As noted in this column last week, Walt Disney World released a free dining plan last Wednesday for dates through next spring. I posted the details on my blog early Wednesday morning:
A new free dining offer has been released for Walt Disney World for dates through 2012 with bookings available starting today at 7 a.m. EDT. From now through October 29, guests can book free dining packages for select arrival dates from October 2, 2011, through March 31, 2012.
There will be no exclusive period for Disney Visa cardholders for this offer, as there has been in the past.
The 2011 dates run from October 2 through December 17, with breaks for Columbus Day week, PGA Tournament week, Veteran's Day week/Jersey week, Thanksgiving week, and Pop Warner week. Available arrival dates are:
- October 2-6 October 2-8
- October 23-November 5 limited availability October 23-29
- November 13-18 November 13-19
- November 27-December 3
- December 11-17
Update: We have now been advised that the October 23-29 dates are apparently available online, but not via phone.
2012 dates run from January 8 through March 31 (the end of Disney's second fiscal quarter), with blockouts for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday week, and several popular spring break weeks. Available arrival dates are:
- January 8-14
- January 22-February 4
- February 12-18
- March 4-10
- March 25-31
- August 19-September 29 (Canada residents only)
Contrary to our speculation on Monday, most of the availability periods do indeed run from Sunday through Saturday. Package eligibility is based on arrival date and is valid for the length of the reservation, so if you arrive on the last day before a blackout period and stay through a blackout week, you'll still have the free dining package for the length of your stay. Conversely, if you arrive on a Saturday that is the last day of the blackout, you will need to make a one-night reservation and then book the free dining package starting on your second day, during the availability period.
Guests staying at value resorts will get the Quick Service Dining Plan for free, and guests at moderate or deluxe resorts will get the standard Disney Dining Plan for free. As with all packages, park tickets must be part of the package. Packages are available for a minimum of 3 nights and a maximum of 14 nights.
No group rates or other discounts apply. The offer excludes suites, campsites and 3-bedroom villas. Advance reservations are required. The free dining plan excludes gratuities and alcoholic beverages. Children ages 3–9 must order from children’s menu if available. Some table service restaurants may already have limited or no availability.
Thanks to Sue Pisaturo of Small World Vacations for getting us all of the details and updates.
Walt Disney World has announced a new set of passholder discounts for stays from the start of October through the end of 2011. The discounts provide 30 to 40 percent off for stays most nights from October 3 through December 24, with a Thanksgiving blackout period of November 23-25. Passholders will save 40 percent at Deluxe and Deluxe Villa resorts and 20 percent at Moderate and Value resorts.
Passholders must book by September 4. 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) 939-5696, or your travel agent and using booking code W4K. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.
Are you going to the D23 Expo next week at the Anaheim Convention Center near Disneyland? Make sure that you stop by the MousePlanet LOUNGE to say hi to Walt Disney World Resort Update editor Mark Goldhaber and the rest of the MousePlanet staff. Mark will be there all three days of the Expo (when he's not covering an event), so please stop by the LOUNGE and let him know what you like and don't like about the Update.
More info about the MousePlanet LOUNGE from the Disneyland Resort Update:
MousePlanet will once again be part of the Fan Forum at the upcoming D23 EXPO, August 19 to 21, 2011 at the Anaheim Convention Center.
The MousePlanet LOUNGE is the place to come mix and mingle with MousePlanet readers and staff, and meet your fellow MousePad members and Community Leaders.
Kick up your feet and relax in our comfortable LOUNGE, check your e-mail, browse MousePad, and even print your boarding passes for the flight home. While you're there, be sure to pick up a special MousePlanet button designed just for the EXPO, and register each day to win a prize from one of our MousePlanet Sponsors.
Mouse Tales author and MousePlanet columnist David Koenig will be at the MousePlanet LOUNGE on Saturday and Sunday, August 20 and 21 to meet readers and sign copies of his books (books will be available to purchase at the event, or you can bring your own copies). Copies of Vault of Walt by MousePlanet columnist and Disney historian Jim Korkis will also be available for purchase.
We will once again offer our popular Camera Check service, where you can safely leave your electronics before you head into any presentations where cameras and phones may be prohibited.
MouseAdventure players, be sure to stop by the booth each day for a new challenge. Bring your "A" game, and you can win cool MouseAdventure prizes!
To help our readers who are attending the Expo, we've set up a special Twitter account just for the show. Follow @MPatD23Expo on Twitter for live updates, announcements and contests throughout D23 weekend.
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.
The sound of singing birds, tikis, and flowers will soon be heard once again in the Magic Kingdom. With the "New Management" of Iago and Zazu evicted and the show returned to what it once was, the newly renamed Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room is set to officially reopen next Monday. Soft opening previews are expected this week, though, so keep your eyes out if you're in the park.
The renaming of the attraction (originally called Tropical Serenade when the park opened) is similar to the addition of "Walt Disney's" to the name of the Carousel of Progress a few years back. It seems to be a way of both paying tribute to attractions that Walt Disney worked on, while simultaneously explaining why the attraction may be somewhat dated. Of course, many rejoice at the return to the old show.
The official release from Disney notes that the attraction "will pay tribute to the Disneyland original" but does not say that the original show will in fact be restored. However, the release also describes the show in general terms, and refers to remastered audio. Our conjecture is that the show will feature new technology—including the show control system and lighting system—to run the original show (though inclusion of the Offenbach number is unknown, as it has been gone from the Disneyland attraction for some time, as well).
If the audio is remastered to the original, Jerry Orbach will no longer be heard as Pierre, with the parrot returning to the original soundtrack featuring the late Ernie Newton, along with the voices of the late Wally Boag (José), Fulton Burley (Michael), and Thurl Ravenscroft (Fritz).
If you happen to catch a soft opening of the show this week, please let us know whether it's the complete original show—with or without the Offenbach number—and what you thought of it in the comments below.
A new policy was put into effect last week regarding the upgrade of fully used tickets. Previously, any Magic Your Way ticket could be upgraded during its original active period, within 14 days of the date of first use, and Florida Resident Play-3-Days and Play-4-Days tickets could be upgraded within six months of date of first use. Under the new rules, the extensions are no longer valid, and the tickets can only be upgraded through the day of usage of the last day's admission on the ticket, including any "water park fun & more" entitlements. One-day tickets can only be upgraded on the date of use. The upgrade can take place at any time up through the last day, even after leaving the park, but the 14-day expiration still applies. Florida Resident tickets where the name is printed on the ticket are exempt from this rule. Exceptions to this rule may be made for guest recovery purposes on a case-by-case basis. Thanks to MousePad member Cheshire Figment for sharing this information.
The spa at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa will close for 18 months starting September 19, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The closing is the next step in the construction of what is expected to be a Disney Vacation Club resort at the Grand Floridian, which we're referring to as the Grand Floridian Villas. The 18-month timeframe would seem to indicate that the major exterior construction of the new building will be completed in that time, though it's expected that the interior furnishing of the resort will extend beyond that time. This will disappoint those who booked Walt Disney World's most luxurious resort, with the highest per-room prices (starting at $440 per night and going up from there) for the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend, expecting to use the spa facilities after their races. Until the Grand Floridian's spa reopens, the only remaining Disney spa is the one at the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. There is also the Mandara Spa at the Swan and Dolphin Resort, and the spa at the Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa on Hotel Plaza Boulevard near Downtown Disney.
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 email@example.com to help us keep our listings updated!
Disney has announced this winter's Holiday events, and it looks very much like last year.
Castle Dreamlights will begin its nightly glow on November 8, the first night of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. The Party this year runs November 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 18, 27, 29, 30, and December 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16 and 18. This year's event carries a day-of-event price of $62.95 plus tax (adults) and $57.95 plus tax (children ages 3-9), with a $6 discount available for advance purchases for some dates and DVC and Passholder discounts as well. The special holiday events from the Party become standard daily entertainment in the Magic Kingdom beginning December 19.
Meanwhile, Disney's Animal Kingdom turns Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade into Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade from November 8 through January 4, 2011. There'll also be special holiday entertainment and meet-and-greets.
Disney's Hollywood Studios gets into the act with the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, which runs from November 10 through January 3, 2011. There's sure to be some sort of extra tribute to Jennings Osborne, the creator of the collection of lights, who passed away July 27.
Epcot begins its celebration on November 25, the day after Thanksgiving. Holidays Around the World features international storytellers, the Candlelight Processional and the special holiday tag to Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Holidays Around the World runs through December 30. Mira Sorvino is scheduled to narrate the opening nights of the Candlelight Processional. Other scheduled narrators include Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Trace Adkins, and Susan Lucci. The full lineup of narrators so far is here, with more names to be announced.
Downtown Disney won't be left out, either, as the Festival of the Seasons runs from November 19 through December 24, with Santa available for meet-and-greets daily November 19 through December 24. The shopping and dining district will also feature school choirs and bands performing on the dock stage.
The resorts will also be putting on their Christmas finery, including the famed gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian Resort and the gingerbread carousel at the Beach Club Resort.
I reported on my blog last Tuesday:
If you're the type that travels with large parties, be aware that Walt Disney World is discontinuing its Grand Gathering Events. As of January 28, 2012, the Safari Celebration, Good Morning Breakfast, and International Dinner & Illuminations Dessert Party will no longer be offered. Grand Gatherings were introduced in late 2003, and were part of the "Magical Gatherings" promotion. It now seems that the need to promote special events designed for groups traveling together has passed, and that any special event planning will be a la carte from now on.
Thanks to Sue Pisaturo of Small World Vacations for the heads-up!
What do you think about this? Were you thinking of planning a Grand Gathering event, are you happier that you can plan events a la carte, or do you not care in the least? Comment below and let us know!
While the booking benefits of Grand Gatherings will remain, the special planning for events will be part of the standard system.
As part of the celebration of Walt Disney World's 40th anniversary, Passholders can enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win a prize package that includes a one-night stay for four in the Cinderella Castle Suite. Passholders can enter by completing an entry form between September 1 and October 1, 2011, and submitting it either at Uptown Jewelers in the Magic Kingdom on Main Street, U.S.A., or by mail to:
Disney Destinations, LLC
2011 Passholder 40th Anniversary Sweepstakes
P.O. Box 10000
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
The winning Passholder will win a trip for four to Walt Disney World including a one-night stay in Cinderella Castle Suite, breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table, a $250 Disney gift card, one-day Magic Your Way tickets, and transportation to and from Walt Disney World (if the winner lives more than 250 away). For more information, see the Passholder website. You can also go directly to the complete rules.
Here is the listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:
…Fantasmic goes on hiatus from January 5 through February 12, 2012. There will apparently be a refurbishment of the popular show at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
…Québécois planning to take a Disney cruise may have a bit more in travel expenses than they were planning. Montreal has been removed from the list of departure locations for air-inclusive packages. If you want to book your air travel through Disney Cruise Line, you'll need to be able to fly from Ottawa, Ontario; Burlington, Vermont; or Bangor, Maine.
…The Shutters digital photo location aboard the Disney Fantasy will be enlarged from its footprint aboard the Disney Dream, expanding into a portion of the Vista Gallery. The expansion, to be called Shutters Digital, will be a "photo kiosk lounge" where guests can view their photos on a number of photo kiosks.
…The dress code at Meridian, the upscale lounge located between Remy and Palo aboard the Disney Dream, has gotten a slight upgrade. Blue jeans and shorts, previously permitted prior to 6 p.m., are no longer be permitted inside the lounge. The new dress code is as follows:
…The Pop Warner Little Scholars program has signed a 10-year contract renewal to continue to hold the annual Pop Warner Super Bowl and cheerleading competition at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, guaranteeing that Walt Disney World's value resorts will be packed for the first week of December for another decade.
…The Walt Disney World Speedway will be the site of an October test of cars that communicate with each other to avoid accidents, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel. The test will be in conjunction with the 18th World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems, which will take place at the Orange County Convention Center October 16-20.
…Last week, the South Florida Water Management District approved Walt Disney World's permit application for waterway modifications related to an expansion of the Magic Kingdom Fireworks Bunker.
…Dr. Jackie Ogden, Vice President of Animals, Science and Environment for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, has been elected as the new vice-chair of the board of directors for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Dr. Ogden's responsibilities at Disney include animal care, health, education and science at Disney's parks and resorts, including Epcot's The Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion, all of Disney's Animal Kingdom, the Tri-Circle D Ranch, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Castaway Cay, and Aulani. She is also responsible for environmental integration, the Agricultural and Water Sciences team, and animal operations and environmental sustainability for all Disney parks and resorts. Dr. Ogden will be one of four officers at the AZA, and will be involved in animal welfare, conservation, ethics, and accreditation issues with the organization.
…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 58 percent full, and kids races are 93 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 60 percent full and the Half Marathon is 56 percent full.
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."
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.