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February 2009 Archives

February 1, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - Day 9 and 10 - Castaway Cay and Debarkation

Friday was our day at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the
Bahamas. We were due to arrive about 9:00. Lee and I went up to
Topsider's for breakfast - we each had a made-to-order omelet in
addition to other stuff. Meg was working up there and we were able
to visit a bit more with her between her other duties.

We watched the ship dock at about 8:30 - for this one they backed the ship into position - it's really amazing how precise they can be with
something that large! It was another beautiful sunny day, but there
was some colder air coming from the north, and they were expecting it
too cool off as they day progressed, with the possibility of some
rain. So in his ship-wide announcement, Brent, our cruise director
advised us to get off the ship NOW and enjoy it while we could.

cast1.jpg

It was a very windy day, so several of the excursions (parasailing,
glass-bottom boat, jet skiing) had already been canceled by the time
we got off the ship. We were scheduled to to the Hiking and Kayak
Tour, but after we waited for about 15 minutes we learned that it was
also canceled. The guides live on an island about a 30-minute boat
ride away, and the seas were too rough for them to get to Castaway
Cay. In the meantime we watched a lifeboat drill that some of the
crew members were participating in - the crew member who was
overseeing the excursions told us that this "wet drill" is mandatory
for all new crew members. There were a dozen or so. They had to set
off flares and inflate a life raft. Part of the drill that we didn't
see apparently involved them having to right the lifeboat after it
turned upside down.

We didn't have very much with us because we were planning to kayak -
in hindsight we should've gone back to the ship before we went any
further onto the island. We walked all the way to end of the bike
path by Serenity Bay (the adult-only area), and then walked back to
Serenity Bay - it was probably about 3 miles. We found a couple of
sun beds and sat down and enjoyed the sun for a while. One of the
servers came by and we decided to order a couple of foofy drinks -
that's what you're supposed to do at some point, right? I had a
Tropical Depression - wow, that was pretty strong! Lee had something
called a Konk Kooler - I liked that one better.

cast_ll.jpg

Since we hadn't been back to the ship we really had nothing with us for
spending a day on the beach - like something to read. We had lunch
at the bbq place at Serenity Bay, which was not bad - they had
several kinds of salad, bbq ribs, chicken, hamburgers, fish, and hot
dogs. After that Lee walked back to the Family Beach part of
Castaway Cay, since he wanted to rent some snorkeling gear and go
snorkeling. I had to take the tram back since my Tevas were giving
me a hot spot - but a trip to First Aid for a band-aid fixed that up.
So I wandered around a little bit and saw the crab races and took
some pictures and bought postcards. I'd planned to mail those on the
way back to the ship but the post office was closed for lunch - it's
only open from 10:45 to 4:30 three days a week, and it's closed?
Island time, I guess. I went back aboard for an hour and then
returned to the post office (it was only a short walk from the ship)
and it was open by then.

I went back aboard and enjoyed some reading time in the sun up on
deck 10 - I had it to myself! Lee actually found me up there around
2:30 - he'd come back to get his camera and take pictures around the
ship and the island.

At 4:00 we had an appointment with Brian, one of the personal
trainers, who was going to show us a good workout we could do in 20
minutes, which didn't need any equipment other than a mat. Whew...that
was 20 intense minutes! He alternated us between lower body and
upper body exercises, with some crunches thrown in. And after 20
minutes we felt like we'd really had a workout. And we're both a
little sore today. He also showed us some things we can do with
exercise bands and a balance ball. It was a very good session.

After that, of course, it was time to have a little something to eat
since it was still going to be a while before dinner. We were
dining at Palo at 7:30, so at least that wasn't quite as late as
our normal 8:30 time!

After that it was time to start packing. Our bags were supposed to be
out in the hallway between 9:00 and 11:00 that evening - and we of
course had a late dinner, and would want to pack the clothes we wore to
dinner, so we had to get as much done before dinner as we could. Plus
we had to remember to leave out what we needed to wear to disembark and
travel home.

Palo was actually quite uncrowded. Our server was Laura, from
England (her name was easy to remember!), and she was very good.
We'd heard that Palo was quite difficult to get into, but she told us
that they always have availability for dinner - generally the first
and last nights of the cruise, plus Pirate Night are very quiet at
Palo. Of course, those might not be the most desirable nights, but
hey, they are available!

When we sat down there was an ivory-colored napkin on the plate, but
since we were both wearing black, the woman who seated us returned with
black napkins for us instead. I guess Palo attempts to color-coordinate!

Our dinner started with a basket of bread - several different kinds,
plus three kinds of dipping sauces. I can really fill up on bread,
so I had to be careful - but it all looked good, and the ones I tried
were yummy.

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Laura came by and gave us a "tour of the menu" and told us about the
night's specials. There was a lasagna which she was was awesome -
she said the servers love lasagna night because they get whatever is
left. She also made some wine recommendations. She warned us that
the pasta dishes were huge - an entree in and of themselves. There
was a gnocchi that I really wanted to try, and Lee wanted some of the
lasagna, but hey, it's Disney so she could bring us a side of both.
:-)

After she took our orders they brought out the Anipasti Freddo - this
had prosciutto, bresaola (similar to prosciutto, but made with beef),
aged parmesan reggiano cheese, a couple types of olives, and
sun-dried tomatoes.

palo2.jpg

For my appetizer I had the Mozzarella and Plum Tomatoes with Balsamic
Dressing. This was a gorgeous presentation - the thinly sliced
tomatoes covered the mozzarella in the shape of a flower, with sliced
basil as the bud. It was really good, too.

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Lee had the Minestrone soup - it was a very large serving! He
enjoyed it.

palo4.jpg

Before our entrees arrived Laura served us an "Intermezzo" - a palate
cleanser. (That sounds so sterile and clinical and not very
appetizing!) It was lime and mint sorbet, which was very tasty and
refreshing.

palo5.jpg

For my main course I ordered the Grilled Monkfish with Braised Radicchio
and Prosciutto, served with creamy Mascarpone Polenta. And she also
brought me a small (though not really THAT small!) serving of the
Pumpkin and Broccoli Gnocchi served with a Shrimp and Grappa sauce. The
gnocchi was quite good, and the sauce was very rich - I really didn't
taste any shrimp in it - it seemed like a cheese sauce of some kind. I
definitely could not have eaten a full serving of that!

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The monkfish was very nice - firm and with a bit of a crust on it. The
polenta was good, too.

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Lee ordered the Beef Tenderloin Palo, served with Palo Gorgonzola Sauce.
He enjoyed it, too.

palo8.jpg

He had also asked for a side serving of the lasagna, and he thought that
was awesome - he told Laura that he'd never thought of lasagna as a
gourmet food before, but this really good. He said it was light and
delicate and not heavy like lasagna can be. (Unfortunately it was made
with a meat sauce so I couldn't try it.)

palo9.jpg

For dessert we both had the Chocolate Souffle - which we'd told Laura we
wanted when we ordered our dinner (it takes extra time, so you have to
order it in advance or wait). She brought us the dessert menu just in
case we wanted to try something else, too. I was tempted when she said
they had dark chocolate gelato, but really, I'd had enough to eat.

palo10.jpg

After dessert she brought us a post-dessert drink - it was lemon sorbet,
prosecco (a lightly sparkling white wine), and vodka. Very refreshing
and nice. It was really a wonderful dinner!

palo11.jpg

It was only about 9:30, so we decided to go to our regular dining room
to see everyone on our last night. They were just finishing up with
their entrees. At 9:45 there was a special procession - the chefs came
out carrying flaming baked Alaskas, and the servers came out, many of
them (including TJ) carrying flags from their home countries. There
were a LOT of different flags! We all stood up and cheered and
waved our napkins as they paraded by. (This is neither Meg nor TJ, but
they went by so fast that my camera didn't have a chance to focus and
take their picture - but at least this give you some idea.)

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TJ brought us all dessert menus. The Chocolate Decadence looked good,
but I was full - Kathy ordered it, though.

lum3_1.jpg

And Jan, Paula and Joe all ordered Mickey ice cream bars in addition to
their other desserts - indulging the inner child, obviously. :-)

lum3_3.jpg

Lee actually ordered the baked Alaska, and he ate the whole thing except
for the couple of bites I had. And he had another cup of coffee - no
wonder he was wired and didn't sleep well!

lum3_2.jpg

It turned out not to be the last time we were going to see our servers
and tablemates, since we were all planning to be at breakfast the next
morning. So we didn't have to say goodbye quite yet.

We got back to our cabin with less than 20 minutes left before we had to
have our bags outside, but since we were almost done packing anyway, it
didn't take long to finish and put on the luggage tags. Someone picked
up the bags as soon as Lee put them in the hall!

This is last night's towel animal...snakes...why did it have to be
snakes? Don't asp me...

towel7.jpg

We had rough seas again (8'-13' swells), so things were bouncing
around quite a bit. All of the empty hangers in the closet were
rattling and so Lee had to push them together and drape a towel
over them to keep them quiet. Lee went up on deck to take pictures
and he said it was VERY windy - between the ship bouncing around
and the wind it was hard to hold the camera still.

I'm not sure what time we arrived in Port Canaveral this morning - it
was before 6:00, though. When I woke up we were already docked - that
yellow light coming in the porthole was from a big light and not the
sunrise!

There wasn't a lot for us to do this morning. I looked at our bill and
saw a few charges that I didn't recognize so I took it up to Guest
Services. Two of them were something we had both forgotten about,
but one was a double charge, and they fixed that.

While we were standing in the lobby we ran into Kathy and Joe, so we
chatted with them while we were waiting for Lumiere's, our breakfast
restaurant, to open. Once inside we said good morning to TJ and Meg,
who were ready and waiting for us. They'd already worked the early
breakfast, plus finishing up after dinner last night - I don't know how
they still can be so alert and energetic in the mornings! No one from
their other table showed up for breakfast, so we had them all to
ourselves. :-)

Jan and Paula told us that they'd found out there was 15" of snow back
at their respective homes - they weren't looking forward to returning to that!

We all had to be off the ship by 9:30, so we couldn't linger too
long over breakfast. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone - we
had such a fun week together, and we had such great service all
week from TJ and Meg.

Lumiere's is right next to the gangway, so we really didn't have far to
go to exit the ship. Maybe in this regard Disney is little too
efficient - we didn't have any time to wait and linger. We went off the
gangway and straight downstairs where, since our bags had already been
sent to the airline we didn't have any bags to claim, and so we went
straight to Customs. There was no line, so we handed our Customs
Declaration form to the agent, he quickly looked it over and said we
were good to go. So suddenly we're out the door of the terminal and
headed to the buses that were going to the Orlando Airport. A very
short line there, and within a few minutes we were on the bus, and not
long after that the bus was off to the airport! Honestly, it was less
than 10 minutes from the time we walked out of Lumiere's until we were
on a bus that was on its way to the airport.

So we arrived at the airport about 3 hours before our flight was due to
leave. We already had our boarding passes, and of course Disney had
taken care of our luggage, so there wasn't anything we needed to do. We
went to the Food Court area to wait, where I discovered there was free
wireless Internet access - which was a WHOLE lot faster than it had been
onboard ship! (And it was FREE! Though I did pretty well with the
internet package I got aboard ship - we had 250 minutes and used all but
10 of them.) So I worked on this blog entry while we were waiting.

It was our first cruise, but it definitely won't be our last - we really
had a wonderful time. 2010 can't come fast enough! I'll have more
to say in sort of a "conclusion" blog entry, though.

If you've made it this far... thanks for reading!

February 3, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - Conclusions

In no particular order, some of my thoughts and impressions about things
we experienced on our Disney cruise.

The Ship

The Disney Magic is gorgeous. Just what you'd expect a classic ocean
liner to be. Beautifully decorated and themed and appointed. And a lot
of the Disney theming isn't "in-your-face" theming - it's more subtle
and elegant. The ship is just immaculate and well-maintained. When we
were out and about we always saw crew members cleaning or working on
painting or some other kind of maintenance. Nothing showed any
signs of wear at all - I wish all of the Walt Disney World resorts
looked that good! The ocean is a harsh environment, but they
obviously do as much as they can to stay ahead of the wear imposed
by the elements to keep things looking in perfect condition.

dm_staircase.jpg

There is a lot of space - even with almost 2400 passengers
on board there were times when we were absolutely alone (of course, part
of that is because we almost always took the stairs instead of the
elevators.) There is a huge variety of public spaces, of course - three
different pool areas, and a whole bunch of bars and clubs - most of
which we were never in, except as a meeting place for some other event.

The Staterooms

We were in a Category 9 stateroom (the cheapest type that has a
window) on the second deck of the ship, but we certainly didn't
feel deprived at all. It's still considered a "deluxe" stateroom,
and it actually had two bath-type areas. One had a sink and the
toilet, and the other had a sink and the bathtub. Note that it had
an actual tub and not just a shower! It will sleep three - it has
a queen-size bed and a sofa that folds out into a twin bed. The
queen bed can be separated into two twins. (Which is interesting,
since I didn't feel any kind of joint in the mattress.) The bed
was very comfortable.

sr1.jpg

There is actually quite a lot of storage space - we had empty
drawers. The closet is not overly deep, but Lee's suit coats fit
in there ok. For two of us there seemed like enough space - though
only one of us could pass by the foot of the bed at a time. There
were also plenty of lights, though it took me a while to figure out
where all of the switches were. And the bathroom lights are
located outside the bathrooms.

The Crew

We were so impressed by the crew members. These people must be the
creme de la creme of Disney cast members - everyone was friendly,
helpful, cheerful - it was really amazing. Any time I passed
someone in one of the passageways or one of the stairways they always
smiled and greeted me. And these people work really hard. They have
very long days with very little personal time, and I'm not sure when
some of them sleep! And they work 7 days a week - as soon as one set
of passengers leaves the ship they have to get ready for the next set
that will be boarding in just a few hours. But when you talk to
them, they all love their jobs, and they never complain about the
hours. My compliments to all of them - I really don't know how
they do it.


The Ports

We visited four different ports - Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and
Castaway Cay. I can't say we actually visited Cozumel, though - we
never actually stepped foot on the island itself! Judging by the
literature we received from Disney before the first three ports, the
major attraction in each is shopping - something that is totally lost on
me. I'm afraid we really didn't do much to enrich any local economies,
and spent very little money in port apart from tips for the guides.
I can't say that what I saw of the ports left me with any strong
desire to return for a longer visit. But if we came through again
on a cruise I know what I would probably do on those days.

The Excursions

We did two excursions - a third was canceled because of the winds on
Castaway Cay. Both of the ones we did departed not long after the ship
docked, so they gathered us onboard ship and took us off together after
a brief orientation. They were very efficient in getting us to where we
needed to be, which we especially appreciated with the Tulum trip, since
it was quite a lengthy excursion with several different modes of
transportation. The guides were fairly knowledgeable and helpful - for
the Tulum excursion we had guides who spoke very good English.

Dining Rotation

There are two dinner seatings (early and late) on the Disney Magic,
and each seating is split between the three three main restaurants -
Animator's Palate, Lumiere's, and Parrot Cay. On a seven-night
cruise you eat in two of the restaurants twice, and one of them
three times. Within each seating the restaurant openings are
staggered and each restaurant opens at a slightly different time - our
seating was the very last one, and so we always ate at 8:30 regardless
of which restaurant we were in. I really didn't like eating that
late - we rarely finished with dessert before 10:15, and then I was
too wired to go to bed for at least a couple of hours - but I'd
still be awake at 7:00-7:30 the next morning. We also ended up having
to eat another extra small meal around 5:00-5:30, otherwise we were
starving before 8:30. Late seating also meant that we missed other
events aboard ship that started at 9:30 or 9:45. We chose late
seating because of the flexibility it gave us to stay longer in our
ports of call. But now that I've experienced all of the restaurants,
in the future I will be more tempted to eat somewhere else aboard
ship on certain nights so that I can eat on my own schedule.

The Restaurants

There are 5 different restaurants and several snack bars aboard the
ship. Over the course of the week we ate at all of them.

Parrot Cay - As you might gather from the name, it has a tropical
theme. The "Island Dinner" we had here on our second night was
excellent - one of my favorites of the week, actually. It would
not have been my first choice for the restaurant we visited for
Semi-Formal night, but it was very nice. This was where our character
breakfast was, and we also had the breakfast buffet one morning -
pretty typical breakfast fare, but it was good.

parrotcay.jpg

Animator's Palate - This is the "special effects" restaurant. For what they
call the "Show Dinner", the decor starts off in black and white,
and as the evening goes one there's more and more color. Lee and
I were both rather underwhelmed - technologically we were expecting
a lot more. But the restaurant is over 10 years old now, and there
have been a lot of advancements in that time. This is one we might
skip in the future.

animator_interior.jpg

Lumiere's - This is really a beautiful restaurant, and I was happy that
it was the one we were assigned to on Formal Night, when we had a lovely
dinner here. Lee and I also had lunch here one day. At lunch the food
was very elegantly presented but the portions were quite small. The
regular Lumiere's dinner menu, which we had on our 4th night, did not
impress me - of all the dinners we had it was my least favorite. Not
that the food was bad, but most of the selections didn't appeal to me.
And the thing that was most disapointing was the dessert menu - how can
you serve a dessert menu in a French-themed restaurant that has nothing
chocolate on it?

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Palo

Palo is NOT on the regular dining rotation - it is fairly small and you
have to make reservations to eat here. There is a $15 additional charge
per person, but other than that it is like the regular dining rooms and you
can order anything off the menu that you want - three appetizers, two
main courses, four desserts, whatever. It's very high-class and
the food and service were excellent. They also serve High Tea and
brunch on certain days - those are extremely popular and difficult to
get into. All available seatings were gone for both of those by the
time I was able to book on-line, and even though we asked to be on the
waiting list we were never called.

palo_interior.jpg

Topsider Buffet

This buffet restaurant is open every day for breakfast, and on most days
for lunch and dinner. We never ate dinner here, but breakfast and lunch
were quite good - there was a nice selection of food. It wasn't fancy
but it was tasty. They had some pretty nice desserts.


Goofy's Galley

We probably ate more meals here (though usually small meals) than at any
other restaurant. It was a small counter service place where you told
the crew member behind the counter what you wanted and he/she plated it
for you. They always had fresh fruit - slices of melons and pineapple,
grapes, and whole apples, oranges, and bananas. In the morning there
were some pastries and yogurt parfaits, as well as boxes of cereal.
The rest of the day they had sandwiches and wraps cut into manageable
slices. Much healthier alternatives, and some very interesting
selections, too - lamb and couscous wraps, turkey and cranberry
sandwiches, tuna wraps, mozzarella and tomato paninis, etc. You
could also get a salad made-to-order - in addition to lettuce they
had diced tomato, chicken, and sliced hard boiled eggs. This was
our favorite snack spot after we returned from an excursion, or
when we needed one of those 5:00 pre-dinner snacks since we could
get something tasty and fairly healthy. It's on deck 9 by one of
the pools, so we often ate up on deck. Or I'd get breakfast there
after working out in the gym and take it back to our stateroom.

goofy_galley.jpg

Pinocchio's Pizza

They always had at least 4 kinds of pizza, and it was pretty good, too.
I enjoyed the Hawaiian pizza several times. The pizzas are only about
9" in diameter so the pieces weren't very large - but that's a good
thing.

Pluto's Dog House

Another counter service place, but with quite a variety - hamburgers,
veggie burgers, fish burgers, hot dogs, chicken strips, chicken
sandwiches and even tacos. Served with french fries which were also
pretty decent. They had a toppings bar that I took advantage of just by
itself - there was lettuce, sliced tomatoes, carrot and celery
sticks, pickles and olives.

Our Dining Room Servers

The servers moved from dining room to dining room with us. Yolande was
our head server, keeping things organized and making sure everything was
ok - she usually came around at least once per meal to talk to us, and
she also pitched in to clear tables or whatever else was required.
Definitely not a stuffy maitre'd type - she seems very nice.

TJ was our server, and responsible for the food. He always asked if
things were ok and we had what we wanted. And if we wanted to change
things up with the menu he was happy to do that - or to make
suggestions. Like the night he suggested that Lee and I try the venison
because it was very good. So he brought us a plate of the venison in
addition to our other main courses and we shared it. And he was right -
it was excellent. And not something we would have gotten otherwise. If
we wanted three desserts, that was no problem. And I think he was more
upset than I was the night at Lumiere's when he couldn't get a double
chocolate cake dessert for me from Parrot Cay. And I know he worked
very hard the night of the Pirate Party to try to make sure that I was
finished in time to go to the deck party. TJ is from France, and took
it with good humor when we teased him about French things, or asked him
to say things in French. He was really a sweetheart.

Meg was our assistant server, and responsible for our drinks and
setting/clearing the table, and, most importantly, offering us fresh
ground pepper. :-) That became a running joke over the week. She
quickly learned what all of us preferred to drink, and it would
magically show up after we were seated. We saw her in restaurants all
over the ship all week - she'd be at breakfast in Topsider, or lunch at
Lumiere's, or even serving cookies on the Galley Tour! She was a
lot of fun to talk to - that dry British humor - or is that humour? ;-).
From talking to Meg we learned quite a bit about life aboard
ship as a crew member. It sounds like a lot of hard work to me,
but Meg was obviously enjoying herself, and is one of those people
who has Disney in her blood. She is hoping to get a transfer to
cruise staff, and I think she'd be really good at it - maybe we'll
see her in that capacity on our Med cruise!

As we changed restaurants/themes each night our servers changed costumes
- one thing I now wish I had done was to take pictures of our servers
in their different costumes. They both looked very elegant in their
classic black tuxedo jackets and bow ties on semi-formal night.

The Entertainment

I guess this needs to be split up between the theater shows and the deck
parties. We never went to any of the movies or any of the night club
shows.

The Disney themed shows - the Golden Mickeys, Twice Charmed, and Disney
Dreams were all excellent. It was interesting to see the same
performers in different roles in different shows. And the staging was
pretty amazing - we kept wondering how they stored all of the sets
and props! It must be quite challenging to perform on a moving stage -
especially when some nights it's moving much more than others. The
other shows featured the on-board cabaret performers - we saw the
"Welcome Aboard" show with the magician and ventriloquist, but that
wasn't really our thing, so we skipped the other two shows that featured
mainly the entertainers. There was also a movie one night, but it was
two hours and we had other things we wanted to do. I would've liked to
have seen Bolt, which they were showing in 3-D, but the times always
conflicted with something else.

The Sailaway party as we left Port Canaveral was fun. Very high energy.
And the Pirate Party was also fun - watching Captain Mickey fly through
the air was great, and it was very cool to see fireworks at sea. Brent,
the cruise director, was up on stage dancing with the other pirate party
cast members, and that was fun to see.

The Personal Navigator

This was the daily schedule - a multiple page "newsletter" that we
received every night with our turndown service that outlined the next
day's activities. So you knew what port we were going to be in, what
restaurants were open and when, what the big theater show was, what
movies were showing, etc. They had activities listed for kids, families,
and adults. It was really informative.

The Spa/Gym

I visited the Spa several times - I had a manicure, a hot stone massage
and a facial. Ahhhhh. All of the services were very nice and I felt
very pampered and relaxed. I think in the past the employees have
pushed the rather expensive Elemis products that they use, but they did
not do that (which I'm sure is a response to guest complaints). They
all opened the door by mentioning that they would answer any questions I
had about products, but when I didn't step through that door, they
didn't pursue it.

The exception was the personal trainer who conducted the Metabolism
Analysis session that we both attended - he was pushing their
"Detoxification" program a bit aggressively. Though when we went back
to see him later in the week for a personal training session he only
barely mentioned it. And the session was very good - even if he did try
to kill us in 20 minutes. :-)

The workout room is quite large, with quite a few treadmills, exercise
bikes, elliptical machines, weight machines, and some empty floor space
that they used for classes or personal training. It's at the front of
the ship on deck 9 and has windows that look out onto the ocean. They
have spinning, pilates, aerobics, yoga and other classes, though we never
had a chance to do any.

Transportation

We used Disney transportation exclusively on this trip. We used
Disney's Magical Express to get from the Orlando airport to Animal
Kingdom Lodge, and then used the Disney buses to get from the Lodge to
the cruise terminal, then from the cruise terminal to the airport. It
was all very easy. Once we checked our bags in San Diego, we really
never handled them again until we got back to San Diego. We put the
luggage tags that Disney provided on the bags, and Magical Express
picked them up at the airport and delivered them to our room at Animal
Kingdom Lodge. We put the luggage tags the cruise line provided on
them, and they picked them up at our Lodge room and delivered them to
our stateroom aboard ship. We put the next set of tags on them the
night before we got off the ship and picked the bags up back at the San
Diego airport. We had to wait several hours after we arrived in Orlando
before our bags showed up in our room, but otherwise things arrived
promptly.

If you've read this far - thank you, and I hope you've found it somewhat
useful and interesting. As you can tell, we are now BIG fans of Disney
cruises. And we're quite jealous of the people who are now on the cruise,
sleeping in OUR stateroom, getting to know OUR servers... :-)

cayman_magic.jpg

We're looking forward to May 2010!

February 5, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - A Question For You

First, I'd just like to say a big thank you to all of you who have written to tell me that you read my Disney Cruise blogs. Thank you - it really means a lot to me to hear that other people enjoyed reading what I wrote.

Kristin sent me this question that I wanted to share with you and find out what you thought. She is considering a Disney cruise with her family and she asked:

"Is it a good value for the money compared to a Disney World vacation?"

Hmmm... I thought that was a very interesting question - not something I'd really thought about that way, since I think they are very different experiences.

So what do the rest of you think? Send me an email, either by using the "Comment" link at the bottom of this blog entry, or send an email to laurag at allears dot net. I'll summarize your answers in a future blog entry.

February 6, 2009

"it's a small world" Returns to Disneyland

The "it's a small world" attraction at Disneyland underwent a long rehab
in 2008 - it closed in January and didn't reopen until November. When it
did reopen, it was in the holiday configuration, so some of the changes
were not yet in place. The most controversial change seemed to be the
proposed addition of Disney characters to the attraction - a lot of Disney
fans were very vocal in their opposition to that idea..

After the holidays, the attraction went into rehab again, the holiday
overlay was removed, and the remaining changes were put into place. Today
the attraction was open to members of the media and to Annual
Passholders (the attraction opens to the public on Friday, February
6.). As a representative of AllEars® I was invited to do a ride-through
of the attraction with Imagineer Kim Irvine, which was quite an
honor!

But before the ride-through with Kim Irvine I was able to ride
twice, and get some idea of what the updated attraction was like.
Up front I have to tell you that I'm not a huge fan of "it's a small
world" - That Song really gets to me, and I can usually only stand
it in it's holiday configuration (though I love the holiday edition!).
So it's probably been almost 10 years since I was in the non-holiday
version.

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I was very impressed with the new attraction. It looks just gorgeous -
lots of vibrant colors, and the lighting is much improved. And the
characters? They aren't in-your-face at all - they have taken
characters who fit into the various scenes (like Cinderella in
France, Mulan in China, Simba in Africa), and given them the same
stylized "small world" look. For the most part, if you didn't know
they were new, you wouldn't know they hadn't been there all along.
I actually had a hard time finding them all, and only found two of
them because other people told me where to look. I think that part
of the fun of the new attraction is going to be trying to find the
characters - I think that's something that will appeal to kids and
adults - I know I had fun with it. It would be nice if Disney would
hand out a list, though.

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The other big change is the addition of the "Spirit of America"
scene. It's a western scene with a farm on one side, and hills
with some cowboys and Native Americans on the other side, Woody and
Jessie from Toy Story make an appearance as well. The scene was
based on original concept art by Mary Blair.

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The soundtrack has been augmented with short snippets of themes from
Disney movies, such as "A Whole New World" from Aladdin. This is very
subtle, and I have to admit that I never could hear them, even though I
knew they were there.

I will have more on the ride-through with Kim Irvine after I have a
chance to listen to my audio recording - with That Song playing at a fairly
high volume it was hard to hear her sometimes. It was interesting to
hear what she has to say.

There are supposed to be 29 characters in the ride - here are the ones
that I found. Let me know if you think I got any wrong.

UK:
Peter Pan and Tinker Bell
Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit

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France:
Cinderella, Jacques, and Gus

Italy:
Pinocchio

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Middle East:
Aladdin, Jasmine, and Abu - and I think the Flying Carpet should count
as a character.

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China:
Mulan, Mushu, and Mushu kite

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Africa:
Simba, Pumbaa and Timon (I really like how they used the same hot pink
and purple color for Pumbaa that they use on the hippo in the same scene.)

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Mexico:
Donald, Panchito and Jose Carioca (Donald is the only member of the Fab
Five to appear)

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Under the Sea:
Ariel and Flounder (Ariel sings That Song as a solo)

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Down Under:
Dory and Nemo

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Hawaii:
Lilo and Stitch

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Spirit of America:
Jessie, Woody and Bullseye

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That's 29...does that mean I got them all? That's not counting the
flying carpet, and I'm not sure if the Mushu kite counts or not.

***Friday morning update:

AllEars reader Carol tells me that I missed Jiminy Cricket, who is in the Italy scene with Pinocchio. We think that he is just barely visible in the upper right hand corner of the Pinocchio photo posted further up. Thanks, Carol!

February 11, 2009

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival 2009

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival 2009, one of my favorite annual events, will be back in 2009 with a longer run and an expanded slate of "Signature" events. This year's Festival is six weeks long, from April 24-June 7, with events held daily. There will be over 600 complimentary demonstrations - everything from cooking demonstrations to wine, beer, and spirit tasting sessions.

There are several new signature events this year that look very interesting to me - starting, not surprisingly, with Sweet Sundays. :-) This appears to be very much like the Epcot Food and Wine Festival event of the same name - a buffet breakfast accompanied by sparkling wine, followed by a cooking demonstration by a noted pastry chef, who prepares three desserts that participants then get to sample for themselves. Details as to location, time, and price are not yet available on Disney's web site, but I'm told they are coming Soon. We will be updating our AllEars page accordingly, so keep an eye HERE, too.

Another new event is called Behind the Scenes With.... There's not a lot of information on this one yet, but it looks to be a more intimate gathering with a celebrity chef or winemaker, where guests will have the opportunity to interact with him/her and ask questions, all while enjoying appetizers and wine. Scheduled to appear are Guy Fieri, Keegan Gerhard, and John Lasseter. I'm especially excited about the John Lasseter event - I had no idea he and his wife owned a winery. These are currently scheduled to be held in the Animation Courtyard (inside the Animation Building) on select Thursday and Sunday evenings.

The theme of this year's event is World Celebration, and the World Celebration Dinners are another new event. Each World Celebration dinner will feature a menu and wines from a single country or region. They will be held on select Wednesday evenings at The Vineyard Room restaurant inside Disney's California Adventure. Again, more details will be forthcoming Soon.

By popular demand, they have added a new Advanced Wine Course class this year. It will also be taught by Michael Jordan, Master Sommelier at the Napa Rose restaurant. This will be a much more intensive experience, and will be taught in a series of three two-hour sessions, held on consecutive days. Students must attend all three days of their session. This one will be held in the Convention Center at the Grand Californian Hotel. There are two sessions: May 5, 6, and 7, and May 12, 13 and 14.

Returning Signature events include the Winemaker Dinners, held on Fridays at Steakhouse 55, the Festival Wine Receptions, the Introduction to Wine Tasting classes, and the Napa Rose Cooking School. In a post from Barry in the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup, he said that he had spoken to Chef Andrew Sutton about the cooking school. When Barry expressed an interest in learning about sauces, Chef Sutton said he was going to incorporate that into the class.

Also returning is the popular Taste event. And apparently its popularity has continued to grow since this year it will be held on two nights - June 5 and June 6. The June 5 night is a bonus for those who have Deluxe Annual passes - since that is not a blockout day they won't be required to purchase a blockout day pass to attend, like they would on June 6. (Southern California and Southern California Select AP holders are still out of luck, though - both days are blocked out for them.)

One area where they are cutting back this year is the food offerings. The Lucky Fortune Cookery is closed for renovation, so they won't have it available as a location for the Festival Marketplace, where they were able to offer appetizer-sized servings of special Festival foods, wines, and beers. Instead, as they did last year, they will be offering special menu items at most of the restaurants around DCA: Taste Pilot's Grill, Farmer's Market, Cocina Cucamonga, Pacific Wharf Cafe, Award Wieners, Pizza Oom Mow Mow and Wine Country Trattoria. If it's like last year these will be full-sized menu items and not appetizer-sized - which makes it hard to try very many of them. There will also be tapas offered at the Lounge at the Golden Vine Winery, so perhaps they will expand the selection there.

Registration for the Signature Events opens on the Food and Wine web site, http://www.disneyland.com/foodandwine, at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, February 24. Additional information as to locations, prices, and times should be available there soon, if it isn't already.

Hope to see you at the Festival!

February 13, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - The Food - Part 1

It occurred to me that one thing I didn't really talk about in my "Conclusions" blog was the food. I wrote about it in the "live" blog as I had time, but there were meals (and lots of photos!) that I had to skip because of time.

So I'm going to put that in a couple of blog entries - I had planned to only do one but it was just too long. Read no further if you want to be spared the details and the photos of a whole lot of wonderful food! :-)

Animator's Palate

We had dinner here our first night. For appetizer I had the Roma Tomato and Portabello Mushrooms on Polenta Cake, which was excellent.

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Lee had the Wild Mushrooms Risotto and Porcini Wafer.

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Next we both had the Smoked Salmon and Trout with Goat Cheese Salad. They could have been a lot more generous with the goat cheese, though. And there was almost no dressing on it. Now, I don't like a lot of dressing, but this was really dry.

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For entrees I had the Grilled Salmon with Creamy Risotto and a Barolo Wine Sauce, and that was very good.

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Lee had the Grilled Fillet Mignon, Seared Scallops with Port Wine Demi Glace. He said the scallops were good but small, and the steak was good.

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Dessert was the Double-Fudge Chocolate Cake for me (I'm sure that's no surprise to anyone) and the Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pie for Lee. The cake was good -- one of the better chocolate desserts I'd had from Disney in quite a while.

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Parrot Cay

I did have time to cover our second night's dinner at Parrot Cay, so you can find that here:

Key West and Parrot Cay Dinner

Lumiere's - Lunch

On our first At Sea day, we had lunch at Lumiere's. It was actually our first time in the restaurant - we hadn't had dinner there yet. It's so beautiful inside - it's a a Beauty and the Beast theme, and I really loved the lights with the red rose suspended from them.

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The food was presented just beautifully here - I was very impressed. This was one of the appetizers that we shared - the Shrimp Cocktail in a potato basket. It had one jumbo shrimp and some little shrimp, which wasn't really what I was expecting, but it was really pretty, and tasty. Small, though - we should have each ordered one. (And our server had recommended that we do that.)

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We also shared the Barley and Potato soup. Neither of us detected any barley in it, but it was still good.

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I had the Salad Nicoise - lettuce with chunks of tuna, red onions, tomatoes, green beans, anchovies, and olives. It was supposed to have diced potatoes, but there weren't any. But it had some slices of hard-boiled egg, which weren't mentioned on the menu. So it was not quite as advertised (I would have liked more green beans, too), but I still enjoyed it.

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Lee had the Teriyaki Glazed Filet of Cod, served with white rice, steamed bok choy and teriyaki sauce. This was another beautiful dish. The teriyaki sauce had too much ginger in it for my taste, but Lee liked it - though the bok choy didn't do much for him.

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Lumiere's - The Golden Mickeys

That same night we had dinner at Lumiere's. It was Formal Night, when the ship-wide menu was The Golden Mickeys.

As an appetizer, I ordered the Spiced Asparagus and Citrus Delight - asparagus spears with segments of orange and grapefruit with almonds and vinaigrette.

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Lee had the Double Baked Aged Reggiano Parmesan Cheese Souffle. Wow, that's a mouthful. A tasty mouthful, he said. :-)

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For the soup/salad course we both had the Scottish Smoked Salmon and Pear Salad, It was served with a creamy horseradish dressing (which was not too horseradish hot at all).

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As an entree Lee and I had the Rack of New Zealand Lamb with a Dijon-Mustard Crust. It came with gratin potato cakes and Mediterranean vegetables. This was perhaps the most disappointing main course I had all week - the lamb was cooked a little too rare for me, and it was pretty tough, too. There wasn't much meat to it, either.

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Other entrees that our tablemates had:

Jumbo Shrimp and Porcini Mushroom Tagliatelle:

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Oven-Roasted Duckling with a Dark Cherry Glaze, with potato and cauliflower puree and vegetables:

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Roasted Fillet of Beef Wellington - covered with Mushroom Stuffing wrapped in Puff Pastry, served with Fingerling Potatoes, Baby Vegetables, and a Cabernet Black Truffle Jus.

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One thing that I hadn't realized until I edited the photos is that the plates they used for the entrees have the Disney Cruise Line logo along the rim! (You can see it on the photo of the lamb dish.)

For dessert Lee and I had The Golden Chocolate, Chocolate Award. It was multiple layers of chocolate - chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate meringue and chocolate. I like the chocolate Golden Mickeys ticket. And it was made of good chocolate, too! I've experimented a little bit myself with the chocolate transfers that they use to do that kind of thing, so I was very intrigued by the tickets and trying to figure out how they made them in that shape. A custom mold, I'm sure.

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Our tablemates also tried:

Ricotta Creme Brulee - on a bed of honey raspberries:

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Baked Apple and Blueberry Pithiviers. Pith-what???? It looked like a streudel, and was described as apple and blueberry with almond cream in a puff pastry.

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In Part 2 I'll be talking about another dinner at Lumiere's, Pirate Night and the Captain's Gala.

February 15, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - The Food - Part 2

In Part 1 I talked about, and showed pictures of, the meals we had the first three days aboard - this will cover the rest of the trip.

Lumiere's

Our dining rotation had us eating dinner at Lumiere's two nights in a row - Golden Mickeys the first night, and their "regular" menu - which Disney describes as "Continental cuisine with a French flair."

Unfortunately, it was my least favorite of any of the menus we had all week.
None of the appetizers appealed to me (escargot??? Ewww!), so I had the tomato and basil soup from the soup and salad portion of the menu instead. That was really good, though.

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Lee had the Ratatouille with Piperade Vinaigrette, which sounded ok to me except that it was served cold. So it was almost more like a thick salsa.

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Three of our tablemates decided to try the escargot - it was served "Gratinated in Herb and Garlic Butter". No one said that it tasted like chicken. :-)

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Lee and I both had the Normandy Salad, which had lettuce, diced papaya, hearts of palm and red cabbage. The mixed garden salad came with goat cheese croutons and I asked to have those on the Normandy Salad - they were really good.

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None of the main courses appealed to me - a little too heavy on the scallops, mushrooms and/or sauces, so I ordered the Oven Roasted Chicken from the "Lighter" menu, which came with garden vegetables and baked potato. Not exciting at all, but it was just fine - I actually really enjoyed just the plain steamed vegetables and baked potato after all the richer foods I'd been eating.

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Lee had the Beef Tenderloin Provence, Burgundy Wine Sauce. He said it was a little bit tough. It came with something that looked like large thick-cut French fries, but actually turned out to be fried parsnips. They had a very different flavor, but I thought they were really good.

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Jan ordered the Coquelles St. Jacques which were scallops, though it looked like a potatoes au gratin dish.

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Dessert, though, was where Lumiere's REALLY disappointed me. At a French restaurant I was expecting an outstanding chocolate dessert. And there was NOTHING chocolate on the dessert menu except a no sugar added chocolate cheesecake.

Lee had Creme Brulee - a classic French dessert, and he enjoyed that.

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Paula had the Montelimar Nougat and Pistachio Cream Sauce. (It had a chocolate shell on it, but that doesn't really count as a chocolate dessert.)

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Our server brought out a plate of the Crepes Suzette for all of us to try - too much
orange/Grand Marnier for me, though.

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Animator's Palate - Pirates IN the Caribbean Dinner

This was another menu that was served ship-wide that night - we happened to be in Animator's Palate for this one.

We really rushed this dinner - our seating didn't start until 8:30 and the on-deck Pirates in the Caribbean Party started at 9:45. And our servers had a pirate show of their own to do in the dining room at 9:45, so they were really hopping to try to keep up with everything. I don't think it's fair to the people with the last dinner seating to start the deck party that early - it makes it really difficult for us to participate.

Dinner was pretty good, though I skipped a course thinking maybe I'd get out of dinner earlier - but it didn't work that way.

As an appetizer I had the Pirate's Golden Pasta Envelopes - filled with cheese and I think they were deep fried. Ravioli by any other name, but they were tasty.

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Lee had Black Beard's Jumbo Crab Cake. Several people had our table ordered the same and said it was excellent - lots of crab.

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I think Paula had the Buccaneer's Sun Ripened Pineapple - Fresh island pineapple with a Coconut covered banana and orange glaze. This was very pretty!

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My entree was Captain Hook's Macadamia Dusted Mahi Mahi - with crushed onion potatoes, sweet carrots, roasted broccoli on mild red curry sauce. I enjoyed this very much - I think it was the best fish dish I had all week.

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Lee went for The Black Pearl's Oven-Roasted Beef Tenderloin - with sour sream chive smashed potatoes, sugar-baked carrots with a deep red wine glaze. It was good but not outstanding.

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For dessert I'd really been looking forward to the Walk the Triple Layered Chocolate Gangplank Cake. It sounded a lot better than it was, unfortunately. Nothing wrong with it, it just didn't measure up to the other really good chocolate desserts I'd had.

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After the fireworks we checked out the desserts on the dessert buffet - those were ok, but nothing that was outstanding.

Parrot Cay - The Captain's Gala

We were back in Parrot Cay for semi-formal night - The Captain's Gala. Our tablemates were all eating dinner at Palo that night, so it was just Lee and me at a table for 8. :-)

And we both ordered the same first two courses. The appetizer was Garlic and Herb Sauteed Shrimp - on saffron rice drizzled with pink grapefruit vinaigrette. This was good - I could have eaten a lot more of it.

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The salad wasn't quite as inventive as most of them were - it was just a garden salad with balsamic dressing, though it had some sun-dried tomato chips to brighten it up.

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The most popular item on the Main Course menu that night was the lobster, but neither of us cares for lobster. So I had the Fettuccine with Parmesan Crusted Chicken. Compared to the other main courses I'd had during the week this was huge - mainly because there was so much pasta. There's no way I could eat it all - and I would have liked some additional vegetables with it.

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Lee had the Veal Roasted with Shallots, Fennel and Vin Santo - on chive mashed potatoes, sauteed spinach and pine nuts. He said that was pretty good.

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But the winner of the evening was the Grilled Venison Medallions in Stilton and Red Currant Jus - with Roasted-turned Potatoes and Sauteed Baby Cabbage. When Lee said he was torn between the veal and the venison, our server said the venison was really excellent, and he'd bring it out so we could both try it. So we received three entrees instead of two - TJ put the plate of venison between us so we could easily share it. It really was very good.

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And then we come to dessert...ahhhh. This was my favorite of the whole week. (Even better than the chocolate souffle at Palo.) They served Warm Chocolate Lava Cake - with ice cream and a double chocolate sauce. TJ very carefully put the scoop of ice cream on top after he'd served the cake, just so we could watch the melting ice cream flow down the sides like melting snow. It was really, really good. Plenty of warm liquid chocolate on the inside. Timing is everything with a good chocolate lava cake and I wasn't sure they could do a dessert like that on such a large scale, with hundreds of people ordering it pretty much at the same time, but they did an amazing job. Lee had it too, and so did Kathy, one of our tablemates - she and Joe came by after their dinner at Palo. She'd already had the chocolate souffle, but she topped it off with the lava cake. :-)

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Our final night dinner was at Palo, and I covered that one pretty well in my blog entry, which you can read here:

Castaway Cay and Dinner at Palo

So that brings to the end of a week of fine dining.

Over the course of the week I thought the food was very good - there were a lot more hits than misses. It was really only the one night at Lumiere's that disappointed me. There were several things I wish I'd taken the opportunity to try (but NOT the escargot!!!). I think dinner on our second night, at Parrot Cay, was my favorite menu, though if I were choosing best appetizer, soup/salad, main course, and dessert of the week they would be from all over the menus! :-)

I can't wait to see what they come up with for dinners on the Mediterranean cruise next year!

February 20, 2009

"it's a small world" - Ride-through with Imagineer Kim Irvine

The day before "it's a small world" reopened at Disneyland, I had the opportunity to go on a ride-through of the attraction with Imagineer Kim Irvine, art director for the "small world" project. What follows is a transcript of Ms. Irvine's comments while we were going through the attraction.

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(Ms. Irvine was asked what changes were made.)

Kim Irvine: "A big part of it is the lighting, our WDI lighting designer worked really hard to come in and enhance the sets with colors that actually boost the color instead of putting it...You know there's a tendency if you're a painter to try to put complementary colors but it usually turns things brown. You push the colors with these wonderful hues that accent what was there - it makes a huge difference. When you turn the show lights off, and go into work light, it's 'Oh, what happened', you know it just looks so much better.

"Have you noticed how bright and fresh it looks as well? The team did a great job of doing an overall lighting, repainting and reglittering."

(On deciding which Disney characters to use and where.)

KI: "Well, we looked at the ones that were done for Hong Kong and then we pared them to the ones we felt comfortable in the existing scenes because we did not want to change. So England was perfect for Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Cinderella fit perfectly in France. So there's stories that were written in all of these different countries - Pinocchio in Italy - they just fit. That's how we picked.

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"With the Disney dolls and with America, it was so easy to seamlessly blend that in with the existing ride since it is about all the different lands, and all of those stories come to us from all of those different countries. And you know [someone] used to tell me research is 90% of your job. Looking back into Mary's files -- everytime we've done anything in here we've looked closely at all of her original concept art. That was actually done collage-style, torn tissue, they're just beautiful, you know how bright her color choices are. She had done a lot of illustrations for Cinderella, for Peter Pan, for Alice in Wonderland, so it was easy to see how her style would lend itself to doing the Disney characters."

"I refer back to Marty's original guide of small world, it has a lot of really great pictures in it that are historic. And also, we have a thing called image browser, we can look at pictures that have been taken through the years of an attraction to see if anything is missing."

"We ourselves feel very responsible for making sure that we do things carefully, in reverence to the original attraction. In anything we do down here at Disneyland being the on-site WDI Team, the charge is kind of to keep things relevant and keep improving the park and especially when we have these really long rehabs, trying to come back with something new. John [something] was my mentor and he impressed on me constantly, you gotta keep refreshing things - put new color schemes on Main Street, add things to the attractions - that's what the park is all about."

"That doesn't mean change the story. But that's what we have to do is make sure that we're sticking to the story, we understand exactly what the original intent was, when we add something it needs to seamlessly fit in like we tried to do here. And I do understand when fans are concerned because like I said, if I just heard the basics of what was happening I'd be concerned too."

"Can you hear the little musical threads? Some people hear them and some people don't. It's like a hearing test. It was meant to be subtle."

(While passing through the China scene.)

KI: "By the way, there's a recording there of Chinese instruments that was done for Hong Kong - it doesn't have anything to do with Mulan, but we were able to insert it in here because it's so beautiful. Next time you go by it has all the Chinese instruments that we never had before."

(Asked about the appearance of the Disney characters and what influenced the design decisions.)

KI: "Tony and I looking at them and trying to decide what needed to happen so that people would recognize it as the character and how well did that fit in with the Mary Blair style. So Flounder happened to look perfect in that mermaid scene with all of the other fish - his styling fit perfectly."

(Asked about Donald being the only member of the Fab 5 that's in the attraction.)

KI: Yes, that's the Three Caballeros - it was a perfect story for South America.

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(Regarding the new "Spirit of America" scene.)

KI: "Tony found an original piece of art that Mary did, a scene of America, the American west with kind of a Sedona hills behind it, all torn tissue paper, cowboys and Indians in it. She had always intended to have it in there - we're the only [small world] attraction that doesn't have an American representation - there's one in the other theme parks. And she has the cowboy and Indian in the finale - it's meant to be the coming together of all of the countries in that one space, so to me that's further indication she would have been happy with having them there."

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"The farmland, the America scene in other parks, is pretty large, especially Paris. So we took the pieces that we thought would fit in this room the best and would represent America the way other countries see us. And they are such happy scenes - I think it's how a child would depict America, cowboys and Indians and farmland."

"I love how Mary put a different kind of sun or moon in almost every room - that's why we added one to America, too - that little half sun, half moon."

(Re: changes in the "Goodbye Room".)

KI: "You know, it was originally all white and silver and gold with colored light and those days it was those aluminum Christmas tree lighters it was just a rotating color gel, so with today's technology we were able to put in this amazing light changers, with that dazzling finale like Fred Astaire would be dancing around in his white suit."

"The lavender blue color scheme I worked on that, too, so I feel responsible for that. Right after we opened Walt Disney World and they did their finale in lavender blue and it was pretty, but it doesn't have the same kind of finale effect that this does."

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[Something about adding back the sun] "...he'd been gone for a long time. At the [World's] Fair they had a big banner that said 'Come Again"' so we thought the [Farewell] banner was a great way to end that room rather than just a square hole."

(Asked if she is pleased with the results.)

KI: "Yes. I think it turned out beautifully with as many people and hands that have to work on these things, trying to keep the vision in every discipline's head of what it is that we're trying to work from. I think that's why the tools we use -- being a model, a completely painted model, doing color boards...You know there's a lot of different facets to this design but it really helps communicate to everyone that's going to work on it what the end product wants to look like. Mary's style particularly being so child-like it's almost like you have to paint with your left hand to make it look like her style. Real trained artists have difficulty doing that so they really had to work hard at it."

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Thank you to Ms. Irvine for taking the time to ride the attraction and discuss it with us - it was an honor and a wonderful experience!

February 23, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - Is it a Good Value?

Several weeks ago I received an email from Kristin about Disney Cruises, and she asked: "Is it a good value for the money compared to a Disney World vacation?"

In a blog entry I asked you to tell me what you thought, and I'd like to share some of those responses with you now. Thank you to all of you who responded!

Karen N wrote : I think that there are several factors to consider:

1) Entertainment. If you love thrilling rides and being on the "go" the whole time, WDW is probably a better value. If you prefer a combination of relaxing time and adventures, cruising is the better options because you have the "at sea" days, relaxing time on deck, Disney activities, shore excursions, and Castaway Cay.

2) Lodging--What level of room do you stay at WDW? Do you do deluxe resorts or value?

3) Meals--All meals are included on ship whereas at WDW, you are paying separately even if it is on the meal plan.

4) Finances--To determine whether the cruises are a good value when compared to WDW you really have to look at what you are getting and what you are paying. When going to WDW, my family stays at our DVC resort, we do the dining plan, pay for our passes, and inevitably buy lots of souvenirs. On the cruise ships, we usually stay in a category 10 room (which may be considered inferior to our DVC accomodations) but our food is included, the entertainment (other than shore excursions) is included and it gives us a good mix of relaxing and activity. Dollar for dollar I think the cost is probably comparable except that the cruises give you a more diverse experience while the park gives you a more action-packed experience. I guess it depends on what you want.

Dale said: In reference to the question about swapping out Disney World with a cruise, I would recommend that the person try either the three or four night cruise and still go to Disney World after the cruise. That way they can decide if a longer cruise is right for them. That is what we did, and after two of the four night cruises we decided that it is just too short of a time to be on the ship. :-)

Masayo wrote: I think it's quite different from WDW vacation. It's Disney yes, but still very different. DCL is a bit pricier than WDW cause most meals are inclusive. I think that makes me feel safe to try what I want to eat without hesitation. I'm so spoiled when I'm on the ship I think. To me, no need to use transportation to come/go to the room and no wait (most of the time, just a short wait for elevator or take stairs, right?), that's quite convenient and energy saving.

Vic's thoughts: Hi, The comment on taking a Disney Cruise versus going to The World depends on many things. Has the family ever vacationed at the World or taken a cruise before? Our family has taken 4 Disney Cruises. I agree with Laura, the experience is totally different. The World is a fantastic place to vacation, either with or without children. We have been there every month of the year and seem to be able to find the new experience that we missed every time we go.

A Disney Cruise is also fantastic either with or without children. Without children, there are many things to do on the ship, and the ports can be interesting if you plan. With children, I'm sure the ports won't have as much to offer, but there are many activities on the ship, including clubs where Disney cast members tend to your children and parents can go ashore (parents are given a pager).

In conclusion, The World is Disney to the maximum, in every aspect for both young and old. A Disney Cruise is Extremely Wonderful. (It will spoil you, you won't want to cruise anywhere else.) Families with or without children, Young Adults, and Older Adults, will have the time of their lives !!!!!

Kevin B wrote: Yes. It's an all-inclusive vacation. All food, entertainment, and lodging are included. When I priced a Disneyland vacation versus a Disney Cruise Line vacation it was significantly easier to do the cruise. It's also much more relaxing. Theme parks are overwhelming for children. Excursions, photographs, gratuities, and alcoholic drinks are the common expenses incurred beyond the basic cruise price. Remember to consider inside staterooms, especially for your first cruise. I guarantee with all of the activities to do, you will only sleep and shower in your room.

Lori E commented: Personally, I don't think you can compare a DCL vacation to a WDW vacation. They are very different experiences, however, each one on its own can be a great value. The thing that really struck me as I read all of your entries is how well Disney "fits" with so many different people. You and Lee did things that we might not choose to do and some of our interests are probably very different from yours. The bottom line though is that we all can have our dream vacation on land or at sea with Disney!

Donna B says: I have been on 7 cruises including Disney and can say that cruising is the best travel deal out there! When you figure the cost of transportation, hotel, food, and entertainment, you can't beat a cruise. And it is great after a day of sight seeing to know where I am going to eat and sleep.

Laura C writes: All cruises are a good value for the money, but the bonus of being surrounded by Disney is a plus. The attention to detail on a Disney ship is nothing short of Disney magic. I think it depends on your family and the kind of vacation you are looking for. My family of 6 have been on several Disney cruises and frequent the Disney parks, we love both. But when I ask my children which they prefer, they always answer "the Disney parks". There is nothing that compares to going on the rides at your favorite disney park.

Lissa F shared the following: I think that a Disney cruise is just as cost effective as a stay at WDW. All of the food is included, which is great, and not just "getting you by" food. It's all-you-can-eat food. If your little one is hungry while playing at the pool, just go to Goofy's Galley! The shows are awesome! There is almost an entire deck devoted to kids' activities, child care is available, and there are adult-only areas. And many people think that a cruise is more enjoyable than a stay at the parks because there isn't that "we have to do everything, ride every ride, mentality"....a cruise is more laid back.

Jeff H wrote: We were just on the Disney Magic, Eastern Caribbean in mid-January. I would say it IS "a good value for the money compared to a Disney World vacation". Since the meals are included, this can save a lot of money. Also, since you can know the total price up front, it can help with the budget. Of course, this conveniently overlooks the bar bill and souvenirs! I would be equally as happy with the Cruise as with a vacation at Disney World, and I think I get equivalent value on either.


So there you have it! Kristin, I hope that helps you, and others, in deciding if a Disney Cruise is right for you. For the record, I did not receive any kind of response from anyone who expressed dissatisfaction with a Disney Cruise - except perhaps for it not being long enough. :-)

February 27, 2009

Update: Disney's California Food and Wine Festival

Registration for the "Signature Events" of this year's Disney's California Food and Wine Festival is now open on Disney's web site: http://www.disneyland.com/foodandwine.

We have all of the updated information on All Ears HERE

They were pretty late in getting all of the event information out this year - prices didn't go up until Monday, and registration opened on Tuesday!

One thing they've done this year that I really like: Theme park admission is no longer required for certain events, such as Taste, the World Celebration dinners and the "Behind the Scenes with..." events. I know that in past years the theme park admission requirement is one thing that has prevented us from inviting friends/family to join us at Taste - pay $125 for the event, PLUS then pay $60 for admission to the park - when you're not even going to the park??? That's pretty cost prohibitive! So hooray for that.

Of course, the waiving of park admission comes with a price - a price increase. Taste is $150 this year, up $25 from last year. But for those who had to purchase park admission, including many Annual Passholders who had to pay $40 for a blockout day ticket, I guess it's actually a decrease in price. :-)

I have to say the one that really shocked me was the $185 price tag on the "Behind the Scenes with..." events. I had been planning to sign up for the John Lasseter event, but $185 for wine and appetizers is too rich for my blood. So we'll be passing on that one.

We do plan to attend one of the Winemaker dinners (up $10, to $135), and one of the Sweet Sundays events ($65), and I want to make it to one of the World Celebration dinners ($135), but their mid-week schedule makes it more difficult since I don't live in the L.A./Orange County area.

Another new pricing wrinkle this year - in the past the event price has included tax and gratuity - this year it's just gratuity, so tack another 8% or so onto the price, which of course makes the price increases that much more.

The events look great, but with those prices in this economy I have to wonder how well they are going to do in filling them this year.

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About February 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in February 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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