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January 2012 Archives

January 8, 2012

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

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It's Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World - and so we're back in Florida again! It's the place to be this weekend. :-) This time we are running the new Marathon Relay race on Sunday. It's a new medal, so I HAD to have a new piece of bling for my collection! :-) Lee will run the first half and I will run the second half. So we only have to run 13.1 miles, but between us we'll do 26.2. I'll have lots more on the race after we actually do it and see how it goes. There has not been much information on exactly how the exchange will work, and that's been a bit frustrating.

Anyway...I'm going to give you the weekend so far in just some photos.

We arrived Thursday night, and got in early enough that we had time to visit the Expo and pick up our race packets before it closed at 7:00! I was surprised at how many people were still there that late, but the lines were short to pick everything up. There were a lot of people shopping, though.

There are something like 1200 teams registered for the marathon relay - the numbers started at 70,001. So it's not a huge number, which is good.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

They had some new Coast-to-Coast merchandise, and we really liked the t-shirts, so we got them - if all goes according to plan, we will earn our Coast-to-Coast medals when we complete the new Tinker Bell Half Marathon (another new piece of bling!) in three weeks.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

I was very disappointed that the only piece of Marathon Relay merchandise they had was this t-shirt - the gray color is just blah.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

Here's our Expo loot:

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

We went to Epcot and had dinner at Tangerine Cafe and wandered around - for dessert we shared another pumpkin spice funnel cake. There was still a little bit of Christmas at Epcot.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

Friday morning we went to Animal Kingdom - that's usually the park we visit on our first morning here. We had an interesting safari - saw not just one, but TWO hippos that were out of the water!

This one was sunbathing - and yes it is getting sunburned! (No, the vultures are not moving in for the kill.)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

This one was out of the water eating. It was nice to see them doing something a little bit different.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

We usually don't find much of interest in the aviaries, but we enjoyed watching this weaver bird work on his nest. He really was weaving it.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

Over in the aviary along the Maharajah Jungle Trek we saw the world's largest pigeon - it's called a Southern Crowned Pigeon. Kind of surprising that a bird this size can fly - but we saw him fly.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1


It's amazing what guest will try to bring into the shops... ;-)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

That afternoon we went to a Team AllEars meet - afterwards the Team's Brain Trust took some time to relax (it's a very busy weekend for them!)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

After dinner we walked over to the Osborne Lights. It wasn't quite as private a show as we had at the December to Remember event, but it wasn't crowded at all and we really enjoyed wandering around and heard/saw four or five of the choreographed songs. And we found the cat! Or Lee did - he gets credit for spotting it.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

In December I'd noticed that the some of the windows occasionally had images from Prep and Landing projected on them - I was able to get a photo this time!

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

This morning was the half marathon. Lee and I didn't make it to the start, but we joined several members of Team AllEars/Team AllChears to cheer at mile 11.5 - very near the entrance to the Epcot Parking lot. We'd never done that before because we'd been the recipients of the cheers instead, but it was really a lot of fun ringing our cowbells and seeing everyone pass by. We watched a double amputee run by us - wow. That was very inspirational.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

We took it easy and relaxed this afternoon before going to the big Team AllEars meet at the Dolphin. Thank you to the Swan and Dolphin Hotels for donating a conference room for our use! We had over 100 people there, so it was really great to have all that space. Deb Wills revealed the amount Team AllEars has raised for the breast cancer fund - $67,050 - and still counting! Thanks to all of you who have contributed to that! As Mike Scopa said in his remarks - we are touching lives, and even saving the lives of people we will never know. This is a really amazing group of people, and I'm very proud to be a part of the team.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

Deb had a new piece of bling for us this year - so here is the 2012 Team AllEars medal! Very cool!

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

We all posed for the team photo - I don't have that, since I was in it, but here's all the people who were taking photos of us! :-)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

Lee and I had an early dinner at the Dolphin Fountain. As we walked back to the Boardwalk there was a beautiful sunset on the lake between the Swan and the Dolphin hotels.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

It's going to be a VERY early morning for us - getting up at 2:30 so we can catch the bus at 3:00. Lots of waiting with these Disney races. By the time many of you read this Lee will be done with his part, and I will be well on my way.



January 9, 2012

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 2

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The Inaugural Walt Disney World Marathon Relay is in the books! Lee and I both had really good runs - he finished his half in 2:13:02, and I finished my half in 2:30:33. They also counted the 3:17 we spent in the transition area, so our total time was 4:46:51. I was thrilled that it was under 5 hours! The number "4" was still the first number in the race clock when I arrived at the finish - I didn't think I'd ever see that.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 2

Just a few photos for now - I'll have a more detailed report later.

The morning started EARLY - we caught the bus a little after 3:00. Here's the Team AllEars photo, taken about 4:15 - a few people were missing because their bus drivers got lost. :-(

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 2

In the transition area (they had a HUGE area for the relay, much larger than we needed), they had numbered chutes, and you waited until you saw your runner approach, and then moved out into the lane. There was no official passing of a baton, or any point that you both had to cross - just whatever greeting you wanted to give your incoming runner, and then runner 2 could take off.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 2

Lee crosses the finish line! He had a really good time. Which made it nice for me, because it put me ahead of a whole lot of runners, so the course was less crowded for me, and I didn't have to wait too long to get my photos taken with the characters. :-)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 2

They had a really elaborate area set up for the Villains!

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 2

Team All Ears cheering area just past mile 24 - this was really a great place for them to be, since at that point a lot of us are very tired - we know we can make it to the finish, but a little extra encouragement really helps, and they were so supportive of EVERYONE - not just TAE runners!

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 2

My new Chip and Dale relay medal!

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - Part 2



January 10, 2012

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Saturday, January 7, 2012.

We arrived to a cool and overcast morning. Most of the La Brea Bakery is behind walls. A small outdoor seating area near World of Disney is not and is open. As well as their cart out front. I read they are expanding the bakery, but have seen no real details. Wonder if they will take this chance to redo the wall too since it was originally designed before the security tents went in.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

DCA opens in a couple hours.

Coke had an event going on in Frontierland. Looked to be a breakfast (a couple of pictures later) for some sort of contest winners.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

This is the last weekend to celebrate Christmas this year.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

The West side of the street from Carnation Cafe to Coke Corner is closed for renovation.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

This includes the Gibson Girl (do not fear you can still buy some ice cream across the street at the Main Street Cone Shop.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Since most of the work will be interior reconfigurations the exterior walls are at a minimum right now.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


The big news of the weekend is the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe is now open.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


When you step in the door you have a choice, left or right.. both are the same.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

A look around..

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


I chose to the right by the way (random choice).

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


Each side had a different display case.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


A look at the menu.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


Now a peek into the bakery choices..

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

The woodwork by the cash registers.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

A closer look at the iron work.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


Some interesting tile work on the floor.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

I exited out to the opposite side to check out what was in that display case.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

The cases were above these counters.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


The bakery was crowded so I did not want to linger too long taking pictures and disrupting the line..

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


The wait times are always great right at park opening!

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Caught the first Toy Soldier Jam of the morning. I took a video last trip if anyone was interested in seeing it visit the 12/23 update or my youtube channel.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


The Churro cart in Frontierland has some minor decorations and a special offering as part of the The Kings Day Celebration.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


Zocalo Park and the restaurant were celebrating Dia De Reyes (Three Kings Day) this weekend.

The celebration was from 10am to 6pm Friday to Sunday. So it had not yet started today.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

This morning in the Rancho Del Zocalo Restaurante there was a breakfast for the Coke event. Their centerpieces.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


A face painting area.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


Wait times around 9:10am

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Headed over to DCA next. Out on the Pier they have started to work on the facades of the shops.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

The clown has been removed and the awnings (more shots after the Fun Wheel)

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Cars Land just continues to look more impressive every time... even in the overcast light..

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

A closer look over toward the Luigi's Flying Tires. Looks like the lights are strung now above the attraction as well as to the tire tower.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Slowly painting the base of the radiator cap.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Guess there is no ride testing going on this morning.. a worker on the track working on the rock work. Also noticed only a few more stories of scaffolding to remove on the far wall.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

A nice forest has grown between Flo's and the archway for the Wharf entrance.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


All the cones are now covered. Looks like the last two have caught up to the first three.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

With the Cars Meet and Greet gone you get a clear shot into Maters. Looks like the interior fence is done and the perimeter one is taking shape.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Almost all of the tarps and scaffolding are down on the Carthay, just a little around the entrance area.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

This is the right hand side (that overlooks the pump house)

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

The facade over where the train used to be is framed and has the exterior wall up already.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


Sarge's looks ready for its exterior finish.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

With the Cars Meet and Greet gone you get an unobstructed view down the street.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

The lights are now strung above Mater's.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Did not notice it the first time by, but they have started to put the tile roof on the Carthay.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Notice the trees in the foreground too as they are finishing up the ground level area around the building. Wonder if the walls will come down to open up the area as they move their focus to the inside.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


All the scaffolding on the back side is down too and you can see the emergency exit staircase and back wall.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


Returned to Disneyland and stopped by the Three Kings Day Celebration. Inside Rancho Del Zocalo they had a special dessert.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Outside the park was packed for one of the Mariachi Divas sets.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

As the set was winding down the Three Caballeros came out for pictures. Here was the cast member who was with them.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Moved around the other side of the park to get a better shot (and to get out of the way of the characters)

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

From this side it was just as crowded.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

The line for the characters stretched back to the shooting arcade.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


The waits just before 3pm

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Passed by the Three Kings event again and this time some dancers were out front.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

And Mickey and Minnie were out for pictures.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

Moved on to the ranch and Mr. and Mrs. Claus were out for pictures.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


Walls up around the Toontown Station and it is under wraps. Guessing it is painting and regular maintenance. The trains are still running normally, just not stopping here.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


The Matterhorn goes down for several months of work after the weekend. The current bobsleds will be retired. The new ones have individual lap bars.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

The current menu at the Main Street Cone Shop, which had a long line too since the Gibson Girl is closed.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12

To close with a shot of the La Brea Bakery. Here you can see where the walls currently stop. The outdoor seating area is open for business.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/7/12


Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com



January 11, 2012

A Tribute To Richard M. Sherman

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On Sunday, January 8th, the El Capitan Theatre held a tribute to the music of Richard Sherman, Disney Legend and long-time tunesmith for Walt Disney.

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Hosted and largely performed by the El Capitan resident organist Rob Richards on the theater's large and ornate organ named "Ethel," it was a brief look at a small portion of Sherman's extensive musical catalog. Accompanied by pianist Alex Zsolt, Richards started off the evening with a sampling of some of the many songs Sherman wrote for several live-action films, such as "Fortuosity," "Are We Dancing," "Step in the Right Direction," and "Hushabye Mountain."

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In the next segment, Richards was joined again on the piano by Richard Allen, Music Director for the recent Richard Sherman/Milt Larsen musical Pazzazz, as they did a set of songs by Sherman's songwriting father, Al Sherman, including "You Gotta Be a Football Hero" and "(What Do We Do on a) Dew Dew Dewey Day."

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After another collection of organ renditions such as "That Darn Cat," and "Tiki Room," Richards brought in vocalist Dina Bennett to sing "Sister Suffragette," and "For Now For Always."

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After telling the anecdote that the best way to irritate the Shermans was to compliment them on "Bare Necessities"--which they did not write--Richards did a medley of the songs that they did write from Jungle Book, followed by one of his compositions from the documentary The Boys, "A Prayer," and the Overture to his newest musical, Pazzazz.

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A few numbers later, they brought out the "Classic Dans," with a few words to the effect that, although they were "dapper," and "Dans," they were not allowed to use the two words in conjunction to describe them. They went on to sing a group of numbers including "Meet Me Down on Main Street," and "I Love to Laugh."

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One charming part of the program were some hitherto-unseen outtakes from The Boys, including some footage of Sherman playing selections from one of his lesser-known albums "Sherman & Larsen's Smash Flops," which contains songs prematurely celebrating famous misadventures in history. (Example from "Bon Voyage Titanic: "Bon voyage to you new Titanic/Say hello to the Statue of Liberty/To wish you a safe crossing is unthinkable/
We know with what you're costing you're unsinkable!")

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As a finale, Richard Sherman himself took the stage, accompanied by Mickey Mouse, and gave a short concert of some of his songs from Winnie The Pooh and Mary Poppins, finishing with "It's A Small World," sung in the original ballad tempo.

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The show ended, as many Disney productions do, in a flutter of confetti and streamers. It was a charming show, honoring a great composer. Considering how integral the Sherman Brothers' songs are to almost every aspect of the Disney experience--the attractions and the movies alike--and how widespread they've become across the globe for the last fifty years or so, it may not be an overstatement to say that Richard Sherman's music may be among the most influential of all contemporary music.

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My recommendation? Any chance you get to see Richard Sherman and hear his amazing recollections of his time with Disney (both the man and the company,) take it. While you're at it, you would certainly not be disappointed by dropping in at the beautiful El Capitan and visiting Rob Richards and Ethel as well.

January 17, 2012

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Marathon Relay

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If you don't care about the new Walt Disney World Marathon Relay, stop reading now. :-)

When they announced the new Marathon Relay race last year we were very interested, and signed up. But there was very little information on how it was going to work...and as time went on, not much new information was forthcoming, which was quite a surprise. All of us running it wanted to know how the actual exchange was going to work, and there were no details at all about that!

There was a little bit of information (including a map) when they published the marathon weekend program on-line in December, but still no specifics. When we picked up our registration packets at the Expo, there was an information sheet for the relay teams with a few more details. The worst part was that the Leg 2 runner also needed to catch a bus to Epcot by 4:00 a.m., and could take either bus or monorail to get to the Relay exchange area in the Transportation and Ticket Center parking lot. If you took the bus it dropped you at the relay area, if you took the monorail you had to walk from the TTC (10-20 minute walk). STILL really no information on the exchange, though!

On the morning of the race they had this map up at the information area in the pre-race area of Epcot- this was as much detail as we got. It showed their were four "chutes" for the Leg 2 runners instead of 8 that were shown on the program.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Marathon Relay

I was the leg 2 runner, so I got to "scout" the Relay Exchange area. :-) I took the monorail from Epcot to the TTC, then walked to the relay area - it was easy to find, just follow the sound! There was a finish line for the leg 1 runner, with a clock, and then beyond that were chutes off to the side with number ranges. (That's Lee crossing the finish line.)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Marathon Relay

There was a stage and a race announcer, but they were across the exchange area and not accessible. The big screen alternated between showing the relay finish line, the Epcot finish line (most of the wheelchairs and the top runners finished while I was watching), and other scenes.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Marathon Relay

The leg 2 runner waited in the chute until they saw their runner approaching, and then moved out onto the course for a hug, kiss, high-5, or whatever. There was no "baton", and no electronic tracking point that both runners had to cross.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Marathon Relay

Runner 1's time ended when they crossed the finish line. Runner 2's time started when they got back onto the marathon course and crossed the 13.1 mile tracking point. But the time in between was counted as the "transition time" and added to the team's overall time.

The leg 2 runner had about .3 miles further to run, since they had to exit the transition area and get back into the marathon course (that entrance was just BEFORE the 13 mile mark) and then their official time started .1 miles after the 13 mile mark.

The relay area was quite large considering there were less than 900 teams. They had plenty of porta-potties and a bag check and information area. And the medal stand and refreshment area for the leg 1 finishers.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Marathon Relay

They ALSO had Chip and Dale available to pose with runners, against a nice marathon relay backdrop.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Marathon Relay

But it was a REALLY long wait for the second runner. Most of us got over there by 5:00-6:00, and then had to wait until 7:30-8:30 (or longer!) for the first runner to arrive. There was no shelter there at all and it was dark until about 7:00. Fortunately there were mylar "blankets" available, and I saw lots of runners curled up on the pavement with the blankets around them trying to sleep.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Marathon Relay

It explained the extra "gift" that the relay teams received at Packet Pickup, though - we all got these blue bags...

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Marathon Relay

And inside was a seating pad, I guess to help cushion us from all of that waiting around we were going to have to do! (I don't know anyone who actually used it, though!)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Marathon Relay

About 30 minutes before I expected Lee to arrive I checked Lee's gear bag (and added a couple of items of mine that I no longer needed). In turn, he had checked my gear bag at Epcot so it would be waiting for me at the finish. Before we said goodbye at Epcot we made VERY sure that we had the correct bags! At about 7:40 I went to the appropriate chute to wait for him. I had used the Runner Tracking setup to send text messages to my phone, so I had a pretty good idea of when he was due. I could see him when he was about 100 yards away.

It was fun watching the "exchanges" - some people gave their first leg runners big hugs and kisses, and some just said a couple of words and the second runner took off. I saw quite a few who gave their incoming running the mylar sheet that they had been using!

Another interesting thing...Disney recognized that there were some runners who for whatever reason didn't have their first-leg teammate. They still allowed them to run - at about 7:45 (a little over two hours after the race had started) they made an announcement that those without a first leg runner were free to leave and begin their race. So they still got their time and their medal - I thought that was a nice way for Disney to handle it.

There were plenty of buses to transport the leg 1 runners back to Epcot - Lee had no problem getting back there, though they had to take the long way around via Ft. Wilderness and Bonnet Creek Parkway.

Once I was out on the race course the rest of the race was really no different for me than for those running the full marathon - except that I was a lot less tired than they were. :-)

At the finish line they had plenty of people looking at our bibs and directing us to the area where we received the Relay medal instead of the Mickey medal. There weren't nearly as many racks of Chip and Dale medals as there were Mickey medals, though!

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Marathon Relay

One thing I was disappointed about - at the area where they were taking pictures of us, there was no special Relay backdrop - only the ones for the Marathon and for the Goofy. So I didn't get my photo taken.

Shannon, who read my earlier blog on the relay, sent me an email and let me know that there WAS a Relay backdrop at the finish - it was near the Runner's Retreat and the concession stand. She writes: "It was small and easy to miss. I noticed it while waiting with my DH before the first leg when I grabbed a cup of coffee."

And here is their photo. (Thank you, Shannon, for the use of the picture!)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Marathon Relay

For the most part, for a first-time event I thought this one went quite well. The transportation to/from the Relay Exchange area went quite smoothly. And there were few enough people that it was easy to find your incoming runner as long as you had some idea of when they would be arriving. I still think the wait time for the leg 2 runner was excessive, though. And it seems like there should be some way to avoid having to have them arrive at Epcot so early when they won't be running for several more hours.

If you are thinking of doing the Relay in the future, then I think choosing a monorail resort for your weekend stay would be a really good option. The leg 1 runner can take the monorail to Epcot, and the leg 2 runner can stay in the room until they need to take the monorail to the TTC and then walk to the Relay Exchange area to wait for their leg 1 runner.

And after I wrote that, I received this email from Julie:

"I was a 2nd leg relay person. I ended up staying at the Contemporary the night before. I took the monorail to the TTC and walked to the exchange area in the MK parking lot. When I got off the monorail at TTC, a security guard pointed me toward the crowd of spectators watching the race. There was a walkway marked for spectators and relay runners that was easy to follow to the Simba parking lot. It made getting to the exchange point very simple.

"I left the Contemporary around 6:30 or so and was in the exchange area a little after 7 a.m. My relay partner finished her half by 8:15 so I didn't wait long. My backup plan was to drive to MK after 5:30 a.m. Either way, it requires extra money to rent a car or stay at a monorail hotel so you don't have to get up so early. I did the half on Saturday so I was looking for a way to get extra sleep on Sunday."

(Thank you, Julie, for sharing your experience!)

Someone told me that it seemed as though I'd done the Relay just to get the new medal, and asked if I would do it again. Hmm. While I enjoyed the experience, and I'm glad that we did it, it's not something I would do year after year. Lee and I both felt a little "guilty" being out on the Marathon course when we were only running 13.1 miles and not 26.2. But I'd do it again with a friend who really wanted to do it and needed a partner.

In closing I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all of the wonderful volunteers who worked the Expo, handed out water and snacks, provided direction, and cheered us on - we couldn't do it without you! And thank you to all of the spectators who cheered and offered encouragement and yelled and rang those cowbells!

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Marathon Relay


January 21, 2012

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

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Disneyland is celebrating the Lunar New Year with the Happy Lunar New Year Celebration! January 20-29.

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

The festivities are taking place along the Small World Mall. There are banners and other decorations all along the way.

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration


Other decorations include colorful lanterns in the trees.

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

Though they aren't real, I thought the blooming cherry trees were very attractive.

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

The terraced area is a character meet-and-greet, where Mulan, Mushu, and Chip and Dale in Asian attire are greeting guests.

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

Appropriately for Mushu, it's the year of the dragon!

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

There are also local artists doing demonstrations.

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

Guests are invited to twirl ribbon wands with colorfully costumed dancers.

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

Throughout the day Mulan's Chinese New Year Procession takes place as Mulan and Mushu, accompanied by dancers, go to and from the meet and greet area.

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

On January 20-23, 25, and 27-29 live performances by groups such as Chinese Dragon dancers, Korean drummers, Vietnamese musicians and dancers, and martial artists will take place.

There are special food items available at food carts in the area. One of them offers vegetarian egg rolls and edamame. And another is serving strawberry churros (though those don't seem much like traditional Lunar New Year foods to me!).

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration

Disneyland's Lunar New Year Celebration


The Happy Lunar New Year Celebration! takes place January 20-29 from 10 am to 5 pm.


January 22, 2012

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

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It wouldn't be a complete set of trip blogs without a food blog, right? :-)

I'm afraid you might find it a little repetitive, though - we ate at Kouzzina three times (two dinners, one breakfast)! :-)

The night we arrived, after we visited the Marathon Expo, we still had time to walk into Epcot (one of the advantages of staying at the Boardwalk!) for dinner at Tangerine Cafe, which is a long-time favorite of ours.

A while ago they replaced the shawarma sandwiches with wraps - I still prefer the sandwiches, but the bread they use for the wrap is very good. I had the Falafel Wrap. This one is a hit-and-miss - sometimes the falafel is tough and dry...and it was tough and dry this time. I was surprised that it didn't come with any sauce at all, but Lee had extra tzatziki sauce with his and gave it to me, otherwise it would have been too dry. And I have to remember to ask for hummus or tabouleh in place of the lentil salad - they put red peppers in that.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee had the Shawarma Platter with lamb and chicken. It also came with hummus, tabbouleh and couscous. He really enjoyed his dinner!

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

The next morning we were at Animal Kingdom, so we had breakfast at Pizzafari. We thought that was the only counter service option available for a hot breakfast, but as we went back to Harambe Village we noticed that Tamu Tamu Refreshments offers breakfast - they had a breakfast flatbread, French toast sticks, pastry basket, and yogurt parfait.

At Pizzafari I had my usual $2.79 bowl of oatmeal and fruit, though I also had a cinnamon roll, since that looked really good. (And it was pretty good.)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee had the Bounty platter, with scrambled eggs, French toast sticks, sausage, bacon, breakfast potatoes and biscuit. And he also had oatmeal. For some reason I didn't take a photo of his breakfast this time, though. But it looked like this one he had back in October: :-)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

It's a good thing we had a big breakfast, because with various AllEars and Team AllEars events that afternoon we never had time for lunch! Instead we went to an early dinner at Kouzzina with some of our fellow Team AllEars members, and had a great time, though the service left a bit to be desired. But that means I have lots of dishes to show you!

As an appetizer, Lee and I split Spiro's Greek Salad - Vine-ripened Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Red Onions, Kalamata Olives, and Feta. When it came out it was not at all what we expected - instead of greens with all those other ingredients, it was large pieces of all of those ingredients, and just a little bit of lettuce on the bottom. Individually everything was tasty (Lee said it was the best cucumbers he'd ever had), but there was no way to combine it. I wouldn't order it again.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

One of our fellow diners ordered the Crisp Calamari and Lemon. She said it was very good, and it was a large serving which she offered to share.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Another appetizer was the Seared Greek Cheese. I think we all enjoyed a bite of this one. Definitely the kind of thing you'd want to share with several other people - I think it would be too rich for one person.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Because it was the night before the Half Marathon, they were offering a pasta special, and several ordered that. It looked really good - pasta in a very light sauce with white wine and ouzo (our server advised us that all the alcohol would burn off in the cooking process), with artichoke hearts, sundried tomato, and I think it was goat cheese on top. It looked really good.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

This is the Fisherman's Stew with scallops, fish, shellfish, and fennel.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

And the Oak-Fired Pork Tenderloin with Feta Gremolata, Zucchini Corn Pie, and Succotash.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

I had the Kouzzina Sampler, which included a lamb slider, and sample portions of two popular entrees: the cinnamon-stewed chicken and the Greek-style lasagna. The server warned me that the lamb was spicy. And it was, but it was still very good, and it was a small enough portion that the spiciness didn't overwhelm me. I really enjoyed the cinnamon-stewed chicken, also. Only picked at the lasagna, since it has beef in it.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

I was very intrigued by the garnish they used on top of my lamb slider - I thought it looked like an insect perched on top. :-)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee had the full-size portion of the Greek-syle Lasagna. Our server advised him that you needed to break the cheese crust and mix it all up, and he did. He thought it was very good.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee and I were the only ones to have dessert - we ordered the Loukomades, which are Greek doughnuts drizzled in honey. I don't know why I didn't take a photo of them. It's one of our favorites here, though we think they should offer them on the breakfast menu!!! They would be really yummy in the morning for breakfast.

Saturday morning after cheering on the half marathon runners we walked back into Epcot for breakfast at Sunshine Seasons. There were lots of runners in there! I had the Breakfast Platter, with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuit, potatoes, and French toast. The eggs were a little undercooked for me, but otherwise everything was fine.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee had the breakfast "panini", though it's really more just like a stacked breakfast on foccacia bread. I believe it has slices of roast pork as well as bacon. He enjoyed it.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

It was another day that we missed lunch and had an early dinner - this time we went to the Dolphin Fountain. I like the food better than Beaches and Cream, and it's not nearly as crowded! We got in with no wait and had a charming server - it looked like she belonged in Pixie Hollow instead of waiting tables! She was very good, though.

I ordered the turkey burger, which I've had several times before. This time the chef got too carried away with the rosemary - it was a bit overwhelming. But I ate it anyway. :-)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee had the "Build-Your-Own Burger" - a hamburger with your choice of toppings, like different cheeses, chili, bacon, sauteed mushrooms or onions. He at the wholllllle thing.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Sunday night after the marathon relay we went back to Kouzzina for dinner with our friends Gale and Julian. They had not been to Kouzzina before, but I think they will be back again. Our server was rather frazzled and disorganized with the ordering process, but after that everything was fine.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

We all started with one of the Kouzzina Wine Flights. Gale and I had the Greek Isles Flight, which was three white wines - a sauvignon blanc and two white blends. They were all different, but were all very nice and refreshing - I'd order that wine flight again.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

The guys had the Cat Flight, which is three wines from Cat Cora's "Coranation" label - sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and cabernet sauvignon. I think they enjoyed them all.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

As an appetizer Lee and I had the Kouzzina Sampler, which serves two people. It includes olives, spiced cashews, dolmades, tzatziki sauce, hummus, pita wedges and choice of two of either spicy prawns, lamb meatballs, or chicken. We chose the prawns and lamb. We've had this before and like almost all of it - neither of us care for the dolmades.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Gale ordered the Goat Cheese Sto Fourno - baked goat cheese with peppers, artichoke hearts, olives, served with bread and greens. She really liked it.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Julian ordered the Spanakopita - a phyllo turnover filled with spinach, feta, and leeks. He said it was good.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

I ordered the Cinnamon-Stewed Chicken as my entree - I'd had the sampler size of it two nights before. It was good but more than I wanted - I think I prefer it as part of the trio.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Everyone else had the Kouzzina Trio, which I'd had two nights before, and which is pictured above. I think they all cleaned their plates - I know Lee and Julian did.

Gale and Julian passed on dessert, but Lee and I tried something different this time, the Chocolate Budino Cake. This was a chocolate lava cake, and I have to say it's one of the best lava cakes I've ever had - even a little better than the one I make.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

It was a very nice dinner, especially because we were able to share it with friends we don't see very often.

Monday morning we were back in Kouzzina for breakfast. :-) It's very convenient when you're staying at the Boardwalk!

We started off with sort of an "appetizer" - it sounded similar to a dessert that's on the dinner menu. Warm phyllo filled with semolina custard and cinnamon sugar. It really wasn't that warm - it would have been better if it was. It wasn't really what I expected, and I don't think we'd get it again. (I still don't understand why they don't serve Loukoumades for breakfast!!!)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

I ordered the Stacked Kouzzina Breakfast, but with scambled eggs rather than poached. It was served with bacon or chicken sausage, kalamata olive toast, artichoke spread, and sweet potato hash. I enjoyed the kalamata olive toast and the artichoke spread, but otherwise I think I'd be happier with the usual American breakfast - they put peppers in the sweet potato hash, which ruins it for me.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee had the French Toast Baklava, which also came with choice of bacon or sausage. He enjoyed it - I was surprised that he didn't find it to be too sweet for him.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Our final meal on this trip was a quick counter service meal at Flame Tree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom, just before we had to leave for the airport. I had the Barbecue Chicken Salad. Nothing too special about it - the lettuce was mostly iceberg, which is not very appealing to me.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee ordered the Pork Sandwich. He's been hit-or-miss with this one, but this time was a hit - the pork was not full of fat like it sometimes is, so he liked it a lot.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

I wish we could say we got some kind of special dessert for the road...but we didn't. I wish that we had had time to make it over to babycakesNYC in Downtown Disney for some special treats.

That's it for this trip - but we'll be spending a weekend at Disneyland soon (for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon), so I'll have another food blog from that trip.


January 24, 2012

Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com shares some of his thoughts and observations from a cruise aboard the Disney Dream back in December. He has posted a couple of sets of pictures in earlier postings on this blog and on his website he has a full set of pictures and extended thoughts in the Disney Cruise section.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • I have put off going on a Disney Cruise for several reasons over the years ranging from just being lazy to wanting to spend my vacation time elsewhere to the cost factor. I finally decided to take the plunge this year. I had been on a couple previous cruises over the years including one on Premiere Cruise Lines when they had the Disney contract back in the 90s, everyone remember the Big Red Boat?
  • I went about the cruise like I would look at a theme park. Mostly because that is what comes naturally to me and secondly because I wanted pictures. I spent some time learning the layout of the ship and then set about exploring all corners of it. As you will see in the pictures I ended up taking quite a few, about 9,000 over the five days and four nights.
  • I really enjoyed my time on board. The ship was spectacular and offered plenty to do. Castaway Cay was a nice retreat. The number one question I have been asked about the trip so by non Disneygeeks is what about all the kids. I would have to say if you have no problem visiting the theme parks then you would have no problem on the ship. Yes, there are kids, remember it is Disney, but there are so many activities for them and the ship is large enough that I never really gave it any thought nor did they seem to cause any problems or headaches (now for their parents that may be another story).
  • Food: When people think of cruising they think of food. I am not a huge food person so it ranked well down on my list of priorities. There were plenty of choices and the rotational dining was nice. Unlike other cruise lines, on Disney ships you rotate through the dining rooms, each with their own theme. Your wait staff goes with you. I would rate the food as average compared to others I have experienced. I am a meat and french fry kind of guy. Out of the four dinners I only found two nice steaks on the menu. On other cruises there was always at least one to choose from. Also the fries in the dining rooms were not that good...the ones at Maters were substantially better.
  • Stateroom: We had a stateroom on Deck 7 that had a veranda. The room itself felt larger than other ships I had been on and I really liked having the split bathroom. One room had a sink and toilet and the other a sink and tub/shower. The water temperature was never constant for me, it always fluctuated between where I wanted it and cold.
  • Service: Disney Service was up to the levels I had anticipated for the most part. One thing we noticed on this cruise vs others is the crew was international but everyone spoke and understood English with no problems at all. You were able to easily communicate with everyone and anyone that you ran into and they all had the typical Disney attitude of friendliness.
  • Entertainment: The ship offered a different Disney production each night. The main shows in the Walt Disney Theater are what you have come to expect from Disney. Top-notch talent delivering a family-friendly show. Up on Deck they had a Pirates night set of shows as well as fireworks (the only cruise line to offer fireworks at sea). Throughout the cruise there were plenty of other entertainment options ranging from traditional Disney character encounters to traditional cruise entertainment like comedians and singing.

Day 1: December 4, 2011
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Once we arrived it was a quick and smooth process to drop our luggage, go through security and check in. We arrived at the terminal just before 11am. It was less than 15 minutes from the time we got dropped off till I was done checking in and roaming the terminal building taking pictures. Curious if the process is that smooth all day or if it was because of the time we arrived or if we were just lucky.
  • We were in boarding group 5 and were called to board about 11:40ish so I really did not have that much time to explore the terminal but felt I had enough to get a flavor for it. The lighting was a challenge, as you will see in the pictures. There were some Christmas decorations scattered about, too.
  • After lunch I had some time to kill until the first ship tour which was scheduled for 1:00pm so I did a little exploring and ended up in the District. Sort of by accident. The one thing that amazed me was how open the ship was. You were free to roam and take pictures in the guest areas pretty much any time you wanted. I never had a cast member say no to me or ask why I was there. I actually had several say to come back when people are not around or they would point out details to take pictures of. This was great for a geek like me!
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Made my way to the Port Adventures Desk on Deck 5, Midship and waited for the 1pm tour. I was a little disappointed with the tour. First it was only about 20 minutes long and it was really a simple orientation of the ship's main dining areas and entertainment venues. There was no detail or substance to it. It was really a surface level tour. The guides were accessible and willing to answer questions but they just did not take us any place interesting or go into any real details beyond the function of the space. I guess this was aimed at an audience wanting to know where some things were vs one wanting to learn about the ship. It was confined to the spaces on Deck 5 and then down to Deck 3.
  • All of the children/youth spaces were in an open house mode all afternoon. So I took this opportunity to visit them all and get pictures. Once their official activities started they would be off-limits except for the appropriate children and their parents (which would exclude me since no children were in our traveling party). There are five different spaces divided up by age group. The spaces encompass a good portion of Deck 5. You cannot help but be impressed by the amount of space and attention to detail given to each of these areas. Ranging from the scale (the ceilings are actually lower in these spaces to make them more to kid-scale) to the Disney character infusion. Also it being the holiday season all had their own Christmas decorations.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • It's a Small World Nursery! - This is a reservation-only space for infants and toddlers (three months to three years old). The decor is Small World/Mary Blair-inspired. I thought the space was laid out a bit awkwardly with the small lobby then hallway to the main room in the back, but I guess it makes sense to have the Nursery toward the middle, probably more quiet area.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Oceaneer Club - For ages 3 to 10 this space has several distinct areas to play and interact in. Pixie Hollow, Andy's Room, Monsters Academy, and Explorer Pod. I thought this was the most interesting of the spaces to explore. The themed rooms were well done and the detail was great. Luckily when I went through there were very few people around so I was able to get pictures with no problem.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Oceaneer Lab - Connected to the club and targeted at the same ages, this space has a Media Room, Animator's Studio, Wheelhouse, Sound and Craft Studios. This space seemed geared to the slightly older end of the spectrum with less emphasis on the Disney/Pixar characters and more on the activities themselves. Technology reigns in all the areas but here there was an abundance of computers and screens to interact with.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Edge - located on Deck 13 in the forward funnel this space is for tweens ages 11-13. I thought this was a very awkward space and was the smallest of all the areas. But it is targeted at an awkward age group stuck right in the middle so having their own space in a unique location seems to make perfect sense to me.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Vibe - located on Deck 5 forward, this space is for 14-17 year olds. It includes a club space, rooms, as well as a sun deck in the very front of the ship. This was a fairly extensive series of spaces with more of a nightclub feel to it.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • The outside deck has a great location and it was fun to look back and up at the front of the ship.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Not to be left out the Adult Spaces (18+) include the Senses Spa and Salon, which I also toured. This was a good size area on Deck 11 forward. There was also an adults only area around the Cove Pool and up on Deck 13 around the Currents Bar. Both had signs but I saw no active presence to keep families out. The night club area also became adults only after a certain time each evening when the clubs really picked up for the night.
  • The one age group that there was no designated space for would be the older set. I joked with several that there was no place to check in your senior citizens or ways to track and claim them. I guess the closest would be the Bingo in the D-Lounge??
  • I was able to walk through most of the ship before the lifeboat drill and on a first impression the ship is impressive. I did find some odd design choices and accessibility is weird in some spots. Such as hallways that do not go anywhere or elevators that do not go to the floor you want. Or no way to get where you want without going up a deck over then back down a deck. Or one that really seemed odd was if you took the aft elevators up to deck 11 to access the pool area you had to walk through Cabanas. There was no other way to access the area.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • After dinner I attended the King Triton's Tree Lighting Decree in the Lobby Atrium on Deck 3, Midship (I watched from Deck 4). I thought this was a nice, brief ceremony to light the tree and atrium. I found it kind of surprising they only did this on the first night of the cruise. Nothing on subsequent days. I almost did not go the first night figuring I would catch it later but glad I did!

Day 2: December 5, 2011
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • I really enjoyed being up on deck and watching the ship come into port at Nassau this morning. The engineer in me cannot help but to be impressed at how easily the big ship is maneuvered. The ship came into the harbor, made an 180 degree turn inside, then backed into the dock alongside another ship. To accomplish this they have 3 bow thrusters (totally 12,069hp) and 2 stern thrusters (totaling (4,824hp) onboard the Dream. They can turn the ship at a combined 35 degrees per minute rate.
  • Since I had zero desire to disembark the ship and see Nassau we had a relaxing day on board. I had visited Nassau back in the 90s on my "Big Red Boat" cruise and really did not enjoy it. I also looked through the current guides and talked to some who had visited recently and when combining all that thought my time was better spent on the Dream.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Ate a relaxing breakfast at the Royal Palace and took a bunch of pictures since it was not crowded at all. Not sure if it was our timing or what but I was really surprised at how empty and calm the dining room was. It was about 8:30 in the morning so not super early.
  • After breakfast the plan was to give the Aquaduck a try. It was about 10am by the time I made my way up to deck 12 and the entrance. The line was short, posted at 10 minutes only. I walked up the stairs and in reality it was closer to about 5 minutes. But then as the group before me was waiting to board their raft no raft was sent up. The Cast member working looked over the side and started talking on the radio to the one at the exit. It seems someone lost their breakfast and they had to shut the ride down to clean it up. We hung around for a while since the CM said it should be quick to clean up. The cleanup did go fast but unfortunately they were not allowed to re-open until an officer could come and sign off on it and all the officers were tied up in a safety drill till noon. So my first attempt to ride the Aquaduck failed...
  • As a substitute since I had some free time I ended up giving the Goofy Golf course a try on Deck 13. We really enjoyed playing but we were really pushed along by some kids who just did not seem to get the concept of waiting or going ahead of us. Really this is the only time in the four days that stands out to me when some kids were a bit out of control and bothersome. I mean to the point of we were still hitting our second and third shots and they were already hitting off the tee into us and running around. We did return at a later time and played a more peaceful round.
  • I thought some of their scheduling was a bit odd. For example there was a presentation on the Making of a Dream. This was scheduled to start at noon. So it interfered with lunch choices a bit (especially since I wanted to go on another tour at 1:00pm). The Royal Palace lunch was open from noon to 1:30pm only so the only table service option was not going to work. Cabanas was 12 to 2 so again not really a good option. So I ended up with fast food since that opened at 11am.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • The first presentation of the day that I went to was entitled Making the Disney Dream. The Personal Navigator billed it as "Explore the origins of Disney Cruise Line - and the latest and greatest innovations conjured especially for the Disney Dream, in this fascinating and entertaining behind-the-scenes program." It lived up to the exploring the origins part. The rest I was a little more disappointed in. I think my problem was I saw the Imagineers' presentation at the D23 Expo and that taught me more about making the Dream and the special features than this presentation did. I kept comparing to that in my mind and then wishing I had skipped it and gone to a nice lunch instead. For someone who had not seen a presentation on the ship before this would have been a worthwhile endeavor but when combining the timing and the content I walked away disappointed. Not as disappointed as I was with the ship tour yesterday but still not satisfied. One thing that I do want to compliment the presentation material on is how it tied back to Walt and really tried to convey the company history. I did think this was worth mentioning.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • After two strikes in a row I was a bit nervous about the third program I was planning to attend. At 1:00pm I joined a small group in the Meridian up on Deck 12, Aft for a program entitled "Art of the Theme Ship Tour". This was described as "Join us on a guided ship tour and discover the ingredients that make the Disney Dream cruise ship one-of-a-kind". Well, this tour lived up to the billing and then some. I really enjoyed this tour. This tour visited the Meridian, Palo, and Remy and then went down to Deck 4 and the District. It focused on some of the unique spaces on the Dream and how they came to be and our guide pointed out some of the details (some hidden some not-so-hidden) of the spaces we visited. Out of the three tours this is the one I found the most interesting and would recommend to someone if they had to just choose one.
  • Gave the Mid-Ship Detective Agency a try. In this family-friendly game you choose one of two cases (the case of the missing puppies or missing painting, I did the painting one) and you register on Deck 5 and pick up your game guide and card. You then visit several pieces of interactive art around the ship for clues to help you solve your mystery. I would recommend giving these a try to anyone. It is a great way to view some of the art and fun too.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • Dinner this evening was at the Royal Palace. I had already explored the restaurant and took plenty of pictures at breakfast so during dinner I relaxed and enjoyed the meal. This turned out to be my favorite meal of the trip. I had the Royal Palace Aged Angus Grilled Beef Tenderloin (it also came with lobster medallions that I did not get but many others at the table did and all enjoyed them too).
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1
  • The show this evening was Villains Tonight. This was more comical than last night's show. The gist here is Hades (from Hercules) is losing his evil ways so he wants to assemble all the Disney Villains to increase his evilness. I found the show entertaining but kind of an odd fit to focus on Villains.
Come back tomorrow for Part 2

January 25, 2012

Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com shares some of his thoughts and observations from a cruise aboard the Disney Dream back in December. Here is part 2 of his report. On his website he has a full set of pictures and extended thoughts in the Disney Cruise section.


Day 3: December 6, 2011

Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • Today we were at Castaway Cay for the morning and afternoon.  I was eager to go ashore and explore the island so I was done with breakfast and on my way fairly early.   As you will see in the pictures there is some work going on near where the ship docks.  I could not figure out what they were doing and I asked several cast members and they had theories but nothing sounded firm or final.  Does anyone out there know the real deal?
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • Overall I really enjoyed exploring Castaway Cay.   I am not a huge beach person so I did not go with the intent of laying around on the beach or playing in the water.  I went to see the sights and walk the island.    There were plenty of activities to choose from and seemed to be plenty of space if you wanted to claim some sand for yourself to relax (I have to note that I went back to the ship in the early afternoon so not sure if things were more crowded in the afternoon).
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • I was surprised by how much there was in the way of Christmas decorations on the island.  Where the ship docked as well as the walkway leading the family beach there were a lot.  I was expecting less.   As you went further into the island things seemed to dwindle and by the time you reached Serenity Bay there was nothing to speak of.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • Since it was my first time to Castaway Cay I decided I was going to “walk the island”.  I walked from the ship all throughout the family beaches and then out to the airstrip toward Serenity Bay.  I took a detour and walked out to the observation tower which is almost a mile round trip.   Coming back I took a brief tram ride from Serenity Bay to the first stop then walked the rest of the way back to the ship.  This added up to a little over 5 miles of total walking.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • I really enjoyed my time out on the observation tower.  For most of the walk and then the visit to the tower I had the place to myself.  A couple families on bicycles passed by but that was it.  As I was leaving a couple more groups were arriving and you could see the bike riders were finding their way out there.   I thought the quiet time to look over the island was great though! 
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • As I was walking around it seemed like the trams were always running and never looked full, so it seemed there was plenty of access for those that wanted to ride vs walk around. 
  • It was extremely easy to move between the ship and shore.  There were two gangways open and I never noticed a line.  But I am guessing later in the afternoon when more people returned there was probably a minor wait for the screening.   When you re-boarded the ship you had to send backpacks through an x-ray machine, just like at an airport.   I thought this was a little odd since you were on Disney’s Island and everything there they brought but guess you cannot be too safe and it really was not an inconvenience.
  • One thing that really seemed odd to me was at the bars you had to purchase Coke products.  The odd part was at all the dining locations there were beverage stations (as well as ice cream) so you could drink all you wanted there and it was included (free).
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • I finally made it onto the Aquaduck.   Once back on board I headed up to give it a try and went on a handful of times in under an hour.   The longest I waited was maybe 5 groups in front of me.   After my last ride though the line was backing up and visible and it just kept growing as more returned from shore.
  • So what did I think of the Aquaduck?   I really enjoyed it.  This was the first water coaster I have been on (keep saying I need to visit Typhoon Lagoon but have not), so I really cannot compare to others.  The ride itself has a nice little thrill with the couple upward thrusts, but really is not a thrill ride, so it was perfect for just about anyone.   I did find that the information channel lied.  It said the water was 87 degrees.  There is no way that water was.  It was substantially colder.  The first time the water hits you it was cool.
  • As we were setting sail from Castaway Cay Captain Gus came on the loudspeaker to give us an update and say there had been a Medical Emergency so we may be heading back to Nassau or they were looking at other options (in the end we did return to Nassau in the early morning hours).  He updated us the next day that the injury was a bike injury with a severely broken leg.  The guest was in the hospital with their family and resting comfortably.  I thought the follow-up was a nice touch.
  • The evening's theme was Pirates Night.  We were in Animator's Palette for the evening, all three dining rooms served the same menu.   I have to say I was not impressed with the menu and actually ended up eating very little at dinner.   Luckily I had grabbed that snack earlier and did get some more food after so I did not go hungry… but I was disappointed with the offerings.  Also was a little disappointed that our server or assistant server did not seem to take more of an interest in the issue.  They did talk to me and said tomorrow’s menu was better.  But on previous cruises the wait staff had gone above and beyond and if they noticed someone not eating they would offer to find something else and in one case went above and beyond and actually got me something from a previous night’s menu, even.  Here there really was no offer made.  I know I probably could have asked for another dish or something but decided it was not important to me.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • The first show of the evening for me was Mickey’s Pirates in the Caribbean up on Deck 11.  This show featured the Disney Characters and some Pirate activities.  I thought it was a decent kids show but not something that inspired or really entertained me too much.  I was a little disappointed that they had to cut a couple of things due to the ship's movement.
  • In the Walt Disney Theater this evening was a comedy duo.  The attendance was extremely poor but the team was good.  We enjoyed the performance.  It was very typical and not Disney but it still worked as a change of pace.  Especially since we had it sandwiched between two Disney shows.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • After the show we headed up to Deck 12 to find a spot the for Buccaneer Blast Fireworks.  Disney is the only cruise line right now that does routine fireworks on its cruises.  The show itself is fairly short but fun.    I had a tough choice to make.  Did I want a spot to see the stage portion or the fireworks.  I opted for the stage which meant I could see the fireworks but all the pictures came out kind of boring, just fireworks in the air.  I would have really wanted to shoot them from the other side where I could get a funnel or something in the shot to show we were on a ship.   Following/during the fireworks was a Captain Jack Sparrow skit/performance.
  • After the Buccaneer Blast Fireworks  Deck 11 became Club Pirate and was a dance party featuring the performers.    I thought this was a fun activity and seemed well-attended.  I felt bad for anyone with a room on Deck 10, one reason you never want a room right below a common deck if you can avoid it.  I am assuming it was quite loud down there.

Day 4: December 7, 2011

  • Today was Pearl Harbor day. I thought it would have been appropriate to show the film in the theater but no such luck.
  • Our morning started off with the thrusters below again as we pulled into then out of port during the 4am hour to drop off the injured passenger. Usually I am not that light of a sleeper so curious why these woke me up.
  • Since I was heading to a movie at 8:30 my breakfast choices were a bit limited. The buffet in Enchanted Garden did not open till 9am and the sit down service in Royal Palace started at 8:00am which would be cutting it close. So I opted for Cabanas and again had a great breakfast and since it was early it was peaceful too.
  • I made my way down to the Buena Vista Theater and found a seat. They ran into some minor technical difficulties and had to restart the trailers. The second time through everything was good. I thought it was great that the theater on board had first run movies, like the Muppets that was only out for a few weeks in theaters. It could also do 3D, I stopped by to see a bit of Cars 2 and it looked great! The Muppet movie itself was ok. I enjoyed it because I like the Muppets but the film itself was nothing spectacular. I really enjoyed the Small Fry short at the beginning. It features Buzz Lightyear as a happy meal toy and is a fun short.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • At 11:30am a crowd gathered in the lobby atrium for Jack Jack's Incredible Diaper Dash. This was a fun event, what's not to enjoy about baby racing?? The idea is to see who is the fastest crawler onboard.
  • For lunch we did not know what we wanted so we stopped by the Enchanted Garden and were not impressed so we ended up at Royal Palace ordering off the menu. The food was good but the service was a bit slow. They had a bunch of Cast Members, it appeared they were training servers.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • There were three showings instead of two of the main stage show for the day. We opted to go the first one to free up some of our evening, so it was an afternoon, 3:00pm show time of Disney's Believe. They had some technical issues with the show and it was slightly delayed. Also they had some A/C issues going on too. The show itself was top-notch just like the other two Disney productions. I thought the story line was a bit hokey but the performance numbers more than made up for it.
  • In terms of ranking the shows... for sure I would put Villains Tonight on the bottom. And it's a toss-up of Golden Mickeys or Believe at the top. I liked parts of each. I guess the wise cracking Genie of Believe would put it a bit above the Golden Mickeys.
  • After the show we gathered in the Lobby Atrium to see the Sea Ya' Real Soon! character send off @ 4:15pm. The characters came out for autographs then did a brief little good bye. The show was repeated later in the evening at 10:!5 also. I like how they have the little touches, such as the screen that drops down to play some clips and the confetti blast near the end. Here is some video from the send off:
  • Dinner this evening was at Animator's Palate. Tonight was the regular Crush show. I was a little disappointed by the Crush interaction. He made his way around the room but really did not spend that much time in each area. I would say under 5 minutes in each. I understand that you cannot have him in two spots at the same time as that would be bad for guests to look across the room and see him. I thought they could have done a better job of segmenting the room so you could have more than one Crush out. This would give more face time with the character. I think he talked to no more than three or four people in our section. The food tonight was slightly better than last nights, but still a disappointment to me. Again no real steak on the menu!
  • Since we had our evening open after the show we went to catch the Adult Exclusive Wilde and James show in Evolution. This was a repeat of a show they did earlier in the cruise but different than the one they did in the Walt Disney Theater last night. Again we found them very entertaining but their show was short as they needed to wrap up within half an hour for those that had a late seating for dinner. The show was very sparsely attended. Not sure if that was because of the time, that it was a repeat, or what.
  • I was curious why they did the Cruise Staff Farewell so late...it was 11:00pm. I did not make it there due to this and the fact that we had a 6:45am breakfast time tomorrow.
  • I made one more night time pass around the decks to see what was going on and everything was very peaceful this evening. I was surprised that even with the amount of sitting I did at the shows, movie, etc today I still managed to walk nearly 4 miles!

Day 5: December 8, 2011

Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2
  • The ship pulled back into Port Canaveral very early.  Since we had early seating for dinner our breakfast time was at 6:45am down in Animators Palate.  We instead opted for a little extra time to pack up our stuff and went up to Cabanas for the buffet.
  • I was disappointed that the breakfast this morning up there was scaled down from the other mornings.  For example no Mickey Waffles today.  Why??
  • One shock of the morning for us was when I opened the door to go outside and look around it was freezing…  temperatures were in the 40s.  It would have been nice if somewhere they had told us that.  My extra sweatshirt, pants, etc.. were all in my suitcase which meant I could not get warm clothes till after customs.
  • Exiting the ship, customs, and getting a ride back to Walt Disney World were all uneventful.   I thought the process to find your bags and go through customs worked very smoothly but then again we were early. Not sure how it was later in the morning when the crowds were heavier.
Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2


January 29, 2012

Holidays at the Tokyo Disney Resort: Part 5--Odds and Ends

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In case you missed them: PART ONE, PART TWO, PART THREE and PART FOUR

So now that we're more or less finished with the holidays, here are some of the differences I noticed between my last visit of two years ago, and now.

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The last time I saw the Monsters Inc. attraction at Tokyo Disneyland (TDL) it had just opened and had phenomenally long lines...and that was just for the FP machines. By now, the demand has slowed down a little, but not by much. Since then, the ride was closed, tweaked, and has reopened with a few changes. (Note: I don't speak Japanese, so this is all based more or less on observation and supposition.) Previously, the story behind the ride seemed to be that you were part of the nighttime security team for the Monsters Inc. factory, and you were riding around with your flashlights, checking for intruders, etc. As you shone your flashlight on various areas of the sets around your car, different monsters would pop out or perform specific actions.

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Now, it seems as though people might have had difficulty integrating the whole flashlight gimmick, so the new story emphasizes the game of hide-and-seek more strongly, adding helmets that light up when a given monster is activated, and more appearances of Boo and a new ride mascot named "Rocky." While the ride is still amazing in its detailed recreations of the movie environments, it's hard for me not to feel that in a very small way, this continues the recent and ubiquitous trend of remaking rides to appeal to a younger audience.

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Another change was the replacement of The Mickey Mouse Revue with Mickey's Philharmagic, lending credence to the sometimes-heard theory that Philharmagic is the next evolutionary step of Revue.

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I actually didn't get a chance to see Philharmagic this time, but I was told that the film is identical, with the exception of having been translated into Japanese and being shown on a concave screen, which makes it a little more immersive.

The next change, and one of the only new attractions to me, was the opening of Cinderella's Fairy Tale Hall, which took the place of the Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour in the castle walk through space.

The old tour was a pretty interesting but slightly confusing tour through a castle showcasing the unsung heroes of the Disney tales--the villains. It was all in Japanese and the CMs would actually hand out pamphlets telling people there was no translation available. There were a lot of pretty good set pieces showing creepy rooms, each with its own villain up to no good inside (why were they all living together? Was it like Big Brother?) The aura of foreboding was only increased by the CM that was guiding you through, who seemed to get progressively more hysterical as the tour went on. The ending was a huge scene with the Black Cauldron's Horned King trying to bring an army of the undead back to life, but invariably being defeated by one of the more heroic guests who ultimately received a nice medallion as a keepsake.

Here's a great video of what this ride used to be like:

Cinderella's Fairy Tale Hall...isn't really like that. It actually turns out to be more of an art gallery that Cinderella put together to share her story with everyone. It starts out with a series of wall panels that set up the story's exposition.

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It then goes on with several dioramas made of different materials that continue to display her history. Most of these were frankly unattractive, to my eye.

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Some were nice, like this one that magically transformed from Hobo Cinderella to Princess Cinderella while you watched.

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Ultimately, her story told, you entered another room papered with scenes of her living happily ever after, and even getting crowned, calling back to the poorly received "Cinderella II: Dreams Come True."

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So up to this point, I really haven't been terrifically impressed. There is another room however, where you can see a beautiful chandelier, so I figure that maybe there's something really exciting that's going to finish this off.

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Uhm...

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Well...

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Not so much, actually. The last room is basically just a collection of photo-ops.

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Not gonna lie--this was a little disappointing to me, given how different and elaborate the initial attraction was, and how minimalistic this was. I thought maybe it was just that I was being curmudgeonly, but I did ask others I spoke with in the parks, and the general consensus seemed to be that it looked like a display you might find in a mall.

Finally, over at Tokyo DisneySea, a new outdoor show replaced the older "Over the Waves" at the Dockside Stage in front of the SS Columbia in the New York Harbor area, called "A Table is Waiting."

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The storyline is that Mickey brought back different foods from around the globe, which are presented in a typically bizarre musical revue.

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There are many good YouTube videos of the show online, however it is a little on the long side, running around thirty minutes.

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But the costumes are beautiful and the whole impression is one of such energy and enthusiasm, it doesn't seem long at all when you're watching it.

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It's a fun show, and although all the dialogue and probably around half of the singing is in Japanese, the heart of it is slapstick, which is pretty translatable to any language.

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So although this certainly doesn't circumscribe all the events of my trip, this finishes up the bulk of what was seasonal or new from the last trip reports we had from this region. If anyone has any questions about travel to TDR, feel free to ask them in the comments section.

My best advice however, is the same as it always is: If you've been wanting to visit and just haven't made the time--GO. Travel is often difficult, time-consuming, and invariably expensive. Obviously, it's probably a bad idea to spend the baby's milk money on a few nights at MiraCosta...but if it's that you're just waiting for the perfect time to go, you could be waiting awhile.

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"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. " --Ferris Beuller

January 30, 2012

Inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon - January 29, 2012

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The Inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend took place at Disneyland January 27-29. The Health and Fitness Expo was on Friday and Saturday, the Never Land Family Fun Run 5K was Friday night, the kids' races were Saturday morning, and the Tinker Bell Half Marathon was Sunday morning, starting at 5:45.

I'll have more on my thoughts about the race and various aspects later - for now I just want to share a little bit about our experience.

Lee and I approached this one a little differently, and decided we were going to have fun with it. So we did something we'd never done before, and ran in costume - both of us with sparkly running skirts and pixie wings. (I also had a rainbow tutu - couldn't convince Lee he needed one of those, too, but we saw a couple of guys out on the course wearing skirts and tutus, and I think he felt a little envious then!)

So, what do you need to run the Tinker Bell Half Marathon? Tutu, sparkly running skirt, wings, race shirt, and race bib, of course!

Inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon - January 29, 2012

And it also helps to have a supportive husband with a sense of humor. :-)

Inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon - January 29, 2012

It was a great day for racing - temperature was cool in the morning while we were waiting but not cold (about 50), and even after the sun came up it wasn't hot, though it did warm up quite a bit.

In Disneyland the lines were very long for the characters, so we didn't stop most of the time - just a couple of pictures.

Inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon - January 29, 2012

Lee could have run faster, but he stayed with me - I didn't have quite as good a run as I did at the Marathon Relay three weeks ago, and we finished in 2:35:34, and for the most part we had a good time. The costume thing was really no problem at all - I may run in a tutu every (Disney) race from now on. :-)

Inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon - January 29, 2012

We heard and saw some fun comments on the course - in Disneyland, one of the pirates said something like: "All of you fairies - if you got wings, why are you running?" And we saw a couple of signs that made us laugh - in Downtown Disney was "Worst Parade Ever". and at about Mile 5 was: "Your feet hurt because you're kickin' butt." In Disneyland someone had a sign that said: "This race is expensive, you need to finish it."

This afternoon we met up with our fellow Team AllEars members who were here to run the race, and we all went to Pixie Hollow to get our photo taken with Tinker Bell, since we had run her race today. Lots of fun! (And we all earned Coast-to-Coast medals today, too!)

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It's been a great weekend.


January 31, 2012

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/27/12

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, January 27, 2012.


In Downtown Disney, Island Charters has closed. Rumor I heard is the Lego store will be moving in here while some renovations are done to its building.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/27/12


There is some pavement work going out outside of Catal.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/27/12


La Brea Bakery work is continuing.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/27/12


More scaffolding and some mesh/tarps up on the Matterhorn as its renovation project moves along.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/27/12

The Autopia was closed, no visible signs of why. Just all the cars parked and bunch of Cast Members standing around the load area waiting.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/27/12

Looks like a new canopy will be going on the queue.

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Some Matterhorn shots from the Monorail platform.

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Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/27/12

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/27/12


From the monorail to Downtown Disney here's a look at the end of the Red Car line on Buena Vista Street in DCA.

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And a look at Oswalds

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There is some work going on at the transportation center (shuttle area off of Harbor)

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Looking south now you can see the rail is in for the Red Car.

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Lunar New Year was being celebrated in the Small World Mall. This marked the final weekend of the two week celebration.

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Mushu was out for pictures.

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A local dance group performing (I missed the name).

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A brief video clip from their performance.

A guest artist, Agnes Eng

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A couple video clips of another group performing.


Mulan and Mushu arrived and did a brief performance as they came out for pictures.

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Small World is closed as the holiday decorations are being removed.

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The Toontown Train Depot has reopened.

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Out on Tom Sawyer Island they are working on the Fantasmic! dragon again. So some barriers up around the pit.

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Wait times around 4:20pm.

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The Dapper Dans performing at the Flag Retreat (no band since it is off season).

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Over to DCA where the facade just past Mater's has been coated now.

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The parade speakers have been removed...

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Looking down Route 66 you can see they have some of the neon on.

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They were testing Maters. Here is a montage of clips of the testing (from Friday and Saturday).

A couple of Imagineers on board for a test ride.

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At Paradise Pier the scaffolding is down and you can see the new facade for the former Man Hat'n'Beach store. Looks much cleaner without the giant clown.

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The scaffolding is also down around the far side (facing the Maliboomer park area)

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There was about a 25-minute wait for the Fun Wheel so by the time I was on it was pretty dark.

Which was perfect so I could see the neon and lights in Cars Land!

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Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 1/27/12


Mater's lit up for the evening.

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Looking toward the Paradise Pier Hotel I could see preparations for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon race on Sunday.

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Back to ground level a look down Route 66 from the Blue Sky Cellar patio.

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Stopped by the Blue Sky Cellar. They swapped out some of the Cars Land pictures in the display case at the end of the hallway.

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As well as some concept art for the Mad "T" Party and Ghirardelli location "coming soon to Hollywood Land and Pacific Wharf."

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World of Color was canceled due to the high winds, as was Remember...Dreams Come True at Disneyland.

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ElecTRONica was still rolling around. The large screen was not being used this evening.

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At this point I headed back to the Disneyland Hotel for some pictures around the area and to call it a night. My Disneyland Hotel pictures will be in their own posting.


Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com



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About January 2012

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in January 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2011 is the previous archive.

February 2012 is the next archive.

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