/-\ /-\ /-\ /-\ | | | | | | | | /-\ /-\ | | | | | | | | /-\ /-\ | | | | \-/-----\-/ \\-/\////\-/ | | | | | _|___| | / \ \\ // | |___| | \-/((((\\-/ \\\== ==/// \\== == // \-/(((((\-/ |||__ ____ \\ (|(__)~(__)|) (| o o |) ||| \\\\\\ \\ |||\_| |_/ ||| | || | | || | ||| o o ||| \|X ~ X|| | ///\\\ | | ____ | ||| ||| \ \ ____ |/ \ \__/ / \ \__/ / ||| ~ ||| \ \ \__/ / \ / \ / \\||\ \__/ /||| \____/ \___/ \___/ \\ \____/ \\//
Summation of 12 Day Disney World Trip, July 8-20, 2000
We are a family of four from Minnesota: Joel and Teresa (middle-aged parents), son Norris (18), and daughter Liv (almost 13). This recent trip was our sixth stay in DW during the past14 years. We'd like to comment on some of the things we most enjoyed, and some of our disappointments for the possible edification of readers. We certainly found the web very helpful in planning our trip. The following list focuses mostly on new (or new to us) attractions or events.
New things we enjoyed (or things that were better than expected):
Tiffany Town Car's service! In the past, we have usually relied on bus transportation from the airport. This trip we almost rented a car, but decided to try Tiffany after reading about it on Deb Will's web site, as it was actually cheaper than the bus for four people, and we wanted the chance to buy some food and soft drinks for our room. Although our plane was an hour late, Tony was waiting for us with a big smile and a "Welcome Joel Anderson" sign. When I apologized for being late, he said, "Not your fault! You weren't flying the plane, were you?" Tony was a delightful and gracious man, and the Albertson's grocery store was beautiful and inexpensive. Our ride back to the airport was just as good. Unfortunately, much of the service we got from Disney did not live up to Tiffany Town Car's service, let alone Disney's reputation!
FastPasswe used FastPass every chance we got, and it really helped during this crowded time. It still appeared that many people either didn't understand why or how to use it.
The Animal Kingdomalthough the AK did seem hotter than the other parks, and did have a confusing layout, we enjoyed the rides and especially the overall ambiance here. We appreciated the realistic buildings and signs and the various paintings and mosaics. Liv loved the safari and we went on it three times and saw different things each trip (although the fabricated story line seems unnecessary and confusing, mixed in as it is with reality). The queue rooms leading up to the Kali River Rapids ride were fascinating (although one does get uncomfortably wet on this rideeven in July it doesn't feel good walking around in wet underwear!) And of course, the Lion King stage show is excellent.
Millennium Villageenjoyed talking to the CM's here and visiting the displays and marketplace. Hope some of this idea remains after the Millennium celebration is over, as MV seems to embody the real spirit of the World Showcase. We especially enjoyed watching an Israeli and a Saudi Arabian in a traditional burnoose, working together to mark off areas for the upcoming parade.
Akershus Buffetwe'd read on the restaurant review link that this restaurant in Norway was a good value for money and also not overly busy. We had the best meal of our trip here (including the food, service, and atmosphere). Lunch is only $11.95 for adults and offers more than 40 cold and hot items, including many unusual Norwegian delicacies, but also an adequate number of choices for picky eaters.
ToursNorris (a true Disney fan who is looking into the college program) took the "Backstage Magic" tour and enjoyed it a lot. Joel and Teresa took the "Keys to the Kingdom" tour with a young Brazilian guide, and would strongly recommend it, especially to returning visitors.
Rock n' Roller Coaster (MGM)the roller coaster loving members of the family thought it was a great ride, and were especially impressed with the overall theming.
Sounds Dangerous (MGM)better than expected. Good to keep changing these shows a little.
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spinlike many others, we all liked this ride a lot and kept using our FastPass option to get additional tries at improving our scores. A good example of Disney doing something right; replacing a tired old attraction with a fun new one that everyone in the family can enjoy, not just once, but multiple times.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh--better than expected, even though we are not fans of Disney's adaption of A.A. Milne's wonderful work. Guess it just seemed better than Mr. Toad's Wild Ride to us!
Tapestry of Nations Paradealthough we didn't care for the eerie New Age narration and music, the puppets were beautiful, the performers were great at interacting with the children en route, and one could view the parade comfortably without staking out a place an hour beforehand.
River Countrysurprisingly (because we always used to stay in Fort Wilderness), we'd never been here before. Admittedly, it's a low-key water park, but we found it rather charming. Even our jaded teenagers were amazed to see Goofy in a bathing suit go down the Slippery Slide Falls and splash into the pool with them.
The New Enchanted Tiki RoomNorris loved the old Tiki Bird Room (he and Liv have actually reconstructed a Tiki Bird Room in our basement, complete with vintage soundtrack), but he was satisfied with the updating done to this attraction.
American Vybe (preshow at the American Adventure)a group of talented young people presenting spirited renditions of American music of the last 100 yearsno pre-recorded soundtracks, no acrobatics or roller skating, no fireworks or loud noisesjust live entertainment!
Breakfast at Cinderella's Castlethe characters and wait staff here were all top notch, and even though we don't have any little children in our party, we all enjoyed it a lot. Just being inside the castle is a thrill. Our Priority Seating was for 8:00 a.m., which was kind of a pain, but when we arrived we were virtually alone with Pocahontas and the Fairy Godmother inside the waiting area; when we left, it was a madhouse with children and parents anxiously waiting in line to get that picture before they had to go upstairs to their table. So if you want to experience this particular Character Meal, make your PS as soon as possible (to the hour), and consider missing a little sleep to get there at an early time.
Coca-Cola's Ice Station Coolyes, this is a big Coke advertisement, but we must have visited it a dozen times. Where else in Disney can you get something free? (Well, the nurse did give Norris some free band aids at River Country). After walking through rooms that get progressively colder until it's snowing, you come into a big room filled with machines dispensing Coke products from around the world. You can stay as long as you wish, sampling such delights as "Kinley" from Israel, "Lift Apple" from Mexico, and "Smart Watermelon" from China. Just stay away from "Beverly"; while Italians consider it a delightful aperitif, most Americans in the room found it more like the universal antidote!
Going to churchthis may not be everyone's idea of a wild time, but we consider our two Sunday mornings attending Mass at the Luau Cove a welcome reprieve from the madness. Although the setting was extremely crowded and hot, it was encouraging to meet with so many others who believe in a higher authority than Disney Magic.
Test Tracknot as good as hyped after so many delays in opening. Still breaking down tooNorris and his fellow travelers had to be helped out after being stuck for 20 minutes in the cool test' room: one of the girls being led out sprained her ankle on the stairs and was spotted the next day in a wheelchair.
Increasing commercialismof course, Disney is in the business of making money, but it seemed that in the past, once you'd paid your park admission you were left alone. Now there are photographers everywhere trying to get you to pose for overpriced pictures, Vacation Club salesmen in every park, and "Leave a Legacy" or buy a brick' hype everywhere. This ties in with another negative experience, "The Circle of Life" movie in The Land at Epcot. We'd never taken the time to see this before, and what a bunch of crap. I don't appreciate Disney lecturing me on ecologyI'm not the one selling (or buying) such future landfill-fodder as plastic spinning character suckers. Doesn't anyone else find this fable' a little ironic?
Cape May Clambakewe'd read good reviews of this restaurant, and I suppose it might be a good value if you really like shellfish. We went here for our 25th anniversary, and although our service was prompt, the whole place was rather impersonal and unfriendly, and we were really rushed through the meal.
Some Cast Membersalthough we had some good experiences with CM's, especially in the World Showcase and with the Dixie Landings bus drivers, many just didn't seem to have any of that old Disney magic spirit. The CM's loading various attractions seemed especially robot-like, repeating the same exhortations over and over, even when they weren't needed. It was obvious that WDW is experiencing the same labor crisis as the rest of the country: someone said they have 60,000 employees and could use 6,000 more. Most of the CM's at Dixie Landings food court were from Puerto Rico or Cuba, and although they tried hard, they seemed to be less than fully trained and our food was invariably cold by the time we made it through the cashier's line.
The new Eisner Disney stylewhich seems to be based on World Wrestling Federation sensibilities: more explosions, more noise, more lights, more of everything! Much of the new entertainment lacks Walt's creative and humorous touches, and relies instead upon continually overwhelming the audiences' senses. Just think about the differences between The Haunted Mansion and Alien Encounter... We include in this category: "Tarzan Rocks" in the AK, which was not scary but was simply a cacophany of loud music, ugly costumes, and frenetic activity; the new Illuminations 2000 show which no way measures up to the old show and must use up the entire state's supply of propane every week; "Fantasmic," which we loved in California, but which seems to have gotten a darker spirit here (what child will ever use their imagination again after seeing what horrors it can bring?); and "It's Tough to Be a Bug," which we older folks kind of liked, but our teenagers never wanted to see again. I don't think Walt would like seeing all the crying children who have been scared out of their wits by some of these new attractions.
Dixie LandingsWhen it was still affordable, we stayed in a trailer home at Fort Wilderness and loved the atmosphere. Last trip, we stayed at the Caribbean and had a good experience with the resort even though the room wasn't anything to write home about. After reading many positive reviews of Dixie Landings on the web, we decided to stay at this moderate resort for our entire 12 day period.
We started out with a Bayou room which was really quite gloomyI don't think any lightbulb was more than 40 watts! Add to that the uncomfortable rustic wood furniture, overgrown vegetation, and green swamp water, and it was a little more bayou-y than we had expected. We were near a "quiet pool," which we were told was open 24 hours/day, which seems strange liability-wise, as there were no lifeguards or supervision of the area at all. On our fourth night there, the noise from the pool made it impossible to sleep, with dozens of little children running up and down the stairways and shrieking as they jumped in the water. You may ask what kind of parent lets their preschooler go swimming at 1:00 a.m.I'm sure they are the same parents who are screaming at their child for being cranky waiting in line the next day. Anyway, we had to call three times before any CM on duty would agree to send a security person down to the area (the first person merely told Joel "Well, it is a 24-hour pool.") The next morning we wanted to get a new room, farther away from any pool, but were told we would have to be moved out by 11:00 a.m. for that to be a possibility. As we (the parents) were scheduled for our Keys of the Kingdom tour at 9:30, we left a message with our sleeping children that we would have to wait until the next day to make any change. However, in our absence, our wonderful children arranged the room trade with the front desk, packed up all our belongings, tipped the bellhop, visited Downtown Disney, and then waited for us at the bus stop for two hours because they needed to tell us we didn't have a room to go to yet. Of course, we then had to tip another CM to move our belongings to our new room in the Magnolia Bend section (after all this moving, we were sorry we ever bought all those groceries!) On the upside, our new room, while the same price and size as our old, seemed much more light and cheery, and with the rose garden and fountain outside, we felt as if we'd really moved up in the world! But beware of 24-hour pools! And don't expect any sympathy or help if you have a problem.
Every amenity was also as minimal as possible. Our first room had one bar of soap and one little bottle of shampoo to distribute between 2 lavs, a bath and shower, and four people. The liquid soap dispenser in the tub was empty and the toilet seat was loose. After asking housekeeping, we did get another bar of soap, but then when we changed rooms, we were back to one bar of soap and another empty liquid soap dispenser. Also, rooms don't come equipped with coffeemakers; you have to request one from housekeeping. All the moderate rooms at Disney lack a comfortable reading chair and light, a desk, and a wastebasket in the bathroom, all of which can be found in any cheap motel chain. Disney may call them moderate,' but we still consider $140/night on the high side; just after Christmas we spent a few days in Chicago and stayed at Hilton's historic Palmer House in the heart of the loop. The lobby was absolutely gorgeous and our room was twice the size of our room at DL, had two full bathrooms, two walk-in closets, ironing board, coffeemaker, divan, etc., etc., all for $125/night. In downtown Chicago!
Final complaint about service at DLwe took this trip to celebrate Norris's 18th birthday and our 25th wedding anniversary. Norris's birthday happened to get mentioned in front of the CM checking us in, and on his birthday there was a surprise card from Pluto waiting in our room. This was truly an unexpected magical moment' and we were all thrilled and grateful! Well, both Norris and my parents back in Minnesota thought it would be nice if DL could do something similar for our anniversary, and both talked (in person or via long distance phone calls) several times to CM's there regarding this, offering to pay if necessary. Unfortunately, they got many different answers, ranging from sure, we'll send a card,' to we don't have a 25th anniversary card, but we do have a promotional gift we'll give them," to "to have anything sent to a room someone would have had to write to us at least two months in advance."!! To make a long story short, we didn't get anything until two days after our anniversary, when a card arrived in our room after Norris again talked to a CM at the front desk, who had no record of ever talking to anyone about anything. Needless to say, by then this card had lost its magic.
Not great, but didn't expect it to be
Journey into Your Imaginationwe were in the minority of visitors that really liked the original ride, so probably wouldn't like anything that replaced it, but this was horrible. But we'd read a lot of similar comments on the web, so weren't expecting anything better..
The weatherwe knew Florida in July was going to be a challenge and it was. Wet bandanas around the neck helped the most (and were much cheaper, lighter, and more ecological than the battery-powered, mist-spraying bottles that Disney sells by the tens of thousands). It really helps to have the time to not feel pressured, and to be able to take swim or AC breaks back at the resort. This is not a good season for first time visitors!
Brazilian tour groupswe had read that July is the prime month for tour groups of Brazilian teenagers, but didn't fully realize their impact on the parks until this trip. They are a very visible and audible presence, and can be rather intimidating, as they stick together in large groups. On the positive side, they can amuse themselves in line by singing, clapping, and chanting and don't need constant Disney stimulation to be entertained. We learned in the Millennium Village that 70% of Brazil's population is under 25, and they like to party like no one else! We can believe it!
The final verdict? It was a good trip, but definitely more challenging than those we'd taken in less crowded and hot seasons. There were many positive additions, such as the Animal Kingdom and FastPass, but also a seemingly growing trend toward entertainment that is more menacing than fun. No one would deny that Walt Disney was a businessman involved in the commercial world of enterntainment, but he was never one to merely pander to current tastes and markets. Instead of aping popular culture, he was always using his stories and shows to push our imaginations and dreams on beyond the ordinary.
We wonder what Walt would think of what it has all become...