Sunday, February 4, 2018

What to Expect on a Disney Merrytime Cruise

This can be summed up in three words..Festive ~ Festive~ Festive!

If you love Disney (like I do) and you love Christmas (like I do), then a Disney Merrytime cruise may be for you.
These cruises take place right after the Halloween on the High Seas cruises end, so shortly after Halloween. The pictures in this article came from a November 10th cruise, so not everything was in place when we boarded. It was fun to watch the life sized gingerbread house be constructed. I can tell you it smells wonderful.
As soon as you enter you notice the beautifully decorated atrium. Poinsettias, garlands and bows are on display, as well as the 'you can't miss it' giant tree.
The atrium is not the only area of the ship with the Christmas spirit...little touches abound everywhere you look.
The Merrytime becomes Merry starting with Mickey's Tree Lighting Magic on the first night, and continues throughout the cruise with a Winter Wonderland Ball,  Deck the Deck Party, Storytime with Mrs. Claus, a Visit with Santa and a special Til We Meet Again the last night.
There are plenty of opportunities for holiday themed photos and the characters show off their Christmassy outfits.
The fun doesn't end there. Holiday crafts are abundant for family fun and in the kid's and clubs.
The highlight of the cruise is the opportunity to make your own gingerbread house! (one per stateroom). This event doesn't cost extra, but does require a ticket. As expected, this is a very popular event and tickets are limited, so immediately after you enter the ship head to the Port Adventures desk to get your ticket (be sure and check the Navigator you receive before you board to make sure this is the area to get the tickets). Try and sign up for the earliest  available day for this activity. You are NOT allowed to take the gingerbread house off the ship, so give yourself as much time as possible to eat it! No matter your artistic ability, yumminess is guaranteed.

All regular Disney Cruise activities still take place, such as the dining rooms shows, Pirates Party, Broadway style shows and first run movies. If your schedule allows, try one of these sailings, but if not, every single Disney cruise will be certain to please.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

What To Expect on a Disney Halloween on the High Seas Cruise

As if taking a Disney Cruise wasn't fun enough, Disney has made many cruises during the year even more special, by adding themed sailings. One of these special cruises takes place from late September through October 31, on all of the Disney ships, and are called Halloween on the High Seas cruises.
So pack your costume and set sail!
Right away, you'll notice the Halloween theme around the ship with little touches such as jack o lantern window clings and pumpkins galore. In the atrium, a Halloween tree will appear and change throughout your cruise, and the characters will at times sport their spooky (ish) costumes.
Kids clubs get into the fun with themed activities such as mask making, and the older kids can enjoy such things as pumpkin carving and turning into a Haunted Mansion ghost. The crafts available for all ages will allow adults join in on the fun. Want to be entertained without any effort? Listen to a scary story or two.
Although themed offerings take place throughout the cruise, there is one day where the fun is amped up. Everyone, grown ups included, is invited to a Halloween Party, Disney style. Dress up and join the festivities with the characters, and then trick or treat all around the ship. When you have your bag of treats, head to the Walt Disney Theatre for a showing of Nightmare Before Christmas...and sing (and scream) along. If you stay long enough, you might be able to meet up with the stars of the show.
After the kids are safely deposited in the kids clubs, keep the party going with adult only activities.
Other than that, the cruise is like any other...lots of fun things to see and do, exciting ports of call to explore, plenty of good food and excellent service. The Halloween activities do not replace the Pirates in the Caribbean party, so make sure your suitcase can hold not only your Halloween stuff, but your Pirate stuff as well, and be sure and leave enough room to bring home your candy stash.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Disneyland ~ Main Street Vehicles

Just can't take another step but really want to head down Main Street to the Plaza Inn or come back from the Castle to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln? Or maybe you just want to experience Main Street from a different perspective and not stumble over the streetcar tracks.
Disneyland has you covered with not one, two or even three choices, but four.
All of these vehicles are designed as accurately as possible to what you would find in any small American town during the turn of the century.
The most popular of these vehicles is the classic Horse-drawn Streetcar. Take a leisurely clip clopping ride and be sure and note your steed's name.
Next up is the Fire Engine. Imagine you're riding along with Walt and any number of celebrities, as this transport is often used to transport famous folk at the start of a parade.
Be thoroughly modern in an early version of the Horseless Carriage. You might get the Jitney version with its open air design. Dashing fellows would show off their speed and honk the horn, just because they could.
Want to see Main Street from higher up? Board the 2 story Omnibus and choose a sit on the upper level.
These modes of transport certainly won't get you 'there' quicker, but are part of the unique experience of a Disney park.. Undergo a mini challenge and ride all 4 in one day!







Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Five Reasons to Visit Chef Mickey's Character Meal at Walt Disney World

Sometimes it seems as if there are a zillion choices for dining at Walt Disney World. This is all well and good, but can also be overwhelming.
Read along to see why I think Chef Mickey's Fun Time Buffet is a top choice for families with children.
  • Flexible. Some dining locales have limited hours. Not Chef Mickey's! You can choose to eat beginning early in the morning to late in the evening, with a small gap between Brunch and Dinner. I'd suggest Breakfast or Brunch (which ends at 2:30PM) for the Mickey waffles if nothing else. What's a visit to Walt Disney World without a Mickey waffle or ten?
  • Food Variety. It's a buffet! Big eater or small, picky eater or easily pleased, you're covered. No surprise when the check comes at the end of the meal and you see the juice your child ordered and didn't drink cost more than the meal. It's all included and yes, there's dessert as well.
  • Location. Chef Mickey's is located at the beautiful Contemporary resort. Even better, it's an easy walk from the Magic Kingdom. Make your life easy and combine a Magic Kingdom Day with a Chef Mickey reservation so you don't have to deal with busses to make your reservation time. As an added bonus, the atmosphere at the Contemporary is a welcome respite from the crowds and the hub bub of the parks. Explore a just might want to stay there on your next visit.
  • Enjoyed by all. Do you have one of those wanting to be jaded Tweens or Teens? They won't get away with that here. There's no coaxing to get in a line, the characters just appear and are careful to include all. The sulking Teen who is 'too old for this' will soon be hamming it up with an old friend.
  • Characters. I should say this again...CHARACTERS! Clearly I've saved the best of last. No Fast Passes or lines needed. As said before, they characters come to YOU, with plenty of time to interact, take photos and get autographs. Here's a tip...take a photo mat with you, have all the characters sign that, and go home with a great frame for a favorite vacation memory. In general, you will get to spend time with the Fab Five of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Donald.
As with most dining at Walt Disney World, reservations may be made 180 days in advance, and take 1 credit on Dining Plans that include Table Service Meals. Paying out of pocket? Try breakfast for a more economical experience.







Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Disneyland ~ Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough

The very first of Walt Disney's castles, and the only one he ever actually walked through remains the icon of Disneyland. Sleeping Beauty's Castle is sometimes scoffed at for its size, being much, much smaller than Cinderella's Castle in Walt Disney World. But in Walt's original park, it is quaint and homey and fit for it's esteemed title as the first.

But did you know it also has a unique attraction inside? Yes, you can actually go inside Sleeping Beauty's castle. Like most things in Disneyland, much history surrounds the attraction.
The entrance is tucked away by the tunnel to Frontierland. There are stairs involved, going up and going down and twisty and sometimes tight walkways. It doesn't take many folks inside to make the space feel crowded. Luckily, it's usually fairly empty. If you have mobility issues or are just hesitant about the trek, never fear, there is a high definition video of the attraction on the bottom floor.
Think about this. Disneyland opened in 1955 with Sleeping Beauty's Castle as its showpiece. The movie Sleeping Beauty must have been a big hit during that time, right? Nope! The movie didn't open until 1959, so visitors weren't even familiar with what Disney's take on the classic tale would be.
The walkthrough wasn't open until 1957. It is said that Walt didn't like wasted space, and the movie was still 2 years out, so how about a big commercial for the film in that space? Using a clever design of the open gilded storybook matched with dioramas of the story, guests could see a preview of the upcoming film.
Using the colorful graphic style designs of Disney artist Eyvind Earle, the story was brought richly to life.
Over the years the walkthrough has been closed and opened, upgraded in technology and changed. In 1977 the scenes were portrayed as miniatures, using doll like figures and styled after windows on Main Street.

After being closed in 2001, fans wondered if it would ever reopen.
But reopen it did, in 2008, with the original Eyvind Earle style intact and 2st century technology added in.
I was fortunate enough to attend a history of the attraction presented by Imagineers. What stories! And what amazing things they found each time the attraction was re-done. Knowing the history behind everything that is done in the parks makes the experience all the richer.

The next time you find yourself in Disneyland, take a break from the mountains and the thrills and take time to explore this little gem.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Pre Broadway Frozen Stage Show ~ Denver ~ Review

And the Frozen fever continues. A new short with a holiday theme will be released with the upcoming film "Coco", and "Frozen 2" is in the works. Is it too late to add a Broadway show to the mix? Read on but be aware there are spoilers.

The Broadway production of  "Frozen" opens in New York on February 22, 2018. Prior to that is a 7 week Denver engagement, and I was fortunate to be able to attend.
This is not simply a remake of the film..or the Disney California Adventure stage show...or the Disney Cruise Line Wonder stage show.

The preview shows the tale much fleshed out, with a deeper storyline and character development, as well as having a bunch of new songs.
A smart move is having Pappi act as narrator, weaving the story together. No longer trolls, Kristoff's family is  more creature like, and are called the Hidden Folk. There's a new song in the beginning explaining Olaf's creation, called "A Little Bit of You". Hans has a deeper development, and Elsa  has her own ballad, prior to "Let It Go".

Sven is wonderfully done! And the puppet/person mix of Olaf works very well.
Olaf's hit, "In Summer" remains, but I'd hoped for a much splashier production number, as seen in the Disney California Adventure version. This segment seemed under staged to me. So much of the show is really emotional and rather deep, and I feel they lost an opportunity to add lightness by not making "In Summer" a joyous spectacle.

To me, the oddest bit of flow in the show is the shuffling around of scenes to allow Elsa's big number, "Let it Go" to end Act 1. Instead of the song happening right after the big scene at the Coronation, we go through meeting Kristoff, seeing he and Anna interact, and even getting to know Olaf, all before Elsa lets it go. I'd always thought the original freezing of the town was when Elsa fled the Coronation, and the  everlasting winter was when she flung about snow and ice and built the ice castle. But here is Anna, cold and shivering and in deep winter when she meets Kristoff. He then provides her with a warn outfit, since we haven't come across Oaken yet.
 Oaken doesn't appear until Act II, but that is done well. It is also the 'raciest' Disney production number you'll see. Loads of family come out of the famous sauna in flesh colored bodysuits, and there is a production number that cleverly uses leaves a'la Adam and Eve to cover all the parts that need to be covered in a family show.

Everything else goes as expected, with more new and beautiful music and songs added, until love thaws a broken heart.
Casting is excellent. Each character nails it, and all have fabulous voices and plenty of chemistry with each other. The children who play young Anna and Elsa do well, but I found there was some sound issues at times that made hearing their spoken words a little muddled.

Much of the staging is rather dark, so that the effects of the ice shine all the brighter.  Effects were fine and the brilliant costume change of Elsa is gasp inducing as it is in the other stage productions.
Effects are well done, but not quite 'wow'. I hope they can plus the effects when the show makes it to Broadway.
There was a strictly enforced no camera rule so I didn't feel I could even take a picture of the stage before the show opened. In Denver, they had very little merchandise. No glossy programs, and the cast recording not available, although it could be pre-ordered. I will definitely be getting the album, as the music is stunning and the new songs wonderful. There are a couple or parts where the really young, say under age eight, might get fidgety.

I hope I'm able to see this show in its final state. It should have a good long New York run and tour the country later on.