News, Announcements, Updates, and Tips
May 10, 2012 * Issue 9.19
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about PassPorter travel guidebooks, the
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In This Newsletter:
From the Founders: Happy Mom's Day!
Travel Feature: The Changing Face of Palo
Disney Feature: The Auto Train
Updates: What's New and Changed
Tips: Great Gift Cards, Packing Prep, Seperate Sneakers,
Cool Links: Disney Stuff and Services
Captain's Corner: Got Any Good Tips?
PassPorter PhotoPick: Akershus Breakfast Fruit BuffetEpcot - Flower Market
Q and A: Learning about my camera
Our Sponsors: We Recommend...
FROM THE AUTHORS: Happy Mom's Day!
This week's newsletter is dedicated to all the wonderful moms out there who make our world a better, safer, happier place to be! And in particular, I (Jennifer) would like to thank MY wonderful mom, Carolyn Tody, who dropped everything and rushed to my side when I had to have emergency gallbladder surgery two days ago. Thank you, Mom! That also explains why this newsletter is a day late, as I was just discharged yesterday. Thank you, as always, for your understanding and patience!
Here are this week's PassPorter annnouncements in brief -- to learn more, click a Read Details link!
New Blogs This Week
PassPorter has a new blog feature with regular columns that we really think you'll enjoy! The blogs aren't entirely "out" yet, but we have a number of great, new columns by awesome writers that you could get a sneak peek at right now! Here are this week's freshly-picked blog posts:
"The Legend of Jack Sparrow" Scheduled to Open at Disney's Hollywood Studios by AliceinWDW
Grand Floridian Villas, the Newest Kid on the Disney Vacation Club Block by Cheryl Pendry
PassPorter's Club Update
More than 1500 vacationers are now enjoying access to all our e-books, e-worksheets, and super-sized photo archive images. Thank you for your continued support!
- A full revised and updated version of PassPorter'sWalt Disney World for British Holidaymakers is now available for download. The latest version contains details from the new brochures of the major tour operators, including prices, park tickets and accommodation for early 2013. The LEGOLAND Florida section has been expanded and is packed with photos from the park, along with details of their water park, opening this summer. We've added more pages to cover both the expansion to Fantasyland and the new Art of Animation Resort. Other new sections include details about Disney's Magical Express and how to get around on Disney transportation, by public transport, or by taxi or town car.
The book is packed with more than 270 pages and features comprehensive information on travelling to Walt Disney World from the UK, plus details on the park passes and Disney Dining Plans available to British visitors. The book also covers attractions, dining, and behind-the-scenes tours at the other major Orlando theme parks -- including Universal, SeaWorld, Aquatica, Discovery Cove, Wet 'n Wild -- plus LEGOLAND Florida, Busch Gardens Tampa, and the Kennedy Space Center.
You can purchase the PassPorter's Walt Disney World for British Holidaymakers through the PassPorter Store or get the e-book free of charge as a PassPorter's Club Passholder. If you have already purchased PassPorter's Disney Vacation Club Guide from our online store, you can download the updated version for free by going to the PassPorter Store, logging into your account, locating the e-book in your Order History, and clicking the download link. PassPorter's Club Passholders can download the latest version using the Concierge Desk.
In this issue, PassPorter Featured Columnist Cheryl Pendry shares tips on The Changing Face of Palo. Then PassPorter Guest Contributor Michael Miller gives us a glimpse into The Auto Train.
Jennifer and Dave Marx
PassPorter Founders and Authors
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TRAVEL FEATURE: The Changing Face of Palo
by Cheryl Pendry, PassPorter Featured Columnist
Everything changes, and moves on, and that's very much the case with everything Disney, as we discovered when we boarded the Disney Dream last year.
So much was new, while other things were reassuringly the same, but at the same time very different. One of those was Palo.
Palo is the original optional, adults-only restaurant on the Disney Magic and Wonder, serving up an amazing Italian dinner nightly, and brunch, and afternoon tea on days at sea. It's a measure of how successful Palo is that it can be tough to secure a reservation there, although we've certainly lucked out over the years.
On our first cruise, we managed to dine at Palo for two nights running, after enjoying such a superb meal there on our second night on board. After that, somehow the other restaurants just couldn’t hold a light to it. Our second cruise included days at sea and the chance to enjoy both the brunch, and the afternoon tea, along with dinner of course! By the time of our third cruise, we moved up to the Disney Dream, with our fourth cruise just months later returning us to the Wonder, and allowing us to compare the two different Palos.
Let’s start with what’s the same, and that’s the dinner menu. I was surprised to see that they were absolutely identical across both the newer, and original ships in the Disney fleet, but I guess it makes sense. After all, stick to what you know makes sense. It’s easier, no doubt, for training chefs, and at least the customers who’ve previously cruised with Disney know exactly what they're going to get. But, for us, that was part of the problem.
We went on to the Dream, knowing exactly what we would get at Palo, and sadly we were disappointed with the quality of the food. It certainly didnt live up to our expectations, but perhaps they were set too high? Not so it appeared, for when we returned to the Wonder on our Alaskan cruise, and revisited Palo, we found the same high quality weve always enjoyed at the restaurant. Perhaps we hit Palo on the Dream on an off night, or maybe theyre finding their feet, and just need time. Another slightly more unpalatable possibility is that the energy is going into Remy, the other adult-only restaurant on board the Dream, and now the Fantasy. Its something Ill be interested to try out on our upcoming cruise on the Fantasy, just to see how well Palo does, or doesnt deliver.
Outside of the menu, and the food, perhaps just as important is the ambience. After all, its a place to which adults can escape and enjoy a special meal out, perhaps with a special person, or friends. I loved the ambience of Palo on both the Magic and the Wonder. Having visited Italy before, the second you arrive on deck, youre immediately transported to that part of the world. That continues as you walk in, with beautiful Venetian masks lining the walls of the restaurant. Its all very subtle, and has a light feeling to it, partially due to the light streaming into it during the day, with the windows overlooking the scenery outside.
By contrast, Palo on board the newer ships is a very different beast, much more elaborate, as you can tell the second you walk in. Its impossible to miss the glass sculpture in the ceiling, with its rich red, orange, and yellow tones. The theme of warm colors continues inside, with deep red walls alongside the tables at back, complete with murals of Italian scenes. The whole feel of the place is very much upscale dining, rather than the slightly more laid back Palo that you get on the Magic and the Wonder. Its almost as if the Imagineers decided that they needed to step things up, and perhaps they did.
The addition of a piano and prominent displays of wine reminded me of Remy next door, and I couldnt help but wonder if that was the intention-trying to ramp up the feel of the place, so that it would be true competition for Remy.
The other difference between the two restaurants is their location on board the ships. While the Magic and the Wonder have Palo on deck 11, with nothing above them, on the Dream, and now the Fantasy, theyre on deck 12, with the Goofy Sports Deck above. This wasnt so much of an issue on the night we dined in Palo, although it was something we certainly noticed in Remy a night earlier. Its something that the Magic and Wonder definitely win out on.
The new and the old version of Palo both have their own advantages, and to be honest, Im not sure I can pick between the two. Despite the lower quality meal on board the Dream, the atmosphere really is something there. I know one thing for sure, whenever were on board a Disney cruise, well always be trying to book at least one dinner, and if its available, a brunch at Palo, as it remains one of our favorite experiences on board. How can you beat adult alone time, and good food?
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About the Author: Cheryl is the author of the e-book, PassPorter's Walt Disney World for British Holidaymakers, and is the co-author of PassPorter's Disney Vacation Club Guide: For Members and Members-To-Be. Cheryl and husband Mark live in England and love to travel, particularly to Disney, and they have travelled around the world, visiting every Disney theme park on the way.
Questions, feedback, or corrections about this article, or just want to give kudos to the author? Share a comment here or e-mail us at email@example.com. Also check out our Article Collection for more great information!Lighthouse Key Resort & Spa - Spacious vacation condominium rentals four miles from Disney!
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Note from Jennifer: Lovely resort! Awesome spa, too!
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DISNEY FEATURE: The Auto Train
by Michael Miller, PassPorter Guest Contributor
Walt Disney loved trains.
From the scale model railroad he built at his house, to the trains that are integral to the Disney parks, trains were central to Walt's philosophy of fun for the whole family. For those traveling between Walt Disney World and the Northeastern United States, Amtrak offers a unique experience that Walt himself would have loved, the Auto Train.
What is the AutoTrain?
At over ¾ mile in length, AMTRAK's Auto Train is the longest passenger train in the world; carrying up to 330 vehicles and 650 passengers every day of the year. Running parallel to I-95 and covering roughly 900 miles, the train offers a unique travel experience between Lorton, Virginia (just south of Washington DC) and Sanford, Florida – an easy hour’s drive to Walt Disney World.
The same rules apply to traveling via the Auto Train as planning your trip to Walt Disney World--planning ahead is the key to securing the best deals and accommodations. AMTRAK has a wonderful website to walk you through all of the logistics of the Auto Train.
Reservations – Timing is critical
Timeliness is a necessity if you want the cheapest fares. AMTRAK allows you to book your trip up to 11 months prior to your travel date. The earlier you reserve the better. AMTRAK uses a stepped pricing model, offering a limited number of passenger and vehicle reservations at the lowest rate. Once those are sold, the price steps up to the next level, and so on. We've witnessed the price go up by hundreds of dollars in a single day.
There are two components to your Auto Train fare. The first is the vehicle charge, which varies depending upon vehicle type—regular, oversized (which includes minivans), and motorcycle. The second component is the individual fare, which has many factors including accommodation class, military and AAA discounts, etc. While at first glance the total price may seem steep, when you compare it against the combined cost of airfare and a rental car, or with the stress of driving and paying for a hotel, meals and mileage, it can be quite cost-competitive.
;There are a variety of accommodation classes to choose from: bedrooms, roomettes, family, and coach. Bedrooms accommodate 2 people, are more spacious and contain a private bathroom/shower. Roomettes also sleep 2 people, but are much smaller than the bedrooms and have shared bathrooms and showers at the end of the rail car. During the day, the rooms have chairs and/or a couch, but once you request "turn-down" service, the porter will convert the seating into beds or "berths." The lower berths are wider than the upper berths, which can feel a bit claustrophobic to adults.
There are a limited number of family rooms that can accommodate 2 adults and 2 children, but keep in mind that the children's berths in these rooms are just over 4½ feet long! If your children are older or taller, you also have the option of purchasing two connecting bedrooms; which is more costly, but very comfortable. For the special needs traveler, there are wheelchair-accessible bedrooms.
For cost-conscious travelers, coach cars offer reserved seating that can be comfortably reclined for overnight sleeping. Each seat offers overhead storage, a reading light and electrical outlet. Shared bathrooms are also available on each coach car. The biggest downside is the lack of privacy from your fellow travelers in the coach car.
The AMTRAK website offers interactive, visual representations of accommodation options and prices.
Boarding the Auto Train
Upon checking in at the train station, you and your vehicle will part ways. While your car gets loaded on the train (if you have kids, they will love watching this process), you head in to check in and select one of three seating times for dinner. Be sure to bring everything you need for your overnight stay on the train; unless you possess Indiana Jones-type abilities, you cannot access your vehicle during the trip!
In order to ensure that the train leaves on time, cars need to arrive by 3:00 pm; motorcycles and oversized vehicles must arrive by 2:00 pm. Since the train leaves at 4:00 pm, this means that waiting is part of the process. And while there are televisions and free Wi-Fi in the lobby, and a small playground outside the terminal, you’re smart to bring things with you to pass the time. Just like Disney, AMTRAK knows it has a captive audience and offers a small shop in the terminal lobby with souvenirs, reading materials, and snacks.
Passengers are allowed to board the train around 3:30 pm. Boarding is relatively quick and porters will happily assist passengers with getting their luggage onto the train.
Did someone say "Free Dining?"
Once you have stowed your belonging at your room or seat, head to the Lounge car for complimentary veggies, cheese, crackers, snack mix, and water. Virginia wines and soft drinks are available for purchase. The Lounge car offers great views of the local scenery as the train makes its way to your destination. Seating is limited, but most people overlook the large table on the lower level, next to an enclosed smoking area. We’ve used the table on many trips and rarely smelled smoke.
Later that evening, the crew will call guests to the Dining car at their appointed dining time. Linen table clothes, dimmed lighting, and surprisingly good food will greet you. There are usually chicken, steak, fish, and vegetarian entrees, plus a few kids' options. While we found all of the food to be surprisingly good, our favorite part was the brownie sundae for dessert.
The next morning, you can return to the Dining car to enjoy a continental breakfast, or request a "to go box" to be taken back to your room or for the road. The best part is both meals are included in your ticket price. Remember to take along cash to tip your servers. We've traditionally tipped $10-20 at dinner and $3-5 at breakfast.
Debarking Bingo – Please, Please call my number!!
Upon arriving at your destination, passengers debark and begin the potentially time-consuming process of waiting for their vehicles. Vehicle unloading is random, based on how the car carriers are decoupled. Passengers eagerly stand by the railing, waiting for their car to unload. As cars are driven off the train, the crew announces the number assigned to each car – often to the shouts of "bingo!" from the lucky owner. And with that, you are on your way.
Service with a Smile
From the porters who personally assist you, to the dining staff, Auto Train employees are attentive and hard working. Servicing a moving train full of people with varied needs requires hard work and a good disposition, which we’ve experienced again and again on our trips. And for those staying in Bedrooms or Roomettes, the porters are deserving of a $10-$20 tip for servicing your room--it's a surprisingly physical task. The train offers a variety of additional amenities, such as self-service coffee and tea stations, an evening movie, and basic toiletries and towels to make your trip as pleasant and relaxing as possible!
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About the Author: Michael & Tara Miller are Disney Vacation Club members and have enjoyed numerous trips to Walt Disney World and on the Disney Cruise Line ships. They are looking forward to experiencing Star Wars Weekend at Walt Disney World in June 2012 and their first voyage on the Disney Dream over Christmas of 2012.
Questions, feedback, or corrections about this article, or just want to give kudos to the author? Share a comment here or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out our Article Collection for more great information!ALL STAR Vacation Homes - Choose from more than 200 homes within 5 miles of Disney!
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WHAT'S NEW AND CHANGED
Here are a few items of relevant news:
Club 33 Accepting New Members. Club 33, the exclusive members-only club located inside Disneyland, turns 45 this year. For the first time in years, Club 33 is accepting a limited number of new members. New Club 33 members will enjoy exclusive sneak peeks at park enhancements and new attractions, and the availability to use VIP tour guides, itinerary planning services, valet parking, and complimentary hotel upgrades. New membership will also include access to 1901, a special lounge inside the new Carthay Circle Theatre opening at Disney California Adventure park on June 15. Individuals on the existing wait list will have first access to the new spots, but depending on interest and availability, more spots may be open. Those interested in Club 33 membership may request more information by sending an email to email@example.com.
This updates page 096 of PasPorter's Disneyland Resort guidebook
Halloween and Christmas Party Dates and Tickets Now Available. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party will be held on the following dates: September 11, 14, 18, 21, 25, and 28, October 4, 5, 8, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 23, 25, 26, 28, 30, and 31, and November 2, 2012. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party will be held on the following dates: November 9, 12, 15, 16, 25, 27, and 29, and December: 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, and 21. Tickets are now available. This updates page 289 of PasPorter's Walt Disney World guidebook
Eat to the Beat Concert Series Schedule Announced. The Eat to the Beat Concert Series will be held in the America Gardens Theatre during the 17th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, September 28 - November 11, 2012.
Sept. 28-30 – Night Ranger
Oct. 1-3 – Sugar Ray
Oct. 4-7 – Starship starring Mickey Thomas
Oct. 8-10 – Boyz II Men
Oct. 11-12 – Smash Mouth
Oct. 13-14 – Javier Colon
Oct. 15-17 – Air Supply
Oct. 18-19 – Gin Blossoms
Oct. 20-21 – Survivor
Oct. 22-23 – Hanson
Oct. 24-25 – The Pointer Sisters
Oct. 26-28 – Sister Hazel
Oct. 29-31 – Billy Ocean
Nov. 1-2 – .38 Special
Nov. 3-4 – Howard Jones
Nov. 5-6 – Blues Traveler
Nov. 7-8 – Dennis DeYoung, original member of the group Styx
Nov. 9-11 – Big Bad Voodoo Daddy This updates page 288 of PasPorter's Walt Disney World guidebook
Disneyland Resort's Carthay Circle Restaurant Reservations Available. Carthay Circle Restaurant, the new fine dining establishment opening June 15 at Disney California Adventure, is now accepting reservations. The restaurant, supervised by Chef Andrew Sutton, Executive Chef of famed Napa Rose at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, will serve lunch and dinner featuring seasonal produce and the diverse cuisine of Southern California. The restaurant's decor harks back to the Spanish Colonial Revival style that was popular when the Carthay Circle Theatre hosted the premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. Diners can enjoy reserved seating at the park's World of Color nighttime show. Reservations can be made by calling 714-781-DINE (714-781-3463) between 7:00 am and 9:00 pm Pacific time, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org This updates page 999 of PasPorter's Disneyland Resort guidebook
Our thanks to AllEars.net and MousePlanet.com from which we get some of our news leads.
Hear some news? Be a 'PassPorter Reporter' and send it to us at http://www.passporter.com/report.asp
DISNEY TIPS FROM FELLOW READERS
Our readers deliver a wealth of information! Send us your tips! You may see them in this newsletter and win a copy of PassPorter! Visit:
GREAT GIFT CARDS
'If you are buying gift cards for your trip I bought gift cards online at the Disney store and they have so many cute/cool designs to choose from that I ordered everyone a different design so we all knew who had which card. They even have designs that can be themed or personalized. Plus, afterwards they make a cool souvenir. '
-- contributed by Tomi
'When packing for our trip to Disney, I always have my Disney bag ready. This bag is made up of things I have purchased on previous trips that I can reuse again, like gloves, blankets, mister fan, ponchos, scarves, holders for park passes and key to the world cards. They are ready always packed in a tote bag purchased in Disney.'
-- contributed by CHARLOTTE
'I am very careful to pack two completely different pairs of sneakers. They must be well broken in AND lace in different patterns. My feet get just as sore on the tops as on the bottoms if I am not careful. Nothing impairs my enjoyment of my precious Disney time so much as aching feet!'
-- contributed by Betty
>>Want more Disney tips? For Walt Disney World fans, we've collected 500 of the best tips submitted by readers over the past six years. All have been edited for accuracy and categorized. For details, visit the PassPorter Disney 500 info page at http://www.passporter.com/wdw/disney500.asp
>>For Disney Cruise Line fans, we have an e-book with 250 cruiser tips, as well as a special cruise line comparison section and seven customized packing lists. For information, visit the Disney Cruise Clues info page at http://www.passporter.com/dcl/cruiseclues.asp
COOL LINKS: Disney Stuff and Services
We encounter many Disney- and travel-related products and services. From among those we try, a few are good enough to use ourselves and recommend to you:
Orlando Scooter Rentals: Electric mobility scooter rentals for use in Disney World!
KidsFlySafe.com: CARES FAA-approved safety harness for planes -- you can visit them at http://www.kidsflysafe.com/?utm_source=PASPTR&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_campaign=affiliate
CAPTAIN'S CORNER: Game Hints
Beginning with this issue, Captain's Corner is changing! Rather than his own separate treasure hunt game, the Captain will now be giving hints and tips to new and ongoing games and contests in the PassPorter community. So while you can no longer win the Captain's game, you can get a great hints and possibily win something even better! Congratulations to who was the winner of our last game! was the first person to identify the answer to last week's clue as in . Bonus credit goes to as the first person to locate the photo in our PassPorter Photo Archive. To view the original clue, see last week's newsletter.
Here is this week's journal entry and contest hints:
"So even though the Mystery Photo Contest has ended, I've still got a contest tip for you .. which is to say I've got a tip on ANOTHER PassPorter Contest! Did you know that if you submit a tip to PassPorter, and it is used in a newsletter, that you get a $30 gift certificate? That's enough to buy a copy of PassPorter's Walt Disney World and pay for shipping! To enter our tip contest, just go to the Add a Tip page (you'll want to be logged in or register if you're not yet a member of the community).
Use the Captain's clues above to enter our popular iPad Giveaway Mystery Photo Contest! Happy Hunting!
Each issue we choose a special photo from the PassPorter Photo Archive which highlights something beautiful, interesting, humorous, or timely at Disney or around the world. Here is this issue's PassPorter PhotoPick:
Akershus Breakfast Fruit Buffet
Photo by sillyoldbear
Photo Link: http://www.passporter.com/photos/showphoto.php?photo=5732
Epcot - Flower Market
Photo by CinderAbby
Photo Link: http://www.passporter.com/photos/showphoto.php?photo=29669
You can nominate photos as a PassPorter PhotoPick by giving ratings in the PassPorter Photo Archive (you'll need to be logged in to do this). If you'd like to contribute your own photos to the Photo Archive and be considered as a PhotoPick, please read our Photo Upload Guidelines for details and benefits.
Top 5 Photo Contributors
chezp - 5108 photos
Dopey007 - 1393 photos
Meggera - 736 photos
akleos - 568 photos
Disneydiana - 536 photos
Q & A WITH JENNIFER & DAVE
WDWJAMBA asks: I got a Nikon SLR 3000 at the end of the summer last year and primarily used the Auto setting to allow the camera to do most of the work. This year, I'm trying to play around with some of the settings to see what I can do.
My camera came with a set of DVD's from the company that feature a professional photographer giving tips and tricks on how to get the best photos.
It's kind of exciting to learn something new. I just hope I don't ruin anything! :o
Dave Marx asks: Digital is the perfect learning environment, since you can experiment and immediately see the results. The only thing you "waste" is a bit of battery strength (you can delete any really bad shots, so you're not even wasting memory). So, keep your batteries charged, give yourself a bit of extra time for shooting and learning. The one limitation I'd suggest is to focus on only one particular setting at a time, so you can get really familiar with it before you move on to the next. Afraid of missing an important shot? Flip back to Auto for a moment.
Have a question? Post questions at http://www.passporterboards.com/ -- and if you're lucky, you may find that folks have already asked and answered the same question that's on your mind!
WANT TO GET PUBLISHED?
PassPorter News is published weekly and we're always on the lookout for good quality Disney and travel articles! We seek guest columnists who want to contribute articles to this newsletter. No professional writing experience necessary, just a desire to share your experience with others! Not only is this a great way to give something back to the PassPorter community, but you get to see your name in "print" and receive a $25 gift certificate.
OUR SPONSORS: We Recommend...
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Mouse Fan Travel - We are looking for new team members! Visit them at http://www.mousefantravel.com/?apid=ptpn
Lighthouse Key Resort & Spa - Spacious vacation condominium rentals four miles from Disney! Visit them at http://www.lighthousekeycondos.com?ovchn=AFF&ovcpn=Passporter&ovcrn=Newsletter+May+10+11&ovtac=AFF&keyword=passporterlhk
ALL STAR Vacation Homes - Choose from more than 200 homes within 5 miles of Disney! Visit them at http://www.allstarvacationhomes.com/passporter_walt_disney_world.asp?ovchn=AD&ovcpn=PassPorter&ovcrn=Pass+May+10&ovtac=EMAIL&keyword=passporter
Orlando Scooter Rentals - Electric mobility scooter rentals for use in Disney World! Visit them at http://www.scootarama.com
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