Friday, June 29, 2012

In Case You Needed Another Reason to Fly Through Tampa

...Did you hear the one about the guy who's grandfather's cremated remains were manhandled by TSA agents at Orlando International Airport (MCO)?



As it's been reported all over the place, John Gross was transporting some of his grandfather's remains from Florida to his home in Indianapolis when his carry-on was selected to be physically searched by TSA agents.  The agent found the jar containing the ashes.  One way or another, let us say that the said jar came to be opened by way of manipulation by the agent, spilling the ashes to the ground.  At this point:

Dropping to the floor after the spill, Gross said he reached for all the bigger pieces of remains but there was no way to collect everything without a dustpan and broom.

I am not even going to comment on that.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Some More Data on Ticket Prices

This week on the podcast we discussed Disney's announced increase in ticket prices, and a sample of the reaction to the increase.  In that sample, "Cat" lamented that his brother in-law took his family to Knotts Berry Farm "for half the price of Disney World and they had a much better time."

For the moment, let's leave aside the qualitative judgment of where a "better time" can be had.  The part that really gave me pause was the price.  Is Knotts Berry Farm (or other regional theme parks) really half the price of Disney?

Let's look at three such parks--for completeness sake--from three different parts of the country.  Around the corner from Disneyland in California, there's Knotts Berry Farm.  In the east, we will look at Six Flags Great Adventure (from my own old stomping ground of Central New Jersey).  Finally, I've included Cedar Point near Cleveland, Ohio.  All three are very respectable parks, so they will offer at least close to a reasonable comparison.

A one-day Disney World pass costs $89.00.  Meanwhile, gate admission at Knotts, Cedar Point, and Great Adventure cost $57.99, $51.99, and $61.99, respectively.  So there might be some savings, but NOT "half the price."


...But there's a catch.  Take a look at the nearby chart.  While all of these parks offer a Fast Pass equivalent, none of them give it away for free.  Prices for other parks' Fast Pass vary greatly.  The size of the group, time of year, and level of service (e.g., a real Fast Pass equivalent versus genuine front-of-the-line access) can all affect the price of the service.  The numbers on the chart reflect the cheapest possible "Fast Pass" option.  Suddenly, all the savings has evaporated!  

I am not suggesting that you should avoid these regional parks.  Heck, some of my fondest childhood memories include riding Batman: The Ride with my father after Easter dinners, or challenging my friends to Q-ZAR (think laser tag, but more 1990's).  The point is, theme parks cost a lot to build and maintain (and insure).  If it makes you squeamish to spend a few hundred dollars for a day with your family, there are plenty of other great things to do.  But seriously, stop complaining.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Coronado Springs Junior Suite Photos

On my recent trip to the World, I spent a night at the Coronado Springs for the first time.  I did not know what to expect going in, but I left pleasantly surprised.  Check-in was smooth and the front desk staff were very friendly.  I had noted on my reservation that my wife and I were celebrating our Anniversary, and we were greeted with balloons, a complimentary champagne toast, a card from the Coronado staff and a room upgrade to a Junior Suite.  All in all, you could not ask for better service and a better way to start our trip.

I will spend more time about the resort grounds in my next post, but for now I will simply say that the resort is huge, and as a result very quiet almost all day.  Rooms are in large three or four story buildings and the front door to each room is at an angle.  I presume this is to maximize interior space, but someone much more knowledgeable than me can give you a definite answer.

Now for the Junior Suite Photos:

Seating Area


Sink and "Closet"

Bedroom View from Seating Area

Bedroom Area Desk and Chair

Bedroom from Entrance


Wow!  What a great room.  Some hotels give you a few extra square feet of space you don't really need, charge $30 more per night than a standard room and call it a "suite." Not at Coronado.  In fact, the junior suite is simply two rooms connected together.  The rooms were identical in size, had two entrances (one to the bedroom and one to the living area),  While small, one room was a seating area with T.V, coffee table, table and chairs and (most importantly) one of two full bathrooms.  The other was a traditional moderate bedroom. 

The sofa was a fold out bed.  For those who are not too picky about their sleeping arrangements, the Junior Suite would work well for a family of three with a child/teenager who is used to their own space at home. 

Negatives: A non-suite room would be really small, and if you picture with the above bedroom with two full size beds, it is really short on space for a family of four.  The bathrooms are small and the closet area is right next to the sink and not a closet as much as it is a set of hangers in the middle of the room.  This gives you a little bit of a cheap/Motel 6 experience that really doesn't seem to fit with the overall quality of the room and resort.   

That said, Coronado Springs rooms are well appointed and stick to the resort theme pretty well without being too over the top.

Have any experiences with Coronado Springs? Let us know your thoughts at show@mightymenofmouse.com

Episode 57 -- Walt Disney World Park Tickets Price Increase

A lively discussion about the most recent Walt Disney World park tickets price increase and the media's coverage of it.  The team also has a listener e-mail about going to the World in November.  Dutch also shares some tips in our Disney Tech Corner.  Finally, the boys celebrate their ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY with a unique twist.

Download Episode 57

Friday, June 22, 2012

Kip's Trip Report: Hotel Room Photos

Sorry, I'm a little late in posting these.  But as promised, here are my rooms in the World.

In all honesty, the Dolphin was a beautiful hotel.  I think it loses a little up against the other deluxe hotels that are run by Disney; they just lack a little of that attention to detail that makes Disney so successful.  My advice: if you're looking to book at the Dolphin, book early and go for the King-Balcony room.  These rooms account for only 3% of the Dolphin's inventory, but just look at these pictures.

I apologize for the mess.  Dr. Springfield took a quick nap as soon as we got there.

Balcony #1

Balcony #2 (and it's covered)

Here you can see the two windows.
The view from balcony #2.  It's washed out on the photo, but Spaceship Earth is on the horizon.
Then we moved on to the Yacht Club.  As much as we enjoyed the Dolphin, we were blown away by the Yacht Club.  Russ tells me that we technically had a "garden view," but I saw enough water for my taste!

I want to decorate my house like this.


The view from our balcony.

A tighter shot of our view.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hidden Mickey on Mercury

Courtesy of boingboing.net

Looks like Bob Iger's intergalactic marketing campaign is well underway.  This photo of the surface of Mercury was taken from the NASA Mercury probe.

Tip of the mouse ears to listener Drew from Needham, MA for the link.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

4th of July Fireworks at Disney World



In an upcoming episode of the MMOM podcast, we will be doing a tribute to America to celebrate the 4th of July.  The week of July 4th is one of the busiest all year at the World (10 out of 10 according to Touring Plans). 

We have spent a significant amount on our thoughts on the best way to manage crowds and waiting, but sometimes you can't be at park for rope drop. When that happens, and the crowds are as big as they are, getting on some attractions can be an ordeal.

Here are the maximum Touring Plan level 10 waits at a select attraction at each park:

Space Mountain: 80+ minutes
Soarin: 110+
Everest: 55+
Toy Story Mania: 110+ (I have to say in my experience this is conservative)

Anyway, Disney is able to make up for the increased crowds and the decreased number of attractions  you get to experience by putting on a number of parades and shows that are way above and beyond the standard "scope" of an average day in the pars.

And the fireworks...not to be missed. Disney goes all out for the major holidays and really makes a crowded day in the park worth the added stress. To point, I, despite being a crotchity pain in the ass almost all the time, could NOT express how inspiring the special fireworks show at Disney during holiday season was. All I could say was "Wow."

For anyone who is going to be in the World during this time, WDW Magic has a nice summary of all the nightime entertainment and fireworks.







Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Episode 56 -- Right Here Waiting

Kip's idea of conservation.  Picture and caption from superpoop.com
This week the Team discusses the psychology of waiting in line.  In a discussion lead by Russ, topics include xPass, what Walt Disney World does right, and ways to improve difficult waiting situations.  Kip also shares information on the Swan and Dolpin's "Be Green and Save Green" program.  Finally, Cali v. Boma in the RCS.


Download Episode 56

Friday, June 15, 2012

Restaurant NIT: le Cellier vs. Olive Garden

If you've listened to our last couple of shows, you know that I did not have the most positive experience at le Cellier.  This was really too bad, because le Cellier may have been my most anticipated meal while in the World.  The fact that le Cellier is so loved, and I was so displeased, made me want to justify my opinion.  Then, I remembered how we do things at MMOM: with lots of bravado and competition.

Might Men of Mouse: If it's not a sports analogy, we want nothing to do with it.
So I decided to express my opinion in terms of how le Cellier stacks up against that venerable Italian eatery: The Olive Garden.  On Wednesday, I ate at Olive Garden for the first time in about four years.  I stayed away because the idea of mass-produced Italian food kinda offends me.  But a confluence of factors, including a gift card I found behind my couch, forced my hand.  Here is my analysis.

Atmosphere: Tie

Le Cellier is nestled in the cave-like underbelly of the facade of French-Canadian-looking castle.  The Olive Garden at which I dined is next to the old Circuit City at Patriot Place in Foxborough, Massachusetts.  Point: le Cellier.  As for the view, Olive Garden offered us a table by the window with a lovely view of our car and the Bass Pro Shops on the other side of the parking lot.  Le Cellier had no view because it is a basement (or, a "le cellier," in French).  Ok, that one's kind of a tie.

The general ambiance, however, is where the Olive Garden stands above.  Where le Cellier was infested with noisy children literally climbing the walls and playing their Game Boys, Olive Garden was relatively quiet and relaxed.  Even le Cellier's adult patrons took from the experience.  On one side of us, we had a family who wouldn't stop whining loudly about what the dining plan did and did not pay for, then wanted to pay for the balance in seashells or something.  On the other side, we sat quite close to a lady who was wearing a generous amount of lemon-scented bug spray (or bug spray-scented Lemon Pledge, we're not sure which).  This made Dr. Springfield nauseated.

Food: le Cellier

Dr. Springfield will disagree, but I give the edge to le Cellier.  The cheese soup and pretzel bread were excellent.  Where most cheese soups I've had are basically mouth-scalding cauldrons of runny cheddar, the soup at le Cellier had a depth and spiciness I really appreciated.  However, Dr. Springfield did not enjoy it so much.  I was disappointed that le Cellier does not offer a porterhouse, so I opted for the bone-in ribeye.  The steak was perfect. 

The downside here is that there are few good alternatives to steak.  "But Kip," you may ask, "why go to a steak house if you don't want steak?  Are you unamerican??"  Well, anonymous reader I just made up, you go when you have to make your reservations 6 months in advance.  Also, stop interrupting.  Dr. Springfield ordered the lobster mac and cheese side dish as an entree, and we split the creamed spinach.  The spinach was good, but the mac and cheese was a bit too greasy.

The Olive Garden did beat expectations.  I had their current special of grilled sausage tossed with sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli and orecchiette pasta in garlic butter sauce.  Excellent and unexpected.  The side dish of "bruschetta alfredo" was a disappointment--as it was just half-cooked toasted with alfredo sauce on it.  Dr. Springfield's lasagna looked fine.

Service: Olive Garden

Our waitress at the Olive Garden was considerably more knowledgeable and friendly.  She actually knew the menu, and could make suggests based on our tastes (e.g., the peach-raspberry iced tea was a nice touch).  By comparison, our le Cellier waitress was rather curt--I felt like I was imposing just being there.  Also, her suggestions were useless (because, amazingly, when I think "French-Canadian steakhouse," I do not automatically think "diver scallops").  Both meals took 45 minutes, but I felt quite rushed at le Cellier.  Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but when I'm paying $40+ for a steak, I want to sit and savour. 

Value: Olive Garden

Note: value does NOT equal "which is cheapest."   But consider this:
Total price of meal at le Cellier: $128.51. 
Total price of meal at Olive Garden: $18.00

That is 7.14x more expensive!  I cannot say that they offered 7.14 times more quality.

WINNER: Olive Garden

When asked the question, "which country do you like least, Italy or France?"  does anyone ever say Italy?

Splitsville in Downtown Disney



Concept Art
For some time, we have known that Splitsville, a high end bowling alley, will be coming to Downtown Disney.  Progress continues slowly, and still appears to be on course for completion later this year. A good timeline to date can be found here

The 50,000 square foot establishment replaces the surprisingly popular Virgin Megastore.  Splitsville is promising not only bowling, but billiards, dining, and music/dancing. 

Let's face it, since the closing of Pleasure Island, nighttime at downtown Disney has comprised of eating at mediocre restaurants, overpriced shopping, the hate-it-or-love-it Cirque de Soleil,  and the awfully awful Disney Quest. 

I, for one, am really excited to see Splitsville.  I like to bowl and play pool, so if prices aren't completely ridiculous, I could certainly see spending some time there after the parks close.  What worries me about Splitsville is that it could wind up being a miserable experience because there is NOTHING else to do late at night other than what I mentioned above.  I picture something like Dave and Buster's in a small city where there are literally no other options.  It attracts kids (games), adults (alcohol) and families (one stop for an evening of entertainment).  Couple that with the fact that I am certain Disney will provide a coupon for a free game or two in the Magic Your Way package and you may have to reserve your bowling experience like you reserve everything else at Disney just to manage crowds.

I have always liked about bowling because you can just decide to do on a whim.  If its not "league night" they can probably squeeze you in on a lane and you'll have a decent time.  Looking at the Splitsville website, they already allow for reservations for their other locations, so I would imagine Orlando will be no different.

Put another nail in the coffin for spontaneity at Disney World.  Still, it is tough to pass up new entertainment options, so I will probably fall in line and love it...

What do you think about Splitsville coming to WDW? Let us know in the comments below, or E-mail show@mightymenofmouse.com and you could be E-mail of the week!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Response to Walt Disney World Ticket Increases

One of the hot button topics raging through cyberspace and my feed on Facebook is the recent ticket price increase.  We'll be discussing the topic in an upcoming episode.  Prior to the news, our next episode tangentially discusses the topic under the umbrella of guest satisfaction.  Specifically, Kip and I riff on the off base expectations of uninformed consumers.  In the episode, I reference an article from Consumerist where I was amused by commentators reaction to price increases in Anaheim.  Here's a good example from someone named "Cat":

If only I could convince the wife and kids that Disney is a ripoff and bad value. Mrs. Cat insists that we HAVE to go, because it's Disney - and EVERYONE should go to Disney World at least once in their life, right??
My BIL took his daughter to Knotts Berry Farm for half the price of Disney World and they had a much better time. Most importantly, Disney is 2x the price to stand in line 2x as long. Oh, and did I mention that my son isn't even 2, Mrs. Cat won't go on any rides that are too scary, and neither will my youngest daughter. She even freaked out on the merry-go-round at the zoo last year!
So, yea, lets blow $ thousands that we don't have to stand in line all day, and get our pictures taken with a mouse.
 There are a lot of things that are off-base here which we have covered in-depth.  It is helpful to keep in mind that there is life outside the fanboy bubble and that some consumers can be incredibly ill-informed.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Episode 55 -- Kip Does Disney World and Thank You for Your Courtesy

This week we finish up Kip's trip report.  Topics include thoughts on hotels, Gary Sinese and rude guests.  The show devolves into a discussion of resort courtesy.  Here at Mighty Men of Mouse, we always know what we want.

 Download Episode 55

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hoop De Doo Review Show Times aka Russ May Be Wrong



It may be time to call myself out a little bit.  For fans of our podcast, you already know I have never really hid my distaste for the Hoop De Doo Review dinner show at Fort Wilderness.   To me, the entertainment was OK, but could never make up for the poor quality of the food.  Your hard earned Disney dining dollars were always better spent elsewhere. 

But...according to WDW Magic, people still really like the show; to the point that Disney is tinkering with show times to please the masses.  On first glance, there may not be much of a take away from the announcement, because they did not add any show times and really just amended the show times slightly so the latest show didn't start at 9 PM or later.  However, the first show each day will be starting at 4 PM!  Disney is convinced that a dinner show will fill up, every night, starting at 4 PM.  I am obviously in the vast minority in my opinions on this place.  I had assumed that Hoop De Doo was playing to half full restaurants at the early show, but if it is getting pushed even earlier based on guest response, it must be a hit.

You can check out the prices here.  Still quite the investment, but you obviously can't argue with the popularity. 



Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Big Top Tent at Dumbo The Flying Elephant


Holy Crap!  This looks amazing.  Maybe it's the music, but I love this.  Here are some things I hope for:

1.)  A spot to buy beverages and snacks.
2.)  Seating.
3.)  Readily available hand sanitizer.

In all seriousness, this a major leap forward from the honey wall at Pooh.  I also love the American Gladiators style rope climb.

A Tribute to Snow White's Scary Adventure



Snow White's Scary Adventure ran for the last time on May 31st to make way for further Fantasy Land expansion.  The dark ride was  fairly mundanethat and never quite live up to the likes of Peter Pan or Winnie the Pooh (both also in Fantasy Land). Still, it is another Disney Classic that is no more, so take a few minutes and enjoy a ride-through video. 

Obviously, there are high hopes that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster will act as a more than suitable replacement in 2014.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Episode 54

Darth Vader Cupcake
Kip is back and ready to talk about dining.  Returning after a 14-year layoff, Kip lets the team know how much he loved the food.  The RCS also rolls with Le Cellier going against the Yachtsman Steakhouse.

Download Episode 54

Star Wars Weekend in review

Unbeknownst to me, the weekend we had scheduled to be in the World also happened to be a Star Wars Weekend.  For those who don't know, Star Wars Weekends are weekends in the spring when Hollywood Studios takes on a heavy Star Wars theme.  There are Star Wars characters around the park for photos and autographs, there are special meet-and-greets, different shows, and the like.

Before going down, I was told that Star Wars Weekends are a time to avoid DHS.  I am glad I didn't listen!  Yes, it was very crowded, and yes, I didn't get on everything I wanted.  But on the other hand, there were some amazing sights to see.  What follows is a pictorial of our day.

Storm troopers provided security at rope drop.
You're never sure who you might meet around the park.
Even the usual characters got into the spirit!
Behind Rock n' Roller Coaster they erected a big store call "Darth's Mall." (hehe)  In addition to the usual Star Wars swag, they had a auction of some high art, including the painting above.
Waiting in line for a photo with Luke and the droids.  Unfortunately, R2 and C-3PO wouldn't stay out to get a picture with us...
...Though, 3PO came over to us and wished us a happy anniversary.  Here's the quick picture we snapped before he had to go in for his "oil bath."
A scene from the "Hyperspace Hoopla" show.  Now I can check "watch Darth Vader shimmy to Rock Party Anthem" off my bucket list.

Friday, June 1, 2012

2011 Theme Park Attendance Report and Data



We love data at MMOM, and the Global Attractions Attendance Report gives us a lot of it. 

At first glance here are a few things that stick out:

1. Globally, Disney Parks account for the top 8 in attendance, and the top five in North America. 
2.  Park growth at Disney has been anemic.  The four WDW parks grew at about 1.0%.
3.  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter can only be deemed a great success thus far w/ Islands of Adventure growing a staggering 29% in 2011.


There is a lot to pour through here and we will probably get a few posts out of some of the data, but give it a quick look.  Interesting stuff.




Angry Disney Employee Fail or Win? - Carousel of Progress

"
ONCE AGAIN, EVERYONE PLEASE SIT DOWN!"  I can't stop watching this video.  Who would actually stay for this?