We pick things up on the morning of Thursday, October 3rd, 2019, at 8:17am, after taking a rare ride on the Disney Skyliner over here from Hollywood Studios. The previous post did not age well, of course, after some sort of an accident at the Riviera Resort station caused major delays, stranding some number of people up in the air for 3+ hours on Saturday night. The Skyliner has not reopened since then, as Disney looks into what caused the problem. My estimation is that it was due to some amount of user error. Reportedly, cast members are responsible for pulling and sending the cabins that are kept stationary for those who need more time to board or disembark. It would be easy to screw up this timing, where there’s a window of just a few seconds for the button to be pressed. Hundreds of other things could have also gone wrong.
Disney has not been particularly forthcoming about the incident, going so far as to demand media remove any mention of the word “accident” from articles about the…accident. They originally blamed the issue on a power outage. My guess is that the Skyliner will resume service on Wednesday or Thursday, but we’ll see what happens. A major incident, where some number of people had to be evacuated on the equivalent of a cherry picker, surrounded by fire trucks and police cars, is just about the worst case scenario. The Skyliner didn’t even make it a week.
It remains to be seen how much of an effect the accident has on your average guest. About 38,000 people die every year in car accidents here in the United States, but that doesn’t keep most of us off the road. While the 3-hour delay was certainly a terrible situation for those involved, virtually none of us experienced it ourselves. But the theoretical idea that you could be stranded up in the air for hours on end will certainly cause some number of people to avoid the new transportation system. For those intending to ride the buses from the Skyliner-connected resorts, it likely means more buses will be sent to serve even more people relying on ground-based travel.
Entering World Showcase first thing in the morning is always a picturesque experience, with the sun illuminating the bright blue sky and the breeze coming off the water.
In something like eight months, there will be a lot more people headed to France first thing for the Ratatouille ride, which is slated for a Summer 2020 opening. Until then, just a handful of guests will do what we all probably wish we could, and head to Les Halles Boulangerie first thing for a croissant and a mimosa. The French bakery opens at 9am and is the only operating institution in World Showcase outside of Norway. Note that you can’t go any further than France in this direction. A lot of people assume you can pass through the other Pavilions on your way to Norway, but unfortunately, you can’t.
We’re heading through the United Kingdom Pavilion. Just ahead, we’ll scan our MagicBands to confirm our eligibility for Extra Magic Hours. Recently, we did Extra Extra Magic Hours at Animal Kingdom, from 7am to 8am, Hollywood Studios, from 6am to 9am (both with Slinky Dog Dash first thing and Smugglers Run), and at Magic Kingdom, from 7am to 8am.
There was a time when it made sense for everyone to avoid the Extra Magic Hours Parks because they were typically busier than other days during the week. It’s been years since that has been true, as the Extra Magic Hours schedule is not a substantial driver of crowds in the FastPass+ era. If anything, days with Extra Magic Hours not only see lower overall wait times, but you can also get a tremendous amount done with the extra hour in the morning. Specifically here at Epcot, wait times on the Thursday with the morning Extra Magic Hour were 11% lower than Wednesday and 8% lower than Friday. Neither of those busier days featured Extra Magic Hours. Logically, it would make sense that Wednesday would be a better day to visit Epcot, with Magic Kingdom offering a later close, evening Extra Magic Hours, and the Happily Ever After Fireworks. Friday would also logically be busier with more people arriving for a weekend visit for the Food and Wine Festival.
Even a 10% or 15% swing in average wait times doesn’t “feel” particularly significant. We’re not getting in Test Track’s standby line in the afternoon whether the posted wait is 85 minutes or 90 minutes. Likewise, a 10-minute wait for Living with the Land isn’t going to put us off riding versus a 5-minute posted wait. But the fact remains that the “avoid Extra Magic Hours because those days are always busier” advice hasn’t been true in years. And if you are eligible for Extra Magic Hours and able to arrive in time to take advantage of it, then you probably ought to. You’ll see how much I’m able to accomplish as we head towards Frozen Ever After.
Of course, if you’re ineligible for Extra Magic Hours, then it doesn’t make a lot of sense to visit that Park.
We’re continuing through Canada on what is the most pleasant of any of the Park opening walks.
It doesn’t look like too many people are coming into World Showcase from Future World, and those that are have stopped at the map.
Two-thirds of these people are headed to breakfast at Akershus, which opens at 8am every day. Eating there during the morning Extra Magic Hour does not make a whole lot of sense, considering you could walk on virtually any operating attraction at this point in the morning.
We’re passing by the Odyssey building, which is now home to an Epcot preview experience that we’ll check out later.
It’s 8:27am, which means we’re a little less than half way through the morning Extra Magic Hour. Crowds remain so low that we’re not going to be able to show off very many of our touring strategies. Ideally, we’d plan things so we’re able to walk right on Soarin’, and then after we ride and get back out to the wait time sign, it would read ten thousand minutes. I purposefully tried to throw in a few snags, like arriving for the Extra Magic Hour late and then crawling to Soarin’ after, but it’s not going to do much good (or bad, as I was hoping).
All of Norway Proper is open during the morning Extra Magic Hour, including Kringla Bakeri and the store. As we’ll see upon our departure, the Royal Sommerhus is not open during Extra Magic Hours.
Imagine the person telling you to avoid Extra Magic Hours as you look up at a zero-minute wait for Frozen Ever After.
But in their defense, zero minutes is not accurate.
I had to wait about 15 seconds before boarding a boat with exactly one other person:
The wait did not skyrocket in the seven minutes that it took to ride the first time.
There were a few more people in line this time, to the point where it took four minutes from the time I walked underneath the wait time sign to when I was on-board the boat. Maybe avoiding Extra Magic Hours would have been smart:
My second ride took 12 minutes. Zero minutes is still posted.
There were fewer people waiting in front of my third ride:
The third ride took a total of ten minutes and now we have a 5-minute wait at 9am. While the Extra Magic Hour is now officially over, it will be about ten minutes before guests from the main entrance begin to file in back here.
I got back in line.
Now running out of things to take pictures of.
The carrot sled is now in play.
My four rides on Frozen Ever After took 40 minutes, from 8:30am to 9:10am. I could get in line for a fifth time now and probably wait about ten minutes, if that.
My long-running advice on the Royal Sommerhus Anna and Elsa Meet and Greet has been to visit after 11am, when the capacity increases. Right at 12pm is the sweet spot. The characters may become a bit more popular this winter with Frozen 2 slated for a November 22nd release.
There’s at least 20 groups waiting outside at this point, making this the second longest wait in the Park, just behind Test Track. You do not want to be in this line at 9:15am. But bless them for doing so anyway.
There’s a steady stream of people heading our way at 9:12am.
These days, Frozen Ever After doesn’t typically post a wait above 20 minutes until about 10:30am, giving you plenty of time to get back here.
If Frozen is your top priority, then you should be able to ride a couple of times first thing in the morning with waits of less than ten minutes. If you’re heading in from the main entrance, then it makes sense to start the day with Test Track in most situations. You could head to Frozen after and then return to Future World if that’s what you wanted to do. I’d be more likely to rely on FastPass+ at Frozen and instead stay in Future World until the rest of World Showcase opens at 11am when coming in from the front entrance. Frozen is a hike and nothing else on this side of World Showcase opens until 11am.
There’s a few people coming in from the International Gateway
But it’s far from a wave, even with the Skyliner operating at full capacity.
We’ll take a look at construction separately, but you’ll notice an awful lot of walls as we progress through Future World.
This one wraps all the way around the old Fountain of Nations.
Test Track remains Epcot’s most unforgiving attraction from a touring perspective. If you’d like to ride in standby, it has to be your first stop, or you’re looking at an actual wait that exceeds an hour by 9:15am most days. Single rider is an option all day with actual waits that are typically shorter than what you’d experience in FastPass+, thanks to the fact that you won’t go through the lengthy design process and the seating configuration benefits single riders. Parties of two are seated with a single rider and parties of four are seated with two single riders. We’re planning on using FastPass+ there later in the day.
Most of us were expecting Character Spot to close last month, but it only sort of has.
You’ll still find Joy and Sadness meeting together with a separate queue for Baymax inside the same area.
Just as they’ve appeared for years, now.
Crowds are largely nonexistent in the Park, so we’ve only got about nine groups waiting for the “Inside Out” characters, which should mean an actual wait of 15 to 20 minutes. On an average day, about twice as many people would be waiting.
It looks like a similar number of people are waiting for Baymax, though the wait is probably about half of Joy/Sadness considering the marshmallow-esque character largely stands there and looks precious, just like me. Ideally, Joy and Sadness would be your first stop if you’re interested, but that may not be doable in most situations. “Go there first” is the easiest advice to disseminate, but you obviously can’t be everywhere first thing. After 9:15am, you’re looking at a 20- to 30-minute wait for Joy/Sadness and a 10-minute wait for Baymax most days. By 10am, you can double that wait. Visiting after 8pm, when possible, is your second best bet. The fact that both areas are air-conditioned is nice.
You’ll find New Character Spot just around the corner. This isn’t the first time that the collection of meet and greets has moved. A few years ago, Character Spot moved to a temporary location within the same building.
Inside, you’ll meet Mickey, Goofy, and Minnie in succession with some colorful backdrops.
There is no FastPass+ offered, and at 9:27am, it looks like the actual wait would be about fifteen minutes to meet them. Like the other Character Spot, waits drop significantly in the evening, with the shortest waits after 8:30pm. You’d likely have the characters just about to yourself at that time.
Old Character Spot is about to be demolished. Hopefully, New Character Spot will continue to operate as it does for the foreseeable future. We were expecting the trio of characters to be broken up and for each character to appear separately outside somewhere. What we got is much better.
We’re heading up to Soarin’ Around the World in the Land Pavilion at 9:28am. This is around the time that you’d be here if you were to start the day with Test Track. See this post to see exactly how that looks, along with a rundown of what to expect from the main entrance rope drop experience. The only difference is that you’ll be held a little farther inside the Park now due to all of the construction walls.
It looks like there’s about ten times more people having breakfast at Sunshine Seasons than are currently waiting for Living with the Land.
Or waiting for Soarin’, as the case may be.
Soarin’ is posting a 15-minute wait at 9:30am.
But there’s nobody waiting in front of what will become the merge with FastPass+ later in the day.
You’ll still wait a while to be assigned a row, and then there’s the pre-show, and the whole Eiffel Tower identification part of the experience, but I was back out front just 19 minutes later. That’s about five fewer minutes than the ride typically takes with FastPass+. Given above average crowds, you could tack on 15ish minutes of waiting to my experience. With all three theaters operating, Soarin’ enjoys a healthy capacity. By 10am, your actual wait averages about 30 minutes, so it’s ideal to arrive before 9:45am when possible. FastPass+ are also relatively plentiful, making it easy to get as a 4th or subsequent FastPass+ opportunity with a minimal amount of refreshing later in the day.
Speaking of breakfast at Sunshine Seasons, here are your options these days.
We’ll be seeing a lot of these leaf logos popping up just about everywhere. That’s it at the end of the description for the Breakfast Power Wrap. It indicates that the item “Does not contain Animal Meat, Dairy, Eggs, or Honey.”
Sitting down to a $12 hot breakfast during the best hour of touring the Parks doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but you may find a need to stop. They’ve got grab-and-go pastries and other items available as well.
Living with the Land is our next stop, with the line spilling outside the entrance, thanks to few switchbacks being in use. The posted wait is five minutes and that should prove to be accurate.
As I was standing there, the posted wait jumped to 20 minutes. RUDE.
Eyeballing things here, we should be okay. It could certainly be a lot worse.
I got in line at 9:54am and was on-board at 10:01am:
I was back out front at 10:19am, for a total experience time of 25 minutes. That’s about eight minutes longer than the ride typically takes with FastPass+.
The posted wait at Soarin’ has only risen five minutes since we were here last. The actual wait is probably about 15 minutes, if that.
So far, I’ve had quite a bit of success, accomplishing:
- Frozen Ever After: 8:30am – 8:37am
- Frozen Ever After: 8:38am – 8:50am
- Frozen Ever After: 8:50am – 9am
- Frozen Ever After: 9am – 9:09am
- Soarin’: 9:30am – 9:49am
- Living with the Land: 9:54am – 10:19am
That’s with not a whole lot of effort, as more than 20 minutes went by between the time I left Frozen and arrived at Soarin’. We’ve also taken five minutes to walk the one minute between Soarin’ and Living with the Land. We’ll continue our morning with The Seas with Nemo and Turtle Talk with Crush, followed by Journey into Imagination and then Spaceship Earth, among other things.