13 January 2011 by Geraldine Wagner - NY Upstate Seniors Travel Examiner
We left snowy upstate New York last week to go to Disney World with 50% of our six grandchildren. It was a gift from Santa to our three youngsters and everyone was excited for the trip. My husband and I even gave them lunch at Cinderella's Castle to really make the "dream" come true, especially for our three year old granddaughter, Bryn, who lives and breathes Cinderella.
My first visit was in 1973, only two years after Disney World opened in 1971. When our own children were growing up, we made several visits until the time that teenage-ism and other interests took their toll and WDW no longer seemed as thrilling as it once had. Prior to last Tuesday, January 11, 2011, I had not been to Disney World in some fifteen years.
So last week, I was interested and yes, excited, to visit Disney World yet again. But this visit brought some disappointment.
Perhaps it was because I had been through it all before, or perhaps fifteen years wasn't enough time to let the luster build back up. I fully anticipated that seeing Disney World fresh through the eyes of our grandchildren, who were visiting for the very first time, would get me pumped up for the day. Yet something was amiss.
The kids wanted to first go on the Indy race cars in Tomorrowland. Tomorrowland?? It looked more like Yesterdayville, with nothing really added that was new or exciting except a very scary-looking "Stitch" in what seemed like a complicated attraction called "Stitch's Great Escape." Even the WDW info site has this to say: "Stitch is discovered by the Galactic Federation when he is causing trouble as Experiment 626. There are two preshows that take place. In the first, the guests are recruited to be security watching the prisoner Stitch. In the second preshow, you're given your instructions. Suddenly, Experiment 626 arrives and you're taken into the theater for the rest of the show..." (Huh?)
This show can be scary for kids, and we already knew that a distant cousin's child had been frightened enough to not want to go to any other attractions during his visit to WDW. We decided to avoid it.
Disney World schedules regular down times for attractions that are being improved or repaired, and you can generally get information on the internet just by Googling a question about attraction down times. But we saw no such fair warnings for the day we were attending. What happened seemed to be a fluke. Or was it? We don't know if other families who have traveled afar to go to Disney World, as th Griswolds travel to Wally World in National Lampoon's Vacation, only to have John Candy, acting as the park security to tell them, "Sorry folks. Park's closed," have experienced as many technical glitches as we did. Despite the fact that the WDW infrastructure is well hidden from view, most of it underground, topside, we got the message that all was not dreamy that day in the original dreamland for kids of all ages.
The Tomorrowland raceway was the first sign of trouble, with numerous cars getting stuck along the track and riders in other cars being asked to give the cars ahead a push. The little kids didn't seem to mind the inconvenience, but the adults who were riding with them, noticed the blip in that attraction.
At Cinderella's Castle, two of the grandkids had a date for lunch with the Disney princesses. The bill came to about $160 for two adults and two children. OK, this wasn't a technical glitch, but I was appalled to find out that the children were given little round pizzas that you might buy in the frozen case at Walmart, some carrot sticks, juice and a cupcake for their special lunch. What was so magical about that?
Of course, we went into "It's a Small World" and while nothing happened during the ride, except that we had to wait extra long to be brought back to the staging area, the attraction itself seemed very outdated. That was just it. Nothing happened during the ride. It hasn't changed in decades and the kids lost interest quickly.
The Haunted Mansion ride broke down twice while we were in the cars and we had to wait and watch while a repair technician crawled under the car ahead of us to fix something. Our granddaugter wanted to know what was wrong, so we made up a story about a ghost getting caught under the seat. It really took much of the magic away from that ride.
Another favorite attraction of ours at WDW is Pirates of the Caribbean. Closed. Workers stood out front telling people to check back in an hour or so, but one woman said she had gotten there right at 9 a.m. and the ride had been closed then. It never opened the entire day.
Splash Mountain, another favorite, was also down and out. A big disappointment for the adults who paid $87 each for a day of rides and attractions.
Finally, to end the day, I took my three year old granddaughter back to the Peter Pan's Flight ride. Previously, there had been a 45 minute wait in line, probably because so many other attractions were breaking down. When we arrived, I couldn't find an entranceway, and inquired of one of the workers. He said the line would start where he was standing, "if" the ride started up again. It had broken down and people currently on the ride were being evacuated. Luckily, I was able to save face with the three year old when the ride suddenly opened up again and we were allowed in. It was, nevertheless, a long wait at the end of a long day, to get everyone who had been standing in line previously through the attraction.
I came away from Walt Disney World this time, very unimpressed. We had really over done it with the kids and stayed on to watch the Fireworks display over the castle, but then, had more than an hour's duration to get the children down Main Street, out to the main gates via monorail, and then to the parking lot via tram. Nothing has been streamlined about that set up, either, in the 40 years since WDW opened. Let's see what Disney comes up with for 2021, which will be The Magic Kingdom's 50th anniversary party. There will be a lot of money spent on the hype. With this economic downturn, it seems that the company could do some magic with construction companies looking high and low for work to keep themselves going. And there's plenty to be done to keep Disney World going into the 21st century.