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September 13, 2014

Are you a Frozen Fan?

Deb's Digest Blog

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If you are a huge Frozen fan, you may be rejoicing at recent announcement by Tom Staggs to bring more of Frozen into Walt Disney World. To briefly recap:

** Epcot's Maelstrom is closing (last day of operation is October 5, 2014) and will be replaced by a new Frozen "attraction" (sometime in 2016).

** Anna and Elsa will resume meeting guests in Epcot.

** Anna and Elsa will continue to meet guests in the Magic Kingdom.

** Elsa will transform Cinderella Castle into an ice palace each evening during the holiday season.

** Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Olaf will be part of “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.”

** Parts of Frozen Summer Fun at Disney's Hollywood Studios will be extended through the holiday season - the Frozen Singalong and Wandering Oaken's Funland with a larger play area for "building a snowman". Frozen Summer Fun has been hugely successful and very well done. It is a great addition to the Studios.

Most of these components have been rumored for a few months now.

From a pure business standpoint, I understand the Disney Company wanting to maximize all things Frozen in the parks. The question is, at what cost? What is the appropriate balance of integrating an animated movie into Disney's theme parks.

While everyone may not be a fan of Frozen, have you seen how folks react to Frozen in the parks?

Just last week at the Hoop Dee Doo, 2 small Frozen quotes brought several young girls sitting nearby immediately to their feet with laughter and excitement. I'm sure they were expecting a sing-a-long next.

Have you gone to the "For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-along Celebration Show"? It is a great show, well written and performed. Look around you during the sing along portions to watch the audience. The enthusiasm keeps growing until the huge finale of Let It Go!

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Stand on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom when songs from Frozen are part of the Castle show and fireworks. I couldn't believe how many people I saw that stopped walking, turned around and sang. And I'm not just talking about kids!

The announcement of Queen Elsa turning the Magic Kingdom Castle to the ice palace is a great idea, nice integration with the existing holiday castle "icing".

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Likewise, the Frozen characters becoming part of Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, is also a good fit. Parts of the Christmas Parade have been part of Anna and Elsa's Royal Welcome Parade at the Studios.

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Doubling on the Meet and Greets (one in Magic Kingdom and one in Epcot) should finally ease the long wait times.

However, the one thing about the announcement that saddens me is the closing of Maelstrom.

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For me, World Showcase is all about learning and experiencing the individual countries, their art, architecture, and culture. It is about seeing and understanding more about countries one may never get to visit in person. Even with a movie that desperately needed and should have been updated years ago, the Norway experience in Epcot provided a glimpse into the history and culture of the people and their country. Time will tell how much of the history and culture of Norway will remain in Epcot.

Your thoughts???

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September 6, 2014

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - Report

Deb's Digest Blog

We went to the very first party of the year on September 1, 2014. What a blessing! This party was definitely NOT crowded and was reminiscent of the old E-Ticket nights (circa 2000) with low lines and manageable crowds. The only downside, if there was one, was the heat and humidity and continual "sauna" feel the entire night.

The Cast Members were dressed in their regular party outfits. We had purchased tickets on-line and therefore had a printed ticket with bar code. When we used it to enter the event after 4pm, the Cast Member took our copy and gave us a wrist band. I didn't really think anything of it until near the end of the night, when this caused issues getting my special Halloween Sorcerers Card.

Jack and Sally's Meet and Greet was first on my list. Everyone was excited about meeting them and their line stayed long most of the evening until well after the fireworks.


After this we split up and some held spots for Mickey's Boo to You Parade and myself and others went to the Castle for the Villains Mix and Mingle show (without the Mingle) . It was cute but oh so short!!! I felt like it had just started and it ended.

TIP: See the Villains Castle show after dark! It was still light out during the first show and I missed most of the castle projections.

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After the show it was back down Main Street to wait for the 8:15pm parade. Again, I must say how nice it was not to be crammed in with people given the heat.

Here's the first ride of the Headless Horseman for the 2014 Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party season:

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There were changes to this year's Mickey's Boo to You Parade. Most notably is the addition of Vanellope and Wreck-it Ralph (Wreck-it Ralph movie).

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It is one of my favorite parades in the Magic Kingdom and it is lots of fun to watch!

We decided to not wander down Main Street with everyone to see the Fireworks so we walked around the park to see who was out Meeting and Greeting. Imagine my surprise when I stopped in Adventureland to see not only Terk and Jane, but also Tarzan! Wait was about 10 minutes or so, I got in line. Unfortunately, Tarzan had to leave before it was my turn, but it was neat to see him interact with folks, especially the kids.

We continued over to the Diamond Horseshoe, known on party nights as Club Villain. From 7:00pm to midnight various villains dance with guests - mostly kids but a few adults were also dancing.

GOOD TO KNOW: Be aware it is dark and foggy with lots of neon lights in the dance party.

Soon it was Fireworks time! Standing in Liberty Square between the Liberty Bell and Liberty Tree Tavern but on the water side, was a nice place to watch. Not crowded and a decent view of everything except the Castle projections. Music was loud and clear.

TIP: There are good fireworks viewing areas in Liberty Square and New Fantasyland if you want to avoid the huge crowds on Main Street. Just remember no Castle projections.

Off to the Haunted Mansion to see if Madame Carlotta was wandering the grounds. She was and even summoned Judy Garland!

As we walked through Fantasyland, we noticed most rides had small wait times, even Peter Pan. The Seven Dwarfs were all out meeting guests and even that line was only about 30 minutes, How cool to get your photo with all 7 of them.

Checked out Tomorrowland, again barely a 10 minute wait for attractions. Just past the Buzz Lightyear entrance, Buzz and Lotso the Bear were having Meet and Greets. I wanted to see Lotso! As you'll see in the video, he indicated to me he was sorry he was such a bad guy in Toy Story 3.

By this time it was getting late and the heat and humidity were getting to us. As we got to Main Street we realized it would soon be time for the 2nd performance of Mickey's Boo to You Parade. The area near Town Square and City Hall had lots of front row room to watch the parade and so we stopped to enjoy it again.

While waiting for the Parade I went over the the Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom area to obtain my special Halloween Card. I'll spare you the long details but several Cast Members and 10+ minutes later I still didn't have my card. The main issue had to do with not having my ticket (remember they Cast Member took it when we entered the park) or my Magic Band, even though I had my party wrist band. I didn't wear my Magic Band because of the heat. Eventually I did get my card.. but it shouldn't have been so hard.

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We did not do any candy Trick or Treating but saw numerous stations set up. Check your guide map for locations.

TIP: The nice thing was there were signs to say what type of candy was being distributed at that location, like Crasins or Werthers, etc.

It was nice to see Cast Members being very diligent about making sure guests had their party Wrist Bands on before allowing them in many areas/attractions.

All in all we got our monies worth for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. The huge thing for us was the low crowds.

We opted not to do the $99 Villains Soiree. While I was disappointed to not be able to see Maleficent or the Queen, I didn't feel the cost was worth it for us. Plus, since we were going to the first party we were hoping it wouldn't be too crowded. It is all about priorities and what is most important to you. I am interested to hear from those of you who have!

I am sure as it gets closer to Halloween, the party will get progressively more crowded. Keep in mind, at this time, Halloween Night is SOLD OUT.


Tell us what YOU thought about the Party!!

August 30, 2014

Halloween Has Arrived at the Magic Kingdom

Deb's Digest Blog

Halloween decorations, snacks and souvenirs have arrived at the Magic Kingdom. Why so early? The first Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party is September 1st!


The large size pumpkin scarecrows are back, with carved pumpkins and fall colors.

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Have some "Find the Pumpkin" fun on Main Street. Click on the above and below pumpkin collages for a larger size, print them out and located them on Main Street.

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Tour the Magic Kingdom's Main Street to see all the decorations and fun!

Did you know we now have a weekly video show? AllEarsNet TV brings you Disney from around the "World". Visit http://youtube.com/allearsnet and Subscribe Today. You won't want to miss an episode!

August 24, 2014

Villains Unleashed Event - Frightfully Bad!

In case you don't read social media or have been offline recently, please allow me to report about Walt Disney World's latest hard-ticket event called Villains Unleashed!, which was held on Saturday night.

Villains Unleashed

Those of you who follow me know I am a huge Disney theme park fan. While I try my best to be objective and fair, sometimes I follow the "if you don't have something nice to say, then don't say it" line of thinking. Therefore, this blog may come as a surprise when you read the good, the bad and the ugly. I will share my experiences, some photos and video and comments and suggestions about how this could have been better.

I was actually quite excited and thought the event would be really fun. More than 50 villains, some never seen before, were going to appear. How could one not have high expectations? Announced in early June, this separate-ticket event would cost adults $67 plus tax and kids 3-9 $62 plus tax. There was even an early ticket purchase opportunity for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members, but no discount. The event was from 8 p.m. - 1 a.m.

The evening started off on a positive note when a terrible thunderstorm rolled through the area about 4:30 p.m. After it passed, temperatures dropped a good 10 degrees and for a while, the humidity was low as well. Perfect, I thought!

We arrived just before 7 p.m. at Disney's Hollywood Studios and once we were through the turnstile, we were given cool event "credentials" courtesy of PhotoPass. But then we looked for a map and couldn't find one anywhere. We asked several cast members and were told they all were gone. HUH? The event start time was still one hour away!

Villains Unleashed

We were trying to hook up with friends, but that was tough given the crowds on Hollywood Boulevard. We expected this would be the case, though, and figured once the opening show was over, the crowds would disperse all over the park.


Villains Unleashed

The show was fun, perhaps the second-best part of the whole evening. Hades and Meg were the hosts and introduced the 50 villains who would be in the park. Most made a short appearance when they were called, but not everyone was on stage.

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Villains Unleashed

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Villains Unleashed

Once the show was over, everyone started to move. The line to get into "Club Evil" at the Brown Derby, which had special food and beverages, was long so we decided to bypass it and get in line for the 9:30 p.m. "Oogie Boogie's Freaky Funhouse Show" at the Theater of the Stars.

Villains Unleashed

Actually, the pre-show entertainer there was much, much better than what followed.

Villains Unleashed

Wow, and not a good wow! If this show had been anywhere else except Disney, it might have been acceptable, but it was not. In my opinion, this was not family friendly, though it did live up to its billing as "freaky"! I talked to several families I know, and they all were extremely disappointed and left shaking their heads. Take a look below at some of the tamer acts. I've spared you several of the more risque photos.

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Villains Unleashed

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Villains Unleashed

As we left there, we ran into friends who managed to see Constantine (from "Muppets Most Wanted") because they got in his line before 7 p.m. and were in the second grouping. The meet-and-greet line to see Kermit the Frog's alter ego was the first to close because it was so popular. However, there was a string of closures well before the event ended. (Twitter was very helpful in trying to figure out what was happening around the park.)

Next, there was a showing of Fantasmic at 10 p.m. A special pre-show had been announced, and some guests were told that villains would appear. From those I spoke with afterwards, the pre-show did not feature villains and they felt like they wasted precious time at a show they could see any other day.

So it's now almost 10:30 p.m., and I am not feeling like I have even come close to getting my money's worth. We decided to head to the "Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Tape Dance Party." Amazingly, it wasn't too crowded. There was a DJ on stage playing tunes and there was air conditioning, which we fully appreciated! We quickly realized no one was dancing, though, and instead they were at the rope trying to get photos with Star Lord and Gamora. I never did get close enough to them but managed some video (see below).

Afterward, I considered going to check out the merchandise, but reports were that lines were long -- no surprise -- and many event-only items already had sold out.

Next, I headed over to the other side of the park in hopes of finding some characters to meet. The lines for the dedicated meet-and-greets were very long or long-closed due to capacity. I wasn't about to wait two hours of my five party hours to see a character, but many guests did just that. Instead, I spent time roaming around and checking out the happenings. I watched Frollo quickly walk to and fro on the Streets of America, and he barely stopped for a photo. Stromboli seemed to be doing the same thing -- only faster.

My must-see list, if there was such a thing, prior to the event included Constantine, Shenzi, Banzi and Ed, Captain Gantu, Shan Yu and a few other rarely seen characters. By the time I got to these character locations, the lines were long closed. I did see a couple of characters on my list from the sidelines, but there were no special character meet-and-greets or photo-ops for me this night.

Villains Unleashed

Villains Unleashed Character Appearances:

At 11:30 p.m., I was hot, tired and frustrated, so I headed out of the park. Part of me wanted to see the fireworks, but I wasn't going to wait another 75 minutes for that. I had a fleeting thought to stop at Guest Relations and complain, but I saw a huge line, shrugged and kept walking.

The final kicker as I was leaving: No one was passing out Villains goody bags. I didn't even realize there was a goody bag until I got back to the Boardwalk Inn. It wasn't that I needed one, but it was the principle of the thing. I do like the pre-autographed cards from the event and wished I had gotten them.

Villains Unleashed

Overall, I did enjoy the opening show, and I now wish I had stayed for the fireworks. From what we saw from the Boardwalk area, they looked awesome.

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So, why did this event fail?

Let's start with the price. I don't mind paying for quality, but this was far from a quality event. At $70 a ticket, I had expectations. And I don't think they were unrealistic expectations considering the price is similar to tickets for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, which also features many character meet-and-greets, and is much better planned and executed.

Most importantly, the event seem to be oversold, yet I was told it never sold out. How then do you run out of maps before the event even begins? Cast members were handing out lanyards, so why wasn't another group handing out maps? Don't blame guests for taking multiples! If you've ever tried using one map to actually see what you want to do during an event, it's a mess by the end of the night. I usually take an extra one for a souvenir.

Clearly someone should have done the math and realized there were way too many guests for the 50 villains. Plus, some villains were in small groups, so there weren't 50 separate lines or areas.

This event was about the characters, not about the rides. Why would anyone spend $70 to ride attractions that can be enjoyed during any regular park visit? Walt Disney World seems to have underestimated the huge draw of the special characters. That seems impossible when the same chaos happened at last year's villains event that was not a hard-ticket event.

My suggestion: Allow one FastPass+ per person for one character meet-and-greet during the event. Stagger the release of the FP+ to attempt fairness. Guaranteeing only one character meet might be frustrating, but isn't it better to arrive with realistic expectations than to be continually disappointed as the night goes on?

Disney easily could have sold more food, beverages and merchandise -- if they had been properly stocked. Special drinks and some of the food were gone long before the event was over. And the merchandise ... It is rare that a special Disney event has sufficient amounts of special merchandise and enough cast members to check folks out, so it's not another 30-minute wait.

My suggestion: Have a pre-order form for T-Shirts and other items, paid at the time of order and then have a package pick-up area. That, at least, would have helped with the merchandise shortage.

I also would recommend that these types of events be held in cooler seasons. Hot weather, crowds, families with young kids, serving alcohol and long lines don't make for a pleasant experience for anyone. I love the Disney Parks and I love special events. Sometimes things are done well, like Frozen Summer Fun, and other special events have frustrated and disappointed me. Sadly, none have disappointed me as much as the Villains Unleashed!

Was your experience different? Tell us what you though of Villains Unleashed! in the comments.


August 16, 2014

My Next Adventure - Italy 2015! Learn More!

Since I announced my 2015 Adventures by Disney trip to Italy there was been lots of response from everyone! Also, there are lots of questions.... of course.

We recently filmed an AllEarsNet TV show about this trip. Learn more about What an Adventures by Disney trip is all about. Plus DETAILS about this adult only trip AllEars is hosting in September 2015.

Learn more about the AllEars© Adventures by Disney Italy trip in 2015 and how you can be a part of this amazing experience by watching this video.

Feel free to post your questions in the comment section!

Request a Quote: http://mousefantravel.com/disney-destinations/adventures-disney/latest-deals/2015-italy-viva-italia-w-deb-allearsnet

Ask Questions about the Adventure by Disney:
adventures@mousefantravel.com

Special thanks to Adventures by Disney!

August 2, 2014

Four Seasons Orlando

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On August 1st, the Four Seasons Orlando held an official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to help celebrate Opening Weekend. Tom Wolber, Senior Vice President, Walt Disney World; Thomas Steinhauer, General Manager/Regional Vice President Four Seasons Resort Orlando, and Christopher Hunsberger, President, The Americas, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts; along with Mickey Mouse were on hand for the festivities.

The resort officially opens on August 3rd, 2014 and brings a new level of luxurious accommodations to the Walt Disney World Resort. Located inside the grounds of Golden Oak, it is just minutes away from Disney's theme parks.

There are many outstanding features of the Four Seasons Orlando. All Ears was invited to the media preview held last week. We were able to sample some of the new cuisine, tour parts of the resort and speak to the various managers as well as Executive Chef Fabrizio Schenardi!

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Join AllEarsNet TV hosts Deb Wills and Linda Eckwerth as they share their preview experience with you:

Here are just a few of the highlights of the resort:

Rooms with a view - many rooms at the Four Seasons offer a Park View which allows you to see the Magic Kingdom fireworks from your balcony (from the 6th floor on up). Standard rooms at the resort, some of which do have a park view, are 500 square feet and can accommodate 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children.

Enjoy a tour of the standard room with a park view:

And if you really want to be spoiled here's a tour of a Deluxe Suite:

World Class Culinary Experiences - the resort offers 4 restaurants and two lounges. All Ears was able to sample dishes from both Ravello and PB&G.

Ravello is an Italian restaurant offering breakfast (and twice a week Character Meals with Goofy and his Pals), as well as dinner. The dishes we sampled, one pasta, one fish, were outstanding.. with the right balance of flavors complimenting the ingredients.

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Housemade Veal Ravioli - spinach, wild mushroom, truffle essence

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Ahi Tuna - eggplant caponata, basil oil, saba

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PB&G is the Pool Bar and Grill offering Southern BBQ and rotisserie dining during the day. Again, foods we tasted are some of the best Pool Bar Grill food we have ever had!


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In September the signature restaurant, Capa, will open as a Spanish Steakhouse on the 17th floor of the resort. In addition to tapas and great steaks, there is an outdoor viewing area for the Magic Kingdom fireworks.

Explorer Island is a five acre playground offering something for everyone. There is a 7,590 square foot family pool with a lazy river, a climbing wall, watersides, outdoor movie nights, a video game center and an entire area just for adults!


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All this and we haven't even mentioned the Spa at the Four Seasons with a special Magical Moments offering for both boys and girls (think Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique), the golf course and Planca Restaurant, the fitness center, Lickity Split, a gourmet coffee bar and much more.

We'll continue to bring your coverage of this resort so check back!

June 24, 2014

My Next Adventure - Italy 2015! Join Me!

Deb's Digest Blog

Thanks to everyone who participated in our Adventures by Disney Destination Poll this spring. The winning destination is ITALY!

Thanks to our friends at MouseFanTravel.com we have an exclusive adults-only Adventure planned for September 3, 2015!

Join Linda Eckwerth and me for an 8-night, 9-day journey through Italy!

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Itinerary Highlights:

We begin our adventure in Rome.

Day 1

Check into our hotel -- Gran Melia Rome Luxury Urban Resort

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Welcome reception and dinner

Day 2

VIP Experience at The Colosseum

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Tour some historic sites in Rome including the Spanish Steps, the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain.

Pantheon

Trevi Fountain

Day 3

VIP Private Tour of St. Peter's Basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica

Private Tour of Castel Sant' Angelo

Private After-Hours Tour of the Vatican City Museum, including the Sistine Chapel.

Vatican City Museum

Day 4

After breakfast on Day 4 we travel by motor coach to the Umbrian and Tuscan countryside. On the way we visit Orvieto.

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Check into our next hotel Borgo di Cortefreda

Day 5

While in Tuscany we make pasta, experience a wine-tasting and dine in the 13th century Certaldo Monastery with a Medieval-themed banquet from the time of Boccaccio.

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Day 6

We depart after breakfast for Florence via motor coach.

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We have reserved entry and access to Michelangelo's David and a tour of the Duomo.

That afternoon, we have a private VIP tour of Palazzo Vecchio.

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Day 7

Breakfast and then we take an ITALO high-speed bullet train to Venice.

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We will enjoy a private gondola tour of the city.

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Private tour of the Piazza San Marco and Basilica

Check into our final hotel, the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice hotel

Day 8

Guided Tour of the Doges Palace, Venetian Carnevale Mask-Making, and our Farewell Dinner is aboard the Jolly Roger schooner.

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Day 9

After breakfast it's time to depart :(

Whew! What an itinerary!

Accommodations

Our home in Rome is the Gran Melia Rome Luxury Urban Resort! Experience Old World elegance at this stunning hotel that is enveloped in the scenic beauty of ancient Rome, offering spectacular views of St. Peter's Basilica and Castel Sant' Angelo. Located on the banks of the River Tiber, you'll find yourself in the heart of the cultural and entertainment attractions of the bustling city, just a short walk from the Vatican. With modern amenities, a magnificent pool and lush gardens, your stay at this urban resort will be truly unforgettable. 3 Nights


In Tuscany we stay at the Borgo di Cortefreda. One of the most exclusive hotels in Tuscany, it combines elegance and style with the true philosophy of wellness. All the comforts of a 4-star hotel: satellite TV, air conditioning, wi-fi and ADSL in room, minibar, hair dryer and telephone. 3 Nights


Our Venice home is the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice hotel. This hotel in Venice was once a flourishing flour mill Beautifully restored, it now houses a hotel unlike any other, offering a different view of Venice. A short, five-minute boat ride from the heart of Venice it offers breathtaking views over the city. 2 Nights

DINING

The Adventure includes 8 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches and 4 Dinners. The guides will assist you by providing recommendations for the "meals on your own."

FLIGHT INFORMATION

Arrive: Rome FCO
Depart: Venice VCE

WHY ADVENTURES BY DISNEY

I absolutely love the Adventures by Disney product and each of my experiences on my three trips were equally wonderful. Every little detail is taken care of for you. Your pre-trip planning consists of learning the rich history about the areas you will visit, not trying to determine where to stay and exactly what to do!

Before my first AbD, I found the offerings intriguing, but so expensive. Everyone I spoke with who had done an Adventure raved about it and said it was worth every penny. I had never done an organized tour before, wasn't sure what I'd think of it. I now stand with those folks and can only sing the praises about the incredible experience.

Here are some of the reasons I love Adventures by Disney:

A Disney representative meets you at the airport and a driver takes you to your hotel!

Every place we went, our rooms were ready and our luggage was already in them! No check-in lines, our guides had us all pre-registered and handed out the keys as we entered the lobby of each hotel.

Our guides were like the Energizer bunnies. No matter what time of day, where we were, or what the situation, they consistently went over and above. They made the Disney Difference.

We were treated like VIPs at almost every place we went. The Disney name goes a long way! We only had to mention at any of the hotels we were with the "Disney" group and folks couldn't do enough to make us happy.

Not every single moment is planned -- free time is built in for your own explorations.

At each stop we had local guides on the tour sharing their knowledge and expertise. They were able to answer just about any question asked and knew the special things to point out to us, things you wouldn't necessarily find in a printed guide.

It was wonderful to be able to look out the bus windows and see the scenery along the way. Since we weren't driving, one person wasn't missing the highlights.

All gratuities are included except for the Disney Guides.

Want to join the fun?

Download this PDF file and contact Adventures@MouseFanTravel.com


Here is a 2012 Adventures by Disney Video of this trip. It provides a brief overview, but since it is a couple years old, things could very well have changed.


FIRST-HAND REPORTS ABOUT ADVENTURES BY DISNEY

Read all about my Southwest Splendors Adventure by Disney!

Here's my trip report from the Backstage Magic Adventure!

Beci shared her Adventure by Disney to Ireland!

Colleen went to South Africa!

Erin enjoyed the Costa Rica Adventures with her family!

June 9, 2014

Harambe Nights - Snapshot

Deb's Digest Blog

UPDATE: Check out our full review of Harambe Nights on AllEarsNet TV:

On Saturday June 7, Deb Koma, Linda Eckwerth and I attended the first Harambe Nights special event in Animal Kingdom.

This is just a quick snapshot of our experience -- for a more in-depth review of the evening, don't miss our AllEarsNet TV show on our YouTube channel this coming Thursday!

WELCOME TO ANIMAL KINGDOM

From the moment we arrived at the parking toll plaza for Animal Kingdom, we began to feel "special". A welcome banner was on display and there were lots of Harambe Nights signs leading us to a special parking area. Cast Members were decked out in face paint and animal ears headbands, clearly in the festive spirit.

After a quick scan of our event tickets, we were given a wristband for show seating and were on our way!

Harambe Nights


WELCOME RECEPTION

We arrived at 6:30 and the Welcome Reception was already in full swing! Live music, great appetizers, beer, wine, soft drinks and FACE PAINTING! Cultural representatives were sharing fun facts about their countries and there was a feeling of excitement in the air. The party had begun.


Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights


LION KING CONCERT IN THE WILD

Let me begin by saying ALL the live performers were outstanding -- from the orchestra, choir and dancers to the narrators and even the very animated sign language interpreters. Special kudos to celebrity narrator Viola Davis, who definitely got into her role.

Our chief complaint was that we wanted to see MORE of them. We were disappointed that the show relied so heavily on clips from the Lion King film, when there were so many talented live performers right there on stage. The narrators and performers could have told more of the story. Also, the stage platform the dancers were on was a bit too low. Even though we were sitting higher in the bleachers we still couldn't see their feet.

We wondered, too, about the view of those in the audience who were sitting in the more expensive "premium seating" area. Obviously, the view from the first few rows must have been fantastic, but we thought that audience members further back were probably having a hard time seeing the stage, since the seats were all on one level, with no risers.

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights

HARAMBE STREET PARTY

Our concerns about the Concert in the Wild aside, we felt the remainder of the evening was a huge sucess. The Harambe Street Party was tons of fun. It took place all over the Village of Harambe (down to the Safari) and part way to Asia from Tamu Tamu! Plenty of tables and chairs, lots of excellent food and beverage stations. Characters roamed around the area throughout the night, dancing with guests and hamming it up for the cameras. There was a live band, and a DJ when the band took a break. We didn't see anyone who looked like they weren't enjoying themselves -- smiles and laughter all around!

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights

Our Overall Rating on a Scale of 1 - 5 (5 being the best)

Deb Koma: 4.5

Deb Wills: 4.5

Linda Eckwerth: 4.5

We all agreed this evening was well worth the price!

General admission tickets for Harambe Nights cost $119 for ages 10 and up or $79 fpr ages 9 and younger. Premium floor-seat tickets were initially available and are now sold out for all nights. The event runs from 7 to 10:30 p.m., and parking is complimentary.

To reserve tickets for Harambe Nights, visit Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or call 407-939-1319.


RELATED LINKS:

Rate and Review Your Harambe Nights Experience

Harambe Nights Preview

June 3, 2014

MALEFICENT - A Review

Deb's Digest Blog

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I go to movies to be entertained, not to analyze and critique. There are certainly plenty of movie critics online if you want that take on a movie.

Maleficent is not great but it certainly was entertaining from my perspective. The film takes place in a fantasy world so events and people don't always behave how you might expect.

This is the untold story of one of Disney's popular villains, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. We watch her as a young child explore her world with an open, pure, heart - welcoming, trusting, and loving.

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The story progresses into a very familiar one of - young love, a woman scorned, anger hardens the heart, retribution and then the movie evolves with an unexpected twist. However, if you are going to see the movie thinking it is the Disney animation story we grew up with, it is not. The story of the cursed princess has once again been reinvented.

Maleficent

Angelina Jolie is the heart and soul of this film and her vulnerability as well as her evil intensity, makes this movie come to life. Perhaps the best scene is when she arrives uninvited at Aurora's christening and everyone, save the King, is mesmerized and speechless. Maleficent is full-on evil and casts the well known spell on the child Aurora.

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SYNOPSIS: "Maleficent" explores the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the classic “Sleeping Beauty" and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turn her pure heart to stone. Driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect the moors over which she presides, Maleficent cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the human king’s newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Aurora is caught in the middle of the seething conflict between the forest kingdom she has grown to love and the human kingdom that holds her legacy. Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land and is forced to take drastic actions that will change both worlds forever.

The film stars Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville.

“Maleficent” is produced by Joe Roth and directed by Robert Stromberg, with Angelina Jolie, Don Hahn, Palak Patel, Matt Smith and Sarah Bradshaw serving as executive producers. Linda Woolverton wrote the screenplay.

As part of the publicity for MALEFICENT, she appeared last week at Walt Disney World's Rock Your Disney Side 24 hour event. I was able to meet her :)

I give the movie 3 stars out of 5 and yes, I'd like to see it again.

June 1, 2014

A preview of Harambe Nights at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Deb's Digest Blog

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I recently had the opportunity to attend a preview of the newly announced Harambe Nights event coming to Animal Kingdom on Saturdays from June 7 through August 9. This is the first ever special event and the first regularly scheduled evening entertainment at Disney's Animal Kingdom. A special ticket is required for this after-hours experience. (See below for details.)

JUST WHAT IS HARAMBE NIGHTS?

Harambe Nights is a brand-new experience designed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of "The Lion King." Harambe Village and its people are the hosts for this limited-engagement experience, which allows the popular story to be told in a new and creative way.

The evening begins when you enter the village of Harambe at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The park has already closed for the day, so it's just you and the other attendees enjoying the welcome reception.

Harambe Nights

Refreshing beers, wines and savory appetizers are served. I tasted the yummy Moroccan beef kefta with tamarind glaze, and it had a small kick. The wines are South African, and my favorites are the Fairview Pinotage for that smokey flavor and the Spice Route Chenin Blanc with a fresh taste with fruity notes. The beer selections range from Tusker Beer to Bud Light.

Harambe Nights

Soon, guests will make their way to the brand-new Harambe Theater -- which also is home to "Festival of the Lion King" during the day -- for the nearly hour-long show titled "The Lion King Concert in the Wild."

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On the way into the show, each guest will be given "Lion Chow," served in a cylinder made to look like balsa wood. This definitely is my new favorite snack! The combination of sea-salted pretzel chips, cardamom candied pecans, golden raisins, dried cherries and candied ginger is perfection. It's impossible to stop eating after just one bite.

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Following the show, the real party begins as guests are escorted back into Harambe Village, which is filled with the sounds of Afro-pop music, dancers, stilt walkers, a DJ and characters!

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(Our preview of the event was held indoors due to the weather.)

Harambe Nights

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Harambe Nights

THE SHOW

The heart and soul of Harmabe Nights is a new theatrical experience called "The Lion King Concert in the Wild." The show celebrates the 20th anniversary of "The Lion King" and tells the story of Simba coming of age.

Marsha Jackson-Randolph

Marsha Jackson-Randolph, who created "The Lion King Concert in the Wild" and is the show director, spoke passionately about the new experience.

"We are so excited to present this story in a way that has not been told before," she said.

This show pulls from some of the iconic scenes from the film in an immersive approach combining a 25-piece orchestra, the Harambe 16-member choir, eight dancers and two narrators, one of which is a celebrity. Much of the music will be familiar, but some new music was created for the show, as well. In addition, there are screens in the theater to enhance the visual contact and bring to life the characters you know and love.

Creating the new show has been an involved, collaborative effort among the various branches of The Walt Disney Co., she said. Disney brought in award-winning choreographer and director Warren Adams to help develop the show. (Adams is known for choreographing "Toy Story: The Musical," and he helped choreograph "The Lion King" for Hong Kong Disney.)

"We think this will be a journey of the heart for you," Marsha said. "We want you to allow your heart to be introduced to this story as told by the village of Harambe with the authentic dance and culture."

After Marsha spoke, we were invited into a rehearsal room for a glimpse of three scenes from the show. Understandably, no recording devices were allowed.

I can't wait to see this show in person!

FOOD.. ISN'T ALWAYS ABOUT THE FOOD?

In a word -- flavorful! I don't think guests, even those who consider themselves foodies, will be disappointed by the food served at Harambe Nights. Items are served at various cooking stations and are paired with the available beer and wines.

Some of our favorites include:

Roasted Beetroot Salad with Sunflower Seeds

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... On-stage-seared lamb chops with tamarind pomegranate sauce

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... the Fork-tender peri barbecued pork.

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... Mango, radish, lime and mustard seed salad

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Here are two of the vegetarian dishes:

Heirloom Legume Wat served over Basmati Rice

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Eggplant Tikka Masala Curry served over Creamy Goat Cheese Pap

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The desserts were delicious as well. My favorites were the Caramel-salted Tanzania chocolate Kenya coffee bite and the Chai cream with zebra stripes from Sanaa.

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Chef Robert Gilbert, Executive Chef of Catering Operations, discusses how to bring a most authentic experience to this event:

The culinary team made sure to include a few vegan offerings in the foods. Guests who are vegan, eat gluten-free, or have specific dietary should talk to the Disney Chefs in person about their dining needs when they arrive at Harambe Nights.

MY THOUGHTS

This is going to be a great experience, and I'm really glad I have tickets for the first show. I am impressed with the food and the small part of the show that we saw. It's easy to imagine a festive street party in Harambe Village, and I can see myself having a fun time, maybe even dancing!

My only concern is about the weather. On the evening of our preview, the skies were threatening and so we were inside Tusker House. I was assured there are contingency plans for the rain, but I wonder how much an indoor setting will "dampen" the experience of the party and impact the overall experience.



EVENT PARTICULARS

General admission tickets for Harambe Nights cost $119 for ages 10 and up or $79 fpr ages 9 and younger. Premium floor-seat tickets were initially available and are now sold out for all nights. The event runs from 7 to 10:30 p.m., and parking is complimentary.

Narrators for Harambe Nights are:

June 7: Viola Davis

June 14: Avery Brooks

June 21: Montego Glover

June 28: David Alan Grier

July 5: Michael Beach

July 12: Harry Lennix

July 19: Joe Morton

July 26: Alfre Woodard

Aug. 2: Brian Stokes Mitchell

Aug. 9: Patina Miller

To reserve tickets for Harambe Nights, visit Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or call 407-939-1319.

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