What IS a Timeshare?
Timeshares began as condominiums that each had multiple owners. Today, this model is often referred to as "fractional ownership," where you might own a 1/16th stake - or around three weeks per year - of the condo. You "shared your time" with the other owners of your unit. Originally, timeshare owners actually owned specific weeks of the year, and could only own the unit during those weeks. Eventually, timeshare developers started selling 1/52nd shares - meaning one week each year - and invented the concept of "floating weeks," where you could schedule your use and not be fixed to a specific week each year.
The point of all this is that with a timeshare, you actually own a piece of deeded real estate, representing a fraction of the total number of units and weeks available at the facility. Trade systems like Interval International and Resort Condominiums International (II and RCI, respectively) evolved that let your swap your ownership and stay at a different location, but you always owned that fractional piece of real estate wherever you bought it. Newer timeshare brands often express your ownership in terms of points, "charging" a certain number of points to stay in specific types of rooms, during specific seasons. Those "point systems" also allow you to own less than a full week of time, if you like. You could, for example, buy enough points to visit for 11 days every year, instead of having to buy either 7 or 14 days as weeks. But in almost all cases, you actually own a fractional piece of real estate forever.
Sounds very similar to Disney Vacation Club, but there's a key difference.
The DVC Difference
Disney originally was reluctant to let the word "timeshare" anywhere near their vacation ownership product, because the industry has a terrible reputation for high-pressure, deceptive sales practices. Certainly not something Disney wanted to be a part of! Disney also had a unique problem: ownership implies control. Disney certainly didn't want to give up control over its Walt Disney World real estate, because the company's exclusive ownership helps it maintain de facto control of the property's legal government.
So DVC isn't really a timeshare. Instead, it's what I like to call a "prepaid vacation program." Essentially, you are buying a certain amount of "usage" in the system, and that usage expires after a given period of time. You're renting, more or less, not buying. Disney remains the landlord and property owner, under a complex set of legal relationships they created with the DVC development division.
So under DVC, you buy a set of points. You pay for that up front, either in cash or through a financing arrangement - that is, a loan. You get your point allocation annually on a specific day, and you can "spend" your points to stay at Disney hotels. Each different type of hotel room, at each resort, during one of five seasons, has a point "cost." You can also use your points to "buy" other types of vacations, including Disney Cruise Line reservations, reservations at non-DVC hotels owned by Disney, and even at a selection of properties not owned by Disney.
DVC: How it Works
When Disney builds a new DVC resort, or converts an existing hotel to the DVC program, it invests the property with a fixed number of points. That number represents all possible rooms during all possible seasons. If you were to plop down enough cash to buy ALL of those points, you'd basically own the hotel. But we're talking tens of millions of points per hotel, so it would be a LOT of cash!
Disney then divvies up the points, assigning them to different room types and seasons. The trick is that Disney can't ever add more points to that hotel unless they add more rooms to it - the points, once declared, are fixed. Disney CAN rearrange the points, up to a certain percentage every so often. They can make one kind of room more "expensive," for example, but to do so another type of room has to get "cheaper." The points can be shuffled, but they'll always add up to the same total number.
So there's a fixed number of points in the system, which means a specific property is "sold out" when all of its points have been purchased. In reality, Disney withholds a certain number of points for itself, which it then uses to sell cash reservations at the property.
When you buy your points, you're therefore buying them from a specific resort, and that's said to be your "home resort." Disney lets you make reservations, using your points, at that resort up to nine months in advance. You can use your points at other DVC locations up to six months in advance, meaning people who "own" at a particular resort get a three-month advantage. That's an important fact, because if you prefer to stay at once resort, you want to own your points from that resort, so that you'll get the extra three-month window.
If you choose not to use some or all of your points for a given year, you can "bank" them into the following year. You can also "borrow" from the subsequent year, dragging points into the current year. Thus, you can have up to three years' worth of points at your disposal. For example, let's say you own 200 points. You could bank your 2015 points into 2016, and borrow your 2017 points into 2016, giving you 600 points total to use in 2016. These bank/borrow transactions are permanent, and can't be un-done. Any given point can only be banked/borrowed one time, meaning once it's banked into the next year, it has to get used in that year or be lost forever.
What About the Expiration?
When Disney creates points by building or converting a resort, they assign an expiration date to those points. The original DVC resort points expire in 2042; newer properties were set to expire in 2056. That date is adjusted constantly for new resorts as they're built, and Disney always has the option of selling extensions - something it did for Old Key West owners, who could spend a bit more money to extend their points from 2042 to 2056.
On the expiration date, the points vanish from your control, and revert to Disney, who can then re-sell them. So you don't "own" your points as you would in a timeshare; you're merely renting them for a period of time.
So That's the Overview
Those are the basics of how DVC works. There's a lot more to consider, like the finances, buying direct from Disney or from a previous DVC owner, and so on. We'll explore those topics in future "DVC FAQ" articles.
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That is the question Busch Gardens Williamsburg's newest roller coaster asks of riders as they ponder boarding the strange-looking contraption known as Tempesto. The teal-tracked launched shuttle coaster from Premier is like nothing else in the Williamsburg, Virginia theme park. Evoking the turn-of-the-century stuntmen of Italy, Tempesto rises to a striking 150 feet above the ground, and reaches speeds of 63 miles an hour. Serious roller coaster aficionados would probably call Tempesto a one-trick-pony, but that trick is pretty harrowing. As a contributor to Theme Park Insider and member of the park's Ambassador Blogger program, I was invited to the media preview of the new roller coaster.
Riders start by boarding Tempesto's 12-person trains. They are a little tricky to get into, with tight rows and kick-plates on the side of the train that may cause some to trip up a bit, particularly to those used to the zero-entry trains of Verbolten and Apollo's Chariot. Then there's the "comfort collar," which is a soft-padded over-the-shoulder restraint that is like the top half of a racing harness that riders must remember to lift before sitting down. Once seated, however, the seats are cozy, yet comfortable, with a lap restraint that secures across the rider's waist and has a soft pad across the rider's shins. The "comfort collar" then buckles into the lap restraint and after a quick check, the train is cleared.
Tempesto starts out with a forward launch up the structure until the train stalls. This launch was not nearly as intense as I was expecting, as it feels more like a car accelerating from a stop light under normal conditions, instead of an intense, pedal-to-the-metal launch you might expect. However, after the forward stall, Tempesto really kicks into gear. As the train falls and approaches the station, the LSM launch system accelerates the train backwards.
Those that have ridden Intamin inverted impulse coasters, such as Wicked Twister and V2, will be surprised by the intensity of the backward acceleration of Tempesto as the train speeds through the station. After the backwards launch, the train approached the top of a non-inverting loop. Where the train stalls on the backwards launch is a lot farther than I had expected, and gives every seat on the train good hang time before gravity again takes over and starts pulling the train into the station.
The train then receives one final jolt of acceleration that provides enough speed to reach the very top of the structure, 150 feet up. Once at the top, the train negotiates an inline twist at a very slow speed. The twist is not terribly intense, but the visual is impressive, as riders gradually turn upside down over the station far below.
The train then plunges down a near-vertical twisting hill and into the non-inverting loop (like Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit at Universal Studios Florida), and back through the station.
As I noted when Busch Gardens announced Tempesto earlier this year, one of the issues with the new coaster is going to be its very low capacity. The low capacity is further magnified by the difficulty passengers will likely have getting in and out of the tight trains and tricky "comfort collars." The hope would be that as guests get more experience on the coaster, the loading process will gradually get faster, but long lines are almost certain for much of this season. However, those willing to wait will be treated to a pretty unique experience, and while Tempesto is dwarfed by nearby Apollo's Chariot, it packs a pretty good punch. Another great aspect of this coaster is a variability of ride experiences from the front to the back, so those with patience will be rewarded with much different sensations on future rides in different seats. This is probably not a ride worth trekking across the country to experience, but those in the mid-Atlantic region or already planning trips to Busch Gardens this year will be treated to a great addition to the park's already notable lineup of thrill rides.
So, are you enough of a daredevil to take on Tempesto?
Here is the statement:
"Something is stirring beneath the surface at SeaWorld Orlando, preparing to rise from the ocean depths and soar to thrilling new heights. Get ready for the frenzy of SeaWorld’s new 200-foot-tall coaster. In 2016, this thriller will take its place atop the food chain as Orlando’s tallest, fastest and longest coaster. More details on the new addition will surface in late-May. SeaWorld is a one-of-a-kind theme park with a variety of attractions including awe-inspiring animal encounters, thrilling rides and spectacular shows. Follow #nothingfaster as the frenzy starts."
This will be SeaWorld Orlando's first new coaster since the Theme Park Insider Award-winning Manta debuted in 2009. Manta is a Bolliger & Mabillard Flying Coaster, and SeaWorld Orlando's other non-kiddie coaster is also a B&M, the floorless Kraken, which opened in 2000. SWO also has a Mack custom water coaster, the original Journey to Atlantis, which opened in 1998.
Since Manta's debut, SeaWorld Orlando has opened animal habitat-focused attractions, including Turtle Trek and its most recent new attraction, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin.
What are you hoping to see for SeaWorld's new coaster?
Playing in the Mermaid Lagoon Theater in the Triton's Kingdom indoor area of the park's Mermaid Lagoon land, the show is set in a concert hall at the bottom of the sea. Ariel and her friends "swim" in the air above the stage, thanks to the use of harnesses, puppetry and stagecraft, as they perform songs from the film.
(Photos courtesy Tokyo Disney Resort.)
Walk into just about any store in America on November 1, the day after Halloween, and the you'll see the Jack-o-Lanterns and ghosts immediately give way to snowmen and Christmas trees. It's as if Thanksgiving has become America's forgotten holiday.
But there's one theme park that hasn't forgotten Thanksgiving, and, ironically, it's in a town called Santa Claus. Indiana's Holiday World honors Thanksgiving with some of its best attractions, including the award-winning The Voyage roller coaster. And this morning, Holiday World showed even more love for Thanksgiving with the launch of its newest coaster, Thunderbird, in the park's Thanksgiving land.
Thunderbird is America's first launched wing coaster, from Swiss designers Bolliger & Mabillard. And it's the park's first all-steel coaster, joining highly rated wooden coasters The Raven and The Legend, as well as The Voyage, in the park's line-up.
Wing coasters provide you a choice when riding: left or right? And that's part of the appeal of wing coasters to theme parks, prompting Holiday World to join Dollywood, Cedar Point, and Six Flags Great America to add this increasingly popular model of coaster to its line-up. The choice of riding on the left or right wing inspires many visitors to want to ride a second time (or more!), to experience the ride on both sides of the track.
Whichever side your choose, crashing thunder and a blast of fog greet you as you depart from the loading platform, an omen of the thrills ahead. Then Thunderbird flies out of its station, accelerating from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds, lifting riders immediately into a 140-foot-tall Immelmann loop.
From there, you sweep into a 125-foot loop before crossing The Voyage's track on your way through a pair of overbanked turns, twisting in each direction to give both wings a turn on top.
There's no block brake on Thunderbird, as on Cedar Point's Gatekeeper, nor will you find that ride's long sections of straight track to offer you a pause between the twisting elements. Thunderbird keeps throwing its elements at you without hesitation. After the horseshoe turns, you twist through a zero-G roll and an S-curve before the first of the two "headchopper" keyholes.
Wing coasters typically add these illusions to play on the unique perspective of riding at the side of the track, where you feel more exposed to the surroundings than on traditional designs where you ride above or below the track. But these headchopper illusions feel superfluous in Thunderbird's wooded setting, where an abundance of trees will spook riders into pulling their knees close throughout the ride. Indeed, the proximity of the trees help Thunderbird feel faster than its 60 mph top speed.
With no pause between elements, the thrill factor amplifies throughout the ride, reaching its peak with the second headchopper and the heartline roll that follows. You truly do feel that you're about to fall from your seat as you invert through the heartline, emphasizing the wing coaster's suggestion that you are not bound by a track on your flight.
And just when you're ready for a break from the action, it's over. With a ride time of 1 minute, 18 seconds, it's not a long flight, but don't forget that you're not wasting any time on a lift chain, making a slow crawl up an initial lift hill as on other wing coasters. It's all action on Thunderbird, and while there's no break, the ride left me ready and eager to go again, to experience flight on the other side.
Let's take a ride, with complete POV and reverse POV views:
So why the rush to Christmas? With Thunderbird joining The Voyage, we have all the more reason to linger in Thanksgiving instead.
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It's probably our mobile phones.
Not everyone goes on one of the new Harry Potter rides when he or she visits Universal Orlando, and not everyone rides Pirates of the Caribbean when visiting Disneyland. But just about everyone spends some time on a mobile device when visiting a park. A survey by Thinkwell Group found that 80 percent of theme park visitors polled brought a mobile device to the park with them, and that 72 percent spent time on and off throughout the day using a mobile device.
Not only can cell phones help you take pictures and keep in touch with friends and family when they head elsewhere in the park, they've become essential trip planning tools, especially at Walt Disney World, where guests can use the My Disney Experience app to manage their Fastpass+ attraction reservation times.
But no mobile device will do you any good if its battery dies.
Given the popularity of cell phones in theme parks, keeping your mobile devices charged throughout the day now joins getting a Be Our Guest reservation or a time for your daughter into see Anna and Elsa as one of the top challenges for theme park fans. Here are several tips that won't cost you any extra money but will help you keep your phone from losing its juice and forcing you to take time out of your day to recharge. (We'll talk about Apple iOS devices, since that's what I use. The basic principles apply to Android devices, too, but the specifics of how to make these adjustments might vary.)
Make Sure You Start with a Full Charge
You might want to file this under "Well, Duh," but a vacation scrambles your normal routine, and plenty of visitors awake in their hotel to discover that they forgot to plug in their phone to charge overnight. Don't let that be you. Don't start the day at a disadvantage. Remember to charge every night. And if you turned on your Personal Hotspot to do an end run around the slow hotel WiFi last night, turn it back off before starting the day.
Turn off Background Refresh
One of the more important things you can do to keep from wasting your device's charge is to keep your apps from eating power when you're not using them. Tap the Settings icon, then select "General," and then "Background App Refresh." Swipe that sucker to the off position and you will prevent a major source of wasted power, especially from less-then-well-designed apps with inefficient power use. (You might have heard that you should force-quit all your apps when you're not using them, but that actually doesn't save power in most cases on Apple devices. Turning off background refresh will.)
Change Your Settings to Shut Down More Power Hogs
While you are in the Settings, turn off a bunch of other potential power hogs, to extend your battery's charge longer through the day.
Use Control Center to Limit Your Connections
On your lock screen, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal the control center. This is where you can turn on and off services such as WiFi, Bluetooth and AirDrop. You will want to limit your use of those three to maximize your battery's charge.
Turn off all three, activating them only when you need them — such as turning on WiFi when using the Disney Parks app, for example.
For Ultimate Savings, Turn the Whole Thing Off
The best way to save power is to turn off your device. If you've got to stick your phone in a locker while you go to ride the Incredible Hulk Coaster, you might as well turn it off to save battery life while it's sitting in there. Try to go without your phone now and then during the day, too. Do the queue "old school" and just talk to each other. Or bring a book to read in the queues, instead.
Remember that if you're under 10 percent power left on the battery, you won't be able to turn it back on after turning it off, so just leave it on then to squeeze every last moment of juice from your phone.
What do you do to help your phone make it through the day? Share your tips, in the comments.
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SeaWorld Orlando's Clyde and Seamore's Sea Lion High debuted on April 16, 2015, replacing the long-running "Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island," and features the former pirates as soon-to-be high school graduates. On the eve of their graduation, we learn that the duo is set to receive scholarships to the prestigious Ocean University. However, in order to graduate and get those scholarships, they must pass science, dance, and gym before the end of the school day.
Plan to arrive early to secure a good seat and catch the entertaining pre-show that features the school's crossing guard directing audience members entering the stadium. A trainer also provides insight into how they train the animals for their performance. The trainer remind us that things don't always go as planned, which we saw later in the show. Then, the school's music teacher comes out to teach us the fight song and to recognize educators in the audience.
When the music fades, Cindy, a lively cheerleader, is joined by Clyde and Seamore. The pair's performance in school has 'netted' them the scholarships, which upsets the resident star athlete, Trip. However, Principal Twimby arrives and informs Clyde and Seamore of the aforementioned graduation dilemma. With encouragement from audience and their classmates, our protagonists agree to pass their remaining classes. Clyde needs to pass science; Seamore needs to pass gym and drama; and both need to pass dance.
Drama is first on their schedule and their teacher, whose act reminded me of Jon Lovitz, gives them their assignment, which is to re-enact scenes from famous movies. Seamore gives an impressive performance in scenes from Jaws, Mission: Impossible, Hamlet, and The Sound of Music. Not to be outshone, Trip attempts to deliver a moving monologue, but is repeatedly interrupted by Seamore. After Seamore's rousing rendition of "The Sound of Music," their teacher exclaims, "Whale done!" and ushers him onto his next class.
Next, Clyde is greeted by his eccentric science teacher, who informs him that they will be studying astronomy. Clyde eloquently balances a beach ball on his nose to demonstrate orbiting planets, and then proceeds to use the telescope to seek out his crush on the Kiss Cam. His teacher scolds him for his lack of focus and reminds him that he must always follow the rules.
In a nod to Finding Nemo, he points out us not to dispose of chemicals in the sink as "all drains do, indeed, lead to the ocean." Of course, Clyde ignores this important safety tip and now he and his human friend must clear the blockage they caused in the school's plumbing. The pair quickly construct an air cannon and, inevitably, use too much pressure, which causes the toilets to overflow and flood the stage.
Clyde quickly flees the scene and joins Seamore for lunch. On their way to the cafeteria, they pass Opie Otter who is raiding the vending machine. Opie previously starred as the mischievous prankster who stole the treasure map on Pirate Island, and he is still up to his old tricks here.
After lunch, Seamore moves onto to dance class where he conveniently injures his flipper while doing the Tango so he can skip gym. His teacher suspects a scam and sends him to see the nurse, where he is miraculously cured by the sight of a comically oversized needle. As he takes off, Trip returns and carelessly tosses an empty soda can into the water. Not to fear, as Opie dives in, recovers the can, and places it into a recycling bin.
The day is almost over as we reach the gym, where Clyde and Seamore demonstrate their talents as they perform push-ups and handstands. Clyde then performs an eloquent high dive to show Seamore how it's done. However, Seamore is afraid of heights and refuses to dive. Instead, he performs a lazy swim just as the bell begins to ring. Principal Twimby returns with their report cards and we learn that, sadly, Clyde failed science and Seamore failed gym; therefore, the scholarship is awarded to Trip. As he begins to gloat, Opie appears and steals the paper. Chaos quickly follows, including a humorous sight gag featuring Davy Jones and a locker.
As the search for Opie progresses, Trip becomes trapped in the school's water tower. Seamore overcomes his fear of heights and climbs up in an effort to rescue him and also becomes stuck. It is up to Clyde to rescue them.. if only he were around. Apparently, he was "skipping school," as he missed his cue, demonstrating the trainer's earlier comment on how things don't always go according to plan. Fortunately, Clyde's lab partner from earlier in the show "remembers" Clyde's plan and uses a large recycling bin to construct another air cannon. They fire it at the water tower which causes it to break apart, allowing Seamore and Trip to escape and soaking the audience.
Everyone gathers on stage as Clyde and Seamore are awarded the scholarships as a result of their successful rescue. The show ends with a festive celebration featuring the cast, including a lovable walrus, and they sing and dance as they audience exits the stadium.
"Clyde and Seamore's Sea Lion High" is a brilliant addition to the line-up at SeaWorld Orlando. The vibrant costumes, clever jokes, and positive message make it enjoyable and educational. Grab your backpack, sharpen your pencil, and take a seat because school is now in session.
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