Before arriving in the US, I kept a kernel of hope in my heart I would love my theme park experiences. It was a tiny kernel, but it was there. Alas, within moments of arrival for our first day at Disney World, it was extinguished. I haven’t enjoyed theme parks since my teen years and apparently, it ain’t gunna change.
I told Steve a few weeks before we left about my theme park dread and he was genuinely surprised I felt that way. I was surprised he was surprised!!
No matter though, because it’s important to have the attitude of taking one for the team – that’s what you do, right – as a parent? Because all I have really cared about is the boys having wonderful memories, just like Steve has from his family adventures to Disney World back in 1982.
The whole experience was a perplexing one for me. From the minute we booked it, I was hoping on looks of wonder in our boy’s eyes, while I endured my personal definition of hell. I was hoping on delight at the amazing experiences they were lucky enough to get – something I never had as a child.
But none of that happened. All they seemed interested in doing was moaning and saying: can we go back to the hotel now? Seriously at the end of Disney – in particular – I couldn’t believe it when they told me they loved it… They loved the whole thing. You really would not have known it!
|Day one, we have arrived at Disney World|
- Disney – the sheer scale of organization – a Smart City in all its glory – from transport to infrastructure to payments, apps, moving so many people around, security, the growing commitment to the environment, food, services, the scale of it, the cleanliness (and all staff took part in keeping it clean) and so much more! With close to 20 million visitors a year just to Disney World, I think a lot of federal governments should be looking at it as a smart city model for their countries. Incredible example of a future city driven by technology at the core. Truly awesome.
- Again at Disney, true service excellence happened, and while I’d say we experienced great service across the board – I can’t say it was 100% service excellence. Because surprisingly there were service failures too – about 10% – and because it’s Disney, the failures stood out. It’s common knowledge the staff at Disney are trained to be amazing, so because of that, bad service has a much greater impact. Some of the bad service experiences included surly attitudes, being patronizing because we didn’t think to book months in advance, non-delivery on promises, and so on… Let’s just say I was surprised when we didn’t have a magical experience. Then again, I could certainly empathize. I don’t know how anyone keeps a smile on their face all day long when dealing with the human avalanche coming through this place EVERY DAY…
- With Universal, the staff were great, but there were no expectations – however the stand out was Harry Potter World. Everyone we dealt with was in character and made the experience truly awesome. I loved this and loved Harry Potter World. Yes I loved something in a theme park and it almost made the pain worth it. They’ve done an excellent job bringing Harry Potter to life
- I loved loved LOVED the diversity experience of Disney – in particular. It’s probably what stood out to me the most. All races, religions, cultures, sexualities, wealthy, poor, and more. Everyone was there for a single goal – to experience joy and find their magic, with no one looking sideways at anyone else in fear, other than being bemused by fashion choices – and there were some doozies. We were all equal in our misery and quest at Disney. Just that spoke to me and I loved it. Truly the special part of the experience for me. Unity and acceptance is possible.
- But probably the key thing for me, and my absolute delight of the whole experience, was the people watching fiesta. Disney fans, all shapes, sizes, ages and more… It really was so much fun watching people – some frantic, some at peace, many fighting with spouses, kids screaming, the shorty shorts in abundance, the pale flesh on display probably for the first time in a year… oh it was certainly very very entertaining, not in a bitchy way, just a wow, look at us humans, aren’t we weird kind-of-way. We truly are a bunch of weirdos!
|My mini-Wizards. Even I liked Harry Potter World|
The bad of theme parks
- The manic-ness and intensity of the crowd – because you’ve got to get it all in, see it all, do the latest rides, etc… There was a hunger for maximum value that permeated everything, and well, I just can’t do that. I enjoyed what I could and thought nothing about what wasn’t possible. I know I’ll never go back, so I just accepted I’d miss things and that is cool. The option of lining up three hours for a ride? No bloody way! Lining up for three hours for a ride with kids? Kill me now! We definitely missed the memo about being super organized before we arrived, however the reality is, we were never going to be. We just didn’t have enough time in advance to get organized and focused. In the end, it didn’t matter, because while we didn’t get on the latest rides, the ones we did were great. Space Mountain is 36 years old for god’s sake, and even I rode it!!! But I did find the intensity full on. It’s just not my style
- For many, cost was issue, and boy did you hear about it any time you had a random conversation with anyone. When it comes to theme park madness, it is definitely a place where you must accept that you’re in for a penny, in for a pound, otherwise you’ll do your head in!
- The short cut mindset – the how we can rort the system for our benefit? This mindset permeated everywhere, and I just never understand it. If you gain something, while others lose, well, that’s not winning for me
- The food!! After Disney, the smell and intensity of sweet, chemical bread, and bloody BBQ sauce – I’ve never understood the fascination for BBQ sauce, ever!! – well if I never smell it again, it won’t be too soon. Universal definitely had more variety in its choices, but overall, the food was all just shit. We crammed down fruits and vegetables when we escaped the place
- Time of year – we have no choice because of the boys’ school holidays, which means this is when we must do a trip like this! Many warned us of the humidity, but it was nothing compared to what we’re used to. It’s just the scale of humanity that is the biggest issue. I really don’t like crowds
- The number of people in wheel chairs. I love how Disney and Universal really goes overboard to cater for the physically disabled. It’s very special and admirable. However, I was SHOCKED by the number of people using these services, mainly because many were very young and we saw far too many leaping out of their chairs and walking around. I know this sounds judgey, but the movie Wall-e came to mind witnessing this
|Getting into the spirit…|
So seven out of 29 days spent in theme parks on our US adventure… All for the boys too. My travel preference is always the artsy fartsy type of towns/destinations – and while we went to many places like this, we couldn’t stay in any long enough, because we had dates at bloody theme parks!!
I definitely took one for the team on this road trip, and while the boys have not been waxing lyrical about their experiences, I am looking forward to overhearing conversations with their mates about the incredible things they did get to do – because we did so much awesome stuff. They really have no idea how lucky they are.
For me, I am now a devoted never again theme parker. Because it’s quite simply all too insular for me, and what I think of as structured fun. I like random, earthy, chaos, dirt. I like to be surprised. I like travelling in the developing world. That’s what I like. The boys will be getting more of what I like in future, that’s for sure. Steve agrees. Holidays for us in future. Why not? The boys will moan anyway.
Anyone else a never again theme parker?
Yours, without the bollocks
Thank you for reading my ramblings. My brain and heart are a work in progress, always. I’d love a comment if it stirred any thoughts or feelings and of course, please feel free to share it with anyone you know who might be interested or entertained. I sure do appreciate it when you do. If you want to connect, I’m on Twitter here, Google+ here, Instagram here, YouTube here, and Facebook too. I share loads of stuff, not just my own xxxxx
Want to build a professional presence online? Check out my e-learning course How to build a rock star personal brand today. I put all of my heart into this.