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Pre-Trip Report: Disney Cruise Line and Universal Studios Orlando


The Disney Dream

For the last several years, our family vacations have centered around trips to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  The destination is a natural fit for our family given that we have two young children.  But after last year’s Disney World trip, which I enjoyed and consider successful, I was ready to shake things up a little.

We didn’t stray too far from our Disney loyalties.  Since we still have young kids, we wanted a vacation that would appeal to them.  Mindy wanted a break from the hustle and bustle of the theme park experience.  Specifically, she wanted to spend some time on a beach.  But she was worried the kids would be bored on a beach vacation.  So a Disney cruise seemed like a natural compromise.  It includes the Disney characters our kids enjoy with surf and sand.

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Disney’s $2 Billion Dollar Boondoggle


Magic Band

Previously, I examined the capacity issues at Walt Disney World Resort.  Despite increased attendance and ever-increasing prices, Disney has been reluctant to invest heavily in new attractions.  The end result is that the parks – the Magic Kingdom in particular – are more crowded (and expensive) than ever.  The value of a day at Disney World is less than it once was.

As we saw in the previous article, Disney has been reinvesting less money into its domestic parks than it used to.  But what is even more frustrating is the way in which Disney has chosen to reinvest in the parks.  At Disney World, that has meant spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion dollars on the “Next Gen” project while making only modest investments in attractions.

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The Disney Dream in 2015


The Disney Dream

The other day, Daffy shared his vacation plans for 2015.  He’s decided to take a break from Disney World and travel back to the original Disney park, Disneyland in Anaheim, California.  Like Daffy, I was thinking it was time to mix things up a little.  Disney World is in a state of heavy construction and likely will be throughout the coming year.  I figure it is best to give the parks a rest until the construction is done.  In a few years, there will be new attractions to experience and the old favorites will feel fresher.  Plus the kids will be older and more adventurous.  So in the meanwhile, we were looking for something else to do.  Preferably something new.

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Lebeau’s Le Show: Episode 009 – He’s Chevy Chase and We’re Not


Episode 009

We’re dedicating an entire show to the first breakout star of Saturday Night Live, Chevy Chase.  Why?  I really don’t know.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  We cover all three of Chase’s good movies and at least a third of his terrible ones.  This episode has it all; cute dogs, little people and Princess Leia in her underwear.  Daffy and I discuss why Billy Murray and Chevy Chase aren’t friends and why Chase probably won’t be appearing in any Marvel movies any time soon.  Find out why Chase isn’t in Animal House and why Daffy believes the movie is over-rated anyway.  We also name at least a handful of the many, many people Chase has offended over the years.  It’s a podcast and a dessert topping!

The show is embedded after the jump.  Hope you like it.

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Tips and Strategies For Using FastPass+ at Disney World


FastPass + entrance

For the last few years, Disney has been rolling out its latest ride reservation system called FastPass+.  The system is similar to the previous FastPass system with a few key differences.  Although Disney continues to tweak the system, what we have now is likely to be pretty close to the final version of the product.  In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know to use the new system and use it efficiently.

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Lebeau Family 2014 Disney World Trip Report


WDW - Cinderella Castle

In 2012, I took the family to Walt Disney World for what I had expected to be our last Disney World trip for quite a few years.  But a mere eighteen months later, we were back.  A big part of the reason for our return was the completion of Disney’s long-in-the-works Fantasyland Expansion.  With the opening of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride, Disney has completed a project that was announced over five years ago!  I have been reporting on the Fantasyland Expansion for the last several years and could not resist the chance to see the finished project for myself.

This trip wasn’t just a family vacation.  It was also a research trip.  I wanted to tackle as many new experiences as possible so that I could report on them here at Le Blog.  Since the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was opening in late May, that provided an opportunity to attend my first Star Wars weekend.  We checked out every nook and cranny of the new Fantasyland, met with new characters and tried out new restaurants.  Although we have stayed at Port Orleans before, I booked our stay in the new Royal Guest bedrooms.

Visiting in the early summer was also a new experience.  How would we handle the crowds, the heat and the thunderstorms?  As expected, the summer months presented some new challenges.  But touring in the summer time proved to be less challenging than expected.  Additionally, Disney is in the process of rolling out their My Magic Plus program which changes many elements of a Disney World vacation.

With so many new experiences to report on, I thought it was worth returning to Disney World earlier than I had originally planned.

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Disney World Dining Tips


disney dining

 

There is no escaping it.  When you go to Walt Disney World, you have got to eat.  The good news is that Disney provides a wide variety of dining options from snacks that eat like a meal to fancy five-star restaurants and everything in between.  There is literally something for everyone.  The downside is that all of these choices can prove overwhelming.  Not to mention the fact that Disney charges a premium whenever you spend money on their property.

If you are a Disney novice, it is especially hard to wrap your mind around Disney dining.  But I have found that even among Disney experts, there are a lot of misconceptions.  Do I need to make reservations 6 months in advance?  Where do I *need* to eat?  Is the meal plan worth the money?  What about character dining?  The purpose of this article is to address all of these questions and more.

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Disney World Trip 2014 Pre-Trip Report


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We are less than a month from our next family trip to Walt Disney World.  At this point, the plans are mostly finalized.  As I write this, Disney has just opened up FastPass+ availability for their latest attraction, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  I was able to make a couple of FP+ reservations for the ride early this morning before the demand for FPs crashed Disney’s system.  So with those FPs taken care of, there isn’t much left to do but wait.

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Our 2014 Disney World Character Hitlist


40987620033

This summer, I’ll be taking the family back to Disney World.  Our last trip in 2012 was filled with character meet and greets.  I expect that will be the case again this year.  Here are the top ten characters (or groups of characters) I’m looking forward to seeing this year.

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Disney Raises Prices Again


cinderella-castle-disney-world

Over the weekend, Disney World raised its ticket prices.  This has become an annual tradition at the Walt Disney World Resort regardless of the state of the economy or whether or not the parks have added any new attractions.  The cost of a single day admission has gone up by $4.  That means that a single day admission to the Magic Kingdom will now run you $99.  Every other park is a comparative bargain at $94.

I understand supply and demand.  I get that Disney is a business.  But take a look at the chart below.  ParentsOf4, a poster at WDWMagic compared the cost of a 1-Day Disney World ticket with inflation.  The price of WDW admission has far outpaced inflation for the last several years.

Disney World Ticket Prices

During this time, Disney has been cutting costs any way they can.  Park hours have been reduced.  Entertainment cut.  They have even gotten stingy with the A/C – in Florida!   Restaurants that used to be open year round are now only open during peak seasons in spite of the facts that the parks are busier than they have ever been.

Which is of course the problem.  In spite of the lack of recent additions while prices have steadily increased, attendance continues to increase as well.  Disney is looking for the breaking point where guests will stop coming.  They haven’t found it yet.  Until they do, you can expect more of the same.

Rumor has it that this latest round of price increases is directly related to Disney World’s new My Magic Plus program.  The initiative was sold to stockholders as a way to increase guest spending.  It cost a reported $2 billion dollars.  To date, it hasn’t moved the needle on guest spending.  In order to meet their forecasts, ticket prices had to be raised.  In theory, this same rationale may lead to a second price hike later this year.

What the Hell Happened to Chevy Chase?


Chevy Chase 2013

Chevy Chase

In the late seventies and early eighties, Chevy Chase was the height of cool.  He was the original break-out star of Saturday Night Live which was the hip show to watch and not an institution like it is today.  When he went into movies, Chase was hailed as the next Cary Grant.  But despite appearing in a few durable comedies, Chase has failed to live up to the promise he showed early in his career.  These days, he is known for his tirades more than his comedy.

What the hell happened?

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Over-Rated Disney World


Disney World is a big place with lots to see and do.  There is bound to be something to appeal to everyone.  And everything appeals to someone… although some times it’s hard to imagine who.   Passionate Disney World fans have formed strong opinions about what constitutes a “must do” Disney experience.  Not surprisingly, some experiences have become over-rated while others remain over-looked.

What follows is my list of over-rated Disney World experiences.  I will follow-up with a list of experiences I consider hidden gems.

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