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PassPorter News Brought to you by PassPorter Guidebooks
  July 3, 2003 * Issue 3.11

In This Newsletter

From the Authors: Happy Independence Day!

Travel Today: The Importance of Being Lazy

Disney Feature: Star Wars Weekends at Disney-MGM Studios

Updates: What's New and Changed

Tips: Free Taffy Souvenirs, Fireworks, T-Shirts for Families

Q&A: Kids Club Age Requirements on Disney Cruises

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What's New and Changed

Magic Kingdom’s Diamond Horseshoe Saloon has reopened as Goofy’s Country Dancin’ Jamboree. Goofy, Chip, Dale, plus Woody, Jessie and Bullseye from Toy Story 2 are on hand to meet and greet guests and Goofy leads the crowd for country-style line dancing in this 20 minute show. Food and drink have been removed from the menu. The current show schedule is Tuesday through Sunday, 11:00am, 12:00pm, 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 4:00pm, 5:00pm and 6:00pm (thanks to Steve Soares WDW Entertainment Guide for the schedule).

While you’re in Frontierland you may also catch the Frontierland Hoedown at 4:50pm and 5:45pm, out in front of Country Bear Jamboree and Pecos Bill’s. This small parade features the Country Bears and a corps of dancers, and guests are invited to join in the dancing fun. (Again, thanks to Steve Soares for this news.)

Football fans will be happy to hear that the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers are returning to Disney’s Wide World of Sports for their summer training camp. The Bucs held their first training camp at WDW last year, and went on to have a championship season, so they’re back for another helping of Disney magic. Walt Disney World guests lucky to be on hand from July 19-28 and/or August 4-15 can observe the team’s twice-daily practice sessions (approx. 8:35-10:45am and 2:45-4:45pm). For details, check Disney’s Wide World of Sports web site: http://www.disneyworldsports.com

The rumor mill has been hopping over the future of Disney-MGM Studios Residential Street and the Osborne Festival of Lights. Residential Street has been hidden behind construction fencing for some time, and is no longer part of the Studios Backlot Tour. The scuttlebutt is that Residential Street will soon be demolished to make room for a new car stunt show modeled on the very popular stunt show at Disneyland Resort Paris. The trouble is, Residential Street is home to the Osborne Festival of Lights, an incredibly popular Christmas season event at Studios. Will the Lights go dark in 2003? Some sources report this all as an accomplished fact, but no official announcements have been made by Disney. Will the Osborne Lights be back this fall? Will the Lights move from the suburbs to the big city (New York Street) in 2004? Has Residential Street seen its last sitcom? Stay tuned for future developments!

Disney Cruise Line has announced several special cruise itineraries for 2004, featuring several new ports of call. There will be two variations on the 7-Night Eastern Caribbean itinerary (substituting either San Juan, Puerto Rico or Antigua for Sint Maarten), and, for the first time, a 10-Night Itinerary during Christmas season! Here's the official low-down from Disney:

7-Night Eastern Caribbean featuring St. Thomas/St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands and San Juan, Puerto Rico

Sails August 7, August 21, and September 4, 2004

Saturday - depart Port Canaveral
Sunday - at sea
Monday - at sea
Tuesday - St. Thomas/St. John
Wednesday - San Juan
Thursday - at sea
Friday - Castaway Cay
Saturday - return to Port Canaveral

7-Night Eastern Caribbean featuring Antigua in the British Leeward Islands and St. Thomas/St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Sails September 18 & October 2, 2004

Saturday - depart Port Canaveral
Sunday - at sea
Monday - at sea
Tuesday - Antigua
Wednesday - St. Thomas/St. John
Thursday - at sea
Friday - Castaway Cay
Saturday - return to Port Canaveral

10-Night Eastern Caribbean Holiday Cruise featuring Key West, Sint Maarten, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Thomas/St. John, and Castaway Cay

Sails December 18, 2004

Saturday - depart Port Canaveral
Sunday - Key West
Monday - at sea
Tuesday - at sea
Wednesday - Sint Maarten
Thursday - St. Lucia
Friday - Antigua
Saturday (Christmas Day) - St. Thomas/St. John
Sunday - at sea
Monday - Castaway Cay
Tuesday - return to Port Canaveral

>Things To Do: Hear some news? Send it to us at
news@passporter.com .

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Disney  Tips:
From Fellow Readers

"For the past four years, my children and I make sure we visit Japan at the World Showcase at Epcot. There is a little cart in front of the big store where a young lady makes candy taffy suckers for the children. There is no sign saying what the cart is for unless you know it is there. The young Japanese lady puts a ball of colored taffy on a stick. She proceeds to stretch it and cut it with a tiny pair of scissors into various animals. The best part about this unique souvenir is that it is free! This year my children each got one. One was a green dragon, another was a blue lizard, and the last was a blue snake. They are placed in a clear plastic bag for others to view. We were asked at least 50 times where we had bought the suckers, but I had to tell them that they were free. FYI: the young lady who sculpts these magnificent creations can make about 6-7 in a half an hour and only gives them to children." -- contributed by Kimberly Watson

"If you are heading back to the Ticket and Transportation Center after an evening at the Magic Kingdom, you can get a great view of the fireworks, with the music piped right in, at a viewing area just to the left of the exit ramp for the ferry." -- contributed by Amanda Parr

"I used Avery Dark T-shirt Transfers to make personalized shirts for all five members of our family. I found inexpensive Hanes t-shirts in a different color for each day and used Disney's Magic Artist software or clipart from Disney web sites to create a different design for each set of shirts. I also added some personalization to the designs - like "Powell Family Vacation" or "Powell Family 2003" to the designs. The shirts worked great for helping to keep track of my husband and three boys. We also got extra attention from cast members who would say things like "Have a great day Mr. Powell!" etc. At least ten different people chased us down to ask where we got our shirts. The shirts looked almost professional and only cost around $6 each." -- contributed by Kris P. (kpowell@indy.rr.com)

>Notes: Send us your tips ! You may see them in this newsletter and win a copy of PassPorter!

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Q & A:
With Jennifer and Dave

In this column we answer your frequently asked PassPorter and Disney questions.

Angels asks:
"I noticed in the Personal Navigator that groups are in age groups for the kids clubs on the Disney Cruise. One is 3-4 years and another is 5-7 years. My kids will be 4 and 7 when we cruise. Would I be able to put my 4 year old in the 5-7 year group so she can be with her brother? Or is Disney strict with kids staying in the age group they are? (She'll be 4 and 3 months when we cruise.)"

Dave replies:
"This decision is a judgment call by the Disney Cruise Line program counselors, but at four years three months, they'd probably say no--they'd be more likely to say yes if it were four years eleven months. Both your children will be in the same room. They'll be able to see each other and interact during free time or if they choose to not do an organized activity. They break the kids into age-specific groups for organized activities, but most of the time even those take place in the same room."

Have a question? Post it 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!

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From the Authors: Happy Independence Day!


A Happy Fourth of July to our fellow Americans! We'll be driving down to Washington D.C. to catch the fireworks over the National Mall. We wish everyone a happy and safe holiday weekend!

Those of you who've been following our recent travels may marvel that we're bothering to go all the way to Washington D.C. for fireworks. Actually, we're going to attend a wedding, but why not do both? We just returned from a delightful vacation in Sint Maarten, Netherland Antilles. For the two weeks before that we were in Southern California, and before that we were on the Eastern Caribbean Disney cruise. Hey, we have an excuse -- we're travel writers!

We accumulated a boatload of helpful information on St. Maarten for our fellow Eastern Caribbean Disney cruisers, which we'll share in upcoming newsletters and future editions of our guidebook. For now, here's a tip: Pinel Island is THE BEST! Disney offers an excursion, but don't bother with that -- just hop in a taxi at the dock, have it take you to Pinel Island dock in Cul-De-Sac, then board the $5/person ferry to Pinel Island. The little island is simply delightful, with calm waters, a gorgeous beach, an excellent eatery, and a gift shop tucked among the foliage. While Allie was playing, we hiked around to the other side of the island to a deserted beach looking out to the Atlantic Ocean. Beach chairs and umbrellas can be rented, and water sports are available, too. On our visit, we saw some topless women, but no one blinked an eye -- it seemed entirely appropriate given that Pinel Island is on the French side of St. Martin. Pinel Island was a highlight of our trip, and we highly recommend it.

Allie and Dave on Pinel Island
Allie and Dave on the beach at Pinel Island

This newsletter sports an essay from Dave on the importance of being lazy, and a feature article from a new guest columnist, Mary Albright. Enjoy!

Jennifer and Dave
PassPorter Travel Press



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Travel Today:
The Importance of Being Lazy

by Dave Marx

Whew! As we already mentioned, we just got back from a ten-day vacation. That’s "vacation," as in, "all play and no work," not one of our frequent working visits to places where other people vacation. So what did I do on my summer vacation? Among other things, I read "The Importance of Being Lazy" by Al Gini. I figured, what better way to get lazy than to read about it?

Alas, I was more frustrated than satisfied by this short (162 pages) collection of essays. The author’s heart is clearly in the right place. In our Type A, overworked world, we ought to learn better how to rest from our labors and refresh our minds and bodies. That is the importance of being lazy. Unfortunately, he spent most of the book proving just how much we overwork, just how tough a time we have getting real rest and relaxation, how much better people have it in other cultures and how much better we had things back in the good old days. I kept hoping for helpful quotations from famous sybarites, philosophical musings on the value of sloth, and solid tips on how to kick back and really enjoy. He didn’t even quote from one of the classic proponents of "getting away from it all," Henry David Thoreau. I kept silently shouting, "tell me something I don’t know!"

Along the way the author mentioned Walt Disney World and Disneyland several times-- sometimes with admiration, and sometimes as an example of how we can’t manage to have relaxing vacations. As someone who makes a living helping folks plan (or over-plan) their Disney vacations, there were times that I felt just a wee bit defensive.

So, let me set the record straight!

We plan vacations so that we can actually get down to the hard work of relaxation and enjoyment. There’s nothing more frustrating than to stand on the threshold of a good time and not be able to have a good time. If you get tense because you’re wasting time making choices that could have been made weeks or months ago, or if you’re stranded out in the cold when there’s no room at the inn, there’s no way you can ever relax and enjoy your precious time off.

But no, I’m not a fan of "commando" vacations. When you try to get maximum value out of your vacation time and/or dollars by planning and cramming every waking moment with activities and getting less sleep than usual you miss the real point of any vacation. You really do need to "stop and smell the roses." It’s during those seemingly empty moments that your mind and heart is free to unwind and you can rediscover yourself and those you love.

Occasionally, readers ask how they can guarantee their piece of "Disney magic." My regular response is, "The harder you chase the magic, the harder it is to find. You have to slow down, and let the magic find you." Magic (whether it’s delight, relaxation, inspiration, togetherness, or what-have-you) is just what Al Gini hopes we’ll find by "being lazy."

So leave a few hours in every vacation day for the unplanned. Sit on that park bench and watch the world dash by. Spend more time snuggling and less time struggling. Sleep in, or turn in early. Read the latest Harry Potter novel. And don’t forget to gaze at the heavens and wish upon that star. Your vacation dreams really can come true.


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Disney Feature:
Star Wars Weekends at Disney-MGM Studios

by Mary Albright, guest columnist and Walt Disney World fan 

Can you quote from every Star Wars movie made? Are you a walking fountain of Star Wars knowledge? Then a visit to Star Wars Weekends at the Disney-MGM Studios might be right up your alley.

My entire family loves the Star Wars universe. When the dates were announced for this year’s events and they happened to fall over my husband Bryan’s birthday, I knew we’d be making a trip to Walt Disney World.

Our plan was to spend Saturday at Disney-MGM Studios taking in the Star Wars Weekend events. As Walt Disney World Resort guests, we had the privilege of Extra Magic Hour at Disney-MGM Studios that day, allowing us to enter the park one hour before the general public. As we walked toward the front gate, you could hear the Star Wars theme music being piped through the park. It got us even more excited! As we approached the front gate, off to the right side was the banner for this year’s event with Yoda and Mickey back to back in Jedi robes, light sabers ablaze. So of course we had to stop there for a picture!

We entered the park and proceeded to head towards Star Tours, where the majority of the Star Wars events would be happening. As we were walking around the lake, we noticed the roped off areas for the Star Wars celebrities that would be there signing autographs this weekend. Bryan didn’t have a clue what was going on and asked me about it. He found out Peter Mayhew (who portrays Chewbacca) was one of the celebrities and he says, "I want an autograph." Luckily, he was number 12 in line. The first 50 people got wristbands for the first autograph session at 12:00 noon. I stopped over at the table to sign up myself for the adult Star Wars Trivia contest and get a flier on the other activities for the day. The table was located across the walkway from the Sounds Dangerous Stage and backed up against the foliage near the Indiana Jones Stunts Spectacular.

While Bryan was waiting in line, our daughter, Caitlin, stayed with him, and I took our son, Stefan, to check out Tatooine Traders to check out the pins. There was the main Star Wars Weekends pin with Yoda and Mickey, along with different sets of pins released each of the weekends. Luckily for us, there were extras from past weekends so Stefan got a few more to fill his pin lanyard. My wallet got a lot lighter. We decided we’d ride Star Tours before joining up with Bryan and Caitlin. It was a walk-on and as enjoyable as ever. 

We walked back to join Bryan and Caitlin and he’d just gotten his wristband.  According to the schedule, at 9:30am, the first Obi Wanna Be session was going to be held at the stage just outside Star Tours. We were hoping that Stefan would get picked because he is just a Star Wars-loving boy who would so enjoy being a Padawan. Unfortunately, he wasn’t picked at the 9:30 am session or the 10:15 am session. The poor kid was in tears, as he desperately wanted to be a Padawan Learner.

As luck would have it, third time’s the charm. After catching the tail end of the Star Wars parade, we headed back over to the stage for the 11:30 am session. The Star Wars music began to play, and up on stage came a figure in Jedi robes, his face obscured by the hood of his cloak. He walked slowly around the edge of the stage as if surveying the crowd, "sensing the force", if you will. He removed his robe and handed it to his assistant. He then drew a "light saber" and demonstrated what I will just describe as a sword dance. The crowd cheered and applauded. He introduced himself as Jedi Master Jonas and he asked, "Who here would like to learn the ways of the Jedi?" Immediately all the kids raised their hands in the air, waved and gyrated, hoping the Jedi Master would select them. Stefan was the third child chosen for this session and ran up on stage with another nine children. All the children were given Jedi robes to don and asked to stand in their positions on the stage to learn today’s lesson with the training light saber. Jedi Master Jonas led the class several times through the lesson, which was, "Left Leg. Right Leg, Step Back and Duck, Left Leg, Right Shoulder, Left Shoulder, Cut to the Head." At each point, the students were to swing their light sabers at their imaginary opponent’s features.

Then, Master Jonas stopped them." I feel a disturbance in the Force," he said.  Suddenly, you could hear Darth Vader’s theme music. Two storm troopers came on stage, each brandishing a blaster. Master Jonas and his assistant moved the class to one side of the stage just as Darth Vader mounted the steps. The Dark Lord of the Sith walked the edge of the stage, seeming to peer out at the crowd. He stopped right in front of Master Jonas. (Here I am paraphrasing as I can’t remember his exact words.) "You won’t find any apprentices here, Lord Vader. My Padawans will not serve the dark side of the Force." Darth Vader paced to the middle of the stage. Master Jonas turned to his class, (again, paraphrasing as I can’t remember exact words – too excited!) "Padawans, now you must confront the dark side of the Force. You must face Darth Vader, performing the light saber lessons you have just learned today." Then each Padawan faced Darth Vader and ran through the light saber sequence against him, complete with light saber sound effects. When Stefan came up to face Darth Vader, I could hardly hold back my excitement. Had Stefan not had to keep to the designated moves, I am sure Darth Vader would have been shaking in his boots!

Once every Padawan had faced Darth Vader, Master Jonas said, "As you see, there is nothing for you here, Lord Vader. I suggest you leave." And he pointed off stage. Darth Vader swirled his cloak and stalked off stage. But those two storm troopers were still standing off to the side. Master Jonas gestured with his hand (a la Obi Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars), "Maybe you should leave." Then you heard a storm trooper voice, "Maybe we should leave." Then Master Jonas waved his hand, "Have a nice day."  The storm trooper voice was heard again, "Have a nice day." The two storm troopers turned toward the stairs. One storm trooper placed his hand on the other’s shoulder and said, "Did you just say ‘Have a nice day’?" The other storm trooper stopped, pointed his finger at his chest and said, "Who? Me? No!" and he pushed the other storm trooper before they both finally went downstairs and off stage.

Master Jonas gathered his class together for some final words of advice and congratulated them on completing his class. Each child received a diploma and a goody-bag before leaving off stage.

This event was the highlight of our trip. There are many other activities to participate in during Star Wars Weekends. We have pictures of the many Star Wars characters that roam the parks including Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Sand People (aka Tuskan Raiders), Ewoks, Boba Fett and Zam Wesell, Shaak Ti and Kit Fisto (two of the Jedi Masters from Episode II), Clone Troopers, Queen Amidala and many others. 

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Star Wars Weekends are generally held on Friday-Saturday on select weekends in May and June. This year the weekends were on May 16-18, May 23-25, May 30-31, June 6-8, and June 13-15. If you're interested in attending Star Wars Weekends in the future, here are some links you may find helpful:

Star Wars Weekends - http://www.wdwig.com/m_starwars.htm
Our Star Tours Ride-A-Thon - http://www.passporter.com/wdw/startoursrideathon.htm

What did you think of this article? Do you have Star Wars Weekend experiences or tips to share? Please e-mail us at editor@passporter.com.

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