News Nuggets from Around Disney World

If you’ve been following us on Twitter (including at Elyssa’s new handle!), then you know that the last few weeks have been crazy at Rope Drop [dot] Net HQ. Weddings in foreign lands (well, Maine), J O B job stuff getting in the way of site updates, etc…all have conspired to make this a HUGE helping of News Nuggets. I hope you’re hungry (for news)!

First, a quick link in case you pre-order this year’s Unofficial Guide and need to get ir replaced due to the defects: How to Get a Free Replacement 2017 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.

And now, the actual nuggets:

How about we take before we look at more nuggets?

Fall at Disney World!
Fall at Disney World!

Okay…now back to the nuggets…

Here’s a different way to end the post, a video stroll around Castaway Cay from The DIS:

First Evening and Day at Disney World – August, 2016

We’re going to try something different on this trip and try to post some more updates during the trip (in addition to coverage once it’s completed.) Here are some thoughts about the first night and day of the trip:

  • Homecoming turned out to be pretty good (even if I was a little miffed at some of the seating mishaps when we arrived.) The “famous fried” chicken was good, and Elyssa enjoyed her “dinner of sides” (mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, and biscuits.) I can think of a couple of local NC places with better fried chicken, but not to the point where I wouldn’t go back to Homecoming. Getting to enjoy the meal with Eric and Kristi certainly helped things, too.(BOATHOUSE is still our top choice, but Homecoming & Morimoto are pretty close to each other in second.)
    Homecoming Friend Chicken
    Homecoming Friend Chicken
  • Kona Cafe breakfast is still fantastic. We had a 7:30AM ADR to load up on Tonga Toast (Elyssa, as always, was a “big kahuna”) before heading over to watch the Welcome Show at the Magic Kingdom (which we sometimes forget to enjoy because we’re too amped to get to our first attraction.)
  • Rope drop remains a great way to get a bunch of stuff done as your start your day. (We had a number of our favorite attractions–Buzz, Under the Sea, Jungle Cruise, Pirates–done before 10 am with–essentially–no waiting.
  • When it comes to viewing Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire, Josh from easyWDW is not wrong when he recommends standing right near the top of the slope in back of the partner’s statute. I walked to that spot about 30 seconds before the show started and got an (almost) unobstructed view of the whole thing (thanks, random guy with the giant balloon who moved up front for the finale.) It was a great vantage point for a really fun, enjoyable show.
    Let it flow
    Let it flow

Of course, the highlight of our trip so far was getting to meet up with friend of the site, host of Mighty Men of Mouse and all around great guy, Dutch Lombrowski. Dutch took some time out of his night to come join Elyssa and me, ride of Splash, and catch up all various things (that have happened over the 3+ years we’ve known each other.) As an added bonus, always entertaining Gosh Jonzalez joined us for the last hour or so of the night as well. It was great hanging out with both of them.

That’s all for this early trip update. The idea is that we’ll post more soon (but we’ll see how that goes.)

BOATRIDE, baby!
BOATRIDE, baby!
Not a bad squad

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

We talked yesterday about the changes coming to Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend at Disney World, but what are we to do with the news of menu changes, new dessert parties, and (sadly) more price increases? Sounds like it’s time for another edition of the Rope Drop [dot] Net News Nuggets! Before we get to the majority of the Nuggets, we should need to point out one huge item:

With that out of the way, let’s get to the rest of the News Nuggets:

Though not a traditional “news nugget”, I would also like to point out that Disney plans to launch “Frozen” and “Tangled” themed wedding packages!. Yes, they’re only available in Tokyo now, but, if you ever need photography for Disney wedding (Frozen themed or not), feel free to contact Elyssa at Kivus & Camera. I bet there would be a discount for involved for getting to photograph that.

Shower Time!
Shower Time!

Initial Thoughts from our February 2016 Trip to Disney World

The BOATHOUSE Sliders
The BOATHOUSE Sliders

Elyssa and I just got back from a recent trip to Disney World. Though we anticipate doing more in-depth posts about various parts of the trip, here are some initial thoughts:

  • The location for the new Flamingo Crossing hotels is pretty awesome. It’s too early to really review the hotels themselves (they had opened only a week before our 1 night stay there), but the concept seem promising. I wonder how different it’ll feel when there is more than just 15 people staying in them, though.
  • Breakfast at Kona is the real deal. Tonga Toast, the Big Kahuna platter, etc…are great. If there’s a day where you don’t want to be waiting at the turnstiles at rope drop, then definitely stop by. (Same goes for Whispering Canyon, where we ate breakfast twice on the trip. Skillets AND giant Mickey Waffles, baby.)
  • Speaking of “real deal” food options, both Sanaa and The BOATHOUSE are great places to have lunch. Sanaa’s bread service is always good (TIP: You can order more bread for it if you want (and we almost always do)), and the filet sliders are The BOATHOUSE are delicious (and a complete steal at only $12.)
  • Skipper Canteen was pretty good. We both really liked the theming of the place (but I would have been fine with a few more puns from our “Skipper”.) Once you get past the slightly flowery “garnishes” to the dishes, they really are serving steak, chicken, pork, and mac ‘n’ cheese with beef. My pork was fine. Elyssa enjoyed her mac ‘n’ cheese (but not as much as the mac ‘n’ cheese from the BOATHOUSE which is probably now her favorite thing in Orlando). In an interesting twist, the $1.75 “Kid’s Volcano” dessert tasted better than the $8 Kungaloosh (so we’ll probably just 4 kid’s desserts next time instead of getting “grown up” desserts.)
  • The construction around the Wilderness Lodge right now is kind of bummer. I knew to expect it, but seeing so much of the resort closed and the trees near Bay Lake being removed is a bummer. I’m sure the new DVC rooms will be nice, but I’m going to miss that little buffer between the lodge and rest of the World that the “Woods View” rooms used to have.
  • There’s a few running jokes about Elyssa’s and my visits with Tinker Bell, but the cast members who portray her are consistently some of the best we interact with. We had one who must have dropped 15 “leaf” puns in the span of 2 minutes, all while carrying on conversations with Elyssa and I about running, pixie dust, and various other things that she was “tinking” about.
Tink Mode!
Tink Mode!

I’ll end by saying that the logistics that must go on behind the scenes at a runDisney race have to be insane. So many people getting moved around, running down World Dr., through theme parks, etc… while being provided with various character meets, and other entertainment. It has to be a tremendous effort. Our local races might get choked up if we get 2,000, but Disney handles close to 20,000 really, really well.

As I said, there will be more coming from this trip (hopefully, at least 2 or 3 of the 3,000 pictures Elyssa and I took turn out to be worthy of being included in a few posts), but these are some of the major takeaways from our 5 days down there.

Oh, and one last thing: BOATRIDE CLUB, BABY!!

Boatride Club
Boatride Club

 

Born to run(Disney)

Okay, that description may apply to some people, but it surely doesn’t apply to Elyssa and I (unless a “runner’s high” means lots of wheezing and wanting to collapse). People who knows us, however, know that this time of year and this upcoming race are very important to us. (See also our Mickey Miles Podcast appearance, Part 1 and Part 2.)

So, if you want to follow us as we head down to Disney World to attempt the Glass Slipper Challenge (a 10K on Saturday morning, followed by a half marathon on Sunday), you can follow us on:

And, if you’re looking for some good Disney-related posts to read over the next couple of days, here are a few that you might want to check out:

Lastly, don’t forget to check out Harrison Ford announcing some of the plans for Star Wars Land on The Wonderful World of Disney special on February 21st!

Thank you to everyone who’s supported the site over the past few months. We’ll be back to talk more Disney with you soon!

Finish line photo
Finish line photo

The easy guide to your first Walt Disney World Visit (2016 Edition) Review

the easy guide to your first Walt Disney World Visit
the easy guide to your first Walt Disney World Visit

With the holidays quickly approaching, it seems appropriate to review a book that you may want to consider putting under the tree of your favorite Disney World fan (or, in your own stocking): the easy guide to your first Walt Disney World Visit

Though have I have been fans of both Josh’s work at easyWDW and Dave’s work at yourfirstvisit.net for some time, I initially avoided a book that (by its title) appeared targeted to people who were not Disney World veterans. After getting getting asked “I’m going to Disney World, what should I know?” for the thirty-eighth time, however, I decided I should check and see if the easy guide might be my default answer to that question going forward.

Structure and Organization

NOTE: If you want a complete, super-detailed breakdown of the book, I will refer you to this post by Josh. If you’ve ever read his work on easyWDW you can probably guess what level of detail he goes into.

The easy guide is set up to walk a first time Disney World Vistor through the key decisions that any Disney World Vistor (first time or otherwise) would have to make when planning a Disney vacations, including: when to go, how long to visit, where to stay, how to tour, etc… Each one of those decisions is receives a dedicated chapter that contains a combination of reviews, recommendations, and tips on how to make the decision, and how to execute on that decision once it has been made. For example, Chapter 5, “Where to Stay”, starts by giving criteria you may wish to evaluate when making a decision about which restort to stay in, follows that up with recommendations by Josh and Dave on where they think you should stay, and then provides detailed reviews of all of the Disney World resorts. This structure means the book can be used in two different ways: as a step-by-step “how-to” for first time or inexperienced Disney World guests, or as reference for more experienced people who just want to look up certain information.

The easy guide as a Tool for First Time or Inexperienced Disney World Guests

The easy guide excels as a step-by-step guide for how to visit Disney World. It walks potential guests through the entire sequence of decisions that they will have to make as they are planning their trip, including key decisions such as when to visit Disney World and how long they should stay. The format of the book is great for first time visitors, since each chapter starts with either specific recommendations from authors Dave and Josh about their preferred choices and why they made those choices, or with an explanation of how one should evaluate various options in order to make her own decisions. (For example, Chapter 5, “Where to Stay” features a section entitled “How to Pick Your Disney Resort Hotel” that walks you through how to evaluate the various hotel options against your available budget.) Basically, it allows a first time Disney World guest to start a chapter, make the decision that chapter discusses, and then move on to the next chapter / decision, all in the order that Josh and Dave recommend.

Though first time Disney World visitors might not need to read all of the reference material available near the end of each chapter, the “cheat sheets” found in Chapter 6, “How to Spend Your Time”, are a must read. Anyone who’s ever used Josh’s easyWDW cheat sheets knows that they offer high quality advice on how to plan your day at a given Disney World park. By providing them in a book designed for first time Disney World guests, Dave and Josh have put their readers in a great position to efficiently and enjoyably see all the attractions and other entertainment available at Disney World, even if it’s their first visit.

My biggest complaint with the easy guide as a complete, go-to resource for first time Disney World guests is the sparse explanation on how to setup and use the various functionality found in Disney’s websites and mobile apps. For example, the section on making ADRs (Chapter 7, Where to Eat – Advance Dining Reservations) is only about a page and half of explanation, and does not fully convey the stressful,  6am, mad rush that takes place when trying to secure reservations at certain restaurants. Instead, that information is relegated to a “Disney World To-Do List” at the end of the book (where it could easily be missed by the book’s readers.) Relatedly, the second-to-last chapter of the book (Chapter 9, “How to Setup Everything Up and Get Everything Done”) dedicates only 3 pages to setting up a My Disney Experience account and booking Fastpass+ in advance of a trip. Though there are some very detailed descriptions of how to complete that process, some more in-depth discussion of how to use these systems (e.g., explaining that your My Disney Experience account needs to have reservations and tickets added in order to make Fastpass+ reservations) might be necessary for Disney World novices.

In summary, the easy guide is almost the perfect book to hand to someone who says “I’m thinking about going to Disney World, what should I know?” It will walk her through all the of the decisions she has to make in order to plan and enjoy her vacation. That said, if you are recommending this book to a first time Disney World vistor, you still might want to point out the importance of certain 180-day and 60-day deadlines, and don’t be surprised if you get a call or two asking for a little help when it comes time to the setup and use some of the My Disney Experience-related stuff.

The easy guide for Experienced Disney Veterans

I made a joke once when friend of the site Dutch Lombrowski was on the WDW 4 Families podcast: “Too much discussion about how various attractions matter to families, 1 star.” If you listen to a podcast named “WDW 4 Families,” you can’t really knock it when it focuses on planning a vacation for families. Here, we have a book entitled the easy guide to your first visit to Walt Disney World. You can’t really knock the book if it’s strength is in helping people plan their first Disney World vacation.

Still, I assume people who visit a site dedicated to Disney World might have some experience visiting the resort, and I want to assure those readers that they will still probably find value in the easy guide. First, as mentioned above, this book makes a great resource to hand to people who ask you what they should know when planning their first Disney World vacation, and, if you’re a Disney World veteran, you probably get that question every so often. Second, the book provides a nice collection of reviews of resorts and dining that you can reference when you need to make decisions in your trip planning. If you like Dave’s and Josh’s work on their respective sites, it’s pretty likely that you are going to like their work in the book. (You might also like the little insights from Disney historian Jim Korkis that are sprinkled throughout the book.)

Lastly, even the most veteran Disney World guest may benefit from seeing how two experts in Disney World vacations recommend planning a trip. After years and years of Disney World visits, us veteran guests might be so set in our ways that we never stop to see if someone has come up with a better way to do certain things. For example, take a look at Dave’s recommendations about which weeks to visit Disney World, or at Josh’s most recent theme park cheat sheets, and see if there’s something new you might want to integrate into your next Disney World trip.

The 864-Page Gorilla

Any review of a Disney World guide book must deal (at least to some degree) with how that book compares to the massive Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. As readers of this site are probably aware, the Unofficial Guide is an almost 900 page (three times the size of the easy guide) book that gives its readers a ton of information about Disney World and its surrounding area. Much like the easy guide, it contains reviews of hotels, restaurants, and strategies for touring the Disney World theme parks. It also adds in tons of information about off-site options, transportation (including airport and rental car information), and other Orlando area theme parks (e.g., Universal Studios Florida, SeaWorld, etc…) that you will not find in the easy guide.

After spending time with both books, I think there is room on a Disney Fan’s bookshelf (on in her Kindle) for both of them. They both contain valuable information (though Josh might have an opinion as to which set of touring tips is better) and I have used both of them as a reference at various points since I purchased them. That said, the easy guide is much more focused on presenting the author’s recommendations than providing the huge dump of information that the Unofficial Guide does. Depending on how knowledgable about Disney World you are, you might see that as a benefit or a negative.

If I was picking a book to give to someone who has never visited Disney World before, I’d probably pick the easy guide. If I was picking a book for a Disney veteran, I’d have to know a little bit more about what kind of Disney guest the person was before making a recommendation.

Don’t These Guys Already Have Websites with this Information?

Yes. Dave runs yourfirstvisit.net, and Josh runs easyWDW.com You could almost certainly get all of the information in the book by digging through these sites and putting together your own “guide to a first Disney World visit.” My question is: Why would you? Dave and Josh have put together the information from both of their sites in a convenient, easy to follow structure, that allows first time Disney World guests to walk through all the important decisions necessary to plan their vacations. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of that?

For people like me who read Dave’s and Josh’s sites on a regular basis, I partially look at my purchase of the book as a way to support people who do good work that I find helpful. I’m not saying I would have bought the book if it was literally cow feces, but knowing that I’m supporting these guys doesn’t hurt.

Summary

The easy guide is a great book for first time (or inexperienced) Disney World guests, since it walks those guests through all of the important decisions they will have to make as they plan their Disney World vacation. Disney World veterans, though not explicitly targeted by the book, will probably also benefit from the information found in the easy guide. In the end, if you’re looking for a Disney World guide book, I recommend giving the the easy guide to your first Walt Disney World Visit a shot.

The the easy guide to your first Walt Disney World Visit is available from Amazon in: * Paperback (which actually includes a free Kindle version); and * Kindle formats. You can also purchase a PDF version of the book directly from Dave and Josh.

The Dolphin (Soon to Be) by Marriott

Marriott announced yesterday that it will be acquiring Starwood Hotels & Resorts. From a Disney World perspective, this most directly impacts the Dolphin, which is currently owned and operated by Starwood.

At this early stage of the merger, it’s hard to know exactly what Marriott will do with a hotel that is actually on Disney property. One would hope that–at a minimum–it could reach an agreement with Disney that would allow guests at the Dolphin to continue to the receive certain benefits (e.g., extra magic hours, the 60-days Fastpass+ booking window) that aren’t available to other non-Disney owned hotels.

On the Marriott side, I wonder if Marriott would be tempted to re-do some of the rooms in the Dolphin to be part of its Marriott Vacation Club (i.e., timeshare) program (they recently did such a makeover at the Mayflower Hotel in D.C.). Having a Marriott timeshare presence right on Disney property might be a good way for Marriott to position itself as a strong Disney Vacation Club (“DVC”) alternative for frequent Disney travelers.

It will be interesting to see how this whole deal plays out.

And We’re Back! (from Disney World)

Just before the end of the Wine & Dine
Just before the end of the Wine & Dine

If you follow Elyssa and Me on Instagram, you probably know that we just spent the last week visiting Disney World for the (shortened) Wine & Dine half marathon. This was our first big trip since we started Rope Drop [dot] Net, and, frankly, I anticipated posting a little on the site while we were on vacation. My apologies that didn’t happen, but we’ll try to make up for it over the next few weeks as we talk about some of the things we did on the trip, including:

  • Visiting Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival (Liquid Nitro truffles…mmmm….)
  • Dinner at The BOATHOUSE (including having a Baked Alaska)
  • 8am Breakfast at Be Our Guest (Pre-park-opening Mine Train, baby!)
  • Dinner at Tutto Italia
  • Running the Wine & Dine (our first (half-ish) Half Marathon)
  • Dinner at Morimoto Asia
  • Our last viewing of the Osborne Lights (we’re going to miss those)
  • Attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (It really was beginning to look at a lot like Christmas)

We also stopped by Diagon Alley, and (if you ask her really nicely) there’s a chance that Elyssa might do a write-up about that (after she catches up on Kivus & Camera related photo editing).

We also have some really great interviews coming up (including our first ever 3-part interview with the always great Ken Storey), and some interesting thoughts about some of the “News Nuggets” that happened over the past week (SPOILER ALERT: We are bummed about no more Star Wars Weekends, even though we kind of knew it was going to happen).

If you have any interest in hearing about one of the above items more than others, please feel free to drop us a line or hit us up on Twitter. And, while you’re waiting for more content here, check out friend of the show Howie from Maryland on this week’s Mighty Men of Mouse podcast. They’re talking all about the MMoM Listener Land Ranknings that we posted here a couple of weeks ago.

That’s all for now. See you real soon!

The Baked Alaska!
The Baked Alaska!

News Nuggets (Holiday-ish? Edition)

Crossing my fingers about potential rain this weekend
Crossing my fingers about potential rain this weekend

The holiday season has already started at Disney World, so this week’s News Nuggets are heavy on the “festive cheer” (so to speak.)

Before we get into the nuggets, two items of note: First, the Disney Podcast Directory has been up on the site for about a week now. I haven’t heard anything in the past few days about missing shows, so I think the list is looking pretty solid. Please feel free to check it out if you have an interest in listening to Disney podcasts.

Second, Josh from easyWDW and Dave from yourfirstvisit.net are doing a book signing Sunday evening, starting at 5:30pm at the Tomorrowland Terrace. If you’re a fan of their sites or their book, you might want to check that out.

With that out of the way, here are the nuggets:

Earlier this year, Elyssa and I agreed that we would not visit the Osborne Lights until we ran through them during the Wine & Dine Half Marathon. Since I’ve extended that “moratorium” to also include reading coverage of the event, I can’t point you to the “best” coverage of this year’s spectacle. Instead, I’ll finish this post with all the coverage I have found:   WDW Magic – “What’s new?”; * The Disney Blog – An early preview; * All Ears – 2015 Photos; * The DIS – Why you need to see the Osborne Lights this year; * Inside the Magic – Write-up and videos; and * DaMouse – A 4K video of this year’s spectacle.

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

Just after dusk at Epcot
Just after dusk at Epcot

It’s another week, and it’s another round of News Nuggets. As with last week, I’m including a “stock” image from Disney World until Elyssa and I can build up our catalog of corndog nugget imagery. (Trust me, she’s looking forward to that part of our trip.)

  • New Minnie “Seasonal Dining” Experience at Hollywood & Wine It makes sense to add some more character dining to The Studios, and Hollywood & Vine is the logical choice for where to put it (especially since its the go-to spot for various “special” character dining events.) The addition of this experience as “year long”, however, seems to be another indication of the lack of a Star Wars-specific special dining experiences coming up. (And, relatedly, lack of a Star Wars Weekend?)
  • Custom Magic Bands now Available in TomorrowLand I know I’m sucker for it, but I really want one. I have no idea what characters, color, etc… that I’ll pick out, but it seems inevitable that I pick one of these up during my next trip.
  • Rick Bayless to open Frontera Fresco at Disney Springs I think they’re doing a good job of rolling out these restaurants at a pace that allows each announcement some room to breath. Hopefully, Frontera Fresco will get the same positive reaction that we are seeing from The BOATHOUSE and Morimoto Asia.
  • Enhancements to Shop Disney Parks App allow for resort and front of the park delivery It’s kind of an interesting concept. You see something in a store while you’re roaming around the park, but—instead of having to buy it right then—you head off to your ADR and buy it while you’re sitting down for dinner. Then, your item is then waiting for you at your resort the next day.
  • Sorcerer Mickey Meet-and-Greet now in the Old Studio Backlot Area This is an “interesting” place to put Sorcerer Mickey, but you have to have this meet-and-greet somewhere. It’s too classic of a Mickey look to not have a place where you can see it.
  • New Musical Group Debuts in Morocco Here’s the blurb from the Disney Parks Blog: “Ribab Fusion, a popular band from northern Africa, celebrates Morocco’s Amazigh culture with everything from smooth grooves to high-energy funk, fusing the traditional sound of the single-stringed ribab with a contemporary, Afropop style.” It seems like an interesting choice, but I’ll reserve judgment until I see them in person. If you prefer to see watch a video now, however, you can find one here.
  • Epcot’s Holidays Around the World to Start November 27 I always enjoy these little experiences, so I’m glad to see they’ll be back before too long. It’s the little touches like this (and the fabulous decorations at the resorts) that really make the low-crowd period in early December a great time to visit Disney World.

Though not exactly “news”, the construction of the Magic Kingdom Hub has reached another milestone. If you want to see a great set of pictures of what the Hub looks like now, I suggest this post from Da Mouse.

Details about the DVC Expansion at Wilderness Lodge

Earlier today, Disney released a press release that goes into some of the details about the Wilderness Lodge DVC expansion. As someone who loves staying at the Wilderness Lodge (John & Elyssa’s Favorites article preview?), I have been interested in seeing how Disney positioned this expansion.

Based on the press release, it appears that Disney is going to create an entirely new condo association for this expansion. My immediate reaction to that news was “shoot, that means they might not extend the contracts for the original Wilderness Lodge villas” (which are currently set to expire in 2042.) This post from DVC News, however, suggests some other potential issues:

  • Points Charts could be different;
  • Annual Dues could be different; and
  • The 11-month “home resort” booking window might not be good for the original Wilderness Lodge Villas if you buy a contract for the “new” ones.

At this point, that is a lot of speculation (and things with Disney are always subject to change), but even the possibility of those things happening is making me hesitate about buying an original Wilderness Lodge contract on the DVC resale market in an effort to take advantage of the new construction. With so much in flux, I think I’m going to spend a little more time observing before I make any moves.