Monday, September 24, 2007

The Monorail "MAPO" test

Have you ever ridden the express monorail to MK when they had to stop between Contemporary and the park, and try a few maneuvers? When they bring a new train online, they are required to test the automated 'kill engine if get too close to another monorail' system.

While I've long known about the test and its requirement, I only recently learned the name: the MAPO test. My guess is this would refer to the 'manufacture and production' facility of WDI also called MAPO (the name also seems to refer to Mary Poppins the movie, whose profits enabled this facility to be built). If true, do the modern day CMs call it the MAPO test because the WDI guys insist this test be done?

Restaurant and park hours

I got a LOT of emails like this one from Sarah:

At the end of all this we had a huge hotel bill and from staying on site, with the only real perk being the free transport to and from the parks (we had rented a car and ended up driving in to some of the parks and paying for parking, because the bus system was unreliable, crowded, and hot). The Dining we felt was a disaster, we ate off site in Kissimmee more times than I can count because we wanted sit down, reservations were not available in the parks, and stand-by waits were never less than 90 min. anywhere we went (not to mention they were always mobbed by agitated guests). I guess we saved some money doing it that way, but had Disney not been so ridiculously packed with reservations we probably would have eaten at the park sit downs a lot more (I certainly wanted to). It felt like that if we wanted to eat at the parks we had to plan our whole vacation around food, which is silly! We were there for the Disney magic and attractions, Disney food is just a bonus - it shouldn’t feel like a huge hassle. We’re on vacation, we’re trying to have fun and relax!

Will we go back again? Of course, it’s Disney! We’ve even started planning a trip for the indeterminate future. But, we won’t be staying on site next time and we won’t be visiting the Disney parks for a full week. I enjoyed my first trip to WDW, but if Disney wants me as a repeat tourist every year they need to fix the dining program and do something about the hours.

PhotoPass pretty expensive

I'm not shy in my column to point out the virtues of PhotoPass. But John writes in:

I loved the idea when we were at the parks on our honeymoon. But when we got home, we discovered that each individual print was $12.95! We wanted seven prints of the same darn photo and that cost us $90! That's crazy and terrible -- there's no way printing 7 copies of the same photo should cost so much. Next time we go to WDW, we will skip the PhotoPass entirely. It's a great idea and also a complete ripoff, plain and simple.

Make park hopping automatic?

In response to a recent column when I noted any one park at WDW couldn't stand up to DL, Robert M. wrote:

But of course, as your careful "vs. one park" wording belies, WDW is more than one park, it's a full ecosystem and should be treated that way. This, however, reminds me of something I have been mulling for a while: Is it really in WDW's interest to make park hopper tickets a surplus charge? Of all the surplus ticket charges, it seems the easiest to avoid - it does not give access to a new park or protect your investment in case of a change of plans. In other words, it seems the most like a "luxury".

Yet, it seems so very much in Disney's interest to have people park-hop. When they park hop they take themselves out of the ride queues for at least an hour, but likely longer. And they are using facilities which are off the shelf and easier to maintain. They expose themselves to more of the advertising and merchandizing that exists at the entry/exits. They are more likely to try a restaurant they are interested in at another park (compared to finding an interesting restaurant without an admission ticket acting as a cover charge). It load-balances the parks; if one is busy that day, some people can opt to hop to a different park. And then there is also the intangible stuff you like to focus on: feelings of being respected, of being in control, not feeling like they have to pre-plan, etc. And in a world of full-park hopping a per park comparison as you did would seem as odd as a per-land comparison.

I really feel that, if not free, park hopping should be an easy to attain add-on. Free with resort stay; free with online/advance ticket purchase; free as a dreams come true thing; free with EPCOT restaurant reservation; etc.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Transportation Cards at WDW

We rode in the nosecone (operating cab 6) of the monorail last weekend and in addition to the usual Monorail card, we got a new one. This one gave some factoids about the ride and claimed it was part of a series of WDW Transportation Cards - there are 18 in all.

I'm intrigued. So we have to figure out what the 18 forms of transport are? And then we have to figure out how to get the cards? We wouldn't have known about this if we hadn't stepped into the nosecone of the monorail. Do we have to do other tricks like this to get the other cards?

Certainly, the bus is one of them. Maybe the Liberty Belle wheelhouse? Personal water craft? Ferries to Fort Wilderness? Boat to the Swan? How could there be 18 varieties??

Broken seagull

One of the three seagulls outside the Nemo pavilion (sigh, the Seas pavilion) is slightly broken. His lower jaw is permanently open, though it flaps around when he's supposed to be squawking. This is just a note to see how long it takes them to fix it.

Censored Monorail!

As you exit the monorail, the voiceover says: "please take small children by the hand as you disembark".

But twice yesterday, the 'hand' was bleeped out by the 'door-opening-chime' and the result sounded a bit like Jimmy Kimmel's Unnecessary Censorship, if you've seen that late night spoof.

I wouldn't have bothered posting this if it hadn't happend twice in one day! Back to seriousness: Disney should find a way to avoid bleeping out its safety spiel. Even though the result is unintentionally funny.

Monorail Gold joins Lime

Monorail Lime was the first to do away with the rail in the middle of the standing section of each monorail cab; they put four small poles instead to hold on to. This helps a lot when it comes to space for strollers. Monorail Gold now has it too! I hope they hurry with converting the rest. It is so much easier.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

'Rain or Shine' doesn't mean that, always

Alan reports:

My sister’s family was at MK for a Pirates & Princesses Party on one of the rainy nights. I know that it rained until 10:00 PM and that there was a severe thunder shower over the park, but can not tell you what day it was.

They were told to keep there ticket stubs and that they could use them for one free day at the MK. They had one year to do so.

And they still had a great time at the party. They got to ride almost everything they wanted to, the lines were short (or nonexistent), and the kids got enough candy and beeds to entertain them on the drive back to Massachusetts

Monday, September 10, 2007

Wagons, Loops, and EMH

Three unrelated topics today:

1. At the MK on Sunday, I saw a mother pulling a store-bought heavy-plastic wagon, in which was sitting a girl. I had to blink at that one. I thought Disney prohibited pull-from-behind anything. Strollers are "push in front of you". Did the policy change? Did the mother get away with something?

2. Fantasyland last night had area music, as it always does, only this time, it was the Pinocchio Village Haus loop! The land needs a Matterhorn if they're going to play that all the time. I stopped a wandering manager, who agreed with me that it was new, and weird. Maybe it was a mistake?

3. Saw EMH wristband distribution multiple times, and something occurred to me: no one, and I mean no one, looks carefully at those keycards. Could someone cheat the system by using last year's cards? Could a local visitor like me just get ahold of 3 cards for my family and enjoy EMH illicitly forever? I happen to not like EMH (man, is it ever crowded - the MK got more crowded as the EMH hour approached) so I would never do this, but I did wonder about the cheating.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back from radio silence!

Sorry about the extended radio silence. I've been putting the final touches on Draft 1 of the next book (which will be out for Holidays 2007, and will be Disneyland CM themed).

To make up for it, let me pack into a single post several things I've been meaning to say lately:

1. Free dining is back. You can tell because all reservations are full, and most tellingly, the Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station is now again a temporary looking all you can eat dinner buffet. Sigh. I'd say it's time for the rumored restaurant to be built on the site of the old TL skyway building!

2. Recently discovered little devices atop one shop in World Showcase, right near the rose garden. Turns out they are bug clickers, designed to scare away bugs from the rose bushes at the shop. Weird. They are quite audible to human ears.

3. No more milk refills to kid's meals at sit-down restaurants. That's quite sad. Are we pushing soda onto the next generation? I refuse to give in.

4. There's a lot of 'tiny atmosphere' now: they draw hopscotch at the UK pavilion, or a giant 'snakes and ladders' (think chutes and ladders). Many country pavilions are now doing more interactions and games like these. I see games in heavy use at the MK before parades: hula hoop, four square, even jumping rope. The latter makes me cringe each time. What if a Guest face-plants and sues?

5. When walking past the Lego store at DtD, I heard a ringing public telephone, so naturally I looked for it. Joke's on me! The sound emanated from a speaker above their window displays. I surmise they installed this because they know that heads turn, naturally, to the sound of a ringing phone. Those heads will now see the Lego displays. Cute.

6. I'm dismayed by the merchandise decision to make some stores at the parks look like discount stores. Watch for endcaps and counter displays that have a giant, garish '$10' in yellow letters. We don't want Wal-Mart, do we?

7. But one great thing about merch: Epcot is stocking retro designs from the 1980s on a few t-shirts. Alas, they don't seem to carry XL. don't they realize that many of us old enough for those t-shirts now wear larger sizes??

8. Have you ever hung around in the HISTA playground at MGM? (I guess I should start saying DHS). Parents by the dozen perch at the exit and await their kids, who run amok. Fine so far. But the parents are on the ground and in the sun. Is it so hard to build chairs and benches and shade here???

9. There's a ride in almost every park I've never done. At DHS, it's the Animation Academy. At DAK, it's Pocahontas. At MK, it's the Astro Orbiter. At Epcot, ... nothing.