life. Inside the vibrantly colored room, kids experience the feeling of being toy-sized as they play among larger-than-life characters from the animated film.

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Children can rearrange features on Mr. Potato Head, crawl through the coiled body of Slinky Dog and get behind the wheel of an oversize, remote-controlled race car.

Monster's Academy is a fun, interactive space inspired by the Disney"Pixar film "Monsters, Inc." The centerpiece is an elaborately themed play structure for climbing that is fashioned after the film's scare floor, where monster pals Michael "Mike" Wazowski and James P. "Sulley" Sullivan work.

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Computers integrated into the walls in each of these areas feature unique, interactive games, themed to the area. In Nemo's Pod, for example, the games feature the characters from that film. In Pixie Hollow, the computer games feature the Disney Princesses and fairies.

In Pixie Hollow, children are transported to the enchanted land inhabited by Tinker Bell and her fairy friends. A pixie tree stands in the room, its branches extending overhead with hundreds of fairy lights twinkling among the leaves and hummingbird-sized fairy houses hanging from the boughs. Children can make crafts while sitting on stools shaped like acorns and mushrooms, or dress up in fanciful costumes.

Explorer Pod is inspired by the Disney"Pixar animated film "Finding Nemo." Surrounded by a seascape and seeming to emerge from a pool of water, a bright blue-and-yellow submarine surfaces in the center of the room. Inside, children can explore and play games at 16 interactive computer stations.

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Outside of the sub, eight computer stations provide gaming fun as the familiar flock of seagulls from "Finding Nemo" looks on.

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Disney's Oceaneer Lab

Disney's Oceaneer Lab takes 3-to-10-year-old children on a journey of discovery and exploration.

Upon entering the main hall, located on Deck 5 midship, children feel as though they are embarking on a great adventure. Rich woods, brass fixtures and deep blue and red tones complement the room's seafaring details such as maps, maritime instruments and nautical artifacts. An illuminated celestial map of constellations glows overhead. At the main hall stage, kids can create and star in swashbuckling performances, hear stories of great expeditions and watch movies. Utilizing the same techno-magic that brings Crush to life in Disney's Oceaneer Club, Disney's Oceaneer Lab features special scheduled visits by Disney's mischievous animated alien Stitch. Playful pandemonium ensues as he engages with children in unrehearsed antics. From his spaceship, the cuddly but naughty alien interacts with young guests, chatting with them and using props from his spacecraft surroundings to create hilarious fits of havoc.

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Located in the main gathering space is another Magic PlayFloor. Here, children step into the futuristic world of Tron with a team-based game, leap over lasers with Stitch and scramble around the perimeter of the floor to control the tilt of a virtual maze.

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The Animator's Studio draws out the character inside all kids. Incorporating elements from both classic and modern animator's studios, the room is filled with maquettes (three-dimensional character models), animation books, a light box table, drawing accessories, computer stations and other tools of the animation trade. Children can use their imagination to create original, hand-drawn art or learn how to sketch their favorite Disney character. With the help of a counselor and an animation simulator, kids can bring to life computer-animated characters.

The Sound Studio is designed for children who appreciate and are inspired by music. Kids who dream of being a musical star can create their own original tunes using special song-making software. After composing their music and lyrics, they can record their hit.
The Sound Studio also has listening and music download stations featuring top hits and current recording artists.

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Connecting the Oceaneer Club and the Oceaneer Lab are two Workshops.

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Counselors there told me they do lots of arts and crafts activities in one room, including cookie baking, and Flubber making. (You remember Flubber -- the magical bouncing material originated in Disney's classic "The Absent-Minded Professor" and its remake, Robin Williams' "Flubber.") In the other workshop, kids can get busy with "sloppy science" experiments, making volcanoes and the like. They even hold some basic animation classes there and serve food.

Parents of children with allergies or other special needs will be happy to learn that the counselors come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including pediatric nursing. The two counselors I spoke with, Nikki and Steve, told me that they treat every child as an individual case, ensuring that they check every meal they serve. They also encouraged parents to let the counselors know of any special considerations, such as a child with mobility issues or autism. As they said, they work to make sure no child is excluded, and the more information they have in advance helps them do their jobs better.

Deb Wills had a chance to speak with Imagineer Stef Pickens about the Oceaneer's Club and Lab on the Dream, below:

All of this is just, as I said, for children up to 10 years old. After listening to guest comments and suggestions over the years regarding activities for slightly older children, Disney has responded by creating new spaces just for teens and tweens on the Dream. We'll take a look at these spots, the Edge and Vibe, soon!

NOTE: Members of AllEars.Net were invited media guests of Disney on the ship's Christening Cruise, January 19-21.

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About January 2011

This page contains all entries posted to AllEars® Team Blog in January 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2010 is the previous archive.

February 2011 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.