Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: New Fantasyland Preview

I was privileged to be able to attend the Passholder Preview of the New Fantasyland this past weekend and wanted to share a few tips and suggestions about what your experience might be like if you are signed up to attend one of the upcoming previews. I will do my best not to spoil anything for you. I did both "attractions" in "Stand-By" mode as well as "Fast-Pass" mode. Here is what you might expect if you're going, and my tips on getting the most out of your "Preview" experience:

Your experience begins at the TTC to pick up your wristband. Yes, I said TTC, NOT the MK ticket turnstiles or the entrance area of the new Fantasyland. So if you're staying on property or if you're already in the Magic Kingdom and your preview is later in the day, you need to keep this in mind as you plan travel times etc. The first preview of the day is scheduled before the park opens, so it's very important to go to the TTC first if you're staying on property. They request you check in there about 1/2 hour before your assigned time. This is very important to know for the early morning preview times. I did, however, see cast members at the Fantasyland entrance area handing these out as well later in the day, but I wouldn't count on that being the case.

You will get a wristband which will tell the cast members what time and which "experience" you are signed up for, Belle or Ariel. Everyone can ride the Ariel ride and "tour" the Be Our Guest restaurant along with Gaston's Tavern and the new gift shop. The "meet and greet" in Ariel's Grotto and the "Enchanted Tales with Belle" are the two variations guests could have signed up for. When I was there the meet and greet with Ariel was very "light" and I was invited to go meet Ariel as I exited the "Under the Sea, Journey of the Little Mermaid" ride. Regrettably I decided to forgo this experience. So, TIP: Even if you signed up for the "Belle" experience, you might be able to do the "Ariel meet and greet" at Ariel's Grotto!

I had chosen the "Enchanted Tales with Belle" experience and was very glad I did. You enter Maurice's cottage and see where Belle grew up and Maurice's workshop before you experience your time with Belle. TIPS: Try to get as close up to the "railing" in the front as you enter Maurice's workshop, or at the very least have a good view of the mirror near the cast member at the front of this room. If you do the fast pass or Guest Assistance Card for this you will NOT get to see the "living area" of the cottage. I would suggest you try to do the "stand by" cue first if at all possible. If you have children you should know that there are several "parts" in this "show/experience" (not my words, the cast member I talked to about this described it like that) so if they are shy, or have special needs you may want to prepare them for this as the cast members in the next area will most likely call on them to help Belle by acting out various parts. If possible, have them do it, it's very fun, and it's a fairly small group of people going through at a time. There is also a photopass photographer taking pictures of everyone participating and Belle takes her time at the end to thank each one that had a part and takes a picture with them.

The next thing you will see is the Be Our Guest restaurant. On my visit ... wait for it... they were OPEN for BOTH lunch and dinner! Talk about a great surprise!! Ok, a few TIPS here: The "Self Guided Tour" listed as a part of the preview is really just what I would call a "Peek" into the main Ballroom dining area. Which is great, don't get me wrong, but you don't get to see the other two dining areas, or get to see some of the very special things in the entry area etc (listen closely in the cue area with the suits of armor!), so if at all possible I would suggest trying to have a meal, or even just dessert here. The portions at lunch were large and most could be easily shared, and they're priced very similarly to the other quick serve restaurants in the Magic Kingdom. I was told that the  "Rose Gallery" seating area is only open at lunch, so you may want to eat in this room if you go for lunch. They were also taking reservations for dinner and were allowing you BACK into the area to eat later if you chose to do this if your preview time was earlier in the day. (Check in with a cast member at the entrance, your name will be on a list.) As with all things Disney, things are subject to change and your experience may differ here. At lunch, once you order your food you are free to choose a table and get your drink as well as wander around the restaurants three seating areas. But beware, if you haven't found a table by the time your food is ready to be delivered to you, you will most likely be "tracked down" by a server. The technology used here is amazing.

Servant welcoming you to Be Our Guest Restaurant

Belle and Beast music box in the Rose Gallery Room at Be Our Guest

Mosaic feature at Be Our Guest

The next area you'll see is Gaston's Tavern and the merchandise shop for the area. Both are themed extremely well and the shop carries some "area exclusive" merchandise. They limited the merchandise purchase to 1 or 4  of each item per person (depending on what it was), during the preview time.

                            Themed merchandise

              Gaston welcoming you to his Tavern

The last area you'll visit is the Under the Sea, Journey of the Little Mermaid ride and Ariel's Grotto. Since I don't want to give away any "spoilers" here, I'll just say that this ride is a lot of fun and captures the essence of the story and movie very well. It is a "dark ride" in a "clam shell" (think Haunted Mansion or The Seas with Nemo and Friends) and there is one area that might be a bit "scary" for the younger guests, but it's brief and all but the most timid should have no issues here. Again, the themeing here is amazing. I experienced both the fast pass and stand by cues and would recommend experiencing the stand by cue first. You will miss some fun things if you only use the fast pass line.

Overall tips: Look for all the "Disney details"... EVERYWHERE... Look UP, look DOWN at the pavement, notice the lighting fixtures, just look everywhere, this area is themed beautifully. You can ride the Under the Sea ride and experience Enchanted Tales with Belle (if you signed up for that experience) as many times as you would like during your assigned time. If you didn't sign up for the "Belle" experience, it's worth seeing if you can experience that as well, and vice versa with Ariel's Grotto. It seemed like it depended on the cast member overseeing the area as well as the crowds at each place as to whether you could do both.

I hope some of these tips are useful to you in planning your time during the preview. I had a wonderful experience during this preview time and I hope everyone else that is able to attend does as well!

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