I need to apologize. I know you haven’t been sleeping well since I posted those pictures of Magic Kingdom’s bananas-level crowds this past Monday. I should have reassured you at the time that “everything is going to be all right.” Of course it’s not. But it feels good to hear, right? So I’ll tell you now, “Everything is going to be all right.” But really, it’s not.
It’s been a while since we’ve formally covered an International Gateway rope drop. The last time was back on September 22, 2011 when overall crowds were significantly lower and the “new rope drop procedure” at Epcot was brand new. It is just a huge hassle for me to get over there by 8:30am. Have to get up at 6:20am, be out the door at 6:45am, hop the bus at 7:04am, arrive at the Transportation and Ticket Center around 7:40am, get on the Hollywood Studios bus to arrive there around 8am, and then walk to the International Gateway, which takes about 25 minutes. So it’s not really something I personally make a habit of doing. But for you, I will do anything. And then send you a bill for it.
In a couple of sentences, the International Gateway is the “alternate entrance” to Epcot. It is the entrance/exit that guests staying at/coming from the BoardWalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan, and Dolphin Resorts will use if they are walking or taking the boat to Epcot. There is no Disney transportation to Epcot’s main entrance from these resorts. The International Gateway is located in between the United Kingdom and France Pavilions in the World Showcase. If you’re parking in the main lot or arriving by Disney Monorail or bus then you’ll enter/exit through the main entrance. My last rope drop post from the main entrance (February 25th) is located here and Part 2 here.
We’ll start with the walk over from Hollywood Studios. This is the scene at 8:02am.
We have a few people that have already arrived. The Studios shoots to open at 8:45am each morning (assuming a 9am opening) these days.
You may remember this picture from last week. This was taken at 8:30am and the lines to the turnstiles are already backed up past the ticket booths, indicating 30+ people in each turnstile line. That’s 15 minutes before the Studios “unofficially opens” and 30 minutes until the Studios “officially” opens at 9am. Granted this is a very busy week, but you really need to be prepared to arrive a full hour before official opening if you want to be among the first people through the turnstiles and into the Studios. You should be just fine if you arrive about 40 minutes early, but any later and you risk running into this swarm.
The Friendship Boats were out transporting guests between the Epcot area resorts. Generally speaking, the boat takes about as long as walking. I prefer to walk for the exercise and the fact that the boats are not well ventilated/air-conditioned. You would think that the boats would be nice and cool, but I’ve always experienced a boat that “feels” hotter than it is outside, even in June, July, August, etc. The boats are also painfully slow, may make several stops, and are loud. And honestly those are their good points.
I thought this scene out at the BoardWalk Resort was pretty. You’ll have to take my word for it.
I finally caught the Flower Fairy, also known as Home Depot, delivering flower pots to the BoardWalk Resort.
It’s very peaceful out here on the BoardWalk in the morning.
Along with Kouzzina and the BoardWalk Bakery, BoardWalk Joe’s is another option. I ran the previous two pictures through Adobe Lightroom 4 (image editing program). Might do more of that in the future. Here are the originals:
It’s neat what two clicks can do these days.
I’ve never had breakfast here. Please chime in if you have!
Plenty of time in the morning to grab something before heading over to International Gateway at Epcot or Hollywood Studios. There isn’t a coffee stand outside the Studios or International Gateway, so this is one of your best shots if you’re staying at the BoardWalk.
ESPN Club Beer:
ESPN Club is one of your best choices for craft beer on Disney property. I particularly like the Terrapin Rye Pale Ale, Terrapin Hopsecutioner, and Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA, but I haven’t had a few of those (expense report).
Over to the International Gateway at exactly 8:30am. There are less than 20 people here.
One Guest Relations window open in the corner, but no one in line.
These will probably be open a little later in the morning.
Like before, we have two separate lines in front of the bag check tables. We’ll wait to head through and then have our choice of four turnstiles.
What’s nice about it is that you don’t have to put all your eggs in one basket so to speak. At the main entrance, you’ll be lined up at a single turnstile. Should that turnstile not operate properly or someone in front of you have trouble with their ticket, you can be significantly delayed getting into Epcot. I’ve been at the front of Epcot when the turnstile I was standing in front of wasn’t working properly. My line and the one next to it merged into one at the turnstile next door, basically resulting in me having to wait twice as long to get into Epcot. If someone has a problem with their ticket at the International Gateway, you can simply move to another turnstile that will only have one or two people waiting.
This phone rings when it’s time for the International Gateway turnstiles to begin operating. At the main entrance, a brief spiel usually comes on the intercom at 8:45am and then the turnstiles begin operating when it’s over at 8:47am.
This morning, the call came at 8:46am and the turnstiles began operating at 8:47am. I was through security and the turnstiles one minute later at 8:48am.
The line is quite a bit longer now than when we arrived, but it really isn’t too bad. The bag checkers are aware of the length of the line and move through people quickly. I’ve probably been through 1,000 Disney bag checks in the last year and you really notice the difference in the “quality” of the check depending on how busy it is. If there are crowds, the check is significantly less thorough in almost all instances.
Beer’s here. That concludes our rope drop at the International Gateway. Hope you enjoyed it and have a magical day!
Okay, okay. Just one glass and we’re on our way. Need a drink to deal with these crowds streaming in from the International Gateway.
The Chimpanzee sand sculpture for the Flower and Garden Festival is finished.
Amazing as always.
Whatchu buildin’ building bros? A glass house to display my body?
Here we are meeting the crowds arriving from the main entrance at the bottom of the walkway up to the Land Pavilion.
And more coming.
I arrived downstairs at Soarin’ at 8:58am. I would have been about two minutes faster had I not stopped to tweet and take pictures. And the beer. The posted wait time for Soarin’ was 15 minutes and the FASTPASS I collected at 8:58am had a return time of 9:50am – 10:50am.
I walked right through the queue and ended up all the way down here right before the pre-boarding pre-show before encountering an actual line.
I asked the people in front of and behind me when they arrived at the main entrance. One group said about 8:25am and the other 8:20am, so we’re right in the thick of things compared to where we would be had we entered at the main entrance.
I really don’t see a downside to entering through the International Gateway so long as you arrive by about 8:30am. Is it possible that you could be let in after those waiting at the main entrance? Anything is possible. But it’s just as likely that something could delay you at the main entrance. Or most likely, everything will go according to plan, like it did today.
I was back out in front of Soarin’ at 9:23am, for a total wait/ride time of 25 minutes. That’s really as good as you can hope for. Even if you’re absolutely the first person to arrive, you’re still looking at a wait/ride time of at least 15 minutes because of the amount of time it takes for enough people to arrive to load the ride, the length of the preshow video, the ride duration itself, and the walk back out to the front. 15 to 20 minutes is really the absolute minimum and 25 minutes is about what you can expect if you’re not sprinting to Soarin’ and the first person in line at a working turnstile.
At 9:23am, the posted wait time was 40 minutes and the FASTPASS return time had jumped to 11am – 12pm. So FASTPASS return times jumped 70 minutes in just the 25 minutes since we last checked.
The Land Pavilion at 9:25am:
Not crazy….yet. Living with the Land is offering FASTPASS down there, which isn’t a good sign in terms of forthcoming crowds.
More coming our way toward Soarin’ at 9:30am.
Right at 9:30am, the posted wait time at the Character Spot was 15 minutes. This looks closer to a 25 minute wait. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, this is one attraction that you’ll either want to visit first thing in the morning or after 8pm. At least with Soarin’ you have the ability to FASTPASS it should wait times become intolerable sooner than you were expecting. FASTPASS isn’t available at the Character Spot and wait times from 9:30am to at least 7pm are consistently longer than either of us would like to wait.
Oh my science! A new innovation in Future World! Can it be! The wait times boards now TELL US THE CURRENT TIME? Uhhhhmaaaaaaazzzzzzzing. To help people get back to their FASTPASS attraction within the window no doubt.
As of 9:31am:
Anyone else weirded out by that Test Track standby time? There’s no way….
The posted wait time is indeed 5 minutes, but the line is already out the door and into the extended queue. There’s no way you’re getting further than ten feet in five minutes and the actual wait would be closer to 40 or 50 minutes.
Over to Sum of All Thrills, which we have prioritized over Mission: Space because it has a significantly lower capacity. I arrived at 9:34am and was off the ride at 9:50am. Since I basically walked into the pre-show area, that’s just about the minimum amount of time you can expect the attraction to take. I’d budget 20 to 25 minutes this early in the morning and 30 to 35 later in the morning or afternoon. You’ve got the initial wait, pre-show video, the design stage, and then the ride itself.
Habit Heroes remains closed. There had been some “reports” via Twitter that it had “soft opened” a couple of days ago, but I think those rumors would be false as no one actually entered the attraction as far as I know. The signs indicating that the attraction will be “open soon” are still up, which is probably why people thought that it had opened or would in the future. As you can see, the queue isn’t even set up along the side here. We just have people sitting and parking strollers. I think it’s going to be a while before we see Habit Heroes again, but who knows, it might open tomorrow.
Since I could collect another set of FASTPASSes, I opted for the #2 FASTPASS priority at Epcot – Test Track. The FASTPASS collected at 9:52am has a return time of 11:25am. This should actually work out well because we’ll be able to head back to ride Soarin’ after Mission: Space, grab some lunch at Sunshine Seasons, and head back to Test Track to ride before heading up to World Showcase or the other less popular Future World attractions. Note that we still have the “GP” or “Grace Period” time printed on the bottom right corner. In both instances, it’s 15 minutes after the stated return window. We should be able to return any time between 9:45am and 11:05am for the Soarin’ FASTPASS and 11:20am and 12:40pm on the Test Track FASTPASS.
Wait times at 9:55am:
So we have FASTPASSes 80 minutes out at Test Track, 35 minutes out at Living with the Land and Mission: Space, and 155 minutes out at Soarin’. FASTPASS enforcement or not, your FASTPASS priorities remain:
- Test Track
- Mission: Space
- Living with the Land (if offered)
I arrived at Mission: Space Orange at 9:57am and was back out front at 10:21am for a total wait/ride time of 24 minutes. That’s about as good as it gets too. You’ve got the initial wait, then the lengthy pre-show video, then the second wait outside the simulator, then the ride itself, then the walk back out to the front. Even with FASTPASS, you’re looking at a 20 to 30 minute experience.
Wait times at 10:28am:
So in the 33 minutes since we last checked, FASTPASSes at Soarin’ are an addition hour and 45 minutes out to 2:15pm. Test Track’s return time is an hour and 25 minutes further out to 12:45pm.
Crowds on the Test Track side of Future World around 10:30am:
Doesn’t feel “crazy crowded” around here despite some high wait times at the headliners. But remember, it’s 10:30am and we’ve ridden Soarin’, secured FASTPASSes for a second ride on Soarin’, collected FASTPASSes for Test Track, rode Sum of All Thrills, and rode Mission: Space Orange. So we’re doing just fine.
Because I envy your normal life. This box is sitting on the left side as you walk up to the Land Pavilion. Pavement refurbishment I would guess, but you really never know.
At 10:35am, the Land Pavilion is a little crazier:
Remove Soarin’ and the escalator/stairs setup might work, but it gets pretty hectic with the theme park’s most popular attraction sitting down here. You can see the congestion around Soarin’ in the first picture. In the second picture (on the left), the line for Living with the Land is extending out to the Sunshine Seasons seating area.
Over to Soarin’ at 10:35am to use the FASTPASS. The posted standby wait is 75 minutes and the FASTPASS return time is 2:55pm to 3:55pm, which is over four hours out. I didn’t run into any problems using the FASTPASS. There was no line of people waiting to show their FASTPASSes to the cast members or any uncomfortable confrontations over people arriving late. Though it would technically be impossible for just about anyone to arrive late since it isn’t even 11am.
I was back out front at 10:57am, for a total wait/ride time of 22 minutes, which is actually on the low side. Since I was a party of one, I got to skip ahead one full group because they needed one or two people to fill in extra space. Had that not happened, the total wait/ride time would have been closer to 30 minutes. FASTPASS gets you past the initial people in line, but you’ll still line up in the secondary queue before watching the preshow, then you’ll watch the preshow, then you’ll wait for the vehicle to load, then fly, then return, then disembark. Budget 30 minutes.
The line for Living with the Land extended all the way out here to Sunshine Seasons. With an overall crowd level of five or less, the maximum wait time is ordinarily less than ten minutes and there’s often no wait whatsoever due to its high capacity.
From above at 11am:
Lots of people.
Wait times at 11:03am:
Getting up there already.
Since it’s 11am and we have FASTPASSes for Test Track at 11:25am, it would be ideal to have an early lunch at the excellent Sunshine Seasons on the lower floor of the Land Pavilion to avoid longer quick service lines elsewhere. Then we could head over to Test Track to ride around 11:45am before moving up to the World Showcase around noon. Since I’ve already reviewed most everything at Sunshine Seasons, I’m headed up to La Cantina de San Angel in the Mexico Pavilion. That puts us about five minutes away from Test Track after lunch.
Dining availability on a busy day like today:
“Check at Restaurant” basically means that reservations are full and a “walk up” is your only option (if they don’t tell you to get lost altogether). That’s most common at Le Cellier and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, both of which are usually booked solid months before a specific date. Via Napoli also remains popular, though reservations are usually easier to get, especially for lunch. It’s almost always possible to walk up to Restaurant Marrakesh and Nine Dragons and snag a table with a short wait, if any wait at all.
Just as an aside, Daisy is holding a working watering can for this year’s Flower and Garden Festival.
And signs are posted behind Mickey and Minnie indicating what they’re growing.
Mom, are they ready to pick yet?
Should I issue an APB on this butterfly? Someone return it to Bambi’s Butterfly House STAT.
Lunch today is at La Cantina de San Angel, the quick service arm of the Mexico Pavilion, which houses the La Hacienda de San Angel and San Angel Inn table service restaurants. All three of those and La Cava del Tequila are run by the same parent company. La Cantina is not a favorite due to high pricing and small portions. For the full menu and additional pictures, see this: https://www.easywdw.com/category/menus-and-seating/epcot-menus-and-seating/.
The Empanadas have actually gone up 25 cents since I took this picture to $10.75.
Here they are:
This was a better meal than the Tacos de Carne I had last time as seen below:
The Tacos de Carne are maybe eight total bites of taco with no cheese, sauce, or anything else to accompany the meat. Considering the size of the portion and the cost, the flavor of the beef isn’t enough to carry the dish.
The Empanadas were better with a crispy crust and satisfying, hot melted cheese interior. The green sauce added moisture, but not a lot of flavor. It wasn’t at all spicy. The Empanada portion of the meal is still small. The Empanadas are maybe three or four small bites each and it’s just cheese inside – no meat, sauce, or anything else. A combination of the chihuahua cheese in the Empanadas and the smoked beef brisket in the tacos would be pretty amazing, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
I’m not crazy about the chips here either. They are obviously served as intended because they are always the same, but they seem stale and tasteless to my weak American taste buds. There are plenty of them though and the 500+ calories worth of chips are really where you’re going to fill up at La Cantina. On the plus side, the hot salsa really is good and it’s the same as what’s served inside San Angel Inn or La Cava del Tequila. The green salsa verde is also good for those that prefer something less spicy. Overall, I don’t think La Cantina presents much of a value. 99% of you will have better, cheaper alternatives right down the street at home and there is better food for the money in several other Pavilions including Norway right next door. It does smell very good though and remains extremly popular, especially because Mexico is the first or last Pavilion you’ll most likely visit and it has an obvious location.
“Mariachi” translates loosely to, “Pay us and we’ll leave.”
Since I’m up here, I decided to grab FASTPASSes for Maelstrom since I’m eligible for another set. The FASTPASS return time right now at Soarin’ is 7pm and Test Track is at 5pm. Or 12:20pm at Maelstrom. If I was interested in riding either of the two headliners again, I would want to head over there instead because FASTPASSes are going to be gone soon. Mission: Space, with a return time of 1:05pm, would also be viable. If I wanted to ride Living with the Land, I could also trek all the way over there and collect FASTPASSes, but it’s going to be quite the walk. Maelstrom FASTPASSes almost always have a return time 40 minutes in the future and there is so much to see and do in neighboring Mexico and Norway that the 40 minutes will go by quickly.
The two FASTPASSes we’re currently holding onto.
Last aside for the day. The roof of the Odyssey Building is blue. Does it mean the Adventurers Club is coming back?
Back to use my Test Track FASTPASS at 11:49am, which is right in the middle of my return window. The standby line is well outside of the building in this extended queue. The posted wait time is 70 minutes with single rider at 30 minutes.
FASTPASS at Test Track basically gets you into the next preshow video room. But after that, you still have to wait in this secondary queue 9pictured) with a mixture of standby (riff-raff) and FASTPASS users. We’re winding around and down until we reach the loading bay. I was back out front at 12:12pm, for a total wait/ride time of 23 minutes, which is pretty standard at this time of day. The posted standby wait was 100 minutes with single rider at 30 minutes once I disembarked.
Wait times at:
I was on my way out, but I could have easily walked up to begin my tour of World Showcase. Had I done that, I would have easily been able to get through Gran Fiesta in Mexico and Maelstrom with my FASTPASS before 1pm. So despite the heavy crowds and assuming I visited World of Showcase next, I was able to do the following all before 1pm:
- Ride Soarin’ twice
- Ride Test Track
- Ride Mission: Space Orange
- Ride Sum of All Thrills
- Have lunch
- Ride Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros
- Ride Maelstrom
That’s all of the major attractions and a couple of the more popular minor attractions. Not bad at all for four hours, especially considering the triple digit waits at the moment.
Instead of visiting World Showcase now, I could visit the other Future World attractions. There won’t be appreciable waits at Journey into Imagination with Figment, Captain EO, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Circle of Life, or most of Innoventions.
With or without FASTPASS enforcement and no matter the crowd level, the ideal sequence of attractions remains:
- Character Spot if desired (or wait until 8pm)
- Collect FASTPASS for Soarin’
- Ride Soarin’
- Collect FASTPASS for Test Track. If crowds are lower, it should be possible to ride Test Track in standby with a 15 minute or less wait.
- Ride Sum of All Thrills
- Ride Mission: Space
- Ride Soarin’ with FASTPASS
- Have lunch at Sunshine Seasons
- Ride Test Track with FASTPASS
- Visit World Showcase or the other Future World attractions
There are a few different options depending on how much walking you want to do and whether or not you want to ride the headliners once, twice, or possibly three times.
Epcot was a recommended Park today, which may seem moderately insane. But it’s actually much less crowded Thursday than it was Friday (not recommended with evening Extra Magic Hours). We’re also headed over to Magic Kingdom to do some comparing with crowds over there. I’ll have more information on wait times at Epcot this week when we head over to Magic Kingdom in a future post.
I’ve got the April 2012 operating schedule updates to go through now.