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It’s never been more expensive to be a Disney fan

After a recent trip with her husband and two children to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, Gina Lee said it felt like she had lost “all concept of money and time.”
“It has gotten more expensive. It’s crazy,” said the New York-based content creator. “I feel like when you go to Disney, it’s almost like planning a wedding. You’re like ‘Eh, I’m already in it, what’s 20 or 30 more bucks?’ Before you know it, you’re way out of control – but you’re in this Disney mindset.”
Over the past couple of years, prices have gone up across the Disney-verse. Not only have theme park visits gotten more expensive, but so have Disney’s cruise vacations, souvenirs and the company’s streaming services. Its timeshare program, Disney Vacation Club, raised prices as of January 30. Over the summer, Disney quietly raised the prices at two of the adult-exclusive restaurants on board its cruise ships to $135 per person for dinner, a nudge up of $10, according to the Disney Cruise Line Blog.
Some of these increases are modest and common to Disney’s rivals in the entertainment and travel businesses. Inflation has played a big role, too. But one thing is certain: being a Disney fan has never been more expensive.
The price hikes come as Disney faces a watershed moment in its history. The global entertainment giant is grappling with a still-unprofitable transition to streaming, recent box office blunders — like the soon-forgotten animated feature “Wish,” released in November — and a murky CEO succession plan. A legal battle with Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, which is the state that holds Disney’s largest and most profitable theme parks, is ongoing.
Disney investors seem to be reeling from the uncertainty: The company’s stock is down 11% in the past five years. (Disney reports its quarterly results after the stock market’s close on Wednesday.)
The company did not respond to a request for comment from CNN.
Meanwhile, tickets to the flagship parks have shot up in price. A one-day ticket to Disney World during the peak holiday season has risen 47% since 2019, far outpacing the rate of inflation, according to Don Munsil, the president of MouseSavers, an online guide to discounts and deals at Disney and Universal theme parks.
Here’s the Disney math for a family of four: Two days in Disneyland and California Adventure parks the first weekend of March — not a peak period — will cost $1,310 for admission tickets and parking. Genie+, a pass which speeds buyers through some ride lines, adds $240 to the total. That’s nearly $1,600 — before the mouse ears and giant turkey legs.
Parks and cruises see uptick in prices
Perks that Disney customers had grown accustomed to have also started to disappear. In the last two years, free shuttles from the airport to the parks in Florida were eliminated and the once-free FastPass system was replaced by Genie+, which starts at $25 per day.
“Over the course of the time we’ve been running MouseSavers, we’ve certainly seen Disney introduce more upsells,” Munsil said. Disney had begun to increase the prices of their cruises “pretty quickly,” he said, though he added that escalating demand for Disney’s ships has played a role.
Brittany Huizinga, an Arizona-based travel agent at Smart Moms Travel, took a two-part trip with her husband and two children during the holiday season: The first four nights were spent at Walt Disney World and the last five nights on a Disney Cruise ship.
“Including airfare getting from Arizona to Florida, having a rental car and all the extra excursions we did on the cruise, it was about $20,000,” she said, or more than $2,000 a day.
Disney’s cost-cutting efforts
It isn’t solely in-person experiences that have gone up in price, though. In the fall, Disney hiked the price of its flagship streaming service, Disney+ and CEO Bob Iger has signaled that the company would take steps to crack down on password sharing in 2024.
In its 2023 annual report, released in November, Disney cited “recent inflationary conditions” as the reason behind some of its increased costs. However, the report also elucidated some of the House of Mouse’s struggles: operating income in the company’s entertainment division plummeted 32% between 2022 and 2023.
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Doug Arthur, an analyst who covers Disney for Huber Research Partners and has a “buy” rating on the stock, is confident that money will soon come for Disney’s streaming business.
“They will make money in this, and they will probably make a lot. I’m not too worried about whether it’s this quarter, next quarter, this year, or next year,” he said. “It’s going to happen.”
On Tuesday, Disney’s ESPN, along with Fox Corporation and Warner Bros. Discovery (CNN’s parent company) made the once-unthinkable announcement that they would unite to create a new streaming service to house their sports assets. Each company will own one-third of the new service.
Disney has said it expects to get its streaming business out of the red by the end of this year.
For now, though, Disney, like most companies that contend with rising costs, seems to have passed some of those increases off to its customers.
Lee said she strategized to trim down additional costs of her Disney vacation, including purchasing cheaper replica Mickey Mouse ears ahead of time on Amazon. Disney-branded mouse ear headbands, sold at the company’s theme parks and online, have bumped up in price in recent years, along with other Disney-branded merchandise. According to the Wayback Machine, a digital library of historical websites, the headbands are up nearly 17% since 2022.
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