This has been an incredibly hot week in Orlando, but we ventured out for short periods of time to bring our readers the latest news around Walt Disney World! Our big Magic Kingdom update was put up last Friday, and we also stopped by Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort as it's Paddock feature pool gets ready for opening.
Disney's Art of Animation Resort started taking reservations last week, and we swung by to get photos of the progress.
Main Street Confectionery
Disney's Art of Animation Resort
Walt Disney World has announced the narrators for Epcot's 2011 Candlelight Processional (several narrators are still TBD). One of my favorite holiday traditions is to take in at least one of the shows each year, and I’ve enjoyed seeing a variety of narrators since first attending the event about 15 years ago. The Candlelight Processional tells the story of Christmas, with a guest celebrity reading passages from the Bible. The cast and guest choirs, along with the orchestra, always ensure a tremendously moving show.
John O'Hurley Narrating the Candlelight Processional
One of the most frequent "holiday at Disney" questions I’ve been asked over the years is whether guests should buy a dining package for Disney's Candlelight Processional. If you went back 10 years, I'd have said unequivocally "yes". The dinner package was a terrific value, and other perks such as an Epcot shopping discount on the package night added to the deal. Dining packages weren't as popular back then, so a package ensured not only a seat – but a great seat. Now it's necessary to queue up at least an hour early if you'd like to sit in the first few rows.
Until last year, I almost always bought a Candlelight Processional dinner package – though occasionally I'd snag a last-minute seat while walking around World Showcase before the beginning of a performance. Last December, we canceled our dinner package due to weather and we weren't able to reschedule it for the same narrator. So we made our own package – enjoying a lively lunch in Germany with our Tables in Wonderland discount, and getting in the standby line. We saved over $10.00 per person, and had no problem securing a seat for the show. In fact, we enjoyed 4 performances throughout December, including two during the Christmas to New Years time period – all without a package and all with good views of the stage. And this year, we will likely do the same. Prices have not been announced for this years dinner packages, but last year they started at $32.95 per person (depending on tier of restaurant). Of course, the question is whether I'd recommend the Candlelight Dinner Package to others. There are several factors to consider:
Is the Candlelight Processional a must-do during your trip? If yes, I would definitely say to buy the dinner package, and I'd recommend purchasing it when reservations open up in July to ensure the widest range of dining choices.
Who is the narrator? Last year, we watched Whoopi Goldberg from a distance during the final 10 minutes of one of her Candlelight performances. The standby line for her narration was much longer than other performers I've seen in recent years, and there was no guarantee that everyone in the line was getting into a show. I'd venture to guess that the two most popular narrators from the current list will be Whoopi Goldberg and Neil Patrick Harris.
Do you want a seat near the front? If the answer is yes, you'll want to buy the package. And if it's a special occasion, I'd spring for the package. There is one perk that was added previously and will return this year, and that is a special viewing area for Illuminations for those on the Candlelight Dinner Package.
We were pleasantly surprised last year as we walked in easily to the Candlelight Processional to see Marlee Matlin with her fantastic interpreter Jack Jason in late December. There is no doubt that the ease of seating had to do with the Seasonal Passholder blockout, and Matlin is now one of my top 3 narrators (Gary Sinise, Steven Curtis Chapman, Marlee Matlin). We saw her twice, and plan to be back to see her again this year. She gives a powerful reading, with Jack Jason as her voice. Just a recommendation if you are there between December 28th and 30th!
The Candlelight Processional will take place 3 times nightly, at 5:00pm, 6:45pm and 8:15pm in the American Gardens Theater between November 25th and December 30th, 2011. The current list of narrators:
• Mira Sorvino Nov. 25-27
• Michael W. Smith Nov. 28-Dec. 1
• Whoopi Goldberg Dec. 2-3
• TBD Nov. 4-6
• Isabella Rossellini Dec. 7-9
• Neil Patrick Harris Dec. 10-12
• TBD Dec. 13-15
• TBD Dec. 16-18
• Trace Adkins Dec. 19-21
• Susan Lucci Dec. 22-24
• Blair Underwood Dec. 25-27
• Marlee Matlin Dec. 28-30
What are your thoughts on the dinner packages? Comment below!
Two questions I was asked this week:
Q: Was there really a slide at DisneyQuest?
Yes – during the first year, there was a slide that went from the 3rd to 1st floor. It was one of my favorite parts of DisneyQuest at that time, along with the Cheesecake Factory Express (which vacated the building a few years back). When DisneyQuest first opened, adults and children were encouraged to use the slide. At some point, adults, were not allowed on it. And eventually – perhaps even within that first year – the slide was completely blocked off. It was a lot of fun while it lasted!
Q: Has the new interactive queue caused longer wait times at the Haunted Mansion?
If you take the "fun" way, as Disney likes to put it, the wait time will be longer than if you didn't. But overall, the wait time should be similar to before. The lines have been fairly long for the Haunted Mansion this spring, but it was only a 10 minute wait last Saturday afternoon (in part due to the Seasonal Passholder Blockout as well as the high temperatures). We have photos and video of the new interactive queue, as well as video of the new mirror effect during the ride!
Haunted Mansion Queue
We were treated to our own light show at home the other day, in the form of a beautiful lightning storm in the distance (for nearly an hour!)
JeffLangeDVD – the best in theme park fan DVD's
Garden Grocer – groceries delivered to your resort
Touring Plans – helping you plan and make the most of your Disney vacation
Have a wonderful weekend!