DVC Parks and Resorts Update for January 25, 2021

Aulani DVC resort exterior and pool area

DVC owners have plenty of stories to follow from this past week. Some resorts increased prices, while Disney provided some new offers and even an anniversary merchandise line. Also, park officials updated fans on the status of several theme park attractions.

Yes, we’ve had a busy week. I’ll tell you all about it in the latest DVC Parks & Resorts Update.

The DVC Updates

Ordinarily, Disney resets its standards during the first quarter of the new year. The company didn’t waste any time in 2021, as we’ve already tracked several changes this year. Some of these offers are temporary, though.

For instance, Disney wants to entice guests to travel to Aulani Disney Vacation Club Villas. Obviously, international travel remains impossible for most Americans. However, Hawaii can fill that void, as it’s not part of the continental United States and a dreamy setting to boot.

Exterior of Aulani DVC resort in Hawaii

Many DVC members haven’t contemplated this option, though. Since its reopening, Aulani has struggled somewhat with attendance. So, Disney has incentivized guests to visit before the end of February.

When you book four nights at Aulani, you’ll receive an extra night for free. And you can do this for up to ten nights! Yes, you could ostensibly book eight nights with DVC points and get two additional nights for zero points!

This deal ends on February 28th, and you must book reservations by February 26th. As long as you check-in by February 28th, you can take full advantage of the offer, even at the 10-day vacation length. The only people who cannot use this offer are those who purchased a resale contract from Disney’s Riviera Resort. It’s open to everyone else.

An Aulani Leader Leaves

Speaking of Aulani, I want to mention that Djuan Rivers has joined the list of recent retirees. Rivers was serving as Vice President of Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the time. However, DVC members will always be grateful to him for a different reason.

Disney specifically selected Rivers to participate in the creation of Aulani. He joined the Aulani construction program in 2008 and stayed through its 2011 opening.

The following year, Rivers switched to a job with Disneyland Paris’s hotel group. Then, he returned to the United States for his Animal Kingdom job. Along the way, he frequently worked with Joe Rohde. So, it’s fitting that the two of them leave around the same time.

Oh, and Rivers previously worked as the General Manager at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. This man meant a great deal to DVC owners. He will be missed.

Finally, I’ve got one other Aulani update. Disney is running a contest that will send one lucky family to Hawaii! You can sign up at MagicofOhanaSweeps.com. However, if you win after reading this, the deal is that you have to take me!

DVC 30th Anniversary Updates

Disney has also started its 30th anniversary DVC celebration. The company has encouraged members to send photographs of their favorite resort and theme park moments from the past 30 years. Disney will compile a Family Album section for an upcoming Disney Files Magazine issue. So, you could have one of your images featured for posterity’s sake!

Cast members helping a guest at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Disney World

You can send your pictures to DVCMemberStories@disney.com. Along with your images, please include your name, your city, and your “DVC Member since…” information. Also, please describe the image and add a copy of this signed consent form as an attachment. And if you do make it in the issue, please let us know so that we can brag on you!

As a part of the 30th anniversary festivities, ShopDisney has added a new DVC line of merchandise. You’ll find t-shirts, tote bags, and pins, some of which you can personalize. There’s a smartphone case available as well. We’re going for the car magnet, which will make our fourth. We’re a moving Disney billboard at this point.

Even More DVC Updates

I’ve got more bad news for those of you who still buy points directly through Disney. Right after ending Extra Magic Hours and Magical Express, the company kicked customers while they were down.

DVC increased the prices at five “sold out resorts.” That’s the business term for the DVC resorts that direct sales agents aren’t pushing. In other words, it’s some of the places where you’re most likely to want to buy points.

Exterior of Bay Lake Tower DVC resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando

Here’s what DVC just did:

Bay Lake Tower at Disney’ Contemporary Resort — $10 increase to $245

Disney’s Beach Club Villas — $10 increase to $245

Disney’s Boardwalk Villas — $10 increase to $210

Disney’s Polynesian Village Villas & Bungalows — $5 increase $250

Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa — $15 increase to $295

The data speaks for itself here. DVC is one Grand Californian price increase away from breaking the $300 price point. Somewhere, there’s a 25-year-old saying, “Back in my day, I was able to buy Beach Club points directly from Disney for $130 each!” That was legitimately the price on January 1st, 2015. Yes, that property has increased its cost per point by 88 percent in only six years.

There’s a reason why I tell friends and family members to buy resales, and I’m not saying that because I write for this site. DVC has lost its flippin’ mind with these frequent direct sales price increases.

A Real Estate Update

The other update that will impact DVC members involves a real estate transaction. Florida has finalized its eminent domain agreement with the ownership group for Crossroads of Lake Buena Vista. And it’s a doozy.

Florida will pay $198 million, an American record (!), to acquire this property. Technically, the state took control of the Crossroads in 2019. However, the people handling the transaction showed forethought by allowing the popular businesses like Red Lobster and TGI Friday’s to remain open until the two parties settled on a number. That $198 million agreement shatters the previous eminent domain record, which was reportedly $70 million.

Transportation officials will use this new land to construct an I-4 interchange as part of the Beyond the Ultimate expansion. Long term, this modification will assist against I-4’s perennial congestion issues. Alas, this project will take several years, which means you’ll run up against it when you rent a car in 2022. So, it’s another reason why Disney’s ending Magical Express in 2022 seems like a misstep.

Park Updates

The first theme park news item may apply to you. Walt Disney World has joined Disneyland in stopping the sale of annual passes for now. The Happiest Place on Earth isn’t open. So, that decision makes sense. The one at Walt Disney World seems less needed. Disney may have done this to future-proof against overcrowding issues in October when the 50th anniversary events begin.

However, those of us who already own annual passes can call ourselves the lucky ones. We can (and should) renew our annual passes. While Disney isn’t currently selling new ones, it will allow renewals. Park officials allow renewals up to 60 days before the expiration date or 30 days afterward.

In international park news, Disneyland Paris closed on March 12th last year due to the pandemic. Then, it employed a phased reopening similar to Walt Disney World before the return of the parks on July 15th.

Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant or The Castle of the Sleeping Beauty in the Woods at Disneyland Paris

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

Then, things went south in France, forcing another closure on October 29th. Disneyland Paris intended to operate during the Christmas holiday, but that proved impossible.

Now, the other shoe has dropped. Disney officials have given up the ghost on bringing back either Paris park this winter. The new target reopening date is April 2nd, 2021. Even that seems optimistic at this point.

For the time being, half the Disney theme parks in the world will remain closed, as Hong Kong Disneyland and Disneyland aren’t open. Tokyo Disney Resort operates with limited hours as well. We all need vaccine distribution to ramp up in volume quickly so that we can put this nonsense behind us for good.

Attractions Updates

I’ve got two significant attraction updates along with a few minor ones. For starters, Disney has already closed the Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom for refurbishment. Yes, that means cast members are currently working behind the scenes to add a President Joe Biden audio-animatronic to the presentation.

Rumors persist that Disney may replace the attraction with something Hamilton or Muppets-related instead. By proactively closing the attraction right after the inauguration, park officials sidestep those rumors for now. The currently divisive nature of American politics has caused a four-year headache at Hall of Presidents, though. So, the problem’s not going away anytime soon, with or without a new audio-animatronic.

The next update will put a smile on your face. Disney recently posted a press release about the fate of Festival of The Lion King…and it’s positive! Yes, the parks and resorts have ended most live performances due to the pandemic, including some that lasted for decades.

While the Festival of The Lion King seemed destined for this fate, Disney has interceded. The live show WILL return this summer! The company has started recalling performers and has notified fans of what to expect. Changes will include “updates to choreography to allow for appropriate physical distancing.” Also, the arena will employ modified seating to protect guests via social distancing.

In other ride news, the next time you stand in line at Magic Kingdom, you may notice some changes. Disney had previously employed plexiglass barriers in the line queue for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Now, Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean have added them as well.

So, you can safely stand in line without worrying about nearby potentially disruptive guests. Having recently watched a kid touch everything in line and then pull down his mask to sneeze, I’m ALL for this safety measure.

Finally, Spider-Man fans will want to watch this:

That’s everything for this week. Stay safe and smart, my friends!

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