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MousePlanet Mailbag for May 26, 2005

We asked for you to submit your experiences with the Disney's Magical Express service that shuttles on-property guests from Orlando International to Walt Disney World resort hotels and back free of charge, and you certainly have! It seems that the experience of travelers somewhat depended on the time of their arrival and their level of communication and confirmation with Disney beforehand. Also, along the lines of “you can't please everybody,” it appears that some people were very happy about things that others had problems with (such as the videos shown aboard the buses). It also seems that some were dissatisfied with their experiences with the Mears staff members involved in this service. We hope that these comments from those who have already experienced Disney's Magical Express will help you prepare for your own upcoming trips.

While those writing to us from the cast member side have asked us not to reprint their notes, here is a sampling of the experience that folks have had with this new service from the guests' side.

Sarah T. writes:

Having just recently traveled to WDW at the start of the Magical Express program and reading of the difficulties, I thought I would pass on our experience. Our trip was from May 6 through May 15 and I admit I was a bit nervous about being a part of “working the bugs out” of the system.

We received the luggage tags (about one week in advance of the trip), but the flight info was not in the booklet. I called and provided the information without any difficulty. When we arrived in the airport on the morning of the 6th, once into the main area of the airport, there were cast members every hundred feet or so directing travelers toward the check in. My wait in line was about 10 minutes and cast members were trying to expedite the process. After about two minutes at the counter, we were directed to the bus line. There was a five–minute wait for the bus and we were on our way. I am not exactly sure how long it took the luggage to get to the room, as we checked in, had lunch and went to Epcot. It was there waiting at 7 p.m. when we returned. Frankly, I was amazed at how smoothly the process worked. I guess we were luckily.

After reading about cast members quitting and unhappy guests, I just wanted to say our experience was pleasant and hopefully those kinks will work themselves out.

Kathleen Lynch writes:

We had, on May 9, a short (15 minute) wait to get our voucher stamped, walked right onto a Riverside bus, and our luggage was in our room in four hours. I SHOULD note that I had made numerous calls to give flight info ahead of time, but… Disney Express Mailed my yellow tags and voucher book, so I was tagged and ready for departure from New York to Orlando.

Return to New York too early for express check–in, but our bus was on time and took us right near the American Airlines check–in at Orlando International.

Not bad, I thought!

Mike writes:

We used the service on May 7, 2005. It was my wife and three kids (5, 3, and 6–month–old). The only problem we had either way at the start. We are DVC members staying our first night at the cabins in Ft. Wilderness. Stood in the line for the Ft. Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, and Contemporary Resort. Got to the bus and was asked what resort (Ft. Wilderness) and then told we were in the wrong line. Mears employee was not helpful, but a Disney employee came around and all was sorted out. It took an hour to get on the bus, but overall was happy with the service.

I think Disney is going to have to distance itself with Mears. The driver we had talked about how his tips stopped because everyone was now taking Disney's service. We gave him a tip, just less than we would have otherwise.

I think it will get better as the service matures, but I think Disney will have to take over the bus portion to make things more 'Disney.'

Melissa writes:

My mother and I went to Disney World last week and stayed in the Boardwalk Villas. We arrived at the airport and went to the Mears counter to get a bus to our resort. There they informed us about Disney's Magical Express and told us where to find the counter. We walked right up to the counter with no wait at all (it was around 4:00 in the afternoon) and explained our situation. We had no checked bags—just two carry–on items each. The cast member got our information, including our return flight information, and sent us over to the line to wait for the bus. We waited less than 10 minutes for the bus to arrive, but it took a little loner for it to actually leave. We probably waited about 15 more minutes on the bus before it left. We had no problem getting the bus to return to the airport (although we did have to wait about 2 hours at the airport because we got there so early).

Overall, it was a very enjoyable experience—especially because it was free and we hadn't signed up for it in advance.

Bob Hendrix writes:

We arrived at Orlando on May 14 and had a wonderful experience with Disney's Magical Express. We had received our luggage tags five days before leaving, so we able to have them on our luggage. We landed at Orlando at 8:30 a.m. and with the Magical Express we were checked in and in our room at Pop Century by 9:45 a.m. Our bags were in our room when we returned to our room at 2:00 p.m.

Our return on May 20 went as smooth if not better. Our experience with Magical Express was indeed magical!

A. Wade writes:

Magical Express really isn't that bad. I took it on May 11 and 19. When I approached the counter and saw what seemed like a huge line, I was prepared for the worst. As the line progressed, I began to realize much of the problem was with guests not listening to the cast member at the end of the line, who was telling people to send ONE member of their party in the line. I guess a lot of guests didn't get this, as entire families with strollers, luggage, and kids hanging off of them were getting into line together totally ignoring the cast member. I would understand if it was a single adult with children who couldn't be left alone, but apparently these multi–adult families were too “special” to be separated for 10 minutes.

Anyway, once I got through the artificially inflated line, I felt very bad for those people who didn't get their tags in the mail and didn't know enough just to go get your own bags first. They were spending 5, 10, or more minutes with a cast member and a laminated sheet of luggage pictures (like you see airport security using) trying to describe each and every bag. In the time it took all these people to describe their luggage (sounds like searching in a needle in a really big haystack to me) they could have already been on their way.

Working with the cast member was easy, and he was very relieved I didn't have to sit there and describe my bags to him. I got my tickets and was again on my way in about 60 seconds. Total time in line was about 15 minutes. We boarded a bus immediately, which took off within five minutes. When we got to the resort we already had our luggage so we checked in, and voila… no issue.

My advice for dealing with Magical Express is really simple—it's a great service, but if you want control of your luggage (or didn't get your tags) just get your own, like normal, and THEN check into the Magical Express counter. There isn't much they can say if you show up with your luggage—and it just saves them time. Don't listen to the cast members on the phone who tell you to give them your baggage ticket, etc. (especially since some airlines don't issue claim tickets these days)—just get your own luggage. There is plenty of room under the bus and it was very nice to arrive in my room with my luggage and be able to start our trip without worrying about it.

I think next time, even if I do get the luggage tags in time, I still will get my own luggage—the free ride with a magical video to watch was enough for me. It was just so much easier this way.

Jayde Corwin writes:

We arrived on May 5 at Orlando airport. We had emailed our request for Magical Express but it was not 21 days in advance so our luggage tags had not arrived.

When we arrived at 11:00 a.m. the line to the counter was over two hours long and the bus line looked to be at least 500 deep. We opted to get our luggage and wait for the rest of our party to arrive and hitched a ride with them in a rental car instead of enduring the long wait. Our experience with Hertz took almost two hours to get a rental car after they sent us all over their parking lot to find a van with keys.

Our return trip on the Magical Express was wonderful. We checked our luggage at the Grand Floridian with no lines in about four minutes and boarded a bus immediately. There were no other stops and only one other couple on the bus. The driver was very nice and gave us a lot of unnecessary but friendly info about Orlando on our way to the airport.

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time to shop at the Disney store and have lunch before leaving. Our tickets and seat assignments were perfect and we got right on our American Airlines flight. Our luggage was at the terminal ready for us moments after we got off the plane back in Dallas. How wonderful not having to lug it to the airport. The service was great and the price was wonderful for the return. Just caution your readers to request using email at least 21 days in advance so they can send you the luggage tags before you depart.

This was our first WDW trip and the info from your site helped us get the most out of our vacation. Thanks. More info for people of size at the parks would be great.

Ian writes:

This was my experience on May 7 (Sunday) at 8 a.m.

We entered the Wilderness Lodge line–up, waited for about 30 minutes. We were asked probably five or six times what hotel we were going to, when the sign only read Wilderness Lodge. Yes.

The Mears employees are horrible. They appear so… not Disney. Getting to the resort, we were forced to watch an “educational video” on Disney World.

The buses are really nice, though. Inside and out. We only stopped at Port Orleans.

Coming back was fine, but the DVD player wasn't on. Instead, the screensaver was on the whole time. Very annoying and disappointing they didn't show at least a movie or something.

We stopped at the Polynesian and Grand Floridian resorts. Next time we will take a cab or something.

Anyway, the employees were disappointing. It's the first thing you see once getting off the plane and hearing them yell at each other and to each other was not fun. It is very awkward sitting on a quiet bus for 15 minutes waiting for it to go when all you can hear is what the Mears employees are saying to each other. Yay. Magical.

I wish there was a monorail!

No problems with luggage because I only travel with carry–ons. Although it was chaos once we arrived at the airport… every man for himself at the luggage thing! The bus driver did not do a good job informing us what to do or organizing us at all. Very stupid.

Well, it was a good try Disney, but not quite. If you want something done right, do it yourself. There was a reason I never took Mears in the first place.

Jonas Swe, of Oslo, Norway writes:

Hi, I am a big fan of MousePlanet.

I visit the site several times per day and your WDW planning section is just outstanding. To help me plan the upcoming trip I also visit WDW message boards, MousePad, Intercot, LaughingPlace and DISboards to name a few.

After reading the article about Disney's Tragical Express I have been wondering how Disney could fail on such an excellent concept. And what strikes me when I search on the subject and discuss it with others, is that people in general seem to be too impatient.

There are two common scenarios:

1) You have the guests rethinking their strategy, and decide to drop the Disney's Magical Express and arrange for their own transportation. But they forget to notify Disney, who are left waiting for luggage that never shows up at baggage claim…

2) And you have the guests that instead of waiting for their turn, they claim their luggage, bypass the Disney's Magical Express service and head off to the parks on their own.

No wonder Disney fails here, when they are left behind struggling to get back on track, when every other bag is missing?

Can you blame them for having a hard time keeping up and delivering the luggage on time?

In my opinion, not really.

Just a thought, thanks for your great articles!

Chris Barry writes:

Our only problem was we never received the luggage tags and information in time for our trip. That led us to claim our own baggage and bring it to the Magical Express check–in. This was really no problem at all.

Upon check–in, which went very smooth, there was a bus waiting for us, which we sat on for about five minutes before pulling out. There was no one in line for the busses. We arrived around 7:30 p.m. on a Thursday. There were lots of cast members on hand. Ever friendly as usual. The ride was pleasant with one stop before our resort.

Checking out was just as easy. I was given a time the day before check–out. We showed up and put our bags on the bus ourselves. We were flying Southwest, which is not participating in the resort boarding pass check–in. We were then on our way with one stop before the airport.

Here's my bottom line. They took me from the airport and back for free on a nice bus with a video for my daughter to enjoy. I saved close to $100 on taxis, so I'm happy. That $100 paid for a nice dinner at the Coral Reef for the three of us.

Amy Kowalsky writes:

The Magical Express bus did not pick us up as scheduled to return to the airport. We were scheduled to be picked up at 4:55 p.m. on Friday, May 13 for a 7:40 p.m. flight. We arrived 15 minutes early at the bus stop as requested by guest services. After sitting at the bus stop for an hour and 45 minutes our bus final arrived at the resort to pick us up. We were dropped off at the airport at 6:58 p.m. 2 minutes before the last possible check–in before our flight. Thankfully the people in line at the check–in counter let us in front of them or we would have missed our flight. The reason we were given for the extremely late service was apparently someone forgot to do the pick up at the resort.

T.C. Heller writes:

We leave for WDW in two weeks and are still waiting for info on the Magical Express service. When I contacted the concierge at Grand Floridian they told me to call 866–599–0951. I had to chuckle at the message you get when you call: The cast member who recorded the message sounds tired, overworked and even makes a small sigh during the message.

In short, they're asking people to be patient.

And as you've said on your Web page, “it's free!” (Although I would argue that nothing in Disney is “free.” They still end up getting your money one way or another!

Thanks for a great Web site!

Debbie Auger writes:

Hi Mark. We used Magic Express on May 10 along with others family members from Maine and Massachusetts. We didn't receive our luggage tags until a few days before departure, but that was the worst of it. All went very smoothly for all three families. We checked in and boarded the bus with little delay. It was great and we would recommend this service to everyone. Our bags were in our room after check–in when it was ready. We checked into the Boardwalk Villas around noon and the rooms weren't ready yet. When we got in our rooms around 1:30, our bags were waiting for us. Check–out went just as easy and one member was able to flight check at the hotel as they were flying American Airlines and had no problem. We left on May 17. I think we avoided a lot of the crowds by traveling Tuesday to Tuesday.

We had a great vacation and can't wait to go back. We would use this service again!

Roy Gallagher writes:

We had a good experience on DME. We recieved our DME ticket and luggage tags about a week before we left. We arrived and departed at unusal times, so that probably had a big effect on our experience. We arrived from DFW at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18. We went straight to the DME desk at MCO and were but on a bus that left in 10 minutes. Thaey place on a Disney Cruise Line bus that was in less than good condition. We were the first stop, Boardwalk Inn. It may have taken 40 minutes from the time we landed until we were in our hotel room. We had no problem getting our bags delivered. Returning home was little more complicated. Our flight from MCO depparted at 6:14 a.m. on Monday, May 23. At that time of day they is no way to check in or have your bags handled by DME. We had to check our bags at the airport. DME scheduled us for a 3:20 a.m. pickup and we have to be there by 3:05 a.m.. The 3:20 a.m. bus was a no show, the phone numbers they print in the DME packet are only anwered during business hours (8–5?). The Boardwalk Inn desk clerk helped me find a nighttime number for DME. The offered to call a cab or have me wait for a 3:50 a.m. bus. Since it was 3:45 a.m. by the time I reached them, I chose to wait for the 3:50 a.m.a.m. bus. It was a brand new, very clean bus. They showed a little video on what to expect at the aiport. Overall a positive experience for free, if the start charging I would probably use a towncar service. Most of my issues were created by the flight times I chose.

Kevin writes:

Just wanted to add my two cents about Disney's Magical Express service. We used it on May 10 and had absolutely no problems! We arrived at the airport shortly after noon on the 10th. We were directed to the check in counter by the many white gloved cast members. Once at the counter I had no wait at all, walked right up to the agent. Unfortunately, I did not receive my luggage tags in the mail before my trip but it was no problem. The CM pulled out a sheet of paper with pictures of all different types of luggage and asked me to point out what my luggage looked like. He also asked me for my claim checks for the bags. (He did return them) The CM printed my vouchers and directed me to the line for Pop Century. 10 minutes later, I was on the bus headed to my hotel. The luggage arrived unharmed a few hours later.

The return went just as smooth. The only issue we had was they did not have the return time for our flight. There was an envelope on our door the night before departure with a number to call and schedule our pick up time.

Overall, I give Disney's Magical Express a big thumbs up…especially since it's free!

(Now if only they could do something about the snooty towncar driver that paraded in front of the DME lines waving his sign saying “There's no wait with towncar service”.)

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