By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

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Category — q. Reviews

Theming and Villages at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, see this.)

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is themed to Caribbean islands, their beaches, and the pirates who once voyaged among them.

Rooms in the resort are found in five “villages” ringing a lake, each of which has three or six two story, 64 room buildings. All the villages are named after Caribbean destinations: Barbados, Trinidad, Martinique, Aruba, and Jamaica.

Each colorful village has palm-tree lined beaches, and each has its own pool and bus stop. The central Old Port Royale area includes another bus stop and the main pool at the resort, the pirate-themed Fuentes del Morro Pool—the best pool of the Disney World moderate resorts.

All rooms were refurbed in 2014-2015. Pirate rooms (in Trinidad) got a light makeover, retained their full beds, and sleep four.

Rooms in all other villages got a major makeover.  Full beds were replaced with queens, and many rooms now have in addition a fold-down Murphy bed, suitable for a person five feet or shorter, increasing the capacity of these rooms to five.

In all villages you can book water-view rooms (some of the “water” views are of the pools). In all villages except Trinidad, you can book king rooms.  Also in all villages except Trinidad, you can book a room with a third sleeping spot–these rooms previously were reserved for families of five, and any left over were randomly assigned.

You can also book “preferred” rooms in Barbados (and perhaps in Martinique), where for an extra cost you can get a room closer to the central services of Old Port Royale.

There’s much similarity among the villages, but also some key differences, especially in access to the central services of the resort and the new Disney Skyliner.

The Skyliner is a gondola system that connects Caribbean Beach with two parks, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (and also with Pop Century and Art of Animation). The Skyliner has two stations at Caribbean Beach, one south between Jamaica and Trinidad that serves all destinations, and another north between Aruba and Martinique that in one direction goes to Epcot and in the other goes to south station.

This part of my review of Caribbean Beach will discuss the villages one by one, starting with Martinique and going clockwise.

Note that in May 2017, the former village Barbados and half of Martinique were leveled.  In October 2018 the village formerly known as Trinidad North inherited the name of the demolished Barbados, while Trinidad South became simply Trinidad.

MARTINIQUE

Martinique is a three building area (it used to have six, but three were leveled in May 2017). The three buildings that remain here have recently been priced as both preferred and regular.

A re-orientation of bus routes in late June 2017 means that park buses pick up and drop off Martinique guests first. Martinique is the furthest of the villages from the main Skyliner station, but in the middle of the villages in its distance from the Riviera station–where you can pick up the Epcot line. Martinique and Aruba are the two villages closest to Riviera and its new dining options.

Beach Martinique Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Each village has a beach.  At Martinique the beach, shown above, is near Old Port Royale.

Pool Martinique Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Each village has a pool–all are similar. Here’s the one at Martinique.

The view from the Martinique area is of the lovely beaches across Barefoot Bay in Aruba…

…and, at the right, the somewhat jarring Riviera building.

Martinique guests will find two bus stops to use–one at Old Port Royale is closer to some rooms especially in building 26, and most other rooms will be closer to the other bus stop.

BARBADOS

Barbados was known until October 2018 as Trinidad North. All buildings here are at “preferred” prices. Because many of its rooms are not far from the central services, dining and pool at Old Port Royale, and also among the closer rooms to the Skyliner, rates are $85-120 per night higher than standard rooms in non-preferred buildings. The other dining venue at Caribbean Beach, the Spyglass Grill in Trinidad, is also fairly close.

It has just three buildings and two beaches, and thus is overall with Martinique the most compact of all the Villages, and is by far the most convenient.

Beach at North End of Trinidad North Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

One of the beaches–near Old Port Royale.

Beach Trinidad North Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The second beach, further south.

Pool Trinidad North Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The pool at Barbados is at the end furthest from Old Port Royal–if this were a six building village, it would be right in the middle. This means all rooms are close to both the main pool and this smaller “quiet” pool.

Buildings here are a brown pink that adults probably call “coral.” We’ll get a better view in the same-color Trinidad material coming next.

The view from Barbados is of the great beach of Jamaica.

The bus stop is in the center and convenient to all rooms. The main Skyliner hub is just across the bridge between Barbados and Trinidad and Jamaica.

TRINIDAD

Up the road–in a dead end–are the six buildings of Trinidad, known until October 2018 as Trinidad South.

In this somewhat inconvenient area of Caribbean Beach, you’ll find the expensive Pirate rooms.

 

Pirate rooms are full bed rooms with special decorations meant to make them nautical and piratical. More on these is here.

Here’s the beach at Trinidad.

Pool Trinidad South Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…and here’s the pool.

In March 2018 a new quick-service venue, Spyglass Grill, opened here.

Spyglass Grill provides interesting, though limited, dining options that are much more convenient than what is in Centertown/Old Port Royale.

Trinidad North Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

A better view of the insipid colors it shares with Barbados.

Trinidad is on a separate lobe of Barefoot Bay–Barefoot Bay Bay? The hub station of the Skyliner is just across the bay. On average, both Barbados and Jamaica rooms are closer, but Trinidad is the next closest village to the Skyliner.

The Spyglass Grill and gondola stop make Trinidad a better and less isolated choice than it had been in the past.

The bus stop is in the center of the village.

JAMAICA

Jamaica is my favorite among the Caribbean Beach Villages. Most of its six buildings are near enough to Old Port Royale via the bridge across Caribbean Cay, and those that aren’t are still a reasonable walk via the road bridge and Barbados. Along with Barbados, on average its rooms are closest to the Skyliner among the five villages.

Some southern rooms are close to the new Spyglass Grill in Trinidad, and Jamaica is just north of the Caribbean Beach hub of the Disney Skyliner transportation system to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Jamaica Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Jamaica also has a great color scheme…

Pool Jamaica Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…a pool similar to the rest…

Beach Jamaica Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…a huge, gorgeous beach, and a nice view of Barbados and Old Port Royale.

The bus stop is in the center. It’s the second to last stop.

ARUBA

Aruba is the next best choice after Jamaica for those unwilling to pay for a preferred room.

Aruba Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

It has a so-so color scheme, and its bus stop is at the far end.  Some rooms will be closer to the footbridge to Caribbean Cay and Old Port Royal, others will be closer to the bus stop. The Riviera Skyliner stop to Epcot is close, and the rest of the Skyliner stops are on the other side of Jamaica.

Pool Aruba Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

It has the usual pool…

…and a beach second only to Jamaica’s in extent and loveliness.

Aruba View Disney's Caribbean Beach from yourfirstvisit.net

It has a nice view of Martinique and Old Port Royale.

Buses stop here last.

The best overall village, almost regardless of what you are looking for, is Jamaica.

PHOTO TOUR OF A FOUR PERSON QUEEN ROOM AT CARIBBEAN BEACH

This review continues here.

 

PAGES IN THIS REVIEW OF DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

OTHER KEY PAGES FOR WHERE TO STAY AT DISNEY WORLD

 

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December 11, 2019   No Comments

Review: Rafiki’s Planet Watch

Rafiki’s Planet Watch is a multi-offering area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom accessed by the Wildlife Express Train in Africa. The area closed in October 2018, and despite rumors that it was permanently closing, re-opened in July 2019. New with the re-opening is the opportunity to follow along with a Disney animator and create a drawing of a Disney character.

Here’s the review of the re-opened Rafiki’s Planet Watch from our book, The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020:

Until the opening of the Animation Experience, I viewed Rafiki is quite skippable.

The petting zoo, Affection Section, while darling adds little to what you can find in even the smallest zoos.

The Conservation Station can be fascinating to those with an interest in nature…

…and, for the non-squeamish, the times it is actually being used for procedures can be fascinating.

But frankly not many folks come to Disney World to learn—I honor of course those who do, and they can learn a lot from many aspects of the Animal Kingdom.

The Wildlife Express train that you must use to access Rafiki’s Planet Watch is both a feature and a bug.

Train rides are always fun. This one has an odd layout of seats with a blind side to the coaches…

…that hides the fact that much of its route is up one side and back down the other of a service road.

From the train you can see a few backstage areas, especially animal holding areas where the animals of Kilimanjaro Safari stay overnight—but during visiting hours these are largely empty buildings.

There are three locomotives and two train-sets, but most of the time I’ve been at Rafiki, just one train has been operating. This means that with a bit of bad luck you can spend as much as 45 minutes waiting of the train and traveling on it (there’s one station in Africa, and the other at Rafiki’s Planet Watch).

This potential time committed to get to and from the area, when combined with the past slender appeal of its attractions, was my biggest reason why I had classed Rafiki as skippable. If you could simple walk into Rafiki’s Planet Watch and immediately leave if it’s not for you–like Gorilla Falls–then testing its appeal would be fairly costless. But with the train, it’s not.

The new-in-2019 addition of the Animation Experience changes things a bit.

Here you sit in a small amphitheater…

…receive a sheet of paper with some special drawing guidelines…

…and following a Disney animator’s hands on a big screen, draw your character.

It may not turn out all that well…

The whole thing is similar to what we’ve seen in temporary settings elsewhere, but this is the first time (at least that I can recall) that such an experience is available on a regular everyday basis.

FastPass+ is available for the Animation Experience, and it is a good use of a third FastPass+ if you really want to experience it, as it would be unfortunate to make the commitment the train ride involves and find the Animation Experience already full.

I’d still skip this if you are a first time visitor and don’t have a lot of time devoted to the Animal Kingdom. But if you are a returning visitor who is intrigued, or as a first-timer are planning more than one Animal Kingdom day, then Rafiki’s Planet Watch may be worth a visit.

 

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December 2, 2019   No Comments

Pirate Rooms at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, see this.)

THE PIRATE ROOMS IN TRINIDAD

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is this site’s top-rated moderate resort for first-time family visitors to Walt Disney World.

It gets that position because it has a little more kid appeal than the other moderate resorts.

For example, it has

  • The most widely appealing setting, beaches
  • The best main pool among the moderates
  • And light Disney theming in many of its rooms–e.g. Mickey and Pluto in its five person rooms

 

Moreover, the former substantial inconvenience of these rooms (they are the furthest of all Caribbean Beach options from the central dining, main pool and shopping at Old Port Royale) had been diminished by

  • The 2018 opening of the Spyglass Grill within the Trinidad village, making this the only village with its own dining venue, and adding  a handy and tasty alternative to walking to Old Port Royale for dining
  • The 2019 opening of the Disney Skyliner, whose hub is just across from Trinidad. Rooms in Jamaica and Barbados on average are closer to the Skyliner, but Trinidad is on average the next closest.

On the other hand, these rooms remain the only standard rooms at any Disney moderate with full rather than queen beds. Also, they sleep only four–unlike the five person rooms available elsewhere at Caribbean Beach

REVIEW: THE PIRATE-THEMED ROOMS AT CARIBBEAN BEACH

Caribbean Beach was the first moderate resort at Walt Disney World, and shows a few first-time mistakes.

  • Some sections of the resort–particularly Trinidad–are simply too far from the rest of it.
  • The resort was designed with more bus stops than it could have had, partly related to an isolated check-in building, which was eliminated in late 2018 (check in is now in the central Old Port Royale)
  • No elevators…

Trinidad in particular has always felt isolated from the rest of Caribbean Beach–over a bridge, out of sight.

In response, a few years ago, Disney World tried to turn lemons into lemonade, and redid the rooms in Trinidad to a pirate theme, at a higher cost–for example, standard view pirate rooms are (including tax) $376 a night on weeknights during the Fall 2020 price season, compared to $290 then for standard rooms elsewhere at Caribbean Beach.

Floor Plan Pirate Room Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Like Disney’s other moderate resort rooms, these pirate-themed options are spacious and livable.

One side of the room has two full beds. Note the ship theming!

The bed side from the back of the room.

A closer view of the beds. Note the detailed wheel, mizzen mast, yard, shrouds, ratlines, and lanterns aft, and the bow chasers forward.

The bedside table takes the form of a barrel, and has a storage shelf underneath…

…as well as a drawer that can hold your important books.

The TV side of the room continues the nautical theming, adding crates to the barrels.

The TV side from the back of the room.

The rug is both nautical and somewhat sea-like. It, combined with the blue (a light sky blue) wall colors, makes the “ships at sea” bed concept work a bit.

I did not spend enough time with this rug–once again, I write a phrase that no one else has ever written before–but suspect that if I had, I’d find lots of references to the movies and a hidden Mickey or two.

Back to the TV side, a closer view of the table and chairs. A compass rose tops the table.

The dresser has a 54 inch TV above, and resembles a pile of crates.

This yields four large drawers.

The coffee service is on top of a barrel…

…which encloses the mini-fridge.

At the end of this side is a treasure chest with hanging hooks above. Note that the hooks are cleats.

The chest has a large storage drawer.

Wall Art Pirate Room Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Note that this room is really more nautical than piratical, with a few exceptions. One the art on the wall between the beds and the bath, featuring Captain you know who…

…and another is the curtain separating the bath area from the main bedroom area. Seeing this is a cheery way to start your morning.

Behind the moveable curtain, the bath has two sinks.

At the side of the bath there’s a closet area. Note the beam above.

In the closet area you’ll find this safe. It’s quite large–my book is six by nine inches.

Separated into their own room are the tub/shower combo and the toilet.

The shower curtain…

Shower Curtain Detail Pirate Room Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…is covered with ships.

These spaces have one of the weaker shower head set ups remaining among the moderate resorts…

…and have the same in-wall toiletries now common at this and lower price levels.

The extent and depth of the nautical theming is remarkable, and the less pervasive pirate theming is fun too. Back when I was a boy, I would have loved this room.

But Trinidad is still a ways away from the center of the resort and its main pool, shops and dining. The situation has been improved by the opening of the Spyglass Grill within Trinidad, and the opening of the nearby Disney Skyliner station. But unless all your kids are really into pirates, I can’t recommend it.  The value of the theming itself is not enough to offset the relative isolation…add the extra cost, and you are paying to be inconvenienced.

AMENITIES AT DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

This review continues here.

 

PAGES IN THIS REVIEW OF DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

OTHER KEY PAGES FOR WHERE TO STAY AT DISNEY WORLD

 

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November 26, 2019   No Comments

Review: Epcot Forever

EPCOT FOREVER

Epcot Forever is the current evening show at Epcot, showing most nights at 9p, but at 9.30p during the Festival of the Holidays, at 10p on Fridays and Saturdays during the Food & Wine Festival, and at other times New Years Eve and the Fourth of July.

Epcot Forever replaced the long-running IllumiNations on October 1, 2019, and in turn will be replaced with a new permanent show, HarmonioUS, which I can neither spell nor pronounce, and which I deeply hope will be renamed.

HARMonious is expected to debut in 2020—I have heard October 1, but much depends on the scope and pace of reconstruction needed to support the new show, and also its timely achievement of its technical ambitions.

In the meantime, Epcot Forever is a fireworks, laser, kites and music show on the World Showcase Lagoon that, according to Disney, celebrates “the past, present and future of Epcot through [a] dazzling fireworks and special-effects spectacular.”

This brief description skips the most important part of the show, and elides the other: music and kites. The celebration of Epcot is through new arrangements of music from past and present attractions, introduced or sung in children’s voices, with Walt Disney’s voice here and there, and a surprise finale related to the Morocco Pavilion that sets the stage for Epcot’s future.

The variety and quality of the music is a wonderful reminder of how important music and song is to the Disney World theme parks—a contribution that can get overlooked in their primarily visual environments. There’s a number of standouts, with the Soarin’ theme and Golden Dream (from The American Adventure) serving as particularly apt reminders of the quality of composing behind many of the park’s attractions.

The other distinctive feature of the show is its kites, which are delightful, and need to be seen in person to be fully appreciated.  Images and videos don’t capture their full impact.

Lasers and fireworks are part of the program as well. The night I saw it, it was raining so hard that many fireworks were left out—they were shot off later that evening, after park close, to clear the apparatus. And I got no usable photos of the ones I did see–even by my low standards–but I’ll post photos here after my next visit. In the meantime, you can get a flavor for the new fireworks in this Disney video:

IllumiNations was deeply loved by many, and its own great music—not present in Epcot Forever—has had a life of its own, showing up in settings ranging from Olympics coverage to wedding ceremonies. I was astonished the first time I saw Illuminations, but did not find it overly re-watchable, with a limited fireworks color palette and a marvelous globe that after a few experiences did not much bear the amount of time dedicated to it.

Epcot Forever—and especially its surprise ending—are the first stake in the ground of the transformation of Epcot that we will see over the next few years. Epcot started as Walt Disney’s concept for showcasing the best ways in which urban design could contribute to well-being and better communities, a wildly impractical and mildly totalitarian concept whose scope, in the absence of a practical business model, would have led eventually to its early abandonment had he remained alive. Walt Disney was a man whose fertile imagination yielded many more ideas than good ideas, and like most deeply creative people he depended on the passage of time and the voices of others to help sort the best ones out.

Walt’s concept was largely abandoned by the time the park first opened, and in its place came World Showcase, a sort of permanent World’s Fair, and Future World, an architecturally undistinguished place to celebrate human achievement in general and in particular technological innovation.

The initial business driver of Epcot—in contrast to its thematic drivers—was to be as little like Magic Kingdom as possible, both to avoid cannibalization of that park and also to incent longer stays at the resort. So when it opened, Epcot became the least Disney and least child-friendly of the Disney parks, a distinction it still holds today. Poor reaction quickly led to incorporation of some Disney characters and other playful Disney elements that had previously been banned.

Over the years, Epcot’s edutainment offerings stagnated as they became outdated, and as museums—inspired by Epcot—did a much better job at educating while entertaining. The concept was not wrong, as a visit to any good museum targeted at middle school kids will tell you. So will a visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which does a breathtakingly better job of integrating as much education as you would like within the context of a fun theme park. But the ability to keep the Epcot edutainment good, current, and interesting to many was not there.

This version of Epcot—great at neither education nor entertainment—will soon be gone, with a reconceptualization of Epcot as a fun—and Disney—park, especially in Future World. Today, Future World is a sea of construction walls (all the rides remain accessible), and from them will emerge three new lands—Disney calls them neighborhoods—that will join World Showcase: World Discovery, World Nature, and World Celebration. This added set of Worlds, by the way, is the reason for the surprise finale to Epcot Forever, and their promise of increased appeal to children is why the voices of children dominate the narration.

The new Epcot has been emergent for more than a decade, but the new emphasis will start to show soon with the opening of the Ratatouille ride, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, later in 2020. Disney articulates that the reconceptualization of Epcot will “be filled with new experiences rooted in authenticity and innovation that take you to new destinations, where the real is made fantastic in a celebration of curiosity, hands-on wonder and the magic of possibility.” I can’t wait…

In the meantime, Epcot Forever will run for a year or so, celebrating Epcot’s past through 2019, and the music that added so much to it. And kites!!

 

 

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November 13, 2019   No Comments

Review: The Disney Skyliner

THE DISNEY SKYLINER—A SECONDARY TRANSPORTATION OPTION TO EPCOT AND DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

The Disney Skyliner, a new and groundbreaking (at least in theme park resort use) gondola transportation system, opened at Walt Disney World in late September 2019.

From a transfer station at the south end of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, it offers lines to

…A shared station at Disney’s Pop Century and Art of Animation resorts,

…Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park, and,

…via a station that the north end of Caribbean Beach (closest to Aruba) shares with the soon-to-open Disney’s Riviera Resort, to Epcot

At every station except the Riviera/Caribbean Beach north station, guests must get off and re-board. So a trip from Pop Century to Disney’s Hollywood Studios means a trip to the southern Caribbean Beach station, then getting off and getting on the Studios line.

While not for everyone—and I’ll come back to that—for those it is suited to, it presents a fun alternative to the buses that folks would otherwise use to get among these various points, and is in particular a fun and easy way to get

  • From these resorts to Hollywood Studios and Epcot
  • From one to another of the pairs of resorts—e.g. for Pop Century guests to try out the yuca bowls at Caribbean Beach’s Spyglass Grill
  • From Epcot to the Studios and vice versa, if the boats look backed up and you aren’t in the mood to walk.

That said, at the moment I would consider the Disney Skyliner to be for some folks and some circumstances a secondary transportation system, and not the lead way to think about traveling from these resorts to these parks. Others should avoid it entirely.

CONDITIONS THAT SHOULD HAVE YOU AVOID THE DISNEY SKYLINER

The Skyliner cabins, while not tiny, are small, and you likely will share them with other parties.

While moving, the passive ventilation system in the cabins presents a substantial breeze, but if they stop—not uncommon—on a hot and humid day discomfort can build.

The cabins swoop and sway in normal operation, and a breeze will yield even more swaying.

All boarding at the Riviera/Caribbean Beach north station requires entering the narrow door of a moving car—the car is moving very slowly, and the gap between the cabin and the stationary platform is very tight, but it is still a moving target. All other stations have a separate loading area where those who need the extra stability—and all ECV folks—can board a stationary car.

The system may stop, for brief or lengthy periods of time, for any number of reasons. If there is lightning in the area, it will close, with guests being required to exit the gondolas at the station Disney assigns. If this station is Caribbean Beach, Disney will add buses that duplicate the Skyliner routes, but this might not happen immediately, and the various buses may take time to arrive.

Those with claustrophobia, fear of heights, motion sickness, or any medical condition that might be exacerbated by either a lengthy stop with no real clarity as to what’s happening, or the possibility, on hot and humid days, of stop-related heat buildup, especially if combined with a higher degree of anxiety, ought to avoid the Skyliner.

So should those with time-sensitive plans…

CIRCUMSTANCES THAT SHOULD HAVE YOU AVOID THE DISNEY SKYLINER

So far material Skyliner stops have not been common, but have happened—with the most famous being a ~three hour stop shortly after it opened that got a lot of publicity, resulted in a multi-day shutdown,  and at least to some indicated a lack of preparedness on the part of Disney to deal with various contingencies.

As a result, it’s hard for me to recommend the Skyliner for anyone on a time-sensitive schedule. Allowing extra time in your schedule will help, but I still would not take it if you are trying to get to Epcot or the Studios before they open, for a soon-approaching FastPass+ or dining (or other) reservation which is particularly important to you, or at a time when an unexpected delay might get in the way of something else important–for example, your travel plans. In each of these circumstances, take the Disney buses (or Uber/Lyft/Minnie Vans) instead.

I would also suggest taking a bathroom break before boarding (there’s a bathroom at the south Caribbean Beach station, and a new bathroom between the station and the first set of Nemo buildings at Art of Animation), bringing bottles of water, and having a well-charged phone.

There are various sorts of emergency supplies under a seat in each cabin, and also an intercom system, but none has yet proven to be soundly reliable.

My estimates are that of the more than a million folk who have already ridden the Skyliner, fewer than a thousand have suffered a severe stop, and fewer than 5,000 have suffered a material stop. That’s less than 1%. Moreover, from what I have seen the Epcot line seems to be the one most at risk (there’s no central tracking, so take this with a grain of salt). If true, this may be related to the length of the Epcot line (twice as long as any other), its two sharp turns, and/or the absence of a dedicated ECV loading spot in its mid-line Riviera/Caribbean Beach north stop.

Both the inappropriateness of the Skyliner for those with some conditions, and the possibility of stops, perhaps long stops, making it not the best choice for some circumstances, are why you should view it as a secondary system.

That said, over time operating reliability will only get better, which will ameliorate some of the concerns about missing something important because of a delay (though keep your weather eye out for lightning). The cabins won’t be getting bigger though, nor will they sway less, get climate controls, or get lower to the ground.

Those staying at one of the Skyliner resorts concerned about whether their personal conditions might yield a disappointing experience could try (depending on where they are staying) either the Caribbean Beach south to Riviera/Caribbean Beach north route, or the Pop Century/Art of Animation to Caribbean Beach south routes, as a lower risk way to test how they will react to the system.

BUSES AND THE DISNEY SKYLINER

Many folks postulated that once the Skyliner opened, bus service from the relevant resorts to the relevant parks would be reduced. We have not seen this, so far, although once operations become more stable, I could see it happening in a limited fashion. After then, I still expect buses to go on the Epcot and Studios routes on average every 20 minutes, but we will likely see fewer at peak opening and closing times, as the Skyliner has vast potential to pick up much of this travel.

The incremental operating and depreciation expenses presented by the Skyliner won’t be paid back out of bus driver savings—instead, they will be paid back from increases in the prices of the affected resorts. I calculated earlier this year that the “extra” 2020 price increases at these resorts (compared to increases at comparable non-Skyliner resorts) would yield on the order of $60 million annually in incremental revenues.

To get to this number, Disney World will have to resolve most of the reliability concerns this system has so far given rise to.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE DISNEY SKYLINER

Before the Skyliner opened, there was much speculation about future routes—for example, a western version was chatted about, connecting (perhaps) the All-Stars, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Epcot and Hollywood Studios via a Caribbean Beach-like hub at Coronado Springs. An eastern line connecting the Port Orleans resorts, Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, with Disney Springs has also been talked about.

For now, until Disney proves to itself it can sell rooms at higher rates—and sell the DVC points at Riviera—I would not expect to see much further Skyliner development for a while. And I also note that there’s room at the south Caribbean Beach hub to add one more route, which could easily go east or north…

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly B., can help you book your Disney World vacation in a Skyliner resort or anywhere else–contact her using the form below:

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November 12, 2019   6 Comments

Review– Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is the first of two rides to open in Galaxy’s Edge in Disney’s Hollywood Studios—the second, Rise of the Resistance, has had its opening announced as December 5, 2019.

Millennium Falcon is an interactive simulator ride. Six folks ride at a time in a spectacular imitation of the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit, each with simple tasks to complete—two pilots, each with slightly different jobs, two gunners, and two flight engineers.

You will see much advice that the best job is the pilot’s job, and the next best the flight engineer’s, and related advice that flights with good pilots are better than those with inept pilots.

All this advice is sound for those who take a sort of video game “maximize the score” mentality to the ride, but for those who don’t, none of this much matters.

If you wish to experience either a space ride or a Millennium Falcon ride, and don’t care how “well” your ship does overall, how much you control the outcome, or how well piloted it is, then you will still have fun on this ride. So take the whole debate over best jobs and best experiences with a grain of salt.

If on the other hand, you don’t care at all about either spaceship rides generally or the Millennium Falcon specifically, then frankly there is not a whole lot to this ride.

Flight of Passage in Pandora at the Animal Kingdom presents an interesting contrast. Flight of Passage has a distinctive ride system and an imitated breathtaking journey that is largely independent of the specific content of Avatar. To put it more simply, Flight of Passage is simply a truly great ride, independent of its theming.

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is different. It wins—among those with whom it wins—by its specific recreation of the Falcon, but for those indifferent to space flight or the Falcon itself, it is just another ride.

The best comparator among other Disney World rides opened in the last decade (although this is somewhat unfair in a way I’ll come back to in the next paragraph) would be Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid in Fantasyland, a ride that charms major fans of the Little Mermaid, but has little to offer those for whom Little Mermaid is not central to their love of Disney.

The big contrast with Under the Sea is in the execution of the theme and setting of Smuggler’s Run, which is spectacular for Smuggler’s Run and so-so for Under the Sea.

Grown-ups can appreciate, celebrate, and be delighted by…

…The reification of human imagination and creativity into the physical setting of Galaxy’s Edge…

…The Millennium Falcon itself…

…The ride queue…

…The astonishing Hondo animatronic…

…and their experience on the ride.

Kids who are fans of the original trilogy will likely love it as well.

Have you ridden it yet? What did you think, and why?

 

 

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October 22, 2019   5 Comments