Not my finest post title.
Continuing from Part 1, it’s just before 10am as we head to Tower of Terror with a 40-minute posted wait.
As written, this is our ideal morning touring plan:
Somebody should probably put a strike through that Muppet Vision kiosk visit too.
Morning touring calls for FastPass+ usage earlier here than at the other Parks for a variety of reasons. The first being that there are not a lot of opportunities to experience short waits. At Magic Kingdom, where there are a lot more things to do, we can move through seven or eight priorities before 11am without using FastPass+. By 9:45am, the wait at Tower of Terror is already going to be 30 to 45 minutes and FastPass+ will save us a decent amount of time. Using FP+ in the 9am slot also allows us to get a 4th FastPass+ earlier in the day when there is more availability.
But day-of FastPass+ availability at the Studios is bad:
On reasonably “crowded” days, there will be no day-of FastPass+ availability for Toy Story Mania, Frozen Sing-Along, Star Tours, and Tower of Terror and very little availability for anything not named Muppet Vision 3D.
Now that you can book additional FastPass+ experiences from your phone, availability is even worse as the only barrier to entry is whether or not the page loads.
A couple more tips along with what’s still true:
You can still initially book a maximum of three FastPass+ experiences but they have to be made one at a time. That means you can book just one or two instead of having to choose three.
Your initial selections must be made at the same theme park, so you can’t initially book two at Studios and one at Epcot.
You can cancel one FastPass+ at a time for any or all members of your party.
If you want to book three Tier 2 FastPass+, you can. You don’t have to select a Tier 1 FastPass+ anymore.
You can select additional experiences from the moment after you scan your ticket or MagicBand at the attraction entrance of your last scheduled FastPass+. So if you have Mine Train for 1pm-2pm, Dumbo for 2pm-3pm, and Barnstormer for 3pm-4pm, you can use your phone to select an additional experience at any theme park with FP+ availability immediately after you scan your tickets or MagicBands at the Barnstormer entrance.
On your phone, the easiest way to refresh availability is to click on the time of day near the top of the screen. Every time I click “Afternoon” it will load current availability.
The “You may plan only 1 of these per day” message is kind of misleading in that it makes it sound like you can book a maximum of one Tier 1 FastPass+ per day. I had initially used FastPass+ at Toy Story and the message reads like I can’t select another Tier 1 FastPass+ because of that. But if you click “Select a Different Experience” it will allow you to book a second (or third or fourth etc.) Tier 1 FastPass+. The “Other Experiences Available” that are listed will all be Tier 2 where applicable.
Cancellations are your friend and happen frequently. Cancelled experiences are put back into the system for someone else to book basically in real time. So while Anna/Elsa FastPass+ are completely unavailable 60+ days in advance, if someone cancels on the day-of, or at any other time, those experiences will be available again. This is me refreshing Magic Kingdom availability on the bus from Studios to Magic Kingdom at 3:27pm and I could have booked either princess.
Availability displayed also seems kind of strange in that it will initially show no availability, but then if you refresh it, it will all of a sudden display a great variety of times. Good things happen to those that refresh.
The app also does not necessarily display all available times or the earliest return time as you scroll through (un)available attractions. Click on the attraction for potentially better times. This is still around 3:27pm and the app is only offering 5:55pm. If I swipe left on that grey square to the right of the screen, it will refresh and load more available times.
Had I been nearby, I could have booked Winnie the Pooh for immediate FastPass+ use.
I was outside Animal Kingdom’s entrance and was able to book Everest for 3:45pm at exactly 3:32pm on Saturday.
One thing that has been true basically since the inception of FASTPASS and continues to be true to this day is that FASTPASS is great when you have it. And sucks when you don’t. In some ways, the fact that refreshing your phone constantly is the best way to procure additional FastPass+ is frustrating. Because who really wants to spend their vacation clicking “Afternoon” over and over again. But if doing so can save 90 minutes in the Anna/Elsa standby line then it’s hard to argue that it’s not time well invested. In the picture above, I’m waiting in a 40-minute Tower of Terror standby line while hundreds of people arrive after me and board before me using FastPass+. Such is life in standby.
So back to the day at hand. The purpose of my visit was basically to see if standby was viable at any of the next few steps on the touring plan, allowing us instead to ride with FastPass+ later in the day. I wasn’t really expecting it to be, which is why FP+ is officially called for here at 10am. Using FastPass+ also protects you against capacity reductions, which are often not on purpose here at Terror.
I put up a gallery of Tower of Terror images on Facebook in case you have any interest. These are all with my 35mm f1.4 Sigma lens, which is a lot of fun to use (poorly).
So I got in line at 9:59am, I was inside the lobby at 10:20am, and I was here inside the library at 10:28am.
And I was here on-ride about 10 minutes later at 10:39am.
And back out front at 10:46am for a total experience time of about 47 minutes. I think that’s too long this early in the morning and I’m going to stick to using FastPass+ here moving forward. Taking a look at posted waits over the last 30ish days:
As I mentioned with Toy Story, the waits on this particular day are below average even with some downtime. But the 48-minute average posted wait at 10am is unfortunate and is telling of just how much of an impact FastPass+ has had on early morning wait times.
Back in the day, the first hour of touring was excellent because of two main things:
A: There weren’t that many people there.
B: Nobody returned with FASTPASS priority until at least 9:40am because that was the first return time. Before that time, 100% of the attraction’s capacity went to standby. And FASTPASS returners didn’t typically start clogging up queues until 10:30am or so, particularly when you consider that legacy paper FASTPASSes didn’t actually “expire” until just before the switch over to FastPass+. So you could use your 9:40am-10:40am FASTPASS for Space Mountain right before dinner at 6:30pm if you wanted to. Now with so many attractions seeing maximum FastPass+ distribution, you have the maximum number of people possible returning for every possible window starting immediately at Park open. So little capacity is given to standby that it does not take a whole lot of people in front of you to see 30…40…50+ minute waits at attractions that historically saw much shorter waits. One of these days maybe I will stand in front of Toy Story Mania and see how many people enter the FastPass+ line between 9am and 10am.
Here on Sunset Boulevard right around 10:48am, things are filling in but attendance is still well below average. This is not a “busy” day.
The line for Great Movie Ride cemented the fact that the next couple of hours were not going to be particularly efficient ones.
I got in the 30-minute line at 10:52am.
I spent 12 minutes winding around outside before stepping insid. These screens look ripe for StoryMaker.
Maybe it will display your cable bill. Or how many subscribers ESPN lost last month. Or how many times SportsCenter can say “Tom Brady” over the course of an hour. Or how much money Bob Iger made since you started reading this sentence.
For the most part, this is not necessarily the worst place to spend 15 or 20 minutes in line with the previews and whatnot. My favorite part about the Turner Classic Movies takeover is that they explain a bit about the scenes that you’re about to see and why they’re important.
Before it was just movie trailers. A few pictures:
So I got in line at 10:52am, was seated in the vehicle at 11:16am, and was back out front at 11:40am, for a total experience time of 48 minutes. The website’s conservative estimate on how long the experience will take with FastPass+ is 35 minutes. And since my experience time was 13 minutes longer and I spent 12 minutes in line outside, that seems to be about right.
Of course, the attraction was operating at half capacity. This is an out-of-focus shot of the last room where you watch a few seconds of a lot of movies. Ordinarily, another set of ride vehicles would pull in next to us.
That’s half capacity with a 35-minute posted wait and the entire extended queue full.
Anybody working at Walt Disney World could tell you that the staffing cuts that began in late February are unprecedented. The coffers are unbelievably tight until Memorial Day Weekend comes around next month. And if for some reason you still believe that I’m sitting here at my computer photoshopping all of these people in line, go to Hollywood Studios tomorrow yourself. Let me know how long you waited for Great Movie Ride and whether or not another vehicle pulled up beside you at the end. Though I can save you a trip and answer for you:
This is 12:17pm after I swung back around after waiting 47 minutes at Star Tours because they were only running two of six simulators. The external queue is completely full and there are more people waiting out here than we’ll see during most of July.
The line was backed up outside the entrance and headed back towards Animation Courtyard. This is with below average attendance.
But if this is too negative for you then I do apologize. I am not sure how else to spin it.
There’s a new cupcake?
I arrived at Star Tours to what was a 40-minute wait that was halved to “just” 20 minutes between the time I first looked at the wait and was able to take a picture of it.
I will admit that I had a weak moment and briefly considered abandoning ship as I had made a FP+ reservation that would be usable since I arrived at 11:50am. I expected my five rides to take me to around 11:15am. At which point I was planning to head back in with FP+ to quickly compare the actual standby wait to the actual wait with FastPass+ back to back.
But I had come this far.
And I got in the “20-minute” line with the outdoor, external queue mostly full.
25 minutes later I was here. Still outside. Most people probably don’t even know where in the queue that this is.
15 minutes after that I was here.
They were loading “F” on one end and “A” on the other for most of the morning, but had increased to four simulators, which is probably why they halved the posted wait time.
All in all, it took 53 minutes to get through Star Tours.
This could easily be 20 minutes. I will take a moment to depart from the decided upon narrative to say that the reason that they are not operating all simulators is not directly attributable to the current budgetary constraints. That’s about all I can say.
Literally nobody waiting to meet Sorcerer Mickey. It will be interesting to see how popular he and Minnie are in their new location. Historically, Mickey saw 20 to 30 minute waits back when the Animation Building was a thing. If you showed most people visiting this picture, I doubt they would be able to place where it is.
So in about four hours, I was able to accomplish the Studios’ five rides in standby and arrive in time to use my 12pm-1pm FastPass+ for Toy Story Mania.
And with FP+, it took a total of 15 minutes between when I got in line and was back out front.
With Pizza Planet closed to make way for the ovens necessary to make the improved pies served at Pizzafari, and Studio Catering Co. closed permanently to make way for bulldozers, what remains open at Studios has proven busy. When I visit Backlot Express, I usually eat outside because there’s only a handful of other people and the lighting is better for my camera tilt. But with so many more people eating here, tables are few and far between.
It’s a similar situation over at Min & Bill’s, where you’d historically see just a handful of tables occupied. Now they’re all full of people that appear mostly to be without food.
When you dine does matter. This is 1:20pm.
This is 2pm.
But even with the number of people in the first photo, it was just 12 minutes between when I got in line and when I received my food. That’s pretty efficient.
Disney quietly added this Caprese Sandwich with their March quick service menu update. I will also mention that this is the third time that I’ve been denied an “entree only” with the usual $2 savings that comes along with it. The “Entree Only” button is not currently available at most locations.
With Marinated fresh Mozzarella, Vine-ripe Tomatoes, Herb-cheese Pesto, and Arugula on a crusty Baguette served with Carrot Sticks or French Fries – $9.99.
This is not a particularly photogenic sandwich, unfortunately and I would charge that this is more of a ciabatta bread than a “baguette.” Ciabatta was actually invented in Italy in 1976 by Favaron Francesco to compete directly with the popular French baguette. It was brought to the United States in 1987 by Orlando Bakery of all things, though the bakery is actually Cleveland-based. According to the trademark papers, the word translates to “Old Slipper.” Anyway, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. The bread was fresh and appropriately firm at the start, but I think the vinaigrette and pesto were a little too much for it and the bread became soggy towards the end. The pesto was a bit heavy handed and dominated the flavor profile overall – you might see if they can serve a cup on the side so you can spread a bit yourself. Expect the garlic aftertaste to linger. The cheese isn’t going to be mistaken for mozzarella di bufala, but if you don’t stick your nose up at the grocery store variety then you’ll be just fine with what’s served here. The tomato and arugula are always fresh and provided a bit of a crunch up against the soft cheese. Overall, I thought it was a nice vegetarian sandwich that should satisfy most people looking for something cold and meatless. I wouldn’t have any qualms about ordering it again.
My last FastPass+ of the day was Tower of Terror and I arrived back at 2:11pm to a 30-minute posted wait.
Interestingly, by this time there were only about 15 people in standby with three times as many in FastPass+. Everyone with FP+ still boarded first, but the standby wait would be more like five minutes than the 25 I experienced earlier in the morning.
Not much to see from the top.
The total experience time on this ride was 26 minutes after basically walking into the library pre-show.
So what did we learn?
- Studios is probably not the Park you want to visit without FastPass+ in hand unless you’re skipping most of the rides.
- The late arrival is only becoming a more intelligent option for those that can stay through close. Instead of waking up early and battling the morning crowds, you can arrive in the afternoon and visit the high capacity shows and attractions along with your three FastPass+ selections. In the final two hours of operation, circle back to ride the headliners in standby. You’re going to wait less at most rides 45 minutes prior to close than you would 45 minutes after open.
- Additional FastPass+ availability is slim at Studios in particular. Toy Story’s third track will help open up some slots, but if we’re talking about increasing hourly capacity by 50%, then we’re only looking at adding about 400 FastPass+ experiences per hour. That’s not a lot.
- Don’t get in the standby line for Great Movie Ride if the end of it is closer to Star Wars Launch Bay than the theater. Don’t get in line for Star Tours if the line is farther back than it is on Christmas Day.
Overall, my timing was:
- Toy Story Mania: 8:58am – 9:16am
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 9:25am – 9:58am
- Tower of Terror: 10am – 10:40am
- Great Movie Ride: 10:51am – 11:40am
- Star Tours: 11:50am – 12:43pm.
That’s…3 hours 45 minutes plus the initial wait out front and the walk to Toy Story Mania. We’ll call it an even 4 hours.
I will be attending the first Disney Early Morning Magic – Fantasyland tomorrow/today and will report back how that went.