Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

MANTA Coaster at Sea World Opens This Week

April 30, 2009

The much anticipated MANTA flying coaster at Sea World has its grand opening scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend–May 22, 2009.

But here’s an inside tip for readers of my blog.  Sea World is planning to do a “soft opening” of the ride beginning Tuesday at noon.

A soft opening essentially means that the ride will be up and running–It just won’t be advertised.  Of course, there is always the possibility that the ride will not be operational because of staffing or technical delays.  This is the reason to do a soft opening; it helps to work out all the bugs.  Most likely if you go to Sea World this week, you can be one of the first to experience MANTA.

MANTA is the first horizontal, head first flying coaster in the Orlando area.  passengers will be harnessed in a prone position, face down, giving the impression that they are flying through the air.  The ride is just over two and a half minutes long with speeds of over 55 mph and a longest drop of over 110 feet.  You have to be at least 52 inches tall to ride the MANTA.

Previews of the ride indicate there is at least one full loop and three corkscrews.  At one point, the ends of the fins slice through the water as you glide by.  This looks to be a thrilling coaster adventure.

Our office is scheduled to go to Sea World on  May 20 for a preview ride of MANTA.  Afterwards, I’ll do another post and let you know what our team thinks about the ride.

The Best Disney Souvenir

March 18, 2009
Wearing the Best Disney Souvenir

Wearing the Best Disney Souvenir

Number One Daughter has two good friends and the three of them are inseparable.  Unfortunately, one of them has to leave to go to her native Saudi Arabia tomorrow and will be gone for several months.

All three are so sad!

Last night, they decided to see the new Jonas Brother’s 3-D movie at the theatres in Downtown Disney.  Afterwards, Number One Daughter decided the three of them would create a personalized, custom T-Shirt at the Disney Design-a-Tee store for the friend who is leaving tomorrow.  Here’s how it works:

The Design Process

The Design Process

You begin at a computer kiosk with a monitor shaped like a T-shirt.  First, you choose the size, style and color of the T-shirt.  Then you select a picture.

There are several dozen images to choose from.  Most are famous Disney characters or a group of characters.  There are also designs celebrating major holidays, graduations, reunions, birthdays and so forth.

Number One’s friend picked a light blue shirt with “Class of ’09” on it to remind her of her first year in the Montessori School with Number One Daughter and her other friend.

After choosing a design, you can have up to four lines of text–One on top of the image and three below.  Disney reserves the right to edit any text you create.

In honor of the movie they just saw, they put “We Luv Da JB” where JB=Jonas Brothers.  (Actually, Number One Daughter HATES the Jonas Brothers, but we think the peer pressure got to her.)  Then, they each put their names as “Mrs. Jonas.”  They found that quite cute!

After creating your T-shirt, the computer spits out a bar code that you take to a counter to place your order, have one last opportunity to proofread and make your payment.

The shirt Number One Daughter and her friend selected for their other friend only cost $27–Making it one of the best and least expensive Disney souvenirs I have even seen!

The next day at school, the friend leaving for Saudi Arabia proudly wore her new T-shirt.  Number One Daughter, on the other hand, proudly wore her “Beatles” T-shirt; perhaps in protest of having created a shirt in honor of the Jonas Brothers or perhaps in remembrance of her mother’s crazed rock-n-roll fan days when she was the same age as Number One Daughter!

12 Steps To Becoming The Next American Idol

February 20, 2009

…With Help From Disney!

Entrance to the American Idol Experience

Entrance to the American Idol Experience

1. Visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Each day, guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM Studios) have the opportunity to audition for “The American Idol Experience” which is an attraction inside the theme park.  Disney anticipates seven shows a day–one every hour on the hour, from noon to 6pm.  Each show will feature three singers.  During the show, three judges will give their opinions about how the singers perform, but the audience gets to use a control panel on their seat’s armrest to select the winner.  At 7pm, the winners of each of the seven previous shows perform in a finale showdown.

2. Be Between the Ages of 16-28

To audition for the American Idol experience at Disney you have to be at least 14 and there is no upper age limit. Guests between 14 and 18, need a parent to accompany them and sign a release form. However, no matter how you wow the audiences at Disney you have to be between the ages of 16 and 28 to go on to audition for the real TV show.

3. Arrive at the Park Early

Only 21 performers are chosen each day so Disney expects the slots to fill up quickly.

4. Wow the “Casting Director”

On to the Producer!

On to the Producer!

After watching a short video and signing a release form, you are taken into a small room where a “Casting Director” sits behind a small desk with a laptop and a clipboard.  You may take one person into the room with you.  You then sing, a capella, any song you want.  Sometimes the Casting Director will stop you and give you some advice or feedback.  If the Casting Director thinks you are good enough, you get to go before the Producer.  If not, you are finished.  Only about 10% of those who audition make it to the Producer.

5. Practice in “The Coke Room”

If you’re one of the lucky ones, you are escorted to a sitting area called “The Coke Room”.  In this room, you are given an Ipod with just over 100 songs on it.  You have to choose one of these songs to sing, Karaoke style, in front of the Producer.  If you are selected to perform in a show, the song you have chosen will be the song you sing in the show and it is no longer available for someone else to choose on that day. You are given just a few minutes to listen to the song’s rendition and practice.  It is important to note that, for the sake of timing, most of the songs are cut short from their original length.

6. Pay attention to this Important Tip

Get a copy of the list of the 100 songs before you go into your audition.  (Cast Members have them outside the audition area.)  Choose two or three songs you can sing for the Producer before you even begin to audition.  This way, you can practice for the entire 10 minutes between auditioning for the Casting Director and auditioning for the Producer–instead of wasting your time trying to select a song.

The Producer

7.  Impress the “Producer”

Next you are ushered to the Producer, who also sits behind a small desk.  His laptop displays a video image of you and above his head is a large, flat screen monitor that projects the words for your chosen song.  Time is of the essence, so sing your heart out.  He decides whether or not you will make it onto the stage.  Punch It!  and  SHINE!

8. Market Your Performance

If you are chosen, you are given a time to return for preparation for your performance. If you have family or friends in your party, they are given preferred seating at your show.  In addition, until your “call” (theatre-speak for the time you are required to report to the theatre) you are given a placard announcing that you are performing and you are allowed to walk around the theme park and encourage everyone to come see your show and vote for you. Make the most of this—remember, the audience chooses the winner, so the more people there who know you better than the other performers, the better chance you have!

9. Prepare for Your Debut

You arrive to the theatre around one hour before your scheduled performance time.  You are given makeup, miked for sound, given vocal feedback from a professional voice coach and wired with a transponder.  (This is used to allow the spotlight to automatically follow you if you walk around the stage while you are singing.)

10. Don’t Worry About “The Judges”, Play to the Audience [i.e. “The REAL Judges!”]

During the show, you will be introduced and then you’ll strut your stuff.   In addition to spectacular lighting effects, there will be a video matching the song you are singing displayed behind you to enhance your performance.  This is no time to be shy.  PLAY IT BIG!  Move your arms, move your body, walk a little (if appropriate), connect with your audience, bare your soul, PUNCH IT! and SHINE!  At the end of each song, the judges give a review.  The host encourages the audience to cheer for all the good reviews and to boo any negative feedback. Make sure your family, friends and everyone else you encouraged to watch the show cheers loudly for you! These reviews are part of the show but have no direct impact on your chances of winning (unless the audience listens to them.)  So if the review is bad, use your body language and facial expressions to let the audience know they should ignore the judge and vote for you.  After the “judges” give their feedback for the final performer, it is the audience members who will select a number on their chair’s armrest corresponding with the performer they feel should win this round and go on to the finale 7pm showdown.  This is the vote that really counts!

11. Do it All Again at the Day’s Finale Show

At 7pm each day, all the winners from the previous 7 shows perform in a finale showdown. This show will crown the “Best Singer” of the day at the American Idol Experience at Disney.

12. Claim YOUR “Golden Ticket” to American Idol Fame

If you have gotten this far and are lucky enough to be selected as the “Best Singer” for the day at Disney’s American Idol Experience, you get a Golden Ticket. This ticket allows you to go to any American Idol audition for the real TV show and jump to the front of the line. To qualify for the Golden Ticket, however, you have to be between the ages of 16 and 28. Otherwise, you just win the privilege of saying you were the:

Best Singer for the day at Disney’s American Idol Experience!

And that, alone, is quite an accomplishment.

The Front of the Monorail at Disney World

January 23, 2009

Here’s a little known tip that both the young and old alike can enjoy when you are visiting Disney World.

Ride with the pilot

Ride with the pilot

The next time you ride the monorail, ask one of the skycaps to let your party sit in the front.  They may tell you that there is already someone else in line.  That’s okay, tell them you’ll wait.  The monorails run every couple of minutes and it’s worth the extra time.

Only four people are allowed in the front.  If you have more than that in your party, pick the four who want it the most and the rest of you can ride with the herd in the regular compartments and take a turn on a later monorail ride.  The front is where the monorail “pilot” sits to drive the monorail.  (Yes, they are referred to as pilots.)  In front of the pilot are bench seats that converge right to the front nosecone of the monorail.  The windows give you a 180 degree view.

Riding from the Ticket and Transportation Center to Magic Kingdom has the advantage of going straight through the Contemporary Hotel.  Riding from the Ticket and Transportation Center to Epcot is a much longer ride and has the advantage of doing the circle through the middle of Future World in Epcot.  If you time it exactly right, you can enjoy the fireworks display on your way to Magic Kingdom or Illuminations on your way to Epcot.  The pilot might even give you a certificate or a pin.  Maybe.

Regardless of the time of day, it’s a fun treat for everyone to ride in the front of the monorail.

Want more info on monorails?  There’s plenty at the website of The Monorail Society!

Professional & College Football in Florida

December 11, 2008

Pre-Game at Dolphin Stadium

Pre-Game at Dolphin Stadium


For a Christmas bonus, we gave our office manager, Anne, two tickets to take her daughter to Miami to watch her beloved New England Patriots take on the Miami Dolphins.  Here is an account of her experience.  Although Anne recently became a US citizen, it is enjoyable to note her UK background as she refers to the football game as a “match” and speaks of the differences between how fans in both countries enjoy their sports–LanceAround

Football fans in Florida are blessed in that we have three teams in the NFL–Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

I am a New England Patriots fan so whenever they come to Florida I try to get to go to the game.  This weekend my bosses gave me an early Christmas gift–Two tickets to the Miami vs. New England football game.

Dolphin Stadium is approximately 200 miles from Orlando.  We started out around 8am and it is a straight drive on the Florida Turnpike.  As we got close to the stadium, we noticed more local Dolphin fans.  I think our car was outnumbered 50 to 1!

Parking was a breeze and after walking past all the tailgaters having their parties, we went into the stadium and found our seats.  We were in the “nosebleed section” (the football term for the seats in the highest part of the stadium.)  My daughter, who attended the game with me, even joked that she was getting vertigo.

Dolphin Stadium did not appear to have the same variety of food vendors that I have experienced at other stadiums, but there was enough choice to suit most football fans.  The view, even from our high seats, was very good and you could easily see the entire field.

After the national anthem, prayer and four military helicopters flyover, the game was on.  It was a good match going back and forth, score for score.  The Miami fans are very loud (to be expected from the home crowd.)  Luckily there were enough New England fans around us so we could make some noise of our own.  There are some friendly exchanges between rival fans and, occasionally, a not so friendly exchange.

A Family Affair

A Family Affair

Football here is very family oriented–All ages and members of the family join in the fun.  This is not something that you would see in the United Kingdom.  I know my mother was horrified when I first told her I go to the local Alehouse to watch the games wearing my Patriots team jersey.  She really did think that I would be beaten up.

The Dolphin vs. Patriots game had four quarters, each 15 minutes long, and it was in the fourth quarter that we finally took the lead and kept it.  Matt Cassel of the Patriots threw for over 415 yards and hooked up with Randy Moss for three touchdowns.  Final score:  New England 48   Miami 28.  Yipee!

Ed Note:  While Anne enjoys her professional football, the following post I wrote speaks of other great football in Florida.  LanceAround

In addition to the NFL, Florida also boasts some of the best college football in the nation.

In January, the Florida Gators from Gainesville, FL will attempt to win their third national championship.  The Miami Hurricanes from Miami, FL have won five national titles while the Florida State Seminoles from Tallahassee, FL have won two.  Even the University of Central Florida Golden Knights (What is a “golden” knight anyway?) from Orlando, FL and the University of South Florida Bulls from Tampa, FL have achieved national attention in college football–And the Bulls did not even have a football team until 1997.

Lets Go Hokies

Let's Go Hokies

Last Saturday, the college football ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) Championship Game was held in Tampa.  I took Mrs. LanceAround and Number One teenage daughter to Raymond James Stadium–Only an hour away from Disney and home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and college football’s USF Bulls–To watch the ACC championship game.  Even though both Florida State and Miami are in the ACC, the organizers of the ACC and the management of Raymond James Stadium were disappointed to discover that the contest would feature two teams from outside Florida:  The Virginia Tech Hokies (Speaking of weird nicknames, do you even know what a Hokie is?  I do!) and the Boston College Eagles.  The Hokies, from Blacksburg, VA are a 12 hour drive from Tampa and the Eagles, from Boston, MA are a 22 hour drive.  Attendance at the game was going to be low!

We did not have tickets to the game, so we had to beg outside the stadium.  We wound up with three $125 tickets in the club section exactly on the 50 yard line in the lower portion of the stadium.  We paid a total of $50 for all three tickets!  (Drop me a comment and I’ll tell you how I do that.)

What a game!  The 17th ranked Eagles fell victim to the relentless, yet unranked, Hokies.  The game was sealed in the fourth quarter when Jason Worilds of the Hokies knocked the ball out of the hands of Eagle quarterback Dominique Davis and a lucky bounce into the hands of Hokie Orion Martin resulted in a 17 yard touchdown runback for Virginia Tech.

After that touchdown, Mrs. LanceAround, Number One and I walked down to the front row of the stadium, just behind the Hokies’ sideline to join the team in celebrating their victory.  We watched as Jason Worilds painfully took off his shoulder pads, revealing his heavily taped and injured shoulder.  We cheered with the team as various fans threw oranges onto the field in recognition that the Hokies had won the right to play in the BCS Orange Bowl on January 1st.

Jason Worilds even picked up the battered, rusty lunchpail with the word “win” inscribed on the side (a symbol of the Hokies’ hard, “working class” approach to their playing) and came over to shake the hand of Number One daughter and thank her for coming to watch the game.


Hokie Lunch Pail

Hokie Lunch Pail