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  1. #1
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    Default Disappointing Disney Vacation -- Final Thoughts

    The titles are a bit misleading upon reflection. Disappointing compared to what? To a typical Walt Disney World trip, this most recent trip certainly fell way short. But it was still an enjoyable trip. WDW lovers like me have so much reverence for the place. Maybe too much. My fear is: that is what the Disney people are counting on.

    I'll summarize the trip like this:

    The trip felt like a pure “money grab” on the Disney Corporation’s part with little or no concern to the guests’ experience. I’ll explain, but first a small anecdote. (I promise I’ll tie it in.)

    Sixteen years ago, my dad was diagnosed with bilateral lung cancer, a virtual death sentence. The man who worked every day and was never sick -- my hero -- now had his life in the hands of doctors. They made so many mistakes, he was dead in less than three months. When we confronted them with their errors, they had a built-in excuse: These are all complications from treating someone with bilateral lung cancer. No responsibility. No liability. The Disney Corporation, too, has two built-in excuses in an attempt to escape its "FUN-FREE VACATION" culpability.

    The First built-in excuse is: These are all precautions due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

    Unfortunately, when you review things, that excuse falls apart. I’ll detail some things that happened to us on our most recent vacation (remember, this is a vacation, not a work camp.) I’ll follow with my analysis.

    • On October 9, we had Animal Kingdom reserved with an 8 AM park opening. We arrived at the Trinidad bus stop at 7:06 AM. We were the fifth group. By 8:23 AM, only one bus had arrived, taking only one group. (Many Internal Shuttle buses had passed through.) One group had already departed via Uber. The other two ahead of us went to other bus stops. I finally called for an Uber and took that to the park.
    • On October 10, we had Hollywood Studios reserved with a ride opening of 10 AM and park opening of 9 AM. We arrived at the bus stop around 7:15 AM. By 7:40 AM, we again decided on an Uber as no buses arrived to take any guests to HS. Disney coned off the roadway at the ticket gates so our Uber had to turn around and retreat, leaving Disney property. He timed his return for 9 AM. Traffic and entrance line had us enter the park at 9:40-ish AM. Bus stop at 7:15 AM; enter park at 9:40.
    • That evening, we had ADRs at Disney Springs. Again, the bus situation was such that only one bus for DS arrived, but stated: “No one got off so no one can get on.” We called for an Uber again, but Disney was refusing to let cars onto the property. A sign stated: ‘Disney Springs is at Full Capacity.” We exited the Uber and began to walk. A Disney official told me to return to my vehicle. I explained, I’m a Caribbean Beach Resort Guest. Disney is not providing adequate transportation. I have an 8:15 ADR and I am entering.

    There are many more examples of how understaffed the destination is, but these are three of the most egregious. I began to scrutinize the entire trip very closely.

    When we arrived, the Magical Express no longer takes your bags; you get them yourself and bring them to the bus. Our beds were not made until I called because of the “minimally invasive” policy in place. No fireworks. No shows. No characters. No Meet-n-Greets. No park hopping. Minimal staff. Minimal transportation. All of these cost the Disney Corporation and the guest does not pay for these directly. But the guest DOES pay for each of these and was denied them. Nothing is free. Every cost is factored before a price is set. When you purchase a car and get LA&H (Life, Accident & Health) included with the price, you actually PAID for it. You probably financed it, too!

    The Wishes Fireworks Show, for example, costs about $40,000 per night to execute. Average attendance in the Magic Kingdom is approximately 50,000 give or take. One dollar of your admission ticket is for the “free” fireworks show. The same with shows, characters, CLEAN SHEETS!!!!!, etc. My Annual Pass has a Park Hopper feature, which I PAID for. That was denied. With the My Disney Experience app, it would be easy to track if it was possible to exit one park and reserve another later in the day. But that would necessitate more bus drivers during the mid-day hours. Better to eliminate the perk and save the payroll. I paid for it, but I didn’t receive it. The Trinidad location in Caribbean Beach is a tricky bus stop on busy morning because buses would fill before even reaching the Trinidad stop. Disney used to have a dedicated Cast Member there, monitoring the bus traffic. The CM would call for a bus to arrive if too much time had passed. But, a dedicated CM there adds to the payroll. Better to have the guests arrive at 7:07 AM and then PAY FOR AN UBER at 8:23 AM then have a Cast Member on site. Better to have them pay full price for tickets, which means to pay for shows, fireworks, bus transportation, FastPass privileges, characters, then not pay for the employees to save money. (Of course, Disney will “SELL YOU” a VIP Pass and you can purchase the FastPass option.) On October 7, the Magic Kingdom closed at 6 PM. Why? No Halloween Party that night. Is COVID more deadly after 6 PM? Of course not. Employees cost money. Every one was cheated.

    The Magical Express no longer picks up your bags to “keep you safe.” Absurd. Our luggage was handled by multiple Southwest employees. Gloves can be worn. No, I believe our bags weren’t picked up because another Disney employee has to be paid to do so. Again, every room rate has the Magical Express cost factored in. Moreover, by Disney offering the Magical Express, it ensures the guests have no means of transportation and is a Walt Disney World “captive.” Again, we paid for it, but didn’t receive it because the Disney Corporation, which lost $2B last quarter wants to save money. All the guests that attended during our length of stay paid for yet didn’t receive many perks.

    The Second built-in excuse the Disney Corporation has is: We are just following the County’s guidelines. Again, absurd. Florida has allowed each county to make its own regulations. But the Disney Corporation actually influences (some say more than influences) Orange County’s policies. The Disney Corporation pressured Orange County to issue a county-wide mandate so Disney would not look like the bad guy. The Disney Corporation is afraid of lawsuits, so they took treating guests as adults out of the equation. By pressuring Orange County to issue a county-wide mask mandate, Disney could then institute a zero-tolerance mask policy to alleviate the threat of any lawsuits. Never mind the guests’ experience. So what if the guest has a bad time. Walking alone, outside by the lake, at your own resort with no one within 300 yards or more in 90 degree heat without a mask was disallowed!!! So what if guests don’t receive the perks for which they’ve already paid. Take their money. Full price. Lay off lower-scaled employees.

    Recently, Disney laid off cast members from Nemo, Festival of the Lion King, Streetmosphere, Hoop Dee Do among others. Is upper management taking a pay cut “due to the pandemic?” Lay off staff. Provide much less than paid for to the guest. It is for these reasons I feel “cheated” on this last trip and do not plan to return any time soon.

    What keeps these parks so profitable is customer loyalty. We pay a lot, but we always feel as though our happiness is paramount to the company. That is the business model and that’s why we come religiously. I make a modest income, yet find time and money to spend in Walt Disney World nearly every year. I see it as my second home because I, and more importantly, my children's happiness "SEEMS" paramount to WDW. That's the model!. So many others agree. But this trip was OFFENSIVE!
    WDW - 99 Off Site
    WDW - 00 C.Springs, Wilderness
    WDW - 01 POFQ, Boardwalk
    WDW - 02 C.Beach, POFQ, AK Lodge
    WDW - 04 Riverside
    WDW - 05 C.Springs
    WDW - 07 Riverside
    WDW - 11 C.Beach
    WDW - 12 POFQ
    WDW - 14 Riverside
    WDW - 15 POFQ
    WDW - 19 Wilderness
    WDW - 20 C.Beach

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  4. #2
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    It's tough. I agree with a lot of what you are saying. At the same time, the property has gotten so large that there is a cost to service ratio that obviously is coming into play here. I'm not saying its right to get so much less for the same price you paid prior - but from a business perspective, they are trying to keep things open and running and not loose more than they already are. California and Paris are offline. Sure you could make the argument that they had so much profits in the past that they can just deal with this - but the reality is it doesn't work that way.

    Where they *may* cut prices will be hotel room nights to lure you in - but likely tickets, food and trinkets won't go down unless we hit a major - multi year - Depression with a capital D.

    Totally get though where you are - as a seasoned Disney traveler - this is seems wrong. I'm hoping things turn the corner soon and we can get back to a little more normal both in our everyday lives and in our Disney vacations.
    John - aka. The Master Control Program
    Owner, Chairman & Chief Imagination Officer - INTERCOT

  5. #3
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    John, I own a small construction company. Every time I come on property, I look at all that acreage that gets maintained and think, this all gets paid for by what we guests spend. Thereís so much unseen cost that has to be overcome so I get their need to cut back. I was fine with no shows, fireworks, or parades. Even shortened hours to an extent. I think the transportation really upset me ó and usually Iím ok with it. That, and the draconian zero-tolerance mask policy really put a sour taste in my mouth. But as I said, a bad Disney trip is better than most great trips.

  6. #4
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    From my point of view in reading your trip reports, the fact that your son wasn't enjoying it is a big factor. One of the things that draws me back is the great feelings that I had going with my kids. If my kids weren't enjoying it, I probably wouldn't have been as drawn to Disney as I have been.
    I'll meet you at the Rainbow Bridge.

  7. #5
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    Cinderelley, so funny you post that today. My son and I were just talking about the trip this morning at breakfast and he said the only time he enjoyed himself was at The BOATHOUSE! Other than that, he really had a bad time. Although, he did say he realizes now how good it could be.

  8. #6
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    Thanks for your posts and your thoughts on Disney's current operations. I am hopeful that Disney will be able to bring back much of what has been cut during these very trying times!!
    Linda aka: Faline
    INTERCOT Staff: Vacation Planning,Trip Reports and Disney Camping
    faline@intercot.com

  9. #7
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    Me, too. I did have a Disney representative reach out to me to hear my remarks. She stated she'd forward them to upper management. We will see if there are any changes. First and foremost, I want them to succeed. Without that, everything goes away and we don't want that. The needs to be a balance between cost, safety and guest enjoyment. I think they are striving to achieve that balance.
    WDW - 99 Off Site
    WDW - 00 C.Springs, Wilderness
    WDW - 01 POFQ, Boardwalk
    WDW - 02 C.Beach, POFQ, AK Lodge
    WDW - 04 Riverside
    WDW - 05 C.Springs
    WDW - 07 Riverside
    WDW - 11 C.Beach
    WDW - 12 POFQ
    WDW - 14 Riverside
    WDW - 15 POFQ
    WDW - 19 Wilderness
    WDW - 20 C.Beach

  10. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrPeetrie View Post
    Cinderelley, so funny you post that today. My son and I were just talking about the trip this morning at breakfast and he said the only time he enjoyed himself was at The BOATHOUSE! Other than that, he really had a bad time. Although, he did say he realizes now how good it could be.
    I am sure he enjoyed the time he spent with you and will remember it long after you are gone. My oldest son's favorite restaurant is Paddlefish. We haven't tried The Boathouse yet, but maybe we should
    I'll meet you at the Rainbow Bridge.

  11. #9
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    The BOATHOUSE was the best meal of the trip. That is the case in my last two visits to wdw.

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