Archive for December, 2008

New Reader Report Card shows who’s winning, losing at Disney Resorts

by on December 31, 2008

Every year, thousands of readers mail or e-mail us their responses to the Unofficial Guide survey. The Reader Report Card documents their opinions of the Disney resorts as well as the Swan, Dolphin and Shades of Green.

In 2008 we began asking new questions designed to further gauge readers’ overall satisfaction with their hotels. The most important of these questions are “Would you recommend this hotel to a friend?” and “Would you stay at this hotel again?” Used widely in the service industry, these questions serve as a simple way to measure a customer’s overall opinion of a product. When used in conjunction with our detailed survey questions, these two new questions allow us to identify the specific criteria that determine satisfaction at a particular resort. Read the entire report card here.

An Urban Designer Looks At Adventureland

by on December 30, 2008

Cinderella Castle pulls you past Main Street’s shops and restaurants, to the Central Hub. On the right is the Crystal Palace, a grand Victorian building modeled after historic examples like New York’s Crystal Palace, San Francisco’s Conservatory of Flowers and England’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

The Imagineers make the transition from Main Street’s small town America to Adventureland’s jungles of your imagination by using the vocabulary of Victorian architecture, the dominant style in America of the time period represented by Main Street as well as 19th Century British Colonial rule.

Adventureland’s main pathway winds past the Victorian-era Swiss Family Treehouse, eventually opening onto an Arabian Bazaar containing the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. This attraction has added a strong center to the area and helps to orient you. The Jungle Cruise is below you to the left and Spanish Main beckons just ahead.

The plaza in front of Pirates of the Caribbean is a traditional element of towns created during the great age of Spanish exploration. The buildings on your left reflect the Spanish architectural style found throughout the Caribbean. On your right, the Imagineers reinterpret the same architectural vocabulary as Spanish-influenced buildings typical of the America Southwest circa 1850. This creates the equivalent of a filmmaker’s “cross-dissolve” transition from the jungles of Adventureland to the deserts of the American frontier west without creating any visual contradictions to spoil your journey.

Magic Kingdom Liberty Belle Riverboat refurb 2/19-2/28/09

by on December 30, 2008

Update: The Liberty Square Riverboat will be closed for refurbishment February 19-28, 2009.

New blog feature

by on December 26, 2008

We’re rolling out a new blog feature for the website. Topics include the crowd calendar, by Fred our statistician, and random ramblings from Len. Here’s the link to all the blogs. Comments and feedback welcome.

Disney advance reservation window shortening to 90 days from 180

by on December 23, 2008

Disney has changed its policy and will now accept dining reservations only 90 days in advance, instead of 180 days. Existing dining reservations for more than 90 days in advance are still valid. This 90-day policy also applies to recreation activities and tours.

Understanding Park Recommendations

by on December 22, 2008

The park recommendations were created in the same spirit as everything else in and the Unofficial Guides. It’s meant to be a guideline; a source of information. If Grandpa is only in town on Tuesday and desperately wants to eat at Biergarten, then by all means, go! If you’ve always imagined being in the Magic Kingdom on July 4th, then why not? Jump in line and have fun! Just because a park might have been recommended as a park to avoid that day doesn’t mean you should sacrifice the desires of your touring group. Make decisions about your vacation based on what will be the best use of your time and money. And remember…

A good touring plan is 5 times more beneficial in saving you time as compared to picking the right day to visit a park.

That being said, here are a couple of points to help you interpret the park recommendations:

  • The order sometimes matters. By default we post the parks in chronological order (MK, EP, DS, and AK). If we deviate from this that means the first park listed scored higher than the parks listed after.
  • A park not listed as best park or park to avoid is just that, in the middle. We have no reason to recommend it but we also see no reason to avoid it.
  • If you are interested in taking advantage of EMH morning then by all means, go ahead. If you have park hoppers you might consider hopping to the recommended park after your morning of touring.
  • We are constantly updating our data and re-calculating our model. Check for updates to the calendar regularly.

How We Determine Parks to Recommend and Parks to Avoid

Many people ask us why a theme park is recommended on one day or another. The answer is not as easy for us to determine as you might think. The model we use for determining what park to recommend is a little complicated.

Our method for calculating the best days / parks to avoid has changed recently but still begins with the same basic rules.

  • Try to avoid MK on a major national holiday
  • Try to avoid a park when it has EMH
  • Recommend a park on a day of the week that our data shows tends to be less crowded

We also look at things like park hours, special events, proximity to a holiday as well a whole laundry list of other data that we have spent years collecting. We take all these factors and combine them into a score function with certain factors having more weight than others. Once we have a calculation of what we expect the crowd to be, we can decide at what threshold we recommend a park and at what threshold we recommend avoiding a park.

Then… it gets complicated.

We have certain restrictions that we want to enforce when we recommend parks to avoid and parks to visit. Besides the obvious restrictions like needing at least one park recommended every day, we also want to make sure that every park is recommended at least once in every 7 day period on the calendar. This is the restriction that often causes us to recommend a park that normally we wouldn’t. For example, we might need to recommend Disney’s Hollywood Studios on a day with Extra Magic Hours because in that particular seven day stretch, that’s when we estimate the crowds will be smallest.

So when you see a park recommended on a given day it may be for any of the following reasons:

  • It falls on a day of the week that is normally not as crowded for that park
  • There is no EMH or Special Event scheduled for that day
  • Amongst the 4 parks this one is the least crowded that day
  • This is the best day in a seven day period to visit this park

Happy touring!

Epcot Future World repaving

by on December 21, 2008

Crowd flow might be a bit tricky during peak periods this year as large swaths of Epcot’s Future World are being repaved. Be on the look out for refurbishment walls randomly blocking large areas of the pathways.


ThinkPlace by IBM getting overhauled

by on December 21, 2008

The ThinkPlace by IBM in Innoventions West is being completely overhauled. The new are replaces the old Thinkamajig and Digital Postcard centers.


Kim Possible almost ready to open

by on December 21, 2008

The Kiosk for the Kim Possible Adventure on the World showcase bridge is nearly finished.


And extensive guest testing is already leading to some video reviews. Here’s a good one we dug up recently (caution, spoilers of the China mission!)

Christmas Parade Preview

by on December 21, 2008

A preview of the Mary Poppins number straight from Broadway for the Walt Disney World Christmas Day parade.