Friday, October 28, 2011

My Disney Wish List

As we get closer and closer to the holiday season (I'm sure in Target stores back in the USA it is already in full bloom), the 3 Dis Kids are already working on their "lists", so I thought that I would share some of my Disney Wishes. These are things that I have not experienced yet in the immense Disney Universe, but hope to soon! Some people might call this a "bucket list", but I find that term highly morbid, and prefer not to participate in such list making. Besides, I much prefer to name my list after a fireworks spectacular! Here they are in no particular order, well except for how they pop into my head as I write this!

Adventures by Disney Vacation
I can't think of a better way to vacation in some of the great places in this world. Getting to visit amazing locations in the "Disney bubble" is how I want to travel! Specifically the ABD tour I want to do first is the Hollywood Family Vacation. While the destination is not as exotic as some of their other tours (Galapagos Islands, Egypt, or
Greece), the things that you get to see are a Disney geek's dream! Backstage at Disneyland, and a tour of Imagineering are just a couple of things you get to experience on this tour. Plus I have heard/read several wonderful trip reports about it! I am really hoping to do this trip in the next couple of years, and I would also be able to check off another item on my list...

Visit Disneyland
I feel really inadequate as a Disney geek because of the fact I have never visited the original Disney Park. To make matters worse I have twice had the opportunity and not done it! The first time was with my parents when I was in 3rd grade, and we didn't go because of the weather, but the second time was completely my fault... Back when we only had one kid, and before we were a Dis family, we visited Southern California, and we had a red eye flight back to the East Coast. On our last day my wife asked if I wanted to go to Disneyland on our last day, and I said I would rather not. This could have changed my future! Would I have become a Disney geek even sooner? It all sounds very Back to the Future huh? Well with those regrets weighing heavily on me, I know that I need to get there. Similar people have described going to Disneyland as getting to walk where Walt walked, and saying that it just feels special. I'll find out soon enough.

Backstage Magic Tour
This is one of those things that the first time I heard about it, I knew I needed to do it. I am a person that loves to see how things happen behind the scenes, and this tour lets you do that at all four of the Disney World parks. It's expensive ($229 pp), and it is 7+ hours, so it will have to be done on one of those DisKidless trips, but I look forward to the day I get to experience going backstage, and exploring the Utilidors!

Concierge Level
What an indulgence this would be! I would just love to stay Concierge Level at one of the deluxe resorts! I've heard that there is no way to justify the extra money that it costs to do it, but let me find out! Concierge Level allows you access to a special lounge with complimentary drinks and snacks, and-depending on which resort you are at-spectacular views. At the top of this list would have to be one of the monorail resorts, probably the Contemporary. Maybe I could justify this better as research for a future post...

Alaska Cruise
Even before we started cruising I thought that an Alaska cruise would be a cool experience. When Disney announced that they would be doing Alaska sailings, my desire grew to enormous proportions! I am by no means a wildlife person, but Alaska has always intrigued me. After seeing pictures and trip reports from the inaugural season this year, it just looks amazing! As an added bonus you can purchase an Adventures by Disney add on to the Alaska sailings. This one will probably be a tough sell to the wife, who prefers her cruises with sandy beaches and sunny vistas, but she has shown some interest. So there is hope...

So that's it for now. I'm sure that I'll think of more as time goes on, and when I do I'll share them here. I'll also share how they were as I cross them off the list!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Disney World Apps: What's on my iPhone

When I first bought my iPhone I had no intention of becoming one of those app crazed people... I planned to only use the iPhone as a phone and an iPod. I saw this purchase as a move based on efficiency... I could now have my phone and iPod in one gadget, and I would no longer have to carry both. I had heard of a couple apps that were "must haves" but that would be it! Well, it didn't take long for for my best intentions to be thrown out the digital window! I would like to say that I held out a long time, but it only took a few days before I was camped out in the app store, downloading apps that were anything but "must haves", and soon my attention turned to apps that could help feed my Disney obsession.

As with anything, there are good and bad Disney apps. These are the ones that have made the cut, and still reside on my home page after nearly two years. Some get more use than others, but these are the ones that have survived several "cleaning cycles!"

Lines (WDW version)
This is the app that I have gotten the most use out of, because it is in my opinion an app that every person who goes to Walt Disney World. This is the official app for The Unofficial Guide and This app gives you very accurate wait times, based on scientific research, and data collected by users in the parks. Len, Henry and the rest of the guys behind Lines came up with an ingenious concept. Get people to do the work for them, giving them the data they need, and let them have fun with it! Depending on how many wait times you report, and when, you can earn badges, and gain bragging rights. Lines is also available for Disneyland. While the app is a free download, you do need to have a Touring Plans subscription for the app to be of any use to you.

Toy Story Mania
I think this was the first app I purchased. I had heard that it was a lot of fun, and thought it would be a good time killer. I had also heard that it wasn't a great attention holder. Both were true. I grew bored with it after a couple of days, but had fun with it. It stays on the iPhone now for the DisKids entertainment. They love the music, and seeing the characters. TSM is $4.99.

eTicket WDW
I knew that I would purchase this app once I got an iPhone. This app comes from the people at,, and the DIS Unplugged podcast. This was the first Disney podcast that I listened to, an I still consider it my favorite. There is a wealth of information in this app. Some of the features are interactive park maps, park hours, DVC calculator, and the ability to access their popular message boards. Honestly, I don't use the app that much except to access the boards, but that is because I don't need much of the info that the app offers. For someone who is not as familiar with Disney World however, this app would be invaluable! Speaking of value, eTicket WDW is $5.99

Disney Gift Card
I get a lot of use out of this app on our trips! This app from Disney allows you to input your Disney gift cards, and keeps a running balance on each of them. A lot of people use gift cards to pay for their trips, and use them to buy everything while on their trips. We use them that, and for spending money for the kids. It isn't a perfect app though. I would love the ability to recharge the gift cards from the app, and unfortunately, there aren't a lot of icons to choose from to differentiate your multiple cards from each other. But since the app is free, my complaints are just really a wishlist!

MouseWorld Radio
This is by no means a secret! Most Disney fans are probably familiar with MouseWorld Radio, and the app, but for those uninitiated... MWR is a internet radio station (on, that streams Disney music from the parks, and attractions (past and present) 24 hours a day. MWR has six different channels playing various content, including Studios Central Radio. The iPhone app streams the content from MouseWorld Radio 1. This app is free, but be careful! If you don't have an unlimited data plan, it can get costly if you go over!

WDW Online Advanced Dining Reservations
This is actually not an app, rather a shortcut on my homescreen that takes me to the Disney mobile site for advanced dining reservations ( This has been a great resource for us. Several times we have checked this "app" while at our resort to see if there are any good ADRs available at the park we are visiting that day. We have gotten some great last minute ADRs because of it, including a Chef Mickey's breakfast a couple days after Christmas! My favorite feature of it is a near me now option. This option gives you every available ADR close to you at that time. That plus the ability to book it online makes it just amazing! I'm almost nervous to share it!

WDW Countdown
This is a cool little app by PLR Concepts that lets you put in the start date of you next vacation, and it will keep track of how many days you have until it starts! There are several pictures that you can use to personalize it, and when I say several, I mean loads! Just about every resort is included, sometimes a couple times, and every major attraction! My favorite feature is the ability to rub it in the faces of your Facebook friends and Twitter followers! This app was just 99 cents and worth every penny!

Some other apps that I have but don't really use that much are...
Disneyland Paris Official App
Radio Disney

Do you have a favorite Disney app? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Walt Disney World Mom's Panel: My Adventure (So Far)...

For years I have toyed with the idea of applying for the Walt Disney World Mom's Panel, but never officially took the plunge until the "recruitment period" opened for the 2012 panel last month. I decided to apply this year because of my work situation, and the fact that they advertised that they would be looking for specialists in several Disney areas for the first time. These areas are Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, Adventures by Disney and RunDisney. For anybody who has spent much time on this site it should be pretty obvious which specialty I applied for... Disney Cruise Line! So lets start the voyage for a Dad of 3 Dis Kids trying to make it onto the Walt Disney World mom's Panel!

The first round of the application process opened up on September 12 for five days or 20,000 applications. Mom's Panel hopefuls logged on to the website and found an application that consisted of Disney knowledge questions, and a few essays about trip planning. The knowledge questions were by no means softballs... One asked who the designed the Partners statue at Disneyland, and the other one asked about Pirate's League at Disney World. The Pirate's League question was worded where if you didn't read carefully, you could easily answer incorrectly. I saw these as a "thinning of the herd", if you missed these I assume your application was shown the circular file. The essay questions were very straight forward, but all of the answers were required to be 100 words or less. This was a little tricky for me, but not as daunting a task as I thought it could have been. To be honest I don't remember what the questions were, and like a "dumbkopf" I forgot to save my answers for future reference. Oh well...

I spent a couple of hours on the essay questions, having my wife read and check for stupid errors I might not catch, and to see if she liked the wording. Since she has written more speeches than she can count over the years her eye and ears for flow and wording are well tuned. She has been an invaluable resource in this process, and is almost as excited about it as I am!

After I submitted my application on the first night, because I was a little fearful that they might reach capacity, I found a little "support group" of other Mom's Panel hopefuls over on the Disboards. A thread titled "Amazing Adventures of the 2012 Disney Mom's Panel" is a group of DISers that share and support each other through the entire process. Several of the posters have been through this process from the beginning, with this being their 5th year of applying! It should not be a surprise that at last count there were over 70 DISers that made it through to the 2nd round!

Well, I must have found the right balance of knowledge and fanboy because last week I found out that I had advanced to round 2 of the process! I had high hopes that I would get past the first round, but didn't get my hopes up. I knew that the numbers were stacked against me, and that there are so many people out there who are very passionate about Disney. I did think that it was to my advantage that I chose DCL as my specialty, because the pool for applicants would probably be smaller than some of the other categories. I got the email after everyone was asleep in the house, so I had to sit on my good news until morning! I also had 2 days of waiting before I was able to go on the website to see the questions. But again I had 5 days to complete the process after that.

Round 2 served up (using my tennis terms there) another batch of questions, but this time they were geared more towards the specialty you chose. Another knowledge question led off. This time they asked where the sports lounge "687" on the Disney Dream got its name. Luckily, my podcast habit helped me out here. I remembered Lou Mongello on the WDW Radio Podcast taking about this when he reviewed the Dream back in January. Not that I don't trust Lou's knowledge, but I also double checked a couple other sources online as well, just to be safe. In case you were wondering... 687 was the keel number that Meyer Werft shipbuilders assigned the Dream during construction. Fun Fact #2 the Disney Fantasy is #688. In addition there were three more 100 word essays about Disney Cruise planning.

The big change-up for round 2 was the video requirement! Applicants were to submit a 60 second video describing their favorite Disney Parks memory. Ruh Roh! Video!? This is for a position that requires answering 25 questions submitted online a week, not video conferencing! This was totally new to me. I knew what my memory would be, and I knew that I could get it out in under a minute, but to do it on camera would be a challenge. Luckily with some serious help from my wife, I was prepped and ready to shoot. It came out OK, but ultimately I would shoot another one hours before the deadline that ended up being the submission. I had some grand ideas for it, but I was hindered by a 50 MB file size limit, and the fact that Microsoft Live Movie Maker is not nearly the video editor that Apple's iMovie is. I have got to get a Mac...

So everything is done, and submitted for final approval by the Mouse. If I should advance to round 3 a phone interview is scheduled, and then who knows... I really feel blessed to have gotten this far, it was a real answer to prayers, but obviously I want to make it all the way. I'll continue to pray about it, and hopefully I have shown them what they would like to see for a Disney World Mom's (Disney Cruise Line) Panelist!

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Disney Mediterranean Cruise: Palma de Mallorca

So we have come to our final port of call on our Mediterranean voyage. Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Honestly, I was a little more excited about this port of call than I think most people might have been. For as small as Mallorca is, the island has produced two men who were able to rise to number one in the world of tennis, Carlos Moya, and Raphael Nadal! I thought it would be pretty neat to see where they came from. Plus we had a beach excursion booked!

We knew we wanted to finish up our cruise with a relaxing day at the beach, and the Disney Beach Transfer was cheap, and it made our life easy. On all of our other 6 Disney Cruises our last port of call was at Castaway Cay, their private island, or actually island paradise. We knew that Mallorca could never compare with Castaway Cay, but it CC's absence it would work nicely!

We disembarked the ship and hopped on a big tour bus. Thirty minutes later we were dropped off in front of a little shop just a few steps from Palmanova Beach. This was definitely primarily a tourist beach, but not on a large scale. There was plenty to do for the half day, but we primarily just sat under our rented umbrellas and relaxed. there were ocean trikes available for rent, which a few fellow cruisers took advantage of, and there was a diving and sliding platform out in the water, which we had some fun on. My dad took a walk with our son to a playground that was on the beach. There were some touristy shops, and a couple of markets that we looked in, and after a few hours we were back on the bus heading back to the Magic.

One of the things that my wife wanted to do on this cruise was the Alice in Wonderland themed tea party. As soon as we boarded the ship she hustled over to Guest Services to get tickets for the girls, and it was something that she was really looking forward to doing with them. While I wasn't there, from the report I got back it was a disappointment. Alice wasn't even there, and it was just apple juice and cookies. But our 4 year old had a good time playing tea party, and it was good girls time, but I think in the future, they will choose to do their bonding in the spa!

That night we decided to take it easy. After 6 nights of great meals in the dining rooms, we thought it might be nice to have a casual meal by the pool. This was one of our best ideas! There was no one up on the deck. We pretty much had the place to ourselves! I think this is the only time I have ever seen an empty Mickey Pool while it was open! We feasted on chicken fingers, hamburgers, tacos, and french fries while we relived great moments from the week. We got a few more pictures of the ship and headed back to the rooms to start the unenviable task of repacking our bags.

One of the more popular activities on the last night of a Disney Cruise is the "Till We Meet Again" gathering in the atrium. You will not be reading about this in any of my writings, because I will never attend it. Honestly, the last night of a cruise is hard enough, I don't want to be reminded by the entire crew that it is time to say good-bye, especially when they play all that sappy farewell music! It would be far too depressing, and I refuse to participate! So you can read about that from someone else!

Not too much to report on from this day. Just a lot of relaxation and reflection. And all that we have left is dragging ourselves off of the ship on the last morning, and some final thoughts to wrap it all up!