Walt Disney World Park Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for March 24 – March 30, 2008

Go directly to: News & Views | Coming Soon | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions | Park Hours/Park Events/Entertainment Schedule

News and Views

DCL signs pact | Food & Wine | Tower 13K | Scam artist caught | Airport news | A personal appeal | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Disney Cruise Line to stay at Port Canaveral

Last Wednesday, Disney Cruise Line announced that it has finalized an agreement with Port Canaveral to extend the company's current contract for 15 additional years. DCL will use Port Canaveral as the home port for its two new, as-yet-unnamed ships scheduled for completion in 2011 and 2012, at least through 2014.

Under the agreement, the Canaveral Port Authority will make enhancements to the DCL port facility, including extending the dock, enlarging and enhancing the terminal building and building a multi-level parking structure. The enhancments will be needed since the new ships are 150 feet longer, 15 feet wider and three decks taller than the existing Disney Wonder and Disney Magic ships. The new ships will each carry 4,000 passengers, or 1,300 more than the current ships. The deadline for the port facility upgrades and construction of the parking structure is October 1, 2010. The cost of the upgrades will be paid for by a new, $7-per-trip charge on Disney Cruise Line tickets, starting in 2010.

There's no word yet on where the Wonder and Magic will end up once the new ships arrive and start sailing out of Port Canaveral. Early front-runners include Los Angeles and the Mediterranean, as the Magic has already visited each for a summer, and returns to the West Coast again in a couple of months.

DCL has also agreed that its ships will visit Port Canaveral at least 150 times per year through the end of the agreement. That means that, regardless of where its ships are deployed, at least two should be based out of the port at any one time, assuming that one runs 7-night cruises and one runs 3- and 4-night cruises. Of course, that schedule is highly beneficial to Disney, as the port's proximity to Walt Disney World provides the ability to sell land-and-sea packages. Porting the other two ships to Los Angeles and Barcelona, Spain would provide that same opportunity for Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and Disneyland Resort Paris.

In a statement, Disney Cruise Line President Tom McAlpin said that "We are very excited to call Port Canaveral our home and look forward to bringing our new ships here. The new enhancements being made to our terminal will provide guests an even more seamless transition from land to sea."

First Food & Wine Festival details emerge

The 15th Annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival officially opened last Wednesday, kicking off 75 days of horticultural bliss at "Disney's Discovery Park." That must mean that it's time for… the first press release about the 13th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival! This year's event will be held September 26 through November 9.

This year's Food & Wine theme will be "Cities in Wonderland," featuring cuisine from many cities around the world, from Cork, Ireland to Cape Town, South Africa, as well as Lyon, France; Marrakesh, Morocco; Shanghai, China; Bologna, Italy; Tokyo, Japan and Mexico City, Mexico. More than 25 international marketplaces around World Showcase will feature tastes of international cuisine for $2 to $5 per dish. Daily complementary wine and beer tastings will return, as will culinary demonstrations.

This year's Eat to the Beat concert series features a number of acts that are new to the festival, such as Kool & The Gang, Spyro Gyra, En Vogue, and personal favorite Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Returning acts include David Sanborn, Jon Secada, and Otis Day and the Knights.

As always the free-with-park-admission events include: Wine and beer seminars, cooking demonstrations, special book signings at the Festival Center, Eat to the Beat concerts, and culinary and cultural exhibits.

Experiences available for an extra fee include the weekly Party for the Senses grand tasting, Food and Wine Pairings at select Epcot restaurants, Regional Feasts, Epcot Wine Schools, Cheese Tastings, Sweet Sundays, and other special wine and culinary programs.

The Festival Welcome Center will return to the former Wonders of Life pavilion, with a champagne and wine bar and the festival store. It'sll also be the site of complimentary wine seminars and book signings.

More details will be released in the coming weeks and months, and we'll begin publishing our annual Park Guide page on the festival in the near future. In the meantime, you can find last year's page here. The event's page on the Walt Disney World site (link) is also still a skeleton, though that will add information in the near future, as well. As always, once the reservations for the special events open, you will be able to grab them by calling 407-WDW-FEST (407-939-3378).

Get your MousePlanet gear!

The MousePlanet.com store is now open for business (link)! You can get shirts, mugs, hats and even a Teddy Bear! Check it out and show your MousePlanet pride!

Registration opens for Tower of Terror 13K

Registration has now opened for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13K race, to be held on Saturday, October 25 at 10 p.m. The race is restricted to those age 11 and over. While the race Web site mentions a 6.5K race in passing, there are no race details and no registration information for the 6.5K, so it's likely that the shorter distance is history and the page just needs some additional editing.

Online registration will close on Monday, October 20, 2008 or when the race reaches capacity. There will be no race day registration. The cost for the race is $85 before August 25, and $90 on or after August 25.

Extra party tickets and commemorative pins are also available, and may be picked up during packet pick-up hours. Up to five additional Adult ($30) and five Child ($20) tickets can be purchased for friends and family during registration. Up to two Limited Edition 2008 Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13K commemorative pins ($8.95) may be purchased during registration. Pins can only be picked up at Packet Pick-up. Pins not picked up at Packet Pick-up will not be mailed or refunded. Event merchandise will be also available for sale during packet pick-up, as well as during the race itself at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Please note that the mandatory packet pick-up location for the race has changed. Packets must now be picked up at Motion at Pleasure Island on Friday, October 24 from 3–8 p.m. or Saturday, October 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also note that at press time the race page currently says "Friday, October 26" and "Saturday, October 27." We expect that to be corrected shortly.

Disney currently lists the run as including:

  • A one-of-a-kind 13K nighttime run through the deserted streets of Disney’s Hollywood Studios which ends in the shadows of the Tower Hotel
  • A pre-race "Check-In" where you can sign the "Hotel Registry", pick up your "Room Key" and check in your luggage
  • Start line illuminated by fireworks
  • Chip timed race with Online results
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror themed race course
  • On-Course Water and PowerAde Stations
  • A trip to the “Concierge Level” with post-race refreshments for each participant
  • A unique “Check-Out” experience after the 13K at the Post-Race Party

Disney also states that each participant will receive:

  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13K Champion Tech shirt
  • Goody Bag
  • Personalized glow-in-the-dark bib number
  • One-of-a-kind The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13K Finisher Medal (with a moving elevator!)
  • Entrance to the Post-Race Party at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with exclusive access to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock ‘N Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith attraction.

The 13K race course runs 8.1 miles past Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show, down the Streets of America Backlot, past the Sorcerer's Hat, and finishes at The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. For everyone's safety, baby joggers/strollers, inline skates, skateboards, and animals will be prohibited on the course. All participants must be able to finish the race within two and a half hours (that is, by 12:30 a.m.).

Scam artist who ripped off Disney guests is caught

Following a traffic stop, Brevard County officers arrested a suspect in the case of scamming Walt Disney World hotel guests. A former Disney cast member, 23-year-old Jason MacLaren, is accused bilking 45 Walt Disney World guests out of $30,000.

MacLaren would reportedly hang out at Disney hotels and profile resort guests, identifying the makeup of the party and their room number. He would then call their hotel rooms from house phones—posing as a cast member, mentioning the makeup of their party and offering them upgraded dining or show tickets. He would ask for their credit card information to secure the reservations. MacLaren would then use their credit card information to purchase attraction and other tickets, then turn around and sell them to other tourists, occasionally keeping the tickets to use them himself.

MacLaren was reportedly caught doing the same thing two years ago, but then disappeared. When the scam started again, police immediately began looking for MacLaren, who was caught on surveillance video calling guests from house phones at six different Disney resorts.

Following his arrest in Brevard County, MacLaren was cooperating with authorities. Disney has reimbursed guests who were scammed and posted warnings in the rooms for the guests not to give out their credit card numbers.

Here's a reminder, folks: Don't give your credit card number out to anybody that calls you on the phone. Disney generally doesn't offer special deals to people over the phone, and if by some unusual circumstance they do, they are not supposed to ask for your credit card number. Besides, your credit card is on file for your room charge, and there's no reason that they can't charge anything to your room. In short, if it sounds too good to believe, it probably is.

Orlando International Airport receives accolades, but has odor problems in customs

Orlando International Airport has been honored by two different groups, ranking ninth in the world in the Forbes magazine "most wired airport" overall rankings and taking two awards in the national Best Concessions Awards at the annual Airport Revenue News (ARN) Conference and Exhibition. Meanwhile, the gateway airport for most Walt Disney World visitors who arrive by air also announced a change in security screening procedures and also suffered some operational difficulties affecting some arriving international passengers.

The ranking from Forbes took into account passenger traffic (24th in the world), seating comfort, electrical connections and wired Internet (7th), wireless "Wi-Fi" Internet access (4th) and cost for access. (Wi-Fi is free throughout the public areas of the terminal.) The final rating was based on the breadth of Wi-Fi coverage, whether it was paid or free, and the number of providers available. The comfort and convenience factor of using personal equipment was also figured in.

The two awards from ARN, "Best Customer Service" and "Best Concessions Management Team," came in the large airport division. Four concessionaires operating at the airport also received top honors in the concessions division: Borders Group Retailer, Stellar Partners and Airport Wireless. The awards honor airports and concessionaires in the United States.

Departing passengers at the East checkpoint (Gates 60-129) will note a new security screening process for the next few months, as Orlando is the third airport to participate in a 120-day pilot program that will allow travelers to "self-select" their queue and lanes for the security screening process. Three different levels of queues (identified by symbols used in skiing to denote skill levels) will be available, and passengers will choose which one they will enter. "Expert" (black diamond) is for the experienced business traveler, "Casual" (blue square) is for passengers that travel less frequently but are familiar with TSA procedures, and "Families and Special Assistance" (green circle) is for passengers traveling with small children, the elderly or those passengers who may need special assistance. If the pilot is successful, it may be expanded.

Meanwhile, things were not going so smoothly for international passengers arriving at Airside 1 and expecting to head directly for customs. From March 8-14, customs inspectors and passengers became ill due to odors resulting from dead rats. The construction taking place to expand the airside terminal resulted in displaced rats finding home in the walls, ceilings, air ducts and other locations on the first floor of Airside 1, where the customs office is located. After exterminators took aggresive measures to kill the rodents, the combined fumes began sickening those in the customs area.

The customs checkpoints was closed on March 14 and those international passengers arriving at Airside 1 (largely from Ireland's Aer Lingus and Holland's Martinair, making up a total of approximately 6.3 percent of international arrivals) were bused directly to the customs checkpoints at Airside 4, where the majority of international passengers arrive and depart.

The facility reopened on Friday, following air quality tests.

Help us keep our menu listings up to date!

Did you know that MousePlanet now has menu listings (link) for all theme park restaurants at Walt Disney World and many resort restaurants? You can help us keep them up to date! Send your photos, scans or other copies of restaurant menus (no fair copying from other Web sites) to menus@mouseplanet.com (link). Please note that there is a 5 MB limit on total attachments in a single email.

A personal appeal, for the third year

On April 27, I'll be walking to raise money for the March of Dimes again. The March of Dimes mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. Without therapies, medications and treatment regimens developed under grants from the March of Dimes, my son would not be alive today. So, you see, this is a very personal cause for me. I want to help the March of Dimes in order to help the next baby that's born too soon.

Last year, through the generosity of friends, family, co-workers and MousePlanet readers, we managed to raise $4,025. This year, let's beat that. Let's see if we can raise $5,000. I think we can. For more information, or to donate, go here.

Construction Update

This week's listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:


  • Minnie's House – Replace existing parquet wood floor and sub flooring. Replace Minnie's custom printed vinyl carpet (laser cut).
  • Pecos Bill's Tall Tale Inn & Cafe and Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe – Replace existing condiment bar with new WunderBar.
  • Liberty Square Bridge – Rebuild a replacement bridge. (Note: When this occurs, the parade route will change to run to the east of Cinderella Castle, past the Mad Tea Party and through the gate adjacent to the entrance to Mickey's Toontown Fair.)
  • Northeast Resort Parcel (Four Seasons/Eagle Pines parcel) – Early Work Package.
  • Flamingo Crossings Phase I – Mass Grading Package.
  • Cinderella's Royal Table – Replace dining room and stairway carpets.
  • Cosmic Ray's planter wall – Extend the existing planter.
  • Tomorrowland Speedway – Replace load zone barriers and queue area guardrails.
  • Epcot World Showcase International Gateway Cart and Italy Cart – Cut into berm & east curb; pour new curb, retaining wall & area dev. slab for cart.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom barns – Furnish and install new hoist and I-Beam for White Rhino Building. Install new beam & hoist in Elephant Barn; provide electrical power to hoist. Install new gates in Elephant Barn; includes plumbing to modify existing drinkers.
  • Disney Hollywood Studios – Narnia exhibit – Provide doors, walls and ceilings, furnish/install new power & lighting.
  • Marketplace Disney Rewards Visa Kiosk – Remove Existing Kiosk and Install New Kiosk.
  • Boardwalk Resort Quiet Pool – Furnish/install 2 deck anchors for chair lifts, install dual handrails at pool steps.
  • Epcot Imagination Pavilion – Install reverse Osmosis system at 3-D eyeglass washer.
  • Polynesian Graphics – Fabricate directional, parking lot and DOT signs for the Polynesian Resort.
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge – Exterior rehab and paint.
  • Magic Kingdom Toll Plaza Bus Lane rehab – Replace 90 feet of asphalt roadway with concrete.
  • Epcot Interactive Trailer – Run power, phones and data to trailer; interface with fire alarm system; includes all plumbing (likely more work in preparation of the Kim Possible interactive adventure).
  • (Imagineering) Disney's Hollywood Studios – Toy Story Mania – Showset Installation Package

Quick takes …

…The mystery of the Frontierland construction walls near the fry cart in a photo in last week's Update has been solved. There was apparently a blockage in the AVACS waste system underneath the Magic Kingdom, and in order to bypass the damaged section, some work above ground is needed.

…The Fantasyland construction wall near Dumbo, also in a photo in last week's Update, is apparently to hide the construction of a permanent, better-themed DVC location.

…It appears that the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway is dropping the "Indy" and becoming simply the Tomorrowland Speedway.

Wolfgang Puck Express at the Downtown Disney Marketplace has reopened with double its previous seating capacity, as well as some menu changes. The restaurant had closed in January for the changes.

…The new closing date for the Concourse Steakhouse at the Contemporary Resort is May 31.

…A third case of Legionnaires' disease in a patron of a Quality Suites hotel near Universal Studios was confirmed last week. Most of the hotel has reopened, but 12-15 of the 150 rooms and the hotel's hot tub remain closed during remediation.

…The Doubletree Guest Suites Hotel in the Downtown Disney Resort Area has received Green Lodging certification from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Note: MousePlanet.com is serving as resident expert for the Downtown Disney Resort Area Hotels, providing travel tips, video narration and other assistance.

…Fans of the Sweet Tomatoes Restaurant chain will be pleased to know that a new location will be opening in the Crossroads Shopping Center, near Hotel Plaza Boulevard, late this year.

…The Disney Channel Games Concert will take place from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex on May 3, featuring performances by The Cheetah Girls, Jonas Brothers and other Disney Channel performers. Passholders can request tickets now by sending their name, email address, phone number and the number of tickets requested (up to six) along with their Passholder ID number to dcgamesconcert08@gmail.com. Non-passholders can start making requests via email tomorrow, with more information on where to send their emails to become available here. Space is limited and tickets are on a first come, first served basis. There are no guarantees that you will be able to get a ticket. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Since this is a television production taping, there will be down time during the show. No cameras or recording devices will be allowed.

…Toy Story Mania is now slated to open in "late May." Depending on the timing, MousePlanet may be able to provide an early look at the attraction.

…Voting has now closed in the Dream CMO contest, and the three finalists will be announced in early April.

…The Walt Disney World Boys & Girls Club in Pine Hills officially opens today, thanks in part to funding of $1 million from Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Worldwide Outreach. Disney has pledged an additional $750,000 toward a teen center for the Tupperware Brands Boys & Girls Club in Osceola County.

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

Coming soon

  • February 27 - March 29. Atlanta Braves Training Camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex.
  • March 19 – June 1. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. [See our Park Guide Page.]
  • April 1, 4, 6, 11, 16, 23, May 2, 9, 16, 21, 26, 31, June 4. Mickey's Pirate & Princess Party.
  • Apr. 18, 19, 25, 26. Disney Grad Nite.
  • April 26–27. USASF Cheerleading & Dance Worlds.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom


  • Illuminations – the LED globe is scheduled to be removed from the show for a major refurbishment, possibly in early summer. The length of the refurbishment is not known. The show was tested without the globe on February 27.
  • Tutto Italia Ristorante – is now open, but will close in the spring to be completely remodeled, and will reopen in the fall under yet another new name.
  • The Wonders of Life pavilion – has again closed as such, and most likely will only be used as a Festival Center until a new sponsor is found.
  • Nine Dragons – closes April 6 – November 30 for renovations that include the creation of an exhibition kitchen.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Journey Into Narnia: Creating The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – closed for refurbishment and likely conversion to a Prince Caspian theme, January 2 – May 23.
  • Mickey Avenue – closed through spring for installation of the Toy Story Mania attraction and related theming.
  • The American Film Institute Showcase – closed for refurbishment April 1 – May 1.
  • "American Idol" – under construction in the soundstage that formerly hosted Superstar Television and Doug Live!. Scheduled to open in late 2008.

Animal Kingdom

  •   No known current refurbishments.


  • Animal Kingdom Lodge – Construction of the Kidani Village annex building for the Disney Vacation Club's Animal Kingdom Villas is expected to take until spring 2009. Jambo House construction is now complete.
  • Beach Club Resort – the quiet pool will be closed from March 31 – April 11.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort – Feature pool closed for renovation January 7–mid-September. Temporary "child-sized" slides will be added to the quiet pools in the Jamaica and Barbados Villages while the main pool is closed.
  • Coronado Springs Resort – One side of the Jaguar slide at the main feature pool will be closed for rehab March 31 – April 30. The pool will remain open during the work.
  • Yacht Club Resort – the quiet pool will be closed April 14–21.

Water Parks

  • No known current refurbishments.


  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays.
  • T-Rex Cafe – reportedly opens in Downtown Disney in late 2008.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Orlando Fun Tickets offering 5 days for the price of 3

For a limited time, MousePlanet discount ticket partner Orlando Fun Tickets is currently offering a free upgrade to a 5-day Park Hopper pass when you purchase a 3-day Park Hopper. Check out the special offer or any of the other great prices on tickets at OrlandoFunTickets.com!

Passholder discounts announced, Disney Dining Plan available

Annual Passholder and Florida Resident discounts have been announced for March through May. From March 30 through May 21, room-only discount rates are available, with Passholder rates being anywhere from $5 to $15 less than Florida resident rates. Passholders should use code FJC or FJD for Sunday-Thursday nights, while Florida residents should use FJK. The Passholder weekend rate code during that period is FJG.

In addition, the Disney Dining Plan will now be available to Annual Passholders, even on room-only reservations. To add the Dining Plan during the March 30 through May 21 AP discount period, Passholders should use code ANA, and the Deluxe Dining Plan requires code ANC. For other dates that do not have an effective Passholder discount, reservations for the Dining Plan should use code ADS and for the Deluxe Dining Plan should use code ADU.

Special offer for free upgraded passes on Magic Your Way packages

As reported before, Magic Your Way package reservations for stays most Sunday-Thursday nights between March 30 and May 21 will get free upgrades on their base Magic Your Way tickets to include Park Hopper and Water Park Fun & More options. Codes are available for Magic Your Way packages with no dining (APV), basic Dining Plan (APF) and Deluxe Dining Plan (APH).

The number of packages available at these rates is limited. Those with existing reservations may be able to modify their reservation if space is still available that their resort for their dates.

For ticket prices, park hours, and entertainment schedules, please go here.

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