Mock Gathering – Disney World

Okay, usually Mock Gatherings are focused on staying under a certain budget, but I am going to blow that a little for this one.  Arguments have been made that people use their vacation time in order to go out to a Jedi Gathering, so they should have an aspect of fun.  So this Mock Gathering, is going to be coming at this from a reverse position, a vacation spot, still kept as cheap as possible yet more expensive than usual, tailored to the Jedi.

Why Disney?  Well, I am there now.  This week is Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, Florida; and Opie and I have headed down early in order to visit the Disney parks and Universal.  Since Star Wars is now Disney, I thought it would be fun, especially since it is an easy side trip for people who attend celebrations.  I will have to do a Disneyland one eventually, for when Celebration is back in Anaheim, but that can wait two years.

To start, accommodations.  Rather than search for an AirBnB location, I am just going to go with putting us into one of the Disney Budget hotels.  True, there is no private meeting area, but they provide free parking to guests, free parking at the park if you are a guest, and free shuttles to and from the parks.  Plus they have the cafeterias on site that accept the dining plan if people want to go that route.  The rates vary, typically around $175/night, I just got one in April for $152/night though.  Like going to a convention, you can choose whether you want the privacy and just have one or two people in the room, which would drive up the cost, or if you want to split the room four ways to save money and double up on the beds (I have even gone there with five and had one on the floor).

Park tickets can also vary.  Only doing the four main parks, if you do one per day there is currently a deal for $279+tax, which is a great deal…who knows if that would be available when this hypothetical trip is planned though.  Normally, a four day ticket, one park per day, is $350.  Say you wanted to do only two days, two parks a day, a two day ticket with park hopper is $259.  Obviously there are plenty of variations on this.  In addition to the four main parks, there are two water parks.  Each park is $57-62 (depending on blackout dates).  Of course a person could go on this trip and decide to opt out of certain parks, so this would be very subjective in price.  Now, things for Jedi per park.

Magic Kingdom
If you have never been to Disney World…this is the park with the castle.  This park is definitely more for just being a big kid…more for fun than anything else.  You could spin the Buzz Lightyear ride or Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade as target practice, you could test your intestinal fortitude on the spinning teacups, or claim the Jungle Cruise and its a Small World as cultural exposure.  But this park is really just for the magic.

Hollywood Studios
If you have never been to Disney World…this is the park with the giant Mickey wizard hat.  This one is probably the most appealing for Jedi as Star Wars fans, currently housing the Star Tours ride, Jedi Academy training (for kids), and Star Wars Launch Bay store.  The rides also tend to be a bit more adult oriented as well, with the Rock’n’Roll Rollercoaster and the Tower of Terror, so for those who have fears of such rides, could be a good opportunity to test them.

If you have never been to Disney World…this is the park with the giant silver ball.  Around the World in one day…sort of.  Epcot usually gets the shaft by people, as it does not boast many rides.  But it does have eleven pavilions from around the world (ten plus the US), so this is the park with the most culture.  The park was also designed to be a community of the future, so there are several attractions about the environment and sustainability, including greenhouses that provide most of the food for the park.

Animal Kingdom
Another cultural stop, Animal Kingdoms biggest attractions are the animals.  African Elephants, Butterflies, Giraffes, Gorillas, Hippopotamuses, Lions, Okapis, Rhinos, Tamarins, Tigers, and even some dinosaur based attractions.  This is a good park for learning about wildlife.

Typhoon Lagoon
The tropical themed of the two water parks, evidently currently being refurbished.  There are your standard waterpark slides, a wave pool, great for practice at staying afloat, and when I was there at least, you could swim with sharks.  I did it…I was terrified…that is why I did it.  There are also surfing lessons, though those are extra and afterhours I believe.

Blizzard Beach
Blizzard Beach is a winter themed water park, and the only Disney park I have never been to.  From what I understand, pretty much your standard water park.


Obviously each park has several food options, but the one thing to touch on is the Dining Plan.  There are three main options:

  • Quick Service – Including 2 quick-service meals and 2 snacks per day. As well as a refillable drink mug eligible for refills at self-service and quick-service beverage locations.
  • Standard Plan – Including 1 Table service meal, 1 Quick Service Meal, and 2 snacks per day, plus refillable mug.
  • Deluxe Plan – Including 3 meals and 2 snacks per day, as well as refillable mug.



Mock Gathering: Fiji

Oh, Fiji!  You could not make this easy on my, could you?

From a price standpoint, there were some EXTREMELY affordable options in Fiji (six under $200 that I recorded), ranging from $6/night to $184/night.  Amenities however, were slightly trickier.  Some places had no wi-fi…fine, a weekend without the internet wont kill anyone, and it might be good for some.  Some places had not Air Conditioning, again, could be a good experience for those who have always had the luxury.  Some did not provide essentials…though I am still not 100% sure what falls into “essentials” as I have seen places say they do not offer essentials, but then later list that they do offer, what I would consider, essentials.

In the end, I found my favorite place to be Bougain’ville Suites.  The rate would be about $215/night plus food.  They have AC, they have wi-fi, they have essentials and a kitchen.  There are six bedrooms, 14 beds, and could sleep up to 22.  Oh, and it is the only one on my list that has a pool.  Of course, this is actually in Samoa, not Fiji.

The next best option would probably be what was titled “Home away from home, friendly.”  This one is actually in Tonga, but the rate is more affordable at $55/night plus food.  It has all the same amenities, except one…AC.   A trade off, to be sure.

The activities in this area mostly center around the aquatic, some lodgings offering arrangements for Whale Watching/Swimming, Cave Diving, and Snorkeling, but also Hiking and other land activities.  Fiji has a couple of temples, there are volcanoes and blowholes throughout the Island, and a lot of different cultural sites and activities.

Top Things to Do in Fiji
21 Things to Do in Samoa
Things to Do in Tonga


Mock Gathering: Venice

This time of year brings many large celebrations, the most commonly known being Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana Fat Tuesday is February 28th); also Carnival in Rio de Janeiro (February 24-March 1), but my personal favorite is Carnevale in Venice, Italy (February 11th-28th).  When I was abroad, despite having an invitation to join my Italian friends on a trip to Germany during Carnevale, I made it a point to visit Venice.  The town is overflowing with costumes, artists, and live performances.  When I was there, I even stumbled upon, what appeared to be, an impromptu Capoeira Jogo (I recorded the whole thing, I really wanted to join).  One day I want to go back to actually dress up and experience some of the more involved aspects of Carnevale (masquerades and what-not), but that year is not now.  However, in honor of this time of year, this months Mock Gathering is for Venice.

I was very tempted to look for rates during Carnevale for this, but they would be higher, and most Jedi would not be able to attend due to work and school schedules (not many holidays going on around this time of year), so I stuck to typical summer dates.

I am going to put up two locations for this one.  The first is Rialto Palace in Venezia.  There are 12 beds, so it could technically sleep up to 24 (though some of those “beds” are in the common area), but the price for 16 would be $174/person.  Being in Venezia, there is no free parking, but neither are their roads… Italy has excellent public transportation however, so getting there is no problem.

The other location is Villa Linda in Noale.  This is much cheaper, a total of $60/person (for 16, but could probably sleep more), a little bit less sleeping space as there are only 10 beds, but there is a backyard.  Biggest drawback is that it is not IN Venice itself, but again, public transportation is good, and it is about halfway between Venice and Padua, another good city to visit.  You could easily schedule one day in Venice, and one day in Padua.

Seriously, it is Italy.  Venice (and Padua), like most other towns in Italy is rife with architecture and museums.  You could literally spend an entire day doing a walking tour of  the city and still not see everything.  Examples:

  • Basilica di San Marco
  • Bridge of Sighs
  • Ponte di Rialto
  • Glassblowers in Murano
  • Piazza San Marco

Plus Padua:

  • Capella degli Scrovegni
  • Palazzo Zuckerman
  • St. Anthony’s Basilica
  • Prato della Valle
  • Botanical Gardens

You can even take a trip over to one of the other Islands, Torcello Island, for a hike to get a little activity in (other than the fact that you will be walking everywhere).

This is definitely a more laid back destination, but I think it is important for the Jedi to remember the knowledge aspect of the code, and sometimes it is worth it to go out into different cultures and just observe and learn.


Mock Gathering – Wisconsin Dells


I hesitated on posting this one, because it has the probability of being a little more expensive than usual.  However, these ARE ultimately just for fun.  They are a sort of brainstorming, that may give others ideas when they are organizing future gatherings, so I am going for it, cause this one would be fun.

The Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells.  The Kalahari is the largest indoor resort in the Dells, with both and indoor and outdoor waterpark.  For the purpose of this Mock Gathering, I priced the Entertainment Villa, which is listed for sleeping 18, and if everyone is doubled up in beds, will sleep 18.  Couches provide additional sleeping space, though I think I would make an executive decision to keep the lower level common area free of people sleeping, so that there is somewhere in the open people can hang out all night without disrupting someones ability to sleep.


The Villa provides a five bedrooms, one with a King bed and the other four each with two queens.  There is a fully equipped kitchen (with full sized refrigerator, dishwasher, and stove/oven), free high speed internet, a laundry room, pool table, a private secluded entrance, and complimentary shuttle to the lobby.

Within the resort itself, there is a fitness center, lazer tag, bowling, mini golf, a ropes course, go karts, climbing walls, arcade, and, of course, the waterpark with a lazy river, various slides, hot tub, wave pool, ecc.  I believe some of these may be extra, but I do not remember what the cost was.  The website lists prices for non-guests though, so perhaps I am mistaken.  I know when I was there several years ago we received a different color wristband for each day of our stay.  I only ever used the waterpark, though I think after I left on Sunday, the others I was with went to the amusement park area with just their wristbands.

Unfortunately a non-included situation, though there is the kitchen in the Villa that meals can be arranged if all pitch-in (as Jedi should be willing and able to do).  There are also several restaurants on site, so if people wanted to go out for a meal, that is also an option.

The price I came up for in August was $4,388.91 total, which comes out to $243.83/person (for three nights, I believe four days of passes are included) for 18 people.  You could easily fit a few extra people in to bring the price down a little, but only the first 18 would be included in the passes, so extra passes would need to be purchased and it might just end up the same anyhow.  Of course extra would have to be factored in for food, but not so much extra, as I believe California Jedi manages to feed everyone for about $30 extra.

Also, that price is for the peak season.  If a Gathering could be scheduled for the winter, you would lose the added outdoor waterpark, but the price drops about $1,000, bringing it down to $184.59/person, which is down where I like to keep the price, and trust me, the indoor waterpark is VERY good.  It would just be a matter of getting people to agree on a winter date.

So yeah, a little more expensive than I usually try to keep these, but so many things to do, and it is a full on resort, so it works for those who use this as vacation time as well.

Mock Gathering – Bahama Cruise

To begin with, I was not the one who came up with this idea.  I am not sure I would have ever come up with the idea of a cruise on my own, but it is a damn good idea.

I looked at a few different cruise lines (Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival, and MSC), and the best I came up with was Royal Caribbean.  I did not specify dates, which would effect cost, but overall, just pricing individually, I came up with a cruise to the Bahamas at $129-$200 per person for three nights.  Four nights was only about $10 more, but I could understand difficulty with schedules.  I will include just to be thorough. These prices are based on my original search, prices may fluctuate.  These prices include all meals, so this is less than or comperable with the most recent Gathering.

3-nights Bahamas – $134/person – Departs from Miami, stops in Nassau and CocoCay.
4-nights Bahamas – $149/person – Departs from Miami, stops in Nassau, CocoCay, and Key West.

Things To Do On Board:

  • Rock Climbing – 40ft
  • Flowrider (Surfing) – Private lessons additional fee
  • Ice Skating
  • Fitness Center
  • Fitness Classes – Yoga, Pilates, Spinning, ecc. (Some classes additional fee)
  • Mini Golf
  • Sports Court
  • Running  Track
  • Inline Skating
  • Scaba – additional fee
  • Complimentary entertainment and live music
  • Daily Brunch
  • Pool
  • Three Whirlpools
  • Library

Things to do in Nassau:

  • Only swimming with the dolphins was mentioned specifically, as well as the beaches

Things to do in CocoCay:

  • Snorkeling
  • Kayaking
  • Boating
  • Jet Ski Rentals
  • Nature Walks
  • Wave Runner

Now, as I mentioned, the rates were based on individual rates, or for up to four rooms.  There are group rates available, I would just have to actually speak with a representative and have specific dates to acquire those, however some interesting group information based on their FAQ section:

  • Payment can be made by the organizer, or individually.
  • Eight stateroom (16 guest) minimum for group discount
  • Deposit due 30 days after reserving the space, final payment due 75 days prior to sailing
  • Dining arrangements can be made (so that we all dine together)
  • Various activities can be arranged for the group (scavenger hunts, private shore excursions, karaoke, trivia, cocktail parties, private dinners, rock climbing time, ecc)
  • Complimentary use of state-of-the-art conference rooms and most lounges


Mock Gathering – California Redwoods

Back to the rural, I have always wanted to visit the California Redwoods, and have entertained having a Gathering there for years.

Redwoods River Resort –
Cabins house 35 people at $42.20 per person, per night.
Amenities, each have bathroom with shower, outside kitchenette, TV, private patie with barbecue – sleep 2-6 people per cabin.
Motel Rooms house 34 people at $35.70 per person, per night
Amenities include private bathroom with shower, kitchenette (microwave, small refrigerator, two burner stove, coffee pot, toaster, pots & pans, dishes, and utensils), TV and deck with barbecue.  Sleep 2-6 people per room.
Amenities include fire pits, hiking trail, swimming, wi fi.

It is possible that there are options for meals here, but nothing is listed on their website.  Still, I would not mind going back to everyone pitching in to cook/clean, even if those rolls need to be assigned before hand.  Evidently, this is how California Jedi does their gatherings anyhow, and it seems to work for them (I use hypothetical language because I have not yet attended a California Jedi Gathering).  Each room in the motel has its own kitchenette, so this would allow people to say, hey, I have a specific diet I need to follow, so I will take care of my own food.

First, the amenities: hiking trail, swimming, fire pit.  There are also various venues for Horseback Riding and Kayaking.  Of course, those would be extra, but again, voluntary participation.

Mock Gathering – Chicago

From everything I have heard, all the Gatherings have been in very rural area’s thus far.  I can see benefits to this, but I could also see a benefit to having some Gatherings in more urban areas.  Not only is there a wealth of culture to experience, but it provides opportunities to interact with the world that being in a secluded area do not.

This will be the biggest issue with an urban setting, since there are really no big cabins to go hang out in.  However, doing some preliminary searching, there are options.  There are hostels of course, which may mean sharing rooms with a larger number of people, but the rooms are significantly cheaper, and there are often options for private rooms if anyone needed, that they could pay the extra.  You could also go the hotel block option, find a hotel in the area, set up a block of 15-20 rooms and allow people to book their own rooms (again, the more people in the room, the cheaper it is, or people are free to have a more private room if they want to pay the extra).  The drawbacks would be meals (which some provide breakfast but not other meals) and common areas.  There were some options of hotels with suites or an apartment-type setting that have living rooms that could be used as common areas, it would just be a matter of access.  There are also lobby’s of course, most hotel lobby’s having a common area where you can hang out (And I have done some 24-hour lobby chatting before).  Without ACTUALLY trying to plan something with dates and calling for group rates, it is impossible to get a full grasp of prices, but it IS possible.

As I said, more difficult due to location, but still doable.  I have heard the reason meals are included with venue now is because there were issues with who cooks/cleans before, but I  think if this was set up in advance, it could work; and some of the options do include rooms with kitchens.  Also, this would give options to try local cuisines in various locations, like a night of Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, or an afternoon outing to a local Hot Dog stand for Chicago Dogs….or healthier things…why is Chicago so unhealthy?

SO many things to do in Chicago, it is more an issue of picking just a few.

Chicago is full of wonderful museums, you could have a museum day, or do one a day, or just pick one.  Some of them are free, some of them have free days, or if a paid one is chosen, people can choose whether or not to go (since all activities should be voluntary anyhow).  A few of the big ones:

  • Adler Planetarium
  • Art Institute Chicago
  • Botanic Garden (free)
  • Field Museum
  • Lincoln Park Zoo (free)
  • Museum of Science and Industry
  • Shedd

There are some things you just have to do/see when you visit certain cities.  Some of these are just stop and look type things, like the Bean; others are full day events.  Some of the big Chicago attractions:

  • Navy Pier
  • Millennium Park
  • Willis Tower
  • Magnificent Mile
  • John Hancock
  • China Town
  • Bean
  • Buckingham Fountain

Perhaps for the more culturally minded, a night at the theater?  It would definitely up the price, but again, optional.

  • Chicago
  • Goodman
  • Oriental
  • Civic Opera
  • Harris

Other Activities/Ideas

  • An afternoon at the beach for swimming/meditating/morning yoga/evening Tai Chi….
  • Many Fitness Studios will offer a free class, even for large groups.  The group I am a member of is always scheduling events with studios.
  • A run along the lake.
  • And dozens of other activities could be available depending on when it were scheduled.  Workout in the park events…Shakespeare in the park (which I really need to go see this year)…Taste of Chicago…ecc.

Mock Gathering – Hawai’i

Opie and I were recently entertaining the idea of a Hawaii gathering, and I took it a step further and decided to start researching the logistics (although I believe Opie was the one who first looked at the Mauna Lea Manor, but it was me who got him to start looking after I was obsessing over a purple house…I like purple).


This location was not the first to catch my eye, but it is by far the most economical, and the look of the place is fantastic.  This is located on the Big Island, and they would probably be flexible on how many houses we rent depending on how many people sign up.

The Mauna Lea Manor description on Air B&B talks about ability to contact “doctors, massage therapists, chiropractors, yoga teachers, scuba instructors, any style of dance you like, hunting, fishing, archery,etc. ”  Evidently the husband owns a boat for Scuba Diving or Fishing, so it would be interesting to do either.  Also, I always love the idea of Archery, and it would be great to have a group Yoga session or some other similar activity, maybe even a Hula lesson.

Surfing – When in Hawaii, right?  I started looking into possible classes, but have not yet found anything very affordable.  This might fall under Mauna Lea Manor ability to contact people though, so it is still a possibility.  Even if it were just a lesson on the beach learning how to stand on the board, I think it would be fun and beneficial.

(I claim no responsibility if Lelo and Stitch ends up being watched….who am I kidding?  I will probably watch all the movies and TV episodes just to prepare.  I have the soundtrack running through my brain right now.)

Mauna Kea/Mauna Loa/Lōʻihi – The Hawaiian Islands were entirely formed off of a volcanic plum, so it seems a great please to learn about volcano’s.  The Big Island has two main volcano’s: Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.  There is also a new Seamount, Lōʻihi, forming off the coast of the Big Island.  There could be an in house lesson about volcanoes, as well as an outing to one of the ones on the island to actually see it in person.


Mock Gathering – Stronghold

In talking about the 2016 Gathering over the last few weeks, I thought it might be useful to actually write down the things I would have done differently.  I think I am going to turn this into a series of Mock Gatherings, pointing out some of the benefits of holding Gatherings in various locations.  Initially, I envisioned these being more detailed, but as I am doing them, I am realizing how difficult it is to list specifics without actually contacting places with dates and looking for quotes, so these will likely be more general “hey, this location is interesting, what are some options” type of posts.

Disclaimer:  I have no idea what the prices are on anything at Stronghold, so perhaps this was done in the most economical way.

To begin, not Stronghold specific, but the Yearbook.

First, all the pictures are from LAST YEARS Gathering, which makes sense since they print it before the Gathering, but I think it would be much more significant if you simply said that a Yearbook would be mailed out to all attendee’s AFTER the Gathering.  All the maps and schedules could be provided in a packet at the beginning, leaving more room for people to maybe post memories, post a list of who won certain awards, who was knighted, ecc.

Second…pictures.  Myself and several people did not submit photos to be put next to our names in the yearbook.  Some of us just did not want our picture included and assumed that would be the result when we did not submit them.  Instead, whoever assembled the yearbook went through our facebook profiles and picked whatever pictures they wanted, and not even the most professional looking.  The one chosen for me, for example, was from a photoshoot where I was dressed as Princess Leia…one of my least favorite of my costumes, and I make it a point to separate my costuming from being a Jedi.  And it was not even a recent picture, they had to scroll back some to find it.  It would have been easier for the person to shoot me a me, and the others, a quick PM, directly requesting a picture.  Or even say, “hey, you did not submit a picture, so unless you want something different, I am going to use this one.”


The Carriage House was booked for our group, which holds 30 people.  If there was an issue with space, we could have switched to the Barrick Lodge which holds 36, but there were no space issues.  Based on the group photo, there were 26 of us, and some of those stayed off site.  However, the organizers of the event stayed in the Bunker, a little 6-person cabin across the courtyard.  Why are we having separate accommodations for organizers?  This is supposed to be about unity and coming together as a group, not special treatment for a select few.  Sure, they held the Knighthood trials over there, but they could have just as easily held them in one of the rooms of the Carriage House, or perhaps at the main building, or even outside.  I wonder how much extra the rate was just to have this extra building.

Also, it was difficult to request roommates, and Opie and I had a little anxiety of who we would be rooming with, or even worse, that we would not be rooming together because the main organizer said “there will only be male/female rooms in special circumstances.”  Honestly, I felt I was going on a high school field trip again.

Instead of having the extra Bunker, or use of the Pavilion for the party, house everyone in one building and have the party in the common room.  With the money you would likely save on these two things, add some of the available Activities to the schedule, namely Archery, Canoeing, or use of the Obstacle Course.  All wonderful activities that may not be available at other locations and it would have been good to make use of.  Plus, it has the added bonus of getting everyone to leave the cabin instead of just sitting inside all day.  Yes, there was swimming, that was a great start.  There was also a Martial Arts workshop, though not everyone may have felt comfortable with that, and a fire building workshop…good starts.

Schedule one big activity per day, and by activity, I mean up and moving.  You can throw hiking in there as well, as there are some great trails out there.  Fit workshops in around those, and do not list them as “mandatory.”  Again, we are not in high school here.


  • One building for everyone
  • Make roommate choice completely up to the attendees
  • Make use of local activities – Archery, Canoeing, Obstacle Course, Hiking
  • Yearbook mailed out AFTER the Gathering
  • Don’t force anyone into something they do not want to do…including submitting photos