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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!!

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 27, 2014

Eat to the Beat Dinner Package - Info and Review

Deb's Digest Blog

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New to Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival this year are the Eat to the Beat Dinner packages. Available on select nights, for a set price you dine at a select Epcot restaurant and get a guaranteed seat in a reserved area for the concert.

THE FACTS

When you book this package, you will choose your restaurant, dining time and concert time from what is available. For your meal you will received an appetizer, entree, dessert, non-alcoholic non-specialty beverage, or a full buffet. At the conclusion of your meal you receive your "ticket" to the reserved seating area at the American Gardens theater.

For those who have done the Candlelight Processional package, it is very similar. You do NOT have to book a package to see the show. You are still able to line up for a seat, to the right of the theater as you face it.

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Dining Plans: While the Magic Your Way Quick Service package is not eligible, the other dining plans can be used as follow:

-- Magic Your Way Plus Dining: 2 Table Service entitlements
-- Magic Your Way Plus Deluxe Dining: 2 Table Service entitlements
-- Magic Your Way Premium Package
-- Magic Your Way Platinum Package

You can book either a lunch or dinner. Lunch is less expensive. The price includes tax but not gratuity.

Lunch prices for adults range from $34.99 (Biergarten) to $59.99 for Les Chefs de France, Tokyo Dining, and Teppan Edo. Children's meals are considerably less and range from $12.99 to $15.99.

Dinner prices for adults range from $49.99 at Nine Dragons and Restaurant Marakesh to $74.99 at Les Chefs de France. Again, children's meals are much less ranging for dinnerfrom $16.75 to $28.99.

We have all the prices listed on our Eat to the Beat Page.

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OUR EXPERIENCE

I'm not usually a dinner package person, but since this is it new in 2014, I wanted to give it a try. The reason I typically don't do the packages is because it is way too much food for me and so I don't feel as though they are a good buy, again, for me.

Even though I booked the package on the first day of reservations, Via Napoli was not available as a dining location for the first night of the Pointer Sisters. So, we opted for Tutto Italia.

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There was a special check-in kiosk right next to the regular check-in desk at Tutto Italia. We were told to return to the kiosk after our meal with our paid receipt and we would receive our "tickets" for the reserved seating. You get a sticker to put on your shirt to identify you for your concert time.

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The price for this location is $66.99 per person including tax but NOT gratuity.

The food was very good except for the Sole. Linda felt while the flavors were very good, the fish itself was undercooked. We both agreed the winner of the evening was the Tortino di Zucchine. In fact, we would go back just for that! Our server was very good and the manager that assisted with my food allergy went over the top. All in all a very good dining experience.


My meal came to: $55.00

Appetizer: Fiori di Latte Calda - House-made whole milk mozzarella served with warm roasted pomodorini, extra virgin olive oil and focaccia $18.00

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Entree: Pollo al Forno - Roasted chicken, rosemary, lemon, farro risotto, Pancetta $26.00

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Dessert: Mocha Tiramisu
- Mascarpone, Espresso, Savoiardi biscuits, chocolate $11.00

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Linda's meal totaled: $52.00

Appetizer: Tortino di Zucchine - Baked zucchini, pomodoro, mozzarella, Parmesan $13.00

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Entree: Filetto di Sogliola - Filet of sole, cream sauce, white asparagus, lemons, capers $30.00

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Dessert: Cannoli - Crisp pastry filled with sweet Ricotta, chocolate, candied orange $9.00

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For two persons our bill was $142.69 before gratuity. Our server was quite good so we tipped $25 bringing our total to $167.79 or $83 and change each.

The food at Tutto Italia was very good however we wouldn't have had the same items were we paying with cash. We would have never ordered dessert and probably would have just ordered one salad appetizer to share. In fact, given that it is Food and Wine time, we would have just noshed at a couple of the marketplaces for dinner. Or perhaps eaten lighter at a quick service location. It was too hot out for such a heavy meal.

The reserved seating in the American Gardens theater was REALLY nice. We were in a great location, about 5 rows back, left of center stage. We were under cover, also very nice since it had been pouring rain off and on most of the evening.

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Folks were in line for the package seating a good 45 minutes or more prior to the concert. For us, it was very nice to arrive about 20 minutes before show time, the line for reserved seating had already emptied into the theater and we still had good seats.

Also, if you are a Disney Chase Visa holder, stop by the lounge. Sometimes there are reserved concert seating tickets you can get for the day of on the weekends. Those seats are the last 2 rows of the front section.


THE BOTTOM LINE

Just like everything else, it is all about what is of value to you and what are your priorities.

Once you purchase the package you are locked in. There are no refunds. If we didn't have the package we may have skipped going to the show we did and probably would have tried the following night. As I said, it was raining, at times quite hard.

So the question is, how much are you willing to pay for a reserved seating area that is under cover.

If there is an act you have been longing to see and don't want to miss them, then this package may work for you.

If you are concerned about the weather (rain), then perhaps this package is for you.

If you don't want to wait in the standby line for a fair amount of time, then perhaps this package is for you.

However, for the first week of concerts, the standby lines have not been bad. The only thing has been the unpredictable rain storms.

Let us know what you think about the package. Worth it or not?!

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About September 2014

This page contains all entries posted to Deb's Digest in September 2014. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2014 is the previous archive.

October 2014 is the next archive.

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