Disneyland Las Vegas |
Las Vegas Disneyland
I think this story may interest you. But then I've been wrong before.
One day in January of this year, I was loitering on the Internet, doing everything except what I was supposed to be doing, which was
probably this column. On one of the newsgroups, I came across this message from a total stranger. It said, in part:
Can anyone tell me if any of the tour companies do a day tour to Disneyland from Vegas? Thanks!
This was followed by replies from other total strangers, giving the names and numbers of various firms that offered such
conveyance. No sooner had I read them than a little bell went off in my cerebellum and I posted the following:
Someone oughta suggest to you that while there are such tours, this may not be a very good idea.
The bus ride between Vegas and Disneyland is around five hours. This means you spend five hours on a bus, then you'd get maybe
five hours at Disneyland, then you spend another five hours on the bus back.
I dunno about you but after five hours on a bus, I'd be in no shape to truly enjoy Disneyland. And you can't really do enough
there in five hours, especially in the middle of the afternoon, which is how such a trip would time out.
If you've been to the Magic Kingdom, you know the best thing is to get there early, to not be in a hurry, and to be able to stay
late if you feel like it. If you haven't been there, this is no way to experience it for the first time.
A day or three later, I checked back. Others had written messages of concurrence, and the original questioner posted
that our advice would be heeded, thank you very much. If I'd thought about it for more than two seconds, I'd have been pleased. There's
something very warm and fuzzy about one total stranger being of aid to another.
Everyone lived happily ever after until a few days later when a private e-mail arrived at Evanier-dot-com. I'm reproducing it
here almost verbatim, with two words redacted, through the magic of cut-and-paste. May the spell-checkers at Krause Publications forgive
Who the [expletive denoting sexual contact deleted] assked you get mixed upin bussiness! My bussiness put food on famly tabel by
daytours to Disneyland. If peopel want go on trip none of YOUR bussiness if they get ripoff. Your probably one of those [derogatory term
for homosexual deleted] longhair blooding heart librals BANS prayer in schools and burns american flag evry morning. Go out and sell country by
peaces to China. Your not happy untill America criumbles and we are all slaves of the RED menance. Leave others go do things not your
bussiness!!! BUTT OUT!!!!!!!
Quite a message, wouldn't you say? I'm guessing top of his class at Harvard.
If more than five people on this planet read anything you write, you've probably had communiqués of this sort in some
venue. Crank letters, they call them. If you let them bother you even for a second, you're dumber than the folks who send them.
When I get the paper kind, I usually find myself wondering how someone that stupid could earn enough of a living to purchase a stamp.
The fellow who wrote the above was, amazingly, able to afford a computer and an America On-Line account. Things must be going
well in the bus tour business (excuse me — bussiness).
I'm oddly amused when someone who's irate about one thing gets going and, before you know it, they've unloaded about everything that
upsets them and they start connecting it all. If you do one thing they don't like, you must be part of the Grand Evil Conspiracy that is
responsible for everything they find wrong with the world. And these folks usually have very long lists of outrages.
Just why this whole matter interests me has something to do with an image that flashed my way when I encountered that first
message. I imagined a family visiting Las Vegas — a family from somewhere far away, probably another country. They're on unfamiliar
turf so, when someone mentioned Disneyland, they thought, "Gee, maybe we can see Las Vegas and Disneyland on the same vacation."
When they found out that such tours were offered, they were even less likely to consider that it might be unwise. It's like
assuming that if a restaurant has been in business for a while, the food there must be good...or that if someone has a certain job, they must know
what they're doing. Can't we all name a dozen exceptions to this sort of rule?
Now, I'm sure most bus tours out of Vegas are fine, legit offerings by fine, legit operators. Some — like the Grand Canyon
and ghost town tours — even sound like fun and may soon get my business. But I got to wondering if my gut was right on this one; that it
was taken mostly by those who didn't know any better.
I decided to pursue the matter further, maybe even phoning the tour service that employed my friend, Mr. Butt Out!!!! He'd kindly
included its phone number in the tag-line of his erudite message. Investigating further, I felt, might strike a blow, however meek, for
consumerism. And besides, I needed a column for this week.
So I skipped burning my American flag that day and cancelled an appointment to auction Oregon to the highest Asian bidder.
Instead, I spent the time doing a bit of research...
Several companies, it turns out, offer day tours between Disneyland and Las Vegas via bus, all with roughly this schedule: You're
picked up at your hotel at 8:30 AM, you get to Walt's Place around 1:00 PM, the return bus leaves at 6:15 PM and you're back in Vegas around
From the statue of The Unknown Mob Informant outside Caesar's Palace to the first churro cart in Disneyland is 257.7 miles — or
almost double the length of the line to go on the Indiana Jones ride. That means that in one day, you travel 515.4 miles plus whatever mileage
you rack up on the Matterhorn bobsleds or those silly boats in "It's a Small World." Not one of those miles qualifies for Frequent Flyer
Assuming your bus hits no traffic on the way there — good luck in Southern California — you get 5 hours and 15 minutes in
the happiest place on Earth. Only it's really less than that.
When you arrive, the first thing you're going to want to do is hit the restroom. You'll also want to go at least one more time
before you get back on the bus. So let's subtract 15 minutes for those two detours.
You'll also want to eat something upon arrival, which will coincide with the peak lunch hour. During that period, famished
Disneyland-goers descend on the eateries like spoiled brats unleashed on Pleasure Island. Wrapping your molars around something edible can take
60-90 minutes, plus you'll probably want another bite before getting on the bus for the 4.5 hour trip back. Let's say 90 minutes for both, and
that's being conservative. So we're down to 3 and a half hours.
But wait. We haven't even talked about finding the restrooms, finding a place to dine, finding the attractions that attract
you. If one of the fabled Disney parades erupts in your path, it can take twenty minutes to get from one side of Main Street to the
other. And if the bus home leaves at 6:15, you're not going to be riding teacups 'til 6:10. You're going to need to leave a safety margin
to make sure you find your way back in time.
Disneyland can be a very confusing experience for a first-time visitor. Since no one but a first-time visitor would even consider
such a pilgrimage, I think it's safe to lop another 45 minutes off, just for getting one's bearings and getting around.
So what are we down to? Two-forty-five? Two-forty-five. That isn't much at any time o' day but it's especially rough
in the peak afternoon hours — which is, of course, just when you'll be there.
I checked out a website that tallies such things — not with the Disney blessing, natch — and they report that on a busy
day, the afternoon wait for the Indiana Jones ride averages 55 minutes, while Splash Mountain and Star Tours clock 65 apiece. A busy day, by
the way, means between 50,000 and 70,000 people at the park, all of whom are ahead of you in every line you pick to stand in.
Now in fairness, not all the waits are that long. And one of the deep, dank secrets of Disneyland is that when they post a 60
minute estimate for a queue, the actual wait-time is usually less. They deliberately exaggerate because, first of all, they want to discourage
you from hitting the most popular attractions at peak hours. Second of all, they don't want you complaining if something breaks down and it
takes longer than expected for you to reach the boarding area.
Still, it is not an exaggeration to say that, in two hours and 45 minutes of Disneyland, allowing for heavy congestion, you might make
it through two of the top adventures and maybe two of the less-thrilling ones. You probably won't get a snapshot with Mickey but you might
wrangle a photo-op with one of the less-desirable Dwarfs...like, say, Doc. No one really wants a picture with Doc. Or Sleepy. Or
Bashful, if you can even get him to pose.
So all of that — plus maybe one quick souvenir-purchase — would constitute your day at the Magic Kingdom.
Boy, what a lousy way to experience Disneyland.
Total cost? It's $130 per person, including admission to the park, plus you also have meals and souvenirs to buy. Some have
suggested that the meals and souvenirs at Disneyland might just be a wee bit overpriced.
After I had all my info, I tried to set up the little phone tape recorder that I bought at Linda Tripp's garage sale along with much of
my Fall wardrobe. It wasn't working so I had to take notes as I called the tour company in Vegas. The phone was answered, darn my luck,
not by the gent who'd sent me the psychotic e-mail but by a lady.
I did my best to sound utterly naïve, which is a little like William Shatner playing an egoist. What follows is an excerpt
from that call...
ME: So is this day trip to Disneyland popular?
HER: Very popular. In fact, it's probably our most popular tour.
ME: Because I notice you only offer it three days a week...
HER: Well, we're shorthanded on drivers and buses. If we had more, we'd offer it every day.
ME: It sounds here like we only get a little over five hours at Disneyland.
HER: Oh, no. You get all afternoon. Plenty of time.
ME: But I'm looking at your website and it says we get dropped off at 1:00 and the bus leaves at 6:15 —
HER: There, you see? All afternoon.
ME: But isn't that five hours and 15 minutes?
HER: Oh, heavens no. I haven't done the math on it but —
ME: Just how long does it take to do that math?
HER: Well, it's a long five hours and 15 minutes.
ME: Plenty of time to see everything? Do everything?
HER: Plenty of time.
ME: Because, you know, I'm bringing the four kids and I promised them they could ride Indiana Jones and the Matterhorn and Star Tours
and Splash Mountain...
HER: Plenty of time, plenty of time.
ME: And Abigail — she's the oldest — she insists we do...here, I've got a list: It's a Small World, Sleeping Beauty's
Castle, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Mark Twain Riverboat, Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, Monorail, Mr. Toad's Wild
HER: You'll have time for all of those. Now, if you have a major credit card, I'd suggest you reserve —
ME: How about a parade? Little Jonathan loves parades.
HER: Time for all that. Now, if you have a major credit card —
ME: We'll be able to do all that in five hours?
HER: Five hours and 15 minutes.
ME: We'll be able to do all that in five hours and 15 minutes? Even a long five hours and 15 minutes? Plus eat and go to
HER: They're very short rides. Pirates of the Caribbean is only three minutes. [NOTE: According to official Disneyland
press releases, Pirates lasts 14 minutes. That's not counting time spent in line or boarding.]
ME: How about the Submarine Ride? Will we be able to ride that?
HER: Absolutely. I wouldn't miss that if I were you. Now, if you'd like to reserve spaces —
ME: Someone told me the Submarine Ride had been closed down.
HER: Oh, no. It's still there.
ME: Because Denise — she's my youngest — she'd be absolutely crushed if she couldn't ride the submarines.
HER: She has nothing to worry about. I was there just a few weeks ago and I rode it myself. I don't know how these stories
get started. [NOTE: The Disneyland Submarine Ride was closed forever on 9/9/97, around 19 months before this call.]
ME: Well, okay. If you're sure we'll have enough time to do all those things...
HER: Hey, you can trust me. [NOTE: This was the first time in my life I'd ever spoken to this person, whose name I did not
ME: Well, okay. We'll probably go for it.
HER: Lovely. Now, if you'll just give me a credit card number...
ME: Just hold six spaces for us. We'll pay you when we get there.
HER: I'm sorry, I can't hold seats on the bus for you without a credit card. We accept MasterCard, Visa, American Express,
Diners Club and Discover Card.
ME: Hey, you can trust me. Oh, before I go...I got an e-mail on the Internet from someone who works for your company. He
was kinda rude.
HER: Oh, that would be Mike. Yes, he gets a little worked-up at times. But he has good reason...some of the things he comes
across on the Internet...
ME: What do you mean?
HER: Well, I don't like to speak ill of another human being. But there are people on the Internet who lie.