Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Episode 62 -- Married to the Mouse and the RCS Championship Match

This week the team discusses Married to the Mouse by Richard Fogelsong and the issues that it raises.  Topics include a cost-benefit analysis on the resort's effect on its neighbors and mag-lev trains.  The show closes with the deciding match for the RCS Championship.  Complete with montage!

 Sweep the leg and download Episode 62

Monday, July 30, 2012

New Episode 1 is Live

Well, it's up.  New Episode One has replaced Old Episode One.  Stay strong, kiddies.

Download it now

Friday, July 27, 2012

Episode 0001 -- Special Edition

This weekend is your last "chance" to download our first, original episode.  We will be replacing it with a brandy new one to introduce ourselves to new listeners.  If you want the first one, get it now or it will be lost forever.  Unless you e-mail me and ask for it.

A Video of Summer Nightastic

I have previously commented on our podcast that the Summer Nightastic fireworks show from 2010 remains one of the best I have seen, including some select holiday shows at the World.  One of the most impressive aspects of the show is the use of  the entire Magic Kingdom sky line to light up the sky.   So, take a few minutes and enjoy a pretty high quality video of the show.

I particulary enjoy when the castle is "under siege" by pirates, starting at 7:00 or so.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Disney Dolphin Resort View

In the most recent episode, we discussed my parents trip to the World and some fantastic gift ideas.  At base, we were discussing ways to "plus" trips for loved ones who are on vacation.  My wife's brilliant idea was to upgrade my parents from a standard view to a resort view.  The total cost was about $400 for 8 nights.  For an additional $400, we could have got them a resort view with a balcony.

On the episode, I did mention that it was a bit of pain to set up.  Mrs. Lombrowski had to call the hotel and get the price.  Then the hotel sent her an e-mail invoice (for want of a better term) where she provided her credit card info and e-mailed it back to the hotel.  The bigger hassle was when her credit card was charged last week for the WHOLE FREAKIN HOTEL COST!  A quick call got the problem resolved, but it was a serious WTF?!?!?!?! moment.  Either way, my parents loved it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Coronado Springs Photos: Part II (The Pools)

You can check out Part I of the Coronado Springs photos along with a review of the check-in experience and the Junior Suite here.

Below are the photos of the main pool at Coronado Springs and some of the many quiet pools at the resort. Due to its size, there is a small quiet pool for every two or three buildings at the resort.  Overall, I was really impressed with the theme and size of the main pool area, as well as the numerous quiet pool options ; especially considering that Coronado falls in Disney's moderate resort category.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Episode 61 -- Gift Giving and Knocked Up Touring

Know someone who is down in WDW?  Looking for ideas to make it special?  Look no further.  This week the boys go over some ideas to help make trips for others special.  There is also a huge announcement concerning the ladies and, in an absolutely unrelated note, there is a fun discussion on touring with pregnant people.

Download Episode 61

Evening Extra Magic Hours to Be Reduced

Disney has changed their evening extra magic hours length from 3 hours to 2 hours starting in January 2013. 

This pisses me right off.  I hate when Disney chips away at value because they "can." Dutch has previously stated on our podcast that once you give this type of benefit up, you are rarely, if ever, going to get it back.  This is most likely the case here as well. 

I know this isn't THAT big a deal in the grand scheme of things and, frankly, I rarely made it to the very end of evening EMH. However, this move is bound to make Evening EMH more crowded for the duration, and decrease the benefit of actually taking advantage. 

This sort of move is what makes WDW fanatics yearn for the Disney of the past.  How easy will it be to think back to the days where the parks would be open to 3 AM and they would actually run the resort monorail back to the Poly, GF and Contemporary, even if you were one of the last in the park? Two small benefits to staying on property, gone in about a year.  Small? You bet...but noticeable. 

Not to mention, potentially one less hour for the MMOM crew to complete the Ultimate Magic Kingdom Touring Plan.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Adventures by Disney

Dutch on the grounds at Muckross in Killarney

We just did a recording session last night and now I have the travel bug.  Since it is so nasty out, I'm yearning for a place with a more temperate climate.  Of course, my first thought is Ireland.  Mrs. Lombrowski and I went there on our honeymoon (more on that to follow) and returned in June 2009 on a spur-of-the-moment trip.

Since I was thinking about it, I decided to look at Adventures by Disney's Irish excursion.  It costs $4,299 per adult.  Included in the cost is seven breakfasts (usually buffet), three lunches, and five dinners.  Lunch and dinner is NOT a la carte and you get what they give you.  Also included is room charges.  In Dublin, you'd be staying at the five-star Westin, which is in an awesome location near Trinity College.  The hotel in Killarney looks great and is centrally located.  I have no thoughts on the Clare accommodations other than it looks like an awesome castle.  The activities are fairly standard (i.e. kiss the Blarney Stone, Cliffs of Moher, Rock of Cashel).  Other than the food, the only concern I'd have is that you are motored around in a bus.

I think what you get is fairly good.  I'd humbly suggest for you to go the chauffeur route.  Our honeymoon was a six night excursion which cost $6800 back in 2008.  Keep in mind that it is cheaper to get there now then it was then and the Euro has fallen off a cliff.  Instead of a bus, we had a private driver and a Mercedes which was nicknamed "Elvis."  An itinerary was created that fit our needs and was even changed on the fly to incorporate more drinking, which was very important to me. It was a great experience that got us off the beaten path a bit.  It was also nice to not have to "share" sites like the Rock of Cashel with the rest of the Blarney Bus.  Meals other than breakfast weren't included, but admission to things like the Guinness Storehouse were.  On the food front, every single suggestion was excellent and we had nothing but great meals the whole way.

Our guy was Shane and he can be found at Ireland Chauffeur Travel.  There is zero chance that he remembers me, but he was fantastic.

Dutch living his Whiskey in the Jar dream

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Le Cellier: Signature Dining for Lunch in 2013

Disney has released their brochure for the 2013 dining plan.  With it comes the news that Le Cellier will now be Signature Dining (2 dining credits on the dining plan) for lunch as well as dinner.  Disney originally made the switch to Signature Dining for dinner in 2011. 

It is beginning to get harder and harder to find value in the Disney dining plan. Further, the out-of-pocket cost at Le Cellier now matches the "Signature" tag (although Disney has not revealed what will happen to lunch prices in 2013).  During our famous Restaurant Challenge Series, I argued (albeit unsuccessfully) that Le Cellier's popularity was due primarily to the reasonable prices and lack of seating capacity.

With these changes, it can really no longer be argued that Le Cellier offers a better value than Shula's or Yachtsman Steakhouse.  If anything, reservations should be a bit easier to come by in the coming year.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Episode 60 -- AAA Restaurant Diamond Ratings

This week the teams look at how AAA crafts their diamond ratings for restaurants.  Lots of restaurant and value talk.  Also, either Tusker House or the Yachtsman Steakhouse will punch their ticket to the RCS Championship match.

Download Episode 60

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Walt Disney World 2013 Hotel Rates Now Available Online

Finally!  As of yesterday, guests can now book their hotel reservations on-line for 2013.  As podcast listeners know, I've in the midst of planning a big family vacation for January 2013.  For the last two months or so, my morning ritual has been to go on DisneyWorld.com and try to get book a room online.  I would get the same frustrating error message each morning:  Your dates must be at least one day in the future.  (Because invalid dates automatically pop up as today.)

I do not have the words to express how infuriating this was.  The 180 day window for my ADRs hit last Friday.  I finally had to break down and call Disney Reservations to book a room at Pop Century as placeholder.  How stupid is that?  It's 2012.  I can book a whole trip to Africa with nothing but my iPhone's safari browser, but I had to call and work my way through 17 voice prompts to book a freaking room.

WDW needs to get better at this stuff.  This includes realistic park hours with an idea of what the Extra Magic Hours will be.  How can I plan my ADRs if I don't know this stuff?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

California Grill Refurb: Good News or Overkill?

The California Grill will be closing for six months in January 2013. This is a really long time for one of the flagship dining experiences in WDW to be out of service. While I understand refurbishments are the nature of the business, and that things need a face lift from time to time, I have to question how necessary a major renovation to the California Grill is. The last time I was there (three months ago) it still looked fresh, clean and modern.

Disney can get a lot done in six months, so we may be treated to totally new feel when it reopens next summer. The menu will also be tweaked a bit. Here's hoping they expand it, add a few more "signature" items and keep the flatbreads.

While many of us look forward to anything are new and exciting, does Disney run the risk of over tweaking something that already works?  When I think of some of Disney's "fails" over the past years, there are two  attraction refurbishments that could be attributed to over thinking the problem or insisting that there was a problem there in the first place.  Keep in mind that this isn't a "Horizons was great, Mission: Space sucks" argument.  Mission: Space may have been a failure, but Disney went big and got burned. These two attractions represent a steady deterioration of an acceptable attraction by failing to leave it alone:

#1: Alien Encounter

Yes, it was very scary for little kids, and no, it did not fit in with the "spirit" of Tomorrow Land.  However, the attraction was still entertaining, intense and made good use of a new type of interactive theatre.  Disney's need to tone down the effects, add Stitch to the attraction and not frighten children has lead us to a watered down useless attraction with fake chili dog belches that...you guessed it..still frightens some small children. 

#2.  Dreamfinder and Figment: Journey into Imagination

Journey Into Imagination never really qualified, at least in my mind, as a major attraction, but if you take a look at its history you can see that it is currently on its third version since in 1983.  The Dreamfinder had, and continues to have, a cult following.  Disney redid the ride in the late 90's, got rid of Dreamfinder and almost entirely eliminates the beloved Figment.  Why would they get rid of a popular character that was created for the ride itself?

People, as you would expect, hated the second version.  So, in 2002 Disney changes the ride again, brings back figment, changes around the show scenes and sticks with leaving out Dreamfinder in favor of Dr. Nigel Channing.  People were somewhat mollified, but not nearly as happy as they were with the original attraction.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Disney Marketing Strikes Again-Food Scented Air Fresheners

Air Freshener Sample

Disney announced that they will begin selling air fresheners with scents from WDW in the near future.  Now you can take the Top Ten Smells from Disney World home with you!

As we have said many times before...Disney can vend.  At least they are targeting (or would appear to be targeting) hardcore Disney fans with this merchandise.  Although, you have to wonder how a chocolate covered ice cream bar in the shape of Mickey Mouse's head has a distinct "Disney" smell. 

My votes for additioanl scents would be for the lobby at the Polynesian or the smell of Rome burning on Spaceship Earth.

Or, Disney could start a "musk" line of colognes that bottle that oh-so-familiar smell of the water from Pirates of the Caribbean.

Episode 59 -- Bastille Day and Who Wore It Best

A Bastille Day look at the France Pavillion and a new game called Who Wore It Best!  The show closes out with a discussion on recent theme park data.

Download Episode 0059

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Things Disney Doesn't Have to Do

After work a few evenings ago, I walked down to the street to get the day's mail.  Among the bills and the magazine, there was a brightly-colored envelope.  I expected it was an ad encouraging me to return to Disneyland, or a flyer for the latest hotel promotion.  Instead, all that was inside was a card.

Here's the card, attached to my refrigerator.
In case you cannot read the message, it says, "From all your Disney pals, we hope you created magical memories during your visit to Walt Disney World Resort in 2012."

This is exactly the sort I thing that I find most enchanting about Disney.  It's such a small gesture: a few cents worth of ink, card stock, and the stamp, but it says so much.  It says that I am welcome, that my company (and not just my money) are appreciated there.

Whether you want to argue that that is true or not, they took a step to make feel that way.  And really, they did not have to.

Growing up, my mother was always telling me to mind my manners.  "Say 'please' and 'thank you.'"  "Send a thank you note to your aunt for your birthday present."  It's nice to think that the people working at WDW had moms that instilled the same principles.

Disney Dolphin AAA Rate

As frequent show listeners know, I'm helping send my parents down to the World to celebrate their 35th anniversary.  Back in December 2011, we booked an 8 night stay at the Dolphin with a AAA rate for $192/night.  About three months ago, I decided to check again and got an even lower AAA rate for $168/night.  That felt pretty good and I kinda forgot to check the last few months.

In an effort to feed my own addiction, I started pricing out what it would cost for me to take our daughter down for the weekend that my parents are there.  It didn't work out due to scheduling issues with Mrs. Lombrowski, but I did discover a few interesting things.  First, you can get a Grand Suite, which is sweet, for $300ish a night.  More importantly, the Dolphin was available during my aborted stay for $132/night.  I called for my parents and was able to apply that AAA rate to their stay.  The whole thing took me about 7 minutes.  The savings was over $300 for the whole trip.  Guess who is going to Yachtsman Steakhouse to celebrate!

The above illustrates the importance of being your own travel agent.  It's good to book early to lock yourself in, but you have to follow up on this stuff, my lovelies.  Same goes for airfare and car rentals.  What really amazed me is that we were able to secure these better-than-Pop Century rates during peak season for a deluxe.  Happy hunting.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Illuminations on the 4th of July

Happy 4th of July from Mighty Men of Mouse!

For those who can't be in the World, enjoy a video of Illuminations from July 4th 2011. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Episode 58 -- A Salute to One Nation

AMERICA!  The American Pavillion!  That's so Merica!  Illuminations:  Heartbeat of Freedom!  Celebrate America -- A 4th of July Concert in the Sky!  Goosebumps!  Movies that are America!  AMERICA!

Download Episode 58

Monday, July 2, 2012

Be Our Guest Restaurant Menu Partially Revealed

Be Our Guest Restaurant Construction

Disney has released some details on the Be Our Guest Restaurant opening very late in 2012.  While it only reveals some of the chef's most anticipated menu items, it does confirm that the restaurant will be a counter service by day and a table service by night. 

If you read into Chef Deardorff's comments a bit, it appears as if the counter service will be more like Sunshine Seasons in Epcot then Cosmic Rays, or just about anything in Hollywood Studios. Disney calls Sunshine Seasons "fast casual" which to me means a variety of food, cooked to order, with a higher quality than typical theme park fare.  MMOM has sung the praises of a few counter services eateries in the Magic Kingdom, but mainly because of atmosphere or toppings bars, not overall food quality.  MK is in need of some better food options, especially if crowds increase with the addition of the new Fantasy Land attractions. 

Deardorff hints that guests will be "pleased" with the value too.  Certainly, if prices stay the same as other counter service locations, but improve the quality and selection, the value will be easy to find, and should make Be Our Guest very popular amongst park guests right away.