by Brian Bennett
this special edition of "Notes From the World" I'm
going to share some of the feedback that I've received from
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
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
| 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.
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).
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."
|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.
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
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."
| 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
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
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
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
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.
|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
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.
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
"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...
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."
|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
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
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.
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
|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,
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
What do you think?
Anyway, thanks again for your wonderful
site and for all the work you do for us fans.
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
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...
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
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
|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
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
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.
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."
|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
(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
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
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.
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
|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?
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.
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."
|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?
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
But maybe I'm just jaded. :)
Part I | Part
Well, I hope you enjoyed the reader feedback
for the WDW Trip Planning Guide! Feed free to send more questions
or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Brian Bennett's Disney Trip Planner
Click here to see
some awesome WDW pieces that have run on MousePlanet recently!
here to check out the rest of Brian's Archive, including all of the previously
published "Notes From the World" pieces!
always gotten email about the WDW Trip Planning Guide, but since we added
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!
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!