20 December 2021

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

It’s been a long while since we’ve done an honest to goodness trip report, but given that this was our first trip back to Walt Disney World in several years and, if you’re anything like we were before our trip, you have more questions than answers about what I trip looks and feels like now. I don’t know that we can answer all of the questions, or even most of them, but let me tell you what we saw during our trip, Gazette-style.
The Good
- All the Food
The food at Walt Disney World has not missed a beat in the time it was closed and the way things flow now during the prolonged reopening period. Mobile ordering was already our friend, it just has more friends now, and it is certainly worth noting that sit down meals are harder to come by reservations for, but walk-ups are more attainable these days if you’re willing to wait. Also, the early reports of having to make lunch and/or dinner mobile orders at 7:00 or 8:00am have, thankfully, subsided and you can regularly find a time close to when you want to eat throughout the day.
We had actually made a list ahead of time of all the snacks and treats we wanted to eat while we were on our trip, and we may have gotten through half of them. There’s a lot of good food floating around Walt Disney World right now folks, particularly if you’re touring EPCOT during its (what festival are we on this week?) Festival of the Holidays. If you happen to be around for the holidays, then we highly recommend everything from the Bavaria and L’Chaim! Holiday Kitchens, as well as everything from Tangierine Café, and the tostada and cranberry-cinnamon margarita from Los Posadas. Elsewhere, Sleepy Hollow, Docking Bay 7, and Satu’li Canteen continue to impress, and Topolino’s Terrace became our new favorite breakfast destination, with very few misses on their menus. Additionally, if you’re more of the lounge set, Ale & Compass Lounge was shockingly delicious, both for bites and sips, and the 50th Anniversary venison chili dog was a fantastic addition to an already stacked menu at Nomad Lounge.
The Bad - Crowds
The week we were at Walt Disney World was supposed to be a relatively light week, in terms of crowds. While I know that I am out of the habit of being in large public places, this didn’t feel light to me, even looking back on the pre-pandemic times. More often than not I could not see the sidewalk in front of me, regardless of the park or time of day. On more than one occasion, we walked into a park, utilized a pre-booked Lightning Lane and then immediately left the park for an alternative activity, such as touring resorts, taking in a lounge, or enjoying some pool time.
Speaking of Lightning Lane, it was a valuable tool for us, especially the individual purchase options for Rise of the Resistance, Flight of Passage, and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad. The Fastpass-like Genie+ option was good, but we only paid for it on days we felt it could be best utilized, i.e. the days we were in the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It is not as helpful, and it is not our recommendation, to utilize it for EPCOT or Disney’s Animal Kingdom at this point in time.
Back to the crowds, aside from just the general mobbing of every walkway and bench, there seems to be a shift in attitude amongst the general park-going group. It used to be few and far between that you’d hear a disgruntled parent yelling about how much they spent and how everyone in the family was going to have a good time. Now, however, it is common place. More shockingly, however, is that it has morphed into an angry sense of entitlement. More times than I care to count, I heard someone bellowing about how much they spent and how that fact alone should provide them with more access than others. Almost as if their spending, which always seemed like a middle of the road figure when they were shouting it out for all to hear, was all that mattered. It was as if they believed that every other guest had miraculously received a free trip to Walt Disney World, and therefore their spending should be catered to more. It was enough to churn my stomach.
The Ugly
- Rule Breakers
The crowds, however, were nothing compared to the anti-mask brigade. I want to start with this. The rule at Disney is masks stay on in all indoor spaces, and they’re doing as terrific a job as they can enforcing it. What was truly ugly were those who would turn their backs to a bus driver once onboard a bus so they could take their masks off on a crowded bus, or pull up an incredibly loose-fitting mask when they were asked to, only to immediately take it back down and roll their eyes once past a Cast Member. The restrooms were also nightmares with very few guests wearing masks, which seems like a place you would definitely want to be best protected.
I don’t care where you stand on masks. Actually, that’s not true. Masks are one of the few things that you can do to protect everyone, especially those of us who are immunocompromised and want to be out in public. If you can’t do the basics to help keep me safe, please don’t count yourself among my friends. That said, and my primary point here is, that rules are rules. Walt Disney World has plenty of them and if you can’t follow them then you shouldn’t be there. This rule is no different than having to wear proper attire or not smoking in the parks. It doesn’t matter what your stance is on a given topic, Walt Disney World has their rules and that should be the end of the discussion. It isn’t hard, and the rules aren’t there for you to try and flaunt or to scheme a way to get around them to make yourself feel cool or superior. You aren’t.
The Magical
- Christmastime and Representation
Let’s finish on a high note, the magic of the holidays was alive and well throughout the parks and resorts. Sure, there were a few less decorations in some of the corners of the parks (I’m looking at you Frontierland), but if you don’t walk in the parks or resorts and immediately feel the spirit of the season, I don’t know what kind of Scrooge you are. The smell of gingerbread filled the air, twinkling lights adorn trees, lampposts, and buildings everywhere, holiday music put a spring in my step, and the intricacies of the personalized attraction and shop garlands everywhere made my heart smile.
For us, it was the first time seeing the holiday overlay at Living With the Land, as well as the Merry Menagerie at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Both of which floored us and made us come back multiple times just to see these works of holiday magic. I want to give special shout-out to the puppeteers of the Merry Menagerie, the way you give life and personality to each creature was awe-inspiring. I wanted to take time to study your technique, but more often I found myself dragged into the world of the animals, talking to, and interacting with, them as if they were living and breathing.
Representation matters, and it was good to see a bit more of Hanukkah traditions in the parks and resorts. Although, a small menorah on a table off to one side of a lobby that is filled with four Christmas trees, including one that is a good 15 feet tall, definitely seems to suggest there is still room for improvement. Additionally, on the night we attended the Very Merriest After Hours event, the parade was headlined by Santa, portrayed by a Black man. I didn’t see anyone who wasn’t cheering and waving with joyous fervor at him, though I know there are folks out there who deride this addition. That evening, by pure happenstance, we ended up sitting next to a Black family. When I tell you that I started crying because I saw the mother crying when she saw Black Santa, it is to let you know this isn’t a small thing. Seeing yourself represented in cherished traditions and mythical, magical ways is vital and this is one change I was overjoyed to see in person.

No comments: