Okay folks it’s “content week” on easywdw.com, which should mean a bevy of in-park updates.
I was out of town for a couple weeks as my brother got married in Seattle and I’ve spent the last few days cultivating content worthy of your high standards. That means we’ll take a long look at what’s going on at Magic Kingdom before popping into Hollywood Studios to see the new entertainment offerings and plentiful walls. Then it’s over to Animal Kingdom to cover Not Rivers of Light with a stop at Wilderness Lodge to check out the construction going on there, in addition to grabbing a drink and some snacks at Territory Lounge and a dinner review at Artist Point. And Joy/Sadness at Epcot along with dinner at Via Napoli and a better look at what else is going on at Epcot that isn’t $14 glasses of wine for Flower/Garden. Oh and Disney Springs for more construction, brunch at Raglan Road, and dinner at THE BOAThOUSE. So there is a lot to cover.
You can also “like” my Facebook page to stay better apprised of what the website is up to. It’s mostly bird pictures and selfies though.
If you park at the Transportation and Ticket Center, you may well find that either the Magic Kingdom Resort or Express (or both) monorails aren’t operating. This week and next, the Express beam is not scheduled to operate between 11:30am and 6pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays, for example. And on Mondays and Tuesdays, the Resort Monorail won’t start operating until 8:30am and on Sundays and Mondays, the Express Monorail won’t start operating until 9:30am.
Should you arrive during one of these closures, planned or otherwise, and are in a hurry, you want to check to see if the buses are running to the Magic Kingdom. It should be about ten minutes between when you’re standing here and when you’re marching towards Magic Kingdom from the stop.
If crowds are pretty chill or you’re not in any rush, the ferry remains a more scenic choice.
The theme parks were unexpectedly crushed this past week with Disney expecting 52,000 guests and receiving over 70,000 at Magic Kingdom. Add in already significant staffing reductions that began in February, shorter operating hours, and less entertainment and the Park easily “felt” as busy as it would have during the days leading up to Christmas.
There are a couple of things at play here. “Scariest” is the massive reduction in staffing and in turn, the reduction in attraction capacity, which is something that will continue for the foreseeable future. You’ve got everything from half of the trains at Big Thunder Mountain out of service in the morning to one of the two theaters at Stitch’s Great Escape shuttered all day. That’s why wait times accelerate so quickly in the morning.
By 10am, waits are higher than Thanksgiving day – 60 minutes at Big Thunder running at half capacity. 25 at Dumbo running at half capacity. 45 at Jungle Cruise running at half capacity. 70 at Space Mountain at half capacity. 30 at Tomorrowland Speedway at half capacity. But waits at attractions that don’t have variable capacities are indicative of heavier crowds. Peter Pan’s Flight isn’t 95 minutes because ships are flying empty or they’ve somehow removed a few vehicles from the track. By 12pm, you’re waiting an average of 50 minutes in line at attractions that post wait times.
I’ve been to Magic Kingdom over 400 times in the last five years and I’ve never seen an extended queue like this at Astro Orbiter.
At PeopleMover, the extended queue, which was virtually never in use prior to FastPass+, has been further extended.
This is just after 2pm and with Space Mountain at 125 minutes, Speedway at 50 minutes, Buzz at 60 minutes, and Orbiter at 40+ minutes, you have a lot of people wandering around looking for something…anything…else to do. With very little to no FastPass+ availability by this time of day, there are not a lot of options and those limited options do begin to fill. You do not want to find yourself in a 30-minute line for Stitch’s Great Escape.
It’s also impossible to say if there’s been a reduction in the number of FastPass+ experiences distributed daily to go along with the capacity reductions. If they’re still distributing FastPass+ experiences as if attractions are operating at full capacity, then FastPass+ lines will overwhelm any attraction operating at a reduced capacity. If they’ve decreased the number of FastPass+ experiences distributed for variable capacity attractions, then it makes a lot of sense that availability has gotten so bad in the last two weeks.
Here at Buzz Lightyear, there is nobody in the extended standby queue lined up outside, yet the posted wait is 80 minutes.
And if you got in the line, you’d probably wait that long as you can’t even see the end of the winding FastPass+ return queue. If there were five times more people waiting in FastPass+ than standby, the last person in FastPass+ would still easily board before the last person in standby. That’s how ratios work. So you might see a picture of a seemingly empty standby queue for Toy Story Mania or something, but the standby wait can still easily be 75+ minutes even if 100 people are in front of you. That much of the ride’s capacity is given to FastPass+, particularly if downtime is suffered.
This isn’t a straight shot to the entrance either. The return line winds around before heading inside. It’s about a 15-minute wait.
So what do we have going on here?
- Significantly reduced staffing that leads to lower attraction capacity.
- An unexpectedly high number of people visiting Magic Kingdom. I usually use an Olive Garden analogy with this though people always get too clever with me about it. But say you operate an Olive Garden and you are expecting 300 people for dinner. And 296 show up. Things probably go pretty well as you have the staff to accommodate that number of people. Now let’s say you are expecting 300 people for dinner and 500 show up. Now you don’t have the number of servers to work the tables, don’t have the chefs to prepare the food, don’t have the staff to clean the tables, etc. Now you could have handled 500 people if you were expecting it, but when you aren’t everything goes to hell. Disney could have handled this many people a lot better if they were prepared for it.
- I think the unexpected number of people at Magic Kingdom in particular has something to do with the drop in attendance at Epcot with Soarin’ down. You’ve got a lot of people that would have spent a second day at Epcot now looking to visit another Park, particularly with My Disney Experience notifying everyone that logs on to book FastPass+ that the ride will be down. Waits were higher at other Parks too, but nothing like Magic Kingdom.
- FastPass+ continues to propel waits higher as more and more people use it. That means the maximum number of people arriving with priority at virtually all attractions that offer it from first thing in the morning through close.
Let’s see how the rest of the day plays out.
The upper level of the Train Station has been roped off during the afternoon parade for a while now. Those paying a few hundred per hour for a guide have access to the area instead. At least Tom Staggs won’t cut in front of you anymore.
The Cat has been pulled from Town Square, which means Marie no longer normally meets anywhere at Walt Disney World.
For reasons unknown to me, Stitch meets in her place. You’d think Tomorrowland would be a better fit.
It looks like FastPass+ will continue to be offered for Festival of Fantasy.
I have a lengthy post that covers the benefit (or lack thereof) of using FastPass+ from earlier this year in this post.
It looks like the last day of FastPass+ for Wishes will be April 20th as the fireworks are no longer offered as an experience after that. There are also currently no FastPass+ offered for Main Street Electrical Parade after May 29th.
I’ve already covered price increases both at quick and table service outlets at Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios, but I was holding off on Magic Kingdom because there was going to be a second increase on April 3rd, after the initial increase on March 1st.
The Tony’s Town Square menu:
That means items like the Chicken Parmigiana are up to $26 from the previous $21 price point.
That buys you literally a defrosted and reheated chicken breast and 50 cents worth of limp spaghetti.
Every drink item is still a snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan and you can get as weird as you want on the customization front.
It would be a lousy use of a quick service meal credit though.
You can pretty well gauge crowd levels based on the number of people sitting on the ground outside Casey’s Corner. Nothing says “magic” like stomping through the french fry jungle formed from spilled potatoes. This is a solid 8.6.
The Foot-Long Hot Dogs first popped up at Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner at Hollywood Studios. And size queens will be happy to hear that they are legit – you might consider going foot-long and cutting it in half rather than purchasing two regular individuals. I’ll have to bring my scale and weigh the two different sizes to find out the cost per ounce. That scene wouldn’t even crack the top 100 weird things I’ve done for or on behalf of this site.
I am not sure if they will sell you the Corn Dog Nuggets without the side to save the usual $2. I got denied at Starring Rolls on my Pastrami Sandwich the other day.
Your always-available-20-minute-wait-even-with-a-“reservation” at Crystal Palace. Add 20 minutes to however long you expect it to take unless you’re visiting first thing.
As previously discussed, lunch is not a thing anymore.
This is now a preferred canal, which costs the ducks $35 per day.
Dream Along with Mickey is no more as the last show concluded on April 2nd.
The new stage show, “Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire,” is expected to debut in June.
Anything with Louis Alligator front and center is an improvement, I think. I’m not sure I ever watched Dream Along with Mickey. I physically stood there during the show from time to time before Frozen Holiday Wish and whatnot, but I’m not sure if I ever looked up.
Of course, it’s never too early to attach your iPad to a tripod for some choice 4k wall videos. Only the highest resolution.
You can’t help but overhear people’s conversations as they try to rationalize getting in a line that says 115 minutes. This poor guy is doing the surrender cobra like he’s an Alabama fan after the 2013 Iron Bowl. That kid in the FastPass+ return queue isn’t much better off.
Sweet Cream Cheese Pretzels have joined the Jalapeno Cheese on the no-longer-available-anywhere front.
Quality on these varied quite a bit depending on how fresh they were, but they will be missed.
Travesties like the Taco Hot Dog are a thing of the past as Lunching Pad just serves your standard dog along with a currently-exclusive Ham and Cheese-Stuffed Pretzel.
I don’t think this is worth going out of your way for, but lines are typically short here underneath Astro Orbiter. So if you’re starving and they’re only running one Bay at Cosmic Ray’s and a marching band just got in line then you might want to seek it out.
Just about everything unique was pulled from Tomorrowland Terrace last year, which was open a couple of days last week.
I had to use the above picture to crop this menu. It was either that or ask a cast member if it was okay if I took a picture of their Polish Sausage Meal sign “for memories.” Don’t get me started on condiment bar pictures.
It’s closed this week.
We may not see it open again until Memorial Day Weekend next month. The seating area is usually wide open and some may prefer the outdoor waterfront seating over Cosmic Ray’s, which is typically busier and all indoors. If all of the tables at Casey’s Corner are full, I like to bring my food over here to sit, particularly when the Tomorrowland quick service is otherwise not operating.
You can almost always sit here up until a couple hours before Wishes.
Plaza Restaurant is also in the area:
I’ll have to re-add this one to the list as it’s been a while since I’ve dined here. You may remember me praising Portobello’s lunch prices in the last Disney Springs update, where no entree was over $15. Plaza has long been heralded as the “cheapest” restaurant on property, but prices are up over 20% on average in the last two years. Most third party establishments not-named-Morimoto are up closer to 9% during that time.
Even Kids’ Picks are up into the $11 range for a cheeseburger.
Plaza Ice Cream Parlor:
The “Plaza” Ice Cream Sundae on the other hand is the same price as it was last year, making an already wise choice seem that much smarter.
Like just about everything else, Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies was slammed with just two cast members working the ice cream and smoothies. This picture is only to note that they’re selling the Chewbacca souvenir steins that permeate Hollywood Studios over here too. What’s on the menu:
FUNNY STORY. When I’m serious about my menus, which is about 87.2% of the time, I use my 24-105mm F4 lens for the zoom. It has image stabilization and I felt like I was being particularly shaky taking some of these pictures and was a little concerned that four bourbons wasn’t going to be enough to steady my hand. But it turned out that I didn’t have image stabilization on HAHAHAHAHA!!! It was about three days and 1,000 pictures before I put two and two together. And people call me “unprofessional.”
See it shouldn’t be blurry. This picture is from before 4pm, so it appears like Disney is serving the Chicken & Ribs Combo for lunch. For the past few years, the ribs weren’t available until 4pm. But with quick service prices at a lot of places climbing into the $14-$17, the $16.19 price here doesn’t feel out of place.
The menus for Bay 2 and 3 are now exactly the same.
How many years has the Greek Salad been around and they still don’t have a picture?
Also I miss the Tortellini Salad.
The difference in the last picture is the Macaroni & Cheese kids’ meal.
“Sir, it appears we have lost your reservation. We would be happy to accommodate you at one of our standing tables.”
Not quite as extensive as Restaurantosaurus over at Animal Kingdom.
Merida across the way still sees considerable demand. This is 3:20pm and she will return to do Meet and Greets at 3:45pm. So if you got in line now, you’d be waiting about 45 minutes to actually meet her.
There are a variety of new personalized MagicBand styles. You’ll find the largest selection at the Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs, where they have some exclusive styles.
Though I’m not sure why anybody gets anything other than Duffy.
I’ll post all of the new attraction Bands as part of a merchandise update. The Samsung S7 is not available yet – it’s just iPhones and up to the S6.
50 minutes for Speedway.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen the line this long. But that is a sentence I’ve said more in the last year than I had the previous four.
Congestion was so bad that the Festival of Fantasy Parade stepped off 15 minutes early. This is it passing through Main Street in the distance right at 3pm. Normally, it would be closer to 3:15pm by the time it got to this point.
In related parade news, Nick and Judy from Zootopia have joined the cast of the Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It! Parade that begins on Main Street in between the Firehouse and Emporium and continues up to the Hub right in front of Cinderella Castle. The Parade is significantly less crowded than Festival of Fantasy or Main Street Electrical Parade and is usually scheduled two or three times daily, so it’s not a big rush to find a spot. Arriving two or three minutes before step-off is plenty. You can either wait for it to stop in the Hub or walk along the sidewalk as it marches up Main Street. There’s a bit of a dance party element in the Hub before the Parade starts back down Main Street to end in the same place it started.
In Part 2 we’ll complete our lap around Magic Kingdom.