Update (9/12/16): In 2016, we finally visited Walt Disney World for a do-over. How well did our second visit go three years later? Find out in my epic follow-up trip report: “Why Two Disneyland Vets Loved Five Days in Walt Disney World, After All”.
This is an epic-length post: a trip report of the five-day stay Ryan and I just spent in Walt Disney World. We were surprised to find ourselves counting the days until we could come home to Chicago–and start planning our next Disneyland vacation. This post explains why in detail. I’m writing it for the benefit of fellow Disney park fans–especially Disneyland vets (like Ryan and myself)–who are researching the differences between the Anaheim and Orlando resorts.
However, I’m posting it here and not on the mainstream bi-coastal Disney discussion forum I belong to because experience has proven that feelings get easily hurt there when anyone criticizes the East Coast parks. I ask that you bear that in mind if you’re reading here from that community, because while I don’t intend to offend anyone, I do intend to write frankly about our experience at Walt Disney World–and why it just wasn’t for us.
This post will eventually be updated with trip photos once our PhotoPass+ CD arrives in the mail. [Ed. note–We looked so unhappy in the photos, I never bothered to post them.]
Prologue: How We Ended up At Walt Disney World Instead of Disneyland Resort
As I’ve blogged previously, although I grew up in New York and live in Chicago, I’m a long-time Disneyland Resort “vet” (the Disney fan term that identifies the resort–Disneyland or Walt Disney World–that you consider to be your “home” resort.) It’s the place where I decided to move to Chicago in 2003. It’s a place where I dragged Devyn in 2005. And in March of this year a trip there was Ryan’s 40th birthday present from me. Luckily–and happily and surprisingly to boot–Ryan loved it as much as I do.
The always amazing food (and near-universal annual passholder dining discounts), live pop-up bands, constantly roving characters, and charming ambiance–not just in Disneyland (especially our favorite land, New Orleans Square) but also in the newly re-Imagineered Disney California Adventure park, the easy 500-foot walk between the resort’s two parks, the spotlessness and over-eager trash pickers, the friendly, highly Disney-savvy Southern Californians who grew up with the place and make up the majority of visitors, the compactness, high concentration of rides and attractions, warm days and cool nights. All are part of the magic of a West Coast Disney vacation.
For Ryan’s 40th birthday, I purchased Premier Annual Passports allowing us to visit all six Disney theme parks on both coasts for a year. We had planned our next trip to be back to Disneyland Resort because Ryan loved it so much (and needed the break from his stressful job.) We figured we’d eventually make it to Walt Disney World before our passes expired. However, after unexpected fines from Cal/OSHA led Disney to close several major rides including our favorites (Space Mountain–mine–and Soarin’ Over California–Ryan’s) for an undetermined period to improve the safety of after-hours maintenance workers, we decided to change our already-purchased plane tickets to Orlando. Team Disney Anaheim eventually re-opened those rides before our trip, but we kept our WDW plans in place.
We both looked forward to seeing the East Coast parks, I especially, since they were my first Disney-parks experience. At the age of three, my sister took me to a two-year-old Magic Kingdom in 1973. Later, in 1977, my Aunt Juanita and Uncle Ron drove their clan with me included down to Florida, where I took my first ride on the brand-new Space Mountain. Though I’ve been to Disneyland Paris (in 2000), 1977 was my last time in “the World” and I was very curious to see Magic Kingdom again.
How We Spent Our Time at Walt Disney World
This trip report isn’t chronological because the things we learned and felt on our trip mostly happened–or built up–on each day we were at WDW. But for the record, here’s how we spent our primary park time–you’ll be able to tell the point at which we just kind of gave up and stuck with the familiar:
- Day One: Magic Kingdom
- Day Two: Epcot
- Day Three: Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Day Four: Magic Kingdom
- Day Five: Magic Kingdom
The Good: What We Liked at Walt Disney World
Now to be clear, we didn’t dislike everything about Walt Disney World. In fact, some things we liked a lot…
We loved the free Magical Express airport transfer coach (versus the $32 round-trip on Disneyland Resort Express), and the associated luggage service that delivers your bags to your room from the airport for you (a service which isn’t available on the west coast.) Checking our bags at our resort hotel for the trip back was a great stress-saver too, and again isn’t something Disney offers in California.
We didn’t have much of a problem with Disney’s on-property bus service, which is necessary to get anywhere if you don’t have a car, given WDW’s great size. In five days we collectively had two or three longish waits, and several waits of five minutes or less. Though we did have a few issues with people not used to riding buses taking up additional seats or blocking the aisle, but then again everyone else on the bus had to put up with these people, too. (On one bus, a father had to tell an older teenager to stop using his son’s wheelchair as a footrest.)
We enjoyed the over-the-top theming, thorough “mousekeeping”, beautiful, lakeside grounds, and exclusive bus service of our “value resort”, Pop Century.
We loved charging everything back to our room with our RFID-enabled “Key to the World” keycards. The simple tap-and-PIN system made purchases a breeze. We also loved paying down our room charges with pre-bought Disney Gift Cards (an easy way to “silo-off” Disney vacation monies to make sure you don’t overdo things on your credit or debit cards.)
We thought the new RFID-enabled “open turnstiles” were amazing. Once we got to WDW we were able to convert our existing standard passes to RFID passes (that still work at Disneyland), and after that it was just “tap until the Mickey light spins and touch your fingerprint until Mickey turns green” and walk into the parks. I wish Disneyland had this easy-peasy entrance system already.
We loved (loved) Wifi being enabled *everywhere*. In the parks–outside, inside, and in ride buildings. At the resort hotels–outside, inside, and in rooms. Disneyland has nothing like this and it sure made using Disney and third-party visit-planning apps without running down your phone battery easily possible.
We very much enjoyed attractions that, at least to us, were clearly better in Orlando, including a longer Haunted Mansion, a slower Splash Mountain with a wider ride vehicle, and a more robust Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with real airtime. (Sorry, East Coast Tower of Terror fans, we thought the much-touted “Fifth Dimension room” ruined the ride’s pacing versus the “ghosts drop then you drop” suspense of the California version.) We also liked the original attractions that aren’t in Disneyland anymore, including the Country Bear Jamboree, the Carousel of Progress, and the People Mover.
I personally (Ryan not so much) loved riding the grandfather of all Space Mountains. Yes, it’s rougher and less thrilling than Disneyland’s version. Yes, the starfield effects are nowhere near as good. Yes, I broke my glasses in the exit station. And yes, I rode every chance I got and each time was a blast. (Then again, I grew up riding the Coney Island Cyclone learning to hold on with my knees, so I already knew how to brace myself on a rough coaster.)
And though my beloved peanut brittle is absent from Magic Kingdom’s Main Street U.S.A., Mickey crisped rice treats were happily eaten every night we were at WDW.
The Bad: What We Didn’t Like at Walt Disney World
Ultimately for us, though, there was a lot more we didn’t like at WDW. The following section is the reason I decided not to put my trip report on the DIS boards. So if you’re a WDW vet, as I said earlier, I’m going to be frank here about our experience of the things we didn’t like in the World. Some of this is chance and some of this is unchangeable. But a lot of this I feel is due to a different–and as I see it, lacking–management culture in Orlando (that I’ll talk about at the end of this post). At times we really found ourselves pulling for the World, and it was maddening to realize that much of what we found disappointing wasn’t at all inherent in WDW, itself, but was put there by Team Disney Orlando’s corporate culture…
We hated the weather. Ninety degrees and an extremity-swelling level of humidity, going down to 80 degrees with the same humidity at night, just isn’t for us. We longed for Disneyland’s warm, dry t-shirt days and cool, breezy hoodie evenings. Not something anyone can control without completely avoiding visiting during summer, so lesson learned here.
We disliked the guest vibe–or more specifically the guest-behavior vibe. We knew going in that WDW guests are once-a-year or even once-in-a-lifetime guests, often entire extended families, and often from other countries. Maybe it was the heat or the great distances or other elements that we didn’t like about WDW, either. Or maybe it’s a cultural thing. I warned Ryan that my fellow northeasterners might act rudely (oh boy, how some of them did!) and that many people on the DIS boards complain about the rudeness of Brazilian guests (again, after five days in the World, no argument there!) I guess WDW is a place where lots of cultures clash, often in a jarring manner, and where it’s very easy–and very common–to melt down. (Several times, we definitely did.)
Whatever the reasons, though, we constantly witnessed–or had aimed at us–really bad guest behavior that you don’t often see at Disneyland. Just an overall air of rudeness and “me and my kids come first” everywhere we went. Parents threatening and screaming and cursing at their kids. People pushing other people out of the way on pathways and in queues. Line jumping. Arguing with Cast Memembers. Ignoring Cast Members. Attempting to change seats on rides after the restraints are locked. Dozens and dozens of flash pictures taken throughout indoor/dark rides. (This was an immense peeve, as it’s something I have *never* witnessed at Disneyland Resort. Not once.) That’s not how people act at Disneyland. There, guests of all ages know intimately and love the parks. They rarely treat each other or the parks the way WDW guests do because they live there. They feel a sense of ownership. The lack of this sense of ownership by visitors was a real WDW downer for us. I can’t tell you how much we missed being surrounded by Southern Californians during our five WDW days.
In return, I suppose, for the above behavior, we also witnessed lots of surly behavior on the part of Cast Members. So many times before our trip I read reports from WDW vets complaning about lack of a magical vibe from West Coast CMs. However, I’ve never witnessed West Coast CMs yelling at guests, ignoring guests, ordering guests around without please and thank you, not knowing simple answers about the parks and shrugging their shoulders, or just so obviously phoning it in and hating their jobs.
But from ride staff to restaurant staff, we never knew how friendly, knowledgeable, or otherwise “magical” a Walt Disney World CM would be with us. At Disneyland, CMs overall are very knowledgeable, very polite, and very into the vibe. Maybe you have to be a regular DLR visitor to get that vibe. (Disneyland CM’s can be very tongue-in-cheek, which goes over very well there because the basic assumption is that both they and the guests love the park.) But hearing various versions of “I don’t know” and “move the line NOW!” for five days from Walt Disney World CMs was very much not a magical experience for us.
We didn’t like how spread out WDW’s four parks are. Not at all. WDW vets often cite WDW’s greater size (the World is about the size of San Francisco while Disneyland Resort is about the size of Golden Gate Park) as evidence that WDW is “better”. It’s not a contest, but if it were, bigger is not always better. It’s just always bigger. People familiar with the Anaheim and Orlando resorts will tell you, there are just about the same number of rides and attractions in Disneyland Resort’s two smaller parks as there are in Walt Disney World’s four larger parks. That means that the convenient strolls from ride to ride DLR vets enjoy in California are often commando marches in Florida through sweltering humidity from one side of a park to the other–or off on a 30 to 45-minute bus or monorail journey to another park entirely. Not fun at all. It’s also worth noting that DLR may be smaller, but it is, of course, in the middle of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Anything you can do in WDW you can do in L.A. That may break the Disney “bubble” that WDW vets enjoy, but as I note further below, that bubble can be a liability, too.
I also don’t agree with all the things I’ve read about the “benefit” of Magic Kingdom’s wider walkways. Crowded is crowded at MK or anywhere else, and the park definitely has its pinch points, just in different places than Disneyland does (the western sides of Fantasyland and Frontierland at MK versus Adventureland and the Hub at Disneyland.) And when we ended up at MK on this year’s 24-hour night, wider walkways or not, we were still led from the Hub to Town Square via backstage in order to avoid punishing crowds along Main Street. It was a sad walk, too–backstage on Main Street we got to see all the Main Street vehicles they never run anymore at Magic Kingdom (unlike at Disneyland, where the Main Street vehicles always run) stored in their lonely parking bays.
What we found worst about the diluted nature of the East Coast parks was what is in-between those far-apart attractions: shops, shops, and more shops, and occasionally a really bad counter-service restaurant (I’ll get to those soon.) At DLR located between rides and attractions are usually other rides and attractions. Yes, Disneyland and California Adventure both have an immense amount of merchandising in them. But you never get the feeling that you get at Walt Disney World that merchandising is the primary reason for the existence of the parks (and especially of Epcot’s World Showcase and just about all of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.)
We also encountered many instances of bad show maintenance. Yes, Space Mountain at Disneyland has all those blue lights dark in the hyperspace tunnel. Yes, WDW has some well-maintained attractions. Still, imagine four parks filled with rides with broken show–that’s WDW. Everywhere we went in the parks we saw peeling paint, chipped railings, badly painted and repainted walls (especially the atrociously bad repainting of the black walls in it’s a small world’s Hawaii room), air ducts covered with mold, broken audio-animatronics, grimy ride and attraction interiors, show elements simply turned off, duct-taped ride seats and orange cones marking off broken ride vehicles (seriously, WDW?) It was pathetic to experience and just screamed “we don’t care about the show experience at WDW”. There’s really no other takeaway from things like this in a Disney park, and from a West Coast perspective it’s just not excusable.
In addition, we often saw trash just laying there–on walkways, outside restaurants, piling on top of garbage cans, littering queues, and even tossed inside ride buildings. At Disneyland Resort, trash seems to be picked up almost before it hits the ground, the West Coast parks are that spotless. At WDW, and especially at Magic Kingdom, it’s just another world. Trash pickers didn’t seem to have any sense of urgency (not at all), and we’d watch the trash just sit and sit. At one point, I counted more than two dozen discarded water and soda bottles littering an elevated pre-show area in the Space Mountain queue. From a Disneyland perspective, it was quite a shock. Disneyland gets 95% of the guest volume that Magic Kingdom does and still manages to remain almost spotless. Again, there’s just no excuse for this.
But the worst shock–and worst part of our trip–was the food. It’s bad. Really bad. Counter-service (casual) dining everywhere we went in the World–our resort hotel, our neighboring resort hotel, the parks we visited–was almost uniformly bad and occasionally disgusting. We know many WDW vets don’t agree. Some would tell us we should have reserved Table-Service meals at sit-down restaurants, but we don’t think you should have to make ADRs (and plan out your vacation months in advance) just to *save* yourself from Walt Disney World’s regular food options. Other WDW fans might point out the few good in-park counter-service options (MK’s Columbia Harbor House, Epcot’s Sunshine Seasons), but who wants to eat the same thing every day? Not to mention, who wants to slog all the way across MK or Epcot for the one good food option?
We’re former Six Flags annual passholders, so we know rotten food when we eat it. Most of what we ate in the World was worse than Six Flags food, and that’s saying a lot. Most food was poorly prepared, often cold, and filled with obviously low-grade commercial catering ingredients. It was also the same bad food everywhere we went. Over the course of five days it became very obvious that this was another area Team Disney Orlando decided to value-engineer, and it made staying on property in the Disney “bubble” a gastronomic nightmare. We pretty much dreaded meal time in the World, and with no exaggeration I tell you our best meal in Orlando was at the airport McDonald’s while waiting for our flight home.
Disneyland Resort food, on the other hand, is fabulous. It’s always good, often seeming gourmet (which is a neat trick with common kitchens), and far more varied than WDW’s everywhere-you-go mediocre burgers, pizza, and bready hot dogs. I can’t emphasize this enough, and don’t know how to explain it if you’ve never been to Disneyland Resort. People go on dates at Disneyland to eat this food and soak up the ambiance. People laze at tables at Disneyland over this food. People run from one side of each park to the other so they don’t miss all their favorite foods in Anaheim. This entire, decades-old, inexpensive, no reservation required, casual foodie scene is absent–totally and unequivocally absent–in Walt Disney World. And again I have to ask, why?
Adding all of the above together, apparently you end up with Epcot, and what a surprise it was to experience the place. We absolutely had an intense negative reaction to Epcot. Oh boy, we hated it. We didn’t expect to, but we did. Everything is such a deliberately long, sunny walk from everything else there. So much of Future World is painfully outdated or in desperate need of refurbishing. Ellen’s (early 90s) Energy Adventure touting 20-year-old science? The filth and bad lighting in the main tank at The Seas with Nemo and Friends–not to mention the Nemo overlay on the main ride that removed actual science content (and much of which was broken)? The broken video screens outside Turtle Talk with Crush? The ridiculous Tron overlay at Test Track that removed the science/engineering story *entirely*? The let’s-be-drunk-in-front-of-our-kids (because there’s nothing else to do) vibe of World Showcase? We kept waiting for it to get better at Epcot. We left really disappointed. Comparing the state of Future World, especially, with science attractions here in Chicago, we found it laughable that Disney would charge people for a far worse science/learning experience than many of us can have back home without taking the expensive trip to Orlando. The current state of Epcot is is not the best Disney can do. Not by a long shot.
Finally, and on a personal note, I’ve often read first-time Disneyland trip reports from WDW vets grousing about how comparatively short Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle is versus Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle. (Not to mention Disneyland having somewhat shorter and less elaborate Main Street U.S.A. buildings.) A recent such trip report I read said “no one cries over this castle.” On the contrary, I think we all have an emotional attachment to our “home park” castle. Many people definitely do cry upon leaving Disneyland on the last night of a trip, looking longingly back at our beautiful, pink castle. Often me included. I just don’t get what all the fuss over a taller castle is about. MK’s castle is tall, but it’s also a lot blander than Disneyland’s, and with all those loud, repetitive castle stage shows, you can seldom really get near it. It just didn’t resonate with me the way that Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle does. Certainly not just because it’s taller. I kept looking at the castle in MK and thinking, “And..?” as if it might roll over or fetch or do something interesting. Nope. Just taller.
How We Explain Our WDW Experience
In the end, Ryan and I discovered that while there were things we enjoyed at Walt Disney World, overall some important core elements of the Disney “magic” we experience at Disneyland Resort in California were lacking in quality–sometimes significantly–or just completely absent in Florida. No one is to blame for the weather and people will be people, in the parks our outside of them. And nothing can change the spread out, overly-large nature of Disney’s four Orlando parks.
But persistently crummy food, surly CMs, ever-present litter, and widespread shoddy show maintenance are inexcusable in a Disney park. To the WDW vets who don’t see these things as being problems in Orlando, all I have to say is visit the Anaheim parks once in a while. The experience in these regards is like night and day and not in Walt Disney World’s favor. These four things made us feel like we had taken a five-day vacation to Six Flags–and I mean that literally. We became Disney Premier Annual Passport-holders to get away from these exact four things at our local Six Flags park in the Chicago area. We encounter them rarely in Anaheim. They seem to be the baseline experience in Orlando.
I’ll also backtrack a little and say the spread out nature of the Orlando parks is changeable. It would take Team Disney Orlando deciding to concentrate rides and attractions in each park and to rock back the dial on the super hard-sell of merchandise.
Fat chance? Maybe not.
All of this comes down to management decisions, and all of it is fixable. Disneyland Resort went through a similar diminution in the baseline guest experience in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The controversial Paul Pressler/Cynthia Harris era of DLR park management saw maintenance take a back seat to merchandising, and regular guests complained, a lot. Their management background was retail (The Gap), and it showed. Harris replaced Pressler but kept his management style in place. But eventually Matt Ouimet became Disneyland Resort president. He and his successor, George Kalogridis, reversed many of the show-detrimental management decisions of Pressler and Harris, and returned a lot of “magic” to DLR, especially in the above four areas, as well as lessening the merchandising emphasis that Pressler and Harris had brought with them. DLR regulars will readily tell you (myself included!) they felt a positive change in the parks.
Unfortunately, as Disneyland Resort put its magic back together, the equally controversial Meg Crofton, as president of Walt Disney World Resort, put in place in Orlando basically the same mediocre management culture with which Pressler and Harris damaged Disneyland Resort. At WDW under Crofton, hourly rider throughput became far more important than fixing show or picking up trash or maintaining the dining standards. (After all, since most WDW guests visit so rarely, who would bother to notice or complain?) Google any Disney fan board and you can read complaint after complaint about bad show in the Orlando parks–complaints just like the ones I listed above for Ryan and me.
Would We Ever Go Back?
Earlier this year, Disney replaced Meg Crofton with Kalogridis. While Disney regularly shuffles its executives around the country, Kalogridis is the person who oversaw the spectacularly successful $1 billion re-Imagineering of Anaheim’s California Adventure park (including opening Cars Land). Moreover, last August Disney sent Cars Land’s lead designer, Kathy Magnum, to Orlando to head Walt Disney World Imagineering. So the chatter seems to be that maybe Disney’s board finally realized that Crofton’s profiteering at the expense of the guest experience was damaging the brand’s magic and wanted to see if the West Coast management team could improve things in Orlando.
I certainly hope that’s the case. Walt Disney World is a magical place that used to be much more magical and can be again. Main Street deserves to have its vehicles out and running. Small World and Space Mountain deserve to have all those discarded water bottles finally picked up. Guests deserve to eat food that doesn’t remind them of bad mall food courts. CMs deserve to be proud of their jobs. Ellen deserves an updated Energy Adventure. The People Mover deserves not to have broken seats–much less broken seats guarded by orange cones. WDW didn’t begin this way–it became this way through bad management decisions that almost ruined Disneyland Resort, too.
Ryan and I would go back to WDW to experience the things we already like about it. But we’d go expecting to experience a lot of mediocre things, too. At least until Kalogridis can get things worked out. Someday, we’d like to be able to have the same enthusiasm for the Florida resort as we have for the Calfornia resort.
More than likely, though, we’ll just keep going back to Disneyland Resort until we hear news of positive change in Orlando. While we were in Orlando we could not wait to come home from Walt Disney World. While we were in Anaheim we could not wait to plan our next Disneyland trip and come back.
WDW vets like to say that in a comparison of Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, the Anaheim park is better, but in a resort-to-resort comparison, Walt Disney World is better. I beg to differ. Bigger is just not better if the magic’s hard to find. When we set out on our WDW adventure, we expected that afterward we’d want to split our Disney trips between Anaheim and Orlando. But instead, we two Disneyland vets learned a very important lesson.
Sometimes smaller is better.
Categories: Disney World (Orlando)
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.
My Bio | My Conversion | My Family Reunion
And so we finally went back to Walt Disney World for a do-over…and we came home annual passholders. How did that happen? Like this: https://www.chicagocarless.com/2016/09/12/two-disneyland-vets-loved-five-days-walt-disney-world/
Michael, as a native California girl who has been to Disneyland around 20 times, I am going to WDW for the first time, before our Disney cruise (in November). I’m going in with low expectations of WDW and making the cruise our high point. In my profession I speak to many clients each week, and will ask their feedback on Walt Disney World if they report a recent trip. I can only recall one person who loved it as much as DLR. Everything you wrote in this review is almost word for word the same criticisms they had. The TRASH, terrible food in the parks, rude guests and unhappy staff, and terrible layout with rides spread out everywhere, are the most common complaints I hear. Hoping you have a better experience this time around, and please share any tips you can that will make our trip a better experience than you had the first time. As a Disneyland foodie, I am most concerned about the dining at DisneyWorld. My sister recently went to WDW and was very disappointed by the food in the parks too. We have literally made trips to Disneyland just for the corn dogs, and beignets! The shrimp Louie salad in a bread bowl, and the fried chicken and pasta at the Plaza Inn (Disneyland) was my son’s request for his birthday dinner. The Disneyland Hotel has a magic to it like nothing else. The only bad meal I can recall eating at Disneyland was the Paradise Pier character breakfast. After I complained to the waiter about the horrible food that even my kids couldn’t swallow, he apologized and told me that upper management had started sending cheaper meats and food that year. The bacon was paper thin and even the fruit juices were nasty. We literally walked out of there with empty stomachs it was that bad. Hope that is not a trend starting at Disneyland, but that seems to be the norm at WDW. A friend of mine just returned from WDW, and her kids were really disappointed by Magic Kingdom. They noticed that it lacked theme music when you enter different sections of the park. At Disneyland, you get music in each land that reflects the theme, and adds more magic to it. Another friend told me to skip WDW all together, and just do Universal Studios/Harry Potter World. Her kids loved it more than Magic Kingdom and Epcot. We are doing a 4 day pass at WDW, and skipping Hollywood Studios. (doing Universal Studios instead) We will stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge with Savannah view half the week, and Port Orleans Riverside Royal Room the other half, in the Oak Manor with pool view. Might add one night at The Beach Club or Polynesian if I can get a good discount. I will try to make the best of it, and book some nice table restaurants whenever I can fit them in. I am also renting a car.
We always said we would eventually go back and give WDW–and Epcot–a second chance. This month, we’re going to do just that–and we’re staying right next to Epcot, as well, at the Yacht Club. So we’ll see if the second time is the charm, and I’ll post about our experience once we’re back.
I have been to Disneyland and Disney World once.
In defense of WDW, the summer months make Walt Disney World turn into CrazyWorld. The things you experienced were all due to the summer crowds. They are not all-time occurences at WDW, seriously. My temper would be short if I had to wait in long lines and push through summer crowds in the Florida heat. Also,I think those Brazilian tour groups tend to only come in the summer.
My last trip to the World was November 2014. Weather was good except for the rain. Great crowds, no trash, everything perfectly maintained. I don’t remember much about the food, but I remember good meals. The other guests were super nice.
That being said, though I LOVE both, I prefer Disneyland. Some rides were better than their World counterparts (Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, also I preferred Fantasmic and the fireworks in DLR). I don’t remember WDW cast members, but the DLR cast members were super nice and knew everything about the parks.
I went to DLR August 2015 and while it was in the lower 90’s in the morning and afternoon, it cooled off during the evening and nights and the weather was perfect. Also, no rain in California. In WDW, 2 out of 4 days were rainy and in Magic Kingdom, I kept taking my coat on and off and on and off, the weather was so unpredictable.
I actually think WDW has the better castle. Cinderella’s Castle is grander, and there’s something about turning onto Main Street and seeing the huge castle ahead that is so magical.
In Epcot, I was disappointed with the World Showcase. Test Track was fun (though I think Radiator Springs Racers in DLR beats it). Innoventions is awesome. Other than those two Epcot attractions, Epcot was boring.
I do prefer the Disney bubble over being in front of a shopping center. WDW’s parks need to be closer together though.
I LOVE both, but DLR has the advantage of better rides, weather, and being able to walk back and forth from the two parks, Downtown Disney, and the three resorts.
Thank you so much for posting this blog piece. It turns out that you and I had very similar experiences and opinions on WDW. I stumbled upon your blog when searching for “Differences between Walt Disney World and Disneyland” on google after recently visiting WDW in April of this year. Why was I searching? Because I was so utterly disappointed in the WDW experience!
I have lived in Southern California for the past 40+ years and even though I wasn’t born here, (born in New York City) I consider myself a California native since my family moved here when I was 9 years old. I spent many a teenaged summer at Disneyland, back when you had to purchase “ticket” books to get on the rides, and then when I got married and had children, we took many day trips down to Disneyland with our kids.
This is probably why when I was at WDW, I found that the “magic” was somehow missing. I too, experienced the lack of cleanliness at WDW, the rude and brusque “guests” along with the seriously lacking knowledge and careless attitudes of the cast members. The experience left me longing so much for Disneyland that the first thing I did when I returned home to Southern California was to plan a two day trip down to Anaheim with my adult children and grandchildren.
This past June, we were priviledged enough to enjoy Disneyland just after the 60th anniversary celebrations had begun and we also got to spend a wonderful day at Disney California Adventure (I LOVE that park!!!). I have to tell you — when you mentioned that “trash is picked up before it even touches the ground” in DLR, you are ABSOLUTELY correct — when I was at Disneyland in June, I stayed back with my two granddaughters (ages 7 and 2) while my daughters and son in law went on Space Mountain. While we waited for them to come back from that ride, my older granddaughter wanted some popcorn from the little cart that was located near Space Mountain in Tomorrowland. I bought her some popcorn and the two grandkids started to share it. Now mind you, the 2 year old isn’t as adept in making sure the popcorn ends up in her mouth and not on the ground, so naturally, some of the popcorn kernals landed on the ground. Before we knew it, a women with a broom and dustpan appeared, seemingly out of nowhere and said to us with a big smile, “I’m your personal popcorn sweeper” as she sweeped up the errant popcorn kernals. I had to giggle a bit. A few minutes later, more popcorn hit the ground and ANOTHER women with a broom and dustpan swooped in and cleaned the THREE kernals up immediately!!! It’s experiences like this that keeps us, and others who love Disneyland, coming back!
Needless to say, we enjoyed our time at the DLR very much and will be returning later this year around Christmas.
I ended up here because I do the runDisney half marathon races and challenges, and am itching to try the Princess Half Marathon/Glass Slipper Challenge and earn a Coast to Coast medal. I love all things Disney – I grew up in Anaheim Hills as an AP visiting the parks regularly with my family and friends, and now as an adult I frequently visit with my children, every week or so, even if for just a few hours. I love the immersive, magical feeling of Disneyland: the meticulously maintained grounds, the cheerful and service-oriented staff, the careful attention to detail, the ever-present music…. Having said that, I have somehow always felt (based on promotional materials that I have seen and vacation accounts relayed to me, mostly from Californians) that the atmosphere, or vibe as you called it, at WDW might be disappointing for me in comparison with the magic I feel at Disneyland, even given its grander scale. I find it very interesting and amusing that you are able to pinpoint and articulate so many aspects of what makes Disneyland so magical– things that really resonate with me, and things that I guess I have always assumed to be uniquely understood by locals like myself. I’ve never really understood why WDW includes so much non-Disney related entertainment (like a glorified zoo), because the *Disney* experience–the characters and stories and music we love, the Disney-esque “surprise and delight” attitude of CMs, the tangible, uniquely Disney atmosphere that seems to envelop you everywhere you go–THAT is what makes Disneyland magical for me. Otherwise, I might as well be at Knott’s Berry Farm or the San Diego Zoo or Sea World. We locals who love DLR really, really do love it. And you’re right–I think it’s because we do feel a sense of ownership and being at home there. I may have more happy memories from my time inside Disneyland than any other single place, now that I think about it. I love to interact and joke with the CMs or offer friendly help to tourists (I did both today, actually).
I suspect that I will go to WDW (really want that race experience and to check it out at least once), and hopefully I will be pleasantly surprised. But on the whole, as a Southern Californian who does go on dates to Disneyland and has cried while looking at the glowing castle lit up by fireworks at least once, I’m leaving you this comment for the sake of letting you know that you have struck a chord with me because you’ve validated some sort of big difference in experience that I have always inherently perceived between the two. Based on these comments at least, I think it’s safe to say that most people tend to feel a certain affinity for what’s familiar or what they have first experienced, in this case, their “home” park. Thanks for all the info. 🙂
You’re most welcome. Thank you for reading–and I do hope you enjoy WDW when you finally get there!
I’m quite surprised to read this post. We went to WDW last month with our three daughters for eight days(ages 12, 9, and 2), and it was nothing at all like you described! We did three days at Magic Kingdom, two days at Animal Kingdom, one day at Epcot, one day at Hollywood Studios, and one day to relax and go to Downtown Disney. We stayed at the Contemporary Resort, which was beautiful!
Perhaps the heat made people more grumpy (I know it makes me grumpy, that’s why I live in Minnesota!). It stayed in between 60 degrees and 70 degrees while we were there, with no rain! Crowds were also perfect. We will only go to WDW in fall or winter.
People were always super nice when we went there, everywhere we went people were making friendly conversation. We saw no screaming or cursing or anything. We saw happy parents and happy kids.
Cast members were also super nice. They were always smiling and loving their jobs.
We also saw no trash, no chipped paint or air ducts covered with mold or grimy interiors. Everything was perfectly maintained and clean!
The food also rocked. I can’t see how you think it was bad!
Maybe going in the summer was a bad idea for you. But we went the first week last November and everyone was treating the parks respectfully and everything!
Thanks for commenting. I think you’re right about the weather. WDW vets usually say Orlando’s long summer is the worst time to visit. No one was happy in mid-90s weather with high humidity. I’d imagine the pounding that the parks take with summer crowds could account for the trash I saw as well (though Disneyland takes a similar pounding and I’ve never seen anything like the Magic Kingdom trash piles during peak season in Anaheim.)
The food though…we still talk about how bad we thought it was. Every time we talk about giving WDW a second chance–and we do from time to time–we remember the feeling of being trapped on property with the Six Flags counter-service food and we drop the subject…
I found your blog post both honest and well written: I did not think you unfairly judged your own vacation, regardless of the weather. You gave compliments where they were due, but did not make excuses for the inexcusable. Thank you for your opinions, as a fellow DLR fan, (but one who has yet to explore the East Coast parks) I will keep those thoughts in mind for my future trip. It seems it would be a good idea to go during the fall/winter to avoid the crushing humidity and to also plan for a 10-14 day trip to try and cover the vast amount of terrain. Food, I don’t know WHAT to do about that, except to try for ADR’s ten years in advance to limit the amount of counter service meals. (Here’s one bad thing about that Magic “bubble” – it’s a lot harder to escape it to find a better meal off property!) I think the city that surrounds Disneyland works to our advantage: if the offerings in the Parks aren’t up to par, we can easily leave, eat and return. Because the offerings are both varied and tasty, we gladly spend a little extra to stay in DL or DCA and don’t choose off site options beyond the super-close Downtown Disney.
And to the piss-poor attitudes of the CM’s who feel slighted by the author’s opinions:
– – get over yourself. – –
The comment wasn’t made about you, (unless you are the shouting asshat or the lazy employee that says “I don’t know” when asked a question) don’t take it personally when constructive criticism is offered. See opportunity for improvement and possible moments where you can shine and be different. Yes, Florida is fricking hot. Yes, your pay sucks. Yes, stupid guests are annoying, but you chose to do this job. You were hired to do it. Do it to the best of your ability. If your fellow employees aren’t up to the tasks allotted to them, do not defend them. I’ve met some fantastic employees at DLR and I’ve met some snot-nosed little jerks that couldn’t be bothered to put a smile on their own face, much less someone elses face. I don’t characterize all the employees by the poor interaction I have a had with a few of those lumps of coal.
We’re not all diamonds in the rough, obviously.
5 years ago I took my whole family, husband, 3 daughters, 3 son-in-laws and 4 grandchildren to World. I planned like crazy, got rooms in the Contemporary Hotel, (concierge level for some and a couple on other floors due to availability) and frankly spent a bundle. Like your experience we did not have many special moments. For example, if we asked for bottles of water for our large group from the concierge lounge attendants, we were often told they had none to give us. The most disappointing was that my visit did not even merit a thank you note. Two years earlier we stayed at Land. The attendants on the concierge floor always accommodated our needs for food or drink. When I got home, I received a thank you not for staying in The Grand. I am in the process of planning another trip for my grandchildren. I definitely want to go to Land.
The comments about the CPs. Wow. We all try SUPER hard to please you guys, I don’t think you understand. You try getting paid minimum wage, working 35-40+ hours a week, getting a chunk of that taken for rent and being treated like second class citizens by regular cast members. It’s super tough and it’s NOT easy. I dont know ONE CP that isn’t trying their best. We are people too, in costume or not we make mistakes like everyone else. To categorize us all and say we are only here to “get away from mom and dad” and that we “ruined the experience” is extremely dishearting and rude.
Hi, this is maybe an OT question for the OP 🙂 I LOVE Disneyland, and am perhaps a bit borderline addicted. I am up in Canada, and so only get to visit every 3-4 years. The last time I went was in 2010, and I now have 2 young children that I am dying to take this summer. I don’t know too much about things like who manages the parks and the company, and so reading your post I was disheartened to hear that things seem to be slipping at Disneyland… but you mentioned that there is now new management and so things are getting better? I’m just so excited to go back again, and I hope that it will be the perfect Disneyland that I remember, are things getting better again at Disneyland? I always remember how perfectly clean everything is. Everything is perfectly maintained, perfectly painted, beautifully landscaped… and oh, the food! I love the jambalaya New Orleans square, or a kabob in Adventureland, or a cinnamon stick from the Gibson Girl Bakery with a cup of hot coffee…. please tell me it is still as good as I remember!
It is. The problem since last spring has been that ever since Cal DOSHA levied fines against DLR for inadequate backstage fall protection for maintenance workers, Team Disney Anaheim has gone above and beyond the legal necessity to install and enhance such protections across all rides. That means the ordinary rehab cycles for rides–which are planned out months in advance–have been in disarray for the past 12 months and likely will be for the next 12 as well. Unexpected closures and re-schedulings of refurb work, including a six-month delay to finish refurb work on Big Thunder, have been the norm. That means in many cases that monies for originally planned upgrades, touch-ups, and improvements have been depleted. For example, this year Soarin’ Over California was to get a digital upgrade of its movie and a new movie was planned to begin filming, Space was to get a pretty thorough refurb, and a major overhaul of Tomorrowland was to be announced for Disneyland’s 60th anniversary. All of this is up in the air now. But still, as of our last trip in October (and judging by posts on the DIS–a great Disney fan forum covering both coasts that you may want to read here) DLR is still in far, far better shape than WDW. I’d still pick a DLR trip over a WDW trip in a heartbeat.
I want to know how you compare Paris to both parks. I grew up going to Disneyland and I worked there for over a year, so it holds both memories and magic to me. I really feel immersed when I step into Disneyland no matter how many times I go there. It’s always a new experience. I went to Disneyland Paris a few weeks ago and I was incredibly saddened to see many of the problems you were describing in your negative WDW section. Broken rides and peeling paint. The guests were all over the place and it was a very small park with not a whole lot to do. The whole park needs a lot of attention and it saddens me. Definetly. But what did you think of Paris in comparison to the American parks? especially Florida?
When I visited DLP, I wasn’t yet the Disney Parks fan I am now. I had already been to Disneyland, but I wasn’t yet familiar enough with DL to be aware of major differences between the two parks. Looking back, I remember loving DLP’s version of Big Thunder (on par with the rebuilt version at Magic Kingdom), and thinking DLP’s Space Mountain was one of the most painful roller coasters I had ever ridden. (I can still remember how much it hurt my ears, and it’s definitely my least favorite of all Space Mountains.) I don’t remember my sense of the park’s size, although upkeep seemed to not be a problem at the time of my visit (which was spring 2000, 14 years ago now.)
What I do remember and can draw comparisons about is the visitor vibe. Visitors at DLP–at least, French visitors–seemed very, very rude. They cut in line, they smoked wherever they wanted to. They pushed you out of the way. I remember how un-magical it made the park feel. The Cast Members didn’t seem magical either. No one really smiled. What I can say is that the vibe I felt from WDW visitors and CMs last year was a lot like what I experienced at DLP. It felt nothing–at all–like I know Disneyland to feel. But I did love being able to get there on commuter rail!
Disneyland just doesn’t translate very well. Not having been to the original park makes places like DLP or WDW seem a lot nicer. At least, that’s my theory. If I had to rank the three resorts, though, I might put DLP third, behind WDW. Many WDW CMs are very friendly and committed and many visitors are, too. My DLP experience was a lot more negative in terms of human interaction and that counts for a lot for me in a Disney Park.
I’ve noticed that most of the defenders of WDW are pretty CMs that have worked there for years. Defend your park, have pride in it fine. But at the end of the day, it’s the guests’ experience that really matters.
I’ve been a CM at DLR for 5 years. I’ve been visiting DLR ever since I was a child (I’m 25). It’s always been my favorite place in the world, but I’ve ALWAYS wanted to visit Walt Disney World my whole life, to the point where I would have dreams in my sleep about being in Orlando and walking the streets of MK. That “dream” dream finally came true this 2 weeks (in February, NOT during a peak season nor a weather-pocalypse of humidity and heat). Needless to say, upon entering Liberty Square and seeing the Cinderella castle in person for the very first in my life was truly surreal and I was beside myself. But, the rest of my experience turned out to be just as you wrote in your article. It WASN’T the “most magical place on earth” for me for pretty much every reason you pointed out in this article and I was so eager to get back home to Disneyland to experience some real magic. It saddened me to feel like that because I had such a high expectation and optimistic perspective for being at WDW because it was something I’ve always dreamt of doing. And when I actually did it, it was as if I hadn’t experienced anything magical at all.
With all that said, I can concur that Disneyland is the “Happiest” AND “Most Magical Place on Earth”.
Thank you for your comment, Daniel. You know how they say the parks you love are the ones you visit first? I don’t agree with that (after all, I visited WDW first, two times and long before I fell in love with DLR.) But I do think if you visit WDW first and stop there, you get a very limited understanding of the theme-park magic Disney is capable of delivering. When WDW fans who have never been to DLR argue about how magical WDW is, I believe their idea of Disney magic is much less, well, magical than a DLR fan’s definition of Disney magic. Right now, many WDW vets are visitng DLR to get away from the slow-motion disaster of Magic Bands and Fastpass+ (and the elimination of the old Fastpass system). If you visit fan boards right now, you can find lots of posts from these WDW vets, most of whom (not all but most, which is important) saying how shocked they were to have such a great, magical, fun, and often in their words “better” experience at DLR. That speaks for itself.
I live in europe and visited the disneyland resort in paris almost every year, but we don’t like the cast members and organisation, but it’s close so everytime we give it another chance because we are huge disney fans…….but it doesn’t changed. I visited wdw several times and loved it, the people are nice doesn’t matter if they were mousekeeping or higher staff we had fun talking with them we lijed everything. We thought wdw was disney heaven! This year we will visit dlr anaheim and after reading this i can’t wait to discover it, must be verry good!!
[Ed. note: Hate language removed.] Disney Paris and Tokyo is the best. Sorry. I’ve been to all Disney parks around the world and Disneyland is WAY over hyped. My least favorite. But I still love it. I prefer Cali Adventure.
I live in So. California and I am an Annual Passholder at Disneyland. I completely agree with your statement that So. Caifornians feel like Disneyland is their home, like they own a part of the magical kingdom. That is exactly how I feel and because I see Disneyland as my home, I respect it with so much pride and love. There are some guests where they are rude or jump lines but on the most part, everyone is so nice and kind with one another even on some really hot days. I think 60% of the guests at the Disneyland Resort Parks are Annual Passholders. There is an app called MouseWait for the Disneyland Resort and there are often some meet ups at the parks who are all Annual Passholders. Sometimes we hang out for the afternoon at the parks. The Cast Members are always polite, very knowledgeable of both parks and respect other cultures traditions. I have yet to see a Cast Member act rude or yell at any guest members. When I visit my 2nd home as soon as I enter through those gates, I leave work and home behind and I become 7 years old again. My heart is filled with so much warmth, laughter and joy when I immediately hear Main Street music playing. And at the end of my visit, I do stare at Sleeping Beauty castle and marvel at her beauty. I feel great sadness when I leave the park.
Thank you reading, Raquel. Maybe we’ll see you this weekend. Ryan and I are off to DLR for HalloweenTime on Friday!
I just found it funny that you said the food from the McDonalds at OIA was better than any on the whole trip. I hate to tell you, but that same one was found to have mold in there soda fountain & roaches in the food. The closed it down for a while. Just goes to show you…..
I love both parks – each one has their own flaws. I’ve had rude CMs at each park just as recent as this year at each one. I am a former WDW cast member but what I found was working for the Mouse took the magic away for me.
As a former Magic Kingdom CM, I’m kind of shocked, not only by your words but by some CM’s comments as well. I’ll give the benefit of the doubt that management has clearly changed it’s attitude since my time there but based on my experience, I would return to work in a heartbeat. The guest was always my first and utmost concern….and that including making their experience magical. I won’t go into detail but I can tell you countless stories of magical moments that I witnessed or was a part of.
That being said, I think you are being too harsh on WDW and I believe with a purpose (to spur these comments and conversations). I feel bad for first time visitors reading this article and getting a skewed vision of what WDW is really like. We all have our biases. I felt nearly the same way you did about Disneyland when I first visited…it wasn’ t my home. I felt the CM’s were unfriendly, the streets were dirty and the castle small. That being said I hope to give it another chance someday WITHOUT comparing it to Walt Disney World… because the two shouldn’t be compared. They are apples and oranges.
You took things too far and overly emphasized the negatives. That’s disrespectful to the CM’s you ran into who were nice, friendly and maybe even magical? Horrible food…everywhere? There are literally HUNDREDS of options and every one was garbage? All the rides were broken in someway and dirty?
Let’s be honest, you did something akin to what Shock Jocks love to do….and you got everyone riled up. Too bad this piece of “literature” is out there for first timers to read. Let’s hope this slanted article doesn’t disway them from trying Walt Disney World out for themselves.
Thank you for your comments Amanda. There was in truth no ulterior motive whatsoever to my original post other than to express my shock at our experience of WDW, both its physical state and the behavior of CMs. Not one CM commented on my post until months after it was written, at which point the post was criticized in CM social media–a fact I only learned after many comments were left here.
I don’t believe I overemphasized the negatives at all. Not in any way. The point is that our experience was crowded with negative impressions. I admit honestly in the post that there were positive things about WDW, elements we liked. But these things were not the majority of our experience, and I would misrepresent our experience by writing as if the bad did not outweigh the good for us. It did, and very much so.
I very much do believe that all Disney theme parks and overall resorts are open to comparison among each other. To say that WDW is not open to comparison with Disneyland Resort, or that Magic Kingdom is not open to comparison with Disneyland, or with any other Disney property is to suggest that Disney magic is equally incomparable. One Disney, one marketing message, one level of excellence–that’s the way I look at it. On these grounds, no Disney park or resort should get a pass like that.
As far as maintenance, dinginess, dirt, as a matter of fact yes, I would say most of the rides and attractions I encountered in Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios–not all but most (and we rode/experienced most) had some sort of maintenance issue. The most common were ripped seats and chipped paint on ride vehicles; faded and chipped paint inside attraction buildings; broken show elements (especially audio); garbage sitting in view along ride tracks and in queues; badly painted “touch-up” areas (including an entire room in it’s a small world). If you want, I would be happy to write a list of specific rides and their related broken show or insufficient maintenance.
Let’s be honest? Absolutely. Out of the dozens of comments from CMs I’ve read, only a small number seem able to accept that WDW could honestly be an overall negative experience for a first-time visitor. As if there is some metaphysical law that states negative experiences at WDW to be an impossibility. I think that says a lot more about WDW CMs than about the honesty of my post.
Michael thank you for that article. The two coast are run completely differently. DLR is more passholder driven while WDW is more about the one time a year guest. So the caliber of guest is going to be different not the DLR doesn’t get the sense of entitlement from AP holders. Especially from those holding the two resident only passes. Yes, DLR is my home park and seeing the changes in the park at Christmas, Halloween, etc are exciting and sometimes emotional. The fireworks at DLR are enough to make me overly emotional. While, the WDW leave me with a “meh”. Maybe because I have no attachment to WDW. But I agree with you and with others. To me, the CM experience between the resorts is a bit different. I try to attribute it to the heat and time of year. I can only imagine for WDW that after a long and busy summer season and closing in another busy one, Food and Wine, Halloween and Christmas, they do tend to get a bit punchy. I too get the “I don’t know”, the being yelled at, “I don’t see you” attitude from WDW CMs. DLR can be no different but we don’t suffer the “Florida heat” but we do tend to get the “1,000 mile stare” as the season comes to a close. On my last visit to WDW, I did get a dirty look from a off the clock CM after stating loudly how rude WDW CMs can be. This comment came after, while standing at a turnstile, the Main Entrance CM had to leave since her ipod lost the wi-fi and asked us to wait a moment while she left to get it reconnected, and we did. The party behind us consisted of about 5 or 6 WDW CMs who became annoyed at having to wait, even after explaining that the turnstile CM lost wi-fi connection and would be right back, they then pushed their way around us without so much as an “excuse me” or “do you mind if we scan through?”, nor did they move to another line that was moving. I obviously saw their CM ID’s so that’s how I know who they were. Where as at DLR CMs that are in the park as guests usually end up helping the guest or are a bit more understanding that there may be a problem and may even let other guests know they may want to try another line. Because, regardless if they’re wearing a nametag or not, CMs just want the guests to have a pleasant experience. The debate between WDW and DLR will always be there, WDW CM come to Anaheim and complain about our parks and DLR CM will complain about WDW. But as you stated, they are two different parks run differently. Despite past experiences, I still go to WDW every year expecting mediocre service, so that way, I’m not surprised when I get it but pleased when I do get a positive interaction with a CM.
This is the last little bit I will add. I’m by no means saying DL is for chumps and that it’s a horrible place. I find DL just as amazing as WDW but I view each as a different experience. I loved being a cm it really was a small town girls dream come true. Being as I worked long hours, little pay and being semi disabled it was a lot of work to bring magic. As like a good majority of the cm the only reason your article offended us as much as it did is because we try really hard to make your experience awesome. However when you turn your vacation into a negative one its hard for any of us to pull that away from you. We can’t fix what a couple of negative cm, crowded groups and some crummy did. I really wished you could have seen all the good that’s in WDW. Just reading the comments on some of the cms who truly do care about your experience. Do visit again and look for those cm like the ones who posted. Visit some of the areas you haven’t before like Animal Kingdom, Down Town Disney.(might i suggest earl of sandwich or even the Garadelli chocolate shop a personal favorite.. Because while no park is ever going to be up to your standards ( DL included) it has a lot to offer that DL doesn’t and I bet you that you can find cm who do they best they can.
The first thing I would like to say is that I feel, while reading your acticle, you only searched for the “bad ” at WDW so you could claim that Disneyland was better and like most people you only noticed the negative and because you were to busy noticing the negative you missed really special moments at WDW. Only you could really ruin your vacation. Instead of focousing on the negative so much you should have taken a step back and enjoyed what makes WDW special. You chose to go to WDW in Summer. You should have done your research prior to going, thats not WDW fault thats yours. You could have avoided the horrible weather and the massive amounts of tour groups. You also missed some of the other exciting parts like the water parks, Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney which has some of my favorite shops. I’m sure you missed some of the CM trying really hard to make Disney Magic because all you saw was negative. I made it my goal to make children happy more then the adults because adults are only going to do what they want to do. So if you come in with a negative look at the parks as you did there is no way a CM like me is going to change that. Maybe next time you vacation at WDW try to not compare WDW to DL and look at the positives of the parks. Look for things that DL doesn’t offer and stop camparing park to park. Once again only you ruined your vacation and like in life, Your Vacation is only what YOU make of it. Try your vacation again with a positive outlook.
All I can tell you is this: when it’s your first trip to Walt Disney World, it is Disney’s responsibility to impress you. It isn’t your responsibility to go searching for the magic–especially considering how much money it costs to visit. I really feel so many CMs who have replied as you have are just too close to WDW to really understand how the place comes across to first-timers. I’m far from the first WDW visitor to come back with less than a happy impression of the place, Disneyland vet or not. It seems to me that telling visitors that didn’t like the place that they just didn’t try hard enough to like it is taking your own customers very much for granted.
Like I said before and I’ll say again, WDW Cast Members just can’t take criticism of WDW. It doesn’t matter how many times I point out how happy we were to be visiting WDW, how much we planned, or how much we were expecting WDW to be a different experience. It just doesn’t matter, apparently.
Actually, I can tell you one more thing: the more comments I receive from WDW CMs basically saying “You’re either with us or you’re against us” and “We take no responsibility for your guest experience”, the worse impression I have of the place. Replies like that–especially so many of them–pretty much prove my point about the quality of the CMs we encountered. And my partner, Ryan, to whom I read this comment after I wrote it and who accompanied me to WDW, agrees with every word.
I’m not saying that every CM is perfect and that they should not try to make your experience wonderful however they can’t be at fault 100%. I’ve seen some nasty CM who have had bad days and it left a mark on the guests however i’ve seen CM go beyond the call of duty to help out every guest they could. You have to understand that make every guest that walks into that front gate feel like they are the only ones on the planet is no easy task. Also if this was your first time at WDW you shouldn’t have been focousing on such negativity. You, and you only, decided to focous on the negative. I feel that you made it your mission to do nothing but compare the 2. While i’ve had negative experiences with both WDW and DL i still didn’t let it ruin my vactation. I ignored what was negative and thought “wow this is still really amazing that i’m even here.” You should consider yourself lucky that you even had the chance to compare the 2, most people dream of being that lucky and i can tell you the ones that spent there entire life saving for that trip didn’t ruin there vacation by letting what was negative ruin it! Stop trying to blame the CM for the “horrible” experience you had and understand that you missed the good in WDW you were just to blind to see it. I can tell you that the people i have read your article, my post and your reply agree with me that your entire article was focousing on the negativity of the trip and you failed to realize how lucky you even are. Stop letting a few bad CM’s, chipped paint, and a crummy burger make you think that WDW is a horrible place and DL is king.
I feel we’re going around in circles. I was very happy for the many magical CMs we encountered. They weren’t the issue. The issue was the unhappy CMs, the same kind you say here that you have encountered before, we encountered as well. We encountered so many of them, in so many places, that they were a very major downer, and for us erased any good feelings we got from the well-meaning CMs. Everyone’s behavior matters at WDW, and to tell us or any other guest that we should just “overlook” encountering a couple of nasty CMs an hour, every hour, over a five day trip to WDW that cost us thousands of dollars is insulting. For the money we paid to be there, there should be no CMs like that. Nowhere. None at all.
As I noted in detail at the beginning of my post, there were several things that we liked at WDW. Things that we wish DLR had. Technologies, transportation infrastructure, specific rides, and our resort hotel included, not to mention the fact that I really do like Magic Kingdom and enjoyed most of my time there. On top of which, I also described several other things about WDW that we did not like besides the minority of unhappy CMs, most especially laying overall blame on senior management. Now how that becomes me and Ryan not liking anything about WDW and blaming everything on Cast Members is simply ignoring what I actually wrote.
You know, just because some CMs think everyone should enjoy everything at WDW doesn’t make it so, or for that matter possible. Neither WDW as a whole nor WDW CMs are above criticism. I’m sorry you’re so unhappy that we didn’t love everything about Walt Disney World. But the horrible food, bad maintenance, and unhappy CMs you note above really do have an impact when you encounter them everywhere. We assumed from our experience with DLR that things like that were beneath Disney. Our takeaway from WDW is that they are not. If you think things like that are OK in a Disney park, then your definition of Disney excellence and mine differ. The difference is simply that I was taught my definition of Disney excellence by Disneyland.
I love my little pony.
I am so happy for the many thoughtful comments here and on Facebook from WDW Cast Members responding to my criticisms of the World, what we found disappointing, and how things can get better. It’s heartening to know that the bad CM behavior we encountered during our trip is not representative of all WDW Cast Members.
Now for the rest of you. On the DIS boards, it has always been clear that WDW fans and Cast Members have extraordinarily thin skins when it comes to criticism of WDW. My question is, why? Is it that WDW is so perfectly managed and maintained that it renders all criticism meaningless? Or is it that, as I suspect, most CMs are fully aware of the way things are in the World, but some admit it to themselves–or by extension to others (like me)–without realizing that maybe they don’t work in quite such a perfect place?
In the time since our trip, talking with Ryan, I’ve worked up what I call the My Little Pony theory. Most CMs live in the real world, even when they’re very ably creating major magic at Disney, and are able to enter into critical discussion and consider opposing ideas and the other side of issues they might not agree with.
But some CMs don’t deal so well with the real world and use their Disney jobs as the ultimate escapist fantasy, similar to the way some people lose themselves more than other people would in fantasy-based hobbies like scrapbooking or D&D or collecting My Little Pony figures. You always think the latter group is no different from the former group until you tell them you think Rainbow Dash Pony is queer. And then they freak out, throw you out of the house, and decide out of spite they won’t bring anything back for you from the Brony convention.
To this latter group I ask, if your world is so fragile that you can’t react to criticisms of WDW without responding like adolescents, how on earth do you manage to function outside of the Disney bubble?
This is *not* a rhetorical question.
If you hate our parks so much, do yourself (and us) a favor and do come back. Wdw does so much MORE volume in guests than DLR sometimes things have to be different. Get off your high horse and get over yourself. I’m from Chi-town too but your constant complaining about the weather alone makes me want to destroy my WDW name tag that says I’m from Chicago, IL. You don’t like the location, lets thaw out Walt and you can take it up with him
I can easily tell you’re from Chicago by your comment, actually. In our shared city, there’s a longtime knee-jerk reaction of telling people you disagree with to go home and take their toys with them and not to come back, so there, neener-neener. It always reminds me of the lonely kid sitting in the sandbox with no one left to play with because he’s told them all to go away. My post says many nuanced things about WDW, our feelings about it, why it is the way it is, and the ways that it can (and deserves to) improve–and nowhere says or even implies that we hated WDW. We hate the way that it has been managed. I would bet you read three paragraphs in to where I talked about the weather and then decided to write what I’m sure you considered to be a pithy comment. In Chicago, as you know, your comment is akin to bitching that someone moved your post-snowstorm dibs chair and parked in “your” parking space. Except everyone’s allowed to park where they want to, and everyone’s allowed to share an opinion about WDW. I would invite you to actually read what I wrote.
I was dubious to read your article, but, as a 24yr WDW CM I do ‘NOT’ disagree.. Those of us that have been in the culture for a while often compare ourselves to the ‘Step-child in Florida’. I mean, ‘Daddy’ lives in CA, and we get the lesser child-support check, for sure.. Look at Fantasmic! DLR got Peter Pan and Hook fighting on ropes on a full size PIRATE SHIP!! Oh, man! And we got… Pochahontis.. Really?! You built a whole island and the only boar is the flood boat at the end?!
We go Soarin’.. But that’s all DLR stuff. They couldn’t even be bothered to do Florida footage. Seriously?! We have natural stuff here, too.. At LEAST the castle at the end.. Jeeze..
But, I could go on and on and on.. But I’ll sum it up in 5 ways I’ve experienced the change over the years.
1) Traditions. Used to be 4-5 days. Now, 2. And if your College Program (CP) it’s 4-5hrs. (Because they’ve been in school environment and can’t focus longer than that! -No kidding-)
2) CP’s are a MONEY MACHINE for the company.. I won’t get started on ALL the Co-op payments and tax breaks for housing and the cost of housing them. But, the CP program is a disease that RUINS WDW CM moral. BTW: those horrible CM’s you witnessed? Guarantee they were CP’s.. Or, if it was after 2pm. They were newer CM’s. (Older seniority types do the early openings!)
3) Horticulture! Ummm.. Topiaries, anyone?! Nope.. Nada.. Except the plastic ones at Fantasia mini golf.
My friend has been a freak about it since they ripped out all the pretty plants and flowers and replaced them with grass, that the 3rd party people can mow quickly and easily. It was the begging of the downhill slide in the late 90’s early 2000’s.
4) We now do all of our construction in the daytime, in front of guests… Yeah, real quality there..
5) I was taught in middle ’89 about the QUALITY of Disney.. Then, as the Studios was getting HAMMERED every day with an more than expected flow of people, I watched the Mercedes become a Yugo with a Mercedes emblem.. No lie.. 2 person lines, to squish into holes at the Backstage Studio Tour, etc, was a new wet dream for the number crunchers. 3,000 people and hour!! No matter what the experience was.. PERIOD! (Oh, how I hated the guests looking at me as I shoved them into a shuttle and because it fit 5 and there were only 3 in the row. 3 REALLY BIG people. So, your leg was going to be against a strangers sweaty leg for 30 minutes..) Did you know that the rides are designed on a European ‘metric’ system? CM-MM and the average 5’9″ 150lb (?) average model? Umm.. Americans don’t fit THAT model, but, it’s what it is.
Don’t get a bunch of us started on Epcot. Seriously. It’s a Taste of Chicago with air conditioned holding areas!
Update Horizons 2.0 with digital screens, etc.. Bring back Imagination 2,0 with a great Figment. Another great 4D movie would be easy enough, too. The Energy pavilion has ALWAYS been about the Dinosaurs. Rehab and improve that, and don’t bore us to death with the science lecture. Give us some new graphics, or something.. Sell me on Fracking or something!
And, wasn’t Test Track brought in to just make me trust my anti-lock brakes?! That IS the main pitch of Test Track, right?!
Mission Space is cool.. Sort of.. BUT, it’s not something you want to do more than once a day.. What a waste.. I’ll do a coaster 5-6 times!
Make Mt. Fuji, that has been on the books for years, for goodness sakes!
Communicores are stores and Character cattle drives.. What a freaking loss of focus.
WDW has ruined it’self with cheap labor (Starting at $8.35 for only a 32hr week on full time, by the paper you sign. The highest paid is Buses at $11.11 and that’s for 34-38hr weeks late nights for a few years until you can bid up). How can people make a living?! They can’t. Orlando is a mining town that get’s retirees and migrant labor who hangs in until they give up and go back home. There is no sense of community in this area.. Just a feeling of helping others survive 4 roommates to a house or Apt.
And, just when you think you can get some killer hours with overtime, here come ANOTHER 150 CP’s into your area to push you back down to 34hr weeks.
But, we long timers LOVE it. It’s like doing some great religious work. Those that know, KNOW.
I love doing what I do, and have managed to make it through. I’ll never have money to retire, but, why would I want to stop working here? It’s a feeling of helping and making people happy that cant; be imagined.
Like any hometown, I LOVE my hometown of WDW, but, I don’t care for the city government that screws it up.
Thanks for reading!
Moses would part the waters of the Seven Seas Lagoon and build a fifth gate park there. Oh wait, maybe that would be Meg Crofton? I agree about CP. I’ve heard that from other commenters and it makes sense. I also was told by a regular local (Tampa resident) visitor about changes in dining service staff made in the past decade that got rid of career employees and replaced them with hourly part-timers. He said it made the dining experience feel less special than it used to, and I have to say we encountered many confused/mixed up kitchen situations at counter service places at our resort (Pop and also next door at Art of Animation) and at Pecos Bills and Columbia Harbor House in MK.
I’m sorry you had such a “bad” experience at WDW but, I do have some comments and questions for you.
First of all you complain about the weather. Would you like someone to call God and change it for you? I’m sorry but everyone knows Florida is hot. No one can change the weather anywhere.
Second of all you complain about guests behavior. How can the CM’s change this? Chances are if people are rude and mean when they enter the park they will stay this way all day long. How was your attitude? You seem to have had such a horrible time and was hot and tired just like those guests. Did this affect your additude at the park? Chances are this could be why every cast member had such an attitude with you.
Where exactly did you eat? All the places I have eaten at WDW were wonderful (Sci-Fi Dinner, ABC Commissary, Studio Catering Company, Hollywood & Vine, food court at Caribbean Beach Resort, France at EPCOT, and Pecos Bill. ) I will agree that if you go for the absolute cheapest thing, you will find ok food that is mostly burgers and fries but, if you are on vacation and trying to compare parks you gotta have a little of every option. You cant compare McDonalds to Olive Garden, it just doesn’t work.
I don’t even know what to think about your castle comment. I wouldn’t expect the castle to be the same in every park. Why would I fly across country to see the same castle with the same kind of magic. The castle isn’t any taller than It is because of the Airplanes. Make it taller and they would have to put a light in top of it. Disney didn’t want that. He wanted to keep it close to what he imagined as Cinderella’s castle. The castle was Walt Disneys own design. WDW doesn’t want to ruin what Walt Disney imagined for a castle. I know the Sleeping Beauty castle was his idea as well but, again different castles, different park, different ideas.
I think your are very partial to Anaheim. Which is understandable since you live there. But, you need to realize you came during one of the busiest times of year, different climate, not everything is going to be the same at every Disney park, and a lot of your complaints no one can fiscally change.
You should probably stick with your west coast park, the east coast one can go on without you.
Thanks for reading my post. I noted very clearly in my post the things we didn’t like that were under no one’s control and the things that were. Just because God controls the weather doesn’t mean that it isn’t valid to note that the weather is worse at WDW than at DLR.
I tend to be very polite in public, especially with service workers, and most especially in a Disney park, where I know CMs can have a hard time dealing with surly guests. I find it very interesting that many CMs who have commented here and on Facebook make the instant assumption that anyone criticizing WDW Cast Members must be a jerk, themselves. It’s a cheap shot and it keeps closed-minded CMs from considering their own behavior.
Most of our meals were taken at MK or our resort, which was Pop. We enjoyed eating at Columbia Harbor House at MK and Sunshine Seasons at Epcot. We hated the food at Pop (which had recently had a menu change) and thought the food next door at Art of Animation was just okay. We also though Pecos Bill’s at MK was just okay and not any better than Six Flags park food. We didn’t like the menu options that seemed to appear in several places at MK and DHS–bready “gourmet” hot dogs (we had those at Fairfax Fare at DHS and saw them in MK), pizza, plastic tubs of greasy chocolate cake with sprinkles on top. We looked for variety, but at the Counter Service (non-ADR) level, there isn’t nearly as much variety at WDW as at DLR. The variety and quality at WDW is at the Table Service level. At DLR, it’s at both levels. I see no reason why Counter Service shouldn’t be equally good on both coasts.
I wanted to love the castle as an adult because I remember loving it as a child, and I’ve read many WDW vets talk about how much they love MK’s castle. But I just didn’t. I think a big part of that is because of the “temporary” stage that blocks the view through the castle from Main Street and hosts those repetitive, painfully loud character shows throughout the day. That stage show cheapens the castle in my opinion, ruins its aesthetics, and makes it less accessible than it used to (and should) be.
I don’t live in California, I live in Chicago. I have a choice to go to DLR or WDW, as the cost to visit either resort is about equal from here. I definitely am partial to DLR as Disneyland has been my “home park” for at least a decade, even when I lived in New York. As I noted, we did not expect WDW to be the same experience. We simply didn’t expect it to be a bad experience. I also don’t think a “busy time of year” is an excuse for most of the things that we found lacking at WDW. It’s definitely not an excuse for bad CM behavior.
As for your last sentence, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you are actually more mature than it might otherwise suggest. I am sure as someone who loves Disney as much as I do, you think every Disney park should be a wonderful, magical experience open to all.
Hi there! I’m a cast member on the east coast, and I actually came in reading your article with an open mind. Guess what? I agree with a lot of your criticisms.
I’ve never been to Disneyland, but my CM friends that have gone there have expressed a preference for DL. They say that you can feel Walt’s influence. Plus judging of the picture of the fried chicken QUICK SERVICE snapchat my friend sent me the food is better in DL.
I hate that we didn’t accommodate you on your visit to WDW. I hate that we gave you a bad first impression. I hope we can try again. I have a lot of pride about our parks and resorts, but that’s because I believe the reason DLR cast members are happier is because they are proud of what they’re doing. So despite its flaws, I’m going to be proud of my WDW home. As a CM I DO NOT visit the parks during the summer. It’s no excuse for us having bad show…. But I want you to know that I understand where you are coming from.
I’ve worked in attractions, guest relations, and concierge. When I was in attractions, I allowed myself to be convinced that the attitude I saw older cast members giving to the guests was ok. After my PI in GR, I realized that it’s never ok. Yes, it requires more patience. And fellow WDW cms, I know it’s hard when the millionth group doesn’t understand what you’re asking them to do. But yelling doesn’t help.
I totally agree with one of the early commenters. PLEASE write WDW about your experience. I know it’s asking you to give us a little more of your time, but I firmly believe that the more guests say something, the more willing the executives are to listen.
Again, thank you for your criticisms! I’m sure you are sick of responding to all of us east coasters.
I want to thank you for reading and sharing your comments. One thing a lot of the “angry” commenters miss is that Ryan and I expected to love WDW, in a different but equally magical way as DLR. There’s just nothing about DLR that suggests to us “Six Flags”, or deferred maintenance, or any of other other quality control issues I blogged about. We were shocked by them at WDW because they don’t exist (or at least, not anymore) in the west coast Disney park environment. We found ourselves heartbroken about these things. I know I’m not the only one–I’ve read many forum posts from longtime WDW visitors and CMs who lament how things have gone downhill since the 1990s. I actually really liked MK (Ryan not so much), even for the things that I didn’t like there. (It was our “Ryan stays in bed while Michael runs around like a madman all morning” park one day, in fact–a day which ended with Ryan visiting me for ice cream around lunchtime and me never leaving MK until 2 a.m.) It’s not as if we went in thinking, “Oh crap, we have to go to WDW.” We were really, really into it, and planned a lot in advance. I don’t just think WDW could be better, I think it deserves to be better, and the people who can make that happen are senior management–the same ones who dragged it down in the first place. I think the CMs just get caught in the middle of that. And you’re right–we learned our lesson about visiting in the summer, but we will be back!
I am a WDW vet that has never been to DL. So I can’t do a full comparison. 5 days definitely is not enough to do WDW. It is extremely overwhelming for first timers, and no matter how much research and planning you do, it will be overwhelming no matter what. However, LOTS of what you said is TRUE!!! Growing up in the 80s and early 90s you couldn’t go 100 yards without someone sweeping up trash and fresh paint signs EVERYWHERE!! Now the parks are definitely not up to snuff maintenance wise and definitely not as clean as they used to. Some of your complaints were truly opinions and I can’t argue those. You said about you hating it being spread out with lots of space between rides and attractions, personally, I love that feature. I like the strolling and sitting on benches between rides and lots of room. The cast members, well that’s hit and miss. I know many cast members that would literally give you the shirt off their back to make your trip magical. However, WDW has a huge abundance of college program (CPs) and lots of int’l CPs. Sadly lots of them are here for the free trip away from home and partying away from Mom and Dad. They truly don’t care at all about Disney or their job, they only want the resume builder and perks. They do ruin the experience. They also don’t do very smart casting anymore either. All they’re clearly worried about is filling jobs and not casting. Nothing like putting a Culinary major (pastry and baking) at a popcorn stand (This happened to someone I know). They truly do hate their jobs since they’re being put in fields that have nothing to do with their majors or what they apply for. They’re constantly Putting people in roles and places they just don’t fit in. Nothing like checking in at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground and having an Asian woman that speaks minimal English and knows nothing about the outdoors or camping check you in. She was very friendly and a great CM, however, probably placed in the dumbest role they could find. Isn’t that why they call it Casting and not HR? Then there was a time I had a Cast Member after I asked for a different water bottle because the one I received was hot (middle of summer) mumble under his breath “you f-ing Americans are such a bunch of spoiled pain in the a$$es”. As a vet I found his direct supervisor by going to another attraction and absolutely went off on her over his comment. (I was not rude to the supervisor since she was not the problem but it made it very clear I was irate and disgusted over it.) Now was anything done? Old WDW would have gone over and terminated him on the spot. Especially since I had a witness in the line behind me that went with me to complain. And as far as you talked about rides, I can’t argue there. They keep taking out ride after ride to put in these annoying character meet and greets. I have a 2 y/o and they’re neat and all, but you can see the exact same characters at other places and countless character meals. As a vet it’s obvious to see it’s a lame excuse to claim you’re getting more for your ever increasing ticket prices. When in actuality you’re getting less. Operation wise it’s a tenth of the cost to pay a few CMs and leave on some lights as opposed to the electric and maintenance and repairs to keep a ride operating. They eliminated all but one show for the Country Bears and can’t understand why it doesn’t draw the crowds anymore. They keep closing classic Walt creations and eliminating the great food off menus to replace them with optical appeal cheap operating attractions and cheaper crappy food and often “healthy” options. (obviously, how much does lettuce cost compared to a chili dog?) yet charge the same amount. WDW has had horrible management for years and it shows, exactly as you complained about. I miss the WDW I grew up with and am hoping for the changes with the new management just like you are. I honestly spend most of my trips at the pool, hotel hopping, mini golf (winter summerland is the best mini golf course you will ever find anywhere!!!) or just relaxing on a bench somewhere, simply because the parks are not as magical as they used to be. I think you were a little too critical on certain things which were just biased because you’re a DL vet, kinda like you were complaining about how WDW vets criticize DL. Overall though I think it was a great article and mostly right on point. People complaining are not truly vets or have only been frequenters for the past 15 years or so and don’t know the real WDW, of the past, back when magic and guest experience was all that mattered.
Wow! It really, really breaks my heart that you had such a poor experience in WDW. I did a College Program last Fall, and yes, I do think the World has problems (the clashing cultures thing REALLY stands out as one of the WORST experiences of my nearly 5 months!) but I’ve never experienced anything as horrible as what you have.
I did have a terrible bus experience when my parents came to visit at Christmas. A bus driver refused to help my mom maneuver her electric wheelchair (which she needs) onto the bus and she ended up flipping over. My dad and I were EXTREMELY angry.
But I’ve never had a problem with the food. You should try to go back on a Christmas Party night and go to Be Our Guest. If you’re there for the party you shouldn’t have a problem getting a “much coveted” reservation because you can’t make advanced dinner reservations unless you’ve bought a party ticket. I mean some of it is grimy fast food tasting but I’ve got to say I LOVE Casey’s Corner, Restaurantosaurus, Be Our Guest…mmmm.
The CMs thing blows my mind. Maybe it’s because you were there in the summer. I’ve definitely experienced non-magical CMs, but not to the extent you described. I’m not sure how the hiring process works in DL, but we have college program, seasonal, part time, and full timers here. My experience was that the full timers tended to be huge jerks. They were usually older people who just didn’t give a damn about anything or anyone. Maybe you just had the misfortune of happening upon many people like that. 🙁 I don’t know, but that infuriates me! I always tried my best to be 100% magical and 100% “show ready”, and it kills me that all my hard work could be undone by some jerk who doesn’t care about Disney magic.
I’ve got to agree with you about management problems, though. I think Walt Disney would cry if he could see how Bob Iger and Meg Crofton have treated his company.
I do hope you’ll give WDW another chance! If you come in December, come early in the month. The week before Christmas and all the way to New Years is just insane. More crazy than the summer in my opinion.
This is a truly spectacular article! You nailed every problem with the WDW resort! As a girl who grew up in Disneyland, and went on to later work at WDW, I was always left with a feeling of disconnect from what I grew up with and Walt Disney World. I left the company shortly after Croften took over, her horrible management decisions were quick and destructive. She had an obvious destain for the CMs and being in the parks in general, and was constantly escorted by an entourage like a D list celebrity.
You were spot on in saying that bigger isn’t always better: WDW is like an ugly urban sprawl compared with Disneyland’s quint small town charm.
I am sorry though, that you didn’t get to experience Animal Kingdom, despite the small number of attractions, it is WDW’s only presence of true immersive theming!
Also: Figment. What the heck is the big deal about a Purple dragon that’s not from a Disney Movie?
And in regards to a previous poster: you shouldn’t have to go to a hotel to try and find magic, but I’ll take DL’s 3 spectacularly themed resorts, over WDW’s dozens any day! They are all gorgeous, high end, and within walking distance so there’s no need for the “magic kingdom area resort” snobbishness that exists at hotels like the GF (which is just a knock off of the much prettier Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, but with famously terrible CM’s and rooms the size of shoeboxes).
As I noted today at the top of this page: welcome to new readers arriving here because of this post. My now four-month-old analysis of our visit to Walt Disney World in Florida is currently drawing a lot of attention from current and former east-coast Cast Members. I stand behind every word in the post regarding that which I find much better at Disneyland Resort in California–food, crowd, vibe, weather, attitude of CMS and everything else discussed below. To each her or his own, and to us WDW just doesn’t measure up. I believe that which doesn’t measure up under Disney’s control stems from years of rotten management decisions, mostly under Meg Crofton, and that all of that can change for the better. I would love to see that happen. Until then, though, us two are much happier visiting Anaheim. That said, we will probably visit WDW in the winter before our Premier Annual Passports expire to experience the Orlando parks during off-season to give the place another chance. (Though there is no reason whatsoever why a WDW visit during peak season should not have been equally magical–equal magic has always been the case at whatever time of year I have visited Disneyland Resort and peak crowds and hot weather is no excuse for bad food and poorly knowledgeable CMs.) If that trip happens, it will be mostly because I have a fondness for Magic Kingdom. Ryan, however, does not, so as well as being our second visit it will likely also be our final one as well until things improve.
First I’d like to thank you for taking the time to post a really in depth article with a lot of thought and care and for mentioning that these were your feelings based on your experiences at WDW,
I’ll say that i’m a WDW Vet and I do love my parks (despite some of the flaws that you mentioned) I’m also a bit of a Disneyland Vet as well (I’m there usually once and often twice a year). There is a magical feeling when I go to DLR and those two wonderful parks, there’s a grown in feeling, the extra 20 years of taller trees and SoCal cultural absorption helps with that. But there’s always a lot that i miss about the Central Florida parks when I’m there as well.
Being a Floridian we tend to avoid the parks at peak seasons (especially summer) and a lot of what you experienced comes from what sounds like a peak set of days during a rough time of year. When I bring my family in the parks we enjoy riding the various MainStreet Vehicles up and down MainStreet to the hub or listening to the Dapper Dans sing to us on the back of the Trolley.
A lot of what happens at WDW I guess we understand is necessary to accommodate the volume of people that visit daily. I have to disagree with you when you say that Disneyland sees 95% of the guest volume as Magic Kingdom. I have been to both coasts at all different times of the year and I have to say that for better or worse the Magic Kingdom definitely sees many many more bodies through the turnstiles than does Disneyland. And that explains things like the repetitive shows and entertainment offerings. It gives everyone a chance to do and see a little more in their day without having to worry that they’ll miss a show. Likewise the multitude of shops I think also doubles as a place to get some relief from the weather. You can go inside and get cool for shopping or even out of the rain (Summer is Florida’s hurricane season). Often times during a day it’ll rain for forty five minutes to an hour and then stop, the shops give people somewhere to go without having to call it a day. Like you said, some people get a once in a lifetime trip to visit WDW and they don’t want bad weather to ruin that.
As for Cinderella Castle, I love it in a way that no other Disney Castle makes me feel.( I’ve been to see all of them now, and even Tokyo’s slightly smaller Cinderella castle makes me feel good in a way that Sleeping Beauty Castle doesn’t) But like you said, we all have a love for our “home castle”…
You didn’t mention Fireworks? or any of the evening spectaculars. I’m sorry you had a poor time at EPCOT but we love illuminations… it’s dynamic and brilliant … and I might concede that Disneyland’s version of Fantasmic is possibly better than that at Hollywood Studios, maybe 😉 but Wishes at the Magic Kingdom makes my heart melt every time i see it.
I enjoyed World of Color while I was there but to me it as still (albeit well done) a water projection show… The Music was fantastic and it was well choreographed but I wasn’t blown away by it how everyone thought I would be.
I like to think of the Disneyland vs Magic Kingdom parks and The same but different. It’s a completely different experience and if you go expecting the same out of both you’ll be disappointed either way. A lot of my friends are disappointing when they visit Disneyland and I remind them that it’s meant to be different.
Being uncomfortable from the start (hot sticky weather from what you’re used to) can make it difficult to enjoy it all. I remember one of my first trips to Disneyland in the beginning of spring years ago and I was miserable because I was cold after about 5:00 and didn’t enjoy my evening in the park. The parade wasn’t good enough for me, the fireworks weren’t spectacular enough etc. upon further trips I’ve really come to love and appreciate those parks, (not as much as I love the kingdom though) .. .I think that you should give the Florida parks another chance, maybe in the fall and see if you don’t change your mind just a little bit about somethings. I know first impressions can be difficult to break but they aren’t always completely accurate.
Happy Park Hopping!
Thanks for reading Greg. Actually, it really is just a 5% difference. MK park gets around 17 million annual visitors. DL park gets aroung 16 million. They just crowd at different times. MK crowds on Magic Morning (and Evening) days, which vary. DL crowds on weekends, because that is when locals can get off work and visit. There are also about 25% more attractions in DL to soak up visitors and keep lines shorter.
WDW is my home and I have resided here for about 7 years. That being said…. I agree with this article.
It’s my hope that George Kalogridis, who is incidentally one of the most forthright and personable executives we have had for the Company as a whole, will make this magic happen and make WDW whole again.
While I have my own favorite things and enjoyable atmospheres here, I have been itching to visit DLR! Please know that I thank you for this very honest assessment of just how mainstream and bad things have gotten here.
Thank you for reading, Amber. I will say I left with a fondness for MK and look forward to getting to spend time there, again. (I may also be the only DLR vet who loves WDW’s Space Mountain, too!)
IMHO, Disneyland was designed by a genius for people; the Magic Kingdom was designed by a committee for a mob…
You make some excellent points about some things that need work in WDW. I do, however, feel your visit was tainted by the time of year you chose to come. During the slower times, guests are not as frustrated and grumpy. CM aren’t either and can spend an extra second or two being kind.
While you will always find many CM willing to go above and beyond, some are really just there for the job. And for some, certain management decisions may have reduced their desire to go above and beyond or they say mediocre CM getting the exact same evaluations as those who tried extra hard.
You are correct when you say it became a numbers game. I used to work in Toon Town with princesses and, at one time, would often see parents sobbing and saying how magical it was (the time their child spent with the princess) and how it was sooooo worth the wait. Then it became a numbers game and went back to love and shove. You had to expedite the magic. Good Grief! As a guest, I waited in line 45 minutes with my niece to see the three fairies. We were rushed through the room in 45 seconds.
As a guest recently, I wanted to know what the “Limited Time Magic” was for that week. I went up to one merchandise person at the Studios and not only did she not know what it was for that week, she didn’t even know what I was talking about, even after I explained it to her. Her service pin said she’d been there 10 years.
I can see why you wouldn’t enjoy Epcot, but World Showcase is actually my favorite because it doesn’t have rides. I enjoy walking through the countries, enjoying the music, the architecture, the people, the food & drink, and walking through the shops. Yes it is a little retail oriented and I don’t buy a lot. I enjoy just getting the feeling as if I experienced a little of the country.
Next time you give it a try, come at a different time of year. It will probably never make you as happy as DLR, but you might find more gems that you like.
That was our experience visiting Mickey Mouse at the theater on Main Street in MK. It was so rushed and unmagical, we regretted having bothered to do it. Character greets out and about in DL are a lot more special.
As an old cast member of MK and Epcot, unfortunately you’ve seen what we cast see. From the guests to our falling apart attractions, it makes a person that loves Disney into one that just wants to get away.
I first came into the company excited. I loved everything Disney so the chance to work there; amazing. I started out in tomorrowland where I worked for almost my entire stay with the company.
The guests were a big shocker to me. They do act just as you saw and we cast had to deal with that every single day. Slowly you have to adapt. In order to keep a ride moving, you learn you unfortunately have to yell- which doesn’t even work 50% of the time. Rides like Peoplemover MUST keep moving or else it experiences what we called a “trains-ahead” where two trains hit. Once that happens we have to evacuate. It was a headache for people to not care and not listen when we tell people simple instructions such as to please take a seat in the ride vehicle.
Most people I knew tried their best to keep a happy “Disney” face on. But we were all constantly aggravated. If it wasn’t the guest it was the ride.
Management was always changing rules on us and never fixing the problems.
Yeah, those moldy air ducts- Carousel of Progress was covered in them and took over a year for someone to finally come out and fix it. The audio-animatronics? Never fully fixed when there’s an issue so guests were constantly complaining to us. We’d tell management but notice would get done.
I won’t even get started on my short time as a character attendant at Epcot before I left the company. Just plain horror stories.
Anyways, as an ex-cast of WDW I just would like to say I’m glad someone else realized how things were there. I recently visited Disneyland and was simply blown away. I couldn’t imagine it was even the same company. Anytime my husband and I vacation in the future- it’s to Disneyland.
Thank you for your commitment to the magic. This was my point, exactly: the state of WDW is due to bad management that treats the parks as if the name on the tin is Six Flags and not Disney. Hopefully, moving Meg Crofton on and moving former DLR management to WDW helps begin to change priorities for the better.
DL cast members get paid more than us for doing the same job. So of course their going to be happier. And they get to sit at there attractions. WDW caters to the world while DL caters mostly to locals and annual pass holders. WDW cast members work longer hours than our sister park. We are always being pushed to our limit.
DLR CMs might suggest they’re equally stretched to the limit, and that DLR caters to the world as well. (Just in different measure.) But it’s still not an excuse.
Maybe the fact that you disliked WDW so much is that you two are sooooo spoiled from DLR that you think that WDW can just replicate the atmosphere of DLR in terms of guests and CM’s. Everyone is going to be different here. CMs are probably lackluster because they mostly work 40+ hour work weeks dealing with guests like certain people who like to nitpick and complain because some things just aren’t the same as their precious DLR. Trust me, those CMs are trying their hardest to bring the magic to life, and there are some CMs that in fact do that on a daily basis, despite being yelled at and ordered around by guests.
So in other words, guests shouldn’t expect to be equally spoiled by WDW as by DLR? And should, in fact, expect a lesser experience in the Florida parks than in the California parks? And furthermore, should not complain about it, either? Baloney. There is no reason for bi-coastal Disney park variability like that which we encountered, and no excuse, either. And for the record, CMs are paid to act gracefully no matter how guests act towards them. That doesn’t excuse bad guest behavior, but it leaves little excuse for bad CM behavior. Frankly, you’re paid to accept guest complaints with a smile. Doing so is part of the job.
Wow, and thank you for proving his point and how obnoxious Cast Members are in WDW. So basically Come to WDW, spend your money, and shut your mouth and dont annoy the Cast Members. Time for you to get the hell out of WDW and get a job at Wal-Mart where that attitude is expected and accepted.
This entire conversation seems to be a bit redundant, but I feel like I need to chime in.
Some of you are a bit hypocritical; especially the main person posting this article. So you sit and talk about all of the differences between the two parks, and then complain that your treatment is not the same at those two DIFFERENT parks. Hypocrisy at its finest.
You also continue to sneer in the face of anyone who suggests you come at a different time in order to assuage your delicate sensibilities and receive the experience you expect which is rude. WDW is different for DL, but, as these people have been trying to inform you, if you want a similar experience to what you are used to, come at a different time of year. And when/if you do come again, how about you take off the DL colored glasses and instead come with open eyes and an open mind as it is a different place. These people have also been trying to tell you that the difference in the types of people who come to WDW vs DL is bound to effect both the experience with guests and with CMs. If the majority of your guests don’t speak English, a lot of times you have to yell to get their attention in order to pantomime what needs to be done unfortunately. That is not rude, that is Safety which is a part of the Four Keys.
Also, making less of what the CMs at WDW go through is insulting and uncalled for; especially when you have never done it. Not to mention, repeatedly saying that your money pays us is rather ignorantly entitled of you, especially considering how large the WD corporation is; what you spend is pocket change in comparison and you are an insignificant donation. We would still get paid without you; even though that pay was (as someone else said) basically at poverty level.
You also must be blind if you missed the magic smacking you in your face every day.
I did the CP (college program) for 7 months working in MK. Summer and Holiday times I worked 60+ hrs a week with one day off in that sweltering heat you talk of with a chipper smile glued animatedly to my face. I have been run over by ECVs, strollers, I have stood next to vomit waiting for custodial and watched a child cry so hard they threw up, I have stood next to pee, and been screamed at for following procedure till I was almost in tears with that same smile barely clinging to my face. I have even been hit on by men, after their wife and kids walk away. I have completely reorganized and straightened an area to Disney show perfection, only to have a train-load of BTG guests come filing through and rip the place to shreds in 10 minutes flat; with a smile still on my face. And all while getting paid less than 8 dollars an hour in 2013. I’d really like to see you try. -_-
But I have also decorated marshmallows like Minnie and Stitch and handed them out to kids and adults for free (magical moment!), I have walked around with an autograph book asking for little princess and pirate signatures, popcorn pin traded with collectors, talked for 30 minutes or more straight (while my leaders are glaring at me for taking to much of my magical time with one person) with guests who are willing to take a moment and engage, I have cried with cancer survivors both in sadness and in joy (I have 9 multi-survivors in my family and one who sadly did not make it), celebrated with newly weds and birthday wishers, walked ‘tightropes’ and juggled. I have made a Stitch fanatic’s day by being able to talk like Stitch, sang like Snow White to both Guest and fellow CM amusement, and I have wished people High Flyin’ Magical days. You aren’t looking for magic, you are looking for DL in WDW and you’re not going to find it, because WDW brand of magic is very different and very special; just as DL magic is in a DIFFERENT way.
You have valid points about food and EPCOT. But you also are blinding yourselves even to the beautiful possibilities in both of these areas. EPCOT has amazing food and the shopping is very international, which is an experience you would usually only get over seas. If you pay attention or ask, the CMs in WS are from around the world and you could learn so much just by talking to or asking them questions. Attractions in EPCOT definitely need an update, but unfortunately they are getting all the wrong kind (i.e.: Frozen instead of the traditional and fun/educational Maelstrom). Careful what you wish for.
Food is great in a lot of places: MK Be Our Guest for Lunch or Dinner, Gaston’s Tavern, Cosmic Ray’s (the BBQ is Amazing!). You really only have to ask a CM in the park and they are bound to have very personally fueled responses. Hint: CMs cannot read your mind so you have to ask questions in order to learn some of the most interesting tidbits of info.
If you do go again, all you need is that open mind I mentioned, and an inquisitive tongue. CMs are just brimming with excitement to work where they do, even when they are tired and haggard. Some of my best most favorite moments are when a guest actually turned MY day around by having a wonderful experience with ME. The magic is mutual or as a lot of people say, it takes two to tango. And really, come a different time, you get such a different experience. Do you know that the Haunted Mansion CMs have to have hearing tests during peak season to make sure that the BTGs are not adversely effecting their hearing from all of the chanting in the stretch rooms? There is so much going on that you don’t even realize.
PS: Take the Keys to the Kingdom tour next time. I cry every time they talk about Walt and Roy and the creation of WDW and their deaths. Sit and watch Wishes in MK; I cry every time especially after I found out that it was sung my sick kids (some of whom are no longer living; which I thought must be so touchingly magical for them at the time to sing for Disney). Also, don’t forget about AK! It is so much more worth it than EPCOT and HS combined!
And never forget, It was all started with a mouse and an amazing dreamer like Walt. WDW was, to him, his greatest dream. And he didn’t even live to see it. Look at it through his eyes, and ignore all of the Starbucks! He rolls in his grave over that one I am sure!
I will never, ever understand the closed-minded attitude of WDW Cast Members who think the world rises and sets on the Orlando parks. I’m glad you traipse through all five parks with rose-colored glasses, eating decorated marshmallows, and sprinkling flowers everywhere.
I still think the overall WDW experience is extraordinarily uneven and far less magical than advertised.
I am sorry you had a bad experience. Please try again.
We may, in January or February, concentrating on Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Disney World pays many cast Members like $8.35 an hour. Hard to be happy when they pay you at poverty level and management treats you like dirt and Disney Executives makes huge salaries.
As a former cast member at WDW, I am laughing at this article. You went to WDW in the middle of the summer. Thats basically all I have to say. I would recommend going in October when Food & Wine is going on and Halloween is about. It is so much slower and cast members actually have time to make magic versus the summer, get through the line mentality. I dont know how many people are in DLR on an average day in the summer but at WDW where each park can have 40-50k and Magic Kingdom alone 70-90k guests at one time. Im sorry you didnt enjoy the food. I personally love the food, even the quick service locations. There is nothing better on a MK day than a good afternoon Burger and fries from Pecos Bill, and a funnel cake from Sleepy Hollow. Im sorry you didn’t go in open minded and not try to compare EVERYTHING to DLR. WDW attracts millions a year from all over the Earth. DLR may get international but not like WDW does. I feel like youre some who feels like they come for an affluent neighborhood, and is against finding the charm of somewhere different with a different culture. I loved meeting guests like you and laughing because honestly it seems like nothing can please you. I hope if you ever go back, you take time to experience the charm of the resorts and downtown Disney as well as get to try some of the awesome full service restaurants that arent even badly priced. But until then, haha and dont go to Disney in the middle of summer if you are someone who expects CMs to treat you like a princess, because ain’t nobody always got time fo dat.
The “middle of the summer” is no excuse. Crowds and heat are absolutely no excuse for WDW not being a magical vacation. Either WDW, its management, and CMS–like yourself–commit to providing excellence or you don’t. Once that commitment is made, it should not matter when paying visitors decide to come and spend the money that pays your salary. The idea that people shouldn’t visit during high season is basically you saying that you’d like to go without your paycheck for a few months. You realize that, right?
Of course with being two different resorts on the very opposite sides of the country, things are bound to be different. I am currently a Disney cast member at WDW and its really.. Er.. Disheartening whenever I read things like this and it makes cast members feel very categorized. I’ve been to DLR out on the west coast as well and I will admit, I do love it! I love every part of it, but I will admit also as a Floridian, you came at the worst possible time of year. During the fall and early spring seasons is when we get the majority of our local guest and very minimal international guest and the feel of the park changes dramatically. I’ve worked withy he company for a while now and I really do take pride in my job. We hear things like this every day how someone didn’t get what they wanted or someone’s child didnt get called princess or something. It’s hard to produce magic when you have your mind made up on how it should and shouldn’t be like. I will be the first to admit that the cast has to get a lot more strict during the peak seasons because we have to make sure that people can still have the experience safely and memorably. I’m very sorry you had such a lack luster time here and Florida but you must understand that things happen when everyone in the world is all trying to get to 4 theme parks..
I’ll “go there” (where DIS board members often fear to tread) and say it–Brazilian Tour Groups. I think a lot of the stress and CM angst that we felt was palpable stems from this. Thousands of guests who arrive during the hottest, busiest time of year, ignore queue- and crowd-control instructions from CMs, jump the queues, take photos in dark rides, and generally act in ways that are actually in keeping with norms back home, but which cause chaos and stress in an American Disney theme park. I can understand CMs just giving up and yelling at guests faced with BTGs. Except that CMs are paid not to act that way.
I also think WDW could be a lot more blunt and specific about behaviors allowed and not allowed in the Orlando parks. Currently, that kind of “behavior policing” is left to already-overwhelmed CMs and it obviously isn’t working.
As a former CM from WDW this saddens me deeply. I genuinely tried my hardest on a daily basis to create and carry through the magical experience for each guest I encountered. That this was not your guest experience, is disheartening.
I feel that many of your criticisms about WDW are things that Disney cannot control, most notably the weather and the bad guest attitudes. Not being a fan of the Florida weather is hardly a reason to come down on WDW. As for the guests, it just shows how rude people are. As you pointed out over and over, WDW is significantly larger than DL. That means more people than in DL at any given time, and more people means more rude people, unfortunately. Many guests are visiting WDW for the first and probably last time ever, and there is more stress and emphasis on riding certain rides and having certain experiences. For many families, not getting to meet a certain character WILL ruin their vacation. In DL, this scenario is rare; as you said, most guests are return guests and locals, even “vets,” and if a child or family member doesn’t get to have a particular experience, they can come back next month and do it then.
As for the Cast Members, I find it hard to believe that you were so poorly and unfairly treated. A Cast Member can be as “magical” as possible and it still isn’t enough for some guests. While making magic is high on Disney’s priority list, CMs also have to follow protocol. There are strict rules in place, simply because of the sheer vastness of the World. CMs cannot break the rules for every guest; character attendants can’t keep the line open for one more family, and attractions workers can’t let everyone in through the FastPass line, and restaurant hosts can’t find everyone a table. Further, I have seen guests be downright rude to CMs as well. When a CM refuses to comply with sometimes ridiculous guest requests, the guest will say, “Well, that’s not very magical of you.” This behavior from the guests is likely to turn any CM “surly.”
In regards to the trash situation, I resubmit the argument that people are rude. While, certainly, a better job could be done picking up trash in the streets, it is near impossible to maintain the cleanliness of a ride queue. If another guest leaves empty snack bags or water bottles in the queue, it is hardly the fault of Cast Members. Further, it is near impossible to consistently maintain the cleanliness of a queue without shutting it down every now and then to clean up, and that would bring on a whole slew of other problems from guests like yourself.
You also complain about how spread out the property is, and you call it “changeable,” which is just ridiculous. How could it possibly be changeable? Everything is already constructed; it’s not like they can move buildings like a Lego set.
I’ll close by saying that if you don’t like WDW, that’s fine. It is your superior attitude about it that makes you no better than the thousands of insufferable guests that CMs deal with every day. Your opinions are personal and many of them petty – ie, the Castle, the weather, the walkways – and it is holier-than-thou guests with mindsets like yours that make the experience miserable for everyone else.
My very frank opinion on the CM behavior is that it seemed to us that the CMs wilted in the weather as equally as the visitors, and that CM tempers were very frayed when attempting crowd and queue control during daylight hours. We were yelled at, ordered around, or outright ignored (depending on the situation) multiple times at Magic Kingdom, especially, and we encountered CMs whose answer to basic questions about WDW or a specific theme park was simply, “I don’t know.” Yes, there were friendly CMs, too. But that kind of rudeness and resort ignorance I have never encountered from CMs in Anaheim.
As a WDW CM I would first like to apologize for the bad experiences you had with CMs. I would like to explain something. At Magic Kingdom especially, efficiency is the most important to our manageers. Not courtesy, not safety, not being magical…efficiency. We are pulled into the office time and again because “Why didn’t we hit our numbers?” Never mind that Peter Pan has never been refurbished and breaks down ever ten seconds. Never mind that people don’t WANT to sit four to a row at “it’s a small world”. It’s awful. It’s terrible and it does wilt us. If we aren’t yelling at people to move all the way up and take up all the available space, a manager will come over and question us on stage in front of guests. If we aren’t pretty much THROWING people on the rides our managers will come over and tell us we are ruining everyone’s vacation. I’m not trying to make excuses. But I am trying to explain. Having gone to DLR and had MANY of my CM friends go, we understand and honestly would probably mostly agree with this post. DLR is more magical that WDW. DLR cares. But it also has to do with the fact that WDW is mostly tourists. They don’t update things as much because the influx of guests that actually come more than once a year is so minute. We don’t have a million different show because….well why waste our time when we could be SHOVING merchandise down people’s throats! They’re only going to be here for a week! It’s annoying. I wish that WDW had more of the finers points of DLR. Of course DLR has problems. Everything does. I went in eighth grade and so much was closed for refurbishment for the special 50th anniversary or something. But I also remember little things. Things WDW doesn’t and probably will never have. I also remember still having fun. I hope that one day the WDW management will realize its Safety, Courtesy/Show, and THEN Efficiency.
(I do hope you come back. Perhaps you’ll go one summer I am working. I’ll be running Peter Pan’s Flight and “it’s a small world” and you can see that some WDW CMs really do care.)
Also….yay Chicago! Although I’m from a suburb haha.
In addition because I read some of the other comments….I was a CP and not all CP’s are terrible! Some of us really do have a life long dream to work for the Disney Company! Walt Disney is one of my biggest heroes. Whenever there is a clip of him talking, I am BAWLING, just a sobbing pathetic mess. I try to do my work in a way that would make him proud. It may have all started with a mouse but it’s up to the CMs to continue the legacy.
I also disagree with a lot you have to say. In my experience, those who say they are DL vets will always find fault with WDW and vice versa. Yes, if you go in the summer, its a lot hotter but that means you need to plan differently. You get to the parks earlier, leave in the afternoon when it’s the hottest and nap or go swimming at your resort. Then, as it cools slightly, go back to the parks at night because they are opened later. As for ADRs, if you don’t want to plan meals out months in advance, it doesn’t hurt to see what reservations are available the week you leave or once you get to the resort. Especially if not at spring break, you have a chance of getting a reservation. Pick your park in the morning and if you’re flexible with what time you eat at, make a reservation. If you had gone to WDW ten or fifteen years ago, all you would have has is burgers and chicken. There is now a lot of variety to choose from. And yes, CHH has the best food, but what’s cool is that the menu is varied so even if you eat there three different days, you can have three completely different meals. Also, learn to enjoy the walk to attractions, or if you travel by boat or monorail to parks. It’s not something you get to do everyday. Enjoy the scenery and stop trying to rush. As for the trash, I never see that much. It may not be lickity split, but like you said, it’s a much bigger place.
I actually went to graduate school for planning. We did weeks of homework prior to our WDW trip, and left home armed with hour-by-hour, daily, and dining plans and reservations, and lots of tips and advice from the major-name WDW websites and guidebooks. It wasn’t lack of planning that made us throw in the towel. It was lack of magic.
Having grown up going to WDW, and now working there, I have to say that WDW will always be home. Still I look at Epcot and wonder what Walt would have thought of his “community of tomorrow”. There are a lot of things that need updating, so I hope that everybody that sees something that could be better writes the company, because we can’t fix things if you don’t tell us they’re broken.
Actually, what I did was write Disneyland Resort to say how much we missed being there when we were at WDW, to thank them and their CMs, and to tell them about what we disliked at WDW. In response, I got a personal phone call from DLR communications staff telling me thank you–and that they are well aware of the differences between the two resorts, too.
He’s got a point. I hope you write a letter to WDW also and explain to them the bad experiences. ESPECIALLY the maintenance and trash. I’ve actually done that a few times myself and the more people that do it, the better. Especially with the New Management in place. Perhaps a bunch of letters with the same complaints will help expedite the basic changes.
I’m sorry, but I completely disagree with this article. I was just recently in DLR, after years and years of anticipation and eagerness, I finally went. And That truly made me realize that WDW is home. As a CM at WDW, we are told to create high expectations for guests and never fall short of them. Henceforth, the 4Keys. Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency. At DLR, during my trip, there was none of that. Piling people on other’s laps for parking lot trams. CMs walking around with “gauge earrings” and tattoos showing. Having insanely confusing attraction lines, to where people hop railings. Only rode 4 rides because All of the others were broke down, and the worst of all, terrible guest relations. At WDW we are always told if there is a problem, there is ALWAYS an answer AND a solution. I never knew such reaction could come from CMs. Spent well over $200 at Ariel’s Grotto for food just for VIP seating tickets to WOC. Food was served cold and was told “Once it leaves the kitchen there is nothing that can and will be done”. Said fine,because didn’t want to deal with the hassle like Fantasmic, and We waited for 20 mins for these supposed VIP WOC seats. Was seated behind a family who did not have VIP who sat on stairs… 5 mins into WOC, it breaks down. CMs simply drop ropes and we were told to leave. Not “please exit” but to leave. Went to Guest relations and told them about how “magical” everything was. They said and I quote, “What do you want us to do about it? We cannot give you FPs for rides that broke, or to WOC. No coupons to Ariels or something equally priced. There’s Nothing we can do. Now I have more people to attend to. Please leave. Next.” Talk about a bad trip. Will I go back to DLR? YES because Disney is my life and everyone has to have one of those crappy trips every now and then (Disney or not). PS as for CMs here in WDW, sorry lady, but you have no idea, on how un-magical 8,000 Brazilians can be. Sounds like you just had a bad time, and need to suck it up, and try again in a different season. Especially since late April- end Aug is peak. lol
Totally disagree with this article. DL and WDW both have pluses and minuses. The biggest problem I find with this is your lack of any respect for the resorts…. Grand Floridian, Polyniesian, etc etc. each has activies and special magic.
I agree. This article is waaaaaaaay too scathing towards WDW!
I got here from the DIS, and all I have to say is HOW DARE YOU CRITICIZE OUR BELOVED PARKS.
…just kidding, of course 😉 I enjoyed reading your thoughts and reactions to the difference between the resorts. Our previous experiences will always inform our opinions about these things, and it’s interesting to hear a perspective very different from my own.
I’ve been a local WDW passholder for 1-1/2 years now, and have only visited DL/DCA once, as a young teenager 10 years ago. So WDW is “home” to me, and though I hope to visit DLR again someday now that I can appreciate it properly (I’ve become a bit of a Disney park junkie/history nerd), I believe WDW will always hold the most magic for me. That said, I readily admit that WDW is not without its problems, and your critique as a DLR vet certainly shines more light on them.
Epcot really does need some serious attention…there hasn’t been a new pavilion or ride in World Showcase in 25 years (that’s as long as I’ve been alive!), and while I appreciate the variety of restaurants there, it seems management only thinks WS is good for dining and shopping. One new restaurant just opened with another on the way. It would be great to see another actual attraction – preferably an E-ticket, along with an entirely new pavilion – to breathe new life into that section of the park. And Future World seems to have lost its way entirely. Management/Imagineering needs to help Epcot return to its original vision with restoration of some attractions (Journey Into Imagination) and high-quality new attractions in the place of ones that are languishing (Captain EO, all of Innoventions except Sum of All Thrills). I love Epcot but can totally understand why you were less than thrilled with it.
I have also noticed the lack of maintenance in several areas and feel that it can be improved. I know Walt was very particular about preventative maintenance at DL – applying fresh paint on schedule before it was needed, etc. It would be nice to see WDW put more effort into maintaining good show, and raising the bar to be consistent with its reputation as the theme park king.
As far as the lackluster CMs…I really feel like you just had some bad luck here. Of course, I can’t speak to the quality of DLR’s, so it’s possible at DLR they are just so outstanding that WDW’s seem bad in comparison – but I can count on one hand the number of times I have had a poor CM experience at WDW. And I visit an average of 3x a month. Sorry you dealt with that kind of incompetence/rudeness.
On the whole, I feel that much of what you experienced stems from the vastly different guest demographic at the two resorts. Because DLR is something like 75-80% locals, guests know the routine and protocol. They’ll be back next weekend, so it won’t be a huge deal if Johnny doesn’t get to meet a certain character that day. Locals aren’t there to vacation, so total immersion/being shielded from the outside world isn’t as important. They’re less likely to have money to burn on souvenirs and less likely to need/want them. And because they visit so often, food becomes a higher priority. Because most guests at WDW are first- or only-timers on weeklong vacations, they:
-are trying to experience everything in a short amount of time, in the Florida heat, and often don’t recognize that their young kids need naps – leading to the “Disney meltdown”
-spend a lot of money, which can lead to a sense of entitlement/”my kid comes first”/”if we don’t get to ride this it will ruin our trip”
-blow tons of cash on souvenirs (hence extensive merchandise)
-generally have lower expectations when it comes to food
-want convenience – hence the dining plan (food is prepaid), Magical Express pickup, and bus transportation
WDW’s vast size combined with transporting you for free throughout your vacation and offering the dining plan is an equation that results in $$$$ for Disney. If you can’t leave the property, you have to pay their prices for everything. Disney will happily offer free transportation to and from the airport and around the huge resort because it means you’re much more likely to spend money there.
Anyway, I hope you do give WDW a second chance someday. I noticed that you didn’t make it to Animal Kingdom at all, and I think you’d really enjoy Expedition Everest. Festival of the Lion King is there as well and is by far my favorite show in all 4 parks. Come in February when the weather is much more pleasant and the crowds are lighter and bring a healthy dose of patience, and I think you’ll enjoy it more 🙂
Hi Michael (and Ryan),
I’m sorry about your Disney World experience, but it is Orlando so there you have it. Growing up in California I always thought the Disneyland experience was a bit hokey until I went to Orlando and found that experience a bit overwhelming with all the shows and pomp, but very few rides for all to enjoy. Plus, you’re right about the weather too. Going to Orlando in late spring and summer makes for a very unpleasant experience mainly due to the humidity, and the fact that Orlando is land-locked and in a swamp-like climate (that’s probably why you guys experienced very unruly people), whereas Anaheim is located above sea-level and California is privy to dry-heat climate.