My Monsterous Summer Preview

Monsterous Summer

I had the pleasure of attending the Walt Disney World Monsterous Summer Media Preview last week, and it was great to learn so much about all the fun there is to be had this summer at the Walt Disney World Resort!

Disney’s Monstrous Summer is going to have a little something for everyone! It’s the first summer of fun in New Fantasyland, this summer the surprises of Limited Time Magic continue, and some all-new adventures begin around the Resort including the opportunity play pirate in the Magic Kingdom or becoming a wilderness explorer with badges galore in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

The Monstrous Summer lineup is inspired by the June 21 release of the Disney-Pixar animated feature, “Monsters University.” Mike and Sulley are dropping in from MU to scare up monstrous surprises! An all-new collegiate setting for meeting their favorite aspiring scarers will be on the Backlot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will have a great view of the MU Campus. Also at the Magic Kingdom MU students have been studying new jokes to bring to the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor!

But the event wasn’t just about Mike, Sulley, and their friends! It was an event full of some great announcements, so let’s take a look at what I learned all about…

Monsterous Summer – Special Events

May the 4th Be With You  – In honor of Star Wars day, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be hosting “May the 4th Be with You!”—a one-of-a-kind Star Wars-themed celebration for the whole family. During this Limited Time Magic Event, you will be able to meet iconic characters, parents will be able to join their fellow Padawans in a special family Jedi Training Academy, purchase special merchandise with messages like “May the Fourth Be with You” and “Revenge of the Fifth”, you can join DJ Lobot for a Star Wars-themed Dance Party, and at the end of the day you can take a seat on Hollywood Boulevard and settle in for “Symphony in the Stars,” a spectacular fireworks display set to close the celebration. Catch all the amazing sights and sounds, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the fall of the Empire!

Monsterous Summer

Pull an All-Nighter to Celebrate the beginning of Summer – A larger than life Mike Mike Wazowski joined us to tell us all about another 24 hour celebration coming to both coasts on May 24th. You can find all of the details about the All-Nighter here.

httpv://youtu.be/OBRYUUO29LM

Downtown Disney Revs Up for Car Masters Weekend June 14-16 -Car Masters Weekend, now in its third year, is the perfect way to celebrate Father’s Day as Downtown Disney West Side hosts a classic car show with a modern twist June 14-16, 2013. Featuring all things “Cars,” the event showcases more than 150 classic, muscle and exotic cars; a chance for guests to meet “Cars 2″ stars Lightning McQueen, Mater and Finn McMissile; and special appearances by automotive designer Chip Foose and Disney-Pixar “Cars” filmmaker Jay Ward. Completing the car-nucopia of events, fans may purchase tickets for a ”Cars” & “Cars 2″ movie marathon at AMC Downtown Disney 24, “test drive” Ridemakerz “Cars” models, and enjoy caricatures, themed food and beverage, live entertainment and more. Entertainment subject to change.

Monsterous Summer – New Offerings

Senses, A Disney Spa At Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort – Joining later this summer its sister spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, the new Senses Spa at Saratoga Springs will be inspired by the healing properties of natural springs that have drawn people for centuries to Saratoga Springs in upstate New York. A completely redesigned space, Senses, A Disney Spa At Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, will feature 10 treatment rooms offering an array of services including water therapy, massage and facials. Senses will incorporate the springs, nature and the storyline of health in its design and theming. For reservations and information, you can call 407-WDW-SPAS.

Wilderness Explorers Comes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Coming this spring Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests will be invited to become Wilderness Explorers and experience the park in engaging and challenging ways aimed at deepening their understanding of animals and the natural world we live in. When you sign up and take the official pledge, you set off with your field guide and in hopes to earn all 30 sticker badges of the Wilderness Exlplorers!  You will have to complete challenges as you explore the park and all of its rich details. While this activity is aimed at guests 7-10, it really looks like fun for the entire family! Who doesn’t love stickers? Wilderness Explorers will be self-guided and encourage more “up close and personal” time with the animal inhabitants of the park, and Wilderness Explorers will be included in Disney’s Animal Kingdom admission.

Monsterous Summer

New Meet-Up with Mickey, Minnie at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse are scheduled to welcome Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests to their new exploration headquarters, Adventurers Outpost, on Discovery Island, beginning this spring. The all-new indoor retreat is the perfect spot for guests to meet the globetrotting duo as they get ready to set off on their next adventure.

A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas – In testing now and scheduled to debut this Spring, “A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas” will be a new interactive adventure where Magic Kingdom guests participate in pirate raids throughout Adventureland. Pirate maps lead to fabulous treasures as guests join Captain Jack Sparrow and fight off the Royal Navy, Captain Barbossa, headhunters, curses — and the greatest threat of all, Calypso, the sea goddess. If they help Jack succeed in all the missions, they will be welcomed as part of his new crew. If not, they face the wrath of the cruel sea…alone. The adventure is divided into 5 different raids, each comprising a series of interactive tasks.

httpv://youtu.be/kUZOEV_k46I

Disney Dining – Coming by summer’s end: a re-imagined California Grill crowning Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Guests will experience a beautiful new dining room, onstage kitchen and new dining choices – chef Brian Piasecki will keep the focus on creative, fresh, seasonal dishes, and top-of-the-line sushi.  At Epcot, what says summer better than ice cream? The France Pavilion will be expanding with L’Artisan des Glaces, an artisan ice cream and sorbet shop, debuts in mid-June with 16 yummy flavors, all made in-house with fresh ingredients (with the option of adding a shot of liquor on top, for grown-up tastes).

Summer Latte, Anyone? More Starbucks Locations Coming to Disney Parks -Starbucks will be opening locations at Disney theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resortt. When it reopens in early summer, Main Street Bakery in Magic Kingdom will keep its name and theming and continue to serve Disney favorites such as cookies, brownies and seasonal cupcakes, in addition to Starbucks signature beverages and other menu items. At Epcot, Starbucks products will be featured when the Fountain View location reopens for midsummer. Each Starbucks location inside a Disney Park will reflect the theme of its surroundings.

New Summer Line of Disney Parks Cosmetics – In time for summer, fairy tale legends and secrets come to life with the captivating new Unlock the Spell collection from Beautifully Disney, Disney Parks’ line of cosmetics and beauty products. The new-for-summer collection — inspired by the spellbound Tiana, Belle and Rapunzel — is rich in lush colors: soft, pretty yellow, rosy golds, and punchy purples. Unlock the Spell will make its debut at Trend-D at Downtown Disney.

New Disney Dooney Pattern – This spring, a new pattern of Disney Dooney and Bourke purses will be released at TrenD. This coated canvas, features a bold and fun type spelling out Minnie and Mickey with Mickey and Minnie Heads.The colors are more of a neon/bright color and are really on point! It’s a really great and versatile pattern that is great for casual fun or taking to the office. I can’t wait to bring one home for myself!

Monsterous Summer

Monsterous Summer

Disney Ray-Ban Sunglasses – Disney Ray-Ban sunglasses will be coming this spring, and they are adorable! Available in both original Wayfarer styles, they feature a black and white Mickey pattern. What will be really interesting, is to see if the black version with the Mickey pattern on the inside will be considered ‘Disney Look’…I have my fingers crossed for all my Cast Member friends!!!

Monsterous Summer

Monsterous Summer – Announcements

Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade – The Magic Kingdom will be replacing the ‘Celebrate a Dream Come True’ Parade with the Festival of Fantasy Parade that will be stepping off in the Spring of 2014. This all-new parade will bring a celebration of New Fantasyland to life through innovative parade floats, costumes, and an original soundtrack of familiar favorites and a specially crafted parade theme song. The Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade will specifically highlight the stories of “The Little Mermaid,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Dumbo,” “Pinocchio,” “Peter Pan,” “Tangled” and the Disney●Pixar film “Brave” among others.

Monsterous Summer

Monsterous Summer

Disney Magic Overhaul – There’s an extra dose of magic coming aboard the  Disney Cruise Line Disney Magic! The Disney Magic is the first ship of the fleet, and will be getting a “re-imagineering” transformation during dry dock from Sept. 7 through Oct. 10, 2013. The fleet’s flagship  will be receiving a new atrium, restaurant, improved dining experience in Palo, an update to the senses spa, additions in the kid’s club areas (I am most excited about the Avenger’s Academy addition),  new pool and water play areas, as well as two all new slides! It is going to be amazing! I can’t wait to take the plunge on the AquaDunk!

Monsterous Summer

httpv://youtu.be/qCmyUmJFp1s

As you can see from my crazy long pos (sorry) there is a lot of great new experiences coming to Walt Disney World this Summer!!!

In the next few days I will be sharing more information and pictures from the Monsterous Summer Media Preview!

What are you most excited about?

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It was the best of trips, it was the worst of trips

Family picture

Have you ever had one of those trips that you planned, but nothing seemed to go the way you had hoped? This couldn’t have been a bigger understatement to describe my family trip in December of 2007. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. Let me set the stage a bit. I have a background in hospitality management and used to work for one of the better known and respected hotel chains in the country. One of the greatest things about working for a national chain like that is you are typically entitled to discounts at the same brand and affiliates under the parent company’s umbrella of hotels. This afforded me the opportunity to travel to Orlando (again I live in Bradenton, about 100 miles away from WDW), once or twice a month since I was able to procure rates of $29 a night at hotels where it would usually cost well over $100 at rack rate. Because of this, I only stayed on property once in 1998 at Caribbean Beach Resort, and then a handful of times at the value resorts from 2000 – 2006. It was not until the end of 2007 that I was able to revisit property and stay at another one of the moderate resorts, and subsequently my favorite, Port Orleans French Quarter.

On this particular trip, I was accompanied by my mom, who was going to share a room with me to cut down costs, since this was the week of Christmas, and my brother, Andrew, was getting a room to himself. Andrew had just returned from 18 months of serving in Iraq with the Army and was looking forward to unwinding at the parks. We were just going for the weekend and returning Monday since it was Christmas Eve. I wish we were able to stay longer since I was off four days in a row, but we had family commitments at home for Christmas.

Hurricanes

We started off the trip by checking in to French Quarter, unpacking, and then decided we would head to Universal’s City Walk to have dinner and visit Pat O’Brien’s. Due to lack of planning, and partly due to my affinity for the music, we ended up having dinner at Bob Marley’s Tribute to Freedom. The food was good and we enjoyed a couple adult beverages between dinner and listening to the dueling pianos at Pat O’s.

We returned to Disney property to catch the midnight showing of National Treasure 2. Now the movie really isn’t an important detail of the story, but in my mind it is inextricably linked with this trip. I still can’t watch it to this day without being reminded of this night. During the climax of the movie, my brother got sick. We didn’t see the end of the movie, needless to say, and were on our way back to French Quarter, now at about 2:30am.

Beignets

The next day was at a snail’s pace around Epcot due to dealing with Andrew who was still not feeling well. He couldn’t even stand to be around food yet, so we snuck down and grabbed some beignets before leaving the resort mid morning. Eventually we convinced him he should eat and had a nice late lunch at Les Chefs de France. Kindly Andrew bought me a new WDW hoodie and even renewed my mom’s and my pass as a Christmas present (and out of guilt I think). We hopped over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to enjoy the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights for our first time. We were planning on dinner at 50’s Prime Time Cafe, but had canceled our ADR when we realized it wasn’t worth it. By the time dinner rolled around Andrew seemed mostly human again and wanted to eat so we ended up get a walk up and eating in the Tune In Lounge.

 

Osborne Lights

Sunday was the last day of our trip, as we were scheduled to be in church Monday evening for Christmas Eve with family. We checked out of French Quarter and spent our last day in the Magic Kingdom. For the first time we saw Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, which has a totally different feel during the day as opposed to at night during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The day was enjoyable, but rather uneventful compared to the two previous days. Dinner was going to be at Citrico’s at the Grand Floridian at 8pm, so we left MK shortly after seven to give us time to admire the decorations at the resort. As soon as we stepped off the monorail and into the second floor of the hotel, Andrew asked why we hadn’t stayed there. I reminded him it was two days before Christmas and the most expensive pricing of the year and he had wanted his own room, so the $250/night at French Quarter was rich enough for our blood. At this point, none of us had stayed at a deluxe resort, so it is understandable that he was impressed.

Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade

As always, Citrico’s was fabulous and beyond satiating. While splitting our dessert, Andrew and I declared we didn’t want to leave. He wanted to stay another night, and I wasn’t really relishing the thought of the almost two hour drive home after dinner and a full day in the parks. My mom asked our server if they knew if there was any availability for the night and he insisted they were completely sold out. Coming back to that hospitality background, I know there are often reservations that are canceled last minute and dates are occasionally changed, so my mom went down to the front desk to investigate. After we paid the bill Andrew and I joined our mom in the lobby as she had found that there were actually two rooms available after she had been speaking to the front desk cast member, Christina, for a bit about my brother’s return from Iraq. We were given the option of a standard room in the outer building with a garden view or an outer building room that was club level. As we had just eaten dinner and were going to leave in the morning, we opted for the standard room as it was still $500+ for the one night (again this was two days before Christmas and we were thankful for the room).

 

We completed the check in process and were told by Christina that the manager, Stephan, would be escorting us to our room. We found this especially puzzling since we were staying in an outer building and it was almost 11pm. Stephan emerged from the front desk, greeted us and led us across the lobby to the elevator for guest rooms in the main building. Following unquestioningly, we stood behind Stephan as he allowed a couple to enter the elevator before us. We said hello and he had a brief conversation with the couple as they apparently knew each other. After letting the other guests get off, Stephan asked us if we knew who they were. We were clueless and he informed us that we had just met Mr. and Mrs. Jennings Osborne, as in the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights we had enjoyed the night before at the Studios. I never would have guessed! The guy was a millionaire many times over and was relaxing in cargo shorts and a Hawaiian print shirt. Still fazed by that, Stephan led us off the elevator on the fifth floor and to the other side of the landing. He stopped before a set of double doors and we stood there still confused.

Stephan turned and faced my brother and said that it was his honor to thank Andrew for his service to our country and this was Disney’s way of giving just a little back to him. He opened the door and we were stunned as we were shown into our two bedroom suite. It was like something out of a dream. I was pretty sure it was one of the suites Samantha Brown had shown in her visit of the Grand Floridian on her show Great Hotels. I tried to play it cool until Stephan left, but we were awestruck. To go from a standard room in French Quarter to the third largest suite in the flagship resort for our first stay club level, or even at a deluxe resort for that matter, was incredible. I about lost it as soon as Stephan left. The room was by far the nicest hotel room I had ever stayed in and I think that probably stands to this day.

My mom and I eventually realized my car was still parked at the Magic Kingdom parking lot with our stuff, so as Andrew decided to sleep, we went to fetch our luggage and to move the car. After swinging by the front desk to profusely thank Christina and Stephan for their generous upgrade (the suite goes for over $2,500/night), we returned to the room with new found energy. Andrew was exhausted, so we let him sleep as we opted to return to MK for Extra Magic Hours until 4am. We got back in the park around 2am and walked on to every ride we wanted to at that hour. The CMs were even asking us if we wanted to ride again since the parks were almost completely empty, but we kept moving. The euphoria and bewilderment still didn’t wear off after we got into bed around 5am.

We didn’t sleep a whole lot that night. We woke up around 9am and ordered private dining (Disney’s fancy name for room service) and then packed up and headed home to get ready for church. The day was kind of a daze, but like nothing we could have ever dreamt of in a million years. The trip that had started off so beyond horribly had done a complete 180 and made us so appreciative of the annoyances we had gone through to get there. I guess it all works out in the end. It really was the best of trips and the worst of trips all rolled in to one, but thankfully in the opposite order.

 

Master bedroom
Master bathroom
View from master balcony
Living room
Bar area in living room
Christmas tree and living room balcony
Looking from living room to half bath
Looking from foyer into second bedroom
Another bar area between second bedroom and bath
Second full bathroom
Desk and vanity in second bedroom
Second bedroom
Looking from balcony into second bedroom
View from second bedroom balcony
Partners and castle pic during EMH circa 4am
Sun rising over Seven Seas Lagoon and yes we slept with the door open
View of the Polynesian and Wedding Pavilion
Grand Floridian beach
Private dining
Enjoying breakfast
Mickey waffle with strawberries
I could see Epcot from bed 🙂
Grand Floridian lobby from the fifth floor
Gingerbread house

My mom and I stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge the following summer and ran into Stephan working as a manager there and he remembered us immediately. We spent quite some time revisiting that night in conversation with him. The next year, Andrew, my mom and I were staying at the Boardwalk Villas and ran into Christina from the front desk working recreation and she remembered us, even telling us that was still one of her favorite magical moments she was able to share as a CM. She was moving to transportation at the Magic Kingdom the following day and we ran into her on the docks working the ferryboat. Stephan is now a manager at the Yacht Club and I occasionally stop in and visit him there. It was really nice to be able to share the experience with my family, but I’d rather not have a repeat of the first half of the trip. Things like this are why I keep supporting the Disney brand. Making magical moments for guests is something that Cast Members enjoy and makes me appreciate every last bit of magic I come across.

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