Review: The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2013
THE 2013 UNOFFICIAL GUIDE: BEST DISNEY WORLD GUIDEBOOK IN A DECADE
The 2013 edition of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World came out in late August.
This installment of the series of guidebooks that has been ranked #1 on this site since it opened is the best in a decade.
The 2013 update includes
- Nice material on potential ways FASTPASS+ will operate (85-86)
- Good updates on the Art of Animation Resort and on the Fantasyland expansion, and
- Some other updated frank assessments—e.g. sharp fresh material on the Downtown Disney Resort Area (197).
Most importantly, it’s finally taken the old presentation of the Studios—which combined it with Universal and Sea World, an approach that has made no sense since 1999 (when Islands of Adventure opened), and little sense even before then—and divided it so that each of these parks has its own section.
This puts the Studios at the same level as the other three Disney World theme parks, while at the same time giving appropriate prominence to the non-Disney parks.
Another nice change is much more detail in the Table of Contents, with 11 pages compared to last year’s 4, making it work nicely as a topical index, and the material of the Guide more findable. (The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2013 still has almost 40 pages of indexes at the back, a page more than last year.)
These last two changes together fundamentally improve the usability of the Guide–and are why it’s the best Disney World guidebook released in the last decade.
The team also did a really nice job at fixing last year’s errors, although a few new ones have crept in (and/or I’ve noticed them for the first time). (Frequent readers of this site know that my expertise is more in creating errors than in noticing or fixing them…)
Overall, the work is nicely updated—including late breaking (at publication date) stuff like the 2013 shift of evening Extra Magic Hours from 2 hours to 3 (39). This makes it all the more surprising that there’s a lot of outdated or just incorrect schedule info—e.g.
- The schedule of “typical” Extra Magic Hours (40) is anything but—shifting the second Animal Kingdom morning EMH from Friday to Wednesday would have made it indeed typical.
- Neither of the first two sentences in the second full para on 539 “The evening parade is staged once or twice each evening, depending on the season. During less busy seasons, the parade is presented only on weekends…” is correct, and of course the first essentially contradicts the second. An accurate statement would be “Evening parade performances vary by season, happening as often as twice a night during the busy times of year, to two or three times a week during the less busy seasons.”
- The material on Fantasmic staging is less factually incorrect, but only because it uses the words “at least,” and in its overall impression is similarly outdated (618)
There’s many other updates and additions—see Len Testa’s highlights of what’s different for 2013 here.
OTHER TYPOS, ERRORS, AND QUESTIONABLE JUDGMENTS
Accommodations. As usual, most of the errors I’ve noticed are in the “Accommodations” section…perhaps because I’m one of the few geeks on earth to have recently stayed for multiple nights in every single Disney World owned and operated hotel…
Errors, or questionable interpretations, in the 2013 material on accommodations include:
- I don’t see how the Port Orleans resorts are “centrally located,” but Coronado Springs is not. (115) The Port Orleans resorts were centrally located until Animal Kingdom opened, perhaps…but Coronado Springs is about as close to Epcot, the Studios and Magic Kingdom as are the Port Orleans resorts, and is much closer to the Animal Kingdom. So both are central or neither is…
- The Cabins at Fort Wilderness are not “the most cost-efficient Disney lodgings for groups of five or six persons” (116). For five people, the Alligator Bayou rooms at Port Orleans Riverside are the most cost efficient, and for six, the Family Suites at All-Star Music are the most cost efficient.
- The floor plan for the Contemporary (119) has been out of date for a while—although the write-up beginning on 146 is correct.
- The material at the bottom of 120 is much improved compared to the equivalent last year, but it still gets capacities of 4 vs. 5 and 8 vs. 9 wrong, and has comically promoted the Treehouses to Grand Villas
- The dining room chairs in the Art of Animation Family Suite floor plan have been randomly scattered around the suite (122), creating a false impression that the master bedroom can double as a conference room.
- Saratoga Springs has some real weaknesses, but it seems a bit much to ding it three times for lacking character meals (table on 168)
- The final sentence in the para on 178 that begins “Each of Riverside’s 2,048 rooms…”—“All rooms feature two queens or one king”—should be corrected to include the 5th sleeping spot in Alligator Bayou rooms.
- The material on the Animal Kingdom Lodge has a strong discussion of the Kidani vs. Jambo villas…but seemingly at the expense of enough material on standard Jambo rooms.
- The Family Suites at All-Star Music don’t have “two chair beds”—they have a chair bed and an ottoman bed.
- Captain EO is “Not to be Missed” (554)? I fear this is a typo copied over from another book in the Unofficial Guides series, the “Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World for Zombies”
- There’s no “Magic Kingdom” at the Disneyland Resort…there’s a Disneyland! (94)
- The reader comment on free admission on birthdays (773) should be eliminated, since the program has stopped
The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2013 doesn’t have the gorgeous images and sprightly prose of The Complete Walt Disney World, nor the clarity and fun design of PassPorter’s Walt Disney World.
What is has, instead, is the most comprehensive and best-organized Disney World vacation information you can find in a guidebook. The 2013 edition started from a strong base, made it much better, and is in sum the best Disney World guidebook I’ve seen in years!
(Disclosure: As noted here, since summer 2011 I’ve had a business relationship with TouringPlans.com, part of the Unofficial Guide intergalactic empire.)