Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for November 17 – November 23, 2008

Go directly to: News & Views | Coming Soon | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions

News and Views

Calling all parks | Speedway traffic | WDW holidays | DCL holidays | 3-D Cruise Line | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Theme Parks go mobile

Continuing to focus on interactivity at the theme parks, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has teamed up with Verizon to offer new mobile technology within the parks. Beginning some time next year, Verizon Wireless users will be able to use their phones at Walt Disney World and Disneyland to locate shows, characters and restaurants inside the parks. They'll also be able to check attraction wait times, access mobile games, get messages from characters and more.

John Harrobin, senior vice president of digital media and marketing for Verizon, said, "All of our efforts focus on one goal: making the Disney experience even better for our customers. There are few life experiences that are more memorable than visiting a Disney Park, and now guests with Verizon Wireless service will unlock even more magic from their visit—by navigating the Parks easier and faster with instant access to key information such as 'Where's Mickey now?' and other special features—even when they travel home and share their experiences with family and friends."

Those using other cellular services won't be completely left out, though. Disney and Verizon are working to ensure that some features such as dining locations, show times and locations are available to all visitors with cell phones.

"With more than 90 percent of families bringing a mobile phone into our Parks, our objective was to enhance the magical Disney experience through innovative wireless technology," said Jay Rasulo, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "Imagine receiving up-to-the minute tips on special Park activities with just the touch of a button or receiving a call from Buzz Lightyear welcoming you to the Magic Kingdom."

The announcement also appears to tip off a delay in the official go-live of a highly anticipated new attraction. The press release refers to the use of Verizon Wireless technology as part of the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure available to guests visiting Epcot "in early 2009." That's pushed back from the originally  announced "late fall." This also makes it appear that Verizon Wireless will have its logo somewhere on the Kimmunicator device.

Bay Lake Tower continues to take shape adjacent to the Contemporary Resort. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Bay Lake Tower, as seen from the front entry plaza of the Contemporary Resort. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

A monorail glides past Bay Lake Tower. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

The Sky Walk Bridge connecting Bay Lake Tower with the Contemporary Resort continue to take shape. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Indy cars return to the Walt Disney World Speedway

The Walt Disney World Speedway is getting a little more crowded. Starting today, the Richard Petty Driving Experience will have to share the track with the Indy Racing Experience. Set up similar to the Petty NASCAR-type stock car experience, the Indy experience will feature both ride-along and driving experiences in IndyCar Series race cars at the track.

The experiences will feature classroom and in-car training. Experiences start at 4 p.m. (after the Petty cars vacate the track), though participants will need to arrive by 3 p.m. for registration and the classroom session. Sessions end at dusk. Participants will be dressed in a full fire suit, helmet, gloves, and fire shoes upon arrival (you should wear comfortable clothes and either wear or bring your own socks). Photos will be taken of participants in their fire suits outside their cars at the conclusion of their experience and posted on the IndyRacingExperience.com Web site for the participant to use as they choose.

The ride-along experience, which takes place in a Dallara car with a chassis that  has been stretched to accommodate a passenger behind the driver, features Indy Racing League drivers taking riders out for three laps at speeds that may reach 180 miles per hour. During the opening weeks, the ride-along cars will be driven by Davey Hamilton, who helped to christen the track during its first test on November 28, 1995. This experience costs $109 per person.

The driving experience features cars that have actually competed in the Indianapolis 500 auto race. Passengers will go out on the track following an Indy car lead car for one warm-up lap, six laps at speed and one cool-down lap for a total of eight laps. Speed will be dependent upon the driver's comfort level with the car. This experience runs $399 per person.

You can make reservations by calling 888-357-5002 or by going to the Indy Racing Experience Web site (link). Walk-ups are also welcome. May need need to call or walk up for the early days of the program, as the schedule for the Walt Disney World Speedway was unavailable on the Web site last night. Each rider or driver must be at least 18 years of age, shorter than 6 feet 5 inches, and lighter than 250 pounds. Family and friends are welcome to come along and view the experience and to take as many photos and videos as they wish.

For more information, check the FAQ at the Indy Racing Experience Web site (link).

Holidays at Walt Disney World …

The Castle Dreamlights returned to Cinderella Castle last Monday night as they were lit for the first time this holiday season. The 200,000 lights are once again illuminating the central icon of the Magic Kingdom, lit each night at 6:30 p.m. during the Cinderella's Holiday Wish show in front of the castle. The LED white lights are energy efficient, as well, using the same amount of energy as 12 microwave ovens.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party kicked off its annual run last Monday, featuring Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade and the Holiday Wishes fireworks spectacular, along with other special shows and "snow" on Main Street, U.S.A. The special event will run a total of 18 nights before the special entertainment joins the daily entertainment schedule for the Christmas rush on December 20.

Other parks join the Magic Kingdom with their holiday celebrations beginning November 28:

  • Holidays Around the World at Epcot includes holiday storytellers at each World Showcase pavilion, the thrice-nightly Candlelight Processional, Mickey's Tree Lighting Treat, the Lights of Winter and the special holiday "tag" for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Holidays Around the World runs through December 30.
  • Over at Disney's Hollywood Studios, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights continues its run on the Streets of America Backlot, with five million lights dancing to holiday music every 10 minutes amid falling "snow." The display takes 18 electricians 14 weeks to set up the six miles of rope lights, 84 angels and 66 snow machines. Between November 28 and December 20, Annual Passholders can stop at Package Pickup near the entrance to the park to receive a special pair of 3-D glasses that will enable them to see special hidden images like angels and snowflakes throughout the display. The Osborne Lights will keep on dancing until January 4.
  • Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade will get its Jingle on again as Disney's Animal Kingdom will see the annual transformation of its afternoon parade into Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade, featuring a holiday twist on the parade with special music and costumes. Characters will also be doing meet-and-greets in holiday attire at Camp Minnie-Mickey, where there will also be live holiday entertainment and Christmas trees.
  • Downtown Disney also gets into the act with the Festival of the Seasons, where holiday decor and lighting displays will give the shopping and dining district a festive holiday glow. Santa will be available daily for meet-and-greets (and hearing what you've got on your wish list) from noon to 10 p.m. The celebration runs through December 24.

Holiday topiaries are starting to appear at Epcot's main entry plaza. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

...and aboard the Disney Cruise Line

The Disney Cruise Line begins its holiday celebrations at Thanksgiving with special character experiences, celebrations and meals aboard both the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder. Starting with the Disney characters greeting cruisers in their holiday attire in the cruise terminal, guests will find themselves swept up in holiday festivities.

Each day, Santa and Mrs. Claus preside over an afternoon Tropical Pool Party, with Disney characters joining in for the fun, food and activities. At night, a young cruiser will be selected to help the Disney characters light the ship's three-deck-tall Christmas tree during King Triton's Tree Lighting. In between, there will be holiday craft activities for both children and for the whole family, holiday storytellers, holiday feasts in the dining rooms and a special holiday edition of the farewell show in the ship's theater. There will also be special holiday fun when the ship makes port at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island.

The celebrations start with the Thanksgiving voyages of each ship. The Disney Magic sets sail November 22 on its seven-night Western Caribbean itinerary and the Disney Wonder heads out on November 26 on a four-night Bahamian cruise. On those two cruises, there will be a special Thanksgiving Day feast with the characters in Thanksgiving outfits. The two Thanksgiving NFL football games will be shown live on the Ariel View screen on deck 9.

To celebrate Christmas, the special December 20 Holiday Caribbean Cruise itinerary for the Disney Magic takes it to Castaway Cay twice, as well as Cozumel and Grand Cayman. The Disney Wonder swaps its 3- and 4-night cruise schedules for Christmas and New Year's weeks, to avoid guests having to embark/disembark and travel on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. The four-night cruise departing December 24 will follow the usual itinerary with stops a Nassau and Castaway Cay. Aboard both ships, on Christmas morning, there will be surprises for all of the children, along with cookies and milk, presented by Santa and his elves. Christmas and Hanukkah services will be held aboard the ships, including midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

The New Year will be celebrated aboard the ships on the December 27 Western Caribbean sailing of the Disney Magic and the December 31 Bahamian 4-night cruise of the Disney Wonder. DJ music, sparkling wine, confetti and a balloon drop will highlight a New Year's Eve party, culminating in the traditional midnight countdown.

To book your holiday cruise, visit the Disney Cruise Line Web site (link), call 888-325-2500, or contact one of MousePlanet's Preferred Disney Travel Providers, MouseEarVacations.com (link) or Small World Vacations (link).

Construction around the Grand Canyon Concourse inside the Contemporary Resort continues at Chef Mickey's Restaurant. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Disney Cruise Line goes 3-D

USA Today (link) and the Orlando Sentinel (link) are reporting that the Disney Cruise Line will unveil Disney Digital 3-D movie screens aboard its ships this holiday season. The Disney Wonder is the first up, with the technology premiering on this Thursday's sailing and a midnight screening of Bolt as it opens in theaters everywhere on Friday. The Disney Magic will get its screen and projectors for its December 6 sailing.

The screens will be installed in both the Walt Disney Theatre and Buena Vista Theatre aboard both ships. By early next year the movies will get even more enhancements, with lasers, fog, streamers and special stage lighting enhancing the on-screen effects, allowing Disney to incorporate 3-D film effects into its stage shows in the Walt Disney Theatre.

"With Disney Digital 3-D we can provide extraordinary cinematic experiences for our guests that no other cruise line can offer," said Disney Cruise Line president Tom McAlpin in USA Today.

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.

Construction update

Here is the listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:

  • Magic Kingdom's Cinderella's Golden Carousel – Build and install shroud on control console.
  • Magic Kingdom's Plaza Restaurant – Expand capacity of Ansul Fire suppression unit by adding additional bottle for the addition of a new gas fryer under the existing kitchen hood.
  • Epcot's Innoventions West – Install five new plasma TVs in queue line at Character Spot.
  • Epcot's Innoventions East and West – Replace the aluminum beauty caps and pressure plates on storefront windows.
  • Epcot's World Showcase – Install new urethane caulking in expansion joints of concrete.
  • Epcot's Canada pavilion – Pressure wash and repair rockwork on Canada Waterfalls and rockwork.
  • Grand Floridian Resort – Buildings 6 (Sugar Loaf Key) and 9 (Big Pine Key) – Make duct and piping modification in the attic areas. Install control valves on the chilled water system.

Join MousePlanet at MouseFest!

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:

MouseFest 101 – Thursday, December 11. Mark Goldhaber will again co-host MouseFest 101 on Thursday, December 11, with Mike Scopa of AllEarsNet at a time and location yet to be announced.

Mega Mouse Meet –Saturday, December 13. MousePlanet will again host a table at the Mega Mouse Meet at the Yacht Club Resort Convention Center on Saturday, December 13, from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. (we'll also be there during the Extra MouseFest Hour from 10:00-11:00 a.m.).

Epcot's Never Lands Tour – Saturday, December 13. David Koenig will host Epcot's Never Lands, a walking tour of the World Showcase that never was, from 3:00-4:00 p.m.

MousseFest 2008 – Saturday, December 13. MousssseFest 2008 will be held on Saturday, December 13, from 4:00-5:00 p.m. at Boulangerie Patisserie.

Mini-MouseAdventure – Sunday, December 14. The fourth annual Mini-MouseAdventure will be held from 10:00 a.m.-noon in the Magic Kingdom.

Hustle-tini Meet – Sunday, December 14. The second annual MouseStation Podcast Hustle-tini Meet will be held at the Pop Century Resort from around 5:45-6:45 p.m.

For more information on these meets, check out MousePlanet's MouseFest page!

MousePlanet/MouseFest shirts now available!

By request, we've created some special T-shirt designs for MouseFest! We've set up a separate CafePress store with those designs here. There's still plenty of time to order your shirt and get it before MouseFest starts!

Quick takes …

…Primeval Whirl's refurbishment has been extended to December 6.

…The final Super Soap Weekend has concluded, bringing to an end the 13-year run of the gathering of soap opera stars and fans.

…An Orange County Sheriff's report indicates that an unnamed 71-year-old concierge at the Caribbean Beach Resort tripped over a phone cord at her desk and hit her head on the floor last Sunday. She was transported to Celebration Hospital and later airlifted to Florida South Hospital, but the woman will reportedly not survive the head trauma. Our condolences go out to the woman's family, friends and co-workers.

…Ground will be broken for the construction of Disney's Ko Olina Resort on Oahu, Hawaii on Wednesday, with city and state officials joining Disney executives at the site. The ceremony will also include a traditional Hawaiian blessing and entertainment. The $800 million resort is expected to open in 2011.

…By request, we've created some special T-shirt designs for MouseFest! We've set up a separate CafePress store with those designs here. There's still plenty of time to order your shirt and get it before MouseFest starts!

…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.

Coming soon

  • Nov. 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, 2008 - Jan. 4, 2009. Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
  • Nov. 28, 2008 - Jan. 4, 2009. Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade.
  • 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.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom


  • 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.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • American Idol – under construction in the soundstage that formerly hosted Superstar Television and Doug Live!. Scheduled to open January 2009.

Animal Kingdom


  • 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.

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon – Closed for its annual refurbishment October 26 through March 21. Major work is required on the wave generation machine.


  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Walt Disney World Buy 4, Get 3 Free deal!

From now through 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-April 4 and April 19-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-February 12 (total package price $1,271). For February 13-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.

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)
Jan. 4-Feb. 12, 2009
$1,571 ($541 savings)
Jan. 4-Jan. 12, 2009
Jan. 19-Feb. 12, 2009
$1,981 ($848 savings)
Jan. 4-Feb. 12, 2009
$2,228 ($1,034 savings)
Jan.12-Feb. 9, 2009
$1,466 ($484 savings)
Feb. 13-April 4, 2009
$1,778 ($718 savings)
Feb. 13-April 4, 2009
$2,498 ($1,281 savings)
Feb. 13-April 4, 2009
$2,611 ($1,320 savings)
Feb. 16- April 4, 2009
$1,375 ($416 savings)
April 19-May 21, 2009
$1,666 ($634 savings)
April 19-May 21, 2009
$2,206 ($1,017 savings)
April 19-May 21, 2009
$2,363 ($1,135 savings)
April 19- May 21, 2009
$1,421 ($450 savings)
May 22 –June 27, 2009
$1,733 ($685 savings)
May 22-June 27, 2009
$2,206 ($1,017 savings)
May 22-May 25, 2009
June 2-June 27, 2009
$2,363 ($1,135 savings)
May 22 –June 27, 2009

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!

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).

A special $109 per night deal is available from November 20 – December 1 and from December 14-15. You can only get it 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.

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

MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are Small World Vacations (link) and MouseEarVacations.com (link).

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.