Friday, September 9, 2011

Never All-in-One: Aulani Dining Thoughts

So far the Aulani resort looks incredible and meticulously themed.  The info on the restaurants looks great, but one question always comes to mind about going to a pricey resort like this.  Why is there no all-inclusive option?

If you talk to your friendly local travel agent, all-inclusive resorts are simply non-existent in Hawaii, although some websites off all-inclusive "travel packages", not nearly the same thing as you would find at your local Sandals or similar property in the Caribbean or Jamaica. 

Should Disney be in the All-Inclusive Business?

 Disney already offers a partial all-inclusive option with the Disney Dining Plan in their packages.  It is not often thought of in this way, but by pre-paying for the dining, you are essentially making your Disney world vacation an alcohol-less all-inclusive option.  The opposition to the dining plan and the accusations that its introduction has homogenized food across the spectrum of Disney Dining would be troublesome for a high end resort, however.

All-inclusive resorts would certainly put Disney in a different business than they have been before.  Allowing the guests to prepay an unlimited food option would be out of the Disney a la carte realm that we are used to seeing from their booking options. 

When Aulani was first announced, a hope that Disney might choose the cruise ship model of payment, somewhere between a true unlimited alcohol all-inclusive and the current model for their beach DVC properties was still alive.  Pay one price, include basic food and then have a few upscale restaurants with a nominal cover charge.  Alcohol and spa privileges would continue to be a la carte.  Spend more if you want to, don't if you don't.   As more details arose, this hope was quickly dashed.

During the subsequent therapy sessions, thoughts arose about why this system doesn't exist.  Anyone who has been on a cruise can tell you that food quality is high in the main dining room despite serving to the masses.  If Disney could replicate some of the outstanding dining from their cruises into a resort system ,you could attract many more families and budget-conscious people who like the idea of options and prepayment on their trips, hopefully without the pitfalls that DDP presents in Orlando. (In full disclosure, my first Disney cruise will not be until next summer, but friends and family rave about the food...)

Disney should get on board and give us a new and magical resort experience along the lines of a land-based cruise and price it accordingly.  That being said, a review of all of the authentic food at Aulani can't come fast enough!

What do you think of the resort system and pricing?  Should it be changed and improved?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2012 DDP Changes

As if they had read the last entry, Disney has obliged and added the refillable mug in the standard 2012 Dining Plan.  This is a great addition for people like me who love their refillable mugs and would really be getting them anyway.  The Quick Service Dining plan is changing as well, offering only one snack per day rather than two.

There is no word on the possible price increase yet, but we will keep an eye on it and see if these additions come at a premium or if the DDP can still be a value in some situations.  I use a BIG dining spreadsheet to compute the value when I book my restaurants, as I am a bit of a Disney food nut.  What do you think?  Good changes or bad?

The official PDF dining brochures can be found here: Quick Service Dining and Standard Dining Plan

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Refillable Mug and You

$13.99 plus tax can give you the option to wet your whistle for the entirety of your Disney vacation.  But is it really worth your time and money to purchase one?  In principle, it sounds good, but it may not break down as a value depending on the way you use it.

To start, I am not a believer that they are the ultimate value because you can keep bringing them back and reusing them until your dishwasher makes it look like a blank do-it-yourself design mug.  Regardless, let us make the assumption that you are buying one per trip and throw the philosophical debate aside.
When my family travel to the World, we use our mugs in several ways.  First off, we are coffee addicts.  This means I frequently drink my bad diner coffee completely black and enjoy it that way (if you are unfamiliar with cheap diner coffee, or diners in general, schedule a visit to the northeast!)  That coffee is coming on the bus to park opening, and I might be lost without it.  Would it be cheaper to make coffee in the room every morning?  Possibly, but the convenience factor as you are trying to get your kids out the door counts for something. 

The trick to traveling with refillable mugs is simple.  Most of us tour with a backpack or bag of some sort.  A gallon size ziplock bag and some napkins now become the tools of the trade.  When you finish that beverage, grab stuff a few napkins to the bottom of the cups and seal them in the bag (usually I can get 2 to fit).  Congrats, you now have a leak-proof transport system!

Splitting two mugs between my family of three (soon to be four!) also off-sets the cost.  The variety of beverages at the stations, including the Gold Peak iced tea, regular tea, cocoa, and soft drinks help to have something with the wife and son want more than me trying to stock the hotel room with drinks.  I also almost never get a room with a refrigerator to keep drinks cold on those hot Orlando days.

At the value resorts (especially Pop Century) I often have to walk straight through the food court to get to my morning bus, adding to the convenience factor.  Breakfast is generally an in-room experience, also freeing up quite a bit of daily funds to put toward a few refillable mugs at the beginning of the trip.

The value of the mugs to me has always been in the convenience, variety, and the souvenir!  I use them more than once a week at home, just for some extra-geeky Disney fun!  Any other mug tips or tricks?  Think they are a good value?  Let us know!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Who should foot the bill?

First off, sorry about the time off between posts.  Family things, and stuff....

After reading a recent article on a Disney board, I was thinking about the general operating procedure in Epcot.  Apparently, the Norwegians are a bit miffed that their movie in the World Showcase still shows them working on Commodore 64 computers and stuck in the 80's.  TDO wants the Norwegian government to foot some of the bill, while the Norwegain government really doesn't want to make an investment in the estimated $20 million dollar project.  I do have to give a nod to our friends at the disney blog for bringing the issue up.

Is the time for sponsorship over?

It seems harder and harder to get companies and governments to  contribute to or finance attractions in Epcot, yet Disney chooses to stick to this original model rather than make the investment.
Wonders of Life Pavilion shortly after its final closure

The Wonders of Life pavilion is still closed due to lack of a corporate sponsor that was willing to foot the bill and is now forgotten among the overgrowth by many resort guests.  The movie at Norway is hopelessly outdated.  Spaceship Earth had little or no maintenance until Siemens agreed to step into the project. (Opinions on the result of this not withstanding!)  On the one side, it seems like Disney should have more pride in their offerings and provide periodic updates without having to seek out corporate partners.

The movies in the countries seem to fall into a different category than even the sponsored attractions.  Disney seems to consider them advertisements for travel to their respective countries, and therefore does not want to update them on their own.  Although this is very true, Disney may need to come to the realization that the economy simply prevents this kind of constant investment in a theme park attraction.  Not to mention that flights are so overpriced that even a Norway movie may not be enticing guests to fly across the pond at this point.

Does Disney have a responsibility to keep these attractions current (or even open) as they raise their prices?  Or are they right to continue to seek out sponsors and involve the governments of the pavilions they maintain?  Thoughts?

Monday, January 17, 2011

As long as its on fire anyway....

...we could use a second change in management.  Zazu and Iago have been in charge a few years too long, and the show is, of course, looking dated and unpopular.  The strategy by TDO isn't uncommon, they often try to spice up existing attractions by adding haphazardly rather than tending to the proper maintenance (see: Pirates of the Caribbean, Imagination, etc.).  It also can't be a coincidence that the Disneyland version as conceived by Walt continues to pull in crowds while our 'Under New Management' iteration was a ghost town during the last Easter Week trip down to the World.  If we can't have Walt's vision for the Tiki room back, perhaps we can come up with something a touch more inventive that a ten year old concept that really fell flat from day one.  Walt had originally intended the Tiki room as a dining experience, and perhaps we could bring it back as such and get a great experience back along with fixing the growing problem of a dearth of quality dining options at the Magic Kingdom.  At least do it for the guests to give them back something of Walt's that really belongs in the park.  There are times to try and 'plus' an attraction, and sometimes it is time to move on to the next big thing.

How do you feel about the Tiki room?  Time for a change, or have an idea for the spot?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Few Opening Thoughts...

As we ring in the new year, many people are taking a look at the attractions around WDW and wondering what will be next.  Although I am always excited about seeing the Fantasyland Expansion complete and Star Tours 2.0, several of my internet compatriots have asked, "Where is the innovation?".  The answer is: not sure!
The Fantasyland Expansion

As much fun as the new experiences look like, I am unsure what TDO is doing that can even come close to the innovative nature of the Harry Potter experience over at IOA.  What I do know is that Disney perhaps needs to get back to its roots of pushing the envelope.  The R&D department is always working so I am unsure as to why whatever innovations they have are not being quickly incorporated into rides.  Perhaps the worst example is Expedition Everest.
The Yeti will one day shed his '70's strobe light and return to us...

2011 is here, and the Yeti is STILL not working.  Most visitors wouldn't even really notice, but to the Disney fan (but apparently not the company) it is truly embarrassing.  We can only hope that this effect is fixed at some point in the near future so at the very least people can stop having to discuss it when the "declining quaility of Disney" argument comes up. This is simply one of many effects in rides that used to work but don't seem to ever be on anymore, much like the sparking collision in test track and numerous effects in Dinosaur.  We all hope that someone is upstairs monitoring this one, and that Chester and Hester aren't really in charge of the rides at WDW, as the maintenance would seem to suggest in places.

On the positive, new experiences ARE coming, along with new restaurants in the World Showcase and hopefully more new experiences at the now defunct Pleasure Island area.  Stay tuned for some more Disney talk, but until then, what are you looking forward to or hope will change in 2011?