Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for April 6 – April 12, 2009

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

News and Views

MouseAdventure | Wonder goes West | More layoffs | Passholder rates for spring | Disney's Magical Express | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Registration for the inaugural MouseAdventure Walt Disney World is now open!

Yes, somehow the significance of the approach of April slipped by us last week, and we neglected to mention here in the Update that MouseAdventure registration (link) opened on Friday. As expected, though, registration is moving slower than a standard Disneyland game (due to the new venue) and there are still plenty of spots open, so you still have the opportunity to become one of the first MouseAdventurers to race around Epcot.

The game takes place on Saturday, November 14, starting with a private breakfast at the Odyssey Center before park opening, followed by a mix of two of our popular formats. Team will complete a series of classic MouseAdventure quests in Future World before heading for an Enchanted Race around World Showcase to reach the finish line. Results will be announced at an in-park meet on Sunday morning, November 15, and will be posted on MousePlanet.com later that week. Winning teams will receive a pre-determined prize package, which will be shipped to the winners after the event.

Space is limited, and the game is expected to sell out. Pricing for the event is $175 for a two-player team, plus $30 for each additional player (up to a limit of four players per team). The registration fee includes an early morning escort to Odyssey Center, breakfast for each team member, and an amazing, fun-filled six-hour game. Note that registration does not include park admission, and you will only need admission to Epcot for the game. Registration closes on September 9 at 8:00 p.m. EDT (5:00 p.m. PDT), or when the event sells out.

All registrations are final, and there will be no refunds. Teams may change players, but may not add to their team size, after their initial registration. We encourage teams to sign up for the MouseAdventure newsletter (link) if they haven't done so already, and to participate in the MouseAdventure threads on our discussion forums. Here are links to our announcement thread (link) and the team list thread (link).

For additional information about MouseAdventure registration, check out the MouseAdventure page here on the site (link).

Following MouseAdventure Walt Disney World will be the first-ever MousePlanet cruise aboard the Disney Wonder, a four-night voyage departing on Sunday, November 15! Those aboard will have the opportunity to take part in MouseAdventure on the High Seas, a free event played for fun on the ship's "at sea" day. Note that the results announcement event will be early enough in the morning to allow all cruisers to arrive at the ship on time.

MouseEarVacations.com (link) is the official agency for booking your Walt Disney World Magic Your Way Packages and the MouseAdventure Cruise. The first 40 packages booked with MouseEarVacations.com for the Fall 2009 inaugural Walt Disney World event will receive a custom-made day pack, memory book, and other exclusive surprises! Visit MouseEarVacations.com to request a quote, and you will be contacted by a Travel Specialist. Be sure to select "MouseAdventure" from the drop down menu when you request your Walt Disney World or Disney Cruise package!

Work is nearing completion on the control area for Stitch's Supersonic Celebration. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Stitch's stage looks like it has a digital screen in the opening above. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Meanwhile, work continues on the stage itself. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Disney Wonder to head west in 2011 on arrival of Dream

As Tony Phoenix reported on his blog last Monday, the Disney Wonder is moving its home port from Port Canaveral, Florida to the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, California in 2011. The initial deal is for two years, with three one-year options. Tony noted:

They will be using primarily Berths 93A&B, which is the same terminal DCL has used for the Disney Magic's two visits. In some circumstances, they may also use the building just around the corner. With the scheduled improvements, it should prove a worthy home for DCL. Interestingly, DCL will be sharing the terminal with other cruise lines, unlike their dedicated terminal in Port Canveral.

"Having Disney Cruise Line operating out of the Port of Los Angeles will provide a great boost to the local economy by generating business and tourism revenue in San Pedro and throughout the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "The return of Disney Cruise Line to our port speaks volumes about our ability to attract world-class cruise lines to the area."

The ship will be moving to the West Coast to make room for the Disney Dream, which will be arriving in Port Canaveral in 2011. There's no word on whether the Disney Magic will similarly move when the Disney Fantasy arrives in 2012, or if Disney will then sail three ships out of Florida. If that were the case, the Magic would likely be moving to a Monday/Friday or Tuesday/Friday sailing schedule.

"We are looking forward to returning to the Port of Los Angeles and offering our special brand of family cruises on the West Coast," said Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo. "Having a Disney Cruise Line ship based in this region is something families on the West Coast have wanted for a long time, and we’re pleased to bring the Disney Wonder to Southern California in 2011."

Look for land/sea packages for the Disneyland Resort paired with sailings of the Wonder to be available, as well. Itineraries have not yet been set, though.

Rockwork on the south side of the Tomorrowland entrance still need new paint. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

The rockwork on the north side, though, is looking really soon. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

The northern rocks still look great from a closer perspective. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Layoffs continue on both coasts, 1150 laid off, 1900 total jobs cut

Following the layoffs that took place the week of March 23, job cuts at domestic Disney resorts did not stop, though they did slow back down. The layoffs had been taking place slowly since mid-February, ever since Disney's announcement that they would be reorganizing all of the backstage operations at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World to streamline the structure and the decision-making process.

The layoffs accelerated dramatically at the end of March ahead of the end of the company's second fiscal quarter on March 28. More employees were laid off last Monday, though, and there were reports of continued cuts through last week. Disney said that the cuts were to executive, management, professional and administrative roles, primarily in backstage areas. It appears that no union positions were involved.

Disney spokeswoman Kim Prunty provided the following statement to MousePlanet: "As of today, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts has eliminated approximately 1,900 positions at its domestic sites. These decisions were not made lightly, but are essential to maintaining our leadership in family tourism and reflect today's economic realities. We continue to work through our reorganization and manage our business based on demand."

Disney was able to lay off more than 500 employees in Florida without triggering the 60-day notification to the state of Florida and to the targeted employees because many of the divisions of the company are actually operating as separate entities, so the cuts from each individual company did not top the 500-layoff mark.

The 1,900 positions eliminated include 1,150 layoffs, the elimination of 700 vacant items and 50 executive buyouts. Of those, 1,400 positions were located in Florida: 900 layoffs/buyouts and 500 eliminated vacancies. Disneyland saw 200 layoffs/buyouts and 100 vacancies eliminated. 100 layoffs/buyouts and 100 eliminated vacancies were in Burbank executive offices and Imagineering offices in Glendale. The Florida layoffs included not just Walt Disney World but Disney Vacation Club, Disney Cruise Line and the Central Reservations Office phone center in Tampa. The cuts represent approximately 2.25 percent of the Disney workforce in the state.

Those laid off received 60 days of paid administrative leave, including medical benefits, plus a severance package based on their length of service. Job placement services were also included.

We have heard stories of double layoffs to "Disney couples," where both the husband and wife work for the company, though Disney would not comment on the impact of double layoffs on families or the number of double layoffs. There was also no comment on the selection criteria for the layoffs. We've also heard stories of cast members on medical leave being laid off.

If you were laid off or otherwise affected by these job cuts, please share your story. MousePlanet will preserve your anonymity.

Construction has been completed near the entry restrooms in Epcot. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

The Universe of Energy is once again open. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Spring Passholder rates for 2009 released

Passholder rates for April 19 – June 6, 2009 have been released, with value resorts starting at just $64 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights), moderate resorts starting at $94 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights). Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge) starting at $164 per night and studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa starting at $154 per night (Friday-Saturday nights) and $199 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights). The rates are valid most nights during that period.

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 EDB 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).

The new boutique at Downtown Disney called Tren-D, and the shop will have its grand opening later this week. We'll have coverage in next week's Update. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

The "Street Foods of America" food court is under construction on Pleasure Island. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

The banners on Pleasure Island indicate that you should "Celebrate Tonight," kind of strange when you remember that they took out everything that made Pleasure Island a fun place at night. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Disney's Magical Express cuts hours

Effective last Monday, Disney’s Magical Express no longer offers luggage delivery service if you arrive at Orlando International Airport after 10 p.m. Since the volume of arrivals drops off drastically after that time, the number of those effected will be relatively small. And since Disney did not generally deliver bags after midnight anyway, guests arriving that late were often retrieving their own bags anyway.

If you're arriving after 10 p.m., you'll need to collect your luggage at the baggage claim and bring it with you to the Disney's Magical Express counter. You'll take it with you to the bus, where it will ride to your resort in the under-carriage storage area. You'll collect your bags again when you arrive at your resort, and can then bring it to your room (or arrange to have it brought to your room).

The new hours for Disney's Magical Express are now to collect and deliver luggage for those arriving at Orlando International Airport between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. This does not affect remote check-in for those returning to the airport, as those hours are even shorter.

Landscaping work in front of Bay Lake Tower continues. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Landscaping is also filling out the foliage in back of the resort. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

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).

A personal appeal to help babies through the March of Dimes, for the fourth year

I was informed recently that I was the top walker for the March of Dimes Northeastern New York region for 2008, and the #2 walker for all of Upstate New York (everything above Westchester and Rockland counties)! I couldn't have done it without the help of all of the wonderful MousePlanet readers and MouseStation listeners. Thank you so much! Now, the big challenge is to raise the bar in these tough economic times.

On April 26, I'll be walking for the fourth time to raise money for the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. I'm raising money for the cause because new parents should be able to bring their children home from the hospital, not bury them. I know from first-hand experience how devastating that is.

Last year's total, raised through the generosity of friends, family, co-workers and MousePlanet readers, was $5,043.42. This year, our new target is $6,000. I think we can do that. I know that the economy is tough right now, but charitable causes are also hurting and in need of money.

We're over one-third of the way there, but we've only got six weeks to make up the rest. Let's show that MousePlanet readers support the mission of the March of Dimes and help give all babies a fighting chance to make it home!

For more information about why I'm walking, or to donate, please go to my fundraising page (link). Thanks for your consideration!

The Characters in Flight balloon should be opening any time now. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

The ticket kiosk for the new Characters in Flight balloon mirrors the balloon and gondola's colors. Photo by Bruce Danderline.

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom Tomorrowland Transit Authority – replacement of existing light fixtures with new fixtures.
  • Magic Kingdom Tomorrowland – replacement and refurbishment of 5 auxiliary heating units.
  • Epcot China pavilion – repair of south flat roof areas as required, application of new roof coating system.
  • Epcot Norway pavilion Akershus – installation of new trench drain at entrance.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Catalina Eddie's building – replacement of one auxiliary heating unit.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios right block building – replacement of 3 auxiliary heating units.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios center block building – replacement of 4 auxiliary heating units.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Theater of the Stars – installation of scrim attachment framework over proscenium.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Light! Motors! Action! planter – removal of portion of planter and paving with concrete access lane.
  • Downtown Disney DisneyQuest – replacement of existing ADA lift with new lift and facility modifications to accommodate new lift.
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace Team Disney – removal of wood shake roof and replacement with asphalt shingle roof.
  • Wide World of Sports All Star Cafe – replacement of one auxiliary heating unit.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort Martinique building – painting of the exterior areas above the roof line and the entire clock tower and staircases.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort Old Port Royale – painting of the building exterior.
  • Pop Century Resort – repainting of the parapet walls at all 10 lodging buildings.
  • Pop Century Resort building 9 – installation of heat exchanger and piping to reclaim heat from rooftop chillers and provision of additional heating source for domestic hot water.

Quick takes …

…As we predicted in last week's Update, free dining was indeed announced for all guests just hours after we published the story, and I reported the rate codes on my blog later last Monday morning. You can also find the codes in our Discounts and Promotions section below.

…The opening of the Characters in Flight Aerophile balloon at Downtown Disney has been postponed to the week of April 10. Once open, the balloon will lift a gondola carrying up to 30 passengers to a height of 400 feet. Flights will run seven days a week (weather permitting), and will charge $16 for adults and $10 for children (ages 3-9).

…A new Audio-Animatronics figure based on Remy from Ratatouille is now making periodic appearances in the dining room at Les Chefs de France at Epcot during specific times. The new guest experience is called "Bon Appetit from Chef Remy." The Audio-Animatronics figure—the smallest ever created by Walt Disney Imagineering—interacts with diners inside the restaurant.

…Attention Tables in Wonderland members! The Wave Restaurant is hosting a special series of dining events just for you! The secodn event celebrates Florida seafood and will be held Thursday, April 16. For $92 per person, including tax and gratuity, there is a reception in the Wave Lounge, featuring two dishes and an accompanying wine, followed by four additional courses with accompanying wines in the restaurant. For reservations, please e-mail rosa.flores@disney.com with your interest to book, and the number of your party. You will be notified on a first come first serve basis and your credit card will be taken over the phone. The event will be limited to 50 Guests. The remaining Discovery Series dinners will be held May 21, June 18 and July 16.

…A Disney bus was involved in a fatal accident yesterday afternoon, shutting down World Drive for some time, according to local CBS affiliate WKMG (link). Apparently, a driver of a lost control of  the vehicle, driving into the front of the bus between the Wilderness Lodge and Contemporary Resort, near the monorail overpass. The driver of the Hyundai was killed. Three of the nine people on the bus were treated for minor injuries. World Drive reopened at 6 p.m.

…Ellen's Energy Adventure has returned from refurbishment.

…Walt Disney World Jungle Cruise skippers Beth Schafer and Alex Williams recently were judged the resort's best skippers are chosen to attend a gathering of the best skippers in the world as part of Tokyo Disneyland's 25th anniversary celebration. Oriental Land Company, (owners of Tokyo Disneyland), granted 25 cast member "dreams"; Kenichi Ito, a Tokyo Jungle Cruise supervisor, dreamed of a worldwide gathering of skippers to share best practices and best jokes. Last month, skippers from Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland (there's no Jungle Cruise at Disneyland Paris) gathered at Tokyo Disneyland with their host skippers and got to demonstrate their best spieling for their colleagues from the other countries.

…Registration for this October's Race for the Taste 3K and 10K is now open (link). Due to unprecedented demand and increased Half Marathon course capacity in 2010, Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge has reopened for registration. With a new capacity of 7,500, you'll want to register as quickly as you can (link) if you're still interested in the race. The Half Marathon itself is now 80 percent full.

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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

  • Mar. 18-May 31. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (link).
  • Apr. 24-27. USASF/IASF Dance and Cheerleading World Championships (link).
  • May 17. Florida Half Ironman Triathlon (link).
  • May 22-Jun. 14. Star Wars Weekends.
  • Sep. 20. Athletes for a Cure Triathlon (link).
  • Sep. 26. Expedition Everest Challenge (link).
  • Oct. 11. Race for the Taste 10K and 3K (link).
  • Oct 24. Tower of Terror 13K and 5K (link).
  • Nov. 14. MouseAdventure! (link).
  • Dec. 7-12. Pop Warner Super Bowl (link).
  • Jan. 7-10, 2010. WDW Marathon Weekend (link).

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • The Hall of Presidents – closed through July 1, 2009, major infrastructure upgrades, as well as for addition of President Barack Obama.
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority – closed April 19 through August 19, 2009 for refurbishment and Space Mountain's refurbishment.
  • Space Mountain – closed April 19 through November 21, 2009 for major refurbishment.


  • 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

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

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 – mid-April. 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 Contemporary Resort – Construction continues. The resort opens August 2009.
  • Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa – Construction continues. The resort opens June 2009.

Water Parks

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.


  • Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba – performs Tuesdays – Saturdays. There will be no performances from May 18 through June 1.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Walt Disney World free dining deal!

From now until June 21, if you book a three- to fourteen-night, non-discounted Magic Your Way package, you'll get Disney's basic dining plan for free.

The offer is good for stays on most nights August 16 – October 3, 2009. Discount codes for the basic dining plan and available upgrades are as follow:

  • Basic Dine: RYH
  • Deluxe Dine: UGR
  • Basic Dine plus Wine & Dine: KEU
  • Deluxe Dine plus Wine & Dine: NZZ

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 June 21!

Disney Cruise Line offers "Kids at Half Off" deal

Disney Cruise Line now offering a "Kids at Half Off" promotion. The deal offers 50 percent off 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 April 11 through May 17 in a variety of stateroom cabins.

To book your "Kids Half Off" cruise, visit the Disney Cruise Line Web site (link), call 800-951-3532, 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 "KHO." 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 debuts new exclusive rate specials

While the special $119-per-night offer expired last Tuesday, MousePlanet partner Gaylord Palms Resort has followed it up with another great offer, this time valid for stays through the end of the year! For approximately 5 nights out of every 7 for the rest of the year, you can stay at the Gaylord Palms at the special MousePlanet reader discount rate (Reserve now!) of $129 per night. Even better, you can book these rates right up until the day you arrive! This new rate is even lower than Disney moderate resorts after June 6! Why stay off property? Because you can get luxury accommodations at moderate prices! These special low rates are available on the following nights:

  • March 11, 15–17, 21-29
  • April 1–13, 18–19, 24–27
  • May 10-11, 15–27
  • June 2–6, 9-17, 20–23, 28-30 ($139 rate)
  • July 1-6 ($139 rate), 7–18, 23–28
  • August 1–9, 13–15, 18–19, 22–27, 30
  • September 1-2, 6–8, 12–14, 18–20, 25–27
  • October 2–5, 13–18, 23–24, 29–31
  • November 3, 7, 12–15, 22-30
  • December 1-5, 9, 13–27

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 2009 released

Passholder rates for April 19 – June 6, 2009 have been released, with value resorts starting at just $64 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights), moderate resorts starting at $94 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights). Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge) starting at $164 per night and studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa starting at $154 per night (Friday-Saturday nights) and $199 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights). The rates are valid most Sunday – Thursday nights during that period.

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 EDB 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.