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Update for December 14 – December 20, 2009

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

News and Views

Monorail shutdown | Passholder discounts | Pleasure Island changes lag | DVC news | "Villains Tonight!" | Gaylord specials | Discounts going away? | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Computer failure strands hundreds aboard monorails

A hard drive failure in the computer system that controls Walt Disney World's monorail system resulted in a power shutdown in Sunday's early morning hours. Seven monorail trains were in service at the time that the monorail beam powered down at 1 a.m. Three of them were in stations where passengers could disembark and one was empty. However, three more were on the beam carrying a total of approximately 300 passengers who were stuck on board.


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The Magic Kingdom closed at 1 a.m., so all three monorail loops were still in operation, ferrying people to the Magic Kingdom resort hotels, the Transportation and Ticket Center, and the Epcot parking lot. It took approximately two hours to evacuate the remaining three trains. All three trains were eventually towed into stations to allow passengers to get off, though the Reedy Creek Fire Department began evacuating one of the trains using a ladder until the tow vehicle became available for that train. The fire department trains regularly for such a rescue operation, though it is unusual that they actually had to put the training to some use. No passengers were injured.

Disney issued a statement reiterating their commitment to safety and noting that they train for this type of situation with the fire department. They also noted that they are working with the affected guests.

Engaging in some personal speculation, it is likely that the computer system failure caused the power outage as a security failover process to prevent any accidents while the automated traffic system was not functioning. However, redundant hard disk drives can compensate for such a failure, and will probably be part of the remediation effort to prevent a future reoccurrence.

Passholder discounts for early 2010

Passholders discount rates for early 2010 (through mid-February) have been released, with savings of 40 percent at Value and Moderate resorts and 45 percent at Deluxe and Deluxe Villa resorts. Availability is limited and rooms must be booked by December 31.

Reservations may be booked through the Passholder Web site or by using code OTA if booking via the Walt Disney World Reservations phone line (407-939-7617) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).


Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and friends welcome you to Epcot and wish you a Happy Holiday season. Photo by Steve Russo.

Pleasure Island changes to drag on

In the Walt Disney Company's description of its businesses in its lengthy 10K annual report filing with the Security and Exchange Commission, the company mentions in its description of Downtown Disney that "[i]n September 2008, the Company commenced a project to enhance Pleasure Island, which will feature new shopping and dining experiences to entertain guests of all ages. The project is expected to be completed in 2012."

2012? When the closure was announced in June 2008, the makeover was supposed to take two years. It now appears that it will be double that time before the new, supposedly-revitalized island is complete. There may be many factors involved in this, from the changing of the management of Downtown Disney itself to the swapping of jobs between Parks & Resorts head Jay Rasulo and Walt Disney Company CFO and Exec VP Tom Staggs, to the economy, to the difficulty of keeping all venues on the West Side filled, to the realization that maybe their original idea wasn't so bright after all.

We'll wait and see what new announcements come regarding the urban renewal project.

Meanwhile, in the section of the 10K decribing the Disney Vacation Club's business, it lists all properties open or under construction, including the land that was purchasedd on the island of Oahu, Hawaii that will be the home of the Ko Olina Resort. However, it's interesting that no mention was made of the land purchase at National Harbor in Maryland. While neither details nor a construction start date has been announced, it was presented as a location for a new Disney resort. Perhaps it is not necessary to report the holding until construction has actually begun.


Steven Curtis Chapman narrates the Candlelight Processional last week. Photo by Steve Russo.

Disney Vacation Club news announced at Condominium Association meeting

Thanks to our friends at DVCNews.com, we have a recap of last week's Disney Vacation Club Condominium Association meetings. At the meetings, it was announced that Saratoga Springs Resort is getting a new feature pool in The Paddock area, and the Old Key West Resort is getting full refurbishments starting in the spring.

The Saratoga Springs feature pool will include zero entry access, a 146-foot water slide, a 1,200 square foot water play area, a hot tub and a quick service dining location. This will provide a nice alternative to the High Rock Spring pool near the resort's main building. More information and concept art is available online (link).

The Old Key West villas will receive new carpet, wall coverings, granite countertops, flat-screen televisions, upholstery, ceiling fans, and more. Units one bedroom and larger will receive new twin-size sleeper chairs in the living room. A full recap of the upgrades, scheduled to start in the spring, is also available (link).

The loss of free valet parking for members was brought up. The free service was offered by the outsourced valet provider without compensation, but the provider decided to start charging members. DVC determined that it was too costly to subsidize the cost with member dues, and that it would be unfair to spread the cost among all members when the service was only being used by some.

DVCNews.com has a complete rundown on all of the events of the meeting, written by MousePad member "DVC Mike" (link).


Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade is now Jingling at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Photo by Steve Russo.

"Villains Tonight!" to debut at sea in March

The Disney Cruise Line has announced details of their newest stage production. Originally announced as "Villains Night Out" for the new Disney Dream, the show has been retitled "Villains Tonight!" and will debut aboard the March 27 sailing of the Disney Magic before opening aboard the Dream when that ship sails in 2011.

The show features Hades, who is in danger of losing his position of Lord of the Underworld because he has turned it into a happier place and it is no longer evil enough. He decides to bring in the most powerful Disney villains to help him bring the evil levels back up. The show also features such villains as Ursula, the Evil Queen, Captain Hook, Scar, Cruella de Vil and The Princess and the Frog's Dr. Facilier.


Hades gathers the most powerful Disney villains in "Villains Tonight!" Image © Disney.

"We pride ourselves in delivering exceptional entertainment and magnificent stage spectaculars aboard our ships," said Jim Urry, Vice President of Entertainment for Disney Cruise Line. "With ‘Villains Tonight!’ we are bringing the lovable and loathsome Disney villains to life in a way never seen before – as the stars of the first musical comedy devoted to the anti-heroes of our films."

The creative team includes Broadway writers Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen, as well as director Allison Narver, choreographer Karma Camp and musical director Ben Cohn.


For more information about the show and its creation, check out this video from the Disney Cruise Line.

Some of the elaborate sets include the deck of Captain Hook’s ship, Scar’s Elephant Graveyard and Ursula’s Undersea Lounge.

"Villains Tonight!" will only have a couple of weeks to get rolling before taking the show on the road … er … sea. The Magic heads across the Atlantic on April 10 for a summer of Mediterranean and Northern European cruises. With most cruises lasting 10, 11 or 12 days, the additional show will help to entertain guests over the long trip.

Gaylord Palms debuts new exclusive rate specials

MousePlanet sponsor Gaylord Palms Resort is running a 30 percent off sale, with rates as low as $109 per night from now until December 25! They've also got New Year's weekend deals with rates as low as $126 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. Don't forget that they've got special holiday festivities running through January 3!


The gingerbread carousel at the Beach Club Resort is beautiful, as always. Photo by Steve Russo.

Discounts to fade away?

The amazing discounts that Disney has been offering at its parks and resorts this year may be starting to come to an end, Disney CEO Bob Iger told attendees at the UBS 37th Annual Global Media and Communications Conference in New York last week. "[W]ith the discount program, our bookings and our attendance are reasonably okay, but we're discounting to get it," said Iger, who also noted that the discounts are actually attracting visitors that would never have come otherwise, which is generating positive word of mouth and repeat visits.

However, Disney is looking to eventually return to normal pricing without regular discounts. "But we're not concerned about weaning ourselves in the marketplace at the discount, but we don't know when we'll be able to essentially turn it off. So we've dialed it back," said Iger. "And I imagine, without committing to this, but given certain trends, that we will be able to continue to dial that back over the latter part of 2010. But we're not making any commitments yet until we see the marketplace conditions."

This really isn't a surprise, as Disney has been hoping to return to full standard pricing as soon as possible. However, with hotel occupancy rates at the resort down slightly despite the discounts, it is uncertain what the time frame for reducing the discounts may be. We'll probably see more of the "get a better deal at non-Value resorts" deals, and perhaps other deals that provide a better incentive when staying at Deluxe resorts. However, the deals will probably continue to shrink as long as people are still taking advantage of them. If they hit a point where discount usage drops drastically, they'll probably hold off on stepping back any further until the deals are having an effect again.

So take advantage of the discounts while they last. Many of them are listed below. While we don't know when they will end, their demise is now on the horizon.

Construction update

Here is the listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:

  • Magic Kingdom Adventureland – remodeling of guest restrooms.
  • Magic Kingdom Tony's Town Square Restaurant – replacement of three cooler doors and one walk-in cooler.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios MuppetVision 3-D exit – installation of hand rails, relocation of glasses bins and installation of signage.
  • Downtown Disney World of Disney – exterior rehab.
  • Grand Floridian Convention Center – replacement of three existing reader boards.
  • Bay Lake Tower – improvement of cell coverage in building.
  • Boardwalk Resort – repainting of clown and hair at Luna Park Pool.
  • Port Orleans Resort telephone building – removal and replacement of shingles.

Quick takes …

…Passholders and DVC Members will enjoy special discounts at the World of Disney this Saturday. From 8-10 a.m., Passholders and DVC members can get discounts of up to 50 percent off the current retail price of select store items. There will also be door buster savings and surprise markdowns. The first 1,000 guests at the store will receive a complimentary gift. The event is open to Walt Disney World Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members. You'll need valid Passholder or DVC ID, plus a government-issued photo ID to get in.

…From now through January 3, The Pirates League is offering a 50 percent discount to Passholders, Disney Vacation Club members, Florida residents, and Walt Disney World Resort Guests. Basically, unless you're an out-of-state guest without an annual pass that's staying off property, you qualify. The half-off discount is valid on all three packages, First Mate ($49.95 plus tax), Empress ($49.95 plus tax) and Captain's Package ($124.95 plus tax). The discount is on all items included in each package, with additional items available at list price. For reservations, call 407-WDW-CREW (407-939-2739). For more details, check out the Disney Parks blog (link).

…Steven Schussler (creator of Rainforest Cafe, T-Rex and Yak & Yeti, among other concepts) has teamed with Orange County Choppers and Levy Restaurants (operators of most of Schussler's creations) to open a new concept restaurant themed to motorcycles with barbeque cuisine. Could Backfire BBQ end up coming to Walt Disney World? Uncertain, as it may cause conflicts with existing Pleasure Island tenant Harley-Davidson.

…Swindon, until now noted for its steam train lineage and its "Magic Roundabout" traffic feature, has been selected as the United Kingdom town to be "twinned" with Walt Disney World. The winning submission of the town came from Rebecca Warren, a 20-year-old mortgage advisor who had most recently been to the Florida resort last year. As a result she, her niece and nephew (five and eleven years old, respectively) will all fly to Florida in January to unveil a plaque celebrating the designation. Swindon will be celebrated at Epcot's U.K. pavilion, and there will also be special ceremonies back in Swindon to promote the link. Disney will help to create the celebration in the U.K. town.

…The Orlando Sentinel is reporting (link) that Walt Disney World has begin letting contracts for work on New Fantasyland, specifically citing a deal with Hoar Construction of Birmingham, Alabama for site development work.

…In last week's Update, we noted that Kirk Cameron had replaced Vanessa Williams as narrator for the Candlelight Processional on December 12 and 13, while Williams' scheduled December 14 slot was added to Abigail Breslin's run from December 15-17. On Last Monday, shortly after the Update was published, it was announced that Cameron himself had been replaced by Chita Rivera, who handled narrator chores over the weekend. Breslin will still serve as narrator tonight.

…The 2010 Walt Disney World Marathon is now at 97 percent of capacity. The Walt Disney World Half Marathon, Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge, Disney/Pixar UP & Away Family Fun Run 5K and Mickey's Marathon Kids' Fest are already sold out. Your only shot at getting into the Half Marathon or Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge would be to contact one of Disney's group or charity registration aggregators (link). Time is running out! Register now (link)!

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The Year to Volunteer

To assist MousePlanet readers who want to participate in The Year to Volunteer, we're looking for readers to act as MousePlanet hosts at qualifying volunteer opportunities across the country. While details of specific opportunities won't be available until after the promotion begins in January, several of our volunteers hosts said they want to start coordinating their local events. To help facilitate these activities, we've created a new MousePlanet Volunteers section of our MousePad discussion board devoted entirely to the Year to Volunteer events.

If you would like to coordinate and host a group volunteer event in your area, please visit our MousePad discussion board for more information on how to list your event (link). Hosts will be responsible for selecting a volunteer opportunity from the HandsOn Network site (which means you get to choose a program or organization that's important to you!), and coordinating with local MousePlanet readers who want to volunteer for your activity. To give readers the most time to use their tickets, we encourage hosts to schedule their activities early in the year.

Hosts from Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, southern Utah, southern Nevada and southern Arizona have already started discussions for their area, and are looking for local readers to join their activities. If you live in one of these areas and want more information about local events, please visit MousePad and join the discussion (link).

 


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

  • Nov. 10, 12, 13, 15, 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. 10 - Jan. 3, 2010. Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
  • Nov. 17 - Dec. 24. Festival of the Seasons at Downtown Disney.
  • Nov. 27 - Dec. 30. Holidays Around the World at Epcot.
  • Nov. 27 - Jan. 3, 2010. Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade.
  • Jan. 7-10, 2010. WDW Marathon Weekend (link).
  • Jan. 15-17. UCA National College Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • Feb. 5-7. National Dance Team Championship (link).
  • Feb. 12-14. UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • Feb. 19-22. TwirlMania 2010 (link).
  • Feb. 27. Contest of Champions Nationals: School & Youth Rec Cheer (link).
  • Feb. 27. Contest of Champions Nationals: All-Star Cheer & Dance (link).
  • Mar. 3 - May. 16. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.
  • Mar. 5. Contest of Champions Nationals: Studio Dance (link).
  • Mar. 6-7. Contest of Champions Nationals: School Dance (link).
  • Mar. 7, 2010. Disney's Princess Half-Marathon (link).
  • Mar. 12-14. UCA National All Star Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • Apr. 23-25. USASF/IASF Dance and Cheerleading World Championships (link).
  • Jun. 12. Expedition Everest Challenge (link).
  • Oct. 1-2. Disney's Wine & Dine Half Marathon (link).

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

Epcot

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Animal Kingdom

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Resorts

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon – closed November 1, 2009 through January 9, 2010 for annual refurbishment.
  • Blizzard Beach – closed January 10, 2010 through March 20, 2010 for annual refurbishment.

Elsewhere

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

Current Discounts & Promotions

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.

New room-only discounts announced for early 2010

On Tuesday, Disney announced a new set of room-only discounts, with savings of 30 percent on Value resorts, 35 percent on Moderates, 40 percent on Deluxes and 45 percent on Deluxe Villas. The savings are value for standard rooms on most nights From January 1 – February 11, 2010.

Sample rates:

  • Value resorts – $58, $65 or $102 per night
  • Moderate resorts – $97, $104, $107 or $143 per night
  • Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge) – $144, $156, $159 or $243 per night
  • Studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, and Old Key West Resort – $163 or $234 per night.

The number of rooms available at these rates are limited, and minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. You can only book these rates through December 31, 2009, so book now!

Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World web site (link) or by using code SGG if booking via the Walt Disney World Reservations phone line (407-939-7607) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).

Walt Disney World offers new "Free Nights" discount, with some twists

Walt Disney World has released a new version of the "Buy-4-Get-3-Free" deal offered earlier this year, for most dates from November 1, 2009 through March 27, 2010. There are three twists to this version, though.

The first twist is that the Buy-4-Get-3 deal is only for stays at moderate resorts and up. If you're staying at a value resort, the deal becomes a Buy-5-Get-2-Free. This cuts the net difference in price between values and moderates by about 40 percent, with comparative sample 7-night vacations in November for a family of four differing by $152. This will help to convince many families "on the bubble" to opt for moderate resorts, thus clearing more availability for those who can only afford value resorts.

The second twist is that you must buy park passes for the length of your stay. No more annual passholders doing the "buy a one-day pass and get the free room nights" trick. If you're staying at a moderate and up, you'll need a four-day pass and at a value you have to buy a five-day pass. This results in the net park pass savings of $9 per person at moderate and higher resorts and $6 per person at values. Of course, if you were hoping to do the one-day purchase if you hold annual passes, it's an extra $146 per person at moderates and up and $149 per person at values.

The third and final twist is that you will not get free days on your dining plan with this deal. You can buy the dining plan with the discount, but you'll have to pay for all seven days. That's $120-$141 per adult and $30-$39 per child (moderate and up) or $80-$94 per adult and $20-$26 per child (value) that you're paying that you didn't have to pay in this spring's offer.

Despite that, it's still a nice discount on the room and park passes for those without annual passes. If you were looking for a reason to add a trip in the next few months, now is the time! The offer is good November 1-20, 2009; December 10-24, 2009; and January 1-March 27, 2010.

These rates must be booked by December 20. The number of rooms available is limited. Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World web site or by using codes GQA (value resorts) or UJX (moderate resorts and above) if booking via the Walt Disney World Reservations phone line (407-939-1318) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).

Passholder discounts through end of 2009

Passholder rates for August 9 – December 24, 2009 have been released. Rates are available for all dates except for November 25 – 28, the Tuesday through Saturday of Thanksgiving week. Under this promotion, the starting rates at these resorts are:

  • Value resorts – $64 per night (8/9-8/17, 8/28-9/22, 10/2-10/2), $69 per night (10/4-11/24), $54 per night (11/29-12/17) and $89 per night (12/18-12/24)
  • Moderate resorts – $89 per night (8/9-8/18, 8/22-9/23, 9/27-10/3), $99 per night (10/4-11/24), $89 per night (11/29-12/17) and $124 per night (12/18-12/24)
  • Select deluxe resorts (Yacht Club, Beach Club, BoardWalk) – $234 per night (8/28-10/3)
  • Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge) – $169 per night (10/4-11/24), $139 per night (11/29-12/17) and $229 per night (12/18-12/24)
  • Studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, and Old Key West Resort – $159 per night (8/9-10/3), $189 per night (10/4-11/24), $169 per night (11/29-12/17) and $249 per night (12/18-12/24).

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. These rates may be available through your date of arrival. Reservations may be booked through the Passholder web site or by using codes EQA (8/9-10/3) or NBM (10/4-12/24) 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).

Room-only discounts for the general public through end of 2009

Discount room-only rates are now available to the general public for dates from October 4 – December 24. These rates are blocked out from November 25 – 28, the Tuesday through Saturday of Thankgiving week. Under this promotion, the starting rates are:

  • Value resorts – $74 per night (10/4-11/24), $84 per night (11/29-12/17) and $94 per night (12/18-12/24)
  • Moderate resorts – $109 per night (10/4-11/24), $96 per night (11/29-12/17) and $134 per night (12/18-12/24)
  • Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge) – $179 per night (10/4-11/24), $149 per night (11/29-12/17) and $239 per night (12/18-12/24)
  • Studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, and Old Key West Resort – $199 per night (10/4-11/24), $179 per night (11/29-12/17) and $259 per night (12/18-12/24).

These rates must be booked by December 20. 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 Walt Disney World web site or by using code FSC if booking via the Walt Disney World Reservations phone line (407-939-6244) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).

Disney Cruise Line offers "Kids Sail Free" deal

Now is a great time for families to book a Disney cruise, as the Disney Cruise Line has announced a "Kids Sail Free" promotion for most 3- and 4-night Bahamian sailings from January 7 through through April 15, 2010 and 10- and 11-night Mediterranean sailings from April 24 through May 26, 2010.

Children age 17 and under can sail free when traveling with two full-fare guests in the same stateroom, though government taxes and fees must still be paid for the kids. The offer applies to stateroom categories 4 through 12 and the number of stateroom categories are limited. Other special offers, discounts or onboard credits to not apply, though additional terms and conditions may apply.

Reservations may be booked through the Disney Cruise Line Web site (link), via the Disney Cruise Line Reservations phone line (800-951-3532) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link). You must use booking code KFO to receive this deal.


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.