Friday, February 10, 2012

Chat With a Disney Guru - Disney Fan In Colorado

Weekly series!

Welcome to a great new way to compare notes, pick up some helpful tips for your next Disney visit, and discover some fantastic Disney bloggers!  Each week I will be highlighting an interview with a certified, pixie dusted fan of The Mouse.  

WARNING:  Their enthusiasm for all things Disney is, in fact, quite contagious!  So come along for the ride with us ... you may learn something new, and it's sure to put a smile on your face as you read about the good, the really really good, and the "you absolutely can't miss this...."!

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This week:  Disney Fan In Colorado's Holly!

Holly is also an experienced Disney Cruiser!  Be sure to check out the extra questions I asked her about this at the end ...


Tell us a little about you, and your website (blog).
During the day, I work full-time as a Marketing Manager for a software company. The rest of the time, I’m busy keeping up with my 3-year-old Princess, my almost 9-year-old son, my husband (who I literally couldn’t do this without) and our 12-year-old dog. We live in Colorado, but get to Disneyland, Walt Disney World or a Disney cruise several times a year. I’ve been a Disney fan for as long as I can remember, and started my blog, Disney Fan In Colorado, to share my love of Disney with others.  I’m just starting out, but so far it’s a mishmash of Disney planning tips, Disney trivia and family life.

Which is your favorite Disney Park, and why?
Growing up, I always loved Disney World more, and EPCOT was my favorite. I loved being able to make a trip around the World, all within a few hours and without the need for a passport. Now that I’m older, I’ve really come to appreciate Disneyland for all the history that’s there. Walking down Main Street in Disneyland really gives me that feeling of arriving somewhere magical, and I’ve definitely come to think of it as my “home”.

Top 3 characters you’d like to meet on an ideal day at Disney:
Mickey is always a must for me. He’s been my favorite character since I was little, so a trip isn’t complete without seeing him. I’d love to meet the Big Bad Wolf again, although he doesn’t really come out for meet and greets very much. He was one of the first characters I met on my first trip to Disneyland and he spent a lot of time with me, so he holds a special place in my heart. And then, I would probably say Belle. I’m not much of a princess girl, but Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite movies of all time.

Holly getting to meet Mickey on a Disney Cruise

Your 3 favorite Disney attractions, and why you love them.  
  1. Indiana Jones Adventure – I love Indiana Jones and always thought it would be so cool to have adventures like him. This attraction gets me as close as I probably ever will be to having an adventure like Indy.
  2. Haunted Mansion Holiday – Haunted Mansion has always been one of my favorite attractions, but when it’s paired with one of my favorite movies, Nightmare Before Christmas, it gets kicked up a notch. The level of detail that goes into this overlay is just incredible.
  3. Expedition Everest – I love thrill rides, and this along with Tower of Terror are probably the ultimate thrill rides at Disney. Although nothing will top my first ride when the Yeti was still functioning properly, I still love that momentary scare you get when you realize the track is broken in front of you and the only way out is to go backwards.

Favorite time of the year to visit?
I love Christmastime at Disney so my favorite time to visit is in early December, when the Christmas decorations are up, but before the crowds get really bad.

The Park snack your day is not complete without.
A Mickey ice cream bar. Eating one makes me feel like a kid again.

Favorite Character Meal?
Hmm, this is a tough one. We’ve done a lot of them, but I’d say my favorite is Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel because we always have really great character interactions there. All the characters were especially good with my daughter the first time we went when she was just over a year old. They spent a lot of time with her and I’ll always remember the big smile she had on her face the whole morning.

Top 3 Disney Property restaurants you like to eat at.
  1. Jiko at Animal Kingdom Lodge – My South African co-workers have introduced me to some really great African cuisine, and Jiko’s menu includes similar dishes, so we enjoy eating here. It’s also just a really nice atmosphere for a nice adults-only dinner, and if you’re lucky, you can spot a celebrity or two. Last time we were there, Dave Matthews was having dinner at the table next to ours – that was pretty cool! ?
  2. Biergarten at the German Pavillion in EPCOT – Perhaps it’s my German ancestry coming out, but nothing beats a good pint of German beer, some schnitzel and shouting “Ticky Tocky, Ticky Tocky, HOY, HOY, HOY” as loud as you can. Plus, there’s nothing better than doing the chicken dance with your family to work off a couple of those calories you just ate.
  3. Blue Bayou in Disneyland – I was torn between this and the Napa Rose at the Grand Cal, but I’m going with Blue Bayou because nothing beats the atmosphere. Sitting next to the water, looking at the fake fireflies, is ALMOST enough to make you think you’re in a real bayou down in Louisiana. And the Monte Cristo is AMAZING – a must try for everyone, at least once in their lives.

How do you keep the Pixie Dust flying at home, in between trips?
I read a lot – Disney blogs, Disney books, etc., so I seem to have Disney on the brain most of the time. Other than that, our house is filled with pictures from our Disney vacations and Disney collectibles I’ve gotten over the years, so a Disney memory is pretty much always around the next corner.

Any tips for people planning their 1st trip to Disney?
I think it’s increasingly important to have a plan in place before you go, especially if you’re visiting Walt Disney World. But, even more than that is to understand that you just won’t be able to do EVERYTHING on your first trip. If you try to do everything, especially if you’re traveling with kids, you’re going to get burned out and may not have a great experience. Come up with a few “must-dos”, maybe one or two for each family member, and focus on those things first. Anything else you can see will be icing on the cake.

How long have you been blogging about Disney?
I started my blog in mid-November 2011, so it’s only been about 2 months. Before I started, I realized that there are a lot of people who know about Walt Disney World and a lot of people who know about Disneyland, but maybe not so many people who visit both almost equally. I thought I could possibly provide a unique viewpoint on visiting the parks, although I’m still working on the best way to share my thoughts and ideas.

Do you take your own pictures, and if so – any tips for getting good shots?
I do take my own pictures, but I am really still learning how best to use my camera. At this point, I just take as many pictures as I can, trying out different settings and different angles, to find out what works and what doesn’t. I would love to get amazing shots like the ones I see from Tom Bricker over at the Disney Tourist Blog, but I’ve got a long way to go. I’m taking a photography workshop with my sister in a few weeks, so maybe I’ll have some good tips to share soon!

Where do you find inspiration for blog topics to feature?
So far, my inspiration has been coming from pretty much everywhere. I have a list of ideas that I started awhile back, so I’ve been using some of those, but it also could be something that happens with one of the kids, a comment somebody makes on a blog or something that I’ve found during my never-ending research for our next trip.

What is your motivation to keep blogging – or any final advice to share?
The biggest motivation for me is just to have an outlet for my Disney craziness, otherwise, we’d be spending a LOT of money going on trips or buying Disney collectibles every month. ? I don’t think I know anything more or different than many of the other Disney bloggers, but I know that when I’m planning a Disney trip I like to read as much as I can and hear different perspectives, even if it’s basically the same information. Getting validation about my plans from multiple different sources is always comforting, so I’m hoping that I can provide my perspective to help others as well.

Not having been on a Disney Cruise, I am always wanting to hear the juicy details.  Knowing Holly has been on a few ... I wanted to pick her brain a little on this topic!

Our brave Holly, ziplining during a Disney Cruise Excursion in the Mexican Riviera

What things do you enjoy most about going on a Disney Cruise?
There’s a couple things. First, I love the “all-inclusive” nature of Disney cruises – the good food, great entertainment, fun family activities and a really great kid’s club - all included in the price of the cruise. Yes, there are things that cost extra, and yes, we do tend to indulge in those “extras”, but overall, the included value that you get is quite good.

Also, I am not what you would call the most “adventurous” traveler although I really like the idea of traveling to faraway places. I had actually only been out of the country once before I went on a Disney cruise. But, traveling with Disney, I get to see places that I probably wouldn’t normally go and I feel safe doing it. Last year on our Mexican Riviera cruise, I agreed to go ziplining, which I would NEVER have thought I’d do in a million years. But, since it was a port adventure booked through Disney, I felt like I’d be fine because Disney wouldn’t send their guests on an excursion that was dangerous, right? Right! I ended up having the time of my life even though I was scared to death standing high up in the treetops looking down at the ground far, far below. Disney cruises have let me expand my horizons a bit while still keeping me in my “safe” bubble.

And honestly, there’s just nothing like standing on deck, watching the sunset over the water with nothing else around you. It’s just something I think everyone should experience, at least once.

What has been your favorite cruise length and destination so far?
We’ve only done one 4-day and the rest have been 7-days, so for us we like the longer cruises. 3- and 4-day cruises aren’t quite enough for us because we like to have time to explore and get to know the ship a bit. 7-day cruises mean more sea days, which gives us that time to explore. I would LOVE to do one of the long 14-day cruises, but haven’t had that opportunity yet.

We’ve been to the Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean, Mexican Riviera and then in June we’re heading to Alaska. Each destination has provided us with great experiences, but I’d have to say that our favorite so far has been the Eastern Caribbean. Sea days were warm, the ports were great and it included a visit to my favorite place in the world, Castaway Cay.

I know for two cruises you took the kids, and for two you and your husband went alone - any advice for the differences, and making that decision?
We are very fortunate to have our parents close by and willing to watch our kids, so adults-only vacations are pretty commonplace for us. We love cruising, so going by ourselves wasn’t too hard a decision for us, although my son HAS vowed that he’ll never let us go without him again ? There are definitely differences – like we were able to stay out late for some of the adults-only entertainment without worrying about getting a page from the kids club and we did some excursions the kids are too young to go on – but overall, I think our experiences were kind of the same. We still went to all the shows and I even stood in line for the characters along with all the kids. No one ever said anything and I didn’t expect them too – it is Disney after all, they understand that adults love Mickey too ?

If you’re thinking about a Disney cruise but aren’t sure about doing adults-only, I’d say, go for it, you WILL have a great time. There are tons of adult-only activities and adults have their own adults-only pool, so it’s actually pretty easy to stay away from the younger cruisers if you’d like to. There are a few things I recommend doing to help maximize your “adults-only” time:

  • Book a date that is not during school holidays or the summertime - We booked our cruise for the 2nd week of April, which ended up being spring break for some kids, but it was not a typical school holiday so there definitely weren’t as many kids on-board. Our honeymoon trip in September was also a great time to go. Oh, and prices are usually cheaper during these “off-seasons” ? 
  • Request late dining when you book – This can be hit-and-miss, but typically late dining is going to have fewer kids in it than the earlier dining rotation.
  • Stay away from the atrium during character meet-and-greets – Let’s just say, if you don’t care to stand in line for pictures with the characters, stay away. It can get…busy. 
  • Take advantage of the spa – it’s a kid-free zone and SOOO relaxing. 
  • Book a meal at Palo (and/or Remy if you’re on the Dream/Fantasy) – another kid-free zone and well worth the up-charge to eat there. 
  • If any of the entertainment acts are performing in both the main theater AND the nightclub later in the evening, go to the adult-only performance – Our experience was that the adult-only performance, while sometimes similar, was more entertaining than the one in the main theater. So, if you’d rather avoid the crowds in the main theater, wait until the late night show, which is always less crowded (although in a smaller venue) and will never have kids attending.
From the Disney Cruise Ship Magic, at sunset

And now for the Big Question:  Land Disney Parks vacation or Disney Cruise ... which is your preference?
A very tough question for me, because I love them both even though they are different. I think, at this point, a Disney Cruise vacation has a very slight advantage, mostly because it’s a bit more relaxing for me on a cruise than it is visiting a park. But, I don’t think I’d ever be able to give up one for the other ?

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Thanks so much for sharing with us, Holly!  For more great Disney articles, pictures, and ideas for your next trip .... check out her site, "Disney Fan In Colorado"!

Next week's guru:  A Disney Mom's Thoughts

Like the series?  Read more on these other Disney guru posts:

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