CoasterBuzz Podcast #133 posted

Posted Monday, February 9, 2009 7:56 PM | Contributed by Jeff

Jeff and Pat review this week's news in the amusement industry.

  • Gonchar takes a big Disney World trip for the first time since 2001. It's a lot more crowded than he remembers. Jeff maintains they still manage crowds extremely well.
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge was so-so for value. Jeff and Gonch have differing opinions about the Magical Express and car rentals, due to very different experiences.
  • Does anyone just enjoy moments anymore, or is everyone too concerned with documenting the entire thing digitally, seeing the experience only through the lens?
  • Gonch missed out on the dining plan and paid dearly for it.
  • Aquariums are cool. Alton Towers is smart to build one.
  • Disney and new interactive experiences: Gonch's family does the Kim Possible missions.
  • Sally Corp. lets go of some people. What's with all dark rides being shooters?
  • Universal Orlando gets "free" time during Super Bowl, and the ad was terrible. Remember the workaholic ads?
  • With the ninth anniversary of CoasterBuzz, Jeff is wondering if anyone would come to a tenth anniversary party next January 30.
  • Ohio governor wants to extend school year, so what would that do to tourism and amusement parks?
  • Seasonal jobs in surprisingly high demand at parks everywhere. CP drops bonus program entirely.
  • Disney hurting because of crappy DVD sales, but the parks only take a 5% attendance hit.
  • Busch halts the Dubai project, but Jeff thinks it's part of the bigger cap ex freeze as everything is being audited and documented throughout the chain.
  • Has Small World been bastardized at Disneyland with characters?
  • The world needs more big Ferris wheels.
  • We appreciate your support of CoasterBuzz by joining the club. It's still just $20 per year.

Link: CoasterBuzz Podcast

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 9:02 AM

I agree with you Gonch on the people that go to Disney just for the experience of the atmosphere, and not really the attractions. I noticed that on our last visit there. It was the same way. Midways were packed and at point unbearable, but you get in line for an attraction like the Tower of Terror and wait 5 - 10 minutes to get on.

Reading the fansites that tell you the lowdown on where the crowds will be and at what time are a lot of help in planning around the big crowds. I forget what site I used last time but they actually gave an Itinerary of what order to hit the attractions for each park, and it really worked out well for us.

I am with you on the rental car as well. It's better to be able to come and go when you went rather then by the schedule of Disney Transportation. That keeps you a step ahead of the hordes of crowds being dropped off by their busses. Plus when you stay at disney you get free parking for all the parks. It makes sense to drive.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 12:17 PM

My wife and I have differing opinions on the transportation. She complains and argues for a rental car. On the other hand, I'm very happy with Disney's provided transportation. To pay $40+ per day for whatever convenience comes with having a car on property is not even on my "worth it" radar. If you need to get from Point A to Point B and the bus isn't doing it for you, get a cab.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 12:30 PM

We got a Dodge Charger for 8 days for less than the cost of 1 night in the AKL.

The most annoying memories I have are the crowds waiting for (and fighting for) the handful of necessary transportation - trams, moonorail, boats - to parks and parking.

The huge group that fell in behind us at check-in off of the ME bus, and the group waiting in front of the hotel every moring for Disney transportation, the people standing in the rain at the bus stops at DHS on Monday, the huge group waiting for ME the day we left...none of it looked appealing.

I'm not sure where my price point is, but I suspect it'd be pretty high to say no to a car. The $20 or $25 a day we ended up paying for a fullsize car was well worth the independence - that doesn't even buy a counter meal for 4 at WDW, but it bought a lot of convenience.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 12:45 PM

Of course, that says more about the cost of AKL than it does about that Dodge.

I'm paying more for my car this year than I ever have before---a shade over $300 for an 8-day midsize rental. (There must be some massive convention or something my week, because "regular rates" from the name-brand agencies are north of $700 for the same period.) I seriously thought about skipping the car, but in the end, decided to keep it.

I've done the no-car thing before, but it was just my wife and I, and we were trying to keep costs down. Without kids, it was okay. Not great, but perfectly adequate. With my kids along, a car is a lot more valuable, not just for getting from point A to B, but also to be able to run out to the pharmacy for whatever. Is it necessary? No. But it's nice.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 1:31 PM

I gotta say, having done it three times in the last few years without a car, I've been OK with it. Actually, in '06 I did have a car, but just didn't feel like I needed it. I still took the buses. I think part of it is that I get a little tweaked up when I travel, and a car is just one more thing I have to deal with. I just assume let someone else drive.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 1:34 PM

The only part about our no-car trip that really got to me was the trip back to the airport---a bus full of broke, exhuasted, sunburned people returning to the real world is about as much fun as your average prison bus.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 1:36 PM

Ha! That is very true. I had the same kind of experience on a cruise once. A lot of energy on the shuttle to the ship, not so much heading back to the airport. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 1:39 PM

Sounds like any flight leaving Vegas.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 1:43 PM

I suppose the car vs Disney transportation is the same matter of preference as on-property vs off-property or dining plan vs no dining plan.

I suppose there's countless ways to do Disney an everybody has one that works for them.

Like I said in this week's podcast (smile), I though for the price we paid and the time and effort involved that I get more value out of our week-long, hit-the-road, multi-park trips. While we had a lot of fun, everyone is cool with waiting a few years (or more) before we consider doing it again.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 3:07 PM

I still think you should've done the dining plan. That's a steal if you like to eat good food.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 3:22 PM

Yeah, but the more I thought about it, we only did three sit-down meals the entire trip. We did mostly snacks and counter service. (and room service twice)

I haven't done the math so I don't know if there'd have been a price advantage. And it also seems like you need a bit more planning for food than we did. I felt like we didn't plan ahead enough for dining as it was.

As far as good food, I found the sit-down, $40 per person places to be good, but the counter service, cafes and such were pathetically average theme park fare. Not much difference between a Disney cheeseburger, a Six Flags cheeseburger and a Cedar Fair cheeseburger - in price or quality.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 3:26 PM

Our trip a few weeks ago was our first time with the dining plan. The verdict? If I had 10 hands, I'd give it 10 thumbs up. Sure, there's the math argument ('do you come out ahead' versus 'would you eat that way if not on the plan'). I think we came out better off than without - probably by about $100. But for being married to someone who worries about budgets on vacation, it was nice to not have to think about it. And that's part of the point of a vacation. :) We're both sold and will likely do it again next time.

It's funny Brian should mention the pain of getting back to the airport. That was actually one of the best parts of using the Magical Express. It was really nice to take our bags to the lobby of the resort and not see them again until Cleveland. Now, coming into town was a different story. After two trips where I waited 4 and 5 hours respectively for bags, we got our own luggage when we arrived at MCO last month. That's my only real complaint about the Magical Express.

Last edited by Gemini, Tuesday, February 10, 2009 3:26 PM
Tuesday, February 10, 2009 3:36 PM

When we used ME for our honeymoon (in 2005) it wasn't a problem getting our bags. Then again, we packed a change of clothes in our carry-ons. So, when we got to the hotel, we checked in, changed and went to the MK for a few hours and our big bags were waiting when we got back.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 3:45 PM

I always just make sure we have more than enough money going into it. No worries about budget because I know we won't spend what we have available. We put a credit card on the room and volia! - we're using the room key to pay for everything. The same convenience level as far as I'm concerned.

Checking in, they took our bags right from the car where we pulled up and held them until we called for them. We ended up checking in and going down to Mara to snag the refillable cups and a bite to eat then explore the AKL a little before having them bring the bags up and then heading out to the park.

We loaded our luggage at the resort (into the car, not the lobby) and didn't touch it again thanks to the luggage dudes working the rental car return and a $15 tip. We lifted our bags at AKL and again in Dayton. He even beelined us to the check-in so we didn't have to find it ourselves, tagged it for us and sent it through the scanner...and we did it all on our own terms, including stopping on the way to the airport for lunch.

At the very least this discussion is some interesting insight into the 1001 ways to approach a Disney vacation. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 5:27 PM

I didn't have a terrible experience using Magical Express but I would definitely rent a car next time. Waiting on my bags & buses wasn't worth it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 5:32 PM

Why do you have to wait your for your bags?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 5:57 PM

I think a big difference, Jeff, is that you're traveling as an adult. I had a 2-year old in tow and don't really feel safe taking him on a bus. I'd rather strap a car seat in a rental. Even with older kids, I'd still probably go the car route. It's easier to keep changes of clothes, etc. in the car and be able to go back in case something happens.

I got a rental when I was down there in August. Toyota 4Runner for $225 for 8 days. Gave us flexibility that we wouldn't have otherwise. We could go offsite and buy beer, milk, or for a late-night snack.

Of course, Gonchar only got a rental car so he could pack baloney sandwiches and go back to the car for lunch to save a couple bucks. ;)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 6:29 PM

I love going to sit down meals at WDW. If you read enough, you know where the good ones are, and its really nice to have that hour break. Usually, when I go we eat sometime in the late afternoon (3-5) we are able to do this because we have breakfast in our room every morning (we stay at Key West which has a functioning kitchen) of toast, fruit, cereal, etc. Then we have our snack from the dining plan around noon to tie us over for dinner. Then at night, usually timing it so we eat it while we wait for the night show, we will grab the counter service meal.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 7:07 PM

I still can't believe the guy got a walk-in at Le Cellier.


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