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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Walt Disney World Vacation: It Is Not All Rainbows and Butterflies

Don't worry--this photo was staged.  Such drama!


I must admit that a trip to Walt Disney World is not all full of rainbows and butterflies.  There are things that happen or encounter that can be annoying, aggravating, or so ludicrous that it leaves you shaking your head.  And, after 12 days in the World, we encountered a few.  Note, some might not be suitable for younger audiences.


Aggravating:  Line jumpers, budgers, cutters, etc.  While I don’t want to generalize, it seemed that some South American tour groups don’t understand what lines mean.  We experienced the “I am with them up there” line jumping at Animal Kingdom while on Dinosaur, at Magic Kingdom in the new Ariel ride, and at Blizzard Beach while waiting for the chair lift.  My stance when they tried to pass or “see what was up there” or “find their friend” was NO.  My “no” worked twice. 

The husband and boy experienced the line jumpers from a tour group at Star Tours where they attempted to leave the standby line, get in the Fastpass line for a while, and then rejoin the standby line before getting to the Cast Member waiting at the end of the Fastpass line to collect Fastpasses.  As the husband put it, a bunch of Star Wars geeks didn’t let them back in the line.  Now they were stuck and spotted by the Cast Member who then called security.  These particular members of the tour group did not get to experience the Star Tours attraction and may have had to leave the park.

A tour group also interfered with the character interaction and flow at Crystal Palace by leaving their tables and commandeering the characters so much that it caused a significant delay for the characters to make it to our side of the restaurant.  We left after only seeing two of the four characters as it had already been 45 minutes.  I blame the handlers on this one as a tour group was also at ‘Ohana’s for the Lilo and Stitch breakfast with us, and after nervously asking the Cast Member upon checking in if this was going to be a problem as it had for us at Crystal Palace, I was assured that it would not be and by golly, it wasn’t.  Rafael was the handler and he did a great job of making sure the members of the tour group stayed seated and let the characters come to them.  He was also within arms reach the whole time the characters were with the members of the tour group. 

Members of a South American tour group were also dining at T-Rex Café in Downtown Disney.  Now, before I go on with this part of the story, I need to build background.  Are you familiar with the Dyson Airblade hand dryer?  Well, it is a motion activated device that sits at waist level and forces air out of both sides when hands are placed and moved up and down in the middle.  Got it?  Good.  When the husband went to use the bathroom, he was greeted by 3 teenagers from a tour group drying, well, their private parts.  The husband then took it upon himself to escort these three young men out of the bathroom while using language that anyone could understand.

How do we know these folks are part of South American tour groups?  Well, it is their matching shirts that have their country of origin designated, along with the leaders or coordinators that carry flags on poles or large inflatable signs.  They are easy to spot, except when wearing their bathing suits.  Then, it was the line jumping and budging that gave them away.  That, and the fact that they could tell me in a great English sentence that they didn’t know English when confronted about the line cutting.

A question I still don’t have answered is about how they keep wearing the same shirt everyday.  Do they wash them at night?  Or just keep wearing them, day after day?

Annoying:  Delayed flights.  Our flight to Orlando was delayed by two hours due to mechanical issues in Atlanta.  What I was grateful for was the direct flight, so we didn’t have any connecting flights to worry about, and that we had made no reservations for our arrival evening.  Come to think of it, we have had delays our last two trips.  One of the joys of flying!

So much noise that it is difficult to communicate with your traveling party, fellow guests, or Cast Members.  I get that Disney is trying to set the mood and music is a part of the theming, but when combined with noise from attractions and other guests, it can be annoying.  We even had a hard time hearing each other on the Disney busses with the volume of the announcements combined with bus noises.

I could have watched the show on her "tablet."
Another annoyance are guests who are trying to capture events on their “screen” or “device” and then block your view.  This happened more than once, and I got a picture of a lady using her screen above her head during Beauty and the Beast at Hollywood Studios.  What I find ironic is that there wasn’t enough room for us to sit in the amphitheater and we were directed to the bleachers, but there was enough room for this lady to stand up, record the show, while a child sat on the top of her seat right next to hear, but the Cast Member asked another child leaning forward on the row to get down.  Hmmm. . .  

When we were watching the Monster’s University Homecoming show in front of the hat at Studios, two things happened. . . a young boy squeezed in front of me to get to the front.  I told him “no” that we had been standing here a long time.  Also, an older teen next to me with her tablet screen above her head taking pictures and video was right next to us.  I reminded her that she was blocking people behind her when she held it up.  It was as if she hadn’t realized she was doing this and brought the screen back down in front of her.

Interestingly, while waiting for the bus at our resort, a family with two children from Europe (we could tell by the accent) was headed to a park and the mom asked us about the best fireworks show.  We unanimously said Wishes at Magic Kingdom.  She went on to tell about how they had arrived at Magic Kingdom 5 minutes before the parade and then just allowed their “little” kids  to squeeze in front of others to watch the parade.  Yeah, I bet if she had been saving her spot for two hours she would not have enjoyed having other people’s children squeeze in front of her, even if they were little.  And, I am guessing that some people don’t realize it is happening when they get caught up in the show, parade, or fireworks.

Another source of annoyance is when Cast Members give you, or other guests, wrong or inaccurate information.  We had this happen a few times during our trip.  A friendly Cast Member was going on about finding characters and directed us to France in EPCOT to find the Beast.  I explained that the Beast was no longer found in France—referring to the Times Guide—but could now be found in his castle at Magic Kingdom for guests dining at Be Our Guest.  The Cast Member thought about it for a moment, asked to see the Times Guide and then brushed it off saying that it had been a few months since he had seen the Beast.

We also overhead a Cast Member telling a guest with multiple Photopass cards that they could take them to Cover Story (we were at Studios) and the cards could all be combined into one account.  Well, it used to be that way, but Photopass was experiencing an “upgrade” to their system during our stay for an undetermined amount of time and could not combine cards/accounts.  I corrected the Cast Member.  Another character handler then joined the conversation with suspicion.  I was even asked if I worked for Photopass.  The second Cast Member then did recall the upgrade.  The corrected Cast Member then brushed it off saying that they had been on vacation for a couple of weeks and just returned making that the reason that they didn’t know.

I don’t believe Cast Member share incorrect information on purpose or to be malicious.  I think it is about the challenge of communicating with 60,000 employees so that they all have accurate information.  As a Disney fan, it was more difficult for me to get accurate information while AT Walt Disney World than it would have been if I was at home.  Part of it is that we remain somewhat “unplugged” while on vacation except in the case of an emergency.  And, for us, Disney is a passion—we want to know the latest news, but a Cast Member may see their role as just a job and not be engaged with the most up to date information.

I went to Cover Story just to find out more information about Photopass and recounted the above incident.  They thanked me for correcting.  I also inquired about the benefits of the Photopass “upgrade” to me as a guest and no one could give me that information.  So, it took me 30 minutes to edit out all of the other children’s photographs during Jedi Training Academy with the boy when I logged into my Photopass account on-line when I got home.

This inconvenience of me doing the work because Disney couldn’t due to the Photopass upgrade was annoying and was included in our follow-up survey from Walt Disney World.

I will put this in the annoying category but it could go into aggravating—it is the stoppers and standers.  Guests who stop in the middle of a traffic way or just stand in the middle of a traffic way are annoying at best.  I have now figured out a strategy for stoppers.  If someone stops in front of me, I move past while saying “Oh, no stopping, got to keep moving.” so at least they know that they stopped and there were people behind them.  If I can get by without bumping them I do my best, but swerving with short notice can sometimes lead to bumps.  I find the standers more at the entrances to attractions, as if they can’t commit, and the stoppers more at exits as they try and figure out where to go next.

This was the wettest Walt Disney World vacation we had ever experienced.  It rained for a portion of every day we were there.  Annoying?  Yes.  Devastating?  No!  After all, it is Florida in July and rain is to be expected.  We had multiple pairs of shoes and sandals—so they could dry out if they got wet, ponchos which we packed with us every day in their little pouches, and two umbrellas that also went with us.  The boy’s poncho bit the dust and was thrown away on our last day along with one of our umbrellas that could no longer open.  The rain never stopped us, we just kept moving.  It did close some attractions such as Splash Mountain, so we went to Country Bear Jamboree and Enchanted Tiki Room instead.  A storm also closed Blizzard Beach while we were there, but we had 4 good hours under our belt so when the rain let up, we made it to the bus stop, went to our resort to change, and then to Downtown Disney for the rest of the evening.  Some “non” ponchoed guests made fun of us at Downtown Disney—well not us specifically but our rain ponchos.  I think they were concerned that they didn’t have ponchos OR umbrellas when they got off the bus at the resort and it was still raining.

Just mildly annoying were the couple of times that housekeeping had difficulties at our resort.  One day we returned to our resort for a rest about 3:30 pm to find that our room had yet to be tended to for the day.  The husband took a nap, the boy was playing with his toys, and I hit the shower.  Then came the knock and opening of the door from housekeeping.  Answering the door in a towel, I explained that we would be leaving by 5:30.  Housekeeping then had to enter our room to make the call and request later service.  They were apologetic. Actually, we would have been okay with just some more bath towels.  Another time was when we returned to find our room was tidied but no clean hand towels or washcloths were left.  The husband phoned and we had a supervisor at our door followed by a member of the housekeeping team with a stack of towels.  I explained that we only needed a couple of hand towels and washcloths and was given more apologies.  Really, it was okay but as the husband said, the man with the towels acted like he had been whipped before delivering them to us.

Ludicrous:  I don’t know if our expanded number of days caused us to have more of these experiences or just the fact that we are familiar with our surroundings, but the number of head shaking things we heard other guests say this trip was astounding. 

Let’s start with the story of something the husband said when he helped a fellow guest who had a bag fall off the top of the canopy of a Disney stroller and strew the contents of the bag all over the ground.  The husband witnessed this while on his way to get Fastpasses at the Magic Kingdom.  When the bag fell off, the man with the stroller and two kids was attempting to put the items back in the bag.  The husband reached down to gather objects to return to the bag and well, two of the items were condoms.  The husband thought they were packages of fruit snacks but was corrected upon closer inspection and said, “Here are your Magnums.”  It was great that they were prepared! 

The next one cracked me up.  I was waiting near the hat at Hollywood Studios for the husband and boy to return from Star Tours and ride The Great Movie Ride when two adults pushing a stroller hurried by with one adult asking the other, “Where is the castle?”  Were they actually looking for a castle in Disney’s Hollywood Studios?  If so, there is NO castle.  Either these folks were confused by the four theme parks at Walt Disney World and thought they were all one park OR these folks thought they were at Islands of Adventure—part of Universal Studios—and were looking for the Hogwarts Castle and the rest of the Harry Potter portion of the park.  A Cast Member said that happens often, that people just hear “Studios” and get the parks confused.

“He said the monorail is free.” was another one we overhead when passing a family standing at the exit of EPCOT after Illuminations with park map in hand.  Seems this family had just asked a Cast Member about the monorail—something we saw several times while at EPCOT—and was told that riding it is free.  Yes, it is!  I am not sure where they were going, maybe Magic Kingdom to watch Wishes, but riding the monorail is free.

That about sums it up, the non rainbow and butterfly moments of a Walt Disney World vacation.  Will the aggravating, annoying, and ludicrous events keep us from returning?  No way!  They are actually part of the adventure; part of the story.  Just as we appreciate spring more because of winter, we appreciate the magical experiences more because of aggravating experiences.  The countdown continues until our next Walt Disney World vacation!
See, all better!

6 comments:

  1. This post made me laugh. I now want to travel with you to Disney World. Your son is getting so big funny to see your older photos on how young he was when you started your blog.

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    1. Michael,
      Glad it made you laugh. . . we are just starting to be able to laugh about our experiences. It will be fun to hear your experiences from your next trip!
      Yes, the boy has grown since the blog started a few years ago AND that means he has outgrown several of our matching shirt sets. Time to shop!
      As always, thanks for reading!

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  2. Argh I SO understand the 'South American tourist group' annoyance. My worst every Disney experience came while waiting for Fantasmic to start. One of those group members yelled at me, loudly, about the fact that my husband had left to use the washroom. She figured I should have given up his spot that he had reserved for an hour before hand so that she, a late arrival, could sit there.

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    1. Oh, Carolyn, so sorry for your traumatic experience--how rude! I do not mind the groups, just behavior of the groups. And, yet, a non-group family tried to cut in front of the food line at Fantasmic, so it is more about ALL folks understanding lines and how they work. I sure hope you did not give up your husband's seat!
      I also feel bad for them as how horrible it must feel on the inside to feel like you have to yell at someone to get a seat. . .
      As always, thanks for reading!

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  3. In July 2012, I was visiting wdw when we realized that there were several of the South American groups. We were staying at a value so they pretty much took over our resort. Line cutting, song chanting and overall disrespect was a main theme of our trip.

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    1. Samantha,
      Unfortunately, your experience is not unusual, especially for that time of year. Since July is a great travel month for our family, we are headed back in 2014. We have discovered some ways to "combat" the tour groups for lack of a better word. We are on to their line jumping strategy and know how to make it stop. Sounds like a new post. . . Thanks for reading!

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