We’ll take a look at wait times from yesterday, March 16th, with a couple other dates potentially mixed in for the sake of comparison. The website had been posting a daily report confirming the accuracy of the crowd levels for about a month, but they proved particularly unpopular. You might remember a survey was offered about two weeks ago now. I received just under 1,000 responses between when I posted the survey around 3am and when I had to close it via my phone from the DINOSAUR pre-show room at Animal Kingdom at 10am that same morning. Survey Monkey limits monthly accounts to 1,000 total responses/month and then charges 15 cents per response after that. So I put up a second survey with the exact same questions and that one got just under 1,000 responses within four hours, so I closed that one too. And then a great-friend-of-the-site let me borrow their premium account for a minute and I got just under 3,000 responses within three days after that. For a total of about 4,800 responses. I started a post going over the survey results, but decided it would probably take four or five hours to write up a blurb about each of the 20 questions along with screenshots and I wasn’t sure how much interest there really was.
Anyway, question four dealt with how helpful you found five different varieties of posts:
This is from the third survey that went up. Below is the first, which is nearly identical to the second:
Over 60% of people from both surveys ranked the daily wait times recaps in their bottom two on helpfulness with crowd calendars and updates pertaining to it proving most helpful.
The next question asked what kind of posts people enjoyed reading the most:
Under 3% on the recaps. Not surprisingly, about 65% enjoy the pictures. The third survey is above with the first below:
Closer to 70% among the first responders.
Here’s an example of one of the wait times posts in case you’re unfamiliar. I spend about an hour every week going over similar, albeit more crudely constructed charts in Excel to make sure everything is in order. Making the charts pretty and resizing them to post, in addition to typing out the commentary, probably took me two hours a day. That’s 12 to 15 hours a week I could be spending doing something apparently both of us would enjoy a lot more. So I think we’ll go back to sporadic wait times updates like this one when something of interest is going on. I’m not necessarily adverse to posting the “raw” data, which I think is more helpful than just saying, “I said it was a 10 and it was a 10” every day like “some sites.”
First up is Animal Kingdom:
Safaris continues to suffer from a reduction in capacity early in the morning causing waits to balloon to 90+ minutes by 10:15am with just a slightly above average number of people in the Park. 60 minutes by 9:30am is not good.
This is what wait times looked like with a similar number of people in the Park before 85%+ of part time staff in the Parks and Resorts received a cut in hours. Those cuts started the week of February 21st and more have been added weekly. Some are obvious or otherwise well-reported – Enchanted Tales with Belle closing an hour before the rest of Magic Kingdom, an elimination of half of the Friendship Boats at Epcot as the docks in Mexico and Germany close, a third of Streetmosphere getting the boot, characters getting split up or cut, Kilimanjaro Safaris only loading from one of two bays among about 30 others with similar procedures, turning off the second touchpoint in FastPass+ queues, stopping Agent P Adventure distribution at 6:15pm, eliminating curb side welcomes at resorts, turning off half the FastPass+ kiosks in Fantasyland, or what have you. Others are less obvious and I hesitate to discuss a lot of it. But then I said the same thing about security and I open every post talking about what’s going on with bag check so I guess you’ll just have to wait for the next update to hear about custodial.
As I mentioned in today’s lengthy Epcot post, Epcot attendance is down double digits with Soarin’ still closed. And that’s particularly true on Wednesdays as these wait times show. Last year with Soarin’ open, you’d expect to see an average wait of 28 minutes with this overall crowd level, even if you eliminate Soarin’s average. Obviously the average wait at Soarin’, which would have been around 75 minutes, would otherwise pull the average up. We do see FastPass+ contributing some 20+ minute waits here and there at Imagination, Living with the Land, and Nemo, but wait times are relatively short for the most part given an above average crowd level. Test Track’s overall average is 10 minutes lower than you’d expect given the total number of people in all four Parks. With Soarin’ down, you might expect Test Track waits to be up as people have one less headliner to get in line for, but that hasn’t been the case.
Toy Story Mania was closed all day on the 15th due to an announced closure, but then ended up also opening about five hours late on the 16th, causing some pretty horrific waits elsewhere. This isn’t a staffing thing. It’s a having-four-rides thing.
This was a non-recommended day with the evening Extra Magic Hours from 11pm to 1am. You can see how quickly wait times develop early in the morning with FastPass+ returners arriving immediately after rope drop in addition to attractions operating at reduced capacities. There was a time when days with evening Extra Magic Hours were typically quieter in the morning with more people arriving late, but maximum FastPass+ distribution at the priority attractions in the first hour pulls in a ton of people that would otherwise be snoozing otherwise. We may see some relief if Disney dials back the number of FP+ offered in the first 90 minutes of operation, but it seems unlikely anybody is very concerned about that given everything else going on at the moment. People were able to secure FP+ for this week way back in mid-January, which was a few weeks before we actually saw any of the cuts start impacting the front of house. Otherwise, things are rough pretty much across the board. Even at midnight, you’re averaging a 22-minute wait across operating attractions. Add a five-minute walk from attraction to attraction and an average of a 10-minute experience time, and you’re looking at doing three things during a 2-hour EMH.
There’s a lot of focus on how Rivers of Light and the other nighttime enhancements at Animal Kingdom will prop that Park up in the near-term with expectations that it will bust out once Avatar comes online. Frozen and Soarin’ Around the World will also push people towards Epcot this summer. Then in the maybe-in-our-lifetimes-term you have Star Wars and Toy Story coming to Hollywood Studios. But they’re also extending the Star Wars Fireworks over there and adding a procession and stage show element to what is basically going to become a semi-permanent Star Wars version of Summer Fun. While the focus is obviously on how all of that will affect those Parks, it should hopefully have a similarly major impact on Magic Kingdom as people have more of a reason to head elsewhere.
But this is the low end of what we’re going to see over the next 17 days or so through the first Saturday in April. Expect higher wait times most days from here through the end of the month, before things die back down around April 3rd. There’s still New York schools on spring break to deal with and some other smaller markets, but we should be looking at average-at-worst crowds for much of the rest of the month April.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the new Star Wars additions and then all of the nighttime stuff at Animal Kingdom.