Saturday, April 24, 2010

Disney Dining - counter service

I was reading a spirited discussion on MiceChat, where someone asked about the new policy of not allowing guests to sit at tables while someone is waiting in line for food.

It seems that this policy has been at times overzealously enforced (at least judging by some of the anecdotes), like not allowing a father with trays of food to go with the kids to get a table while mom gets her tray. They ask if your entire party is present, and if you're honest and say, "Mom's still waiting for her tray," they make you wait for her.

We experienced this at the Magic Kingdom's Columbia Harbor House the last time we were there, having to wait for all food to be present before finding a table. When we went, it was in January of 2009, and we did find a table within minutes of starting to look. And it used to be (and still is at some restaurants at Epcot and Hollywood Studios) frustrating to see a woman and a kid saving two big tables, waiting for their food to come. I never minded seeing a family of four or five sitting at one table waiting for mom or dad to come with the tray of food, but maybe a lot of people did.

So I understand the reasoning behind this. But it's still darned inconvenient if you're the parent trying to chaperone 2 or 3 kids while the other adult waits in line. Kids don't understand the whole "wait till you have your food to sit down", they're tired and want to sit down NOW!

One solution would seem to be to add more seating. This is not easy, since the space is pretty well set. Can't add more space easily.

But you could open up existing space and food service areas. At the Magic Kingdom, Tomorrowland Terrace is closed way more than it is open. Why is this? Is it because it doesn't make enough money to justify staffing and cleaning it? Because I can't imagine that. That area should be open for lunch every day. If people don't like the noodle dishes they serve there (I personally liked them the one time I ate there on our first trip to Disney), then add some stuff that everyone wants. Pizza, burgers, or dogs would seem to be easy to add. (Hopefully keep a few noodle choices for people who like me.) It's cooler and shady there even on the hottest days, or so it seems.

I'm sure there are other locations that could be opened, even if it's just a cart and some tables.

I wrote a post about a month ago which was a response to a Kevin Yee question about how to cut costs at Disney Hollywood Studios, and my thought was to not cut value from what we are getting for the price of admission to a park. Raise prices as little as possible to avoid making any cuts. The reasoning applies to this issue, I think, as well. This lack of seating space cuts into the value of what we get when we go to a Disney park. So rather than cutting further, or making it even less convenient, do the opposite and "plus" it, as Walt would say. I think the investment would pay off in the end.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day and Disney

My son is going on a field trip soon (maybe even today, on Earth Day) to see the new DisneyNature film, Oceans, and it got me to thinking:

Besides producing films under this label (neither of which I've seen yet), I've read that Disney is as environmentally responsible as a big corporation can be. They apparently recycle a great deal of materials from their studios and parks, and I also remember reading that they allow cast members to collect the cans and contribute the proceeds to a worthy charity. (I don't remember which one it is now.)

It's amusing, however, to consider how villainous fiction (and in one notable case, non-fiction) author Carl Hiaasen considers Disney to be with respect to their disregard of Florida's natural environment. It seems that in his view, Disney changed the swampy habitat of Walt Disney World into a highly engineered maze of canals and lakes to make way for the golf courses, hotels and theme parks that drive that particular economic engine, with little regard for the native species. I don't know how accurate this is - after all, when you go onto the property in Florida, the vast majority of it appears to still be ... swampland!

I grew up in a small city about 40 miles southwest of Chicago, and our neighborhood was surrounded on all four sides with farm fields. Today those fields no longer grow crops, but families. Houses and duplexes and townhomes fill almost all that available land, with the remainder filled with office and retail buildings. Even where I live now, it's not a shock to look out the window and see 5 or 6 deer making their way across our back yard. And why not? Our back yard used to be their habitat.

It seems far worse to strip the land for real estate development than do what Walt Disney did back in the 1960's, which was purchase a plot of huge plot of land and end up preserving much of it in its natural state, engineering the parcels that were needed for his dream.

But perhaps that is Hiaasen's real gripe - that developers have gone as close to the borders of Walt Disney World and done exactly what he seemed to accuse Disney of doing - converting the natural swampland to prime real estate. It is because of the presence of the economic juggernaut that is Disney, but it isn't them doing it. In fact, Walt purchased so much land because he didn't want that sort of development encroaching on his parks and resorts. If he hadn't, the development carnage would be even worse.

I get the idea that the Disney Corporation at least tries to be a good citizen of the world, and tries to act responsibly toward the environment that is under their stewardship.

So. It's Earth Day. Turn off a light. Recycle the cans and bottles and plastics that you use today. Maybe make a small (or large) donation, if it pops your cork. And maybe enjoy yourself by pulling out that fairly recent Pixar DVD from your collection and watching it on your big screen plasma tv. Maybe watch WALL*E!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Caves and How They Attract Us

The first couple of times going to Disney (World and Land) we skipped the Tom Sawyer Island experience. I don't know why; I think it was a matter of there was simply too much else to do.

But our last trip to the World we decided to go for it. Partly this was because it was cold out and fast rides in the wind didn't appeal so much to us. Partly this was because even though it was in the middle of January, the park was really crowded. And partly it was because our boys are getting older and they wanted to try something they hadn't experienced before.

And the island was a revelation! It was tremendous fun discovering all the hidden passageways and the forts, the elevated walkways, the bridges, and the caves!

Caves! They just draw us. My wife loves caves, enough that she's ready to forego her aversion to long car trips to take a drive down to Kentucky somewhere in the undetermined future to see Mammoth Cave, and to consider a trip to South Dakota, where one can tour Jewel Cave and Wind Cave (in addition to seeing Mt. Rushmore and going into an old gold mine and seeing the Badlands and whatever else we could do). When we go to different places on vacation, we always stop and tour caves that might be in the area.

I've always been attracted to caves, since I was a little boy. There are lots of caves in Missouri and other midwestern states where we regularly vacationed in my youth. And we usually hit them all. Now it appears my boys have the same attraction; they love going into these holes and seeing all the formations, but mostly they love discovering what's around that next bend.

Tom Sawyer Island taps into this with the caves at both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. While I must say that I prefer the real thing to the man-made caves of the Island, I suspect that it's going to become a must-see for my boys now, at least for a few years.