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News and Views

Bullet train route to Walt Disney World chosen

The Florida High Speed Rail Authority (FHSRA) voted 7 to 1 to select the route that passes through Walt Disney World as the preferred choice for the planned statewide bullet train route from Orlando to Tampa. The route will run along the Central Florida GreeneWay and stop at a station at Walt Disney World before continuing on to Tampa. The competing proposal would have had the train run along the Bee Line Expressway to the Orange County Convention Center before continuing along its route.

Part of the reason for the choice is simple: money. Disney guaranteed 2 million riders per year for the route, by promising to discontinue its use of Mears bus shuttles and route WDW guests to the resort via the bullet train. Disney has pledged a 50-acre parcel of land near the main entrance to the property at the intersection of Route 192 and World Drive. It is expected that Disney will expand bus service to run from the bullet train station to and from all of the resort hotels.

At the same meeting, the FHSRA selected the Fluor Bombardier alliance as the preferred supplier of the trains. The companies beat their only competitor, an alliance of approximately 30 companies, on the basis of their experience and financial stability. However, the FHSRA has requested that Fluor Bombardier change their planned train set to use some of the features proposed by the other alliance. As of this writing, there is no word on Fluor Bombardier's response to the request.

Don't start planning your train trip yet, though. Construction could take quite a while once begun, and the start of work is not guaranteed. Florida Governor Jeb Bush is against the proposal, and has already vetoed funding once. In addition, rights of way must be secured for the entire route, and a Federal environmental impact study must be completed, as well. There are also the negotiations with Fluor Bombardier on the train set change to be ironed out

We will keep you abreast of any further developments in this story as we receive them.

Reservations Center changes coming, and not for the better

The Disney Reservations Center system is in the process of being restructured into running on a “salary plus incentive” program. This process is expected to be complete by the end of January. New reservation specialists are being hired based on past sales background rather than customer service/call center experience as in the past.

Beware: If you call in to modify your reservation, it's possible that you may get an agent who cancels your original booking and rebooks it in order to get it recorded under their name. This means that mistakes could be made in the rebooking of your trip, not to mention major animosity between the agents.

The new agents are also being started at a salary above that of the agents already working there. Between that and the fact that the agents have been working large amounts of mandatory overtime, things appear to be less than happy at the Reservations Center. Don't be surprised if you start noticing a change in the demeanor of the agents you get on the phone after January.

Candlelight Processional narrators set

Narrators are now set for all dates of the Candlelight Processional. Some have already signed their contracts, others are finalizing now. Narrators are scheduled as follows:

  • Nov. 28-30 Andy Garcia
  • Dec. 1-3 Ben Vereen
  • Dec. 4-6 Rita Moreno
  • Dec. 7-9 Ericka Dunlap
  • Dec. 10-12 David Ogden Stiers
  • Dec. 13-15 Steven Curtis Chapman
  • Dec. 16-18 Edward James Olmos
  • Dec. 19-21 Sandi Patty
  • Dec. 22-24 Robby Benson
  • Dec. 25-30 Gary Sinise

The previously announced Marlee Matlin had to bow out due to a conflict.

Reservations are still available for the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package. This gives you a fixed-price dinner at one of many restaurants at different price points and reserved seating for a Processional performance.


The Wine Walkabout at the Australia: Discover Down Under exhibit takes the space occupied last year by Discover Andalucia, Spain. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Australia area at Food & Wine Festival nothing like last year's Andalucia, Spain mini-pavilion

The space occupied last year by the Discover Andalucia, Spain mini-pavilion is held this year by the Australia — Discover Down Under display. Unlike last year's impressive structure, the Australian Wine Walkabout consists of a large tent, a small faux-rock performance area, and a series of upright wine casks with umbrellas. Traffic was still good, however, with the place gathering a good crowd even before noon.


The Australia exhibit has a small presentation/performance space made to resemble rock outcroppings. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad locomotive smokestacks to return after rehab

It seems that the smokestacks will return to the front of the engines when they return from rehab in late November. They had been removed over a year ago, as they had deteriorated and were posing a safety hazard.

New Year's Pleasure Island entertainment set

On New Year's Eve, Pleasure Island will present performances by Blondie, the Sugar Hill Gang, and Jeff Kashiwa. Tickets are $79 per person, or $69 for Annual Passholders (and up to one guest). Prices do not include tax. Meanwhile, Cirque du Soleil will have a special performance to celebrate both the New Year and La Nouba's fifth anniversary. Ticket prices have been bumped up by $18 per ticket, but also include a glass of champagne and a limited edition show program including an insert autographed by the performers.


This tent covers a large percentage of the total space for the Australia display. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Ears to the ground

…Most of the demolition work inside the Alien Encounter chambers have been completed. Both Aliens have been dismantled and removed. The chambers have been hacksawed out and removed. Skippy's skin has been removed and sent to George Lucas. All of the X-S Staff Only signs have disappeared. No word on the start of construction for Stitch's Great Escape yet.


The "stands" used for wine tasting actually appear to be small wine casks standing on end. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

…Port Orleans Resort French Quarter, which closed in May for a major renovation, will be getting the complete makeover treatment. All furniture, carpets, wallpaper, and so on will be replaced. The interior of every single room will be all new when it reopens.

…The Disney Reservations Center is receiving many complaints from Guests using Mears Motor Shuttle for their airport transfers. Some people are experiencing 2-4 hour waits for a bus at Orlando International Airport, and one guest even reported that their bus drove circles around the airport for 45 minutes before leaving, causing her to be late for her priority seating at Narcoosee's.

…Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa will start taking reservations starting January 5 for stays starting in late spring.


The Piedmonte Chocolate Festival at the Italy pavilion offers free samples, including Gianduja. Yum! Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Big Thunder Mountain is scheduled to be closed for refurbishment through Saturday, November 22.
  • The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter closed for good on October 12. It is now undergoing a major rehab and will reopen in mid- to late-2004 as Stitch's Great Escape!
  • Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress opens from park open to park close for the duration of the Stitch's Great Escape! construction.
  • Timekeeper opens from 10am-6pm for the duration of the Stitch's Great Escape! construction.
  • Country Bear Jamboree closes November 17 to 21 for installation of the Christmas show, and closes again January 12-16 to return to it's usual program.
  • Adventureland now opens at 10 a.m. on non-peak days. It opens with the rest of the park (except for Jungle Cruise) on Sundays, Thursdays, and Saturdays through early December, plus every day of Thanksgiving week (11/23-11/29) including Jungle Cruise.

Epcot

  • Food Rocks closes on January 3 to make way for the entrance to the new Soarin' over California attraction.


Food Rocks will be closing on or around January 3 for installation of the queue area for the new Soarin' Over California attraction. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

  • The Eiffel Tower structure at the France pavilion is due to return from rehab in December.


The strangely barren France pavilion will see the return of the Eiffel Tower in December. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Disney-MGM Studios

  • Magic of Disney Animation is closed for refurbishment through November 23.
  • Residential Street at the Disney-MGM Studios has been closed and is undergoing demolition to prepare the site for an American version of the popular Moteurs… Action! stunt show from the Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Paris.
  • Due to the loss of Residential Street, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights will not be presented this holiday season. It is expected to return in some form for 2004.
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is continuing to receive a lot of rehab work through November, reportedly on the ride control system and cable replacements. The Tower will be running one side only through Monday, November 17. Capacity will be decreased during the rehab, but should be offset by smaller off-season crowds.
  • Sets from the upcoming Haunted Mansion movie are now open in the old Backstage Pass soundstage and will be open through the end of the year.

Animal Kingdom

  • No known closures at this time.


The Lion King theater is much more comfortable now that the side walls have been permanently enclosed. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Resorts

  • Pop Century Resort officially opens on December 14.
  • Port Orleans Resort – a two-year extensive rehab of this resort's rooms is ongoing. For Phase I, French Quarter closed May 4, 2003. Phase II will involve Riverside going down in sections. We have not yet heard a date for completion of Phase I.
  • Polynesian Resort is seeing the longhouses refurbished one by one. Each longhouse under rehab is walled off and isolated during its rehab. There are only a couple of longhouses remaining. Tuvalu is scheduled for rehab October 20, 2003, through January, 2004. Niue and Rarotonga are the only other longhouses currently scheduled to undergo rehab, and are tentatively scheduled for January 18 to May 2, 2004.
  • Shades of Green – Major construction and rehab is ongoing at this military-run resort. It is currently expected to reopen in March, 2004.
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa (a Disney Vacation Club resort) has a tentative grand opening date of May 1, 2004. Reservations will be taken starting on January 5.

Water Parks

  • Blizzard Beach is undergoing refurbishment through December 13.
  • Typhoon Lagoon will undergo refurbishment beginning on December 14.

Elsewhere

  • The All Star Cafe at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex is now closed Monday-Wednesday. It is open Thursday-Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Park Events

November

  • Festival of the Masters –150 artists and their creations on display at Downtown Disney's West Side. November 7 to 9.
  • ABC Super Soap Weekend at the Disney-MGM Studios. November 8 and 9.
  • Pin Trading Cruise aboard the Disney Wonder. November 16-20.
  • Celebrate Mickey... 75 InspEARations will showcase 75 very special interestingly decorated Mickey statues to celebrate Mickey's 75th birthday throughout the Walt Disney World Resort from November 18, 2003 through April, 2004.
  • Festival of the Seasons at Epcot featuring lighting displays, fun window displays, and more. November 28 to December 24.
  • Holidays Around the World at Epcot lets you celebrate holidays in the style of the World Showcase countries. November 28 to December 30.
  • Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom – Order by phone at (407) W-DISNEY (934-7639). November 30, December 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 19.

December

  • Doll & Teddy Bear Weekend. December 7.
  • Disney's Pop Century Resort opens December 14.

January 2004

  • Disney's Health and Fitness Expo (link). January 9 & 10.
  • FamilyFun Magazine Family Fun Run (link) January 10.
  • Disney Marathon and Half-Marathon January 11.
  • Annual Passholders' Cruise (4 nights) on Disney Magic. January 25.

April 2004

  • Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. April 16 – May 30.

May 2004

  • Walt Disney World Inline Marathon (link). May 2.

Current Discounts & Promotions

New Disney Visa Dream Maker Package - Kids Stay Free!

That there is a new Disney's Visa “Kids Stay and Play Free” Package, available most nights January 4 through June 12, 2004, where when you buy a full-price Walt Disney World Dream Maker Package with your Disney?s Visa card, for each adult on the package, one child (3-9) gets a free Ultimate Park Hopper pass for the length of stay. 4-night minimum. Plus you receive $100 in Disney Dollars per package at check-in! Go to www.disney.com/kidsfree for more information, or call your travel agent and book using package code ZXFA. You must book your package by January 2.

Great rates at the Swan and Dolphin

Are you planning a trip this fall? Check out this offer from the Swan and Dolphin:

  • WDW Annual Passholders can book rooms as low as $139 per night, plus tax and resort fee, through the end of 2003, including a free upgrade! Rates include a free upgrade, and are subject to availability.

Get more details and the discount codes at MouseSavers.com.

Military Salute hotel and cruise discounts available

Active U.S. Military personnel or spouses are also eligible for a 40% savings per night (based on the non-discounted price of the same room) at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels, and special rates on Disney Cruise Line sailings. This offer is available most nights through December 19, 2003 at Walt Disney World, and for most sailings through December 18 on the Disney Cruise Line. Hotel rooms and staterooms are limited at this special rate.

For more information, call (407) 939-7424 for Walt Disney World, and (800) 951-2659 for the Disney Cruise Line. You must be 18 or older to call these numbers.

Free 5-day Park Hopper for Active Military

Disney is offering a special for active duty military — a free five-day park hopper ticket, as well as discounted companion tickets. Offer valid through December 19, 2003 and includes all active military personnel, including Coast Guard, as well as activated National Guard and Reservists. See their official Web site for more information.

Annual Passholder and Florida resident rates available

WDW Annual Passholder and Florida resident rates are available at select Walt Disney World resorts for check-ins October 2 through November 24, and November 28 through December 26. Discounts range from approximately 30-45% off regular rack rates.

Plan ahead and save a few bucks

The Walt Disney World Resort is encouraging visitors to buy their theme park tickets before they even leave home, by offering a slight discount on advance purchases. You can save as much as $22 per adult, per ticket with the 'Advance Purchase Savings' program.

You can also receive these Advance Purchase Savings with packages purchased through AAA.

Multi-Day Tickets
Gate Prices
Advance Purchase Price
Savings
4-Day Park Hopper: Adults
$208
$192
$16
     Children ages 3 - 9
$167
$152
$15
5-Day Park Hopper: Adults
$239
$217
$22
     Children ages 3 - 9
$192
$172
$20
5-Day Park Hopper Plus: Adults
$269
$247
$22
     Children ages 3 - 9
$216
$197
$19
6-Day Park Hopper Plus: Adults
$299
$277
$22
     Children ages 3 - 9
$240
$222
$18
7-Day Park Hopper Plus: Adults
$329
$307
$22
     Children ages 3 - 9
$264
$247
$17

Annual Passholders

Receive 10% off the price of their lunch meal at selected Walt Disney World Resort hotel restaurants, and the discount is good for up to three guests. The offer is valid Mondays through Fridays. Call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463) for locations and reservations.


Park Hours

Sun
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
 
11/3
11/4
11/5
11/6
11/7
11/8
 

MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7p
AK 9a-5p
BB closed
TL 10a-5p

MK 9a-7:30p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7p
AK 9a-5p
BB closed
TL 10a-5p

MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7p
AK 9a-5p
BB closed
TL 10a-5p

MK 9a-7:30p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7p
AK 9a-5p
BB closed
TL 10a-5p

MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7p
AK 9a-5p
BB closed
TL 10a-5p

MK 9a-11p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-8p
AK 9a-5p
BB closed
TL 10a-5p

11/9
11/10
  • MK = Magic Kingdom
  • EF = Epcot, Future World
  • EW = Epcot, World Showcase
  • MGM = Disney-MGM Studios
  • AK = Animal Kingdom
  • BB = Blizzard Beach Water Park
  • TL = Typhoon Lagoon Water Park

MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-8p
AK 9a-5p
BB closed
TL 10a-5p

MK 9a-7p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7p
AK 9a-5p
BB closed
TL 10a-5p


Entertainment Schedule

Magic Kingdom
Epcot World Showcase
Disney-MGM Studios
Animal Kingdom
Monday 11/3

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Tuesday 11/4

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 6:30pm

Wishes Fireworks 7:30p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Wednesday 11/5

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Thursday 11/6

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 6:30pm

Wishes Fireworks 7:30p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Friday 11/7

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Saturday 11/8

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 9p, 11p

Wishes Fireworks 10p

Illuminations! 9p

Fantasmic 8p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Sunday 11/9

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Fantasmic 8p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Monday 11/3

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p



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(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.