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Update for March 12 – 18, 2012

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News and Views

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival opens; Dolenz replaces Jones on Flower Power schedule | Port Orleans Royal Rooms open for guests | Disney Fantasy arrives in Port Canaveral | Pop Century gets free WiFi | Robert B. Sherman, Disney Legend, dies at age 86 | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd update

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival opens; Dolenz replaces Jones on Flower Power schedule

The 19th annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival opened last Wednesday for this year's 75-day run. The park is decorated with over 75 topiaries, including the entrance planter's Fantasia-themed centerpiece, an eight-foot-tall Sorcerer Mickey topiary standing atop of a 12-foot-tall mountain cliff topiary. That centerpiece is surrounded by broomsticks, buckets, elephants, hippos, alligators, and ostriches from the film. In all, 30 million blooms fill the park for the festival. Due to the length of the festival, Disney horticulturists will go through the park and replace all of the colder-weather flowers with a fresh batch that thrives in the warmer months.


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A new feature this year is the Haiti: Garden of Many Colors display adjacent to the Germany pavilion. The garden features Haitian art, culture, and refreshments.

Many popular events return again this year. The Festival Center (again located in the former Wonders of Life pavilion) features weekend presentations from HGTV designers and hosts, weekday presentations from nationally known gardening personalities, daily presentations from gardening experts, Disney Gardening at Home presentations, and the festival merchandise shop. Bambi's Butterfly House, the Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden, Let's Get Moving playground, and backyard play garden also return this year.

Many of the Festival's special merchandise is available via the Disney Parks online store, including Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse garden gnomes, a variety of garden statues, a Mickey Mouse topiary, and more.


Take a look at some of the prep work for creating this year's Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.

The event is also making use of QR codes, a special variation of the bar code that enhances guest enjoyment of the festival. When the guests use a QR code reader application on their smartphones to scan a code, the app sends a guest's phone's browser to a mobile version of the festival's website. The site gives guests a virtual tour of the festival's topiaries, provides an audio tour of the Festival, displays a list of festival events, and show a festival map including the guest's location. QR codes posted at specific displays take guests directly to information about that particular display.


Watch a time-lapse image of the construction of the main entrance planter.

In other festival news, the recently deceased Davy Jones has been replaced on the Flower Power concert schedule with his former Monkees bandmate Micky Dolenz. Dolenz is scheduled to appear the final weekend of the Festival, May 18-20.

Port Orleans Royal Rooms open for guests

The Royal Guest Rooms at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort opened their doors to guests last Friday. The new storybook rooms include a variety of details evoking many Disney princesses who—according to the rooms' back story—visited Princess Tiana at the resort and left gifts in the rooms. Everything from Genie's magic lamp-inspired bathroom hardware to a "Magic Carpet" image in the carpet and artwork showing Disney princesses and their princes visiting with Tiana and Naveen at the resort. The headboards of the beds include inlaid fiber optic fireworks. The 512 rooms are priced starting at $189 per night, and join the 384 pirate-themed roms at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, which opened in 2009.


Take a look at the new Royal Guest Rooms.

Next up in the storybook room concept is Disney's Art of Animation Resort, which begins opening on May 31 with the Finding Nemo-themed family suites. They are then joined on July 31 by the Cars-themed suites, September 30 for The Lion King-themed suites, and December 31 by the Little Mermaid-themed standard rooms.

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.

Disney Fantasy arrives in Port Canaveral

With a blast of its distinctive horn and several blasts of fireworks, the Disney Fantasy arrived at its home port of Port Canaveral last Tuesday, completing its trip from the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany where it was built. It is currently sailing some "shakedown" cruises with Disney cast members and their families to give the crew some time to get accustomed to working on the ship before the general public begins sailing at the end of the month.


Take a look at the Disney Fantasy's arrival at Port Canaveral.

After a couple of media preview cruises departing March 23 and 26, and a two-day final prep cruise, the ship welcomes the public aboard its maiden voyage on March 31. The ship cruises alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean voyages, departing on Saturdays. Its sister ship, the Disney Dream, continue its three- and four-day Bahamas cruises with departures on Sundays and Thursdays. The Disney Magic, which currently travels the Eastern and Western Caribbean voyages from Port Canaveral, sails three last 7-day cruises departing on Fridays before shifting to four- and five-day Bahamas cruises departing on Fridays, Wednesdays, and Mondays. It sails those itineraries until May 23, when it makes a two-day repositioning cruise to its summer home port of New York. It sails a combination of 8-day Bahamas cruises (with a stop at Port Canaveral to provide guests with day visits to Walt Disney World), 5-day Canadian Maritimes voyages, and 2-day cruises to nowhere from the Manhattan Cruise Terminal. It leaves New York on September 17 for Galveston, where it spends the cooler months sailing Caribbean itineraries.

The Disney Wonder ends its run of Mexican Riviera cruises and arrive in Miami after a repositioning cruise through the Panama Canal late this year, for the first time bringing all Disney ships to the East Coast at the same time.

To book your Disney Cruise, contact the Disney Cruise Line through ts website or at 888-DCL-2500 (888-325-2500), or by calling your travel agent. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Pop Century gets free WiFi

Last week, we reported that Disney had filed permits to install property-wide WiFi. It's uncertain whether or not this is related, but we are hearing reports from some guests that free WiFi is now available at Disney's Pop Century Resort. It now seems only a matter of time before all resorts offer free WiFi access.

It's thought that Disney originally didn't want to encourage guests to be on the Internet because they'd rather have them in the parks, restaurants, and stores spending money. However, with the recent push to include social media networking in the guest experience, Disney may have decided that having people be able to post photos while they're on their trip (and perhaps access their Next Generation Initiative reservations once that function comes online) is even better free marketing. In any case, watch for free WiFi to become available at the few resorts that do not yet offer it.

Robert B. Sherman, Disney Legend, dies at age 86

Disney Legend Robert B. Sherman, half of the legendary Sherman Brothers songwriting team, passed away in London on March 5 at age 86. Along with his brother, Disney Legend Richard M. Sherman, he co-wrote many of Disney's most popular film and theme park songs. From the Mary Poppins soundtrack to "it's a small world (after all)," from "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" and "The Best Time of Your Life" to "One Little Spark," their music will forever be identified with Disney theme parks.

"Today, on behalf of everyone at Disney, we mourn the loss of an extraordinary talent, Robert Sherman," said Disney President and CEO Bob Iger in a statement. "One of the world’s greatest songwriters and a true Disney legend, his legacy will endure forever through the magic of his music. From Mary Poppins and It’s a Small World to Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book, Robert, along with his brother Richard, wrote many of Disney’s most memorable and beloved songs, which continue to enchant millions of people around the world to this day."

Our condolences to the Sherman family on their loss, and our thanks to the Sherman Brothers for their contributions to the world of Disney theme parks.

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom Adventureland Verandah – construction.
  • Magic Kingdom Mickey's PhilharMagic – construction.
  • Magic Kingdom The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – construction.
  • Magic Kingdom Splash Mountain – construction.
  • Epcot Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion main tank – platforms.
  • Epcot International Gateway – construction.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Animation Building – HVAC controls AMCS work.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Tree of Life – construction.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Pride Rock – construction.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Kali River Rapids reservoir – construction.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Serka Zong Bazaar – electrical.
  • Car Care Center auto repair area – replacement of existing roll-up door.
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace Team Mickey's Athletic Club – mechanical.
  • Disney's Polynesian Resort – construction.
  • Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground and Resort Pioneer Hall – roof coating rehab.
  • Disney's Beach Club Villas – finishes.
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa pool area – rockwork painting.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas Kidani Village lobby – mechanical.
  • Disney's Coronado Springs Resort – concrete work for sidewalk installation.
  • Doubletree Suites Lake Buena Vista (Downtown Disney Resort Area Hotel) – replacement of existing cooling towers.

Quick takes …

…The fifth annual Disney's Dreamers Academy was held this past weekend, giving 100 students the chance to learn from leading personalities in a variety of fields. A wide variety of speakers (including co-founder Steve Harvey, Mikki Taylor of Essence magazine, ESPN's Steve Smith, and gospel singer Yolanda Adams), a wide range of speakers addressed the students to help them to move forward with their dreams. You can find out more about Disney's Dreamers Academy at their website.

…The dates for the next D23 Expo have been released. The huge convention opens in Anaheim from August 9-11, 2013. Be sure to join MousePlanet at the Expo once again next year.

…Three structures at Walt Disney World have been selected as members of the top 100 buildings in Florida by the Florida Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Cinderella Castle, Disney's Contemporary Resort, and the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort join 97 others in the competition for the #1 slot. The voting is open to the public at a special website.

…The MousePlanet Newsletter is here! The newsletter contains a recap of the week's articles (in case you miss a day), news that may have developed since the weekly Updates were published, and tips about what's happening at the Disney theme parks for the coming weekend. We'll also include a fun MouseAdventure bonus, such as an Eye Spy or a trivia question. To subscribe to our free newsletter, go to the MousePlanet main page and enter your email address in the top right box labeled "Join the MousePlanet Newsletter." Click Join, then fill out the fields in the registration page, including your first and last name. The Newsletter is free, but you must complete this registration to receive it, even if you may have signed up for one with us in the past.

…The dates for the 2013 Princess Half Marathon have been released. The event will take place February 22-24, 2013. No word yet on a registration opening date for the race.

…Registration for the January 10-13, 2013, Disney Marathon weekend opens April 10 at 12 noon Eastern Time.

…Registration for the November 9-10 Disney's Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend opens next Tuesday, March 13.

…Registration for the September 28–29 Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend is now open.

…Registration for the May 5 the Expedition Everest Challenge is 85 percent full for both the team and individual divisions. That's a 14 percentage point jump in one week. If you're interested in running it, you may want to register now to avoid being closed out.

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."

Spring Break crowds are in full force at Walt Disney World! 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
Tuesday, March 13, 2012 10 / 10
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 10 / 10
Thursday, March 15, 2012 8 / 10
Friday, March 16, 2012 10 / 10

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!

  • Avoid Disney's Hollywood Studios on Wednesday.
  • Avoid Magic Kingdom on Friday.
  • Following a Touring Plan is important when crowd levels spike at the park you're visiting!

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.
  • Plaza Ice Cream Parlor – closed for refurbishment through March 27.
  • Liberty Square Riverboat – closed for refurbishment through May 20.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – closed for refurbishment through May 27.

Epcot

  • House of Innoventions – closed through May for conversion to "green home."
  • Tutto Italia – closed through April 27.
  • Test Track – closed April through September.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show – closed for refurbishment April 29 to May 2.

Animal Kingdom

  • No known current closures.

Resorts

  • Grand Floridian Spa – closed through mid-2013 for refurbishment.
  • Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort – pool slide at Bay Cove pool closed through March 16, but the pool remains open.
  • Contemporary Resort – main tower balcony wall panel refinished through March 30.
  • Polynesian Resort – Nanea Volcano pool slide closed through March 16. Pool remains open.
  • Polynesian Resort – Great Ceremonial House atrium ceiling steel refinished and skylight fabric replaced February 27 to March 23.
  • Wilderness Lodge – metal roof seams recoated thorough June 29.
  • Wilderness Lodge – exterior decorative timbers repaired and replaced through March 12.
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House Bus Stop lane repaved through to March 21.
  • Beach Club Resort – Cape May Cafe closed for refurbishment July 9 through August 3.
  • Yacht Club Resort – building exterior repaired and refinished through August 3.
  • Yacht Club Resort – rooftop HVAC hot water piping replaced January 9 to September 28.
  • Boardwalk Inn – leisure pool closed March 19-22. The Luna Park feature pool and Villas leisure pool remain open.
  • Boardwalk Resort – roadway rejuvenation from the main entrance road to the bus stop area and through the Conference Center exit area through March 21.
  • Old Key West Resort – lobby and Olivia's buildings undergo metal roof repairs through May 16.
  • Old Key West Resort – bus and picnic shelters undergo wood truss repair and repainting thorugh March 30.
  • Saratoga Springs Resort – villa buildings undergo exterior cleaning and painting one at a time between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through August 30.
  • Saratoga Springs Resort – rockwork painting at High Rock Springs Pool through April 24.
  • Saratoga Springs Resort – the Carriage House lobby repainted through April 16.
  • Port Orleans French Quarter Resort – the main commercial building has its flat roof replaced through March 30.
  • Port Orleans French Quarter Resort – buildings 6 & 7 parking lots undergoes roadway rejuvenation from through March 13.
  • Port Orleans French Quarter Resort – building 3 parking lot undergoes rejuvenation through April 27.
  • Port Orleans - Riverside Resort – lobby/atrium refurbishment in commercial building April 9 through May 25..
  • Port Orleans - Riverside Resort – Alligator Bayou leisure pool near buildings 16, 17 & 18 closed March 12-15. All other leisure pools plus the Ol' Man Island feature pool remain open.
  • Port Orleans - Riverside Resort – Alligator Bayou leisure pool near buildings 36 & 39 closed March 19-22. All other leisure pools plus the Ol' Man Island feature pool remain open.
  • Port Orleans - Riverside Resort – Alligator Bayou buildings receives exterior repainting two at a time through March 30.
  • Port Orleans - Riverside Resort – Magnolia Bend building 80 undergoes exterior repair and repainting from February 16 to April 19.
  • Port Orleans - Riverside Resort – Magnolia Bend building 95 undergoes building and room refurbishment from February 19 to March 23.
  • Coronado Springs Resort – Ranchos buildings experiences tile roof repair and replacement through July 27.
  • Coronado Springs Resort – Ranchos leisure pool closed March 11-14.
  • Fort Wilderness Campsites – concrete pad repairs takes place through March 12.
  • Pop Century Resort – 60s lodge building will have themed walls refinished near the Mowgli & Baloo icons from February 20 to March 30.
  • Pop Century Resort – repairs of concrete deck at Hippy Dippy Pool through September 28. The pool remains open during the work, but some small sections of the pool deck will be closed periodically throughout this period.
  • All-Star Music Resort – Piano Pool closed February 6 to March 16; Calypso Pool will remain open.
  • All-Star Movies Resort – Beverage coolers installed in guest rooms through March 16. The installation takes place one floor at a time between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Guests notified via an in-room flier the day before the work is scheduled to take place.

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon – closed through March 17 for annual refurbishment.

Elsewhere

  • Downtown Disney Marketplace Basin – closed through mid-March for renovations.
  • Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays. For 2012, the show is not be performed:
    • March 20
    • May 15–26
    • July 24
    • September 18–22
    • November 27

Current Discounts & Promotions

Florida resident ticket discount

Florida residents can take advantage of a special 3- or 4- day ticket at discounted prices through late May. The "Wild for 3" (and "Wild for 4") tickets are available for purchase through May 21, and are valid for admission any three (or four) days through May 24, excluding blackout dates. The tickets are not valid February 18-20 and April 1-13 due to high crowd levels.

The Wild for 3 Pass ($99 plus tax) and Wild for 4 ($129 plus tax) passes are good at any one of the four Walt Disney World theme parks each day, but without park hopping privileges. Park Hopper and Water Park Fun & More options can be added for $27.50 each ($55 for both).

Proof of Florida residency is required for each adult age 18 and older. The discounted price applies to both adults and children.

Passholder discounts available through March

Disney has released a Passholder discount for most nights from through March 8. Discounts are 35 percent for select Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villa accommodations, and 30 percent for Value resorts from Sunday through Thursday nights.

As with most Passholder discounts, you can book this discount up through your arrival date, if discounted rooms are not yet sold out by then. The rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length-of-stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. No group rates or other discounts apply. Suites and 3-bedroom Grand Villas are not included.

You can make your reservation through the Passholder website or by calling (407) 939-7731 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code H5L. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Passholder room discounts available through June

A Passholder discount is available for most dates March 9 through June 14. The nights of April 1 to 14 and May 25 to 31 are not available due to peak travel periods of Easter break and Memorial Day week.

Passholders can book this discount through the day of arrival if rooms are still available. As with all discounts, rooms available at these rates is limited, and minimum length-of-stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. No group rates or other discounts apply. Suites and 3- bedroom Grand Villas are not included.

You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World Passholder website or by calling (407) 939-1876 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code RX2. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Passholders can save 25% on tickets to La Nouba

Passholders can save 25% on Category 2 tickets La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil on performances Tuesday through Friday nights, from January 31 to March 30. To purchase tickets, (407) 939-7604. Note that a valid Passholder ID and advance purchase is required. Tickets can be purchased up to 30 days prior to the show date, and must be picked up at the La Nouba box office Will Call window.

Military ticket offer

From now through September 28, 2012, 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. Blackout dates are April 1 to 12, 2012; and July 4, 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 twelve Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased, activated and/or used by any Eligible Service Member or spouse during the life of this promotion, and no Eligible Service Member or spouse may purchase, activate and/or use more than six Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets during any single week of the promotion. One of the Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets purchased on each occasion must be for use by the Eligible Service Member or spouse. This offer is for active or retired members of the U.S. military, including the National Guard, Reservists and the U.S. Coast Guard. 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, visit the Walt Disney World website, 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.