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Brian Bennett

WDW Trip Planning Guide Reader Feedback

by Brian Bennett

1/14/02

Q.

Richard writes: Brian, Just spent five days at Walt Disney World. Had a great time. The ridiculous whining from people about Early Entry and E-Ride Nights really annoys me: there is no reason for these programs to exist while the parks have low attendance. The only reason to enter early is to avoid crowds. There are no crowds!

There were no or short waits for almost all the rides--even Tower of Terror was a walk-on. I did not find the reduced hours to be a problem. How many hours can you spend dragging yourself around? I found a few food carts closed, but most were open.

All in all, my experience was much the same as it has always been, albeit without The Carousel of Progress and Timekeeper, two of my favorite attractions.

It's impossible for me to believe people are canceling their vacations because of stuff like this--all influenced by the constant negative rant of MousePlanet, our new version of Chicken Little, constantly crying that the sky is falling.

A.

Richard,

You make the point that "There are no crowds," and I understand that (I was there myself in late September), but most people that have visited WDW in recent years can't really comprehend a park without crowds.  Besides, during the holiday season, it appears that the crowds are right back to normal levels. We'll have to see if that holds true during the traditionally slow first quarter of the year.

As far as MousePlanet being "chicken little," I can only say that I wish you found our articles more helpful to you than apparently you do.

-

Q.

A MousePlanet reader writes: In your December 10th column, An "unnamed cast member" wrote,

"As a cast member of Walt Disney World, I was interested in your remarks about the cut backs that have taken place. I work in Guest Relations at one of the parks, so I have seen first hand not only the cuts, but also the guests feeling on them. I always remind our guests something that is very important to me and the other cast members, although WDW is cutting back, there has not been one layoff since the September 11 incident as a result of the slow attendance. As other companies are having to layoff employees I am proud of Disney that they are looking at alternatives other than lay offs. Although it might make for a happier guests to not have the cut backs, it makes for a happier guests if our casts can remain happy. And layoffs are never good at raising the morale of any employees. Although I do agree with you that it is a shame to see things get cut, I think people should want to put their money in a company that is helping out the American employees!"

I don't know where this particular cast member got their information, but there have been lay-offs since September 11th. Much of the Entertainment department got decimated, with the removal of the Pleasure Island explosion dancers, the nixing of multiple casts at various shows as well as some streetmosphere. And regardless of the spin Walt Disney World puts on it, offers of transfers to service positions not even paying $7 an hour from a performance position paying over $20 an hour is still considered, for all intents and purposes, a layoff.

The cast in Entertainment are still employees, too. Just because they're not serving drinks or cleaning the parks doesn't make their jobs any less important.

And another reader, Steve, writes: As a former cast member of "Disney Store" [ugh, I hate this new name w/o the "The" in front], I would like to compliment you on what a great site you have for Disney Fans. MousePlanet has been a favorite of mine for the last year or so and I have passed the website address on to many friends who I used to work with. I also passed it on to many Guest's from the store even though it meant being written up for it once.

I just wanted to comment on a readers response in today's column. An "unnamed cast member "said that there have been no layoffs in WDW since September 11th. This is not true. I have many friends who work in WDW and I want you to know this is not true. I know of two people in WDW Horticulture and one person in Entertainment who were handed pink-slips with the option of taking minimum wage positions in merchandise. The reasons for these layoffs as well as many was due to the low attendance at the resort due to "the tragic events of September 11th".

I just hate to see you handed a lie from someone who is probably paid to sit there and polish the WDW Company reputation with falsehoods and fairytales. Morale is at an all time low right now and Lee Cockerell, who used to be looked upon as a god by the cast members, is loosing favor among them.

Pressler, Eisner and upper management need a swift kick in the pants or pink slips themselves. Boy I'd love to see their severance packages.

Also to all the folks who say this site is too negative, I say too bad. I'd rather have the truth than the "Fantasyland" version of what Disney wants you to believe. My suggestion to all the folks that think Disney can do no wrong, is not dreaming of working for them. You will definitely have your image shattered. I could never go into some of the unscrupulous acts that Disney committed over the 10 1/2 years that I worked for them. If you don't like MousePlanet's honesty, try the disney.com site. You'll be treated to all the pixie dust you could ever need. As for those of us that truly care about our beloved Disney and the direction it takes, we'll take MousePlanet any day!

Thanks for letting me vent.

A.

Thanks for the notes. These were two of several emails I received to point this out.

-

Q.

Theresa writes: Hello Brian, I have been an avid fan of MousePlanet for 8 months now. My husband and I visited Disneyland in August, and had a great time. We would love to go back, and were hoping to see great travel deals after the World Trade Disaster occurred. While scanning your site and other travel sites, I have come across many great deals if you live in California or somewhere else in the United States. However, Disneyland nor Walt Disney World, have acknowledge offering Canadians a reduced rate for ticket pricing or hotels.

We can purchase 5 days at Disneyland for the cost of 3 days, however there have been better deals offered to Americans. With the Canadian Dollar being very low, Canadians have to increase all costs and fees by 60% due to currency exchange. Going to Disneyland or WDW can be expensive, and I am surprised that I am not able to find any fabulous deals.

A.

I can't confirm or deny your comments, since I've never investigated the situation for Canadian travelers.

I'm curious, though. Why would you expect Disney (or any other company) to subsidize your vacation because you're Canadian? Should they also subsidize Japanese citizens because their nation is filled with Mickey Mouse fans? ;) As far as your exchange rate situation, you can't expect any U.S. companies to take care of that for you. That's the job of your government and national banking system.

The reason why Disney provides great deals for California (at DLR) and Florida (at WDW) residents is for local public relations purposes. It helps them to have a local population that is happy with the Walt Disney Company.

For the rest of us (me too, since I live in Michigan), well, we exist to fill the company coffers. :)

Q.

and in a follow-up, Theresa writes: Hi Brian. Thanks for the reply. I really didn't expect to receive an email message back. Though I don't expect subsidization, when the Canadian Dollar does poorly (as it is now), there are many places in the United States that will offer hotels & travel packages at par with American currency.

Places such as Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Seattle even New York that have large numbers of Canadians visit each year will offer great deals. In Europe many hotels and car rental companies offer excellent exchange rates to lure Canadians. At least once a year I travel to America and/or Europe, and try to take advantage of these discounts. In the end, it really allows me to spend more, instead of watching every dollar.

In the end DL & WDW, though facing an economical slow-down, are still making a lot of money and are not suffering as much as other tourist areas.

Keep up the good work at MousePlanet. It is great to see that you can be objective and analytical. A rarity these days.

A.

Theresa,

Thanks for your kind note back. You know, after I responded to your first message, I wondered if I may have been too harsh. I'm glad that you didn't respond back as sharply as I might have had the situation been reversed. :)

I suspect that those locations that offer such great deals for Canadian travelers do so because such a large portion of their business would be at risk if they did not. The discounts they offer must be offset by enough revenue (with a reasonable profit margin) or they wouldn't do it.

Maybe I should go to a bank in Detroit before my Fall trip to Vegas and convert all of my trip money to Canadian currency... ;)

-

Q.

Jim writes: Dear Brian, I'm sure you're tired of this subject! But, in all fairness to Disney, are the cutbacks really that big of a deal? I went to WDW twice during the Millennium celebration, and both times sincerely appreciated early entry and E-Ride Nights. Other than during early entry and E-Ride we never even spent time in the Magic Kingdom as it was just too packed. I currently have a trip planned in February, and am looking forward to being able to go to the parks during the middle of the day. Although early entry is nice, sleeping in while on vacation is a nice perk as well. I just printed out the park hours for February, and it looks to me like they've shaved a couple of hours from what park hours were the same time last year. Nighttime parades and fireworks are dark mid-week.

But both Spectromagic and fireworks play on weekends - exactly the same as the schedule last February.

Why stay at a Disney resort if of perks are missing? Here are some BIG reasons.

  • Room prices have been the lowest ever in history the past couple of months. Value season at the Grand Floridian typically begins at $330 per night. We booked our room in February for $214. We're staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge as well at a savings of $90 per night over the usual value season rate. To me this is a big plus as I never would have been able to afford a weeklong trip to the top WDW resorts at regular rates.
  • Also, convenience is still a big issue. Being on property is also a big plus. I can't imagine staying at an off property resort and having to drive in to WDW every day, or being at the mercy of a hotel shuttle. WDW transportation is extremely efficient.
  • Last but not least, although package delivery has been changed, the fact that you can charge nearly every purchase and meal to your room from anywhere in WDW is one of the biggest benefits of all.

Yes, I'm still planning on going to WDW in February. I hope I'm not disappointed. I'll let you know.

A.

Jim,

I'm glad to see that you're doing exactly what I recommend... you're confirming the value of your vacation expenditure. By comparing what you get by the price you pay, you can determine if a vacation at WDW (or anywhere else, for that matter) is worthwhile to you.

Since your conclusion -- for you -- is that there IS enough value to make you happy, by all means go and enjoy your trip! I'm sure you'll have a great time!

Other folks that rely on the perks that have been eliminated may draw a different conclusion... and that's ok for them, too.

In any case, have a great trip!

-

Q.

Meg asks: Dear Brian, You have an excellent site - I've only recently discovered the unofficial Disney web sites, and yours is one of the best.

My question/ observation is that there seems to be very little on the sites aimed at day-trippers. I grew up about an hour away from WDW, and so I have been to the parks several times but have never stayed overnight at the resort. (The worst exhaustion of my life was when my Girl Scout leader insisted on leaving home at 6:00 am and staying at the park until 1:00 am.) Does anyone have any tips for those who cannot follow the early arrival/afternoon break advice? Also, because I have always wanted to maximize time at the parks, I have seen very little of the other resort attractions. Do you think it would be worthwhile to go spend a non-park day at WDW? I have minimal interest in Downtown Disney, which I found expensive and not especially entertaining. Are attractions such as Fort Wilderness exclusively for resort guests? Finally, I'm feeling in need of the "Disney magic" this holiday season, but I'm also feeling budget-conscious. I'm considering taking my mother to have afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian; would we be able to find something to do outside the parks until we could watch the fireworks? (I hope you don't mind my treating you like a travel agent.) Thanks very much!

A.

Meg,

There are LOTS of things to see and do at WDW outside of the parks!

I'd suggest you look over the pages that are indexed on this page, as you'll find some information on activities that do not require theme park admission.

You can also enjoy visiting the various resort hotels to see the atmosphere, enjoy a meal, or just go shopping.  All of the resort facilities, including those at Fort Wilderness Campground, are open to the public.  Officially, the resorts are open to "WDW Resort Guests," but I don't think anyone that wants to spend some money at the restaurants or shops would be kept from doing so (although resort facilities such as pools, etc. would be for paying guests only). 

If you spend the afternoon hours out of the sun, in the air-conditioned resorts for example, you can certainly enjoy a day trip.

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Q.

Rick writes: Please allow me to compliment you once again on maintaining a relative level of impartiality and fairness when it comes to Disney. I guess I respect your opinions so much because they mirror my own. I see some problems in the Disney company and I wish they’d do some things differently, but they are still far and away the best entertainment company out there, and they do a lot of things right.

Among the things they are doing right is the recently announced Disney’s Armed Forces Salute. You can get the details here , but the basic gist is that Disney is offering free admission to active duty military and half-price tickets for friends and family at all of their California and Florida parks for the first four months of next year. I applaud the Disney company for this approach which rewards our military and their families, creates goodwill and excellent public relations, and gets more people into the parks where they will spend money on food and souvenirs.

I’m surprised that I haven’t seen any mention of this on MousePlanet yet, but then again almost everything there (with the exception of your balanced presentations) are pretty negatively biased. Please keep up the good work!

A.

Rick,

Thanks for the note!  Actually, though, Lani Teshima wrote a great piece entitled, "MousePlanet Salutes Disney for its "Armed Forces Salute" that covered the program in detail!  It ran during the Christmas holidays, so maybe you missed it.

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Q.

Kevin asks: Brian, My wife and I are taking a trip to WDW and are planning to have a great time. It will be our first trip since 1999 and we plan to take a longer trip in October.

My question is, "what is happening with the Journey Into Imagination ride?" Even though I haven't heard favorable things about it, I never had the opportunity to ride it and make my own opinion of it. I have heard rumors that they are turning it into a Monsters Inc. attraction. The WDW web site said it is closed for "refurbishment" and will re-open in the summer. 

Any ideas?

A.

Kevin,

I must agree that the Journey Into Your Imagination ride, the version that existed from late 1999 until this past October, was very poor compared to the original. The attraction is shut down now and is expected to open next Summer. Rumors are that the new version will be similar to the 1999 rehab, but with more emphasis on Figment (who was almost completely removed from the attraction). Dream Finder, according to the rumor mill, still will not be involved in the new attraction.

I guess we'll have to wait until next Summer to know for sure. :)

-

Q.

In a previous "Notes From the World", Neal asked: I was wondering if the music to Spectromagic was available anywhere to purchase?

Bryan writes: Hi Brian, The "Disneyland & Walt Disney World Music Vacation" CD with the Spectromagic music has been known to be available at the Virgin Records Megastore in Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort. That's where I bought my copy.

Gregg shared this information: Hi Brian! In response to the reader's question about the Spectromagic soundtrack. I'm a huge fan of the parade and have been looking for it for years. I was at WDW 2 weeks ago and they finally had it for sale, thought not at every store. I bought it at 2R's in the Marketplace.

Steve says: In case you get another CD question. The best places to buy Tokyo Disneyland CD's are Amazon who carry a couple or www.Footlight.com. Footlight Records in NYC carries an large amount of Disney CD's and an incredible number of Tokyo CD's. They have great customer service. They just updated their website so it you don't see what you need you can call them. They will even pull a CD off the shelf and read you the track list if they aren't too busy.

A.

Thanks for your help, guys.

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Q.

Glenn asks: I enjoy your site and your practical approach to the recent WDW cutbacks. My family and I will be visiting WDW in January and have two quick questions for you.
  1. Do they still do the floating lights parade after the fireworks at Magic Kingdom? I've read about it in several places but have seen no mention of it recently.
  2. Since my step-father is retired from the Coast Guard, we will be staying at the Shades of Green resort. Since we want to check out Pleasure Island and Disney Quest, the best admissions deal seems to be their equivalent to the Ultimate Park Hopper Pass available only to Disney Resort Guests. My quibble is that you must purchase a pass that equals your length of stay. If we wanted to take a day and visit non-Disney sites, we still have to buy passes for our length of stay. The literature says the passes must be used on consecutive days and expire on midnight of your last day -- therefore, they cannot be reused in the future. Any suggestions?

A.

Glenn,

Yes, the Electric Water Pageant runs nightly on Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. It's been running there since the early 1970's (in fact, the Pageant was the spark that gave Imagineer Bob Jani the idea to create the Main Street Electrical Parade).

As far as your issue with park passes, I would suggest that you go to MousePlanet's WDW Trip Planning Guide's page on admission media.

That page describes all of the admission media that can be purchased (of course, as you mentioned, at Shades of Green you'd have the option of buying "Stars and Stripes Length-of-Stay Passes," too.)

Depending on the duration of your trip, you may want to buy Park Hopper Plus passes, so you won't be paying for unused days like you do when you buy length-of-stay Ultimate Park Hoppers (or Stars and Strips) passes -- but spend time off site.

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Q.

Don asks: Brian, I could find no references to general expenses. Am I to assume that if I have to ask, I shouldn't bother to visit? LOL

My daughter and her husband would like to know what the costs would be for say a two day visit with two girls ages 9 and 12. What would be the best places to visit and what would the costs for tickets, rooms, food and parking be estimated at? Thank You.

A.

Don,

There's information on budgeting for a WDW trip in the WDW Trip Planning Guide. Go to the "Planning Your Trip" index page and you'll see a page on budgeting, the Disney Club, and savings issues.

The Admission Media From A to Z page has more detailed information on park admission prices.

-

Q.

A former WDW 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Space Mountain cast member writesDear Mr. Bennett, This past weekend, it was once again a great big beautiful tomorrow at Walt Disney World!

It appears that this past weekend, Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress was resurrected from Yesterland and once again spun its way into the hearts of Magic Kingdom visitors. I was visiting WDW from Thursday, December 20th through Tuesday, December 25th. Because I had read that the Timekeeper attraction was going to re-open (with the World Trade Center scenes left intact -- hooray!) on Saturday, December 22nd for a limited Christmas run, I made sure that I was in the Magic Kingdom at 10AM to visit that attraction.

After the first showing, I exited the attraction and saw before me a most wonderful Christmas vision. Could it be that the Carousel Theatre was actually spinning? Could it be that a small army of painters were touching up the queue area and flower bed planters? Were those maintenance workers and electricians with tool belts buzzing in and out of the theatre, checking out the motors, automatic doors, and audio-animatronics? Was the theatre stopping in the right places and starting on queue? And was the attractions host coming down the entrance ramp to let me in the hallowed halls of the Carousel Theatre?

The answer to all of these questions was YES! At a couple minutes after 11AM, the first group of Carousel visitors were ushered into the theatre. All around me I heard parents telling their children how important this show was. That they had seen it first at the NY World's Fair "way back in 1964" with THEIR parents when THEY were children. That they remember all of the words to the song. That they looked and listened in awe to the promise of progress.

By the time the automatic doors closed, the entire theatre was full and the air was electric (pardon the pun) with anticipation and excitement. As the curtains were raised and the narrator began to speak, applause erupted from the crowd. And then, our wonderfully familiar trip through a century of electricity began. And, to my amazement, as the theatre turned from late 19th century to early 20th century, I glimpsed the adjacent theatre -- completely full, too!!!!

After getting over the shock of seeing grandma in her virtual reality helmet, the audience ended the show with another round of enthusiastic applause. What a fabulous treat for this Carousel aficionado as well as for the other guests that day! How wonderful it was to see the Carousel fill up theatre after theatre of eager visitors!

While I was raised on -- and loved -- the "Now is the Time" version, I have also come to appreciate the fact that the original sets, audio-animatronics and other features of the show are virtually the only items in the entire WDW Magic Kingdom that Walt personally designed, handled and touched. I hope that the Attractions management team will rethink the decision to close this attraction, given the importance and apparent resurgent popularity of the Carousel of Progress. Isn't the philosophy of the Magic Kingdom about parents sharing experiences with children? What better way to do that than to allow parents to share the Carousel of Progress show -- and their memories of it -- with their children for years to come?

Additionally, keeping Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress open reminds visitors -- especially younger generations -- that Walt Disney was the name of a great man, not just a great corporation. However, if after Christmas the Carousel (and Timekeeper) actually do ride off into the sunset of Yesterland permanently, I will have to accept that fact with disappointment. But I also will be at peace, for I had the opportunity to say goodbye and farewell to a dear friend. After all, isn't that least we ask for when we lose a loved one?

A.

Thanks for the great note! I'll make sure to share it with MousePlanet readers!

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Q.

And to end on another great note, Patty wroteHi Brian! We left December 6 and returned December 14, 2001. In all honesty, the cutbacks were not noticeable to us and we were just there a year ago. Early Entry? We only used it to plan around, not plan for. The crowds were so small, this was a non-issue. Everything was a walk-on. If the sign said there was a 10-minute wait, this always meant walk on with no wait. Carousel of Progress? Ok, so it was closed. I've never been to WDW when something wasn't closed for refurbishment. Big deal; it's not like this was the only attraction in Tomorrowland. No street performers? Found this not to be the case. We watched the British Invasion in England. The living statues were out in France. We saw the same performer both times and she was fantastic. We had never seen this before and made a special trip back just to see it again. Absolutely fascinating to watch not only the statue herself, but especially her interaction with people in the crowd. Bad attitudes on the part of cast members? Never saw it once.

It's all matter of your glass being half empty or half full. The events of September 11 made me see things in a whole new perspective and I wish others would do this as well. When you start complaining about something, even if it is a really big deal to you, just stop and reflect for a moment -- in the large scheme of things, is it really that important? Considering the loss many families have faced in the last few months, doesn't complaining about a few changes at an amusement park seem kind of trivial and inconsequential?

I've got to tell you and anyone who might happen to read this, was our best trip ever. We never felt for a moment that we weren't getting our money's worth or that we had been cheated in any way. The magic is still there 100% if you don't spend all your time looking for proof that it isn't.

As I said, this was our best trip ever and I'm ready to go again. You may share this with MousePlanet readers if you wish or not. As far as I'm concerned, it's still the happiest place on earth!

A.

Patty,

Thanks for your note! I will definitely share it on the site.

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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