Pandora Update and Unintelligent Morning Touring Strategy at Animal Kingdom

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed morning touring strategy at Animal Kingdom and what to expect from rope drop in a post-Pandora world. In this post, I’ll cover what I saw after leaving Pandora and what I’ll be changing to hopefully make the day come together during a rope drop later this week. But first, let’s take a look at wait times over the last week since we’re a bit more removed from the crazy opening-weekend crowds.

Here’s a look at Flight of Passage wait times over the last week or so:

Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports14/avatar_flight_passage_wait_times_june_2017.jpg

It’s worth noting that the weather has been terrible the last few days with grey skies and the constant threat of rain, which changes crowd patterns considerably. One thing to note above is the number of “C’s” towards the end of the night, which stands for “ride at capacity.” Disney first shuts the line for Flight of Passage down once it thinks there’s enough people in it to carry them to regular close at 11pm. That has been as early as 10pm on June 1st. The takeaway is that if you want to ride Flight of Passage “last thing,” then you want to get in line by 9:45pm if it’s a clear, crowded night. If it’s wet or somehow crowds are otherwise low, the line may not be cut at all, though 10:15pm looks to be a more common shutdown time. This also happens during evening Extra Magic Hours, with the line typically closed by midnight when the weather is relatively decent.

So far, the highest recorded wait time is the 400 minutes it showed yesterday, though it was for such a brief period that this chart didn’t capture it with the 15-minute intervals. With rain virtually all day yesterday, we also see the shortest daytime waits so far at around 55 minutes. Posted wait times are typically exaggerated, probably because Disney wants to be conservative about the capacity with the propensity for one or more of the theaters to go down for a brief cool-down.  Those 135+ minute waits around 9pm should be much closer to 75 minutes.

Disney may also close access to Pandora as early as 7:30pm in an effort to clear it of regular Park guests before the nightly set of evening Extra Magic Hours begins at 11pm. That means guests visiting for evening Extra Magic Hours may need to line up outside of the Land until about 10:45pm when Disney starts walking them in, if they’re not already inside. So if you want to see Pandora after dark and you’re not a resort guest or don’t want to stay out until after 11pm, you’ll want to be inside Pandora by 7:30pm. You might plan on eating dinner at Satu’li Canteen (reviewed very positively here and here) to kill some time. Mobile ordering makes that a snap, though seating can be a struggle as a lot of people will be sitting down waiting for darkness to fall. You can then enjoy the sights and sounds for about an hour before getting in line for Flight of Passage around 9:45pm.

It can be a real hassle to visit Pandora during what Disney is calling “Extra Extra Magic Hours.” Many people will line up well before 11pm and the line to enter can stretch back from just outside Pandora’s entrance all the way back through New Harambe. If you’d like to experience evening EMH, the best day to do so should be Wednesday as Magic Kingdom will also be hosting evening EMH. Otherwise, all of the other Parks are closed by 11pm and with only two popular attractions operating, Pandora will be crowded with about 100,000 people having access to EMH on any given day.

The situation at Na’vi River Journey is slightly less oppressive, with lower average and peak waits than Flight of Passage.

On the downside, the queue is far less interesting and about 99.2% falls outside, with only about half of that covered. Here’s a look at wait times:

Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports14/navi_river_journey_wait_times_june_2017.jpg

I’ll take a moment to reassert that the weather has been miserably damp the last few days, which has more to do with the lower waits than a sudden decrease in popularity. But there are still a lot fewer capacity closures in the evening and the overall average wait is about 55.8% as high as Flight of Passage. FastPass+ are also much easier to secure.

While the jury is probably still out on exact crowd patterns with Pandora open, it seems like crowds in Africa are going to build much quicker than the DinoLand/Asia side.

We pick things up at 9:05am on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 31st.

Kilimanjaro Safaris is sporting a 20-minute wait with the line backed up all the way out here for a brief time.

And that ended up being accurate as I took this picture at 9:31am, or 26 minutes after arriving at the entrance:


















And back out front at 9:54am for a 49-minute total experience time.

Kusafiri Coffee Bakery Cupcakes Animal Kingdom

With Satu’li Canteen only serving breakfast through 10am, I decided to visit Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery, which is located to the right of Tusker House Restaurant in Africa.

You’ll find the Hot Breakfast Wrap offered in the morning, in addition to some pastries and beverages.

The $6.79 “Hot Breakfast Wrap – Egg, Sausage, Spinach, and Goat Cheese” is unassuming at first glance, arriving unceremoniously wrapped up in brown paper

But it’s served piping hot and is jam-packed with creamy egg and tangy cheese, in addition to a lot of meaty sausage. It was significantly better than the Breakfast Steamed Pod from Satu’li that will run you $8.49.

It’s also pretty transportable if you want to order it on the go. Very satisfying and a good value for the money.

If you’d rather sit down, you might try the seating area behind Tamu Tamu Refreshments across the way, which is quiet and secluded early in the day.

A reminder of the wait times over the course of the day:

Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports14/animal_kingdom_waits_pandora_may_31_2017.jpg

By 10:15am, wait times are already becoming prohibitive and the rest of my morning was spent using FastPass+ and visiting some anytime attractions. Here’s Gorilla Falls:














Same.

My Macro lens arrives tomorrow:



Up to 65 minutes at Safaris at 10:40am.

I was planning on seeing the 11am Festival of the Lion King show, but even that looked like a disaster with standby and FastPass+ backed up to wherever this is.

For the first show of the day.

The Pandora entrance/exit in Africa is typically used as an “exit only” unless crowds are low.

And while few guests use this exit, it seems like a lot of people heading to Pandora first exit through the main entryway and then continue onto Africa in the same direction they were originally headed.

From Pandora, the path out towards Africa is located on the far Satu’li Canteen side, which is on the opposite side of the main entrance/exit near Pizzafari and Tiffins. Basically, if you took a right after entering the Land and continued walking, you’d end up here.

The bridge probably isn’t as long as it looks in this picture.

And it’ll spit you out right in front of Lion King.

Pizzafari now offers mobile ordering via the My Disney Experience app, which should prove handy if you see a line as long as this one. It’s 10:55am and the line is backed up outside.

After spending some time checking in on Pandora crowds, it was time for a Safaris FP+. It’s 11:13am with a 35-minute posted wait:



I got a big kick out of this giraffe chasing the bird around.

Every time the giraffe started catching up, the bird would take off running. It’s over there on the right in front of the tree.






And back out front at 11:50am for a total experience time of 37 minutes.

The Frozen Jungle Juice drink is no longer available from Mahindi, the popcorn stand in Africa.

It was incredibly refreshing, if perhaps a bit too sweet.

Heading over to Asia and through Maharajah Jungle Trek on our way to use FastPass+ at Expedition Everest:

















The total experience time with FastPass+ was 16 minutes with the standby wait jumping 20 minutes during that time.

A lot of people waiting for the 1pm Finding Nemo.

Fewer people waiting for Primeval Whirl.

More people waiting for Flame Tree Barbecue.

It had been a rough day, so I decided to reward my productivity with a $10 “Smokey Bones Chocolate Shake – Includes Bourbon and Candied Bacon” from Trilo-Bites, the kiosk located in Discovery Island just before the bridge over to DinoLand. Typically, Disney’s version of a “milkshake” is just their soft serve ice cream dispensed into a different cup, which is something I avoid 99% of the time for that reason. But I was in the mood for something very cold and very thick, and surprisingly, this was not it. It actually wasn’t very cold at all and had more of a thin, almost foam-like texture to it. The pour of Knob Creek Single Barrel was heavy, which I appreciated, but I think it would be too strong for at least 90% of the people that would consider ordering it. The candied bacon was satisfyingly crunchy – equal parts salty and sweet – but I would have preferred a much colder, much thicker shake. This may be proof that you just can’t please me. The guy complains when there’s no alcohol in the drinks…complains when there’s too much alcohol in the drinks…complains that it’s just soft serve…complains that it’s not just soft serve…

Overall, the day wasn’t a complete waste as I learned more about guest behavior and actual wait times than can be gleaned from the various wait times charts. We should be able to move through things much more efficiently next time.

Comments

  1. Kristen says

    I’m reading the SDFP loophole was today closed, however, people can still abuse the system by using the ‘change party’ option in the app. Do you think closing the loophole will change FP distribution much or it will remain the same because of the ability to change party FP’s? Thanks.

    • josh says

      I would expect it to have a minimal effect as I doubt the use was that widespread. As far as the people using junk MagicBands/tickets, they had to visit a kiosk after park opening to make their selections, so they would be limited to what was available at that time. In other words, very high priorities like Flight of Passage, Frozen Ever After, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, would be unavailable. It will help those that were using friends/family members tickets to book FastPass+ in advance using those tickets though. So to answer your question, obviously every FP+ that they don’t get using subversive methods will now go to someone more deserving, but it’s not like there are going to be 500 Flight of Passage FP+ up for grabs every day now or something.

    • Jenn says

      It’s my understanding that the Change Party loophole is also being actively monitored and shut down. That’s what I’ve been led to believe anyway.

      • Lynne says

        Jenn – interesting! I wonder how they’d change it, because that seems like a function that has a “legitimate” use. Any thoughts?

  2. Amber says

    Really enjoyed this review. Your ability to capture all the animals is exceptional, among other things.

  3. matt says

    Hey Josh…..if I have a F.P. for Flight of Passage do I have to wait in line to get “into” Pandora?

    • josh says

      No, I forget to mention that. If Pandora is “closed” to regular guests and you have a FP+ then they will still let you in. That’s one of the reasons why they close it.

  4. Jenn says

    “We pick things up at 9:05am on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 31st.” Hmmm….

    Are you a Panic at the Disco fan, by any chance?

  5. Elva says

    Thanks for the update as I am in planning/”fingers crossed” mode for early August. I had hoped to catch the 11:00 Lion King show but might have to re-think that strategy given what you saw with the crowd activity. Would appreciate your insights going forward if this pattern continues. BTW, your Safari pics are fantastic! I admire your ability to capture that from a moving vehicle. And I LOL’d at the gorilla butt picture. That was a good one!

  6. Joel says

    I have not heard a peep about Rivers of Light since the opening. Is it still standing room only for regular line or has the show cooled that Fastpass is a waste?

  7. Matt says

    I agree about the Smoky Bones Shake with you. I got one last month. It was not cold and thin.. The heavy pour and the bacon were nice though. I had a CM ask if she could “take it off my hands”, so it must be a favorite of the staff.

  8. Alicea says

    Is there a separate line for picking up food if you use online ordering? Also does the app tell you when it’s ready. I really haven’t seen any info about the online ordering yet.

    • josh says

      Yes, the return area where you pick up the food is on the far left so you will bypass the crowd waiting to order entirely. You actually tell them when you’re ready to pick up your food and then a couple of minutes later, you’ll be notified that it’s ready and you can proceed to pick it up.

  9. Holly says

    If I plan to rope drop FoP (wicked early risers here- will be at AK by 6:30 on an 8am opening morning next week) and have a fast pass for Na’vi for 8-9am, is it reasonable to believe that we’d be finished with FoP to make our Na’vi fastpass before 9?

    From what I can tell it seems like FoP is a long experience even under ideal circumstances.

    • josh says

      Yes I would expect so. The link at the top to part one covers my rope drop experience in Pandora. I arrived around 6:50am and moved slowly to Flight of Passage and I was back out in front of the entrance at 8:56am. You’d have the 15-minute grace period at the end of the window too, so you could arrive as late at 9:15am. You might want to push the FP+ back to 8:15am or 8:30am to be safe though. I would think they would still let you on if you are a few minutes late though.

  10. Ben says

    Josh, thanks so much for your information. I’ll be there June 19, scheduled for a 7am extra magic hour open ahead of a 8am regular open. How early would you estimate I need to get to the park to ride Na’vi before my 8:30 am FOP FP+? Not sure that getting there wicked early is worth it just for Na’vi…

  11. Christine says

    I’ll add in my touring experience. June 3 we arrived around 7-7:30 am, and the line for the boat ride was posted as 25 minutes. We rode it standby about 20 minutes later. Shopped in Windtraders, then grabbed a beer for breakfast. 😉 Wandered around Pandora before our 8:45 am Flight fastpass. After riding, we wandered around the animal treks before EE FP at 9:50 am. Rode EE twice more in single rider line. Finished with a Primevil Whirl FP at 10:50. On the way out of the area I grabbed the Smokey Bones shake. They were out of bacon so they added more bourbon. It was fantastic!!!! Walked back across the park to the Canteen, where we had preordered lunch. It was our second time having lunch there and it’s probably my favorite CS meal now. We left after lunch since we had 3 AK days booked. :)

    Also, June 5 we went to EE first while everyone else was running to Pandora, and rode 3 times in 30 minutes. It was a blast!

  12. Ellen says

    “Typically, Disney’s version of a “milkshake” is just their soft serve ice cream dispensed into a different cup” Thank you for that, I thought it was just us! I keep reading online reviews of people loving the milkshakes (especially at Sci-Fi Dine-In), and my experience was that the milkshakes I’d had (including SciFi) only tasted (and had the texture) of soft-serve in a cup.

  13. Beth says

    Hi, never commented before but since I was in Animal Kingdom the same day, 5/31, I thought I’d share my experience.

    We made the conscious decision to avoid Pandora completely so we had a pleasant day. We were also not interested in EE as we aren’t really roller coaster people. So here’s how our day went.

    Arrived between 8:15 and 8:30 after initial rush. Rode Primevil Whirl and Triceratops Spin, walked around DinoLand a bit. Stopped in a shop as we had time to kill before our safari fastpass. We ended up taking a bit longer in the shop because of a gift card issue. Fastpass at safari at around 9:40. After the safari we walked back to get in line for Nemo (11 am show), stopping a few times for photos, etc). After Nemo we planned to use our Dinosaur FP but it was down so we at at Restaurantosaurus. After that Dinosaur was back up so we rode then. Then we went back to the resort for a swim/rest. We ate dinner at the resort and returned in time for the 7pm Lion King show (we were able to get in right at the last minute and there were still seats available). After that we walked on to safari and then made our way slowly to Rivers of Light to use our 3rd FP. While waiting for the show to begin, we grabbed a 4th FP for Dinosaur (my 8 year old’s favorite ride) and rode that again. By then we were ready to return to the resort. It was a pleasant day and the only way you’d know anything was new were the crowds and waits for the bus.

  14. Ava says

    Thank you so much for these reports. My FP window opens in a couple weeks so I’m trying to finalize my plans. I hope to get a FP for FoP and avoid Pandora at rope drop, but now I know to check the wait time for Navi River when we get there in the morning as it may be short enough to ride it first thing. I probably would not have even checked if I hadn’t read your report.

  15. Ellen C says

    what is the grace period for early or late arrival for FP use?

    also, i will be at AK on Monday Aug 21, the first day of the slower season – what do you think of my plan. arrive at turnstile at 7am for 8am EMH rope drop. if we are very close to the front of the crowd go to FOP w/o FP, then go to NaVi River w/o FP. We have a FP for FOP from 6-7pm and I hope to use it toward the end so we can then walk around Pandora while dark out. But is it crazy to try to do FOP twice in one day? Should I just be grateful i have one FP, go straight to NaVi at rope drop and then go enjoy the non-existent lines elsewhere?

    Also, must I use the exit that takes me up toward Lion King? Or can we exit back toward PizzaFari since i want to go to Dinoland next?

    thanks so much for yur awesome blog and photos – love iti all!!!!!!

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