Walt Disney World Park Updateby Mark Goldhaber, staff writer
Update for February 25 March 2, 2008
Go directly to: News & Views | Coming Soon | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions | Park Hours/Park Events/Entertainment Schedule
Segway suit | Passholder discount and dining | Pirate & Princess extension | Disney's Magical Express | Rental car costs | A personal appeal | Construction update | Quick Takes
The lawsuit filed last November by three individuals from the Midwest claiming discrimination by Walt Disney World under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because Disney would not allow them to use their personal Segway vehicles in the theme parks has been dismissed.
Disney contended that the two plaintiffs from Illinois and one from Iowa, all unrelated, had no standing to bring the suit, as they had no intention to visit Walt Disney World in the near future. U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell agreed, and dismissed the suit. The three had been asking for class-action status for the lawsuit.
Disney's concerns are rooted in the fact that there is no way to ensure how well-trained each Segway operator may be, how well they can handle their scooter in the crowded, unpredictable environment of a theme park, and the fact that privately owned Segways can travel 12.5 miles per hour, as opposed to the roughly 5 miles per hour that Disney has throttled their editions down to. Disney's claim is that, since they allow those who can't walk to switch to wheelchairs or ECVs, they are not violating the ADA.
Annual Passholder and Florida Resident discounts have been announced for March through May. From March 30 through May 21, room-only discount rates are available, with Passholder rates being anywhere from $5 to $15 less than Florida resident rates. Passholders should use code FJC or FJD for Sunday-Thursday nights, while Florida residents should use FJK. The Passholder weekend rate code during that period is FJG.
In addition, the Disney Dining Plan will now be available to Annual Passholders, even on room-only reservations. To add the Dining Plan during the March 30 through May 21 AP discount period, Passholders should use code ANA, and the Deluxe Dining Plan requires code ANC. For other dates that do not have an effective Passholder discount, reservations for the Dining Plan should use code ADS and for the Deluxe Dining Plan should use code ADU.
As reported before, Magic Your Way package reservations for stays most Sunday-Thursday nights between March 30 and May 21 will get free upgrades on their base Magic Your Way tickets to include Park Hopper and Water Park Fun & More options. Codes are available for Magic Your Way packages with no dining (APV), basic Dining Plan (APF) and Deluxe Dining Plan (APH).
Thanks to Sue Pisaturo of MousePlanet sponsor Small World Vacations for the info.
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The extended run of the Pirate & Princess Parties (now called "Mickey's Pirate & Princess Party") have now finally appeared on the Walt Disney World Web site. The remainder of the run of the party is now scheduled for February 26, March 1, 6, 11, 14, April 1, 4, 6, 11, 16, 23, May 2, 9, 16, 21, 26, 31, and June 4.
Pricing for events through March 14 are $45.95 (adults ages 10 and up) and $39.95 (children ages 3-9). Parties for nights starting April 1 are $47.95 for adults and $41.95 for children. However, discounts are available. By purchasing in advance, tickets are $43.95 for adults and $37.95 for children. Passholders purchasing in advance can get tickets for $39.95 for adults and $33.95 for children. All of the above prices do not include 6.5 percent tax.
Six-year-old Lily Boldman of Orlando, FL, gets her "glamour shot" at the conclusion of her Disney's Secret Star Makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Downtown Disney. The new Boutique package became available yesterday, and includes everything a rock star wannabe would need, including a Hannah Montana wig, microphone headset, Hannah Montana guitar purse, their choice of T-shirt, a backstage pass/make-up kit and a commemorative photo. The package will set you back $109.95. If you want to spend more, the full Hannah Montana costume including jacket and pants is available. Reservations are available by calling 407/WDW-STYLE (939-7895). Photo © Disney, by Garth Vaughan.
The Disney's Magical Express bus service (DME) is growing so quickly that it's going to start causing Disney some financial headaches very soon, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel last Thursday.
With 2.1 million passengers carried from the airport in 2007, DME is approaching a contractual point where Orlando International Airport has the right to force Disney to open a second customer check-in location. (That provision kicks in when the service carries over 2.2 million passengers in any rolling 12-month period.) When that happens later this year, Disney is likely to break up its theme park and cruise line operations to opposite ends of the main terminal, with separate counter and queue space at each location.
But the increase in the rental costs at the airport (currently $1.3 million) isn't the only issue. The service needs to get at least 65 percent of DME passengers to use the remote check-in service at the resorts by June in order to keep the per-passenger cost down. The cost, currently 75 cents per rider, will be capped at no more than $1.25 per rider if Disney meets the check-in goal. If they don't, the cap goes away. The per capita fees cost Disney another $1.6 million in 2007.
The big problem with remote check-in is that Disney has not yet been able to strike an agreement with Southwest Airlines, which carries more than 20 percent of all passengers traveling through Orlando International. It was hoped that the two sides would have a deal by early this year; however, the airline is concerned that the remote check-in contractor, BAGS, Inc., would be unable to handle the volume of baggage involved with Southwest's passengers. The two sides are working together and hope to have an agreement soon. Of course, with all of the reported problems with remote check-in for US Airways recently, it may be difficult to resolve the outstanding issues.
As if that weren't enough, the National Limousine Association, which represents the services hardest-hit by DME, is considering filing an anti-trust suit against Disney. During September, DME transported nearly 15 percent of all incoming passengers. The limousine group accuses Disney of advertising the service as "free" when the actual costs are actually built into the costs of each hotel room. While such a lawsuit would not have much of a chance of succeeding, it could take up substantial effort and money to defend against.
Disney's Magical Express will seem like even more of a bargain in the near future, as the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority's board voted last Wednesday to pass along more costs to visitor through a "customer facility charge." In order to pay for upgrades to the rental car areas, including expanding the existing "Quick Turn Around" (QTA) facilities and the construction of more QTA facilities, the authority decided to pass the cost along in the form of the new charge, at the rate of $2.50 per day with a maximum fee of $12.50.
While the authority claims that they will end the fee once the construction costs have been covered, that will still take five to seven years, no real comfort to those who will have to pay the fee starting in a few months. The $102.6 million in costs will cover the fueling stations and car wash bays in the QTAs, as well as relocating the existing bus and taxi hold areas in order to make room for the additional QTA facilities, improving the Terminal B exit ramp configuration and improving the rental car return ramps in both terminals.
Want to help MousePlanet upgrade our park guides? We're looking to add menu information for all restaurants to our Walt Disney World Park Guide (link). Send photos or scans of menus (no fair copying from other Web sites) to email@example.com (link). Please note that there is a 5MB limit on total attachments in a single email.
On April 27, I'll be walking to raise money for the March of Dimes again. The March of Dimes mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. Last year, through the generosity of friends, family, co-workers and MousePlanet readers, we managed to raise $4,025. This year, let's beat that. Let's see if we can raise $5,000. I think we can. For more information, or to donate, go here.
The Earffel Tower, the original icon of the Studios theme park, gets a new paint job to transform from the old Disney-MGM Studios logo to the new Disney's Hollywood Studios logo. Photo © Disney, by Garth Vaughan.
This week's listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last two weeks:
- Proving that some work has already taken place despite the permits being filed recently, a permit was filed to upgrade the smoke detection system, fire alarm, intrusion beams and mats at Snow White's Scary Adventures, which returned from refurbishment on February 15.
- Handrails are being replaced in the Fastpass queue at The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
- Conduit and speakers are being installed in the ceiling of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique location inside Cinderella Castle to pipe in background music.
- Cameras are being installed in the queues for Jungle Cruise and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.
- Roof repairs will be done on the Tomorrowland Light & Power Company arcade at Space Mountain.
- An 8x10 beam will be replaced at the Liberty Square Riverboat Landing.
- New marquees will be installed at the Innoventions East and West secondary entrances.
- New cameras are being installed at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
- $82,000 of new showset work will be done at the Magic of Disney Animation attraction, as well as the installation of power, battens & brackets for new lighting. It's kind of unusual to see a dollar figure on one of these permits, especially when there's no real description of what it's for.
- A new fire alarm system is being installed at the Backlot Theater at the Studios.
- A new fence is being erected at one of the Fantasmic food pads.
- The Sweet Spells shop is getting a new cash register station and a new floor.
- Four fans, dampers and lights will be installed at the Lights, Motors, Action Stunt Show.
- Two existing grab & go coolers will be replaced by two full size coolers at Restaurantasaurus.
- The wood decking at Dino Bite Snacks will be replaced with something called Trex Decking.
- The roof of the Grand Floridian Convention Center will be replaced.
- Spa Treatment Room #3 at the Saratoga Springs Resort will get new lighting.
- The wood floor of the Yachtsman's Steakhouse will be replaced and/or repaired, likely at the same time that the kitchen floor is being redone.
- A deck anchor for a chair lift and new dual handrails at the steps will be installed at the feature pool of the All-Star Sports Resort.
- Imagineering filed a new permit for a Fantasyland Circus Wagon. Since the other recent Imagineering paperwork has related to a DVC kiosk, we're guessing that the circus wagon will be the theming of the DVC kiosk.
- Imagineering has also filed a permit for a new marquee at the Main Street Chapeau shop.
- Imagineering's other permit this week is for a "WS Interactive Utility Package," likely related to the Kim Possible interactive adventure still being installed around World Showcase.
With the departure of former Studios VP Michael O'Grattan for the post of VP of Operations for the Disneyland Resort, Rilous Carter has been apopinted as the new Vice President for Disney's Hollywood Studios. Carter was most recently General Manager of Food & Beverage at Epcot. O'Grattan started his Disney career at Disneyland in 1972, while Carter started at Disney in 1997.
Walt Disney World is testing the use of room keys as verification for Evening Extra Magic Hours rather than wristbands, as some enterprising souls were finding ways to cheat the system.
For the sixth year in a row, Aquascape, Inc. will create water gardens of the future as part of the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. This year Aquascape and its subcontractors will construct six water features. Displays will include a rainwater harvesting system, an 11' x 16' ecosystem pond, decorative fountains, and an indoor feature located in the Garden Festival Center at the Wonders of Life pavilion. The planned water displays are aligned with Disney's mission of sustainability and environmentally friendly initiatives.
The numbers are in, and the various organizations running the 2008 Walt Disney World Marathon and Half Marathon for charity raised an estimated combined total of more than $7.6 million, a new record. The biggest total, $5.6 million, was raised by Team in Training for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The AT Children?s Project raised $900,000 to cure a rare childhood disease, and another $1 million was raised for 17 other charities.
Hoping to avoid additional attention regarding the steroid use charges lodged against him (as well as probing questions from guests in attendance), Roger Clemens has stepped down as co-host of next weekend's ESPN The Weekend festivities at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Co-host Donovan McNabb will now be the sole host for the weekend. In a statement, Clemens said, "I had been looking forward to ESPN The Weekend. Given some strong feelings in some circles today, I believe my current participation could be a distraction. The event should be an occasion for fun by all and I want that to be the case for everyone involved. So I will not be coming at this point in time, but I look forward to participating in some future event."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will hold their training camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex for seventh year in a row. While dates have not yet been announced, it's likely that they Bucs will be in town for practices July 25 through August 14, arriving the day before practices start. Expect the Celebration Hotel to be booked up for those dates, as the team takes over the hotel as their headquarters and fills every room during those three weeks.
The Velcro & Waste Management exhiibits at Innoventions are both now open.
While Spaceship Earth is now officially reopened, don't be surprised to see Imagineers continuing to tweak and fine-tune the attraction now that it's under a regular, heavy load.
The Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station is once again open, and is expected to continue operation through August before closing down again after the seasonal rush.
One side of the Jaguar slide at the Coronado Springs Resort's main feature pool will be closed for rehab March 31 ? April 30. The pool will remain open during the work.
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- February 26, March 1, 6, 11, 14. Disney's Pirate & Princess Party.
- February 29-March 2. Cheer & Dance National Championships.
- February 29 - March 2. ESPN ? The Weekend.
- February 27 - March 29. Atlanta Braves Training Camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex.
- March 1-2. NDA National Dance Team Championship.
- March 7-9. UCA National All Star Cheerleading Championship.
- March 8. National Kidney Foundation 5K.
- March 9. Last performance of the Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade.
- March 14. First performance of the Block Party Bash parade.
- March 14, 15 and 17. Pleasure Island goes green for St. Patrick's Day.
- March 15. Off to Never Land cel release.
- March 19 ? June 1. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. [See our Park Guide Page.]
- Liberty Square Riverboat closed for refurbishment February 24March 1.
- Peter Pan's Flight closed for refurbishment February 28March 11.
- Minnie's Country House closed for refurbishment April 123.
- Tutto Italia Ristorante is now open, but will close in the spring to be completely remodeled, and will reopen in the fall under yet another new name.
- The Wonders of Life pavilion has again closed as such, and most likely will only be used as a Festival Center until a new sponsor is found.
- Nine Dragons closes April 30 November 30 for renovations that include the creation of an exhibition kitchen.
- Journey Into Narnia: Creating The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe closed for refurbishment and likely conversion to a Prince Caspian theme, January 2 May 23.
- Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade ends March 9.
- Block Party Bash Parade begins March 14.
- Mickey Avenue closed through spring for installation of the Toy Story Mania attraction and related theming.
- "American Idol" under construction in the soundstage that formerly hosted Superstar Television and Doug Live!. Scheduled to open in late 2008.
- No known current refurbishments.
- Animal Kingdom Lodge Construction of the Kidani Village annex building for the Disney Vacation Club's Animal Kingdom Villas is expected to take until spring 2009. Jambo House construction is now complete.
- Caribbean Beach Resort Feature pool closed for renovation January 7mid-September. Temporary "child-sized" slides will be added to the quiet pools in the Jamaica and Barbados Villages while the main pool is closed.
- Coronado Springs Resort One side of the Jaguar slide at the main feature pool will be closed for rehab March 31 ? April 30. The pool will remain open during the work.
- Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Work continues on the refurbishment of the main building.
- Port Orleans French Quarter Resort Doubloon Lagoon feature pool closed for renovations January 28 through mid-March. Resort guests can take a shuttle to Port Orleans Riverside Resort to use the Ole' Man Island pool at during this time, as well as using the quiet pools.
- Blizzard Beach closed for annual refurbishment January 6 March 8.
- Cirque du Soleil La Nouba performs Tuesdays Saturdays.
- T-Rex Cafe reportedly opens in Downtown Disney in late 2008.
Orlando Fun Tickets offering 5 days for the price of 3
For a limited time, MousePlanet discount ticket partner Orlando Fun Tickets is currently offering a free upgrade to a 5-day Park Hopper pass when you purchase a 3-day Park Hopper. Check out the special offer or any of the other great prices on tickets at OrlandoFunTickets.com!
Passholder, Florida Resident discounts available through March 6
Annual Passholders and Florida residents can take advantage of discounted room rates from now through March 6. From now through February 13, with the exception of Martin Luther King weekend, passholders and Florida residents can stay at value resorts for as low as $49 per night, moderate resorts for as little as $99 per night, or a deluxe villa resort starting at $149 per night. (All rates in this article do not include tax.) Deluxe resorts are also available. Passholders should use booking code FHJ, while Florida residents should use code FHN.
Rates are a bit higher for stays most Sunday through Thursday nights from February 18 through March 6. Value resorts run $79 per nights, moderates are $139 per night and deluxe villas are $249 per night. Passholders use booking code FIE, Florida residents use code FIU.
Note that the number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. No group rates or other discounts apply. Adult Annual Passes or proof of Florida residency must be shown at check-in.
In addition, from now through February 29 Florida residents can get a Disney Play 4 Days Pass for $34 off the normal price. The pass gives you four admissions to any of the four Walt Disney World theme parks, one park per day, for $125 plus tax. The pass is valid for six months from first use.
The Disney Play 4 Days Pass is available for purchase by phone at 407-WDW-4DAYS (407-939-4329). They're also available at Walt Disney World theme park ticket windows and Resort hotel locations, Florida AAA offices and Florida Disney Stores. Proof of Florida residency is required.