Friday, November 1, 2013

The New and Improved Disney Magic?

So I've spent the last couple of days  listening to and reading reviews of the newly re-imagined Disney Magic cruise ship. This is by far the largest renovation that Disney Cruise Line has ever done to any of it's ships, and the stakes are pretty high.

With the overwhelming success of the new Disney ships, the Dream and the Fantasy, the classic ships have had to rely on special itineraries to put "heads in the beds" on the classic ships, the Magic and the Wonder. With the Magic returning from the Mediterranean, and starting to do more typical DCL itineraries (albeit from Miami instead of Port Canaveral), what would draw people to a 15 year old ship, compared to the newer larger ships? The answer was to bring some of draws from the newer ships to the first Disney cruise ship. We'll see if it turns out as a success, but that will take some time.

Before we get too far into this I want to make it very clear that I am writing this not having been on the newly re-imagined Magic. I have however spent two wonderful weeks aboard the Magic, and know it very well. Some of my best vacation memories are tied to this ship, and when I heard that they were going to be doing such a major renovation, I was both excited, and a little worried. It was obvious that Disney wanted to bring many of the experiences that cruisers can have on the Dream and the Fantasy to one of the classic ships, but would it change the overall feel of the ship?

After sailing on the Dream for the first time I came away conflicted. I really liked the ship, and loved many of the features it offered, but something didn't feel right. The Dream is huge in comparison to the Magic, and that gives it room for more experiences, like a water coaster, bigger kid's clubs, and more places to eat. It is also 13 years newer than the Magic, so there are loads of new technologies that can make the guest experience more fun, like enchanted artwork, virtual portholes, and HD interactive play floors. But I felt that the size of the ship, and all of the stuff to do on it took away from the intimate, relaxing vacations I had experienced on the Wonder and the Magic. Don't get me wrong, I will sail on the Dream again in a heartbeat, and I can't wait to get on the Fantasy, but it didn't capture my heart from the first sailing the way the Wonder did, and the way the Magic did a year later.      

My worry was that the new Magic, would just feel like a smaller Dream, and in hearing about some of the changes, I'm afraid that my fears maybe coming true. In listening to the DIS Unplugged's coverage of the re-imagining (which I will link to at the end of this post), they kept saying that the renovations made the Magic feel more elegant, which would seem like a good thing right? Maybe for most, but not really for me. One of the things that I loved most about the Magic- and the Wonder as well- is that it felt like a luxurious ship, but it didn't take itself too seriously. There was a big chandelier in the atrium, but it wasn't crystal, it was a blown glass piece of art by Dale Chihuly. It felt fancy, but not pretentious. To put it in Disney World terms, the Magic and the Wonder always felt like deluxe resorts, but they were more Boardwalk than they were Grand Floridian. I like that a lot. You get dressed up nice for dinner, but the rest of the day you don't feel bad about walking around in your bathing suit and flip flops. I never felt completely comfortable on the Dream in that sense. Well the Chihuly chandelier is gone, in its place there are now three bright white chandeliers. I'm sure it looks more elegant, but does the ship still have the whimsy?

I am very happy that they added the AquaDunk, waterslide, because I really did love the AquaDuck water coaster on the Dream. It was a lot of fun, and the AquaDunk looks to be a blast! They also updated the kids slide that used to stand at the Mickey pool, which has been replaced with a water play area. I don't have a problem with that, but I will miss looking down from the top deck and seeing the smiling Mickey Mouse shape of the old kids pool.  

They have also greatly upgraded the kid's clubs. They are now more in line with the amazing clubs on the newer ships. The Avengers Academy looks to be an awesome experience, and Any's room was a big hit with our kids on the Dream. They also allow the kids to float back and forth between the Oceaneer's Club and Lab, like on the newer ships, which makes it tougher to fetch your kids, but gives them more options. I hope that they didn't change the check in procedures to match the Dream though. Checking in your kids in that hallway was a mess! Flounder's Nursery has now been changed to the It's A Small World Nursery, and it looks great, but the best thing about the nursery was always the counselors working in it.

As far as the restaurants go, Lumiere's did not change. Animators Palate got some cosmetic upgrades, but the big change is the new dinner shows. They have added the same show that you see on the Fantasy, where you draw a picture on a placemat and see it become animated on the screens throughout the restaurant later on. They also updated the black and white to color show that has been a mainstay from day one. We did lose Parrot Cay, which makes me sad. It was always my favorite of the three rotational dining restaurants onboard, and I know that I am in the minority on that one. I just loved the theme, and I always enjoyed the menu there, even after they stopped serving the sticky wings. Palo got some cosmetic upgrades, and it looks great, but nothing major.

Topsider's buffet has also been updated to Cabana's. Gone is the long buffet line, in it's place are separate pods with various selections. This is a welcome upgrade for sure. I really liked Cabana's on the Dream, and I will not miss the long lines, particularly at breakfast! Many of the quick service places on the pool deck have gotten name changes, but the menus are still essentially the same.  

The staterooms now have a fresh new look to them. They have taken out the old beds and put in the new ones that are on the Dream and Fantasy, which is a good upgrade. Now they are one big bed, instead of two smaller ones pushed together. It doesn't effect our family, but you should know that because of this you can no longer split the queen into two single beds. To make up for this they have also upgraded the sleeper sofa so an adult can more comfortably sleep on that.

The adult bars and lounges have also been renamed and renovated. I never really spent that much time in them because they never really seemed that great. Hopefully that has changed, and I'll want to spend more time there.  

There are many more changes that have been made, and I'm sure I have left many out. I'm also sure that you'll have to discover many of them on your own once you get on the ship. Discovering them for yourself will be a lot of fun!

So overall I think that most of the changes to the Magic are good, but I'm afraid that my fears won't be put aside until I get on the ship and experience it for myself. I really do hope that I won't feel like I am aboard a new ship. I hope that I will still fell like I am on a ship that I really love, and it won't have lost the intimate, relaxed feel that it had. I guess I'll just have to wait and find out.  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Disney Parks Mom's Panel 2014

Hey everybody! Sorry for the really long delay in posting, but it has been a busy 10 months in the DIs Kids house! I'll try and get everybody up to speed in the near future, but for now let's talk Mom's Panel.

My history in applying for the Disney Parks Mom's Panel doesn't go as far back as a lot of the other hopeful panelists, but it is worth mentioning.

The 2012 Mom's Panel Search was my first year applying, and I made through to the second round. I was trying to become the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) specialist, as I have every year I've applied. I was pretty surprised that there were not a lot of DCL specific questions in the first round, but the second round was filled with DCL planing essays, plus a video requirement describing our best Disney Parks memory. Well, something didn't go right so round 2 was the end of my voyage.

For the 2013 search, I wasn't as lucky. I didn't even advance out of the first round. I was actually kind of shocked, as I thought my essays were almost as good as the year before, but I guess not. There were some DCL knowledge questions that I know I got right, so I don't think that eliminated me, but maybe one of them was a trick.

So September 2013 rolls around, and I -like thousands of other Moms, Dad, Aunts, Uncles, and other hopefuls- throw my mouse ears back into the ring. I approached the first round a little differently this year. Unlike in the previous two years, I didn't do several rewrites of each essay, looking for the perfect words. I wrote what came to mind immediately, and only spent a couple of hours on the application, not several days. The new process was a success, and I was officially back in round 2 after a year in purgatory (or maybe a Carnival Cruise).

Round 2 was a little different than two years ago. There were a lot more essays, but not the typical 100 words or less requirements. There were several DCL specific questions, and a couple about me and the family. Again this year there was a video requirement, but it was 60 seconds on why I should be the DCL specialist on the Mom's Panel. I submitted everything last week, and I'm feeling pretty good. I think that I was able to answer the questions well, and with some imagination. My video was honest, and I think I presented it well. I know that the odds are long, but I feel a lot more confident than I did two years ago.

The entire process has been about one week behind previous years, so I don't think we will find out if we advance to round 3 for a couple of weeks, so now all there is to do is wait.        

Monday, December 24, 2012

Disneyland vs Disney World: Christmas Showdown!

Merry Christmas from 3 Dis Kids! I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, filled with wonderful experiences with family and friends!

A couple weeks ago we got to visit Disneyland in California for the first time! As you can imagine I have a lot to share, but today I want to stick (or candy cane) to to subject at hand, Christmas, or more specifically how Disneyland compares to Disney World at Christmastime.

Round 1: Merriment 
It is hard to imagine a more merry place than a Disney Park during the holidays. Christmas music playing, characters dressed for Christmas cheer, Christmas trees that reach to the sky, and resorts decorated to the nines! If you can't get into the spirit at Disney, you should see your doctor about a serious yule tide deficiency.

Both resorts overflow with Christmas cheer.

Round 1 is a push

Round 2: Decorations in Disneyland Park vs. Magic Kingdom
Just like in round 1, both resorts do a wonderful job of decorating for Christmas. Walking down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, or Disneyland Park there will never be a time when you forget what time of year it is. Wreaths hung on the light posts with care, display windows, the before mentioned music, and the smells exuding from the bakeries... When the sun goes down, the lights on the castles glow like ice palaces! Let's just say you won't confuse it with Earth Day!

After leaving Main Street is where the parks begin to separate themselves from each other....

For years I had heard how much better Disneyland decorates for Christmas, and before seeing it with my own eyes, I wondered how it was possible, but it is true. All of Disneyland is maxed out for Christmas! The level of attention that is paid to decorations is amazing! Even the miniature castles and villages of the Storybook Land Canal are decorated with tiny wreaths, Christmas trees, and poinsettias. The only place where I was surprised to see no decorations was on the Jungle Cruise.

Unfortunately once to get off of Main Street at the Magic Kingdom, there are very few signs of it being Christmastime.

Round 2 goes to Disneyland

Round 3: Resort Decorations
Once again if you are staying at or visiting any of the Disney Resort hotels at Christmas, you know it. Giant trees themed to match the theme of the resort, special music, chocolate carousels and gigantic gingerbread houses are just a few of the things you mights see when you stroll through the various lobbies.

Disney World has more resort hotels on property, but Disneyland does a great job of keeping up with their three on site resorts. Quantity does not necessarily trump quality, as they all match up very closely. This category was just too close to call...

Round 3 is a push

Round 4: Holiday Extras & Special Events
If you are visiting either Disneyland or Disney World there are special offerings just for the Christmas season. Tours of the decorations are offered, special treats are cooked up, and special performances are well performed...

From early November to a few days before Christmas you can purchase tickets to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. The party is offered a few times a week, and from 7:00-Midnight you get to be a part of a special hard ticket party, and enjoy the park with a much smaller crowd. There are special fireworks, stage shows, hot chocolate and cookies, and the Once Upon a Christmastime parade runs twice. It is a very festive evening, but you usually have to pay between $50-70 dollars to experience it. For people who aren't visiting right around Christmas Day, this is your only opportunity to see Holiday Wishes or the Christmas parade, but if you are there after the 21st, you get it as a part of your regular park admission.

The other parks at Disney World also get in the spirit. Every night Hollywood Studios lights up the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, with lights dancing to popular Christmas songs. Animal Kingdom has a special Christmas parade called the Jingle Jungle Parade. Epcot offers Christmas storytelling at many of the country pavilions, and also the Candlelight Processional, where a celebrity host reads the story of Christmas, while an enormous choir sings songs from the season. This is hugely popular, so line up early to catch it!  

Disneyland does not offer a hard ticket event like MVMCP, but instead gives it to you with your regular park admission. In addition they have a Jingle Jangle Jubilee that takes up the Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland. Here you get to see Hillbillies sing Christmas carols, color holiday pages, and decorate Christmas cookies ($6 per kit). Characters dressed in their Christmas best stroll around for pictures, and you can get your picture taken with Santa too! Depending on the day, the parade, A Christmas Fantasy, runs once or twice, and the nightly fireworks are the Believe... In Holiday Magic fireworks.

In addition there are special holiday overlays of It's A Small World, and Haunted Mansion. During the holidays these attractions are transformed into almost completely different experiences. It's A Small World turns into a Christmas carol filled cruise around the world. They outside of the attraction is covered in Christmas lights and there is a special little show that goes on around every 15 minutes. The Haunted Mansion is given a Nightmare Before Christmas makeover, and Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King takes over. Both attractions are amazing, and should not be missed if you are there during the holidays!

Disneyland also has a Candlelight Processional, shown at Town Square. It is also very popular, and there is limited area to watch to pick out a place early!

California Adventure doesn't offer much more than special decorations, and a special opening Prep and Landing section in World of Color. But even with that...

Round 4 goes to Disneyland

Round 5: Christmas Parade
Normally I am more of a fireworks/nighttime spectacular type of person, but Christmas is when I really love a parade, and nobody does a Christmas parade better than Disney. Comparing Disney World's Once Upon a Christmastime parade to Disneyland's A Christmas Fantasy is like comparing red apples to green apples, it's just a personal preference. Both have great floats, classic and new characters, and most importantly, they both have my favorite, the Tin Soldier Marching Band. But for me there can be only one winner for best Christmas Parade...

Round 5.... Disney World  

So after 5 rounds who wins the Christmas Showdown?


Disneyland pretty much ran away with this one, but Disney World held it's own. Each resort offers a lot for Christmas, but Disneyland just does it better all around. Disney World has a lot more to offer for Christmas, but Disneyland just envelops the entire resort in Christmas! Honestly, I can't think of two more magical places to spend the holidays! 

***Sorry for the lack of Christmas pictures from Disney World... They are stuck on a laptop that I can't access....***  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Counting Down the Days...

We have all been there. There are countless threads on every Disney fan site dedicated to them. People from all over the world participate. Several websites are dedicated to creating graphical interfaces so you can share them with others.  Some people have several of them going on simultaneously. There are even apps for your phone for them.They are Disney countdowns, and we have a couple going on right now.

59 Days until our next trip to Disneyland Paris. 
76 Days until we are back in Disney World. 

These are not just your typical Disney countdowns however. The first one also co-insides with the date we leave the country of Romania, and the second one marks the day when we begin a two month stay in Florida. Just minutes from Disney World!

Our trip to Disneyland Paris is a kind of farewell (for now) to the resort. It will be our third trip to DLP this year, and there have been some ups and downs, but we have enjoyed our trips. Plus, we need to make sure we get plenty of good use of our Dream annual passes!

Just a couple weeks later we will have the awesome chance to get to live next door to the mouse! We have rented a vacation home in nearby Reunion, and will be reaping the benefits of living so close to the most magical place on earth! We'll be trying new restaurants, experiencing new adventures, and just having a lot of fun as a family! Be assured that I will be sharing as many of these new adventures with you as I can, but there might be too many!

So do you have a countdown to your next Disney adventure? Share it in the comments section if you do!   


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Walt Disney World Mom's Panel... The Adventure Continues

About two weeks ago the recruitment period for the 2013 Walt Disney World Mom's Panel began, and just like last year, I decided to throw my mouse-ears into the ring. 

Also like last year the Mom's Panel was looking for specific areas of expertise (Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Vacation Club, Adventures by Disney, RunDisney, and Disney Cruise Line), and once again I selected Disney Cruise Line. Unlike last year, there was no official start date announced for submission of applications ahead of time. Laura Spencer blogged about it  coming soon in July, but on the Mom's Panel website we were told to check there everyday in September. 

Well the Disney fan community, and Mom's Panel hopefuls especially are really good at sniffing out these kind of things, so eventually it got out that they would open for applications on September 10th, and close on September 14th, or whenever they received 14,000 applications. That was 6,000 less than in years past, so many Mom's rushed to get their applications in as quickly as possible. I took a couple of days to send my final submission, and even though they have not closed it out early in recent years, I was slightly concerned about the applications cap. 

The application process was a bit different this year. In stead of waiting for round 2 to test your knowledge in your specialty area, there was a second page of questions in round 1. The first page was general Disney knowledge, plus an essay (100 words) on helping to plan other people's Disney vacations. The second page had a few pretty tricky questions focused on your specialty area, plus another 100 word essay about planning vacations in that area.    

I gotta tell ya, 100 words is really not that much to show your passion for Disney! Both of my essays had to be almost cut in half after my first draft. There is so much that you want to share, but just not enough word space! 

Last year I progressed onto round 2, where they tested my knowledge of Disney Cruise Line, and I had to make a one minute video about my favorite Disney memory, but I didn't make it to the interview stage. It will be interesting to see what round 2 consists of this year, since they already made everyone answer questions and write essays about their specialty areas in the first round. I'm sure there will be another video submission, but what else does the Mom's Panel have up its pink sleeves? 

The wait begins...