Thoughts on a Recent Trip to Disney World
You can't say that I grew up in a Disney household, but you can say my mom has a small Disney problem -- given a choice, she would choose to go to Disney World over almost all other vacations. As a result, every few years, my family would pile into the back of a station wagon, or board a plane for the bidecadal trip to see the Floridian mouse. Therefore, I feel competent in offering the following observations after a recent trip to Walt Disney World.
1) The overall quality of the experience at Disney World has decreased. It used to be that Disney was the creme de la creme of amusement parks. I can remember the help being the most helpful, the facilities and park being the cleanest, and the quality of the experience was the best of breed. I do not think that Disney is at that level anymore.
Not that the trip was bad, perse, but there was just pieces of the trip that were not what I believed was Disney quality. Again, I can't point to anything major wrong, but an accumulation of a number of different aspects of the park that lead me to believe that management has slipped in the years since I've been to Disney. For example, at one time, my family and I were looking at the park map trying to decide if we were going to the new Ariel ride, and a Disney employee approached us to "help". This cast member didn't speak English. Having him assigned in a people facing role seemed short sighted to me.
Other examples, off the top of my head, include: a baby changing table full of water and unusable to change my daughter, a street sweeper walking past obvious litter instead of cleaning it up, and terrible service during the one "sit down dinner" we had in the park.
One can argue that I should have pointed out these transgressions to Disney's staff, but in my opinion that defeats the purpose. I go to Disney, and pay the higher prices than the other parks, because I want the experience to be the best. I want to go into a bathroom reasonably confident it will be clean and usable. I go to get from managing people and projects, and want to spend time with my family, not spending my precious vacation pointing out deficiencies.
2) The Magic Kingdom's rides are different. Some for good, some for bad, some for the really bad.
I am a traditionalist visitor of the Magic Kingdom. I have fond memories of my first time at The Haunted Mansion (I was scared), and I like the classic rides. Rather than creating a narrative of my thoughts on the different rides, I'm just going to list out some of the good and bad changes.
Small World: Excellent updates. Animatronic updates, sound updates, overall excellent.
Haunted Mansion: Excellent updates. From the trip through the graveyard at the beginning to the new rooms in the mansion and the ghosts at the end, I am a fan. I have a soft spot for this ride, and it still delivers. (The candelabra scene is looking a little tired, and in my opinion was a signature piece. Please improve, and update.)
I guess I understand with the popularity of the movies, but the ride updates don't hold up. They feel bolted on to the story the original ride was telling.
Mr Toad Wild Ride/Winnie the Pooh: Completely skippable. Mr Toad was a great ride and a classic in my family. I understand why it was discarded, but the update doesn't do much.
Alien Encounter/Lilo and Stitch: A terrible update by Disney. Horrible, no good, very bad. I completely understand what must have been Disney's reason -- Alien Encounter was scary, but that was the point. It was a great experience. The update is terrible.
Ariel's Under the Sea Adventure: Basically a retelling of the movie. The visuals are beautiful, artwork incredible, but I've seen the movie. Better, IMHO would have been a newer story, or a side story, or something else. Worth doing once, wouldn't go back. (The mini experiences while waiting were a wonderful touch.)
Overall, I would say the rides at Disney have slightly decreased in quality. Alien Encounter's rebranding was a mistake of the highest order, in my opinion, and otherwise it seems Disney missed the bar on a few.
3) Character greetings.
This is one area I think Disney has wildly improved. My daughter loves Mickey Mouse, and we had the opportunity to meet and greet him a number of times. We got a minute or two with them together, and generally it was wonderful. Kudos to Disney here -- nice work. If character greetings are your thing, and princesses and/or Mickey are your thing, you will not
4) Disney was never cheap, but I felt gouged. From 9$ hot dogs (beneath the People Mover) to 4$ bags of chips, it felt more like a baseball game than a family outing.
I can remember that Disney was never cheap, but you paid for the experience. It was the best in breed. In my opinion, amusement parks could be ranked on a scale:
1) carnivals in a parking lot
2) small (possibly family owned) amusement parks (like Dutch Wonderland)
3) Great Adventure/Six Flags experiences
4) Busch Gardens
In my opinion, Disney has slipped -- they are at the level of Busch Gardens. They are no longer worth the extra money they demand.
Overall, we will go again? The answer: probably, but I won't make it a near term priority. We had a nice time, but I don't think it delivered enough ROI to make a return trip necessary in the short term. I hope that between now and then, Disney fixes what I feel is a management problem. #disneyworld #disney