Typically, I don't really like trip reports. They serve a purpose to be sure, but they aren't really for me. I mostly just look at the photographs. But since it had been 15 years since my last trip to Walt Disney World (Spring of 1998), I thought that people might be interested in some of the observations I had regarding my recent trip to the parks during the last week in January. Be warned ... it's 90% complaints and 10% praise (I didn't want to be, but I also wanted to give my honest assessment of how I felt), so if you aren't interested in criticism of the parks, this is probably the wrong trip report for you to read. I didn't mean for it to be so negative, but I acknowledge that it probably comes off as such. And I'm certainly aware that most of my observations have been made in the past by my others in the Disney fanbase - I don't falsely believe these are unique viewpoints. I just thought it might be interesting to see a full set of opinions from someone who loves (loved?) the place, but hadn't been back in years.
A little bit about the trip background. I'm a 35 year old single guy. When I was a kid, my parents and my brother (42) and I used to go to WDW just about every other year during the summer. The last time I had been to WDW was 1998. I lived in California for several years in the mid-2000s and went to Disneyland and DCA many, many times during this time period, so it wasn't as though I cut myself off from the parks completely. I lurk on all the Disney message boards and keep up with all the recent developments. The rest of my family doesn't think about Disney much at all.
This January trip was the first trip to WDW since 1998 for myself, my parents and my brother and the first trip ever for my sister-in-law and their two kids (four year old girl, two year old boy). It was not planned, it's just that everyone in the family wound up with free time all at once (and my parents wanted to take their grand kids to WDW) and we booked it at the spur of the moment because of the opportunity.
Caribbean Beach Resort - We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort in the early 90s and enjoyed it - so it was where my mother wanted to stay this trip. The room was very clean, but everything looked old - like nobody comes in every year and does routine maintenance. The in-room WiFi was great, but for some reason, we could not receive cell phone calls in the room - every morning we'd walk outside and get the "you have messages" beep. We were told by the luggage van driver that the CBR was 80% full for Martin Luther King weekend and that it was going to drop to 40% full the next week. I wish they'd build a waterway from the CBR lake (and Pop Century's lake) to EPCOT (and in the other direction, to DHS), but if it hasn't happened by now, I don't see it ever happening. All in all, I wouldn't want to stay here again until there's a significant refurb.
Deluxe Resorts - We spent one afternoon touring the Seven Seas Lagoon on the monorail. We ate lunch in the Grand Floridian. We walked around each of the three resorts. They were empty. I mean nobody was around. The Polynesian and Contemporary used to be bustling with activity when I was a kid. They looked dead this trip. Intentionally or not, I think Disney has finally priced these out of the reach of 95% of their guests.
Dining - The food situation at WDW is bad. First of all, they are price gouging. There's no other phrase for it. $10 for a hot dog and fries at a fast food counter is just wrong. And the options were terrible. If you don't want to eat burgers, hot dogs or chicken nuggets, you are in for a severe inconvenience. The best value we found in all of WDW was the large pizza at the Caribbean Beach Resort which was reasonable (I think it was $15) and actually pretty good. The food options in The Land pavilion were what I'd expect to see everywhere (had the chicken caesar salad and grilled fish - both of which were pretty good). The rest of the park choices were terrible. My mother raved about the jalapeno soft pretzel she had on the first day and spent most of the week searching them out in other parks (I'm not sure she ever found them anywhere else).
Transportation - The buses were prompt and on a reasonable schedule. I don't think we waited for more than 10 minutes for a bus the entire week. The monorail should go to every park (everyone knows this and everyone knows it's never going to happen), but I can't complain about the buses.
Construction - There was construction everywhere. My father and I were both extremely impressed by the photorealistic tarps that they have to cover up the buildings under rehab. There was more than one time that I walked right by one and didn't even notice that it was a tarp, not an actual building. That said, there was a crane behind the castle (I think it was removing the Christmas lights) the entire week. Not once did I see someone on it working during the day - it was just there. With all of the construction going on in Fantasyland, they should be able to bring the crane in at night (and remove it during the day) with minimal effort. There is no reason why it should just sit there all day ruining everyone's photographs.
Brazilian Tour Groups - This was my first experience with them. They were everywhere. I didn't see that being disruptive or any more obnoxious than the typical group of 20 American teenagers. However, it's still torture being caught next to them in a queue for 20 minutes. On a related note, my whole family was mystified how few people were speaking English in the parks. When I'm bored (lines, waiting for fireworks, etc), I like to eavesdrop - if I had to estimate, I'd say 25% of all conversations were being carried on in another language ...
Entrance Gates - ... which brings me to the disaster that was the NextGen testing at the entrance gates all week. You've got a ton of people who do not speak English (guests) and a ton of people who only speak English (cast members) trying to explain to them that you need to have the correct room card for the correct person in their party and then you have to use the index finger on your right hand and "oh, sorry, it didn't work so we need you to step out of line and this other guy is gonna try and help you." It was a disaster.
Birthday Button - At check-in, the guy at the front desk said the computer system listed everyone in our party as 18 years old. I replied "I wish. I just turned 35 yesterday." He gave me a birthday button. He even wrote my name on it. I didn't even know they still gave these buttons out (I never saw any in California, although I wasn't really looking for them either). Anyway, I wore it the first day at DHS and I have to say it was a pleasant experience. I'm an introvert. I estimate 30 or 40 people (half cast members, half guests) wished me a happy birthday. It started a few conversations while waiting in lines. It was nice. It's the thing I will most remember about this trip.
Strollers - There is so much square footage dedicated to stroller parking now that it is now negatively affecting the park experience. Every walkway is cramped. It never used to be like this (go look at old home videos from the 1980s on YouTube). Disneyland is not dealing with this right now. Sure, there are some strollers in Disneyland, but it is nothing like what is going on in WDW. I've always believed that Disney was encouraging the strollers because they were making so much money on the rentals, but now my observation was that most of the SUV strollers were privately owned - perhaps Disney has priced itself out of the market? One additional factor that I think is contributing to the problem (that I never would have expected) is the pure greed of Disney on the locker rentals. On the first day, we brought a backpack with some sweatshirts in it, in case it got cold at night. Our intention was to put it in a locker. Disney is charging $13 a day to rent a tiny locker! I repeat, $13 a day. That is the most headshakingly shameful thing I have seen Disney do in 35 years. I honestly expected it to be a dollar (maybe two). And here's where it contributes to the stroller problem ... people want to have access to certain items while at the park (jackets, maybe a purse, ponchos, diapers, baby formula etc); particularly when it's cold. Because they aren't going to pay $13 a day for a locker, now they need to carry it with them all day as they travel around the parks. And it's easier to use a Nimitz-class stroller as a shopping cart (carrying everything they need) than it is to carry it on your own back. Viola ... strollers everywhere. It's not entirely caused by Disney greed, but they contributed to it far more than they get credit for.
Downtown Disney - There's no life in this place. It is what it is (which is an outdoor high-end shopping mall), but the problem is that the rest of the country has caught up - every major city in America has one of these malls now. And some of them are better themed. I could give a dissertation on the monumental screw ups that led to the removal of the night clubs, but I think what's more important to remember is that they actually gave people something to do at night. We shouldn't forget that they were functional. It's exactly what WDW is missing right now. One more thing, there's no reason why they can't have a Walgreens/CVS type store (even if Disney is running it). We asked around several places for where we could get Tylenol or Advil, they sent us to the World of Disney, we asked a cast member in the WoD for it - she wandered around for five minutes saying "I know we have it somewhere" and finally we just said "Thank you" and left. I don't need an MBA to know they are leaving money on the table.
Advertising - Many times during the week, I heard Disney advertise "two new castles for you to explore" - it's simply not true and they should be ashamed. My mother heard this on the Magical Express bus and it peaked her interest. She got to Fantasyland the next day and said "you have to be kidding" when she saw the Storybookland Beast's castle. And we never did get a confirmation on what the third castle was (I'm assuming it's The Little Mermaid building?). They should not lie in their advertising (I'm already there; what am I going to do? Leave?). This is lying.
Castle - They need to open the castle to through-traffic earlier in the day. And by "earlier in the day" I mean the rope-drop. And it needs to stay open all day. Yes, I realize they want to have a show in front of the castle. Yes, I realize that they've congested the area terribly between the Royal Table and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. It doesn't matter; they need that castle walkway open. Kids want to walk through the castle. It's in all the television commercials. Making them wait until 8:45PM is frankly unfair to them. I'm not kidding, it was my niece's #1 priority. She kept asking all day - "Can we go through the castle now?" For years it was open without issues; make it work.
Magic Carpets - It doesn't belong where it is. It ruins the sightlines, it hides the Tiki Room, and it's not themed to 1920s-30s Polynesia. The park also does not need three spinners. If it'll fit, I'd move it to the Animation Courtyard in DHS (where it also would not fit properly, but at least it's what that park is missing).
Enchanted Tiki Room - I'm proud to say I never experienced Under New Management. I actually miss the portions they removed from the original show, but at least it's back to the original. One negative ... the experience in Disneyland is so much better because they let you take food into the theater and you can eat your Dole Whip while the show is going on. It's my favorite thing to do in Disneyland.
Pirates of the Caribbean - I think the additions of Johnny Depp AAs are fine (but I'd probably not have the one in the treasure room - it's the only one that treats the guest as an imbecile ("Look at me! Look at me!!! Look at me!). But I don't like the other changes, particularly the music in the queue. The old music built up the tension to the ride experience. The new (film) music is just overpowering and does not add to the atmosphere at all. And I hate the waterfall effect (that doesn't look like a waterfall) and the terrible looking projection effect. Just bring back the skull. And at the ride entrance, bring back the peg-leg parrot (and remove the film music). Everybody knows what Pirates of the Caribbean is - they don't need to beat the guest over the head to get them to enter the ride.
Pirates/Princess Dress Up - I cannot believe the volume of little kids walking around with a smudged-on pirate beard or a princess dress. They are everywhere. I wonder how many of these kids truly like walking around in the outfits all day ... and how many are the parents encouraging it because they feel like it's their duty as a parent to pay for it. I would have hated walking around the park all day in make-up when I was six or seven years old.
Country Bear Jamboree - My two year old nephew's favorite thing in all of WDW was the three heads mounted on the wall. We visited this several times and it seems to me that the audio in the back two rows is significantly decreased compared to sitting in the middle of the theater - there's either an audio or an acoustics issue going on there.
Haunted Mansion - I hate the new extended queue (I'm a purist and it runs counter to the storyline). The Escher staircase is excellent (something Disneyland didn't get) and the new animated hitchhiking ghosts ending is very well done.
Peter Pan - 60 years later and the best special effect in any attraction is still flying over the streets of London. No ride gets screwed more by FastPass than Peter Pan - you used to be able to walk on Peter Pan during and after the fireworks - now the line is even longer than during the rest of the day. It should be Exhibit 1 in any "This is why FastPass is bad" argument.
New Fantasyland - In general, it's a mess right now. So far, all they've really accomplished is to add a restaurant. And because of the construction on the Mine Coaster, the dead end between Mermaid and Circusland just destroys traffic flow in the area.
Enchanted Tales with Belle - The line was an hour. It doesn't have FastPass, so we skipped it.
Under the Sea - It's a nice ride. Definitely not an E-ticket as people went through mental gymnastics to label it during the building phase. It's a C+ ticket. The queue is nicely done. This area desperately needs water features. As I remember the concept art, there was water all over the place. Is this coming later? Or has it been scrapped?
Gaston Meet & Greet - This is the best thing in New Fantasyland. I watched this for about 20 minutes one day and came across really impressed by how good the guy playing Gaston was. Came back three days later, it was a different guy, and he was even better.
Circusland - I thought this would be the weakest part of New Fantasyland, and truth be told, even though it probably is, I thought it was well themed. It's not an area of the park I would visit often, but I think that there are worthwhile things to see/do there. That the train stops there is an added benefit.
Dumbo - When I first heard that this whole expansion centered around doubling Dumbo and then moving it, I thought it was a gigantic mistake. I still feel this way. Dumbo has always had a tremendously long line because it was located directly behind the castle; if you're standing in the middle of Fantasyland, it's the first thing you're kid is going to see (and want to go on). Now they've moved it to the farthest point in the park - the demand on capacity is not going to be there anymore. As for the interactive queue ... I feared its design was also a mistake because of the whole "multiple generations doing things together, not adults sitting in bleachers watching kids" train of thought. I still think it's a disaster, but for a completely different reason. I don't care if I'm in Disney World and in a closed environment, I will never feel comfortable letting a small child out of my line of sight for even an instant. And this queue is too dark and there are too many hidden spaces that you can't see your kid (in this instance, my niece and nephew) at all. Being in this play area was arguably the most stressful time during my entire vacation. It was a nightmare. And when the pager went off, I was in the middle of hunting down my niece (for the 4th or 5th time) and it took forever to find her (again). This whole concept was not a good idea - encouraging kids to run off (away from their parents) while at WDW is a dumb move on Disney's part, imho.
Space Mountain - Why is this attraction so dark compared to the version in Disneyland? The experience in California is so much better because you can make out the ride vehicles traveling through the darkness. In WDW, you can't see anything. The side-by-side seats in California are better, too.
Peoplemover - It has so much potential, but they've neglected it to the point where you ride around, but you don't see anything. Every inch of available wall space as you travel around the track should have something to look at. You should be able to see the Space Mountain ride vehicles. It should build the feeling that Tomorrowland is a cohesive experience. They've made it an afterthought. I see Alamo Rental Car is the sponsor; I'd want my money back.
Monsters Inc Laugh Factory - I've read a lot of bad things on the internet and I think it gets an unfair bad reputation. If the people selected are good sports, it can be a fun time. Everyone in my family considered this a pleasant surprise.
Stitch's Great Escape - On the other hand, its bad reputation is well earned. I've never seen the film - is Stitch an a-hole in the movie? I can't believe Disney tried to elevate the character's profile in the parks to the extent it did. People like this character?
Buzz Lightyear - All I know is, at the very end of the ride, I was beating my 67 year old mother 52,000 to 1,500 ... I took a few shots at last target and looked down again ... and she was beating me 101,500 to 55,000. Somewhere there's a 100k point target. This loss cost me much humiliation over the course of the vacation.
Carousel of Progress - It's all class. When I was a young kid, this was always my favorite (along with the Tiki Room) and it still holds up. It doesn't matter how old an attraction is - if it has heart, it will always hold up. The Carousel of Progress has heart.
Tomorrowland Terrace - This was closed the entire week (except for the Fireworks party). There is no reason why this particular area should ever be closed due to crowd size. Too many guests cut the corner and walk through here en route to Tomorrowland and if it looks like a ghost town, it sets the wrong tone and puts the guest in the wrong mood. Not to mention that if you're on that side of the park, you can't sit down and get counter service anywhere from Cosmic Ray's to Casey's Corner - it's too far to have to walk to hunt down food.
Emporium - People complain; Disney doesn't care - but it's a shame what Disney's done to Main Street by turning the entire side of the street into one long store. Exploring the individual shops used to be part of the experience (not just on Main Street, but in every land. Now 90% of the merchandise is available at every retail location. On a related note, I spent probably two hours one night in EPCOT trying to locate a pin that looked like the original Horizons logo; hell, I would have settled for any of the original Future World logos. I even asked at several places and the cast members generally had no idea what I was talking about - that hurt. Anyway, apparently Disney didn't want my $10 because I couldn't find anything like it. They've got hundreds of different pins and nothing featuring original EPCOT? Give me a break.
Nighttime Entertainment - The MSEP is still great; it should run every evening - we spent an unreasonable amount of time trying to figure out how to get back to MK on the nights it was running to catch it at every opportunity. Wishes is very good, but it's nowhere near the caliber of Remember Dreams Come True. Celebrate the Magic is super technology, but I felt like they could do much more with it. There was too much "We'll just project this scene from Film X up there" and not enough creativity like turning the castle into the Celtic castle from Brave.
Future World - It's dead. For years, I've read the complaints (and praise) about all the changes they've made in Future World and I've hoped they'd eventually come to their senses and restore the place to its former glory. My family went to EPCOT Center the first summer it was open in 1983 and I was in love with the place. The architecture that all worked seamlessly together. The music that was all on the same page, but was also immediately identifiable with the individual pavilions. The logos that helped meld the pavilions together as a coherent experience. Future World circa 1983-1989 was a palace. It's dead. It's all gone. And it's passed the point of no-return. It would cost them more to return attractions like JII and WoM back to their former glory than it would to just knock them all down and rebuild something brand new. These attractions were all built with incredible forethought - most of them had expensive lengthy "History of Topic X" portions (that were built to stand the test of time with minor upgrades) and cheaper easily replaceable "Future of Topic X" portions in the post-show (that were designed to be constantly replaced as technology dictated). Whoever blew it all up (figuratively) didn't care to even try and understand what the original Imagineers were doing there. Had they been left alone (with minor refurbishments), JII, Horizons, SSE and WoM would have built the same level of nostalgia over the last 30 years that Pirates and the Haunted Mansion have in the Magic Kingdom. And Cranium Command would have a strong following. They even screwed up the entranceway with the "War Memorial". You used to get a feeling of optimism and excitement walking through the turnstiles towards SSE; now you get a feeling of dread and sorrow - it's innate because we subconsciously associate stone monoliths like that with war memorials and graveyards. It boggles my mind how dumb someone would have to be to greenlight systematically destroying Future World like this over the course of 15 years. Breaks my heart too. These pavilions were museums; fun educational institutions. This was Disney's Smithsonian Institute on the National Mall. The traces of it are few and far between today.
Spaceship Earth - My sister-in-law sat down behind us in the ride vehicle with the two year old. Familiar with their iPad (and Angry Birds, specifically), he promptly banged on the touch screen and she proceeded to spend the next 15 minutes hearing the narration in German. I assume it was not Judy Dench speaking German, but someone else. Interactivity strikes again! She was not happy. Is there a way to reset the language after mis-selecting? As for the attraction ... the ending is pitiful. Whose bright idea was it to get rid of the grand finale at the top of the descent (the city) and replace it with darkness? And the whole thing is dumbed down. I prefer Cronkite, but it's the new script, not the narrator, that's the problem.
Soarin - I've rode it many times in the past at DCA and I think it's a very good to great ride. The ride design is unique and you really do feel like you're flying. That said, it doesn't belong in The Land. It replaces Kitchen Kabaret/Food Rocks that absolutely did belong there and was perfectly fine. The film looks dirty and worn. The fact that it's a film of California makes no sense in EPCOT - if they cared, they would have filmed a different film for EPCOT. The queue is the most poorly themed for a major attraction in WDW and the ride theater, itself, has no themeing. This should have been part of the World of Motion pavilion, where it would have made sense. Then, you have the whole issue of the FastPasses. They need to build the FastPass machines outside the actual pavilion building. It would alleviate 75% of the problems caused by the steady stream of people entering the building, going down the escalator, getting a FastPass, going up the escalator and walking out of the building - there's too much congestion. And the congestion isn't helped by the fact that the only place to get real food (not burgers/fries/chicken nuggets) is in the Land food court.
Living with the Land - Two thoughts ... (1) These have to be the most uncomfortable seats in all of WDW. I'd ride the Matterhorn a thousand times, before I'd want to ever sit in these seats again. Are these the original seats? I don't ever remember being this uncomfortable before, and (2) my mother leaned over towards the end of the ride and said "This ride used to have a catchy song. Why would they get rid of that in favor of nothing?" I had to remind her that it used to have a live human narrator, too. It offends me that they removed the human guide from the ride, but as you're floating through the attraction you can see a live human being leading a tour group (presumably for an outrageous fee) around the inside of the building.
Journey Into Your Imagination - The best time I had in EPCOT was the last 30-45 seconds of this attraction. The rest just makes me sad.
Captain EO - I went into to this expecting the worse and found myself having a good time all the way through. The crowd seemed to be enjoying themselves and interacting with the film - then it ended and I looked around it was like a stampede to get out of there. I guess I'll chalk it up to "You had to live through the 80s to understand it".
Test Track - I never experienced the first version of Test Track. The last time I was there (1998), it was down for repairs the day we went to EPCOT. I can't believe there are people that prefer this to the World of Motion. I don't understand it at all. I found the "design your car" to be unfulfilling - like a game you might download on your phone for a dollar. The inside-experience was dull and I can't say I loved the outside-speed-run either.
Mission Space - I rode this once by myself as a test run for the rest of the family to see if it would make them sick. I got nauseas; and I have an iron stomach and run marathons. After it ended, I walked over to the castmember and asked "How many times a day do people vomit in there?" He responded, "More often then we like to think about, but usually they make it outside the vehicle to the trash can." They tore down one of the five best theme park attractions ever created to build this.
Ellen's Energy Adventure - The old film for the Universe of Energy was dull and boring. I'm sure this film is more interesting for children. But the UoE pre-show and music blew this version out of the water. And there's no reason to have the Ellen AA and the narration/commentary during the dinosaur portion - this ride used to create a sense of atmosphere that could not be duplicated anywhere else; the Ellen intrusion pulls you out of the experience every time she speaks.
Off Kilter - My niece is infatuated with bagpipes. It was the #1 thing she wanted Santa Claus to bring her this past Christmas. After the show, she ran up to the band and asked if she could talk to the bagpiper. He spent ten minutes teaching her about how to play them and let her hold his bagpipes and we took a bunch of photos. I can't say enough good things about these guys.
Three Caballeros - El Rio del Tiempo had charm. Apparently this attraction's goal is to make you think Donald Duck is jerk. Didn't the Three Caballeros take place in Brazil? My nephew kept asking if we were on the Jungle Cruise again.
World Showcase Films - One evening, I was abandoned in the World Showcase because the rest of the family was wiped out. So I spent the night wandering through the pavilions seeing things I'd never get to do with the group (that's constantly pushing towards the next ride). I watched all the films and thought they were great. I particularly enjoyed Canada and France. It is amazing to me how crystal clear the Canadian film is in comparison to Soarin.
World Showcase Meet & Greets - Disney is missing the boat by having these Meet & Greets in the front of the pavilions along the lagoon. They need to put them in the back of each pavilion to draw the foot traffic into each area.
World Showcase Cast Members - I've always thought the best part of WS is its cast members; it's still true. I got to speak with people in each of the pavilions and they are always proud to tell you about their native countries (including the lady in the American Adventure gift shop that was from southern New Jersey). A young woman working in the United Kingdom gift shop made me laugh out loud after a hipster-looking kid said "I love your accent. Can you speak a little? Say anything," and after he walked out the door she rolled her eyes at me and said "I like working here, but I hear that 9 times a day. And the guy never looks like Brad Pitt." On a related note, there's a college-age girl that works in the Norway bakery that could be a supermodel.
Illuminations - I know it's very popular, but I wasn't impressed. With the WS backdrop and that entire lake, it feels like they should be able to realize something better.
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular - I think this is the most underappreciated attraction in WDW. With a few small changes, it's essentially the same as it was 25 years ago - and it's still exciting and interesting (and captures the wink-at-the-audience humor of the films themselves).
Star Tours 2 - Having the multiple random combinations is very smart. I also really like the newTatooine themeing on the exit gift shop.
Lights, Motor, Action! - I wanted to see this show, but I could never make it work with the timing. It is ridiculous that are only two showings. If Indiana Jones can have five showings, there is no reason LMA should only have two.
Great Movie Ride - This was, should and could be the centerpiece attraction in this park. What they've done to it is criminal. First of all, the BAH not only destroys the sightlines, but it actually hides the attraction. You could be standing ten feet in front of the BAH and have no idea there's a terrific attraction right on the other side. There is no reason why the queue area can't have more memorabilia. What they have there is great, it just should have a lot more. And the cleanliness was actually disgusting. The layer of dust on the base of the green lamp posts in the loading area looks like nobody has dusted in over a decade; this should be happening every week! Give the cast members a wet rag and tell them to wipe down their area on Monday morning. The dust was very obvious in the Oz area too. And compare and contrast the ceiling in Oz (terrible) to the ceiling in IASW (which is what it should look like). The tour guide was terrible (zero enthusiasm), but the college program was starting that week and I suspect it was a trainee.
Studio Backlot Tour - Disney has to figure out what this is. It used to be a presentation treating the park as a working thriving production studio (television, film, animation, etc). They've shortened it and neutered it and there's no pretense of the place being a working studio anymore. I've spent many days at Universal Studios California and that's a real backlot tour. Disney needs to revisit their tour's approach to "Here's how we make a film" and use their tour to go through every aspect of production (I'd use the Marvel films as the backdrop). At the very least, now that they own Star Wars and Indiana Jones, there should be props all over the place from those movies back here. And just as was true with the Great Movie Ride - the upkeep on this attraction is disgusting. The dust in the prop room was an inch thick in places; and no, just because they can get away with "well, it's supposed to be dusty in there" is not a good enough reason to let the place fall apart. And, like the queue in the Great Movie Ride, the museum-like experience at the end could be so much better; it should be far more dense with memorabilia.
One Man's Dream - This was the thing I enjoyed the most all week. I wish I had more time to look at the models in the pre-show area, but just as we approached Walt's Office, the theater doors opened and we hurried through. And we just kind of stumbled into it because there was a 30 minute wait for the Voyage of the Little Mermaid (that we never actually visited).
Rosie's All-American Cafe - The best food I had all week was the burger and fries I had here.
Rock N Roller Coaster - The ride track is excellent. The loading area is excellent. The pre-show is excellent (although I fear people under the age of twenty have no idea who Aerosmith is). But I have two minor complaints. First, during the actual ride, the cardboard cut outs just look cheap (as I'm sure they were). They could have gone the extra mile by making it actually look like you're traveling through modern day Los Angeles. Second, and more important to me, the whole outside area leading up to the queue entrance is just poorly themed - it creates no atmosphere. The attraction is so far off of Sunset Boulevard and all of that real estate is basically wasted. You don't feel like you're walking to a recording studio in Hollywood - you feel like you're walking through the parking lot towards a Costco.
Kilimanjaro Safaris - This is the best attraction Disney has achieved since Horizons was built. It really is. I was very impressed. I know it used to have a storyline, but I think its removal actually benefits the experience - from what I've read, it was the typical "We're out for a normal day and ... Oh no! ... something has gone wrong and now we have to race to the finish" lazy storyline that Disney shoehorned into every new attraction for the better part of 15 years.
Kali River Rapids - It was closed.
Expedition Everest - Yeti was in F-mode. And by F-mode, I mean that I never saw it. There were several portions of the ride where the area was pitch black and I assume the Yeti is housed in the last one we passed. But no strobe light, no dimly lit shadow of a Yeti ... nothing. Rode it twice - no Yeti either time.
Dinoland USA - Pathetic. Looks like the kiddie section at Six Flags.
Dinosaur - I've been on the Temple of the Forbidden Eye in Anaheim many times and it's just a superior attraction in every aspect. It's not that Dinosaur is bad - it's just does not deliver the same level of experience (in the queue, in the thrills, in the atmosphere, in the music, etc). It's my understanding that many of the effects don't work anymore; the same thing happened in Anaheim.
Animal Kingdom Overall - we spent about four hours here, felt like we saw everything that we'd be interested in seeing and came away feeling that it's a 1/4 day park. I can't believe Disney greenlit New Fantasyland when they could have put Beastly Kingdom in here. When your park has four signature attractions and one is closed an another doesn't work, you've got problems. And no Avatarland - I don't care what kind of mental gymanastics you go through, it has nothing to do with the concept of the park - it simply doesn't fit.
I enjoyed the week. But I spent the entire time feeling like I was fighting with Disney, not that they were helping me to enjoy my vacation. The whole WDW resort makes you feel like Disney is in a staring contest with you over prices, and times, and scheduling over who's going to blink first - almost like they are saying "We know it's unreasonably priced, but we don't think you have the guts to walk away." Going to WDW should not be like buying a luxury car, at least not in my opinion. There's too much money to be made on volume to destroy the good will the company has built up since the 1950s. Disneyland never makes me feel like this; I'm not sure I know why. Anyway, for the first time in my life, I finished a Disney vacation and I wasn't really sad to see it end. I was ready to go home. Now that I've seen all I've missed in the last 15 years, I'll be headed to Disneyland for all my future Disney trips. My parents have no desire to return - they did not have a good time. My brother doesn't really want to go back either, but he sees it as something he's "gonna get stuck doing again" because he has young kids. I didn't have a terrible time, but I didn't have a great time either. My whole family, that used to be virulent Disneyphiles, did not enjoy themselves and it probably affected my mood over the trip. If you love your trips to WDW, by all means you should go there as often as possible and enjoy yourself. I'm just saying that for me, the trip turned out to be a bit of a disappointment and made me feel like the WDW is not designed for me anymore, so I probably won't be back for another 15-20 years.
Well, if you stuck with this opus all the way to the end, I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts. Any comments are welcome.