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Dreamy Pre- Or Post-Cruise Option
 in Florida, California

By Georgina Cruz

Bedchamber, the Cinderella Suite

If you have been dreaming of a magical pre- or post-cruise program when sailing out of Florida or California ports, this is your year. Walt Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim are marking the "Year of a Million Dreams," an event launched in the fall and continuing through 2007, that celebrates dream-come-true experiences awarded randomly to Disney parks visitors.

The celebration features a Disney Dreams Giveaway, which includes prizes from mouse ears and Disney collectible pins to a night's stay at Cinderella Castle Suite in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World and at a Mickey Mouse-themed penthouse in Disneyland. Other prizes include Disney Cruise Line voyages -all awarded in surprise fashion by Disney cast members called the "Dream Squad."

"Disney parks are always the place where dreams come true, but even more so during the Year of a Million Dreams," said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

So far 303,400 dreams have been awarded since the event was launched, bringing the Disney parks closer to the magic number of one million. Among the winners are Estella Villegas of Murrieta, Calif. who was approached by a cast member at Disneyland who told her she had won a Disney Cruise Line sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida to Barcelona, Spain, valued at $13,650 and Oral Koehling of Phippsburg, Maine, who was in the right seat at the right time on the Mission: SPACE attraction at Epcot when he was surprised with the presentation of another award: an Adventures By Disney "Viva Italia" vacation package valued at more than $25,000.

Winners are chosen by a computerized process, which indicates, for example, that a guest seated at Row 5, seat 3 of a particular attraction is the winner of a particular prize. "If nobody is seating there, nobody wins [that prize] that day -they don't give it to the person in the next seat," said Gary Buchanan, a Disney spokesman.

Possibly the most coveted prize, awarded most days this year at Walt Disney World is a night's stay at the Cinderella Castle Suite.

In a space in the Magic Kingdom's iconic castle, where Walt Disney had intended to build a suite for his own family (but after his death in 1966 prior to the opening of Walt Disney World, the project was abandoned) there is a new suite, complete with salon, bedchamber and bathroom, off a marble-floored lobby. I was one of the lucky members of the press given a tour of the suite during a media event to launch it in January.

Located four stories above the Magic Kingdom, it has décor details typical of a 17th century castle, including tapestries specially created for the suite, stained-glass windows, and elaborately decorated ceilings. And it combines these décor elements with 21st century comforts including flat-screen television, whirlpool tub, fireplace (in which you can see "fireworks") and an elevator. Cinderella details abound, of course, and include a clock that always marks the hour just before midnight, a large portrait of the princess over the mantle that turns into a flat-screen television, her initial "C" over two queen-size beds in the bedchamber, and a cinder pot.

Winners are notified by early afternoon and honored as grand marshals of the Magic Kingdom's 3 p.m. parade through the park. The guest selected and up to five members of his party (the suite sleeps six) then begin the experience that evening at Cinderella's Royal Table, the restaurant located inside the castle. After park visitors have departed, the guests enjoy the suite and a view up to now only shared by Tinker Bell. The next morning they are treated to a buffet breakfast at the Crystal Palace restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.

Money cannot open the doors to the Cinderella Suite, said Eric Jacobson of Walt Disney Imagineering, as the company does not plan to ever rent it out. Jacobson, who stayed at the suite with his family as part of test nights by Imagineers, said it was "incredible."

Lucky guests at Disneyland are chosen most days to spend a night at a Mickey Mouse Penthouse decorated in All Things Mickey, with finishing touches by none other than Minnie Mouse herself.

As part of the Year of a Million Dreams event, new attractions are being launched both at Disney World and at Disneyland including the following:

AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club is based at a 400-seat theater in the Tomorrowland section of the Magic Kingdom. The interactive attraction invites guests to joke around and match wits with comedian wannabes recruited by Mike Wazowski, the one-eyed hero from Disney-Pixar's "Monsters, Inc." Guests can also text message jokes on their cell phones for possible use in the show. It is slated to open in spring of 2007.

  • "Finding Nemo - The Musical" inspired on the Disney-Pixar's movie of the same name, debuted in January at Disney's Animal Kingdom Park. The Broadway-style revue, presented in the newly-enclosed Theater in the Wild, is 30 minutes long and features original songs by Tony Award-winning "Avenue Q" co-composer creator Robert Lopez and a cappella musical "Along the Way" co-creator Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Principal characters including Nemo, Marlin, Dory and Crush are represented by live performers operating larger-than-life puppets created by Michael Curry, who co-designed the puppets seen in the Broadway version of Disney's "The Lion King."

  • Nemo is also the star attraction of The Seas With Nemo & Friends, a new attraction at Epcot's Living Seas pavilion launched in the fall. Visitors board "Clam-Mobiles" for this ride and join Mr. Ray on a field trip. Like in the animated film, "Finding Nemo," Nemo goes missing and the pursuit by Marlin and Dory begins. It seems as if the stars from "Finding Nemo" are inside the 5.7 million gallon aquarium for the final sequences. A musical finale features Nemo reunited with his Dad and friends and all of the characters from "Finding Nemo" sing "Big Blue World" as they say goodbye.

AT DISNEYLAND

  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage - Opening in summer of 2007, this new adventure will take Disneyland visitors on an underwater excursion to view Nemo and his friends as they appear in the film.

  • Rockin' Both Parks - Slated for Jan. 8-April 26, 2007, Disneyland's and Disney's California Adventure's park-goers will be treated to a new soundtrack to fit the twists and turns of the Space Mountain and California Screamin' rollercoasters.

LODGING: While you wait to be chosen for a night in the Cinderella Suite, you may wish to check out Disney World's economy resorts: Pop Century and All-Star Resorts. Old Key West and Saratoga Springs (this last one the newest resort on Disney property) are ideal for families, offering studios and one-, two- and three bedroom accommodations with kitchenettes or kitchens and washer/dryer. Visit www.disneyworld.com. And while you await being awarded a night at the Mickey Mouse Penthouse at Disneyland, check out the Paradise Pier Hotel. Visit www.disneyland.com.


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