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Update for May 7 – 13, 2013

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News and Views

Free dining offer announced for Disney Visa cardholders | Merida to become an official Disney Princess during Limited Time Magic event | What's the story with Disney's Story? | D-Tech Me returns to Star Wars Weekends in 2013 | Sanaa reopens with new lunch and dinner menu | Construction notes | Quick takes | Crowd update
Note: Starting today, the weekly MousePlanet Walt Disney World Update moves to Tuesdays.

Free dining offer announced for Disney Visa cardholders

Last week, Disney announced its newest Free Dining offer for U.K. residents, and now we have details of a new offer for Disney Visa cardholders: check in at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel from September 2 to 25 and stay three to 14 nights, and everyone in your party gets free dining. Stay at a:

  • Value Resort – receive the Quick Service Dining plan for free. You can upgrade to the Standard or Deluxe dining plan by paying the difference.
  • Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villa Resort – receive the Standard dining plan. You can upgrade to the Deluxe dining plan by paying the difference.

There are some restrictions:

  • You must purchase a 2-Day (or longer) Magic Your Way ticket for very member of your party.
  • You must book your travel by July 31.
  • You must book the same tickets and dining plan for every member of your party.
  • Children ages 3-9 must order from the children's menu where offered; children under age 3 are not eligible for free dining.
  • This offer excludes the campsites at Fort Wilderness, the Little Mermaid rooms at the Art of Animation Resort, and all 3-bedroom Villas.

For full details, visit the Disney Visa website.


Like kiosks found in Downtown Disney, a new Disney Visa kiosk has been set up near the entrance to the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom. Presumably this kiosk will offer guests incentives to open a Disney Visa card. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

At the moment this offer is limited to Disney Visa cardholders, and you must use a Disney Visa card to pay the deposit of $200 when making your reservation. It has been widely speculated that a public version of this offer will be released after May 9. If you are interested in this promotion and have a Disney Visa card, you should consider booking as soon as possible to have the best selection of dates and resorts.

Merida to become an official Disney Princess during Limited Time Magic event

Disney's Brave followed the adventures of a Scottish lass who went to extraordinary lengths to change the fate her royal parents had planned for her—but it looks like she didn't escape the fate Disney's marketing department intended. During a "Royal Celebration" this Saturday, May 11 at Magic Kingdom, Merida will be crowned an official Disney Princess. On hand for the ceremony will be the first 10 Disney Princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, and Rapunzel). Disney will sell limited-edition merchandise (only in children's sizes) at the Main Street Emporium to commemorate the occasion.

The announcement in Magic Kingdom's Times Guide doesn't give a time for the coronation ceremony, but MousePlanet sponsor TouringPlans.com reports it will take place at 9:30 a.m.

What's the story with Disney's Story?

From the "this completely flew under my radar" file comes Disney's Story, a new social meda app that appears to be a mashup of Facebook and Instagram. Advertisments for the new app appeared in Walt Disney World buses last week even though the Story website is not yet active, with Disney unveiling the new project during last week's New Front event in New York. There are few details available, but AdWeek says the app will pull photos from a user's phone and "put them together in a sharable story." The app will be available in the iTunes store sometime this week.


Disney to release a new Story app in the iTunes store this week. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

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D-Tech Me returns to Star Wars Weekends in 2013

Here's your chance to join the Dark Side and become a Stormtrooper during the 2013 Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Disney confirmed the return of the popular Carbon Freeze Me offering it first introduced in 2012, and is adding a new product that lets Star Wars fans order a personalized figurine of themselves as a Stormtrooper. Disney says, "The 10-minute experience uses the world’s highest-resolution, single-shot 3D face scanner," to capture your image for use in the 3D printing process.


You can have your image frozen in carbonite or turned into a Stormtrooper during the 2013 Star Wars Weekends. Photo © Disney.

D-Tech Me is offered only during the 2013 Star Wars weekends (May 17–19, May 24–26, May 31 to June 2, and June 7–9). Children must be 3 years or older to participate, and minors must be accompanied by an adult.

Reservations are strongly recommended, and a credit card is required to reserve your time. A $25 cancellation fee applies if your appointment is cancelled with less than 48 hours notice or missed entirely. The cost is $99.95 plus shipping, and figurines will arrive 7-8 weeks after purchase.


Personalized Stormtrooper figurines can be ordered during the 2013 Star Wars Weekends. Photo © Disney.

Sanaa reopens with new lunch and dinner menu

MousePlanet's Stephanie Wien summarizes the major changes to the menu at Sanna, the highly rated but often-overlooked restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge that is a particular favorite of the MousePlanet staff:

  • Bread service – for $2 more, you can get all the accompaniments with bread service instead of only three.
  • Lamb kefka sliders replace the lamb kefta kabob appetizer.
  • Kachumbari has been added to the salad sampler – this salad is of African origin and is made of a base of fresh onions and tomatoes, with other added variations depending on the recipe.
  • Chana tikki chickpea cakes replace the roasted cauliflower appetizer on the lunch menu.
  • Fish with Goan curry replaces the shrimp in green curry sauce – Goan curry is a type of curry that comes from Goa (on India's west coast, along the Arabian Sea), and from what I gather via reading, tends to be more mild on the heat scale of curries.
  • Bison burger with goat cheese replaces the previous Angus steak burger on the lunch menu.
  • Lots of changes to the vegetarian sampler choices.
  • Roasted turkey on ciabatta replaces the turkey club on the lunch menu.
  • Chicken chaat and bhatura (fried chicken pieces in a masala on fried bread) replaces the mango-glazed tandoori on the lunch menu.
  • Peri peri shrimp replaces the previous shrimp appetizer.
  • Mussels replace the scallops appetizer.
  • Bison masala replaces the short ribs on the dinner menu of slow-cooked options.
  • A lamb shank entree has been added to the dinner menuentrees.
  • Dessert platter serving five guests has been added, and includes balushahi (Indian doughnuts).

Stephanie notes, "It's nice to see a some African dishes on the menu now: peri peri shrimp, vegetable wat (Ethiopian), kachumbari salad." You can see the complete new menu on our MousePlanet guide page.

Construction notes

Some notable construction permits filed this week:

  • Show control work on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Princess Fairytale Hall and Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Several "Downtown Disney Operatons Team Trailers" being installed in the Downtown Disney lots, likely related to the Disney Springs project.
  • Roofing enhancement on the Country Bears show building.
  • Unspecified modifications to the check out counters inthe Pop Century food court.
  • Several general "labor, material and/or electrical for construction" permits for various eateries around the Resort. There are so many of these that it looks like perhaps the new electronic menu boards may be rolling out to more locations.


New flat screen menu boards at Pinocchio's Village Haus are cleverly themed with mechanical clocks and toys. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Quick takes…

…A New Fantasyland commerical featuring Regina from ABC's Once Upon a Time aired during this Sunday's episode. If you missed it, Disney posted the ad on YouTube, along with a behind-the-scenes video.


Once Upon a Time in the Magic Kingdom. Video © Disney.

…A new series of the Vinylmation Park Starz figurines is being released this Saturday at Walt Disney World. This collection, from Disney Design Group artist Casey Jones, looks to be especially popular, with the Magic Kingdom's Orange Bird, Tower of Terror Bellhop, and the Pirates of the Carribbean Redhead joining the line.


Twelve new Park Starz make their debut at the Magic Kindgom this weekend. Photo © Disney.

…Jiko hosts a wine dinner featuring the wines of Warwick Estates on Thursday, May 16. Winemakers from the South African label will be on hand for the reception and intimate five-course dinner, limited to just 40 guests. The dinner is $160 per person; contact Victoria Thompson at victoria.j.thompson@disney.com to make your reservation. A credit card deposit is required to hold your spot, and a cancellation fee applies. Full event menu is posted on the Disney Food Blog.

…Raglan Road hosts a Summer Solstice Signature Dinner with celebrity chef Kevin Dundon on Thursday, June 20. The five-course meal is $95 per person, including wine pairings. Call (407) 938-0300 to reserve your spot.

…LeSportsac has announced a new "it's a small world" collection to be released Summer 2013 at Walt Disney World. The new Around the World collection features handbags, backpacks, baby bags, small accessories, and soft luggage in a new print featuring the "it's a small world" dolls. Many of the pieces include a detachable charm of a blond doll named "Mary," a tribute to "it's a small world" artist Mary Blair.

CNN reports that the Walt Disney Company has stopped production in Bangladesh in reaction to a series of fatal accidents. The company is also ceasing production in Ecuador, Venezuela, Belarus, and Pakistan by early 2014.


The recently renovated main pool at Disney's Grand Floridian hosts small, LED lit fountains at night. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

We're Hiring!

Are you interested in writing for MousePlanet? We're currently looking for columnists to bring cover new areas of the Disney universe. We're especially looking for Florida locals to provide photos and information for the weekly Walt Disney World Update

If you are interested in contributing to the weekly Updates, or you have an idea for a great new column, please contact us—we'd love to hear from you!


DJ Lobot spins familiar tunes for the Star Wars-themed dance party during Disney's one day Limited Magic event, May the 4th Be With You, at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Stormtroopers lead Padawan parents and siblings to a special edition of the Jedi Training Academy. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Mickey and friends appear in their Star Wars costumes during the one-day Limited Time Magic event on May 4. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

Crowd Forecast

Advertisement

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."

May is here, the month starts out slow but crowds build near the end. TouringPlans.com can help you avoid falling into the typical tourist pitfalls, and will help you avoid the dreaded tour groups, with our per-park Crowd Calendar, Lines - Mobile Wait Times App that gives access to current and estimated wait times for attractions, and Touring Plans detailing the best plan of attack for hitting the attractions. Now more than ever, it's a good time to subscribe to TouringPlans.com to plan your strategy to avoid the crowds!

Below are the predicted resort-wide crowd numbers for select days generated by the TouringPlans professional statisticians as measured for the upcoming week. For the access to the full year and per-park crowd level predictions, visit our Crowd Calendar.

Date Overall
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 3 / 10
Wednesday, May 8, 2013 3 / 10
Thursday, May 9, 2013 5 / 10
Friday, May 10, 2013 6 / 10

Check out the Disney World Park Crowd Levels page on TouringPlans.com for park-specific predictions and recommendations on which days to visit and avoid particular parks!

  • Tuesday is the best day to visit the Magic Kingdom.
  • The resort crowd level on Saturday 5 out of 10.
  • Following a Touring Plan is important when crowd levels spike at the park you're visiting!

Disney World crowds for the next 365 days.
Get Disney World wait times on your iPhone, Android or Smartphone.
Do more. Wait less.

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Resort Events

2013

2014

runDisney events

An update on upcoming runDisney events and their registration statuses:

2013

  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend (October 4–5, 2013) – Registration is open for the Tower of Terror 10-Miler, Happy Haunted 5K Trail Run, Kids Races, Disney Villains Hollywood Bash. The 10-Miler is now 75 percent full.
  • Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend (November 8–9, 2013) – Registration is open for Wine & Dine Half Marathon, Mickey's Jingle Jungle 5K, Kids' Races, Wine & Dine Finish Line Party). The half marathon is now at 75 percent full.

2014

  • Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (January 9–12, 2014) – Sold out: WDW 10K, Disney Family Fun Run 5K, Dopey Challenge, Runner's World Challenge. Registration is open for the Walt Disney World Marathon (54 percent full), Walt Disney World Half Marathon (71 percent full), Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge (58 percent full), Family Reunion Breakfast, Pasta in the Park Party.
  • Disney's Princess Half-Marathon Weekend (February 21–23, 2014) – Registration opens on Tuesday, June 11. Events include Disney's Princess Half Marathon individual and team events, Disney Royal Family 5K, Kids Races, post-5K Breakfast, and Pasta in the Park Party. runDisney has announced a special achievement for those running both the Princess and Tinker Bell half marathons.

Do you participate in (or are considering signing up for) runDisney events? Visit our Team MousePlanet forum on the MousePad discussion board, where you can join our community of health-minded readers and staff.


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Snow White's Scary Adventures – closed permanently for conversion to Princess Fairytale Hall.
  • Main Street Bakery – closed through May 18 for conversion to Starbucks location.
  • Mad Tea Party – closed through May 21 for refurbishment.
  • Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress – closed May 13–15 for refurbishment.
  • Cinderella's Royal Table – closed May 13–16 for refurbishment.
  • Prince Charming Regal Carousel – closed May 28 through June 10 for refurbishment.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – closed June 17–20 for refurbishment.
  • Princess Fairytale Hall – opens 2013.
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – opens 2014.

Epcot

  • Fountain View Ice Cream – closed through early August for conversion to Starbucks location.
  • France pavilion ice cream shop – scheduled to open June 2013 at site of the former bakery.
  • New restroom between America and Japan pavilions – scheduled to open Fall 2013.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • No known refurbishments, but both parades (Disney Channel Rocks and Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun Parade) have ended their run. No new parades have been announced.

Animal Kingdom

  • No known refurbishments.

Resorts

  • Disney's Contemporary Resort – California Grill closed through late summer for refurbishment.
  • Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa – Beach area closed through mid-June for refurbishment.
  • Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa – Beach pool slide closed May 27 to June 1 for refurbishment, and the entire Beach pool area closed May 30 to June 1. The Courtyard pool remains open.
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa – Spa closed through summer for conversion to Senses – A Disney Spa at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort. The spa at the Grand Floridian remains open during this time.

Water Parks

  • No known refurbishments.

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays. Will not be performed on the following dates in 2013:
    • May 14–18
    • May 21–25
    • July 23
    • September 17–21
    • November 5–6

Current Discounts & Promotions

Disney Visa cardholder room discounts for June 13 through August 14

A Disney Visa cardholder discount is available for most dates June 13 through August 14. The new promotion offers discounts of 5 to 30 percent off room-only bookings, with the option of adding non-discounted tickets and dining plans if desired. Rooms must be booked by June 14 to qualify.

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, three-bedroom Grand Villas, and standard rooms at Disney's Art of Animation Resort are not included. Discounts vary by accommodation type and date, and availability varies by date. Discount percentages shown below are on room only. You can add non-discounted tickets and dining.

Resort Category Resort Name Discount
Value Resorts All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, Pop Century, Art of Animation Suites – 15% 15%
All-Star Movies 5%
Art of Animation Suites only (Standard Mermaid Rooms are not included) 15%
Moderate Resorts Disney's Riverside, Coronado Springs Caribbean Beach 20%
Disney's French Quarter 15%
Disney's Coronado Springs Suites 5%
Deluxe Resorts Disney's Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Yacht Club, Beach Club, BoardWalk Inn, Animal Kingdom Lodge 30%
Disney's Wilderness Lodge 20%
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Club Level 5%
Disney's Deluxe Resort Suites – limited availability 5%
Disney Vacation Club Resorts Disney's Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, Beach Club Villas, BoardWalk Villas 30%
Disney's Villas at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani and Jambo House) 5%
Disney's Villas at the Wilderness Lodge 20%
Disney Vacation Club Grand Villas are not included 0%

Thanks to MousePlanet sponsor Small World Vacations for the information.

Passholder room discounts for April through early June

A discount for annual passholders is available for most dates through June 3. 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, three-bedroom Grand Villas, and standard rooms at Disney's Art of Animation Resort are not included. Discounts vary by accommodation type and date, and availability varies by date.

You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World Passholder website or by calling (407) 939-7926 or your favorite travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Florida residents get special discount tickets through June

Florida residents can get discounted three- or four-day tickets through early June. The Discover Disney ticket provides three days of base admission for $119 plus tax, or four days for $129 plus tax. The Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun & More Options can be added for just $28.50 each, plus tax. The tickets are priced the same for adults and children.

Tickets are available for purchase from now through June 3, and may be used through June 7. Passes may not be used during the Easter peak weeks from March 23 through April 5.

For more information or to purchase tickets, check out the special deal website or call (407) 939-1283.

Florida resident hotel offers

The Waldorf Astoria Orlando has announced Florida resident rates valid through September 5. Residents receive 10 percent off of the best available rate, along with free transportation to the Walt Disney World Resort. Book using the Florida resident offer website.

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort has announced Florida resident rates valid through September 5. Residents receive 10 percent off of the best available rate, along with free transportation to the Walt Disney World Resort. Book using the Florida Resident offer website.

PhotoPass+ pre-arrival discount

Disney's PhotoPass service provides a discount on Disney PhotoPass+ pre-arrival packages. For $149.95 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 more than 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 are charged to all orders.

This special offer is only available from this link or by calling the Guest Support line at (407) 560-4300 before you arrive at Walt Disney World Resort. All sales are final, and not eligible for an exchange or refund.

The package might 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, and Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.

2013 Military Salute offers

From now through September 28, 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 $156 per ticket, plus tax (up from $138 last year), or with both the Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun and More options for $184 per ticket, plus tax (up from $165). No Base ticket is available with this offer.

These tickets expire after September 28. Blockout dates are March 24 through April 4 at all ticketed locations, and July 4 at Magic Kingdom park only.

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. Tickets may be purchased by active and retired military personnel for themselves and up to five additional family members or friends. One of the Disney four-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.

You may upgrade the tickets 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.

In addition, specially priced rooms are available to active and retired U.S. military personnel at select Walt Disney World resorts for stays most nights through September 28.

For complete information regarding Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets and discounted resort rates, military personnel may call (407) 939-7830, visit the Walt Disney World website, or participating U.S. military base ticket offices.


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Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix (@MousePlanetAVP) is an original MousePlanet staffer and manages to find time for all of this while running two retail stores, MouseShoppe and CharmingShoppe.