Skecher Buy Golly Wow

Before we do this, I should warn you that this one may be longer than anything you’ve been used to.

Look at that. Even the innuendo engine is getting a warm up as we near take off.

Seriously though, this one goes on a bit and if you’ve ever (always) read these posts, marvelling at how sad I am that I spend so much time and effort over planning stuff, then this one may not be for you. This, dear reader, goes to a whole new level.

By the way, at Louise’s request I have added a few links to Disney terms in this post for folks reading this that are not au fait with da lingo.

Firstly, the important stuff.

Ryan is home and he will ride again. The lady did a great job on him and he is literally as good as new. You can all now rest easy.

Shit got real this week. It’s probably about time that I started blogging about my upcoming holiday don’t you think? You all must be dying to hear some of the detail by now.

Image result for kevin spacey side eye gif

Tuesday saw the start of our FastPass+ journey, and it wasn’t good. It would be very sad if I had booked a meeting room at work to retire to just before 12pm so that I could concentrate fully on the task at hand. Yep, it would. These things are too important to be interrupted by a phone call or work based emergency.

On the off-chance that Disney would open up the date I was waiting on earlier than expected, I sat refreshing the site for a while, before finally seeing the new date appear at exactly 12pm.

Image result for refresh gif

Bloody sticklers. Here we go, I thought, I’ll just quickly nab three passes and be on my way.

I am sorry to say that the site on which FastPasses are booked is not, or certainly was not on this day, fit for purpose. It was continually crashing, often so tantalisingly close to the end of the process that I almost cancelled the whole holiday. OK, maybe not, but it was bobbins.

After about ten minutes of frustrating red-faced repetition there was still no sign of success. Ooh, more innuendo…..once it is unleashed there is nothing to stop it…..ahh, now I am in an endless innuendo loop.

After a further twenty minutes I finally had one in the bag for Haunted Mansion, at 10:05. As pages loaded and then vanished, all I was seeing was the list of available attractions shrinking as my blood pressure and frustration grew. The whimsical error pages that Disney use when things go wrong were very quickly losing their appeal.

It was almost forty minutes after 12 that the site seemed to settle down and I was able to finish the job. I bagged Big Thunder Mountain at 12:25 and then, with Freddie in mind, Dumbo at 2:20. I totally understand why this could be an alien concept to normal holiday makers, but all these bookings fell nicely into place, not by accident I should say, with our plans for the day. Yes, I have planned to this very sad level of detail, mainly because I can. Knowing the park layouts so well, and how the day generally goes, my thinking is this.

We should be there before the park opens, and after a wander around the shops on Main Street and an inevitable Starbucks, position ourselves near Casey’s for rope drop. We shall saunter, nonchalantly left, using the stroller as a weapon of mass destruction across the bridge into Adventureland for Freddie’s first ever ride in a Disney theme park, on Pirates. With that being  pretty much a walk on, he said confidently, we shall then continue our journey to Splash Mountain, where the standby wait should still be tolerable and we can hopefully get that under the belt too. Of course, Freddie will have to sit this one out.

That should then allow us to wander down to Haunted Mansion for 10am ish to use our first FastPass. By then we’re at 10.30 and if previous first days are any form of precedent then we’ll need lunch, which I haven’t planned. I’m not a monster!

We shall probably eat, drink and see what we get on in Fantasyland, such as Philharmagic, the Carousel, and It’s A Small World should wait times be bearable.

Then our Big Thunder FastPass kicks in so we can walk back up there for that before amusing ourselves until the 2pm parade. The previous travel day and time difference will be kicking in by now and we’ll hopefully just manage our Dumbo FastPass before heading for the exit.

We have a 5pm Whispering Canyon ADR, so we’ll have to make a call at this point whether we try to get back to the villa for a shower and change or, if time is short, we do something like head over to the Contemporary for a drink in the Outer Rim bar. It has been declared that this place serves the best Long Island Ice Teas on the planet and this may be the only time we have this trip to get to sample one, apart from the mug who is driving.

I know this level of detail may sound nuts, but with a lot of expensively acquired experience and knowledge it’s possible and for me totally sensible. Hopefully it makes the day smoother, less stressful and more rewarding for all concerned. As long as time is allowed within this mental level of over planning for the metaphorical smelling of roses, photos in front of the castle and other good stuff all should be well.

The following day saw similar levels of thought and….

Image result for i'm not even sorry gif

We’ll be at Epcot, but not until the late afternoon/evening. Again, experience tells me that we suffer on day two. The jet lag, journey and adrenaline of day one can make another full day in a park a bit of a strain. So we’ll be at the villa for most of the day, celebrating my birthday a bit until our Beaches & Cream ADR at 3:50. I could only get four of us in for that so if the others can’t get a walk in we’ll eat elsewhere. So we expect to be in the park from around 5:30. When trying to slot some late in the day FastPasses in, thought was needed. The last thing you want to be doing is crisscrossing the park, so a route is needed.

With this in mind I secured The Seas with Nemo & Friends at 5:45. We can enter via International Gateway, wander down to Canada and watch Martin Short before I cry at the song. We will then make our way down to Nemo. We can then take our time to get back up to World Showcase, no doubt via Mousegear, to start the traditional tour of the World Showcase pavilions for my birthday. Of course, that allows us to do Frozen and a FastPass is sorted for 7:30. With ROE not until 10pm that day, that should give us enough time to wander most of the showcase before ending up in “our spot” on the bridge near France to watch the fireworks. We did have a spare FastPass slot left but there’s no point in cramming one in just for the sake of it. We probably wouldn’t get time to use it and that just means some other folks who would might miss out.

The next day we could book for this week oddly would see us in Epcot again (don’t question my planning!). Yes, don’t, as I honestly can’t remember why.

Anyway, this is a full-ish day in Epcot allowing for a later start due to the late ROE the night before. So again, thinking of a sensible route between FastPasses, we start with Spaceship Earth at 11:50 followed by (I am chuffed to say) Soarin’ at 12:25. That is always the prize FastPass for us, despite Louise’s trepidation and fear of “flying”.

In a blaze of glory we then move on to Mission Space at 2:35, timed perfectly just before we eat at Via Napoli at 3:40, saving us revisiting our food somewhere on the way to Mars. Whether we will be able to get on Test Track via standby or single rider, we shall see. One cannot be too greedy of course.

Yesterday we were able to book for the 3rd of September and that is Hollywood Studios and Labor Day too. I had to drop Emily off at the train station just before 12 as she was heading to London to watch Heathers. This meant that I was in central Manchester at 12, reliant on 4G and a following wind to secure what could be a tricky set of Fastpasses as, with Toy Story Land open, this would likely be the busiest park of our trip.

It was effortless. Aside from Slinky Dog being immediately unavailable a few seconds after 12pm, I easily secured Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania and Rock n Rollercoaster. I was pretty pleased with that. With that first one running until 10.35 we may be able to endure a bit of a queue to get onto Slinky if we are at the park for opening. We’ll see.

With FastPasses done for as far as I can do them, thoughts then moved on to other pressing matters. Yesterday was also new trainers day. They have to be bought a few weeks prior to departure so that they can be worn in nicely. After last year’s change from the traditional all white affairs, I must admit that I am now sold on a Skecher and wanted another pair of those. Usually, I buy everything online, but trainers, for a WDW trip have to be tried on in person. I cannot over emphasise the importance of comfortable footwear and no chances can be taken.

With that in mind, after dropping Emily off I headed for some actual shops. I ended up in Bolton town centre and despite living here all my life, I did not recognise the place. A few fruitless shop visits later and I was relying on google to find somewhere that actually stocked Skechers. My last resort was Debenhams and they had at least three pairs to choose from.

It was like a scene from Are You Being Served with an actual person attending to me, getting the right size from the back and at some point almost trying to apply some sales techniques to close the sale.

I walked away with a pair of comfy loveliness just in time to get back to my car before my 80p of parking ran out.

 

With that daring show of leg, I’m done, as I suspect are you.

Till the next time….

Book Cover

My Technical Romance

Being right all of the time can be a bit of a burden. It has taken Louise a number of years to get used to that fact and be able to live her life ignoring it. Last week, once again, a prediction I made came true.

I found five minutes mid-week to look at the legendarily (at least for me) painful task of linking our shiny new theme park tickets to our My Disney Experience accounts. Our first FastPass+ date is the 31st of July, so, yes I know I was cutting it fine…..

Image result for eyeroll gif

Once I had been through the process I tried to go through a dummy FastPass+ booking. These holidays don’t just happen, and nothing should be left to chance. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

I encountered an error. I was, quite frankly shocked. Shocked that there was only one error as in previous years, such an attempt had brought down the internet across the whole continent of Europe. It told me that Emily and Rebecca did not have valid tickets/park admission, despite the fact that I could see the tickets I had just added showing against each of their profiles. Sigh.

I tried clicking random shit on both the app and website hoping that this tried and trusted troubleshooting method would pay dividends but it did not. I resolved that I had no choice but to phone my friends at Disney. I was delighted to discover a UK free phone number, and yet more delighted to learn that this still connected to the treacle voiced cast members in the US, preceded by the best hold music on the planet. Once I had navigated a few IVR menus, and actually spoken to a human, I was told I was being put through to the My Disney Experience folks.

Jolly good. This should all be sorted in a matter of moments then. After a few moments on hold, a cheery automated message told me that due to higher than normal call volumes the current wait time was more than……two hours.

Image result for disappointment gif

I didn’t understand how the call volumes could be higher than normal if my experience of trying to link this stuff together was anything to go by. Surely every potential Disney guest has to resort to phoning them up?

As much as I was enjoying the hold music, which I think was Fantasmic, at that point, I did not feel Fantasmic about holding for two hours, so I hung up and sent them an email instead.

Fast forward two days, and with no response, and my obsessive, over planning itch glowing like a radioactive zit, I could wait no longer, and I phoned them again. This time the wait time was likely to be longer than…..fifteen minutes. Happy days.

I connected with Eliza, to whom I explained my issue, using my best “I am talking to an American so I have to be Hugh Grant” accent and she assured me this would be resolved sooner than immediately. It wasn’t.

Apparently although the cards had been linked to Emily and Rebecca’s profiles, the tickets elements had not. I’m not sure what that even means, but she seemed confident and put me on hold whilst she contacted the folks with access to the relevant buttons to make that so. A few minutes later she returned, apologising that those colleagues were not available, but she would be sure to send that request to them for them to action.

I asked if they would email me when this was done and she promised that would be the case. She asked if we were trying to make FastPass+ reservations today and I sheepishly had to explain that, no, I am an over planning nightmare with almost two weeks until I could actually do that. “OK” she said, with a tone loaded with judgement and resignation, as I was probably the twenty third person that morning to say the same thing.

It was at least forty minutes later that this appeared in my Inbox from Malcolm.

Dear Craig,

We are pleased to learn that you are planning to visit Walt Disney World® Resort!

We are happy to inform you that we were able to correct the challenges that occurred, and hope that you do not experience any other situations before or during your Magical stay with us! When you have a moment, please log on to your MyDisneyExperience account and verify that everything looks correct.

If you have any other questions or challenges, please do not hesitate to contact us by replying to this email or by calling us at 407-939-7765 and we will be more than happy to assist you further.

I love Malcolm.

Now, I haven’t even attempted to link any of those tickets to an actual Magic Band yet. Most of our party seem intent on buying new Magic Bands at ludicrous, unnecessary expense whereas I, sensibly, am more than happy to dig out my grey one from last time and use that, if of course, by any miracle I can figure out how to link my new ticket to it. The $25 saved will be a crucial element of our multi-thousand pound holiday budget. What odds I’ll be buying a new one with everyone else and having the shop link it for me? If only I worked in IT and knew about this sort of thing. I have Malcolm’s details now though and I’ll be making him regret that the minute I encounter further issues.

I love Malcolm.

Till the next time…..


SeaWorld Orlando - Save Over 35% on Tickets!

Party Of Seven

Party Of Seven

I shall start with what the kids these days call a shout out! It is a double one in fact as today is not only Mother’s Day, but also my Mum’s birthday, and a significant one too. Happy Birthday Mum and Happy Mother’s Day to you and all the other Mum’s in my life, Louise, Mary (Mother in law) and Rebecca. You are all awesome and I’ll be seeing you all later to state this in person.

It’s been a busy week of organising what we’ll be eating in 180 days time. This is completely normal. I don’t know what we’re having for tea tonight, but I do know our dining arrangements for late August/early September.

Last week’s post brought news of our first ADR at Whispering Canyon. So far that successful streak has broadly continued despite some hurdles along the way. My spider senses were spot on with my concerns over trying to book Beaches & Cream for a party of seven. My first few searches resulted in a quack quack oops (ah, DLT, may God have mercy etc) and this was disturbing as I really want the Kitchen Sink experience for the newbies in our group.

By reducing our party size I did begin to see some options appearing and eventually booked a table for three at 3.50. Once that was secured, I went to edit it and tried to up the party size to seven. It was having none of it, but it did let me increase it to four. In an act of desperation I fell on my sword and had to make *that* phone call to Disney. Now, I haven’t phoned for an ADR in years so can someone please explain how I remembered the phone number, international codes and all? I spoke with an actual cast member, put on my best Hugh Grant accent and asked for a table for three around the same time. The cast member was lovely, but had nothing. Ah well, at least I had exhausted all options.

So the plan is for four of our party of seven to go and do that and Louise and I, with either Freddie or Mikey to walk up to The Fountain at The Dolphin for a similar soda shop experience, if of course we can’t secure a walk up around that time.

The next day was relatively straight forward in comparison as we were not trying to fit a party of seven into a restaurant the size of our front room. Via Napoli, Emily’s choice, was our aim and albeit a little earlier than we had originally planned we snagged a table for seven at 3.40. I’m fairly happy with that time as by the time we finish, it won’t be long until dusk, when Epcot’s World Showcase transforms from one of my favourite places in the world to one of my favourite places in the world with twinkly lights and fire torches.

Having stated on several occasions that “we don’t need many ADRs” the next day was our first ADR free day so there was no booking to be done. For those who care, it is a day filled with Toothsome for lunch and Applebees for tea (dinner). I see no issue with that, and that may indeed be a problem.

We are now up to the 3rd of September and the plan says it contains one of the few full theme park days. We will be Hollywood Studios and there had been a request from Louise to dine at the Hollywood Brown Derby. With food, as with her men, her taste is for the classy. Now, I had done a little research into the Fantasmic Dinner Package. Despite several years in the noughties where we booked this thing at vast expense only for Fantasmic to be rained off, I am a glutton for punishment and wanted to book that again. Not having to sit on those bleachers for an hour with a numb bum and a bored ten month old appealed to me.

I don’t know why, but currently there are no dates beyond August for booking this package. Whilst this raises a small concern about Fantasmic being down (surely not), for now I have booked us an ADR at The Brown Derby and I’ll keep an eye on things and swap that to the package as and when it becomes available.

Onwards to the next day which again is a non ADR day with just some light bites at Keke for breakfast and Cowfish for tea. I may have a problem. I admit that.

The following day is another of those full theme park days at Animal Kingdom. This always has to include Yak & Yeti or Louise won’t let us go to Florida again. When trying to book this one we came up against the party of seven issue again. Not one option for that party size at all, so we had to search for a party of four. Having plenty of options for that and having booked for 6.30, another search for a party of three returned nothing, with a link to view my existing plans. This suggested to me that the web site knew I had a booking already and for that reason wasn’t letting me book another. We got a bit sneaky at this point, and we used Emily’s My Disney Experience account to search. Sure enough, she was presented with plenty of options and booked for three at 6.15. This seems a lot of faff for larger parties but as all Disney’s top executives read this every week, it’ll soon get sorted I’m sure. If for no other reason that as two seperate prties they can’t automatically add the 18% gratuity for parties larger than six.

Yesterday, I was looking at our plans for the 6th of September, when we plan to do the Not So Scary party. The plan says Olive Garden, but I had a tentative option of trying to get us into Be Our Guest. I was quite amazed to see an option for a party of seven and in a blur of excitement I booked it. It was only when the dust had settled that I realised it was Quick Service lunch at 2.30. With a second look, there are no times being offered beyond 2.30. Usually you can search for any time and just get no results, but there are no later times shown as a search option, so I’m guessing that’s because of the early closing of the park for the party.

Anyway, I cancelled that Be Our Guest reservation as we’ve done lunch there before and it doesn’t compare to the dinner experience so I’ll see if we can get that booking on another day.

So that’s been my week. I’ve somehow managed to fit in a really busy week at work and a gig this weekend too. I am impressed if nobody else is!

We are pretty much done now for ADRs beyond that vague intent to try and get into BOG at some point and Edison. However, if we get BOG, we may have to sacrifice Edison to fit that in. NASA have less complicated plans for space exploration.

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted after all that.

Till the next time….

Appy Eater

Unlike last week’s pity fest, this post will be a moan free zone….probably.

That is more a case of my restraint from inflicting more of it on you, than there being nothing to moan about, but still, that’s progress on last week, yes?

Our holiday officially started yesterday. Sure, there were still 180 days before we stepped onto the plane but that doesn’t matter. I booted up the My Disney Experience app, updated our touring party and got on with sorting out our first ADR.

It’s not that I expected to have too much trouble getting that first one in the bag but it is still nice to get the first part of the puzzle in place. The hardest part of this ADR for our first day was predicting our energy levels at that time of day and knowing what time to make the reservation for. After the first day awakening sometime after 2am, I am slightly concerned that we may be asleep by 5pm Orlando time, but I think first day adrenaline will see us through.

I don’t expect us to have gone the whole day in Magic Kingdom and then go straight over to Wilderness Lodge, but hey, if we do then that’s a bonus, but in reality I would imagine we will head back to the villa mid-afternoon for resting and showers before driving to Whispering Canyon.

If anyone is feeling a little drowsy then the servers will soon see to that!

I’ve just tried to get our next ADR, for the following day, which will be my birthday. The Disney app is not awake yet and is giving me errors when I try. I am a little concerned about this one as we need a booking for a party of seven at Beaches & Cream. Knowing the layout of that establishment pretty well, that may not be physically possible. Hopefully they will let us book as a seven and then split us between two tables when we are seated.

We have been seated at the counter previously with a party of six, which was OK but I’d prefer a couple of booths/tables. This level of knowledge and preparation for some ice cream could be seen as over the top. You and I know better don’t we?

The time we want may help, as I’m hoping to get us in around 2pm, when hopefully the lunch rush is coming to an end, and once we have ingested a week’s calories, we shall be off for my usual birthday tour of the World Showcase with the day ending with ROE. That is of course unless Disney have replaced it by then. Rumours have surfaced this week that that this is likely and it may not be too far away. Now, as much as I would rather this didn’t happen, I always trust Disney to get the replacement right, but I would rather it happened after I had one last time to watch and appreciate it in a torrent of tears and snot.

It has been a weird juxtaposition this week. With the weather here, walking the dogs has been an absolutely painful experience. I do not handle the cold well, it is obvious that I should be living in Florida’s glorious climate. At times, as the dogs played in the snow, the biting wind was coming close to having things fall off my body, some of them I still use. Literally at the same time I was on my phone, looking longingly at ludicrous wait times for rides and watching a few Tim Tracker videos on the telly (well, I was working from home due to the snow!). Hang on, this is bordering on a moan, let’s move on.

Last night, Louise was out on a do with work, so I took the opportunity to take a beautiful twenty two year old to the cinema. Emily and I watched Game Night and it was very good. I don’t think it’ll be winning any Oscars, but it was really good fun and an enjoyable watch.

In other news, tonight we have a very welcome guest. Rebecca and Tom are off out, and we are looking after this chap.

He is even sleeping over, so we are very excited. However, if he wakes during the night, I shall be less so. Freddie has started on a few spoonfuls of baby rice this week. He is developing so quickly it is scary. Mind you, he does have to get ready for a Doughnut Burger in September so it’s for the best!

On the subject of Freddie beginning his journey with food, this was being discussed this week in our family Facebook chat group. I have to say I was quite pleased with my GIF skills, so in a rare show of self congratulation I shall end this week’s post with this…

Till the next time…..

FastPass Fiesta

FastPass Fiesta

Before we begin, sometimes I share with you some of the great search terms folks get to my blog with via a search engine. Usually it is some mis-spelling of mkingdon, or other random phrases that I’ve blogged about in the past. Well, this new one beats them all and if I have achieved nothing else in my blogging “career” (and I haven’t) this shall be my pinnacle. The search term was…

Dwarf sex blogger

I am proud to know somebody came to my blog after searching for that. God bless you.

This week was FastPass+ week. Since the last time we booked any I’m delighted that the time they open up has changed from midnight Orlando time as it means you don’t have to be online at 5am. Instead, it’s a civilised midday start. As many of you reassured me, as soon as it was 60 days from the start of our reservation, the dates opened up and away we went.

I did have a senior moment initially when I forgot that onsite special folks can book all of their FastPass+ rides for the entire trip once you get to 60 days. Having been off site scum for most of our trips I had put notes in my diary each day to book some more. Having overcome that brief dance with incompetence I was down the rabbit hole of ride selection for quite some time.

Of course, despite there being loads of availability for all rides and attractions this far out, you can never book exactly what you want as they put many of the headliners into the same category from which you can only pick one. I also have to say that Disney could make this selection process a little more intuitive from a web site perspective. I like to think I know how web sites work as that’s been paying the bills for a good few years, but it took me a while to get my head around it. Should anyone from Disney wish to pay me huge amounts of consultancy I have some really good ideas on how to make it better.

So here are our selections

Saturday April 22nd – The day we drive back to Orlando from Siesta Key, so we have gone for all PM times in Epcot.

Mission Space – 11:55

Turtle Talk – 1:00

Soarin’ – 2:10

We had an ADR at Sanaa that day and for reasons I couldn’t remember, that was at 5.15pm. To give us more time in the park I moved that back to 8.20pm after which we may do Jellyrolls.

Sunday April 23rd – Animal Kingdom. An aspirational early start, especially if we’ve done Jellyrolls!

Safari – 10:35 (I’d hope to get an early Everest walk on in before this)

Everest – 11:40

Kali Rapids – 1:40

We have an ADR at Yak & Yeti around 5pm. After that we hope to do Everest again but in the dark for the first and if time allows maybe even a night time safari, before Rivers of Light.

Monday April 24th – A nominal rest day, with a morning at Stormalong Bay and lunch at The Fountain but with minimal time in the parks we’ve booked some afternoon Epcot rides as it’s next door to us.

Mission Space – 2:35

Frozen Ever After (for the first time in forever!) – 3:40

Spaceship Earth – 4:40

Tuesday April 25th – Hollywood Studios

Toy Story Mania – 10:10. Again, I’m hopeful of an early Rock n Rollercoaster prior to destroying all my rivals on this.

Tower of Terror – 11:25

Star Tours – 1:00

Wednesday 26th April – Magic Kingdom

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (with no dwarf sex I would hope) – 9:50. This will be our first time on this ride which after all these years is always a welcome bonus. We should be able to sneak in a Thunder Mountain and maybe Pirates before this.

Splash Mountain – 11:05

Buzz Lightyear – 12:35

We have dinner at Trail’s End around 5pm, so we might be able to book more FastPasses for the afternoon once the last one opens up. Whatever happens we’ll be back in Magic Kingdom at dusk getting ready to watch Wishes for the last time ever. There will be tears.

Fitting planning of this precision into the madness of everyday life is, if I may say, truly impressive. I have more plates spinning than Platey McPlate Spin of Plate Town.

Outside of these FastPass+ bookings I am going to have to have a strong word with myself. We don’t need to charge round the parks like idiots Craig…we’ve done the rides many times before and we can take our time, do what we can, and if things get too busy we can retire to somewhere less busy and smell some roses. I wish myself good luck with that.

Till the next time…..

Who Ya Gonna Call?

I had reason to call Disney this week. It’s an incredible compliment to their brand experience and customer service that having a problem that necessitates an actual phone call isn’t seen as a negative. I even had to hold for over ten minutes to get through to someone and I didn’t mind. I sat and listened to the hold music with my phone on speaker so that Emily could enjoy it too.

When the dreamy American accent on the other end of the line eventually answered, the warmth of the greeting was like a Floridian summers day. I immediately had to put on my “I’m talking to an American” voice so that they would stand a chance of understanding me.

I explained my issue feeling genuine regret that I had to trouble them when I’ve only spent the value of an average house in the UK with them in my lifetime. The agent sounded as if I had just explained that half of my family had passed away and her regret and genuine concern comforted me in its warm embrace.

My issue was that even though I had linked all of our tickets to our party members, when I did a dry run of a FastPass booking to make sure we were ready to go, the app and web site errored telling me one of the party had no valid ticket. Yet I could see the valid ticket against their name elsewhere in the app.

The agent said she would speak to tech support if I didn’t mind holding. Mind holding? I was a few moments away from sending her my house keys and pension details. A few moments passed and she returned to apologise again that I had indeed linked everyone correctly but one hadn’t linked all the way through. She asked me to refresh my web page and there I would see that everything was now sorted. I was asked if there was anything else I needed today and when I confirmed there wasn’t she wished me a magical day and said she was looking forward to seeing us in April.

Emily at this point was close to tears and I felt like changing my will to make the Disney company sole heir to my debts. This does not happen when I contact other call centres. I know they are selling magic and most of their customers love the experience which is hard to match if you sell energy or mobile phones but how they manage to deliver such high standards consistently is truly amazing. In all of my dealings with Disney over thirty odd years I do struggle to remember a negative experience.

I was so misty eyed that I didn’t think to keep them on the phone whilst I tried another FastPass dry run and after putting the phone down I noticed that I was only being offered dates that are 30 days out, rather than 60 as we are on site elite uber customers. I couldn’t face the emotion of another phone call so I emailed them instead.

It may be that the FastPass window only opens to 60 days when you are actually 60 days out from your on site booking? If anyone of you who do the on site thing more than we do know that would be lovely. Otherwise I shall await the reply to my email.

In other news this week, it was announced that it will be the end of Wishes just after our visit. I cannot tell you how upset Emily was. She does have a complete aversion to things changing at Disney. Anything that she experienced during her childhood is not allowed to be amended in any way. I understand that of course but having seen more changes than she has, I know that these things have to happen to keep the parks interesting and of course keep the punters coming back.

Image credit Mousehints.com
Image credit Mousehints.com

She will observe a period of mourning and the usual guaranteed tears on our final day as we watch Wishes will be increased by a factor of about ten, as she knows she will never see it again.

With Rivers of Light also coming on line and opening dates announced for Avatar and Star Wars Land it’s been a big week for Disney. Anyone would think that Universal have a new park opening soon!!

Image credit wdwmagic.com
Image credit wdwmagic.com

I won’t bother with you with my pre-holiday weight loss progress. The least said the better.

Till the next time…..

Disney Does Detail

For us lucky Florida fans, the existence of both Universal and Walt Disney World in close proximity means that we get a whole lot of fun experiences without needing to travel very far. I’ve blogged before about the competition between them being very good for us as it keeps them adding new stuff and trying to outdo each other for your hard-earned dollars.

This week we had the excitement of our theme park tickets arriving in the post. This simple transaction highlighted to me the difference between the two. You probably know that if given a choice between visiting just Disney parks or just Universal ones then the former would win quite easily. There are more of them for a start but they just hold more of a place in my affections for reasons that I can’t easily articulate. Maybe this very small example might help to demonstrate how Disney do the little things very well, adding up to an excellent overall experience.

The WDW tickets arrived first. Each one of the five had a different character picture on it, so for those with smaller kids, the fun starts immediately as two of your children rip each other to pieces as they both want to be Mickey. The cards are substantial, by which I mean plastic and look like they would survive a trip or two down Splash Mountain.

wdw-tickets

That is if they needed to because of course once you get your tickets you can start to feel ever closer to the magic by linking them up to your My Disney Experience App along with your on site accommodation if that’s what you are doing. Then if you’re staying on site, you can customise your Magic Band, which is basically choosing a colour, but it’s YOUR Magic Band and YOUR colour. This is important!

This makes the whole thing feel real, personal and yes exciting. Seeing all your names, plans and tickets staring back at you from your app makes the holiday come to life. You are immediately anticipating that day when you can start to book FastPasses too. The holiday has already started to some extent. Sure linking up the tickets can be a bit fiddly, especially if you try to do it early in the day in the UK when Disney seem to like to take their servers down during their night-time hours but you don’t mind the faffing and time it takes. This is your holiday!

I’ve often spoken about how a trip to WDW lasts forever. All the planning, ADR booking, FastPass reserving and general planning can take months. Then when you get back, if you are sad, like me, you write it all up too, which takes a while too. It’s all good.

Now of course much of that is true for Universal too, but I do think they are missing a trick here. In contrast to the experience above, a few days later our Universal tickets arrived. Again, they were real tickets, but they are flimsy paper things which wouldn’t last one trip around Bluto’s Bilgerats no matter how sturdy your fanny pack is!

uni-tickets

You have to write your name on, manually, in pen and sign it. That’s it. No real excitement, no personal connection, no customisation for your unique trip and tastes. Once you get there of course it doesn’t matter so much as the Universal park experience is excellent, but this is, in my view, where Disney win your hearts and minds and Universal is something you do if you have the time and money to fit it into your plans.

We’ll be staying on site with them too, but I can’t set anything up in their app and the whole thing feels much less personal and engaging. I know there are folks who prefer Universal for all sorts of reasons and that is of course down to everyone’s own taste, but I think Universal could do better here. I did read with interest that they appear to be trialing facial recognition for Front Of Line Access for on site guests. If it works, great! Last time we were pointed at a small self-serve photo booth in the foyer and left to figure out how to create our own (flimsy paper) Front Of Line passes to show. Again, it’s not a big deal, but you pay a heavy premium to stay on site and I think they should give you something to reflect that and your “VIP” status. Flashing some sort of card, band or golden (laminated) ticket would be better and hopefully they are moving in that direction.

I love both sets of park of course and we LOVE the on site experience at Universal. As always seems to have been the case though, they could learn a trick or two in the details from Disney.

Till the next time…..