I’ve been wanting to talk about our Disney trip for awhile, but I also wanted some time away from it. To really take it in and think about the experience. To be transparent, the best part of our trip was the company we had with us. We could have been anywhere and had an amazing time with our good friends, the Clarks. So my thoughts on the trip have nothing to do with our experience with them, but more about the evolution of Disney and how it has changed over the years. I’ve been to Disney several times now. My first visit was in 1988 as a kid with my family, I was there again in 2003, 2007, 2017 and now 2018. Even though so much has changed, we will plan another trip once Galaxy’s Edge is open. So with this primer of my Walt Disney World visit history, let’s dive in!
At first I’d like to touch on the 5 great things about the parks.
1 – They are immersive. Each park takes careful consideration into the colours, smells and sounds when you are in each section, transitioning between each section. While some portions are getting dated in Magic Kingdom and Epcot, they still work to enhance your sensory experience.
2 – The Cast Members are knowledgeable. They are trained to handle just about any guest, and any questions. All cast members we encountered had a wide range of knowledge on whatever we asked, and then some suggestions on how to expand or improve our visit.
3 – It’s not fast food anymore. There are so many food options in each park. No matter your dietary desires, you can enjoy a meal. While counter/quick service is always perceived as fast food, I personally had salads, grilled veggie sandwiches and more as quick service meals on our last trip, and was very satisfied with the options.
4 – Nostalgia is alive and well. For a park that’s mascot is a Mouse who, let’s be honest hasn’t had a feature film in how many years? The parks do a great job at reminding guests that it’s the Mouse’s house! Not just hidden Mickey’s, but subtle and not so subtle ways, you are reminded that it all started with a man and a Mouse. I think that this nostalgia and Walt’s vision is how Disney retains some of it’s magic. (But I have more to say about the magic later)
5 – Everyone is a kid. Want to sing? Do it! Want to dance down main street? Do it! Laugh, eat cotton candy, let your troubles melt away. Everyone you encounter at some point during your Disney vacation will have childlike wonder or delight on their faces. I can’t tell you how many times we danced in the streets, sang songs and just let go and had fun. There truly is something that just makes you want to let go of your troubles and embrace the fun.
So while these 5 things were true for my experience, they may not be to others. Happy to chat about it! I mean Disney is a topic I could talk about endlessly. But now I want to talk about some of the things that weren’t so wonderful this past trip, and how I feel the parks have changed.
1 – Under Staffing. I have clear memories from my past trips, that people couldn’t have kids on their shoulders, cast members would come and tell you to not do it, cast members were around every corner. Something that really demonstrated the absence of that watchful eye was the vandalism to the ride queue at Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom. As we stood in line the trees and bamboo had people’s names carved in them, words written on them. Where the sign said not to climb on the trees and grass a path was heavily beaten down by park guests. This alone demonstrates the visible cut backs to cast member presence.
2 – Entitlement. Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian, maybe not. During this last trip, even more so than the trip in 2017, park guests were rude, pushy and in some cases absolutely disrespectful to cast members! One incident in particular comes to mind from 1900 Park Fare, which is a character dining experience at the Grand Floridian. Cinderella, her step mother, and step sisters visit each table separately. Drizella is a sarcastic one and she was doing the rounds. While she was near our table a guest actually commented on her acting, and not in a complimentary way. I was blown away. I felt so terrible for the cast member and also realized this must be commonplace for them, and that is TERRIBLE! There is this overwhelming sense from guests that they paid for this experience and they are entitled to be rude and demanding. While yes, we expect a level of service and I’ll talk about a personal incident we had on our last day, but there is a time and place for feedback. But that night at 1900 Park Fare wasn’t acceptable, it was ugly.
3 – Cleanliness. You could literally eat off the street at any Disney park. You could use a clean washroom. Guaranteed. No longer the case. While the streets themselves weren’t covered in litter, guests did litter even with trash cans within the 30 paces as the park is designed. There were fewer cast members to clean up, but where it really stood out was ALL the washrooms. The only washrooms that were clean our entire trip were in resorts, ours Caribbean Beach and notably the Grand Floridian. But at each park, washrooms were strewn with leaky soap dispensers, toilet paper, plugged toilets and overflowing garbage at all times of day. It was gross and was no better than an Interstate rest stop washroom.
4 – No ownership of issues from staff. Perhaps that’s not the best way to describe it. Long story short we switched to a different resort for our last night during this trip. Our luggage was misplaced on it’s way. So when we arrived at Pop Century 12 hours later at 7pm our luggage was no where to be found. Bell Services was no help and said it would turn up eventually. Which would have been satisfactory if we weren’t catching a shuttle at 3am for the airport. We were told tough luck and they’d look for it. A member of the Bell Services team told Chris they’d hand deliver it when they found it. Hours passed, it still didn’t show. After 3 visits to Bell Services Chris saw it on a trolley, pointed it out and brought it up to our room himself. It was a terrible way to end our experience at Disney. Our resort was loud, and Bell Services were of no service at all. While I know that being upset colours our experiences, both Chris and I have worked in Customer Service and what we got from Bell Services is not at all what I’d expect from any person in customer service period. Oh and in case you were curious, our bags had decided they wanted to spend their last night at the Polynesian, that is where they were found…
5 – Booking through a travel agent might be less work, but if anything needs changed you could be out of luck. We booked through our regular Disney travel agent for this trip. A few things didn’t work out as planned and when we wanted to make changes, it all had to go through the agent. So even when arriving onsite at Disney, for a vacation that we paid for in full, if we wanted changes we had to cycle back through our agent. It made for a frustrating few weeks leading into the trip and unfortunately a split party on our last night. Personally, while the travel agent was helpful with deals and securing a few things, I will always book on my own from now on because I want control to make changes and not rely on having to work through a middle person.
So that’s part 1 of my Disney 2018. My next post will be more about our day to day adventures, highlights and some pictures too!
I’d love to hear about your experiences at Disney. While I had good and bad on this last trip, every trip is different. I don’t regret going, we had a great time. But going two years back to back let’s me take a step back and see how things are changing. It’s interesting times for Disney as they grow super fast. Please share in the comments your thoughts! Love to hear them!