Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

Update for March 15, 2010 – March 21, 2010

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

News and Views

"Give a Day" program ends | Bi-coastal Annual Pass | Pirates League | Speedway accident | Construction update | Quick Takes …

Give a Day, Get a Disney Day ends

The following was reported by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix in the Disneyland Update.

Just last Monday, we reported that Disney's “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day” program had exceeded all expectations, and was already close to reaching the 1,000,000-volunteer mark. The Walt Disney Company announced Tuesday afternoon that the milestone had been reached and ended the promotion, just 10 short weeks after it began. Volunteers who had already signed up for a specific project when the program ended will still receive their admission voucher once they complete their service; those who waited too long to register can still find volunteer opportunities through the HandsOn Network, but will not receive free Disney park tickets as a reward.

For those who are confused about their status in the Give a Day, Get a Disney Day program, here's a quick update of the information we provided last week:

I've already completed my volunteer service and received my voucher:

  • If you have already completed your volunteer service and have received your confirmation and voucher, you are already "counted." Your voucher is still valid through December 15, 2010 (subject to Resort-specific blockout dates).

I've already completed my volunteer service but have not received my voucher:

  • If you registered through the Disney Web site and have already completed your volunteer service, you have already been counted, and your voucher should be issued within two weeks of your event. Once received, your voucher is still valid through December 15, 2010 (subject to Resort-specific blockout dates).
  • If it's been more than two weeks since you completed your service, the Disney Web site provides the following advice: "If you have not received any communication or seen the status of your volunteer activity change after 2 weeks, please contact the Guest Support Team for assistance. Please keep in mind that if you signed up for the program as part of a household, verification emails are sent to the lead volunteer."

I've already signed up, but I haven't completed my volunteer service:

  • The easiest way to tell if you've been "counted" is to log into your Disney.com account and look to see if your volunteer service activity is listed. If so, you have already been "counted," and you will receive a voucher once your service is completed and has been verified by the sponsoring organization. Once issued, your voucher will still be valid through December 15, 2010 (subject to Resort-specific blockout dates).
  • If your volunteer activity is not listed under your account, you have not been counted, and will not receive a voucher. If you feel this is an error, you need to contact the volunteer organization directly for assistance.

I haven't signed up yet:

  • The program is over, and you can not register for a volunteer activity to earn a Disney Day. However, the HandsOn Network organizations still need help - especially those groups who had planned summer events and will have a hard time recruiting volunteers now that the program is over. Visit the HandsOn Network Web site for local opportunities (link).

We want to know what you think! If you are a volunteer, did "Give a Day, Get a Disney Day" encourage you to volunteer more than you usually do? Are you going to continue working with the organization you found? Should the program have been extended this year?

If you represent a participating organization, how do you feel about the promotion ending so soon? How has GadGadd impacted your group's activities this year? What was your greatest success and biggest frustration with the program? Write us at volunteers@mouseplanet.com and share your experience with us.

Disney Parks announce Premier Pass

The following was reported by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix in the Disneyland Update.

At the Disney Shareholders meeting Wednesday morning, Walt Disney Company President Bob Iger officially announced today a 2-Resort "Premier Pass" valid at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort. Details of the new Annual pass were also posted to the official Disney Parks Blog (link). The Premier Pass is $700 ($722.75 with Florida sales tax applied to 1/2 of the ticket value, due to differences in tax codes).

The Premier Pass has no exclusive benefits, but affords the holder the benefits of a Premium Annual Pass at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World:

Disneyland benefits include:

  • Admission to Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure 365 days per year, with no blockout dates.
  • Park-hopper privileges.
  • Free parking at Disneyland Resort pay lots.
  • Discount of 10% off most merchandise purchases from Disney-owned stores at the Resort.
  • Discount of 15 to 20% off food purchases at most Disney-operated restaurants.
  • Discount of 20% off selected guided tours.
  • Subscriptions to Backstage Pass, the Annual Passholder magazine. Access to AP-only rates at the Disneyland Resort Hotels.

Walt Disney World benefits include:

  • Admission to all four theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios 365 days per year, with no blockout dates.
  • Park-hopper privileges.
  • Admission to both water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach
  • Admission to Disney Quest, Wide World of Sports Complex (subject to restrictions) and Disney's Oak Trail Golf Course (subject to restrictions).
  • Free parking at Walt Disney World Resort pay lots.
  • Discount of 10 to 15% off merchandise from selected Downtown Disney and Animal Kingdom merchants.
  • Eligibility to purchase membership for the Tables in Wonderland discount dining program.
  • Discount of 10 to 15% off dining at selected restaurants in the theme parks, Downtown Disney and Resort hotels.
  • Discounts on selected sports and recreation activities, including the Richard Petty Driving Experience, spa treatments and marina rentals.
  • Discounts on selected event and entertainment tickets, including the AMC Theater in Downtown Disney and miniature golf.
  • Discount of 15% off selected guided tours.
  • Subscription to Mickey Monitor, the Annual Passholder magazine.
  • Access to AP-only rates at the Walt Disney World Resort Hotels.

The new Premier Pass is now available for purchase or upgrade at the Disney theme parks, and reportedly eight of the new tickets were sold at Disneyland the first day they were offered. The passes are currently not available for sale on either the Disneyland or Walt Disney World Web site. At this time, the Premier Pass is not eligible for the monthly payment plan for Southern California Residents. If you live in Southern California and want to finance the pass, your best option is to purchase a Premium Annual Passport on the monthly payment plan, then immediately upgrade the pass to a Premier Pass. You'll pay the entire difference between the two tickets at once, but at least you can continue to make monthly payments on the original cost of your Premium pass.

If you already had qualifying annual passes at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, your passes will be upgraded to the new Premier Passport, and your new pass is being mailed to you this week. A Disney spokesperson declined to confirm how many people qualified for this perk, but the number is reportedly 700 to 800 passholders. If you're among that number, your new Premier Pass will have the expiration date of the later of your two passes, so you're essentially getting a free extension of the earlier-expiring pass. In other words, if your Disneyland Pass expires in June, but your Walt Disney World pass expires in December, your new Premier Pass will have the December expiration date, giving you six more months of Disneyland admission for free.

Originally the Disney Parks Blog incorrectly stated that you must already have a Premium Pass both both Disneyland and Walt Disney World to qualify for the upgrade and extension. In fact, if you held any Annual Pass at each park (with the lone exception of the Epcot after-4:00 pass), your passes will be upgraded to the new Premier Pass. You are reading this correctly—if you had a SoCal Select pass in Disneyland and a basic Passport AP for Walt Disney World, you will soon be the proud owner of a shiny new Premier Pass—at no extra charge. Of course, when your Premier Pass expires, you'll have to renew it at the higher charge if you want to maintain your benefits.

If you already hold an AP to one Resort, you can upgrade your existing pass to a Premier Passport, but you'll pay the full difference between the two regardless of when you bought it. The expiration extension was limited to those passholders who already held qualifying passes to both Resorts; anyone who upgrades an existing pass now retains their current expiration date. If you've just renewed your AP and want to upgrade it might not matter to you, but if your pass is due to expire soon, you might want to wait and just purchase a new Premier Pass when the time comes.

Examined closely, the new Premier Pass is ideally suited for those Disney fans who already had Premium passports to both Resorts, some DVC members, and people who don't want to do the math. In reality, the Premier Pass is nothing more than a Premium Annual Passport to both domestic Disney Resorts, and costs less than purchasing the two passes separately. There are no exclusive benefits. The question becomes, do you really save any money by purchasing this pass? The answer just depends on your individual usage patterns. If you're the person who already has a Premium Pass to both Resorts and always renews your passes the day they expire, then there's no question, this pass can save you almost $300 per year. But, what if, like many people, you purchase or renew your AP at the start of one trip, and then make a second trip just before your pass expires, getting two (or more) trips out of one calendar year. If you're this person, you're unlikely to purchase another AP until your next trip, months in the future. Because the Premier Pass ties the two expiration dates together, passholders may find that they get less benefit from the pass, depending on their vacation plans. You might save a little by renewing, but you get less use out of your pass if that next trip isn't for several months.

MousePlanet reader Burnt Toast provided a good cost comparison on our MousePad discussion boards (link), and it's definitely a good idea to crunch the numbers before purchasing, upgrading or renewing the Premier Pass.

Here's a great look at the construction of the park entrance topiary for the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival with time-lapse photography. Don't forget to check out our Festival Guide.

Pirates League to cost less booty

If you've been thinking about doing the Pirates League makeover but thought that the pricing was a bit high, it may be your time to pledge allegiance to the Jolly Roger. While the pirate equivalent of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique has shortened its hours to 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (from 9  to 7), the price has also shrunk. The two base packages, the First Mate and Empress, have been reduced from $49.95 to $29.95 each. The Captain's package, however, has been discontinued. If you'd like to try what was originally in that Captain's package, you can rebuild it a la carte on top of the remaining packages. Changes were effective last Friday.

The packages include your choice of facial effect, a reversible bandana, an earring & eye patch, a temporary tattoo, a pirate coin necklace, a sword & sheath, your official pirate name, taking a personalized pirate oath, and either a set of removable teeth (First Mate) or makeup, nail polish and a face gem (Empress). All new pirates also get to participate in an Adventureland pirate parade. The pirate parade is weather-dependent.

Available extras (at additional cost) include costumes for kids and adults, though selection and sizing may vary. Prospective pirates must be at least 3 years old. Reservations are strongly recommended, and can be made by calling 407-WDW-CREW (407-939-2739) up to 180 days in advance. You'll need to provide your credit card number at the time of reservation, and a $10 cancellation fee per person will be charged if you don't cancel at least 24 hours in advance. Children must be accompanied by an adult age 18 or older during the entire process.

To help promote the upcoming movie TRON: Legacy, Walt Disney World monorails will soon sport graphic art featuring "lightcycles". Image © Disney. Click for larger image.

It appears that we'll still be able to tell monorail colors by the color of the lightcycle's "trail". The new "image wraps" should start appearing on the Epcot line this month. Image © Disney.

Tomorrowland Speedway cast member struck by car on track

Yesterday afternoon, a cast member working at the Tomorrowland Speedway in the Magic Kingdom was injured when he stepped in front of a moving "race car" and was hit by the car driven by a park guest. The Reedy Creek Fire Department responded to the incident, which took place just before 1 p.m., and the cast member was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center by helicopter. The track was closed following the incident, but was back open by 4 p.m.

The cast member reportedly suffered leg injuries, but little is known beyond that at deadline.

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). Join me and help be a part of saving babies! Let's show how big a heart MousePlanet readers and MouseStation listeners have!

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom Space Mountain – post show railing package.
  • Magic Kingdom Columbia Harbour House – refurbishment of restrooms.
  • Magic Kingdom – minor construction work.
  • Epcot – Innoventions Garden marquee package.
  • Epcot Innoventions East – replacement of three automatic doors.
  • Epcot – renovation of restrooms next to Spaceship Earth.
  • Epcot Wonders of Life – roof repairs.
  • Epcot Universe of Energy – slope roof repairs.
  • Epcot World Showplace – annual inspection of vinyl membrane enclosure.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Dinosaur – roof duct replacement.
  • Downtown Disney Marketplace Once Upon a Toy – electrical work.
  • Downtown Disney West Side Cirque du Soleil – second floor lobby countertop refurbishment.
  • Grand Floridian Resort main building – electrical work in elevator mechanical room.
  • Grand Floridian Resort main building, monorail platform, walkway – exterior repair and painting.
  • Polynesian Resort buildings 1–4 – recoating of metal roofs.
  • Polynesian Resort – minor construction repairs.
  • Fort Wilderness Meadows and Settlement Trading Posts – mechanical work.
  • Beach Club Resort – replacement of concrete in bus stop roadway and exit lane stamped concrete.
  • Saratoga Springs Resort Carriage House – repairs & painting to exterior.
  • Coronado Springs Resort Casitas pool deck replacement of concrete.

Quick takes …

…Work continues on the Cantina de San Angel lagoon-side eatery. When completed, a total of 400 seats will be available, between counter service and table service dining. The location is expected to be open in time for the start of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The menu is still in development, but the frozen margaritas are expected to remain.

…The Walt Disney World Passholder Web site (link) has had some difficulties of late, with some passholders reporting an inability to get into the site or the site displaying expiration dates in 2030 for some passes.

…Walt Disney Imagineering has completed work on the lobby of of the Walt Disney Pavilion at the Florida Hospital for Children (link). Displays include characters from The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and Brother Bear as well as the chance to fish for virtual salmon, trigger jungle sounds from stepping pads, touch and illuminate a cave wall and more. The seven-story, 200-plus pediatric bed addition is expected to open by early next year.

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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

  • March 3 – May 16: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.
  • March 12–14: UCA National All Star Cheerleading Championship (link).
  • April 23–25: USASF/IASF Dance and Cheerleading World Championships (link).
  • April 23, 24, 30, May 1. Grad Nite (link).
  • May 21–June 13: Star Wars Weekends (link).
  • June 12: Expedition Everest Challenge (link).
  • July 14–27: ESPN RISE Games.
  • August 27–29: Disney's Pin Celebration: Trade City, U.S.A. (link).
  • October 1–2: Disney's Wine & Dine Half Marathon (link).
  • October 1–November 14: Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
  • November 11–14: Childrens Miracle Network Classic (link).
  • November 25–28: Old Spice Classic.
  • January 6–9, 2011: Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (link).

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Tinker Bell’s Fairy Treasures – closed for remodeling to include a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique PhotoPass location.
  • Cinderella Castle – facade refurbishment through March 31.


  • 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 through March 27.
  • Studio Catering Company – closed for refurbishment through March 27.
  • Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure – closed for refurbishment through March 27.

Animal Kingdom

  • No currently scheduled refurbishments.


  • Wilderness Lodge Silver Creek Springs pool slide – closed for refurbishment through March 31, 2010. Guests may use the Silver Creek Springs Pool and the Hidden Springs Pool, as well as the pool and slide at Disney's Contemporary Resort, during the refurbishment.

Water Parks

  • Blizzard Beach – closed through March 20, 2010 for 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 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 – Now through March 27, April 11 through June 3
  • Moderate resorts –  Now through March 27, April 11-June 3
  • Deluxe ande Deluxe Villas resorts – Now through March 27, April 11 through June 3

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).

Save big with room-only discount rates

You can save 25 to 45 percent off your room rates for stays from now through late summer. Rates vary depending on your dates of travel, the length of your stay, and the resort category at which you are staying.

For any stay from now through August 14 (except for March 28 to April 10, you get some great discounts:

  • Value resorts: 25 percent off
  • Moderate resorts: 30 percent off
  • Deluxe Resorts: 35 percent off
  • Deluxe Villa Resorts: 40 percent off.

For stays of five or more nights from now through June 3 (except for March 28 to April 10, the discount is five percentage points higher:

  • Value resorts: 30 percent off
  • Moderate resorts: 35 percent off
  • Deluxe Resorts: 40 percent off
  • Deluxe Villa Resorts: 45 percent off.

The deal can be booked from now through March 27, 2010. 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 QNY 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).

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