News & Rumor Update: FastPass+ Changes, Club 33 & Disneyland Luxury Hotel?

It’s time for another Walt Disney World and Disneyland news and rumor round-up! This time, we’ll discuss modified FastPass+ booking windows for off-site guests, Club 33 in Florida, a new luxury hotel at Disneyland Resort, and more!

In addition to these “interesting” stories, We also take a look at a variety of smaller stories, none of which merit their own blog post. From the NBA Experience to the last accolades awarded to Victoria & Albert’s, there’s a lot to cover.

First, what we consider to be the most controversial news. WDWNT is reporting that Walt Disney World will be extending the FastPass+ 60-day booking window perk to multiple Walt Disney World Good Neighbor Hotels, including the 7 Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels.

Since the debut of FastPass+, this has been one of the bigger perks to incentivize guests to stay on-site. Without this 60-day booking window, it’s nearly impossible to score Frozen Ever After, Flight of Passage, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and other coveted FastPasses. (Unless you’re diligent about looking for last-minute cancellations.)

This rumor has been met with agitated responses by many Walt Disney World fans. For people who stay on-site regularly, this dilutes the value of their perks, and adds more competition for those hard-to-get FastPasses. Likewise, Annual Passholders have expressed frustration that their loyalty is not being rewarded.

These reactions are understandable. At the same time, we think the key word in this is incentivize. Walt Disney World offers on-site guests certain perks to incentivize them to stay on-site. In our Free Dining posts, we repeat over and over that Disney does not do offer anything out of corporate benevolence.

Just like that discount is only offered to boost the occupancy rate and prevent hotel rooms from going unsold, “free” perks are only offered because they in some way benefit Disney. In the case of Extra Magic Hours or the longer FastPass+ booking window, it’s a carrot to encourage staying on-site. With something like Disney’s Magical Express, the goal is to maintain a captive audience by discouraging rental cars. There is no such thing as a free lunch–it’s all done with the end goal of benefiting Disney.

Recently, Walt Disney World has seen its occupancy rate creep up. Just go to DisneyWorld.com and try to book a room through the end of this year–you’ll find very slim pickings. Simply put, with occupancy rates this high, Disney does not need to incentivize people to book. Those rooms will sell even without the perks. (And potentially, without discounts.)

While this high occupancy rate will not continue unabated (expect normal early 2018 lulls), it is expected to become the ‘new normal’ as Toy Story Land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and other projects start to open. As that happens, some visitors to Walt Disney World will necessarily have to stay off-site due to a lack of on-site room inventory.

In such a scenario, Walt Disney World does have a compelling interest in incentivizing people to stay in the Disney Springs Resort Area as opposed to more remote off-site hotels. Even though these are third party hotels, they are all within walking distance of Disney Springs, which is very lucrative for Disney.

Filling up hotel rooms–even ones not owned by Disney–that are a stone’s throw from Disney Springs is absolutely beneficial to Disney. (Beyond that, who knows what kind of deal was cut between Disney and these hotels; the hotels might be paying Disney for this perk.)

As for Annual Passholders…we should increasingly expect to be Walt Disney World’s lowest priority. There are times when the AP demographic is beneficial to Disney, such as off-season weekends during Festival of the Arts or when looking to fill tables at less-popular restaurants. When it comes to FastPass+, though, there is little business rationale for offering an expanded window.

Next up, the most exciting rumor. It’s been over a year since the OC Register reported that a new, 700-room luxury hotel would be added to Disneyland Resort on the north end of the Downtown Disney parking lot. Since then, no new information has been released about this hotel. Many fans (us included) assumed was due to disputes between Anaheim and Disney.

It turns out that Disney has been retooling this project, with a different design for the hotel and a different location. The hotel is now slated to be built between Downtown Disney and Disneyland Hotel, that would replace much of the existing Downtown Disney (including AMC, Rainforest Cafe, and ESPN Zone).

As with the previously-announced concept, this will consist of 700 hotel rooms, have rooftop dining, and other amenities. Also like that, this project will meet the parameters for AAA four-diamond status. However, it will also have a Disney Vacation Club wing with 125 rooms, and direct access to the monorail.

This concept is also much more sprawling and has an open concept conducive to foot traffic between Disneyland Hotel and Downtown Disney. The new design also has multiple, smaller wings as opposed to a taller tower. Based upon the concept art we’ve seen, it has a lovely modern vibe, and we’d assume this same type of aesthetic reboot will be applied to Downtown Disney, as well. While this hotel is still in development, the tentative opening target is 2021 (same as the previously-announced luxury hotel).

UPDATE: Disneyland has released details and concept art (pictured above) of the previously-rumored luxury hotel. Conspicuously absent from the released concept art is the DVC wing, which would be on the Paradise Pier Hotel side of the development. We’re unsure whether the DVC wing has been cut from the project or is just not ready to be announced (we’re guessing the latter).

It’s been a while since Walt Disney World quietly confirmed that four Club 33 locations will be added, with one going into each of the Florida parks. The locations will be themed to the travels of Lillian and Walt Disney, and we previously speculated that these locations would more likely be intimate settings–perhaps lounges.

Since then, speculation has abounded about where they’d go. When the Chase Lounge did not reappear at the 2017 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, many assumed it was because Club 33 work was occurring there. (Although that park now has a surplus of empty corporate lounges, so there’s no shortage of potential locations.)

Now, BlogMickey is reporting that work is occurring in Magic Kingdom at Adventureland Veranda. For years, rumors persisted that this would become a Club 33 location, but those rumors pretty much fizzled out when Skipper Canteen opened. It’s still unknown where these locations will be added, but since nothing has yet to leak out, we’re guessing that the original target opening of Fall 2017 is no longer the plan. (Perhaps Spring 2018?)

In some exciting news, Victoria & Albert’s was once again named the #2 restaurant in the United States by TripAdvisor. We dined at Victoria & Albert’s way back during our Walt Disney World honeymoon, and to this day it remains our favorite meal we’ve ever had. In fairness, we are not ‘high society’ folks who try the trendiest haute cuisine, but we’ve dined at a number of nice restaurants in major city (including Merriman’s, #10 on that same list), and we still haven’t had anything that beats V&A’s.

Even with higher price points, it’s still a restaurant we really want to revisit, and would recommend it to anyone wanting to do a nice special occasion meal–without any hesitation. You can read our full Victoria & Albert’s Review and see photos of our meal here.

Next up, Walt Disney World released concept art for the NBA Experience, and an opening date (timeframe) of Summer 2019. The design is supposed to evoke “modern architecture of new NBA arenas around the country.” I’m not sure how this fits into the style and elaborate backstory of Disney Springs, but I think we can set that aside for now.

I’m still curious as to whether this will find an audience. While I still would’ve preferred an original concept from Disney (something that could’ve fit the bill as a “niche 5th gate”), I have to admit that this is growing on me. I only have casual interest in the NBA, so this is not going to be a big deal for me, but I hope it is done well. At the very least, the exterior is better than the ‘big box retailer’ look of DisneyQuest.

Alright, that’s it for this week. We’ll return next week! (…Or whenever there’s enough news to justify another post like this.)

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Your Thoughts

What do you think of these news & rumors? Are you in favor of or against an expansion of perks to WDW Good Neighbor Hotels? Thoughts on a luxury hotel replacing part of Downtown Disney in California? Any questions about any of the other news? We love hearing from readers, so please share some of your favorite items for travel, or any other thoughts or questions you have, in the comments


59 Responses to “News & Rumor Update: FastPass+ Changes, Club 33 & Disneyland Luxury Hotel?”
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