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TouringPlans Travel Beat 9-30-2023

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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: discounts. Lots of discounts.) 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!

  • Journey of Water Uses Virtual Queue for AP/DVC Previews
  • Reserve a Stay in Shrek’s Swamp?
  • Carnival Cruise Line Now Booking Itineraries Visiting Celebration Key
  • Penguin Trek Coaster Coming to Seaworld Orlando in 2024
  • Delta Airlines Reconsiders Changes to SkyMiles Program
  • Early Admission No Longer Available on Universal Orlando 1-Day Tickets
  • Last Bay Lake Boat Route Returns to Disney World
  • Space Mountain Refurbishment at Disneyland This Fall
  • The Lion King Returns to Theaters For a Limited Time
  • 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.

Journey of Water Uses Virtual Queue for AP/DVC Previews

Journey of Water Inspired by Moana began another round of previews this week, this time for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members. After previously announcing that a Virtual Queue would not be used, Disney quickly walked that back and added one as first-day waits grew very long. This is the first time the walkthrough experience has seen any kind of “organic” demand that didn’t see guests arriving in reserved slots. But those quotes around organic come from the fact that DVC members and Passholders aren’t really a representative sample of the average Disney World visitor.

After the first day or so the Virtual Queue was in place some of the time, but frequently the attraction was available via standby. That’s great news for anyone who worried after hearing about the first-day crowds. Still, it’s possible that Journey of Water may use a Virtual Queue from time to time after opening until demand stabilizes. If you plan on visiting this fall, keep it in mind. In case you missed our review: Journey of Water Splashes Into EPCOT.

Reserve a Stay in Shrek’s Swamp?

An interesting listing appeared on Airbnb this week … nestled in the hills of the Scottish Highlands, a single 2-night stay for up to 3 guests in a “mud-laden, moss-covered, murky-watered oasis”. Your host Donkey (joined May 2023) is swamp-sitting while Shrek is away for Halloween, and he’s happy to let you couch-surf in the ogre’s absence. He says to not mind at all about those BEWARE signs; they’re “probably just for decoration”. Note that “toilet, sink and shower facilities will be located off-site, approximately 20 meters away from Shrek’s Swamp”.

© Dreamworks Animation

Airbnb will make a donation to HopScotch Children’s Charity, which provides respite vacations for vulnerable and disadvantaged children throughout Scotland. Booking opens October 13 for a stay from October 27-29, and even if you don’t want to stay you should take a minute to check out the listing. Assuming you’re not an ogre, it will put a smile on your face.

Carnival Cruise Line Now Booking Itineraries Visiting Celebration Key

Private ports are all the rage, dontcha know, and while Disney is busy on its second (Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point), Carnival Cruise Line has so many that I couldn’t get an accurate count with Google. It’s somewhere between 6 and 10, scattered across popular cruise destinations such as Turks and Caicos, the Yucatan Peninsula, and the Bahamas. Anyhoo, they’re rolling out a new one, Celebration Key, in 2025. Doesn’t the concept art look pretty?

© Carnival Cruise Lines

Celebration Key is located in the Bahamas on Grand Bahama Island, and will feature beach access, shopping and dining, and excursions. Booking opened Thursday for several itineraries visiting Celebration Key in July 2025 and later, with more itineraries to be announced over the coming months.

Penguin Trek Coaster Coming to Seaworld Orlando in 2024

Seaworld Orlando will open its eighth roller coaster in 2024, offering riders the chance to zoom through the vast spaces of Antarctica on a penguin research mission. Penguin Trek’s snowmobile-style cars will reach 43 mph over the indoor-outdoor track before drawing to a halt in the heart of the park’s penguin habitat.

Penguin Trek Concept Art © Seaworld

Penguin Trek is part of a 2024 “Every Park” initiative for Seaworld, with brand-new experiences also planned for the San Diego and San Antonio locations. In California, Jewels of the Sea: The Jellyfish Experience will be an interactive attraction, and Catapult Falls in San Antonio will be the first launched flume coaster, with the only vertical lift in North America.

Delta Airlines Reconsiders Changes to SkyMiles Program

Just a couple of weeks after changing up its SkyMiles loyalty program, Delta has now said that it will make updates to its updates in the coming weeks. What will those new changes be? Well, we’re short on details at the moment, but reactions to the first announcement were pretty uniformly negative. I suspect the airline’s powers-that-be felt it was better to say something quickly after a number of other airlines leapt right up with offers to match the status levels of formerly loyal Delta customers.

Early Admission No Longer Available on Universal Orlando 1-Day Tickets

Universal Orlando would like you to stay longer and play longer, and it just got a bit more attractive to purchase multi-day tickets compared to a single day. Moving forward, newly purchased 1-Day Universal Orlando tickets will not include Early Park Admission, even when obtained through the TouringPlans Travel Agency. To take advantage of extra morning time in the parks you’ll need to choose a multi-day ticket, or book a Universal Orlando hotel package that comes with the benefit.

Last Bay Lake Boat Route Returns to Disney World

Be still my beating heart! Last week it was the EPCOT and Hollywood Studios trams coming back, and this week Disney has announced that the long-dormant Bay Lake blue flag route will return to service. Beginning on October 1, the blue route will carry guests between Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, and the Contemporary Resort in the afternoon and evenings.

This is the last pre-pandemic boat route to be restored to operation – maybe the Magical Express will be next! Just kidding, that one’s not coming back. Seriously though, this is good news. We’ll have to update our resort dine-ability rankings. (Which Disney World Resorts Are Best for Convenient Dining?)

Space Mountain Refurbishment at Disneyland This Fall

Ah, refurbishments, they are a necessary evil. If you’re visiting Disneyland between September 18 and October 27 this year, you’re going to have to take a pass on riding Space Mountain, as it will be undergoing some needed maintenance.

The Lion King Returns to Theaters For a Limited Time

Yes, this is not travel news, unless there’s not a theater near you included in the release and you need to do some traveling to see this classic on the big screen. Now through October 12, the Lion King is showing at select theaters as part of the Disney100 celebration. Find one in your area.

Headline News Recap

It’s a bonanza of headline news this week! Discounts up first:

The last four Food & Wine kitchens opened for the Disney100 Celebration last Friday, but we didn’t write up our park taster’s thoughts fast enough to make it into last week’s edition. Review of the Disney100 Kitchens at Food & Wine 2023

And the Villas at the Disneyland Hotel opened on Thursday! See Disney Vacation Club The Villas at Disneyland Hotel Review and VIDEO: Villas at Disneyland Hotel Room Tour and Review.

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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