Walt Disney World Resort Updateby Mark Goldhaber, staff writer
Update for November 10 – November 16, 2008
Go directly to: News & Views | Coming Soon | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions
Buy 4, Get 3 Free! | Cutbacks | Flower & Garden Festival | Pirate & Princess dates | Race food drive | Construction update | Quick Takes …
[The following was first posted in my blog last Thursday.]
As I posted a little while ago, Disney has released a major new discount. From now until December 20, if you book a four-night, four-day non-discounted Magic Your Way package, you'll get three additional nights (including tickets) for free.
The offer is good for stays on most nights January 4 to April 4 and April 19 to June 27, 2009.
As a bonus, if you travel between January 4 and March 29, you'll get a $200 Disney Gift Card that you can use to pay some of the costs during your stay. It's also valid at Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Store and disneyshopping.com.
Packages start at net prices of $46 per person per day for a family of four in a standard room at a Value Resort from January 4 to February 12 (total package price $1,271). For February 13 to April 4, the package price is $1,466 for a per day, per person cost of $53 at a Value resort. Those prices are based on families of two adults, one junior and one child.
Packages for other resorts and lengths of stay are also available.
Thanks to Sue Pisaturo of Small World Vacations (link) , a MousePlanet Preferred Disney Travel Provider for the details of this amazing new offer.
Here's Disney's rundown on pricing and savings:
Disney Value Resorts
Disney Moderate Resorts
Select Disney Deluxe Resorts
Select Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts
$1,271 ($316 savings)
$1,571 ($541 savings)
$1,981 ($848 savings)
$2,228 ($1,034 savings)
$1,466 ($484 savings)
$1,778 ($718 savings)
$2,498 ($1,281 savings)
$2,611 ($1,320 savings)
$1,375 ($416 savings)
$1,666 ($634 savings)
$2,206 ($1,017 savings)
$2,363 ($1,135 savings)
$1,421 ($450 savings)
$1,733 ($685 savings)
$2,206 ($1,017 savings)
$2,363 ($1,135 savings)
Prices are based on two adults, one junior (ages 10 to 17) and one child (ages 3 to 9) in a standard room at a Value Resort, Moderate Resort, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (Deluxe Resort) or a studio at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (Deluxe Villa Resort). Savings are based on the non-discounted price of a 7-night/7-day Magic Your Way package. The discount code for this offer is IUZ.
To book these packages, go to the Walt Disney World Web site (link), call 407-939-7928 or contact one of MousePlanet's Preferred Disney Travel Providers, Small World Vacations (link) and MouseEarVacations.com (link). Just remember to book by December 20!
Disney Cruise Line $99 double-dip offer!
The Disney Cruise Line has also announced a major deal, offering a 3-night Bahamian cruise next fall for only $99 per person (double occupancy) when you book a 4- or 7-night cruise on select dates this winter, when you book the first cruise by December 15. Eligible winter cruises have sailing dates from January 31 through March 8 and March 21 through March 28, 2009.
The $99 3-night cruise (in the same stateroom category as the original cruise) is valid for dates between August 13 and December 17, subject to availability. At the time of the first sailing, you will receive a voucher with instructions for booking your 3-night cruise. Those cruises must be booked between April 6 and May 30, 2009. At least one person from the original party much travel on the second cruise. You must use booking code FBO to receive this offer.
For more information, go to the Disney Cruise Line Web site (link). You can book through the Web site, by calling 800-951-3532, or by contacting one of MousePlanet's Preferred Disney Travel Providers, Small World Vacations (link) and MouseEarVacations.com (link). Just remember to book your first cruise by December 15!
Spaceship Earth rises behind the monorail track and the Fountain of Nations as seen from World Showcase Plaza. Photo by Bruce Danderline.
During The Walt Disney Company's fourth quarter earnings call (link) last Thursday afternoon, Disney CEO Bob Iger and chief financial officer Tom Staggs talked about some of the challenging trends currently being seen at the theme parks and some of the changes that may be necessary to respond to them, some of which are discussed elsewhere in this Walt Disney World Resort Update. The story above discusses a new promotion to fill rooms and the theme parks. In the story below, the Flower Power concert series during the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival has been cut back to weekends only. But there's a lot more involved here, as well.
Iger noted that attendance at domestic parks was only down 1 percent versus last year and bookings for the upcoming two-week holiday period are also down 1 percent, but bookings during the last month have fallen off considerably. "[P]art of this change is likely a reflection of consumers taking a wait-and-see approach to the economy, or waiting to see if the market produces discounts," he said. "Consumer confidence is the lowest we have seen in over three decades and even the best product out there is feeling the effect."
Iger noted that since the company's executive team has been through tough economic times for tourism in the past, they already have experience in managing through these drops. He said, "Our experience during previous downturns, especially the challenging period after 9-11, taught us to be very good at managing variable expenses based on variable demand. We will do this while preserving the quality of the guest experience, something we consider sacred."
He identified the "What will you celebrate?" marketing initiative and the Buy 4, Get 3 Free pricing incentive as two ways to stimulate bookings and attendance during the first half of the year. Almost 1 million people have already registered for the "Celebrate" promotion.
Staggs added that, while higher guest spending at the domestic parks and Disneyland Resort Paris showed big growth numbers in the fourth quarter, they were offset by increasing expenses at Walt Disney World and the two and a half week dry docking of the Disney Magic for scheduled maintenance.
For the 2008 fiscal year, domestic parks and the Paris resort set attendance records, and guest spending at the domestic parks was up 4 percent. Occupancy at Walt Disney World was up one percentage point, to 89 percent, and Disneyland was down four percentage points, to 87 percent. However, said Staggs, "current room reservations on the books for the first two quarters of our fiscal year are a little under 10 percent below the prior year, with Q1 bookings down somewhat less than what we are seeing so far for Q2. We also believe that the booking window could contract from the 12 to 13 weeks we have experienced in recent quarters, which makes it more difficult to interpret these trends." In other words, the economy has caused people to rethink their vacations, and may commit by making reservations less than the three months out that was the previous average.
Iger noted that at Disney Parks and Resorts, a lot of the savings will be due to the fact that a lot of the services are variable, based on variable demand. "Essentially they reduce some of their offerings because there will be less demand for them," he said. "An example would simply be the frequency of some of our entertainment, which doesn’t change the quality of the experience at all, because you would simply have fewer people that are available, but it does give us an opportunity again to reduce expense with fewer people in attendance at our parks." So look for fewer showings of live entertainment during the first half of the year.
Regarding 2009, Iger said they didn't know whether what they were seeing was simply a shortening of the bookings window. Staggs said, "Without knowing exactly how much of that is a contraction of the booking window and how much of it might be people that are deferring vacations, and that’s what we found in the past people do, they defer the vacation and so we get them to the park later on. It’s difficult to say at this point, so we are really not making a prediction."
Iger expected the added cost to Disney of the Buy Four, Get Three Free promotion to be outweighed by the long-term benefits of earlier bookings and improved attendance for 2009.
More to the point, by offering promotional discounts for hotel stays instead of lowering prices as some MousePlanet readers have urged, Disney retains the cost structure of the parks and resorts, and will not have to retrench when the economy recovers. If the prices had dropped, then they would be forced to either impose a huge increase to remain competitive and cover expenses or lose money while slowly ramping up prices.
Meanwhile, on the competitive front, in earnings calls last week the parent companies of Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando also reported lowered theme park revenues and a softening in the market in the most recent quarter.
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!
The 16th annual Epcot Flower and Garden Festival will run for a record-tying 75 days, from March 18 to May 31, 2009. Guests will be greeted by a "Cinderellabration" topiary in the main entrance planters, as floral versions of Cinderella and Prince Charming, Sleeping Beauty and Prince Phillip, Belle and Beast and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will all be set with Spaceship Earth as their backdrop.
Several new areas will debut at the Festival, including the "Green Garden" (learn about low-water-use gardens), "Pixie Hollow (topiaries of Tinker Bell and other fairies), "Pirates Adventure Zone" (Peter Pan, Captain Hook and Croc topiaries) and a special Environmentality Celebration weekend.
More than 70 topiaries and 30 million blooms will be displayed around the park, and many popular displays will return. The Fragrance Garden at the France pavilion, the English Tea Garden at the United Kingdom pavilion and a bonsai garden at the Japan pavilion will all be familiar sights.
A special Simba's Birthday Celebration set of topiary characters will be located in World Showcase Plaza.
Future World will also have plenty of popular returning features, as well. Minnie's Magnificent Butterfly Garden will let guests visit hundreds of butterflies in a screened structure, and the Garden Town Festival Center (inside the Wonders of Life pavilion) will host such presentations as the Disney Gardening at Home and Great American Gardeners series.
Festival posters will be signed each weekend by artist Heather French at Canada Garden Retreat, the seating area near the exit of "O Canada!"
Due to the current economic situation and advance booking levels at Walt Disney World, the Flower Power concert series will only take place on Festival weekends this year, limiting the bookings to 11 acts. Returning acts include Festival opener Davy Jones, Chubby Checker & The Wildcats, Tony Orlando, Jose Feliciano, Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, Paul Revere, The Turtles and The Ventures. They'll be joined by newcomers Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes and three other acts yet to be announced. Concerts will take place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 5:15, 6:30 and 7:45 p.m.
We've now got the dates for next year's runnings of Mickey's Pirate and Princess Party. The party will be held on:
- February 20, 27
- March 8, 12, 20, 27
- April 1, 22
- May 1, 8, 15, 20, 25, 30
- June 3
For the first time, the Race for the Taste included a food drive component, collecting 3,872 pounds of donated non-perishable food for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. The food was donated by runners, guests and cast members in conjunction with the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) race. Second Harvest estimates that the food is equivalent to 2,581 meals that wil benefit the hungry in Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties.
"This was the first year we incorporated the food drive with a Disney sports event," said Heather Scott, Disney Endurance Sports manager. "Due to the theme and timing of the Race for the Taste, Second Harvest and its mission to help our community in need was a natural fit."
"It’s important for all of us to find some meaningful way to pitch in and help our neighbors get through this tough time," said Greg Higgerson, vice president of Development at Second Harvest. "The food from Race for the Taste will land on the plates of thousands of children, seniors, working poor families and others who were struggling even before this economic crisis began—it represents hope for these folks."
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.
Here is the listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:
- Disney's Animation Inn & Suites – Construction of 2,500 square foot model room (inside existing Commercial Building).
- Disney's Animation Inn & Suites – Construction of mock-up wall panel, including hat channel, sheathing, lath, stucco, paint.
- Magic Kingdom's Hall of Presidents – Includes all building, electrical, plumbing, fire alarm & HVAC work.
- Epcot's Mission Space – Lunar rover rigging.
- Epcot's World Showcase interactive kiosks and Odyssey Bridge graphics.
- Epcot's China pavilion – Install wireless antenna system for cellular services in building.
- Disney's Animal Kingdom's Primeval Whirl – Time's Up sign installation for side A & B of ride.
- Caribbean Beach Resort's Trinidad North and Barbados pools – Resurface interior pool finish of quiet pool. Install accessible handrails and chair-lift anchor.
- Caribbean Beach Resort – Install new ATM machine, includes all electrical.
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.
…MousePlanet sponsor Orlando Fun Tickets has been granted permission to sell tickets to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at a discounted price (link) for selected dates this year. Tickets for dates with advance-purchase discounts (November 10, 11, 16 and 20) are on sale for $41.95 (adults) and $36.95 (children 3-9), while dates without the extra discounts (November 14, 21 and December 4) are priced at $47,95 (adult) and $41.95 (children 3-9). Get your tickets while they last!
…You may have noticed an intriguing item in the construction update above, as Disney is apparently testing an idea for "Disney's Animation Inn & Suites." Since the old Disney resort test facility is no more, it's a good question as to where this sample room mockup might actually be located. Just because a room model is being mocked up does not mean that actual construction will be proceeding, yet it's still very interesting and something to keep an eye on.
…Susan Lucci's departure from "Dancing with the Stars" will now free her time up a bit, and so she will be able to participate in next weekend's final ABC-SOAPNet Super Soap Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios. With the event transforming from a weekend at Walt Disney World into a year-round series of events around the country, Lucci will have participated in the event every year it has been held.
…Tony Guerra, a former food service employee at Disney's Hollywood Studios who was arrested in August 2007 on child pornography charges, was sentenced to almost 11 years in prison last Wednesday after pleading guilty to one count of receiving and distributing child pornography. Once he completes his 130-month sentence, he will be supervised for life.
…The Tomorrowland Speedway has finished its replacement of the gas pumps and is now back on a normal operating schedule. They now have all-new electric digital pumps instead of the old 1970s "analog" style pumps.
…Congratulations to Davis Love III, who won the Children's Miracle Network Classic at Walt Disney World yesterday, shooting his second-straight round of 64 to beat Tommy Gainey by one stroke in the final PGA TOUR event of the year. Love's victory was his 20th on the PGA Tour, giving him a lifetime exemption and making him only the fourth active player with at least 20 wins. Love won $828,000 with his first-place finish, while Gainey made $496,800. Those winnings boosted Love ahead of Tiger Woods in historical winnings at the tournament. Love's combined score of 128 in the two weekend rounds was the best final 36-score hole since the tournament was first held in 1971.
…Some interesting Passholder deals are going on right now. Passholders get 15 percent off in-person purchases through December 15 at the Disney Store (not valid at DisneyStore.com or DisneyShopping.com, or at World of Disney or Disney's Soda Fountain and Studio Store locations). The discount excludes a number of items, including theme park passes, Disney Dollars, gift cards or certificates, DVDs, videos, CD, video games, electronics, and so forth. At DisneyShopping.com, Passholders can get a special flat $5 shipping rate on all purchases through November 30. This offer is valid only at DisneyShopping.com, DisneyStore.com and DisneyOutlet.com or on phone orders. Finally, Passholders can get 20 free 4x6 prints of their own uploaded photos with the purchase of a photo calendar from DisneyPhotoPass.com from now through December 30. Check the Passholder Web site (link) for more details and the special codes for online and phone orders.
…MousePlanet has recently joined the Facebook nation. We're just getting started, but you can join the MousePlanet and MouseStation Podcast groups, or become a fan of MousePlanet or the MouseStation. If there's something that you'd like to see us do on Facebook, let us know!
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.
- Nov. 15–16. ABC Super Soap Weekend.
- Nov. 28, 2008 – Jan. 4, 2009. Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
- Nov. 28, 2008 – Jan. 4, 2009. Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade.
- Nov. 10, 11, 14, 16, 20, 21, 30, Dec. 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
- Nov. 27, 28, 30. Old Spice Classic.
- Nov. 28 – Dec. 24. Festival of the Seasons.
- Nov. 28 – Dec. 30. Holidays Around the World.
- Dec. 5–6. Filming for the Walt Disney World Very Merry Christmas Parade.
- Dec. 7–13. Pop Warner Super Bowl.
- Dec. 7–15. MouseFest 2008 (unofficial event).
- Dec. 7–11. MouseFest Cruise.
- Dec. 11–15. MouseFest Land.
- Dec. 31. New Year's Eve at Cirque du Soleil.
- Dec. 31. Atlantic Dance Hall New Year's Eve.
- The Hall of Presidents – closed through July 4, 2009, major infrastructure upgrades, as well as for addition of President-Elect Barack Obama.
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin – closed for refurbishment December 14–20.
- Splash Mountain – closed for refurbishment January 4–17.
- Dumbo The Flying Elephant – closed for refurbishment January 7.
- Mickey's PhilharMagic – closed for refurbishment January 18 – February 6.
- 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.
- 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 through November 15.
- 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.
- 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 – Closed for its annual refurbishment through March 21. Major work is required on the wave generation machine.
- Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays.
Gaylord Palms offers deep discounts through December for both room-only and room-with-ICE
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 the room-only rates below! You can only get them by clicking here. Rates that include two admissions to ICE (a $40 value) are just $30 more! You can get the special Just Chillin' ICE deals by clicking here.
- $139 (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!
Disney offers late discount
It looks like things are starting to slow down a bit, as Disney has rolled out an open-to-all discount rate good most Sunday-Thursday nights between now and December 23. The only missing dates are Thanksgiving week (November 23-27) and Pop Warner week (December 7-11). Value resorts start at $59 per night, which in some cases (like next week) appear to be below the Passholder rates. The number of rooms available is very limited, so even though the offer remains available through December 7, it's best to book now if you want to get one of these rooms! You'll need to either click "Special Offers" on the Walt Disney World site or ask for booking code DMK if you're booking via phone (407-939-7606) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are Small World Vacations (link) and MouseEarVacations.com (link).
Fall discounts for Passholders
Walt Disney World Annual Passholder discounts on rooms and dining plans are now available. 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
Passholder rates for early 2009 released
Passholder rates for January 1 – February 12, 2009 have been released, with value resorts starting at just $49 per night, moderate resorts starting at $89 per night. Select deluxe resorts (Wilderness and Animal Kingdom Lodges) starting at $144 per night and studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa starting at $179 per night. The rates at value and deluxe resorts are valid January 2–15 and January 19 – February 12. Moderate resorts are available January 4–17 and January 21 – February 12. Saratoga Springs is available January 1 – February 12.
The number of rooms available is limited and minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday and Saturday arrivals. Reservations may be booked through the Passholder web site or by using code DYS if booking via the Passholder phone line (407-939-7722) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).
Free Dining this fall for Disney Visa cardholders
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. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are Small World Vacations (link) and MouseEarVacations.com (link).
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. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).
Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.