Oct 17

Disney Shuts Down Web Scraping Dining Reservation Sites

Laurie gives her take on the Dining sites that were shut down.  I know there is a big mix of how people feel about these companies.  I didn’t like that you had to pay to get the dining reservations but I did use them on my own personal trip and got Be Our Guest for 9 people.  I have also had a few clients that used them too and loved them.  So I understand that some like them and some do not.  I look for reservations for my clients even after we can’t initially find them.  It is very frustrating not being able to get them.  I do whatever I can to see about getting them for my clients.  But I also hate that people had to pay to actually get them.

IMG_0872The first thing we need to understand is “web scraping”. Scraping is also known as Screen Scraping, Web Data Extraction, Web Harvesting, and other names. Scrapers are tools used to gather information from websites. Usually this is done for the Yellow Pages and marketing information not for scalping. Scrapers can be beneficial in collecting data for a phone directory however these tools now are leading to legal battles in court.

Scrapers are a global issue affecting many companies, not just Disney. Southwest Airlines charged that scraping is Illegal as it is “Computer Fraud and Abuse”, “Damage and Loss”, “Unauthorized Access”, “Interference with Business Relations”, “Misappropriation and Unjust Enrichment”, and “Harmful Access by Computer”. This is affecting companies like eBay, Ticketmaster, and QVC Channel. Some companies do not know they are being scraped.

In the case of Disney, the scrapers are using technology to beat out other guests who want dinner reservations. While it is an unfair advantage to the hard working travel agents and other guests, it has moved into charges of scalping. The companies that Disney is shutting down are profiting from scraping. While a travel agent and a guest repeatedly check the Disney site for a reservation, there is a scraper letting his computer do that work. The scraper then sells the information to his client for profit. The most common form of scalping is the resell for profit of tickets for concerts and sporting events. Disney and other companies will be shutting down anyone making a profit off of their site.

When you give your travel agent your information you are assigning them as your agent. They do not profit from this hard work and do not use a tool. If you let your friend or family spend hours calling the dining reservation line then you will not be affected. I doubt anyone would help a friend by calling 20 times a day or going online for hours. They are only going after people who use computer tools to make a profit and to gain an unfair advantage over others. Worst of all is, that these attacks on websites can slow down or shut down a website by the onslaught of requests for information.

Disney Dining Scout made $13,000 in six months while your travel agent fought off sickness, sat on line and on the phone for hours, and gave up their personal time, just so you, the guest, could get that dining reservation FOR FREE!! Imagine a person acting as your secretary for free while some guy gets paid for using a program. There are people out there who will hold your spot at a parade or help you around the parks. There are personal shoppers, as well, but all these are individuals who do not take up extra time and space. DiSDining Agent, Disney Dining Buddy, WDWTools, and WDWTableFinder all are being reported as inactive or shut down.

Feel free to contact Tabitha for information and help on your trip.

Oct 17

Dining Reviews from the World

Laura is my guest blogger.  Her and her husband celebrated their anniversary at Disney and she agreed to write up her reviews from her trip.  She is a mom of three girls but got to take this trip with just her husband.  Thanks Laura for sharing!

We barely made our morning reservation to Kona thanks to the complete disaster with Magical Express, but so glad we did! IMG_8792Service was a bit slow and my diet coke sat empty most of the meal, but food was great. Zach got the Big Kahuna and really enjoyed it. I got the Samoa and it was fantastic! It was filling but didn’t make me feel stuffed. We were very pleased with the portion sizes and the flavor was out of this world. I highly recommend this restaurant!

Dinner was at Ohana—the restaurant I have been trying to nail down a reservation for for all of our trips. I was expecting an amazing meal and I was not disappointed! Our favorites from the meal were the salad, noodles and shrimp! Ok, the bread pudding*** was pretty awesome (as was everything else) but we could have eaten a ton of shrimp and nothing else and left happy! We are big shrimp lovers and we both agree that those were the best shrimp we have EVER had bar none. Absolutely amazing! We will definitely be back! ***We are huge fans of the Bread and Butter pudding at Raglan Road in Downtown Disney and tho Ohana’s was out of this world amazing, Raglan Roast still wins. You MUST try it!

Saturday was our anniversary and we started the day at Whispering Canyon for breakfast. I had the pulled pork sandwich and Zach got the all you can eat skillet. He was pretty disappointed with his choice–the eggs were not that great and the gravy for the biscuits was seriously just a watery tasteless liquid and wasn’t edible. The Mickey waffle was great and we had a great time overall. The atmosphere was fun and I wouldn’t be opposed to returning but we would be sticking to what we know is good to eat!

We were pretty full from breakfast all day and were too full to go eat a big steak dinner at Le Cellier and we skipped it. We had a lighter dinner at the quick service place in Japan at Epcot–Katsura Grill. I had California rolls which were fantastic and Zach had the teriyaki chicken and veggies. He said it was average but not terrible and just light enough to satisfy us. We ended up closing down MK that night until 2am and I needed food about midnight and opted for a peanut butter and jelly uncrustable from Pecos Bills–about the only place open! It was fantastic since I haven’t had one in years due to the girls peanut allergies!

We slept in the next morning and had an early lunch at Kona Cafe at the Poly. We had some steamed pork buns which were good but have had better at Shiki Sushi in Durham. For the main meal I had the Polynesian Plate Lunch–Pan fried chicken with coconut and mango sauces. It was very good–cooked perfectly and very tasty. My only critic would be it was very sweet and needed some salt or cilantro–something–to cut the sweet. Zach had the Pan-Asian noodles with shrimp. He liked the dish just ok. It was a good portion and filling but there were no real “veggies” in the bowl–just stalks from broccoli and the chopped ends off other greens. Basically all the parts no one really eats. That was very disappointing…but the noodles were good, the sauce was good and the shrimp was good.

For dinner we headed to Artist Point at Fort Wilderness and this meal was OUTSTANDING. We started out with the Jumbo Lump Crabcake and WOAH. This was an explosion of flavor. The best crab cake we have ever had. It wasn’t fishy at all and was seasoned to perfection. The fish was fresh and perfect. I opted for the Cedar Plank Salmon for dinner and was so happy with my choice. It was the tastiest piece of salmon I have ever had and it was cooked to perfection. Everything on the plate was amazing. Zach got the Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo and it was equally awesome. The flavors were out of this world and I would highly recommend this place for anyone wanting a truly special dining experience. We had the strawberry cheese cake for dessert and that we could have skipped. It was good and unlike any cheesecake I have ever had, but it was just a tad too rich after a rich meal and I was wishing I would have just skipped that part. 🙂

Monday we headed over to Epcot first thing and as soon as the World Showcase opened we headed for food. We are big fans of the La Cantina de San Angel and this time instead of our typical taco plate we tried the Pollo Cascabel and it was fantastic! So glad we branched out and had something new. We grabbed some treats from the caramel store in Germany and headed back to the Poly.

We chilled out for a while, had another Dole Whip (seriously, how can you NOT staying there?!) and before our bus left for the airport we had a late lunch at Captain Cook’s. I had the Aloha Pork Sandwich. That was very good but it definitely could have used some sort of sauce on it to make it a bit more moist. Zach had the Big Kahuna sandwich and he would have loved every bit if it didn’t end up having surprise mayo on it. The homemade chips were out of this world and I definitely wished I had opted for them vs the slaw (which was also very tasty).

All in all, a good dining trip. Ohana, Kona and Artist Point made good (if not great) impressions and we will be returning for sure. Our only regret was not getting to stop by Trader Sam’s! I totally spaced it was now open and we would have eaten there before heading to MK on Sat. vs our meal in Japan. Epic fail on our part but we know for next time to stop by to try it out!

We also discovered the amazing cookies–peanut butter chocolate chip to be specific–behind the counter at the confectionery in MK. We got one on our way out about 2am and immediately wanted ALL OF THEM. They are huge, soft and irresistible. We headed over to the bakery the day we left just to go grab cookies to take home! We had to skip the PB ones this time but the white chocolate chip have been just as delicious. Next time I’m trying a cake pop or a rice krispy treat!

Oct 07

Night of Joy – The Future

Laurie’s brings us her take on her first Night of Joy.  I need to write mine still.  🙂

IMG_9560Tabitha bought me a ticket to the first night of the WDW hard ticket event, Night of Joy. I am an old fashioned Fanny Crosby fan and was not expecting to be too happy in the Magic Kingdom. I was so wrong and am ready to discuss major issues plaguing the event as well as my happy thoughts.
The major issue was the concerts. There were no theaters such as Beauty and the Beast at Hollywood Studios to hold the fans who stood in line up to 4 hours. The day I was there was rough on the fans at the forecourt. Disabled guests waited in line for 2 hours only to find out that the forecourt area had not been emptied so nobody who came for the second show was let into the forecourt area. The three stages were relatively flats so that only a few guests could clearly see the stages. Thankfully I was one of the disabled who got a front row seat in Tommorowland in a backstage area.

Christian music fans are ardent fans who will wait hours to see their favorite band or musician. They get excited at the mere mention of certain names. IMG_9568The stages were not set up to handle 1000 fans let alone 300 fans. All stages were standing only unless you did not want to see a show. The schedule was such that most people could only see two shows at most by standing in line for hours. WDW staff needs to address the fact that these are diehard fans who want to see the bands.

WDW announced that in 2016, there will be a venue for music and a ticket for WDW. What made Night of Joy special was being able to sit far from a concert but still being able to hear the music. My boss and her son were along the ramp far by Sleepy Hollow waffle stand, they were quite happy there. I loved walking through the park with Christian music playing.

Now guests will have to spend 45 minutes each way to travel from the concerts to Magic Kingdom. The old way allowed guests to do Space Mountain then listen to the concert. I liked the old way, but the issue was the lack of decent theater venues. You could walk out of a bathroom or store and hear the concerts playing then hit a ride while waiting for your favorite band to go on stage.

IMG_9575The good news for concert goers, is that there are lots of venues at ESPN Wide World of Sports including indoor sites. It will be better for the musicians as they will have more room to set up. In theory, the biggest bands could have stadium seating for once. There are lots of places for food trucks and there is that awesome Grille for dining. World Wide of Sports has a long history of dealing with everything from tennis to cheerleader events. Next year fewer performances will be closed because of bad weather.

As a die hard Baptist who avoids Christian music, this was rather pleasant. I drove Tabitha nuts when I used my phone so she could hear the concert I was at. I believe it was Big Daddy Weave, just know he was awesome and gentle with the music so that the word of God was shared. Each song had a message just like my precious hymns. If I was financially well off I would do both days next year. It is not high priority, but I feel that it was well worth the money spent and I had a great time. I have an awesome boss and friend. Thank you for a great night and a great night of fellowship.

Oct 05

WDW Changes and Other News

By Laurie Smith

NIGHT OF JOY

This event will be split into to parts due to the lack of sufficient guest friendly stages. The concerts will be held at ESPN Wide World of Sports at indoor and outdoor venues. There will be dedicated buses from the concerts to Magic Kingdom. Event attendees will receive a night of fellowship at MK. This year I attended and it was an unfair event at times. Guests stood in line for hours the first night only to not get in as nobody left their spot. There wasn’t enough room for people who had one chance to see a favorite musician. I loved the event but not being told to queue up in the middle of exiting guests. It will be bad to have to go to one location or the other, but good that there will be more room for guests.  http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2015/09/disneys-night-of-joy-expands-in-2016/

Downtown Disney aka Disney Springs

I already told you about Morimoto and will soon share my experience at the fun Hangar Bar. The third dock is open so we now can take the ferry to The Landing (Pleasure Island). You take a bus to Marketplace then a ferry half or all the way across Disney Springs or start in the middle if you use the parking garage. Stay to your right when driving to Disney Springs as there is a new ramp and bridge that gives access to the parking garage. All three pedestrian bridges are up with the one across Buena Vista just open. Now you can park across the street from Disney Springs then walk across the street without lights or traffic. All walls are down except in Town Center. They are installing a bridge connecting Town Center with the rest of Disney Springs. There is construction next to Paradiso 37. JOY!!! Paradiso 37 has had all stairs removed and now guests can stroll into the restaurant. This change makes the restaurant sit right on the street level so that guests can interact with hostesses and see the venue. The second parking garage has pillars up for the third or fourth floor. Remember to look at the numbers as you enter the parking garage as 792 spaces are open on the 5th floor while you are on the second floor looking for one of 15 spaces. I have parked on the fifth floor twice this week and both times parking was about 7 deep in the row nearest the elevator. House of Blues has discontinued the popular Service Industry Night.

Hollywood Studios

We have told for a year that change is coming.  In the past year, or so, we lost AFI Showcase, tram tour, American Idol, Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, Magic of Disney Animation, and the Animation Academy. The beloved hat is gone, as are the parades. Mulch, Sweat, and Shears was a fun show that is gone. This year will be the last year for the Osbourne Lights. One Man’s Dream will be closing while the theater is used to screen a preview of The Good Dinosaur. Minnie Mouse packed her bags and has moved from Center Stage to Disney Jr. Live on Stage area.

Star Wars Weekends

Star Tours will get a new scene inspired by the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A preview center will be called Star Wars Launch Bay where guests can see up and coming Star Wars items instead of learning to draw at the Animation Academy. The Launch Bay will have a small retail area and a cafe.  Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple will offer new characters and a villain from Star Wars Rebels.

Epcot

One year since Maelstrom was shut down. Duffy was removed from Epcot and Daisy Duck is moving into his home. Daisy Duck was removed from Animal Kingdom so that Flik could take up her spot near Creature Comforts. Glidden will sponsor Colortopia that opens in Innoventions East (Test Track side) this year. Innoventions West is closed for a new guest experience but the Character Spot will remain open. SOARIN’ is going to become a world experience and receive updated equipment and a third theater.

Magic Kingdom

On the first of October, the hair wrap locations and ring carver locations closed but are available elsewhere in Walt Disney World. Liberty Tree Tavern and the Diamond Horseshoe should open on November 19th. On November 20th, Disney’s The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour and the Railroad will reopen. Peter Pan’s Flight will be closed November 2 through November 7, 2015.

The hub expansion has made getting around way way easier. Jungle Skipper Canteen should be having soft openings soon. Pecos Bill has a new menu with fajitas and burritos.

Animal Kingdom

Flights of Wonder will be closed through November 5th and Primeval Whirl will be closed until November 12th. Pizzafari will be closed until November 14th, but their restroom will remain open. They are promising Rivers of Light and a nighttime safari next Spring, work is progressing. A new snack stand will open up where the Fastpass booth was at Everest.

Random Updates

Disney’s Blizzard Beach will close for refurbishment from October 4, 2015 through January 2, 2016 then Typhoon Lagoon will close for annual refurbishment.

All Star Sports will close Grand Slam Pool from October 26 through December 18, 2015.

Boardwalk Inn will have painting and repairs done through May 5, 2016.

Contemporary Resort will give out a bag of popcorn with the movie under the stars. The marina will be open from 11 a.m.-5 p.m through next March.

Coronado Springs resort will close the Salon, Casitas Leisure Pool and the fitness center until October 19th.

Polynesian’s East Leisure Pool will remain closed until January, 2016.

Port Orleans will close French Quarter Kiddie Pool until Christmas, 2015.

Wilderness Lodge closes on October 26th the Hidden Springs Quiet Pool, Resort Beach & Marina, Playground and Fire Pit until 2017.

Caribbean Beach Resort’s bridge Connecting the Aruba and Jamaica Islands to Old Port Royale will be under refurbishment and unavailable to pedestrian traffic through November 26, 2015. Shuttles will be available every 15-20 minutes, from 6:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m., from the parking lot closest to the impacted buildings. Guests should look for their island’s name on the shuttle when returning to their rooms. Boat transportation will be available from 9 a.m.-dusk, traveling between the Aruba beach to Barefoot Bay Bike Works.

Pirates of the Caribbean Spoiler – The lighting and audio are much improved. The mermaids are gone except the dead one on the beach. There are a few new pirates and the jug of whiskey is on fire, so it seems.

Remember:  Exclusive Thanksgiving Day feast will be held on Thursday, November 26, 2015 from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Fantasia Ballroom at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The event also features live entertainment and Disney characters dressed in colonial attire. Prices are $68.80 per adult (age 10+) and $30.50 for ages 3-9. These rates do not include tax or gratuity.  Reservations are via DVC Member Services.

Great app for Food and Wine Festival
https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=909839806&mt=8

Oct 01

Morimoto Asia Review

Laurie had the pleasure of visiting Morimoto Asia on opening day.  See what she has to say……

This is one of the best restaurants in Florida. Morimoto’s is located across the lane from Raglan Road. The main entrance faces what used to be the parking lot. Eventually it will overlook a stream and Town Center but for now it is construction walls. It reminds me of New York City where you find a restaurant on a street with a sign and a glass front. Not elaborate decorations or decor.  It has been kept in the Japanese old style, of simple is better. There is plenty of stroller parking but no indoor scooter parking. I went up a ramp to the front door and was greeted by a hostess in a tight red dress which some call a Chinese Wedding Dress or a Chinese restaurant hostess dress. There is a long version of this dress which is beautiful. The ladies looked stunning and were easy to identify as a hostess. As you enter there is patio seating on both floors which will eventually have a view other than walls. I was welcomed by staff at the desk and stood in awe at where they were taking me. This is a giant two story building with a sushi bar and seating along the walls. Morimoto5To fill in this vast void they used the most awesome and beautiful chandeliers. No longer the bottling plant, it is a sophisticated upscale restaurant with a few semiprivate areas, booths, bench seats, and armless chairs. On the table is your reusable red chopsticks waiting for you to dine. Overall, the only issue is noise but that is typical of any restaurant and should not be a problem with any guest. My meal was rather quiet and I was far enough from other guests to not have to hear them.

This is opening day, so they had some major issues with getting me fed. I feel that with proper training and time, they will be a well oiled machine that will handle any dietary limitation. They had the Vice President of Patina Group and the manager of the Napa restaurant with his chef. I’ve never seen so many suits in one restaurant. Chef Morimoto was there to oversee the opening of the restaurant and he was with the customers throughout the night. Few guests could not say they had not met Morimoto. He signed my menu which I treasure dearly. He is a fun loving and jovial person who made my day special.

Morimoto3The only thing that made me sad about the menu is the use of fake crab in the California Roll. However, they can substitute real Alaskan King Crab. I received the typical pickled ginger, wasabi and 6 pieces of sushi. The rice was free of vinegar taste and the grains were individual grains not soft mush.  There was toasted white sesame and black sesame seeds on the rice. I tore apart my first piece to find fresh avocado, cucumber matchsticks, and fresh crab. The next one I ate half and savored that crab flavor that made this an awesome sushi that rivals Kona Cafe for best sushi.

I don’t like carpaccio or other raw meat usually.  I ordered Hamachi tartar in a substituted yuzu sauce, Yamamomo Japanese mountain peach, and wasabi. The mountain peach is cherry in size and often used as a palate cleanser in Japanese restaurants. I ate mine first. It has a little bit of acidity and a fruity flavor. The Hamachi was topped with chives. It has a delicate tuna flavor and worked well with the wasabi and yuzu. It was finely chopped, or so it seemed, and melted in my mouth.

The grand finale was sorbet which turned out to be a work of art. The lemon sorbet reminded me of frozen lemonade without the sugary sweetness. Next was strawberry sorbet which screamed to me PALETA!! It reminded me of the Hispanic ice pop treat that was just strawberries and sweetener. Morimoto4It sang of strawberries. My least favorite was the orange sorbet which still was awesome with gentle orange notes. There were a variety of berries in the bowl and I stopped when my finger hovered over the bowl as if ready to start licking. This is one of the best desserts I have ever had. Best thing is challenging friends to eat the edible flower on top of the sorbet.

You can reserve a seat at the sushi bar. Currently the quieter upstairs is available to guests when they check in but can be booked for private events. There is a bar with a few stools and a little lounge where guests can enjoy drinks and food even if they do not have a reservation. The ladies restroom has a wall of photos on black tile.  Very simple and chic with plenty of room in the stalls. Under the stairs are curtains that enclose a bench seat, tables and chairs for some almost private dining. The prices are reasonable and the menu is a tight one that gives you a variety of sushi, noodles, dim sum, desserts, entrees, and soups without overwhelming the kitchen and guests. I don’t like to sit at a restaurant and spend all my time trying to choose from 20 burgers, 10 salads, or 50 appetizers.

I highly RECOMMEND this restaurant.  I had no reaction from my meal.  They are new and still working on how to best handle special diets. I can recommend this restaurant as a safe place to dine even if you have dietary limitations. As for the rest of the restaurant, I have to say that it is one of the most awesome restaurants I have seen. The architecture, decor, theme, simplicity, and guest friendly staff make this a winner. They let a man drive his scooter to his seat then his wife took it outside. Very family and disabled friendly while being a fun place for friends to dine. The tables near me had adults having kid like fun as they shared appetizers. I cannot find one flaw in the food that was offered me nor in the staff. Except for the first rocky minutes, I had one of the best dining experiences in the past three years.