Category Archives: Disney for Seniors
When you are far from home and you are having a problem or you have an issue that requires some assistance, trying to find help can be difficult at best. Fortunately, at Walt Disney World, that is absolutely not the case. There is always someone that you, a lost child, a confused senior (as I occasionally get) , or anybody in need can count on. That person is and always has been the closest Walt Disney World Cast Member. They are there for you and always ready to help no matter the problem.
One of the most frightening things a parent can face is to become separated from a child, a senior, or anyone else while in a place with which one or both of you may be unfamiliar. Another situation that can pop up is a medical issue that requires assistance. Cast Members are trained and equipped to get the appropriate help or provide it themselves depending on the issue. They can help, they want to help, and most important of all they will help.
The things that you as a visitor can do to make sure you can get the help you need is to make sure that everyone in your party knows that if they get lost, become separated, or need help with anything while at Walt Disney World seek out a Cast Member. Also make sure that everyone has each others contact information (cell# etc.) on their person. This is particularly important for children and my fellow seniors, particularly on a first visit. There is also another thing you can do which may or may not seem silly – make sure everyone knows what Cast Members look like, especially while in the parks where issues are most likely to occur. As you enter each park, ask your children to point out one or two Cast Members so you are confident in their ability to recognize them. Just one more, have a meeting place set up that everyone is aware of and can relate to a Cast Member. That will just make it easier on everyone.
Remember, at Walt Disney World, the Cast Members are the best group of friends you could ever have. You can rely on them. Enjoy your Walt Disney World visit and remember those Cast Members!!!
One thing we value as Seniors above almost everything else is our independence. We have grown up in an era where we were required to depend on ourselves for almost everything. Unfortunately, this may lead to a feeling of reluctance to let others take total control of something that is personally very important – our luggage while flying. Certainly we trust the airlines (sometimes with mixed results) to get our luggage from point of departure to point of arrival but then we can get our hands on our stuff and control it from there. That gives us our independence back because now, we can get our stuff where it needs to go.
Sorry fellow Oldies, here is where I am willing to surrender this particular part of my independence and let Disney handle my stuff!! Disney’s Magical Express is a free service that handles your luggage from the time you arrive in Orlando until the time you leave. They pick it up at the airport, deliver it to your resort, and the resort then delivers it to your room. The only cost that you may incur will be a tip for the bellman if you happen to be in the room when it’s delivered. When it’s time to leave you check your luggage in at the resort and they take it from there. As if by Magic, this is Disney after all, your luggage will be at your home airport baggage terminal when you arrive. This, of course, depends on the airlines doing their job.
Did I forget to mention that the service also includes free transportation to your resort on comfortable air conditioned buses normally operated by very friendly and entertaining drivers. There is also an entertaining video played while in transit – it gets you in the mood. I’m not just repeating the Disney company line, I’ve used the service on every visit since it was instituted. If you want the official information you can find it here: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/benefits/airport-service/
Word of caution – always pack a carry on with essentials (change of clothes, MEDS, etc) because there are occasionally delays of up to a few hours, depending on airport traffic, in getting luggage from the airport to your room. If you do take a carry on with you on the Magical Express bus please tip the driver when he retrieves it for you from under the bus. These people work hard and you will notice that they receive very few tips.
To answer my question posed above, should Seniors use Disney’s Magical Express – Yes! Yes! Yes!
Chip sent me an article not too long ago concerning Seniors who ride coasters. My memory was jogged by the article and reminded me of something that happened about twenty years ago.
I made my first trip to Walt Disney World at the age of 44. My Wife, Sister and I took our parents for their 50th Wedding Anniversary. At the time my Father was 79 years old and I thought he was a rather cautious individual so you can imagine my surprise when he said I’ve always wanted to try “that”. He was referring to Space Mountain and apparently my parents had made several visits to Walt Disney World without telling me – some nerve huh!! We both took our first ride on Space Mountain that day and I think Dad fared better than I did.
The article also spurred my research bug so I conducted an informal (and small) poll on a discussion board I frequent on a daily basis and found the following. Approximately 20.0% of Seniors said they would never ride a thrill ride at Walt Disney World, 46.67% said they ride some of them but stay away from the intense rides, and my personal group, 33.33% said they ride as many as possible every time they visit. I asked that only those 62+ provide answers but there were some who always travel with Seniors who answered for them.
Why do I ride them all? Because I can – I am an extremely blessed 64 year old who has no physical issues (except for motion sickness which I can almost totally control). I also love the thrill I get from the speed, g-forces, etc. I have empathy for those who have physical issues and very much respect their choice not to ride. It is far better for you to make that choice than to expose yourself to chance of injury by riding something that may put you at that kind of risk. Nothing is worth taking that type of chance.
How long will I continue to ride the thrill rides? Until my Doctor or I decide that it is no longer advisable. When that time comes I will reluctantly hang up my goose bumps and queasy stomach and learn to enjoy the more “oldie appropriate” attractions. I do encourage those who are physically able to enjoy the thrill rides to whatever level they are comfortable because like the lady in this article ( http://attractionsmagazine.com/blog/2010/07/19/out-of-the-loop-are-roller-coasters-the-secret-to-agelessness/ ) it may help to keep you younger and get your blood flowing. This lady is just plain incredible and I hope to be hitting the Walt Disney World thrill rides at her age.
I do realize that the “thrill rides” at Walt Disney World are generally not at the same intensity level as the coasters etc. at many of the world’s bigger amusement parks. The theme of each attraction at Walt Disney World far exceeds the sterility of many of these real thrill rides (maybe with the exception of the Harry Potter attraction) and the story is at least as important as the thrill to me. Enjoy them while you can but stop before you put yourself in danger. See you on the Rock ‘n Roller Coaster and Mission Space!!
Opinions on restaurants, as we used to say in the 50’s and 60’s, are like Volkswagen bugs – everyone has one. Preferences in this area are very personal and are developed for many reasons. I mention that so you know that I don’t consider myself to be a total authority in this area but just someone who has experienced a majority of the restaurants at Walt Disney World and has very particular preferences. I feel that a lot of these preferences are shared by a lot of other Seniors.
I may be lucky but I have never had a bad experience at a Disney restaurant. I do, however, have an issue with one thing that is prevalent in most Disney restaurants – portion size!! They are generally huge and way more than most Seniors are comfortable eating. That said, I will present my preferences for Character Meals, Park Restaurants, Signature Restaurants, and what I consider to be the best restaurant at Walt Disney World. Please remember I have picked these restaurants as a Senior and for Seniors.
Character Meals – My favorite Character meal, unfortunately, no longer exists but was dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern. Cinderella’s Royal Table (breakfast) is a favorite because of the atmosphere (my goodness, it’s the castle after all) and the joy of watching children interact with the princesses. The food is very good and definitely plentiful. 1900 Park Fare has an excellent buffet and good character interaction. In both of these restaurants the characters were very aware and actually asked if we wanted to interact or just watch.
Theme Park Restaurants – We are not big fans of the Animal Kingdom and only make short visits for such things as the Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo. We haven’t eaten at any of the restaurants there because we are just not in the park long enough. In the Magic Kingdom we really have two favorite table service restaurants that are ideal for seniors. These are the Liberty Tree Tavern and the Plaza Restaurant. Both have excellent food in manageable portions and are generally a bit more laid back than some of the others. One word of caution with the Liberty Tree Tavern, if you have an issue with stairs please use the restrooms in the park on the way to the restaurant because they are upstairs (quite a few stairs) at the Liberty Tree. Our favorite counter service is definitely the Columbia Harbour House. It has very good food and is a welcome air conditioned break from the park. Epcot is a foodies dream!! There are so many excellent restaurants that selecting one is nearly impossible but our favorite table service restaurants are Les Chefs de France, Restaurant Marrakesh, and Tutto Italia. The food is excellent in all three locations and service is generally excellent (sometimes a bit hurried at Les Chefs). Two counter service locations stand out. They are Sunshine Seasons in the Land Pavilion which has a huge variety of very well prepared food and the Tangierine Café at the Morocco Pavilion. Seniors please don’t be afraid that the food at Marrakesh or the Tangierine Café will be too “exotic” for you, it isn’t. It is well prepared and delicious. Our favorite non signature restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the 50’s Prime Time Café. It has excellent comfort type food and is a lot of fun if you want to play along. Here also, the Cast Members are a very aware group and if you don’t want to play along with their antics they are terrific at recognizing that and do not force the fun and games. For counter service at the Studios try the ABC Commissary, there is a decent variety of good food on an International menu and the décor is very nice. It doesn’t feel like a typical counter service restaurant.
Signature Restaurants – The Signatures are ideally suited to us as Seniors. The food and service are both excellent, the pace is perfect, and eating in these restaurants is more than a meal it is a dining experience. They are more expensive than other restaurants at Walt Disney World but I truly believe we are worth it!! The California Grill at the Contemporary is as good as any of the Signatures. The menu is varied (sushi to steaks) and it has an open kitchen so you can watch their talented chefs prepare the food. If you time it correctly you can go outside and watch the fireworks with a spectacular (but a bit loud) view. If you are a big fan of salmon you must try Artist Point at the Wilderness Lodge. The Cedar Plank Salmon is always perfect and for desert try the berry cobbler. In the Parks the Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is outstanding. You can dine inside or outside and the food is terrific. If you are a seafood fan the grouper is outstanding. Salad eaters will enjoy the Cobb Salad. Don’t miss the Grapefruit Cake here for dessert. You can not go wrong at any of the Walt Disney World Signature restaurants – enjoy as many as time and your budget permit.
Best Overall Restaurant – Anyone who has dined at Victoria and Albert’s in the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa will likely back me up here. It is absolutely the premier restaurant at Walt Disney World and the only Five Star restaurant in Central Florida. They do have a couple of rules though – jackets are required for men (ties optional) and evening wear for women. I know “evening wear” is not a specific term but I’ve never met a woman who does not know exactly what that means. Unfortunately for the grandchildren, children under ten are not permitted. The menu changes daily and the meal is a five course delight. There are at least two basic selections for each course and there are also additional selections for an added cost. Stick with the standard selections they are always excellent. Wine flights are available for those who enjoy wine with dinner. If none of the standard selections appeal to you just mention it to your server and the magic will happen. My wife had a particular soup on a visit in 2003 that was not on the menu in 2007 so I asked the server if they even served it anymore and he said yes they did and the Chef prepared it right then and there for her. What a delight! They have a harpist who plays during dinner which definitely adds to the experience. If you are celebrating a special occasion let them know when you make your ADR (separate phone call, they make their own reservations) and when you confirm your reservation with them at least 24 hours in advance. At the end of your experience you will each receive a personalized menu and the ladies each receive a rose. If it fits your budget it is a must do!!
If you have special dietary issues or needs Disney is equipped to handle them. Please add these needs to your ADR’s when you make them. Here is a page that gives specific/additional information for these matters: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/special-dietary-requests/ .
If you would like to view menus for these or any other restaurants at Walt Disney World you can locate them here: http://allears.net/menu/menus.htm . These menus are current for the most part and are regularly maintained.
First of all, I would like to thank Chip for allowing me to join his staff and to offer my thoughts and opinions on my favorite subject – Walt Disney World and everything it includes. I will avoid boring you with my background but if you are interested you can find it on the “staff” page of the site – http://www.chipandco.com/staff/.
Seniors visiting Walt Disney World is a subject that does not get a lot of attention. We are a slightly different species (oldius goodius) because of our age and experience and have certain requirements that many of our younger counterparts do not. What I would like to try to do in a short series of articles is tell those of you who love Disney as much as I do who we are and what we need, what would be the best places for us to go (resorts, attractions, etc.), and what are the places and things we might want to avoid.
Who are we? – We are your sisters and brothers, we are your Moms and Dads, we are your Grandmas and Grandpas and we are your friends. Some of us are healthy and robust and some of us not so much, but the one thing we have in common is an affinity for Disney. We visit Walt Disney World in several ways:
-As “empty nesters”
-As part of a group of seniors
-With adult children and their families
-With the grandchildren by ourselves
No matter “how” we visit, we would not be there if we did not want to. We want to accomplish and experience as much as we can subject to any limitations we may have so you may have to be just a little patient with us at certain times. Thank you.
What limitations might we have? – I do not think mobility issues need to be discussed here for three reasons 1- Seniors with mobility limitations generally know what they are and can deal with them or they would not travel to Walt Disney World for a vacation, 2- We all know and appreciate how well Disney deals with this type of limitation pretty much making it a non issue and 3- Any type of required equipment that can not be transported is available for rental in the Orlando area. Other types of issues (but not all by any means) are:
-Heart or other medical conditions
Seniors, themselves, generally have a pretty good grasp of any issues they may have but if you are traveling with them it would benefit everyone if you were aware also. The best source for the information would be the senior themselves and if there is an open relationship that would be the easiest way to go. Barring that, a conversation with their physician may accomplish the same thing. You do not really need to know what the specific issue is; you may just explain to the physician where you are going and ask what needs to be avoided. Remember this is Mom/ Dad, or Grandma/Grandpa and their privacy must be respected.
What should you not do when traveling to Walt Disney World with us? – There are some things you should not do when visiting Walt Disney World with us:
-Do not force us to do something or go somewhere when we do not want to. We have had many years to perfect both a stubborn streak and a pout that would rival that of a five year old. You really do not want to deal with that now, do you?
-If we have a physical complaint or issue, please do not ignore it. There are plenty of First Aid stations around the parks so utilize them. Prevention is the best cure.
-If we want to take a break during the day please do not ignore that request. If we are able, we will take ourselves back to the resort. If not, have someone in the travel party take us back for a nap. They can re join you after we settle in.
-Please do not keep us out in the hot sun all day. Alternate your attraction touring so we can get into an air conditioned venue on a regular basis. It is extremely important to make sure that we drink a lot of water so we can stay hydrated.
-We have a personal responsibility to take care of ourselves when traveling but fatigue and dehydration can impair our judgment (yours also). Please talk to us during the day to make sure we are on top of our personal needs.
That pretty much covers who we are and what our special needs might be. In future articles I will try to address the “best of” for us and some things we may want to avoid. Please take this information as it is meant, as a helpful tool for senior travelers and those folks who travel with us. It is not complete by any means but at least those who read it may develop an awareness of their personal responsibility as a senior traveler or cautions to be aware of when traveling with us.