Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Location: central PA
|Posted: Sat Jan 16, 2016 9:30 pm Post subject: Walt Disney World - 2016
|An Engineer's Guide to Disney World - 2016
As a young just married couple - stationed in Jacksonville, FL., we visited Walt Disney World in 1971 - the year it opened. Rather a lot of the attractions were not finished/in operation.
1984 we returned for a second visit, with three young children in tow.
1997 we made a third visit, with three older children in tow.
2016 we went back with the whole extended family.
Here's some tips and pointers if you are planning a visit:
Number 1 - Ask yourself: are you really sure you want to do this?
Orlando is completely overgrown. Disney World has a beautiful marketing program - but unfortunately the marketing outstrips the reality by a country mile.
Our 2016 visit was in mid-January; the slow season. If we're seeing this in the slow season, I don't want to even think about the busy season. Do not think one can come here and have a relaxing vacation.
The bottom line to this review: Disney has over sold it's ability to meet expectations. It is too big, has too many visitors, the infrastructure is aging, out-dated and inadequate to support the current masses of people visiting. If you have tweenish children that are still in awe of the magic, or young teens that live for thrill rides, the aggravation may be worth it.
As possible, stay at a Disney Property connected by the monorail system to the parks. Note: they are more expensive than anything else in the state. Don't be fooled by "We have a shuttle" - or "The Magic Bus is included." Traveling on the surface streets is one string of 0.5 to 1.75 mile long traffic lines/backups at every left turn / intersection - and don't overlook - all the Magic Buses and shuttles are ALL in that line.
The theory of spending the morning in one park and the afternoon in another park . . . can be made to work but you may very well lose 2-3 hours out of your day doing that unless it is connected by non-road transportation. And even that has issues. The Magic Kingdom has a "transportation center" well outside the main entrance to service the parking lots with a mono-rail ride to the main entrance. With the crowds, it's a 30-45 minute wait during peak times just to get from the car to the entrance. A separate monorail sytem connects the hotels - but you don't get a free pass there either - you're still left to stand in line with the drive-in crowd to get from the transportation center to the park. Other parks served by monorail don't have this issue as the parking lot shuttles bring people right to the entrance.
The Magic Kingdom also has a ferry from the transportation center to the main entrance - go for the ferry.
Getting into the parks is an experience in itself. All bags must be opened and inspected - by hand. I guess the TSA has more money than Disney - the TSA has heard about the magic of X-rays. Taking a tip from the TSA - who can't catch contraband anyway - Disney likes to pull people aside for 'random enhanced inspections.' If you hadn't just spent 25 minutes waiting to have your wife's pocketbook pawed through it might be a funny; but it isn't.
Paperless - whot?
Disney has gone to RFID chips for admission and 'other stuff' - depending on which 'Cast Member' you speak with, it's wonderful or it works in-often enough to be a major headache. "Magic Bands" i.e. wrist bracelets - are available; free for hotel guests, otherwise purchased. Not a bad idea for kids who lose everything.
Disney Fast Pass:
This is a serious advantage to the well trained visitor. You get to pick one super-popular attraction plus two less popular attractions per day - a "time slot" is assigned to your and/or your party (each must have a Fast Pass 'account') and you 'go to the head of the line' with wait times little to none. "Well trained" - see note about My Disney Experience software below. Tip: if you have a group, link all the individual accounts to one master account, then give everyone the logon credentials (name/password) to the master account so they can manage their own life.
Don't Read the Directions:
If you are driving yourself, be very careful about any GPS info provided on the Disney site. I came across a site with all the parks and the latitude/longitude. Copy/Paste Lat&Long is easier/quicker than punching in a street address. After spending nearly 1.5 hours in traffic getting to Epcot, we got to the gate and the guard informs us "This is the Employee Entrance. Please U-turn and (go back through 45 minutes of traffic at the light) over the bridge, turn left, bear left. . ." You would think Disney would put the Lat&Long of the park entrance on their site, no?
Disney properties don't do cars well. We pulled up to check in, we were directed to the short term lot. Which had dozens and dozens of Handicapped Reserved spaces, about four spaces for short term 'others' - all of which were full - and another six spaces occupied by a wheeled lift bucket. So I pulled back into the portico, got out, locked the car, ignored the shouts and other miscellaneous noises except from the dude who directed me to the lot. I told him I'd wait here if he wanted to move the lift bucket . . .
We got checked in, parked the car, learned that the short term parking is actually a longer walk than plain ole' ordinary parking (.....convenient for the handicapped, right?) Finally found the room (signage is abysmal,) the "Magic Bands" did not open the door. Rustled up a employee who summoned another employee, and after a lot of commotion and hand language, it was decided we had been given the wrong room number.
Visit during the slow season:
This seems a splendid idea if your schedule allows it. Just be aware that some number of rides / attractions will be closed or not operating. Major bummer if you had your heart set on some specific thing.....
Don't Drink the Water: if you've ever experience well water from sandy areas, it is frequently loaded with sulfur compounds. Some is so strong it will make you gag. Getting out of the shower, you smell like rotten eggs. Don't think "local brands" of bottled water work. Got a six pack from Ice River Springs / source High Springs, FL,. It is to gag.
All the local hotels, even high end restaurants (Chef Table, Winter Garden,) all the Disney Hotels and eateries, all Disney Park water fountains,,,,, serve this sulphurized water. Bring bottled water, order bottled water where ever you eat. We discovered that as ice water, the cold masks the immediate taste, but not the after-taste. When the ice melts, it's undrinkable if you're used to decent water at home. I mentioned this to the wait staff at Coral Reefs; he 'talked to the manager' and came back with "we're working on it" - seriously? Disney can't come up with a decent water filtration system for table water in the last 20-30 years? Note to self: Disney thinks Guests are eeediots!
Computers for Progress:
Disney's smart phone app "My Disney Experience" - also on-line for pc/Mac. Worst piece of software I've encountered in a very long time. Disney World now offers a "Fast Pass" option for attractions. You get a reserved time slot (typically 45-60 minute window) where you can basically go the head of the line. If you're in a group, the My Disney Experience "links" your schedule to others so that the whole group can ride together.
If I log into my account, I'm told I can't do that because my account is already "linked" to another account - I can't make my own single Fast Pass selections, I can't modify any of my linked selections. Now, with all the computer stuff Disney does, one would think they may have heard of computer "rights management" - but they haven't.
The mapping and information available is also lewd, crude and obnoxious. The search function has not yet heard about things like 'shuttle bus.' Using the Attractions function you can select a park, then you get a map with dozens of circled numbers and if you want to know anything more you have to punch up every number. It's free, you get what you pay for. Hopefully they will improve it, but it's been lambasted in so many reviews for so long, I wouldn't bet any mouse ears on it.
There are third party apps which are far superior except for information held only by Disney's systems. You may want to consider using a third party app for locating, mapping, facilities, etc., and the Disney app for essentially nothing but wait times / Fast Pass. We found it much easier to use the Fast Pass manned Kiosks in the park - their access to the Fast Pass system is much more flexible than the smart phone stuff.
It rains in Florida. Disney will charge you $10 for a 29-cent plastic poncho. Go to the dollar store, get some ponchos to-go. Or, take some 30 gallons trash bags. A waterproof backpack is a nice accoutrement. Women should select a waterproof purse/hand bag/small luggage option.
The RFID Magic Band thing:
One can link a Magic Band to a credit card, then just swipe the RFID past the reader and go. Do _not_ put a credit card on file for Magic Bands. While enjoying a long line at "Guest Relations" I overheard multiple very upset people complaining about charges to their Magic Bands in parks/places they had not visited . . . no clue, but use your plastic in the usual way.
Disney Parks are not Chairatable:
If you have issues walking or standing for long periods, consider renting a wheel chair. At least you have your own mobile reserved/private place to sit down and take off a load. Benches, seats, pseudo-places-to-sit are in extremely scarce supply.
postscript 29 Jan 2016:
if you have the silly idea of checking your credit card statements against receipts and memory,,,,
here's a tip: do NOT use the same credit card for anything at Disney that you have used for any kind of reservations or prepaid items/reservations in advance of your visit.
why? because Disney charges mysteriously become associated with a credit card identity and come through on your credit card statement as stuff you will not likely associate with the line item description.
$847.76 line item: "WDW Dine Tickets"
(one can pre-purchase a "dining plan" - sounds good except for the bit about actually getting a table/reservation to use the plan... but whatever....)
based on prior experience we outright rejected the idea of buying a "dining plan" - which kinda made a body wonder what this charge was for. Dial...Dial...transfer...Dial a different . . . that "WDW Dine Tickets" charge was for the "Dolphins in Depth Experience" - now, dolphins eat, and I'm sure in places people with credit cards eat dolphins, but seriously - would you connect the two?
example 1a: another $149.10 charge as "WDW Dine Tickets" which was actually the fee for our "Night Safari" participation.
$168.20 line item: "Animal Kingdom Lodge" - this is for lunch at the Magic Kingdom German Biergarten - two days after we checked out of Animal Kingdom - but same credit card. one's hackles may become suspicious at charges raised like way later after you left the hotel...
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