We pick our visit to Epcot up at Regal Eagle Barbecue.
- Mark, the creator of the RideMax touring optimization software that we’re using to help guide us on our day, introduced us to the software. The app got our in-park wait at Frozen Ever After down to three minutes and now over to barbecue for lunch, so I’d say we’re doing pretty well for ourselves. Oh, the wonders of technology. My touring plan would probably have us sitting next to crying children on Mission: SPACE.
- Part two followed with the arrival experience to Frozen Ever After and covered the thought process behind a number of decisions that you may find yourself considering as you plot your way around Epcot. RideMax made a lot of those decisions easier as we clicked through the various options in the app.
- We continued in World Showcase with Gran Fiesta Tour and a walk up through the Italy Pavilion.
We’re now at Regal Eagle Barbecue, largely because it was hot outside and air-conditioned indoor seating sounded nice. It’s also guaranteed to be open, unlike the other quick services in the area, like Lotus Blossom Café in China, which only operates on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at the moment. Kringla in Norway and Yorkshire in the UK are only open on Saturdays and Sundays, but not Fridays. Sommerfest in Germany hasn’t reopened at all. Tangierine Café in Morocco was open for about 33 seconds. You may be able to keep better track of all of that than I can, but Regal Eagle may currently be the equivalent of the McDonald’s of the airport food court world. Sometimes the smart play is the sure thing. Do you really want to risk a bucket of Yobogoya beef before a cross country flight?
I’ll be rocking the Power Greens Salad with Chicken for Powerful Men Who Aren’t Scared Away By The Threat of Radish:
The algorithm has apparently decided that Disney is more likely to sell me a $3.50 bottle of water than a whiskey float, likely because I went with the radishes. The algorithm would be wrong. The only thing to get the radishes down is the whiskey float. One follows the other.
But the app does offer me some customization options, which is why I used to recommend taking a look at it even if you were planning on completing your transaction at the register:
They’re not wavering on that $3.50 bottle of water. It’s even attached to the bottom of the salad customization. But if I was in the $3.50 bottle of water selling business myself, I would be invading your personal space much more than either of us would probably like trying to get you to order one too. Ideally, by the time we’re through with our transaction, you’ll just be throwing 20 dollar bills at me and I’ll be handing you two bottles of Dasani, because that’s how much $20 buys you in bottled water.
Other than guarding what’s actually the exit to Regal Eagle Barbecue with their lives, the cast members out front are there should you have dietary concerns or potentially problems with the app. If you’re having trouble with mobile order, Disney’s checklist of troubleshooting is longer than if you were to call Best Buy not knowing whether you had a Windows or Mac computer and whether or not your USB cable also functions as Ethernet. When it comes to mobile order, you’ll be doing everything from reinstalling the program, to restarting your phone, to restarting your phone again, to just kind of staring blankly at the various buttons and inputs for a while. That’s what troubleshooting is. After about ten minutes of trying, they can send you in to the one dedicated register for the other people who also can’t figure things out. I don’t know if you have to wear the cone of shame or not. But they really, really want you to use mobile order where it’s available.
At Epcot, only Regal Eagle and Sunshine Seasons in the Land Pavilion offer mobile order. So if you’re looking for it, that’s where you’ll find it. If mobile order hasn’t been working out so well, consider heading in a different direction, or spend 15 minutes trying to convince the people out front that you already went through their 15-minute checklist. “Have you tried turning your phone off and then back on? Let’s try that again, only this time have the app closed before you turn it off. Okay, now we’re going to open the app. Oh, it’s still not working.” Since I am basically a wizard, I put my order through:
We’ll just wait in the unrelenting heat until our salad that is probably already made is “ready.”
And there it is. I like fruity salads, and thought the tangy citrus vinaigrette played nicely against the smokiness of the plentiful, tender chicken, and the generous topping of sweet and sour cranberries. The sunflower seeds added an earthy element and even more crunch to the fresh, crispy greens. It “felt” very fall, but it could have also been due to the fact that it was 91 degrees instead of 94 degrees. It may be a personal taste thing, but the grapefruit was a little sour for me, and overpowered what was otherwise a really filling, satisfying salad. You can always hurl the grapefruit at the other bloggers. Nothing makes them scatter faster than fresh fruits and vegetables moving in their general direction.
Pushing a couple pieces of grapefruit to the side isn’t on the difficult side of things, either. And there isn’t an overwhelming amount of it. We see a couple of bright yellow bites in the beautiful bokeh. (The background blur.)
I thought it was a great value at $12 and it would rival the Power Salad from Sunshine Seasons at a lower price point. A smart buy and a ton of food. You might even want to plan on sharing one of these and a platter of something else to mix things up a bit.
Mark went with the $12.49 “North Carolina Chopped Smoked Pork Butt Platter – Chopped Pork Butt topped with our North Carolina Vinegar Sauce served with Garlic Toast and your choice of side.” The meat is tender with a rich, smoky flavor. The Texas Toast adds a buttery, garlicky filler and there’s more meat hiding underneath the bread. I’m not a big coleslaw person, but it looks like a nice mixture of cabbage without too much of the mayo etc.
Your side choices are:
- Beer-battered Onion Rings
- Baked Beans with Burnt Ends
- Creamy Coleslaw
- Seasoned French Fries
- Macaroni & Cheese
Regal Eagle is largely the real deal and a substantial improvement over Liberty Inn.
If you’re after some of the sauces, you’ll need to ask at the counter when you order. There’s no shame in asking for at least one of each.
It may even be unpatriotic not to.
Mobile order makes things easier for the most part. With designated lanes and pickup areas, it’s a straight shot to radish city.
Another bonus of our early World Showcase touring – we had the quick service largely to ourselves for more than half the meal.
By the time we were finished, things had begun filling up. My one complaint from opening day was that the whole experience was a little hectic with so many people filling the place up and Sam Eagle’s aesthetic choices not doing much to damper that high noise level. At least with half the tables designated as off-limits at the moment, it’s also a calmer experience.
High waits in the late morning and early afternoon in Future World may surprise you at a Park whose headlining act is the JAMMitors. Here’s 12:35pm, or just over 90 minutes into operation:
Even if the waits are 65% of what’s posted, and we get lucky and don’t have to wait through a lengthy cleaning cycle, 20 minutes is more time than we want to spend at the secondary Future World attractions like Figment and Spaceship Earth.
If we were to stay in Future World after starting the day at Test Track instead, these are the waits we’d now be up against. Seventy-five minutes at Soarin’ is well above-average, and likely due to downtime at Test Track, potentially compounded by cleaning or understaffing, leading to only two of the three theaters operating.
But out here in World Showcase, we don’t have much of a care in the world. Ordinarily, our afternoon at the other Parks would likely be more regimented, at least in name. See this specific thing at 12:52pm. Then this thing at 1:21pm. We’re pretty much free to do what we like. RideMax will schedule specific attractions in World Showcase for you if you’d like.
In World Showcase, we looked around Japan on our way to Morocco.
And discussed what might come of the Morocco Pavilion now that Disney will be taking it back over by the end of the year. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bob Chapek shows up sometime in December and is like, “What, we inherited Agrabah? Is the Genie in there somewhere? The Genie should be in there somewhere. And we sued the previous operators into oblivion? Right? Wait, what’s baklava? Is that hard to make?”
Morocco, as what I think we can all agree is/was the least popular Pavilion, wasn’t positioned too well for 3+ months of zero revenue, losing most of their workforce to the pausing of the International College Program, and the fact that their star restaurant is in the very back of the Pavilion. Windowless. And still closed.
You wonder whether or not they went back and forth on adding “Restaurant” to the name of the….restaurant. “We better lead with that considering nobody is going to make it back here and we have the curb appeal of a brick.”
Here’s Spice Road Table at 1:30pm. Just the name of the restaurant may be a few of the words that tourists hate the most strung together. Spice? Not unless that’s Arabic for hamburger. The Road. Not in a hurry to get back on that on vacation. Table? At least that doesn’t seem to be a problem.
Spice Road is a waterside Mediterranean restaurant with good food and a nice array of wines. And here we are at peak lunch on a day with above-average crowds. Nothing. This is the only restaurant in Morocco currently open. With no nighttime spectacular at the moment, they lose out on increased popularity given the views.
Still a no at Spice Road?
Just look at it. I’m not sure how close to this policy they adhere to in these trying times, but typically those with reservations were seated inside. You can always make a request one way or another. I have a feeling finding a table won’t be a problem.
We hemmed and hawed over suffering through the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, but ultimately decided to take a ride on the Skyliner instead. We’ll be able to get a glimpse of Ratatouille construction and if you have an eagle eye, one of the larger barges for the upcoming Harmonious nighttime spectacular at Epcot. I’m guessing the shaman from Na’vi River Journey won’t be part of that choir. It’s been like four years. Still singing out of tune. Hire someone else. Anyway, Harmonious, HarmonioUS, or anything other than the shaman singing songs from “Aladdin.” Someday.
If you’re interested in trying the Skyliner out, but not staying at a resort connected by it, it probably makes more sense to take a spin in the middle of your Hollywood Studios day. The station is right outside the exit to the Park and you’re probably only missing long waits back inside.
But the Skyliner station at Epcot is only a couple hundred feet away from the International Gateway exit at Epcot, making for a reasonably easy escape.
As the highs get a little bit cooler over the next couple months, it will make gondola rides feel a little less like an Easy Bake Oven. Or, if you’re female, bring a sweater because anything below 75 degrees is freezing I’ve been told.
In the middle of the day, you shouldn’t run into any wait for the Skyliner at all. We may have been two of six or seven people interested and it was easy enough to naturally space ourselves out so we could choose our cabin. I apologize for the reflections. I forgot to take off my lens hood to press the lens glass up against the gondola glass. You get what you pay for:
We’ve probably been through this before, but with the buildings now up, as well as us corresponding from the sky, we’ll take one more quick look at the French setup. The Ratatouille section is behind most of the rest of France. There should only be one way in and out of the area, which is through a narrow corridor on the very far right of the Pavilion with a “Ratatouille” sign above an awning that they’ve already changed out three times. It now illuminates just right. Or maybe it doesn’t and we’ll see a fourth sign. Hopefully “Pizza” is also illuminated in neon somewhere for a call back to PizzeRizzo. As a vermin myself, every little bit of publicity helps, even when “Rat Pizza” is your product. It’s possible the French are…how do you say it….too classy for neon pizza signs. I’m not though.
Once you slither through the side opening, this should be how it works out. Take a left and it’s a straight-shot to the attraction. The crepe outlet should have a sit-down and to-go component. I would admit that despite being a bit of an expert on France based on several short visits, I am not a huge crepe guy, unless those Jimmy Dean Pancakes wrapped around the sausages count.
The gold-leaf marquee (not pictured) is now up at the attraction’s entrance, so if you see someone with a big camera sort of nonchalantly jumping up and down trying to grab at the gold then it’s not me. The entrance is set up with single rider, FastPass+, and standby.
For whatever reason, Disney went the Test Track route with the vehicle seating configuration with two rows of up to three people. That means parties of two are seated with a single rider and then parties of four are seated two in front and two in back with a single rider in each row. Since party sizes of two and four are the most common, a lot of single riders move through. At Test Track, the wait for single rider is typically shorter than FastPass+, though they don’t go through the ~10 minute design process. Single rider is currently not in use, but the option should return when it’s “safe.” Imagine trying to have a nice family ride through a lovely kitchen in a quaint little rat car and then I show up to join your party.
Disney uses single rider on the same attraction in France, so we should eventually see it here. You might remember that Flight of Passage originally opened with a “single rider line” that was never used because there was enough time for the seaters to figure out the layout in each theater without the need. With the speed of the rats moving through, single rider should eventually be on the menu.
The FastPass+ sign will also likely to be covered up at open. It will be interesting to see when the FP+ program returns and whether there’s a cost or tier package attached to your stay based on your resort level. Disney really, really, really wants to make that Universal Express Pass money off it. We’ll see.
Based on what I’ve been able to translate from my 2.75 years devoted to the study of the French language in high school, it sounds like most guests will disembark the ride wondering why they spent so much time on the façade and so little time improving the ride based on feedback from Paris. But people have been giving me advice for years. I obviously don’t take any of it either.
It looks beautiful though. Like if I wrote a blank check and told the Imagineers to build me a romanticized version of Paris, this is exactly what I would expect. We’ll see what wait times look like when the ride does open.
We’ve only got two months left in 2020 with the previous announcement that the ride would open in “Summer 2020.” That sign was up in the middle of March. Technically, summer ended on September 22nd. So in March, Disney had seven months to complete the ride without any of the health restrictions or protocols that we now see. Epcot reopened in July, so it’s been about three-and-a-half months of work since things have resumed somewhat in earnest, at least from the outside. You would think you could paint gold leaf on a sign alone at your leisure, but maybe it takes a whole team to set up the red carpet and heat the gold over a single French flame that’s still burning from the 1700s. I have no idea.
Anyone can take the Skyliner as often as they like. The uncovered cabins without the character overlays offer the best views and potentially a little less motion sickness, if that may be an issue. The wrapped cabins look neat from the outside, but the graphics do inhibit the views from inside. With so few people in line for a gondola in the afternoon, you should have no problem requesting the one you want, whether you prefer better views or a more ghoulish gondola wrap. That’s “literally” the temperature check tent in front of us and then bag check and the International Gateway entrance are just a few more feet away. That’s the boat dock straight ahead, so both modes of transportation drop you off at about the same spot. It couldn’t be much more convenient.
The International Gateway uses the same Evolv Technology scanners as they now use at the main entrance.
They tell you to keep your bag full, but you may want to hold larger electronics out in front of you along with umbrellas and metal water bottles as instructed.
Our Skyliner outing from Epcot to the Riviera Resort to Caribbean Beach Resort and back took about 40 minutes, which is more time than it would take to see the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along. I’ll go in the theater when they’re showing Impressions de France, which should play from 5:45pm through Park close.
It’s 1:16pm as we make our way back towards Future World with a planned stop in the Canada Pavilion for the Far & Wide show. As you can see, things are picking up slightly through here as people begin to head up as we head down. It’s almost like the plan is sound and the tourists are predictable.
No dice on heading through the closed Trading Outpost in Canada, but it does make for a good picture.
Canada Far & Wide counts down to the start of the next show. Ideally, it would be less than ten minutes. If it’s showing 15+, you can safely take five to fourteen minutes to look around the Pavilion. Or you can take advantage of the fact that the waiting area for the show is dark and air-conditioned. I don’t know if this is controversial, but I preferred the playfulness of the Martin Short version. I’m not sure I can handle Serious Canada. I just assume you cross the border and someone shakes your hand and asks how much lumber you need.
We opted for the comfort of our dot as we waited. It’s always better to belong. I actually have one at home now and just set it on the ground wherever I happen to be:
We exited Canada Far and Wide at exactly 2:05pm.
According to our RideMax plan, that’s right about where we want to be:
We arrived at Canada Far & Wide at 1:42pm, or a little later than what we have listed, in large part because of our scenic gondola ride. We’ll be at the Pixar & Short Film Festival by 2:10pm, so we should be able to make up a few minutes there, particularly if we don’t have to wait the full time for the next show. RideMax typically puts the maximum amount of time you’d have to wait for the next show to begin, since we can’t really say you’ll arrive with one minute to showtime or twenty.
Just after 2pm, I took a look at wait times:
And they’ve already come down substantially from our 12:30pm check. It looks like we’ll be in business with several secondary attractions already basically walk-ons. We started the day with Frozen, so we already have that out of the way. The two complications will be Soarin’ and Test Track. We have in mind to get in line for Test Track last and will need to put Soarin’ in there somewhere, likely when we’re in the Land Pavilion for Living with the Land and dinner/a snack.
Earlier this year, I had some friends move here from Belgium, which is an exceedingly difficult thing to do with all of the applications, green cards, interviews red tape, redder tape, the reddest tape. etc. Basically, you have to know a high-ranking diplomat such as myself to push it through.
Here is their YouTube channel along with an embedded video if you’re wondering what a socially-distanced character meal looks like in what is apparently still 2020.
Anyway, I bring this up because for years and years, Food and Wine has brought the Belgium booth. Some years have seen better beers than others, but we’ve gotten a nice selection of St. Bernardus and we even came away with a Delirium Red from the Huyghe Brewery last year.
But Belgium has been relegated to “Waffles” this year along the walkway that connects Future World with World Showcase next to the Imagination Pavilion. And even then, they only open on Fridays through Sundays at the moment. Imagine filling out hundreds of forms, going to dozens of hours of interviews, and then having to wait for months with bated breath to see if you’ve won the green card lottery, only to be met with a closed Waffles booth as you finally arrive in your new country. When I move to Kazakhstan “on my own accord,” and, “not to escape prosecution,” I hope they have an open booth packed full of wait times charts. If I have my green dot it would be like I never left America.
Here’s a look at the walkway that you’ll likely traverse at least once from one side of Future World to the other. The hole is on the other side. What’s left of the Classic MouseGear roof is there above the walls on the left.
Only the JAMMitors will rise from the ashes.
There are sort of 2.5 attractions in the Imagination Pavilion – Journey into Imagination with Figment, Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival, and the Disney Visa Character Meet/Photo Spot. Most people are probably just here for the ride. We’re here for all of it.
If you’re considering the ride, along with the show, and potentially the Disney Visa thing, I’d suggest looking at the countdown timer on the far right of the Disney & Pixar Film Festival sign. If the timer reads five minutes or less, it’s probably time to head in to see the show.
It can read as many as 20 minutes, though, which would indicate that you just missed the previous start. Since you probably don’t want to wait in there for 20 minutes, I’d see if you can ride Journey into Imagination with Figment in that time. With not much of an initial wait, the ride experience takes about 12 minutes from start to finish. That would give you enough time to ride and then still see the next Pixar show. We were seeing just six minutes until showtime, so we decided to check on the Visa thing.
Probably because they are contractually obligated to offer something, the Disney Visa photo spot remains open from 1pm to 7pm to the left of the entrance into the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival. It’s approximately the least obvious thing in Epcot, which may be an indication that you should let it go unnoticed.
While I have long been under the impression that character meets are awkward, it’s possible that not actually meeting the characters, but pretending like you are meeting them as PhotoPass looks on, is worse. As it stands, the Disney Visa thing is a couple of photos along the hallway that would have led to the meet and greet if this was early March. At least I will treasure this memory forever. I’m still rockin’ the hover hands even if there’s nothing to touch. You can’t be too careful.
There was nobody waiting for their picture to be awkwardly taken at the Photo Spot, so we are back to taking awkward photos ourselves, now next door in the waiting area for the Film Festival.
The Short Film Festival is a nice opportunity to sit down and relax in relative comfort for about 20 minutes should you elect to take the opportunity. The three shorts haven’t changed in some time. You’ll see “Get A Horse!” “Piper,” and “Feast,” with limited 4D surprises. The show is in 3D, which makes it a little more entertaining than watching at home on YouTube. With limited time at Epcot, it’s a safe skip, unless you were planning on taking a break anyway.
The current conditions, with every other row blocked off, and three empty seats left in between each party of four, makes for an even more pleasant experience. You’ll still find me in the back corner where the people aren’t.
We’re back outside at 2:45pm. For a wider look at Future World construction, click Here.
If you bring your ear close enough to your screen, you can hear the JAMMitors guy playing the oven with his chopsticks, just waiting to emerge from underneath the earth, not unlike a cicada. Currently, almost all of the work being done is on the Electric Umbrella/MouseGear side.
Potentially, if they were to finish that side up first, they would have their largest retail store and quick service back in action, in addition to being able to potentially open up the middle of the Park again if they finish the fountain or can work around it. If you’ve only got money for half, that’s the half I would pick.
What will come of this side we will just have to wait and see.
We headed down to Journey into Imagination with Figment.
That’s a ten-minute posted wait. But I would guess we’ll wait closer to two minutes.
They are ready for the weekend crowds though. On a Saturday afternoon, the end of the line will be back near the Imagination restrooms. You might need them.
We arrived at 2:47pm and boarded at 2:50pm. Like bosses:
We were back out front right at 3pm.
So far, our day has stacked up well, though we are only getting started in Future World. We’ve accomplished:
- Frozen Ever After: 10:43am – 11:09am
- Gran Fiesta Tour: 11:18am – 11:31am
- World Showcase Meandering: 11:32am – 11:59pm
- Lunch at Regal Eagle Barbecue: 12pm – 12:45pm
- Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along or a Skyliner ride: 12:58pm – 1:30pm
- Canada Far & Wide: 1:43pm – 2:05pm
- Disney Visa Very Awkward Photo Shoot: 2:11pm – 2:20pm
- Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival: 2:23pm – 2:45pm
- Journey into Imagination with Figment: 2:47pm – 3pm
I think we waited longer to see the various shows than any of the rides. We have deviated slightly from the RideMax plan by doing Figment before moving over to the Land Pavilion. That should only save us a little time in backtracking.
In the next Part, we’ll head over to The Land Pavilion for what I’m sure are some scenic, albeit slightly curved, views on Soarin’. We’ll probably also run into our fair share of plants.