Walt Disney World Resort
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(6/26/17) Is Walt Disney World Preparing to Expand Blizzard Beach? (MORE...)
(6/17/17) Monorail Blue Drops Pieces and Stalls On Epcot Line (MORE...)
(5/2/17) Walt Disney World Planning Driverless Shuttles and Third Disney Springs Parking Structure
(4/24/17) New Skyway Plan Details Confirmed (MORE...)
(4/18/17) Blizzard Beach - Frozen Summer Games To Return (MORE...)
Resort Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort:
Old Port Royale Food Court, Shutters, Cabana Pool Bar and Calypso Trading Post - NOW through June 30, 2018
Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club - Convention Center Expansion / in progress through Feb. 1, 2018
Portobello Country Italian Trattoria - NOW CLOSED through Fall 2017
DisneyQuest To Close Forever After July 3rd, 2017
Screamscape’s Guide To FastPass+ Is A Must Read!
Current Ticket Pricing: (2/13/17) Another year... another Disney theme park price increase has gone into effect. It's become as inevitable as death and taxes and as long as the Disney theme parks are packed like sardeens in a can all year long, clearly the general public is willing to pay whatever it costs to get into Disney's magical theme parks again and again. The increases went into effect on Sunday at both the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World theme parks.
At the WDW Resort the standard Florida Resident AP has gone up $10 to $559 while the FL Resident Platinum Pass went up $30 to $679. For non-residents, you are looking at $779 for a Platinum and $869 for a Platinum Plus pass, or $125 for just Disney Waterpark AP.
Meanwhile they are keeping the old flexible pricing system in place that bases your cost on just how busy the parks are expected to be, with a 1-day pass to Epcot, Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom now clocking in at $99 for a "value" day and up to $119 for a "peak" day. A 1-day pass into the Magic Kingdom however will cost you between $107 on a "value" day and $124 on a "peak" day. A 1-day Park Hopper will also run you between $162 - $174 depending on what day you go.
General Resort News - (6/26/17) One of our readers posted a few interesting images to Twitter over the weekend, showing off the aproximate location where some new land clearing is now taking place at Blizzard Beach along the backside of the mountain area. Another reader also commented as to how the park's Runoff Rapids slides that empty out into a pool in this section of the park has also been closed for several months now for 'refurbishment', while there has been no sign of any refurbishment taking place thus far.
Could Blizzard Beach be preparing for some kind of expansion?
(6/17/17) Troubles for the Walt Disney World Monorail this week, as a guest standing in the Epcot parking lot reported seeing a piece of Monorail Blue fall off and hit the ground (and even took a photo with the piece!), and shortly afterwards Monorail Blue, sparking and smoking, ground to a halt just outside the TTC. Guests inside had to wait in the heat for a good while, and just as rescue crews were begining to assemble to try and remove them, a monorail "tug" arrived and pulled the broken monorail into the station for an easier removal of the guests aboard.
With the WDW Monorail fleet rapidly aging out, Disney has been reluctant to buy a replacement fleet, and instead has been relying on maintenance and attempts to upgrade the systems of the 28-year-old Mark VI fleet.
(5/2/17) According to the LA Times, Disney is close to signing a deal to launch some kind of new driverless shuttle transportation system for cast members at Walt Disney World. They are said to be in talks with Local Motors (Phoenix) and Navya (Paris) about using their shuttle systems for the test system in Florida, and if that goes well it could roll out to be something usable by park guests about a year later.
(4/18/17) According to Disney, Blizard Beach will see the return of the “Frozen Summer Games” promotional event to the waterpark starting on May 26th. Yes, for the first time in forever (well, since last summer at least) you will be take to take pictures with Olaf and Kristoff at Blizzard Beach, and choose which one of their teams to join to compete in the Frozen Summer Games. The special events will include Ice Pail Relays, Snowball Toss, Ski Pole Limbo, Slide Races and more, mixed in with special crafts and games for the little ones.
(4/14/17) According to a post on the Orlando Sentinel, Walt Disney World confirmed to the paper that an Orlando version of Club 33 would soon be coming to Walt Disney World... but not just one... but four of them, one for each of the four WDW theme parks, is expected to be installed by "this fall".
For those not in the know, Club 33 started off at Disneyland, hidden away in the buildings in the New Orleans Square section of the park, as a very exclusive membership-only club that to this day remains the only place inside the Disneyland theme park where alcohol can be purchased.
Membership prices were not mentioned, but from what I've heard about the original, memberships are priced more at a corporate level, far out of the price range of your average guest, with a steep initial sign-up fee said to be around $25,000 followed by $12,000 annual renewal fees after that.
Ouch! As I said, this is more of a corporate perk than anything else, where a company can take special guests out for a very exclusive meal opportunity they wouldn't get anywhere else. Walt Disney himself devised it for this very same reason as a place where he could entertain foreign dignitaries, investors and other special VIP's.
(4/5/17) In response to Universal's Volcano Bay promise to use virtual queue technology on every major attraction in the park instead of having traditional lines, Disney has been testing out their own virtual queue program on a slide or two at Blizzard Beach over the past week. This made some headlines as if Disney were trying to copy what Universal was doing, but what it really was, was just more of the same old Mickey Mouse concept.
From what I've been told, this was really just Disney's typical FassPass program all over again without all the electronics or pass machines, meanwhile they were still putting the rest of the guests in a regular "Stand By" line to wait even longer than normal for the chance to ride Summit Plummet.
(3/6/17) In a somewhat unexpected announcement, Disney and Cirque du Soleil have announced that their long-running La Nouba show at Disney Springs will finally come to an end at the end of 2017. Several years ago we had reported that Disney had been asking Cirque to start looking into making a new show for the venue, though instead it looks like Cirque opted to simply begin a program of replacing and refreshing many of the various acts in the show instead in an attempt to keep things fresh and new. It worked... for a time at least, but rumors report that La Nouba seldom sells out anymore outside of peak season and after a nearly 20 year run, the time has come to simply let it ride off into the sunset.
Neither Disney, nor Cirque, will confirm what the future has in store, but I'd say it is a fairly safe bet that they've already got a brand new show concept in production already to swoop in and replace La Nouba with an all new experience sometime in 2018. Until that time however, the extreme West End of Disney Springs is going to end up being somewhat of a ghost town when La Nouba goes dark, as DisneyQuest next door is also pulling the plug on the video-game fiesta this July.
In the meantime, I'm sure sales of La Nouba tickets will soar once again for the rest of the year and everyone scrambles to see this awesome show "one final time", or finally get around to seeing it if they've been putting it off. So whichever camp you fall into, I'd look to pick up your tickets sooner than later.
(12/28/16) It isn't often that someone uncovered a new un-built Disney project, but Walt Disney World News Today has posted a lengthy video blog report about an un-built proposal from 1986 for Walt Disney World called Disney Mountain. From the look of it, it sounds like a lot of the ideas of what eventually became Pleasure Island were once envisioned for the area between Epcot and the planned Studios park where the Boardwalk / Yacht & Beach / Dolphin & Swan area resorts ended up being built instead.
The idea at the time was to build a mega project that would contained up to 10 small hotels, convention space, restaurants, retail, a performance amphitheater themed to look like the Hollywood Bowl, a new waterpark and even an enclosed parking structure hidden from view inside the 5-story fake mountain themed structure. Based on the overhead piece of artwork they show, it really does remind me of what eventually became Pleasure Island, but imagine Pleasure Island if a network of hotel rooms were also built into the structure. Actually, it really reminds me of a MUCH BIGGER version of The Island at Pigeon Forge, where guests can stroll through a variety of entertainment, retail and restaurant options that have been build below the Margaritaville Island Hotel rooms. Meanwhile a lot of what was envisioned for Disney Mountain was built... just split off and separated into their own projects strewn throughout the WDW Resort area instead, leaving just The Boardwalk as a sort of final echo of what was once envisioned at Disney Mountain. If you've got some time to listen, follow the link, sit back and give it a listen.
(12/24/16) You’ve only to scan through the Walt Disney World headlines on Screamscape over the past two months to notice a rather disturbing trend taking place at Walt Disney World. To put it bluntly… the Walt Disney World Resort seems to be launching new “Cash Grab” programs left and right. By my count, over the last 6-8 weeks, we’ve seen at least 7 new programs launch intended to primarily increase sales at the Orlando resort’s theme parks:
1) Plan to increase alcohol sales locations at the Magic Kingdom
2) Planned relaunch of Disney After Hours program at the Magic Kingdom
3) $700 a day Cabanas at the Magic Kingdom
4) Highway In The Sky Dine Around on the Monorail
5) $15 per person Express Bus Transportation (Backstage to Backstage) between parks
6) Epcot to Launch New Festival of the Arts, Extend run of Food & Wine again
7) Launch of new MagicBand 2.0 devices and accessories
While some of these are the more obvious cash grab attempts like the ridiculously priced Cabana program, more booze sales and the $15 a person Express Bus program, others are a bit more sneaky. For example the launch of MagicBand 2.0 may seem like just a simple technology evolution, but behind it all Disney’s new puck devices provide not only cost savings by only having to make the electronic guts once, while opening all new revenue streams with the creations of all new themed wristbands and accessories for guests to purchase to use with it. This kind of falls in line with the same kind of move you may have noticed Nintendo (and to a lesser extent, Apple) like to use, by making old previously purchased accessories incompatible with the next generation of hardware purely for profits sake. For example, each new generation of Nintendo DS created over the years, most of them would require the owners to use a different sized stylus (I’ve counted 5 different sizes so far), and quite often, a power cord with an entirely different shaped connector rather than use a standard USB style universal power cord connector.
In the end, what they all share in common is a way for Walt Disney World to take their existing infrastructure and find a way to make some extra money from it. Some of these make more sense than others however, as over the past couple of years the popular Epcot Food & Wine festival has seen it’s run extended from what was once a five to six week event (October to mid November) to now starting the 2017 event on August 31st, adding a little over a month onto the overall run. Epcot is also adding the new Festival of the Arts event to the slowest weeks of the year (Jan. 13 to Feb. 20) in order to help drive up some extra business as well, which will have a heavy focus on the culinary arts... aka: food sales.
So why the sudden urge at WDW to generate more cash inflow than they already do? Some might simply lay it down to Disney trying to have the profits from the theme park division offset the falling profits other faltering divisions (I'm looking at you ESPN), but if that were the case, then we would be seeing this kind of activity taking place at Disneyland as well and not just launching only at Walt Disney World just as Disney kicks off their first new financial quarter of 2017. While I'm sure there are a small variety of reasons, Screamscape was informed that one of the key reasons behind the WDW imitative was the once scheduled December 1st, 2016 launch of the new "Overtime Final Rule" from the US Department of Labor. While the new Overtime rule is currently on hold, pending litigation after a Federal judge in Texas set an injection in motion to stop it, the new Overtime law would have had a big affect on some of the various departments within Walt Disney World.
How? Well to summarize it briefly, the current Overtime laws allow for companies to create specific positions that are paid at a "Salary" level instead of "Hourly". Hourly pay is what most of the jobs at Walt Disney World (and elsewhere) are, where employees are paid a specific sum for every hour they work, and by the Federal labor laws once you work over 40 hours in a week, all hours beyond the first 40 are paid at an "Overtime" level which is typically 1.5-times the regular hourly wage. (ie: someone making $10 per hour, will get $15 per hour Overtime). Things are different for those in Salary positions, where they are paid a specific lump sum regardless of how many hours they work, removing the possibility of getting any overtime pay as long as they make at least $455 / week or $23,660 annually. Those levels were set decades ago and have never been overhauled to reflect inflation and the increase in pay levels over the years, so it isn't difficult at all for a salaried employee working a full-time schedule to make well over $23,660 a years. The new law that was to have gone into effect would have raised that bar significantly to require wages of $913 / week or $47,476 annually for them to be exempt from Overtime pay for hours worked beyond 40 per week.
This is where certain departments within Walt Disney World apparently began to panic, as Disney has long had a habit in most of their departments of creating a management structure that was fairly full of middle-management staff that were salaried positions making less than $47,476 annually. Now the new rule, if and when it does go info effect, would only affect those workers who were actually working over 40-hours a week, and in many departments I'm told that this wouldn't be an issue at all. However, while interviewing some anonymous WDW Cast Members (current and former) about the issue, we were told that some specific departments were quite guilty of expecting their salaried staff to work well over 40 hours a week on a regular basis to help their departments meet their budget expectations. While no one currently employed was willing to point a finger, one previous WDW Manager did tell us that during their employ that the Foods and Finance departments were known to be guilty of the practice at the time.
So suddenly Walt Disney World found themselves with a virtual platoon of low-paid middle-management CMs, all in Salary positions, threatening to put them into a very tricky pickle. This is a result of Walt Disney World's established management hierarchy system combined with their notorious reputation for paying CMs what was described simply as "horrible salaries" that were "well below average". The solution? Pretty much what we have been witnessing Walt Disney World unfold over the past two months, hopefully along with internal changes within the various departments where needed.
(12/22/16) Disney World kicked off another new premium service a couple of weeks ago called Express Bus Transportation. If you follow along on twitter, you may have seen me mention it before, but I had forgot to explain it in detail here until now. What it breaks down to is a new upcharge park-to-park "Express Bus" service to speed up the transition between parks for those able to park hop. The service costs $15 per person, or you can pay $24 per person for a multi-day pass, but the real trick is how they do manage to speed up the travel-time between the parks.
These special Express Buses actually drop-off and pick-up guests from backstage areas within the parks and wisk the guests away to their next park, dropping them off in the middle of the action, bypassing the crowded main gate areas and additional bag-checks.
From how I understand it, the four bus stops are located:
Magic Kingdom - Near the exit of Buzz Lightyear
Epcot - Near Spaceship Earth
Studios - Next to Rock 'n Roller Coaster
Animal Kingdom - Near the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris
The idea is interesting and on really crowded days I can see the advantage of it. Now I'm just curious is anyone has done any time studies to determine the average travel time between parks with Express and without it.
(12/1/16) Walt Disney World will launch a new dining option on Dec 2 called the Highway In The Sky Dine Around. The cost is said to be $150 per person (ouch!) and will be offered on Tuesday, Friday and Saturdays where you will get priority boarding on the monorail and taken on the circuit around the line, stopping at the Grand Floridian, Polynesian Village and Contemporary Resort along the way for the various meal courses.
The trip starts with a cocktail at "The Wave" at the Contemporary before going to the Poly for "sips and appetizers" then off to The GrandFlo's Citricos for an entree with wine pairing followed by more wine and cheese in the lobby, then back to the Contempory for dessert, cordials, and coffee on a private patio where you can watch the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom.
(11/19/16) Awhile back, late in the Summer, it was discovered that Disney had filed some paperwork with the FCC for a new version of the Magicband technology that instead of being emedded within a “band”, the pictures shown in the filing showed off a “puck” or pebble shaped device. It wasn’t entirely clear how Disney was planning to incorporate this new design style into their Magicband system eco-system, one that makes a healthy profit by enticing customers to upgrade their existing bands for special alternate themed versions, or even limited time collectable versions.
Well… now we know… as Disney released a first peek at what they are calling MagicBand2 this week at a D23 event. The small plastic pebble like devices will now be embedded into a wearable band and can be removed with a small screwdriver by taking out two small screws to remove the ring that holds the puck in place. This will allow you to buy as many themed “bands” as you link, and be able to swap the puck back and forth.
Of course this also comes with a huge advantage for Disney… as the cost to make the new bands themselves will be greatly reduced as they will have zero technology embedded within them, as everything will now be kept entirely within the puck. Oh… and all the local fans who have ravenously gobbled up the first generation collectible bands will now have to buy MagicBand2 versions to go with their new puck. Don’t like the wristband? Apparently Disney will have you covered with alternate ways to carry your puck as well, such as a keychain version, and I can’t imagine that a necklace version will be far behind as well.
According to Disney, they will begin to mail out the new MagicBand2 system to passholders starting sometime in December and the new bands will also begin rolling out to upcoming Walt Disney World vacation guests starting sometime in January 2017.
Ongoing - Disney Springs Additions - (5/2/17) According to the Orlando Business Journal, Walt Disney World has signed Finfrock Construction to a $58 million contract to build a third parking structure at Disney Springs that will be built across the street from the current "Lime" garage structure. For those keeping track, Lime was the second of the two massive parking structures built for Disney Springs.
(2/1/17) I've been expecting part of this announcement to come with a lot of dread, but Disney made it official a few hours ago that DisneyQuest will close forever on July 3, 2017. The big surprise was that DisneyQuest is still closing to make way for the previously announced "The NBA Experience" attraction, despite reports last year that the efforts by the NBA Experience people had fallen short and that they would be unable to move forward. Apparently they fixed whatever went wrong over the past year and The NBA Experience project is now moving forward again, following the demise of DisneyQuest.
(1/27/17) Good news for sea food loving Walt Disney World fans, as the Paddlefish tweeted that they will finally open to guests on February 4th.
(1/25/17) Walt Disney World announced the latest over-to-top upcharge service today... a new Personal Shopping Service now available at Disney Springs that will run you $250 an hour. Yeah... you apparently pay someone to go shopping with you and give you fashion advice... for those who can't make decisions on their own or who apparently can't get a friend to go with them shopping anymore... at Disney Springs. You'd think you could just offer to buy a friend a really tasty meal in exchange for shopping with you get off a lot cheaper than renting a "proven fashion advisor" to tag along.
Time will tell if this option goes the way of the Magic Kingdom Cabanas.
A final serious note: While I am aware that there really are people who spend money for these kinds of services... I have serious doubts that Disney Springs is their shopping location of choice. I would think they might be more inclined to head to The Mall at Millenia instead.
(1/11/17) While we are still waiting for the all new Planet Hollywood Observatory restaurant to open in the near future, the Disney Parks Blog shared a look at some of the new menu items (from Guy Fieri) along with confirming that we would see the return of PH's famous Chicken Crunch. They also give off a look at an assortment of new giant crazy milkshake creations smothered and covered with candy and cake that look oh-so inspired by the opening of Universal's Toothsome eatery that opened last summer.
(10/1/16) According to an update from the Orlando Sentinel, Walt Disney World is already making plans to add a third parking garage structure to their Disney Springs retail/dining area… formerly known as Downtown Disney. The estimates are that the garage will offer at least 2000 new parking spaces and they are looking into placing it across Buena Vista Drive from the existing Lime garage (which is also about 2000 space I believe). Options like a pedestrian bridge over Buena Vista Drive are also being considered.
I did have one thought however, if they place this across from the Lime structure, isn’t that the area currently used for parking for WDW’s Casting Center building? I’m kinda curious why they are avoiding building this up in the far parking lot out behind Cirque.
While on the subject of Disney Springs, it has also come to light that the STK restaurant concept isn’t doing as well as they had hoped, with claims that they just aren’t selling as many high-end steak meals as they had hoped. While I’ve never been to STK myself, I’ve heard that the atmosphere is a a bit of a confusing cluster as well, mixing the concept of a high end (read: EXPENSIVE!) steak house restaurant with the atmosphere of a lively and loud nightclub experience. One might say that perhaps the two concepts just don’t mix well. Or perhaps the fact that there are many very fine (and expensive) steak restaurants already in the area that end up costing less than STK because they are off Disney property. In any case, look for extensive modifications to STK to be forthcoming in both the appearance and menu selection being offered to fit in better with Disney’s family dining crowd.
(7/20/16) Walt Disney World has announced a new restaurant that will open in 2017 at Disney Springs called The Polite Pig. The Polite Pig will be a "sister restaurant" to The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, FL and feature a number of wood-fired smoked and grilled menu items. Look for it to appear in the Town Center area of Disney Springs.
(12/30/15) The Orlando Biz Journal has posted a good look at the plans for the new Edison restaurant coming to Disney Springs, including the various themed rooms. There is also a space nearby for another rumored eatery called “Walt’s” as well as the spotting of underground facility plans that are rumored to possibly be for an underground bar style location that will use the name, Neverland Tunnel.
(6/10/15) Disney has pulled back the curtain on a couple of new attractions coming to Disney Springs. The first will open next year from the Patina Restaurant Group and Kinetescape's Andrew Meieran. It's called The Edison, an "Industrial Gothic" style restaurant and bar that will serve American style food, incredible cocktails and feature some unique live entertainment options.
If this sounds familiar at all to California readers, it should... as the group also runs the original "The Edison" in Los Angeles, set inside a historic power plant. The new Florida site will feature several uniquely themed rooms that will tower above you through the use of 35 foot tall ceilings. Look for The Edison to open in The Landing sometime in 2016. If you want to see more, a quick Google search shows off many impressive pictures from the West coast version of The Edison.
2017 - Wilderness Lodge Resort / Waterside Cabins - (3/5/17) Walt Disney World has announced that the DVC expansion of the Wilderness Lodge Resort which has been named “Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge” is now set to open on July
17th, 2017, and DVC sales will begin starting on March 8th for current members and April 5th for general sales. In addition to 184 modern, nature-inspired, vacation rooms it will also feature 26 new waterfront cabins that can sleep up to 8 with 2-bedrooms, 2-bathrooms, dining and living spaces, floor to ceiling windows and even a stone-hearth fireplace to really bring the “cabin” experience home.
Disney has posted a promotional video for the new Cooper Creek Villas & Cabins which you can see below.
HHNUnofficial sent in a photo to us showing off the new bungalow buildings under construction by the waterside at Disney's Wilderness Lodge resort.
(6/22/15) The Orlando Sentinel has confirmed a rumor I had previously heard about, claiming that Walt Disney World will build 26 special "cabin" themed rooms along the shore of Bay Lake at the Wilderness Lodge Hotel. Plans have already been filed with with South Florida Water Management District, and according to the previous rumors I had heard, these new high-end units will be essentially very similar in concept to the water bungalow rooms just added to Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. The article also mentions that the plans include a new boardwalk, a "bar grill" and a new pool at the Wilderness Lodge.
2017 - Miss Adventure Falls at Typhoon Lagoon - (3/13/17) The new Miss Adventure Falls raft slide at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon is now open along with the rest of the park. You can get a good look at this new slide in the video clip below from our friends at Attractions Magazine. At the heart of things, this is a new family raft slide, but one that allows you to load at ground level and ride a conveyor belt to the top of the slide to begin your adventure. There is plenty of fun themeing to look at along the way however, including the first time that Disney has added an animatronic figure to one of there waterslide attractions.
(3/5/17) Walt Disney World has confirmed that the new Miss Adventure Falls slide at Typhoon Lagoon will open to guests on March 12.
(1/20/17) Walt Disney World has confirmed that the new 2017 waterslide coming to Typhoon Lagoon has been given a new name. Instead of Miss Fortune Falls they are now going to call it Miss Adventure Falls. A new piece of concept art was also released on the official website along with a new description about how the attraction is owned by Captain Mary Oceaneer, a treasure hunter who's fortune was scattered across the area by a rogue typhoon. As you slide through adventure you can spot various artifacts along the way and possibly the captain's 'old diving partner', an Animatronic parrot.
(8/3/16) Walt Disney World has named the new slide attraction on the way to Typhoon Lagoon for Spring 2017 as "Miss Fortune Falls". As rumored, it will be a new family raft experience taking guests through the "fabled Captain Mary Oceaneer's past." It seems Captain Mary was a treasure hunting adventurer before a rogue storm stranded her at Typhoon Lagoon. Miss Fortune Falls is expected to feature a total ride time of two-minutes, making it one of the longest attractions at any of the Disney waterparks.
(6/28/16) Screamscape sources tell us that Disney has filed paperwork indicating that they were planning on adding a new ‘family raft’ slide to their Typhoon Lagoon waterpark, near the park’s latest additions, the Crush ‘n Gusher water coasters. Given the timeline, I would guess that we could see this new attraction added in time for the park’s 2017 season as long as they start construction on it before the end of the year. Anyone know more?
2019 - Disney’s Coronado Springs Expansion - (3/2/17) Screamscape sources report that demolition work to make way for that new 15-story resort tower announced for Disney’s Corando Springs Resort is already underway with fences up and visible near the front of the resort, and one of the existing two-story buildings nearby already coming down. Some great photos of the work in progress were posted to the WDWNT Blog last week.
(2/20/17) Walt Disney World has announced a large 15-story tower will soon be added to Disney's Coronado Springs Resort that will add an additional 500-rooms onto the property. As this is regarded as a very popular "convention" hotel it isn't uncommon for the resort to run out of rooms far short of the overall demand for some of the events held on site here, so the additional 500 rooms are very much needed.
According to the release from Disney we can expect the new tower and other changes to be open in about 2-years, so look for it in 2019. The new tower will feature suites and concierge level service as well. The new tower will also feature a unique rooftop dining opportunity that will offer a unique view of the popular nighttime fireworks visible from the nearby theme parks.
Meanwhile over the same time-period you can look forward to the existing rooms to also be upgraded and refurbished, as well as see the addition of other features to the landscape. One such mentioned was a "floating garden" and an "island oasis that connects the resort through a series of bridges".
2019 - Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort Improvements - (3/2/17) There has been some fuss lately over what the future has in store for Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort property. Our readers caught wind of some of it posted last month where it looked like a possible aerial gondola tram system linking Epcot’s International Gateway to Disney’s Hollywood Studios would zig-zag it’s way across the Caribbean Beach Resort property to allow for a mid-point station.
Then you can add into this that Disney included a blurb in their announcement about the new hotel tower coming to Disney’s Coranado Springs Resort that the Caribbean Beach Resort would soon also be “reimagined with new additions to the resort’s current marketplace, Centertown, including new waterfront dining and retail shopping areas. This centralized location will offer the resort’s guests more convenient access to services, amenities and dining.”
While nothing more has been officially confirmed by Disney at this time, those interesting plans submitted by Disney that tipped us off to the possible Skyway 2.0 project also show quite a few changes are planned to take place to the entire Caribbean Beach resort in the near future. The plans label this as “Project 88”.
Meanwhile, I’ve also heard from a few Disney DVC enthusiast readers who eagerly pointed out that the site has also been mentioned in several rumors over the past year as being the next likely site for a new DVC expansion project once the current project at the Wilderness Lodge is finished.
All things together do make a lot of sense as Disney’s DVC division has been on a run of non-stop rampant growth over the past several years, adding in new DVC additions and conversions to most of the top-tier “Deluxe” Disney resort properties. Now, with almost every Deluxe resort at WDW now featuring some kind of DVC presence, it looks like the time has come for a proposal to upgrade one of the current “Moderate” resorts into a new DVC property.
Like the expansion just announced for the Coronado Springs, rumor has it that the Project 88 changes planned for Caribbean Beach Resort could be ready to open hopefully by late 2019… just in time to take advantage of all the crowds expected for the Star Wars Land project at the Studios.
So what all is planned? Would you believe that it looks like the entire northern end of the resort near the main entrance could be changed? This would include the removal of the entire Barbados group of guest buildings, the removal of the northern half of the Martinique guest buildings, the reshaping of the current ponds between Barbados and the Custom House check-in building, some possible changes to the Custom House area as well as changes to the northern shoreline of the resorts central lake. A new large structure is seen on the plans that would take up a large portion of the space currently occupied by the Barbados buildings, placed alongside the shoreline of the central lake, along with those previously mentioned shoreline changes. This would likely be a new 10 to 15 story tall DVC guest tower, with the rest of the remaining land not shown for any dramatic changes at this point, but the removal of the other nearby guest buildings to allow for ground level construction that wouldn’t be on the map, like a parking lot for example, or the addition of the new or reshaped ponds seems to create a nice separation between the DVC guests and the regular resort guest rooms and areas. Disney likes to keep some separation between the two guest areas where possible to help drive home the “exclusive” and “special” atmosphere of the DVC program that the guests like.
Take a look at the images I’ve attached showing off the resort as it currently looks and with an overlay of the Project 88 changes.
(2/20/17) Between now and 2019, Walt Disney World has announced that their Caribbean Beach Resort "will be reimagined with new additions to the resort’s current marketplace, Centertown, including new waterfront dining and retail shopping areas. This centralized location will offer the resort’s guests more convenient access to services, amenities and dining."
Nothing was mentioned about that rumored new aerial gondola transportation system, but the timeline also fits, as they seem to want to get the new additions in place in time for the Star Wars Land to open at the Studios in mid to late 2019.
Note: 2016 Update - (4/11/16) A few changes have been made to the Walt Disney World FastPass+ reservation process as of Sunday. According to an update posted to AttractionsMagazine guests can now select a basic time-window when choosing your first three FP+ reservations online or on the app. Previously you had to take whatever options the app gave you and then try to massage it into something more of your liking later on.
You can now also opt to only pick one or two FP+ reservations instead of being forced to choose 3 right off the bat.
But perhaps the biggest change is that guests can now book an additional FP+ reservation after you have used your first 3 by using the Mobile App or Website on your smart-device, instead of being forces to use an in-park kiosk, though the kiosk option will still be there for in-park guests as well.
--FP+ Only In One Park--
Fastpass+ is currently being offered to all guests in all four parks. Guests can have up to 3 FP+ for the day, but they are only valid in a single park. So, you cannot, for example, book 1 FP+ in Epcot and use the remaining 2 in MK. If you book FP+ in a park, but do not use any of them, you can cancel them and set them for another park, but if you use even just one, they are locked into that park for the day. This started in the beginning so the individual infrastructure for each park could be built up and made more reliable, and also to see which attractions (both new to FP and used to it) guests were going to. This continues today to ensure the parks can hold thousands of people a day on the system, and WILL eventually change so guests can use their FP+ in multiple parks a day.
--Only 3 FP+ A Day--
Guests have the ability to book 3 FP+ a day, and cannot book anymore, even after all 3 have been used. The reasoning behind this is to ensure that most of the guests have the ability to get their own FP+, and it spreads them out across the board, making it fair to all guests so the people who enter the park at 2pm for example still have a fair shot at getting some. I at this point am unsure about this changing, but when the “park hoping” happens, you will most likely see a change in this as well.
--Why Can’t I get Test Track and Soarin?--
The reasoning for the tiered system both at Epcot and Studios is to give more guests the opportunity to get a FP+ for a “big” attraction, and to ensure that they have not all been given out within an hour of the park opening as Test Track, Soarin, and Toy Story have consistently done. The tiered system will not be changing.
--Explain the Tiered System at Epcot and the Studios--
Epcot and Hollywood Studios have a tiered system when it comes to FP+. Essentially what this means is that there are two categories that you get to choose from, category A and category B. In Category A, you may select 1 attraction. In Category B, you may select 2 attractions. You cannot select more than 1 attractions from A, and cannot select more than 2 attractions from B. (At Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, guests can select any 3 attractions they'd like.)
Category A: (select one). Category B: (select 2)
-Illuminations Viewing Area. -Captain EO
-Soarin. -Journey Into Imagination
-Living With the Land -Meet Mickey & Friends
-Test Track. -Spaceship Earth
-The Seas with Nemo & Friends
-Turtle Talk with Crush
Category A: (select one). Category B: (select 2)
-Toy Story Mania. -Disney Junior Live on Stage
-Beauty and the Beast Live -Voyage of the Little Mermaid
-Fantasmic! -Tower of Terror
-Rock 'n' Roller Coaster -Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
-The Great Movie Ride -Star Tours
-Lights, Motors, Action!
-Muppet Vision 3D
NOTE - When it comes to switching FP+, guests cannot switch between categories. It must be switched with an attraction from the same category.
--The Difference Between Resort Guests and Day Guests--
Resort Guests have the ability to make FP+ selections up to 60 days prior to the beginning of their stay. Day Guests do not have this option, but can make day of selections at any FP+ Kiosk once inside the park.
As of right now, APs can enter the park and make fp+ selections day of. They do not have the ability to book in advance, UNLESS they are staying at a WDW resort. There is currently a test that started not too long ago that gives APs the ability to book FP+ in advance for a total of 7 days for every 60. The days do not have to be consecutive, and this does not mean that they ONLY get 7 days of fp+ period, even if they visit more than 7 days. APs still have the ability to make FP+ selections the day of their visit at any FP+ Kiosk once inside the park. The ”7 Day” test is only being done with advanced reservations. And yes, APs are going to be able to customize their own AP MagicBands.
OTHER WALT DISNEY WORLD PROJECTS:
???? - Aerial Gondola Transportation System / SkyWay 2.0 - (4/24/17) The Orlando Sentinel reports they have obtained some documents confirming the aerial gondola system planned for Walt Disney World. According to the notes from Reedy Creek the system will feature 3 lines, and 6 stations, to link Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot, the Caribbean Beach Resort and the Art of Animation / Pop Century resorts. As we had also posted previously the notes also seem to confirm Doppelmayr would the supplier of the gondola system.
In an interesting note, they claim that the project has been in development under the code name, "The Italian Job".
(4/11/17) It's been awhile since we discussed the rumored Walt Disney World Skyway plans but according to the local news reports new permit filings were released indicating a "notice of commencement" to begin work on the required footers for the system. On a related note, there is an interesting website out there that actually tracks the installation of new ski and gondola lift systems from all the major manufactures called LiftBlog.
While I'm not sure how 100% accurate this is, they are listing three Doppelmayr systems (10-MGD) being slated for installation at Walt Disney World for 2018. This would match up with the expected rumors of the Disney system to be made up of three separate systems that would run from the large triple-junction station between the Caribbean Beach and Pop Century/Art of Animation Resorts, featuring runs to Epcot, the Studios and a third down to Pop/AoA. The Doppelmayr 10-MGD system is the same one currently being used in London I believe which can hold 10 riders, though I do have to think that whatever goes into WDW has a good chance of using bigger gondolas in order to accommodate the needed traffic.
(2/22/17) I did some fun numbers calculations about that proposed WDW Skyway 2.0 Aerial Tram layout we've been talking about. Using measurements from Google Earth I roughly calculated the distances involved, and they are quite massive, possibly making the longest aerial tram systems in North America. By my rough measurements:
The distance between a possible Epcot station and Turn 1 would be 2275 feet.
Turn 1 to Turn 2 (on Caribbean Beach property) would be 3,455 feet.
Turn 2 to the Station south of Caribbean Beach would be 2,000 feet.
From CB Station to the Disney's Hollywood Studios would be 3,745 feet.
This gives it a one-way, park to park distance of 11,475 feet, or 2.17 miles one-way, 22,950 feet (4.35 miles) if traveled round trip.
Now the interesting thing is the potential time involved in traveling that distance. While the true trip length would be determined by the speed the cable travels, which is unknown... I do happen to recall that the speed of the Skyride at SeaWorld California is roughly 6mph, allowing it to make a round trip journey in 6 minutes. If the possible WDW system were to run at the same 6mph, a park to park trip (not counting for any extra time spent switching cars / lines at CB if required to do so) would take just under 22 minutes. That seems a bit longer than I think Disney would be wanting their guests to be locked up in boxes in the sky, so I can only imagine that this system would have to move a little faster. Either way... gives you another idea to think about in comparison to just how long it takes to travel between the two parks by bus or even by boat, especially since the boats make 3 extra stops between the parks at a) Boardwalk, b) Yacht and Beach Club and c) Swan and Dolphin docks.
(2/18/17) For anyone wanting to see a bit more about what the rumored Disney SkyWay 2.0 system could look like, especially at how loading in the stations are easy and do allow for wheelchair access, check out the video below from Doppelmayr showing off a system installed in German
y in 2010.
(2/17/17) Over the past couple days an interesting rumor has come up for Walt Disney World that may excite you. While not for a new themed attraction, it seems Disney may be ready to pull the trigger on adding a new form of park-to-park transportation that might link up the International Gateway rear-entrance of Epcot to the Studios park, along with a stop at a station at the south end of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. Here is the kicker though… this wont be an expansion of the Monorail.
For decades Disney’s planners and Imagineers have long looked into ways to expand the resort’s popular Monorail transportation system. Countless plans and paths have been drawn up over the years to do exactly this, including plans that would have expanded the Epcot line to run through the Swan & Dolphin and over to the Studios that way. There were even proposals to running an entirely new Monorail beam (or Light Rail even) that would link Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, and Downtown Disney.
The same obstacle would rear an ugly head each time… MONEY. The cost to expand Disney’s beloved Monorail system was just deemed far too costly an endeavor, especially as a free method of transportation. I’ve heard many rumors over the years at what it could cost to expand the system, but the breakdown was always that it would cost around $1,000,000 - $2,000,000 per beam section… which can be more easily envisioned as a cost of $2 million for each and every upright support required to build it. That doesn’t even begin to cover the costs of the Monorail trains themselves, or ongoing operational costs. For a more accurate cost comparison, the current Las Vegas Monorail system which uses the exact same beamway specs as Disney’s (because it started when MGM Grand bought a couple of retired Disney cars to run between two casinos) cost over $650 million to build the 4.4 mile beamway system.
In comparison, it was easy to see why Disney instead just opted to buy a fleet of buses that could do the same job at a fraction of the cost. But times are a changing… companies are looking to do things perhaps a little more “green”, and the time may be right to try a new and cheaper form of mass transit that is gaining momentum in countless proposals across the world. Aerial Gondola Systems… much like the old Disney Skyway attraction that was retired from the Magic Kingdom (and Disneyland) long ago… but all grown up and modernized. In America most people see these systems and immediately think of them as Ski Lifts, as that has been their most popular use, but Aerial Trams and Gondola Systems have slowly been gaining use throughout the world, both as tourist attractions (because the views are incredible), but also because they are more budget friendly and very simple to install, requiring only a few towers along the route to support the cableway.
While in the US most of these systems are still in the proposal phase, around the rest of the world they have been put into action already, some already running for decades. Those who have visited New York may recall seeing the Roosevelt Island Tramway system that has been running since the late 70’s, but that is what is known as an Aerial Tram that features large gondola cars that are fixed to the cableway and shuttle back and forth on the same line. Gondola systems use dozens of smaller cars that can attach and detach from the moving cable. While smaller in capacity most modern cars can take at least 8 to 10 riders per car, some even more. They are enclosed and some even powered with climate control systems, which would be a must in the Orlando weather. When built for high capacity these systems are able to dispatch fully loaded cars about every 15 seconds, and the number of cars on the line is only limited by the length of the distance travelled and the speed that the cable is traveling. For example the Awana Skyway in Genting, Malaysia has 99 gondolas on the line at once and promotes special glass floor gondola rides and the ability to charge your mobile devices while you ride. Oh… and if you are worried about lightning strikes? Don’t both… these systems are designed to take lightning strikes as the towers are simply just a bunch of guide wheels for the cable without any needed motors of electric equipment, all of that is safely located on the ground in the stations. If you recall the old Disney Skyway being shut down for lightning, yes… this was true, but those featured open air cabins, so any passing rain storm would cause it to see downtime. In an interesting but brief article on the subject matter found at GondolaProject, an engineer quizzed about why there is so much worry about lightning from the public but not the engineering side had this to say:
“We just think no one would let us build these things if they couldn’t handle lightning. I mean, they must be able to handle lightning. We wouldn’t build them if they couldn’t. And because we do build them and are allowed to build them, then we assume people know that they can handle lightning… I guess we must think differently.”
So really the only weather related problem that would see the system shut down would be for extremely high winds that could cause the cars on the line to swing a little too much. While each system is different, and the direction the wind is blowing at your line will cause different movement, I seem to recall that we had to have gusts blowing in the the 28-35 mph range to see a temporary shut down of the SeaWorld SkyRide from most directions, but if it hit from just the right direction at 18-20 mph, we would also go into a wind hold and pull the cars from the line. But our cars only held 4 riders and were much smaller than what I assume Walt Disney World may be planning.
So back to Disney… and just what are they planning? Well some clues came to light on Tuesday after messages posted to the forums at WDWMagic includes locations of some odd shaped structures coming to Disney property near Carribean Beach, The Boardwalk, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios park. They were separated into two different filings, each one with a fairly remarkable rectangle shaped structure, and with one oddly shaped “V” style structure. Seeing these for myself, and having a history of knowing quite a bit about the old Von Roll style skyway attractions used in parks after working at the one at SeaWorld California for 3 years growing up, I recognized the odd V-shaped structures as turning stations for a possible gondola system. Again those who remember the WDW version of the Skyway will remember it too would leave Tomorrowland and drop towards the ground and enter a turning station located inside the Speedway attraction grounds before going back up into the sky to complete the run to the Fantasyland station. The existing Skyride at Busch Gardens Tampa also performs a similar maneuver inside it’s own turning station.
With the exact placement of the buildings shown on the permits, it is easy to put them on an aerial map of Disney property and draw a straight line from each station to the next, going from a station structure outside Hollywood Studios (near the boat dock), running East towards a large structure at the south end of the Caribbean Beach Resort, north over the resort to a turning station, then west to another turning station located at the back of the guest parking lot at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, and while nothing more has been found yet, if you follow a straight line from here to the north you end up perfectly at the International Gateway rear-entrance to Epcot.
So with enough high capacity cars Disney could be looking at a unique new transportation method that could handle around 3,000 if not possibly 4,000 guests per hour. The larger structure south of the Carribbean Beach Resort is also interesting to me, as it is significantly larger than the station structure placed in front of the Studios park. It isn’t just a direction change station, so it would make sense to allow for the nearby resort guests to climb on and off here, and the location would also be within light walking distance from the nearby Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts as well. But why is the building so much bigger? Maintenance and Storage.
Every detachable gondola system needs to have at least one main station in the system with storage tracks in the back to place the gondolas when they aren’t in use, as well as serve as the systems maintenance and repay bay. The Tomorrowland station at the Magic Kingdom was much larger for this very same reason, with the storage lines for their gondolas kept hidden behind the station, just above where the Tomorrowland restrooms are now. Their second-floor home has since been removed along with the Skyway station section of the structure, but they kept the first floor bathroom facilities. (Fun note, I believe the Disneyland version hid their storage tracks behind the Fantasyland station)
So will this happen? The fact that Disney seems to be in the early phase of permitting that shows off locations makes me think that there is a very solid chance that this is already in the works. Disney also just announced some upgrades and changes will soon be coming to the aged Caribbean Beach Resort as well (more on that later) so if I had to guess, I’d say they may be trying to get all their ducks in a row in order to open it all in time for the opening of Star Wars Land in late 2019. It is also worth noting that I’m sure Disney is aware that not everyone will want to take the Skyway, especially anyone who is afraid of heights, so I’m sure bus transportation will always still be available as well to all locations, but attaching the Studios to the back entrance of Epcot is sure to be a big way to not only increase foot traffic to this underused entrance, but also to the nearby restaurants and attractions attached to the Boardwalk Resort as well. It should also be interesting to think about where else Disney may be looking to run similar systems across their property, because for the past couple years I’ve also heard rumors that Universal was eyeballing the exactly same concept as a way to transport guests from the main Universal Orlando Resort to whatever project they have planned to replace Wet ‘n Wild on I-Drive.