Walt Disney World Resort Updateby Mark Goldhaber, staff writer
Update for December 12 – 18, 2011
Go directly to: News & Views | Join our Networks | Coming Soon | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions
Grand Floridian Villas officially confirmed | Comedy Warehouse returns–briefly–at Studios | More resort TV channels and other news from DVC meeting | Four Seasons Resort breaks ground | Christmas Parade to air at same time across country | "Wishes" to be new show aboard Disney Fantasy | Christmas arrives at American Idol Experience | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd update
After months of silence, it's finally official: the construction taking place at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is indeed a new Disney Vacation Club resort. The announcement came at the annual Disney Vacation Club Condominium Association and via press release last Thursday.
The as-yet-unnamed resort—will likely be either the "Grand Floridian Villas" or "The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa"—is targeted at opening in late 2013. DVC's 12th resort will be its eighth at Walt Disney World. The 147 announced villas are likely a two-bedroom equivalent count, as we mentioned back in March, with a total of 200 keyed entries, meaning that there will be 53 "lock-off" units where the two-bedroom unit can be split into separately keyed one-bedroom and studio units. We're haven't heard anything either way on the report that we had in March of converted units in the main resort.
The resort will be located between the existing Grand Floridian Resort and Disney's Wedding Pavilion, near where the Grand Floridian Spa and tennis courts are located. As we reported back in March, the tennis courts will be removed, as will the adjacent parking lot, while two new lots will be built. The new lots will separately service the new DVC resort and the Wedding Pavilion. The Spa will remain closed through the first half of next year as construction continues. In addition to the resort building, there will be a children's water play area and a covered walkway from the main Grand Floridian Resort building.
There is no word yet on when sales will begin for the new resort, but it will join Bay Lake Tower, Saratoga Springs Resort, Animal Kingdom Villas, and Aulani as the resorts currently being offered for sale by DVC.
We'll have more on this story as information becomes available. Join the discussion on our MousePad discussion forums.
Fans of the Comedy Warehouse, late of Pleasure Island, will want to get to Disney's Hollywood Studios during the busiest week of the year. A group of the Who-What-and-Wherehouse Players will be performing a family-friendly version of their improv show in the ABC Sound Studio (usually home of Sounds Dangerous) six times daily from December 25 through 31. Shows take place at 11:30 a.m., and 12:30, 1:30, 3:45, 4:45, and 5:45 p.m., and will be included in park admission.
This additional offering is purportedly to give park visitors an additional thing to do with the huge holiday-week crowds, in much the same way as the showings of Mickey's Christmas Carol at the Premiere Theater last year. However, there's no telling what kind of effect a week of packed houses would do for the future of improv stage shows at Walt Disney World, so if you like improv comedy (especially the sort found at two gone-but-not-forgotten locations from Pleasure Island), you may want to take in a few shows at the Studios during Christmas Week.
The announcement of the Grand Floridian Villas was not the only news coming out of the Disney Vacation Club Condominium Association meeting. New DVC General Manager Claire Bilby had plenty of news for DVC members.
New cable TV channels will be available starting in January 2012. The lineup will vary by location (Hilton Head, Vero Beach, Walt Disney World, Disneyland), but all locations will be getting History Channel, Food Network, and Fox News. Since Walt Disney World is not likely to run multiple television lineups within the resort, it is likely that these channels will become available to all guests at all Walt Disney World resorts, whether DVC or not.
On-line reservations for DVC accommodations will become available on January 19, 2012. The feature will be rolled out gradually, so the feature may only be available intermittently atr the start.
The Tables in Wonderland dining discount card, previously only available to Florida residents and Annual Passholders, will become available to members without the need for purchasing an Annual Pass.
Points charts for 2013 will be available on the DVC Member website in mid-January 2012, and will be mailed in February. There will be some changes, with point reallocations to reflect demand over the course of the year.
Members will be able to book hotel rooms at the Grand Californian Hotel using points starting in September 2012, which will help to address the shortage of DVC-available rooms at the resort. Members had previously been able to book rooms at the hotel on points prior to the construction of the Grand Californian Villas.
Upcoming refurbishments in 2012 include:
- New linens at Animal Kingdom Villas
- Resurfacing of the pool slide and replacement of vacuums at Bay Lake Tower
- Soft goods refurbishment begins in February at Saratoga Springs, will take 13 months to complete
- Beach House refurbishment, exterior painting, pool resurfacing, and replacement of mattresses and box springs at Hilton Head Island
- Refurbishment of pool and miniature golf course at Vero Beach
- Patio and pool furniture replacement at Grand Californian
- Design work beginning for future refurbishment at Beach Club Villas.
Thanks to Tim Krasniewski of DVCNews.comf (@DVCNews) for live-tweeting the meeting.
Send us your menu photos
Click on the "Dining" section from our Walt Disney World Guide to see our complete list of of the park restaurant menus from Walt Disney World. Please help us keep the menus up to date! Send photos or scans of park menus to firstname.lastname@example.org to help us keep our listings updated.
The Four Seasons Resort that was announced in March 2007 has finally broken ground. Mickey Mouse joined Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations President Meg Crofton and the chief executives of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Silverstein Properties at the official ceremony. The resort is a joint venture between Four Seasons, Silverstein, and Dune Real Estate Partners.
Mickey Mouse joins (left to right) Larry Silverstein, president and CEO of Silverstein Properties, Meg Crofton, president, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, U.S. and France, and Kathleen Taylor, president and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, at ground breaking for the new Four Seasons Resort. Photo © Disney.
The 444-room resort will feature a wide variety of recreational facilities. While the Pete Dye-designed Eagle Pines Golf Course was razed for construction of the resort and the adjacent Golden Oak development, the Tom Fazio-designed Osprey Ridge course will be renovated and managed by the resort. In addition, sports facilities will include tennis courts, a climbing wall, and more. A 14,000-square-foot spa with 18 treatment rooms will be supplemented by a fitness center, three pools, and a lazy river. The several dining venues will include a rooftop restaurant with Magic Kingdom views. There will also be meeting and event space, plus a business center.
The resort is scheduled to open in 2014.
In 13 days, it will once again be time for the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade. Recorded at Disneyland in November and at Walt Disney World just over a week ago, the two-hour parade broadcast will air at the same time across most of the U.S., airing on the Disney-owned ABC network at noon EST, 11 a.m. CST, 10 a.m. MST, 9 a.m. PST, and 7 a.m. HST (Hawaii Standard Time). The only exceptions will be five major cities in the Eastern and Central time zones, where it will air at 10 a.m. local time. New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, and Raleigh will be the only cities where the parade airs early. It can also be seen in Canada on CBC and around the world on the Armed Forces Network.
Performances recorded at Walt Disney World include Justin Bieber, Jennifer Hudson, Cee-Lo Green, and Scotty McCreery. Disneyland performances include Christina Aguilera, OneRepublic, the McClain Sisters, and Nathan Pacheco and Katherine Jenkins. Walt Disney World will also feature Disney Channel stars Zendaya and Bella Thorne performing on Main Street, U.S.A., and commentary from above the Emporium by Muppets characters Statler and Waldorf.
Hosted by Mario Lopez in Florida and Nick Cannon in California, the show will also feature Maria Menounos co-hosting in Florida, and Travel Channel host Samantha Brown showing off what's new and next at Disney Parks and Resorts, including Aulani, Adventures by Disney, Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and the Disney Fantasy cruise ship.
The 28th annual broadcast will also feature social media interactivity, including Twitter (follow hashtag #disneyholidays), Facebook, and the Disney Parks Blog. There will also be interactivity through Shazam, a mobile application that is available for both iPhones and Android phones. For more information on the broadcast and interactivity, check out the parade's website.
The Disney Cruise Line invited select media outlets (including MousePlanet) to a special preview of the new entertainment coming to the Disney Fantasy when it sets sail in March 2012. Reporters saw a presentation on A Fantasy Come True and An Unforgettable Journey, the new first-night and final-night shows created for the Fantasy, then got an overview of the previously announced Disney's Believe (currently showing on the Disney Dream) and Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular (based on the show at Disney California Adventure park). Finally, there was a lengthy presentation on Wishes, a brand-new show created for the ship. MousePlanet's Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix posted an extensive report on the presentation with plenty of photos and video last week. We'll continue to bring you news of the ship leading up to its launch next year.
It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas at the American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Eight Christmas songs have been added to the choices for aspiring singers. They've even got holiday-themed lighting on stage. There's a distinctively Disney feel to the choices, as many of them are by Disney artists, and/or have been used in broadcasts of the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade. Singers can choose from:
- "All I Want for Christmas Is You" – Mariah Carey
- "Blue Christmas" – Bon Jovi
- "Jingle Bell Rock" – Aly and AJ
- "Santa Baby" – Taylor Swift
- "The Christmas Song" – Christina Aguilera
- "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" – Miley Cyrus
- "This Christmas" – Stevie Wonder/Christina Aguilera
- "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" – Mariah Carey
The large character icons are being installed in the Finding Nemo-themed section of the upcoming Art of Animation Resort. Take a look!
Here is the listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:
- Magic Kingdom The Great Goofini – handrails package.
- Epcot Odyssey Restaurant – sign installation electrical.
- Epcot Rose Walk – sign installation electrical.
- Epcot Future World bridge – sign installation electrical.
- Epcot Future World west kiosk – construction.
- Disney's Hollywood Studios – Theatre of the Stars expansion.
- Typhoon Lagoon Crush 'n' Gusher queue building – painting.
- Grand Floridian Resort & Spa buildings 5 & 7 – mechanical work.
- Wilderness Lodge – construction.
- Yacht Club Resort – doors.
- Beach Club Resort – doors.
- Beach Club Villas – doors.
- Beach Club Villas first floor mechanical room – mechanical work.
- Animal Kingdom Lodge – electrical.
- Port Orleans French Quarter Resort administrative offices – mechanical work.
- Port Orleans French Quarter Resort arcade restrooms – construction.
- Port Orleans French Quarter & Riverside Resorts water flow control – construction.
…Next year, look for Disney Parks and Resorts to launch The Year of More Magic promotion. They're promising a "special surprise on New Year's Eve," and hinting that there will be some sort of celebration of Leap Year. We'll let you know when we get more details.
…We're hearing rumors that the days for Sounds Dangerous are numbered, and that the attraction will disappear from the Disney's Hollywood Studios park maps as of the special edition being released for Star Wars Weekends in May 2012. This is only sketchy information at this time, and may not be accurate.
Walt Disney World is continuing the company's affiliation with Toys for Tots, run by the U.S. Marine Corps. Walt Disney Company animators designed the logo for the organization six decades ago. Check out the 30,000 toys that Disney VoluntEARS in Florida donated this year.
…Epcot's Japan pavilion once again has its third major eatery open. Katsura Grill (formerly Yakitori House) opened last week with largely the same menu but a major decor overhaul. There are a couple of new dishes, such as edamame, okonomiyaki (a traditional Japanese savory pancake), a panko-breaded crispy chicken sandwich, and cold ramen noodles with shredded crab stick in soy dressing.
…From now through January 7, Russell and Dug from UP will be doing meet-and-greets at Disney's Animal Kingdom across from Flame Tree Barbecue.
…Disney Parks & Resorts has again been honored with an award by Cheers Magazine. The magazine's awards are the adult beverage industry's highest honors for program operators. In the 2012 awards, Disney won for Best Chain Multi-Concept Beverage Program. In 2008, Walt Disney World won two awards for Best Chain Overall Beverage Program and Best Chain Signature Drink for the Blue Glow-Tini. In addition, Disney came up a winner in the 2012 VIBE Vista Awards for Best Wine Program in the hotel/cruise line segment.
This is the first season that Holiday Services has decorated the Disney Dream, and with the ship being an entirely different class from the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder, there was a brand-new challenge in fitting out the ship. (It will probably be a much easier task for the Disney Fantasy next year, as they will have the Dream's decor as a template. Not only did Holiday Services have to design the brand-new decor, they only had hours to transform the entire ship. Check out the video!
…The 2012 version of the Expedition Everest Challenge (a 5-kilometer [3.1 mile] event that also involves an obstacle course and scavenger hunt) takes place on May 5, 2012. No registration date has yet been announced.
…Registration is open for events for the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon (scheduled for the weekend of February 24 to 26, 2012). The Princess Half Marathon is 74 percent full and Kids' Races are 69 percent full.
…Is this the week that adult races start selling out? Registration is still open for events for the Walt Disney World Marathon 2012 (on the weekend of January 5 to 8, 2012). If you were considering entering one of these, now's the time. As of this week, registration is at:
- Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge – 97 percent full
- Marathon – 96 percent full
- Marathon Relay – 94 percent full
- Half Marathon – 99 percent full
- Family Fiesta 5K – 96 percent full
- Kids' Races – 95 percent full (The Mickey Mile and All Kids Dashes on Friday, January 6 are sold out. All dashes on Saturday, January 7 are still open.)
- Pasta in the Park Party – 67 percent Full
Crowd information and forecasts are provided by TouringPlans.com, the website of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, to help you better plan your trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. TouringPlans.com gathers wait time data from a team of in-park researchers and users of their Lines mobile phone application, and then predicts crowd levels for the next 365 days. Using a scale from 1 to 10, TouringPlans.com has a 90 percent accuracy of predicting the crowds to within 1 point, helping visitors prepare for their trips so they can "Do more. Wait less."
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- December 13, 14, 16, 18. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
- November 4, 2011 to January 8, 2012: Castle DreamLights.
- November 10, 2011 to January 7, 2012 (except December 8): Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
- November 10, 2011 to January 3, 2012: Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade.
- November 25 to December 30. Holidays Around the World.
- January 5–8, 2012: Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.
- February 24–26, 2012: Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend.
- March 7 to May 20, 2012: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.
- May 5, 2012: Expedition Everest Challenge.
- May 18 to June 10, 2012: Fridays through Sundays: Star Wars Weekends.
- September 28 to November 11, 2012: Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
- Mickey's Toontown Fair – closed permanently to make way for Fantasyland expansion.
- Main Street Fire House – closed; reopens as headquarters for the new Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive game in early 2012.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – closed for refurbishment January 9 to May 27, 2012.
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant – closed for refurbishment and moving to Storybook Circus January 9 to February 17, 2012.
- Liberty Square Riverboat – closed for refurbishment January 28 to February 3, 2012.
- Magic Carpets of Aladdin – closed for refurbishment February 26 to March 10, 2012.
- No known closures.
- Fantasmic – is not performed January 9 to February 12, 2012.
- Studio Backlot Tour – closed for refurbishment February 13 to March 10, 2012.
- Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure – closed for refurbishment February 13 to March 10, 2012.
- Kali River Rapids – closed for refurbishment January 23 to February 9, 2012.
- Grand Floridian Spa – closed through mid-2013 for refurbishment.
- Pop Century Resort – repairs of concrete deck at Hippy Dippy Pool through September 28, 2012. The pool will remain open during the work, but some small sections of the pool deck will be closed periodically throughout this period.
- Typhoon Lagoon – closed December 4 to March 17, 2012 for annual refurbishment.
Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays. The show will not be performed:
- January 17 to 21, 2012
- March 20, 2012
- May 15 to 26, 2012
- July 24, 2012
- September 18 to 22, 2012
- November 27, 2012
Room-only discounts for February through June
Disney has released a room-only discount for all nights from February 21 through June 14, with the exception of the Easter peak from April 1 to 12. Discounts vary based on date. However, many resorts are excluded from the discount, including All-Star Movies Resort, Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, Contemporary Resort, Beach Club Villas, Wilderness Lodge Villas, and premium views at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
For stays on the nights of March 9 to 31 and May 25 to 27, guests receive discount rates of:
- 15 percent at Polynesian Resort, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, standard view rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Fort Wilderness Cabins, Port Orleans Riverside Resort, Pop Century Resort, All-Star Music Resort, and All-Star Sports Resort
- 20 percent at Animal Kingdom Villas, Boardwalk Villas, Caribbean Beach Resort and Coronado Springs Resort
- 25 percent at Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, Boardwalk Inn, and Wilderness Lodge
- 30 percent at Saratoga Springs Resort and Old Key West Resort.
For all other nights during the discount period, the discounts are:
- 20 percent at Polynesian Resort, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, standard view rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Fort Wilderness Cabins, Port Orleans Riverside Resort, Pop Century Resort, All-Star Music Resort, and All-Star Sports Resort
- 25 percent at Animal Kingdom Villas, Boardwalk Villas, Caribbean Beach Resort and Coronado Springs Resort
- 30 percent at Saratoga Springs Resort, Old Key West Resort, Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, Boardwalk Inn, and Wilderness Lodge.
You must book this discount by January 22 for arrival dates through March 31 and February 28 for dates through June 14. The rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length-of-stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals.
You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-1917 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code N6P. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
Free dining for January through March
A two-tiered free dining package is available for stays for selected arrival dates from January 8 through March 29. The deal includes lodging, base Magic Your Way passes (which you can upgrade with any of the available add-ons), and the free dining plan.
If you choose a Value resort for your stay, you'll receive the free Quick Service Dining Plan (two quick-service meals and one snack per person per night, plus one resort refillable drink mug per person). If you'd prefer to stay at a Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villa Resort, you'll get the free standard Disney Dining Plan (one table-service meal, one quick-service meal, and one snack per person per night, plus one resort refillable drink mug per person). Those at Value resorts can upgrade their Quick Service Dining Plan to the standard plan for the difference in the plan's cost. The dining plans do not include gratuities or alcoholic beverages.
Note: Since these dates are already within the 180-day booking window, some table-service restaurants might already be completely booked, so don't assume you can book any specific restaurant without checking first. Of course, if dining is the most important part of your trip, you can book your dining reservations first to lock in your favorites, then find a resort for those nights. You can always cancel the dining reservations if you can't get a resort for those dates.
You can book through December 17 while availability lasts, but reservations may go fast. The discount codes are P49 for Value resorts and F4M for Moderates and above.
Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-1880, or your travel agent. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
Room-only discount for January and February
A room-only discount was released for early next year. The discounts are available for travel from January 2 through February 20, 2012. Guests receive discount rates of:
- 25 percent at value resorts except All-Star Movies Resort, which is 20 percent
- 30 percent at moderate resorts except Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, which is 25 percent
- 35 percent at deluxe and deluxe villa except Animal Kingdom Lodge and Polynesian Resorts, which are 30 percent
You must book this discount by December 21. The rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals.
You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-1917 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code UU7. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
Passholder merchandise discounts extended through 2011
Walt Disney World passholder merchandise discounts have been extended through the end of 2011. Epcot After 4pm, Weekday Select, Seasonal and Annual Passholders get 10 percent off purchases at selected locations, while Premium Annual Passholders (including bicoastal Premier Annual Passholders) get 20 percent off. The discount is available at Walt Disney World-owned and operated shops, but not those stores owned by "operating participants" (third-party stores). The discount is also not valid on a long list of products, and can not be combined with other discounts, offers or promotions. For a full list of what is not included in this discount, check out the Art of Disney Parks website.
Military ticket offer
From now through September 28, 2012, active and retired U.S. military personnel can purchase 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with either the Park Hopper or Water Parks Fun and More option for $138 per ticket, plus tax, or with both the Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun and More options for $165 per ticket, plus tax. No Base ticket is available with this offer.
The tickets expire and may not be used after September 30, 2012. Blackout dates are December 26 to 31, 2011; April 1 to 12, 2012; and July 4, 2012.
Eligible service members include active or retired members of the U.S. military including the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reservists. Disney Military Promotional Tickets can be purchased at Shades of Green or at a participating military base (MWR/ITT) office. There is no tax charged for these tickets but they must be activated at a theme park ticket window. Tickets may also be purchased at Walt Disney World Park Ticket Offices and Guest Relations Offices where tax will be charged. No more than twelve Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased, activated and/or used by any Eligible Service Member or spouse during the life of this promotion, and no Eligible Service Member or spouse may purchase, activate and/or use more than six Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets during any single week of the promotion. One of the Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets purchased on each occasion must be for use by the Eligible Service Member or spouse. This offer is for active or retired members of the U.S. military, including the National Guard, Reservists and the U.S. Coast Guard. Valid military identification is required. The tickets are non-transferable and may not be resold.
The tickets may be upgraded to Seasonal Passes or Florida Resident Weekday Select Passes (for Florida Residents), or Annual Passes, Premium Annual Passes, or Disney Premier Pass with credit toward the upgrade based on the actual price paid. The no-expiration option and other upgrades, such as additional days, are not available.
For complete information regarding Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets, military personnel may call 407-939-7830, visit the Walt Disney World website, or participating U.S. military base ticket offices.
Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.