Walt Disney World at 80%

| by Ken | in Travel No Comments »

I’ve been with the family now to Disney World twice.  A couple of years ago, there were a number of things closed that were a bummer.  But this year, the number of things closed seemed excessive.

In the Magic Kingdom, the Railroad was closed – the whole thing.  And this was disappointing because it seemed to be unscheduled.

In Epcot, Soarin was closed.  This one we knew about ahead of time and it is undergoing big changes, so the closure is understandable.  But still a bummer.

The only thing we noticed in Animal Kingdom is the paths around the Tree Of Life were closed.  Disappointing, but that wasn’t something that we were really looking forward to doing.

In Hollywood Studios, there were big changes.  Honey I Shrunk the Kids, a family favorite, is gone.  The Streets Of America is closed – and this time is a particular bummer because since our last visit to Hollywood Studios, we’ve been to New York and San Fransisco and the idea that they could be in both places at the same time and experience the fakery of a “back lot” would have been great.  But nope, all closed.  Same with the Lights Motors Action.  Mater and Lightning are gone from their spot.  And Phineas & Ferb are no longer hanging around to greet people there.  I think this is all in an effort to build a new Star Wars area, but that didn’t help us on this visit.

Overall, it felt like about 80% of what we wanted to do was open for us to do.  And no surprise, we still had to pay 100% of the admission to get in.  Again, I know closures are inevitable, but it sure seems like we hit the parks at their nadir.

Have you been to Disney World in the past 10 years?  Have you stayed within the park and therefore traveled on the “Disney Transportation” system?  For a few of you, that would mean riding the Monorail only but for most, it involves spending time on a bus.  And it probably involved a fair bit of waiting for buses to come, waiting to board buses, sitting on buses, and walking from buses.  Overall, while the bus system does successfully move a massive quantity of people around the World, it does not do it efficiently.

How about the Monorail, you ask?  I remember riding the Monorail when I was a kid (in the 70s) and it was awesome.  Futuristic and smooth and just plain cool.  It is 40 years later and it hasn’t changed since.  The world (and the World) has gotten better around it.  These days, the best that can be said about the Monorail is it elicits nostalgia.  But for most people, they will see a worn coach that takes forever to load and unload and isn’t going where you want to go.

How about a personal car?  Well, you can definitely get to and from parking lots quickly but then you have to pay for parking and everybody knows how far away you have to park – so far from the entrance that you need a special parking shuttle to get around the parking lot.

The upshot is, getting around Disney World is a complete pain in the ass.  And when you are on vacation, you don’t want to spend time sitting around in a bus, a museum Monorail, or a traffic jam in a parking lot.  Especially at Disney World where you have to book what time you are going to do a ride months in advance (that’s another post!), burning up precious time just trying to get to the theme park of the day is downright stupid.

So if you are like me (and I hope for the sake of your fellow vacation travelers that you are not), then you spend much of that time on the bus thinking about how it should be done better.  And then when you get home, you kill a day studying maps and working out transit routes.

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Disney Cruise Thoughts

| by Ken | in Travel No Comments »

I have now returned from my third (!) Disney cruise and wanted to share some thoughts that might be interesting to people thinking about cruising on Disney or helpful to Disney Cruise Lines for future ship planning.  (Because, you know, after cruising three times, I’m more of an expert than anyone in the industry!)

TL;DR (for people thinking of going on a Disney cruise): Stay at least a deck below the main deck but somewhere near midship and not too low down.  Try for a “Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom With Verandah” while the family version is only really necessary if you have 5 people.  Try to get the 5:45pm dinner seating.  If you haven’t been to Nassau before, go and do the dolphin encounter, but head back to the boat right away;  if you have been to something like that before, skip it and spend more time on the boat.  Bring buckets and shovels for Castaway Cay (you can pack things in buckets so they won’t take up much room) and plan to spend the morning and early afternoon at the beach.  You should get in the pools whenever you can and do the Aquaduck whenever you see a short line – you never know when they will be unavailable for some reason.  See “Believe” and maybe one other show.  Do the ground transfers and pre-paid tips.  Bring a bathing suit with pockets.  Download the app before leaving and plan on recharging your phone often.  Pack smart and pack flexible.

TL;DR (for Disney Cruise Line): Something should be done to reduce the noise transferred from Deck 11 to Deck 10 staterooms.  When planning future ship(s), keep the staterooms going all the way out so when you are on a verandah you can look up and see something more than an overhanging deck above you.  Definitely improve the ratio of the public amenities and pools, in particular, to the passenger capacity in any future ships and retrofits to existing ones.  Add TVs in the Aquaduck line.  Consider shifting the dining schedules up a half hour or even just 15 minutes so the late dining isn’t quite so very late for a cruise focusing on kids.  The menus could use some improvement to make them less exotic while also improving the food quality.  You need to cut the roaming bar staff by at least 50% and tell those that remain to make themselves available but not be harassing.  And tell the busing staff at the buffet restaurant to take it down a notch when it comes to frequency of clearing plates.  Improve the app.  Switch to magic bands.  Plan some cruises from New England.

And now the full story…

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