Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, here we are again—another edition of what my family has (not so) kindly termed “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Walt Disney World."
This genre started innocently enough in 2008 when my wife and I were hurriedly power walking through Epcot trying desperately to make a dining reservation. It seemed that we were obstructed on our mission by every manner of guest doing their level best to delay us. I took notice of the varied walking styles and named them—humorously, I hoped. That column was title Park Peeves—for obvious reasons.
The reader response to that column was so strong I followed it up a year later with the aptly named Park Peeves 2009. Again, the response exceeded my expectations, and never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I’ve turned a simple idea into a franchise of sorts with Park Peeves 2010 and Park Peeves 2011.
Truth be told, I was shocked I was creative enough to turn out one of these articles...let alone four. I debated long and hard the sanity of going to the well for a fifth time. I debated with myself and I’m still not sure who won, but here we are with Park Peeves 2012. So what exactly is a Park Peeve?
First of all, keep in mind that I love Walt Disney World. There, I’ve said it. Anyone who knows me understands that there’s nowhere else I’d rather be on vacation. Heck, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be… period. However, my time at Walt Disney World is not all pixie dust and magical moments. Yeah, it’s the Happiest Place on Earth (or second happiest behind Disneyland) but eventually someone will do or say something that refries my beans. He or she will do something that brings out my inner curmudgeon and forces me into a rant. That “someone” is typically a Stupid Guest (I’m not sure if that’s trademarked yet but it should be) performing another Stupid Guest Trick (and yes, I wrote a column called Stupid Guest Tricks)—redundancy and I get along famously. I say “typically” because sometimes that “someone” is not a guest at all but the Disney company itself or a cast member that has inspired my ire.
Either way, here are a few more of the things that just tick me off—aka Park Peeves—at Walt Disney World.
I’m as guilty as the next guy. I’ve been in the parks with a digital camera, camcorder, cell phone, iPod touch, and a voice recorder. I won’t bore you with the “whys” but there have been times I’ve needed all those devices.
However, what’s becoming a problem are the countless new devices that allow people to take photographs or video. Previously, we only had the occasional Stupid Guest that would ruin a dark ride by repeatedly taking flash pictures (see the Flasher from Park Peeves 2009. Ignoring the fact that the flash illuminates the scene in such a way as to destroy what the Imagineers intended—rendering the photo worthless—they also ruin the ride for the other guests nearby.
This issue has become worse with people now using smart phones, tablets, and iPads to record and photograph at the World. The larger the device’s screen, the greater its illumination and the more distracting it is to other guests.
Disney’s (cough, cough) Coffee
I’m a coffee-lover. I need a cup or two each morning to get the motor started and I’m not opposed to a nice cup of coffee to top off a fine meal in the evening. Unfortunately, the best I can often find at Walt Disney World is the ubiquitous Nescafe—which, in my opinion, is to coffee as vegetable soup is to a bocce ball.
This is the twenty-first century. It seems I can’t swing a cat over my head without hitting three Starbucks, two Dunkin’ Donuts and a Seattle’s Best. So why can’t you and I get a decent cup of coffee at Walt Disney World?
The answer is we can but we have to be discriminate and/or prepared. To help you on your next trip, here’s a partial list of places where I’ve found some “real” (non-Nescafe) coffee at the World:
- Animal Kingdom – Tusker House.
- Magic Kingdom – Crystal Palace.
- Epcot – Kiosks at the American Adventure, Canada, Morocco and Italy. Rose and Crown. Les Chefs de France.
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Writer’s Stop and Starring Rolls.
- Resorts – The Java Bar at the Dolphin, Trail’s End, Narcoossee’s, the Kona Café, Artist Point, Cape May Café, and Wolfgang Puck’s.
I’m sure there are others so send them in and I’ll add them to the list.
As a side note, I know that Disney has entered into an agreement with Starbucks and the first shops have begun to appear in Disneyland. Starbucks has never been my favorite but it’s head, shoulders and most of a torso better than Nescafe. I’ve yet to see any evidence of it in Walt Disney World so this will remain a Park Peeve until I do.
The Price of Suds
One of the many things I enjoy while at Walt Disney World is returning to my room in the late evening, after a particularly tough day of touring theme parks, and kicking back on my patio or balcony with a cold beverage. More often than not, in this specific circumstance, my beverage of choice is a cold beer.
I get it. I’m staying at a vacation resort and I am part of what I’m sure Disney considers its captive audience. If I shop at my resort for a newspaper, toiletries or a box of Cap’n Crunch, I fully expect to be charged a premium for that convenience. I don’t, however, expect to be held up, mugged or robbed at gunpoint.
In the past, I’ve paid $1.50 for a can of beer, which was discounted to $6.00 for the six-pack (Boardwalk’s Screen Door in 2001). I’ve also paid $3.00 per can, discounted to $12.00 for the six-pack (Beach Club’s Marketplace in 2007).
My more recent experiences, however, indicate Disney’s gone from charging a “premium” to something closer to the aforementioned mugging. The price of a single can or bottle of domestic beer, at my last look, was $5.25. When I asked (at Saratoga Springs in 2009) the price to purchase the entire six-pack, the answer was “$31.50”—no discount. Mind you, this is not some exotic brew filtered through a feral cat from a faraway land—this is run-of-the-mill, domestic suds.
Sorry, but that’s outrageous and I won’t pay that kind of inflated price—even at Disney. If I’ve rented a car or used a car service, I’ll take advantage of a grocery stop. If I’ve left the driving to Disney, and I’m staying at my home DVC resort, the Boardwalk, I’ll walk across the street and purchase my beverages at the nearby Hess station. I would urge all of you staying on site to do the same until Disney comes to their senses.
I have an update from my most recent trip (June 2012) which shows, at least at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, they are once again discounting the six-pack. I’m not sure that’s resort-wide yet but I’m hopeful. Even if it is, you’ll still do much better at Hess, Publix, or 7-Eleven.
Early Closing Restaurants
I haven’t studied this closely and I can’t give the specifics of which restaurants in which parks are closed and when. I just know, from my experiences, that it seems more restaurants seem to be closing long before park closing times.
This issue seems to be more prevalent with counter service than table service establishments but given the impossible task of getting a last minute Dining Reservation these days, the problem is even more severe.
It’s common on days when the park is closing at 8:00 pm to have counter service establishments stop serving at 6:30 pm. On a trip in early 2011, we got in just under that deadline at Toy Story Pizza Planet at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We were trying to grab a bite before attending the 8:00 Fantasmic! show. My party was served, but as we ate, I watched a number of groups being turned away. Unfortunately, the only options at that hour would be table service and I’m guessing a table at the Hollywood Brown Derby or Mama Melrose’s might be difficult to get at that late time.
The problem is made worse by those eateries that never seem to be open, such as the Tomorrowland Terrace. I have yet to visit the Magic Kingdom and find this establishment open and serving guests.
I recently had the opportunity to have dinner at Walt Disney World seated next to an Imagineer. Needless to say, I posed questions during most of the meal. Toward the end, the tables were reversed a bit and she asked me what kinds of questions I typically receive from my readers.
First, I was grateful that she surmised I even had readers. Secondly, the hamster wheels in my brain began to spin quickly as I recalled a number of questions about the Disney Dining Plan(s) and Park Passes—these two topics seem to represent the majority of my MousePlanet email. I thought a bit harder (the beads of sweat breaking out on my forehead) and realized that most recently I was receiving a large amount of mail asking for ways to “beat the parking fees” at the theme parks.
My response to those queries is always the same—I cannot condone it. People will ask if they can park at Downtown Disney and bus from there to a park. The answer is “no”; there are no direct buses from Downtown Disney to any of the four major theme parks. You can bus to a resort and transfer, but now you’re talking somewhere between 40 to 90 minutes of travel time. Is that really worth saving the parking fee?
It also creates a nuisance because you’re taking up a parking spot at Downtown Disney which cannot be used by a guest looking to shop there—and the same is true for those that attempt to park at a resort. I’ve also been on buses that have been delayed as one of these guests puts one foot on the bus’s step, then begins to question the driver on the various ways to get from here to Hollywood Studios. The drivers know what’s going on and show remarkable restraint in trying to be helpful while simultaneously discouraging this practice.
My advice? Either pony up the parking fee or beat it legitimately by staying at an on-site resort or purchasing an Annual Pass.
Pleasure Island / Hyperion Wharf
“On June 27, 2008, the Walt Disney World Resort announced that it would be completely re-imagining the Downtown Disney area with new shopping, dining and other experiences, including a completely re-imagined Pleasure Island. On September 27, 2008, Pleasure Island will cease to exist as we know it today."
I used that paragraph as my lead in an article called "Hyperion Wharf," which appeared on December 3, 2010.
Here we are, more than four years after that announcement and instead of this…
We have this…
Disney recently issued a statement that they were now reevaluating their plans but… c’mon, man.
This isn’t really a Park Peeve, but it is Disney-related. I’m also certain this will offend some—but please hear me out.
I first began “getting serious” about Walt Disney World by reading trip reports. They were (and are) a great way to learn about different attractions, resorts, restaurants, modes of transportation, ticketing options, etc. They’re also a great way to take a vicarious trip to the World between trips of your own. I’ve been writing trip reports, published here on MousePlanet, since 2001. It’s a way of documenting my own trips while sort of paying back (or forward) for all I’ve learned from other writers.
So what’s the problem? They’ve become too hard to find. I will still read a few report writers that I know will only publish a finished report—and you know who you are. I’ll scan others, and find the author has updated the report with a few paragraphs at various intervals as they find the time to write. These updates are interspersed with pages of the usual exchanges and the result is I can’t find a cohesive report that I can sit and read. I read three paragraphs about their travel and then have to page through 15 exchanges before I can find the second installment. This makes for a very difficult read, and I just don't have the time.
I find similar problems with the pages and pages of exchanges on trips that haven’t even happened yet. I won’t single any out, but folks, “pre-trip reports” are planning reports and should be placed appropriately within the forums. If we need a separate forum for pre-trip reports, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.
Before someone strangles me, let me say “I get it.” There is nothing more exciting than planning a trip and/or counting down the days to an upcoming one. It’s our nature to want to talk about it with similar-thinking Disney fans. As I said, “I get it.” I only ask for three things:
- If you haven’t taken the trip yet, it’s not a trip report—it’s a planning thread. Place it within the appropriate forum under Walt Disney World Resort Discussions. Please leave the “Trip Reports from Florida” forum for the finished product.
- Before posting, take your time to finish (and proofread) the report. I’d rather wait a few weeks for a completed report than read two paragraphs every couple of days. Trust me… a well-written trip report is timeless.
- Lastly, I’ll add that everyone posting a trip report should take the time to read the sticky thread “Trip Report Guidelines” at the top of the forum. It really helps to have some uniformity in how reports are titled and written. If they’re titled correctly, it’s very easy to search for one that included a specific resort or time of year that you might be interested in.
For your compliance with the above, I offer great thanks from me and a number of other like-minded trip report readers.
So there you have it… the 2012 list of Park Peeves. I’ve found this list to be a bit different than past ones but with each passing year, the curmudgeon becomes just a bit more prevalent. Thanks for understanding that.
So what’s on your mind? Any new Peeves to share? Let me know ,and as always, thanks for reading.