Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for June 1 – June 7, 2009

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

News and Views

Kris Allen | Summer at Sea update | Disney Vacation Club expansion | Fairy Tale Weddings cameras | Construction update | Quick Takes …

"Idol" Allen makes good on his promise

Kris Allen, the newest American Idol, appeared at Disney's Hollywood Studios on Friday, making good on his "I'm Going To Disney World" commercial vow. Allen, who won the title on May 20, rode with Mickey Mouse in a celebratory parade up Hollywood Boulevard, then serenaded Minnie Mouse outside the American Idol Experience attraction.

The 23-year-old singer from Conway, Arkansas, follows in the footsteps of David Cook, the first singer to utter those famous five words. Cook went to Walt Disney World (along with 28 other former Idol contestants) for the opening of The American Idol Experience. Celebrating with Allen Friday at Walt Disney World was his new bride, Katy. They were married eight months ago.

"American Idol" season eight winner Kris Allen rides down Hollywood Boulevard with Mickey Mouse at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Photo © Disney.

While there were probably more Star Wars Weekend fans in the park than Allen fans, it was still a huge crowd along the parade route and at the performance stage in front of the attraction's big screen.

Allen also recorded a short video segment that will be used in the attraction ("Your American Idol journey could start right here"), and made a somewhat-less-than-surprise appearance at the 11 a.m. show. During his appearance at the attraction, he noted that the American Idol Experience stage was actually nicer than the original.

Kris Allen serenades Minnie Mouse in front of the American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Photo © Disney.

"Summer at Sea" adds more Disney Channel stars

The Disney Cruise Line has updated the lineup for its Summer at Sea promotion (link) with Disney Channel stars aboard the Disney Wonder for cruises with sailing dates from July 9 through August 2. Just added are: Chelsea Staub (Camp Rock)—July 23, July 26; Oleysa Rulin (High School Musical)—July 16, July 19; Roshon Fegan (Camp Rock)—July 9, July 12; Jennifer Stone (Wizards of Waverly Place)—July 30; Meaghan Martin (Camp Rock)—August 2 and Allisyn Arm (Sonny with a Chance)—August 2.

Here's the complete list as it stands now. More stars may yet be added.

  • July 9 sailing (3 nights): Tiffany Thornton (Sonny with a Chance), Doug Brochu (Sonny with a Chance), Nicole Anderson (JONAS) and Roshon Fegan (Camp Rock)
  • July 12 sailing (4 nights): Tiffany Thornton (Sonny with a Chance), Doug Brochu (Sonny with a Chance), Nicole Anderson (JONAS) and Roshon Fegan (Camp Rock)
  • July 16 sailing (3 nights): Jason Earles (Hannah Montana) and Olesya Rulin (High School Musical)
  • July 19 sailing (4 nights): Musical Act Mitchel Musso, Jason Earles (Hannah Montana) and Olesya Rulin (High School Musical)
  • July 23 sailing (3 nights): Jason Dolley (Hatching Pete) and Chelsea Staub (JONAS)
  • July 26 sailing (4 nights): Jason Dolley (Hatching Pete) and Chelsea Staub (JONAS)
  • July 30 sailing (3 nights): Debby Ryan (The Suite Life on Deck) and Jennifer Stone (Wizards of Waverly Place)
  • August 2 sailing (4 nights): Alyson Stoner (Camp Rock), Meaghan Martin (Camp Rock) and Allisyn Arm (Sonny with a Chance)

To enter the Summer at Sea sweepstakes (link) for your chance to win a cruise with the stars, you've got until this coming Sunday night, June 7, at midnight.

As always, we encourage you to contact a MousePlanet sponsor travel agency for assistance in booking your next trip:

  • MouseEarVacations 800-886-8601 (link)
  • Small World Vacations (link)
  • Get Away Today 800-523-6116 (link)

Pinocchio's Village Haus Restaurant is under wraps in Fantasyland. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

A construction wall and scrim on top keep the queue for "it's a small world" outside the attraction. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

A full line of walls and scrims cover the northwest side of Fantasyland. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

DVC expansion continues with Treehouse Villas opening today, Bay Lake Tower coming in August

Following the opening of the Animal Kingdom Villas' Kidani Village annex on May 1, the next segment of the Disney Vacation Club's massive expansion continues today with the opening of the Treehouse Villas. The villas, which were built on the same sites as the original Treehouse Villas, have tremendously decreased the footprint of the buildings. This has allowed Disney to rebuild the resort without running afoul of environmental regulations, which come into play because the original buildings sat within a flood plain. By utilizing a smaller central column and expanding the upstairs square footage, then supporting the extra girth with thin posts, Disney has preserved the total square footage while reducing the encroachment on the flood plain. The updated resort uses the same pool area as the original, which has also been updated.

The kitchens of the Treehouse Villas have lovely new surfaces, and the island houses the living area's flat screen television. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Next up, Bay Lake Tower will open adjacent to the Contemporary Resort, providing the closest accommodations to the Magic Kingdom and arguably the most spectacular views. The Villas at the Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland Resort will open this fall, and the Ko Olina Resort on Oahu is scheduled for a 2011 opening. There are also likely to be DVC accommodations at the new resort that Disney will build in National Harbor, MD. Construction dates for that project have not yet been announced.

Looking out the living room window of the showplace Grand Villa at Bay Lake Tower presents a fabulous view of the Magic Kingdom. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Last Wednesday, Walt Disney World invited about 20 members of the media – including television, newspaper and Internet – on a tour of the three newest Disney Vacation Club properties at Walt Disney World, as well as lunch at Sanaa, the table service restaurant at Kidani Village. I'll have photos and impressions in an article coming shortly. The media push is likely connected with the increasing difficulty of selling timeshares in an uncertain economy. While DVC accommodations are among the most spacious at Walt Disney World, Disney is starting to have difficulty in selling them due to the upfront purchasing costs. I'll talk about that more in the photo tour and review. In the meantime, I've included a few photos to whet your appetite for the story.

The linens in the bedrooms at Kidani Village feature African-inspired prints in bright colors. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Fairy Tale Weddings adds disposable camera offering

For those who want to bring a Disney touch to their wedding but don't want to spring for the high-priced Disney Couture wedding gowns, now you can buy the Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings Camera by Kodak (link). The new disposable camera lets you upgrade your more inexpensive camera to a camera that features a pumpkin on one side and Cinderella's coach on the other, for $9.99 apiece.

Those who purchase two cases of the cameras (10 cameras per case, or 20 cameras total for $199.80) from Disney.com (link) by June 30 will also receive a free Kodak Digital Picture Frame valued at more than $100.

For those unfamiliar with "wedding cameras," they are disposable cameras that can be distributed to guests (usually by being placed on tables at the reception) so that guests can take additional photos of the event. The cameras are collected at the end of the event and the photos are developed to provide the bride and groom with another view of the party.

The northernmost building of Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe is covered by a scrim. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Across the "street," the Hall of Presidents sports its own scrim. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The scrim on the Hall of Presidents goes all the way around to the river side of the building. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Are You Game? MouseAdventure Walt Disney World registration is now open!

The first-ever running of MousePlanet's signature MouseAdventure event at Walt Disney World will take place on November 14, 2009! The day will begin with a private breakfast at the Odyssey Center prior to park opening. The meal will be followed by a six-hour fun-filled race around Epcot, giving you a fresh look at things in the park that you never noticed before!

The first part of the game will be in the classic MouseAdventure format, sending you on quests throughout Future World. After completion of that portion, teams will engage in an Enchanted Race around World Showcase to the finish line!

For more information or to register, go to the MouseAdventure page (link)! Don't forget to sign up for the MouseAdventure Newsletter to stay up on the latest MouseAdventure news (link)!

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom Hall of Presidents – graphics package.
  • Magic Kingdom Liberty Square Christmas Shop – replacement of existing wood floor on first level with a new wood floor.
  • Magic Kingdom Space Mountain – general building improvements, including electrical and any fire alam.
  • Magic Kingdom Crystal Palace, Pirates of the Caribbean area, Pecos Bill's, Peter Pan area, Toontown, Enchanted Grove – rewiring of pipe chase electrical sensors in restrooms.
  • Epcot Innoventions – research center kiosk package.
  • Epcot Germany pavilion Snow White meet-and-greet area – provision of area development modifications including landscape, hardscape and electrical.
  • Downtown Disney DisneyQuest – general building improvements, including electrical and any fire alarm.
  • Grand Floridian Resort – removal of existing merchandise storage rack system and reconfiguration of existing fire suppression at merchandise storage facility.
  • Tree House Villas pool building restrooms – removal/replacement of auxiliary heating unit.

The Frontierland Railroad Station has its own nicely-painted scrim. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

For some reason, the scrim atop the Diamond Horseshoe is the only unpainted scrim in the Magic Kingdom. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Inside the Diamond Horseshoe, however, they're serving food to help deal with the crowded dining facilities. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Quick takes …

…The new kids' pool is now open at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.

…Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel has a great interview with "Auntie Kau'i," one of the true treasures of the Polynesian Resort (link).

…The 2010 Walt Disney World Half Marathon is now full. Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is 80 percent full (7,500 capacity). The Marathon itself is now at 55 percent of capacity. Time is running out! Register now (link)!

While the Villains float has been removed from the latest version of the Celebrate a Dream Come True parade, more characters have been added to the walking contingent, including the mice, stepmother and stepsisters from "Cinderella." Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Even the rarely-seen Abu from "Aladdin" now appears in the parade. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

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Jonathan Heigl's Trivia Tidbit of the Week:

Walt Disney World is the second leading purchaser of explosives in the United States, behind only the United States government.

The Jammitors finished their run as the Epcot Jammin' Gardeners last week as the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival came to an end over the weekend. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

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 up

  • May 22-Jun. 14. Star Wars Weekends.
  • June 15 - Aug. 9. Sounds Like Summer Concert Series.
  • Sept. 4, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 29, Oct. 1, 2, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 29, 31, Nov. 1. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.
  • Sept. 6. Trek Women Triathlon (link).
  • Sept. 10-11. Night of Joy (link).
  • Sep. 20. Athletes for a Cure Triathlon (link).
  • Sept. 25 - Nov. 8. Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
  • 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. 10, 12, 13, 17, 19, 20, 29, Dec. 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17,18. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
  • Nov. 12-15. Children's Miracle Network Classic (link).
  • Nov. 13-15. Festival of the Masters (link).
  • Nov. 14. MouseAdventure! (link).
  • Nov. 26, 27, 29. Old Spice Classic (link).
  • Nov. 27 - Dec. 30. Holidays Around the World at Epcot.
  • Dec. 7-12. Pop Warner Super Bowl (link).
  • Jan. 7-10, 2010. WDW Marathon Weekend (link).
  • Mar. 7, 2010. Disney's Princess Half-Marathon (link).

Spring is the time for the renewal of the circle of life. Pop Century Resort last week was home to many young bunnies going out to forage for food in the middle of the night. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

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 now open, with Phase 2 opening in September 2009. Jambo House construction is complete.
  • 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.

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!

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 offer 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.

Passholder rates for June 7 – August 8, 2009 have been released, but the prices aren't available for nearly all nights during that time span. You'll want to check for the specific availability for the dates that you're planning to travel. Under this promotion, the starting rates at these resorts are:

  • Value resorts – $74 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights) and $84 per night (Friday and Saturday nights)
  • Moderate resorts – $109 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights) and $119 (Friday and Saturday nights)
  • Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge) – $144 (July 19-August 8), $174 (through July 18), and $194 (July 4 weekend) per night dependent on date
  • Studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, and Old Key West Resort – $164 per night (Friday-Saturday nights) and $194 per night (Sunday-Thursday nights).

The Disney Dining Plan may also be added to these discounted reservations. 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 (through June 6) or EJC (June 7 – August 8) 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), Small World Vacations (link).

Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.