Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Disney Rumors, Speculation & Wishes for 2012 & Beyond

When you're a company that loves to reinvent yourself, as much as Disney-one thing you can count on is rumors & speculation. And right now-they are a flying. The expansion of Fantasyland in Disney World, the opening of Cars Land in Disney's California Adventure, the on again, off again rumors of Avatar Land-all got me thinking about what changes I would like to see it Disney parks. For me, "my" park is Disney World and with all the room down there-anything is possible. So I guess I am gonna start some rumors of my own. But be warned-very little of this has to do with any sort of facts, inside info or even common sense. It's simply things I have heard and even more so-things I would love to hear are happening.

Magic Kingdom
The Fantasyland expansion at the Magic Kingdom, has been the biggest source of speculation of course. First if it would happen, then what the changes would be, and now even the completion and success of the whole thing. Now let's be real-of course they will finish it-but will the finished product have all it was projected to have? The 7 Dwarfs Mine Ride is giving the Disney imagineers a lot of trouble. The design of the mine car, that guests will be riding in, is causing the glitch. Apparently it dumps you out lol. There are rumors that it's completion date is being pushed back-way back, possibly to 2014. And there are even rumors it might be scraped altogether. If that happens-then what will fill that space? Please don't let it be another Meet & Greet. I am torn about this one-while it would be nice to have a slightly more exciting ride added, Fantasyland was always little kids realm. Perhaps the imagineers need to sacrifice on the movement and just make it visually engaging and call it a day?

Here's what I'd like to see happen in the Magic Kingdom-again, pure wish & whimsy here folks:

* Tom Sawyers Island revamp. Make it more interactive, just like they are doing with certain lines, like the Haunted Mansion new interactive line.

* Revamp/re-use of the Liberty Belle River boat. Perhaps something to do with the Princess & the Frog? I would even love to see something along the lines of the old Empress Lily dining location. Anyone remember that?

* While we're on the topic of Tiana-I'd LOVE to see a Cajun inspired restaurant. One word-beignets.

* Make use of all that dead space in Tomorrowland. How about a Wall-E themed or Tron inspired ride or experience? And don't forget Monsters Inc. 2 is coming out in 2013.

* Do SOMETHING with the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. ANYTHING.

Animal Kingdom
Next up we have Animal Kingdom. The announcement of Disney's collaboration with James Cameron, to create an Avatar themed land inside the park, caused some very mixed reviews. Most of the negative ones came from all those people who saw it in 3-D and can still remember the headache they got from it. It was questioned what this new addition would even bring. First thing I thought of, was a ride similar to Soarin' but replaced with those dragon/pterodactyl things. No-not like a pterodactyl carousel, but perhaps a laying down hang glider type experience. 3-D, motion and wind-enough to make you lose your ostrich-I mean turkey leg lunch. They could slap it back there in that train wreck that is Dinoland and blend it quite nicely.

But alas-the rumors are-it's on the scrap heap. I like to believe, that if it's true, it happened something like this:
James Cameron to Joe Rhodes "This is my idea for Avatar Land."
Joe Rhodes to James Cameron "Your idea sucks James. Not gonna happen. This is MY park sucker."
Yeah, even in my imagination-Joe Rhodes is one bad mama-jama.

Hollywood Studios
Some interesting rumors here. A new MuppetsVision 3D Movie. There is also a really awesome rumor (IMO) that we will see a Monsters Inc. ride-perhaps a roller coaster even.  Fantasmic is being tinkered with. I HIGHLY doubt it will be scrapped or replaced, but you gotta think that it's costing them a small fortune to run it. So I expect that the fire elements will be replaced with lights? Shot in the dark on that one lol.

Here's what I'd like to see over there:

* Cars Land. California Adventure has it-we need it.

* Revamp/Replace the Backlot Tour. I like it, but it needs something. Maybe it's just taking up valuable real estate and needs to go?

* Bring back the Toy Story Parade. It was fun, it was interactive, it was one of 2 parades I'd actually stand and watch at WDW.

* I'd love to see something UP inspired in that park. Still working that out in my mind-Disney imagineers, I will get back to you on that.

* This one is gonna get me flamed but, I think a Roger Rabbit themed dining experience could be TONS of fun. Just think about it for a minute...

Epcot is the park I get most excited about, because they have so much room to play with here. TONS of unused/under-used space, in my opinion. The issue here, seems to be sponsors. They want one for everything it seems, in this park. After much rumor, it has been confirmed that Test Track is getting a face lift. There was a rumor they were getting a new sponsor-but it looks like Chevy is still in there. But an even better rumor-the new design will tie into Tron somehow. There is also a rumor that Soarin' will get an expanded movie, perhaps including some of Disney's other parks in the "visit". Instead of just flying over to California and seeing Disneyland & California Adventure, guests might be treated to views of other Disney parks, such as Disney Tokyo & Disney Paris. Here's my thought on that-know the Star Tours revamp? Where each time you ride, it's a different experience? Yup-you're welcome Disney. No charge for that idea, but I do accept gifts.

Here's what I would like to see happen in Epcot:

*ADD MORE COUNTRIES TO WORLD SHOWCASE! I'm a foodie-this should not surprise you.

So that's it, just my Tuesday morning musings and the fun of stirring the pot a wee bit. But I want to know-what changes, revamps would YOU like to see at Disney World parks?

Thursday, March 1, 2012


If you're anything like me-you've been waiting & watching for this! I've been saying for weeks we would see a Free Dining Promotion and Disney just proved me right! Disney has released Free Dining for late Summer/Fall for Disney Visa cardholders! Book a Disney vacation package-including tickets & a resort stay, and get the Disney dining plan FREE!!

The conditions of the promotion are as follows:

*Open to Disney Visa cardholders

*For travel August 25th-September 29th, 2012

*Book by May 18, 2012

*Minimum 2 day base ticket purchase required

*Minimum 3 day resort stay required

*Not valid on the Fort Wilderness Campsites, Art of Animation & All Stars Family Suites

*Quick Service Dining Plan with a Value Resort Category Bookings

*Plus Dining Plan with a Moderate & Deluxe Resort Category Bookings

**We fully expect to see this promo released to the general public on Monday, March 5th. So contact me today to plan your vacation!**

And because I am so excited-I'm offering my own perks. Book your magical Disney vacation through me & receive the following promo gifts:

All bookings over $2,000 will receive a personalized tote
All bookings over $3,000 will receive a personalized tote & 2 lanyards
All bookings over $4,000 will receive a $25 Disney gift card with your package
(**Larger packages will receive other promo items and gift card amounts-contact me for more info)
(**Total package price is pre-tax and does not include airfare or the assumed cost of the dining plan)

Along with these great promo gifts you also get personalized service, itinerary planning, dining reservations made, as well as all other entertainment reservations you might need, and someone there for any questions, concerns or issues you might have before, during and after your trip. There is NO COST for this service & the price you get through me is the same price you get through Disney. Actually it's better-when you factor in the promos gifts :) Contact me today for a quote or to book-but hurry, resort availability is limited as are dates. Once they sell out of the allotted rooms for this promotion-they're gone :(
Contact me at:
(845) 283-5099

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Upgrading Disney's Free Dining Promotion

Being mildly obsessed with eating, I am a big fan of Disneys' Free Dining promotion. I speculate when it will come out, the restrictions, which plan will be offered in each resort category, and so on. Yeah I know I have a problem, but hey-I gotta be me.

I've been keeping the faith that we will soon see another Free Dining promotion for late Summer/Fall. So I thought I would do a post (in the event a promo does come out) about a little trick we always take advantage of-upgrading the dining plan you are given for free, to a plan you like better. While not free to do this, it can get you out of a plan you don't care for (for me that's the Quick Service Plan) and into a better plan, with more options, for a reduced cost. We almost always pay to upgrade to the Deluxe plan. What can I say-I LOVE this plan. I just can't do burgers & nuggets for an entire vacation. But if the resort you are staying in is only offering the the Quick Service plan, then maybe paying to upgrade to the Plus plan it worth it to you. You get more dining options and the ability to do character meals and can even use 2 sit-down credits toward a Signature dining experience. You can also go up 2 tiers to the Deluxe plan-even if you're staying in a Value resort.

So how does it exactly work? Real easy:

1) First you book a Disney package, including room & tickets and you get one of the plans for free. Which plan depends on what Disney is offering at the time, but usually the Values get the Quick Service plan. The Moderates have gotten both the Quick Service & Plus plans, and the Deluxe resorts usually get the Plus plan. Notice my liberal use of the word "usually"-meaning Disney can and has thrown curve balls. But this is usually (there it is again) how it goes.

2) Then you decide which plan you would like to jump to. Do you want to go Quick Service to Plus? Or Quick Service to Deluxe? Or maybe even Plus to Deluxe? No problem. You just let your agent or Disney (if you're booking direct) know which plan you would like to upgrade to and they will simply add on the DIFFERENCE IN COST from the plan you are getting for free and the plan you wish to upgrade to.

**Now keep in mind that the cost of the dining plan is a per person, per night charge. So if you're getting the quick service plan for free for 2 people, you would add $37.10 per day ($18.55 each person) to the total cost of your vacation.

3) Plan your dining! Make your advanced dining reservations 180 days in advance. It wouldn't be good to upgrade to a better plan, only to be locked out of all the places you want to eat.

It's pretty much that simple! I've listed below the cost to upgrade from the different plans. I also listed the peak and non-peak travel costs & dates. Just don't forget this is per person, per day, when doing the math.

The NON-peak Dining plan cost to upgrade: 

To Upgrade from the Quick Service Plan to Plus Plan
$18.01  Adult
$2.84   Child

The Cost to Upgrade from the Plus Plan to the Deluxe Plan
$44.38 Adult
$9.68   Child

The Cost to Upgrade from the Quick Service Plan to the Deluxe Plan
$62.39 Adult
$12.52 Child

Dates for non peak pricing:

1/1/13 - 2/13/13
4/7/13- 5/30/13
8/4/13- 12/12/13

Peak travel time dining plan cost to upgrade:

To Upgrade from the Quick Service Plan to the Plus Plan (during peak season)
$19.36 Adult
$43.84 Child

To Upgrade to from the Plus Plan to the Deluxe Plan
$45.33 Adult
$10.75 Child

To Upgrade from the Quick Service Plan to the Deluxe Plan (during peak season)
$64.69 Adult
$14.59 Child

Peak travel dates are:

2/14/13 - 2/23/13
3/8/13 -   4/6/13
5/31/13 - 8/3/13

If you're still unsure or have questions-email me at Lisa@SnapshotGetaways.com and I will be happy to answer any questions you might have :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Guest Review of Disney's Aulani Resort

My good friend Richard, stops by with his review of his stay at Disney's Aulani resort in beautiful Hawaii. Richard is a "local boy" and a retired Fire Captain, and so his review has some great insight into Disney's attention to detail, safety and the authentic touches used to create Aulani. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did!

A Disney Resort & Spa
 Ko Olina, Hawai’i 

  First of all a little background information, I am a retired Fire Captain, Honolulu Fire Department, HFD’s first full-time Public Information Officer with 27 years of firefighting experience under my “helmet.” Time with my family is always a cherished event because many family occasions were missed while on duty.

 The weekend spent at Aulani was a celebration of my daughter’s, Marissa Soo Faleolo, birthday so it was planned and booked three months in advance. Marissa and her husband, Okesene, their daughter, Leina, and their sons, Oakley and Ailama along with my two sons, Davit and Blaise and I were about to embark on a “staycation” traveling by car about 45 minutes from our respective homes in East Honolulu.

 Disney’s Aulani magic began three weeks prior to our stay with the arrival of the “Aloha Soo Family” to Aulani information booklet. It contained sections to assist you in planning your stay both on and off property. The information and the pictures built up the excitement of the weekend and it eased the check in process by allowing you to check in online up to 10 days prior to arrival. Mahalo for this advance sharing of information.

 The first night at Aulani Hawaii by Disney was of course magical. The grandsons spent the evening at Aunty’s Beachhouse, an on-site day care, that is filled with activities, a caring staff and most importantly FREE. Us adults ate at 'Ama 'Ama's an open air hale overlooking the lagoons. It is situated so that you feel like you are in a grass hale. The food was great & so was the bottle of cabernet. Olelo winery a California’s Central Coast vintner, and then a bottle of Moet Chandon-a birthday celebration that Marissa will always remember. The staff served a Mickey Mouse birthday cake with a lite sparkler and the young Kane (male) strolling musicians sang Happy Birthday plus a song about Papakolea, the area where we reside in Honolulu. After, Marissa fetched my grandsons from Aunty’s Beachhouse and we walked the grounds, then turned in for the night. In the morning we were scheduled for the character brunch at Makahike with 28 family members...BOY THANK GOD FOR PLASTIC...I might go into a second card....NOT!!! Almost forgot, the room accommodations are like no other - the beds are so comfortable, I passed out typing on the computer. The amenities leave nothing to want. Across the street is an ABC store (a local market chain) which is huge and stocked with everything you forgot to bring. The grounds & buildings are done so that you, your kids, your grandkids-whatever can just stop and enjoy Hawaiian artworks and culture in a Disney setting plus the staff is everywhere but not in your face, if you know what I mean. Local staff and very discreet but attentive...Disney got IT!

Day 2, I'm in my "papa" role so I get up at 4:30 am (it’s a fire thing), make coffee and venture out to Costco (5 minute drive) for gas and McDonald's for early breakfast to bring back for the family, mind you we have 10:30 am reservations for Makahiki character brunch, but everything is good. Pit stops at Longs for gold fish crackers and blistex (Marissa texts me and asks if I can get these items - do I ever say, No!) Makahiki (a buffet type restaurant) was great! My daughter was touched that the chef came out and discussed with her on what he would prepare in light of my grandson’s, Oakley, food allergies something that we have never encountered at other resorts. Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy were all dressed in aloha attire posing for pictures & group interaction. 20 + family members attended and a good time was had by all. Back to the room and change for the pool. Okay-it’s the pool that makes this place-water slides, water features, lazy rivers plus the service and here’s a hint-order from the 9 and under menu (the staff considers everyone 9 and under at the pool). It is like appetizers the whole day or a tapa type menu at half the cost of the regular menu. The macaroni and cheese with peas, the mini Angus Burgers with cheese, plus the sweet potato fries are to die for. At the end of the day we lingered around the fire pit (this is a great spot to pick for a landing zone-great access to both the pool and the ocean plus couches, chairs and tables which can be arranged to seat your family members saving the cost of a pool cabana) for story telling-the legend of the Menehune (a tribe of little people that inhabited Hawaii) by Uncle Aito. He is great and he interacts with everyone. The grandsons were in awe of his stories, I just wish I didn’t fall asleep halfway thru his story, but I enjoyed a few wine coolers earlier that day ;) Now what to do for dinner!!! That evening everyone is doing the interaction thing with IPods or Ipads-something about strolling through the grounds and rocks communicate with you, kind of a Disney “Hide and Seek”, but I stayed in the room watching the news - too high tech for me. We ended up ordering pizza delivery from Papa John Pizza. They delivered to Aulani and it was perfect. Ailama almost fell asleep with a slice of pizza in his mouth lol.

Day 3, and our last one at Aulani, but I wanted to share and recap a few tips. Even though they do not provide roll away beds-they do provide air mattress beds at no charge, you can order a microwave for the room-no charge. Be sure to walk the pathway connecting all the four lagoons at Ko Olina it is a very comfortable walk with spectacular views of the ocean and the vistas of Honolulu. Take along a camera. And don’t worry-there are well-kept restrooms at each lagoon-what more can a “senior” need during a walk? When you get to the pool even though there are many areas to sit, I recommend the area below 'Ama 'Ama near the fire pit it is less crowded plus there are full-on couches and chairs with cushions and coffee tables in addition to the lounge chairs which you can rearrange plus at that level you can go to the ocean or the pool as well as see the ocean and the pool. Again, remember order from the "9 and under" portion of the menu. It’s just like a tapas menu. And finally, the most reasonable wine is Olelo (not Hawaiian) but from Central Coast California-the cab had a really refined but a slight fruity taste. Finally one last comment, with 30+ years in the safety field, it is my opinion that Aulani places safety first and its shows. The pool is the main feature of this resort and there must be over 20 lifeguards standing-not sitting-and walking the whole time. They each have floats and water proof walkie-talkies plus there are supervisors who work it as a team. Obviously they work well together and communicate constantly. But parents, remember, your job is still to watch your kids at all times. I saw more than one occasion when the parent obviously lost track of their kids and were frantic until they found them.

My final word is we love Aulani and the Soos and the Faleolos will definitely be back!!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Being a New Yorker, I am a BIG Giants Fan and super excited about their Superbowl win. In honor of their win & Eli's visit to Disney today, I am running a giveaway. There are 3 great prizes to choose from and lots of ways to enter! Have fun & GOOD LUCK!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mini Food Review: Artists Point House-made Yukon Gold Potato Gnocchi

For my last visit to Artists Point, I made a conscious effort (EFFORT) to go meatless. I can often be found ordering the largest piece of roast beast a restaurant has to offer-raging carnivore here folks. But for this meal I wanted to try some of the vegetarian options that were available (note: when I say vegetarian, I do not mean vegan-as this dish has dairy.). My entree choice was the House-made Yukon Gold Potato Gnocchi. Let me start by saying there are a few things in this world that I love, but rarely get because it's a tricky dish to prepare and commercial preparation can usually do more harm than good. Gnocchi is one of them. While in theory gnocchi is easy enough-execution is another story. What I am looking for is a light, fluffy, tender (NOT chewy) dumpling that doesn't hit my stomach like a lead pellet. Artists Point gnocchi brings it's A game. Prepared & cooked to perfection, these little gems were flavorful too. Perfect amount of salt & pepper, a light potato flavor more still maintaining the traditional dumpling taste gnocchi should have. As further proof of their deliciousness (and the chef knowing they hit a home run) the sauce is a very light butter sauce. Almost more of a glazing then a full on sauce. This dish is enhanced by a selection of fresh, tender vegetables. English peas, chanterelle mushrooms, heirloom carrots & sweet corn nage** are plentiful in this dish and you really need to get a let a bit of each in each bite.There are also little globs of fresh ricotta throughout this dish, adding a bit of tangy dairy to the plate. Personally I could have done without it, or would have preferred it was seasoned, but I am not a big fan of naked ricotta. The issue is seasoned ricotta would have thrown the balance of the flavors off, so next time I will probably just request it be left out of the dish. There is a slight sweetness to this dish from the carrots, corn & English peas and what I believe is the use of sweet cream butter in the sauce. The mushrooms provide a wonderful earthiness, but being a milder mushroom-it's not overbearing. This dish proves that vegetarian can be nothing short of amazing. And if you're not ready to give up meat entirely, I would suggest sharing this meal as a pasta or even appetizer course, but do give it a chance-you will be pleasantly surprised.

**Sweet corn nage is a fancy word for a method of preparation. Basically it means that the corn was prepared in a broth most likely with shallots, butter & wine (usually white). The broth & corn are then added to a dish.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mini Food Review: Artists Points' Smokey Portobello Soup

Ever think about something and just the memory of it makes you smile? Yeah-this soup has me sitting here smiling just remembering how off-the-charts good it is. Let me start by saying that although you're are going to not believe me-no pork is used in this dish. There is a disagreement as to whether this soup is a true vegan option or not. I was told that it is a true vegetarian dish, others have been told chicken stock is used in the preparation. This is actually often the case with a lot of "vegetarian" soups. If you are a vegan, I would recommend speaking with the chef, simply because menus & preparations change and the truly vegan version of this soup could be the most recent version. But with this soup the bacon-like flavor comes entirely from the smoking of the portobello mushrooms used in the soup. The nice meaty, earthiness of the portobellos-both smoked and fresh, is tamed by silky heavy cream. Onions lend a full flavor & sweetness to the dish and the whole thing is kept from going flabby by the addition of white wine. I am guessing it's Chardonnay-or at least that's what I would use, because the oakiness of Chardonnay would blend nicely. Topped with roasted shitake mushrooms, which give the soup a nice bit of chewy texture and chive oil and creme fraiche that cut through the very mild heaviness of the soup without over-powering it. This soup it good on every level. It is filling without making you sluggish, like many cream soups do. It is flavorful without being salty or too smokey. And it will leave you contemplating ordering another bowl. Seriously contemplating.