In the first part of our series, I gave a fried overview of Disney World, Dollywood, and Hershey Park.
Today is a more in depth look at the entry method, fastpass type services, and staffing along with maps. Maps? Yep. Trust me on this. It's needed info.
The differences between Disney, Dollywood, and Hershey Park are pretty tremendous. At Disney, we are used to the security. You'll often have your bag checked, especially if you've left your phone, camera, or an umbrella in it. You'll also find security walking all around. That wasn't the case at Dollywood or Hershey Park. You walked through the metal detector and off you went. I wasn't the only one confused. While there was a very short section for them to check bags, I didn't see anyone's bags being checked at Dollywood or Hershey Park. Was this due to lack of staff or lack of concern? I wasn't sure.
Once entering, all three parks have guest services and ticket windows right near by. Perfect for standby tickets or questions. This part was the same.
Fastpass Type Services
Each park has a type of Fastpass system, though the name varies. While as of this moment, Disney World's is temporarily suspended, my favorite thing has always been getting those passes included in the cost of my ticket. I've always known at least I get to skip the line on three rides, more if I was coordinated and took advantage of leftover passes that day.
Dollywood has a paid service with two options. And it sounds a bit like what Disney Paris is going to be doing. Dollywood has Timesaver and Timesaver Unlimited. Timesaver gets to skip the line 8 times on chosen rides. Unlimited means any time, all day, any ride that accepts the pass. Prices are hefty though! $49 and $64, pre tax. Just like at Disney, some shows can even be reserved with this pass. While there, I didn't feel like it wold be of benifit for our family. Really, the rides were not long unless you wanted a coaster.
Hershey Park uses something called Fast Track, and like Dollywood there are two options, one standard and one unlimited. However, the price, much steeper, also varies as to what day you go. Prices start at $49-130 for Fast Track, and $50-180 for Fast Track Unlimited. Is it needed? Not really, again unless you just want the coasters, or the only one family ride that's Disneyesque, called Cupfusion. That ride had a very slow load time because there were very few ride vehicles. Almost every other ride was near walk on, in July.
While it might not be totally fair to compare staffing as there is an obvious shortage, Disney by far still has the most staff. Dollywood, the second most but even still they struggled. At Hershey Park I counted one extremely young security officer, and one extremely old one. IF you had a question? Out of luck! There was no one to ask at Hershey Park. In fact, almost every single ride was operated by one person, and of an incredibly young age. Most of the employees were high schoolers. They were working their hardest, but it was very strange. It was similar at Dollywood, and imagine my surprise when the young man, likely just a year older than my oldest, said, "let me get my supervisor," and there, if the other kid was a year older than him I'd be surprised, he was. All polite, but severely understaffed and young. So be kind to these kids trying to make sure you have a great trip.
The contract was quite severe to Disney, because even now, Disney is staffed, less, yes, but still well staffed. Help is there when you need it, and only adults are operating the ride you or your child is riding.
Maps? Yep. Disney still has paper maps. Dollywood still has paper maps. Hershey Park? No maps. There were a few maps that were in the park and you can use your phone, but it's so, so hard to pull up everything on your phone and look for what you might want to go on. I'll talk more about the app next time!
So who is in the lead?
So far, Disney wins on staffing. Disney and Dollywood are tied on maps. While I enjoy walking in through security without really being checked...it also makes me a bit nervous. Point for Disney. Fastpass type system? Yeah...I don't want to pay that much extra for my family. Disney wins this too.
But what about the rides, games and the apps? Actually...there were some great things at Dollywood and Hershey Park... Coming soon, we'll talk more about that!