Friday, April 29, 2016

MY DISNEY PODCAST LIBRARY... 5 Years Later!

   It was in 2011 that I wrote a blog about my Disney Podcast Library.  I was not yet retired, and Disney Podcasts on my iPod kept me going through my work day, every day!  I've since retired, and my iPod gave up the ghost (just weeks before I retired).



   Back in April of 2011, I listed 9 awesome podcasts, but of those 9, 5 years later, only 5 remain (that I know of).  The WDW Fanboys, Beta Mouse, Magical Definitions, and Intercot Insider Live have all gone the way of Maelstrom (An attraction at Epcot that is no longer there).  Magical Definitions still remains (in a way) - Nathan Rose & Jim Hill were the hosts, but Jim Hill now does a podcast with Len Testa.

   I've trimmed my iTunes podcast library dramatically, and it's down to 4 podcasts now.  I listen to a few of the others every once in a while, but I just get those shows from their websites rather than downloading them to iTunes.

   The 4 podcasts remaining in this "Battle Royal" of Disney Podcast loyalty are (in no particular order):

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Hard to imagine Len Testa as "Straight Man", but Jim Hill knows all - tells all.

   The Unofficial Guides Disney Dish Podcast with Jim Hill

   This has now become my favorite of all podcasts.  Len Testa emerged as one of my favorite Disney podcast personalities, as co-author of the text book of  WDW touring books - The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, he knows his stuff, but the true Guru of all things Disney is Jim Hill, and the two have a great chemistry during their shows.  They tackle subjects that hard core Dis fans want to know about, and Jim Hill knows his stuff like no one else, and delivers it in a way that makes you feel like you are walking alongside of him touring the parks.  Two "Disney Rock Stars" who make for an awesome Podcast.

Visit the show's website: https://disneydish.bandcamp.com/

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The Disney Nerds Podcast  
   This is one that I found after I wrote that blog posting back in 2011.  I'm not sure how I found them, but I'm glad I did.  These guys fill the void left by the departure of the original WDW Today podcast.  Sam (from Sam's Disney Diary), Jimmy, Ed, and Jen are a great group of folks who love Disney parks as much as I do.  They take you on audio tours of attractions & parks, share thoughts on the goings-on at Disney World, and just make for a fun time on every podcast.

Check out the show's website: The Disney Nerds Podcast

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Dave's Disney View Podcast
   This is another podcast that I found after 2011.  It's not "serious" in nature, but it's not as "silly" as other Disney World podcasts.  Dave was an actual Cast Member at WDW, so he has an insight that I just love to listen to.  He's a man who makes me proud  to be a Disney World Nerd.  He obviously has a love for and loyalty to Walt Disney World, but is not afraid to express his feelings when he does not like something.  He has a positive way of talking about WDW attractions and events.

Check out the show website:  Dave's Disney View Podcast

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   Walt Disney World Today
   This Podcast is the same in name only.  The original lineup included 5 legends of Disney podcasting:  Annette Owens, Len Testa, Matt Hochberg, Mike Newell, and Mike Scopa.  This was by far my favorite podcast in the world.  All good things must come to an end, and WDW Today came to an "end", but re-emerged with new hosts, and a little different format.  It took me a while to get used to it, but eventually I accepted the fact that "Matt, Mike, Mike, and Len (& Annette)" were not coming back.  The new hosts are Logan, Terry and Will and the show is still fun.  And... one of the "originals" from the show - Len Testa still makes appearances on the show to answer listener questions!  They take on subjects and give their takes on things, it's fun and made "the cut" to remain in my iTunes library.



Check it out:  http://www.wdwtoday.com/

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Those are the 4 that remain in my podcast library (along with 3 boxing podcasts, and Calvary Chapel Albuquerque).  But that doesn't mean that I don't listen to other podcasts by visiting their websites.  Lou Mongello's WDW Radio Show, The Be Our Guest Podcast, Disney Parks Podcast and The Mighty Men of Mouse are 4 others that aren't in my personal iTunes library, but I would suggest you track down and listen to them if you are really into Disney Parks & Walt Disney World!  And of course, if you are into Disneyland in Anaheim, California, you have to listen to the Mousetalgia podcast.

   I no longer need to feed off of my Disney podcasts to get me through a dreary and life draining job (can you tell I was more than ready to retire?), but I still LOVE to listen to my Disney Parks podcasts as I plan for the next visit to Disneyland or Walt Disney World.  Pick one, and give it a listen, you might just get hooked!







Saturday, March 26, 2016

DISNEY'S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

   It's the original moderate level resort at WDW, and with 2,100+ rooms, it's also the largest resort on WDW property.  Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort was a nice surprise for us when we stayed there back in 2015.

The Resort is almost as colorful as the map!


RESORT LAYOUT:

  

This resort really has a magical & romantic atmosphere at night
      The Resort is huge and very spread out, but it's so beautifully themed and relaxing!  With the lake and all of the walkways along the white sandy beach areas with hammocks and benches, it is hard to resist just dropping all of your plans and kicking back for an hour or more.

   The resort opened in 1988 and is the first of the moderate level resorts built on Disney property.  It wasn't until 17 years later that Disney would begin the "Magical Express" bus transport service from Orlando International Airport to Walt Disney World resorts.  This would explain why the CBR seems to be made with guests having their own vehicles in mind.  CBR is broken into 6 different areas: Jamaica, Aruba, Barbados, Martinique, Trinidad North, and Trinidad South. 



   There is a separate check in building called the Custom House and it can be a bit tricky, as you have to check in there first before finding your room.  If you have your own car, that's no big deal, but if you come in as a guest via Disney's Magical Express, you will have to check in and then take the internal bus to your area, not really a huge deal, but another step before settling in. The main pool, dining and gift shop areas are located at the Old Port Royale area pretty much in the middle of the resort.  We stayed in the Trinidad South area which is the farthest away from Old Port Royale, but it turned out to be a great location, quiet and away from the busy pool area, but not too far of a walk, in fact that walk along the lake became one of our favorite things about the resort!

DINING:  

   Dining at CBR was one of the pleasant surprises for us on this trip.  There is a restaurant - Shutters on property, as well as a food court type counter service area all located inside the building at Old Port Royale.  Shutters hasn't had the best reviews of the Disney eateries in past years, but we were blown away at how good our meal was!

Shutters was a very pleasant surprise for us!



   The Steak and Fish dishes we ordered were absolutely delicious, the dessert was great, and the service was as good as it gets!
  
  
   There is a food court of sorts which had different stations and again, service was great, and we must have hit it just right, because there was never an issue of overcrowding when we were there, tables were plentiful and so was the food! 

One of the offerings from the Pasta station


   There is a grab-n-go area, and gift shop also located in the Old Port Royale building.  

Entrance to "Old Port Royale" at Caribbean Beach Resort

TRANSPORTATION:

   As mentioned earlier, the resort seems to be built with the idea of guests having their own vehicles, but once you learn the CBR bus system, it's about the same as the other resorts.  Each area has it's own covered bus stop and buses arrive every 20 min. or so to take you to each of the 4 theme parks, as well as Disney Springs.  There is also an internal bus that will just drive around the resort stopping at each of the bus stops. 
Bus stop at the Jamaica area

  We got the hang of things quickly (and that's not easy for "Grandma & Grandpa"!), and soon the only thing we weren't sure about was whether we should get off at Old Port Royale's stop and walk to the room, or ride all the way to Trinidad South. 

   If you have your own car, then it's even better, there's plenty of parking at each section of rooms, and you can have your car right near your room!

OUR ROOM:

   We planned this trip on shorter notice than usual, and the resorts were pretty booked up, including the CBR.  We paid a little extra and got one of the Pirate themed rooms.
Yo-Ho, Yo-Ho, A Pirate room for me!

   It's loaded with little touches that kids will really enjoy... even "big kids" (like us). 

Ready to "set sail" on a good night's sleep


The beds look like pirate ships, the fridge is in a barrel, and lots of little touches that make you feel like you are Captain Jack Sparrow.

We were in building "39"
The view from our room was very relaxing

 
THE POOL:

   We didn't even go for a swim on this trip, but the main pool is really nice!


It's located at the Old Port Royale area, and has a slide, as well as a "Kiddie" Splash n' Play area. 

The Grand kids will LOVE the Splash n' Play area!


There are also "quiet" pools located around the resort which are just basic swimming pools with lounge chairs around them.  We will definitely take a day to enjoy the pool next time we stay here.

OVERALL:

   Overall, the Caribbean Beach Resort has become one of our favorites (of course, I say that about EVERY Disney Resort!).  It's one of the most beautifully themed resorts WDW has to offer, and I could easily see myself spending an entire vacation just hanging out at the resort! 


   We didn't even see all that it has to offer.  There's plenty of space for exploring around the resort.  Lots of nice touches make this a place that I'm looking forward to returning and making my "base of operations" for another fantastic Walt Disney World trip!

  

  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

THINGS OF DISNEY PAST

   Disney's resorts and parks are always in a state of change.  Competition from other entertainment venues makes this a fact of life for the Disney fan.  I often hear complaining and griping about the changes, but usually, it turns out for the better (to me).

   I'm sitting here and thinking about how much the Disney Empire (Walt Disney World in particular) has changed.  This could be a long posting if I tried to dig all the way back, but I'm just thinking about things that have gone away since around 2009 or so, just a few things.  If you went to WDW today - for your very first visit - and hadn't really studied up on it's history etc.  You would not know what it's like to experience...

MAELSTROM (Epcot): 
The crazy, disjointed, confusing, but fun boat ride at Epcot's Norway Pavilion.  It was short, but beloved by Disney Park's fans, probably because it was one of only 2 actual "rides" in Epcot's World Showcase.

It was a little exciting, very colorful, and really did have a feel of "adventure" to it.  It was closed and is in the process of being replaced with a ride based on the smash hit movie Frozen.  Many Dis-nerds are up in arms about the change.  And while I really loved Maelstrom, I'm betting on the new ride to be a hit... especially with my 2 Granddaughters!

The BREATHLESS II (Epcot): 
Breathless was a speed boat that you could buy time and go for a spin around World Showcase Lagoon.
I would have loved to take a spin on the Breathless II

   You would not drive it, but the driver would take you for a speedy cruise. You could also book special cruises for the Illuminations fireworks spectacular on the lagoon.  I would have really liked to do it, but by the time I was ready to go for it... it was gone!

CAMP MINNIE MICKEY (Animal Kingdom): 


A whole "Land"?  Yup, but to be honest with you, I never really "got" it.  It was an area of Disney's Animal Kingdom with meet-and-greets, and the main attraction was the theater that housed the Festival of the Lion King show.  It was fun to walk through and see figurines of the characters fishing or hiking, but there really wasn't much to this "Land".
They never caught anything!

I always felt like it was just a placeholder for what was REALLY coming to Animal Kingdom, and I think the new Pandora: World of Avatar is that thing.







THE BACKLOT TOUR (Disney Hollywood Studios):

Future generations will probably never even know that at one time The Disney Hollywood Studios (or whatever it will be called by then) was an actual working "Studio".  Although it never took off as a major Production Studio, it was still used for movies & television, and was portrayed to visitors as such.  Even the name "Disney MGM Studios" made you feel that it was part of MGM's productions.  It was a fun idea many years ago, but the novelty slowly wore off and the same thing happened across town at Universal "Studios".  The tram tour in it's original form was a long and intricate tour, it gave visitors the feeling of going "behind the scenes" and seeing something special.  It was shortened, and eventually closed down for good.  The Backlot tour and the whole "Studio Idea" is gone, and Star Wars Land, and Toy Story Land will bring lots of glory back to the Disney Hollywood Studios.  The new generation will never know what they missed.

THE STAVE CHURCH (Epcot's Norway Pavilion):


This one is still there (in a way).  It was originally a mini Viking Museum - or at least that's what it was when we discovered it in 2010.  I never even thought to go inside and check it out, and when I did, I LOVED it!  Nothing fancy, not very big, in fact it was tiny!  But it was a really cool little gem that I looked forward to stepping inside and checking out every visit.  It was recently changed to a Frozen theme, and it's still nice, but I miss my Vikings!


These are just a few of the things that are now Disney history.  I'm looking forward to the new things that Disney Imagineering will bring in the years to come.  I am glad that I got to taste "Old WDW" though!

Monday, November 16, 2015

EPCOT: Food & Wine Festival 2015



   Many Disney fanatics refer to it as "The best time of the year".  I can't argue with that.  This year was the 20th annual Epcot Food & Wine Festival, and it was a smashing success.  Held from Sept. 25 - Nov. 16, this year's festival was the longest, running 52 days, and featuring over 30 different food booths, plus carts with special festival offerings, 22 different acts featured at the "Eat to the Beat" concert series, special festival merchandise, passholder festival merchandise, seminars featuring guest chefs, colorful displays and topiaries, and so much more.

   We did our first festival in 2012 and were hooked.  Having to wait 3 years for our next visit to the Epcot F & W fest, we planned for a stay that would include 5 days of visits to Epcot for the big event.  We read blogs and watched videos to prepare ourselves and make up a list of  "must taste" items.

The Festival Center 

Our first stop

   Our first stop was at the Festival Center which is located in the original Wonders of Life Pavilion.  The domed building that once housed the popular Body Wars simulator ride.  Here you can pick up your festival "Passport" which is a great little guide as well as a very informative tool with listings of what's available at the food booths and lots of other information about the goings on.  It makes for a nice little souvenir too.
A Handy little tool
Inside the booklet are listings of the food and drinks they offer and a place to get a stamp at each booth.  Just ask them when ordering and they will happily stamp your passport.  We had fun getting every booth and cart stamped in our booklets, and then going to the festival center for the "completion stamp".  It also has boxes by each item where you can check off what you tried during your visit(s).  We were very glad that we grabbed our passports early, because by the 3rd day of our tour, some of the guests we talked with asked us where we got ours, and said they could not find them anywhere.  They were becoming scarce towards the end of the festival's run.  The Festival Center itself is a nice place to just relax and take in the atmosphere.  There are lots of festival items available for purchase, and a little theater which was running a continuous film about the making of the festival.  One thing I think everyone should check out is Ghirardelli's display of beautiful sculptures made completely of chocolate!


The Avengers assemble  (in chocolate!)
 You can also get a free sample of Ghirardelli chocolate as you walk out of the exhibit.  There is also the Intermissions Cafe which features sandwiches, snacks and beverages if you're a little hungry or thirsty.  It's always fun just being inside the pavilion building and remembering back when this was one of Epcot's future world pavilions.
Carl's house from "UP" (in chocolate!)

The Festival Booths 
 
   Now we come to "The Main Event", the booths are located mostly around Epcot's World Showcase, but new this year were a couple of booths in the Future World area.  Our first booth of the trip was The Dominican Republic which featured one of our favorite items: "Pescado con Coco"  which was a pan seared grouper in a coconut sauce.
Pescado con Coco & Caramel Flan with Rum Roasted Pineapple
The Dominican Republic booth was a beautiful setting

   Crowds were not too heavy during weekdays, and even on the weekend they were very manageable for most of the afternoon.  We ate something light in the room, and then made the festival booths our lunch for the day.  We wandered around hitting booth after booth and enjoying treats from around the world.  

Here are a few of our favorites:
AUSTRALIA: Grilled Lamb Chop w/ Mint Pesto
BRAZIL: "Escondidinho de Carne" (Layered Meat Pie w/ mashed Yucca) and The Brazilian Cheese Bread
NEW ZEALAND: Seared Venison Loin & Lamb Meatball w/ Spicy Tomato Chutney





HAWAII: Pulled Pork Slider w/ Sweet & Sour Pineapple Chutney



ITALY: Filetto di Pollo w/ Marsala Sauce & Ciabatta Bread


FRANCE: Beef Bourguinon in Cabernet sauce w/ mashed potatoes
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Desserts 
   There were some great desserts this year too.  My personal favorite was at the Scotland booth - "The Tipsy Laird" which is a Whiskey soaked Lemon cake with Cream and Toasted Oats.  

Scotland's "Tipsy Laird"
   Some of the others were:
DESSERTS & CHAMPAGNE: "Chocolate Cherry Explosion"
CHEW LAB: Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle











IRELAND: Warm Chocolate Pudding w/ Kerrygold Irish Cream Custard
SOUTH KOREA: Soju Banana Milkshake w/ Ginger Soother

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The Favorite Booth of the Festival  
   There was not a single booth that we did not enjoy, but we agreed on our favorite booth of the festival and it was a bit of a surprise.  With all of the exotic foods offered, rich and tasty treats from different parts of the world, you would think that it would be something else, but I guess our simple palates just couldn't stray far from home.  The favored booth for both of us was the "Farm Fresh" booth!  The "Griddled Yard Bird" (Grilled Chicken Breast w/ Braised Greens & Habanero Sauce), and "Loaded Mac n' Cheese" (w/ Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers, & Green Onions) stole the show!
Who'd-a-thunk it?  Farm Fresh was our favorite booth for 2015








"Griddled Yard Bird"
"Loaded Mac 'n' Cheese"

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Favorite Pairing of the Festival 

Each booth features a "Pairing" in which Disney's food experts will match an entree with a beverage.  Our budget didn't allow us to try every pairing, but of those that we did try, my personal favorite was the Poland booth's pairing of a Sauerkraut Perogi w/ Pork Goulash, and the Donausonne Blaufaenkisch Hungarian Wine.

Disney Fountain of Youth's favorite pairing of 2015 - Poland

Eat to the Beat Concert Series 

   One of the great things about Epcot's Food & Wine Festival is the concert series.  22 great acts performed this year including (just to name a few): 
  • CHRISTOPHER CROSS
  • THE POINTER SISTERS
  • .38 SPECIAL
  • RICK SPRINGFIELD
  • EVERCLEAR
  • BOYS II MEN
  • SISTER HAZEL
  • CHAKA KHAN
   The concerts are included with your days admission to Epcot, and are performed 3 times each evening at the outdoor Americas Gardens Theater right on the water of World Showcase Lagoon.  A beautiful setting for a concert.
   
   Because of flight delays arriving, we missed SISTER HAZEL, but we were able to catch 2 of the concerts:

BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY 


BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY: This Southern Cal Swing Band tore it up, and made us instant fans!

What a night with "Big Bad Voodoo Daddy"!

and we ended the trip with...

HANSON 


HANSON: They don't "look like girls" anymore, and really rocked the house!
Check out this video from our evening:


I never dreamed, in a million years, that I'd attend a Hanson Concert... and LOVE IT!

The Wild Side of Disney 
   One thing that we learned from this year's Festival is that night time brings on a whole different atmosphere to the event.  If you are looking for a "wilder" atmosphere from a Disney park, just head on over to Epcot during the Food & Wine Festival after dark.  The crowds seemed to triple from the afternoons, and the loud talking set invaded World Showcase.

A Special time for Epcot 

   The sights around Epcot during the Festival are beautiful.  Special Topiaries and displays celebrating the event are all around the park, and they are both colorful and enjoyable.  Making for some great picture taking opportunities. 







The Cranberry Bog
   And other special things like The Cranberry Bog - right there in the middle of the walkway heading from Future World to World Showcase.  With a Cranberry farmer in waders there to answer questions about the fruit, and a stand off to the side where you can get all of the free craisins you want!


Craisins anyone?



   And the old Odyssey restaurant building transforms into the Craft Beer Pavilion during the festival.  You can sample different beers from local Florida small breweries. 


Beer Flights from around Florida

The old Odyssey Restaurant transforms into the Craft Beer Pavilion at Festival Time













 And for Annual Passholders, there are special merchandise available for purchase, as well as a free commemorative Glass from the Festival for AP holders that attend the event 3 days - getting their passports stamped 3 times (once each day) at the Innoventions West Pavilion


Overall, this really is the best time of the year for this old guy.  It's an event that involves all of your senses, and is something to look forward to each year.  There are new booths to try every year, and most of the old favorites return.
Great Annual Passholder merchandise available

Thanks for coming along on this tour of the 2015 Epcot Food & Wine Festival.  Hope to see you there one day!