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Theme Park Snapshots: November 11-13, 2013, Part I

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Even though I was just in Walt Disney World at the end of September for the opening of the Food and Wine Festival, I had the chance to sneak back down there again for a few days last week, so I jumped on it! While there, I realized that there were many things that have changed or opened over the last few months that I've missed, so I decided to run around and catch up on them as much as possible.

My new experiences started with my first opportunity to use the Magic Bands. While all of the reports we've been receiving from our readers have been overwhelmingly positive, I have to tell you that my experience was not so great.


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I was sharing a room this trip with Deb Wills, who made the hotel reservations, and try as we may, we could not get my My Disney Experience account to link up with hers. She sent me repeated emails inviting me to join, I sent her several emails as well -- and never the twain did meet. I did get my own pretty blue Magic Band, which allowed me to enter our room and make charges, but there was no way for me to set up FastPass+ and arranging my Magical Express trip took three separate phone calls.

Deb Wills told me that she had already gone through similar issues, and had been unable to link other friends to her reservations -- seems to work fine for families, but not for unrelated parties staying together. After trying to resolve this issue both over the phone and online, I decided not to waste any more precious vacation time dealing with the new technology. I'll give them a few more months to work all the bugs out and try again. So for this trip, Deb had the room reservations on her account, I had the restaurant reservations on my account, and I gave up on using FastPass+ until next time.

That aside, I was able to see quite a few of the new-to-me things on my to-do list.

In Epcot, I made my way over to the Norway pavilion to see the new "Frozen" meet-and-greet, featuring the princesses Elsa and Anna. The line to see these two new stars was quite long, and believe it or not, there were little girls dressed in "Frozen"-style outfits, some having already gone for the "Frozen" makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. There is a spot, though, where you can simply view the princesses as they greet their fans -- go into the shop whose entrance is to the right of "Prinsesse Plass," the meet-and-greet location, then make a left and walk all the way to the end of the building. There you can peek in and get some nice shots of the princesses in action.


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While in Epcot, I took a stroll around the Morocco pavilion to see how the new waterfront eatery, Spice Road Table, is progressing. It's definitely coming along, but no one is saying exactly when this new spot might open. Loving Middle Eastern food as I do (and, who am I kidding? most all food!), I can't wait.

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Another thing on my list to check out in Epcot was the new restroom location in the American Adventure pavilion. I never thought I'd be writing about a bathroom, but this spot is worth getting a bit excited over.


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The new restrooms, situated to the right of the shop, are spacious, bright, and very clean, with gleaming cream-colored tile and purple accents. Best of all, there seem to be adequate stalls, at least speaking for the women's room. There are conventional paper towel dispensers, as well as very modern Dyson Airblade hand dryers, which noisily blow your hands dry. This restroom is truly a welcome addition to the area, which previously only had restrooms located down an out-of-the-way hallway along the far side of the Liberty Inn. Oh, one other note -- there's also a companion restroom here.


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My final stop in Epcot was in the France pavilion, where I wanted to try for myself a new offering they have in the ice cream shop, L'Artisan des Glaces (located where the bakery used to be).


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Called a Croque Glace (a play on the name of a popular grilled French sandwich, "Croque Monsieur"), this new taste treat is an ice cream sandwich in its own class. My friend AJ over at the Disney Food Blog wrote about this a few weeks ago, and I knew it sounded like something for me to try. AJ had sampled the sandwich with the caramel fleur de sel ice cream, which was my intention also, but when the lovely cast member behind the counter suggested that I try the Coconut White Chocolate with chocolate sauce -- well, how could I refuse? (I love coconut!).

It was a great recommendation -- Merci, Chloe! To make this mouthwatering concoction, they take a fresh, buttery French brioche, halve it, pile on a scoop of your favorite ice cream flavor, drizzle it with chocolate or raspberry sauce, top it with the other half of the brioche, then put it in a sandwich press for a few minutes. Voila! You have a perfect dessert: warm on the outside, cool and creamy inside. I haven't had anything quite like it -- worth every penny of the $6.10 it costs!

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After ticking off this last thing at Epcot, I needed to make sure that I spent some time over at the Magic Kingdom -- quite a few things there I hadn't seen, as the last time I was in that park was back in May! (I know, I know, it's not THAT long, but that's a long time for me.)

The Limited Time Magic was dedicated to honoring our veterans, and I really wanted to see the special ceremony they were holding each day as part of the Flag Retreat. Unfortunately, I didn't get there in time to get a great viewing spot, but I did manage to capture the lowering of the flag as the Voices of Liberty sang The Star-Spangled Banner.

Very emotional, especially when I looked around and noticed several former servicemen and women nearby tearing up. There's something about hearing the Voices of Liberty sing the National Anthem that can't help but bring out the patriot in you. I'm glad I managed to see at least that much of the program.

I'll share more of what I found that was new and new to me in the Magic Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Downtown Disney later this week!



The previous post in this blog was Reimagined Disney Magic Photos Part 2.

The next post in this blog is Most Liked Instagram Photos of 2013.

Comments (9)

Ruth Remhof:

We stayed at Old Key West the first week in November. I was so excited to have and use the Magic Bands! It took 3 phone calls to activate, the last one was to add my husband to our family account. It worked well for the hotel door and the shops, but we had to be reviewed every time we entered the parks. I think they are a wonderful idea and I will be glad when it is no longer a Beta program so they can work without all the glitches. We are going back in January, we have been sent another invitation to use the magic bands, I am hoping the old ones can be used, but I don't think they are ready for that yet. All in all, it is a great program.

Anonymous:

Wow sorry to hear about the troubles with the magic bands we have been there twice since October both times staying at All-star resorts and they worked flawlessly. Room access, charging, fastpasses even got them link to our AP for park entry. I have to say I love them. Hopefully your next experience will go smoother.

Carolyn:

We were also at OKW for the first week in November, and the second. However, our experience as UK travellers with the bands was less than stellar. For a start, we didn't even know we were getting the bands until we checked in, so were unable to either choose our colour of band nor have our names inside them - this meant we had to be careful not to mix the bands up! I was unwilling to give Disney yet more money to purchase the accessories, which would have made it slightly easier to differentiate between our bands.

Additionally, as neither of us is in possession of a smartphone, we would have been unable to pre-book our FP+ options had I not taken my iPad with me on vacation.

We really liked the convenience of having the dining plan, room key, and park tickets on the one device, but think that there are a lot of glitches to be worked out before these bands are working to everyone's satisfaction. The emphasis is definitely on guests from the USA, staying onsite, and in possession of a smartphone of some kind.

International travellers are not having the bands posted to them at any point, so will never be able to customise them. And what about day visitors or those staying offsite? With some attractions such as the Haunted Mansion now not having regular Fastpass machines any longer, merely the FP+ option, this means that unless you have a Magic Band, you cannot get a Fastpass for some attractions, which seems unfair to me.

We also noticed a massive difference in the Fastpass queue times, with a 25 minute wait for Soarin' at one point! (Although the standby wait was 70 mins at that time).

In principal I like the idea, but think they need to give more consideration to International travellers and offsite guests.

I am going to Disney and not staying on-site and I am very concerned that I will not be able to get fastpasses for anything while I am there. The Mickey Bands are nice but if they are only in Beta and all the FP are gone what is going to be like when they are up and running. I really hope Disney will fix this issue so us day-trippers Disney experience is just as good as staying there.

Kris Lacy:

We also stayed at the Old Key West in the middle of October. The day we checked in was the kick off day for OKW. We had no problems connecting our fastpasses, reservations, dining plan and tickets. We didn't run into any Disney errors with our bands, only human errors on my part.

DebK replies: Were you a family, Kris? I don't think they are having linking problems with families, so much as individual parties. Deb Wills and I are not related (although people often think we're the same person!) and we have two separate My Disney Experience accounts. We were unable to link those together, no matter how we tried.

Michelle:

We (my boyfriend and I) stayed from 11/6-12. For the most part we enjoyed the Magic Bands immensely. However, one thing that I'd like to see Disney address (if possible) is that while we'd paid extra for Park Hopper passes, there was no way to "park hop" our FastPass+. You are only able to choose 1 park per day to FP. Fortunately, because we had ample time on our vacation that wasn't a problem this time, but I'd like to see this as a potential option in the future.

Also, as far as linking the accounts...we also had a hard time with this initially and made several calls to no avail...eventually (it seemed "magically") my boyfriend did show up linked to my account.

I think there are plenty of glitches to be worked out before the system is fully operational, but overall it worked well for us.

Also, it was kind of cool to hear the cast-member say "Enjoy your ride on Test Track Michelle"...I had to do a double-take before realizing my name popped up on his computer screen!

Ruth Woodhouse:

Great article - I am sure a lot of people are anxious about using bands for the first time. Am I right in thinking that the band's are only available to people staying at a Disney resort? We usually stay in a villa off site and we live in the UK. Will we be issued with cards rather than bands? I can't find anything about what happens to day guests. Thanks

DebK replies: At the moment, the bands are still technically being tested, so only Disney resort guests are using them. I'm not sure yet what the future plans are, or whether they will be issued to day guests. We'll report on that as soon as we know more.

dusty cheatham:

the flag retreat never fails to move me . as well as the voices of liberty.

Greg:

We visted WDW 12/1 - 12/6. We had Magic Bands for the whole family, and for the most part everything went pretty smooth. I did have trouble getting some FastPass+ reservations, but it eventually worked out ok. My biggest gripe is that the process of scanning the Magic Bands at a FastPass entrance is slowing the process down to the point that it creates a queue. Kilimanjaro Safari actually has an official roped off queue just to get into the FastPass entrance, which we had to wait in. And we were visting in one of the slowest weeks of the year. The real test for Magic Bands,and FastPass+ in particular, will be the over the holidays.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 19, 2013 4:15 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Reimagined Disney Magic Photos Part 2.

The next post in this blog is Most Liked Instagram Photos of 2013.

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