Inside the Magic – Expedition Everest

Since we cannot be at Disney World right now, let’s take a look at some of the things that make it so special.IMG_1761

Expedition Everest is one of my favorite atractions in all of Disney World! 

The adventure begins in Asia at Disney’s Animal Kingdom,  join the Expedition Everest team and embark on a trek through Anandapur. The trail leads visitors to the village of Serka Zong, which means “fortress of the chasm.” The Royal Anandapur Tea Company shipped its tea by train from Serka Zong through the Forbidden Mountain pass. The railroad was closed after several mysterious accidents, rumored to be from the hand of a Yeti. Today, the village of Serka Zong is thriving again thanks to the efforts of local entrepreneurs. The Himalayan Escapes, Tours and Expeditions company has partially refurbished the railway and now offers transportation for adventurers to the base camp at Mt. Everest.

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Imagineers traveled to Nepal and surrounding areas to research local culture, architecture, food, and the legend of the Yeti. This massive feat was accomplished by building the ride track and the mountain completely independent of the other. The track and mountain never touch and were both built with superstructures that do not dependent on each other. When the attraction opened, the Yeti was the biggest, most advanced audio-animatronics figure to ever be created. He stands a whopping 25 ft tall and has the potential to move his entire body an astounding 5 ft horizontally in a few seconds flat. The figure was constructed to sit atop a 46 ft tall independent concrete base meant to hold its weight while allowing the beast to swoop down on passing train vehicles, terrifying riders and confirming the legends’ truth. Of couse, he hasn’t worked as he was meant to since that firt year, 2006. No explanation has ever been given as to why and stobe lights and fans to make his fur move have been put in place as a Plan B. 

The queue for the ride is pretty incredible itself, try to take in as much detail as you can. The statutes featured outside, the flags hanging, the clothing in the cases, even the currency in the photos is all spot on with the Indian culture that exists at the base of the real Everest.

Building a Thrill Ride

Intestesting documentary on the building of Expedition Everest.

Fun Facts

  • The Forbidden Mountain’s rocky peaks and distinctive face are based upon the actual northwest face of Mount Everest.
  • More than 2,000 handcrafted items of wood, stone, and metal supplied by artisans in Asia are featured in the attraction.
  • At 199 feet, Expedition Everest is the tallest mountain at any Disney park.
  • The steam rising from the train after it pulls into the loading area actually comes from steam vents underneath the train station! These create the effect of an actual steam powered engine but the steam isn’t water-based to prevent rusting.
  • Expedition Everest reaches a top speed of 50 mph!
  • Notice the many hairbands thrown on the mountain when you stop at the broken track! It’s a weird tradition to throw hairbands here.

 

Climb aboard, let’s go to the base of Mt. Everest!

Inside the Magic – Peter Pan’s Flight

Since we cannot be at Disney World right now, let’s take a look at some of the things that make it so special.

The attraction is inspired by Walt Disney’s 1953 animated classic, Peter Pan, which in turn was based on J.M. Barrie’s play and book of the same name about a 12-year old boy who refuses to grow up.

images (1)Board your pirate galleon and follow Peter Pan as he beckons you to join him on the flight of a lifetime. Wave goodbye to Nana and join the Darling children on a gentle cruise over London, where Big Ben and Tower Bridge light up the night sky.

Descend into Never Land between glowing volcanoes and sparkling waterfalls. As you swoop into Pirate’s Cove, there’s danger ahead!

Can Peter Pan defeat the dastardly Captain Hook and return his young companions safely to London? Or will someone meet an untimely end… in the jaws of a ticking crocodile?

Set Sail Across the Sky

Peter Pan’s Flight was one of the original rides at Disneyland to open with the park in 1955. Magic Kingdom’s version opened two days after the park’s grand opening.

Imagineers Bill Justice and Bill Martin worked on the Magic Kingdom attraction. Peter Pan’s Flight opened with features that the Disneyland version didn’t have yet.  This included the newest Audio-Animatronics and even had the Indians, Lost Boys and Pirates, oh my! It was similar to Disneyland’s ride, but with some upgraded effects.

Peter Pan’s Flight Fun Facts

  • You are only 17 feet off the ground while flying through Peter Pan’s Flight. The tiny-sized models below give you the effect of flying high in the sky!
  • Magic Kingdom’s version of Peter Pan’s Flight now has an interactive queue and travels inside Wendy, John and Michael’s bedrooms.
  • Look for a hidden word in the nursery scene’s blocks. You might see “Disney” spelled out.
  • Disneyland’s pirate ships stop at the platform to load, but Magic Kingdom’s ships are on an Omnimover system so they move continuously.
  • They use tiny styrofoam balls and blow air on them to make the volcano in Never Land seem like its bubbling.
  • The lights that you see in the city below are simply fluorescent dots on the floor, with black lights shining on them.

Let’s fly! 

 

 

Inside the Magic – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Since we cannot be at Disney World right now, let’s take a look at some of the things that make it so special.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was one of the first Disney rides to utilize computer-aided design. The attraction first opened at Disneyland in 1979, and the Magic Kingdom’s larger version opened in 1980.IMG_3222_original

The Story Behind the Mountain

Once a working mine during America’s Gold Rush, there was gold found deep within Big Thunder Mountain in Red Rock Canyon. Almost overnight, the town of Tumbleweed became a thriving mining town. Barnabas T. Bullion established the Big Thunder Mining Company to go after the gold. Barnabas was born into a powerful East Coast family, so naturally, he thought it was his very right to claim the gold inside the mountain.

Big Thunder Mountain was protective of its gold and would curse anyone who dared try to take it. Miners would hear ghostly sounds, strange events occurred, including cave-ins and equipment failure. On a stormy night, a flash flood completely wiped out the town, destroying the mining company. Rumors has it Professor Cumulus Isobar, a rainmaker, brought the flood to Tumbleweed. If you look carefully, you might spot a mysterious machine with Cumulus’ name on it during your ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad travels through an empty ghost mine and rushes riders through the canyons, caverns, abandoned mine shaft and the ghost town of Tumbleweed! Barnabas, however, is still trying to dig and find gold inside Big Thunder Mountain, despite the warnings and curses from the mountain. Spooky!

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Big Thunder Fun Facts:

  • As you whiz past the Gold Dust Saloon in the town of Tumbleweed, you can spot the “Wildest Party in the West” happening on the second floor.
  • The setting of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was inspired by Monument Valley in Arizona.
  • A miner in his pajamas can be seen relaxing in a bathtub.
  • The attraction’s top speed is 36 miles per hour and has a 40-inch height requirement.
  • There are 3 lifts (two indoor and one outdoor) on the roller coaster.
  • The trains from Disneyland’s version were used in the mine chase sequence in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!”

Climb aboard the Wildest Ride in the West…

Your rip-roaring adventure proves that some legends are true. You’re sure to have a real blast!

Inside the Magic – Pirates of the Caribbean

Since we cannot be at Disney World right now, let’s take a look at some of the things that make it so special.

Today let’s take on another classic, Pirates of the Caribbean.

A Pirate’s Life for You

Board a weathered barge for a treacherous voyage to the 17th century, when rowdy rogues and ruthless rapscallions ransacked Caribbean seaport towns. Sing along as pirates serenade you with their anthem, “Yo Ho, Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me).”

Sail past haunted Dead Man’s Cove. Navigate cannon fire between a Caribbean fort and a striking 12-gun galleon. Behold boisterous buccaneers drunk on the spoils of plunderin’ as flames engulf a seaside town.

Be sure to keep a spry eye out for Captain Jack Sparrow, from The Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

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Magic Kingdom’s Pirate’s of the Caribbean attraction in Adventureland opened on December 15, 1973. This classic Disney ride first opened at Disneyland on March 18, 1967. It’s a boat ride, but when the idea first came about (sometime in the 1950s), the attraction was going to be a walkthrough wax museum!

Pirates of the Caribbean was the last ride Walt Disney himself actually oversaw and worked on before his death in December of 1966. Unfortunately, Walt passed away three months before the boat ride was finished, so he never saw the final product.

The ride inspired the popular film series and has even been revamped to include many of the films’ characters, including Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa.

Pirates Fun Facts:

  • During the ride’s battle scene between the pirate ship and town’s fortress, you’ll hear cannon balls whizzing over your head and dropping in the water. The illusion is created by moving cannons, flashes of light, and blast from beneath the waves!
  • Another memorable scene from the ride is the town in flames! This effect is actually just created by a bunch of different cloths, fans and lights.
  • There are over 120 Audio-Animatronics on the ride. This is a mixture of both human and animal animatronics.
  • The film characters added to the ride are all voiced by their original actors. Some of the ride’s original Audio-Animatronics are voiced by Paul Frees; you might recognize him as being the “Ghost Host” from the Haunted Mansion!
  • In 2012, mermaids were added to the grotto scene in Magic Kingdom. You can see the mermaid skeleton onshore, but it’s harder to catch the one swimming port side in the water!

Let’s take a ride…

Ye beware, mateys: Dead men tell no tales!

Inside the Magic – Haunted Mansion

Since we cannot be at Disney World right now, let’s take a look at some of the things that make it so special.

Climb aboard a gloomy Doom Buggy for a grave journey through a labyrinth of haunted chambers. This is always my family’s MUST DO first ride at Magic Kingdom.

The Haunted Mansion at Disney World opened at Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971, with the park. The Haunted Mansion is the perfect balance of spooky and silly, making it a favorite attraction.

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Before you climb into your Doom Buggy, you have to brave the Stretching Room, which uses distraction to make you think you are in an elevator. At Magic Kingdom, it actually does not move. In some of the other parks around the world it does go up or down a level.

The Story Behind the Mansion

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Master George Gracey of Winsocket, Rhode Island, was the owner of the mansion. He received the deed under the grimmest of circumstances when his mother murdered his father. In an attempt to connect with his father, even in death, Gracey turned to the spirit world. Master Gracey met Madame Leota, the seer, in New Orleans and persuaded her to return to his mansion, where she performed séances. Master Gracey grew demoralized and, well… “There’s always my way!” That gentleman hanging from the rafters is Master Gracey. And he’s also Imagineer Yale Gracey. This brilliant human being invented many of the tricks on display at the Haunted Mansion, most famously Madame Leota’s floating head-in-a-jar. As a way to pay tribute to him, they named the character after him.

Leota Toombs isn’t just a character. She was a very real Disney Imagineer who worked on the attraction. She received the honor of voicing her character, whose physical appearance resembles the face in the ball.

Hidden Mickey

The ballroom scene of the Haunted Mansion is full of amazing detail including the waltzing duos, dueling ghosts high above, and a birthday celebration. This is my absolute favorite scene of the ride, I always hope for a breakdown so I can take it all in. If you look down at the dining table, you can spot a trio of plates that have been arranged to form a hidden Mickey!

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Let’s climb aboard a Doom Buggy…

Happy haunting!

Inside the Magic – Jungle Cruise

Since we cannot be at Disney World right now, let’s take a look at some of the things that make it so special.

First up, the iconic Jungle Cruise!

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The Jungle Cruise was an opening day attraction at Disneyland inspired by Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventures films and “The African Queen.” The original attraction was more serious than today. Walt wanted it to be the Kilimanjaro Safaris of the 1950s. He even wanted live animals to be used in the attraction before learning that wasn’t exactly the best idea.

Since the day Disneyland park opened, the Jungle Cruise has been one of its most popular attractions. As you cruise the rivers of the world, you’re surrounded by fascinating animal life and a lush jungle of exotic trees, plants and flowers.

When building the Jungle Cruise, Walt Disney turned to Imagineer and horticulturist Bill Evans to create the landscape. Bill created a “Hollywood Jungle,” a mixture of exotic plants and trees that would give the feeling of traveling through exciting and uncharted territories. To create his Hollywood Jungle,  Bill developed some intrepid techniques, like smuggling plant seeds inside the cuffs of his socks and planting orange trees upside down to resemble mangroves.

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Through the years, the tall trees engulfing the Jungle Cruise have created a lush canopy that regulates the temperature inside this Hollywood Jungle, allowing plants that you won’t find anywhere else in Southern California to thrive right here in Disneyland park.

The Queue

The Jungle Cruise queue is an open-air outpost accepting bookings for cruises. Winding through the queue, guests can see the boats pulling up to the docks, as well as cargo, artifacts, and maps.

The Jungle Cruise Experience

The premise of the Jungle Cruise is that guests have signed up for a lengthy tour down the rivers of the world guided by a skipper from the Jungle Navigation Co. The ride lasts about 8 minutes, guests journey down the Amazon, the Congo, the Nile, and finally the Mekong.

Each section has audio-animatronics specific to that region, such as a giant python, a camp raided by gorillas, headhunters, waterfalls, or a pride of lions. While some of the scenes are humorous, more so the main draw of the attraction is the rapid-fire puns and cheesy jokes from the skippers.

Several jokes and gags from the skipper’s spiel have become iconic over the years, and often get a big reaction from guests who have cruised before. Be expecting the famous “backside of water” cheer when your skipper takes the boat behind a waterfall. 

Let’s take a ride on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland…

The Jungle Cruise is a gentle, slow-moving boat cruise with plenty to see. It’s the perfect family attraction as it truly offers something for every age and member.

Touring the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

We are in uncharted territory at the moment, with the Disney Parks worldwide closed due to the Corona Virus. This is all so unprecedented.

To brighten your day a little, I wanted to take you on a little tour of the beautiful topiaries Disney World has decorating Epcot during the Flower and Garden Festival.

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Anna and Elsa in Norway
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Lady and the Tramp in Italy
Character Topiaries at Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Snow White in Germany

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Hopefully, you can get there next year and see them all in person. Stay healthy.

Strong Water Tavern

Strong Water Tavern at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando Resort is a hidden gem and worth a visit even if you are not staying at this resort.

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A wall of vintage rums, your own rum specialist, a ceviche bar and a patio overlooking the lagoon combine to make Strong Water Tavern an exceptionally cool and stylish watering hole. Featuring tapas-style dining options with rum tastings, this is a true jewel at this very tropical island feel resort.

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On a recent visit to Universal Orlando, I visited twice. The service was wonderful each time and the food delicious! It was impossible to choose drinks and tapas, but our server made suggestions and following those proved to be the right choice.

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Seafood Ceviche
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Florida Ceviche

My companion and I shared a few tapas, the Florida Ceviche and the Seafood Tostadas which were both incredible. Especially the Florida Ceviche which came highly recommended by our server. She was not wrong, we got it again on our next visit!

While they have anything you could want including wine and beer, Rum is their speciality as we went with rum drinks. Fountain of Youth the first visit for me and to accompany our Florida Ceviche on our second late-night visit, a Cayman Island Iced Tea.

The bar was full late afternoon on our first visit, pre-dinner drinks going strong, tables were plentifully available though. During our late-night visit, there were considerably more people, but we still were able to be seated immediately, it’s a very large space.

Next time you are at Universal Orlando, be sure to stroll over or take the water taxi over  You can even walk to Loews Sapphire Falls Resort from Citywalk.

Strong Water Tavern is an absolute gem!

Holidays at Universal Orlando

Put a little mischief in your merry with Universal Orlando! There is a little something for everyone at Universal Orlando Resort during the holidays.

Come Celebrate!

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Universal Studios Florida™

Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ Diagon Alley™ is transformed with festive décor and brilliant lighting. There are special holiday treats and drinks, the atmosphere is brimming with excitement and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees have a special show prepared just for the occasion.

Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s

Merry and Mayhem combine as the Minions join Santa Claus in Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s, a holiday favorite that also features characters from Madagascar and Shrek.Diagon Alley™Diagon Alley™

Mannheim Steamroller

The best-selling holiday artist of all time visits Universal Studios as Mannheim Steamroller returns for live performances on select nights, included with your Universal Studios Florida admission.

Concert Dates are Saturday and Sundays
Nov. 16, 17, 23, 24 and 30
Dec. 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15

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New Year’s Eve in Universal Studios Florida

Head to Universal Studios Florida for upbeat live music, rockin’ party zones, a chance to meet some of your favorite characters, Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration, amazing pyrotechnic displays, showers of confetti and, of course, party favors.

New Year’s Eve at the Music Plaza Stage

  • Holiday Parade Character Dance Party
  • Live Band and DJ
  • Pyrotechnics and Confetti Midnight Moment

New Year’s Eve in Central Park

  • Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration
  • Character Dance Party
  • Live DJ
  • Pyrotechnics, Fountain and Light Midnight Moment

Universal’s Islands of Adventure™

Celebrate Christmas in The Wizarding World at Universal Orlando as Hogsmeade™ is transformed by festive décor and special entertainment. And as the stars begin to shine, revel in a dazzling projection of holiday spirit as The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts™ Castle unfolds.

The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular

Explore Seuss Landing™, filled with the Christmas charm and cheer of Who-ville. Delight in The Grinchmas™ Who-liday Spectacular, a live retelling of the classic holiday tale starring The Grinch™. Plus, meet the maven of mischief himself for an autograph and photo.

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The Grinch™ & Friends Character Breakfast

Choose from irresistible entrees and get your camera ready. The Grinch™ himself will make the rounds, stopping to pose for photos and share hilariously snarky small talk. (Separately ticketed experience.)

EVE at Universal CityWalk

The whole year’s been leading up to this: EVE, an electrifying New Year’s Eve celebration at Universal CityWalk. Enjoy signature drinks. Revel in at least five incredible CityWalk clubs with live music. Savor unlimited delicious gourmet cuisine. And you can rock out on Orlando’s biggest outdoor dance floor. (Separately ticketed event. 21+ only.)

There is lots of excitement at Universal Orlando Resort during the holiday season!

Guide to Disney Cruise Line Photo Packages

One of the best and favorite souvenirs for most people on any trip are the pictures.  The photo package options on Disney Cruise Line can be a bit confusing and often I get asked if they are worth it.

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While I cannot tell you if it’s worth it, I can go over the major points and how it all works to make it easier for you to decide if it’s worth it for your family.

Photo Opportunities

There are plenty of opportunities and photographers located all over the ship, but it’s up to you to take advantage of them if you purchase a package and want to get your money’s worth.

  • Inside the terminal, walking onto the ship before you board.
  • Character meet & greets
  • In the Main Dining Rooms
  • At Palo and Remy
  • On the walkway by the ship at Castaway Cay
  • In the water at Castaway Cay
  • Atrium Lobby (formal night on longer cruises and Pirate Night
  • Aqua Duck on Dream and Fantasy

It’s always free to have your photo taken and photos can be purchased a la carte if you prefer not to purchase a package.

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Photo Packages

Your photographs are available for purchase in a variety of product options. Simply choose the package that works best for you!

  • Digital Collection– Take home your cruise photos digitally on a USB thumb drive or download them during your sailing—and easily share them with family and friends. Pick just your favorites or choose the all-inclusive package if you just can’t decide. Options include:
    • 20 digital photos for $249.95
    • 10 digital photos for $149.95
    • All digital photos in your account, price ranging from $194.95-$349.95, depending on the length of the cruise.
  • Prints Package– If you prefer to have your photos printed before you disembark so you don’t have to worry about it when you get home. High-quality prints of your favorite photos!
    • 20  prints for $249.95
    • 15 prints for $199.95
    • 10  prints for $149.95
  • Customizable PhotoBook– PhotoBooks are a popular choice for vacation mementos.  You can add up to 34 photos while on the ship and your hardcover PhotoBook will be shipped directly to you at your home address after your cruise.
  • A La Carte – A la carte items, such as individual 8×10 prints, are available for purchase. I suggest getting your photo taken throughout your cruise even if you do not purchase a photo package.
    • Individual prints: 8×10 for $20.95, 6×8 for $14.95

*Prices are subject to change until package purchase.

Note: When members of your immediate family are sailing in multiple staterooms, you only need to purchase one package. You must go to Shutters onboard to add a stateroom to your package, this cannot be done online. To be eligible to link staterooms, the guests in the additional stateroom must include the children (under age 21) of the adult booking the photo package. Linking is only available for immediate family members. Extended family members such as aunts, uncles, grandparents , etc… are not eligible.

 

Where do I go to see my photos?

Disney Cruise Line makes it easy to view and select your photos while onboard.

Shutters – The Onboard Photography Shop can be found on deck 4 of all the ships. With electronic kiosks for viewing photos digitally around the clock throughout your cruise, you can view your photos and pick your favorites daily.  To access your photos, simply tap your Key to the World Card at one of the kiosks. Shutters crew members are available to assist you.

Picking Up Your Photos

If you are buying photo prints a la carte, you can do so any day of your cruise at Shutters during normal operating hours.

If you are purchasing a package, you will complete your pick up on disembarkation day. Operating hours on disembarkation day will be published, or you can ask a Shutters Crew Member. The line will get longer as the morning progresses, so be sure to arrive early.

Tip Don’t wait until your last night to view your photos!  Shutters will be packed!  Visit throughout the cruise and save yourself from waiting in line for a kiosk and wasting your final cruise night.

DCL uses a third party photography studio to take and sell photos. You will need to go to MyCruisePhotos.com to preorder photo packages.

Tip: Shutters can schedule a photo session for you.

Only you can decide what is best for your family, but there are lots of options so stop and pose for pictures whenever you can with the photographers and take lots of photos with your own camera too. Photographs are the best souvenir of any Disney Cruise!