Our afternoon visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Monday, March 9th, 2020 continues, as we head towards our first standby ride of the day in Star Tours, which is posting a 25-minute wait just before 6:30pm. So far, this is what I’ve accomplished:
- Star Wars Launch Bay: 3:40pm – 3:50pm
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid: 3:52pm – 4:18pm
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular: 4:25pm – 5:15pm
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with FastPass+: 5:25pm – 5:41pm
- Tower of Terror with FastPass+: 5:43pm – 6:02pm
- Mickey Shorts Theater: 6:12pm – 6:25pm
In Part One, we set the stage for our afternoon arrival, by considering our overall strategy with FastPass+ and how we wanted to organize our day, in addition to stopping at Star Wars Launch Bay, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. Part Two covered the next few attractions, along with a look at some current refurbishments and a little bit of this and that.
During our last several rope drops, we’ve seen the standby queue for Star Tours backed up outside and into what may or may not be Endor as early as 8:30am in the morning, as people balk at the 60+ minute waits that they’ll see at virtually every other ride, and instead get in line for the only operating attraction with a wait resembling something reasonable. You’ll remember that Star Tours is the only viable standby option for those beginning their morning with Smugglers Run, which takes about 20 minutes to complete, even if you’re the first person to arrive at the ride’s entrance about ten minutes after the Park opens. The fact that the space simulator enjoys such a large hourly capacity is why we’ve started our standby assault here, instead of beginning with an attraction that will likely have a longer wait time that lingers later into the evening. No matter how long waits are elsewhere, the wait for Star Tours should be the shortest earliest in the evening.
A big reason for those long early morning standby lines is the number of people arriving with FastPass+ priority as early as 8:01am. With basically no day-of FastPass+ availability for rides at the Studios, that means every experience is taken by someone, and the maximum amount of a ride’s capacity goes to those with priority boarding access immediately after Park open. As I’m heading in via the standby line on the right with just a couple of other guests, there’s a much more constant stream of FastPass+ returners, as the ride likely distributes over 1,200 FastPass+ experiences per hour, on average.
There are only six or seven people waiting in standby in front of me, with at least a hundred FastPass+ returners surrounding us.
Little does anyone know that I’m still holding a FastPass+ for Slinky Dog Dash, where I’ll be able to save at least 75 minutes in line a little later.
Even with “literally” five people waiting in front of me in standby, I still stood there for a solid five minutes before we were given the go-ahead to merge with FastPass+, just because of the way ratios work. That’s why standby waits can be so long, even with relatively few people in line. On a different day last week, I was at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with a group in front of me with FastPass+ who all got out of that line and entered single rider because “the line was much shorter.” That was after they had scanned in and redeemed their FastPass+. This is not intelligent as I waited about five minutes in FastPass+, while the actual wait in single rider was easily 45+ minutes. Likewise, 99.8% of the time, FastPass+ is going to be faster than standby, even if there are a hundred people waiting in FP+ and five people waiting in standby. Disney may or may not own The Hunger Games yet, but it would be funny if every time you got in standby, a cast member said, “may the ratio be ever in your favor.” It probably won’t be.
Fortunately, there weren’t two hundred people in front of me in line at Star Tours, which would have raised my wait from five minutes to twenty or thirty. I was standing in front of my Starspeeder in less than ten minutes.
And I was off the ride about ten minutes after that. With the large number of people waiting in FastPass+, my actual wait was probably only two minutes longer than if I had priority FP+ access. That’s why we stopped at Star Tours first. If I went to another ride right now, I’d wait at least a half hour in standby, and as much as 90+ minutes.
After stopping by the Muppets Store, I’m on my way into Galaxy’s Edge at 6:55pm.
Crowds in Galaxy’s Edge were more than manageable, as they almost always are, thanks to the wide pathways.
With Disney World closing for at least two weeks, with the expectation that it will extend to a minimum of six or eight weeks, it will be interesting to see if Disney figures out a way to move away from the boarding group system at Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, and instead institutes the usual standby/FastPass+ system or some sort of a hybrid. With the likelihood that crowds will be low when the Parks do reopen, it will either be easier to acquire a boarding group first thing, or Disney could potentially see how standby works there.
Over at Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, 240- to 300-minute waits were constant during its first year or two of operation. Since that first year, waits have fallen by about 100 minutes, on average. At some point, people simply won’t get in line for a ride with a wait that they deem to be too long. That’s what would happen at Rise of the Resistance, but it’s hard to say at what point some die-hard Star Wars fans would balk at the wait and try to return later, when the posted wait would probably be similar. You would think that several weeks or several months would be enough time to fix whatever problems the Rise of the Resistance might be having on the mechanical and technological side of things, but it sounds like most construction will be shut down in the near-term as other industries go on lock-down.
I’m “cheating” a little bit by using the single rider line at Smugglers Run, where we’re going to bypass all of the queue and pre-show elements, including the introduction to Hondo and Ohnaka Transport Solutions. That doesn’t make single rider ideal for your first experience, and it’s why none of the website’s standard touring plans have you rely on it. Single rider also give up their opportunity to request a specific position while on-board the ride.
I always recommend that first-time riders choose the pilot position, even if you’re a little wary of your performance. Chances are that you won’t be any worse than whoever they were going to randomly assign to pull the lever anyway. The key to the pilot role is that pulling the joystick towards you makes the Millennium Falcon go up, and pushing the joystick forward makes the Falcon go down, just like a “real” starship. You’ll also want to pull that lever when it lights up to send the ship into hyperspace, though that will happen even if the pilot sits on their hands during the entire ride, as I’ve seen happen before. The right pilot is in charge of moving the ship up and down. If you don’t think that you’ll remember that up is down and down is up, then you can instead sit in the left pilot chair, where you’ll move your joystick left for left and right for right. That may be easier to remember.
With the pilot position, all of your focus will also be on what’s happening in front of you, which makes the ride “feel” more immersive. The gunners and engineers will find themselves looking at the buttons on the control panel off to the side, trying to press the keys and flip the knobs as they illuminate. Since there is no penalty for pressing buttons that aren’t lit up, I usually find myself banging my hand up against the side of the ship, pressing the majority of the buttons in the general vicinity of whichever lights up. That way, I can spend more time laughing about how terribly the mission is inevitably going as people have no idea what they’re doing. This isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault, as there’s a good chance that whoever is piloting your craft won’t speak a word of English, and even if they do, there isn’t enough time to adequately explain what’s supposed to be going on. You might try downloading a free trial of Microsoft Flight Simulator to get a little bit better of an idea about how these sorts of aircraft are typically piloted. Something tells me that your Bombardier CRJ700 will run into into fewer enemy Tie-Fighters, but you might still be able to reduce the jeers that you’ll hear from those behind you as you spend more time skidding the Falcon along the ground than flying her effortlessly through the air.
At 7:01pm, Smugglers Run was posting a 70-minute standby wait. There is no posted wait for single rider, which makes it difficult to gauge the length of the line, or how long you’ll actually wait before committing.
An amusing number of people either think, or more likely purport to think, that “single rider” is designed for those who are visiting the theme parks by themselves. The line is designed for people who are willing to split up and fill whatever seat is available, regardless if you entered the Park by yourself or with a group of 30 others. Being Disney World, the vast majority of guests waiting in single rider will be part of a larger group.
In the single rider line, the hallway is potentially as barren as you would expect, given the fact that it’s inside of a building whose primary focus is repairing ships after the tourists spend the majority of their time crashing them into things.
That also makes the wait pretty depressing, as you basically stand there in a boring hallway before waiting on the boring stairs up to one of the loading areas. I don’t quite wish I was waiting in that hallway leading down to the pre-show at Soarin’, but I almost do, and that’s not something I can usually say.
In the single rider line, there are actually two separate stairways. Once you get to the obvious set of stairs in front of you, look in opposite direction, and you should see another set of stairs heading up into the other load area. Which side of stairs that will see a shorter wait depends entirely on the decisions made by those in front of you, but I think waits are typically shorter up the stairwell on the left, as some number of people won’t even realize that it’s there. During this particular visit, the lines on both sides looked to be about the same, so I got in line on the stairway on the right.
I spent about 12 minutes waiting before I was assigned the engineer position.
one thought on the single rider line that maybe a lot of people do already pic.twitter.com/r9roWkhvOK
— josh (@easywdw) March 10, 2020
I managed to switch engineer cards with the mom/daughter behind me, so they were able to ride together.
Being a “true” single rider…
It didn’t matter to me where I spent the majority of my ride crashing into the ground. We’re nowhere close to being in the air in this picture. We might as well be parked outside of a closed Walt Disney World resort.
As always, I killed it from the back row.
The rest of my crew didn’t fare quite so well.
In order to enjoy a “short” wait at Smugglers Run, and still see the pre-show and the majority of the queue, you’ve got a couple of options. The least attractive is arriving 100 to 120 minutes before Park opening and then hurrying over to the holding area in front of Galaxy’s Edge for the walk over to the space simulator to begin.
You can read about what that unfortunate process looks like here, in case you missed it, or are just in the mood to relive my own pain. Once the theme parks reopen, it’s likely that crowds will be considerably lower for a time, but the Studios should remain the busiest Park in the morning if the boarding group system for Rise of the Resistance remains the same. Of course, fewer people visiting overall means that the backup boarding groups will fill more slowly, which will theoretically allow those arriving later to join a boarding group that has a higher chance of being called. Those who have scanned into the Park before it officially opens will continue to have the best shot of joining the virtual queue and receiving a low-number, guaranteed boarding group.
Of course, the easiest way to experience the ride is with FastPass+. Since it’s a tier one selection, that means initially choosing it over Slinky Dog Dog or Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Smugglers Run is the most likely of the tier one selections to be available in advance, so you’ve got that going for you, but they’re still in incredibly-limited supply. Scoring Smugglers Run as a 4th or subsequent FastPass+ will take a ton of luck or an incredible amount of refreshing, and your likelihood of seeing availability goes down as your party size goes up. But it does happen.
Your third option is to get in the standby line at the very end of the night, when the actual wait should be under 30 minutes. You can obviously only get in one such ride to close out your day, and doing so likely means missing both Fantasmic! and the Star Wars Fireworks on that evening, but it remains an option.
I got in the single rider line at 7:01pm, and was back out front at 7:22pm, for a total experience time of just 21 minutes. That’s actually a couple minutes less than the ride typically takes with FastPass+, since that experience includes the pre-show and then a wait in a long hallway to be placed into a crew, followed by the same wait in the chess room as I experienced in single rider.
Theoretically, you could pull up a YouTube video of the queue and Hondo pre-show if you’re planning on making single rider your one ride, but both are worth seeing if you can swing it. Using FastPass+ here goes back to our advice that using two days’ worth of FastPass+ at the Studios is the easiest way to experience all of the attractions, since it will make it easier to book Smugglers Run as one of your tier one FP+ selections. Spending a second night at Hollywood Studios would also give you an opportunity to either get in line for the Millennium Falcon ride to close out the night, or enjoy one of the nighttime spectaculars.
In the next Part, we’ll head into Toy Story Land to see if we can make it through Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania, and Alien Swirling Saucers before trying to sneak into Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at the very end of the night. Since it’s almost 7:30pm, and the Park officially closes at 8:30pm, things might be a little tight.