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October 13, 2014

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 10/10/14

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, October 10, 2014.

This weekend is the Annual CHOC Walk in the Park. Banners line Downtown Disney for the event.

Anna and Elsa have opened a Boutique at the former Studio 365 location since my last visit.

A quick walk through.

It appears all the elements of the original store are still there, just a Frozen make-over.

Plus some new Frozen artwork on the walls and a new color scheme


Big Hero 6 banners up near the AMC Theaters

Looks like they just redid the compass in the esplanade. It appears to be more concrete now, but a little hard to tell from the angle/distance/speed.

The Finding Nemo Submarines have returned to normal operation.

The ride experience seemed the same to me.

Only noticeable change was the colored sea plants that were replaced.

Inside the projections looked about the same to me. If they changed anything I missed it.

Here is a video clip of a portion of the attraction.

A video clip featuring a Monorail passing by, a sub cruising by, as well as the sea gulls.

The scaffolding is down from the Small World facade work.

Christmas light installation has begun on the facade.

A photo op for the Halloween party already set up and seemingly randomly placed in the middle of Toontown.

Stopped by the Big Thunder Ranch Carnival to check out the latest pumpkin creations. First up Oswald.

Ariel from the Little Mermaid

Baymax pumpkin accompanied by Hiro from Big Hero 6

The latest creation taking shape...Mr. Smee

Chip and Dale bumped into me.

The Mark Twain is still in dry dock.

The work on this bridge leading to the Pooh attraction has wrapped up.

The Laughing Stock Co is back inside the Golden Horseshoe.

More signs of Christmas... lights in the bushes near the Castle.

Safety railings have been installed along the walkway leading to the Castle since my last visit.

The workmanship of the installation was spotty. Here you can see it does not sit flush and the wall below was cracked.

A nightly event at the Big Thunder Ranch is the running of the goats as they head from the pen backstage. Here is a clip from Friday...it was more of a fast walk this evening instead of a run.

Mr Smee was finished and on display.

Monsters University dance party at the Tomorrowland Terrace was being set up while I ate.

More party preparations near Innoventions

The new First Aid and Wish Lounge facades are done.

The gate leads to the new walkway which will be a backstage bypass for Main Street. The other end will be by the parade gate near the Mad Hatter.

Coke Corner is under wraps for some renovation work. It is still open this is just facade work.

As is the Gibson Girl

Projection and lighting effects on the castle as the Halloween Party music played.

Looking toward Town Square.

I joined the large mass of guests heading to Disney California Adventure since Disneyland was now closed to regular guests. Almost every turnstile was set up as an entrance and the lines still stretched around the construction/center compass.

The stairs area of the winery were behind walls for some renovation work.

Halloween Cotton Candy (well the bag at least) for sale in Paradise Pier.

On the way out passed by the new Boutique.

The windows were a little easier to see after dark.

Surprised there were no lights on any of the signs.


Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.




October 7, 2014

Disneyland's Halloween Time 2014

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It's Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort! This is one of my favorite times of year at Disneyland. It's nice to see some significant effort put into a season other than Christmas.

Jason has already provided a lot of great photos of Halloween Time and the decorations in this Halloween Time blog, so I'm going to give more of an overview of what's available, and my experiences this year.

Friday was my first visit to Halloween Time this year in conjunction with a media event. There's going to be some video later in this blog.

My arrival at the resort was decidedly non-magical. I usually park in the Mickey & Friends parking structure, but when I approached it from Disneyland Drive, there was an Anaheim police officer diverting those entering from Disneyland Drive away from the parking structure. However, traffic that was coming south on interstate 5, which has an off-ramp that goes directly to the garage, was still allowed to park there.

And then I got quite a tour. Past the three Disney hotels I made a left turn onto the perimeter road that goes behind DCA. I'm quite familiar with this road because I've run on it a lot, but I'd never driven it before. We crossed Harbor and were on Disney Way. I'd expected to be routed to the Toy Story lot, but instead they had us park in the Anaheim Gardenwalk parking garage. There were Disney parking attendants set up with temporary parking booth machines, and the lines moved slowly. I don't know if my Annual Pass didn't scan or if the guy was having connectivity issues with the remote setup or what, but I sat there at least 5 minutes while he tried to figure that out. And maybe that was distracting to him because he neglected to tell me to keep the parking receipt handy because I would need it when I left. Once inside the garage there wasn't anyone really effectively directing the parking so it was rather chaotic.

It was really poorly organized and a huge waste of time. It was over 30 minutes from the time I was diverted until I was parked. At least the shuttle service from the parking garage to the park entrance was fairly efficient. There were plenty of buses lined up to take all of us who'd had to park over there.

I later talked to a Disney parking attendant who said that it's more efficient for those coming from Orange County and south to park in Toy Story, and for those coming from Los Angeles and north to park in Mickey & Friends. One of the things I prefer about Mickey & Friends is that I will probably get to park my car inside so it doesn't get so hot. There is NO shade whatsoever in the Toy Story lot. Just a lot of black asphalt. But apparently if you come from the south you no longer are allowed that particular perk.

Fortunately, despite the rocky start, my day got better. It's always great to walk down Main Street and see all of the Halloween decor that makes up the Main Street Pumpkin Festival, including all of the carved pumpkins placed above the shops and buildings.

This video piece will tell you a bit more about some of the special events going on at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure during Halloween Time. Disney's media relations people have come up with some really creative interview opportunities for members of the media in the past, but this one might be my favorite. You might even say I had a ball!

The Halloween Carnival at Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree has a lot of activities going on. It's THE place to go if you want to get photos of the Disney characters wearing their Halloween costumes. But the characters wander around and interact with guests, and don't stand in one place for meet-and-greets. That makes it a bit more of a challenge, but they will pose for photos - just be patient. This area is usually not too crowded (especially at its 10:00 opening time), so it's a good place to go for character interaction.

Pirate's League has returned to the Jamboree for the season, so there are opportunities for boys and girls (both young and not-so-young) to get a pirate makeover.

There are ring toss (even Donald was playing) and wheel of fortune games, as well as crafts available, also.

The Pumpkin Carvers are busy carving (and painting) pumpkins. There are different creations on display throughout the Halloween Time run.

And the popular Conjure a Villain tent has returned. Guests are taken inside the tent in groups of 20 or so. There's some special effects, and a Disney villain appears, and poses for photos with the guests. There's usually a wait for this activity, and this year there's some entertainment for those who are waiting, such as a fortune teller.

No Billy Hill and the Hillbillies this year, but a magic act takes the stage for multiple performances each day.

One of the highlights of Halloween Time for me every year is Haunted Mansion Holiday, where Jack Skellington and the HalloweenTown gang have done their own extreme makeover of the Haunted Mansion.

I had the opportunity to speak with the Pumpkin King:

As Jack said, there's a new gingerbread house this year. This photo gives you some idea:

There were also some other changes this year. The singing jack-o-lanterns in the graveyard scene have been re-animated (pun intended) to make them look more three-dimensional and add additional depth, as though we are looking inside the pumpkin mouths. At the end of the ride, when we take the escalator back up to the "living world", "Little Sally" has now been animated: her eyes blink and her mouth moves as she tells us to "Hurry back".

Another attraction that receives a Halloween makeover is Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy. A spooky spine-tingling soundtrack combines with startling images of the "space ghost" that has taken over the attraction. There's scary eyeballs watching you and skeletal arms reaching for you. The images can definitely be unnerving, and this attraction is not recommended for children. But I find it to be an even greater adrenaline rush than the "regular" Space Mountain.

Mickey's Halloween Party is a special hard-ticket Halloween event held at Disneyland on select nights in September and October. Guests of all ages may dress in costumer and enjoy a variety of events throughout the park, including trick-or-treating, dance parties, and character meet-and-greets. Mickey's Costume Party Cavalcade and the Halloween Screams fireworks show are available exclusively to party guests.

I haven't been to this event in several years, but I enjoyed the parties that I attended. I think Halloween Screams is one of Disneyland's best fireworks shows. It originally was shown on all nights of the Halloween season but once the Halloween party moved from DCA to Disneyland it became a Halloween party exclusive. While I understand that approach it doesn't mean I like it.

It wouldn't be Halloween without some special Halloween treats, right? I spoke to Chef Christina Orejel about some of the offerings that are available this year, including the new Pumpkin Twists.

One of my favorites that is back again this year is the Pumpkin Beignets. These can be found at the Mint Julep Bar. Three for $4.19 and six for $7.19. We waited 15 minutes in line to order these, and another 15 minutes before they were ready. But they were SO good! Hot and crispy, with all of that wonderful pumpkin spice flavor.

There's also the usual pumpkin muffins, cupcakes, miniature pies and tarts at various locations around the resort. I tried a pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese filling, though it reminded me more of carrot cake. The pumpkin streusel muffins I enjoyed last year are back though I haven't tried one yet.

There are other seasonal treats that don't contain pumpkin, such as the Mickey bat cookies and an Ursula chocolate cupcake.


And there's a special pumpkin-shaped loaf of sourdough bread available at DCA.

Most of the counter service and table service restaurants are offering a different seasonal entree or treat, too. For example: Anti-Vampire Chicken Pizza at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, Mac and Cheese pizza at Red Rockett's, Monster's U Burger at Tomorrowland Terrace, brownie and marshmallow skewer at Bengal BBQ, and Shrimp Po Boy at the French Market. I tried the Pork Tamale and Enchilada combo at Rancho del Zocalo. The tamale was pretty good, but the enchiladas were a bit rubbery. (It normally comes with rice and beans, but I asked for lettuce and salsa instead.)

Halloween merchandise is available at locations all around the resort. There's quite a variety of Haunted Mansion and Nightmare Before Christmas items.

While there's a lot happening at Disneyland, there's very little Halloween presence at DCA. The Mad T Party Band has some Halloween costuming and music, and there are some Halloween food items available, but that's about the extent of it. I miss the Candy Corn Acres display that used to be in Sunshine Plaza, and the decrepit Halloween decorations that were in the lobby of the Tower of Terror. I keep hoping that some year they will do some Halloween decorating in Cars Land - I'm interested in seeing how the cars celebrate Halloween!

If you haven't visited Disneyland during Halloween Time I highly recommend it - it really offers guests some different experiences.




September 30, 2014

Star Wars Rebels: So it Begins...

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“If all you do is fight for your own life, then your life is worth nothing!”

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This week sees the start of a new chapter in the Star Wars saga--"Star Wars Rebels."

This new Disney XD series takes place between "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," and "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope." It tells the story of the Galactic Empire's increasingly oppressive rule over its citizens, and the burgeoning sparks of outrage that ultimately kindle into outright rebellion.

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Our entry point into the current state of affairs on the planet Lothal is Ezra Bridger, (voiced by Taylor Gray) a 14-year-old thief and con artist, with a finely developed sense of self-preservation, but an atrophied sense of altruism. A clear analogue to Aladdin, he is introduced in a sequence strikingly similar to "One Jump," even down to the local authorities running him off with the sneer "Loth-rat!"

As a result of his own innate sense of opportunism, and at least partially guided by the Force, Ezra is forced to throw his lot in with the crew of the starship Ghost--a ragtag band working to improve conditions for those downtrodden by the Empire.

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While the ship is captained by the motherly but authoratative Twi'lek Hera Syndulla (voiced by Vanessa Marshall,) it is Kanan Jarrus (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.) who must resume the Jedi role he abandoned after Order 66 in order to teach the Force-sensitive Ezra. Together, with Sabine Wren (voiced by Tiya Sircar,) a Mandalorian demolition expert and tagger; muscle Zeb Orrelios (voiced by Steve Blum,) a Lasat honor guard; and a disgruntled astromech droid called Chopper, they begin to show Ezra the benefit of being part of a group and the value of caring about others.

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Helmed by Dave Filoni, the series can be expected to have a feeling of continuity with his last project, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." While both series, to some degree, revolve around young protagonists learning the ways of the Force, "Rebels" seems likely to revolve more around the team dynamics, with a less episodic feel than "Clone Wars." The CGI is occasionally a little jarring with a slightly different feel than the past animated series, but that may be due to the art design borrowing from the original Star Wars concept art by Ralph McQuarrie, which may be in turn designed to distinguish the series from the upcoming live-action Star Wars sequels.

Recently, Filoni and the voice cast of "Rebels" met at a press conference to answer questions about the new series:

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Ultimately, the series looks to fill in an interesting portion of Star Wars history, as the spirit of rebellion develops both in Ezra and in the galaxy at large. At what point does oppression and injustice become so widespread and intolerable that they overbalance a person's instincts to stay uninvolved? How much suffering does one have to see before deciding to take action against it? Compelling questions for any time, whether it's here and now, or a Long Time Ago.

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"Star Wars Rebels" will air its one-hour Movie Premiere on October 3rd, 9pm ET/PT on the Disney Channel. The Series Premiere will air on October 13th, 9pm ET/PT on Disney XD.

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September 29, 2014

A Look Around the Roy E Disney Building - Walt Disney Animation Studios

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I had the opportunity to spend a day at the Walt Disney Animation Studio to learn about Big Hero 6. This was the end of July and they were on the final stretch of Animation for the film. We were given access and a tour of the studio in addition to the information sessions. This is the fourth and final post in the series. This post features a pictorial look around the Roy E Disney Animation Building on the Disney Studio Lot in Burbank, CA. Most of the pictures in this update were taken the day of the event by a Disney photographer, I did post a couple of my own to fill in a couple gaps. I will be leaving out a majority of the session pictures that were used in my previous posts.

We start off the tour with my parking space. It was in the Zorro parking structure with a view of the water tower. To the left through the trees you can just barely make out the Michael Eisner Building (the Dwarf building).

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Looking back at the Zorro parking structure lobby/elevators.

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Crossed Buena Vista Street (the original not DCA version) and made my way up to the Roy E Disney building.

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As is the tradition the upcoming film has taken over the lobby and much of the common space of the building. As soon as you enter this graphic is on the wall.

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Made my way to the reception/security desk to check in. Baymax is watching...

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The wall opposite the desk features microbots.

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Some awards on display from previous films.

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First stop this morning the main theater on the first floor for a presentation and screening of "Feast" then an introduction to Big Hero 6 before heading upstairs.

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Normally photography is heavily restricted in the building - there are signs like this throughout - but we were able to take pictures and were provided with pictures of several areas.

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Big Hero 6 has taken over the main walkway in the center of the second floor of the building. The current productions are housed on this floor as well as the Caffeine Patch which is a common meeting area in the middle of the floor.

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The left side of the hallway features Big Hero 6.

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Roy E Disney - Walt Disney Animation Studios - Big Hero 6 Day Tour - Caffeine Patch

On the right side "Feast".

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Further down the hall on the right is the Caffeine Patch. This is a common gathering spot for the building and a hub for casual meetings, conversations, etc. It features tables, chairs, couches, TVs - places to sit and talk. Nearby (to the right out of this shot) are some notable offices, John Lasseter's and Ed Catmull's to name a couple. The area had a Big Hero 6 overlay.

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It also acted as the central spot for our day with groups departing from here and lunch being served here.

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Here is the actual coffee counter...with its San Fransokyo makeover.

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More props in the area

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Thought this was great...even newspaper stands.

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There was a 3D printer creating microbot models.

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Roy E Disney - Walt Disney Animation Studios - Big Hero 6 Day Tour - MicroBots

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Baymax was nearby for pictures.

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Turning down a central corridor near the production pods there is a display featuring "Feast".

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Roy E Disney - Walt Disney Animation Studios - Big Hero 6 Day Tour - Feast

Artwork featuring the cast of Big Hero 6 in their regular close and super hero gear was on the opposite wall.

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The floor houses two active production pods. This is the one for Big Hero 6. Inside are the offices for the film's leadership team. The second pod was the next Disney Animation Studio release, Zootopia. No photos allowed down there.

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We spent time shuttling between story rooms and screening rooms on the second and third floors the rest of the day. I included some pictures of the inside of these sessions in part 3 of my Big Hero 6 posts if you were curious. To close with a look at the past. Olaf and a Fix-It Felix video game were in one of the Hallways.

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September 28, 2014

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 9/26/14

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, September 26, 2014.

Today is the first Mickey's Halloween Party of the season.

The Party is sold out tonight. Also work continues on the compass area in the Esplanade.

First stop DCA. Oswald had a line today. He was also meeting further in the corner this week.

A Red Car in the Carthay Circle Stop

Scaffolding still up near White Water snacks

The Ellis Island Boys entertaining the lunch crowd at Paradise Gardens

The railing near the Wharf could use some work.

Next stop Cars Land.

The extended queue for Radiator Springs Racers is set up but not in use.

Only a 65 min wait posted for the Racers.

I opted for the single rider and waited about 15 minutes.

My car won by a nose.

The wait for the Flying tires was 2 cycles...missed it by 1 group.

The HalloweenTime offering at Schmoozies.

Made my way over to Disneyland.

Today no second line of CMs at the entrance. The one who scanned your ticket also had the hand scanner.

A Big Hero 6 Sneak Peek poster has taken over the Guardians of the Galaxy spot (and Captain EO before that) as you pass under the train tracks to enter the park.

A temporary ramp while some curb work is underway in front of the Mad Hatter.

There were groups of people doing some sort of scavenger hunt/quiz game. Thought it said SHIELD on it, but hard to see. Anyone know more about it?

The Photo Supply Co signage is back. It was open but I somehow did not make it inside...next trip.

First stop for me the Big Hero 6 preview in the Magic Eye Theater in Tomorrowland.

The signs along the walkway in

As we walked in they gave us each a kite (only about a quarter of our audience got them).

Time for the preview, it was shown in 3D and used some of the theater effects.

A crowd near the subs...turned out to be more of the scavenger hunt group. No signs of a soft opening. They officially open Saturday the 27th so I was hoping for a soft opening.

No signs of the sea gulls and the water falls were off. Also this sub paused for several minutes before heading inside.

Work continues on the Small World facade.

Time to check out the latest pumpkin creations at the Halloween Carnival in the Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree. First up Winnie the Pooh.

The Pearly Band from Mary Poppins.

Alice and the White Rabbit.

Olaf was painted onto a pumpkin this week.

The Maleficent pumpkin we saw them painting last week is complete.

A different magician again this week. Three Fridays, three different magicians.

A guest helps out.

Officer Chip keeping things in order.

The sign along the Big Thunder Trail has been updated/replaced. No more Haunted Hillbillies and now the Magic show is listed.

The Legends of Frontierland wraps up on Saturday.

Jack and Sally arriving for pictures near the Haunted Mansion (they were meeting outside the Fastpass distribution area).

A look at the current selection of Haunted Mansion merchandise.

The doorway is now blocked with a display rack.

A Haunted Mansion bride doll.

The exterior renovation work on the Silver Spur Supplies facade is done.

Next up some disappointing pictures to share. The seating areas along the walkway to the castle have been removed. The internet word is these are more safety enhancements to reduce the risk of a guest falling into the moat. (which I did not know was a common occurrence in the 59 year history of the park??)

The next phase of the safety enhancements is the installation of a higher railing. They have started to drill the holes for it.

Seems they should have repainted all the stone so the new would not be so obvious.

Walked around to grab some last pictures before the extended railings go in.

A photo location for the Halloween Party set up in the Small World Mall. Looks like the Frozen cast will be outside for the party. There was a steady stream of guests going over/under the ropes for pictures with the empty set.

The Monsters University Dance Party being set up at the Tomorrowland Terrace.

Some of the costumes the party guests wore were quite elaborate.

Main Street USA with day guests leaving and party guests arriving.

Come 7pm the lights and music come on and the party is underway. The park is closed for day guests like me, but you can stay on Main Street for an extra hour of shopping.

Maleficent making her way to the center photo location.

Main Street was packed (as is the norm on party nights)

Here is a quick video of the scene.

I made my way out to Downtown Disney.

Disney Studio 365 has closed.

A new Anna & Elsa Boutique will be opening in its place.

Long lines for anything that served food at DCA since Disneyland was closed. Seems guests spend all their time until 7pm at Disneyland then came to DCA and decided it was time to eat.

The waterwheel at GRR was moving again. I had not seen it in motion since the last renovation.


Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.




September 25, 2014

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise - Part 4, The Food

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The end of another cruise...must mean it's time for a food blog!

We started with the buffet in Parrot Cay after we boarded. There were the usual types of selections. The peel-and-eat shrimp is always one of my favorites, and there were some nice salads, too.

That first evening we were in Parrot Cay for dinner. We met our dining team; Barbie from Serbia was our server, and Tiago from Portugal was our assistant server. They were really good, and worked well together.

I started with the St. Maarten Stack. Layers of grilled squash and mozzarella, with tomato basil vinaigrette. This is one of those dishes I've had several times, but it's always a little different each time. It was quite good - maybe a little bit too much cheese for an appetizer.

Lee went with one of Barbie's recommendations: Baked Crab Martinique. It's a dip made with crab baked in cheese sauce, served with plantain chips and tortilla chips. He enjoyed it.

My second course was Spiced Tomato Soup. it was nice and hot when it was served to me - I've found that soups are often cooler than I would like. I wouldn't have called it "spiced", but it had a nice flavor.

Lee opted for the Parrot Cay Salad with iceberg, red peppers, cilantro, mandarin oranges and papaya. It was a tasty salad.

I ordered an entree salad: Shrimp and Avocado Salad. I was disappointed in this: the shrimp was not very good, and instead of "field greens" it was mostly iceberg. The snow peas, water chestnuts, and shredded carrots add some nice crunch and freshness.

Lee had the Creole Crusted Grouper. I believe this was new on the menu since the last time we'd eaten in Parrot Cay (two years ago aboard the Magic). It was served over shrimp jambalaya rice with Cajun slaw. He really enjoyed it. I had a bite of the grouper and liked it.

For dessert I ordered one of the "no sugar added" desserts - the Silky Chocolate Mousse. It was good - nice and smooth, but still fairly light. I did not care for the chocolate on top; it was kind of gelatinous and just odd. As it turned out this was the best dessert I had all week.

I also received a bonus dessert because we were celebrating my birthday (it was the day before). This was a chocolate mousse cake. It was decent, but it also had that gelatinous chocolate on top. Ick.

Lee tried the Paradise Coconut Pineapple Layered Cake. Which I think wins an award for longest dessert name ever. :-) The cake was moist and nicely coconutty. It was a light and refreshing dessert.

We had breakfast in Beach Blanket Buffet in the morning, but I didn't take any photos. Pretty typical buffet items: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pastries, fruit, cereal, oatmeal.

After we left Victoria that day we went into the Outlook Cafe. There are a couple of refrigerated cases where they put "sweet bite" types of items in the morning and the afternoon. We tried a couple of mini mousse cakes and a brownie. They were pretty good.

That evening we were in Triton's for dinner. It was the regular Triton's menu, featuring Continental cuisine. I started with the Potage Parmentier - which is the fancy term for potato leek soup. It had a good flavor, but I thought it was too thin.

Lee's appetizer was Iced Lobster and Jumbo Shrimp, with asparagus and horseradish cream and dill dressing. He didn't make any particular comments about it one way or another.

Next I had a very nice salad: Red Wine Bosc Pear Salad. Arugula, sliced onions and crispy lardons topped with sliced pears poached in red wine. I really liked the pears.

Lee had the Onion Soup Gratinee as his second course, and I had it as my entree. This is always good - I think I've ordered it on almost all of my cruises and I have never been disappointed. It's a generous serving, and very filling, which is why I ordered it as an entree. (I also ordered a side of steamed broccoli).

Lee selected Lobster Macaroni as his entree. Elbow macaroni with gruyere and cheddar cheese sauce, and chunks of lobster. It wasn't the most attractive dish but the flavor was good.

I was not inspired by anything on the dessert menu, so I asked Barbie for a dish of the poached pears that had been on my salad. :-) They were good, though some of them were a little too crisp. They would have even better with some cinnamon-sugar.

Lee ordered one of his favorites: Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee. This is another selection that is always excellent.

After dinner we went to The Cadillac Lounge and had some Moet Ice Imperial champagne. I talked about this more in my cruise blog, but here's a photo of the glass, with the sliced strawberries, orange, and sprig of mint. It was very pretty.

On our first day at sea we had brunch at Palo. This is always a wonderful experience. We were the first ones in the restaurant, so were the first people to see the buffet, and I was able to take photos before anyone had been through it and messed up the arrangement. :-)

A Peach Almond Souffle is a new offering among the hot entrees. We didn't try it, though now I wish we had - all in the name of research, of course. :-)

I enjoyed a selection of chilled items, such as jumbo shrimp cocktail, hummus, caprese salad and several pastry items.

Lee's plate was a little more colorful, with a grilled scallop, foccacia, grilled vegetables, cheese, and one of those wonderful sticky buns.

For round 2 I had some fruit, cheese, marinated olives and artichokes, and salmon mousse. The two cheeses (port cheddar and sage cheddar) were especially good. I wasn't a fan of the salmon mousse.

I ordered the Chicken Parmesan. That a specialty at Palo, and it's always good. Nice crunch on the chicken, but it was tender inside, and I like the tomato sauce.

Lee is a pizza fan, so he had the sausage pizza. He must have liked it, because he ate the whole thing.

A glass of champagne, mimosa, or sparkling cider is included with brunch. We also ordered some additional wine - Lee had a glass of Rosa Regale and I had a glass of prosecco. Both very nice with brunch items.

And then there was dessert, of course. I tried a champagne fruit cup, chocolate covered strawberry, and a pastry twist filled with Nutella.

It was a really nice way to spend part of our morning. There aren't a lot of tables in Palo to begin with, and then they space the diners out so that not all of the tables are occupied at the same time. It's nice and quiet; a very relaxing dining experience.

No lunch for us that day, since brunch was late and we had the early dinner sitting.

We were back in Triton's for dinner again. Because this was a short cruise, Disney combined Pirate Night with Toy Story Night. We had the Toy Story menu in the dining rooms, and the show in the theater, followed by the Pirate Night deck party and fireworks.

The Toy Story menu was new to us, so I was looking forward to trying something different. Many of the menu items were named after characters from the Toy Story movies.

I started with Al's Miso Chicken Noodle Soup. This was supposed to have parsley dumplings in it, but mine had no dumplings, and Lee's had only one. It had a good flavor, with lots of vegetables, but there was no chicken in it.

Next course was Jessie's Flat Asparagus Salad with new potatoes, mache, and endive. This was not at all what I expected; I was expecting lots of greens, and there were hardly any. I don't believe there was any mache - just endive. And radishes, which were not on the menu. But I like radishes, so that was ok.

Lee had The Prospector, which was flatbread with chicken, red onion, pears, walnuts and blue cheese. He enjoyed it.

For my entree I chose Pan-seared Filet of Sea Trout "Lotso". This was served with onion puree and sweet pea and herb dressing. This was not what I expected from the description - rather than onion puree it was served over what seemed like mashed potatoes, and the "sweet pea dressing" was just peas. It really needed a sauce as the fish didn't have a lot of flavor. The entire dish was kind of bland. It was also a pretty small serving.

Lee went with Barbie's recommendation: Sheriff Woody's Favorite Marinated Delmonico Rib-Eye Steak This was a large piece of meat served with sweet potato gratin, collard greens, and baby carrots. He enjoyed his dinner though it was a challenge to finish the steak so he could be in the Clean Plate Club and have dessert.

I was uninspired by the dessert menu, but ordered the Sweet Temptations: Opera Slice, Jessie's White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake (which just took the title of longest dessert name), and Poached Bosc Pear Almond Tart. Surprisingly the cheesecake was my favorite - I'm not much of a fan or cheesecake or white chocolate.

But I ended up not eating much of any of it because Barbie brought me a different dessert: the Silky Chocolate Mousse I'd had the first night. Other than the weird chocolate stuff on top it was good - better than the other dessert choices.

Lee ordered the Buzz Light Ice Cream Sundae, which was bubblegum ice cream, marshmallows, fudge sauce, whipped cream and a cherry. It was very blue. :-) And the ice cream really tasted like bubblegum. And Lee's lips and tongue were very blue when he finished it. Lee really enjoyed it. :-)

Overall I was disappointed with the Toy Story menu. The menu descriptions didn't match what I received so I didn't get what I was expecting. Also, the serving size of all the items that I had were pretty small. Now, the selections Lee made (with the exception of the soup) were very generous, so perhaps I just didn't make good choices - but still, I normally expect the serving sizes to be pretty consistent.

On our second sea day we went to Triton's for breakfast. I ordered oatmeal, and fresh fruit and yogurt, with a side of scrambled eggs. Nothing too magic about that. :-) I expected that the fruit would be berries and raisins and maybe bananas, but it was melon - and mostly watermelon, at that. Melon with yogurt was very odd.

Lee had the Disney Cruise Line Breakfast Trio, with French toast, Belgian waffle, pancake, and bacon. He enjoyed it. The French toast had cinnamon sugar on it, and looked pretty good.

One issue I've had on Disney cruises with hot beverages, especially at breakfast, is that the cups are ridiculously small. The servers are pretty good about coming around with coffee, but I drink tea, and there's a lot of times I'm not even offered additional hot water for my too-small cup. I found the servers on this cruise were much more attentive, and only once was I not offered additional hot water - and a couple of times it was refilled twice. Of course my favorite was Palo, where they brought me a personal pot of hot water, and then refilled that.

We went back to Parrot Cay for lunch. It was a seafood buffet, similar to what was offered on embarkation day. This is actually Lee's plate.

He had a couple of desserts, too.

Our final night dinner was in Animator's Palate. The Wonder is the only Disney ship that still has the original technology in Animator's Palate. It still looks good, and had I not seen the newer version of Animator's in the other ships I think I would still be pretty impressed.

The menu has had some changes over the years. I was disappointed that my favorite appetizer, the Rock Shrimp and Caramelized Onion Cheesecake, is no longer on the menu. Barbie said that too many guests were confused by it, and expected it to be sweet when it was savory. Instead I ordered the Tomato Tarte with goat cheese and radish salad. It was excellent - maybe the best appetizer that I had. The crust was puff pastry, and it was nice and crispy. It was also a good-sized serving. I shared a little with Lee, but I ate most of it.

Lee had the Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes. It was tortellini filled with truffle-scented cheese and served with a champagne sauce. He enjoyed them.

Next for me was Arugula and Curly Endive Salad with chorizo, dried figs, and a cider dressing, though I requested that the chorizo be left off. The greens were good and I liked the dressing, but the figs were a bit odd.

Lee ordered the Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup. This one has been on the menu as long as I've been cruising, and it's always been pretty good.

As my entree I had the Seared Red Snapper with scallops, served over crushed potatoes. The menu said it was served with salsa verde, but as you'll see in the photo, that's a red sauce and not a green sauce. :-) I don't care for scallops, so I gave that to Lee, but the fish was good. (And Lee says the scallop was very good.)

Lee had the Ginger-Teriyaki Dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin, served with bok choy, wasabi mashed potatoes and a tamarind-BBQ reduction which he really enjoyed.

There was a new item on the menu that looked very interesting: Potato, Celeriac, and Onion Gratin, so I ordered that too. It was served over collard greens, which did not appeal to me, but the gratin was very good. Rich and cheesy and very filling. I would order this again, but request steamed broccoli in place of the collard greens.

Lee and I both ordered the Crunchy Walnut Cake. The name of this does not at all describe it - it's quite misleading. It's really a pretty nice dark chocolate mousse cake with a nut and chocolate crust. It was pretty good. And it didn't have that weird layer of chocolate gelatin on top. :-)

The next morning we were back in Animator's Palate for our early (7:00) breakfast. As usual, there weren't a lot of early morning diners; only one other couple from our table was there. This is a pretty basic menu - they want to feed us fast and get us off the ship. :-)

I was pretty boring - just had granola and yogurt.

Lee ordered his usual: The Chef's Farewell. It's an open-faced omelet with peppers, BBQ chicken, onions, and Swiss cheese that he really enjoys.

And that was our last meal aboard a Disney ship until November, when we'll be back on the Dream for a four-night cruise.

I'd say that overall the food was good but not outstanding. As I mentioned I was pretty disappointed in the Toy Story menu, though the Animator's Palate menu had some new (to me) offerings that I really enjoyed. I wish that the descriptions on the dessert menus were more accurate. There's menu items that aren't at all what I expect based on the writeup, some that when I see them I wish I'd ordered them, and others that I'm disappointed in because they don't live up to my expectations. Lee and I talked some about this after the cruise and he has a theory that sometimes the food that gets delivered to the ship for a given cruise either doesn't have enough of some ingredients or they are not of good enough quality, so the chefs improvise and swap ingredients.








September 24, 2014

Once Upon a Time Season Four Premiere Event: Arendelle Comes to Storybrooke

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This week, "Once Upon a Time" had its fourth season premiere event at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.

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Prior to the screening, the cast held court on the red carpet outside, to the delight of their multitudes of fans.

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At check-in, we traded our cameras for popcorn, drinks, and an assigned seat.

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In the lobby, the persistent and the fortunate were able to catch glimpses of some of the stars making their way to their seats.

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Once at your seat, a slideshow of cast photos gave you something to look at while waiting for everyone to find their way inside.

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Prior to the screening of next week's season premiere, the show's creators Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz came out to give thanks to all the people involved with the show.

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Then, they presented the entire main cast, including newcomers Georgina Haig (Elsa,) Elizabeth Lail (Anna,) and Michael Socha (Will Scarlet,) returning from the finished spinoff "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland."

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Thoughts on the premiere episode: As you'd expect, the first episode of the season is pretty heavy on exposition, given the gap of time between when we left Elsa ice skating with Olaf at the end of "Frozen," and when we saw her bust out of Rumple's bottle after who-knows-how-long an imprisonment. Delivered largely through flashbacks, Elsa and Anna come off very well, with Lail doing a good job emulating Kristen Bell's cheerful babbling delivery.

The main questions for this season so far (and my best guesses:) What is Elsa's problem? (Anna.) Is Rumple ever going to forgo power for Belle's love? (No.) What's Regina's badness level by now?

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Afterwards, the cast and crew adjourned down the street to the Roosevelt for further festivities, and the rest of us grabbed our parking validations and cars, and headed back out of Storybrooke, to home.

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Once Upon a Time's new season begins on September 28, 8-9pm ET on ABC.


Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise - Part 3, Sea Days

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Wednesday - Day at Sea

Ahhh...the first of two glorious, relaxing days at sea! Though they never seem to be as relaxing as I expect them to be...there's just too many things to do!

I wasn't sure what kind of sea state we would have once we reached the Pacific Ocean, but it felt pretty smooth. Lots of chop and whitecaps, but the swells were under 5', and in a ship the size of the Wonder we didn't feel it very much.

I got up about 7:00 and went for a run on deck 4. The temperature was in the low 60s and it felt WONDERFUL. We've had an unusually warm summer in California, and I can count on one finger the number of runs I've done this summer when the temperature was under 70. This was perfect. They say that 3 laps around the ship is 1 mile, but I think it's a little short of a mile. I had a nice run, though almost invariably when I needed to pass someone, it was ALWAYS in the narrow sections at the bow and the stern. That's not even 1/3 of the course, so it's odd that it seems to be that way more often than not. (In all fairness I must disclose that on the latter part of my run I passed several people on the wider parts.) Some people are really good about watching for and yielding to faster people, while others are clueless - even when you pass them for the second or third time! Sigh.

We had a special treat later in the morning - brunch at Palo! I know I've said this before, but that's my favorite meal aboard any Disney cruise ship. We were the first people there and had a prime table for two at the window looking toward the stern of the ship.


There are so many choices for brunch! An entire table of seafood, a table of pastries, another of cheeses and breads, one for vegetables and hors d'oeuvres, and of course a dessert table. It isn't a typical brunch buffet in that there are no hot dishes served buffet style, such as eggs and bacon. Instead, you order from a selection of brunch entrees. There are flatbread pizzas, Eggs Benedict, Florentine, and Julia, a frittata, pancakes, and offerings you don't necessarily associate with brunch such as chicken parmesan and tilapia.

They had a couple of new entrees available, though we didn't try them - one was an almond/peach souffle but I don't remember the other. There were a couple of different pastry items and a dessert that all featured Nutella - yum. The sticky buns are smaller than they used to be, though that's not necessarily such a bad thing.

My birthday was the day before the cruise started, but apparently we were still celebrating it. :-)

We went out of there pleasantly full but not stuffed. Such a nice way to spend part of our morning!

Back to our room for a quick change of clothes, and then we were off to the Cadillac Lounge for the Stem to Stern wine tasting session. This was one of the events we booked when we first boarded the ship on Monday. There were four glasses in front of us, but we were in for an additional treat: the American wine ambassador for Krug Champagne was on our cruise. He spoke to us about Krug, and we tried two glasses of Krug champagne - a non-vintage champagne and their rose champagne. Both were good, but a little dry for my taste. He was a very engaging speaker, and we enjoyed his presentation. (There wasn't room for all six glasses on the table, so the photo below shows the two glasses of Krug and two of red wine.)

The Wine Team had us do a blind tasting for the four wines they had chosen: a moscato, chardonnay, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon. We always find these sessions very interesting, though I can rarely detect the scents they say are in the wines. :-) But supposedly there are no wrong answers. "Pears" for white wines and "blackberries" for red wines always seem to be pretty safe. :-)

After all that food and wine we were ready for a NAP! :-) We had a lazy afternoon, and watched the end of Cars 2 on our stateroom TV.

Since this was only a four-night cruise Disney combined Toy Story and Pirate Nights. The dining rooms served the Toy Story menu, and Toy Story: The Musical was the show in the Walt Disney Theater. Later on deck was the Pirate Party and the fireworks, followed by the Pirate Dessert Buffet in Beach Blanket.

We didn't bring all of our pirate attire, and instead just wore our pirate tech shirts from Ink-n-Burn, though Lee also had his pirate hat. We saw a number of guests who had very elaborate pirate outfits.

We were in Triton's for dinner again. This was the first time we'd had the Toy Story menu, but I'll have more on that in the food blog. After dinner we went to see Toy Story - because it's only on the Wonder we haven't seen it as many times as the other shows. It was very popular - there weren't very many empty seats in the theater. I think it's very well done and I enjoyed it. Oh, and before the show there was a nice sunset.

After the show we stopped back in the stateroom so I could change from skirt to pants - I thought it might be cool and windy on deck. It turned out to be a very pleasant night, and I was warm enough with just a light windbreaker. We saw the end of the pirate show with the characters, and watched Mickey make his slide between the two smokestacks, and then the fireworks started. This was the first time they had shot off the fireworks in several months - it's not permitted in Alaska, and the crew had been looking forward to the show, also.

Back in the stateroom our latest towel animal was a crab. I made the mistake of turning the TV on, and we got caught up in watching the last 25 minutes of Cinderella before we went to bed. :-)

Thursday - Day at Sea

We actually slept in until almost 7:30 - that's late for us. Lee went running and I went walking. The ocean was even calmer - no whitecaps and very little swell. It was a little warmer than the day before, but still very pleasant for exercising.

Lee wanted a sit-down breakfast so we went to Triton's. They were busy and it took a while to get our food, but we weren't in a hurry to get anywhere.

At noon we went back to the Cadillac Lounge for the Chocolate and Liquor session. As you can see in the photo below our little table was covered in glasses and chocolate! The tasting paired Tattinger champagne with white chocolate, Lasseter Family Paysage with dark chocolate, Glen Morangie Scotch whiskey with caramel chocolate, and Noval port with parmesan cheese. The port and cheese were really good together - that was my favorite. The port wasn't as sweet and raisiny as they sometimes are. I'm not a scotch fan, but the chocolate really softened the alcohol bite of the scotch.

The Krug ambassador was at this tasting, also, so as a bonus we received a glass of Krug rose to finish off the session. Very nice. We spoke to him afterward and told him he was be the most popular guy on the planet - spreading champagne wherever he goes! :-)

Partway through the captain interrupted us with his daily ship report - it's a ship-wide announcement that takes over the PA system, so we had to listen. While I didn't hear any boos there was definitely some grumbling - interrupting people who are enjoying chocolate and wine does not make one very popular. :-) In addition to the the usual information on ship position, weather, arrival time in San Diego, etc., he had some additional comments for passengers who would be staying on the Wonder for the Panama Canal cruise. Because of Hurricane Odile, the Wonder was probably going to have to alter its course to avoid the storm and sail further west, omitting the planned ports of call in Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. Perhaps even staying an extra night in San Diego. (As it turned out the Wonder left San Diego Friday evening as scheduled, but bypassed the Mexico ports.)

We'd planned to see Maleficent at 1:00 but the session ran a little long, and we were chatting with the Krug ambassador, so we would've been about 10 minutes late. Since we had some time I took some photos of the area around the Cadillac Lounge.

The adult area on the Wonder is called Route 66 (designed long before Cars came out), and that's reflected in some of the decor.

We went to lunch in Parrot Cay, which was a seafood buffet. We arrived toward the end of the lunch service, and after about 20 minutes they started shutting down the buffet. Though we were told not to rush, it was a little uncomfortable being there when everyone was busy cleaning up and setting tables for dinner, so we didn't linger.

Since we missed Maleficent we went to see Planes: Fire and Rescue at 3:00 instead. We hadn't seen the movie Planes, but that didn't seem to matter. We really enjoyed Fire and Rescue. My dad is a member of a search and rescue team, so the movie had some additional meaning to me. And since we are very familiar with Yosemite National Park, we found the the look of Piston Peak National Park, a visual mashup of Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks, especially interesting. It was very entertaining.

Hard to believe that it was already our final evening on board...we went back to Outlook Cafe for a pre-dinner drink. It was too warm in the enclosed rooms on the sides, but it was nice and cool at the bar in the middle. I had another Toblerontini and Lee had a Mint Chocolate Coffee beverage. It took a long time for them to make his because they were out of creme de menthe and couldn't find another bottle.

Our final dinner was in Animator's Palate. Compared to the newer ships (and the updated version on the Magic), it looked rather old-fashioned. But I still enjoyed the server parade and their costume transformation from black and white to color, which they don't do on the newer ships.

After dinner we went to the Cadillac Lounge to enjoy a last glass of Ice Imperial. Our server again brought us berries and truffles. We had a chance to chat with him a little bit - he had also been on the Fantasy's maiden voyage, though not working the bars we frequented.

Once we finished our glass (and our berries and truffles) we went back to our stateroom to pack. Even though we were carrying our bags off ourselves, we still needed to get most of the packing done so we'd be ready to leave in the morning.

We had a cat - looks like the Cheshire Cate, to me.


Friday - San Diego

The captain had told us we'd be picking up the pilot about 5:45, but when I woke up at 5:45 and looked outside we were almost in the channel entering the harbor. We'd wanted to be on deck as we sailed into San Diego, so we quickly dressed and went up to deck 10. There were more people there than I expected considering that it was only 6:00. We went by the building that I work in, though not many people were there at that point. :-)

It was a nice sail-in past North Island and the Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier. Coronado Bridge is in the background.

We arrived at the dock at 6:30 and the captain blew the "Mickey Whistle" - we could hear it echo through downtown. Good morning, San Diego. :-) He blew it again about 5 minutes later.

Breakfast was at 7:00 for us - we had enough time to go back the stateroom and finish the last of the packing before that. There were only four of us at our table, and breakfast on the last morning is always pretty fast because they are trying to get everyone off the ship. :-)

We finished up about 7:45 and walked off the ship about 8:00. They were still staging bags, so only express walk-offs were allowed at that point. It didn't take us very long to get through Immigration and Customs.

My friend Nancy came to pick us up - we'd left my car at her house. We dropped her off and then drove to work...not the greatest way to end a vacation, but it saves us a day of vacation that we can use later this year - for our next cruise in November, actually. :-)

Since we were headed to work I don't think we should like quite so happy in this photo!

It was a nice vacation - it just went too fast!

Coming next: The Food Blog








September 23, 2014

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise - Part 2, Victoria

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Tuesday - Victoria

Victoria was our only port of call on this cruise. Since it's not very far from Vancouver, we spent a lot of the night not moving very fast. :-) We'd already made it into port by the time we got up.

We went up to Beach Blanket Buffet for breakfast. It was about 7:00, so not too many people were up yet and it wasn't crowded. It was a beautiful morning! The last time we arrived in Victoria it was cloudy and drizzly, though it cleared up later in the day.

My favorite thing to do in Victoria is visit the Butchart Gardens, so we'd booked an Adult only tour. I wish Disney would offer a tour JUST of Butchart Gardens so that we could have maximum time there, but this one included a "short city drive" (others included afternoon tea at the Gardens or a stop at the Butterfly Garden, but they were all the same length of time).

RANT ON
The excursion ticket very clearly said to meet at 8:45 in Wavebands. And throughout the morning multiple shipwide announcements had been made reminding passengers that all adults needed a Key to the World card AND a photo id to depart the ship. At 8:55 - 10 minutes late - a guy shows up with JUST his Key to the World card, and has to run back to his stateroom and get ids for himself and his mother. So we end up being 20 minutes late leaving the ship. Come on, people, show some consideration for your fellow tour members and show up on-time and ready to go!
RANT OFF

The tour started with a drive along some of the waterfront and park areas. Our bus driver shared lots of interesting information about Victoria. For example, Victoria is considered a very desirable retirement location, and has a very high population of retirees. And about half of them are over the age of 80! (Later at lunch we shared a table with a couple of those retirees, who if they weren't over 80, were close, and they were delightful.)

With the city tour the drive to Butchart Gardens took about 45 minutes. For those who don't know the history of Butchart Gardens...it was originally a limestone quarry. After the limestone was removed, which of course left an ugly hole in the ground, Jenny Butchart, the wife of the owner, put the first garden there - the Sunken Garden. Over the years additional gardens were added, but I'll have more on those.

We arrived at the garden and the driver told us to be back at the bus in an hour and a half. That's not nearly enough time to see everything, so I found that quite frustrating. Though at least for this tour we were on our own in the garden, and not expected to tour as part of a larger group.

This was my fourth visit to the Butchart Gardens over the years. Twice in the month of July, and my most recent visit was at the beginning of May in 2011, when we stopped in Victoria on the Pacific Coast repositioning cruise prior to the first Alaska cruise. All that being the long way of saying that I saw different flowers than on my other visits. :-)

The Sunken Garden is always a highlight - in addition to all of the flowers there's trees and shrubs and the animated fountain.

There was a very large display of dahlias in all sorts of sizes and colors. Those were flowers I hadn't seen there before. And some of them were enormous!

The last time I was here it was early May and the rose garden was more like a stick garden :-) This time the roses were still in full bloom. I believe our driver told us that are 250 varieties of roses, and over 2500 plants. They were beautiful - there were roses from all over the world.

We also went through the Italian Garden and the Japanese Garden.

I had to rush more than I would've liked, but I still had some time to hit the gift shop before it was time to go back to the bus - we arrived with a couple minutes to spare.

RANT ON
We arrived on time, as did most of our fellow tour members, and then we proceeded to wait 25 minutes for three people who never did show up. We finally left without them. As far as I'm concerned we should've left sooner. This has happened to me on other tours and it's very annoying to have to wait on people who apparently feel they are special and can do what they want with no regard for the rest of us.
RANT OFF

Once we returned to Victoria our bus driver stopped in front of the Empress Hotel. Anyone who wished to could get off there rather than taking the bus back to the ship.
From the waterfront area Disney had a free shuttle to take us back, or we could walk - it was just over a mile to the ship. Most people stayed on the bus, but a few of us took the opportunity since it would give us a little more time to sight see. Though thanks to all of the late people on our tour we didn't have quite as much time as we should have. We took the opportunity to wander through the Empress Hotel - they were serving tea, but there was a line and I didn't think we'd have enough time to enjoy it.

This is a weeping sequoia tree in front of the hotel - I thought it looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Our bus driver had recommended Barb's Fish and Chips in Fisherman's Wharf, which was on our way if we walked back to the ship. It's fairly popular and we had a little bit of a wait to get our two-piece combo with chips and coleslaw. It was pretty good, though I've had better.

We enjoyed our walk back - it was really a gorgeous day in Victoria. From the dock we had a very nice view of the Wonder.

We arrived back on board about 2:30 and the Wonder pulled away from the port about 3:30. Once we got clear the captain really started to put on some speed - it was a long way to San Diego (there were no other ports).

We went to the Outlook Cafe (enclosed area above Cove Cafe) and tried a couple of their specialty drinks - I had the Toblerontini, and Lee had the Toledo Coffee. Both pretty to look at, but I think mine tasted better. :-)

I really like the Outlook Cafe area, but because of the enclosure it gets VERY warm in there if the weather is nice. It was warm enough that we didn't want to sit there very long.

I always find it kind of amazing that even on a ship with 2100 people on board, there's times when it seems very empty. This was taken at 4:11 p.m.

That night was semi-formal night, though Cruise Casual was acceptable dress as well. The Golden Mickeys was the featured show, but we've seen that before - and most recently at Hong Kong Disneyland, where it is a much better show. Or maybe that's because I couldn't understand what was being said. :-)

We had dinner in Triton's, which is a lovely restaurant. Beautiful mosaic on the wall.

After dinner, since we weren't going to the show, we went to The Cadillac Lounge, which is the quieter piano bar on the Wonder. Very few people in there. We ordered a bottle of our favorite Moet Ice Imperial champagne. Our server put strawberries, an orange slice and some mint leaves in our glasses - that was excellent! Made it even more refreshing. He also brought us a plate with some strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries, and a couple of truffles.

There was a pianist there when we arrived, but he took his break and a guitar player took over. She played music that was much more our style. It was all a wonderful way to end our day.

That night's towel creation was a dinosaur.

Coming Next: Days at Sea




September 22, 2014

Disney Wonder Pacific Coast Cruise - Part 1, Vancouver

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It's hard to believe that it's been almost a year since we last took a Disney cruise, and yet this is one that we've had planned for quite a long time!

The Disney Wonder has been over on our side of the continent for several months and made several stops in San Diego this season as it made its way to/from Alaska. When the 2014 itineraries were announced, one of the ones that caught our eye was the four-night repositioning cruise at the end of the Alaska season. Start in Vancouver and end in San Diego, with a stop in Victoria along the way. We just couldn't resist the opportunity to have the Disney Wonder bring us back home!

And since the cruise began on a Monday, the timing also worked well to add a few days in Vancouver to the start of the trip. Three years ago we really enjoyed our day in Vancouver when we stopped there for a day on our back-to-back repositioning/first Alaska cruise, and wanted to have time to see more of the city.

We flew to Vancouver on Friday, September 5, and arrived around 5:00. We hadn't flown into Vancouver before - I thought the international terminal was very nice with lots of interesting displays/artwork welcoming us to Canada.

We stayed at the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel in downtown Vancouver. We found it very convenient - almost everything we were interested in was within a 15-20 minute walking distance. And we walked a LOT. Friday night we had a great dinner at Joe Fortes - they had fresh wild-caught sockeye salmon, and it's the best salmon we have ever had. We walked around downtown a big after dinner and went by this really interesting-looking building - it's the Vancouver Public Library - it only looks like the Colosseum . :-)

Saturday we had a wonderful visit to Granville Island in the morning, and enjoyed wandering through the Public Market (beautiful produce!) and shops.

We also enjoyed sampling some beers at the Granville Island Brewery.

Later in the afternoon we walked down to the seawall and over to Stanley Park, where we saw the totem poles and the 'Girl in Wetsuit' statue, and wandered a bit in the gardens. Beautiful weather that day - in the high 70s.

We had dinner in the Gastown area (lots of bars and restaurants and very reminiscent of our Gaslamp district in San Diego) at a pub called Six Acres, which was very good. On the walk to the pub we passed the Steam Clock, which yes, runs on steam, and chimes on the quarter hour. It's hard to see in the photo, but there's steam coming out the top. (Though it looks old, it was actually built in 1977.)

On Sunday morning we took the SeaBus (passenger ferry) over to North Vancouver and then took the bus to Lynn Canyon. There's a (free) suspension bridge there (as opposed to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which you pay for), and lots of hiking and biking trails. We got a fairly early start and were at the park before 10:00. When we left around 11:45 there were a LOT more people around. But it was another beautiful day - a little cooler than Saturday.

That evening we went back to Gastown and had dinner at a pizza place - Nicli Antica. Neapolitan pizza, which was pretty good. And they served the best Sangria I think I have ever had.

We didn't need to check out of the hotel until noon, so that gave us plenty of time on Monday morning to go out and take a nice walk to Stanley Park again, though this time we went to the southeastern side. We finally saw in person this rock sculpture that we'd seen depicted in so many photos and other artwork around Vancouver. It's called an Inuksuk - an Inuit word.

On the nearby beaches we saw some other rock formations - we call these "hoodoos" when we find them in Yosemite. As you can see below, some of them are pretty impressively balanced!

In addition to walking along the seawall we took a couple of trails through the woods. It was a lovely walk.

As we walked back to the hotel along the harbor we caught our first sight of the Disney Wonder!

We were packed and showered and checked out by 11:30. It was a short taxi ride to Canada Place and the cruise ship terminal. There were already people there, but it wasn't too crowded. They started boarding not too long after we checked in, so we didn't have to wait too long.

We had studied the Navigator while waiting, so we knew our first stop was going to be WaveBands to sign up for some of the beverage tasting sessions. That was easy.

Next on our agenda was lunch, so we went to Parrot Cay. We were early, and it wasn't crowded when we got there, though that didn't last long. I always enjoy the peel-and-eat shrimp on the buffet.

After lunch we still had some time before we could get into out stateroom, so we wandered around the ship. I have to say the Wonder still looks really good. It's a year newer than the Magic, which underwent an extensive refurbishment last year, so I was expecting that the Wonder might be showing some signs of age, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The public areas are in great condition.

I think where I saw the most signs of wear and tear were in our stateroom, but even there it's not bad - just small things like dings in the paint and furniture, and carpet that is not new. Pretty small stuff. We were on the Magic a year before its refurb, and at that time I felt that it definitely needed some TLC, but I don't feel the same way about the Wonder. (One thing missing in the stateroom photo below is our Castaway Club gift - I had to call Guest Services twice, and it was finally delivered Wednesday afternoon.)

While we were wandering we saw that one of the lifeboats was open, so we took a look inside. That's as close as I ever want to get to the inside of a lifeboat. :-)

Though the morning had been cloudy and cool, it turned into a beautiful afternoon with lots of sunshine. We really had great weather in Vancouver. It was very nice for the sailaway party, though we were in a DVC Member reception and missed it. We made it up on deck in time to watch us sail past Stanley Park, though.

We had early dinner seating (which we prefer) and were seated with three other couples in Parrot Cay. (Of course it's Parrot Cay. Our cruises always start with us being in Parrot Cay - or its equivalent on the other ships.) I'll have a food blog later. Our server was Barbie from Serbia, and the assistant is Tiago from Portugal. Barbie is excellent, and one of the best servers we've had. Our Head Server was Simone, from Italy - he was the head server both times I'd been on the Dream, and he's very good.

After dinner we saw a nice sunset from deck 4 and then went to Diversions to watch the Chargers play on Monday Night Football. There were quite a few other Chargers fans in there. Unfortunately they lost because they made mistakes that Arizona took advantage of, but it was still a good game.

Back in our stateroom we found our first towel animal - I think it's a bear.

Coming next: Victoria








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