A Brave SeaWorld Inspired Me

We headed to SeaWord over the last weekend.
Aquatica on Saturday and SeaWorld on Sunday.  Both days were great for the family and most surprisingly of all, I left the theme park feeling very appreciative of the bold spirit that I’d experienced.

Surprise #1
The parking lot was almost full as we arrived at 11am.
Despite the words in social media and news articles, the park was buzzing with guests wandering about, enjoying the ambiance and having a good time.
There was a notable presence of locals, and it truly occurred to me that there was a lot of positive sentiment to one of Orlando’s long standing landmarks.
Orlando is a dynamic environment, but locals would never appreciate the loss of a ‘body part’ as faithful to job creation and the environment as SeaWorld.
Politics and tactics from opponents to SeaWorld, don’t put clothes on kids, or food in school lunch boxes.

Surprise #2
The big rides like Manta were very low line waits.
We literally walked onto Manta, despite the park buzzing with guests.  Hard to imagine, but again, those locals like to relax.  They want their churros, they want dippin’ dots, but they aren’t too worried about messing up their immaculate hair!
Also, it’s Halloween, and SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular is a cute and fun way for younger kids to trick or treat safely.

Surprise #3
Please forgive me if I sound a bit ‘creative’ here, but I honestly sensed something this weekend, that I have NEVER experienced before in ANY theme park.
I genuinely felt appreciated by the team members.
Overall, there was a sense of goodwill all round from the SeaWorld team, but there was a pride and spirit that really stood out as we exited the Blue Horizons Show.
The cast were clearly appreciative of every single guest that walked past to the exit.

Overall, I left SeaWorld feeling that the activists had impacted the numbers of guests over the last few years, but the result was an almost ‘battle ready’ spirit from the aftermath.
I also felt that as a guest, I have a choice to visit SeaWorld, that’s mine.  I don’t want politics to decide that for me.

Cast members a little grumpy?

This week, we headed in to WDW to renew our resident passes.  It’s usually not quick. It takes ID, utility bills and a bit of patience but it’s always worth it.  

Silly Job Loving Cast Member

This year though, we had a little unexpected confusion.  I managed to get my passes and the kids’ but my wife apparently wasn’t on a utility bill.  

Despite being married, same family name, and clear ID, we were supposed to have a utility bill in her name as well as mine.  

I’m sure Disney have some difficult guests ‘trying it on’ but our family, like many others, has the bills in one person’s name.  We kept our cool, but in the end we got there, purely by proving that we’d obtained previous passes before.  This was more about cast members’ discretion than a hard and fast Disney policy. 

Families beware, being married isn’t enough proof for Disney it seems!

We’d not even got past the Transportation and Ticket Centre and some magic had been stolen. 

Indifference is unexpected at WDW

As we headed to the monorail, it was down.  Cast members were guiding guests to the boat dock.  It happens from time to time and it’s got to be expected.  

What definitely wasn’t expected was the response to my polite question; excuse me, could you tell me if the monorail is down short term or long term?

I had read that system maintenance was in place but I wasn’t sure if it would prevent us from returning by monorail.  

The cast member’s ‘snap’ was amazing.  Not so much what was said, but how it was spoken; I COULDN’T TELL YOU, he barked.   The twerpy retort prompted lots of giggles from fellow guests as we boarded the ferry boat.  

Magic band misery

As we worked our way to the park exit after our Jungle Cruise ride later that day, we decided to pick up our Magicbands for the year.  

Emporium has a great selection, so we headed there.  The trouble is with Magicbands is that they are always behind counters.  Kind of ‘backstage’ as it were.  

We asked the cast member if we could take a look at a few but she barked ‘point them out and I will pass them’.  

The distance is a little far from the guest area to see the detail on some of the newer special bands   

Of course, I walked away wondering whether Disney cast members are ruder than they used to be, or it was end of season blues, or, if it was me, the common denominator that brought the worst out in the Magic Kingdom’s cast members that day.  

I don’t know if you are interested, but just a few miles up the road, Universal seem to be coping very well with miserable old me and our resident family details!

Are Disney Making Fun Of WDW Guests?

wdweth123456-613x920Typically a theme park is a fun place to go and Walt Disney World has really mastered the art of offering the magic to wave upon wave of long term fans and first timers alike.
Once you’ve been, they know you will want to return, again and again.

Sure the competition is hotting up in Orlando and Disney appear to be making plenty of progress in profit and attendance terms, while some, such as SeaWorld are experiencing opposing fortunes, and hopefully a temporary basis!
Just by being in Orlando, just isn’t enough to guarantee the visitor dollars.  It’s got to be right, it’s got to be current and it’s got to be exciting.

So what on earth is going on with Disney’s Hollywood Studios lately is still an ongoing mystery.
After many a year as a kind of cool, half day park, with a distinct lack of direction (I was thinking movie industry terms there😉 ), Hollywood Studios definitely seems to be in the PR wilderness right now.

I’m sure it’s only going to be a short to mid term issue, and I’m sure that there will be something amazing there, at some point, but the questions of ‘what and when’ do appear to be two very, very tiresome questions of our time.

The HS ‘zeitgeist’ isn’t very kind at the moment. In fact it is beginning to stink a little more than a well worn character costume.
Universal Parks often themselves play a ‘game of secrecy’, but usually it lasts 12 to 18 months or so, much of that time, with construction walls and steelwork offering a firm clue of what lies beyond.

Disney however, who are arguably one of the world’s most successful marketing machines, offers little more than just annoyance to eager fans.
HS has lost a lot of features and attractions over the last year.  Sure it gained, and was perhaps rescued by some fairly lame ‘Frozen’ events.

But what are guests to make of a visit to ‘half of a half day park’?

Worse still, many are only assuming that the much anticipated announcement at D23 2013 didn’t arrive for the same reason that this year’s D23 announcement possibly won’t arrive; Disney aren’t yet sure themselves, what’s happening!

If that sounds crazy, think back to Avatar.  Disney took years just thrashing out the detail before anything happens for guests in the parks.  The result being a 6 year gap between Disney first discussing the project with James Cameron and construction beginning in 2014.
The area won’t open until at least 2017.

If Disney take as long at HS, the construction boards could be up until 2021!
Slow work in comparison to Universal’s stellar performance at delivering largescale and innovative projects in very quick timescales!
Now that is a PR success story all of its own!

Lights, Camera, Oh Get On With It Please Disney!

So, the D23 Expo is almost upon us.
The what? (You may or may not ask)

Is D23 some Tatooine code for some kind of droid that didn’t make the set?

For those Disney experts, like me (LOL), who just looked it up, D23 is the name given to the official Disney fan club.  The D23 part refers to the year in which Walt moved to Burbank Hollywood and established the legendary Disney studios.

So the Expo.
I need to take a deep breath to be honest.
I find it staggering to be writing this article, which in reality should have been written almost two years ago, when the last D23 Expo took place in Anaheim.
Then, after months of speculation about a major and much overdue upgrade to Hollywood Studios, Disney put out some teasers about Avatar and Star Wars.
After 2 years of mind numbing PR vacuum, Avatar is almost at construction height over in Animal Kingdom.  Meanwhile back in sleepy old Animal Kingdom, we’ve ‘been Frozen to death’ and nothing more!

It’s almost inexplicable why Disney have steadily shut down an already half day theme park of attractions.  What’s even more fascinating, is that the crowds, still keep clicking through the turnstiles like never before.  Of course, with major attractions like the Tower Of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, who can argue?

Even the most devout Disney park fans can make good use of a park hopper to fill the day completely, or perhaps take a ‘lazy day’ and take it easy at DHS!

But now, it seems as though Disney are finally ready to make the ‘grand reveal’ this summer, to some very excited fans between August 14-16th 2015.
I won’t be there.  Not through lack of interest or cash, I just simply couldn’t bear the pain and suffering if Disney failed to deliver a plan, again.
Surely this year, with a park half under boards, a Tower Of Terror 10 Miler cancelled, rumours of new roads into DHS and the threat of a new name (believed to be Disney Hollywood Adventure), Disney will deliver?

If they don’t, expect me to dive down over the next show of Fantasmic aboard a Nimbus 2000 and a bucket full of Custard!   Watch out Mickey, I am getting a bit crazy now.

Best Websites For Orlando Visitors

Planning A Trip To Orlando?

The Internet is full of advice and information!

As you probably know, that is not always a good thing either.
Out of date or purely inaccurate guesswork can make things oh so difficult to find good, much needed advice for your dream vacation.

So where can you find really good quality information amongst the swarm of sites on the internet?

Using Google
This is an obvious great choice.  A good place to start, but beware!
First of all;
The first three listed websites are usually Adverts if you are using a desktop or iPad.  A company has paid for them to appear first and they may not be exactly what you are looking for.
Also remember that the first websites in a google search might be there because of their owners’ efforts to manipulate their position in Google, rather than the quality of their own information.  Having a site on page one can make a lot of money!
After that, some good choices that I would pull out are;

  • Themeparkinsider.com A detailed fan based site with heavy editorial style, but very reliable for accuracy!  Great for understanding the parks without any bias!
  • VisitOrlando.com this is the tourism industry’s website, but, it is a great place to start your research!
  • Thedibb.co.uk a UK site, but don’t be put off if you are not from the UK.  It is one of the most up to date forums and guides on the web!
  • Totalorlando.com is one of our favorite sites.  They market luxury homes, but their ‘Total Orlando Guide’ does what it says.  It covers everything, not just the parks.
  • wdwmagic.com might not appear in your searches, but again, is one of the very best news sources and forums for Walt Disney World parks.
  • touringplans.com is another great website, with a fabulous blog that’s very well maintained!
  • Don’t forget the official theme park websites either;

If you are looking for luxury accommodation in the Disney parks area;

Time For Airport Style Theme Park Security?

I awoke today to slide open my iPhone to do my daily routine of checking emails, Facebook, and my daily scurry through my favorite news sites.
An article surprised me by being buried low down the list on the Orlando Sentinel as a tragic story revealed that another ‘domestic’ gun related incident occurred in a US attraction.

The reason that it was a little lower down the stories, was that it was over at Universal’s Hollywood park and not Orlando.
Small comfort for the tragic victim, his family, friends, and onlookers.  Not great too for the poor officers that tried in vain to prevent the tragedy.

Earlier this year, a local entered Fun Spot near I-Drive in what was also believed to be a domestic related incident and gunshots luckily only created minor injuries.
Previously, a gun had been innocently left on an attraction seat at Animal Kingdom by a guest (with concealed permit) that did not realize guns were prohibited.

Gun crimes in theme parks are very rare, thanks to the already intense scrutiny of law enforcement and security officials, and my experience is way too low to make comment about theme park security measures.
I do wonder however, if I would feel a little safer if measures were brought up to date.

 

Could SeaWorld’s Fortunes Change The Florida Theme Park Map?

SeaWorld definitely seems to be feeling the effects of the Blackfish saga.  Even their CEO; Jim Atchison stepped down amid a raft of cost savings that even saw the demise of the Seamore and Clyde Mime.

What will become of the fabulous but beleaguered ocean park remains a mystery, but it might be fair to assume that some huge changes could be heading to the SeaWorld Entertainment Inc theme parks.

Busch Gardens Tampa – Tampa, Florida
Busch Gardens Williamsburg – Williamsburg, Virginia
SeaWorld Orlando – Orlando, Florida
SeaWorld San Antonio – San Antonio, Texas
SeaWorld San Diego – San Diego, California
Adventure Island – Tampa, Florida
Aquatica Orlando – Orlando, Florida
Aquatica San Antonio – San Antonio, Texas
Aquatica San Diego – Chula Vista, California
Water Country USA – Williamsburg, Virginia
Sesame Place – Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Discovery Cove – Orlando, Florida

It does kind of make you wonder whether a bunch of those parks could get merged or closed if any new owners came in to trim costs and move the theme away from animal entertainment.
Let’s hope that the Orlando sites survive in a form that can endure another 20 years of politics, public acceptance and booming interest that Central Florida always seems to attract!