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Car-free and Staying Sane at Saratoga Springs Resort

6 Sep

Saratoga Springs Bus StopAs many had predicted, I was not happy about being car-free at Saratoga Springs Resort. If I stay there again someday, I’ll probably rent a car. But sometimes that’s not an option. Maybe your budget won’t support it, maybe your desire to reduce carbon footprint is strong, maybe you have physical constraints that preclude driving. Or hey, maybe you like to have a little adult beverage poolside in the afternoon, and know better than to get behind the wheel afterward.

If for any reason you end up at Saratoga Springs Resort without a car, here are my tips for a relatively sane experience:

  • Request a room in the Grandstand section, or walk to the Grandstand bus station, especially if you are traveling to the parks right around opening time. SSR has five bus stops, and Grandstand is the first to be picked up on the way to the parks, and the first to be dropped off on return. Sure, you’ll have to do a 10-minute tour of the entire SSR resort on your way to the parks, but you won’t sit at the bus stop watching the buses roll by, full to capacity and unable to take on any more passengers.
  • Consider taking a cab if you’re in a rush, or if you’re traveling anywhere other than to/from the theme parks. We lunched one day at the Kona Cafe in the Polynesian Resort, and instead of taking the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom to wait for a bus, we hopped in a cab. We were back at Saratoga Springs in 10 minutes; Disney transportation might have taken as long as an hour. It was well worth the $23 bucks (including tip).
  • Bring a book, iPod, or other portable personal entertainment device. I’d usually argue against these things, as I prefer to just soak up the Disney atmosphere. But there’s only so much atmosphere sitting around on a bench at the bus stop. Without a book, you may resort to more embarrassing pursuits, such as obsessively photographing your well-dressed Pal Mickey everywhere you sit around waiting. Ahem.
  • Do not take the bus to Downtown Disney – I heard plenty of complaints about it. There’s a boat from near Artists’ Palette that seems to run pretty well on schedule, and Pleasure Island sure looks pretty from the water. Or, walking to Downtown Disney is not too bad from the Congress Park area.
  • Keep your sense of humor. We all know what real problems look like, right? They tend to involve terms like “neurosurgeon,” “foreclosure,” “inoperable,” or “viral load.” Sure, it’s frustrating to be so close to Magic Kingdom EMH rope drop, and miss it because the buses aren’t running right. But hey, if you’re at Disney World and everybody’s safe and sound, how bad can things really be? If you get frustrated and lose your cool (like I did, at least once), try to shake it off . . . I’m sure Pal Mickey’s ready to offer a quick quiz, or maybe you’ll even make a new friend while waiting for the bus.

Pirates of the Caribbean meets the Muppets

13 Jun

Kudos to Leprechaun Productions!

Spoiler! Post-credits Scene from POTC:AWE

28 May

Did you leave the theater before the credits were over, at Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End? Quick, go here and watch the scene that played at the very end, when a bunch of us were already in the lobby.

In case the video disappears (quite likely, given copyright issues), here’s a summary from Wikipedia:

In a post-credits scene set ten years later, Will reunites with Elizabeth and their son. As the Dutchman appears, it is accompanied by a green flash.

Opening Night of Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds’ End

25 May

Do I deserve a rap on the knuckles with a wooden ruler? Or the Parent of the Year Award? I dunno which, but I can tell you it was worth it to keep my ten-year-old son up waaaaay past his bedtime for last night’s 8:00 p.m. showing of Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds’ End.

AWE first show in BostonHad we not seen the first show, we might not have seen so many pirates decked out in their finest regalia! Curse my poor camera phone . . . lots of pirates kindly let me take their pictures, but only one picture came out even vaguely viewable. Thank you, anonymous young pirates! We certainly couldn’t have hoped for a better audience to watch the film with.

[MAJOR spoilers from this point on, proceed at your own risk.] I’d been keeping my expectations low, as I was disappointed in Dead Man’s Chest. And I was pleasantly surprised. The movie doesn’t quite rise to the level of Curse of the Black Pearl, but it takes full advantage of the depth of key characters, and take them to the next level. In many ways this is Keira Knightley’s movie, as she not only ascends to Pirate King, but also marries her longtime sweetheart in the funniest, most romantic sequence in the film. And of course Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow is always brilliant. But this time Orlando Bloom finally becomes the gritty, ruthless pirate Elizabeth has longed for, and Geoffrey Rush plays a surprisingly key role as the pivot for many of the complicated relationships in the film. Sadly, Chow Yun Fat dies far too soon. But Keith Richards’ brief cameo is spot-on, and exactly the right dose.

There’s a very nice little nod to the POTC ride, just as you’re entering Worlds’ End. I’m sure there were plenty more ride references in there, but not as readily apparent as those in the earlier films. Anybody spot any Hidden Mickeys?

I was surprised and delighted by the open (some might say heavy-handed) political commentary in the film. The chilling opening sequence reads like a membership solicitation from the American Civil Liberties Union. And when the pirates begin to sing their song of unity and protest, I could almost imagine them breaking into The Internationale. Really quite heartwarming for a leftie like myself.

And of course, the movie resolves the major themes of the POTC trilogy, while setting the stage quite effectively for POTC 4 (Jim Hill mentioned on this week’s Magical Definition Podcast that this is slated for release in 2010 or 2011, pending Johnny Depp’s availability, and if you’re a POTC fan you really wanna listen to that podcast for Hill’s indepth comments on POTC).

But I’ll confess, I’m not too eager yet for the next POTC. The franchise has declined a bit in coherence of narrative structure, and I’d like to see the producers have a little breathing room before conceptualizing Jack’s next adventure. And even with the excellent special effects in POTC: AWE, who knows what technical advances might mean for the next time around? Let’s give these characters a rest, and come back to them fresh a good while down the road.

Pirates III Promo Pictures Online

12 Jan

As previously reported in The Disney Blog, Ain’t It Cool News has promo pictures for Pirates of the Caribbean III. Oooh, prettty!

Avast, Me Hearties! Did Ye Miss “Talk Like A Pirate Day?”

20 Sep

Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swan fans take note! Did you miss yesterday’s celebration of Talk Like A Pirate Day? It’s not too early to start planning for next year!

Or, if you did observe this international holiday, here’s where you can share your stories. Check out the podcast links on that page; I know what I’ll be listening to on my commute!

Yours truly celebrated the day by wearing my Pirate Gurl patch, purchased at the August 2006 “Bat Day at the Fun Park‘s Black Market” (aka, part of Goth Days at Disneyland). Though I’ll admit I didn’t remember about the holiday until a colleague pointed out the appropriateness of my wardrobe choice.

If I can’t have an International AP, can I at least have a picture with Jack Sparrow?

28 Aug

Various random thoughts, having recently returned from Disneyland Resort in Anaheim . . .

Building on the success of the Pirates of the Carribean movie franchise, Disney theme parks are now featuring a Captain Jack Sparrow face character wandering around for autographs, photo ops, etc. This is particularly amusing because as far as I’ve observed, children are not all that interested in meeting him. Instead, he is followed by a flock of besotted middle-age women, all anxious for a moment of his time, and perchance a photo with the man. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that when I got my chance for a picture, there was a slight problem with the camera. That was the day I will always remember as the day I almost caught a picture of myself with Captain. Jack. Sparrow!)

This makes me wonder . . . when will Disney parks send out a face character capable of inspiring the same reaction from middle-aged men? Or would that feel inherently too creepy? My husband suggests that Jasmin would have this sort of appeal, but methinks the Princess merchandising surrounding her character would make most decent guys feel pretty wrong about that. So, why isn’t Elizabeth Swan wandering around New Orleans’ Square?

I would like a word or two with whomever’s responsible for coordinating the ticket pricing strategies for Disney parks worldwide. Us east-coast Disney fans have spent a tremendous amount of time and energy learning about the relatively-new Magic Your Way ticket pricing strategy, and watching the prices soar like Dumbo. Disneyland has a whole different ticket pricing strategy, which is somewhat more in synch with the pricing systems for the Tokyo and Paris Disneyland parks (though the latter has been tweaked to fit better with the all-inclusive style of European vacations). Could we have a little more consistency among the parks, please? Surely this sort of confusion wasn’t part of Walt’s dream.

And while I’m talking with the ticket pricing strategy guru, could we also talk a bit about the lack of any sort of coordinated effort for those of us who love all the Disney parks, worldwide? Last year, my son and I visitied both Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World, perhaps a tad unusual but certainly not unheard of. In many other years we’ve hit the Disney parks on both US east and west coasts, which is almost par for the course for some percentage of truly hardcore fans. Why not institute an International Annual Pass (AP)? Or at the very least, how bout a frequent visitor club, where some special trinket or benefit is awarded after having visited all the parks worldwide? Sure, it wouldn’t have direct impact on Disney’s bottom line; nobody’s going to visit five international parks just to get a pin. But it would be just the sort of special, guest-oriented, “magical” touch on which the Disney brand is built.

I’ve also written up a few tips about Disneyland, which are published on my husband’s blog, Collateral Damage.

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