Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for January 25, 2010 – January 31, 2010

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

News and Views

Hawai'i resort finally gets a name – Aulani | Adventures by Disney offers new value itineraries | New PIN codes going out | Pro soccer tourney at sports complex | Monorail fines reduced | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Hawai'i resort finally gets a name – Aulani

An intricate scale model of the planned DisneyResort at Ko Olina. Photo by Joe Philipson.
An intricate scale model of the planned DisneyResort at Ko Olina. Photo by Joe Philipson.

Disney has announced the name of the new resort being built in Hawai'i: Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, Ko Olina, Hawai'i. "Aulani" is Hawaiian for "the place that speaks for the great ones" or "the place that speaks with deep messages."

"We want this resort destination to reflect the vibrant culture that surrounds it," said Joe Rohde, senior vice president, Creative for Walt Disney Imagineering. "The name 'Aulani' expresses a connection to tradition and deep story-telling—and its roots are here in this land. We’re so grateful to the local Hawaiians who led us to the discovery of this name, and our goal is to live up to its meaning."

After the ground is broken, Jay Rasulo unties the ribbon of maile leaves as part of the groundbreaking ceremony for the Disney Resort at Ko Olina. Photo by Joe Philipson.
After the ground is broken, Jay Rasulo unties the ribbon of maile leaves as part of the groundbreaking ceremony for the Disney Resort at Ko Olina. Photo by Joe Philipson.

The resort's first phase will open in Fall 2011. When completed, the 21-acre beachfront resort will feature 360 hotel rooms and 481 two-bedroom-equivalent Disney Vacation Club villas.

Disney has launched a new Web site (link) about the resort featuring concept artwork, construction photos and more information about the resort.

Hula performances conclude the groundbreaking ceremony for the Disney Resort at Ko Olina. Photo by Joe Philipson.
Hula performances conclude the groundbreaking ceremony for the Disney Resort at Ko Olina. Photo by Joe Philipson.

"We are looking forward to welcoming guests to Aulani to share the fun, immersive family vacation experiences Disney is known for combined with the beauty and culture of Hawai'i," said Djuan Rivers, vice president, Disney Vacation Club and Resort, Hawai'i. "We are turning to the Hawaiian culture for inspiration in everything we are doing at Aulani, and we hope our guests will not only enjoy the Disney experience, but will also embrace the unique culture of Hawai‘i and its diverse people."

For our on-site coverage of the resort's groundbreaking ceremony in Ko Olina in November 2008, see our article by Ryan Ozawa here.

Adventures by Disney introduces Gateway Collection

Adventures by Disney has added a lineup of "value itineraries" to allow guests to access the program at a lower cost. The program boasts "more 'on your own time' for travelers," which translates to less time on guided tours and covered experiences and more unstructured free time where your costs are not included in the package.

The Gateway Collection also features "comfortable lodging" that "is priced as a value option for its select destinations," which means that less-expensive hotels will also help to keep the price down. For those looking to see what Adventures by Disney is about without paying the regular rate, this may help to provide an entry-level experience.

"We are constantly working to create new products that further accommodate guests' vacation preferences and lifestyles and provide a range of itineraries to choose from, such as our high-end Signature Collection itineraries and most recently, our Adventures by Disney/Disney Cruise Line Mediterranean experience," said Karl Holz, President of Disney Cruise Line & New Vacation Operations. "Our new Gateway Collection is ideal for guests looking for a vacation that balances just the right amount of leisure time and freedom to explore destinations on their own with the benefits of Adventures by Disney's guided tours and VIP hassle-free travel."

Gateway Collection itineraries still feature many of Adventures by Disney's special features, including some VIP access into popular tourist attractions and "Disney Difference" experiences. Adventure Guides will be able to help provide recommendations and schedule reservations to help guests enjoy their "leisure time" activities.

2010 Gateway adventures are available to Costa Rica, Italy, and London and Paris. Departure dates are:

  • Gateway to London and Paris – June 25, July 5, July 16 and August 2
  • Gateway to Italy – June 24, July 15 and August 8
  • Gateway to Costa Rica – June 27, July 16, August 7 and an adult-only departure September 4

To learn more about the Adventures by Disney Gateway Collection, go to the Adventures by Disney Web site link) or contact your travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link) and Small World Vacations (link).

New PIN codes being sent out

We're hearing from some people who have received different PIN codes for this fall. Two different types of codes have been released for the same time period, August 15 through October 2. One of the PIN code deals offers free dining, while the other offers a free ticket upgrade with Park Hopper and Water Park Fun & More options. PIN code offers are special deals offered to specific individuals (with each code tied to that individual) sent either via postcard or email. PIN code offers can sometimes be indicators of possible offers to the general public, depending on the response to the offers and the occupancy levels of the hotels.

Pro soccer tournament to help kick off rebranding of sports complex

To help kick off the rebranding of Disney's Wide World of Sports to the ESPN Wide World of Sports at this year's ESPN The Weekend, a preseason Major League Soccer tournament will be played at the complex on Thursday and Saturday, February 25 and 27. FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC will participate in the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic.

Thursday's games features Houston vs. New York at 6 p.m. and Dallas vs. Toronto at 8:30 p.m. On Saturday, the two losing teams play in a consolation game at 6 p.m., while the two winners face off in the championship game at 8:30 p.m. Daily tickets to the event include admission to the complex for both games and the ESPN The Weekend events that take place at the complex. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or on-site at the complex box office.

Other rebranding weekend events include live broadcasts, additional sports competitions and a special performance by the Harlem Globetrotters, with more expected to be announced in the next couple of weeks. Events will take place at the complex and Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Monorail fines reduced

Walt Disney World negotiated a reduction of two of its four fines from OSHA that resulted from last July's fatal monorail crash. The two largest fines, for repeat violations, were each reduced. The fine for the violations that led to the accident itself was unchanged. The repeat violation for lack of fall protection while working on elevated monorails was reduced from $25,000 to $19,100, while the fine for lack of fire extinguisher training was reduced from $10,000 to $7,100. Disney said that it had "worked directly with OSHA to address any concerns."

A personal appeal, for the fifth year

On April 25, I will once again be walking 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. Over the last four years, largely through the generosity of MousePlanet readers, we have managed to raise over $15,000. This year, let's do something special. My personal goal is to raise $5,000 this year. But you can help in ways other than donating to my walk. This year, for the first time, you can walk with me. Even if you aren't in the Albany, NY area, you can virtually walk with me by joining Team MousePlanet and walking at the March for Babies in your own area. For more information about why I'm walking, or to donate to my walk, please go to my fundraising page (link). To sign up to join Team MousePlanet, please go to the team page (link). Thanks for your consideration.

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom Train Station – site work/plumbing.
  • Magic Kingdom Main Street Confectionary – electrical upgrades.
  • Magic Kingdom Cinderella Castle moat – electrical/building.
  • Epcot The Land pavilion – miscellaneous construction work.
  • Epcot Test Track – building work.
  • Epcot – repair of erosion at drydock marina.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Theater of the Stars – minor construction work.
  • Blizzard Beach – building, electrical, plumbing.
  • Contemporary Resort – replacement of sprinkler heads in Tower, Convention Center and South Garden Wing.
  • Yacht & Beach Club Convention Center – modify restrooms.

Quick takes …

…There's a new Disney/Star Wars-themed toy due at Walt Disney World and Disneyland later this year. "R2-MK" is a little astromech droid with black, red and yellow highlights and mouse ears. He'll be sold in a two-pack along with Jedi Mickey for $18.95 starting in April. Photos are available on the Star Wars Web site (link).

…Disney security guard Rodney Dillon, 65, of Kissimmee, Florida, was arrested on 55 counts of possession of child pornography and one count of promoting a sexual performance by a child. Dillon, a bag checker at Disney's Hollywood Studios, had no prior arrest record, but was became a suspect during an Internet investigation. As always in these cases, Dillon has been placed on administrative leave without pay pending resolution of the charges. He is being held in the Osceola County Jail.

…Walt Disney World assisted the "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon last Friday night, with Disney VoluntEARS answering calls and taking donations from the Disney Reservations Center in Orlando. Thousands of Walt Disney World employees are natives of Haiti or have family from Haiti. As a reminder, you can still donate to Help for Haiti at their Web site (link) or by phone at 877-99-HAITI. You can also donate $10 to the American Red Cross for Haiti relief by texting "HAITI" to 90999 ($10 will be added to your phone bill).

…Reservations are now being accepted for the Queen Victoria Room, which we told you about last week. Opening night is February 5. The restaurant has its own reservation line, (407) 939-3862.

…Disney and NASA have announced the winner of the Buzz Lightyear Mission Patch Design Challenge, that we told you about last year. Adam Carr, 11, of Tampa, Florida designed the winning patch (link), which depicts Buzz soaring through space with circling space shuttles and the International Space Station in the background. The design will be made into a commemorative mission patch that will be flown into space and later given to Carr.

…July will see the return of the ESPN RISE Games (link) to the Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, which will gain ESPN branding next month. The event features many competitions in a number of different sports, including the AAU Boys Basketball Super Showcase, the Under Armour All-America Softball game and the Gridiron Kings high school football event. The event, which will run July 14-27, also features baseball, basketball, field hockey, track & field and soccer competition.

…We noted last week that Merlin Entertainments purchased Cypress Gardens, and pointed out that it would be an opportune location for a Legoland park in Central Florida. Last Thursday, Merlin announced that they will indeed build a Legoland park on the site, and it would in fact be the world's largest Legoland. The park will open in 2011 with over 50 rides, whows and attractions. Merlin will invest millions of dollars over a number of years to include accommodations and more branded attractions. Merlin will also keep the Splash Island water park operating with a separate admission, and the famous water ski shows will continue as part of Legoland.

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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

  • February 5–7. National Dance Team Championship (link).
  • February  12–14. UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • February  19–22. TwirlMania 2010 (link).
  • February  27. Contest of Champions Nationals: School & Youth Rec Cheer (link).
  • February  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).
  • October 1-2. Disney's Wine & Dine Half Marathon (link).

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Crystal Palace Restaurant – closed for refurbishment through February 15, 2010.
  • Splash Mountain – closed for refurbishment through February 27, 2010.
  • Cinderella Castle – facade refurbishment through March 31.


  • Living with the Land - – closed for refurbishment through February 5.
  • Cantina de San Angel – closed for major renovation in January for an undetermined period of time. Taqueria Del Lago will remain open.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Studio Backlot Tour – closed for refurbishment February 15 through March 27.
  • Studio Catering Company – closed for refurbishment February 15 through March 27.

Animal Kingdom

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.


  • The Dig Site feature pool at Coronado Springs – closed for refurbishment through January 31.

Water Parks

  • Blizzard Beach – closed through March 20 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.

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

Walt Disney World has announced an offer that will 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 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 18-February 9, February 15-March 27, April 11-June 3;
  • Moderate resorts – January 18-March 27, April 11-June 3;
  • Deluxe ande Deluxe Villas resorts – January 19-March 27, April 11-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. Reservations may be booked 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).

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 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) and Small World Vacations (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.