Admittedly I’ve just about stopped following a lot of the Disney blogs that I used to read because it’s becoming painfully clear that they’re very desperate for content right now.

Every random word from anyone near the industry is followed by pages of speculation on what the parks reopening might look like, which is then followed by pages of comments from fans saying how ridiculous ideas of masks and social distancing are in theme parks, and how they’d ruin the magic (OMG), and how even if Disney’s doing it over in China, Americans wouldn’t stand for it…

…and so on, and so forth.

Truth be told, at least as far as Disney is concerned, you couldn’t pay me to go back to one of their parks right now, so aside from that I find it interesting to hear their ideas for how to cope with this new reality that we face, I don’t really have a dog in this fight.

I still stand that Disney World has gotten too expensive for my family of five to enjoy and the idea of reduced entertainment and attractions doesn’t help with that much because let’s be honest, we could literally be facing the apocalypse and Disney wouldn’t even consider reducing its ticket prices on account of the end of the world and all! 😛

We do, however, have annual passes for Legoland Florida and Busch Gardens and our local zoo, and with my kids growing more stir crazy by the second, I can envision a time when we would go back to those places for a break from isolation and some family fun. But here’s what I need to see before that’s going to happen…

  • drastic reduction in new cases and deaths, both statewide and nationally. This is frankly my biggest issue with the businesses that are reopening right now is because I think you really have to turn your head sideways to find the “downward trajectory” that the White House identified, and then almost immediately ignored with its own Guidelines for Reopening America. Theme parks, and honestly a lot of other things, are luxuries at best, so I need to see more than just minimal progress before I’ll feel comfortable spending an extended afternoon with thousands of random strangers.
  • visible reduction in crowds, which is honestly going to look different for each park … and another reason why you couldn’t pay me to go to the Magic Kingdom at the first available rope drop because I can’t remember a time in the last couple of years when that place hasn’t been absolutely packed. And sure, in theory parks are going to limit attendance to maybe 25% or 50%, but with them also limiting attractions and probably closing off areas and walkways altogether, I want to see pictures that other people can take of just what these reduced crowds will look like before I can decide whether they’re thin enough for my family’s safety.
  • wide acceptance of PPE in use, both by other guests as well as employees. Actually, I’m not even sure if I’d go as long as we’re expected to wear masks, but right now when I can go to my doctor’s office and see half a dozen medical professionals all employed by the same company with their own interpretations on what’s appropriate??? No thanks – I want to see things like masks and hand sanitizer freely available and regularly being used, not just left up to each individual’s discretion.

To the extent that I’m in no hurry to go back to a theme park in these conditions, I can somewhat understand how people think that things like PPE and distancing will negatively impact their visits … but I don’t say that as a justification for simply not doing anything at all and just opening up the floodgates, consequences be damned.

I feel like after the world has seen such a brutal impact from COVID-19, it feels premature to be talking about how we can gather tens of thousands of people in close proximity when we’re still in the early stages of doing so with the much smaller businesses around our communities. And sure, I do get how theme parks are entertainment and offer a break from reality that is sorely needed right now, but we might still be at a point where there’s simply no amount of precautions we can take that make large gatherings a good idea.

I know that we’ll get back there eventually, but it’s nowhere near a priority at least in my life.

Dream Journal : Passholder Kerfuffle

March 21, 2019 9:47am
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Last night I dreamed that I was trying to renew my Disney World Annual Pass, but the girl at the counter couldn’t figure out how to ring it up and thought that I was making up the name of what I wanted and was generally just being a pest.

After four or five different cast members tried to help, with the line growing larger and larger behind us … consisting mostly of strollers, a manager wanted us to just charge it to our room to get the transaction over with.

Which wouldn’t work because I explained that I wanted monthly payments and I wasn’t planning on staying at the resort for the next 12 months… 😛

We finally gave up and walked away, shortly thereafter realizing that we’d left one of the kids sleeping in his stroller under the Tree of Life at the Animal Kingdom and had to go find him!

Musing About Disney World and Stats

January 16, 2019 3:30pm
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There are some times when I would really love to get a glimpse of some of the statistics around Walt Disney World.

My curiosity this morning is specifically around Disney Vacation Club (DVC) and how many members there actually are in order to better gauge how many people are really fighting over the tickets to the Moonlight Magic events that are continuing again this year. Today was the opening of registration for the first two events at the Magic Kingdom, and even though I logged in about 15 minutes after the opening at 9:00 am, I was pleasantly surprised that it actually wasn’t difficult at all to get them this time…

I’ve been to a handful of these events since Disney started doing them back in 2016, but more often than not availability was always very limited and if you weren’t ready to jump on the email the second it showed up, you were plum out of luck.

Because if I remember right, the first few events didn’t have a scheduled reservation time, but just sent an email when it was ready … and sometimes it would come at three in the afternoon when everyone was at work … and others would get it a day or two later!

So I don’t know if maybe Disney just wised up and either beefed up the servers that host these sites or increased the capacity admitted to the events … or both. Even looking back further, it seemed like they were always having problems with demand for any Annual Passholder special events that they hosted as well … which always seemed odd to me for a $100 BILLION company like Disney to not invest more in their infrastructure to make their web experience absolutely flawless.

It’s really the same with the My Disney Experience app or guest wifi in the parks. I’m sure their hardware has to be beefy with possibly tens of thousands of concurrent wifi users online in a single park each day, but again … you’re Disney! You charge $100+ admission just to get in the door! Figure it out!

But just from a numbers geek’s perspective, it’d still be neat to know to what scale we’re dealing with for any of these problems – if the Magic Kingdom holds 100,000 people (hypothetically), do they let in 25% of that for the DVC events? Or any of the other hard ticketed events, for that matter???

It admittedly always amazes me how really any of the four parks can average at least 30,000 guests a day (according to TEA/AECOM’s reporting) and it doesn’t feel like you’re surrounded by such a sea of people because everyone is spread out across 100+ acres and eating/shopping/doing attractions to balance the crowds!

I think you could do some really fun stuff, and I’m sure that there are entire teams of geeks at Disney who do just that!, with access to the actual numbers of how many people walked through their turnstiles each day, or rode Space Mountain, or bought Mickey bars.

There’s a part of me that thinks it would be super cool if there’s a NOC-style room somewhere at Disney that has giant maps of each park up on the walls with heat maps showing guest flow around all of the lands and attractions.

They’ve got to be getting something more out of these MagicBands that we’re all wearing now!

One last advent blog post from our vacation, and something that we were a healthy mixture of nervous and excited about, was the opportunity for us to enjoy a night out…

…without the kids…

It’s something that we’ve really only done a handful of times, always relying on family and sometimes even waiting until the kids were already in bed. We admittedly didn’t really know what to do about finding a sitter between having three rambunctious boys to deal with and then two of them being special needs on top of that.

But Sara ended up finding this local service called Doublemint which offers a variety of sitters who are trained to work with all sorts of children, and because they have people all around the state of Florida, it wasn’t really a big deal for one of their folks in Orlando to come to our hotel for the evening and watch the kids right in our room … which honestly was a nice bonus because we weren’t sure how they were going to take to it because they’ve never had a babysitter before.

And that said, apparently … they did awesome. 😀

We hired a sitter to watch the boys from 6pm – 10pm with the intent that we were only walking over to Jambo House for dinner at Jiko, so we’d be close if anything were to happen.

Well, it turns out that what happened was these kids were fast asleep before we even got dessert, with David even asking the sitter if he could go to bed!!!

I guess occasionally skipping naptime has its perks after all. 😉

So we had a wonderful, adult dinner – I had lobster tails, and I didn’t have to share a bite with anyone.

Afterwards we wandered around the grounds and checked out all of the savannah viewing areas at night, which actually ended up being pretty cool because we got a chance to try out night vision goggles to look out at the animals!

Then we did a little secret Christmas shopping, wandered back to Kidani and checked out the comparatively quiet savannah there, and that was that.

Date night is honestly something that has slipped quite a bit in our lives since becoming parents, and it’s weird because before we had kids Sara and I would go out to eat and see movies and spend late nights at the parks all of the time …  so needless to say we were both quite pleased with how easy Doublemint made sneaking out for a couple of hours, and hopefully in the new year it will be something that we can do for ourselves every few months to help keep the sanity by giving us a night away from the chaos!

So apparently Santa is a busy guy this time of year … have you ever waited six hours to see Santa?!?!?!

Woof!

After checking in to meet Santa sometime around 1pm, needless to say we did just about everything we could think of to kill time all afternoon while we waited.

We had lunch at the new Chicken Guy restaurant … which wasn’t bad.

We did some shopping, including buying Lego cars for Christopher and David … which was kind of fun to build to pass some time.

We went to the movies and watched Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas … or at least we tried to! I don’t know why I keep thinking that our kids are ready for the movies because they’re very much not… 😛

We even rode the train a couple of times … which is always a surprising favorite whenever we visit Disney Springs, even though it’s very much a 3rd party-operated ride and you have to pay money for it and everything.

But eventually … when the 7 o’clock hour finally rang … Santa sent us a text message announcing that he was finally prepared for our arrival!

It’s pretty common when we stay at a Disney resort to find ourselves saying afterwards that we wished we’d spent less time running around the parks and more time enjoying our resort itself.

Well, between the age of the kids and somewhat gloomy weather all week, I’m happy to say that this vacation we did exactly that!

Animal Kingdom Lodge is perfect for lounging because the atmosphere itself is both relaxing and exciting with all of the animals, and as a bonus for the kids, they actually had quite a few different activities that they could partake in between Jambo House and Kidani Village. In addition to just getting super excited spotting all of the animals, the boys also had a chance to learn a little about ecosystems and conservation from one of the cast members, Christopher worked on a scavenger hunt which gave him a chance to practice talking to people, and he and Sara also played a fun game finding various landmarks around Africa on a map.

Vacationing is definitely different with kids because try as I might, you can’t exactly just lay around all day and take in the ambiance in the manner which I would currently prefer, but nonetheless I think they all had a great time and we didn’t spend nearly as much time fighting with lines in the parks, so that’s a huge win in my book!!!

Today took us to Epcot where we had dinner at the Garden Grill, along with Mickey, Pluto, and Chip and Dale, too!

Our original intent was to watch the Candlelight Processional afterwards, but it was kind of drizzly all day and I had a very low tolerance for dealing with the rain plus cranky kid attitudes on account of said rain.

I was also a little miffed that we finally found ourselves in the park while the DVC Member Lounge was actually open at the Imagination Pavilion, but still didn’t get to go because there’s no accommodation for strollers and I didn’t feel like breaking the party up…

Anyways, we ended up just having dinner and then taking the opportunity to give the boys a couple of rides on the monorail instead, which they ended up enjoying just fine! 😀

We originally weren’t going to do Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party this year because it was too expensive, but there ended up being a mix-up with our room and Disney gave us comped tickets anyways!

This is always a great party for the atmosphere – snow blowing down Main Street, complimentary cookies and hot chocolate (that were actually complimentary this time!), and just the characters and other happenings that aren’t normally out during a normal day at the Magic Kingdom. Believe it or not, I even danced with Christopher because after he spotted the dance party at Cosmic Ray’s when we were on the hunt for cookies, surprisingly he just had to be a part of it himself!

What can I say – parenting brings out parts of ourselves that we never knew we had in us… 😉

Today was on and off stressful, as most days with our kids tend to be, but this picture represents one of the happy, little moments when everybody was in a good mood and looking in the same direction and everything!

I’m honestly not sure who gave him the stickers, or why they gave him so many, but I’ll have you know that he was definitely somehow wearing one curled up as a tail while this particular shot was taken… 😯

I think Christopher would be absolutely beside himself if he were to wake up to find this incredible Disney monorail Christmas village under the tree on Christmas morning!

Mind you, his brothers would almost immediately destroy it like something out of a Godzilla movie, and it would only go downhill from there, but still, it would be pretty amazing until then. 😉

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