Our day at Magic Kingdom continues in what I’m sure is not the first part of this series. If you’re wondering how we’ve managed to arrive at the dreaded “line starts here” sign for “it’s a small world,” facing the opposite direction of the attraction’s entrance at 11:25am on a day with below-average waits, you can pull up the previous part, which links back to what could be anywhere from one to seventeen previous parts. At least if history is any indication. So far, our day has gone relatively well, benefitted in large part by the early start available to guests using the walkways from the Grand Floridian and Contemporary Resorts.
Those walkways offer a lot more control over the arrival experience, since you won’t need to rely on any form of Disney’s transportation options, all of which are currently operating at limited capacities and often experience delays. Magic Kingdom typically opens as the first couple of buses, holding a total of maybe a hundred guests, pull up to their designated unload stations. They’ll be delayed further by temperature and bag checks. At that point, cast members will get the go-ahead to begin checking temperatures and bags at the Transportation and Ticket Center parking lot across the water from the Park’s entrance. At best, they’ll arrive five to ten minutes after guests using the walkways have an opportunity to head inside. More and more guests will arrive as seats on the buses, ferries, and monorails become available, making that head start all the more important when it comes to short early morning waits. By using one of the walkways, you choose how early you leave the room and where you’ll be in line waiting for the Park to allow guests inside. That’s typically 30 to 45 minutes prior to the officially-posted time, as Disney attempts to spread out the crowds and get as many people as possible over to the Park in time for what is typically a 9am open.
Since I was feeling fancy, I opted to slip on my Louie Vuitton moccasins and enjoyed my scenic saunter over from the Grand Floridian. I’d go into detail about which shirt I was wearing, but we both probably have a good idea already. Guests arriving from American Steel in the opposite direction enjoyed a slight head start. About 10x more people use the Contemporary’s walkway and Disney begins processing them by checking bags and temperatures and moving them closer to the entrance earlier to make space for more people along the path. That didn’t end up causing us much delay as we glided towards Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, even without the usual spring that my Nikes provide.
Speaking of the Mine Train, while we’re evidently concerned about the destruction of our planet over at EPCOT via “attractions” like “Awesome Planet,” that worry doesn’t seem to transfer over to the horrors and ever-present dangers of mining for precious stones at Magic Kingdom. And I’m not sure we ever find out what Snow White and the Dwarfs are planning to do with what must be hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gems (adjusted for inflation) that they’ve apparently confiscated as we pass during the few seconds in the one show scene that wasn’t cut from the final product.
The Evil Queen may be engrossed in her own vanity, but you would expect that she could be bought off with several carts of diamonds and rubies. At a minimum, she could trade the rocks for enough money to legally change her name from something a little less flattering than Grimhilde, and then flaunt that fortune and a solid week’s worth of DVC points to snare just about anyone into a long-term, loving relationship. On the other hand, there may be something to say for aging potions and the simplicity of murder via fruit. It would just be unfortunate if she tried to hand the poison apple to Snow White, only for the lonely princess to refuse it because the organic sticker fell off in transit. What do you do when someone won’t even believe your Whole Foods receipt, which clearly states you spent 20 cents more per pound than the garden variety of Fuji. We may be straying slightly from the plot of the 1937 film, but anything can happen in a live-action remake.
Back to what matters, this is where we find ourselves after completing the following:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 8:42am – 8:56am
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 8:59am – 9:07am
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 9:09am – 9:16am
- Haunted Mansion: 9:19am – 9:52am
- Jungle Cruise: 9:57am – 10:28am
- Pirates of the Caribbean: 10:30am – 11:11am
As has been true since July, you’ll want to be prepared to spend at least half of your wait outdoors and largely uncovered at most Magic Kingdom attractions, with the extended queue for “small world” winding around outside and currently back to about Haunted Mansion. I was probably risking sunburn myself until the sweet relief of the protection of that first umbrella. During Disney’s earnings call on February 11th, Chapek said he expected the mask requirements and social distancing measures to ease heading into 2022, which will probably feel like it’s five to eight years away for most of us.
The CDC recently recommended that a second mask may provide even more protection than one. By November, they may be recommending eight. Personally, I like my masks like I like my shirts. One is plenty. So I’ve resigned myself to using underwear as a second layer of protection over the mask instead, only to realize that what I ordinarily wear provides what you might describe as meager coverage. And then there’s the fact that I’ve only got the one pair causing some amount of additional complication. Don’t be hesitant about approaching me in the Parks though. I’m really perfectly normal.
On a slightly more serious note, I would admit that I’ve found some amount of amusement in TouringPlans daily quotes of what percentage of people out of 500 they see wearing their masks appropriately. The company recently opened their own travel agency, so they have a major financial stake in convincing you that things have never been better, since they receive a significant kickback from the company should you elect to book your vacation through them. Worse, offerings that make Disney the most money, and potentially offer the least amount of value to guests, typically pay the highest commissions.
It’s an unfortunate and rather desperate move from a company that has claimed editorial independence for more than 20 years. As critical as the website may be about the unreliability of their crowd calendar, you couldn’t generally fault them about their opinions on food, merchandise, attraction quality, event value, etc. In fact, I don’t think you could find a single instance where I recommended against buying and reading one of their guidebooks, even if much of the information was out of date years ago.
All that goes out the window when you’re getting paid to sell the product. This website has never had a travel agency attached to it, despite the fact that I would have easily made six figures in commissions over the years in referrals with virtually no effort on my part. There’s something to say for credibility, and you lose it once you start taking handouts or benefit financially from the sale of products you supposedly recommend. It wouldn’t surprise me if they go the, “Hey, you can still trust us! We bought our own After Hours tickets!” route. But it only takes selling a family of four a set of tickets to two events to recoup that cost. Watch for a ramp up of posts about how much the Dining Plan can save you money once it’s reinstituted. Talk about dollar dollar bills, y’all.
TouringPlans quotes a 97% to 98% daily compliance rate when it comes to proper face mask use, but three of the four people directly in front of us in line in the picture above have their masks pulled down below their noses and the girl on the left is about to pull hers down, rendering them largely useless. I’m not sure they’ve said where they supposedly count, but it’s probably as close to the largest swarm of mask enforcement cast members and A-frame warning signs they can find. If you’d like to see mask compliance closer to the single digits, stand in front of Cinderella Castle after 5pm sometime, after the majority of the compliance officers have gone home and people have grown tired of having fabric affixed to their faces. As I passed by the Castle on my way out in the early afternoon, a family had taken their masks off for the iconic picture. A manager and mask enforcer casually walked by at the same time and asked them to put them back on without making any effort to make sure their request was filled. The person taking the photo gleefully remarked, “Don’t worry, I still got it.” Welcome to America.
But I’m not innocent either as I delivered one of these hanging flower baskets to one lucky lady before our date at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant on Valentine’s Day. She liked the arrangement, but mentioned that the flowers felt a little different than usual. “Picky, picky” I declared, and announced that the appetizer course was off and she better hope there was a glass of wine under ten dollars on the menu. We traveled home separately.
While it may not look like it, we’ve made a bit of progress in five minutes as we take another look at the cramped scene out here.
There are few things quite as comforting as arriving at what could either be described as the first or last “Please Wait Here” sticker from the tangle of people in the undefined jumble of people behind us. We may think we’re living in the future, but there’s no indication as to when it’s time to move forward. I’ve been typing up these posts from this very spot for about six months now. Hopefully by the time the masks come back out again, there will be some sort of LED light situation indicating when it’s time to stop waiting and move on to the following sticker.
I spent 15 minutes outside before entering the somewhat newly-revamped queue and façade.
At 11:43am, I remain safely in line as we look out at the congestion in Old Fantasyland picking up as lunchtime approaches.
We saw exactly one boat fitted with barriers behind each row during the first week in January, in what was likely a test to see how difficult they would be to install and how much damage they would do to the boats once removed. It’s now more than six weeks later and we haven’t seen any more barrier installations. The boat headed immediately towards unload is basically the best case scenario from a capacity standpoint, with a group of five people filling the front two rows and a second party of three in back. Before the March closures last year, boats probably averaged about 18 guests each. So the first boat is just under half of that capacity. The boat coming in behind it is filled with just four guests, bringing the capacity of that boat down to somewhere close to 25% of what it would have been. With each boat filled somewhere around 33% capacity on average, we’re basically waiting three times as long as we would otherwise. Of course, with FastPass+ in play, only about 30% of the ride’s capacity would go to standby anyway, so in that respect, we’re waiting about as long as we would under those circumstances.
If memory serves, and if we’re being frank, it may very well not, there was a time when standby and FastPass+ merged into one line right around here. After a few years, the two lines remained separate until load to keep things a little more organized.
I boarded just before noon, resulting in a 35-minute actual wait with 30 minutes posted:
I was back out front at 12:17pm, for a total experience time of 52 minutes. That’s longer than we’d probably like to wait for “it’s a small world.” On the other hand, the line for Peter Pan’s Flight now stretches back nearly to Prince Charming Regal Carrousel before traveling down to Columbia Harbour House, where there is still no opportunity to pick up a plate of shrimp while you wait.
We’ll pull back up our wait time chart for the day:
Since I got in line just before 11:30am, the posted wait was 30 minutes before it jumped to 40 minutes a few moments later. It then dropped to 25 minutes at 11:45am, before going back up to 35 minutes at 12pm, which is almost exactly how long I ended up waiting. The wait would remain between 20 and 45 minutes for the rest of the day with a 28-minute overall average. Looking down the list at 11:30am, our other options include waiting 45 minutes for Astro Orbiter, a 90-second spinner. Big Thunder is at 50 minutes for a 5ish-minute roller coaster. Buzz is 35 minutes for the 5-minute ride. Dumbo is 15 minutes for 90 seconds there. Even The Little Mermaid Ride is posting 20 minutes. So we don’t have a lot of options in the early afternoon as you can continue to move down the list with a 31-minute average across the attractions.
“it’s a small world” is about 13 minutes long, which makes the time investment of waiting in line pay off a little better, since we waited a little less than three minutes per minute of ride time. Astro Orbiter would be closer to a 25-minute wait per minute of ride time. Big Thunder would be about eight minutes of waiting per minute or ride time. So rationalizing things that way, the 35 minutes for “small world” isn’t the worst place to be when waits are peaking, particularly when the wait will stay consistent for the next five or six hours. It’s true that the wait drops after 5pm, but that’s when we’ll be more interested in trying to get on some higher priorities. With the early close and the reintroduction of Park Hopping after 2pm, there won’t be a tremendous number of opportunities to knock out attractions in short order, but we probably don’t want to make “small world” one of our last two or three rides of the day. But its long waits are worth noting, and with two or more days to tackle Magic Kingdom, you’ll likely want to focus on the majority of Fantasyland early on one day, and visit the happiest cruise on earth earlier in the day than you would if it were operating at full capacity.
Now just past 12:15pm, we’ll see peak crowds through about 3pm, with the expectation that just about any attraction that posts a wait time that you’d like to experience will require a wait of 30 or more minutes with just a couple of exceptions. The “small world” line is now longer on the right.
Part of the reason for the long line at Peter Pan’s Flight is likely due to the fact that it’s posted at 20 minutes at the ride, while the Disney World app quotes a 55-minute wait. It’s certainly closer to the latter, while we waited about three minutes in the morning, if that.
You could wait the same 35 minutes for “small world” at your convenience for the next several hours. If getting in line at 11:30am isn’t for you, there’s always the same wait available at 3:30pm. There’s something to say for consistency.
We can see the backup for Mickey’s PhilharMagic on the right as the line extends outside the building and towards Cinderella Castle. Even with below-average waits across the Park, a 20- to 40-minute wait for the show is likely with such limited capacity in the theater with social distancing.
Mine Train is posting a 60-minute wait as the ride continues operating at about half of its ordinary capacity.
We’ll have to make a turn into Storybook Circus and then around to the area across from Voyage of the Little Mermaid to (hopefully) find the end of the line.
Winnie the Pooh is at 20 minutes. Not great, not terrible.
Mad Tea Party isn’t posting a wait, which is curious as the line snakes around the tea cups.
While The Many Adventures may be posting a 20-minute wait, the line stretches back conveniently to the water fountains closer to Cheshire Cat Café. I’ll have to point people to this sentence the next time I’m accused of being negative.
You may be able to make out the back of the line for the Mine Train underneath the Cartography sign that marks the Disney Vacation Club booth. I’m not sure how well screaming, “DO YOU WANT SEVENTY MORE YEARS OF THIS? DO YOU? FOR A MERE DOWNPAYMENT OF $27,500 AND $2,812 A YEAR IN MAINTENANCE FEES AFTER THAT, A DVC CONTRACT THAT WILL BE RETURNED TO US TO SELL AGAIN FOR EVEN MORE MONEY IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE” may be a slightly tougher sell than usual right now, but you occasionally see a cast member in there on cooler, less crowded days.
As least the poor cast members marking the back of every line aren’t forced to hand out DVC pamphlets, though you would think it’s a missed opportunity to pass on the good word. It occurs to me that I haven’t heard them refer to the timeshare program as “Disney’s Best Kept Secret” in some time, but that may be because I recently purchased a $27,500 contract with $2,812 in yearly maintenance fees.
The 60 minutes is probably about accurate. The owl looking on underneath appears to be a little more judgmental than I’d like. I’m not sure if his expression changes based on the number of margaritas purchased at Epcot the day before. You’d think they would prefer that number to be higher, even if it causes more people than they’d like to attempt to climb to the top of everything from the pyramid in Mexico to the new installation of the Leave A Legacy slabs at the front of the Park. I’ll admit I tried to get to the top of one of the slabs myself before someone from behind mysteriously dumped a bottle of what tasted like vegetable oil over the top and I began very slowly, very sadly, slipping back down. One day I’ll show up in my mountain climbing gear and get a glimpse of that top row, and probably come away with about 3,000 gallons of vegetable oil.
In the concluding(?) part, we’ll head to lunch…at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café…