Monday, April 21, 2014

Conservation Station at Disney's Animal Kingdom

In honor of Earth Day, which we celebrate this week, I wanted to shed some light on one of my favorite activities at Disney's Animal Kingdom Park - Conservation Station.

What is Conservation Station? Chances are you have strolled by the entrance a million times and never gave it a second look. In order to get to Conservation Station, you have to board a train in Harambe, Africa (directly adjacent to Kilimanjaro Safaris) to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. The seven minute train ride is great for kids of all ages!

Once you get to Rafiki's Planet Watch you can enter Conservation Station and view interactive exhibits and learn all about Disney's quest for conservation awareness. The following exhibits are currently active areas in Conservation Station.
  • Animal Encounters Stage
  • Song of the Rainforest
  • Veterinary Treatment Room
  • Backstage Tour
  • Eco-Web
  • Nutrition Center
  • Amphibian, Reptile and Invertebrate Windows
  • Wildlife Tracking Center
My favorite part of Conservation Station is the Veterinary Treatment Room. You truly will see how well these animals are treated! On my last trip, a few of the animals were in to get their teeth cleaned.

Finally, if you're lucky, you'll run into these handsome fellas, Jiminy Cricket and Rafiki! 

Have you ever visited Conservation Station? Tell me in the comment section below. Happy Earth Day from The Disney Point!

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Favorite Epcot Snack

Photo by Thomas Mottola
There are a lot of amazing, saliva-worthy snacks at Walt Disney World. The popular ones are always top of mind: the Dole Whip, the churro, the turkey leg.

While I love each and every one of these snacks, when I'm in Epcot there is one snack I crave. Maybe it's because I'm Italian. Maybe it's because I need a jolt after a long day of touring.

Espresso and a cannoli in the Italy Pavilion is something I dream about after lunch and before dinner at one of the amazing World Showcase restaurants.  The espresso may be in different forms—if it's extraordinarily hot out I'll opt for an espresso-blended drink like a latte. 

Photo by Thomas Mottola. Note the stand on the left - that's where you get your espresso & cannoli! 

Once I reach the back of the World Showcase I am ready for this ultimate snack. The best part: the cart is right on the main walkway. You don't have to deviate from any plans to get them!

Photo Credit: tantek via Compfight cc (This isn't from Epcot, just an example!)

What's your favorite snack in the World Showcase? Answer below in the comments section!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Disney Point Takes Disneyland: Part 2 - Theming at the Disneyland Hotel

Note: This is part two of a series about my March 2014 trip to Disneyland Resort. Click here for part one.

As a Disneyland newbie, part of the excitement of planning our trip was figuring out where we should stay. Because we are Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members, we logged into our DVC account first and foremost to check the only DVC resort, The Villas at Disney's Grand Californian. However, we were only a few months out from our trip and there are very few villas available.

When I called DVC member services the next day, they gave me another option - to use our points to get a regular hotel room at one of the three Disneyland Resort hotels: The Disneyland Hotel, Disney's Grand Californian Resort and Spa or Paradise Pier Hotel. Unlike Walt Disney World Resort, there is no $95 fee for using your points on a hotel room in Disneyland. After careful consideration, we decided to stay at The Disneyland Hotel in a premium view room.

While I went to visit all of the Disneyland hotels during our stay, I am thrilled with our decision. As a Disney fan, the Disneyland Hotel was paradise! Within minutes of walking through the door, you are greeted with the most amazing Disneyana collectibles and Disney memorabilia.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Mottola
The amount of Disney memorabilia was amazing. The first photo in the collage above was an original map of Disneyland. Directly above that photo is a model of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Frontier Tower. Photos courtesy of Tom Mottola.

In fact, there, a significant part of our time at the Disneyland Hotel was spent walking around and looking at all of the amazing trinkets and pieces of Disney history. 

The pool was fabulous. In fact, there were several pools and two hot tubs. After looking past these fun topiaries, we noticed the most amazing monorail-themed water slide! On one particularly hot day, I joined the many kiddies in line for a trip down monorail red! 

There are two monorail slides and the classic Disneyland signage! 
The pool was open 6:00am to 10:00pm during our stay. It's important to note that the slides closed at 7:00pm throughout our stay, because there were a few sad faces when we returned from the park one night. There are three total pools:
1) The Monorail Pool: A splash zone and an area where the two slides end.
2) The D Ticket Pool: A large 4 ft. pool
3) The E Ticket Pool: A second large 4 ft. pool

You will need your resort key to access the pools. During the late afternoon, lounge chairs were somewhat hard to come by. If you think you will be spending the day at the pool, another option is the beautiful cabanas that can be reserved. They cost $185 to rent for the full day, which was a lot more reasonable than I expected, especially if two families are footing the bill. 

Do you want to see our room, learn about the location of the resort and hear about the restaurants? Stay tuned for Friday's post! 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Secret Dole Whip Line at Disneyland

Welcome to the first stop aboard Magical Blogorail Red. Enjoy the ride as we share our favorite hidden treasures at Disney.

Photo Credit: the-unnatural-disaster
via Compfight cc
There's nothing like the feeling when you first stumble upon a hidden gem. Since I went to Disney World annually as a child, there were very few corners left undiscovered. There were some Disney experiences, however, that my family never pursued, for whatever reason.

Confession: I didn't taste a Dole Whip until my Disney College Program. In fact, the first time I stumbled upon Aloha Isle at Walt Disney World, it felt like a hidden gem. It was far from it!

Disney fans on both coasts salivate over Dole Whips. It's one of the unique Disney food experiences that only Disney fans know about. For Disney fans, it's a must-do on each trip, especially under the sweltering Florida and California sunshine.

However, the lines for a Dole Whip can be as long as some attractions. On our trip last month to Disneyland there was a twenty minute wait for these delectable snacks! Twenty minutes!

Cast members were wonderful and were taking orders and credit cards for those waiting in line. Yet, there is an even better way to experience a Dole Whip at Disneyland without the wait.

The secret: Go on Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room.

Photo Credit: jared422_80 via Compfight cc

This is not a setup!

My husband getting our Dole Whips!
At Disneyland, once you enter the Enchanted Tiki Room entrance, there is a "secret" line that usually has a short (if any) wait. We tried this out during our trip and were able to skip by a massive line AND see the Tiki Room!

If you want to be a spoil sport and skip the Tiki Room, just turn around and head right out the entrance.

This is truly a hidden gem of the best kind! Tell me about your favorite hidden gem in the comments section. Have you experienced the secret Dole Whip line at Disneyland?

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Magical Mouse Schoolhouse.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ The Disney Point (You are here!)
2nd Stop ~ Magical Mouse Schoolhouse
3rd Stop ~ Disney Donna Kay
Final Stop ~ Frontierland Station

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"The Customer Rules" Review and Giveaway!

This review for The Customer Rules by Lee Cockerell is part of a Magical Blogorail sponsored campaign. Copies of the book were received free of charge for a review. Opinions are those of the reviewer and do not represent those of the author.  Your opinion may vary.

Today I am honored to share my thoughts and review of a Disney legend, Lee Cockerell's newest book, "The Customer Rules - The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service." Lee was Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World Resort while I was a cast member and I can personally tell you that his leadership was felt from the top down.  Prior to his time at Disney, Lee spent 25 years between Hilton and Marriott in the hospitality industry. He's now retired and sharing his knowledge via books like "The Customer Rules" and through speaking engagements.

"The Customer Rules" was a quick, enjoyable and impressive read. Lee offers 39 short and relatable rules explained in separate chapters. He offers his personal experiences both as a customer/guest and as an executive leading those serving the customers/guests. This unique perspective was extremely entertaining and is helpful to any professional in any industry.

I found it particularly helpful in my industry - public relations. One of the first anecdotes shared by Lee is of a conversation he had with his granddaughter when he asked her for her customer service "rule" and she quickly responds, "be nice." I am a firm believer of the old proverb, "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar." I treat others how I would like to be treated and expect the same from others.

Of course, as a Disney fan and former cast member, I particularly enjoyed the parts of the book which discussed Lee's time at Disney. One of my favorite stories from the book was when Lee retold a story about Walt Disney. Walt was asked by a child visiting Disneyland if he still drew Mickey Mouse or wrote stories. When he explained he didn't, she asked what exactly he did. Walt responded, "I'm like a bee that flits from flower to flower, taking a little pollen here and a little pollen there, and I build up all the honey in the honeycomb."

Lee used this example to effectively show that managers can improve customer service in their team, department or company without directly doing the work. Managers can "pollinate the minds of their employees."

Also, as a PR professional and a grammar geek, I truly enjoyed Rule #20: Be a Wordsmith--Language Matters and Rule 29: Have a Geek on Your Team.

Finally, I leave you with Lee's thoughts about meeting guest needs as well as their wants. Lee explains that sometimes you can't verbalize the wants as well as the needs, but they are just as important and are what keeps us coming back for me. Have you experienced the following "wants" on a Disney vacation? I certainly have!

The Customer Rules by Lee Cockerell, Former Executive Vice President of Operations for Walt Disney World
This review of The Customer Rules by Lee Cockerell is part of a Magical Blogorail sponsored campaign.

Former Executive Vice President of Operations at Walt Disney World Resort, Lee Cockerell, shares his 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service in his latest book  The Customer Rules. And if you want more from Lee Cockerell check out his first book Creating The Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney.

Purchase the Book Here 

Enter to Win a Signed Copy of Your Own

If you would like a signed copy of Lee Cockerell's The Customer Rules please enter to win our giveaway below.  We will be giving away two signed copies. Please click here if the entry widget is not shown below.