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April 3, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides Sneak Peek

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From now until May 30, Disneyland is offering a special "sneak peek" experience for the new Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides movie on selected nights. Lee and I had the opportunity to see what this was all about last Saturday.

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The "experience" takes place at night at the Festival Arena behind Big Thunder Ranch - this was also were many of the Family Fun Weekends were held earlier this year.

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Things get started at about 7:00 p.m. along Big Thunder Trail, where they have placed several merchandise and beverage carts. Two of the carts offer a variety of pirate-themed merchandise, such as hats, t-shirts, "hooks", and swords. Various light-up glowy things are also available.

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The beverage cart serves hot chocolate and Pirate Grog - we tried the latter. It's a cold punch with a light-up ice cube. Lots of tropical flavors light passion fruit, mango and pineapple. It was pretty tasty, but rather expensive at $6.25 for what was probably about 12 ounces of beverage.

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The lines to get in were pretty long on the night we were there. To entertain us while waiting there was a strolling, singing, guitar-playing pirate who walked back and forth along the line. Once we got closer to the entrance, there was a small stage set up, where Poisonous Pat and the peg-legged parrot Captain Squawk were holding court. Not sure how it was done, but Captain Squawk was able to interact with the guests and see and hear them. As each group went by they would give pirate names to some of the guests, administer the pirate oath, and then answer some questions.

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After we went by Captain Squawk we were lined up in a holding area in Big Thunder Ranch, and then were admitted into the Festival Arena.

In some ways it's unfortunate that this event is held at night. The Festival Arena area was decorated to look like the deck of the Queen Anne's Revenge, but because it was dark, we really couldn't see it very well. There's a large screen in the front, and there were pirates in the rigging on both sides as we entered, with other pirates up on some of the other "masts", who were interacting with the guests.

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Once inside, there were lots of cast members directing us on where to go - once there, we had to sit down on the ground. There are some benches way in the back for those who can't sit on the ground and there are designated areas for those in wheelchairs or ECVs.

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So after we were settled, we learned more about this "secret meeting" of Captain Jack's crew that we'd been invited to. But first, as new crew members we had to take the Pirate Oath:

"I, (state your name)" (to which we all dutifully replied "I, state your name" :-) )

"Can always be trusted not to be trusted.
To run from any fight I cannot win.
To win any fight I cannot run from.
To plunder treasure with a hearty laugh.
And to drink free rum with a hearty heart."

(I think only Captain Squawk's version had that last line.)

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A young audience member was appointed First Mate and got to come up on stage and read some words of warning on a scroll, which were accompanied by some flaming torch effects.

After some additional silliness, and a chorus of "Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me", we were told to stow "all Canons[sic] or other devices that will steal our souls", and to put on our 3-D glasses, and then the preview began.

Rather than a series of clips from the movie, this was one extended scene, about 8-9 minutes long. I found it a little odd to be plunked down in the middle of the movie, without really knowing what was going on, but it wasn't that hard to figure out. There was a lot of action, and a lot of 3D effects - they looked pretty good, but I personally find them a little cheesy and distracting.

When the lights came on, we found our live pirates "hanging around", matching something we'd seen at the end of the movie clip. That was pretty cool, and unexpected.

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On the way out we had time to look a little bit more closely at some of the set pieces.

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The warnings Captain Squawk had issued about avoiding a ship with red sails made a lot more sense once there was a little more light!

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I had thought Jack Sparrow would be part of the "secret meeting". But instead, he was standing near the exit as we were about to get back onto Big Thunder Trail again. Since he was behind a fence and not posing for photos with individuals, it was actually a good way for most everyone to get a pretty good look at him.

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I'm not sure how many people are allowed into the Festival area at a time - a couple hundred maybe? They can do two shows an hour, by the time they load everyone in, do the show, and then empty the area again. We were in line before 7:00, and saw the second show, which started about 7:45.

We were seated in the center, about 2/3 of the way back, but still had a really good view of the screen and what was going on. Getting up afterwards after sitting on the concrete for about 20 minutes was a little bit of a challenge, though. :-)

It was a fun experience, though because they were trying to get people in and out of there I felt rushed and not able to take a closer look at what they had done back in the Festival Arena. Maybe that adds more mystery to it? I think we'll try to see it again if the line isn't too long.



April 6, 2011

Hungry Bear Restaurant Review

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The Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country re-opened recently with a new menu, featuring some new and rather unusual menu items. Lee and I tried some of them on our visit last weekend.

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The previous Hungry Bear menu offered your basic burgers and fries - nothing too exciting. The new menu still has burgers and fries, but the burgers are Angus beef burgers and are served with sweet potato fries. In addition to the regular cheeseburger there is a Pioneer Cheeseburger that is topped with homemade chili and a hand-battered onion ring. Lee tried that and said it was excellent. He took a bite of the burger patty all by itself and said that it was really good - normally theme park burgers are not very tasty. The sweet potato fries were also excellent - they were crisp and flavorful and not soggy at all. Really good. I was never even offered a bite of the onion ring, but it looked wonderful.

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The new "signature" item on the menu is the Fried Green Tomato sandwich, and that's what I ordered. It has cornmeal crusted fried green tomatoes layered with two slices of fresh tomato with havarti cheese, remoulade, jicama-mango slaw and served on a multi-grain roll. It comes with choice of sweet potato fries or zesty slaw - I ordered the slaw. The fried tomatoes were quite good - didn't taste like tomato at all, though. They were crunchy but not greasy. Unfortunately the jicama-mango slaw contained slices of red pepper, which I don't like - I picked them out and enjoyed the sandwich without them. The "zesty slaw" turned out to be the jicama-mango slaw - so that meant more red peppers. I should've ordered the sweet potato fries. Actually, I should've ordered the onion rings - I found out later that you can order onion rings with your sandwiches instead of fries or slaw. Anyway, the sandwich was good and I would order it again - but request that they leave off the slaw.

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Other new offerings on the menu are the Crispy Chicken Sandwich and Turkey and Provolone Sandwich, and Big Al's Chicken Salad. That sounded intriguing - it's romaine and iceberg lettuce topped with smoked chicken, dried cherries, candied walnuts, pickled onions, and watermelon, of all things. Sounds like something that would be very refreshing on a warm summer day.

Veggie burgers are still available at Hungry Bear, but take a little bit longer to prepare. But a veggie burger cheeseburger is still an option!

There's two new desserts on the menu - the Lemon Bumblebee Cupcake and Trixie's Blueberry Pie. The cupcake has a lemon cream filling and honey-lemon frosting.

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We had the blueberry pie. They actually keep them warm in a warming oven, but of course by the time we finished our sandwiches it was only barely (bearly?) warm. It was filled with lots of plump blueberries - it wasn't just congealed blueberry goop. It was a little bit tart - Lee liked it that way, I thought it could have used a little more sugar. It was really good, though.

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The new menu gets two thumbs up from us - we'll be back, for blueberry pie if nothing else. :-) The restaurant's seating area down at the edge of the Rivers of America makes it one of the nicer places to eat at Disneyland - it seems just a little quieter and more out of the way than a lot of the other restaurants.

You can view the menu HERE.



April 16, 2011

Disney Wonder - Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise

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In a little over a week we leave on the Disney Wonder, where we will be sailing on the Pacific Northwest repositioning cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver, followed by the very first Disney cruise to Alaska! We're pretty excited.

This will be a new cruise ship for us - we've been on the Disney Magic and I've been on the Disney Dream, but this will be our first time aboard the Disney Wonder. I know it's the Magic's sister ship, so I'm hoping the layout won't be too much different. For those of you who have been on the Wonder, do you have any suggestions of cool things that we should be sure to take a look at?

The repositioning cruise will have two At Sea days, plus we'll have an overnight visit to San Francisco, so we'll have most of two days in San Francisco. We plan to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum. And Ghirardelli Square. :-) We'll also visit the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island in Canada. It's been over 30 years since I last visited Victoria, but I remember how beautiful it was, and I was very happy to learn it would be one of the ports on the repositioning cruise. I'll be taking an excursion to the world-famous Butchart Gardens. I love flowers, and since my other two trips to the gardens were in the summer, I'm looking forward to seeing the spring flowers this time.

We dock in Vancouver on May 3, and leave that same day for Alaska, so we won't really be spending any time in Vancouver this time.

There will be a sizable group of All Ears fans on board for the Alaska cruise, and I think Deb Wills and Beci Mahnken (and the rest of the fine folks at Mouse Fan Travel) have been planning some fun events for us. Picture This! photographer Barrie Brewer designed an awesome logo for our AllEars Alaskan Adventure:

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Isn't that great? We can order some merchandise through Cafe Press - I have a t-shirt and a tote bag that I'll be bringing with me.

On the Alaska cruise we will have two At Sea days, and we will be visiting the ports of Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. We will also spend a day in Tracy Arm Fjord - no port there, but we'll be cruising in the fjord to the twin Sawyer Glaciers. So we hope to see some glaciers calving, and also see some wildlife like seals and birds. And who knows, maybe we'll get really lucky and see a bear!

I've been on an Alaskan cruise before but it was way back in 1983 - this will be Lee's first time in Alaska.

Packing for this cruise is certainly a lot different than for our Caribbean or Mediterranean cruises - the weather is going to be a lot colder (and probably a lot rainier) than for either of those! Forget the shorts and tank tops - it's going to be jeans and sweaters and lots of layers. Are UGGs considered appropriate footwear for formal night? :-)

I plan to blog while we're on both cruises - internet permitting, of course. Though while we're in our Alaskan ports we should be able to use our cell modem, since for a change we'll still be in the United States! :-) Hope you will follow along on our AllEars Alaskan Adventure!.



April 20, 2011

New Disneyland Race - the Tinker Bell 1/2 Marathon

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For several weeks the runDisney Facebook page has been teasing us with clues about a new Disney race. The clues have been pretty obscure, for example this was the first clue:

Fantasia/Dumbo
Dumbo:Tangled

And this was another clue:

Ronald Arthur Charles

Secret decoder rings were no help here!

But the wait is finally over, and on Tuesday Disney announced, first on the runDisney Facebook page and then at a press conference at ESPN Zone at Disneyland's Downtown Disney, that the new race will be a half marathon at Disneyland - the Tinker Bell 1/2 Marathon. Race weekend is January 27-29, 2012, and the race itself will be on Sunday, January 29. Other weekend events include an Expo on January 27-28 and the Never Land Family Fun Run 5K and Kid's Races on Saturday, January 28.

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Disney California Adventure Vice President Mary Niven made the announcement, joined by Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, Disneyland Ambassador Jolie Hales, and actress Megyn Price, star of Rules of Engagement.

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Megyn Price will be participating in her first half marathon, and was the first person to register for the race. She received her personalized race bib, with the number "1".

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The race features a new half marathon course in the city of Anaheim. It starts at the typical starting line on Disneyland Drive but runners will head north instead of south, and run through Disneyland Park between miles 2 and 3. Heading north again the course goes almost all the way to Anaheim City Hall, before returning south at just short of mile 7. After passing by Anaheim's Garden Walk runners will enter Disney California Adventure at about mile 11.5. The race finishes in a new location: the parking lot south of the Paradise Pier Hotel. The course map is HERE.

This race will be relatively small, with a limit of just over 10,000 entrants, and all finishers will receive a new Tinker Bell "wings" medal.

I know one of my big questions about the race was: "What does this mean to the Coast-to-Coast Challenge?" And it does change the way that operates. For those not familiar with the Coast-to-Coast, in the past, if you ran any of these Florida races: the WDW Marathon, Half Marathon, or Princess Half Marathon, and then ran the Disneyland Half Marathon, all in the same calendar year, you received the special Coast-to-Coast Challenge medal after you completed your Disneyland Half Marathon. (And it's a super-cool piece of bling, too!!!)

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Now the rules have changed, and if you run any WDW Marathon/Half Marathon race plus either of the Disneyland races in the same calendar year, you will receive the Coast-to-Coast medal upon completion of the second race. No matter which order you did them in - you can do a DL race first and a WDW race second, or vice versa. This now makes the Wine and Dine Half Marathon eligible as one of the WDW races, which it has not been in the past. You can only receive one Coast-to-Coast medal per year, though - so even if you ran, for example, the WDW Half and Tinker Bell Half in January, then ran the Princess Half in March and the Disneyland Half in September, you would still only receive the one Coast-to-Coast. (And I know there are those of you out there who thought about it!!!). As they have done in the past, Coast-to-Coast participants will receive a wristband at the Packet Pick-Up for their second race, and after completing the race will go to a special section of the finish area to exchange the wristband for a Coast-to-Coast medal.

The timing of the new race means that some of us can complete our Coast-to-Coast challenges in January by running a WDW race during Marathon weekend in early January, and then running the Tinker Bell Half in late January. As I am already signed up for the Marathon relay at WDW in January, and now the Tinker Bell Half, yes, I will be one of those crazy people.

Like the Princess Half Marathon, this race is designed to appeal to female runners, but men may also participate. Faron Kelly, Director of Marketing for Disney Sports Attractions, talked to us about the race, and specifically the women-focused aspect, after the announcement:

"More and more women are taking up marathoning, and half-marathoning. When you look at the number of new people entering distance running it is very heavily skewed to more and more women entering the sport. When you talk to them and say: 'Why do you like these women's-focused races?' They feel less intimidating, they feel a spirit of camaraderie...it's a different environment. The mixed races tend to feel a little bit more competitive. It's a great way to get a lot of women interested in the sport of marathoning, and in doing other races that are not just women-only."

Like the Princess Half, there are two-person team registrations available. It's not a relay - both members of the team run the full race - but teams get a second bib with their team name on it, and are eligible for awards for combined finish time in the team categories: Mother/Daughter, Sisters, Co-ed, and Open.

For additional information, or to register for the Tinker Bell 1/2 Marathon, visit the event's home page.

Oh, and about those obscure race clues? Apparently you had to be a Robert Langdon-class symbologist to figure them out - runDisney released this youtube video decoding the first three clues:

Clear as crystal now, huh?

So what do YOU think of the new Disneyland race? Will you be signing up?



April 23, 2011

April Disneyland Trip Report - Part 1

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After I attended Tuesday's press event on the new Tinker Bell 1/2 Marathon I wandered around Disneyland, DCA, the Disneyland Hotel and Downtown Disney for a while.

There's still lots of construction going on at the Disneyland Hotel - beginning with the remodel of the Magic Tower.

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The new restaurant complex behind the Never Land pool area.

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I couldn't find a place to get a clear shot of the slide in the new pool area, but can see that the monorails are now in place.

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Roof line on the new restaurant complex - reminds me of the longhouses at the Polynesian at WDW.

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They were doing work outside the main lobby of the Dreams Tower, so everyone staying there was having to use the entrance and the elevator located on the south end of the building.

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A couple of the restaurants in Downtown Disney are offering some new nightly entertainment: Salsa Nights at Tortilla Jo's on Wednesdays:

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And Dueling Pianos at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen on Thursdays.

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It was spring break, and while the parks weren't packed, they were busy - it felt more like a normal weekend day than it did a holiday period.

The construction facade is still up on The Emporium - it's been there for several weeks now, so I guess they are doing some extensive work under there!

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Star Tours has an opening date of June 3, and Annual Passholder previews starting on May 23.

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Star Traders is still closed - it's scheduled to open in early May.

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Birds of a feather flock together. :-) (This photo inspired by a similar photo that Gary Edstrom took and posted to the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup not too long ago.)

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Since it's a busy time Princess Fantasy Faire is running their full schedule of events, including the Royal Coronation Ceremony and Princess Storytelling.

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They had some nice spring-themed decorations at the Celebration BBQ and Roundup at Big Thunder Ranch.

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Even the goats in the petting zoo were dressed up.

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It was interesting to see what they've done for the Pirates of the Caribbean Sneak Peek during the day, at least from the outside. I didn't see these details at night.

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They are still building something near the Mark Twain's dock.

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Splash Mountain is still closed - it is scheduled to re-open on May 27.

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I noticed these candy boxes back in the candy section of Pooh Corner - I hadn't seen them before. (I also saw them at Toontown Five and Dime, Greetings in DCA and Marceline's in Downtown Disney - they are probably also available at World of Disney or any other place that sells the packaged types of candy.) Very clever. :-) There's "I'm a Chocolatear Milk Chocolate Raisins", "Who Needs Prince Charming When you Have Chocolate Milk Chocolate Crispy Clusters", "Mine Mine Mine Mine Candy Guppies", etc. $3.95 each.

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I was surprised not to see much in the way of Easter merchandise - I didn't do an exhaustive search, but I didn't find anything in the Emporium, which surprised me. There's an Easter version of Duffy, though.

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There were a number of sweet Easter treats available - the Candy Palace was selling these hand made chocolate Easter eggs - vanilla and chocolate nut fudge covered in chocolate. They looked really good.

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The Candy Palace, Pooh Corner, and Marceline's also had Easter-themed candy apples - very cute.

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These cookies were at the candy counter at Greetings.

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And I saw these at Marceline's:

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I'll have photos of what's going on at DCA in Part 2.


April 24, 2011

April Disneyland Trip Report - Part 2

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Here's part 2 of my trip to Disneyland earlier this week - this part covers Disney California Adventure, which is where most of the construction activity is taking place.

DCA's Entrance Plaza seems to be taking shape quickly - it looks more and more like Disney Hollywood Studios all the time.

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Big changes at the former Sunshine Plaza, where the structure for the Carthay Circle Theater is growing rapidly.

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Because of that construction the ElecTRONica stage has been moved into the Hollywood Backlot - on the sidewalk between Disney Jr. and Off the Page.

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I was surprised to see Flynn's Arcade open during the day. There were a fair number of people in there enjoying the classic 80's arcade games - air hockey was quite popular. For once the line at the Tron game wasn't long - there was only one guy playing.

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The Cars 2 Meet and Greet area in front of Cars Land is very popular.

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These signs on the construction wall made me chuckle: "To Get Corn Dogs", "For Chicken Strips Detour to Taste Pilots Grill".

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Cars Land continues to take shape - lots of progress on the mountains of the Cadillac Range.

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One of the exhibits in Blue Sky Cellar is a display case that the Imagineers update fairly frequently. Right now it has Earth Day buttons and information on DCA's programs for water and energy conservation and waste management and recycling.

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The building housing The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure is really changing quickly these days, with the opening just over a month away. There's really lots of great detail on the facade and the exterior.

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It's hard to see very much of what's going on with Goofy's Sky School. The track has been painted a lovely light blue color, though. :-) It's scheduled to open on May 25.

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The new restaurant area is also changing very quickly.

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They have re-opened this path between Jumpin' Jellyfish and the restaurants, though there are still construction walls on both sides.

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Not sure what this structure is going to be.

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The walkway is open all the way around Paradise Pier again. They've put in a "park-like" area where the Maliboomer used to be. It not exactly what I expected, though - this is what the construction sign had on it before it opened:

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But this is the reality - a few benches and not much shade.

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The trees are up on what used to be the Maliboomer's loading area, which is blocked off and not accessible.

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The part of the "park" that has the most shade and benches is a smoking area!

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As you can see there's still a lot going on in the parks - while the construction process is inconvenient it's always interesting to see the progress - and eventually see the results!


April 27, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Today's the Day!

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It's finally here! Almost a year and a half since we first heard about it at the D23 Expo, and more than a year after we booked it, it's finally time to begin our cruise of California and the Pacific Northwest, followed by Alaska! I'm so excited. The last few days have kind of dragged by and I am SO ready to get started!

We will be driving a rental car to the Port of Los Angeles at San Pedro. Since we will be flying from Vancouver back to San Diego, and not returning to the port, we didn't want to take our own car up there, and all of the other transportation methods I explored were expensive and most had lots of transfers involved. Finally on Trip Advisor I found a recommendation to do a one-way rental from Enterprise, which has an agency very close to the port. Yes, there's a $40 drop-off fee, but even with that it's still a whole lot cheaper than any of the other alternatives I looked at (town car, plane or train followed by shuttle or bus). And it has the advantage that since we're NOT flying, we don't have all those pesky airline restrictions - so we can bring liquids in our carryons, our bags can weigh more than 50 pounds (and Lee's does!), and we can bring things like water that we will consume on board ship.

The other thing that I'm just thrilled about: no time zone change!!! I get to stay in my own time zone!

I'll have lots more over the next two weeks to share with you - at least I hope so. I always have to add the "pending internet connectivity" disclaimer. :-)



April 28, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Day 1 - Embarkation

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So...we're on the ship - finally. The embarkation process was not
nearly as efficient as we are used to!

We left our house about 9:15 - we were at the port by 11:20. Lee
left me and the bags and returned the car - it was close enough that
he actually walked back from the car rental agency instead of
waiting for the shuttle! The one-way car rental worked out really
well for us.

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We checked our bags and then went through security - all of that was
quite efficient. As Castaway Club members they sent us over to the
left side once we got inside - long line. And not moving very much.
Turns out there were "technical difficulties" with their computer
system - the line would move ok a little bit and then completely
stop for 5 minutes. They got on over the loudspeaker several times
to thank us for our patience and explain that they were having
technical difficulties, and then announced they were rebooting the
system. Got a big cheer when the line started moving again. (And
I started writing this blog while waiting!)

So...an hour and a half after we got in line we were *finally* able
to check in and board the ship. Yikes. For the most part everyone
in line was being quite patient, and the cast members checking us in
were very apologetic. But still - not at all what we were
expecting, and not a very pleasant boarding process.

Of course since everyone was in line, it meant there weren't a whole
lot of people trying to board the ship all at once - the Atrium was
very uncrowded except for the crew members!

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We met our friend Amy in the Atrium and went to Parrot Cay for
lunch. That really wasn't crowded at all - lots of empty tables.
The usual offerings - salad bar, sandwiches, hot entrees, peel and
eat shrimp, a big selection of breads, soup, and a nice dessert
bar. I always enjoy seeing the various food and ice carvings on the
buffet - I thought these "anthuriums" were very pretty!

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And this nice ice fish near the shrimp.

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They didn't let people into their rooms until 2:00, which was very
late, but by the time we finished lunch it was after that we went to
our stateroom. Gee, it looks amazingly like the one we had on the
Magic last May. :-) Though the bedspread is different.

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We wandered around and explored the ship a little bit. Not
surprisingly it's very much like its sister ship, the Disney
Magic. :-) Though the "Adult" area is themed quite differently -
it's Route 66 instead of Beat Street. I thought they should've
changed this sign when they moved the Disney Wonder from Florida to
L.A., though - it's not 2051 miles to Disneyland from here. :-)

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The ship I've been on most recently is the Dream, and I keep expecting
to see Enchanted Art on the walls. And everything seems a little bit small,
too. :-)

It's really a beautiful day in L.A. today - sunny and warm - in the
high 70's if not 80s. And we better enjoy it now, because it just gets
colder and colder from here! We're supposed to have sunshine but low
60s in San Francisco, but looks like rain/showers and highs in the 50s
as we go further north.

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We did the lifeboat drill at 4:00 - our lifeboat station is actually
in Animator's Palate, so it was very nice to be able to sit down
inside rather than stand outside in the hot sun. They no longer
make you bring your life jackets to the lifeboat drill - that was
also the case when I sailed on the Dream in January, but the last
time Lee sailed almost a year ago we still had to bring the jackets
with us. It was pretty quick and easy.

(For those of you who know me, you can see that yes, Tigger came on
this cruise with us - you'll probably be seeing more of him in
photos in the coming days.)

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The Captain announced that our port departure has been delayed until
6:00 (instead of 5:00) but the Sailaway Party still started at 4:30. But at
the end we didn't sail! I didn't get up to the Sailaway Party until just before
5:00 - and it had just ended. :-) Found Deb and Linda and Jeanine and
some of the rest of our AllEars group, though.

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Lee and I went up on deck at about 6:00 for the real sailaway - we
pulled away from the dock at 6:05. We saw some sea lions on our way
out - one of them was swimming near the ship (I didn't get a photo
of that one), but there were quite a few other opportunistic sea
lions that were swimming just under a fish market - waiting for
anything that might be thrown their way!

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One of the changes that has been made to the Wonder to accommodate
the colder weather in Alaska was enclosing the Outlook Bar. It's
now called the Outlook Cafe, and has a stairway that connects it
with the Cove Cave below. It looks like quite a nice area to hang
out in!

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Our cabin steward is Angelina - she introduced herself when she saw
us in the hallway. I'm not sure what this first night's towel
animal is, though - maybe just the head and front flippers of a sea
lion? Which would be very appropriate, since we saw some of them
today!

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Dinner tonight was at Parrot Cay. There's 11 of us at our table,
and we had a great time tonight. I can't say that I had any real
standout dishes for dinner, but Lee really enjoyed his Mixed
Grill
- steak, lamb chop, sausage and shrimp.

Day at sea tomorrow - and we can even sleep in if we want to!



April 29, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Day 2 - At Sea

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One of the best things about cruising is the At Sea days. Time to
kick back, relax, and enjoy everything there is to do on board ship.
Ok, so there's so much to do that it's really more of a chance to
enjoy a small fraction of what there is to do on board ship.

Have I mentioned how wonderful it is to still be in my own time zone???
It's so nice not to be fighting jet lag, and to go to bed and get up
pretty much on my usual schedule. Though we did sleep in until
almost 7:30 this morning. :-)

I've already lost track of what day it is - it's Thursday, but that
doesn't really matter out here. :-)

We have a beautiful sunny day today but it's not warm - only about
55 degrees today. So it's quite cool on deck, especially with the
wind. Lots of whitecaps on the ocean - it's classed as "rough"
seas (8-13' swells), though ship motion isn't too bad.

We went to breakfast at Beach Blanket Buffet - pretty much the
typical breakfast fare. They opened at 7:30 and we got there about
7:45 - I was surprised at how many people were already up there
eating - it seemed rather early for people on vacation. Not too
many people interested in eating outside today, though!!!

There was a DVC Member presentation at 9:00, so we went to that -
usually they are fun with lots of prizes and stuff. This one had a
lot of people in attendance, so they didn't do the games and some of
the things they have done in the past - just drew names. We met Deb
Wills there, but none of us won anything. They gave us Blue Hawaii
drinks (in honor of the upcoming opening of Aulani, the first DVC
resort in Hawaii). Those were pretty strong! (The drinks really
were blue, though they look green in the photo.)

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We looked in the shops (the Pacific Coast cruise t-shirts are already
sold out, except for kids sizes) and went to the Future Cruise desk
to book our next cruise (you get a discount and some other incentives
for booking on-board). Lots of other people had that idea, too,
so we had to wait. But we now have a 5-night cruise to Canada
booked for September 2012. It leaves from New York City and visits
St. John, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

We both decided we needed some exercise - I went to the gym and
rode the exercise bike and then walked 4 laps around the deck (1.33
miles), and Lee ran and then went to the gym for a workout. The
ship's motion is much more pronounced up on deck 10 forward (where
the gym is). There were a few people walking on the treadmills but
not running on them - I think that would have been challenging!

I went to Parrot Cay for lunch - it was a buffet, though with some
different offerings than what they had yesterday. The potato
gnocchi and rosemary polenta were good, as was the minestrone soup.

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After lunch I found Lee up in the Outlook Cafe above the Cove Cafe.
That's a very popular area, and with good reason - nice views of
the ocean from the windows, but it's enclosed so it's warm inside.
Today we can see the California coastline off the starboard side
of the ship (this photo was taken from our verandah, actually),
though it's very hazy.

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We're on deck 7, and on the very back of the ship on that deck is
a sun deck. It's very nice - quite protected from the wind and a
pretty comfortable temperature.

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I was surprised to see this small plot of grass back there, but then
Lee reminded me that we'd seen a couple of Canine Companion dogs
while we were waiting to check-in yesterday, so the grass is for
their use.

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So now we're spending a lazy afternoon - I've been watching the
stateroom channel that has the short Mickey/Donald/Goofy/Pluto
cartoons on it - some of those are pretty funny. Now I think it's
time to do some reading and take a nap!

Tonight we had dinner at Palo with Deb and Linda - it was a wonderful
dinner with great company. I'll have all the details in my food blog,
but here's a couple of pieces of info...Palo just got new dinnerware,
and we were the first ones to use them! They also have a fairly new
menu. We'll get that posted to AllEars when we get a chance.

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Some things we learned from one of the managers - there are around
2200 passengers on board the ship (I was very surprised at that
because it doesn't seem that crowded at all), with about 450 of us
continuing on the Alaska cruise. The capacity of the ship is 2750.

Here's a group picture of us with our yummy chocolate souffles!

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Here's tonight's towel creation. :-)

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We plan to get up early enough tomorrow to see our arrival in San Francisco as we go under the Golden Gate Bridge, which should be around 6:15-6:30.



April 30, 2011

Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Day 3 - San Francisco

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Kind of a rough night - neither of us slept well. There's something
about the ceiling in our cabin and it creaks and rattles as the ship
moves. About 2:00 in the morning we started rolling - not sure if
the captain slowed down or if the seas got heavier, but we were
feeling a lot more motion - diagonal motion. It didn't bother me as
far as feeling sick went, but it made the creaking even worse - I
didn't get much sleep after that.

We'd set the alarm for 6:00 because we wanted to be out on deck when
we entered San Francisco Bay. A lot of other people had the same
idea, and there was no way for us to get to the front of the ship.

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We eventually went to the back, figuring we'd have a good view of
the bridge after we went through it.

But there were some nice views as we approached and then went under
it, too!

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The Disney Wonder enters San Francisco Bay for the first time!

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It was fun to see so many of the crew members up on deck taking
their own pictures - this is a first for most of them, too, and they
are as excited as any of the passengers.

It was a gorgeous morning - we really lucked out with the weather.
Only about 50 degrees, so chilly if you were in the wind, but we
were bundled up pretty warmly.

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We sailed past Alcatraz Island.

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And this building looked quite familiar - there's a replica of it at
Disney California Adventure.

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Another image reminiscent of DCA: World of Color - San
Francisco
. :-) This fireboat entertained us for quite a while -
it went out in front of us, and behind us, and spun around. Very
cool.

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This was our view during breakfast at Beach Blanket Buffet - not bad,
huh?

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We are back from a great day in San Francisco! I can't believe how
gorgeous the weather was - so beautiful today. We left the ship
about 10:30 and took a town car to the Walt Disney Family
Museum
. When planning the trip I'd decided against taking an
excursion from the ship because it didn't seem like they offered
enough time at the museum, so we were doing it on our own. We'd
planned to take a taxi, but there were none waiting, whereas there
were several towncars, and they were not much more expensive.

The museum is in the Presidio, an old Army area, which is now a
National Park, but many of the buildings have been renovated. Some
are leased as private residences, but others are owned by
businesses, like the Walt Disney Family Museum.

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We had to do this obligatory photo in front of the museum. :-)

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Photos (no flash) were only permitted in the lobby entrance, before
we entered any of the museum galleries. But that's where the Oscar
statues were, as well as a lot of other awards given to Walt Disney.

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And also some of the furnishing from Walt Disney's apartment at Disneyland.

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When we bought our tickets ($20 each), they told us that one of the
ship's tours had just gone in, and recommended we go downstairs to
the theater where they were showing some of the Silly Symphony
cartoons, to give them a chance to get ahead of us. We watched
several - The Grasshopper and the Ants, Birds of a
Feather
, and Music Land. The latter, involving a "Romeo
and Juliet" type story between Symphony Land and Jazz Land, I found
quite clever, but they all had moments that were fun and creative.

We took almost 2 1/2 hours to tour the museum, and we still didn't
experience everything. It's really very well done - there are
hundreds of family photos, movies, interviews, and quotes both from
and about Walt Disney. It's all presented effectively, too. There
are 10 different galleries, covering everything from Walt Disney's
family history and childhood to his early failure, move to
Hollywood, feature films, live action films, Disneyland, and his
death. One thing I really enjoyed was that in most of the rooms
there was a section that talked about what was happening in Walt's
family at that particular time - his parents, Lillian, his daughters
and grandchildren. There were lots of photos and a number of
letters he had written to his sister Ruth, among other things.

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Also in each room there were usually several videos - most only
several minutes long - incorporated interviews with Walt Disney and
others on something they were doing - syncing sound with the first
Steamboat Willie cartoon, making Snow White or Fantasia, dealing
with the animators' strike, etc. One of my favorites was on making
Mary Poppins.

As you might imagine there was also a large gallery on Disneyland.
This one was interesting architecturally, too - after the first two
galleries we'd taken an elevator upstairs for most of the rest, but
the Disneyland gallery took us down a curving ramp back to the first
floor. Really cool, and very effective.

The final gallery covered Walt's illness and death. I had not
realized how fast the cancer took him - he found out in November and
died about 7 weeks later. That was a sad day - I was only 6, but I
remember when he died. So many things left undone.

We had lunch at the Cafe at the museum - it's rather expensive, but
since we were planning on doing more touring around the Presidio
area before we went back we needed something to eat! We both had
a spinach/orzo salad that was really good - it also had cheese and
sun-dried tomatoes. The cafe is run by Wolfgang Puck Catering.

The Presidio's new Visitor Center is just down the street from the
museum, and we wandered in there to get some suggestions on places
to visit on our way - we'd decided to walk back to the ship (about 4
miles) rather than take a taxi. The nice park ranger told us about
the Lucasfilm Ltd offices that are now tenants in the Presidio - and
Lee knew about the Yoda fountain that's there. It was a fairly
short walk.

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The lobby area is open to the public and has lots of props on
exhibit like Han Solo's blaster, and light sabers belonging to Yoda,
Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. They also had life-size costumed
models for Boba Fett and Darth Vader. It was cool!

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From there we walked down a trail called the Tennessee Hollow Trail
into the Wayburn Redwood Grove. The oldest trees are only about 60
years old, so they aren't that tall yet. There were lots of flowers
blooming too.

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We ended up down by San Francisco Bay at Crissy Marsh. This area
has been restored after it was turned into a garbage dump for the
Presidio. There's a beautiful beach there with a great view of the
Golden Gate Bridge, though the light wasn't too good at that time of
day. We saw lots of people out flying kites, walking their dogs,
running, and riding their bikes.

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From there it was a short walk to the Palace of Fine Arts,
which we had seen this morning on our way into the port. It's much
more beautiful up close!

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Part of the path around the water's edge was roped off, but we could
see why - a pair of swans have built their nest there! Apparently
there are six eggs in the nest.

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Our next stop was at Ghirardelli Square. We'd thought about getting
ice cream, but it was really busy, so we just got some chocolate
bars instead.

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It was almost 5:30, so we headed straight back to the ship instead
of going down to Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 and all of that -
figure we can do that tomorrow if we want to. It's really not far
from the ship at all.

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We met Carol and Gary, two of our tablemates, in the cruise
terminal. They had done the ship excursion to the Walt Disney
Family Museum, and while they enjoyed it, they said they felt
rushed, and didn't have time to see everything they wanted. So I
feel we made a good call in doing it on our own!

Tigger got to get out and have fun today - in addition to visiting
the museum he got to meet Captain Mickey when we returned to the
ship!

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Dinner tonight was at Triton's - that's the first time that we've
ever been in there. It's nice, but I think I prefer Lumiere's on
the Magic.

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We had a good dinner - three of our table mates were elsewhere, so
there were only 8 of us tonight. This is our crack serving team
(they are awesome!) - Server Balwan from India, Assistant Server
Tita from Croatia, and Head Server Tektas from Turkey.

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After dinner we returned to find a puppy watching TV with Tigger.
The puppy was smart enough to get control of the remote, though. :-)

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Lee and I went up on deck to see the lights of San Francisco at
night. The red you see in front is actually from the crew's pool
area on the Wonder.

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Since the ship won't be moving and creaking tonight I'm really
hoping to sleep a lot better! (Beci commented on the creaking, too,
so it's not just me.)

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About April 2011

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

March 2011 is the previous archive.

May 2011 is the next archive.

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