||In This Newsletter
From the Authors: Overflowing with Family
Travel Feature: Dining In New York City
Disney Feature: Spa Villa: Couples Choice
Updates: What's New and Changed
Tips: Soarin' Solution, Easy Author Autographs, Dining Dilemma
Captain's Corner: Painless Dentist
PassPorter PhotoPick: Happy New Year
Q&A: Is a stateroom that is mid-ship on a higher deck better than the one we have booked?
Our Sponsors: We Recommend...
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'Tis the holiday season, so there's little to be heard from Disney's newsmakers. It's hard to get attention from the media or the public unless "holidays" is the topic, everyone's working short work weeks, and the last thing anyone is going to do is to make a change to park operations or policies smack in the middle of the busiest weeks of the year. Keep your eyes peeled next week, though, when Disney-MGM Studios morphs into Disney's Hollywood Studios.
What's New and Changed
Here are a few items of relevant news:
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!
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From Fellow Readers
Our readers deliver a wealth of information! Here are the winners in this month's tip contest:
"If you are not lucky enough to ride in the first row of Soarin', you unfortunately get a view of the people's feet in the row in front of you. To help remedy this shortcoming I recommend wearing a brimmed hat (baseball cap, visor, etc) to help block the view of the people's feet and still enjoy the ride."
-- contributed by Mary Jo S.
EASY AUTHOR AUTOGRAPHS
"I attended my first MouseFest this year and it was fabulous. I wanted to get all of my various Disney books autographed but didn't want to lug the books around all day. So ahead of time, I purchased some sticky backed paper (Avery) and trimmed it to fit comfortably in my smallest Disney book (Steve Barrett's "Hidden Mickeys"). Then when I was at the Mega Mouse Meet, I asked the authors to autograph the individual pieces of paper that I stored in an envelope. Now that I'm home, I can peel the backs off of the paper and place them in the front of the appropriate book. All my favorite Disney books are now personally autographed."
-- contributed by Lorie H.
"My daughter at 13-years-old is too old for the kids' menus but is a very light eater and often does not find the adult menu very appealing. We've found a nice alternative for her is to order an appetizer or soup and a side from the adult menu. If she does find something on the adult menu that appeals to her, she will often split it with one of her two siblings instead of them ordering from the kid's menu. I also let the two little ones split an adult entree occasionally when there is something they like instead of ordering kids' meals. The cost can be very close to the same as two kid's meals, provides more than enough for the two to eat and relieves the monotony of chicken fingers at every meal."
-- contributed by Karen S.
Send us your tips! You may see them in this newsletter and win a copy of PassPorter!
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 or the PassPorter store. 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.
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Treasure Hunting Game
Play our fun and quirky treasure hunting game, hosted by Captain Jack Skatt from our book, "PassPorter's Treasure Hunts at Walt Disney World."
Here is this week's journal entry:
The Captain makes a study of the delightful details -- sometimes hidden, sometimes in plain sight but often overlooked -- at Walt Disney World and aboard the Disney Cruise Line. Using notes from his journals, he will lead you to this "treasure" at Disney with clues, questions, photos, or riddles. Your challenge is to discover the answer by searching your memory, visiting Disney, or even just looking really hard on the Internet. If you think you've found the answer, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org -- the first person to correctly submit the FULL answer will receive a free PassPorter enamel pin or PassPorter name badge pin.
"The presents are unwrapped and the stockings emptied. My stocking was chock full of sweets and treats, which I have helped myself to with glee. Alas, my teeth don't like the candy quite as much as I do and I now have a toothache. I can hardly BEAR it. My pal Wendell recommended his own dentist, who claims to be a 'painless dentist' with a 'grizzly grip.' Not sure how that works. Anyway, I'm desperate and I am ready to make an appointment. But I cannot remember Wendell's dentist's name!"
What is the name of the "Painless Dentist" Jack needs to contact and where does he advertise his services? For bonus points, locate the photographic evidence in the PassPorter Photo Archive and post a comment with the photo!
Send your full answer to email@example.com -- the winner will be notified by e-mail and announced in a future newsletter, along with the correct answer!
Congratulations to Glenn Traub who was the winner of last week's trivia contest! Glenn was the first person to identify the location of the lifesize gingerbread carousel as the lobby of the Beach Club Resort. Glenn was also the first person to find the photo in the Photo Archive and post a comment. To view the original clue, see last week's newsletter.
If you enjoy treasure hunts, we've got an entire book with over 100 distinct treasure hunts and over 1500 questions, complete with clues and contributions from Captain Jack Skatt. Get more details on "PassPorter's Treasure Hunts at Walt Disney World" book at http://www.passporterstore.com.
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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:
Happy New Year!
contributed by Meggera
(click the photo or link to see a larger photo with details)
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.
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Q & A:
With Jennifer and Dave
caryl asks: "We are first-time cruisers. We have stateroom 5648 on the Disney Magic. Is this a good room? I am worried as I was told that mid-ship and higher decks were better locations."
Dave and Jennifer answer: "The 'midship, higher deck' advice is questionable, as far as I'm concerned. The higher the deck, the more motion you'll feel. Midship? Most folks feel aft has the least motion (as the bow rises and falls, the aft of the ship moves the least, midship somewhat moreso).
The solid steel railing will effect the view, of course, and the amount of light that will come into the room. However, a bit less light and a bit more privacy are not necessarily such a bad thing.
It the old days, the first class staterooms were on the highest decks, and I think the "high deck" thing is a holdover from those days. Of course, cruise lines still encourage that association by having the cheapest staterooms on lower decks, and increasing the price as you go higher. For suites, high floors are traditional, whether in a hotel or on a ship. It's a status thing, and sometimes, you get a better view (not all that better on a ship). While it's true that the verandahs on the higher decks are about six inches deeper than those on decks five and six, there's no difference in interior stateroom dimensions. Personally, I see no reason to pay extra for a Cat. 5 over a Cat. 6.
Each deck has different proximity to different facilities. If you'd rather be within easy stairway walking distance from Deck 9, then pay for a higher deck. However, the higher you go, the farther you'll be from the dining rooms, necessitating elevator rides at the busiest times of the day. If you have kids who will be participating in the kids clubs or child care at Flounder's Reef, Deck 5 is great, since those facilities are on Deck 5. Deck 5 is also very nice for stairway access to Decks 3-5, where you'll find all the restaurants, theaters, and the adult entertainment district.
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!
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Want To See Your Name in Print?
PassPorter News is published weekly, and this means we're always in need of articles! We're on the lookout for guest columnists who want to contribute articles to this newsletter. No professional writing experience is 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 for use at www.passporter.com.
For details and our article submission guidelines, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Articles about Disney and general travel are welcomed!
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PassPorter only accepts advertising from services of the highest quality -- we recommend these companies because we use them ourselves. Please support our sponsors and, in turn, support this newsletter! This week's sponsors are (in order of appearance):
MouseEarVacations.com -- Book now for MouseFest 2008
Mouse Fan Travel -- New Disney Cruise Line Offer
ALL STAR Vacation Homes -- Choose from more than 150 homes within 4 miles of Disney World
Thank you, sponsors!
|| From the Authors: Overflowing with Family!
As we described in last week's newsletter, our home is a-whirl with all sorts of celebrations and overflowing with family members from out of town. In just a short while we'll be headed out to dinner to celebrate Dave's Mom's birthday, so we hope we'll excuse us if we have a bit less than usual to say this week.
At this point midway between Christmas and New Years, we hope you've been having wonderful holiday season, and we look forward to speaking to you again next week in our first newsletter of 2008!
Meantime, we suspect more than a few of you are beginning to think about (and plan) your next Disney vacation. After all, winter has already sunken its icy hooks into many of us, with its long nights and (too often) dreary days. Can a winter escape/Spring Break vacation be far behind? PassPorter's Walt Disney World 2008 and our other books and e-books are ready for you whenever you get the urge to daydream and plan -- just drop by the PassPorter Store!
We're pleased to announce our latest e-book, "PassPorter's Festivals and Celebrations at Walt Disney World," by Thomas Cackler, which is now available in the PassPorter Store as well as through the PassPorter's Club. This new e-book is a 83-page overview of all the wonderful and magical festivals, celebrations, parties, and holidays at Walt Disney World. Included are beautiful color photos and tips on maximizing your experience at the festivals and celebrations. Congratulations to Thomas Cackler and Carrie Hayward on their first project with PassPorter! To learn more about the Festivals and Celebrations e-book, get a sample page, and view the table of contents, visit http://www.passporter.com/wdw/festivals-celebrations.asp.
In this issue, Guest Contributor Jill Koenigs serves up the first in a two-part report on Dining in New York, and Newsletter Editor Sara Varney (and her "research assistant," husband Shawn) takes us into the lap of luxury for the Disney Cruise Line's Couple's Choice Spa Villa treatment. Finally, Jack Skatt is back with a brand-new Walt Disney World Treasure Hunt. Enjoy!
Jennifer and Dave
PassPorter Publishers and Authors
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|| Travel Feature:
Dining In New York City: More Than Just a Meal (Part 1 of 2)
by Jill Koenigs, PassPorter Guest Contributor
For the past several years, I have been meeting two friends from England in New York City for a girls' weekend. We spend our days shopping and sightseeing, but the main reason that we choose New York City as our meeting spot is to relish in the unique and varied food offerings of this great city.
This year two of my girlfriends from South Carolina joined us for a cold and frosty weekend. Once introductions and hugs were exchanged between my two sets of friends, the five of us were soon off to our first dining destination, Florent in Greenwich Village. I had eaten at this quirky French bistro/24-hour diner years ago with my husband, so I was eager to share it with my friends.
After a quick subway ride, we strolled down a practically empty West Village street anticipating a long and leisurely lunch. The only other people sharing the street with us were two men who were slightly ahead of us. In our quest for lunch, we soon passed them. At that point, one of my British friends recognized the men as Sir Paul McCartney and his driver. She lives in a village nearby to Sir Paul, and has friends who know his driver, so the two Brits felt comfortable introducing themselves. The three of us from South Carolina stood politely to the side not wanting to rush him with fans, but we were close enough to feel his Beatles aura.
When they had said their goodbyes, they rejoined us. At first we were all speechless, but then we turned into five giggling and chattering teenage girls. By the time that we were seated in Florent, we were practically giddy. A bottle of white wine was immediately ordered to toast our greatest celebrity sighting ever soon followed by a delicious lunch of mussels and pommes frites (French fries). What a fantastic way to start our trip!
That evening, we stopped for a drink at one of our favorite places -- The View atop the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. The View is a rotating restaurant and lounge that gives you the most amazing nighttime view of the city (and the elevator ride to the top is an event in itself). You are literally in the midst of Manhattan's skyscrapers and you almost feel as if you could reach out and touch one of the buildings sparkling with lights. One of my friends from South Carolina had never been to New York City, so we wanted to give her the full effect of this dazzling city at night. The drinks are expensive at The View, but they are also strong so one drink should carry you through one full rotation of the lounge. The cocktail napkins are even imprinted with the names and locations of the skyscrapers that you pass, so you have a wonderful souvenir to take with you.
The same friend who had never been to New York City also wanted a real deli pastrami sandwich so our choice for dinner was Carnegie Deli. We were seated in a back room where the walls were covered with photos of celebrities (some more famous than others) and the tables were adorned with bowls of complimentary whole dill pickles. Our server was a most engaging gentleman who told us that he was also studying to be a chiropractic assistant. Throughout the meal, he went around to each of us and cracked our necks. It may have been one of the oddest dining experiences of my life. After eating a gigantic and delicious egg salad sandwich with fried onions, I left Carnegie Deli with a full stomach and a relaxed neck.
We pride ourselves on going to "out of the ordinary" spots that may not be on every tourist's itinerary. On this cold and blustery March morning, we took a train through Brooklyn to Coney Island. All of the rides and attractions were closed for the winter, but we had fun just walking on the beach and down the boardwalk taking in what this place must be like in the heat of summer. One of the few places that were open was Nathan's, the original hot dog stand that hosts the hot dog eating contest every July 4th. We stood in line with businessmen and construction workers to order from the vast menu. Coney Island may have been dead at this time of year, but Nathan's was hopping. Hot dogs are not one of my favorite foods, so I ordered a shrimp basket instead. Everyone else in my party gave the hot dogs two thumbs up.
(For the conclusion of Jill's culinary weekend in New York City including stops at Junior's Cheesecakes and Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill, check back next week.)
About the Author: Jill is a proud member of the PassPorter Message Board where she loves writing trip reports about her latest Walt Disney World vacation and exchanging advice with fellow PassPorters. In her real life, she works in the Information Technology department of an insurance company and enjoys reading and cooking. She loves nothing more than being in her happy place with her husband, Thom, and their two daughters, Mary Devall and Maddie.
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Did you enjoy this article? Have questions? E-mail us at email@example.com or visit http://www.passporterboards.com to discuss your travel plans. Also check out our Article Collection for more great information!
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Couples Choice: The Spa Villas at the Vista Spa
by Sara Varney, PassPorter News Editor & PassPorter Online Coordinator
With our 10th wedding anniversary approaching, followed closely by the MouseFest Cruise on the Disney Wonder, I decided it was time to convince my husband, Shawn, that there is more to the Disney Cruise Line's Vista Spa than the Rainforest Room. (Even getting Shawn as far as the Rainforest Room on our previous cruise had been a task -- three days of convincing followed by the typical male response, "This is great! Why didn't you tell me about this sooner? I would have been here every day!") Sigh ...
So it was with great deliberation that I began my plan of attack. Leave copy of PassPorter's Field Guide to the Disney Cruise Line lying around the house -- check. Return from day at local spa and mention how romantic it would be to have a spa treatment together -- check. Leave web site with photos of new Spa Villas up on screen on laptop -- check! Needless to say, all of these hints went unnoticed. However, when I finally broke down and told him clearly how much I would like to do this with him, he was in.
We explored the options available in the Spa Villas for Two. (There are also Spa Villas for One which I will cover later.) All Spa Villa treatments include time in the hot tub on the spa villa's private verandah, a foot cleansing ritual, and a tea ceremony. There is the Romantic Retreat, which includes a 50-minute spa treatment of your choice (choose from the La Therapie HydraLift Facial, an Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Facial, an Elemis Deep Tissue Muscle Massage, a Swedish Massage or an Elemis Exotic Lime & Ginger Salt Glow with half-body massage), at $449. The total time allotted for the Retreat is 120 minutes, so you have plenty of time before and after the selected treatment to enjoy the verandah. Next is the Couples Choice, which includes a 75-minute spa treatment of your choice and costs $475. There are more options here; the Elemis Aroma Stone Therapy, an Elemis Cellutox Aroma Spa Ocean Wrap, an Elemis Musclease Aroma Spa Ocean Wrap, an Exotic Lime & Ginger Salt Glow with half-body massage, an Exotic Frangipani Body Nourish Wrap with half-body massage or an Exotic Coconut Rub & Milk Ritual Wrap with half-body massage). The Couples Choice lasts 130 minutes. Finally there is the Ultimate Indulgence, which is the longest option and gives you the most free time out on the verandah, with the total time coming in at 150 minutes. The Ultimate Indulgence includes an Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Facial followed by an Elemis Deep Tissue Muscle Massage and costs $589.
Our choice was clear. Shawn wanted the Elemis Aroma Stone Therapy so it was the Couples Choice for us! As Castaway Club members, we had the option of booking our spa treatments on the Disney Cruise Line web site 90 days in advance of our cruise. (Please note that only the following treatments are available to book online: Alone Time (described below) and Couples Choice. All other treatments must be booked onboard.) We knew we wanted to book our Spa Villa for our day at sea (not wanting to enjoy our verandah while docked next to the Carnival Cruise ships in Nassau or lose any time on Castaway Cay) and with limited spots available per day in each Villa, these appointments go quickly. I was successful and was able to book our appointment for 2:30 pm on Wednesday, December 5.
The months flew by and seemingly the next thing I knew we were en route to Port Canaveral and catching that magical glimpse of the Disney Wonder as we crossed the bridge to the Port. We enjoyed every moment of our cruise - exploring Atlantis in Nassau, snorkeling at Castaway Cay while our son enjoyed Scuttle's Cove, brunch at Palo with friends... Finally it was time! We left our son in the capable hands of his grandparents, changed into our bathing suits and headed to Deck 9 aft where the Vista Spa is located.
We were greeted at the desk by Lerissa, who gave us our locker keys and paperwork to fill out. Shawn was a little startled by the length of the medical forms but after assuring him that no, no blood samples would be required, we headed first to our separate locker rooms to grab robes and then to the Rainforest Room to await our turn. After a few minutes in the steam room for him and the sauna for me, we were greeted by the lovely Claudia and Sarah who led us to our Spa Villa.
When you first enter the Villa, the first things you notice are the side-by-side massage tables. Then your eye immediately goes to the wall-to-wall sliding glass windows that lead out onto a huge verandah. But before you are allowed out onto the verandah, you must first choose which treatments you will be getting. Shawn was clear that he was having the Aroma Stone Therapy and after consulting with Claudia, I decided on that as well. (I was tempted by the Exotic Lime & Ginger Salt Glow with half body massage but Claudia explained that if I was looking for relaxation, then the Stone Therapy was the way to go!) We were then led out onto the verandah and asked to sit on the large teak day bed. Our feet were placed in shallow, gold colored bowls held on Claudia and Sarah's laps and then scrubbed with an exfoliating wash and rinsed. (It was at this point that Shawn began to look slightly uncomfortable prompting Claudia to ask if we had been to the Spa before. I explained that while I was a "Spa Vet", Shawn was a "Spa Newbie." Claudia teased him gently about his "first pedicure" and Shawn appeared to relax.) Then Claudia explained that they would now go set up the Spa Villa for us. While they were doing that, we should remove our robes, leave on our bathing suits and enjoy the hot tub. She explained that they would tap on the glass to let us know when our time was almost up and then, at our leisure, we should begin to exit the hot tub, remove our bathing suits and hang them over the edge of the tub to dry, put on our robes, then join them inside. She was very clear that at no time should we feel rushed or hurried. She inquired as to our comfort level with the temperature and wind as she could adjust the glass walls on the verandah to our preferences. We opted for the windows wide open as it was a beautiful day. Claudia and Sarah excused themselves, shut the glass doors to the Villa, and discreetly closed the blinds.
Shawn and I luxuriated in the hot tub for about 15 minutes, enjoying the contrast between the warm water and the cool breeze. After a while, we began to notice that the breeze was growing ever cooler and our exposed parts were getting chilly! So we hopped out of the tub, into our robes and headed into the Villa where Claudia and Sarah were finishing their preparations. They looked a little startled to see us so soon but recovered nicely and finished their preparations quickly. They said they'd step out for a moment so we could disrobe and slide under the covers, face down. We waved good-bye to each other, complied, and waited for their return.
Claudia and Sarah re-entered and our treatments began. Ahhhh -- heaven! 75 minutes of soothing warmth and massage. This was, hands down (pun intended), the best massage I have ever had. At least the part I remembered as I fell sound asleep until they asked me to turn over! Shawn swears that he did not sleep but I (and Claudia, his masseuse) beg to disagree. Either way, when the massages were over, we were both exquisitely relaxed. Claudia and Sarah stepped out so that we could don robes, then escorted us back out to the verandah where Shawn and I tucked ourselves in to the gorgeous day bed. Propped up on pillows, we were offered our choice of tea. (We both chose Orange.) Along with our tea, we were served a beautiful plate of fruit. We enjoyed our snack and promptly dozed off again under the comfort of the blankets, listening to the sound of the waves.
All too soon, the tap-tap-tap sounded on the glass and we rose to rejoin the rest of the world. Claudia and Sarah inquired as to our enjoyment and level of relaxation and we assured them that we felt fabulous. We were presented the bill and left to sign for it while they waited outside. We were then escorted back to the locker rooms and bid farewell.
At every point during our experience, we were treated with the utmost respect and discretion. I cannot say enough about the level of service and skill of the technicians. While the experience was definitely an indulgence (coming in at almost $600 including treatment and gratuity), the Couples Choice was worth every penny and then some. It felt like a once in a lifetime experience but I fervently hope that we do get to visit the Spa Villas again on our next cruise! And since Shawn enjoyed it as much as I did, it is a distinct possibility.
Other treatments can be booked for the Spa Villas, and champagne and strawberries are available for order as well. Contact the Vista Spa about customizing your Spa Villa experience. The Spa Villa for One treatment choices are: Alone Time -- a 50-minute spa treatment (choose from: La Therapie HydraLift Facial, an Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Facial, an Elemis Deep Tissue Muscle Massage, a Swedish Massage, an Elemis Exotic Lime & Ginger Salt Glow with half-body massage, or the Ionithermie Cellulite Reduction Program), which costs $199 and has a total time of 105 minutes. Body Purifying -- A 100-minute body wrap (choose from: Elemis Cellutox Aroma Spa Ocean Wrap, an Elemis Musclease Aroma Spa Ocean Wrap, an Elemis Exotic Coconut & Milk Ritual, or an Elemis Exotic Frangipani Body Nourish Wrap) and full body massage. The total time is 155 minutes and this option costs $245. The last option is Sensory Awakening, which is the same as the Ultimate Indulgence described above. The Sensory Awakening lasts 155 minutes and costs $295.)
About the Author: Sara lives in New England with her husband Shawn and their three year old son, Ryan. She wears multiple hats at PassPorter as PassPorter's Club Goddess, PassPorter Online Coordinator and PassPorter News Editor.
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Did you enjoy this article? Have questions? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.passporterboards.com to discuss your Disney vacation plans. Also check out our Article Collection for more great information!
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