Welcome back to Part II of my spring break 2016 RideMax test at the Magic Kingdom. As you recall from Part I, I’m using the following RideMax plan on Tuesday, March 22nd, to visit the Magic Kingdom:
It’s now 9:52am, and so far in Part I we’ve already completed everything up to and including the Haunted Mansion, along with Madame Leota’s shrimp taco speech. Next up on today’s plan is “it’s a small world.”
Our RideMax plan has allotted eight minutes for this, so taking a look at the wait time above, you might be encouraged…
The actual line outside the attraction tells a different story though. This was the scene at 9:52am. We’re running fourteen minutes ahead of the RideMax schedule at this point, so we do have some padding, but the crowd here seems rather daunting.
Of course it didn’t help when I overheard a cast member tell a guest that the ten-minute estimate was wrong, and the *real* wait was more like 40 minutes.
The photo above shows what the scene in Fantasyland looks like now. It’s amazing what a difference a couple of hours makes. You can definitely tell now that it’s spring break!
As an aside, it’s been interesting to see some of the reactions to the recent RideMax blog post covering my five tips for beating the spring break crowds at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. One person commented on the RideMax Facebook page that they were skeptical about those tips and doubted that *anything* could help during such a busy time of year. It turns out that this person then confessed that they have never arrived for rope drop.
I guess I have to say that if my only experience with the parks during spring break was represented by the image above, that I might be skeptical too. Hopefully the blissfully uncrowded early morning scenes in Part I will spur you to get out of bed in time to actually get a few things done before the crowds descend. Sure, that crowd coming down Main Street first thing in the morning can be intimidating, but aside from the concentrated crowds at the Mine Train, things really aren’t too bad once the opening rush disperses throughout the park.
Back to the business at hand, that previous Cast Member’s 40-minute estimate of the wait here turned out to be *way* too high. Here we are thirteen minutes later. We’ve already navigated through all of the switchbacks outside the show building, and have arrived at the point where we overlook the boarding area.
In what would become a familiar pattern today, I noticed that Disney wasn’t using the second set of FP+ scanners.
I’ve seen some concerns expressed online that not using the second set of scanners might open things up for line-jumpers to hop over the short barrier separating the standby queue from the FP+ queue. I think in actual practice the potential for mischief here is pretty low.
Since there were very few people using the FP+ queue this early in the day, many of us were eventually routed into the FP+ queue…
…and we were on our way shortly afterwards. Total wait in line was eighteen minutes. This was ten minutes longer than the RideMax estimate, but much less than the 40 minutes quoted by the Cast Member earlier. With the fourteen minutes of padding we’ve built up so far, even with the extra ride on Buzz Lightyear earlier in the day, we should be just fine as far as our RideMax plan is concerned.
Let’s enjoy some small world scenery, shall we?
It looks like there are a few light bulbs out in that left-most panel there. Someone should get on that…
One of the reasons I had decided to ride “it’s a small world” today is because Disney has recently “plussed” the exit here to wish you farewell by name if you’re wearing a Magic Band. Sadly, this aspect of the ride didn’t seem to be functioning today.
Am I the only one who reads this and suddenly starts feeling like I’m sitting in Festival of the Lion King?
It’s now 10:23am, and this is the scene in Fantasyland.
90 minutes posted for Peter Pan…
…and small world posted at 30 minutes now. Ironically, the line is actually *shorter* than it was when I hopped in line a half-hour ago or so. One explanation is that the 30-minute posted wait is probably acting as a deterrent. My guess is that the actual wait now is about fifteen minutes.
Next on the RideMax plan is Tom Sawyer Island, where we’ll kill some time before taking a break for lunch.
Admittedly, this is sort of a “softball” attraction to be adding to a RideMax plan, as the wait here normally isn’t terrible, even when the park is crowded. Actually, a great reason during spring break to include something like this in your plans (as well as many of the other “two-star” attractions), is precisely *because* the wait here normally isn’t terrible, even when the park is crowded.
We wait for the Liberty Belle to pass before our raft can depart for the island.
We’ll be crossing on the Huck Finn today.
This is the secondary raft dock on the island, which is in operation today due to the crowds. They actually had three rafts running today to help beef up hourly capacity. You can’t
#ThanksShanghai for this one. 🙂
Fun view of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from over here.
First up, we’ll check out Fort Langhorn, which is located on the far left side of the island as you face the shoreline from the rafts.
In this day and age of corporate lawyers running everything, it’s actually refreshing that this fort still exists. As many know, Disneyland’s original equivalent, Fort Wilderness, was closed and demolished years ago. (The current replacement at Disneyland isn’t accessible to guests.)
Stairs lead up to the rifle roost.
Animatronic chickens keepin’ busy.
This is actually a pretty nice place to just let the kids run around for a while, while the parents take a break on one of the benches.
View of one of the upstairs rifle roosts.
Looking over the wall from the upper floor, you can see the top of the Liberty Belle across the way.
The “escape tunnel” leads downstairs to an exit.
Here we are emerging from the escape tunnel, after winding around the caverns for a while.
Here, across from Big Thunder, a lone rocking chair overlooks the river. Not a bad place to relax and take in a midday break.
On the opposite side of the island, you can see the Haunted Mansion queue area…
…along with the spires of Cinderella Castle.
For the adventurous, there’s the barrel bridge.
Haunted Mansion queue looks much busier now.
The chicken exit if you don’t want to take the barrel bridge.
Aunt Polly’s here used to serve great cold fried chicken. Now the area has been reduced to a couple of vending machines. (This was also closed a while ago, so we can’t
#ThanksShanghai for this one either.)
Let’s take in some scenery as we make our way around the island…
FALSE ADVERTISING!!! I WANT A REFUND ON MY FERRY TICKET!!!
In case you were worried, the island does offer water fountains here, as well as inside Fort Langhorn.
Restrooms are also available in both locations.
We hop on the raft and make our way back to the other side of the river again, and notice this partially obscured FALSE ADVERTISING again.
It’s now 11:15am, and it’s really starting to feel like spring break.
Note that this is also the time of day when many folks who slept in are just arriving. They’ll never know how good they could have had it if they had just arrived early!
Ropes and crowds everywhere. Ugh.
Now that it’s warmed up, Splash Mountain is very busy now as well. Note that RideMax had us do some extra walking early this morning to get these two out of the way quickly. Now you know why.
Next up on the RideMax plan is Pecos Bill’s for lunch. I didn’t specify a lunch location in RideMax, as I didn’t want to have to sacrifice extra walking time on the plan just to hit a specific restaurant. But Pecos Bill’s is nearby, so it seems like a good choice.
This brings up a good point regarding meal breaks.
When you’re first setting up a RideMax plan, you may want to leave the meal locations unspecified. That way, you can see where in the park it would be most “natural” to take your meal breaks in terms of overall plan efficiency. You can then create a second plan where you’ve chosen specific restaurants instead, and compare the overall waiting and walking time between the two plans.
You may often find that the plans compare very favorably with one another. But in cases where specifying your restaurant locations cost you a lot of extra waiting and walking time, you may want to reconsider those locations. At least with the RideMax estimates for both scenarios in front of you, you’ll be able to make an informed decision.
Anyway… back to today’s lunch. You can see most of the Pecos Bill’s main entrees listed on the menu board above. (And again, you can click on any image for a larger view.)
Here’s one menu item that wouldn’t quite fit on the previous screen.
“Featured” churros and the kids’ meals.
I opted for the $13.49 Chicken Fajita Platter today, which is served with cilantro rice, black beans, and tortillas.
I also hit up the toppings bar and filled the small plate with some corn salsa, pico, guacamole, and grated cheese.
Here is an awkward view of the topping bar, taken during the 1/60th of a second when someone wasn’t standing in front of it. You might notice the small sour cream packages on the right side of the image as well.
When I find the main floor seating full or crowded (which is almost always the case during a busy season like spring break), I like to head for the out-of-the-way “additional” seating area. The small dark sign on the pillar in the distance here points the way.
Follow the arrow.
This hallway leads up a short ramp…
…to mostly unoccupied tables here. This room is across the way from the exit area for Pirates of the Caribbean. Handy, since Pirates is next up on our RideMax plan.
Anyway, back to our lunch.
It seems like Disney is constantly charging more and more for less and less, and that’s the case here as well. Having said that, at least the portion size was ample enough for me that I could have actually shared this with Liesle, had she been along this trip. Add the fact that you can basically load up at the topping bar to your heart’s (or stomach’s) content, and this actually isn’t a terrible value.
The flavor here was OK — about what you’d expect from a Disney fajita, I guess. The chicken itself wasn’t too spicy, but you could basically tailor a lot of the taste yourself based on what you piled on from the topping bar (including the jalapenos). The flavors and texture of the beans and rice served to round out the dish just fine.
Overall, I’d consider getting this one again. It was at least a somewhat healthy choice, and didn’t hit the stomach too hard like a burger and fries can sometimes do in the middle of the day.
Lunch is finished by noon, and next up on the plan is Pirates of the Caribbean. We’ll be visiting this one using our second FP+ reservation of the day (thank goodness).
The standby queue was rather packed.
Once I made my way through the outside queue and into the building, I noticed that the second FP+ tapstile wasn’t operating — just as we had seen at “it’s a small world” earlier.
RideMax had allowed for a ten minute wait here, and we’re basically on track or a little ahead of that. Here we are about to board at 12:07pm.
INTO THE MIST!
Any comment on these pictures would just get me into trouble, so let’s just look at the photos, shall we?
Back outside at 12:21pm, and the posted wait is still an hour.
At this point, we have just three attractions left: The Peoplemover, Dream Along With Mickey, and Jungle Cruise, in that order.
You may be wondering why our plan doesn’t have us just visit Jungle Cruise right now, since it’s basically next door. It seems like we could do that and still make the 1:10pm Dream Along With Mickey show.
The answer is that when RideMax is considering FP+ attractions and you haven’t specified the time you want to use them, it will space them far enough apart on the plan that it should work well with Disney’s reservation system (as long as they’re reserved far enough in advance). If Pirates and Jungle Cruise were back-to-back, it might be harder to get the times slots you need in Disney’s system, as Disney doesn’t allow overlapping FP+ time slots.
As we head back over to Tomorrowland, you can see that the crowds have really filled in now.
Remember that five minute posted wait at Buzz Lightyear earlier in the day when we rode it twice in a row? Well, there are TWO fives on the posted wait here now.
Believe it or not, this crowd of people is the line for the Peoplemover. They’ve set up ropes and switchbacks to handle the queue.
The RideMax estimate here calls for a four-minute wait. The actual is ten minutes, or six minutes over the estimate. We’ve arrived here thirteen minutes ahead of RideMax’s 12:44pm arrival time though, so we should still have some time to spare.
We’re on our way!
So, how crowded is it now, you ask? The line for Laugh Floor stretches all the way back toward the Tomorrowland Terrace seating area.
Large crowds out in front of the Speedway now.
The Magic Kingdom’s version of the Flower & Garden Festival.
Anyone wanna guess the year Space Mountain opened?
Not a lot of people milling around in front of Space Mountain right now, but if we crop in on that posted standby wait sign…
…you can see that it’s getting up there.
Empty Peoplemover cars across the way… Maybe this partially explains the long wait?
I’m off the Peoplemover by 12:55pm, and have time to take a couple of pictures before moving over to in front of the castle for the 12:10pm Dream Along With Mickey show. This picture shows the crowds on the main Tomorrowland walkway.
As I headed over the bridge toward the castle, I noticed this VERY long line backed up on the Tomorrowland bridge.
Believe it or not, THIS IS THE LINE FOR THE FASTPASS+ KIOSKS, which are located in the old Stitch FastPass machine area.
I have to say, I really can’t believe that Disney can’t do better than this. You’re charging these people thousands of dollars to be here, and you’re really going to make them stand out here in this crazy line, just to make some FP+ reservations for whatever is leftover now?
Worse, these are likely the same people who weren’t aware of FP+ before leaving home, so they didn’t get *any* advance FP+ reservations set up before their trip.
So, what are their FP+ options going to look like at this point? They’re going to wait in this huge line for what? A FP+ reservation for PhilharMagic?
Equally discouraging, they’re likely looking at some pretty dismal FP+ prospects for the rest of their vacation as well, especially during a busy season like spring break. I’m just imagining them heading back to their hotel this evening, signing on to Disney’s FP+ system and finding that reservations for Test Track are gone. Same for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Toy Story.
At least in the good ol’ days of paper FastPass tickets, if you messed up at first and didn’t quite understand how things worked, you could learn and adapt quickly mid-vacation. By day two of your trip you’d have as good a shot at getting that Test Track FastPass ticket as the next guy.
With FastPass+ though, these folks are basically toast. Even if after today they basically “understand” the new system, they can’t do a whole lot about it. The good reservations are long gone by now, and they can’t really do much to recover.
It must be terribly disappointing to the thousands of guests who wait in a long FP+ kiosk line like this only to finally realize that they’re basically messed up for their entire vacation. Sure, they can come again in a few years and they’ll know better then to plan in advance. But how many of them will be left with such a bad taste in their mouths from *this* trip that it turns them off from coming again altogether?
I sometimes feel like FP+ is one of those “emperor has no clothes” things. The system fails so many guests completely — like those standing in this huge line — yet it’s been pushed so hard by the upper layers of management that no employee on the front lines who sees this mess dares to speak up for fear of putting his or her career at risk. And customer surveys seem carefully designed to ask all of the *wrong* questions, lest they expose to those in charge what they don’t want to hear.
Let’s see if we can pull ourselves out of that kiosk funk, shall we?
Here are a few scenes from Dream Along With Mickey, which will see its last performance April 2nd, after ten years at Walt Disney World.
The big finale. They haven’t always been doing the fireworks here lately (
#ThanksShanghai), but today was an exception.
Next we head to the final stop on our RideMax plan, the Jungle Cruise.
But before we do, let’s stop and take a picture of yet *another* FastPass+ kiosk queue, shall we?
You can click on the picture above for a larger view, but the line on the left side of the image is the line for the FP+ kiosks. It runs from here down closer to the covered area near the Jungle Cruise entrance, after passing through some switchbacks.
Again — REALLY, DISNEY?!!!
It’s 1:37pm and time for us to use our third and final FP+ reservation. We’re actually running thirteen minutes ahead of schedule, since we didn’t really need the small block of “free time” on the RideMax plan. If I were visiting with a larger group, now may have been a good time for a bathroom break.
Here we are nine minutes later. RideMax had estimated a ten-minute wait using our FP+ reservation.
You’d think they would learn by now!
THE BAAACKSIDE OF… well, you know.
Off the ride by 1:54pm, and you can see that the FP+ line for the Jungle Cruise isn’t as bad as it could be at this point.
That FP+ kiosk line, on the other hand, is still a different story. You sort of have to overlook the three or four people in the foreground of the image above, but like the FP+ kiosk line in Tomorrowland, this one is also INSANE.
Remember, I’m shooting these with my 50mm lens, which comes close to duplicating the scene as if you were viewing it with your eyes — neither “zoomed in” nor “wide angle,” if you will. So there’s not some distortion effect making the line in the image seem longer than it really is. Even so, you have to look *really close* at the picture above to see the tiny cast member in the upper right corner of the screen holding the FP+ sign, which marks the spot where you would have to get in line here (click on the image if you can’t see the sign).
Again, it’s really hard to believe that Disney puts its guests through this torture. If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re either a RideMax customer or someone who likes to plan ahead (or both), so this probably doesn’t affect you directly.
But really? </rant> 🙂
RideMax plan finished for today, and I hopped into the Skipper Canteen Restaurant to see how full it was. (You may remember from my previous review of the Skipper Canteen Restaurant that they were having a hard time filling the seats.)
Today it seemed rather busy, with just a handful of empty tables in the main room. Hopefully this bodes well for the restaurant’s future.
We’ll finish today’s post with three items of spring break apparel, just for good measure. There were a couple of t-shirts on display…
…as well as this colorful tank top.
So, here we are finishing up, just a bit after 2:00pm. We’ve visited thirteen attractions using RideMax (counting twice on Buzz Lightyear), and are heading out for the day. Our longest wait was just eighteen minutes at “it’s a small world,” but most waits were much shorter.
I hope this shows that if you plan well AND arrive early, you really can accomplish quite a bit, even during a very busy season of the year like spring break.
One last note before we go.
Remember those FP+ kiosks in Tomorrowland and Adventureland, which were backed up to insanity? Well, before I left the park I noticed these two FP+ kiosks in City Hall with just one group of guests working at each of them, and just one additional person standing in line.
Hopefully you’ve planned ahead and won’t need this, but if you ever find yourself in need of a kiosk and the park is busy, I think you’ll find it worth the short walk to come in here instead of waiting in those crazy FP+ kiosk lines elsewhere in the park. 😉
I hope you’ve found this post helpful, and as always, if you’re planning a trip to either Disneyland or Walt Disney World, be sure to subscribe to RideMax to help you avoid those long lines.
Comments or questions? Ask away in the comments below — I really do try to read all of them!