By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor



Category — zzzz. Rumor-mongering

2016 Free Dining Rumors

A friend of the site just let me know that South American travel agents are posting about Free Dining.

2016 Free Dining Rumors from your firstvisit.net

Here’s what they are saying:

Free Dining will become available for booking April 25th

It will cover arrival dates of

  • 8/14* up to 10/1/2016
  • 11/15 to 11/21
  • 11/26 to 11/28
  • 12/10 to 12/21

It will require a three night minimum stay, and a minimum of two ticket days.

Value resorts will offer the Quick Service plan for free and moderates and deluxes the Regular Dining Plan

Excluded resorts will include Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation, All Star Movies, Port Orleans French Quarter, Bay Lake Tower, Polynesian Bungalows and Grand Floridian Villas.

This is just a rumor, but parts of it jibe quite well with some other stuff that’s come out the last few days, and my source is usually reliable!!

For more on Free Dining, see this, and to sign up for the free dining watch list, see this!

 

*Other rumors have it beginning 8/23

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April 14, 2016   14 Comments

First Disney World 2016 Deals Expected Shortly

Disney World 2016 Deals Expected Next Week from yourfirstvisit.netUsually reliable sources have let me know that Disney World is expected to offer a couple of deals for 2016 early next week.

They say that both a room rate deal and “Stay, Play, Dine” deal will come out September 28 and cover many dates from January 2 thru March 19.

As usual, not all room types will be included.

I also hear there may be major news on a different topic late this week.

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September 23, 2015   7 Comments

Disney World Converts Polynesian Bungalows to FastPass+ Viewing Areas

Target Market for Polynesian Bungalows from yourfirstvisit.netApril 1, 2015: In a surprise, Disney World announced today that it is no longer taking reservations for the 20 new Bungalows that line Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

Instead, Disney is converting the deck of each Bungalow and the boardwalk that connects them all into FastPass+ viewing areas for the Electrical Water Pageant.

Disney World’s FastPass+ program is a way for guests to make poor decisions about which ride to do when as many as 60 days before a visit, rather than saving those mistakes for only the time they are actually in Walt Disney World.

“We don’t have a FastPass+ offering at the Magic Kingdom comparable to key FastPass+ options at Epcot like Captain EO and Journey into Imagination with Figment,” a Disney spokesman noted. “Adding an Electrical Water Pageant viewing area to Magic Kingdom FastPass+ options solves that problem.”

The Electrical Water Parade is a moving display of lights and sounds that visits the Disney resorts on the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake nightly unless cancelled by weather or mercy.

Electrical Water Pageant from yourfirstvisit.net

Much loved by both the elderly and their parents, it combines the visual sophistication of a blinking stoplight with music whose tonal qualities were dated three decades ago.

The change powerfully illustrates the failure of the new eight-person Polynesian Bungalows to attract their target market.

(c) Disney

(c) Disney

Compared to most other Disney Vacation Club two bedroom options, Bungalows have great outdoor decks and nicer dining rooms, but also have less space and a worse second bedroom.

Even so, they rent for more than twice as much, from $2,400 to $3,400 a night.

The pricing is easy to understand when one remembers that the Four Seasons now has a presence at Disney World, and its suites go for as much as $10,000 a night (before parking fees).

The Polynesian Bungalows at these price levels represented Disney’s attempt to stay competitive in the important and growing President for Life/dictator/oligarch/drug cartel jefe “get me the most expensive room” market that’s now being siphoned off by the Four Seasons.

Unfortunately, a design feature has made the bungalows not really well-suited for this market.

The President for Life/dictator/oligarch/drug cartel jefe market requires not only a spectacular space for the Supreme Leader and Nutmeg of Consolation himself, but also a whole constellation of connecting or nearby rooms for the oligarch’s entourage that have to be in regular rooms nearby, but not in the suite itself—bodyguards, children, mistresses.

This is easy to pull off in a standard hotel room tower, where such rooms can be connected (mistresses), down the hall (bodyguards), or just an elevator ride away (children).

FastPass+ Viewing Area for Electrical Water Pageant from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

But with disconnected individual buildings like the Bungalows, this is much harder, and as a result the target market is not responding.

Thus, Disney has given up pursuing this market through the Bungalows and is converting the Bungalows to FastPass+ viewing areas for the Electrical Water Pageant instead.

Insiders suggest that Disney may yet pursue the high-price market, via other alternatives.

For example, refurb plans for the Pirate Rooms at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort are still not clear.

At current pricing, one could book one of the 64-room Pirate accommodation buildings in its entirety for the price of three or four Polynesian Bungalows. This yields vast refurb scope for building as many as six “Pirate Castles” at Caribbean Beach with more than 20,000 square feet each—plenty of room for the entire entourage to spread out a bit.

But even if this Caribbean Beach piratical refurb goes forward, walking away from the Polynesian Bungalows is still a bit of a black eye.

Creativity requires the freedom to make mistakes, so it’s not that big a deal.

Yet when put in the context of other recent reversals—the brief cancellation of FastPass+ about a year ago, the abandonment of a pain-themed DVC resort, dropping the addition of a Minnesota Pavilion to Epcot, and still no word on the groundbreaking for the high-speed option for leaving Rafiki’s Planet Watch—well, it does make you wonder…

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April 1, 2015   3 Comments

The Updated Best-Ever Free Dining FAQ in the History of the World, 2017 Edition

2015 Free Dining FAQ from yourfirstvisit.net

Update: the 2017 deal is out, see this for details.

Free Dining is the favorite deal of many Disney World fans, and I get questions about it all the time.

In an unusual attempt to actually provide good answers, a while ago I put heads together with DISboards.com legends Smitch425 (Sarah) and Black562 (Joe Black–Joe’s also on Facebook here; Sarah’s shy).

We–well, mostly they–came up with the following FAQ. I’ve updated it for 2017, including the February price increase.

WHAT IS FREE DINING AND WHY SHOULD I CARE?

Q: What is free dining?
A: Free dining is a Disney World deal where, if you buy other stuff, you can get one of the Disney World dining plans for free. Most recently, eligible folk staying at an eligible value resort have gotten the quick service dining plan for free, and those staying at eligible moderate or deluxe resorts have gotten the regular dining plan for free. In 2017, moderates will get the quick service plan.

Q: Is this a big deal?
A: For many families, it really is. The regular Disney Dining Plan costs $69.35 for people ten or over, and $24.95 for kids 3 to 9.

So a typical family of four with one younger kid and one older who would have otherwise paid cash for the dining plan will save more than $230 per night.

In the 2016 deal, you had to buy a Park Hopper or Water Park and More add on to your tickets to be eligible for free dining.  For 2017, I expect the requirement to be to buy the Park Hopper or even Park Hopper Plus. If you hadn’t planned on buying one of these, you have to deduct the extra costs from your free dining savings to see if it’s a good deal still. The hopper cost is $64 to $80 per person (not per night) extra, depending on the length of the ticket.

Savings are less but still substantial for the quick service plan that’s free for value resort stays (and, perhaps, moderates in 2017)—at $48.19/20.88, the same family would save $165/night.

Q:  Blah blah blah on that typical family–how much would my family save?
A: See the tables below (as always on this site, click them to enlarge them):

Q: Is it the best deal?
A: Not always.

The value of any deal is the difference between it and your next best option. Room rate deals are usually out for the same dates as free dining, and for some families—especially smaller families with younger kids staying at more expensive deluxe resorts—the room rate discount saves more money than free dining.

The least expensive Grand Floridian rooms during September 2017 at 30% off generate savings of about $190-215 a night. From Regular Plan part of the chart above, you can see many family types will do better here at 30% off than they would from free dining, especially if they had not been already planning to buy a hopper.

Q: What’s the Disney Dining Plan, anyway?
A: See this!

HOW TO GET FREE DINING

Q: OK, I’m sold. Now what?
A: In 2016, the deal came out in late April, and a lot of resorts sold out almost immediately.

You have to be willing to stay at an eligible resort, with an arrival date within the announced deal’s eligible dates, for likely a minimum of three (or four) nights, and you likely will have to buy a minimum of two days of tickets for all in the room 3 and older.

Q: I already have a reservation just like that! Will Disney automatically convert it to the deal?
A: Disney don’t do nothin’ automatically.

If you already have a reservation, to get the deal if/when it is offered you have to try to change your reservation online, or call and change your current reservation, or make a new free dining reservation online and then call when that’s set to cancel your old reservation.

Q: Tickets? But I already bought tickets!
A: That’s a whine, not a question.

But yes, to be eligible for free dining, a new minimum 2 day Magic Your Way hopper or hopper-plus likely will be required for each person on the reservation age 3 and up.

However, you can save your tickets for a future trip–multi-day Magic Your Way tickets bought in 2017 which have not been activated by first use will remain valid until 12/31/2018, and even after that can have their value credited to new tickets.  Annual Pass holders can use the un-activated extra 2 day ticket toward renewal costs when it is time to renew. Or you can just use both tickets to get 6 FastPass+ per day.

Q: Are all resorts and rooms in the deal?
A: All recent Disney World deals have excluded some resorts and room types—mostly those for which demand is high enough that no deal is needed to get heads in beds at full prices.

Recently, most commonly excluded have been Little Mermaid standard rooms at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, All-Star Movies, the Villas at the Grand Floridian, and one or the other of the Port Orleans resorts, most commonly French Quarter. This year, because of construction at both Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs, I would not be surprised [Read more →]

March 31, 2015   86 Comments

Possible Disney World Discount News Tomorrow

Hey–the deal I was referring to here is out, see this.

Disney World Deal Rumors from yourifrstvisit.net

Word is that we may learn more about an upcoming Disney World discount as soon as tomorrow.

Come back tomorrow  to see if the rumors are true!!

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March 18, 2015   No Comments

A Moderate Disney Vacation Club at Caribbean Beach?

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, see this.)

DISNEY VACATION CLUB AT CARIBBEAN BEACH?

The Beach at Trinidad South from yourfirstvisit.net

There’s been speculation about Disney Vacation Club units at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort for a while, but the first rumors from people I respect came—so far as I noticed—when Jim Hill and Len Testa discussed the possibility in an August edition of the Disney Dish Podcast.

There were many curious things about this podcast and the one a couple of weeks before, including a claim that Disney had overbuilt hotels, and was using DVC conversions to take out capacity.

In fact, reported capacity utilization at the Disney domestic resorts has been steady or going up quarter over quarter for several years now, and last quarter was at a world-class 83% (the national average was around 65%) — up 5 percentage points over the same quarter prior year.

Moreover, the more recent DVC conversions have added deluxe capacity, not cut it. The most recent DVC projects have added deluxe capacity for more than 5000 people/night:

  • The combination of actions at the Animal Kingdom Lodge added net nightly capacity of more than 2500 people (taking out capacity of 300 at Jambo House by subtracting rooms and replacing them with on-average higher bay DVC spaces, and adding capacity for 2900 people at Kidani).
  • Bay Lake Tower added a net of nightly capacity for about 1700 people, taking out about 1250 people worth of space in the North Garden Wing and adding back space for 2900 or so in Bay Lake Tower.
  • The Villas at the Grand Floridian was not a conversion, but simply an addition of capacity of about 1,000 people.
  • The Polynesian conversion—if the converted longhouses are solely studios, as is expected—will also add capacity via the bungalows, on the order of a couple of hundred people.

Now it is true that all the net growth is on the DVC side, as hundreds of rooms have shifted out of the deluxe inventory from the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Contemporary Resort, and Polynesian and into the DVC inventory.

But that does not mean deluxe “capacity” has gone down. First, the DVC rooms are available to the general public as deluxe spaces for rent, and second, DVC point purchases are economic substitutes for yearly rentals of deluxe rooms. Over the long term, a bed at a DVC resort is simply a pre-paid deluxe bed.

Rather, it hints at the short term economic value of DVC sales to the Walt Disney Company. Take the Polynesian conversion. At rack rates, WDW can clear in revenue for each room at the Poly about $200,000 per year at max occupancy by treating it as a hotel room. At likely Polynesian DVC point cost and studio point charts, selling that same capacity to DVC contract buyers will generate one-time revenue of almost $1.1 million—plus even more for annual dues to cover operating and upkeep costs. This is a much better year for that room…

So I can stop there…but there’s more. The more of this capacity Disney can sell to DVC members, the more it has laid off the risk of future swings in demand for hotel rooms. DVC members have to pay their dues…but they don’t have to use their points. This is just upside for Disney, as in effect the future room charge is pre-paid through the point purchase, upkeep is paid annually, and, if points are unused, Disney can in effect double-charge for the room by putting it on the cash market any nights it is unoccupied by point holders.

Now beyond the medium term it is likely better to have a room on the balance sheet and be able to charge for it year after year than to take a one-time payment of 6 times yearly revenues for it and have it not be on the balance sheet.

But from an income statement point of view, monetizing DVC rooms works fine so long as there is a sufficient flow of DVC contracts to sell to make year to year comparisons OK. (The importance of this issue was highlighted in this month’s earnings call, where the lack of units to sell compared to last year’s sales of contracts for the Villas at the Grand Floridian was explicitly addressed.)

Testa and Hill mentioned Caribbean Beach as the possible first moderate DVC property. This is a very interesting concept, especially if moderate DVC points are in a new/different/lower class, and as a result hard to use for deluxe DVC spaces (as otherwise current point holders would complain about new competition for deluxe DVC spaces without new deluxe capacity).

The specific area they discussed for a Caribbean Beach DVC spot was near Buena Vista Boulevard—e.g. they noted the possibility of a new seven story tower with views of IllumiNations, and perhaps even boat service to Epcot and on to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Map Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort

A look at the map shows that this is certainly possible, perhaps in the wetlands between Aruba and Barbados, or perhaps even by tearing down the Customs House, replacing its function in new space near Old Port Royale, and building there.

Trinidad South View Disney's Caribbean Beach from yourfirstvisit.net

But I’m more intrigued by Moderate DVC in the blank piece of property across Barefoot Bay from the pirate rooms at Trinidad South (shown above).

But what? Build paired, connecting Moderate DVC Pirate Studios, with a king bed and full kitchen studio on one side of the connecting door, and a queen/sofa/murphy bed studio on the other side.

Made Up Concept Floor Plan for DVC at Caribbean Beach from yourfirstvisit.net

See the concept image. Inspired on one side by half of a Music family suite, and on the other side by a Villas at the Wilderness Lodge studio, this is not precisely to scale (there’s more floor space than it indicates) and, more to the point, is entirely made up, but it communicates my idea adequately.

These rooms could be rented separately (though there might be occupancy issues with the king/kitchen side), or be rented as a connected pair.

The connected pair, with a king, capacity for seven, two baths, and a full (though tiny) kitchen, would be clearly better than a family suite at the values, but also much smaller and more cramped than a eight or nine person Two Bedroom Villa at a current DVC deluxe resort–Villas that have at least 50% more floor space.

This puts a connecting pair in the right straddling niche for a Moderate DVC space…

Now, let’s be clear: With this floor plan, I am not reporting a rumor. I’ve simply made it up as an example of what’s possible in a Moderate DVC space using the current footprints of Pirate rooms…

Disney could start with such a building across from Trinidad South, and if demand justified, build multi-story towers with similar spaces on the undeveloped area across Barefoot Bay. With taller buildings and elevators, there’s easily room there for a thousand studios there…

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November 18, 2014   18 Comments