We continue on with our morning in Fantasyland after beginning the day by walking over from the Grand Floridian and visiting Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight. You can pull up that part in this post in case you missed it.
Disney brought back Cinderella’s Carriage in New Fantasyland as a PhotoPass opportunity with Valentine’s Day on the horizon. It’s another nice and potentially unnecessary plussing at a time when you’ll likely see fewer photographers around. They also didn’t skimp on the number of Home Depot planters blocking access to all sides of the carriage so I don’t want to hear any more about budget cuts.
Mine Train was still sporting a 35-minute wait at 9:09am, which seems even more optimistic than when it read the same about 15 minutes earlier.
That’s the line stretching back around Storybook Circus over to the left. I have a feeling by the time we’re done with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the Mine’s wait will probably just about double as Disney’s posted wait eventually catches up with the number of people who have recently entered the queue.
Theoretically, posted wait times should be more accurate now than they would have been over the last 10+ years. It was a bit more of a crapshoot in the FastPass+ days, when a large group entering with priority access could bog down standby considerably, particularly after downtime and a disproportionate number of people coming back to use their FastPass+. But you would think Disney would know how many people can ride per cycle, how many cycles they make it through each hour, and the exact number of people in line, without much concern that unexpected boarding priority would jeopardize the wait calculated by the available variables. Of course, the posted wait isn’t always intended to be accurate, and is typically exaggerated by 25% to 40% so you exit the attraction feeling like you made it through a little faster than you were expecting. After all, if I told you that your coffee was going to be ready in four minutes, and it was ready in three, you’d probably be on the happier side of things. If I told you it was going to take two minutes to get your coffee and it took three instead, you might be slightly more miffed. It’s obviously the same outcome. You have your coffee in three minutes. But there’s probably something to say for the psychology of it all. Of course, inaccurate posted waits aren’t doing us any favors when it comes to planning or whether or not we want to enter a queue. The five minutes posted is obviously an indication that we’ll basically be able to walk right on, but it’s also about 400% higher than reality.
It’s possible that “Several Moments in time and space as you have come to understand them” doesn’t fit inside the wait time box quite as elegantly as the number five. So we’ll cut them a little bit of slack. If the posted wait said zero minutes and I had to wait one, I’d be liable to throw a thousand dollars on the ground and leave.
Here’s the loading scene at 9:11am, where we’ll basically be able to walk right on:
My total experience time came in at five minutes, which is just about as short as it gets.
As expected, the posted wait at Mine Train has more than doubled in the five minutes since we last saw it. That’s the flip side of the wait time coin. Disney isn’t always Johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to keeping up with wait times that are quickly rising. Hundreds of people got in line for the Mine expecting to wait about a half hour and will end up waiting about twice as long, which would obviously be disappointing. It’s a strange phenomenon considering the amount of data at Disney’s fingertips. While we could certainly head back through Winnie the Pooh again if we’d like, our only other opportunity to ride Mine Train with a short-ish wait will be just before the early 7pm close.
At this point in the morning, having covered three of the main Fantasyland priorities, we have a couple of options. We could head towards Tomorrowland, where Space Mountain, Tomorrowland Speedway, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin should all maintain short waits. We may also be able to hurry over to Frontierland via Haunted Mansion with hopes of being able to make it to Big Thunder and Splash Mountain before appreciable waits materialize there.
Here’s a look at wait times across the day with 9:15am, 10am, and 11am highlighted:
It’s now 9:15am and we can basically choose our next attraction without worrying too much about waiting in line too long, with the exception of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which we’ve both already visited and is the only ride with a posted wait longer than 15 minutes. Under the best of conditions, wait times typically run about 15 minutes behind reality. Since it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to see into the future on the day of your visit, this information will not do you a tremendous amount of good. But Big Thunder is posting 15 minutes at 9:15am. If we hurry over, we might be able to arrive around 9:20am. By 9:30am, it’s going to post 25 minutes, and then 40 minutes at 9:45am. That means if we got in line 15 minutes earlier, at 9:30am, we should expect to wait the 45 minutes that are eventually posted. The longer waits there aren’t helped by the fact that Splash Mountain is down, which isn’t uncommon in the morning these days. With Splash open, Big Thunder’s wait would be about half, if that, and we’d have a much better opportunity to ride it in the late morning without waiting 45 minutes.
By 11am, we’re going to have significantly fewer options to ride much without waiting about a half hour, with a 31-minute average across every attraction that posts a wait. That makes touring a lot more difficult come the late morning, particularly considering this is a day with below-average waits for the last couple of months. We won’t see the average wait drop below a half hour again until after 2:45pm, and the average will only be under 20 minutes after 6:30pm with just a half hour to close. You might be able to squeeze in two or three attractions in that last half hour, depending on the priority and the ride lengths, but the early 7pm close doesn’t offer a lot of late night options.
Back before the March closures, we’d begin to rely on FastPass+ in the late morning and early afternoon, but that isn’t an option for most people at the moment. So come 11am, our options are basically to hit as clos anytime attractions as we can get to prepare to wait 20 to 45 minutes for higher priorities.
We’ll see what we can get done as more and more people cross the water and get in line.
If nothing else, we can enjoy some flowers and unusually long pictures. It has “felt” unusually cold here in sunny Florida over the last couple of weeks with lows in the upper-30s. Those temperatures probably aren’t doing the blossoms any favors, but we do what we can with what’s available, even if all we’ve got is an orange poncho at our disposal.
Even at 9:18am, or less than 20 minutes after the Park officially opened, there’s an appreciable wait for Prince Charming Regal Carrousel with the limited number of horses available. The roundabout will post 40 minutes by 10:15am, which doesn’t seem ideal when crowds are below-average.
Things are noticeably picking up in Old Fantasyland as we pass Peter Pan’s Flight and “it’s a small world” again. Here’s a look at posted waits just for the happiest cruise on earth:
When to ride “it’s a small world” may be one of life’s larger conundrums at the moment. Prior to March, as long as you got over to it before 11am, you’d wait 15 to 20 minutes most days, in addition to the ride being one of the easier attractions to grab as a late FastPass+ with its monstrous capacity. But much of that capacity is eliminated by physical distancing, resulting in actual waits that are often 25 to 50 minutes from 10am through 5pm. We’ll see for ourselves in a bit. Disney has tested the installation of barriers in between the rows on the boats, which would allow them to bring the ride back much closer to full capacity and just about halve wait times. But until that happens, and it may not at this point, you likely want to ride around now, as ridiculous as the advice to get in line for “small world” before 9:30am may have sounded a year ago. If you put it off for 10:30am, or the “usual” time slot, you’re going to wait about a half hour. That’s obviously not an eternity, but it’s about the maximum amount of time I’m typically willing to wait for a super-headliner. I’m going to get in line at 11:25am and my total experience time is going to be just shy of an hour. That’s almost 10% of your day.
Since I’m bad at following my own advice, and also interested in how things are looking in Liberty Square, we’ll bypass “small world” for now and come to regret it later. One other issue with “small world” is its length, which comes in around 15 minutes including load/unload. One reason why we’re able to move so quickly through Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Winnie the Pooh is the fact that they’re about three to four minutes long each. Theoretically, that means we could ride all three in the amount of time it takes to ride “small world” once.
No, those “Please Wait Here” stickers are not there for those waiting to pick up food at Columbia Harbour House, which still isn’t serving food. Part of the menu is typically available at Tomorrowland Terrace. Later in the day, people will be waiting inside Harbour House for Peter Pan’s Flight, making our early arrival seem far more intelligent.
Those stickers on the right are headed towards Haunted Mansion and they’ll also be occupied later in the day. Up ahead on the left, Disney rearranged Liberty Square Market to make things more streamlined. That’s good news considering the space “felt” busy even if you were the only person standing there among dozens of bananas and six different flavors of sparkling Dasani.
Haunted Mansion is our next stop. While the waits on this particular day weren’t bad, the ride does typically average about a half hour, making it a worthy morning investment.
At 9:20am, Mansion is posting ten minutes, but we should be able to board in about three:
Technical difficulties ended up getting us stopped in the graveyard scene for about 20 minutes, which is obviously not ideal early in the morning when we’d like to be on our way as quickly as possible. But that sort of bad luck isn’t all that uncommon, and there’s nothing we can really do about it other than reconsider which attraction we’ll be visiting next. With waits quickly climbing, those 20 lost minutes are going to eliminate any hope of being able to ride Big Thunder without a 30+ minute wait. So even though we waited three minutes for Mansion and should have been on our way around 9:30am, it’s now 9:52am instead.
We can pull up current wait times in the Disney World app and see about reassessing:
There was still a possibility we could ride Big Thunder if Splash had an opportunity to open. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
As it turned out, the day of my visit was just about the last that the Rivers of America remained drained:
The draining of the Rivers of America may be the most jarring of the various refurbishments, as what is ordinarily a beautiful waterway transforms into an extension of Big Thunder Mountain and resembles a rescue effort at the Grand Canyon. Fortunately, the refurbishment is mostly complete, and the water now flows about as freely as the Liberty Square Riverboat moves about its track.
You may also run into some concrete refurbishment as we enjoy the wild wild west, but only to the point where a $5 SmartWater is always at at arm’s length.
A palate cleanser before moving on. Have a bite of lemon sorbet should you have one handy.
It’s now three minutes before 10am as we scoot over to Adventureland with our eyes on visiting Jungle Cruise next. Those stickers on the left are likely headed for the attraction’s entrance, but you can never be too sure these days. It could be the end of the line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The good news(?) is that as the lines do back up, there will be a cast member back there holding up a sign identifying what attraction you’re hopelessly waiting for along with a wait that may or may not represent reality.
We’ll pull back up our wait times chart for the day:
We’re now moving into the yellow section of the morning, where waits at the moderate priorities are headed towards actual waits of 20 to 30 minutes each, with higher priorities like Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, and Mine Train all at least 40 minutes. Jungle Cruise isn’t a high priority based on an average wait time that’s usually between 30 and 40 minutes, but it almost is with only five other attractions on this particular day seeing higher average waits. And two of those five attractions, Astro Orbiter and Pirates of the Caribbean, come in with an average wait that’s only one minute higher. Other attractions also average just about 30 minutes by the time the day is over. Peter Pan’s Flight and Prince Charming Regal Carrousel end the day with 30 minute averages each, “small world” closes things out with a 28-minute average, and Buzz Lightyear and Space Mountain arrive with averages of 27 minutes each. I’m guessing you didn’t see the Carrousel’s average eclipsing a very bumpy ride into space.
A half hour isn’t necessarily a long time to wait for a single attraction, but it will likely “feel” as though those waits add up as most or all of that time is spent on your feet winding around and around queues that are now more often uncovered with the spacing requirements. With a 30ish minute wait per attraction, you’re also looking at being able to do fewer than two things per hour, which isn’t exactly cruising along, even if one of those rides is Tomorrowland Speedway.
The equivalent of anytime attractions remain – Dumbo, Haunted Mansion, Mad Tea Party, The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Tomorrowland Speedway, and Under the Sea ~ Voyage of the Little Mermaid all average less than 15 minutes with Mickey’s PhilharMagic, The Barnstormer, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh coming in at 20 minutes or less. But with higher priorities to visit earlier and later in the day, it likely means that you’ll find yourself visiting at least a couple of these “anytime” attractions in the heart of the afternoon, when waits are longest.
Also, Mickey’s PhilharMagic may officially average just 19 minutes over the course of the day, but with the limited seating in the theater – every other row will be blocked off and three empty seats will be left open between each party of up to four people, you may find yourself waiting through at least one entire show in the afternoon. The same is true at other attractions that we would ordinarily consider safe afternoon bets, like Country Bear Jamboree and Enchanted Tiki Room, where we’d almost always be able to get into the next show, even on the busiest of days. The capacities of those shows, which are housed in even smaller theaters, are even lower. On a busier day, you may well find yourself waiting through two or three Country Bear shows before it’s your turn to hop in the saddle, resulting in an actual wait nearing an hour. This all comes at the same time Disney is increasing the maximum number of Park Passes it distributes each day and the total number of people that can theoretically be inside the Park at one time.
The next stress test will come in a few weeks with Presidents Day Weekend, which has reliably been one of the busier weeks of the year leading into the traditional spring break season. Disney made it through Christmas without much operational trouble, potentially with the help of low temperatures, the highest resort and ticket prices of the year, and lower-tier Annual Passes blocked out. But it will be interesting to see what happens as more and more people are vaccinated and the propensity for domestic travel increases, potentially at the same time that the country puts heavier restrictions on those trying to enter from abroad. Back in July and August of last year, when waits were largely nonexistent, crowds were almost exclusively visitors within driving distance. After international travel restrictions eased later in the year, more international guests returned, pushing attendance up in October and November.
Surprising us both, I’m not an expert on international travel law, but this looks to outline the current travel situation without much bias in either direction. If it’s difficult or impossible for most international guests to enter the United States, then it will have a substantial impact on Disney World crowds as those guests will obviously not be standing in front of you at Astro Orbiter. Once those travel restrictions are eased or eliminated, it’s going to be a different ballgame as domestic and international visitors vie for tickets, resort rooms, and Park Passes. That onslaught may come as early as this fall.
But much continues to remain in flux as we near the 1-year anniversary of the original Park closures in March of last year. Just a few days ago, the The White House Coronavirus Task Force called for the closure of bars and restaurants in the state without any sort of federal mandate to back it up. Our governor isn’t going to comply with any informal requests, but that could change if the federal government ups the ante by threatening to withhold billions in funds for various projects or applies whatever other forms of pressure are at its vast disposal. The good news is that even if every restaurant in Florida is forced to shut down, Tony’s Town Square will be able to remain open as what they serve isn’t technically food.
We’ll move on to Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and it’s a small world next.