Chilean miners are going to Walt Disney World

Chilean miners are going to Disney World

“Esteban Rojas, you’ve just survived 69 days trapped 2,300 feet underground. What are you going to do next?”

“I’m going to Disney Worldl!

OK, so maybe that’s not quite the way it happened, but the 33 Chilean miners who survived underground after a mine collapse this year are being treated to a Walt Disney World vacation in 2011.

Disney has confirmed that the miners and their immediate families will be traveling to Orlando Jan. 27 through Feb. 2, 2011. In a nice added touch, rescue workers who helped save the men will get a vacation, too.

“The amazing story of these miners captured the attention of the world for demonstrating the true power and resilience of the human spirit,” said Disney President and CEO Bob Iger. “We are proud to welcome these courageous men and their families to the Walt Disney World Resort.”

A welcome dinner that includes Disney characters, dancing and Chilean cuisine prepared by Disney chefs will greet the Chilean families.

Over the course of their six-night vacation, the miners, rescuers and their families will visit all four Disney theme parks in Florida and serve as grand marshals of a parade at the Magic Kingdom.

Mickey Mouse is picking up the tab for the trip, and giving each family a $500 Disney gift card.

[Image credit: Flickr user Rescate Mineros]

Disney goes luxe: Company plans pricey new vacation homes

Taking a hint from other luxury hotels and condo complexes, Walt Disney Co. plans to unveil a pricey vacation-home development in Florida’s Walt Disney World.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting Disney will offer homes ranging in price from $1.5 million to $8 million. According to the report, the proposed 980-acre Golden Oak development in Orlando is expected to hold 450 homes and a 445-room Four Seasons hotel. The development will include two renovated golf courses, a clubhouse, parks and pedestrian walkways, with wetlands and other conservation areas. Lots will be offered in various sizes, up to three-quarters of an acre. The first homes are expected to be finished in 2011.

The WSJ says Disney estimates Golden Oak could take eight to 10 years to complete, but interested buyers can get in on the action now. Lots can be reserved with a deposit of $25,000.

Readers: What do you think? Is this a good move for Disney, or will a luxury development have an adverse effect on the theme park?

InterContinental opens new hotel at Walt Disney World

Families, couples, school groups and friends of all ages will have another hotel option for the next Walt Disney World vacation in Orlando, Florida. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) opened a new 14-storey, 323-room Holiday Inn in Orlando.

The hotel is located on Hotel Plaza Boulevard in the Walt Disney World Resort grounds and offers free transportation to theme parks, access to area golf courses and advance reservations at restaurants. All rooms are equipped with 32-inch televisions, complimentary wireless Internet access and an electronic safe.

This new Disney hotel is part of IHG’s global $1 billion rebranding of its hotels. More than 1,800 hotels have been relaunched around the world during IHG’s revamp of the Holiday Inn brand.

Disney offers free park admission to volunteers

Volunteer one day of your time next year, and you could receive a free day of admission at a Walt Disney theme park in return. The Disney company has announced that one million people who volunteer with the HandsOn Network can get into any Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, or into Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, for free in 2010 through the “Give a Day, Get a Disney” promotion.

The HandsOn Network works with 70,000 agencies across the country, including Habitat for Humanity and local food banks and churches. After volunteers gets their service verified with the agency, they get a voucher for free admission. The work must be done in 2010 and the voucher needs to be used by December 15 of that year. Volunteers must be 18 or older to sign up, but kids ages 6-17 who complete volunteer work with their parents can also get into the park free.

Those who have multi-day annual passes can use their free-day voucher for up to six FASTPASS tickets that will get them to the front of the line for certain rides. Only residents of the US, Canada and Puerto Rico are eligible to redeem the free admission vouchers.

This isn’t the only deal Disney has offered recently. All of the US Disney parks offered visitors free admission on their birthday this year, and many Disney resorts offered “stay two nights, get a third free” promotions as well.

Fun to get more expensive at Disney World

Prices are about to go up at Disney World, but the company is keeping the increases reasonable. Theme park multi-day admission prices will increase by 2.5 percent to 5.3 percent, depending on the nature of the passes. In 2006, when the economy was strong, the park hiked prices 16 percent.

The money has to come from somewhere. Hotel bookings are down 7 percent for Disney’s domestic parks this quarter, and the discounts used to bring more people in the door are hitting the company’s bottom line, as well. Park attendance was up last quarter, but revenue fell 9 percent, thanks to aggressive hotel room pricing.

What’s this all mean? Disney CEO Bob Iger doesn’t expect the economy to recover anytime soon, so he’s got to keep Mickey’s pockets full. He does make the point, however, that a $79 ticket to the Orlando park compares favorably to sporting events, ski lift tickets and other forms of entertainment – not a bad point.