By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here.



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



Category — p. News and Changes

Halloween 2018 at Walt Disney World

DISNEY WORLD’S SPECIAL HALLOWEEN PARTY IN 2018

While Halloween itself is October 31st of course, Walt Disney World provides a special Halloween celebration at the Magic Kingdom many evenings in 2018, likely from late August until the first of November.

This celebration is called “Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party,” or “MNSSHP” for short.

At the party, many of the Magic Kingdom’s rides are open, and trick or treating, special events, and different parades and fireworks are offered.

The official Disney World page for this event can be found here.

Click the images below for the 2017 offerings.

And you can find a review of the 2017 MNSSHP party here.

MORE ON MICKEY’S NOT-SO-SCARY HALLOWEEN PARTY IN 2018

[Read more →]

February 20, 2018   No Comments

Longer Disney World Ticket Prices Increase Less Than I’d Thought…At Least So Far

Disney World ticket prices went up on Sunday, and at the same time Disney announced that later this year it would begin charging different seasonal prices for multi-day tickets—no details on that yet, but I have some speculation below.

I’ve finally had time to analyze the correct prices (they are all here; incorrect prices were all over the place earlier, including on this site, as the leaked prices included the $21.30 extra charge for not getting tickets in advance).

Here’s the short version:

  • Shorter tickets went up substantially
  • The longer tickets that I would recommend for most went up hardly at all
  • My guess is that—particularly because of this last point—that what we are seeing now is the lowest level of ticket prices in the new seasonal price scheme

Details follow.

SHORTER DISNEY WORLD TICKETS INCREASE BY $11 TO $32

Here’s the scoop on shorter tickets for those ten and older. (Tickets for those younger than ten went up by the same dollar amount, but off a slightly lower base, so saw slightly higher percentage increases.)

  • 2 day tickets: up $10.65 or 5.0%
  • 3 day tickets: up $17.04 or 5.5%
  • 4 day tickets: up $31.95 or 8.6%
  • 5 day tickets: up $26.63 or 6.8%

The obvious observation is that all these are substantially higher than inflation, so Disney seems to be extracting value—especially at the 4 and 5 day levels—to get returns on its investments in the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, which many still prioritize after Epcot and Magic Kingdom.

LONGER DISNEY WORLD TICKETS MOSTLY INCREASE BY $5.33

Longer tickets show a remarkably different pricing pattern, with all but 6 day tickets showing an increase of less than inflation.

  • 6 day tickets: up $15.98 or 3.8%
  • 7 day tickets: up $5.33 or 1.2%%
  • 8 day tickets: up $5.33 or 1.2%%
  • 9 day tickets: up $5.33 or 1.2%%
  • 10 day tickets: up $5.33 or 1.1%%

The combination of changes also means that its costs the same to add a day–$10.65—for all tickets 6 days or longer. This returns Disney largely to the pricing pattern it had before 2016. The combination of these two factors—lower prices to add a day, and price increases of less than inflation (that means in real terms ticket prices went down) suggests an enhanced emphasis by Disney on guests staying of longer.

Or at least during the times when these tickets are valid….

THOUGHTS ON SEASONAL TICKET PRICING

Those who buy at the current price can use these tickets at the price they paid until 12/31/2019. (Unless you change the tickets–e.g. add a day.)

Those who buy their tickets after the seasonal pricing structure comes out will, I believe, have to pay more. I believe this because the low increases on longer-day tickets leave little room for less-expensive tickets, which makes me think the pricing level we are seeing now will be the lowest level offered in 2018.

There’s two different reasons for seasonal pricing. One is to incent those with flexible dates to attend during lower-crowd periods. This can yield better experiences both for those who shift away from crowded times, and for those who remain in them (because crowds will be lower from those who did change their dates). The second is to extract more value from those who cannot change their dates but who are going during more popular periods. All of Disney World recent strategic language is about the first reason.

Unclear is what the seasons will be and when they will be announced—and the new prices come in. Disney currently has a calendar for the seasonal pricing of one day tickets for which it has been charging seasonal rates for a couple of years now. Go here, click 1 day tickets, and a calendar will show up of lowest “Value,” middle “Regular,” and highest “Peak” price days.

If you play with this you’ll discover there are no value priced days from May 4 through August 26. While Disney may not exactly follow this one day calendar for its multi-day tickets, surely it is relevant. So I would expect the new price levels to kick in for visits in May or—maybe–June, and to be announced shortly after the opening date for Toy Story Land is announced.

I may be wrong about the current set of tickets being the lowest prices we’ll see in 2018–I’m wrong 20 times before breakfast. But if I am right, it can’t hurt to buy your tickets now, as, especially if your dates are out of the current “Value” ticket season, you might save some coin.

 

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February 14, 2018   1 Comment

Disney World Ticket Prices Increase; Seasonal Pricing for Multi-Day Disney World Tickets Coming

As expected, prices for Disney World tickets went up today. I’ll have the details and analysis in a a few days, but for the multi-day tickets that most readers of this site use, prices went up as much as 9%, although longer day tickets saw much lower increases.

Disney also announced that it would institute seasonal pricing for multi-day tickets “later this year,” with no further specifics. What that means is that multi-day tickets will becomes more expensive for some dates/periods, and less for others–just as single day tickets are now.

This pricing model is meant to shift people away from more popular dates and towards less popular ones. Most likely it will work as an additional cost for some dates with today’s prices representing the lowest-cost options.

This suggests that the right play is to buy your 2018 tickets now. But the pricing doesn’t have to work that way–the levels announced today, for example, could end up beings the middle tier of prices, with some dates being a little less expensive and some even more. So it’s hard for me to give frim advice.

The first sensible opportunity to institute seasonal pricing on multi-day tickets would be for the opening at Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That opening date should be announced, I’d think, no later than the end of March.

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February 11, 2018   No Comments

Disney World Resort Refurb Update

Last week I had the chance to check in on most of the resort refurb projects at Disney World, including Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, and French Quarter. Here’s the updates on what I found.

REFURB AT DISNEY’S POP CENTURY RESORT

Disney’s Pop Century Resort  is having its rooms transformed from two full bed rooms to two queen rooms, with coffee makers added!

These refurbs are now half done, complete in the 90s, 80s, and 70s sections—buildings 6 to 10.

Building 5 in the 60’s section is being refurbed.

For a photo tour of one of these new rooms, see this.

REFURB AT DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is seeing major changes. Its former Barbados Village, and half of its Martinique Village, are gone, and being replaced by a new Disney Vacation Club facility.

The indoor parts of the Old Port Royale area are closed, including the dining and shopping that used to be here, replaced—at least until late summer—with temporary alternatives.

The table service restaurant that used to be here is being moved to the waterfront, and is well-along in construction.

The expectation is that the check-in area will be moved into the Old Port Royal Building—a thought supported by the addition of a Port Cochere to the front of this building.

The main entrance, I believe, will be shifted to Victory Way, near Jamaica—a guard shack is being built here.

And what appears to me to be multiple bus stop shelters (three of them) are being built in a row just to the south of Old Port Royale, maybe a hundred yards from the current Trinidad North bus stop.

Given the scope of these new bus shelters, it is my fondest hope that these will completely replace the three bus stops that current serve the three accommodations buildings in Martinique, the former Old Port Royal bus stop, and the stop that serves the three accommodations buildings in Trinidad North.

There’s more on the construction at Caribbean Beach here.

REFURB AT DISNEY’S CORONADO SPRINGS RESORT

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort is seeing both a room refurb project and the construction of a new bed tower on the site of the former Cabana 9b.

Building 1 (in the Casitas) is now done, and Buildings 2 and 4—also in the Casitas—are being worked on. So completed are Buildings 1 and 3 in the Casitas, Building 7a in the Ranchos, and Building 8a in the Cabanas.

The new tower now is about 6 stories high, and although I did not get a good photo of the entry to Coronado Springs from Buena Vista, it is now tall enough to make it clear how completely it will dominate the vista of the entry road to Coronado Springs—creating a very different first impression for, e.g. those scoping out the resort for a potential convention.

A waterside dining venue is also being added at Coronado Springs, and what I believe are the crane and pontoon barge for building it are being positioned between the Casitas and the Ranchos.

Signs and fencing are out that may at times close the path between these two areas, making the Ranchos even more inconvenient than they already were.

I have not stayed in one of the refurbed rooms here yet, but co-author Josh has a review of one of them here.

To keep up with the refurb here, check out Mario’s Coronado Springs facebook page.

REFURB AT DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS FRENCH QUARTER RESORT

Earlier in January 2018, a room refurb project kicked off at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, starting in Building 2.

There’s not much out there on what the new rooms will be like (we should start to get guest reports as early as later this week from Building 2, if the expected schedule is followed).

However, they are being completely emptied down to the carper, so based on recent refurb trends, expect more power points, bigger TVs, wooden floors, more structured storage, higher queen beds with luggage storage underneath, and a sliding door to the sink area.

That being said, surprises are always possible. I would swear that I saw workers unloading a stack of king beds in the construction staging area last week. I may have been wrong, or if I am right, they may simply be for the small number of king rooms that have always been here. But given what else is going on around the Disney resorts—and especially queens in Pop Century, a first for a value resort—I wouldn’t rule out entirely something very different, like a king bed and a queen sleeper sofa.

You’ll find more on this refurb as it unfolds and extends to Port Orleans Riverside on Andre’s site here.

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly B, can help you find the best places to stay in these resorts–or anywhere else. Contact her at 980-429-4499 or kellyb@destinationsinflorida.com, or fill in the form below.

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February 4, 2018   4 Comments

Review: The Epcot International Festival of the Arts 2018

Epcot’s International Festival of The Arts arrived in 2017 and returned for 2018. The 2018 Festival of the Arts is largely unchanged, except that most of its offerings (with the notable exception of the Broadway singers) happen all week long, rather than the Fridays through Mondays of 2017.

It began 1/12/18 and runs through 2/19/2018. I had the chance to see it last week, and here’s my report.

The Festival combines

  • Great, albeit pricey, dining
  • Dozens of kiosks with art to view and buy
  • Interactive opportunities to paint, be photographed into great art, and play with silly living statues
  • Seminars and other sessions
  • Music–some casual, some distinctive presentations from the Disney on Broadway team

Disney calls it a mix of “visual, culinary and performing arts inspired by cultures from all around the world…a global masterpiece.”

That’s a stretch, but with better food than past Food and Wine festivals, and better visual appeal than past Flower and Garden festivals, it is, by far, my favorite among all the Epcot festivals, and I highly recommend it for returning visitors.

First-timers will enjoy it as well, but will find that it adds crowds to Epcot’s World Showcase, especially on weekends

EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS DINING

Dining opportunities are particularly concentrated at the entrance to the World Showcase, but are also found in the Odyssey Festival Showplace (between Test Track and Mexico—the Showplace is the centerpiece of the Festival) and scattered through the rest of World Showcase.

The Festival of the Arts offers the best dining of any Epcot Festival. Waits can be long as much food is prepared while you wait, and prices are also high. The value for money is also very high, and with many $7+ items available for a snack credit, the festival provides the single best argument in years for you to buy the Disney Dining Plan.

In 2018 I had a chance to try the Charcuterie Palette from the Masterpiece Kitchen…

…the Roast Pork Roulade from the Artist’s Table…

…and the deconstructed Reuben from Deconstructed Dish. All were terrific, and detailed reviews and more specific recommendations of the best  dining of the Festival are on co-author Josh’s site easyWDW.com.

EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS SHOWS AND GALLERIES

Art, fittingly, is everywhere at the Festival of the Arts.

In the Odyssey Festival Showplace, you’ll find Disney attraction posters from theme parks around the world.  This is a let-down from last year’s exhibitions of the work of Herbert Ryman and Mary Blair, but those two set a very high standard…

Some of the posters.

More of them.

The posters are on both sides. One side has a little shop with books…

…and the other side has a little shop with festival merchandise.

I needed a hat…

All over World Showcase are tented kiosks offering mostly Disney-related art to browse through and buy:

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EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS INTERACTIVE OPPORTUNITIES

There’s lots of opportunities for simple play.

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In front of the Future World stage you can find living statues that will mess with you and your kids (check the Times Guide for showings)…

There’s an opportunity to play with a paint-by numbers canvas on the way to Canada…

…and scattered through World Showcase are opportunities for you to join famous works.

More of these.

 

There’s also some Figment thingy that I paid no attention to, but is a bit of a variant on the Kidcot concept—buy a map and stickers, find Figment-themed picture frames and Figment within them, add the appropriate sticker to the map, and turn the map in for a prize.

EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS SEMINARS AND SESSIONS

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Also in the Odyssey Festival Center is The Animation Academy, an animation drawing class, where you learn to draw a Disney character under the tutelage of a real animator.

Some have reported that all will end up with a great drawing, but irl your results will vary.

Winnie the Pooh

My Winnie the Pooh from last year is above…

EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS MUSIC

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Music at the Festival includes both performances at the Future World stage (see your Times Guide for show times)…

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…and a more interesting set of brief Broadway concerts in the evenings at the American Gardens Theater, at 5.30, 6.45 and 8p.

Presented by the Disney on Broadway team, the concerts showcase songs from Disney Broadway productions sung by Broadway stars.

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I saw in 2017 Kerry Butler (who was Belle in Beauty and the Beast) and Kevin Massey (Tarzan) singing songs from Tarzan, Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, and The Little Mermaid.

The schedule for the rest of the Festival:

  • February 2 to 5: Performers Kissy Simmons and Alton Fitzgerald White doing songs from Tarzan, The Lion King, Aida, Aladdin and The Little Mermaid
  • February 9 to 12: Performers Ashley Brown and Josh Strickland doing songs from Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins, Newsies and Frozen
  • February 16 to 19: Performers Ashley Brown and Josh Strickland doing songs from Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins, Newsies and Frozen

Passholders and DVC owners can get priority seating, which you are supposed to do ahead of time. Pick up wristbands at the American Adventure.

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Those with priority badges line up on the Japan side of the pavilion. There’s a stand-by line as well, on the Germany side.

As you can probably tell, I love this Festival!

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January 31, 2018   5 Comments

Review: Disney After Hours in 2018

What I used to say about Disney After Hours, after my 2016 and 2017 experiences with it, was that it is a separately-ticketed “opportunity to be in the Magic Kingdom with next to no one, and for three hours to ride the best rides (not all are open, but most are) with next to no waits.”

After my January 26, 2018 experience with Disney After Hours, I’d modify that a bit, to an “opportunity to be in the Magic Kingdom with very few other people next to no one, and for three hours to ride the best rides (not all are open, but most are) with in most cases next to no waits (but expect minor waits at Peter Pan and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train).”

Above is Fantasyland in 2017.

And here’s about the same space at about the same time in 2018.

Remaining dates for Disney After Hours in early 2018 are

  • Tuesday January 30: 8 to 11p
  • Thursday February 8: 8 to 11p
  • Thursday February 15: 9p to 12MN
  • Thursday March 1: 9p to 12MN
  • Thursday March 8: 9p to 12MN

Those with the special tickets (buy them here for $89 to $119/person) are allowed in around 7p, and, after the event starts, are the only people permitted to ride the open rides.

Two things were different for 2018.

  • First, instead letting people in at the traditional 4p time, Magic Kingdom enforced much more sharply the 7p opening.
  • Second, more people attended than were at either of my prior visits.

Both of these have the effect of reducing the value of the event–although not enough to annoy me.

In general it’s good to plan out what you want to see in advance–all the major rides except those closed for refurb will be open, and most of the minor ones–and to plan your evening to go Adventureland–>Frontierland–>Liberty Square–>Tomorrowland–>Fantasyland.

You do it in this order because, as usual, the best approach to reducing waits is to figure out what most other people will be doing–which is starting their night in Fantasyland or Tomorrowland–and do the opposite.

This order also lets you put the Jungle Cruise at a time when other people will be riding–it’s the only ride where you want your ride vehicle full, as it’s more fun that way!

On my 2016 Disney After Hours I tried to see as many rides as I could, and on my 2017 experience of Disney After Hours I tried to mimic what the typical family would be able to do.

For 2018, I took a plan of seeing all the headliners, and then seeing how much time was left over for re-rides or other rides.

I began at Jungle Cruise, where I had to wait one boat. Above is the Jungle Cruise waiting area.

Then I walked on to Pirates of the Caribbean. Above is my boat and the boats ahead of me.

My last sight of the redhead in her current role…whom I first met in this role in Disneyland in the late 1960s.

Next was Big Thunder Mountain (Splash Mountain is having its usual January closure).  A hundred or so people were ahead of me in line, but the ride loaded (using both sides) just about at our walking pace, so I had to wait for only a train or two to board.

Next was the Haunted Mansion, where I walked right into the ride.

I then got a free Mickey Bar and bottle of water in Liberty Square (your ticket includes free ice cream, popcorn, and drinks) and walked over to Tomorrowland.

There, I had to wait a couple of rocket ships at Space Mountain, but walked right on to Buzz Lightyear.

The worst waits at the event will be for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan. The later you ride these, the lower the waits will be.  I got to them about mid-way through the event, and waited 17 minutes for Seven Dwarfs and 8 minutes for Peter Pan.

I completed all these headliners by 10.10 pm–so would have had 50 minutes left for Splash Mountain (once it re-opens), re-rides, or non-headliners. Instead, I left.  Those who leave right when the event closes will find, as usual, that doing the same thing everyone else is doing will lead to lines at transportation.  Leaving a few minutes before the end of the event, or half an hour after, will have an easier trip back to the parking lots, or, via shared buses, to their Disney hotel.

Disney After Hours is expensive, and with the reduction in time in the park before 7p, and the increased attendance, its value has gone down.  But especially for returning visitors who know their way around Magic Kingdom and want to nail a lot of rides, it can be well worth it.

 

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January 29, 2018   4 Comments