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.
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.
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.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org to help us keep our listings updated.
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).
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.
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.
The following is a listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:
…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 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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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.
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).
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 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.
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.
(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.