Club 33 Coming to Walt Disney World? – Thoughts

The other day, there were mumblings going around about how Disney might put Club 33 locations in the four Walt Disney World theme parks. I saved a few articles about the speculation going on and went about my way for a while, knowing that I would come back to some of those articles.

When I returned, I saw that for some sites, the first comments related to how neat it would be to have Club 33 locations at parks other than Disneyland. But very shortly afterward, the jovial tone turned rather sour, mainly because of the membership buy in and the annual fees that go along with it.

We are not talking the level of DVC membership, mind you. We are talking about a speculated $25K buy in and something like $10K per year. This is not including any sort of food or drink – you still had to pay for that as well. Yes, this is for the elite.

Disney fans from all around started using terms like “money grab” and complained how Disney was once again pricing out the middle class and the like. The same sort of comments come out when Disney announced different price tiers on passes, special hard-ticked events, or even when the price for certain rooms became public knowledge. (The Bungalows at the Polynesian Resort, for example.)

Some even made comments on how Walt would not have wanted it that way.

I never met Walt, though we know that he wanted to build an enterprise that allowed families to have fun together. He was no stranger to hard financial times, and I think he kept that in mind when building Disneyland. I mean, he may have even invented the idea of “pay for play” even before the term was first realized. (And before the term was used politically as well.) At Disneyland, you had to pay an admission fee plus fees for tickets that get you on the different attractions. I think that is a good example of the sort of pricing that allowed each family to budget their time and their money in a way where they could have a great vacation.

Maybe even Walt knew that everyone does Disney differently.  🙂

Even in the early 80’s during my first visit, I recall my parents trying to debate the idea of buying attraction tickets versus a “passport” that was good for multiple days. Even then, you still had to pay an admission fee plus buy tickets per attraction. (They opted for the multi day passport, by the way.)

Now, the per-ticket idea is gone. Your admission for the day is good for everything in the park. It was something of a jump forward and you would think that every person that comes through those gates would be considered equal in the eyes of Mickey. In fact, I still think that way.

Then what is the big deal, you might ask? I believe that Disney created many different extra-cost opportunities that are optional for guests so that guests can vacation their way. I say it like that because while I would love to do some of the extra-cost items, I know that I cannot normally afford such a splurge. No, I don’t think it takes away from what I do on my vacation. If I decide that I want to do an extra-cost event, that’s my choice and I know I have to budget for such an event.

When I first started vacationing at Disney, I stayed at a moderate resort. I eventually started staying at deluxe resorts as well as the value resorts. It really depended on what I wanted to do and how long I was going to be there. I thought I would never want or afford to dine at a fine restaurant such as the California Grill. Now, I make it a point to visit there every couple of years. I used to dine a lot at character meals or at one of the many other table service eateries. Some things changed and I don’t as much anymore, but do still on occasion.

My point is that I think we need to realize that it is OK to not be able to afford every opportunity at Disney. Sure, I would love to experience Club 33. I know people that have and they loved it. I’m happy for them and not the slight bit jealous outside of telling them “aww, you are lucky to experience that sort of thing.” (Which I don’t really think is showing jealousy at all.) There are many things that I still want to experience at WDW, but I know that it will either take time to do or they are more blue-sky bucket-list sort of things.

Disney is simply offering those a unique experience for those that can afford such.

And that’s OK.

I consider myself to be very fortunate and blessed to be able to take my family on a vacation every year. I have to work hard and save even harder in order to make it happen. Heck, I even considered selling off a project car that I loved in order to go to Disney on vacation. (Fortunately, I didn’t have to, but I came real close.) The key is that I know that everyone wants to do their Disney vacation a bit differently. I think Disney sees those opportunities as a way to expand their business as well. (And you know that other theme park operators in the Central Florida area consider this sort of thing all the time.)

Instead of thinking if Club 33 is another Disney money grab, I think die-hard fans, especially those who are Disneyland regulars should probably ask themselves, would this dilute the legendary experience that is Club 33? I really don’t know.

Until next time – stay magical!

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