Friday, November 30, 2018

Ears the News: November 30, 2018 Edition


Welcome to the latest edition of Ears the News

Brought to you by our friends at WDWMagic.com


Friendship boat service to and from Epcot will be unavailable for a few weeks this fall.

Beginning November 28 2018, construction for Disney Skyliner around the International Gateway area, will mean that the boat service will not be available. The work is expected to last through to early December 2018. Bus transportation will be available for resort hotel guests, and the pedestrian walkways will remain available, as will the International Gateway entrance to Epcot.

During the work, Friendship boats will still be available from the Epcot area resort hotels to Disney's Hollywood Studios.

The Magic Kingdom's Walt Disney World Railroad closure due to TRON coaster construction is scheduled to begin early December and last into early 2019. 
Photo courtesy of WDWMagic.com.

The closure is expected to begin on December 3, 2018, and is planned to continue through to January 5, 2019.

During the closure, the Walt Disney World Railroad will temporarily take up residence at the Main Street Station. Disney has said that during this time, you will be able to get an up-close look at the railroad and take advantage of one-of-a-kind photo opportunities.


Along with opening reservations for the upcoming Gran Destino Tower, Disney has also now released a few more details on the new restaurants that will open alongside the tower at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort.

First is Toldeo, a tapas, steak and seafood restaurant location on the top floor of the Gran Destino Tower. Along with classic tapas, steak and seafood dishes, will a selection of wines from Spain and California.

The new restaurant being built in the lake will be called Three Bridges Bar & Grill, and will serve sandwiches, shared plates and salads.

Both restarts will open July 9, 2019.

The first Disney After Hours events begin in early December at both Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios. 

These will join the Magic Kingdom in offering access to the parks for three hours after regular park close with heavily reduced wait times.

Here is a look at the attraction line-up.

Disney's Hollywood Studios
  • Slinky Dog Dash 
  • Alien Swirling Saucers 
  • Toy Story Mania! 
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith 
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue 
  • Star Wars Launch Bay
  • Character Greetings with Toy Story Land Pals, Mickey, Minnie and Olaf 
Event nights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be: Dec. 8, 15 and 22, 2018; and Jan. 5, 12 and 19, 2019; Feb. 2, 9 and 16, 2019; March 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, 2019; and April 6 and 13, 2019. 

Photo courtesy of WDWMagic.com.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
  • Avatar Flight of Passage 
  • Na’vi River Journey 
  • Pandora Drummers – Swotu WayƤ 
  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain 
  • DINOSAUR 
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug! 
  • Rivers of Light 
  • Tree of Life Awakenings 
  • TriceraTop Spin 
Select quick-service food & beverage locations will remain open throughout the night for purchases. Dates at Disney’s Animal Kingdom are: Dec. 4, 12 and 18, 2018; and Jan. 8, 16, 22 and 31, 2019; and Feb. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 26, 2019; and March 5, 20 and 27, 2019; and April 3, 2019. 

Photo courtesy of WDWMagic.com.
Tickets for Disney After Hours events at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom can be purchased through the Disney Reservation Center by calling 407-939-7795.

All Disney After Hours event tickets cost $125 + tax for advance purchase and $129 + tax for day-of purchases. Disney Vacation Club members and Annual Passholders do receive a discounted price $95 + tax.

The event gives you access to the park for three hours after regular park hours, which means nearly no wait for attractions, and you can enter the park early – at 7pm on your event night – before Disney After Hours begins. Ice cream, popcorn and non-alcoholic beverages are also included in your Disney After Hours admission, which is a separately priced ticket from daytime park admission.

The recently launched Play Disney Parks app is now featuring enhancements for the holidays.
Photo courtesy of WDWMagic.com.

At the Walt Disney World theme parks, you can now collect special achievements, and the app includes holiday music from the parks.

From Epcot, you can play the Candlelight Processional album, and also a collection of Disney Holiday Hits. These playlists are also available at home. 


Disney's Animal Kingdom is offering a special deal if purchasing a banshee in Pandora - The World of Avatar.

Dine at Satu'li Canteen and get a 15% discount coupon for a Banshee at Windtraders. Regular pricing is $59.99, and the offer is available through December 3 2018.

Marriott International, which owns and operates the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort has announced that its new addition to the resort will be named 'The Cove.' 
Photo courtesy of WDWMagic.com.


When complete, the expansion will add a 14 story tower with 349 guest rooms including 151 suites, 22000 square feet of meeting space and a 90 seat restaurant. The new location will be open for group bookings beginning March 1, 2021.





Looking to plan your next trip to Walt Disney World? Contact the agents at Kingdom Konsultant Travel to help you plan your dream vacation. Email vacations@kingdomkonsultant.com for a free quote today.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Ears the News: November 25, 2018 Edition


Welcome to the latest edition of Ears the News

Brought to you by our friends at WDWMagic.com


Epcot's O Canada! 360 degree movie will receive an update.

The CircleVision 360 show was last updated in 2007 and included new scenes highlighting Canada's natural beauty, cosmopolitan cities and diverse populace and hosted by Canadian actor Martin Short. 
Photo courtesy of WDWMagic.com.


Disney is also currently working on an update to the Reflections of China 360 degree movie, and both China and Canada movies are expected to use the new seamless 360 CircleVision technology that eliminates the gaps between each of the 9 screens that make up the 360 degree show.

Mickey & Minnie’s Surprise Celebration will honor Mickey and Minnie Mouse, with new entertainment, merchandise and specialty food and beverages at Magic Kingdom beginning January 18, 2019.

Here is a run-down of the new character experiences coming to the Magic Kingdom.
  • Mickey and Minnie will greet guests together inside Town Square Theater, wearing all-new, colorful outfits for their special celebration. 
  • Guests will enjoy Celebration Station inside Town Square Theater, where they may sign a guestbook to let Mickey and Minnie know, personally, how much fun they had during the party. 
  • An all-new song, “It’s a Good Time,” will play several times daily as part of the new “Move It! Shake It! MousekeDance It! Street Party.” During this high-energy bash, singing hosts will invite guests to join in the fun with Disney pals including Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, and many others. 
  • Mickey’s beloved dog, Pluto, will meet guests under the big top at Pete’s Silly Sideshow in Storybook Circus. 

Disney has announced that Disney's Hollywood Studios will mark its 30th year with a new logo.

The grand unveiling is set for January 18, 2019, along with the debut of Metroville where guests can meet Edna Mode and the Incredibles.

Beginning November 21, 2018, Ralph Breaks VR will put you inside an all new multi-sensory Disney adventure where you’ll be immersed in the internet world of Ralph Breaks the Internet. 

In teams of four, guests will break into the internet with Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz disguised as characters from the film called “Netizens” to play the newest, coolest video game ever.
Photo courtesy of WDWMagic.com.


“There is nothing more magical than stepping inside a rich animated world – especially one filled with color, life, humor and delightful characters as is the case with Ralph Breaks the Internet,” says Vicki Dobbs Beck, Executive in Charge at ILMxLAB. “Ralph Breaks VR is an experience that brings a smile to your face and the desire to have another go around with friends and family.”

“Designing the elements that pull you irresistibly into the unique world of Ralph and Vanellope has been an incredibly fun process,” said Curtis Hickman, Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder of The VOID. “What we’ve created together with ILMxLAB is an astounding adventure that allows people to experience a unique extension of Wreck-It Ralph’s detailed characters, environments and stories.”

To experience The VOID, guests must be at least 48” tall and 10 years old.

Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, which launched last winter, will continue to operate. For more details on experience availability and to purchase your tickets, visit TheVOID.com.

Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto will host the first annual “12 Beers of Christmas” at Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs on Sunday December 2, 2018.

You'll be able to enjoy pairings of Pan-Asian bites at each station, which include okonomiyaki,
Photo courtesy of WDWMagic.com.
takoyaki, yakisoba, yakitori, gyoza, various dim sum, raw bar varieties, and multiple types of ramen and sushi. Chef Morimoto will personally host the event and be on hand to autograph his newest cookbook, Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking, which will be available for purchase. All proceeds from the cookbook sales will be donated to Give Kids The World Village. Located in Central Florida, Give Kids The World is an 84-acre, nonprofit resort built exclusively to serve critically-ill children – and their families – who are visiting Florida on weeklong “wish trips.”

"We are so excited to welcome breweries from across Florida to Morimoto Asia for this event as we raise funds for Give Kids the World," said Kyle Collins, Director of Marketing, Patina Restaurant Group. "Chef Morimoto is a big fan of the craft beer movement and pairing his cuisine with beer. He's thrilled to host such a fun afternoon."

Tickets cost $55 per person and can be purchased at https://store.patinagroup.com/event/12-beers-of-christmas (price is all-inclusive and covers tax and gratuity). Guests must be 21 years or older to attend.

Reservations open November 27, 2018 for the new 15 story Gran Destino Tower at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort.

The tower, which will be completed in July 2019, will serve as the new main entrance point for guests visiting the resort, and will add a total of 545 new guest rooms (including 50 suites) to the resort, as well as feature a two-story lobby. A themed table-service restaurant is also planned for the top of Gran Destino Tower, offering views of the Walt Disney World Resort.

Concept art courtesy of Disney

Looking to plan your next trip to Walt Disney World? Contact the agents at Kingdom Konsultant Travel to help you plan your dream vacation. Email vacations@kingdomkonsultant.com for a free quote today.

BRAND NEW! Review of the 2018 Epcot International Festival of the Holidays - PART ONE


Happy Holidays, Disney Fans!!

     Who's ready to check out the 2018 Epcot International Festival of the Holidays? Epcot's newest festival kicked off its second year this weekend with a festive bang! There were holiday shows, decorations and lots and lots of delicious treats to enjoy! Wanna know what's new and different this year? Follow me and I'll show you!

     I was surprised to see that this year's Festival was again scheduled for a Sunday opening, on the weekend before Thanksgiving, and on Dapper Day*, same as 2017. Typically opening day has some kitchen mishaps, slow lines due to new Cast Members learning the event, etc. Opening on a weekend day seems risky to me, but it must have gone smooth enough last year because they did it again for 2018. The park was packed, as expected, and the temps were more reminiscent of summer than they were of the holiday season, but nothing could stop us from enjoying all the Christmasy fun.

     After getting into the park, we checked out the various displays and decorations around Future World. This year's Festival did not seem to have a Festival Center, as most Epcot Festivals do. The event is mostly contained within World Showcase, but there are some cute displays in Future World.

          *An unofficial Disney event where Guests dress up in 40's and 50's attire, reminiscent of what Guests would have worn to the opening of Disneyland in 1955.*

Mickey and Minnie greet Guests at the park entrance. 

Cute photo op with the chipmunks.

Gorgeous poinsettia display near the Art of Disney store. 

Despite the 80 degree temps, Pluto was ready for cold weather. 

The only kind of snowman we get here in Central Florida. 

Goofy and Donald welcome you to World Showcase.

Amazing topiaries

Gospel choir, Joyful, returns to Future World this year. 

It may be the same every year, but it always takes my breath away. 

This year's passport again includes stickers so you can track with booths you have visited. 

Some of the treats and merch

The "completer cookie"
     Even though they did away with the Cookie Nook that they had last year, and almost ALL of the delicious cookies that were offered, brand new to the Festival this year is the Holiday Cookie Stroll. As Guests are hitting up the Holiday Kitchens around World Showcase, they can purchase five different cookies, and collect a stamp for each one. If they collect all five stamps, they return to the Holiday Sweets and Treats Booth in World Showcase Plaza to redeem their stamps for a free "completer cookie" and a container of milk. I will show you the cookies as I go over my reviews at each booth, but I want to point out a couple of things. 1.) You have to remember to ask for the stamp. They don't automatically offer them to you. We totally forgot to get them, and when I asked at the last booth if I could show my receipts and get the stamps, they said I could not because each stamp was
different and I would have to walk all of World Showcase, show the right receipt at each booth, and only THEN could I recollect them. Of course, I told the Cast member I thought that was kinda crazy and they did say they'd make an exception this one time, but come on.... that's nuts!  Over a cookie that probably costs them pennies to produce? When I have already spent almost $20 purchasing the other, required cookies? AND had receipts to prove it? Silly. Hopefully, this policy will change. 2.) Make sure you know which cookies count and which don't. The Christmas Tree Sugar Cookie from the Holiday Sweets and Treats booth does NOT count, which was weird. Neither do any of the Joffrey's booth cookies. Only the ones that are marked on the menu. 3.) The "completer cookie" is super unimpressive. It's a basic, thin sugar cookie in a Mickey head shape, with chocolate dipped ears and sprinkles. It's on the smallish side and doesn't have a whole lot of flavor. It was actually my least favorite of all the cookies. I thought the Christmas Tree Sugar Cookie from the same booth was way better, much larger and would have made a better "prize" for completing the cookie stroll. (Oh, and they forgot to give me the container of milk, which I didn't realize I was supposed to get until after I left the park and was looking at other people's reviews.) And here's a bonus HOT TIP: Bring a few zip-lock baggies so you can bring your cookies home! They will fill you up quick otherwise and they will be a fun surprise to eat back to the hotel or even when you get back home. If you forgot the baggies, they do sell a cookie jar for about $20, but it's glass. You can always ask for the small plastic bag from a merchandise outlet, or even better, if you go to a Kidcot Fun Stop location in World Showcase, they have little passport baggies that are actually zip-top plastic bags!

The Holiday Sweets and Treats booth advertises the Cookie Stroll

The Cookie Stroll is in the passport.

Collect 'em up!


     Before we started enjoying the booths, we stopped into the Port of Entry gift shop. In there we checked out the new Epcot mouse ears, including the one that pays homage to the famed "bubble gum wall" at the exit of Spaceship Earth. (It's a whole Instagram 'thing'.)

"Bubble Gum Wall" Ears on the bottom left
     We also picked up our free Annual Passholder car magnet. This time it's Goofy, with a snowflake background. The Hubs was psyched since Goofy is his fav. If you're a Passholder, you can get yours, while supplies last, by showing your annual pass and photo ID at Port of Entry or Mouse Gears gift shops.

     Our last mission in that store was to buy this year's Chip and Dale's Christmas Tree Spree scavenger hunt map.  My two kids love looking for Chip and Dale on their Christmas wreaths, in each of the World Showcase pavilions. They match the sticker for the "gift" that the chipmunk is holding in each country, and then at the end, they turn in the completed map at the same shop, to collect their prize. This year's prize is a pack of greeting cards. You can choose from three designs, featuring Minnie, Mickey or Figment. We had to go Figment, obviously. My kids love these scavenger hunts, which are now offered at all of the Epcot Festivals, and I appreciate them because it keeps the kids engaged and gives me some time to enjoy World Showcase, BUT FOR THE LOVE, DISNEY.... could you please put the sheet of stickers on the same page as the map??? Almost every time we have done this hunt, we manage to lose the stickers a country or two in. (Par for the course this time, too.) Of course, since we paid for the map, they did still let us claim the prize, but there isn't anywhere to get replacement stickers, so hold on to 'em tightly!

Get your map and keep the kiddos busy while you enjoy the Festival!

My little dude was ready to go!

Hey, I found you, Dale!

     So now I think it's time to get into to good stuff... the food reviews for the Holiday Kitchens! Before I jump in, let's cover my overall observations first. Just like last year, it was easy to see right away that the portions from the Holiday Kitchens were considerably larger than what you get during Food and Wine. Not only that, most of the items are more substantial. (Not just a piece of turkey on mashed potatoes.... turkey, mashed, stuffing, gravy, green beans and cranberry sauce.) As one might expect, this also means that the per item cost was much higher. Most Food and Wine items average about $4-$5. Most of the Festival of Holidays items were more like $6 or $7. Worthwhile? Sure, but still not easy on the wallet, so be prepared. The larger portions also make this a great Festival to do with a larger party, since then you can share items and try more stuff. 

     Once again, I also found that allergies are a challenge. My son has an egg allergy and so I have to check out most items to see if he can have them. The procedure for this at each booth, just like at previous Festivals and in previous years, is for a Cast Member to have to call a chef on the radio and ask them to come to the booth. This takes a really long time and seems like a big inconvenience to everyone involved.... The Cast Member waiting on the Guest with allergies, the person with allergies who has to wait, the chef who is pulled from elsewhere, and the other Guests in line, who have to wait while you speak to a chef. I don't understand why they can't have pre-printed allergy menu pages, just like they do at the counter service restaurants, stating which allergens are in each item. I asked one of the chefs, after we have backed up a line and made some enemies behind us, and he said that for legal reasons, they can't. However, the Holiday Kitchen in Japan did have exactly what I was looking for... a binder with printed pages, stating ingredients and allergens. Why can one booth have it and not others? This is so weird to me. Anyway, be prepared that if you have food allergies, you will likely have to wait at each booth, while they call a chef for you. At least you will until they finally listen to me and fix this. Ya hear me, Bob Iger???? (Hahaha..... I'm sure he's directly in charge of the menus at the Holiday Kitchens. That's why they pay him the big bucks).

     OK, I think we are ready for the booth by booth rundowns, no? Here we go then...

Le Marche de Noel Holiday Kitchen
(France)










  • What did we try?   Bouchee a la Reine Traditionnelle
  • How would I describe it?   A puff pastry square with turkey and mushrooms, in a cream sauce.
  • How was the portion/value?   $6.75 may have been a touch high, but the portion was large and easily shareable. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?  A   Mmmmm... flaky, buttery puff pastry with big chunks of turkey and mushrooms in a smooth, creamy sauce? It all screamed 'France' and it was all delicious! I don't even like mushrooms, but I managed to push them to my husband's side of the pastry and enjoy! One of the best items I had. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Oui, oui!

Bouchee a la Reine Traditionelle

  • What did we try?   Buche de Noel au Chocolat "Christmas Log"
  • How would I describe it?   A roll of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and filled with a caramel cream, with crispy rice pearls and a meringue on top. 
  • How was the portion/value?   $4.75 was fair, considering this was about the size of a regular dessert in a counter service restaurant. Two people could share this and each get a couple of bites. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?  A+   Oh my goodness.... rich, chocolatey cake, with uber-rich ganache. Every element of this was delicious. I had a brief but fulfilling love affair with this cake. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   One day, my love, I shall return for you. 

Buche de Noel au Chocolat "Christmas Log"


Sapphire Holiday Kitchen

(Morocco)





  • What did we try?   Confit of Chermoula Chicken Drum
  • How would I describe it?   A seasoned chicken drumstick with applesauce and Brussel sprouts.
  • How was the portion/value?   This was an $8 one, (up $1 from last year), but pretty much a full, small-sized meal, so the price tag still wasn't too bad. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?  A   The Hubs was blown away by the flavors of this dish. The apples were sweet and tangy and the Brussel sprouts were nicely cooked and added a lot to the dish. The almonds gave it the perfect amount of crunch. Yum!
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Yes!

Confit of Chermoula Chicken Drum


  • What did we try?   Sfenj: Warm Beignets
  • How would I describe it?   Donut holes filled with cream and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and topped with chocolate drizzle and toasted almonds. 
  • How was the portion/value?   For $5 we got two little beignets, which seemed like too small of a portion. For less than that you can get three large beignets at Port Orleans. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?  B   The Hubs loved these babies, but I found them to be too greasy. I don't enjoy tasting the grease on fried foods and you could really taste it on these. They were served warm, with cool, creamy centers. Minus the grease, they had a nice flavor. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   I will not, but The Hubs might. 

Sfenj



Shi Wasu Holiday Kitchen
(Japan)






  • What did we try?   New Year Celebration Soba
  • How would I describe it?   Noodles in broth with spinach leaves and white meat chicken. 
  • How was the portion/value?   For $6.75 (up $0.25 from last year) we got a large bowl of soup with spinach, chicken and plenty of noodles. It could totally be lunch.
  • What letter grade would we give it?  B   Nice flavor and plenty of yummy stuff in it!
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   I won't, but only because there's other stuff I want more. 

(Last year's New Year Celebration Soba. This year's does not have shrimp.)



  • What did we try?   Ichigo Milk Boba
  • How would I describe it?   A strawberry smoothie with popping boba.
  • How was the portion/value?   $5.25 is too much for this little smoothie. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?  C   Eh. Tasted like a cross between strawberry milk and a strawberry smoothie. I asked for the boba on the side, since my little guy is nuts for them, and the Cast Member happily obliged. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Nope. Waaaay too much other good stuff!

Ichigo Milk Boba

My son's side of boba bubbles. 


American Holiday Table
(American Adventure)







  • What did we try?   Slow Roasted Turkey
  • How would I describe it?   Thanksgiving dinner on a little plate. 
  • How was the portion/value?   $5.50 (up $0.25 from last year) seems pretty reasonable for this one. I could have easily eaten this as my lunch. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?  B+   How can you go wrong? Carved turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce. Super tasty. Personally, I found it a bit on the salty side, but other than that, delicious!
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   It was great, but I don't think I'd bother with it a second time. 

Slow Roasted Turkey


  • What did we try?   Hand Carved Smoked Ham
  • How would I describe it?   Ham with a sweet glaze, green beans and mashed sweet potatoes.
  • How was the portion/value?   Just like the turkey, this could have been lunch. $6 wasn't bad. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?  B+   I liked this one about the same as the turkey. Delicious, classic holiday dinner. I liked the added flavor from the glaze. The chef had no problem putting the candied pecans on the side so my son could eat this. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   It was yummy, but once was good. 

Hand Carved Smoked Ham


  • What did we try?   Chocolate Pecan Tart
  • How would I describe it?   A mini chocolate pecan pie with whipped cream and a caramel drizzle.
  • How was the portion/value?   $4.50 is totally reasonable, considering that other Disney desserts are generally this price or higher, and this was easily shareable. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?  B   I don't even like pecan pie and I actually thought this was pretty good! Sweet and crunchy, with a nice crust to it. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   It was good, but I don't want another one. 

Chocolate Pecan Tart


  • What did we try?   White and Green Sugar Cookie
  • How would I describe it?   A basic sugar cookie with sprinkles and a white chocolate drizzle.
  • How was the portion/value?   All of the Cookie Stroll cookies are $2 each. They aren't particularly big, but the $2 price is just ok.  
  • What letter grade would we give it?  B   A decent sugar cookie, but nothing spectacular. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   No thanks. 

White and Green Sugar Cookie

----------

     Like what you're seeing so far? Well, there's a bunch more to come, so check back for Part Two of my visit, coming very soon!

     Until next time, have a magical week!!!!

                                                                                      - Jenn 

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