Disney World brings return time cards to Epcot's Soarin'
Walt Disney World today expanded its "Anna and Elsa"-style timed return ticket system to Epcot's Soarin'
. With standby waits often over two hours, Soarin' is one of Disney's most popular attractions, which is why the resort soon will be building a third theater
for the show. But in the meantime, Disney's trying the system it employed last week
for the Anna and Elsa meet-and-greet at the Magic Kingdom's Princess Fairytale Hall.
Inside Soarin'. Photo courtesy Disney
People who have made Fastpass+ reservations for Soarin' will continue to use that return queue as before. However, once the standby queue reaches a certain point, Disney cast members stop admitting visitors to that queue and start instead handing out cards with assigned return times.
When that time arrives, the visitors go into the by-that-time-much-shorter standby queue for a (relatively) quick wait to get into one of the Soarin's theaters for the show. Ultimately, visitors still are waiting several hours to see Soarin', but now they can wait elsewhere in the park, seeing other attractions or spending money on food and merchandise. In essence, it's like getting another Fastpass+, but one that doesn't count against your limit and one that you have to claim in person at the attraction, with no choice on return time. In those ways, the "new" system is much like the old, original Disney Fastpass system.
As with Anna and Elsa, this appears to be a test. But with this system appearing now in three of the Disney World theme parks (Disney's used it for the Frozen Summer at Disney's Hollywood Studios, too), one wonders if Disney will continue to expand these return time cards to other popular attractions throughout the resort, when standby wait times surpass a certain point.
That would leave Disney with three ways to get on its attractions: the advance Fastpass+ reservations, the return-time tickets, and the traditional stand-by queues. Note that when Disney goes with return-time tickets at a ride or show, it closes the standby queue, so there are only two of the three options available at any given time on a specific attraction.
Visitors will valid theme park tickets may reserve three Fastpass+ reservations per day for their visit via the Disney World website or app, then get additional Fastpass+ reservations in the parks, one at a time, as available, after they've used their first three. The return time cards aren't part of the Fastpass+ system, so you can get one of those without counting against your Fastpass+ limit. And once Disney's handed out all the cards for all the available return times for the day, you're out of luck. There's no way to get on that ride or show. (Though it is possible that Disney could decide to cut off distribution of the return time cards earlier in the day to allow the standby queue to reopen on a walk-up basis later in the day. Some visitors have been told that's what will happen with Soarin' today.)
If you're trying to figure out a strategy for maximizing the number of high-demand attractions to visit with these return-time cards, good luck. Perhaps, with time, it will become easy to predict when Disney will close a stand-by queue in favor of the return-time cards. For those attractions, you'd want to be at the attraction entrance as soon as possible after Disney starts handing out those cards to get your assigned return time. If you knew you'd be able to do that, it then would make sense to use your three advance Fastpass+ reservations on other rides or shows during the day. That would allow you to have, in effect, four reserved attraction times. But if you're not certain that Disney's going to go with the return-time cards on a ride or show with typically long waits, you'll need to get a Fastpass+ reservation to avoid having to wait physically in an hours-long standby queue.
I can't see this working at Soarin' without creating a lot of angry customers. I understand the reasoning in not having people wait hours in a standby queue, but not letting them ride at all just seems like an awful idea. It's another step in a bad direction that is going to drop customer satisfaction. To me, this is a much different situation than the Anna and Else one.
The California Adventure standby wait times is seldom over 60 minutes. Usually 20 to 50 minutes. The longest wait times there is the Cars rides which can be 90 to 120 minutes. Maybe they should travel to Anaheim.
Does Disney even want to be in the theme park business anymore? Theme parks are treated like the unwanted stepchild of ESPN. Walt must be spinning in his grave. Disgraceful.
It makes sense to get folks out of attraction lines and into shops and restaurants. A company can't make money if most of the folks are in attraction lines. Obviously Disney is making a commitment to eradicate standing in line for something that does not produce revenue (other than the occasional ride photo or t shirt).
Old fast pass, new fast pass and then a combination. I'm lost. When you take a step back there are only 2 rides that create that kind of lines and it are Test Track and Soarin. Not because they are awesome rides (Orlando has much better to offer) but because it rest or the rides are even less desirable. And Disney's solution is old FP tickets and probably building 1 or 2 new theatre's. That is insane!
I tend to go during the less busy season but the normal fastpass system has always worked just fine for me. That being said, I know Disneyland uses it still. Not sure if WDW does.
I miss the old days when there was one queue for everyone.
Ahhh, knowing I can now get a return time for Soarin' means that I can get my drink on through the countries of the world, then make the hop over to the ride after I'm a bit tipsy. Trust me people, Soarin' only makes sense if you're in an altered state of mind. Otherwise it's a confusing, boring slideshow for the state of California- for a ride that is in Florida.
This pretty much negates the "you have more time to be spontaneous" talk that Disney has thrown around in regards to FastPass+. Now, being spontaneous could end in a cast member telling you that you were spontaneous too late, and you will not be allowed to ride Soarin' no matter how long you are willing to wait.
"If you knew you'd be able to do that, it then would make sense to use your three advance Fastpass+ reservations on other rides or shows during the day."
The 2 hour stand-by waits always discouraged me from riding it. I expect that is true for a great many people. However, now I know I won't stand in line while waiting to ride, therefor, I will now get a paper return ticket. Me and 100s of my fellow formerly discouraged line-standers. I don't see this as a help for those who would have stood in line but now will be shut out of riding because all the passes are gone sooner.
So let me get this straight:
While I agree that this may mean the need to step up building that third theater, I also think maybe this shows that Epcot needs another big E-ticket attraction to spread the theme park attendees around a bit.
The people who can't go on Soarin at all that day because they don't have a FP+ or didn't arrive early enough to get a paper ticket before they are all handed out aren't going to view this as great customer service. Telling customers they can't stand in-line at all even if they want to is horrid customer service. Those people paid a lot of money for a theme park admission to a park with very few decent rides and now they don't even have a chance to ride one of them.
"This is not practical advice. If Soarin' is a must-see ride, then you should definitely get the Fastpass+."
I agree with David. This is great customer service..... in response to a problem partialy of Disney's own making. Soarin' has needed a third theater for far too long, and Epcot has needed some serious upgrades for years.
I had another thought about this system. Is there anything to stop someone from going to Soarin' and getting a bunch of return cards? Under the old FP system, you were blocked by having to connect your ticket to it. Now, it seems like you could pick up a bunch and then be set for the day. It also seems like a terrible idea.
Sooo, kinda, sorta, Fastpass.
@Russell: "why would you waste your 1 top Tier Fastpass+ on that when you could instead get one for TestTrack while getting the paper return card for Soarin'."
Too little, too late. Disney could spend $1.5 billion dollars developing Magic Bands, but $100 million to build another E-ticket attraction in Epcot would have been just too much? Playing the little dutch boy, putting fingers in the dyke, is not great customer service.
I will never understand the appeal of this ride. It's a "meh", at best.
@Anon - I don't dispute that, and my impression is that TestTrack does have significantly shorter standby lines compared to Soarin'. However, as you yourself have said on multiple occasions when discussing the Fastpass+ system, guests should get Fastpass+ reservations for the attractions they most want to experience. Perhaps someone, like me for instance who has ridden Soarin' dozens of times (both in California and Florida), but hasn't been to EPCOT since TestTrack got the Tron-esque update (missed it by a couple of weeks in 2012) would actually prefer to ride TestTrack over Soarin'. If it were just me going (my son hasn't been able to ride Soarin' yet because he hasn't met the height requirement, but will on our next trip so this would just be theoretical), I might consider getting a TestTrack Fastpass+ reservation to ensure I have a guaranteed ride on an attraction I haven't been on since it was revamped. I would then take my chances with Soarin' by either getting to the park at rope drop and making the mad dash, or hoping that they were handing out the cards.
The answer is to add more Soarin type rides in the other countries around the World Showcase. This would give guests more options. It would be awesome to see a Soarin over France ride or any of the World Showcase countries.
I love to ride Soarin. It is my favorite ride at Epcot and possible my favorite at Disney World. Why doesn’t Disney take the money that they would spend on adding another theater for Soarin over California and use it to create another Soarin ride in the World Showcase? This would move people to other parts of the park and give them more options, thus reducing the wait times at Soarin over California. It would be awesome to ride several Soarin rides order different countries in the World Showcase. France, Canada, China, Norway or Mexico could be converted to a Soarin ride.
@Russell: "Everyone's priorities are different, and I think Robert, along with others, including myself, are merely offering potential strategies. Just because you, the high-and-mighty Fastpass+ master, don't agree with them, doesn't mean they won't work."
This is a direct result of simply not having enough attractions in the park. CA adventure has the same ride, but the wait never gets that long because there's plenty of other attractions to experience. So they wasted 1 billion on the magic handcuffs but still require a legacy fastpass type system? At least universal is investing in attractions.
Actually, Test Track has had consistently longer lines than Soarin' every time I have been to Epcot (which is multiple times a year). Test Track is normally 20-30 minutes longer than Soarin' lines.
the best way to avoid lines is to write a hit pop song and get a personal escort through the parks.
When Epcot was new, the lines were never this long. I think a lot of that was because there were a lot of interesting rides that everyone could ride. They ruined Imagination, closed Life, demolished Horizens and eliminated World of Motion instead of just adding Test Track. And who was the brain surgeon that decided that bringing back Captain EO was a good idea? Magic Journeys was a much better show and didn't include a leading character with a controversial past. Even eliminating lesser attractions like Kitchen Kabaret cut down on what people could do. Instead of handing out return time passes, they need to fix all of the things they broke and bring back better versions of the originals, not forgetting that a lot of people aren't into thrill rides and really enjoyed the old passive rides. There is so much potential for making this a great park, both in Future World and in expanding World Showcase to include rides in more countries or adding new countries. Has Disney lost the imagination to do this?
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