Disney World is Open

Disney World began the re-opening of its theme parks just over two weeks ago. The process has been a long one, with the original announcement taking place back in June. It involved many enhancements to the cleaning at the resorts and the parks, but—for least two weeks—Disney seems like it has succeeded. Disney World is open.

Disney World has been a significant part of Elyssa’s and my life. From our engagement, honeymoon, and, of course, the discovery of her brain tumor, quite a few of our major milestones have either involved or taken place at Disney World. After the parks were closed for four-months as a result of the pandemic, I had hoped that Disney World’s reopening would again be a milestone. Specifically, I hoped that the opening of Disney World would signify that things were a little more “normal.” After these two weeks, I am not yet sure if I feel that way.

With any luck, Elyssa and I will visit Disney World in the next month or so. I know there are differing opinions about whether or not the parks should have opened. I do not intend to get into that debate. Disney World is open, and we may visit in the semi-near future. To prepare for that visit, I have been reading a lot (all?) of the coverage of the reopening. Here are some highlights of that coverage, along with some of my thoughts about them and the reopening.

Safety Measures

Disney has been making a lot of posts about safety.  Both CEO Bob Chapek and Chairman of Disney Parks, Josh D’Amaro have given interviews explaining the safety-related changes and justifying Disney’s decision to reopen its largest and most important theme park resort. Even before people saw how these changes were implemented, the commentary about Disney’s steps was positive, including from the local hospital community.

The first set of announced changes addressed specific risks associated with COVID-19, such as allowing payment via Apple Pay and Disney Gift Cards when placing heavily encouraged mobile orders,  and adding plexiglass to cashier stations where mobile ordering is not possible. The next announcements were that certain seasonal entertainment would not take place, that there would be no character meet and greets or nighttime spectaculars,, and that certain attractions and restaurants would not be part of the initial reopening. Disney also eliminated Fastpass+ to permit ride queues to be re-configured to allow for social distancing between parties on all attractions.

The biggest change, however, was the announcement of the new Disney World Park Pass system. This system requires Disney World guests to pre-select a single park for each day of their visit (no park hopping is allowed during this phase of the reopening) in order to ensure that the parks do not exceed their limited capacity on a given day. Each park gets a limited number of Park Passes per day, and the passes are broken up between resort guests, regular guests, and AP holders.

Initial Reopening Reports

Originally, Elyssa and I had a trip booked that would have put us at Disney World for reopening weekend. After some discussion, we decided we were going to wait and watch how things played out from afar. Though we have only been following other people’s coverage, it looks like the reopening experience went pretty smoothly

Here is a sample of the reopening reports that I read and found interesting:

Guides for Planning a Trip this Summer

Planning a Disney World trip this year will be a very different process from the process that has evolved over the past few years. This new process involves planning a trip based on visiting only one park per day, with no Fastpass+, and with limited capacity at restaurants. After only a couple of weeks, the recommendations for putting together the best version of this type of plan appear to be still in flux. Thankfully, the usual suspects have been putting together resources to help figure things out, including Disney World itself:

After selecting your lodging, the first major step in planning your trip is to secure your Park Pass reservations. Josh over at easyWDW has a comprehensive guide on how to use the Park Pass system. You should pay attention to all the details in the guide, but the main thing to keep in mind is that reservations for Disney’s Hollywood Studios seem to go the quickest (in fact, AP holders cannot get a reservation through all of August). There are different theories about why this is true, but I believe it is likely a combination of The Studios having two of the newest, headliner attractions (Rise of the Resistance and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway), along with  The Studios having a limited possible capacity due to the inability to run live shows (Indiana Jones, Beauty and the Beast, etc…) that are normally places to “hold” people when they are not in line for other attractions. Whatever the reason, though, Hollywood Studios is the toughest park reservation to get and you should factor that into your planning.

If you are someone who wants to simply be at Disney World, and is less concerned about any particular attractions, Disney’s decision to—essentially—start Food & Wine now has made EPCOT a particularly interesting option. EPCOT gives guests a chance to walk around, in the open air, and enjoy something that is normally reserved for the fall season. Of course, being at EPCOT also does involve being outside in the Florida sun during July and August, but—if your main goal is to be in Disney World, while staying outside and generally away from people—Epcot might be worth a look.

The lack of any Fastpass+ system give the potential for spontaneity on the day you are actually visiting a park, especially with the overall lower wait times. Personally, I thought Disney would implement a broader virtual queue system, but—to date—the only virtual queue is for Rise of the Resistance. The lack of any virtual queuing allows you to roam the parks more freely and otherwise evaluate wait times dynamically throughout the day. One thing to keep in mind, Disney shuts down its attractions about every 2 hours to clean them thoroughly. This cleaning-related delay does cause a longer wait (and may result in a visibly longer line), but reports are that things move pretty quickly once the ride re-opens.

There is a lot new about planning a Disney World vacation during 2020, and I anticipate the advice will continue to evolve over the next couple of weeks. If you want singular resources right now about planning your trip, I suggest you check out these guides from easyWDW and Blog Mickey

Predictions for how the Summer will Play Out

Early predictions are that there might not be a lot of demand at Disney World this summer. I agree with these predictions. For me, the most significant indicator of continuing low crowds is that Disney is offering large merchandise and hotel discounts through at least Mid-August and sometimes into September. Discounts of this kind are an indicator that Disney has looked at its upcoming bookings and determined that it needs to do something to try and convince people to book a vacation. With the nature of this pandemic, however, I am not sure if there is any financial incentive that will persuade some people to travel to Central Florida in 2020.

Summary and Final Thoughts

A lot has changed since mid-March, when Elyssa and I sat in an auditorium with Bob Iger and Bob Chapek. Mr. Iger explained that Disney had weathered uncertainty before, but I am confident that he did not anticipate that Disney’s crown jewel theme park would be closed for four months (and that its original theme park would have no re-opening date even announced for that same period.) Now that the parks are open, I am starting to feel the pull to get back down there and visit. My expectations are tempered due to the necessary limitations that Disney has put on visits as a result of COVID-19. However, I am hopeful that there is still enough “Disney” left in the experience that I will be able to enjoy being back at Disney World, even while everything else goes on. Ultimately, I think I am just going to have to see for myself whether the Disney magic really is back.

Disney to Livestream Rivers of Light Tonight at 8:40PM Eastern

UPDATE: Here’s the Disney Parks Blog post and the video embed is at the end of the post.

It’s time for another one of Disney’s live stream, and this time it’s Rivers of Light. It’s interesting that Disney has waited so long to stream this show. I wonder if it’s because so many people view it as lacking the “wow” factor present in Disney’s other nighttime spectactulars.

As I usually recommend for these things, I think the best way to view the stream is to go to the Disney Parks blog 5-10 minutes before the stream is supposed to start and find the new post that includes the video link. I’ll also try to update this post with that information if I’m able.

Enjoy Rivers of Light!

 

Rivers of Light
Rivers of Light

Here’s the video:

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

With D23 and various other things (like a visit to Mighty Men of Mouse HQ), I’ve fallen a little behind on the News Nuggets. Now, with only 1 week left for The Great Movie Ride and Universe of Energy, it’s about time to unleash a mega helping of Nuggets before it’s too late. (In a nice move, Disney lifted Annual Passholder Blockout Dates so people could ride them one more time.)

Before we get started, one big item to point out is the expanion of mobile ordering at quick service restaurants that started at Animal Kingdom (yes, you could say it started at Be Our Guest, but that’s a very different process.) Mobile ordering has now rolled out at Magic Kingdom restaurants such as Columbia Harbor House, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café, Pecos Bills, and Tomorrowland Terrace; Epcot at Electric Umbrella; Disney Springs at places like D-Luxe Burger; and should be coming to The Studios shortly. (WDW Info has a page they updated with the listings). Disney also announced that there will be no discounts (AP, etc…) during this “launch period”.

Okay, now on to the rest of the News Nuggets:

Phew. We’re about halfway done this double-sized helping of News Nuggets. Let’s take a quick break to watch this video on the making of Pandora:

Okay, now back to the News Nuggets:

That’s it for this edition of the News Nuggets. If you’re like me and unable to get in one last ride on the The Great Movie Ride before it closes, check out this video from WDW News today that features an actual “walk through” of the attraction. See you next time:

Talking Star Wars With MoMM – The Empire Strikes Back

Big week for Elyssa and me, as the guys at Mighty Men of Mouse invited us on to talk about one of our favorite movies of all time: The Empire Strikes Back. I felt a lot of pressure for this one, since Empire is such a great movie. I hope you enjoy our discussion starting at the mark in MMoM Episode 321.

For people who listen to MMoM for the Disney World takes, Elyssa and I also talked to the guys about our impressions of Pandora. If you like hearing / reading what we have to say, we also have a post about Pandora up here on the site. One other topic that comes up is our My Disney Experience Fastpass+ Refreshing Strategy, which we wrote about here.

Enjoy the show! (And remember, if you have any thoughts or comments about it, email Dutch!)

No disintegrations
No disintegrations

Thoughts on Pandora – Our Initial Review of Avatarland

Queue Selfie
Queue Selfie

I feel like I’m in the distinct minority as to James Cameron’s Avatar. I didn’t hate it, and I actually kind of enjoy watching it. Elyssa, on the other hand, thinks it’s terrible (mostly because she says that you never relate to any of the characters.) However, as for Disney’s take on the planet at the heart of Avatar, Pandora, I think Elyssa and I both agree that Disney knocked it out of the park. In other words, the Imagineers did Cameron’s concept justice.

Attractions

The two major attractions in Pandora are Flight of Passage and the Na’vi River Journey. If you are walking into Pandora as you read this and are trying to decide if a 50 minute wait is worth it for Flight of Passage, the answer is yes. Go get in line and you can read the rest as you walk through the queue (you’ll probably want to pay attention to all the detail in the queue though.) For everyone else, below are some more in-depth thoughts.

At the outset, we’ll note that we’re aware of the reviews that focus on operational issues making it hard for people to ride the headliner attractions, etc. Among other things, there were issues with people being able to fit in the Flight of Passage ride vehicle were a concern. When we visited a few weeks after the official opening day, that particular operational issue seemed to have been smoothed out . And, from what we’ve heard, the day-to-day operations continue to improve.

As far as Flight of Passage goes, it’s already one of our favorite rides at Disney World. We rode it 5 times over a three-day weekend, and opted to wait about 50 minutes to get that last ride in. The various “Soarin’ on steriods” takes are actually a decent way to describe the experience. It’s a ride that makes you feel like you’re flying, but the ride vehicle and its restraints allow for some far more exhilarating moments than Soarin’ provides. I won’t spoil any of the ride itself (I’m sure you can find that if you want it), but I’ll say it’s definitely worth doing, and probably worth waiting for 70+ minutes if that’s the only way you’ll get to ride it.

Thankfully, if you are forced to endure a long wait, the queue for the ride moves you through a good variety of environments: the initial outdoor section gives you excellent views of Pandora; the indoor cave tells the history of the Na’vi in wall art; indoor bioluminescence abounds; there’s a laboratory that includes interesting experiments; and, of course, this guy hangs out in the queue:

That guy!
That guy!

Overall, Flight of Passage is a headliner attraction that everyone (who doesn’t mind a little bit of a thrill) should try. Frankly, I just don’t understand people who say they had no connection to the ride because they didn’t care much for Avatar going in. Even someone like Elyssa, who has no love lost for James Cameron’s film, thought the attraction was fantastic. (Quick note: I’d follow Disney advice and empty your pockets during the ride. I rode once with my wallet still in my shorts and feared the whole time it was going to fall.)

The Na’vi River Journey is the second attraction in Pandora, and, for better or worse, it is a relaxing BOATRIDE through a bioluminescent environment and it features a showcase of the most advanced animatronics that Disney has ever revealed. If you’re the type to nit-pick about the lack of a defined “story” for an attraction, here’s your chance. The ride is simply a pleasant journey through a cool forest that uses the whole gamut of theme park ride technologies to transport you to another word. As you might guess from that, I enjoyed it. I might not wait 60 minutes for it, but 20-30 is probably fair.

Here are a couple of pictures to give you a flavor for what you’ll see. On a moving boat in the dark, my camera was taxed to get a decent result. Consequently, these pictures might not do justice to how pretty the ride is:

Na'vi River Journey
Na’vi River Journey
Trying to do her justice...
Trying to do her justice…

Environment

There have been (garbage) articles that claim the pictures of Pandora do the land “too much justice.” Aside from how asinine that concept is, the idea that photographic wizards are somehow making this place look better in still capture form than it looks when you’re actually visiting is ridiculous. During both day and night (and, yes, it does really look quite different at night), the landscaping, plant life (both living and “imagineered”), and overall environment are fantastic. I would argue that these pictures don’t capture it enough:

Day
Day
Night
Night

At present, the newness of Pandora means it’s pretty much always crowded. These crowd levels can make it a little tougher to just “enjoy” your surroundings in the land. As time goes on, however, and crowds stabilize to “normal” levels, I can imagine night time strolls through Pandora are going to be a great way to end a day at Animal Kingdom. (I have a feeling that we’re going to end a lot of future nights at Disney World by having a drink at Nomad, strolling through Pandora, and then watching some Tree of Life Awakenings.)

Food

While visiting Pandora, we, of course, had to try the food. We tried Satu’li Canteen’s custom bowls, the Cheeseburger pods, and the Chocolate Cake dessert. Personally, I think the bowls are going to be a nice change-of-pace option for me going forward. The chicken was quite good and all the ingredients seemed a step up from standard quick service options. The cheeseburger pods were also tasty (Yes, they taste like McDonald’s cheeseburgers), even if I wish the pod-to-meat ratio didn’t so heavily favor the pod. Elyssa gave a thumbs up to the Chocolate Cake, with a surprisingly crunch cookie layer, but it’s tough to get her to give any chocolate item a thumbs down. Personally, I might pass on getting it again, but if you’re in the mood for a bitter chocolate something, you could do worse. (Elyssa’s note: it wasn’t bitter – it was just not milk chocolate)

Pods
Pods
Bowl
Bowl
Cake
Cake

Strategery

As you would probably expect from something new at Disney World, people want to experience Pandora. That means, the usual advice applies: get there early, stay really late, and/or try to get Fastpass+ reservations for the primary attractions (NOTE: You can only get 1 of the Pandora attractions for your initial 3 selections. I’d try to get Flight of Passage because of its higher demand and wait times.) Josh over at easyWDW has outlined a number of strategies concerning timing, including arriving about an hour and fifteen minutes before the park open (on non-EMH days.) If you’re planning to visit, I suggest reviewing Josh’s posts in-depth.

Elyssa and I had a great bit of success taking advantage of the morning extra magic hour (7:00am opening on a Saturday when the park opens at 8:00am.) We arrived about 6:10am via our own car, which got us there before any of the resort buses. (I’d recommend driving yourself or getting an Uber instead of using a resort bus. Being ahead of that crowd can be a huge help.) That put us about 2 parties back at the tapstiles. They let us into the park about 6:40am, where they scanned our Magic Bands again to make sure that we were entitled to EMH access, and then held us at the Tree of Life until about 6:50am. At that point, they began walking us to Pandora and, for almost everyone, Flight of Passage. We briskly walked through the Flight of Passage queue and were part of what felt like the first group to ride for the day. We then headed over to Na’vi River Journey and, essentially, walked onto that. We then exited Pandora, and had time to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris twice before our 9:20 Tusker House ADR. It was a fantastic morning.

We also tried the evening extra magic hours, but had a little less success with them. It seemed like most people went to the earlier showing of Rivers of Light and then headed over to Pandora after that. This mean waits of 90+ minutes for Flight of Passage right when EMH started (though, the end of FP+ return could make that go quicker.) If we were willing to stick around until later in the night, we might be able to get a lower wait. We actually found, however, that riding around 9 (while people were occupied with Rivers of Light) actually worked out better for us, but, based on Josh’s wait time chart, that might have just been an anomaly in the standard wait pattern.

In summary, your best bet is probably to get there early and then also try to get a FP+ for Flights of Passage. Not shocking advice, I know, but, it bears repeating.

Conclusion

As far as the swatting of Potter goes, I’ve been to Diagon Alley, and I prefer Pandora. I think Len Testa best summed it up when he talked about how he prefers nature to a cityscape and Pandora is actually “better nature than actual nature” as far as immersion goes. Also, much like Elyssa has no connection to Avatar, I have no connection to Harry Potter. I’ve seen the movies a couple of times, never read the books, and, for better or worse, am kind of shrug emoji about all of it. Elyssa, on the other hand, is a huge Harry Potter fan, but still had a hard time deciding which immersive land she liked better. In the end, her connection to the word of Harry Potter wins out, but for something to have even been that close shows just how great Joe Rohde and his team did. (Elyssa note: no, but seriously, I frakking LOVE Harry Potter and walking into Diagon and Hogsmeade makes me cry, so this is a big deal.)

Regardless of which land you think is “better”, Diagon Alley, and now, Pandora, seem to be the pinnacle of this generation of theme park design and execution. Pandora is an immersive environment that rewards repeat visits with its intricate detail, quality food offerings, and enjoyable attractions. Until Star Wars Land opens with its new concept of “memory”(i.e., it knowing your history within the land), Pandora is pretty much the best of what theme parks have to offer.

Flare
Flare
Too much justice?
Too much justice?

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

There’s been a lot of Disney World news since we lasted posted an edition of the News Nuggets. (There’s also been a few other developments here at Rope Drop [dot] Net HQ, such as a trip down to the World for Elyssa and me, but that will be covered in a separate post.) Of course, as one would expect, there has been a lot of coverage about Pandora, but–again–I’m going to do something separate for that. So, with all that out of the way, on to the News Nuggets!

Phew. That was a lot of news, but there is still a bunch to cover. Let’s take a quick break to look at this picture of Baby Stella:

Baby Stella!!!
Baby Stella!!!
(Yes, Elyssa and I did do the Caring for Giants tour on this past trip. More information on that coming as well.)

Okay back to the Nuggets:

Our last News Nugget is Disney debuting the new “Disney Movie Magic” show at The Studios, a nice show to take up a little time before the fireworks. Speaking of which, let’s finish with a video of the show from The DIS:

Disney Moves up Today’s (Wednesday’s) Pandora Live Stream to 8:10am Eastern

UPDATE: Here’s the Disney Parks Blog link and embed is below.

Disney is live streaming the dedication of Pandora today at 8:10am Eatern (moved up from later in the morning due to weather concerns).  As always, I find the easiest way to catch the live stream is to go to the Disney Parks Blog about 10-15 minutes before the start of the live stream to find a fresh post with the video embed.

VIDEO:

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

It’s time again for a hearty helping of Rope Drop [dot] Net News Nuggets! As you probably saw earlier this week, I have already posted about the Star War related news that came out of Celebration. Of course, the biggest news since the last post was that The Rock was on the Jungle Cruise!. Talk a “plus-ed” experience.

Nuggets!!
Nuggets!!

Now, on to the rest of the News Nuggets:

That’s it for this edition of the News Nuggets! Let’s all celebrate by watching the Blue Angels fly over the Magic Kingdom:

Pandora Fastpass+ to Open Tomorrow – March 24

BREAKING! Pew, pew! Lasers! (Not really) EXCLUSIVE!! Here at Rope Drop [dot] Net HQ we don’t really try to be the FIRST to break news, but, sometimes, we want to share something special with our readers that has a time component. In this case, it’s that Fastpass+ selections for Pandora (Avatarland) open tomorrow, March 24, 2017.

The anouncement is little weird, since 60 days from tomorrow (the length of time in advance that onsite guests can book Fastpass+ selections) is Tuesday, May 23, 2017 (i.e., before Pandora is supposed to open on May 27.) I wonder if this is an indication that Disney is going to be allowing guests to get Fastpasss+ for various “soft opening” periods prior to the official opening. Also, as (kind of?) expected, you can’t book both Avatar attractions on the same day with Fastpass+ in your first 3 selections. It’s not a full on “tier” structure, but it’s close.

Relatedly, Disney has made it official that Animal Kingodm will have special Pandora-only Extra Magic Hours every night from (at least) May 27th through July 4th, 2017. For people like Elyssa and me who usually stay offsite, this extra benefit is enough to make us consider an onsite resort for a quick “hop” down to experience Avatar once the land opens.

BREAKING!!
BREAKING!!

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

It’s that time of year (no, not time for the annual News Nuggets post…), time for Disney’s annual attractions bracket. I’ve bought a few of these shirts in the past, but nothing stands out as “must have” for me this year. (WDW News Today has images of all the designs.)

Also, since it’s St. Patrick’s day, you might want to check out the Raglan Road Mighty St. Patrick’s Festival at Disney Springs and all the other Disney Springs St. Paddy’s day festivities.

Now, on to the rest of the nuggets:

We’ll finish things up with this video from Disney about the construction of Star Wars Land: (The AT-ATs do look pretty cool):

Enjoy the Tournament!

Recapping All the New Pandora – Land of Avatar Previews

Yesterday was “Pandora preview day” across Disney-owned ABC. That means a ton of new imagery and videos of what we can look forward to in Pandora when it opens on May 27th.

The first look came on Good Morning America, with a few clips that would be involved in some of the later videos and an appearance by Joe Rodhe (of Iger, Rodhe, Lombrowski fame):

Next came a James Cameron-led walk-though to see the floating mountan landscape (both during the day and at night) that ended with a trip down the Navi river:

Coverage continued with the crew from the Chew tasting some one of the food items available in Pandora. (Unfortunately, I ran screaming from the video when I heard “pineapple cream cheese”):

Finally, the most extensive preview came from Nightline and it featured a walk-through of the new land (again) with James Cameron and then Joe Rodhe. The BOATRIDE, as expected, looks spectactuar and the ride vehicle for the Banshee ride does seem designed to give you the feeling of being on a Banshee:

If you want even more previews of Pandora, Disney issued a press release with a lot of details, including:

Avatar Flight of Passage launches each guest on an exhilarating, wind-in-your-face experience on a winged mountain banshee over the awe-inspiring world of Pandora. Guests will actually feel the banshee breathe beneath them as they soar through the forest and past floating mountains. What was a rite of passage for Na’vi in Cameron’s film becomes a multisensory experience for guests seeking the ultimate adventure – a faceoff with the most feared predator of Pandora, the Great Leonopteryx.
On the family-friendly Na’vi River Journey, guests travel down a sacred river deep into a bioluminescent rainforest. The eight-seat reed boats float past exotic glowing plants and Pandoran creatures into the midst of a musical Na’vi ceremony. The mystical journey culminates in an encounter with a breathtakingly realistic Na’vi Shaman of Songs who is deeply connected with Pandora’s life force and sends positive energy through her music into the forest.

With 4 (!?!?) Avatar movies in preproduction, hopefully, there is a real interest in people experiencing these new things.

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

Despite how much I’m sure y’all enjoy getting double and triple sized orders of News Nuggets, sometimes, I’m able to actually get these out on a regular schedule. This is one of those times!

There isn’t much about the Flower and Garden Festival in this posting, since I’m looking to do one of my “best of” coverage posts to cover that event fairly soon.

Now, on to the News Nuggets!

INTERMISSION!!

e-Ticket?
e-Ticket?
Okay, now back to the News Nuggets!

That’s it for this News Nuggets helping. Let’s end with this video of the upcoming Pandora BOATRIDE (which looks pretty amazing):

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

Hey! Look! The site still works! This latest batch of (breakfast?) News Nuggets is a long time coming. I had grand desigins of posting it when I was down in Florida IN DECEMBER, but that slipped. Then, life got in the way, and an iOS beta broke my custom Workflows, and…well..its (still) February.

To try make this post (of over 8 weeks worth of Disney news) a little more timely, I’ve culled some of the original stories I was going to publish, as well modified some of commentary to reflect my experiences and other news I’ve heard about these items.

Of course, the biggest news item that hasn’t already been written about on the site is:

With all that out of the way, on to the News Nuggets!!

Okay. That was a lot of nuggets. I need a break.Let’s watch one of the “behind the scenes” looks at Pandora:

Okay, back to the News Nuggets:

Okay, time for another break. This time, let’s look at this tribute to the late, great Carrie Fisher from The Studios:

Ms. Fisher will be missed, and (shockingly?) I was unable to come up with a way to segway back into the nuggets:

One more break before we finish? What do you say? This time, let’s check out the latest Pandora ad:

That place might be pretty cool in a few months. Now, though, let’s finish out our News Nuggets!

Whew! We’re finally done. Let’s celebrate!

Major Disney World Openings Coming Up in Early 2017

In addition to previously announcing opening dates of Pandora (I guess I’ll start call it that instead of Avatarland?) and Star Wars Land, Disney announced a few other upcoming openings / changes in advance of yesterday’s ticket price increase::

Rivers of Light

Disney has announced that Rivers of Light will officially open on February 17, 2017. If you’re down at Disney World this week, though, it’s already having showings as part of a soft open.

Most reviews of the show are generally positive, with some notes that there’s no “wow moment in the finale”. Here are the reviews from from WDW Magic, Mouse Steps and WDW News Today (which has some pictures and video).

There is also a highlight video from WDW Magic and some more photos from AllEars.net

Dining packages are also available for the show, and Josh at easyWDW has already expained how they might not be too bad of a value.

Flower and Garden Festival

My favorite of the festivals at Disney Festival Adventure (i.e., Epcot)–Flower & Garden– starts on March 1 this year and the Disney Parks Blog has posted all the menus for the “outdoor kitchens”. My general fear when reading these menus is that the items are going to be fairly “expensive” what you’re getting from Epcot booth food. I’ll wait and see what’s actually being offered, however, before making an final judgments.

‘Happily Ever After’ to replace ‘Wishes’ at the Magic Kingdom starting May 12

Ever since the Main Street Electrical Parade ventured out (along the Oregon Trail, I presume?) back to California, people have been wondering when Disney would announce the Magic Kingdom’s new nighttime parade. Interestingly (surprisingly?), Disney has announced a replacement for Wishes instead. Disney describes the new show, entilted Happily Ever After, as follows:

The show will feature the latest fireworks and pyrotechnics and original animation, plus a heart-tugging original score. And thanks to the inclusion of state-of-the-art projection mapping technology, more Disney characters than ever before will be featured in the show, including moments from “Moana,” “Brave,” “Big Hero 6,” “Zootopia,” “The Princess & The Frog,” “Aladdin” and many others.

Disney has announced May 12 as the official opening date for the new show, but if you really want to make sure that you see Wishes one more time before is relegated to the Youtube archives, you might want not want to wait until the last day / week before Happily Ever After debuts (just in case Disney gets too aggressive with “soft opens” of the new show.)

Wishes
Wishes

Target Openings for Pandora (Avatarland) and Star Wars Land Announced

 

UPDATE: For more information Pandora, check out the newly launched VisitPandora.com.

During Disney’s earning call today, CEO Bob Iger announced that Avatarland (i.e., Pandora – The World of Avatar) will open on May 27 of this year. This is (suprisingly?) in line with some of the rumors associated with the opening date, and, obviously, is just in time for the busy summer season. Disney’s press release on the opening again mentioned the major attractions coming to Pandora:

First, the family friendly Na’vi River Journey will send guests through a bioluminescent rainforest. Their journey will end in an unforgettable encounter with a Na’vi Shaman, a figure who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora. And second, Avatar Flight of Passage will offer guests the jaw-dropping experience of exploring the world of Pandora atop a Banshee.

Actually surprising, however, was Iger’s announcement that Star Wars Land would open in 2019. Most people (either joking or otherwise) seemed to think that Star Wars Land would open in 2020, so this the actual 2019 opening is ahead of that “schedule.” More surprising, however, is that Iger made an announcement at all. Clearly, Disney is confident (or willing to spend extra to ensure–if necessary) that Star Wars Land will be completed in 2019. I’m sure there are people out there waiting to come down hard on Disney if it doesn’t make this date.

*Not* Coming to Star Wars Land :-(
Not Coming to Star Wars Land 🙁

Looking at What Is Coming to Disney World in 2017

Disney recently issued a press release entitled A Breathtaking New Land of Fantasy Highlights A New Year Full of Magical Additions, Openings at Walt Disney World Resort in which it listed the various “additions” that are coming to Disney World in 2017. Here are some of the highlights and my thoughts:

Pandora – The World of Avatar – A transformational experience unlike any other, Pandora – The World of Avatar, opens in summer 2017. In collaboration with filmmaker James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment, Disney is bringing to life the fantasy world of Pandora, inspired by Cameron’s epic film AVATAR, in a breathtaking new land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Avatar Flight of Passage will send guests flying above the jungles of Pandora on a Mountain Banshee. Bioluminescent rainforests dramatically wrap around Na’vi River Journey, a family-friendly boat ride. Hungry adventurers can recharge at Satu’li Canteen, the main dining location, or Pongu Pongu, a drink kiosk with a design as eclectic as its expat owner. Shoppers can stock up on Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits and more at Windtraders.

None of this will come as a surprise to readers of the site, but it’s nice to have everything summarized so neatly. A Soarin’-like adventure and a BOATRIDE are fantastic anchors to this land. Also, it will give a preview of the new immersive theming that (I believe) will also be present in Star Wars land. (By immersive theming, I mean a little less pushing of the overall Disney brand in the land, with cast members acting more like you are really on Pandora.

More Additions to Disney Springs in 2017
Paddlefish – Sleek and modern after a bow-to-stern transformation from the former Fulton’s Crab House, Paddlefish will serve fresh seafood, steaks and chops. Unique menu choices for seafood lovers include a build-your-own boil. A new rooftop lounge will serve up a late-night menu and shipshape views of the water and Disney Springs. Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.

The standard of quality at Disney Springs ended up making Fulton’s obsolete. With the BOATHOUE already offerring a combination of seafood and steak, it’ll be interesting ot see what Paddlefish does to set itself apart.

The Polite Pig – A sister restaurant to the Ravenous Pig, a favorite with Orlando locals, The Polite Pig will bring the same focus on genuine Florida cuisine to a broader global audience at Disney Springs. Lunch and dinner menus will feature a variety of wood-fired smoked and grilled items as well as an innovative beverage program that serves all drinks on tap, including beer, wine and cocktails.

Though I’m not particularly excited about the Guy Fieri menu at the newly revamped Planet Hollywood Observatory, the Polite Pig seems like it might be a nice option. (Of course, I have never to the Ravenous Pig, so what do I know?)

Rivers of Light – Coming in 2017, this powerful theatrical production takes Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests on a magnificent emotional journey – a visual mix of water, fire, nature and light choreographed to an original musical score. Continuing the park’s transformation from a day-into-nighttime experience, the amazing after-dark show on the banks of Discovery River celebrates the majesty of nature and the connection between animals and humans in the world. (emphasis added)

“Coming in 2017.” Sigh. That said, I still wouldn’t be surprised if there’s at least a trial or two during the holiday season (though, I’m not holding my breath.) Of course, if no one is at Animal Kingdom later in the evening but Elyssa & me over Christmas, I’m fine with it.

New Cabins and Deluxe Villas coming to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – In 2017, a proposed new Disney Vacation Club Resort, Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, is scheduled to open, featuring new Resort accommodations that include plans for Deluxe Villas and unique waterfront cabins. Other enhancements coming to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge include a brand-new bar & grill, in addition to a quick-service restaurant. A sweeping re-imagination of the former Hidden Springs Pool, part of Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, is also scheduled to open in summer 2017. Named Boulder Ridge Cove, this area will feature an expanded sun deck and zero-depth-entry pool.

If Elyssa and I were to buy DVC, this would be where we do it. We love Wilderness Lodge, and the information on these Deluxe Villas makes them seem like they’re going to be top notch. I am looking forward to seeing an actual demo.

Of course, there are a a bunch more announcements in the actual press release, but these were the ones I am most interested in. Regardless, 2017 seems like it could be a big year.

Disney World – D23 – A News Nuggets Special Edition

This weekend was D23’s Destination D – Amazing Advenutres event. As you might expect, there was a decent amount of Disney World news that came during this. Here are the highlights:

Pandora – The World of Avatar

I would classify the news concerning Avatarland coming out of D23–especially the announcement of a “Summer 2017” opening–as the most “important” item from the event. Now, obviously “summer” could mean anything from late April through early September, but I’m going to try to be optimistic (remember, Animal Kingdom first opened on April 22).

Satu'li Canteen - Artwork courtesy of Disney
Satu’li Canteen – Artwork courtesy of Disney

Bolstering the opening date announcement, Disney also revealed additional details about the new land, including (i) Satu’li Cantenn (the major restaurant in the land), (ii) Pongu Pongu (a “special drink location”), and (iii) Windtraders (the merchandise location.) What seems pretty clear from the concept art Disney released is that this land–much like the upcoming Star Wars land–is going to maintain its theming throughout the entire land, from the food offerings, to the merchandise offerings, to (I bet) even the way cast members interact with guests (I believe the buzzword is “immersive.”)

Windtraders - Artwork courtesy of Disney
Windtraders – Artwork courtesy of Disney

Robert Niles over at Theme Park Insider also had a write-up of the actual D23 presentation, that included confirmation from James Camerson himself that Na’vi will not be walking around Avatarland, instead limiting their appearances to attractions.

Maybe the most interesting release from the event was this video of a Na’vi animatronic–the “Shaman of Songs”, a key figure in the Na’vi River Journey BOATRIDE:

If the actual animatronics are going to look that good, Avatarland really could be something.

Star Wars

Though the news coming of Avatarland might have more immediate impact on Disney World, Star Wars land also got a minor highlight, including a mention of the attraction that will allow guests to “take controls of the Millennium Falcon” and the release of new piece of artwork showing what the new land will look like at night:

Star Wars Land at Night - Artwork courtesy of Disney
Star Wars Land at Night – Artwork courtesy of Disney
Windtraders – Artwork courtesy of Disney Similar to what happened when Disney released Episode VII, it was also announced that there would be a new Episode VIII theme mission that will be added to Star Tours along with the release of the movie.

Other Items

  • “Major Changes” coming to Epcot – Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek said that Epcot would be going through a “major transformation” in the next couple of years (WDW News Today classified it as “an overhaul“.). Write-ups of the speech all reference his use of the phrases “dream big” and “more Disney, timeless, [and] relevant”, while staying true to Epcot’s “original vision”. At this point, those phrases are more a Disney fan Rorschach test (“relevant means it’s going to be all current IPs!”, “timeless means they’ll be thinking outside of what’s hot now, and doing something that will last”, etc…), than actually revealing about what might happen at Epcot. With so much else going on around Disney World, I’m going to take more of a wait-and-see approach on this one.
  • MagicBand 2 coming to Disney World – This new magic band has been rumored for a few weeks, and involves a removable disc that you can take out of the band and insert in other items (e.g., a necklace.) Ultimately, I’m glad I’ll now have an easy, visual way to know which of my Magic Bands is older, but I don’t really have a lot of excitement (or disappointment) about this. (Check out WDW News Today’s Magic Band 2 gallery if you want to see a metric buttload more photos of the new style of Magic Band.)
  • In-Park Cabanas coming to Magic Kingdom and Epcot. – This news item was not part of the official D23 announcements, but, instead, quickly spread on Twitter. Details are still a little hazy, but it seems like the “cabanas” are $650ish a day “tents” (see here and here) that have AC, seating, television, and the ability to order “room services” (at an additional cost.) As you might imagine, that initial pictures look ridiculous. However, if Disney can somehow offset additional prices increases or staff reductions on the backs of people who want to hang out in a tent and watch tv in the Magic Kingdom, I’m fine with it.

That covers the news from the weekend. If events like this are interesting to you, you might want to take a look at what D23 is offering in 2017. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Pongu Pongu - Artwork courtesy of Disney
Pongu Pongu – Artwork courtesy of Disney

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

It’s that time again, time to clear out the (way too long) lisitng of Rope Drop [dot] Net News Nuggets! LIke some of the last couple of updates, Disney trips and day job stuff has meant that this list is a little bit longer than previous updates.

Let’s get to it!

We’ll end things with two videos. First, a video from Theme Park Review of the last show of Elyssa’s and my beloved Celebrate the Magic:

and then a video

Initial Thoughts from Our October 2016 Disney Trip

Our latest trip to Disney World focused around a few major Disney World events: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. I’ve learned these past couple of years that having defined things that we want to do lets us feel a little of the time pressure that people who don’t visit as frequently as we do can end up feeling. It makes for an interesting trip. Here are some initial thoughts:

  • The End of Celebrate the Magic:I’ve already written about how much Celebrate the Magic means to Elyssa and me, but seeing the show for the last time was still overwhelmingly emotional for both of us. I have faith that the new projection show will be good, but I doubt we’ll ever have the emotional connection to that new show that we have to this one. It truly will be missed.
  • Kona Cafe (Breakfast): I still love starting a day with a press of Kona Coffee and an order of Tonga Toast. Elyssa almost always ends up with a Big Kahuna (which, again, is a great way to start the day.) We normally get an early ADR, and then head to the Magic Kingdom to watch the Welcome Show. I don’t know if I’d recommend Kona if you want to rope drop Mine Train, but it’s pretty perfect for what we use it for.Breakfast at Kona - Always a Hit
  • Homecoming Florida (Dinner or Drinks): Homecoming is fast becoming one of our favorite spots to grab a drink later at night (in addition to being an excellent dining option for either lunch or dinner.) Fried Chicken, biscuits, and hush puppies aren’t the most “adventurous” of dishes, but Homecoming does them very well. If southern comfort food is something you enjoy, I’d definitely give Homecoming a shot.
  • Animal Kingdom at Night is a (Hidden?) Gem: We now build nights at Animal Kingdom into our trip. An evening Safari, a drink or two at Nomad Lounge, and the Tree of Life Awakenings (which are extremely fun to watch) all make for a really enjoyable night.
  • Seeing Friends is Always Fun: Elyssa and I were fortunate enough to run into world famous podcaster, “Light ‘Em and Hide”, twice including once with a guest appearance by similarly renowned Disney theme park photographer Brandon Glover. Though we didn’t get to meet up with friends of the site, Dutch, Josh, or Eric, I’m sure we’ll run into them again before too long. Name dropping aside, it’s always nice to spend time with people we know from this little hobby of ours. I hope the trend those meet-ups continues.

Over the next week (or two, or three…), I’ll be working some more in-depth coverage of a few of things we did, but here is a little preview:

  • Goofy and Pals Breakfast at the Four Season: Elyssa and I decided to switch things up on the character breakfast front and try something a little different. My (almost) twitter length review: Breakfast was good. It has a little different vibe than standard Disney character meals (fancier?). The food also seemed to be a step up from what you might find at a traditional Disney buffet. The character interactions were superb (and if that’s what you want, I’d recommend making a 10:45am or so reservation, since the place was nearly cleared out by 11:00.).
  • Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party: Halloween is Elyssa’s favorite holiday, so we had been thinking about planning a trip around the halloween party for years. Things finally fell into place this year. We arrived at the party a little before 4 (and used our AP to gain admission.) We ended up meeting Tink, Rapunzel, Tiana, the Seven Dwarfs, and riding Mine Train before the party officially started at 7pm. From then on it was character meet-and-greets, parades, fireworks, and candy. It was a super fun night (Maybe Elyssa and I should do a Mic Drop segment on it??)
    Is there anything left for me?
    Is there anything left for me?
  • Food and Wine: I feel like the stand outs from Food & Wine the past couple of years are either desserts or from the Chew booths (or sometimes, both.) Things like the Liquid Nitro Truffle, or the Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Mousse stand out in my memory more than the duck bun I got from China. At this point, I’d probably be fine attending 1 or 2 mornings mid-week and calling it a Festival.

Overall, it was a pretty great (if not a little jam packed) trip (even with Celebrate coming to and end.)

Rivers of Light Dining Packages Page on Disney Website with Possibly Out of Date Information

UPDATE: Disney has now pulled the Rivers of Light dining packages page.

Earlier today, a page for dining packages associated with Rivers of Light went active on Disney’s website. As you can see from this screenshot, there is a date of May 1st listed in the “Know Before You Go” section of the site:

Out of Date Information?
Out of Date Information?

Sites like WDW Magic and WDW News Today are reporting this as confirmation that Rivers of Light’s dining packages will be available starting May 1, 2017. I don’t agree.

Originally, Rivers of Light was supposed to debut on April 22, 2016. I think it’s probably more likely that Disney posted this page that was created to go live when Rivers of Light was supposed to debut earlier this year, and has not yet updated it with the information for when the show is actually going to debut. In other words, I don’t think this listing of “May 1”–without any year–confirms anything. I think it’s more likely the page just got put up prematurely and that the availability date hasn’t been updated yet. (The fact that Tiffins–which is widely suspected to be a package option, but did not open until May 27, 2016–isn’t listed in the “Know Before You Go” section also seems to be in line with this.)

On a related note, I did call Disney Dining to try to make a reservation for the Rivers of Light dining packages and the Cast Member (after talking to her supervisor) said that the option is still listed as “coming soon” in her system and that they have no information about when the option will actually be available.

Sunday Night and Monday at Disney – August, 2016

As I mentioned in the last post, one of the goals during this trip was to make smaller updates along the way (instead of waiting to talk about the trip at the very end.) Since we’re going to STK tonight–which means you might never hear from me again–, I figured now would be a good time to post an update.

  • We both really enjoyed the night time Kilimanjaro Safaris. As I mentioned on Twitter, the experience is almost impossible to photograph, but don’t let my crappy photos deter you from giving it a shot. We were lucky enough to see the best lion interactions we’ve ever seen on a safari at Animal Kingdom, and I would still feel like I’m ahead if I rode the ride 10 more times and didn’t see an animal. If you’re at Animal Kingdom at night, I think it’s worth your time to give it a try (and Elyssa would probably even give a stronger recommendation.) That said, if Disney’s only running 1 side of the queue (which I hear is pretty common), you’re going to want to do what you can to get a Fastpass+ reservation. Otherwise, you’re probably going to wait an hour. (We managed to get a Fastpass+ reservation for about 20 minutes in the future after about 3 minutes of refreshing the app around 7:50pm.)
  • The Tree of Life Awakenings are fantastic. I saw 3 different versions, and I enjoyed them all. I especially like the one that featured more “movie type” excerpts, which gave the whole thing a Celebrate the Magic-like feel.
  • Nomad Lounge was pretty much dead from 8:45-10:00 while we were there, but it was a nice, relaxing way to end the day. The Kungaloosh Ale (which almost had Newcastle-like flavors with some added spice) and the Tempting Tigress were both quite good. Elyssa also enjoyed the Hightower Rocks (where the sweetness that covers the alcohol could easily get you sneaky drunk without too much effort.)
    Princess Birthday Breakfast
    Princess Birthday Breakfast
  • The actual breakfast at Akershus is not quite as good as places like Crystal Palace, Tusker House, or Whispering Canyon (it consists of a “hot plate” with eggs, bacon, potato casserole, etc…, and a buffet with pastries and cold cuts.) We had decent princess interactions, seeing Belle, Ariel, Cinderella, and Snow White in the span 50 minutes (though the princesses all came out much later than we thought they would.) We still managed to exit in time to get into Frozen Ever After with only about a 15 minute wait (I’ll probably write about this more later, but you probably want to exit at 8:45-8:50am if you really want to guarantee a low wait. We exited at about 8:55am and ended up merging with the flow of people. I think we got pretty lucky.)
  • I really enjoyed Frozen Ever After. The movement on animatronics–especially Olaf–has to be seen to be believed. It is just so fluid. Elsa’s ice palace scene is also fantastic. For us and our sensibilities, it’s an upgrade over Maelstrom.
    We really liked Frozen Ever After
    We really liked Frozen Ever After
  • Even though we weren’t on the far edge of the Soarin’ screen, we could see some bending of the structures. For us, it was only really noticeable for the Eiffel Tower. That said, the Soarin’ experience is still great. I’ll refrain from any “spoilers” about what’s in it, but I like the new video. (It’s probably blogger bias, but when I first thought about what to write for Soarin, the minimal bending was what came to mind. That’s why that sentence was first, not the part where I explain my overall impression of the ride.)
  • I think Ample Hills is my second favorite ice cream on property (it is probably Elyssa’s first.) I think I still prefer a No Way Jose, but knowing I can get Ample Hills if there are no Beaches & Cream ADRs available is a great fall back. (I know the ice cream itself is probably better than plain ice cream from Beaches & Cream, but I just have so much connection to the No Way Jose, that I can’t pick something else ahead of it.)
    Squad Goals
    Squad Goals
  • After having lunch there on Monday afternoon, I think Via Napoli has moved into a clear 3rd place in the “Disney World restaurant most frequented by the Kivii” rankings. (Whispering Canyon is pretty far out in the lead (since we have stayed at Wilderness Lodge a bunch, and it has breakfast, lunch & dinner options), Beaches & Cream is second place (partially because of stops for No Way Joses), and BOATHOUSE is probably 4th (for now).) The “flexibility” pizza provides is probably one of the reasons we like it so much (we decided to make a last second Ample Hills stop about 45 minutes before Via Napoli, which meant we didn’t eat our entire pizza for lunch. That wasn’t an issue, however, since we were able to take it home and pull it out of the fridge to have for dinner a couple of hours later.)
  • We finished our day by watching the Main Street Electrical Parade. I’m glad I got to see it again before it goes away in a few weeks, but watching it does reinforce that I’m super bummed it’s leaving. Elyssa and I have so many good memories of watching it.
    What are you looking at?
    What are you looking at?

That’s it for this update. Dinner at STK tonight. Wish me luck!

Rope Drop [dot] Net Interview – Serenity Caldwell

If you listen to podcasts (tech or otherwise), then you’re probably familiar with today’s interviewee, Serenity Caldwell. I think Elyssa and I first heard Serenity on an episode of The Incomparable discussing British television shows, and we’ve been following her work in various media ever since.

After a recent trip to Disney World involved a major life event for Serenity, we reached out to see if she would be interested in being interviewed for the site. Thankfully, she graciously accepted.

 

Rebel Spy? - Picture from Serenity
Rebel Spy? – Picture from Serenity

 

(EDITOR’S NOTE: As always, the questions are presented in bold, with Serenity’s answers following. I have made minor edits for readability, but have made every effort not to impact the flow of the conversation.)

After what happened on your most recent trip, Disney World is going to have a major place in the story of your life. Is this a change for you or have you always had strong ties to Disney and its theme parks?

I grew up in southern California, so the Disney fandom has long been strong with my family! We never had annual passes because we lived just too far away from Anaheim to make good use out of them, but we’d usually make two or three Disney excursions a year. Some of my favorite early memories as a kid were at that park — trying to pull King Arthur’s sword out of the stone, riding Mr Toad’s Wild Ride late at night, waiting in line for hours during the debut of the Indiana Jones ride and memorizing the old AT&T decoder card to figure out what the runes on the walls said… and, of course, playing hooky from school with my dad to go ride Space Mountain.

Disneyland will forever be my one true park, but I’ve got a slow-growing fondness for Disney World after some particularly fun and memorable trips—this last one included! I’d wanted to visit Disney World for years, but I didn’t actually set foot there until I was 20, with a college boyfriend who had the same fondness for Disney World as I had for its west-coast sibling. I have him to thank for getting me thoroughly ensconced in the lore and love of WDW: He’d been on some of the fancy WDW backstage tours and provided excellent commentary about the parks and their many attractions as we waited in lines and dodged parades. And he introduced me to the glory — and gut-ache! — of the World Showcase dinner (one piece of food or drink from each pavilion).

Proudly displaying the Happily Ever After Button - Picture from Serenity
Proudly displaying the Happily Ever After Button – Picture from Serenity

How many times since that initial Disney World trip have you been back? How has your anticipation and planning for those trips evolved?

Since that initial trip, I’ve been three times, including our last adventure. The second time was much more whirlwind — only a day or two, and spent largely at Epcot and Magic Kingdom. The third was another two-day adventure, but it came after the FastPass+ revolution, which meant I was introduced to the magic of online scheduling. Once I figured out that you could book not only rides, but food, via the Disney app, I became obsessed.

How's that Grey Stuff taste? - Picture from Serenity
How’s that Grey Stuff taste? – Picture from Serenity

I’ve always used MouseSavers as my baseline guide to all things Disney, but for this last trip, I leaned heavily on Disney’s own resources — the app was where I discovered I could book food experiences at other resort hotels, and we used Disney’s maps and transportation options to heavily plan how we’d jump from park to park. Like my last two WDW trips, this was only a two-day affair, so we had to plan smartly around meals and the like.

People who follow you online know that you had a major life event on your last trip to Disney World. Would you mind sharing what happened and the details around it?

Indeed I did. 🙂 While on our trip to Florida, my boyfriend not-so-subtly set up a lovely proposal, followed by our trip to Disney World!

Funny story: As he tells it, his original plan was to propose to me in the park, incorporating Star Tours — my all-time favorite Disney ride. But when he went to ask my folks for permission and fill his folks in on the plan, both of them rebelled and insisted he do it before we left. (In part, I think, because they wanted to give us a proper congratulatory send-off.) So the official proposal happened on a lovely beach near his dad’s house in Florida the day before Disney; but the “Star Tours proposal that almost was” is how I’ll remember it.

And best of all, we still got to celebrate our engagement at Disney World! We did as many “newly engaged” park activities as possible, including an incredible dinner at the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jiko followed by an adorably sweet phone call from Mickey and Minnie wishing us well. (We may have snuck out to the rear patio for some nighttime animal-watching, too, because how can you not when you’re at Animal Kingdom Lodge?)

Best Ride or Bested Ride? - Picture from Serenity
Best Ride or Bested Ride? – Picture from Serenity

Though it might be a little cliche, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t ask such a prominent member of the tech media at least one “tech” question. So, do you have any recommendations for readers of the site for what technology they might be able to use to help with their Disney Vacations?

I’ve been going to Disney parks all my life, but the iPhone era has definitely changed how I pack and plan for trips! After some experimentation, I have a pretty set list of tech to pack and apps to use:

  1. My iPhone 6s + Smart Battery Case (those parks eat battery life!)
  2. My Anker 10,000 battery pack (see point #1)
  3. Disney’s official app (a must for trip planning, fast pass reservations, and dining) (EDITOR’S NOTE: My Disney Experience)
  4. Offline Google Maps caches of the resort property (to save on data and battery)
  5. Heads Up! (Still the best line-waiting iPhone app.)
  6. My Apple Watch for fitness tracking and notifications; it also functions as a great remote Bluetooth shutter for my iPhone’s camera

Your tech needs may vary depending on your own Disney plans, but in general, you want to make sure you have enough battery for navigation, trip planning, and the occasional line-waiting game; a good, easy-to-reach place to grab your phone to capture those magic moments; and any apps you know you’ll want to mess around with while in the park.

I also strongly discourage posting to Instagram, Facebook, and the like while in the park — not only will it drain your battery and your data plan, but you might miss something fantastic while staring at your screen waiting for your photo to upload.

Wrap Up

A huge thank you to Serenity for agreeing to talk with us about Disney World, and a huge congratulations to her on her engagement!. If you want to read more from Serenity, you can find her writings on iMore (her review of the Apple Pencil is a fantastic place to start). If you want to her her talking about technology check out iMore Show and Apple Talk, and, or listen to her chat about pop / geek culture (and an assortment of related topics) at The Incomparable. (If you have any interest in mid-20th century-style radio dramas, check out The Incomparable Radio Theater, which Serenity directed.)

One of the many services offered at the Animal Kingdom - Picture from Serenity
One of the many services offered at the Animal Kingdom – Picture from Serenity
Disney Selfies are the Best Selfies - Picture from Serenity
Disney Selfies are the Best Selfies – Picture from Serenity

 

Thank you again to Serenity chatting with us. We really hope you like these interviews with people outside the standard Disney community, and we hope to bring more of them to you in the future!.

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

It’s time for another edition of the News Nuggets, and the biggest news of the past few days might be that the complete menus of the Epcot Food & Wine festival have been released. Thankfully, it looks like the chocolate truffle from last year is coming back.

Of course, there was a whole bunch of other Disney World news stories to cover, so let’s get right to the News Nuggets!

As you might imagine, there have been a bunch of ride-through / experience videos of the new attractions. I don’t think I’m going to watch any of them, but if you’re interested, here are a few:

I’ll end things, however, with a link to this timelapse video of “Magic Moments” at Disney World. Enjoy!!

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

Both here at Rope Drop [dot] Net HQ and throughout Orlando, the events of the last week the events of the last week+ still leave a lasting impression. Though we continue to mourn for all the lives that were lost, we are going to try and talk once again about a place that we (and probably a lot of you readers) love. There’s not real “good” approach to moving on from something like this, so we’re going to do a symbolic “reset” and clear the deck of all our pending News Nuggets (even if some may be a little out of date, now.) Here is what we’ve got:

That clears all the pending News Nuggets. Hopefully, the next couple of weeks will bring some better news.