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February 6, 2017

MouseAdventure Returns to Walt Disney World March 4th

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by Stephanie Wien
AllEars® Guest Blogger

Do you remember the first time you entered a Disney theme park and were entranced by its immersive environment, marveling at all of its wonderful details?

MouseAdventure, a puzzle hunt game, recreates that experience as players rediscover the Disney theme parks with a renewed focus. Design elements that you once rushed past on your way to the next ride now become the main attraction, drawing you in to appreciate the individual parts that make up the larger whole.

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Team “Texas Turtles” dress in matching shirts.

MouseAdventure began almost 20 years ago, in the early days of internet message boards, with a modest audience of about 70 people (about 20 teams), and has since grown to consistently draw hundreds of people for its west coast games at the Disneyland Resort. In 2009, MouseAdventure expanded to include the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, and held its sixth successful event in 2016 during the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. Third Gate Games (TGG), formed in 2016 from the core group who had been writing and running the event for many years, currently produces the event.

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MouseAdventure happens rain or shine, and teams take the weather in stride.

What is a puzzle hunt?

Although it’s often referred to as a scavenger hunt, MouseAdventure is better classified as a puzzle hunt; teams aren’t just looking to check items off a list or collect condiment packets (although they have been asked to do that from time to time). A puzzle hunt challenges teams to solve a series of puzzles, which MouseAdventure calls quests. Imagineers work hard to include lots of theming when designing the theme parks; quests use these details as clues to lead teams to a final question, answerable only within the boundaries set for that particular puzzle.

For example, in the most recent WDW event (MouseAdventure: Silly Symphonies), the quest writers used the informational signs for the Flower and Garden Festival’s cactus garden as the basic information for a quest. Teams matched each plant type to a fact about that plant, then placed the appropriate plant name in the proper location on a path designed to look like a garden hose. Following the hose from spigot to spout, teams collected letters to spell out the final question, which lead to another nearby garden display with the answer.

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Players received a packet of “seed” discs to place along the hose path.
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Placing the plant discs along the hose path revealed the final question.

Who is on a team?

Two to four people make up a single team, and often include groups of friends or even family members. Some teams are competitive, and aim to place; these teams often register in the Advanced Division, if it is separately offered from the usual Basic Division. Advanced teams receive more quests for a given event, and the difficulty of the quests may be higher. Competitive teams who have had three wins move into the ranks of the Master Division, where they can still play the game, but only for bragging rights, not prizes.

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The “San Diego Mouse Catchers” compete in the Advanced Division.

Other teams are just in it for a day of fun at a Disney theme park outside of the usual rides and shows. Children six and under don’t count as a team member, and there are many teams who have played with young children, or even while pregnant. A family team includes at least one team member under the age of 13; if there are enough family teams registered for a MouseAdventure event, the top family team receives a prize.

People in wheelchairs, scooters, or with other physical challenges are welcome to play. MouseAdventure rules provide accommodations for team members who may not be able to experience certain attractions or areas of the theme park included in the game.

How long is the event?

MouseAdventure starts in the morning, with check in typically around 9 a.m., depending on the location. Start times may vary based on theme park hours. Teams check in to receive their packets, and then are given a rundown of the day’s timeline and a review of the rules. All teams are given their quest packets at the same time, and then it’s off to the races (fast walking only, please).

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Jussst a Dino examine their packet in Animal Kingdom.

An event is typically eight to eleven quests, solved over the course of about six or seven hours. Staff and crew are on hand to provide assistance and keep things orderly. Teams may check in at a pre-determined central location from time to time to pick up additional, time-sensitive material, get help on how a puzzle works, or to get a hint to find an elusive clue. At the end of the day, the staff collects answer sheets at a specified time and location within the park, and then heads off to quickly grade. Winners are announced within a few hours of the game’s conclusion; all team scores are posted online within a few days of the event.

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Team Plutonium strikes a familiar MouseAdventure pose in Disneyland’s Frontierland.

Recently, MouseAdventure has moved away from a formal post-game event at Disneyland. At Walt Disney World, we take advantage of the wedding pavilion on the edge of Crescent Lake between the Boardwalk and Beach Club Resorts to hold an informal gathering after the event. MouseAdventure staff members announce the winners, hand out awards, and answer questions about quests. It’s also a time for players to meet the creators and mingle with fellow players.

What is Third Gate Games?

Third Gate Games formed in 2016 to take over production of MouseAdventure and expand the concept to hold similar events at locations outside of Disney theme parks. The TGG team was involved with production of MouseAdventure when it was still under the MousePlanet banner, working as quest writers, designers, emcees, and more. We all started out as MouseAdventure players, so we know the thrill of victory and the frustration of counting tiles that our teams experience each time they play.

Why play MouseAdventure?

Puzzle fans enjoy the variety of different types that each event uses: Traditional crossword puzzles, word searches, logic puzzles, letter elimination and more. Disney fans enjoy discovering locations inside the theme parks that they might have previously overlooked. There are prizes for the top three teams in each division, with the third place teams receiving a Disney gift card with value equal to the price of the game.

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Decoding the tablets near Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom requires a sharp eye.

However, prizes aren’t the main reason to play. The goal of the MouseAdventure staff is for all of our players to have a fun time, even if that can involves some challenge and frustration. We always enjoy seeing the realization dawn on the faces of players as they figure out a quest.

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A player examines a window in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Rediscover the Vacation Kingdom of the World at the crossroads of the state. MouseAdventure: The Florida Project is the next upcoming event at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and its neighboring resort hotels on March 4. Registration is currently open at mouseadventure.com. Assemble your team, grab a clipboard, and get ready to stare intently at window displays and obscure signs. Are you game?

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Monorail guru Bob Gurr talks about Monty ... and his concept drawing of the famed transit vehicle

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Bob Gurr's original drawing of the monorail, sketched in late 1958. The color was added by Disney Legend John Hench.

Hey, Bob Gurr ... now that you've completed a documentary showing the world just how you designed some of the world's most innovative theme park attractions, what are you going to do next?

"My next project is gonna be a movie about Monty the Monorail."

Makes sense. Gurr, the father of Disney theme park monorails, has intimate knowledge of the sleek, futuristic modes of transportation that glide along on a single beam of concrete. When Walt Disney wanted to place a monorail system within the confines of Disneyland in the late 1950s, he turned to Gurr, his go-to transportation guru, to make that dream happen.

All these years later, the affable 85-year-old wants to turn a monorail into a living, breathing entity. Enter Monty the Monorail.

Here's the backstory: Turns out there's a guy who bought the front carriage of a Walt Disney World Mark IV monorail and turned it into something of a tourist attraction. "The guy treats it as if it's a character," Gurr said recently. "He fills it up with rock music and flashing lights and smoke and rides it around on an old flatbed trailer."

"I've met the guy and I want to do a movie about the monorail where I do a long voice-over. I look at the situation of a monorail who is a living character. And he has relatives and the relatives go way back to his great-grandfather in 1959. The movie will be really funny, full of graphics and this voice talking like it's his mommy.

"It'll be very tongue in cheek, taking an inert machine and making it into a human. When Monty was traveling across the country, every city was waiting for him and they'd throw a big party. Hundreds of people met Monty all across the United States.

"That's the next project."

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Bob Gurr takes a walk around viewing area atop Disney's Bay Lake Tower in Walt Disney World.

Bob Gurr is uniquely qualified to talk about the monorail, be it the nuts, bolts and Fiberglass version or the living character reincarnation.

It was Gurr who was tasked with getting the monorails designed and up and running for Disneyland in 1959. Mind you, he also was challenged with designing the track system for the Matterhorn Mountain bobsleds, as well as designs for a new Autopia car and the submarine voyage ... all at the same time!

Like most of the things he designed over his illustrious career, the monorail started with a simple sketch.

"I did the first sketch of the monorail in October of 1958," Gurr said. "I did about a 10-minute sketch in my house one morning and I brought it back to the office the next day and it took about two hours to complete it because I knew exactly what I wanted.

"Then [Disney Legend] John Hench put the coloring on it. Disney publications are always full of errors; they said John Hench designed it. Then one day years ago, the Disney Archive Department suddenly showed up with my original drawing. And they said, 'See, John didn't draw it, you did.'

An almost life-size mural depicting Gurr's iconic drawing currently adorns the Top of the World Lounge atop Disney Vacation Club's Bay Lake Tower in Walt Disney World. In the lower left-hand corner is the signature R.H. Gurr.

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Bob Gurr, center, offers some suggestions to Imagineers working on a refurbishment of the Autopia attraction in Disneyland several years ago. [The Walt Disney Company]

"If you go up there slightly after the sun rises, in the morning when the bar is closed, go over to the windows on the west side. The mural is back-lit so gorgeously in that room. It's just a stunning sight to see," he said. "Unfortunately, that's not when the bar is open."

His signature on the mural proved to be a bit problematic.

"The first time I signed it, the cleaning people came in and wiped it off. The next time after I signed it, they broke the corner off one of the panes. The third time I signed it, they sprayed plastic on it" to preserve it.

"That picture is actually what I've been saying all along: The inspiration comes from the top, not the bottom. Somebody asks you to figure something out and somehow, your brain has life experiences and suddenly, you can't sketch fast enough. It's so vivid in your mind. You've got to get it down on paper really quickly.

"The fact that that thing [the monorail] has turned out to be an icon at Disneyland and all over Florida ... The fact that that picture of the Mark I is in a bar at Walt Disney World, well, that's kinda cool."

February 9, 2017

New USO Welcome Center at Orlando International Airport

by J. Scott Lopes
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

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The USO, or United Service Organizations, was founded in 1941 by President Franklin Roosevelt. It is a nonprofit organization that provides programs, services and live entertainment to United States service members and their families.

If you're of a certain age, the phrase USO might make you think of legendary comedian/actor Bob Hope and his USO Tours entertaining the troops overseas during wartime.

But today, you might also think of the many USO Welcome Centers around the world, many of which are located in airports. In fact, one such USO center opened in September 2016 at Orlando International Airport.

This 3,100-square-foot USO Welcome Center is available to members of the military, as well as their families, as they travel through the Orlando airport. The centerpiece of the welcome center is a Disney-inspired family room that was created with a $100,000 gift from the Walt Disney Company.

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The Disney-designed family room joins other comforts of home offered at the Welcome Center.

There are computer workstations that can be used to check your email or print your boarding pass.

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In addition, the center also has a kitchen area stocked with many different beverages, as well as various snacks and food.

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There is even an entertainment section, with big screen TVs and gaming.

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The hours of the center's operation are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. It is located in Terminal A, Landside, Level 1 (prior to going though TSA). Access is restricted, and a valid military ID is required for entry.

The USO is a nonprofit organization, which relies solely on donations and volunteers. If you would more information, visit the USO's website.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

J. Scott Lopes is a long time Disney fan who first went to Walt Disney World as a child in 1989 and has enjoyed traveling to Orlando ever since. He is interested in all things Disney Parks-related -- especially in the Walt Disney Imagineering division and all of the work and detail that they put into everything that they engineer.


February 12, 2017

That’s Not Poutine!

Gary Cruise banner

Every time I pass by the Canadian Pavilion at EPCOT I find myself marvelling at the amazing job the Imagineers did in capturing the essence of Canada!

How did those gifted designers figure out that we all enjoy wearing checkered lumberjack shirts? Who could have told them that after a long, tiring work-week we Canucks just can’t wait to grab an axe and chop down a tree . . . or enter a log rolling competition? How could they know that every Canadian rock band has a lead singer who plays the bagpipes?

I often find myself looking around in wonder, shaking my head, and thinking, “Boy, they sure do understand Canadians. They nailed it, EH?”

So imagine my delight when I sat down at Le Cellier several years ago and cracked open the menu. There, part way down the listing of side dishes, was a classic Canadian dish . . . poutine! “Wow” I thought, “I love poutine, this just has to be good!”

Le Cellier

Now, I know that most of you reading this are not Canadian so you are probably thinking, “Poutine? Poutine? What the heck is poutine?”

Poutine is classic Canadian cuisine! It’s Canadian comfort food. There are four basic food groups in Canada, maple syrup, beaver tails, butter tarts and poutine!

Poutine originated in the Province of Quebec in the 1950’s and quickly became a national favourite! Quebec is predominantly French-speaking and the French pronounce it “pooh-tin”. The English populace pronounce it “pooh-teen”. But no matter how they say the word, all Canadians agree that poutine is delicious!

There are several theories that try to explain how poutine came to be. My favourite version involves a Montreal cardiologist whose medical practice was floundering. He wasn’t sure how he was going to make the next payment on his Ferrari . . . so he whipped up a batch of poutine and let a local restaurateur have a taste. He started with some crispy French-fried potatoes, covered them with fresh cheddar cheese curds, then smothered it all with steaming-hot brown gravy. The restaurateur just loved the gooey mess and immediately began selling it in his restaurant. Before you could say “quadruple bypass” poutine sales were booming, arteries were hardening and the cardiologist’s practice was thriving!

Poutine

So that’s what poutine is. It’s a very simple recipe, crispy hot fries, cheddar cheese curds and piping-hot brown gravy. Carol and I have sampled a few unique variations over the years. Some chefs have added pulled pork or smoked brisket. We’ve even had a delicious version that was topped off with chunks of smoked meatloaf, but they all contained the three basic ingredients, fries, cheddar cheese curds and brown gravy.

Imagine my shock when I read the description on the Le Cellier menu! Fries, gruyère and a red wine reduction. What? Gruyère? Does gruyère even have curds? And wine reduction? Where’s the gravy?

It sounded nothing like poutine, in fact both Carol and I thought it sounded disgusting. We were skeptical but we decided to trust the chef. We cast common sense to the wind and ordered up a batch of “poutine”. Yuck! It was worse than disgusting. It was embarrassing. Not a proud moment for this Canadian!

I swore I would never order poutine again at Le Cellier, but as I wrote this blog, I checked the Le Cellier menu again. The poutine is now described as “fresh-cut fries, Gruyère, caramelized onions, French onion gravy $10”. I’m torn, the gruyère is still there, but at least there’s gravy. It might be worthy of a second chance someday! Maybe . . .

Last fall, as Carol and I explored a new area at Disney Springs, behind the Lego Store, a sign caught my eye.

The Daily Poutine

Could it be? Real authentic poutine?

I checked the ingredients . . . the “Classic Poutine” sounded good. The ingredients were correct.

Poutine Menu

All the others . . . they sounded nasty – just nasty. There is no place in poutine for Bolognese Sauce or Mushroom Cream Sauce. And fried yucca? Nope – that’s just all wrong!

Those variations are just pretentious imposters foisted on the public by snooty chefs who know nothing about poutine! To my untrained palate they sound about as appetizing as a Brussels Sprout Smoothie, Roasted Red Pepper Ice Cream or Pumpkin Pie Spiced Mashed Potatoes!

But once again Carol and I decided to give the “Classic Poutine” a try.

Big mistake . . . it was disappointing! Very disappointing.

The curds should melt in the gravy and make a gooey mixture that clings to the fries. That didn’t happen; the curds we had were cold in the middle. I don’t mean that they were cool – they were almost frozen. They were hard and chewy and just totally wrong.

Disney Springs Poutine

We tried to like the poutine, we really did, but we threw out more than half of the order they served us! Ugh!

So here’s my advice folks!

If you want to try genuine poutine, if you want to sample a real Canadian delicacy, skip the stuff they serve at Le Cellier . . . when you see that kiosk behind the Lego Store, just walk on by!

Come to Canada instead . . . then go to any McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, DQ, KFC, A & W, New York Fries or any of the Canadian fast food chains. They all serve great poutine.

Burger King

Wendys

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So do all street vendors and food trucks from coast to coast. And none of them use Bolognese Sauce, Mushroom Cream Sauce or fried yucca. That’s just WRONG. That’s not poutine!

I hope to see you up here in the Great White North real soon!

February 15, 2017

The Mousy Mindboggler

Riddle

THE MOUSY MINDBOGGLER

If you subscribe to the AllEars® Weekly Newsletter, you'll know that we run a little game called the Mousy Mindboggler. Sometimes it's a word game, sometimes it's a riddle, sometimes it's some other brain-teasing challenge -- but it's always fun!

Once each month, in the AllEars® newsletter, our friend James Dezern (known as "dzneynut" around several Disney discussion forums) supplies us with a puzzle of his own design.

Every month, James also Shares the Magic in another way -- by posting an all-new puzzle here in this AllEars.Net Guest Blog. The subject of the puzzle will vary, and James will award the winner of the challenge a collectible Disney pin!

James writes:

Here is the solution to the last crossword puzzle.

http://allears.net/ae/mb011917-key.pdf

We only received 23 correct responses this month. The child actor in "Treasure Island," Bobby Driscoll, won the Academy Award for Outstanding Juvenile Actor of 1949 for his work in "So Dear to My Heart." He had previously starred in "Song of the South." After he outgrew children's roles, he fell on bad times, became destitute, and died of a drug overdose, a pauper and unknown, at the age of 31 in New York.

The winner of a Stitch pin, randomly drawn from the correct responses, was Victoria O. of Bernardsville, NJ. Congratulations!

If you missed it last month, that’s OK, because here’s another chance.

http://allears.net/ae/mb021317.pdf

We will continue this month down the long path of examining Disney's extensive list of live-action films. Next in line is the highly popular "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," based on the book by the same name by Jules Verne. This film had the distinction of being the first to be produced at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. I understand the giant water tank is still there, under the floor of one of the soundstages. We had the pleasure of eating lunch on this soundstage as part of an Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic tour, which I highly recommend!

The object of this puzzle is, as always, to have fun, but if you'd like a chance to win a Disney collectible pin, send me the answer IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF AN EMAIL addressed to dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

Send your entries no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on March 5, 2017. All correct answers will be entered into a random drawing, and the winner will be awarded a Disney pin. The answers and drawing winner will be posted in this Guest Blog sometime in March.

As always, any feedback on the puzzle format or topics would be appreciated! Drop me a line at dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

Thanks for playing, everyone!

February 20, 2017

The Castaway Cay 5-kilometer run ... and some unfinished business

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After several missed opportunities, the author took part in the Castaway Cay 5-kilometer run earlier this month.

Call it unfinished business.

Back in 2012, and again in 2015, I was registered to take part in the Castaway Cay five-kilometer run around Disney Cruise Line's private island in the Bahamas. The Castaway Cay 5-k is sanctioned by runDisney and, as such, is a "real" race: You get a race number, support along the course and a medal when you cross the finish line. It's the only runDisney event that doesn't charge an entrance fee ... although one might argue that the cost of the cruise itself ends up making the race the most expensive on the planet.

In 2012, there was a hurricane lurking in the Carribean and the waters off Castaway were abnormally rough. It took the captain of our ship [the Disney Dream] several hours to dock the boat, forcing the race, as well as other off-ship activities, to be canceled.

In 2015, we were on the last leg of a trans-Atlantic voyage on the Disney Magic. I was registered to run and had spent about 45 minutes each day in the ship's gym going stride-for-stride with my wife Janet in preparation. But a nagging [and painful] hip injury, as well as the prospects of a sunny, hot and humid day, forced me make the prudent decision of not taking part.

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This wooden sign marks the starting line for the Castaway Cay 5-k.

Which brings us to our most recent DCL cruise, aboard the Disney Fantasy, earlier this month.

We boarded the massive ocean liner on Feb. 4 and I was the first person to sign up for the race. At 67, I also was among the oldest. Our friend Julian, a national-class race-walker back in the day in his native England, was the second to register. It turns out, there were more than 350 people who'd be toeing the starting line less than a week later.

The Fantasy left Port Canaveral at 4 p.m. on Saturday. With the race scheduled to be run on Friday, Feb. 10, Janet and I again made it a point to hit the treadmills almost every day of the cruise ... me to prep for the race; her to work off some of the delicious meals we enjoyed during the week.

Race day dawned windy and comfortable [not nearly as humid as previous visits]. At 8 a.m., I mistakenly went to the D Lounge for the registration; with so many people taking part, check-in was moved to the Walt Disney Theatre [clearly noted on my event ticket]. Although I was the first person to sign up, I was among the last to receive a race bib.

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A map of the Castaway Cay 5-k. The race starts and finishes near the bike rental shack. The out-and-back course features time on an airplane landing strip and a loop on a secluded trail.

After listening to about 20 minutes of corny jokes from well-meaning cast members, the ship was cleared by Bahamian officials. Julian and I and the rest of the participants began the long trek from Deck 4 of the ship, down the stairs to the gangway and then about a one-mile walk to the starting line, which is rather nondescript ... and narrow.

The start is located near the bike rental hut. There's a small wooden sign that says "5k start" and the official race clock was set up on a tripod to the right. Unlike other runDisney events, there are no fireworks, no loud music and no Disney characters milling about. Pretty much no-frills racing. It was simply "ready, set ... go!" and we were off.

It took about 30 seconds to reach the starting line, but by then, Julian had broken out into his arms-held-high, heel-toe-heel-toe race-walking gait. When I spoke to him about the race during the cruise, he said he was hoping to break 45 minutes. The way he started, I knew he'd do much better than that. As for me, the hip injury that had precluded my participation in the Castaway Cay 5k in 2015 had persisted through much of 2016. It wasn't until November that I began the long, arduous task of getting myself back into some kind of respectable shape.

My goal was to finish in around 40 minutes, using a combination of speed walking and jogging. My plan was to walk for seven minutes, run for three minutes, walk for seven, run three, etc., and then see how I felt over the last mile or so.

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Runners leave the start area and head out toward the main section of the course.

As you might expect, the Castaway out-and-back course is flat, but that's not to suggest it's easy. After leaving the start area, you wind your way out onto an abandoned - and sun-splashed - airplane landing strip. A few minutes later, you make a right turn onto a narrow, thickly-wooded loop. While the vegetation did keep the sun at bay, it also blocked most of the wind, which made it seem hotter than it actually was.

The loop takes you to the island's observation tower, where you bear left and head back toward the airstrip. There's a water stop at the end of the loop, which competitors end up passing four times during the event. Once out onto the airstrip, the sun felt noticeably stronger. A turnaround arrow is located at the end of the strip, near the adult beach area, which means you've reached the halfway point. During my trek toward the arrow, I spotted Julian - still looking strong - on his way back to the loop and we exchanged greetings.

By now, the field was beginning to thin out and those competitors near me seemed to be following a similar course of action ... walking, jogging, walking, shuffling ...

I exited the loop, made a left turn and decided to jog the rest of the way to the finish line in hopes of breaking 40 minutes.

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Runners hit the sun-splashed airstrip section of the course.

At the finish - 40:10 according to my watch - was a cast member handing out finisher's medals [actually, they're rubbery, not metallic]. I reunited with Julian, who finished in around 37 minutes, and we made our way back to the ship to meet up with our wives and enjoy breakfast before heading out to the island again for a day of relaxation.

It had been nine years since I last took part in a runDisney event ... the 2008 Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World. Although I have continued to lead an active lifestyle, I've had to clear a lot of medical hurdles along the way to keep going. Exactly one month after completing the Goofy Challenge, I had prostate cancer surgery. In the years that followed, I also had rotator cuff surgery and a procedure to relieve trigger finger ... not to mention that annoying hip injury.

So, although 3.1 miles pales in comparison to the 39.3 miles over two days needed to complete the Goofy Challenge, I was quite proud to have set a goal, trained to reach that goal, and then go out and achieve it.

Unfinished business no longer.

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A sight for sore eyes ... and legs ... is the simple finish line sign for the Castaway Cay 5-k run.

RELATED LINK:

** Kristin's Castaway 5K Just 11 weeks after Total Knee Replacement!

February 26, 2017

The Big Red Boat

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Way back in the mists of time, in the long lost days of yore, before there was a Disney Cruise Line, avid Disney fans sailed with a cast of Disney characters on The Big Red Boat!

The Big Red Boat

Premier Cruise Lines, which operated the Big Red Boat, was formed in 1983 by two veterans in the cruise industry. These two men were mavericks who had a vision; they wanted to create a new niche market – Family Cruising. Until that time cruise ships had been opulent floating palaces catering to well-heeled older patrons who wanted a luxurious vacation experience. The two entrepreneurs behind Premier Cruise Lines thought that some of these patrons might like to bring children or grandchildren along with them and that was the niche market they were hoping to capture.

They raised more than a few eyebrows in the rather stodgy cruise industry when they bought the Oceanic and refurbished it in a “not-so-luxurious” fashion to accommodate the needs of cruising families.

At the same time the Walt Disney Corporation was looking for ways to add some variety to their theme park vacations. It wasn’t long before Premier and Disney signed an agreement and began jointly marketing Disney vacations with a “land and sea” option. When it was re-launched after refurbishment the Oceanic was christened by none other than Minnie Mouse!

Big Red Boat Ad 1990
Click on the image above to see a larger version

In 1985 Disney characters began appearing on the Big Red Boat; special Disney themed ship-board activities were offered for children and on-board entertainment was family oriented. The ship had a staff of more than 30 youth counselors on-board and programs for the children were divided by age group. They even had a special menu for children and provided free onboard babysitting. This approach to family cruising was an instant success!

Big Red Boat Ad 1992
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Disney fans just loved the idea of three or four days at sea followed by three or four days at the theme parks! By 1988 family cruising was so popular that two more ships, the Majestic and the Atlantic, joined the Premier Cruise Lines fleet. The hulls were painted bright red and all three were marketed as “The Big Red Boat”

Magic Kingdom Club Membership Guide 1993
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The three and four day cruises sailed from Port Canaveral and offered several different itineraries. Ports of call included Freeport, Nassau and Salt Cay, a small island just a few miles from Nassau.

Carol and I didn’t sail with Disney until 2007, but a few people have shared their experiences on the Big Red Boat with us.

Karen O. from Illinois told me, “We took a cruise in March 1992. My husband Rudy, son Greg and I boarded the Majestic in Port Canaveral. We really enjoyed the package that included a three day cruise followed by four days at Walt Disney World. One of the highlights was anchoring off of Abaco Island in the Bahamas. It's almost hard to say what was our favourite thing because everything was great. Of course we loved the food, the service, and the activities; but we especially loved the snorkeling. Our son Greg even got to swim with the dolphins. He was a year-round swim competitor, and at the time was eight years old. It was a very special trip and vacation for us.”

Greg and the Server

Greg at Abacos

Rob R. from Virginia described his experience for me; “My wife Kathy and I honeymooned on the Big Red Boat in September 1993. We boarded about 2:00 p.m. and sailed away from Port Canaveral at about 5:30. There was a Bon Voyage party on the main pool deck; we were all given streamers and confetti to throw, there was a live band playing and Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto were interacting with guests as we left port. That was the last time I remember seeing the characters on board but I'm sure they were around for later functions. The movie theater was showing Disney movies.”

“Our ports of call were Nassau and Freeport. At Nassau we could go to the straw market, take an excursion to Atlantis to go to the casino, take an excursion to Salt Cay, a nearby private island to snorkel or rest on net hammocks. Salt Cay was used in the opening credit shots for Gilligan's Island . . . that was neat. Kathy and I enjoyed the snorkeling and then walked around the straw market”

“In Freeport Kathy and I went parasailing. It was fantastic! Flying high above the crystal clear water was wonderful. From up that high, you could see the coral reef, some of the colourful fish and the ocean bottom. I wish I had taken a camera up with me to take pictures of how clear things were.”

Rob and Kathy must have sailed on one of the last of the Disney themed cruises since the deal between Premier and Disney ended in late 1993 and was not renewed. Disney reportedly had discussions with both Carnival and Royal Caribbean lines, hoping they could replace Premier, but neither seemed to be interested. On May 3, 1994 Disney announced that they would be starting their own cruise line.

Premier soon negotiated a deal with Warner Brothers and before long Bugs Bunny and many of the other Looney Tunes characters were interacting with vacationers on the Big Red Boats.

Looney Tunes Party Animals

It was during the Looney Tunes era that AllEars.net Photo Blogger Scott Thomas and his family sailed. “We sailed just after Disney had announced they were building their own ships and pulled out of the Big Red Boat. All the Looney Tunes characters were on the ship. The weather during our cruise was terrible, so bad that we didn’t go on a single excursion. The kid’s programs were very strange; they allowed our daughters, aged 6 and 9 at the time, to leave unescorted and roam the ship looking for us. We didn't like that at all; the girls found us each time but it certainly did not give us a good feeling!”

“The boat was old and small, everything seemed very cramped. The food and the service were okay. They only had one dining hall which I believe was the norm on ships back then, but nothing about the cruise was as well done as we have since experienced on Disney Cruise Line.”

Most of you know the rest of the story. In 1996 Disney purchased Gorda Cay and spent 25 million dollars transforming it into Castaway Cay. The Disney Magic began sailing July 30, 1998 and was joined by the Disney Wonder about a year later. The Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy followed in 2011 and 2012. Two new ships are now under construction and both should join the Disney fleet within 6 years.

As for Premier, they struggled after Disney pulled out. Their fleet was old and the smaller ships had a hard time meeting the needs of more demanding consumers. The company was bankrupt by September 2000 and almost all of their ships have since been sold for scrap.

StarShip_Royale_and_Oceanic.jpg

It’s a sad ending for Premier Cruise Lines, a company that helped incubate the Disney Cruise Line. There is no doubt in my mind that those 8 years when Disney fans sailed on the Big Red Boat gave the Imagineers a wonderful model to use when they began to design the ships, the children’s programs, the ship-board entertainment and the shore excursions that we all enjoy today.

How about you? Do you have any fond memories of the Big Red Boat?

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About February 2017

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in February 2017. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2017 is the previous archive.

March 2017 is the next archive.

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