Sep 072009

When you get in trouble and you don’t know right from wrong
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle! — Jiminy Cricket

Do you have a Disney dilemma? Are you wondering about a certain attraction? Are you curious about a resort or a cruise? Give us a little whistle and we’ll help you sort out how to handle it. Questions should be sent to If your dilemma is trip-related, please include when you will be traveling.

Q. If we go to Disney World for Thanksgiving and stay a couple days after Thanksgiving, will we still get the Christmas feeling? Will the décor all be up? What are the crowds like at that time? (Submitted by Julie)

A. Julie — good news! You’ll definitely get the full effect of the holidays at Walt Disney World if you extend your visit beyond Turkey Day. Although Disney lists Friday, November 27 as the official beginning of the winter holidays, everything is pretty much in place property-wide before Thanksgiving. You’ll get the same feel for the holidays at Disney at the end of November that those arriving on December 24 will experience.

At the Magic Kingdom, the Castle Dream Lights will be lit each evening from November 10 through January 3, 2010. Santa will be meeting and greeting next to City Hall each day from 10:00 a.m. through 6:00 p.m. And Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, the hard-ticketed party, begins on November 10. Possible party nights for a Thanksgiving visit are November 19, 20, or 29, depending on when you arrive and how long you can stay.

At Epcot, starting on November 27, you’ll be able to see the Lights of Winter at the World Showcase Plaza. Holidays around the World also begin on November 27, featuring holiday storytellers in the World Showcase pavilions. IllumiNations gets into the spirit with an extended holiday ending. The Candlelight Processional at Epcot, a performance of the Christmas story in words and music complete with a 50-piece orchestra and a humongous choir, debuts on November 27 with Isabella Rossellini narrating (subject to change). While the Candlelight Processional is free (with the price of an Epcot ticket), consider booking the Candlelight Processional package. You have to eat anyway, and your package lunch or dinner comes with guaranteed seating in a reserved section of the America Gardens Theater. The package isn’t cheap (it starts at $32.99 plus tax and gratuity for an adult) and you’ll still have to show up at least a half-hour early for the show, but it’s near-impossible to get a seat in the theater without this package. If you skip the package, definitely aim for the 5:00 p.m. performance, and start lining up more than an hour prior. Alternately, you can hear everything as it happens by finding a seat anywhere in the American Adventure pavilion.

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the switch is first flipped on the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights on November 10, and this is a do-not-miss attraction for anyone who wants the full Disney Christmas experience.

At the Animal Kingdom, Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade gets its holiday makeover on November 28 (through January 4, 2010). The character meet and greets at Camp Minnie-Mickey wear holiday garb, and Santa Goofy makes his annual appearance.

Downtown Disney’s celebration starts a little earlier, with the Festival of the Seasons running from November 17 through December 24. Santa is, of course, available for photo ops, and this day-to-day shopping mecca is enhanced with holiday decorations, performances, carolers, etc.

As far as crowds go, Julie, Thanksgiving is a very popular time to visit Walt Disney World. Folks will start arriving on the Saturday prior, with crowds peaking on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and staying through Saturday or Sunday. When one of our editors was there Thanksgiving week, she found the theme parks stayed crowded until the Monday following Thanksgiving, then dropped dramatically.

Q. I’m so excited about our upcoming trip to Walt Disney World! We will be there in September for my husband’s 62nd birthday, and to celebrate, we are going to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Can you tell us the best place to watch the parade and also the fireworks display when in a wheelchair? Any “insider” tips for extra fun? I want this to be a birthday he will always remember. Thanks so much! (Submitted by Joy L.)

A. Joy, what a nice birthday gift! We’re thinking of having our spouses read this question, to maybe give them an idea of what we’d like for our upcoming birthdays. Be sure to have his birthday celebration noted on all your reservations, for your resort and your meals. If you’re staying on-property, they’ll give him a birthday pin when you check in. Otherwise, be sure to pick one up for him at Guest Relations at one of the parks. You never know what sort of pixie-dust wearing those buttons can bring. While you are in Guest Relations, also request a Guest Assistance Pass for your husband. The Cast Member will ask him general questions about his situation, and will give him a pass that accommodates his needs.

Our perfect idea of how to approach one of the Magic Kingdom hard-ticket parties is to not try to do too much prior to the party. Sleep in that morning, and perhaps make a fun or nice ADR for brunch. We enjoy the Kona Café at the Poly, or the Captain’s Grille at the Yacht Club. After breakfast, enjoy your resort, take a nap, read a book — garner your strength for the fun evening ahead.

You can typically get into the Magic Kingdom with Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party tickets at 4:00 p.m. We like arriving early, as it gives us time to do a few of the rides before the special events associated with the party begin. We highly recommend going in a costume. Even adults will have more fun if they enter into the spirit of the evening and dress up. If your husband is at all open to that kind of thing, definitely go for it.

Our pal, Maureen, who knows the ins and outs of experiencing Disney in a wheelchair, shared her thoughts about her favorite place to watch the parade and fireworks. She usually picks one spot for both things, since moving from a parade spot to a fireworks spot can be tricky in the crowds. Maureen recommends the handicapped seating area in the castle hub. If you do choose to move, there is great parade viewing across from the Hall of Presidents, but remember that you’ll have to hustle through crowds after the parade, pushing the wheelchair to get to good fireworks viewing.

Have a wonderful visit, Joy, and enjoy the party!

Q. I am a long-time reader and enjoyer of your marvelous newsletter. Now, I have a dilemma! It concerns overseas tourists on the Disney Cruise Line. It is my understanding that as a visitor from overseas, my passport will be collected at the start of the cruise and returned at the end. The problem is, my only other form of Identification, a Greek ID card, is not a color photo, and is naturally written entirely in Greek. Will there be a problem disembarking at the various ports of call? Will the new system whereby a photo is taken and matched to the Stateroom Key solve this problem? Thanks for any light you may be able to shed on this matter! (Submitted by Debbie D.)

A. Hi Debbie, thanks for your kind words. We asked your namesake, Deb at Magic for Less Travel, how Disney Cruise Line would approach your situation. She let us know that DCL no longer keeps international guests’ passports. What the cruise line suggests is that guests get a copy of their passport to use when they get off at ports and to leave their actual passport in the stateroom safe for the length of their cruise. If you are asked for the passport, you can show your copy, but normally, the room key will suffice. Especially now, since, as you note, your picture in on the room key. Hope that information helps, Debbie, and that you have a fabulous cruise.

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