Have you been to Disney World lately?
I have always loved everything Disney. Unfortunately I grew up in Wisconsin and currently live in Minnesota, which makes a trip to Disneyland or Disney World an expensive undertaking. Growing up my family did not vacation often, and I remember the great winter break when my parents loaded us all in the family van and took us to Disney World and then to New Orleans for New Years. It was a magical experience that I always dreamed of recreating with my own family.
I was diagnosed with MS in April, 2000. I did not begin any kind of treatment until we were able to complete our family. By 2004 my youngest daughter was about to turn 3, and my MS was really starting to make its presence known. So we decided it was time to head to Disney World before my MS made this kind of vacation impossible. We had a fabulous Florida vacation with many Disney memories.
Well 10 years pass, my oldest daughter is getting ready to graduate from high school and asks if we can take a trip to Florida. While the kids want to go to Universal Studios, I can not imagine being so close to Disney World without spending at least 1 day in the Magic Kingdom. While I am still able to walk, I can't handle walking any kind of distance, or standing for long periods of time. I do my research for Disney and Universal - I know that Universal does not get high marks for being handicap accessible, but that Disney gets great reviews. I get a letter from my neurologist explaining my symptoms and asking for accommodations. We load up my scooter and the family and we are off. We know we are heading out to the park at the busiest time of the year, but we are prepared and patient so it will be fine, right? Wrong!
Let me start by saying we had a wonderful experience at Universal. We stopped by guest services and were quickly given an Attraction Assistance Pass, which basically allowed my whole family to use the Express Lane at no extra fee. The staff was helpful and considerate throughout the park.
Now on to the Magic Kingdom. As we are working our way into the park we can tell the park is going to be crazy busy. Our first stop is once again Guest Services. I park my scooter outside and head in where I request a Disability Access Service Card and present my letter from my neurologist. The cast member doesn't look at my letter and abruptly asks what is wrong that I would Require the DAS card. I explain that I have MS and can't stand for a long period of time, or walk long distances. I am immediately told I should rent a wheelchair or an ECV and that I do not need the DAS card. I explain that I have a scooter (oh wait, now I have to call it an ECV), and I am told to just take it through the line and the cast member at the front of the line will assist me. However there are some rides that will require me to park my ECV and transfer to a park provided wheelchair. Can I get a list of those rides? No the cast member will tell you at the entrance. Ok, well I didn't think that would be that would be too bad. I'll just use the FastPass system and make the best Of it. Wrong again! The lines were so long that I could barely make it through one ride without having to race to the nearest bathroom. The queues have changed since our last trip. They are now about 8 people wide, and the crowds pushed easily past my scooter causing us to continuously lose our spot in line and increase that estimated wait time. I spent the whole day trying not to hurt anyone with my scooter. Oh, and forget the FastPass. By the time we found out there would be no DAS card the FastPass slots for the most popular rides were all taken, and the first available time slot was 8 hours later. We all chose one ride to go on. After ten hours in the park we were all cranky and stressed to our breaking point. When people jumped in front of my scooter my kids would yell that I should just run them over. If you park your ECV and walk away be sure it is in a marked parking area or a helpful cast member will move it to the parking area for you. Really, if I had seen the marked parking area I would have parked it there in the first place. Now I have to waste my energy searching for my scooter. On our way back to the car my 13 year old explained that she felt like she had turned into a werewolf. When we were walking into the park she was happy and excited, on the way out she felt like a whole different person, negative and mean. My kids have both declared Disney World banned and vow to never go back. I can not even express how well my husband handled the whole day. Although I must note this was not the best time / place for home to learn to push a wheelchair.
I am posting this with the hopes that my fellow MSers will know what they are getting into if they decide to tackle the Magic Kingdom. Those posts you read from 2013 about using DAS passes are no longer accurate. After the passes were abused it would appear that Disney is becoming stricter with their policy. They may believe the problem has been solved with the wider queues that are wheelchair accessible. I would love to hear about other people's Disney World experiences in 2014. Is Disneyland any better?
Do you celebrate your MS Anniversary?