Monday, September 29, 2014

He's a lumberjack and that's ok

At EPCOT the Canadian group Off Kilter is being replaced by "The Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show", according to this article in the Orlando Sentinel. Some changes to EPCOT entertainment had been announced earlier and this clears up what is happening at Canada.
"The Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show is a historical, educational, humorous show, filled with audience participation," the site says. In its portfolio are log rolling, chopping, sawing, axe throwing, tree climbing, dragster chainsaw and "log-rolling dogs," the site says, but it does not say what to expect at the new Epcot show.
It looks like the "Lumberjacks" may still be a little "Off Kilter" since the bagpipe player looks like the same guy.  Other performers were also in Off-Kilter.  Either the same performers are in both shows or the photos in the article are from the Off Kilter group.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Last Night's Premier of Agents of Shield

I don't watch much network TV, to be honest. And I certainly do not watch any TV series. But my one exception is the Agent of Shields on ABC. I watched it last year, and watched with amazing glee at how the storyline intertwined with the Captain America movie that opened in the middle of the series' season.

Last night's premier of Season 2 of Agents of Shield was breathtakingly spectacular! This series is going to absorb me, very much like the Absorbing Man! There are so many parallel storyline here, it could easily give birth to a number of spinoffs! I'm not going to reveal too much of what happened in the first episode in case you are DVR'ing it and will be watching it later.

BTW, anyone else realized that the show pulled a "Sixth Sense" on us with the Fitz and Simmons' relationship? Watch it again, and see if you noticed that no one was interacting with Simmons! Ooops, I just revealed a spoiler!



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

WDW Backstage tours

DIS News posted this handy table of WDW backstage tours. The table shows the name of the tour, duration, cost, and other details. Note that the Wild by Design tour at Animal Kingdom is being discontinued.  This tour explained the various design elements at Animal Kingdom and how each area was given its identity and sounds.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Frozen and Harry Potter

The Orlando Informer has this post discussing Disney's obsession with Frozen and Universal's big investment in Harry Potter.  Disney's recent announcement of replacing Maelstrom at the EPCOT Norway pavillion with a Frozen attraction serves to highlight how much Disney is trying to leverage the Frozen franchise.  Critics, and there are many, ask why Disney is spending money this way instead of investing in new attractions.  Also, some people see the countries at EPCOT losing their identity.  To paraphrase the beginning of Maelstrom, you are not the first to pass this way but someone is going to be the last.  Over the falls one last time.

But, as the post points out, Universal has its share of critics complaining about its obsession with Harry Potter.
The honest, if still leading, question and all the debate it invariably causes is actually strikingly similar to the growing contention among Universal fans regarding that company’s franchise of choice: Harry Potter. With two theme park lands already devoted to the property and at least two more phases, including more attractions and, possibly, even another land at Universal Studios Florida, already rumored to be under consideration, cries of overkill and fears of franchise fatigue have already reached a pitched level.
 So there are obvious differences in the way development at Universal and WDW is being managed, and the discussion about which is the better approach might be a bit of apples to oranges.
There is an extremely telling element to Disney’s handling of its biggest property from the past 20 years, and that is the form the attractions have taken, which have, thus far, revolved almost exclusively around character meet-‘n-greets and exclusive, time-sensitive celebrations and merchandise offerings.
There’s an easy explanation for this: money. Whereas Universal has only just started to build up its theme park infrastructure in terms of rides, restaurants, and hotels, Disney has reached its sweet spot some years ago, meaning that the return on investment is nowhere near as large as it used to be in Disney World’s youth (or Universal Orlando’s present).
 Disney's approach has the advantage of agility and flexibility.  Frozen's success was apparently a surprise and Disney is quick to take advantage of it.  This strategy also allows Disney to quickly change out elements that are no longer as popular.  Critics would say that this is just a facade and the lack of major new attractions will ultimately hurt Disney.  But at this point this does not seem to be a problem.

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.