Category Archives: vacation

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Our recent vacation included a short stay at the newest resort in Walt Disney World – Art of Animation. Originally it was to be called Legendary Years, a sister resort to Pop Century. As Pop Century was a tribute to the decades of the last half of the twentieth century, Legendary Years would cover the first half, 1900-1950. After 9-11 however, for whatever reason, construction halted for several years.

If you like to see a video of what it looked like during those non-construction years, my friend John Corigliano, of the Your Ear to the World podcast, did a walk-through with his camera. You can see that here. Thankfully construction started again, but with a new objective and name, Art of Animation, with each building dedicated to a different recent animated feature.

The family suites are in the Lion King, Cars, and Finding Nemo buildings, with the single suites in the Little Mermaid buildings. For our time at Art of Animation, we stayed in the Lion King suites, the buildings being surrounded by giant statues of the various characters and scenes from the movie. Outside of our building was Pride Rock, the Elephant Graveyard, the “Hakuna Matata” log, and Rafiki’s home, with giant statues of all the favorites in and around. It was something.

Our suite rocked. Not only was it fairly big, almost colossal compared to our cabin on board the Disney Fantasy, the room was literally bursting with iconic Lion King jungle décor. The carpeting, the bedspreads, the furniture – it was all jungle themed. The TVs were large flat screens with an electronics deck under them to both recharge your phones and other devices, but you could also hook up your video equipment to watch on the big screen.

Our dining room table collapsed into the extra Murphy bed for a fun twist, and came with stackable chairs. The suite even had a small, but almost complete kitchen. The bathroom even got into the act, with a cavernous shower stall in a beautiful orange sunset as shown in the movie. This came complete with orange smelling soap and shampoo. What a terrific extra accent! This was a great suite, right down to the bathroom. And in the hotel itself, even the elevators were jungle-like in motif and temperature, almost lush.

The doors were unlocked by our Magic Bands, which also allowed us access to the parks, and we could purchase items in the hotel and in the parks as well with them, including FastPasses. The lobby, staffed by the usual wonderful customer service folks, is decorated by animation sketches from the films featured there, from original ideas to final products, almost like evolutionary stages.

The food court, Landscape of Flavors, is reputed so good that folks from Pop Century will walk over to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner there. Some of it was okay, and some really good. I’ll be talking about some of their offerings over at French Fry Diary in the near future, so keep an eye out.

Also, if you’d like a more personal look at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, The Bride and I talk about it on the newest episode of our new Make Mine Magic Podcast. You can hear it here. Check it out.

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Streamlining the Disney Cruise

The Bride and I are big Disney fans. Well, that’s not quite accurate. Like Samuel L. Jackson being a vegetarian in Pulp Fiction because his lady is, that’s the way I started to be a Disney fan. The Bride is the real Disney maniac, but I have learned a real affection for the mania myself. The fact is Disney, more often than not, does it right when it comes to customer service and entertainment. In my household, usually around vacation time, there is an annual pilgrimage to Florida to worship at the altar of The Mouse. The parks have gotten kinda old for me after more than a dozen trips (although there is always something new), but my heart has found a home away from home on the Disney Cruise Line.

This is my happy place. I love the Disney boat, as I call it, no matter what ship of their fleet I’m on. And it’s not just the idea of a cruise. I’ve done other cruises, but as I said, Disney does it right. And yes, I’m aware they are much more expensive than other cruise lines but in my opinion it’s worth it. The care alone taken with the waitstaff that follows you from restaurant to restaurant on board filling your needs easily because they know you so well is a major plus.

We’ve just taken our seventh cruise with Disney and I was pleasantly surprised that the best had gotten better. With the newest and biggest ship, the Dream, they seem to have made strides to improve their already excellent service. Waiting for the buses at the airport to take you to the cruise ship has now become the place where IDs are checked and keys, etc. given out. When you arrive at Port Canaveral now, you get right on the ship whereas in the past, it could be an all-afternoon wait.

Another place where the streamlining has taken place is at Cabanas, the equivalent of what is a buffet on the other ships. On board the Dream, this restaurant is sooo big that lines are no longer needed. You just go up to any service area, get what you want and sit down. It’s amazing to watch folks not used to this hit and run system stand and wait for someone to finish getting their food, not realizing the same item is also a few feet away.

It’s not all good. The Disney Dream (and the Fantasy following it) can house almost twice as many passengers as the original two ships, the Wonder and the Magic. The crowds are evident. I couldn’t read in the Atrium as I had on previous trips because of the constant echoing din of people talking. And never on the Wonder or the Magic was there ever the experience of people in your way when you were trying to get somewhere. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Dream, but from now forward I think I will prefer the smaller ships.

Those described above are just a few ways the Disney Cruise Line is getting better and making a great experience better. Yeah, in hindsight, the above might sound like a commercial, but just as with a review of a movie or TV series I love, I’m just spreading the word. Next time you’re thinking cruise, think Disney, you might be talking just like me.

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