Our morning at Epcot continues after beginning the day at Frozen Ever After. We’ll be referring to our RideMax-optimized touring plan throughout the rest of the visit, so make sure you familiarize yourself with the software in this post written by the creator of the app. Then see this post, which showcases what to expect from the arrival experience, whether it makes sense to visit Test Track or Frozen Ever After first, the benefits of coming in from the International Gateway or the main entrance, and the logic behind the plan that we’re just now really embarking on. And if history is any indication, we probably won’t make it very far in this particular post, either. I can guarantee that we will hit at least one ride, though. That doesn’t always happen.
While we’ve already made it through Frozen ourselves, there are plenty of people who arrived after us and are still in line for the ride somewhere in the China Pavilion at 11:10am. I’m not sure if they expected their morning to begin with a wait for an icy boat ride through Arendelle next to Lotus Blossom Café, but there they are. I would say that life comes at you fast, but that probably isn’t true if you’re waiting in a Pavilion where the ride that you’d like to board isn’t. With Lotus Blossom only operating on the weekends now, you can’t even grab some egg rolls to really get you in the mood to want to sing along with “Do You Want to Build A Snowman?” once you finally get to the front. I think the only thing I would be interested in building is a way out of this line.
Everyone you see in this picture is waiting for Frozen, whether they know it or not. Some of these physical-distancing markers that seem to be heading away from the attraction you’re trying to get to can be confusing. These are the same people who used to ask the cast members at the front of “The Great Movie Ride” if it was a ride. On the other hand, if you’ve sat through the CGI-fest that is Soarin’ Around the World, you might start to question everything around you.
On one hand, it’s positive that we’re currently facing the direction of Frozen Ever After’s entrance, even if it’s one Pavilion over from where we’re standing. The people on our left may be facing the opposite direction of the entrance, but they’re also closer to the front of the line. The posted wait is 95 minutes at 11:10am with an actual wait that’s probably closer to 60 minutes. With six feet in between parties, all lines appear longer than they would be if we still lived in the “please fill in all of the available space” days of March 2020. Once you pass under the wait time sign and enter Frozen’s actual queue, your wait should only be about 12 minutes until you board.
But it will be a slow waltz to the entrance for those who may be unexpectedly eyeballing the Nine Dragons menu that’s painted outside the restaurant in the China Pavilion. Worse, if anything sounds good, the restaurant isn’t even open, so not only are you waiting an hour for your first ride right off the bat, but you can’t even return for Sichuan Dumplings after. Don’t let anybody tell you that life’s fair.
We don’t have FastPass+ priority to contend with, but the ride does run around 50% capacity with Disney typically only filling the first and fourth rows with physical-distancing in effect.
This does reinforce the importance of the early arrival, particularly given the Park’s usual shortened hours. If you arrived right at 11am, got in line for Frozen at 11:10am, boarded at 12:15pm, and were back out front at 12:25pm, 20% of your day would just about evaporate over the course of waiting for one ride. We spent three minutes of actual Park time waiting and only ten minutes of our eight hours in the Park experiencing the ride. That’s only 2% of the day, which seems better than 20%.
From our long chart of Frozen Ever After wait times from Part One, you’ll remember that there’s a bit of a lull in waits for the boat ride from 12:15pm to 1pm. That makes some sense as the first wave inevitably arrives, waits their 65 minutes for Frozen, and move on, while relatively few people get in a line that’s posting a 75+ minutes wait before noon. I bring this up in part because it appears like maybe one person is coming our way as we backtrack to Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico. Most people who enter through the main entrance will spend at least a couple hours in Future World first before thinking about heading up to World Showcase.
One unique thing about Epcot’s current operating schedule is that both Future World and the entirety of World Showcase open with the Park. That wasn’t true back before the March closures, when Future World opened at 9am and 90% of World Showcase followed two hours later at 11am. One reason why I historically recommended Test Track over Frozen first is that if you did Frozen first, the only other thing you could do on that side of World Showcase is get in line to meet Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus at basically the worst time. After that, which is a thing that you probably wanted to skip, you’d have to haul it back to Future World to do anything else. That’s no longer the case with Future World and World Showcase opening with the Park.
We haven’t spent much time at the Parks over the weekend. While the website is rarely selfish, it is sometimes concerned with its own health and mental wellbeing.
And I have a feeling that standing in this line outdoors just to wait to get inside the pyramid in the Mexico Pavilion would hurt both those things.
But the outdoor wait is one thing that we don’t capture in the posted waits for Gran Fiesta Tour on the weekends.
On your average Saturday afternoon, you have to weave your way through here for 20+ minutes just to get inside.
Then the wait to ride Gran Fiesta is “just” 15 minutes, even if you’ve spent 40 minutes traversing the switchbacks just to enter more to eventually board your boat.
Gran Fiesta Tour is typically one of three places in World Showcase where you may wait longer than the next show to start. The other attraction with longer waits is obviously Frozen, and then there’s the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, which can see a wait of about 1.5 shows with physical-distancing inside the theater. That can equate to a wait of about 30 minutes.
This early on a weekday, we’ll almost be able to walk right on:
We arrived at 11:18am, boarded at 11:21am, and were back out front at 11:31am.
That means our timing so far has been:
- Frozen Ever After: 10:43am – 11:09am
- Gran Fiesta Tour: 11:18am – 11:31am
That’s pretty good time. Looking back at our RideMax plan, we see the following predictions:
RideMax has us done with Frozen and Gran Fiesta at 11:46am, or 15 minutes later than where we are. Chances are likely that you’ll be a little bit behind where we were in moving to Frozen, though a couple hundred people did manage to beat us. The software works on the conservative side of things. But even I couldn’t tell you exactly when I’m going to arrive or when the ride will begin operating on any given day. Once the line for Frozen started moving, our wait was 13 minutes from that point. So RideMax’s 12-minute prediction there is just about about as close as you can get. We arrived a little earlier for Gran Fiesta, which resulted in a wait closer to two minutes than ten.
But by the time we disembarked, they had already opened the first of the extended queues for the ride, meaning the wait would be closer to six or seven minutes than two or three already. If we had waited a little longer at Frozen, we would have waited a little longer at Gran Fiesta Tour immediately after.
As a reminder, our goal is to visit all of Epcot’s rides and a few shows in one abbreviated day. RideMax knows that World Showcase crowds are lowest in the early afternoon, which is why it’s sent us up here now. It also knows waits for the rides typically go down as it gets later in the day, so it’s going to delay our return to Future World until the software knows we’re waiting as little as possible. It’s even going to put a couple of anytime attractions like Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival and Awesome Planet into the itinerary before moving on to the rides, giving wait times even more of an opportunity to drop.
Here’s where we’ll be heading in the future:
We have plans to visit the Canada Far & Wide show as our last stop in World Showcase before our Future World return, which makes sense since it’s the last World Showcase Pavilion on the way back to Future World for the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival. I have a feeling that the “rival software” would have us start the day at the Short Film Festival and then send us up to Frozen next, before demanding our return to The Seas with Nemo and then Canada Far & Wide.
In unrelated news, I noticed that I liked some of the Mexico World Showcase merchandise:
Whether you prefer your merchandise to be in bright blues and reds or dark greys and yellows, they have you covered.
Otherwise, the Pavilion is largely as we left it, with the potential that a lot more switchbacks can go up on the weekends.
At least if had to wait through here, you’d have a good opportunity to look over each window in the cultural exhibit. Without the line, we can enjoy the sights at our own pace.
If you don’t, I have pictures of just about everything in this post.
We stepped back out onto the promenade to see one of the several character cavalcades. This time it’s Anna and Elsa:
The Magic Kingdom cavalcades are still my favorite, perhaps because Main Street USA “feels” like a parade route more than cast clearing the way around World Showcase to send characters from a fictitious land through the Mexico Pavilion and beyond. While I spend the majority of my time calling Disney cheap, I would reiterate that they really had no obligation to offer these cavalcades. You’ll also run into Mickey and Friends and the Princesses.
Otherwise, crowds in World Showcase are going to remain low in the early afternoon most days. The exception still being Saturdays during the Taste of Food and Wine in particular.
For guests with time, I think Epcot is still a 2-day Park. I do make fun of the hole in Future World, but the fact is that it only ate the fountain, a few stores, a couple quick services, some meet-and-greets, and some very good air-conditioning. But it didn’t really eliminate any attractions with Spaceship Earth staying open, even after Disney initially announced that it would close for a multi-year transformation.
World Showcase has lost a lot of its charm with most of the International College Program cast members back home in their respective countries. As we’ll see, you can certainly “do” Epcot in one day, but it’s going to mean skipping over the majority of World Showcase or Future World. While a lot remains closed, particularly on weekdays, the majority of the attractions and the things that would consume your time are open.
So while Lotus Blossom Cafe in China may only operate on weekends, and the Nine Dragons restaurant is closed, Reflections of China, the Circle-Vision 360 attraction is still open, along with the Shanghai Disneyland exhibit next door. The House of Good Fortune is also open along with the Joy of Tea kiosk serving drinks and snacks out front. So while dining options may be more limited, most of what there is to do in World Showcase remains. Of course, the character meet and greets and most live entertainment remain unavailable.
You would also want to take the operating schedule into consideration. The Park is open eight or ten hours most days, instead of the standard twelve hour day that we had seen for 10+ years. Eight hours isn’t much time to spread across all of Future World and World Showcase, even if some of your options are more limited.
The line for Frozen remains back in China at 11:36am. People still line the exterior of Nine Dragons on the left.
But the line is actually shorter than it was before the Park opened and after we finished our first ride, which goes back to our point that 12:15pm is your best bet to get in line if you can’t visit first or last thing. Not a lot of people are headed up here with a 75-minute posted wait. The actual wait is probably about 45 minutes from there.
The Alps is one of the Taste of Food and Wine booths that’s only open during the weekends. That’s it before the bridge on the left.
So instead of enjoying some warm Swiss cheese in the Florida heat as the bridge is raised up to let a Friendship boat inside the Lagoon, we just enjoyed the view.
We really weren’t missing warm cheese-covered pickles if we’re being honest.
But we can watch the boat sail out into the distance.
And you may remember that beginning November 1st, the Friendship Boats will once again resume service to the Crescent Lake Resorts to and from Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Service was originally set to return back on July 29th. But who is keeping track of these things. The boat you see will service Epcot, moving guests very slowly from World Showcase to Future World.
Continuing up through Italy, crowds remain low. That’s why we’re here and not in Future World, where the wait for Soarin’ could be 60+ minutes. We stopped for a bit to enjoy the train in Germany. Largely out of frame, the Spain Food and Wine booth lays dormant on the weekdays. Come Friday, they will find their marinated olives again.
With the International College Program paused, it’s not surprising to see so many things still closed. Italy basically relies on the constant importation of what is basically free labor to run their operation. Still, Disney did lay off 20,000+ cast members with the promise to most full-time union employees that if a position were to open up, they would have first dibs. This sign-less kiosk to the left of the Italy Pavilion typically serves a variety of drinks, ice cream creations, and cupcakes. It may be open on weekends considering the ropes and single physical-distancing marker is in place. I’m not sure how many people notice or care that something like this is closed, but it does take away some of the energy from the Pavilion, particularly coupled with the lack of live entertainment that we used to enjoy daily.
The main store in Italy, inside of the replica of the Doge’s Palace, also remains closed. In just a couple of weeks, Epcot will have been reopened for four months. You’d think the sale of one bottle of SPLENDIDA BVLGARI PATCHOULI TENTATION perfume, at a cost of $146, would carry the store’s bottom line for at least an hour. According to the description, the scent is, “A luminous and irresistible Chypre Floral composed around a trio of Patchouli reflecting the evolution of a burning Temptation.”
I’m guessing that burning temptation is to visit the Italy booth and why the smell of perfume from that store is always so strong out on the promenade. No wonder $9 pasta covered in nuclear-orange sauce is so popular. I should buy a van and start spraying the scent of easywdw.com perfume up and down the neighborhood. Instead of Patchouli, I would use sweat and the sweet scent of the Navy Blue Columbia Fisherman’s shirt, with notes of Cosmic Ray’s Vegan Sloppy Joe and that cupcake the All-Star Sports offered for 45 minutes on September 8th, 2018. If that’s not going to start driving traffic, I’ll probably have to give up and start blogging about Fun Spot again. Please buy my fragrance or at least allow it to guide you to this website and not the Italy booth.
It looks to me like the Enoteca is open, which isn’t surprising considering they are in the wine pouring business at an 800% markup.
But the dining in Italy is all available, from Tutto Gusto, to Tutto Italia, to Via Napoli. Even the Donkey Cart in there is staffed on the right in case you’re about to descend into Dante’s Inferno if you don’t eat a push-up tiramisu pop in the next couple of minutes. I think we’ve all been there. The tiramisu pop could be the antidote for those shrimp from ABC Commissary that would otherwise have you on an IV drip at Centra Care. I’m not a doctor though.
Historically, the Joffrey’s coffee stand menus are in a tiny little font above the kiosk, but you’ll now see a list of what’s available at the start of the line:
The Traveler’s Café Starbucks, located all the way across World Showcase outside of Canada, is not typically popular. That may change with temperatures dropping from 87 degrees to 84 degrees over the next couple of weeks. I mention this a few times a year, but the Joffrey’s locations are actually some of the better values on the alcoholic drink front as you can add a second shot of booze for $2, making for a larger and boozier drink than most others for the standard $14 price.
Apparently, it is a big deal that the Toffee Flight Latte is available at all of Epcot’s Joffrey’s locations at the moment, after being exclusive to the coffee stand leading up to the Caribbean Beach Resort Skyliner station for a while. I would guess that it tastes similar to most of the other drinks that are closer to a heap of candy and whipped cream than a straight cup of Seattle’s Best Coffee. According to this Sarasota Times article, this is where Joffrey’s has come in the last few years:
TED C. ABRAMS faced a daunting challenge in 2001 when he became president and CEO of Joffrey’s Coffee and Tea Company. The business, headquartered in Tampa, had lost money for 17 straight years since its founding, and the chairman told Abrams he had one year to make Joffrey’s profitable.
Abrams, who knew little about coffee but had a head for numbers, took action, closing or ceding control of Joffrey’s nearly one dozen retail coffee shops, getting out of budget-crushing leases for new shops at Channelside and Tampa International Mall and putting the focus on what Joffrey’s did best: roasting and producing specialty coffees. The move cost 30 to 40 workers their jobs and elicited second-guessing from some longtime employees.
Firing employees, shutting down stores, and consolidating your operation….where have I heard a company take that route recently. “Well, we weren’t doing that well, but we found a white guy who didn’t know anything about the product, fired everybody, raised prices, and now we’re doing great.” Welcome to the new American Dream.
Prior to the March closures, the fact that we’re an hour into the day would mean it’s 10am. Now, an hour into the day is 12pm. Next month, an hour into the day could be 1pm.
On your Epcot day(s), if you’re an early riser, you may elect to eat a large table service breakfast to help hold you over until dinner. You could book that for 8:30am and still have plenty of time to be at the bus stop by 9:45am to be on one of the first buses over to Epcot for an 11am open. With a noon open, you could push that breakfast back an extra hour. You may also elect to eat lunch and dinner at Epcot. But remember those short operating hours. With the Park open from just 11am to 7pm on weekdays at the moment, and each meal taking 45 minutes to an hour, you’ve cut down your time to do other things to just six hours or so if you spend two of your eight hours at a restaurant. Then the day is over.
At 11:50am, the United States Pavilion is more than wide open. It’s possible that there is somebody sitting at one of those picnic tables in the distance. But that seems to be the crowd. To the right of the main entrance into The American Adventure show is Heritage Manor, which is mostly Art of Disney stuff at the moment as the store out front remains closed.
The JAMMitors were on, which may have helped clear the place out. When I have grandkids, I just plan to turn off my hearing aids and get as close to smiling at the children as I can. The JAMMitors offer a good opportunity to practice. The average age of their audience of four people looked to come in around 80 years old based on the amount of white hair I’m seeing. I’m guessing the guy standing up and facing our direction is hiding behind that tree until the camera goes down and it’s safe to proceed out. I wouldn’t want to be seen up there either.
We opted to stop at Regal Eagle for lunch.
But we could have gone anywhere without much of a wait. Table service dining was also wide open. Regal Eagle benefits from mobile order, which means we can pick out what we want on the Disney World app and won’t have to wait in line to order and then pick up our goodies. It’s also one of very few World Showcase quick services that offers air-conditioned seating. Katsura Grill in Japan offers some, but I would guess about two indoor tables are available given physical-distancing.
The downside to mobile order is that you basically can’t go inside the quick service without a confirmed mobile order that’s ready to pick up. Disney has two cast members guarding the usual doors leading inside. That isn’t even the entrance.
We’ll have to go over to the far left, past the outdoor bar, and then down a long corridor to get inside.
I’m probably on the record as saying my favorite new addition to Walt Disney World in the last five years is the opening of the gigantic bank of restrooms to the right of The American Adventure. Before that, you’d have to cram into one of the itty bitty locations built for when people were much smaller in 1981 and potentially had to go to the restroom less often because it was a classier time when your average tourist wasn’t pounding shots of Jägermeister followed by slamming as many $10 cups of Beck’s beer as your credit card allows. Not that I would know anything about that.
I bring this up in part because the old bathrooms in the Pavilion used to be located down this corridor. There are still restrooms down here, which may or may not be open at this time. You’ll have an easier experience getting to the much larger restroom building on the other side. Ahead, we’ll have our mobile order confirmed a second time before we’re allowed inside. It’s almost like having to turn two keys before we can launch the nukes. I’ve collected gold and diamonds from my safe deposit box with fewer security checks. But we are talking about chicken salads and pork butt here. Those may replace bullion at some point with our country’s current trajectory. You can try to eat gold, but it doesn’t offer a ton of protein in my experience.
But needing a confirmed mobile order at Disney-operated quick services does eliminate the ability to easily head in and out of a given quick service. You may be interested in checking out the vibe of Regal Eagle before committing, but it’s going to be more difficult than in the Before Times. The cast members at the front may open the front door and let you peer in, but that’s about it. If you’re after a cup of water, I would guess they would guide you to the outdoor takeaway bar next door. On the plus side, that’s also why things are significantly less hectic in here than when they opened.
In the next Part, we’ll grab lunch and continue through World Showcase, before taking a Skyliner ride to check out Ratatouille construction, stop by some World Showcase shows, and then continue on to Future World.