Disney World Roller Coasters

March 5th, 2009 by Alison | 1 Comment | Filed in Disney World, Orlando Theme Parks, Rides

Want to accelerate from 0 to 57 mph in just 2.8 seconds and experience more G Force than a Space Shuttle launch? If that sounds like your idea of fun then Aerosmith’s Rock N Roller Coaster at Disney Hollywood Studios is the place to be. But one of the most popular Disney World roller coasters travels at just 28 mph. Which one is that? Space Mountain of course!

Disney World has some of the world’s most innovative roller coasters. They don’t try and be the biggest, the highest or the fastest. But Disney always uses imagination to make their roller coasters an experience.

One of my favorites is Rock N Roller Coaster and this was the Disney ride that I credit with actually getting me started with roller coasters. At other theme parks (yes I do go to them too) I would always be the family member sitting the scary roller coasters out. No it’s fine, I’ll stay with the kids who aren’t tall enough to ride. But to be honest I was getting bored of that. Perhaps I was missing out. So I decided to start with Rock N Roller Coaster. Thinking back I am not sure how I picked this as my first roller coaster adventure – perhaps I was tempted by the huge guitar outside and the Aerosmith music! The fact that I couldn’t see what was in store probably helped too. This is a roller coaster in the dark so you have no sense of what you are letting yourself in for……

I still remember the feeling of lining up waiting to go on the ride. Fear. But I was so glad that I did. I realized what I had been missing out on. 2 minutes 2 seconds of pure adrenaline. I never looked back. I was a Disney roller coaster convert.

Having started with perhaps the most intense Disney roller coaster I thought perhaps the others would be a disappointment. I was wrong. The others are just different. All have the Disney attention to detail. The newest Disney Mountain is Expedition Everest. I watched it being built in Animal Kingdom and waited. It was not a disappointment. Disney Imagineers spent 6 years researching and building the Expedition Everest ride. And it shows in the amazing attention to detail. The story is based around the legend of the Yeti. There are many twists and turns on this thrilling ride. The 50 foot drop is amazing! And you go backwards too. Get a Fast Pass and experience Expedition Everest as the lines are generally pretty long.

And what about the older, more traditional Disney World roller coasters? I have to say that my least favorite is Space Mountain. Yes it is innovative but I guess I have just ridden on it too many times. The steepest drop on Space Mountain is 39 degrees. The fastest it gets is of 28 miles per hour – yes it feels faster than that but it just isn’t my favorite.

A great Disney roller coaster to start with is Big Thunder Mountain. This really is a roller coaster for all the family. It is pretty mild, but just a great experience riding round all the twists and turns and gentle drops. As soon as the kids reach the height requirement of 40″ this is a great one for them to start with.

When you think of Disney World guests don’t always realize that there are some really excellent thrill rides to experience. And whilst of course it isn’t a roller coaster, don’t forget Disney World’s Hollywood Tower of Terror. A very different experience but if you like roller coasters you are going to love this!

Photos used under Creative Commons from expressmonorail

Booking an Orlando Villa – A Good Experience?

March 4th, 2009 by Alison | 2 Comments | Filed in Orlando Vacation Homes

You know sometimes you start out thinking something will be easy and then find out it is just so much more complicated than it should be? Well I certainly found this when I offered to help a guest find a vacation home. This lady had contacted me about renting one of my Windsor resort or Solana vacation homes.

All of my vacation homes were booked, but I had got talking to her and really wanted to help her find something. So I decided to do what I know all my guests do – start to search for a Disney vacation home on the internet.

I knew that it wouldn’t be that easy. The dates were around Easter and I knew that the best homes would already be booked. I hoped for either a new home or a cancellation – or somehow to find a hidden gem somewhere! I have a lot of contacts with homes to rent and none of them had anything available. So I had to search around on the internet.

The first thing I noticed was how time consuming it was. All I wanted to do was find a vacation home on the internet and then email or call them and get an answer within a reasonable amount of time. Well it didn’t quite happen like that. My phone calls were ignored. I think I gave up after talking to about 10 answering machines! Emails were ignored. Some owners responded but weren’t available. One responded that it was available but then it turned out he was confused! What really surprised me was the wall of silence! I just couldn’t get anyone to respond and actually help me.

After waiting all weekend I called one agent again. She was polite but in the middle of our conversation obviously wanted to answer the other phone in the office so cut me off before I got the chance to ask her the things I needed to. She wanted me to book on the website. I had some more questions. They weren’t answered.

I sent the details of the one house to the potential guest. She liked the house and tried to contact the agent too. No reply.

The happy end to the story is that this guest did find a home. And I found a guest who I enjoy comparing notes with about our Disney World addictions!

I admit it was an eye opener for me. I know the Disney vacation home business very well as I have been doing this for nearly a decade! I do always try and see things from my guests point of view. Booking a home on the internet is a great option. But it is time consuming and can be overwhelming. I almost gave up but was determined to find something. I got tired of being ignored!

I know there are many vacation homes in the Kissimmee and Davenport areas. I know there are many excellent owners and agents. I have had the pleasure of talking and knowing many of them. But I was surprised at the lack of customer service and care I experienced in my search.

If you just want some help finding an Orlando villa then use the Contact Me form at the side of this post. You can be sure that I will respond and do my very best to help!

Windsor Palms Rentals

March 2nd, 2009 by Alison | 1 Comment | Filed in Orlando Vacation Homes

Just how far in advance do you have to book a Windsor Palms home? I have been thinking about this question a lot over the weekend as I have been trying to find a home for a guest of mine. My search started on Friday and I realized pretty quickly that the whole resort is booked for the dates that she needs. Speaking as a Windsor Palms home owner of course this is a great thing – but not so good for the guest. It is now Monday morning and I am still looking for a good quality home for her. The guest understandably thought that the economy would be having an impact and there would be homes available. Thankfully I am glad to report that certainly from my experience then this is not the case – 2009 is shaping up to be my best year ever with more bookings than ever.

So how far in advance do you have to book a Windsor Palms home? Do the best ones go first? Or will you get a bargain if you wait?

Sometimes you will get lucky and if you leave it until the last moment to book you will get a discounted rate. But this can be a bit of a lottery. Think of it just like a cruise ship. Obviously a ship has a limited amount of space with cabins of varying size and quality. Windsor Palms has a limited amount of space with homes of different sizes, locations and quality. If you leave it to the last moment to book on a cruise ship you may get a cheap rate, but the only cabin left may be the least desirable inside view. Hit lucky and you will get a balcony view at a great rate. Your choice will be limited. Or perhaps, as this lady found this weekend, there is no more room left at all and you just can’t get in.

Can you get a discount if you book early? I am going back to the cruise ship idea again – yes I like cruises almost as much as Disney vacations! The way the cruise industry is set up is that generally the earlier you book the better rate you get. They know they have a certain amount of cabins to fill and will let the discount ones go first and then the prices start to go up as they know what to expect in terms of occupancy. Some vacation home owners, including me, may also work this way. I am taking bookings for 2010 for all my homes and offering these at 2009 rates. But as soon as I get a certain number of bookings for 2010 then the rates will go up. So get in now if you are thinking of a stay at the resort.

So the best advice I can give? Book ahead. The best homes do tend to go first. Everyone wants the best locations in Windsor Palms particularly my most popular homes the conservation view 5 bed home, and the 4 bed home which is located on a really large, private lot. So if you want your pick of the best – and of course I hope you think mine are the best – then you do need to book early. Some dates such as July, August, Easter, Christmas and major Holidays book up to a year in advance. Other times such as May are slower times of the year so you may be able to get that last minute break. So as soon as you the dates you may need a Windsor Palms home – get booking!

Have I yet found a home for my guest? I spent hours at the weekend looking. First I used all my contacts. Nothing available. Then I started looking on the internet just as anyone looking for a home would. And I was amazed at how difficult it was. I know where to look and I found it almost impossible. Then if I found anything no one got back to me. I am waiting for a call this morning – someone promised to get back to me. It will be interesting to see if they do………

Kissimmee Villas

February 27th, 2009 by Alison | Comments Off | Filed in Uncategorized

Are you looking for a Kissimmee Villa to rent for your vacation but are confused about all the options out there? If you are looking for the very closest homes to Disney World then the most popular choice are the Windsor Palms and Windsor Hills resorts. Many vacation home owners claim to be the closest to Disney World – but the Windsor resorts really are.

So how long will it really take you to get to the Disney parks from Windsor Palms and Windsor Hills?

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – 7 to 9 minutes

Disney Hollywood Studios – 15 to 18 minutes

The Magic Kingdom – 17 to 20 minutes

EPCOT – 17 to 20 minutes

Now I know that Disney World isn’t the only theme park in Orlando! The Windsor resorts are also convenient for the other attractions too. Driving time to Sea World is around 20 to 25 minutes. Universal Studios Orlando is around 30 minutes. The Kennedy Space Center has a driving time of around 70 to 90 minutes.

So they have a great location – but what else do the Windsor Palms and Windsor Hills resorts offer? Excellent resort facilities. At each resort you will find community pool,large clubhouse, sundry store,tennis courts, basketball and volleyball, pool tables and table tennis,fitness facility and even a private movie theater. Each resort also has a shuttle service to the parks if you don’t want to drive.

So what is the difference between Windsor Palms and Windsor Hills? They are separate resorts both built by the same developer. Both have that great location. Windsor Hills is a much larger resort than Windsor Palms so if you are looking to be able to walk to all the community facilities then Windsor Palms may be a better choice for you. The water slide at Windsor Hills is a major draw though – a lot of fun for the kids (and the adults of course). Each home on the resort is privately owned so will vary a lot in design and quality of furnishings. Some guests prefer Windsor Palms, others Windsor Hills – it all depends on what you are looking for. I can help you choose which resort would be best suited to you and your family.

I have 4, 5 and 6 bedroom homes available on both Windsor Palms and Windsor Hills. They are located on some of the best lots available including conservation view lots. They are all privately owned homes which offer upgraded facilities. If you want any more details just use the contact form at the side of this page or write me a comment and I will be happy to help.

Kissimmee Villas

Disney Mulan

February 22nd, 2009 by Alison | Comments Off | Filed in Disney movies

Photobucket Disney Princess Mulan does not fit into the conventional mold of what we often think of as a Disney Princess.  Like Princess Belle she doesn’t quite fit in to conventional society, but is selfless and puts her own life in danger for the sake of her father. I have spent a very enjoyable time watching Disney’s Mulan movie.  It was some time since I had last seen it so when my daughter asked if we could watch it together I was very pleased to join her. Perhaps of all the Disney movies Mulan has the strongest most positive role model for girls.  Other Disney Princess movies have their critics for presenting a negative view of women as submissive and dependant upon men – but this critisism certainly can’t be leveled at Mulan.

Based upon the ancient Chinese story the Ballad of Mulan Disney created one of it’s most stunning animation movies. The emphasis was on accuracy and remaining true to the original story and for the most part it is agreed that they did achieve this. The production team spent 3 weeks in China so help them to capture the essense of the Chinese culture for the movie. The art work is based upon the simplicity found in classic Chinese art.

The Mulan movie also has one of my favorite Disney soundtracks. The Mulan Soundtrack includes Christina Aguilera’s excellent break out single Reflection – one of my very favorite Disney songs.

So if you haven’t ever watched Disney’s Mulan or it is just some time since you have seen it why not take a couple of hours and enjoy this Disney classic.  Mulan appeals to all ages and is a movie that all the family can enjoy.

Learn more about Disney Princess Mulan

Windsor Palms Shuttle

February 7th, 2009 by Alison | Comments Off | Filed in Orlando Vacation Homes

I am often asked by guests of my homes in Windsor Palms and Windsor Hills how the shuttle service to Disney World and the theme parks operates.  This can be a convenient way of getting to the parks if you do not want to use a rental car or if you have a larger party who wants to do different things during the day.

The shuttle service from Windsor Palms  and Windsor Hills is operated by Maingate Transportation. The shuttle from both the Windsor resorts goes to all the main Disney theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Shuttles from Windsor Palms are also available to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, Sea World, Wet N’ Wild, and the Orlando Premium Outlets.

You must make reservations at least 1 hour in advance with Maingate Transportation for all of the shuttle services by calling 407 390 0000

The exact schedule will vary each month and is not published in advance. But in general there are 2 pick ups each morning for the Disney parks at the Windsor Palms and Windsor Hills clubhouses.  Return times vary too but Magic Kingdom and Epcot tend to have 3 pick ups with Disney Hollywood Studios having 2 pick ups and Animal Kingdom just one shortly after closing time.

The current price of the shuttle from Windsor Palms resort to the Disney parks is $10 per person return.

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure usually has 2 pick up times in the morning.  All pick up and return times vary month to month – the schedule is based on demand so the busier months will tend to have more pick up and return times.  The rate for a return trip to Universal Studios is $14 per person.

Sea World is $11 per person, Wet N’ Wild is $14 per person and the Orlando Premium Outlets are $10 per person.

All of the shuttles pick up and drop off at several locations including Windsor Hills, Grand Lake Resort and Holiday Inn.  So you can expect to make a lot of stops along the way or on your return.

If you would like more detailed information then you can contact Maingate Transportation directly on 407 390 0000.  They also operate taxi services. If you have a large party then a taxi may be more practical and also save on cost.

I would love to hear from anyone who has tried the shuttle service from Windsor Palms or Windsor Hills about the experience that they had and whether they would recommend it.

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Typhoon Lagoon

January 16th, 2009 by Alison | Comments Off | Filed in Disney World, Rides

Want to swim with the sharks or ride the crest of a wave at Disney World?  Plunge down Humunga Kowabunga water slide or just float your cares away around the park in Castaway Creek? Then Typhoon Lagoon Water Park is the place for you!

One of the most popular attractions in Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon is the Surf Pool. And yes I do mean surf pool! This is no ordinary wave pool. Here you can ride a 6 foot wave – and even (for an extra charge) learn to surf.

Want to swim with sharks? Then head to the Shark Reef at Typhoon Lagoon.  Of course the sharks  are pretty small and completely safe, but it is a lot of fun. A Cast Member will hand you your own personal snorkel gear fro free and you can head off into the Shark Reef.

If it is water slides that you are looking for then Typhoon Lagoon has some great options too.  Looking for the most challenging body slides?  Then head straight on to Humunga Kowabunga. This is for those less fearless amongst us who want to plunge 50 feet at 30mph. Or perhaps you will chose one of the 3 Storm Slides – not as intense but certainly worth a go, or two, or three………

Get ready to board your 2 person raft on the Crush N Gusher. This one is a bit difficult to describe but many call it a water coaster.  You will slip, slide and twist through over 400 feet of water slide.

If you are looking for something much more relaxing then grab and inner tube raft and glide along Castaway Creek. This circular lazy river circles the park and your journey will take around 30 minutes to complete a circuit. Hop on and off at the various points around the park.

Want some tips for visiting Typhoon Lagoon? It is a very popular Disney World park and it does get crowded. Arrive early – about 45 minutes before opening time if you can. Or arrive later in the afternoon. The crowds often begin to thin out mid afternoon.  Bring sun screen with you – this is Florida and the sun can be very strong.  And this is a Disney park where it is completely fine to bring your own food. Just leave the alcohol and glass containers at home, but you are welcome to bring a cooler with as much food as you like.

So should you choose Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach? Both are great Disney water parks but they do offer different things. Blizzard Beach has a bigger selection of water slides. But Typhoon Lagoon has the Surf Pool and the Shark Reef.  Take a look at my Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon Guides to see which your family would enjoy most.  You will find lots of great pictures, tips on the best Disney water park tickets,and how to make the most of your day whichever you choose.

Photo used under Creative Commons Licence PrincessAshley

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Cinderella Castle

January 7th, 2009 by Alison | Comments Off | Filed in Disney World, Orlando Theme Parks
One of my favorite photos of Cinderella's Castle

One of my favorite photos of Cinderella

If you picture Disney World the chances are that the image that comes into your head will be Cinderella’s Castle – the icon of the Magic Kingdom. This picture of Cinderella’s Castle is so stunning it inspired me to write about the most recognizable landmark in Disney World.

Have you ever wondered what is inside Cinderella’s Castle? Or wanted to learn more about this enchanted Disney Castle?

The inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle were the castles of 17th century France. And this too was the theme for the magical Cinderella Castle Suite. This beautiful 650 square feet Cinderella Suite was created by the Imagineers in 2007 and used as a prize for a small number of lucky families selected randomly in one of the parks as winners of the Year of A Million Dreams.

So what is inside the Cinderella Castle Suite? It is 21st century comfort meets 17th century style.

The bedroom has 2 beautiful Queen sized beds facing an ornate fireplace. Above the fireplace is a portrait of Cinderella – but all is not what it seems. The portrait magically transforms into a flat screen television! The bathroom houses a huge garden tub with ornate stained glass windows. Guests of the Suite are given their own private tour of the Magic Kingdom after closing time and are then escorted to their ‘palace’ by their Cinderella Suite Concierge.

Sadly the only way to see the inside of the Cinderella Suite for yourself is to win the prize. Disney has said that even though the Year of A Million Dreams is now finished they will still be using the Castle Suite as a prize. So keep your fingers crossed and maybe you will be one of the lucky ones!

There is an easier way to see the inside of Cinderella’s Castle though. You can dine at Cinderella’s Royal Table which is housed inside the Castle. Be prepared to make those Advance Dining Reservations well in advance though as this is the most popular Disney World restaurant. You really do have to call 407 WDW DINE 90 days ahead to get a table. The food is family style and breakfast, lunch and dinner is served.

How many bricks were used to build the Magic Kingdom Castle? OK it is a trick question of course because the answer is none. Cindrella’s Castle is built from concrete and fiber glass over a steel structure. Legend had it that it could be taken apart if a hurricane threatened – but this is simply a legend as this is a very solid structure!

If you would like to learn more about this most famous Disney World landmark then take a look at my Guide to Cinderella’s Castle. You will even be able to take a peek inside the Cinderella Castle Suite!

Photos used under Creative Commons from expressmonorail

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Disney World Dining Plan

January 4th, 2009 by Alison | Comments Off | Filed in Disney World, Uncategorized
Is the Disney World Dining Plan the right option for you?

Is the Disney World Dining Plan the right option for you?

Is the Disney Dining Plan worth the money? When you book a Disney Magic Your Way Package you have the option of adding on a Disney Dining Plan option. This can be a great saving for your family – but to decide whether it is the right option for you then you need to know more about it.
So how does it work? As a Disney hotel guest you can just book your room and nothing else. Or you can book a Magic Your Way Package which will include your tickets for the duration of your stay, and you can add dining plans and recreation.

There are now 3 types of Disney Dining Plan. The Quick Service Dining Plan, The Dining Plan and the Deluxe Dining Plan.

The Quick Service Disney Dining Plan is $29.99 for adults and $8.99 for children aged 3 to 9 per person per day. This new Plan for 2009 will give you credits for 2 Quick Service Meals, 2 snacks per day and a resort refillable mug. To be honest I am not sure how popular this plan will be as it does not offer as much value as the other Plans.

The Dining Plan includes 1 table service meal, 1 counter service and 1 snack per person per day. Each guest will also have a refillable mug which can be used for fountain service drinks at your resort hotel.

The cost of this option per person per day is $39.99 for adults and $10.99 for children aged 3 to 9.

Want all your eating options covered? Then choose The Deluxe Disney Dining Plan which includes 3 meals,2 snacks and a resort refillable mug. The meals can be either full service or counter service meals. On this plan you are pretty certain you are never going to be hungry! The cost of the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan? $69.99 for adults and $19.99 for children aged 3 to 9.

Remember that for all table service dining at Disney World it is advisable to make Advance Dining Reservations as far ahead as possible. You can do this by calling 407 WDW DINE up to 90 days in advance for all guests and 100 days in advance if you have a Disney resort hotel reservation. Do you really need to do this? Yes, I know some of you don’t want to think about making decisions and planning that far in advance but if you want your first choice then I really would suggest calling ahead to make those ADR’s as soon as you can. Partly due to the success of the Disney Dining Plan it seems to be getting more and more difficult to find a ‘walk in’ for a Disney restaurant. In particular if you want to dine at the extremely popular Cinderella’s Royal Table, Le Cellier at Epcot and Akershus Princess Storybook Dining then you must call ahead.

What if you haven’t made an Advance Dining Reservation? As soon as you arrive at the park go to Guest Services to see what they have available – and be prepared to be flexible. I am not saying that walk ins aren’t available – they are – I just want you to know that they can be difficult to find!

If you want to know lots more then I have written a complete Guide to the Disney Dining Plan.

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Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

December 31st, 2008 by Alison | 1 Comment | Filed in Disney World, Orlando Theme Parks, Rides
Ghostly goings on at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Ghostly goings on at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Dare you ride Disney’s Hollywood Tower of Terror? Board the elevator and drop 13 floors? If that sounds like your idea of fun then one of your favorite Disney World rides will be the Tower of Terror.

So what will you experience on the Tower of Terror ride. The attention to detail on this ride is perhaps one of the most striking of all the Disney World attractions.

The Tower of Terror ride is based on the television series The Twilight Zone The Tower of Terror. Naturally it is 13 stories high! Walt Disney Imagineers watched all 156 episodes of The Twilight Zone so that they could recreate the mood and feeling of the series.

The Tower of Terror is Disney World’s second tallest building at 199 feet high. Any taller and Disney would have to have put a red light beacon at the top of the building – not something that would really fit in with the 1930’s hotel style!

Like all great Disney rides the Tower of Terror has a back story. According to Disney lore it was a hotel which opened in 1919 in Hollywood. It became a favorite place to stay for the Hollywood film star elite. But one day on Halloween 1939 the Hollywood Tower Hotel was stuck by lightning. Part of the building was destroyed and 5 guests who had just entered the elevator disappeared. All of the other guests ran out of the building in terror leaving all of their belongings behind. The Tower of Terror is left empty until 1994 when it mysteriously re opens in 1994 at Disney Hollywood Studios.

So much for the story – what is so great about the ride? It is one of the most intense and original rides that you can experience. The attention to detail is amazing – even as you walk through the line you will enter a ghostly world of the 1930’s Twilight Zone. I don’t want to give you the whole story here as there are some spoilers but if you want more details here is my Guide to the Tower of Terror. But just know that you will experience darkened rooms, Twilight Zone atmosphere and then be dropped 13 floors in an elevator!

So what is my personal opinion of Disney World Tower of Terror? I have to confess I have a fear of normal elevators so the thought of stepping into one, whether I know it is fake or not, is not something I took lightly! When I first rode the Tower of Terror many years ago I did have to be persuaded on to the ride! But was it worth it? It most certainly was and I have been on it many times since.

There is of course another trick that Disney has up it’s sleeve. On some attractions you can become ‘used’ to the experience because if you ride it enough times you know what is coming next. Not so with Hollywood’s Tower of Terror. Why? Because it has a computer controlled randomized sequence. So you never know which drop is coming next. So no matter how many times you ride the Tower of Terror each experience will be as thrilling as the first.

Remember of course that the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a popular ride. There is a Fast Pass available and most times of year it is advisable to use it. If you are at the park at opening time this may be the one that you want to ride first before the lines build up.

The height requirement is 40″ but remember also that it is a very intense and scary experience. My 10 year old used to love the Tower of Terror but now she just won’t ride it because it is just too scary for her. If your child, or even you, get through the pre show and just don’t want to ride then always tell a Cast Member – there is a last minute change your mind exit that is used quite a bit! If you have young children who aren’t riding with you then there is a Child Swap facility – you can all stand in line together and then one adult rides while the other stays with the child. Then they swap. It saves a lot of time.

So ride the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror if you dare. Check out my Guide to the Tower of Terror for more details of the ride, it’s secrets and some amazing pictures.

Photos used under Creative Commons from kevineddy

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