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August 2008 Archives

August 1, 2008

Disney Magic Tour

On Sunday Lee and I were invited to tour the Disney Magic, which has been here in California doing week-long Mexican Riviera cruises for the last couple of months - it heads back to Florida on August 17.

Unlike a lot of my fellow AllEars staffers, Lee and I had never been on a Disney cruise, so going to the port and getting on the ship was a new thing to us.

The port itself was pretty overwhelming - a huge building, very busy, and a lot of people milling around, waiting to go aboard the ship. And this is a facility that's only temporary for Disney - I can't imagine what the terminal at Port Canaveral is like!

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We boarded the ship at the vendor area rather than using the gangplank that the real passengers were using. That was an experience in and of itself - lots of security. Our bags had to be sniffed by one of the two security dogs on duty. After we got through that we had to wait for a while for some of the other tour members to arrive, so we watched the dogs - their handler had them in a couple of large kennels when they weren't working, but every once in a while he'd let them out to play with a toy. The black lab was very cute - every time someone showed up with a bag and set it down on the ground he got so excited, and pawed at the gate of his kennel, and then he'd get really disappointed if the other dog (German shepherd) was brought out instead. These were not fierce scary dogs at all, but they had a job to do, and it appeared they were quite good at it. Though we wondered what would happen if for some reason somebody had a dog toy in their bag... :-)

To board the ship we were required to carry an electronic ID card, so the guard took our names and our ids, and then we went through a metal detector and our bags went through an x-ray machine. Once we boarded the ship they swiped our ID cards, and then we had to use hand sanitizer at the station set up there - that is apparently a requirement for anyone boarding the ship or whenever entering any of the restaurants.

There were about 11 tour members, and four different Disney employees, including Jonathan Frontado, who is a Public Relations Manager for the Disney Cruise Line, and had set up the tour.

Our first stop was Parrot Cay where, after sanitizing our hands, we sampled the lunch buffet. Passengers were already on board the ship, and some were in the restaurant, but it wasn't crowded. The buffet had a very nice salad bar, plus cold cuts and cheese, and a selection of hot entrees as well. And a very nice dessert bar. :-) If that was a sample of the food that is available on a cruise, I can understand why people gain so much weight on cruises!

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After lunch they split us into two groups - there were 6 in our group. Valarie, who works for Disneyland Public Relations, was our tour guide.

More and more people were boarding the ship all the time, but since they couldn't get to their rooms yet, they were congregating in hallways and near the elevators - it got a bit congested sometimes. But since we were on a tour they let us see a couple of the staterooms. The "outside" stateroom was a Navigator's Verandah (Category 7) class of room, which has a large glass door which opens onto a small enclosed verandah with a large (open) porthole. It has a queen bed and a sofa which converts to a twin bed. There are two bathrooms - one with the toilet and a sink, the other with a sink and a bathtub/shower. (From what we were told, apparently having a real bathtub is somewhat rare on cruise ships.) The cabin is only about 200 square feet - pretty small compared to a standard hotel room!

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Across the hall we viewed an inside stateroom (Category 11 or 12) - this one also had a queen bed and a twin bed sofa, but it only had one bathroom. With no windows at all it seemed dark compared to the one we'd just been in.

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After that it seems like we must have visited all of the public areas of the ship - the restaurants, bars, clubs, spa, and pool areas. There's certainly a wide variety of activities and environments available. I can see why Valarie told us that you spend the first three days just learning your way around the ship! We spent a fair bit of time in the Vista Spa - one of the attendants showed us a couple of the treatment rooms, including one of the "couples" rooms. We also spent some time in the Tropical Rain Forest area, which has all of this lovely tile/mosaic work, and a fountain, in addition to the fog showers and saunas - it also has heated tiled lounge chairs of various temperatures. They were quite warm!

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We also saw all of the "kid" areas. There's something for every age - everything from a nursery for care of infants to 2-year-olds, to the Oceaneer areas that have lots of activities and games for older kids, to the special clubs for teenagers. Looked like fun - I can understand why some people have written that their kids really didn't want to spend a lot of time with their parents! :-) We also saw the huge (1,200 seat?) Walt Disney Theatre where the big shows, like The Golden Mickeys, are performed as well as the movie theater and Studio Sea.

The ship was beautiful - everything we saw was clean and obviously well-maintained. The cruise that was leaving the day we took the tour was the Magic's 10th anniversary cruise - it sailed for the first time on July 30, 1998. After the Magic returns to Florida it will be going into a three-week dry dock period where they will be doing some more extensive maintenance, but it was hard to see that it needed too much sprucing up! (I believe that the Deb and Steve Cruise will be the Magic's final cruise before it goes into dry dock.)

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The tour was fun and interesting and we really enjoyed it - I'd like to thank Jonathan and Valarie for inviting us and guiding us around.

Now, of course, we want to go on a Disney Cruise, which is something I hadn't really considered before. (Though I found out that Lee has thought it would be fun but didn't think I'd be interested.) One of our concerns was being confined to a relatively small area, and wondering if there would be enough to do - but that certainly doesn't seem to be a problem - more like there's TOO much to do, and not enough time! And, since we don't have kids, we weren't sure if there would be some separation, but it looks like there are a number of adult-only areas, including a pool on the ship and a separate area on Castaway Cay. And I found the spa VERY appealing - I could definitely spend some time there! :-)

So now we're looking at possible itineraries and trying to figure out what kind of stateroom we want. There's so many decisions!!!! Looks a lot more daunting to me than planning a WDW vacation, but maybe that's just because I haven't done it before.

So help us out here...what's your favorite Disney cruise itinerary and stateroom type?

August 4, 2008

Toy Story Mania - Disney California Adventure

So last Sunday, after we toured the Disney Magic, Lee and I stopped by the Disneyland Resort on our way back to San Diego. Hey, it wasn't THAT far out of the way! :-)

And we *finally* got to try out Toy Story Mania! We hadn't been to the parks since Memorial Day, so this was the first chance we'd had (it opened June 17).

It was great fun!!! I could've done it over and over again...but the line was 45 minutes long (which is short when compared to the 90-120 minute waits for Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage last summer), but that's still about 25 minutes too long for me to be willing to do more than once. Unlike the attraction at WDW, there's no Fastpass at the one in California.

I'd like to say that I have new appreciation for the great photos that Chelsi Murphy took during the Annual Passholder Previews, which she shared with us in this blog entry and in this Wandering the Land feature. There's several that she managed to take during the ride, and that's *really* hard - the cars spin you around pretty fast as they move through the attraction, and then you get caught up in playing the games themselves! So thanks again, Chelsi!

As I mentioned, we had about a 45 minute wait to get on. For the first 10 minutes or so we were entertained by Mr. Potato Head, who talked to people in the queue and told bad jokes...but he never removed his ear. Still, that's one very impressive audio-animatronic - his lips move and his eyes are very expressive.

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It was a warm sunny afternoon, but not as hot as it often is in the summer. Most of the queue is outside, but most of it was shaded either by the building or by a whole bunch of beach umbrellas, so those gave us a break from the sun.

I'm rather disappointed in the queue itself. Other than Mr. Potato Head it's pretty boring - there are a bunch of posters that describe how to play and "advertise" the games, but that's it - other than that it just snakes back and forth. (Quite different from the queue in Florida - you can see pictures of it in Mike Scopa's blog HERE.) The queue is very deceptive, too - after you pass by Mr. Potato Head and make a turn, you can see people on the other side of the wall getting ready to get on the ride, but noooo...you go around the next turn, and instead of joining them, suddenly there's a whole lot more queue!

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The loading process seemed pretty fast and efficient and they got us out of there quickly. Lee hadn't seen pictures of the ride vehicles, so he was surprised that you sit back-to-back with other people.

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Once the ride started...wow. We got whirled away without much chance to look at what's going on around us...and then we're at the first game trying to figure out how to fire and aim. Though actually it was quite easy, and it's SO nice to be able to see what I'm shooting - so unlike Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters! It seemed to me that a lot of the high-scoring targets were actually closer to the bottom of the screen, so I started focusing a bit more there. After our "practice" pie-throwing round we were whirled away to the next game, and so on. So we threw eggs and popped balloons with darts, broke plates with baseballs, tried to throw rings over little green guys (I thought that was the hardest) and then ended up at the shooting gallery where we got a "bonus" round. It was really a lot of fun, but it went way too fast!

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Of course the most important thing was that my score was higher than Lee's. :-)

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And here's my prize...If this photo appears fuzzy to you, put on your 3-D glasses. :-)

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A few other notes...Lee wears glasses, which can sometimes be an issue with the 3-D glasses, but he had no problems seeing at all.

In the queue I noticed a couple of signs cautioning about motion sickness, which at the time I thought seemed a bit of an overreaction, but after riding it I can understand why they posted it. The ride really does move fast and spin you around a lot - and that could bother those who are sensitive to motion.

You exit the ride on the opposite side of where you got on...and to get back outside again you have to climb a flight of stairs that takes you back over the track, then go down a flight of stairs on the other side. Which, surprise, surprise, puts you into a gift shop. I assume there's a different arrangement for those who can't climb stairs, but I don't know what it is.

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While we were in line I noticed a couple of new food stands that have been set up along the boardwalk in front of Toy Story Mania - a hot dog place and a snack place which sells drinks, turkey legs, and chimichangas.

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I wanna ride again!!! So I'm looking forward to some morning when I can get there at park opening and ride several times with little/no wait.

Have you visited the Disneyland Resort recently? Share your experiences in our Disneyland Rate and Review Area!

August 24, 2008

Disneyland Upcoming Events

Disneyland's Half Marathon Weekend is coming up on August 29-31. The Disneyland Health & Fitness Expo is August 29-30, the 5K and Kids' Races are Saturday, August 30, and the third annual Half Marathon is on Sunday, August 31.

Disney's HalloweenTime starts on September 26 and runs through November 2 and this year Disney has put up a pretty nifty interactive website for it. There's information on the attractions that are decorated for Halloween (Haunted Mansion Holiday, Woody's Halloween Roundup, and the Tower of Terror), on the decorations, the characters, and special merchandise. And a list of locations at Disneyland that will be featuring special foods and beverages. There's also a page with crafts (including pumpkin carving patterns) and some interactive games. The web site is here: http://disneyland.disney.go.com/disneyland/en_US/calendar/specialEvents/detail?name=HalloweenTimeSpecialEventPage

Miley Cyrus will be celebrating her "Sweet 16" birthday at Disneyland with a special event on Sunday, October 5. Much more information is available on Disneyland's web site HERE, and in this Disneyland Press Release. A limited number of tickets (5,000) will be available to the public, and go on sale on August 30, for $250 each.

The 2008 CHOC/Disneyland Walk in the Park, benefiting Children's Hospital of Orange County, will be held on October 19. More information is on their web site: http://www.chocwalk.org. You can read about Photo Blogger Lisa Berton's CHOC Walk experiences from last year in her blog entries:
CHOC Walk Part 1
CHOC Walk Part 2
CHOC Walk Part 3

There's finally a date for "it's a small world" to come out of its lengthy rehab - according to the Disneyland calendar it opens on November 29. I wonder if it will come up in the holiday configuration or not this time...

Fantasmic!, which goes into rehab on September 2, will begin running again on November 7.

The three McDonald's restaurants in the parks, Conestoga Fries and Harbour Galley in Disneyland, and Burger Invasion in California Adventure, will be closing on September 2. No information yet on what will be replacing them, but it appears they will all reopen on September 27.

From January 6 - April 30, 2009, Disneyland is bringing back its Everyone Get in for the Kid's Price promotion. 3, 4, and 5-day park hoppers are available to adults and kids alike for the kids' price. More information is on the Disneyland web site.

August 25, 2008

Disneyland Trip Report

Thought I'd post a trip report from my day trip to Disneyland on Thursday - I went up to spend the day with my "Evil Twin" Pam and her son Mark. (No, we're not really twins, but we look like sisters - so we say we are twins separated at birth - separated by several years, different parents and birth places on opposite coasts, that is. Oh, and by the way, SHE is the "evil twin". :-) )

Left San Diego at 6:35 and had NO traffic, which really surprised me, so I was parked in the parking garage by 8:00, and back at Space Mountain by 8:15 where I met my ET and her son.

I thought the park might be fairly crowded since this is the first week that those who have the Southern California Annual Passes have been able to return to the parks since June, but the park was pretty uncrowded for the first couple of hours. We pretty much walked onto Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion. We wanted to ride Indy but it was down. :-(

We also went over to Pirate's Lair, since Mark and Pam hadn't been there yet. We hung back at the entrance to Dead Man's Grotto and let everyone else go in first so that we could take our time going through there, and play with the special effects, like the chest holding Davy Jones' heart and the treasure area with Pintel and Ragetti's pop-up head and swing-down arm and eye. Mark and Pam found some things I hadn't noticed before - down at kid's eye level there is a "cursed treasure window", where you can see a box filled with gold coins until you reach in to touch it, and then it disappears. And there's another view into a different treasure chest which has a genie in a bottle. Fun stuff. :-)

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Jack Sparrow was not in his usual meet-and-greet spot, but when we left the island he was waiting to board the raft to go across.

After a late breakfast (Mickey pancakes!) at the River Belle Terrace we went over to DCA - both Mark and I really wanted to ride Toy Story Mania. He'd done the one at Walt Disney World earlier this summer. Unfortunately when we got back there the line was 70 minutes long. Why, oh why did Disney NOT make this a Fastpass attraction??? Seems like a really bad decision to me.

So we did a couple other things - Orange Stinger and Mulholland Madness, though MM went down for about 10 minutes while we were in line. I still say that's the scariest ride in the park - every time we go around one of those 180 degree turns I have visions of the car flying off the track. <shudder>

We'd gotten Fastpasses for Grizzly River Run and Soarin' on the way in, and it was time to use those. Mark got pretty drenched on GRR - he was sitting right by one of the openings in the raft. Pam and I were in the middle and not quite so wet, but we were both glad we had quick-drying shorts on!!! (I always feel sorry for the people who wear blue jeans and ride GRR - they end up having to walk around in wet jeans for the rest of the day!) The Fastpass line for Soarin' was all the way up the ramp almost to the building entrance, so even with the FP we had a 15-20 minute wait. The standby time was posted at 35 minutes - I'm not sure I believe that.

For "lunch" we had ice cream from Bur-r-r Bank Ice Cream - yummy. Mark was pretty tired (they had had a long day the day before, plus early entry already) so we went back to their hotel, the Howard Johnson's Anaheim.

I'd read a lot of good reports on this hotel, but I'd never been there...I'm happy to say that it seems to be just as nice as they say. The room was on the order of a Walt Disney World moderate, I would say - except that not many moderate rooms have a view of fireworks, and a number of the HoJo rooms can see the Disneyland fireworks - including their room. Earlier this summer the hotel opened a new water park area called Castaway Cove - it has a number of water features including a spiraling water slide. Mark had a lot of fun there, and the water seemed to revive him.

We went back to DCA later in the afternoon. At the information booth at the front of the park I asked the wait time for Toy Story Mania - still 60 minutes. So we went to Monsters, Inc. instead, which had only a 5 minute wait. I pointed out the Attention All Monster Passengers sign, which I think is really funny, but most people seem to miss it. And we also took a look at the Harryhausen's menu that is posted on the wall - how does some Yukitori or Ice Scream sound to you???

We got about 3/4 of the way through the ride when it stopped. And after a couple of minutes the lights came on. And then we were told that there had been an automatic shutdown of the ride due to proximity sensors on the cars (people weren't loading/unloading fast enough, apparently), and they walked us out of the ride. Which was kind of interesting for me, but I felt bad for Mark and Pam since this was their first time on the ride. No "sorry for the inconvenience, here's a Fastpass for you", either - just a "try back later" attitude. (If you're counting, that's three rides so far that had problems...and they'd had an issue with Space Mountain the day before.)

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By the time we got out of there the Pixar Play Parade had started...but we were hoping to get around it to get back to Toy Story Mania, thinking the line might be a little shorter. The parade seems to be back to its original version - the stilt-walking chefs and bungee-jumping rats in the Ratatouille segment are back, as are the twirling acrobatic cowboys on the Toy Story float. When we were there a few weeks ago I saw that the "bug's life" float was back to its original configuration with the flower swinging bugs in the center - that was taken out of service not long after the parade started because one of the swings broke during the parade. Hopefully the original parade has been running all summer - I haven't seen the full parade since early May, when it was still missing the more acrobatic elements.

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It took a while to make it back to Toy Story Mania, and the line was down to 45 minutes by then. The CM told us we'd picked a good time - that once the parade ended it would be over an hour again. The line kept moving well, and we were on the ride in a little less than 45 minutes.

Man, that ride is a lot of fun!!! Mark and I rode together and he beat me by a substantial margin (31,000 points), but he was nice and didn't gloat *too* much. :-) He noticed that at the end when your scores come up, if you keep shooting, it shows up on the screen as confetti.

We had dinner at the Farmer's Market - they still have the California Wrap on the menu from the Food and Wine Festival. (Other restaurants that have kept the F&W menu items are Pacific Wharf Cafe and Award Wieners.) The wrap seemed smaller to me, though. For $7.99 it wasn't very much food. I really wanted to eat at the Pacific Wharf Cafe, but as usual the line was ridiculously long, and it's always very slow moving. (And they also replaced my favorite salad - the Nicoise - with the F&W festival Mandarin Chicken Salad. Which is good, but the Nicoise was better!)

I needed to get on the road after that, since I had to drive home and go to work the next day. Pam and Mark walked me to the tram, and we said goodbye, though I'll see them in San Diego, too.

Other random observations from the day...

  • I saw the new Mark VII Monorail Blue go by a number of times - but never when I had my camera out, of course. It looks very swoopy and modern.
  • The weather was GREAT - a summer day in southern California just doesn't get any better! It really wasn't too hot at all.
  • The parks were not as crowded as I expected - though Pam told me DL was really busy when they went back after I left. Soarin' never had more than a 45 minute standby wait posted - and it's usually an hour - same for Grizzly River Run. I think Toy Story Mania is pulling a lot of people back to Paradise Pier and off the other big rides.

And a few things Lee and I noticed on our visit several weeks ago:

  • Award Wieners has a new seating area - they took out the outdoor section of the Muppets Inc. queue and put in tables and chairs. Still left the Muppet stuff there, though. It looks like there's quite a bit of shade there.
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  • The parking lot trams have a new seat - it's more of a rubberized surface than the slick fiberglass, and not so slippery.
  • As I mentioned in my Toy Story Mania blog entry there are two new food stands on the Boardwalk - Hot Dog Hut serves (surprise!) hot dogs, chips, and drinks, and Don Toma's offers turkey legs, chimichangas, and drinks.
  • The Snow White 75th anniversary exhibit has been removed from the Animation Building, and the animation screens have returned to running the various clips from classic animated movies. I missed those during the Snow White exhibit.

Thanks to Mark and Pam for sharing some of their vacation with me - I had a great day.

Have you visited the Disneyland Resort recently? Share your experiences in our Disneyland Rate and Review Area!

August 30, 2008

Disney-Like Dining, Vineyard Room Closing

We had a wonderful dinner last week at a new restaurant here in San Diego called Roseville. The cuisine is "seasonal French-Mediterrranean" and we enjoyed a number of selections from the menu, which featured a very nice variety of creative dishes that were well-prepared and beautifully presented. We had knowledgeable and efficient servers, and there was also a really excellent dessert menu.

And what does that have to do with Disney, you may ask? Not much really, except that both Lee and I commented that it was the type of experience we used to associate with fine dining at Walt Disney World restaurants, before things got a little bit too homogenized. We can remember going to restaurants like the Contemporary Grill, Artist Point, and Jiko, and having a hard time deciding what we wanted because there were several things that looked really good. In recent years we've been disappointed because it seems like there's only one or maybe two items that appeal to us. And I've been especially disappointed in the dessert menus - there has been a distinct lack of really good chocolate desserts!

Over on the Disneyland side of the world...I was dismayed to learn earlier this week that the Disneyland Resort is going to be closing The Vineyard Room by the end of August. The restaurant is inside Disney's California Adventure and it's my favorite table service restaurant in the parks. Lee and I thought about eating there when we were at the park in July - now I wish we had. I really hope they will use Executive Chef Gloria Tae's talents somewhere else at the resort.

Anyway...for anyone who lives in San Diego, we highly recommend Roseville!

Have you visited the Disneyland Resort recently? Share your experiences in our Disneyland Rate and Review Area!

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About August 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in August 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2008 is the previous archive.

September 2008 is the next archive.

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