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About six or eight years ago, my wife and I were visiting my father in Pahrump Nevada. We stayed there for a couple days, and then headed off towards Auburn California to visit an old friend of my wife’s family. I had brought my laptop with me, along with Delorme Street Atlas, and Delorme Map-N-Go. I used the program to find directions from Pahrump, to Auburn. I showed them to my dad, and he was curious about the route. He wasn’t aware of one of the road that Delorme had routed us on. He pulled out a paper map, and it showed the road as a dirt road. I told him that I doubted that Map-N-Go would route us on a dirt road.
Well, we got on our way in our economy rental car. As we neared the mystery road, I was coming into a little town, the speed limit dropped from 70 to 50 to 40 to 30, in a very short space. Next thing I know is I am getting pulled over by a cop. Great! A speed trap! The cop pointed out it was a construction zone, and a school zone, etc, etc. Fortunatly, the cop gave me a ticket for ONLY $65. After he gave me the ticket, I decided to ask him about the road. He looked at my map, and said he wouldn’t take that road unless he had a 4 wheel drive vehicle. I thanked him. When we got to where the road should be, we saw it was paved, and an 18 wheeler was coming out of it. We weren’t 100% positive this was the road, because I didn’t have a GPS yet. But going by distances from the last turn, it was in the right place. We decided to try it. The road was a good road, and it was paved. NOthing to worry about. We would be on the road for about 70 miles. About 10 miles in, the paved road, turned to a gravel road. But it was nice gravel road. It was wide, flat, and smooth, and seemed to be well maintained. Well…okay. We just would go a little slower. It would be better than backtracking, and going all the way around which would add about 3-4 hours to our drive. We decided to keep going. The road stayed nice for a while, but then a few potholes started appearing here and there. Not a big deal. Interestingly, we saw no other cars or even trucks at all. After a while, the road got narrower. We were starting to get a little nervous. The road became a little hillier. After a while, the road turned into a power line road, and we kep going. It was kind of funny that we saw little side roads connecting to the road we were on, and they had stop signs. Stop signs? Stop for what? There was nobody out here, and it’s not like you couldn’t see someone coming from a long ways away. As we were getting close to the other side, we passed some sort of a park, or scenic area. It was only then did we pass a couple cars coming the other direction. We then finally made it out the other side. It was an interesting adventure. Would I do again? Probably. But I would now have a GPS with me, so I would KNOW where we at.

Hidden Mickeys by Craig Shipman

What do you mean hidden Mickey’s, how can a six-foot tall mouse be hidden?

Well, as if Walt Disney and his imaginers didn’t give us enough to look at when we visit their wonderful parks, they also had a little inside joke running.

Hidden Mickey’s were always meant to be just that, hidden. They were originally placed in certain attractions by the imaginers so they could show their friends and family that they actually did work on that attraction, it became their little secret, a kind of signature only to shared with a select few. But now the secret is out.

Still baffled as to what a Hidden Mickey is?

Firstly, to make things a little more interesting, there are two main types of Hidden Mickey’s. The first type, and the original, is the most obvious, and consists of three circles, one large circle with two smaller circles placed above and to either side of the larger circle to give the famous Mickey Mouse silhouette. The second type of Hidden Mickey is sometimes slightly harder to see, taking the form of a side profile of the great Mouse, thing side profile of Hitchcock at the start of his movies and you will get the idea.

So where are these Hidden Mickey’s?

Well this is the fun part. You have to find them yourself. If you have never visited any of the Disney parks then we are sure that when you do make your first trip the last thing you will be thinking about is Hidden Mickey’s, but, if like us you have visited several times, you can consider the Hidden Mickey’s as a new challenge, something else to do other than standing in line for Test Track (by the way, we know of at least two Hidden Mickey’s in the queue area for Test Track!).

There are books out there to help you, all unofficial of course, and we are sure that you have seen people running around with the books, or looking behind them on an attraction instead of straight ahead like everyone else, well these people are probably looking for a Hidden Mickey, it might even be us. Some people dedicate an entire visit to the parks just to looking for Hidden Mickey’s. It is great fun!!

Want to know where to start?

Well first of all, if it isn’t hidden then it isn’t a Hidden Mickey, for example Mickey shaped ice cream cookies are not Hidden Mickey’s. And not every set of three round objects are Hidden Mickey’s, like oranges in a fruit bowl, they are just oranges. Also, if it is very obscure, such that you need to tilt your head to one side and squint with both eyes to see it, then it’s not a Hidden Mickey.

I will give you one to get you started. In Walt Disney Worlds magic Kingdom, on the Haunted Mansion, as you are passing through the ballroom scene with all the ghosts, take a look at the big table. Pay special attention to the place setting on the far left bottom corner. You will see that two saucers have been placed along with a dinner plate to form a great Hidden Mickey silhouette. Have a look the next time you are there. Although this is not an official Disney Imaginer Hidden Mickey, the cast members working Haunted Mansion reproduce it when the Imaginers reset the attraction.

Don’t forget that Hidden Mickey’s can take any form. Another quick example would be at Disney/MGM Studios, in the Tower of Terror. Watch the video with the family closely and you will see that the small girl is carrying a plush Mickey Mouse.

Have a look next time you are in the parks, or if you see someone looking behind them on an attraction, ask them if it’s a Hidden Mickey, they will love to share it, and that’s what Disney is all about, having fun.

About The Author

Craig Shipman

Together with my wife, we own and operate www.TheBigCondoList.com and www.TheBigVillaList.com both sites specialising in vacation home rentals in the Disney area of Orlando, Florida. Having been visiting Orlando for over eight years we have visited many interesting places and picked up a few hints and tips along the way, which we are happy to share in our forum www.ForumOrlando.com where you will also find monthly Hidden Mickey competitions.

Reprinted from ArticleCity.com

Getting A Job As A Crew Member On A Luxury Mega-Yacht by Matt Canham

Larry Ellison, Paul Allen and Tiger Woods all have them.

I’m talking about mega-yachts – privately owned floating palaces. In case you aren’t already aware, a mega-yacht is any motor or sail powered yacht over 24m in length. They have award winning interiors, the very best navigation equipment available and a permanent compliment of crew who live on board and travel with the yacht where ever it goes.

And the jobs are open to anyone.

The crews are comprised mostly of Australians, Kiwis, South Africans, Canadians, Europeans, South Americans and the odd US citizen. The industry is dominated by hard working travelers, eager for tax free US dollars and the lifestyle.

The lifestyle of being a ‘yachtie’ and chasing the sun is very hard to beat. Being surrounded by opulence is a lot of fun, not to mention berthing downtown at some of the finest cities in the world.

Most of the work is spent keeping the yacht looking pristine and when the guests are aboard, long hours ensue, but here are some of the benefits:

* Great tax free salary * All expenses paid including free food, wine, beer * At least one paid trip home each year * Travel to some of the best places on earth * Meeting VIPs, Captains of industry and celebrity types * Use of the tenders and jet skis

Most of the yachts will move between the US, the Med and the Caribbean, but 99% of them are registered in offshore tax havens such as the Cayman Islands. This allows people of all nationalities to work on yachts located in the US or anywhere else in the world for that matter. The yachts themselves tend to travel together and frequent the best parts of the world at the best times to be there.

The real work only exists when the owners and guests are on board and then it is all about service. The yachts are used exclusively by the owner or chartered out. The number of guests will vary, but it is not uncommon for the owners and several guests to be on board at the same time.

Below are some brief descriptions of jobs available on mega-yachts:

Captain – responsible for the running of the yacht and yearly running budget Mate – link between captain and crew members from all departments Bosun – responsible for deck staff Deckhand – responsible for upkeep of yacht.

Engineer – reports directly to the Captain. Responsible for the myriad systems on board the yacht 2nd Engineer – assists the engineer with engineering tasks and keeping the engine room immaculate.

Head Chef – works with owners/Captain to set menus Assistant Chef – assists the Head Chef as required.

Chief Stewardess – responsible for entire interior and uniforms for all crew. Like a cruise director in many ways Stewardess – responsible for keeping interior looking immaculate.

The smallest yachts will have 3 or 4 multi-tasking crew members while the largest have over 50. On some occasions, staff will assist the other departments.

Even though the Yachts are mostly registered in offshore tax havens, as vessels, they still need to comply with the standards set down by the MCA (Maritime and Coast Guard agency – UK).

One of the recent changes is the requirement for all crew members to be STCW95 certified. This course covers survival at sea, fire fighting, first aid and occupational health and safety. Most yachts will require crew members to already have this, although there are still some yachts that will pay for their crew to complete the course.

A word on pay.

Crew on privately owned yachts receive straight salary, but crew on charter yachts – which cost anywhere from $50,000 and up per week to charter – offer tips as well. Usually 10-15% of the total cost, they are usually divided amongst the crew. Charter yachts are hard work, but the money to be made is exceptional.

For the itinerant, hard working traveler, mega-yachts offer a very lucrative way to live in luxury and see the world. As more and more people become wealthy and get into the mega-yacht industry, the demand for crew members will only increase.

Do you want to be out there with them?

Copyright 2006 Matt Canham

About The Author

Matt Canham has worked on mega-yachts in Seattle, San Diego and Ft Lauderdale. He has a resource site at: http://mega-yacht-jobs.marinerblue.com.

Reprinted from ArticleCity.com

Alaska Cruising 2006… A Quick Preview by Mike Miller

Thinking about an Alaska cruise this summer? You’ve got tons of options along the sea routes of “the Great Land” in 2006. And few, if any, passengers who make the trip will return home disappointed in this region of towering mountains, lush forests, endless acres of untrammeled wilderness, whales in the water and brown (grizzly) bears on shore. Equally exciting: Alaska Native cultures still vibrant and living, and “Sourdough” goldrush history still reflected in many structures and sites connected to the Klondike stampede to the Yukon.

16 Cruiselines, 47 Ships

Among voyaging choices: No fewer than 16 cruiselines will dispatch a total of 47 big and little vessels on literally hundreds of sailings this spring, summer, and fall. And that doesn’t include Alaska’s 11 wide-ranging state-owned passenger and vehicle ferries, most with staterooms and food service. You can board a couple of these ships as far south as Bellingham, Washington.

Some of the major vessels in the cruiseliner fleet — floating grand resorts actually, with swimming pools, fitness centers, Vegas-style shows, casinos, movie theaters, and lounges — will accommodate more than 2,000 passengers per sailing. In contrast, some of the smallest ships will pamper only a dozen or so.

Ports of Departure:

Cruiseship ports of departure include Seattle, San Francisco, Vancouver, and Prince Rupert, plus a number Alaska coastal communities – among them Ketchikan, Petersburg, Sitka, Juneau, Cordova, Whittier, and Seward.

Cruise lengths vary. You can book a short cruise of three nights/four days in Prince William Sound or you can sign up for a traditional seven-night/eight-day roundtrip “Inside Passage” voyage from Seattle or Vancouver to Southeast Alaska and return (longer from San Francisco). Or you can book a seven-night/eight-day one-way “Gulf and Glaciers” cruise between Vancouver and Seward or Whittier. If you have the time (and budget) you may opt for an “expedition” sailing. Longest is 24 nights/25 days and includes the Bering Sea and even Russian ports and cruising areas.

Glaciers:

Of course, an Alaska cruise would hardly be an Alaska cruise without a day or more at major glacier viewing sites where rivers of ice flow into the sea. Among them: Glacier Bay National Park north of Juneau; Hubbard Glacier, which “flows” off Wrangell-St.Elias National Park into Disenchantment Bay and Russell Fjord north of Yakutat; twin Sawyer glaciers within the U.S. Forest Service’s Tracy Arm-Ford’s Terror Wilderness Area between Juneau and Petersburg; and Southcentral Alaska’s Prince William Sound with College Fjord and other glacier-rich sites.

If you want more than sea travel you can book the increasingly popular option of a “cruisetour.” That is, before or after your cruise you can experience the likes of a tour to Denali National Park, Fairbanks, Prudhoe Bay (on the shores of the Arctic Ocean), Canada’s Yukon Territory, or other popular land destinations.

For cruiseline-by-cruiseline itineraries and options, following are the names, phone contacts, and websites of the 16 companies cruising Alaska in 2006.

Large-ship Cruiselines, 1,000 to 2,672 passengers:

Carnival Cruise Lines, 1-800-CARNIVAL

(http://www.carnival.com)

Celebrity Cruises, 1-800-437-3111

(http://www.celebrity.com)

Holland America Line, 1-800-637-5029

(http://www.hollandamerica.com)

Norwegian Cruise Line, 1-800-327-7030

(http://www.ncl.com)

Princess Cruises, 1-800-PRINCESS

(http://www.princess.com)

Royal Caribbean International, 1-800-722-5045

(http://www.royalcaribbean.com)

Companies With Mid-Size Vessels, 300 to 999 Guests:

Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, 1-866-314-3213

(http://www.rssc.com)

Silversea Cruises, 1-800-722-9955

(http://www.silverseacruises.com)

Smallship Lines, Serving a Dozen Guests to 299:

American Safari Cruises, 1-888-862-8881

(http://www.americansafaricruises.com)

American West Steamboat Co., 1-800-434-1232

(http://www.americanweststeamboat.com)

The Boat Company, 1-360-697-4242

(http://www.theboatcompany.com)

Clipper Cruise Line, 1-800-325-0010

(http://www.clippercruise.com)

Cruise West, 1-800-888-9378

(http://www.cruisewest.com)

Discovery Voyages, 1-800-324-7602

(http://www.discoveryvoyages.com)

Lindblad Expeditions, 1-800-EXPEDITION

(http://www.expeditions.com)

Maple Leaf Adventures, 1-888-599-5323

(http://www.mapleleafadventures.com)

Ferries:

Alaska Marine Highway System, 1-800-642-0066

(http://www.FerryAlaska.com)

BC Ferries, 1-250-386-3431

(http://www.bcferries.com)

Copyright © 2006 by Mike Miller. All rights reserved.

About The Author

Alaskan travel writer Mike Miller lives in Juneau where his current passion is publishing an information-packed website about Alaska cruising and ferry travel: http://www.AlaskaCruisingReport.com. Miller has authored or contributed to a number of books (Fodors, Sierra Club Books, Globe Pequot, The Milepost and others) and contributes to TravelAge West (for travel agents). He frequently writes for major newspapers and magazines.

Reprinted from ArticleCity.com

10 Free Things To Do At Disney World by Jane Williams

1. Visit Downtown Disney.

It cost nothing to visit Downtown Disney. There are lots of fun shops to stroll through and plenty of people watching oportunities. (If you visit during the day PLEASE take a hat. I think Downtown Disney has it’s own micro climate – it often seems degrees hotter than the rest of Orlando.) Don’t miss the snoozing man made from lego or the fabtastc magnets at Magnetron Magnetz. Stop in the Art of Disney store – They run a trivia quiz every day and give out prizes if you get them all right!

2. Watch the Magic Kingdom Fireworks

from the beach of the Grand Floridian or Polynesian. You can park at the resorts for a short time for free. Tell the guard you are visiting the hotel coffee shop.

3. Take a free tour of Wilderness Lodge

Check with guest services for times and details. There is also a hidden Mickey hunt (list available from guest services)

4. Watch the Electrical Water Pageant

It takes place each night on Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake – times vary. A long line of barges are transformed into a magical light show. It is short – just a few minutes long but is one of the overlooked treasures of Walt Disney World. It can be seen from the beaches of the Grand Floridian and Polynesian and the Fort Wilderness Marina and Beach

5. Nature Trails at Fort Wilderness

There are many miles of trails at Fort Wilderness, through pine and cypress woods. All free. You can hire bikes but to walk costs nothing

6. Visit The Boardwalk

Best in the evening. Just stroll and take in the atmosphere. There’s usually lots of “street entertainment”

7. Visit the The petting farm at Fort Wilderness.

The petting farm is open 7 am to dusk a. There is free day parking at Ft. Wilderness.

8.Take the free garden tour at the Yacht & Beach Club Resort.

Call guest services for times

9.Take the free lobby tour at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

10 Campfire sing-song and a movie.

Each evening a campfire is held at Fort Wilderness (it is free to WDW Resort Guests) near the Meadow Trading Post. Take your own marshmallows to toast. The campfire is followed by a Disney cartoon feature shown on a large outdoor screen.

— I know I said 10 Free things but I have included one more because #10 is only free to guests staying at a Disney World Hotel!

11 Take a boat ride.

from Dixie Landings to Downtown Disney – it’s especially nice at night. Take a stroll round Downtown Disney and catch the boat back to your car at Dixie Landings.

About The Author

Jane Williams is vice president of Florida Value. She says: “we have been providing great value services to Florida vacationers for over 9 years” Now back in the UK after living in Orlando for a couple of years Jane still offers great products to Disney Visitors from all over the World. Check out http://www.travel-affiliates.com and http://www.travel-affiliates.com/universa-orlando.htm and http://www.travel-affiliates.com/more-fun.htm.

Reprinted from ArticleCity.com

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