In some ways, there is a lot going on at Epcot with construction on Frozen Ever After and the Royal Sommerhus continuing in Norway and Soarin’ still closed for refurbishment for a few months ahead of the third theater opening and the transition to Over the World. Those are substantial projects, but I think they are overshadowed by just how tired the Park “feels” at the moment with little of value being added in the last five years. Epcot attendance is down double digits over the first ten weeks of the year compared to 2015 as guests choose to spend a second day elsewhere. Remove Soarin’ and you’ve taken away half of what most casual vacationers are looking forward to most.
Brazilian attendance, which has proved strong from mid-January through the first week in February over the last five years, is also sputtering as the value of the Brazilian real continues to slide versus the dollar. In September of 2015, the real had dropped to the lowest point since the currency was introduced some two decades ago. If you look at the chart below, you might notice a bit of a spike very recently, but that is only because there is finally hope that their president, Dilma Rousseff, will be impeached over corruption charges in the near-term:
Since September of 2015, the Brazilian currency fell even further. That drop is in the wake of a new 25% tax on tourism services paid abroad that was levied on the citizens of the country earlier this year. You can read more about that here, which includes excerpts like:
According to Ferrari (travel agent at Goldtur Viagens in São Paulo) several travel agencies have suspended selling low margin products, such as Disney Park tickets, since the beginning of the year. “The margin they made was so low to begin with, with this new levy they make no money at all,” she says. Ferrari also noted that ten large travel agencies closed last year, due to financial troubles and in the first month of 2016, three have suspended operations.
And with that sunny opening, we take a lap around the Park.
You may have noticed walls circling stairway construction at the various monorail platforms. This is at Epcot.
This is the Transportation and Ticket Center.
And here we are at Magic Kingdom. This is all due to some kind of safety regulation.
From what I understand, none of these stairs will ordinarily be accessible to guests.
It’s potentially a shame because the view straight on from just a little bit to the left where the stairs are would be fantastic.
I’m not sure what they’re up to on the other side.
Longtime readers may remember the website’s continued updates on this hole near the Transportation and Ticket Center back in late 2012 leading into 2013.
Don’t worry, it’s still here. I will also mention that this update is not going to get any more interesting.
Here I am arriving at the wrong time on a non-recommended day, Thursday March 10th at 11:20am.
It took seven minutes to make it through bag check, which is the longest I’ve waited since the more-vigilant bag checks began late last year. But you are either waiting behind those people prior to bag check or at the tapstiles after. That’s not unlike a FastPass+ queue where lines sometimes back up outside the Mickey readers only to be a straight shot to the loading area thereafter.
Interestingly, Disney is “testing” covering the second set of Mickey readers at FastPass+ enabled attractions. That means guests will scan at the entrance and then be able to put their tickets back in their pockets or relax their wrists as they head through the queue. Even your author, as intelligent and good looking as he is, will occasionally shove his ticket back in his pants mindlessly in between readers as he prepares another HILARIOUS SHOW STOPPING TWEET.
It hasn’t been uncommon for the in-queue readers to be turned off and covered at times to aid congestion at the merge point. Out of riding Splash Mountain at least 20 times with FastPass+, I don’t remember ever scanning my ticket a second time. And the cast member is often too busy counting guests and sending them to the appropriate row to notice whether Mickey lights up green or blue. But an institutional shutoff is somewhat surprising as it does make the job of your typical line jumper that much easier. And most merge points have to be staffed anyway, otherwise how will 90% of Toy Story Mania’s capacity go to FP+?
Spring Break Season is upon us with Spaceship Earth’s standby line filling the right half and spilling over into the left.
And it’s not really obvious, because at the time I was not actively trying to get a picture of it, but both in-queue FastPass+ readers are indeed covered here as they are at virtually every other attraction.
Joy & Sadness will be joining Baymax in the “Character Spot” in Innoventions West, which is actually across from what Character Spot has been for many years. This is more than two months past when they were originally expected to arrive and a solid ten months after when they probably should have arrived.
Just to reiterate for the 12th time, this is how it is set up. Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy meet on one side of the walkway and they are FastPass+ enabled. Baymax meets in a separate line on the other side of the walkway and he is not FastPass+ enabled. Joy & Sadness will meet on the Baymax side and will very very likely ALSO NOT be FastPass+ enabled.
Like World of Disney at Disney Springs before it and The Emporium after it, the merchandise inside Mouse Gear has been rearranged.
Items are now categorized by character or intellectual property.
It does throw those of us that take pictures of every single piece of merchandise off.
I’m not sure what your average guest will think. There was a time when all of the coffee mugs would be grouped together.
Because if you want to purchase a coffee mug, you might…you know…want to see a large selection of different styles of coffee mugs side by side. Now you’d have to march around the store to a variety of different places to take in the various designs. Also I don’t think I ever noticed how terrifying Donald and Pluto are up there staring down. It’s like the end of Tower of Terror. Tick. Tock.
You’ll have to excuse me as this is somewhat related to Flower and Garden, but Annual Passholders can pick up a “free” print in the same area as the Character Spot Mickey queue behind Fountain View Starbucks.
I would strongly advise picking it up on your way out and if you really care about it, have some way to transport it safely.
It’s just a thin piece of paper delivered in a flimsy envelope. I would have preferred a dollar off coupon for one of the booth items or maybe…and I’m stressing maybe here…a third bite with my $5.25 grouper. I know that is a lot to ask.
Donald is available with the expectation that Goofy will be distributed beginning April 1st followed by Mickey on May 1st.
Heading up to the Land Pavilion where Disney has removed the warning sign that Soarin’ is closed. Maybe they expect people will stay for a minute if they’ve already climbed the hill.
Soarin’ is still closed of course, though the men’s bathroom should again be open on the ground floor.
At Sunshine Seasons, the Pressed Cuban Sandwich with Plantain Chips is now available daily. The $13.49 price seems high, even relatively speaking.
Otherwise, I don’t think there are any meaningful changes here. There’s otherwise some decent values as quality is routinely higher than other quick services, though I think that is less true than it was a couple of years ago even. You’ll often see a pile of pork chops sitting there waiting to be served and the sandwiches are in pre-made territory just like Starring Rolls. And don’t get me started on the 37-gallon bowl of lo mein.
I was somewhat surprised to see a lack of changes, not that I would complain. If they don’t change anything, I don’t have to eat whatever it is they’ve come up with.
I would reiterate that the Vegetarian Flatbread here for $10 is well above average. It might look burned, but it’s not at all. The kids’ portion, pictured above, is exactly half of the full size and a good value for small appetites or a snack.
Unless they’re doing something with the Veggie Naan-wich that I’m unaware of, I have no idea how anybody is satisfied with it. At the time, I said:
What’s served is one of the more insulting dishes to appear in recent memory. It’s maybe 50 cents of shredded broccoli and beans bathed in a tasteless “sauce” that seemed to be nothing more than a thin mayonnaise. Zero stars out of 100 and a waste of money. You get more of this slaw on the Chicken and Waffle Sandwich over at Magic Kingdom, not to mention the waffle and the chicken! For less money.
Of course, now that the Chicken and Waffle Sandwich is no longer available…Otherwise the burger is up a buck but nothing else has changed.
The Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival replaced Captain EO back in December and was largely dismissed by the various blogs as being “nothing more than ten minutes of Netflix.” Your author went so far as link to where you could view the various titles online. RUDE.
And if you have a limited amount of time, it still might not be worth visiting the attraction.
But the shorts they chose are superb. La Luna in particular I thought was incredibly imaginative. There are only a few in-theater effects, but it’s also kind of fun to see it on the “big screen” with surround sound. With highs already in the upper-80s again, you might pop in and enjoy it as an air-conditioned respite sometime in the afternoon.
Lastly on the Future World food front, Taste Track near the exit/gift shop at Test Track has been open from 11:30am to 4pm recently with the above menu. That’s down from the 11am-6pm hours of much of last year.
Always fun to pop into Gran Fiesta Tour to ride past the animatronic birds on what will now be a long and uninteresting look at fast food menus.
No changes at La Cantina other than the “Patron” Margarita and beers are up 25 cents each. I’m not sure if there is a way to do a DNA test or whatever they do on snapper to prove that it’s really tilapia, but it seems unlikely this would pass that test. I’m going to have to don my disguise and order the new-ish Beet Margarita from La Jarra.
There isn’t much to see above the walls in Arendelle, but we can get a decent idea of progress from this shot on March 2nd. I don’t know if anybody has Shaq’s number, but I feel like he would be a really good Disney blogger if he isn’t busy.
Here’s March 6th as the rockwork gets taller.
And the 10th.
Zoomed in a bit.
Kind of a lousy one from the 13th, but this was right before the actual rocky exterior went up.
Just in case you’re wondering what a terrible picture of the Akershus menu looks like. Like Crystal Palace, “lunch” has also basically been eliminated here as the price for a midday meal will now run you $54/Disney Adult and $32/Disney Child age 3-9, which is the same price as dinner. That’s up from $47/Disney Adult+ and $28/Disney Child as recently as October of last year. With tax and 18% tip, a family of two adults, a 12-year old, and a 5-year old would run $241.53. For one lunch.
You may or may not see this temporary FastPass+ kiosk/person across from Norway when you visit depending on expected crowds and time of day.
Painting on the Temple continued through March 3rd.
Looks brand new now.
It will be interesting to see if we see more facade refurbishments around World Showcase. It should be about that time.
Joy of Tea, the promenade-side snack stand:
Drinks are up $1.45 each and the Lucky Combo is slightly different as the Pork buns are no longer offered.
Lotus Blossom Cafe tested a modified menu for a couple of days last month, but is now back to the usual. We’ll see what they end up offering. The Beijing Noodles sounded intriguing.
I also popped in for lunch at Nine Dragons on the afternoon of Thursday March 10th. I am a big proponent of China’s table service restaurant, which doesn’t necessarily mean you “need” to eat here. But if I were to consider all of Walt Disney World’s restaurants, I would at least pause at the prospect of going to at least half of them, whether that’s because we’re talking about price, quality, service, or atmosphere. Nine Dragons I do not have any qualms about. I would go with you tomorrow.
You can get a three- (or nearly four- if you order the Buns Lunch Box) course meal here at lunch for $18, which is less than some quick service entrees we’ve seen recently for a meal that should prove significantly more pleasant. I’ll write up a more thorough review in a separate post.
I’m not sure what insignificant amount of Grey Goose constitutes a “float.”
But whatever that amount is will set you back about six bucks. Refreshment Cool Post has also raised the price of its Safari Amber to $9 to match every Animal Kingdom location.
Still not sure what’s going in to the left of the Snow White Meet and Greet in Germany. A roofed meet and greet location seems likely – it would not make much sense to put a store or quick service kiosk so “far” off the beaten path.
At Sommerfest, the two remaining entrees arrive with paprika chips:
For years they were around $6.49 each and just served on the roll with sauerkraut.
I put up a gallery of Disney merchandise from the Germany Pavilion on Facebook last week, which you can access here: https://www.facebook.com/easywdw/posts/429533380586609. I’ll add about 40 items from the U.S. Pavilion shortly. One thing I like about Facebook is that I can upload as many large-size pictures as I like. Twitter limits me to four and severely downgrades the quality.
I love the logo.
Who doesn’t want to go home with an Epcot – Germany Pavilion – Biergarten – boot – shot glass? I mean really.
Biergarten remains a relative bargain at lunch. PLEASE DON’T TELL ANYONE. This is $3 less per adult than Diamond Horseshoe where they will serve you sludge.
Of course, no trip to Germany is complete without a visit to the Mearn Pavilion.
Decked out for the Festival, though I feel like it could use more FROZEN.
When artsy fails you.
Don’t double down.
Just turn around.
Joffrey’s has moved on to St. Patrick’s Day from Valentine’s.
Liberty Inn serves what I think is the most expensive theme park quick service hamburger on property at $14.49, up from $12.99. How many fast food restaurants can you visit where the New York Strip Steak is less expensive than the hamburger?
And I’m not even talking about the All-American one, but just the Classic Cheeseburger. Is it funny that Disney defaults to fries on the adult meals and apple slices on the kids’ meals?
Some allergy free items, a lot more of which are available at Sunshine Seasons.
I’m not sure if I should out the name of the company responsible for the removal of the Jalapeno Cheese Pretzel. In this age of political unrest, I’m not sure it’s wise start another riot.
Winter beer. From a bottle. In March. In Florida. Today’s high is 88 degrees.
This is the menu Katsura Grill posts outside. The website remains surprised that they print the “Teriyaki Combinations” with prices that include a beverage and ice cream in teeny tiny print. You would think you would want to emphasize that fact. It would be like Disney not charging a resort fee. The only thing I can figure out is they are trying to pull in Dining Plan users, which doesn’t make a ton of sense considering Disney doesn’t reimburse third parties for the full cost of their meal. It’s just a set price per credit used at each establishment. But maybe that’s the whole point and they don’t want people on the Dining Plan ordering the $13.99 Garlic Shrimp, $4.50 Green Tea Cheese Cake, and a $3.05 soft drink, which would come out to $21.54. They see $16.99 and just assume that’s the best they can do.
The only price increase at Tangierine Cafe is $1 on each of the kids’ meals, which remain generic.
It’s getting more and more difficult to crop Spice Road Table’s outdoor seating section to make it look like there’s nobody there, particularly in the evening when it actually seems to be catching on. One wonders how many people will be interested in sitting outside in the heat and humidity come May though.
The view blurb at the bottom may be helping. The menu is otherwise the same as before most other restaurants hiked prices.
I should probably start dropping “Les” in front of the name of CHEFS DE FRANCE. The Smoked Salmon flatbread is new since our last visit.
This is the Goat Cheese version, which has a paper thin crust and enough goat cheese to get a little in every bite. Very good.
I’m not sure the food here is any better than “okay,” but it’s also only $1-$4 more than a lot of the more expensive quick service entrees we’ve seen. There is the tip of course, though Chefs takes Tables in Wonderland for lunch only and most other restaurants do as well should you qualify.
Southeastern Asian catfish is up to $10.49 at Yorkshire. Beer is up 50 cents by itself and a $1 with the plastic cup in the same style as Food and Wine used to serve.
Crabbie’s Cloudy Lemonade is out at the Rose & Crown kiosk. Everything else is up in price.
Le Cellier’s current menu:
When I reviewed the Filet back in July 2013 it was $44 though it does arrive with asparagus, and we all know how much that costs.
I almost had a heart attack at the sight of the Canada Cart menu, which is much shorter than it has been the last several times we’ve taken a look at it. We already lost the Trois Pistoles, but the La Fin is still there thank goodness. We are down the St. Ambroise bottles and Labatt Blue Light is now on draft (used to be in a can) instead of Labatt Blue, which is no longer available. My book titled, “The Vast and Varied and Very Important History of Canada Cart” will be on store shelves soon.
That’s most of it. Characters from Finding Dory will be coming to Turtle Talk with Crush this summer.
I guess the introduction of “Preferred Parking” is a big deal here and at Magic Kingdom. This is not a picture of where preferred parking is located, but rather just a picture of Disney parking cars on the grass when more than half of their regular lot was still available last week. Preferred will run you $35/day, while regular parking is a “totally reasonable” $20/day. I don’t need any fingers to count the number of times I’ve paid for parking at Walt Disney World and my legs still mostly work, so walking the exact same distance to the tram as I would otherwise isn’t that big of a deal to me.
That doesn’t mean we can’t argue about it though.
We’ll hopefully have time to take a look at some of the actual Flower and Garden Festival stuff before it’s crowd calendar time. We should hopefully see October’s operating schedule out Friday along with some updates to other months.