Animal King Rope Drop Touring in a Post-Pandora World Part Deux

In Part One, we rope dropped Avatar Flight of Passage before heading to Na’vi River Journey both in standby and with FastPass+. Then it was off to Expedition Everest in Asia and then over to DinoLand for Primeval Whirl, DINOSAUR, and TriceraTop Spin. In this post, we’ll return to Discovery Island before trying a “Shaved Ice” at Harambe Market, stopping in to see Festival of the Lion King, riding Kilimanjaro Safaris, using mobile order at Satu’li Canteen, and hoping against hope that Kali River Rapids is down when it’s time to use FastPass+ there.

Looking at wait times over the course of the day:

Larger: Here.

I was surprised by how light crowds were for the most part. Everest doesn’t hit 20 minutes until 10:30am, or a full 2.5 hours after Park open. DINOSAUR isn’t above 10 minutes for more than two hours before going down for an hour and a half. Safaris’ overall average wait is just 17 minutes. Na’vi River Journey never hits triple digits and neither it nor Flight of Passage close to capacity at any point in the evening. River Journey even posts a zero minute wait for a half an hour to close out the night. And the weather was pretty nice until 3:30pm, when a serious storm that lasted about two hours steamrolled through the area. But I would have expected heavier crowds and longer wait times given this is the start of the summer season and Pandora is just two weeks young. And granted, Sunday is a popular travel day and we’re in between two morning Extra Magic Hours, but I would have expected more people in attendance.

We pick things up in the Discovery Island section of the Park at 10:03am on the morning of Sunday June 11th, 2017. So far, this is how my day has shaped up:

  1. Avatar Flight of Passage: 7:33am – 8:13am
  2. Na’vi River Journey: 8:15am – 8:32am
  3. Na’vi River Journey with FastPass+: 8:33am – 8:44am
  4. Expedition Everest: 8:57am – 9:08am
  5. Expedition Everest: 9:09am – 9:20am
  6. Primeval Whirl: 9:24am – 9:31am
  7. DINOSAUR: 9:33am – 9:46am
  8. TriceraTop Spin: 9:53am – 10am

That’s pretty good.

At this point, meeting a character would make a lot of sense – Pocahontas, Dug, and Mickey/Minnie are all in this area and would have a wait between two and ten minutes each.

But I needed a haircut and looked like death in the morning humidity. And not being in the mood to re-ride something in the vicinity, I opted to hide out at It’s Tough To Be A Bgg, since I was looking to kill about 25 minutes before heading over to New Harambe:








I started walking the queue at 10:05am, was inside the theater at 10:19am after just missing the previous show, and exited at 10:30am.

After the show, just about everyone is going to head right, which exits out in Discovery Island near the entrance to Asia.

But if you’re headed to Africa, you can be one of the three or four people that take a left in that direction.

You’ll pass by Tarzan, who only has two groups waiting to meet him. If you’re heading here from the other side, you want to take the right just before arriving in Africa.

It’s 10:33am and Lion King is looking relatively chill. You might remember that this entire extended queue was full and people were spilling out of the standby entrance during my last rope drop about ten days ago. But that was also about 15 minutes later in the day.

FastPass+ users started filing into the theater 20 minutes before showtime. I’m standing firm in standby and would enter seven or eight minutes after.

I was seated at 10:51am without much trouble. By 10:53am, only seven or eight groups were let in via FastPass+. This isn’t a show where they seat guests after the show starts.

Festival of the Lion King is quoted as being Walt Disney World’s top-rated show and it’s certainly one of their best.

The show combines powerful singing, action, acrobatics, dancing, fire, audience participation, and everything else that makes a Broadway-style show great.

Don’t miss it:











Late afternoon and evening shows are typically less crowded than the first three or four shows of the day.

Festival of the Lion King letting out or Pandora rope drop?

Disney Parks Blog runs a monthly “sweet treats of the month” post, which really doubles as a list of items that have no hope of surviving much longer than that.

According to Parks Blog, “Shaved Ice has arrived at Harambe Fruit Market in Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Whether you choose from watermelon, piña colada or mango-passion fruit, you can’t go wrong.”

And while a sno-cone machine has physically arrived inside the hut, there is no mention of this on the menu or anywhere else at the Market.

They are doing you a favor by not telling you about it.

This is the second $3.99 Sno-Cone that Disney has conned me into getting this month, which may say more about me than them.

But this is hardly “shaved ice” – more like somebody hit a large ice cube lightly with a hammer and then served you the shards. And you may like that hard texture more than I do, but this is just crushed ice. And not very crushed, at that.

Going back to just how few people there were in the Park, Kilimanjaro Safaris was posted at 20 minutes at noon.

For some context, here’s a look at Kilimanjaro Safaris wait times in January of this year:

Larger. Here.

The wait time at noon is only 20 minutes or less on four occasions in January, which means it was longer on 27 days, or 87% of the time.

Help, I’m stuck.

jk

The elephants were particularly cute with baby Stella taking a bath in the watering hole:








My brain was trying so hard to make me smile, but I don’t think the muscles in my face work like that anymore.

And some of the other elephants playing and/or doing their best impersonations of a hippo:



Apparently a baby flamingo had just hatched out of an egg, but I couldn’t get a good look:




There were maybe 50 people in the standby line when I entered FastPass+ at noon, and I was back out front to a 25-minute wait at 12:38pm, for a total experience time of 38 minutes.

Disney is rolling out mobile ordering via the My Disney Experience app at a number of theme park quick services, with Satu’li Canteen coming online first with the opening of Pandora and Pizzafari following suit last week. This week, five Magic Kingdom quick services will begin offering mobile order.

Ordering is intuitive – here I am opening the app at 12:49pm and clicking the “Order Food” button.

At the moment, you’ll need a credit card to make your purchase. Choose your quick service from the list that’s offered.

That will take you to the this page, which lists the hours and the type of cuisine offered. Once you click “Order Food” on this screen, the scrollable menu will appear:








Having already tried and reviewed all of the adult entrees and drinks in this review, along with this followup review, I went with an item I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of ordering in the Kids Cheese Quesadilla. Clicking on the item brings up the above page, which lists exactly what’s included with the dish and allows you to select your beverage. I liked how everything was clearly laid out. Ordering Kids’ Picks can be tricky as the wording about what’s included is sometimes vague.

On the various bowls, you can make a number of customizations, including selecting how you’d like your meat cooked or whether or not you want the vegetable slaw or boba balls excluded entirely or served on the side.

You always get the refillable fountain drink on the Blogger Special. The app then tried to upsell me to a dessert. If you order an adult entree, it will bug you about adding a drink.

It’s a pretty quick process – even having never gone through the app to make a purchase and taking a screenshot at every screen, it still took just three minutes. Note that it reminds you that only credit cards can be used to make a purchase and no discounts are yet available. The app takes your credit card from your account if one is attached, like it probably is to cover the no-show fee on dining reservations. I had to click through the “Use a different card” button because it had my phone number starting with the word “null” for some reason. So don’t be too startled if it says that the purchase didn’t go through the first time. You may need to edit your credit card details.

And don’t worry. Disney won’t prepare your order until you’re ready to pick it up. So you can argue over whether or not you want to enhance your meal during that 300-minute wait for Flight of Passage, much to the chagrin of everyone around you, I’m sure. If you don’t want to pick up your food immediately, you can close the app or move away from the page to another part of the app. Once you’re ready to order, pull back up the main account screen and select “Order Food” again as in step one. You’ll see this same screen with the “Select Restaurant” header. This time, click “My Orders.”

And click “I’m Here, Prepare My Order” when you’re there and ready to pick up your order. It takes just as long to put everything together as it would if you had just ordered it in person, so you’ll actually want to be at the quick service when you click the button rather than back at your resort.

Then sort of like a pizza delivery tracker, the app will let you know when the food is ready to be picked up.

All of two minutes later, my order was ready to pick up. You’ll also receive a notification in case you don’t have the app open to the page.

At Satu’li, the pickup process is easy. You just march up to the pickup area on the far left of the ordering area and a smiling cast member will be standing there with your kids’ meal. And it doesn’t have to be a big order – you can grab anything from a fountain beverage to a beer to a wine to 17 entrees via the app. There’s no minimum order. At Pizzafari, the mobile order pickup area is on the far right of the ordering area.

The $5.99 “Cheese Quesadilla – Cheddar and Mozzarella Cheese in a Tortilla served with Vegetable Chips and Grapes, and Small Dasani® Bottled Water or Low-fat Milk.”

The Cheese Quesadilla was as basic as you would expect – a tortilla + cheese, but that is probably what the kids are looking to eat. And it was prepared really well, griddled up fresh to a nice crispiness with a thick layer of perfectly melted cheese. It exceeded expectations for what it was and would be a nice selection for kids that aren’t ready for quinoa fish quite yet.

The dusting of curry powder on my vegetable chips was more intense than I was expecting – I didn’t mind the spice, but I would be surprised if the same kid that demanded the plain cheese quesadilla would also be into root vegetable chips with what probably seems like some exotic spices. The grapes were relatively fresh considering Disney probably buys 40,000 pounds at a time. Overall, it would be nice if Disney offered an additional “safe” side, but maybe the kids will surprise and enjoy the chips too.

In what may or may not be good news, Disney is cracking down on guests using Satu’li Canteen as a rest area rather than a fast casual restaurant. Inside, cast members have ropes up blocking entry to the seating area for guests that don’t have food with them. After you pickup your order, you’ll want to exit via the opposite side of the ordering area, otherwise a cast member will have to take down a rope and let you into the seating area.

I took some pictures of Pandora without realizing my lens was smudged up:







I’ve seen some questions about whether Pandora will be too crowded in the afternoon to risk trying to use a FastPass+. And the answer so far has been “absolutely not.” I’ve been surprised with just how few people there are walking around the Land, even when the posted wait for River Journey is 120 minutes and Flight of Passage is sporting 240+ minutes. Pandora hasn’t been anywhere close to closing to capacity during the afternoon since the second day of operation.

Zero people on the Nomad Lounge patio at 1:35pm, which you would think would be a good time to stop for a drink and a snack.

More smudges on the way to Kali River Rapids:





Proof that people will complain about the Arctic being cold if given adequate opportunity, there were actually people unhappy that Kali River Rapids was down for technical difficulties. If that happens, you can use your Kali FastPass+ once the ride comes back up or at any other Animal Kingdom attraction that isn’t located in Pandora for the rest of the day.

It’s not a bad gig, really.

I headed back to Everest, where the posted standby wait was 15 minutes at 1:50pm. That really isn’t what I would have expected during the heart of the afternoon, on a weekend, during the second week of Pandora’s opening. Everest’s overall average wait for the day was 22 minutes. Let’s compare that to February:

Larger: Here.

Only five days in February have a lower average wait and at 2pm, the wait is 15 minutes or less on only three days. That means Everest saw higher waits on 82% of days in February.

And while part of the reason why waits are lower may be due to increased summer staffing and improved efficiency, there were just not a lot of people there.

The anteater is so long and fluffy that I think it counts as two guests though:

Overall, this gives us hope, if nothing else. The Pandora rope drop was much easier with fewer people there and an earlier start to the march over to Flight of Passage made riding Na’vi River Journey in standby relatively easy. With crowds and wait times so low, the day didn’t offer much in the way of how to tour the Park when it’s legitimately busy. It hadn’t occurred to me that we’d be practicing for what to do in October during what is historically the “busy season.” But with so many more people keyed into the fall, June-August may well end up being a precursor to a much busier time of year.

Comments

  1. Lance says

    Josh,
    Do you have any idea how special dietary needs will be handled with the mobile ordering app? My wife (whom we affectionately call a “glu-tard”) has to meet with the manager/chef at every quick service meal to order her food in person. The rest of my family’s food tends to arrive a lot sooner while she has to wait on her special stuff.
    Any idea how the app will handle this (if it does at all)?
    Thanks

    • Mary Ann says

      I should think this would be a boon for your group. Your wife can consult with the chefs while you are ordering on the app. When her food arrives, you can click the “I’m here” button and have your food delivered tout suite. Then everyone gets to eat together.

      • Lance says

        That makes sense. Usually what happens is our food arrives way sooner than hers and we’re halfway done by the time she sits down. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Nick says

    I didn’t read this whole post to view pictures with smudges. GET IT TOGETHER, MAN!
    Other than that, another excellent review! Thanks Josh. You’re funny with words.

  3. katkat says

    Thanks again for a great post and attempting the mobile food ordering. I was surprised it actually worked well. We will attempt to use it on our trip.

  4. Dirk says

    “Proof that people will complain about the Arctic being cold if given adequate opportunity, there were actually people unhappy that Kali River Rapids was down for technical difficulties.”

    Maybe it was the last attraction they were planning to ride before exiting the park.

  5. Kylie says

    With a trip this weekend and another July 20-25, I sure hope your prediction about the summer being the “slow” run up to the fall is proven true!!

  6. Ava says

    That cheese quesadilla looks right up my 4-year-old’s alley. However, I imagine the chips will be deemed “spicy” and therefore inedible by said 4-year-old.

  7. Brett says

    “My brain was trying so hard to make me smile, but I don’t think the muscles in my face work like that anymore.”

    [Screenshot of app with Olaf as your avatar]

    Excellent juxtaposition.

  8. Tim says

    Does the crowd level seem to impact how quickly a mobile order is ready for pickup? If Satu’li is having a busy lunchtime or dinnertime does it take longer for the food to be prepared even if you order through the app?

  9. vinotinto says

    With ROL only taking place 4 nights per week in September, do you think a day with ROL will be more crowded than a morning EMH day? For example, the Sunday sandwiched between two EMH days offers ROL in September, would it lead to higher crowds than the Saturday or the Monday?

  10. Daz says

    Disney should post the Bug sign above every park entrance: “Without dung-eating insects, the earth would soon be piled high with human and animal excrement.”

  11. Tammy says

    Josh,
    Just wanted to say a big THANK YOU for all the great touring advice! We were there last week and didn’t wait longer than 15-20 min for any ride. We did AK Friday, rope dropped River Journey and were done by 7:50. Then walked on Everest, Dinosaur, Kali Rapids and Everest again!! We had a FP for Flight at 9:10, so got in 6 rides on major attractions before 10am. Your blog is the best!!!

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