Thursday, February 22, 2007

New Disney Cruise Line Ships

Disney Announces Expansion of Successful Cruise Business
Two New Ships will More than Double Passenger Capacity

The Walt Disney Company plans to expand its successful cruise business by adding two new ocean liners, President and CEO Bob Iger announced today. Scheduled to launch in 2011 and 2012, the ships will more than double the passenger capacity for Disney Cruise Line® to meet the sustained demand for Disney's family cruise vacations.

The new 122,000-ton cruise liners will be two decks taller than the existing 83,000-ton ships, the Disney Magic® and the Disney Wonder®. Each ship will have 1,250 staterooms. Specific design plans and itineraries for the yet-unnamed ships are still in development and will be unveiled at a later date.

A trip to Pleasure Island

It's been some time since I've stepped foot in Pleasure Island. Last time I was there, they were finishing the new bridge from the West Side, but the old one was still there. A walkway low to the water, going under the bridge, was down to its pylons and looked weird. A shop in the middle of the district was boarded up.

That shop was since torn down and rebuilt, though it looks similar to my mind's eye. The new bridge is all there is; there is no trace of the old bridge. (This was changed out to make the way across districts fully wheelchair accessible; the old bridge ended in a set of stairs while the new bridge slants upward).

The big change, though, is the removal of the stage next to that torn down building (there is still a stage over by the bridge and the comedy club). In its place is a new open area that leads to a boat stop. Yes, the boat that runs from House of Blues to Rainforest Cafe now has a stop in Pleasure Island, though only in the HOB to Rainforest direction, not vice versa. Was this boat stop always here? I rather fancy not.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Mysterious Dirt Roads in WDW

For the last several months, I've noticed some dirt roads off to the sides of several main roads (World Drive, Osceola Parkway). There's a 99% chance this is routine, nothing to get worked up about, maybe even something there for ages. But I could swear they weren't there a few years ago.

My best guess is that they provide a path for heavy-duty construction vehicles, so they don't have to travel on the Guest roads (and cause delays). Why they NEED heavy vehicles is another interesting question. Again, it's probably routine. Fixing overpasses and the like. But I did want to report on the dirt roads all the same.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Random Nemo and Pirates observations

There's a new (well, three weeks old) merch cart hiding in Future World West, between Character Connection and Innoventions West. It's dedicated only to pirates merchandise, which has about as much to do with Future World's mission as Spider-Man does with global warming. I don't like it. Disney always identifies trends late and then jumps WAY too deeply into them. Just think of how they overkilled "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." They will tire the audience out with this if they aren't careful. Which they aren't being.

Over at Nemo (the Epcot ride, not the DAK musical), there's been damage already. On week two of the attraction, someone had punched a hole in the painted and themed wall near the entrance door. That, I'm pleased to say, got patched up promptly. But at the loading dock a few weeks later, one of the beautiful etched glass "windows" from the queue to the loading belt (it's a knee level and below) has been replaced by a plain board. Apparently it shattered quite badly. I didn't get to hear if this was done maliciously.

What I care about is that it's taking so long to replace this. I do desperately hope they ARE replacing it...

Now then, the other Nemo observation: while I like this ride a lot, it occurred to me right from the beginning that the characterizations and motivations are "off" somewhat. Think about it: the storyline here is that Nemo has run away "again". Let's forget for a moment that Nemo didn't run away in the movie, and let's focus on Nemo hiding just out of sight for several scenes in this ride, and giggling like a kid getting away with something. In short, the designers made him an undisciplined brat in this ride. That's not the Nemo we knew in the movies. Nemo was many things, but a "playful jerk" wasn't one of them. Yet this drives the whole action of the ride.

I could go on. Just how does Bruce know Nemo's name? Why should Nemo listen to Crush rather than all other characters, and finally return home? Why do we see Nemo, Marlin, and Dory TWICE at the end, as projections on two different scenes? But mostly I'm annoyed that Nemo is basically out of character.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Disney hotels in non-Disney locations?

There's some precedence for Disney having a hotel in an area remote from the theme parks; namely, the DVC resorts at Hilton's Head and other locations (some not yet built). But Rasulo announced this week that they may be looking to export the Disney hotel concepts to "other" cities.

Just plop down the Polynesian resort in Chicago, say, or the Wilderness Lodge in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. Would that work? Would it succeed or fail? To be honest, I can't say off the bat. It's too funky a concept to be sure that it WOULD work (or, for that matter, it's too funky to say for sure that it would fail). I have to wrap my mind around it.

My heart tells me the Disney brand name will work to lure people in, and they'll do this kind of much-more-affordable vacation than traveling all the way to Orlando. Sounds good for Disney, doesn't it? But it wouldn't be so good if the result is merely cannibalizing their Orlando (and to a lesser extent, Anaheim) visitor base.

That, in fact, would be disastrous. So let's hope that they build a test one somewhere, and it FAILS. Because otherwise, the parks will suffer in yet another not-so-visible way. Rasulo and gang really are all about diminishing the theme park experience, bit by magical bit. It's all about raiding the brand. Short term profit over long term viability. Sadly, we've seen all this before.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Refillable sipper cups at Disney

Busch and Universal parks have them. Heck, Cypress Gardens has them. So why doesn't WDW have those souvenir sipper cups you can buy once and get cheap refills on?

There's the coffee rumor (keep your cup all day and refill for free; it's semi-true but I find it uncouth). And there's the resort mug, which really is good for the length of your trip. But no sipper?

Well, there is a sipper, and I always forget about it. It's only at DAK. Refills are a bargain rate $1.00 (I think) and I just recalled recently that I used to have like two of these sippers. Both are now missing, so I should buy one. These days I spend a lot of time at DAK, and those soda prices add up.

Turtle Talk, Take 2

Turtle Talk is moving to another "pod" in the Seas; that much has been known. Kitty-corner to its current location is a closed off pod, top level and bottom level, that was obviously going to be the queue for the attraction - the idea is to get people and those switchbacks out of the middle of the room. And it's a good idea.

But where's the theater to be? A friend explained it would be where they used to show the movie "The Seas" (back when this was still The Living Seas and a Nemo-free pavilion). That confused me. Said theater, I thought, was on the OTHER side of the new queue built for the Nemo ride. Were they going to use a catwalk to get Crush guests over the Nemo queue?

Thanks to another friend (Mr. B!) I finally learned what's going on: the Crush theater is right next to the pods being reconfigured. Apparently, there were once TWO theaters for the Seas movie. The one to be undemolished for Nemo (and to be used for Crush) had been out of commission since the mid-90s, which explains why I forgot about it. So there's no need to cross the Nemo line at all.

Things are progressing on this attraction. A few weeks ago, I noticed a temporary wall separating Nemo and the Crush area had been replaced by a permanent wall, whose placement also makes managing wheelchairs easier on the Nemo attraction.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Some WDW restaurant happenings

You may know that I'm the author of the Unofficial Dining Guide to Walt Disney World 2007, a book with current menus and prices at WDW restaurants. As a result, I'm doing my utmost to stay plugged in to the happenings at WDW eateries.

There's always a lot going on. At DAK's Asia, you have Ying and Yak replacing the fries shop and the quick service Asian food. At DtD, Landry's is opening T-Rex, a concept I'm really looking forward to (they are being coy about where, exactly, the building is to go. Or if it's replacing something already there). At the Swan, Il Mulino will soon open, replacing an older table service concept named Palio.

Rehabs continue all the time. Teppanyaki in Japan is down for four months this spring, as is 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian this fall.

The Concourse Steakhouse will close this spring, and Chef Mickey will expand. Meanwhile, the food court downstairs at the Contemporary will be removed, and an Asian Fusion place named the Wave will take its place. I'm looking forward to that one.

Here's a minor decline by degrees related to restaurants: they used to give away a free lithograph when you ate inside Cinderella's castle for dinner (lunch was a plastic wand for girls or sword for boys). Now they just give out the wand or sword for all meals. Le sigh.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

No 25th for Epcot

Brad Rex has said in an online interview that Epcot will *not* celebrate its 25th anniversary in any meaningful way, though workers may hear something about it from time to time. This is more than a shame; it borders on a crime. John at the Disney Blog is trying to organize an online movement to convince Disney to re-think this, and I wish they would.

Presumably, no one wants to overshadow Jay's lame Year of a Million Dreams. Just about anything would be better than the YOAMD, though. Don't you think?