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Friday, September 29, 2017

"Hidden Disney" - The Functional Mail Service Within The Disney Parks!

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Over the years, letters and post cards have really become a thing of the past for most guests, but did you know that the theming at Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts even goes as far as to include real and operational mail boxes? Today, sending letters has become more of a novelty than anything, but at Disney, it can make for a an interesting little surprise awaiting you when you return home. 

Thoroughout our Disney trips, very early on, we used to make it a point to purchase a set of stamps, find postcards and send them to ourselves, our grandparents, or even a few friends from the parks themselves. While it was certainly a simple gesture, it was something that many times you would completely forget about until you returned home and a subtle little surprise from your trip would be waiting for you in the mailbox.

As the years went on and this tradition continued, we found ways to make it a little more unique. As we went from character interaction to character interaction in the parks, we'd have a select few of our favorites sign a postcard, which we would then stick in the in-park mailbox and send on home. It was simple, but as a kid, it was something that we only really got to do at Walt Disney World. At the time, stamps were fairly cheap, and even today it's a much cheaper (and typically more meaningful) souvenir than others you would find across property. Postcards are fairly cheap anywhere and if you're on a really tight budget you can even buy them at a local Walgreens or CVS location and take them with you. Here's a few examples of cards we've sent over the years:

The whole principal seems a little strange, but I have many vivid memories of pulling one those big metal classic mailboxes open and sliding a postcard in. It was a unique part of our Disney experience and one that really stuck with me years later. Even today, I still have many of these singed postcards sent from the parks safely stored away. 

In regards to theming, Disney makes every necessary step to ensure that the mailboxes themselves blend seamlessly into the environment they are located in. On Main Street U.S.A (and surrounding areas), the postal service has loaned Disney a few early 1900's mailboxes. The collection bins are cleaned out by cast members and sent out with the rest of Disney's mail by means of the same postal service that spans the United States. Beyond the parks, most resorts will have a collection box of their own. Just as with the parks, if you're not looking for them, you'll likely never notice their presence simply because they blend so well with their thematic surroundings.

Of course, today, post cards are essentially a thing of the past, but that doesn't mean you can't create a fun memory with family (in an incredibly budget friendly way) even though we have the perks of modern technology at our fingertips. Call me nostalgic, but there's still something special about receiving something tangible in the mail that isn't a bill or an unwanted advertisement. 

Personally, I love that Disney still offers this service many years after it's prime time of utilization. Sure, if you forget something important like a rent payment or a bill you overlooked, these can serve very practical purposes, but with online transactions and many other services available today, this is something that has become distinctly Disney. It's a little detail, but often times the littlest details add up to create the largest difference in the end. I will note though that today the boxes are not checked quite as frequently as they once were (or perhaps mail is just slower), because when you send letters or postcards today, it does typically take longer to receive them in the mail than it once did. Either way, this is just one of those "hidden gems" that you'll likely only find at Walt Disney World! 

As always, thanks for reading and we truly appreciate you taking a few minutes out of your day to spend here with us!       

If you're planning a Disney vacation, we ask that you consider our friends over at Destinations to Travel (clickable link) for your travel planning needs. Their service cost you nothing more than booking through Disney and booking through them really helps support the site while costing you absolutely nothing extra. Just tell them Guide4WDW sent you in your quote request message. We certainly appreciate the support!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Disney's Halloween Fan Favorite Production "Hocus Pocus" Is Getting A Remake!


by: guide4wdw - Collin

After many years of speculation, it appears as if the fan favorite Halloween film "Hocus Pocus" will be getting a remake. The movie itself has grown and influenced many Disney World guests with it's somewhat recent addition to the Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party event lineup. It's addition, in stage show format, has built upon it's prominent following of those who enjoyed the original production from the 90's. 

Each year, the stage show representation of the film at Magic Kingdom's Halloween parties is a huge hit with guests and a highlight of the experience for many. The characters are perfect for the Halloween style celebration and the feel of the parks, while bringing a bit of a classic back to life for guests who watched the film early on. It's inclusion has also created a new audience that may have never heard of Hocus Pocus before experiencing it in the Disney Parks. 

Personally, this is one of my all time favorite family friendly Halloween films. It's funny, it's a bit nostalgic, and in regards to the Disney parks, it's something guests of all ages can enjoy. 

Just recently, a spokesperson from Disney stated that a "Hocus Pocus" remake is in fact in the works. The film itself will feature a new cast (despite the social media disapproval) and will be debuted on the Disney channel rather than in the box office. Kenny Ortega, the director of the original production and many other Disney films, will not be directing the upcoming remake. All things considered, I would have liked to seen the original cast return, but it will be outstanding to see a new generation have the opportunity to experience the film in an entirely new way. At this point we know very little about the story or how close of a representation it will be of the original, but the film will soon become a reality once again.

Just as clarification, this is not an experience or new show coming to the parks but rather a reboot of the old movie which will debut on the Disney channel as mentioned above. 

(Source: Eonline)       

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Disney Debuts New "Meal Kit" Offering For Guests At Saratoga Springs: Other Resorts May Arrive Soon


by: guide4wdw - Collin

In a somewhat unpredicted announcement, Disney has debuted a new dining offering at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort particularly helpful to those staying in Villa accommodations called "Meal Kits."

The service allows guests to go to the Artist's Palette dining location and pick up a pre-prepared ingredient box to take back to their resort room and cook utilizing their villa kitchen. The service is being primarily marketed towards DVC members, but anyone can book villa accommodations at the resort through Disney and other DVC points buying services across the internet (If you're interested in booking a villa and having someone walk you through that process, check out Destinations to Travel and tell them Guide4WDW sent you). 

(photo: Jason Pratt - Flickr)

The box itself includes a "meal kit for four featuring Rigatoni Fiesolana (Rigatoni pasta with creamy tomato sauce, sausage, portabella mushrooms, parmesan and fresh basil) and comes with a large garden salad, garlic bread sticks and baking instructions" according to a Disney Parks Blog post earlier this morning. The service, all things included, costs $49 and is listed as a limited time offering. 

Personally, I see this as a test of the dining option to see what the guest demand for it may be. Many guests utilizing the villa rooms, which always include the kitchen (any one bedroom villa or larger - deluxe studio rooms do not have the kitchen necessary to prepare this meal offering), frequently use external food prep and grocery delivery services to create meals in their resort rooms. Many of those grocery delivery services are a bit more budget friendly than this new option, but the convenience factor is certainly a bonus. 

So, what do you think? Will this be something that catches on and rolls out to other villa resorts (my guess is that it will in time) or will guests shy away from the new service. Personally, I see this as an outstanding way to get families together for a quiet meal and a fun way to get involved with your food preparation while on vacation. Also, for the price, this is a much cheaper offering than what you may pay at table service dining locations across property.      

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A "Hidden Gem" Of Disney Parks History: Michael Iseberg and the Iceberg Machine


by: guide4wdw - Collin

Disney has been a place full of changes and alterations across its many years of operation and service to guests of all ages. However, as you've likely seen from this site and a few select others, we tend to lose experiences over time. Sometimes those experiences, shows, and attractions, are moments that are iconic pieces of Disney history, but also parts of the past that get pushed "under the rug" no matter how loved and incredible they may have been.

Today, we're sharing one of those "hidden gems" that very well could have been included in our "Departed Disney" or "Legendary Cast of the Disney Parks" series. This portion of the park wasn't an attraction, but rather a stage show performance that shocked, enticed, and thrilled guests for many years known simply as the Iceberg Machine!

The Iceberg Machine was an elaborate piece of engineering developed by the musician Michael Iceberg ("Iseberg" originally: beyond the stage name). While the technology was very early in development at the time, Michael compiled a series of different synthesizers and state of the art technology (at the time) to develop a musical performance that was unlike anything guests had heard before.

The machine itself was a continuously changing conglomeration of technology housed in a large pyramid structure that Iceberg confined himself in as he unveiled a spectacle of sounds and music to guests in the heart of Tomorrowland. Iceberg performed on both coasts throughout the mid 1970's and 1980's. His show was viewed as early as 1976 in Walt Disney World and even made it up the ranks onto the late night spectacle that was The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.

His performances wowed guests of all ages and drew inspiration from a variety of different avenues including animal noises, trumpets, guitars, pianos, and so much more. All of these noises were developed through his incredible skills with early synthesizer technology rigged to accompany a keyboard infrastructure in what he called the "Mechanical Contraption."

For years, guests took time out of their day at the Disney parks to grab a snack, pull up a chair and listen to his incredible performances throughout the day, sometimes debuted as frequently as five times per day. At Walt Disney World, Michael shared his unbelievable talent with guests in the Tomorrowland Terrace (now known as Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe).

The contraption, which was prominently located where Sonny Eclipse sits today, rose from the Utlidoors and opened up revealing the star of the show! As the pyramid style creation opened up, a mirror unfolded allowing guests to see exactly what Iceberg did as he brought music forth from the array of platforms. His performance was a foray of lights, smoke, vocals, and of course synthesized noises that not only entertained but had heart and story worked into it in a way that captured the audience time and time again. For many guests, this was a highlight of their time in Tomorrowland and one that truly brought a one-of-a-kind experience to the park. It was a legitimately futuristic performance and while today the technology behind it isn't all that amazing, his raw talent and vocal abilities coupled with a unique personality captured the audience in a way that can only be showcased in video:                   

Michael Iceberg hasn't performed in the Magic Kingdom in many years, but his contributions to the parks and resorts have become iconic. In a short question based interview for Iceberg's website found here, he claims to have had very little to no influence on both The Main Street Electrical Parade and The Electrical Water Pageant (Parade) despite what many believe. They both fit his style and frame of work, and while he does admit to submitting a short piece for the Water Pageant, he did not believe it ever made it into the final production. 

Either way, his influence is a piece of Disney history that many overlook and something that I wasn't even aware of myself until just recently. You see, Disney is a place that has elaborate backstories that can be unraveled in a way that no other vacation destination can truly encompass. It has history, but more than that, it has heart that cannot be replicated. There were real people behind early shows, unique experiences, and a realm of ingenuity that cannot be replicated. Of course, things change and the company has continued to develop, but that "heart" and story Disney history has created will continue capturing guests for generations. 

If you liked today's article, do me a huge favor and share the post in your favorite Disney Facebook group, on your personal page, or even on other social media platforms. Your shares really help us grow and bring new Disney fans into this growing community.

If you're planning a Disney vacation, we ask that you consider our friends over at Destinations to Travel (clickable link) for your travel planning needs. Their service cost you nothing more than booking through Disney and booking through them really helps support the site while costing you absolutely nothing extra. Just tell them Guide4WDW sent you in your quote request message. We certainly appreciate the support!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

"Departed Disney" - A Lost Disney Stage Show that Exceeded Expectations: Tarzan Rocks!

by: guide4wdw - Collin

The Departed Disney series here on the site has developed into a much larger series than I originally anticipated. However, Disney history and "extinct" attractions are some of the topics I enjoy writing about the most. Having the opportunity to take a closer look at many of these attractions, has given me the chance to share a greater background of many attractions many guests (including myself in some cases) never had the opportunity or ability to see in their original form. Taking a look back at "what was" in regards to the Disney parks really helps to develop a better appreciation of what we experience in the parks today.

Imagineering has spent years researching and developing each and every experience across Disney property for guests like you and me to enjoy. As the parks continue to develop and provide new experiences to guests of all ages and backgrounds, some older experiences tend to get left behind. There's really no better example of the concept than the recent additions to Animal Kingdom. As Pandora developed, we lost an iconic piece of the Animal Kingdom experience and one that many guests really enjoyed and have incredibly fond memories of, Camp Minnie-Mickey. From meeting up with their favorite characters to the original Festival of the Lion King show building, to simply the atmosphere the woodsy environment developed, it created memories for guests that will never be forgotten. 

While we take all those things into consideration, when you look at what has become of the space and the incredible experiences guests are having on a daily basis, it's no wonder why the project came to fruition in such an elaborate change. Believe it or not, Camp Minnie Mickey was essentially an afterthought in design the whole time and one that stayed much longer than originally anticipated. It just goes to show that a simple concept can really grow into a much larger experience by means of a reimagining over time. 

That same idea can be applied to today's departed attraction, Tarzan Rocks. From 1999 to 2006, guest of all ages could share a moment with their friends from Tarzan in an action packed show featuring rollerskating monkeys and songs directly from the film. Of course, Tarzan Rocks! wasn't the original opening day stage show in "The Theatre in the Wild." For roughly the first year of the parks operation, the theater hosted a show called Journey Into The Jungle Book where cast on stage would use large scale puppet-style costuming to tell the story of the Jungle Book. Personally, I've never seen the original rendition of the show, but it's replacement was an experience I have vivd memories of as a younger child. 

Tarzan Rocks! was a fairly popular show that featured high flying arial stunts, elaborate costumes, live on-stage vocals, and rollerskating monkeys. The monkeys raced along a path through the crowds and the entire cast spent a portion of the show interacting with and overflowing out off of the stage into areas of the audience. It was an incredibly immersive experience not too dissimilar from the Festival of The Lion King. 

Despite drawing fairly large crowds at a majority of the showings throughout the day, the show debuted it's final performance in January of 2006 in order to make way for an elaborately re-themed experience, Finding Nemo: The Musical. The new experience called for a drastic overhaul of the theater, but the end result was one of the most poplar stage shows on Disney property. The new musical isn't my favorite Disney stage show (to be completely honest), but it is something guests of all ages can really enjoy. 

Today's Animal Kingdom is a far cry from what it was many years ago, but I can say that I've never enjoyed the park more than I do in it's current state. The addition of Pandora really transformed the park and breathed life back into a location that I rarely spent a full day exploring. 

All in all, the parks continue to change and develop as the world around them changes. It may not be what we want to see, but often times the end goal and the resulting new attractions and experiences exceed our expeditions over time. The process certainly takes time but Imagineering has proven time and time again that no matter what an attractions based upon, the technology they put into the experience will blow us all away. It's been a trend for years on end and something that I truly believe Walt Disney would appreciate.

As always, thanks for reading and if you enjoyed this article or really enjoyed this experience while it was in the parks, please SHARE the post with friends. 

If you're planning a Disney vacation, we ask that you consider our friends over at Destinations to Travel (clickable link) for your travel planning needs. Their service cost you nothing more than booking through Disney and booking through them really helps support the site while costing you absolutely nothing extra. Just tell them Guide4WDW sent you in your quote request message. We certainly appreciate the support! 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Marketing Disclosure


As a general rule of thumb here on Guide4WDW.com, we typically take every necessary step in order to develop completely transparent reviews, commentary, and many other aspects of what we share here on the site. Everything is completely our own opinion, but we do have certain endorsements, kickbacks and other compensation along the way. While we always state that your use of certain things, products, or services we advertise does help us out with the site upkeep, it is also a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guideline concerning endorsements and testimonials as well. We intend to offer full disclosure of anything we advertise here on the site and will continue to do so. 

While we make very little money off of the site and fund our Disney travels almost entirely on our own (unless stated otherwise for media events, etc.), we do use advertising to cover site upkeep costs and offer external services to our readers. Here's a closer look at all of the current advertising options featured on the site:

Affiliates Program:

As with many internet based blogs and informational websites, we do on occasion use affiliate links. An affiliate link is essentially a link or banner to a given product/s that provides us a very small percentage monetary kick-back if an item is purchased through our link or a banner of ours is clicked on and engaged with.       

As a small part of our website earrings, we are partnered with the Amazon Associates program. In the program, any product we link in a native banner (product image in a banner) that is bought by one of our readers, we receive a small percentage kick-back from the purchase (Typically less than 5-8%).

Another program we utilize is an ad platform called media.net. The program itself serves  a similar purpose. As readers click these banners, we receive a very small commission (typically pennies) from the click. Trust me, we're not making much off of these ads but it also helps keep the site alive and pays a small percentage of our upkeep costs, domain costs, etc. Honestly, we make very little off of these advertising platforms and essentially use to minimize out of pocket expenses whenever possible. These links do not affect the cost of anything you buy from the links in any way. We do also use google adsense in addition to media.net advertising services in a similar way.

A program we currently use but do not receive compensation for is a partnership with the DVC Resale Market.

Another affiliate of ours is The Official Ticket Center. For any purchases made through our affiliate banner and links found throughout the site (seen below), we do receive compensation for any purchases made. Of course, the Official Ticket Center is a Disney Authorized Ticket Reseller. 

Travel Agency Partner:
In a quite similar way to our affiliate links and banners, we are affiliated with the Destinations to Travel travel planning organization. As an affiliate of theirs, we can offer a travel planning service to our readers that we do not personally play a role in, but can offer to our readers at no additional cost to them. Of course, vacations are not free, but booking through our friends at Destinations to Travel will not add any additional costs to your Disney booking experience. They do not charge their customers to utilize their service and operate on a similar kickback structure for bookings. 

If a reader books a vacation through this travel organization, we do receive a monetary percentage commission as a result of the vacation planning referral based on the cost of the overall sale. In addition, this service allows us to take part in many events the organization is invited to participate in by other companies, but in those cases we will state so in the review or informational article. Pictures from events that can be taken by the general public will not likely be disclosed as "taken at a media event" because these are open and public guest areas. If we continue to talk about a strictly invite or free to us event, we will explain so in the context of the article itself. (example banners are listed below)  

We recommend this group because it is the only travel agency we have used. We had  a great experience with them trying something new not too long ago and we truly appreciate their approach to travel planning and helping guests. It's a great fit for our site and a very family friendly organization. Update: December 7th, 2017 - We continue to use their services and have recently booked an additional vacation through them. They have also create a guest loyalty program that is not exclusive to us but it is something we promote due to the added benefits it may bring to your vacation experience, as described in their informational flier below:

Media Events:

As mentioned above, Disney and other companies that may be written about on this site do on rare occasions offer media events at no cost or a discounted cost to members of the media (sometimes including us). In those rare cases, it will be stated that the review or description was a part of a media related event hosted by the given organization/company. We are blessed to be invited to a few rare events, but our reviews of experiences will always remain unbiased, open, and honest in every case. As one of the many perks of not being associated or affiliated with the Disney company directly in any way, we can be completely honest in our reviews despite the circumstance and who payed for what. Again, we still pay for an overwhelming majority of our dining, resort accommodations, flights, and any other travel expenses out of pocket with money unrelated to this site's operation. We really just love the Disney parks! Occasionally, Disney and other groups will provide items at these events exclusively to media that may or may not be available to daily guests but it is a tough regulation to explain under FTC guidelines.       

With the rare exception of media events, all dining, resorts, and theme park related reviews are as a result of out of pocket expenses rather than any type of promoted activity. We will not review anything that has been given to us any differently than if we bought it ourselves. We have been given promotional items for review, but all opinions stated in those articles are our own and we will tell you if the product is or isn't worth your time and money.    

Media Rates/Free Tickets:
Disney does not currently offer any discounts to media regarding tickets, dining, resort accommodations, or other costs on Disney property. We pay what everyone else pays in every way with one sole exception. On one chosen day of the year, Disney offers media, (of a certain standing and qualification) on a per application basis, two one day park hopper theme park tickets at no cost to our site or other sites promoting and regarding their parks. We have used this service one time and it was an outstanding way to get a few extra pictures from the trip and a great way to avoid using personal vacation time for website related activities (even though we often use our park time for that as well when it is paid for by us). The passes are provided at no cost to us and must be used by two different individuals within a set timeframe of dates. It is a far stretch from "covering" our costs of admission for the Disney parks each year, and we do return many times throughout the year paying the exact same rates as all other guests. Either way, having one day reserved for strictly media related photography and preparations is a great offering (and the only real offering) available to the media provided by Disney at this time.           

With all of that being said, feel free to link this site at any time and feel free to share any photos on the site for non-comemercial use crediting us as the original creator of the images. If you would like to use our photos/articles for commercial use, feel free to contact theadventurersguide@yahoo.com to contact Collin directly.  

Friday, September 22, 2017

Timon Is Getting Added to Animal Kingdom's Meet And Greet Lineup!


by: guide4wdw - Collin

Animal Kingdom has always been a park featuring many of the more creative character meet and greet opportunities. Over the years, the park has been home to Bugs Life Characters, Doug and Russell from Up, Tarzan (leaving the park September 30th), Rafiki, Baloo, Br'er Bear, and so many others! While some characters have come and gone over the years (does anyone else remember Stanley and his goldfish?), it's always been a place where you can find unique and different opportunities for character interaction. 

In just a few short weeks, a new offering will debut featuring everyone's favorite character from the Lion King films and Disney's Festival of The Lion King stage show, Timon. Beginning October 1st, on Discovery Island, Timon will begin meeting with guests. Considering Timon has to be back at the Festival of the Lion King Theater for each show time, my guess is that these character meet and greet times could be fairly sporadic throughout the day. 

As always, be sure to pick a time guide as you enter the park to check out when your favorite characters will be meeting with guests throughout the park (including Timon). The time guides are an excellent resource when touring the parks and give you a great heads up at the beginning of the day so that you don't miss your favorite show or a special experience you may or may not have known existed. Even as seasoned Disney parks goers, we always grab a time guide or use the My Disney Experience app just to make sure we're not missing out on a new experience or unique opportunity. (Can you tell Br'er Bear is my dad's favorite character? lol) 

I know many guests are a bit upset that Tarzan will be leaving the park in the near future, but be sure to consider what's next along the way. When the Tarzan Rocks! show left the park in 2006, I was a bit heart broken. It was a incredible memory we had as kids and we always loved sitting in the front of that middle section as the rollerskating monkeys rolled by offering high fives to guests as they passed rather quickly. It was a great experience but the later use of the space for Finding Nemo - The Musical offered something up for a broader range of guests and a new and incredibly popular experience. 

All things considered, it's easy for us all to get nostalgic about things going away at Disney, but changes keep us coming back and continue to allow Disney to innovate and create in many new ways. 

As always, thanks for reading and have a great rest of the day! Enjoy this article? SHARE it with friends! Thanks! 

If you're planning a trip to the Disney parks, be sure to give Destinations to Travel (clickable link) a shout and tell them Collin sent you in your message (or Guide4WDW). While it costs you nothing more than Disney's typical rates, it really helps out the site in more than one way. A quote form is also listed below for your convenience. Thanks!  

Thursday, September 21, 2017

See How Magic Kingdom Changes Through The Night Into a Halloween Extravaganza


by: guide4wdw - Collin

How many of you have ever wondered how Walt Disney World manages to change the entire look and feel of the park basically overnight through theming? I know I did for many years until I caught a glimpse of a time lapse of the setup process. Well, this year Disney has once again debuted a time lapse for their elaborate theming creation, but in a fairly unique way. 

The short video is listed below this post, but the process itself is one that applies to nearly all of the holidays at Walt Disney World. Essentially, they have a crew that installs nearly all of the decorations you see in the Magic Kingdom in the middle of the night. While it does take a few days in some cases to really see all of the decorations roll out, it's amazing to see how much they can accomplish in just one night. 

As the season draws to a close, the same elaborate process will be reversed to take down all of the impressive decorations and to set up for the most wonderful time of the year (Did anybody else just start singing the song???) at Walt Disney World, Christmas! To me, the Christmas season at Walt Disney World is truly second to none, but if you're a big halloween fan, don't worry! The decorations will be up for many more weeks and will not transition to Christmas until early November in order to prepare for the first Christmas party. 

No matter what the holiday may be, nothing really compares to spending time with friends and family in the parks around any holiday. It creates memories that will be quite unique to that particular trip and really set the experience apart from all the others. Again, it's something that is really hard to describe in words (I know, I say that a lot lol), but the decorations and the parties Disney throws (centering around these decorations) bring an entirely new feel to the park and one that is wonderfully welcoming to guests of all ages.  

Here's a closer look at how they make it all possible! 

If you're still trying to make it to one of Disney's incredible Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Parties, be sure to give Destinations to Travel (clickable link) a shout and tell them Collin sent you (or Guide4WDW). While it costs you nothing extra over typical Disney rates, it really helps out the site in more than one way. Thanks!  

(Source: Disney) 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Legendary Cast of the Disney Parks - "Sunshine" From Whispering Canyon


by: guide4wdw - Collin

If you've read this site for any amount of time, you've likely noticed that I'm a huge fan of the "little things" of any Walt Disney World experience. To me, the smallest details accumulate and really help develop those life long memories a Disney vacation can readily develop. So, today, as we continue our Legendary Cast of the Disney Parks series, we're sharing a closer look at an incredible cast member that left a mark on our Disney vacation experience. 

This particular cast member isn't readily known (at least to my knowledge) by many guests, but rather simply played a predominant role in creating a memory our family continues to talk about to this day. It wasn't a planned experience, it didn't cost anything extra, but it was a cast member interaction that truly exemplified Disney quality service. 

On this particular day of our vacation, many years ago, we had planned advanced dining reservations for Whispering Canyon over at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. The dining location has been a part of our Disney vacation experiences for as long as I can remember. While I was very young on our first visits, I can recall staring off into the woods out the window, waiting in the lobby of the resort, riding the stick horses around the restaurant, and some other little details of the experience growing up. Today, the location has become a bit of a tradition. The food is outstanding, the environment is second to none, and the cast (as we're mentioning in detail today) is some of the very best on Disney property. 

However, on this particular occasion, we went into the restaurant in a rather bad mood. I'm not exactly sure why, but it just wasn't the best day we had on our vacation by any stretch of the imagination (at least not yet). Of course, we knew we were in for a good meal, but we didn't quite expect the experience we received from our server, known as "Sunshine." Now, that wasn't her real name and I don't entirely remember her real name even though we did ask at one point throughout the meal. Either way, the meal unfolded in a way that we never would have expected. 

As soon as she arrived at our table, you could tell it was going to be a fun experience. The trend at Wilderness Lodge is that the servers can be a little over the top and tend to joke with the guests as a portion of the location's theming. 'Sunshine" was no different and in many ways went above and beyond to make the experience memorable for not just us but each of her many tables. 

As the meal went on, we got to know our server a little better and ironically found out that a friend of ours worked with her at a different location on Disney property in the the not-so-distant past. It was one of those weird "small world" (no un intended) moments that really felt like you were in the right place at the right time. After that connection was made, the meal continued on and she made a special effort to learn about where we were from and even went as far as to share some of her personal stories of time spent near our home town. It was great to be thought of as not just another table, but rather as a new story to unravel. 

Perhaps the most impressive part of the whole "scene" was that when we mentioned a table near by that seemed a bit "less fun," for lack of a better term, she cordially mentioned that they were a bit irritated by the theming and (as we posed a few more questions) she revealed that not only had they left without any form of tip but also managed to steal the salt and pepper shakers off of the table. I don't add this to the story to make it seem like a complaint but rather to recognize how she made a special effort to continue making our experience better while her own situation was not entirely pleasant at the time. Come to find out, after we talked to another server at the restaurant, she was recovering from being sick that day as well but made light of it in order to better our experience once again. 

A the end of the day, this was an Disney dining moment my family will talk about for many years, and one that really created a memory for us that we'll never forget. You see, "Sunshine" may not be a name as recognizable as Richard Sherman, Bob Iger, Richard Gerth, or even Jack Olsen, but I can guarantee you that each individual on that list would say that her role is one of the single most important roles on Disney property despite what the title of her position may be. Honestly, after that one experience we haven't seen that particular server on later trips to Whispering Canyon, but be sure to ask for her if you ever find yourself at this particulate dining location.

Thanks for reading and have a great rest of the day. Have a cast member story you want us to share? Share it with us on your favorite social media site!  

If you don't quite know where to start as a first time guest, or even if you're a returning guest looking to grow an already amazing Disney experience, be sure to check out our friends at Destinations to Travel (clickable link). Just tell them Guide4WDW sent you! Not only are they one of a select group of Authorized Disney Vacation Planners, but this also gives you the opportunity to support the site at no cost to you over Disney's pricing! Their services truly build on an already wonderful Disney vacation experience.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Luxury Experiences At Walt Disney World You Should Try At Least Once


by: guide4wdw - Collin

Every Walt Disney World vacation is it’s very own entity that creates memories for guests in a way that is truly hard to explain. From simple trips on a tight budget to extravagant resort accommodations and one of a kind experiences, there truly is something for every budget on Disney property. Personally, we’ve traveled both ways multiple times, but there’s something unique about the luxury options on Disney property. So, while taking into consideration that luxury tends to accompany a hefty price tag, here’s a closer look at our 5 Luxury Experiences on Disney Property.  

5. Club Level
The first step to any luxury experience is resort accommodations. Across the realm of Disney deluxe resorts, you’ll find what is termed “club level” accommodations. The club is essentially one floor of most deluxe tier resorts (with the exception of some unique club “set-ups” at select resorts) which provide guests the greatest tier of luxury on property. Beyond your typical accommodations, the club provides snack meals throughout the day, beer and wine offerings, extra travel size amenities compared to standard rooms, luxurious robes, a floor specific concierge, and typically an exquisite fireworks viewing area. 

I’ve stayed club level one time recently over at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge resort. While each resort features its own uniquely themed club level, the staff and dining options of the experience were second to none. As mentioned, these added perks do come at a an addition cost of around $100-150 extra per night over a standard room. For many, the additional cost seems quite high but you really do get an outstanding amount of add-ons for the required higher pricing structure. 

4. Rent the Grand 1 Yacht 
As perhaps the pinnacle of luxury at Walt Disney World, the Grand 1 Yacht is a rentable 52 foot luxury yacht utilized for special occasions. The yacht itself will accommodate 17 or 18 guests and is led by your very own captain. As an optional add on, you can hire out a butler for the evening, and even add fine dining to your overall experience. 

For a special event or large party, there’s nothing quite as impressive as a view of nighttime fireworks spectaculars from the Seven Seas Lagoon or Bay Lake. During the show itself, the music of the performance is piped into the audio capabilities of the boat and perfectly paired with the dazzling show in the distance! However, with the experience starting out at $399 per hour, it may or may not fit a variety of budgets. If you need help scheduling a special event or occasion utilizing this yacht, contact Destinations to Travel and tell them Guide4WDW sent you. 

3. Victoria and Albert’s 
Perhaps as an accompaniment before your Grand 1 Yacht experience, Victoria and Albert’s is the pinnacle of luxury dining on Disney property and largely in the state of Florida altogether. The meal itself is a AAA rated Five Diamond Award winner and has been so for many years. Experience the elegance of an up to 13 course meal specially prepared by some of the best culinary experts in the country. Want to kick things up one more notch? Book the Chef’s table for a specially prepared meal by Chef Scott Hunnel himself in a unique yet incredibly wonderful setting. All things considered, this is likely the most luxurious dining opportunity on Disney property. Also worth noting is that this experience is one of the very few on Disney property that feature a rather strict dress code (Dress Code).

2. Dining With An Imagineer
Sticking with the dining realm, certain guests may prefer a less elaborate, while equally unique, dining experience. Disney has offered for quite a few years a “Dine With An Imagineer” option at both the Brown Derby and Citricos dining locations. As you sit and eat a multi course meal, a Disney Imagineer will join you at the table for pleasant conversation and deeper insight into the realm of Imagineering. Many of these creative minds have brought to life many of the attractions you and your family have likely experienced year after year. Having the opportunity to simply converse with those who work “behind the scenes” would be a truly memorable experience above and beyond the typical Walt Disney World dining experience. It can certainly create some unforgettable moments that guests as young as 14 years old can partake in and enjoy. 

1. Senses Spa 
As one of the better known spas on Disney property, Senses at Disney’s Grand Floridian offers a variety of different offerings for a range of price points. Relax and soak in the victorian elegance, as you receive a massage, facial, body therapy, or one of many other offerings. Prices range form $50 to near $400 but most guests will be able to find something to check that luxury box without breaking the bank. It’s an incredibly unique environment for guests to enjoy and one that really sets itself apart from the hustle and bustle of the Disney parks experience many choose to partake in. The parks are incredible, but sometimes a day of relaxation is just what you need in the middle of a week long vacation to escape reality in a way that you cant quite experience anywhere else.

So, there you have it! There's 5 Luxury Experiences at Walt Disney World You Should Try At Least Once. While we haven't yet tried everything on this list (and they are in no particular order), many of these are on our Disney “bucket list” and are things that come well reviewed and vastly recommended by friends and family. 

If you don't quite know where to start as a first time guest, or even if you're a returning guest looking to grow an already amazing Disney experience, be sure to check out our friends at Destinations to Travel (clickable link). Just tell them Guide4WDW sent you! Not only are they one of a select group of Authorized Disney Vacation Planners, but this also gives you the opportunity to support the site at no cost to you over Disney's pricing! Their services truly build on an already wonderful Disney vacation experience.

So, what’s the first one of these you want to cross off your list? Thanks for reading, and have an outstanding rest of the day!   

Today's article is an adaptation of an article I wrote for our friends over at Hinson Photography and Design. We're not directly associated with them but were asked if we would do a write up for their site. I'll up link their article and share it on social media when it debuts.    

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