DAVAO

Alcantara: Disneyland’s Christmas magic

Witerary

I HAVE yet to meet somebody who has not grown up with Disney characters, are not familiar with them, or has not loved Disney movies through the years. I grew up in Disney’s world, and so did your grandparents, since Mickey Mouse is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year (debuted 1928 in “Steamboat Willie”).

Hong Kong’s famous skyline and diverse attractions are somehow enhanced by one major tourist attraction: Hong Kong Disneyland Resort (HKDL), aka “the happiest place on earth.”

The largest theme park located in Lantau Island, HKDL is transformed into a magical winter wonderland this year and we were lucky to have witnessed a part of the attractions when they opened the day for the media. This tour was made possible with Cathay Dragon’s inaugural launch of the direct Davao-Hong Kong flights. In a partnership with Marco Polo Hong Kong and Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), Cathay flew in media friends and top travel agents in a four-day trip which gave us a short glimpse of the dynamic city’s vibrant lifestyle.

We spent a day in the magical kingdom acting like kids and loving it. Suddenly, every thrill ride sounds exciting, every hidden Mickey a delight to spot. We avoided the Hyperspace Mountain, having heard of its intense drops, twists and turns which is not for the faint of heart. We settled for the kid-friendly Dumbo the Flying Elephant, which propelled us round and round, in small drops, slow spins and safe turns.

Happily holding on to our new park admission ticket designs, we lined up for a meet and greet with Santa Goofy, before visiting Tomorrowland and getting a natural high with the Ironman Experience. We also enjoyed the parade of stars led by Mickey and Minnie which ended with Toy Story characters, to the delight of kids cheering from the sidewalks.

As dusk came, the “World’s Biggest Mouse Party” happened.

Disney Characters came out with singers, singing and dancing to an enchanting entertainment for the crowd. Adorned in green and red winter outfits, they welcome the newest addition to the family, the adorable Cookie.

The evening’s main event was the transformation of Main Street, U.S.A. into a magical winter wonderland, a tree lighting ceremony with a new 18-meter tall Christmas tree decked in dazzling ornaments and LED lights, and the fabricated twilight snowfall on the crowd. While Disney pals entertained with a singing quartet and choir, the “We Love Mickey!”

Christmas treat is a Projection Show Birthday which is a dazzling showcase of cutting-edge visual effects all over the buildings, transforming each structure across the street into a canvas of stunning, moving visuals that pay tribute to Mickey’s memorable classics, from the past to his present, encompassing a crazy kaleidoscope that wowed both kids and adults. As a fitting finale, the birthday host appeared in a moving balcony, in his best tuxedo and winning smile. Everything was magic.

A day around the park is not enough for energetic children, but for a grownup like me at the end of the day, I eagerly jumped into my cozy bed in Disney’s Explorer’s Lodge, a new exploration themed-hotel furnished with exotic room accommodations and safari–like interiors. My room was good for a family with two kids, who will surely love the shampoo bottles with mickey ear caps. A bright early morning surprise awaited us during breakfast at the World of Colour Restaurant, when Goofy dropped by each table for a quick hug. Meanwhile, over at the Dragon Wind Restaurant, Mickey and Minnie popped up and everyone went crazy for selfies.

Cathay Pacific’s dynamic team and our escorts were Robin Bradshaw (Country Manager, Philippines), Hazel Tagimacruz (District Sales and Marketing Manager), former GSA Manager Cecil Marcelo, and Thesa Pangilinan (Manager, Philippines) of HongKong Tourism Board (HKTB). Special thanks to Tina Leung, in charge of Publicity, Communications and Public Affairs for Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and our energetic, bubbly guide we call Rae.

*****

(Jojie Alcantara is a long time columnist of SunStar Davao, who also writes for travel publications. She blogs, travels and gives photography workshops around the country.)


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