Let me first start with the biggest of those small things...the attention to detail. I would wager that most of us have, from time to time, visited a theme park of some sort, whether it's that one with the number of flags, or the ones with the large black and white sea mammals, or another location with thrill rides, characters, restaurants, and lots to do. Most are the same...general theme, well done, manicured grounds, lots to do, eat and see, etc. What set's Disney apart from these other parks is their incredible attention to detail that is shown to every aspect of the theme park experience. This permeates through everything that a guest experiences, from the time they arrive to the time they depart. It's the little things like never seeing trash being taken out of a park (they have a series of passages so guests don't have to see it), or topiaries sculpted like the various Disney characters. One of my biggest notices is the lack of anything that needs "fixing." I'm not saying that the other parks have stuff to fix...just that Disney doesn't let anything even look like it needs it. I've never (okay...well, maybe VERY VERY rarely) seen peeling paint, cracked sidewalks, missing or damaged signage, or any thing else that could detract from the whole experience. I've never really even seen workers engaged in any type of maintenance either. I know that they have to do it some times (I get periodic updates on which attractions, pools, parks, and other areas are being refreshed) because it ALWAYS looks pristine! I've just never seen it! It's like they have a group of fairies, or magical dwarves, or....wait....uh....never mind! All in all, the parks, resorts, restaurants, and attractions all seem to emit an aura of perfection, and that's just they way Disney wants it.
Second is the experience as a whole. From the transportation from the airport (via Disney's Magical Express) to the themed rooms at the resorts (we love Disney's Pop Century...it's like a home away from home), the experience is as much getting there, as it is being there, and, more to the point, wanting to go back as soon as you leave. (We, as well as our close friends, have been known to begin planning our next trip on the plane ride home from the last trip!) Almost every cast member (that's what Disney calls their work force...see....it's the experience!!) that we've ever encountered has made our trips magical, fantastic, and really special for us all. A true test for me as far as the experience is concerned is how the complete staff help with the overall environment. It would be very easy for the support staff (housekeeping, grounds staff, maintenance, etc.) to allow those that are in the "front of house" to attempt to create the proper environment, while they do their jobs without concern for the guest's experience. At Disney, from the grounds staff pretending to use magic to trim a hedge, to the housekeeping staff sculpting animals from towels, the support staff are just a big a part of the overall experience as the front desk clerk or the performer on stage at Beauty and the Beast Stage Show (in Hollywood Studios, but the way....I'll get to that in future posts!). You are truly transported to Walt's imagination and get to experience the magic just the way he'd have wanted.
The final piece to the puzzle of the Disney experience is the ability of Disney to truly create an experience that EVERYONE can enjoy. If you are a thrill ride person, they have it (the "Mountains" in Magic Kingdom, Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom, Aerosmith's Rockin' Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's California Adventure...and many more). If you are a show person, they have it (Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo, The Festival of the Lion King...and many more). Relaxation your key to a great vacation? Disney has you covered, with world class spas, pools, beaches (yes...even at the resorts...check out the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World...it's by a lake, but hey! It's sand, and sunny...it's a beach!), and deluxe accommodations for even the most discerning traveler. Have a little one traveling with you? Still lots to do! Many of the attractions are geared toward those princesses and princes who are not yet big enough to go on the big rides. Our little princess loved Dumbo, Aladdin's Magic Carpets, and of course, the quintessential It's A Small World. Disney even has many attractions where you can "Parent Swap", where both parents wait in line at an attraction and, as you arrive at the end of the line, one parent goes while the other stays with the child, and then, when the first parent comes back, the second goes with no wait. What a great idea, right?
Truly, Disney has gone to great lengths to make their resorts and parks set apart from any others in, well, the world! Take the time to check out all the offerings. Not sure what to do, where to go, what to reserve? No problem! The Disney Travel Company staff would be glad to help, or you can contact a Disney Vacation Planner (I'm one, by the way!) who can help you decide how best to build a vacation that you and your family will remember for the rest of your lives!
Until next time, remember to Just Keep Swimming!