September 28, 2016

What's new and next at SeaWorld Orlando for 2017

kristin-ford%27s-masthead.jpg

SeaWorld Orlando has announced eight new ways it plans to take visitors under the sea and inspire them with marine life in 2017.

Perhaps the most-talked-about addition is the Virtual Reality experience that will be added to Kraken in time for the summer season. Kraken will be the first roller coaster in Central Florida to have a Virtual Reality overlay.

The story of the coaster is that “There is a crack in time in a sea bed and you’re going to dive into that crack and you’re going to discover a world of times gone past – animals that used to live in our oceans and animals that might have lived in our oceans and you’re going to have a close-up encounter with the Kraken herself,” said Brian Morrow, vice president of theme park experience design for SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.

SeaWorld has developed its own custom Virtual Reality system that it plans to integrate into the current ride. Passengers will have the option to place the headset on themselves to experience the overlay or to ride the coaster without the addition.

seaworld-orlando-kraken-virtual-reality-overlay.jpg

“[The Virtual Reality system is] fully 3D with audio. Fully immersive. Fully tethered, fully synchronized so we won’t have any motion sickness issues,” Morrow said.

Kraken opened in 2000 and remains one of SeaWorld Orlando’s most popular coasters with its floorless seats and seven inversions. Morrow said the attraction only will be taken down for two months to add the Virtual Reality experience.

The current minimum height requirement to ride Kraken is 54 inches, but Morrow said he didn’t know if it would be same for the Virtual Reality overlay.

SeaWorld Orlando also is adding more of what of what guests love in another area – its themed festivals and parties. In February, the theme park will launch its Seven Seas Food Festival, which will take place for 14 weekends in the spring.

seaworld-orlando-seven-seas-food-festival-hawaiian-pork-sliders.jpg
Hawaiian Pulled Pork Slider served with Pineapple Pepper Cole Slaw and Asian BBQ sauce
Watermelon Gazpacho topped with Tecate Beer Jalapeño Foam


seaworld-orlando-seven-seas-food-festival-pound-cake.jpg

Vermont Pound Cake Grilled Cheese topped with a freshly made Raspberry Sauce

“You’re going to get a chance to travel around the world right here at SeaWorld and taste cuisine from the shores and the coasts and little stands and roadside kitchens that you can find all over the globe. You’ll get to taste food from Hawaii, North America, South America, Mediterranean, all over the world,” Morrow said.

seaworld-orlando-flamecraft-bar-rendering.jpg


seaworld-orlando-florida-craft-beers.jpg

At about the same time the food festival begins, a new bar featuring microbrews, will open at the Waterfront. FlameCraft Bar with its expansive lagoon views will be designed to look like lantern repair shop, and patrons will be able to sample 15 draft craft beers that are sourced locally. Many of the beers also will be available during the food festival.

A second party, Electric Ocean, will debut for the summer season and become a daily nighttime event that includes lighting, music and pathway entertainment.

“[We asked ourselves] what would happen if we dove deep in the water and the bioluminescent animals all started talking to us with light and it transformed the park as it transitioned from daytime to dusk to nighttime,” said Morrow.

“And it wouldn’t be a great night festival if it didn’t have a great finale. You’re going to get to participate in an electric dance party on our lake, surrounded by fountains with a finale of fireworks like you’ve never seen come from this organization.”

seaworld-orlando-dolphin-nursery-rendering.jpg

Also for Summer 2017, SeaWorld Orlando’s Dolphin Nursery will become more interactive. Large-scale acrylic windows will offer up-close viewing, including multiple levels to give kids a face-to-face perspective with dolphin calves. New slide out areas and lifting floor will also allow for easier access to mom and baby for the veterinary and animal care teams.

The next generation of multi-purpose digital displays will allow SeaWorld educators to share information about dolphin behavior, biology and conservation with our guests by interacting with video from the team’s educational and animal care content.

Morrow said that beginning Memorial Day weekend, the Nautilus Theatre, which has been dark, will house a dedicated summer show. Details are not being announced yet.

seaworld-orlando-aquatica-pass-member-pavilion.jpg

Aquatica pass members can look forward to a new pavilion designed for their exclusive use, much like the one at SeaWorld Orlando, just in time for spring break. The Aquatica space will feature concierge service, complimentary sunscreen and fountain beverages, a separate entrance to Banana Beach and private animal encounters.

SeaWorld Orlando pass members now can purchase new, innovative passes that allow them to bring different guests for each visit. The “host” purchases an annual pass for $168 and also a transferrable pass at the same time for $208. The host then can use the second pass to bring anyone he or she chooses with the second pass, but it is limited to one visit per day and the host must accompany the guest. This pass offer also is available for a SeaWorld and Aquatica combination at $192 for the host pass and $232 for the transferrable pass. Also, a special offer right now adds three months free to a regular annual pass.

seaworld-orlando-christmas-celebration-2016-rudolph-clarice.jpg

Finally, beloved Christmas character Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and friends -- including Clarice, Bumble, the Abominable Snow Monster and Yukon Cornelius -- and Rudolph-themed attractions will be making their debut as part of the 2016 Christmas Celebration at SeaWorld Orlando. They will return for 2017 with additional experiences.

“Our company is going through a fantastic moment in time where we’re creating our future,” Morrow said. “We’re developing experiences that not only matter but experiences that can create a lifestyle with purpose within our guests to explore, protect and help this environment that we all live within.”



Instagram

September 27, 2016

Disney Channel to air Halloween movies, tutorials, animated shorts beginning Oct. 1

kristin-ford%27s-masthead.jpg

For those of us who are not-so-scary Halloween types (or those who have young children), Disney Channel is bringing back its month-long Halloween celebration. And it’s not just about our favorite Halloween-themed shows. Read on for all the great content designed to help you prepare for celebrations and to give you and your family gentle thrills and chills.

disney-channel-monstober-2016-home-page.jpg

“Monstober” returns to Disney Channel, beginning Saturday, Oct. 1. The programming event includes Halloween-themed episodes of hit Disney Channel series, the premiere of the Disney Channel Original Movie “The Swap,” special short-form content premiering nightly as part of “Monstober Theater,” and the return of “Mal-oween,” which includes an encore performance of “Descendants” and the second season premiere of the animated shorts, “Descendants: Wicked World.”

The October lineup also includes a week-long premiere event of “Best Friends Whenever” with new episodes airing Oct. 2 through 6 (9:00-9:30 p.m. EDT), and the U.S. premiere of “The Lodge,” with five back-to-back episodes premiering nightly beginning Oct. 17 (5:00-5:30p.m. EDT).

More than 60 short-form interstitials celebrating “Monstober” will debut nightly as part of “Monstober Theater.” These Halloween-themed pieces include Disney Channel stars’ transformations in “Monstrosity Maker,” “Zombodies” animated shorts, Halloween makeup tutorials, DIY lessons and a “Talking Heads” series featuring the cast of “Bizaardvark.”

Plus, beginning Saturday, the Disney Channel App will host a “Monstober” collection with a variety of “Monstober” episodes, short-form content and movies available throughout the month. The collection will also house all four seasons of “Wizards of Waverly Place.”

Fan-favorite movies also return throughout the month, including “Halloweentown,” “Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge,” “Twitches,” “My Babysitter’s A Vampire,” and Disney•Pixar’s “Monsters University” and “Toy Story 3.” “Monstober” will also welcome the Disney Channel premiere of “R.L. Stine’s Monsterville: Cabinet of Souls” and the one-hour animated special, “Ghost Patrol.”

The “Monstober” schedule is as follows:

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 2
K.C. Undercover “Virtual Insanity”
(8:00 – 8:30 P.M. EDT)
When K.C. goes into a virtual reality game to rescue Ernie, it becomes the craziest Halloween ever for the teen spies as they try to tackle the alternate universe and enemy agents Darci and Damon, the masterminds behind the evil game.

Best Friends Whenever “Night of the Were-Diesel”
(9:00 – 9:30 P.M. EDT)
When Cyd tries to protect Diesel from Barry’s wolf serum experiment, she accidentally gets the serum on herself and turns into a menacing werewolf. Now Shelby must try and figure out how to get her best friend back before the she-wolf destroys their high school’s Halloween carnival.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7:
BUNK’D “Camp Kiki-Slasher”
(7:30 – 8:00 P.M. EDT)
Things get scary at Camp Kikiwaka when the campers start disappearing one by one. When they finally uncover the culprit with the axe to grind, he takes them on a thrill ride the campers will never forget!

The Swap
(8:00 – 9:40 P.M. EDT)
Ellie O’Brien is trying to juggle rhythmic gymnastics and troubles with her best friend. Meanwhile, classmate Jack Malloy is struggling to live up to his brothers’ hockey-star legacies and his dad’s high expectations and tough-love approach. When a text argument about whose life is easier gets out of hand, Ellie and Jack trigger an unexplainable real-life swap. With a rhythmic gymnastics championship and a spot on the varsity hockey team on the line, they must figure out how to get back in their own bodies before the swap becomes permanent.
Starring Peyton List (Disney Channel’s “BUNK’D,” “Jessie”) as Ellie O’Brien and Jacob Bertrand (Disney XD’s “Kirby Buckets”) as Jack Malloy.

Bizaardvark “Halloweenvark”
(9:40 – 10:05 P.M. EDT)
The v-loggers have to make a scary Halloween video for Vuuugle’s homepage, but they can’t decide whose video is the scariest – Frankie and Paige’s tale of the ghost of Hollander Prep, Dirk’s haunting world without dares, or Amelia’s zombie apocalypse.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 9:
Disney•Pixar’s “Monsters University”
(6:10 – 8:00 P.M. EDT)
Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan are an inseparable pair, but that wasn’t always the case. From the moment these two mismatched monsters met, they couldn’t stand each other. “Monsters University” unlocks the door to how Mike and Sulley overcame their differences and became the best of friends.

Ghost Patrol – One-Hour Animated Special
(8:00 – 9:00 P.M. EDT)
Gabi and Spence, and Spooky the dog, are the “Ghost Patrol,” their town’s supernatural pest control, but they’ve never seen a real ghost. When they get a call to investigate the old Geist Manor, they are about to find the proof they have been looking for – and a whole lot more.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14:
Liv and Maddie: Cali Style “Scare-A-Rooney”
(8:00 – 8:30 P.M. EDT)
Liv takes Ruby to a spooky dinner and runs into an old acquaintance and Maddie comes face-to-face with the real-life spider-sprayer. Meanwhile, Parker and Joey must convince their classmates to celebrate Halloween.

Girl Meets World “Girl Meets World of Terror 3”
(8:30 – 9:00 P.M. EDT)
Auggie narrates a scary Halloween story about what the world would be like if Maya and Riley had never met.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15:
Disney•Pixar’s “Toy Story 3”
(8:00 – 9:50 P.M. EDT)
“Toy Story 3” welcomes Woody, Buzz and the whole gang back as Andy prepares to depart for college and his loyal toys find themselves in… daycare! These untamed tots with their sticky little fingers do not play nice, so it’s all for one and one for all as plans for the great escape get underway. A few new faces join the adventure, including iconic swinging bachelor and Barbie’s counterpart Ken, a thespian hedgehog named Mr. Pricklepants and a pink, strawberry-scented teddy bear called Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 17:
The Lodge “The New Girl”
(5:00 – 5:30 P.M. EDT)
After the loss of her mother, 15-year-old Skye returns with her father to North Star Lodge, the family-owned country hotel where her mother was raised years ago. Eager to make a fresh start, Skye forges friendships with the locals who live and work at the lodge, but when she learns her father is planning to sell the place that holds so many treasured memories, she is determined to find a way to change his mind. Now, she must lean on her newfound friends to help, although all may not be as it seems.
Starring Thomas Doherty (Disney’s “Descendants 2”).

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21:
Disney’s “Descendants”
(8:00 – 10:05 P.M. EDT)
Set in the idyllic kingdom of Auradon, “Descendants” playfully presents the unexpected possibilities of what happens after the “happily ever after.” Ben, the benevolent teenage son of the King and Queen (Beast and Belle from “Beauty and the Beast”), is poised to take the throne. His first proclamation is to offer a chance at redemption to Mal, Evie, Carlos and Jay, the trouble-making offspring of Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Cruella de Vil and Jafar, who have all been sequestered on the forbidden Isle of the Lost for 20 years. These villainous descendants are allowed into Auradon for the first time to attend prep school alongside the teenage progeny of Fairy Godmother, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Mulan. Only time will tell if these evil teens follow in the footsteps of their wicked parents.

Descendants: Wicked World “Slumber Party”
After the Neon Lights Ball, Mal and Evie join their Auradon friends for fun times at a slumber party.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29:
R.L. Stine’s Monsterville: Cabinet of Souls
(8:00 – 9:30 P.M. EDT)
When a traveling Hall of Horrors show arrives in the town of Danville, a group of high school friends can’t wait to get spooked. The monsters, zombies, and ghouls are completely lifelike; and the villainous showman, Dr. Hysteria, and his enchanting assistant, Lilith, really know how to turn up the scares. But when someone discovers a haunted cabinet backstage that traps the souls of lost teens, it’s up to the gang to stop the mayhem before they are trapped forever.
Starring Dove Cameron (Disney’s “Descendants,” Disney Channel’s “Liv and Maddie”) and Ryan McCartan (Disney Channel’s “Liv and Maddie”).



Instagram

September 24, 2016

Disney Cruise Line perks for Disney Visa Card members are changing for 2017

kristin-ford%27s-masthead.jpg

Perks for Disney Visa Card members are changing soon when it comes to Disney Cruise Line vacations.

Beginning with sailings after Jan. 1, 2017, it appears that card members no longer will receive a $50 onboard credit for beverages. Instead, a new slate of discounts will be introduced. According to disneyrewards.com, they will include:

** 10 percent off cruise photos. This offer is good for non-discounted 10-photo, 15-photo, 20-photo and all-inclusive digital photo packages. These are the professional photos taken at character greetings, posed portraits and candid encounters on the ship and Castaway Cay.

** 10 percent off select merchandise purchases of $50 or more aboard Disney Cruise Line ships.

** 10 percent off a Castaway Cay Getaway Package. The package includes snorkeling, one-hour bicycle rental, and float or inner-tube rental on Disney Cruise Line’s private island, Castaway Cay.

** 20 percent off a non-discounted massage or facial treatment service aboard Disney Cruise Line ships on port days only. This offer is available in the main and teen spas.

Here’s how to take advantage of the benefits for 2017, according to the website:

** When you arrive at the ship, your “Key to the World” card will indicate that you are a Disney Visa Card member and eligible for the onboard perks.

** When you check-in online or onboard at Guest Relations, enter your Disney Visa Card as your form of payment for all onboard purchases.

** Card member perks cannot be combined with any other offers or discounts, including Cast Member, Annual Passholder, Disney Vacation Club, Florida resident, etc.

In the meantime, the $50 onboard beverage credit can be redeemed for sailings through Dec. 31, 2016, that have been paid in full with a Disney Visa Card by applying booking code DCC.

Disney Visa Card members also have the benefit of being able to book a Disney vacation and receive 0 percent interest for that charge for six months while paying off the vacation. In addition, card members earn 1 percent back on card purchases as Disney Reward Dollars, which can be spent at Disney properties and at the Disney Store. See the official details and how to apply here.

Do you like the change in benefits for Disney Visa Card members? Tell us in the comments, please.



Instagram

September 22, 2016

One family's recommendations for 2016 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

kristin-ford%27s-masthead.jpg

As my children -- ages 12 and 14 as of next week -- have gotten older, they have come to look forward to the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival almost as much as my husband and I do. So, as local Walt Disney World passholders, we plan several visits to the festival each fall.

epcot-food-wine-festival-entrance-garden-2016.jpg

On Sunday, the kids and I had a few hours to make our way around World Showcase for dinner, and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit during opening weekend. We knew we would not be able to try everything we desired, so we actually tried a strategy new to us – we didn’t have a strategy! We didn’t study the menus, and I had not been to any media previews this year so I did not have any insider insight. Instead, we did what many festival-goers do: We followed our stomachs from marketplace to marketplace.

For this culinary trip, my kids and I focused just on the food and not the specialty (and alcoholic) drinks. We’ll save those for the next lap around World Showcase when my husband is with us.

To begin our adventure, we purchased festival gift cards with wristbands at one of the festival kiosks that are located on either side of the planting bed that features Minnie Mouse in a hot air balloon. (The gift cards also are available in the Festival Center in Future World. You cannot purchase the cards in World Showcase, but you can reload money onto them at any festival marketplace.) Over the years, we have found these cards to be really useful for this event; it’s so much easier to swipe and eat than to have to dig out cash or credit cards at each marketplace.

epcot-food-wine-festival-wristlet-gift-card-2016.jpg

Plus, we allow the kids to wear the gift cards and pay for the food our family is sharing, which they like to do. We usually only add $50 at a time on each gift card to limit losses if a child misplaces the gift card. But Disney World has a system in place to help you recover lost gift cards, as well, so be sure to ask when you purchase yours. Also, know that if you have money left on your gift cards when you are finished eating and drinking, it can be used anywhere gift cards are accepted on Disney properties, and the cards do not expire.

We also grabbed a few of the complimentary Epcot International Food & Wine Festival passports. These pocket-size booklets have the menus for each marketplace, plus stickers for guests to keep track of when they have visited each country. This is different from past years when guests could collect stamps as they made their way around World Showcase. I’m not sure stickers hold the same cache because you’re not required to visit the country, but they certainly will cut down on lines. And kids will enjoy the process, either way.

epcot-food-wine-festival-hawaii-kalua-pork-slider.jpg

Gift cards on our wrists, we walked a few yards ahead to the Hawaii marketplace, the first on the right of the central walkway to the promenade. There, we each had what has become an annual favorite: The Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise.

Tip: Picky eaters and those with food restrictions should not be afraid to ask if a dish can be altered to suit their needs. I had the Kalua Pork Slider as is, but my son asked for the meat “naked,” and my daughter asked for the mayo on the meat and the chutney on the side. Cast members were happy to oblige. Usually, you will pay at the register and then ask the cast member who is serving the food if your request can be accommodated.

epcot-food-wine-festival-patagonia-beef-empanada.jpg

Next, my son and daughter got a beef empanada from Patagonia to share. They both enjoyed it, and it was what you would expect – a tasty beef empanada. There was nothing unusual about it, and that was just fine. They were hungry and wanted a dish they knew they would like.

Tip: If you are looking for foods that children are likely to enjoy, kid-friendly items are marked with a symbol in the festival passport. The beef empanada is one example.

epcot-food-wine-festival-islands-of-caribbean-jamaican-beef-patties.jpg


epcot-food-wine-festival-islands-of-caribbean-quesito.jpg

After Patagonia, we all wanted to try something from the new marketplace, Islands of the Caribbean. We chose the Jamaican Beef Patty and the Quesito, a puff pastry with sweetened cream cheese and guava sauce. My son liked the beef patties – there are two in each serving – better than my daughter did because they were a little spicy. My daughter, who has a sweet tooth, enjoyed the quesito more. I liked both dishes.

Tip: Islands of the Caribbean is located in the feature spot and can be accessed from the promenade in front of the lagoon or from Imagination Walkway, which runs parallel to the central path on the right if you are facing World Showcase.

epcot-food-wine-festival-france-beef-short-ribs-mashed-potatoes.jpg

Then, we hustled over to France, where the marketplace is again serving my daughter’s absolute favorite dish: Cabernet Sauvignon-braised short ribs with mashed potatoes. This flavorful dish is actually one that my whole family enjoys. Although we were tempted by the caramel and chocolate crème brulee, we skipped it in favor of sampling more hearty fare.

epcot-food-wine-festival-begium-waflle-with-berry-compote.jpg

Another must-do for our family is the Belgium marketplace, where you can get Belgian waffles, of course. They are served with either berry compote or warm chocolate ganache and whipped cream. Both versions are equally delightful, though younger kids may opt for the chocolate topping over the berries.

epcot-food-wine-festival-italy-baked-ziti-chicken-parmigiana.jpg

Although we hated to bypass Morocco and Japan, my son had his eye on Italy, so we pressed forward around World Showcase. My pasta-loving boy initially was disappointed to see ravioli had been replaced on the menu with a baked ziti and chicken parmigiana dish, but he decided to give it a try. Both he and his sister enjoyed the dish and would recommend it to other kids. They also said they would go back for seconds.

epcot-food-wine-festival-south-korea-bbq-beef-cucumber-kimchi.jpg

The Germany marketplace serves two kid-friendly dishes, and we usually do not skip the bratwurst in a hard roll, but the three of us were feeling full and we each had one more dish in mind to finish the evening. My son joined the line at the South Korea marketplace so he could try this year’s version of the Korean-style BBQ beef. It’s served with steamed rice and cucumber kimchi, which he didn’t care for, but he practically inhaled the BBQ beef.

Tip: If you’re like us and not sampling the specialty drinks or alcohol, bottles of water are available at most of the marketplaces. If you prefer a fountain drink, don’t pass by the Refreshment Cool Post or the Refreshment Port, which are on opposite sides of the promenade.

epcot-food-wine-festival-liquid-nitro-chocolate-almond-truffle.jpg

For our final dish, my daughter and I wanted to hit up the Chocolate Studio in Future World West. We both wanted to revisit the Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel from last year. If you haven’t tried this dish, it is, of course, very cold, which is perfect for these still-hot Florida days. The texture is like a hard ice cream, and the combination is delicious!

At that point, it was time to head out because none of us could eat another bite. But we’ll be back -- the Epcot Food & Wine Festival runs through Nov. 14.

You can see complete menus (and pricing) for the Global Marketplaces on the AllEars.Net resource page.



Instagram

September 20, 2016

What's it like to volunteer for a SeaWorld beach cleanup?

kristin-ford%27s-masthead.jpg

For years, SeaWorld has organized beach cleanups in Florida and California, and pass members are invited to join team members at some of these community events. This past weekend, my family and I were able to participate in such an event at Cocoa Beach.

seaworld-orlando-beach-cleanup-lauren.jpg

Frequent readers of my blog may know that my tween daughter loves dolphins and is interested in a career in marine biology. So, this was not our first beach cleanup because these events are a way for her to involved with the environment she enjoys and appreciates. However, this was our first time participating in a cleanup hosted by SeaWorld, and there are a few differences. Here’s what you can expect.

SeaWorld usually hosts beach cleanups that are open to pass members in June for World Oceans Day and in September for Coastal Cleanup Day. Watch the pass member website and direct mailings for the announcements. Then, if you want to participate, sign up as soon as possible because spots fill up quickly.

Once you’re registered, you will be sent an email confirmation with directions and a safety waiver you are asked to print, sign and bring to the event.

When we arrived, we signed in and completed additional waivers to allow SeaWorld to photograph and video us that day. Then we each were given a SeaWorld Cares T-shirt and asked to wear them for the event. The shirts are soft with an understated design – a nice souvenir after they served their purpose at the cleanup.

We also were provided with gloves, trash bags, hand sanitizer, bug spray and an ocean trash data form from the Ocean Conservancy. We were asked to keep track of the types of trash we collected on the beach. According to the form, we were most likely to find cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic and foam take out containers, plastic and metal bottle caps, plastic lids, straws and utensils. Sure enough, my family alone picked up more than 100 cigarette butts.

seaworld-orlando-beach-cleanup-ford-family.jpg

Our large group of SeaWorld pass members and team members fanned out in both directions on the beach at Lori Wilson Park and worked steadily for about two hours. During that time, we were given bottles of water and encouraged to take breaks as needed because it was a humid, hot 88 degrees that day.

At the end of our shift, we stacked our bags of trash on the beach and gathered for a group photo. We were told at that time that we would each be given a complimentary print of the group photo, which we could pick up during our next visit to SeaWorld. Another nice surprise!

seaworld-orlando-trash-from-beach-cleanup.jpg

My family and I had a positive experience volunteering with SeaWorld Orlando and would encourage pass members of all ages to give the beach cleanups a try. Volunteering gave us an opportunity to see another side of SeaWorld’s conservation efforts and how small things can make a big difference to the sea life around us.

Tips

** If you want to join a SeaWorld event (or, really, any theme-park event), sign up as soon as possible because spots fill up quickly.

** SeaWorld team members are happy to sign forms for students who are earning community service hours. My teen son is in the process of doing this, and he earned two hours for his efforts at the beach cleanup.

** Want to get involved with a beach cleanup before the next one hosted by SeaWorld? Keep Brevard Beautiful organizes beach cleanups each month. (Brevard is the county for Cocoa Beach and many of the Florida east coast beaches south of New Smyrna and Daytona.) Check keepbrevardbeautiful.org for the current schedule, which now includes cleanups at Satellite Beach and Indian Harbour Beach.



Instagram

September 17, 2016

High school students can apply now to be Disneyland Dreamers & Doers

kristin-ford%27s-masthead.jpg

Disneyland-dreamers-doers.jpg

Disneyland has announced that its Dreamers and & Doers program, which recognizes local high school students who are making a difference, has returned for a second year. The application process is now open and continues through Oct. 31.

However, some of the application process has changed and so have the awards, so keep reading for details.

Students at all Orange County (California) high schools are eligible to apply by sharing their stories of how they are taking action for a brighter tomorrow in four focus areas: Live Healthier (make healthier living fun and accessible); Strengthen Community (bring hope, happiness and comfort to children and families); Conserve Nature (connect children and families with nature to build lifelong conservation values); and Think Creatively (nurture creative thinking skills to inspire children and families to create the future they imagine).

Applications can be downloaded now, and they must be turned in at each school’s main office by Oct. 31, and then the school will select up to two Dreamer & Doers. Here is what students can win:

** Each student nominated by their school will be recognized as a Dreamer & Doer and receive two Disneyland Resort 1-Day Park-Hopper tickets and a certificate of recognition. (Students can only be nominated once during their high school career.)

** From the nominated group of Dreamers & Doers, up to 35 students will be identified as Shining Stars and invited to attend a celebration luncheon with two family members and a representative from each of their schools.

** To inspire fellow students to make their school a better place, each of the students selected as a Shining Star will receive a $1,000 pay-it-forward grant for his or her school, as well as a Dreamers & Doers branded medal of recognition.

** Five Luminaries will be selected, and in recognition will receive a Disneyland Resort weekend prize package to enjoy with their families. They will also have the opportunity to select an Orange County non-profit organization of their choice to be awarded a $3,000 grant on their behalf.

** Shining Stars and Luminaries will have the opportunity to attend an educational symposium in spring 2017.

Ready to apply? Click here for the application, which asks each student:

** Considering one of the four focus areas above, describe something you have done, created or innovated to solve a problem in your community, home or school that makes it a better place. Describe how you would like to continue or expand your efforts in the future.

** If you are selected as a Shining Star, how would you use a $1,000 grant to inspire fellow students to make your high school a better place? Please answer in relation to your chosen focus area.

** If given the opportunity to support a local charitable cause or organization in Orange County that supports enriching the lives of children and families, which would you choose and why? Please be specific.

Unlike last year, there is no video component to this year’s Disneyland Resort Dreamers & Doers program.

To be eligible to apply, students must:

** Be a current resident of Orange County, California.

** Currently attend an Orange County public, private or charter high school.

** Be in good academic and character standing, as verified by the high school.

** Submit a completed application to school administration by the specified deadline.

** Submit a signed form of authorization to use likeness, voice and/or written correspondence.

Disneyland’s Dreamers & Doers will be announced at the beginning of November, and the Shining Stars and Luminaries will be announced by mid-December.

Questions can be directed to Disneyland Resort Corporate Citizenship at DLR.Corporate.Citizenship@Disney.com.



Instagram

September 15, 2016

Discovery Cove deal gives Florida residents more time at SeaWorld and Aquatica

kristin-ford%27s-masthead.jpg

This week, Discovery Cove announced the return of one of its best Florida resident deals. My family and I took advantage of this offer several years ago, and we definitely recommend it.

Through the end of the year, Florida residents can book the Dolphin Swim for $219 per person. That's a great deal, considering that during peak times, such as the summer, visitors from out of state pay as much as $339 per person. What also makes this Florida-resident deal so sweet is that it includes unlimited admission to SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica water park through Jan. 31, 2017, after your day at Discovery Cove.

We spent our day at Discovery Cove in late September for our children's birthdays and then had four months to enjoy Aquatica and SeaWorld. This deal is a great way for locals to sample all the SeaWorld Orlando parks. Plus, the crowds are light, for the most part, which makes each experience all the more enjoyable. We were a little chilly swimming in January, but that didn't stop my then-8-year-old and 10-year-old from diving right in and having a blast, that's for sure!

Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive park, which means your ticket provides breakfast and lunch plus unlimited snacks, drinks and alcoholic beverages; wetsuit and equipment for snorkeling; and lockers, towels and sunscreen. Discovery Cove only admits 1,300 guests per day, so the park is never overcrowded.

discovery-cove-kristin-lauren-with-dolphin.jpg
discovery-cove-carter-and-dolphin.jpg

Guests wade with stingrays (that have been debarbed), snorkel among exotic fish in a saltwater lagoon, feed tropical birds in a free-flight aviary, float down a lazy river and relax on white-sand beaches. The highlight of the day for many is, of course, a 30-minute interaction with dolphins that includes holding onto the dolphin's dorsal fin for a short swim. (Florida residents who do not want to participate in the dolphin interaction can purchase a Resort Day pass for $149 and get the current deal with SeaWorld and Aquatica.)

Aquatica

SeaWorld's Aquatica water park is themed to feature sea animals, of course, and its centerpiece attractions are Dolphin Plunge, which takes riders through a tank of black-and-white Commerson's dolphins, and Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, which drops riders into a water slide after the bottom falls away. There are a variety of tubes and slides, two family raft rides, a lazy river, body-surfing rapids, and two separate kids' play areas. As with SeaWorld, there is an all-day dining option in one of the three restaurants. (You can read more in my review of Aquatica.)

SeaWorld Orlando

At SeaWorld, visitors can see a signature Shamu show, feed a dolphin, pet a stingray, brave some monster roller coasters or play in the kids' area all in a day at the Orlando theme park. The newest attraction, Mako, opened in June and is the tallest, longest and faster coaster in Orlando.

Florida residents who opt for the Discovery Cove deal also can experience Halloween parties that include trick-or-treating and Christmas celebrations with amazing decorations and special shows at SeaWorld at no additional charge. This definitely is another selling point because Disney World and Universal Orlando both require separate tickets for holiday events.

Perhaps the only downside to the Discovery Cove deal is that parking is not included for SeaWorld or Aquatica. But the $20 or $15 charge, respectively, is a small price to pay for all you're getting.



Instagram

September 13, 2016

Tips for families at 2016 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

kristin-ford%27s-masthead.jpg

The 2016 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival begins tomorrow – and lasts a mouth-watering, record 62 days! My family and I look forward to this special event every fall. For years, my children, who are now a tween and teen, have enjoyed sampling the new foods and perennial favorites. We have learned a few tips and tricks over the years that we think will help other families maximize their time and increase their enjoyment of the festival. Here are our top suggestions:

** The day and time you visit the World Showcase promenade for the festival makes a huge difference in how your experience will play out. The best time to go is at 11 a.m. (when the majority of the food booths open) on weekdays to avoid crowds. However, that’s obviously not practical for families with kids in school. So, if you must go on the weekend, opt for Friday afternoons and evenings or Sunday mornings. The most crowded days by far at the festival are Saturdays, when many locals visit Walt Disney World.

** Another strategy for avoiding the thickest crowds is to start sampling foods and beverages farther around World Showcase, rather than at the front of the 1.2-mile loop. Take the Friendships Boats across the lagoon to either Germany or Morocco and begin your culinary tour at one of those countries. Bonus: Parents of young children know that even Disney transportation counts a ride in kids’ minds and is cause for excitement!

** If you plan to be at Epcot at park opening at 9 a.m., you can still enjoy several Food & Wine Festival activities, even though the majority of the marketplaces do not begin serving until 11 a.m. The Festival Center is located in Future World at the front of the park. There, families can walk through the Ghirardelli Chocolate display, which includes amazing sculptures made of chocolate; demonstrations of the process of turning the bean into a bar; and samples for each visitor. Guests also can see a short movie about the making of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, as well as shop for exclusive merchandise, visit a snack station, or attend a cooking demonstration in the air-conditioned center. In addition, on the other side of Future World, guests will find marketplaces -- The Chew Collective, the Wine & Dine Studio, Chocolate Studio and Greenhouse Guru -- which also open earlier than World Showcase.

** When you get to Epcot, purchase festival gift cards that include the wristband. If your children are old enough to trust, allow each to wear one of the gift cards. My kids always get a kick out of paying, and it’s easier for my husband and I, too. If you do not want your children handling the money, the wristlet gift cards are still a good idea for the adults because it means not having to dig through your purse or wallet to pay at each marketplace. Swipe and then eat!

** Get a festival passport – available at the Festival Center or each marketplace -- for each family member. There are stickers included to commemorate each marketplace you visit, and kids usually love to do this. The passport also lists all the menus, so you can keep track of what you have tried and make your Bucket List for the rest of the festival.

** Take a break to cool off and rest tired feet at the Chase Lounge inside the American Adventure. Chase Visa credit and debit cardholders can access this lounge by presenting their cards. Inside the third-floor lounge, guests can enjoy complimentary beverages and charging stations for devices. The last couple of years, cardholders also were offered wristbands for reserved seating at the Eat to the Beat concerts and Illuminations fireworks. My children were excited just to be allowed inside private rooms that typically are not open to the public.

** Walt Disney World is again offering its passholders a collectible glass for making multiple visits to the Food & Wine Festival. This year, it is a tumbler instead of a wine glass, and passholders do not have to have their passports stamped three times. Instead, the visits are recorded electronically with your MagicBand or RFID ticket. On the third visit, you simply go to Innoventions East with your band or pass card and a photo ID to collect your tumbler.

** Finally, Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak game returns and takes family members on a scavenger hunt around World Showcase as the little chef collects ingredients for his signature dish. Maps and stickers for this interactive game can be purchased at several locations, and the price includes one of six new collectible pins that are rewarded when the map is redeemed before the end of the festival.

The 21st Epcot International Food & Wine Festival runs through Nov. 14. Admission to the festival is included with regular admission (or annual passes) to Epcot.



Instagram

September 10, 2016

'Finding Dory' bonus features sure to make splash with Disney-Pixar fans

kristin-ford%27s-masthead.jpg

My children and I had barely exited the theater after seeing Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Dory” in June before they were asking for confirmation that we would purchase the DVD as soon as it is released. The movie really was that good! (You can read my review here.)

Of course, I agreed. And I know now that I will be buying “Finding Dory” on Nov. 15 when the animated movie comes out on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand. Those who prefer viewing on Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere can see “Finding Dory” a lot earlier – on Oct. 25.

The release dates were just announced, as well as details of the bonus features we can look forward to. And there is a lot to get excited about! From an all-new mini short featuring interviews with Dory’s pals from the Marine Life Institute to never-before-seen deleted scenes, including a digital exclusive featuring the Tank Gang from “Finding Nemo” who make it their mission to get Marlin and Nemo to the Marine Life Institute, fans will love these extensions of the story. Plus, viewers will be able to see “Piper,” the amazing theatrical short film starring an irresistible sandpiper hatchling, Loved it!

finding-dory-disney-pixar-hank-dory.jpg

Here are the official descriptions of the bonus features we can look forward to.

Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & Digital HD:

** Theatrical Short: “Piper” – A hungry sandpiper hatchling ventures from her nest for the first time to dig for food by the shoreline. The only problem is that the food is buried beneath the sand where scary waves roll up onto the shore.

** Marine Life Interviews (All-New Mini Short) – Meet the inhabitants of the Marine Life Institute as they remember our favorite blue tang.

** The Octopus That Nearly Broke Pixar – Pixar’s “Team Hank” unravels the challenges, frustrations, and rewards of bringing to life the studio’s crankiest and most technically complicated character ever.

** What Were We Talking About? – This piece showcases the complex routes Dory’s story took as the filmmakers worked to construct a comprehensive narrative involving a main character with short-term memory loss.

** Casual Carpool – What’s it like to commute with the voices of Marlin, Charlie, Bailey and Hank? Join “Finding Dory” writer/director Andrew Stanton as he drives Albert Brooks, Eugene Levy, Ty Burrell and Ed O’Neill to work.

** Animation & Acting – How do you create a connection between a human audience and a fish? This behind-the-scenes look behind the curtain examines the process of constructing believable performances through a unique collaboration between the director, voice actors and animators.

** Creature Features – The cast of “Finding Dory” share cool facts about the creatures they voice in the film.

** Deep in the Kelp – Disney Channel’s Jenna Ortega guides us on a research trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to show how far the “Finding Dory” crew went to make Dory’s world feel real.

** Skating & Sketching with Jason Deamer – “Finding Dory” character art director Jason Deamer talks about how he got to Pixar, how he draws the characters in the film, and how falling off a skateboard teaches you lessons you can use in art and life.

** Dory’s Theme – A spirited discussion among the composer, music editor and director of “Finding Dory” about the musical elements that shape Dory’s quirky and joyful theme.

** Rough Day on the Reef – Sometimes computers make mistakes. Here you’ll see some of the funny, creepy and just plain bizarre footage the crew encountered while making “Finding Dory.”

** Commentary – Director Andrew Stanton, co-director Angus MacLane and producer Lindsey Collins deliver their personal perspective on “Finding Dory.”

** Deleted Scenes (introduced by director Andrew Stanton)

** Losing Nemo – While watching the stingray migration, Dory starts to follow two fish that remind her of her parents, leaving Nemo all alone.

** Little Tension in Clown Town – In this alternate version of the film, Dory tries to “follow her fins” to her parents, but ends up in a strange place with even stranger fish fashion.

** Dory Dumped – In this early version of the story, Dory’s parents had short-term memory loss as well.

** Sleep Swimming – Dory begins to talk and swim in her sleep, revealing what seem to be clues to her past.

** Meeting Hank – Wandering the Marine Life Institute’s elaborate pipe system, Dory happens upon the abode of Hank the cranky octopus.

** The Pig – Frantically navigating the pipes of the Marine Life Institute in search of her parents, Dory crosses paths with a terrifying cleaning device.

** Starting Over – Director Andrew Stanton presents four different versions of the movie’s opening scene to illustrate the filmmakers’ search for the best way to introduce Dory’s back story and to connect this new film to “Finding Nemo.”

** Tank Gang (Digital exclusive) – After a close encounter with a squid leaves them separated from Dory, Marlin and Nemo unexpectedly meet up with the Tank Gang from “Finding Nemo,” who make it their mission to get to the Marine Life Institute … by any means necessary.

** Hidden Seacrets of Finding Dory (Digital exclusive) – Take a deep dive to catch secret Easter Eggs throughout the movie. And just like Hank, they’re hidden in plain sight.

DVD only:
** Theatrical Short: Piper & Commentary



Instagram

September 8, 2016

Walt Disney World requires finger scans of kids ages 3 to 9 entering its theme parks

kristin-ford%27s-masthead.jpg

Walt Disney World has begun scanning the fingers of children who are entering its theme parks and water parks. Although many families had noticed the new practice and began posting about it recently on social media channels, the process was confirmed this week by the Orlando Sentinel and other news outlets.

Kids and all guests with tickets or annual passes -- which is anyone age 3 or older – now must have a finger scan associated with his or her admission media. The scan is not one of a person’s fingerprint but rather photos of different points on an individual finger that is then converted into a digital code.

rfid-2.jpg

The technology is used to prevent fraud. Before the new practice was put in place, tickets or annual passes for young children could be transferred to others because there was no identifying information attached to the ticket or pass. In other words, children’s tickets could be handed off to friends, or even resold, to other kids in the same age range.

With the new policy, parents have the option to associate their own finger scans – instead of their children’s -- with their kids’ tickets. One complication with this, though, can occur when the parent whose finger scan is associated with the child’s ticket is not the one escorting the child into the park.

Walt Disney World officials say the “finger geometry” scans are not being saved in a company database. They are only associated with the individual tickets and annual passes as a security measure, and the visitor data is discarded within 30 days.

As a parent, I am not bothered by the expanded finger scan practice, though I know that some parents have expressed reservations about the technology. And neither is my more cynical husband, who often looks at the profit-making and marketing angles behind any such new technological advance. This technology does not uniquely identify a person; it simply reduces the chances you are using a ticket or pass that is not yours.

Walt Disney World has been collecting finger scans for more than a decade. (You can read about the history and see photos of the old machines on our AllEars.Net resource page.) And in that time, the process has become more commonplace not just among theme parks but with advanced technology, such as Apple Pay and other digital wallets.

Parents who have spoken out about the finger scans –- for anyone of any age – are, of course, concerned about their civil liberties. But does that argument really work today in the times in which we live and with the security surveillance all of have become accustomed to? Tell us what you think in the comments.



Instagram

Return to Blog Central

Categories