Published: May 9, 2014 at 10:45 AMGrowing up in Tampa and visiting Disney parks in the early '90's often, I loved the parks. LOVED them. We were real pros, bringing our own lunch in and beating the crowds. I always loved how much Disney cared about the holistic experience of their parks, not just the attractions but the bus systems, cleanliness, upkeep, everything. I also always loved the effort put into theming of attractions, not just the rides but the lines and overall look. Growing up right next to Busch Gardens which offered little to no theming, Disney always seemed so much more invested in their parks.
I also remember going to IOA soon after it opened in the early 2000's. This was the first time that my allegiance to Disney was ever shaken. As a young teenager, it was too hard to pass up the opportunity to ride real thrills like the Hulk and Spiderman, as compared to the more tame attractions offered by Disney World. Universal Studios was always a half-day trip, the sort of thing you could do once and feel like you covered it.
It wasn't until Universal started investing in major improvements that I felt it was a true competitor to Disney. All of a sudden lights were being fixed, fog effects that had been down for years worked, buildings were painted, and general upkeep was stellar, Disney-level work. There were parts of attractions that I never had an idea about in IOA because I had never seen them work!
The introduction of Harry Potter really was the tipping point for me. Such a major investment in not just a single attraction but an entire world just for one story. The way I see it, right now in the theme park business there is no achievement greater than Harry Potter in what it accomplishes with immersion, attention to detail, and the ability to go back again and again and love it every time. I still like Disney, but I don't LOVE it unconditionally like I once did.
Published: May 9, 2014 at 11:51 AMI completely understand the Disney "lifestyle", for lack of a better word. It is usually passed down from one generation to the next. Our daughters grew up watching the new classics and Pixar movies. They had plush toys and Disney borders in their rooms, pink Mickey ears and just about anything they could slap a sticker on and brand as "Disney".
We started our Disney trips in 2000. Whether you are staying on property or anywhere within a few miles of the parks, the hotels are packed with families who all seem to get up at the same time, pack the breakfast buffets, and all head out to the parks about an hour before opening, en masse.
I always had this feeling we were just part of a huge machine with a cult like status when visiting Orlando. The hotels we stayed in were practically a ghost towns for the good part of the day. Monorails and Disney wrapped buses on a seemingly endless circle bringing guests to and from the parks.
You could easily pick out the families that have the means to stay at the Grand Floridian or one of the other top end hotels. They just looked "different". Almost as if they were dressed for Easter Sunday.
When you actually entered the parks is where the "Hunger Games" began. Seasoned veterans who instinctively knew when a FastPass machine was about to spit out a new round of tickets, moms who know every inch of the park and had the day planned down to the minute.
We always felt like "newbies" because we never had the time to do all that homework and spent a good portion of the day waiting in lines. All this being said, I think I know the Disney culture pretty well. I am simply glad we moved on to a place where we make our own rules and waiting for rides is almost non-existent.
You still have this feeling of being part of a cult at USF, but on a much smaller scale. You know everybody heading out to IOA at 6-6:30 in the morning is staying on the property. Same goes for the Express lines.
I noticed we can strike up conversations with other families around the hotel / pool / pool bars, which are always in use at any time of day. You just know you can pick up at any time, walk a couple minutes and be on almost any ride in no time at all. At Disney, it seemed like the energy spent trying to get your money's worth took it's toll on people. The mass crowd zombie walk after Extra Magic Hours was almost silent. Everyone seem drained.
In conclusion, Disney has it's own unique lifestyle, just like USF. They are just on drastically different sides of the spectrum. We simply prefer the latter. Time management goes out the window and relaxation takes over.
I would love to hear opinions, experiences and thoughts of the people who make Disney their exclusive stay, especially when you visit during the Summer.
Published: May 9, 2014 at 12:27 PMTo the person who said customer service at Disney had gone downhill...LOL My friend just was doing the internship. She got in quick service food at one of the hotels. Her and 5 other girls got to live in a Disney apartment. They got paid $8.00 per hour and got $100.00 per week payroll deducted for their "DISNEY" housing. She said some of the delusional kids are so brainwashed they love Disney no matter what. (even if they could not afford food to eat)Then there were the other one's that quickly felt like they were being taken advantage of. The exteremly low pay and no benefits was a rude awaking after the pixie dust wore off. For a company that makes BILLIONS of dollars there is no reason why they cannot have a starting pay of $10.00 per hour. A huge portion of their employees (along with Walmart and other big companies) are on Medicaid, SSI, and Food stamps, all of which the tax payers are footing the bill....So how is that for a Disney lifestyle? You get what you pay for and $7.50 to $8.00 an hour is not going to get you much for being fake happy to everyone. Oh, and "have a magical day!"
Published: May 9, 2014 at 12:28 PMI predict a predictable tsunami of aggrieved USF fans explaining why they have the right of it and USF is better than Disney in every possible respect. And yet here Disney is comfortably ahead in the poll....
I can only speak for myself and my wife. We enjoy visiting USF and always make sure it is in our itinerary on our visits to Florida. We love the cutting-edge attractions and the adrenaline-rush we get off many of them. We love the different take on a theme park that USF provides. We always enjoy our visits. But the truth is that we have never spent more than 2/3 of a day at either Universal park, having experienced every attraction, and the thought of spending more than a couple of days there fills me with an enormous sense of 'why'? Harry Potter was clever but left me cold, never having been a fan of the books. I look forward to Diagon Alley and expect to be deeply impressed, but the only reason we would consider staying at a Universal property would be to gain Express access and ensure we can get onto everything without waiting, (we are too old to spend hours in line any more).
We stay at Disney, and we will do so again next time, because we like the 'lifestyle'. We find Disney less 'in your face' than Universal and feel more relaxed on Disney property. Port Orleans two years ago was one of the most beautiful environments we have ever stayed in and we spent a surprising amount of time simply 'being' - walking around Disneyworld and enjoying the places we were in, much as we would if we had gone on a 'real' vacation to, say, Italy. I don't expect everyone to agree with me. We are all different and Universal appeals to some people. But just because it's your cup of tea don't dismiss those of us who haven't bought into its ethos. Disney gets a lot of criticism on here for not investing in uber-cool attractions but Disney knows its market and I suspect I am firmly within that demographic. It suits me and I won't even consider staying anywhere else....
Published: May 9, 2014 at 12:54 PMDisney changed many times. When I lived in Orlando and Michael Eisner started it's reign it was a wonderful and exciting times. Money was spend on the parks, rides and even Animal Kingdom got build.
Published: May 9, 2014 at 12:59 PMI pretty much feel the same way as N B.
Don’t get me wrong -- a part of me will always love Disney. There really IS something magical about the place and it’s got some awesome rides. But I never feel completely relaxed there. Part of it is the feeling of being part of a herd, on an endless quest to have fun even if it kills you. And the other part is that the whole “Disney Brand” thing sort of creeps me out -- if I’m on the property more than a day or two I start to get seriously twitchy.
I just find the experience at Universal to be more relaxed. Yes, a lot of it has to do with being able to afford the onsite hotels and the express pass perk (thank you Florida resident discounts!!!) But there really is something to be said for being able to WALK back to your hotel in 5 minutes if you’re tired or just need a short break. And say what you will about Disney customer service being superior -- maybe it is -- but I’ve always found the folks at Universal to be quite pleasant and to have a great sense of humor.
I love the effort Universal is putting into improving their parks. But I do worry a bit, ‘cause I think part of the problems I have with Disney generate from its size. It’s just sooo huge. And watching Universal build Cabana Bay, and hearing that there’s a 5th hotel in the works, I fear that some day the laid back Universal experience I’ve come to love will start to resemble the harried Disney experience that I don’t enjoy. Time will tell….
I think a lot of it is just personal preference. I WISH I could relax at Disney, but I just can’t. I read David Brown’s comment and I completely understand his point of view. His experience at Port Orleans sounds exactly the way I feel when I’m at Royal Pacific. I guess it’s a good thing that both resorts exist so that we can all have a place where we feel completely happy ;-).
Published: May 9, 2014 at 1:01 PMI'm on TPI like everyday so yeah I'm a fan.
Published: May 9, 2014 at 1:31 PM(Not so) Amazing that a thread asking "How much of a role does Disney play in your life?" could turn into another Disney/Universal debate. Seems like these days people are just itching to have at it.
To answer your question Robert: I consider myself a Disney fan, just as much as I enjoy Universal, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, Dreamworks, NBC, TBS, AMC, whatever company whose medium is shared by Disney. The idea of having a Disney lifestyle probably doesn't apply to me, but there are days where I can't get Let It Go out of my head (or Happy). However, my love of theme parks first came from a Disney visit, so maybe it's safe to say its played a big influence on who I am now.
Published: May 9, 2014 at 1:52 PMWe stayed at Port Orleans, and we liked it for the most part. Even with its proximity to the parks, we felt like getting ready to head out is an all day affair. You know that no matter which park you are going to, it will be a half hour before you are at the gate. A bus ride, monorail, driving your rental car and parking in the lots, trams etc...
Every jaunt from the hotel seems like a major undertaking that requires planning. That is why I never fully understood why staying at one of the Disney owned hotels and not a "partner" hotel was such a benefit. OK, so we are slightly closer to the theme parks and parking is free... now get in line like everyone else...
Ride reservations? No, thank you....
Published: May 9, 2014 at 2:07 PMMelanie... you summed that up so nicely. We haven't had a great USF / Disney debate for quite a while. I do like the fact that Robert is always around to keep things civilized and this is a clean site.
This being said, I do not want to sway anyone from the Disney side to try out USF. You will just add to the park capacity....
P.S. I'm not the 1% who voted "Anything but Disney". I voted for the one above it....
Published: May 9, 2014 at 1:55 PMI am in my late 50's and have been a lifelong fan of DISNEY'S theme parks around the world. For most of my life I felt like DISNEY'S parks were the best. They were the best because their attractions were the most unique, detailed and innovative. But sadly over the last 10 years I have become very disappointed with DISNEY'S parks. I feel like now it's more about making money and turning a profit for their shareholders instead of being creative and innovative as they once were. In recent years they have continued to add to their astronomical ticket prices while offering less and less innovative attractions to their cash paying customers or guests as they like to call them. Now days we mostly get more over-priced restaurants, more over-priced merchandise shops and more meet-and-greets than cutting-edge rides/attractions. I now truly believe they care more about being the biggest instead of being the LEADER or the BEST as they once did. However; in recent years UNIVERSAL has made great strides and taken giant steps toward becoming the leader in the theme park industry. They began with SPIDERMAN and continued on that success by adding the MUMMY, TRANSFORMERS and the HARRY POTTER attractions. Plain and simple: these attractions raised the standard and are more cutting-edge and innovative than anything that DISNEY is offering these days. As a longtime fan of DISNEY'S theme parks it's hard for me to say or admit these things but it is just a fact. I will continue to be a fan of DISNEY'S parks. But very soon many more will be joining me in recognizing that the true leader in the theme park industry is now Universal.
Published: May 9, 2014 at 2:37 PMYou need more options. For instance I'd consider myself a partial Disney fan. I love the animation, theme parks (at least CA and Tokyo) and nostalgia of Walt the genius himself. However I could care less and sometimes loathe other things about Disney like the tv, home decor, broadway, live films (can't stand potc 2+) magic bands etc. So I'm somewhere in between the first 2 options. I think Disney is the best in some aspects but not all.
Published: May 9, 2014 at 3:10 PMI am in my late 50's and have been a lifelong fan of DISNEY'S parks worldwide. For most of my life I felt like they were the very best in the industry. They were the best because they offered attractions that set the standard and were the most unique, detailed and innovative. Sadly; in the last 10 years I have become very disappointed in the DISNEY theme parks. It now seems like it's all about making money and turning a profit for their stockholders instead of being creative and innovative as they were for so many years. I just feel like they care more about being the biggest instead of being the LEADER and being the BEST. Recently they have continued to add to their already astronomical ticket prices while offering less and less innovative attractions to their customers...or guests as they like to call them. These days they mostly offer more over-priced restaurants, more over-priced merchandise shops and more simple meet-and-greets instead of cutting-edge rides/attractions. And to make matters worse they have spent over 1.2 billion at last count to start up the MYMAGIC+ program which very, very few wanted but offered very few new attractions in return to entice their customers to even want to use this program. However; UNIVERSAL has made great strides and taken giant steps toward becoming the LEADER in the industry. It started with SPIDERMAN and they followed that success with the additions of THE MUMMY, TRANSFORMERS and the HARRY POTTER attractions. Plain and simple: these attractions have raised the standards in the theme park industry and are BETTER than anything DISNEY is offering to the public these days. As a lifelong fan of DISNEY it is hard for me to say and admit these things but it is a FACT...sorry DISNEY. The bottom line is that UNIVERSAL has taken the reigns in offering their customers the most detailed, innovative and technologically advanced attractions in the industry. Congratulations to UNIVERSAL...in my humble opinion you are now the new LEADER in the theme park industry!!!
Published: May 9, 2014 at 3:32 PMWell, if you go by attendance and park generating revenue, USF is not the leader. If innovation, expansion and creating a better guest experience is your thing, USF is definitely the forerunner.
Someone will bring up popularity / attendance, theme park & souvenir net revenue, and having to pay for parking at USF hotels by comparison. But that is like saying McDonalds is better than Ruth's Chris because more people go there....
Published: May 9, 2014 at 3:48 PMLove Disney and the parks, but the only thing which I've found disappointing is that over years their 'souvenirs' have become very 'tacky'. When we first started visiting their were numerous limited additions now they seem quite sparse. It's a shame. Actually there is also one other thing, some of the rides at Disneyland Paris need a good restoration. Pirates of the Caribbean and Small World are examples of this.
Published: May 9, 2014 at 3:57 PMI think the problem is that Disney is catering too much to the unconditional Disney fan and that it is neglecting its innovation. I am sorry, but Harry Potter really is the paradigm shift. It is completely amazing, but other parts of the parks at Universal do need work. Right now Disney could really use a change in how they are doing things. Do away with the cheap, Photoshop early 80's artwork on everything and make attractions that will amaze. Case in point: Alien Encounter (while maybe too scary) was awesome. Stitch sucks. The entire family hated the Little Mermaid ride, but everyone is itching to get back to Harry Potter. Now, this is only in Orlando. Theme parks elsewhere are not on the same level, but they can turn it around.
What they really need to do is think about how to make the customer's experience better. Make a Star Wars Land at Hollywood Studios on a grand scale. Not one ride and a restaurant, but several rides, stores, and themed areas. If Universal game get amazing attractions running in two years, they should not take five to get C and D ticket rides going. Throughout all the parks redo the cheesy 70's costumes that are everywhere. Make a fifth gate. And to the biggest: change that awful Fast Pass Plus. When we went there were hour plus lines for Spaceship Earth and Haunted Mansion most of the day. That was never the case. That is an example of them wanting to find a way to get more people in instead of making the experience great for the customer. They have the money. Now that they got the billion plus armbands done, it is time to get back to making magical experiences.
Yes, the discussion is Universal v. Disney. That is bound to happen. I like both, but I used to only like Disney. We simply had more fun at Universal the last time we were there due to really great new attractions and the Express Pass. Transformers, Mummy, Simpsons, Harry Potter, and the hotel were great. We went where we wanted when we wanted. At Disney is was all scheduled out in advance. It is time for Disney to step up to the plate.
Published: May 9, 2014 at 5:37 PMI'm much more into the theme parks, although I do see most Disney and Pixar movies on DVD. This whole "Disney lifestyle" thing is a bit of a stretch, but they're always trying to increase their outrageous profits.
Published: May 9, 2014 at 6:26 PMI'd say I'm a casual Disney fan. I like their films (Disney animation / Pixar), Broadway shows, & some of their other products etc. They have quality stuff..
In terms of the never ending Universal vs Disney, I like both, but it is apples & oranges.
Look at how many parks Disney operates vs Universal, yet this "debate" always seem to take place in connection with mainly the Florida parks.
Universal Japan vs Tokyo Disney Resort
Universal Hollywood vs Disneyland Resort
Then there's Universal Singapore, Hong Kong Disneyland, & Disneyland Paris
My point is that if one REALLY wanted to compare the companies, you have to look at the bigger picture.
Published: May 10, 2014 at 7:04 AMAfter reading the comments it has definitely turned into a Disney vs. Universal (Florida Parks) discussion! Which was not exactly the question asked, although they are always fun and interesting to read!!! I'll do my best to try to stay on the main topic though.
As far as answering the question, Yes I am a Disney fan! But I don't think they are the "Absolute Best". They are obviously very good at what they do and they have there hands in a ton of industries (Theme Parks, Movies, TV, Cruise Line, ect.)
Overall I almost always find joy in whatever Disney activity or experience I partake in, but I have also been underwhelmed and even disappointed with them on occasion. I can also find just as much or sometimes more joy with Disney's competitors in the same area's (NBC Universal for example! LOL).
Because of the overall mix of ups and downs I've had with Disney, I can say that I am definitely a fan, but they are not my hands down, BEST EVER, Favorite.
Published: May 10, 2014 at 8:11 AMSo far, 90% of the voters are Disney fans. No wonder the company is raking in the dough to the tune of $1-$3 billion profit a quarter. Wow!
I have no issue saying that while I love themed entertainment across the board, I love Disney the most. Looking at the big picture, Disney offers a complete entertainment package with almost everything they produce being suitable for my entire family. Add to that comment the fact that two of the most important brands to me in my formative years, Star Wars and Marvel, are part of the Disney fold, what's not to love?
Published: May 10, 2014 at 9:21 PMQ. Are you a Disney fan?
Published: May 11, 2014 at 10:37 AMTH, I knew you wouldn't disappoint....
I had an interesting conversation last night with someone I have known for about a year now. Her name is Heather, and I think I found a bigger Universal fan than myself.
The last time she was there, the Mummy had just opened and the parks didn't look anything like they did now. She is about half my age and has been plotting to return since.
I turned her on to TPI and showed her all of the pics on my phone from last years trip. The things she said were uncanny. Every path / shortcut, hidden things that people walk right past, how to score big on MIB, it was insane.
Published: May 11, 2014 at 1:32 PMThirty years ago -- as a member of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom College Program -- I worked Main Street/Adventureland ops doing crowd control for a parade. My son Evan is a Walt Disney World cast member. Today (as in right now -- 30 years after me) he is doing crowd control for a parade.
So yeah, I'm a Disney fan.
P.S. Walt Disney World does not charge resort guests for parking.
Published: May 11, 2014 at 7:18 PMOh, I had started to write a long-winded comment, but thought better of it.
I'll simply say I am indeed a Disney fan (and working at EPCOT was the most fun I ever had at a job), but I have been more interested/fascinated lately with Universal's projects.
I feel like I'm married to Disney but Universal is my mistress and trying really hard to get me to divorce.
Published: May 12, 2014 at 6:45 AMWe know TH, you posted it twice... it's the only weapon in your arsenal....
Published: May 12, 2014 at 6:51 AMI've been a lifelong Disney fan, but for the past decade I've become a bigger Universal fan. Disney does a great job, but for me, Universal does a better job.
And as to that free parking at Disney resorts...
Universal's Portofino Bay - single room
$295.50 per night
$20 self parking or $27 valet parking
unlimited Express Passes with room key
Disney's Polynesian Village - single room
$523.67 per night
free self or valet parking
4 FastPass+ reservations per day
Even with the parking added in, staying at Portofino Bay is still approximately $200 less per day.
Something tells me that you're still paying for that "free" parking.
Published: May 12, 2014 at 9:54 AM"Far nicer"... a little subjective there, no?
I think a few of us like to poke fun at the fact that no matter which Disney hotel you stay at, the perks are the same.
"Oh, you're staying in the $1440 a night room at the Polynesian with a view of the castle and marina? How nice for you, now get in line like everyone else...."
Published: May 12, 2014 at 10:35 AMHi Ryan....
I did say "theme park admission", so your comparison is a bit of a stretch, however, it is $50 a day to go to Cedar Point, not $35. So you pay half the price... and in a way, you get half the experience. Seems to be about what I expected. But take it one step further, if you add "fastpass" (Fastlane) to your Cedar Point visit (which is free at Disney) you are looking at an ADDITIONAL $75 - $95 per person during a July weekday visit. Ouch.
Still, my statement was more in comparing apples to apples, theme parks to theme parks. Or in this thread, Disney and Universal. And their prices are almost identical for single day tickets.
By the way, I personally don't care about the single day ticket price at the Orlando parks, since I never stay for just a single day. And honestly, I like having expensive single day tickets cause it keeps the riffraff out! ;)
Published: May 12, 2014 at 10:59 AMI'm curious, THC. As an Orlando resident have you ever had the opportunity to stay at the Polynesian Village or the Portofino Bay Resort?
I've never stayed in the Portofino Bay Resort, but I have stayed in the Polynesian Village and the Contemporary Resort. The rooms in both resorts were nice, but it was hard to justify the price. Now that Universal has onsite hotels at the Florida resort, the price differential is glaringly apparent, and it really gets hard to reconcile the extra cost to stay in one of the Disney premium hotels.
I know that Disney charges what the market will bear, and I don't blame them for doing so, but I hate the feeling that I'm getting "skinned" for being an ardent fan. What it does encourage me to do, however, is to go more often to Universal instead of Disney. (and pay for parking) ;^)
(If only I weren't so cheap, I'd buy that e-booklet that Robert wrote about how to save money at the Disney parks.)
Published: May 12, 2014 at 11:53 AMI have stayed at the Portofino Bay, but not at the Polynesian, so I am unqualified to objectively comment on both.
I'm sure a lot of people who live near Orlando drop $350-$500 per night to stay at hotel with no real incentive to do so when they live 10 minutes away. They have to, otherwise TH could not post that opinion truthfully.
Published: May 12, 2014 at 2:19 PMJames-
Okay I can see where you're coming from.
Here in Michigan, we can buy one-day admission tickets for Cedar Point at your local Meijer for $35.00. I just checked on their website and saw tickets are listed at $50.00 as you stated.
I suppose the overall "experience" depends on the individual. Obviously Disney doesn't compare to Cedar Point's elite roller coasters. And Cedar Point doesn't compare to Disney's dark rides.
BUT for the price... $35-50.00 clearly beats Disney's $99.00 one-day admission.
Published: May 12, 2014 at 3:26 PMWe are in violent agreement, Ryan! ;)
Most amusement parks do charge less than their theme park brethren. I really am not debating that point. But I do want to reiterate that Fastpass is free at Disney parks, not at Cedar Fair parks, which is a great equalizer when it comes to the whole park experience. Granted, CP doesn't pull anywhere close to the crowds at a Disney park, so FastLane may not always be needed, but it is a rare day indeed when the top coasters at CP aren't saddled with some kind of extended wait. You wanna bypass that wait? You just added a minimum of $75 to your ticket... Making your CP day more expensive than your Magic Kingdom day!
These guys gotta get their money somehow, and gouging the customers with expensive tickets, add ons, parking, food, up charge attractions, lockers, and souvenirs is commonplace. My only point being, Disney certainly does not hold exclusive rights to overpricing no matter how you add up the costs!
Published: May 13, 2014 at 10:43 AMVery ambiguous, TH. Not a confirmation nor a denial of you extensive experience at both hotels.
So, your philosophy is "pay more for less"... got it.