Earlier this year, Disney announced they would be retiring Disney’s Magical Express in 2022. When I heard the news, I felt a mix of emotions. Part of me was extremely sad, but part of me was expecting it as well. Due to that fact, it wasn’t shocking news to me, but it does feel like a bit more of that undeniably wonderful customer service that sets Disney apart is being stripped away.
For those of you who may never have stayed on Walt Disney World property, Disney’s Magical Express is essentially a free bus service that will take you from the Orlando International Airport to your hotel at Walt Disney World. In addition, pre-COVID, you could choose to have your luggage tagged so that a Cast Member would take care of picking up your suitcase at the luggage carousel and deliver it directly to your hotel room several hours later. I personally loved this extra little touch of customer service.
As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I can’t think of a better first impression when starting your Walt Disney World vacation than having your luggage and transportation to your hotel taken care of at no additional cost. Just think, you’re still approximately 20 miles away from Disney property, yet that “Disney bubble” that us fans love living in has already begun. To me, that’s a priceless first impression that I will miss.
On top of that, if you’re a Disney nerd like me, you surely enjoy the videos shown onboard to prep and hype you for your vacation while traveling from the airport to your hotel. Aside from them showing Walt Disney giving his Disneyland opening day speech edited to appear as though it were at Walt Disney World (a pet peeve of mine), the content is informative and enjoyable. This all makes for a great first impression.
For years now, I’ve expected to eventually be charged for this service. It has been free to resort guests since it started in 2005 and—for me, anyway—it’s considered a major perk for staying at a Disney Resort hotel. I hate to see these extra little bits of magic that sets Disney apart go away, especially when it feels like a choice on the company’s part instead of a requirement. In the current state of the world, it is accepted that live shows and other magical touches around the parks need to be discontinued. But with so much of that necessarily happening, it feels doubly painful to see services that don’t need to end be retired.
Disney states that ride-sharing options are the reason for Disney’s Magical Express ending, but I find that a bit hard to believe. For the majority of people, “free” is most often considered better than a paid service, even if the paid service is a bit more convenient. I must assume that Disney will launch some other paid service option that will take you directly from the airport to your hotel. Perhaps that’s what the currently-unused Minnie Vans will be utilized for in the future.
The removal of Disney’s Magical Express may also prompt more people to rent a car while staying at Walt Disney World. If guests do choose this option, it may put some extra money in Disney’s pocket since they now charge to park per day at their hotels. But you’ve got to figure that if someone is paying for a car rental, they’ll most likely take advantage of it with visits to Universal Studios, off-site restaurants and other destinations outside of the Disney bubble. I can’t imagine the company would be very happy with that result.
For that reason alone, I assume there will be some other transportation option offered by Disney designed to keep guests on-property. It may be as simple as the contract with Mears (the bus service used for Disney’s Magical Express) expiring and Disney teaming up with another company, therefore renaming the service in the process. Only time will tell as we get closer to 2022, but for now, the news is simply a bummer in my book and might encourage me to look into other off-site places to stay.
How do you feel? Have you ever used Disney’s Magical Express? Is the transportation and luggage service something that enticed you to stay on property or was it just an added perk that you took advantage of? Did you ever stay on Walt Disney World property and choose to pay for a different service to get to the hotel? Leave a comment and let me know.
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.