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PassPorter News Brought to you by PassPorter Guidebooks
September 17, 2009 * Issue 9.38

In This Newsletter 

From the Authors: Free Shipping and Tons of News!

Travel Feature: Assateague Island National Seashore

Disney Feature: When to Visit Walt Disney World

Updates: What's New and Changed

Tips: ER Alternative, Earl of Breakfast Sandwich, $2 Tips

Captain's Corner: Robotic Rodent

PassPorter PhotoPick: Magic Kingdom - Trouble at the Haunted Mansion

Q and A: What will Disney Cruise Line do for the pool on the Wonder on the Alaska cruises?

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What's New and Changed

This week we have 4 news bulletins:

Disney Cruise Line Announces 2011 Itineraries The Disney Cruise Line will visit Alaska in 2011! On January 6, 2011, the Wonder will set sail from Port Canaveral on a 15-night Panama Canal cruise to it's new home in the Port of Los Angeles. January 23 - April 17, the Wonder will do 7-night Mexican Riviera cruises and then move to Vancouver for the summer. May 3 - August 30, the Wonder will do the Alaska itinerary which includes stops in Tracy Arm Fjord, Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan. On September 25, the Wonder resumes the Mexican Riviera itineraries for the rest of 2011. The Magic will be returning to the Mediterranean in the summer of 2011 for 10-and 11-night itineraries as well as doing special 10- and 11-night holiday sailings in December.
Comments: 49

This updates page 039 of PassPorter's guidebook

Walt Disney World announces plans to expand Fantasyland The first phase of the expansion will debut in 2012 and will include a new Little Mermaid-themed ride as well as a relocation and expansion for Dumbo. New meet and greet areas for the Princesses will be added and Goofy's Barnstormer will be changed to fit the new theme. In 2012, a Pixie Hollow area will be completed. Mickey's Toontown Fair will be removed entirely to allow for the expansion.
Comments: 49

This updates page 132 of PassPorter's guidebook

Star Tours 2 to Debut at Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in 2011 Disney confirmed plans to introduce an all new version of Star Tours -- this time in 3D! The new version will have new footage as well as all new special effects. Both Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios will be getting the new version.
Comments: 49

This updates page 157 of PassPorter's Walt Disney World guidebook

Muppet*Vision 3D going digital Also announced at the D23 Expo, Muppet*Vision 3D at Disney's Hollywood Studios will be receiving an upgrade to digital 3D technology as well as a new pre-show.
Comments: 49

This updates page 157 of PassPorter's Walt Disney World guidebook

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Disney Tips:
From Fellow Readers

Our readers deliver a wealth of information! Send us your tips! You may see them in this newsletter and win a copy of PassPorter! And you never know -- your tip could even appear in a future edition of a PassPorter guidebook.

'On our recent trip to Disney, our son woke up one morning with an earache. I called the front desk and we were referred to a Centra Care facility. Centra Care has 18 urgent care facilities in the Orlando area and provides free transportation to and from the Disney resorts. This is a great alternative to going to the ER. Centra Care will file with most insurance plans, including travel insurance providers. We were seen in a timely manner and the staff was kind and helpful.'
-- contributed by Chris
Save This Tip

'Earl of Sandwich is a great place in Downtown Disney to get a counter service breakfast. It is currently on the Disney Dining Plan. Once or twice during our most recent trip we found ourselves with "extra" counter service credits that we needed to use. We went there for Breakfast, using our counter service credits and all got breakfast sandwiches that were delicious! Unlike our counter service breakfast at our resort (Saratoga Springs) Earl of Sandwich was not crowded. It also opens earlier than the rest of Downtown Disney (8:30 am), so you can have breakfast then go shopping before the crowds arrive.'
-- contributed by Tina
Save This Tip

'If you take a Disney Cruise Line vacation, go to your local bank and get about $50 or so in $2 bills. When we went on the Magic, we used them as tips for exceptional, over-the-top service. The Cast Members LOVED it! Because many are from other countries, they oohed and aahed because they had never seen a $2 bill before. Believe me, it went a long way and it kept the exceptional service flowing the whole length of our cruise.'
-- contributed by Janis
Save This Tip

Want more Disney tips? Look for the concierge bell icon in future newsletters and throughout the site. When you see the bell, tap it to view and save the tip to your personal tip collection!

For Walt Disney World fans, we've collected 500 of the best tips submitted by readers over the past six years. All have been edited for accuracy and categorized. For details, visit the PassPorter Disney 500 info page or the PassPorter store. For Disney Cruise Line fans, we have an e-book with 250 cruiser tips, as well as a special cruise line comparison section and seven customized packing lists. For information, visit the Disney Cruise Clues info page.

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PassPorter PhotoPick
Each issue we choose a special photo from the PassPorter Photo Archive which highlights something beautiful, interesting, humorous, or timely at Disney or around the world. Here is this issue's PassPorter PhotoPick:

Magic Kingdom - Trouble at the Haunted Mansion

Photo by jennimouse

(click the photo or link to see a larger photo with details)

You can nominate photos as a PassPorter PhotoPick by giving ratings in the PassPorter Photo Archive (you'll need to be logged in to do this). If you'd like to contribute your own photos to the Photo Archive and be considered as a PhotoPick, please read our Photo Upload Guidelines for details and benefits.
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Q and A: With Jennifer and Dave

JiminyJim asks: "I was wondering what DCL will do with the pools on the Wonder for the Alaska cruises. I know the ship is going into Dry Dock in October - has anyone heard what they plan to do?"

Dave answers: "Most ships in the Alaska trade have just one covered pool, with the other pools remaining open-air. I doubt Disney will invest in a cover, though. It wouldn't make sense for the Mickey pool, it would be logistically very difficult for the Goofy Pool (would interfere with the Ariel Vision screen and deck parties), and I really can't see them opening the Quiet Cove pool up to kids. If necessary, they can add some radiant heaters to take the chill off in the immediate vicinity of the pools.

If I were making the decision, I'd ask myself if a covered pool (heated water is no problem, after all) would be a make-or-break consideration for folks considering whether to take this cruise with DCL. I suspect there wouldn't be enough dissatisfaction to warrant the investment on Disney's end.

Rather than make that kind of huge investment, I might make sure there are more organized, kid-focused activities on at-sea days during the Alaskan itinerary. A sea day on Alaska's Inside Passage is far more scenic than the typical Caribbean or Mediterranean day at sea - it has more in common with Panama Canal day. As I recall, the pools weren't very busy the day we went through the canal.

If swimming was really important to a large number of passengers, I'd think you'd see far larger pools on all ships. In my book, it's just one more thing to do, but one you can't totally eliminate because folks expect to see it. People tend to gage their expectations by the destination. If they're headed to a cool weather destination, they're not thinking about swimming nearly as much as they're thinking of other activities. I could see DCL pulling the deck out over the Goofy Pool and offering more cool weather/sports deck sort of activities. The kids would still be active outdoors, which I think is much more important to them than whether they can get wet.

Note that the Wonder will be assigned to the West Coast for the foreseeable future, so it's not Caribbean weather to be concerned about, but Mexican Riviera.

I still think that, some years down the line, DCL may stretch the Wonder and/or Magic, as has been done to some other cruise ships - more staterooms, and more other facilities. They'd probably wait to do this until after the Panama Canal expansion is completed, so the ship would make it back through the canal. That would be a better time to make this kind of pool addition/modification, too. By then they'll also know whether such a modification is even required."

Did our message board members agree with Dave? To see other answers that JiminyJim received, check out the rest of the thread on the PassPorter Message Boards..

Have a question? Post questions at -- and if you're lucky, you may find that folks have already asked and answered the same question that's on your mind! 
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From the Authors: Free Shipping and Tons of News!

Hi, {{user('firstname')}}!

We have free shipping this weekend at (see below), but first ... news! After a week like the one that just passed, with a torrent of big announcements from Disney via the D23 Expo in Anaheim and even a decent announcement from Universal Orlando about its new Harry Potter-themed land, does anyone really care what's happening here in the PassPorter office? Naturally, we've been busy trying to keep up with the annoucements ourselves, helping to answer the torrent of questions that have popped up about these changes in PassPorter message board discussions, and thinking about just how these changes at Disney will affect our books. At the moment, Dave is busy planning a research trip to Alaska, thanks to the very long-awaited announcement of Alaskan itineraries for Disney Cruise Line in 2011 -- we've gotta get there a year before DCL does. Want to know the average temperatures for Ketchikan? Dave's already checked - daytime average highs range between the mid-50s and mid-60s in the May-September period the Wonder will be visiting. Wanna bet the shops on the Wonder will be stocking lots of specially-themed cozy fleece outerwear?

Free MediaMail Shipping Begins!
We're offering our very popular free MediaMail shipping deal on all new orders placed between now and next Monday, September 21 at 11:59 pm Eastern time. This is a great time to pre-order your copy of a PassPorter's Walt Disney World 2010 edition or get a PassPorter's Disney Cruise Line guidebook! Order at -- and click here for more details on our free shipping deal!

Decade of Dreams Disneyland Event!
Our Decade of Dreams 10th anniversary is taking PassPorter to Disneyland over the weekend of October 16-18, 2009! Everyone is welcome to join us for our festivities, which tentatively include a Mickey's Trick or Treat Party, Disneyland Quest Afternoon, and breakfast at Storyteller's Cafe (limited seating -- only 6 seats left now!). To learn more, check out our meet schedule and let us know if you can attend! We promise a great time for all. See you there!

PassPorter's Disney Weddings & Honeymoons E-Book Updated
A fourth revision of PassPorter's Disney Weddings & Honeymoons: Dream Days at Disney World and on Disney Cruises e-book is ready for download. Changes include new ceremony and reception venues (including a scuba wedding!), new venue pricing, new requirements for the complimentary room night, and the discontinuation of printed save-the-dates for the Wishes Collection. If you purchased the e-book from our online store, you can download the revised version by going to the PassPorter Store, logging into your account, locating the e-book in your Order History, and clicking the download link. If you're a member of PassPorter's Club, just head over to the Club and download from The Reading Room, as always.

Contribute To Our 2010 Disneyland Edition
We're working new Disneyland edition of PassPorter for 2010! And, as always, YOUR input is very important -- it's one of the things that makes PassPorter unique and valuable. We encourage you to take some time to contribute a tipstoryphoto, and/or rating -- it really makes a difference! To learn how to contribute, please view the details on our message boards. We look forward to seeing your contributions!

PassPorter's Club Update
  • More than 1500 vacationers are now enjoying access to all our e-books, e-worksheets, and super-sized photo archive images. Thank you for your continued support!
  • The Disney Weddings e-book has been updated to version 1.4 -- download it free of extra charges in the Reading Room!

In this issue, PassPorter Featured Columnist Sue Kulick shares information on Assateague Island National Seashore. Then PassPorter Featured Columnist Cheryl Pendry gives us a glimpse into When to Visit Walt Disney World. Finally, Jack Skatt is back with a brand-new Walt Disney World Treasure Hunt.

Jennifer and Dave Marx
PassPorter Founders and Authors

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Travel Feature:

Assateague Island National Seashore: Where the Wild Ponies Are
Sue Kulick, PassPorter Featured Columnist

Off the southern shore of Maryland lies a small barrier island known as Assateague Island. This island is famous for its beautiful seashores, abundant camping, hiking and biking trails, and most of all, the wild horses that roam freely through the island.

As a little girl, I read the story of "Misty," Marguerite Henry's children's classic about two children and their adopted Assateague Island pony, Misty. The children were Maureen and Paul Beebe, two real children of the Island, and Misty was indeed a real horse! The story was wonderful and fascinating to a horse-loving young girl like me. And when it came time to think about a vacation, where else to choose but to go see the wild ponies of Assateague Island?

Assateague Island is divided, with half belonging to Maryland and half to Virginia. The Maryland portion is called the Assateague National Seashore, and the Virginia portion is known as the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Assateague is National Park Service property, and Chincoteague is Fish and Game Commission property, but they both have pony herds. The ponies of Assateague Island are divided between the two states, and they are separated by a mostly unseen fence.

The ponies in Maryland are owned and managed by the National Park Service in conjunction with the State of Maryland. They are managed quite differently then the Virginia ponies. The Maryland ponies roam freely throughout the island, and receive very little vet care or human interaction. Their numbers however, are controlled by birth control methods within the herds, administered by vaccine by veterinarians. This keeps the population manageable and ensures the herd's good health, as they are not outsourcing the food staples.

The Virginia herd is owned and managed by the Chincoteague Island fire company. These ponies also roam free, but they receive a fair amount of veterinary care, although they are still considered wild animals. Every July, the pony penning occurs. This is a fire company sponsored event. The ponies swim over to Chincoteague from Assateague Island under the direction of the pony cowboys. The foals are then rounded up and sold at auction to become domesticated. After the sale, the adults swim back over to the island to await next year's swim. Not all the foals are sold, and this keeps the population on the island healthy. The fire company auctions off about 60 foals, and the proceeds not only help the all-volunteer fire company, but pays for the upkeep of the ponies year after year. The fire company has never lost a horse on the swim, and they have been doing this for many, many, years!

To see the ponies, you need to be patient, lucky and intrepid! When you access Assateague Island from the Virginia side, you will enter the Wildlife Refuge and drive a short distance to the visitor's center. The visitor's center provides information about the ponies as well as the other wildlife in the area. You can start out there and drive over paved roads until you reach the end of the road, known as Tom's Cove. From there, you need an off-road vehicle to continue. Another way around the island is on foot or bike. There are many trails leading out from the visitor's center to all points of the island. There are also parking areas in other parts of the island that you can hike from.

When you access Assateague Island from the Maryland side, you will come first to the visitor's center and then cross a long bridge to enter the park. On the other end of that bridge, a left turn gets you into the Assateague State Park, and a right turn takes you to the Assateague National Seashore. You can drive the length of the highway and turn off at any one of the smaller side roads. There are hiking trails available, and, as with Virginia, when you get to the end of the road, you need an off-road vehicle to continue.

Our first day was spent on the Virginia side, where we only saw a few ponies from a distance. We did see the "buyback" ponies, which are the ponies that are repurchased by the fire company. The rules are pretty strict…if for any reason, an owner cannot keep one of the ponies sold at auction, they are to be sold back to the fire company. If the reason for the return is that they cannot be domesticated, they are returned to the island, kept in a holding pen while they are acclimated, and then turned back to the wild. These ponies were wonderful, but not exactly what we were in search of.

Our second day was spent on the Maryland side. The drive was about 40 miles and took us a little over 50 minutes. We stopped at the visitor's center, crossed the bridge, made the right and came face to face with a herd of four wild ponies! It was a small herd, a stallion, two mares and a foal who I judged to be about 10 months old. They were contentedly grazing on the side of the road, completely oblivious to the fuss they were causing. Now, this was the Assateague I had come in search of! Although they appeared to be very used to human companionship, they are still wild animals, and there are signs all over advising the tourists of that. You must respect their lives as well as their environment.

We saw several other herds of ponies that day on the Maryland side, making for many more photo ops, several pairs of muddy sneakers, and a lifetime of memories.

Assateague Island is a wonderful place, where the balance of nature still rules. If you ever have the chance to go, it is a place I thoroughly recommend. For more information, visit the National Park Service website: NPS Assateague Island

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About the Author: Sue Kulick is a resident of the Pocono Mountains and an avid Disney fan. She and her husband, Steve, live in a log home with their Golden Retrievers, Cody and Belle and their cat Tigger.

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Disney Feature:

When to Visit Walt Disney World: A Planning Guide
Cheryl Pendry, PassPorter Featured Columnist

If you're anything like me, as soon as you're done with one Disney trip, you're probably already starting to plan the next trip in your head. In fact, if I'm honest, I'm already planning out the next trip before our current one and I'm sure I'm not alone.

But where do you start with planning a trip to Disney? One of the first questions I always find myself asking is, when in the year should we go? Of course, there are many different answers, depending on your family's particular needs.

Many people have no option on when they go, particularly if they have children of school age and they don't want them to miss school, in which case the holidays are the only times to visit. But of course that's the time that every other parent wants to visit as well, making the parks busy, particularly around Easter, Independence Day and Christmas.

We've visited at Christmas many times before, so we're familiar with just how crowded the parks can be. I've still not forgotten the trip I took to the Magic Kingdom on my own two days after Christmas, when the park was already closed to non-resort guests. The wait times for many of the big rides were more than three hours. I'd never felt claustrophobic in my life, but I certainly did that day, there were so many people around. It's not something I'd be eager to repeat.

If you do plan to go at a busy time of the year, then planning ahead is absolutely essential as is an early start. No sleeping around if you're going at a time of peak attendance. The earlier you hit the parks, the quieter they'll be and the more chance you'll have of getting on the major rides. If you're staying on Disney property, then using the Extra Magic Hours in the mornings makes sense.

If you're not early birds, all hope is not lost. Another approach is to use the evening Extra Magic Hours or take advantage of the long park hours that will no doubt be in effect. We've found evening hours can be hit or miss. Sometimes you'll find a park much quieter than you thought and sometimes you may be lucky enough to be able to hit everything in the park pretty quickly, with the exception of the one or two main attractions. One night during the Christmas season, Disney's Hollywood Studios were deserted and we were amongst very few people viewing the Osborne Lights. The reason? The lines for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror were still both over an hour at 10:00 pm!

Another option for those with children is to visit Disney during the summer holidays, when crowds are generally lower than during the peak holiday seasons. Of course, you have to offset that with the draining Florida heat, which can be too much for many. The heat seems to kick in earlier each year, with my visit in early May this year proving to be too hot for me, although by mid-October, it's usually very pleasant.

If you are traveling at a hot time of the year, plan to take things as slowly as you can, with plenty of breaks, perhaps mid-afternoon back at your hotel. Don't rush to do too much. There's no point pushing yourself in the heat. And don't forget to drink lots of water throughout the day. Hats and sunscreen are absolutely essential in the brutal Florida sun and it's worth planning a sit down meal for lunch, as that will take you inside into the cool air conditioning for welcome relief from the blistering heat.

Value Season is naturally the cheapest season to travel and generally falls in January, early February, from mid-July to the beginning of October, and from the end of November to mid-December. The middle dates bring the concern of hurricane activity and hot days, although September is offset by the arrival of Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party nights at the Magic Kingdom and, towards the end of the month, the start of the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot.

Perhaps our favorite time to visit is early December. Not only are all the holiday activities, such as the Osborne Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom, and the Candlelight Processional at Epcot all in full swing, but you'll also find the crowds are low. An added bonus is the regular get-together of like-minded Disney fans, with the PassPorter Gathering taking place this year December 10-14, 2009.

The weather can be variable by this time of the year and that's a problem that plagues the winter months. On some days, it's into the 80s, but the next day, the highs may only hit the 50s and the lows could be the bottom end of the 30s. However, it's a problem that can easily be prepared for by layering the clothes you bring, so you can start with T-shirts and put extra clothes on over the top, if you need to.

Another fun time of the year to visit Walt Disney World is during Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival, when the park literally blooms into life with thousands of flowers and numerous topiaries dotted around. Provided you avoid Easter, the crowds shouldn't be too bad and the weather should, for the main part, be very pleasant, especially at the festival's dates have now been brought forward, with it running from March 3–May 16 2010, approximately two weeks earlier than 2009.

Another factor could be special offers or discounts. With the way the economy has been recently, this is something that Disney has very much extended this year, with free dining offered until mid-December. This year also saw the introduction of a seven nights for the price of four offer, which proved to be exceptionally popular. There's no way of knowing for sure, but with park attendances down and difficult times continuing, we could see more of the same for 2010 onwards.

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About the Author: Cheryl and husband Mark live in England and love to travel, particularly to Disney, and they have made numerous visits to destinations across America and Europe. They recently completed their tour of every Disney theme park around the world, which culminated in their visit to Japan, including the Tokyo Disney Resort. Cheryl is the co-author of PassPorter's Disney Vacation Club Guide and is a regular featured columnist for PassPorter news.

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