Vote of the Week: Should theme parks make certain attractions available by reservation only?
When you're spending big money for a day at a theme park — nearly $100 for a single day at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
, for example — do you really want to spend a third of your day, or more, waiting in line for a single attraction?
What if that attraction was the one thing your child most wanted to do on your annual vacation?
"Are you SURE you really want to wait to see Anna and Elsa, honey?"
Still, we're willing to bet that most people would want to find a way out of waiting in that queue. That's why so many parks have created ride reservation or queue skipping systems. Whether they are free (such as Disney's Fastpass+), an add-on benefit to a hotel reservation (such as Universal Express Unlimited) or a straight upcharge (such as SeaWorld's QuickQueue), these systems allow a way out of those hours-long queues. And by doing that, they offer an extra inducement to entice would-be visitors to book a vacation with the resorts that offer them. Come here and use our system, they say, and you can have it all — all the attractions you want, without all those long lines.
But not everyone uses the line-skipping systems. And with many systems, notably Disney's Fastpass+, one's use of the system is limited, and there might be only a limited number of reservations available for a specific attraction at any given time. That leaves plenty of people outside the system, forced to wait in what is now an even longer standby line, as some of the attraction's hourly capacity has been given over to line-skippers.
Two factors determine the length of the wait for a theme park attraction: popularity and capacity. That is, the number of people who want to experience the attraction and the number of people per hour that the attraction can accommodate. Capacity is why it's not accurate to say that one ride is more popular than another simply because it has a longer average wait time. Capacity often explains the differences between attraction wait times, such as why the wait is so often longer for Splash Mountain than Pirates of the Caribbean. Pirates can put through hundreds more people per hour than Splash, especially in Anaheim, accounting for the typically shorter wait for Pirates, even though Pirates usually handles more people per day.
So when you see really brutal wait times for theme park attractions, a low hourly capacity usually is to blame. We reported earlier this week that one source has said that the Magic Kingdom's Anna and Elsa meet and greet — by far the longest standby wait time in the park at up to six hours — might have an hourly capacity as low as 89 guests per hour. That's an order of magnitude less than for other attractions considered slow loading by Disney's standards.
Disney has offered its Fastpass+ reservation system for the Anna and Elsa meet-and-greet, but that's not spared the thousands of other Frozen fans who couldn't get those advance reservations the day-killing wait in the standby queue. In an effort to help those guests continue to get more value from their day in the park, this week Disney started a second reservation system for Anna and Elsa, distributing return time tickets in the morning to guests on a first-come, first-served basis. But this meant that there would no longer be a true walk-up or stand-by queue to meet the Frozen stars. If you want to see Anna and Elsa, you would need a reservation — either through Fastpass+ or the new return-time system. Show up at the park too late to get a return time? You're out of luck — no matter how long you'd be willing to wait.
So that raises the question: Should there be situations where theme parks make certain attractions availably only by reservation? Parks long have required reservations for hotel rooms and certain table-service restaurants. Indeed, many visitors have booked tables at the parks' character meals as a way to secure a reservation to meet certain characters, long before systems like Fastpass+ made the regular in-park meet-and-greets available by reservation.
In an ideal world, theme parks would create higher-capacity attractions, so that all wait times could be kept to a reasonable level. (Your definition of "reasonable," of course, might vary.) But, let's face it, we don't live in an ideal world. And it doesn't make financial sense for parks to build individual attraction capacity to handle all of their Fourth of July and Christmas crowds when attendance levels sit much lower for the other 49 weeks of the year. (It's cheaper for parks to throw on some extra parades and shows to handle those holiday excess crowds, instead.)
It's Vote of the Week time. Please select the answer that best matches your opinion on this issue.
If Disney or another theme park company made certain attractions available on a reservation-only system, how might that change the way you plan and go on your theme park vacations? Let's talk about that in the comments.
Great question and yes I think that low capacity attractions (be it a ride or meet and greet or whatever) should be reserved for the highest paying Disney customers. By now Disney knows due to the magic band who are their "whales" and they should be treated better then the rest of their guests because they are better people and for Disney they are better of spending money than standing in line.
Couple thoughts - ya know, I am a planner, I make lists, itineraries, stuff like that so having to make reservations would probably enhance my experience by not having to wait in as long of lines. And it wouldn't bother me to need to have the structure.
Plan A would be for parks to provide a wide enough provision of attractions to meet demand, and 60 minute's standby wait should be tops.
One thing I hate is a false standby line. I've been in lines that don't move. I eventually give up because there's no way of knowing if I will arrive. This paper Fastpass is an improvement. Everyone that gets one should be proud. Some are saying a standby line should still be available as if that gives them a fighting chance and the attraction is part of the admission price. Maybe people should stop knocking Fastpasses in general and learn to use Fastpass+. Forget the spontaneity nonsense.
@OT - I don't think Disney doesn't care about guests when they design attractions, but part of their problem is that it takes a long time for them to build and open attractions. In the case of Frozen, the idea of an Anna and Elsa meet and greet kinda appeared out of the blue. When Disney recognized there was a strong interest, they moved the meet and greet to the Magic Kingdom and added it to the Fastpass+ system. Now with popularity soaring, they have added the paper Fastpasses to eliminate people waiting in a standby line for hours that have zero chance of meeting the characters. I'm sure if it were feasible, they would have 10 rooms loaded with Anna and Elsa look alikes, but that just doesn't make sense. There are other princesses that guests want to meet as well, so they're not about to tear up the relatively new Fairytale Hall just to add a few extra rooms for Anna and Elsa, who might be waning in popularity by the time Disney were to finish the work, replaced by some new movie character in the fall. Look how long it took Disney to recognize the advantage of using discrete rooms to meet Mickey Mouse. Not until the expansion of Fantasyland did the meet and greet area come close to meeting the demand of guests wanting to meet the characters.
I am a throw caution to the wind, play it by ear vacationer with no agenda who likes to to do spur of the moment things. My wife claims she is organized and likes to follow schedules, but secretly enjoys my unplanned craziness.
Absolutely not! Fast Pass at best. Everyone pays big money for these attractions and no one should be shut out of them because they are not aware or do not know how to handle the web site.
@NB - You seem very cynical of Fastpass+. I have yet to personally use the Fastpass+ system, but I never waited more than 15 minutes for an attraction under the old Fastpass system. I am not aware of any significant waits for attractions using Fastpass+ other than occasional issues with breakdowns and those attractions that require you to show up early (parades, fireworks, and shows). Most reports seem to indicate that Fastpass+ works very much like the old system in terms of wait times. Perhaps you could provide some specific anecdotal evidence of extended waits.
I was reading that the Anna & Elsa Fastpass + is the toughest ticket since Disney only issues 9 per hour. Standby, which is now a somewhat reserved standby, gets the remainder. If true, those fastpasses would be devoured the moment they become available. Like other posters have said, having more than one Elsa & Anna Meet & Greet makes the most sense. The character lines in the tents by Dumbo are pretty short, easy enough to convert those over. Sounds like an artificially long line that could easily be rectified.
No kid should ever have to wait an unreasonably long time (45 min?) to meet a costumed fictional character. That is just ridiculous! There has got to be a balance between keeping it exclusive and special versus not torturing your paying guests. They could easily have several sets of A&E located in different areas of any given park, just not so close that they can see each other. I mean, we're only trying to fool very young children here, right? And meet 'n greets have got to be one of the cheapest forms of attraction there is. I doubt any of those "actors" are making a ton of money. Having just one set and forcing guests to make reservations and/or wait for hours just to get a photo and a fake autograph is corporate greed at its worst. I'm a Disney shareholder and I am disgusted!
Theme parks should do the right thing and expand capacity for their most popular attractions. This is just another case of monopoly at its worst: keep the supply artificially scarce in order to justify inflated ticket prices and slow service. It's beyond the parks' control? Yeah, right.
If you spend any time on here, you would know I have been cynical of Disney since our fourth visit. Parks packed to dangerous capacity, endless seas of strollers and ungodly waits for everything, even during Extra Magic Hours.
It's been mentioned already, and perhaps Disney has a good reason not to, but I don't understand why there are not more "Anna and Elsa" signing sessions throughout the 4 parks right now while they are quite popular and lines are dreadfully long? It seems to be a simple solution, have them appear in each of the parks to meet and greet and this will at least cut down on some of the wait times. There is plenty of time for them to make the rounds at the Princess breakfast in the Norway Pavilion as well.
This isn't 100 percent related to the poll, but is it feasible for Disney to set up multiple rooms with multiple actresses playing the same character for these meet and greets? There has to be a way to keep the There Is Only One Elsa And Anna alive while also increasing the capacity, right?
As a visitor from the Uk, I once waited in line for four hours for a meet and greet with Rapunzel, and was more than happy to do so. The holiday was a one off and my daughter was desperate to see her. From overseas its not always possible to plan ahead that rigidly. Personally if i was to spend thousands of pounds for a holiday and park tickets, only to find we had no chance at all of visiting some of the most popular attractions i would be extremely angry. If people are happy to take their chances in a standbye line, I feel they should be afforded the opportunity to do so, as we have paid the entrance fee the same as everyone else.
I think the determining factor would be "is this a dining experience" ? I would call Anna and Elsa a "dining experience" with no food.
I don't 100% fault Disney for the waits to meet Anna and Elsa -- there's zero precedent for 4-hour waits to meet characters. I was working at Disneyland when Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye opened, and while it had 4½-hour waits on opening day, by the second week it was down to 2½ hours as the initial demand died down. I think they figured that demand would similarly die down for the meet & greet.
I actually did an Anna & Elsa FP+ 2 months ago for later in the day. The interactions between A&E and the children is quite personal. Both chat with the child, sign their autograph books and have about 6 photos taken with both Disney photopass cameras and personal cameras. The whole M&G last about a minute per person in the group. The A&E actresses have to always stay in character and greet everyone personally.
A perfect example of this is Disney's Captain Jack Experience at the studios park. There should also be a stand by queue, I don't care if it gets crowded.
I also did the Jack Sparrow Experience at DHS with the return time ticket. It was a great change and helps the guests manage their day better. This attraction has some entertainment value but I always avoided it because I knew it wasn't worth more than 15 minutes standing in line for. Now, each show is full and no wait time.
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