Disney World Immersive Expansion Opens This Week

Disney WorldFlorida’s Walt Disney World is about to open a new, re-imagined Fantasyland. The iconic park had been in operation for years to the thrill of vacationers of all ages and needed a facelift. More than a fresh coat of paint and upgraded technology, Disney is adding a popular immersive element to the experience.

“The Magic Kingdom is the iconic place at Walt Disney World and Fantasyland is the favorite land,” said Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts in the U.S. and France in a Fox News report. “It’s the heart of the Magic Kingdom and we’re absolutely doubling the size of it, so I think that’s major in our guests’ minds.”

New Fantasyland has had some attractions up and running for weeks during a soft opening where cast members test their operation. Along the way, those experiencing new features and attractions have been engaged and drawn into each correlating story, every step of the way.

Enchanted Tales With Belle
A new attraction, Enchanted Tales with Belle, is an interactive experience (as opposed to a “ride”) that begins with an enchanted mirror transporting guests from Belle’s house to Beast’s library where Belle and Lumière invite guests to become part of a lively retelling of the “tale as old as time.”

Unique here is that groups are small and many are invited to participate in the experience that brings guests up close and personal with live action characters from “Beauty and the Beast.” This is not a passive, sit-around-and-watch attraction.Disney WorldUnder the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid
Also new is the musical attraction Under the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid where guests enter Prince Eric’s castle, board a giant clamshell and enjoy high-energy songs and effects that take them inside scenes from the animated Disney film “The Little Mermaid.”

Similar to Haunted Mansion in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the ride transports guests on clamshell-style vehicles using the Omnimover ride system introduced by Disney Imagineers in the 1960s. The ride takes guests through a series of scenes, first taking them to the bottom of the ocean, bringing us up to speed on Ariel’s journey from her father’s undersea kingdom then on to meeting Prince Eric.

Disney WorldBe Our Guest Restaurant
Cinderella’s Castle has some competition now with the opening of Beast’s Castle. In the middle of Beast’s Castle are three dining rooms that make up the new Be Our Guest Restaurant.

A West Wing features an enchanted rose, the Rose Gallery has twirling, larger-than-life figures of Belle and Beast and the Ballroom features an elegant domed ceiling, twinkling chandeliers and views of softly falling snow.

Inspired by Disney’s animated feature “Dumbo,” the Storybook Circus park within a park features a country fair feel with colorful big-top tents and attractions.

The Barnstormer takes the Great Goofini on a stunt plane ride high above Storybook Circus. As the story goes, Goofy has goofed his way into the role of a circus stunt pilot, The Great Goofini. In the tradition of classic air shows, The Great Goofini takes you away on a spiraling stunt plane adventure. Your twisting, turning, daredevil, roller coaster “flight” takes you high above the grounds of Storybook Circus in New Fantasyland.

A new Dumbo The Flying Elephant ride is twice the size of the old one and features a circus-themed play area offering recreation and relaxation for guests as they wait for their turn – with two rotating squadrons of airborne pachyderms! Inspired by the title character from the 1941 Disney animated motion picture, this popular attraction lets you fly with Dumbo.

Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station is a circus-themed water play area where guests can enjoy cooling refreshment and squirt each other. Interactive water features include Casey Jr., who lets off billows of cooling “steam” along with monkeys, elephants and camels that spray water.

disney worldPete’s Silly Sideshow is the place for guests to meet Disney circus stars who are excited to show off their special talents. Located inside one of the big-top tents, guests can meet Minnie Magnifique (Minnie Mouse as a circus performer), Madame Daisy Fortuna (Daisy Duck as a fortuneteller), The Great Goofini (Goofy as a daredevil stunt pilot) and The Astounding Donaldo (Donald Duck as a snake charmer).

Opening this week, that’s not the end of Fantasyland expansion. Doubling the size of the park, two other major attractions are underway, due to open in 2013 and 2014.

In the center of Fantasyland, Princess Fairytale Hall, opening in 2013, will feature walls of stone and stained glass windows opening into a large gallery where portraits of the Disney princesses cover the walls. Guests will move to elegantly finished rooms, meeting Disney princesses Aurora, Cinderella, Tiana and Rapunzel.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, opening in 2014, will take guests on a musical coaster ride into a mine via a first-of-its-kind ride system with a train of vehicles that swing back and forth, based on the classic Disney film and animated figures of “Snow White and the Dwarfs.”

See more in this preview video:

[Photo Credit- Disney Parks and Resorts]

When Monsters Are The Theme, Anything Goes

Monsters of rock cruise

The Monsters of Rock cruise, coming up in March 2013 looks to have just about all the head-banging fun a heavy metal rock fan could ask for. Sailing from Fort Lauderdale and titled “Monsters of Rock: The Lost Weekend,” the four-night sailing is being promoted as “the greatest rock cruise to sail the seven seas.” Unlike some other festivals at sea, this one looks set to deliver too.

The headliners alone should cause hard-core rock fans, if not rock historians, to get excited. Cinderella, Tesla, Queensryche, Kix, Saxon, Lita Ford, Stryper, Y & T, Loudness and Great White join a total of 35 bands and a bunch of special guests on a full ship charter of MSC Poesia, sailing from Port Everglades. That translates to non-stop hard rock around the clock the entire four days.

On a great number of music-themed cruises, that would probably be plenty to keep fans busy between a few artist-specific events, meet and greets plus enjoying features of the ship itself. But Monsters of Rock has much more. Contests for “Best Tattoo,” “Best ’80s Hairstyle,” and three competitions titled “So you think you can sing?” “So you think you can drum?” and “So you think you can Shred?” promise to create some unique memories of the voyage.

Guests who have been on a cruise before will find some familiar activities and entertainment but with a heavy metal focus. “The Rock Star Dating Game,” “Celebrity Bingo” and “Shore Excursions With Your Favorite Rock Star” promise to put a unique twist on standard cruise ship fare. There is even what looks to be a far from traditional formal night titled “Monsters Of Rock Prom 1987.”

These people have really put some thought into this.

A photo show titled “Every Picture Tells a Story” has rock and roll photographer Mark Weiss sharing his photographs that capture the look of music and celebrity personalities of the 1980s. For a nominal fee, aspiring musicians can sign up for “Master Class Clinics Featuring Some of the Finest Musicians in the World” giving lessons on guitar, bass, vocals and drums.

Think this sounds like the rock gods have answered your prayers? Hold that thought.

In 2011, officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs, U.S. Marshals, DEA agents, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office stormed MSC Poesia in a raid just before setting sail for the Jam Fest Cruise. The raid resulted in the arrest of some passengers and the seizure of an assortment of party favors ranging from small quantities of marijuana, mushrooms, hash oil, LSD, ecstasy, prescription drugs and a variety of drug paraphernalia.

Too much heavy metal fun? Want to play it a bit safer?
There’s always the Blake Shelton Cruise, a full-ship charter of Norwegian Pearl sailing from the port of Miami on October 15, 2012.

Still too much fun?
A Barbie cruise could work. The Barbie Premium Experience will be on Royal Caribbean ships starting in January 2013.

Monsters of Rock sails March 16-20, 2013. Pricing starts as low as $679 per person with three people in an interior stateroom (+ government taxes, fees, and gratuities of $199 per person, added automatically). See Monsters of Rock for details.

Here is a recap of the 2012 Monsters of Rock cruise for your head-banging pleasure:

Flickr photo by The-E

Czech Christmas, Part II: Marathon of sexist fairy tales

One of the Czech Christmas traditions is watching fairy tales on TV. Around Christmas time, all Czech channels show fairy tales virtually 24/7. All generations of families watch them together–over and over and over–and enjoy seeing the good guy win for the 74th time.

This is actually a really cute tradition, at least if you are not thinking about the “seemingly positive” messages in those fairy tales. Once you start analyzing the plots, you can’t see past the cliches.

Some of them clearly bring out the demons of Czech history, much like the skepticism about Santa I blogged about yesterday. You can’t help but notice that the bad guy is almost always either German or Russian. When I watched a fairy tale marathon with my niece, I had a hard time explaining to her why the prince always picks the prettiest girl–at first sight–without even pretending he likes her for who she is. In the Czech version of Cinderella, the prince doesn’t even recognize her when she is not wearing an evening dress. In fact, he makes fun of her. Then, you always have the evil stepmother with the evil stepsister, who–thank goodness–is never as pretty as the main character and thus, her prospects to marry well are murky. (Photo: Greedy stepmother/homely stepsister combo from the Czech movie version of Cinderella).

Needless to say, gym memberships go up exponentially after the holidays.