Friday Five: Random References & Reflections

1. A new ADR policy went into effect this week at Walt Disney World. Credit card guarantees are now required for ADRs at Signature Dining restaurants and character meals. If you fail to show up the ADR, or do not cancel at least one day in advance, the credit card will be charged $10 per person on the ADR. It will be interesting to see the impact of this change.

ADR no-shows have been a growing problem, with tables at sit-down restaurants being held open for ADRs that never show, while walk-up diners are turned away. The problem is exacerbated by 180-day ADRs and Free Dining offers (which encourage guests to plan far in advance for table service meals they would not otherwise consider). WDW first played a cat-and-mouse game with guests, requiring Email addresses with ADRs, and pushing guests making two ADRs for the same time slot to choose one or the other. Guests responded by using multiple Email addresses, varying the spelling of their own names, etc. In addition to preventing walk-ups, the “ADR Hoarders” prevented other guests from making ADRs, leaving WDW Guest Relations to deal with frustrated guests, who booked reservations with Free Dining 90-days out only to discover slim pickings when they went to make ADRs to use those “free” table service meals. From that perspective, the new cancelation policy is a good thing.

On the other hand, there are legitimate reasons why ADRs get canceled at the last minute. People do get sick. And many last-minute cancelations are caused by issues unique to being in a theme park environment – getting stuck on a ride for 30 minutes or a sidetracked monorail; overtired, melting-down children; and problems navigating resort transportation (particularly between resorts). I have some sympathy for the extended-family of eight that is trying to get from Pop Century to the Polynesian for breakfast, and faces an $80 cancelation or no-show fee. But lets be honest. The vast majority of the no-shows WDW has been dealing with are people who, exactly 180+10 days before the beginning of their vacation, booked 4 or more ADRs for the same meal for each day of their vacation. Not sure six months prior to their vacation where they will be each day, they hold places for themselves at multiple theme park restaurants and/or resort restaurants.

And so, like all Disney policy decisions, we will have to wait and see how the policy is implemented. If I had to guess, they will be fairly generous with the late cancelations for cause, and probably even with single no-shows. Much more important (to Disney) than the $10/head fee is that the policy should help to discourage the ADR hoarders.

2. The Disdads.com logo contest is FINALLY drawing to a close. We have identified three finalist designs (the entrants are being notified today). Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll post the finalist designs, along with a poll. The poll will remain open 11:00 p.m. Central Time a week from today. At that point, the poll will be closed and the poll responses will be combined with my vote and contest sponsor Mark Pratt’s vote to determine a winner. The site may be down for a while next Sunday, but when it comes back up, we’ll be featuring a new theme and our new logo (and hopefully even reopening the Schwag Shop).

3. Thanks to this week’s participating Dis Dads: Mark Pratt (prattpak); David Nicely (theduck619); Ryan Treichler (IAmTrike); Philip Cole (DisDr.). And because I don’t thank him often enough, thanks again to our Podcast Producer/Engineer Joshua Haas, who makes us all sound like we know what we’re talking about.

4. If you missed this week’s premiere of the new ABC television show Once Upon a Time, the pilot episode is being re-run on Sunday, October 30 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 6 p.m. Central. I thought the pilot was a little slow, but a high-concept show like this often takes a few episodes to get established. The cast is solid and the premise is intriguing, especially for Disney fans.

5. I promised earlier this week that I’d go into a bit more detail about my guess as to what will happen with the rumored Polynesian Resort renovation. Of course that makes this speculation on top of speculation, but hey, it’s all in fun anyway. So here’s my guess. I think Disney will take the opportunity to achieve multiple ends with the Poly renovation – revamp the Great Ceremonial Hall, preserve the existing look and feel of the longhouses, bring DVC to the Poly, and build a connection between WDW and the new Aulani Resort in Hawaii.

How do they do it? Completely demolish the existing GCH. Rather than rebuild as it was, the new “GCH” gets built modeled after the design of Aulani. The first two floors could continue to house check-in, concierge services, stores, and restaurants just like they do now. But starting with the third floor, and going as high as they decide to build, the main building could house DVC rooms – at least half of which would have beautiful views of the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom. If they wanted to, they could even move the Concierge Lounge rooms into the main building, instead of the Hawaii longhouse (giving the lounge access to the larger, brand-new kitchens being used by the other restaurants), perhaps with a Concierge Lounge adjacent to a DVC-exclusive Lounge – both with stunning views of Wishes and the Electric Water Pageant at night. That would allow the Hawaii and Tonga longhouses to be renovated into standard Polynesian rooms, increasing its capacity as a Deluxe Resort.

An Aulani-type high-rise is much more in keeping with what a “Polynesian hotel” really looks like, while the longhouses would continue to evoke the feel of the more remote islands. At this point, it is all speculation on top of rumor, and the expected October 24 announcement from WDW never came. But I’m still excited to see what, if anything, comes of it.

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