As many as 70,000 people were reported to be visiting the Tokyo Disney Resort when a magnitude 8.9 earthquake rocked Japan last Friday. Officials closed the park following the quake, and thousands of park visitors spent Friday night in the Disney theme parks after Japanese officials issued an order to "shelter in place" due to transportation disruptions.
With no official word from the Disney company in the hours following the quake, social media sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook were the best source of current information.
Twitter users Riza Ikram (@rezaikram), Jarrod Lentz (@JarrodLentz, an American cast member who had just moved to Japan a week earlier to take a job at the Tokyo Disney Resort), and vacationing New York Post travel editor David Landsel (@davidlandsel) posted updates throughout the night, with Ikram and Landsel repeatedly praising the Disney cast members for their calm handling of the disaster. Imagineer Steven Davison was also at the Tokyo Resort during the quake, and sent a Facebook message to his friends saying that guests were safe and that the parks had closed.
YouTube user bounonushi posted this video taken at Tokyo Disneyland during and immediately after the earthquake. You can see the reaction of cast members and guests, and hear the pre-recorded English-language announcement instructing guests to move away from buildings and into open areas.
Some guests were able to take shelter in restaurants, gift shops, and attraction queues that were deemed safe by park managers, but many spent the night outdoors in near-freezing weather. Ikram, who from photos appeared to be in Tokyo Disneyland's Tomorrowland, said that cast members issued rain jackets, plastic bags, hand warmers, and food to park guests. Landsel spent the night in the Cafe Portofino outside Tokyo Disney Sea, and said cast members passed out snacks during the night and served a hot breakfast Saturday morning.
False rumors had quickly spread on Twitter that Tokyo Disney Sea had "flooded" or was "underwater," but photos and accounts from people actually there showed that the worst damage was caused by liquefaction in the parking lots of the Tokyo Disney Resort, and both theme parks reportedly had gas, water, and electricity following the quake.
YouTube user x3mendo, posted a video showing guests in the Tower of Terror queue during the quake, and sheltering outside the ride overnight.
About 12 hours after the quake, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the Tokyo Disney Resort would remain closed Saturday, and posted a statement from Oriental Land Company, operator of the Tokyo Disney Resort, that read in part, "As of now, we have not confirmed any injuries among our guests or cast members." Several hours later, the Disney Parks Blog posted an update that read, in part, "Fortunately our team on the ground has reported only minor injuries and minimal property damage at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea." The post went on to say, "Cast members at the Tokyo Disney Resort are also providing humanitarian aid in the form of blankets, food and water for guests who are still at the resort due to the transportation challenges associated with the earthquake."
Most guests were able to begin their journeys home on Saturday morning as train service resumed, but several thousand reportedly spent a second night at the resort as they waited for additional train lines to resume operation. Later the same day, the Tokyo Disney Resort officially announced on its Japanese Web site that the resort would remain closed through at least Monday, March 21.
YouTube user bloisyjenkins shared an English-captioned video of the scene in Tomorrowland after the quake. In the video, cast members distribute plastic bags and cardboard to guests to help protect against the rain, wind and cold until they can allow people to take shelter inside one of the buildings deemed to be safe.
With earthquake-triggered tsunami warnings for Hawaii, California, and Mexico, the Disney Wonder cruise ship skipped a scheduled stop in Cabo San Lucas after the port closed to cruise ships Friday, instead spending the day at sea. The Wonder returned to Los Angeles as scheduled Sunday morning, and left again Sunday afternoon for its scheduled Mexican Rivera cruise, with no announcements regarding further itinerary changes.
Disney's Aulani Resort, still under construction in Hawaii and not yet opened to the public, reported no damage.
MousePlanet compiled all of the photos, videos and reports we could find from Tokyo Disney Resort following the quake on our MousePad discussion forum, and will continue to post additional news and information there as we receive it.
According Central Florida News 13, a cast member was airlifted from Disney's Animal Kingdom while working on the Primeval Whirl attraction in Dinoland U.S.A. The attraction is currently closed for refurbishment. The cast member was flown to Orlando Regional Medical Center.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that the cast member was in critical condition with a head injury. While the accident is under review, there is no further information about the cause or details about what happened at this time.
This is the second major head injury at the attraction in just over three years. On November 24, 2007, 63-year-old Karen Price was killed after she was struck by a ride vehicle, fell, and hit her head while operating the attraction. Disney was later hit with $21,500 in fines over five violations in the incident, and made many changes during the ride's next refurbishment.
Disney began testing a new method of entry at Epcot last week that does away with the turnstiles. Guests approach a series of four bar code readers, scan their card, scan their finger as they have been doing, and are waived into the park by a cast member. This allows guests to avoid having to squeeze through turnstiles, keep parties with strollers and/or wheelchairs together more easily, and enter the park four at a time. There's no word so far on how the test has been received by guests or cast members, how well it works at moving guests more quickly, or how easy it is for cast members to verify media from four park guests at once. While it's being actively tested, that doesn't mean that it's guaranteed to become permanent. In any case, it's just another example of Disney trying new and innovative ways to incrementally make it easier for guests to have a more enjoyable experience.
After nearly four decades of a tradition for high school seniors, Walt Disney World announced on the Disney Parks Blog last week that this year will be the last for its popular Grad Nite event at Walt Disney World. The event will continue at Disneyland.
Grad Nite had hosted thousands of seniors each year for after-hours parties in the Magic Kingdom (with the exception of 2009, when Disney moved the event to Disney's Hollywood Studios and met with much resistance). The high school students would arrive by the busloads to dance to the latest musical acts, visit attractions, enjoy each others' company, and generally carry on until the wee hours in the park. Reining in the carrying on has long proven to be a huge task for cast members, but that would not have been the reason for the end of the parties, as that has long been an issue that was deemed acceptable to deal with in order to make the huge profits from these events.
The reason that Disney gives in the blog post for ending Grad Nite is that, "With more leisure guests visiting in the springtime, it’s become challenging to schedule special events during April and May." That seems unlikely, as crowd levels for the weekends of this year's Grad Nites are predicted to be moderate by TouringPlans.com, which specializes in predicting crowd levels at the parks. More truth may be found in a later statement: "We’ve recently seen more and more students visiting Walt Disney World as part of a broader senior class trip. And activities such as youth sports competitions, performing arts programs, including performances, workshops and festivals, and educational programs now give teens chances to experience Walt Disney World virtually any time of the year." Left unsaid is that—with more schools doing longer "senior trips" to Walt Disney World—attendance at the Grad Nite events appears to be down, and may not be the profit center that it once was. If the decreased income makes it no longer cost-effective to pay for the after-hours entertainment, extra staffing costs, and free admission to those complaining that they had to leave the park early, then it's in the company's best financial interest to shift the focus from single-night, hard-ticketed blowouts to longer senior trips. It appears that Disney is doing just that.
In place of Grad Nites, Walt Disney World will begin offering special pricing for school trips. School groups from Florida can get a special one-day, one-park ticket for $55 valid at any time of year. Customized experiences can also be set up through Disney Youth Programs.
While cast members prepare to breathe a sigh of relief, one last class of high school seniors is preparing to enjoy themselves from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. on April 29 and 30, and May 6 and 7, partying to the likes of Taio Cruz, 3OH!3, Pete Wentz, and Ryan Star.
What do you think? Did you attend a Grad Nite in the past? Were you hoping to attend one in the future? Were you inconvenienced by one on a past visit? Share your thoughts and join the conversation on our MousePad Discussion Forums.
Where better at Walt Disney World to celebrate St. Patrick's Day than at Raglan Road Irish Pub? As part of a weeklong celebration, Chef Kevin Dundon is launching his new cookbook at lunchtime "Recipes That Work" today, and will prepare some of his favorite recipes as part of a culinary "master class." Tomorrow night is a special five-course Tables in Wonderland dinner.
Today's lunch starts at 2 p.m. and features a four-course meal of cappuccino of Colcannon soup, poached pear and Cashel blue cheese salad, line-caught Atlantic cod pan fried with a tomato vinaigrette sauce and a dessert of petit fours, coffee, and tea. Cost for the meal is $55 plus tax and gratuity, and also includes a gift bag. To see if there's any room left, call Lorraine at 407-938-0300.
Tomorrow night's dinner is open only to Disney's Tables in Wonderland members. The five-course menu includes ham hock terrine, crisp pork belly and quenelle of potato; cream of garden pea and fresh mint soup; oven-baked George’s Bank scallop and puff pastry tart; pan-seared sole with an Irish seaweed salsa or roast rack of lamb in Irish consommé; and a dessert of Baked Alaska, and Irish coffee and cupcakes. Dinner starts at 6:30 p.m., costs $145 plus tax but including gratuity, and includes a signed copy of Dundon's book. To request a reservation, send an e-mail to Tables in Wonderland with your interest, name, daytime phone number, home address, and the number of people in your party. Reservations are first-come, first-served. You will need to provide your credit card number over the phone at the time of confirmation.
If you'd like to take a TransAtlantic cruise for as little as $57 per night, now is the time to book. The 14-night eastbound repositioning cruise of the Disney Magic is offering eight days at sea and stops at Castaway Cay; Madeira, Portugal; Cadiz, Spain; Gibraltar, U.K.; and Barcelona Spain for just $799 per person based on double occupancy for an inside stateroom with restrictions. The cruise leaves Port Canaveral on May 14 and arrives in Barcelona on May 28.
Reservations may be booked through the Disney Cruise Line Web site, by calling the Disney Cruise Line at (800) 951-3532, or your travel agent. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.
There is nothing more heartbreaking than a baby who is born too soon having medical complications that leave them with medical difficulties for life, or worse, that never let them leave the hospital alive. On May 15, 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 five years, through the generosity of MousePlanet readers, friends, family, and co-workers, we have raised nearly $19,000. This year, let's do something really 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, 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 site near you. If you join me in walking, money that you raise will help babies in your area to get a fighting chance to survive!
For more information about why I'm walking, or to donate to my walk, please go to my fundraising page. To sign up to join Team MousePlanet, please go to the team page. Let's show those struggling babies how much MousePlanet readers care!
With the help of our fantastic Guide Editors, we've just completed a major update of the park restaurant menus from Walt Disney World. Click on the "Dining" section from our Walt Disney World Guide to see the list. Please help us keep the menus up to date! Send photos or scans of park menus to email@example.com to help us keep our listings updated!
Here is the listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:
…The Wave… of American Flavors restaurant at the Contemporary Resort is now offering a breakfast buffet, in addition to the existing a la carte menu. The buffet, which is largely out of sight of the dining room, features everything from grits and bacon, hash browns, quiche, eggs, pastries, yogurt, granola, and more.
…We're hearing that Via Napoli's current test of serving pizza by the slice may run until Memorial Day weekend.
…The Disney Parks Blog posted video of the Ursula animatronic being delivered for the new The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure attraction at Disney's California Adventure. While the video is for the construction underway out west, the attraction will be identical when installed at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom next year (though the exterior and queue will be different). It's a little bit of a look ahead at what will be coming to the New Fantasyland in late 2012.
…Two Walt Disney World cast members have been invited to participate on a panel at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that will be putting together a Model Aquatic Health Code to set uniform guidelines for pool builders and recreational operators across the country. Amy Duck, a safety and health manager, and Michael Beatty, a manager with engineering services, will bring many of Disney's best practices in water quality and operations to the table. The CDC hopes to have the new code in place by the end of the year.
…Registration for the Expedition Everest Challenge, scheduled for May 7, is now 65 percent full. Sign up now for the 5K (3.1 mi.
…Registration is now open for all races during the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend. Sign up now for the Half Marathon, Half Marathon Relay, Disney Family Fun Run 5K, and Disney Kids' Races. Registration for the weekend's ChEAR Squad will open later.
…Registration for the events for the Walt Disney World Marathon 2012 open tomorrow!
Starting this week MousePlanet will present historical crowd information and forecasts provided by TouringPlans.com, the website of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, to help our readers better plan their trips to the Walt Disney World Resort. TouringPlans.com gathers wait time data from a team of in-park researchers and users of their Lines mobile phone application, and then predicts crowd levels for the next 365 days. Using a scale from 1 to 10, TouringPlans.com has a 90% accuracy of predicting the crowds to within 1 point, helping visitors prepare for their trips so they can "Do more. Wait less."
After a busy Monday and Tuesday of Mardi Gras week at Walt Disney World, the crowds should continue for the weekend and the start of the Spring Break season. Our Walt Disney World Research team and fabulous Lines users submit wait times year round. Last year, here's what our statistical team measured for the upcoming week:
This year, spring break should be just as busy, with crowds at Walt Disney World maintaining a Crowd Level '9' or '10' all week:
See Disney World crowd predictions for the next 365 days.
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Walt Disney World Passholder merchandise discounts have been extended through the end of 2011. Epcot After 4pm, Weekday Select, Seasonal and Annual Passholders get 10 percent off purchases at selected locations, while Premium Annual Passholders (including bi-coastal Premier Annual Passholders) get 20 percent off. The discount is available at Walt Disney World-owned and operated shops, but not those stores owned by "operating participants" (third-party stores). The discount is also not valid on a long list of products, and can not be combined with other discounts, offers or promotions. For a full list of what is not included in this discount, check out the Art of Disney Parks Web site.
Disney Vacation Club members and Passholders can get 30 percent off Category 2 tickets to see La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil when purchased in advance. The discount is good on any performance from February 1 through April 9. You can purchase your advance tickets by calling 407-939-7604. The offer is valid for DVC members and/or Passholders plus up to 5 guests. This offer provides a deeper discount than even the troupe's own Cirque Club, which is offering a 25 percent discount over the same dates.
Tickets will be available for pick up at the La Nouba Box Office's Will Call window. You'll have to present valid DVC Member or Passholder ID to pick up your tickets. Please plan to arrive at least one hour before show time. This offer isn't good for gift certificates or on tickets you've already bought, and you can't combine it with other discounts. The offer is subject to availability.
Room-only discounts are being offered for April 28 to June 14 and August 14 to October 1, for which you must make your reservations by March 27. Fall discounts are for five percentage points more than the late spring discounts, and discounts vary by type of resort. Here are the discounts applicable for each resort type:
|Resorts||April 28 - June 14||August 14 - October 1|
|All-Star Movies||15 percent||20 percent|
|Remaining Values, Port Orleans French Quarter||20 percent||25 percent|
|Remaining Moderates, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Polynesian||25 percent||30 percent|
|Remaining Deluxes||30 percent||35 percent|
|Deluxe Villas||35 percent||40 percent|
Note that the rooms may go fast. The number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals.
Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World Web site, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7722, or your travel agent and using booking code TSU. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.
Passholders can save 32 to 42 percent off their room rates for stays at Walt Disney World for most nights February 6 – April 16, 2011.
You can book the deal from now through your day of arrival, through the rooms may go fast. The number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Suites and 3-bedroom Grand Villas are not included. An adult passholder must show their pass at check-in. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals.
Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World Web site, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7939, or your travel agent and using booking code AU6. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.
If you'd like to take a TransAtlantic cruise for as little as $57 per night, now is the time to book! The 14-night Eastbound repositioning cruise of the Disney Magic is offering eight days at sea and stops at Castaway Cay; Madeira, Portugal; Cadiz, Spain; Gibraltar, U.K.; and Barcelona Spain for just $799 per person based on double occupancy for an inside stateroom with restrictions. The cruise leaves Port Canaveral on May 14 and arrives in Barcelona on May 28.
Reservations may be booked through the Disney Cruise Line website, by calling the Disney Cruise Line at 800-951-3532, or your travel agent. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.
From now through September 28, 2011, active and retired U.S. military personnel can purchase 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with either the Park Hopper or Water Parks Fun and More option for $138 per ticket, plus tax, or with both the Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun and More options for $165 per ticket, plus tax. No Base ticket is available with this offer.
The tickets expire and may not be used after October 1, 2011. The tickets may not be used at all Walt Disney World theme parks and other gated attractions on the following blockout dates: December 27-31, 2010 and April 17-23, 2011. Additionally, the tickets may not be used at the Magic Kingdom on July 4, 2011.
Eligible service members include active or retired members of the U.S. military including the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reservists. Disney Military Promotional Tickets can be purchased at Shades of Green or at a participating military base (MWR/ITT) office. There is no tax charged for these tickets but they must be activated at a theme park ticket window. Tickets may also be purchased at Walt Disney World Park Ticket Offices and Guest Relations Offices where tax will be charged. No more than six tickets may be purchased by any eligible member of the U.S. military (or their spouse, but not both) for themselves, family members, and friends, and all tickets must be purchased at the same time. If the immediate family has more than five dependents, additional tickets may be purchased for the dependents, however, additional tickets for guests may not be purchased. Valid military identification is required. The tickets are non-transferable and may not be resold.
The tickets may be upgraded to Seasonal Passes or Florida Resident Weekday Select Passes (for Florida Residents), or Annual Passes, Premium Annual Passes, or Disney Premier Pass with credit toward the upgrade based on the actual price paid. The no-expiration option and other upgrades, such as additional days, are not available.
For complete information regarding Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets, military personnel may call (407) 939-7830 or participating U.S. military base ticket offices.
(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.