Walt Disney World Park Updateby Mark Goldhaber, staff writer
Update for September 22 – September 28, 2008
Go directly to: News & Views | Coming Soon | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions | Park Events
New DVC Resorts | "What Will You Celebrate? " | Free dining for Disney Visa cardholders | AP Pricing For Bocuse d'Or gala | Hall of Presidents readies for makeover | Construction update | Quick Takes …
It took quite a while, but the Disney Vacation Club has finally announced two projects at Walt Disney World that have both been reported in this space for some time: Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort, first confirmed as a DVC site in August 2006, and the rebuilt Treehouse Villas, now part of Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, first reported here back in February, are now official.
The 15-story, C-shaped Bay Lake Tower has been visibly under construction since February 2007 adjacent to the main tower building of the Contemporary, beginning with the destruction of the former North Garden Wing. It will be connected to the Grand Canyon Concourse, including Chef Mickey's restaurant and the Contemporary's monorail station, by the fourth-floor Sky Way Bridge. The studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units comprise 295 two-bedroom equivalent units.
Ownership interests went on sale yesterday to current Disney Vacation Club members only, at a discounted price of $107 per vacation point ($5 off current pricing), with any remaining inventory becoming available to the general public at a later date. In the meantime, the first 1,000 member families to purchase an additional interest of at least 160 points in the resort will have their names inscribed on a wall at the new Tempo fountain. The resort is expected to be ready for occupancy by next fall. The resort sales come just in time to give Disney a nice, last-minute boost to the bottom line just before the end of the company's fiscal year next Tuesday.
Bay Lake Tower will provide great views of the Magic Kingdom's fireworks. Photo © Disney.
Most rooms at Bay Lake Tower will have flat-screen TVs, full kitchens with granite countertops, extra bathrooms, washers and dryers, and much more. One- and two-bedroom units will have both queen-size sleeper sofas and double-size sleeper chairs in the living room, increasing occupancy to five and nine guests, respectively. Three-bedroom Grand Villas have queen sleeper sofas in the downstairs living room and doubles in the upstairs sitting area, but occupancy is still limited to 12 guests.
Bay Lake Tower's curved shape stands out against the stark angles of the Contemporary Resort. Photo © Disney.
Other features of the resort include the top-floor Top of the World Lounge, a rooftop fireworks viewing deck, a zero-entry pool with a water slide, a whirlpool spa, a children's wet play area and the Community Hall activity center. Disney Vacation Club members can find out more about the resort at a special mini-site on the DVCMember.com Web site (link).
Bay Lake Tower's master bedrooms feature a sliding door view into the master bath. Photo © Disney.
Rooms at the resort will cost a premium, though. The lowest off-season price for a standard-view studio is 12 points for a weeknight (which is comparable to most other resorts, with the top other cost being 13 points for concierge level at the Animal Kingdom Lodge), though the cheapest for a Magic Kingdom view studio is 17 points. During premier season (the weeks surrounding Easter and Christmas week), a Magic Kingdom view Grand Villa will run you 261 points per weekend night, and a Lake View Grand Villa is 218 points per night. The next highest rate is 162 per night for a Grand Villa at the Old Key West Resort. For a full week at premier season, a Magic Kingdom View Grand Villa will run you a whopping 1,287 points while a Lake View Grand Villa is 1,066 points. The next highest price is 960 points for a week in a Grand Villa at the Boardwalk Resort.
The Bay Cove Pool will feature a water slide and a zero-entry slope. Photo © Disney.
The Disney Vacation Club has created a promotional video for Bay Lake Tower featuring DVC member event "personality" Deevy See:
Less in known about the Treehouse Villas, which will be considered Phase 4 of Saratoga Springs. The 60 Grand Villa accommodations will also feature cathedral ceilings, granite countertops and flat-screen TVs in a villa set 10 feet off the ground.
The Treehouse Villas provide a rustic, natural feel to a Grand Villa accommodation. Photo © Disney.
The Treehouse Villas were part of the Disney Village Resort and, later, the Disney Institute, from 1975-2002 before being repurposed for College Program and International Program housing until early this year. The Treehouses were long considered "untouchable," as they were in a flood plain and remediation would cause further encroachment on the surface. Disney Imagineers figured out a way to rebuild the treehouses with a larger floor plan but a smaller footprint that would allow Disney to rebuild the accommodations while reducing encroachment on the flood plain. The new design involved pre-fabricated portions that are being reassembled on-site like a giant 3-D puzzle.
Assembling the Treehouse Villas is like a giant puzzle. Photo © Disney.
These Grand Villas will feature three bedrooms and two bathrooms while accommodating nine guests with queen beds in the master and second bedrooms, bunk beds in the third bedroom and a queen sleeper sofa and double sleeper chair in the living room. The dining table will only accommodate six, but three more can eat at the counter area on the kitchen island. Flat-screen TVs will be located in each bedroom, as well as in the living room. These new accommodations allow Disney to make a first entry into the growing trend of "glamping," or glamorous camping (link).
The living room of a Treehouse Villa is adjacent to the kitchen. Photo © Disney.
The Treehouse Villas at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa are expected to be completed next summer. No on-sale date has been announced yet.
The big marketing push at U.S. Disney parks for 2009 (with emphasis on "marketing") is "What Will You Celebrate?" No new attractions, no new shows, no new parks, just a "come and celebrate." Or, as a cast member snarked to MousePlanet's Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix back in July, "We got nothing, you think of a reason to visit." For Walt Disney World visitors, it's a bit of deja vu, harking back to the "Magical Gatherings" promotion, where the promotional focus for the resort for all of 2004 was based on convincing people to bring their large family groups to Walt Disney World.
While the American Idol Experience attraction will open in 2009, the year will be remarkable for the fact that there will be three Disney Vacation Club resort facilities opening (the Kidani Village Annex at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, as well as the Treehouse Villas and Bay Lake Tower mentioned above), yet only one attraction opening. Add in the fact that the Pleasure Island clubs, as well as three live entertainment shows (Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends, Woody's Cowboy Camp and the Main Street Family Fun Day Parade) all close for good on Saturday, and the focus on sales and marketing over improving value in the parks is apparent.
Of course, the news was not just a push to get people to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, graduations, retirements, and other life events at the parks. There was an announcement that captured many people's imagination: Free admission to any one of the U.S. Disney theme parks on your birthday in 2009. Anyone age three or older (in other words, anyone who would have to pay to get into the parks) is eligible for the free admission. Just show valid proof of birth daate and get a free one-day, one-park ticket valid only on that day. You can register in advance at a special Disney Web site (link) or just show proof at the ticket booths (which will take a bit longer to process) and get your free ticket. That free ticket can even be upgraded with additional days, park hopper and water park options, or even to an Annual Passport, and it'll carry the full value of a regular one-day, one-park pass toward that upgrade.
But you're saying "I already have an Annual Passport (or a multi-day ticket as part of a package). What do I need a free admission ticket for if it's non-transferable?" Well, Disney has you covered, as well. You've got three options:
- A "birthday fun card" equal to the price of the admission ticket you would otherwise receive, valid only on the day of your birthday. The fun card can't be used for food, but it can be used for just about anything else: merchandise, guided tours, PhotoPass products, spa and salon services and more.
- A "birthday fastpass." This benefit provides four FastPass tickets, valid for up to 6 people, at selected attractions. Note that the number of birthday Fastpass badges issued is limited and may not be available after 11 a.m.
- A one-day, one-park admission ticket valid for your use anytime in the year before your next birthday. This ticket can be used on a day (including your birthday) that your Annual Passport is normally blocked out (if you have a Florida Resident Seasonal Pass), or after your existing pass expires. This ticket is not transferable, and can not be upgraded.
There's also more to the "What Will You Celebrate" promotion. For starters, there will be a national tour visiting cities across the country. There will be thousands of free Mickey Mouse balloons, chances to win free vacations and the ability to register for special birthday surprises. You can catch the tour at the following locations
10/3 New York
10/10 Wash. DC
10/20 New Orleans
1/30 San Francisco
|2/2 San Francisco
2/9 Las Vegas
2/11 Salt Lake City
A sweepstakes to win one of ten free celebration trips to your choice of either the Disneyland or Walt Disney World Resort (link). Enter once a day to get a shot at instant-win prizes and an entry to win one of the ten trips. Complete rules are available online (link).
The announcement touted over 200 ways to celebrate at Walt Disney World. These included everything from guided tours to fireworks cruises, from appointments at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique to kids' pirate adventure cruises, from trail rides to bass fishing to parasailing. 20-minute PhotoPass portrait sessions are listed, as is a new celebration street party in the Magic Kingdom where you can join Disney characters and dozens of performers in a celebratory song and dance party.
Of course, you can't forget all of the special dining and snack options that you can buy. From character meals to the Magical Pop-Up Party Pack (a goodie bag packed with fun activities and a surprise pop-up centerpiece), from a Sweetheart Dinner for Two (a gourmet-style prix fixe meal for two, plus souvenir toasting glasses to commemorate the moment) to My Mini-Cake Surprise (themed personal-sized party cakes with a special surprise included), even custom bakery cakes are included. Most of the dessert options are available at character dining and buffet locations.
Disney Custom Bakery Cakes should be ordered at least 48 hours in advance of your celebration. Choices include a custom cake (6-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch and quarter sheet), an 8-inch Mickey Mouse cake or a themed cake with enhanced inscription and edible decorations (8-inch, 10-inch and quarter sheet), available at most Walt Disney World table-service restaurants. To order at Walt Disney World Resort, call the cake ordering hotline at 407-827-2253. When you need something on the spur of the moment, you've still got the option of the Celebrate Today! Cake, a 6-inch vanilla cake with vanilla icing and fun confetti sprinkles: no notice is necessary, you can just order it at the podium in most of the table-service restaurants.
Of course, if you're going to Walt Disney World to celebrate your birthday with free admission, then you're probably not going alone, right? So while they don't make money on your admission (only your food, beverage and souvenir purchases), they also get admission income from whomever you invite to accompany you on your trip, as well as any hotel revenue that may be involved. Pretty ingenious.
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!
Disney Visa cardholders have access to a special deal—free dining for stays most nights from September 28 – October 11, November 9–22 and December 14–20. A limited number of packages have been allocated, so you'll need to book quickly. Call 407-939-7635 or your travel agent and ask for offer QXZ.
The vertical stakes along the bridge across from the Splash Mountain drop zone are under repair. Photo by Brian Warneke.
The entire bridge area is blocked by construction walls. Photo by Brian Warneke.
A large number of those making reservations to attend the Bocuse d'Or Gala dinner have been Annual Passholders or other guests who have already made arrangements for park admission. Because of that, a special price for the Gala that does not include two one-day passes to Epcot has been created: $325 plus tax. To benefit from this special rate, simply tell the Disney Dining Reservation Agent that you are a Passholder or have park entrance previously arranged. Tickets for the Gala (this Friday night) are still available, so call 407-WDW-FEST (407-939-3378) now!
The first presidential bust at the Hall of Presidents not sculpted by Blaine Gibson has been done by Valerie Edwards, who did the Barbossa and Jack Sparrow characters for the upgrade to Pirates of the Caribbean. Edwards has completed busts of both John McCain and Barack Obama, so the Animatronic characters will be ready regardless of who wins on November 4. [A personal note: If you're an American citizen, please remember to vote on Election Day. And if you don't vote, then don't complain.]
The Hall itself will see some changes, with the back rows of seats being modified so that wheelchair- and ECV-using guests can enter the theater with other guests and sit in the back row as at other theater-based attractions. This will remove the need to have those mobility-impaired guests enter through a side hallway and then in through the exit doors so that they are in a position to exit the theater with everyone else.
The show is also getting a rewrite. After the last 16 years of having the sitting president give a speech along with Abraham Lincoln, partisan booing from the audience (for both versions) have led Disney to return to the original format of having only Lincoln speak.
Now that the Liberty Square bridge has been repaired, the Frontierland bridge is getting some attention. Photo by Brian Warneke.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (link). Please note that there is a 5 MB limit on total attachments in a single email.
This week's listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:
- Magic Kingdom Tinker Bell's Treasures - Audio/Video support.
- Magic Kingdom Hall of Presidents - Rigging package.
- Epcot Innoventions West - IBM Facility Package, IBM Showset Package, IBM Think Place marquee.
- Epcot Test Track - Temporarily wall in first floor "Fuel for Thought" display area.
- Epcot Mission Space - Upgrade electrical for the Mission Space food cart from 50 amps to 100 amps to support additional equipment. Replace existing panels with amp panels, pull new wire, replace receptacle, etc.
- Epcot Akershus Restaurant - Install electrical and POS cabling for the Norway cold food service stations and podium.
- Disney's Hollywood Studios Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - Replace light fixtures on the building.
- Disney's Hollywood Studios Toy Story Pizza Planet - Install interior wall.
- Disney's Hollywood Studios Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant - Replace existing refrigeration bank and refrigerant lines with new. Scope to include PSI test lines, electrical component test and re-insulation of system as needed.
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Mandrill exhibit - Remove and replace existing rock work.
- Polynesian Resort monorail platform beam - Replace one glue-lam beam and repair one hanger at the Polynesian Resort monorail station NE stairway.
- Contemporary Resort South Garden Wing Guest Laundry, Second Floor - Undetermined work.
- Fort Wilderness Pioneer Hall main kitchen - Relocate fire suppression heads.
- Fort Wilderness Crockett's Tavern - Replace broken sewer line.
- Beach Club Villas - General demolition, finish carpentry, sealants & caulking, painting, reupholster of select existing upholstered furniture, refinishing/touch-up of select existing items. Installation of carpet & base.
- Beach Club 5th Floor concierge lounge and storage room - General demolition, finish carpentry, stone flooring, painting, plumbing, equipment installation, HVAC, assembly & installation of new FF&E, installation of carpet and base.
- Animal Kingdom Lodge Governor's Suite and Royal Suite - Removal and replacement of wood floor. Paint ceilings, walls and metal door frames.
- Port Orleans Riverside main building - Installation of new concrete sidewalk and pad. Move the condenser unit and provide minor electrical work.
Tinker Bell's Treasures is having a bunch of work done. Photo by Brian Warneke.
The work on Tinker Bell's Treasures extends around the corner. Photo by Brian Warneke.
MousePlanet is hosting or co-hosting a number of events at MouseFest 2008, and we'd love to see you there! Here's a list of what we've got planned so far:
For more information on these meets, check out MousePlanet's MouseFest page!
For those who are not yet aware, the Mega Mouse Meet this year is moving to the convention center at Disney's Yacht Club Resort, and in conjunction with that there is a special rate of $243 per night plus tax at Disney's Yacht Club Resort (which also includes free MouseFest registration for all reservations of two nights or more). Payment in full for these rooms is due by October 31. See the MouseFest Web site (link) for more details.
…A sharp-eyed reader reports that a large number of Sealy trucks were parked throughout the Coronado Springs Resort earlier this month replacing all of the full size beds with queen size beds. In other news, it seems that they're scoping out the Pepper Market for some renovations, but they're still in the planning stages right now.
…According to a reader report, the LED globe had returned to Illuminations by Sunday, September 14.
Work continues on installing the new fueling tanks for the Tomorrowland Speedway cars.. Photo by Brian Warneke.
…The main feature pool at the Caribbean Beach Resort is once again open.
…William Bishop, 63, who was caught molesting a girl near the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel in April 2007, has been sentenced to 30 years in prison, of which he must serve at least 25 years. If he completes his time in prison, he'll be on probation for the remainder of his life.
…American Idol's first season runner-up Justin Guarini was at Walt Disney World last week taping the queue, pre-show and load video for the American Idol Experience attraction. Guarini was the only Idol contestant involved in the taping. Idol souvenirs will become available in the Golden Age Souvenirs shop when the attraction nears its opening. The shop will also provide Coke merchandise and beverages.
…As we enter the last week for Pleasure Island, look for the empty weekdays to fill up to match the jam-packed weekends as folks go to get one last visit in before the clubs close. I will be down this week for the opening of the Food & Wine Festival and the closing of the Adventurer's Club. If you spot me, please say "hi." I'll have free MousePlanet buttons for everyone that comes up to me.
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.
- Sept. 23, 26, 28, 30, Oct. 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 16, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30, 31. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.
- Sept.26–Nov. 9. Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
- Sept. 27. Expedition Everest Challenge.
- Oct. 5. Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K.
- Oct. 12. Race for the Taste 10K.
- Oct. 25. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13K.
- Tomorrowland Speedway – may experience delayed openings during the relocation of gas tanks and fuel lines.
- Country Bear Jamboree – closed for refurbishment September 28 – October 31.
- Swiss Family Treehouse – closed for refurbishment September 21–30.
- The Hall of Presidents – closed November 1 through at least the end of March for addition of whomever the next U.S. president might be.
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin – closed for refurbishment December 14–20.
- Morocco – Gallery of Arts and History closed for refurbishment July 14 – September 24.
- Tutto Italia Ristorante – is now open, but will close at a date to be determined to be completely remodeled.
- 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 – closed May 29 – November 30 for renovations that include the creation of an exhibition kitchen. Rumors have the restaurant opening earlier than expected, perhaps as early as the end of September.
- High School Musical 2: School's Out – ended September 13, and will be replaced with new show themed to High School Musical 3: Senior Year, opening in time for the new movie's October 24 opening.
- Lights, Motors, Action! Stunt Show – closed for refurbishment September 11–24.
- American Idol – under construction in the soundstage that formerly hosted Superstar Television and Doug Live!. Scheduled to open January 2009.
- Primeval Whirl – closed for refurbishment September 2 – November 15.
- Pocahontas and her Forest Friends – closes permanently September 27.
- Animal Kingdom Lodge – Phase 1 of the Kidani Village annex building for the Disney Vacation Club's Animal Kingdom Villas is expected to open in May 2009, with Phase 2 opening in September 2009. Jambo House construction is complete.
- Saratoga Springs Resort – High Rock Springs pool slide closed September 8–26. The pool itself will remain open.
- Yacht and Beach Club Resorts – Stormalong Bay pool area under refurbishment January 5 – late March. The pool will remain open, but sections will close one at a time for work. The three quiet pools will remain open during that time, and the Luna Park pool at the BoardWalk Resort, with its Keister Coaster water slide, will also be available during the work on the Flying Jib slide.
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort – Construction continues. The resort opens fall 2009.
- Typhoon Lagoon – Surfing classes and events are not available until after the park comes back from its winter maintenance due to work required on the wave generation machine. The wave pool will continue to operate, but the monster waves necessary for surfing are out of commission. The park closes for its annual refurbishment October 26 through March 21.
- Blizzard Beach – closes for annual refurbishment September 28 – October 25.
- Pleasure Island – all clubs to close permanently September 27.
- Portobello Yacht Club – will close for refurbishment on September 27 and will reopen on October 12 as simply Portobello, as it shifts to its new Trattoria theme.
- Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays.
- T-Rex – opens in Downtown Disney October 14.
Advantage Vacation Homes announces special deals through September
How would you like to stay in a three- or four-bedroom vacation home with your own private pool for about the same nightly cost as one of the All Star Resorts? How about a five-bedroom vacation home for less than 60 percent of the cost of an All-Star Family Suite? From now through the end of September, MousePlanet sponsor Advantage Vacation Homes has a limited number of three-, four- and five-bedroom vacation homes, all with private pools, at a special low price of three-bedroom homes for $79 a night, four bedrooms for $89 a night, and 5 bedrooms for $109 a night. Remember, this is a limited offer, and only good through the end of September. When you reserve online or by phone, make sure to tell them that you heard about them on MousePlanet.
Gaylord Palms offers deep discounts through December
MousePlanet sponsor Gaylord Palms Resort and Spa is offering MousePlanet readers an even deeper discount than our usual 15 percent off of "regular" rates (which are already a deeper discount that you'd get by calling the hotel directly, by calling a travel agent, or by using Expedia, Orbitz or any other channel).
Check out these rates!
- $99 (9/4 – 9/16, 9/19 – 9/23 and 9/26 – 9/30)
- $99 (10/1 – 10/3)
- $139 (10/8 – 10/11, 10/17 – 10/20, 10/29 – 10/31)
- $119 (10/25)
- $139 (11/1 – 11/5, 11/12 – 11/15)
- $109 (11/20 – 11/30)
- $109 (12/1, 12/14 – 12/15)
Discounted ECV rentals for MousePlanet readers through Scooter Vacations
Scooter Vacations, MousePlanet's mobility scooter rental partner, is offering MousePlanet readers a 10 percent discount on their scooter rentals by using code MP10 when making your reservation for any of their five scooter models.
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 rates for late summer/early fall
Passholder rates are available for late summer and early fall. It appears that both room-only and Disney Dining Plan packages are available. Rates are valid for stays with a check-in date between August 3 and September 27, and can be booked from now through the date of arrival.
The booking code for phone reservations is FKJ.
Sample rates include:
- Fort Wilderness Campsites: $42 per night
- Value resorts: $64 per night
- Moderate resorts: $99 per night
- Fort Wilderness cabins: $174 per night
- Deluxe Villa resorts (studio): $169 per night
Fall discounts for all
Walt Disney World Annual Passholder discounts on rooms and dining plans as well as discount packages for everyone are now available. Both discounts are valid for travel dates between September 28 and December 23.
Passholders should use the following Booking Codes when making your reservation (standard passholder discount rules apply):
- PWE – Passholder rate room only
- DHZ – Passholder rate with Dining Plan
- JZJ – Passholder rate with Deluxe Dining Plan Rates
Fall Magic Your Way package discounts are available to everyone, but must be booked by September 24:
- DGL – Basic Magic Your Way
- QXD – Magic Your Way plus Dining
- UVL – Magic Your Way plus Deluxe Dining
- DGM – Magic Your Way plus Dining with Wine & Dine
- GGM – Magic Your Way plus Deluxe Dining with Wine & Dine
Disney Cruise Line half-price deposits for online reservations, for a limited time
The Disney Cruise Line has announced a special deal where any bookings through the Disney Cruise web site (link) will only require payment of half of the usual deposit, with the other half due with the rest of the final payment. The offer is only good on new bookings, and for category 4-12 cabins only. The offer is available to those booking online or through their travel agents (though the travel agent would have to book the cruise through disneycruise.com for the offer). Bookings are also eligible for the standard $25 onboard credit offer for all online bookings. The deal is available "for a limited time," but there's no word on when the limited time expires.
For upcoming park events, please go here.
Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.