For the Last Time in Forever?by Steve Russo, staff writer
I looked up the word curmudgeon and found this:
"someone who gets annoyed easily, especially an old person"
I’m retired and a grandfather, so even though I still consider myself youthful and adventurous, I guess I qualify as an old person. Do I get annoyed easily? If you asked my wife that question, the answer would likely contain something about bears and woods. Hang on one second while I chase some kids off my lawn.
OK, I’m back. Where were we? What has my dander up these days? With all the recent changes at my favorite place, Walt Disney World, you might think I’m upset about the changes to Epcot entertainment… or FastPass+… or Magic Bands… or the My Disney Experience app… or… any number of other things that seem to have riled up every Disney writer, blogger or poster on social media. It seems every time I turn around I find another article blasting Disney for (gasp) making changes to their theme parks and resorts. Mind you, I truly believe most of the complainers are the same folks that repeatedly blast Disney for not changing things frequently enough.
Well, as a certified curmudgeon, I should be railing against Disney for these changes. However, I find myself more often taking the unpopular approach of defending Walt Disney World. That’s right, it’s kind of a “Hey, you kids—get out of my theme parks” rant. I’ll begin the rant by stating unequivocally that I have my own axe to grind with Disney. I certainly don’t like everything they do or have done but I think I’m fair enough to offer credit and give them the benefit of the doubt where and when it’s warranted.
What set me off on this latest tirade was a blog that someone linked to on Facebook. It was published on Huffington Post Travel, written by author and freelance writer Christy Heitger-Ewing and entitled “For the First Time in Forever… I Did Not Enjoy My Vacation to Disney World” (you can read it here). I will apologize right now and up front to Ms. Heitger-Ewing (it will be Christy from now on because I’m far too lazy to continue typing "Ms. Heitger-Ewing" for the length of this article). I don’t mean to pick on Christy because there are many other worthy candidates but her article just happened to be the most convenient.
Let’s begin with the title. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read someone’s diatribe about too much Frozen in the parks, followed by their admonition to Disney to “Let it Go.” Yeah, it was cute once but after a few thousand times, not so much. I’ll give Christy props for using a different song from the same film but I still think it’s a bit of a cheap shot.
Let’s take Christy’s points one at a time. She begins with:
Magic Bands are in no way magical.
Hmmm. Was she attempting to conjure up a genie or a unicorn? Not magical, huh? She explains that, in her opinion, they should be called “Fickle Bands” or “Frustration Bands” because, presumably, they aren’t very reliable. Gee, my experience with using Magic Bands over three different trips was entirely positive. They opened hotel room doors, granted me access to theme parks and allowed me to purchase everything from meals to Dole Whips to mouse ears. Why would she call them fickle and frustrating especially when admitting, “Though our family's bands worked most of the time, other park-goers weren't so lucky.”
I see. Your Magic Bands were fine but others weren’t as lucky. Christy relates the observation of a woman in a hallway unable to gain access to the laundry room. “She’d been waiting for nearly three hours to wash clothes at Disney. That's not exactly my idea of an ideal vacay.” Mine ether, Christy, although I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “vacay." Let’s ponder this for just a moment. In my experience, I’ve not seen a locked laundry room door at Disney World. Christy makes no mention of the specific resort, and I certainly haven’t done laundry at all of them, so I’ll allow this. But… this woman had been trying to gain access to the laundry room, presumably by using her Magic Band, for three hours? I consider myself the persistent sort but I have to admit, I’d have given up after about 15 minutes.
Did Christy have any other evidence? Sure did. “That evening while waiting in line for food, I got to chatting with the lady behind me who said that her family's defective Magic Bands hadn't worked a single day since they arrived. So every time they returned from the parks, they had to seek hotel staff to let them into their room.”
Is there anyone reading that would have tolerated this? Or that believes for a minute that, if asked, Disney wouldn’t have corrected the problem in a heartbeat? Needing help “every time they returned from the parks” would indicate a cast member opening their hotel room door multiple times each and every day. I’m sorry but I’m just not buying that.
People have had problems with Magic Bands. I know this and, although my usage has been mostly stellar, I have been denied access to a park on two or three occasions. Each time, however, the situation was corrected inside of a minute—certainly not something that would have lasted for days. Christy is beginning to lose a bit of credibility with me but let’s push on to her next gripe…
I don't enjoy cozying up to the crowds.
Well, here we’re on common ground. I absolutely hate crowds. What was Christy’s specific problem here? “At every show we attended--from the Lion King to the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular--the following announcement was made: ‘We ask that you kindly slide all the way to the middle of the aisle to make room for others. And please don’t stop until you are sitting uncomfortably close to the stranger beside you’.”
Really? Reading on, Christy admits adding the second line herself but insists it “was implied”. So, what she’s saying here is that at “every show” she was asked to slide all the way in to make room for others. How dare they! What are these Disney cast members doing asking good folks like Christy to slide in to make room for others? Allowing this practice to continue could result in people holding doors for others or saying “please” and “thank you." Oh, the humanity. Next up…
Spontaneity no longer exists at Disney.
“I miss the days when I could go to Disney World, get up in the morning, and consult with the family about where and how to spend the day.” OK, she’s got a point here. I miss those days as well, but let’s face facts; those days are gone forever. The parks are more crowded than ever before, and keeping some semblance of order while allowing folks the ability to reserve a few attractions is what Disney is after. If you need proof, do what I recently did. I viewed a few of our videos from trips made in the 1990s and early 2000s. It was amazing to me how empty the parks looked compared to what I experience today. We usually try to visit during the off-peak, slower periods but I’ve come to realize there really are no uncrowded times—just some periods that are less crowded than others.
Christy misses spontaneity and so do I. I remember the days of playing “bus roulette”—heading to the resort bus stop and hopping the first theme park bus that showed. But… I (and you… and Christy) can still do that. It’s possible. Just don’t expect to arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 11:00 am and ride Toy Story Midway Mania with a 15-minute wait but… really, could you ever do that? I think not.
"Stress" is a six-letter word—just like "Mickey."
Well that sentence makes no sense whatsoever, but it seems that Christy felt stressed about “how and when to eat, sleep, and navigate the parks so that we wouldn’t miss any of our dining or ride reservations.” Yeah, I get that. I tell everyone I can not to get caught up in that. You can’t do it all. No matter how hard you try, you can’t do it all. Go ahead and say that out loud three or four times… I’ll wait. The stress Christy is talking about here is self-inflicted. Don’t try to manage every minute of every day. You can’t do it and, if you could, you wouldn’t be happy. Stop and smell the roses… or the turkey legs.
Rides have been refurbished with fresh germs.
Christy asserts the newer and refurbished rides “include interactive games where riders use touch screens to pass the time while waiting in line. While I’m sure many folks see these screens as massive fun, I see massive germ spreadage.” Grammar aside… c’mon, Christy. Really?
I feel safe in proclaiming that germs are pretty much everywhere. Others have touched your luggage handles, rental car doors, hotel room fixtures, railings, bus seats and about 10,000 more items I’m too squeamish to mention. Taking Disney to task for creating interactive elements to ride queues because of “germ spreadage” is like… well, it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard before.
Look, let’s agree here that Disney is not perfect. They make mistakes like every other company in the history of companies. What they’re dealing with today is theme parks with ever-increasing attendance and, at least in my opinion, they’re doing quite a bit to use technology to deliver a better than average experience to each and every guest while…and this is important…maintaining a level playing field.
Personally, I love the convenience of wearing a single band on my wrist that is my own personal Key to the World. It gives me access to my hotel room and the theme parks and makes paying for meals and other items a breeze. I love that FastPass+ lets me stroll into Epcot at 9:30 am and not have to worry about sprinting to Soarin’ or Test Track to ride without waiting an hour. I’m happy to slide over so another family can enjoy the Festival of the Lion King. I enjoy the fact that Disney has created interactive queues so, when I do stand in line, it won’t seem to be as long a wait. If I have to wash my hands a few more times a day, that’s fine with me.
Stress? Walt Disney World is one of the few places on the planet where I feel no stress at all. Heck, I’m on vacay, aren’t I?