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News and Views

Food & Wine Festival to grow next year

Walt Disney World has decided that the Food and Wine Festival is such a huge success that it should be even bigger. Next year, the ninth annual festival expands from 30 days to 45 days, running from October 1 through November 14.

This year's festival offers five special “Party for the Senses” dinners, 26 “International Marketplaces,” four seminar and demonstration areas, four featured exhibits, over a half-dozen “family” experiences, and nearly 400 wine seminars and culinary demonstrations. In addition, the nightly Eat to the Beat! concert series, with “nostalgia” acts that that have included Sister Sledge, Three Dog Night, and Chubby Checker have gotten even better response this year than last year's debut series.

“Each year, we host the largest, longest wine fest in the world, and as demand for our food and wine events increased, we knew it was time to grow even more for our guests,” said Epcot Vice President Brad Rex.

Bullet train proposal faces uphill battle

While the Florida High Speed Rail Authority (FHSRA) voted to select a route that passes through Walt Disney World as the preferred choice for the planned statewide bullet train route from Orlando to Tampa, the deal is far from done. Many people are mobilizing against what many have called a “boondoggle.” The concern that billions of Florida taxpayer dollars may go to pay for what will essentially amount to a shortcut to Walt Disney World is turning many Floridians off of the idea of high-speed train travel, despite the fact that they voted a constitutional amendment to mandate it. Universal Studios has publicly come out against is, stating that it would “turn taxpayer dollars into Disney dollars.”

Florida Governor Jeb Bush has been said to have pushed for the Disney route specifically to highlight the “boondoggle” qualities of the amendment. However it has come to pass, there is going to be a lot of animosity throughout the process. We will continue to follow this story as news becomes available.

Banquet cast member layoff averted (for now)

Walt Disney World Resort delayed expected layoffs of as many as 140 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union while talks between the resort and the union continue talks. Disney said on October 31 that it was talking with the UFCW about eliminating the jobs of 140 full- and part-time banquet servers and bartenders. Apparently, Disney is looking for more flexibility in employment to go with the seasonal variations in the banquet business.

On November 3, Disney said that the pink slips were on hold while the talks were extended. Disney and the UFCW met at the Royal Plaza Hotel to try to work out an agreement. Workers with 18 years of service were expecting lay-off notices.

Busch Gardens strikes back

After losing paying customers to Disney's Animal Kingdom for the last five years, Busch Gardens – The Dark Continent in Tampa has decided to fight back with some familiar-sounding attractions. Among the new offerings that Busch is planning include a character show starring seven Sesame Street Muppet characters, photo opportunities and character breakfasts, and a $5 million-plus show designed by some of the producers, engineers and craftspeople who created The Lion King musical on Broadway. Katonga, the 35-minute show, will feature acrobats, dancers and singers acting out a play about animal fables featuring original music. The star performers will be giant animal puppets. Apparently, fight-fire-with-fire is the watch word of the day in Tampa. We'll see how this turns out.

Ears to the ground

…Gertrude, a 31-year-old hippopotamus living at the Sanford Zoo, has been transferred to Disney's Animal Kingdom so that she can live out her years with others of her kind.

…There's a new rumor floating around that the Galaxy Palace Theater in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom will be replaced by a fully-enclosed theater. (Think Hyperion Theater at Disney's California Adventure park.)


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom


Big Thunder Mountain's new paint job looks very good. The ride reopens in two weeks. MousePlanet photo by Mark Goldhaber.

  • Big Thunder Mountain is closed for refurbishment through Saturday, November 22.
  • The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter closed for good. 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 10 a.m. -6 p.m. for the duration of the Stitch's Great Escape! construction.
  • Country Bear Jamboree closes November 17-21 to install the Christmas show, and closes again January 12-16 to return to its usual program.
  • Adventureland now opens at 10 a.m. on non-peak days, but 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 (November 23-29) including Jungle Cruise.

Epcot

  • Food Rocks closes on January 3 to make way for the entrance to the new Soarin' over California attraction.
  • The Eiffel Tower structure at the France pavilion is due to return from rehab in December.

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 demolished and construction has begun to turn the site into 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.


The walkthru of the Haunted Mansion movie sets is proving popular at the Disney-MGM Studios. MousePlanet photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Animal Kingdom

  • No known closures at this time.

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 - This 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 through January 2004. Niue and Rarotonga are the only other longhouses currently scheduled to undergo rehab, and are tentatively scheduled for January 18 - May 2, 2004.
  • Shades of Green - Major construction and rehab is ongoing at this MWR-run resort for the military. 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 undergoes refurbishment December 14 to February 28.

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

  • Pin Trading Cruise aboard the Disney Wonder. November 16-20.
  • Celebrate Mickey… 75 InspEARations showcases 75 very special interestingly decorated Mickey statues to celebrate Mickey's 75th birthday throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. 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 percent 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 to 45 percent 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
 
11/10
11/11
11/12
11/13
11/14
11/15
 

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

11/16
11/17
  • 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-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


Entertainment Schedule

Magic Kingdom
Epcot World Showcase
Disney-MGM Studios
Animal Kingdom
Monday 11/10

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 11/11

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 6pm

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Wednesday 11/12

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 11/13

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 6pm

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Friday 11/14

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 11/15

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 6p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Sunday 11/16

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

Monday 11/17

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 6pm

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.