We’ll take a look at visiting Epcot for rope drop from the International Gateway (IG) entrance that’s located in between the UK and France Pavilions in World Showcase. This is on the morning of Saturday March 25, 2017.
If you’re staying in the Crescent Lake area, which includes the Yacht Club, Beach Club, BoardWalk Inn, Swan, and Dolphin resorts, or eating breakfast at one of the restaurants and then visiting Epcot, you’ll likely use the International Gateway entrance.
The area is particularly scenic in the morning as the sun rises over the water – while the online menu doesn’t currently advertise hot breakfast at the Bakery, they do offer breakfast sandwiches and the usual Bounty Platter with scrambled eggs and bacon, among other pastries, bagels, and such. It’s an incredibly pleasant first stop on cool sunny mornings like this one with seating on the Lake. A really beautiful stop.
It’s about a ten minute walk from these resorts to Epcot- perhaps a bit longer if you are arriving from the far reaches of the Dolphin or find yourself at the end of a hallway at the Yacht Club. With the character breakfast launching at Trattoria al Forno next week, I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing considerably more people entering through International Gateway over the course of the morning. With the Ariel/Rapunzel/Flynn/Eric hosted meal starting at 7:30am, you could conceivably be out of there by 8:20am to walk to Epcot, but it would probably be a bit of a rush.
The boat, with docks at the Swan/Dolphin, BoardWalk Inn, and closer to the Yacht Club, is also available for transportation to/from Epcot, but walking is going to be considerably faster in almost all situations.
Usually, you can see a couple of bloggers bathing in the sprinklers first thing. We might be a little late to catch that show as they typically disperse before the first guests arrive. Or they may just be missing this week’s bath.
The sweet spot for arriving at the IG should be right before 8:25am.
I arrived at 7:50am to see how the morning would progress. This is the scene.
Here at 8:15am, there are about ten people waiting.
At 8:23am, the first Friendship Boat with passengers from the various resorts arrived with maybe 15 people on board.
If you don’t want to walk, being on the first boat of the day would put you right around here, about ten people back in either line. That’s when I got in line.
By 8:45am, a sizable crowd had developed and with only two bag checkers and two metal detectors, it’s going to take a while for those in the back to make it through security.
For the last few weeks, Disney had been permitting guests to head into Epcot as early as 8am and was holding them here at the top of the hill heading into World Showcase, but they either abandoned that operation or it wasn’t being offered on this particularly busy spring break Saturday. Instead, we were let in beginning at 8:50am and were allowed to head to the attraction of our choice. Those heading to breakfast in France are able to head to the right at 9am towards the bakery, but everyone else heads left through the United Kingdom and Canada Pavilions towards Future World. There are ropes blocking all guests from proceeding further than the end of the France Pavilion until 11am when the rest of World Showcase opens. So you can’t walk through Morocco, Japan, etc. on the way to Norway before the rest of World Showcase opens.
Walking through the UK at 8:53am.
There are often questions regarding what benefit, if any, entering through International Gateway provides.
And like most things, the answer is, “it depends.”
On this particular morning, it looked to be a wash to Frozen Ever After. Those running from the main entrance and those running from International Gateway looked to arrive at about the same time.
And those walking at a moderate pace, as I was, seemed to arrive here at the merge point around the same time. On this particular morning, those entering from the Gateway were probably at a disadvantage to both Test Track and Soarin’ as main entrance visitors are closer to those attractions.
On the other hand, the IG is more forgiving in terms of arrival time with far fewer guests. If you were to arrive at the main entrance at 8:30am, you’d probably be behind 50 people at one of the tapstiles. At the Gateway, it’s closer to 20 though security does bog things down. It would be nice if Disney went back to the procedure where they would screen guests and allow them to enter the Park and hang out closer to 8:30am so everyone in attendance would have an opportunity to make it through security prior to the Park opening. There is perhaps no area less safe at the airport than the long line for the metal detector/pat down.
Here I am walking through the Mexico Pavilion at 8:59am.
I was a bit disheartened to find this scene already at Frozen at 9am.
But with FastPass+ experiences for Frozen not being distributed between 9am and 11am, virtually all of the ride’s capacity is given to standby.
By noon, only about 200 standby riders will ride per hour with 80% of the capacity given to FastPass+.
And going through standby affords an opportunity to enter Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post, which is ordinarily skipped in FP+.
The actual wait with my 9am arrival ended up being just 25 minutes, which means about 400 people, most from the main entrance, arrived before me in line. If I ran, I probably could have cut my actual wait by seven or eight minutes.
If you don’t want to get wet, I suggest requesting one of the back two rows. While I don’t remember Maelstrom being particularly “wet,” it’s possible to disembark the boat soaked if you sit in the front seat. You might also squeeze into the center of the row once you see this smiling guy. The water is coming up over the sides.
I was back out front at 9:31am to this scene with a 60-minute posted wait. That’s probably about accurate though it might be closer to 45 minutes. If the standby line were this long at noon, the actual wait would eclipse three hours with so many FastPass+ returners receiving priority.
The Royal Sommerhus meet and greet with Anna and Elsa was posted at 45 minutes, which seemed long considering the line wasn’t even backed up outside the door. It should have been a lot closer to 20 minutes though it depends on how many sisters are meeting.
I had in mind to head to Test Track single rider next. The path past the Odyssey Building should be a little faster than going around.
There’s also an expansive set of bathrooms over here just in case you started your day at the character buffet. Bottomless beverages and all that.
By 9:40am, the standby line for Test Track is already out the door with a 60-minute posted standby wait that changed to 40 minutes as I was taking a picture of the sign. By the time I was back out front just after 10:20am, it would be posted at 100 minutes.
Single Rider was up to 25 minutes already.
And with the line also backed up outside, that should prove to be accurate.
I was on-board at 10:14am, which means my actual wait was around 30 minutes, which is on the very long side.
But like most things, the wait only gets worse with time.
100 minutes in standby and 50 minutes for single rider at 10:22am.
Looking over wait times over the course of the day:
As it turns out, I got kind of lucky as Test Track would be down from around 10:45am through 12:30pm with a brief stint of uptime in the middle. Frozen was also down for about five hours over the course of the day. Also note Mission: SPACE’s trajectory as that’s where we’re headed next.
I arrived over at Mission: SPACE at 10:23am.
And while the Orange side is still posted at 15 minutes, it would get all the way up to two hours by 11:45am, even if that’s about twice as long as the actual wait would have ended up being.
The website maintains that this is the most underappreciated queue on property.
It’s expected that the ride will close for refurbishment from June 5th through July 31st of this year, perhaps to update the video. But more likely to do nothing.
I was back out front at 10:58am for a total experience time of 35 minutes.
According to the attraction page for the ride, the total experience time with FastPass+ should average about 25 minutes. So it took me ten minutes longer without, which is about right for this time of day.
Granted, it was a Saturday during the busy spring break season, but it “felt” awfully crowded.
A lot of people headed to the Land Pavilion.
Knowing the wait was going to be pretty rough, I made the unusual decision to get a 10:15am-11:15am FP+.
This is why.
This is what a 50-minute standby wait for Living with the Land looks like.
Looking over wait times here in March:
Afternoon wait times may surprise, often peaking at 30 or more minutes with 40+ minutes not all that uncommon. It’s also obvious why the advice to revisit Future World after 5pm is sound. By 5:30pm, actual waits should be around five minutes most days, even if the posted wait is 20.
I arrived at 11:11am, which is just about the worst time to enter standby, though noon is slightly worse:
With FastPass+, my total experience time was just 20 minutes, with the wait to board only about four minutes. Hence, why everyone in standby will wait so much longer, despite me arriving long after them.
With plans to eat lunch at Sunshine Seasons, I booked FastPass+ at Soarin’ Around the World for 11:25am-12:25pm and arrived at 11:34am to a standby line that had stretched out past the entrance.
80 minutes posted.
Standby is thick.
Thanks Tom Staggs.
Soarin’ is still going to take a considerable amount of time even with an initial wait of about three minutes before heading into the next holding area. According to the attraction page, the total experience time with FP+ averages 30 minutes.
And it ended up taking 28 minutes, which is right around what we were expecting.
While I didn’t actually have lunch at Sunshine Seasons on this particular day, we’ll pretend like I did, with a review of a couple of items that I haven’t previously covered.
This is the $13.49 Pressed Cuban Sandwich with Plantain Chips, pictured immediately above outside of the wrapper.
While it doesn’t photograph particularly well, it makes up for it in sheer size and weight – it’s a porky sandwich. And while it’s unlikely to impress any Cuban purists, the roasted pork was nicely marinated with some garlic and cumin notes – a flavor that was enhanced by the generous amount of spicy mustard. The pickles were numerous and added a nice crunch against the airy bread that was crispy on the outside. The cheese offered a distinct sharpness to the flavor profile while the ham added another layer of meaty saltiness. Overall, it was a ton of food though the flavor profile was kind of “one note.” It’s a worthwhile addition to the sandwiches section and a nice change of pace from the usual turkey, but I’m not sure it’s worth seeking out specifically. The plantain chips didn’t have a lot of flavor, but they offered a nice crunch and a bit of sweetness against the overwhelmingly salty sandwich.
The $10.49 Turkey and Monterey Jack on Ciabatta with Chipotle Mayonnaise and Potato Salad is a Sunshine Seasons mainstay. Bricker swears by this sandwich and would recommend that you order it without the accompanying potato salad and instead head over to the grill station to ask for a “side of mashed potatoes.” The sandwich is bigger than it probably looks in this picture with the mildly spicy chipotle mayonnaise, which you should ask for an extra side of, carrying the dish. I’ve never been crazy about the bread-to-fillings ratio, but the bread is appropriately fluffy. I’ve been known to remove the top and go to town on it as though it’s “open-faced.” It’s certainly one of the “safest” options though each sandwich is pre-made.
The $9.99 Caesar Salad with Oak-fired Chicken is a little better here than at most other locations thanks to the quality of the ingredients – the chicken is juicier and more flavorful, but I think the shaved parmesan is also of higher quality. There are certainly more interesting options, but this is also about as “safe” as it gets.
The cold case is probably overlooked by 97% of the people that eat at Sunshine Seasons, but you’ll find a variety of salads, wraps, sandwiches, and other items, including this vegetarian sampler with tabouleh, hummus, couscous, and a lot of very dry pita.
The quality at Tangierine Cafe is going to be a lot higher for around the same money though.
Overall, Sunshine Seasons offers a nice variety of largely very good dishes, though quality has probably come down over the years to be more in line with other quick service options. You might remember that I recently reviewed Electric Umbrella positively. And in my opinion, the outdoor seating that overlooks the fountain and Future World is far more pleasant than the cavern that is the Land Pavilion.
Of course, there’s this.
The standby line backed up outside the Imagination Pavilion for Figment is making an afternoon stop back at the room for some arts and crafts look pretty good. I’m probably an origami swan away from this vacation being saved.
It’s arguably prettier here than All-Star Sports, though.
Walking back to Spaceship Earth to use my third FastPass+.
Considering the waits elsewhere, I was surprised that Spaceship Earth was “only” backed up this far with the 30-minute posted wait.
Looking over wait times this month:
Like Living with the Land, wait times might be surprisingly high with an average wait as high as 54 minutes at 12:30pm. But wait times again fall to an average of 20 minutes by 6:30pm and actual waits should be under five minutes most days by 7pm. With some downtime on the 25th, the day that I visited, we actually see a peak wait of 70 minutes, which would have been virtually unheard of prior to FastPass+. So much capacity is given to those boarding with priority.
I arrived at 12:46pm and was on board fewer than five minutes later:
I was back out front at 1:05pm for a total experience time of 19 minutes. The attraction page estimates an average of 20 minutes, so we’re right around what is expected.
Over the course of about four hours, I was able to accomplish:
- Frozen Ever After: 9am-9:31am
- Test Track single rider: 9:40am – 10:22am
- Mission: SPACE Orange: 10:25am – 10:57am
- Living with the Land with FastPass+: 11:11am – 11:30am
- Soarin’ with FastPass+: 11:34am – 12:02pm
- “Lunch” at Sunshine Seasons: 12:03pm – 12:40pm
- Spaceship Earth with FastPass+: 12:46pm – 1:05pm
Not a bad morning all things considered as I was able to ride each of the priority Future World attractions and could now book a 4th selection based on availability.
As always, the website’s cheat sheets offer a variety of tried and true touring plans:
You can pull up the newest spring versions in the forum at this link: https://www.easywdw.com/forums/showthread.php?36037-Cheat-Sheet-Touring-Plans-Spring-2017.
But if you’re entering from International Gateway, you may not want to do World Showcase -> Future World -> World Showcase -> Future World -> World Showcase and a modified version of the plan I went through here may work better.
On the other hand, if you can secure FastPass+ for Frozen, you may instead opt to head straight for Test Track and then do Soarin’ in standby immediately after. I follow a version of that plan here: https://www.easywdw.com/easy/blog/epcot-rope-drop-touring-plan-test-track-to-soarin-102816/.
We’ll go through a Hollywood Studios touring plan later this week.