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February 15, 2014

Preparing for the Trip of a Life Time

Deb's Digest Blog

As I begin writing this blog, a few happy tears are coming down my face. I KNOW how blessed I am. My life has taken me through lots of highs and lows, but one of the biggest highs was starting Deb's Disney Digest back in January 1996. I have met so many wonderful people and traveled to so many wonderful places all due to starting the little website 18 years ago.

Now I am just a couple weeks away from what I feel is my ultimate Disney fan trip of a lifetime.

When Disney theme-park fans talk about the Holy Grail, what comes to mind? Tokyo DisneySea, of course! I can tell you this has been on my bucket list for years. And I have been talking about a trip to Tokyo for years. And I have been saving my frequent flyer miles for years. And now, it is really going to happen!

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And since I'll be on the other side of the world, why not visit Hong Kong Disneyland?!

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And on the way back home, we'll stop at Aulani in Hawaii. I'm typing this and even I can't believe it! Here come those tears again.

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Some say it all started with a mouse and my dream certainly did, but it got kick-started by a Jack and, like Walt, he dared to dream.

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Two years ago my dear friend Jack celebrated his 50th birthday by running his first full marathon and throwing an elaborate character filled party! The theme of his party was his dream of visiting every Disney theme park within the next 5 years. Jack and I spoke afterwards and talked about how cool it would be to visit Tokyo together.

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About a year ago, we decided the time would be 2014. The first hurdle was deciding exactly when we would go. We didn't want to go in peak season and we didn't want to go when it was freezing cold, so when? I'm not sure how exactly, but we decided on early March.

You can imagine the complexity of planning a trip of this magnitude. We've been organizing for months and months and, now, 2 weeks away, we are still finishing all the details. We are spoiled here in the U.S. with Walt Disney World's website because the park hours are listed months in advance, and you can make hotel and dining reservations months in advance. Not so with the Asia parks. Add to that the time and culture differences, and planning was a bit tricky, to say the least.

Eight of us are part of this journey -- AllEars Bloggers Jeanine Yamanaka (all three locations), Laura Gilbreath and Lee Zimmerman (Hong Kong and Tokyo) ; AllEars photographer Linda Eckwerth (all three locations); my pal Jack and his friend Pete (Hong Kong and Tokyo) and AllEars Senior Editor Deb Koma (Aulani).

With everyone's different work schedules and living on opposite coasts, we decided to choose two "core" days we would be in Hong Kong and three "core" days we would be in Tokyo -- as the ones everyone would plan to be there. This has worked well, as we will all be coming and going but also be spending a good amount of time enjoying the parks with each other.

In early March, Linda and I will begin our long journey to Hong Kong. We plan to take a couple days to get use to the time change and then head to Hong Kong Disneyland for the start of this amazing trip.

So stay tuned as we chronicle our journey through Twitter and Facebook and here on AllEars.Net. You don't need a Twitter account to follow us, just go to this link: https://twitter.com/allearsdeb.

If you have been to Hong Kong Disneyland in the last few months -- we are looking for recommendations in the park and hotels for dining (counter- and full-service). Please leave a comment below. In Tokyo, we have reservations at Magellans and Blue Bayou. Where else shall we dine (again full- or counter-service in the parks or hotels)?

We are excited beyond words, and I'm looking forward to sharing this adventure with all of you!

September 15, 2011

What's Next for AllEars.Net and Disney World

It's September, the kids are back in school, the hurricanes have hopefully left for another year and now we are entering the fall/winter season at Walt Disney World.

There is lots going on at the parks and surrounding areas in the coming months. It's a big time for the Disney and AllEars®.

Next on the agenda is the Press Event at the newest Disney Vacation Club resort, Aulani. Our west coast blogger Laura Gilbreath will be headed to Aulani next week and will share photos and and her thoughts about the resort. If you want a sneak peak, Jennifer B just concluded a 3-part blog about her visit to the resort!

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The first weekend in October will be a busy one at Walt Disney World. The Magic Kingdom celebrates 40 Magical Years; it's the start of Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival and time for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon! We have a group of Team AllEars® runners who will be participating, some of whom just ran the half marathon in Disneyland!

team photo

Deb Koma and I will be in town reporting on these events. We'll spend a fair amount of time experiencing the Food and Wine Festival -- from the First Bites Reception, to Culinary Demonstrations to Wine Seminars, to World Showplace food booths. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook and these blogs sharing our experiences with you.

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On October 7th and 8th, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin will hold their 2nd annual Food and Wine Classic . I'll be there covering those events too! You can read my report from last year!

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After that, we return home to put the final touches on our December to Remember 15th Anniversary Weekend that takes place December 8-11 at Walt Disney World! We have a wide variety of events from meet and greets in the parks, to a tour of a Kidani Village Grand Villa to a special time with Disney Artist Don "Ducky" Williams. Some events have tickets remaining so be sure to check out our schedule!

All that being said, I'll be a bit quiet for the next week or so. I'm headed on a cruise (don't tell on me, but it's not Disney) and plan to get some good old R and R. I've got at least one blog scheduled while I'm gone and I know I've left the websites in very capable hands.

Thanks for reading!

Catch you on the flip side :)

August 17, 2011

Heading to Disneyland and the D23 Expo

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Today I am heading to the west coast for a week in Disneyland. Even though I was just there for 2 nights in April (before the Disney Cruise west coast re-positioning cruise), much has changed since my visit!

At Disneyland, the new Star Tours is open - yes, I know just like WDW. But the Mickey's Soundsational Parade also has debuted and getting very positive reviews. I love a good parade and look forward to seeing this one!

Mickey's Soundsational Parade

Over at the Disneyland Hotel, where I wandered in a maze of construction walls on my last visit, the pool and 2 new eateries have opened! Tangaroa Terrace and Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar are now open. In fact, I'll be having a meet and greet at the Tangaroa Terrace on Thursday morning at 9:30am!


Disneyland Hotel

Disneyland Hotel


But the most changes have occurred over the Disney California Adventure. The new entrance (which I hear makes you think you are at Disney's Hollywood Studios) has opened.

The first photo is from my April trip and then you'll see how it looks now. Quite a difference.

Disney California Adventure

Disney California Adventure

...as has The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure. I'm excited to be seeing the Little Mermaid attraction as it will be opening in WDW next year!

Ariel's Undersea Adventure

Also, the Paradise Pier area has many new areas open including Goofy's Fly School and several eateries.

Goofy's Fly School


WOW -- there is a LOT that is new since just a few months ago. I hope I can see it all.

The reason I'm not sure is because much of my time will be over at the D23 Expo.

The pre-opening festivities include an invitation only special tribute in honor of Betty Taylor & Wally Boag at Disneyland. Plus a media reception that takes place inside the "Carousel of Projects," the spectacular pavilion created to celebrate all the magic on the horizon for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. We will also get to preview the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives.

And, I have a few other things I'll be doing on thursday that I hope to be able to tweet photos and update you on.

The Expo kicks off officially on Friday for 3 days. The AllEars team (Deb Koma, Laura, Lee and Jeanine) will be there covering as many events as we can with a jammed packed schedule.


Here is a list of the celebrities who are supposed to be there over the course of the three days:
Celebrities from both current and classic Disney projects (both on screen and behind the scenes) will be on hand throughout the Expo, and are currently scheduled to include: Jennifer Garner, Dick Van Dyke, Willem Dafoe, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Jason Segel, Marty Sklar, Alice Davis, Michael Giacchino, Tony Baxter, Tom Bergeron, Regis Philbin, Jodi Benson, Lea Salonga, Linda Larkin, Paige O'Hara, Anika Noni Rose, David Arquette, Jason Dolley, Hayley Keyoko, Sterling Knight, Tiffany Thornton, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Kelly MacDonald, Kevin McKidd, Lynn Collins, Taylor Kitsch, Wilmer Valderrama, Sean Astin, Melissa Joan Hart, Sean Astin, Chelsea Kane, Kyle Massey, cast members from Marvel's The Avengers and many more.

Many things I want to see overlap, so hard choices will have to be made. Here are just a few of the events I hope to be at

Friday

2011 Disney Legends Ceremony, 11 a.m. D23 Expo kicks off the first day by honoring the latest recipients in Disney's 24-year tradition.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, 3:30 p.m. Glimpse into some of the exciting projects currently underway at Disney's parks and resorts.

Dick Van Dyke & The Vantastix, 8:15 p.m. Hear songs from Dick Van Dyke's varied entertainment career and various Disney classic songs.

Saturday

The Walt Disney Studios, 10:30 a.m. Exclusive video clips, live performances, filmmaker discussions, star appearances, and more!

Michael Giacchino's Music of Pixar, 1:00 p.m. In this musical presentation, Michael Giacchino provides an earful of tunes and tales about his early influences for Pixar's modern-day classic scores.

Legends of Walt Disney Imagineering, 4:30 p.m. Disney Legend Marty Sklar will lead a celebration of Imagineering careers and accomplishments.

Sunday

Imagineering the Dream and the Fantasy Ceremony (D23 Members Only), 9:00 a.m. Imagineers Joe Lanzisero and Bob Zalk talk about the design of Disney's latest cruise ships.

Radiator Springs Reality, 1:30 p.m. Pixar's John Lasseter and Roger Gould join Imagineers for a sneak peek look at Cars Land.

MORE of The Wonderful World of Vintage Disneyland and Walt Disney World, 5:15 p.m. Film preservationist Ed Hobelman and Imagineer Tony Baxter look back at vintage footage. Stage 23

Stay turned.

I will be twittering http://twitter.com/#!/allearsdeb and my twitter feeds to my facebook page.

Deb Koma will be twittering via the http://twitter.com/#!/allearsnet.

The Team will be blogging as time permits.

April 27, 2011

Disney 'Round the USA and Canada - Monday & Tuesday, April 25-26, 2011

Deb Wills is off on another adventure -- this time starting at Disneyland in California, then taking the Disney Wonder to Canada (Vancouver), followed by the first Disney cruise to Alaska! She'll be sending photos via Twitter along the way (you can follow her @AllEarsDeb) as much as she is able to -- but for those of you who don't use Twitter, I'll (that's me, Deb Koma) will be reposting the photos here in her blog so you can follow the journey.

Here are the photos she shared on her departure day, Monday, April 25 and Day 1, Tuesday, April 26:

Excited to see World of Color again. :)
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Love this DL Plaque
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Entrance to DCA a bit of a challenge during new entrance construction
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AllEars Meet at Disneyland
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Beautiful morning in Downtown Disney Disneyland
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Morning at Grand California DL
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Themed desserts at Marceline's Confectionery DL Downtown Disney
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I really enjoy DL's Downtown Disney!
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Love this photo of Walt - where would you find it?
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Old posters on construction walls - nice touch
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Room is ready! Yipeee at Disneyland
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April 25, 2011

Off We Go........Disney Round the USA and Canada

By the time you read this, I'll be either on my way to the airport or on a plane to the west coast.
As I mentioned in my last blog, this is a Mega-Disney trip taking place over 3 weeks.

First stop is Disneyland. I thought it might be fun to go back over previous blogs from Disneyland and post some of my photos:


Minnie is ready to fly the plane at Disney California Adventure!

Disneyland

The breakfast at the Plaza Inn has lots and lots of characters:

Disneyland

And over at Paradise Pier character breakfast - Stitch helped me celebrate my birthday!

Disneyland


This was my first real hint that Marc Lorenzo was such a detailed planner. He showed up at a pre-D23 Expo meet with his color coded spreadsheets

Disneyland

A 2009 construction photo of the World of Color fountains:

Disneyland


At the World of Color Press Event in 2010, Jodi Benson performed live for the media! Can't wait to see the new Little Mermaid Attraction!
Disneyland

If you are wondering when to visit Disneyland for perhaps that one and only time? My recommendation would be a toss up between during the Halloween Festivities and the December Holiday Festivities!

Disneyland

Mickey is decked out for Halloween
Disneyland

Lots of amazing carved pumpkins!

Disneyland


No matter when you visit, you must spend time in Toontown! It's awesome!

Disneyland

Disneyland

One of my favorite things about visiting Disneyland is I get to see friends who live on the west coast :)

Disneyland

Disneyland

And perhaps my favorite Disneyland photo was taken September 2010, when my dear friend Cathy and I finished the DL Half Marathon and got our treasured Coast to Coast medals!

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You can be sure I will be twittering and posting on Facebook during my trip.

And remember, Laura will be blogging during the two cruises!

So, for those who can't join us, be sure to follow our journey!


April 18, 2011

My Next Disney Journey

One week from today, I'll be on a plane headed for the West Coast, to start a three-week Disney journey that will take me coast to coast on land and sea and into Canada and Alaska!

First stop is Disneyland for 2 nights -- gotta get used to the time change before I really get started!

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We'll be having a Meet and Greet on April 26th at 9:00am. Meet at the La Brea Bakery Express in Downtown Disney! We have a new AllEars trading card to debut, too! Be sure to RSVP on our Facebook Event Page to receive a special gift when you arrive :)

On April 27th I head over to the Port of LA to embark on the first ever Disney Cruise Line Re-positioning cruise from LA to Vancouver! The 6-night cruise will bring the Disney Wonder ship to Canada for the start of the Alaska cruise season! Joining me will be AllEars® team member Laura Gilbreath (who will be blogging).

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I have some fun excursions planned including a Napa Valley Tour, a visit to Muir Woods and Sausalito, and then a visit to Butchart Gardens (check that off the "bucket list")

While on board we will have a Walk to Raise Awareness for Breast Cancer on May 1 at 8:00am.

I love being on board when a Disney ship visits a port of call for the very first time. You never know what surprises will greet the ship. The Wonder will be visiting San Francisco, then Victoria and Vancouver, Canada.

Once in Vancouver, several of us will be disembarking and then embarking on the Disney Wonder for the first ever Disney cruise in Alaska! I am excited to be hosting a great group of folks on the AllEars® Alaskan Adventure! In addition to visiting four fantastic parts of Alaska, we have some special events and surprises!

Check out this great logo that Picture This! Photo Blogger Barrie Brewer designed:

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We will stop at Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway plus tour the glacier bay area of Tracy Arm! I really love visiting Alaska! It will be my third visit to Ketchikan and Juneau and second visit to Skagway. Each of the ports is very different and there is tons to do.

Last visit to Skagway we wandered about on our own, took the one-hour National Park Service walking tour and did a self-guided town tour. It's a quaint place that takes you back to the days of the Gold Rush. This trip I will be doing the White Pass Scenic Railway.

Juneau is one of the ports I could stay in for several days. On my first trip we took a helicopter over four glaciers (unbelievable surreal experience), then landed on a glacier and did dog sledding! We went over to the Mendenhall Glacier on our own. Did you know that Mendenhall is the most accessible glacier in Alaska and the only one accessible via road? It's a must-see if you visit Juneau.

My next trip to Juneau I did a Photo Safari that included a Whale Watching trip and a hike around the Mendenhall Glacier. This time, I will be taking the Deluxe Tour of Juneau, which includes a bus tour of the city, a visit to Mendenhall, a visit to the Glacier Gardens Rainforest, and finally an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery!

In Ketchikan we have toured the Alaskan Rainforest, which included some amazing animal (bear) sightings and we've also done the float plane and boat trip of Misty Fiords. This time I will be taking the Lighthouses, Totems and Eagles excursion. This excursion includes a boat ride to see Eagles, a visit to Totem Bight State Park and finally a visit to the Guard Island Lighthouse.

And after the amazing 13 nights on the Disney Wonder I will be flying to Orlando for two jammed packed days of D23's Destination D.

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whew.....


You can be sure I will be twittering and posting on Facebook during my trip.

And remember, Laura will be blogging during the two cruises!

So, for those who can't join us, be sure to follow our journey!

November 25, 2010

A Day to be Thankful

 

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. It is celebrated every year on the 4th Thursday of November.

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So on this day of Thanksgiving, I want to take a few moments and thank all of you for your continued support of AllEars.net!

We would never be about to celebrate our 15th Anniversary on the Internet without each and every one of you!

You visit AllEars on a regular basis because you know you can depend on us to be reliable and up-to-date!

You submit photos, ideas, tips, and updates so we can continue to provide you the most current and accurate information possible!

You rate your experiences at the resorts, restaurants and special events which in turn help other readers make important vacation decisions.

You subscribe to our weekly newsletter, AllEars®.

You write guest blogs and guest feature articles!

You support us by supporting our advertisers.

Special thank you to the AllEars advertisers - both website and newsletter. Without you we wouldn't be able to continue to bring the best to our readers!

Personally I have many blessings to be thankful for. Earlier this year, I was able to "retire" from my day job of 30 years so that I could devote 100% of my time to making AllEars.net the best it can be.

I am fortunate to work with a dedicated Team of Disney lovers who contribute on a regular basis as bloggers, writers, photographers and those all important behind the scenes folks!

For these things and many more...

Thank you and have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!

Deb


May 16, 2010

Magic Kingdom Walk Around

OR --

The Magic Kingdom Under Wraps!

I took a stroll around the Magic Kingdom yesterday and, as you will see, there are lots of buildings getting exterior work done and of course, the walls are up for the brand new Fantasyland Expansion!

Main Street USA

Casey's Hot Dogs
Magic Kingdom

Disney Clothiers

Magic Kingdom

Lots of Disney Characters were out and about --

Princess Ariel and Prince Eric in Adventureland

Magic Kingdom

Over near Agrabah were Jasmine and Aladin
Magic Kingdom

Can't walk past Pirates without being noticed

Magic Kingdom

Jessie and Donald were out in Frontierland

Magic Kingdom

The Liberty Tree Tavern has both coverings and walls up.

Magic Kingdom

All of Peter Pan had a faux facade.
Magic Kingdom

Winnie the Pooh has walls around the side.

Magic Kingdom

Then beginning where Ariel's Grotto use to be, all the way through Fantasyland to about the Mad Tea Party, the walls are up for the Fantasyland Expansion Project.

Magic Kingdom

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Magic Kingdom


Be Our Guest Restaurant

Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom

Under the Sea

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

In some Fantasyland areas, the walls are on both sides of you.

Magic Kingdom

The Old has to make way for the New so I took what might be one of my last strolls through a very crowded Toon Town.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

Last but not least, the big cheese's house!


Magic Kingdom

October 12, 2009

Disneyland Resort Day 3

AllEars® Team Members Deb Wills and Cathy Bock are visiting Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure prior to their Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic tour (which starts October 13th).

As Deb roams the Disneyland Resort, she's posting photos to Twitter. You can follow Deb on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/allearsdeb

This is a compilation of those photos.

These photos are from Monday, October 12, 2009:

Good morning from cloudy Disneyland

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Security check entrance for DL DCA

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DL entrance esp for Glo and Donald

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Halloween decor at hub esp for @magicmeets

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DL Castle art work

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Pinocchio Entrance esp for @djdrew

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Village Haus Counter Service @djdrew

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DL Port Royal

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Very cool Commemorative Pressed Pennies at DL

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Chip n Dale in cool costumes

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Characters Ride down Main Street

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Mickey leads the band down Main Street

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Lisa at the Toontown Camera shop

Lisa

Roger Rabbit's ride in ToonTown

Roger Rabbit's ride

Cathy Lisa and Laura head to ToonTown

Cathy Lisa and Laura

Goofy's House for Masayo

Goofy's House

Its A Small World esp for @KimberlyMBlair. Michelle and Kara

IASW

DL Marching band

DL Marching band

October 11, 2009

Disneyland Trip Day 2

AllEars® Team Members Deb Wills and Cathy Bock are visiting Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure prior to their Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic tour (October 13th).

As Deb roams the Disneyland Resort, she's posting photos to Twitter. You can follow Deb on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/allearsdeb

This is a compilation of those photos.

These photos are from Sunday, October 11, 2009:

Mattehorn on cloudy day esp for Mikki

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Line to GET Fastpass for DL Space Mtn Ghost Galaxy

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Ran into AllEars Team Members Laura and Lee w/ Cathy in DD

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Checking mail while viewing California Adventure

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Monsters Inc enjoy especially @jjzmgailey @david4242

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AllEars DL Meet and Greet #1

AllEars DL Meet and Greet #1

AllEars DL Meet and Greet #2

AllEars DL Meet and Greet #2

AllEars DL Meet and Greet #3

AllEars DL Meet and Greet #3

Main Street DL esp for Jackie

Main Street DL

DL Main Street all ready for Halloween

Main Street DL 2

Great Pumpkin Mickey Photo Op at DL

Pumpkin Mickey Photo Op

Time to take flight at DCA

Soarin'

Beautiful evening at DL

DL at night'

What??!! I have to wait 2 hours for Fantasmic?!

Lee

DL Fantasmic Dessert Party

Fantasmic Dessert Party

DL Fantasmic Pirate Ship - Awesome!!
Fantasmic Pirate Ship

Fantasmic Character ship w/ 30-40 Characters
Fantasmic Character Ship

October 10, 2009

Disneyland Trip Day 1

AllEars® Team Members Deb Wills and Cathy Bock are visiting Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure prior to their Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic tour (October 13th).

As Deb roams the Disneyland Resort, she's posting photos to Twitter. You can follow Deb on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/allearsdeb

This is a compilation of those photos.

These photos are from Saturday, October 10, 2009:

View from the room at Grand Californian:

101009_1.jpg


Farmer Mickey is hard at work!

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Lunch at one of my favorite places .. Do you know where?

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Parks are very crowded!

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August 5, 2009

Deb's Pre- Bay Lake Tower Photos

Prior to the opening of Bay Lake Tower, I had put some photos of my trip on Twitter and FaceBook. Thanks to Jack Marshall for setup, here's a blog of all the photos I posted. These are in reverse order time-wise.

Monday August 3, 2009

Chefs Daniel and Hector helped make the evening amazing
Daniel andHector.jpg


Dessert. Berries a la berries
California Grill Dessertessert.jpg


Watching Sushi Chefs
Sushi at California Grill


Black Fig Serrano Ham Ricota Salata Flat bread
Flatbread


Heirloom Tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella to start
Heirloom Tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella


California Grill wins! Sitting at sushi/chef table
California Grill


Really pouring now with lots of thunder. Glad I am at a monorail resort!
rain.jpg


Another Boardwalk artwork
Boardwalk Art 2.jpg


A taste of the great artwork at the Boardwalk Inn and Villas
Boardwalk Art


The sun comes up over Bay Lake
Sunrise Over Bay Lake

Sunday August 2, 2009

Bay Lake Tower at Night
Bay Lake Tower


Whoa! Quite a towel creature!!
Towel Gator

Grand Floridian Lobby Elegance
Grand Floridian Lobby.jpg


WOW! The Breathless at Yacht and Beach Marina
Breathless II

Beaches and Cream now serves limited hot breakfast
Beaches and Cream


Breakfast at Fresh with Shontell @dvcbyresale
Deb and Shontell

Breakfast at Fresh in the Dolphin
Breakfast at Fresh


Morning view of the Grand Floridian from the Contemporary
Morning View of GF


Saturday August 1, 2009


Chef Mickey's and the monorail from above!
Chef Mickey's

Sunset from the California Grill
Sunset from California Grille


Really enjoyed the new Hall of Presidents
Hall of Presidents theater

I never tire of seeing the castle.
castle

Len Testa's meet at the Noodle Station in the Magic Kingdom
Len Testa's meet


The walkway from the Contemporary to the Magic Kingdom
MK walkway

Deb's Contemporary Room is ready!
Contemporary Room

March 24, 2009

Video Blog Beta Test - Take 2

A few days ago I began to share video clips from my recent trip. As I mentioned, these are Beta Test Videos. First time with the recorder, first time getting them in a blog.

Originally I had put together my first day videos into 2 blogs,but they turned out to be way too huge and I couldn't get them uploaded. I've now broken them into segments and they loaded much easier.

This first one is from my room at the Dolphin, shortly after I checked in:

Next is a short look at the Boardwalk Inn, Villas and the Boardwalk itself:

Dinner was at Flying Fish with my friends Tod and Sue and Vickie and Steve (Mr. Hidden Mickeys).

Let me know what you think of the videos. I know they are still really rough, but are they the types of videos you would like to see? I have more I'll load in the coming days.

Thanks for helping me beta test the videos!

March 15, 2009

Shuttle Launch March 15, 2009

Photos taken from Wilderness Lodge - standing on the balcony at Artist Point.

 Shuttle Launch from Wilderness Lodge

 Shuttle Launch from Wilderness Lodge


 Shuttle Launch from Wilderness Lodge


 Shuttle Launch from Wilderness Lodge


 Shuttle Launch from Wilderness Lodge


 Shuttle Launch from Wilderness Lodge


 Shuttle Launch from Wilderness Lodge


 Shuttle Launch from Wilderness Lodge

 Shuttle Launch from Wilderness Lodge

Video Blog Trip Snippet BETA

Weather is supposed to be awesome again today.! I'll be in Animal Kingdom at the All Ears Meet and Greet at 11am! Then lunch at Flame Tree!

Here is one of my video blogs that managed to get uploaded. Please remember, I"m testing this out!!!!



You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook. I play Where in the World Am I? with photos.

Twitter

Deb's Facebook Page

AllEars Facebook Page

March 14, 2009

Walt Disney World Trip

I was really hoping to do video blogging this trip, but I am having lots of technical difficulties. Hopefully after I get home I can work through them.

Weather is awesome! Today is my first time in a park this trip. You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook. I play Where in the World Am I? with photos.

Twitter

Deb's Facebook Page

AllEars Facebook Page

If you are in Orlando, come see us Sunday, March 15th at Animal Kingdom. We will be meeting at Kilimanjaro Safari at 11am. After our ride it's lunch at Flame Tree.

February 8, 2009

Walt Disney World This and That

I recently returned from a wonderful vacation that included 3 nights at Old Key West in Walt Disney World. Here are some random thoughts and observations:

Old Key West:
I really do love this resort. The villas are very spacious and 4 of us had more than ample room in the 2 bedroom.

We dined at Olivia's (sit down restaurant at Old Key West) twice for breakfast and once for lunch. Food was very good and service good as well. Only one issue in 3 meals, breakfast potatoes were cold. Once we told the server we soon had pipping hot cheesy potatoes... Yumm!

Old Key West DVC Resort

Old Key West DVC Resort

blue line


Owners Locker:
My two purple lockers were waiting for me at Old Key West when I arrived. I love having so many items in storage that I no longer have to bring back and forth each trip. Particularly useful this time were: coffee and coffee filters, Umbrellas, Ponchos, electric toothbrush, quart size storage bags, hats, bottled water from last trip, snack bars, gum .. well I could go on and on.

Owners Locker John and Brian

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Epcot Extra Magic Hour Evening:
On January 30th we did the Extra Magic Hour. We tried to begin at Soarin' but at 8:30pm it already posted a 40 minute wait. So, we walked over to Spaceship Earth. The Cast Member there did NOT check resort IDs. The line was average... not sure how many of those folks were resort guests or not. Next we walked to the Living Seas where resort IDs were checked. No wait as we walked through the long queue to get on the Clammobiles. The only wait for Crush was for the next show. Back to Soarin (resort IDs checked) which had a 35 minute wait posted and that was exactly what it was. All that took about 2.5 hours.

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Wandering around the Animal Kingdom is always a favorite activity of mine. On a cool raining morning, there were plenty of animals and birds out and about.

Saddlebill Stork:

Animal Kingdom

Galapagos Tortoise:

Animal Kingdom

Tigger:

Animal Kingdom

Elds Deer (male):

Animal Kingdom

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Tusker House Lunch with Reserved Seating for Finding Nemo The Musical
While I am usually not a lunch buffet fan (way too much food for me), I was curious as to how the reserved seating was working for Finding Nemo. When I called WDW-Dine I said I wanted this feature and they gave me a lunch reservation for 1:20pm. The Finding Nemo show would start at 3:15pm. Upon checking in at Tusker House, we (party of 10) were seated right away. The hostess asked if I wanted our priority seating ticket, uh - yes please. She instructed us to get there at 2:30. With 10 folks, one hour was a bit short for lunch so it was around 2:40 when we headed over to Finding Nemo. Fortunately for us, the seating was not yet released to the general public and was still reserved. We were directed to an area in the front right most section. For the most part, this was a good view (although we were a bit too close to the stage for me). Once the seating was open to everyone it filled quickly. It was nice to have prime seating and not have to stand over an hour in line waiting for it!

TIP: For shows such as this, use the "sports" mode on your digital camera (if it has one). Steady the camera against your body (or on a railing if you have one in front of you) and wait for that pause in the actor/ress and SNAP! You can get some good pics this way. My camera is the Canon S5 IS. The photos below were only reduced in size to fit in the blog. No other modifications were made to them.


Animal Kingdom Finding Nemo the Musical

Animal Kingdom Finding Nemo the Musical

Animal Kingdom Finding Nemo the Musical

Animal Kingdom Finding Nemo the Musical

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Misc Dining Bites

We also ate at the Brown Derby for lunch. Prices seem to keep creeping up but the Cobb Salad is still worth the $15 lunch price to me!!!

Dinner at Jiko was exquisite. From the moment we arrived, from the wine to appetizers to our entrees to dessert - everything was perfect. Special special thanks to Chef David, our server Nassar, Michelle for stopping by, manager Alvin (I hope I remember you name correctly) and manager Vickie for making the evening so incredibly special.

The photo below is the special appetizer sampler that Chef David prepared for us (from left to right): Duck Confit and Fig Salad with comice pears, black mission figs, and goat cheese crouton; Curried Samosas - Crispy Pockets with Potato, Sweet Corn, and Tamarind Sauce; Spiced Briouats - Pulled beef rolled in Naan with tomato-date jam; Pokanoket Farm Seared Ostrich Filet - with creamed sweet potatoes and pomegranate gastrique.


Jiko Appetizers

On our last evening we dined at Tutto Italia in Italy in Epcot. First time for all of us since the change from Alfredo's. Our server was so wonderful, he really made the evening bright!!! I would rate the food average theme park food. I recommend you stick to the basics. Appetizers of Caesar Salad and Tomato and Mozzarella were very good. For entrees, most of the pasta dishes were good. Although, 2 of us ordered the Pumpkin Ravioli. I was disappointed in mind, but the other person enjoyed theirs. The filet of sole was a tad on the dry side and could have used more flavor.

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Oh - almost forgot! One of the few attractions we rode, Toy Story Mania, was a huge hit with everyone!!!

Toy Story Mania


All in all a quick, but enjoyable time in Walt Disney World!

August 31, 2008

Deb and Steve Cruise Adventure Day 1

Deb and Steve Cruise Logo


Linda and I left a very quiet BWI airport on Saturday morning. We couldn't believe how empty the parking lot was at the terminal. Our skycap told us that number of travelers for Labor Day Friday and Sat, compared to last year, was down over 50%! WOW.

Same was true for our Southwest Flight. Can't tell you the last time I was on a fairly empty Southwest flight to Orlando... our plane yesterday was about 1/3 full.

We arrived to a very rainy Orlando. Got all our bagage, did the grocery stop thing and arrived at the Beach Club about 1ish.

The Magic began right away for us. While Linda took care of the luggage, I went to check in. Here's where I was quite impressed with the Beach Club... As I entered the foyer area from the outside, just before the doors to the lobby itself, a Cast Member came over and greeted me..

Checking in? Why Yes. And your last name? Wills. Come with me. I'll be honest, I was a bit dumbfounded. This hadn't happened to me before. He escorted me to the line at the front desk and then said.. this is too long, let me see what else I can do. He disappeared and returned a few minutes later and had me move over the Lobby Concierge for check in. I don't think in all the years I have been coming to WDW, that has ever happened!

Cast Member Grace checked me in and she was outstanding. Oh, your room isn't ready, let me find one that is for you. And with that, she picked up the phone and got me a room! I was thrilled. She let me know my Owner's Lockers were in storage ready for me. Had we checked our luggage? She take care of that. And soon we were ready to head to the room.


Beach Club Room


On the way we had our first sighting of Deb and Steve cruisers in the lobby, Jill and Carolyn!! These two ladies are just amazing with their magical spirit. They always make me smile. I got to meet their children and Jill's mom Brenda. We chatted for a bit and then saw our luggage making it's way down the hall...so off we went.

Jill, Carolyn, Deb and Brenda


Our Bell Services Cast Member was also great.... I think his name was Robert? Without us realizing it, he had stopped and got ice for us so that when he put the luggage in the room, he filled our ice bucket. Great touch!!!!!

WOW -- This is the Disney service I have missed. Throughout the day, there were cast members in the lobby making sure things were going smoothly. Asking if we needed any assistance, etc. Oh and the gentleman that escorted me to check in, saw me later in the day and called me by name. Ok, whoever set this up at the Beach Club -- KUDOS!!!!

We went to the Captain's Galley in the Yacht Club for lunch. My grilled chicken sandwich was good. Linda was disappointed with her Fish and Chips. The fish batter was overly spiced and overly peppered....and Linda loves pepper.

We had a reservation at Brown Derby, but once we saw the weather, decided for plan B (cancel Brown Derby and go to a resort restaurant). I was pretty amazed that on a Saturday night of a holiday weekend, we were able to get a table for 4 at Flying Fish at 6pm.

Errands followed and at 5:30 met up with Beci and Annette to head over to Flying Fish for dinner. We had a great dinner, awesome bottle of wine, John Anthony 2004 Napa Cab. It's a splurge bottle, but a great one I highly recommend.

A special hello to Cast Member Penny former seater at Flying Fish and before that Artist Point. I asked where she was and they told me she was now part of the Dream Squad! She's going to be awesome!!!!

From dinner we went to Martha's Vineyard for relaxation. We were joined by Matt Hochberg and Marissa and Mary and Mike Newell (WDWToday. Podcast).

I was disappointed in the lounge. It had been a while since I was there, but gone was the wonderful wine list and instead, the standard Disney cocktail bar menu. The place was packed with families as it now seems to be the overflow waiting area for the Cape May Clam Bake. Also, a private party, complete with DJ, was happening in Ariels.

While there we spotted Deb and Steve cruisers Michelle and Jimmy and spent some time catching up with them.

All in all a wonderful first day!

It's now Sunday morning. Not raining, but supposed to today. I've decided to change my plans once again and not go to Animal Kingdom this morning.

We just got breakfast from the Marketplace -- it's ok and decent for quick service. Very limited breakfast items (unless you want pastry). The premade cheese omelets had a slice of ham added to them and put on a croisant.

I wanted to get this online... and now it's time to get ready for today!~

May 1, 2008

All Ears Meet at Epcot's Imagination - April 20, 2008

It's been a while since we had an All Ears meet outside of MouseFest, so I decided to have one the weekend prior to Animal Kingdom's 10th Anniversary.

Let me digress just a bit. I flew in Saturday and stayed at the Dolphin. I had a wonderful room with a small balcony and view of Epcot's IllumiNations!!

Walt Disney World Dolphin Guest Room

Shortly after check-in, my Owner's Lockers were delivered! What did I ever do without them?!

Owner's Lockers


I had a great breakfast before the meet at Fresh, with team member Linda Mac. Fresh is a Mediterranean inspired buffet on the first floor of the Dolphin. It serves Breakfast, Lunch and Starbucks coffee!!

For me, it's one of the best kept secrets in Disney. The food is made fresh, most of it to order and it doesn't have the frantic atmosphere of a Disney Resort eatery. Hence, I ate here actually 3 times during my stay.

As LindaMac and I entered Epcot and walked toward Future World, team member Jack Spence called on the phone to meet up. Right after we found Jack, we also found Elton - a Disney Dream Team Cast Member. With his great smile, I just had to take a photograph.

Jack and Elton in Epcot


One of the things I typically forget to do at meets, is take a photo of the AllEars team. So this time, I made sure we did it as soon as everyone arrived. From left to right: Jack Spence, Deb Wills, Glo from Miami, and Linda Mac. (Thanks to the Cast Member who play photog)

All Ears Team in Epcot

Soon folks began to arrive. We had new AllEars buttons to hand out as well as hats to keep the sun out of your eyes. There were AllEars T-Shirts for the person who traveled the farthest (Illinois). And, oh yes, we had stickers too for all kids and coughadultscough in the group. It was a fantastic turnout!

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008
Larger Image of Group Photo.

Here are meet photos of people arriving and headed into the attraction.....

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008


Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008


Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008

...Loading into the Ride Vehicles for Journey into Your Imagination...

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008


At the conclusion of the ride, many folks continued onto the second half of the meet, lunch in the Land at Sunshine Seasons.

The Land in Epcot


AllEars Lunch Meet Photograph


AllEars Lunch Meet Photograph


AllEars Lunch Meet Photograph

AllEars Lunch Meet Photograph


AllEars Lunch Meet Photograph

AllEars Lunch Meet Photograph


On behalf of LindaMac, Jack, Glo and myself...thank you everyone for spending part of your vacation with us!!!

April 14, 2008

Deb's Upcoming Adventures

I've been contemplating what to blog about next and I just couldn't focus on a topic.

Then it occurred to me the reason I couldn't settle on a subject, is because I have 4 major adventures coming up within the next several weeks.

I'll be at Walt Disney World for Animal Kingdom's 10th Anniversary Celebration. (Gotta find my Opening Day T-Shirt and Button!).


Animal Kingdom 1998 Pre-Opening Guide Map

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On Sunday, April 20th, you can meet me and AllEars Team Members Glo from Miami, LindaMac and Jack Spence at our Epcot meet.

Figment


We will gather at 10:30am to the right of the entrance to Figment's Journey into Your Imagination. After a group photo, we will enjoy the ride and then head over to the Land's Sunshine Seasons for lunch.

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On the actual aniversary of Animal Kingdom, I will be participating in the events organized by WDWCelebrations.com called A Wild Decade. There are lots of fun events planned and I look forward to meeting many of you. Accompanying me at the Wild Decade event are AllEars® Team Members Debbie Koma, Linda Mac and Jack Spence.


A Wild Decade Logo

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Two weeks after that, May 3-4, I will be participating in my 9th Avon Breast Cancer Event in Washington DC.


avonlogodc.jpg


I will be walking with approximately 3,500 other walkers over 2 days to raise awareness and funds in the fight against Breast Cancer. I will be walking 13 miles on Saturday and another 13 miles on Sunday.

Many of you have so generously contributed to my fund raising campaign. Together we DO make a difference and have raised over $35,000!!!!! THANK YOU!

avonlogo.jpg


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Then, Friday May 9th, LindaLou and I fly to Orlando to get ready to set sail on May 10th on the Disney Magic's cruise through the Panama Canal. This is a 15 night cruise (our longest yet). I am really looking forward to the cruise as a time to relax and unwind after a hectic spring. I also plan to blog daily (or most days) from the ship.

capt deb

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After saying Good-bye to the Magic on May 25th, I'll be spending 3 nights at Disneyland.

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This will be only my 4th visit ever and I'll also be seeing AllEars team member and blogger Laura Gilbreath.

I'll then head home and will have been away for 3 weeks!

So join me over the next several weeks as I adventure from the East Coast to the West Coast via Animal Kingdom, the Washington DC Avon Breast Cancer Walk, the Panama Canal and Disneyland!

April 1, 2008

3 Night Disney Wonder Cruise Getaway Part 3 Nassau

One of my favorite things about a balcony cabin is the ability to order Room Service Coffee and just relax watching the sun rise and set. On this morning, there were plenty of clouds, but the sun did shine through.

Nassau Sunrise


We arrived in Nassau and I had, from the beginning, no intentions of getting off the ship. At 8am I went to my Vista Spa appointment for a stone massage. I really love these massages and it was just what I needed to get my body to relax.

View from our cabin on Deck 8:

Nasssau

Nassau

The ladies spent a great morning together in the cabin, chatting and sharing stories. Not sure where Mamoru was. LOL.

Eventually we made our way to Tritons for Lunch. This was definetly a lazy lazy day. Just relaxing and enjoying. I can't honestly recall what we did during the afternoon. I know I thought about going to a movie, but never got there.

The 3 night cruise was already going WAY too fast!! Tonight was Pirate night, but we had reservations for Palo so no Captain Hook for us!

LindaLou and Deb at Palo


Zoran was our server and he was great as always. We met Zoran several years ago in the main dining room and he has since been "promoted" to Palo. We always request a table in his section.

Zoran and Deb


One thing we noticed in Palo is that it was much more crowded and the servers seemed to have much less time for each table. We are guessing it was because on the 3 night, they try to accomodate as many cruisers as possible.


Here is the sun setting in Nassau.

Nassau Sunset

Tomorrow our last day on board and Castway Cay!

Related Links:

Navigators from the 3 Night Cruise

Nassau Photo Gallery

Disney Cruise Reviews

March 3, 2008

Pin Trading - End of an Era?

On Saturday, February 23, I attended the Parkhopper's pin meet hosted by Disney Vacation Club Members and Annual Passholders Vince and Suzy Gredone. This Maryland meet has been a mainstay for pin enthusiasts for many years. Sadly, this was probably the last meeting in their wonderful gallery as the building is about to be sold.

Maryland Pin Meet

VInce and Suzy are wonderful ambassadors for the Disney pin community. As a small tribute to everything they have done, I want to share a little of their story with you.

Vince: "We got started with the Disney Store Countdown to the Millennium pin series of pins. We had planned many years in advance to be in Walt Disney World for New Year 1999/2000 and when Disney announced pin trading as a new activity we decided to give it a try. It didn't take long before we were hooked. We were not into any other pins before starting with the Disney pins."

Since June 10, 2001, the Gredone's have hosted 14 meets in their Maryland pin gallery. You see, they don't rent a room in a hotel or recreation center, they have a special place that makes Disney fans, well, drool!

The meeting area is comprised of 2 rooms on the upper floor of a commercial townhouse. This gallery is truly a Disney museum. Every available inch of space is covered with a themed pin collection, a framed pin collection, Disney lithos, pin box sets, Disney cuts outs and much more. You could spend hours just wandering the 2 rooms looking at all the memorabilia.

Maryland Pin Meet

This Saturday was like most of the other Parkhopper meets I have attended. A core of tried and true pin enthusiasts that travel from Ohio, New Jersey and around the Washington DC area had hundreds, maybe even thousands of pins spread out along many tables.

Folks like Shelia and John Rick founders of the Central Jersey Pin Traders drove to the meet. The Ricks are also great ambassadors of the Disney Pin Trading Community.

Shelia and John Rick Central Jersey Pin Traders

Vince told me that they had one person, Barbara Bird, travel from California to come to one of the meets. In addition, people have also traveled from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Florida.

Here is a photo of Vince, greeting folks as they enter the Trading Area!
Maryland Pin Meet

Like so many other Disney Pin Traders I've spoken to, the hobby is much more than just collecting pins. As Vince explained, "It truly is the friends we have met through pin trading that have made this hobby so special for us. What had started as a pin trading interaction has many times developed into great and long lasting friendships. We would have never met most of the closest friends that we have if we hadn't gotten into pin trading."

James and Linda Dezern, from Virginia, have been regular attendees at the Parkhopper meet! James and Linda Dezern


I asked Vince to tell me about one of their most memorable trades. "The one we do remember quite well was for our Haunted Mansion Dangle pin. Early in our pin trading experience we had seen the Walt Disney Art Classics Celebration Haunted Mansion pin with the three Hitchhiking Ghost dangles which was available for attendees of a 1999 Walt Disney Art Classics Event. It quickly became a most wanted or "holy grail" pin for us. A close friend of ours, Lisa Tobin, was attending one of our pin trading meets and had been able to acquire an extra Haunted Mansion Dangle pin. We worked on making a trade for the pin in a very relaxed manner throughout the meet and continued into the next day. We were finally able to finish a successful trade in the living room at our house just as time was running out before we had to take Lisa to the airport. A great trade with a great friend!"

From the first time I met Vince and Suzy, I felt an immediate connection. They are warm, friendly, kind, and generous. They have done a great deal to enhance the Disney pin trading community. And, not only do they provide the space for the meet, they also provide food and drink to help those so wrapped up in trading, they would have other wise forgotten to eat.


Maryland Pin Meet

During Saturday's meet, I sat and listened to the table talk. Some folks had laptops and were visiting PinPics.com (an online catalogue of virtually every Disney pin and it's relative value) while others were checking out their want lists.

I enjoyed listening to Robyn talk to a new pin trader about the hobby and the community.

I watched as folks intensely searched for their "holy grail" and pins to finish collections. One lady had a photo of her "holy grail" pinned to her shirt. A holy grail is that elusive pin, very difficult to find, that you need for your collection.

One gentleman had a "Pete" T-shirt on and was looking for Pete pins for his collection.

There was the young girl and her dad, fans of All Ears, who came by to trade and say hi!

It's always a delight to see 2 traders smile at the end of a trade, thrilled with the new addition(s) to their collection.

And, there isn't just pin trading that goes on, Vince and Suzy have give away drawings and also games that are sprinkled throughout the event.

Cover your card BINGO is one of the favorites. The cost? A Limited Edition (LE) 3000 or less pin for each bingo card you want. Be the first to cover your card and you win the bag of LE pins. And once Bingo is yelled, the whole group erupts in cheers for the lucky winner!

Vince announces the next BINGO number

As I mentioned in the beginning, this was quite likely the last Parkhopper Pin meet. The event and more importantly, the gathering of this special group of people will be greatly missed!

A word from Vince and Suzy: "We would like to thank everyone who has attended our pin meets over the past seven years. We have had a lot of great trades, fun times, and fantastic memories with all of our pin friends!"

A tip of my Mickey Ears to a wonderful couple that know what Sharing the Magic is all about!

Vince and Suzy Gredone

February 13, 2008

February WDW Trip Report Part 3b, Sunday 2/3/08

When I returned to the hotel I called WDW Dining and was able to get a reservation at the Brown Derby for dinner at 6:15pm. I lucked out since there was only one show of Fantasmic so anyone on the Fantasmic Dinner Package would be finishing by that time.

As I walked toward the Hat I noticed people lining up. I knew the parade had been earlier so I inquired as to what was going on. Turns out, High School Musical was about to begin. Sure enough, the music started and a float headed down the street.

High School Musical

I then wandered to the Brown Derby to get a peak at the dinner menu. I noticed folks were sitting outside and thought that would be wonderful to do.

Mickey and the Brooms

It has been a long time since I saw the Voyage of the Little Mermaid, one of my favorite attractions at the Studios. My timing was good, so I got into the inside waiting area. I hadn't had a chance to really look around in here before.. there are lots of neat objects to check out.

Ariel

Ursula

Time for dinner. I had my usual, the Cobb Salad. I really like the mixture of very cut up greens, vegis and meat. A wonderful dinner!!! I did get a table outside and enjoyed people watching as everyone headed over to Fantasmic!

Soon it was dark, dinner was over, and time to leave the Studios before Fantasmic ended!

The Hat

As I walked to the boat I thought about heading into Epcot and watch IllumiNations. As the boat slowly made it's way along the canal I decided to pass on Epcot. Yet, I wasn't ready to call it a night. I got off at the Boardwalk and wandered around. It was pretty crowded.

A large group of folks were at the ESPN club watching the Super Bowl.

ESPN Superbowl

Several entertainment acts were performing. This card trick magician was quite good.

ESPN Superbowl

After a while it was time to head back to the Yacht Club. Here's one last shot of the Boardwalk from the Yacht Club.


Boardwalk at Night

Early the next morning I got up and headed to the airport. Another trip had come to an end.

Deb

All photos taken with a Canon S5 IS digital camera. Other than cropping, no alterations to the photos were done.

February 11, 2008

February WDW Trip Report Part 3a, Sunday 2/3/08

Wow! I can't tell you the last time I had a full day at WDW (it's been several years) with absolutely NOTHING on the agenda. No dining plans, no meetings, no research, no meets... just a day for me to spend doing whatever I wanted.

The first order of business was to NOT have a wake up call for Sunday morning. That usually doesn't matter and I'm up early. However, on this Sunday I was awoken when the phone rang a little after 8am!

It was a beautiful day outside and so I got ready for a day of exploring.

View of Boardwalk

On my way to the Yacht Club bus stop I made the decision to begin at Animal Kingdom. Even thought I had spent Saturday there, I didn't walk any of the animal trails or see any shows.

As I walked from the Animal Kingdom bus top toward the entrance to Animal Kingdom, I was reminded about a great photo op that I rarely see folks use...

Animal Kingdom Sign

I love photography, especially in Animal Kingdom. There are so many things to take photos of, some easy and some challenging. I just love images with a bright blue sky behind them.

Animal Kingdom Sign

The West African Crowned Cranes were all out and about in Discovery Island.

West African Crowned Cranes

No trip to Animal Kingdom is complete without spending time finding creatures in the Tree of Life. I wonder if I found the Moss growing like a Hidden Mickey next to the buffalo?

Hidden Mickey Tree of Life

I just love the animal walking trails so I headed past the Kilimanjaro Safari (about a 20 minute standby line) and entered the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.

At the beginning of the trail are the Colobus Monkeys. They were just lazing around and it was hard to take photos of them.

Two Okapis as well as the yellow backed diker were out foraging. Here is a photo of one Okapi and the diker is in the back right of the photo

Okapi and Yellow Back Diker

The Aviary in the Pangani is small and because many of the birds and ducks keep moving, it's hard to get good photos.

Around the bend to the Nile Hippopotamus viewing area. I was quite surprised to find one sleeping on the ground soaking up the sun. Usually they are all in the water.

Nile Hippopotamus

As you enter the Meerkat village you can also see Gernuks. I don't often see them out, but today I was excited to find both the male and female posing for photographs.

Gernuk

Soon I entered the Gorilla Research Camp. Wow, I was in luck as I saw at least 6 different gorillas along the trail. This one, in the first viewing area that is floor to ceiling windows, was posing for us.

Gorilla

All too soon, the Pangani animal viewing trail had ended.

I took a break and headed to Flame Tree BBQ for lunch. I had the same Turkey Sandwich on Multi-grain roll that I had the day before.

Next stop, the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia.

Many of the animals and birds were out and about. It was great animal viewing and photo ops!

Tiger

Here is a bird from the aviary, I can't recall it's name. It was making a nest up in the tree and so walked on the ground gathering small twigs and branches.

Tiger

After completing the trail I wanted to see a live show, either Lion King or Finding Nemo, but I would have had to wait around longer than I wanted. I took the opportunity to head back to the room and enjoy the balcony.

All photos taken with a Canon S5 IS digital camera. Other than cropping, no alterations to the photos were done.

To be continued.

February 9, 2008

February WDW Trip Report Part 2, Saturday 2/2/08

Saturday was spent with a family who I've known for several years. Bonny and Andrew have a special daughter named MJ who is featured (page 246) in the PassPorters Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line book I co-authored.

MJ is a 7 year old girl with multiple disabities including Right Cerebral Cortex Polymicrogyria, autism, epilepsy, fetal alcohol syndrome disorder; to name a few. Her language is limited to single words and some sign language, but spending a day with her is a special treat beyond words. It's been amazing over the years to see what her many many trips to Disney parks has done to help her become more alive, more verbal.

Our day began with breakfast at Cape May Cafe. MJ is fed only by a feeding tube and therefore does not eat or drink. She does enjoy Character Meals. She also enjoys cutting food while the rest of us eat.

Today was a celebration of MJ's birthday (which is later this week). Minnie was the first to wish her a Happy Birthday.

MJ and Minnie

Dale stopped by for some chair dancing with MJ.
MJ and Dale

After breakfast we headed to Animal Kingdom. We were still in the Oasis when we realized it was time for White Spoonbill eggs. In the photo below, one Spoonbill had just moved away from sitting on the eggs and another came over and turned them around. About this time, All Ears team member Linda Mac joined us!

Spoonbill and Eggs

Being in a park with MJ is not your typical day in a park. It's a slow stroll with her pointing to various parts of the park that she wants to visit. Her mom will ask, Do you want to go to Planet Watch? and she will either motion or speak, yes or no. And believe me, she knows the names of everything in the park!

Along the way, we encountered Terk. MJ just LOVES to rub Terk's belly!
MJ and Terk

Next was the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki's Planet Watch.

Deb and MJ on the Wildlife Express Train


MJ loves all the hands on items and especially being able to pet the animals. "Touch, touch", is what she says about the rabbit below.

MJ and the rabbit

She was also quite fascinated with the cage the rabbit traveled in.

MJ looking at the rabbit cage

Soon Jiminy Cricket appeared..... It was amazing that he had no line of folks waiting to see him. He took the opportunity to spend extra time with MJ. She was showing him the bird's nest that had 3 babies in it.

MJ and Jiminy


And I couldn't resist the chance for a photo-op with Jiminy!

Deb and Jiminy

Next up was lunch at Flame Tree BBQ. I had a Turkey Sandwich on a multi-grain roll. And while the roll was on the dry side, it must be low on the glycemic index as just a low dose of insulin took care of it!

After lunch, we planned to see Finding Nemo the Musical. However, MJ had about had enough of the crowds so we headed back to her house.

One of MJ's friends gave her a Belle dress for her birthday! Here she is modeling for us.

MJ dressed as Belle

Here is MJ with LindaMac, whom she called "Mac" and her dog Coco.

MJ, Linda Mac and Coco


MJ and Deb just hanging out.

MJ and Deb

A wonderful day had come to an end and it was time to head back to the resort. Originally I was going to call it a night, but then realized I was very hungry. LindaMac said she could eat also and we managed to get a resservation for Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian for 6:15pm. We could just make it.... A great dinner and server and company......Saturday came to an end.

Tomorrow...my day with NO plans at all! WOW!

February 7, 2008

February WDW Trip Report Part 1, Friday 2/1/08

I just returned from a 4 night stay at Disney's Yacht Club and thought I'd blog about my trip.

I flew into Orlando late on Thursday evening. Friday was meeting day with two All Ears® advertisers. This is as good a time as any to talk about one of the questions I am often asked: "How do you choose your advertisers?"

Those of you, who have been with me since the good ole days, know that I didn't have any ads for the first 3 years. It was only when my ISP came to me and said... your traffic is slowing down the server you're on. You need your own server. Oh and by the way, what you are paying per year, you now will be paying per month. OUCH!

Since the beginning it has been VERY important to me to provide quality products and services to my readers. In fact, probably 90% of the folks that approach us to advertise never make it to the pages of the website or the newsletter.

For some advertisers, it's a long arduous process to be "approved". I want to make sure the businesses who advertise to my readers have the same standards of quality and customer service that I have. There are certain things I look for on their website and in their customer policies.

Depending on the service/product and whether it is an established company or not, determines how involved the approval process is. In fact, John of Owner's Locker wrote a blog about becoming an All Ears advertiser.

And after the deal is done, so to speak, our review of advertisers doesn't end. We "shop" our advertisers periodically. By "shop" I mean that someone I know will utilize the product or service and report back to me on the experience.

We all know that things can go wrong, that's part of life. But the important part is Customer Service. How is the problem or issue resolved?

It is very important to hear from All Ears readers about the advertisers on the website and in the All Ears newsletter. I want to hear the positive and the negative. Sometimes a company manager has no idea there are issues unless it is brought to their attention. They also, like to praise and possibly reward employees who do an outstanding job. Please use our contact form to let me know about any advertiser you have used!

Ok, back to the trip. On Friday, I met with 2 relatively new All Ears advertisers: Owners Locker and Buena Vista Scooters.

Owner's Locker - I have met owners Brian and John several times. What I like about these men is that they are always looking for new and creative ways to partner. And, most importantly, they offer a very unique product with superb customer service.

Deb and Owner's Locker

I began using my Owners Locker last fall and I now wonder how I managed with it out all this time!!! It is SO nice to not have to schlep items back and forth to Florida. In fact, I loved my first locker so much, I ordered a 2nd one.

So what's in my locker? One locker is filled with all types of All Ears items, from hats to buttons to lanyards to copies of PassPorter's Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line book I co-authored with Debra Martin Koma. I call this my "business" locker.

My other locker, the personal one, has all the things I use to pack each and every trip in either my carryon or suitcase...that now I don't have to! Some of the items include: ponchos, umbrella, sweatshirt, electric toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, multi-plug extension cord, phone charger, camera batteries and charger, coffee, Brita Water Filter and a lot of my non-perishable diabetic supplies. And that's just some of the items that fill my locker!

This was a follow-up meeting with John and Brian to see how things were going...provide feedback, them to me and me to them, and explore options for the future.

After my breakfast with John and Brian, I returned to my room at the Yacht Club to check email and get ready for my next meeting.


Next up was lunch with Bob and Chris from Buena Vista Scooters. If you've ever strolled down the Boardwalk (or stayed there) you have probably seen some of Buena Vista Scooters' products. They not only rent Surrey Bikes at the Boardwalk but also electric scooters and strollers as well.

I enjoyed talking with Bob and Chris and our discussions just solidified the positive feedback I have received about Buena Vista Scooters. It was great to meet them both in person.

Deb, Chris and Bob

After our meeting I went back to the room and caught up on email and voice mail messages.

Soon it was time to head over to Animal Kingdom Lodge and dinner at Jiko with friends. It was a wonderful dinner with great conversation, wine and food. Nassar, our server, was outstanding as always and made excellent wine suggestions.

Chef Brian spent time talking with us. He has begun to make small changes to the menu at Jiko. Right now the changes are with similar foods but with a different twist. For instance, his new tuna appetizer was quite delicious. Tuna has been an appetizer since the restaurant opened but now, it is seared tuna. One of the flatbreads has changed as well.

Chef Brian also told us he is involved with the new restaurant in the Animal Kingdom Villas Kidani VIllage, which will be Indian cuisine.

As we neared the end of our evening, Jiko manager Jeremy came by and poured us a sample of MR; a superb red wine from South Africa. It is a blend of several wines and 2 wineries. It was outstanding! All too soon, our evening at Jiko came to an end.

Once back in my Yacht Club room, I went out on the balcony and took a photo of the view as I looked to the left.

View of the Boardwalk from my Yacht Club Room

Tomorrow, a special day with a special family.

November 8, 2007

Sunday at the World

Sometimes it's hard to finish a trip report once home, but here is the conclusion of my late October adventure to WDW.

In case you missed the earlier posts here are the links:
Heading to Walt Disney World
Magic Kindgom Friday Part 1
Magic Kingdom Friday Part 2
Segway Saturday Part 1
Segway Saturday Part 2

Despite a very late night at the Studios for the Tower of Terror 13K race, I had an early morning meeting. I met with Brian and John from Owners Locker at Boatrights, Port Orleans Riverside. These guys offer a great service for storing your "stuff" between trips to the world. Be sure to check them out.

John and Brian from Owner's Locker

Epcot Cast Member Patti and I had a nice chat as I entered the park through the International Gateway.

Cast Member Patti

Once inside Epcot I met my friends from Japan, Masayo and Nozomi and AllEars team member Linda Mac. We had some fun at the Canada pavilion waiting for the O Canada movie to open.


Canada Fun

As we walked through the United Kingdom, we met All Ears fans! Always love meeting our readers!

All Ears Fans

One of the things I love best about Disney parks is the attention to detail. I never noticed that each of these have a different geometric pattern on them.


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Masayo stops to sample the sushi at the Japan Food Booth.


Masayo in Japan Food Booth


While in Japan, we enjoyed Miyuki's show of candy art. What a wonderful time! Miyuki spent a few moments with us after her show, it was very special. She also enjoyed speaking with Masayo and Nozomi who both are from Japan.

Miyuki

I left Epcot via the Boardwalk. A great deal of exterior work is occurring to the Inn side of the Boardwalk.

Boardwalk Rehab

Upon arriving back at Port Orleans Riverside, I was surprised by the package on my door. I had left the "Privacy" sign up and housekeeping left me a bag with fresh towels and soaps. Nice touch.

Laundry Bag at Port Orleans

A dinner at Artist Point with friends Steve, Vickie and Beci rounded out the weekend. Early Monday morning I was on a plane back to Maryland. Southwest Airlines is going full steam ahead to get their boarding areas redone. Starting November 8th, including some new ticket options.

October 28, 2007

Segway Saturday Part 1

What a great day! I was a bit concerned by the early morning weather report. It basically said rain off and on all day in Orlando. Fortunately, I was barely drizzled upon.

Bright and early I was off to POP Century to have breakfast with Masayo and Nozomi. We each enjoyed the croissant sandwich (egg, bacon and cheese). Soon it was time to drive to Ft. Wilderness and begin our Ft. Wilderness Back Trail Segway Adventure.

After parking in the main lot at Ft. Wilderness, we walked to the bus depot to catch an internal bus to the area where Mickey's Backyard BBQ pavilion resides. We not only met up with LindaMac here, but also 3 ladies I had cruised with a couple years ago on the Mexican Riviera. Rose told me they had just gotten back from the Disney Vacation Club Member cruise. They thought it was excellent and enjoyed all the Disney legend guest speakers. It really did sound wonderful.

We arrived at the Backyard BQQ location and were joined by our other friend, Mike Newell of MouseWorldRadio.com. Our tour guides, Ron and Frank, were great instructors - very patient and information. We went thru a series of moves on the segway, one at a time...slowly gaining confidence.

Soon we were traveling along the paths of Ft. Wilderness. Not only did we go on paved areas but also dirt and mulched areas of the resort as well. These special "all terrain" segways are quite amazing. We probably spent a good hour touring around. After exploring much of Ft. Wilderness, we took the nature trail to the Wilderness Lodge and then returned to the Fort.

It was an amazing time and one we all highly recommend!

Next for me, was lunch at the Dolphin's FRESH. It was wonderful as always. I really like the fact that the food sizes are small, allowing you to sample many different things. The chefs were all very helpful and accommodating. Javier, our server, was very pleasant and attentive. Plus, another perk of dining at the Dolphin is they serve Starbucks coffee...yummm!

I returned to the room to check email and do some work. I took a nap and then got ready for dinner and to attend the Tower of Terror 13k race as a cheerer

More to follow including photos.....

October 27, 2007

Magic Kingdom Friday Part 2

Friday continued.....

Tod and Sue accompanied me around the Magic Kingdom as I took photos and got menus. I ran into David, the Cast Member I had met earlier at Peter Pan. He was very nice and made me smile in Neverland, so I made a point to stop and chat with him as his duties changed to trash pickup.

Cast member David

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When we reached Tomorrowland we decide to ride the TTA. As we exited I saw PUSH the talking trash can for the first time ever. I know the photo isn't the greatest, but when was the last time you tried to photograph a moving trash can LOL.


PUSH the Talking Trash Can

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We then went into the Laugh Floor Comedy Club. Tod and Sue had not seen it before and my only time was during the soft opening. It certainly has gotten better since my first visit back in January. Tod and Sue both enjoyed it; Sue said it was a strong "C" ticket attraction and Tod felt it was between a "C" and "D" ticket.

Monsters Inc Comedy Club

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All too soon it was time for me to head off and say goodbye to Tod and Sue. As I arrived at the Polynesian, I hit the "trifecta" by seeing all 4 hosts of WDW Today podcast, Mike, Matt, Len and Mike. We, along with Beci from MEI and MouseFanTravel enjoyed lunch at the Kona Cafe.


WDW Today Podcast Hosts

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After lunch I went over to Pleasure Island to get my ticket for Saturday night's Tower of Terror Race Party. It was like a homecoming seeing so many familiar faces and friends! One of the first people I saw was Masayo, my friend from Japan. She introduced me to her friend Nozomi.


Masayo and Nozomi

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The inside of Motions was quite crowded with folks not only getting the TOT party tickets, but also their race packets! It was here I met up with All Ears team member, Linda Mac.


Tower of Terror Race Logo

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Outside, I found some of my friends from Tagrel.com. Many of them are participating in the race Saturday evening!

Tagrel.com friends

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Linda Mac and I wandering into the Marketplace area with Masayo and Nozomi and did a little shopping. We walked right past the new construction site of TRex, the themed restaurant opening next year at Downtown Disney.

TRex construction

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I headed back to Port Orleans to get some rest before heading out to Epcot for the evening. Unfortunately, I was much more tired that I thought and had to cancel my plans to nosh around the world with AllEars team member Laura Gilbreath and her husband, Lee. :(

I grabbed some dinner at the food court and called it a night.

Coming on Saturday - Ft. Wilderness Segway Tour and Tower of Terror Race Party.


October 26, 2007

Magic Kingdom Friday Part 1

I awoke bright and early this morning, ready to head over to the Magic Kingdom! I was very excited about seeing the newly rehabbed Haunted Mansion.

The early morning is always pretty, even if it is very cloudy! This is the pool in the Arcadian Section of Port Orleans Riverside.


Port Orleans Riverside Pool

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And as I made my way to the food court, I had to stop and take this photo....


Riverside Mill

After a ham and cheese omelet at the Riverside Mill I made my way to the Magic Kingdom via the Dolphin.


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You'll find the entrance to the Dolphin (street side) under construction and walled off. You must head left past the regular entrance to get to the temporary entrance in the convention center. The actual doors are being totally removed and new sliding doors installed in their place. One Cast member told me it would be finished in December, the other said it would be 3-4 months.


Dolphin Entrance

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As I walked into the Magic Kingdom, I saw Chicken Little and Pinocchio in front of City Hall posing for photographs. Walking down Main Street, several Cast Members were welcoming guests with Mickey Gloves.

Cast member on Main Street

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I barely walked a few steps and there was the Mayor of Main Street greeting guests as they began their day. He was kind enough to stop and catch a photo with me.

Mayor of Main Street

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The Magic Kingdom really was decked out in fall / Halloween decorations.

Castle and Halloween Decorations

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The lands weren't yet opened and instead of standing at the rope drop, I hung back on Main Street to enjoy the atmosphere. I was quite surprised when I found an empty Frontierland about 9:15 this morning

Frontierland

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First stop was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which reopened yesterday after a month long rehab. While there are no "new" effects or scenes (according to the Cast Members) there were some general enhancements to the scenery as well as upgraded audio! It was as Wild a Ride as always!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Train


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Soon it was time to meet my friends Tod and Sue from Michigan. I've known them over 9 years and have spent many a great vacation with them. We rode the Haunted Mansion together, not once but twice. We were all excited about the changes to the Mansion. Kudos to the Imagineers and all who were involved in this upgrade! The changes are numerous, so you may want to ride a couple times, as we did. Definitely back on the must see each trip list!

Tod and Sue at the Haunted Mansion

To be continued...Friday Part 2

October 25, 2007

Heading to Walt Disney World

Later today I'll be catching a flight to Orlando for a trip to Walt Disney World. As I look over my itinerary, I remind myself that I never seem to accomplish all I set out to do each trip. Guess that's why I keep returning :)

Some have affectionately called me the queen of lists! I keep a Word Document itinerary for every trip I take, Disney or otherwise. It makes it easy to share with friends/relatives and also gives me a sense of focus during the trip. Each row is separated by breakfast, lunch, dinner, morning, afternoon, evening. For Disney trips there is also a top row that has Park Hours and Extra Magic Hours. The columns include each day of the trip. I now have a handy one page reference sheet to keep with me while I'm out and about.

Sample Itinerary


Every trip to Walt Disney World involves research of one kind or another. It may be to track down that elusive menu that has become outdated, or check construction status, get particular information about an attraction (or resort or restaurant), get photos, or just wander around the park and see what I notice.

No matter how many times I am at Walt Disney World (and I really have lost count) there is always something new for me to see or experience. This trip I plan to see the rehabbed Haunted Mansion in the Magic Kingdom, do the Wilderness Back Trail Adventure Segway tour at Ft. Wilderness, and attend the Tower of Terror Party on Saturday night. Of course, many other things are on the agenda :)

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And, no visit to Orlando is complete without seeing old friends and meeting new ones. One special friend, Masayo, is visiting from Japan. In fact she and her travel companion will be doing the Segway tour with me.

I hope to provide daily updates....which sometimes is easier said than done.. but I'll do my best.

If you see me in the parks, please do stop by and say hello. I come with gifts (while supplies last) and always enjoy meeting readers. Who knows, perhaps you'll see your photo in this blog once you return home.

September 23, 2007

Quick Overnight to Walt Disney World

I just got back from a quick trip to WDW and I do mean quick - less than 20 hours! I had a meeting to attend on Thursday, so I took advantage of the Southwest Ding fares to fly into Orlando on Wednesday evening. I had hoped to do some exploring once I checked in, but the flight was almost an hour late arriving in Orlando.

For those of you who fly Southwest, they recently made an announcement about a slightly revised boarding process. They will still board in groups of A, B, and C; but A and B will now have 60 persons in each group. In addition each boarding pass will be numbered. So Group A 1-5 is announced and boards first. The idea is to get rid of the "cattle" call. Another change may be in the near future, giving priority seating to those paying full price for tickets.. but that's just a rumor.

The Wilderness Lodge is an awesome as always. Ranger Stan was on vacation so I didn't get to chat with him. However, Jack (from the Old Faithful Club Concierge) was filling in for him. Jack is a great Cast Member, very knowledgeable and "hosts" a fantastic Flag Family experience.

Ranger Jack

I didn't get a photo, but some of the Dansani Water bottles now have Tinker Bell and the Castle on the label.

I arrived at the Animal Kingdom Lodge early and took the opportunity to check out the Arusha Savannah. In just a few moments I saw several giraffe and zebra. The Anakole cattle were off in the distance.

Giraffes on the Arusha Savannah


Work continues at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas. Workers could be seen on both the inside halls ways (from the lobby) and outside the resort. And construction continues on the new animal barn and Kidani Disney Vacation Club Resort. (More on that in an upcoming post).

Construction Workers outside the Animal Kingdom Lodge

Inside Lodge Rooms closed off

I was able to see one of the new Disney Vacation Club Grand Villas in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. One of the Cast Members was kind enough to point out numerous "Hidden Mickeys" for me. I'll be sending the photos to fellow AllEars blogger and Hidden Mickey guru Steve Barrett! Here is a sample of what you'll find on the shower curtain.

Shower Curtain Hidden Mickey

My whirlwind tour of the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney Vacation Club Preview Center at Saratoga Springs was over way to quickly and it was soon time to leave for the airport.

Late last year I had applied for a CLEAR card for the Orlando Airport (one of 11 participating airports). This was my first time using the CLEAR system. It worked REALLY well!

Here's the brief description of CLEAR from their website: "Travelers who join the Clear Registered Traveler program are pre-screened for security and provided with a biometric card which allows them to pass through security faster, with more predictability and less hassle."

This program is not for everyone as you are required to supply lots of personal information as well as allow fingerprinting and iris scanning. It is $100 per year. Unless you are a frequent user of the CLEAR participating airports this program isn't for you.

I will say, it couldn't have been any simpler or quicker! I walked up to the area and identified myself. The whole process took about 5 minutes. I showed my CLEAR card, boarding pass and photo ID to the staff person. Check. Next, stand on a machine, insert my clear card, put my thumb on the slot. Check. While doing that, my shoes/feet are scanned and my thumbprint checked to match that recorded on my card. Check! or should I say CLEAR!
Then, I was escorted to the head of the security line, put my items on the belt and I was on my way. No need to remove my shoes (although TSA) can always request you do so.

Once I got to the Orlando Airport B Terminal, I noticed a few things that had changed since my last visit in April of this year. Not far from where you exit the shuttle is a kiosk for the Disney Credit card. They were giving away a non-descript white Mickey t-shirt for applying.

The eatery area is still under construction but 2 new venues have opened: Au Bon Pain and a bar and grill. Nice additions to the otherwise, McDonalds and Sabaro Pizza counters. I had a smoked turkey sandwich with Swiss Cheese from AuBon and it was very good. Fresh Romaine lettuce and tasty turkey! The salads looked good too!

Usually my flights on Southwest are very full and there is rarely an open seat near me. This time, however, I lucked out - less than 50 persons on the plane. I really got to enjoy an entire empty row! WOW! Talk about luxury!


April 25, 2007

4/25/2007 WDW Almost Live

Evening 4/21/2007

Tonight we dined at Jiko to celebrate our dear friends Tod and Sue's anniversary. Our dinner was simply amazing and highlighted by manager Jeremy who paired each of our courses with a special South African Wine. We actually never did have a "main course" per se... but did manage to have several courses of items from the Cooking Place and the appetizer list. Oh, and dessert.

In this photo, Jeremy is pouring the Chocolate Box red wine for Sue -- it was YUMMMY!!

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Sunday, April 22, 2007
I hadn't spent much time in the World Showcase portion of Epcot so Linda and I headed there on Sunday. What a beautiful weather day... mostly blue skies, mild temps and a small breeze. We strolled from pavilion to pavilion enjoying all the beautiful flowers and topiaries.

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Along the way, we had lunch at the Yakatori House in Japan. It was ok, nothing special, but decent. By mid afternoon we strolled back to the front of Epcot to try and get better photos of the entrance topiaries.

Back to Wilderness Lodge where we spent some time talking with the concierge staff. Lisa, Gerrianne, Jack and everyone was just super!

Sunday evening we dined at Il Mulino in the Swan, the new Italian place. Being such a huge fan of Palio (the former Italian restaurant), I had such high hopes. Alas, I found the place disappointing and way overpriced. Our dining companions, Steve Barrett (Mr. Hidden Mickey) and his lovely wife Vickie, made the evening very special.

Monday morning we were off to the airport at 6:30am for a flight home. A great trip with great memories!

Deb --
Life IT too short!

April 24, 2007

4/24/07 - WDW Almost Live

Well, as you can see, I didn't quite finish the "live" updates from Walt Disney World. Things just got so hectic. Allow me now, to finish up the trip as best I can.....

4/20/07 Evening....
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Dinner at California Grill was wonderful, as it always is for me. We were seating in the wine room in the back and had a great view of Epcot's Spaceship Earth as well as the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. As I mentioned, I"ll be doing an article for the AllEars® newsletter on our California Grill experience.

4/21/07
Saturday morning we decided to have breakfast at Whispering Canyon Cafe. If you haven't been there yet, let's just say is a Wild and Crazy dining experience. Lots of whopping it up... so be ready for noise, even early in the am! The kids all got to ride around on their stick ponies (even some "older" kids) and it was fun to watch. Our server was very into his role and sometimes he couldn't stop himself from laughing. Food was very good but huge quantities and most of us couldn't finish our breakfast!!

The four of us went over to Epcot to see the Flower and Garden Festival. It certainly had more "color" than I remembered from last year.

The Pirate ship at the entrance is just magnificent with Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, the gator and Pirate "Mr. Smee" Stitch!

We rode the new Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico. Certainly more colorful and lively that the former El Rio de Tiempo which definitely needed updating. If I didn't know the story line in advance, I would have been wondering exactly what it was. It wasn't clear to me until near the end that the Caballeros were looking for Donald. Be that as it may, it was cute and a strong "C-ticket" attraction.

There were gorgeous orchids along the path outside of Mexico and we spent a great deal of time admiring and taking photos of them.

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At this point I left my friends and headed off to do some resort research at Saratoga Springs and Port Orleans French Quarter. My friends continued to enjoy the Festival.


Deb
Life -- IT too short!

April 21, 2007

4/20/07 - WDW "Live" Update Part 2

Friday really was an incredibly magical day. I already shared with you the baby Spoonbills I watched at Animal Kingdom....just amazing.

The day actually began earlier at the Wilderness Lodge, where we had the privilege of attending a flag ceremony on the roof of the Lodge. The cool breeze stood the flags out in a colorful array. I had not been on the roof in about 10 years and the views were as incredible as I remembered. Cast Member Jack was just wonderful and made it a very special experience!

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Ok, back to Animal Kingdom... The park was pretty crowded when I arrived 10:30ish. I was in the Dinosaur section. Do you ever feel like you must have a sign on your car that says "Put me in the farthest parking space possible.. oh and please give the folks in front of me close parking spaces" LOL So I was wayyyyyy down the end of Dinosaur. I realized just how crowded it was when there was a back up to get on the tram. As one filled, there were just as many folks waiting in the lot for the next one.

The baby Spoonbill I showed you yesterday....well, they are in the very front viewing area as you enter Animal Kingdom. There were actually 2 Spoonbills nesting with babies. The mom on the left had 2 little ones; you saw a photo of one. The spoonbill on the right had 1 baby that had been born in within the last 12 hours and also had another one coming out of the egg.

Animal Kingdom was celebrating Earth Day and had exhibits set up in each land, geared towards teaching kids more about the environment.

As I headed to Pizzafari for some lunch, I saw dear friends of mine, MJ, Bonny and Andrew! A great surprise. While at lunch I met a woman who thanked me for co-writing Passporter's WDW for Your Special Needs. She said she never imagined they'd be able to do a trip to Walt Disney World and the book gave her the courage to do so! They were having a really good time!!!"

Off to the Kilimajaro Safari... MJ stays in her wheelchair and so we went to that part of the queue line. There was a very long wait, but that was ok, it gave us a more opportunity to talk!

On the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, we saw real eggs belonging to the Flamingos. The 6 month old giraffe is now gliding more confidently along the savannah and everywhere I looked, it seemed as though there were young ones... very exciting!!!

I headed off to do some resort research and then returned to the room to get ready for dinner. Another wonderful meal at California Grill. I'll be writing more about that for a feature article in AllEars.

Deb

Life, IT too short!

April 20, 2007

4/20/07 - WDW "Live" Update

Today, Friday, is our first full day at Walt Disney World. It's been an amazing day that I can't wait to share with you as soon as I have time to write.

But I do want to share this precious photo... It is a 1-2 day old baby African Spoonbill who lives in the Oasis at Animal Kingdom.

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April 19, 2007

Wilderness Lodge

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We've arrived! I got goosebumps checking in when Al, the security guard, welcomed the Princeses Home!!! I just love the Wilderness Lodge. It was actually the first deluxe resort I ever stayed at in the 90s and still remember Ranger Stan taking care of our bags. We got a super MouseFanTravel.com group rate and are splurging with a stay in concierge!

When Al checked our name at the gate, there was a note on our parking pass to let the valet stand know we were staying at the Old Faithful Club. When we arrived at the Valet Stand they called upstairs and Cast Member Rob came down to greet us. He got a bellman for us and wouldn't you know, it was Arnie, the same gentleman that helped me on my last stay. He is just wonderfully magical and it started the stay out on a very high note. The Lodge appears to be pretty full to capacity..there are folks everywhere!

It was 6:30 when we arrived. We were famished, so went into the Lounge and got some dinner. Really awesome vegetable soup (and I"m not a big soup person) was the hit. We also munched on some celery and cheese....and of course a glass of wine for me, and Linda had a bottle of Bass Ale.

We've unpacked and are now trying to decide what to do. MK is open very late so I'm thinking of taking the boat over since it's such a beautiful evening. Not even sure I'll go in the park.

On the other hand, the weather here is awesome (compared to home) and the balcony door is open...there's a gentle breeze.

Tommorrow morning I'll take off running with several pages of Book Questions to research.
Linda will be playing golf at Eagle Pines.

Til tomorrow....

Deb
Life IT too short!!!

Headed to Walt Disney World

I'll be leaving later today for a long weekend at Walt Disney World. My days will be spent doing research for the 2nd edition of Passporter's Walt Disney World for Your Special Needs (actually our new title is Passporter's Open Mouse). It triple check the research fact time!!

My evenings will be spent relaxing and catching up with friends. We've got three nice dinners planned. My task will be to maintain my healthy eating while dining at California Grill (Contemporary), Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge) and Il Mulino (Swan).

The weather sounds nice, especially given the crazy non-spring weather we've been having in Washington, DC. Temps should be high 70s low 80s and sunny to partly cloudy skies.

I'll be sending daily updates - letting you know crowd conditions and reporting back on anything of note. Stay tuned for more, possibly later tonight.

Deb
Life IT too short!

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About Trip Reports

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Deb's Digest in the Trip Reports category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Tokyo Disneyland is the previous category.

Universal Orlando is the next category.

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