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Update for March 1, 2010 – March 7, 2010

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

News and Views

Monthly-pay Annual Passes coming | Wide World of Sports relaunches | Tables in Wonderland events | Garden Town Breakfast | Resorts win high ratings | Clean the World | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Coming soon to Walt Disney World: Monthly Payment Annual Passes

[This item was originally posted on Mark Goldhaber's blog.]

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Sources at Walt Disney World tell MousePlanet that the monthly payment plan first offered to Disneyland Annual Passholders in late 2008 will be extended to Walt Disney World Passholders later this year. The official announcement is expected sometime next week, when Disney is also expected to debut a new Annual Passport that will be valid at both the Florida and California Resorts.

Few details are available about the Walt Disney World monthly payment option, which is not expected to launch until sometime this summer. The Disneyland version, currently restricted to Southern California residents only, requires customers to make a deposit equal to the cost of a one-day, one-park ticket. The remaining monthly payments are then automatically charged to a credit card placed on file at the time the passport is purchased. The Walt Disney World version is expected to be open to all Florida residents, and will require a deposit and credit card payments similar to the Disneyland pass. Non-residents are not expected to be eligible for this option.

The resort is reportedly launching this plan as another attempt to grow their Annual Passholder base. Disneyland saw sales of Annual Passes skyrocket after launching the monthly payment plan, and Walt Disney World is hoping that the financing option will help boost sales of their pricier passes. If the two plans are similar, a Florida resident would be able to "upgrade" their $79 one-day, one-park ticket (expected to go to $83 this August if current patterns hold) to a seasonal annual passport with payments of about $15 per month. After deposit, payments for the Florida resident Premium AP would be just under $40 per month - still a big chunk, but much easier on the budget than shelling out $489 (current price) at one time. Note that all prices listed do not include tax.

We haven't yet heard if the monthly-payment option will be offered for the combined Walt Disney World / Disneyland Resort annual passport. While it would seem to make sense, the logistics involved with launching the new pass may leave that option for later implementation.

[The next day, we learned (and posted) that the announcement date of this week is not accurate; however we are expecting an announcement by mid-March. We'll pass along more information as we can on both the monthly payment option and the bi-coastal passports.]

Wide World of Sports relaunches with ESPN branding

Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex was officially relaunched as the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex last week, and MousePlanet's Jeff Kober brought you a report last Friday on why it is even important to theme park-goers that have no plans to visit the complex. The official relaunch took place as Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley kicked a football over the entrance arch.


Minnie sets the football for Garret Hartley as the ESPN Wide World of Sports re-launch is "kicked off." Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Celebrities and Mickey pose as ESPN Wide World of Sports is relaunched. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Events included a performance by the Harlem Globetrotters, a four-team Major League Soccer pre-season tournament, and events at ESPN The Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios. We'll have additional photos of the events from Jeff throughout the Update this week.


Brandi Chastain, U.S. Women's World Cup soccer star, walks the "turf carpet" at the relaunching of the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Jacksonville Jaguars star running back Maurice Jones-Drew walks the carpet. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


U.S.A. softball pitcher and Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch joins the crowd on the carpet. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver, chats with the media. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

 

Tables in Wonderland hosts more exclusive events this month

Tables in Wonderland, the discount dining program available to Annual Passholders and Florida residents, is hosting two exclusive special events in March.

March's Discovery Dinner at The Wave… of American Flavors at the Contemporary Resort takes place on Thursday, March 18, with a 6:30 p.m. reception and 7:00 dinner. The $92 price includes tax and gratuity. As is usual at the Discovery Dinners, appetizers will be paired with wine during the reception, and dinner will feature a salad, appetizer, entree, and dessert, with each course paired with wine. This month's dinner showcases the Central Florida tomato crop, featuring Santa Sweets Tomatoes. This event is limited to 50 Guests.

March 30 brings The Life & Soul of Ireland Signature Dinner to Raglan Road Irish Pub at Downtown Disney Pleasure Island. The reception starts at 7:00 p.m., with dinner at 7:30. For $122.48 per person including tax and gratuity, you will get appetizer, soup, entree, and dessert, served with 14 Hands wines and Irish coffee with dessert. Master Chef Kevin Dundon will give a detailed description of each dish on the menu, inspired by the best of traditional Irish cuisines, before you choose which dish to dine on. Each guest will also receive a signed copy of Dundon's book Great Family Food. This event is limited to 63 guests.

Dress code for both dinners is casual evening attire.

To request a reservation for either event, send an email to Tables in Wonderland (link) with your interest in booking, your name, daytime phone number, home address, and the number of people in your party. Reservations will be given on a first-come, first-served basis. You will need to provide your credit card number over the phone at the time of confirmation.


Referee Mickey throws up the ball to start the Harlem Globetrotters game. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


The Clown Princes of Basketball hold court at The Milk House. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Garden Time Breakfast available during Flower & Garden Festival

A new dining choice is available during this year's Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. The Garden Town Breakfast is offered from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the third Sunday of each month of the Festival at the Wonder's Retreat on the second floor of the "Garden Town" festival center at the former Wonders of Life pavilion in Future World. For $63.90 per person including tax and gratuity, you will enjoy a breakfast buffet that includes a special selection of fresh ingredients from the Land Pavilion, while learning garden and culinary techniques from professional horticulturists and chefs. Event dates are March 21, April 18, and May 16. Separate park admission is required. To purchase your ticket or get more information, call 407-WDW-FEST (407-939-3378).


A 3-D Camera is used to capture the Globetrotters game. The camera is just part of the technology being tested at ESPN's Innovation Lab, which is headquartered here at the complex. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


The ESPN Innovation Lab research facility develops new presentation technology at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


At a new custom tee center sponsored by Champion, participants and rooters can have their event shirts instantly customized during their events at the sports complex. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


New PlayStation Pavilion, part of a strategy designed to occupy youth while they are between games. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Resorts win high ratings

Disney resorts have ranked highly in both a comparison of all lodgings and a ranking of desired timeshares.

AAA has released their 2010 Four Diamond lodgings list, and six Disney resorts have made the list. Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is on the list for 21 years and Disney's Yacht Club Resorts has been listed for 19 years. Other repeaters on the list are Disney's Beach Club Resort (7 years) and Disney's Contemporary Resort and Disney's Polynesian Resort (3 years each). Disney's BoardWalk Inn is on the list for the first time. Over 60,000 hotels, motels and resorts are evaluated annually by the American Automobile Association.

Timeshare marketplace RedWeek.com released its annual Top 25 list of timeshare rental resorts last week and five Disney Vacation Club resorts are on the list. Disney's Beach Club Villas grabbed the top spot for the second year in a row, and was joined in the Top 25 by the Disney's BoardWalk Villas, Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas, Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, and Disney's Old Key West Resort, with three in the top 8 and all five in the top 18. The only chain with move entries in the Top 25 was Marriott with 9. Rankings were determined by the e-mail alert preferences of the site’s 1.4 million registered users.


Champion Stadium at the ESPN Wide World of Sports is the Spring Training home of the Atlanta Braves. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Attending media get a chance to try out the dugout at Champion Stadium. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Even the lawn is branded at the new ESPN Wide World of Sports Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


The new Jostens Center is capable of holding 6 championship basketball games at one time, though it's set up for wrestling here. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Sponsors of the ESPN Wide World of Sports. There's still room for more! Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Disney to help Clean the World

Walt Disney World has agreed to work with Clean the World, a charitable organization committed to the prevention of illness and death caused by acute respiratory infection and diarrheal disease in countries across the globe. Disney resorts will work with Clean the World to recycle all partially used amenities from all resort hotel rooms. Clean the World sanitizes those partially used soaps and shampoos to remove them from the trash stream and to distribute them to people in need around the world. By providing these soaps and shampoos to countries including Haiti, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Uganda, Mali, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Mongolia, and Romania, the organization hopes to keep people worldwide from dying from diseases that can be prevented with proper handwashing. In 2009, Clean the World processed and delivered over 230 tons of soap and other bathroom amenities worldwide.

A personal appeal, for the fifth year

On April 25, I will once again be walking to raise money for the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. Over the last four years, largely through the generosity of MousePlanet readers, we have managed to raise over $15,000. This year, let's do something special. My personal goal is to raise $5,000 this year. But you can help in ways other than donating to my walk. This year, for the first time, you can walk with me. Even if you aren't in the Albany, NY area, you can virtually walk with me by joining Team MousePlanet and walking at the March for Babies in your own area. For more information about why I'm walking, or to donate to my walk, please go to my fundraising page (link). To sign up to join Team MousePlanet, please go to the team page (link). Join me and help be a part of saving babies! Let's show how big a heart MousePlanet readers and MouseStation listeners have!


ESPN Hot Set films at the Sorcerer Hat Stage as events move to Disney's Hollywood Studios during ESPN The Weekend. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Taping ESPN's 1st and Ten at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


ESPN First Take live telecast shoots at the Premiere Theater. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom – Fantasyland Expansion area development package phase 1 (demolition of electricians trailer, green shed, AG, SL).
  • Magic Kingdom – Fantasyland Expansion area development package phase 1 (Restaurant, BV Merchandise Shop, Cottage #1, Chateau #1 & Tunnel).
  • Magic Kingdom, behind Fantasyland – backstage pigeon coop demolition, electrical work.
  • Magic Kingdom Cinderella Castle – minor construction work.
  • Epcot main entrance stroller rental shop – electrical work.
  • Epcot – Innoventions Raytheon exhibit facility package.
  • Epcot – Good Fortune Gifts marquee package.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – Soundstage 2 building, electrical and plumbing work.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – Radio Studio marquee package.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Epic Theater – plumbing work.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Voyage of the Little Mermaid – repairs to roof blisters and coating.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Voyage of the Little Mermaid – sign lighting enhancements.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Flame Tree Barbeque – roof replacement on seating area shade structures 2, 5, 6 and 8.
  • Bonnet Creek Clubhouse – minor building work.
  • Downtown Disney West Side PoP Gallery – building and electricaly work.
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace Cap'n Jack's – roof repairs.
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace bus loop – plumbing, leak repairs.
  • Fort Wilderness Resort Pioneer Hall – modifications in restroom.
  • Fort Wilderness Resort loops 2200-2800 – repair of cabin doors and frames.
  • Old Key West Resort Hospitality House – expansion of existing luggage room.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort Customs House – prepping and painting of lobby.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort Old Port Royale – plumbing.
  • Coronado Springs Resort Convention Center – replacement of auxiliary heating unit ductwork.


Park guests get a chance to try out NFL Games at the ESPN Sports Zone. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Guests participate in NBA Basketball Games at the ESPN Sports Zone. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Guests could practice their golf swing at the ESPN Sports Zone. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Quick takes …

…Following the retheming of 384 rooms at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort to a Pirates of the Caribbean theme early last year and retheming of the rest of the resort to a Finding Nemo theme the previous year, it looks like Disney has deemed the experiment a success and plans to move ahead with exploring retheming at other resorts. "We’re taking what we are so great at—storytelling—and bringing it right into the room," said Mark Rucker, vice president of lodging for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Disney Imagineers are looking at ideas for creating room themes, but at this time Disney is not releasing any of the ideas under consideration.

…Disney Design Group artist Brian Blackmore will debut two new pieces of art at The Art of Disney in Downtown Disney Marketplace. On Friday, March 19, and Saturday, March 20, from 5-7 p.m. each evening, Blackmore will be on hand to sign "Splashdown" and "Bearly Upright," which will be available in limited edition giclees and open edition petite prints. For more information, check out the Art of Disney Parks Web site (link).

…Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade at Disney's Animal Kingdom switched back from 4:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. after two months of testing at the later time.

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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

  • March 3 – May 16: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.
  • March 5: Contest of Champions Nationals: Studio Dance (link).
  • March 6–7. Contest of Champions Nationals: School Dance (link).
  • March 7, 2010: Disney's Princess Half-Marathon (link).
  • March 12–14: UCA National All Star Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • April 23–25: USASF/IASF Dance and Cheerleading World Championships (link).
  • April 23, 24, 30, May 1. Grad Nite (link).
  • May 21–June 13: Star Wars Weekends (link).
  • June 12: Expedition Everest Challenge (link).
  • October 1–2: Disney's Wine & Dine Half Marathon (link).

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

Epcot

  • Cantina de San Angel – closed for major renovation in January for an undetermined period of time. Taqueria Del Lago will remain open.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Studio Backlot Tour – closed for refurbishment through March 27.
  • Studio Catering Company – closed for refurbishment through March 27.
  • Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure – closed for refurbishment through March 27.

Animal Kingdom

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Resorts

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Water Parks

  • Blizzard Beach – closed through March 20, 2010 for refurbishment.

Elsewhere

  • Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Downtown Disney Marketplace – closed through March 5 for refurbishment.
  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through 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.

Walt Disney World gift-card-with-stay vacation package offer

Walt Disney World has announced an offer that will give you a free Disney Gift Card select vacation packages. The offer is good on vacation packages of five days or longer, and the size of the gift card varies depending on the resort category at which you are staying.

Stays at at Value resorts get you a free $300 gift card per room (essentially $60 per night), Moderate resorts qualify for a $500 gift card per room ($100 per night) and Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts qualify for $750 per room ($150 per night). Obviously, the per-night average decreases for longer stays.

The deal is good for stays through June 3, 2010, with blackout periods depending on resort category, and can be booked from now through March 27, 2010. The eligible nights are:

  • Value resorts – Now through March 27, April 11 through June 3
  • Moderate resorts –  Now through March 27, April 11-June 3
  • Deluxe ande Deluxe Villas resorts – Now through March 27, April 11 through June 3

The gift cards can be used for merchandise, recreation, dining, special event tickets, sports, recreation, tours and more at participating locations throughout Walt Disney World.

The number of rooms available at these rates are limited. Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World web site (link) or by using code QGX 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).

Save big with room-only discount rates

You can save 25 to 45 percent off your room rates for stays from now through late summer. Rates vary depending on your dates of travel, the length of your stay, and the resort category at which you are staying.

For any stay from now through August 14 (except for March 28 to April 10, you get some great discounts:

  • Value resorts: 25 percent off
  • Moderate resorts: 30 percent off
  • Deluxe Resorts: 35 percent off
  • Deluxe Villa Resorts: 40 percent off.

For stays of five or more nights from now through June 3 (except for March 28 to April 10, the discount is five percentage points higher:

  • Value resorts: 30 percent off
  • Moderate resorts: 35 percent off
  • Deluxe Resorts: 40 percent off
  • Deluxe Villa Resorts: 45 percent off.

The deal can be booked from now through March 27, 2010. The number of rooms available at these rates are limited. Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World web site (link) or by using code QNY 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).

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 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) and Small World Vacations (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.