Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Disney Part II

So just where do we stay when we go to Disney?

This time we roomed at Kidnai Village in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort. I really love this place, in spite of the flaws I found this trip. They have something called “savannah view” rooms. These have spacious balconies that allow you to watch, at any point in the day, a variety of African animals wandering the grounds. You wake up, you go outside into the morning warmth of Florida, and you take your breakfast while watching real live giraffes and wildebeests graze. (I assume they’re live. If they aren’t, they’re the best animatronics in the business.) It’s great. This is how I prefer my wildlife; easily viewable from the comfort of civilization.

The resort itself is done up in dark wood colours and decorated the way you’d decorate your house if you wanted to embrace your African heritage, but aren’t actually African at all. White person’s African, you could call it, though I doubt you’ll see that label appear any time soon in House & Home. When the sun was up, it looked really good. When it was night, though, the whole place looked gloomy and dim. Their lighting fixtures just weren’t up to the challenge in the dark hours.

I will say Kidani Village could do with one of those moving walkways you get at the airport. Our room was at the far, far, FAAAAR end of one of the two wings. I’m not used to hotels sprawling over acres of land, so the distance came as a surprise. Let me tell you, after eight hours walking through Disney parks with kids, the last thing I wanted to do was trudge the half kilometre from the lobby to my couch. (You think I’m kidding? I paced it out. Half a klick, people. And yes, I know that’s not a lot of distance in and of itself, but you try walking five football fields every time you want to “nip down” to the gift shop and grab a snack!)

(This length of distance was necessary because Kidani is designed with two winding arms stretched far out in order to maximize the amount of savannah view accessible by the rooms. I understand. I just don’t like it.)

Then we also faced the reality that the family restaurant at Animal Kingdom is in the OTHER resort building (Jambo House) another 700 metres or so down the winding road. So more walking. It was determined early on that I was clearly the weakest link in the family chain. I lagged behind, I found excuses not to eat; I think, in fact, I napped one day instead of joining the crew for supper.

In short, if you ever go to Animal Kingdom Resort as a family, stay at Jambo House: it’s more kid friendly. More importantly, it’s more ME-friendly. Whew.

(Jambo House has fewer rooms with savannah view. It does have a great kids playstructure, though oddly the pool at Kidani Village was better for the kiddies. Strange choice, really, to put all the kid stuff in Jambo and drop the ball on the pool. But these are, quite literally, the definition of First World Problems.)

Now let’s talk about Disney and the rampant face of consumerism.

Wow, do they know how to take your dollars. In 2013 they instituted a new program called “Magic Bands.” (Like McDonald’s, with their ever-present “McProducts,” everything at Disney is magic this and magic that.) The magic band is a plastic bracelet that snaps around your wrist, sporting the familiar image of the bulbous-eared Mickey and available in a variety of designer colours. You have to order the colour ahead of time, and we didn’t know about this program until we showed up, so our “magic bands” were an oddly-chosen dull gray. I can only assume they charge you for the colours, or why else use something so un-Disney as a plain accessory?

If you don’t like the colour of your magic band, they also have a plethora of covers you can purchase for the low price of $8 a pop. In the real world, 8 bucks for this little swatch of cloth is robbery. At Disney, where prices start at 20 and go up, it’s about the cheapest thing you can buy that isn’t destined to be eaten.

So already they’ve got you buying multiple 8 dollar band covers, but the real genius of the magic band is that with a simple swipe, you can charge ANYTHING to your room. It’s painless. Dangerously painless. You forget that you just dropped two hundred bucks on supper for the crew, and another hundred on shirts, and OH MY GOD, they have a Star Wars store! and LEGO! and such TAAASTY ice cream, and you get your hotel bill at the end of your stay and you realize Oh. THERE’S the pain.

In a way, it’s sort of sad we live in a world where you pay for things after you’ve enjoyed them. You go out for supper, you have a good meal, you’re sitting back and digesting, totally content, and then BANG! The bill. It sours an otherwise glorious experience.

Now I’m not saying getting the “Magic Bill” (they don’t call it that, by the way, though maybe they should, to ease the sting) spoiled the experience. It just is a crappy way to end a really great vacation.

Except that ended up being not true. The really crappy way to end your vacation is a thirteen hour travel day. When are they going to crack that teleportation problem? Jeez!

Now THAT would be a “Magic Express.”

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