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Update for April 7 – April 13, 2008

Go directly to: News & Views | Coming Soon | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions | Park Hours/Park Events/Entertainment Schedule

News and Views

Stroller, ECV prices | Universal free dining | Healthy menus | Thrill ride duel | Cristal Arts | A personal appeal | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Stroller, ECV prices take a giant leap upward

Rental prices for strollers and Electronic Convenience Vehicles (ECVs) jumped yesterday. Single strollers are up 50 percent from $10 per day to $15 per day, while double strollers are up a whopping 72 percent, from $18 to $31. ECVs are up from $35 to $45, though the deposit is up from $5 to $20. "Length-of-stay" stroller rentals are also up similarly, with singles increasing from $8 to $13 per day and doubles up from $16 to $27. These price hikes seem steep (and they are!), but bear in mind that there has been no increase in these fees for three years.


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"As you know, from time to time we make adjustments to our pricing structures. As of Sunday, April 6th, we [have increased] the cost of the stroller rentals and the Electronic Convenience Vehicles (ECV), which haven't had a price increase in three years," Disney spokeswoman Zoraya Suarez told MousePlanet. "We provide this rental service as a convenience to our guests, but they are certainly welcome to bring their own personal stroller or ECV when visiting the Disney Theme Parks and Downtown Disney area."

MousePlanet readers are not thrilled with the increase. "I have rented a car cheaper than $31/day. We are bringing our own stroller," wrote reader Kevin Sommer. MousePad member Bobcat wrote, "That type of increase is pretty outrageous!"

There's also an ongoing discussion on our MousePad discussion forums. Weigh in with your opinion here.

Universal announces free dining; Disney not expected to be far behind

Universal Orlando has announced a free dining plan for those staying at that resort's three hotels from late summer through early fall, and it's expected that Disney will announce their free dining plan for the same general time frame this week–perhaps even today.

Guests staying at either the Hard Rock Hotel, Portofino Bay Hotel or Royal Pacific Hotel from August 17 through October 9 can get free dining at both the Universal Theme Park and Islands of Adventure. Trips must be a minimum of three nights and a maximum of 7 nights, and must be booked by June 22.

The free dining offer is only for the first two guests in the room. Additional guests must purchase the meal deal for the entire stay. The first two guests in the room are also required to purchase the 2-park unlimited admission ticket, while additional guests are required to purchase any park admission. Guests are provided with two Universal Meal Deal Plans and two unlimited soft drink cups. These allow for unlimited food and beverages from 10:30 a.m. until a half-hour before the park closes at the following locations:

  • Universal:
    • Mel's Drive In
    • Louie's Italian Restaurant
    • International Food and Film Festival
    • Classic Monsters Cafe
  • Islands of Adventure:
    • Cirkus McGurkas Cafe
    • Stoo-pendous
    • Comic Strip Cafe
    • Captain America Diner
    • The Burger Dig

Disney is expected to offer their free dining plan to Disney Visa cardholders starting as early as today, with the offer to the general public starting perhaps Thursday. If the general plans do become available during the week, I'll post them on my blog and then later include them in next week's Park Update.

Thanks to Sue Pisaturo of MousePlanet sponsor Small World Vacations for the info on the Universal discounts.

Get your MousePlanet gear!

The MousePlanet.com store is now open for business (link)! You can get shirts, mugs, hats and even a Teddy Bear! Check it out and show your MousePlanet pride!

Disney healthy menus initiative at 18 months

Eighteen months into its healthy menu initiative, Disney is continuing to work at the transformation. All table service menus will include at least one low-fat and one vegetarian entree, and side options will include salads and fresh fruit.

Currently, kids' meals are automatically configured with fruit or vegetables on the side, with a choice of juice, water or low-fat milk as the beverage. Fries and soda are still available at no additional cost, upon request. Fresh fruit carts in the parks are increasing, and nuts and trail mix are also showing up.

Burgers have gone to a lower-fat configuration (less than 20 percent fat), while buns now have 10 percent whole wheat. Whole-grain crusts and lower-fat cheese are now de rigeur in quick-service pizzas. Dessert options now include reduced fat and low sugar options, as well as fresh fruit.

Trans fats are on their way out, too, as Disney is working with manufacturers to improve those products. Special diets of all sorts can be accommodated on three days' notice, as well.

For more information on these and other dining program improvements, check out Disney's press release.

Thrill ride arms race heats up

With the unveiling of the Rip, Ride Rockit roller coaster at Universal Orlando three weeks ago and the announcement of a new state-of-the-art animal-attraction/coaster hybrid at SeaWorld Orlando last week (not to mention the opening last week of SeaWorld's Aquatica water park), pressure is increasing on Walt Disney World to pick up that gauntlet and announce its next big thrill attraction, even as Toy Story Mania prepares to open late next month.

With Walt Disney Parks & Resorts' development budget largely targeted at improving Hong Kong Disneyland and the big Disney's California Adventure makeover, it's uncertain what kind of money Disney would be able to throw at a new attraction in Florida at this point, especially if the Night Kingdom rumors are to be believed. We'll have to wait and see what they come up with.

Cristal Arts backstory

Most Disney fans are aware that everything in a Disney theme park has a backstory, even the shops. Here's the story behind the newly-enlarged Cristal Arts store on Main Street that took over the old Market House location, featuring on-premises glass-blowing, courtesy of a helpful cast member:

The glass blowing demonstration area inside Cristal Arts on Main Street is now operating. The artisans will be creating custom-blown vases on a daily basis. Guests can select the size, shape, and colors used, and the piece can either be shipped to your resort via the WDW Package Pickup service, shipped to your home via your carrier of choice, or picked up the next day at the shop. The prices range from $75-$150 depending on size, and a maximum total of six custom vases will be created each day. Cristal Arts is operated by Arribas Brothers, one of the oldest operating participants in continuous partnership with Disney since the early days of Disneyland.

The interior is decorated to help tell the story of two fictional brothers who emigrated from Spain and lived the American dream of building their own successful business. Photos of the brothers, their hometown (a fishing village on the coast of Spain), immigrants stepping off of the boats at Ellis Island, the first glass blowing crew, the "original" Cristal Arts shop, and the first dollar earned at that shop adorn the walls in the front half of the location. The rear, where the glass furnaces are housed, is decorated with a heavy dose of Americana, including a miniature Statue of Liberty, U.S. flags, busts of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, and other similar touches.

Beside the door that is across Center Street from the Elias Disney window, there are two photos of the 1903 Chicago World's Fair under construction (a project that Elias participated in prior to Walt's birth in Chicago.) Many of the merchandise locations across property are chock-full of storytelling details, but this is the newest and most elaborate on Main Street, U.S.A. It is also a bit of a full-circle situation, as a glass blowing demonstration area was originally part of Main Street, U.S.A. in the early years of the Magic Kingdom.

Help us keep our menu listings up to date!

Did you know that MousePlanet now has menu listings (link) for all theme park restaurants at Walt Disney World and many resort restaurants? You can help us keep them up to date! Send your photos, scans or other copies of restaurant menus (no fair copying from other Web sites) to menus@mouseplanet.com (link). Please note that there is a 5 MB limit on total attachments in a single email.

A personal appeal, for the third year

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. Without therapies, medications and treatment regimens developed under grants from the March of Dimes, my son would not be alive today. So, you see, this is a very personal cause for me. I want to help the March of Dimes in order to help the next baby that's born too soon.

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.

Construction Update

This week's listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last two weeks:

 

  • Treehouse Villas – 1700 Tree House Lane (Guard Shack), 1758A Tree House Lane (Pool), and 7001 thru 7060 Tree House Lane (60 Units) – Tree House Rehab Project – General Contractor Package.
  • Treehouse Villas – 7001 thru 7060 Tree House Lane (60 Units) – Design, Fabrication, Delivery & Installation
  • Flamingo Crossing Phase I – Mass Grading Package
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – Idol Queue – Remove plaster install queue, includes all elecrical and plumbing.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – Install locker signs at Oscar's stroller shop.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – American Film Institute tram unload – provide power for new monitor.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – Creative Costuming Building – Remove existing Buss Props and install in main sewing area.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – Lights Motors Action Stunt Show – Green room drainage repair. Install new drain.
  • Magic Kingdom – Toontown Farmer's Market Bird Deterrent and MMA floor - Install MMA floor coating and bird deterrent system in the ceiling.
  • Magic Kingdom – Mainstreet Facade #3 – Remove window, replace damaged frame, blocking & sheathing.
  • Magic Kingdom – Tomorrowland Speedway – Air Line Replacement – Install new Sch. 80 2" PVC for pneumatic air lines
  • Magic Kingdom – Main Street – Casey's Corner – Replace 2 pipe columns.
  • Epcot – Innoventions East & West Sign Up Booths – Install walls & set pieces; install elec. power, control & Ethernet for interactive games. (Could the Kim Possible interactive adventure be coming closer to reality?)
  • Epcot – Imagination Area – Build new partition walls and installing metal doors.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom – Africa – Pangani Forest Queue – Remove & replace approx. 580 linear feet of square mesh fencing throughout the Pangani Trail.
  • Fort Wilderness – Loop 1500 bus stop – Remove existing wood cedar shake room, install new synthetic shake roof.
  • Main entrance toll plaza bus lane rehab – Replace 160 feet of asphalt & concrete roadway with concrete
  • Caribbean Beach Resort – Gutter Seam Coating - Clean and prep all gutter seams prior to applying the Geo Guard.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort – Concrete Corrections - Repair damaged concrete slab edges outside of guest rooms.
  • Imagineering – Disney's Hollywood Studios – Mickey Ave. Improvement Graphics Package.
  • Imagineering – Epcot – Innoventions – Storm Struck Site Prep.
  • Imagineering – Epcot – Innoventions – Storm Struck Showset.
  • Imagineering – Epcot – Innoventions East – Wall Rework.

Quick takes …

…Disney is testing out a new WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) web site to promote the water parks. The site features water park attractions, wallpaper, tips, and a personality quiz, as well as content featuring High School Musical star Corbin Bleu. You can get started by text messaging H2O to SPLASH (775274). That will get you an automated call from Corbin Bleu, and (when done from your Disney hotel room) a link to the WAP site.

…More information is becoming available about The Wave, the new upscale restaurant opening in the location of the former Food 'n' Fun Center on the first floor of the Contemporary Resort. The restaurant, which opens this summer, will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and will feature "bold American cooking with flavors from all over the world." Local and regional products will be on the seasonal menu, when possible. The bar will feature organic beers and trendy cocktails, and the wine list will feature cutting-edge wines from around the world with one twist–the bottles will feature all screw caps, no corks.

…While a list of acts is not yet available, it has been confirmed that the "Sounds Like Summer" concert series will return to Epcot's America Gardens Theater. The annual cavalcade of cover bands features tributes to Elton John, The Eagles, The Supremes, Bon Jovi, U2 and the Bee Gees. The series will run from June 9 through August 10.

…As part of their deal to get the Disney Cruise Line to sign that 15-year renewal, Port Canaveral forgave a $400,000 penalty payment due to the port because Disney did not sail 150 trips out of the port this year after missing the number last year, as well. The 15-year renewal starts in 2008, replacing the last year of the previous contract and reducing this year's mandatory minimum number of stops from 150 to 139.

…Walt Disney World was hailed with two 2008 awards by Cheers Magazine. The magazine's awards are the adult beverage industry's highest honors for program operators. The resort was saluted for both Best Chain Overall Beverage Program and Best Chain Signature Drink for 2008. The signature drink was the Blue "Glow-Tini" (sometimese referred to as the "Bluetini"), which was also one of the core facets of the popular "Hustle-Tini" meet hosted by MousePlanet's MouseStation podcast at MouseFest 2007.

…The Children's Miracle Network awarded the Walt Disney Company its Legacy Award during its annual celebration this year. The company's involvement has been a partner of the CMN for over 20 years, starting with the 1987 Telethon, which was broadcast from the Videopolis stage at Disneyland. The partnership continues with the Children's Miracle Network Classic golf tournament held at Walt Disney World. The award honors the company's long-standing commitment in supporting the CMN.

…The new Jostens Center at Disney's Wide World of Sports opens this summer. The 70,000-square-foot fieldhouse (with 45,000 square feed of competition space) is big enough to simultaneously operate six college-size basketball courts, 12 regulation-size volleyball courts, or two roller hockey rinks. There is also space for four locker rooms, two conference rooms and two officials' rooms.

…The NBA pre-draft workouts will take place May 27-30 at the Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. The top draft prospects will show their stuff for NBA officials and scouts to try to boost their draft position.

…Walt Disney Imagineering will participate in a "Cool Jobs" seminar and host three sessions of "The Science of Disney Imagineering" at the World Science Festival, to be held in New York City from May 28 through June 1. The first-ever event will bring together top scientists, artists and futurists to discuss science and how it is shaping modern life. Tickets go on sale tomorrow.


Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.
Talk about these stories and more on our Walt Disney World discussion forum here.

Coming soon

  • March 19 – June 1. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. [See our Park Guide Page.]
  • April 11, 16, 23, May 2, 9, 16, 21, 26, 31, June 4. Mickey's Pirate & Princess Party.
  • Apr. 18, 19, 25, 26. Disney Grad Nite.
  • April 26–27. USASF Cheerleading & Dance Worlds.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

Epcot

  • Illuminations – the LED globe is scheduled to be removed from the show for a major refurbishment, possibly in early summer. The length of the refurbishment is not known. The show was tested without the globe on February 27.
  • 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 6 – November 30 for renovations that include the creation of an exhibition kitchen.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • 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.
  • Mickey Avenue – closed through spring for installation of the Toy Story Mania attraction and related theming.
  • The American Film Institute Showcase – closed for refurbishment April 1 – May 1.
  • "American Idol" – under construction in the soundstage that formerly hosted Superstar Television and Doug Live!. Scheduled to open in late 2008.

Animal Kingdom

  •   No known current refurbishments.

Resorts

  • 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.
  • Beach Club Resort – the quiet pool will be closed from March 31 – April 11.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort – Feature pool closed for renovation January 7–mid-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.
  • Yacht Club Resort – the quiet pool will be closed April 14–21.

Water Parks

  • No known current refurbishments.

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays.
  • T-Rex Cafe – reportedly opens in Downtown Disney in late 2008.

Current Discounts & Promotions

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 discounts announced, Disney Dining Plan available

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.

Spring discounts announced

A second round of spring discounts have been announced, with a room-only discount among the options this time. The discounts, for travel dates of April 20 through May 21, can be booked from now through April 19. Deluxe resorts have a better discount, but availability is limited.

For Magic Your Way packages without the Dining Plan, use code AXQ. Magic Your Way with the Dining Plan is code AXR. Magic Your Way with the Deluxe Dining Plan is code AXT. To get the room-only discount, use code CMB.

For ticket prices, park hours, and entertainment schedules, please go here.


Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.



Talk about this article and more, on the MousePad community forums.


(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.