A #CastCompliment So Big It Merits an Episode
First things first. When I ask people in the My DVC Points Community what they really want for content. Reviews of the Membership Extra's tops the list. Some are free, some have costs, and some are just downright difficult to schedule. Members want to know, is it worth my time, energy and effort to attend these events? DVC Membership Extras are usually overlooked by most Disney content creators.
In today's episode, we cover all three of the DVC Membership Extra events in Disneyland. I knew going into the events they would make an excellent podcast episode. However, I didn't plan including a #castcompliment in the episode. On a typical Disney trip, you engage hundreds of Disney cast members. For our family, we usually fill out a comment card or send in a tweet to @WDWToday or @DisneylandToday. However, ALL of the cast members we experienced on these Membership Extra's team was so excellent, they merit the largest social media shout out I can give – a full podcast episode.
First off, from a high level, this is a yoga style class with various stretches and poses. The event meets at the children's playground area in Disney's California Adventure called the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Part of the playground area has a padded rubber floor which is incredibly comfortable to stand on and the yoga mat Disney provides makes it even more enjoyable. Jeff commented that he wished the entire park was paved with that padding. We briefly discuss how this playground area is so well themed that my family and elementary-aged children walked by the entrance all week and didn't recognize it as a playground.
Jeff and I met at this DVC Membership Extra event on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. We're guys and to be brutally honest, yoga is not our first choice of exercise. I commented that this was his second yoga class ever and it was a solid workout. The best part of the event was stretching. The Pennycuff's checked in on Saturday and spent the day touring the resort, grocery shopping and settling in the room. On Sunday, the Pennycuff's popped over to Knott's Berry Farm because they have annual passes to Cedar Fair and wanted to see the park. Monday was a full 10+ hour day in the Disney parks. After two park days, the stretch and relaxation felt wonderful. I commented that his normal training schedule of martial arts, spin classes, and barbell training was pushed by the different styles of training in yoga. Don't let the theme park, churros, and Mickey Ears fool you. This isn't a vacation mode exercise. If you attend the class, you can expect a solid but enjoyable workout with an excellent instructor. (My impression was that Chrissy had numerous yoga certifications from a variety of yoga methods. Even if you're not a yoga person, she'll make you emotionally feel on board and part of the program – you'll physically feel uncomfortable in the exercises but the end result felt great emotionally and physically.)
Jeff and I highly recommend the class. The free Jamba juice after class was excellent. Please note this is a seasonal event that runs from April through September. Because this was the first class of 2019, it took a few calls to member services for them to get the class loaded into the system where member services could book people for the event.
I attended the power walk event for general hotel guests on Monday, April 1st, 2019. The event started at 6 AM with a 5:45 AM meeting time at the Grand Californian's entrance to Disney's California Adventure. (You can see the security scanners behind me in the photo). While it was early, my internal clock was still running on east coast time. Everybody participating in the vest is given a reflective vest to help identify power walkers from the cast members inside opening up the park.
The event takes you through every single land in the park. You start off at The Grand California's entrance to DCA and head towards the main entrance and then walk towards the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction. Because the new Marvel-themed land is being built, you need to backtrack to Carthay Circle and head into Carsland. The tour takes you between Flo's V-8 Cafe and the Radiator Springs Racer attraction. Then it's off to the wharf area and a full loop around the lake that gives a great tour of Pixar Pier.
One of my favorite moments was watching the lights at Pixar Pier turn off as the sun rose and the park woke up for the morning. The best memory of the event is walking at Pixar Pier and looking up and seeing the balcony where my family was still sleeping. At that moment, it struck me. Staying at the Grand Californian for a week truly allows your family to live inside Disneyland. My first visit to Walt Disney World was in the late '70s and I can honestly say I've never felt like I lived at the park before this.
Setting expectations for the power walk. Cast members tell you right up front, this is a cardiovascular exercise event. The goal is to maintain a 4 mile an hour pace. That's a pretty good clip. I found out the hard way, Dave will politely enforce a no-jogging or running rule. This requires one foot on the ground the entire time you're completing the walk. Records from my Apple Watch indicate the walk started at 6:02 AM and ended at 6:34 AM for a distance of 1.74 miles. The average pace was an 18′ 10″ mile. The walk slowed down for several of us slower people in the group and included a 5-minute cooldown. Although Jeff and I both had reservations for the Thursday Power Walk in the Park event for DVC members, neither of us attended the event. His family chose to sleep and my family attended extra magic hours at Disneyland and knock out the Disneyland only attractions in Fantasyland. Given the event was identical to the Monday version, the only thing I missed was free Jamba Juice. Can't say enough good things about Alexis and Dave who lead this tour. I was able to join conversations through the walk with both Dave and Alexis. Come to find out Dave is an original Old Key West member and extremely knowledgeable about all things DVC. He would make a great ASA or guide. The vast majority of DVC members I know all love our cast members. They make magic. It's always a pleasure when you realize the cast members are also our neighbors.
Caveats of the DVC Power Walk and Fitness Events
The only major drawback to both the Power Walk and Fitness events is a scheduling conflict with extra magic hours. Fitness in the Park happens on Tuesday mornings and Power Walk in the Park on Thursday mornings at the exact same time that Disneyland offers extra magic hours. Unlike in the world, Disneyland only offers extra magic hours in the mornings. If you regularly attend Disneyland, this may be a non-issue. However, if you win the DVC lotto and get a reservation at VGC, you will have to decide which is more important.
The other drawback is relatively minor and worth noting for resale only members. All three events are part of the Membership Extra's that come with owning a minimum amount of points purchased directly from Disney Vacation Club. However, the three Disneyland resorts host Power Walk in the Park events that are open to anybody staying in any of the three resorts. Instead of Fitness in the Park, there is a yoga style class offered in the courtyard of the Grand Californian near the fireplace on various mornings as well. The hotel events do not include free Jamba Juice and are likely to have more people in the classes. There are 71 DVC rooms vs hundreds of hotel rooms across the three events. If you cannot or choose not the make the DVC editions of these events, the hotel guest version is a great substitute.
The Soarin' tour meets at the station wagon right across from the entrance at 10 am. You go backstage to the ventilation units for the attraction. The attraction has three unique scents piped in for added effect. Mark indicated that the air is exchanged within 30-35 seconds so that the scents do not mix. From there you enter the building and wait for the top center row. (Which is what most people consider to be the best seats on the ride. The side seats can make the Eiffel Tower bend. The bottom two rows all have people's feet dangling in front of you during the ride and that can ruin the immersion.) In the normal queue, you can ask the cast members to wait for the top center row as well.
After experiencing the attraction, you are taken past the control booth and literally behind and under the dome. I always thought the screen was flat; however, it's a huge semi-circular sphere. Mark showed us a variety of speakers that are in place to produce sound. After the next ride completes, you move to the hallway between the two salons. The original toy erector set used as a proof of concept for the ride is sitting out in the open. I personally think that items should be placed in the Disney Family Museum, Smithsonian or National Archives with the rest of our national treasures. (I'd also argue the Partner's Statue should be a national monument). After examining the model, Mark passed around three canisters with scents from the original Soarin' Over California attraction and educated us about the evolution from film to digital production. We were also shown the scenes with all of the hidden Mickey's in the film. (We'll keep that information hidden).
There are a couple of factors that really make this tour special. The first was our tour guide. Mark knew every single detail about this attraction and had a contagious passion, an artisan's pride in his work and was clearly a subject matter expert. This elevated the entire touring experience. The DVC members who booked the event knew how hard it was to get this tour booked and Mark's dedication to excellence really drove home the event to a spectacular level. I also have to point out as well. DVC leadership deserves some of this #castcompliment as well in the fact that they choose to create, produce and advertise this event for members. When you realize this was a true DVC member-only event. There was no easy access for every hotel guest, it also elevated the experience and made it special. Between the three reviewers in the episode, all consistently ranked this event as one of our top 5 Disney events.
Mark mentioned that cast members could earn some type of points to be used on various perks. The cast member's top picks were consistently the Soarin' tour and a behind the scenes tour of Haunted Mansion. Our reviewers would love to take a peek behind the crypt! Here's to hoping DVC leadership expands the park attraction tour programs in the days offered and attractions offered! One thing is certain, events like the Soarin' tour make this fan of resale points sing the praises of my direct points and blue card.
Pro Tip Rope Drop Member Services and Run Through the Menus
Member serviced indicated that these Membership Extra's use the same reservation system that the Disney restaurants use. Therefore; they follow the same booking rules as an Advance Dining Reservation with the notable exception that you cannot self-book online or in My Disney Experience. They can only be booked by Member Services. Walt Disney World based events open up 180 days prior to check-in. Disneyland based events are available 60 days prior to the event without regard to your check-in date. Much like getting a dinner reservation at Cinderella's Royal Table, many members have reported Soarin' tour is sold out at the 180-day mark. You have to leverage the extra time from check-in.
Since you rely on DVC Member Services to book the event, I suggest rope dropping the member services call center and virtually running through the menus. Member services open up at 8 am, then at 7:50 start calling and figure out the exact buttons, you need to push in the DVC IVR to get to a general member services agent. Write down the number sequence on a sheet of paper with your member number. At the time of publication, you do not have to let the entire announcement play if you know the number you need to press. You can navigate the phone system right up to the point where you would enter the queue to speak to an agent. However, the time of day check will prevent you from entering the queue until their phone system determines they are open. At 7:57, just keep dialing and getting to the queue. For the record, I didn't get to the open message until 8:01 AM on his cell phone. If you use this method when the timekeeper opens up, agents are sitting in available and you can instantly speak to an agent. This is like standing at the hub at the magic kingdom and legally being able to run to Seven Dwarf's Mine Train, run through the queue and board the very first coaster ride of the day while everybody else is walking to the ride.
Sharing Your Experiences!
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