Save the Date! – Galaxy’s Edge (Phase 1) to open at Disney World on August 29, 2019

They did. I didn’t believe they would, but Disney made announcement about Galaxy’s Edge opening date at Disney World, AND IT’S OPENING ON AUGUT 29, 2019 !?!?! The “catch” with the opening is that the Millennium Falcon attraction (known as “Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run”) will be running at that time, but that the Rise of the Resitence attraction will not open until “later this year”.

Part of why I didn’t think Disney would open Galaxy’s Edge as early as October, was I didn’t think that the attractions would be ready in that time frame. In hind sight, the phased opening approach Disney is doing makes total sense, as it addresses the issue of attraction completion, while also letting people experience (and test for Disney) the new immersive land prior to the holiday season. Disney will be able to track and tweak the immersion aspects of the land and (to a lesser degree) the crowd flow, without having to also support (what people have been saying) is one of Disney’s most ambitious attractions ever created. Again, once I read the announcement, it made total sense that Disney would do things this way.

Disney has also made the decision to not offer Fastpass+ for the Galaxy’s Edge attractions (even Rise of the Resistance when it initially opens.) Again, in hindsight, this makes some sense. Instead of rewarding people who are able to quickly make a time selection 60 days out, it will reward people who are willing to make the time investment to enter the land (either in early arrival or waiting in the queue). This also alleviates the need to manage the crowd in a way that accounts for Fastpass+ reservations on the attractions (e.g., someone who has a 2:00pm Fastpass+ reservation would need to be able to end the land with enough time to make it to the attraction, possibly requiring them to skip the overall entrance queue to the land). Universal handles that kind of “entry” queueing on busy days by giving people a reservation time to return and enter Harry Potter-land (i.e., a Fastpass for entry to the whole land). I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney uses the initial opening phase of Galaxy’s Edge to determine if the better approach for Fastpass+ is actually a Fastpass+ for entrance to Galaxy’s Edge instead of Fastpass+ for one of the attractions. (And, of course, I am sure there will be plenty of hard-ticket / add-on options available for people who are willing to pay to experience Galaxy’s Edge without as much waiting.)

Overall, I’m glad to see Disney in a place where they can open Galaxy’s Edge as early as they are, and I hope this extra time can be used to make sure Galaxy’s Edge is running smoothly by the holidays. Regardless, it should be pretty interesting to watch.

We're so ready for Galaxy's Edge
We’re so ready for Galaxy’s Edge

Rumors of an Earlier (Than Originally Anticipated) Galaxy’s Edge Opening

From the earliest Galaxy’s Edge announcement of a “late Fall” opening at Disney World, everyone seemed to assume that the actually opening date would be in late December 2019. Then, about a month or two ago, Disney changed the opening date to “Fall” of 2019. Still, I think most people still assumed this meant November.

Things really started to change last week, however, when Robert Niles at *Theme Park Insider” predicted an October 1, 2019 opening for Galaxy’s Edge . At the time, I thought it was a bold prediction, but I didn’t put much stock into it. Yesterdat, WDW News Today joined the chorus predicting an earlier than originally anticipated opening date of “September / October” and claims the official opening date might be announced at Disney’s shareholder’s meeting on Thursday, March 7.

Personally, I still think September seems too early for an actual opening, but maybe late October is workable. Of course, hurricane season is still months away from hitting Florida and that always has potential to cause some constructions delays. I guess we’ll know more (maybe?) on Thursday.

Construction foreman at Galaxy's Edge are not to be messed with.
Construction foreman at Galaxy’s Edge are not to be messed with.

Star Wars – Galaxy’s Edge – The First Tours

There’s a ton of Galaxy’s Edge news out today, but I want to focus on this article from Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch that is one of the most comprehensive pieces I have seen. On some level, it’s the type of analysis that I would think friend of the site Wes would give if he was given access to land while it’s under construction (and, honestly, that’s about the highest compliment I can give.)

If just the concept of Galaxy’s Edge doesn’t get you excited, maybe this information will:

At risk of being too susceptible to marketing speak, I’d have to agree with this particular statement. What is being built here has little parallel in terms of immersion and ambition in an amusement park or out. And it’s going to blow Star Wars fans, casual and involved, away.

Though all of Panzarino’s article is worth a read, here are some standout parts for me. First, why Disney elected to set the land on a “new” planet:

“Why not make a place that is very familiar from the classic Star Wars films, a Tatooine, a Hoth, or one of those places? The answer really is we know those places, we know those stories that happen there, and we know that we’re not in them,” said [Disney Portfolio Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, Scott] Trowbridge. “This place, Black Spire Outpost, is an opportunity. It’s designed from the very get‑go to be a place that invites exploration and discovery, a place that invites us to become a character in the world of Star Wars, and, to the extent that we want to, to participate in the stories of Star Wars.”
“I want to walk into this land and be in the same level as everyone else, from the really hardcore Star Wars fan to someone who knows nothing about Star Wars,” Managing Story Editor at WDI Margaret Kerrison recalls saying in the first pitch meeting she attended for Star Wars land. “I want to have that urgency to explore, to discover, to run around every corner, and to meet every single droid and alien in this land. I want to not feel like I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t know all the nitty‑gritty details as a hardcore Star Wars fan would know.”

Next, is the explanation of how involved people from all part of Disney and LucasFilm were in creating the land:

People from props, set dressing, construction, merchandising, food, ride systems and technical departments all worked together from ideation onwards. On a normal production, they are typically brought in at various phases — but for Batuu, everyone had to be on the same page from the very beginning

and how the land will work to feel alive while you’re there:

“Our world, where guests are this close to something, it’s got to be that next level. A good example of that is, droids move through our land. That’s part of the story that we’re trying to tell. We got access to one of the original Kenny Baker, New Hope, 1976‑1977 era droids. We took rubbings of the bottom of the droid feet. We turned that into a set of three files, which then, we turned into a set of 3D wheels. We built a little droid trolley, which Kirstin [Makela, Art Director] and team used.”
“I’ll set the scene for you,” says Makela. “You’re on a busy construction site, there’s lots of people around. There’s some people pouring hardscape concrete, all dirty and all their tools and their stamping. Then all of a sudden, one of them just jumps on this little trolley and someone else pulls them through the concrete, leaves a little trail of droid tracks.”

On that front, I can’t even fathom this description of the animatronic Hondo Ohnaka:

The animatronic figure itself is around 7 feet tall and uses the latest in electric motors instead of hydraulics. Hondo’s figure includes around 50 functions (movement points) total and is the second most complicated animatronic in Disney parks. The most complicated, for the record, is the Na’vi Shaman … which has 40 functions in its face alone, not to mention the rest of the body. We had the Shaman at our robotics event a couple of years ago, it’s incredible to watch. Hondo isn’t far behind, with fluid movements, smooth facial contortions and believable interactions between himself and his R5 droid.

(Though the biggest selling point will obviously be the Nien Nunb animatronic.)

Of course, it wouldn’t be a theme park without stellar attractions. Based on Panzarino’s description, Disney seems well aware of that as well. I only skimmed over the description of the Rise of the Resistance ride to avoid “ride through” style spoilers, but I had to read the description of the Falcon:

Approaching the Falcon from one of the entrances to Batuu for the first time is a surreal experience. This is a full-size 110-foot version of the ship as you’ve seen it in the movies. It’s meticulously detailed and acts as a center-piece for the area. The ship will periodically vent out gas and Hondo’s tinkerers are constantly working on its engines. It’s a living thing inside the land, a character.
Entering the cockpit was an out-of-body situation for me, I’m not ashamed to admit it. It’s wild how right it feels. The six seats all feature belts and the familiar weathered look. More importantly, each of them has a wide array of buttons either to the side or in front of them if you’re one of the pilots. Every square or rectangular button has a light up ring around it which will indicate which of them you need to press for the best result during your moments to act during the ride. The toggles have small LED indicators built into one end that do the same indicating job. I am happy to report that the large, satisfyingly chunky toggle switches and satisfyingly clicks buttons have been very well chosen and require enough force to push without stress but with satisfaction. They’re the right switches.

I cannot be more ready to give that a shot.

Overall, Panzarino’s observation that–in hindsight–Pandora seems like it was a test run for Galaxy’s Edge is something that I have felt since we started hearing about the immersive aspects that are now currently found in the Valley of Mo’ara. If Disney can accomplish that level of immersion in a universe that people have a much stronger connection to, than Galaxy’s Edge is going to be really, really special.

Maybe I missed the reference to this particular character

Plane’s Here, Go Ahead – A Discussion of Boarding Flights

Though not 100% on point for this site, the various discussions I’m seeing this morning related to flights, flight boarding, etc.. remind me of this CGP Grey video:

Part of me wonders what it would be like to have a much more “efficient” boarding process (though, after flying Southwest with their “groups”, I wonder how the “plane’s here, go ahead” method would really work for today’s travelers.)

If what you really want to watch ist just 20 minutes of the loading and unloading animations, though, then here’s that:

It’s about the time Disney World usually Raises Ticket Prices

No hard news or anything on this. The guys at Backside of Magic mentioned in their episode this morning that it’s about the time Disney World raises its ticket prices, so it might be worth buying tickets for your upcoming trips. I agree Ryan and Jeremy on that.

For context, here are the dates of Disney’s last few matches of February prices increases:

  • February 11, 2018
  • February 12, 2017
  • February 28, 2016
  • February 22, 2015
  • February 23, 2014

Sometimes there is a 1 or 2 day “rumor” that can give you notice, but who knows if that will happen this time.

Can you really put a price on moments like these, though?

Disney Parks Related Thoughts from Disney’s Latest Earnings Call

NOTE: You can view the transcript from a number of places online, but this is the one I used: https://seekingalpha.com/article/4238411-walt-disney-company-dis-ceo-robert-iger-q1-2019-results-earnings-call-transcript?part=single. Also, the quotes below are from Bob Iger.

The first quote will come as no surprise to anyone who’s been following Disney Parks, Disney has tried to get more money from each of their guests (and, apparently, it has):

Growth in operating income at our domestic parks business was driven by higher guest spending at the park and higher occupied room nights at the hotels. Attendance at our domestic parks was comparable to the first quarter last year. However, per capita spending was up 7% on higher admissions, food and beverage and merchandise spending. Per room spending at our domestic hotels was up 5%, and occupancy was up 3 percentage points to 94%.

Again, no surprise to anyone that follows this stuff.

This next quote talks about how Disney feels that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is, essentially, going to market itself:

And I would say, by the way, on the marketing expense side, don’t expect much. I’m thinking that maybe I should just tweet, “It’s opening,” and that will be enough. I think we’re going to end up with incredibly popular and in-demand product with these two new lands. They’re large. They’re beautiful, and they’re extremely innovative. And they obviously leverage the popularity of the Star Wars brand. And I think that we’re going to have absolutely no problem gaining attention for them or to them, and it’s not going to take much marketing to do that. That’s a signal that I just sent to our parks and resorts people to keep that budget really low.

Iger says that now, but I can’t imagine we’re not going to see a decent amount of advertising as the opening of the land gets closer. Maybe not for the holiday season (which would be popular anyway), but leading into 2020 and the “slower” periods of January and February.

This next quote combines pricing with everyone’s (no one’s?) favorite topic: IP in the theme parks. For better or worse, Disney seems to be saying that part of the reason for the increased popularity in the parks is the additional IP that Disney has been adding to them. Relatedly, Disney is using this increased popularity to raise prices:

Steve, on the first part, we’ve been witnessing, over the last few years, a substantial increase in the popularity of our parks. A lot of that has to do with how well they’ve managed and the kind of investments that we’ve made not just operationally but in expansion and the use of IP that’s extremely popular. In doing so, what we’re also trying to do is to use that popularity to manage guest experience a little bit better in the sense that – and we know that crowding can be an issue, and that when our parks are the most crowded, the guest experience is not what we would like it to be. And so we’re leveraging the popularity to obviously increase pricing and to spread demand, to get much more strategic about how we’re pricing. So the parks are still accessible, but in the highest peak periods, we’re trying basically to manage the attendance so that the guest experience isn’t diminished by the popularity. And I think, because of the nature of the investments we’re making, we’ve been fairly vocal and transparent about those investments, the two big Star Wars, Toy Story Land that just opened up in Florida, the work that’s going on in Hong Kong and in Paris and Shanghai and in Tokyo and all the great expansion and IP that we’re putting in. That popularity is going to continue, and with that’s going to come the, I guess, enviable task of balancing that popularity with guest experience and price elasticity.>

Again, for better or worse, new attractions at Disney parks are going to based on popular IP while the current crew is running things. That seems pretty clear.

As to using pricing to “manage attendance”, I think the unique nature of Disney parks, specifically destination parks like Disney World, undercuts that argument. As I’ve said (and heard others say) since Disney went to seasonal / surge pricing, some people can only take vacations during “peak” Disney times. For those people, the pricing isn’t a discouragement, it’s just an increased cost for their trip that they have no choice but to pay. People with the flexibility to travel when they want were alredady factoring in the crowd levels when making their travel decisions, but people who are constrained in their travel choices by their kids’ school or their jobs may not have those options. Though I doubt Disney would ever admit it, I bet the increased pricing over peak periods has done nothing to crowd levels, but has simply increased Disney’s profits for those periods. That’s “fine” if that’s Disney’s goal, but to say the goal is to “managed attendance” seems disingenuous.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I added in the two sentences above that are in italics to help clarify my original point, namely: some people are constrained by their life circumstances into when they can travel, and, frequently, those constraints force people to travel in Disney’s “peak” periods. For those people, they are forced into paying the extra cost of a trip, without any real option to travel at a “less expensive” time.

This last quote comes from earlier in the call, but ties the theme parks into Disney’s upcoming streaming service:

As I mentioned earlier in my prepared remarks, we have an event on April 11 when we’re not only going to demonstrate the app, but we’re going to talk in great detail about our strategy, the impact of our current businesses and the impact on our bottom line. And so I think we’ll answer a lot of the questions then. But what we’re basically trying to do here is invest in our future. And the investments that we’re making in both the technology side and in creating incremental content are all designed so that long-term this business will become an important part of Disney’s bottom line and long-term strategy So I think you have to look at this. It’s almost the equivalent of deploying capital to build out our theme parks when we could have deployed the capital in a variety of other directions. This is a bet on the future of this business. And we are deploying our capital basically so that long term, the growth of this company is stronger than it would have been without these investments.

It seems like Iger is saying that the build out on theme parks was a bet on the future (which seems to have paid off so far) and the build out on the streaming service will be much the same. Personally, I’m interested to see what the whole Disney+ experience will be like, especially initially when Disney still has content deals keeping some of its in-house content on other services. Of course, if Disney’s original content is ready then the service might really hit the ground running.

With all that money, can we get a night time parade back?With all that money, can we get a night time parade back?

A Morning at Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs

If you follow Elyssa and Me on Twitter, you know that we had quite the issues with travel last night. The short version is that a storm in Baltimore delayed (what would have been) our plane from Raleigh / Durham to Orlando for over 5 hours, and Southwest couldn’t guarantee that if that plane made it to RDU that it would actually fly to Orlando. To try and salvage this quick weekend trip, we decided to switch to a flight to Tampa, change our rental car reservation accordingly, and then drive up to Orlando. It was stressful, the overall travel took way longer than we thought it would, but we made it to our condo late last night so we could still enjoy a weekend away.

As a lot of Magic Kingdom mornings do, we started the day at Kona. Some Tonga Toast and a press pot of coffee always feels like a good way to start the day (even if the waitress kept telling us we looked tired.)

Tonga Toast FTW
Tonga Toast FTW

Given we were a little run down from last night, we went pretty easy on our Magic Kingdom touring. Thankfully, being there for park opening (along with some Fastpass+ refreshing) allowed us to get in Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Jungle Cruise, Buzz Lightyear, the People Mover, and visit with Mickey and Minnie in their fancy new outfits.

I have no issues with a fierce redhead.

I have no issues with a fierce redhead.
Not sure what’s cooler: Minnie’s outfit, or Elyssa’s popcorn bucket...
Not sure what’s cooler: Minnie’s outfit, or Elyssa’s popcorn bucket…
After we left the Magic Kingdom, we headed over to Disney Springs. We debated trying a view different options, but ended up at our favorite stop: Homecomin’. As always, it was delicious. I think the Thigh High chicken biscuits at Homecomin’ compete with the Slider at BoAtHOusE for best meal value on property.

It’s either Sweet Tea or Apple Pie for me.
It’s either Sweet Tea or Apple Pie for me.
Thigh highs.
Thigh highs.

We did try something new, though: the cookie dough from Aristocrepes. It was quite good as a quick dessert (and surprisingly filling.)

Cooke dough...topped with cookies.
Cooke dough…topped with cookies.

Overall, it was a pretty good morning (and it did a good job of washing away the hassles from last night.) We’re not sure where we’ll end up tonight, but I think we’ll consider this day a success, regardless.

runDisney 2019 Virtual Races will be Marvel Themed

Earlier today, Disney (via Marvel) announced that its 2019 runDisney “Virtual” races will be Marvel themed. Personally, I view “virtual” races as a little bit of a money grab (Elyssa and I are going to run 5Ks during those months, anyway, so why pay to be able to print out a “bib” to do it?), but if this is a chance for me to get a Captain America themed runDisney medal, I am ALL IN.

Of course, the announcement page doesn’t show any medals (just bibs), so we’ll have to wait a little longer to see what the medals look like.

Mid-Race Selfie
Mid-Race Selfie

New Entertainment (and a Festival) Starting at Disney World Today

It’s a big day at Disney World, as the 2019 International Festival of the Arts starts today. Personally, I’m a big fan of this festival. It doesn’t bring the crowds of Food & Wine (nothing does), but still has some interesting beer options and exhibits and shops to look at. I still probably rank Flower & Garden as my “favorite” festival, but Festival of the Arts is pretty great.

In other parks, Disney is launching a bunch of new entertainment offerings today. I’m interested in checking a bunch of these things, especially getting to meet Mickey and Minnie (together!) at Town Square. Having a couple of different dance parties to pump music into the parks is also something I consider a positive (but I know there are those out there that disagree.)

Here’s hoping that Elyssa and I can get down to check out some of these things before too long.

Dance Parties (and Parades), Y’all

Disney to Live Stream Magic Kingdom New Year’s Eve Fireworks

It’s become an annual tradition at this point, but Disney is once again going to stream the Magic Kingdom Fireworks tonight as “the ball drops” on 2018. It’s unlikely that I’ll be able to update this post with the video link, so I recommend going to the Disney Parks blog later today (normally around 20 minutes before the turn of the year) to find it.

Happy New Year everyone! I’m hoping next year will involve more than the handful of posts that I had time for in 2018, but we’ll have to wait and see on that.

Happy New Year!

A Different Analysis of an FDA Warning and the Food & Wine Festival

In The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker says to Kylo Ren: “Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong.” Though I wouldn’t got that far when evaluating this article from Blog Mickey, the seriousness of the headline and subject matter deserve some analysis.

In the article, there is a citation to an FDA alert related to the use of liquid nitrogen. Specifically, the alert states:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration alerts consumers and retailers of the potential for serious injury from eating, drinking, or handling food products prepared by adding liquid nitrogen at the point of sale, immediately before consumption. These products are often marketed under the names “Dragon’s Breath,” “Heaven’s Breath,” “nitro puff” and other similar names.

It further states that:

Foods and drinks prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption may be sold in malls, food courts, kiosks, state or local fairs, and other food retail locations. These products may include liquid nitrogen-infused colorful cereal or cheese puffs that emit a misty or smoke-like vapor. Similarly, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks prepared with liquid nitrogen emit a fog.

The Blog Mickey article ignores this second part of the warning and instead lists the issues the FDA has encountered from the above described use of liquid nitrogen in point-of-sale items drinks, etc… It also ignores this part of the FDA warning, that seems to encompass the nitro truffles that have been served at the Food & Wine Festival the past few years:

In general, other foods treated with liquid nitrogen prior to the point of sale and before consumption, for example some frozen confections, are treated in such a way that results in the complete evaporation of liquid nitrogen before reaching the consumer and are no longer at an extremely low temperature, and therefore do not pose a significant risk of injury.

This type of “frozen confection” is what the nitro chocolate truffles are. Further, there are no “misty or smoke-like vapors” or “fogs” emitted from the truffles.

If Blog Mickey is right about the FDA warning actually relating to the truffles (a point of view I disagree with), then I’m sure we’ll see a response from Disney before too long. Unfortunately, misinformation about the actual real subject matter of the warning could mean Disney just pulls the truffles to avoid the hassle. Personally, that would be a huge bummer (and I know Elyssa would be devastated.)

Here’s hoping that I’m on the right side of this one.

Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel

Livestream of Boo to You Parade Tonight at 9:25pm Eastern

It’s time for another Disney Parks Blog livestream, and this time it’s a personal favorite of mine: the Boo to You parade! As always, I recommend visiting the Disney Parks Blog about 20 minutes before the start of the show to check for the updated post with the embedded video. I’ll also try to post the link and video here, if I’m able.

Enjoy the show tonight! It’s a good one.

V.I.Passholder Events Coming to Walt Disney World starting in August 2018

Not a lot of information out right now, but this sounds really interesting.

Per the email the “event will have limited capacity and registration will be required. Invitations will be sent to Gold, Platinum, Platinum Plus and Premier Passholders via email over the next few weeks for V.I.PASSHOLDER Nights. Registration will be on a first-come, first-served basis.”

VIPassholder
VIPassholder

Disney World Annual Passholders Can Now Register for “Passholder Play Time” in Toy Story Land in September

Disney has started sending out emails to annual passholders so that they can sign up for the special “Passholder Play Time” event in September. Disney is advertising the event as AP holder-only access to Toy Story Land, including all 3 attractions and Woody’s Lunch Box.

The event is offered Tuesday through Saturday in September, with time slots of either 7:00am to 8:00am or 8:00am to 9:00am. When I signed up for my selected time slot a few minutes ago nearly the entire month of September was still available (though, I ended up picking a slot at the end of September, anyway.)

Good luck to everyone who wants to register! I hope you get in before it fills up!

Disney Parks Blog to Live Stream the Dedication of Toy Story Land at 10:55am Eastern Today

Wow. Is it really the opening of Toy Story Land, today? That kind of snuck up on everyone, huh? I would have thought Disney would promote something like this. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Anyway, Disney Parks blog has announced that they are going to live stream the dedication of Toy Story Land today at 10:55am Eastern today. As always, I recommend you go to the Disney Parks Blog about 15 minutes before the start of the event to find the post with the video embed. I’ll also try to update this post if I am able.

Good luck and godspeed to anyone trying to visit Toy Story Land on opening today. Maybe the lack of promotion will mean it’s not too crowded!

UPDATE: Here’s the post and here’s the video:

We've always been Pixar fans.
We’ve always been Pixar fans.

runDisney Announces Registration Process Changes and Upcoming Registration Dates

As expected, Disney announced changes to the race registration process today (i.e. removing Active from involvement in the process.) This (hopefully) will make the registration process smoother (though I have a feeling there will be some hiccups during the initial Marathon Weekend sign ups), and also brings the ability to use Disney Gift Cards to pay for registrations. It’ll be interesting to see how this goes.

Here are the new registration dates:

2019 Marathon Weekend (Jan. 9-13, 2019)

  • July 17, 2018 – Pre-sale for AP and DVC
  • July 19, 2018 – General on-sale date

2019 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend (Feb. 21-24, 2019)

  • Aug 2, 2018 – Pre-sale for AP and DVC
  • Aug 7, 2018 – General on-sale date

2019 Star Wars Rival Run Weekend (April 4-7, 2019

  • August 23, 2018 – Pre-sale for AP and DVC
  • August 28, 2018 – General on-sale date

Elyssa and I are planning on running the challenge at Star Wars Weekend next year. Maybe we’ll see y’all there!

Us with a Secondary Character from Last Jedi
Us with a Secondary Character from Last Jedi

Brunch at the California Grill – a Review (Finally)

The hot “must do’ item of recent weeks (months?) that everyone is talking about is brunch at the California Grill. Josh over at easyWDW has given it a thumbs up, friends of the site Lisa and Howie have been raving about it on Twitter, and Modern Men of Mouse host Russ spoke about it favorably on the podcast. Despite all this, Elyssa and I had been waffling (breakfast food joke!) about whether or not the meal is “for us”. We’re not very adventurous eaters, we do really like our Kona breakfasts, and we were unsure if we would feel like we got a decent value out of things. Well, after spending about 2.5 hours at the top of the Contemporary this morning, we can definitively say: We are big fans of California Grill brunch.

The meal is actually a hybrid of buffet and table service, as there is a plentiful selection of high quality (artisanal?) meats and cheeses, sushi, salads, and pastries available at your leisure. (See Josh’s post for the pictures of the items in the buffet line). My initial buffet plate looked like this:

Buffet Sampling

The next part of the meal comes in the form of some of the best breakfast entrées that I have had on property (or, probably, anywhere). Since you’re allowed to order more than one, Elyssa and I decided to split the Chicken and Waffles (friend chicken, with chicken sausage gravy, and a sweet potato waffle):

Chicken and Waffles

Vanilla Bean French Toast (Parker House bread, crème brûlée custard, and walnuts…Elyssa isn’t a fan of carmalized bananas that would normally come with it):

Vanilla Bean French Toast (minus bananas)

and Shakshuka (a spiced tomato dish, the includes lamb meatballs. Normally, it would include eggs, but we opted to have the eggs scrambled on the side):

Shakshuka

Everything was fantastic, with our favorite possibly being the shakshuka (but it’s tough to pick). The meal also involved high quality sides (bacon and sausage), bottomless mimosas (I believe Elyssa’s count was 5), and unlimited refills on things like coffee (served in a press pot), orange juice, and soft drinks. There is also a dessert course, but Elyssa and I simply had that boxed up to bring home since we had already more than enough to eat.

Overall, California Grill Brunch was what everyone said it would be: fantastic. I am not sure if we would do it every trip (the 2-3 hours and $80 per person (before discounts like Tables in Wonderland) is a good commitment, even for something this good), but it’ll definitely be part of the overall rotation. We agree with everyone who has rated it as “Highly Recommended.”

Success!!Pretty Views

Make Disney World Reservations before March 21, 2018 to Avoid Parking Charges

Disney has officially announced a new overnight only (for now) parking charge coming to its resorts for reservations made March 21, 2018 or later. Blog Mickey was the first place I saw with the pricing:

  • Disney Value Resorts: $13 per night
  • Disney Moderate Resorts: $19 per night
  • Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts: $24 per night (because the pavement at deluxe resorts costs more to upkeep ???)

Aside from the increase in cost resulting from this (for example, our recent 5 night stay at the Beach Club would have been $120 more), I think I’m most bummed out by the “makes Disney World like everywhere else” aspect. I’m sure I’ll get over it (and I’m not going “stop” going to Disney because of it), but, right now, it feels like a bummer.

It also changes the cost calculation for some of the 3-4 day trips that Elyssa and I like to take. Before, I would probably be torn between getting a cheap rental or taking an uber / lyft from the airport if I was going to spend a long weekend at the Yacht Club (current estimated cost per the Lyft app: $31.85). Now, it’s a no brainer to get the uber / lyft when dealing with the $24 in parking I’d pay on top of the rental car fee. (And, yes, I know Magical Express is a thing that exists, but I just get really antsy when I fly in at 7:00pm on a Thursday and want to just get to Disney World.) Of course, it also probably makes it more likely I just grab at room at Flamingo Crossing instead of staying onsite at all (at least until they add a parking charge as well.)

The Yacht Club Lighthouse at Dusk
The Yacht Club Lighthouse at Dusk

A Price Increase and D23 Expo Japan – A News Nuggets Special Edition

This weekend was a big weekend for Disney World news, since Disney decided to drop its latest prices increase on the same day as its parks presentation at D23 in Japan.

Starting first with the price increase, Disney has increased prices by around $4 a day (depending on the type and length of ticket you are buying). This is generally in line with previous price increases, and probably doesn’t change many people’s calculatioons as to whether or not they will actually visit Disney World, but—that said—having to spend an extra $100 in tickets for a 5-day trip for a family of four is not insubstantial. What could really impact people’s travel behavior, though, is if the rumors of seasonal pricing for multii-day tickets come true.

As an added note, Disney also increased the price of parking $2 to $22 per day (and $5 to $45 a day for preferred parking), and increased the price of its Minnie Van Service to $25 per ride.

On a more “positive” note, Disney made a number of Disney World related announcements at its D23 Expo Japan. These include that Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway railway will open next year (2019) and that the Guardians of the Galaxy Roller Coaster will be one of the world’s longest enclosed coasters. Most interesting to me, though, were the announcements about the new Star Wars hotel that will be “seamlessly connected” Galaxy’s Edge at the Studios. Here is Disney’s blurb:

This first-of-its-kind resort will combine luxury with complete immersion into an authentic Star Wars story. 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.

I know I’m biased, but it sounds pretty awesome (even if there aren’t a lot of details in that blurb).

Well, that covers a big weekend of Disney World related news. I hope you enjoyed this extra helping of News Nuggets!

Rendering of the Star Wars Hotel - Copyright Disney