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February 2009 Archives

February 8, 2009

Bay Lake Tower -- Dizney Mike’s World

I was over at the Disney's Contemporary Resort today and snapped these pictures of the construction of Disney's Bay Lake Tower. I really like the walkway design. It looks like a monorail traveling between the Contemporary and the new Bay Lake Tower.

Also, on the fourth floor of the Contemporary, Disney Vacation Club Cast Members have set up shop and are actively working with guests interested in purchasing an interest in the new Bay Lake Tower.


Bay Lake Tower

Bay Lake Tower

Bay Lake Tower

Bay Lake Tower

Bay Lake Tower

Bay Lake Tower

Bay Lake Tower

Bay Lake Tower

Bay Lake Tower


Well, that's all for now. As my good friend says "see ya real soon" - DizneyMike

Mike Bachand (aka DizneyMike) is a long time Disney Enthusiasts. Over the years Mike and family made numerous trips down to WDW from their home in Massachusetts. Now Mike and his wife live year round in the Orlando area. He is a Florida Annual Passholder who visits WDW on an average of once a week. Besides his love for WDW, Mike has a large collection of Disney books, figurines and ornaments and is a former Disney Cast Member working as a Concierge at the Contemporary Resort.

February 16, 2009

Magic Kingdom Updates - DizneyMike's World

Magic Kingdom Construction Update

This week I went to the Magic Kingdom to enjoy a beautiful, sunny and warm Florida February day. (Sorry to those of you not in so beautiful, sunny and warm climates; I'm only being honest.) Anyway, while there I took some pictures of construction that's underway. Most of it is in Tomorrowland.

Between Space Mountain and The Carousel of Progress they are building what will become the home of a Stitch Stage Show. As you'll see from the pictures the construction is moving along quite nicely. By the way, many of these pictures were taken while riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority attraction.

Stitch Stage Show Construction Magic Kingdom

Stitch Stage Show Construction Magic Kingdom

Stitch Stage Show Construction Magic Kingdom

Stitch Stage Show Construction Magic Kingdom

Stitch Stage Show Construction Magic Kingdom

Stitch Stage Show Construction Magic Kingdom

Stitch Stage Show Construction Magic Kingdom

The Galaxy Palace Theater is undergoing a major renovation. Here are a few pictures of that construction.

Galaxy Palace Theater Construction Magic Kingdom

Galaxy Palace Theater Construction Magic Kingdom

Also, next to the Merchant of Venus shop there is more construction. I'm not sure what it is but I'm working on getting more information.

Magic Kingdom

The rehabbing of The Hall of Presidents continues.

Hall of Presidents Magic Kingdom

Hall of Presidents Magic Kingdom

Finally, as with each trip to the Magic Kingdom I check on my brick. It's located right in front of the left side entrance to the Magic Kingdom. I'm one of the fortunate folks to have their brick so close to the Magic Kingdom entrance. As you can see from the picture my brick is pretty worn.

Magic Kingdom

Well, that's all for now. As my good friend says "see ya real soon" -- DizneyMike

Mike Bachand (aka DizneyMike) is a long time Disney Enthusiasts. Over the years Mike and family made numerous trips down to WDW from their home in Massachusetts. Now Mike and his wife live year round in the Orlando area. He is a Florida Annual Passholder who visits WDW on an average of once a week. Besides his love for WDW, Mike has a large collection of Disney books, figurines and ornaments and is a former Disney Cast Member working as a Concierge at the Contemporary Resort.

February 19, 2009

Disney’s Fort Wilderness -- DizneyMike’s World

Looking for something to do on the day you arrive or the day that you are leaving? Or if you and the kids just need a break from the parks?

Well, a fun thing to do is to take Disney transportation, or your car, over to Disney's Fort Wilderness. It's a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours; and it free!

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

The "Outpost" is where the parking lot is and where the Disney buses will drop you off. It's also where you will find the Fort Wilderness Kennel and the Tri-Circle-D Ranch - Trail Rides.

From the "Outpost" you will take a Disney bus to the "Settlement". It's a short bus ride that travels on roads with campsites on either side. Every time I take that bus ride all the people I see seem to be having lots of fun camping out. I've never done it but it sure looks like a really fun thing to do.

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

Once the bus arrives at the "Settlement" you are free to roam the property. I suggest you take the short walk over to the Tri-Circle-D Farm. Here is where all the horses used to pull Cinderella's coach and the trolley's on Main Street are kept and cared for.

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

The kids can even have a pony ride (for a price).

Fort Wilderness

If you are lucky you could see the blacksmith in action or Cast Members washing and grooming some of the horses. This is an actual working farm so it's pretty neat to see it in action.

Anyway, from the ranch head over by Pioneer Hall. That's where they have the Hoop Dee Doo Review every night. Also there's a very good restaurant there called Trails End. It's an all you can eat buffet. The fried chicken there is finger lickin good!! The Settlement Trading Post is where campers can purchase food and souvenirs.

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness


Fort Wilderness Landing is where you can rent boats or take a boat over to the Magic Kingdom, Disney's Contemporary Resort or Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort. In a future blog I'll take about things you can do if you decide to head over to one of these hotels.

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness


My recommendation is if you have some time head over to Fort Wilderness. You won't be disappointed!

I hope this blog helped you as you plan your next trip to Walt Disney World.

Well, that's all for now. As my good friend says "see ya real soon" - DizneyMike

Mike Bachand (aka DizneyMike) is a long time Disney Enthusiasts. Over the years Mike and family made numerous trips down to WDW from their home in Massachusetts. Now Mike and his wife live year round in the Orlando area. He is a Florida Annual Passholder who visits WDW on an average of once a week. Besides his love for WDW, Mike has a large collection of Disney books, figurines and ornaments and is a former Disney Cast Member working as a Concierge at the Contemporary Resort.

February 23, 2009

Animal Kingdom Lodge Concierge Part 1

All Ears Guest Blogger Emily Owens Pickle is back - this time with a 3 part blog on Animal Kingdom Lodge's Concierge Service, the Kilimanjaro Club - Part 1.

The Last Wild Weekend - for Awhile

This year's holidays were a little disappointing. My young daughter was very sick and not only missed Christmas, but her birthday celebration as well. We ended up cancelling her birthday plans to stay at Port Orleans and visit Disney's Animal Kingdom (DAK). But readers, where one door closes, another opens".

For the past week I mulled over an impromptu trip to the World to re-celebrate Lily's birthday. We have been trying to stick closely to our budget and doing a decent job so one night seemed reasonable.

I then got a call from my mother-in-law; they are originally Texas natives who moved down to Florida about seven years ago. They have been debating with themselves over several months whether or not to move back to Texas for awhile because of some job opportunities and actually decided that they will be leaving and much sooner than they thought. Specifically, before the end of February.

I am so happy that they are going to move closer to some great opportunities but that certainly does not make everyone less sad about their moving halfway across the country. When Evan and I first met one of the first things I learned about his family was their love for all things Disney.

His parents have amazing collectibles and have been Annual Passholders for many years. It was Evan's Dad, Terry, who introduced me to an amazing Disney site, All Ears, prior to our first family trip to Port Orleans years ago. Terry took me on my first visit to EPCOT. Evan's mother, Suzette, and I have spent many mornings bunny-searching on resort properties with Lily. The list of Disney memories we have could go on and on.

Terry and Suzette have spent countless hours in the parks teaching us tricks of the trade, helping us keep Lily hydrated and entertained, and just spending time. The first few years of parenting are wonderful... and stressful. But Lily has also reminded us to see things the way a child does, and for our family Disney has been a common ground for grandparents, parents, and children (and uncles, and aunts, AND cousins) to come and very simply, have fun being with one another.

I really wanted to spend another weekend at Port Orleans where it all began. For days I clicked and refreshed and searched for any way I could find to book a room at Riverside... to no avail. I called the resort and was re-directed to reservations who (kindly) told me I would just have to wait it out for any cancellations. I started to hang up but not before the agent did mention that there was a great rate at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL) in a Club Level room. I hesitated, told her that was probably a little too much to pay for a weekend get-a-way, then thanked her and ended the call, and then immediately (of course) logged onto AEN to read up on Club Level at the AKL.

Evening snacks and wine by the AKL restaurants? Jiko and Boma are easily two of my favorite restaurants at Disney; my husband and I always spend our anniversary at Jiko. I chewed and chewed my lip and then called Evan who immediately told me to book it (what?? Evan hesitates to turn on the AC in FLORIDA). I scrambled back online found another reservation (YES!), scrolled quickly past the (albeit reasonable) total (gulped a little), and clicked 'Book'.

So my family is having a final 'Hoopla!' (HOOPLA!!) to celebrate the expansion of our family two years ago and the hundreds of memories we have made throughout Disney World. I know that some folks think it's silly to spend the time we have at Disney but thanks to AllEars® we have always come away very reasonably and we aren't just buying time at a resort or rides on an attraction... When we spend a day or several days at Disney we are investing into something obviously more precious than anything else we own or will own. We are investing in each other. We are weaving laughter, imagination, memories, good food, and warm feelings into a tangible thread that runs through our family.

And you can't put a price on that.

"The important thing is the family. If you can keep the family together-and that's the backbone of our whole business, catering to families-that's what we hope to do." ~Walt Disney

Stay tuned for Animal Kingdom Lodge Concierge Part 2

February 24, 2009

Animal Kingdom Lodge Concierge Part 2

All Ears Guest Blogger Emily Owens Pickle is back - this time with a 3 part blog on Animal Kingdom Lodge's Concierge Service, the Kilimanjaro Club - Part 2.

DAY 1
(CM = Cast Member)

We arrived at the front of the AKL at about 10:15 on Saturday morning. The Kilimanjaro Club podium was front and center and as soon as we arrived a CM appeared and said, 'Pickle Safari?'

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge


We were whisked upstairs where we snacked while waiting about half an hour to be checked in, which was no sweat in the comfy Club Level surroundings (and also because we weren't trying to make a park event or lunch reservation).


Animal Kingdom Lodge

The breakfast offerings were still out and there was fresh fruit (okay "half fresh fruit". I think they mixed canned and fresh cut together) muffins, pastries, croissants, coffees, teas, juices, cereals, and yogurts; it was a decent continental breakfast with some items coming from the Boma buffet downstairs.

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge

When I sat down with our reservation agent she handed me a personalized 'safari' packet and explained all of the resort and club amenities. I got a special Gold Key to the World Card and dorky as it is, that little touch made the trip seem a little different/special.

The check-in process was quick and painless. Afterwards we roamed the resort while our room was made ready which took several more hours. We received a call about our room around three that afternoon. I actually missed the call because I was briefly away from my phone and one of our Club CMs came running up to me concerned that we didn't know our room was ready. We headed up and gratefully dumped our jackets, purses, diaper bags, etc and animal-watched from the balcony.

Important to note: we were lucky enough to be put on the Arusha Savanna and not the Sunset (which currently does not have inhabitants due to the DVC construction next door). But we were never informed of the possibility of being sent to a non-animal Savanna view, hmm. I heard a very irate customer in the lobby of the Club lounge who I'm afraid might have had exactly this kind of nasty shock. Also, the animals on the savannas are apparently sent into the DAK park in the mornings on a rotating basis for each savanna, so we didn't see anything but birds until early afternoon both days.

That being said, for our family it was definitely worth the Savanna-view prices. There was irreplaceable comfort in being able to watch the animals together while sitting on your balcony wrapped in a warm blanket having snacks.

Our toddler was able to take out her own play animals and wander from room to balcony while my husband and I relaxed. (side note: the balcony rails were high enough that we felt comfortable enough not to hover over Lily. BUT there are two chairs and a table on each balcony and there is so much activity and excitement going on it is easy to get comfortable and distracted. Leaving an unattended young child on one of these balconies could be indescribably tragic...be careful okay?).

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge

AKL has a jam-packed schedule for guests and my father-in-law was able to do the medallion rubbing in the front lobby. The CMs give you crayons and ledger size paper to use on the beautiful medallion front and center in the lobby through the front doors of the lodge.

My husband and I also did the culinary tours of both Boma and Jiko. I was a little disappointed as I thought this might be more behind-the-scenes, but understand that would be difficult from a health and safety standpoint. These tours are more a PR showing in the hopes you will book reservations at one or both of the restaurants (which you should do anyways!). My disappointment was quickly erased when we were able to sample the soups and desserts at Boma and each given the Jiko appetizer, Taste of Africa. All were delicious and I could eat a pan of Zebra Domes every day of my life.

One highlight of the AKL is the wonderful and diverse array of CMs. Most of the CMs hail from South Africa and I would encourage everyone to walk out to the Savannas and enjoy the AKL events where you will get a chance to visit with these wonderful folks. Our Boma tour guide showed us her leg which was in a very large brace; she had decided to try ice skating during this visit to the States.

After the tour we went upstairs for the evening offerings in the Club Level, which were very good; we had a choice between four different South African wines (Rose, Chardonnay, Merlot and Shiraz) as well as South African beers and non-alcoholic drinks. The buffet included meatballs and a delicious chicken soup from Boma. There were different types of chilled offerings such as olives with heart of palms tossed in vinaigrette and herbed carrots. The cheese selection included brie, smoked Gouda and cheddar varieties. I felt pretty satisfied after a healthy tasting of the offerings but my husband wanted to know where our dinner reservation was placed .

Later in the evening the CM servers put out warm cookies and a sampling of desserts from downstairs (sans Zebra Domes). The first evening all of the appetizers and desserts went very quickly-and I heard a guest ask if they could take a six-pack back to their room. Our second evening was MUCH quieter and it would be nice if possible, to plan your stay at Club Level on a Sunday-Thursday.

Relaxed and comfortable we floated downstairs by the fire pit and rocked while Lily serenaded us with Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. I could get used to this luxury-thing. We returned to our room to find our beds turned-down and chocolates on our pillows.

Epcot Updates - DizneyMike's World

While I was in Epcot this week I looked for any signs that the Flower and Garden Festival preparations were underway but didn't see any. However, the Innoventions Fountain is still being worked on.

Epcot

Epcot

Epcot

Also, the Goju-no-to pagoda in the Japan pavilion is being worked on. It never ceases to amaze me as to the steps that Disney takes to hide ugly construction from guests and to keep the parks looking beautiful. The five-story cloth hiding the construction is a great example of what I'm talking about.

Epcot

Epcot

A small area in front of Canada is blocked off. It's not a big area and no construction can be seen so it may just be repairs to the ground or just getting started building a kiosk of some sort.

Epcot

Epcot

Finally, as I was walking around the countries I noticed that a new Kim Possible station has been added. This one is located near the Moroccan pavilion on the side closets to France.

Kim Possible Epcot

Kim Possible Epcot

Well, that's all for now. As my good friend says "see ya real soon" - DizneyMike

Mike Bachand (aka DizneyMike) is a long time Disney Enthusiasts. Over the years Mike and family made numerous trips down to WDW from their home in Massachusetts. Now Mike and his wife live year round in the Orlando area. He is a Florida Annual Passholder who visits WDW on an average of once a week. Besides his love for WDW, Mike has a large collection of Disney books, figurines and ornaments and is a former Disney Cast Member working as a Concierge at the Contemporary Resort.

February 25, 2009

Animal Kingdom Lodge Concierge Part 3

All Ears Guest Blogger Emily Owens Pickle is back - this time with a 3 part blog on Animal Kingdom Lodge's Concierge Service, the Kilimanjaro Club - Part 3.


DAY 2

It takes us at least three hours to get up, dressed, fed, and into a park nowadays. So, three hours post-wake-up we finally were able to hit Disney's Animal Kingdom. We had an excellent experience with the bus to and from the resort to DAK. The bus was waiting both times we went to board and it is a hop-jump-and a half a skip away to get back and forth between DAK and AKL.

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge

One of the reasons we opted for DAK instead of Disney's Hollywood Studios (DHS) is because of the poor quick-service offerings at DHS. I have spent more moments than I should standing in DHS scratching my ahead and tossing back and forth food ideas before finally boarding a boat and traveling to EPCOT to eat.

Incidentally, we went to one of my favorite quick-service stops, Flame Tree BBQ. Our Tables in Wonderland card works at this restaurant and the seating by the water is fantastic. The bread on my sandwich was a little soggy but besides that I can't complain.

I digress... upon entering DAK we immediately headed to Camp Mickey and Minnie so Lily could visit with some of her favorite pals.The lines were amazing! Even Mickey and Minnie were less than a five minute wait each.

Animal Kingdom Lodge

After we visited Mickey, Minnie, Chip and Dale, folks came pouring out of the first showing of Festival of the Lion King for the day and the character lines immediately tripled-I would certainly recommend heading to the characters in the morning, preferably timed while others are in shows or trying to get in a quick popular attraction before the masses come through the turnstiles.

I am not one for spending half of my day at a park waiting in line for an attraction or show but I have to say, Finding Nemo: The Musical is worth it. This show runs about four times a day at DAK and is something both children and adults should experience. The caliber of theater, stage, costuming, and performance is outstanding. This was the fourth time I have seen the show but I was immediately sucked in (and am, in fact, still humming the soundtrack three days later).

Animal Kingdom Lodge


I had only seen Flights of Wonder once before; two of our friends joined us in the afternoon and they had never been to the show. We decided to attend the last performance and I was much more impressed than I was the first time I saw the show. The main host, Eric, was more comfortable in his role than the previous host I had seen and the co-host, Joe Guano, was a riot.

It was nice to have a 'show-day' and think less about attractions; not having to cram everything into a day or two is a luxury of either living close to Disney or being able to visit often. The timing of shows and Fast Passes sometimes makes it difficult to hit more than one show and do many attractions in the same day. After our relaxing Saturday none of us felt very inclined to move quickly from attraction to attraction. We strolled, enjoyed our surroundings, and even then, the seven hours in the park still flew by.

I had heard such great things about the Royal Anandapur Tea Company that we stopped and sampled some different teas (my receipt said Joffrey's Coffee Cart so I would assume this is also one of the 'good' coffee stops). The tea was excellent-and PIPING hot!! We had to wait about thirty minutes before we could even sip from our cups.

We headed back to the lodge before going to another park and were able to catch the first of the evening appetizers. They put out the Carrot Ginger Soup from Boma-yum! They also had bite-sized bobotie, chicken wings, and variety of other samplings such as olives, heart of palm salad, and little 'nibbles'.

Animal Kingdom Lodge

We decided our daughter just wasn't going to be able to make it through 'Wishes' so we decided to reluctantly head to our car and back home. Evan's parents headed to Magic Kingdom and unfortunately we did miss Terry being called out as 'That Guy!' on the Monster's Inc Laugh Floor... darn!

So, should you make your stay Club Level? I can only speak from my experience at one resort so far but I will say this, I returned to work Monday morning relaxed and refreshed. I didn't have to pack bags of snacks, juices, milks, etc into our car and then always have a constant snack-contingency plan waiting for my daughter. We did spend less on food during the weekend than we normally would have but that did not put us 'ahead'. It was very nice to have a semi-contained area that was not our hotel room but somewhere more public where we could soak up lodge ambiance and not have to stay twelve inches from Lily the entire time.

The one big problem with staying Club Level is this: how do you not stay Club Level every time? Last weekend I traveled a road that led me to chocolate and never-ending coffee and Diet Coke... how do I come back from that? Do I even want to?

In all seriousness, I think you have to decide what's really important to you. Do you travel to WDW often? Is it really a big deal for you to fit fifty juice boxes into your luggage or arrange shipping beforehand? Do you mind a five-day vacation instead of an eight-day vacation if you can have the extra amenities? Are you a park-fiend or do you enjoy spending time at your resort? The only piece I would recommend is staying on the savannas; even if you have to cut your trip a night short. I guarantee you will feel more connected to the world that has been created at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

It was a short trip we will treasure and it has given us an introduction to Disney's fantastic Concierge Level Service. It was also a great way to celebrate our family and spend some time just laughing and being with one another which is priceless no matter where it happens.

~Emily Owens Pickle

February 26, 2009

What Will You Celebrate! - DizneyMike's World

This year's Disney Theme is "What Will You Celebrate?!"

If you happen to be visiting a Walt Disney World theme park on the DAY OF your birthday, you can get a special treat!

This past Wednesday was my brother Armand's birthday. So, we went over to Epcot so he could collect his birthday gift from Disney.

As you enter the area where you purchase tickets you're directed to go to the "Will Call" windows. There are "Will Call" window set up at all the parks and at the Ticket and Transportation Center.

What Will You Celebrate?!

What Will You Celebrate?!

Here's a picture of that handsome guy patiently waiting in line for his turn.

What Will You Celebrate?!

My brother brought with him a copy of the certificate that he printed out when he registered on-line at Disney.com. The Cast Member took that certificate from him, scanned it, and checked his driver's license to insure the birthday was correct. Since my brother is an Annual Passholder he selected the Birthday Fun Card as his gift option. He was told that the gift card, that has a value of $75.00, does not have an expiration date. In addition to the card he was handed a flyer with all the limitations and restrictions.

What Will You Celebrate?!

What Will You Celebrate?!

What Will You Celebrate?!

The process was simple, quick and in no time we were in Epcot enjoying a beautiful day!


Well, that's all for now. As my good friend says "see ya real soon - DizneyMike

Mike Bachand (aka DizneyMike) is a long time Disney Enthusiasts. Over the years Mike and family made numerous trips down to WDW from their home in Massachusetts. Now Mike and his wife live year round in the Orlando area. He is a Florida Annual Passholder who visits WDW on an average of once a week. Besides his love for WDW, Mike has a large collection of Disney books, figurines and ornaments and is a former Disney Cast Member working as a Concierge at the Contemporary Resort.

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About February 2009

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in February 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2009 is the previous archive.

March 2009 is the next archive.

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