Sunday, May 29, 2005

Why This Blog?

On occasion, I get stuck on a topic or step up on the soapbox for something I have a strong opinion about. I thought that a blog might be a way to share that information with a wider audience. In the long run, if I don't reach that many people I am still okay with it. This can be a simple record of those thoughts.

Why not reveal more about myself? Well, I want to get some content here first and see where this is taking me before I go more public.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Disney's New Saratoga Springs Resort

I had the opportunity to stay at the new Saratoga Springs Resort in May 2005. This is the newest addition to the Disney Vacation Club portfolio of properties. The resort is sprawling, similar to Old Key West. Overall, it was a pleasant experience. We find the pool and community amenities to be nice. And watching the Pleasure Island midnight fireworks while sitting in the quite pool near the lake was pretty cool.

But, there were a few things that could use improvement. First, the usual complaint about the transportation still exists. It should take over an hour to leave your room, wait for a bus, and arrive at a park. In total, that's two hours a day lost for guests.

Secondly, I was surprised at how much the ongoing construction encroached on our stay. In the past, Disney has also been a leader in hiding development from guests. New resorts just suddenly "pop up" or new attractions suddenly appear as if by Disney magic. Not true this time. The noise and dust was irritating at times. I had taken the walkway to the marketplace and won't do that again while the construction is still going on; too much dust.

Don't get me wrong, I liked it and plan on going back. As with my other posts, I am trying to note the changes in the way Disney operates which, at some level, also points to fundamental changes in their culture and management.

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Disney's Airport Transportation

With the Magical Gathering promotions, along with the Biggest Celebration on Earth, Disney is now offering transportation from the Orlando airport for guests staying at Disney resorts. There may be some other limitation on this you should check out before going, but here is my experience and take on it.

This service seems to be operated by Mears. I didn't realize that until I was already in line to board the bus. Had I known, I would have rented a car. Mears has never failed to disappoint me so I stopped using them. Having said that, remember that FREE is still good.

Coming off the plane, I could not find the counter to get the bus. I didn't have checked bags so had no reason to wander the baggage areas. But I did go to the local transportation areas. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong side to try first and ended up walking the entire terminal before finding it. That cost be about 15 minutes but I got there.

The queue moved pretty quickly and the castmember (or Mears staffer?) quickly helped me out. Since I was arriving separate from my family as I was in another city for business (Las Vegas, the Adult resort), I didn't have any of the documents as they had only arrived the day before and I was already traveling. It didn't matter as they quickly found what I needed and also gave me my return voucher. Unfortunately, the return voucher had the wrong date, despite my wife verifying it with them multiple times. I was told it wouldn't really matter and went to get in line to board the bus. The experience at the counter took another 15 minutes but I thought it was pretty efficient and quick considering the volume of people in the queue.

However, I and a few others waited in the bus line for nearly 45 minutes before we boarded a bus. Had I rented a car, I could have driven there and already been in bed. The reason this was beginning to be a big deal is that my flight landed at 10:10 so it was now nearly midnight. Then, as usual and why I don't like Mears, the bus had to stop at 5 other resorts before getting me to Saratoga. At one point, we were trying to get into the Boardwalk and the gate wouldn't go up and there was obviously nobody watching the security camera at the gate.

Finally, at 1:20 I got off the bus at Saratoga Springs. I went to the check-in counter as my wife had told me she left my key there knowing I would arrive late. There was nobody at the counter. I yelled "Hello", knocked on doors, but to no avail. After 10 minutes a castmember came in and took care of me pretty quickly. I asked about the location of the room and was told it was essentially several blocks away. "Can someone take me there?", I asked. Nope - the buses aren't running and had I arrived before 1:00 there would have been someone to take me in a golf cart. Well, it wasn't my fault I wasn't there before 1:00. After all, I arrived at the airport at 10:10! It was now 1:40 and I had to drag myself several blocks to our room.

Disney Transportation, or its vendors, in general may ultimately be the downfall of the resort.