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Brian Bennett

WDW Trip Planning Guide Reader Feedback

by Brian Bennett

11/26/01

Q.

An unnamed MousePlanet reader provided an up-to-date reportThe following information is summarized at his request.  You may also want to check out the Cutbacks in the World page, as it summarizes what's going on at WDW.
  1. Hours and show times have been drastically curtailed. "Cinderella Surprise" is now down to three morning shows, although that is being done, in part, to allow the cast to rehearse for the "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" show in the afternoon.
  2. Schedule changes are occurring suddenly and with little or no warning.  Good advice is to not believe what is in print if it is more than a week old.
  3. Most shows are now dark (i.e. not being performed) two days a week, so check schedules carefully.
  4. The print runs on park guide maps have been cut to the bone. The parks and the hotels are often running out of them one or two days before the last effective date of the brochure, so when you get your guidemap HANG ON TO IT. It may be the only one you ever get during your stay.  (In some cases, changes have required that information be "stickered-over" by hand, which further reduces available quantities.)
  5. Guest service desks at On Property resorts have closed; function has been folded into front desk.
  6. Because attendance is down, staffing is at bare minimums. Those who have written in thinking that it'll be quieter will be unpleasantly surprised that the down-staffing causes even more delays and service problems than when the park is really busy.
  7. Privately, I can't recommend anyone visit WDW right now because the combination of busy parks (due to low-cost hotel and airfare) and low staffing is causing a lot of pain for those who visit. If you visit, think of it as "Disney Lite."
  8. Fantasmic!, running now with only one show, fills up early -- a half an hour to an hour before the performance. Get there early, or just skip it and hope the economy recovers and you can catch it on your next visit.
  9. The Fantasmic! dinner package requires that you have dinner as early as 3:20pm because Fantasmic! is being performed at 6pm.
  10. Beware of schedule details. Show schedules are different from day-to-day now. Many park visitors have missed shows because their start times are different (usually 1/2 hour either way) on adjacent days.
  11. There is an excellent Walt Disney World Transportation Map sponsored by Disney Vacation Club, available at the Front Desk or Bell Desks, for driving around the property. 

A.

Thanks for the note. As far as new information, if you could just keep your eyes open for information like you've just provided, that would be great.

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Q.

Yet another unnamed MousePlanet reader writes: My friends are staying at the All Star Movie Resort in Orlando. I live in Tampa. I am planning to drive over to visit them and have dinner one night but won't get there until after 6PM. Is there anywhere you can suggest that is close by (preferably within walking distance) with decent food and prices?

There will be children with us and possibly a group of 10 not including 3 children. Thank you in advance for your help.

A.

The All Star Resorts are pretty isolated. Each one, including All Star Movies Resort, has a food court (the one at Movies is called "World Premiere Food Court") but no full service restaurants. There really isn't any full service restaurants within "walking distance," but there are several restaurants at other resorts (Coronado Springs, Animal Kingdom Lodge are the closest ones) on property.

You may want to read through MousePlanet's WDW Restaurant Resource to find out what restaurants are available.

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Q.

Todd asks: Brian, I really enjoy reading all the reports on your website. Thanks for all the hard work.

Just a quick warning for your readers. I just came back from a trip to Epcot this past weekend and Disney has taken Fastpass from the Test Track attraction. One of the cast members said Fastpass would not return to Test Track until after Christmas.

Why would they do this when Test Track is the only thrill ride at this park? We got there shortly after the doors opened at 10AM (it was the first day for Fall operating hours) and there was a 2 hour wait for Test Track! Why remove it and yet keep the Fastpass at the Maelstrom in Norway? Doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but I'm sure Disney has a good reason. Any inside info?

A.

Originally, I answered: "Todd, I'm sorry, but I don't have any idea why WDW has shut down Test Track's Fastpass."

But since then, I've heard that the Test Track queue is being refurbished to integrate the Fastpass and single rider lines along with the normal, standby line into the main queue.  I would expect that the shutdown of Fastpass may be related to that change. 

It's hardly "inside info," but it may be the right answer.

-

Q.

Fellow MousePlaneteer, and the webmaster of the fabulous Yesterland website, Werner Weiss writesBrian, (regarding Notes From the World on October 29th) For many years, the WDW planning videos have not used the name MGM, only "Disney Studios Theme Park." That isn't anything new this year. The park itself has always been called Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park, and continues to be called this. The story on the Internet is that the licensing agreement with MGM prevents Disney from using the MGM name outside the United States. Because the video is sent to Canada and elsewhere, the easy answer is to call the theme park "Disney Studios" instead of "Disney-MGM Studios" on all videos. I'm not sure I believe that explanation because the park is called "Disney-MGM Studios" on Disney's Web site, which also serves an international audience. However, I don't doubt that the explanation has something to do with the licensing agreement with MGM. Perhaps, as a film and video company, MGM reserves the exclusive right to use the MGM name on videos.

Also, regarding another question in that same "Notes" Piece, DisneyQuest in Chicago closed permanently on September 4, 2001. So now DisneyQuest at WDW is the only location.

A.

Good points, Werner. Thanks!

-

Q.

An unnamed Cast Member writes: Brian, I came across the question from Rick regarding DisneyQuest (Notes From the World on October 29th) and felt like I wanted to voice a few things. Your answer was pretty much right on, but there are/were other factors involved.

I do not know if you knew that the Chicago DisneyQuest has now closed. Lack of attendance did it in... Could it have done better? Probably so, but I believe that management issues at Disney Regional Entertainment (D.R.E.) and a lack of having a champion to really push hard for continued investment / advertisement and business strategy adjustment played a major factor in its demise. It is no coincidence that as D.R.E. pulled out of DisneyQuest-Orlando and had WDW Attractions take over, that attendance (read that revenue) picked up substantially.

Anyway, I just wanted to chime in on the subject.

Oh, by the way, I worked on the DisneyQuest project for 4 years, and was involved in the installation of both sites, and would have been involved in Philly, had the general contractor not gotten into financial problems. There are/were a number of us on the technical/engineering team that really put in the "blood, sweat and tears" on the DisneyQuest project and have been sorely disappointed by the lack of leadership shown both here in California and in Chicago.

Lastly, the GM that Rick refers to in his question is a great person. I know her personally and truly felt that she was hamstrung by D.R.E.

Take care!

A.

Thanks so much for your note! I'll include it in a future "Notes" feature.

-

Q.

Sandy writes: Brian, I understand all the cutbacks have some people very upset. I have family that works for Walt Disney World, so the cutbacks are a blessing in disguise because it means my family member's job is being saved. Most of the cutbacks are just that, cutbacks, not permanent closings. Supply and demand, ya know. If there are no guests, it does seem silly to open a new hotel. If there are no guests, why not cutback the number of shows. They aren't cutting the show, just the number of shows. It's all relative. 

But I'm most concerned about your list of cutbacks including the staggered hours at Epcot. Epcot's hours have been like this for several years. That has nothing to do with the current state of the Disney company. One of the main reasons the hours were staggered was not a cutback at all -- when the wedding's department started they made this request so they could use the pavilions for wedding ceremonies. They have slightly adjusted those hours in the recent cutbacks, as they've done at all the parks. But the way it was written it seems like a recent cutback -- and just one more reason to complain about a company that's trying to put it's employees first (something they've had a hard time doing in the past).

I'll be traveling to Disney in December for my third wedding anniversary. We've upgraded out hotel stay to the Wilderness Lodge and made reservations at Victoria and Albert's. We've also been to New York to see Aida and shop at the Disney Store in the last few weeks. I love the company in good times and bad, so I give to it when it's down so that I get to take full advantage of the good times.

Lastly, I'm not sure if anyone at MousePlanet reported this, but the Disney Vacation Club did something absolutely unexpected and wonderful. We got a package last week with a beautiful card from the vacation club and two Mickey head pins (the ones with stars on one side, stripes on the other). The backs of the pins are engraved "Disney Vacation Club commemorates September 11, 2001." I cried and I've warn the pin almost everyday since it came. A really sweet gesture that they never had to do. Like I said, good times and bad, I give to the company and I always seem to get back.

This buyer is well aware!

A.

Thanks for your note, Sandy. I agree that some of the cutbacks are completely reasonable. Supply and demand is a good way to look at it... except for when folks are paying for certain things and aren't getting the value out of their vacation dollar that they feel they should be getting. Personally, I wouldn't be upset about Early Entry and E-Ride Nights not being available (although other folks feel very strongly about them) -- but I would be livid at very short park hours! The staggered hours at Epcot have been a big pain in the neck, too.

Thanks for mentioning the DVC pins. We got ours and have been wearing them, too.

-

Q.

John writes: Brian, I could be wrong, but in her letter to you I believe the reader named Sharon (Notes From the World on October 29th) was asking about the "Play 4 Days" passes, not Park Hoppers. It's basically a 4-day Park Hopper that sold for $99. I believe it's only available to us Florida residents.

It was a pretty good deal. I'm not sure if it's available right now; Disney sells them periodically. Unlike regular Park Hoppers. The Play 4 Days passes do expire--and in a relatively short period of time.

A.

Thanks for the information, John. Being from the Midwest, I don't keep up with the resident options very well.

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Q.

Ken & Theresa write: Our family is looking at coming to the Disney facility there in Hilton Head. Our family consists of 2 adults and 2 children (4 and 5).

Can you let us know the room costs and anything else to expect from a cost standpoint.

Also, what exhibits and themes from Disney can the kids expect to enjoy that are not attached with a fee.

A.

Ken & Theresa,

MousePlanet is NOT affiliated with the Walt Disney Company. If you want to get information from Disney, you'll have to contact them directly.

The only information I personally have on Hilton Head is in MousePlanet's Disney Vacation Club Trip Planning Guide on this page.

Sue Holland, another MousePlanet columnist has a couple of pieces, though. You can find them on her index page.

-

Q.

William asks: Is there an email address for making reservations at the French Bistro in Epcot on December 24th, 2001 at 5:30 p.m.?

A.

William,

The only way that I'm aware of for making priority seating arrangements is to call WDW reservations. Check out this page for more information.

-

Q.

Duane asks: Brian, I just read an article on MousePlanet about Disneyland which discussed snow. After the fireworks show, Disneyland activates bubble machines outside to simulate a snow storm. I will be visiting Disney World in December and was wondering if they will be doing the same?

A.

Duane,

The snow effects are used at WDW's Magic Kingdom during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, a special event that is held in early December.

You can read more about it on this page.

-

Q.

Jay sent me two notes

Brian, Just wanted to let you know about those Free Buffets at a offsite hotel. A reader (Jennifer) of yours was looking into staying at a certain hotel based on if they provided the buffet there.

Please, inform her this is a rather dumb mistake. In the Orlando and Kissimmee area there are PLENTY of places you can go and get a breakfast under $6.00 or $7.00. Shoney's, Waffle House, Ponderosa, etc. The point is, she really should take into consideration the hotel's room size's, pool area, etc. when choosing the hotel.

Since she is staying off site, she will have a car so getting to all the great places to eat in the area will be a snap... and she'll get a much better breakfast than what most hotels provide (just donuts and coffee).

and,

Brian, in response to Chuck's question.  France in Epcot, provides a custom Perfumery service.

A.

Jay,

Thanks for both of your notes! I'll share them in an upcoming email piece.

-

Q.

Dawn writes: Hi Brian, my concerns are as follows:
  1. Are there any new tips now that Early Entry has been deleted? (we are going in December / Christmas Week!)
  2. What is the schedule for December?
  3. Are there any special events during this time? I realize that much of this info is not obtainable to the regular public yet, but I didn't know if you knew anything.

I am very disappointed that Disney has not established the times/schedules/etc. It makes it very hard to plan.

Thank You for your return email.

A.

Dawn,

Unfortunately, MousePlanet is just as dependent on Disney making up it's mind on scheduling issues as Disney.com is. :) We can't predict what will happen from week to week, because it depends -- not only on crowd levels (like it normally would) -- but also on Disney's internal cost savings goals. We just don't know...

The only suggestion I would have, now that Early Entry has been wiped out, is to make sure you have a good working knowledge of each park layout and what you want to do and see each day. Get that guidemap as soon as you enter the park to see when the shows are scheduled to run. With a good working knowledge of the park and a clear idea of when the shows that you are interested in seeing will run, you can make good decisions as you tour the parks with a minimum of wasted time.

Holidays Around the World, which provides a great taste of how the holiday season is celebrated in the various nations of World Showcase, runs through the end of December. The Candlelight Processional, a special presentation also at Epcot, is scheduled to run through December 29th, too.

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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