Bringing You up to Speed on What’s New at Disney World in 2019

Filed in Disney Skyliner, Disney Vacation Club, Epcot, Riviera Resort, Star Wars

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As a member of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC), you take comfort in knowing that a theme park visit will remain largely the same. Sure, Disney will add some new foods and an occasional new attraction.  You’re still going on Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion each visit, though. You’ll do all of the things that make your DVC vacation.

So, what’s new at Disney World in 2019?

Well, the Most Magical Place on Earth has upped the ante in recent weeks. Disney has introduced several new features at its Orlando park that will become a significant part of your future visits. Here are the four significant additions at Walt Disney World.

Epcot Forever

For almost exactly 20 years, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth dominated the landscape of World Showcase Lagoon. The nighttime presentation went hand-in-hand with any Epcot visit after dark. Even so, Disney decided that the time was right to replace it with a new, state-of-the-art show. Oddly, that’s not the one we’re talking about right now. Instead, we’re discussing Epcot Forever.

Unlike the other new things at Disney World listed here, Epcot Forever isn’t permanent. Its entire purpose is to serve as a placeholder for HarmoniUS, the 2020 show that’s the true replacement for IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. For less than a year, Epcot Forever will entertain guests while Disney preps HarmoniUS for its eventual debut. So, you only have a limited time to watch this presentation.

Is Epcot Forever worth your time? The answer is unquestionably yes. DVC members, in particular, treasure the legacy and history of Walt Disney World’s theme parks, especially Epcot. It’s this park that embodies Walt Disney’s dreams of a better tomorrow. Even though he died 15 years before it opened, Epcot is his legacy. This truth explains why old school Disney fans feel such a strong connection to the Epcot of yore.

Epcot Forever Fireworks at Disney World

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

Epcot Forever embraces the park’s heritage with a musical soundtrack for the ages. Disney hired the London Symphony Orchestra to recreate many classic tunes from Epcot attractions. During the 12-minute presentation, you’ll hear “Listen to the Land,” “Magic Journeys,” “One Little Spark,” “Soarin’,” “Tomorrow’s Child,” and “We’ve Just Begun.”

Oddly, the fireworks presentation ends with “A Whole New World,” a somewhat divisive decision since it’s not Epcot-based. Overall, guests are enchanted by the music and visuals of Epcot Forever, though. As for the visuals, Imagineers surprised everyone by unveiling a new technology that gives flying kites a kind of ghostly appearance. It’s hypnotic.

Simply stated, Epcot Forever belies its name by being a short event. You should make an effort to visit Walt Disney World before the show ends and HarmoniUS begins.

Disney’s Riviera Resort

The Disney Vacation Club doesn’t add new resorts often. The current lineup features 14 resorts, and the program started in 1991. Yes, that’s 14 properties in 28 years with an average of two years in between new additions.

In December, the 15th property will debut, and it’s already created quite a stir in the DVC community. The Riviera Resort comes with more restrictive rules than any previous DVC resort. Resales owners at this hotel may only exchange their DVC points to stay here. It’s an odd change that many feel devalues the worth of a direct sales purchase.

Keeping the one huge negative in mind, the Riviera Resort features many positives. First of all, it’s new, which anyone in the hotel industry will tell you is always better. Fresh rooms are always the cleanest.

The design of the hotel is distinctly Mediterranean in style and tone. Walt and Roy Disney famously vacationed in Europe in 1935, and this trip became legendary due to the profound impact it had on both men. Imagineers have built the resort as a tribute to some of their favorite moments from the trip.

Guests will find a Parisian patisserie, a poolside bar, a Quick Service restaurant, and a bar across the 300-room facility. The star restaurant here is the one on the roof, though.

Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera will serve haute cuisine while providing a panoramic view of multiple park nighttime shows. It’ll be a more modern version of the same premise that’s made California Grill so popular over the years.

The Spanish, Italian, and French influences will be everywhere at the resort. Influencers have posted some videos already, and they display a gorgeously appointed facility.

Also, the Riviera will have a new room type for DVC members to try. The Tower Studio will accommodate only two guests, making it one of the most intimate DVC offerings ever.

Disney Skyliner

The Disney Skyliner is now open for business. Maybe you heard…

Yes, the start of this crucial new form of Disney transportation has already earned its fair share of headlines. And it received them for all the wrong reasons. Let me back up a step before discussing the problem.

Walt Disney World has long needed improved transportation infrastructure. When Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, the monorail carried guests around the key points of interest. When Epcot arrived, the system added a new route. Guests could still reach the parks efficiently.

Disney World Skyliner Gondola view from below

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

Alas, the final major update to the monorail occurred in 1982. Since then, Disney’s added two theme parks, two water parks, and vastly upgraded the place we now know as Disney Springs. Meanwhile, park visitors have primarily relied on buses and boats in the interim.

The gondola system changes the calculus. Guests will no longer need to guess about when a bus or boat will arrive. And they won’t have to worry about the outdated nature of the current monorail fleet, the oldest working unit in Disney history.

Thanks to the Disney Skyliner, guests can board one of five stations and ride into the sky. It’s similar to the transportation options at mountain ski slopes in that you travel a straight path to your destination. Since the transportation occurs above the ground, you won’t have to worry about road traffic. Park officials believe that the gondolas will solve traffic congestion while providing a more consistent departure/arrival time for guests.

For DVC members, the presence of the Disney Skyliner vastly increases the value of Disney’s Riviera Resort. When you book a room at this upcoming property, you’ll know what your preferred transportation option is. After all, you’re never more than a few minutes away from Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot, the two theme parks with gondola stations.

A Potential Concern about the Disney Skyliner

I’ve just discussed the good news. Now, I must acknowledge something that happened right before this article got published. It could impact your immediate plans for riding the Disney Skyliner.

On Saturday, October 5th, the Reedy Creek Fire and Rescue team received an alert at 8:27 p.m. This group learned that a power outage had shut down the gondola system almost entirely. While Disney officials would only acknowledge “unexpected downtime,” social media was abuzz with posts of a crashed gondola.

Skyliner Gondola opening

Insiders have suggested — and visual evidence supports the idea that — one gondola hooked incorrectly at the station and triggered a shutdown. At that point, it slid back into a different gondola, causing the equivalent of a fender bender. While some glass broke, Disney firmly stated that no injuries occurred.

Since the incident occurred at a slow news time, just before midnight on a Saturday, Disney earned the wrong kind of national headlines over the situation. They’ve since shut down the Disney Skyliner to determine what went wrong.

As a DVC member, you may have some concerns about the gondola system. It’s not great for anyone with a fear of heights. Given the fact that the guests remained trapped for more than two hours on October 5th, it’s not great for the claustrophobic, either.

I have full confidence in Disney to fix the problem, but I do feel I have to alert you to potential issues. You should keep an eye on Disney Skyliner updates before your DVC trips. That way, you’ll know whether it’s operating reliably during your visit.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

I wrote a more exhaustive description of the new themed land last month, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it here. The famed Star Wars-themed land is finally open at Hollywood Studios, and it’s immediately become one of the most beloved places on Disney’s Orlando campus.

Like the Disney Skyliner, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge hasn’t escaped controversy, though. I’m not speaking of any technical issues. On the contrary, Imagineers deserve a ton of praise for a smooth rollout of the themed land. No, the story is that massive crowds have yet to show up at the themed land, which has everyone a bit confused.

Disney’s modest financial loss is your gain, though. As a DVC member, you’re destined to spend a lot of time on the world of Batuu. During your many visits, you’ll discover plenty of entertainment.

The first attraction, Millennium Falcons: Smugglers Run, is a crowd-pleaser that allows six guests, possibly strangers, to fly the fastest starship in The Resistance. It’s an interactive experience that changes a bit based on performance, giving you a reason to ride it many times.

The restaurants are all thematic to the point that you’re (theoretically) not eating Earth food. You’re feasting on Shaak, Kaadu, and Ronto. I’m not sure what any of that is, but it apparently tastes like pot roast, ribs, and pork. You can even try Blue Milk and Green Milk, the famous drinks from the films.

Speaking of drinks, one of the premier experiences at Galaxy’s Edge is at Oga’s Cantina. Imagineers took inspiration from the famous intergalactic bar in Star Wars. You’ll find countless glowing, smoking drinks here, and you’ll even see a familiar face. R3X, the failed guide from the original Star Tours, has found a new calling as a bar deejay. He spins the intergalactic tunes while you sample the goods.

R3X at Ogas Cantina

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

You’ll also spend a lot of money at Black Spire Outpost. Disney has several merchandising locations here, along with a pair of unique experiences. For around $100, guests can assemble a personalized, one-of-a-kind robot at Droid Depot. For around $200, you can build your own Lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop. It comes with a special Jedi tutoring session, too.

Despite the buzz about attendance (or lack thereof) at Galaxy’s Edge, one fact remains undisputed. Disney surveys suggest that park visitors love everything about the themed land, and I expect you do/will, also.

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