We continue from Part One, where we enjoyed a couple of Omnibus rides up and down Main Street, the “Let the Magic Begin” opening show with Mickey Mouse at the Castle Forecourt Stage, and a ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. At 9:30am, Splash Mountain is still posting a 5-minute wait.
Disney continues to push the “Disney play app,” which I have not, and will never, install. I’m sure Disney will abandon it in short order, just like the Shop Disney Parks app. At one time, Disney was looking to add interactive elements to a number of queues to keep guests engaged in the experience. Apparently, we’re all better off staring into our phones. It’s hard to argue with that.
Disney ran just about the corniest ad of all time last week to promote the app. Apparently, if you wave your phone around the Toy Story Mania queue, a cardboard form in the likeness of
BackDoorDisney Stinky Pete will appear in jail.
Back to the morning at hand, we prioritize Big Thunder over Splash for a couple of reasons, but it boils down to the fact that waits almost always build slower at the log flume than over at the runaway railway. Splash is also a considerably longer ride, so even if we were able to walk right on first thing, we still wouldn’t be on our way to Big Thunder until about 9:20am, when we’re looking at a 20ish minute actual wait most days.
Disney continues to fight the good fight on behalf of the turtles by distributing what I suppose are multi-use plastic bags. At Splash, you could put your phone in the bag during the ride and then later in the day, you might find part of a sandwich or something that you could also keep safe in there. You could also wrap the plastic bag around a paper straw to offer it a little support.
I’m expecting to wait less than five minutes in standby. There’s probably about 50 people in front of me.
I arrived at 9:30am and was on-board about five minutes after first getting in line:
I arrived at 9:30am and was back out front at 9:52am for a total experience time of just 22 minutes, which is about three minutes longer than the absolute minimum amount of time that it takes. That’s pretty good, particularly considering the fact that we arrived ten minutes later than we would have liked.
Here’s a look at Splash Mountain’s wait times so far in May:
On average, they’re actually higher than Big Thunder Mountain, which saw an overall average wait of “just” 38 minutes. But wait times also rise much slower, with the average wait not eclipsing 20 minutes until 10am.
Here’s Big Thunder again:
At 10am, Big Thunder’s 40-minute average is almost twice as long, so it’s pretty clear that Big Thunder should be experienced first even if the initial wait is a little longer.
With the delayed opening and the fact that only one loading platform is open, Big Thunder is already posting a 50-minute wait at 9:53am. And while the queue is beginning to stretch back towards the entrance, the length of the extended queue is truly scary as it switches back and forth. Imagine being at the end of a 120-minute, 99% outdoor queue as record heat this week descends on Lake Buena Vista. It makes me calm down a bit about our five-minute delay and 15-minute wait first thing in the morning.
Big Thunder’s quickly-rising wait is why we don’t try to ride Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean before moving back here. Those rides would take about 40 minutes to accomplish first thing, putting us at Big Thunder around 9:45am. Big Thunder’s actual wait would be pushing 25 minutes at that point, which would put us back out front around 10:20am. At that point, Splash’s actual wait would be approaching 40 minutes. Of course, on this particular day, we’re not going to do much better trying to do Jungle Cruise and Pirates after the Frontierland headliners, either.
Considering the quality of the content other sites are putting out these days, the rope around this concrete slab is probably worthy of its own blog post. You won’t believe what’s going down in this super secret Walt Disney World location that barely anyone knows about!
At 9:54am, there’s still basically nobody in Frontierland. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this few people in a major area of a Walt Disney World theme park an hour into operation.
We’re heading back towards Adventureland.
Caribbean Plaza is picking up a little bit with a lot of people looking to be interested in Pirates of the Caribbean.
The posted wait is ten minutes with the outdoor queue already filling, indicating an actual wait closer to 20 minutes.
We’re going to hope that holds out for a little while, passing it in favor of Jungle Cruise, where waits typically rise faster.
Jungle Cruise is posting a 30-minute wait before 10am. But as we know, this isn’t particularly unusual. In this rope drop, we arrived at Jungle Cruise at 10:01am and found a 45-minute posted wait, only to end up waiting less than three minutes. In this rope drop, I arrived an hour after the Park opened and waited four minutes. In this rope drop, I arrived right around the same time to a 25-minute posted wait and ended up waiting just under 15 minutes. In this rope drop, I arrived 54 minutes after the Park opened and walked right onto the next boat. Those aren’t old examples either, so we do have some recent experience.
Unfortunately, things did not work in my favor this time around and I found myself standing in a part of the queue that I had actually never waited in before.
And even then, the length of the line can get much longer. They’re only using about a third of it here with two lanes in the middle closed. That will soon change.
I arrived at 9:57am and was on-board right around 10:30am, for an actual wait that was right around the posted time.
Something that almost never happens.
Me, when I realize that a 30-minute posted wait is actually 30 minutes:
I arrived at 9:57am and wasn’t back out front until 10:42am, for a total experience time of 45 minutes. That’s at least 15 minutes more than I’d like it to take on the long side of things, particularly at this time of day. 30 minutes at noon isn’t bad at all, but to experience that before 10am isn’t great. But no matter how long you wait early in the morning, you can be reasonably assured that the wait is going to be even longer once you get back out front to see it again. I’d have to imagine that the 60 minutes posted when I finished my ride is accurate.
Here’s a look at posted wait times so far in May:
At 10am, the average posted wait is already 40 minutes, so it’s not a surprise that we saw 30 posted at that time. That’s actually below average. According to the chart above, the wait on May 14th, the day of our visit, actually came down from the 50 minutes that was posted at 9:45am, before the same 50 minutes is posted again at 10:30am. With the average posted wait of 52 minutes for the day, and the fact that the wait is basically 60+ minutes from 10:45am through 8pm, it makes my 30-minute wait look a little better in comparison.
Still, 30 minutes is much longer than I’d like to wait at 10am. By the time I’m done with the attraction, at 10:45am, waits are going to be prohibitive at just about every attraction that posts one. In retrospect, I should have gotten in line at Pirates first and used FastPass+ at Jungle Cruise after. But we can’t use FastPass+ everywhere and with more and more people booking FastPass+ in advance every day, day-of inventory is only diminishing, making it more and more difficult to score a good Jungle Cruise as a 4th or subsequent selection.
The biggest shame here is probably the fact that reductions in capacity are what caused our long waits here and at Big Thunder. By moving through fewer people in the morning, and guaranteeing that waits increase much faster than they need to, you’re also raising wait times even after capacity is (hopefully) increased, due to an increased number of people still waiting in the queue. While my wait was unfortunate, check out the wait times posted a day later, on May 15th. Jungle Cruise hits 95 minutes at 10:30am and 110 minutes at 11am. Amusingly, we see a 20-minute posted wait in the middle of it, likely because nobody is getting in line for Jungle Cruise with a 110-minute posted wait. At some point, there’s probably just about nobody waiting in standby, even if the 110-minute wait time is still posted.
A big part of the problem is the number of FastPass+ experiences that are distributed for any given time period. FastPass+ are available 60+ days in advance of a date – long before Disney has made any decisions about staffing. It “feels” like the same number of FastPass+ experiences are distributed whether an attraction is running at full or limited capacity. As we know, as much as 70% of an attraction’s capacity goes to FastPass+ by default. If Jungle Cruise moves through 1,500 people an hour, then they’re probably distributing around 900 FP+ experiences per hour. You’ve also got to factor in Disability Access Card users adding to that number, along with cheaters. But if the ride is operating at 67% capacity, and only moving through about 1,000 people per hour, then they may well still be distributing the same 900 FastPass+ experiences per hour, which reduces the number of standby riders that will be able to ride from 600 per hour to closer to 100.
That looked to be what was happening during my 30-minute wait. FastPass+ was backed up significantly, which isn’t something that should happen before 10am. With so many FP+ returners filling each boat, very few standby riders board each cycle. And so we wait.
We’re heading back towards Pirates just before 10:45am, but I have a feeling that we’re too late.
At 10:43am, the posted wait is “just” 35 minutes, but the standby queue has filled almost the entire outdoor area and FastPass+ is backed up as well.
After spending five minutes making fun of people on Twitter, I looked up again to see a 50-minute posted wait at 10:48am. That’s probably about right and much longer than I’d like to wait at this point in the morning. With how far things have deteriorated over the last couple of years, a 30-minute actual wait for Pirates at 11am wouldn’t even be that bad.
Here’s a look at wait times over the course of the day of our visit, Tuesday, May 14th, 2019:
Disney’s posted waits are typically 15 minutes behind the times, so the posted waits listed at 11:15am should be close to the actual waits when we’re getting in line for something at 11am. Of course, this isn’t particularly helpful on the day of, as most of us are unable to look 15 minutes into the future at any given time. But even at 11am, you’ve got a 34-minute overall average for the attractions that post a wait and they continue to climb, going up another 25% just from 11am to 11:30am. That’s why we look to begin using FastPass+ as early as 9:45am on the high priorities and as soon as 10:30am at the moderate priorities. At 10:15am, Buzz Lightyear is already posting a 45 minute wait, which is going to go up to 70 minutes at 11am. You can’t really chalk that up to capacity manipulation either, since it’s an omnimover that “literally” always has the same number of vehicles in motion.
But considering what I’ve been able to do, which is only three attractions over the course of almost two hours, I’m still doing relatively well for myself. At 11am, Big Thunder’s posted wait is 55 minutes. I waited about fifteen. Splash Mountain is at 60 minutes. I waited about four. Jungle Cruise is posting 65 minutes. I waited about thirty. Including ride time, I’ve completed about 210 minutes worth of stuff in about 100 minutes of Park time. That still pales in comparison to my Easter week visit, when I accomplished 530 minutes worth of stuff in the first 150 minutes of operation with the 8am open. But nonetheless, I’m ahead of the curve.
Looking back, I could have used FastPass+ to experience one more attraction in the morning with a short wait. It would have been smart to do Big Thunder, Splash Mountain, Pirates, and then use FastPass+ at Jungle Cruise, where I would have saved about 45 minutes in line. I also could have done Jungle Cruise, Pirates, and Splash Mountain in standby before using FastPass+ at Big Thunder, which also would have saved me about 45 minutes in line. As it stands, I still have all three FastPass+, but I’ve had to punt on Pirates. Fortunately, Pirates is one of the easier 4th FastPass+ opportunities. These days, with the number of people refreshing availability on the day-of only increasing, even getting a Pirates FP+ with a return time within an hour is relatively rare for a party of four or larger. You’re going to have to refresh a lot.
Come 11am, it’s time to begin or continue using FP+, while blending in the anytime experiences in between.
I opted for Enchanted Tiki Room:
In the area, Swiss Family Treehouse, Country Bear Jamboree, Tom Sawyer Island, Hall of Presidents, and Liberty Square Riverboat also fit the bill.
You’ll either be able to walk right in to the attraction or just need to wait for the start of the next show.
There’s a sign outside the entrance to Tiki Room that counts down to the start of the next show.
I recommend heading in when it says six minutes or less, in order to see the full pre-show without wasting any time standing around.
Of course, if you have nowhere else to be, you can file in at your convenience.
I headed through the turnstile at 10:49am with the countdown timer showing four minutes until the next show.
And that turned out to be exactly right as I found my seat at 10:55am.
And the 10-minute show began about three minutes later.
I checked on Country Bear Jamboree next, where I was able to walk into the next show just a minute or two before it was set to begin:
I arrived at 11:09am and was back out front at 11:23am, for a total experience time of 14 minutes. You could add as much as 12 minutes to that if you time the show particularly poorly. There’s also a timer outside the entrance counting down to the next show. If it’s 8+ minutes away, you could browse a store or find some walls to pose in front of.
It’s easy to time the departure of Liberty Square Riverboat, which casts off from the dock on the half and full hour. It would make some sense to use FastPass+ at Haunted Mansion at this point in the day as well. We’ll see what the line looks like after disembarking the boat:
I arrived at 11:25am and was back out front at 11:50am, which is par for the course with the 20-minute ride.
This is the length of the FastPass+ return line for Haunted Mansion at 11:52am with the 60-minute posted wait.
It looks worse than it probably ends up being as I was in the stretching room in under ten minutes.
As the crowds roll in.
We have other business to attend to, so I will spare you my rides on Peter Pan’s Flight and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train after lunch:
Even with a 90+ minute posted wait, the total experience time on Mine Train with FastPass+ should be around 15 minutes. Peter Pan’s Flight typically takes 12 to 15 minutes with FP+, even if the posted wait is 75+ minutes. That’s why the standby waits are so long.
Overall, my day didn’t go as well as I would have liked. Big Thunder’s delayed opening and the fact that it was only running one of its two sides slowed us down first thing and we ran into even bigger problems at Jungle Cruise. If everything had been running at even 75% capacity, I would have been able to ride Big Thunder, Splash, Jungle Cruise, and Pirates without any trouble before 10:30am. With the capacity reduction, it would have taken me until after 11:30am to experience those same four rides.
Over the years, I’ve published several hundred touring plans, most or all designed to get you to each attraction shortly before the wait time becomes appreciable. This is not a particularly difficult task when you know how quickly wait times increase given different attendance estimates. Historically, lower crowds meant shorter waits. Higher crowds meant longer waits. It makes some sense. Fewer people in line in front of you is probably going to result in a shorter wait. Over the last few years, that has turned out to be less and less the case as Disney clamps down on ride capacity and reduces operating hours. Over the last couple of years, busier days often see waits that rise slower in the morning, offering us more opportunities to enjoy rides in standby with shorter waits before it becomes necessary to use FastPass+. On the other hand, if wait times are going to be the same whether attendance is high or low, then it makes writing those touring plans a lot easier. There only needs to be one.
We’ll begin focusing on some late night touring, beginning with Animal Kingdom and Pandora After Dark. We’ll also get back over to Magic Kingdom to rope drop Tomorrowland on a day with an 8am open to see just how easy that is.