We stop by Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to see how long it takes to ride Flight of Passage last thing at night and to check in on a couple of new snacks at Pongu Pongu.
Pongu Pongu is the name of the takeaway bar/snack kiosk immediately outside of Windtraders, the Land’s principal store, and Satu’li Canteen, Pandora’s main quick service.
Here’s the original menu that debuted last May:
It’s pretty straightforward, offering Pandora’s two unique beers, a sweet non-alcoholic slush mixture, and a frozen margarita, in addition to the Pineapple Cream Cheese Spring Rolls.
Here’s what the new menu looks like:
This menu picture is from February 8th, but since then, the “Viper Claw” has been removed and a Cinnamon Roll has unceremoniously taken its place. Other changes include the addition of the “Colossal Pretzel with Cheese Sauce,” which debuted about ten days ago. The Rum Blossom also joined the ranks about a month ago. The Pongu Lumpia is now offered as one spring roll for $2.99 instead of the two that were originally offered at the $4.59 price point.
I was a little surprised to see non-themed snacks at Pongu given how much effort went into all of the details around Pandora.
Granted, there is nothing particularly alien about a fried pineapple roll up, but these pretzels are the same as what’s offered in the Germany Pavilion at Epcot and at Prince Eric’s Village Market at Magic Kingdom. Their quality depends almost entirely on how fresh they are – ours actually was fresh for once, and because of that, was nice and soft with a little hint of the taste of Bavaria with a lot of salt for good measure. I’m not sure why the pretzels split open at the bottom, but you do lose a little crispiness down below.
We thought the side of cheese was a pretty dinky portion considering the size of the pretzel, but it had a little bit of a pepper jack kick and somehow lasted until the bitter end. I’m not real sure why you would seek this out at Animal Kingdom given all of the other options available, but it’s a lot of carbs for the money and should satisfy a couple of hungry people headed towards the 500-minute wait at Flight of Passage. It’s probably right around the same amount of pretzel for $10.49 as two $5.69 Mickey Pretzels combined.
I tried the $10.25 “Rum Blossom – Bacardi Superior Rum with layers of Apple and Desert Pear Limeade topped with Passion Fruit Boba Balls.” I am almost certain that the cast member told me to “keep the green straw in the whole time.” To this day, I am not sure why, but I’ve been carrying around this cup with the green straw in it ever since. At least people occasionally give me a concerned look and toss a few cents in. But that’s not anything new.
Anyway, for $4.26 more than the non-alcoholic version, you’ll come away with some amount of white rum poured on top. In my experience, it’s typically on the generous side – it looked like I came away with 1.5 to 2 ounces. And the rum does a nice job of easing the overwhelming sweetness of the slush. I think I’m still on the side of the Mo’ara Margarita, but anyone looking to stay away from Sauza will appreciate the rum option. It’s almost like the Night Blossom was made with Bacardi in mind.
Heading to River Journey first is real chill – simply arrive 30 to 45 minutes before Park open, meander over, and find a wait of 5 to 15 minutes. The picture above was taken at 8:50am and is actually right before I got in line for a second ride with a regular 9am open.
Flight of Passage is much…much…much less pleasant, requiring an arrival more like 75 minutes before Park open and a lot of uncomfortable waiting before the elbow throwing and jostling of the march along the narrow, winding walkways to the banshees. It’s the least forgiving rope drop on property, at least until each of us gets punched in the face on the way to Alien Swirling Saucers over at Hollywood Studios.
With an average wait just under three hours, your only other opportunity to experience a relatively short wait at Flight of Passage is getting in line right before Park close.
With an 8pm close on the evening of Thursday February 8th, we got in line right at 7:58pm and were three people short of being the last guests to enter the queue.
I’ve done the same thing five or six times since Disney ended Animal Kingdom’s limited-time evening Extra Magic Hours back in the middle of August.
The late night comes with a couple of benefits.
First, there are no FastPass+ returners, so the ride’s entire capacity goes to standby. That means as many as 1,400 standby riders will ride over the course of an hour compared to the 300 that would ride during the same length of time earlier in the day. Typically, when entering the queue at Park close, you’ll wind up right around here, which is still in the outdoor portion of the queue just a minute or two away from the indoor cave portion.
Your wait should be between 45 minutes and an hour from here.
The empty queue behind me.
If you’re lucky enough to make it further inside before meeting resistance then you’ll probably wait less.
At this time of night, we also benefit from all the people interested in doing all sorts of other things from Rivers of Light to dinner to Magic Kingdom leaving for those engagements.
Most people arriving between 9am and 11am are going to be long gone by 8pm, let alone the 9pm, 10pm, and 11pm closes that we should see over the summer.
One thing we can’t control is the ride’s capacity.
The ride sees a lot of individual theater downtime, which can increase waits considerably given the same number of people in line.
We didn’t have particularly good luck this time around.
35 minutes in, we hadn’t yet reached the laboratory.
But 12 minutes after that, or 48 minutes after getting in line, we had.
If you walk the queue and don’t take this picture were you really there at all?
We were past where FastPass+ users would have merged with standby at 8:59pm, or just under an hour after the rest of the Park closed.
And that’s where we ended up waiting quite a while longer due to theater downtime.
One unfortunate reality is that cast members will probably not try to get a theater that has gone down running again since it’s the end of the night. During the day, you can bet that they’re going to do whatever they can to get things running at full capacity. We were in the pre-show room 83 minutes after getting in line.
Our total experience time ended up being 100 minutes, which is the longest I’ve waited.
That’s still far less than the time you’d wait at any other point in the day outside of being among the first few hundred people to enter the queue. But it’s also a good chunk of time.
On past visits, my total experience time has been about 75 minutes on average. That’s around an hour in line and 15 minutes for the pre-show and ride.
Here’s a look at posted wait times at Flight of Passage from October 2017 through the end of January 2018:
I pulled this chart from our discussion of January wait times at Animal Kingdom over the last four years. If you missed it, you might find the analysis interesting given that wait times are up more than 70% since 2015. You may also not. The main takeaway for our discussion here is that you’re looking at an average wait of around 162 minutes over the course of the day. The other takeaway is that the posted wait at the end of the night is going to be between 85 and 150+ minutes and what you see really has no bearing on what you’ll actually experience. Oftentimes, actual waits are shorter when posted waits are longer because fewer people get in line. I got in line at 9:59pm one night with a 10pm close and a 240-minute posted wait and only waited 35 minutes before heading into the pre-show. On the other hand, there is no telling how long the wait will be even if you know the exact number of people waiting given downtime and delays. Be prepared for the experience to take two hours.
Here’s a look at Flight of Passage wait times in February just because we can:
The 160-minute average so far in February is in line with the 162 minutes that we saw over the last four months.
If you’re interested in riding Na’vi River Journey last thing, the good news is that actual waits should be between 5 and 15 minutes.
Here’s the chart of posted waits for this month:
River Journey still posts 20-50 minutes at the end of the night, but it should actually take far less. You might plan for the experience to take 30 minutes on the conservative end.
A few more pictures from the evening of the 8th:
Flight of Passage remains a viable option at the end of the night. Be prepared to wait 45 to 75 minutes with a total experience time of 60 to 100 minutes. You can enter the queue up until Park close and ride regardless of the posted wait. Disney hasn’t cut the line early since the first week or two of operation. Those ending the day at Na’vi River Journey will wait far less. But you’ll also be experiencing Na’vi River Journey.
We’ll take a look around Animal Kingdom during the day before revisiting Rivers of Light and the other nighttime festivities.