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January 3, 2011

Disneyland: Rainy Day Tips

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As a lot of you know, we have been having an unusually wet fall and winter here in southern California. (In fact, it is raining AGAIN as I write this.) So that means lots of rainy days at Disneyland (it even rained on Christmas night!!!).

The bad thing about rainy days is that some outdoor attractions are closed, like the Tea Cups and Alice in Wonderland, and unfortunately the parades and Fantasmic! (and even the fireworks) are usually canceled for safety reasons.

But the good thing about rainy days is that they can be terrific days to be at Disneyland because the rain keeps a lot of the locals away (it's No Fun driving on the freeways, and besides, we might melt if we get wet!), so the lines are usually quite short.

For those of you who have been to Disneyland or Disney California Adventure on a rainy day, what are your favorite tips on how to beat the rain, or your favorite things to do on a rainy day?

My #1 piece of advice: keep your feet dry - or as dry as you can. I can deal with the rest of me being wet, but if my feet are soaked I'm miserable. So bring an extra pair of socks if it's going to be a rainy day.

My #2 piece of advice: Umbrellas work better than ponchos. Or at least they do for me. I find them much easier to handle and use than ponchos.

That's my $0.02 - what's yours?


January 7, 2011

A Pilgrimage to Pixar

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On November 6th, the Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco held its Seventh Annual Cartoon Art Museum Benefit at the Pixar Animation Studios. Since I'd always wanted to take a look at that bastion of animation excellence, I made the 6 hour drive up to the Bay Area to attend.

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It's a pretty boring drive.

There were two price tiers to the event--one was from 1pm-4pm and allowed guests to tour the facility, have snacks, meet assorted animators, see screenings of the Pixar shorts, and participate in learn-to-draw classes. A considerably more expensive tier went from 11am-4pm, and included all of the above in addition to lunch, shopping at the Pixar company store, and a screening of Toy Story 3 in the Pixar Theater.

As I drove over from the hotel that morning, I stopped to take a look at the main entrance gate to see how it compared with the Hollywood Studios replica. Sadly, it was under construction, so probably not a fair comparison.

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In front of the building, there's a huge representation of Luxo Jr., and his ubiquitous ball.

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Entering the building, there is a large glassed-in central atrium, around which are situated the cafe, the store, the theater, various offices and meeting rooms, and a few recreational areas.

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As anyone who's ever been to any event similar to this knows, the first concern is to line up for the shopping. There are few things a Disney fan enjoys more than purchasing memorabilia, and one of those things is purchasing memorabilia not generally available. Unfortunately, the store was about the same size as a room at Pop Century, so people had to line up until enough people cleared out to admit more, and then navigate another line to check out.

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One of the other fundraisers for the Cartoon Museum was an auction of art from various Pixar animators. They were as fabulously cute as you might imagine, and ended up commanding prices to match.

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I think the idea behind all the recreational areas opening out into the central area is to encourage all the artists to constantly meet and interact with each other, and decrease the likelihood of people working in isolation.

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I don't know where you work, but if this doesn't look like more fun than your workplace, you're better off than I am.

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Around this time, they began setting out lunch, which largely consisted of a fair selection of sandwiches and salads.

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After I got my food and sat down, I noticed a small line of people gathering around one guy in a hat -- it was Toy Story 3 Director Lee Unkrich!

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So I abandoned my food and pretty much all my possessions and ran over to get some stuff signed by him. Fortunately, it must have been a fairly honest group of people visiting Pixar that day, because all my bags were still there when I got back.

After lunch, it was time for the Toy Story 3 screening, introduced by Unkrich. The theater was itself pretty cool, as stars shine from the ceiling once the lights come down, some of which are shooting stars.

Later, we had a couple hours left to attend Learn to Draw classes, taught by actual animators, wander around the lobby and upstairs encircling hallways, or hound other animators for autographs and sketches. While they were also offering a showing of their short films in a different theater, I opted to spend the time looking around since I had already seen them on DVD.

The lobby is decorated with large figurines (really, really big figs) of various characters.

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On the walls hang large representations of more of their fantastic art.

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In a prominent location near the front of the lobby is a large case holding all the many awards they've won throughout the years.

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At the end of the day, they finished up the art auction, and a lot of money was raised for the Cartoon Museum. My personal favorite offered up for sale was this almost painfully cute one by Pete Doctor.

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Alas, not having the extra thousands of dollars it went for as disposable income, I've had to settle for having a photo of it, instead of the real thing.

Ultimately they did shoo us out of the building sometime after 4pm, but it was a great day filled with activity. For anyone interested in checking out the Pixar compound, I highly recommend keeping an eye open for the Museum's next benefit there, at their webpage http://cartoonart.org/.

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January 8, 2011

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend - Day 1

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We're back at Walt Disney World (yes, less than a month after our last trip) for Marathon weekend. As I mentioned several months ago, Lee and I are planning to run the Goofy Race-and-a-Half Challenge this weekend. That means that we run the half marathon on Saturday (which is today for many of you reading this) and the full marathon on Sunday. Something that you have to be, well, Goofy, to do. I think there are about 3000 of us entered in both races this year.

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To prepare for this we trained for the last six months with a group in San Diego called the West Coast Roadrunners. We've trained with them before when we ran our first WDW Marathon - it's really a fun group of people and they have years of running experience. So there's lots of support and training tips and coaching available. Those long training runs are a lot easier to do when you're running with a group. Some of the coaches and group members had run Goofy before, so we picked their brains about strategy and training. Since we are only trying to "finish in a vertical position" and are not trying for any personal bests, our strategy is to take it easy during the half marathon - stop for pictures, do some walking, don't push the pace when running - and then just try to do as normal a "long run" as we can on Sunday. If we have to walk a lot, so be it - we have 7 hours to finish, and even if we didn't run at all we could do that.

We've been doing the walk/run thing (as recommended by Jeff Galloway, Disney's running consultant) for the long runs, with a 4-minute run/1-minute walk interval. I think it's really helped me a lot. Though you don't always realize it, you use different muscles when running than when walking. So that walking break allows my running muscles to rest and recover a little bit, and I'm not quite so tired at the end of a long run. We plan to do that for both races this weekend, though it's really hard to slow down to a walk during the first few miles when the legs are still fresh! But you have to do it from the start for it to be effective.

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As for what else has been going on...After we arrived last night we went to Epcot and had dinner at the Tangierine Cafe - that's one of our favorites, but we didn't have a chance to eat there last month - partly because the seating area is like a breezeway and it gets really cold - and it was cold enough last month without eating in a wind tunnel. Anyway, after dinner we walked about World Showcase lagoon, getting some hot spiced wined and some caramel corn in Germany, and then we watched Illuminations. The globe was seriously misbehaving last night - first it didn't turn on, and then it wasn't spinning, and then it kept going off and on. The middle of the show is pretty boring if there's no globe! At the end it didn't open up which worried us - but someone must have hit the "emergency abort" so that the fireworks inside it didn't go off. It made the finale not quite so effective though. Hope they get that fixed soon!

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This morning we took the bus over to the Expo, though first we met up with some of our Team AllEars teammates. It was nice to put some faces to some names!

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The packet pickup was pretty uneventful - as "Goofy" runners we had our own pickup area and there really weren't any lines.

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Down in the merchandise area there were more people and the checkout line had a lot of people in it, but they kept it moving quickly. There was a much better selection of merchandise than I remember from past races.

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The Expo was in a separate building, and it was a lot more congested than it was when we ran the marathon 5 years ago. That's where we picked up our "Goody Bags" which had our shirts in them. As "Goofy" runners we got *three* shirts - the regular half marathon and marathon shirts AND a special Goofy shirt.

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We did a little shopping and bought a few things that we will use both this weekend and in the future.

Geico is one of the race sponsors - and the Geico gecko was there. :-)

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HP had a booth and would give you a photo for free, so we did that. We really weren't at the Magic Kingdom. :-)

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As we were leaving they had this banner overhead:

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Taking the bus to the Expo was really a good thing - the traffic getting in there was pretty bad, so it was a lot easier to take the bus. The bus was serving all of the Epcot Resort hotels, so we got off at the Dolphin and had lunch at Picabu. Lee had a dinner with lasagna, mac and cheese, and creamed spinach (getting started on that carb-loading!).

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I had a bowl of chicken and pasta soup - it was very good. We like Picabu - it's close to the Boardwalk AND we get a 20% discount by showing our DVC member card.

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We had a short break back in our room before the AllEars meet at the Belle Vue Room this afternoon. I don't know how many people were there, but it was quite a turnout. Lots of the Team AllEars members. And it was wonderful to see old friends like Gail and Julian Robinson (from the old RADP days!).

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And we met some other RADP people, too - Linda McCollough introduced herself, and we'd met Ed Russell back in December. (Ed ran the 5K this morning, just six months after open heart surgery, and got his first Disney bling! Woo hoo Ed!)

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Team AllCheers is going to be out in force cheering us on this weekend (which really means a LOT, especially late in a race), and they even got custom cowbells for it! I love these.

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Our plan for tonight is go go have dinner at Seasons in Epcot (yeah, probably more walking than we should be doing, but at least we haven't been in parks all day like some of our Team AllEars teammates have!), and then get as much stuff ready and laid out tonight as we can.

And then comes the really hard part - trying to sleep. Complete with pre-race jitters (this will be my 11th half marathon, but I still get nervous before a race), and knowing that the alarm is going to go off insanely early (like 2:45 or so). The buses start running at 3:00, and our goal is to catch a bus by 3:15 or so, so that we have time to get to Epcot and enjoy the Race Retreat (that's a special tent that's heated, with chairs and refreshments and its own porta-potties - we paid extra for it, but I think it'll be worth it!) before we have to walk to our starting corral.

The weather looks like it'll be really good - no rain, some sun, and temps in the 50s. That may sound chilly, but it'll be pretty nice for running.

Hopefully as you are reading this, especially if you're on the west coast, we are already done with the half marathon, since we should be finished by 9:00. I'll post an update to this blog right here once we're back at our room.

And we're done! It went really well - I finished in 2:35:49 and Lee finished at 2:35:47 - not sure where he picked up two seconds on me, though. :-) We feel good.

Now, please think good thoughts for us for Sunday's marathon!


January 9, 2011

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend - Half Marathon Day

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Saturday was half marathon day! In case you didn't read the update I made in yesterday's blog, we finished in 2:35:49. Which was faster than we anticipated, and we felt good afterwards.

One thing we don't like about Disney races...they start so darn early. The alarm and the wakeup call came almost simultaneously at 2:45 a.m. Neither of us slept well - between jet lag and nerves we only slept for about an hour and a half. Still, we woke up pretty well.

We'd gotten just about everything ready the night before, and had set aside the clothes we were wearing, so it didn't take us long to get ready and we were out the door a little after 3:00. There are special buses at each resort to transport all of us to the race, and one was already there and mostly full - in fact it started to pull away before we were seated!

As if running 13.1 miles isn't enough, there are also several lengthy walks to get us from place to place - first was the walk from the bus drop-off over to the race staging area. The weather was actually pretty nice - not very chilly at all - it was about 53 when the race started.

We had paid for the Race Retreat, so we headed there. This is a big (heated) tent with lots of tables and chairs. They serve refreshments - there was plenty of bottled water and PowerAde, as well as coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. They also had bagels, muffins, cream cheese, bananas and oranges, peanut butter, and jam. It also has its own baggage check area, and its own men's/women's porta-potties and changing rooms. Really nice not to fight the crowds for those.

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We hadn't taken the time to eat in our room because we knew we could get something at the Race Retreat. It worked out well - it gave us a little more time to relax in the retreat. We found a whole table of Team AllEars folks and enjoyed chatting with them.

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They also had characters in the Race Retreat - it was cool to get my photo taken with Buzz, Woody, Jessie and Bullseye all at once!

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At about 4:15 we headed out to meet more of Team AllEars and pose for a group photo, and then began the walk to the Start Corrals. I say "walk", but it was really barely a shuffle. There were about 27,000 runners, and it takes a looong time to move that many people, especially since a lot of it was on a narrow road backstage. We eventually made it, though, and took our position in Corral D.

They started the race in waves, 6 minutes apart. That did help to ease the congestion a little in the early going. And each wave got their own send-off with fireworks, flames, and characters. Of course it also meant that we were already over 18 minutes behind the leaders by the time we crossed the start line.

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Sunrise wasn't until 7:20, so it was still very dark in the early going. Deb Wills was cheering for us (where did she get all that enthusiasm so early in the day?) just after mile 1.

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I said the congestion was a little better - that was true, until we got to the one lane roads, and then it was pretty slow-going. That was a problem for the entire race - I'm used to them being congested early, but then it gets better as people get spread out. This never really did that. It's a good thing we weren't running for time, because we would have been very frustrated at not being able to get clear so we could run our own pace.

Because it was so dark there wasn't much in the way of character opportunities until we got past mile 5. The Pooh characters were out about mile 2, but had a huge line, so we didn't stop. There was this really cool Epcot balloon along that stretch, though!

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By the time we arrive in Magic Kingdom, about mile 5.5, the sun had risen and it was getting much brighter. We stopped to pose with the Alice in Wonderland characters - Alice thought it amusing that we both greeted the Queen as "Your Majesty".

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While we were waiting for them we saw Al Roker run by - he finished with a time of 3:16:52.

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There were quite a few characters behind the castle, but the lines were long except for the Fairy Godmother. We asked her for some magic to give us a good race, and she sent us off with a "Bibbidi, bobbidi, boo!"

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They had a really neat pirate ship with lots of scurvy pirates just as we ran back behind Splash Mountain but that was a HUGE line so we didn't stop.

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The worst part of the race was after we left backstage and ran towards the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian. It was again down to one lane, and it was late enough in the race that a lot of people were getting tired and were either walking or running slowly. Because it was so narrow it was hard to get around them. Once we got back beyond the car care center it was multiple lanes and a lot better.

Oh, one cute thing - near the Wedding Pavilion there was a wedding singer - a Barry Manilow impersonator. He was singing Copacabana as we went by. Lee was cursing whoever had hired him about a mile after that because he couldn't get the song out of his head. :-)

Just past mile 11 Tinker Bell was out with a couple of her pixie friends - they were very cute.

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And not long after that we found Deb and some of the AllCheers team again - and we both got big hugs from Deb.

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We were still feeling pretty good, and actually picked up the pace for the remainder of the race - we even sprinted the last .3 miles or so - or as much as we could trying to dodge slower runners.

I high-fived Mickey and Minnie, who were standing to the side just before the finish line - no photo, though, since I didn't want to stop at that point.

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Into the chute, where they handed us a mylar emergency blanket (the morning was a bit cool), and we got our shiny Donald Duck medals. 13.1 miles down, 26.2 to go. I hope we feel as good tomorrow as we did today.

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We were hoping to meet one of our West Coast Roadrunners teammates from San Diego, but she had started and finished before us, so she was already gone. We chatted with a few Team AllEars people before we went back to the Race Retreat.

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After the race they had a hot breakfast for us - scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, hash browns, fruit, and muffins, and of course the usual beverages. That tasted pretty good.

Our Team AllEars co-captains, Michelle and Mike, were enjoying some relaxing moments along with a few other teammates. It's really a very nice way to end a race. (Massages were available, too, but there was a long line for that.)

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We were still feeling pretty good, so we decided to walk back to the Boardwalk through Epcot (we'd brought our park passes with us) instead of taking the bus. It was about a mile and a half. We'd been up for hours, so it was a shock to realize that it was just barely 10:00 and World Showcase wasn't even open yet!

After showers and a short nap for Lee we went in search of lunch. We'd planned to eat at the Dolphin Fountain, but it was packed with conventioneers, so we went to Big River Grill at the Boardwalk instead. Even there we had a 10-15 minute wait, but we could sit down so it was ok.

This afternoon we drove over to Ft. Wilderness for the Team AllEars Meet at Trail's End. This was THE meet that they really wanted everyone to come to. It was fun to meet some more people and share our half marathon experiences.

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Deb got us all together and introduced the people who helped make Team AllEars and AllCheers all that it was this year - Michelle and Mike, Amanda, Brad, Jamison, Melanie and Julie.

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And then she announced the funds raised for the fight against breast cancer - with money still coming in it's up to $46,677!

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Deb also had a very special gift for all of us - more bling! Our very own, very exclusive, Team AllEars 2011 medal! That was very unexpected, and really awesome!

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We posed for a group photo, of course. :-)

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Lee and I decided to drive to Wolfgang Puck's Express at Downtown Disney to get takeout for dinner - gotta get some more carbs on board before tomorrow.

And now the race preparations start again - what to wear, what to set aside - it should be easier this time, though. :-)

We're tired enough that I hope we will sleep better tonight - the alarm is set for 2:45 again.

So here's Donald...hopefully Mickey and Goofy will be joining him tomorrow!

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Wish us luck with the marathon - I'm sure we can do it, but I'm also sure we'll be hurting at the end.

I'll post our time here after we finish.

Ok, we finished, and it went pretty well - we were able to run/walk the whole thing, and still have time for photos with a lot of the characters. Our time was 5:23:24, which is actually almost 20 minutes better than when we ran the marathon five years ago - and we only ran the marathon that weekend.

We're tired and hurting a bit, but nothing that rest won't fix. Very happy it's over, but I love my Goofy medal! :-) Thanks to all of you who sent positive thoughts our way today - I know they helped!


January 10, 2011

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend - Marathon Day

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We did it - we're Goofy! We felt a lot better than I expected, and we actually ended up run/walking the entire race - I figured we'd be walking a lot of the last 6-8 miles since I thought we'd be much more fatigued after the half marathon yesterday. I was hoping to finish in 6 hours, but we finished in 5:23:25! We were both really happy with that.

I think I alluded to it in Part 1, but I didn't talk about our run/walk race strategy for the races this weekend. We've become intrigued with Jeff Galloway's program (and he is, after all, the Run Disney consultant) to run/walk our long runs rather than just running the whole thing. How long you run versus how long you walk varies from person to person, and what works best for you. We've been using a run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute program since November, and I'm really a big fan. Though it might seem strange, running and walking use different muscles in your legs, and by walking some you give your running muscles that time to rest and recover, so you don't tire as easily. I've found that for the most part I can maintain (or even better) my overall pace by walking 20% of the time. Then when I am running I can run a little faster, so it makes up the difference in my walking pace (though admittedly I am a fast walker).

It really worked well for us this weekend!

As you might imagine we are pretty tired, but it's nothing that a little rest won't cure.

The day again began at 2:45 a.m., though at least I slept better last night since I was tired from yesterday. The buses were waiting at the Boardwalk, though we had to wait about 10 minutes for one to fill up (in the meantime we were in a heated bus with cushy seats, though!) before we were on our way to Epcot.

We again had the race retreat, so headed there after we walked over from the bus. We met Julie, from Team AllEars, and visited as we ate our breakfast, then checked our bag, and walked over to the start corrals. The marathon had "only" 17,000 entrants, as opposed to 27,000 in the half, so the walk over was a LOT more pleasant - there were just a few places we were reduced to a shuffle. Based on what I submitted as our estimated finish time (I drastically over-estimated and gave it as 6 hours), we were in the last start corral - ugh. So we started about 25 minutes after the first wave started.

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The weather was about 10-12 degrees COLDER than yesterday, and I could really tell - it was about 42. I was wearing my trash bag and emergency blanket right up until the race started, had my hand warmers until about mile 13, and didn't throw away my sweatshirt until almost mile 14. I was glad I'd decided to wear the long-sleeve shirt - there were times when the wind blew that I got a little cold. But the sun came out and it was really a perfect day for running.

Because we were in the last corral where just about everyone was either walking or running slower than we were, we ended up getting stuck behind slower people in the narrow places - it was frustrating. Though it did ease a lot earlier than during the half yesterday, and wasn't much of an issue after mile 13.

As we headed from the parking lot into Epcot they had some of the Electrical Parade units out to greet us - since it was still really dark, those were very effective. They were playing the music in the background, too.

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In Epcot we went under Spaceship Earth and up the promenade, where the Illuminations globe was lit (they must have gotten it fixed, though it still wasn't spinning).

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We saw a lot of the same characters today that we did yesterday, and today the lines were for the most part shorter (except for the Pooh characters and Mickey and Minnie) so I got a lot more character photos today. First up was Panchito and Jose Carioca at Mexico.

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After we left Epcot it was a long, long way to Magic Kingdom - MK was just after mile 10, as opposed to mile 5 yesterday. We saw our friends Gail and Julian cheering near the Contemporary and stopped for a quick hug and photo.

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Once we entered Magic Kingdom we saw the AllCheers group at the hub before we turned into Tomorrowland.

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Lots of characters in Magic Kingdom, but many of them we had seen (and had photos with) yesterday, so we bypassed those and did photos with some of the others that had too long lines yesterday. Like the Cinderella group - though today Cinderella wasn't with them - it was the Prince, stepmother, and two stepsisters. They were a hoot.

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We again saw the Fairy Godmother and asked her for a little more magic because it worked so well yesterday. :-)

The pirates were out again, and this time the line wasn't too long so we had our picture taken with them. A lot of the character locations had one of the official marathon photographers working there and taking photos, but this wasn't one of them. Because of that a cast member was asking everyone as they got in line if they had their own camera - we appreciated that - it would have been terrible to wait in the line and then not get a photo! I asked Jack Sparrow why there was no rum, and he told me it was waiting for me at the finish line. :-)

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I think I've mentioned this in the past, but the characters were all so gracious, and didn't seem to mind being around (and even touching!) all of us sweaty runners. The ones who could speak usually made appropriate comments. It's just one of the things that makes the Disney races so much fun!

A couple of miles after we left Magic Kingdom we were at mile 13 - just about half way! Yikes. We were still feeling pretty good - a little more tired than we were at mile 13 yesterday, but not too much.

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The stretch from there to Animal Kingdom I remember as being pretty boring five years ago, but it seemed like there was a lot more entertainment along the route this time. Several "streetmosphere" types of characters, including a bayou woman and her big (fake) alligator (someone dressed as Peter Pan put his head in the gator's mouth and she said: "Ohhh...I guess we'll have to re-write the ending to Peter Pan!), and "Davy Crockett" and his sidekick. My favorite was Zorro, though. :-)

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There were a lot of characters backstage at Animal Kingdom - and the line to take a photo with Mickey was actually fairly short. We noticed that the longer the race went on the shorter the lines got - I know we found it harder to get started when we stopped, and perhaps a lot of others felt that way, too.

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Outside Animal Kingdom there were these refugees from the Haunted Mansion. :-)

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One of the hardest (cruelest) sections of the course is the part that goes out towards Wide World of Sports - and then loops back on itself. So you can see the people that are coming back towards you, but they are .6 miles ahead. I was getting really tired by then - my legs were fine while I was walking, but those 4 minute running intervals kept getting longer, and the one minute walks kept getting shorter. (Though the intervals often got disrupted by character photos and water stops, especially in this later part.)

When we arrived in the Studios, we were very disappointed that they hadn't rolled out the red carpet for us like they did when we ran the marathon five years ago. We had been looking forward to that...it felt SO good after running on pavement! There were quite a few characters backstage for us, though - we did our best monster impression when we posed with Sulley.

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At this point we were past mile 23, and it was only about 3 miles to the finish. We knew we could do it, and also knew we had a chance to finish in under 5:30, which would be a real accomplishment for us.

There were two groups of AllCheers people along the Boardwalk - they helped keep us going. We got back into Epcot just before mile 25, and found a rather lonely Princess Aurora in France - everyone was anxious to finish and was just running by her. We didn't, though.

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We got to the mile 26 marker - only .2 to go!

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I really didn't have much left for a sprint, but did the best I could to try to keep up with Lee (he slowed down for me) and we crossed the line together - 5:23:25. WAY better than I was expecting to do!

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It was a cooler day today, so the emergency blanket was very welcome, and the Mickey Marathon medal even more so. There was a special area for "Goofy" runners, and that's where they put that lovely Goofy medal over our heads. Woo hoo - we did it!!! (This picture was actually taken in the Race Retreat - because we had three medals the photographer asked Buzz to hold one of Lee's medals and Jessie to hold one of mine.)

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Today we were able to meet up with our Terri, our fellow West Coast Roadrunner - she did the Goofy Challenge last year, so she knows what it takes. It was really nice to see her.

We went to the Race Retreat where we had some hot food - in addition to eggs and potatoes they also had a vegetable bean soup. It was pretty salty, but after all that running that actually tasted pretty good. We got our picture taken with our medals, as you saw above. I wasn't up to walking back to the Boardwalk today so we took the bus - our timing was good because it was almost ready to leave. We did get off at the Swan and walk back to the Boardwalk, so we got in a little bit more of a walk.

Tonight we actually feel pretty good - tired, of course, but it's a good tired. Once we get moving we can walk pretty easily, and without pain.

We had a lovely dinner at Kouzzina, but I'll write more about that separately. (Thanks to AllEars reader Gail for coming up and introducing herself!)

How do you like my collection of bling from this weekend? I'm very proud of it!

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January 17, 2011

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend - Dining

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So what do you eat when you're getting ready to run a marathon and half marathon? "Anything you want" sounds like a good answer...but that's not what we did. One of the things you get pounded into you when you're training is: "Don't do anything different just before a race." This applies not just to your shoes, socks, and other clothing but also what you eat and drink as well.

Fortunately we've been to WDW a number of times, so we have favorite foods that we like, and that are familiar and not likely to upset our systems. We did eat maybe a little bit extra, but we tried to make smarter choices, so we weren't indulging in funnel cakes and Mickey bars - we save those for AFTER the race! :-)

When we came back from the Expo on Friday we went to Picabu at the Dolphin. I wasn't that hungry, but I had the chicken pasta soup with crackers, and that tasted good.

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Lee did go with a pasta meal, and had their meat lasagna with a couple of sides.

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My "secret weapon" is Rold Gold Honey Wheat Braided Twists (pretzels). When we were training for our first WDW marathon five years ago our West Coast Road Runners coach advised us to snack on pretzels the day before the race, both for the carbs and the salt, and that really works for me. So I munched on those Friday and Saturday. They taste really good after a race, too. We also drink at least 16 ounces of sports drink (we use Ultima) the day/evening before (and after) and also lots of water.

A half marathon doesn't require the energy stores that a full marathon does, so we don't worry much about carbo-loading before a half marathon. It's important to eat a good (and fairly early) dinner the night before, but I don't stuff myself. Yes, we eat some carbs, but also some lean protein, too.

We went to Seasons in The Land pavilion for dinner the night before the half marathon. I had the Sustainable Fish Nicoise (which always seems to be salmon) and a side of mashed potatoes.

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Lee had the Mongolian Beef, which came with noodles and a lovely side of broccoli. I love broccoli (it's something I usually eat for dinner at home the night before a long run), so he offered me some of his broccoli in exchange for some of my mashed potatoes. Deal. :-)

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I did eat more the day before the marathon - had what was for me a pretty big lunch (also because I was hungry after the half marathon!) and a reasonable dinner. Our lunch was at Big River Grille and Brewing Works - we've eaten there a number of times and enjoy the food, plus as DVC members we get a 10% discount.

I had the Honey Dijon Chicken Sandwich, topped with bacon, swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato. I didn't finish all of the bun, but ate just about everything inside. And yes, most of the chips too - salt and carbs!!! :-)

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Lee had the Blackened Mahi Mahi Sandwich - he pretty much cleaned his plate except for the chips. He had a beer, too. (Lots of carbs in beer, right?)

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For dinner we went to Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney. We both had the butternut squash soup and Lee had a pizza. I had a sandwich, but I was disappointed in that - it was not made fresh at all - they just pulled it out of the refrigerated case. I only ate about half of it. The soup was good, though, and very filling. Not what I'd choose again the night before a race, but it seemed like a good idea at the time, and it didn't have any adverse effects the next day.

The standout meal of the weekend was definitely our celebratory dinner on Sunday night AFTER the marathon, when we had an early dinner at Kouzzina. Kouzzina re-opened in mid-December after some remodeling with a slightly new look and a slightly updated menu.

We had a terrific server named MaryAnn who took excellent care of us, and answered questions and made recommendations. There was so much on the menu that looked good that we had to make some hard decisions.

We started off with a pitcher of Sangria - no need to worry about alcohol dehydrating us! Though this had very little alcohol in it - it was very tasty, though. MaryAnn brought us some herbed bread with two different olive oils to dip it in, but we also had the Kouzzina Sampler. The platter had olives, spiced garbanzo beans, dolmades, tzatziki sauce, hummus, and grilled pita wedges and came with two skewers - we had our choice of grilled prawns, lamb sesame meatballs, or chicken. We chose the prawns and they were excellent. (For $4 more she would've brought all three kinds of skewers. That would make an excellent dinner for me one of these day.) Everything was really good.

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For an entree I had something that is new to the menu: Saffron Pasta with Lamb Ragu and Shaved Kefalograviera Cheese. (Try saying that three times fast!) It was very tasty.

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Lee had the Kouzzina Trio, which has been on the menu for a while. It's "tasting sized" portions of three favorites: cinnamon-stewed chicken, Greek-style lasagna, and a half-sized lamb burger. It was all good, though the lamb burger is a little bit too spicy for me (that's why they only serve the small size now - it used to be an entree on the menu by itself, but many guests said it was too spicy to finish).

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There was no question what we were going to have for dessert: Loukoumades These are freshly made Greek doughnuts drizzled with honey. Definitely to be eaten while they are hot! There are six to an order, and they come with two dipping sauces (raspberry and vanilla) though neither of us used them. Mmm, mmm, good!

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It was really a wonderful dinner. In fact we enjoyed it so much that we went back to Kouzzina for breakfast the next morning! (Actually dinner had nothing to do with it - we'd planned to eat breakfast there already.)

There's some interesting items on the breakfast menu, too, but we went with the French Toast and theWaffles and split them. I found it very filling - I couldn't finish my half of both.

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Not exactly "marathon eating" in terms of amount and variety, but it powered us successfully for the extended weekend!


January 19, 2011

Disney Dream Christening Cruise - Day 1

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Deb Wills, Deb Koma and I are in Florida, where we have will be sailing on the Christening Cruise of the new Disney Dream ship! We have been invited by Disney attend the media events and go on the cruise. We are so excited!

The actual christening is Wednesday, January 19, and there will be live coverage of it on the Disney Parks Blog (http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/) starting at 10:30 a.m. EST.

We will be on the ship from January 19-21, and will be trying to explore every inch that we possibly can so that we can share it all with you. I am hoping to blog each day, internet connection permitting. But you can bet that we will have tons of photos and answers to your questions once we are on land again. If you have any additional questions, please send them to allearsnet@yahoo.com - we'll have AllEars team members on the first two cruises of the Dream in addition to the Christening Cruise.

Deb Wills and Deb Koma will be sending photos on Twitter, especially on Tuesday while we are still in port. You can follow them:

Deb Wills: @AllEarsDeb
Deb Koma: @dcdeb_allears

It promises to be several exciting days - stay tuned!

Tuesday - some clouds in the morning, but it turned into a beautiful day this afternoon!

From the Polynesian I walked over to the TTC and took the Tronorail to Epcot. I really like the look of the Tronorail from the outside, but it's not so great on the inside - the windows are covered with a heavy screen, so it's a pretty blurry view from inside.

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It was really a beautiful day at Epcot - so much nicer than when I was here in December.

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I felt like saving the world, so I signed up to be an agent for Team Possible. With the help of Kim, Wade, Ron and the gang I foiled nefarious plots in the UK, France, Germany and Japan.

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I've done missions in all of the countries now (America, Italy, Canada, and Morocco apparently don't need saving), and Germany is still my favorite. The zombie villagers and singing beer steins are such a hoot.

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I'd missed Voices of Liberty on my last two trips, but I got to see them today. Love their beautiful voices and harmonies.

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As I was on my way out of the park Stitch was mugging for the cameras.

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We're getting ready for tonight's press event at the Magic Kingdom. Earlier today Disney issued a press release on the new Fantasyland, along with some artist renderings. I expect we'll hear more about that in the Media Briefing tonight. We'll also be seeing the new "The Magic, the Memories and You" castle show. We'll have more on that later.

Ok...we're back from the media event. The castle show was really cool - the projections are pretty awesome, with some great effects. I haven't had time to process too much video yet, but here's some footage of Deb Wills interviewing Eric Jacobson about the Fantasyland expansion.

And here's the world premiere of the new show on the castle: The Magic, the Memories, and You:



January 20, 2011

Disney Dream Christening Cruise - Day 2

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We're on the Dream!!!

The ship is beautiful. It's been an amazing, awesome, and yesterday and today are just totally overwhelming. We've barely touched everything the ship has to offer.

The christening ceremony was spectacular in true Disney fashion - we'll have a video up on youtube after I get home.

Internet service is not very good, so I'm keeping this short. I just got back after riding the AquaDuck three times - it's great fun!

 

AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.


January 21, 2011

Disney Dream Primer for Repeat Disney Cruisers

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Since we know many of you have cruised on the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder, we thought that one of the first things you would be interested in is knowing what some of the differences are between the Dream and the ships that you are familiar with. So Deb Wills and I put our heads together and came up with some things that we thought you might want to know.

These are not really in any particular order, though I have tried to group them logically.

It's all so BIG!
One of the first things you'll notice is that it all seems much bigger. And of course it IS a lot bigger. To me it felt like the distance between the aft stairwell and the mid-ship stairwell was at least as far as between the aft and forward stairwells on the Magic.
Dining rooms are larger.
The elevators are larger.
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There are more decks, so the locations of things like the pools, beverage station, and sports deck are 2-3 decks higher than before.
The Walt Disney Theater is larger, and has a balcony level. It can be accessed from either decks 3 or 4.
There are more retail shops, and the shops are larger, though the duty free shop which sells alcohol has been moved to the retail area.

"You can't get there from here."

You'll have to learn your way around - some things are very familiar, but some things are very different. I found it frustrating sometimes.
Palo and Remy are on deck 12, but you can't get to them from deck 12. The easiest way is to go to the aft elevator/stairwell on just about any other deck, and then go up to deck 12.
If you're on deck 11, then your access to the aft elevator/stairwell is through Cabanas - which turns Cabanas into a passageway. I found this quite maddening and very poorly designed - I don't want to go through a restaurant to get to the stairs!

Staterooms

The staterooms are actually a little SMALLER on the Dream - 10-20 square feet generally. We thought they were just a little narrower.
The door lock mechanism is different - rather than sliding your Key to the World card you just wave it in front of the sensor and the door unlocks.
TAKE NOTICE OF THIS TIP! To turn the lights on in your room you must put a room key in the slot that's just inside the door, and leave it there while you are in the room. If you remove the key the lights inside the bathroom(s) immediately go off - I did that to Deb accidentally one time. There is a grace period for the rest of the room lights, but we didn't test it - it's at least 30 seconds, though. It's an energy-saving feature, so that's a good thing, but if you don't know about it, you could be sitting in the dark! We'd been told about it when we checked in for the cruise, and our stateroom hostess also made sure to tell us about it when she came to our room that first day.
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The TV is a flat screen, which is nice since it takes up less room. It has a menu system when you first turn it on, with categories like information and movies. Honestly, I never did figure out how to operate it.
The pull-down bed was larger than I expected, and not as close to the ceiling. We didn't use it, but there are stars on the ceiling above it.
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The bed does not separate into two beds like it does on the Magic and Wonder. But the bed has been raised and there's room to store suitcases under it now - that was very nice.
There are two clotheslines in the tub area.

Shows and Entertainment

Disney's Believe is an all-new show, featuring lots of great Disney music and some really fun dance numbers. I loved the Mary Poppins scene.
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Golden Mickeys has some new scenes and includes characters from more recent movies, like Rapunzel, UP and Princess and the Frog.
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There are two different on deck shows on Pirate Night - an early more family-oriented show, Mickey's Pirates in the Caribbean, and a later show which follows the fireworks: Club Pirate. The latter features Jack Sparrow.
The fireworks show, Buccaneer Blast, takes place more towards the middle of the ship than behind it, which offers good viewing from a lot more locations. Those in cabins on the starboard side of the ship should be able to see it from their rooms.
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The District, the adult entertainment area, has many more options, like Pink, the champagne bar, and Skyline, which showcases different cities around the world.

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Recreation
The AquaDuck is the new 765 foot long water coaster. It's accessed from deck 12 midship. We'll have a lot more information on this!
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Goofy's Sports Deck has a miniature golf course.
The family pool and kids' pools are in the same area, not separated like they are on the Magic and Wonder.
The kid's splash area, Nemo's Reef, is in a shaded area to protect the little ones from the sun.
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Enchanted Art - this was one of my favorites. There are 22 pictures around the ship which look like any of the other artwork, but when people stop to look at it, it comes to life.

Dining
The two new restaurants are Royal Palace on deck 3, and Enchanted Garden on deck 2. They are both just beautiful. Enchanted Garden looks like an outdoor garden on a sunny day during the day, while at night the light changes from sunset to starlight.
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I really loved Royal Palace, with its elegant crystal chandeliers, marble columns, and brocade-covered chairs.
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Animator's Palate has been completely updated with all new technology allowing diners to interact with characters from Finding Nemo. I thought it was a lot of fun.
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Cabanas takes the place of Topsiders/Beach Blanket Buffet. It's not a traditional buffet - instead there are different "food pods", making it more like a food court with selections like salads, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, hot entrees and dessert.
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The quick service locations are very much like those on the Magic and Wonder, though with different names. Same types of food, though - pizza, burgers, and salads and sandwiches. There's a dedicated "Eye-Scream" place now. There's also Frozone Treats, a smoothie bar, though there is a charge for smoothies.
There are two 24-hour beverage stations on deck 11 aft, one on the port side and one on the starboard side.
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Shutters is very different. We'll have a lot more details on it, but in a nutshell they have really changed the way that photos are organized, and assign guests a folder in the library where they can store their photos. They use facial recognition technology to help identify the photos.
Senses Spa
The spa area is 16,000 square feet. There are many more treatment rooms.
There is a barber shop for the men, or those who prefer a barber shop to a standard salon.
The new Smile Spa offers a dedicated area for teeth whitening treatments.
There's a hamam - a Turkish bath, featuring dry heat.
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The Chill spa offers spa services to teens and tweens.
There is a "scrub bar" where guests can have a custom scrub made up for them with their choice of ingredients.
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Embarkation and debarkation procedures are the same, though of course with more guests you can expect they might take longer.
Finding your way around is a little harder - the signs identify locations by deck, but do not specify forward/aft/midship.
Some of the public restrooms have the paper towel dispensers under the lights, which makes them hard to find.

I hope this has been helpful. If you have other questions or if you've been on the Dream and have some tips of your own please let us know - you can either comment on this blog or send email to: allearsnet@yahoo.com.

 

AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.



January 22, 2011

Disney Dream - The AquaDuck

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Since many of you seem very interested in the AquaDuck (even my mom's first question to me was: "Did you ride the water coaster?") I thought I'd write about that next.

I was able to ride the AquaDuck three times - and it's a lot of fun. You ride in a raft (which will hold one or two people) through a mostly clear tube on a stream of water. It's 765 feet long and goes down about 46 feet in total. There is a loop that actually goes out over the side of the ship and two little uphill sections. The water flows at a rate of 10,000 gallons/minute.

The ride is shorter than I thought - only about 45 seconds from the time you board the raft until you're getting off in the unloading zone.

Here's a video Lee put together with some AquaDuck footage, including clips from several of my rides:

So how does it work? The access to the stairway is from deck 12 midship, port side,, near the aft funnel. Then you climb about 80 steps (I didn't count them) up to deck 16, which is the loading area. The rafts are carried up to the loading area by a conveyor belt - a cast member pulls off the next available raft and sets it down on the loading belt. You'll be riding an inflatable raft with two seating compartments. If there are two people riding the larger sits in back with the smaller in front. Singles sit in the back. There are handles on both sides to hold onto. When you're ready and the CM gets the ok light on the control panel they push a button and the conveyor belt moves forward, moving the raft into the water tube.

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You're immediately in the loop, moving fast enough that you hardly have time to notice what's going on - especially that you are hanging 12' off the side of the ship and 150' over the water!

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Then you're at the first dip, where you're suddenly propelled up a small hill - you'll get water dumped down your back at this point!

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Then you're in the clear part of the tube on the port side straightaway where you can see all around you, including the deck below - wave to your friends!

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There's a second dip (more water down the back) before you go around the forward funnel.

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You slow down as you travel through the starboard side straightaway, then enter the enclosed tube around the aft funnel.

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Then it's time to come to a stop in the unloading area where a cast member holds onto the raft while you step out to your left and exit down the steps back to deck 12. The cast member takes care of returning the raft back to the loading area.

My observations...it was a lot shorter than I thought it was going to be, based on simulations and test rides I'd seen on the Disney Parks blog - I expected to be on it longer.

The stream of water moves pretty fast in the first half. After you go around the forward funnel it slows down noticeably, and is more of a "lazy river" experience.

I was a little concerned that on the dips I might bottom out or jar my butt or back but that didn't happen at all - I just got water dumped down my back. The water is heated, so it wasn't really unpleasant - just a bit of a surprise the first time. (And yes, I screamed.) You don't get that wet other than that dump down the back - I've gotten a whole lot wetter on Kali Rapids. Someone in the front might not get very wet at all.

I really did not notice that I was hanging out over the side of the ship in that first turn - it all happened so fast.

The raft is very stable - I never felt like it was going to overturn or that I was going to fall out (and even if I did there was no place to fall - you're inside the tube until the very end). In the faster parts (especially the turn) the raft does climb up the side of the tube, but again, it never felt precarious.

They dispatch the rafts about every 30 seconds. The ride takes about 45 seconds from send-off to final splashdown.

I am not claustrophobic, but the tube generally feels "open" because most of it is clear. The only places you can't see out around you are when going around the two funnels and on the two uphill pushes, plus briefly when entering it at the very top. I'd say the tube is approximately four feet in diameter.

There is a height requirement of 48" inches. There is also a minimum weight requirement - I saw one raft get a little bit stuck up near the top because the occupant wasn't heavy enough, but it was only a second or two before she was moving right along.

I have been asked if it is handicap accessible. Unfortunately I forgot to ask that question, but I don't see how it could be - there does not seem to be any access to the loading area other than by those who are ambulatory and can climb the stairs.

The line was pretty short when I was riding it, since the ship was no where near capacity on the Christening Cruise. So my waits were in the 5-10 minute range. I think it's going to be a whole lot longer than that in the future - remember, they only send two rafts per minute. We asked, and at this point there are no plans to implement any kind of Fastpass or reservation system.

Loose items are not permitted, and cast members caution against riding while wearing sunglasses, visors, hats, flip-flops or other items that can come off during the ride. There are lockers on deck 12, just around the corner from the unload area, where these items can be stored temporarily.

I don't know the hours of operation - my observation was that if the pool area was open the AquaDuck was open. If you have better info please let me know.

This is great fun - I didn't see anyone who didn't come off smiling and wanting to ride again. The adults were having at least as much fun as the kids!

If you have additional information on the AquaDuck, or if you have ridden it and would like to share your experience, please use the section below to submit feedback or send a comment.

 

AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.



January 23, 2011

Disney Dream Christening Cruise Photos - Christening, Embarkation, Stateroom

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A lot of you have said you want to see more photos, so I thought I'd put together a photo blog of the christening ceremony, boarding the ship, and a tour of our stateroom.

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Tinker Bell starts off the Christening Ceremony!
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The huge bottle of dreams that will be used to christen the ship
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This was a great moment - Tom Staggs spoke about the crew members aboard the Dream, and how they will be helping to make guest's dreams come true, and then the crew members came to the side of the ship and cheered and waved flags.
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Tom Staggs and Captain Mickey introduce the Disney Dream's Godmother, Jennifer Hudson.
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A helicopter lifts the bottle of dreams and positions it next to the bow of the ship...
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Jennifer Hudson christens the Disney Dream:
"May God bless this ship and all who sail on her."
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The newly christened Disney Dream
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In the cruise terminal, waiting for our boarding group to be called.
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Plaque on the wall just as we stepped off the gangway and onto the ship.
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"The Disney Dream welcomes the AllEars family!"
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Admiral Donald Duck
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The Atrium is three decks high.
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Looking up at the magnificent, Italian-crafted chandelier
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To really see it, go up to deck 4 or 5.
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Heading to our stateroom - the midship elevator lobby on deck 8.
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Our stateroom!
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Getting ready to open the door for the first time!
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Just hold your Key to the World card in front of the black sensor box.
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Our stateroom!

Here's a stateroom tour, from stepping into the room out to the veranda. We were in a Category 5 - Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Veranda. It was on the starboard side, just a little bit forward of midship.

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Place your key card just inside the door to enable the cabin lights.
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Toilet room to the right.
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Closet with safe to the left.
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Bathtub and shower room to the right.
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Sink and vanity in tub/shower room.
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Other half of closet to the left. (Ladder is for access to the pull-down bed.)
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Queen bed on the right. Pillowtop mattress with a duvet - so comfortable! It was a dream bed.
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Artwork on the wall to the left.
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Sofa on the right - converts to a bed.
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Desk, chair, TV, mirror on the left
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The desk, with ship information, light switches and electrical outlets.
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"Wave Phone" walkie talkies - these can be used aboard ship to communicate with those in your party, or those in other staterooms, if you know their number.
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Veranda on the starboard side.

There's still lots more photos to come! If you have specific things you'd like to see please let us know - use the section below to submit a comment, or send email to allearsnet@yahoo.com.

 

AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.



January 24, 2011

Disneyland - Your Rainy Day Tips

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"Rain, rain, go away..."

Just about the time the predecessor to this blog was posted the weather in southern California really started to improve, and we're back to sunshine and dry conditions again.

But I'm sure it will rain again before the winter is over, so I hope these rainy day tips submitted by some of your fellow Disneyland fans will be useful!

From Sara:
We swam out of the parks last week for our drive home to N. CA & were very thankful that we'd left out dry clothes to change into in the car.
Terri's suggestion:
Eat a leisurely indoor meal, though admittedly your options for that are fewer at Disneyland than they are at Disney World! Some of the counter service places, like Redd Rockett's and Village Haus, have quite a bit of indoor seating, though. On the other hand there is very little indoor seating at DCA. But consider going to one of the nearby restaurants in Downtown Disney or in the Grand Californian.
Alex wrote:
Along with keeping my feet dry are my hands. I used an ECV and my hands got so cold and wet I could hardly use the controls.

I've since discovered neoprene fishing gloves at Wal-mart that are waterproof and very warm. They are very lightweight too so no extra weight for packing. They cost around $5 and come in different sizes. They are in the sporting section. Next time I won't be without them!
From Pete:
Take the opportunity to enjoy some of the indoor attractions and shows, like Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, The Enchanted Tiki Room and Captain Eo. Over at DCA there's Aladdin, Muppet Vision or Blue Sky Cellar, and there's lots of ways to spend time inside the Animation Building - Turtle Talk with Crush, drawing a Disney character, or the Sorcerer's Workshop. A lot of the queue for Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, and Roger Rabbit is covered or inside.
jaycbird wrote:
Re Feet in the rain: If it is a warm shower, I am almost better off wearing Tevas or sandals than shoes. I'll find out for sure next weekend at DWD, I guess!
Brian's tips:
On rainy days we like to see how many times in a row we can ride the Matterhorn! To stay dry we usually head for Pirates or the Haunted Mansion. Innoventions is a great place to go and spend an hour or so. Lots of folks head to Space Mountain because the queue is completely covered and why not? Wait out the rain by waiting for Disneyland's most thrilling attraction! Rain or shine, Disneyland is a magical place!
From Keith:
I love rainy days at Disneyland or Disney World. Whenever it rains, my friends and I call it a "perfect Disneyland day". My only advice is get a poncho or umbrella and get out there and get on some rides!

A last suggestion from me: Enjoy the parks! Rainy days are usually very uncrowded because those of us in southern California don't really like to drive or slog around in the rain. So we tend to stay away from the parks on rainy days. Some attractions are closed because of the rain but most are open and the lines are short - you might even feel like you almost have the park to yourself!




January 25, 2011

Disney Dream - Senses Spa

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Senses Spa & Salon is located on deck 11 of the Disney Dream, with some additional treatment rooms on deck 12. The 16,000 square foot facility contains a state-of-the-art fitness center, barbershop, hair & nail salon, hot tubs, and sauna, as well as a variety of treatment rooms offering services such as massages, algae wraps and facials.

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Barbershop
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The Smile Spa offers teeth whitening services.
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The 2,500 square foot fitness center includes equipment for cardiovascular workouts and weight training, as well as group classes such as Pilates, yoga, and spinning.
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Chill is the spa facility exclusively for teens ages 13-17, offering spa services designed specifically for them.
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In the Rainforest guests can choose any number of ways to relax and renew.
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Lay back on heated tile beds with a view of the ocean.
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Or soak your cares away in a whirlpool tub.
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Relax in the dry heat of the Turkish hamam.
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Or if you prefer steam, there's also an ocean-view sauna.
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Refresh yourself in one of the four themed showers - each with its own scents and sounds.
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Relax in one of the recliners as you listen to soothing music.
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The beverage station offers cool water and a selection of teas.
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There are two spa villas, where couples can enjoy a private treatment room and an outdoor veranda with its own whirlpool tub and shower.
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One of the villas is accessible.
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Treatment room
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Guests can have a custom scrub made for them, with either a salt or sugar base plus the addition of herbs of their choosing.
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Spa services may be booked in advance, or while on-board the ship. Book early for the best availability - and remember that spa services are most in demand on sea days.

Ahhhhh......

 

AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.



January 26, 2011

Disney Dream Christening Cruise - The Food

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It wouldn't be a cruise without a food blog, right??? :-) Since the cruise was so short, I'm also going to include a couple of meals we had before/after the cruise.

After I arrived Monday night, Deb Wills and I had dinner at Narcoossee's - I'd never been there before. She asked for a window table, which was awesome, because at the end of our dinner we were able to see Wishes from there! Though it was foggy that evening (it had rained heavily earlier in the day) and that obscured the fireworks. Interesting effect, though.

Back to dinner...I started off the the Butternut Squash and Tomato Bisque. It was really good - creamy and nicely flavored. Though if the name hadn't had "tomato" in it I wouldn't have known there were tomatoes in it - I couldn't taste them. Which was fine - it was still a yummy soup.

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Deb had the Caesar Salad - it was a Caesar salad. :-)

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I ordered the Crispy Whole Snapper. Our server Debbie warned us that it was the WHOLE fish - head, tail, fins, bones and all, but I was game to try it anyway. I loved the way it was presented - it looked like it was swimming among some underwater grasses! I had to ask Debbie how to eat it, though - she said to go through the "pockets" that were on the sides. It was a bit of a challenge. It came with a soy-lime vinaigrette, which Debbie said was a little spicy so I asked for it on the side. And I'm glad I did, because it was also full of fresh ginger, which I don't like very much. It was served on a bed of basmati rice and charred green beans with some julienned peppers. The fish was good - nice and moist, but it wasn't great, and it seemed like too much work for too little reward. I wouldn't get it again.

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Deb had the Tanglewood Farms Chicken Breast with green beans, and she enjoyed that.

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Our "dessert" was watching Wishes from our table - that was a sweet treat all by itself!

The next morning Deb and I met Mike Newell (of Mouse World Radio and the WDW Today podcast) for breakfast at The Wave - another restaurant that was new to me! They have been doing a trial run of offering a breakfast buffet (it's currently scheduled through the end of January, but may be extended if guest feedback warrants it) and we all decided to try that. It's $18.49 for adults which includes coffee and juice, so considering the prices on the regular menu, you don't pay much more for the buffet than you would for a regular breakfast. (Kids are $10.99.) It also offers just about everything that is on the breakfast menu anyway, so we could try a lot of different things. One of the things I enjoyed was the sweet potato pancakes. And the cheese grits were also very good. We had a very helpful server and the food was good - I'd definitely do that again.

The Wave Breakfast Buffet at Contemporary

Ok, so *finally* I'm getting to the food on the Disney Dream! :-)

After we boarded we went to Enchanted Garden for lunch. This restaurant is inspired by the gardens of Versailles, and makes it seem like you are attending a (very large) garden party - eating under vine-covered trellises, surrounded by fountains and greenery. The lighting in the ceiling overhead changes from day to night, but since we were only there for lunch we didn't see that. The tables seemed very crowded and close together.

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Lunch was a buffet, with peel-and-eat shrimp and crab legs, salads, fruit, sandwiches, and various hot entrees like chicken, fish, and carved prime rib. Of course we could just help ourselves to the buffet, but we had a hard time getting beverage service - Deb had to flag people down several times (by which point we'd ALL been through the buffet) before someone took our orders. That was disappointing, and VERY atypical.

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Dinner that night was in the Royal Palace restaurant. This was just beautiful - I loved this inlaid marble floor at the entrance.

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It's very elegant with marble columns, crystal chandeliers, and wooden chairs with brocade upholstery. I'd love for this to be my restaurant on a formal night! (Though do they have formal nights on the shorter 3-5 night cruises that the Dream will be making?)

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There were three other lively ladies seated with us - Beryl, Carol, and Dawn, and between us we tried just about everything on the menu. The menu is HERE, if you want to follow along.

I remember what I had, but am not really too sure about anyone else, but I'll offer whatever comments I remember that others made about their dishes.

My appetizer was the Double Baked Spinach Souffle - coated with a three cheese cream. This was pretty rich, but very tasty, and I enjoyed it.

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For the soup/salad course I ordered Belle's French Onion Soup with gruyere cheese crouton. It was hot and cheesy and a good serving size - not too big and not too small.

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DebK and Beryl ordered the Avocado-Citrus Salad with Iceberg and Radicchio leaves and an orange vinaigrette, but were very disappointed in it. Too much iceberg lettuce and very little flavor in the avocado and vinaigrette.

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And the Royal Market Green Salad - cherry tomato, cucumbers, peppered goat cheese, and a raspberry vinaigrette was a nice salad. It seemed as though they should have used this lettuce mix with the Avocado-Citrus salad.

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My entree was the Double Cut Rack of Lamb with a Dijon Crust with fine green beans, gratin potatoes and rosemary jus. I enjoyed this, though the lamb was just a tad tough. The serving size was fine for me, but a bigger eater would've wanted something more.

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DebK tried the Roasted Wild Boar Tenderloin - sweet carrot and onion potato cake with a red currant reduction. Wild boar is something she's had elsewhere, and she said this was good. (It apparently tastes like beef and not chicken. :-) )

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Beryl had one of the signature dishes, Oven-Baked Salmon Royale - Crowned with King Smoked Salmon and horseradish crust accompanied by sauteed swiss chard, truffle-infused cauliflower puree and white wine beurre blanc.

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DebW had the Baked Farm-Raised Organic Chicken Breast filled with escarole, raisins, and pine nuts on wild rice with a red wine reduction.

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For dessert, DebW and I both had one of the no sugar added desserts, Chocolate Ganache served with Breton Sable and mango coulis. I was very impressed with the no sugar added desserts I had on the Disney Magic last year and often chose them over the regular desserts (for some reason the chocolate dessert was often the no sugar added one). This one did not disappoint - it was chocolatey and rich and really good. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

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DebK is a creme brulee fan, and really enjoyed her Tahitian vanilla creme brulee. The pink meringue cookie thing really didn't work with it, though.

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Thursday night was dinner at Animator's Palate. Animator's Palate received a major technological upgrade on the Disney Dream, and is much different than it is on the Magic and Wonder.

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I don't really want to spoil the experience for those of you who would like to be surprised, but I think you've probably already heard enough that if I say it's "Disney Dining Meets Turtle Talk with Crush" that won't give away too much. It's definitely a much more interactive experience than ever before. It was a little bit distracting, though - some people might not like that, but I enjoyed it. If you're not at a table along the sides of the room I don't think you'll feel quite as involved, though - so for a change the tables along the perimeter of the room are the desirable ones! I think I like this new version of the restaurant better, but I have to say that I missed seeing the servers become more colorful as the evening went on.

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DebK was dining at Palo, and DebW was hob-nobbing with Bob Iger and Tom Staggs (I'm not kidding, she really was!!!), so they missed dinner. Dawn had a business dinner, so it was just Beryl, Carol and me. So we didn't have quite as many items off the menu as we did the previous night.

The menu is almost exactly the menu I had at Animator's Palate aboard the Disney Magic last year with the exception of dessert. When I looked back at my food blog from that cruise, I see I ordered the same appetizers and entree this time! LOL! Well, I'm consistent. :-)

My appetizer was one of the best things I've ever had on any of my cruises - the Sesame-flavored Rock Shrimp and Caramelized Onion Cheesecake - with Asian barbecue sauce and topped with micro greens. When they bring it out it looks like dessert! It's a very generous serving. I didn't taste the "sesame" flavor in the rock shrimp, but the "cheesecake" is light and flavored with herbs. I enjoyed every bite!

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Beryl tried the Smoked Salmon Tartare - capers, onions, and micro greens topped with American black caviar, seasoned with Celtic salt.

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There were two soups that looked good, and since I hadn't had much for lunch and was hungry I ordered both of them. :-) The Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup with bacon bits and chives was very good - not as rich and "heavy" as that kind of soup can be. I really enjoyed it.

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But I was disappointed in the Creamy Butternut Squash Soup garnished with chives and drizzled with sour cream. I'd had it on the Magic and liked it, but this was pretty thin and it tasted like squash. (Butternut squash soup NEVER tastes like squash!!!) There were no seasonings that I could taste. I only had a couple of spoonfuls of it.

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Beryl ordered the Curly Endive, Arugula and Watercress Salad - sliced peaches, toasted almonds and tossed with a sherry vinaigrette. She enjoyed this much more than the salad she'd had the night before since it wasn't full of iceberg. She did request more dressing, though.

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My entree was the Black Bean Chipotle Cakes over corn kernels and brown rice topped with tomato-cilantro salsa. It was really good, though not as spicy as I expected with the word "chipotle" in the name. It was also quite filling.

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Carol ordered the Animator's Trio of Veal - Grilled tenderloin, pulled shank and tortellacci pasta with a sun-dried tomato and sage reduction and garnished with a potato crisp. She enjoyed it - she said the pulled veal was especially interesting.

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Beryl tried the Marinated Angus Beef Tenderloin carved to order on wasabi mashed potatoes with bok choy and a tamarind-barbecue reduction. She said the beef was very good.

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The dessert menu was different than on my Med cruise - I think this one had some more appealing selections. I had the Crunchy Walnut Cake - dark chocolate mousse and raspberry coulis. With a name like that I wasn't expecting it to be a chocolate dessert, but it was, and it was quite good.

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Beryl had the Sweet Temptations - trio of Crunchy Walnut Cake, Pineapple Financier and Lemon Mousse.

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Carol had the Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake - with whipped cream and raspberry coulis.

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Our final meal on-board was breakfast back at Animator's Palate on Friday morning. We were the early seating, so breakfast was at 6:45. Yikes. There weren't very many people in the dining room at that hour - none of our table companions were there. I was very disappointed in the restaurant decor - all of the displays were dark when we arrived - not even the "end-of-the-evening" sketches we'd had the night before! Eventually they turned on just the generic "Animator's Palate" logo, though.

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The menu for debarkation day is the same in all of the restaurants - it's a pretty typical breakfast menu. Though one thing I always forget on Disney cruise ships is how they serve the hashed browns - instead of fried potatoes they are deep-fried potato patties.

I wasn't really up for a big breakfast, so I ordered fruit, yogurt, wheat toast, and hot tea. (Which is more than I eat for breakfast at home.) Our server said: "That's all?", so I ordered a side of bacon, too. :-) I should have said a half side - it was a lot of bacon, and I really only wanted a couple of pieces. I had a couple of pastries, too - a chocolate croissant and a yummy twist with some chocolate chips in it.

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I think Deb and Deb both had the Route 66 - scrambled eggs and hash browns with bacon, grilled sausage, or grilled ham.

Friday afternoon after we'd checked in at our resort we went to Downtown Disney for lunch, to the building that houses Pollo Campero, Fresh A-Peel, and, most importantly, DTD BabyCakes NYC.

I went to Pollo Campero and had their 1/4 Citrus Grilled Chicken Meal. There is a choice of sides (with unusual selections like yucca fries and sweet plantains) and I chose the black beans and white rice. It was really good - the chicken was moist and flavorful. It also came with two warm corn tortillas. The price was quite reasonable, too - $6.99.

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DebK and DebW had lunch from Fresh A-Peel instead. DebK had the Savory Chicken Salad Wrap - citrus grilled chicken, with sweet onion, celery hearts, fresh basil, lemon juice, and black pepper for $5.99. It was very good-sized and she enjoyed it.

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DebW had the Citrus-Grilled Chicken Chop Salad - Mixed greens, roasted corn, red peppers, and black beans with pineapple vinaigrette for $6.99. She'd had this before and likes it.

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For dessert we went to the BabyCakes counter (all three are in the same interior space - Pollo Campero and Fresh A-Peel share a checkout area, but you pay at BabyCakes' counter). This is a vegan bakery, so all of their items are dairy free and egg free, but most of them are also gluten free and soy free! You might think they are also taste free but that is completely wrong. Had I not known that everything I tried was "free" of all those things I never would have known. Everything was delicious. They use agave nectar or unrefined sugar as their sweetener. I asked Emily, the manager, what she would recommend for a chocoholic like me, and she suggested the brownie cupcake with vanilla frosting and the chocolate crunch doughnut. They were both terrific, but I think the doughnut was my favorite - it was really more like eating cake. I'd really like to know how they make a yummy frosting without dairy or powdered sugar!

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That night we had dinner at the Turf Club at Saratoga Springs. This was kind of a mixed experience - we didn't have very good service, and while I really enjoyed my dinner, Deb and Deb weren't quite as happy with theirs.

I started with the Tomato Bisque - served with Herbed Goat Cheese. It was very good.

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My entree was the Sustainable Fish, which was snapper, with whole grain rice pilaf, spinach, and Cherry Tomato Buerre Blanc. It was much better than the snapper I had at Narcoossee's earlier in the week and I really enjoyed it.

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Deb and Deb had the Pork Chop - with Three Cheese Casserole and Red Onion Jam. They said the pork was good, but did not care for the casserole, which was pasta shells and cheese.

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Since we still had some BabyCakes goodies back at the room we didn't have dessert.

So there you have it - since it was a short cruise we didn't get the opportunity to have dinner in the Enchanted Garden, but I enjoyed the two restaurants that I did experience. And I was happy to have the opportunity to try several restaurants at WDW that were new to me. The best surprise was BabyCakes - we'll definitely be visiting there again.

 

AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.



January 27, 2011

Disney Dream - The Wave Phones

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There have been quite a few questions about the Wave phone, like this from Melissa:

Tell us some more about the Wave Phones, are they meant to leave the room and be carried around the ship? How many per stateroom are there?

We're sailing in March with a family of 4 and were planning on bringing walkie-talkies for each of us. Does this effectively replace that need?

So I thought I would try to answer some of those by telling you what I know about them. For one thing, they have been in use aboard the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder since December.

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1. There are two phones per stateroom. You may rent additional phones but there is a per-day fee for them. They are rechargeable, and plug into a unit on the desk for recharging. You may charge one phone at a time. An instruction manual is included with the phones.

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2. The Wave phones replace the pagers that parents with children in Youth Activities were previously issued. Now parents should carry a Wave phone with them instead, in case they need to be contacted.

3. The phones work aboard ship and on Castaway Cay.

4. If the phones are lost, damaged, or not returned to the stateroom there is a $250 charge per phone that will be charged to the stateroom account. Bear that in mind when deciding who to entrust with one.

5. You may dial Wave phone to Wave phone, Wave phone to stateroom phone, or any shipboard phone to Wave phone. Each Wave phone has a unique number.

6. The Wave phones can send and receive both voice messages and text messages.

7. The Wave phone has calculator, calendar, and stopwatch features. You may also set one-time or recurrent alarms.

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8. You may customize contact lists, caller filtering, audio and display settings, key shortcuts, etc.

9. There are both speakerphone and "mute" modes.

10. The status of the battery charge appears on the display. The battery symbol flashes and a tone sounds when it is almost completely discharged.


Deb Koma's comments on using the Wave phones:

1. I thought they were fairly easy to use. I could figure out the basics even without reading the instructions.

2. The ring was low, but I didn't check to see if you could make it louder. It also vibrated, which is what usually got my attention.

3. I liked that you could not only leave messages, but also send text messages.

4. I made and received calls both within the ship and to and from Castaway Cay, and they seemed to work well.


Deb Wills said that she didn't find them very intuitive, and thought they were a little bit confusing - but also admits she never read the instructions. :-)


Hope that helps answer some of your questions - if you have used them and have any additional information or opinions on them please let us know!



Disney Dream Christening Cruise Photos - Around the Ship

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Since many of you seem to want to see more photos of the ship, here's some miscellaneous photos from various areas on-board (and even a couple of exterior shots). I have additional photos from the two shows and the Adult areas that I will post later.

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Play area in the "it's a small world" nursery

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The "Magic Play Floor" in the Oceaneer Club

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Play area in the Oceaneer Lab

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Mosaic near the Guest Services desk

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Gangway on Castaway Cay

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The stern from the dock at Castaway Cay

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Part of the cast of "Believe"

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One of the funnels at night

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Lights on the AquaDuck - it is sometimes open at night.

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Finale of the Buccaneer Blast fireworks show

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Mosaic inside Cabanas

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The ornate women's restroom outside Palo and Remy

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The running track on deck 4 - it is .4 miles around.

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Lounge area on deck 4 above the Atrium.

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Fish sculpture

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The entrance to Animator's Palate

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Dinnerware at Animator's Palate - I loved the palette knife shape for the bread knives.

More photos still to come!

 

AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.


January 28, 2011

Disneyland - The Magic, The Memories and You!

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Believe it or not I still occasionally write about Disneyland, too! :-) I've been very fortunate to spend so much time in Florida recently, but I've been missing my "home" park.

I was invited to a media event at the Disneyland Resort on Thursday night which featured both a sneak peek of the updated Blue Sky Cellar at DCA (opens to the public on Friday), and the premiere of The Magic, The Memories and You!, shown on the "it's a small world facade" at Disneyland.

In the interest of getting something posted quickly, since it's now very late on Thursday, I'm going to concentrate on The Magic, The Memories and You!, especially since I just saw the WDW premiere last week. (I'm bi-coastal! ;-) )

The Disneyland version of The Magic, The Memories, and You is very similar to the WDW version - both are about 10 minutes long and include about 500 photos of guests, either taken that day by a PhotoPass photographer, or contributed on Disney's "Let the Memories Begin" web site: memories.disneyparks.disney.go.com. At Disneyland the show is projected on the "it's a small world" facade - a much larger canvas than Sleeping Beauty Castle would have been. The finale includes a burst of fireworks. One thing that's different - "small world" is more of a horizontal canvas, while Cinderella Castle is more vertical. Most of the effects are the same, though - especially the really awesome effects like fire and the rocket launch.

I loved Michele Himmelberg's description of it on the Disney Parks blog: "It turns [the facade] into an animated, etch-a-sketch coloring pad." You really have to see it in person - video just doesn't capture it.

Currently the show is scheduled once each evening Monday-Thursday at 7:30, with two shows Friday-Sunday - one at 8:00 and the other at 9:10 just before the fireworks show.



January 29, 2011

DCA: Blue Sky Cellar Updated

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At the press event on Thursday night we got a sneak peek at the updated Blue Sky Cellar, which opened to the public on Friday.

Outside of Blue Sky Cellar, on the patio that looks out towards Cars Land, is a new plaque, which gives you a future glimpse into Cars Land.

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Since Ariel's Undersea Adventure is the next big upcoming event, most of the exhibits are focused on it - including the two "Imagineer's desks" on the upper level.

There's a lot of details that a 480x360 pixel photo won't capture, so each photo is a link to a larger version of the photo, if any of you are interested in seeing some of the details.

One of the items on the desk is a piece of glass, which is a sample of what will be used on the attraction's entrance marquee - there are additional drawings of it on the right side.

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Above the desks is a painting which shows the 86' hand-painted mural that will be above the loading area. Notice Ariel underneath - she's wearing a hardhat and holding a set of plans - that is the team logo that was created for the project.

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The other desk shows multiple versions of the ride layout as it evolved over the course of a year.

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Many of us have previously seen the 1/4 inch to one foot scale model of the attraction in its case, but alongside it is something new: a one inch to one foot scale model of Ursula - glowing menacingly in the same type of black light that will be used for that scene in the attraction.

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Just after you walk into the main room of Blue Sky Cellar there's a board on the right that is decorated with the new DCA Attraction posters. These are the retro-look posters that have been in Disneyland for a long time, but this is the first time there have been attraction posters for DCA. The first three are for Silly Symphony Swings, California Screamin', and Mickey's Fun Wheel, with more to come.

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Next is concept art for the Disney Theater (currently Playhouse Disney) and the Red Car Trolleys.

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This board describes the backstory for the new dining options in Paradise Pier: Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta and the Paradise Garden Grill. There's also details on Goofy's Sky School - did you know Goofy was a chicken and egg farmer? :-)

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At the bottom of a ramp is a display case, which has items that are changed out more often than those in the rest of Blue Sky Cellar. On the middle shelf are aerial photos, taken about a year apart.

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On the bottom shelf is Scuttles' script for the opening scene of Ariel's Undersea Adventure.

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In the Screening Room there's an updated movie - some of the footage is familiar, but much of it is new and focuses on the Little Mermaid attraction - though there's also some info on Cars Land, including a clip where we get to watch John Lasseter and Tom Staggs enjoying a test ride on Radiator Springs Racers.

My very favorite new addition is in the screening room, on the right side. If you recall there was a large map showing what DCA will look like in 2012 after the current expansion is completely. They have replaced this with a wonderful new piece of "projection art". It's still a map of DCA, but now it comes to life with at least 30 special effects - moving images that are projected onto the map. There's everything from the World of Color Show in Paradise Bay to lightning strikes on the Tower of Terror. It's not "Enchanted Art", like that on the Disney Dream, as there is no interactive component, but it's still fascinating to watch. I think the entire sequence takes somewhere between 2 and 3 minutes. (The World of Color show starts at about 1:12 in this clip.)

Imagineer Alex Grayman, one of the original concept designers for Ariel's Undersea Adventure, talked to us about the Blue Sky Cellar updates - what is in the room, and how they determine what they want to put in there.





January 30, 2011

Disney Dream Christening Cruise Photos - The Adult Areas

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The Disney Dream has a number of areas that are for adults only - or for adults only during the evening hours, at least. I took some photos of those, too, though unfortunately didn't have a chance to enjoy any of them. Next time...

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The Quiet Cove Pool on deck 11 forward is reserved for use exclusively by those 18 or older.

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Adjacent to the pool is the Cove Cafe, also reserved for those 18 and older. There's lots of cozy chairs to sit in, and it serves specialty coffee and tea drinks as well as mixed beverages.

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The Waves bar is located on deck 12 aft. While not in an adult exclusive area, it certainly caters more to adults, serving beer and other adult beverages.

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The District, on deck 4 aft, is certainly the most extensive adult-oriented area on the ship. Almost all of the lounges are for adults only during the evening hours.

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687 gets its name from the Disney Dream's identification number at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany.

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687 is a sports bar and offers family activities during the day but is reserved for adults at night.

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"Pink" was one of my favorite areas. It's really a beautiful lounge.

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Pink serves a pink Tattinger champagne created exclusively for Disney. In addition to champagne cocktails and wine they serve a selection of scotches and cognacs.

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Skyline will make you believe you're looking out over the city skyline of a different city every 15 minutes or so.

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The art around the room also changes to reflect the current city skyline, as does the background music.

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Rio de Janiero is pictured here, there's also New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, and Los Angeles. There are themed drinks for each locale, also.

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Evolution is the adult dance club.

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The decor is inspired by the transformation of a butterfly.


AllEars was invited media and guests of the Disney Cruise Line on the Christening Cruise.



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About January 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in January 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2010 is the previous archive.

February 2011 is the next archive.

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