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Making Your First FastPass+ Reservations

by on April 6, 2014 37 Comments

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Photo 1

Photo 1

FastPass+ is not only the future of trip planning at Walt Disney World, it is the present. For those of you who have grown familiar with FASTPASS since its introduction in 1999, FastPass+ is a similar system although using more current technology. In short, what FastPass+ does is allow you to make a reservation for a ride or show at Disney World from a computer, smart phone, or in-park kiosk. So, how does all of this work?

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Surprises of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

by on April 5, 2014 5 Comments

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SS_dayThis week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six Surprises of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. When Universal broke ground in January of 2013 for its first ever value resort, not too much was known about what guests would get. There were pieces of concept art, but in the theme park world those have to be taken with a grain of salt as they can often be more of an artistic interpretation than reality. For example, I’m relatively confident the Disney Springs we end up getting won’t exactly look like the one we were promised. However, at a fan meet for the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast last year I was in the audience for a presentation by Russ Dagon, the project director for Cabana Bay. Russ talked about the new things Cabana Bay would be bringing to the Universal family of hotels (including a lower price point and the first ever family suites) but stressed that the concept art we were looking at was pretty much photo realistic. Turns out he was right. Everything in the concept art was there when I walked into Cabana Bay on its grand opening (Monday, March 31, 2014): the outrageously large lobby area, the gigantic representation of an old style diving platform (which houses a water slide in the pool area), and even the ’50s and ’60s era cars outside the front of the resort for photo ops. After walking around Cabana Bay, it became apparent there were a lot of things this resort brought with it that we weren’t told about ahead of time. Today we present six of these surprises…

# 6 – Sonic Fill

SS_SonicFill

Walt Disney World took a lot of criticism last year when it replaced its old refillable mug program with Rapid Fill. Using an RFID chip inside the mug (or paper cup), Rapid Fill only dispenses soda on days that guests have paid for. Universal hotels have never had a refillable mug program, so it was definitely a surprise to see the debut of Sonic Fill at Cabana Bay. Sonic Fill works exactly like Rapid Fill: you pay for the amount of time you want (from $8.99 for one day up to $17.99 for length of stay), and you can use the mug to fill up at any drink station in Bayliner Diner. The great surprise is that not only does Cabana Bay have the regular Coke soda stations we are used to seeing at Disney resorts, but it has 8 Coke Freestyle machines in the Bayliner Diner and 2 more upstairs at Galaxy Bowl. These Coke Freestyle machines can be used with Sonic Fill and promise over 100 drink choices.

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In Case You Missed It: Disney News and Rumors – Week of April 4, 2014

by on April 4, 2014

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In Case You Missed It!

It’s time to head to the theaters again! Today, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is released! Who else is excited to continue this awesome saga?

In other news…I’ve got the fun goodies that you missed this week! Here’s a look. Let me know what your favorite is!

In Case You Missed It – Disney News and Rumors

 

Have you thought about seeing Captain America: The Winter Soldier (it’s supposed to be really good!), but maybe know nothing about the prior Captain America movie? (Or maybe even the other subsequent Marvel movies that followed?) Here’s a great Captain America 101 that will help you out and tell you all you need to know to lead into this sequel. (Otherwise, it’s a good refresher for those of you headed to the theater this weekend.)

To gear up for Captain America, ABC recently aired a special called, “Marvel Studios: Assembling A Universe.” It’s now available online to view for those who may have missed it the first time, and it is a fascinating exploration of the Marvel universe, as well as what’s to come for the future. (Hello, Guardians and Avengers 2!) Read the rest of this entry »

Interactive Games at Walt Disney World

by on April 4, 2014 19 Comments

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When you only have a few days to spend at Walt Disney World sacrifices have to be made. With so many shows and attractions to experience I think the interactive games in the parks are one of the first things to be cut. However, some of these are worth the time to explore. Today I’ll be ranking these from “lowest priority” to “can’t miss” and sharing a little bit of information about each. All of these games are included in your park admission so take notes on what you’d like to play on your next visit!

IMG_1714#4 – A Pirate’s Adventure: Just because this one came in 4th doesn’t mean it isn’t tons of fun! The reason I ranked it low is because the missions take very little effort, it’s short, and it seems to be targeted more for smaller children. Located in the Magic Kingdom this game is played entirely in Adventureland. It’s very easy to pick up a map and start a game. Simply stop by the sign up station located just past the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Once there you’ll be able to choose your mission and grab a map just by swiping your park admission ticket. Even if you don’t want to play grabbing a map is very quick and they make a nice, free souvenir. Captain Jack will surely sign your treasure map and that would look great in a scrapbook! If you decide to play you’ll be sent to a location on your map to start your mission. You can expect each mission to take about 15 minutes to complete. During this time you’ll visit 5 or so locations and experience 30-45 seconds of activity at each stop. There’s nothing needed from you with this one, you’ll just be watching the story unfold. You aren’t missing a ton skipping A Pirate’s Adventure but if you have an extra 15 minutes why not stop by? Especially if you have little kids they might just love it! Read the rest of this entry »

How FastPass+ Is Affecting Your Wait In Line – An Update

by on April 3, 2014 15 Comments

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FastPasses

FASTPASS vs. FastPass+

Back in early February we took at look at How FastPass+ Is Affecting Your Wait In Line At Disney World. We saw a small increase in standby wait times for secondary attractions like Spaceship Earth and Great Movie Ride, and a small drop in standby wait times for super-headliners like Space Mountain and Expedition Everest. With 2014′s Presidents’ Day and March Spring Break crowds behind us, it’s time to take another look.

Attendance is Up, And So are Wait Times

Walt Disney World attendance increased about 4% in 2013, and attendance is up about 4% again in the first quarter of 2014, or a little more than 8% over the past two years. To put that in perspective, if the average wait at Soarin’ was 60 minutes at 2012′s crowd levels, it’d be about 65 minutes adjusted for 2014′s higher crowds. When we’re looking at the impact of FastPass+ on standby wait times, the first thing we have to do is factor out the higher attendance.

For this analysis we’re comparing standby wait times from February 1 through March 31, 2014, with data from the same months in 2012 and 2013. To factor out the 8% increase in attendance from 2012 to 2014, we’ve increased 2012′s wait times by 8%. To factor out the 4% increase in attendance from 2013 to 2014, we’ve increased 2013′s wait times by 4%. (Disney doesn’t release official attendance figures, but even if our estimate of attendance increases is off by 1-2%, the results don’t change significantly.)

For data, we get posted wait times for every attraction about every 5 minutes, from both Disney’s My Disney Experience app and from our Lines community. That works out to about 250,000 wait times just for this study.

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New FastPass+ Changes Coming Soon to Walt Disney World

by on April 2, 2014 38 Comments

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MyMagic+ Takes the Guest Experience to a New Level with MagicBands

©Disney

On Monday, Disney rolled out FastPass+ to all guests. Now anyone with valid park admission can make advance attraction reservations, but the testing of this new system continues.

Currently, Disney is working on two new enhancements to the FastPass+ experience. This is proof that Disney is listening to guest feedback about this new service, as both of these changes address common complaints about the FastPass+ system.

The first problem being addressed is the limited number of FastPass+ entitlements that guests receive in a day. Currently that number sits at three. Disney is working to add the ability for guests to book additional FastPass+ reservations during their visits. (Yay!) Here’s how it will eventually work. Once guests have used their original three FastPass+ reservations, they will be able to head to a FastPass+ kiosk (which can be found throughout the park) and add a fourth choice. This fourth FastPass entitlement will then be a rolling entitlement. As soon as guests use this fourth FastPass+ reservation, they can then go back to a FastPass+ kiosk to select yet another FastPass+, and so on.

The other issue that Disney is currently working on deals with the ability to make FastPass+ reservations in more than one park in a single day. Currently, guests who Park Hop cannot make FastPass+ reservations in all the parks they choose to visit; they can only make reservations in a single park. This will change. as Disney is adding a Park Hopping feature to FastPass+. (Yay, again!)

Currently, there is no official timeline that has been announced, but be on the lookout for these changes to take place over the next few months. We’ll make sure to keep you posted as the perks get rolled out.

Photo Gallery: First look at Universal Orlando’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

by on April 1, 2014 24 Comments

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Welcome to 1962! The first phase of Cabana Bay Beach Resort opened on March 31, and we are bringing you a photographic peek at Universal Orlando Resort’s first moderately priced hotel. As you can see, the new resort is inspired by the mid-century modern motor lodges from Wildwood, New Jersey, to Miami Beach, which once defined the American family vacation. We’ll be back in the near future with a fully detailed review of the resort, but for now enjoy this pictorial guide to the newly launched property.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort Exterior

 

Universal Cabana Bay Beach Resort photos

Photos by Seth Kubersky

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Walt Disney World Crowd Report March 23 to 29, 2014

by on April 1, 2014 2 Comments

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Crowds were larger last week than we expected although we did predict high crowds most days. The Animal Kingdom hit a crowd level ’10′ while other parks hit a level ’9′ on some days. Some bad weather likely affected wait times later in the week.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up day-to-day last week.

The Crowd Report

The Crowd Report

The Walt Disney World Crowd Report
March 23, 2014 to March 29, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday was the first of five days last week where wait times exceeded what we expected. Hollywood Studios was a level ’6′ on our scale as predicted but the other three parks were underestimated by one level (Magic Kingdom), two levels (Animal Kingdom) and three levels (Epcot) respectively. Epcot’s level ’8′ was particularly surprising with a 24-minute average posted wait at Spaceship Earth. Read the rest of this entry »

New My Disney Experience App Hints at FastPass+ Changes

by on April 1, 2014 62 Comments

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Disney released My Disney Experience version 2.1, its mobile application for iPhone, on Sunday. Disney says the new app has 2 features: easier linking of park admission and the ability to manage FastPass+ selection for your friends.

Coincidentally, a copy of the app’s source code fell off a truck in Queens last month, just as I was walking by. It was my lucky day. Turns out there’s some hidden functionality in this version of MDE, which Disney can switch on and off remotely, to change how FastPass+ will function later this year.

Before I go over those changes, here’s a disclaimer: Absolutely no one from Disney’s Decision Science group has ever, in the history of ever, met me at a bar in Winter Park a couple weeks ago with a USB drive full of emails and Powerpoint documents to confirm these changes. I’ve never even been to the Ravenous Pig. You’re watching too much Homeland, okay? Lay off the Showtime.

Now that we’re straight, on with the show.

FastPass+ for Disney Transportation

The new version of MDE lets guests make bus reservations for transportation to and from the theme parks each day. As proof that programmers have humor, it’s called Bus+ in the code. Read the rest of this entry »

Sounds Like Summer Concert Series Returns to Epcot

by on March 31, 2014 3 Comments

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Sounds Like Summer Concert SeriesThe Sounds Like Summer concert series is returning, yet again, starting this June. These fun concerts take place at Epcot’s America Gardens Theatre, which is found at the American Adventure Pavilion. These concerts feature tribute band performers that are extremely talented, singing classic songs you know and love.

Seven acts will light up the stage this year. Each band will perform for a week at a time. This year’s concert line up includes:

  • June 8-14: Hotel California – A Salute to the Eagles
  • June 15-21: Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey Tribute Band
  • June 22-28: Good Vibrations – A Tribute to The Beach Boys
  • June 29-July 5: Don’t Look Back – Boston Tribute Band
  • July 6-12: Stayin’ Alive – A Tribute to the Bee Gees
  • July 13-19: Slippery When Wet – The Ultimate Bon Jovi Tribute
  • July 20-26: 2U – A Tribute to U2

Show times are at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8:00 p.m., with the exception of July 4, when show times are at 5:15 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:45 p.m., and 9 p.m. Do keep in mind that shows are subject to change.

Best of all, the Sounds Like Summer concerts are included with Epcot admission.