DISNEYLAND RESORT TRIP REPORT SEPTEMBER 24-29, 2012
First off, I need to thank many MCers for making this one of the best DLR trips ever! Without many of you, we would have missed out on some of the details that make Disneyland, well, Disneyland! Our last trip was during Spring Break of 2011, too crowded for our tastes and way too much construction. When we crunched the data, we landed on the right dates for us. Many apps predicted that it would be slow… WRONG. My only consolation, if you can call it that, was that all the apps we use were off.
Just a quick warning: I have some strong opinions posted below. This is all my opinion in *my* trip report and none of it is posted to beat a dead horse (there are threads for that). If my POV in other threads isn’t appreciated by you, you may want to look away. Just a friendly warning; I don’t want to start any major debates!
The DLR portion was the second leg of our vaykay. We couldn’t wait to arrive, even if it was only 2 hrs to closing by the time we set foot on property. Before departing on Saturday morning, we ducked into DL to make our breakfast reservations. It was Disney, Disney, and Disney all week. We struggled with the idea of becoming APs (annual passholders) months ago. We fall in the tourist category based on our visit patterns. But, if we bought an AP, we could justify a quickie trip in December “to see the lights” and “get in the Xmas mood”. SOLD! So for the first time ever, I bought a DLR AP.
It was a Monday night and it seemed a bit crazy. We parked in the three-hour-free-parking at DTD (Downtown Disney) and walked to the north to the trams. Processing an AP was nothing like what we read online. Most of that info it outdated. In fact, when we arrived, we received conflicting info as to where we turn in our online vouchers and receive our plastic card. In the end, we found out that we shouldn’t walk to the gate, and we shouldn’t have expected to get in using this voucher even though that’s what the voucher said to do. They DO NOT process at the Plaza Inn anymore. As of this post (for near future readers), just walk to the ticket booth, show your voucher, etc., and then walk through the gates and find a PhotoPass CM (cast member). Once your pic is taken, you are set to go… that is until they change it again.
The weather forecast was up and down, but upon our arrival to the coast (via car), we noticed the temp go down and the humidity up a bit… it was more than ok, it was near perfect. Oh how I miss the California coastline. We drove from the high desert. The temperatures had a steady increase all week long. Even though I had hoped for better temps, I couldn’t complain. It was better than home, but still fell in the “hot” range of our respective internal thermometers.
“Karma, Karma, Karma, Karma, Karma Chameleon…” (if you don’t get this, you are too young, or too forgetful!)
This is my first Disney inspired TR (trip report), but I have done many in the past for various travel sites; I tend to veer from the chronological, and gravitate towards the topical. I also do not post very many pics, and even if I did, the ones I see at MC blow my smart phone pics out of the water. With that said, the handful of pics in this report are sun inspired. I tried to capture the heat and brightness we were experiencing. We commented everyday around dinner time about how hard it was to walk among that many people towards the sun, a sun that seemed to refuse to set. This made for harsh shadows; blinding light, a few stumbles, and one very well-placed smack from a stroller handle to the naughty bits (think “Disneyland’s Funniest Home Videos”).
Rocket to the Sun
The crowds… where do I start? As mentioned above we crunched numbers… dollars… people numbers from past dates… number of rides open… numbers… data… numbers… data… and like the fortune-teller on Main Street USA, out popped our vaykay dates. While we thought we would be free and clear of *massive* crowds, there were times the park was as crowded as I had ever seen it in the past. Maybe it was the heat. That isn’t to say that it was packed every day and every moment, but it did have a few trying times that needed a personal eject button from whatever land we were in at that moment. My POV is that of a winter off season guest, usually. The over-all crowds could have been quite low, but with many attractions running scant vehicles, it just pushed these occasional crowds out into the paths. Oh how I longed for the People Mover, several minutes of relief and breeze…
But we can’t live in the past now, can we?
My dear SO, it was his second time to the resort. The first time DCA was all boarded up. It was like he saw the park for the first time. We were so impressed, just like most ppl, with how CL (Carsland) turned out. I could see the potential for this park a decade ago, now we were living it. It truly is a full day+. BVS, a work of art. Who cares if it is short? Size isn’t everything, at least that’s what I have heard.
On Wednesday, September 26, 2012, the Jewish world observed Yom Kippur. Disneyland Resort was blind-sided with crowds. They extended the park operations by one measly hour. I was really hoping for another hour in addition to this. We spent most of the time at DCA on this day, and the crowds were haywire. Park hopping was too time consuming and a pain for us. There wasn’t nearly enough staff to accommodate all the guests in either park. Whoever was in charge of looking at a calendar 6 weeks ago should be seriously reprimanded. Disney, there is NO excuse. The school calendars are posted online, and in a pinch, they could have used the phone (old school style) to find out that many area schools were off/having minimum days/performing teacher in-services. I wouldn’t have bought any excuse that was thrown at me. They needed to make it right, and they tried, but one hour was not enough, nor was adding an additional WOC (World of Color) showing. I would have forgone the extra hour if they had called in an army of workers. Man, I would have given them the *entire* 7pm hour if they called in an army of workers and sent them to both parks. Look, dealing with tens of thousands of hungry guests observing a religious ritual makes for a less-than-pleasant environment. We do not practice this ritual, and I wonder if Disney had made plans before the start of this day to tentatively add an hour of operations? I am 99% sure that if there were more staff, DCA could have soaked up the ppl. I am also pretty sure that Disneyland, when properly staffed, is an old pro at absorbing the guest populace. As we walked under the lift for GRR (Grizzly River Run), the belt stopped. We looked to our right to see the extended queue full of frowning faces. Red hot frowns. Bummer. We left the property and came back to the resort after sun-down. The eateries were packed and the rides were now do-able. We missed Toy Story Midway Mania. Oh well, something to do on our upcoming trip in December.
Pictured below is a strange phenomenon… during that religious day, we found many post-it notes with the message seen below. It was like removable graffiti with a pleasant message.
There were many firsts for us on this trip. It was our first multi-day DLR trip. The “firsts” list included a night time ride on California Screamin’, a ride on the swinging gondolas of Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, GRR, HM Holiday, Aladdin musical, and Tom Sawyer Island after the pirate overlay. There were also many firsts in the past 20 years, like Splash Mountain (1992), Toontown (1993-ish), DLRR (late 1980s), and a double night ride on BTMRR (there were times during the week that DLR was a ghost town).
Another first was the Toy Story Lot. I don’t think I will ever try to park at Mickey & Friends Lot again. The busses were climate controlled and efficient and the above mentioned crowds on certain days didn’t affect the transit in any noticeable way that we saw. Even if I were to stay at a hotel north of DLR, I would gladly drive out of my way to avoid M&F Lot, thus avoiding the headache traffic in and around it. Big thanks to several MCers who convinced me of this hot tip. It is in the top 5 list of hot tips of 2012!!!
For ppl who like statistics, we spent the following times in each location:
This leg of our vaykay was very Disney-centric; we did however voyage to Coasta Mesa for a quick trip to Mimi’s Café. We both love it and decided to meet some friends there. The one near the resort was too busy and we needed some sea breeze to recharge our batteries. There was a 12 degree difference mid-day!
We were parade blocked on one day, so against my usual M.O., I sat and watch Soundsational Parade from Small World Mall. We met a kind lady who gave us some info off of her MHP event map (Mickey’s Halloween Party Event had its’ own specially printed map w/ character greets and candy lines marked). We never did get our own copy. Every street sweep we met kept telling us that they were out and apologized profusely. We were told that if we went to one of the candy lines, we could ask for one there. My SO tried to speak to one of the CMs there but was sternly told to get in line. We weren’t into candy and had no interest in waiting in line, so our free souvenir would have to wait. We waited too long I suppose; we never got that map. I send a huge thanks again to that very kind lady, if you are reading this, we both thank you very much for taking the time to share your info!
Mickey-in-the-afterlife marks the candy trails and/or character greets, we still don’t know!
After thinking about the map issue, that brings me to the topic of customer service at the DLR. Ouch. It is a sore spot with us (and a sad sore spot too). I see the phrase “declining by degrees” on MC a lot. I used to think it was over used. But in the time since spring 2011 to fall 2012, it really has fallen “a few degrees”. I can be a Negative Nellie sometimes and the fastest and most effective way to get myself into that space is to be offered sour customer service. I won’t list everything that was poor, but below are some low points…
We came across several CMs that made it known that they didn’t want to be there, not by words, but by demeanor, language style, and posture. If your job sucks that bad, leave. I always grew up w/ the mindset that if you can’t do something right, don’t do it at all. Maybe I love my jobs of the past 2 decades too much and I’ve forgotten what it is like to work a crap-tastic job. But I seem to recall that even my HS jobs and trade school jobs weren’t all that bad and that it was easy to fake a good attitude. It’s called acting and a majority of Americans are good at it, so why, oh why did we have so many sour-pusses during our trip? We talked about this during our road trip home. I’ve just about had it with the topic for now, but I had to add it into this TR b/c it is a cold hard fact.
Over-all, the customer service is better at the resort than it is in the outside world… but it is in fact, in slow decline.
Paris, the city of light (not the media-whore) is my other favorite place on this planet.
Just a side note, I saw a person wearing a Marina & The Diamonds T-shirt. I love Marina; she is the best new artist you’ve never heard of. Just as she was releasing another single to YouTube, there walks somebody wearing the t-shirt right down Main Street USA. It is little things like this when I travel that do make my day. Marina is very pop-y, w/ a very sarcastic edge. Below is an A/V aide, a plug if you please...
NSFW in most cases. "How to be a Heart Breaker"
â™ˇ PART 7: "HOW TO BE A HEARTBREAKER" â™ˇ | MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS - YouTube
I have to shout out to Aussies, they are the kindest group I may have ever witnessed at Disneyland. As a group, they consistently open the door/gates and/or hold them open, they actually say “excuse me” if a bump occurs. I hear them consistently say “please” and “thank you” to CMs. I see them enjoying attractions, not have full-blown conversations while on the ride or during a show. From what we saw, they do not mindlessly scream from lap bar closing to final break-run on BTMRR at an ear piercing decibel (yeah, I’m looking at you, you little pre-teen SoCal, spoiled rotten brat! BTMRR, near closing, Monday, September 24, 2012, when asked by your guardian to tone it down, you increased the volume. When you saw that the preschooler start to cry in the tunnel, you went even louder and then made fun of her. If you happen to read this, tell your guardian that he’s awful at his job, thanks.) Whoa… that was a tangent, huh? Anyway, Aussies, I love you. I’ll be first in line at Disneyland Sydney!!!
Good ol’ Mattie. She was my first coaster crush… and now she just crushes me.
Anyway, before I speak of GAC (Guest Assistance Cards), a possibly negative topic of which there seem to be many in this extended TR as I am proofing it, I must say that the food is THE BEST at DLR. I know that Dollywood comes in at high rates from what I have read, but the HB (Hungry Bear) restaurant serves a wonderful Turkey & Pesto Sandwich. Wow… we ate it three times. Partly b/c of its’ taste and partly b/c of the isolated location. The deck in the far rear of the facility is wonderful any time of the day. The zesty slaw was perfect. The sweet tater fries, wonderful! I cannot express how pleased we were with the food, and that’s just HB restaurant! The bread products at each eatery/restaurant were fresh - I use this as a barometer for the rest of the establishment. We also ate in TL and I am sorry, but I cannot remember where. I do remember that it was not Pizza Port. What’s that food station in the middle near the Jedi training? Maybe it was there. I am having vacation-blur at the moment. At TL we had a double order of fries, fresh and hot. I know they weren’t anything extraordinary, just standard mass produced fries, but they were fresh and hot and perfectly salted. We did run over to Pizza Port to grab a re-fill on a fountain drink we purchased elsewhere in TL. They had no issues with us doing this. This was a hot tip from MCers. Thanks a ton! There was a very nice lady who worked there at the registers. She was handing out quarters (2) and pennies (1) to kids and adults alike for the penny squashing machine. Pictured below is the final product, we chose to use it for the Splash Mountain penny squashing machine. On our way, we picked up a couple bracelets in Frontierland. This has been an on-going tradition for several years, and I could have sworn that they were sold elsewhere in the park 18 months ago (I want to say Critter Country). That bracelet is also in the pic. We also had a notable lunch at the Corn Dog joint at DCA. The Corn Dog sausage was devine. Spicey good!
Ok. Deep breath… GACs… I will nominate someone for a Nobel Prize if they can solve the GAC problem (as if I had that power!!!) Come on, I saw abuse right there for the entire world to see. On several occasions, the GAC user gave the card to party members and stayed behind as the “junk holder” (ya know, bags etc.) Thanks to MC I am more aware of these things now. Maybe that’s why this TR (one of the best DLR trips ever), also sounds like a very negative and worst ever TR. It isn’t the worst, I assure you, it was amazing, but now that I am aware of these issues, and not just GAC, I think I am racking my brain while standing in line and bring up the issue w/ my SO right on the spot. We debate between us, and surmise, and debate some more on how to “fix” the issue. We took turns playing devil’s advocate. We wondered how our day would be if 10% less abusers were at the park. We wondered how much faster the line would be for Space Mountain if they didn’t send out a half full train (and the inevitable empty train that follows it a bit later). We really aren’t Big Richards, it’s just that we have dedicated our lives to our community back home, and it really chaps our hides to see some abuse of the system and/or cry wolf, and/or flat out lie… and that brings me to a side story, thanks for reading this far BTW…
Near our hotel is a scooter rental company. I understand when grandma cannot walk a full day at Disneyland even though she can walk to the mailbox just fine or when cousin Jerry hurt himself playing ball and now needs a scooter (aka: EVC). But I saw a group of college aged kids rent an EVC w/ high-fives all ‘round. The next morning, I saw an elder lady rent one for herself AND her daughter/granddaughter while professing the benefits of renting a scooter for the day for Disneyland while doing stretches before plopping her butt on the seat and cruising off into Harbor Blvd. I wish I hadn’t seen these. I kind of wish I hadn’t read blogs that discuss the issue. Ignorance is truly bliss. I saw a man up and run in Adventureland towards the restroom, problem is, he was sitting in a Hoveround. Maybe I am making too many assumptions about all these scenarios. Maybe every single one of them was legit. However, there is a problem… and it is growing …and I wish it would stop.
On the upside of things, not once did either of us get rammed by a stroller, very few kids were screaming (there’s always a few), no one repeated any lines from any ride while enjoying an attraction. I didn’t see or hear any child abuse.
Our flight programmer to Hoth and Tatooine
BTMRR: Hurry up and fix it. It was down too much, and they were often running only one side with limited trains. They would use the left side for exit only and the right side was enter & exit. Part of me suspects this was an effect of improper staffing for most of the week.
POTC (Pirates): In mid-trip, the seagull came back to roost on the “stabbed pirate”. Seeing his return overnight was thrilling to us both!
Splash: the “sweet tea” bird was moving fine (I think, based on vids online), but was unlit. Is this normal? It is kind of hard to tell with some of the videos online due to quality issues. We wondered how long his spotlight and his area lights had been out, and why.
Space: we loved the overlay. Yes, it is a bit on the cheap side, but we have everlasting hope that it will receive an upgrade. We also think there should be a third offering to get an overlay for H’ween (and Xmas while you’re at it).
Monorail: is it normal for it to be less of a draw than other E-tickets? Maybe we lucked out the times we rode it, but there was no line, even on Wednesday during the resort-wide overcrowding.
RSR: we loved it and it is a wonderful addition to the Disney mountain range and I can see it becoming a favorite for me just like Indy. Rockwork is a true art form and I appreciate it just as I would any art or craftsmanship. I cannot express how stunning the rockwork is! We took a couple closer shots of it in line.
LFT & JYJ: Luigi’s Flying Tires and Junkyard Jamboree were both great to watch. Grab a snack and sit for 20-30 minutes to take a break and be entertained by ppl watching the ride. We only rode JYJ b/c we didn’t have enough time on our trip to make it back to ride LFT.
MHP: it was so fun, we had a blast and after several days of using FP and feeling like we weren’t getting enough night hours, it was great to go to DL and do it old school style in the dark. My treat bag, though it didn’t receive one piece of candy, is pretty banged up – great place to store our phones for the wet rides that night.
So that's it! Like I said before, it really ranks up there on the top of our Fun List for DLR trips. Thanks for reading and thanks for your advice. Just remember, ignorance really is bliss… LOL.