After what was a poor outing during our last Animal Kingdom rope drop (with Part Two here), we return with a vengeance. Because, after all, there’s nothing that we can’t achieve together, so long as we have 15 MagicBands to split between the two of us. Here at 6:35am, bag check hasn’t even begun. It’s too early for them. It’s too early for me.
No rest for the weary, overworked theme park blogger – ten minutes later I was on my way.
Despite being the first person at my bag check line, I’ve still managed to fall 20 people back on the walk to the tapstiles. I’m very slow.
I made the mistake of taking residence at the very front of the Annual Passholder line as it had not occurred to me that I would then be the captive audience of a very chatty, very soft-spoken cast member with an accent and a dictionary full of grandpa jokes.
At 7am, it looks like about 16 people are lined up behind each set of tapstiles.
We were let inside the Park at 7:17am and this was the scene at that time. It looks like about 50 people are now lined up behind each set. That means around 500 people are already here. I caution against using the Annual Passholder line unless you’re close to the front. They typically only open one side of the set of tapstiles, or just two Mickey readers. The other lines will see both sides open for a total of four Mickey readers. So if there’s 50 people behind me in the Annual Passholder line, the 50th person is going to scan as the 50th person. At a set of regular tapstiles with 50 people in line, that line will split into two individual lines each with two Mickey readers. So the 50th person in line becomes the 25th person to scan in the newly-created line.
Sharpen those elbows, it’s 7:19am as we proceed unencumbered towards the Tree of Life, where we’ll then take a left towards Pandora.
7:20am as a number of runners have passed me.
Luckily, we only waited here for seven minutes before the walk to Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey began.
Squeezing through towards Avatar Flight of Passage at 7:28am or about ten minutes earlier than the rope drop I covered about ten days ago.
That’s good news as it’s an indication that Disney knows it needs to be ready earlier to mitigate some of the crowding.
A borrowed image from the last update, but just as a brief reminder, the rush to Na’vi River Journey is 97.6% more chill than Flight of Passage as the vast majority of people are heading to the simulator ride. You would be able to ride River Journey at least twice in the first 30 minutes of operation, if not three times in 35 minutes or so. So if you can get a Flight of Passage FastPass+ and want to ride a Pandora priority that will see a 100+ minute standby wait with significantly less hassle, head to the River Journey. It’s far more forgiving.
I count one smile and it’s the person being paid to be here.
7:31am, which is about 20 minutes earlier than when I passed by this area on my last rope drop. Part of that is due to the earlier release time, as well as my earlier arrival.
Don’t let a high posted wait time deter you if you move over here relatively quickly – the ride is already posted at 60 minutes, but should be considerably less. We also benefit from no FastPass+ returners until regular open at 8am, which means 100% of the capacity, or about 750 riders over those 30 minutes, will head through the queue. By 9:30am, only about 300 standby riders per hour will ride versus 1,100 FastPass+ returners.
Things move slowly as everyone stops to take this picture.
And while there’s no wait to be placed into a pre-show room for the ride, there is a 2-minute wait to take this picture of the animatronic avatar.
I was past the FastPass+ merge point at 7:49am.
And, uh, inside the first pre-show room, at, uh, 7:52am.
At 8:13am I was back out front to a 180-minute posted wait. I would think the actual wait would be a lot closer to half that, not that the end of the line is where you want to be at this point in the morning. If you’re running behind, it would make more sense to head to other priority attractions when waits are shorter and return to Flight of Passage in the afternoon when waits are higher everywhere. Waits are actually shorter here in the afternoon than they are from 8:30am-11am, probably due to so many people being convinced that they need to do this first thing no matter what. This is a mistake if you can’t commit to being among the first 500-700 people.
Na’vi River Journey was posted at 20-minutes at 8:14am, so I gave it a shot.
You can eyeball the length of the line a little bit here. If you can immediately pass through the standby entrance and into the main line then your wait should be under 45 minutes. If the extended queue outside of the line is in use, then your wait is going to be 60+ minutes. So if it’s early in the morning and you’re not sure if the posted wait is accurate, pass through the standby entrance and take a look at the length of the line. If the area underneath the roof is completely full, it’s going to be 30-40 minutes and the wait goes down from there. When I arrived before 8:15am, only about a quarter of the roofed area was full, indicating a short wait.
The actual wait ended up being just eight minutes. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Still singing out of tune after two weeks.
And back out front at 8:32am for a total experience time of just 18 minutes with a posted wait that’s now 50.
I made an 8:15am to 9:15am FastPass+ so I headed back through:
Here, the queue is filling up and stretching back out to the uncovered walkway. The standby wait would be closer to 40 minutes – a short standby wait is only viable after Flight of Passage if you’re among the first couple of hundred people off Flight of Passage. Just about everyone that exits that ride is headed over here next, in addition to late arrivals that immediately visit River Journey first because it’s the first thing they see after entering the Valley of Mo’ara.
And back out front at 8:44am for a total experience time of 12 minutes with FastPass+. The posted wait is now 70-minutes, which is probably exaggerated by 20 minutes, but FastPass+ can seriously bog it down. Disney is making a concerted effort to get each row on the boat to seat at least three guests. Over the first couple of days of operation, as a single rider, I would have ridden alone. This time, I was paired with a party of two on each ride. That’s potentially good news as it means the hourly capacity is higher and waits should be reduced. On the other hand, you might find yourself seated next to me.
At this point, it makes sense to get out of Dodge and head elsewhere, where waits will still be short at other attractions.
Though few people are trekking towards the moon world. Crowds were surprisingly light considering it was a Sunday during the second week of operation with decent weather. Silver-level Annual Passholders are now blocked out and cast members still can’t bring guests to Animal Kingdom, but you wouldn’t think those effects on crowds would be this substantial. We’ll continue to monitor whether things pick back up.
I thought I would mix up my plan from last time a bit by heading to Expedition Everest next. Then, I was planning on arriving for the 11am Festival of the Lion King show a little earlier before using FastPass+ at Kilimanjaro Safaris.
I guess you could go to Kali River Rapids and have a raft to yourself this early.
I have it scheduled as my third FastPass+.
At 8:57am, Expedition Everest was still posted at 5 minutes:
The sun wasn’t cooperating quite as well as last time, but I was back out front at 9:08am for a total experience time of 11 minutes.
With a 10-minute posted wait, I got back in line:
Back out front at 9:19am for a total experience time of 11 minutes for a second time.
Against my better judgement, we head to Primeval Whirl:
I arrived at 9:24am to nobody in line, which meant I was spinning for one.
If you were to look up rock bottom in the dictionary, you’d see me, riding Primeval Whirl, alone, on a weekend, before 9:30am.
Actually, it would probably still be something at Universal, but I think you get where I’m going with this.
And back out front at 9:31am for a total experience time of seven minutes. I’m not going to ride again, but you certainly could.
Between Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR, it’s sort of a toss-up on which to do first and it probably doesn’t really matter. DINO is a longer experience even given nobody else in line, but Primeval runs at a limited capacity early in the morning more often. I usually go to Primeval first since the queue is outdoors and less pleasant, and more often than not, it’s the one that’s going to surprise you a little bit with a higher wait time. On this particular morning, Disney was running both sides on Primeval and DINO, so both are virtual walk-ons.
There’s nobody in sight at 9:34am, a full 90 minutes after Animal Kingdom officially opens and two hours after we were knocking children over on the way to Flight of Passage.
This is one bad trip:
I was back out front at 9:46am for a total experience time of 12 minutes. That might be some kind of record.
TriceraTop Spin will still be a walk-on for some time if you want to check that out.
It probably offers the least scenic views of the various spinners.
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin over at Magic Kingdom is my favorite with tremendous views of Enchanted Tiki Room, Swiss Family Treehouse, and more.
Versus this parking lot, as elaborately themed as it might be.
But the time investment this early is basically nil – I arrived at 9:53am and was back out front at 10am for a total experience time of seven minutes. Why not, right?
In Part 2, we’ll continue onward, but what have we learned?
- Disney is making a conscious effort to get things going earlier in the morning and to increase capacity/efficiency at the Pandora rides. Expect to be let into the Park by 7:20am and on your way into Pandora by 7:35am with a regular 8am open.
- An arrival around 6:30am remains smart. No matter what Disney decides to do on that morning, an early arrival puts you in the best position to ride Avatar Flight of Passage with a short wait and potentially ride Na’vi River Journey in standby immediately after. While an hour might “feel” like a long time to wait, you’ll save more time than that just on Avatar Flight of Passage versus an arrival closer to 8am.
- If you don’t want to deal with the crowding/rope drop situation, Na’vi River Journey remains a viable first stop. You could wait to head over until 7:45am and still experience a wait of around five minutes with the potential of riding a second or third time with a short wait.
- Avatar Flight of Passage waits are longer from 8:30am-12pm than they are in the afternoon. If you can’t get over there early, it makes a lot more sense to visit other priority attractions. Pandora siphons so many people that low waits will continue through at least 9am and at most attractions until at least 10am.
In Part Two, we soldier on to Festival of the Lion King, visit Kilimanjaro Safaris, try mobile order at Satu’li Canteen, and see how our day stacks up.