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Update for August 1 – August 7, 2011

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

News and Views

Candlelight Dinner Packages now on sale | New free dining offer to be released this week? | Food & Wine schedule details released | More on the refillable mug test | Chiquita signs on as a sponsor | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd update

Candlelight Dinner Packages now on sale

Reservations for this year's Candlelight Dinner Package opened last week. The Candlelight Processional Dining Package is one of the most popular reservations each year, combining a dining experience at an Epcot table-service restaurant with reserved seats for the Candlelight Processional, a reading of the biblical story of Christmas at the America Gardens Theater by a celebrity narrator, backed by a 50-piece orchestra and a 400-voice massed choir. We published a list of this year's narrators on June 27.


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The pricing tiers and dining hour restrictions for this year are largely the same as last year, with some minor exceptions. All meal times are scheduled to occur before showtime for your designated show. The dining package includes your meal (appetizer, entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage, or one full buffet), reserved seating at the designated performance of the Candlelight Processional (reserved seating is held until 15 minutes before the performance, at which time it will be opened to those waiting in the standby line), as well as VIP viewing for that night's performance of Illuminations.

Those viewing the 5:00 p.m. performance will actually have their meal during lunch hours, with seatings between 1:45 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. This seating will carry a lower price tag than the two "dinner" seatings (see pricing below). Those wishing to attend the 6:45 p.m. performance will need to be willing to eat dinner with seating times between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. The 8:15 p.m. performance is the only one with close to "normal" meal times, with reservations between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

This year, Disney Dining Plan participants will be charged two table service credits per person for those on the Standard and Deluxe dining plans, and one table service credit for those on the Premium and Platinum dining plans. Since there is expected to be a free dining plan offer for many of the dates that the package will be available, this will be less impactful than if the dining plan were being paid out-of-pocket. In either case, though, those using the Disney Dining Plan may wish to do some analysis to decide whether they are better off using 2 credits for the package or paying out of pocket for the package and saving the credits for another meal.

Available plan types, prices, and participating restaurants (children's prices listed here are for those ages 3 to 9):

Buffet 1 at Biergarten Restaurant: Lunch – $32.99 (children $17.99) | Dinner – $50.99 ($25.99).

Buffet 2 at Garden Grill Restaurant: Dinner only – $52.99 (children $26.99).

Table 1: Lunch – $38.99 (children $12.99) | Dinner – $49.99 ($15.99), at:

Table 2: Lunch – $51.99 (children $13.99) | Dinner – $64.99 ($17.99), at:

Table 3 at Le Cellier Steakhouse: Lunch only – $53.99 (children $14.99).

Reservations are not available for the 5 p.m. show on December 4, as that is the annual Community Relations showing. Call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463) to make your reservations.

New free dining offer to be released this week?

There's been a great deal of chatter on the Internet about a possible free dining offer to be released on Wednesday. There seems to be agreement that the dates will be from October 2 through December 17, with blackout dates from October 9–23 (Columbus Day week and PGA Tournament week), November 6–12 (Veterans Day week/"Jersey Week"), November 20–26 (Thanksgiving week), and December 4–10 (Pop Warner week).

Stays would be a minimum of 3 nights and a maximum of 14 nights. Guests staying at value resorts would get the Quick Service Dining Plan for free, and guests at moderate or deluxe resorts would get the standard Disney Dining Plan for free. It's also been reported that the deal will be able to be booked starting Wednesday up through the date of arrival.

According to our sources, there is a free dining offer coming, but the information is only partially correct. Unfortunately, we won't be able to get the exact details of the offer until it becomes available on Wednesday, so we'll do a little speculating of our own.

  • Days of the week – Last year's similar offer had the discounts run on periods from Friday through Thursday. This offer shows Sunday through Saturday. Since it's likely that people would be able to adjust their travel schedule to arrive on Friday in order to get the free dining, it's a reasonable bet that the actual dates will run from Friday through Thursday again this year.
  • Length of booking window – Last year, the offer was available through the last day of the offer in 2010. However, that offer also included dates through September 2011. If this year's offer is indeed only through December 17, it's quite possible that the booking window will close on October 1, the day before the offer begins (and the last day of Disney's fiscal year). There could be another booking window to open later if not enough rooms were filled the first time.
  • Booking window start date – Recent offers have provided Disney Visa cardholders with a short window to book before the general public. If this pattern holds, look for Wednesday's release to be for Disney Visa cardholders only, with the general public getting access on Saturday or Sunday.

In any case, we will have the actual details up on a featured blog post as soon as they're released, and we'll also include it in next week's Walt Disney World Resort Update.

Calling all with a spirit of adventure!

Are you ready for MouseAdventure: World Explorers III? The third iteration of the scavenger hunt/puzzle quest/race through Walt Disney World's parks takes place on Saturday, November 12 at Disney's Hollywood Studios (the game has been going on at the parks of the Disneyland Resort for more than 10 years now). Do you think that you know Disney's Hollywood Studios? We bet you don't know them as well as you think you do. Test your wits against those of our puzzle masters. For more information, check out the MouseAdventure information page and sign up now.

Food & Wine schedule details released

While you can't make your reservations until August 16, you can start looking at the details of events at this year's Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and make your plans to see which you'd like to attend. And see if you can keep from getting hungry when you read the descriptions.

The Festival's website now has details of all of the special events, along with dates and times. You can download a PDF copy of the event's guidemap, as well as check out the details of special festival experiences, premium events, sweets events, and special premium events at the Mexico, Italy, and France pavilions.

Phones open for event reservations on August 16 and 7 a.m. EDT. You can make reservations by calling 407-WDW-FEST (407-939-3378).

More on the refillable mug test

We are hearing some more about possible reasons for the testing of a new RFID system for refillable mugs. It seems that some guests wouldn't even buy a mug or a single-use disposable paper cup, but would actually use popcorn boxes, condiment containers, or even their own cups from home instead of paying for a soda in the first place. The reports that we're hearing note that the paper cups are good for two hours, while the refillable mugs are good for 14 days. If for some reason a guest stays beyond 14 days, they would be able to get a new mug at no charge to allow them to use it for the rest of their vacation.

Chiquita signs on as a sponsor

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts' latest partnership will bring new fruit and vegetable products to guests at Walt Disney World and aboard the Disney Cruise Line. Chiquita Brands International's Chiquita fruits and Fresh Express salad products will be the only brand served in their food categories. In addition, Chiquita will be the sponsor of multiple attractions and events.

Chiquita will sponsor the tropical fruit plant-themed Crush 'n' Gusher at Typhoon Lagoon, and will also get their name on Living with the Land at Epcot's The Land pavilion. At The Land, Chiquita will help to teach guests about nutrition. In addition, Chiquita will promote healthy living and active lifestyles at runDisney events.

Send us your menu photos!

Click on the "Dining" section from our Walt Disney World Guide to see our complete list of of the park restaurant menus from Walt Disney World. Please help us keep the menus up to date! Send photos or scans of park menus to menus@mouseplanet.com to help us keep our listings updated!

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom main entrance stroller and ECV rental area – roofing and carpentry.
  • Magic Kingdom Main Street Train Station – construction.
  • Magic Kingdom Main Street Emporium – construction.
  • Magic Kingdom Astro Orbiter – guardrail upgrades.
  • Epcot Pin Central – refurbishment.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Rock 'n' Roller Coaster – installation of VFDs in line with existing circuits.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – parkwide electrical cable installations.
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace Team Mickey service yard – plumbing.
  • Downtown Disney West Side Forty Thirst Street Coffee Cart – construction.
  • Wilderness Lodge – gutter and downspout repairs.
  • Old Key West Resort Hospitality House/Turtle Krawl area – roof repairs.
  • Coronado Springs Resort Convention Center and Casitas buildings 1-5 – roof repairs.

Quick takes …

…A quick clarification: Last week, we stated that desserts from Babycakes NYC were available when you make your Walt Disney World dining reservations, and noted that it was great news for vegans and fans of the bakery. We neglected to note that in addition to being vegan (that is, no animal or animal-produced products, such as eggs, dairy, honey), the bakery's products are also gluten-free, soy-free, and Kosher, so their delicious desserts will be great news for guests with a variety of food sensitivities.

…Tinker Bell and her fairy friends are now in their new home in the Magic Kingdom's Adventureland. The rethemed Adventureland Verandah makes the fairies look at home.

…The popular Kaki Gori cart at Epcot's Japan pavilion has undergone an expansion of its menu and a name change. Now the Kabuki Cafe, the location now includes an expanded menu including edamame soy beans, miso soup, plum wine, sake, and more, in addition to the original shaved-ice treats.

…Much-beloved Walt Disney World cast member "Ranger Stan" Moore, who worked at the Wilderness Lodge from its opening in 1994 until his retirement just a couple of years ago, passed away last Tuesday from leukemia at the age of 83. Moore, who had previously worked at Walt Disney World for five years as a bus driver, served as a greeter and tour guide at the resort, and created a ceremony for the "flag family," a family chosen to raise the resort's flag each morning. For more on "Ranger Stan," read his obituary in the Orlando Sentinel.

…Jennings Osborne—who created a Christmas light display so spectacular that the Arkansas Supreme Court told him to take it down as a public nuisance, leading to the display being moved to Disney's Hollywood Studios—passed away last Wednesday morning from a heart ailment at age 67. Osborne created the display after his daughter asked him to decorate their house with lights for Christmas one year, and the display grew from 100,000 lights in 1986 to 3.2 million in 1993. For more on how the lights ended up at Walt Disney World, and remembrances from those involved, read a tribute to Osborne on the Disney Parks Blog. Be sure to read through the comments, as well, which include notes from the daughter of the Disney show director who brought the lights to the park, and from Jennings' wife and daughter.

…Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Vice President of Lodging Mark Rucker has been named to the board of directors of the Clean the World Foundation. Walt Disney World has recently started working with the organization by providing partially used soaps and shampoos left by guests, which are recycled by the organization and distributed to poverty-stricken families in the United States and around the world. Hygeine-related illnesses cause the deaths of millions of children each year, so the toiletries and educational materials help to save lives. Walt Disney World has already provided more then 19,000 pounds of toiletries. Disneyland Resort hotels have now signed on, and Aulani (Disney's newest Disney Vacation Club resort to open, in Hawaii) will also participate when it opens later this month.

…Registration for the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon (scheduled for the weekend of February 24 to 26, 2012) is now open.

…Registration is now open for all races during the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend of October 1. Sign up now for the Disney Family Fun Run 5K, and Disney Kids' Races. Registration for the individual half marathon and half marathon relay are now full. The 5K is 52 percent full, and kids races are 92 percent full.

…Registration for the events for the Walt Disney World Marathon 2012 (on the weekend of January 7) is now open. Note: Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is now 82 percent full. The Marathon is 59 percent full and the Half Marathon is 55 percent full.

Crowd update

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Crowd information and forecasts are provided by TouringPlans.com, the website of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, to help you better plan your trip 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 percent accuracy of predicting the crowds to within 1 point, helping visitors prepare for their trips so they can "Do more. Wait less."

Crowd levels will be high all week long as we're in the height of the summer "tour group" season. These numbers are greatest impacted by vacationers and tour groups descending upon Walt Disney World Resort. TouringPlans.com can help you avoid falling into the typical tourist pitfalls, and will help you avoid the dreaded tour groups, with our per-park Crowd Calendar, Lines - Mobile Wait Times App that gives access to current and estimated wait times for attractions, and Touring Plans detailing the best plan of attack for hitting the attractions. Now more than ever, it's a good time to subscribe to TouringPlans.com to plan your strategy to avoid the crowds!

Below are the predicted resort-wide crowd numbers for select days generated by the TouringPlans professional statisticians as measured for the upcoming week. For the access to the full year and per-park crowd level predictions, visit our Crowd Calendar.

Date Overall
Monday, August 1, 2011 7 / 10
Tuesday, August 2, 2011 8 / 10
Wednesday, August 3, 2011 8 / 10
Thursday, August 4, 2011 6 / 10

Crowds will be moderately high at the beginning of this week as vacationers descend upon Walt Disney World Resort; expect lighter crowds towards the weekend. Check out the Disney World Park Crowd Levels page on TouringPlans.com for park-specific predictions and recommendations on which days to visit and avoid particular parks!

  • Disney's Hollywood Studios is our Park to Avoid every day except Tuesday this week.
  • Epcot is the both the Best Parks on Saturday and Sunday.

See Disney World crowds for the next 365 days.
Get Disney World wait times on your iPhone, Android or smartphone.
Do more. Wait less.

 

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Coming up


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Mickey's Toontown Fair – closed permanently to make way for Fantasyland expansion.
  • Main Street Fire House – closed since July 10, to reopen as headquarters for the new Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive game. No date yet announced.
  • Enchanted Tiki Room – Under New Management – closed due to a fire in January. Expected to reopen with its original, classic show on August 16.
  • Fronterland Shootin' Arcade – closed for refurbishment through September 30.
  • The Lunching Pad – closed for refurbishment August 29 to September 16.
  • Casey's Corner – closed for refurbishment August 30 to September 14.
  • Swiss Family Treehouse – closed for refurbishment September 8 to November 17.

Epcot

  • No known current refurbishments.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Voyage of The Little Mermaid – closed for refurbishment August 13 to September 3.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure – closed for refurbishment September 4–24.
  • Studio Backlot Tour – closed for refurbishment September 5–24.

Animal Kingdom

  • Primeval Whirl – closed for refurbishment through September 14.
  • It's Tough to be a Bug! – closed for refurbishment August 15 to September 30.

Resorts

  • Saratoga Springs Resort Congress Park leisure pool – closed for refurbishment August 1 to September 2.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Magnolia Bend leisure pool – closed for refurbishment September 5 to October 7.

Water Parks

  • Blizzard Beach – closed for annual refurbishment October 30 to December 3.
  • Typhoon Lagoon – closed for annual refurbishment December 4 to March 17, 2012.

Elsewhere

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

Current Discounts & Promotions

Free dining returns

Last week, Disney announced a two-tiered free dining package for Disney Visa Rewards cardholders, and the package becomes available to the general public today. The free dining plan is available for stays August 28 through September 24. The deal includes lodging, base Magic Your Way passes (which you can upgrade with any of the available add-ons), a 20-page Disney's PhotoPass Photo Book, and the free dining plan. You may add additional pages to your Photo Book, at standard cost, if you wish.

If you choose a Value resort for your stay, you'll receive the free Quick Service Dining Plan (two quick-service meals and two snacks per person per night, plus one resort refillable drink mug per person). If you'd prefer to stay at a Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villa Resort, you'll get the free standard Disney Dining Plan (one table- service meal, one quick-service meal, and one snack per person per night). Those at Value resorts can upgrade their Quick Service Dining Plan to the standard plan for the difference in the plan's cost. The dining plans do not include gratuities or alcoholic beverages.

Note: Since these dates are already within the 180-day booking window, some table-service restaurants might already be completely booked, so don't assume you can book any specific restaurant without checking first. Of course, if dining is the most important part of your trip, you can book your dining reservations first to lock in your favorites, then find a resort for those nights. You can always cancel the dining reservations if you can't get a resort for those dates.

You can book through August 27 while availability lasts, but reservations may go fast. The discount codes for the Disney Rewards Visa package are I25 for Value resorts and O2M for Moderates and above. The codes for the general public were not available at publication time.

Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7211, or your travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.

Room-only discount for late summer/early fall

If your travel dates don't quite link up with the free-dining promotion or if you'd rather get a room-only discount and buy your food yourself, you're in luck. A new room-only discount has been released for Walt Disney World stays Sunday through Thursday nights during the period from August 14 through October 1, 2011. Rates start at $69 per night for Value resorts, $129 for Moderate resorts, $189 for Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney's Wilderness Lodge, and $209 for Disney's Saratoga Springs and Old Key West Resorts. Note that these rates are not available for Friday and Saturday nights.

The offer does not includes suites or three-bedroom Grand Villas. Some other restrictions apply and the number of rooms available is limited. You can book your reservation now through August 13.

Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7837, or your travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are Small World Vacations and MouseEarVacations.com.

Passholder discounts for summer

Walt Disney World has announced a new set of passholder discounts for stays through mid-August. The discounts provide 20  to 35 percent off for stays most nights through August 13. Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney's Polynesian Resort are excluded for all date. Passholders will save 35 percent at Deluxe Villa resorts, 30 percent at Deluxe resorts, and 20 percent at Moderate and Value resorts.

Passholders can book through the day before arrival. Beware, though as rooms may go fast. The number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Suites and three-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 passholder website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7414, or your travel agent and using booking code QT9. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.

Passholder discounts released for late summer/early fall

Walt Disney World has announced a new set of passholder discounts for stays from mid-August through the start of October. The discounts provide 20 to 35 percent off for stays most nights from August 14 to October 1. As with the summer deal, Passholders will save 35 percent at Deluxe Villa resorts, 30 percent at Deluxe resorts, and 20 percent at Moderate and Value resorts.

Passholders can book through the day before arrival, but be aware that rooms may go fast, as the number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Suites and three-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 Passholder website, by calling Walt Disney World at (407) 939-7643, or your travel agent and using booking code Y3H. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.

Passholder merchandise discounts extended through 2011

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 bicoastal 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 website.

Military ticket offer

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 September 30, 2012.

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.


Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.


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(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.