Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for January 5 – January 11, 2009

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

News and Views

From "Dreams" to "Celebrate" | SeaWorld price hike | Goodbye 2008 | Hello 2009 | Quick Takes …

Focus moves from "Dreams" to "Celebrate"

Last week marked the transition from the two-and-a-quarter Years of a two-and-a-quarter Million Dreams to the new "What Will You Celebrate?" campaign. On New Year's Day, the first patron to receive free admission on his birthday was Seattle resident Andrew DaCosta. As I noted on my blog that day:

Seattle resident Andrew DaCosta was the first person to receive free admission as part of Disney's "What Will You Celebrate?" promotion. DaCosta, who turned 49 today, redeemed his "Free On Your Birthday" registration at the Magic Kingdom Guest Relations window at 7:31 a.m.

In return, he got oversized park tickets and his family was able to be the first ones into the theme park today.

You can see video of the occasion here.

So what's the deal with "What Will You Celebrate?" Well, for starters, Disney is using it to promote under a new umbrella a lot of dining, entertainment and other options that have been in place for some time. However, it's also introducing a number of new options and some new entertainment, as well.

Let's start with the entertainment: The "Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It! Street Party" in the Magic Kingdom will feature about a dozen Disney characters, stilt walkers and more three times a day in a procession that will go from Town Square to the Hub, where four of its five floats (all designed to look like gift-wrapped packages) will open to reveal Mad Hatter, Genie, Lumiere and Sebastian. They will join the rest of the party crew to party with park guests during a 12-15-minute party in the street. The party debuts in mid-February. There will also be a high-energy, retro-futuristic music video dance party in Tomorrowland featuring Stitch, an interactive dance troupe, and a DJ celebration host beginning around April. In addition, there will be new "I'm Celebrating!" buttons for those whose occasion doesn't fit into the birthday, honeymoon, anniversary, reunion and first visit categories that already have their own button.

Also new for the "Celebrate" promotion are the availability of special desserts, including the Magical Pop-Up Party Pack, My Mini-Cake Surprise and Celebrate Today! Cake. In addition, there will be better promotion of many existing options, including larger cakes, fireworks cruises, florist and room decor options, photopass portrait sittings and more.

Of course, the marquee promotion for "What Will You Celebrate?" is free admission on your birthday. If you do not already have park admission for your birthday, you can get free admission to the theme park of your choice on your birthday (day of birthday only, no alternative award dates allowed). If you've already got your admission covered (via an annual pass, a multi-day pass, a package including park passes or any other way), you've got your choice of three alternate birthday presents:

  • A birthday fun card with a value equal to that of a one-day, one-park pass (currently $75) for use toward merchandise, recreation or other activities as participating locations throughout Walt Disney World.
  • A one-day Magic Your Way base ticket for you to use on any day of your choice until your next birthday.
  • A “birthday Fastpass,” which will get you and up to five friends onto certain attractions at the theme park of your choice on your birthday.

When you go to the Celebrations Planning Web site (link), you'll get to select your type of celebration, then Disney will suggest all sorts of ways that you can celebrate your special occasion, from dinners to tours to special events. Meals from Sweetheart Dinners for Two to room service will also be available for you to choose as you design your celebratory trip. Events from fireworks cruises and guided tours to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and pirate adventure cruises.

So it's a mix of the old and the new in completely new packaging, but it's this year's theme and it should be brought to you with high energy levels and lots of good cheer by the Disney cast members.

SeaWorld Orlando raises its prices effective today

SeaWorld Orlando has finally increased their prices, sticking with the long-time year-end schedule that all three major theme park resorts in the Orlando area had originally kept. Walt Disney World moved their increases to August in 2006 and Universal Orlando followed suit. As of today, SeaWorld Orlando one-day admission costs rise $5 per person to $74.95 per adult. Youth prices have increased to $64.95. The adult price is just a nickel below the $75 cost for one-day, one-park admission at both Disney and Universal.

Goodbye to 2008's changes (for better or for worse) …

Last year was a year of many changes. From the renaming of a theme park and a dining program to openings, closings and all sorts of legal matters and announcements, there's a lot to look back on from 2008:

The Disney-MGM Studios became Disney's Hollywood Studios on January 7, 2008, starting a year of many changes in the park. From the opening of Toy Story Midway Mania (spotlighted on MouseStation Podcast Episodes 193 and 257) to the changeover of Playhouse Disney – Live On Stage to a new set of characters to the last-ever Super Soap Weekend to the changeover of the High School Musical stage show from HSM2 to HSM3, it was a busy year at the Studios theme park.

The Studios weren't the only park to experience changes, though. Spaceship Earth officially reopened at Epcot after its extreme makeover, while Innoventions saw the opening of several new displays, including Don't Waste It, StormStruck and Velcro's What's Your Problem? show. The Illuminations globe went out of the show for a few weeks for major refurbishment. The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival hosted the United States team final for the Bocuse d'Or culinary challenge.

Over at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Restaurantasaurus said "goodbye" to McDonald's. Primeval Whirl was scheduled for safety enhancements following the fatal accident in November 2007, and Disney was fined $21,500 by OSHA for five violations in the incident. A new road race, the Expedition Everest Challenge was announced and inaugurated at the park. Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends were evicted by budget cuts.

The Magic Kingdom saw the end of Woody's Cowboy Camp and the Main Street Family Fun Day Parade. The bridge from the Hub to Liberty Square was replaced, temporarily abbreviating the Share a Dream Come True Parade and putting SpectroMagic on hiatus.

While the Indy Car sponsorship of the Tomorrowland Speedway has expired, the consortium opened the Indy Racing Experience at the Walt Disney World Speedway.

In dining news, one of the most debated stories was the banning of children younger than 10 from Victoria & Albert's. Other news had the Cheesecase Factory leaving DisneyQuest. The Contemporary Resort saw the closure of the Concourse Steakhouse and the opening of The Wave and the Contempo Cafe. The Disney Dining Experience, likely confusing many guests and cast members with the Disney Dining Plan, was renamed to Tables in Wonderland (we'll see how long that name lasts). T-Rex Cafe opened at Downtown Disney, and the Portobello Yacht Club dropped the "Yacht Club" and changed its menu and decor.

Elsewhere at Downtown Disney, all of the Pleasure Island clubs were closed in favor of "more shopping and dining experiences." Hear our tribute to the Adventurers Club on Episode 249 of the MouseStation Podcast. Meanwhile, rumors of the death of DisneyQuest continue to be proven wrong, as the indoor theme park is highlighted in the 2009 Walt Disney World vacation planning video.

2008 was also the year that saw the introduction of Disney's Chief Magic Official via a competition, won by Justin Muchoney. Justin appeared on the MouseStation Podcast twice, on Episodes 181 and 250.

On the legal front, Disney settled a lawsuit over the use of private Segway transportation units in the theme parks. They also claimed exemption from a new law asserting the right of Florida citizens to keep guns in their vehicles while at work, and won a legal challenge confirming that exemption.

The Disney Cruise Line debuted a new musical based on Toy Story aboard the Disney Wonder. They also implemented, then later removed a fuel surcharge. DCL also announced Northern European itineraries for 2010, the first time that they will be visiting that area.

Meanwhile, all Walt Disney World resort hotels have been certified as Green Lodging by the state of Florida. The entire Walt Disney World property has been added to Google Earth to allow for virtual walkthroughs of the parks.

There's much more from 2008, including sending Buzz Lightyear into space, the introduction of custom mouse ear hats, changes to Disney Vacation Club reservations and more. But that's in the past now. It's time to look to the future.

… and Hello to 2009's new attractions and entertainment

There's plenty of stuff ahead in 2009 to look forward to:

In addition to the "Celebrate Today"! stuff listed above, there are two more new interactive events coming your way: The Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure (spotlighted in Episode 253 of the MouseStation Podcast), debuting in late January, and the American Idol Experience (spotlighted in Episode 272 of the MouseStation Podcast), debuting in mid-February.

Also in the parks, a new deal with Verizon will start to have special features available to you on your cell phone, with some features available to everyone and others only available to those with Verizon phones. Some features include the ability to easily locate shows, restaurants and the Disney characters anywhere inside the parks; get real-time attraction availability information; access mobile games; receive messages from characters and more.

There are new Disney Vacation Club resorts opening throughout the year. The Kidani Village Annex at the Animal Kingdom Villas will host its first guests in May. The Treehouse Villas, to be part of the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, are scheduled to open this summer. Bay Lake Tower, adjacent to the Contemporary Resort, is scheduled to open this fall. At the Disneyland Resort, the Grand Californian Villas are scheduled to open this fall, as well. For more on what's coming to the Disney Vacation Club, listen to tomorrow's episode of the MouseStation Podcast, which will feature Disney Vacation Club President Jim Lewis.

The Disney Cruise Line will debut new itineraries with new ports of call in 2009, with Tortola and St. Croix becoming part of new itineraries on selected dates this year.

Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex will become ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex, including some unique ESPN touches. No dates for this have been announced, but don't be surprised to see something happen during ESPN The Weekend February 27-March 1.

New shopping and dining experiences will begin to materialize on the former site of Pleasure Island's nightclubs. Don't be surprised to start seeing the blurring of the three districts, with the Marketplace, Pleasure Island and West Side names giving way to a single "Downtown Disney."

Finally, the introduction of the new Quick Service Dining Plan provides another option for guests, though it may also become the offered option during any future free dining promotions, at least for those staying at value or moderate resorts. But that's a story for another day.

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).


Quick takes …

…Refurbishment dates have changed on a couple of attractions, with Splash Mountain moving its start and end dates back a day to January 5–18 and the Liberty Square Riverboat extending its dates to February 19–28.

…The rollout of the new Walt Disney World Web site was postponed from last week. We're not sure when it may appear yet, though it could be at any time.

…The rumored major refurbishment of Space Mountain keeps gaining strength. Even though the refurbishment has not hit the official Disney web site yet, the fact that the attraction does not appear on the park map included with the 2009 vacation planning DVD raised the rumor's profile. And we're now hearing that attraction cast members were told last week that the attraction will be closing for refurbishment in mid-April. The big questions now will be what work will be done and how long will the attraction be closed.

…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

  • Jan. 8-10: Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.
  • Jan. 9: Walt Disney World Half Marathon.
  • Jan. 10: Walt Disney World Marathon.
  • Feb. 27-Mar. 1: ESPN The Weekend.
  • Feb. 28: ESPN The Weekend 5K.

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.
  • American Film Institute Showcase – closed for refurbishment January 4 to February 28.
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid – closed for refurbishment January 27-29.
  • The American Idol Experience – 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 and the grand opening scheduled for February 14.

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 through March 21. Major work is required on the wave generation machine.


  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays to 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 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!

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-February 12. For February 16-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). Just remember to book by December 20!

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 under 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 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 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.