Rise in Disney theme park expenses causing fan frustration

Posted Monday, March 7, 2022 2:51 PM | Contributed by Jeff

Complaints about the price of a Disney vacation may sound like a tale as old as time. But as masses return to the world’s most popular theme parks following pandemic closures, they are finding fees attached to perks that used to be free. And some of the most frustrated fans are voicing new levels of disenchantment.

Read more from The Washington Post.

Monday, March 7, 2022 3:13 PM
eightdotthree's avatar

“Now we see it as the world is our Epcot,” he said. “Let’s go see real bears that don’t sing and trees that don’t talk.”

They should absolutely do that but if they think Disney is too crowded and too expensive, wait until they try to go to a national park during the travel season... The Springhill Suites my wife and I stayed at on the outskirts of Moab is $523 a night in April (we used points).

Last edited by eightdotthree, Monday, March 7, 2022 3:13 PM
Monday, March 7, 2022 3:58 PM
Jeff's avatar

I almost glossed over this story, but being in a mainstream national paper, it's not the usual fan/blogger entitlement stuff. Two things stand out from this piece:

  • The phone-centric experience is absolutely a bummer. They want you to use it constantly, and it's not a great app. It's a battery hog, the user experience is a mess and I'm surprised at how many people can't figure out the queue upgrade options. Genie is useless and not worth looking at. It directs you to things you don't care about, which contrary to Chapek's comments, is not about a "custom" experience.
  • The elimination of Fastpass turns the entire value proposition on its head. If half of all guests pay for it, then no one is really special. They have also taken away their own lever to manage crowd distribution, because as I said, no one is really doing what Genie suggests. People know what they want to do.

Anecdotally, a single mom friend who is local did not renew her passes this year because of the changes and the high cost, and I get the impression that Disney is probably OK with that. I'm getting the surveys now almost every other visit, so they're definitely measuring things. The phone-for-everything sentiment seems pretty common among the peers in my demographic. I guess time will tell if it really bothers people long-term.

As an aside, I read somewhere (can't find the article) that tourism has lit up in Orlando but the rest of the country is still behind in bringing people back out. I can believe that. I had to go through I-Drive on Saturday night and it was awful. And other than some number of Brits, most internationals haven't really come back in significant numbers.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Monday, March 7, 2022 3:59 PM

I just got back from a week on Singer Island in an oceanfront resort. We were on the back side and facing the mainland, so no view, but easy ocean access. The place we stayed at is fully booked, and we were there on a timeshare exchange, so I can't figure out what the rate would be, but the oceanfront Hilton up the road can be had later this month for about $525/night all-in. That's somewhere between a Disney Moderate and Deluxe for the same time period. The place we were at would probably have been less, but I couldn't tell you how much less.

Instead of buying theme park tickets, you reserve a couple of chairs and umbrellas on the private beach. That's your spot for the week, and that for two people cost us about $225 for the week. Parking was $10/night. Food was less expensive than it is In The Disney Bubble. Plenty of decent-ish restaurants within easy walking distance, and better places within a 15-20 minute drive. No need to set an alarm to make rope drop---in fact we didn't set an alarm once until departure day. Super relaxing. It was still just a little early in the season for perfect beach weather, but we had a great time.

We are headed to WDW next week during what seems to be spring break for a good chunk of the northern hemisphere (FL, TX, and Ontario, plus presumably others). It will be interesting to compare the experiences.

Monday, March 7, 2022 4:03 PM
Jeff's avatar

It will not be ideal. But it's worse mid-April.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Monday, March 7, 2022 4:30 PM

Spring Break is starting early and Ft Lauderdale is a zoo. For as much criticism as I have in reserve for DeSantis, there is no question that his "keep Florida open" strategy is paying off economically. We saw nearly a 45% increase over projected revenue that is derived from state revenue sharing. Florida is doing fine.

I thought about going down to the Keys for a portion of spring break but when I saw what the hotels are charging (and presumably getting) I have reconsidered.

To the story, I too get frustrated by the reliance on the phone but I don't think that genie is going back in the box (no pun intended). We watched Ron's Gone Wrong yesterday. Man...we are heading that way in a hurry. The price point, by the way, doesn't seem to be detering the crowds at all.

Monday, March 7, 2022 4:41 PM

Will there ever be a price point that’s too high for Disney die hards? I doubt it.

Monday, March 7, 2022 4:45 PM
Jeff's avatar

I think we're close to it already, but maybe the point is that the "die hards" aren't really relevant to Disney's fiscal objectives. I don't consider myself a "Disney person," but spend a lot of money with them. My former girlfriend who was down here with her group of six last week spent easily $8k, not counting the VIP tour we shared in. If the "die hard" cohort doesn't overlap with the folks who can "afford" it, that wouldn't surprise me, but it would explain why the response is so emotional.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Monday, March 7, 2022 8:23 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

I always found it interesting that enthusiasts (myself included at times) were not fans of the Pay-to-cut systems at regional parks. You'd think if anyone would be in favor of turning an extra $50 into a few more rides, it'd be the people who spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to be there in the first place. Of course, the other edge of the sword is that at your local regional, when you make your after work stop, everything has a 45 minute line now, but I'd generally take the former in exchange for the latter.

I don't know where the "die hard" cohort falls on the "afford it" scale, but rationality is generally mutually exclusive with die-hard-ness.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

Monday, March 7, 2022 8:45 PM
99er's avatar

Jeff said:

...but the rest of the country is still behind in bringing people back out. I can believe that.

Don't believe it about the rest of the country. I was just in Vegas last week and it appeared to me to be the same Vegas pre-covid. I got in late but even at 1am the line to check in at my hotel was looooong. Like easily 45 minutes long. Everywhere I went had an hour wait to eat whether it was lunch or dinner. The strip was wall to wall with tourists. The three airpots I touched on that trip were also very busy and my flights completely full. So I am not sure what parts of the country are behind but I will find out next month how New York City is doing.

Last edited by 99er, Monday, March 7, 2022 8:46 PM


Monday, March 7, 2022 8:47 PM
TheMillenniumRider's avatar

Depends on the circumstances, if I do a park week and have a day planned for a park with a high ride count I end up with pay to cut to ensure that I have the ability to ride whatever and have rerides if needed. If I do a few days at Cedar Point for example, then I don’t care about a bit of waiting and won’t bother.

Repeat visits also pay a role, if it’s a first time I will generally want the ability to ride whatever. It is my second or more trip then if I miss something I’m more than fine with that.

Last edited by TheMillenniumRider, Monday, March 7, 2022 8:48 PM
Monday, March 7, 2022 9:49 PM

I have yet to pay for a cut-the-line pass at any theme park. However, I am definitely thinking about ponying up for Genie+ for our Disney trip in June. Why? It'll be our last Disney trip for a very long time. The kids are getting older and less interested in the magic. There a lot of other destinations that we want to visit that don't involve the mouse.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022 2:41 PM

I’ve used pay-to-cut but I’m not a fan when the park is so packed and the line skippies are so oversold that you need to drop $250 for FL+ just to have a halfway decent day.

Looking at you, Cedar Point.

But then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, March 8, 2022 9:52 PM

Disney has been in decline over the decade. The new attractions have lost quality and are just IP instead of immersive experiences. They have also shifted to video screens.

While raising prices, adding hidden charges (that hotel room actually costs $15/$20 more than advertised if you drive) and now making fast pass an upcharge.

The fast pass elimination was the final straw, although it had already turned into a more stressful reservation system when it was converted to phones

The high ticket prices were once somewhat justified by the inclusion of fast pass And remember, Past pass was originally designed to make the company money by keeping people out of lines and making purchases. The greedy current mgmt forgot that concept And now we’re just going straight for the wallet

im glad I got to experience it but don’t see myself ever returning as long as it’s managed like this

Last edited by super7*, Tuesday, March 8, 2022 9:55 PM
Tuesday, March 8, 2022 10:04 PM

> The new attractions have lost quality

What are you talking about? Going backwards:

  • Remy
  • Runaway Railway
  • Millennium Falcon/Rise of the Resistance
  • Slinky/Alien Saucers
  • Flight of Passage/Navi River
  • Seven Dwarves
  • Little Mermaid
  • Enchanted Tales

These range from okay (Slinky/Saucers) to really good (Railway/Passage) to blow-your-mind great (Rise). Of the four new lands, three are completely immersive and detailed (Pandora, New Fantasyland, and Galaxy's Edge). Toy Story is an afterthought, but if two out of three ain't bad, three out of four is better---and even TSL looks pretty cool at night.

> Past pass was originally designed to make the company money by keeping people out of lines and making purchases

It was clear that it never did this. People didn't suddenly eat a fourth meal or buy an extra t-shirt they didn't already need; they just got in line for some other attraction. If you go back and look at the financial reports from just before and just after FP was first deployed, there was no great discontinuous change in per-capita revenue. It was strictly a goodwill item---and it generated a LOT of goodwill.

But, you know what's better than goodwill for a for-profit company? Profit. And that's booming right now. The only thing the executives were surprised by was that more people bought the add-ons than they'd expected.

Last edited by Brian Noble, Tuesday, March 8, 2022 10:06 PM
Tuesday, March 8, 2022 10:06 PM
99er's avatar

super7* said:

The new attractions have lost quality and are just IP instead of immersive experiences.

Bruh...have you not been to Galaxy's Edge?

Last edited by 99er, Tuesday, March 8, 2022 10:07 PM


Wednesday, March 9, 2022 9:25 AM
Jeff's avatar

The idea that attraction quality is on the decline is laughable. But by all means, compare Peter Pan to anything on the list Brian posted above.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Wednesday, March 9, 2022 11:19 AM
eightdotthree's avatar

Galaxy's Edge has nothing on DinoLand USA. Other than the OG Magic Kingdom attractions and a few others since, I can't think of anything that has been as immersive as their post-wizarding world additions.

Last edited by eightdotthree, Wednesday, March 9, 2022 11:19 AM
Wednesday, March 9, 2022 12:51 PM
Vater's avatar

super7* said:

The new attractions have lost quality and are just IP instead of immersive experiences.

I can tell the Star Wars stuff is immersive from freaking pictures.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022 12:53 PM
sirloindude's avatar

I do think there can be, at times, some merit to the creative decisions behind certain rides. To use the Peter Pan’s Flight example, no, it may not be of the technological scope of Galaxy’s Edge, but it’s still a signature attraction at its home park.

Regarding quality in general, I think that the sheer scale of some of these new areas and attractions, including the amount of effort that has clearly gone into them, is absolutely impressive, but in several cases, I get kind of an empty feeling on the back end. Smuggler’s Run is my key example. It has a wonderfully impressive queue, and the recreation of the Millennium Falcon’s interior is great, but then you actually go on the ride and…meh. Unless you’re a pilot, it doesn’t strike me as particularly fun (the engineers especially miss out due to having to look off to the sides for much of the “ride”). The excitement is pretty much all in the theme work, and I feel a sort of jarring contrast between the PlayStation game playing out on the screen and the impressive cockpit in which riders sit. Rise Of the Resistance is an exception as I think it did a far better balance, but my only qualm about that ride is that after you ride it the first time, some of the big impacts are negated as the element of surprise is lost. Still an excellent ride, though.

This also isn’t exclusive to Disney. I think the Harry Potter areas at Universal suffer from a lot of similar issues (great lands with screen-based rides), although Hagrid’s is positively spectacular.

I don’t want to chase the rabbit trail too far, but I think that the areas where Disney has hit it absolutely out of the park in recent years are New Fantasyland and Toy Story Land (with special mention for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway). I feel like those lands and attractions come off as the sorts of areas with more universal appeal. Star Wars is very obviously a hit, but I could see how Galaxy’s Edge could be as alienating (no pun intended) as it is appealing.

It’s not that I think that Galaxy’s Edge was a mistake by any means, but rather that I can see where people might interpret places like it and Pandora, among others, more as vanity projects than attractions and lands with substance.

Last edited by sirloindude, Wednesday, March 9, 2022 1:09 PM

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