Walt Disney World Resort
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(12/1/21) Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Update (MORE...)
(11/26/21) So Did FastPass Really Increase Attraction Wait Times? (MORE...)
(11/24/21) Walt Disney World Pauses Sale Of Annual Passes Once Again (MORE...)
(11/19/21) Walt Disney World Shows Off New Characters In Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser (MORE...)
(11/17/21) New Swam Reserve Hotel Is Now Open
(11/15/21) Star Wars Hotel Already Booked Solid For Months (MORE...)
Resort Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon - Currently Closed through to TBD
Disney’s Blizzard Beach - Dec. 26, 2021 to TBD
Disney Skyliner - Epcot Line - Jan. 23, 2022 through to Jan. 28, 2022
General Resort News - (11/26/21) The video is incredibly long (1 hour and 42 minutes) but an incredibly detailed video about how the queues at Disney parks worked has been posted to YouTube by Defunctland. I didn’t have time to watch the whole thing, but they breaking down how attraction wait times work at Walt Disney World in particular over the years, looking specifically at how things were before FastPass, how things changed under the original paper FastPass system, and then how it all changed again under the FastPass+ system. The information presented is quite fascinating and reveals a lot of things I’ve said over the year, and explains a bit about how I never quite felt that the FastPass system was fair to all guests in the way it was run.
It also essentially answers the question people have long asked… did the addition of FastPass increase wait times on park attractions. Check it out below.
(10/26/21) Is Disney preparing to reopen Typhoon Lagoon? Honestly, we don’t really know at this point, but what has led some speculation on the idea is the announced winter closure for Disney’s Blizzard Beach waterpark. Blizzard Beach is now slated to close for a winter rehab starting on December 26, 2021, and previous Walt Disney World tradition would see the other waterpark open from rehab at this same time so that there was always at least one waterpark open at Walt Disney World.
Currently they have said nothing about reopening Typhoon Lagoon which has been closed since the COVID pandemic started in early 2020. Given the cool weather, it is still possible that Disney could simply opt to just have no waterparks open at all for the rest of the winter. Time will tell.
(10/9/21) Walt Disney World has confirmed that the new Disney Genie service will launch in Florida on Oct. 19, 2021. They’ve also confirmed the list of attractions at each park that will be part of the Disney Genie+ Service as well as the two attractions at each park that will require a separate Lightning Lane purchase. Some of the lists are long, so I’m going to post them on each park’s individual page (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom) so they can be recalled for future reference as needed.
Keep in mind that this list of attractions could change at any time as they determine the best needs to adjust the program. You can also pretty much count that Tron Lightcycle / Run and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will be added as Individual Lightning Lane purchases as soon as they are ready to open. One other note, while I believe the extra cost for Disney Genie+ is $15 per person, Disney has not announced the prices for the Individual Lighting Lane purchases, which will also likely fluctuate based on the crowd levels during your visit.
(10/2/21) I’m a little out of the loop on what Disney has planned for it, but a new “MagicBand+” will be made available in 2022 at Walt Disney World. They promise it will provide some interactive opportunities within the parks on select attractions, shows and even those Fab 50 golden statues. One new addition will be the ability to participate in some kind of Bounty Hunter missions in the Black Spire Outpost. There will be a variety of themed bands and faces to choose from, just like the first generation MagicBands.
One thing that makes the MagicBand+ stand out is that the screen and area around the screen can light up quite a bit as you use it. Given that function is likely to draw a lot more juice than the old band, chance are these bands will come with some sort of way to recharge them. Hopefully they will just respond to modern wireless changing methods, but right now we have no way to tell.
(9/23/21) While the Universal Orlando Resort has reopened all of their various hotels, Walt Disney World is still holding back on opening a few resorts. One such resort that is still closed is Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort. The official word according to Disney is that they are taking extra time to refurbish the sports themed resort and will announce an opening date once the refurbishments are complete.
Of course, you only have to remember that Disney is also still keeping their Typhoon Lagoon waterpark closed for a similar “refurbishment” treatment and remember that the last time Typhoon Lagoon was in early January 2020, just before the world had even begun to learn about COVID-19.
As for the other Walt Disney World resorts… the nearby Disney All-Star Music Resort had been closed all year so far, but just reopened to guests late last week. Disney’s Port Orleans Resort will open to guests again in two phases next month, with the Riverside section opening on Oct. 14 and the French Quarter opening on Oct. 28, 2021. Over the Summer Disney also reopened the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Polynesian Village Resorts as well, with the later coming back online after a lengthy refurbishment.
(9/21/21) With the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration only a little over a week away, Disney is taking the time to remind everyone of what perks you will get while staying in an official on-site Walt Disney World Resort hotel. The big perk right now will be that all WDW Resort guests will be allowed into each of the four main theme parks 30 minutes early, each day. You heard that right… no more random selection of opening just one park early to resort guests. Starting Oct. 1, all four of the parks will open a half-hour early to Resort guests.
The downside is that if you stay off-site, you won't have the chance to be first in line for any attraction at the rope-drop anymore, as the resort guests will already be inside. Another perk being made available will be exclusive to those staying at a Disney Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort Hotel, as Disney will offer Extended Evening Hours on select nights, in select parks just for you starting sometime in Early October.
(9/7/21) Orlando Experience has posted a quick video showing off the newly opened monorail station at the Polynesian Village Resort.
(8/25/21) Another construction update from Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort can be found at MouseSteps this week.
(8/18/21) I’d say I was surprised, but I’d be lying. Walt Disney World has confirmed that the NBA Experience is now closed permanently and will not reopen. From the start in August 2019, the early reports sent in indicated that the NBA themed attraction had trouble finding a solid audience. Between closing down for months due to COVID-19 and then trying to reopen with restrictions, the attraction was said to really only be open for about 7 and a half months in total.
To put that in perspective, it took Walt Disney World longer to fully DEMOLISH the DisneyQuest attraction building that sat on the same site (around 11-12 months), than the NBA Experience was able to operate. No future plans were announced for the massive building, though I’m sure Disney is trying to work something out to announce as soon as possible.
Of course, I’d love to see them revive the DisneyQuest concept, but this time taking full advantage of the Star Wars, Marvel, Disney and now FOX IPs under their umbrella, along with all the advances in interactive, VR, AR and gaming technology at their disposal. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will happen, but I can dream, right?
(8/13/21) MouseSteps is back with another look at the nearly finished refurbishment progress on Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
(7/29/21) Sorry folks, according to local news reports, On Friday Walt Disney World will officially require all guests, age 2 and up, to wear face masks once again while in any indoor setting, and while experiencing any park attraction, starting as you enter the queue. Guests can still remove face masks when in outdoor “common areas”, but masks will also be required when using any form of Disney transportation (Buses, Monorail, Disney Skyliner, Friendship Boats, etc..)
(6/27/21) Disney Springs will be adding “Salt and Straw” ice cream location in 2022. Little else was revealed at this point, but according to the official Salt & Straw website the ice cream company is known for making unique flavors “by hand with local ingredients”. Currently they have several locations scattered across the nation including California (LA, Anaheim, San Diego and the Bay Area) the Portland, OR area, the Seattle, WA area and two locations in Florida, both in the Miami area.
Oh… it is worth mentioning that if you’ve been to Downtown Disneyland in California, you may have already seen their Anaheim location, so it makes sense why they would come to Walt Disney World.
(6/26/21) I’ve got a update about that land clearing report near Disney’ Animal Kingdom Lodge. From what I’m told the property in question essentially stretches from being across from the AK Lodge all the way to Highway 192, but this is not Disney property. From the sound of things, this is for a new, non-Disney, mixed-use project off 192 called WaterStar Orlando. Based on the look of the layout posted online, it appears as if it will have mix of of retail and restaurant anchors on the southern half of the property with access only off 192. The northern half that is closest to the AK Lodge is slated to be used for “residential” use, so it looks like there will be apartments with a view of the AK Lodge.
Curiously however, an entirely different site plan the WaterStar Orlando property with a very different layout can be found at this link. I’m not sure which plan is the most current one that they may be going for, though this second plan seems to feature two larger residential tower buildings instead of the six smaller ones and a lot of water features throughout the development. Oh, and while looking I came across a third development plan on a PDF file, that features yet another site plan that has even more apartment buildings and much less retail space than the previous two site plans.
Most say the project is to be complete by the end of 2022, which explains why the clearing is going on now with construction to begin soon after I’d expect.
(6/25/21) The Disney Parks Blog has revealed a first look inside a newly “reimagined” guest room concept for Disney’s Contemporary Resort that would mix the futuristic retro-modern feel of the hotel with theming inspired by Pixar’s INCREDIBLES animated film series.
According to the report the rooms on all nine floors are currently in the process of being refurbished and the pictures posted are the first sneak peek at what you can expect to find starting this fall. I’m not going to lie, I kind of dig this quite a bit… with fun Incredibles themed graphics and decor all around, and even a place to pack your Super-Suit.
(6/15/21) Disney finally followed in Universal’s steps on Friday and dropped their mask wearing policy, for the most part. Right now, Walt Disney World says they are only requiring masks for all guests to be worn while riding on Disney World methods of transportation, such as buses and monorail.
Now technically these new rules only apply to guests who are fully vaccinated, but as they are not requiring proof of vaccination, the end result is that nearly everyone has now opted to remove face coverings.
One more thing, a reader claims to have spotted a large plot of land being cleared “across from the Animal Kingdom Lodge” that is visible on the left when “driving up to Kidani & the lodge.” Anyone know more about what’s going on, and able to get some pictures?
(6/7/21) MouseSteps sent in a new construction update for Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort earlier this week. Currently the resort is shooting for a late July reopening schedule.
(5/29/21) Walt Disney World has released their official 50th Anniversary Celebration commercial to tease the start of the event on October 1, 2021. Unfortunately, no teaser footage of Tron, Guardians of the Galaxy or Ratatouille involved, but it’s a cute 30-second ad that I’m sure will be bombarding your eyeballs across all ABC programming very soon.
(5/22/21) Walt Disney World has confirmed that the Disney Skyliner line that runs to the back of Epcot from Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort will close for refurbishment from Jan. 23, 2022 through to Jan. 28, 2022. During this time period the line that runs from the Caribbean Beach Resort station to DIsney’s Hollywood Studios theme park is expected to stay open, though I have to wonder if they have a future refurbishment for this line as well that will take place a little later in 2022.
For those who wish to use resort transportation between the Studios and Epcot during this time period, there is always Bus transportation to the front of Epcot, or you can take a resort boat that will drop you off right next to the Skyliner station at Epcot’s International Gateway entrance.
(5/16/21) A new construction update showing off the progress on Disney’s Polynesians Village Resort can be found over at MouseSteps this week. Currently they report that the main part of the resort is closed until sometime in July when the majority of the renovation work is expected to be completed. The pictures focus on the renovation work taking place to the resort’s monorail station as well as the main entrance building (aka: the Great Ceremonial House).
In other news, it seems Walt Disney World may be making early preparations to reopen the Typhoon Lagoon waterpark. According to sources, with the relaunch of the Disney College Program to bring in students to work at WDW on the cheap in exchange for provided housing, a number of College student applicants are being steered towards getting lifeguard training to potentially work at Typhoon Lagoon that could reopen sometime this Summer. If anyone knows a more solid timeline on this, let me know.
(5/15/21) Walt Disney World has followed in Universal’s footsteps and is also no longer requiring guests to wear face masks in most outdoor “common area” settings. According to the official website you still need to wear them in all indoor locations, except when “actively eating or drinking”, and you will also still need to wear them while entering all attractions, queues, theaters and forms of transportation while at Walt Disney World.
While nothing has said about capacity increases on the website, during the company’s Q2 earning call, Disney CEO Bob Chapek confirmed that the parks had already started to increase their capacity limits that “you’re going to see an immediate increase in t he number of folks that we’re able to admit into our parks.” In January the Walt Disney World theme parks were said to be operating at a 35% capacity limit, so with this new commentary from the CEO that number has obviously grown since then, and will continue to do so as they seek to return to normal operations.
(5/14/21) While Walt Disney World previously confirmed plans to stop temperature checks, they did not follow in Universal Orlando’s steps at first in reducing social distance markers from 6ft to 3ft at the time. That all changed this week, as Disney confirmed plans to also reduce social distancing in much of the parks, outside of shopping and dining locations.
While Mask wearing is still in effect, this too could change in the near future as the CDC just announced on Thursday afternoon that they recommend that fully vaccinated Americans can now go about their lives in most indoor and outdoor locations mask free. As the theme parks are still private property, Disney can make up their own rules as they see fit, but in previous announcements most parks in the US stated that they were following CDC guidelines for mask wearing, even in states where Mask wearing was no longer mandatory. So keep an eye on the latest rules before you visit, as I believe things will be starting to change throughout the summer season.
(5/7/21) Walt Disney World has confirmed that starting on May 16th they will stop taking temperature checks on guests as well as employees. For Cast Members, the phase-out process will actually begin in some locations starting this Saturday. Face Masks are still required as well as reservations to visit at this time, and it sounds like the existing social distancing will be kept in place for now. (Universal just reduced their social distancing from 6ft to 3ft on May 6)
(5/5/21) For anyone interested, Walt Disney World has announced the return of the DIsney College Program in June. College Program participants who were sent home early in 2020 due to COVID, or who were due to start and put on hold in 2020 are apparently being asked to reapply first, so check your email. For anyone else interested, you can read up on all the official information here.
(4/8/21) In an interesting sign of progress, Walt Disney World has posted a small update to their Face Coverings policy that is effecting April 8th. According to the new guidelines, for the first time in quite awhile, guests may now temporarily remove your face covering while “taking an outdoor photo”, but you must remain stationary and maintain appropriate social distancing while you do it.
(3/10/21) Consider all this just a rumor for the time being, but Screamscape has been sent a rumor claiming that there is a possibility that Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon may not be ready to open for guests until 2022. According to our source there are a number of issues at the park that need to be addressed, including one that has to deal with the park’s chlorine system.
I’m also told that something is going on on the back of the mountain, where a large white tarp is said to have been placed covering up a significant portion of the mountain there. If anyone drives around back that way, see if you can get a picture of what is going on, or even an aerial fly-by if someone is lucky enough to get clearance to fly over that part of WDW on a helicopter tour or something.
Anyone know more?
(3/6/21) Disney Imagineering’s Zach Riddley posted some incredible new photos on his Instagram showing off the room enhancements for Disney’s Polynesian Resort reopening this summer. I’m digging what I’m seeing here, especially with all the Moana inspired touches like the Maui tattoo inspired wallpaper.
(2/20/21) Walt Disney World has released the first details about their planned 50th Anniversary celebration that will begin on Oct. 1, 2021. As part of the 18-month long celebration each of the park’s iconic landmark structures will get a digital makeover via projection mapping after dark which Disney is calling the “Beacons of Magic”. This will be in addition to the daytime makeover already under way on Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom. Mickey and Minnie Mouse will be dressed in a new “EARidescent” fabric outfits with gold highlights. Check them out below.
(2/4/21) This week I ask the question… Do the Disney theme parks even need to offer annual passes anymore? In the fallout after the Disneyland resort killed off their annual pass program, we look at the evolution of the Disney pass program, look at why it needed to be canceled this year and even possibly pinpoint the moment where things may have started going off the rails. Make the jump over to BlooLoop to read more!
(1/24/21) According to this article a number of the currently closed Walt Disney World Resorts will reopen to guests once again throughout 2021. Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort is expected to reopen to guests on March 22 as the first of the three “All-Star” value level resorts to return. I would imagine the others could also be activated once again as the demand increases.
Disney’s Beach Club Resort over behind Epcot is also said to reopen on May 30th, with Disney’s Wilderness Lodge near the Magic Kingdom also set to return on June 6. In addition Disney still has their Polynesian Village Resort set to reopen sometime in Summer 2021 when the renovation work has been completed.
Not long ago it was suspected that Disney’s theme park capacity may have increased from 35 to 40%, but Disney says they are still holding at 35% for the time being. As more resorts reopen, I do suspect that we may see Disney World increase the capacity allowed into the theme parks as they carefully work towards the Summer season.
(1/14/21) I’m not entirely sure how many guests use the service, but Walt Disney World announced that Disney's Magical Express bus service from the airport to the resort (really by Mears) will no longer be offered starting in 2022. From what I read, the announcement came as a surprise to Mears as well, but they did confirm that the date did coincide with the end of their current contract.
Elsewhere Disney also announced a new perk for WDW Resort guests coming later this year. As part of the 50th Anniversary celebration Disney Resort guests will be able to gain entry into any of the theme parks 30-minutes early, every day of the week. Previously Resort guests would take advantage of the “Extra Magic Hour” program which would see the extra time added to a specific park each morning, and sometimes in the evenings. That perk came to an end when the parks shut down for COVID in early 2020 and much like FastPass+, now seems to be retired for good.
(1/11/21) Disney has not confirmed this, but according to a few articles posted elsewhere, the rumor is that when Walt Disney World reintroduced Park Hopping to their theme parks on January 1st, they may have increased the park capacity limits as well from 35% to 40%. In addition it has been said that rider capacity has also been increased on select rides as well that were previously leaving some seats empty to space riders out more.
(1/3/21) Florida Residents, Disney’s popular heavily discounted ticket offer for you will begin again starting Jan. 4, 2021. The ticket offer known as Discover Disney Tickets allow for admission into one theme park per day (and reservations are required) but you can also purchase a version with a Park Hopping option added. There are three styles of Discover Disney Tickets being offered, which can be used back-to-back or spread the visits out as you like throughout the window they are valid.
The 2-Day Ticket is $149 and is valid from Jan. 4 - Mar. 11, with certain blackout dates.
The 3-Day Ticket is $179 and is valid from Jan. 4 - June 18, with certain blackout dates.
The 4-Day Ticket is $199 and is valid from Jan. 4 - June 18, with certain blackout dates.
Obviously the 4-Day ticket is your best offer, dropping the price of admission to the four main Walt Disney World theme parks down to just under $50 per day. Remember however, this offer is valid only for Florida Residents and you’ll have to prove it to get them. Click here for all the official details.
(1/2/21) This story is sort of making the rounds again, so I’ll summarize it again briefly. As of Jan. 1st, 2021 guests arriving for stays at Walt Disney World Resorts are no longer being given complimentary MagicBands. The phase-out of the free MagicBands was announced back in June 2020 as part Walt Disney World’s announcement regarding how the resort would be reopening in July 2020 and how things were going to operate going forward, including the shutdown of the FastPass+ program. To quote Disney’s original announcement from June 2020, they said they would be “retiring our complimentary MagicBand distribution to Disney Resort hotel guests for new reservations with arrivals beginning Jan. 1, 2021.” If you still want to buy a MagicBand, Disney Resort Hotel guests will have the option to purchase one at a discount.
(12/1/20) It’s been awhile, but Park Hopping benefits will return to Walt Disney World on January 1st, 2021. Park Hopping will only be allowed for guests who have a ticket with Park Hopping benefits or Annual Passholders, but there are new rules to be followed.
Reservations are still required to visit the first theme park of the day that you will visit. Once inside, no Park Hopping will be allowed until 2pm each day and is subject to availability and capacity restrictions in the second park. Please note that the 2pm start time for Park Hopping is subject to change and could begin earlier as time goes on and Disney has time to evaluate how the process is working.
I also did not notice if there was any restriction on only visiting a second park, or if further park hopping was to be allowed or not as the day continues, so please do keep this in mind as well.
(11/16/20) If you’re curious about how things are shaping up over at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, MouseSteps has posted a new collection of photos about the state of remodel construction, along with a look at the special added Christmas decor.
In other news ThemeParkTourist reports that Disney’s Bob Chapek has announced that Walt Disney World theme parks will be raising their capacity to 35%, up from the previous 25% limit.
(10/28/20) According to this Tweet a new high-end doughnut shop is on the way to Disney Springs called Everglazed Donuts & Cold Brew. I’m not sure of the timeline for this, but it sure looks like Disney was suffering from a tiny bit of Universal envy due to their popular Voodoo Doughnuts location. Look for it to show up on the West Side in the former “Pop! Gallery” location that sits on the short pathway to the parking structure between the AMC Theaters and Splitsville.
(10/23/20) A construction update from Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort has been posted to MouseSteps this week. Regarding the ongoing renovations, I’m now told that we can expect the resort to be ready to reopen once again in time for Summer 2021, rather than the previous timeline stated which would have seen it closed for the summer.
(10/15/20) According to an article in USA Today, Disney says that attendance levels at Walt Disney World will remain capped at about 25% capacity. According to CEO Bob Chapek, Disney will be maintaining this level until they have new guidance from the CDC, as the 6-Foot Social Distancing guideline will require the capacity limits to stay in place.
Speaking of attendance at Orlandos theme parks… we’ve been hearing that attendance levels seem to have been rising quite a bit over the past few weeks. This has resulted in longer lines and a more crowded park experience from what you might have experienced if you visited over the previous summer months.
(7/12/20) Happy Sunday morning folks… grab a cup of your favorite beverage and get ready to enjoy a little fun Disney fan-made goodness before we get to some more serious news. According to a tweet sent my way, a rather serious Walt Disney World fan finished their “Quarantine Project” by building a model of Walt Disney World in their back yard. Seriously… this thing is fun to see, photographed at night in the tweet and then an entire video tour of all four theme parks accompanied an appropriate audio soundtrack. So check out both of those below.
In other more serious news, I’m hold that many Disney guests have been sent various surveys from the resort asking some in-depth questions regarding their feelings about certain existing attractions. Not every survey is the same, but the one common thread amongst them all is that the attractions they are asking about have all been rumored to be candidates for removal, retirement, or renovation over the past several years. We don’t necessarily have a complete list of attractions being asked about, but so far we’ve confirmed questions about Impressions de France at Epcot, A Bug’s Life at Animal Kingdom, and a few classics at the Magic Kingdom: The Country Bear Jamboree. Tom, Sawyer’s Island and Carousel of Progress. Some of these Magic Kingdom ones may be part of another project development.
(6/21/20) Walt Disney World has released a little more information about how a visit to their resort will work when they reopen in July. For starters, reservations are required which will allow Disney to limit daily attendance in each of the parks. Your first stop to visit will be the all new “Disney Park Pass System” which is where all guests (daily admission or passholders) must stop to make their advanced reservation to visit.
If you’ve avoided making one in the past, you will need a My Disney Experience account and then you will link your park tickets or passes to the My Disney Experience account. If you are staying on-site at an official Disney Resort hotel, you will also need to link your resort reservation to the app too.
Once you’ve got all this sorted out, you will be given access to the reservation calendar to choose which days you want to visit. One important item to know that Disney has now confirmed, if you have a multi-day / multi-park pass, or an annual pass, you can only make a reservation for one park per day. The act of “Park Hopping”, or jumping between the parks throughout the day, is currently suspended at this time, so whatever park you make a reservation for will be the park you have to stay in for the day.
Disney says that the stoppage of Park Hopping is temporary, but they do not know when this restriction might be lifted. They do note that if you already paid extra for tickets with the Hopper option, there are options available to modify or cancel these ticket options. They do note that while they are not selling the upcharge Park Hopper option on passes for the rest of this year, they are still offering it for visits in 2021.
The new reservation system will be coming online very soon, and will be made available to those with existing Disney Resort reservations first and then to those with existing pre-purchased tickets and annual passholders. The plan is to then begin offering new ticket sales and resort reservations later this summer, based on how things fill up with the current reservation system. If you want to plan a visit for 2021, the window to begin making reservations will open on June 28th.
As we previously mentioned, Disney’s FastPass+ system is no longer active. Actually it kind of sounds like it may be gone for good, because they also mention that in 2021 they will unveil “unveil an innovative new offering as part of the My Disney Experience app that will bring features of a MagicBand to your smart devices, building on the app’s existing digital key feature.” As part of this, Walt Disney World has also confirmed that they will be “retiring our complimentary MagicBand distribution to Disney Resort hotel guests for new reservations with arrivals beginning Jan. 1, 2021.” If you still want to buy a MagicBand, Disney Resort Hotel guests will have the option to purchase one at a discount, but it seems clear that for the future Disney will be focused on guests using the My Disney Experience app on their mobile devices, or though a ‘Key to the World’ card for those who prefer it instead. (If I’m not mistaken, the Key to the World cards were sorta phased out in WDW by the introduction of MagicBands, but have still been in use on the Disney Cruise Lines, so they may be coming back as free MagicBands are being phased out for resort guests.
Disney Genie / Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane - (8/19/21) Disney has finally announced the promised replacement for the retired FacePass+ and MaxPass systems at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts. As we long expected, the days of a free FastPass style system are now gone, as the newly announced replacement will come at an extra cost, much like Disneyland’s retired MaxPass tier. But don’t worry, there will be a free system in place for to help regular guests still maximise their time and enjoyment in the parks. Or at least it will if it works as good as they make it sound.
So without further ado, welcome to the age of the Disney Genie service, which guests will access through the existing Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort mobile apps that you probably already have installed on your phones. The familiar blue-faced lovable Disney Genie will arrive this fall at both of the US theme park resorts as your new virtual guide to creating the best Disney parks day possible. You simply tell the Disney Genie what it is you like to see and do when you visit the parks. Do you want to see the Disney Princesses or are you a Marvel or Star Wars fan? Are you there for the family rides with small kids or do you want to be sure to tackle all the biggest thrill rides Disney has to offer during the day? Let the Disney Genie know what you like and it will try to help plan your day with tips on where to go first and what experiences you would be better off returning to later in the day when the lines are smaller.
While the concept is a bit much for me, as I’m the type who generally likes to freely explore a park on my own, the Disney Genie is said to be designed to be as involved, or not, as you would like it to be, and able to adjust from providing a full day itinerary (complete with suggestions on where and when to eat along the way), to a more minimal tip-sheet approach. Even in the minimal tip-board mode Disney Genie will be able to provide me with a list of my favorite attractions, the current wait times and forecast times of the day when the lines will be smaller, which sounds great.
I briefly mentioned food, and that is because not only will Disney Genie be able to suggest good places to grab a bite to eat during your day at the park, it will also provide a mobile ordering feature so you can place your order ahead of time and have it ready for you upon arrival, thus maximising your free time in the parks by keeping you out of long lines to order food. This is another feature I like and would find extremely useful, and hopefully just as Disney Genie creates a profile of what attractions and experiences you like, I can only hope that it will be just as intelligent when it comes to food choice suggestions.
The technology behind this system has the chance to be something really special and hopefully has been designed with a little A.I. style machine learning intelligence to not only help the guests, but also help Disney maximise their park usage. To explain what I mean by that is, just because Space Mountain has a short line, the system shouldn’t send alerts to every guest in the park about it, creating a sudden slam of guests all trying to get to Tomorrowland. Instead I would hope that DIsney Genie will realize that the guests who like Thrill Rides and who are closest in the park to Space Mountain would be alerted that it was a good time to head to Tomorrowland, meanwhile guests elsewhere in the park could be directed to another target attraction, with the goal of not only evenly spreading out the crowds in the park, but to try and herd the masses to move away from areas of overcrowding with subtle tips about other things they could be doing with their time elsewhere in the park. I’m also hoping that the Disney Genie will be able to determine which guests are able to park-hop and even make suggestions to see if those guests might want to hop to another park if it is less crowded and has more things that they like to do in their profile.
Now that we’ve covered the basic Disney Genie service for everyone, lets jump to the extra cost part of the program, called Disney Genie+. For an extra $15 per day / per ticket at Walt Disney World, and an extra $20 per day / per ticket at the Disneyland Resort, you can activate Disney Genie+. The upcharge service will allow guests to choose the next available time to arrive and experience a variety of attractions and experiences in each park through a special access entrance lane just like the old FastPass system, but it is now called the Lightning Lane. (insert “Ka-Chow!” audio here).
Just like the original FastPass system, guests will be able to select only one attraction at the time, and then make a new selection once they have used the first pass. Only select attractions will be available on this service, and the list of what will be included will be released closer to the launch of the service. Disney was quick to mention that attractions that are currently using an online virtual queue system like Star Wars Rise of the Resistance or the new Spider-Man ride in California will continue to do so when the service first launches, but I would expect that over time they too may add their own Lightning Lanes.
Speaking of the Lightning Lanes, there is a second option for guests to pay a little extra to gain access to select attractions. Disney says that for an extra charge guests will be able to purchase up to two Lightning Lane passes during the day to visit select attractions that are in high demand that will NOT be included with the rest of the Disney Genie+ attraction lineup. For an example of attractions expected to be offered on the Lightning Lane service, they mentioned Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Radiator Springs Racers. However, the exact list of attractions included for the special Lightning Lane passes will be determined in the future, as well as the extra cost for these Lightning Lane passes, which are also expected to shift day-to-day based on demand and expected crowd levels.
The really good news to most of you is that the days of guests reserving all the passes a month or two in advance is now officially OVER! All Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane passes will not be issued until the morning of your visit. The exact time you are able to make your first selections will be different at each resort it seems. The way I understand it, nothing will be made available to Disneyland Resort guests until they physically enter the property, at which time they will gain access to both Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane purchase options. At Walt Disney World it sounds like guests may be able to make their first Disney Genie+ purchase and reservation at 7am, and Lightning Lane purchases will be restricted until they enter parks. The one possible exception I’ve heard is that as a hold-out perk for Disney World Resort guests, they MAY be able to purchase Lightning Lane tickets at 7am as well. I’m sure this will be confirmed closer to the launch of the system.
For now, you can hit up the official Disney Genie pages at: DisneyWorld.com/DisneyGenie and Disneyland.com/DisneyGenie as well as watch the video below showing off the service.
Ticket Pricing Updates - (11/24/21) In an interesting bit of news, Walt Disney World has actually pressed the pause button on the sale of most of their Annual Passes once again, after just starting to sell them again in late August. As of Sunday, you can no longer purchase the Pirate Pass, Sorcerer Pass or Incredi-Pass, which are the top three tiers of passes sold. The Incredi-Pass was the only version available to those who live outside of Florida, unless you were a Disney Vacation Club member, and then you could have purchased the also-paused Sorcerer Pass. The only pass still being sold is the lowest tier pass, the Pixie Dust Pass, which is only available to Florida Residents and has the most blackout days, being primarily only available for use during most weekdays.
The good news for existing passholders however is that the pause in sales only affects the sale of NEW passes. Existing passholders will be given the option to renew their passes and keep them going.
While no official solid excuse was given, it may be due to a mixture of the resort entering the busy Holiday season to finish out the year, as well as the return of International tourism to the resort, which is expected to be off the charts for the rest of the year. If this is the case, we may see passes return to being sold sometime in early 2022 once again.
(8/31/21) Walt Disney World has announced that new Annual Passes will go on sale once again starting September 8, 2021. The Annual Pass program has been re-worked completely, as you might expect, and will now offer four different tiers of passes to choose from. Disney has confirmed that all four tiers will allow park hopping, come with free parking and include select discounts on merchandise and dining.
The lowest tier is the Disney Pixie Dust Pass for $399 + tax that is good only on “most weekdays” and requires an advanced reservation to visit. It will include the most number of blackout dates, and is only available to Florida Residents.
Next is the Disney Pirate Pass where the price jumps to $699 + tax. It also is only available to Florida Residents, and will allow users to visit the parks on “most days” but will require an advanced park reservation to visit. There will still blackout dates however, just not as many as the Pixie Dust Pass.
Next is the Disney Sorcerer Pass, and this pass is only available to Florida Residents as well as Disney Vacation Club Members and costs $899 + tax. Like the other passes, reservations are required to visit and there are still blackout dates, just less than the lower two tiers, as most of the blackout dates will primarily be during the busy holiday periods.
Finally we get to the top tier… Disney Incredi-Pass, the only annual pass option available to those who live outside of Florida who aren’t DVC members, and it will cost you $1,299 + tax! While advanced reservations are still required to visit the parks, there are no blackout dates.
Disney is also offering extra cost optional upgrades to the passes to add-on Disney PhotoPass downloads, Water Park and Sports options.
For current Walt Disney World Passholders, your pass will continue to be good with the same perks you previously had until it is time to renew your pass. At that time, you will be given the option to renew your pass as one of the new four pass options at a special renewal price.
(2/20/21) While it looks like Walt Disney World will spare guests from a ticket price hike in 2021, it seems they are sneaking in a nearly invisible price-hike for those who plan to visit in 2022 already. Reservations for trips in 2022 have opened up, and just like 2021 ticket prices will still maintain a range between $109 to $159 per day depending on the season when you visit.
What is said to be changing in 2022 is that there are now far less of the cheaper “Value” level dates on the 2022 calendar when compared to the 2021 calendar. Pricing for dates is always subject to change at any time, but for now it looks like this may be a new way for Disney to increase ticket prices, without actually changing their set prices.
(2/7/19) When it comes to the price of admission, how much is too much? Surprisingly, despite what your initial take is, when you get down to it, this really is more of an individual choice question. Doubly so when it comes to Disney fans and the price of admission into Disney theme parks which have steadily been on the rise each year for the past several decades. This week I decided to take a look at past price increase trends from Disney and even predict where the price is going between now and 2030, based on past increases, all in my latest article for BlooLoop.
2021 - Cirque du Soleil / Drawn To Life - (9/17/21) Some fun footage of the new Drawn To Life show performers rehearsing and talking about the new show from Cirque du Soleil and Disney coming to Disney Springs this November can be seen below.
(8/18/21) At long last Disney and Cirque du Soleil have confirmed that the delayed new show, Drawn To Life, will finally premier at Disney Springs on November 18, 2021.
(4/26/21) During an announcement from Cirque du Soleil about their plans to reopen certain shows over the next year, nothing was said about the new Drawn to Life show that was nearly ready to open at Walt Disney World in early 2020 before everything was shut down due to COVID-19. In a later interview, Cirque’s CEO did confirm their hopes to open the new Drawn to Life show at Walt Disney World sometime in Fall 2021, which would fall right in line with the launch of the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Disney theme park resort that begins on October 1, 2021.
(3/4/20) A brief sneak peek at the new Cirque du Soleil’s Drawn To Life show coming to Disney Springs can be seen below. The new show will officially premier on Apr. 17, 2020.
(12/12/19) Disney has confirmed that the new Cirque du Soleil show coming to Disney Springs in 2020 will be called Drawn to Life. Preview performances will begin March 20, 2020 ahead of the official premiere date on April 17, 2020. Click here to grab your tickets now.
(11/23/19) Disney has released a preview video showing off a bit more about the new Cirque du Soleil show coming to Disney Springs in Spring 2020. The show’s story will be centered around a little girl named Julie who grew up with her mother who was an animator and dreams of following in her footsteps as she grows-up.
Tickets for the preview performances are already on-sale starting on March 20th, ahead of the official public opening which I believe takes place about a month later in April 2020.
(8/27/19) Disney has confirmed that their new show being created with Cirque du Soleil will begin previews in March 2020, and have a premier on April 17, 2020.
(12/20/18) Could Cirque du Soleil be preparing to reopen their Orlando show as early the end of 2019? Quite possibly, as Cirque put out a casting call for a role to play in a new permanent Orlando show that is definitely all about Disney.
According to a storyline summary from Cirque, “This new Cirque du Soleil show in Orlando will honor Disney animation's rich history. After paying homage to some of entertainment's greatest artists, such as The Beatles and Michael Jackson, Cirque du Soleil will leap into the iconic world of Disney. Cirque du Soleil is incredibly inspired by Disney’s immense creative universe. Bringing Disney’s magic to life on stage will touch audiences and bring them back to their childhood.”
They are seeking a female performer (child or adult between 4ft and 5ft in height) to play a non-verbal 12-year-old girl character in the show. Auditions are in mid March 2019, and job starts in Sept. 2019 for a minimum contract of 2-years.
(10/4/18) Are Cirque du Soleil and Walt Disney World gearing up to create a new show for the theater in Walt Disney World? The venue’s old show, La Nouba, ended their long running show on December 31st, 2017 and thus far the theater has sat quietly at the far end of Disney Springs. That said, Cirque du Soleil has posted an job online for a temporary position that will last 17 months starting in late October in Montreal, Canada for a “Project Manager - Set - WDI”. Just a hunch, but could be the first sign of work starting for a new replacement show.
(12/19/17) Disney has confirmed that they are indeed working with Cirque du Soleil on a brand new show experience for the Disney Springs theater, to replace La Nouba. This will be an original show designed to “pay homage to Disney’s rich history of animation, with a vivid story told in a way that only Cirque du Soleil can deliver.”
No word yet on when it will be ready to opening, but I’m sort of picturing something along the lines of Cirque’s “The Beatles: Love” show, but with a Disney animation theme. Meanwhile you’ve still got a few days left to catch a final performance of La Nouba before it is gone forever when the curtain goes down on New Years Eve.
(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.
2022 - Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser - (12/1/21) The latest details leaked about the upcoming Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience comes in a video showcasing a lounge on-board the vessel featuring a Twi-lek singing performer. The video also shows off some of the ships themed hallways as well as another look at the ship’s bridge.
(11/19/21) Walt Disney World has released some new information about a variety of new characters guests will meet while experiencing the new Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser in 2022. As you might expect, the majority of these are the various crew members, droids and even the captain of the Halcyon starcruiser, align with an interesting officer of the First Order who seems to be on some kind of assignment to root out any hidden resistance fighters onboard the vessel.
(11/15/21) Remember how I mentioned that the window to nab some of the first reservations for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser experience was about to happen? Now would you believe, as expensive as the price tag was for this experience, that Disney has confirmed that the Galactic Starcruiser is booked solid for the first four months of operation next year? With the grand opening set for March 2022, if you haven’t already booked your stay, it looks like you’ll have to wait until at least late summer or beyond to get a chance to sleep amongst the stars in a galaxy far far away.
(10/2/21) For those ready to drop an insane amount of cash for the experience, Walt Disney World has confirmed that the new Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hote/experience will open to the public starting March 1st, 2022. (I guess they didn’t want to wait for May 4th…)
Bookings for the new experience will open starting October 28th, 2021 however, so if you are ready for this experience of a lifetime, get your finances in order, because your time has come.
A new video teaser can be seen below showing off our first look at the Bridge of the Starcruiser itself.
(8/4/21) Brace yourselves… Walt Disney World finally released more information about the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience, including… THE PRICE. It also includes the first live-action trailer for the new Ultra-Resort experience which you can see below. Soak that in, because for most of us, that may be the only visuals we ever get of this ultra-exclusive resort.
We’ve talked for the past year about just how dang COOL this is going to be, but now comes the realization the prices are even higher than most expected for the 2-Night experience. According to the website, the cost to visit the Galactic Starcruiser with 2-People in the cabin is a hefty $4,809, and that is before any transportation fees you incur just to get to Orlando. Oh, and then I’m sure you have to add sales tax too, because you know, the Empire always demands their cut. If you want to stuff 3 people in a cabin, it will run you $5,299 before tax. 4-Guests in a cabin will be a stunning $5,999.
Now imagine if a group actually wanted to spend a few days visiting the regular Walt Disney World theme parks in addition to Galactic Starcruiser. Just imagine the upcharge of adding that extra expense to your galactic cruise budget. Bottom line though... if you can afford it, it will all come down one thing. Do you feel that the experience is worth the price?
As no one has built anything quite like this before, I fully expect there to be an assortment of kinks that will need to be worked out along with other enhancements made to the overall experience over time. Or at least once Disney has time to assess how the experience is performing and what they can do to make it better.
(7/31/21) If you want some new insight into what you can expect from the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser experience, a group of Disney Imagineers get together for a round-table discussion about what they’ve been working on for the past five years. They discuss not just the development of the project, but what guests will experience from the moment of check-in and how they are transported to the Halcyon starcruiser and set off on a voyage across the Star Wars Universe for two straight days. This includes talk about the food guests will experience, music and live entertainment, lightsaber training and other adventures. This also includes how guests will get to experience Batuu and the Black Spire Outpost experience within the Disney’s Hollywood Studios that will create a deeper story behind the attractions in the theme park. For example, on the Millennium Falcon attraction guests have been tasked with collecting coaxium, but your adventures on the Halcyon will reveal just who Hondo’s mysterious buyer is and why they want the coaxium.
So the storylines of the two attractions in Galaxy’s Edge will also tie closely into the storyline that develops on the starcruiser voyage, which is truly fascinating. The stories told by both projects were in development at the same time and designed to weave together with each other, as well as with the greater Star Wars mythos.
I’ve been impressed with the discussion about how guests can be deeply drawn into the greater storyline being told. Things guests will learn to do on the Halcyon and how crewmembers, aliens and even droids may communicate with the guests, ask them to do certain tasks for them, which will have an impact on how the story develops later. At the same point, the experience is being designed to be enjoyable for those who would rather sit back and watch it all unfold, but not interact as deeply. So the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience really is going to offer something for everyone and allow for as deep a dive into the universe as each guest is willing to take. All this and the unfolding story of the struggle between the Rebellion and First Order, and how you are now playing an important part in the greater scheme of things in this adventure of a lifetime.
The one thing they don’t really mention, that I’ve been most curious about, is just how the adventure to Star Warts: Galaxies Edge (Batuu) takes place. More specifically, are the Star Cruiser guests brought into Batuu at night after the park is closed to regular guests for a special storyline and experience to take place, or will they be dropped into Batuu amongst all the regular day guests? Clearly it would be easier to keep the guests immersed into their Star Wars adventure if they visit Batuu in a bubble, so-to-speak, away from regular guests, as visiting in regular daytime hours could break the illusion.
(7/24/21) A new teaser poster for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser ultra resort/attraction has been posted by Walt Disney World, with a sort of breakdown of how the image relates to what guests will encounter on-board the 2-night adventure space voyage. The breakdown also specifically mentions The First Order, along with the menacing face-mask of Kylo Ren in the background, along with TIE Fighters in pursuit of the Halcyon starcruiser (aka: your home) for some reason.
This establishes the timeline in the Star Wars Universe where your adventures will take place, which only makes sense that it match the final trilogy timeline era as seen in Episode 7-9, as that is also represented by the Galaxy’s Edge world in the nearby theme park that resort guests will also get to visit. And don’t forget Chewie… our favorite wookie is also prominently shown.
The clock is ticking until the first launch in 2022, but so far little else is known, including the official price tag for the adventure, which is sure to cost a Hutt’s ransom, so be prepared for the sticker-shock of a lifetime.
(5/5/21) Disney has released some new preview footage of that realistic looking new Star Wars Lightsaber prop they’ve come up with. As expected, they also confirm that this will be part of the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience when it opens at Walt Disney World in 2022.
A few more details about Galactic Starcruiser have come from the Disney Parks Blog as well this week as they name the main dining hall inside the resort as the “Crown of Corellia Dining Room”. It is there that guests will drop by for Breakfast and Lunch during their journey across the stars, which will be transformed every night for dinner to offer a “lavish multi-course menu of both otherworldly and familiar origins.”
Oh, and tying back into the new Lightsaber reveal, they have confirmed that the Halcyon starship will also offer a lightsaber training facility.
(4/10/21) Apparently during a virtual Disney Parks event the other day, when no cameras were allowed, Disney Parks Chairman John D’Amaro ended his presentation by pulling out a Star Wars lightsaber hilt and appeared to ignite it, causing what looked like a real glowing saber blade to appear out of thin air. “It’s real,” he confirmed, but no details were given other than that this new creation was something they were planning for “future use”.
The common assumption is that this may be something we will see put to use inside the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser themed and immersive Ultra-Resort experience now under construction at Walt Disney World.
(11/18/20) Disney released a pair of images showing off the inside of one of the guest rooms at the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser resort/attraction. It’s amazing how it looks when you compare it to the concept artwork they released earlier.
(10/8/20) Thanks fo a lot of readers for jumping in with suggestions to my pondering about what the Star Wars hotel has windows yesterday. While we don’t know for sure, the general assumption from most is that the windows may be tied to some kind of building/fire code that could require a second form of egress from the room in the case of an emergency. While rules can slightly change from state to state, one thing I did see mentioned is that normally hotels (an R-1 structure) can be exempt from having a second egress from the rooms if they are outfitted with a fire sprinkler system, and I would like to assume that this would be the case.
One thing to consider however is that the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser is more than just a hotel, it is an attraction as well, and one that is supposed to be so highly themed as to make the guests think they are in outer space and not on Earth. Other than an amusement attraction, I don’t believe any “hotel” has been built anywhere quite like this, so exactly how this hotel/attraction hybrid is being classified in terms of building codes is anyone’s guess at the moment. It is also worth mentioning that while there are building codes that must be met, there is nothing to say that Disney couldn’t go above and beyond what is required and add in other safety features that may not be required.
So in the case of the mystery windows, I suppose it is entirely possible that while these windows will have to be hidden from the interior of the rooms to maintain the overall theming of the Star Wars resort, the windows could be there to provide rescue crews a clear path into the resort rooms if it is determined that they need to breach a window to gain entry to a particular section of the structure in an emergency.
(10/6/20) A new video from Orlando Experience shows off the current state of construction on the new Swan Reserve Hotel (formerly known as The Cove) as well as a peek at the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser hotel structure. I am curious about one aspect of the Galactic Starcrusier however… why in the world does the section of the building for the guest rooms appear to have windows? The themed resort was only to provide faux windows (aka: screens) to give passengers a view of outer space from their guestrooms, so I’m very curious why actual windows have been installed. Anyone know more?
(2/8/20) Walt Disney World has announced that they will begin taking the first bookings for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser experience sometime later this year. Prices have not been set yet, or at least not made public, but the rumored expectation is that when the 2-Day / 2-Night stay on the Starcruiser begin in 2021, it will be quite costly. Even more so than a trip on the Disney Cruise Line.
They have posted a fun new video explaining more about what you can expect from a voyage on the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, which you can see below.
(12/4/19) Good news for Star Wars fans, especially if you have a fat bank account, because the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser resort experience will officially open sometime in 2021 where you can live 24/7 inside the Star Wars Universe during your two-night, cruise-style itinerary.
Disney also released a new piece of art showing off the Galactic Starcruiser Terminal where guests will arrive for their trip, and are prepared for launch on a pod transport that will take you up to the Halcyon for your cruise, along with a “spaceport of call” stop at the Black Spire Outpost included in your itinerary. New artwork showing off the interior of the special transport shuttle that will take guests from the Halcyon to the Black Spire Outpost on Batuu can also be seen below.
(8/27/19) The latest word on the “Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser” experience is that all stays here will last only two days. Just like a cruise-ship experience, all guests will check-in on the same day and depart on the same day, with a unique stop-over at the planet Batuu for the guests in the middle of the journey.
No prices have been given for the unique themed experience yet, though you can count on this being a very expensive bill to pay once all is said and done. What I’m really curious about is the check-in experience, as Disney says all guests will check-in for their stay at a terminal building somewhere within Walt Disney World before being loaded into a launch pod to get blasted into space to dock with the Starcruiser Halcyon.
(8/23/19) A few new details about the Star Wars Hotel project were announced, with the reveal of the location where guests will be staying. As we mentioned before, it was expected that guests would be staying on-board the Star Wars Universe version of a space cruise ship and that is indeed the case as D23 as I belive the name of the resort will be Star Wars Galactic Star Cruiser where you will board the Halcyon, part of the Chandrila Star Line. Photos of the huge starship and all new concept art can be found over at Slashfilm.
(6/2/18) I came across a few fun aerial photos discovered on Twitter to share this morning from Bioreconstruct. For starters, the site for the future Star Wars Hotel site has been apparently confirmed as going into the large open area to the right of the parking lot toll plaza. A very large clearing has been made here on both sides of the little creek that runs through the site, so I'm not sure if the hotel will take up all this property, or just be on one side, though I suppose the resort could be closer to the park and the further away site used for parking.
Speaking of parking... WDW Resort guests visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios will eventually be entering the parking lot through a whole new access road and parking toll plaza off the Osceola Parkway exit from I-4. The next photos down show off the new massive clearing for this new road into the park, along with the already installed new parking toll plaza already in place. From the look of things, guests may be exiting the park out to Osceola Parkway as well once this is complete, leaving the current parking lot exit in use for the busses.
(2/24/18) Disney has released a couple of new animated art previews showing off what guests can expect to see inside the new Star Wars themed resort planned for Walt Disney World. While the themeing inside is wonderful, the point being driven home is that when you stay here, there will be no windows to the "real" outside world, but instead every giant window you come across will be a display portal showing off the outer space realm of the Star Wars universe, which is alive with stars, planets and passing starships.
The other very cool aspect of staying at this resort is apparently guests will be given the opportunity to have a Star Wars themed wardrobe experience before boarding the "starship", so you can dress is appropriate themed clothing for the experience to a Galaxy Far Far Away. I'm kind of envisioning this as more of a "Westworld" kind of arrival experience rather than a Bibbidi Bobbidi Bouttique experience, but you never know.
The new starship resort will also have a seamless connection right into the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land at Disney's Hollywood Studios. This makes me wonder if there could be some kind of after-hours resort-guest only activities planned in the theme park land as well, once the park closes and all the day-guests are gone.
(2/14/18) A few new details were revealed by Disney about their plans for the upcoming Star Wars Resort.
"This first-of-its-kind resort will combine luxury with complete immersion into an authentic Star Warsstory. Guests’ journey through space will start when everyone departs together for a multiday Stars Wars adventure by boarding a starship alive with characters and stories that unfold all around them during a voyage through the galaxy."
"At the resort, guests immediately become active citizens of the galaxy and can dress up in the proper attire. Every resort window will also have a view into space. The opportunity for immersion at this resort will also stand out among all Disney resorts around the globe, as it will be seamlessly connected to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, allowing guests a total Star Wars experience."
(7/20/17) Remember those rumored plans and dreams for a Star Wars themed resort hotel? Disney just confirmed all of it, calling it part of a new 'Disney 360 vacation concept" that will create a "living adventure that allows guests to immerse themselves in an entirely new form of Disney storytelling."
“It’s unlike anything that exists today.” Bob said. “From the second you arrive, you will become a part of a Star Wars story! You’ll immediately become a citizen of the galaxy and experience all that entails, including dressing up in the proper attire. Once you leave Earth, you will discover a starship alive with characters, stories, and adventures that unfold all around you. It is 100% immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day, and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits.”
No timeline was mentioned as to when it might open however, so we'll have to wait and see.
(7/11/17) Like everyone, I heard the first rumors of a possible Star Wars themed hotel concept pitched for Walt Disney World and once the initial “Oooohh!” moment passed, I had to scoff at the idea. The cynic in me was pretty sure that nothing like that would ever happen, at least not like what was being shown in the survey’s Disney was quietly showing off to select guests.
Yeah… while I don’t think the project has been given the final green light to proceed, apparenly Disney really is developing a Star Wars themed hotel concept that would be built right at the Studios park next to the Star Wars Land itself. Don’t look for anything to happen until they get their new parking lot configuration up and running, but once they are ready to close down the current toll plaza entrance off World Drive in favor of the new park entrance off Osceola Parkway, work could begin on the new hotel concept.
So what this really supposed to be? Well, you can see some concept art used for a guest survey posted here, but in the end it may be more simple to explain the basic premise like this... imagine going on a cruise ship... that really goes nowhere at all. The concept is a something of a dream for some designers out there that has never really been built out as far as I know, but some refer to it as a LBC... aka: Land Based Cruise. The hotel would be themed as a giant Star Wars Universe themed starship... an interstellar cruise ship experience... and guests would book a stay for several days, much like they would at a normal WDW hotel, expect you can expect this one to cost much much more. The idea is that while guests would leave the hotel during the daytime to visit the Disney theme parks as normal, they would return to the starship in the evening hours which would offer extra dining, exclusive entertainment, and even special themed excursions and adventures themed to the Star Wars Universe. In short all these bonus adventures are only available to the guests of Star Wars hotel, and unlike the other Walt Disney World Resorts, other guests would not be permitted inside to visit.
I’m told that Disney pitched a similar idea several years back, before Disney bought Star Wars, that involved building a similar themed hotel experience that would have been based on the myths and ghoulish legends of the Haunted Mansion, allowing guests to experience something akin to spending the night inside the Haunted Mansion with lots of themed spooky fun events to take place throughout the evening hours.
The Star Wars idea is an interesting one, and it would finally give Disney something they’ve been after... an upscale park experience that guests will pay top dollar to experience much like SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove. Except this isn’t just an upscale park experience, this bundles in a whole new resort category into the mix as well. It should be interesting to see if Disney goes through with it or not, and if guests are willing to drop around $1000 per person for a 2-3 day experience.
Late 2021 - Swan Reserve (3rd Dolphin / Swan Hotel) - (11/17/21) I’m told that the new Swan Reserve hotel at Walt Disney World is officially now open.
(5/30/21) A new set of photos showing off the construction of the new Swan Reserve hotel can be found at MouseSteps this week. Currently the resort is now taking advanced reservations for stays starting September 1, 2021 and beyond.
(3/24/21) A new set of pictures of the new Swan Reserve resort, now under construction at Walt Disney World, can be found over at MouseSteps this week.
(2/17/21) A new construction update looking over the progress of the Swan Reserve (formerly: The Cove) hotel can be seen at MouseSteps this week. It’s an interesting looking structure, though from an architecture point of view, it really looks nothing at all like the namesake “Swan” resort across the way. Just thinking out loud here, but maybe they should have kept “The Cove” name instead.
(10/20/20) A new construction update featuring the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve hotel has now been posted by MouseSteps this week. According to the update the new 14-story hotel tower is expected to be ready to open to guests in time for Summer 2021.
(10/6/20) A new video from Orlando Experience shows off the current state of construction on the new Swan Reserve Hotel (formerly known as The Cove) as well as a peek at the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser hotel structure. I am curious about one aspect of the Galactic Starcrusier however… why in the world does the section of the building for the guest rooms appear to have windows? The themed resort was only to provide faux windows (aka: screens) to give passengers a view of outer space from their guestrooms, so I’m very curious why actual windows have been installed. Anyone know more?
(3/1/19) As you can see in the latest update to Orlando Parks News, demolition of Disney’s Fantasia Gardens special event pavilions have begun, clearing the site to make room for the new “The Cove” hotel next to the Swan & Dolphin hotels.
(12/20/18) OrlandoParkNews reports that the first sections of a construction barrier are now going up at the tennis courts so that work can begin on The Cove.
(11/30/18) The name and new details for the third hotel joining the Swan and Dolphin at Walt Disney World came out this week. The new hotel, opening in 2020, will be called The Cove and feature a 14-story tower on the site of the old tennis courts. It will include 22,000 sqft of meeting/event space, 349 rooms, and is supposed to have a rooftop viewing area that should be able to see the fireworks from the nearby theme parks. You can find some of the new concept art posted to Attractions Magazine.
(11/4/18) In the middle of an article about how a new $627 million debt package deal was struck between Bank of America and Tishman Hotel & Realty and MetLife that is secured by the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels, it confirms at the bottom that the deal will provide the funding to build that rumored third hotel next door to the Swan and Dolphin on land leased to Tishman & MetLife for 99 years.
The new hotel will be branded as an “Autograph Collection by Marriott" and is expected to be ready to open by early 2021, so I’d expect serious construction to begin on the site very soon. According to Marriott, their “Autograph Collection” resorts are as small collection of smaller “boutique hotels” each with a unique design that will offer an custom experience that reflects the local culture as well as the vision of the creator.
When finished, all three hotels will still be run by Marriott, though the Swan is under their Westin brand and the Dolphin is under their Sheraton brand.
Summer 2022 - Disney Vacation Club Expanding At Grand Floridian - Confirmed -
(5/22/21) The Disney Vacation Club has announced a new expansion project is on the way that will transform one of the existing buildings (Big Pine Key) at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort into new Disney Vacation Club Villas accommodations. Look for the new expansion to be ready by Summer 2022.
???? - New Magic Kingdom Resort - (10/23/21) Is Walt Disney World planning some kind of new resort for the Magic Kingdom area? New permits filed by Walt Disney World for a “World Drive Phase III” now show plans to move the existing Floridan Way road as it approaches the Grand Floridian. The roadway will turn to the left and cut through a small section of the Magnolia Golf Course that will essentially wipe out Hole 16 to get around a backstage work and parking area and then head North again with an all new road to eventually reconnect with the existing road at the intersection of Maple Rd.
I drew up a quick graphic showing the approximate location of the new planned route for Floridian Way and how it would open up a rather large piece of land just to the north of the Grand Floridian along an undeveloped section of the Seven Seas Lagoon. Well, almost undeveloped… you may recall that Disney management FINALLY completed the “decades in the making” walkway from The Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian resort with the construction of two bridges and a pathway. While the pathway was announced a long long time ago, the reveal of this new piece of the puzzle makes me wonder if they finally had a good reason to finish this pathway after all these years to provide walking access to the Magic Kingdom from any possible new resort they might choose to put there. (The distance isn’t far enough to bother with adding yet another monorail stop between the park and Grand Flo…)
Now don’t go expecting to see a new building rising in the next year or so. This is a fine example of Disney’s long term strategy at work here, and I think they’re just setting the stage for something special to come in the future… but not until they are ready.
OTHER WALT DISNEY WORLD PROJECTS:
???? - Monorail News & Mark VIII Monorail Rumors - In Development - (10/6/21) As part of the 50th Anniversary celebration, it is worth noting that Walt Disney World has added undercarriage lighting to the monorails that just looks spectacular as they soar across the beamways. Even better, the lighting under each monorail has been designed to coordinate with the monorail’s color stripe! So you can see a great shot of Monorail Orange in the tweet embedded below showing off it’s great orange lighting. (This would have been an awesome addition to the Tronorail that ran around from Spring 2010 to Summer 2011, would it not?)
Of course, this immediately brings one big question to my mind. If the green monorail has green lights, the blue monorail has blue lights and so on… then what color lighting did they install for Monorail Black?! Black Light? White? I really don’t know and I haven’t seen anyone post a picture of it yet, so if you spot Monorail Black after dark, take a picture and send it in!
(11/20/18) I’ve got a quick correction to post about that monorail door story from last week. While I was in Orlando over the past few days I was told that the door of the monorail did not simply break off on its own, as the initial posts on Twitter wanted us to believe. Instead it seems a guest riding “a mobility scooter” rammed into it and broke it, which makes a heck of a lot more sense than the door simply falling off.
Also keep in mind that Disney has yet to confirm the rumors that they are working on a new fleet of monorails to replace the existing ones. Those who have asked through official channels have gotten the standard answer that nothing is planned or budgeted for at this time, despite the statement from Bob Gurr back in April who claimed during a Q&A session on Facebook that “contracts were underway” for a new fleet. We can hope, but nothing is official until they announce it.
(11/14/18) Next time you ride the Walt Disney World monorail and they say to stay no lean on the doors… they really mean it. According to a report posted at WDWNT it looks like one of the doors to Monorail Lime detached in the station while loading at the Grand Floridian Resort. Lets hope that the rumor from earlier this year claiming that a new fleet of monorail trains had been ordered was legit... because they may want to speed up production a bit.
(UPDATE - Correction posted above... the door did not just fall off.)
(4/29/18) In an interesting update on the Walt Disney World Monorail situation, a special live stream Q&A session was held on Facebook last night with Disney Legend, Bob Gurr who discussed a number of topics. In the later half of the live stream a guest at the event asked Gurr if we would see a new updated monorail rolled out to WDW within the next 3 years or so.
Gurr, as someone involved with some of the early versions of the monorail, joked that while systems like this are typically designed with a 20 year service lifespan, the WDW version was quickly approaching 30 years of service, and he liked to call it the "duct tape monorail".
Following that, Bob Gurr did confirm that "contracts were underway" for a new fleet and if all goes well, they will come from Bombardier, who designed the current fleet.
(4/26/18) While I haven't had time to do much digging into this rumor, the word going around is that Walt Disney World may have finally bit the bullet and entered into the starting phase of a deal with Bombardier to design, engineer and build a new fleet of Monorails (Mark VIII?) for Walt Disney World.
According to the rumor-mill, the funds needed to begin this project may have been appropriated by the sudden dropping of the plans to build a Broadway style theater off Main Street USA at the last second earlier this year. The theater was said to be ready to begin full speed construction within a week or two of the rumored cancellation, and shortly after the incident in mid-January where a monorail door opened in mid-ride between Epcot and the TTC.
If this is true, I'm all for it, as the idea of a Broadway theater on Main Street always struck me as kind of an odd choice anyway, and anything that results in the continued operation of the Walt Disney World Monorail system is news to my ears. Anyone else know more?
(1/17/18) As many other news source have jumped on our story about the possible future closure of the Epcot monorail service, please keep in mind that according to our anonymous sources, this is simply a possible plan that was being discussed, but one that they felt at the time would likely have to happen SOMETIME in the near future… but not right now… not just yet. Of course, Disney could reverse course on this idea completely and opt to build a completely new fleet of monorail trains and refurbish the beamways as well. At this point, nothing is supposed to have been decided either way just yet.
Backing this fact up is an official response from the Walt Disney World Communications department, who states: “We wanted to reach out to you to let you know this is not true. There are no plans to end the system.”
Certainly this seems to be good news, as the existence of the Walt Disney World Monorail is simply an deeply embedded part of the entire Walt Disney World experience. The sight of the trains sailing across the “highway in the sky”, the sounds… the smells… it just isn’t a proper trip to Disney World without a little bit of Monorail as a part of your day, which is why fans have been begging for decades to see the system expanded to add destinations to the Studios and Animal Kingdom parks, or to add stops to other Disney Resorts or locations like Disney Springs.
For now… hold on tight and stay clear of the doors. A world of adventure awaits...
(1/12/18) Crazy news from Walt Disney World this week, as an interesting incident apparently took place on Monorail Red as it was running on the Epcot beam. If you haven't seen it, the video speaks for itself... as one of the doors opened by itself and stayed open while the monorail ran down the line. (See below)
We've talked for years about just how OLD the current fleet of monorails are, living and running daily, long past their expected lifetimes. This adds into another rumor I've quietly been hearing... that the time of the Walt Disney World Monorail may be coming to an end.
How?! WHY?! According to one source, Disney has run the numbers forwards, backwards, upside-down and sideways and determined that in no uncertain terms that the ongoing operation of the existing monorail system has become nothing short of a nightmare. The system has aged to the point where reliability has become a major concern, the cost to update it is said to be beyond anything they are willing to pay. On top of this, the rising costs and downtime issues to try and maintain the current system as-it-is, has risen to the point of just being almost unfeasible to continue to due for the long term.
So what is the plan? Lots of options are being discussed... but the one item that I'm told has become 100% necessary is the eventual closure of the Epcot Monorail line. In light of this latest incident... this could happen much sooner than later. This would be the first phase, allowing Disney to take an entire beam-offline and give them time to do some proper refurbishments to those trains to allow the two Magic Kingdom lines to keep running for a time. Ironically, I'm told the plan to close the Epcot line is also one of the reasons the concept of building a new giant resort hotel project over the entrance to EPCOT has come up.
The buying of time for the MK beams also gives Disney time to decide if perhaps they could fund a refurbishment of a smaller system that could continue to see the Resort and Express beams continue to operate. If not, eventually the Express Beam will also close, and Disney will use what's left of the fleet to keep a single monorail beam running for the resort guest line only.
So for now the monorails will continue to run, but from what I'm hearing, the clock is ticking and someday the monorail may depart to Neverland. For now, we'll just keep an eye on the future of the Epcot line, as any future incidents like this latest one can only serve to shorten the lifespan of that route. Of course, the performance of the new Skyliner system that will run between Epcot and the Studios may also factor in heavily. If successful, the distance traveled by Gondola between Epcot and the Studios is about the same as the distance between the front of Epcot and the TTC, and they could even re-use the same travel pathway is they so desired.