Jan 07

To Fast Pass or not to Fast Pass

In December I visited Walt Disney World for the first time since Disney switched to the new Fast Pass Plus system and thought that in really changed the fast pass experience. But it left me with a question – do you need to schedule your fast passes before arriving at the parks? The answer is, it depends.

Let me explain:

Before arriving at Disney you can schedule your fast pass pluses, 60 days ahead for resort guests and 30 days ahead for other guests. When you schedule the system forces you to schedule 3 for your day in the park, all good! After you use your 3 fast passes, you can book additional fast passes in the park for later in the day, even better.MagicBand_8707

If you’re visiting and want to ride an attraction that is popular (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Ana and Elsa, Toy Story, Soarin) yes, you will absolutely want to book your fast passes as soon as humanly possible.

If you’re planning to visit lesser attractions or attractions with a lot of fast passes (some rides seem to have half the ride dedicated to fast pass i.e. Space Mountain – these rides have an abundance of fast passes) then planning in advance may not make as much sense.

I visited with my 40something year old sister, our attraction demands were not that high.  Yes, we wanted to do many of the headliners (Seven Dwarfs, Soarin, Toy Story), but as adults we’re also able to make decisions about what ride is worth a line and are ok with riding some of the less loved attractions. We also don’t need to ride roller coasters multiple times.  When setting up fast passes I found I was often making at least one for an attraction that we didn’t care if we rode or not – since you have to make 3 fast passes reservations for the day.

Before the trip, I strategically planned the fast passes for 3 of our days in the parks – making the reservations as early as possible so that we could later capitalize on the extra fast passes.  For our 4th day, I made the reservations the night before – except for the super high demand ride of Seven Dwarfs, I was able to get fast passes early in the morning for anything we would want to ride. This actually left us waiting for our fast pass times to come up, of course doing other attractions in the meantime. But still, I had all these fast passes but had to work around them, when incidentally I could have practically walked on most of the rides.

I wonder if I had not made those fast passes and just walked into the park and scheduled as we went along.  Maybe we wouldn’t have gotten all 3 fast passes. But, maybe we would have gotten 4 since we wouldn’t have had to wait for all 3 to expire before getting a 4th. It’s an interesting gamble for two people who didn’t feel like we NEEDED to do anything to complete our trip, during a slower park period. While we did plenty in our 4th day and didn’t need any additional fast passes, I like the idea of testing to see if we needed those fast passes. I suspect we would have done about the same without them, or by scheduling them throughout the morning and we wouldn’t have been locked into the 3 time slots.

Fast Pass Plus Tips

1. If there are any must do attractions book ASAP! Particularly for high demand rides.

2. If you have a bigger group, don’t be afraid to break the group up into smaller groups and try and get overlapping reservations. There may not be 4 fast passes for Seven Dwarfs at one time, but you might be able to get 2 sets of 2 at an overlapping time. Even if the times are not overlapping, it seems to be easier to get a different time for an attraction you have a reservation for, than for one you don’t. Book the fast passes and keep looking around to find times that overlap.

3. Book fast passes for earlier in the day to allow for additional fast pass reservations later in the day.

4. Use the new fast pass system to allow yourself some later mornings. With this new system I did not feel the need to rush out and get to park opening every morning. While park opening still offers a great advantage, fast pass plus makes is possible to plan more later mornings without having to wait in lines all day.

5. Don’t be afraid to go into the park without fast passes booked. You can still book once you’re in the park and the selection may not be as bad as you think.

Dec 05

The New Fantasyland

In November I was the lucky getter of a ticket to the Fantasyland Annual Passholder review.  I had tickets for Saturday night, November 10.

The admission started at 5:00 PM, but first you needed to get your wrist band at the Ticket and Transportation Center.  I found this to be a complete pain in the butt!  I was staying on property so took a bus to the Magic Kingdom and then had to take the Monorail to the T&TC to get a wrist band and then took the boat back to the Magic Kingdom.  Of course all of the transportation was running slow adding to the frustration.

But once there everything went smoothly.

My first order of business was to get a reservation for Be Our Guest.  While waiting for the bus I heard people talking and saying that had gotten same day reservations for the restaurant so once I saw the line at the entrance to the restaurant I jumped on it and got an 8:15 reservation.  I also did the walk through of the quick service ordering area, which was really cool.  You walk through a hallway with armor, and the “knights” talk to each other.  The room where you order is a room from Beast’s Castle, which is of course the whole theme of the restaurant.

Hey, she’s kinda cute!
The room where you order during lunch

After my walk through I went to Gastons Tavern and had the La Fou drink, very tasty, but it is sweet, more of a kids drink.  The souvenier cups were kinda cheap though.  In the front of Gaston’s was Gaston himself.  I did get my photo with him while he told me what I pleasure it was for me to get my picture with him.  Very nice job!  Inside the tavern there were animal heads and anything that Gaston could think of to promote himself, very fun.  I did think the seating here was limited though, I’m sure it will be insanely crowded when this area opens for the public.

After Gastons I partook in some Little Mermaid; first I rode the Voyage of the Little Mermaid ride, twice.  The queue was well themed but I thought there might be a little more interaciton in it.  But its fine for adults with iPhones as long as you get a signal, which I didn’t always have.  The ride has the same set up as the Finding Nemo ride in Epcot, including the clam shell ride vehicles.  On the ride you go “under the sea” and go through the story of the movie.  They use a bit of video, music, and mostly animatronics or as I think of them, moving action figures.  It’s a nice ride, particularly for kids.  Though I did get a bit sick of it after riding the 4th time.  There was no line so I figured I had to take advantage of the opportunity to ride it as much as possible.

Next I waited 20 minutes to get my photo with Ariel, another nice queue but with nothing interactive.  Ariel was quite nice and even hugged me.

Finally it was time to wait in line for Enchanted Tales with Belle.  This is a very different attraction, it was fun and interactive and I think will have VERY long lines when this section opens to the public.  After waiting 30 minutes you get to Belle’s house, which is decorated in the typically well themed style that you would expect from Disney, including lots of Belle’s books.  The pre-show has 2 stages.  The first stage you are you Maurice’s work room and get an introduction to the experience.  From there you go to another room with Wardrobe.  Here a Cast Member assigns roles to members of the audience, I would estimate about 1/3 of guests are assigned a role, such as Mrs. Potts, Chip, a guard, or the beast.  Mostly they use kids, but some adults were used too.  The benefit was that anyone who participated got a picture with Belle after the show (and any little kids who were in the audience.)

The theme of the show was a surpise to Belle of telling a story, incidently the story of Bell and Beast and is narrated by Lumiere.  The guest perforformers are prompted by cast members for their parts as Lumiere tells the story and Belle acts fascinated by the whole event.  It was actually a lot of fun and well done.  It’s also a completely unique experience at the parks.

My last mission in Fantasyland was to eat at Be Our Guest.  My waiter was Chris and other then the service being on the slow side for a single person dining alone, it was a great experience.  I was seated in the ballroom section of the restaurant, which was themed after the, you guessed it, the ballroom!  There is also a West Wing (the one Beast flips out in) and another room that I couldn’t place the themeing of, but looked very nice.  One of the waitresses there said that they weren’t going to use that room for dinner, only for lunch.  I had the grilled strip steak, which was delicious and the strawberry cream cheese cupcake which was good but had a weird wrapper.

Finally, I want to say that the overall themeing of Fantasyland was very Fantasyland like.  I expected the area to be a bit bigger, but when you consider the mine ride and the enchanted forest are not yet completed, and if you add in Storybook Circus the area is actually HUGE.  I think it will be a very crowded area when it opens for quite some time and for good reason.  If you can get into Be Our Guest, I think you’ll enjoy the experience, but again I think you’ll need to get there early for lunch and you’ll need to call first thing in the morning for a dinner reservation.