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Update for July 13 – July 19, 2009

Go directly to: News & Views | Coming Soon | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions

News and Views

Monorail crash | Ticket price hike coming? | Typhoon Lagoon molester | Discovery Dinner | Celebration condo auctionQuick Takes …

Monorail update

[The following was originally posted in Mark's blog last Wednesday.]

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Austin Wuennenberg, the monorail operator killed in Sunday morning's accident, may have helped to keep the passengers on Monorail Purple from injury.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a "factual information" media advisory today related to its investigation into the collision. The facts appear to be very similar to those that were reported here in Monday's Walt Disney World Update and Tuesday's MouseStation Podcast.


This map will help you follow along. Satellite image is © Google. Click for a navigable map.

Monorail Pink emptied its train and went past the switch between the Epcot loop and a spur track that led to the Magic Kingdom loop to transfer on its way back to the barn. Monorail Purple pulled into the station and loaded a family of six. The pilot of Monorail Pink was told to back through the Epcot/spur switch, along the spur track, through the spur/Magic Kingdom loop switch and on through the Magic Kingdom loop, but the Epcot/spur switch had not moved to connect to the spur track, causing Pink to back along the Epcot beam into Purple. The one piece of information that we did not have was that Monorail Purple had actually been given clearance to leave the station and was moving forward out of the station as Pink came at it at 15 miles per hour.

According to the NTSB advisory, "There are indications that the operator of the Purple train had brought the train to a stop and had attempted to put the train in reverse prior to the collision. To this point in the investigation, no anomalies or malfunctions have been found with the automatic train stop system or with any mechanical components of the switch or with either of the trains."

What this means is that Wuennenberg, seeing Monorail Pink suddenly rushing toward him, had the presence of mind to stop the monorail train and try to back it out of Pink's way. Unfortunately, there was not enough time and Pink plowed into Purple, killing Wuennenberg. If Purple had continued accelerating forward, the combined speed of the trains at the moment of impact would likely have been 30 miles per hour, the maximum combined speed of two monorails traveling in override mode. (As discussed in the WDW Update, Sunday's blog post and the MouseStation Podcast, the monorails needed to be in override mode both to go through the switch and to get into the station while another monorail was at the switch.) If the monorail was stopped, the impact would have been 15 mph, and if Wuennenberg had been able to get it at least started into reverse, the impact speed may have been as little at 10 or even 5 mph. The resulting decrease in impact speed most likely prevented the family aboard Purple from sustaining serious injury.

Some issues come to mind, though.

  • The NTSB found that "To this point in the investigation, no anomalies or malfunctions have been found ... with any mechanical components of the switch or with either of the trains." This means that the switch was functioning properly, and that it was likely entirely a communication error. Somehow, Monorail Pink was given the go-ahead without the track switch engaging to the spur track. Did the monorail shop give clearance without moving the switch? Was only the Magic Kingdom/spur switch engaged, while the Epcot/spur switch was never triggered? Did the monorail control center mishear something from the monorail shop and give clearance without the monorail shop having said that it was OK to do so? How did Monorail Pink get the clearance to back through the switch when it had not engaged?
  • The Epcot/spur switch is fairly close to the TTC. If Monorail Purple had been given the go-ahead to pull out of the station, while Monorail Pink was just coming through the switch, isn't that cutting it a little close? With the low volume of traffic at 2 a.m., couldn't they have waited a little longer to release Purple to move forward? What was the reason for the tight interval?
  • While the monorails were not expected to sustain any impacts (as illustrated by the fact that there were no major crashes in the prior 38 years), how could a collision at a speed of no more than 15 mph cause so much damage?

There are many more questions to be asked and answered, though it is likely that we won't get any more answers until the NTSB releases them. We'll stay on top of this story and continue to post updates as we get further information.

Update

Since then WESH news has reported that the monorail supervisor was 15 minutes away in a Lake Buena Vista restaurant at the time of the crash, giving direction via two-way radio (link).

A funeral was held for Wuennenberg last Wednesday, and a memorial vigil for him took place near the lake in Celebration on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, Alan Rubino, 62, the pilot of Monorial Pink, issued a statement through his friend Dennis Pickering, also a part-time monorail pilot. The statement read: "Alan wishes to extend to family and friends of Austin his deepest and heart-felt condolences. Given the current investigation, it would be inappropriate for Alan to comment." Rubino is purportedly under a doctor's care for his grief.

The NTSB has completed its on-site investigation, though findings will probably not be released for some time. In the meantime, Rubino, a worker in the monorail shop, and a transportation supervisor have all been put on administrative leave with pay, a standard move during NTSB investigations. Also standard, all are expected to take drug tests.

We'll stay on top of the story and continue to report as we get more information.

Ticket price hike coming August 2?

If Walt Disney World stays true to form, you can expect a ticket price hike on August 2. Since Disney shifted to August price increases in 2006, the last price hikes have occurred on:

  • Sunday, August 6, 2006
  • Sunday, August 5, 2007
  • Sunday, August 3, 2008

Looks like Sunday, August 2, 2009 is in the headlights for this year. Bear in mind that this is all speculation, as Disney may elect to keep prices stable in light of the global recession. That's not a likely occurrence, as Disney's costs continue to rise each year, but it's possible. If there is an increase, it will likely be approximately $4, since that's been the amount of the increase the past three years.

Prices are set at the beginning of August so that Disney can start assigning package prices for the next year. Once the price increase goes into effect, Disney will then start booking packages for 2010. (So look for 2010 dining plan pricing to be announced at the same time.)

Price increases are usually announced no eariler than Friday afternoon, so we'll try to give you a heads-up once word gets out.

MouseAdventure Summer Warm-Up heats up!

We kicked off the MouseAdventure Summer Warm-Up last week with a Magic Kingdom quest that could be solved at Disneyland or Walt Disney World. Ready to see how you did? The number of Walt Disney World photos in Quest #1 is the password you'll need to download the Quest #2 (link). [Hint: type the number as a word, not a numeral] If you haven't solved Quest #1 yet, don't despair - we'll send the answer key to our MouseAdventure Newsletter tomorrow, July 14th. Sign up for the MouseAdventure Newsletter to get the answer, and to stay up on the latest MouseAdventure news (link).

Our second quest is a clever puzzle that you can solve at home using information found online at MousePlanet.com. Once you think you've solved Quest #2, visit our MousePad discussion boards and post your answer (link). The first reader to correctly answer Quest #2 will receive a MousePlanet baseball cap. Good luck!


The first-ever running of MousePlanet's signature MouseAdventure event at Walt Disney World will take place on November 14, 2009! The day will begin with a private breakfast at the Odyssey Center prior to park opening. The meal will be followed by a six-hour fun-filled race around Epcot, giving you a fresh look at things in the park that you never noticed before! The first part of the game will be in the classic MouseAdventure format, sending you on quests throughout Future World. After completion of that portion, teams will engage in an Enchanted Race around World Showcase to the finish line!

For more information or to register, go to the MouseAdventure page (link). Don't forget to sign up for the MouseAdventure Newsletter to stay up on the latest MouseAdventure news (link).

Man arrested for molesting girl in Typhoon Lagoon wave pool

On Friday, July 3, the Orange County Sheriff's Office arrested Robert C. Double, Jr., 51, at Typhoon Lagoon on charges of Lewd and Lascivious Molestation. According to a police report, Double "crashed into" a 15-year-old girl, then pulled down her bathing suit top and grabbed her breast on two occasions. He also allegedly pulled her bathing suit bottom to the side but did not touch her.

According to MPNnow.com, a local news Web site near Double's hometown of Farmington, NY, Double is a youth minister at Willowbrook Christian Church in Victor, NY (link).

After the second incident, the girl told her father, who informed Disney security, who then alerted Orange County deputies. According to the MPNnow.com story, a deputy then saw Double do the same to other girls on a security camera, and Double was removed from the pool and arrested.

Discovery Dinner this Wednesday to feature sustainable produce

The last in the series of "Discovery Dinners" offered at The Wave for Tables in Wonderland Members only (until after the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival) will take place this Wednesday night at the new restaurant at the Contemporary Resort. The latest event, the fifth in the series, focuses on sustainable, hydroponic agriculture.

Guests will be sampling products grown in hydroponic towers that sit 4 stories above downtown Winter Garden, FL. The rooftop garden is run by Bert Roper, an inductee at the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame, and Tim Blank, an expert in Hydro-Organic food production and President and CEO of Future Growing, an international sustainable food production company. Roper and Blank will be at the dinner, as well as Donna Perrin, of the Opici Wine Company, who assisted with the selection of the wines to be served.

The menu includes:

Reception

  • Cured Pork Crostini with Sweet Potato Brandade
  • Gingered Kobe Beef Sliders with Grilled Jicama and Onion
  • Kilroy Sparkling Shiraz, Barossa Valley

Salad

  • Poached Lobster Salad, with local Hydroponic Greens, Avocado, and a Tomato Vinaigrette
  • Warwick Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc, Stellenbosch

Appetizer

  • Cold Smoked Muscovy Duck with Caramelized Georgia Peaches over Brioche
  • Hill of Content Pinot Noir, South Australia

Entree

  • Wild Sockeye Salmon with a Citrus Beurre Blanc, Israeli Couscous, grilled Asparagus, Artichoke and Santa Sweet Tomatoes
  • Rustenberg Chardonnay, Stellenbosch

Dessert

  • Summer Fruit Shortcake with Purple Micro Basil Sorbet and Sweet Summer Salad
  • Mt. Horrocks Cordon Cut Riesling, Clare Valley

The event ("casual evening attire") runs $92 per person, including tax and gratuity, and starts at 7:00 p.m. in the Wave Lounge. For reservations (if they are still available), please email nicole.l.rainear@disney.com with your interest to book, your name and phone number, and the number of people in your party (NOTE: you must be a Tables in Wonderland member). You will be notified on a first come first serve basis and your credit card will be taken over the phone. The event will be limited to 50 Guests.

The Discovery Dinner series will resume in November.

Celebration condos to be auctioned to deplete developer inventory

Were you interested in buying a condominium in Celebration back when the Disney-planned town first opened up in 1995, but didn't have the cash? On August 1, the last 27 condos in developer's inventory will be going on sale for a fraction of their original asking price. The two- and three-bedroom units range in size from 1,291 to 2,109 square feet, and all are located in the Artisan Park community.

Current listing prices range from $255,385 to $402,200, with suggested opening bids from $95,000 to $160,000. There will be open houses held every Thursday through Sunday from now through the date of the auction. Details are available at the Web site of Stirling Sotheby's International Realty (link).

Quick takes …

…"Diana – The People's Princess," the exhibit on the late Princess of Wales that we reported on three weeks ago, is now open in the former Virgin Megastore at Downtown Disney West Side.

…The 2010 Walt Disney World Half Marathon is now full. Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is 88 percent full (7,500 capacity). The Marathon itself is now at 65 percent of capacity and the Family Fun Run 5K is at 65 percent. Time is running out! Register now (link)!

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Jonathan Heigl's Trivia Tidbit of the Week:

There is a 100 degree difference in temperature between the hot and cold test rooms in Test Track.


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 up

  • June 15 - Aug. 9. Sounds Like Summer Concert Series.
  • Sept. 4, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 29, Oct. 1, 2, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 29, 31, Nov. 1. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.
  • Sept. 6. Trek Women Triathlon (link).
  • Sept. 10-11. Night of Joy (link).
  • Sep. 20. Athletes for a Cure Triathlon (link).
  • Sept. 25 - Nov. 8. Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
  • Sep. 26. Expedition Everest Challenge (link).
  • Oct. 11. Race for the Taste 10K and 3K (link).
  • Oct 24. Tower of Terror 13K and 5K (link).
  • Nov. 10, 12, 13, 17, 19, 20, 29, Dec. 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17,18. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
  • Nov. 10 - Jan 3, 2010. Castle Dreamlights.
  • Nov. 12-15. Children's Miracle Network Classic (link).
  • Nov. 13-15. Festival of the Masters (link).
  • Nov. 14. MouseAdventure! (link).
  • Nov. 17 - Dec. 24. Festival of the Seasons at Downtown Disney.
  • Nov. 26, 27, 29. Old Spice Classic (link).
  • Nov. 27 - Dec. 30. Holidays Around the World at Epcot.
  • Nov. 27 - Jan. 3, 2010. Osborne Familiy Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
  • Nov. 27 - Jan. 3, 2010. Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade.
  • Dec. 7-12. Pop Warner Super Bowl (link).
  • Jan. 7-10, 2010. WDW Marathon Weekend (link).
  • Mar. 7, 2010. Disney's Princess Half-Marathon (link).

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • The Hall of Presidents – closed through July 1, 2009, major infrastructure upgrades, as well as for addition of President Barack Obama.
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority – closed April 19 through August 19, 2009 for refurbishment and Space Mountain's refurbishment.
  • Space Mountain – closed April 19 through November 21, 2009 for major refurbishment.

Epcot

  • Tutto Italia Ristorante – is now open, but will close at a date to be determined to be completely remodeled.
  • 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.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Animal Kingdom

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Resorts

  • Animal Kingdom Lodge – Phase 1 of the Kidani Village annex buildings for the Disney Vacation Club's Animal Kingdom Villas is now open, with Phase 2 opening in September 2009.
  • Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary Resort – Construction continues. The resort opens August 2009.

Water Parks

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Walt Disney World free dining deal!

From now until July 26, if you book a three- to fourteen-night, non-discounted Magic Your Way package, you'll get Disney's basic dining plan for free.

The offer is good for stays on most nights August 16 – October 3, 2009. Discount codes for the basic dining plan and available upgrades are as follow:

  • Basic Dine: RYH
  • Deluxe Dine: UGR
  • Basic Dine plus Wine & Dine: KEU
  • Deluxe Dine plus Wine & Dine: NZZ

To book these packages, go to the Walt Disney World Web site (link), call 407-939-7928 or contact one of MousePlanet's Preferred Disney Travel Providers, Small World Vacations (link) and MouseEarVacations.com (link). Just remember to book by June 21!

Gaylord Palms debuts new exclusive rate specials

MousePlanet sponsor Gaylord Palms Resort has announced a series of 27 nights for a special promotional rate of $119 per night (Reserve now!). You can stay at a luxury resort for the price of a Disney moderate, just a mile from Disney property. Many other nights are available for $129 per night (see below). The following dates are now available at $119 per night:

  • June 28 – July 1
  • July 6 – July 18
  • July 24 – July 26
  • August 7 – August 8
  • August 14 – August 15
  • August 24 – August 26

MousePlanet partner Gaylord Palms Resort has a great offer, valid for stays through the end of the year! For approximately 5 nights out of every 7 for the rest of the year, you can stay at the Gaylord Palms at the special MousePlanet reader discount rate (Reserve now!) of $129 per night. Even better, you can book these rates right up until the day you arrive! This new rate is even lower than Disney moderate resorts after June 6! Why stay off property? Because you can get luxury accommodations at moderate prices! These special low rates are available on the following nights:

  • March 11, 15–17, 21-29
  • April 1–13, 18–19, 24–27
  • May 10-11, 15–27
  • June 2–6, 9-17, 20–23
  • July 2-5 ($139 rate), 23, 27–28
  • August 1–6, 9, 13, 18–19, 22–23, 27, 30
  • September 1-2, 6–8, 12–14, 18–20, 25–27
  • October 2–5, 13–18, 23–24, 29–31
  • November 3, 7, 12–15, 22-30
  • December 1-5, 9, 13–27

Discounted ECV rentals for MousePlanet readers through Scooter Vacations

Scooter Vacations, MousePlanet's mobility scooter rental partner, is offering MousePlanet readers a 10 percent discount on their scooter rentals by using code MP10 when making your reservation for any of their five scooter models.

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 rates for 2009 released

Passholder rates for April 19 – June 6, 2009 offer value resorts starting at just $64 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights), moderate resorts starting at $94 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights). Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge) starting at $164 per night and studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa starting at $154 per night (Friday-Saturday nights) and $199 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights). The rates are valid most Sunday – Thursday nights during that period.

Passholder rates for June 7 – August 8, 2009 have been released, but the prices aren't available for nearly all nights during that time span. You'll want to check for the specific availability for the dates that you're planning to travel. Under this promotion, the starting rates at these resorts are:

  • Value resorts – $74 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights) and $84 per night (Friday and Saturday nights)
  • Moderate resorts – $109 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights) and $119 (Friday and Saturday nights)
  • Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge) – $144 (July 19-August 8), $174 (through July 18), and $194 (July 4 weekend) per night dependent on date
  • Studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, and Old Key West Resort – $164 per night (Friday-Saturday nights) and $194 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights).

The Disney Dining Plan may also be added to these discounted reservations. The number of rooms available is limited and minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday and Saturday arrivals. Reservations may be booked through the Passholder web site or by using code EDB (through June 6) or EJC (June 7 – August 8) if booking via the Passholder phone line (407-939-7722) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).

Disney Cruise Line half-price deposits for online reservations, for a limited time

The Disney Cruise Line has announced a special deal where any bookings through the Disney Cruise web site (link) will only require payment of half of the usual deposit, with the other half due with the rest of the final payment. The offer is only good on new bookings, and for category 4-12 cabins only. The offer is available to those booking online or through their travel agents (though the travel agent would have to book the cruise through disneycruise.com for the offer). Bookings are also eligible for the standard $25 onboard credit offer for all online bookings. The deal is available "for a limited time," but there's no word on when the limited time expires. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link).


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.