Monday, May 21, 2007

Nemo musical: bye bye Alison, Michael, Vanessa, etc

I hadn't been back to the Nemo musical in months and was in withdrawals. I made it back this weekend to see essentially a whole new cast (thank goodness we caught V. still playing Crush!)

I really miss Alison and Vanessa as Nemo. Apparently, Alison's last day was earlier this week, and she's left Florida. Michael, one of the Bruce actors, quit a few months ago and I didn't even realize it. He'll be missed, too.

Some of the opening-months cast was apparently "on loan" from New York from the beginning, so it's no wonder a few of them have been gone for some time. They had some really great voices, and great timing.

There are still some really strong performers in the Nemo musical, but there are also some new folks who haven't yet gotten the full comedic timing. It'll come. In the meantime, I'm very slightly in mourning for the dazzling show we got in those first few months.

Surveys on tables

At DAK Sunday we saw the usual survey-takers near the turnstiles, including some armed with the customary PDA-type electronic notebook and a stylus. But then we also came across a table set up with some laptop computers, possibly running a locked-down survey program (so you couldn't cruise around the open Internet). We didn't pause to take part, but it looks like they are offering to let folks take surveys by themselves, at their own pace, and without interacting verbally with the CM. Or maybe this was a special survey with a lot more questions?

DDE now tracking drink sales?

At Tusker House yesterday, my Disney Dining Experience (DDE) discount worked a little unusual (first: yes, counter service at DAK gives you a discount, because they don't yet have table service restaurants).

It used to be that the 20% discount was given on one line. But my receipt had two lines. One for DDE Food 20% - and then the amount saved.

The other line said DDE Drink 20% and listed zero as the amount saved.

Mind you, we bought a soda refill and milk, so we did have drinks. I conclude they are now trying to track how much money people are spending (and saving) by buying alcohol with the DDE.

Part of me is worried. Are they looking to curtail benefits? To charge more per year for the card? This bodes ill.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Disney's ballpark = money on the table

John at thedisneyblog recently wrote about the awful lines at the concession stands at Disney's Wide World of Sports.

Well, I was at that same game, and it's worse than he's making it sound. I stood in that line. It was excruciating.

I worked for nine years in a Disney restaurant and know just about everything there is to know about lines. If there's no line, you lose money because passersby don't know there is something worthwhile there, and they just don't stop. And if the line is too long, no one will stand in it.

And if the line is long AND it never moves, you've got a nightmare scenario for customer satisfaction. Not dire enough for you? Then think of this: a quickly-moving line would have meant at least triple the profit for Disney. 300%.

They are leaving money on the table. People were there, they had money, they wanted to buy, but we saw droves simply leave the line.

Stupid, pointless, and asinine. They need to fire someone at Wide World of Sports, pronto. And then work to fix the problem in a permanent fashion. This was one of the worst food experiences I've ever had. Certainly the worst at a Disney establishment.

One more reader email about AbandonedWorld

I don't normally run reader emails in my blog, but I've missed my only chance to recap reader response to AbandonedWorld, and Ruth's email is just so important that I hope Disney reads it anyway:

[begin quote]

I really enjoyed your article on abandoned areas and the reader responses even more. What we have loved about WDW most in the past are 1) the little interesting exhibits and special areas you find tucked away and are delighted to discover, and 2) how absolutely pristine the parks and gardens are. Two years ago we found both wanting. This December, the change was VERY visible. Shut off areas, unclean restrooms, details gone all over the place. It's as if Disney sees their parks as super-themed Great Adventures, with all the emphasis on rides, and nothing more. I don't get it.

My husband and I are middle-aged (58/48). No kids. We typically go to WDW during their slow weeks, book a special room in a deluxe, and dine at the more expensive restaurants. It's a bit of a mental holiday more than anything else, as we can afford to take "real" trips. We never leave the World when we visit. Good customers, right? Little wear 'n tear from us, lots of profit. We looked at each other after our early December visit and decided we don't need to return. We were planning to take our active 75 year old parents with us this year but honestly thought we'd be embarrassed by exposing them to the experience. Now that's sad.

The only thing that would convince us to go back would be a very clear message that Disney was returning to the old standards, or that a Concierge service designed for a true deluxe experience was being offered (I don't need a free box of Cheerios in the a.m. but I do expect turn-down service without having to pick up the phone), or something similar.

Keep up the great writing!


Knott's Berry Farm Lecture

Chris Merritt, a historian of Knott's Berry Farm and the creator of a book on Knott's history that still isn't published, but will set the bar for all such books on any topic (not just Knott's) when it does come out, will be holding a presentation about Knott's on May 21.

The audience is the La Crescenta Historical Society, and this is a multimedia presentation. Not to be missed!

Monday, May 21, at 7pm - free admission, open to anyone.

Were I living in LA, I'd be there in a heartbeat. I'm jealous of all of you who get to go!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Tusker House converting to buffet

In August, DAK's counter service Tusker House will close. When it reopens in November, it will be a character meal buffet.

WHY? fans are screaming everywhere. I'll tell you why: this is yet another curse of the Dining Plan. You see, in late summer 2007, the Yak and Yeti will open up, featuring both CS and TS. Aha, people will exult. finally a sit down restaurant in DAK!!! But their excitement will be short lived. What do you mean, this doesn't accept my Disney Dining Plan (it's run by an outside company). They will be peeved.

Knowing this, Disney World is making plans now to create a TS in DAK that *will* be on the DDP. They looked around and saw they couldn't convert Restaurantosaurus, due to the contract with McDonald's. Flame Tree is outdoor only; that won't do for a buffet and TS. So they decided to chop up Tusker House.

Of course it's a mistake. They should have gone after Pizzafari, another indoor restaurant that has lots of seating. Losing that wouldn't be a crime, since the menu is so bland. But losing Tusker House is a major problem.

Blame the Dining Plan.

PhotoPass in the water parks

I don't frequent the water parks in the winter, even though I live here. So the last time I was at BB or TL was in 2006, and back then, when they snapped your photo in the lazy river, they gave you something waterproof to claim the photo later (I think it was a wristband or something). I don't think the PhotoPass system was part of it then.

Now in 2007, I see something different: a little hard plastic square with the PhotoPass artwork on it, a little like a supermarket discount card meant to attached to your keys. I haven't seen this in the (regular) parks too, but is this now what PhotoPass looks like everywhere, rather than a credit-card sized piece of plastic?

New FastPass tickets debut at Everest

For years, WDW has had flimsy, temporary-looking FastPasses on cheap thermal paper, shaped like a square. Disneyland and other Disney parks worldwide use a rectangle, card stock, more artwork and color on their FPs. This week Expedition Everest moved to the Disneyland-style FP, with Dinosaur to follow.

I suppose this is good. WDW had taken the cheap route with the older passes, so any step is a positive step. I'd rather they just did away with FP in the first place, of course.

Monday, May 07, 2007

No more gratuity on the Disney Dining Plan

A message board poster (and WDW CM) heard from a union rep that Disney will remove the included gratuity on the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) starting in January 2008. Yes, this is hearsay. But it has the ring of truth.

Naturally, Disney won't be reducing the price of the plan.

I predicted this months ago when I chronicled the problems the DDP brings to the parks: smaller and more standardized menus, lackadaisical service, very very crowded restaurants. I knew the company would squeeze more money out of the program; it's one of the things they do "best."

The real future of the DDP is on display at Universal Orlando, where the $24 meal deal gets you all you can eat... but it's all fast food, it's all crappy quality, and there is not one guest around in those eateries who is paying out of pocket.