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MousePlanet Mailbag for February 26, 2004

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

Feedback for Lani Teshima – The Trip Planner

Rob Sykes asks a number of travel-related questions:

Hello from New Zealand. I'm not quite sure who to send this to, so thought you might be able to pass it on to the right person.

I'm a Disney fan (always have been) from New Zealand who had the amazing opportunity to visit Disneyland for the first time in 1997... Now I am married with two great little kids and have decided to visit Disneyland again for the 2005 50th Anniversary... My wife and I will visit alone.

We have a few questions and wondered if anyone had any other ideas:

1. We are planning on visiting in October 2005 to catch the Haunted Mansion Holiday layover as well as the overall resort Christmas transformation. Would this be worth our while, or should we visit at another time of the year.

2. We are not sure whether we should begin to book accommodation now understanding that rooms will fill quickly for next year.

3. Should we wait until the media release in July for more details before making more firm plans?

4. Should we stay in a surrounding hotel/motel to save a bit of money, or splash out on a resort room?

5. We think we will buy a 5-day park hopper pass so that we have access to both parks. Where is the best place to purchase these so that we know we're getting a good deal?

Sorry about asking so many questions. We are just very anxious to make sure that we don't miss out and that we are well planned. This will my wife's first visit to Disneyland. I'm impressed that she is humoring me and coming to on the trip, so I want this to be just as special to her as it will be for me.

Any advice will be much appreciated. Thanks so much for this wonderful site. I check every week on Monday nights (NZ time) to get my weekly fix of updates. Without your site, I'd feel very out of touch considering I'm way around the other side of the world.

Hi Rob –

1. Going to the park during the holiday season – If the Holiday period is special for you and your wife, and you have never visited Disneyland during this time, I think it would be a great time to visit. The weather's not too hot, and although you might face some rain, it should be comfortable enough if you wear a light sweater or jacket. Just make sure to time your visit so as to avoid the actual holidays (Thanksgiving weekend is the weekend of November 24 for 2005) and the last two weeks of Christmas through New Year's.

Also, keep in mind that the primary visitor at Disneyland lives in Southern California, and is likely to visit on a weekend. If you can time your trip to span the weekdays, it will be less crowded.

2. When to book? If you already know exactly what days you want to visit, you might want to start calling around. Many places will not let you reserve more than 365 days before your date, so you may need to wait until this fall. That said, I would check first in case they are willing to take your reservation early.

The only thing I would avoid is buying airline tickets now. With hotel reservations, you will probably not have to pay a deposit for quite a while, so canceling it will not cost you a penalty.

3. Wait until July for more details? That depends. Do you think you will decide against your trip if you don't hear much more? If your trip depends completely on what may happen, then you might benefit from waiting. However, the park will have some offerings for the 50th Anniversary. If you want to make the trip anyway, don't let the number of celebrations or new announcements dissuade you from visiting.

4. What sort of lodging? That depends greatly on how much of a splurge this trip will be for you. There are a number of nice hotels and motels nearby, even a few on Harbor Boulevard that are closer to park entrances than the official Disney hotels. If, however, you want an immersive experience, you can't go wrong with a stay on-property. The Grand Californian Hotel is particularly nice, and is a new hotel you have not had a chance to visit, since it is new.

5. Admission media – Disneyland is almost always offering some promotion or another, but they often have a limited date range for which they are valid. My suggestion is that you wait until closer to your actual visit to see what is available. We always try to provide information on Disneyland promotions in our Park Updates: Disneyland column that you read on Mondays, so keep an eye on that.

Depending on what promotion is available at the time, you might even consider purchasing a Deluxe Annual Pass.

Hope this helps!

Scott Shudy writes:

Dear Lani:

I was wondering if you had a phone number or contact information for the Disney Welcome Center in Ocala, Florida? I read that you can buy two-day non-park hopper tickets there for $99. Do you have to be an AAA member to receive the discount?

I appreciate your help.

Hi Scott – The Ocala Information Reservation Center is no longer operating. They used to offer substantial savings, however, I suspect you may be able to get the same discounted tickets at your local AAA office.

Good luck, and happy travels.

Updated 2007-06-17; Ocala center no longer operating. -- AR

Mark Miller writes:

Lani, what's the update on the 5-for-3-day passport plus from AAA? I'm especially interested in the unlimited Fastpass—I heard they may have canceled that feature. Any info would be great, We'll be traveling from Tucson mid February.

Hi Mark;

The following information is from AAA and is current. Hope this helps!

Disney's Passport Plus Package for 2004 includes:

  • Disneyland Resort Park Hopper Ticket
  • $10 ESPN Zone Arena Game Card
  • Preferred Seating at select shows in Disney's California Adventure Park
  • California Diamond Fun Book (one per package)
  • Free parking at Disneyland Resort Theme Parks

Prices are as follows:

...........Adult.....Child
5-day...$129.....$99
6-day...$159....$129
7-day...$184....$149

An additional handling fee of $10.00 will be charged per mailing address

Cindy Hanks writes:

You mention the use of 2-way radios. Folks should also be reminded that the use of these requires some etiquette. Many folks don't use them for what they are designed for a 30-second “I'll meet you at 3:00” kind of thing.

Folks were so impressed with themselves having these silly things that they used them to have long conversations about non-vacation things, while on rides—apparently they were bored with narration. For example, my Backlot Tour at MGM Studios consisted of hearing my neighbor's detailed account of his home renovations. Perhaps you could just remind folks to try to think of others and not use them on a ride.

Hi Cindy – I couldn't agree with you more on the basic etiquette of two-way radios. As they become more common, it seems that people have less and less knowledge of radio etiquette.

Although I am not a licensed ham radio operator, I am fortunate to use a radio on a fairly frequent basis (I am a volunteer emergency response team member at work), and everyone must take a basic radio etiquette class before being allowed to sign out a radio there.

Adrienne Krock, our Parenting in the Parks editor, has written about FRS radios, although the series did not go into the details on radio etiquette. Since radio use has become so common in parks, it may not be a bad idea for us to provide a basic primer. Ahh, an idea for a Trip Planner article! Thanks for the inspiration, Cindy.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Lani here.
Feedback for Mark Goldhaber – World View

Dan Young writes to us after reading retired Imagineer and contributor George McGinnis' World View series on monorails (on the Mark V, and on the Mark VI)::

Hey there, Mark. I enjoyed Mr. McGinnis's articles about the development of the monorails. There was one piece of information missing from the most recent article. Mr. McGinnis talked about the fold-down seats in the center of the compartments. You even showed a view of the mockup, with those seats intact. As everyone who's ever ridden one of these knows, the seats don't exist. My question is why? It looks like they would have been a perfect fit. I've even pulled down on the center piece, thinking it looked like a bench seat. What happened?

Mark responds:

Hi Dan – According to my correspondence with George, he is under the impression that they are still there, but folded up and locked in place with a key. I'll forward your note to him, in case he'd care to comment.

George responds:

Mark and Dan – The fold-down seats, while they turned out to not work well operationally, served a purpose at the mockup meeting. The compromise of flexible seating moved the project forward with Michael Eisner accepting the idea. There was concern in Florida that the seating issue was going to delay the project. I'm sure the seats are there. There would be no reason to remove them, for the seat bottoms serve as a nice surface to lean against. The design was based on a Lockheed 1011 jumpseat, which I observed on my trips to Canada. It was a simple, compact design. I felt bad about their cost of manufacture when the seats weren't used, until I heard how the compromise saved the day. Thank you, Dan, for your interest in the monorails.

Dan continues:

Thanks for the reply, Mark. Do you know the reason why these aren't used? Seems to me there's plenty of room to make people a bit more comfortable.

Mark responds:

Dan, again from my correspondence with George, we agreed that it seems that the process of converting the seats from up (to allow greater capacity during peak periods of the day) to down (to allow more seating during non-peak periods) might have been too labor-intensive for monorail attendants, as the process of locking and unlocking the seats in each car would take quite a bit of time and slow down monorail operations. I think it's officially a mystery. I'm hoping to take some photos in April/May if I can.

Dan concludes:

Very cool. I received a response from George as well, agreeing with your assessment. Thanks much for the info!

Suzette Mako writes:

I am curious to see if you know anything about perks for organizers of groups to WDW. For example, for some vacation destinations (I have done this specifically with ski and spring break trips), the organizer receives a free (room, entry, other) for securing X number of paid group members. I would like to see if similar perks are available in connection with WDW. Have you any leads, resources or other related information? Thanks so much.

Suzette – I'm not sure that Disney gives trip organizers perks unless they're travel agents, but I can't be certain. Back in 1986, we accompanied my parents on a business convention where my stepmother was the travel agent, and they definitely got discounts and/or free rooms, but that was at the Buena Vista Palace (now Wyndham Palace) in the Downtown Disney resort area. Your best bet might be to call Walt Disney World Resort Group Sales by calling (800) 327-2989, or check out their Web page (link).

Good luck!

Sarah McCoy writes:

Hi Brian,

My husband and I just took a trip to Disney with his family the first week of December. We had a great time, but there were a couple frustrations and I wanted your input.

1. My father-in-law purchased the 5-day park hopper passes for the whole family using his military discount. We were thrilled. Our first day at the parks was on a Monday. My father-in-law couldn't join us until late Monday afternoon because his Air Force duty had run two days longer than expected. We enjoyed the parks on Tuesday and then my father-in-law unexpectedly received orders to return for duty on Thursday. He left Wednesday to return to Charleston for duty. In total, he got to enjoy a day and a half at the parks.

He left the ticket with us. Thinking we could give it to a friend of mine who lives in the Orlando area. This was ideal since we had considered meeting my friend at Epcot for dinner after she got off work.

We noticed the back of the ticket said it was “nontransferable.” I stopped in at guest services and the person I spoke with assured me that no one else could use the ticket. He suggested that we try to “sneak” my friend in on the ticket in the hopes that no one would ask for her ID. He also said that she'd have to have her fingers scanned when they took the ticket.

We didn't want to take the chance of my friend paying $7 for parking and then getting turned away at the gate, plus we were a little annoyed that a cast member had suggested we lie to get my friend in. My friend would have spent money in the park, but as a result of the WDW policy we ended up leaving Disney property and eating with her elsewhere. I guess that's Disney's loss.

Here are my questions:

1. What is Disney's reasoning behind the nontransferable ticket? If you purchase a ticket doesn't it become your property to dispose of as you wish?

2. Here's the next situation. When my father-in-law purchased the tickets, he was asked for the names of each of the ticket holders. The ticket office misspelled my husband's name (Bobby) and instead wrote “Barbie.” When we went through the turnstiles at the parks, my husband got yelled at by a cast member for not having the right ticket. It was very embarrassing when he had to try to convince them that the Barbie ticket was his.

3. I have a question. Does Disney have an address where you can send comments/complaints? I'd like to compliment them on their accessibility for wheelchairs and mention the experiences I've related to you.

4. Our overall impression of WDW: the cast members seemed tired and overworked. How sad.

Sorry this was such a long e-mail.

Hi Sarah – Brian is currently on sabbatical from MousePlanet. I've been responding to many of the e-mail messages sent to him.

I'm unfamiliar with the military discount passes, so I'm not certain as to whether they require the same biometrics scanning as the annual passes. If so, then you were wise to not attempt to have your friend use your father-in-law's pass. If the biometrics scan does not match, proper procedure is to ask for ID. Non-matching ID would reject the pass.

I'm not sure if they would confiscate the pass or return it to you. The purpose of the nontransferable ticket is to ensure that the person who first uses the ticket is the only one to use it. With standard passes, this is not as much of an issue. However, discounted passes and annual passports understandably have more security required. With the annual passes, obviously they want to make sure that the pass is not abused by getting multiple people in on different days, which would defeat the entire purpose of the pass.

With discounted passes (such as the military salute discount), the passes are generally targeted at a specific group of people. The passes are nontransferable to prevent an unscrupulous person from buying large quantities of passes and selling them for a profit.

What shocked me about your note was the cast member's suggestion that you try to sneak your friend in. Aside from the fact that it almost certainly wouldn't work if there was a finger scan involved, they are advocating dishonesty and breaking the rules put in place by their employer. This is not the Disney way. I would bet that the cast member's manager would probably reprimand them (or worse) if they heard about the incident.

As to your second question, see the above concerns regarding abuse of discount passes. In response to your third question, you can e-mail WDW.Guest.Communications@disney.com, or write to

Walt Disney World Guest Communications
PO Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000

On your last point, I have read many stories from people who found the Cast Members dispirited and tired. I'm not sure if it was due to short-staffing at the time of your (and those with the stories') trip, or other things I've heard (cast deployment system, loss of faith in corporate management, etc.), but I have also heard stories of great Cast Member interaction. I guess it's just a consistency issue, and the fact that they have a need for more staff than they can hire with the “Disney attitude.”

Thanks for writing!


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mark here.
Feedback for Mike Scopa – Scoping the Parks

Michael Niehaus writes:

Mike, I am going to WDW in May and read that priority seating for the round table breakfast could be booked 60 days out. I called to get seating for chef Mickey's 90 days out and was shocked to hear that Cinderella's roundtable was booked already 90 days out. Either Disney is changing continually, or bad information is

Hi Michael – Unfortunately as policies change within the Walt Disney World Resort, sometimes the only way this information gets out is through word of mouth.

Cinderella's Round Table is by far the most popular character meal and it actually can be booked three months ahead (or 90 days). Restaurants, character meals, and dinner shows may be booked anywhere from 30 days out to as much as two years out.

I always go to the Priority Seating Calculator Web site (link) for the latest information on Priority Seating policies.

There's a trick to getting a Priority Seating request for Cinderella's Round Table. The key is to call WDW Dining at least five minutes before 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

May I suggest that you book the Storybook Princess Breakfast character meal at Norway in World Showcase?

You won't see Cinderella but you get more bang for your Disney Dollars as you may see Snow White, Princess Aurora, Jasmine, Mary Poppins, Belle, Esmeralda, and others.

Thanks for the note.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

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2002

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