As I detailed in an earlier post, after much contemplation (and number crunching!) CP and I decided to give the Deluxe Dining Plan a spin on our recent trip to WDW. Since we were going to be staying at two … Continue reading
During my senior year of college, I took a history course outside of my major that ended up being my all-time favorite course. In it we studied memory, monuments, and memorials within a historical context, looking at everything from the … Continue reading
In 26 days, CP and I will be back in the World. It has been 5 months, 24 days since our last visit. 11 months, 8 days since our visit before that. In approximately 7 months, we will go again. I think it’s official: we have a Disney habit.
In the circles we run in (read: cadres of over-educated, left-leaning, corporation-suspicious, MSNBC-watching bleeding heart liberals), there is something of a notion that vacations should be….serious. Exotic ports of call. Patronage of cultural institutions. Service trips. At the very least, haute cuisine. That’s fine. We like those things, too. But a few years ago, something happened – maybe it was the recession, or family/work/school drama, or the drudgery of year after year of terrible New England winters. Maybe it was all of those things. In any case, we cried uncle, and decided it was time for a WDW vacation. Serious could wait. It was time to enjoy some nice weather, ride some rides, be a kid again in a place no one would judge us for doing so.
I think the idea might have been mine, but CP was the easier sell. For several years, I had kept my distance from Disney. On a lark during my sophomore year of college, I applied for and was accepted into the WDW college program. This experience sits squarely in the column of “things I wish I had known more about before I jumped into.” My roommates partied constantly; thus I never slept. My work location was considered one of the least desirable; my coworkers suffered from a dispirited malaise. I felt trapped in a bad decision. Seeing Disney from the inside out was equal parts fascinating and frustrating. Underpaid and overworked, a series of incidents ultimately led to me leaving the program early. I was burned out on Disney. I ran the other way, headlong into my books, my exams, my family drama, and into the uncertainties of the post-9/11 world.
Several years passed, and then we cried uncle. Or maybe I was the one who cried uncle, finally ready to forgive Disney (and myself) for one bad spell in an otherwise unblemished record of lovely childhood trips to – and countless family memories made in – WDW. It was time to go back and suspend disbelief for a time, to revel in an environment where the real world stopped at the water’s edge. And, as they say, the love affair began.
Up next: A brief stop in 2008, and a retrospective of 2010 as we prepare for our first trip of 2011.
Note 7/2011: A flashback from 2008:
It’s over, folks. Now that we’re home and unpacked I thought I’d offer my final thoughts on the trip. From here on out, look for this blog to be a chronicle of our “staycation” activities in Boston and a general place to record our activities, near and far. In the meantime, we reflect.
-Our lodging, both at the Omni in Orlando and at the Saratoga Springs resort on Disney property. Both of these properties were – in different ways – pretty spectacular. The Omni was beautiful, modern, and luxurious. Saratoga was a bit more family-friendly and worn in, but Disney gets the details right. Disney solves problems. Any issue we had was a) minor and b) solved incredibly quickly, often before we even noticed a problem.
-California Grill, Contemporary Resort. I know I raved about this in an earlier post, but several days have gone by and I am still thinking about my meal. Friends and I have spent much time discussing the demise of “fine” dining here in Massachusetts (our standards aren’t even that high, but when nearly every restaurant now requires you to bus your own dishes, you start to long for something better), so it was refreshing to have a meal that involved good food, service, views, and company. We really are missing the boat by rejecting slow food. Just saying.
-Florida weather. August is not for the faint of heart. When you’re not dodging tropical storms and hurricanes (See: Fay; Gustav; Hanna), you still have afternoon thunderstorms, oppressive heat and humidity, and evening temperatures that rarely fall below 80. Even in our air-conditioned room, we could still feel dampness and see mold growing between the panes of glass in the windows. Bring the Benadryl, folks; you’re going to need it.
-Bad parenting. I know I sound like an 85-year-old curmudgeon, but seriously parents; let’s do some parenting, ok? I’m not sure when personal boundaries or clean language went out of style, but it was weird to feel out of place because I wasn’t touching strangers lewdly or swearing at the other members of my party. Isolated incidents are one thing, but we saw a lot of bad behavior from both kids and parents.
-Disney bus system. I generally had high hopes for Disney in this age of environmentalism, but my hopes were dashed. The bus system is now so inefficient and unreliable that I can see why the masses bring their cars, RVs, and Hummers-replete-with-car-toppers. If you’re a family with a limited time schedule, you don’t want to spend half of your day in the hot Florida sun waiting for a bus that may or may not come.
And on that note, wherefore art, Disney, thou innovative recycling system and energy efficiency plans, etc? Disney has a captive audience of young minds it could educate about the importance of recycling and resource conservation, and yet generally does little to earn its “green” lodging designation. It was nice to see plastic recycling receptacles in the theme parks, but our hotel room/buildings didn’t have receptacles to recycle anything, plastic, paper, or otherwise. I shudder to think at the amount of unnecessary waste Disney creates in a day. I mean, COME ON – even Wal Mart has gone green (?!).
-Disney Dining. Disney has made changes in dining options and prices that punish users who don’t buy the Disney Dining Plan, and yet sometimes punish those who do, as well. Confused? So were we. If we go again we may buy into the Plan, but I think I’ll need to obtain an advanced degree in calculus to figure out the cost benefit analysis. And while prices in general were lower than I expected (we spend more on food at Fenway for similar things), I think the quality has declined in some areas.
The Horrible, and/or Will-Never-EVER-Do-or-See-Again:
-Universe of Energy, aka Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Epcot. With gas nearing 5 bucks a gallon, do we *really* need to see free advertising for Exxon? I mean, I know it’s novel when you combine propaganda with a moving ride vehicle, but enough is enough. Two thumbs WAY DOWN.
-Beverly, the Italian (and Coke-produced) beverage featured at Club Cool, Epcot.
OK, so for those of you who aren’t familiar with this particular “attraction,” it’s basically Coca-Cola propaganda disguised in the form of a beverage tasting center where you can taste Coke products from around the world. Some of them, like the Coke/orange soda mix from Germany are quite good. Beverly from Italy has a notorious reputation as being disgusting; stupidly, I doubted this and thought that other tasters must not have discerning palettes. I was wrong. So wrong. So wrong I actually spit it out of my mouth in public, manners be damned. Never again.
-It’s readily apparent that the American dollar has tanked. During the week we noticed many American visitors (like ourselves) eating lower-cost meals or snacking while many European and Canadian visitors flocked to the more expensive signature restaurants and stayed at the deluxe resorts. There is no judgment meant by this observation, except to suggest that it’s really a strange turn to think that so many Americans cannot as easily afford amusement and leisure in their own country, to say nothing of our inability to enjoy the value of the dollar abroad. I suppose we were overdue for this. We spoke to many Canadians throughout the week who were laughing at our present misfortune; one woman said that never in her lifetime had she seen the Canadian dollar higher than the American!
-Disney is still great, but it’s not the Disney of my youth. I suppose this is true for most things in our lives we try to revisit; they never stay as they were. But I think there is an undeniable reality that in this time of economic uncertainty, Disney is cutting costs with the best of them. It really did feel at times like Disney had outgrown itself, and you could see these new found limitations in a decline in service, a rise in wait times, and a lack of property upkeep that would be unthinkable just ten years ago. I’m about to read this book to learn more about this shift.
Nevertheless, we had a great time and agreed that Disney has an edge on hospitality and professionalism that most other tourism outfits can’t match. Our left-brain critiques were no match for our right-brain fun, and thus, we find ourselves eager to return. If and when we do, expect a report here!