Although not placed along the shores of shell-laden sand and crystal waters, or even the brink of a resort’s spa, Walt Disney World has released their first in-park cabanas at the edge of Tomorrowland for what Cast Members are referring to as a “test-run”. Two of the plastic, tent-like retreats are currently located to the right of the popular Space Mountain attraction behind its stroller parking section. Outside guests are kept at bay with a line of potted plants, patrolling Cast Members, and the occasional roaming security guard. I didn’t believe the preliminary images I had seen on the internet when the cabanas were first announced, so I took to the task of seeing them in person. The limited amenities and flimsy appearance conveyed through the photographs of the white-tented horrors I had seen online only matched what the major tourism franchise has to offer guests from a closer glance.
The Walt Disney World Resort previously allowed visiting families to rent poolside cabanas at both the Contemporary Resort and Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, but decided to take the offering one step further by bringing them beyond the gates of the Parks themselves. I inquired further about the new addition to the park with attending Cast Member Nelson, who claimed the primary reason they believe rentals will be successful is their capability to shield families from “the hot mess of people” that crowd the Magic Kingdom on busy days, as all days at the famed theme-park are. This coddling mindset falls in line with the included perk of a modified form of room service, as I was told Kingdom Cabanas’s guests will be able to order food from Tomorrowland’s nearby Cosmic Rays restaurant for an additional charge so that they can avert the lines that make the park a blistering cluster of collectively exhausted visitors.
For an approximate $650 per day, which totals to $691 after taxes have been included, families can rent their own Kingdom Cabana with seating for up to eight guests and complimentary refreshments. Eight Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bars, coffee, a fruit basket, personalized Mickey Mouse ear hats, and reserved seating areas are also included amenities to entice willing families to partake in the newly available rental sales. The small spaces are equipped with heaters for the approaching cooler weather, and despite a lack of air conditioning, ceiling fans are provided to extend a cool refuge to guests during the hot summer weather. Mr. Nelson claimed that despite the hefty price tag, “They’re just meant to be a good place to chill and take a nap.”
According to the Cast Members on staff at the Kingdom Cabanas soft-opening this week, the next parks expected to welcome these not-so-reclusive getaways are Disney’s Epcot and Animal Kingdom. The testing phase is projected to end November 28th, when Kingdom Cabanas will then be open for reservation.
While Kingdom Cabanas have the potential to do incredibly well monetarily for the park, as there are a plethora of guests who have and are willing to spend the money, it lacks the same elegance and story-telling element that emanates throughout the Walt Disney World Company. The cabanas are simplistic and do not offer the same, holistic environment that enraptures guests through Magic Kingdom’s attractions, restaurants, and resorts. For those able to overlook the price, the concept offers an ideal meeting location for large parties who intend to split throughout the day, or families who don’t want to backtrack all the way to their resort midday.
That being said, from the view I observed, and the conversations Cast Members were able to offer, the project seems to be a hurried way of producing more cash from preexisting, onsite consumers. While the cabanas share the Walt Disney World Company’s same love for profit, they lack the connective tissue that is the resort’s capability to procure pure magic. Unlike such, these plastic, sans-beachfront tents making their ways to the Florida parks are no illusion.