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INTERCOT > Interactive > INTERCOT Insider Archive > Summer 2012


Summer 2012

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Summer is in full swing and so is another edition of the INTERCOT Insider! In this edition we take a look back at this year's Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, find out why the Old Key West resort is a great place to stay, and get a glimpse of the Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship. Hang on to them hats and glasses, cause this here's the most informative ride on the internet!

<<Epcot in Bloom>>

The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is an annual favorite of many. While this year's festival came to an end last month, its never to early to get excited about planning for next year! Standing atop a 12-foot-tall floral mountain cliff, an eight-foot-tall floral Sorcerer Mickey topiary held court at the entrance to the 19th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival at Walt Disney World Resort. The commanding Sorcerer Mickey directed a riot of color in the manicured shapes of dancing broomsticks, buckets, mushrooms, hippos, alligators and elephants straight from the classic Disney film, “Fantasia.” The front-entrance floral spectacle welcomed guests to a festival packed with new displays, featured speakers, and hands-on fun for all ages.

Epcot guests explored topiaries and gardens, learned planting, style and design techniques and rocked to the tunes of popular Flower Power concerts.

Bambi’s Butterfly House, three times the size of the festival’s original, was a-flutter with multiple species of brilliant butterflies.

At Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden, fabulous Disney fairy topiaries greeted young fans who entered this whimsical garden designed with play structures for children ages 2-5.

The HGTV Designers Stage presented HGTV celebrities each Friday through Sunday and nationally recognized garden personalities Monday through Thursday.

The Flower Power concert series welcomed back 20th century pop favorites this year when favorite bands rocked the America Gardens Theatre with their timeless tunes.

This is just a sample of the great event. Stay tuned to INTERCOT for info and dates for the 2013 festival!

>> Check out INTERCOT's Flower & Garden Festival Album!

<<Home Away from Home with Faline>>

-- Disney's Old Key West Resort --

This is one of Disney’s vacation club resorts. In fact, this was the first Disney Vacation Club resort. A recent stay in a 2-bedroom villa gave us the opportunity to examine this resort and its rooms quite closely.

As the old adage goes, location is everything. A few years ago, we spent a long weekend in an Old Key West Studio and came away from the experience unimpressed. Our room was fine – quite roomy, in fact. However, we were located quite a distance from Hospitality House (the main check in area and the location of all the shops, dining areas, main pool, and dock) and we were directly across the street from a bus station. While this was convenient, it was also quite noisy. And, since we were at the end of the line, every bus would stop directly across from our studio, idle a bit, rev up to climb the hill, make a u-turn and then come roaring past our room a second time. This time, our unit was located directly across the street from Hospitality House and noisy busses were not an issue (though our guests who stayed in the second bedroom did report they could occasionally hear the busses stopping at Hospitality House).

Based on our previous experience, I approached this trip with a bit of apprehension, particularly since we were hosting my brother and his family and I wanted them to like the resort where we would be staying. I shouldn’t have worried.

Since we have a very park-based visit, we did not get to explore the resort itself as much as I would have liked. For example, we never got to the pool or to the evening outdoor movies but we did get a quick sampling of some of the services and conveniences offered. On our check-in day, we did visit Goods Food To Go for a quick sandwich. Service was prompt and friendly and the sandwich quite large. We also had dinner one evening at Olivia’s, the table service restaurant. The feeling here is of dropping in visit good friends. Pictures of many of the vacation club owners are featured on the walls which helps foster a feeling of relaxation and coziness. Our server was friendly, efficient, and offered a good balance of chatting and leaving us with the luxury of enjoying our meals (which were quite good, by the way). Although we visited the lounge on our last trip, we did not do so on this one. The Gurgling Suitcase is aptly named as it is about the sized of a suitcase. A large family reunion would fill it to capacity and, then some. One lovely feature about this resort is the ability to take a boat to Downtown Disney. We did this one evening and had two terrific captains. It was a fun and relaxed way to make the trip to, and from, Downtown Disney.

All rooms at this resort open directly to the outside – there are no interior hallways. Our unit was located on the third floor which worked well for us (Well, perhaps, not wonderfully well for my brother who needed to cart a sleepy 4-year old up three flights of stairs!) but may not work well for those with difficulty with stairs or other mobility issues. The resort is very spread out. All theme park busses make five stops throughout the resort before departing for any particular theme park. Once again, this is where location was important. The stop closest to our unit was the North Cove Road Stop which is actually located at Hospitality House. This was the last stop before the busses went to the parks which meant that we went directly to the parks after boarding. While this could potentially be a problem, we never came across a bus that was so full that we had to stand on our way to the parks. On the way back from the parks, the busses drive right past Hospitality House and makes Peninsular Road the first stop. This bus stop is within sight of Hospitality House and we found it much more efficient to disembark here and make the short walk back to our resort across from Hospitality House. On our first night, we made the entire circuit of the resort and disembarked at North Cove Road. This circuit took approximately 20 minutes and we vowed not to do that again!

Our room was just shy of 1,400 square feet – a generous amount of space to be shared by four adults and one four year old. The two bedroom resorts will sleep up to nine plus a baby under the age of three. Personally, I would find this very crowded and would prefer to keep the common spaces common rather than turning them into another bedroom. Once closing the door behind us, it truly felt as though we were in a private residence. We never experienced noise from any other units.

Opening the front door, we encountered a pleasing palate of pastel colors. A short hallway brings one to the common living/dining area. Just to the left is the guest bedroom quarters. This area contains two queen beds as well as a table and chairs. There is a tv in this area as well. More than one closet provides plenty of storage. Two sinks, toilet and tub/shower complete the facilities in this area. It truly is private once the bedroom is closed. However, unlike the Bay Lake Tower 2-bedroom layout where the second bedroom is further away from the common area, this second bedroom really opens directly onto the common area and one must pass the bedroom door to exit the unit – both negatives if those in the guest bedroom are trying to sleep in a bit.

The living/dining/kitchen area is a very open floor plan. The television is located at floor height, hiding on the back side of the kitchen island. It is not viewable from all the dining table chairs. The full kitchen has all the amenities one would need including a full sized refrigerator, microwave, cook top, oven, dishwasher, ice maker, and garbage disposal. There is a counter area that looks a bit like a wet bar belongs there (without a sink) which has open storage below (We stored some of our luggage in this area). Strangely, there is a floor level outlet located here. The sofas are not soft (even the one that does not contain a pull out sleeping area is quite hard) – still they are a place where the family can hang out and catch up on their day and upcoming plans. The dining table was more than adequate for our family of five. Since we did not do any cooking, not everyone needed to be seated at the table at the same time. One plus for this unit is that the patio area has a full size dining table along with four additional chairs so both dining tables could be used if the weather is pleasant.

Before you enter the master bedroom, a door to the right leads to a laundry room. I was surprised to see full sized machines rather than stackable ones. These facilities were truly very handy throughout our trip! (Tip: Pack Purell 3-in-1 laundry sheets)

The master bedroom was very comfortable. We had a king sized bed, television, bench with storage below and a lounge chair. In addition to the patio access from the common area, the master bedroom also had direct access onto the balcony. There are shutters that separate the bathing area from the bedroom (I never do understand this concept even though I have encountered numerous times – including in non-Disney accommodations) and in this area is a jetted tub that is one of the largest I’ve ever seen as well as a sink. Really, this tub was so large that the four-year-old in our group could have used it as a swimming pool! I do regret that I did not get the opportunity to use the tub here! I certainly won’t let that happen again on my next trip to this resort! Beyond this room is another room which contains the toilet, a walk-in shower, and another sink. This one has more storage than the other sink. The hair dryer is wall mounted and not very powerful so those with thick hair may want to bring their own.

From our patio, we could see other units but still it maintained a feeling a privacy, a feeling engendered by the nearness of the beautiful palm trees and other foliage. Off to the right, we could see part of the golf course and a water feature. On the night that we sat out on the patio, we could hear frogs.

Flaws – nothing, of course is perfect and this unit was not either. When we arrived, we found that the lock from the common area to the patio was broken. It was promptly repaired the day after we reported it. On our first evening, we discovered that the remote control units did not work in the master bedroom and in the common area. Someone came that very evening to get the tv remotes working promptly. One of kitchen cabinet hinges were broken and was promptly, if inexpertly repaired upon our reporting the issue. Some areas of the unit seemed to lack some housekeeping attention – for example, the toilet tissue holder in the bathroom looked like it had not had any cleaning for quite a long time. There was only one, very small safe located in the master bedroom closet and this was controlled by a key. Had the safe been on a combination rather than using a key, it would have been easier to share what little safe space we had with our guests. When we had different schedules, it wasn’t possible to offer some part of this space to the others since it was key controlled. In my opinion, both bedrooms should contain an adequate sized safe especially given all the electronics that folks typically travel with in this day and age. Given that Old Key West was recently renovated, I was surprised to see that the dish washer was the old style with a slide latch that one needs to move from right to left to lock the unit. The shades separating the patio from the indoor rooms just didn’t work well. They were difficult to raise and lower. Subsequently, we kept them down most of the time we were there. However, with them down, it wasn’t always easy to open the doors to the patio without scratching one’s hands on the rough edges of the shades.

All in all, this is a terrific resort and I will be very happy to make another visit here!

<<A Fantasy at Sea>>

-- Ian's Story --

I was fortunate enough, through my wife, to be invited to attend the christening ceremony of the Disney Fantasy up in Manhattan.

Thought I'd share a bit of how the evening went with everyone and give a few thoughts on the ship herself.

We arrived at Pier 88 around 6:15 and got checked in pretty quickly. They clearly were focused on security, because we had to show our invitations, present identification, go through metal detectors, and the whole works.

We checked our coats and then boarded the ship. The atrium area of the Fantasy is just as impressive (and frankly exactly the same) as the atrium of the Dream. When Disney says that the Dream and the Fantasy are sister ships they must mean twin sisters, because they look exactly the same. It was actually flashback-city for me ... I felt like I was back on the preview cruise!

It was obvious right out of the gate that this was a gala affair. There were tons of media walking around, lots of camera crews, and in general there was a serious buzz in the air. We hung out in the atrium, browed the ship a bit, sipped on some champagne, and in short order were directed into the Walt Disney Theater for "the show."

I assumed they were just going to either give a little welcome speech to everyone, thank us for coming, and maybe preview the show(s) that would be run on the ship. I remarked to my wife, "Gee, I wonder if Bob Iger is here." We were among the first into the theater, so we just kinda wandered down to the front and actually ended up in the second row, dead center. I thought they might have that area roped off for VIPs, but nope ... we just grabbed seats no problem.

So the show starts, they show this cute little film talking about the long history of Disney and New York and then the curtain opens and out walks Neil Patrick Harris (NPH), who was the host for the evening. DW and I were duly impressed ... I never even considered the fact that there might be celebs in attendance. NPH proceeded to do this hilarious musical number set to the tune of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious that kinda poked fun at Disney and the whole evening (but in a humorous way).

I was impressed ... NPH is actually really talented song and dance guy. He was hysterical, too. So his number segued into the first preview of one of the ship shows, which was based on Aladdin (hold the comments, Mel!). It was cute, but I found the genie costumes a bit creepy. Very well produced, though, as I expected based on the shows on the Dream.

So then NPH comes back out on stage and introduces "Mr. New York Himself" and I'm thinking, "Huh ... wonder who this is?"

Turns out it was Jerry Seinfeld!! I am a huge Seinfeld fan ... HUGE! So I was freaking out a bit. He did like about a 15 minute stand-up routine that was just a riot. At one point I turned to DW and was like, "Man ... I'm glad we got these seats!" because we were like no more than 6 feet from him during the show. Very cool!

So the show wrapped up with two more previews of the other two stage shows on the Fantasy (one based on Princess and the Frog and one called Believe that is a new production). Both looked really great and were totally up to Disney standards. They also had Heather Headley perform a medley of songs from Disney films (You'll Be In My Heart from Tarzan, Can You Feel the Love Tonight from Lion King, and a song I didn't recognize). I didn't really know who she was, but apparently she's a big Broadway star who was in Aida and Lion King. Great voice!

After she wrapped up, NPH walked the crowd and called out some other celebs in attendance ... I didn't know a lot of them, but Mayor Bloomberg was in the crowd, Ty Pennington, and yes Bob Iger. I learned later that some of the others were
Tim Gunn (from Project Runway) and Alan Cumming (who I think is an actor). I also saw Nancy Grace.

So once the show ended we all adjourned into the ship atrium for the christening itself. Iger and Tom Staggs (Chairman, Disney Parks & Resorts) gave a speech and introduced the ship's crew and then the ship's Fairy Godmother Mariah Carey came down and presided over the ceremony. There were tons of characters out and lots of confetti and all kinds of hoopla ... it was really a fun thing to witness.

We then got dinner in one of the dining rooms (Royal Court). It was really good! Appetizer of salmon/tuna tartar, filet, and a great dessert sampler. The food was incredibly good, as it was on the Dream.

Overall, I have to say the event was just amazing. Disney did a first class job producing everything and this ship is absolutely as gorgeous as the Dream is. I'm sure everyone who cruises on her is going to have a great time and truly enjoy themselves.

-- Nanci's Story --

I will pick up where Ian left off.

After dinner we moved to Europa

Europa is a nighttime entertainment district exclusively for guests 18 and older that features sophisticated bars and trendy lounges inspired by the very best in European travel.

La Piazza (Carousel Bar) looks like an outdoor area you would find in Italy. Very relaxing, low key and welcoming. They had a guitar player and singer here.

Ooh La La is the Fantasy's champagne bar. It felt like you were in a 1920's boudoir with velvet tufted walls, and sofa seating. Dark, not overly feminine (like PINK on dream is) and very comfortable.

O'Gills pub is the Fantasy's sports bar, but unlike the Dream is not overly masculine. It was a really charming place and occasionally a dance fight would break out between Irish dancers. I did not have any beer in here, but their house drink O'Gills Irish Cream was very smooth. I can see this becoming a very popular spot. I know my husband would gravitate here.

Skyline is similar to Skyline on the Dream. A nice Martini Bar with light up menus and some really different drinks.

Tube is the largest and loudest of the clubs. The bench seats in this "underground" had material printed to look like subway tickets. Complete with red English phone booths, a Union Jack flag floor the DJ had it really hopping last night!

And of course the area had the freaky bathrooms similar to the Dream (Rounded with mirror ceilings) It was actually quite confusing walking through that area. A very Tatooine feeling.

Although the event was listed to end at 11:30, it was closer to 1am by the time we left Ooh La La.

On our way out we rec'd swag bags that had a bottle of Fantasy champagne, 2 commemorative champagne glasses and 2 scarves. I was very surprised the scarves were not emblazoned with the DCL or Fantasy logo though.

Other thoughts on the ship:

New adult area on Deck 13 is very nice. It was cold and rainy so Kathy and I did not hang out long up there. My only concern is that even with the wind blocks it may get very windy there when the ship is at sea. Time will tell, and we will be sailing her on 3/26 to test it out.

I noticed in the Family Pool area that they moved the drink stations to a more mid-ship location and changed their direction. When I last sailed the Dream (March 2010) the beverage stations ran stem to stern, these now are placed port to starboard and do not seem to interrupt traffic flow as much. Same thing for the condiments near Tow Mater's, Filmore's and Luigi's.

I did notice at Nemo's Reef that the Mr Ray slide now has a nice think landing cushion themed to match the floor. They did not have that on the Dream last Spring. Good idea!

Main Dining Restaurants are basically the same. There are some small differences, but nothing major. The Royal Court chandelier was different (no glass slippers), lighting fixtures different and it actually seemed laid out a bit better.

Cabins are basically the same.

The Fantasy has a Bippity Boppity Boutique instead of conference rooms. Prince and Princess (ages 12 and under) transformations take place here. They have a "full monte" package of about $600 for those who desire a really really total Princess make-over

On Pirate night Capt. Jack Sparrow plunders the Boutique and takes over doing Pirate League enrollments. There is no age limit when he is in charge (he has no rules!).

All in all she is a beautiful ship and Disney throws one heck of a party.

>> Check out INTERCOT's Fantasy Album

<< Conclusion >>

This Summer edition has sizzled to an end, but we hope it has filled you in on on the fun happening on land and at sea. We'll be back in a few weeks with more great tips, news, and deals. See ya real soon

<< Thank You To Our Sponsors! >>

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