Last stop during our US road trip, and the one our daughter was most looking forward to: we had an appointment with a certain mouse, Mickey! We drove from Savannah to Orlando to spend five days in the fun capital of the world. Orlando is called the fun capital of the because it has the highest concentration of amusement parks, with four major theme parks for Disney, two theme parks under the flag of Universal and Sea World, there is always a park for your taste. That is, if you like going to theme parks.
Now, I should tell you we have been to Orlando before, so we know what to expect, visiting the parks. And as we have already “done” the attractions before, there’s no need to dash through the park like mad to get everything done in one day. For trust me, you won’t be able too, especially in the Summer when it’s peak season. For us, that makes for a relaxing experience, being able to do our favorite rides and shows and enjoy the atmosphere.
Still, as much as we love visiting attraction parks, I do have one complaint: the cost of an entrance ticket. Now, I don’t want to moan on about how the price was just a fraction 18 years ago when we first visited Orlando. I know about things getting more expensive over the years and all that. But I do wonder: how much is enough? And how much will people be willing to pay before they stop coming?
The answer to how much is enough is simple of course: until people stay away because they don’t want to or can’t afford it anymore, and Disney or Universal feel the difference of number of people visiting x entrance price in their own pockets. That time clearly hasn’t arrived yet, although you do see a shift in the way the admission prices are built. It’s not just an entrance ticket anymore to make the most of your visit.
At Disney, you pay extra for visiting more than one park in one day with the Hopper option. You can choose to pay for a meal plan, where you get free meals or free drinks. You can pay for early morning admission, paying extra to have the park more or less to yourself in the early morning hours (together with others who have shelled out for this of course). Fastpass+, which allows you to reserve space on up to three rides at the same time, is still free. But with the possibility to book your Fastpass through your mobile, there are new restrictions too: you can only choose the attractions you want from certain categories. This means you can only choose one attraction of the A-category, so you can’t have only Fastpasses for the main attractions. And to my surprise, when you use a Park Hopper, you can’t choose Fastpasses in different parks! Annoying, I can tell you, considering the price you pay for the Hopper option.
To me, Universal is even worse. Again like at Disney, you pay extra to visit both parks on the same day. As we don’t like extreme thrill rides this was never a problem for us, as we didn’t feel the need to visit Islands of Adventure. Until they cleverly decided to have the Wizarding World of Harry Potter span both parks: if you want to see it all, you have to buy an extra ticket. And let’s face it: Harry Potter is Universal’s main attraction at the moment, at least, it is for us. No free Fastpasses here. If you want preferred access to an attraction with Express, you will have to pay extra for it. The good news is that it’s not limited to three attractions though. Universal too had a meal plan in place and charges extra for some of the fun-fair attractions in the park too.
We did have a great time in Orlando and in the parks too: the new addition to Disney’s Fantasy Land, with the Be Our Guest restaurant is beautiful. The new Soarin’ experience is really breathtaking, as was Test Track at Epcot. Universal had a new 3DS ride with King Kong Skull Island that was really just like we were there. And of course, the Escape from Gringotts in the Harry Potter part is amazing. Still, the question did stick in my mind: will we be willing in the future to pay even more to spend time in the Fun Capital of the World?
As for Pokémon Go: it was only briefly, but my daughter was able to snare a place in one of the pokégyms at Hollywood Studios!