Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for December 28, 2009 – January 3, 2010

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

News and Views

OSHA cites, fines Disney | Gift card with stay offer | "The Year to Volunteer" | Construction update | Quick Takes …

OSHA cites, fines Disney in fatal July monorail accident

Walt Disney World was cited by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last Wednesday afternoon on four counts, including harboring an unsafe work environment that led to the fatal monorail crash that killed monorail pilot Austin Wuennenberg on July 5, as reported by David Koenig on his blog. Three other violations were discovered during the investigation. OSHA fined Disney $7,000, the maximium allowable for such a citation, in the fatal accident. The other first-time citation drew a $2,000 fine, while the two repeat violations drew $10,000 and $25,000 fines. In addition, OSHA also issued a letter of recommendation in the death of a cast member who died from injuries suffered during an August 8, 2009 performance of Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial.

The citation for the monorail accident itself specifically stated that during the accident, "switch beams 8 and 9 were not locked into position and energized exposing the operators of the monorail Pink and monorail Purple to a struck by hazard resulting in the death of the operator of monorail Purple."

Five means of abatement were recommended by OSHA:

  1. Using an observer whenever a monorail train is moving in reverse, in compliance with the manufacturer's operating instructions.
  2. Ensuring that the monorail's control system is used without overriding the anti-collision lockout system.
  3. Providing written instruction, training and examinations for the master control console operator in the monorail shop.
  4. Ensure that the central coordinator is overseeing monorail operations from the central control tower.
  5. Making sure that monorail windshields are clear and unobstructed during operation.

Complying with recommendation #2 would likely require monorails coming in to the Transportation and Ticket Center to hold at an earlier track sensor zone while the track switch occurs, bringing the monorail into the station would activate the proximity sensor shutdown. Recommendation #4 deals with situations similar to that which occurred during the accident, where the monorail central coordinator went home ill and the manager overseeing the system took over the position acting as coordinator while eating dinner at an off-property restaurant.

Recommendation #1 refers to the manufacturer's manual, which states: "Caution: Moving a train in reverse is a potentially hazardous operation even under the best conditions. The use of an observer stationed at the opposite train end is strongly recommended. When backing a train, all Company regulations and restrictions must be complied with."

"With the monorail, Disney should have put procedures in place that would have prevented the fatal crash from occurring," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels in a press release. "Employers need to take effective and ongoing corrective action to protect the health and safety of their workers."

Other violations cited by OSHA and leading to fines include a drill press without a guard installed ($2,000), repeat violations for failure to provide training to employees in the use of portable fire extinguishers ($10,000), and exposing maintenance employees working in monorail cabins to a 8-foot, 3-inch fall hazard by not installing or utilizing fall protection equipment at the monorail doorway ($25,000).

In the death of Mark Priest following a fall at the new stage for the pirate tutorial show, while OSHA did not fine Disney nor cite them for a violation, it is recommending that Disney have employees rehearse on new stages before their first live performance.

"In the case of the actor’s death, OSHA feels that greater familiarity with the new stage might have changed the outcome," said Michaels.

Disney was given 15 business days, or until January 21, 2010, by which to abate the violations or challenge the findings. Disney can also request an informal meeting with the OSHA Area Coordinator within that time frame, although such a meeting woulds not relieve the responsibility to abate or contest by the same deadline.

Later Wednesday afternoon, Walt Disney World released a list of safety enhancements to the monorail system. "At Walt Disney World Resort, safety is core to our culture and is central to everything we do. We have a comprehensive safety program that focuses on continuous improvement every day. This is a cornerstone of our company," said Greg Hale, Chief Safety Officer and Vice President of Worldwide Safety and Accessibility, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "Since this summer, we closely reviewed our monorail system and identified opportunities to enhance our safety processes and procedures." In addition to changes that largely comply with recommendations 1, 3 and 4, those enhancements include:

  • Providing additional training to Cast Members on the monorail platform on the use of the portable "kill pack" to stop monorail trains from the platform in emergency situations.
  • Requiring visual verification by the central coordinator during track switches that the beams are in the proper switching position and that power has been applied appropriately by use of an electronic display.
  • Requiring monorail drivers to be in the forward facing cab when switching from one beam to another, to verify that the switch beam has been moved before proceeding, and to stop at the next station after a switch and wait for clearance to proceed rather than clearing the train all the way to the following station.

"We have just received OSHA’s findings and are in the process of reviewing them," said Hale. "We will address any concerns and next steps directly with OSHA. We have already made several enhancements to the operation of the monorail and will review these findings to determine whether any additional steps are necessary."

The National Transporation and Safety Board (NTSB) has not yet released its findings in the incident, and those findings are not expected for several months yet.

Walt Disney World announces new gift-card-with-stay vacation package offer

Last Monday, shortly after we published the Update where we noted that a new discount offer might be launched as soon as that day, Walt Disney World announced an offer that would give you a free Disney Gift Card select vacation packages. The offer is good on vacation packages of five days or longer, and the size of the gift card varies depending on the resort category at which you are staying.

Stays at at Value resorts get you a free $300 gift card per room (essentially $60 per night), Moderate resorts qualify for a $500 gift card per room ($100 per night) and Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts qualify for $750 per room ($150 per night). Obviously, the per-night average decreases for longer stays.

The deal is good for stays January 3 through June 3, 2010, with blackout periods depending on resort category, and can be booked from now through March 27, 2010. The eligible nights are:

  • Value resorts – January 3, January 10-12, January 18 through February 9, February 15 through March 27, April 11 through June 3;
  • Moderate resorts – January 3, January 10-12, January 18 through March 27, April 11 through June 3;
  • Deluxe ande Deluxe Villas resorts – January 3-11, January 19 through March 27, April 11 through June 3; and

The gift cards can be used for merchandise, recreation, dining, special event tickets, sports, recreation, tours, and more at participating locations throughout Walt Disney World.

The number of rooms available at these rates are limited. Book your reservations through the Walt Disney World web site (link) or by using code QGX if booking via the Walt Disney World Reservations phone line (407-939-7607), or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).

"Year to Volunteer" promotion ready to get underway

The "Give a Day, Get a Disney Day" promotion launches Friday, as the list of eligible Hands On Network opportunities will be posted and volunteers can start signing up for a day of service. Under the Disney promotion, in exchange for volunteering a day of service, one million people age 6 and older who sign up and perform their volunteer service will get a free one-day, one-park ticket to the Disney park of their choice.

You can go to the Disney Parks Web site (link) in the U.S. and Puerto Rico or the Disney Parks Canada Web site (link) in Canada to find an eligible project and sign up. MousePlanet is organizing group volunteer efforts in many cities. So join an existing group or start a group in your own home town, visit the MousePlanet Volunteers forum (link). We have a number of group volunteering efforts already in the planning stages, but they're all in the Western United States. Let's see if we can get some events organized in the East. I and/or some other MousePlanet staffers will likely get planning underway for an Albany/Capital District event here in Upstate New York in the next week or so, once the opportunities get published. Why not consider starting a group in your area?

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom Town Square Exhibition Hall, Tony's Town Square Restaurant – roof and facade rehab.
  • Epcot China pavilion – construction of a new 350 square foot merchandise facility.
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge Uzima Springs pool – resurfacing of pool, installation of pool chair anchors and handrails.
  • Blizzard Beach – Summit Plummet handrail replacement.
  • Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex Champions Stadium – removal and replacement of wheelchair lifts in dugouts.
  • Downtown Disney Days of Christmas – building roof refurbishment, exterior refurbishment.
  • Downtown Disney Rainforest Cafe motor control room – exterior refurbishment.
  • Downtown Disney Bongos Cuban Cafe – replacement of elevator floor and subfloor, new first floor hatch door (back).
  • Port Orleans French Quarter Resort commercial building – replacement of existing bases of decorative columns with new stainless steel bases.
  • Coronado Springs Resort Dig Site feature pool – resurfacing of pool, installation of handrails.

Quick takes …

…Beginning next Friday, January 8, a new Disney's Honorary VoluntEARS Cavalcade begins running at the Magic Kingdom (and Disneyland Park) before the Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade every afternoon. The pre-parade features Muppets characters and parade dancers in costumes celebrating volunteerism. There will be special floats and vehicles carrying Honorary VoluntEARS who will serve as the Grand Marshals of the parades.

…Last Tuesday, Disney confirmed the official dates for Star Wars Weekends 2010. The event will be held May 21–23, May 28–30, June 4–6, and June 11–13. Rumor has it that the theme for the event will be bounty hunters, and that there will be many surprises. Also, there will likely be some cross-promotion with Star Wars Celebration V, coming to the Orange County Convention Center in August, so keep your eyes open for more announcements.

…The Magic Kingdom is so busy this week that even the Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station and the Diamond Horseshoe are serving food.

…Disney and Chase are now offering a Disney Rewards Debit Card for those who choose not to use credit cards. Many of the benefits are the same as for the Disney Rewards Credit Card. For more information, go to the Chase Web site (link).

…Next weekend, January 9-10, will see the running of the annual Walt Disney World Marathon and associated races. Brazilian Adriano Bastos will be back seeking his sixth consecutive title, seventh overall. The event is nearly sold out as we reach press deadline, and there will be 55,000 runners, wheelers and walkers participating in at least one of the various events over the weekend. Registration for next year's event is expected to open next Monday.

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The Year to Volunteer

To assist MousePlanet readers who want to participate in The Year to Volunteer, we're looking for readers to act as MousePlanet hosts at qualifying volunteer opportunities across the country. While details of specific opportunities won't be available until after the promotion begins in January, several of our volunteers hosts said they want to start coordinating their local events. To help facilitate these activities, we've created a new MousePlanet Volunteers section of our MousePad discussion board devoted entirely to the Year to Volunteer events.

If you would like to coordinate and host a group volunteer event in your area, please visit our MousePad discussion board for more information on how to list your event (link). Hosts will be responsible for selecting a volunteer opportunity from the HandsOn Network site (which means you get to choose a program or organization that's important to you!), and coordinating with local MousePlanet readers who want to volunteer for your activity. To give readers the most time to use their tickets, we encourage hosts to schedule their activities early in the year.

Hosts from Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, southern Utah, southern Nevada and southern Arizona have already started discussions for their area, and are looking for local readers to join their activities. If you live in one of these areas and want more information about local events, please visit MousePad and join the discussion (link).


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

  • Nov. 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 29, Dec. 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17,18. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
  • Nov. 10 - Jan 3, 2010. Castle Dreamlights.
  • Nov. 10 - Jan. 3, 2010. Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
  • Nov. 17 - Dec. 24. Festival of the Seasons at Downtown Disney.
  • Nov. 27 - Dec. 30. Holidays Around the World at Epcot.
  • Nov. 27 - Jan. 3, 2010. Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade.
  • Jan. 7-10, 2010. WDW Marathon Weekend (link).
  • Jan. 15-17. UCA National College Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • Feb. 5-7. National Dance Team Championship (link).
  • Feb. 12-14. UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • Feb. 19-22. TwirlMania 2010 (link).
  • Feb. 27. Contest of Champions Nationals: School & Youth Rec Cheer (link).
  • Feb. 27. Contest of Champions Nationals: All-Star Cheer & Dance (link).
  • March 3 - May. 16. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.
  • March 5. Contest of Champions Nationals: Studio Dance (link).
  • March 6-7. Contest of Champions Nationals: School Dance (link).
  • March 7, 2010. Disney's Princess Half-Marathon (link).
  • March 12-14. UCA National All Star Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • April 23-25. USASF/IASF Dance and Cheerleading World Championships (link).
  • June 12. Expedition Everest Challenge (link).
  • Oct. 1-2. Disney's Wine & Dine Half Marathon (link).

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom


  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Animal Kingdom

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.


  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon – closed November 1, 2009 through January 9, 2010 for annual refurbishment.
  • Blizzard Beach – closed January 10, 2010 through March 20, 2010 for annual refurbishment.


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

Current Discounts & Promotions

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.

New room-only discounts announced for early 2010

On Tuesday, Disney announced a new set of room-only discounts, with savings of 30 percent on Value resorts, 35 percent on Moderates, 40 percent on Deluxes and 45 percent on Deluxe Villas. The savings are value for standard rooms on most nights From January 1 through February 11, 2010.

Sample rates:

  • Value resorts – $58, $65 or $102 per night
  • Moderate resorts – $97, $104, $107 or $143 per night
  • Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge) – $144, $156, $159 or $243 per night
  • Studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, and Old Key West Resort – $163 or $234 per night.

The number of rooms available at these rates are limited, and minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. You can only book these rates through December 31, 2009, so book now!

Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World web site (link) or by using code SGG if booking via the Walt Disney World Reservations phone line (407-939-7607) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).

Passholder discounts through end of 2009

Passholder rates for August 9 through December 24, 2009 have been released. Rates are available for all dates except for November 25–28, the Tuesday through Saturday of Thanksgiving week. Under this promotion, the starting rates at these resorts are:

  • Value resorts – $64 per night (8/9-17, 8/28 thru 9/22, 10/2), $69 per night (10/4 thru 11/24), $54 per night (11/29 thru 12/17) and $89 per night (12/18 thru 12/24)
  • Moderate resorts – $89 per night (8/9-18, 8/22 thru 9/23, 9/27 thru 10/3), $99 per night (10/4 thru 11/24), $89 per night (11/29 thru 12/17) and $124 per night (12/18-24)
  • Select deluxe resorts (Yacht Club, Beach Club, BoardWalk) – $234 per night (8/28 thru 10/3)
  • Select deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge) – $169 per night (10/4 thru 11/24), $139 per night (11/29 thru 12/17) and $229 per night (12/18-24)
  • Studio accommodations at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, and Old Key West Resort – $159 per night (8/9 thru 10/3), $189 per night (10/4 thru 11/24), $169 per night (11/29 thru 12/17) and $249 per night (12/18-24).

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. These rates may be available through your date of arrival. Reservations may be booked through the Passholder web site or by using codes EQA (8/9 thru 10/3) or NBM (10/4 thru 12/24) 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 offers "Kids Sail Free" deal

Now is a great time for families to book a Disney cruise, as the Disney Cruise Line has announced a "Kids Sail Free" promotion for most 3- and 4-night Bahamian sailings from January 7 through through April 15, 2010 and 10- and 11-night Mediterranean sailings from April 24 through May 26, 2010.

Children age 17 and under can sail free when traveling with two full-fare guests in the same stateroom, though government taxes and fees must still be paid for the kids. The offer applies to stateroom categories 4 through 12 and the number of stateroom categories are limited. Other special offers, discounts or onboard credits to not apply, though additional terms and conditions may apply.

Reservations may be booked through the Disney Cruise Line Web site (link), via the Disney Cruise Line Reservations phone line (800-951-3532) or through a travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link). You must use booking code KFO to receive this deal.

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