Tag Archives: #travelprofessional

10 Amazing Reasons to Go to HawaiiCon

As if I needed another reason to love the Big Island of Hawaii… I just learned about HawaiiCon.  The Big Island is not just full of palm trees, beaches, and resorts.  It is home to Kilauea, one of the longest-erupting volcanoes in the world.  And, it is one of the few places on earth where you can ski and surf in the same day.  The Big Island has numerous cultural festivals – and HawaiiCon is one of them!

HawaiiCon caught this fangirl unprepared.  We found out about it while vacationing on the Big Island, thanks to a featured article in Ke Ola Magazine.  I had packed some Hot Topic tank tops, but not my wardrobe of Her Universe dresses.  Nevertheless, I welcomed the opportunity to see a new con.

Even though I’d been to many conventions including San Diego Comic-Con, Star Wars Celebration, and D23 Expo – I found many reasons to love HawaiiCon.  Here are my Top 10 reasons why you should put HawaiiCon on your calendar next year.

This article was originally published on LaughingPlace.com

1. Opportunity to really get to know celebrity guests

Celebrity guest stars were scheduled at multiple panels and activities over the HawaiiCon weekend.  This allowed a rare opportunity to really get to know them, and interact in a more informal setting.

It was personal ‘story time’ with your favorite celebrities.  This was my first encounter with Temuera Morrison (Chief Tui, Moana / Jango Fett, Star Wars Ep. II).  And Paul Blake (Greedo, Star Wars Ep. IV), who answered the question ‘Who Shot First?’  We enjoyed ‘solo’ time with Daniel Logan (young Boba Fett, Star Wars Ep. II).  Q&A was amazing during these small panel sessions.

2. Attend uniquely Hawaiian panel sessions

Several sessions stood out as uniquely Hawaiian, offering great opportunities to learn about the local culture.  Navigate like Moana highlighted wayfinding – sailing by the stars like Hōkūleʻa, the voyaging canoe, just did by just navigating 60,000 miles around the world.

Participate in a hula lesson on the beach.  Feel the grass between your toes as you dance to music from Moana.  Gaze past the white-sand beach onto the open ocean, alongside Guest Stars like Gina “GK” Bowes (voice actor and audio book narrator for Disney’s Moana).

Bring your camera to the Night Photography session, and learn to capture your own astonishing Milky Way shots.

3. Attend a Luau with your favorite celebrity guests

As an additional-fee activity, HawaiiCon guests can sit at a table with their favorite celebrity at an exclusive luau.  You choose which celebrity to sit with when you purchase the luau tickets.

The menu included a traditional luau buffet, and entertainment showcasing Hawaiian, Tahitian, Maori, and Samoan cultures.  One of the highlights was when the luau ‘Maori chief’ made an offering, and New Zealand-native, Temuera Morrison picked up the offering.  That does not happen every day.

The Samoan fire-knife dancer is always a highlight of any luau.

4. Go adventure-seeking with celebrity guests

(These opportunities were separately-ticketed, sold-out events). What other convention allows you to go ziplining with the Guest Stars?  Or snorkeling with them through coral reefs?

Hawaii Island has the best scuba diving in the state, with its Manta night dives ranked Top-10 in the world.  What a unique opportunity to socialize with celebrities while manta night-diving or snorkeling!

5. Intimate setting means short lines

Imagine the luxury: short lines for autographs, photo-ops, panel sessions, registration – everything!  Instead of camping out overnight for a seat, you can sleep comfortably in your hotel room, and simply arrive a few minutes early to your chosen panel.  Here is the 2017 program schedule.

Walking from one panel to another took about two minutes, instead of twenty minutes.  Of course, the venue is much smaller than SDCC.  But smaller has its advantages.  I also enjoyed sampling the many food trucks that provided ‘ono’ (delicious) local bites, with no wait time.

6. You’re supporting a non-profit that promotes science education

HawaiiCon is self-dubbed the “World’s First Sci-fi, Science, and Fantasy Tropical Vacation Convention.”  And it is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that champions science education for the keiki (children) of Hawaii.

So, rest assured, the registration fees go to a worthy cause, bringing up the next generation of fans.  There’s also a ‘Science Track,’ with panels like Maui, Demigod of Science, the ‘Ohana Planetarium Show, and SciFi Weather on Mars.

7. Incredible backdrops for cosplayer photo shoots

Are you a cosplayer in search of unique photo shoot locations?  The Big Island of Hawaii – and Mauna Lani Bay Hotel – feature breathtaking vistas and sunsets to perfectly highlight your cosplay.

Hawaii Island has 10 of the world’s 14 climate zones.  So, if you’re scouting for a specific type of location, there’s a good chance you’ll find it here.

HawaiiCon was a unique opportunity to let your inner fan shine.  Here were some of the great cosplays, including some from the cosplay contest.

8. Feel at home with perfect hospitality from the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel

Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows is a devoted supporter of Hawaiian culture.  In addition to HawaiiCon, they support activities such as “Twilight,” a free monthly Hawaiian music concert series.

The resort also raises endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles in its saltwater ponds to give them a chance at survival.  When the turtles are old enough, they are released into the ocean at the annual “Turtle Independence Day” celebration every 4th of July.

Mauna Lani Bay welcomes HawaiiCon attendees with special room rates.  Booking early can get you an Oceanview room for $179/night at this four-star resort (regularly $400/night).  Two-star hotels in San Diego can cost much more than that during SDCC!

9. Become part of the Hawaiian ‘ohana’ (family)

This was the most relaxed convention I’ve ever attended.  Hawaiian locals welcome you with aloha.  The ambience is casual.  Flip flops are the dress code for Guest Stars as well as attendees.  Bring your lightsaber for an impromptu lightsaber battle on the lawn.

Slow down, and enjoy the present.  Treat everyone with respect.  What a great way to enjoy the spirit of aloha.

10. Stay and explore the rest of the Big Island

You’re only scratching the surface when you see the northwest (aka: the sunny, dry) side of Big Island.  Don’t forget about Kilauea, the live volcano, on the east side of Hawaii (best viewed by helicopter or hiking/biking onto lava fields to the ocean entry with a guide).

Milky Way and Kilauea caldera: view from the Jaggar Museum

Did you know about the extraordinary stargazing and observatories atop Mauna Kea?  Which is, by the way, the tallest mountain on earth when measured from its base on the ocean floor.  Go horseback riding and experience the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) lifestyle.  Explore black-sand and green-sand beaches, and countless hiking trails with dreamy waterfalls.

Honaunau National Historic Park: Ki’i at Sunset

Take advantage of the breath-taking vistas of this tropical oasis, and mark your calendars for next year: HawaiiCon is September 13-16, 2018 at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel.  Early registration for a four-day pass is $129, and proceeds benefit the HawaiiCon non-profit organization.

Mahalo (thank you) to HawaiiCon for hosting such a wonderful event!  And May the Force Be with You.

 

This article was originally published on LaughingPlace.com on October 4, 2017.  See more here on my Author Page

 

 

 

Yo Ho! Celebrating Over 50 Years of Disney Pirates at D23 Expo

How many of you love Pirates of the Caribbean?  Was your first memory of Pirates from Disneyland? Or perhaps Disney World?  For younger generations, their first Disney pirate may have been Captain Jack Sparrow from the blockbuster films.  Well, if ye come seekin’ adventure, keep a weather eye open.  There be pirates in these waters as we explore their history through Disney Archives.

This article was originally published on Laughingplace.com after D23 Expo.

A Tribute to Disney Pirates at D23 Expo

Pirates have been such an integral part of Disney history, even before the landmark attraction at Disneyland (now commemorating its 50th year).  D23 Expo celebrated Disney pirates in a special exhibit, showcasing treasures from the Disney Archives.  These are highlights from the D23 Expo and “A Pirates Life for Me: Disney’s Rascals, Scoundrels, and Really Bad Eggs.”

The queues snaked on and on for this exhibit.  The mood was set with music of Disney’s pirates – from X Atencio’s classic ‘Yo Ho! Yo Ho!’ to the Hans Zimmer film soundtracks, to songs from Muppet Treasure Island and Hook’s solo “Revenge! Revenge!” from Once Upon a Time.

Jail Scene photo op

Before entering the exhibit, many guests stopped for a photo op in the classic ‘Jail Scene.’ Continue reading Yo Ho! Celebrating Over 50 Years of Disney Pirates at D23 Expo

Ghoulishly Delightful Halloween Experiences at Tokyo DisneySea (Part 2) 

Not traditionally celebrated in Japan, Halloween at Tokyo Disney Resort is a ghoulishly delightful experience for local (and visiting) Disney fans alike.  Join us as we continue our Halloween experiences at Tokyo DisneySea in Part 2 of this article.

In Part 1, we shared the cheerful Halloween festivities at Tokyo Disneyland.  Tokyo DisneySea harbored a darker (yet, not scary) Villain’s theme for the season.

Love Halloween?  You’ll find many delightful Disney details, but also some fascinating differences at Tokyo DisneySea.

This article was originally published on LaughingPlace.com, from our experiences at Tokyo Disney Resort last Halloween season.  

Halloween Decorations at Tokyo DisneySea

Monorails don’t escape the magic at Tokyo Disney resort.  It was festively Halloween from the time you set foot on the resort line monorail.  Each Mickey-shaped monorail hand-grip was charmed with a colorful witch’s hat.

Banners along top advertised ‘Disney’s Halloween 2016.’  Each banner showcased pictures of the iconic Disneyland castle, as well as Mount Prometheus, the symbol for Tokyo DisneySea.

Tokyo DisneySea’s entry arch was draped in festive orange, purple, and black banners for Halloween.  Jewel-toned pumpkin lanterns completed the look.

These decorations continued throughout the Portofino-inspired buildings of ‘Mediterranean Harbor.’  Claude Frollo’s hat adorns this Halloween banner above the Il Postino Stationery store.

This year’s Halloween theme, “Welcome to the Villain’s World: Wishes and Desires,” complemented Tokyo DisneySea’s 15th Anniversary “Year of Wishes” celebrations.

Continue reading Ghoulishly Delightful Halloween Experiences at Tokyo DisneySea (Part 2) 

How I Made a Cultural Connection at Epcot: My Italian Adventure

Epcot Sunset Over Spaceship Earth

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).

Italy Pavilion at Epcot – Detail of Doge’s Palace and Campanile

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)

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.)

To their credit, though, Disney is committed to recruiting native cast members to represent their countries’ pavilions at Epcot, creating a more authentic experience. Continue reading How I Made a Cultural Connection at Epcot: My Italian Adventure

9 Things You Won’t Want to Miss at Disneyland Paris Resort

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 originally published on LaughingPlace.com on April 10, 2017.  Continue reading 9 Things You Won’t Want to Miss at Disneyland Paris Resort

Spectacular Harry Potter “Nighttime Lights” this summer at Universal Studios Hollywood

"The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle" at "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" - Universal Studios Hollywood -- Hufflepuff house featured
“The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle” at “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” – Universal Studios Hollywood — Hufflepuff house featured.  Photo: Mike Danenberg/Universal Studios Hollywood
Attention Harry Potter fans! Universal Studios Hollywood will enchant guests this summer with a brand-new experience at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle.”
 
Do you remember the grand opening of the Wizarding World at Universal Hollywood a year ago? John Williams mesmerized guests, conducting a full orchestra playing his themes from the Harry Potter films.  

I get goosebumps every time I hear John Williams’ score and see Hogwarts.

Continue reading Spectacular Harry Potter “Nighttime Lights” this summer at Universal Studios Hollywood

Answers to 10 Essential Questions About Shanghai Disneyland

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!

Carthay Circle Mickey Ave SHDL
Carthay Circle Mickey Ave SHDL

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.

Chinese guests know Mickey and Minnie.  They adore Winnie the Pooh for being cute, cuddly, and red and gold (popular Chinese colors).  They love Anna and Elsa.  Other characters may all be new to the locals. Continue reading Answers to 10 Essential Questions About Shanghai Disneyland

What have we been up to? Hint: Shanghai Disneyland

 

Sunset At Shanghai Disneyland Castle
Sunset At Shanghai Disneyland Castle

 

Some of you may have been wondering why we have not posted here recently.   So, what have we been up to?  We have been writing articles for LaughingPlace.com.

Recent adventures took us to Asia — and Shanghai Disneyland — in May,  where we were able to preview the coming attractions.

We have now seen all six Disney castles  (Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, and now Shanghai).  If you hadn’t considered Shanghai before, this should be on your list!

These are links to our articles on LaughingPlace.com

5 Must See Attractions Unique to Shanghai Disneyland :

This article will help prioritize not-to-be-missed moments when you arrive at Shanghai Disneyland.

Answers to 10 Essential Questions About Shanghai Disneyland:

Essential knowledge for questions you didn’t even know you had, but will be glad you know.

 

Stay tuned for more!  We will share the full articles on this website soon!

 

Preview Shanghai Disneyland’s New Jaw-Dropping “Pirates” Attraction

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.

(This video is posted on our Chrysalis Travel YouTube channel.)

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.”

Skeleton Jail Scene
Pirates Skeleton Jail Scene

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…

Descent to Davy Jones' Locker
Descent to Davy Jones’ Locker

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…

Pirate Treasure Skeleton Figurehead
Pirates Treasure Skeleton Figurehead

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…

Fiery Sunset Battle
Pirates: Fiery Sunset Battle

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!

 

5 Reasons You Need to Bring the Family to the Next Travel and Adventure Show

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.

Travel Show Overview
Travel Show Overview

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 talks about Lessons Learned from a Life Lived on the Road
Samantha Brown shares Lessons Learned from a Life Lived on the Road

Samantha Brown always brings fresh travel tips and new stories.

“Don’t spend all your time in the past,” she says. When exploring a historic destination (such as Rome or Athens), don’t see only the museums and monuments.  See how the people live now. Continue reading 5 Reasons You Need to Bring the Family to the Next Travel and Adventure Show