by Mike Scopa
get letters! We get lots and lots of letters!
It's been a while since I've shared
letters from our readers. Let's look into the mailbag and
see what's been on everyone's mind...
Regarding the discussion on theme
park etiquette Tim writes:
I enjoyed your column as always. The sad part is that the
people who should brush up on their public manners will never
read or follow your advice! (You know the type; the ones who behave
Keep up the great work.
PS I was planning to visit Disneyland sometime, but after
reading how bad is has gotten (Disney's California Adventure,
upkeep, etc.), I think my next Disney will be to Paris.
Thanks for the kind words, Tim. Your letter
makes a very good point. If you feel strongly about something that
happened to you while vacationing at Walt Disney World, contact
Guest Services to let them know how you feel. You may be helping
a future guest avoid the same situation.
In the following letter Jeff from Anaheim takes issue
with some of my etiquette guidelines. He writes:
I'm a first-time writer to MousePlanet but a longtime reader.
I just had to write to you about your Theme Park Etiquette piece;
precisely, "Please slide all the way down... " I have
a problem with this (some of your readers may agree with
me and some may not).
You stated "Does being in the center of the row
really mean that much to you?" My answer is "Yes!"
Why else would I arrive at an attraction early and "waste"
some of my valuable time waiting to be seated? So the other guests
who arrive behind me, or worse, late can get the better seats?
Absolutely not!! And I'd have to disagree with you that "Disney
is very good about engineering the theater seats to make
sure everyone has a good view." We all know that the
center seats are the best seats in town. Why else
would we jockey for these seats. We've all had the other seats
where the view was obstructed or we had to crane our necks to
the left/right to see the show/enjoy the attraction.
Here's my solution, which may be in use at other places in
the world, just not at the Disney Resorts (but enlighten
me if I'm wrong). Build entrances, with large audiences,
with multiple openings where the middle seats are occupied
first. 1) It will fill the seats quicker and 2) it should make
the people who arrived and waited and waited and waited to be
seated happy that they got the best seats in town.
One other thing you actually didn't mention, which I found
surprising. Why in the world do cast members make us slide over
to accommodate more room for others? Sure there are spaces to
fit onesies or twosies but I don't like feeling like a sardine.
Do you? Not to mention feeling the heat from the stranger sitting
next to me. Ugh!
Well, Mike, that's it. I chose my battle. Maybe it's not the
right one, but I consider myself to be polite and do follow the
rules. I just have a problem with being accommodating so that
the guests who do arrive after me for one reason or another get
the better seat. We've all experienced this.
Jeff -- Thanks
for the note. I appreciate your arguments.
I think your suggestion about how guests
should enter theaters is an excellent idea. I think that all Disney
show attractions should have the guests enter from the rear of the
theater and then split up and half go to the right and half go to
the left. The seats should have a divider in each row so that those
who are first in line are rewarded for being early birds.
I'm with you on the sardine theory, but
alas, that is not the case and although you and I can make valid
arguments for taking the center seats, it is not what we are being
asked to do. We are asked to slide over to prevent potential injuries
from people climbing over others and to accommodate as many guests
in the performance as possible. I learned early on to not rush into
a theater but instead to hold back. In most cases, I usually end
up in the middle third of each row. When you get a chance, give
that a try.
I strongly support the sliding-over policy
for the monorail, trams, and trains and would like to see all guests
comply with this request.
Hopefully the Imagineers will design show
attraction entrances in the future so that use early birds will
be rewarded with good seats.
Sally, who made the following great point, sent one of the best
letters I received on theme park etiquette:
As someone who spent the summer working in a non-Disney tourist
location (but one that seemed to follow highly Disneyesque standards
of customer service and friendliness), I just wanted to add one
small caveat to your recent article on theme park etiquette. While
I agree that, in the right context, calling an employee by the
name on their badge can be friendly and appreciated, men (especially
older men) should use a little caution when doing so in conversation
with young women. Even if it's meant with the greatest good will,
many of us can't help but find it a little bit patronizing --
or even offensive, depending on the tone of voice.
You make a very good point. It's unfortunate
that in today's world we have such caveats but if you place yourself
on the other side of the fence it's easy to understand why.
I agree that we need make good judgment
as to when and where to call cast members by their first name.
Readers are always the best source for information and tips.
I've just now got around to reading this article (on dining
deals) and noticed that you recommended the Columbia Harbour House
in the Liberty Tree area in the Magic Kingdom. I've never visited
that restaurant, but last time I went to Walt Disney World (the
summer of 2000), my best friend and I ate at the Liberty Tree
Tavern Character Dinner.
We were both surprised at the quality of the food and the
amount. It was a fixed price meal and was served family style
so you could have as many servings as you wanted. Also, the food
was very good and we both couldn't resist seconds on many of the
courses. We couldn't manage dessert.
And as a bonus, it was a character dinner so we got to see
Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. I think Pluto might have been there,
also. Anyway, that is one of my lasting memories from that trip
because the quality of food was above what we had expected, and
because it was a perfect way to relax and refresh before going
out into the hot park again. I highly recommend it.
Thanks for the tip Virginia. The
character dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern has grown in popularity
over the last several years, and this
character meal is another example of the Walt Disney World responding
to requests for more character interaction.
Character meals serve many purposes, including
the benefit of having characters come to you instead of you seeking
them out in the theme parks.
I think of character meals as time optimizers.
You can rest from your park touring, refuel with a meal, and still
have photo opportunities with the characters. That saves time to
do other fun stuff.
The family-style meal approach used in
the Liberty Tree Tavern has also been used at other restaurants
such as Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge and more recently at the
Storybook Princess Breakfast at the Restaurant Akershus in the Norway
Pavilion at Epcot.
Angela had a question on birthday doings at Walt Disney
World and writes:
I thought I saw something a while back, but what sort of birthday
perks are available? We will be visiting Disney and were curious
to see if there is anything we can look out for.
Angela -- Right
off the bat, I'd suggest going to Hoop Dee Doo on your birthday.
There's a real good chance you'd be chosen to participate on stage,
especially if they know it's your birthday and if you are wearing
a special birthday button.
I believe you can take a special birthday
IllumiNations cruise but be advised that you need to plan well in
advance for that.
If you go to a park on your birthday go
to Guest Services and request a birthday button. Fun things happen
when you do so.
Fun restaurants to be in for your birthday
include Chef Mickey's, Whispering Canyon Cafe, and Prime Time Cafe.
I'd call ahead for a priority seating and ask if you can have a
special birthday cake prepared.
Last but certainly not least is to have
someone other than the birthday person mention to the front desk
of your resort as to when your birthday is... the staff will do
something special for you.
Even mentioning that it's your birthday
throughout your day will bring lots of attention.
I have been to Walt Disney World four
times on my birthday, and each time was great.
As prices increase so do the concerns of those planning trips.
On our last trip to the Disneyland Resort (Summer 2001) we
were amazed at the price increases and the lower quality of food.
Feeding a family of four has become prohibitive for a multi-day
visit. Our next trip is scheduled for next summer and we are looking
for ways to cut food costs. Eat in the park as little as possible
seems to be the obvious answer.
Are the Florida parks doing a better job of offering more
value for our money?
I'm going to give that question a yes
answer because there are many more places to choose from in Walt
Disney World than in DL. I think everyone has to keep in mind however
that with a few exceptions, the food quality is pretty consistent
I will say that sometimes the fast food
establishments give you less quality food for the money than the
sit down restaurants.
Belena sent me a message with a question on July 4 at Walt Disney
Do you have any suggestions for the best way to approach July
4 at Walt Disney World? We are semi-veterans (this is our fifth
trip in six years, but have always gone in early June; never on
a holiday.) We hear the crowds on the Fourth are unbelievable,
but we are thinking Walt Disney World might be kind of inspirational
this Fourth after 9/11.
We are thinking that Epcot will be more our style for the
fireworks. Our son is 12 and isn't as inclined to want to be at
Magic Kingdom anymore. Do you think it's a mistake to not be there?
I am big on the symbolism the Magic Kingdom represents, but don't
know if I can handle the gridlock -- or is it gridlock everywhere?
The thing with Fourth of July gridlock
is the Magic Kingdom. The crowds there are huge because there are
fireworks from both ends of Main Street USA. If you want to see
those fireworks, I suggest you stand outside the turnstiles that
evening and watch the display.
My own personal option would take me to
the Disney/MGM Studios. You may want to double-check this, but I'm
pretty sure they will show "Sorcery In the Sky" that evening,
and maybe show an extra bit of fireworks after the show. If you
have never seen "Sorcery," then you may not want to miss
Of course I always love letters from readers just back from
The World. When Belena returned she sent me this note:
I promised that I would write and tell you how the 4th of
July went at the Disney/MGM Studios.
First, let me say thanks for encouraging me to take in the
fireworks show at the Disney/MGM Studios rather than the Magic
Kingdom or Epcot. By all accounts from people on the resort bus
the next day, the Magic Kingdom was absolutely jam-packed -- evidently
by 9:30 a.m. For crowd control when people left the park that
day, they were directed out through back entrances, rubbing a
little magic off the experience, if you ask me.
Anyway, on July 4 they let resort guests into Epcot and the
Disney/MGM Studios early (8 a.m.), I guess to ease the crowding
at the Magic Kingdom. We decided to go right to the Disney/MGM
Studios and we stayed there all day (giving me no excuse to not
ride Tower of Terror for the first time, after five trips to Walt
Disney World, and probably 20 visits to the park)... but never
again... fortunately, my husband and son loved it).
Anyway, the crowds at the Disney/MGM Studios were really manageable
right up until "Sorcery in the Sky," and even then we
had no problem getting a very good view of the show. By the way,
the crowds everywhere were much more like early June crowds; only
the Magic Kingdom and the water parks seemed to have any measurable
gridlock, but nothing unbearable (we were at the World from July
1 through 7).
With Fastpass and a good strategic approach, we never waited
more than 15 to 20 minutes for any attraction. And we even
had time to walk slow enough to drink in the entire atmosphere
and chat with folks from all over the world: My favorites
being a young couple from Birmingham, England, who had
won an all-expenses paid eight-day trip. They were in the most
"Sorcery in the Sky" started promptly at 9, and
the fireworks were held right over the Wizard's hat icon. No inflatable
Wizard Mickey, but that was OK. The hat has its own special lighting
effects, and combined with the fireworks display, I thought it
was spectacular. The music started with "Somewhere Over the
Rainbow," and included other famous movie music like the
themes from "Star Wars" and the "Bridge Over the
River Kwai." The last few songs jumped to the 4th of July
celebration but keeping with the movie theme -- so we heard "Yankee
Doodle Dandy" and "Over There," etc. The program
lasted about 15 minutes, but in my estimation, was just the right
amount of pyrotechnics and visual thunder. The temperature was
a nice 85 degrees with virtually no humidity (even though we had
the usual Florida afternoon storm around 3 p.m.).
I did hear that the Magic Kingdom's fireworks literally surrounded
you and that Epcot had a double dose with Illuminations and then
a 4th of July extra bang at the end. But I was still glad we went
to the Disney/MGM Studios. Earlier in the day, we spent a good
hour in the "One Man's Dream" exhibition (since I'm
an art museum director, the educational and entertainment aspects
of the exhibit were especially interesting). With this being the
100-year celebration of Walt Disney's birth, I felt that being
in the park that celebrates the magic of movies was appropriate.
In a way, being there at the Disney/MGM Studios, closer to the
work of the animators and the ideas that show up on the big silver
screen made me feel like I was celebrating the 4th with Walt himself.
It was a very memorable way to celebrate this special holiday
during this special year. Thanks again for your advice.
I really appreciated it.
That's great news Belana. I'm glad you
got to see Sorcery in The Sky. I have been second guessing myself
regarding my trip this year and I am thinking about going down next
year around the 4th to also see Sorcery In The Sky.
I'm always asked about what to do on the
4th and I sometimes hesitate in giving advice for fear that it may
not work out. I'm glad in your case everything worked out well.
The Magic Kingdom is not the place to
be on July 4, Easter, Christmas, or Thanksgiving.
It still remains the most visited theme
park in America, and I know that there are plans to possibly revamp
portions of the park to accommodate more guests, but those plans
won't be realized for several years.
The Disney/MGM Studios is fast becoming
a favored park, and along with the Magic Kingdom should probably
be avoided on Mondays.
Again, I'm happy that everything worked
out good for you and I appreciate the note.
By the way, they are planning on offering
a new princess character breakfast later this
month. This is to be held in Norway. I got the scoop earlier this
week and real soon we'll see
an official notice on this. This may draw some of the guests from
The Magic Kingdom to Epcot, something that Walt Disney World officials
have been trying to do for a long time.
Earlier this year I received a letter from Wendy who was asking
for some guidance on park touring:
I have been reading your trip reports and articles on MousePlanet.
They are so helpful. We (my husband and my two children, ages
6 and 9) are leaving on June 26 for seven nights at the Beach
Club. We are very excited. We are going to the parks Thursday,
June 27 through Tuesday, July 2.
I figure we will let the kids pick where they want to return
for the last day. We would like to spend at least the morning
in each park. Which park would you go to on which day? I have
read all kinds of different things and am unsure how to plan this.
Traditionally, Mondays and Tuesdays are
pretty crowded at the Magic Kingdom.
Here's my suggestion:
- On Thursday, go to The Magic Kingdom
in the morning, take a break from 1 to about 4, then spend the
evening at Epcot.
- On Friday, start the day at the Disney/MGM
Studios, take your break again, and finish up at the Magic Kingdom.
- On Saturday, I'd go to Disney's Animal
Kingdom in the morning then go to the Disney/MGM Studios at night.
- On Sunday, go to the Magic Kingdom
in the morning, take a break, and then finish up at Epcot.
- On Monday, take the family to Disney
Quest in the morning, and the Disney/MGM Studios at night.
- On Tuesday, start the day with Epcot,
and finish your trip with an evening at the Magic Kingdom... an
This schedule gives you a morning at every
park, but two at the Magic Kingdom, which is the best one for your
children. It also gives you a chance to see each park at night (Disney's
Animal Kingdom is not open at night), and also offers the option
of doing an E-Ride night.
Here's a suggestion: Start a family tradition.
Start and end your family with the same attraction. We do that with
Pirates of the Caribbean.
Have a great vacation and let me know
how it works out for you.
I received a very nice letter from Stephen in Fort Lauderdale,
FL who writes:
As a Disney fanatic, I always look forward to your columns
on MousePlanet. I want to especially commend you for your cheerful
tact in dealing with letters from your readers. You show remarkable
I think your advice to get to the parks is a great one for
most folks, but of course not all. Although Fastpass is wonderful,
it doesn't always work like magic (especially on crowded days).
Congratulations on a great column and for handling your readers
in such a friendly way.
Thanks for the note and the kind words.
I think we all have to recognize that
not everyone agrees with everything we say, or in my case, write.
I don't want to speak for the entire MousePlanet staff, but I can
pretty much vouch for the staff as having somewhat of the same philosophy.
We are very careful when putting any information
together, and we value the reader responses. It would not be in
the interest of our readers or ourselves to ignore letters that
disagree with a statement we have made. It would also not be a good
thing to fuel the fire. A good debate will bring strong points to
the surface for both sides thus giving readers more information
from which to make the best choice for them.
Your point on Fastpass is well taken.
I think as the day goes on the Fastpass "windows" are
adjusted and eventually they run out. It's kind of funny to think
that someday a MousePlanet columnist may actually write something
like "You need to get to the park early so you can get your
Fastpass." It could happen.
From the West Coast comes another complimentary letter from
Rick, who commented on the mug policy discussion earlier this year:
Just read your latest column and I want to compliment
you on your gracious reply to each and every writer. It must be
frustrating at times to have such animosity directed at you. After
all, you're just the messenger. I am amazed that simple things
like a soda refill policy can create so much angst in people.
When they say that Southern Californians are "laid back,"
I guess they mean that we don't get so excited about such things.
Although I have never been to Walt Disney World, I am a Premier
Annual Passholder holder at the Anaheim Resort. We visit about
once a month. I have experienced everything at the park from being
threatened and "stared down" by gangbangers to unbelievably
rude cast members. We just take these things in stride and keep
going back because the overall experience is just so delightful.
Any time you get such a large group of people together from all
walks of life, there are bound to be some problems.
I certainly don't hold this against the Disney Company. As
far as their business decisions go, that is exactly what they
are - business decisions. They look at the numbers, consider the
issues, and then make a decision. I may or may not agree with
their decision, but I personally don't have all of the information.
As an independent businessman, there have been many times when
my decisions have been questioned by my staff or my customers.
Most of the time, the questioners did not have all of the information.
And ultimately, it is my decision to make -- I am the one
who will profit or lose because of the decision.
The writer who said she would go to the grocery store to buy
her sodas was exactly on point! Disney makes a policy and implements
it. It is then incumbent on each of us to decide how that policy
affects us and what our actions will be because of it. Ultimately
it is our reactions to their policies that will determine their
success or failure. If enough people react by not purchasing mugs,
then the new policy will have a negative impact on sales and will
be changed. All the hand wringing and moaning will have absolutely
no effect on the policy!
You're absolutely right. Moaning and complaining
about these policies won't change them; actions will. I think that
if enough changes are made to irk the customer base we may see the
real barometer that the folks at Disney will pay attention to...
Of course not all letters are complimentary, but that's what
keeps me on my toes. Regarding the article
on desserts, Darren writes:
Not very well written, nor very informative. Good try, though.
Thanks for the note. It's very hard to
please everyone. I do appreciate your taking the time to let me
To his credit, Darren replied with this message:
In retrospect, I think my note was a bit snotty, so I apologize
for that. I do appreciate the time and effort - so let me clarify
my remarks. If your intention is to provide us with a guide to
eating cheap in the parks, then how about a price comparison between
the more expensive desserts and the ones you recommend? At least
that way we have a baseline; as opposed to you just saying which
ones you think are yummy. Know what I mean?
Don't worry about that first message.
I understand your point and it's well taken. The first two parts
of this series discussed cheap eats but the desserts piece didn't
and now I understand why you sent me that note.
When the time is right I will put together
an article that addresses your request and hopefully will help you
When you get a chance drop me a line as
to when you are next visiting Walt Disney World and that will give
me a good time frame to meet your needs.
That occasional trivia-type question comes across cyberspace.
Here's one from Bill in Illinois, who writes:
Loved reading your articles. Planning a trip in December.
Having a trivia challenge at work and one question was (and I
What Disney theme park attraction has guests picking one of
three endings? I appreciate you help. Keep up the good work.
I'm guessing that this question is asking
about Horizons. On that attraction guests were given options on
how they were to end their journey and I think the three were air,
land, and water... but it's been a while and unfortunately Horizons
Give it a shot and let me know how you
Finally, for those of you who know about my passion for Dole
Whip comes this note from Laura:
Having not been to Walt Disney World in a few years
(I was on Pleasure Island for New Year's 1999), I was thumbing
through your column, hoping to talk my darling husband into a
return trip. Then, he saw the dreaded Dole Whip!
I drove him insane for two days of the vacation whining about
getting some Dole Whip. It's even gone so far as now that we live
in California, and have annual passes to Disneyland, we have to
make an obligatory stop at the Tiki Room Juice Bar for some Dole
Whip or Dole floats. He made me promise if we do take the return
trip I've been bugging for, I can't say "Dole Whip"
at any time while we're in the Magic Kingdom. Just thought you'd
want to know.
No one should underestimate the power
of Dole Whip!
That's it for this visit to the mailbag. Keep those cards and letters
coming as all questions and comments are very much welcomed. Also,
don't hesitate to drop me a line to say, "Hey Mike why not
write an article on..."
For our next session we will look at a suggested one-day touring
plan for The Magic Kingdom. Touring plans need to adjust just as
theme parks adjust and we'll be looking at a The Magic Kingdom touring
plan for 2002.
If you'd like to write Mike you can reach him
Here's a list of the trip
reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives!
Also, don't miss Lani
Teshima's column, "The
Trip Planner" and Michael Hewell's "VIPs"
for more travel planning information!
Brian Bennett, author of MousePlanet's
Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide
(and publisher of the Disney
Trip Report Archive), writes:
The first Disney trip report that I ever
read was a report by Mike Scopa that I downloaded from the America Online
travel library in late 1994. The report was a detailed description of
the Scopa family's trip to Walt Disney World in the summer of that year.
As soon as I was done reading it, I was
I picked my own brain and documented my
own trips and the things I'd learned from my own experiences. Then, in
1995 I actually wrote a report as the trip unfolded. I took a laptop with
me and spent some time in the evenings documenting what had happened that
day. (I've repeated that process for my own reports ever since.)
In July 1996, I started my Disney
trip planning Web site. Besides including my own reports, I asked
for permission from the authors of several other reports and added them
to the offering. Since then, the number of reports has expanded greatly.
In 1997, I added an information summary for each report to make it easier
to sort through the reports that are available.
I still 'blame' Mike for hooking me on
this Disney habit.