We pick things up on the way out of Pandora. In Part One, we saw the current rope drop procedure to Avatar Flight of Passage, and then visited Na’vi River Journey in standby immediately after.
It’s 10:10am as we head to DinoLand for DINOSAUR. From Part One, the key takeaway was that the walk over to Flight of Passage is now typically closer to 9am than 8:30am, with the average start right around 8:50am. That means that I’m about 40 minutes behind where I would have been most days over the last couple of years. We’ll see how much that affects crowds and wait times as we move about our morning.
This is probably an average number of people heading into Pandora just after 10am. Hopefully they have FastPass+, as the actual wait for River Journey is going to be more than an hour, with Flight of Passage coming in at more than double that.
Animal Kingdom is decorated beautifully this year, with new decorations and entertainment. We’ll take a look at all of that separately, but the Merry Menagerie greets guests who enter after 10am with festive music and puppets.
This is certainly more people than we would have seen 40 minutes ago, but crowds are certainly far from prohibitive this early.
DinoLand is our next stop, with the hope that we’ll be able to ride DINOSAUR and TriceraTop Spin with short waits.
The characters who meet as part of Donald’s Dino-Bash are dressed for the season with over-the-top backdrops. Here’s Launchpad.
Here’s Daisy’s backdrop.
The Dino-Bash character meet and greet times have also been extended, with Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Launchpad, Scrooge, and Chip and Dale typically meeting from 10am to 7:15pm. Pluto usually meets from 12:15pm to 7:15pm.
While Pandora displaced Camp Minnie-Mickey, and the five-or-so character meet and greet trails that could be found there, we probably see more characters currently meeting around the Park now, thanks in large part to Donald’s Dino-Bash becoming semi-permanent.
Waits are typically under 20 minutes each, which can make it a good opportunity to get a few pictures in relatively quick succession. Daisy meets a little out of the way up this path to the left of DINOSAUR.
I’m heading up to DINOSAUR at 10:16am.
We’ve got a 20-minute posted wait.
The standby line was actually backed up nearly outside.
With relatively few FastPass+ returners for DINOSAUR this early, and my hope that both sides of the ride were operating, I got in line.
I don’t think I’d want to be in one of these roofless vehicles during a light sprinkle, let alone a meteor shower that’s about to wipe out the planet. It’s poor planning on somebody’s part.
I was in the pre-show in less than ten minutes, thanks in large part to both sides of the ride already loading.
3.6 roentgen, not great, not terrible.
I arrived at 10:16am, and was back out front at 10:40am, for a total experience time of 24 minutes. That’s only seven or eight minutes longer than the ride typically takes with FastPass+, so we’re doing pretty well for ourselves, despite arriving later than usual. While we were delayed in Pandora, so was everybody else, which is going to help a bit. DinoLand is also our second stop because it’s the most forgiving of the other Lands. By 10:15am, actual waits at Everest are going to be hitting 20 to 30 minutes, while Kilimanjaro Safaris is already hitting a 30- to 40-minute actual wait. Ten minutes at DINOSAUR isn’t bad at all.
You can verify the time of day by the angle of the sun if you’d like.
Primeval Whirl has moved to seasonal status, which means it will likely only operate during the busiest times of the year. Here on the Friday before Thanksgiving week, we were still two days before its eventual reopening. By 10:15am on a busy day, Primeval Whirl’s wait is going to be 25 to 35 minutes, which means you’ll likely want to return to ride it with a 4th or subsequent FastPass+ later in the day. The ride was to be closed again from December 1st through December 21st, reopening again on December 22nd, but Disney has since changed their minds, and the ride will operate daily from now through January 4th, 2020.
What a life pic.twitter.com/8uYu4MM6I8
— josh (@easywdw) November 22, 2019
I actually had to wait for a full rotation on TriceraTop Spin, as they had somehow filled the entire spinner. I told you that late start to Pandora would have a ripple effect.
I mentioned in the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Guide that none of the various Popcorn Buckets or Sippers were exclusive to the Party this year.
That should make it a little more convenient to grab one towards the end of your visit, just in case you don’t want to lug it around all day.
TriceraTop Spin took about ten minutes as we pass by the Theater in the Wild on our way to Expedition Everest.
It took quite a bit of work, but I managed to set up my FastPass+ quite nicely:
Knowing that I was going to be on my way a little later in the morning, I booked my first FastPass+ of the day for Expedition Everest beginning at 10:35am.
If you’ve booked FastPass+ over the last few days, then you may have noticed that the system has taken on a new look with changes to its functionality:
The interface now resembles the look of DisneyWorld.com a lot more with only the full hours clickable on top. The height requirements are also clearly displayed without having to click on the attraction to glean that information.
Here’s the previous selection screen:
The buttons look different, there’s no height requirements, and the times of day across the top are in 30-minute increments.
Check out the new Selection Confirmed screen:
We’re not too concerned about cosmetic changes, but there are some functionality differences too. The FastPass+ confirmation screen looks considerably different than before, with some font size choices that seems a little wonky. You’d think that the most important information on the screen would be the return time, but that’s just about the least emphasized information. The attraction name isn’t prominently featured either, and the image is a strange, generic arrow that might be pointing us to scan our MagicBands at a random touchpoint. No wonder people are trying to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at 12:30pm when they’ve actually reserved Mad Tea Party FP+ for next week.
After clicking “Add Another Experience” at the bottom, you’ll also have to select the members of the party that you want to book for again, in addition to having to select the exact date and then the specific park again. Previously, if you went through that screen, it would take you back to the same park on the same day after you selected the party members. That’s at least two more clicks that you’ll have to make for every FastPass+ that you want to book, hoping that the app doesn’t error out.
The new version does allow you to see exactly who is on the FastPass+ reservation via that blue drop-down menu, which we didn’t have before.
Here’s the previous confirmation screen:
Both the attraction and return time are featured more prominently, along with a picture that represents the specific attraction. All the information we have on the guest front is the number of guests. We’d have to pull up another screen to see who exactly is attached to the FP+ reservation.
None of that is too annoying either. But there are a couple of things that are very annoying.
The first has to do with the tiers. At Animal Kingdom, there are two FastPass+ tiers, with the two Pandora attractions in Tier 1. In the example below, I’ve booked two FastPass+ experiences – Expedition Everest and Flight of Passage:
Because I’ve already booked a Tier 1 FP+, the app tells me that there is availability for Na’vi River Journey, but won’t allow me to select whatever the available return time might be if I wanted to make that change. Obviously I would have to be confused to switch Flight of Passage for Na’vi River Journey, but the opposite is true as well. If I had originally booked Na’vi, but Flight of Passage became available, the app would tell me this by showing it as available, but I wouldn’t be able to select it.
While that may be annoying while you’re initially setting up your selections, you’ll find another annoyance when you try to change one:
In this example, I’ve booked Expedition Everest for 9:35am to 10:35am for the day of my visit. If I want to change it, I have to decide whether I want to search for a different attraction or a different time. But I can’t do both at the same time.
Previously, you could do both. Here, I’m searching for an alternative time or attraction after first booking Haunted Mansion:
Haunted Mansion might have no availability, but plenty of other attractions do. Under the current system, I could only refresh Haunted Mansion return times, see that none are displayed, and have to go back and try again to search for another time.
Here’s the current screen that you’ll see after you select “change” next to the return time:
I see the other available return windows, but only for Expedition Everest. No other attractions are available. As I click the “Search by hour” times in the circles, new return times will show up as they become available. I can also click “back” on the app and return to this screen to refresh again.
If there are no other times available, you’ll see this screen:
To refresh available return times for Kilimanjaro Safaris again, you’d have to click on the “back button” and then click “change” next to the time of day again. If I were to give up on finding a new time for Kilimanjaro Safaris and clicked “change” next to the attraction name, it would come back with the available return times for all attractions other than Expedition Everest, which would show up as being unavailable, even if a new return time opened up.
In the past, I would have refreshed FastPass+ availability and selected a decent attraction that’s basically a “fail-safe.” For example, at Magic Kingdom, it might be 12:30pm, and I see that a FastPass+ for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is available for 1pm; I grab it, thinking that I’d be happy to ride it in a half hour if nothing better becomes available as I refresh more. With the old system, I could refresh availability and either select an earlier return time for Winnie the Pooh or grab another attraction that’s better, should it become available. It wouldn’t be uncommon for a Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or Space Mountain FastPass+ to become available as I refreshed availability, always having that Winnie the Pooh FP+ at 1pm in my back pocket. Other times, an immediate return time for Winnie the Pooh would become available and I’d upgrade to that.
With the current system, I probably wouldn’t grab that Winnie the Pooh FP+ if it wasn’t the attraction that I actually wanted to experience. If I was going to spend time refreshing Winnie the Pooh return times, the best I could do would be to move up the FP+ by a few minutes. There’s a little payoff there, but not as much as scoring a much better FastPass+ attraction during those refreshes. If I was after a rarer FastPass+ for an attraction that will save me more time in line, I’d just continue refreshing, bypassing the Winnie the Pooh FP+ entirely.
I’m not sure if the change is intended to affect guest behavior or if it’s merely a coding/app issue that will be improved with new versions of the app.
At DisneyWorld.com, the FastPass+ modification procedure hasn’t changed. Here’s me trying to change my Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster FP+ for a visit next week:
I can either select a different return time for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or choose a different Tier 1 FastPass+. That’s the way that the system has operated for years. If the app is giving you trouble, then you might try to change FastPass+ experiences at DisneyWorld.com for the time being.
If you’d like to continue using the app to book your 4th and subsequent FastPass+ experiences, the trick is to have a fallback attraction with a return time for which you’re reasonably happy. In my Winnie the Pooh example, I’d be better off if I was happy enough with the 1pm return time. I could then go through the change attraction screen looking for better FP+ opportunities. If nothing became available, I could simply use my Winnie the Pooh FP+ at 1pm.
In general, FastPass+ availability remains dire, both for days in the future and on the day of. Wait times were near average on the day of my visit, but on the night before, four attractions intermittently had no FP+ availability whatsoever, even for one person:
Seeing no availability for the popular Pandora rides isn’t surprising, but seeing absolutely no availability whatsoever for Kilimanjaro Safaris is a little disconcerting. In fact, I had to refresh availability over several hours just to get a decent afternoon Safaris return time for one person.
Like I discussed during our busy Magic Kingdom visit, the lack of FastPass+ availability is a big reason why we’re willing to wait a little longer in line. I think YouTube videos in particular have gotten the word out on not only booking FastPass+ in advance, but also booking subsequent selections throughout the day. Disney has also vastly improved the quality of their educational outreach on the FastPass system. Every day, more and more people become familiar with how the FastPass+ system works and how best to use it. In turn, the daily, finite FastPass+ supply is only going to dwindle more.
But refreshing FastPass+ availability does still work. Just click a time at the top of the screen to refresh what’s available:
At 9:18am on the day of my visit, a 10:10am Avatar Flight of Passage was available.
Later in the morning, we’ve got a 10:50am return time available. That’s less than an hour in the future.
With more and more people checking for additional FastPass+ availability, don’t be surprised if it takes a lot more clicks before you’re able to pull anything worth getting too excited about. Not that there’s anything wrong with It’s Tough To Be A Bug.
Speaking of FastPass+, I’m about to use my first of the day at Expedition Everest as I approach the Forbidden Mountain just after 11am.
The FastPass+ return line is backed up a ways, but the ride moves through so many people so quickly that it shouldn’t be much of a problem.
That’s a 40-minute posted wait.
I was on-board in less than ten.
The front three rows do afford a nice view of the Gran Destino tower in the distance, along with Spaceship Earth and some other areas of interest.
The bird prop was actually working on Expedition Everest. I wasn’t expecting it, so it’s not in focus, but we rarely see it up there.
I also sort of managed to capture a picture of the yeti.
Expedition Everest with FastPass+ took 15 minutes, which is about three minutes longer than average.
So far, my day has gone well. I’ve managed to do:
- Avatar Flight of Passage: 9:06am – 9:38am
- Na’vi River Journey: 9:38am – 10:04am
- DINOSAUR: 10:16am – 10:40am
- TriceraTop Spin: 10:47am – 11:57am
- Expedition Everest with FastPass+: 11:03am – 11:18am
At this point in the day, I’ve built some time in to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Park. We’ll visit Maharajah Jungle Trek before heading back over to Pandora. We’ll check in on wait times and see if it’s quicker to ride Flight of Passage with FastPass+ later in the day, or in standby first thing. We’ll also visit Kilimanjaro Safaris, enjoy the holiday decorations, and have a Beef and Lamb Gyro from Harambe Market, among other things.