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March 3, 2011

Mardi Gras, Disneyland Style

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For the last couple months, Disneyland has made a bid to enliven the traditionally low-traffic winter months by putting on Family Fun Weekends. Having gone through weekends with themes as diverse as "Kickin' Country" and "Lunar New Year," we find ourselves at the tail end of the event with three weekends devoted to Mardi Gras.

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Each weekend was notable for offering themed food and merchandise, and Mardi Gras is no exception. Located appropriately enough in New Orleans Square, there are several carts full of seasonal items for purchase, such as beads, beignet mix, and even cajun-seasoned popcorn.

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Special food selections, such as shrimp po'boys and bouillabaisse, were also present at various restaurants in the area, notably the French Market and the Blue Bayou.

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For entertainment, Tiana and her entourage perform a small show every hour or so during the day. It's basically something of a stripped-down version of the Showboat Jubilee they did right after Princess and the Frog opened up, but it's still a fun show.

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The Family Fun Weekends in general aren't anything so dramatic as to knock your socks off, but they do make a nice change by offering some different experiences that are not typically available. The purpose, I believe, is to give you some new reasons to visit the park during times you might not usually go...and they fulfill it nicely.

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Mardi Gras weekends continue only through this next weekend (March 4-6,) so anyone longing for Mickey brioche would be well-advised to make their plans soon.

March 5, 2011

Mardi Gras Mischief at Disneyland

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For the Mardi Gras themed Family Fun weekends, many of the characters are hanging out in New Orleans Square, dressed in their Mardi Gras best.

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I don't know what was in the air on Friday - whether it was spring fever brought on by the first warm and sunny day we've had in a while, or if it was the spirit of Mardi Gras, but whatever it was it had Pluto full of mischief. It was really a lot of fun to watch his antics.

While I was waiting for Princess Tiana's Mardi Gras Celebration to begin, Chip was greeting guests on the terrace next to me.

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Suddenly Pluto came over, and started sniffing all over Chip.

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And then he grabbed the autograph book Chip had been signing and put it in his mouth.

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He carried it over to the corner where he "dug a hole" and "buried it.

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The little girl went over and got it back and Pluto laid down in the corner (she went back and gave him a big hug, though. :-) )

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Then he got up and sat on the steps beside a young couple and laid his head on the girl's shoulder.

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He went over to where Dale was greeting guests and dragged him back to the stage where the jazz band was playing. (You can see Pluto was wearing his special Mardi Gras collar!)

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It was time for the jazz band to leave and Pluto and Dale went out behind them, though Pluto appeared to "nip" Dale's tail. :-) (Nice to see Pluto exact a little revenge, since I think the chipmunks normally get the better of him in the cartoons!)

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It was a lot of fun to see Pluto demonstrate so much personality. One of the highlights of my day!




March 6, 2011

March Disneyland Trip Report - Part 1

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I made a quick trip to the Disneyland Resort on Friday, March 4. This was one of the trips that I call a Menu Blitz, where I go all over the resort and collect/take pictures of menus, as well as photograph anything else that seems new or interesting.

It was also my first trip with my new point-and-shoot camera - I bought a new Canon PowerShot SD970 IS a few weeks ago. I had my Garmin ForeRunner GPS with me as well - according to that I covered 9.5 miles in 4 hours and 55 minutes of roaming around.

I thought I'd take you with me on my wanderings and show you some of the things I saw.

I parked in the Mickey & Friends parking structure and then walked over to the Disneyland Hotel. This is actually the first Disney picture I took with my new camera (the first of thousands, I'm sure!). The remodel is complete on the Dreams and Wonder Towers and has now moved to the Magic Tower:

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There's construction walls around the back, and access to Goofy's Kitchen and Steakhouse 55 is through the lobby. Notice the big mirror - those are at all the corners.

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Because of the construction of the new pool and restaurant area (you can read a bit about the two new restaurants, Tangaroa Terrace and Trader Sam's, in this Disney Parks Blog entry), access to the Wonder Tower is via the path between the Dreams Tower and Downtown Disney. But at the end of the Dreams Tower there is this set of peepholes where we can get a glimpse into what's going on. I liked how they were at varying heights. :-)

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There wasn't much to see - I'm guessing this is part of the structure for the new pool slide.

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I liked how the fence was actually built around this tree! You can also see an example of one of the old-time attraction posters that they have placed along the fence.

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I visited the Paradise Pier and the Grand Californian, collecting menus, and then did a turn through Downtown Disney, also in search of menus. But menu photos are not exactly interesting. I'd logged 2.25 miles by the time I arrived at the Esplanade. They have this Let the Memories Begin display there:

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The Family Fun Weekends sign just inside the entrance to Disneyland:

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The construction walls that were covering the trolley tracks on Main Street last month are gone, but there are walls up on either side of the entrance to the Opera House.

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In Tomorrowland, work is proceeding on Star Tours, which now has an announced opening date of June 3.

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The Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster Fastpass machines are behind walls.

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The Star Traders shop is temporarily closed, and merchandise has been moved into Starcade next door. So you can play video games and shop for your favorite Star Wars merchandise at the same time! :-)

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There's walls around the base of the Observatron also.

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The Tangled meet and greet area in Fantasyland.

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Something I'd never noticed before - the coat of arms for Dumbo! (Motto: Believe & Soar!):

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Construction walls at the Mark Twain dock.

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For the three Mardi Gras weekends, the restaurants in New Orleans Square were offering special food items. There was a Bananas Foster Crepe at Cafe Orleans, and Bouillabaisse and Apple Fritters a la Mode at the Blue Bayou.

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The French Market had two special sandwiches: a Muffaletta and a Shrimp Po Boy (pictured here). That looked good, but I didn't get a chance to try it.

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Royal Street Veranda, French Market, and Harbour Galley were all offering a Mickey Brioche. This was an egg bread with some purple, gold and green sugar sprinkled on it. It was about 6" around. It was a little dry, though.

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In the Court of Angels they were doing character greetings with characters in their Mardi Gras costumes.

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In the area between the French Market and the Haunted Mansion were a couple of merchandise carts - this one offered New Orleans-themed items, and the other one was doing Mardi Gras face painting.

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Jeanine already did a nice blog entry on the Mardi Gras weekends, including Princess Tiana's Mardi Gras Celebration, which I saw on Friday. Before the show, the Jambalaya Jazz band played on the stage.

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The cast in their Mardi Gras parade from Frontierland to New Orleans Square before the show - they even threw a few beads. I wish they'd been able to bring back Tiana's Showboat Jubilee on the Mark Twain - I really enjoyed that show.

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Critter Country is still undergoing "beautification" and those walls are still up.

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There was a beautiful display of spring flowers - daffodils and tulips - in the planters around the hub:

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The day started off cloudy and overcast, but once the marine layer burned off it was a beautiful day - the warmest we've had in a several weeks - it got to the upper 70s! I like the color on the tree in the middle of this photo - and you can see some of the foliage from Pixie Hollow in the corners.

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Saint Patrick's Day is coming, and there's some new merchandise out - several t-shirts, Mickey ears, baseball caps, an antenna ball and a lighted shamrock on a lanyard.

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There's also a special Duffy:

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And several St. Patrick's Day treats - Marshmallows on a stick:

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Krispie treats:

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And, my favorite, the Mickey Leprechaun shorts apples:

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In Part 2 I'll have photos from Disney California Adventure.




March 9, 2011

March Disneyland Trip Report - Part 2

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In Part 1 I showed you some of the things I saw on Friday at the hotels and Disneyland, and here I'll talk about DCA.

Work is continuing on the new entrance - some of the structure is visible now above the walls.

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The ElecTRONica stage stands in front of the construction walls at the former Sunshine Plaza.

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The walls on the other side of Sunshine Plaza are decorated with 1920's style advertising.

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This sounds like my kind of place: "Mountains of Candy", "Valleys of Taffy", and "Rivers of Fudge!"

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The Cadillac Mountains are still mostly steel framework, but you can see that some of the mountains on the right have been covered.

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From Paradise Pier you can see that the mountains closest to California Screamin' even have some finished rockwork and vegetation.

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I had a late breakfast at Pacific Wharf Cafe - love those sourdough bread bowls! Though the secret to this dish is to get the La Victoria salsa from Cocina Cucamonga to put on top.

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Things seem to be moving along quickly on the exterior of Ariel's Undersea Adventure - good thing, since it's supposed to open in less than three months!

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There's already lots of detail visible!

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This King Triton bronze used to be at Ariel's Grotto at Disneyland, and now has a new home at DCA. This Disney Parks blog entry shows a video of the statue as it's moved into place.

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The track for Goofy's Sky School has been painted.

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The future home of Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta.

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Seems like they have a long way to go if this is going to be open by summertime (or earlier).

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More fun artwork on the construction walls.

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I liked this sign outside Taste Pilot's Grill.

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The "Pixar Pals, Monsters Inc. Mayhem" show was just leaving Hollywood as I went through.

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The Disney Junior Live on Stage show opens March 25.

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I had a good day, even if it was a little bit short, but I enjoy just wandering around the parks.

Look for menu updates over the next week or so.



March 20, 2011

New Walt Disney World Marathon Relay Race

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Just after this year's Walt Disney World Marathon weekend in January, Disney announced some of the details of next year's event - one of which was a new race - the Marathon Relay. A marathon without having to run a full 26.2 miles? Isn't THAT an intriguing idea! It was a little frustrating, though because up until this week there hadn't really been any additional details on it. But finally, just a day or so before registration opened up on Tuesday, there was some additional information on the web site, and even more has been released since then. Here's the press release.

In the new relay, two-person teams will each race 13.1 miles (each completing their own half marathon). The first leg goes from Epcot to Magic Kingdom and ends in the Pluto parking lot. The second leg goes from there to Animal Kingdom, the Studios, and Epcot, and ends in the Epcot parking lot. It will be run at the same time as the WDW Marathon on January 8, 2012 and will share most of the course with those who are running the Marathon, with some slight differences because of the relay aspect and exchange zone.

Those mischievous chipmunks, Chip and Dale, are the hosts for this race, and will be featured on the new relay medals. It will be fun to see what the medals look like! I hope they are not responsible for the aid stations, though - I'd prefer something other than acorns. :-)

The web site says that "registration is limited" - though it doesn't say how limited. I didn't take any chances, and I signed up (Lee and I will be running as Team Zimmerbreath) as soon as registration opened on Tuesday morning. :-)

I love running in Inaugural events - this will be my 4th Inaugural Disney race. I've also done the Inaugurals of the Disneyland Half Marathon, the Tower of Terror 13K and the Princess Half Marathon. It will be interesting to see how some of the logistics work, though, and I hope there won't be too many first year glitches - that's probably one reason they are keeping it somewhat smaller. I know I have lots of questions on how things are going to work - like how they will transport those of us running the second leg to our start area, and if we'll have any way of tracking our partner to know where they are and when we might expect them to arrive - and then how do we find them to do the "exchange"? And then there's the transportation or runner1 back to Epcot, and whether Lee will be able to monitor my progress, and how we find each other at the finish. Not to mention how we all amuse ourselves while waiting at least a couple of hours for our partner to finish their leg of the race! I'll be running leg 2 - it's bad enough to have to get up insanely early for the start of the marathon, but it looks like I'll have to get up insanely early and then wait for Lee to arrive at the exchange. And then he'll have to wait for me at the finish - and since he runs faster he'll have a longer wait than I will. :-) Hopefully all of these questions will be answered before the race - but if not, we'll definitely find out on January 8, 2012!

Now that we've figured out what Disney race we're running in January, Lee and I are also happy to be returning to Team AllEars again this year. We'll be Running with Purpose along with our co-team captains Michelle Scribner MacLean and Mike Scopa, the incomparable Deb Wills, and the rest of our wonderful teammates. We'll all be doing our best to raise awareness and support breast cancer research. You can read more about Team AllEars HERE.

If you've ever thought about running a race during Disney's Marathon Weekend this is a great opportunity to do it. It doesn't matter if you've never run before - every year the team has people new to running who work and train and then are able to complete their first 5K or half marathon during Marathon Weekend! Everyone on the team is so supportive and encouraging - it makes a big difference in all of those months of training since even those of us who are experienced runners have our ups and downs, too.

Team AllEars is dedicated to raising funds to support breast cancer research. We're not quite ready to start with the on-line fund raising yet, but when we are I will be posting information here, and I hope that you will all consider supporting Team Zimmerbreath as we participate in the first Walt Disney World Marathon Relay!.



March 22, 2011

Recent Disneyland Meals

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Thought I'd write about some of the new (to me) meals I've had at Disneyland over my last few trips.

The Village Haus in Fantasyland re-opened late last year with a somewhat new menu - I have to say I was happy to see a new twist on the the burgers and pizza they served before! They still serve burgers and pizza, but now in addition to the usual offerings they serve a burger with pastrami, horseradish sauce, and caramelized onions, and a BLT flatbread with bacon, caramelized onions, marinated tomatoes and arugula. In keeping with the Bavarian theme of the restaurant they also offer a chicken sausage in a pretzel roll, covered with sauerkraut, which was what I tried. It was pretty good - the sausage was tasty, though the pretzel roll was a little dry. And it needed more sauerkraut. But I enjoyed it and would order it again.

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Village Haus Menu

Troubadour Tavern is located next to Disney's Princess Fantasy Faire. Its offerings are more like substantial snacks than real meals. In addition to bratwurst and corn on the cob they offer three kinds of baked potatoes: broccoli and cheese, bacon and sour cream, and barbecued chicken. I ordered the bacon and sour cream potato, which also came with cheese and chives. I'm never quite sure what I'm going to get when I order a baked potato from a fast food place, but the one I had here was hot and fluffy and very good. They were pretty generous with all of the toppings, and it was petty filling for $6.29. I think next time I'd like to try either the broccoli and cheese or the barbecued chicken potato - those look good, too!

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Troubadour Tavern Menu

Tomorrowland Terrace has a Mahi Mahi Sandwich on the menu. The mahi mahi is marinated and baked, and served on a bun with cabbage and pico de gallo. I opted for the fruit instead of fries. It could have used something that would have given it a little bit more of a kick, but I'd order it again.

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Tomorrowland Terrace Menu

While Lee and I have done the World of Color Picnics several times, we had never done one of the World of Color Dinner Packages. I was surprised when I called on a Thursday and found plenty of availability for the next night - I had my choice of times at both restaurants!. We chose the Wine Country Trattoria - I hadn't been there since they re-opened last summer with the new menu.

There is now seating at the Trattoria both upstairs and downstairs, but the kitchen is not quite as well-equipped upstairs, so only World of Color diners are seated upstairs, since it has a smaller menu. (They also seat World of Color diners downstairs.) We were seated upstairs. The area is a large covered patio, and is open on the sides. It was a little chilly on this January night, but not too bad.

The World of Color Dinners are prix fixe - you have choice of soup or salad, and then a choice of six entrees. Dessert is a shared platter with small servings of four different desserts. It's $39.99, and at the end of dinner you receive tickets to the Reserved Viewing area for the World of Color show.

Since it was a cool evening Lee and I started with the minestrone soup. It's a very acceptable soup, but nothing to rave about.

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I chose Today's Sustainable Fish for my entree. I don't remember now what kind of fish it was but it was nicely cooked, moist, and served on a bed of tomato-vegetable ragu.

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Lee had the Braised Lamb Shank with polenta and some kind of greens. He really liked it - I had a few bites, too, and it was very good.

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I have to say I was disappointed in the desserts: Trattoria Tiramisu, Mini Fruit Crostada,
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Fresh Fruit, and Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse with Lemon Cream. The mousse was pretty good, but the rest were just ok. We didn't finish the crostada or the tiramisu.

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I was surprised that there was an annual pass discount on the dining package, but there was, and our server even asked if we were AP holders (which they don't always do). Even with the discount, by the time we added tax, tip, and a couple glasses of wine it was a hundred dollar dinner.

Wine Country Trattoria World of Color Dinner Menu

We had tickets to the 8:00 World of Color show - even though it said to go to the viewing area at 7:30, and we went at 7:30, there were already LOTS of people in there. So, even in the reserved section we didn't get a prime spot, though we had a mostly unobstructed view. Still a great show, though. I hadn't see the Tron tag at the end from the viewing area - only from the side. It looks a lot better from the front.

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March 24, 2011

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me...

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In preparation for the upcoming premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides, Disneyland is offering a new pirate experience in the Festival Arena at Disneyland. The area has been transformed to resemble Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge. On Friday-Sunday nights from March 25 - May 29, plus Monday, May 30, and every night from April 15 - May 1, there will be a special 3-D sneak peek preview of the new movie, which opens in theaters May 20. Following a pirate training session, Jack Sparrow will introduce the extended preview. According to the Disneyland web site, the sneak peek is: "an interactive stage event featuring state-of-the-art projections, 3D film sequences and special effects that include bursts of flame, dramatic sound effects and theatrical lighting."

A selection of pirate merchandise, for both scurvy scoundrels and winsome wenches, will be available at merchandise carts in the arena area. A food cart will offer mugs of grog, a spiced concoction including orange, guava, pineapple and passion fruit juices. And it will also include a glowing cube.

We'll have more information and photos after we have a chance to experience it for ourselves.

Arrrr....



March 27, 2011

Even More About the Disney Dream...

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Hey guys! I don't know if you've heard, but the Disney Cruise Line has a new ship called the Dream! And it's 40% bigger! And...wait, where are you all going...?

So OK, maybe you've suffered a severe case of Dream publicity burn-out. I get that. That's why I've deliberately procrastinated on blogging about my Dream cruise until absolutely no one is talking about it anymore.

Since AllEars already has an incredibly comprehensive section on the nuts and bolts of the Dream, I figured I'd just briefly rip off the Betamouse podcast's "Win, Fail, and Meh" segment...because there is really very little anyone could reasonably consider "Ugly" about it.

The Win:

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Enchanted Artwork: The pictures on the walls that are magically brought to life by your presence are, in fact, enchanting. It's technologically impressive, but made even more effective by the unobtrusive way they're presented. Nothing about any of the artwork would make you think there's anything special about them...unless you stop to really look at them for a moment. They work to give the guest the feeling that anything magical could happen at any time.

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Enchanted Garden: I have thought that Parrot Cay was the weak link in the dining room triad for a long time; the Enchanted Garden is a vast improvement. The food quality seems improved and the changing lighting with opening flower lights and fans is a huge step up from what used to be something trading on the Tiki Room nostalgia without providing the same quality of theming.

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Wave Phones: Sure, there's a few problems with their implementation--they don't always work, they're set perpetually on vibrate, and they don't have a belt clip. They're still a huge improvement over constantly having to run across the ship back to your room to see if anyone left you a message. So what if you have to punch "7" 4 times to text "S?"

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Golden Mickeys: It's nice to see this show updated with some of the songs from Disney's newer musical hits. One of the things I've always liked about it is its relatively straight portrayal of the numbers, rather than trying to work them into "hipper" versions--I've never been sure the world needs a beat-box version of "Yo Ho."

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Pirate Night show: Although the fireworks have always been a nice touch, the Pirate deck show has become a little familiar over the years, remaining basically unchanged across time and ships. This version, with the more child-friendly character segment done before the late dinner seating, and the older-themed Jack Sparrow/supernatural pirate dance segment done after, switches it up a little so it feels like a fresher experience.

The Fail:

Royal Palace breakfast: So this was a total disappointment. One thing that's always been fun for us is, when we manage to get up early enough, having breakfast at the sit-down restaurant on board. The menus are usually themed to whatever the dining room is (either Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast,) with item names like "Mrs. Pott's French Toast" or whatever. On the Dream, the breakfast menu had all the character of the menu you get on transatlantic flights, as if they made it purposely generic in order to print the same ones for all the ships. I typically order the same thing--waffles--each time. Here's what it looked like in 2008...

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And here's what it looked like on the Dream:

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I mean, serious? Not only were these not Belgian waffles, as before, they were like Eggo Waffles, made by someone who didn't totally understand how a toaster worked. My Mom had the Eggs Benedict, which came out with the eggs more or less hard-boiled on top. This needs a great deal of work--I couldn't recommend going here for breakfast, versus heading out to one of the buffets.

The Navigators: When I first started cruising, the navigators were pretty much monocolor, with no pictures. They did, however, tell you all about the different events occurring each day, with a map and legend of the ship so you could tell where everything was taking place. Now, the Navigators are in Technicolor, with the front page taken up largely with pictures and advertisements for the shops and repeat booking desk. The back has a list of operating hours, surrounded with more ads for additional-fee opportunities. The inside is a colored schedule which tells you in little boxes what time events are occurring. Unfortunately, there are hardly any descriptions of any of the events, so if it's not obvious from the title, you're pretty much out of luck (what's "Magic Mirror?" "Jet Set Live?" "Family Fun Time?" You'll have to show up, to find out.)

Some things weren't listed at all. On Pirate night, they had their usual Pirate buffet, but put it inside Cabana instead of out on the deck, as on the other ships. While this might have worked out better, it was never listed in the Navigator so as a result, I never found anyone who even knew it was there. By the time I found it, after the fireworks, it had pretty much been broken down already.

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Pirate Night menu: This menu, which I feel is one of the weakest on board, remains more or less the same as always. It really needs an update, unless they're using it to make the prospect of paying the upcharge to eat at Palo that night, more attractive.

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The Meh:

Animator's Palate II: While most of the new eateries were an improvement, this was the only one that seemed like it took a step back. Whereas the old show was an all-encompassing environmental change that utilized lighting, animation, and music to gradually change from black and white to color, the new Animator's Palate is pretty much Turtle Talk with Crush, with Food. It's entertaining enough, but hard to watch without thinking that this is aimed squarely at children, as opposed to the old show which was a little more sophisticated. It's also hurt a little by the lack of server involvement--before the servers used to change vests with the evolving coloration, and do a little parade. On this ship, the concept of the server parade is eliminated, as the dining rooms are serving 40% more people--thus leaving barely enough space between tables for people to squeeze into their chairs a lot of the time, much less character parades.

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There is some hope however, as Imagineer Jerry Rees (http://www.jerryrees.com/index.html) reports having finished a second show, utilizing classic Disney characters, for Animator's Palate that hasn't quite gotten installed yet, but which should alternate with Turtle Talk on cruises that have two nights dining there. A new show that doesn't seem meant for the Playhouse Disney crowd is an exciting prospect.

Believe: The new show created for the Dream. It has a lot of really great numbers, but the framework story really does very little for me. In the first place, I continue to have problems with shows where actresses are playing roles around the age of 10, when they're clearly in their twenties. In the second place, the show revolves around a father and daughter whose relationship is damaged when he has to work on her birthday. Honestly, the idea that the father should be totally guilt-stricken when she has a fit because he won't drop everything and play magic/fairies with her seemed like asking a lot: It wasn't like he forgot her birthday--he had already given her a present and clearly had planned something for her later. Maybe workaholic fathers will relate with this, but it just left me thinking that some children need to learn how to entertain themselves a little better.

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Get beyond that though, and it was a fun show. There was a plethora of really elaborate musical numbers that aren't commonly performed, with some terrific sets. I'd actually rather see it as a straight revue, with the framing story dropped.

Adult activities: Here's the thing: The Dream has a vast number of places and activities dedicated to children, and a bunch of hip and involving areas for teens to enjoy. For adults, there are around 10 bars, and a number of nightclubs. So there's plenty to do, assuming you're a child, or a teen, or you like to drink and/or go clubbing. If you're not...

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It should probably be admitted that everyone has different interests and enjoys different things. In the Real World, however, there are assumptions that people will generally fit into certain circumscribed roles. As an adult, there are usually a handful of things considered appropriate to have as interests: Sports; Politics; Children (yours/others,) Drinking; Nightclubbing; etc. If you don't happen to share those interests, then a visit to the Disney environment can represent a relief from constantly being made to feel like a poster child for arrested development. Additionally, as a non-drinker, I find Disney cruises particularly appealing for not having the same crowds of drunks lurching around, laughing raucously that other cruise lines sometimes attract.

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So it's a little disquieting that virtually everywhere you turn on the Dream, there's a bar. Even more so when it becomes evident that almost all the adult spaces on board, even the pool, are pretty much exclusively designed for drinking. It's not that there's nothing else on board for adults to do, but that there is nothing so evident exclusively for adults to do as drinking that seems a little...unimaginative.

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All in all though, these little complaints are minor compared to the wonderful experience cruising on the Dream really is. It's managed to streamline the whole mechanical process of cruising with great new technology without losing a lot of the little touches that make the Disney experience as magical as we always hope it will be. Happy cruising!

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About March 2011

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

February 2011 is the previous archive.

April 2011 is the next archive.

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