May 13, 2007: Day Three in Disney World

This morning we slept in a little more than we did yesterday and were able to get a move on the day quite a bit easier. We had some food in the fridge that we have collected over the past few days including part of an almond covered sweet pretzel and some schoolbread from Norway. I had some leftovers from Jiko as well but no fork to eat them with so they got left behind.

We packed up the hotel and moved on down to the lobby so that we can put our carry on luggage into storage and get all set with our plane tickets. We discovered a huge, slow moving line in the lobby for the plane check-in. Apparently this is a new thing and they don’t have it working yet. Disney doesn’t operate the service themselves but farm it out (like they do with a lot of things.) But it doesn’t really matter as it is a service inside of the Disney resort and it is not open to competition from other companies so Disney has taken responsibility for it. And it didn’t work at all. The computers were down so it was taking forever and the risk of lost baggage was very high. So I talked to the concierge and explained that we didn’t need to check in this way because we could have done it online but because Disney offers this service we were taking advantage of it but you don’t find out that it isn’t working until after you have left your hotel room with Internet access. It took a little bit but the concierge finally figured out how to get us Internet access just to the AirTran site. We got logged in through there and printed our boarding passes. Everyone else is stuck in a line missing their day at the park and probably losing their luggage. We were not impressed with that system but our concierge is great.

After we put all of our luggage into storage with bell services we got on the bus for the Animal Kingdom and headed over there to spend the morning. We just have two things that we really fel like doing there today: Expedition Everest (for Dominica only – I am too old for these things) and the Kilimanjaro Safari which is the centerpiece of the park.

We arrived at the Animal Kingdom and I went right in but something was wrong with Dominica’s ticket. They wouldn’t let her in. After a little bit they told her that her ticket had expired (it is a non-expiring ten day ticket with only two days used on it!) Then she explained that the hotel had replaced her roomkey when it had become demagnetized. They then told her that she had the wrong key and that she still had her demagnetized one and that she had lost her real one (even though the hotel had taken the other key and the one that she had had been opening the hotel room doors both yesterday afternoon and this morning.) We were not happy. It would appear that the hotel simply confiscated her actual admission ticket without telling her effectively stealing hundreds of dollars that we had invested in what we had planned to have been several WDW trips over the next couple of years.

This situation brought to light a very significant problem with the Disney ticket system: the tickets themselves are just paper or plastic and there is no way for you as a customer to know what is on them. Had we not gone to the park today and discovered what had happened we would have returned to New Jersey with a dead hotel room key (the tickets, door keys and “Disney” credit card are all the exact same plastic and you can’t tell which they are without trying to use them inside WDW.) We might have returned in a year or two and at that point would never have remembered that the hotel changed the door key and that we hadn’t tried to re-enter the park after that point. Disney has effectively created a convenient way for them to claim anything about your tickets and to make sure that you have no means of providing proof as to their usage at all. You don’t even know that they have stolen your tickets until you attempt to use them again. This is a error beyond comprehension. I always thought that their “blind” tickets connected to a centralized ticket processing system that had a master database that kept track of this stuff. But there isn’t. The data is on the card itself and if the card goes bad or the Disney staff pull a switcheroo on you (which you have no control over in many circumstances) then you simply lose the park admission that you paid for and that is that. And they want people to invest in their “Disney Vacation” plans that tie you into their vacations for fifty years? I wouldn’t trust them not to claim to simply not know me and not let me in!

Fortunately we knew exactly what had happened but the staff would not answer why the hotel was allowed to have taken such action or how to avoid the situation in the future. They just blew us off. This wasn’t just rude but is bordering on criminal. They knew that they had passed the “grand theft” limit of $500 and tried to hide it as an accident. They definitely acted very devious like a kid who had gotten caught and then acted like it was an accident. Like they didn’t expect us to realize how it had happened but attempting to blame us for having lost something just half a day after they had taken it away from us was not going to fly.

Since we knew for sure what was supposed to be on the ticket and knew exactly how, when and who had stolen the entrance pass portion of the ticket from us they took Dominica over to guest services outside of the park and told me not to leave the park since I had already gone in (maybe they managed to disable my ticket too – we will find out next year I guess.) Guest services replaced Dominica’s ticket but at first attempted to do so by giving her a one day pass to the Animal Kingdom but fortunately she was on the ball and caught them still taking seven days away from her. So she pressed the point and they finally gave her an eight day pass. Now, of course, there is no way for us to know what the pass really has on it. They say that they gave her back her eight days and made them non-expiring like the ticket that we had first purchased but we have no way to ever verify that! It is all on the honor system and Disney already violated that today. I would never have thought that I would have to worry about something like this from Disney but Disney has changed a lot since I was a kid. Walt’s mark on the company is all but gone at this point.

Dominica said that the guest relations person that she dealt with was really nice and helpful and was really horrified about the situation. But it seems more and more that we are needing to turn to guest relations or concierges to deal with situations that shouldn’t have been able to have happened. This morning’s situation could have been fixed had they simply notified us that the hotel’s check in system was broken and that we should go back to the traditional “Internet” method that we have used for years. But instead they wait until after we check out of our room, pack the laptop and give up our Internet access that they charged us $10 a day for and then tell us that their system doesn’t work. I feel that Disney

The silver lining in this situation is that the guest services representative gave Dominica two “ultimate” fast-passes that allowed both of us to just walk right up and get on any two rides that we wanted. That, in the end, more than made up for any lost time from this morning’s debacle but doesn’t make me feel any more confident in the integrity of the tickets that we have purchased. It is scary to spend about $1,500 on tickets planning on them as an investment and then discovering that they had just canceled them without warning and then finding out when you think that you are all set to just walk into the park! Not a good way to make for happy visitors.

Since we had the fast-passes we went first to Asia and Dominica went right on to Expedition Everest. I waited for her at the base of the ride as I am smart enough not to ride rollercoasters at this age. When Dominica got done she was sorry that she had ridden it although she said that it was a pretty good ride. She liked the yeti at the end.

Then we went on to Africa and rode on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. It was an hour wait but we were able to walk right on with the fast-pass. (The ultimate fast-pass as I call it is a “whole group” fast-pass that can be used on any ride at any time.) It was great. We did both things that we wanted to do in the Animal Kingdom in about an hour and we were able to head over to EPCOT before leaving for the day.

In EPCOT there wasn’t too much left that we wanted to do that we didn’t get to do yet. We might not have even come over if we hadn’t been wanting lunch. The Animal Kingdom just doesn’t have its food situation figured out yet. There is barely anywhere to eat there and very little that is interesting. It is strange considering how well the food is doing at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Before doing anything else we rode Living with the Land again and again the sound didn’t work. This time it kicked on just for a minute right at the end. It is very sad. Then it was off to get something to eat. We decided to go up to the UK Pavilion and to try out the Rose and Crown which is the full service sit down restaurant there. Neither or us had ever had a chance to eat there before so that worked out really well.

We had to wait a little while to be able to get seated so we wandered around the UK Pavilion for a little while and did some shopping. We happened by a store that happened to be selling authentic, made in Scotland tartan scarves and they had a Johnstone scarf so we bought that.

The Rose and Crown was awesome. We really loved the food. We sat outside with a nice view of the World Showcase Lagoon. We had smoked salmon and a fruit and cheese plate to start. Then we both got the vegetable pot pie which was absolutely amazing. Instead of meat the pot pie was based on rutabagas. It was SO good. We will definitely be finding a way to get that again as well.

After eating we tried to ride the Universe of Energy which, surprisingly, never has a line even though it is one of the best things in Walt Disney World. But the ride is long, forty-five minutes, from the time that you get started so we quickly realized that we didn’t have enough time to do the ride even if there was no line at all. So we started back towards the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Our Disney vacation is now over 🙁

We got back to the Animal Kingdom Lodge and had about an hour to relax before we needed to board Mickey’s Magical Express to get back to the airport. So Dominica took a nap in the lobby and I went outside and enjoyed the outpost in the savanna. By this point the hottest day (because of the humidity) of our trip had turned pretty nice as a thunderstorm approached but it didn’t rain the entire time that we were in Florida this year.

At half past five we got onto the bus to go back to the airport. This direction worked very well and everything went quite smoothly. We had plenty of time to relax at the Orlando Airport before having to get onto the plane. It was all very casual. While we were there we ran into Karen who had been sitting next to me on the flight down on Thursday. Dominica and I hadn’t been able to sit together on the way from Atlanta to Orlando and I had hung out with Karen who had the seat next to me. She and her husband were traveling down to visit their kids in Orlando and go to WDW. We had had a really good time talking on the way south and then we passed them in the airport tonight and said hello. It is just weird running into people you know when you are so far from home. They were in from Lansing, Michigan.

On the trip from Orlando to Atlanta we flew with Maddog whom we have had as a pilot many times on AirTran. He got us to Atlanta 21 minutes early!  While we were in Atlanta Dominica wanted some dinner so we grabbed some Moe’s Southwest before catching the next leg of the flight.

We arrived in Newark a little bit early too.  AirTran has done an amazing job of making this a great trip from a flight perspective.  Everything was quick and easy even when Newark was shutting down flights.

It was around two in the morning when we were finally into 1180 and ready to go to bed.  We are totally exhausted.

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