Friday Five: Random References & Reflections

1. As I mentioned in my Administrative Note that I posted last week, I had some connectivity problems during my recent Walt Disney World trip. Just before the trip, I decided to pick up a Clear 4G Mobile hotspot. Clear uses WiMax technology to provide wireless broadband Internet access. Orlando and Kansas City were both early release markets for Clear, and (at least according to the coverage map I linked to) offered solid coverage in both cities. Alas, Clear turned out to be much better in theory than in practice. I initially tested my Clear hotspot on my lunch break at work. From my office in downtown Kansas City, Clear worked great. It was fast and easy to connect multiple devices to it (which was its big advantage over Disney’s in-room Internet service). Unfortunately, my office was the only place I ever got the Clear hotspot to connect to a 4G signal. It couldn’t find a signal at my house in suburban Overland Park, KS; couldn’t find a signal at the Royal Plaza Hotel at Downtown Disney; and couldn’t find a signal at the All-Star Music resort. The Clear hotspot turned out to be totally useless – it’s being returned today. The return process was a bit more of a hassle than it should have been too. I had to talk to two different CSRs, spent a total of about 10 minutes on hold with them, and had to wait almost two full days for the return shipping label to show up in my Email box.

I did finally get a usable Internet connection while at WDW by changing my iPhone’s AT&T data plan to allow for tethering of my iPhone. I was actually pretty surprised at the speed of the 3G connection I was able to establish in my hotel room at ASMu. I used it to upload my photos each night (I’m paranoid about getting pics backed up in multiple locations as soon as possible), and it worked flawlessly.

2. Also, I know I promised a review of our experience with Kingdom Strollers after the trip. As you may recall, a few months back I won a contest on the Disney Go To Girl site for a free one-week rental from Kingdom Strollers. So, full disclosure here – I did receive my stroller rental for free, but the free rental was not in exchange for this review. Rather, I won a contest, and am reviewing my experience with the rental. We rented a similar stroller last year from Orlando Stroller Rentals. Our experiences with both stroller rental companies were very pleasant and positive. In both cases, our stroller was waiting for us at our resort, to be picked up at the front desk. Kingdom Stroller offered a more personal experience – I received friendly Emails from the owner, discussing the arrangements for the stroller. While I’m sure my situation was a bit different, as a contest winner, the tone of the messages suggests that this was the usual attitude of the Kingdom Stroller folks, which was friendly and warm. We did have a minor issue with a strap that began to unravel a bit on the stroller from Kingdom Strollers, but it never really presented a problem, so we didn’t complain about it. Despite that we paid nothing and never complained, I received a nice Email from Kingdom Strollers the day after we returned the stroller, expressing their embarrassment at the unraveling strap and apologizing for it – a step well-beyond what was necessary under the circumstances.

As far as a direct comparison between the two services, as of October 1, 2011, their offerings are virtually identical. At the time of our rental, Kingdom Stroller had the edge, by virtue of their providing the parent console on each stroller – the storage basket located at the handles of the stroller. But as of October 1, Orlando Stroller will also provide a free parent console. Pricing for the two services is now identical as well. Kingdom’s optional stroller insurance is slightly more expensive than is OSRs (by $10 for the length of the rental); but Kingdom offers rain covers (as available) for free, while OSR adds a $10 fee for the length of the reservation. I wouldn’t hesitate to make a reservation with either service for our next trip – though this was very likely our last stroller trip. Squeaker should be ready to walk the parks by the time we return.

3. Thanks to this week’s participating Dis Dads: Mark Pratt for staying on top of the podcast panels and Paul Hajjar for his continuing work on Top 5 Tuesday.

4. A shoutout to Plancast. After seeing and hearing multiple references to Plancast among the Disney twitterati and on Disney podcasts, I went ahead and set up an account in anticipation of last week’s trip. Just before we left, I discovered via Plancast that StudiosCentral.com was planning a meet at the ABC Commissary in Hollywood Studios during my trip. I was actually planning on being in the Magic Kingdom that day, and at DHS the next day, but the crowd level estimates were such that swapping the two days was a wash. So with the approval of my ever-patient wife, I swapped the days and returned to DHS earlier than I normally would, while my wife and kids were still napping. I had a great time meeting some of the Orlando Disney-fan crew – Todd & Cheryl Perlmutter, Shelley Caran, Tom Chiodo, Scarlett Ashley, Matt & Marisa Hochberg, Megan Annunziata, and others I’m sure I’m leaving out. When my wife and kids showed up, they were welcomed as well, and the kids got to meet and play for a bit with the Orlando folks’ kids. They really know how to make an out-of-town visitor and Disney community newbie feel welcome.

5. I’ve decided to write up a trip report on this trip, and I’ll be writing it in installments here, rather than on the Disboards. So watch this space for a full report. I find that writing about a trip and going over pictures to decide which ones to post is a nice way to help chase away the post-vacation blues. 🙂

Top 5 Tuesday: Disney Urban Legends

We’re taking a look at the Top 5 Disney Urban Legends today. There are quite a few out there, so the list below may be debated, but here we go;

5: The Plane from The Great Movie Ride is the same one from the film Casablanca

I really wish this were true, but unfortunately it’s not. Turns out the plane used in the movie was actually a prop, and the one in DHS is an actual working plane purchased (and then cut in half) for the ride. Some people say that Disney Cast members claim the plane is the same as the one used in the movie, can anyone confirm?

4: Finland banned Donald Duck because he wears no pants

While fun to think about, this one is a case of the press running wild, regardless of the facts. Turns out a town in Finland decided to discontinue the purchase of Donald Duck comics with city funds, for economic reasons. The press ignored the reasons though and blamed it on Donald’s lack of clothing below the belt; Holding true to the old adage “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”.

3: No one is ever declared dead on Disney property

This one stretched the bounds of believability. If Disney had the power/authority to suspend the declaration of death until a body was moved off their property, I think we’d all be a little more hesitant to visit so often, given what else they could presumably do with said authority.

2: Walt Disney’s face is one of the Singing Ghosts in the Haunted Mansion

This one is my favorite, as I think I believed it for a little while. When you’re riding HM and you get to the busts that sing Grim Grinning Ghosts, one of them looks just like Walt. It would have been pretty cool if they snuck him into an attraction this way, but the look-alike is actually Thurl Ravenscroft, one of the singers of the song.

1: Walt Disney was cryogenically frozen after his death

Probably the most famous of all Disney urban legends, this one gets it legs from the fact that Walt believed so much in technology and the promise of the future, it’s plausible that he would believe in the possibility of being frozen until a time when he could be cured of his ailments. Unfortunately he also believed in chain-smoking like a chimney, which led to his quicker-than-expected demise from lung cancer.  His habit of keeping his personal life extremely private helped this legend grow, as his burial was quiet and closed to the public.

 

Agree with the list? Disagree? Think we’re off our rocker? Comment below!

Special thanks to Snopes.com for confirming that these were all in fact, legends.

Administrative Note

Sorry for the lack of a Wordless Wednesday post, and my apologies in advance for a truncated Friday Five, if any. I am currently in Walt Disney World with my family, and have had some rather annoying Internet connectivity issues. I did get some fun pics at Fantasmic! last night, I just lack the means to post them right now. I plan on discussing the connectivity issue in more detail in my Friday Five post here in a couple of days.

Top 5 Tuesday: Rope Drops

This week we take a look at rope-drops at WDW. A must do for some, and totally disregarded by others, these shows add a bit to your normal park openings. Take a read through and let us know your thoughts in the comments below. 

5: Blizzard Beach/Typhoon Lagoon

Ok, so these both technically have a rope-drop, but to my knowledge it’s literally just that, a rope being dropped. No show. Needed to have a #5 on here though, so they made the cut…

4: Hollywood Studios

Never been a big fan of this one myself. Might be the lack of authentic Disney characters, or the confusing way they set up the “scene”. Most likely it’s the fact that everyone is ignoring the show and trying to get the inside lane for the dash to TSMM though.

3: Epcot

This one’s just recently been changed (see Friday Five below), but it’s getting its rank based on the show that was here up until recently. A pretty neat show that usually had a family of the day, and the cars from Test Track was a good way to open Epcot. They have the big 4 characters out there as well, which is fun for the kids though, so this one sits at the middle of the list.

2: Animal Kingdom

My family always really enjoys this one. It’s a bit longer than the others, but a good show with the major characters coming out on a safari truck and getting the crowd excited. Being up on the truck also allows for a good view for everyone, and you don’t get the same angling for position that you see at DHS. It’s never been too crowded when we’ve gone to this one, either. Definitely worth getting to on your AK day.

1: Magic Kingdom

No surprise here, MK gets the #1 spot. The whole ceremony and countdown to opening are fun for everyone. The show being up on the train track gives a great view as well. Being welcomed by “The Mayor of Main Street” really gets the crowd excited. If you haven’t seen this rope-drop show, you really should. Being one of the first to walk down Main Street after they let you in is worth the time and effort in and of itself, imo.

Walt Disney World Parks After Dark: Episode 15

Host: Aaron Rittmaster (AJRitz)
Panel: Mark Pratt (prattpak), Jason Gilbert (jason4024), James Mathieson (DSNYFRK), Mark Harbeson (Captain_Oblivious)

In Episode 15, the panel discusses the Walt Disney World theme parks after dark. We each list our top 5 night time rides at Walt Disney World and rate and discuss the nighttime spectacular shows of WDW. James Mathieson takes the hotseat for 10 Questions. The panel shares strategies for making the most of Evening Extra Magic Hours. Finally, Mark Pratt previews his family’s upcoming land & sea vacation on the Disney Dream and at Walt Disney World..