Friday, November 30, 2007

Hidden Treasures from my Attic: World Hopper 1995 Part II

5 Day World Hopper Ticket from 1995 (Front Side) Well, I'm going to blame this on the late hour in which I wrote my previous post.  In reality the post was published at 1AM, but I wanted to make sure it fell on the day that I actually started writing it so I updated the time and date stamp before publishing (one of the cool features of Blogger!).

I focused so much on telling the story about how I acquired the ticket and a few details of the trip, I didn't get into anything else I wanted to say.  My body was fighting me and trying to go to sleep.

I know many people complain about the way we enter the parks today.  You have a biometric scanner that reads one or two fingers worth of prints and you slide your ticket (paper or plastic versions) through a device that reads it for validity.  It seems like every other person has problems getting their card read.  In my trip in September of this year, it seemed like my Annual Pass needed two passes through the machine before it would be read properly.

Well, just think if the method employed in 1995 was still in place today.

Firstly, as Lou Mongello mentioned in his comment in my previous post, you had to get a picture taken for the ticket.  This was the "authentication method" employed at the time.  This made the process of purchasing a ticket much like the process of getting your driver's license at the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Except, the picture on your ticket was far more grainy and unflattering.  Somehow it made a super-model look like one of the Seven Dwarfs.

Throughput at the parks is much higher now than it was in 1995 (based on personal observations).  The lines that would be involved to purchase tickets would be horrendous and I'm sure put many a park guest in a bad mood before they could even get in the parks.

Secondly, when you went through the turnstiles, The ticket had to be stamped and punched.  I forgot why the stamping AND punching was necessary. 

Each ticket had to be touched as the picture is looked at and then stamped and punched.  But this was only the first time you entered a park for the day.  The rest of the day, you just had to present the ticket for inspection to enter the same or another park.

Now, granted, in 1995 there weren't bag check stations, so I don't know if the time to get into the parks today compared to 1995 would be a wash.  If you have a bag in this day and age, it can take some time to get through the "rubber glove" inspection and get through the turnstiles.  So, the extra time it took in 1995 could actually be the same amount of time as today or quicker.

But the biggest complaint I had about the old way was that the ticket was made out of paper and was meant to be folded in half.  I was always concerned about it's safety. 

I don't think that many people have paper tickets anymore.  If you are staying at a resort and have purchased a Magic Your Way package, your room key is your ticket into the parks and it's plastic.  I'm not sure if those people who purchase their tickets at the parks get a paper or plastic ticket.  I do remember at Disneyland we had the option of paying extra to get a plastic ticket. 

I know holders of an Annual Pass have a paper ticket.  I'm also concerned about the disintegration of my Annual Pass just like I was with my ticket from 1995.

All in all, I think Disney has made great strides in the right direction since 1995 when it comes to getting people into the parks.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hidden Treasures from my Attic: World Hopper 1995

5 Day World Hopper Ticket from 1995 (Front Side)A few weeks ago I was going through a trunk that my parents gave me when I moved out of Houston.  Inside this trunk was a bunch of hanging file folders that originated from one of my many file cabinets that have come and gone over the years.

I was digging through this trunk because I was looking for a team picture from high school and was hoping that it might have been hiding in one of those file folders.  It was a common hiding place for things that I wanted safely kept.

Inside one of the folders I found a bunch of Disney related stuff from my trip to Walt Disney World in 1995.  I had taken a trip to Orlando in July 1995 to participate in a National Competition for the academic fraternity Phi Beta Lambda.  I only had to be there for one 2 hour test and an award ceremony to see how I performed.

So, for the rest of the trip I had planned hanging out at Disney World.

It just so happened that the first day I was there was the 4th of July.   Otherwise known as one of the craziest days at Disney World.

I went to go buy my ticket into the park 5 Day World Hopper Ticket from 1995 (Back Side)and was immediately stopped by the fact that my bank was having technical difficulties and my debit card couldn't be authorized. 

So, there I was standing at the ticket counter and couldn't pay with my card.  Fortunately, I had enough money in my wallet to pay the piper.  Unfortunately, that left me with no cash for the rest of the trip.

I only got to ride two attractions that night before the fireworks.  That was Space Mountain (1 hour wait) and Alien Encounter.  The fireworks were awesome but the thing that stuck in my mind the most was the terrific thunderstorm that came down right after the fireworks.  I was soaked to the bone and being that I hate being wet and walking the parks, I immediately started making my way back to the front of the park.

Nothing stinks more than being sopping wet and standing in the monorail.  I was only wearing thin soccer shorts and a tank top.  Both of which were soaked.  I'm sure I was making quite a sight of myself on the monorail as my teeth were chattering as my body tried to keep itself warm.

The only other park I went to on the trip was EPCOT.  People I had met at the competition had told me that MGM Studios wasn't worth my time so I didn't waste my time.  We did spend a night at Pleasure Island but that was pretty much my trip. 

I had to go two days with no food because that is how long it took to get the situation with my Debit Card straightened out and I had no other money because I blew it all on my ticket into Disney.

So, ultimately, I have no pictures, just some foggy memories and my non-Expiring World Hopper Ticket from 1995.  I had purchased the non-Expiring ticket because I was sure it would only be a short amount of time before I got back to Walt Disney World.  That short amount of time turned into 11 years.  So, now the ticket has just become a fine memento that has been sitting in a folder in a box in my closet.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hunting Season 2007

Full Quilt

Princess Panel on Quilt Another successful hunt completed.  Will I display my trophy on the wall?  Will I annoy all of my friends with the endless pictures of the beautiful specimen?

Growing up in rural Oklahoma I was subjected to many post hunting season photographs of the proud hunter and trophy.  We all want to share the products or prizes of a successful hunt.  It is human nature to share what we are most proud of.  Now there is a new outlet for  bragging called blogging.

My latest prize and show piece is a gorgeous (if I do say so myself) Princess Blanket.  I was helped in the fabric selection by my sister-in -law and the geometric configuration Full Panel in Quiltby Grumpwurst himself.  The focus fabric is a licensed Disney print that I purchased at Joann's fabric store along with the coordinating fabric.  Finished size is 63" X 40" which is crib size for this pattern.  The pattern is a Foldy Stuff chevron pattern.  The fabric is actually folded over to give dimension and texture to the finished quilt.

This showpiece already has an intended home with my niece Regan (Collin's sister) in Southern California for Christmas.  Collin's Christmas present is in the works and will be showcased soon.

(Chimpin' ain't easy Tim!) 

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Hidden Treasures From My Attic: The New Mickey Mouse Club

The All New Mickey Mouse Club (Front Cover)You know that feeling you get when you reach into your coat pocket and find money that has probably lay there hidden since the last time you wore that coat?  Well that is how I felt this past holiday weekend.

My parents came up for Thanksgiving and didn't come empty handed.  As part of the process of knowing that their kids are not coming home again, they are whittling their possessions down so that one day they will be able to live in a much smaller abode.

My parents know about my blog and my fascination with Disney.  So, on this trip up from Texas, they came baring Disney treasures.  These treasures have been hiding in a closet in my dad's office for years, and years.

I'm trying to think of how to make these into some frequent posts, but I decided to show one off today.  It's the The All New Mickey Mouse Club (Back Cover)LP Album of The All New Mickey Mouse Club

This isn't the Mickey Mouse Club that were launching pads for some modern day pop stars, but one that was on the air when I was a child in the 1970's.  Unfortunately, the "Bonus" poster listed on the cover as being inside has long been lost.

The copyright date on this album is MCMLXXVII.  Which, if my Roman Number-to-Arabic Number translation is correct will be 1977.

According to the Wikipedia article on The Mickey Mouse Club, there was a revival of the Mickey Mouse Club in 1977 which was the first re-imagineering of it since the original series that Walt created in the 1950's

In the 1970s, Walt Disney Productions revived the concept but modernized the show cosmetically, with a disco re-recording of the theme song and minority cast members. The sets, though colored, were simplistic, lacking the fine artwork of the original. Like the original, nearly each day's episode included a vintage cartoon, though usually color ones from the late 1930s and onward.

- Wikipedia, The Mickey Mouse Club

MickeyMouseClub_Liner1Also according to Wikipedia, the series debuted in January 1977 and by June of that year was canceled due to it's failure to succeed.  They tried to repackage the show in re-release in September 1977, but it still didn't seem to catch on.  Once again, I think this may be the Disco Effect.  Try to go Disco, kill the product.

The interesting thing I learned from the article is that Disney has released on DVD both the 1950's version of the show and the 1990's version, but the 1970's version has seemed to have gone the way of the dodo.

MickeyMouseClub_Liner2The reason I was drawn to posting about this particular album was that the cover shows a very young Lisa Welchel was a member of the cast.  For those who don't recognize the name she went on to eventually star as the very rich and snobby Blair Warner on that highly popular sitcom of the 1980's The Facts of Life.

The pictures I have included with this post are the front and back of the album cover, as well as, two graphics from the liner notes.  I didn't want to include a scan of the entire liner notes because some copyright holders get upset when you include the lyrics of songs on web pages.

Finally, I apologize if I stepped outside of the Grumpy's Hollow box a bit too much and delved into other blogger's territory with this post (i.e. 2719 Hyperion).  This was in my possession and I just felt it needed to be blogged about.  Oh, by the way, it's not easy to scan an album cover.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

One Christmas Wish List Item checked off the List

Well, most people probably don't read my posts that I've already published to notice when I make edits or addendums.

So, for those people, I'd like to say that I picked up a Sony PlayStation 3 at Wal-Mart on Saturday.  They were running a special I just couldn't walk away from.  If you bought the 80GB model for the regular list price of $499, you could pick out 10 Blu-Ray movies under $30 (which is most of the non-Box sets) and get them for free.  It wasn't a mail order deal.  The movies also had to be in stock.

So, I got every Disney movie I could find on Blu-Ray.  There were only a couple they didn't have so I walked away with over $300 in free Blu-Ray movies.  Here are the Disney movies I walked away with:

So, it's highly likely that there will be some reviews coming if I can think of something to say that hasn't already been said.

I'm excited about finally getting to watch movies that fully utilize the potential of my 1080i HDTV.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

All I want for Christmas....

In honor of "Black Friday", I thought a Christmas Wish List was in order.  Plus, rumor has it that friends and family members read my blog.

This is most definitely an all encompassing list.  I didn't even touch on the snowglobes that I'm interested.  Disney and it's community is always dropping new and wonderful things that I'd love to own.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving 2002

The Grump and Enchanted Rose inside DCA Well, this post will technically hit the blog-o-sphere on Thanksgiving. 

The main purpose of this trip was to spend Thanksgiving with my wife's mom and her husband.  It was their idea (with little resistance from us) to go to Disneyland for the day. 

We got up bright and early the day after Thanksgiving (aka "Black Friday") and hit the highway.  We got to the park before lunch.

Once our tickets were purchased, we immediately headed to California Adventure.  Since the last time I had been to Disneyland in the 70's this part of Disneyland was a parking lot, we figured it was a good place to start.

We grabbed some lunch at the Taste Pilot's Grill.  Grumpy and Enchanted Rose in front of Christmas Tree

Then we wandered the parks for the entire day.  Fun was had by all.  It was a crisp November day and I don't remember it being very crowded.

We got to ride everything we wanted to get on and my mother-in-law's husband knows the parks like the back of his hand.

He knew how to get from point A to point B in the most efficient manner.  He also just knew where to be in order  to avoid crowds.  That is why we never seemed to have to wait long for anything.  If there was a wait, we took advantage of Fast Passes.  But, if my memory is correct, we really only used a Fast Pass for Soarin' and California Screamin'.

I do remember that a nice afternoon shower (combined with cooler temperature) drove a lot of people out of the park.

I also remember there was a lot of marketing for a movie about to be released called, Treasure Planet.

The best part of the trip was the fact that my first trip back into a Disney Theme Park, Walt's Park, was that it was decorated for Christmas.

I bet you are wondering why I'm recounting a trip to Disneyland from 5 years ago.

By this 4th Thursday in November in 2002, my wife and I had been married only 7 ½ months.  At this point, we had been married longer than we knew each other prior to getting engaged (it was 3 months from the time we met to the day we got married).  This was the first real trip we had taken....ever.

Mickey and Minnie Christmas Ornament This particular Thanksgiving has a great significance in my fascination with Disney.  It was during this particular holiday that marked the first time I stepped foot in a Disney Theme Park since 1995.  It was the first time that I had been in a park since I had grown comfortable with the concept of a grown man loving Disney.  It was the first time since I moved out of my parents house...haha

This trip was the catalyst that began a process that lead to where I am now.  We have been back to a Disney Theme Park every year since. 

But, the most important thing this trip started was the start of our Disney Christmas Ornament collection

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Happy Thanksgiving

To all my readers in the United States, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

Remember, that even though a lot of emphasis is put on stuffing ourselves like the turkey on the dinner table and the great sales on "Black Friday", ultimately this is a holiday about family, forgiveness, and being thankful.  If that isn't a Disney concept, I don't know what is.  Also, you don't have to be biologically related to be considered family.

So whoever you are gathering with, don't forget to remember what things you are thankful for today.

For my international readers, I'd like to say Happy Thursday.  You only have one more day until the weekend and I'm sorry you don't get to enjoy the 4 day weekend like many of us.  But, if you mainly work with American clients (or are an international office of an American company) maybe you have it off anyway.

Well, I wanted to throw up a quick "Happy Thanksgiving" post before I head off to my pre-Thanksgiving workout at the gym before celebrating the holiday with my brother and his extended family.

The plan is to put up another more Disney-centric post later today.  That is, if my wife doesn't get the baking bug and make me help her.  Hopefully not.  That's a disaster waiting to happen.  Grumps and Kitchens don't mix.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Disneyana: Trouble with Trivets

Broken Disney Trivet As they would say on Monty Python's Flying Circus, "now for something completely different".....

Apparently, the Disney Store is starting to sell a bit more stuff that one would expect to find in the World of Disney.  Some of that stuff is kitchenware. 

I was going to write a quick post about this nice trivet my wife picked up at the Disney Store a week or so ago.  There is a bunch of kitchenware in this black & white motif and we needed a new trivet to replace the one I accidentally broke when putting dishes away from the dishwasher.  One of the bowls slipped out of my hand and bounced off the trivet and cracked it.

Well, before I could write the post to show off the new trivet, my wife accidentally cracked this one.  This time it was a bottle of seasoning that did in the trivet. 

Moral of the story, don't store your trivets, if made of breakable substances, anywhere near cabinets.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

A New Day has Arrived

A New Day at the Cinderella Castle on my Mantle Over the weekend, we got that our 25.5" x 34" oil on canvas giclee painting of A New Day at the Cinderella Castle was available for pickup.  I had showcased in this previous post.

I must say, that it was much bigger, in person, than I expected and it was quite exhausting carrying in all the way to the car from the top floor of the mall.  I should mention that it seems like the mall has seen a pickup of foot traffic the weekend before Thanksgiving so we had to park a good ways away from the door.  I guess a bunch of people are trying to get an early start on their Christmas shopping.

I drive a 1997 Toyota 4Runner and even with a nicely sized space I have with that vehicle when the seats are down, we still must've looked like a couple of idiots as we tried to figure out how best to get the painting into the car without damaging.  All I had running through my mind was accidentally punching a hole through the canvas like Steve Wynn did with his Picaso.

Needless to say, we got it home safely and it's now propped up on the mantle over the fireplace (is there any other place one would find a mantle).  The space over the mantle is all stained cabinet-grade wood and I'm trying to figure out how best to hang this painting without doing a lot of damage to the wood on the wall.

This would be the best time to elaborate that I may be very handy at fixing mechanical things that are not working right, but when it comes to decorating, I am terrible.  I put more holes in walls trying to hang curtain rods and pictures that I care and that is with drywall.  This is with wood.  I can just see me turning the wood panel into Swiss Cheese as I try to properly hang the picture.

So, if any of my readers have any experience hanging pictures on this kind of surface and would like to offer some advice, I'm all "ears".  Please leave a comment and help me out.  I don't know how long I have before my wife takes matters into her own hands.

As I became aware of in my last post, people have their opinions about Mr. Kinkade, his ethics, and his paintings.  These feelings run both positive and negative. 

My wife and I were drawn to this painting and we would've still purchased it even if it was hanging in The Art of Disney with the signature of some obscure artist on it. 

This wasn't a purchase made for investment purposes and made without any belief that it will ever give us any kind of compensation other than happiness when we look at it.  If I wanted to invest my money, I'd consult a financial analyst and put my money in more traditional financial instruments....haha.  I'm getting dizzy from the heights as I stand on this soapbox, so I'm getting down now.

I just felt that I should let people know that my purchase has arrived and we love looking at it while we fast forward through commercials on our DVR.

For those who are stumbling across this post due to Google Searches, I feel I should let you know that the lady who owns the Gallery we purchased ours through told us that this painting is now sold out.  We had acquired painting #498 out of 690.

One may still be able to find it through an Art of Disney but that I cannot say for sure because this painting was a "Gallery Proof" which means, according to the Thomas Kinkade literature, "This edition is restricted for exclusive distribution through Signature Galleries and Thomas Kinkade Corporate Galleries".  I don't think The Art of Disney is an "official" Kinkade Gallery, so it may not be available through them.

So, if you are one of those people who have stopped by on your hunt for this painting, good luck.  I hope you track one down.

The picture in this post, is of the painting propped on our mantel.

We all have our roles

Honor Hunter, of Blue Sky Disney fame, did a couple posts awhile back where he tried to fill us in on all the various players in the deck of cards known as the Disney Corporation Organizational Chart.

Well, when it comes to the Disney Community (the one that is being celebrated at MouseFest), there are many, many players.  There are so many, I'm sure that I have not even been exposed to them all.

But here is a few of them that I enjoy:

Jeff Pepper, Blogger

Mr. Pepper is the master of Disney Forensic Science.  All we need is for Jerry Bruckheimer to make another spinoff of CSI called DSI:  WDW (Disney Scene Investigations) and cast Jeff as the lead investigator. 

I believe Jeff likes to refer to it as Theme Parkology, but there isn't a detail that cannot be dropped without Jeff being able to pick it up and dissect it on the spot and kick back more info than one would dream to know.  He's the Wikipedia of the Disney theme park back-story. 

In addition to his many reports on his well read blog, 2719 Hyperion, he also provides a whole different audience with the same kind of fun through his involvement with Lou Mongello on The WDW Radio Show Podcast.

Lou Mongello, Author/Podcaster/Trivia Master

There is always room for Mongello!

Lou is a triple threat in the Disney Community.  He has authored two volumes of The Walt Disney World Trivia Book, has produced his award winning podcast The WDW Radio Show, and has very popular forums for the fans of his books and podcast. 

Recently, Lou has added audio tour guide to his resume with the release of his first volume in his Audio Guide CD series.  Volume One is devoted to Main Street, USA.  Now, if your daily diet is short of Vitamin M, you can strap on your headset and listen to his audio guide as you stroll down Main Street, USA on your next trip to Walt Disney World.

What Lou may lack in stature, he makes up in length of his podcast [Ed Note:  You do realize that Lou is taller than you, right???].  But, in all seriousness, Lou is a good sport about his height and allows himself to be the focus of many a height related prank by the boys of WDW Today

When Lou isn't recording his Podcast, working on his next installment of the Audio Guide or filling up his Disney Autograph book with the who's who of Disney Royalty, he's secretly celeb-crushing over a certain celebrity who goes by the initials JLH. 

FoxxFur, Blogger

To say Ms. Fur has trouble finding the right words would be worth a good chuckle.  The owner and author of Passport to Dreams Old & New, has single handedly drafted the most number of Disney doctoral theses on record.  She has managed to paper the walls of her "office" with the sheepskins representing her many Doctoral degrees in all things Disney. 

When it comes to academic blogging on the subject of Disney, she reigns supreme.  Every one of her posts has a purpose, a thesis statement.  I have admitted that many of her posts seem to fly over my head, but I have never made any claims of being that smart. 

Her posts are thick with details past and present but not devoid of her very clear opinion on things.  If you are looking for an academic view of the Disney Theme Parks, then Foxx is your lady.

Major Pepperidge, Blogger

Major Pepperidge has a blog full of pictures capturing the heyday of the Disneyland Theme Park. 

I often wonder to myself if this is really Dave Smith operating under a nom de plume because many of his posts are as if he raided the very vaults of Dave Smith's offices and pulled out gems of photographic history. 

Many of his pictures are from time periods when my own parents were very young and in high school.

If you are a history buff and like to look back to see where we have come from, then Major Pepperidge has put together quite a blog for you to dig into.  Plus, he has just celebrated the 500th post on his Gorillas Don't Blog blog

John Frost, Blogger

There are many blogs out there that focus on news about Disney.  Mr. Frost has managed to position himself on the top of that mountain. 

His The Disney Blog is more than just a news scraper blog.  His site is updated several times a day with all things related to the House of Mouse.  That means that he is reporting on more than just the Disney Theme Parks and Movies.  It also encompasses the ABC Network and ESPN and the other Disney Holdings. 

Lately he has added the feature of correspondents providing recaps of some popular ABC Television Shows. 

John's much missed Daily Roundup posts have done a lot to showcase up and coming bloggers as well as established mainstays.  I've heard some say that you haven't really done anything noteworthy until one of your posts made the Roundup.  John, you need to bring this is missed!

George Taylor (aka Biblioadonis), Blogger

Mr. Taylor and his brother, Andy, run a little blog known as Imaginerding:  The Home of the Disney Geeks.  George, by profession, is a Librarian.  As such, their blog is regularly highlighting great books about Walt Disney and his theme parks around the world. 

But, as anyone who has gone to a librarian looking for help can attest, in true Librarian fashion, George will point you in the direction of the information but you must do the work yourself.  There is a ton of reference material highlighted on their blog.  It's an ever growing bibliography of Disney material.

George is always looking for new blogs, books, podcasts and other Disney reference material.  These newly discovered treats are often showcased on his own blog in the form of "Geek Link" posts or are added to his extensive link list.  You also shouldn't be surprised when you think you've discovered a great new blog and find that George has already been there spreading some "geek love" (aka comments). 

He's travels around the blog-o-sphere so much one wonders when he finds time to get some "real" work in.

Every now and again we get an extra special treat when Andy puts up a post that showcases his rapier wit.  The more whimsical side of the Taylor boys has a real way of entertaining but still informing.  It's edutainment in blog form.  I, for one, would love to see more of this side of Andy on Imaginerding. 

Tim Devine, Photographer/Webmaster

Anyone who follows my blog knows my appreciation of Tim's photographic prowess.  I try to showcase his photos whenever possible.

Tim, in my opinion, is one of the greatest photographers of Disney theme parks that isn't on Disney's payroll and may be better than many who are.

Tim's Haunted Mansion Wallpaper CD was recently given rave reviews by Mr. Haunted Mansion himself, Ricky Brigante, on his podcast Inside the Magic for his Halloween episode.

In addition to all his great photographs, Tim runs a great forum that allows fellow photographers to discuss and chimp one's photos.  But, conversations are not limited to photography inside the parks.  Discussions about all photographic topics are welcomed.

There are many Disney forums out there that have sections devoted to photography, but Tim has created a welcoming site for those just wanting to talk about photography and not much else.

So, if you want to discuss photography or get some tips, don't worry about what kind of camera you have and stop on by.  There are people who can answer practically any question about capturing the perfect photo. 

After all, we all want to have the one-of-a-kind 16"x20" print we can tell everyone that we took ourselves.

Jessica, Blogger/Crate Lover

Jessica is a relative new comer to the Disney blogging community but she came out with a bang.  Rumored to be one of the founding members of the Crate Appreciation Society, she has used her If We Can Dream It blog as a voice for the "overlooked and under appreciated details found around Disney World".

With all this attention to detail, one could make the argument that Jessica has garnered an apprenticeship in Disney Forensic Science under the watchful eye of Lou and Jeff (the other founding members of the Crate Appreciation Society).

Her blog is great at opening our eyes to things that we just walk by and not even realize are carefully chosen show pieces that are nods and winks to things that the casual fan may not be aware of.

Jessica recently took a trip to Anaheim and has applied her watchful eye to the details over there as well.

When Jessica isn't wandering the parks taking fantastic shots of easily missed details, she is actively collaborating with Lou and Jeff on new ways to deny George admittance into the Crate Appreciation Society [Ed Note:  I had to get my dig in on this running joke before it has been beaten too far into the ground...haha].

Honor Hunter, Blogger

Honor runs the Blue Sky Disney blog who's claim to fame are the Blue Sky Alert posts.  Honor's main focus is on rumors coming out of Disneyland.  His information comes from an army of Bothan spies that he has scattered throughout the Disney Company.

I love Honor's site because I'm a big fan of the movie spoiler site, Dark Horizons, and this site is like the Disney version.  Everything is just a rumor until verified by the Disney Company, but it's always nice to feel like you are getting information before the rest of the world.  Many times, it may turn out to be wrong, but who cares.  Until proven false, we can sound cool and "in the know" when we tell our friends all the great rumors out in the blog-o-sphere.

If you aren't on this list, it wasn't deliberate.  There is quite a lengthy list of people who put out great Disney content and this post would rival my trip report lengths if I tried to showcase them all.

But, as a consolation, I add all the great sites I visit to my link list as I find them.

To everyone that is attempting to entertain and enlighten us with their Disney blogs, Podcasts, web sites and books, keep up the great work and remember to keep moving forward.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Devine Inspiration #7....Beware the Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

Expedition Everest (Devine Edition) I bet you all thought I was done with my odes to Tim Devine.  You were wrong....haha.

Tim, just got back from Walt Disney World (how many trips is this for 2007?) where they were celebrating Jersey Week.

Jersey Week is when all the schools in New Jersey are out for teachers conventions.  During this time families decide to make the most of it and go to Walt Disney World.

During this trip, Tim got many, many good shots of Expedition Everest and they all can be seen in his photo album on his site.

I actually had a hard time picking a picture this time.  He has several that I wanted to choose of the mountain.  Some were at night, but most were during the day.

I ended up picking this absolutely Grumpalicious picture [Ed Note:  Yes, a new Grumptastic word brought to you by Grumpy's Hollow] because I liked the portrait orientation of the shot that gets a good bit of the water in the foreground of the capture. 

In the water you get a nice rippled reflection of the "Forbidden Mountain".

The colors, specifically the greens, really caught my eye.  It may be because green is my favorite color [Ed. Note:  You are known for your Scrooge McDuck tendencies just as much as your Grumpy tendencies.  Maybe it's the richest Duck in Duckburg's love of the greenback that is influencing your love of green].

But to top it all off, there isn't a cloud in the sky.  The mountain is perfectly outlined by the most beautiful shade of Carolina Blue.

Every picture I have taken seems to have the object that is jutting into the sky getting blended into the background because of clouds. As illustrated by this picture.  Where does the Expedition Everest end and the sky begin?:

Expedition Everest (Grumpy Version)

Photos used with permission of Tim Devine at The Magic in Pixels

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Grumpy Review: The Disney Vacation Club Point by Point

DVC-LogoOver the past few months, there have been quite a bit of discussion  about the Disney  Vacation Club (DVC) in the Disney Community. 

Many of these discussions have been on various Podcasts.  I know it's been a recurring topic on the Mouse Guest Weekly podcast and more specifically discussed between Jennifer and Lisa in their Those Darn Cats segments on the podcast.

I also know that a segment has recently been tested on Ricky Brigante's Inside the Magic podcast about the DVC.

What is the Disney Vacation Club

I know that Disney and many other people refer to the Disney Vacation Club as a timeshare.  But, I like to tell people that it's more like purchasing tomorrow's Disney Accommodations at today's prices.

In other words, you are pre-purchasing your resort stays for the next 48+ years (length depends on what resort you buy into).

In my mind, it's kind of like a Roth IRA. 

In a Roth IRA, you are depositing money that has already been taxed at current rates so when you take it out, at retirement, you don't owe any taxes because you paid them before depositing.  So, in that case, you are paying your taxes at today's rate instead of the rates when you retire.

As we all know, Disney isn't known for  reducing the room rates for their Deluxe Accommodations.  They typically go up from one year to the next.  So in a few years you should see a benefit in pre-paying for your accommodations

What is a DVC Guide

Every member has a DVC Guide. 

When you walk into the DVC office at Saratoga Springs Resort (or wherever it is in Anaheim), you'll be asked who referred you to the Disney Vacation Club.  If you have a friend or family member who is already a member of the Disney Vacation Club, then you can give the person who greets you their Guide's name.  This way, you'll end up with the same guide as your friend or family member.  If you don't have a guide, one will be assigned to you.

Your DVC Guide is the person who will give you the tour of the rooms and give you the sales pitch from a numbers Disney's Saratoga Springs Resortand functionality standpoint.  I didn't experience any arm twisting or coercive type salesmanship going on.  It was pretty much, "Here is what the DVC is, here is how it works, here is what it would cost you, what do you think?"

Once you are a member, your Guide is also your go-to person with any questions that you may have that cannot be resolved by calling the Customer Support Number.  They are also the person you will communicate with for the buying process. 

Your guide will also be the one who notifies you of new DVC opportunities in the future.  For example, my guide was the one who notified me, officially, of the sale of points for the units at Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas.

My DVC Guide is Brad Smith.  I must say that he was a very friendly and outgoing person [Ed. Note:  Yes, I know he's a sales person].  Trust me, I asked a ton of questions, pointed him to negative commentary that I found on the web and he answered them all with a smile and had a believable response for every thing I threw his way.  Plus, when we used our points to stay at Saratoga Springs Resort in September he made sure to call and make sure we didn't need anything.

It should be noted that if you decide to purchase into the Disney Vacation Club and you had named a friend or family member that person may be eligible for a "reward".  It just depends on what state they live in.  Many states don't let the awarding of the rewards.  If I remember correctly, the person gets a few Disney Dollars.

How much does it cost?

Well, I cannot speak from the Resale market because I purchased directly from Disney.  So, all my discussion will revolve around that.

The first thing you need to know is that the Disney Vacation Club works in points.  You purchase a set number of points that are deposited into your account on your anniversary date.  My anniversary date is December 1.  So, on December 1 of every year I get my next allotment of points.

I believe if you are making your first purchase into the Disney Vacation Club, the minimum purchase is 150 points.  The price per point, is something that your DVC Guide, will provide you and they have a great app to help you easily see the price of everything once you start playing around with point levels

Disney seems to always be offering some sort of incentive to get you to think seriously about purchasing.  In the case of my purchase, I had the option of get a few dollars per point removed (to lower my down payment) or getting double points for my first year.  We chose the double points.

Since the incentives are always changing, you need to check them out and decide accordingly.

For this blog post, I'm going to assume there are no incentives.  When I purchased into Saratoga Springs Resort, the price per point was $101 and I bought 210 points.  This came to a price of $21,210.  But, in addition to that, you also had various costs that are normal when dealing with real estate transactions (fees, fees, fees).

There is also this another little cost known as annual dues.  This is a per point dollar figure that every member pays.  The more points you own, the more annual dues you pay.  This dollar figure is typically broken out for you so you know where the money is allocated.  My annual dues for 2007 are $810 and according to my statement that I can view on the member's only web site, they went slightly down from last year (ever so slightly).   Annual dues are monies collected for the upkeep of the resort.

How many points should I get

So, I bet you are asking, "Why 210 points". 

Well, our decision was somewhat influenced by our guide who told us that he personally owned 200 points.  But we also started looking at the point chart to see how many points it would take to stay at the resorts at the times we'd like to go.

Signing the paperwork to become a DVC MemberEach DVC resort has a point chart.  These point charts tell you how many points it "costs" to stay on a particular day or the week.  Weekends cost more points than weekdays.  Points also fluctuate based on the tourist season.  High season is more costly than low season.  Your point value is also dependent on the size of the room you want and in some locations (i.e. Animal Kingdom Villas), what view you want.

So, your number of points is really dictated by what style of room you like to stay in (studio, one bedroom, two bedroom, grand villa) and when you like to travel.

So, if you are interested in the Disney Vacation Club you might want to start looking at the point chart and figuring out how many points it would cost you to take a vacation during the period you typically like to go.  That way, when you are sitting in the office, you already know how many points you think you need.

I found a great point chart applet on TagrelDVC Point Charts

What if I cannot use all my points?

One thing you need to realize is that your points aren't a use-it-or-lose it plan.

There is a process called banking and borrowing in place.  This process can be very confusing to people, so it is highly recommended to leverage the people behind the phone number they give you to help make sure you do it right.

Every member has a cutoff date to bank 100% of their points that haven't already been used to book trips for your current year. 

You pretty much need to figure out how many points you want to use during the year by that date and bank your remaining points to the next year.  If you don't do this, then any points left unused go away at the end of your year. 

Points that are banked must be used before any of your new points.  So, if you banked 100% of your points to the next year, then you need to use those points before you can tap into that year's points.

You can also borrow points from the next year.  So, in theory, you could have triple points.  You would combine this year's points, next year's points, and the previous year's points.  This is how some people get enough points to take a cruise or book one of the Grand Villa rooms (holds up to 14 people at Saratoga Springs)

So, you can see, getting the right number of points is kind of crucial.

What if I didn't Buy Enough Points?

But, if you don't buy enough points, there is the ability to buy more points and the DVC does seem to run periodic incentive periods for current members to try and get them to buy more.  This is often referred to, in the community, as addonitis. 

We almost succumbed to addonitis when the Animal Kingdom Villa DVC units were announced at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  If we hadn't been building a house, we most assuredly have added on.

Why would I want to own points in more than one resort

When you buy your points, that resort becomes your "Home Resort".  You have the ability to book vacations at your home resort up to 11 months in advance.  You have to wait until 7 months out to book at non-Home Resorts.  You can only use points from your Home Resort when booking greater than 7 months out.

So, if I had purchased those points at the Animal Kingdom Villas, I could've only used up to the number of points I used when booking early.  But, if I needed more, I would've had to borrowed from the next year. 

Now if you book within the 7 month window, you can tap into your entire pool of points. 

Since Disney Cruise Lines aren't a DVC resort, you aren't governed by the 7 or 11 month rule so you can tap into all your points to book a cruise, or book at non-DVC Disney resort.  We actually used our points to book at Disneyland's Paradise Pier Resort.  We almost booked at the Grand Californian and wished we had afterwards [Ed. Note:  The Grand Californian will be getting DVC units during it's latest remodel].

How do I know when I have broken even

It's often heard that people say that you will break even around 5-7 trips.  The break even point is when you've stayed enough vacation nights in a DVC resort where the "rack rate" value of those nights would've met or exceeded your initial investment.

I don't know how others have determined this, but I tend to get a rough cost by using Disney's online reservation system to get a quote for staying at a resort I normally would've booked if I wasn't staying at the DVC (Polynesian, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Swan and Dolphin, etc.).  Then I plug that number into a spreadsheet which is tracking all those fictitious numbers for all my trips.

When the sum on the spreadsheet surpasses my $21,210 dollar figure, then I have broken even.Saratoga Springs Resort Statue

Some people want to know how the annual dues factor it.  I have been adding the annual dues to the original buy-in total.  So every year the total we are trying to exceed increases by a few hundred dollars. 

But, the way I see it, you can still exceed it over time.  When we stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge in 2006 (on the concierge floor), it cost us several thousand dollars for a 9 night stay.  If I remember correctly it was around $5-6K.

How Do I know that the DVC rooms are cheaper than paying rack rate

The most important question is how to determine if you are actually saving money by pre-purchasing your resort accommodations.

The first thing you need to keep in mind is that you cannot compare your "cost" to stay at a DVC resort to that of a Value Resort.  If you do that, the value resort will most likely always be cheaper.  This is more of a deluxe resort vs. DVC comparison

There is a simple calculation to determine the "value" of a point based on your what you spent.  This calculation was given to me by my guide who had received it from one of his clients who happened to be a CPA.  The math makes real good sense to me and several other people I have given it to.

First you take the initial cost per point you bought your points with.  In my case it's $101.  Then you divide it by the number of years in your contract.  In my case 48 years.

$101/point ÷ 48 Years = $2.10 per point per year

This is your base price per point.  This dollar amount will never change.

Then you need to figure out the per point cost for your annual dues. In my case, the annual dues for this year was $810. So I have to divide that $810 by 210 points.

$810 Annual Dues ÷ 210 Points = $3.86 per point

Now you take these two numbers and add them together:

$2.10 + $3.86 = $5.96 per point

This number will fluctuate based on your annual dues.  Each year you'd calculate your new cost per point for your annual dues and add it to the cost per point per year for your investment.

We will then take this figure that we've calculated and multiply it by the number of points that we used for our stay.

We used 202 points to stay at Saratoga Springs Resort in September.  Using my real-life point cost as an example, my 8 night stay in a one bedroom unit during the slow season has a cost basis of $1,203.92.

$5.96 per point * 202 points = $1,203.92

Which came out to $150.49 per night.

$1,203.92 ÷ 8 nights = $150.49/night

Jetted Garden Tub at Saratoga Springs ResortTo me, that is a pretty low rate for staying at a deluxe resort.  The special rate for MouseFest guest at the Swan & the Dolphin was $159/night and the rate for Registered Nurses at the Swan & Dolphin is $169/night in December [Ed Note:  Yes you can get special rates at the Swan & Dolphin for select professions such as Police Officer, Nurse, Teacher...It's a Starwood Resorts thing].  There is a good chance the per night rate would've been cheaper in September since it is "hurricane season". 

But, you cannot do a true apples-to-apples comparison because I also got a full kitchen, a washer and dryer and a one bedroom unit.  Plus, the bathroom was significantly larger and we got a jetted garden tub. 

If we had stayed in a studio unit, which is the closest approximation to a regular resort room (in size, not amenities), the total number of points would've been 106.  This would've given me a total point value of $631.76 which translated to a $78.97/night point value.  That is definitely between Value and Moderate resort prices.

$5.96 per point * 106 points = $631.76

$631.76 point value ÷ 8 nights = $78.97/night

Now, as Disney keeps increasing the cost of staying at the resorts, it could very well be possible that the cost per night of a value resort will eventually become more expensive than the cost per night of your stay at a DVC resort.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Countdown to MouseFest 2007: 23 Days to Go!

MouseFest Welcome Packet Envelope Well, I went out to the mailbox today and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there was something in there for me that didn't involve paying someone money.

There was a big fat padded envelope in the box just screaming, "Open me!"

The envelope contained my welcome packet for MouseFest.  Inside was all the goodies that my $30 ($15 each) got me.

  • MouseFest Pocket Guide
  • Cloisonné pin
  • Name Badge (touting Grumpy's Hollow)
  • Lanyard
  • Wristband for Mega-Meet Raffle

Contents of MouseFest Welcome PacketThis package is really helping me get into the spirit of MouseFest.  For those who have had conversations with  me in the past month, they know that my ability to go to MouseFest has been on and off.  Well, it's definite now and it has been decided that this is to be a mutual Christmas gift to my wife and me.

My wife and I have picked various meets that each of us want to do.  Some are mutually desired, others are compromises to keep each other happy.  For example, the Beauty and the Beast meet and greet put on by the Mouse Guest guys is one my wife really wants to do but I am a bit so-so about.

So, if you are one of my Grumptastic readers, who comes back frequently to get a healthy dose of that which my high school English teacher would've most likely laughed at, then be sure to say, "Hi" and introduce yourselves if you bump into me or my wife at MouseFest. 

Bloggers, such as myself, love all the Disney Geek love that we can get.  Typically, that is in the form of comments on our blogs, but in the case of MouseFest, we can expand that to include a handshake, a hello, and maybe a compliment or two if warranted.  After all, we are doing this as much for you all as we are doing it to hear ourselves speak......haha.

But when it comes to things that I'm excited about, I am psyched about:

  • Getting to finally meet some of my favorite bloggers and tell them, in person, thank you
  • Getting to meet Andy and George of Imaginerding:  The Home of the Disney Geeks.  I have gotten to know them over these past few months via the fabulous technological advances that make up the 21st century (e-mail, instant messaging, and VoIP), but we've never met in person
  • Getting to see my friend Tim Devine again. 
  • I am most looking forward to this:

Cinderella Castle with Dream Lights

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Friday, November 9, 2007

The Grump's Opinion: Proposed Dining Changes for 2008 Part III

I didn't think I'd be writing another post about the 2008 Dining Plan at Walt Disney World until I got to partake of it in 2008. But, I was doing my daily reading of the posts on Lou Mongello's Disney World Trivia forums and found the post entitled provided by a poster who goes by the screen name of ultramm:

Upgraded Disney Dining Experience Process & New Tip Policy at WDW

The poster provided the contents of an e-mail sent to them from The Disney Dining Experience Team.

For those who are not familiar, locals and Annual Passholders can apply for the Disney Dining Experience (DDE) card which will allow you to get a 20% discount at an extensive list of restaurants for parties up to 6. The discount applies to alcohol as well. Which is nice for those people who like to sample the various alcoholic libations that are scattered all over EPCOT's World Pavilion (Can I get a here-here for the fabulous Guinness Stout as the Rose & Crown)

I'm not sure how affiliated the Disney Dining Experience team is with the people who control the Disney Dining Plan but the e-mail provided two interesting bits of information.

The first is related to applying for the Disney Dining Experience Card:

You asked and we listened! Effective November 11, 2007, you will no longer have to wait 3 - 6 weeks to receive your permanent membership card(s).

Guest Relations locations at Epcot., MAGIC KINGDOM. Park, DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM. Theme Park, Disney-MGM Studios, DOWNTOWN DISNEY. West Side, and DOWNTOWN DISNEY. Marketplace will now be able to print permanent Disney Dining Experience membership cards for immediate use. This service is designed for existing and new members. Cards produced at the Guest Relations locations will be printed on paper stock similar to the annual pass tickets.
The Disney Dining Experience office will still be available to take applications for current and new members, via the phone, fax or mail for those who do not want to take advantage of the in-park service. Membership cards ordered through the Disney Dining Experience office will be received within 2 - 3 weeks of purchase.
All Guests who have ordered their Disney Dining Experience membership cards prior to November 11, 2007 date will have to pickup their temporary cards at the main entrance Epcot. Guest Relations. Your permanent card will be sent through the mail and arrive in 3-4 weeks from the date of purchase.

For people, like me, that want a Disney Dining Experience (DDE) card but keep forgetting to apply, this is great news. I like the idea of being able to get a Disney Dining Experience (DDE) Card as easily as I can get an Annual Pass.

Since my wife and I are going to MouseFest sans Dining Plan, the extra 20% will come in handy with all those counter-service meals we'll be  [Ed Note:  A commenter (we love them) pointed out to me that the Disney Dining Experience card is good only at Table Service establishments unless the park has no Table Service establishments]

I did notice quite a bit of weird typos in the information that was copied and pasted. I hope it's related to quirks that come from copying and pasting from an HTML e-mail (Disney likes to send HTML formatted e-mails and I'd assume this one came the same way). If that's not the case, then Disney Geek George needs to go to their office with his big red pen and do some editing.

I'm not questioning the validity of the e-mail at this point, because I've seen others post parts of this e-mail on other forums and it's also posted here on AllEarsNet.

Now the second bit of the e-mail is the part that prompted this post.

We would also like to inform you that the Walt Disney World. Resort will be implementing an across property policy change regarding gratuity at all food and beverage locations. Effective January 1, 2008, 18% gratuity will be added to all transactions, regardless of party size. Thank you for your continued support.

The way I read this (and the forum poster), is that in 2008, even though they have removed the gratuity as part of the pre-paid portion of your meal, you are still going to be locked into paying a 18% gratuity.

I know that many, many, many people have argued that the major problem with the current Disney Dining Plan is that the gratuity is included AND guaranteed at 18%. I have also been on record in my previous posts about the Disney Dining Plan in saying that I don't agree.

But, if there were any truth to that belief (and I could be persuaded with the write proof), this is not going to help that. The difference, this time, will be that instead of Disney forking over that 18% to the various waiters and waitresses, it will be the park guests.

If they aren't happy with the service and are feeling like they are having a gun put to their head to pay an extra 18% on service they felt they could get better at their local Applebee's, they will stop partaking in the Disney Dining Plan.

The one thing that isn't clear is who this policy change applies to. Is it just for Disney Dining Experience (DDE) Cardholders? Is it for participants of the Disney Dining Plan? Is it for everyone regardless of payment method?

Since the Disney Dining Experience (DDE) Card is usually beloved by those who pay for their meals out-of-pocket, I'm starting to wonder if the new policy is to charge ALL in-park diners the 18% regardless of their participation in the Disney Dining Plan.

According to AllEarsNet, they are getting conflicting information about those questions. Some are saying that it's for Disney Dining Experience card users only, others are saying it's across the board.

I'm going to have to sit back and wait to see if we get any additional information from more "reliable" and/or "official" Disney Sources.

Maybe Lou Mongello, Mike Scopa, Mike Newell, Matt Hochberg, or Len Testa can shed some light on this subject. In the case of the WDW Today boys, you answer these kind of questions almost every day on your podcast and various blogs and forums, and Lou does it weekly on his very informative WDW Radio Show podcast.

Now, if this is an across-the-board change, it could be part of a much grander plan on part of The Mouse.

I have talked to a few people about the crowded situations at the various restaurants and how that most likely plans a major role in the declining quality of service. It has been said that if you could get less people to go to the restaurants, then you would probably see an increase in service quality and maybe a return to the more diverse menus.

Forcing people to pay 18% gratuity for what they feel is sub-par service, might, just might thin out the hordes in the restaurants a bit and, in turn, increase quality of service. It could spell a return to counter-service meal for dinner crowd.

If this is just for Disney Dining Experience (DDE) cardholders, then the impact will most likely be smaller than the other scenario. It just means that your 20% discount is going to be negated by the mandatory 18% gratuity.

Only time will tell. I just found this very, very interesting.

If it is a global change, I don't want to even get into the financial implications on this. My brain hurts and I don't want to do the math....haha

ADDED:  11/10/2007

John Frost at The Disney Blog has posted that this automatic 18% is for users of the Disney Dining Experience (DDE) card only.  I would like to hear it from one more reliable source to be absolutely assured, but hearing it on John's blog makes me feel a little better.  Even with a mandatory 18% you'll still be saving about 2%.  So, it would be like not tipping and paying face value.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Grumptastic Restaurant Review: Victoria and Albert's

Our Menus Folded Up Victoria and Albert's was a restaurant we got to enjoy in our September 2006 trip to Disney World.  We were first turned onto Victoria & Albert's when  it was showcased on Undiscovered Walt Disney on the Travel Channel.  Well, actually, it was the Chef's Table at Victoria and Albert's that was showcased, but the restaurant caught our attention none-the-less [ed. note:  We plan on doing a review of the Chef's Table in a future post].

My wife really salivated (no pun intended) at the idea of dining at this establishment.  Because Victoria and Albert's has a strict dress code that meant that I had to be wearing a suit (in actuality I was only required to be in a coat but the wife's wishes prevailed), and my wife needed to sport a dress.The Grump & Enchanted Rose at Victoria and Albert's

What this translates to is a very long shopping expedition to look for the perfect dress, shoes and purse.  Plus, she needed to get me suited up.

We chose to dine at Victoria and Albert's on our first night at Walt Disney World.  This date also corresponded with my 35th birthday. 

Since my wife and I weren't allowed to take a Honeymoon after getting married and my job kept us from having a decent vacation afterwards, we decided that this trip would also count as our Honeymoon.

When my wife made the reservation she let the people know that we were celebrating my birthday and Long Island Duck with Galia Melon, Grains of Paradise and Minus Eight Vinegarour Honeymoon. 

As rumored, we were contacted prior to our trip to Disney World by someone at Victoria and Albert's to determine our food allergies or any other foods that we just don't like to eat.  My wife told them that we would prefer to not have caviar, sweetbreads, nor corn. 

At this time the representative from the restaurant verified that we are indeed celebrating my birthday and honeymoon.

For all you men out there that are reading my blog, let me give you one bit of advice......

Ohio Potatos and Costa Rican Hearts of Palm with Ahi TunaIf you are lucky enough to be going to Victoria and Albert's and you aren't going it alone, please build in enough time for getting ready. 

I have found that it takes a lot more time to get ready to eat at a fancy restaurant than it does to get ready for any of the more "casual"  restaurants gracing "The World".Tempura Crab Stuffed Squash Blossom with Violette Moustarde

Another bit of advice I can pass on is that no matter how much you try to convince your wife, she isn't going to get on the Disney Bus System in a nice cocktail dress and heels.  That means that we needed to plan to take a taxi to the Grand Floridian.

If you think stepping in the Magic Kingdom is like stepping into another world of Fantasy, then be prepared to slip even further into the "rabbit hole" when you cross through the threshold of Victoria and Albert's.

Seared Ivory King Salmon with Bamboo Rice Blend and Coconut Curry SauceIt will become immediately apparent that you "aren't in Kansas anymore" as soon as you get in there.

My mother once told me that there is a difference between eating and dining.  A meal at Victoria and Albert's is definitely one that falls under the "dining" category.  Be prepared for a very long dining experience.  We had a 9PM seating and we weren't out of there until almost midnight.

A meal at Victoria and Albert's definitely substitutes for any parade and firework shows for the evening.

The first thing my wife and I observed was the quiet in the dining room.  I remember leaning over to my wife and whispering to her that it felt like we were having our dinner in the resource section of a  library.  You know that section of the library that all the uber research geeks like to hang out.  Where you most likely would find Disney Geek George if he wasn't tied to his duties as a Librarian.

The other thing you'll notice is that the restaurant isn't setup to hold a lot of people.  The room we were in was Colorado Lamb with Potato Gnocchi and Summer Vegetablesreally only designed to hold about 12 people and there were only a couple other rooms of tables.

Dining at Victoria and Albert's is not an appetizer, entree, and dessert type of establishment.  You are going to have many, many courses.  I went into this dining experience knowing that, but the portion size is still very deceptive.

Elk Tenderloin with Rainbow Marble Potatoes and Veal SweetbreadsAs you can see from the photos, the portions are deceptively small by American super-sized standards. 

When the wait staff sets down the first course you are sure you are going to breeze through this meal and leave needing to stop off somewhere and eat another meal.

The other thing you'll notice is that the china changes with each course.  Both the style and patterns changed. 

Now, I'm sure you are wondering what I thought of the food.

Well, I'm known to be pretty honest with you all, so I'm not going to start lying now.  There were things that I thought were awesome (anything categorized as red meat) and there were other things that weren't so awesome.  So I ended up taking a "no thank you" taste and left it relatively untouched.  My mother always told me to try everything and eat enough to show that you cared even if you didn't like it.

The thing that I thought I would absolutely love, but found that I really didn't was the cheese course.  I am a big Guava Gelato with Micro Garden Mintlover of cheese (one of my few vices) but these weren't your usual cheeses.  They were exotic cheeses and they didn't taste anything like what I've ever had before.  I did try them all, but they were very pungent cheeses and now I know I don't like them.

The thing that I thought I would love and actually did was the  dessert.  Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate was the  final course and I have two words to describe it....Grump-Tastic!

There were a lot of lovely touches in this restaurant.  We all dined to tunes provided by a very talented harpist.  I must say that I've never heard Elvis on a harp until that night.

Comte Saint Antoine, Fourme D'Ambert and JuliannaAlbert (our waiter), provided my wife with a nifty device that hangs off the table that holds her purse.  The walls had what seemed like cloth-based wall paper.

Victoria and Albert went out of there way to keep us happy.  Our glasses never got empty.  When each course was provided we were given plenty of information about what we were eating.  Plus, when the entree was presented we got the whole metal dome treatment.  From my time as a fine dining waiter, I knew this was a French style service.  It is always fun to see.  Also, in the french style of service, the bread was served one roll at a time from a basket the wait staff carries.  This help prevent you from filling up on bread which is a big problem of mine.  Hawaiian Kona Chocolate Souffle

We did try to get plenty of pictures of our food, but I had a poor camera for the job and felt like I was committing some kind of federal crime by doing so.  A crime like taking flash pictures in a dark ride or heckling the Jungle Cruise Skipper. 

Our wait staff tried to reassure us that it was alright to take the pictures and that other people did it, but it still felt odd.  Granted, this meal was way before I even thought to start blogging about my experiences with Disney.  So, at the time, my memories were only worthy of our Disney scrapbook and photo albums. 

Next time, the Nikon D80 is coming out and I'm taking better notes about my thoughts and impressions.  Hopefully, I'll have a good flash with a diffuser on it to help prevent the blowing out of the whites that compose most of the dinnerware.

Pyramid of Tanzanian Chocolate MousseOn our way out, Victoria took our picture in front of the large floral arrangement in the center of the restaurant.  Plus, we were given our copy of the menu that was customized to each of us.

Plus, to top off the evening, every lady leaves with a fresh cut long-stem red rose.

You definitely saw a different sub-set of tourist at this restaurant.  You just don't expect to see a bunch of finely dressed people when you are at Disney World.

I have heard many people state that they think Victoria and Albert's is the most romantic restaurant on property.  Grumpy and Enchanted Rose in front of centerpieceI can say that up to this point, I haven't found a restaurant to refute that claim.

My wife and I are definitely including this restaurant on our list of places we'll be going to again in the future.  Unfortunately, with a price tag of $253 (not including alcohol), I doubt it will be anytime soon that we'll be going back (unless they add it as a Premium dining establishment on the Deluxe Dining Plan in 2008).

Below, you'll see copies of the menus that we were given to take home.  You'll need to click on them to see a much larger copy which will be more legible.

Nancy's MenuRay's Menu