Just returned from Disney Orlando. I had expected to be treated to a master class in branding. Instead, it was a near-total disappointment:
- The parks were crowded beyond belief and we waited a minimum of an hour to an hour and a half for every ride. In general, as well, the rides were very short given the wait time to get on them. This is a far cry from the imaginary world of the brochure and Disney video that ran in the hotel, which prepares you for an action-packed day. If we managed a few rides in a day, that was a victory.
- Customer service staff (greeters) were in short supply and they did not greet us with any kind of Disney "signature" hello. Though helpful when we could find them, there was nothing that set them apart especially as Disney employees. They also didn't seem to have a standard Disney uniform, which was surprising.
- Animal Kingdom seemed dirty and the directional signs were incomprehensible. Moreover, there were few actual animals to be seen (we did see a tiger, an anteater and some bats). Other than the roller coaster ride, the rafting ride, and the jungle safari (which we didn't even attempt because we were told the wait time was too long) there was nothing to do that was of any interest to us. And although I paced around nauseously (from the roller coaster ride) looking for some regular food to eat, there seemed to be nothing for sale besides ice cream and sugar drinks (like I said, we couldn't navigate so if there was other food we couldn't find it.)
- Epcot was by far the best park in Disney, but was also a shameless advertisement for a number of other companies that sponsored various presentations there including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Nestle. (I have to admit that the Soarin' ride, in which you seem to ride above the earth, was worth the incredibly long wait.) I was a little offended at the extent of corporate sponsorship of what should have been a "pure" Disney experience.
- MGM was good in terms of having good stunt shows to see, but was also crowded and impossible to navigate.
- At Magic Kingdom, which was flooded with literally a crush of people, we waited 1.5 hours for Splash Mountain then got thrown off the ride because it was broken. The railroad ride was also broken and the haunted mansion was closed, and the monorail that got us to the main part of the park got stuck in midstream. The worst part of it was when we tried to leave but were blocked by a Disney parade from getting through. They literally will not let you pass when the parade is in session.
- The Disney theme park cards (the cards you use to gain entry to the park) didn't work and had to be reprinted. Further, the cards were keyed to each individual user by fingerprint but had no space to write our name on them - causing confusion each time we entered the park.
I still want to believe in Disney, even after this experience...but it is tough. I think it's still a great brand, but as far as the theme parks go, I did not have a good customer/brand experience.