There’s a certain “disgusting positivity” that exudes from most Disney blogs, podcasts, forums, news sites, streamers, and virtually every other form of media.
It’s enough to induce vomiting. At least it is for me. Maybe that’s your thing, though. If so—no judgement here! There’s no shortage of blog entries for you to check out here and elsewhere that are far more optimistic, and probably more your speed. If you just dropped a few thousand bucks on booking your Disney vacation, and you’re looking for articles sweeter than candy to get you excited, this post is not for you.
However, I’ve always tried to give my honest-to-God opinion on all things in this blog, and this post will be no different. Disney gets a lot of things—and historically most things—very right. They do it in such a way that makes the experience of visiting Walt Disney World (or Disneyland, or (insert Disney park name or cruise ship name here) distinctly unique and special. But, sometimes, they get it wrong.
And in some cases, they get it really wrong. This article is about these “misses,” as of 6/2022. I write this article with hope that at least some of these things will get better. In some cases, they have already a bit. (This was the hardest article to date to write for my blog–partially due to the fact that I despise writing about things I dislike, and I also took great care to make sure that this article reflected the current state of things, which took a good deal of re-writing.) This list is ranked in such a way that the worst “misses” are at the bottom (i.e. – #1 is the worst, followed by #2, #3… etc). Here’s the list:
- Passholder Benefits
- Special-Ticketed Events
- Merchandise Quality
- Food Service
- Park Security & Bag Check
- Genie & Genie+
- Insane Planning Requirements
- Arbitrary, Stupid COVID Induced Restrictions
- Woke Revisions to Attractions
Before I get into the details, though: note that there’s a common theme here—Disney has always started with a superior product / event / service, but is now slowly waters things down, slowly takes away features and generally ‘nerfs’ stuff while keeping the price the same or in some cases raising the price. And they’re brazen about doing so. But hey—it’s the Chapek way! Kind of makes you miss the good ol’ Eisner days…
10. Passholder Benefits
It was a lifelong dream to become a Disney passholder. I mean—when I was a kid, I used to dream about the ability to just show up, plop your “key to the world” on the admission desk, and WHAM—you can go to Disney World every day. I mean—how much better can life get?
Like many things on this list, there was a precedent set that was a lot closer to that vision. Not only could you do exactly what I described, you wouldn’t need to plan at all. You could just walk in to the park of your choice and experience as many (or as few) attractions that you so desired.
Over time, other nifty little benefits showed up to make the deal even sweeter. You’d get a free magnet at every festival, and they were really cool magnets! Sometimes, you’d get free cutting boards, tasting glasses, or whatever the freebie du jour was. Also—you could spend another few bucks and add both water parks to your pass! Also, there were discounts! Not too bad, huh? They’d better not be…. Especially when you’re paying in excess of $1300 per person per year.
Since COVID has changed the world, us passholders have had to give up the magnets (with the exception of one generic one that you might get in the mail once a year), the freebies, and a lot of the discounts. For a while, adding the water parks option to your annual pass was restricted for some reason that was blamed on COVID.
Oh—and that “showing up whenever you want to go to Disney?” Naah—you have to make a ‘park reservation’ because I guess otherwise COVID will kill you and your family. For a while, these park reservations were hard to come by, despite my highest-tier annual passes. Now, I can generally get a reservation any day of the year with the exception of some peak days (like Christmas and New Years), but park hopping is right out of the question—at least until after 2 PM, which really limits the amount of park hopping that can be done.
Oh—and if that’s not bad enough, how about this: do you want to “rope drop” (i.e. – show up before opening) to try and get in before lines get long? Don’t worry—they took that away from us as well. Now, everyone with a resort (Disney hotel) reservation gets an advantage here, defeating the purpose of showing up early.
But, they lowered the price of the annual passes, though… 🤣 Just kidding. Dream on. Disney’s price is never lowered.
9. Special-Ticketed Events
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party was one of my favorite events at a theme park. You could get some exclusive time at rides where the waits weren’t as long, wear a costume to the park, and go trick or treating, but cooler than all of this: you could get some really unique pictures with some characters, including the seven dwarves. (All of them.)
For a while, things seemed pretty great with the exclusive event, until they started selling too many tickets to the event. The exclusive ride time basically became a park that was open later (reminding me of the after-hours events of the late 90’s for resort guests), and if you wanted a picture with the seven dwarves, you’d better be prepared to wait in line for well over an hour—and in some cases, over 2 hours. (Keep in mind that these events were usually only about 5 hours long, max.)
But, since the dawn of COVID, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party has morphed into “Disney’s After Hours Boo Bash.” This has brought the prices even higher while removing additional features of these events. For a while, they kept the tickets pretty exclusive (angering guests who wanted to purchase tickets but couldn’t get them quickly enough) and then expanded the ticket sales to include those who couldn’t buy tickets initially (but, of course, made the capacity of the event higher.) While I haven’t been to “Boo Bash,” reviews indicate that the event’s lines in peak areas of the park are actually higher for the event. It seems like the main value of the event is that you wouldn’t have to wait as long for peak things like “Seven Dwarves Mine Train.” But—paying over $100 per person to wait in line for Seven Dwarves Mine Train for 10-20 minutes per ride isn’t a great value either (Individual Lightning Lane for this attraction right now is $15 / ride, which is a rip off as well, but nowhere near the cost of a “Boo Bash.”) But you do get free, unlimited Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, but only late in the night. (Note: A long wait applies for that ice cream, but you probably knew that already.)
Oh—you want parades, though? Yeah—those now suck. How about those really unique character sightings? Those are now crappy also. (More on that in point #2 below.)
I am happy to report that Disney did announce that Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party will be making a return this fall (2022). However, I’d recommend waiting a bit to see how those pan out before jumping in with both feet.
So yet again…. Increased attendance, fewer features & amenities, worse hours, and (of course) higher price. See the pattern?
8. Merchandise Quality
I remember a day when the merchandise around Walt Disney World was a lot more memorable and unique. This was pretty multi-faceted.
First, different locations had some similar items, but there was a good majority of things that were distinctly different and unique available in each shop around WDW. It used to be that the gift shops near each ride mostly had these unique, cool, and exclusive items that matched the attraction that was nearby.
Now, there’s a much higher concentration of really generic merchandise: stuff that has the current year on it (that didn’t work out so well for them in 2020, haha), overpriced generic candy, crappy sunglasses, boring magic bands / slap bracelets, stuff that is generic to the park (or WDW in general), and other sundries.
So, for example, instead of the Tomorrowland Power & Light Company (at the exit of Space Mountain) having a lot of stuff unique to Space Mountain and Tomorrowland, there’s mostly generic Star Wars stuff, “Customize your iPhone / MagicBand / etc” kiosk, generic magic bands, and the like. In short, mostly forgettable stuff. And most (or perhaps all?) of it is available in the giant Emporium in the front of the park, which takes up half of Main Street USA. (Wouldn’t it be nice if there was more to Main Street USA? I mean, I’m pretty sure Walt intended for the first thing that guests walk through when entering his quintessential park to be a heck of a lot more than a big, generic gift shop. Just a thought…)
Most of the time, you’re actually better off making the trip out to Disney Springs and going to the Disney Marketplace Co-Op, which is a loft-style store with all different kinds of unique sub-stores that carries more unique stuff. There IS a “customize your iPhone / MagicBand” area at the Coop, but there’s a lot more stuff available, in my experience—and most of the other little loft stores in the Coop are super unique.
But, that’s not the worst of it. The quality of the items has definitely gone down over time. A lot of the T-shirts are really of an inferior quality but cost as much as other more quality brands. (Again, I’ve had better success at the Co-op here as well). They do have some pretty high-end brands, but you’ll pay for them. For example, Spirit Jerseys are definitely a big thing in WDW, and for a while, they were pretty generic, but they’ve gone to making some really unique (and even attraction specific) ones. Many of these are kind of girly looking (which disqualifies them for me, unfortunately) but there’s some really great ones that are more masculine that we can wear. In those cases, you’ll pay dearly for them. (More on pricing in point 6 below.)
There’s one two-sided coin on the merchandise front that is worth mentioning here, though—Disney pins. Due to the multiple-decade tradition attached to trading pins at Walt Disney World, Disney has continued to produce unique pins, which does often end up being available throughout the parks, though again, you’ll pay for them. If you want a pretty unique pin, you’d better be prepared to pay in excess of $20. For the most basic, tradable pin you can find on sale at the Disney Outlet or Character Warehouse (or with a pin-trading lanyard set), you’re looking at an absolute minimum of $4-5 per pin.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel—ironically, thanks to Disney’s greed and the unscrupulous (yet enterprising) Chinese whom Disney chooses to work with. In attempts to maximize their profit, Disney makes their pins in Chinese factories. Disney doesn’t approve all of the pins that are made in the factory, meaning that there’s a lot of scrap pins produced by the Chinese factory. Instead of disposing of these pins, the Chinese import them into the US and sell them for more like 5 cents each on eBay in big lots of 25, 50, 100, or even more.
When you couple this with Disney’s compulsory pin trading program, this puts you way ahead. Specifically, cast members have to trade up to 2 pins with you, and they have no way to tell or enforce where you purchased the pins you’re trading. So, you can just stock up on eBay and trade them out for decent pins you find on pin boards and lanyards in the park.
If you feel bad about doing this, consider all of the other stuff in this article. Plus, chances are, the pin board pins are all “scrappers” as well. So, Disney deserves it at this point. (Also—F China. If you don’t like that, feel free to put your hate in the comments below and go read another blog.)
7. Food Service
The food in Disney used to be pretty darn awesome—especially for a theme park. There’s still some pockets of the parks where the food is still stellar (especially many of the restaurants in the World Showcase, many of which aren’t run directly by Disney). However, in many cases the food is quite marginal and very overpriced. On the topic of food price: Disney’s CFO had the chutzpah to suggest that Disney cutting portion size would be better for guests health.
The deficiencies described above in food service are most common at the quick service restaurants, but it is not unique to them. Not unlike the merchandise discussion above, there’s a lot of generic Disney food that you get in multiple locations, like the chicken tenders. The DIS Unplugged has (correctly) spoken about the “Disney flavor vacuum” and these generic food items represent the epitome of this concept. They’re boring, flavorless, and overpriced.
One of the big problems here is that the problem appears to be geographic. That is to say: if the quick service food is especially crappy and overpriced in one location, you can count on all of the other quick service locations in the area being comparably crappy and overpriced. (Magic Kingdom—I’m looking at you.)
There’s another issue here worth mentioning as well—Advance Dining Reservations, or ADRs. ADRs are a giant pain in the butt. More on that later, in point #2, below.
Also, if you get to within 24 hours of your reservation and you have to cancel your reservation—your credit card that you used to book the reservation gets charged a late-cancellation penalty per person in your party. (Also note: I’ve been charged this cancellation fee once when I showed up on time for my reservation and had a full meal with the family, so watch your credit card statements. Not to name any specific names or anything, Via Napoli…)
As with some of the other negative points on this list, I feel obliged to include a couple of tips here to try and “minimize your suck,” to help you pick the best of a series of bad options.
Joe’s Brief Guide to Quick Service Restaurants Throughout Walt Disney World
- Magic Kingdom – There’s slim pickings here… About the best you can do is the cream cheese pretzel in Tomorrowland, a pizza from Pinocchio’s in Fantasyland, a waffle sandwich from Sleepy Hollow, or the fried foods from the Columbia Harbor House. I haven’t had a good experience at Pecos Bill’s in years. The food is terrible and getting a seat is a giant hassle. “Be Our Guest” used to be the granddaddy of quick service breakfast & lunches, but now it’s all sit-down and (I think) “signature” dining places, for those on the Disney Dining Plan (if and when they ever bring that back).
- Epcot – As I mentioned briefly before, you’re more likely to have much better food here. The kiosks of the continuous food festivals around the World Showcase generally have high quality and unique small-plate type stuff, though sadly you’ll be pretty married to eating outside, standing in the heat, and eating off the top of garbage cans. Recently, I’ve found that the best food from these kiosks ironically seems to happen in the festivals that aren’t the “food and wine” festival, though you can’t go specifically wrong with the food and wine festival. Check Twitter or “all the usual suspects” for suggestions from Disney Bloggers for specific foods, but get a festival passport and see what looks good. You’ll generally do okay here. Outside of festival food kiosks, the world showcase has a lot of great options for quick service, including Les Halles in the France Pavilion, the Tangerine Café in the Morocco pavilion, the bakery in the Norway Pavilion, Yorkshire fish & chips in the UK Pavilion, and the taco stand in the Mexico Pavilion all are ones that I can quickly think of. It’s a better idea to stay out of future world for quick service, though, as the options there generally are inferior to those of the World Showcase. (The new Creations Café that opened in the past couple months is allegedly pretty decent, though I can’t speak from personal experience.)
- Hollywood Studios – You may want to consider taking the Skyliner to the International Gateway and enjoying a lunch in the World Showcase if you have a park hopper, but if not, it’s probably best to stick with Galaxy’s Edge here. Docking Bay 7 has a Mac and Cheese dish that isn’t too bad, but my favorite is the Ronto Roasters stand next to the market. I especially like the breakfast and the Maker’s Mark drink at Ronto Roasters. (I prefer the bourbon drink over the rum / tequila spiked “milk” that everyone clamors for.)
- Animal Kingdom – People swear by the Flame Tree, but I’m from Texas and I know what good BBQ is. I’ve been underwhelmed meals I’ve had here. Plus, I hate eating outside. There’s really no good options in this park for quick service. I’d recommend using a Landry’s Select Club membership to walk-up to the Yak & Yeti sit-down restaurant. (The nearby quick service Yak & Yeti isn’t comparable.)
Oh—and those ADRs that are impossible to get? My tip there is to get a subscription to TouringPlans.com and use their super nifty Dining Reservation Finder to locate exactly what you need. Their system works QUITE well and doesn’t “break the rules.” The finder is arguably worth the entire price of an annual TouringPlans subscription.
One of my cherished memories of Disney was listening to my Grandfather lament the $5 cost associated with the hot dogs available at the American Adventure quick service restaurant.
Boy, do I miss those days. At Casey’s on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom (probably the most quintessential hot dog location on property), the most basic hot dog will now run you $9.99 before tax—one penny shy of twice what my Grandfather lamented in the 90’s. (And no, that’s not a foot long. That would be $2 more.) As far as I know, it isn’t cheaper elsewhere.
Of course, it’s not just the food. The resort rates are absurd as well. The most modestly priced Disney resort (i.e. – the Value resorts)—booked months in advance, mind you—will set you back a minimum of $150 a night. And that’s for basically a well-themed, huge motel. (Or, as I like to call them, “The Disney Dorms.”) If you want a slightly less huge well themed motel with a much nicer pool, that starts around $280 a night. Do you want a deluxe? You’re going to pay at least $400 per night. Again, all of these prices consider booking months in advance and are the absolute minimums you can expect to pay.
Passholders get a nominal discount on these rates, but this doesn’t sweeten the deal enough for a passholder like me to “bite the bullet” and book with them. After all, they’re not on the moon—there’s plenty of great hotels available for a fraction of that cost which are arguably more convenient than some of the aforementioned hotels.
One of the great things that used to be available to resort guests was “Disney’s Magical Express,” an express bus service from your resort to your hotel. You wouldn’t even have to pick up your bags from the airport! Disney (actually, one of their contractors) would get them for you (if you used their luggage tags) and bring them to your hotel room for you. Not anymore—the service is now gone. You’re on your own on transportation. Even better—if you want to rent a car or drive to WDW and stay at a Disney resort, you’ll be paying $15 – $25 extra per night at the resort for self parking. (Valet is extra.)
If you aren’t a passholder, and you aren’t paying the $15-$25 extra mentioned above per night, you’ll be paying at least $25 per day to park your car at any of the theme parks.
I mean—it’s great to have a premium product and charge for it, but there’s a point where it gets ridiculous and really takes away from the guest experience.
Offering a complimentary tip to counter this Disney issue: If you are able to plan a year in advance (or even less than that, depending on your luck and what pre-booked reservation you can stumble into), working with a third party to rent Disney Vacation Club points (as pioneered by David’s Vacation Club Rentals) allows you to stay in the nicer vacation club rooms (which are bigger, include a kitchenette, and generally better / bigger bathrooms) for costs only slightly more than the cost of a comprable Moderate resort room. AND (as of now) you get free parking at the resort.
Since I started renting points at Disney resorts and staying at nicer hotels either on property or very close to property, I felt a heck of a lot better about not buying into Disney Vacation Club, and I don’t even bother looking at Disney’s resort availability any longer. It’s a rip-off. If you’re booking a deluxe resort or even a moderate resort through Disney directly and not using points, you’re a sucker.
5. Park Security & Bag Check
Disney’s park security is really one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. Pre-9/11, there wasn’t any security. Post 9/11, every bag was checked. About the time of COVID, the security was “upgraded” to include these odd, nebulous “contactless security screenings” at each park as well as Disney Springs. This rant specifically addresses these contactless security screenings.
When I was first told about these screenings (immediately prior to going through one), it seemed too good to be true! No need to go through a metal detector? No need to do a bag check? Sure! Sounds great! Sign me up! Of course, as I started going through one, security guards behind the screening started barking commands at me about holding my bag away from my body as I walked through them.
If you’ve read even a little bit of this blog, you probably know that I take a lot of pictures, so I bring a lot of nice (and heavy) camera gear to the parks, so walking with my camera bag through the nebulous security scanner is uncomfortable and super awkward. I’m always afraid I’m going to drop my stuff as I’m doing this, or some zipper that I forgot to zip is going to flop open and all of my stuff is going to be scattered all over the security checkpoint.
So—whatever—I follow the security guard’s instructions, and pull my camera bag away from my body. I walk confidently through the security detector and get through. Just as I’m starting to go about my day… The security guard awkwardly stops me, acts like I have a half dozen warrants, and sternly directs me in the general direction of a manual, security bag check tables, where vague, awkward lines are forming (though ‘line’ is usually a misnomer in this situation). Unsure if I got in the correct one, I do my best to navigate to the front of one of these lines. The security guard at the front then looks at their screen and tells me that it’s something in my bag. (Really? You think?) They then have me take all of my camera stuff out of my bag. Upon discovering that I’d brought my sunglasses to the park, I was stopped and told that I should have pulled those out of my bags and held the sunglasses case away from my body, along with other unsolicited camera bag packing advice, courtesy of the Disney security guards. They then politely suggest how I should contort myself the next time I walk through security.
Then, when I follow the instructions from the kind security guard the next time that I walk through another security scanner, I get the exact same result. It’s ridiculous, and to make things worse, it’s totally inconsistent between parks. It’s entirely possible to walk with your camera bag in one hand, sunglasses in your other hand, extended out arms length from your chest in opposite directions (looking like a frustrated Frankenstein), and you STILL get pushed to the bag table. It’s to the point where I wish they had the security guards still looking in every bag like they used to.
I don’t have a tip here to counter this annoyance. Instead, I’ll offer an alternative, in case any Disney employees end up reading this. If security is a must—and it usually is in our world today—Universal handles security a lot better and more consistently. Every time we go through security at Universal, there’s always a metal detector, and there’s always an x-ray scanner. The experience is consistent every time. No awkward U-turns needed, no need to awkwardly balance yourself walking through security, and no dealing with obnoxious security guards who make you feel like a criminal for taking your SLR to the park. It’s a simple “put your bag on the x-ray machine, take the metal items off your person, and walk through the machine.” If you make the metal detector go off, they’ll wand you for about 10 seconds and let you go on your way. That security is way more predictable, consistent, and a hell of a lot less nerve-wracking.
Or, just don’t bring cameras, sunglasses, USB chargers, or anything that you think may set off the security detectors. That seems totally practical, right? I mean, what crazy person would ever consider using a USB charger, a camera, an umbrella, or sunglasses in Walt Disney World?
4. Genie & Genie+
Disney set a great precedent with their FastPass system. They were really the first to figure out the value of using a virtual queue to allow guests to snag a time for a ride, give them a slip of paper telling them to return, and allow them to return later on in the day to ride the ride. And they gave this to guests for free. This greatly reduced the frustration of guests dealing with parks at peak times of year.
As time went on, they got rid of the paper FastPasses and went to an electronic system called “FastPass+”, based upon using RFID cards at attractions. While this initially seemed really exciting to me, it required more planning—you couldn’t just pick what you wanted the day of your visit, depending on how you felt and the return time available to you—you had to schedule them way in advance. Overall, not the worst thing in the world…. Until everyone started using the system and guests and everyone had to schedule their FastPass+ exactly __ days in advance when the window opened up at __ time. This got really frustrating. (Hey—that kind of sounds like Disney’s absurd dining reservation (ADR) system!)
But wait–there’s more. If that wasn’t bad enough, FastPasses were eliminated during the COVID pause and never brought back. Instead, Genie+ was introduced, which is a system offered to guests that let you essentially get one equivalent FastPass at a time, not let you choose the time of the FastPass (you get the next available for the ride you select, regardless of what time it is—assuming one is even available), and only lets you have one FastPass on each ride per day. 😡
That sounds pretty crummy right? But hey—we shouldn’t complain about a free service… Oh wait. Genie+ is $15 per day per guest. So, if you have a family of 4–that’s $60 on TOP of your park admission for that day.
But don’t worry. With your purchase there’s some free photo filters that you get only the day of your visit—but you can’t get to all of them unless you’re in certain parts of the parks. (I mean—how did we ever go to Disney without those zany photo filters?)
There is a “free” version of Genie that makes crappy recommendations on what you should do with your time in the park based upon relatively lower waits. The recommendations are dumb (and so is the entire Genie service).
3. Insane Planning Requirements
Ahhh, planning. There are a lot of people that just super excited about planning a trip to Disney and get to the point of obsession where they even make it their identity. These people know exactly what snack they’re going to get when they walk up to the Timbuktu booth at the Food and Wine festival in Epcot. They’ve studied the best Disney method of transportation to transfer quickly from Fantasia Gardens to Blizzard Beach. They’ve bought their Touring Plan subscription and have calculated the optimal itinerary for each day of their trip to ensure that they ride as many rides and see as many shows as is humanly possible. Heck, they even checked their numbers with RideMAX!
Great for these people. If this sort of thing “floats your boat,” good for you, too. Contrary to popular belief, I HATE planning a Disney trip–especially at this level. But Disney requires you to do a certain amount of this–to the point of high annoyance.
I suppose you don’t have to plan prior to arriving–but not doing so means you’ll get a MUCH lower value for your dollar. But let me be specific, here:
- Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) – Want to eat/drink at the California Grill / ‘Ohana, Oga’s Cantina, or anywhere else that is a ‘hot ticket’ around the ‘world?’
In that case, exactly 60 days before you arrive on Disney property, make sure to set your phone alarms for 5:55 AM Eastern Time, 4:55 AM Central Time, 3:55 AM Mountain Time, or 2:55 AM Pacific Time and get ready to try and get on the website and make the reservation(s) you want at exactly that time. You’d better know which reservations are the hardest to get, the order in which you want to try and get them, and what times they can be at. Be sure to allow enough transit time to get from park to restaurant! If it’s a morning reservation, hopefully you’ve got the right park reservations…
If you’re staying at a Disney resort, you’ll be able to make reservations for up to 10 days of your trip at this point. If not… well, get ready to get up at 5:55 AM Eastern tomorrow and try again. Rinse and repeat the number of days of your trip. (To combat this obnoxious situation, again, the Touring Plans dining reservation finder is something I highly recommend, and makes getting hard-to-find dining reservations a lot more palatable. You will need a TouringPlans subscription to use this, but if you want some of those hard to get ADRs, it makes the annual subscription price worth it.)
- Virtual Queues – Whenever a new ride is released, Disney puts them on a Virtual Queue. That sounds pretty awesome, right? “Get a time, don’t wait in line?” (Wasn’t there an old system at Disney that used to use that slogan? Hmmm…)
Nope. Not awesome–it sucks. The day of your trip to the park where the virtual queue is available, you’d better set your alarm for 6:55 AM and start mashing your iPhone at 7 AM exactly. (The first waves of boarding groups which correspond to the morning hours of the park are generally gone within 5 seconds of 7 AM exactly. You read that right–if you don’t have a boarding group by 7 AM and 5 seconds, you’re probably not going to get a morning group.) And God help you if your whole party doesn’t show up in your reservation for some odd reason. If all goes perfectly, you might get a decent boarding group number. (No–that’s not a time. That’s the group you’ve been assigned to.)
But at least you’re guaranteed to ride the ride with that boarding group, right? WRONG. Get a crappy boarding group, and you may have to spend all day waiting for it to come up. You may end up waiting all day for it to come up, but if the attraction has an extended outage, you’re hosed. And this is all based upon your app working perfectly and you having perfect timing in snagging a boarding position. It’s infuriating.
As for combating this situation–there’s only one remote ray of hope. One of the problems in the past was if your entire party didn’t appear correctly in the app for some reason. Disney will now let you confirm your party between 6 AM and 7 AM the day of your park arrival. So, confirm your party during that time period and NOT after the 7 AM window hits, or you could be totally hosed.
Aside from that–may the odds be ever in your favor.
- Mobile Food Ordering – Want to go to any quick service restaurant on property? Get your phone ready and secure an arrival window to pay over overpriced quick service food! When you get to the food location, you’ll have some cast members forcefully suggest that you place a Mobile Food order with your cell phone. They’ll make you stand (generally in the hot sun without any cover) until your order is “called.” When you get into the restaurant, you’ll need to wait yet again in one of the quick service lines that you’ve been assigned to for them to put your food together. Then–hopefully you’ll be able to find a place to sit! Super absurd.
How to combat this situation? Somewhat forcefully tell the guest service Nazis out in front of the restaurant that you don’t want to place a mobile order or insist on not doing it. Be a little rude if you have to. I’ve found that they still have a cast member taking orders “the old-fashioned way” and there’s generally minimal waiting for the cast member, and you get your food faster also! It sucks that you have to do that in today’s world, but it is what it is.
- Rope Drop (or, lack thereof) – Back in the day, the early bird got the worm. Guests were allowed to arrive at the park prior to opening, and they’d be let in, but held behind a rope. When the park formally opened, cast members would walk the rope back towards the park at a reasonable pace, thus controlling the crowd and preventing a stampede. They even used to pull characters out to help make this experience entertaining.
Now, most days, parks all have early operating hours for resort guests only. This gives them the opportunity to rope drop but screws everyone else (like Annual passholders for example 😡). The best way to combat this is to stay on property–specifically, take advantage of renting points and staying at a deluxe resort in a Disney Vacation Club room. (Again, if you’re paying for a resort any other way–you’re a sucker. Or perhaps you’re independently wealthy.)
- Park Reservations – Ahh, the granddaddy of my frustrations with Disney right now. For “our safety” during COVID, Disney implemented a “park reservation” system which required guests to have a park reservation as well as a ticket. So–you may have bought an annual pass that has zero blackout days for the entire year, but you’re not getting in without the park reservation.
Now that COVID is essentially a thing of the past, they’re doing away with it, right? WRONG. Now, between Genie+, Dining Reservations, and Park Reservations, Disney knows “theoretically” how many people are going to be at their parks on any given day, which means they can staff up (or down) the park as appropriate. They benefit from knowing exactly where you’re going to be, and they’ll use that against you, to your detriment.
I’ve got little to offer for advice on this one. Make your reservations ASAP, and avoid crowded days.
Needless to say, this stuff really takes away from the guest experience. Long gone are the days of going to Disney and “winging it”–just taking in the cool sights and getting in lines (or fastpasses) for stuff you really want to do. This is a real loss.
2. Arbitrary, Stupid COVID Induced Restrictions
Weren’t they all stupid and arbitrary, though, no matter who issued or enforced them?
Disney took full advantage of the opportunity provided by them with COVID restrictions to reduce service and quality at their parks in the name of “SAFETY.” Their measures ranged from mildly frustrating to actually disgusting. Specifically:
- Limitation of Park Hopping – After re-opening the parks, park hopping was not allowed for a while. Eventually, they decided to re-open park hopping… provided it was only after 2 PM. This is a huge pain in the butt and really limits the usefulness of park hopping and the modes of transportation between parks–like the Monorail and the Skyliner.
- Mask Nazis – They finally gave up the ghost on these, but it went WAY too long. The dumbest time was when “only the unclean vaccinated are required to wear masks.” It has been shown that masks are (at best) mostly ineffective at “slowing the spread” of COVID. But–when Universal started to get smart, Disney doubled down on the dumb, forcing everyone to mask up. Ironically, Disney’s dumbest “those who are unvaccinated are required to mask up” rule resulted in the most COVID faithful insisting on continuing to personally wear masks while unvaccinated guests refused to wear them and just told everyone they weren’t vaccinated… accomplishing the exact opposite of what they set out to do.
- Parades – When the parks re-opened after the COVID hiatus, parades were gone. In their place were crappy, short, “socially distanced” character greetings on wheels. These suck. The only thing nice about them is that they prevent the huge mass of people before parade times. But in retrospect I kind of liked those crowds–it kept people off of rides for a couple of windows of time a day.
- Character Greetings – They’re finally back. But during COVID, they were really terrible. They were like: Look over there! See that fuzzy yellow spot standing in the field with a butterfly net? That’s Winnie the Pooh! At least, I think it is. It’s kind of hard to see that far. But seriously–these rules are DUMB. This is where the COVID restrictions got disgusting. So–let me get this straight. Masks are king, right? You can totally reopen and have cast members put masks on, walk right next to guests and talk with them… but you couldn’t put someone in a character suit out in public? Ridiculous. Especially after all of the Disney employees were forced to get the magical “vaccine” (and I’m using the term “vaccine” rather loose and fast).
Perhaps one of the sickest things that I saw in all of the Pandemic was when a child ran up to greet a character in Disneyland and was scolded for wanting to hug / touch the character. What a magical situation to put kids in.
About the best portion of the Walt Disney Company to mostly survive COVID unscathed was (ironically) Disney Cruise Line, but even they made a bunch of ridiculous rules… but I’ll save that for another article. Maybe.
1. Woke Revisions to Attractions
Perhaps the best summary of this can be best seen in this video.
Its no secret–Disney has gone off the deep end with their woke BS. Walt Disney (a republican who trolled Lyndon Johnson with a Barry Goldwater pin while he was being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom) would be beyond ashamed but certainly embarrassed and rather angry if he could see where the company that bears his name is heading now.
Disney said himself that the Disney Parks shouldn’t be a museum, and they should always be reinventing the show / attraction and keeping them fresh. However, the woke of Disney have taken the opportunity to “reinvent” things in ways that make them crappier, more woke, and less fun. The result is to remind everyone on the ride of the BS politics that we live in today.
Disney should almost be an escape from the real world–not an intentional reminder of all the political crap we deal with every day. Here’s some examples of what I mean:
- The removal of “The Redhead” in Pirates of the Caribbean’s auction scene, and re-casting her as “Red” the pirate. Dumb.
- Truncating the Country Bears (though I’m shocked they didn’t go farther.)
- The impending retheme of Splash Mountain to a Princess and the Frog ride which I’ll forever refer to the “Pandering Plunge.”
- The “woke” changes to the Jungle Cruise (Getting rid of Trader Sam, getting rid of the attack of the savages, etc.)
- The taming of Kilimanjaro Safaris. Most people don’t remember the poacher subplot and the bridge that shook. It really added to the show, in my opinion.
And if you think that’s bad, you just wait until Elizabeth Warren rides Peter Pan’s flight. YIKES.
So—how do these things get fixed? I think the start is to start over on corporate management. I get the feeling that Disney’s at a point in their history where a Michael Eisner (creative) / Frank Wells (operations) combo could come in and right these wrongs, but we’ll see if that ever happens. I’m hoping for the best. (Bob Chapek is clearly NOT the guy to do it.)
In the meantime—what can we do? The answer is simple, and I don’t like it any more than y’all do: stop rewarding inferior services with your hard-earned dollars, and simultaneously reward the parks that are doing these things better. (Universal comes to mind—though they have their challenges as well.) Maybe don’t go as much as before—or if you’re really that fed up, throw in the towel. But until we demonstrate that inferior products won’t be accepted at Disney, I don’t see any changes coming soon.
I’d been writing this article for about 6 months now, slowly organizing my thoughts. Again, I’m not one to spend a lot of time on getting on my soapbox in a negative way on this blog (for any topic–but especially Disney–after all, I’d rather spend my time writing about happy things), but Disney doesn’t seem to get the message. Dumb decisions like this caused Disney to lose their beloved Reedy Creek Improvement District, which they 100% deserved and only have themselves to blame for. If I forgot anything, leave it in the comments below.
It’s heartbreaking to me to see Disney get their butts kicked more and more, but in short…