Thursday, 24 September 2015

Duffy meet and greet to end at Epcot

It has recently been announced that the Duffy meet and greet at Epcot will be ending soon and replaced.

Duffy is currently doing the meet and greet near the World Showcase Plaza in Epcot and when I was there in August had a short line for photos.

Duffy is a real hugger and seemed to have as many adults as children meeting him!

It looks like Duffy will leave the park on the 3rd October and won't be making a comeback any time soon.  I personally love Duffy and although he has been a controversial character I think he is cute.

Who is replacing Duffy at that spot - I've heard it might be Daisy Duck!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Memory Maker - is it worth it?

For the first time in forever I have holiday photos with me in them thanks to using the Memory Maker package.

We decided to purchase Memory Maker before we went on vacation and paid the $169.

My tech gear I took

Being an avid photographer with a fairly decent DSLR (Canon EOS 70D) and GoPro a couple of friends wondered why I would pay for photos when I can take my own.  The main advantage for our vacation was simply the ability to have me in the photos, particularly at the character meet and greets.

Why Memory Maker and not just PhotoPass?

Memory Maker gives you the additional added benefits of:

  • Attraction photos and videos
  • Magic shots
  • Dining photos

Reading various blogs about the PhotoPass photographers you can easily get a mixed message about the value and quality of their work.

This is our experience.

  • Without fail, every single PhotoPass photographer was polite, helpful and keen to take our photo.  We never felt rushed to have a photo taken (apart from when meeting characters)
  • Whilst most of the photos are standard shots taken at each location with standard settings we asked a couple of times for specific shots and the photographers were happy to help.  We wanted one photo of just our MagicBands which they were happy to take.
  • We do not appear to have any missing or lost photos and all the photos were seamlessly added to our account.
  • It was really good looking at the photos (via the website) on mobile devices whilst in the parks.  Since coming back from our vacation, there is now good integration of the PhotoPass system into the My Disney Experience Mobile App - it would have been brilliant if that had been available while we were away.
  • The attraction and rides photos worked well and after an initial confusion about selecting your photo from the screen with our Magic Band it all worked well.  We love the couple of ride videos - they were lovely.
  • The magic shots are nice.  We felt a little odd at times holding a strange pose but the photos are very sweet.  This is a nice touch.
  • The extra photos you get added each day of characters and the parks are good.  If you do visit the same park more than once you will get multiple copies.
  • The PhotoPass website works well and the level of customisation of photos is good.  You can add borders and other effects.  It is nice to see your photos grouped by date and park.
And now for the disappointing part ....

  • Downloading your photos as a ZIP (or multiple) files is relatively straight forward and we were able to do this easily when we got home.  I like to organise my photos and make good use of the metadata.  The additional meta data does include the date and time the photo was taken but this is not incorporated into the filename or date created.

In conclusion I am really glad we used Memory Maker and would definitely use it again. 

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Disney snacks and tasty treats

One of things I really enjoyed at Disney World was the food.  We unfortunately didn't get to eat at any table service restaurants but we did experience some of the fine counter service and outdoor food.

Here are some of our favourites .....

Corndogs and a BBQ Slaw Dog from Casey's Corner at Magic Kingdom.  We loved the food in here but found it a much nicer experience when eating outside.

Currently the Corn Dog Nuggets cost $5.99 and the BBQ Slaw Dog (topped with pulled pork, coleslaw and BBQ sauce) costs $10.29 (does include fries)

This was my first experience of Corn Dogs and instantly loved them!

The Mickey Pretzel was a huge hit, and we still can't quite believe how big they were!  They come in a couple of varieties but we loved the salted ones with the warm cheese dipping pot.  Whilst considered a snack these are very filling and will definitely keep you going.  They currently cost around the $4 price point.

Another very tasty treat, this time from Animal Kingdom was the giant Mickey cookie.  I think it was somewhere around the $5 price point.  Again, this was a lovely and very filling tasty treat.

I bought these in Magic Kingdom hoping to bring them back home to the UK but they got eaten straight away.  These Resort Delights Coconut Patties were surprising big and very tasty.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Meeting a trainee Snow White

We were very fortunate to have a private family character meet with Snow White at Epcot with no line or Fast Pass.

How did this happen I hear you say?

We were wandering around Epcot World Showcase heading out of England towards France and we saw Snow White surrounded by four Cast Members.  We thought that she was probably heading to a character meet so we didn't try to get a photo.  

The Cast Members called us over and asked if we would like a photo taken with Snow.  We did and she was a very good Snow White.  Standing behind me were the Cast Members giving her directions on how to interact with guests in the park.

It felt a very special moment being with a character for one of her first guest interactions in the park.  There was no photo pass photographer, as it was just a training session but one the Cast Members offered to take a few photos of us on my camera.

It is great when these extra moments of magic happen at Walt Disney World.

She was a lovely Snow White and I hope she does well.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Main Street Trolley Show - Magic Kingdom Photoblog

I love the smaller scale entertainment you find at Disney World.  One piece I really enjoyed was the Main Street Trolley Show.

"Watch these citizens pour out of the trolley to dance and sing as they welcome you to the most magical place on earth!" 
The show lasts about twenty minutes and is currently on at 9.15am, 10.10am and 12.00pm.

Lots of energy and wholesomeness! 

Definitely one not to miss.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Travelling with a child with allergies to America with Virgin Atlantic

We hope that this blog post will be useful to people as we share our experience of travelling to Orlando with a child with nut allergies.

When we first started planning the trip last year we were surprised about the lack of information regarding taking medicine including an Epi-pen on a flight.  Judging by the number of post on Netmums this is clearly an important issue.

Our child is allergic to both walnuts and pecans and avoids eating them and coming in contact with them.  Following a bad allergic reaction requiring hospital treatment when he was younger he carries a bottle of Piriton (antihistamine) and an Epi-pen with him.

The main questions we needed help with were:
  • Will there be any issues taking Piriton (a liquid) and an Epi-pen on a flight?
  • What documentation should we take with us?
  • What information should we tell the airline?
  • Will this affect our travel insurance?
This is what we found out and a summary of our experiences.  We would definitely recommend your own research before you travel.

Will there be any issues taking Piriton (a liquid) and an Epi-pen on a flight?

Before we travelled we requested a new prescription for the Piriton as his old bottle had expired.  Conscious of the 100ml rule we didn't want to take the standard 150ml bottle on the flight.  Our local pharmacy were more than accommodating in splitting the bottle into two 75ml batches in smaller 100ml bottles.  Both were clearly labelled with all the relevant information.  We also requested a second prescription to take with us incase we had to buy more.  We put both bottles into small zip-lock sandwich bags and both myself and my wife took one bag each in our hand luggage.  We also put the epi-pen along with a duplicate prescription in a zip-lock bag and had in our hand luggage. 

What documentation should we take with us?

In addition to the duplicate prescriptions we obtained a letter from our GP outlining the medical condition our son has and the required medication.  We had to pay £25 for this.  We took photocopies of all our prescriptions and made sure that we both had copies in our hand luggage.

What information should we tell the airline?

Approximately two months before we travelled we emailed Virgin special assistance at where we outlined our son's issues.  We had a very nice reply back.  They double checked that we had requested a nut friendly meal for both the outward and return flight.

Will this affect our travel insurance?

We took out travel insurance with Tesco travel insurance and this did not complicate or change the premium for us.  We were asked the standard questions of which we were able to say "No" to everything.  At the end of the questions we explained about our son's allergy and because it did not answer "yes" at any point it was not considered an issue.  We definitely think you should mention any issues like this even if it is not flagged up by the questionnaire. A simple visit to the ER for a child could easily cost more than $2000.

Our experience of the flight

Outward travel through Gatwick was simple and we experienced no delays at security.  With the liquids being in 100ml bottles and the Epi-pen clearly visible we were not stopped or even questioned about it.  The Virgin crew came and checked which child was having the nut friendly meal and these were served separately.  The staff were very careful about checking with us at every food serving.  The only downside to the nut friendly meal was not being able to have the children's meal.

Coming back from America

We had no problems at all coming back through the TSA security checks at Orlando airport. The TSA agents didn't ask us for any documentation and were very happy for us to carry through the medicines in our hand luggage.

Final thoughts

We were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to take our son into America even with his Epi-Pen and his medication.  I do think the key to this is preplanning and having everything you need with you.

Check list

  • Eli-Pen packed in hand luggage in a zip-lock bag
  • Liquid medicine in bottles less than 100ml
  • Spare prescription and photocopy 
  • Doctor's letter
  • Email airline

This is based on our experience and research.  It is always worth discussing this with your own doctor.

Monday, 7 September 2015

An extra bit of Disney Magic happened at Animal Kingdom

I am a firm believer in the old saying of treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.  We made a real point of always saying "Please" and "Thank you" whilst we were in the parks.  It was obvious from a number of cast members reactions that this is not always the way that guests treat cast members.

Whilst we were at Animal Kingdom we caught the end of the end of the "Flights of Wonder" bird show in Asia.  Being an avid photographer I put my camera into high speed shutter mode and took lots of photos of the birds in flight.

As we were leaving the show I simply said "thanks" to the cast member and told them how much we had enjoyed the show and how I was pleased with the photos I had taken.

The cast member then told us to wait behind if we had a couple of minutes to spare.  It turned out that they were about to do some training with one of the younger birds and needed a family to simulate a small audience.  We were then treated to a small private training session for about five minutes.  It was really good to see how the training was carried out, but also to feel special that we were able to see it privately. 

You never know when an extra special moment of Disney Magic is going to happen, and we certainly didn't set out aiming for this to happen!

I do feel that cast members do appreciate good manners in the park and especially when guests say thank you after a ride or an experience.  

Have you had a moment where you have experienced an extra special bit of Disney magic? 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Jurassic Park River Adventure at Islands of Adventure POV

One of my favourite rides at Islands of Adventure has to be the Jurassic Park River Adventure.

There is a great amount of theming which anyone who either loves the original films or Jurassic World will appreciate.

I had an interesting experience on this ride, despite walking past several cast members and being safety checked before the ride started we were told-off for wearing the GoPro towards the end of the ride.  If you listen carefully you will hear an announcement telling me to take off my GoPro or the ride will stop!

Did you know? When the ride was first opened the 85 foot drop was one of the largest in the world for a water ride.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Frozen Royal Welcome Parade Disney's Hollywood Studios

We really enjoyed the Frozen Summer of Fun events at Disney's Hollywood Studio this summer.  A really good part of the day is the Frozen Royal Welcome Parade.

Anna and Elsa make a lovely guest appearance as they arrive at the Sorcerer's Hat stage.  There is some lovely winter themed performances during the parade.  This is definitely one not to miss.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Clyde and Seamore's Sea Lion High show at SeaWorld Orlando

We recently saw the hilarious new Sea Lion show at SeaWorld Orlando.  Clyde and Seamore's Sea Lion High show is a really entertaining High-school based comedy featuring some really cute Sea Lions, Walruses and otters.

The cheeky duo have a couple of classes left to complete before they can get into Ocean University.

Before the show starts there is a really lovely pre-show appreciation for teachers which (being one) I found really nice!

This is a great show and would thoroughly recommend it.