Friday, September 12, 2014

Spice Road Table at World Showcase - A Review

One of the highlights of the few short days that we spent at WDW was our first meal at the newly-opened Spice Road Table at the Morocco pavilion. We have heard and read about it, so we kinda knew what to to expect. Since we love Moroccan food and were frequent diners at Marrakesh restaurant, this was definitely a place that we wanted to try. And we weren't disappointed.

We walked in for lunch, and the place wasn't busy at all. We got a terrific table by the window, and I can only imagine the view we might get to see during Illuminations.

The food, if you don't know, is Mediterranean-inspired, and they are served tapas style, i.e. in small portions/small plates. It is meant to be shared and also allows you to sample a larger variety. A quick look at the menu offers a tantalizing sampler of various things that we wanted to try.

Both of us went for the Tingis sampler, and added an order of the Greek salad, and the calamari. The Greek salad was refreshing, with a very nice dressing that didn't overpower the fresh ingredients.

Calamari was excellent, and accompanied by a couple of nice and contrasting dipping sauces.

The star of the show, though, was the sampler, which consisted of the Harissa chicken roll, lamb slider, and lamb sausage.

I started off with the Harissa chicken roll, and immediately was blown away by it. It has such a strong, unique flavor, and the pastry was warm and crispy, just the way it should be. If you've had the "lumpia" egg roll (why would you unless you are familiar with Filipino food?), this is of the same texture. I could devour several of these in the blink of an eye. It was that good. I then proceeded to the lamb slider. Again, delicious and tasty. It has a "beefy" flavor that most beef hamburgers are sadly lacking. Lastly, I went to the lab sausage, usually called merguez, which I've had before in various tagine dishes. Nothing wrong here and it had the bite and flavor that it should.

Both of us polished these off in no time. By then, we were ready to order another plate, which is a common practice when you are having tapas, and they also left a menu at our table for doing just that. We order the grilled skewered beef and chicken.

We both started attacking it with gusto before I remembered that I needed to snap a photo. So what you see here is the half-eaten skewers. Again, no complaints here, but I think I prefer the items in the sampler plate.

This was a singular, best-tasting food that I could remember anywhere in World Showcase. The food was delicious and unique. The uniqueness is a strong quality, because I tend to want to find things that I can't get anywhere else. They didn't just stick to moroccan food, but sampled a larger region of the Mediterranean. In the process, they have a menu full of tasty interpretation of the region.

I highly recommend this restaurant, especially if you are willing to try new things. And my advice is to go soon! It is a sad fact that menu items and food quality changes at restaurants in WDW, most not for the better. Things get watered down, or "dumbed down" for the tourist palette, so unique and unusual items tend to get discarded. I am skeptical that this restaurant can maintain the strong and bold flavors for a long time, so go now before the muck it up!

The only drawback of this place is that, while they have iced mint tea, they do not have the regular hot moroccan mint tea, which they always have in Marrakesh restaurant. I like the hot mint tea even when it is hot outside. It really cools you down. But the iced mint tea that we had weren't bad either.

Final verdict: Highly Recommended.


Monday, September 08, 2014

Review of Disney Cruise Line Navigator App

On this last cruise, which was the DVC Member cruise, we used the DCL Navigator app for the first time and tested it extensively during the cruise. So this our first review of the present version.

It is an iPhone app, and it is only fully operational on the ship. What you do is put your phone in Airplane mode, and then you turn on Wi-fi. This connects to the ship's Wi-fi. If you use it with only the Navigator app, it will incur no cost since you're not really connecting to the internet.

When you open the app for the first time, it will initialize itself and then download the entire cruise's activities and information, including a layout of the ship, etc. So the app is basically the same set of info that you get with the daily Navigator newsletter that they leave in your stateroom at the end of each day, plus more. The app tells you practically all the activities going on throughout the entire cruise. Tapping on the activity gives you details of the activity, when and where, and if there is a fee for it. The app also has other info about the cruise and the ship.

You can add activities you want to be reminded of by adding it to your "Favorites". By tapping on the "heart" that is associated with each activity, you will then be presented by all the available time slots for that activity for the entire cruise (if there is more than one time that activity is offered). Tapping again on the "heart" for a particular time and day will add that activity and that time slot to your favorite.

Then, when that activity is 15 minutes away from starting, your phone will vibrate and will display the activity, time, and location. This was a very handy feature, especially for us since we were doing a lot of things while on the cruise. It also listed the activities going on on Castaway Cay, and the app worked normally there (at least, around the beaches that we tested it).

You have the ability to look ahead at all the days that you will be sailing and picked out activities beyond just the day you are in. So this was very handy for us especially when there were special events that will only be presented once.

This was definitely a useful app. Having all the info conveniently available on your phone at all times was quite handy, I found.

Now, a few cons. The biggest one here is that, other than selecting your favorites, there is no way to personalize this thing. This is not My Disney Experience app. It doesn't know who you are, only that you've selected to save such-and-such activities to that device. That's all. There is no way to know what the others in your party are doing, what they want to do, etc. It would be a nice feature if passengers could sign in, register their guests/family members, and be able to see what activities others in the group are interested in or planning on doing.

The other feature that would be handy is that, after being able to sign in, some form of messaging between members of your own party on the cruise is available. As it is now, the only way to contact another passenger is either via the stateroom phone, or the mobile phones in the room. Since normal text messaging is not available unless everyone pays for it, it would be nice if the app allows for simple in-app text messaging between guests who are within the family/friends circle. This would make the app a LOT more useful.

Another useful feature that I like to see is some sort of a "calendar" display of one's activities. Currently, if you put some activity on your Favorites, the activities for that day are displayed in a list. If you have only a few, this is not a problem, but if you have quite a few (which we had), then it is hard to see which ones are back-to-back, and which ones overlap. Having a display that clearly shows a "timeline" on when all the activities start and end will solve that, although I'm not sure how easy it is to be viewed on a phone screen. Currently, the app has been optimized only for the iPhone, not the iPad, so the display size might be an issue.

Last, but not least, it would be nice to be able to view the same info on the app way ahead in advanced of the cruise and on the web. We will at least know what activities will be available and can start planning on what we want to do. If we can plan 180 days in advanced for dinning at a WDW restaurant, the DCL should be able to display these activities well ahead of a cruise, rather than on the cruise day itself.

All in all, this was a useful app, and I can see a lot of possibilities for it. I am sure they'll improve it upon subsequent testing and feedback.


Friday, September 05, 2014

Magic Bands behind the curtain

An interesting perspective on  Disney's Magic Bands can be found by following this link to PDC Solutions, a company that makes all kinds of RFID wrist bands.  One of the links on the site talks about security with the bands. It's not hard to understand why Disney would want to use this technology.
Simultaneously improve operational efficiencies and prevent data entry & collection errors with PDC bar code wristbands. Bar codes on event security wristbands give you the opportunity to track the number of people who attend an event and where they spend their money. Do you have inventory that you need to keep track of, like food and alcohol? Event security wristbands are great to assist with this task. When a transaction is made, the bar code on the guest's event security wristband is scanned, along with the items purchased. The numbers go directly into your system, which prevents data entry errors.
The RFID wrist band technology is apparently getting wider use.  There are even QR Code wrist bands which the site talks about.  While the bands themselves are dirt cheap, many in the 10-25 cents each range, using them obviously requires technology that can interface the bands to a company's internal systems. It will be interesting to see if another highly visible user of the bands appears soon. While Disney's Magic Bands are a new thing to Disney guests, checking out PDC Solutions is like pulling back the curtain and seeing what's behind the "magic".

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

D23 To Celebrate The Never-Built Discovery Bay

Here's your opportunity to know all about Discovery Bay, what it was supposed to be, and its continued influence in the various Disney theme parks.

So given that this never-built theme park land has had such a profound impact over the past 30 years, it only makes sense that D23 -- the Official Disney Fan Club -- has decided to explore the convoluted history of this project at its upcoming Destination D event, Attraction Rewind

Too bad it is a couple of weeks before our December trip to WDW.


We Were Captured On Port Canaveral Webcam

I'm home, tired, exhausted, with a slight cold, but had a great time on our DVC Member Cruise/WDW trip.

My friends over at forum viewed the live feed from the moment that our DVC Member Cruise on the Disney Dream departed last week, and a few of the screen captures actually had us in them! Here they are:

We were obviously on the top deck (Deck 13) at the front of the ship. I tell ya, I've been on a cruise 3 times, all with the Disney Dream, and the departure is one of the most exhilarating thing. You're pulling out of the port, and out in front of you is nothing but open water.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Final morning

Our final morning at WDW. We are packing up to start our 2-day drive home.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Being entertained by a performer in the lobby of the Boardwalk.

Rainy evening

It is a stormy, rainy evening. We are back at SSR and chilling out.

Some EPCOT acts will be leaving

Disney Parks Blog reports that several familiar acts will be ending their run at EPCOT this Fall. Disney will be "refreshing" the entertainment around the countries.  The article did not provide details of the new acts.
As we embark on this enhancement of World Showcase entertainment, we bid a fond farewell to Mo’Rockin’, Off Kilter, Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps and World Showcase Players. We thank these performers for all they’ve done to make the Epcot guest experience enjoyable and memorable, and we invite you to come out and see them in their farewell performances over the next few weeks.

Starbucks at WDW Hollywood Studios

A 5th Starbucks at WDW will be opening at DHS in 2015.  So there will be a Starbucks at EPCOT, MK, DHS and 2 Downtown (Disney Springs).  The obvious question is: any plans for Animal Kingdom? 

From DIS News...
A new Starbucks location will open inside the park in February of 2015.  The Trolley Car Cafe will be located along Hollywood Boulevard and be themed like a trolley car station.  Disney baked goods and Starbucks La Boulange pastry items will be available.  An exact location hasn't been announced.


Guess where we are going next?


Having lunch at Columbia Harbour House. Yum!

Frontier land

Hanging out in Frontierland waiting for Columbia harbour house to open


About to get on Peter Pan

Mine train

Almost to the loading area


In line for Mine Train

Sunday, August 24, 2014


We are finally here!!!

Cruise Day

Our cruise say has arrived, and so has Cristabal! I hope the storm doesn't ruin our cruise.

We had dinner at the Cocoa beach pier last night.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

On our way

We are driving to Port Canaveral area for our DVC Members Cruise tomorrow and then will spend 3 days at WDW afterwards.

Donald is excited already.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Reasons to be cheerful at WDW

You might be cheerful if you had some interesting things to do at WDW that didn't cost anything.  This post at DIS News talks about 5 things that can be enjoyed at WDW at no cost. 
These are things that can be scheduled in your vacation itinerary during an open afternoon, or maybe just kept in the back of your mind if you find yourself with some free time and not wanting to spend much money while at Disney.
An example of free things to do are: a visit to Fort Wilderness Campgrounds, and exploring life on the Monorail, i.e resort hopping.  Haven't seen this talked about much on the various posts, but it is entirely possible to visit WDW for a week and never go into a park. Between hanging out at the resorts and doing some of the things mentioned in this post, you could easily skip the parks.  A variation on this theme is to get up early and go to a park for a couple hours in the AM, then exit stage right before the crowds reach the intolerable level.  An advantage of this strategy in the Summer is that you would also avoid the afternoon heat and the typical storms. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

WDW attraction closings

DIS News posted this news about planned closings to various WDW attractions due to upgrades and maintenance.  Haunted Mansion will be closed for about 2 weeks in December.  The Wild by Design tour at Animal Kingdom will be discontinued after September.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Alice returns

WDW News Today reports that the sequel to Alice in Wonderland has started production.
The all-star ensemble cast includes:
  • Johnny Depp returns to the big screen as the Mad Hatter—Hatter Tarrant Hightopp.
  • Anne Hathaway portrays the White Queen—Mirana.
  • Mia Wasikowska once again appears as Alice Kingsleigh, who’s on a quest to help the Mad Hatter.
  • Helena Bonham Carter  returns as the Red Queen—Iracebeth.
  • Rhys Ifans fills the shoes of Zanik Hightopp, the Mad Hatter’s father.
  • Matt Lucas returns to the revelry in a dual role as Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
  • Ed Speleers portrays James Harcourt in the film.
  • And Sacha Baron Cohen was called on to bring Time to the big screen.
The film is being shot in the UK and is scheduled to be released in May 2016.

Magic Band as art has this post about new "Olaf" Magic Bands being available as a limited edition at DHS.  Disney had released a "Frozen" band earlier but this was not a limited edition.  The "Olaf" edition runs about $30 which is $10 more than your ordinary band.  The article doesn't talk about it but it would seem that a guest staying on Disney property would still be getting an ordinary band for their next visit.  The artistic bands are a special purchase. 

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The "Howard The Duck" End-of-Credit Scene in "Guardians..."

*******SPOILER ALERT**********

Don't read this if you do not want to know, or if you haven't seen Guardians of the Galaxy.

Holy quack! I didn't know there was all these behind-the-scenes history behind the Howard the Duck! Business Insider touched upon the meaning of the end-of-credit scene in "Guardians of the Galaxy" which featured Howard the Duck.

The scene pans down over the wrecked ruins of The Collector's (Benicio del Toro) trophy room after it was destroyed earlier in the film. We see The Collector, a man who collects rare and exotic items across galaxies, beleaguered and injured while sipping a beverage out of a green cup. A dog dressed in an astronaut suit comes up to him and licks his face.

All of a sudden a voice off screen asks, "What do you let him lick you like that for?" The camera then cuts to none other than Howard the Duck, a sci-fi creature from Marvel, who says "Gross" before sipping from his own bright green cup.

That is all fine and dandy, but it appears that Howard The Duck has had a run in with Disney way back when.

Shortly after his creation in '73, Disney threatened Marvel with legal action claiming Howard the Duck's satirical design bore a striking resemblance to Donald Duck. 

According to an archived  Silver Bullet Comics interview — now known as Comics Bulletin —  with Howard the Duck co-creator Stever Gerber, Marvel came to a bizarre deal with Disney that virtually allowed the Mouse House to redesign the character.

"To avoid litigation, Marvel's old management signed an incredibly stupid agreement with Disney. Under its terms, all future appearances of Howard must conform to a set of designs that Disney provided for the character. You've seen this design. It's the one from the black-and-white HTD magazine, with the ghastly swollen beak, the beady eyes, and the baggy trousers that make the duck look like a derelict. What's absolutely astonishing, though, is that the Disney agreement is worded in such a way that Marvel isn't even permitted to create a new, alternative design for the character, even if that design bears no resemblance to Donald."

As the article stated, it is interesting that the Howard the Duck that appeared in the movie is a closer resemblance to the original drawing.

Hum... I still don't know what this all means! :)


Guardians of the Galaxy - A Review

First of all, let me admit that I was rather skeptical of this movie. When I first saw the trailer several months ago (probably before Captain America), I thought that this was a head-scratcher. I wasn't sure that a "cartoonish" superhero movie based on those characters would fit into the whole "Marvel" universe. Even after reading about how big a hit it had been since its release on Thursday and into Friday, I was still a bit skeptical.

I'm glad to report that I was wrong. The movie was entertaining as heck! The mash of characters that were very different from each other did come together at the end, and I can see how this can easily carry on its own franchise, separate from the existing Marvel universe of the Avengers/Shield/etc. The tone of the movie was very much tongue-in-cheek, and it carried that sense way beyond what the first Avengers movie tried to do. The sense of irreverence towards not only authority, but also towards what a "superhero" movie should really be permeates throughout the entire movie. But more than anything, this movie is exceedingly funny, especially if you were conscious of the 1970's and the music from that era.

Now that we got that out of the way, here are my complaints (of course, you knew that was coming, didn't you?). Can we put to rest the "bad-guy-wants-this-thingy-so-that-he-can-be-a-badass" storyline already?! I mean, how many of these things are there in the universe where the possession of it will mean doom to the world? This is the major part of the movie that I was disappointed in, the same, rehashed storyline that we have seen a million times before. And why is that that everyone is after the darn thing ONLY after our hero came across it? The thing was sitting there, waiting for someone to get it, but somehow, only after he got it, then the bad guys just happen to be dropping by at the same time a few minutes too late! I mean, c'mon guys!

In any case, I can see this series of movies will be a lot of fun if they can keep the snappy dialog and having a better storyline. Now that they've announced the sequel, it will be interesting to see how the story behind the characters develop. We already know that there are some backstory that are yet to be told.


Interviews With Agents Of Shield Cast And Creators

This was at the past Comic-Con this year. There's a lot to look forward to for the next season of Shield.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Haunted Mansion's 45th anniversary at DLR

DisneyParks Blog reports that the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland is coming up on its 45th anniversary.  Special collectibles and artwork will be offered as part of the celebration. just a few short weeks, we will be celebrating the 45th anniversary of the Haunted Mansion attraction, one of the crown jewels of Disneyland park. There is so much history behind the attraction itself, its famous and infamous residents, and the storytellers and artists that brought it to life.
One painting by Steve Adams looks especially interesting to Donald fans.