The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous; an old TV show and a fun way to watch obnoxious people with more money than you drink thousand dollar bottles of wine while cruising on multi-million dollar boats. Today we call it Keeping Up with the Kardashians but it’s the same thing.
Only the finest, fit for a King.
Society has always had a fascination with luxury. Whether it was Cleopatra and her golden headdresses, King Louis XIV and his golden Palace of Versailles or Donald J. Trump and that golden coif of untamed cotton candy perched atop his scalp; people have always sought out the finest things in life. Crystal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece, jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash we actually do care and are very caught up in our dreams. We all want to be royals.
Yet we are not playing Baccarat in Monaco or sunning ourselves in Ibiza; we are slogging through sweltering Orlando humidity that has the consistency of airborne Cheez Whiz. Alas a trip to our favorite theme parks rarely offers the elite of society a respite from the stench that is mankind. Once departed from the Disneyland Dream Suite it’s difficult to distinguish the top 1% from the lowly 99%.
Louis Vuitton bags, Gucci shoes, Prada dresses; no one cares about those extravagances while hurtling down Chickapin Hill or taking a quick trip to the chiropractor after a spine snapping jaunt on the Matterhorn. The parks have a shocking dearth of amenities catering to those who demand the splendor and opulence that true affluence affords . Admittedly, the surrounding resorts offer fine(ish) dining and terry cloth robes (spun of lowly cotton, lacking the supple softness of fine silk), but unless you break into the defunct AT&T lounge at Epcot there are but a paltry few ways to be pampered while in the parks.
Fortunately for Russian billionaires, Chinese moguls and Middle Eastern Sheiks one classic Disneyland attraction secretly bathes guests with not one but three hidden luxuries. These are the very types of curated experiences that even the finest concierges in the world would have trouble executing and yet these blissful delights are available to all, you just have to be in the know.
Unaware, uninformed lemmings line up like drones. They are not enlightened.
1) Lines? A person like you does not wait in lines.
The classic Dole Whip is one of the most iconic Disney delicacies. A luxurious blend of decadent, velvety smooth golden pineapple sorbet and rare tropical juices (imported at great expense from far off islands), it offers pure contentment on a hot summer day. The price of entry for this golden dream is surprising low and thus exorbitant lines quickly form in front of the Tiki Juice Bar, often snaking throughout Adventureland.
The civilized few refuse to wait, choosing expeditious privacy instead.
What is a privileged park guest to do? Simple. Instead of queuing like ignorant slobs with the rest of the misinformed masses simply proceed directly through the entry gate to the Enchanted Tiki Room, bypassing the juice bar completely. There you will not only find a lovely private courtyard with delightfully kitschy themed benches but more importantly private access to the Tiki bar and all of its offerings. Instead of standing in line for 30 minutes you will be luxuriating in a private tropical hideaway; libation in hand and smug smile on your face. You don’t wait in lines… lines wait for you!
An enticing treat enjoyed with delightful company makes an excellent amuse bouche prior to a gastronomical campaign at Club 33 (may we recommend the sweet breads, they are superb).
2) No food or drinks allowed within attractions; that rule simply does not apply to a person of your stature.
After acquiring your Dole Whip perchance the sun is too harsh for your glistening, delicate, dewy soft and excessively moisturized skin. For fear that your eyes may fall on a plebeian lot even the tropical garden may not offer you enough seclusion. Perhaps you would prefer to retire to the climate-controlled comfort of the theatre to partake of your lush confection. You are of course most certainly in luck as cast members will acquiesce to your whims and desires on this point. The Enchanted Tiki Room in fact grants guests of all tax brackets the opportunity to enjoy their frosty treats indoors throughout the show. Lean back, put your Italian lamb-skin loafer clad feet up and luxuriate in the knowledge that you will eat where and when you please.
Do not allow the primitive adornment to alienate you, these private facilities are a well-kept secret.
3) Public restrooms are a fact of life; perhaps for most, but not for you.
Though it is not polite or proper for an aristocrat to discuss such issues there will be a time when nature calls. At such points you cannot be expected to share your most private of moments with flip-flop wearing underlings. No, you deserve, nay you demand privacy during those most delicate of times. Once again the Tiki Room is there to serve you offering secluded, private and virtually un-used lavatory facilities.
Of course gentlemen are afforded separate quarters.
While the commodes are disappointingly bare, lacking the varnish of gold one is accustomed to, they are still lavish as compared to the mass troughs most must shamefully use. In fact the delightfully primitive execution allows one to experience what it must be like to be common while still remaining elevated and removed from the unsightly bourgeoisie. These elementary and yet essential facilities may be found to the left of the entrance to the amphitheater. Most patrons ignorantly march past them oblivious to the comforts they contain.
Of course you may take photographs of the show, feel free to record it as well.
Bonus: No Photography or Video, you may ignore that missive.
There is one final benefit of your success.Should you currently be involved with a reality show you may have your personal photographer or videographer capture your indoor Dole Whip consuming romp. Neither photography nor video recording is restricted here, not when it comes to you. As long as the crew keeps the external lights to a minimum you may produce a filmic masterpiece at your leisure.
A person with your resources will not be confined to the rules and regulations of the proletariat. You have arrived and now you know three (and a half) hidden luxuries that only the Enchanted Tiki Room offers.
Enjoy and please give Kim, Kanye and Caitlyn our best regards on your next visit.
1982 was the “Dawn of a New Disney Era” as EPCOT Center was born. I was 14. It was an incredible time. We were in the middle of some sort of crazy golden age of entertainment, at least as far as an adolescent boy was concerned
I was unaware of the struggles Disney was going through financially. I hadn’t the slightest clue that there was unrest within the corporate ranks or an attempted hostile takeover just a few years away. All I knew was that I had fallen in love with Walt Disney World years before and now an incredible, progressive, futuristic wonderland had opened and I was the perfect age to experience it and it’s message of hope and optimism.
And so it began
But I am lucky like that… as it turns out I was the perfect age to experience many of the most memorable events of the time. If you do some simple math you will realize that I was 9 when Star Wars opened. NINE! I had my birthday party at the largest theater in town playing Star Wars… all my friends and me were glued to the screen, mesmerized by what we saw. Our jaws collectively hung open and I literally jumped out of my seat and cheered throughout the film. It was transformative. It was indescribable. It informed who I was and what I did moving forward from that point on. This was freaking STAR WARS and I got to see it in the theater at the absolute perfect time of my life.
They knew what was up
Three years later The Empire Strikes Back opened and I was standing in line several hours to see it opening day. Now as a 12 year old I understood it more. While I was still not sure if stormtroopers were robots or people or what I certainly understood the ramifications of Darth Vader being Luke’s father (mind BLOWN).
An old friend
The rate of great movies at that time was shocking… Raiders, E.T. every year came a new and bigger and better movie. Disney was creating newer and bigger and better parks and attractions and I just soaked it all in. By the time 1983 and Return of the Jedi arrived I was 15 and the Ewoks never felt baby or cutesy to me… I loved every second of it. I felt like I was on those speeder bikes on Endor and Admiral Akbar quickly became my all time favorite Star Wars character. This was going to go on forever… or so I reasonably assumed.
But then it stopped.
For many years I waited and hoped that Star Wars would come back and whisk me away to my ten-year-old self but Lucas had moved on. He made a few mediocre films and then all but vanished. Sure Raiders continued through out the rest of the decade but the thrill was gone. I had lost my youth. My innocence was gone. Though I still clung to my love of the parks and managed to work in them as well I knew that at 18 or 19 I was never going to have that rush of excitement again. The feeling of looking over at my friends in a darkened theater as Tie Fighters battled X-Wings and not being 100% sure if this was really happening or all some sort of crazy dream. A kid can suspend disbelief so easily that fantasies can meld with reality at the blink of an eye. The Disney parks in fact make fantasies real and tangible and that same thing used to happen at movies… but then I got old.
It all felt so real
More years passed, college came and went and while pretenders to the throne would occasionally bring some magic back to the movies, for the most part the glory days were a thing of the past. Then, almost as if it were a mirage, a cruel joke being leveled against those of us who had waited so many years, George Lucas announced that Star Wars would be back… not only would the original movies be polished and updated with fantastic new effects but a whole new set of movies would soon arrive in the Cineplex. The excitement was palpable. The magic was coming back.
I spent $500 to watch Episode One about a week before it was released to the public. They had a series of big charity previews all across the country. The $500 per head gave you bragging rights of seeing the film early as well as entry to a big star studded after party (Rosie O’Donnell hosted ours). A friend flew to Chicago from New York, another flew in from Seattle and the three of us (a combined $1,500 lighter in the wallet) could not get to the theater fast enough. This time however instead of looking over to see my friends in a state of sheer astonishment I saw them with a glazed over veneer of disbelief… this movie sucked, how could this be, what was happening?
no, no, no, no, nooooooooo!
Had we gotten too old to enjoy Star Wars? Had Star Wars gotten too serious to be fun? Had Lucas totally lost the concept of what made these movies so great to begin with?
We all know the rest of the story. The prequels and the special editions before that slowly beat down the fans to the point that many just gave up even trying to care anymore. I saw them all in the theater; it felt like an obligation. There was no joy, there was no excitement, and by the time they ended I was simply relieved that it was over more than anything else. I assumed that Star Wars was done and no number of animated series or additional action figures could ever save it. How could something that was so great turn into something that was so laborious and dull on virtually every level… it would be as if Disney turned into a backwater county fair overnight, what the hell was going on?
This is what I call A New Hope
But here we are on the precipice of a new day. Lucas sold his company and Star Wars with it to of all places DISNEY. It was the coming together of two of my most favorite things in the world. Then Disney seemingly did everything they could to fix it. They hired the right people, many of them the original people. They jettisoned the horrific computer generated effects in favor of the tangible and tactile practical effects of the original and most importantly they seemed to understand what made Star Wars Star Wars.
Soon, very, very soon I will again visit a galaxy far, far away. This time I will have my daughter by my side… my perfectly aged 11-year-old daughter (who by the way will NEVER be subjected to the prequels) and we will be swept away together. I will look over and hopefully see wonder across her face, and maybe she will see it on mine as well.
I believe. I again have hope and excitement. I think we are at dawn of something great and I cannot wait to be 10 all over again.
Click HERE to read part one of this series to learn all about the history of the Tiki movement and how it fits in with Disney.
What is the sound of paradise? Softly crashing waves? Gentle trade winds carrying the sweet smells of hibiscus and coconut? Far off ukulele playing an exotically relaxing tune? Or is it a frantic cacophony of metallic cowbell clangs, howling air sirens and fellow patrons chanting gibberish all around you? Parkeology took a coast to coast field trip to find out:
It’s almost perfect…
Before we look forward we must look back. It is important to understand what Tiki bars are about in the first place before we can understand if Trader Sam’s is a success. What is a “trader” exactly anyway and how did it become part of all of this? Last time we revealed the origins of the Tiki movement (and by extension themed entertainment in general), now lets look at a few of the details.
Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel
Tiki is fun. That is a simple statement but ultimately that is the driving force behind both the original and the newly revived Tiki movements: fun.
During prohibition drinking became a clandestine (and of course illegal) activity. Secret backrooms and speakeasies served smuggled (and often watered down or homemade) drinks to their customers. Bars were not about creating fun or fantasies as much as they were about delivering a coveted product in a sufficiently covert manner. Mixed drinks and cocktails were created not because of the innovative geniuses behind the bars but rather to mask the barely potable bootlegged booze being served.
Bars flourished at the end prohibition yet in a relatively short period of time the country was entangled in World War II. This was a time of shots and beers and finding ways to make it through the third shift at the shipyard. With so many larger problems to worry about, creative mixology and “fun” drinks were the last things on anyone’s mind.
Once the war was over the country was exhausted. Clear of the hard times, we sailed into the mid-century looking for new and better ways of doing things, and new and better experiences.
The world is filled with obstacles both big and small. It was true in the forties and it is true today, it has always been true and it always will be true. We escape life’s complications by spending time with people we love; by visiting places we love, by finding spots (both physical and emotional) that allow us to forget our worries.
Disneyland is the epitome of this idea. It is billed as the “Happiest Place on Earth” and despite it often being filled with unhappy, screaming kids and tired, frustrated adults, for the most part it delivers on its promise.
Walt’s first park was born at a time when escapism was becoming very fashionable and optimism was pushing aside uncertainty. Our future was bright, shiny and happy. Not ironically happy or just possibly better, there was no doubt about it; the gleaming and polished future would be the best time of our lives.
The movie tanked but the sentiment was dead on
Simultaneously (because of advances in travel the lustrous future was bringing) Americans were able to stretch their boundaries. We wanted to escape the factories and fields that tied previous generations to their hometowns. Yet the reality was that overseas excursions were still expensive, cumbersome and out of the grasp of many. Regardless everyone could have artificial escapes. A trip to Disneyland allowed visitors to venture to far off locations and find their ersatz happy place.
The Tiki movement was doing the same thing.
Tiki expanded built on the simple premise that having fun by being transported to a different place (even if it were a completely fabricated one) was an enjoyable experience. Tiki was a light-hearted trip everyone wanted to take.
When Don’s Beachcomber Café opened it set the stage for every Tiki bar that followed. The beachcomber character is a dropout from civilization. He chooses a life of leisure, lounging on lazy shores instead of fighting in the daily grind. A beachcomber was not only carefree but was also the most interesting man in the world long before a beer company came upon such an idea. The first Tiki bars were bamboo hideaways featuring thatched roofs, found objects (fishing nets, conch shells, drift wood and glass fishing floats) and exotic drinks. They included none of the trinkets and Tiki carvings now associated with most Tiki bars. Those would be added as Tiki bars evolved away from the beachcomber concept and into the trader motif.
His real name is Jonathan Goldsmith and before he was the most interesting man in the world he was best known for being shot between the eyes by John Wayne in a 1976 Western.
The trader was not only a freewheeling societal drop out like the beachcomber but also an opportunist who used his travels to his own financial benefit. Trader bars expanded on the look of the beachcomber and added a nautical twist. This “Seven Seas” feel included old fashioned ship’s wheels, ropes and pulleys, crates and barrels and any bauble or doodad found on a far away adventure. These seafaring merchant and collector elements added substantialy to the stories being told.
Tiki décor evolved to the point that the imaginary adventures of the made-up proprietors could be told simply by observing the trinkets scattered throughout the bar. Some elements became standards of almost all Tiki bars (such as rum barrel shaped mugs and eventually Polynesian Tiki carvings). Exotic tales could be woven out of the amassed and curated collections.
Long after the original Tiki trend ran its course views towards bars had turned more serious. Speakeasies (though now faux recreations co-opting the covert styles of the originals) became popular. Bars were no longer fun, they were serious places where tattooed and bearded hipsters in vests or suspenders (or both) stirred brown liquors in short glasses. Where had all the whimsy gone?
May I have a twist of pomposity and a dash of beard trimmings in my drink please?
As a counterpoint to the sober and austere bars of the last 20 years the lighthearted fun of Tiki bars has returned. New establishments have cropped up all over the world and Disney has actually found itself in the unique (and somewhat odd) position of being a leader in this trend. Trader Sam’s provided a perfect opportunity for Disney to combine its rich park history and back stories with the established formula of Tiki bars to create something original.
The original Trader Sam’s is small, cluttered and just about exactly as it should be.
The trader motif of Tiki bars seems custom made for Disney and its mastery of thematic environments; but a true Tiki bar is about more than just decorations, more than just elaborate mugs and flowery garnishes. There has never been any doubt that Disney could deliver the look of a tiki bar, but could they capture the spirit of one?
The new Grog Grotto is slightly larger and a little less focused on its theme.
Parkeology had the opportunity to visit both Trader Sam’s locations (starting at Walt Disney World and finishing in Disneyland) within a day of each other. By flying coast to coast we had the chance to compare and contrast them back-to-back and also to measure them against more traditional Tiki bars.
Rather than re-hash every specific detail, drink and decoration found in each location (that can be found ad nauseam on the web for those interested) lets focus on the broader ideas behind them.
One of our favorite details: Both versions of Trader Sam hang out for a photo (sorry about the glare) as seen at the Grog Grotto.
Clearly Disney has the means and knowhow to create incredible environments and both versions of Trader Sam’s deliver on this. The California outpost is a slightly smaller scale, more intimate and sticks closer to the South Seas, Polynesian Tiki inspiration. Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto in Florida veers a bit more into the nautical side and incorporates elements of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea into its décor (including not only a diving helmet and art work but also a giant squid tentacle holding a bottle of rum). This is fitting given the location at Walt Disney World (former home to the much missed Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea attraction).
Both are great fun. Both have elaborate lighting, sound and visual effects that happen around the bar when certain drinks are ordered. Tiki Goddesses come to life, rain storms suddenly occur and flaming drinks are proudly displayed. While this may seem like a Disney contrivance it actually has its roots firmly planted in Tiki tradition. During its heyday many Tiki bars would feature “Mystery Girls” who would deliver specialty drinks to the sounds of drum beats or other similar events that would only take place when specific drinks were ordered. Theatricality and drama have always been hallmarks of Tiki bars and using some Disney “magic” Trader Sam’s brings that to a whole new level.
“Mystery Girls” were the original Tiki bar special effects… and perhaps even more spectacular then simulated volcanos. “Rum for your life” indeed.
Similarly well done is the actual décor, especially at the California version. There the walls are filled with photos, notes and props all somehow relating back to the Disney parks and history (specifically Adventureland and its attractions). The Florida version (housed within the Polynesian Village Resort) has a similar attention to detail but many of the props on display feel a tad more generic and less Disney specific. Also (though nautical) the steam-punk design of the Nautilus submarine feels a little incongruous with the various bamboo and Tiki knick-knacks. Still the trader theme is a natural fit and Disney squeezes every ounce of fun out of the themes. It is obvious that those charged with creating these spaces (again, it is especially clear in the original incarnation) love Disney, love Tiki and have a deep knowledge and respect for both.
Bathed in the aquatic blue lights of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto the Nautilus mug is precisely the type of fun custom touch people love.
Both locations serve a wide range of Tiki drinks including several classics though oddly only the Disneyland version offers a rum barrel designed mug (used for the Ship-Wreck drink). The Walt Disney World version lacks this drink (I am assuming because they do not have the corresponding ship in a bottle special effect) and therefore lacks the mug. I hope they change this. The rum barrel is the most classic “trader” mug and has been a staple in most Tiki bars. Any number of different drinks could be served from a barrel mug and it should have a home at both locations. Perhaps to make up for that oversight the Florida bar features a large scale Nautilus inspired mug that does a good job blending traditional Tiki with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (though I wish it were matte and not glossy). Both bars have a zombie drink (an absolute classic) served in shrunken zombie head mugs. For the most part the drinks are good. They are not using the most premium of alcohols and they are tasked with serving very high volumes but all things considered both bars stand on their own in this area.
The rum barrel mug is available only on the west coast… an oversight I hope they correct soon.
Both bars serve Asian / Polynesian inspired food though they have completely different menus. By reading the menu we prefered the Walt Disney World version but in actual execution we enjoyed Disneyland’s food more. Both menus have a versions of Tuna Poke’ with it being executed better at the California bar. While not intended for full meals (they are more appetizer portions) ordering a few items off either menu will help soak up the rum and leave patrons satisfied.
Zombie mugs (different color schemes for each location, this is the current Disneyland version) are well done and a nice touch.
Both play suitably “exotic” music at appropriate volumes to serve as a background soundtrack and not the focus of the show (as it should be).
So far so good- Disney has created unique, elaborate, intimate and just plain fun atmospheres. They have filled them with lots of in-jokes relating to the parks and great one-of-a-kind special effects. The drinks and food are mostly good and the music is generally on point. But not everything is perfect.
Click the link to hear the relaxing music of Trader Sam’s
I’m happy to report that the “forced fun” idea we spoke about last time is largely absent from Trader Sam’s however it feels as though Disney is trying hard to work some of that in. Ordering certain drinks causes the staff (and those regulars who may be in on the joke) to start shouting specific chants. This can set up a feeling of being on the outside looking in. I’m not sure why Disney thinks this is a good idea. Creating situations in which some customers feel left out and excluded is not only not fun, it is just plain rude. In fact loud chants and clapping are just the tip of the iceberg.
Does this guy look like a lot of fun to hang out next too all evening? Get used to it.
Some drinks trigger suitably interesting special effects such as a Volcano erupting outside the artificial windows, however that is apparently not enough. Disney has its cast members loudly clang cowbells and whirl sirens. Sometimes the bartenders yell, “Run for your lives!” (Or it may be a pun “RUM for your lives!” we are not sure. Knowing Disney it’s probably the pun). Other times (at the Grog Grotto) the bartenders don snorkeling gear and “swim” around the bar. I understand that people seem to like this stuff and I know that the operations side of Disney thinks this adds entertainment value. To us it was just disruptive, irritating and unnecessary. Beyond that it certainly has nothing at all to do with Tiki tradition.
A major draw of Tiki bars is the idea that they are a laid back retreats, places to unwind. Traditional Tiki music made famous in the 50’s and 60’s is so low-key that it is almost ambient. It is meant to help guests escape from the cacophony of the real world to a calming getaway. Seldom does one need more cowbell in order to relax. I have never been lying on a soothing beach thinking to myself “I wish someone was screaming, clanging a bell and sounding an air siren 2 feet from my head right now… now pass me a Mai Tai.”
We all need more cowbell
This mars what could otherwise be a nearly perfect experience. The problem is amplified by the fact that some drinks (such as the Krakatowa) not only cause special effects, bell clanging, chanting, sirens, and other histrionics but also are extremely popular. This means that you may be “Rumming for your lives” every few minutes. Disney should learn that not every experience needs to be high octane, deafening and in your face (this is not Universal Studios after all). I’m surprised they have not yet introduced some sort of Tiki foam-head walk around character to harass you as you try to enjoy a drink. Perhaps they can get Stich to wear a lei and go from table to table shaking hands and rustling heads.
Coming to a Trader Sam’s near you?
Tiki is best when it unfolds in an organic manner, when you can feel that escapism take hold. Imagine being mid way through a ride on Pirates of the Caribbean when the guy sitting next to you suddenly starts chanting and pantomiming a scuba dive. Does that sound like fun? Does that add to the experience? The answer if you are unsure is NO!
Clanging bells and chanting in-the-know patrons are in fact the polar opposite of the atmosphere one looks for in a Tiki bar. Fortunately this does not destroy the experience that is overall still very positive and highly recommended, but it does diminish it a bit. Sometimes tranquility and authenticity trumps forced interactivity and rambunctious cast members…. even at Disney.
Regardless of the intrusive noise both Trader Sam’s locations end up being resounding successes. After the huge popularity of the first I am a bit surprised that the Florida version is not larger. On one hand it’s great that they kept it intimate but this inevitably means long lines are more the norm than the exception. Making this worse is the fact that the Florida version only opens at 4:00pm (The original version opens for lunch and that is often the best time to visit for light crowds and less cow-bell). They instantly feel as if they have always been here and while both feel tied to the past they also feel suitably upgraded and “Disney-fied” to make them something unique.
The original Trader Same’s Photo courtesy of toursdepartingdaily.com
People often ask me if “such and such” Tiki bar makes me feel like I am in Hawaii… the answer is always no. Hawaii was never like what Tiki aims to be; a successful Tiki Bar makes you feel like you are in 1964 not like you are in the tropics. Tiki bars by their very nature are pure fantasy and make believe. Trader Sam’s does an admirable job of transporting guests in time while remaining thoroughly modern and certainly a complete fantasy.
If we had to choose we would lean slightly towards the Disneyland location with it’s charmingly small scale, lower key special effects, focused theme and arguably better food. However Walt Disney World’s versions in wonderful as well. Both the bars are worth visiting even if you are a non-drinker. They offer non-alchoholic drinks and the real reason to go is to enjoy the environments that have been lovingly created. Its worth noting as well that children are allowed at both locations but only up until 8:00pm when they turn adults only. Kids get a great kick out of the crazy effects and overall vibe of the places… after all they are all about fun and kids love fun!
It has been suggested that Disney should build a Trader Sam’s at the Disney owned Aulani resort on Oahu. Perhaps they will but I will end this post with a different prediction, or perhaps a recommendation: I bet you will soon see Trader Sam’s locations on the cruise ships. This is a perfect and natural fit.
Trader Sam’s will soon be (if they are not already) thought of as Disney classics.
If you missed it you need to click HEREto read the first part of this series!