Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for December 29, 2008 – January 4, 2009

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

News and Views

Castle Suite news | Dining reservations | New Year's Eve | Science of ImagineeringConstruction update | Quick Takes …

Castle Suite to remain open

Walt Disney World confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel (link) last week that the Cinderella Castle Royal Suite will remain open for stays by guests next year. The suite first hosted Angie and Brian Davis and their family on January 24, 2007, as a kick-off to the major promotion of the first " Year of a Million Dreams."

The suite has been awarded at random to a guest family nearly every night since then, with several nights held back by Disney for special promotions. Practically since the suite was announced, speculation has abounded as to what would happen to it after the Year of a Million Dreams promotion ended. Guesses included nightly rentals for top-dollar prices, continuing daily giveaways in the parks, cast member rewards, availability for Make-A-Wish kids, and more.

The last "Year of a Million Dreams" stay will be next week, after which the suite will be awarded on a less-frequent basis, and in-park giveaways have not yet been confirmed. Thus far, the only confirmed giveaways are in conjunction with sweepstakes with business partners, such as the "Inside Your Celebration" sweepstakes being run by Orbitz (the sweepstakes has concluded, but winners had the option of choosing among the nights of February 21, April 25, May 16, June 27 and August 15, 2009).

As to how the suite's occupants for other nights will be determined, that hasn't been announced yet.

Dining reservations window changes again

The world of Walt Disney World Advance Dining Reservations continues to change.

I reported on my blog back on July 2 and in the July 7 Update that Walt Disney World was putting a hold on dining reservations beyond January 15, 2009, likely as a prelude changing its policy on Advance Dining Reservations to reduce the window from 180 days in advance to 90 days. Two weeks later, I received word that the change in window would only be temporary, while a new dining reservations system was brought online.

However, as delays continued to beset the new system, the implementation was delayed and, in September, new reservations were allowed beyond the January date. The date was pushed back again in late October.

We have now received word that the 90-day window will become permanent. The window will also apply to tours and other recreational activities. No word on whether it is related to the economy (to allow changes in operating hours, etc. on shorter notice), whether it's related to limitations of the new system, or if it's because Disney has received positive word of mouth from guests that they didn't like having to make their reservations half a year in advance and that 90 days was more than early enough to decide what they wanted for dinner. We'll keep our ears out and let you know if there are any further changes.

New Year's Eve at Walt Disney World

To remind you of Wednesday's happenings, from our first reporting of it back in October:

Three of the four theme parks will be open to ring in the New Year, all included in standard park admission. Disney's Hollywood Studios will see the park open from 9 a.m. to midnight with a 3 p.m. running of Block Party Bash . Live performances by Mulch, Sweat and Shears and a DJ at the Sorcerer's Hat throughout the evening complement two performances of Fantasmic (6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.) and the Osborne Lights, plus the Lights! Camera! Happy New Year! fireworks at 11 p.m.

Hours at the Magic Kingdom will be slightly longer, with the park opening at 8 a.m. and staying open until 1 a.m. After two afternoon showings of Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade at noon and 3 p.m., there will be two showings of SpectroMagic at 7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. In addition, Holiday Wishes will be seen at 8:30 p.m. and the New Year's edition of Fantasy in the Sky will once again appear at 11:50 p.m. This performance schedule and park hours will occur on both December 30 and 31, for those who want to experience the special entertainment the night before and count down to the new year in a different park.

Epcot will also be open from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m., and will feature live music around the park and two showings of Illuminations. The first showing will be at 7:30 p.m., while the special New Year's extravaganza will run at 11:40 p.m. (Hint: watch from the vicinity of the Germany and Italy pavilions to see the New Year's finale of Illuminations and Fantasy in the Sky at the same time!)

While Disney's Animal Kingdom won't be open until midnight (we don't want any fireworks freaking out the animals now, do we?), the park will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for those who want a longer day at the park before celebrating quietly back in the room (or putting the kids to bed early). The Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade will run at 3:45 p.m.

Of course, it's not just the theme parks that celebrate the New Year. Cirque du Soleil will host two special presentations of La Nouba on New Year's Eve, at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. The show will feature a special souvenir program, a "champagne toast celebration," glow sticks, and a gift. Tickets are $93-$143 plus tax, depending on location.

One party that will no longer be happening is the big fiesta at Pleasure Island, where New Year's Eve was once celebrated nightly. While the legendary parties with big-name headline acts ended years ago, Pleasure Island had still held a big hard-ticketed party with live music, dancing in the streets, a dinner buffet, hats and noisemakers, fireworks, midnight champagne toast and fireworks. However, since the Island has pretty much been shut down as a whole, there won't be any special New Year's celebration there.

Atlantic Dance at the Boardwalk Resort will also be holding its annual New Year's Eve bash, as well. With a the cover charge now down to $10 for what has been whittled down to a three-hour party, it might be a good option for those who don't want to brave the theme parks. There will be "dueling Video DJ's" playing music videos and tunes from the last 30 years, plus a champagne toast at midnight. You must be 21 years old to enter. If you want to stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom until closing, then dance your way into the New Year, this might be a great choice for you, as the doors don't even open until 11 p.m.

Rix Lounge at the Coronado Springs Resort will also be hosting a New Year's Eve party. Tables can be reserved at (407) 939-3856. The lounge will be open until 3 a.m. with no cover charge, and families are welcome. Hors d'oeuvre platters are available for purchase, as are champagne specials throughout the night and a champagne toast at midnight. There's even a special VIP package that includes a reserved table for up to 10 guests, three hors d'oeuvre platters, two bottles of champagne, two bottles of premium liquor and mixers, and a dedicated server. For more information, go to the Rix Lounge Web site (link).

The Science of Imagineering comes to classrooms

Walt Disney Imagineering and Disney Educational Productions have teamed up to create a new educational series of DVDs called The Science of Imagineering, featuring Imagineers introducing basic scientific principles as they apply to theme park attractions. One segment recently filmed at Disney's Animal Kingdom features Imagineers Joe Rohde and Asa Kalama explaining the design process involved in creating Expedition Everest. The first DVDs are already available at Amazon.com, including Gravity (link), Trajectory (link) and Levers & Pulleys (link). Imagineer Asa Kalama acts as host of the series. Kalama was one of the presenters at The Science of Imagineering presentation at the World Science Festival (link) in June 2008 in New York City. If this DVD series is as fun, entertaining and informative as the presentations in New York, there will be a lot of classrooms that will learn a great deal about science while having a lot of fun. The DVD content meets national curriculum standards for middle school science teachers.

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).

Construction update

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

  • SR 535 entrance – Celebrate Today gateway signage package
  • Epcot – Innoventions – Raytheon Exhibit

Quick takes …

…A spiffy new Walt Disney World Web site will be launched this week, with the content portion of the new site finally matching the graphical look and feel of the main navigation pages. The new disneyworld.com site will have "Discover," "Plan" and "Book" links prominent on each page, and all pages will have the large, bold graphical images now only seen on the front page of the site and the main park pages.

…Thousands of Walt Disney World cast members collected 30,000 gifts for Toys for Tots, while hundreds of other cast members created costumes for more than 300 teddy bears out of fabrics left over from character costumes.

…Randy Garfield, executive vice president of Worldwide Sales and Travel Operations for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, was recognized by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) as one of the "extraordinary sales and marketing minds" in the hospitality and travel industry for the third time, being included in the "Hot List of Top 25 for 2008."

…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. 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. 30. Holidays Around the World.
  • 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.
  • Ellen's Energy Adventure – closed for refurbishment January 5 to March 22.
  • 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.
  • Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure – has been delayed. It continues testing and will open in "early 2009."

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Studio Backlot Tour – closed for refurbishment January 4 to February 28.
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid – closed for refurbishment January 27– 29.
  • American Idol – under construction in the soundstage that formerly hosted Superstar Television and Doug Live! Scheduled to soft-open in January 2009, with the official press event scheduled for February 12.

Animal Kingdom

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.


  • 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 to 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 until January 24, 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 February 2 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.

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 seven-night/seven-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).

Walt Disney World room-only deal for everyone!

From now until January 4, everyone can book a deep-discounted rate for reservations most Sunday through Thursday nights through April 2. Lowest rates are through mid-February, with discounted but not quite as low rates from then through early April.

Room rates start at prices of $49 per night for a standard room at a Value Resort from January 4 to February 12. For February 16 to April 4, the Value Resort rate is $74 per day. Rates at other resorts are also available.

Here's Disney's rundown on pricing:

Disney Value Resorts Disney Moderate Resorts Select Disney Deluxe Resorts Select Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts
Jan. 4-Feb. 12, 2009

Jan. 4-Jan. 15, 2009
Jan. 19-Feb. 12, 2009

Jan. 4-Jan. 15, 2009
Jan. 19-Jan. 31, 2009
Feb. 7-Feb. 12, 2009

Jan.4-Jan. 15, 2009
Jan.19-Feb. 12, 2009

Feb. 16-April 2, 2009
Feb. 16-April 2, 2009
Feb. 16-April 2, 2009
Feb. 16- April 2, 2009

Prices do not include tax and are based on a standard room at a Value Resort, Moderate Resort, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (Deluxe Resort) or a studio at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa or Disney's Old Key West Resort (Deluxe Villa Resort). The discount code for this offer is OZ.

To book these packages, go to the Walt Disney World Web site (link), call 407-939-7545 or contact one of MousePlanet's Preferred Disney Travel Providers, Small World Vacations (link) and MouseEarVacations.com (link).

Disney Cruise Line offers "Kids Free" deal

Disney Cruise Line now offering a "Kids Free" promotion. The deal offers free passage (plus government taxes and fees) for children ages 12 and younger on three-night voyages when traveling with two full-fare paying passengers in the same cabin. The offer is valid on most sailings from January 22 through May 28 in a variety of stateroom cabins.

To book your "Kids Free" 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) and make sure to use booking code "FREE." For more information on other discounted cruises from MouseEarVacations.com, check out their list of cruise discounts for MousePlanet readers here on the MousePlanet site.

Gaylord Palms offers discounts through January 4 for room-with-ICE

MousePlanet sponsor Gaylord Palms Resort and Spa is offering MousePlanet readers great discounts for rooms combined with 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 Five-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 early 2009 released

Passholder rates for January 1 to 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 to February 12. Moderate resorts are available January 4–17 and January 21 to February 12. Saratoga Springs is available January 1 to 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).

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.