Last Thursday morning, I posted on my blog:
Free guest Wi-Fi was rolled out with no formal announcement at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom park yesterday. Guests who connected to the "Disney-Guest" network and accepted Disney's terms of service were able to freely utilize the Internet using the service. While Disney has not responded to an inquiry regarding the details of the service, MousePlanet was provided with a statement that "WiFi is on scheduled [sic] to be rolled out for all of our theme parks and DTD by early 2013." Free Wi-Fi was recently rolled out at all resorts without fanfare, as well.
One thing to keep an eye on is whether Disney has actually been able to build out a network that will handle traffic from tens of thousands of guests in each park and still provide sufficient bandwidth that it's not swamped, resulting in insufficient bandwidth per user. That's likely the scenario already effecting Internet connectivity in the parks through cellular service providers. Disney will need a huge amount of bandwidth to accommodate its ultimate purposes here. If they've been able to accomplish that with this service, it could potentially reap a number of benefits for both guests and Disney:
Staying in the parks
Many guests are only able to visit Walt Disney World on the condition that they stay in touch with work or home, whether due to business requirements or family issues. With the notoriously bad cellular signal in the parks, it was difficult for guests to get to the Internet through their standard data plan, forcing those who need to stay in contact with home or work to leave the park periodically to access their email. With the Wi-Fi service in place, guests should be able to stay in touch anywhere.
Social networking/free advertising
Many people today can't live without their Internet connection. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media become a way of life, and they're used to posting pictures and comments from everywhere. As noted above, the Internet connectivity in the parks (especially Magic Kingdom) is spotty at best. To give their guests the ability to post photos and more from the parks will both increase guest satisfaction and also provide free advertising, as live-tweeting or posting photos to Facebook as you travel around the park provides many more opportunities for others to see images of the parks and to hear of magical experiences. If a cast member makes a magical memory for a social media-connected guest, you can bet that all of their Twitter followers and Facebook friends will hear about it immediately.
Those are good reasons to add free Wi-Fi, but there are really a couple of bigger reasons behind it, and they're on the way.
My Disney Experience
With the poor connectivity inside the parks, use of the Disney Mobile Magic app has been extremely difficult at times, especially for those not on Disney partner Verizon's network. Improved Internet access would make it much easier to use the app. That's important, because it'll soon be time to move up.
Word emerged a couple of days ago that a new mobile application called My Disney Experience will soon (as in possibly this month) be replacing the Mobile Magic app. The new app would supposedly include all of the current Mobile Magic functionality, plus have additional capabilities that will allow it to better integrate with Next Generation initiatives such as...
Walt Disney World ran a test of the FastPass+ system back in May. In that test, park guests selected a number of attractions in advance for which they received a set of virtual Fastpass tickets attached to a radio-frequency identification (RFID) card. They also received a list of times for which they could use the virtual Fastpass tickets. The new version will likely include smartphones and other mobile devices via the My Disney Experience app. With Disney resort room keys migrating to RFID cards (hold them up to the door, no need to insert anything) and so many packages that include tickets being sold, park passes attached to the RFID room cards will likely also be used. It's uncertain whether it would be possible for a guest to use both their room card and their smartphone to get additional Fastpass+ return times.
Shrouded kiosks resembling the RFID scanning stations used in the last test have been appearing in the Magic Kingdom. The wraps may come off of those stations at the same time that My Disney Experience brings online Fastpass+ to mobile devices.
With that, the Disney Next Generation experience will be one step closer to allowing you to make Fastpass reservations for your entire trip before you leave your house.
What do you think? Will the Next Gen Fastpass+ reservations system be a valuable tool for helping to plan out and schedule your Walt Disney World visit, or will it be another step toward removing spontaneity and fun from your trip? Good, bad, or both? Do you like the idea of improved Wi-Fi connectivity in the parks, or would you prefer to be disconnected while enjoying your Disney experience? Voice your opinion in the comments below.
Since then, we've heard varying reports on the available connection speed, from sub-3G speeds up to about 3 Mbps. Considering the potential number of devices that might be connected from the tens of thousands of visitors, it could be a whole lot worse. In either case, for those who had difficulty getting any data signal in the park, any speed will be an improvement.
The new restroom building backs up against the Haunted Mansion show building and the adjacent hill. Some speculate that the tower atop the building will be Tangled-themed. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
Last Thursday, Disney released My Disney Experience to the iTunes App Store for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The application, which is still in "sneak peek" status, is eventually replacing the Disney Mobile Magic app, at least for Walt Disney World. At this time, there is no word on a separate app or upgrade to My Disney Experience for the Disneyland Resort, which may remain with Disney Mobile Magic. An Android version of the app is due out later this month.
My Disney Experience provides similar functionality to Disney Mobile Magic, plus some very useful add-ons. Guests can now see the actual wait times for attractions, as well as the return time for Fastpass tickets currently being dispensed. However, in order to see those times, guests will need to log in with their disney.com user ID. They will also need that user ID in order to make or cancel dining reservations.
With the addition of free Wi-Fi last week and the rumored upcoming trial of the next version of Fastpass+, the new application certainly appears to be set up for it. The display format of the wait time and Fastpass availability information certainly lends the appearance of having the ability to allow guests to remotely obtain Fastpass tickets and to display them upon approaching the attraction queue. We may get a chance to find out soon, as it is rumored that the next round of Fastpass+ testing will take place August 14 through 20.
The app can display information on attractions, character greetings, dining, entertainment, guest services, recreation, shopping, and more. All information can be sorted by name and location, and some have additional sort possibilities. Attractions can be sorted by wait time, characters and entertainment can be sorted by schedule, and dining can be sorted by hours. Not all character greetings are listed under characters, however; some are in the entertainment listings. Attraction wait time sorting is grouped into no wait (0 min), short wait times (5-30 min), moderate wait times (35-60 min), and long wait times (65 minutes plus), as well as "open throughout the day."
While guest services can be sorted by name and location, the sorting is not currently the best. Since the services are listed by location name instead of service type—"Aloha Isle Smoking Area" instead of "Smoking Area – Aloha Isle"—locations like smoking areas, AEDs, picture spots, and accessible parade viewing are all mixed together, making it difficult to review all AED locations to find the closest one.
All in all, the app looks good for a "sneak peek," though there are rough spots that need to be cleaned up. Since guests can link the app to their Disney.com user ID, it would certainly be helpful to be able to bring up hotel and dining information associated with their account from within the app. While the app will eventually replace Mobile Magic, there's still plenty of time to fix the trouble spots before that happens.
What do you think about the new app? Discuss it on our MousePad discussion forums.
Registration is now open for MouseAdventure: World Explorers IV. The fourth annual running of the scavenger hunt/puzzle quest/race through Walt Disney World's parks takes place on Saturday, November 3 at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom (the game has been going on at the parks of the Disneyland Resort for more than 11 years now). Do you think that you know the Magic Kingdom? We bet you don't know it as well as you think you do! Test your wits against those of our puzzle masters. For more information, check out the MouseAdventure information page.
The free dining offer for this fall and winter has been extended one week, and is now available through December 20 instead of December 13. The new dates are valid for stays most nights September 30 through October 4, October 19 through November 1, November 9-15, November 23-29, and December 10-20, 2012. See below for more details.
A new animation gallery exhibit has recently been placed inside the Magic of Disney Animation. Note that because of the delicate nature of the artwork being shown, new red curtains have been placed in the exhibit to block out direct sunlight. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Send us your menu photos
Click on the "Dining" section from our Walt Disney World Guide to see our complete list of of the park restaurant menus from Walt Disney World. Please help us keep the menus up to date! Send photos or scans of park menus to firstname.lastname@example.org to help us keep our listings updated.
The Walt Disney World website has opened up the mini-site for this year's Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Information includes the festival marketplaces; special, premium, and sweet Festival experiences; and the Eat to the Beat concert series. You can now peruse all of this information before the opening of reservations for featured events one week from tomorrow, on August 14, at 7 a.m.
This year's festival marketplaces are mostly returning stations, with two new additions. The Terra marketplace features vegan cuisine, while the Florida Local marketplace provides Central Florida offerings. There are plenty of new and returning experiences, both requiring paid reservations and free with park admission. Check out the Festival site, pick out your favorite events and chefs, and get your dialing finger ready for next Tuesday. Prices for paid events range from $11 to $495 per person. You can make your reservations by calling 407-WDW-FEST (407-939-3378) starting at 7 a.m. on August 14.
Disney Vacation Club members take note: DVC members can book weekday events (Monday through Thursday) four days before the general public, and will get a discount on top of that. Members will need to book their Food & Wine Festival events through Member Services to get their discounts (for all sessions) and early booking opportunities (weekdays).
Bea Arthur has joined fellow Golden Girl Betty White in having a bust in the ATAS (Academy of Television Arts & Sciences) Hall of Fame Plaza. She is best-known for starring in in The Golden Girls and Maude. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Annual passholders have the opportunity to enjoy a special preview of New Fantasyland some time in November. A note on the Passholder website announced the preview, along with a note that registration details will be communicated via email and the Passholder website. It's unknown whether the date(s) will be announced prior to the ticket on-sale date or if it will be a mad scramble for tickets as soon as the dates are announced.
The following is a listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:
Construction is underway behind the Theatre of the Stars leading to Fantasmic, between the path and the waterfront. This is intended to be a new pathway to handle incoming guests as well as handling special groups. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Painting and exterior preparation are finally under way for the new Captain Jack Sparrow Experience coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios this fall. Note that the soundstage studio number has been removed. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
…Registration for the February 22–24, 2013, fifth annual Princess Half Marathon Weekend is now open.
…Registration for the September 28–29 Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend is now full. The related runDisney Kids' Races are now 60 percent full and the 5K is now 64 percent full, and the Disney Villains Hollywood Bash after-party is 61 percent full.
…Registration for the November 9-10 Disney's Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend is now officially full. There are still some opportunities available to run the race via charity groups and travel operators. Look for details at the event website.
…Registration for the January 10-13, 2013, Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is now open. Registration for Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is 87 percent full, the full Marathon is 78 percent full, and the Half Marathon is 67 percent full.
…The MousePlanet Newsletter is here! The newsletter contains a recap of the week's articles (in case you miss a day), news that may have developed since the weekly Updates were published, and tips about what's happening at the Disney theme parks for the coming weekend. We'll also include a fun MouseAdventure bonus, such as an Eye Spy or a trivia question. To subscribe to our free newsletter, go to the MousePlanet main page and enter your email address in the top right box labeled "Join the MousePlanet Newsletter." Click Join, then fill out the fields in the registration page, including your first and last name. The Newsletter is free, but you must complete this registration to receive it, even if you may have signed up for one with us in the past.
Crowd information and forecasts are provided by TouringPlans.com, the website of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, to help you better plan your trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. TouringPlans.com gathers wait time data from a team of in-park researchers and users of their Lines mobile phone application, and then predicts crowd levels for the next 365 days. Using a scale from 1 to 10, TouringPlans.com has a 90 percent accuracy of predicting the crowds to within 1 point, helping visitors prepare for their trips so they can "Do more. Wait less."
Join our networks
Walt Disney World has announced a free dining offer for Disney Visa card members and the general public. The offer is valid for stays most nights September 30 through October 4, October 19 through November 1, November 9-15, November 23-29, and December 10-20, 2012. As with the most recent offers, guests staying at Value resorts receive a free Quick Service Dining Plan, while guests staying in Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villa accommodations receive the standard Disney Dining Plan. Guests can upgrade their dining plan for the usual difference in price between each dining plan.
The offer is only available for packages including room, tickets, and dining, and all members of the party much purchase the same package and tickets. Minimum length of stay is three nights with two-day base tickets; maximum stay on the package is 14 days. Some blackout dates apply.
Campsites, 3-bedroom villas, and the Little Mermaid standard view rooms at Disney's Art of Animation Resort are not included in this offer, and you must book by September 29 to get this offer.
Remember: If you're planning to play MouseAdventure: World Explorers IV on November 3, you can get free dining as long as you arrive by the preceding Thursday, November 1.
You can make your reservations through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-7631 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code F8Z (Disney Visa) or X9N (general availability) for Value resorts or D85 (Disney Visa) or I87 (general availability) for Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villa Resorts.
Disney's PhotoPass service has announced a new summer discount on Disney PhotoPass+ pre-arrival packages. For $169.95 plus tax, Walt Disney World guests receive a voucher to exchange for a PhotoPass+ card upon arrival at the resort, a Photo Gallery CD with over 400 stock photos ($39.95 value), a unique code to create and order a photo CD upon return from their trip ($169.95 value), print packages at select dining locations ($29.95 value each), and digital photos from select attractions ($14.95 value each). Applicable taxes will be charged to all orders.
This special offer is only available from this link or by calling the Guest Support line at 407-560-4300, and only prior to arrival at Walt Disney World Resort. All sales are final, and not eligible for an exchange or refund.
The package may take as long as 14 days to arrive, and you must bring your voucher from the package to redeem it, so make sure that you order far enough in advance to allow your materials to arrive.
Attractions currently participating in the program are Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, and Dinosaur. Current participating restaurants are 1900 Park Fare, 'Ohana, Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, Chef Mickey's Cinderella's Royal Table, Tusker House Restaurant, Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue, Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.
A new room-only discount has been released for this summer. The discount is available for stays most nights from August 15 through September 29 and must be booked by August 14.
Discounts vary by resort:
Other room types may be available at varying rates.
This discount does not include suites, 3 bedroom Grand Villas, and Disney's Art of Animation Resort.
No other discounts or group rates apply. The number of discounted rooms at these rates are limited, and additional minimum stay lengths may apply for weekend arrivals.
You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-1894 or your favorite travel agent and using discount code T47.
A Passholder discount is available for most dates August 17 through September 29. Passholders can book this discount through the day of arrival if rooms are still available. As with all discounts, rooms available at these rates is limited, and minimum length-of-stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. No group rates or other discounts apply. Suites, 3 -bedroom Grand Villas, and Disney's Art of Animation Resort are not included. Discounts range from 25-35 percent and availability varies by date.
You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World Passholder website or by calling (407) 939-7635 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code W9G. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
A Passholder discount is available for most dates July 22 through August 14. Passholders can book this discount through the day of arrival if rooms are still available. As with all discounts, rooms available at these rates is limited, and minimum length-of-stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. No group rates or other discounts apply. Suites, 3-bedroom Grand Villas, and Disney's Art of Animation Resort are not included.
Discounts range from 20-30 percent and availability varies by date.
You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World Passholder website or by calling (407) 939-7283 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code C87. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
From now through September 28, 2012, active and retired U.S. military personnel can purchase 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with either the Park Hopper or Water Parks Fun and More option for $138 per ticket, plus tax, or with both the Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun and More options for $165 per ticket, plus tax. No Base ticket is available with this offer.
The tickets expire and may not be used after September 30, 2012. July 4, 2012 is a blockout date.
Eligible service members include active or retired members of the U.S. military including the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reservists. Disney Military Promotional Tickets can be purchased at Shades of Green or at a participating military base (MWR/ITT) office. There is no tax charged for these tickets but they must be activated at a theme park ticket window. Tickets may also be purchased at Walt Disney World Park Ticket Offices and Guest Relations Offices where tax will be charged. No more than twelve Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased, activated and/or used by any Eligible Service Member or spouse during the life of this promotion, and no Eligible Service Member or spouse may purchase, activate and/or use more than six Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets during any single week of the promotion. One of the Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets purchased on each occasion must be for use by the Eligible Service Member or spouse. This offer is for active or retired members of the U.S. military, including the National Guard, Reservists and the U.S. Coast Guard. Valid military identification is required. The tickets are non-transferable and may not be resold.
The tickets may be upgraded to Seasonal Passes or Florida Resident Weekday Select Passes (for Florida Residents), or Annual Passes, Premium Annual Passes, or Disney Premier Pass with credit toward the upgrade based on the actual price paid. The no-expiration option and other upgrades, such as additional days, are not available.
For complete information regarding Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets, military personnel may call 407-939-7830, visit the Walt Disney World website, or participating U.S. military base ticket offices.
(Send an email to Mark Goldhaber)
Mark (@MPMark) is a veteran of dozens of trips to Walt Disney World starting in 1972, with a few Disneyland trips thrown in for good measure. As a Disney stockholder and a Disney Vacation Club member, Mark is always in touch with what's going on with The Mouse. Mark serves as MousePlanet's Walt Disney World content coordinator. Mark is a senior information technology manager working for the State of New York. He lives in the suburbs outside Albany, New York, with his wife and son.