Monday, June 30, 2014

Disney Cast Members: Tell Them "Thank You"

by Gaylin

I have met many a wonderful Cast Member (CM) in my travels to Walt Disney World, as well as Disneyland and one Disney cruise. While I have always thanked them in person, if I have received extra help or extraordinary service from a cast member, I like to send a thank you to them, through Disney itself.

I found out on the Backstage Tour a few years ago that if a CM gets a reprimand on their employment record, it is removed after 6 months with no further reprimands acquired. If a thank you or commendation is received, that stays on their record permanently! If you go to the Walt Disney World main webpage and scroll to the bottom, there is a contact us link. On that link it tells you how to contact them by phone, there is another link where you can go to an email page to contact them.

This is where I go when I want to send a thank you to a CM. The first time I did this, I received a phone call from a representative from Disney personnel, letting me know how much they appreciated my email and that they had contacted each of the CMs I had wanted to thank and commended them in person! I do keep a trip journal where I write their names down as well as take a photo where the interaction happened so I don't forget.

On my recent trip, I had more than a few nice transactions with CMs and wanted to send my appreciation out to 3 of them. When I got home, I sent the following email:

"This is not a question, this is a thank-you to Cast Members.

I was at WDW in May 2014 and on Sunday, May 11, I went to the Animal Kingdom. My mother had
passed away 5 weeks previously and I had forgotten entirely that it was Mother's Day. When I walked into AK and was given a carnation and told Happy Mother's Day, I was startled and sad. It was nice to think of my mom but it was a difficult, emotional day as well.

I stopped for lunch at Tamu Tamu, I was hot and tired and forgot to tell the CM that I had food allergies and could I please have potato chips instead of pita bread so I put the pita bread to the side. A custodial CM, Deborah (college program with UCLA), stopped to chat for a moment, she asked if I was a mother and when I told her about my mom, I nearly started crying. She spent some time with me, talked about mom's, Disney and life in general. It was the human contact I so badly needed that day. She noticed that I had put the pita bread aside and went out of her way to get some of the fresh made potato chips for me. Well, that nearly had me crying again. The time she spent with me changed the whole tone of the day for me, I know that CMs deal with and talk to a lot of people in a day and they need to know that their time and care is wonderful. Thanks so much to Deborah, wherever she is now. Also - thanks for the pin!

At the Magic Kingdom on May 7th, I had a lovely wee interaction with a CM named Sherley, I bought a Mickey Premium from her at the Popping Machine, near Gaston's Tavern. She was bright and cheerful, I sat at a table near the kiosk and watched her interact with guests, impressive. Again, since my mom's name was Shirley - meeting this lovely young lady who was so happy and vivacious, made my day. I asked for a photo and we had a good laugh taking a selfie together.

One last kudo - in the morning of May 7th, I went on the Jungle Cruise with Captain Lisa, she was so fun, it was one of the best cruises I have been on. At the end of the cruise I asked if I could take a selfie with her, it was the first time a guest had asked her to be in a photo and she was happy to do it.

Thanks to all the CMs that do their best to help guests have a magical vacation and if anyone asks if you can have fun at WDW while on a solo trip - the answer is a resounding yes!

You can't send photos in your email to Disney but I can post them here! Here is the photo of Captain Lisa and me.

And later the same day, the lovely Sherley!

About a week after I sent my email to the help centre, I received this email reply:

"Dear Gaylin,

Thank you for writing to us about your visit to the Walt Disney World® Resort.

I am very glad you had such an enjoyable experience and truly appreciate the time you took to share your compliments for Deborah, Sherley and Lisa. Your email reinforces how our Cast Members can make a tremendous difference with each Guest. It is heartwarming to know that Cast Members such as Deborah, Sherley and Lisa exemplified Walt Disney's dream to create happy and memorable experiences for all of our Guests. Please be assured your comments will be shared with the appropriate leadership so they can be commended for the great service they provided you.

Thank you again for writing to us. We look forward to future opportunities to entertain you.

Best Regards,

Janet F.
Guest Experience Services
Walt Disney World Resort"

If you have a wonderful CM experience, remember you can share your thank-you's when you get home, send some magic back to Disney!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Flea Market Finds: Lady and the Tramp Set

By Barbie

Today's Flea Market Find is a Lady and the Tramp set which includes Lady, the Tramp and Jock. Nick was the one who almost passed this one by, but this time I came to my senses and paid the lady for the set. We felt the price was a little high at $30.00, but we picked up a couple other figurines and she threw a couple things in for free.

I was absolutely taken in by the Tramp's face. It is so sweet, and my photos just do NOT do it the justice it deserves! Jock has his disapproving face on!

And Lady has her come hither look going.

 The Tramp is 6" tall and an amazing figurine on his own. All of them are stamped Japan and Disney.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Getting Your Money's Worth

By Beth Skarp

It happens to the best of us. You make a purchase in cash, and your change is given to you. Now, who really pays close attention to the small change as it is presented to you? Chances are, you are like many of us, myself included, who just quickly scans the coins presented to me before dumping them in either my purse or pocketing my change. It isn't until later, while I am either making another purchase or just putting my change in my Disney Vacation jar that I notice, hey, this coin looks funny. Sure enough, a coin from some other country has managed to find it's way into my wallet. While most of the change is not spendable here in the United States, it is always fun to see where the coins originated from and what their current value may be.

Disney deals with not only foreign change, but with foreign currency on an almost daily basis. Since visitors to Disney hail from all over the Globe, literally, is it any wonder that a few bills or coins get “incorporated” into the Disney money drawers?  

I had the opportunity to chat with a supervisor at the Guest Relations counter in Epcot recently. I was curious as to if or how Disney handles foreign currency. 

When I asked if there was a limit to how much money could be exchanged, I was told “it depends”. When I pressed for a more definitive answers, I was told what really matters is not only the type of currency that is being exchanged, but also the exchange rate for the currency. While exchanging Canadian money into American money is common and easy to do, changing something from, say, the Middle East is a little bit harder. Again, it has nothing to do with where the country of origin for the currency is, but rather the exchange rate. He gave me the following examples. As of this writing, the Canadian dollar is just a few pennies off from the American dollar, so the exchange rate is fairly easy. He showed me the following table:

Country of Origin Currency Used Amount needed to exchange to equal $1:
Canada - Canadian Dollar - 1.25

Israel - New Shekel - 4

South Africa - Rand - 11

Mexico - Peso - 13

Bangledesh - Taka - 76

Japan - Yen - 100

Indonesia - Rupiah - 12,063 

As you can see from the table, exchanging from Israel, South Africa or Mexico would be fairly easy. Bangledesh and Japan would be harder but still doable. Indonesia....well.....that would be a little bit more complicated for obvious reasons. 

Disney has no set amount for what they will exchange, but is not comfortable with exchanging over $200 in American money for a country like Indonesia, but it can be done. The process is fairly simple actually, but can be time consuming. The foreign currency is surrendered by the guest, counted by the cashier and the guest presenting the foreign currency, and the current exchange rate is applied. I am told that Disney has a special site they use to make the exchange rate, as exchange rates can and do fluctuate daily. The money is then wrapped up and a special form is inserted into the envelope and signed by the cashier noting the guests name and where they are staying on Disney property. The money is then put into the cashier's drawer and turned in at the end of the day.

When I asked where the money could be exchanged, I was told that the Concierge desk at the resorts could handle this in most instances. 

 My next question was a fun one. Which resort or area was most often asked to exchange foreign currency? Do you know......Go ahead and take a guess.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Value resorts, most specifically the All Star Resorts, were the ones asked to exchange currency most often, although every level of resorts has been asked at one time or another to make an exchange of foreign currency. As far as other places on property, Epcot seemed to be the favorite Park for making an exchange, with Magic Kingdom running a very close second. 

So, the next time you receive some foreign coins in your handful of change, stop and think about what it might have cost that person to save for their visit Disney. Oh, and if you don't want to be bothered with figuring out how to “spend” your foreign coins, just make a wish and drop them into the ride at Small World or into Cinderella's Wishing Well. These are the next areas that receive the most amount of foreign coins. 

It really is a Small World.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Epcot's Spice Road Table

By Nick 

My wife, friends and I had dinner at Spice Road Table in the Morocco Pavilion in Epcot shortly after they opened this past January.

 Left to Right: Ron, Kathy, Marilyn, Barbie and me

Located on the shore of the World Showcase Lagoon, it offers a lovely view if you can snag a window seat. 

There is also a large seating area outside, but we chose not to sit here, as it was a rather chilly evening.

Though we had no Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) we had no trouble getting seated. Indeed, the restaurant was surprisingly empty. As the evening went on, it did get more crowded, almost certainly due to the fact that, like La Hacienda de San Angel in the Mexico Pavilion, Spice Road offers a view of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.

The decor is lovely, with, obviously not surprisingly, plenty of Moroccan touches.

It was warm and inviting.
Sadly, we didn't feel the same about the service. It wasn't poor service, it just didn't seem attentive, and it seemed a bit on the cold side. Some people prefer this, as they don't like a server to constantly be hovering, so this may not be an issue for some, but I feel there is a happy medium.
This could very easily be due to the fact that the staff was still working out the kinks.

On to the food!
The menu states that Spice Road Table serves Mediterranean Small Plates.

The menu has 2 Tapas sample platters, which were $16 each, and Barbie and I both each got one.

The Mogador Sampler includes Salted Cod Croquettes with a dab of Sundried tomato aioli and black olive tapenade, Mussels Tagine with cilantro, garlic, lemon confit and tomato sauce, and Fried Calamari with spicy Harissa and Remoulade sauces.

The Tingis Sampler has Merguez Sausage, which is a North African lamb sausage served with tomato, red onion and cilantro salad, a Lamb Slider served on Brioche with cucumber dill and mint tzatzikiki sauce, and Harissa Chicken Rolls.

Everything was fine, with my favorite being the Harissa Chicken rolls, but nothing really knocked our socks off. 
Each of the items offered in the sampler can be ordered as a small plate. In addition to those offerings are Spicy Shrimp with fried chillies and fried garlic, a Mediterranean Omelet with potato, red peppers and caramelized onions, Rice Stuffed Grape Leaves with Fried capers, raisins and fresh nutmeg, and Hummus and Imported Olives with Cornichons and Za'ata Flat bread, which I tasted, and thought was maybe the best thing I'd eaten that evening.

For dessert I had the Chocolate Pyramid with almond ice cream which was okay, but, again, not "Wow."
Everyone thought that their meal was good, but I can't recall anyone being overly impressed. 
In my humble opinion, the food at the Tangierine Cafe which is only a few steps away from Spice Road is better, and you get more food for less. 
I would likely only return if I was with friends that really wanted to try it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

DiVine at Disney's Animal Kingdom

by Nick

I've heard about her for years, but never saw DiVine in over a dozen trips to Walt Disney World and Disney's Animal Kingdom.

In case you don't know, DiVine is a very talented stilt performer who is adorned in vines and leaves who so seamlessly blends in with the dense foliage of Animal Kingdom, that you can easily pass her by without ever knowing she is there.

In fact, we would have very likely missed her once again on our last visit to Animal Kingdom in January, if not for noticing the people who were photographing what appeared to be a normal stand of trees on the Discovery Island Trails as we were exiting the park for the day.

I approached for a photo, and didn't even notice her descend slowly. My wife captured this on film. Yes. That is a Kermit the Frog hat on my head, it was cold!

It was lucky we caught her, because a moment later, she started to slowly meander backstage. We watched her for a few moments, and she was gone. I'm really happy we finally got to see her!

Have you ever had the opportunity to see DiVine?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Bit of New Fantasyland: Great Disney Cast Members

by Gaylin

The first day of vacation, while at the Magic Kingdom, I admit I spent more than a little bit of time wandering around the New Fantasyland. I was impressed by all of it, the theming is beautiful. It was a very hot day and of course, that meant an ice cream break.

I stopped at Maurice's Amazing Popping Machine ice cream and drink cart in between Gaston's Tavern and Be Our Guest restaurant.

The fare provided at this cart is standard, water, soda, ice cream treats. I had one of my favourite treats, a Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar! As you can see, there are covered tables to enjoy your treat out of the hot sun. I shared a table with a very nice woman, who also needed a break from the heat and I asked her to take my photo. It was only 2 or so in the afternoon and I was feeling and looking pretty wilted!

What was a pleasant surprise at this kiosk was the cast member, Sherley. She was happy and fun, greeting people as if everyone was a long lost friend. She was a bright moment in a hot afternoon where I felt like I was melting. After I finished my ice cream bar, I went back to the kiosk to say thank you to her, not just for how nice she had been to me, she was that nice and lovely to everyone! I asked her to take a selfie with me and she was thrilled – first time anyone had asked her to take a photo with them.

If you happen to be near the Popping Machine and need a treat – find Sherley and buy your treat from a 'friend'!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Disney- It's All in the Details

By: Beth Skarp

It's All In The Details

In September of 2009, we took my aging Mother-In-Law to Disney World. She had saved for over 50 years to make the trip, but never made it. She had taken her family to Disneyland several times, but never to the World. It was our desire to make this trip happen for her.

Mom could never afford any luxuries for herself or her children when they were growing up. It was all she could do to provide for her family as a single parent. We wanted this trip to be extra special for Mom, so we decided to splurge and treat her to Concierge level at Beach Club. Her jaw dropped when she realized what we had done. She was beyond thrilled to spend time not only at a place she had always dreamed about, but also to be treated as royalty. Minnie was on hand to “welcome” her home in the form or fresh flowers when she entered her room.

From Beach Club, we were a stone's throw away from the International Gateway to World Showcase at Epcot. Off we went to introduce Mom to the World. No need for dinner that night as we sampled our way around World Showcase during the International Food and Wine Festival. We did not stay for Illuminations that night, but meandered our way back to the International Gateway and our room so that Mom could rest.

Since we knew Mom would probably never get the opportunity to visit “our” World again, we wanted to make sure that we crammed everything into this 10 day visit as we possibly could. We dined at several signature dining places.

We did the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, we stayed later at the parks to take in the fireworks and extra magic hours, we visited “places” around World Showcase that were on Mom's bucket list but she would probably never visit.

We took several tours, including the concierge level early morning safari tour that was offered at Animal Kingdom at that time (it has since been replaced by the Wild Africa Trek).

Mom fell in love with the waterfall at the Polynesian Resort as we were on our way to Kona Cafe for breakfast. Mom enjoyed the waterfall so much that she asked us to please get her breakfast “to-go” so she could just sit and listen to the fountain and people watch. The Samoan was never enjoyed more by anyone than Mom, sitting on her personal love seat, facing the waterfall, with her feet propped up. Each and every thing we did, Mom enjoyed.

But there comes a time when enough is enough—your limit has been reached. I think we reached this on our sixth day as we were touring the Parks. Mom's brain was overstimulated, there was too much too see, she was hot and sticky not being used to Florida's weather, and she needed a break, NOW!! She did not want to trek all the way back to our room to rest, but she needed a break and a cool place to cool off. What to do?

We were once again in World Showcase nearing the China pavilion, so we opted to head there. Just crossing into this pavilion seemed to have a calming effect on Mom. As we crossed under the gates, it was like a switch had been thrown. The feelings or peacefulness, tranquility, coolness, and yes, even calmness, seemed to just flow over our bodies.

Mulan and Mushu were doing a meet and greet, so of course Mom wanted to see what that was all about.

The Koi fish pond as well as the water gurgling in the small pond had a calming effect on Mom, as did the light mist that she felt from the pond.

We had always seen the beautiful building that was there, the Temple of Heaven, but had never gone inside before. The doors were opened, and Mom, being the curious type, wanted to know what this was. So, off we went to explore.

The inside of the Temple of Heaven is literally a small piece of Heaven at Disney. It is quiet and somewhat dark inside, pleasantly air-conditioned and cool without being frigid. The interior of the Temple provided a wonderful place to just sit and relax. There was a show that was due to start in about 15 minutes, which we agreed to watch. I am so glad that we did. While I was not able to hear the dulcimer or zither (the sounds are outside of my range of hearing), Mom could. Mom loved the show, so much so in fact that the soothing music, the darker interior and the coolness of the Temple of Heaven caused her to relax fully and fall asleep.

We spent a good 2 hours exploring the China pavilion, just taking in the serenity we found here. Mom loved the ponds, the rosebushes, the trees, and just watching the Koi fish in the pond. She loved the exhibits we found here. We had several Cast Members explain to us about the Temple of Heaven and the pavilion itself.

Did you know that the number of stones in the floor are not random at all? Neither did we, but we did learn that the center stone is surrounded by nine stones since the number nine is considered to be a lucky number in China. The outer room in the Temple of Heaven, where we listened to the beautiful music, has 12 columns supporting it. Not only do the columns represent the various months in a calendar year, the columns also represent the number of years in a full cycle of the Chinese calender. We also learned that if you stand on the round stone located in the center of the floor with the nine stones surrounding you, every word or whisper is amplified. That was so cool, and Mom enjoyed listening to our whispering and actually hearing us from a ways away, even with her back turned to us.

Disney is big on making sure that every small, minute detail is adhered to when a ride, attraction or exhibit is put together. The China pavilion in World Showcase is no exception. Ying & Yang are central to the culture of China. A Cast Member explained that Ying & Yang literally means “A condition or place of quiet or total serenity in the midst of noisiness and confusion.”
That about summed up what we all were feeling just before we entered the China pavilion. We found our personal “Ying & Yang” right where we should have found it—In China!

Thank you Disney for always taking care of the little details for us.