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TouringPlans Travel Beat 10-14-2023

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At Travel Beat we have all the “other” news from the last week or so—the stuff that wasn’t big enough to stop the presses for. What did the newsroom bring us this week? (Sneak peek: it’s a bit of everything.) Bullets are just ahead if you’re in a hurry, and more details follow below. Don’t forget to check out the Headline News Recap, in case there was something you missed!

  • Genie+ Has Major Outage
  • Disneyland Paris Adding New Scenes to Storybook Land Canal Boats
  • Universal Orlando Testing Facial Recognition for Park Entry
  • Park-Wide Menu Updates at Animal Kingdom
  • Price Increases at Disneyland
  • New Food and Entertainment Venues Coming to Downtown Disney
  • Cruise Lines, Tour Operators Cancel Israel Stops
  • New Moonlight Magic Date Announced for Animal Kingdom
  • Droid Characters Playtest in Disneyland
  • Magic Happens Parade Going Into Hibernation
  • Headline News Recap

If anything you read below tickles your feet, feel free to reach out to our friends at TouringPlans Travel for a free quote.

Genie+ Has Major Outage

Genie+ had a major outage last Sunday, with guests unable to buy Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes, or make or modify new selections for several hours. Outages happen from time to time, but Genie+ has been seeing quite a few lately, although most are resolved in only a few minutes and have much less impact on guest experience. The recent overhaul of the dining reservation system was a major improvement, both in usability and zippiness, and my secret hope is that these Genie+ outages are related to similar upgrades coming to Disney’s ride reservation interface.

Disneyland Paris Adding New Scenes to Storybook Land Canal Boats

In Disneyland, the attraction is known as the Storybook Land Canal Boats; in Disneyland Paris, it’s Le Pays des Contes de Fées. In both locations, boats are guided along a scenic waterway with miniature landscapes along the banks. (Anyone wishing to relive the shoebox-laden trauma of their elementary school years may refer to them as dioramas.)

As part of the 30-year anniversary celebration of Disneyland Paris, the ride will be getting two new scenes in 2024. The first will bring aboard Arendelle, with a model of the snow-covered North Mountain and Elsa’s Ice Palace. The second will take us to a location “full of charm, wisdom, and … honey”. The Hundred Acre Woods will appear in Storybook Land in a location near to the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs.

Universal Orlando Testing Facial Recognition for Park Entry

Scanning your barcode and then scanning your finger is so old-school and slow. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just walk through the gates? Well, Universal Orlando is testing the use of facial recognition for park entry, with Photo Validation spotted at the parks in Technical Rehearsals.

Disney World tested facial recognition in 2021, and appears to have left it alone; Universal has also tested facial recognition in the past. Although many will welcome the option to enter the parks more quickly and smoothly, and the TSA is testing facial recognition for security at airports, the technology is also controversial due to bias and privacy concerns. Look for more on UOR’s current rollout this week on the blog.

Park-Wide Menu Updates at Animal Kingdom

Menus all over Animal Kingdom got additions (and surely, some subtractions) last week.

Harambe Market’s menu got a refresh, with updated rice bowls and salads continuing as the main offerings alongside a beef and lamb kofta pita (IMPOSSIBLE kofta version also available). For dessert, the Simba cupcake has given way to a new Mango Passion Fruit Cheesecake.

Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery has always been a breakfast favorite, and can you go wrong with Breakfast Totchos? If your answer is yes, there’s also an Egg and Bacon Croissant Sandwich with Tomato Pepper Relish. The snack menu also saw updates, with a new Harissa Chicken Wrap and a plant-based offering, the IMPOSSIBLE Gatsby pita.

Multiple locations are now offering a breakfast handheld: the Stuffed Pancake Sandwich on offer at Drinkwallah, Pongu Pongu, Trek Snacks, and some outdoor vending carts. This breakfast bite is a protein triple whammy with sausage, egg, and cheese, plus guava paste. It’s also available in a guava-free version, in case you would not like some carbs with that. Seriously though, it looks pretty tasty.

Stuffed Pancake Sandwich © Disney

Flame Tree Barbecue added an IMPOSSIBLE Burnt Ends to replace the Hot Link Smokehouse Sandwich, and also rolled out French Fries with Pulled Pork and Cheese on its sides menu.

Pizzafari brings on a new plant-based option, making two on its entree list. In addition to the available-now new Plant-based Italian Sausage, a brand-new Antipasto Salad will be joining the menu in the near future.

Last, but not least … more Dole Whip! Tamu Tamu, the esteemed purveyor of pineapple palate pleasers, rolled out some new concoctions. There’s a Dole Whip Orange Soda Float, and for those who are of age you may now obtain a Dole Whip Hard Cider float with Ace Pineapple Craft Cider in addition to the previously offered Dole Whip Float with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum.

© Disney

Price Increases at Disneyland

Disney World had some good news / bad news in our headlines this week, with news of price increases tempered by the announcement that all-day Park Hopping would return. This item should probably also have been headline news for us (oops), but over on the left coast, it was just prices on the rise. The following saw increases at Disneyland this week:

  • Magic Keys
    • Inspire: $1649 (was $1599)
    • Believe: $1249 (was $1099)
    • Enchant: $849 (was $699)
    • Imagine: $499 (was $449)
  • 1-Day tickets: Tier 0 remains unchanged at $104 but the remainder increased between 3.5-8.5%
  • Multi-day tickets: increases between 8% and 16%, with longer tickets seeing higher increases
  • Park Hopper add-on: previously $60-65 now $65-75, depending on date of visit
  • Genie+: raised to $30 per day pre-arrival. Day-of prices will now begin at $30 per day.

To put some of these prices into context for those used to visiting Disney World, the top tier Disney World Annual Pass is $1449 and the most expensive (Holiday) 1-day ticket at Disney World is currently $189 at Magic Kingdom, compared to $194 at Disneyland. Of course, Disney may yet announce updates to 1-day and multi-day ticket prices at Disney World, which were not included in this week’s Disney World price increases.

New Food and Entertainment Venues Coming to Downtown Disney

Four new eateries will share a roof at Parkside Market, a recently announced concept for Downtown Disney to be installed at the west end expansion. Seoul Sister will serve up Korean fusion; bibimbap-inspired bowls with a California twist. Look for bold Korean flavors coming from vegetables and marinated meats with savory sauces over rice, noodles, or salad. Sip & Sonder is an established café brand in the L.A. area; guests can expect to enjoy the same signature lattes, along with frozen drinks and Caribbean-inspired bites. GG’s Chicken Shop opened earlier this year in Chicago, and will be bringing its family-friendly chicken-focused menu to a new GG’s Chicken Shop in the Parkside Market. And an as-yet-unnamed second-story bar will offer great views and a marketing-buzzword-laden variety of cocktails and mocktails with a focus on local ingredients.

Concept art © Disney

In addition to Parkside Market, Disney announced a new entertainment venue, also for the west end expansion. A stage and lawn will host special events, musician entertainment, and more, beginning later this year.

Cruise Lines, Tour Operators Cancel Israel Stops

The U.S. State Department issued an updated travel advisory on Wednesday for travelers to Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. The update advised Americans to reconsider travel to Israel and the West Bank due to terrorism and civil unrest, and not to travel to Gaza due to the additional risk arising from armed conflict. Even before this, travel providers had been on the move, with most major cruise lines canceling planned stops in Israel and tour operators canceling or updating itineraries to remove locations in Israel. If you booked an affected itinerary through TouringPlans Travel, your Destination Specialist will have already contacted you.

New Moonlight Magic Date Announced for Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom will be hosting a just-announced Moonlight Magic event on December 13, 2023 for Disney Vacation Club Members and their guests. Early registration for guests with a qualifying resort reservation on the event date will begin on November 28, 2023 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. A registration link will be posted on the event page of the DVC Member site shortly before registration opens. Any remaining spaces will be made available to all eligible DVC Members on December 5, 2023 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, via a similar link.

© Disney

It won’t include free ice cream and popcorn like the Moonlight Magic event, but don’t forget that Animal Kingdom will host Extended Theme Park Evening Hours on a few dates in November and December. All guests staying at Deluxe Resorts are eligible to attend, as well as the Swan, Dolphin, Swan Reserve, and Shades of Green.

Droid Characters Playtest in Disneyland

There was a day of droid playtesting at Disneyland this week, and you know that Disney was quick to share video on their socials. Researchers in sociology spend a lot of time studying what makes things “cute”, but I gotta say, the Imagineers have nailed it here. The still below doesn’t really capture the “make way for ducklings” vibe that you got watching these three in the video, and I recommend that you head on over to Instagram and check it out.

© Disney

Magic Happens Parade Going Into Hibernation

The Magic Happens parade at Disneyland Park will make its final run of the year tomorrow, October 15, although parks officials confirmed that it will return at a later date. The pause will allow the park to switch over to “A Christmas Fantasy Parade”, which will begin on November 10 and run through the holiday season.

Headline News Recap

Disney Cruise Line has been giving us regular updates about progress on the Disney Treasure, and this week they announced that the third Broadway-style show will feature Moana. UPDATES: Disney Cruise Line Announces Details About Its Newest Ship, The Disney Treasure

ICYMI: Our grand poo-bah Len Testa is part of a new video podcast. No, this doesn’t mean the Disney Dish is ending. New Video Series with Imagineer Jim Shull: Disney Unpacked

Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. All-day Park Hopping is Returning (Yay!) and Prices are Up (Boo!)

That’s it for this week’s Travel Beat. What news are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments!

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Jennifer Heymont

Jennifer has a background in math and biology, so she ended up in Data Science where she gets to do both. She lives just north of Boston with her husband, kids, and assorted animal members of the family. Although it took three visits for the Disney bug to "take", she now really wishes she lived a lot closer to the Parks.

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