Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Magic of Disney

Disney World is an amazing place on many levels. First, it brings out the child in anyone old or young--magical exhibits, rides, and chances for photo ops with storybook characters, parades and trips back to the past. Marty and I did the famous "It's a small world", which has been updated to include more countries, twice, charmed by it thoroughly. Hopping from the Magic Kingdom to Epcot to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood (used to be MGM) studios, we took in new attractions since our last visit with Sara about twelve years ago. We remembered some things between us, but enough was new that we felt that we had a whole new experience.

You can just enjoy Disney on the entertainment level--there is more than enough variety and activity to satiate the senses. But, on another level, it is also a marvel in crowd control. We have been here at a relatively less crowded time of year--typically, the first couple of weeks of January after the holidays are slower. Still, there were lots of people--at some of the newer attractions, the wait was up to an hour. Since our last visit, Disney has added a feature called Fast Pass--you pick up a ticket for an hour "window" later in the day and there is a special line with little or no wait. You can only do one Fast Pass ticket at a time. At fast food places, the menu is limited and the orders are taken ala McDonald's style and prepared while you check out---but faster than any drive in place, so the wait even with a line of ten or more people is less than 5 minutes. Guides laugh and joke with the audience to move everyone closer together so more people can be accommodated at some of the larger attractions, like the Indiana Jones Stunt show, and people are herded very efficiently in and out. At every attraction, the approximate waiting time is posted on an electronic sign and updated continously. Marty, who is not a roller coaster fan, waited for me outside of Space Mountain, the traditional roller coaster at Epcot. When I went in, the wait was 5 minutes--which is nothing. He watched the sign go from 5 to 10 minutes, then jump to 30 minutes. The crowd eased off, and the sign went back to 20 minutes---all in the time it took me to take the ride and exit. I have to believe there is an incredible amount of technology and mathematics behind this crowd and line control. It's really pretty amazing.

Another impressive thing about Disney are the incredible lengths the parks and resorts go to make them friendly to people with disabilities. From captioning and sign language for the hearing impaired, to ready availability of scooters and wheelchairs, ramps and helpers for disabled folks to get on and off buses and experience the attractions--it clearly goes well beyond what is legally required. Consequently, you probably see more children as well as adults with disabilities than you might otherwise. But, I have to say, the other thing I noticed were an incredible number of fat people. A fair number of them were in scooters and chairs as well--not because they can't walk, but because they're out of shape. The parks are large, and you probably get in a few miles in a day walking around them. Although the crowd was pretty mixed, there were lots of foreigners--many from Latin and South America, and a fair number of Europeans and Asians as well. With the cheap dollar, it makes sense.

We stayed "on property" this time, at the Port Orleans resort. This is one of the mid-range resorts, and it is a bit older and getting tired---the shower head bushing needed to be replaced and some of the doors were scuffy. The advantage is ready transport to the parks, extended hours, and general convenience. But everything at Disney is expensive, and they charge for things they shouldn't---like internet service at $9.95 a day and $7 for a hot dog you could get at Costco for $1.50--beverage included. The prices are so inflated that it is publicly joked about in some of the entertainment. Yet people keep coming, and may grouse about the prices, but are willing to pay them. It does mean that for the most part, Disney is limited to a certain strata of the population, and is not accessible to everyone.
After four days, though, we had pretty well been parked out. We are in Tennessee now, on our way back to Detroit. Vacation is over and it's time to do some serious thinking about what's next.

No comments: