Perhaps if presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis donned some Mickey ears and strapped himself into Disney’s latest rollercoaster – instead of taking pot shots at Florida’s biggest private employer – his ratings might soar.
For despite what snobs will tell you, this is American entertainment at its greatest: slick, wholesome and more than slightly addictive.
But, then, I speak with the zealousness of the newly converted.
After coming to Disney World with my parents 30 years ago, I felt sure a return trip with my own children would be something to endure rather than enjoy. But in the intervening years, it turns out that Mickey’s home has had a makeover – that canny little mouse has embraced the digital age with a queue-jumping app that totally changes the experience.
The rollercoasters are different, too. Disney’s latest and fastest, Tron, has ditched the U-shaped harnesses that descend over your head. First, you are ‘digitalised’ (I won’t spoil the surprise), then you sit astride a Lightcycle – the motorbike that features in the futuristic films – while a back rest keeps you snugly in place.
Moments to savour: After coming to Disney World with her parents 30 years ago, Kate Mansey returned to the resort with her own children
Within a few terrifying but exhilarating seconds I was launched to 60mph. And something strange happened to my face because, despite the G-force, I couldn’t stop smiling. It was not what I expected. But, then, none of it was.
I was with my husband, our two children (aged eight and four) and two other wildly excited big kids – my parents.
Arriving at Animal Kingdom Lodge – our Disney hotel for two weeks – the children ran to the balcony, thrilled to see giraffes and zebra grazing on a picturesque savannah stretching out below. ‘Are they real?’ they asked. Don’t be silly. Oh, wait, yes they are.
Disney’s theme parks are Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. There are also two huge water parks – Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, although the latter was closed for refurbishments (and is expected to remain so this summer).
Disney’s latest and fastest rollercoaster, Tron, sees passengers sit astride a Lightcycle and get ‘launched to 60mph’, Kate reveals
Animal Kingdom was a revelation, with phenomenal stage shows of the Lion King and Finding Nemo. At Hollywood Studios, a stormtrooper scared the life out of me while the children and Grandad tried to fly the Millennium Falcon. Epcot, a showcase of international cultures and cuisines, offers a different type of immersive experience.
For children, however, there is no beating the Magic Kingdom: the parades, the fireworks, the boats. But aren’t the queues horrendous? Actually, no, thanks to the My Disney Experience app.
The app stores your park tickets, and for $35 (about £28) per person per day you can also add ‘Genie+’ which allows you to choose ‘Lightning Lanes’ for rides. This means no queuing – and is well worth it.
There is, however, an even better way to queue jump: a VIP guide.
Kate’s father tried to fly the Millennium Falcon (pictured) in the Hollywood Studios section of the park
Big smiles: Above is Kate with her two children, aged eight and four
The family spent a day touring the park with a VIP guide, which costs between $400 to $750 an hour
It costs between $400 to $750 an hour for a party of up to ten people for a minimum of seven hours – I’ll let you do the maths on that. But it’s no longer the preserve of celebrities – regular folk are now clubbing together on Facebook groups to split the cost. I met a self-confessed ‘coaster junkie’ from Ohio who told me she’d blown two months’ wages on a VIP day for her and her son.
And we were lucky enough to try it out, for a bewilderingly brilliant day. Our wonderful guide, Ted, met us in the hotel lobby. When I asked, ‘So what do we do today?’ He replied with a twinkle in his eye: ‘Why, anything you want, of course.’
Ted introduced us to Mickey, Ariel and Rapunzel, and sneaked us backstage and on to the Buzz Lightyear ride. My son murmured in awe: ‘Wow, he really is magic.’
The children’s verdict on Disney World – ‘Can we live here?’
And what about the grown-ups? Walking down the main street at Hollywood Studios, I had a flashback to that first Disney trip, and told Mum: ‘It’s all coming back to me.’ Taking my hand and nodding in the direction of my son, she smiled and said: ‘It feels like yesterday that you were that age.’
Her hand felt much smaller in mine than it did 30 years ago, but the magic was the same.
A once-in-a-lifetime holiday? Probably, given the price tag, but I dream of returning one day with my own grandchildren. And Disney is certainly big on dreams.
Walt Disney Travel Company International offers a 14-night stay at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, from £3,162pp for two adults and two children (aged three-nine) this summer, including accommodation at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, return BA flights, a £1,655 ‘dining and merchandise credit’, access to all theme parks and water parks, and a £315 Disney gift card (disneypackages.co.uk).