FastPass+ First Impressions and Tips

In case you are unaware, FastPass+ is Walt Disney World’s new, free, high tech ride reservation system offering shorter waits for a limited number of pre-selected attractions at pre-selected times. It basically does the same thing for you as the “legacy” FastPass system, except that you can now use the MyDisneyExperience web site and Mobile Apps to schedule your ride times up to 60 days in advance and you can make as many changes as you want, right up to the moment that your selected time slot for the attraction begins. Your FastPass+ can be redeemed using your Key To The World Card or your MagicBand.

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What Are MagicBands, and What Will They Do For Me?

What Are MagicBands?

Technically, MagicBands are simply an RFID device worn on your wrist. The code on the MagicBand is Disney’s key to all the information you have provided to them on the MyDisneyExperience web site and basically links all your Disney World privileges to a single wearable device.

MagicBands

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Disney’s Magical Express

Magical Express Booklet

Magical Express Booklet

What is it?

Disney’s Magical Express (ME) is a service offered by Walt Disney World to provide free airport transfers and luggage service between Orlando International Airport and select Walt Disney Resort Hotels. This service can be booked at the same time you make your Disney Resort reservation.  If you don’t know your airline info at this time, it can be added anytime up to ten days prior to your arrival. It is recommended that you book the service a minimum of six weeks prior to your arrival.  During the busy seasons early booking is most likely very important, but for our off season trips our motor coaches are rarely above 25% capacity. Regardless, don’t put it off if you have your flight info. [Read more…]

Disney’s BeadForLife Kiosks

If you have read some of my other articles, you know I love to shop.  Granted, I tend to look for the best “deal”, but I love artsy, unique items that have a special meaning.  Usually these items are handmade, one of a kind and rarely inexpensive and yet I’ve found the perfect treasure right at Disney at their BeadForLife Kiosks.

Bead For Life at Disney World

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More Free Wi-Fi at Disney World!

On August, 1, 2012, Inside the Magic announced that Magic Kingdom is now providing free Wi-Fi access covering the entire park. Additionally, they received official word that Disney plans to provide free Wi-Fi at all four theme parks and the Downtown Disney area by early 2013.

How will free wi-fi in the parks be used?

Most likely, this is part a larger plan by Disney, related to the NextGen FastPass system currently under development. I have not been too involved on the speculation as to all the details of the NextGen system, but if you are interested, the Inside the Magic article linked above has links to the announcement and some other information.

This new free wi-fi offering at Magic Kingdom may also be related to the recently announced “My Disney Experience” app for iPhone and Android devices. This will be an upgrade to the current “Disney Mobile Magic” app that we wrote about back in 2010. Again, I am not getting too involved in the speculation surrounding this release, but it sounds like it will be an enhanced version of the Mobile Magic app, possibly integrated in some way with the NextGen system. Only time will tell. I do know that data coverage, at least with Verizon, can be spotty in the parks, so hopefully the wi-fi coverage will be more reliable, making the “My Disney Experience” app more enjoyable to use.

This is not to say that the in park wi-fi will be restricted to Disney content. You will have full Internet access using this connection. So tweet, like, +1, and share on all your favorite social networking sites till your heart’s content!

I don’t know about how quickly others consume their data plan, but I don’t usually have an issue with overages. Fortunately, I am still on the Verizon unlimited plan, but I still use less than the standard 2GB. Regardless, I am sure there are those of you that could see a savings with this free wi-fi announcement.

What do you think of the availability of free wi-fi in the parks. Will it be a distraction from touring the parks? Will we see more mindless zombies staring at their phones while bumping into the crowds of people? Will the free connectivity make it possible for you to get away from work while still being connected? Let us know!

Citizens of Hollywood

The Citizens of Hollywood, formerly known as Streetmosphere, are a hilarious group of actors that put on various performances multiple times a day in the streets of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. These performers are not to be missed and when I see parents dragging their kids past them to get in line for a meet and greet or ride I just shake my head. The Citizens of Hollywood are amazing ad-lib comics that everyone should take the time to appreciate. Below are some of my favorite moments from these performances.

First, some introductions…

Dorma Nesmond, Hollywood Moviestar

Dorma Nesmond, Hollywood Moviestar

Hollywood Director Otto Von Bonn Bahn of Disney's Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Director Otto Von Bonn Bahn

Mimi Kaboom and Stone Granite

Mimi Kaboom and Stone Granite

Evie Starlight and Officer William Club

Evie Starlight and Officer William Club

My personal favorite for his many faces and emotions…

Officer Percival Peabody

Officer Percival Peabody

Famous Hollywood Gossip Columnist…

Chloe Canard, Hollywood Gossip Columnist

Chloe Canard, Hollywood Gossip Columnist

There are multiple story lines they work from. In this scene, Peabody stands in as a stunt double to take a punch from Dorma Nesmond.

Peabody stands in as a stunt double to take a punch from Dorma Nesmond

Peabody stands in as a stunt double to take a punch from Dorma Nesmond

Here, Director Otto is fed up with Peabody’s inability to follow directions and directs him off the set. Peabody is obviously disappointed.

Officer Peabody is ejected from Otto's set due to his incompetence

Officer Peabody is ejected from Otto’s set due to his incompetence

But as in all Disney stories, there is a happy ending and Peabody is invited back to the stage.

Otto allows Percival back on his set at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Otto allows Percival back on his set

These skits usually run about 15 minutes in length and seem somewhat random in timing. I’ve gotten differing responses when asking cast members what the actual schedule is for the Citizens of Hollywood, but they can be found on either Hollywood Boulevard or Sunset Boulevard. Like I said before, these performers are not to be missed. They offer a break from the running from ride to ride and sometimes they even give out prizes to participants, usually instant fastpasses for the participant and their family, for being a part of the show.

Credit goes to studioscentral.com for the names of the Citizens of Hollywood. For more info on the Citizens of Hollywood, check out the Citizens of Hollywood Directory page over at Studios Central.

Star Wars Weekends: Chewbaca is Sexy, and He Knows It!

No visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends is complete until you have experienced Hyperspace Hoopla. Regardless of your status as a Star Wars geek, this stage show is definitely not to be missed. It is difficult to get a good viewing position for this show as people start staking out positions at the stage over two hours in advance. We weren’t going to make that commitment but I was still able to get some decent photos of the event from off to the side of the stage. Below are some of my favorites from the show.

The show is basically a dance competition between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. It is set to present day pop music and starts with Emperor Palpatine dancing to “Momma Said Knock You Out” by “LL Cool J”.

Emperor Palpatine does his best LL Cool J

Emperor Palpatine does his best LL Cool J

Palpatine and his Imperial Guards set the bar high for this dance competition

Palpatine and his Imperial Guards set the bar high for this dance competition

Thats right!

Thats right!

I got totally lucky with the timing of this photo of the finale of the Emperor’s performance…

The Emperor is on FIRE tonight!

The Emperor is on FIRE tonight!

The Rebels dance to “I’m Sexy and I Know It”, by LMFAO, with Chewbaca dressed as lead singer “Redfoo” and backed up by members of the Cantina band, a few Jawas and others.

Chewey, the Cantina Band, and the Jawas do their best LMFAO

Chewey, the Cantina Band, and the Jawas do their best LMFAO

Chewey bustin' a move

Chewey bustin' a move

Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle, Yeah!

Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle, Yeah!

Chewey and his girls work the dance floor

Chewey and his girls work the dance floor

The Empire is represented again, this time by Darth Vader himself, along with Boba Fett and a crew of Stormtroopers.

Stormtroopers do the intro for Lord Vader

Stormtroopers do the intro for Lord Vader

Witness the Power of this Fully Armed and Operational Dance Team!

Witness the Power of this Fully Armed and Operational Dance Team!

Boba Fett hands off the lead to Vader

Boba Fett hands off the lead to Vader

The winner of the dance off is decided by audience applause. The Emperor listens as the votes are cast:

Emperor Palpatine listens smugly to the results of the Dance Competition

Emperor Palpatine listens smugly to the results of the Dance Competition

For anyone that has not seen the show, I wont give any spoilers as to who wins or how they win.

The last Stormtrooper runs off the stage just before the final routine by Darth Maul.

Stormtrooper runs off stage to make way for Darth Maul

Stormtrooper runs off stage to make way for Darth Maul

The show ends with Darth Maul doing a high energy dance routine.  This was a difficult routine to get acceptable photos of since not only was the sun completely set by this time, but the routine is very fast moving. I managed to get the photo below as he was stationary for a split second.

Darth Maul gettin' down for the Dance Off

Darth Maul gettin' down for the Dance Off

The next time we visit for Star Wars Weekends I would be willing to camp out for a couple hours for a front row position for this show. I wonder if they would let me set up a lawn chair?

For video of the entire show, I recommend Inside the Magic’s youtube channel. Just beware that if you have never seen the show there may be spoilers for you in the videos.

 

New Adult Drink at Joy of Tea in China

Not being a tea lover, I don’t usually give the Joy of Tea at Epcot’s China Pavilion a second look…

Joy of Tea Kiosk

Joy of Tea Kiosk

…but the picture on this display caught my eye, and the title stopped me dead in my tracks. Tipsy Ducks in Love?? Let’s get a closer look.

Tipsy Ducks In Love-A new adult beverage in Epcot at Joy of Tea

Tipsy Ducks In Love-A new adult beverage in Epcot at Joy of Tea

Hmmm, tea (of course), coffee, whiskey, (oooh) and chocolate (now ya got me). We had to try one of these! Although I did not see the tea/coffee/chocolate go into the cup, I did get to watch as the whiskey was generously poured over the top. Whipped cream, they asked? But of course! And I was told to stir it well before trying. (Note that there is a non-alcoholic version available for the kids too.)

Tipsy Ducks In Love-A new adult beverage in Epcot at Joy of Tea

Tipsy Ducks In Love-A new adult beverage in Epcot at Joy of Tea

This was delicious, not as sweet as I would have thought with the chocolate, wondering if a dark or more bitter chocolate was used. You could certainly taste the whiskey, but it was just the right amount to blend with the other ingredients. Tea? Coffee? I’m sure they were in there, but it was the chocolate and whiskey combination that really made this perfect.

As we turned to continue through the countries, we were stopped by the raised bridge for the Illuminations barges. So we sat and enjoyed this new drink in a bit of shade. We were approached by a woman who noted that our drink looked very refreshing (and that we really seemed to be enjoying it!) and inquired as to where we got it. I pointed out the Joy of Tea just down the hill and then watched her wander a bit near the bridge and finally turn and head down to the kiosk herself! (Leaving her perplexed family behind, no less!)

So hopefully this drink will stick around, at least through the summer. It certainly is a cup of Joy!

Kilimanjaro Safaris Update

Back in February, Disney posted on its blog that Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safaris will be getting an update some time in spring of 2012. The updates mentioned additional space for the zebras and removal of the Audio-Animatronics “Little Red” elephant and the items related to the poachers camp.

Whenever we are at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we try to get in a morning, as well as an evening ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris. On the morning of Sunday April 29th 2012, we noticed one cast member with a “I’m Celebrating… Wilson’s retirement” button while we were in line, which reminded us of the Disney announcement about the safari update. The morning safari was not much different, but we did notice that the termite mounds had recently been renovated. Basically a fresh coat of paint that looked like it was left over from the Big Thunder Mountain renovation.

Later in the day we went back to catch the last safari of the day at about 7PM. Sitting in the front row, we asked our cast member driver Ryan about “Wilson’s retirement”. Ryan said this was the very last time he would be running the safari under the poaching theme but gave no indication of what would be changing the next day. As we passed “Little Red” we said our good bye’s and made sure to come back to the park the next day to see and hear the changes.

When we returned on April 30th, we found no changes to the queue. Wilson is still in the elephant poaching movie playing as you wait in line. At this point we don’t know if this will stay or go or be updated.

The first thing we noticed as we boarded the bus and left for our trip was that it is now a “Photo Safari” not a “2 Week Safari”. We only did one safari that day, but without the Warden interaction, our driver just talked more about the animals and their surroundings in general. Unfortunately the “wobbly” bridge was (as usual) not working and “repairing it with duct tape” seems to be the only new thing to say about that. The broken gate near the end is still there, but no real comment was made about it. The wooded area beyond the gate has been cleared a bit and there is some fresh sod down, no doubt in preparation for the eventual zebras. The geysers are still working, but the poacher’s campsite was gone and a (probably temporary) fence was up in its place.

The Poachers Camp on Kilimanjaro Safaris has Been Removed

As of April 30, 2012, the Poachers Camp has been removed from Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom

Little Red and the trucks were also completely gone. When we got to that point in our trip, our driver asked if anyone had any questions. Either we had a bus full of newbies or it was still too early in the morning, but no one had a comment about the missing baby elephant. Again we sat close to the driver. We mentioned that we knew what was missing and our driver responded “Then this is as awkward for you as it is for me.”

Wilson's trucks and "Little Red" removed from Kilimanjaro Safaris

Wilson's trucks and "Little Red" removed from Kilimanjaro Safaris as of April 30th, 2012

At the end of the “Photo Safari” we asked our driver about the timeframe for completion. He seemed to think that it will be another year and a half until the zebra’s are fully integrated into the safari route, which is very different than the fall of 2012 mentioned on the Disney Blog.

We’re not sure what other changes are scheduled to be made at this time or if it is now just a slow wait for the grass to grow. Hopefully there will be more to report when we are back down there in early June! If you have any updates, please let us know in the comments!

Disney Dining Plan now accepted at Anandapur Tea Company!

As big fans of the Iced Chai Tea and the REAL coffee available at the Royal Anandapur Tea Company, we were always a bit disappointed that this food location was not on the Disney Dining Plan.

Royal Anandapur Tea Company

Royal Anandapur Tea Company in Asia in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Well, on our recent trip to Walt Disney World we were delighted to find that the Royal Anandapur Tea Company now accepts snack credits from the Disney Dining Plan for most of the items on their menu. This applies to all drinks that only come in one size, but only the small sizes of the drinks that come in small, medium, and large, and for some reason does not apply to the “Flavored Latte”. (See the photo below) The Frozen Chai Tea found here is one of our favorite non-alcoholic drinks on property, especially on those hot summer days. At $4.89 for the small, this is also a very good value for your snack credit.

Royal Anandapur Tea Company-Now on the Disney Dining Plan

Royal Anandapur Tea Company now accepts Snack Credits on the Disney Dining Plan

Although not as great a value for your snack credit, this is also one of the few places on property where you can get a REAL cup coffee. That alone may make it worth the snack credit for some, but being a coffee addict as well as one who loves to squeeze every penny from my snack credits, I would rather pay out of pocket for the large. Regardless, its always great to see Disney expanding its Dining Plan options!