big reds disney bootcamp

What to do at WDW when you don't want to go to a Park?

BLASPHEMY!! Yes, I said that terrible line that no one in their right mind would ever shutter and I should be ashamed of myself. OR SHOULD I? When you have been visiting Disney World for as long as I have, PLUS you are spending the day with a cast member, sometimes, you really don’t want to have lineups and crowds and scooters ramming into you.

So, we decided to do a few things we have not done in a very long time, seems to be a theme for this visit I suspect. Nonetheless, a late afternoon of playtime was exactly what was in store. First though, we had to pick up our shirts for Goofy’s Mystery Tour, more on that next week. ūüėČ ¬†We were bound for Downtown Disney¬†and I was starting to get rumblies in my tumblies…….for two people with Gluten Allergies and we were on Disney property, the choices were endless. We had just visited the Boardwalk last week trying Kouzzina’s for the very first time so we jumped at the opportunity to return to the Boardwalk and head just past Kouzzina’s and grab a bite at the ESPN Club.

Chef Michael came out, we chatted briefly about the afternoon possibilities, my brother Bob & I both going for the Philly Cheese steak sandwich. I have never had one, was briefly IN Philadelphia when I was flying here actually but no cheese steak was consumed. Today was the day, AND it was gluten-free so I was delighted. Not to mention, with the plethora of TV’s inside, we were surrounded by options. Being the great Canadian gal that I am, NHL playoff’s were on, Nashville and Phoenix were having an afternoon game, WHICH Nashville lost may I add…..BOOOO!!! Another time though. Bob was getting into a British “football” game, along with half of the restaurant because there was some pretty spirited guests.
But with lunch over and it was pretty late in the afternoon, I made the recommendation to head over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for some critter time. Now, Bob works at Boma, which is conveniently located inside the Lodge, and when your off work, you want to stay as far away as possible, but he agreed that we would be exploring OUTSIDE and not in.
Kidani- the newest section of the Resort, nestled among the extended Savannah that Disney has created for our incredible creatures. I was extremely excited to see what the extension looked like. I had stayed at the Resort years back, had a Savannah view, but I was about to experience something new. We walked from the Jambo House, the main part of the Lodge to see what was happening. Lush greenery and tropical flowers were with us every step of the way. As we arrived, we ran into a very special friend of mine with whom I never expected to see. One of my leaders from my time working at Le Cellier at the Canadian Pavilion was luckily just transferred over to Animal Kingdom Lodge and as we entered Kidani, Carolyn was square in our sites. I briefly had mentioned to Bob we should have called ahead to see if she was here, but he reassured me that it was late and she was probably gone for the day. To my luck though, she was not, actually JUST heading out the door and my Pixie Dust was working because it was meant to be for sure. Carolyn spotted us before I spotted her as my eyes were adjusting from the light coming side the building. Plus, I was taking a look at my surroundings. What an incredible site it was. Another giant space filled with African inspired artifacts, masks, costumes, animals and some friendly faces indeed.

After my lovely visit and plans for another get together, Bob & I ventured outside to the viewing area to take a closer look. With the guidance of one fascinating cast member from South Africa, we were lead on an amazing journey with some pretty cool guests. Giraffes walking the Savannah in search of snacks was the first thing that caught my eye. Our lovely guide explained the finer points of what they eat and growth. These two little guys were fairly new to the reserve and were growing very nicely. Zebra’s were my next spotting. Did you know that in the wild, when they run, they are grouped together and all you see is flashes of white and black, sometimes brown which confuses predators? Some ostrich’s roamed around as well adding to my delight. It was early evening at this point and the heat of the day starting to retreat and provided us the opportunity to have some great viewings. We traveled up into the library of Kidani which also provided a bird eye view of the Resort. With rooms spanning around the Savannah, no wonder Disney guests and Disney’s Vacation Club Members chose this as their favorite. It was certainly an experience I will not soon forget.

Bob decided as we headed off, said our good byes to our South African cast member who provided us a very special look at Kidani and the Savannah, Jumbo House was our next stop. Now, I have been here many, many times and it brings me such joy to enter. A sprawling Lodge with towering beams with light streaming in every nook and cranny, makes for one impressive entrance. There is one thing to say about the folks from South Africa, they are friendly. I mean they are genuine and continuously smiling and extremely helpful. They are one extremely proud bunch. What a fantastic way for Disney to showcase the culture than to bring in men and women? Seaters, Greeters, Escorts, you name it, they are everywhere and always there with a smile and some interesting information for you.
We took sometime to tour around Jumbo House, which if your still wondering what Jumbo means, in Swahili it means literally Hello or Welcome. Jumbo House, or Welcome House is the front lobby area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The art is overwhelmingly beautiful, masks and costumes everywhere on display, there are wood carvings and tributes everywhere and trust me, if you get the chance to, skip off to the Lodge and take a peak, you won’t regret my advice.
We needed something to quench our thirst after our trip through the Savannah so we headed over to the Victoria Falls Bar. When you have reservations for either Boma or Jiko at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you will have the opportunity to walk right past the bar. Everything is downstairs but you have a fantastic chance to meander down towards the restaurants. Beautiful surroundings, waterfalls and rock formations and beautiful wood are everywhere. When we got to the bar, I found that one of my favorite bartenders was working and oh what a surprise was¬†for him.
Dustin is a familiar face behind the bar, he has actually been at the Lodge for some time, although he looks like he isn’t even old enough to be out of school yet. Warm smile and a talent for pulling together something fabulous, he made some pretty inspiring recommendations for us. A spotted lemur was recommended as I have a love for sweet beverages, and my brother had a tasty martini. Dustin and I caught up, the bar was slightly starting to fill up so Bob & I happily sat at the bar chatting and watching the people around us. As we did, we saw one of Bob’s leaders coming upstairs with some pretty exciting news for Dustin.
 You see, at Disney, they want to showcase and recognize their talent, each Month, guests and our peers alike have the opportunity to create magic for the cast. By taking a moment to recognize incredible service, a helping hand or a fantastic experience you have had, Disney offers a Guest Fanatic Award, This is for service excellence and anyone can fill one out. When you do, they go directly to that cast members leader and are then documented in our files and then distributed back to the cast member. Imagine how you would feel receiving this whilst at work? Not only do they do that, but they collect them monthly and award someone extra special. Much like an employee of the month, Disney offers extra special perks for being a Guest Fanatic Monthly Award winner. A prime parking spot, $75 Disney Dollar to be spent anywhere on property and a certificate from the President of Disney and your Area Leaders. You are also thrown into the pot for the yearly draw. I can proudly say, that for the Month of July 2007 I was the Epcot Guest Fanatic Award recipient. Dustin certainly deserved this and I was proud to be there when he was presented his award. Way to go Dustin!!
When we finished our delicious beverages, we said our goodbyes and continued downstairs for another extra special surprise. Another one of my former leaders, Vicki Thompson was also lucky enough to be offered a transfer to the Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge but as an Area Leader in Jiko. We decided it had been far to long since I saw Vicki so we inquired with our friend Rumbi, a greeter at Jiko if she was available. I wanted to surprise her of course so Rumbi was a great sport and offered a diversion to get Miss Vicki to the front of the restaurant. What a great surprise it was. Vicki was delighted to see me, we spent some time chatting and catching up and the offer to share another catch up prior to my departure from Florida was made and we were soon our our way again. Vicki had a fantastic outlook, we shared some amazing laughs and a promise I would see her soon.
All in all, my visit to the Animal Kingdom Lodge was a success. Surprise visits from some truly inspiring women, some awesome animals and to witness someone being recognized for his hard work and determination at work…priceless as they say.There is truly a plethora of things to do outside the actual Parks at Walt Disney World so my question is, where are YOU going to explore today? Your only limits are your imagination. There are so many fun and interesting things to do here, go be inspired yourself.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have an African bottle of wine that needs my attention and photos to go through to remind me of the wicked day I just had. So, until next time, TTFN!!

 

Tracey

Allergies……can we even THINK about traveling to Disney with them?

ABSOLUTELY!! I know that in today’s society, it seems as though Allergies are truly not the uncommon but the norm. That’s right, the norm. It is incredible to see the amount of studies conducted lately showing some pretty serious numbers. From the famous nut allergy in children to the substantial growth of the gluten allergy, everyone has to make revisions when it comes to menu’s. Walt Disney World is certainly no exception. They ARE actually THE exception to the rule, they treat allergies with the highest regard. But don’t take MY word for it. Go and see for yourself.

Now, since you have been reading my contributions week after week, I know that you have already sat down at that computer and did some pretty intense investigation. GOOD FOR YOU!! I am happy that I was the one that inspired such a task. You have looked up which Resort you wanted to stay at, you know all the things to pack, you even are thinking of jumping aboard the new Disney Cruise Lines’ ships and ready to hit the open seas. But alas, you have an allergy. Here’s a list of helpful advice for you:

  1. When booking your reservations for dining at 407-W-DINE after looking through the plethora of absolutely tasty locations, tell the reservations assistant that you HAVE AN ALLERGY!! This is important to start the ball rolling. Let them know, they have been trained for this type of situation, trust me. They are more than delighted to help you.
  2. When arriving at your restaurant of choice, check in and once sat, PLEASE TELL YOUR SERVER!!¬† There is nothing more frustrating for a server to have your guests FORGET TO MENTION YOU HAVE A SHELLFISH ALLERGY and you wonder up to the buffet in Boma and sit down to a scrumptious plate of food and wonder why your tongue is starting to swell. Listen, Walt Disney takes allergies SO seriously that a server can be REPRIMANDED for NOT including the allergy when inputting your orders. Trust me, I should know, I was also written up for it. ūüėČ I underline the word ALMOST too! Tell them, it is only going to help YOU in the end and we want you to have the best, safest and well…..most MAGICAL vacation ever.
  3. Once you have told your server, the chef is actually going to come out and speak to you. ( I told you they were serious didn’t I). Once the chef comes to the table, they will introduce themselves and go over the menu with you to explain options you may have and I can certainly tell you from my own personal experiences, they will even go so far as to CREATE your very own dish sometimes to help with your allergy. It is NEVER a BURDEN so please never think of it that way. You may have to wait a little longer for your food to be prepared, but that is just Disney ensuring all the precautions are being made to prepare and serve it in a healthy environment.
  4. When at a quick service location,¬†you know the ones at the Park’s that are not a sit down experience, they will also have options, JUST ASK!! Prime example- my brothers and I all have Gluten allergies- I mean it DOES run in families right? ūüėČ Anyways, we were at Magic Kingdom last week and we were starving. It was well after 1:30 and we needed something to get us through till dinner and quickly because hey, there was a 3pm parade I HAD to attend. Anyways, we stopped at Cosmic Ray’s. This is a quick service location and we knew all we had to do was ask and someone would speak to us. As I mentioned above, the chef will come out, now normally when your making burgers, there really isn’t a need for a chef so you will normally have a Manager or Leader of some sort visit you. Extremely helpful and in a flash, we ordered grilled chicken sandwich’s on GF buns, they will even do french fries specifically for GF people so not to worry folks.
  5. Children have special needs and Disney is the first to ALWAYS PUT YOU FIRST!! I know there are always opportunities for bumps along the way but they are committed to making your experiences a magical one. The little ones have options as well. The chefs are actually very excited to come and talk to the little ones. They know that they are intimidating, heck when I first met our chef’s whilst working at Le Cellier in the Canadian Pavilion, I was TERRIFIED of them. They have all become quite close friends actually. They will get down on the kids level, chat with them, ask their names and what exactly they like to eat. Forget the broccoli and turnips, they can create MAGIC.


I hope that you also realize that Disney Cruise Lines has also been included into this mix. For example, my brothers are actually on the Inaugural Disney Fantasy cruise and with their Gluten allergy they are WELL taken care of. I have heard many times of them boarding and finding extra treats extended to them because they couldn’t eat things like chocolate chip cookies or breads. They have had plates of GF brownies stuck inside their cabin as they were out enjoying themselves and have returned to find their little treats. It makes a HUGE impact and I can tell you that I for one have been a several cruises and the servers and cast members have taken special care of me.
Here is a quick story, my brother’s were celebrating with a family that were entirely GF and there was a wedding anniversary during the cruise. It happened to fall on the day at Castaway Cay. What do you do? Stay on the ship because you can’t enjoy BBQ with everyone else? NO WAY!! The cast and chef’s had created a private and very special celebration for everyone. They specifically made everything GF for the entire bunch. Hamburgers and grilled chicken and brownies and everything you could think of for an afternoon BBQ feast.
Worrying about allergies should be the absolute last thing on your mind when you travel. As you have seen, Disney has taken ever avail accommodation to ensure your trip starts and finishes HEALTHY and HAPPY!! So, get going, Go have fun. EAT.
Now, please excuse me again, I have a wee reservation at California Grill with my friend chef Brian as seen above and I think he is going to create something fabulous for us for dinner and I think that we will go outside on the terrace to watch Wishes so I had better get going.

Until next time everybody…….TTFN

Off to a Disney Cruise? Wanna know a secret….

OK, you have probably already been informed that Disney has in fact released ANOTHER new ship. This past weekend on March 31st, will hold a special date in the hearts of many who have been waiting for her release. Disney Cruise Lines set sail on the Inaugural cruise for The Disney Fantasy.¬†Now, much like my previous post about Disney Cruise Lines and their fleet……The Fantasy holds some pretty special magic of her own. Continue reading

Must have items for any Disney Trip

MARCH BREAK ALERT- you’ve decided to book your trip, you’ve done your research and you have everything all paid for but now your left with¬†last-minute details which of course includes the possible disastrous task of PACKING!!!¬†Now I realize that this could be a daunting task, and really, do you know WHAT to pack?¬†Please remember that this is NOT the¬†list for folks WITH¬†small children ok, that one will come later. ¬†Here are the top 10 items I recommend bringing for your trip to Disney: Continue reading

Big Red's Disney Bootcamp: The Myth and Truth's of Hidden Mickey's

I am sure that you have heard about the mysterious Hidden Mickey’s. I also bet you have probably wondered what they actually are. There has even been, in recent years, an almost cult like following to find new ones throughout Disney Parks.

I can even admit that I even given¬†into the obsession to find them. I have even purchased a copy of the very popular book by Mr. Steven Barrett to familiarize myself with the crazy sweeping the population. Wikipedia has even dedicated a page to the entire subject. There’s even an app for that!
Hidden Mickey Book¬†Now, I cannot find dates when they started to create them, but what I can say is there are Hidden Mickey’s in the Snow White Movie so they have been around since 1937 when the movie was released.¬†This is big business and is pretty fun trying to locate them. Look on rocks, bridles for the horses on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, every Resort, motion pictures, TV series, cruise lines. You name it, there most likely will be a Hidden Mickey somewhere.

Now, cheating as I have in the past, the book is very helpful for the beginner to get you familiar with them but once you have located a few yourself, it is so much fun running around trying to find others not listed in the books. However, I can with all certainty tell you that this has been going on for a very long time and everyone knows all about them. If you’re lucky, you can even ask a Cast Member wherever you may be and see if they know of any in that particular location.¬†At our Canadian¬†Pavilion, we can even tell you that if you look up, WAAAAAAAY UP on one of our totem poles, you will even see a Hidden Mickey if you look closely. It was even a special task for us in Le Cellier, the amazing Canadian steakhouse to create Hidden¬†Mickey’s for our guests.

There are deliberate ones, like I just mentioned, but thousands of ones that have been secretly placed in some pretty incredible places. Snow White movie…….you see it? Ummmmm can you imagine a GIANT one in Hollywood Studio’s that can only be seen from the skies? (Note, this was before the giant Sorcerer Hat was added.)

How about in WISHES the nighttime spectacular fireworks high above?

Animal Kingdom Lodge towering over you whilst you check-in?
Maelstrom, Norway’s boat ride in EPCOT, while you wait in line?

Hollywood Studio’s………from the manhole covers on the ground to the front of most of the cars in the afternoon parades to the outside the buildings down Hollywood¬†Boulevard, they are everywhere.

Even the Water Parks are getting into the act with splash pools and if you look at the lifeguard stands, you might find one in the least expected places and those, those are the most¬†coveted¬†ones.¬†No matter where you go, what you’re watching, be on the look out for these hidden gems.¬†It is a fun little game you can join in, it’s a FREEBIE and gives you something extra to do whilst waiting in a queue line somewhere.¬†Don’t be surprised i[warning][/warning]f you find others walking around the Parks with a little book to assist them in hunting down the elusive Hidden Mickey. ¬†Good luck locating your own.

Now, I have to go, I have an exciting day at Blizzard Beach Water Park ahead of me and I hear that there is a Hidden Mickey at Mt.Gushmore I need to find.
Until next time:
TTF

Tracey

Big Red's Disney Bootcamp: 2011 Review and what's new for 2012

‘Tis the season to review what the last 12 months has offered and Theme Park Canuck is certainly not going to be left behind so I am going to take the opportunity to review what amazing and well……magical things Disney has certainly accomplished in 2011 and what exciting things are in store for us in 2012. In no particular order:

1. Star Tours Refurbishment

Star Tours 2.0

Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World provided their guests a long awaited referb and update.  Bringing all the magic and thrills of Star Wars back to the forefront. More than 50 stories themes are being offered in 3D.  New characters and worlds will offer the chance to fight alongside of some of our beloved characters.  I actually enjoyed my time in October with Darth Vader who joined me on my quest.
2. Aulani
Aulani
Nestled on the Island of Oahu, the brand new shiny Vacation Club Resort is a masterpiece of all that is Disney. 360 Hotel rooms & 481 Vacation Club suites collaborating the customs and cultures of the Island and the magic of Disney. Aulani is the newest destination offering incredible views, experiencing and a chance to explore the lands.   21 enchanting acres in fact,  filled with snorkeling lagoons, grand villas and an abundance of Pixie Dust.   You may even find Mickey & Minnie in grass skirts somewhere out on a beach as the sun sets if you really look closely.
3. Avatarland
Avatar Land
¬†James Cameron’s movie about a fantasy world will be joining the Disney family in 2013 but was announced earlier this year causing some major excitement.¬† Several acres of land¬† in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park will offer attractions, entertainment, the¬†amazing animatronics Disney has been accustom to delighting us with.¬†¬†¬†With a reported $500 Million dollar budget, Pandora is going to give guests an incredible look inside this fantasyland.
4.¬†The Disney Dream- Disney Cruise Line’s Newest addition
Aqua Duck on Disney Fantasy & Dream
Jan 26,2011 was the maiden voyage for this youngster in the Disney Cruise Lines fleet.  The Dream offers 4000 passengers the opportunity to sail on the state of the art masterpiece. and is, just some trivia for you, is the 10th largest ship in the world currently.  11 night clubs and lounge, kids and teens areas and the most impressive dining in the fleet thus far.  A plethora of sporting options, a basketball court, a mini-golf course and the glowing piece DE la resistance, the Aqua Duck. The 765 foot long water coaster is exhilarating to say the least and everyone will have to take a whirl.
6. Carsland
Cars Land
This brand new, super detailed land is scheduled to debut at Disney California Adventure this coming summer. Look for brand new attractions and ways to interact with the characters from Cars like never before. This is the biggest expansion in DCA’s history, all part of the 1 billion they are spending to fix the former retail & dining oriented park and turn it into a full day park worthy of the Disney name.
5. New Fantasyland
New Fantasyland
In a two stage process, Walt Disney World will offer some fantastic new attractions and restaurants that haven’t been seen in some time. Two new rides, Under the Sea- Journey of the Little Mermaid and The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster.¬† A new castle which the Beast will inhabit and the second castle for the Park. The 550 seat “Be our Guest” sit down restaurant will also be a welcomed addition. Dumbo will just be moved slightly double in capacity, unofficially dubbed “Dueling¬†Dumbos.” ¬†The expansion has disturbed Fantastyland for much of the year but will be well worth the wait.
All in all, Disney Parks offered more than I could possibly include in this blog but that means that you have more exciting things to see and do at Disney Parks.  As a New Year is about to commence, I wish for prosperity and joy and a lifetime of happiness to all that read this blog.  2012 is proving to be an incredible year with so many things to explore at the Parks so get out there and find your own magic.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a date with the Fairy Godmother and I don’t want to keep her waiting because my slippers are only good for……well, you know the story I’m sure. ūüėČ

Happy New Year’s!!

So until next time, TTFN!!

Tracey