Thursday, April 24, 2008

Miyuiki "The Candy Lady" in EPCOT

Miyuiki is a very unique and fascinating candy artist, who performs just outside the entrance of the Mistikoshi department store in the Japanese pavilion at Epcot. During the show, Miyuki invites guests to choose an animal, which she then produces from candy in around 1 minute. The guest gets to keep the candy creation, free of charge. Each performance lasts around 20 minutes, and there are usually 4 or 5 performances per day. Check the Epcot times guide once inside the park for times.

Miyuki - the Japanese candy artist from Tokyo. Miyuki has been part of Epcot's Japan since 1996. She continues to delight children and adults with her skills.Miyuki is the first and only female trained in Japanese candy making.

About Miyuki

The origin of candy artistry dates back over 250 years, in the Edo Era. Candy artists were originally the stars of citizen entertainers in street corners and local folk festivals. Candy artists create animals and flowers with soft rice dough, very much like taffy. With their skilled hands and small scissors, the artist can make animals such as dragons, horses, rabbits, cats, monkeys, eagles, birds and flowers.

Currently there are 15 candy artists in Japan. Miyuki is the only woman candy artist. Miyuki began her apprenticeship training in 1989 under the artistry of her grandfather. He is one of the best and most renowned candy artists in Japan.

Miyuki is distinguished to be the first and only woman to receive training as a candy artist in Japan. After completing her training and becoming an independent candy artist, she traveled to Italy in 1994. She has also traveled extensively in Japan to demonstrate her artistic creation of the candy arts at conventions, local festivals, and private parties, where people of all ages are entertained by her special talents.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Transportation - Monorail

The Walt Disney World monorail system has been in continuous operation since 1971 with double beam track that circles the Seven Seas Lagoon in front of the Magic Kingdom. Originally, the monorail system connected the Contemporary and Polynesian hotels with the Magic Kingdom and Transportation and Ticket Center. In later years, the Grand Floridian was added to the loop. Disney expanded the monorail system in 1982 by adding a four mile extension that travels from the Magic Kingdom resort area to Epcot's entrance.

The current model of monorail began operation in 1990, with the full fleet of 12 in service by early 1991. The Mark VI has a higher passenger capacity as well as improved air conditioning, door systems and improved safety features. Each Mark VI train consists of six cars. The overall length is 203 feet with a capacity of 365 passengers.

The track consists of 26 inch wide, pre-cast concrete beams supported by concrete columns which are approximately 50 feet apart. Each monorail travels on rubber tires and is powered by a 600 volt DC propulsion system which includes eight DC motors rated at 112 HP each, with the power emanating from each side of the beam.

The 13.6 mile monorail system will carry over 150,000 guests to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot parks on an average day.

Tip: Before you get on the monorail, ask the cast member if you can ride in the front with the driver.

Additional note:

Ride up front with the driver on the Monorails (4 person max). As long as no one else is waiting, and they aren't too busy, if you ask the Cast Members, they MIGHT let you do it. (You'll stand in a separate queue to ride up front.) It's a great view, especially at sunset. If you decide to do this, it is best to try for an off-peak time. The Cast Members will usually be more accommodating when things are quieter (try to avoid morning and evening rush periods). If you are a WDW resort guest, schedule this for a day when you are not going to the parks. Price: free. Ask for a monorail certificate - sometimes they are available for guests.

A note on the WDW transportation system : if you are registered as a guest at a WDW resort, you are entitled to unlimited free use of the WDW resort transportation system for the duration of your stay. Cast members may or may not check your resort ID.

Ride the Monorail

· Did you know you can ride up front with the monorail driver? Just let the Cast Member at the gate know that you want to do this. Usually the drivers are very friendly and will give the kids a special certificate. The best time to do this is in the middle of the day, when things are quiet because most people are in the parks -- you're less likely to have to wait.

· Take the "inner" monorail that circles the three monorail resorts (Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian). This is a great way to orient yourself and get a look at the resorts and an overview of some of the parks. You can get off and explore each one, or just enjoy the ride and the view.

· Cost to ride the monorails: FREE to all Disney resort guests and anyone with a multi-day pass.

Transportation - Water Ferries

Disney water transportation is by it's very nature a bit slower than a bus/car. Still, it is unique and distinctly Disney. Just give yourself a bit of extra time when using it, sit back and enjoy your voyage.

Magic Kingdom:

Ferry Boat - Service from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom.

Boat Launches

The Grand Floridian and Polynesian use water transportation in addition to the Monorail when going to/from the Magic Kingdom. The Wilderness Lodge and Ft. Wilderness exclusively use water transportation to/from the Magic Kingdom. Note that service begins 30 minutes prior to the park opening and continue until 45 minutes after the park closes. The boats may cease operation due to inclement weather.

  • Gold Flag Launch picks up at both the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Resorts.
  • Green Flag Launch picks up at the Wilderness Lodge and Ft. Wilderness Campgrounds. Prior to 3:00pm, the boat goes from Ft. Wilderness to the Wilderness Lodge and onto the Magic Kingdom. After 3:00pm it goes from Ft. Wilderness to the Magic Kingdom and to the Wilderness Lodge.
  • Blue Flag Launch - This boat runs from Ft. Wilderness and the Wilderness Lodge to the Contemporary Resort. TIP: If it looks as if the boat for the Magic Kingdom is going to be late/crowded, take this boat to the Contemporary and use the Monorail or walking path from there.

Epcot - Disney's Hollywood Studios

Friendship Boats

When using the Friendship Boats, plan on a leisurely (s-l-o-w) voyage to your destination. Walking is often faster but after a long day at the parks, a nice, relaxing boat trip can be a welcome change of pace.

The Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Dolphin and Swan Resorts exclusively use water transportation to get to both Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios. TIP: The wait for Disney's Hollywood Studios boat can be daunting, especially when the park has just closed, the line is a mile long, and no boat's in sight. There's a very nice walking path to the resorts that you can use instead.

Within Epcot

Beginning at 11:00am, the Friendship boats begin running. There are two runs, both originating from launches found at World Showcase Plaza. One goes to Morocco, the other to Germany. The last boat from the World Showcase leaves at 7:15pm. The last boat from the countries leaves at 7:30pm.

Downtown Disney

Old Key West and Saratoga Springs have hourly boat service to the Disney Marketplace starting at 11:00am thru 4:00pm. Beginning at 4:00pm, a second boat is added and service runs every 30 minutes. The last boat leaves Old Key West at 11:00pm and from Downtown Disney at 11:30pm. NOTE: Bus service to Downtown Disney is in continuous operation from these resorts.

Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside use the Sassagoula River Cruise as a means of transportation to the Disney Marketplace.

Shuttle - There's a boat shuttle from the Marketplace marina to the West Side marina.

Transportation - Busses

Disney World Bus Schedules

Disney Buses on average run every 20 minutes from all WDW onsite resorts. Resort guest bus stops feature signs with the destinations that are available and the bus marquees will indicate the buses' main destinations.

Magic Kingdom: Disney Bus service begins approximately 1 hour prior to the park opening time listed for that day. Bus service for Character Breakfasts will begin ½ hour before the earliest seating. The marquee on the bus will read "Character Breakfast." It should be noted that guests should verify with the driver which park the bus is going to for the character breakfast because there are different ones for different parks.

Downtown Disney Pleasure Island/West Side: DTD buses start running at approximately 8:30am. This is a combined bus stop located at Downtown Disney/Pleasure Island. The bus driver will announce the latest bus return time.

Downtown Disney Marketplace: DTD buses start running at 8:30am. The bus driver will announce the latest bus return time.

Please take note that all times are subject to change. If you have questions regarding transportation within WDW you should contact Guest Services for additional information.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Opinions and Comments on Shades of Green

The pool was light years away from our room it seemed - the whole resort is roomy and spread out - so bring good shoes for walking.
We've stayed here twice and are going back Sept 2006. It's a great value. The rooms are huge and very nicely done. We've stayed in both the pool side and the golf course side. The rooms by the golf course are much nicer (newer) and quieter. In the mornings you can watch the wild turkeys on the golf course.
My only issue with the hotel was the pillows. If you want comfy, soft pillows, bring your own! I tried to get different ones and was told by a couple of different people that they only had one brand. (note: Ray and I usually pick up pillows at Wal Mart when we travel, and we're going to be there a week or more. It's one of the perks of being older!)

Many previous posts mentioned the long distance of the pools from the newer section. We had three kids with us seven years-old or younger and none of them had a problem walking the four or five minutes to the pools. We originally wanted to be right by the pools, but I am glad we ended up in the newer section because it seemed to be a lot quieter than the pool area rooms.

The driver of the bus that brought me from the airport to SOG announced as he came up the driveway that here was the best place to stay in all of Disney World. And I have to agree with him. Family members stayed at another resort to be close to a conference, but they liked to come to SOG to eat, relax in my spacious room, use my spacious bathroom, and look for alligators. I was on the first floor of the new section, and when I sat outside in the early morning, it was wonderfully peaceful and beautiful. If I had had children or grandchildren with me, I would have tried to stay in the old section, closer to the pools. The whole setting doesn't look commercial, although the restaurants, AFES shop, etc are convenient. And the buses are the most direct and seem to run more frequently than on any other route - of course it is just a couple of minutes to the transportation center and the monorail. Can't beat the price, convenient, attractive, spacious - what more can you ask for? (note: Three transportation options: 1. The busses to all the resorts go right to Shades of Green. 2. We "cheat" and walk over the Polynesian to take the monorail. 3. The official 'Transportation Center' is a short walk away. I'll explain more about transportation once we get there. It's simple. Real simple.)

A Few Comments About Shades of Green

The buffets were horrible, food was poor quality and the hot items were never hot. We ate there the 1st day and never returned again. Evergreens by the pool had wonderful lunch type foods~ sandwiches, pizza etc.served until late evening.Heard more then one guest saying that Evergreen's food was by far the best the resort offered. A Starbucks stand and breakfast area near the bus pickup both had breakfast food/beverages. Only complaint was there was a wait every day I was there, At times there would be more then a dozen people waiting in line at the Starbucks. If they were getting anything except plain coffee, it took a minimum of several minutes per customer

Oh, one last thing, they have these crazy turkeys running around the grounds and lots of ducks. Just be careful you don't slip on the droppings!
I would not recommend the sit down restaurants. The little food stand near the bus stop has cereal, breakfast croissants, coffee etc. Good enough to get you started in the morning.
We just returned from a week at the Shades of Green and we're already talking about "the next trip". The nice thing about a Disney/Orlando trip is it only takes six months to pay for it, and six more to save for "the next trip". :-)
Breakfast buffet was well worth the price. Once we arrived from the airport, we didn't see our rental car again for five days. The bus transportation worked extremely well for us.
The AAFES Exchange was well-stocked. An earlier reviewer said there was no milk, but by the time we got there, they did! White and chocolate. (note: The AFFES exchange is like a little store they have downstairs. As a guest and a civilian, you can buy anything EXCEPT alcohol. For some reason, only active military can buy that there.)
The entire staff was very friendly and knowledgeable about the SOG and the local area.
If you're eligible, take advantage of SOG. If you're not, find a friend or relative who IS eligible and convince them to take you with them on their next trip.


Some Comments on Shades of Green

The hotel is too big in my opinion. We had a room next to the pool and the restaurant on ground level. Took about 5 minutes to get from the room to the lobby (if you didn't get lost)...heard that comment from several other guests throughout the week.
Our family had a great stay at Shades of Green! The grounds are beautiful, the staff is friendly, the rooms are huge by Disney standards and the price can't be beat.
We stayed in the newer section of the hotel, which I highly reccomend. Yes, it is a LONG walk to the pool (the hotel is large and only 3 floors, so very spread out), but at night it is much more peaceful away from the pools, which I felt was a big plus. The soundproofing is great at this hotel, but I'm imagining it's a lot louder when you stay in the poolside rooms.
The room has a small refrigerator, hair dryer, iron & ironing board, coffeemaker and soap dispensers (in the shower, rather than the traditional small bottles).
The hotel also has a very small AAFES store, an ice cream shop, a Starbucks, several different dining options

you can always take the monorail or boat to the Polynesian and then walk to Shades of Green from there (only about 1/2 mile, but it's a tough 1/2 mile after a day of Disney)- sometimes you can hitch a ride on a golf cart if you are lucky. (note: There is a long golf cart vehicle that cruises up and down the Shades of Green entry between the lobby and the road. I didn't realize you could just flag the guy down and they give you a ride to the lobby. There's a regular trail of "Polynesian" walkers going back and forth all day and night, so it's a great 'perk'.)
Pretty much the only disappointment was that the pools are really not that kid-friendly for young children/ non swimmers. There is a Mickey shaped pool, clearly for the kids, but it has a VERY VERY small shallow area. (note: Mickey Mouse will be bringing the boys two of those styrofoam float boards, nerf balls and a few nerf tube squiters - not water guns, but tubes - for when they do go in the pool. It's not a great pool. Ray told me that one day he and Rose went over to the Polynesian pool that had the fancy water slides, etc. That's a possibility, though it is not official!)
We had a great family vacation to Shades of Green. I wouldn't hesitate reccomending this hotel to anyone, and we will definitely be returning!

The air conditioners in the room are toggled by motion sensors, so the room isn't cool when you get in from a hot day at the park. It takes about 30 minutes for the room to cool off once you walk in, but once it gets going, the AC works fine.
There is literally not one bad comment on this resort. So awesome. We stayed for three nights and went to Disney World. We didn't move the car once, the resort provided our transportation. Our room was beautiful, clean and well-located. It had a great porch, a mini-fridge, large bathroom. We ate at the sports bar, the on the go cafe, the Italian restaurant and the general restaurant and everything was delicious. There was a shoppette on site and a Starbucks. We got our discounted Disney tickets on site. We had our picture taken on site. I mean they have EVERYTHING. It was just lovely and we cannot wait to return.