Is Walt Disney World a Good Value for Your Vacation Dollars?
Walt Disney World raised its prices for the 29th year in a row. It’s like we’re being trained to accept the higher prices each year as a fait accompli, never noticing how much Disney’s ticket prices have exceeded the rate of inflation.
OK, so we accept that prices get higher every year, but we still get a quality experience for our money. Right?
Not so much anymore.
Have you noticed that Walt Disney World is cutting back on quality, removing experiences that used to be part of your ticketed entry, while still raising prices? Attendance at Walt Disney World is down, prices are up, and the quality is really slipping.
I think it’s time we called Disney out for devaluing the experience it provides in the wake of price increases.
The Walt Disney World Experience Isn’t What It Used To Be
In this episode of The Orlando Local Show, Lee and I discuss our most recent trip to the Magic Kingdom. Honestly, we had a really good time. That was in spite of some glaring problems, though. Among the things we noticed:
We also had some good experiences with castmembers that made us smile. In fact, I’d say that most cast members do a great job. If you’re considering your first visit to Walt Disney World, I’d encourage you to go.
For those of you who have several trips under your belt, we’d like to know if you see the value of your Disney vacation sliding downhill. Attendance is slipping and I think it has to do with some pricing and quality decisions. We’d love to know what you think.
Is Walt Disney World a good value for your vacation dollars after you’ve been there a number of times? Please let us know in the comments.
Orlando Sentinel – Disney World Ticket Prices Increase Sunday
Motley Fool – Disney World Will Probably Raise Prices Soon
You May Also Like…
William: Welcome to the Orlando Local Show, episode number thirty.
Hi, thank you very much for joining us on the Orlando Local Show. My name is William Beem.
Lee: My name is Lee Beem.
William: And today we are going to be talking a little bit about Walt Disney World and the question kind of comes up: Is Walt Disney World still providing value for its guests?
We kind of had a little bit of insight into this and we’ve been looking at some news sources and we thought it’s a good time to go over it. And that’s because we are recording this on Sunday February 12th and today is the day that Walt Disney World is doing its annual price increase.
And you know it happens every year. It’s not a surprise. Every year Disney goes through and increases its prices and shortly thereafter Universal Studios will increase its prices and so will Seaworld and other places. The prices continually go up.
Part of that we understand because ...
Lee: That’s life.
William: Yeah, that’s life. Prices go up. Things cost more for them to operate; things cost more for all of us. It just goes up, but it’s also something that I think they have kind of trained all of their guests to expect so that way when they do it, if you’re paying attention year after year, you’re not surprised and you think oh, well that’s OK. And you just kind of gradually accept it
Lee: You do. I mean there’s always this initial outcry and oh, that’s ridiculous! And then people forget about it and think well it’s not worth giving up my trip to Disney. Pay it and move on. So that’s not the core of the issue here, is it?
William: No, it’s really not, but before we get into that, I just want to give you a couple of little show note things. First off, show notes are going to be available at orlandolocal.com/30 and you can find a transcript of the show there for free. There are also links to subscribe to Orlando Local and the podcast. So we really encourage you to do that. Subscribe to the show, subscribe to the digest and that way we’ll get you some information as it comes out. And you’ll get your podcast delivered to you for free so you don’t have to worry about missing an episode.
Here’s the question: Is Walt Disney World still providing value for its ...you know, the cost that it has ... is it still a good family vacation year after year after year?
Here’s what we noticed. The daily ticket prices are increasing roughly about $5. I mean some of the ones were only a $2 increase; that’s not bad at all.
William: The Platinum Annual Passholder price is increasing from $649 to $679 per person. That’s a lot of money.
Lee: It is a lot of money, but then that’s over the course of a year so even then, it kind of ... once you’ve swallowed it if you’re still happy to renew you’ve just got to suck it up.
William: I’ve been an Annual Passholder for years. I paid nowhere near that when I started off.
Lee: I know!
William: These $30 a year increments really start to add up.
Lee: They do.
William: And the next thing you know it’s like I’m wondering is this still a value to me now?
Lee: Well, I’ve been talking about this for about a year.
William: You’ve been saying it a year before I have that maybe we should just back off of Annual Passholder. Not saying that we wouldn’t go to Disney World, but maybe the value proposition based off of how many times we go to Walt Disney World isn’t worth the cost of the passholder and maybe we should just go as needed and pay the ticket price.
Lee: I think here’s the reason why. In years gone by you’d go to Disney, you’d have a great time, you would leave and honestly I’d be savoring that moment. That happiness would live alive in me and prompt me: when can I go again?
We still have a nice time while we are there, but I think little things that we noticed that have declined are at the forefront of our minds and we are thinking, when do we have to go again to justify having this annual pass? It’s not that we don’t have a good time when we are there, but for the money that we are paying, we are not getting ... I don’t think we are getting the value.
I’m the only one in the family that’s been saying this for a while. I think the others are starting to get on board with it. But I’ve watched because I was a die hard “drink the Disney Kool Aid” fan.
William: Well, you came over from the UK year after year and you’d spend three weeks at a time. But that’s a very different experience than living here.
Lee: Yes it is. But this didn’t happen when I moved here. This happened on the last trip when we went over and I was actually quite vocal about it. We went over and I said I make a lot of cut-backs in my day to day life to fund this Disney vacation. Because it’s not cheap! I mean I should not have been able to afford it. I made it happen because we had such a good time and I was able to justify the expense. It’s not a cheap vacation even if you do it as a so-called budget vacation.
What we got out of it to me was absolutely worth cutting back in other areas of our lives.
William: Your last international trip was 2014. And you said at that point, “I’m not doing this anymore.”
Lee: I was thinking it from the outset; from when we arrived. I was starting to get the feeling – hold on a second. I’m working hard to feel like I’m getting some kind of value and it’s never going to be a break even with the cost. When we left I said, “This is the last time for a while.” It is no longer worth the money.
William: And that’s really what we mean by value. The cost is the cost. You can’t change that. Disney sets its prices. But do you feel that it was worth it when you go through the experience there? And we’re going to talk about some of the things that happened on our last visit and some previous visits that have kind of colored our impression of the value. And some of them may seem small, but they kind of represent a larger trend, I think.
Lee: Now I think if this is a once off vacation, here’s the difference. You are doing it for once? I think it is worth it. You are going to have a great time. It is going to be wonderful; it’s a first experience and you’ve got lots of new things. Is it worth doing it again instead of something else? I’m at the point where I’m saying no. I’d rather go to the Caribbean.
William: I think that is really a good point. If this is your first visit, yeah, it’s an incredible experience. There are things to see and do all over. If you are like us and have been there a number of times and you kind of know what to expect and then the memories that you had from your previous vacations are no longer available or they’ve changed somehow, then your value proposition changes, compared to someone who is taking their very first visit.
Lee: See, us Disney fans are a little bit different to fans for other things. I think we invest a lot in it. A lot of us are big planners. We sort of build up to this. We invest a lot of time. It’s family time.
It becomes almost like a hobby where you’re planning things, you’re spending time working things out, researching on it, putting aside savings. Maybe you’ve got a little jar where you’re putting your change and trying to save up for something special. This is a whole build-up. It’s not just a regular vacation where you look at the budget and you do a bit of a countdown.
William: Well you’re right. Last year our friends from Texas came over. It was their first trip to Walt Disney World and very likely going to be their last one.
Lee: Well, for a while.
William: For a while, yeah. At the time we went out to meet them. We had a wonderful time with them. I don’t know that they would want to do this year after year.
Lee: No. I mean I looked at it and in fact that trip I enjoyed watching first timers. Now my friend Cheryl had been there a number of times in the past over the years. They are from out of state. But this is the first time they had been to Disney World in Florida. They had done Disneyland. But this was their first Disney World trip as a family with their two teenage sons. And I think the thing I loved the most about the evening when we were at the Magic Kingdom was sitting and watching them. I watched them with the parade. I watched them watching the fireworks. I didn’t need to look at the shows. But their faces! It almost made me well up because that feeling .... I remember that feeling where the first time you are just so sucked into it. Your eyes are ... nothing else exists except this moment.
William: No, they had never had an experience like that before.
Lee: That is still there. I don’t want to downplay the fact that that is still there. I can see it. I miss that feeling. There was still some of that essence that carried through no matter how many times you watched it.
The problem is with people who become invested Disney fans and I can speak as being one of them, it becomes “my vacation” and “my Disney” and the key for Disney to making changes – which are necessary and a lot of them are improvements – don’t change too much at once because Disney fans ... I say I’m like a kid. If you change “my Disney” too much it’s not “my Disney” anymore. It’s not my Disney experience.
William: And that was something that we saw just yesterday when we told our daughter Tové that Wishes is going away on May 11th. The Wishes fireworks show has been there for fourteen years. It’s time for it to change. But do you remember her reaction?
Lee: Why does Disney take away all the things that we like the most and just leave us with the regular stuff?
William: And we don’t even know what’s coming. The next show may be better. I suspect that it will be because apparently the show that is in Disneyland is much more of a spectacular than Wishes is. But Wishes is a story that kind of touches you inside your heart.
Lee: That’s what the current Disney management is missing. It’s not about being spectacular. It’s about the sentiment and the experience. The Disney magic has nothing to do with the spectacular visuals.
William: You’re right.
Lee: It’s really not.
William: Those are the elements that support the story.
Lee: That’s the key thing. It’s a very emotional and sentimental trip. I know a lot of people, even you as a regular, and as a local, you grew up going there and there are changes. You accept change as part of life. There is a time to move on. But when everything suddenly changes? There’s a difference to moving house and keeping your friends and neighborhood and school to moving countries.
William: Well let me get a last couple of pieces in here. And by the way, this news that we are gathering came from sources like the Orlando Sentinel, which is the local newspaper and a couple of other Disney blogs that like to report news as it happens. We aren’t really a news source so we are just kind of relaying this along.
First thing, tickets now are going to have expiration dates, which is different than in the past. Before if you bought a Disney ticket it was yours so long as you haven’t used it or started it off. So if you had a multi day like a four day pass, well as soon as you used it then you’ve got four days to finish it. Same with an annual pass. It’s a year from the time that you initiate it.
William: But if you buy like a one day pass you could hold onto that thing until it was time to go and now you can’t. Now they are going to expire. I don’t know how long it’s going to take for them to expire, but it’s a big change that Disney tickets now have expiration dates.
And this is important because you may buy your tickets in advance for a trip and then something happens and you cannot take your trip and suddenly your ticket expires.
Lee: Well this is the point. Not everybody is trying to cash in while the prices ... before the prices go up. There are people who buy the tickets with the genuine intent of using them and something happens. Life happens.
William: So that’s another change and I hope that Disney is providing a long enough grace period that people can recover from whatever kept them away, but you know, you don’t know what is going to keep something from happening. It could be a family tragedy or it could be a change in work. It could be any number of things. And then if you can’t get here until two years later, well, that money you spent is gone.
Now we also noticed from the Orlando Sentinel that domestic attendance fell five per cent last quarter. Keep in mind last quarter is the Christmas quarter. That’s typically the busiest season and Disney is kind of blaming this on Hurricane Matthew. Hurricane Matthew?
Lee: That makes me laugh. That was in the beginning of October!
William: Yeah. And there are people who didn’t come for Hurricane Matthew, but that was for a few days and yeah, some of those people weren’t going to come back in the same quarter. I get that. But five per cent is a huge number for attendance.
Lee: I agree.
William: I think there is something else going on there and their attendance for all of 2016 according to the Orlando Sentinel dropped by one per cent. One per cent when you consider the number of people that are coming to Disney World, that’s a lot of people too.
Lee: Well we were in that one per cent.
Another one is preferred parking. We drove through the gate just yesterday. We went out there to celebrate our daughter’s birthday and we saw the sign. For an extra thirty-five dollars you can have preferred parking, you know, which is the parking that’s right up close. That already ticks me off because it used to be if you got there early you got to park closer. Now they’ve decided that’s an extra revenue thing and we’ll get into that later because there are a lot of things that used to be available as part of your park ticket and now they are extra revenue opportunities for Walt Disney World.
Lee: I mean in what universe do you not get a benefit for making the extra effort and inconveniencing yourself to be somewhere early?
William: At Walt Disney World! But that pricing is going up from $35 to $40. So even the benefits that they just kicked off last year, in 2016, are now going to go up in price and finally, this is one that we don’t have a lot of details – it was in the Orlando Sentinel article – Disney will eliminate the Waterpark Fun and More ticket, which included Blizzard Beach, and what was the other water park?
Lee: Oh, Typhoon Lagoon?
William: Typhoon Lagoon. I always forget the name of that one. And ESPN and the golf course and just a few other little things that you could use as an add on package. Now you can use it as part of a park hopper package. It’s still there, but if you wanted to get it the way it was before, that’s going to be going away.
Lee: Yeah, they haven’t really given details on it so we don’t really want to comment in speculation because there’s not really enough to tell how this is going to change.
William: We don’t know when or how, but I trust the Orlando Sentinel when it comes to reporting these things. They speak with media folks at Walt Disney World. They would not be reporting that this is going to be going away ....
Lee: Oh I’m not questioning them at all. They are reliable as a Disney news source. I think they are very reliable based on their history. It’s just that we don’t ... they haven’t really been specific as to how and when this is going to change.
William: Yeah, I suspect that’s going to come.
Lee: We are not a rumors podcast so we’ll let you know what we’ve heard, where we’ve heard it from and when we’ve got something confirmed, we’ll follow up.
William: As I mentioned, we went yesterday on the 11th to celebrate our daughter’s birthday. That’s not her birthday, but you know you can celebrate whatever it is any day when it’s convenient for you to be there.
Lee: Well we couldn’t go on the birthday, so this was the nearest available day for us.
William: And you know, we had a lot of positive experiences there. I don’t want to completely bash on Walt Disney World because like we said, we really do enjoy it.
Lee: It was probably maybe the nicest day I think that we’ve had there.
William: This was one of our nicest family days because the park was not too terribly crowded.
Lee: It wasn’t crowded at all.
William: The weather was perfect. I mean there wasn’t a cloud in the sky the whole day, which for Florida is just really unnatural.
Lee: It was lovely.
William: And the temperature didn’t really get above eighty degrees. It actually felt kind of comfortable. You wore your sweater most of the day.
Lee: I did and I would have been comfortable without it and I was comfortable with it on. It was just one of those days where anything goes. I didn’t feel like carrying it and it didn’t bother me either way.
William: Yeah so it was a really comfortable day. It wasn’t too crowded, we had three FastPasses, but we got there in the morning. As soon as we got there one of the first things that Tové wanted to see was the opening show. And we couldn’t see that because the railroad is under refurbishment.
Lee: I actually remembered the railroad was under refurbishment but I wasn’t thinking about it in the moment. It wasn’t that they hadn’t let us know. It just kind of ...
William: We did know about it but when I walked up I really didn’t expect to see the plastic draping over the train station.
Lee: Yeah, that really gets me. I said to you yesterday when you said, “Oh, plastic draping! I didn’t expect this!”
I said, well, it’s been around for about seven years. I am so sick to death of seeing scrims (I had to be careful and watch my words because I was going to get quite descriptive about that) everywhere in Disney. Refurbishment is necessary. I appreciate that they refurbish and that they maintain their things, but I’m sick of it. It is so intrusive now that it ruins the whole experience.
William: And it wasn’t just the train station. And I get that if it’s under refurbishment they don’t want you to see what’s going on inside because that kind of spoils the magic for people, so they put up these little plastic things like I guess it’s a painting of what the train station is supposed to look like; but it’s clearly just a fake scrim. But as soon as we walked through the same thing was covering the Emporium. And I thought what’s going on here? It’s like you can’t even see the building for all these scrims in front of it.
It kind of sets you back, but it really wasn’t even just that. It was even before we got in there. The park entry to the Magic Kingdom and the searches really kind of put you in the wrong mood to start your day.
Lee: It did. I bit my lip because this was a special birthday thing and I didn’t want to be the Debbie Downer on the whole experience, but I mean right from the outset, we got there really early so we did what we needed to do and inconvenienced ourselves so that we wouldn’t hit the major arriving crowds who had left it to the very last minute.
I mean we waited for the ferry. We waited to board. It was almost ... it was uncomfortable on the ferry because people were waiting. I am not sure if the monorail was running at the time because we noticed that the monorails seemed to be stuck on beams during the course of the day.
William: And we’ll get to that a bit later too.
Lee: So you know, once we got there we had to clear security and I don’t think we have ever been through where one of us has not been picked for the random security check. I do not have an issue with the fact that they are doing a random security check. I do take issue with the way that they are doing it because it really disrupts the flow. Now Tové was picked.
William: Tove was picked and this is something that we noticed not just with our child but with other children as well. usually it’s me that gets picked. Ok so I empty my pockets and go through security and I’m separated from my family for a while, but I can handle it.
Lee: You’re an adult. And look Tové is not a kid. She is fourteen, going on fifteen. I didn’t have a problem with her age. They haven’t picked a little kid or anything, but there were little children who had been selected ahead of us in the line. Now I mean Tove had take off all her jewelry. She had got herself nicely dressed. This was her birthday thing. She wanted some photos and she stood there and you could just see her face like “Oh why me?” So she took off all the bracelets. I mean this is a teenage girl getting everything off. Her nice little Minnie ears that she had bought for her birthday celebration and she’s passing this stuff to me so she can go through security. Ahead of us was a mom with a boy in the line. He had, from her conversation it was clear that he had been picked for the security check. They didn’t seem to have any issue with this. I mean they were co-operating and there was nothing going on but she was being told, “If you were not picked you cannot stand with him. You need to go wait over here.”
And he was, “Mom! Where are you going?”
William: This is the part that really gets me. Walt Disney World! They need to understand that children are there for a magical experience because they are the ones that really believe everything that’s happening. And then their very first experience is you’re separated from your family and told to stand over here and you have to go through this experience with a bunch of strangers in uniform and it’s frightening.
Lee: And keep in mind, Mom has probably been spending weeks ahead saying “Do not leave my side when we are at Disney World with all these people!”
So this kid is confused as heck.
William: I get the need for security. I really do. But you can’t separate families.
Lee: I don’t have an issue with kids being picked. Security is security. You’ve got to do ... random is random. I don’t have a problem. They weren’t picking three year olds. Deal with it. But to start getting difficult? That was another thing. It was the attitude of the people; the cast members.
William: We’ve got more to talk about cast member attitudes too.
But this is what bothered me. The fact that it was a frightening experience for a child who is going for his magical day in the park.
Lee: We didn’t have an issue, but I just felt for her.
William: But separating from your family and the kid thinks, well I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t understand. And there were no cast members saying don’t worry, it’s alright, you’ll be with your mother soon. Or anything like that.
Lee: Even TSA handles the kids better!
William: They do! I was just on a trip to Atlanta and I saw kids going through and the TSA was really friendly and nice with them. I don’t have a lot of nice things to say for the TSA, but for the trip that I had they did a very great job.
Lee: Actually I’ve had good experiences with them and I think Disney could maybe learn from them.
William: Park entry and searches I think they need to be a little bit more considerate or train their security staff or maybe even if it’s not the security staff that’s doing it, maybe they need to have other cast members out there that are saying, “Don’t worry. It’s going to be alright.”
Lee: They were not mean to the kids in any way. They were nice to them but it was the bigger picture of this.
William: Yeah. OK. Here’s another thing that we’ve noticed that is really on the decline is quality of food.
Lee: Yeah this has been a bit of a hot topic on any Disney forum and I think it kind of started initially where it was blamed on the dining plans being introduced and everything being dumbed down and kind of made all the same. It goes beyond that. I mean I was quite happy to buy the dining plan. I’m not sure it was always cost effective, but it at the very least worked out as a break even and I didn’t have to worry about cash. We could eat what we wanted when we went. So it was worth it because we stayed onsite. The variety has decreased.
We have noticed that there is really nowhere that our family can eat. We have all got very different eating tastes and Cosmic Rays is almost the only place we can go where all three of us can actually eat something.
William: We can all get something there.
You know what? The quality of the food! I had the pulled pork sandwich. That was really a bad mistake. I’ve had it before and enjoyed it. This time it was miserable.
Lee: We’ve had great meals. I was also looking forward to things there. I tend to order off the kids menu because it’s enough for me. I’m a bit of a grazer. They changed the menu and that was fine. I mean the kids turkey sandwich was gone. I was kind of sad about it but I’m an adult eating off the kids menu so it’s OK. I’m not going to winge about it. I took the next best alternative and it was fine. I mean actually, my meal was probably nicer than the adult meals that you guys got.
But the portion sizes have shrunk and one of the things I started to notice is at the toppings bar. I’m very fussy with mayonnaise. Don’t put mayonnaise on my food. I generally don’t eat it but I have a got a little bit of Dutch heritage in my family and some of the culture has come down. If we do have fries, we like to put our fries in mayonnaise, not ketchup. So yeah, I know you can eeew and whatever.
William: No, I am familiar with the custom so ...
Lee: It’s a cultural thing. It’s probably the only time I ever bother with mayonnaise but Disney has always had the nice creamy one. That’s the reason I don’t let people put it on. I don’t want this reduced calorie nonsense.
William: You want the real thing.
Lee: If I’m going to have it, I want to have it. And as I hit that little dispenser I saw the color of it coming out and you know what I mean when it usually struggles to come out because it’s thick and creamy and white? It almost had like a yellowish look and it just poured out and I though, oh no!
William: It really wasn’t good mayonnaise. You can tell.
Lee: And the ketchup as well. No more Heinz, or whatever they were using. Now they’ve got this thing you’ve never heard of.
William: It’s a brand I’ve never heard of.
Lee: It’s like water!
William: What they’re doing is they are buying lower quality cheaper ingredients to use in the food and it shows.
Lee: but the prices have gone up for the food!
William: The prices have gone up and the quality has gone down. And it’s not just the condiments. It’s other items as well.
Lee: But I think when it shows in the condiments it’s kind of a really big hint that stuff is changing.
William: Well that kind of goes back to something that was mentioned in the Orlando Sentinel article. Disney is learning to make more with less and it won’t stop until revenue and earnings suggest otherwise. And that’s what’s happening. You’ve paying more money, they are having fewer people come so they are reducing the quality of the experience that they are giving you. Everything from the food to just the environment that you walk into.
Like I said, when I walked in it’s a number of times I’ve been to Walt Disney World and you go into Main Street and that’s when you want to have that really wonderful moment. You go under the train station, you come out and you see Main Street USA and think, oh! It’s like a vinyl scrim instead of the actual building. Or during the summer time you look at Cinderella’s castle and there’s a big crane hanging over it all summer long.
Lee: Here’s where I think Disney ... Disney’s always been pretty good at managing things. Whether we agree or not, their business strategies work. This is one thing where I think they are going about it the wrong way and I really hate to say this, but I hope it bites them in the butt.
When you are suffering a decline, you don’t make people pay more and give them less. You maybe take a little bit of a hit and you up the quality because that brings you back up where people start with word of mouth, saying “I had a really good experience and felt it was worth the extortionate price.”
William: And now people are saying, well, it was OK. Or it was OK, but... and then they list off the things that bother them.
And here’s one that really bothered me the most and that is cast member experiences that we’ve had. Now don’t get me wrong. We had some wonderful cast member experiences yesterday. So for example when we were at Cosmic Rays and we got up the counter to get our food, someone noticed that Tové was wearing a Happy Birthday button which she was very proud of. She liked that. And everywhere we walked people and cast members saw that and they told her happy birthday.
But they actually got nearly a dozen people together – cast members – and broke out into a nice song for her and she felt great. I’m sure the people in the line behind us were wondering when they were going to finish the song to get their food.
Lee: Oh don’t worry. They’d been waiting about 20 minutes anyway. It wouldn’t make a difference!
William: Yeah, but that was a really wonderful cast member experience. Tové was smiling and plus they gave her a little free cake.
Lee: And the guy who welcomed us when we joined the line kind of apologized for the wait and made a joke of it afterwards.
William: So I want to put that out there first before I put any complaints out because we had some really nice cast member experiences and those are the things that we expect.
But there were also some snide comments that we heard.
Lee: And this is not the first time. We have actually been on the brunt of something and we are talking really sarcastic. Like if your kids did it they would be in their room with some kind of punishment.
William: Well, let me say it. Yesterday we were in line for Chip and Dale for a little photo opportunity. It was Tove’s birthday and we wanted to get some pictures and one of the cast members was kind of like handling the line and queue. She came down and she was talking to people behind us about how to get ready and prepared. She wants to keep the line moving.
And she’s telling them about their strollers and having your autograph books ready and all this other stuff. And after she got done with that she’s walking back and forward and she says over her shoulder, “Thanks for not listening to a word I said.”
Lee: But loudly!
William: Enough that we heard it and I just looked up and I was stunned.
William: That’s becoming more prevalent.
Lee: The woman in front of us with her two little kids actually turned around and kind of caught my eye and her mouth dropped open and she kind of mouthed the words “OMG!”
William: Yeah. My mouth dropped open. That is not what the Disney experience is supposed to be like. Cast members do that and if their supervisor or manager finds out it’s kind of like you probably get yanked off the line or you should.
You just don’t do that.
We were at a Halloween party last year. Was it last year or the year before?
Lee: It might have been the year before.
William: I think it was the year before. It wasn’t last year.
I really wanted to get some photos of the parade and I was sitting down where the flag pole area is and right on the sidewalk. I got a beautiful shot right down Main Street to the castle and the parade comes down from that route.
As I’m aiming and I want to take a shot of the parade, one of the photographers starts walking down.
Lee: PhotoPass, yeah.
William: The PhotoPass photographer starts walking right down the middle of the street and clearly she sees me and my first expression is, “Oh please move out of the way, I want to take a picture of the parade.”
I didn’t say anything, I didn’t make any gestures.
Lee: You just sat there waiting.
William: I guess my expression must have told her everything she wanted to know. And she walked right up and bent down in front of me, “Oh am I in the way?”
Lee: No. She said “Oh I’m so sorry.” As sarcastic as you get. “Did I get in the way of your precious shot?”
William: Yeah. It was just like right in my face and I didn’t know what to say to her because I was so stunned that a Cast Member would be that obnoxious.
Lee: We just kind of froze and looked at her like this didn’t happen!
William: You wanted to go chase her down and get her name.
Lee: Oh I was ... yeah .... I was getting ready to stand up. You know, I’m the fiery personality and I need somebody to calm me down, which is why I’m married to the right person!
William: Well I said don’t do it because I was concentrating on the parade and the experience. I didn’t want you to miss your moments because you were chasing down someone who was rude to me.
But I mean these are the kinds of things that we’ve seen to others and have happened to us. Some of these cast members just don’t care anymore. They are probably tired, they are frustrated and they are just going to take it out on the guests.
I am paying more for this!
Lee: A few years ago that never really happened. I mean it did happen, I’m sure, but your chance of coming across it was so slim. For the few times that we go there now, compared to me kind of living there for two and a half or three weeks at a time, I would have expected that if I were going to see it before, I would have seen it then. And it really hasn’t happened.
We’ve had a few – and these are just two that highlight it. I don’t think we’ve been on a visit where we haven’t had some kind of experience where somebody has been sarcastic or barked not necessarily at us, but within earshot of everybody; kind of rolled their eyes and made some derogatory remarks about guests. And that is not the Disney experience that I want.
William: Well, the same here and honestly it’s not what I grew up with, it’s not what I expect and I certainly don’t want to pay more for people who are going to be treating me like that.
I still don’t understand that PhotoPass photographer’s motivation for walking down the middle of the street, purposely trying to ruin my shot.
Lee: Well initially she wasn’t, but as soon as she saw you she slowed down and milked it. I thought look, people are walking. There are people with cameras everywhere. I understand that. As a photographer?
William: But the parade was right behind her. There was nobody walking down the street.
Lee: I really wasn’t ... you know, it’s OK and I know that they need to walk ahead of the parade so initially you kind of suck it up, but the fact that she saw cameras there and singled them out and ... enough said!
William: You’re right. There are only two more items we want to bring up.
One is it seems like a lot of continual repairs and refurbishment and when they are doing that, we understand the need; it’s got to happen. But they are doing so much at the same time that you lose part of your experience. And let’s face it, you don’t get any discount because Big Thunder Mountain is closed or the railroad is closed or whatever it is that you want to go to. If it’s shut down and other things are shut down at the same time, you don’t get a partial reimbursement because you can’t do the things.
Lee: Yeah and you know if it’s just one thing, it’s one thing. It might be your favorite ride and it sucks or maybe your favorite restaurant and that’s not great.
William: It happens.
Lee: When you go there and your resort food court is closed and then there are things in every park that you like that are down and there are scrims all over when you wanted to get a nice photo of your kids on Main Street USA, this stuff starts to add up.
One thing I will say is I was always so impressed by how quickly and silently Disney used to fix things. I remember going and standing outside late at night – I used to suffer from insomnia and I’d go and stand on the balcony at one of the moderate resorts which is where we used to stay because Tove was sleeping in the room. So I just kind of opened the room door and would stand outside on the balcony and look out. Often at night I would see these silent workers, you know, doing stuff with the landscapes and fixing things and in the morning you would get up and things had changed but there was no sign or sound of anything. It was just smooth. Almost like stealths!
William: It’s like little fairies came overnight and hit it with their pixie dust and everything changed.
Now last summer, the crane over Cinderella’s castle was there every day and it wasn’t just that it was there. There were people inside a bucket going up there and painting or scraping or whatever they were doing to the castle. I mean they were doing construction work during the day.
Lee: Late 2009, early 2010 ... since then I don’t think we’ve been able to walk into a park without having stuff in your face where you are cut off from being able to access things.
William: It reminds me of being in New York City where something is always under construction and Disney Parks are like that too. There are walls and fences and boards. We know that they are expanding the parks with the Star Wars Land going up and the Toy Story going up.
Lee: I’m not against the construction. I certainly am not against mainentance and refurbishment. It’s necessary, but it’s so in your face. They are doing so many things at the same time that I’m wondering if all these ticket prices and cutbacks are just funding their rehabs, which basically means the people visiting today and getting soured to it are paying for the people who are going to be visiting in five years time.
William: Alright, here’s the last item on the list and I’m sorry that this sounds kind of like a rant, but I guess...
Lee: Well it is from me!
William: It is a bit of a rant because you know, the prices are going up and we are paying for this and the monorail is really the biggest thing. We came out of the park yesterday and we could see it sitting right there. It was broken down and there were people who could literally see Magic Kingdom park but they are just a couple of hundred yards shy of getting into the station.
Lee: This has got to be so frustrating and I’ve been there! Many times.
William: Oh, when I came out when you were out here on your visit in 2014 I came out here to see you. I was stuck on the monorail. I don’t know why I took it because I always take the ferry, but now the ferry is overloaded.
We probably spent 45 minutes just trying to get out of Magic Kingdom to the parking lot.
William: Because the ferry in both directions was overloaded. I thought why aren’t they running all of the ferries?
Lee: And bearing in mind this was an off season day. It was extremely low crowds for Magic Kingdom on a Saturday. This was quiet. There were not a lot of people there.
William: It was just unbelievable. Like the monorails had been breaking down for years now. Get some new monorails, get something. Fix the damn thing! Because this is how you get people in and out of your parks and to your hotels and it’s unreliable. I’m sure there’s going to be a heavy cost to make the repairs if they need to do so, but continuing the status quo for four or five years is not an acceptable solution.
Lee: No, it’s really not.
William: Anyways, that is kind of really our experience. Like we said, we had a wonderful day yesterday, but there were enough things that we noticed and with the prices increasing and also the crowds – at the point where we get where they are jamming more people into the parks than they used to in the past – where they used to cut things off now the crowds kind of keep you from wanting to go there.
Sometimes we say, “Should we go to Disney?”
And we just roll our eyes like, oh no.
Lee: It’s just such a hassle.
William: We have fun when we get there. We’ll do something and we’ll have a good time. We know that. But getting into and out of the parks has become such a frustration that it’s really reducing our enjoyment of the parks and our annual pass. Very different if you’re onsite and you’ve got a bus that takes you right over. You don’t have to worry about a monorail.
Lee: But even then, with the cost justifying your value, the problem with that which I’m seeing is Disney keeps trying to sell these extras to you and saying these are extras. Like extras like an special viewing spot. What happened to the good old days where you bought your ticket that gave you access to all the things in the park? Barring food and purchases, which is different. And you got to experience the park.
William: They are taking things away from the typical guests and saying now this costs more or you must have a FastPass Plus.
Lee: And they tell you it’s an extra. Really?
William: Yeah it’s like there are special viewing areas for fireworks shows that are FastPass Plus or you have to pay for them like the Wishes Dessert Party.
Lee: They must think I’ve got the intelligence of an omeba if I’m going to fall for that.
William: They are charging more and taking things away from you or lowering the quality, like they are with the food.
And that’s really why we are asking the question: Is Disney still a good value for you?
William: I would love to have your feedback and your comments. Please let us know. Give us a comment at orlandolocal.com/30 and tell us how you feel.
Is Disney still a good value for you? I’m not saying that you don’t like it anymore; that you don’t want to go.
Lee: We like it.
William: We like it, but are you feeling the same value compared to what you used to have?
Thank you so much for joining us on the Orlando Local Show. Show notes are going to be available at orlandolocal.com/30 and again, please if you have got a comment, if you’ve got some feedback about the way Disney is providing value for you or maybe if your value is declining, let us know. Give us a comment at orlandolocal.com/30
And of course you can get a transcript of the show there for free. You can subscribe to the show, you can subscribe to our email digest and we hope you really enjoy it. But give us some feedback and let us know what you’re thinking. We want to make this show for you and hope that you get what you need.
Thank you so much. We’ll see you again next time.