Continuing from Part 1, where we’ll continue to look at one image from each of the various Walkabouts in 2011. About four images into Part 1, I realized that this wasn’t quite as entertaining or informative as I had envisioned in my brain. But I’ll persist because I’m stubborn.
August 16, 2011: Tower of Terror PhotoDownload at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Beginning in mid-August, Disney began offering new “PhotoDownloads” at certain attractions. As you may be aware, the on-ride photos are not usually available to add to the bundled Photopass card (Test Track being the current exception). In this instance, guests could purchase the rights to a .jpg image that would be delivered to them via the usual DisneyPhotopass.com website. This would allow you to post the image on Facebook, attach it to emails, print as many as you want, etc. Previously, on-ride photos were only available to purchase as prints.
Back to Portobello for lunch – this time the Black Linguine with Florida Rock Shrimp with tomatoes, garlic, and asparagus for $15.95. Now that Portobello is part of the 2012 Disney Dining Plan, I think we’ll be seeing more reviews of this and the other Downtown Disney restaurants. I thoroughly enjoyed lunch at Portobello, though dinner is much more expensive for similar offerings.
This is the Guest Relations window outside Hollywood Studios. It’s important in this context because Disney dramatically changed ticket policy on August 3, 2011. Previously, you could add days to your Magic Your Way theme park ticket at any time from the day the ticket was first used to 13 days after (for a total of 14 days). Beginning in the middle of August, guests had to purchase additional days by the time they ran out of “entitlements” on the ticket. In other words, if you bought a five day ticket and used all five days, you had to add a sixth day by the end of the fifth day. The key exception is when your tickets are attached to your Key to the World card (the name given to your room key). When your tickets are attached to the Key to the World card, you can add additional days within the 14-day window just as you could before. For a full explanation, see https://www.easywdw.com/news/new-disney-world-ticket-policy-going-into-effect-august-3-2011/. The changes were made to cut down on the illegal reselling of used tickets locally.
A nice walkthrough of the China Pavilion in Epcot and (a bad) lunch at Lotus Blossom Cafe. Not earth shattering, but pretty pictures (for this website).
Columbia Harbour House at Magic Kingdom unveiled a new menu at the end of August featuring several entrees that at least have the appearance of being healthy. Above is the Grilled Salmon with Steamed Broccoli and Couscous. Prices on most quick service items went up at the same time, including a 40 cent increase on fountain beverages. A fountain beverage now runs $2.49 for a regular and $2.89 for a large.
If you’d like to relive the Angus Pizza Burger, you’re going to have to click the link above. I would prefer to never see it again.
August 30, 2011: 2011 Magic Kingdom Halloween Decorations and Merchandise
A nice look at the first wave of Halloween decorations in Magic Kingdom and an in-depth look at most of the Halloween merchandise.
August 30, 2011: Quick Peek Into Magic Kingdom Today, General Crowd Update
Moving into September, crowds died down significantly. This is 1:30pm. Rewind a month and the posted wait would be 40-60 minutes.
Mmmmmmm, right? I had some bad luck on this Lobster Roll from Columbia Harbour House. Usually they are less runny than this.
August 31, 2011: “Premium Hot Dogs” at Fairfax Fare Review
[image censored] but you can see it here: https://www.easywdw.com/reports/nothotdog.jpg
I had an amusing run of bad food at the end of August, culminating in the “Not Hot Dog” at Fairfax Fare at Hollywood Studios. Somebody has to eat this stuff, right? I just don’t know why it always has to be me…
After ordering what seemed like “Blech On A Plate” for a month straight, this Macaroni & Cheese with Truffle Oil Gourmet Hot Dog was surprisingly “not terrible.” It’s basically a hot dog with Disney Macaroni and Cheese/Bacon Bits on top, but it certainly wasn’t bad. Even with a bag of chips it wasn’t a lot of food for $8.19, but it was edible.
Even during the “slow season,” the day of the week you choose to visit the various theme parks is still important. If anything, it’s actually more important during the “slow season” because crowd levels vary much more than when crowds are heavier. During the summer, Magic Kingdom is going to be “crowded” every single day. While recommended days see lower crowds and shorter wait times, it’s still “busy.” In September, it’s not uncommon for Magic Kingdom to see 30,000 people over the course of the day when it’s the “most recommended Park” and 60,000 people on a Saturday when it’s the “least recommended Park.” In the summer, we might see 50,000 people on a recommended Wednesday and 60,000 on a non-recommended Monday.
Tusker House began offering a character meal buffet at lunch on December 4th, in addition to its usual character breakfast. In your author’s opinion, Tusker House is one of the more underrated buffets on Disney property.
I managed to visit Epcot on the least crowded day of the year, a “Most Recommended Park Thursday.” This is at 3:30pm. We have FASTPASS return times just 40 minutes out and virtually no wait at Soarin’. Compare that to the busiest day of the year, December 31st, when FASTPASSes were gone before 11am and the standby wait was 200+ minutes most of the day.
As you can tell, the Monorail hours were a theme in 2011. Here, we have proof that Disney was willing and able to keep the Monorail running (providing it didn’t malfunction from natural causes) during the entirety of late-night events. In this instance, the Night of Joy ended at 1:30am and Disney ran the Monorail through at least 2:30am.
There were some questions as to whether security would be outwardly beefed up on September 11th. The answer was, “No, or at least it’s concealed well enough that you wouldn’t notice.” It was business-as-usual at bag check. Always carry your weapons and alcohol on your body as security will confiscate them from your bag.
A tour de force look at the first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. The Parties are a lot of fun, but the lines to meet many of the characters are atrociously long. We’re talking 90+ minutes to meet the Dwarfs, 60+ minutes to meet the Princesses with their Princes, 45+ minutes to meet Jack Sparrow, etc. However, attraction lines are super-short at most attractions for the entirety of the evening and the Fireworks and Parade are awesome.
September 15, 2011: The State of the Monorail – Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Edition
For the first several Mickey’s Halloween Parties, Disney tried to run the Express Monorail to the Ticket/Transportation Center through 8pm and the Resort Monorail to just 10:30pm. This caused a ton of complaints and some serious backups at the buses and boat dock at the end of the Party at 12am. After a few weeks, Disney relented and began running the Resort Monorail to 12:30am, in addition to offering the ferry and buses.
September 16, 2011: New Epcot Rope Drop Procedure – September 16 2011
Potentially even more inflammatory than the reduction in Monorail hours was Disney’s decision to cease the “rope drop show” at Epcot. If you had arrived prior to 9am before September 16th, you probably joined the masses out near the Fountain for a very brief “show” featuring characters that most people couldn’t see. After a minute or two of “the show,” the masses were unleashed on Soarin’. This caused several hundred people to jostle for position on the long walk over to the Land Pavilion. Then people crammed on to a narrow escalator or stairway to get down to the bottom floor to Soarin’s entrance. Beginning, September 16th, there was no rope drop show and no interior ropes. Disney opens the turnstiles at 8:45am and the staggered release of people through the entrance causes the walk over to Soarin’ to be much more peaceful and relaxing. As you can see above, there’s only a handful of people around. It’s a much more pleasant experience than it used to be.
September 17, 2011: Coronado Springs Resort Review etc.
An exhaustive review of the Coronado Springs Resort.
September 17, 2011: Walking From The Polynesian Resort To The Ticket And Transportation Center
A picture-walk from the Ticket/Transportation Center to the Polynesian Resort. If this doesn’t change your life, I don’t know what will!
Speaking of concerns based somewhere other than reality, there was concern that those entering through the International Gateway entrance between the France and United Kingdom Pavilions would be at a disadvantage under the “new rope drop procedure” because Soarin’ is further away. I tested out the theory by trudging over to the International Gateway from Hollywood Studios (pictures in the post above) in the wee hours of the morning. As it turned out, it was a very similar experience compared to entering through the main entrance. This is the Land Pavilion with Soarin’ on the lower level in the picture above. As you can see, there’s about 15 people in the entirety of the picture. To quote the post:
When I was at rope drop at the main entrance last Friday, I arrived at Soarin’ at 9:00am. Today, I arrived at 9:03am. Last Friday, I collected FASTPASSes with a return time of 9:36am. Today, my FASTPASS return time was 9:48am. Last Friday, I rode Soarin’ in the standby line and was back out front at 9:20am. Today, I was back out front at 9:24am. Had it not been for the film crew in the way, I probably would have gotten a FASTPASS with a slightly earlier return time, but still ended up on the same Soarin’ flight.
If this is what Primeval Whirl looks like when it’s open, you really wouldn’t want to see it closed, would you? Primeval Whirl closed on January 17th for “refurbishment.” In this case, “refurbishment” is code for “We’re waiting to find out how much the government is going to fine us over the death of a cast member.” It turned out to be $69,000. The attraction was originally scheduled to reopen on April 5th. Then June 2nd. Then September 15th. Half of it finally reopened on September 19th to absolutely no fanfare whatsoever, other than this website of course.
September 22, 2011: Rose & Crown Pub Lunch Review – A Bad Meal On Most Accounts – September 18 2011
If you’re wondering what a $9 egg looks like, look no further than this appetizer at Rose & Crown.
Rumors circulated around the Internet that the Canada Pavilion was about to see a major overhaul when some paperwork was filed with whoever paperwork is filed with. “The Man,” I’m assuming. Instead, Disney just decided to paint the Hotel Frontenac. Why not, right?
Rain is a major theme of this website, along with scotch and the Grand Floridian upgrade. It’s virtually always raining in Florida, which is probably why some smart guy named it the “Sunshine State” some time ago. The weather forecast almost always “predicts” rain four or more days in the future. Luckily, it usually rains for just an hour or so at a time around 3pm and again in the evening around 8pm. Rain that lasts any longer is relatively rare.
People love Castle Dream Lights on Cinderella Castle, but they hate the crane that puts them up in September.
Enjoy the concrete because we’re not going to see this few people in World Showcase until late November due to the overwhelmingly popularity of the Food and Wine Festival.
The first of many pictures of the cranberry bog in the middle of Future World set up for the Food and Wine Festival. Apparently, some sort of machine cuts the berries. Then they flood the area and the berries float. The berries are then gathered with some other machine. Science.
September 29, 2011: First Bites 2011 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Review and Pictures Part 1
Sometimes blogging about Walt Disney World is hard work. The First Bites Reception was not one of those times. For something like $200, all of the food you could eat and all the liquor you could drink was “free.” Let’s just say I got my money’s worth.
September 30, 2011: First Bites 2011 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Review and Pictures Part 2
The First Bites event was a reasonable value if you went to seriously eat and drink your way around the room. It included virtually all of the new items that would be available out in the Food and Wine Festival booths. At $3-$8 per food sample and $3-$10 per drink, you can really get your money’s worth. Wine and beer from various presenters were also available, including “unlimited” glasses of Moet champagne and bottles of Sam Adams Beer. Above is a picture of Taylor Dayne, who was performing for the Eat to the Beat Concert Series. She sung three songs in an intimate setting for anyone that wanted to see her. Afterward, she met with fans and signed autographs.
September 30, 2011: Popping Into Magic Kingdom – September 30 2011
Mickey-Face-Pretzels began appearing in Magic Kingdom in the late summer, then they disappeared for a few weeks, then they reappeared at the end of September. They are only available from this cart in Frontierland. Because of their popularity and the fact that they’re only available in one place, the pretzels tend to be fresher than those found at the other carts. They’re recommended, especially with a side of cheese sauce.
October 1, 2011: Magic Kingdom 40th Anniversary Pictures
The 40th Anniversary of the opening of Magic Kingdom turned out to be a bust in your author’s opinion. Above is the line for “limited edition” 40th Anniversary pins. The line winds all the way around the Diamond Horseshoe off to the right. Some people waited for hours and ended up without pins, while other people seemingly lucked into running into one later in the day. It was a busy day with really nothing special going on, other than a brief character parade with the usual characters and a short dedication featuring prominent members of the Walt Disney Company hierarchy. I chilled for a few hours and split.
The short answers to the question, “Is Epcot really that busy on the weekend during the Food and Wine Festival?” is, “Yes.” Saturdays during the Food and Wine Festival account for five of Epcot’s ten busiest days of the year in 2010 in terms of attendance. You want to avoid Saturdays at all costs.
I may have been more amused by the new wait times board at Epcot than anyone else. If you don’t see it above, it’s in the middle of the picture.
This. It’s so small that people tend to walk right up to it and just stand there six inches away, making it difficult for anyone behind them to see. Amusingly, Disney decided it would be wise to put up live tweets mentioning the Food and Wine Festival’s “hash tag” on the right hand side of the screen. This lasted for approximately one day. Your author takes much of the credit for that not working out quite like Disney had hoped.
Disney tested the FASTPASS system for Festival of the Lion King for two weeks at the beginning of October. Basically, you can pick up FASTPASSes for Festival of the Lion King before the start of the next show. The FASTPASSes are not tied to the rest of the system, meaning you can pick up FASTPASSes for any other attraction immediately after. For most FASTPASSes, you have to wait two hours or until the current FASTPASS is ready for use before you can collect a FASTPASS at another attraction.
At Festival of the Lion King, there is a separate line for those with FASTPASSes who will ultimately be let in before those without FASTPASSes. It seems entirely unnecessary since anyone with knowledge of the FASTPASS system could have collected FASTPASSes for the show had they been knowledgeable about how the system worked. FASTPASSes for Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo the Musical have only been available during the busiest weeks of the year, outside the various tests that may go on over the course of the year. We saw FASTPASSes available at Lion King and Nemo over Thanksgiving and the weeks before and after Christmas. Otherwise, they most likely won’t be available.
October 4, 2011: Quick Look into Animal Kingdom – October 4 2011
There was a bit of a “cupcake scare” at Kusafiri Bakery after they seemingly removed the unique cupcakes and other baked treats from the menu. As it turned out, Kusafiri begins offering the assorted unique treats at 11:30am when Disney switches out the menus.
If you’re wondering what 37 ingredients on a plate look like, this would be a good example. This is the food and drink served at one of the various culinary demonstrations at the Food and Wine Festival. The culinary demonstrations were my favorite part of the Festival because they were inexpensive (around $9), comfortable, relatively intimate, and you received a nice sized portion of whatever was being demoed on stage. While the on-state talent varied from the very unknown to the very famous, all of the demos were a good value.
The Griddled Cheese from the Greece Booth was one of the standout items at the Festival, in your author’s opinion. At $3.25, it was a decent value considering the size and quality of many of the other items.
A better value than this, also from the Greece booth for $4.25.
Recommended weekdays saw much lower crowds in the World Showcase than the weekend. This is around 3:30pm, so it’s primetime in the World Showcase with plenty of room to walk around and short lines at the booths.