The Magical Express Debate by Steve Russo
Magical or tragic? For some, the debate continues.
Read it here!
The Magical Express Debate by Steve Russo
Magical or tragic? For some, the debate continues.
Read it here!
I have to reply to a couple of the points.
2. The volume on the video was too loud.
I'm not a big believer in suffering in silence. The bus driver DOES have some control on the video. He/she can't control when it starts, etc - but they CAN control the volume. If it's too loud ASK THEM TO TURN IT DOWN!
5. Steve, you forgot the biggest time spent at MCO lately as where you could be 'rushing' if you don't get to the airport soon enough -- waiting in line at security. Those lines get LONG. I'm willing to get picked up early so I'm not there waiting for the person in front of me to disrobe, or for the TSA agent to 'clear' me because an article of clothing I generally don't remove in public is setting off the metal detector (or because I'm not a fan of giving up my 4th ammendment rights - but that's another thread!)
Magical Express just promises to get you from the airport to the resort and back. For free.
I've take much less comfortable (if more expedient) modes of transportation from airports that I had top pay for (sometimes a lot).
Sure it is not perfect. But it's free.
If they eliminated the services, do you think Disney would lower rates? I think not.
It should be a longer walk and slower with less freedom than other options. Because it's free.
It already cuts deeply into other airport transfers. Making it the same as them would destroy their business totally and leave the traveller with no options.
Sure, for the first time user of ME it's hard to tell. But what you have to do is weigh the negatives of ME for you with how much you'd pay to get rid of them. If you wouldn't pay the additional amount (in time money and hassle) to secure another form of transport, then ME is good for you.
Another big benefit. We were flying home on a day when there was a huge midwestern snowstorm. We checked our flight and it was still scheduled. We took ME to the airport (flight still on schedule on the big board at MCO), got to our gate and found the flight was cancelled.
A few furious calls and we booked another night (which became 2) with our DVC points, switched to a flight the next day (which we changed to the next nonstop flight, which was the day after to avoid getting stuck in St. Louis as oppossed to Orlando!) and contacted ME. They took us back to our resort. When we were finally ready to leave on our new flight, they took us back to the airport.
That saved us a ton over what it would have cost if we were using cabs or renting a car.
The previous comments all made good points. I hadn't considered what mrshiny posted about getting back to the report & then back to MCO, but that is a great point, and makes me feel even better about using Magical Express.
I would like to add a couple of thoughts of my own related to specific points.
3. Another alternative is to use a website to pre-order groceries, such as GardenGrocer.com. That is what my wife and I used for our most recent (and first) trip to WDW. There is a premium vs. stopping off at the local Publix, but it is far less than getting a Town Car, renting a car (unless you were going to do so anyway), and/or paying Disney prices for these items. Garden Grocer worked very well for us, and the groceries were dropped off at our resort while we were in Magic Kingdom having dinner. When we got back we let Bell Services know we were back and they brought them on up (since some of it was refrigerated, they didn't just drop it off in the room in advance).
4. Since it was our first time at WDW, I loved stopping at other resorts on the way to ours. We stayed at Wilderness Lodge, which I believe was the 2nd stop after the Grand Floridian. It was so exciting to be brought onto property, and see other resorts on the way to ours. It heightened the anticipation and added to the excitement for us.
I am always amazed that ME is the debate that it is.
Frankly, Disney did not used to have any transportation. You made your own way there, you paid for it.
I *can* understand how some would want a grocery stop, or any other kind of stops along the way, but these are the people who might just be better off getting a car. We have DVC so we've been there. The last few times, we've met up with people who had a car and had already done the groceries and we came in on ME. But the bottom line is it's free transportation, provided by Disney to get you to and from the resort.
Is there a motive? Of course there is, they want to get you to Disney, and by giving you free transport, it lessens the odds you'll go wandering elsewhere. Are you locked into that? Not at all. If you don't like/need the service, don't take it!
I agree, the transportation if for free so go with it even if there are some bumps on the way. However, I personally didn't feel the bumps or they were not enough to bother me.
I guess we were lucky as far as the volume goes. I didn't notice it being loud. In fact, there were times that our bus driver was like a tour guide, pointing things out so I don't even recall the background noise. He was even so energetic that he was getting everyone on the bus to whoot and holler with him. It added to the anticipation of arriving at our resort.
I personally enjoy stopping at the other resorts. I love to get a peak at the resorts I have not stayed in and even the ones I have. I always say I am going to visit them but we never seem to have enough time. Before I know it, the week is over. By stopping at the resorts, I feel I get a quick glimpse.
We ordered food from Gardengrocer so we didn't need to worry about stopping. And honestly, we enjoy being without a car for a week. Staying within the parks/resorts and using Disney transportation just adds to the "magic" of WDW and the outside world not existing. In addition we find it fun using each travel mode (bus, boat, monorail). It is like a journey, part of the adventure.
As far as the luggage goes, Disney was outstanding . On our flight home, our plane was delayed. I miscalculated our time frame for checking in for the ME. The CM's went out of their way, making phone calls, to ensure our luggage would make the plane. Not only did it make the plane, but had we had to check in our luggage, we would never have made our flights. The check in line was out the door and security was so backed up that it took us forever to get through. I would trust Disney with our luggage again. Plus, I didn't want to have to carry my luggage through the airport with children in tow.
I would use the ME again in a heartbeat
1977 Poly, 1986 Ramada, 1987 Hilton, 1998 BW,
1999 GF, 2000 PO, 2010 VWL
I was somewhat taken aback by some of the comments Amanda made. I do like the counter points made in the article.
I used ME almost two years ago now. Coming from California and having no idea of the layout of the land, this free option made the most sense to me. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and looked on it as the magic beginning right from the get go, before even arriving at WDW. Of course I'm a Pollyanna kind of person and always try to look on the bright side of things
We travel with 1 or 2 Disability/Mobility scooters, and a service dog. All would fry free on Southwest. The dog would have to be able to ride in the bus with us (ADA law). Could we fold-down the scooters and get them in the luggage area under the bus cabin? Anybody had experience using ME with such scooters?? I would think they would not need a special bus if folded. I may have to load them though, since I'm sure Diz doesn't want their driver risking pulling his back or damaging them by not folding them correctly.
Oh, and when travelling between resorts, the parks, and DTDisney, could we also use the disney resort busses to carry the scooters underneath as well? It would sure be nice to not have to rent a large van with fold-down seats.
The Magical Express is Magical for my kids when we visit Disney World. As another reader suggested, it marks the beginning of a magical trip (red carpet and all) and bids us farewell upon our exit. My family doesn't officially call our Disney vacation over until we leave Disney property on the Express!
I don't care about the cartoons or the ads or the volume level or the extra ten minutes to get to our resort, it's part of the Disney experience! I love the convenience and the friendly drivers.
We have never had to wait in the "corral", perhaps because we have just lucked out. But, we've used it many times with ease.
When have stayed on property and off property when visiting DW. On property with the Magical Express works best for us... As for paying the extra money in the Disney stores for beer/sundries? I couldn't live with myself if I paid $6.00 plus for a beer. But, if you're traveling Southwest or other reasonable airline and don't pay extra for luggage, then why not pack those extras and take them along with you? :
What's there to complain about? As long as you follow the instructions and have an ounce of patience, it's the easiest thing in the world. I've traveled to WDW in all various fashions from New England over the last 25 years, drive, fly and drive, fly and shuttle, fly and cab and Magical Express is the best (unless of course you have very deep pockets). We've used it more than a dozen times without any big problem. How can you beat arriving at MCO, not worrying about your bags (as long as you have put your yellow resort tags on them) , getting on a comfortable bus and not having to deal with the traffic yourself after a flight. Your bags are delivered to your room in a reasonable amount of time and you don't have to shelp them around (and if you're not in your room at the time you even getting out of tipping the bellman). If you arrive before your room is ready you know that your bags are all set and you can head off to the parks.
Some helpful hints include packing a few necessary items in your carry on, including a swim suit if you like, to have while you're waiting for your bags; but this is a good idea anyway you travel in case the airlines delay your bags.
If you want some food or snacks for your room I usual pack a box and UPS it a few days ahead of time which they'll deliver to your room (sorry, can't mail beer, but I just suck it up for the week and pay WDW prices).
When your stay is over your bags are taken to the airport for you, again no shelping around. I know that it seems like you have to be ready to leave too early (it's always hard when a good thing ends), but you have to remember you're bags do not travel on the bus with you and are sent on ahead. Most people would rather not miss their flight and get home with their bags. All this for "free", and it really is free because if you choose not to use it, you're not going to save any money.
Now the "patience" part. It's sort of the name game when your going to vacation in WDW. You wait for the buses, you wait for a table, you wait in line for the rides and you wait for the shows to begin. With all the logicist of moving all those people and luggage , and getting it to the correct resort and correct room, I think they do an amazing job. If you're someone who can't wait for anything, can't chill out and gets all upset about waiting; you are in the wrong place and you're just going to ruin the vacation of others around you who are going with the flow.
Frankly I think Amanda's complains are getting too much attention and she's just spoiled, the rest of us are just a annoyance to her and she probably doesn't play nice with others.
Last edited by Bratwurst; 01-29-2011 at 05:33 AM.
I am a DVC owner, and my wife and I generally travel down to WDW during the slow seasons, and almost always during Labor Day when its really quiet. When its so slow the Magical Express can really hamstring a schedule. Since there are less people, the routes are combined and depending on where you're staying you can really be sitting on that bus a long time. Between waiting for it to fill up, then dropping off at resort after resort, it really can be trying. The same goes for the return, since you could be making several stops, you can be scheduled for pickup considerably earlier than your flight. Over the past 5 yrs we've opted to just go with a car service. For about $120 (up to four people) round trip we're picked up at the gate by a Town Car, we make a pit stop at Publix for the odds and ends we'll need in our villa (case of bottled water, snacks, etc) and then right to the lobby, on the return we have a much more personalized and relaxed trip back all without the headaches of rental cars, parking etc.. We've arranged the same driver the past couple years, and its really been great. For $60 each way we have a lot of convenience, and its on our schedule. A few times we've gone with another couple and then its really a bargain for what you get. I don't know about the rest of you, but the last thing I want to do after the headaches of air travel, is to be stuck on a bus.
JP in CT
I guess I'll jump on the bandwagon of liking the ME. Have used it 4-5 times without significant wait times. Twice we even came to Disney just for 1-2 nights on way to or from cruises. Using our DVC and ME allowed us to do this relativley inexpensivly and break up our travel days and add some extra time to the trip. Had I had to pay $100 to and from airport and then more to cruise terminals etc, we would of just opted to fly in cruise morning losing these extra vacation days.
As far as groceries/alcohol I'm a pretty light packer so for the bottom of my suitcase I made a foam protective thingy with cutouts in the shape of 2 of my favorite liqour bottles and a jar of pasta sauce. We also pack a box of pasta, granola bars, and poptarts. Enough food to make some casual "breakfasts" and one cheap nights dinner (usually leftovers for a lunch as well) with only purchasing some cheese for the pasta and juice for breakfasts at Disney's inflated prices. For drinks I have the expensive part with me and only have to buy some mixers from Disney (soda/juices). Have occasionaly even weighed my bags ahead of time and if theres room thrown in a 2 liter of soda.
Have also brought liqour to Vegas many times for same reason (everything within walking distance of strip very expensive, paying taxi to a locals store would only be profitable if you were buying large quanities) and on a few cruises. In 10+ flights have never had a broken bottle; knock on wood!!
I've used Magical Express as long as it's been around and it's never been anything but a pleasure for us.
I'm into retreating into my Disney bubble as soon as my trip begins, so if Magical Express zaps me out of the real world and throws me into Disney's world sooner, then it's a no-brainer for me.
I don't want to rent a car, I don't want to get into a town car or a cab. I don't want to stop at a supermarket. I can do all of these things at home in New York. Get me into Disney's bubble as soon as possible and keep me there until I'm forced to go home. If Disney could fly me there in their own magical planes just to keep the bubble going for as long as they can, I'd be the first on line to buy a ticket from them.
We have just returned from our 5th WDW trip using Magic Express and I have nothing but good things to say about it. Frankly, I am surprised that the debate warrants discussion seeing as the complaints offered all seem quite petty in my opinion.
Walking distance to the ME desk:
We have traveled in group sizes of 17, 4, 8, and most recently 6 all of which included between 1 and 5 toddlers, and at no time did we find the distance walked in the airport to be unreasonable. Bear in mind that we are the type to wait in our aircraft seat for all of the much less patient people to deplane and then we certainly take our time stopping at restrooms, etc. on the way to the ME desk. We generally prefer to allow those who seem to be in a much bigger hurry than us to simply pass us by. Getting there in a leisurely fashion has never seemed to be a problem as the wait has never been more than about 10 minutes even when the line looks very long.
Volume of ME video:
I think I have found the volume of the ME video to be uncomfortably low if anything. Most recently I wished that the driver would simply drive rather than talk non-stop and try to play passenger games over the intercom while driving. However, it seemed to entertain those who were interested, so I have no problem with it.
I have to believe that anyone getting on a bus understands that it isn't going to make grocery stops. This seems like a very unreasonable complaint to me. We have used GardenGrocer.com on 3 trips now and find the service to be fantastic. Yes you pay a premium, but nowhere near that of the Disney grocery service and you have an incredible selection available. The service works very well, and it is very convenient to have the groceries delivered either directly or by bell services. Prior to using this service, we spent about $30 round-trip for a cab to the local Publix store. This was less convenient, but would be a good option for some. Personally, I didnt like having to spend part of my trip grocery shopping. We place our order with GG days before traveling and give them our deliver time. Absolutely wonderful service!
We greatly enjoy getting to see other resorts on our trips to and from the airport. We stayed most recently at VWL after seeing it on a return trip from BLT. Otherwise, we were aware of it, but did not know how beautiful the resort was without having seen it firsthand. This does add time to the trip but we are never in that much of a hurry to or from the airport. We find the travel days to be long and tiring as it is, so a few extra minutes to relax on the bus does not bother us at all. It is often the time that our youngest travelers nap as well.
While 3 hours may seem unreasonable, we have never felt that we arrived at the airport with a ton of time to waste. We generally take advantage of the seating areas just inside the drop off area to relax a moment and take care of any restroom needs or diaper changes before heading upstairs. Once there, we often end up in the Disney, Universal, or KSC stores for a few minutes before heading to the security line. Although the lines can look bad at times, that too, has never seemed to take an unreasonably long time. We generally get to the gate with 20 minutes or so before boarding and appreciate the opportunity to relax.
Carsick from covered windows:
In five trips since 2004 I can honestly say that I do not remember a single advertisement on a ME bus. My recollection is that of the standard yellow/blue ME bus with minimal border type decals on the windows. Also, I can also only assume that most ME passengers will be using Disney transportation throughout their stay. Those busses are covered in advertisements inside and are a far less comfortable ride. All things considered, I find the ME busses to be quite comfortable.
It seems to me that the only DVC advertisement on ME is the short segment of the video referring to Disneys best kept secret. I find this neither offensive nor particularly repetitive. Not everyone on ME is a DVC member, and some may actually be interested in the information. I see the desks at the resorts and in the parks, and find them to be very non-intrusive. Having been through other time-share presentations, I would liken the entire DVC sales experience to that of a Saturn car-buying experience for those familiar. DVC associates do not stop or solicit to people walking by and generally stand and wait for someone to come and speak to them. Again, much like my experience with Saturn, I had to finally tell my DVC rep I was ready to buy and at no time felt pressured.
Overall, I think ME is a wonderful service for guests. We have never had a problem with our luggage. We have never arrived too late or early for our return flights. We have never been particularly bothered by the time, stops, volume, advertisements, etc. Magic Express is certainly a strategy used by Disney to get you on property and keep you there, but that is capitalism! In my opinion, the greatest benefit of staying on-property at WDW is the transportation system throughout the parks and resorts, as well as to and from the airport. I see no reason to use any other airport transportation and even in the event of visiting sites off Disney property, I would likely rent a car locally and still use Magic Express.
My wife and I went to Disney World for the first time last April. I thought the Magical Express worked out well especially for first time visitors. Allowing three hours for departure is not excessive these days since extra time must be accounted for the "TSA Treatment".
I will, however, make a note to myself, to remind me to weep myself to sleep over "Amanda's" hard life.
My family and I have been to WDW many times and used the Magical Express about 1/2 the time. For a large family, the economics can't be beat. We went with the grandparents, 7 ppl round trip for free. What more can you ask for. We always pre-order groceries from wegoshop.com (they are awesome!) so that is not an issue.
While I don't like the walk, the wait to get on the bus, the wait for the bus to fill up and the extra stops, if I'm not in a rush to get to a park on arrival day, it's worth it. The bus video is the worst part of the trip.
When traveling for business, I always use the Magical Express if I'm staying at the resort.
However, many times when it's just my wife, or even with the kids in tow, we fly in at 11:30pm. We mostly carry on our bags and we always rent a car. For a short stay its under $100 and gets us to the resorts in 25 minutes as opposed to 90. Plus when we leave at 7am, that extra hour of sleep is wonderful.
Plus, there are some times when we want to go to I-drive or restaurants off property and a car is a must.
I think ME is part of the planning process just like everything else. One needs to consider time/convenience/itinerary vs. cost and decide which is more important for the specific trip.