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MousePlanet Mailbag for February 13, 2003

We receive considerable feedback regarding our site. Although we cannot publish all of them, the following may be of interest to other readers.

Feedback about our 2/10 “Park Updates: Disneyland” column

Sam writes:

Hi there! I was reading your park update for Disneyland and I noticed under the AAA promotion that you mention an “Unlimited” FastPass. Is this what I think it is? A Fastpass that never expires so you can go straight to all the Fastpass entrances. If so is there a way to get one without going through AAA?

Sam – As the Fastpass system currently works, when you get a Fastpass to one attraction, you can not get a Fastpass to another attraction until:

  1. Your first FastPass becomes valid or
  2. Two hours after you got the first Fastpass — which ever comes first.

For example, let's say that at 10:00 a.m., you obtain a Fastpass for Indiana Jones Adventure that is valid from 11:00 to noon. You cannot get another Fastpass until the Indiana Jones Fastpass becomes valid at 11:00.

If that Fastpass you picked up at 10:00 a.m. for Indy is valid from 3:00 to 4:00 (that is, five hours after you pick up your pass), you can get a second Fastpass at noon — two hours after you got the first one.

The Unlimited Fastpass feature means that you can obtain passes to multiple attractions at the same time, without having to wait for the next “window.” You can go around the park and get Fastpass tickets for any attraction you want, regardless of how many you already have, or when you got them. These still have times on them — you don't just walk up to the Fastpass entrance and show your AAA card.

At the moment, the Unlimited Fastpass feature is only available when you book packages through AAA or Disney Travel.

Feedback for Mike Scopa (“Scoping the Parks”)

Bob writes:

I just finished reading your recent column and thought I'd ask you a question about my upcoming trip to Walt Disney World, although it doesn't necessarily pertain to WDW specifically.

I'm taking my 9-year-old nephew in January. It will be his first time and my fifth (fourth as an adult), so needless to say, I'm getting more excited everyday. My nephew would be excited, too, but he won't know about it until Christmas Eve. My question is: Are there any special things or precautions I should know about before we go? Basically, do I need written permission from his parents? What kind of things would be good to know or to do? My first thought is his safety. I know this isn't really a WDW question, but I thought maybe another uncle, aunt, or grandparent had asked you this before.

Bob – You need a permission slip or letter signed by his parents giving you the authority to serve as his guardian during the trip. What this means is that if, for instance, there is a need for medical attention, you can act as if you were his father in authorizing medical treatment.

It may also be a good idea to carry copies of any medical insurance information you may need to use in case of an emergency.

Also, you may want to ask others who have traveled with children and, if possible, also pose this question to an attorney.

I've done a lot of coaching, and I've often requested parents to give me a letter stating that I have the authority to grant medical attention to their children in their absence.

Better to be safe than sorry.

Scott writes:

I have an unusual but pleasant question to ask you. Several weeks ago, I called Disney Dining regarding the Cinderella's Round Table breakfast at the Magic Kingdom. Of course they told me that you had to call before 7:02 a.m. or the breakfast would be booked after that. They then told me about the new Storybook Princess Breakfast at the Restaurant Akershus in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot. They had openings for one of the days that we would be in Florida on vacation. I decided to book the reservations and they told me to try and call for the Cinderella breakfast when the reservation window opens. I tried for a few days and on the last day I got through and made our reservations. Here comes the good part. It seems that the reservations are for the same day. Not wanting to eat breakfast twice, could you please explain some of the differences in the two different character breakfasts? Which one do you think the readers prefer?

Scott – I am not aware of any major difference in the food served at these two breakfasts. These two character breakfasts are distinct, however, in the characters you will see at each meal.

Let's first look at Cinderella's Round Table in the Magic Kingdom. The name of the breakfast implies that Cinderella is “in the house” and several other characters usually accompany her. The only other character that I would expect to see at every breakfast would be the Fairy Godmother. As far as others appearing at this breakfast, your guess is as good as mine. There is a rotating cast that will appear at this breakfast.

The Storybook Princess Breakfast in Epcot does not include Cinderella. She is exclusive to the Magic Kingdom's breakfast.

Last summer when I attended the Storybook Princess Breakfast, I received visits from Snow White, Jasmine, Mary Poppins, Sleeping Beauty, and Belle, but not Cindy. Actually I was more disappointed that Esmeralda wasn't there.

The family of four next to us had a set of twin girls who kept asking about Cinderella. Her parents were under the impression that Cinderella would show at any time. I thought it best to inform the parents that Cinderella would not show. The parents were a bit upset as they said that when they made the reservations they were under the impression that Cinderella would appear at this breakfast.

I'm assuming that when they first called up to make priority seating at Cinderella's Round Table the breakfast was booked and were given this alternative character breakfast… but may not have been told that Cinderella appeared at the Magic Kingdom breakfast only.

As far as which of the two is most preferred, I'm guessing that the idea of eating in the castle and seeing Cinderella is probably most preferred by children.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Storybook Princess Breakfast in Epcot. Of course when we were seated at our table, the cast member who sat us turned to me and said, “And which princess did you come to have breakfast with?”

Without flinching I turned and pointed to my wife and said “My lovely wife, of course.”

Points for Mike.

Regards,

Mike

Deeschnickl writes:

Does the ride Dinosaur have any drops? Also, is it any more jostling around than Star Tours? I have some back problems, but I love dinosaurs and want to know just how jerky it is.

Deeschnickl – Countdown to Extinction, the dinosaur ride, is pretty jerky. And I'm guessing herky-jerky movements are worse for your back than drops.

It's better to compare Countdown to Extinction to Body Wars. Star Tours is somewhat of a rough ride but not as herky-jerky as Body Wars.

Countdown to Extinction is even rougher than Body Wars and could very well take on the moniker of “roughest attraction” in Walt Disney World.

The best way to describe it is to say it's like riding a large Jeep-type vehicle over very bumpy roads. The Jeep is forever going up and down in the front and in the back. It's almost as if you are riding on top of cars in a parking lot: It's important to hold on tight at all times

All this takes place mostly in the dark. Every so often, the lights come on and you find yourself looking at some pretty impressive T-Rex dental work, which makes you want to hold on even tighter.

Anyone who has either back or motion sickness issues should avoid this attraction. You also need to be able to hold on as tight as possible. As far as young children go, I'd base my decision on the size of the child... maybe 9 or 10 would be the youngest I would consider for this attraction.

Of course, the next time I get the chance I will do it again!

When I wrote the one-day touring plan for the Magic Kingdom, I revisited that article several times before I had put together what I had thought was the best possible plan. I wondered if any of my readers would ever appreciate how difficult it was to write that article. Tim sent me mail and answered my question:

I just read your one-day guide to the Magic Kingdom, and what comes to mind is how difficult it really is to write a "general guideline," because of all the different factors involved: Number of past visits, ages of family members, weather, open times, stamina, interests, crowd sizes, budget, admission media, attraction rehabs, and so on.

One question I had concerned the list of "most popular attractions," or the E-ride list. Every time I visit, there is a long line and a need for Fastpass for the Jungle Cruise. It is also, in my humble opinion, the second best attraction after dark (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is in the top spot). Shouldn't Jungle Cruise be offered as an E-ride, as opposed to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority? Maybe the issue is the number of cast members required (3 versus 15), or maybe Adventureland is not used during E-ride nights? Thanks for your thoughts!

Tim – You're right about putting together a guide for a park tour. There are so many factors involved that it's necessary to put in assumptions.

I think the Jungle Cruise is a victim of the E-ride night overall plan to exert some crowd control. Only the Liberty Square and Tomorrowland are used on E-ride nights.

There are no Adventureland or Fantasyland attractions offered, either.

E-ride night is primarily used to attract the young adult crowd who likes thrilling rides like the mountain rides.

I think, however, a case could be made for Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan's Flight, and the Jungle Cruise. After all, aren't we talking about the most popular attractions?

To beat that Jungle Cruise queue, I'd pick an early entry day and make a beeline to the attraction as soon as the gates open or go to it during parade or fireworks times. Actually, the last few times I enjoyed the Jungle Cruise was via the Fastpass route.

Sue writes:

I was wondering if you are staying in one of the Disney resorts, if you could freely park at a different resort. The last time I was there (in August 2001), this was not a problem. Is there a time limit on parking elsewhere? I didn't know if there are changes since 9/11.

Also can you use any days left on old passes for entrance or do you have to use them toward the purchase of new passes? What do you suggest?

Sue – Regarding parking at the resorts, the answer is both yes and no. Let me explain.

Resort guests are given parking permits to display on top of their dashboards. These tell the security guards of your status as a resort guest and will wave you on with no problem.

This is true for most resorts. However when it comes to the monorail resorts (Grand Floridian, Polynesian Resort, Contemporary) there is a different set of rules. These rules vary from season to season, and from guard to guard and are always subject to change.

From what I saw and heard last year, resort guests who drive to monorail resorts are asked about their visit. If you have a reservation at a resort restaurant you shouldn't have a problem.

Guests who have “business” at the resort are usually asked to park in a special area and are given a parking permit that is good for only so many hours. It's usually enough time to enjoy a leisurely meal and maybe do some shopping.

It's probably not long enough to allow you to enjoy the Magic Kingdom for about five hours.

What happens if you abuse that parking permit? Good question. I haven't heard from anyone who has tested it.

A few years back, my family stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort and purchased a length-of-stay membership at the Contemporary's Health Club. That allowed us to park at the Contemporary whenever we wanted to...not sure if the same holds true today.

As far as old passes go, it may depend on how readable they are to the turnstiles. Unless the passes have been living the life of a chew toy for a cocker spaniel, the turnstile readers should accept them.

If you know what you require for admission media during your trip, you might as well think about taking your remaining admission and applying that value to a new pass. For what it's worth, that is what I usually did before I discovered the world of annual passes.

Greg writes:

I enjoyed reading your latest article on MousePlanet, but I have to say that Sue Pisatauro's idea for a centrally located Fastpass location sounded awfully familiar.

Others may have proposed the idea before me, but I proposed the same idea in alt.disney.disneyland almost three years ago (way back in May 2000). [Greg included a link to the Google group search and a copy of his post.]

It's really a shame that Disney hasn't implemented this idea (and I may not have been the first to propose it) over the last three years, but maybe the mention in your column will stir some thinking at Disney that my idea did not stir two and a half years ago.

Greg – If you noticed, I tried to work the article so both the guests and Disney enjoy a win-win situation with any of the resolutions. I'm sure we all have endless wish lists on what we would like to see changed, but there has to be something in it for the resort before it would be considered.

[For the record Greg's post does verify that he discussed this idea a few years back in that newsgroup. Of course great minds think alike and I think that both Sue and Greg make a great suggestion regarding Fastpass. I just wish I had thought of it first.]

Greg replied to my reply with this, erh…reply:

I agree with you that I was probably not the first person to think of that idea — I just found it interesting that the idea has been floating out there for almost three years.

I do think it's a little sad that an idea that seemed so reasonably obvious more than two and a half years ago has not been acted upon by Disney management (and this is their job that they live and breathe at, and for most of us it's just a little hobby/obsession).

As I noted, hopefully the exposure in your article might get someone at Disney thinking about ways to really improve the park (instead of ways mainly designed to increase their profits). By the way, a Central Fastpass Station would also probably serve to increase their profits, since guests could spend less time hoofing it from Fastpass to Fastpass, and more time shopping and eating.

Thanks again for the time!

That's a pretty good concept… listening to the customers… do ya think anyone is listening or reading? Time will tell.

Feedback for Lani Teshima
I got quite a bit of e-mail from the wonderful folks in Team Penguin – Disney regarding my recent article, “Agony of Da Feet: 2003 WDW Marathon.”

Cheryl writes:

Lani, GREAT article! Thanks for linking it to us! And the quotes for Terri and Larry [in the article] were great!

I have to say that the comment about the shirt saying “this one's for dad” and “miss you dad” left me sitting here crying like a baby! With all the memories from all our family vacations at Disney through the years, I cried the entire way through Epcot that morning. I was so thankful that around the race track I met a woman from near Indianapolis, and we finished the race together... thankful not just for the company, but she kept my mind to busy during the Magic Kingdom to let it wander back to all those memories and the tears that would flow along with them! Thanks again for the great article! Already looking forward to next year's event.

Cheryl – I think that's one of the things that is so difficult to explain to someone who has never experienced a marathon-distance event. The sense of purpose, determination, devotion, and commitment – not only to the event, but to everything surrounding it – fills me with awe. I was really astounded at the huge number of people who were running the marathon for someone besides just themselves.

I do hope that the marathon was cathartic for you. I'm sure your father was very proud of you as he watched over you.

Larry J., who was quoted in the article as only being able to see the outline of the state of Michigan on his Donald Duck Half Marathon medal, writes:

Great article, Lani!

I do treasure my medal, I do...

I'll treasure a Mickey (medal) even more....

Larry – I hope you consider doing the full distance next year. And if you don't, I noticed that the confectionary store in Downtown Disney that sells a package of one big round and two smaller gold chocolate coins in a transparent plastic holder in the shape of a Mickey head, that has a hole on top. If you end up with another Donald medal, you can always get your own chocolate Mickey medal!

Terry Jordan, who was also quoted in the article, writes:

Thanks for the quote Lani! Although I did not run this year, it was a great article to read and remember the wonderful time I had — as well as a reminder to register next month for the full!

I really do encourage everyone to give it a try, whether for the full or half-marathon. Registration becomes available on March 1, which happens in just a couple of weeks!

Jim writes:

Lani, you put together a great article. I have bookmarked it under my “Running” folder so that I can go back to it anytime to relive the moments that are starting to fade now. I really think you should have mentioned something about our tour of Mickey's Magical sewage treatment plant between the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom though. LOL!

I do treasure your description of the last three parks since they were sort of a blur to me on race day. (One of my heart medications keeps my maximum heart rate at something below 95 so by that stage of the race, I was beginning to get a little bleary eyed and woozy). The pictures helped a great deal to reinforce some wonderful memories. Thanks again.

Jim – I seriously considered a more detailed description of the marathon route, including the sewage treatment plant. I will save it for the future, since I thought that such loveliness might dissuade our sedentary friends from wanting to participate in the future. Expect a new WDW Marathon Guide in at MousePlanet sometime this year that provides all the gory details!

We even got congratulations from MousePlanet columist Mike Scopa, who writes:

Great article. it really gave me an idea of what the WDW Marathon is all about... especially since my dream is to some day actually do it.

What did you guys pull off for times?

Not sure if I can run a marathon... have done as much as 11 and 12 mile runs... I guess the adrenalin rush of running through the resort would help... plus the flat roads... stuff not seen in New Hampshire. It sure sounds like fun.

Well Mike, the reason we didn't post our finishing times was because there were moments where I was jogging slower than some of the walkers! Suffice it to say, let's just leave it at, “We finished before the seven-hour cutoff period, and we hope to finish faster next year.”

GENERAL QUESTIONS

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