Thursday, March 27, 2014

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is Breathtaking

While the Wilderness Lodge isn’t my favourite Disney resort (you can read about the Caribbean Beach Resort in my next blog post) it is stunning and the most economical of Disney’s deluxe resorts. When you enter the cavernous, eight-story high lobby, themed in style and décor that is designed to evoke the spirit of the great US national parks, you can’t help but pause to take a closer look. Prominent in one corner is the massive stone fireplace that rises through all eight stories and out the roof of the main lodge. There are several comfortable lounge and rocking chairs in front of the large fireplace. Nearby is the bubbling spring that starts in the lobby, passes under a glass wall to the outdoors, then flows through the gardens until it becomes a waterfall that plunges into the Silver Creek Springs pool. The pool area has hot and cold whirlpool spas, a waterslide, and a large family-friendly pool. Adults may want to retreat to the quieter Hidden Springs pool tucked a short walk away behind a sound-dampening row of trees.

When my mom came to visit me this summer, we spent two weeks at the Wilderness Lodge. While she was hoping for a more “princess themed” resort experience, we couldn’t beat the location and amenities of the Wilderness Lodge. As one of just four Magic Kingdom resorts, the Wilderness Lodge is only a ten-minute boat ride to the theme park where I worked and boats came every 10-15 minutes giving me a much shorter commute to work than the staff busses. In addition to the pools there is a general store, lots of walking trails and bike rentals. In the evening, you can view the classic (aka old fashioned) Electrical Water Pageant from the resort beach, roast marshmallows over a campfire, and beachside movies are shown each evening on a large inflatable screen. The rooms echo the theming of the resort so expect lots of wood and dark colours. All rooms have a balcony complete with a small table and two chairs and the higher your floor, the better the view. Some rooms offer views of the nightly fireworks from the Magic Kingdom. This is a large resort so expect a long walk from your room to the boat dock and to the restaurants.

We didn’t visit the fine dining restaurant (Artist Point). We ate most often at the quick service restaurant called Roaring Fork. There is a large indoor dining area as well as a number of tables and chairs outside between the hotel and the pool area. This is the location where you can purchase and fill your refillable mugs throughout your stay. The Roaring Fork offers both hot and cold options at breakfast, lunch and dinner with dinner specials that change daily, great soups and a truly awesome chili. They have a signature Wilderness Salad that is meal sized and worth a try. We occasionally ate at the moderate table service restaurant called Whispering Canyon Café. This is considered a “unique/themed” dining experience and the servers work hard to entertain guests during your meal. The serving staff play games and create challenges between tables and there is a long-standing joke that takes place whenever someone asks for ketchup. If you’ve been there to see it, leave a comment and share your experience below.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

5 Things I Miss Most About Working at Disney World

1. The people. CPs stick together forever! Rueben, Chris, Nancy, Amy, Ashley, Jonathan, and ANDRE! There are many others but there isn't enough room in the post to list them. I miss my closest friends from Florida and the fun we used to have together at our apartments, in Downtown Disney, in the theme parks on our days off, and at work in Tomorrowland. It makes my heart hurt to think of how less than a year ago we were all together, complaining about the hot and rainy weather, the mean guests we would occasionally encounter, and the awful and always late busses.

2. Knocking on the door. It's a safety thing. Some doors backstage open both ways and I can't tell you how many times knocking on the door saved me from getting a broken nose this summer. Sometimes I knock on the door out of habit today when I'm at work or school and it takes me right back to Tomorrowland.

3. Walking around the park after-hours when there are no guests around. Quiet, peaceful, eerie, and just plain cool, there is nothing more awesome for a super Disney fan than walking around the park as though you're the last person on earth (and sometimes it really felt that way).

4. Free admission into any Disney theme park in the world. C'mon, that's pretty self-explanatory.

5. Push, the talking trash can. He was a unique character exclusive to Tomorrowland in The Magic Kingdom, and now he's gone. Disney's contract with the robot's creator ended and it appears as though Push won't be coming back. I wonder how his girlfriend Pullina feels about that? #BringBackPush

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Friday, March 14, 2014

"Please stand clear of the doors. Por favor manténganse alejado de las puertas."

Taking the monorail is a great way to get around Walt Disney World. If you are looking for a relaxing way to spend a bit of time in the middle of a jam-packed theme park day or if you don’t plan on going to a park but still want to enjoy your day seeing the sights of Disney, consider spending time riding the monorail.

The monorail is one of the prime methods of transportation for shuttling guests from the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) to the parks or to move guests to and from selected hotels to the parks and back. It is also a no-cost way to sight-see during your Disney vacation. There is no limit to the number of times you can hop on and off the monorail in a single day.

There are three monorail lines: Resort Hotels, Magic Kingdom express and Epcot express.

1. Resort Hotels travels in a loop from the TTC to the Polynesian Resort, the Grand Floridian Resort, the Magic Kingdom Park and the Contemporary Resort before returning to the TTC. If you want to see the most iconic Disney hotels, the monorail is a great way to do it. Each hotel has a monorail station themed to match the hotel. I recommend lunch at the Contemporary Resort’s Contempo Café, afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian and a self-serve, all you can fit in the bowl Dole Whip at the Polynesian. All of the hotel grounds are beautiful so there is lots to see when you visit. If you are on the Disney dining plan, you can use your meal credits at the hotels as well.

2. Magic Kingdom has an “express line” and travels from the TTC directly to the Magic Kingdom and back. If you park at the TTC and want to get to the Magic Kingdom as fast as possible, or back to your car just as fast at the end of the day, this is the line to take.

3. Epcot has another “express line” and travels from the TTC to Epcot and back. This is my favourite monorail line because it travels over a part of the Epcot theme park and around the iconic globe of Spaceship Earth in its centre. The best time of day to take the Epcot monorail is just before the nightly Illuminations as you can see the show and fireworks from the monorail as you travel.

Each train is identified by one of twelve unique colour codes and I heard this summer that some guests play a challenge game where they try to ride all twelve of the different coloured trains in a single day. This summer, two of the monorails were used as traveling billboards with one wrapped with a promotion of Monsters University and another one promoting Iron Man 3.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Disney's "Four Keys"

I learned a lot at Traditions last summer.

During the famous full day of training known as Traditions, I learned about the history of Disney, the different parks, specifically The Magic Kingdom since that where I was working, and the utilidors and how to manuever through them.

But the most important thing I learned that day was Disney's Four Keys. At every meeting and training session, and on every poster and sign-up sheet, there is at least one key that makes its way onto the page or into the presentation. They're so ingrained into everything that Disney and its cast members do.

The ordering of the keys is also very important. Before anything else, safety is the most important in every situation. When helping a guest, working backstage in the stock rooms, and even taking a break in the staff room, safety comes first.

Courtesy! Oh my gosh, I know so many people who would rather work for Universal Studios down the road than Walt Disney World just because of this key. Courtesy is second to safety but is a lot harder to carry-out sometimes. Sometimes it is hard to be courteous to guests who are being out-right mean or won't leave you alone because they want free stuff, and their friend got free stuff, and they read online that they could get free stuff if they asked nicely, and they just can't understand why you aren't giving them any free stuff, and they're going to speak to a manager if you keep ruining the magic of their vacation by not giving them free stuff.

Show. This one makes a lot of sense, especially for an entertainment company like Disney. The park needs to look good, the cast members need to be 'stage ready', and nothing can ruin the illusion. For example, someone who works in Tomorrowland wearing their space-themed costume woud get terminated if they were seen stepping into New Fantasy Land. You just can't do it. Even when collecting strollers at the end of the night when the whole park has been cleared of guests, cast members still have to stay in their land.

And efficiency. Simple enough. Don't be wasteful and do things quickly.

So those are the Four Keys. Another topic I may talk about in a later post is "Safe-D Begins With Me". Look forward to it!

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