When you think of Epcot, you may recall fragrant florals from the “Flower & Garden Festival.” Or, perhaps, delectable dishes from the “Food & Wine Festival.” (I, too, love to ‘eat my way around the world.’) Most of all, I enjoy Epcot as a gathering place to meet friendly cast members from various countries. My last visit to Epcot’s Italy Pavilion did not disappoint.
Venice, Italy vs. Italy at Epcot
Through the years, I have come to love the “real” Italy, especially Venice. Epcot’s Italy Pavilion transports me back to Venice every time. Strolling through, I see architectural reminders of Saint Mark’s Square: the delicately intricate façade of the Doge’s Palace, and the Campanile (bell tower).
The entrance is guarded by two columns, topped with Venezia’s patron saints: Saint Mark’s Lion and Saint Theodore standing above a crocodile. (Though Epcot’s version is actually reversed)
Italy Pavilion at Epcot
Saint Marks Square in Venezia
Admittedly, Disney puts a spin on their presentation of each country. (Germany’s Bavarian region is famous for their large, scrumptious pretzels. But they certainly are not Mickey-shaped, nor come with cheese dipping sauce.)
Good advice is worth its weight in gold, especially when you’re traveling. Getting first-hand advice can save you time, ensure you don’t miss an essential moment, and help you make good decisions on how to spend your hard-earned vacation dollars. This is especially true for specialty locations like Disneyland Paris.
Disneyland Paris is celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2017 (the park opened as Euro Disney on April 12, 1992), making this the perfect year to enjoy the festivities. The anniversary theme – “It’s Time to Sparkle!” – introduces new spectaculars to make your visit even more memorable. You’ll want to be prepared, so you won’t miss a second of the magic.
Here are my top 9 things you definitely won’t want to miss – gained from experience as a DLP annual passholder. Some are unique and found only at Disneyland Paris Resort. Some are delightful variations of classic Disney attractions. All are outstanding.
There are two parks at the Disneyland Paris Resort: Disneyland Park, and the Walt Disney Studios (now celebrating its 10th Anniversary). I divided this List into “family-friendly” and “wild side” features, with notations in which park they’re located.
This article was first published on LaughingPlace.com on June 15, 2016.
Questions and rumors about Shanghai Disneyland abound. As Disney’s newest theme park prepares for its debut June 16, 2016 there are so many questions still unanswered.
I was privileged to preview SH Disneyland in May during Trial Operations, and was truly impressed with the scope of this park (even after seeing all the other Disney castles). Opening with five noteworthy E-ticket attractions and three stage shows, SH Disneyland is poised to be a key player among Disney parks.
Here, I answer 10 essential questions about Shanghai Disneyland.
1. Why is there no Main Street USA? When is the next Train?
Shanghai Disneyland is distinguished by many record “firsts.” First Disneyland without Main Street USA. First Disneyland without a train. (Yes, in this spacious park, the train station was built only as a nod to tradition). First to substitute Tron for Space Mountain. And that castle!
The local population in China has not had the same exposure to Disney characters that the Western world has. Many Disney films were never released in China.
We were privileged to preview Shanghai Disneyland in May 2016, before its official opening June 16, 2016. With an impressive collection of opening attractions — many of them unique to Shanghai’s park — the top prize is claimed by “Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Sunken Treasure” for its jaw-dropping cinematic beauty on an epic scale.
Having now seen all six Disney castles (Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, and Shanghai), Shanghai Disneyland’s “Pirates” is one of the most impressive rides ever built.
The following is our first-hand perspective, taking you moment by moment through the attraction.
Winding through the queue, details in the rock work transport you to another time… Jack Sparrow’s “Wanted” posters are printed in multiple languages.
Reaching the launch area, you load onto boats with five seats across and a total of 30 guests on board. A very small drop with a splash….and the adventure begins…
0:03 The Jolly Roger talking skull, a definite nod to Pirates’ tradition. Everything is in Mandarin Chinese, but the tone is clear. Warnings for those who dare ride.
0:23 The boat goes past a water-front restaurant with lights, very reminiscent of the Blue Bayou in Anaheim and Tokyo Disneyland. In Shanghai Disneyland, this is “Barbossa’s Bounty,” a quick service restaurant with several food bay choices, and a nest of pirate-themed rooms to enjoy your meal.
0:37 Pirate skeletons come into view. The first one’s been run through.
0:56 The Brethren Lords sit at the Pirate Council — as skeletons — fighting over Pieces of Eight. Scene from “Pirates of the Caribbean, at World’s End.”
1:04 The jail scene, a definite tribute to all preceding “Pirates” rides. Only this time, all have joined the skeleton realm, including the dog.
1:40 Impressive transformation scene (not caught on this shot)… A talking skeleton re-animates to become Jack Sparrow, a full Audio Animatronic. He wishes you good luck…
2:10 …As you descend into the realm of Davy Jones. The onboard audio soundtrack is as moving as the imagery in this segment. Vast projection screens transport your boat deep into the depths of the ocean following the path of a large shark. Your boat glides through the ship graveyard and past other members of Davy Jones’ crew. It is beautiful, almost peaceful as you catch your breath under the water. Until…
2:34 The Kraken awakens. It is a giant octopus-like creature, ‘with an aura of foreboding.’
2:49 You follow the Kraken through the ribs of a shipwreck in the graveyard. How many ships have met their doom here?
3:20 Large crabs battle over something shiny (remember the crabs from “Finding Nemo”?)
3:23 The sweet siren call of mermaid’s song… and here are the mermaids themselves. The ship gathers speed and turns.
3:42 Talking heads — two members of Davy Jones’ crew are in the stocks having a lively conversation. It would be interesting to have this interpreted into English.
3:54 Mounds of sunken treasure…
4:01 You pass a twisted pirate ship with skeleton figurehead. The impressive movie projections extend all the way to the ceiling. You truly feel under water, deep in the ocean, watching the light and waves ripple far above your head.
4:15 Maccus, (the hammerhead First Mate of Davy Jones), has something funny to say (ha ha ha…).
4:23 The caverns echo with passionate organ music leading into the Flying Dutchman. This can only mean one thing….
4:33 Davy Jones is revealed as the mad musician. Sitting at his organ, he talks about explosions (the only Mandarin words I can make out). The Kraken slips away in the window beyond.
4:41 Jones pivots around, tentacles twitching, uttering more warnings about the treasure.
4:53 You sail down an underwater hall as the ship turns…
5:00 Watery images shimmer on the wall, as if an optical illusion.
5:01 The screens pull open to reveal…
5:04 A scene of epic proportions. A graveyard of ships that dwarf your own are resurrected — and you with them. Being pushed up from the depths of the ocean floor, you catch your breath…
5:16 And gasp at the reality of what just happened. Back from Davy Jones’ locker, bathed in a flaming sunset. You realize you have just made it past World’s End to the land of the living.
5:22 Your relief is brief, as Davy Jones surfaces in the Flying Dutchman with a giant splash, and nearly rams your tiny vessel.
5:32 You realize his battle is with Jack Sparrow, aboard the Black Pearl… and you are now caught in the middle.
5:39 With fierce cannon fire between Davy Jones and Jack Sparrow in their massive ships, you maneuver between them, immersed in one of the most cinematic scenes in ride history. The ships sinking before you are real on these vast projection screens.
5:48 You see a blast hole in the Black Pearl
5:58 Davy Jones disappears in a puff of putrid green smoke to battle Jack Sparrow
6:05 (sounds of sword fighting follow Jones and Sparrow as they battle on the upper deck, not quite visible on this video)
6:16 You sail backwards, spinning to witness Davy Jones and Jack Sparrow sword fighting in the hold.
6:22 Jack swings, rocking a net in the foreground.
6:30 The battle continues in typical Jack Sparrow style with swords and chickens flying, ensuing cannon fire, and massive flooding. Your ship is backing away, but not fast enough…
6:44 The explosion propels you up a small lift and waterfall drop through pitch darkness. You recover your thoughts. What did you just witness?
7:11 You drift slowly past a small sailboat, and hear the voice of Jack Sparrow… interrupted by Davy Jones.
7:23 A wall of pirate treasure glitters with gold and jewels…
7:28 …and turns to dust before your eyes, cursed by Davy Jones. Jack Sparrow is devastated.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Sunken Treasure” is an A+ attraction. A completely immersive experience, you will feel like you stepped into a Jerry Bruckheimer “Pirates” film.
The genius ride vehicle design, stunning visuals, moving musical score, and the brilliant cinematic presentation of this “Pirates” attraction exceeds all others to date. (And we include Spiderman, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Escape from Gringotts, and Fast and Furious Supercharged).
Add this to your Bucket List.
Special thanks to our Disney friends for this exclusive access!! We are so blessed by you for this special opportunity!
Yearning for the perfect getaway, but not sure where to go? Whether you seek exotic destinations, extreme adventure, or indulgent beach retreats, you’ll find your answers at the Travel and Adventure Show.
The Travel and Adventure Show is the nation’s largest travel show, and promises fun for the entire family.
Growing over the last 12 years, the Travel and Adventure Show has helped over 1.1 million travelers connect with over 2,800 top travel brands to find their dream vacation. And they can help you too.
Showcasing over 500 exhibitors, the Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show returned to Long Beach Convention Center February 27-28, 2016.
Still need some convincing? Here are the Top 5 Reasons why you should plan to go to next year’s Travel and Adventure Show.
1. Learn first-hand from Expert Travel Speakers
Get meaningful advice. Get your questions answered. I’ve traveled the world extensively, but I always learn from these experts.
This year, the Show featured A-list speakers such as:
Samantha Brown (Travel Channel host and ‘Girl with the Best Job in the World’)
Rick Steves (PBS travel host of “Rick Steves Europe,” guidebook author, leading authority on European travel)
Peter Greenberg (Emmy Award-winning CBS News travel editor)
Pauline Frommer (editorial director of Frommer Guide books, and publisher of Frommers.com)
Samantha Brown always brings fresh travel tips and new stories.
Alohamora! The long-anticipated Wizarding World of Harry Potter made its debut at Universal Studios Hollywood on April 7, 2016 to the delight of sold-out crowds.
Hogwarts in Hollywood is now a reality as the entertainment capital of Los Angeles shares in the Harry Potter magic.
A labor of love more than five years in the making, I was privileged to speak with Alan Gilmore last year at the “Celebration of Harry Potter” event in Orlando.
From author J.K. Rowling’s pen to the silver screen, Alan Gilmore created the film sets for the world of Harry Potter as Art Director of the motion pictures.
He continues to wield his magic as Art Director of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.
It is one thing to build a movie facade that lasts a month for filming. It was quite a different challenge to construct true-to-film sets as structurally sound buildings that withstand the rigors of daily theme park use.
Structures that lean at impossible angles. Chimneys that curve as they reach skyward. Storefront windows that awaken magically with guests casting enchantment spells. The Hogwarts Express train. Gilmore’s team has learned from each new addition.
Film sets are built only for what is needed ‘on camera’. Movie magic fills in the rest. Recreating an entrancing Wizarding World true to J.K. Rowling’s vision in fully three dimensions — this has impressed even the film talent.
In the middle of cold and flu season, it is a struggle to stay healthy, especially when you are far from home. Time is so precious when you are on the road. You may be on a once-in-a-lifetime expedition to Antarctica, but you won’t fully enjoy your trip if you are sick. When illness strikes, having a medication “pharmacy” bag can make all the difference.
This is a true story. I was on a beautiful Mediterranean cruise. The ports were amazing. The ship was magical (actually, the Disney Magic).
One day, I was on a ‘beach day’ excursion. Walking along the sand in only knee-high water, an excruciating pain shot through my foot. Something venomous had stung me. I never saw what it was, but it caused extreme pain and swelling.
I saw the ship’s doctor. He gave me crutches and recommended applying heat to break down the toxin. With severe pain and swelling, I could not walk on the foot.
The next day’s port was Rome. My tour was not wheelchair accessible, but I wasn’t about to miss my first visit to Rome! I hobbled along on crutches.
While it was not ideal (I can’t remember most of what I saw that day in the Vatican Museum), I was glad for good friends, and the medications I had brought along with me…my personal “pharmacy.”
There’s a lot to be said for packing light, but I come prepared with my medications bag. I tell people that I travel with a pharmacy. It is compact, but effective. And it is much easier than finding medications while on the road. (Believe me, I’ve been there!)
Your medication ‘pharmacy’ bag should be with you, in your carry-on bag, at all times when traveling.
Your medications should never be in your checked luggage. You never know when you might need a medication, and meds may be very difficult to replace if lost.
On what I call ‘moving days’ — days of flying, train rides, switching hotels — have this bag with you, and not checked in.
Gather your prescription medications.
All your essential prescription medications are your first priority. Whether you’re going away for a weekend, or a month-long adventure — bring your medications!
It is a good idea to bring a written copy of your prescriptions, or at least a medication list. This is helpful in case meds need to be replaced, or in case of an emergency.
Savvy Traveler’s Tip: How to pack your medication pharmacy
I have found that packing medications into individual Snack-size zip-top bags really saves space!