Walt Disney World: One Veteran’s Perspective
by Chris Otero
A few weeks ago, I finally took the family on to long awaited trip to Disney. It was the longest and most involved family trip we have taken and it was quite memorable. Looking back on the experience, I find that I have a few things/observations I wanted to make. Rather than write an essay, I will share a few of them in random order for the purpose of informing future Disney goers:
The last time I went to Disney was in the late 80s and I felt that it had changed…and remained the same. I did not remember the Magic Kingdom being as big as it was and I seemed to recall Epcot being larger. But I also had several déjà vu moments with the most powerful being standing in line at Space Mountain. For some reason, I really remembered the white walls, funky lighting, and mood music from when I was a kid.
My favorite park remains Epcot followed closely by the Magic Kingdom. I enjoyed Animal Kingdom though given bad weather was coming in, we kind of short-changed it. Hollywood Studios was my least favorite park – while I enjoyed the Star Wars attraction the rest of it felt incongruous, as if it was a pretend Disney Park. Frankly, I don’t plan on spending much time there on the next trip.
The one thing we didn’t do which I wished was spend more time at the country pavilions at Epcot. The kids were really gung-ho about rides and the Magic Kingdom so we shorted that part of Epcot – which is a shame because as a kid, the country pavilions were my favorite thing. They are at the top of my list of things to do next time.
This trip was all about the rides and though the roller coasters were more thrilling at Busch Gardens, nothing beats going on rides at Disney. I think our favorites were Space Mountain, Soarin’, Mission Mars and Mount Everest. Honestly, the only ride which we were disappointed was the Rocking ‘Aerosmith’ Rollercoaster at Hollywood Studios. Impossibly cheesy setup and a long wait for essentially the shortest roller coaster ride at Disney.
Walt Disney World… how will a veteran fare?
On the subject of rides, Soarin’ is really something to see. You need to get a Fast Pass – it was the one major ride we didn’t get a Fast Pass for and we ended up waiting for an hour to get on – but it was an exceptionally well done. It did actually feel like you were flying through the various scenes suspended on this really cool metal contraption.
Fast Passes and Magic Bands are the way to go – learn the system. You are given a couple a number of ‘free’ Fast passes a day per park. Once you expend them, you can go to one of the Fast Pass kiosks located at various places in the parks and sign up one at a time. The Fast Pass for a ride is a difference maker – during the peak times during the day, it is the difference between an hour(+) wait and a 10-15 minute for a ride.
Waiting in lines – it is really hard to figure out which rides will take a long time to get on. For example, the more popular rides (Space Mountain, Mount Everest, etc.) actually seemed to go quicker line-wise than some of the mid-grade attractions. The most insane lines always seemed to be the older rides – the Peter Pan and the Seven Dwarves rides consistently had crazy 90 minute lines. In my estimation it had something to do with the throughout put bottlenecks and older design. The major exception was the infamous ‘It’s a Small World’ ride. The throughput there was always quick, even in the middle of the day.
We stayed at the Park resorts (really no real reason not to in my opinion) – The Caribbean resort was awesome and was reasonably priced. I was told that a few years ago, the Caribbean was one of the worst resorts in the park with old antiquated rooms. However they recently had gone through a renovation and frankly, I was amazed at what we got for our money. We would stay there again the next time we go.
The price range of the resorts seemed to be in the low-end ($79-$199), mid-range ($200-$399) and luxury ($400-$800). The Caribbean was in the middle of the mid-range pricing and I can’t see why anyone would need to go higher. All of the hotels seemed to be extremely nice including the budget hotels and the only real difference beyond room size (if you are bringing a family, go mid-range – if you are just going as a couple – go budget) was really proximity to the park – the luxury hotels were right next to the Magic Kingdom. Given the efficiency of the Disney Bus system, I am not sure that the increased price is really worth it. Disney Wi-Fi is awesome – everywhere in the park, you had great signal and very responsive.
The single most impressive thing about Disney was just how efficient EVERYTHING was. As a military professional, I couldn’t help to be awed at how clean everything was and how all stations were manned – often with multilingual personnel and literature. The bus system was scary efficient with buses at every stop arriving and departing every 20mins apart no matter the time of day. Everyone was professional and helpful and I can say that in the entire week we were there, I only saw one employee get snarky and honestly, they were really justified. I have been part of military units/operations which were not even half as wired tight as Disney. I would pay money to see their operations center.