Walt Disney World Resort Update for November 30 - December 6, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for November 30 - December 6, 2021

You can view a larger version of each of the photos included in the Update by clicking on the photo. Each photo will open in a separate tab without a caption rather than a slideshow-type gallery like we had in the past.

 News, Views & Writer's Note

To those who celebrate, Happy Hanukkah—and hopefully, everyone had a good Thanksgiving weekend without going broke from Black Friday and Cyber Monday spending sprees!

As is usually the case, Thanksgiving week around Walt Disney World Resort is rather busy in terms of guests, and very quiet in terms of news. Yesterday, Disney Parks Blog announced the reopening of two Walt Disney World Resort hotel dining venues in the coming weeks: Story Book Dining at Artist Point at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, and Boatwright's Dining Hall at Disney's Port Orleans Resort – Riverside. Reservations open for both this Thursday, December 2.

Boatwright's Dining Hall will reopen featuring its Southern specialties for dinner starting December 14. Story Book Dining at Artist Point will reopen on December 16. The new version of its Character Dining experience will allow all guests to see Snow White, Dopey, Grumpy, and the Queen "stroll through the Enchanted Forest," while dining on a prix fixe dinner menu featuring a choice of individually plated entrées, and shared starters and desserts. More details and featured bites around Walt Disney World Resort are in the posting as well.

For those of you who like to collect Disney's food-related souvenirs, the first edition Trader Sam's Nutcracker Tiki Mug will be available at Trader Sam's Grog Grotto and Tiki Terrace at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort this Thursday, starting at 3 p.m. Eastern. Mugs are sold with the Mele Kaliki Mai Tai, and are limited to one per guest. These sorts of purchase opportunities usually sell out before too long, so if you're interested in getting this mug, you might want to find out if there will be a wrist-band distribution ahead of the 3 p.m. release to create a more orderly queue.

I had planned on sharing a few more highlights of the Destination D23 event in this week's Update, but I must apologize that personal time commitments made that impractical. I will share a bit more before year's end, but for now, if you want more details than I provided last week, a full "Official Disney Fan Club" recap of the event is available on the D23 website in a post entitled Every Magical Moment from Destination D23.

The good news is that I had a chance to get over to see the second day of the 2021 EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, and I have a lot of photos and some videos to share.

EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays Is Underway

The passing of Thanksgiving did mark the kickoff to this year's edition of the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, which runs until December 30. The rundown of this year's offerings is on EPCOTHolidays.com. Since the phased reopening of EPCOT, this is only the second festival to drop the "Taste of" moniker, and, indeed, this is as close to a pre-pandemic in scope EPCOT festival as I have seen so far.

Candlelight Processional Returns

This is the first EPCOT festival since the global pandemic and the Resort's phased reopening to have much of its live entertainment components return. Most noteworthy, of course, is the return of the Candlelight Processional after its absence last year. Like the past editions, it features a celebrity narrator telling the traditional story of Christmas along with a full orchestra and a large choir. Unlike past editions, this year's choir is limited to cast members only, with members of the Voices of Liberty in their red robes making up a smaller version of the "living Christmas tree" at center stage, and the other cast members that have auditions for their spots in gold robes filling in the risers on both sides of the Voices of Liberty. School and community groups were not invited to participate; Disney previously said that all of its participants in Candlelight Processional were to be fully vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus (and, if you've paid attention to Florida's policies, businesses in the State cannot ask guests/customers about their vaccination status).

Absent dining reservations with guaranteed seating for a particular Candlelight Processional performance, always check the schedule (it is in the My Disney Experience app and posted at the Theatre) for the night's scheduled performances. As of this publication, the nightly Candlelight Processional performances are scheduled at America Gardens Theatre at 5:15 p.m., 7 p.m., and 8:30 p.m.

With only cast members making up the ranks of the choir, the stage is less-full than in past editions. While it has not been unusual to see Voices of Liberty dressed in red at center stage, it was an unusual visual decision to make the "living tree" made up of the red-robed group rather than the green-robes of past editions.

There is a Candlelight Processional Limited Edition pin available at merchandise locations around the park.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

As of our publication, the nightly Candlelight Processional performances are at 5:15 p.m., 7 p.m., and 8:30 p.m. A limited number of venues at the park are offering dining packages with guaranteed seating. Notwithstanding the park being busy when I visited last Friday, I found the standby line rather short for the 5:15 p.m. show and was able to get a good seat for the performance.

Celebrity Narrator Auli'i Cravalho, best known to Disney fans as the voice of "Moana," participated in the November 27, 2021, editions of Candlelight Processional. Highlights Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

EPCOT Holiday Decor

As expected, EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays banners hang above the park's main entry.

The flower "box" at the center of what we used to call Future World (now World Celebration) has a small display which, from up close, obscures the park's main Christmas tree in World Showcase Plaza in the distance.

The more interesting view of the display is looking back toward Spaceship Earth.

EPCOT's main Christmas tree is in its usual location, in World Showcase Plaza.

The miniture railroad village at Germany pavilion also celebrates a mini version of the Festival of the Holidays with banners.

The equipment that powers the nighttime "Harmonious" show blocks main views of the main Christmas tree across World Showcase Lagoon.

Finding just the right spot along the lagoon, it's possible to get a good photo of the tree with Spaceship Earth displaying its new "magical" lighting.

Just inside the park's gates, the entry "flower box" also has a small display for the Festival of the Holidays.

And, finally, the reverse side of the entry banners thanks guests for celebrating.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Santa and Gingerbread are Back

The American Adventure pavilion has most of the elements of past editions of the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays.

A Christmas tree is located at the American Adventure pavilion.

Santa is again greeting guests at the outdoor gazebo at the American Adventure pavilion. As you can see from the photo, Santa is distanced from guests and guest may not make physical contact, but can be photographed by a Disney PhotoPass photographer (or use their own cameras).

Inside the pavilion, gingerbread displays have returned. This year there are three pieces, albeit they seem quite a bit smaller than previous years.

The Lincoln Memorial has been reimagined in edible form with lots of "hidden" Mickeys.

The American Adventure pavilion itself has been built in foodstuffs.

One piece of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial has been created as well.

Outside, near where Santa meets guests, the American Holiday Table is one of the Holiday Kitchens open for the festival.

The Holiday Turkey Dinner seemed smaller than in past years, but also at a slightly lower price point.

The holiday cookie stroll has returned (purchase five specified cookies, and get a completer prize). This is the Chocolate Crinkle cookie featuring Dove Chocolate.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Storytellers and Holiday Kitchens Return

Joyful, A Celebration of the Season performs its tribute to Christmas and Kwanzaa several times daily at the stage at World Showcase Plaza.

Storytellers have returned to locations around World Showcase, such as at Norway pavilion.

Like at The American Adventure, Holiday Kitchens are located at select locations around World Showcase. Some, like this at Germany, can be quite busy.

The Hanukkah Storyteller is again located next to Morocco pavilion, but the area is configured differently than when last it was held in this area: there was so little room for an audience between the stage and the planters shown here, that none of my photos of the performance were good enough to share.

France pavilion once again has the decorative oversized ornaments located on the main approach to the theater.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Holiday Merchandise

As usual, festival merchandise comes in many forms—from that associated with food and beverage, to the scavenger hunt, to more traditional merchandise.

A Gold Christmas Tree Premium Popcorn Bucket is available at popcorn carts around the park for $25 plus tax.

Olaf's Holiday Tradition Expedition sends guests on a $9.99 (plus tax) scavenger hunt, looking for Olaf. Return the completed map for a prize (or just turn the map right back in if all you want is the prize).

Olaf, appears in rather unique places compared to some prior scavenger hunts and, of course, all guests can go looking for him without buying the map and seeking the prize.

Olaf also plays a central role on a lot of this year's merchandise, including one of the Festival's Limited Release pins.

Olaf, of course, celebrates all holidays.

Sven appears on some of the festival merchandise as well.

Though not required to participate in the Holiday Cookie stroll, a Festival Cookie Jar is available again this year too.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

More views of EPCOT

Lighted Spaceship Earth
A surprise to me: the new lights on Spaceship Earth seemed to create a holiday sweater during a new "magical" moment display. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

More EPCOT-appropriate holiday music accompanies the actual "magical" moment display. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

Golden Figment
This one is not a holiday moment, but it's golden: the monorail passes behind the golden statue of Figment that is part of the World's Most Magical Celebration. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The EPCOT transformation construction continues: the portion of the former Innoventions/ComuniCore East building that last served as the temporary home of Mouse Gear while the new Creations Shop was built is undergoing its reimagining. It is adjacent to the space that Disney announced will become Connections Cafe Eatery, but it is unknown at this time what this renovated space will become. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

And, finally, looking ahead, the full roster of the scheduled performers for the Disney on Broadway Concert Series returning to this winter's EPCOT International Festival of the Arts has been announced. As in past versions of the Concert Series, the performing pairs perform on different days, so if there is a pair you want to see, plan accordingly. There is a finale concert bringing together four of the singers for a single set of concerts.

This & That & Reminders…

…REMINDER: During Thanksgiving weekend, the first of the Disney Parks holiday specials, The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration, was broadcast on ABC-TV, and is now available for streaming on Hulu. On Christmas Day (Saturday, December 25), the Disney Parks Magical Christmas Day Parade will air on ABC-TV from 10 a.m. until noon (Eastern and Pacific Time), with Derek and Julianne Hough from Walt Disney World Resort, and Trevor Jackson and Sherry Cola from Disneyland Resort. It will also be available for streaming the next day on Hulu. In addition to the musical acts (which are listed in this Disney Parks Blog post), Disney says that the specials will provide peeks at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, the Disney Cruise Line ship Disney Wish, Walt Disney Animation Studios' Encanto (which opened November 24), and Steven Spielberg's new film, West Side Story. Of course, it doesn't say which special will show which peeks.

…Enjoy a sunset-filled cocktail hour on The Edison's lakeside patio during its exclusive monthly Mixology Series featuring Ketel One Botanicals on December 1, 8, and 15 from 5-7 p.m. Each week, attendees will be treated to two specialty libations inspired by the holiday season and the frosty flavors of winter expertly paired with gourmet bites. For more information and tickets, visit this page of Patina Restaurant Group's website. Tickets are $65 plus tax and gratuity per person, per event. Space is very limited. Guests must be 21 or older to attend.

…The Disney Cruise Line Disney Wish-themed float made its debut in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Just before Thanksgiving, Walt Disney Imagineering followed its Destination D23 presentation by sharing more construction progress photos and video from Germany of the actual ship which is due to start sailing next Summer.

…REMINDER: The North American Tour of Disney's Frozen: The Musical is getting underway. It starts performances this Friday at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre, through January 22. For those visiting Florida this winter or spring, you can catch the show here in Orlando at Dr. Phillips Center For the Performing Arts from February 24 to March 6, in Fort Lauderdale at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts from March 9 to 20, or in Tampa at the Straz Center from March 23 to April 3. Full tour details and tickets available at FrozenTheMusical.com.

…REMINDER: Give Kids The World Village's highly popular "Night of a Million Lights Holiday Lights Spectacular" has returned for its second annual showing. Last year's edition attracted over 90,000 visitors to the Village and USA Today named last year's event as the "Number One Thing To Do In Orlando In December." Night of a Million Lights enables guests to immerse themselves in an exquisitely decorated fairytale neighborhood which wish families call home during their stays. Guests can enjoy a 360-degree dancing lights show set to music; explore a sparkling tree trail; view larger-than-life holiday displays; take photos at one-of-a-kind step-in frames and backdrops; visit Santa in his elaborately decorated summer house inside a holiday marketplace; and enjoy a guided storytelling tour of dozens of magnificently lit villas from the comfort of a tram, included in the price of the ticket. A majority of the lights were donated by Walt Disney World. For those that miss the Osbourne Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, this display is very reminiscent of that, especially back in the time that Residential Street was still standing on the park's Backlot. Night of a Million Lights runs through January 2, 2022, from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily, with entry times staggered to prevent crowding. Tickets are available at www.gktw.org/lights Note: some dates already sold out, including December 5 and 12. Proceeds support Give Kids the World Village (located at 210 South Bass Road in Kissimmee, Florida), which provides critically ill children and their families with weeklong wish vacations at no cost. It's #GivingTuesday today, November 30: donations to the Village are matched at this page of GKTW.org.

Night of a Million Lights
Give Kids The World Village Night of A Million Lights runs through January 2, 2022, at 210 South Bass Road in Kissimmee, Florida. Proceeds benefit the Village's not-for-profit mission of providing free wish trips to critically ill children and their families in Central Florida. File photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

…REMINDER: And, finally, MousePlanet's own Jim Korkis has announced the release of his latest book, The Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Quiz Master Challenge: 500 Verified Questions & Answers PLUS Historical Highlights, Fun Facts and More. It's available on Amazon.com for $17.95. Topics range from the individual parks, to the resorts, to things outside the parks and resorts as well as WDW history. Additional sections feature lists of fifty years of historical highlights, fun facts and more. Because Jim was responsible for writing many trivia quizzes and fun fact media sheets for Walt Disney World Resort over the past 30 years, the information he relied upon for the book had to go through scrutiny of several Disney departments including the Disney Archives for final approval.

The Usual Writer's Note

The U.S.A. has opened its borders to more international visitors who are fully vaccinated as of last month. With Walt Disney World Resort historically attracting guests from well beyond North America—especially from Europe and South America—we believe that we are seeing a further uptick in attendance in the parks as we head into the holiday season. As always, be sure to check the "experience updates" page of Walt Disney World for the latest information you need to know before you visit.

We are still in a global pandemic, and Disney's policies remain in flux. And the particularly bad news this past week are the latest varients being identified abroad, and thatthe COVID-19 positivity rate domestically is in flux, with health experts warning that it could get worse again as we head into winter.

As noted in last week's Update, sales of new Walt Disney World Annual Passes have been paused in all categories except the Florida Resident Pixie Dust Pass. Disney reserved the right to pause those sales when it reintroduced its new Annual Passes. Current Passholders may continue to purchase renewals in all tiers notwithstanding the pause in new sales. Even with this pause and the uptick in COVID-19 positivity rates, it remains unlikely that the Resort will shut down again in the near-term. Remember, however, Disney may very well impose guest restrictions that are stricter than those imposed by the State of Florida. Disney Park Pass reservations are still required to visit the parks in addition to valid admission.

Disney Parks continue to follow the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. At Walt Disney World Resort, everyone ages 2 and up are required to wear face coverings in all indoor locations. Outdoors, face coverings are optional in most locations for vaccinated guests, and required for unvaccinated guests. All guests continue to be required to wear face coverings on buses, monorails, and on Disney Skyliner. Walt Disney World Resort encourages guests to get vaccinated, and has mandated vaccination for new hires and existing cast members in most roles.

This summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for full licensure. The vaccine, which is one of three approved for use in the U.S., is the first to receive full approval for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine is also available under emergency use authorization (EUA) for children ages 5 and up, and is also now available as a third dose "booster" for all eligible adults.

I got vaccinated and the best available information is that it's the best protection against serious illness and death from COVID-19. If you haven't been vaccinated and are eligible to be, I recommended you discuss with a physician the risks to both yourself and those you come into contact with as the global pandemic continues to spread in your community and those places you visit. Flu vaccine for the season is also becoming available, and that is something else to consider. I got mine.

And, with regard to the weather, as always, if you're heading this way, please stay informed of the latest weather. Here in Central Florida, at this time of year, while we often get some of our best weather, temperatures can range significantly during the day (a 30° to 35° swing across a day or two is not unprecedented). The good news for park goers and other outdoor activities is that it rains only occasionally, and, in fact, it seems the weather predictions of rain are a bit more accurate. Your mileage may vary.

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Resort Reservations, Ticket Advice & Special Offers

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.

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  1. By wdwchuck

    Happy Hanukkah Alan! Thanks for another excellent trip report.

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