Recently a member of FORCES made a trip with family to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The following review of their experiences, both on and off the Disney property, should be of particular interest for readers considering a family vacation there. In 2007, the Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, Florida caved in to the smoke-hating brigade and stopped offering smoker-friendly rooms at hotels on Disney property. So much for Disney hospitality. As a result, Mickey Mouse lovers who also enjoy grown-up pleasure now take our hotel business elsewhere. While we reject the premise that smokers should be denied the same accommodations as other patrons, we must admit to finding some benefits to Disney’s smoker-unfriendly policy. On a recent visit we discovered that our new off-the-property smoker-friendly hotel costs a fraction of Disney’s rates, while providing the same shuttle service to the theme park gates that we used to receive from Disney. The rates were much better, even taking into account the large rate cuts and discounts Disney is now offering. We should also mention that the standard rooms in our just-off-the-property hotel were significantly larger than, and about equal in quality to those provided by Disney.
Disney hasn’t rejected all smokers’ money however, as smoking is not (yet) completely prohibited in the theme parks. In Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, and Disney Hollywood Studios, smoking is now confined to “designated areas within the parks.” To Disney’s credit, these outdoor designated areas are well marked on the park maps and are usually just a few steps off the main path. Although many of these smoking ghettos seem designed to be hidden from the view of the fragile non-smoker, some are in plain sight of the crowds. Most are reasonably pleasant with benches and nice park views. A handful even provide tables and chairs. (Note to Disney: we’re wishing upon a star for even more tables and chairs for those of us who like to dine and smoke.) Further, as smokers tend to be kind and generous, we found, as often happens, that the smoking areas are some of the most enjoyable areas of the parks. Mouse-eared smokers, while sharing a light or a smoke, struck up conversations and shared tips and stories about their travel and park experiences. It’s nice to take a break from the world of anthropomorphic animals, clean the pixie-dust from our ears, and converse with real people now and then.
Do we believe the smoking accommodations in the theme parks will last? Do we believe that a situation which provides practically infinite accommodation to smoke-haters alongside meagre accommodation for smokers will be maintained? Of course not! The smoke-haters will continue to press on so that they are protected from even the horrific sight of a smoker. We know that accomodation is never enough for them, eradication is always the goal. Smoking has been banished from Disney hotel rooms, and Disney movies, certainly the theme parks are next in the line of fire. We expect that smoking areas will be pushed farther and farther from the park attractions, until they disappear altogether. Then Walt Disney World will truly become a land of make-believe, where the ever-fewer park attendees are free to imagine that smokers don’t exist.
For now, we repeat for now, though we give an oversized three-fingered white-handed thumbs-down to Walt Disney World hotels, we can also give (considering the reality of the smoker pogrom generally) a white thumbs-up to the Walt Disney World theme parks.