Archive for October, 2008

Good news for Country Bears

by on October 31, 2008

The Country Bear Jamboree has reopened from refurbishment and the audio for the show has been fully restored and upgraded. Now you can actually hear the show! Fans of the show will be delighted.

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Skyway work?

by on October 29, 2008

Disney is choosing to make an apparent repair to the long-abandoned and unused Skyway building in Tomorrowland. Permits have been filed to replace the stairs to the second floor of the building.

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Kim Possible to go live November 12th

by on October 29, 2008

The current word is that the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure begin normal operation with guests on November 12, 2008. Subject to change without notice, and early trials for various missions have been tested with park guests recently.

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Liberty Mutual joins Innoventions

by on October 29, 2008

Liberty Mutual has joined the list of sponsors in Innoventions. No formal announcement of an attraction has been made, though work has begun on the project.

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It’s been a rough week. Thanks for your support.

by on October 28, 2008

The TouringPlans.com website was unavailable from approximately midnight EDT on Friday, October 24, through approximately 10 pm EDT on Tuesday, October 28, a total of 3 days, 22 hours.

The cause of this outage was unauthorized access to the server which runs the website, and the installation of malicious software which ended up crashing the server. We believe that the unauthorized access to our server was obtained through stolen administrative credentials from our (now former) web hosting company, Layered Technologies, which affected many, many websites besides us. (See here for a more complete explanation of the issue and other websites it affected, written by another person whose website was impacted.) At this point, we think the goal of the people who accessed the server was to re-direct users to another site in China.

TouringPlans.com does not handle, store, maintain or otherwise process any credit card or payment information from our users. We use a third-party payment company (PayPal) in part to protect against exactly these kinds of things. In retrospect, that was a good decision that ended up protecting everyone’s personal information.

Anyone with administrative access to the server would have had access to TouringPlans usernames and passwords. We use a one-way hashing algorithm on passwords (MD5 with salt, if you’re interested), so passwords are never stored in clear text. (That is, if your password is “password,” we don’t store it internally as “password” – we store it as something like “ernie76e86y32i3ihgf78687″ and it’s very, very difficult – though technically not impossible – to get back to the original password from that.) We recommend changing your password on the site at your earliest convenience. In checking our database logs, we did not find any evidence of database access or data modification; the extent of the damage seemed to be entirely within the HTML pages on the site. No user data seems to have been lost.

Over the weekend, we switched hosting companies to Rackspace. While that process did not go as smoothly as we might have liked, and definitely contributed to the delay in getting the site back up, we were able to implement with Rackspace some additional security measures which will help prevent similar issues from happening in the future. Over time, we think the additional support we get from Rackspace will make the site more reliable and secure.

We still have some minor issues to work through as part of the transition, chief of which is that email access to us is still spotty. If you’re trying to get in touch with us on short notice, Len’s temporary email is LenTesta@gmail.com.

Throughout this past week, many of you sent in emails of encouragement and support, for which we’re all inexpressibly grateful. Frankly, given that the site has more than a hundred thousand users, we didn’t expect that. We were happy to help out those folks who were traveling, with faxes and emails of their touring plans, and hope that wasn’t too much of an inconvenience.

We’ll be providing full refunds to any user who subscribed on Thursday, October 23, and extending the subscription of other recent subscribers by at least a week, to make up for this lost time. Give us a couple of days to get that done. If you think that isn’t fair, drop us a line and let us know what you have in mind.

Thanks again for the support. We hope to have this behind us soon.

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WDW Park Hours Unavailable on Disney Website

by on October 28, 2008

Sometime in the past week, the pages on Disney’s website which list park hours stopped working. If you’re looking for park hours on the touring plans, a message saying “Hours Unavailable” will be displayed until this issue is resolved by Disney.

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Updated crowd calendar for last week of October, 2008

by on October 21, 2008

Minor updates to the crowd calendar to reflect changes to Disney’s Extra Magic Hour schedule for the rest of this month.

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Idol at the Studio taking shape

by on October 19, 2008

A quick look at one of the few active projects at Disney World right now. The American Idol experience is taking shape and though there is new paint and a giant TV screen being installed, it seems as though much of the original dramatic overhaul of the theater has been scrapped. Could it be budget concerns? Lack of interest in the project by the general public? Taste won out?

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A look around T-Rex

by on October 19, 2008

Just a bit of visual aid to bring the folks at home an idea of what a dinner at the new T-Rex restaurant is like.

Once you enter, the bar is directly to the left with the aquatic theme and the store and children’s areas are to the right, with the large T-rex front and center diving the seating from the retail.


Aside from the obvious retail options…

T-Rex offers a full “Build a Dino” store which is essentially a dinosaur themed Build a Bear.

Two other interesting activities to purchase stand out. First, there are bags to purchase to pan and sift through. You wash away the debris and discover various gemstones or fossils.

You can also buy two types of geodes in various sizes (the higher the price the larger the crystals) and then crack it open in a special machine.

Nearby is an outdoor children’s play area where the little ones can dig around for fossils.

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First look at new T-REX restaurant

by on October 16, 2008

From one of the Guide’s researchers who dined at the new T-REX restaurant this week:

OMG!! Talk about sensory overload!! You thought this place would be LOUD – that doesn’t even begin to describe it. It was so loud that you couldn’t carry on a conversation and the servers had to lean in close to you to even speak to you about the menu options.

BUT – the food was fabulous! My hisband had the Triceratop Filet ($29.99) and I had the Jurassic Shrimp Skewers ($20.99). The filet was melt in your mouth and the shrimp was grilled to perfection and had a delicious lemon/butter dipping sauce. The side dishes were also very tasty. We both cleaned our plates! I was actually brought the wrong shrimp dish and our waitress noticed right away. She took it away and went to put in the order again. A few minutes later a floor person came over and apologized and said my dish would be coming shortly. A manager-type actually came out with my dish and apologized again. We thought they would perhaps offer a free dessert for my wait but they did not. Anyway, the manager-type asked how we liked the place and we did say it was rather noisy for our taste but still an interesting restaurant. She agreed that it was very noisy and said that even she was becoming hoarse trying to speak over the noise. (I can’t imagine working there on a daily basis. You’d either be deaf or hoarse!)

We did not have high expectations since they had just opened on Tuesday but they seemed to have worked out their kinks ahead of time. There was a HUGE staff. 120 per shift per our server. I’m sure they wanted to be able to deal with whatever crowds they had.

The kid’s menu ranges from $6.99 to $7.99 with desserts at $2.99. I do feel that the adult menu was quite expensive for a place like that. Obviously most parents would be there because of their kids so I would expect a bit more reasonable pricing. I guess they know they’ve “gotcha” once you’re in the door. If we had also ordered appetizers and desserts, it probably would have been $100.00 for two to eat with dinosaurs.

They are NOT taking reservations until January. We arrived around 6pm I believe and had to wait in line about 10 minutes just to put our name on the list. We were told it would be a 60 minute wait. It was 45. No one told us at the sign in that we could walk right in if we wanted to sit at the bar and eat (if there were seats). I didn’t find that out until we were done with dinner. I asked our waitress if they were going to be accepting discounts with a Disney Annual Pass. She thought that they would but no discounts (not even employee) were being allowed until January.

Our seating was not real great – kind of right in the pathway at a small table for two. We do prefer booths but those appeared to be for larger parties. There are several different areas of the restaurant and next time I would definitely ask to be seated somewhere other than the very front with all the noisy dinosaurs and meteor showers and noise from the gift shop and Build-A-Dino right near by. There is an ice cave area that was a bit quieter (but dimly lit – although the walls and ceiling frequently change color which was kind of neat), another dinosaur area that was quieter and then a sort of underwater area that was a bit quieter as well – and had a large aquarium with beautiful tropical fish.

There was a very pleasant woman who was the greeter/information person in the front entrance to the restaurant so I chatted with her a bit. It sounds like lunch time might be better to try the place and then there also might be a chance to ask for a specific area to eat in. At dinner time (right now anyway), you’re just glad to get a seat.

It is definitely a Rainforest Cafe type restaurant but 10 times louder. We will probably go back since our grandson likes dinosaurs but it will be for lunch and we will get there right at 11 when they open. We don’t know if the prices are the same for lunch or if they offer a simpler fare.

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