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Update for July 27 – August 2, 2009

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

News and Views

New Free Dining deal! | New top DAK exec | New show coming to Disney Magic? | DVC looking for real estate agents in NY, IL | Gaylord Palms announces new low rates | Quick Takes …

Free dining at Walt Disney World through December 17!

[This story was originally posted on my blog last Thursday.]

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The down economy continues to challenge Disney to fill their hotel rooms, which is resulting in a continuing stream of deals for you!

Walt Disney World has just announced free dining packages for September 27 through December 17. Right now it's only available to Disney Visa cardmembers (use codes EVN or GCA), but it will open for general availability on Sunday morning.

Note: This offer is not available November 25-28, the Wednesday through Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend.

This time, the free dining comes with a twist: while the package stays the same if you book at a moderate, deluxe or villas resort, free dining packages at value resorts will be the quick service dining plan instead of the basic dining plan. You should be able to pay to upgrade your plan, but the "free" value of the deal will be $29.99 per day for adults, $8.99 for children instead of $39.99 per day for adults, $10.99 for children. For a family of four with both children under age 10, that's a difference of $24 per day. For a family of four with both kids age 10 and up, it's a difference of $40 per day. Please be aware of that before you choose your resort!

You can book this offer through September 26, the last day of the Walt Disney Company's 2008-2009 fiscal year. Book now, get a great deal, and help Disney improve its numbers at the same time!

Lansberry appointed as top Animal Kingdom exec

Last week, we reported that Val Bunting would be leaving her post as Vice President for Disney's Animal Kingdom as soon as a replacement could be named. Bunting is now free to make her move to the resorts side of the business as the new general manager of the Port Orleans Resort. Her replacement will be Kevin Lansberry, a 23-year Disney veteran, who had previously served as vice president of Downtown Disney, transportation, sports and golf. Lansberry will retain his transportation duties.

Some wonder what might be in store for Disney's fourth Florida theme park, as Lansberry presided over the shuttering of Pleasure Island last year, as well as the increasing presence of third-party operators and shrinking of Disney-run enterprises at Downtown Disney. Lansberry's transportation tenure was most recently scarred by the fatal monorail accident July 5 and a bus accident near the Magic Kingdom July 16.

Lansberry will be replaced at Downtown Disney by Keith Bradford, previously vice president of operating participants, who is an obvious candidate to continue the outsourcing of shopping, dining and entertainment at Downtown Disney.

MouseAdventure's Summer Warm Up

Congratulations to MousePlanet reader Luke for being the first to post the correct answer to our Week 3 quest. If you'd like to check your own answers, download the Quest 3 answer key (link).
 

Quest #4 presents a different kind of "Eye Spy" challenge, and regular readers of Alex Stroup's movie reviews may have an edge. Download Quest #4, and see if you can identify this cast of characters (link). (Once again, the answer from Quest #3 is the password you'll need to open Quest #4) Remember, you can solve this quest at home using information found online at MousePlanet.com. Once you think you've solved the puzzle, visit our MousePad discussion boards and post your answer (link). The first reader to post the correct answer to Quest #4 will receive a MousePlanet baseball cap. Good luck!


The Innagural MouseAdventure event at Walt Disney World will take place on Saturday, November 14, 2009!

The day will begin with a private breakfast at the Odyssey Center prior to park opening, followed by a six-hour fun-filled race around Epcot park for 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).

New show to set sail late this year?

It appears that there will be a new show debuting on board the Disney Magic late this year. An audition call for the new show, to be written by Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen, is heavy on the villains, with the call sheet listing Hades, Pain, Panic, Dr. Facilier, Jafar, Yzma, the Evil Queen, Captain Hook, Kronk, Cruella de Vil, Maleficent, the Queen of Hearts and Ursula (many of these parts will be doubled up to be portrayed by a single actor).

The as-yet-untitled show will be directed by Allison Narver, with choreographer Karma Camp and musical director Ben Cohn helping to create the performance. With one-year contracts beginning in October, the show should be running in great form in time for the Northern European cruises next summer.

The show will perform in repertory with Twice Charmed and Disney Dreams. We'll let you know as we learn more about this show.

Disney Vacation Club looking for real estate agents in New York, Illinois

Looking to expand the range of their sales force, the Disney Vacation Club has sent out an email to their members in New York and Illinois, looking for licensed real-estate professionals to sell DVC interests in their state. With accommodations just opened or about to open at Animal Kingdom Villas, Treehouse Villas, Bay Lake Tower and Villas at the Grand Californian, and Ko Olina to open in Hawaii in two years, there's a lot of realty to sell.

In the email to New York residents, Disney stated that the opportunity is "open to licensed New York real-estate professionals" who can "work from home with 100-percent commission-based compensation that could reach a six-figure plus income annually" and that "Disney-certified training will allow agents to make the most of this experience."

For more information, you can visit the recruiting pages on the DVC site for New York (link) or Illinois (link) members.

Gaylord Palms debuts new exclusive rate specials

MousePlanet sponsor Gaylord Palms Resort has announced a new set of nights for a special promotional rate of $119 per night (Reserve now!). Why stay off property? Because you can get luxury accommodations 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:

  • July 23 – July 28
  • August 1 – August 10
  • August 13 – August 16
  • August 18 – August 27
  • August 30 – September 2
  • September 6 – September 16
  • September 18 – September 20
  • September 25 – September 27
  • November 22 – December 1
  • December 11 – December 25

There are 32 more nights that you can stay at the Gaylord Palms Resort for just $129 pr night! Combined, these rates are available for approximately 2 nights out of every 3 for the rest of the year! Check out the special MousePlanet reader discount rate (Reserve now!) today! The special $129 per night rates are available on the following nights:

  • October 2 – October 5
  • October 13 – October 18
  • October 23 – October 24
  • October 29 – October 31
  • November 3 – November 7
  • November 12 – November 15
  • December 2 – December 5
  • December 9 – December 10
  • December 26 – December 27

Quick takes …

…Breakfast is now being served at the Beaches & Cream Soda Shop at the Beach Club Resort. The meal, served from 7-11 a.m. daily, features platters for adults and children including scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes, cereal and more.

…Kouzzina by Cat Cora at Disney's BoardWalk Resort is now scheduled for a September 17 grand opening. The restaurant will participate in the Disney Dining Plan and will be a standard table service restaurant, requiring only one table service credit. Reservations are now open, and can be made by calling the Disney Dining Line at 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3563). At this time, the restaurant is not listed in the online dining reservations, though Spoodles is still listed. We expect Disney to correct that situation in the near future.

…The new Camp Kidani experience will let campers spend time with African savanna guides for various animal and African culture-themed activities. Kids can even earn an exclusive Animal Kingdom Lodge pin at Camp Kidani. The activity is exclusive to Animal Kingdom Lodge guests, and can be reserved by calling the Disney Dining Line.

…Want to take a Magic Kingdom fireworks cruise but don't want to pay to rent the boat all by yourself? Now the Pirates & Pals Fireworks Voyage is now open to all guests, regardless of party size. The voyage, which navigates Seven Seas Lagoon, runs 4 nights a week Friday through Monday. Enjoy beverages, fruit, pastries and other tasty treats before you set sail from the Contemporary Resort with your pirate host. Sing songs, play Disney trivia games, and enjoy the Wishes fireworks from a spectacular vantage point on the Seven Seas Lagoon. You may also get a great viewing location for the Electrical Water Pageant. The cruise, which lasts 1-3 hours, can be booked by calling the Disney Dining Line.

…Work is now underway on installing a new marble floor in the lobby of the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald, Pluto, Cinderella and other Disney characters will be incorporated into the floor's design.

…Last week, Walt Disney World was testing centralized FastPass distribution at Disney's Animal Kingdom. You could get FastPasses for Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris and Dinosaur at the former "it's tough to be a bug" FastPass machines. Do you like this idea? Let us know what you think! (And if you were there, let us know how well it worked!)

…Just one more week: the Disney Vacation Club's Bay Lake Tower Resort opens one week from tomorrow, on August 4.

…Disney Parks has launched its first Facebook application – the Disney Parks Celebration Gallery (link). You can send virtual Mickey-ear balloons to friends and family.

…A June 24 white rhino birth in Uganda has its roots at Walt Disney World. The first white rhino born in the country in 27 years is the son of a 10-year-old female white rhino born at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Nande, the mother, is one of two white rhinos transferred in 2006 as part of the first-ever reintroduction of white rhinos from the United States to Africa.

…The 2010 Walt Disney World Half Marathon is now full. Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is 93 percent full (7,500 capacity). The Marathon itself is now at 70 percent of capacity and the Family Fun Run 5K is at 78 percent. Time is running out! Register now (link)!

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Jonathan Heigl's Trivia Tidbit of the Week:

If you took one inch of water off of the top in The Living Seas aquarium, you could fill an entire swimming pool.


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

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 is complete. The resort opens August 4, 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 September 26, if you book a three- to fourteen-night, non-discounted Magic Your Way package, you'll get Disney's dining plan for free.

The offer is good for stays on most nights September 27 – December 17, 2009, except November 25-28, the Wednesday through Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend.. This time, the free dining comes with a twist: while the package stays the same if you book at a moderate, deluxe or villas resort, free dining packages at value resorts will be the quick service dining plan instead of the basic dining plan. You should be able to pay to upgrade your plan, but the "free" value of the deal at the values will be $29.99 per day for adults, $8.99 for children instead of $39.99 per day for adults, $10.99 for children. For a family of four with both children under age 10, that's a difference of $24 per day. For a family of four with both kids age 10 and up, it's a difference of $40 per day. Please be aware of that before you choose your resort!

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 September 26!

Gaylord Palms debuts new exclusive rate specials

MousePlanet sponsor Gaylord Palms Resort has announced a new set of nights for a special promotional rate of $119 per night (Reserve now!). Why stay off property? Because you can get luxury accommodations 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:

  • July 23 – July 28
  • August 1 – August 10
  • August 13 – August 16
  • August 18 – August 27
  • August 30 – September 2
  • September 6 – September 16
  • September 18 – September 20
  • September 25 – September 27
  • November 22 – December 1
  • December 11 – December 25

There are 32 more nights that you can stay at the Gaylord Palms Resort for just $129 pr night! Combined, these rates are available for approximately 2 nights out of every 3 for the rest of the year! Check out the special MousePlanet reader discount rate (Reserve now!) today! The special $129 per night rates are available on the following nights:

  • October 2 – October 5
  • October 13 – October 18
  • October 23 – October 24
  • October 29 – October 31
  • November 3 – November 7
  • November 12 – November 15
  • December 2 – December 5
  • December 9 – December 10
  • December 26 – December 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 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 EJC 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.