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Just ahead of opening sales for the 2024 season, Walt Disney World announced a handful of sure-to-be-popular changes that seem designed to turn things back to the way they used to be.
Leading the list is the return of Disney Dining and Disney Quick Service Dining Plans, which again will be available on Disney World packages that include a Disney Resort hotel stay, beginning January 9, 2024. The plans include more than 100 dining venues across the park.
Also beginning January 9, guests will no longer be required to have theme park reservations in order to buy date-based tickets at Walt Disney World, and annual passholders and cast members will be offered occasional “good-to-go days” when they can visit the parks without a reservation.
Disney also said that early park entry (for all Disney Resort hotel guests) and extended evening hours (for guests staying at Disney Deluxe Resort Hotels and Disney Deluxe Villas) will continue through 2024, and that it is working on ways to help guests plan Disney Genie+ service and Lightning Lane selections in advance of their visits, rather than only on the same day.
Tickets for the 2024 season at Walt Disney World will go on sale May 31, and Disney then will also release complete details on the new dining plans, it said. But the company did say the plans will allow guests to make dining reservations up to 60 days in advance of their trip.
Insiders attribute the renewed focus on the guests experience to the return of Bob Iger, who six months ago canceled his retirement and returned to Disney as CEO. Since then Walt Disney World has stopped charging for overnight self-parking, allowed annual passholders to visit after 2 p.m. without a reservation, offered free digital downloads of photos on rides for guests using Disney’s Genie+, ramped up character meet-and-greets, added new characters, and restored annual passes.
Don’t expect another Perfect Day at CocoCay or Labadee when Royal Caribbean opens its Bahamas beach club in early 2025. Those are destinations in their own right. (Indeed, CocoCay is the number one destination for Royal Caribbean guests).
Instead, the 17-acre Royal Beach Club at Paradise Island promises a new kind of experience—all-inclusive, fee-based, and upscale. Instead of ziplines and hot air balloons, the Club will focus on serenity, food and beverage, and great service.
In an interview at RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com today, senior vice president and chief product innovation officer Jay Schneider noted there will be a fee for access to the Club, whose focus points will be a beautiful beach and heated pools.
The price, as yet undetermined, will include a water taxi ride to the island; food, beverage and alcohol; beach chairs and umbrellas; and non-motorized activities, including swimming, snorkeling and kayaking.
When planning Royal Beach Club, the cruise company targeted Nassau as a port it often used, but it did not rate high satisfaction scores with guests. But “Nassau is a great place to go,” he said, and “we wanted to add a Royal level service to that destination.”
By 2027, the cruise line expects to bring 2.5 million visitors to Nassau. The plan is to build “multiple beach clubs around the world,” Schneider said.
Meanwhile, Vicki Freed, senior vice president of trade support and sales, told TRO that “the excitement to vacation with Royal Caribbean is at an all-time high and we’re thrilled to move forward with Royal Beach Club at Paradise Island. Royal Beach Club will be the ultimate beach day getaway that will forever change what is possible in a vacation destination.”
At the Seatrade Global conference in March, Russell Benford, Royal Caribbean Group’s VP of government relations, talked about the Bahamas project. “The port of Nassau is transcendent,” he said, with 40,000 visitors daily. The new project is a partnership that will be 49% owned by Bahamians, in keeping with the company’s goal of “bringing economic empowerment to the people who live in the communities we visit.”