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Brian Bennett

WDW Trip Planning Guide Reader Feedback

by Brian Bennett

10/17/01

-In this special edition of "Notes From the World" I'm going to share some of the feedback that I've received from my recent trip report.  Just to give you some background, I'll quote from the report as we go.

Take note, this is NOT the most pleasant Notes From the World piece that I've ever done.  There is a lot of strong criticism of Walt Disney World here, so if you're planning a trip of your own, read on... but if you're just trying to enjoy some Disney Magic, I'd suggest you read my old "My Favorite Things at Walt Disney World" piece instead.  ;)

Part I | Part II

-

TR.

"After we returned to Old Key West Resort, I ran over in the van to the front desk to pick up our Hoop Dee Do tickets for the following night.  My annual pass got us a very nice discount on the dinner show."

Q.

Linda Writes: I was just reading your trip report and was curious about your AP discount at the Hoop De Doo Revue. I didn't know there was any discount on the HDDR other than the Amex one.

A.

Linda,

I just showed my AP at the time that I purchased my tickets. I was given the discount when I paid up.  It dropped the price of the adult tickets from $47 and change to about $37 (neither number includes tax).

-

TR.

"I was going to give a play-by-play list of a series of the negative experiences we had on this trip but as I already stated, I've sent a letter of complaint to WDW, so perhaps the resort management can act on my criticisms.  Since this was a personal vacation, I'd rather keep my personal concerns private rather than publish all of the dirty laundry here on MousePlanet."

Q.

Amy writes: I was so disappointed that your last trip did not meet WDW standards. I love your honesty in your trip reports and know you wouldn't have reported unhappy incidents if they hadn't happened. Our next trip isn't till Oct 02, so I hope things will be back up to "par" by then. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

A.

Amy,

I hope things improve in a year, too. There just seems to be so many things that WDW is cutting back on now. The bottom line is that we (those of us that stay on-site, especially) are paying premium prices for perks that no longer exist because they've been taken away over the years.

Maybe, with falling revenue, the folks down there will get the message. Unfortunately, I fear that some bean-counter is in charge now that is responding to falling revenue by making more cuts... things will never improve if that's the case.

-

TR.

"The very best part of the trip, though, was just being able to spend time as a family.  We enjoyed being with my Mom and Dad at the beginning of the trip... but being with our two boys (by the way, Michael's adoption was finalized just before the trip, I don't remember if I'd mentioned that yet) and me being with my best friend (Barb) is always something to cherish."

Q.

Pam Writes: Dear Brian: I really enjoy reading your trip reports and I realized just how long I had been reading them when you mentioned that Allan has started kindergarten this year! How time flies!! Congratulations on the finalization of Michael's adoption. I remember reading your past reports of the ups and downs of that adoption and I am so happy that he is really yours now!!

I just wanted to comment on your views over the diminished customer service at WDW. We have also noticed that the cast members no longer seem to have that "Disney quality" that made WDW such a wonderful place to vacation in. A trip to WDW used to be a real reality escape due to the wonderful attitude of the cast members. However I agree with you that recently the service has gone way down.

We used to say that we didn't like Busch Gardens in Tampa near as much as Disney because all of the staff there seemed put out that they had to come to work that day. It would be such a shame if the same thing happened to WDW.

I don't know what the answer is. I do know that WDW does tend to pay on the low end of the scale and maybe that is adding to the frustration, but they also do provide many perks for the cast members that other jobs do not. My brother in law works on the Jungle Cruise and he is thrilled with the "free trading pins" often included in his pay check as well as the perk of free entrance to other Disney parks (he visited Disneyland Paris recently due to this perk!). However he says that when you go through the underground tunnels of the Magic Kingdom that they are a mess--garbage everywhere, etc.

It's almost as if Disney is letting too much of the "backstage" reality of the every day world reach the "onstage" part of the guest's vacation experience. Like you, I can only hope that the situation improves so that the next generation will enjoy taking their kids to WDW as much as we enjoy spending time there with our children. 

I would be very interested to hear if WDW responds to your letter of complaint. Maybe you could post something on MousePlanet.

Thanks for a wonderful trip report. I feel almost as if I know your family through reading your reports over the years.

A.

Thanks for your kind note, Pamela. I agree... I hope that service doesn't degrade any further.

Frankly, I'm not sure when I'll be going back to WDW again. I had planned to go in the Spring of 2002 then again at Christmas time (on Mom and Dad's nickel), but now Barb and I are thinking of alternatives that are less costly but provide the same (average, lukewarm) service as Disney is now offering up at premium prices.

We'll see...

Regarding any response I get from Disney, I'll happily publish any good response. Anything "canned" or negative, though, I'll keep to myself. I just don't want to use MousePlanet as a platform for a personal vendetta... it's not my style.

-

TR.

"At the conclusion of every other trip I've every taken to Walt Disney World, I've left with a strong desire to return and saddened that the vacation was over.  This time I was actually anxious to get out of Dodge...

"...Barb and I were personally planning to return...  in the Spring of 2002, but frankly I was so disappointed with the experience this trip that we're taking some time off.  Perhaps a "time out" will help me enjoy WDW better in fifteen months.

"So, I'm investigating a Western road trip, a New England road trip, and a Williamsburg, Virginia road trip in the Spring or early Summer with the boys and a flying trip to Vegas for just Barb and I -- perhaps around our anniversary time in the Fall...

"...Walt Disney World needs to provide the best service in the world and provide high value for the prices they charge.  right now, WDW is not at the top of it's game.  Hopefully that will be turned around by the time I personally pass through the park turnstiles again."

Q.

Tracey asks: Dear Brian, I have been lurking on your website for several months now, subsequent to booking a 4 day, 3 night trip to WDW in November, staying at POR. My first visit to WDW was 5 years ago, at 30, with my mother. We did this to give ourselves a gift circumstances did not allow us until that late date, and it was moving and magical. Our visit coincided with the opportunity to escort my grandmother to her winter home in Kissimmee, as opposed to a lonely plane ride.

This year, I decided to do it again, wanting to share the awe and excitement I felt with my husband of four years, also a Disney novice. We planned to visit first with my grandmother, continue to WDW, then explore the Gulf briefly.

I have been consistently amazed by the number of adults who repeatedly return to WDW, some several times a year. I have to admit that I just don't get it. Perhaps that's why your recent trip report resonated with me so deeply. I have noticed that often people identify a situation (i.e., rudeness, lack of service) or policy (i.e. late openings) that I would find significant enough to merit trying a new vacation venue, yet they conclude their reports with the next projected trip date.

This time, however, you have announced a personal hiatus, expressing overall disappointment with WDW's service level.

While I admit that Sept.11 has caused me grave concern about travel, I have concluded that capitulating to terrorism cannot be my response. I would keep my commitment to my grandmother and my husband in any case, but I am seriously considering whether WDW as it is currently operating is a suitable destination. As adults, my husband and I are mostly interested in Epcot and AK. I was particularly glad our travel dates encompass the Food & Wine Festival. However, if even rock-solid Disney enthusiasts (such as yourself) are less than impressed, is this a lot of money better spent elsewhere (keep in mind our poor little Canadian dollar).?

I know that to an extent, any trip is what you make it, but I have now made specific requests at the resort, PS's, etc., and told my husband repeatedly how unique and wonderful this time will be. I fear I may have overstated.

Would you recommend a postponement or change of plans based on your experiences? I think this is surely the strangest thing I have seen on your website yet--someone ambivalent about the trip BEFORE making it!

Thanks for any insight you or anyone interested may be inclined to offer.

A.

Tracey,

My recent trip experiences were personal ones. I just didn't feel -- for that particular trip -- that I got the value out of the expenditure that I expect to get from my vacations. Thus, the plans to travel elsewhere for the time being. Unfortunately, I've read a disturbing number of reports -- by many different MousePlanet readers -- of similar experiences with lapses in customer service.

WDW is, indeed, "unique and wonderful!" I'm not so upset with Walt Disney World that I would recommend that folks not go there. I just think that a personal breather for me and my family (we've been to WDW five times in three years) is definitely in order.

Perhaps I'll find that my customer service expectations are too high and that I'm trying to hold WDW to an unreasonable standard.

We'll see.

-

Q.

and Janet writes: Brian, I've been more than a little curious about how you are feeling now about things at WDW. Your latest trip report ended with you thinking that you probably wouldn't go down this spring because you were so disappointed.  You also thought that perhaps you might sell your DVC shares. This is pretty drastic, and you sounded more than a LITTLE disappointed!

I thought that people might ask you about all of this in your email forum at your site, but so far I haven't seen anything.

So, Brian, was it REALLY that bad?

I'd hate to think that it was anything other than a response to the financial troubles that all tourist places are being affected by, but what I fear is that management is forgetting that the only way to get people to spend the big bucks is to give them genuine Disney service, imagination, and "magic".

I recently read a thread on RADP (Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.disney.parks) that indicated that Disney is thinking of doing away with Magic Mornings, and the consensus on the board was that many will no longer pay the prices to stay on property if this perk is withdrawn. Now, I remember a trip with my daughter in 1994 in which hours were short, there were no park-hopper passes (that was restored a few months later, unfortunately for us!), and I think that was when World Showcase began to open at 11 rather than with Future World. I can clearly remember in years before that, reveling in my chocolate croissant and coffee at the France pavilion first thing in the morning, and being so disappointed when things were changed! My point is that perhaps this is temporary and that a revived economy will bring back better hours, perks and service.

What do you think?

Anyway, thanks again for your wonderful site and for all the work you do for us fans.

A.

Janet,

Unfortunately, it appears that management is more interested in cost savings than in enhancing quality. Whenever that happens (regardless of industry), the short term result is better profit margins... but the mid-term result is customer apathy followed by long-term results of lost revenue.

I used to work for General Motors, remember?

The Walt Disney Company today reminds me so much of the Walt Disney Productions of pre-1984! I'm so saddened that the very guy (Mr. Eisner) that turned the company around so strongly has forgotten what he did to make things so right in the late 1980's. I suspect that he's just not been able to surround himself with lieutenants that are as effective as the team that helped him back in 1984 (Frank Wells and others come to mind).

So, in short... I was, and remain, VERY disappointed with my recent experiences. I don't think Barb and I will sell our DVC points at this time. However, I am still planning away on my non-Disney trips for next year. If word-of-mouth improves, perhaps we'll go back to annual trips starting in 2003, but for now I'm off to see Williamsburg, Mt. Rushmore, New England, Las Vegas...

-

Q.

Jenny writes:

Brian, I thought you might like to read what I just sent to The Mouse:

"Dear Mickey and Friends,

"I am very disturbed to learn that Magical Mornings may be discontinued! This is a MAJOR reason we have elected to stay on site for each of our 7 visits in 8 years. We have stayed on site, bought refillable mugs, eaten numerous meals at food courts and I think, contributed our fair part to your revenues.

"Now we might as well bid on a Downtown Disney Resort via Priceline, save over $75/night and spread some of our money elsewhere.

"Although I am a certified Disneyphile and Diehard Darkwing Duck fan, I am becoming more and more irked at the perks which are being taken away and the charges added on. For instance, when we first became AP holders as well as MKC members there were numerous significant discounts for eating in the parks and at the resorts; those are virtually nonexistent. Room refrigerators have doubled in price, extra charges will now be in effect for rooms closest to the food courts (BTW, $10/night is a pretty steep hike for a room we have gotten for $49-79/night, don't you think?) and now you want to slice the benefits of staying on property?

"A fellow Disneyphile once told me, "The whole purpose of Disney is to separate you from your money and leave you happy about it." Disney Magic and Pixie Dust aside, I'm getting less and less happy about seeing more and more of my money leave for fewer and fewer tangibles.

A.

Jenny,

That was a well thought-out letter.

I'm starting to question the wisdom of having bought into the Disney Vacation Club now. I never thought, back in 1994/95 when we bought in (and added more points) that the quality of the experience at Walt Disney World would drop.

Now I know.

So, what are the room rates at the Downtown Disney hotels anyway? ;)

-

Q.

In a follow-up, Jenny states: Dear Brian, I know it was intended tongue in cheek, but I want to reply anyway. A girlfriend of mine and her hubby stayed in a suite at Doubletree for $79.00, full price and LOVED it. It gave them plenty of room and a quiet place to stick their 3 year old.

I regularly hear of DD hotels going for $25-35 on Priceline.

I was thrilled with our recent rate of $49.00 at AS, but frankly, I don't think the AS resorts are worth the full price of $99.00/night for regular season w/o discounts.

A.

Jenny,

It really was tongue in cheek because I'd probably still stay at OKWR if I was to stay on site.

However, as I mentioned to others that have written to me, I have a plan for our 2003 trip (after my self-imposed one year hiatus) -- We'll stay at Old Key West (to make use of our DVC points) but just use it as home base to visit Universal Studios, Sea World, the Space Center, and other area attractions. That's our current 2003 plan if things don't seem to be improved by then.

-

TR.

"After buying the camera, we started strolling down Hollywood and noticed that the "hat," the Mickey's sorcerer hat that was constructed right in front of the Chinese Theater for the 100th Anniversary (and which, in my opinion, is out of theme and ugly) was open for the first time.  Every other time we'd been to the studios the construction barricades were still around the structure (frankly, it might have looked a bit better that way), but now they were gone.

"I took a couple of pictures of the "hat," then we walked up to check it out in more detail.  The hat is constructed on a raised brick patio and is raised above the surface by supports.  You can walk clear underneath the hat itself, if you have the urge to walk under a 100 foot tall hat.  Inside the hat are two things worth noting.  First, there are some interactive information kiosks titled "Discover the Stories Behind the Magic" which are fun for a few minutes of browsing.  The other thing is that the hat houses a small shop with 100th Anniversary trinkets.

"One interesting thing that happened while we were checking things out goes back a couple of days.  Back on Sunday, Barb had noticed, when we walked through One Man's Dream, that the cast member's vests were black and white for the first part of the attraction, but that the cast members in the second portion were wearing colored vests.  Today she noticed (the cast members at the Hat and at Dream are wearing the same costumes) that the cast members vests were actually reversible, so each CM had both the black and white and the colored version.

"I did talk with one of the CMs for a minute about the Hat.  Apparently the Disney jury is still out as to whether or not the Hat will permanently become the park's icon -- replacing the Chinese Theater facade of the Great Movie Ride.  I certainly hope not! The hat is worth seeing, briefly, but I certainly hope it's history after the celebration is over -- like the awful "cakesickle" that covered Cinderella's Castle for WDW's 25th!  Like I said before... the Hat is out of theme and ugly.  May it go away suddenly in 15 months...

"On the way out of the park, I stopped in to Guest Relations to make a formal complaint about the Hat.  I figure I'll do my part... hopefully others will too, so the Hat will bid us adios come the end of 2002."

Q.

John writes: Hi Brian, I wanted to let you know two interesting things about Disney-MGM that I learned: 

1) It's ALMOST a foregone conclusion that the hat is PERMANENT, according to several people I spoke with at WDW (including friends who work in admin areas). The ONLY chance of preventing that is to inundate Disney with letters and negative comments. I hope you will pass that along! I found the hat ugly, out of place and, most importantly, horribly wrong-sized. It ruins ALL of the forced perspective of D-MGM.

(What I find most interesting is that Eisner seems bent on sabotaging the very park he helped design!)

2) If you go to guest relations at D-MGM these days (the same at all parks?!) you'll find there are NO comment cards and NO written feedback is taken. Instead, you're told by a cast member, "Oh, I *am* the human comment card! Just tell me your comments and I'll make sure they get passed on." Of course, this has the effect of intimidating most people, preventing them from making negative comments. When I said, "I just want to say I hate that hat and hope you'll get rid of it soon," the CM said, "Oh, well, we've had good and bad comments about it. Thank you." I had to FORCE him to write down my comment; I have a very strong suspicion it never got "passed on" or input into the system. This is a HORRIBLE way to do guest service!

Just a couple of hat-related thoughts for you...

P.S. Have you heard a reason why Tower of Terror has changed its costuming so that everyone is in ToT costumes EXCEPT the person who tells you what library room to enter? It's weird. They're dressed in casual T-shirts and shorts. I asked one CM if he was just "filling in" and he said, "Nope, this is how they have us dressed now."

A.

John,

That's very disappointing. I had a very similar experience at Guest Relations at the studios when I went to lodge my vote against the hat. I didn't push to file a written complaint then. A few days later, when I lodged a complaint (a different one this time) at the Magic Kingdom, I did insist on making it a written one. I was told that I would hear back in six to seven weeks (after filing the written complaint)... it's only been two weeks so far.

John,

That was new one for me, too. I saw it on my recent trip, but assumed it was an isolated case (we only rode the tower one day).

-

Q.

on the Hat, Stephanie asks: Hello, I was reading your article on MousePlanet yesterday about the Disney-MGM Studios. You were talking about the Sorcerer Mickey's Hat that they built in front of the Chinese Theater. And were saying that it was in your opinion "out of theme for the park." When I was visiting Disney World in August, I was told by Guest Relations that they built the hat there because they were losing their contract with MGM. And that they might not take it down after the celebration is over. Have you heard about this?

A.

Stephanie,

I've heard exactly the same thing... that the hat might just be permanent. It doesn't make sense to me, though. The Great Movie Ride building could be converted to another attraction if the lawyers decide the Great Movie Ride just had to go... but the Chinese Theater facade could still be there.

I just hope enough people complain that they change their mind on the permanent hat thing.

-

TR.

"Unfortunately, I had yet ANOTHER negative experience with a cast member... this time the security guard at the Polynesian.  At first, he steadfastly refused me access to the resort!  He said that his general manager (the one in charge of the Polynesian) doesn't want people there unless they are Polynesian Resort guests.  When I held my ground and insisted that an Old Key West Resort guest was supposed to be given access to the resort, he gave me a short term parking pass and acted like he was doing me a favor in providing it!

"After I returned to Old Key West Resort, I called the front desk to confirm that I was still supposed to have access to the other WDW resorts.  I got a call back from Old Key West Resortís desk manager, and was assured that I was supposed to be given access and that the problem with Richard would be dealt with.  The manager later called be back to tell me that the Polynesian had been contacted and that "every effort was being made to make sure that this kind of thing doesn't happen to our guests in the future."

Q.

Arnold shares this information on security issues: On- property hotel security has increased exponentially since 1997 with the introduction of gates and guards, parking passes for both guests and short-term guests, license plate logging, and occasional parking sign-in procedure at resorts. All of these measures were pre-9/11.

In the war and post-war periods, as vigilance has been increasing to reduce the risk of ever-expanding threats, I would not be surprised if guests seeking to have dinner and watch fireworks finding themselves turned away even during non-holiday periods. I would also expect information about access to resorts to be limited, restricted, and incorrect given the sensitivity and fluidity of the situation.

I'd suggest that people have a backup plan, and to give up if turned away (e.g. don't challenge multiple hotel's security so as not to unintentionally raise suspicion). I would also be especially careful to ask about enforcement of parking time limits, which may be more rigidly enforced today than in the past (which was infrequent). Hopefully, these times will pass.

Did you notice any changes in vehicular control security (e.g. parking restrictions, inspections) during your recent trip?

A.

Arnold,

I agree that security has been heightened at WDW in the last decade.  Gone are the days when one could simply drive around the complex and enter any resort they wish without being hailed.  Even now, though, it's generally a simple matter to be allowed into any resort.  You just have to stop and tell the guard why you're there.  Simply saying, "we here to see the resort and do some shopping" is usually enough... unless Richard is the keeper of the gate, I suppose.  ;)

One thing that I really feel strongly about is the fact that WDW's security seems to be more for public consumption than for real.  The cursory checks of our bags, the inconsistent behavior of the resort check point guards (Richard being the extreme on one side and the guards that just waved us through at many of the resorts on the other), and the lack of any vehicle checks (as far as I know) made the heightened security seem to be more of a publicity stunt than a real attempt to improve safety.

But maybe I'm just jaded.  :)

Part I | Part II 

Well, I hope you enjoyed the reader feedback for the WDW Trip Planning Guide!  Feed free to send more questions or comments to brian@mouseplanet.com!

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Brian's Archive - Contents

I've always gotten email about the WDW Trip Planning Guide, but since we added the feedback form to the site several months ago, the number of questions has increased dramatically!  I do my best to answer each and every question personally, but I've noticed that a lot of the questions are asked again and again.  The question that one person asks might very well be the question that someone else is wondering about.  Thus this page!

So...I'll post reader email and feedback every once in a while, because the question someone else asks might be the same one you're thinking about yourself!

 

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