FL/TX Spring Break Week (Plus a little Sea World)

bnoble

he's right
This is a set of bullet-point items I wrote for a "general" theme park audience (coasterbuzz.com) but thought it was worth sharing here as well.
  • Wow, is it busy. This is spring break for wide swaths of FL, TX, Ontario, and a few other places. Lots of marching bands. All parks not named Epcot were sold out to day guests well in advance. Many days were fully sold out in advance.
  • Studios is rough at this attendance level. By 10 or so on an 8:30 open, pretty much every line in the park is 1hr+.
  • G+ (the pay-in-bulk VQ) works fairly well, and if you remember the paper FP system, it is very similar. There are a few attractions that you have to be very quick on the draw to get, but it was very helpful in every park at one point or another. It is probably less important at quieter times in some parks.
  • If you remember the old "tiered" model that studios and Epcot used in the FP+ era, that's more or less replicated here. You won't get more than one (or maybe two) of the top-tier attractions via G+ unless you get very lucky.
  • Slinky is maybe the hardest to get for G+. We were reminded that we think the coaster is boring, and not worth the effort.
  • The "at most once" rule for G+ only bit us once, and really isn't an issue IMO.
  • The individual-paid system is not ready for prime time. Yes, it allows you to pick a return window. But, that might or might not be the one you get. The one you are assigned might be then, or might be an hour or two later. In one case, it was 90 minutes earlier. You don't know what time you are going to get until you have committed to paying for it, and you cannot cancel it nor will the "standard" guest services people change it (at least, probably not). If you are willing to plan your day around whatever you end up with, that's fine. But if you are not planning a full day in the park, it can throw your plans in the air. I am one of those people who just buys stuff on vacation without thinking too much about it, and I gave up on this halfway through the week.
  • We spent stupid money at Space 220 for dinner, and it was great. Very good (but not quite excellent) food, and a cool experience. Will do again, but maybe not in the next few trips.
  • We also booked the Savor the Savanna tour. This was outstanding. Would do again, for sure, and sooner than Space 220. Everyone loved this.
  • Finally, we also did one of the dessert parties at MK. I probably would not do that again for my family, but we were with people who won't usually see the fireworks and we wanted to do it with them, so this was a nice compromise. I suspect the value in this is based on how many times you make your way back to the bar, and I don't drink, so...
I'm sure there is more that I will think of. Overall, the trip was better than I expected---I was very anxious about the crowds plus the new system, but we had a good time and didn't wait in 30+ minute lines more than a handful of times.

A few other notes:

Anecdotally, we did see a lot of Plaids roaming the parks doing private VIP tours---more in Studios than other places. That's another level beyond what we were doing, because we were not ready to drop several thousand on a single day just to avoid all the lines. But, if you have the means and the will, it's available, and it effectively solves the Studios Problem.

Sea World's food festival is really good. Unlike some Epcot offerings, they did not shy away from the spices, and with the sampler package it can be very affordable. I spent the last hour of Sea World operations yesterday power-riding Mako. I guess I'm not too old after all. Two trains right up to close, and a crew that was doing a good job. With the possible exception of Velocicoaster (which I've not been on yet) Mako is probably the best "roller coaster" of the coasters in Central FL. If you are willing to go to Tampa, add Iron Gwazi to that mix. I also rode Ice Breaker, and I suspect that's one-and-done for me. The restraints were a little awkward, and while it's a nice ride (I would not describe it as a "family" coaster) it's not all that and a bag of chips.

I also went to House of Blues the other night for the 311 show; I was staying at Saratoga Springs just across the water, so it was an easy walk, and a really good time. It was maybe the second time I was in a packed indoor venue of screaming people since waves-at-all-of-this started, so check with me again in 5-ish days if I still think it was a good idea. I was wearing a mask, but I was one of the few.
 

bnoble

he's right
There was also a discussion on the merits of FP, FP+, G+, etc. I ended up summarizing my thoughts this way:
...the problem that most people are really talking about is: It costs money when it didn't before, and it's not demonstrably better in terms of how many attractions you can get than it was before. They aren't using those words, but that seems to be what is going on.

But [some frustration] is inevitable. The fact is that in each park there are a handful of attractions that everyone wants to ride, but given the hourly capacity, the length of an operating day, and the daily attendance some people just won't ride it. It's just math, and there is no arguing with math. If, say, 20,000 people can ride Rise in a 12 hour day, but 40,000 people enter the park, half of those people aren't riding and that's just the way it goes.

No matter what they do with virtual queuing or how they do it, some people are going to be disappointed. And, for everyone who does get on it, they are going to have to either spend time or spend money to do so---again, no matter what---unless Disney suddenly decides they shouldn't monetize the crown jewels of their parks. And I don't think most CBuzzers think that's either likely or even smart. I suspect most of us wonder what took them so long. I know I do.
 

George

The ratio of people to cake is too big.
I'd no problem paying for MaxPass at DLR, and was really optimistic about G+ when it was announced, based on my experiences with MP: It worked, and it saved us lots of time and foot blisters. I don't know what happened to attitudes between the MaxPass system and G+/ILLs, because it seems to be as f'ed up there as it is now in WDW. MP was essentially the same as G+; why the sudden deluge of users and related frustrations? Is it as simple as pent-up post-COVID demand coupled with a crazy new locals' park reservation policy?
 

bnoble

he's right
I think there are a couple of things going on. The things you mention are part of it, I suspect especially the keyholder thing. Everyone's fuses are a little bit shorter now than they were two years ago. All the domestic parks are at lower capacity overall without the full slate of entertainment and meet-and-greets, putting more pressure on the rides.

But, there is also a fundamental shift from MP to G+. In the MP era, paper FPs were still available and free---if you were willing to walk to the machine, you could get one. MP was really only saving you the walk; it wasn't doing much else. So, I suspect the uptake rate of MP was much much lower than the uptake rate of G+. Now, if you want a fastpass, you have to pay, whether you are willing to walk across the park or not. There is another important difference between paper FPs and G+, namely: the need to physically be there limited the number of and rate at which people pulled them. There is no such limit with G+.

I suspect that, in practice, G+ works well in Disneyland, and probably adequately in DCA. Both of those parks have attraction counts larger than any of the WDW parks except for MK in the case of DCA (I think). And, if you can get over the fact that you have to pay for it, it seems to work just fine in MK even in heavy crowd situations.

---------------

Continuing the TR, today I hit up Typhoon Lagoon TGM style. A lot of people there, but I arrived at about 1:30 for a 5P close, did a circuit of the lazy river and one cycle in the wave pool. After that, all the slides were 5-10 minutes. I ended up leaving at 4 due to a conference call I had to take this evening, but was able to hit all the slide complexes available to a single rider.
 

George

The ratio of people to cake is too big.
You know, I totally forgot about the paper FASTPASS equation at DLR.

Oh, and re: your forced early departure from Typhoon Lagoon, a wise man once said that work realty shouldn’t get in the way of Important Things. :RpS_tongue:
 

ThemeParkCommando

Active member
Sea World's food festival is really good. Unlike some Epcot offerings, they did not shy away from the spices, and with the sampler package it can be very affordable.
Sea World San Antonio's Seven Seas Food Festival starts this weekend. I have my passholder discounted sampler package lanyards ready, and just cannot wait. It is so much fun to try out the offerings, and to eat old favorites that I somehow cannot replicate. (Passionfruit glaze on the jamaican custard, I'm looking at you!) I put the offererings right up there with EPCOT's Food and Wine festival, if a bit fewer at SeaWorld.
One of the fun parts is that we are now recognized by the main chef ( even if I can't remember his name, I'm SO bad at that), and he steers us towards some of the taste testing opportunities behind the scenes. I do love my home park.
 

bnoble

he's right
A couple of final thoughts:

I saw both new nighttime shows, each one twice. The new MK fireworks show is...okay. Lots of ooh and aah moments, some very clever castle projections, and a few that are tightly coordinated. (Elsa has the best bit here). The first time I saw it, I think I was just overwhelmed, because there is a LOT going on with the castle projections. The second time was a little easier to follow, but still was too busy for this 50-something year old brain to follow easily. The theme of the show ("you are the magic") was good and tied in well with the castle Stage show during the day, and while it isn't subtle, Disney rarely is. There were also a few segments that I thought were emotionally moving, but overall it was a perfectly fine jukebox show. I will see it once each trip, but I probably won't make it a huge priority.

In contrast, I really liked Harmonious. On its surface, it's also a jukebox show, but it's a party. The musical selections are re-arranged to be more danceable/beat driven, the use of languages to evoke the sense of "worldwide," and the animations---particularly on the Tacos---added to that sense of fun. It's certainly not the more highbrow show that Illuminations was, and people will complain about the Stargate and Tacos forever. But, I found myself smiling uncontrollably during several passages, and that's worth a lot for me. M's comment after the first time we saw it: "Well, the Tacos are worth it." I will probably make a point of seeing this more than once each trip.

Speaking of the Stargate and Tacos: yes, they are visually intrusive as you walk into World Showcase via the center spine. From either side (Odyssey or the Rose Garden) they are much less noticeable. Once you are in World Showcase, the lagoon is large enough that there are plenty of clear sight lines. I suspect in a year or two most of us won't notice them most of the time.

We enjoyed the new TS restaurant in France. It's not going to make the short list for a first-time visitor, but it's different from most everything else at WDW and does what it does well. In the current era when the restaurant menus of Disney-owned places are becoming more homogenous (oh look! there's short rib on the menu!), it's nice to have something that just Not That.

Remy is fun, but not power-walk-to-the-back-of-the-park-at-rope-drop fun. I suspect Guardians will quickly eclipse it as the Hot Thing, and by a lot. I think the future of Epcot is bright; I though the central spine was horribly dated, and am looking forward to the new look even though it is Different and Change Is Bad.

Tron will be a great visual addition to MK once it is done, though I wonder how popular it will be given the ride system. As the live entertainment completes its return---we saw the parade and the Dapper Dans on their first few days returning to Main Street USA---it's starting to feel whole again.

Animal Kingdom is pretty sparse for us with the refurbishment of Everest, the closure of Whirl, and the period of transitional closure at Nemo. We aren't the biggest Dinosaur fans, nor are we interested in the random chance of getting completely soaked on Kali, and so there's just about half the park that we don't really need to get to. About the only thing we did on that side of the park was the Maharaja Trek. It's sad, because I like the environment of AK perhaps the best of the four, but right now it feels like half a park. With Everest and Nemo returning, that will get better. Hopefully there are plans in the near-ish future for Dinoland USA. It would be interesting to see just how big that plot is; from looking at the satellite shot, it is a little smaller than the Dinosaur ride building, but there is also a backstage lot behind it that maybe could be repurposed.

I'm not sure what to make of Studios. There are a number of great attractions there, but even with the shows back, there's not enough other stuff to keep the lines at those attractions even remotely sane. The park is frustrating enough that I'm not sure how much time I would spend here on my next trip. Rise is great, and I happen to really like Runaway Railway, but....ugh. I genuinely don't know what I'd do here to change that though. There is an expansion pad available behind Coaster, and some more backstage space between that and Toy Story Land. Unfortunately, Marvel is the obvious directon to go, but most of those properties are off-limits in Florida. Maybe something like the Arendelle expansion happening at HKDL or the mixed-set Fantasy Springs stuff at Tokyo DisneySea? Either way, the park could stand to have a mix of "mid-level" attractions that bridge the headliners with the shows.

One final aside: Falcon is a LOT more fun when you have a party of six. vs. when you're with a bunch of random people.
 
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Great writing Bnoble. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

For sure interesting times ahead. After Tron there is no real big attraction/ride on the horizon for WDW. I wonder which decisions they will take in anticipation of the opening of Epic Universe.
 

Disneyfan

Well-known member
people will complain about the Stargate and Tacos forever.
^^^^ Yes, yes I will. I did enjoy the show last fall, however. I wish they could have figured out how to make the daytime water features work.

Thank you for your report! I have not been since the Genie fun started.
 

Disneyfan

Well-known member
Sea World San Antonio's Seven Seas Food Festival starts this weekend. I have my passholder discounted sampler package lanyards ready, and just cannot wait. It is so much fun to try out the offerings, and to eat old favorites that I somehow cannot replicate. (Passionfruit glaze on the jamaican custard, I'm looking at you!) I put the offererings right up there with EPCOT's Food and Wine festival, if a bit fewer at SeaWorld.
One of the fun parts is that we are now recognized by the main chef ( even if I can't remember his name, I'm SO bad at that), and he steers us towards some of the taste testing opportunities behind the scenes. I do love my home park.
I am so glad you mentioned the Festival. I have a Teacher Card and may have to check it out.
 

George

The ratio of people to cake is too big.
I think the Tron building’s obtrusive and is the proverbial last nail in the coffin of the MK views, from BLT most egregiously. I don’t care if it’s painted blue. It’s still there. And it’s ugly, a constant reminder that it’s a show building.
 

bnoble

he's right
From outside the park you might be right. I did not really notice the gravity building from inside the park; just the swoops canopy.
 

George

The ratio of people to cake is too big.
The Guardians gravity building in the other hand…
That’s pretty monstrous too.

At least with RnR they did a great job of hiding the show building, even going so far as to theme it for those who see it from the roads outside the park.
 

bnoble

he's right
I really liked Harmonious. On its surface, it's also a jukebox show, but it's a party. The musical selections are re-arranged to be more danceable/beat driven, the use of languages to evoke the sense of "worldwide," and the animations---particularly on the Tacos---added to that sense of fun. It's certainly not the more highbrow show that Illuminations was, and people will complain about the Stargate and Tacos forever. But, I found myself smiling uncontrollably during several passages, and that's worth a lot for me. M's comment after the first time we saw it: "Well, the Tacos are worth it." I will probably make a point of seeing this more than once each trip.
Coming back to this after last night's livestream of the show on D+. The stream was great fun, and it brought even more life to the compositions for me. They spent more time on the performers than the show itself, so it won't exactly spoil it if you've not seen it yet.

PS: The India/Wanna Be Like You passage slaps.
 

bnoble

he's right
And I also realize I missed @Alcachofa's question!

The "gravity building" is the part of an indoor roller coaster that contains the "gravity-powered" part: after the initial launch/lift there's a Really Big Box that contains the rest of the roller coaster---the parts that "coast".
 
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