Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Marie Rossiter, contributing writer
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Update for March 31 – April 6, 2015

Go directly to: News & Views | Join our Networks | Resort Events | Refurbishments and Attraction Closures | Discounts and Promotions


News and Views

Disney Cruise Lines announces 2016 British Isles cruise | Disney Cruise Line launches new placeholder booking policy | First Disney Springs pedestrian bridge set in placeDisney's Hollywood Studios' restaurants offer new menu selections | Disney recognized for setting "Gold Standard" for animal care | Epcot to preview scenes from Tomorrowland 2015 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival Guide - April 3 - 5Views around the World | This and that... | Crowd Update

Disney Cruise Lines announces 2016 British Isles cruise

Disney Cruise Lines revealed its inaugural British Isle cruise on the Disney Magic. The British Isles cruise joins a lineup of itineraries featuring Norway, Greece, Alaska and the Caribbean. 

On June 5, 2016, cruisers can experience a 12-night vacation when the ship departs from Dover, England and travels around western Europe with the following ports of call: Invergordon, Kirkwall and Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland, Newcastle and Liverpool, England, Dublin, Ireland, Le Havre (Paris), France, and Guernesy, Channel Islands

All of these ports, except Kirkwall, are brand new to Disney Cruise Line, according to the company's press release.

Disney Cruise Lines provides a comprehensive listing of its 2016 cruise options for those looking for more information. 

Travelers can reserve the British Isles cruise or any of the 2016 Disney Cruise Line itineraries now by visiting the official Disney Cruise Line website (disneycruise.com) or calling (888) 325-2500. 

Disney Cruise Line launches new placeholder booking policy

by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

Mary Kraemer from Escapade Adventures just shared one of the most welcome policy changes I've seen come from Disney Cruise Line in a while. Effective immediately, passengers on Disney Cruise Line trips can take advantage of the then-current onboard rebooking offer without having to select a sailing date at the time of rebooking.

In the past, to take advantage of the onboard rebooking offers, passengers had to select an actual ship and sailing date right then and there. Many, many people just chose a random date as far in the future as allowed to book a "placeholder" cruise, then moved the reservation to their actual sail date once they decided when and where they really wanted to go.

This wrecked absolute havoc with Disney inventory, and artificially altered the pricing of some cruises for passengers who really wanted to sail. According to travel agents I've spoken with, the final few sailings of each booking window often looked almost completely full, because so many people had parked their placeholder on those dates to leave themselves the most flexibility. Disney's demand-based pricing would then bump fares on those "popular" cruises, resulting in higher fares for people who really wanted to book those sailings. As people moved their placeholders out of those sailings, previously "full" cruises suddenly had excess capacity, and no good way to fill it at the prevailing rate.

Now passengers can just make a deposit for a future cruise without choosing an actual date, which should dramatically reduce the amount of reservation changes and related inventory and pricing issues caused by the old process. A deposit of $200 per person is required to make a no-date placeholder.

Mary notes that there are no other changes to the current onboard offer policies, including the number of bookings allowed or the need to complete travel within 24 months from the date the reservation is booked. It's still not the "voucher" system used by other cruise lines, but it's a major step forward for Disney.

Passengers can still tell the Disney Cruise Line onboard sales manager that they would like the booking to go through their own travel agent, allowing that agent to coordinate that cruise. If you do not do so at the time you make the placeholder, Disney considers it to be an "in-house" or direct reservation, and your travel agent has no access to your reservation information and cannot help with cruise-related issues. You can move the reservation to your personal travel agent within 30 days by filing a request with Disney Cruise Line, but it can be a hassle do do so. Be sure to check with your travel agent for the information needed to make a future cruise reservation while on board, so you don't have to jump through additional hoops after your vacation.

First Disney Springs pedestrian bridge set in place

On March 19, Disney Springs construction workers lowered the first of two new pedestrian bridges slated for the project. The first bridge, which rises over Buena Vista Drive, connects the Team Disney area to Downtown Disney, according to a Disney Parks Blog post. The bridge will weigh 190 tons once it is completed later this spring.

A second pedestrian bridge near Hotel Plaza Boulevard is scheduled to open later this summer.

Disney's Hollywood Studios' restaurants offer new menu selections

Three of Disney's Hollywood Studios' quick service restaurants launched either entirely new menus or added items to their established offerings last week.

Studio Catering Company has a number of new options, including:

  • Pulled Beef Brisket Sandwich: Braised Beef Brisket, Muenster Cheese, Arugula and Horseradish Sauce on a Ciabatta Roll served with French Fries. $10.49
  • Vegetable Wrap: Zucchini, Mushrooms, Roasted Red Peppers, Tomatoes, Watercress, Provolone and Garlic Herb Spread on a Spinach Tortilla served with House-made Chips. $9.49
  • Greek Salad: Romaine Lettuce, Tomato, Cucumber, Red Onion, Kalamata Olives, Feta Cheese and Greek Dressing. Tossed to Order.  $7.19
  • Over at Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner, visitors can enjoy the new gourmet macaroni and cheese—one featuring buffalo chicken and crumbled blue cheese and the other featuring barbecued pulled pork and crispy onions to the menu.
  • Lastly, Fairfax Faire has a new entree: a barbecued pulled pork wedge salad with bacon, roasted corn tomato salsa, crispy tortilla strips, cheddar, and jalapeño ranch dressing.

Disney recognized for setting "Gold Standard" for animal care

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums granted official accreditation to Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge in recognition of their high quality of animal care.

Each year, the AZA gives accreditation to zoos and aquariums that "meet the highest standards in animal management and care, according to a Disney Parks Blog post

In late 2014 Disney hosted an AZA inspection team who assessed everything from the enrichment the animals receive (that stimulates their natural behaviors and provides them variety in their daily routines), to the veterinary program, conservation and research and education programs, as well as Disney's safety policies and procedures, security, physical facilities, guest services and the experience and quality of its staff. 

The AZA released the following comments about both Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge:

  • "The level and commitment to animal care sets the gold standard for our community. Veterinary, nutrition, training, browse program and enrichment programs are state of the art.”
  • “Overall safety culture is extraordinarily strong across the organization, and staff training exceeds all expectations.”
  • “Disney’s Animal Kingdom staff has been successful in making conservation a key value of The Walt Disney Company. The current positive impact and future potential of this change cannot be overstated.”
  • “New interpretive programs, including Wilderness [Explorers] and Wild Africa Trek, add both breadth and depth to program offerings.”

Epcot to preview scenes from Tomorrowland

The Imagination Pavilion at Epcot opens its doors in mid-April for a special sneak preview event for the upcoming Disney movie Tomorrowland.

Visitors can enjoy an early look at some of the scenes from Tomorrowland, which is scheduled to open on May 22. According to a Disney Parks Blog post, the Imagination Pavilion Theater offers special in-theater effects to make the movie experience as real as possible. 

Captain EO goes on hiatus starting April 10 to make way for the Tomorrowland preview.

Shawn Slater, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment Communications Manager, said the classic Michael Jackson film will return to the Imagination Pavilion Theater sometime after Tomorrowland debuts in theaters, but he gave no specific date for its return. 

2015 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival Guide - April 3 - 5

The 2015 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival completed its first full week, and the sights and smells around the park are fantastic.


For the first time ever, Chip 'n' Dale appear as topiaries with the rest of the Disney gang. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The annual event showcases incredible topiary creations sculpted to look like classic Disney characters, and gardens filled with flowers of every color of the rainbow. Guests can also attend live demonstrations on how to grow their own gardens and sample a variety of international cuisine to throughout the 75-day festival.

Each weekend, Epcot presents special events that include music, seminars, tours and more. Make sure to check the guide below and/or pick one up at the parks to get information on how to make reservations. We'll have an event guide updated each week for MousePlanet readers.

Here's what you can expect for Week #4 of the 2015 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival:

Friday, April 3    
Gardens of the World Tour: A three-hour tour of special displays and international Gardens. 9:00 – noon Epcot
Lewis Brehm and Doug Benedict from Disney’s Horticulture: Tips and tricks you can use to plant your own garden. 11:00, 2:00 Greenhouse Stage
Nick McCullough, nationally known landscape designer. Noon, 3:00 Fresh Epcot Stage
"Planting Pointers": join experts as they present great gardening ideas for everyone 1:00, 4:00 University of Florida Stage
English Tea Garden Tour 1:00, 3:45, 6:15 Tea Caddy
Chef Demo 3:00 Port of Entry, Showcase Plaza
Garden Rocks Concert Series: The Orchestra starring former members of ELO 5:30, 6:45, 8:00 American Gardens Theater
Saturday, April 4    
Gardens of the World Tour: A three-hour tour of special displays and international Gardens. 9:00 – noon Epcot
Lewis Brehm and Doug Benedict from Disney’s Horticulture: Tips and tricks you can use to plant your own garden. 11:00, 2:00 Greenhouse Stage
Nick McCullough, nationally known landscape designer. Noon, 3:00 Fresh Epcot Stage
"Planting Pointers": join experts as they present great gardening ideas for everyone. 1:00, 4:00 University of Florida Stage
English Tea Garden Tour 1:00, 3:45, 6:15 Tea Caddy
Chef Demo 3:00 Port of Entry, Showcase Plaza
Garden Rocks Concert Series: The Orchestra starring former members of ELO. 5:30, 6:45, 8:00 American Gardens Theater
Sunday, April 5    
Gardens of the World Tour: A three-hour tour of special displays and international Gardens. 9:00 – noon Epcot
Lewis Brehm and Doug Benedict from Disney’s Horticulture: Tips and tricks you can use to plant your own garden. 11:00, 2:00 Greenhouse Stage
Nick McCullough, nationally known landscape designer. Noon, 3:00 Fresh Epcot Stage
"Planting Pointers": join experts as they present great gardening ideas for everyone. 1:00, 4:00 University of Florida Stage
English Tea Garden Tour 1:00, 3:45, 6:15 Tea Caddy
Chef Demo 3:00 Port of Entry, Showcase Plaza
Garden Rocks Concert Series: The Orchestra starring former members of ELO. 5:30, 6:45, 8:00 American Gardens Theater

Views around the World

Easter week is here, and families on spring break are heading down to Walt Disney World. What can they expect to see? Our MousePlanet photographers give us a look at what's going on inside the parks.

Disney's Animal Kingdom


From Disney's Animal Kingdom's parking lot, a crane assisting in the construction of the "Rivers of Light" nighttime spectacular tower over even the top of Expedition Everest. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Construction walls push into the walkway between the entrance to Disney's Animal Kingdom and the Tree of Life on Discovery Island. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Downtown Disney/Characters in Flight


Characters in Flight balloon is lit from both inside and outside at night. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


The Downtown Disney Marketplace can be seen from a ride on the Characters in Flight balloon. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


From the Characters in Flight balloon, Spaceship Earth at Epcot can be seen beyond the West Side of Downtown Disney. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Spaceship Earth at Epcot is easily spotted from a nighttime ride on the Characters in Flight balloon at Downtown Disney. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Looking down toward the dock for the Characters in Flight balloon, the entrance to Planet Hollywood at Downtown Disney is easy to spot. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Epcot


Easter Egg Hunt is happening throughout World Showcase at Epcot during Easter week. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Epcot Vision House will be closing at the end of April. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


All of Inventions West will also close at the end of April. Inside word is that entertainment will be taking over that space for a new show. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


The Fez House at Epcot's Morocco pavilion provides a quiet respite from the crowds. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Magic Kingdom


Even up on the rooftop of the Peter Pan ride in Fantasyland, Tic-Toc the Croc chases after Captain Hook's ship. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


The Wishes fireworks can be seen from many places, but one of the best viewing locations is in the center of Main Street USA at Magic Kingdom. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney's Polynesian Village Resort


Pago Pago sports a new entrance in the Disney Vacation Club portion of Disney's Polynesian Village. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Newly remodeled hallways sport colorful motifs. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


A big idol also appears now at the Great Ceremonial House. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Trader Sam's Cove opened this week. On Saturday, people lined up at 8 a.m. for a 4 p.m. opening. No others were being accepted in by nightfall, even though the place stayed open until midnight. Only dining on the patio is available. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


As the sun sets on the new Bora Bora Bungalows. You can see Space Mountain and Disney's Contemporary between Bungalows. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

This and that...

...Trader Sam's Grog Grotto began its soft opening phase March 27 at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort to a warm and crowded reception from visitors. Disney Parks Blog provided an in-depth look at Walt Disney World's newest restaurant, including gorgeous photos of the location to a rundown of its new menu. Trader Sam's Grog Grotto plans to have its official opening in late April and its official business hours will run from 4 p.m. through midnight, daily.

...The Richard Petty Driving Experience announced that it has extended its closing date to August 9. MousePlanet previously reported that the racing attraction would shut down sometime in late June as Walt Disney World looks to make transportation improvements near the Magic Kingdom. Disney officials have not specified what these improvments might be. 

... 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, just enter your e-mail in the box below.

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Seeking Shutterbugs

Are you a frequent visitor to the WDW theme parks? Do you love taking and sharing photos of the lastest happenings around the World?

Would you like to be paid for your work?

MousePlanet is seeking Orlando-based photographers to share their theme park observations and photos with our readers. If you're an excellent photographer with strong communication skills, please contact us—we'd love to hear from you!

Crowd Forecast

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TouringPlans.com can help you avoid falling into the typical tourist pitfalls 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 31, 2015 10 / 10
Wednesday, April 1, 2015 10 / 10
Thursday, April 2, 2015 9 / 10
Friday, April 3, 2015 7 / 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!

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Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Stephanie here.
Talk about these stories and more on our Walt Disney World discussion forum here.

Resort Events

2015

runDisney events

If you participate in (or are considering signing up for) runDisney events, visit our Team MousePlanet forum on the MousePad discussion board, where you can join our community of health-minded readers and staff.

2015

2016

  • Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – January 6–10, 2016. Registration opens April 28.
  • Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend – February 18–21, 2016. Registration opens July 14.

For current information on registration dates and capacity, see Lorree Tachell's runDisney Race Capacity Updates in the Team MousePlanet forum on our MousePad discussion board.


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Resorts

  • Polynesian – refurbishment of the lobby and pool area ongoing.

Water Parks

  • Blizzard Beach – the the entire park closed through March 3.

Elsewhere

  • Disney Osprey Ridge Golf Course – permanently closed.
  • Downtown Disney Lots H, I, J, and K (in Westside area) closed until further notice for Disney Springs construction.
  • Downtown Disney Bridge 4 and restrooms on Pleasure Island are temporarily closed for ongoing construction work.
  • Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Note: MousePlanet does not edit past Updates to reflect price increases; for up-to-date prices, check the most recent Walt Disney World Resort Update. For your convenience, we have grouped the discount offers based on the intended audience. Check out the category that best matches you, and pick the offer that works best for you. And keep those tips coming—let us know if you find a better or different offer, so we can share it with other readers!


Discounts for Everyone

Save Up to 30 percent with room discount

Summer travelers looking to save money on Walt Disney World trip have some new options with last week's new room discount announcement

Visitors traveling between June 16 and August 27, 2015 can save between 15 percent and 30 percent off regular room rates with this promotion.

Room inventory is limited and this promotion only lasts until June 12 and certain exclusions apply (see below). 

To make reservations, contact your travel agent or visit the official Walt Disney World website.

June 16 - August 27, 2015

Save 30%

  • Deluxe/Deluxe Villas: Disney's Boardwalk Villas, Disney's Old Key West Resort, Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge - Standard & Pool View, Disney's Boardwalk Inn, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney's Polynesian Resort, Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Disney's Yacht Club Resort.

Save 20%

  • Deluxe: Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge - Savannah & Club View, Disney's Beach Club, Disney's Contemporary Resort

Weekdays June 16 - August 9, 2015

Save 20%

  • Moderate: Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, Disney's Fort Wilderness Cabins, Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside.

Save 15%

  • Value: Disney's All Star Sports Resort, Disney's All Star Music Resort, Disney's Pop Century Resort, Disney's Art of Animation Resort - Family Suites Only.

Weekends August 10 - August 27, 2015

Save 25%

  • Moderate: Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, Disney's Fort Wilderness Cabins, Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside.

Save 20%

  • Value: Disney's All Star Sports Resort, Disney's All Star Music Resort, Disney's Pop Century Resort, Disney's Art of Animation Resort - Family Suites Only.

Memory Maker pre-arrival discount

Disney's PhotoPass service provides a discount on Disney Memory Maker pre-arrival packages. For $199 plus tax, Walt Disney World guests can digitally download any photos associated with their Memory Maker account, including photos taken on attractions. The advanced purchase price is $169, a $30 savings. Applicable taxes are charged to all orders.

Purchase must be made more than three days prior to arrival at the Walt Disney World Resort. All sales are final, and not eligible for an exchange or refund.


Discounts for Annual Passholders

None at this time.

Discounts for Disney Rewards VISA & Debit Card Holders

15 percent off select guided tours

Disney Visa cardholders receive 15 percent off the non-discounted price of selected guided tours for up to 10 people. The cardholder must participate in the tour, and pay with a Disney's Visa Card and/or Disney Rewards Redemption Card. Tours included:

  • Magic Kingdom Park
    • Disney's Family Magic Tour
    • Disney's Keys to the Kingdom Tour
    • Disney's The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour
    • Walt Disney: Marceline to Magic Kingdom Tour
  • Epcot
    • Gardens of the World (offered seasonally)
    • The UnDISCOVERed Future World
    • Disney's Dolphins in Depth
    • Epcot DiveQuest
    • Epcot Seas Aqua Tours
    • Epcot Behind the Seeds (15 percent discount)
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
    • Wild by Design
    • Backstage Safari
  • Multiple Theme Parks and Backstage Areas
    • Backstage Magic
    • Disney's Holiday D-Lights (offered seasonally)
    • Disney's Yuletide Fantasy (offered seasonally)

10 percent off select restaurants

Disney Visa cardholders receive 10 percent off the check when you pay with a Disney's Visa Card and/or Disney Rewards Redemption Card (be sure to request the discount). Discount excludes alcohol.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas:

  • Boma
  • Jiko (see restrictions)
  • Sanaa

Disney's BoardWalk Inn and Villas:

  • ESPN Sports Club
  • Flying Fish Cafe (see restrictions)

Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort:

  • Shutters at Old Port Royale

Disney's Contemporary Resort:

  • The Wave...of American Flavors

Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground:

  • Trail's End Restaurant

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa:

  • Citricos (see restrictions)
  • Grand Floridian Cafe

Disney's Old Key West Resort:

  • Olivia's Cafe

Disney's Port Orleans Resort:

  • Boatwright's Dining Hall

Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa:

  • The Turf Club Bar and Grill

Disney's Wilderness Lodge:

  • Artist Point (see restrictions)
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe

Disney's Yacht Club Resort:

  • Captain's Grille

Disney's Hollywood Studios:

  • The Hollywood Brown Derby (see restrictions)
  • Hollywood & Vine (see restrictions)

Epcot:

  • Biergarten Restaurant (see restrictions)

10 percent off merchandise

Disney Visa cardholders receive 10 percent off at participating Disney-owned retail location when you spend a minimum of $50 and pay with a Disney's Visa Card and/or Disney Rewards Redemption Card (be sure to request the discount). Read all of the restrictions on the Disney Visa website.


15 percent off all Disney spa and salon services

Disney Visa cardholders receive 15 percent off the non-discounted price of any salon treatment valued at $45 or greater or any 50-minute or longer spa service at the spas and salons at Walt Disney World Resort listed below:

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

  • Senses – A Disney Spa
  • Ivy Trellis Salon

Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa

  • Senses – A Disney Spa

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas

  • Zahanati Massage & Fitness Center

Disney’s Contemporary Resort

  • Olympiad Fitness Center

Disney's Coronado Springs Resort

  • La Vida Health Club
  • Casa de Belleza Salon

Disney's Wilderness Lodge

  • Sturdy Branches Health Club

Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resorts

  • Ship Shape Massage Salon Fitness

Free 5" x 7" character photo at a private meet and greet location at Epcot

Present your Disney's Premier Visa Card or Disney Rewards Visa Card for access to a private character meet and greet at Epcot for the cardholder and up to five guests. The event is hosted daily from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. inside Innoventions West at Epcot. You'll receive one free 5" x 7" character photo per day.


Discounts for Florida Residents

None at this time.

Discounts for U.K. Residents

14 days for 7-day park tickets plus up to 4 nights free in 2015.

Get up to 4 free nights when you book a 7-night or longer stay at a Disney hotel for select dates in 2015 and you can also get Disney’s Ultimate 14-Day ticket for the price of 7 offer. Applicable to arrivals between February 1 and December 6, subject to availability. Restrictions apply – see official website for details.

  • Get 1 free night at Disney Moderate and Value Resorts or 2 free nights at Disney Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts for a between 7 and 13 nights.
  • Get 2 free nights at Disney Moderate and Value Resorts or 4 free nights at Disney Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts for a stay between 14 and 20 nights
  • Get 3 free nights at Disney Moderate and Value Resorts or 6 free nights at Disney Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts for a stay of 21 nights.

Book by March 31.


Discounts for Canada Residents

None at this time.

 


 

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