That being said, Disney could only do something like this if they cut out the inexpensive and moderate resorts, and only included the upscale / DVC resorts. (And I'm not sure it would work then.) what I hate about disney is using my pass to get fastpasses. I am always terrified of losing my pass by dropping it while going for a FP. I do like disney's dining system better. they have lots of great restaurants and I only buy the dining plan every third trip or so in order to keep it special.
Honestly even the regular FastPass seems me a little bit odd because you have to be wandering not too far from the ride, always having a look to the watch just to be sure that you did not miss the time of your ride. What you actually miss is spontaneity.
Otherwise, I have to say that regular FastPass is useful for a few always-crowded rides, and at least seems me more 'democratic', as it's useful for everyone, not only for big budgeted escapes as in Universal. So it's true, none of them are a perfect system at all.
As for Fastpass+, I love the idea of planning everything in advance. I think this new perk will definitely increase my enjoyment in touring the Disney parks. It will be especially nice to know that I can reserve specific times (like night rides on Thunder Mountain) without worrying about timing the current Fastpass system "just right". And the fact that Fastpass+ ties into parade and fireworks viewing is also very cool. I cannot wait to try out the new system when I visit in 2014.
The most reasonably priced "paid" Fastpass system is the one at Dollywood. For around $80 my entire family of five can get unlimited "fastpasses" to all the top rides. It is a great value and a huge time saver.
Without a doubt though, the best paid perk is Universal's Unlimited Express which you receive when you book a stay at the Royal Pacific, the Hard Rock, or the Portfino Bay resort. It ain't cheap to stay at these hotels, and Universal Express does not include all the headliners, but the stress free vacation you receive during your two night/three day Universal stop is impossible to beat. I would not visit Universal without this perk. It is almost too good to be true, which is why I am sure it will not last forever. I do not know how Disney could offer this type of perk as the number of guests staying onsite at the WDW resort is so much greater than at Universal. The free Fastpass system would be completely ruined for the casual visitor. Disney would have to limit this type of perk to a few high end resorts (as another poster mentioned), and probably further limit that group to a specific park - for example, guests at the Grand Floridian would would have the perk at Magic Kingdom and guests at Beach Club would get the perk at Epcot, something like that.
The worst systems are the ones employed at Six Flags (Flash Pass) and Cedar Fair (Fast Lane), as they specifically manage their ride lines to cause back ups and frustration so people are almost forced to spend the extra dough to buy a fastpass perk. Six Flags further insults visitors by only including certain rides (like X2 at Magic Mountain or the Texas Giant at SFoT) with the more expensive "gold" version of their substandard system. Such a slap in the face.
But again, Disney's free Fastpass system is still the best, just because it is truly free, which is the best perk of all.
If you are staying at a $79 a night budget hotel or a local with an AP, Disney has an advantage. I always wondered what the people who pay $2,225 a night for a Royal Asante Presidential Suite with Kilimanjaro club level concierge service at the Animal Kingdom Lodge think of Universal Unlimited Express....
The benefits of staying on-site at UOR is a stress free, do anything you want whenever you want vacation where evrything is within walking distance. People complain about RRR and FJ not having Express, but all you have to do is get up an hour earlier and you can ride them 2-3 times before the parks open to the public.
You are also guaranteed entry to the parks (I'm not sure how that works if they are at capacity, which is rare and only happened a handful of times at IOA after HP went in)
If you take the cost out of the equation, you still can't exit a ride and jump right back in line for another go with Fastpass because it is a "wait like everyone else perk", you just don't have to wait in line.
Basically, if you like to ride (a lot) and have quite a bit of extra time to enjoy the pools, restaurants and CityWalk, staying on-site at UOR is worth every penny. The cool thing about Fastpass is anyone can use it, you just have to know what you are doing, but supplies are limited. It's not like every guest in the park can use it.
"It's not like every guest in the park can use it.'
Yes, they can.
The regular Flash Pass makes you wait as long as you would if you just stepped in the back of the line, which, if I am not mistaken, is how FastPass works.
Disney's Fastpass: This is the best system as it is free to use, is only available on a limited number of attractions (typically headliners or other popular attractions), and if the return windows are enforced it keeps the length of the Fastpass line reasonable. The only issue with this system is that some rides give out too many Fastpass tickets, causing the standby line to be excessive (I'd say 10-20% of the ride's capacity should be given out in Fastpass tickets, but I've heard that some rides give 50% or higher).
Q-Bot: This is used primarily at Six Flags parks (called Flash Pass), but is also in place at Dollywood (Q2Q) and a handful of other parks. Of the paid systems, I like this one best as return times keep too many people from showing up at once (just like Fastpass), but there are some issues in the system as well. Dollywood does a great job of merging in users with the regular line, but at Six Flags parks merging can vary in terms of effectiveness (I hate it when users are allowed in the exit and may pick any seat they desire, which occurs on some rides). Also, while I don't mind a more expensive pass with shorter waits before return times (the Gold level), I do not like the practice of requiring that pass for access to certain attractions. Worse is requiring an extra fee on top of the Gold level pass for some rides, and even worse is the Platinum level, where riders get to ride twice in a row without leaving their seats (and when the operators are not attentive, I've seen riders abuse this and go as many as four times in a row in a high demand seat).
Fast Lane: This is the Cedar Fair system, and it is just a wristband that lets you use an express line. Since there are no return times, this line can become clogged on popular rides. However, Cedar Fair tends to do a good job balancing the regular and Fast Lane lines so that neither side feels cheated, or will not use the system on rides where this is not possible. Pricey, but worth it if you only have one day at Cedar Point or Canada's Wonderland (or any other big Cedar Fair park).
Go Fast Pass: This is an alternate Six Flags system for the parks that have not switched to Q-Bots (I know Great Escape uses it, but I'm not sure if anywhere else still does). It is similar to Fast Lane, but you are not free to choose where you wish to sit.
Quick Queue: The SeaWorld/Busch Gardens system. Not a huge fan of this one because you only get one ride per attraction and are generally restricted to only one or two seats on the coasters (note that I've only used it at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, so it may function differently elsewhere).
I've never used Universal Express, but if the system is similar to the Gate A pass at Universal Studios Hollywood (one priority admission per ride), I wouldn't be much of a fan. If it is more like the Q-Bot system, however, that would be great. I'd almost rather the hotels give one free Q-Bot per room than unlimited anytime access as it would be more fair and could be extended to more hotels than the resort currently has.
As for Fastpass+, if it is anything like it sounds like it will be, it is the absolute worst priority boarding system in the industry. It is impossible to know months in advance what you will feel like doing and when you will feel like doing it. While I do think it is a good idea to have a general idea of what you want to ride during your day at the park, I would not want to be forced into a rigid schedule where any unforeseen circumstance could destroy my entire day. It may also decrease your enjoyment if you're scheduled for a specific attraction, but when that time arrives you don't feel like doing it and would prefer to do something else. Even worse is the impact this type of system would have on standby lines, either making them a thing of the past or rendering them impractically long if you want to use Fastpass+ at all. While I do like a lot of the NextGen stuff Disney is rolling out right now, Fastpass+ is actually a very strong reason for me to NOT visit Walt Disney World unless I'm shown that it works completely different than the way I believe it will.
Fifteen years ago, the skip the line pass didn't exist and nobody complained about waiting. Now they are getting out of hand. While I don't hate skip the line passes, they need to adhere to three things for me to consider them an acceptable system. They must be: 1. Affordable to the average visitor, 2. Have few negative effects on those not using the system, and 3. Be impossible to abuse. Fastpass and Q-Bot systems generally adhere to these, but many of the other systems violate one or more of these conditions.
I just want to say that I am completely against the idea of FASTPASS+. Theme parks should be about going around and having a ball, not fretting over being able to make it to a specified reserve time. Disney should just stick with their current system (which I admittedly am fond of) to make theme park planning less of a hassle.
Disney sees an average of 45K geusts per day, Let's say 4500 Fastpasses are handed out. That would mean only ten percent of the guests can use Fastpass, therefore not everyone can use the perk.
Universal does things very efficiently, rides that have two loading platforms are split so the regular lines have one side and Express has the other. When there is no one in Express, they load both sides with the regular lines.
I have read some posts on the Disney forums where the regular lines were completely stopped for 20 minutes (or longer) while all the FastPass holders were accomodated first.
AJ is correct. It is very easy to ride something like MIB ten times in a row before the people at the end of the regular lines reach the loading platform with Unlimited Express.
I have heard things like "Look at these _______ people..." as you pass them in an empty queue. If you happen to want a second ride immediately after exiting, the comments get louder and more abusive.
On the other hand, I don't have any issues with Universal's approach because it's limited. I've been to Universal on slow times in January and February, so we haven't needed to consider it. When our kids get older and we go during busy times in the future, I'd consider paying the high hotel charges for the convenience of not waiting in line. If Universal keeps up their current pace of exciting new rides, it may be an easy choice.
I love Disney World and went there many times as a kid and even as an adult before we had kids. I'm growing really concerned with their NextGen ideas and wonder if it's going to negatively impact experiences there in the future.
Furthermore, just to clarify, regular Fastpass is NOT going away with Fastpass+. Disney will still be the only major theme park chain with any sort of a free system. You gotta give them props for that singularity.
Then you have the Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Polynesian and the other Premium hotels.
The funny thing is, the animosity still exists at Disney towards the FastPass lines even though the perk is free.
As for the price of Disney's moderates, other than the Fort Wilderness cabins, all four run about $149 - $182 / night for a basic room, depending on the season. That price range is generally less than the Royal Pacific (considerably less and the $360 Seasonal Rate Universal is currently charging - yikes!), the cheapest of the three Universal on site properties. Also, keep in mind Universal adds $20/night for parking, and $25/night for a rollaway bed if you have a family of five. As I wrote previously, the "free" Express Pass perk at Universal ain't cheap - but it is definitely worth it if you want to feel like part of the aristocracy and have a relaxing, no hassle vacation.
Normally if you are using the current Fastpass system and a ride goes down you can wait until it comes up and be expressed on, now this is usually fine as your next Fastpass time is likely to be two or three hours away.However with Fastpass+ you have your entire day mapped out even when you eat
So if lets say BTM goes down in Magic Kingdom and your next Fastpass+ reservation is for fortyfive minutes or an hour further on you cant afford to wait and you wont have time to come back either because you have planned every minute of your day and if two big rides go down in one day and you have thosands of guests on Fastpass+ with their timetables thrown out I dont think you will have many happy mouse fans
I'm not sure I want to schedule my entire vacation ahead of times but if I could book certain things ahead, (like fireworks or show viewing) then that's appealing.
Until Universal gives me more to do in a day however I don't care which system is more appealing as I'm not going to stay at a Universal resort....
As for the two systems, I think both are great but will cater to two different groups of people. Some people like structure even on vacation and the ability to plan up front ensuring they get to do the things they love. Others don't want to have to plan and just want to show up. Great, you can do both.
I personally prefer Disney's method but that's just because it works for our family.
Disney should put all the funding into 'RFID' (whatever that is) and Fastpass+ into a killer new attraction at the underloved/valued parks.And yes I have voted with my wallet. We used to spend 5 days of a 2 week vacation in WDW - for many years. This year, we spent 1 day there.
FP+ is free to all Disney guests with Magic Your Way tickets – you do not have to stay on property to have access. Far as I can tell, Annual Passholders can convert to RFID IDs and use FP+ as well.
Resort guests receive access to FP+ reservations 180 days in advance, day guests 60.
There are a limited number of reservation slots for any given attraction on any given day.
There are a limited number of reservations FP+ users can make in a given day.
FP+ can only be used at one park per day – park hoppers are out of luck.
FP+ reservations can only be made once per ride (you can’t reserve Space Mountain all day long).
FP+ users will NOT have access to regular FP, and vice versa. It is a one or the other proposition (once you switch to RFID use, you will not have access to the normal FP machines).
Special, excellent viewing areas for parades and fireworks are also able to be reserved with FP+.
FP+ is still in the testing phase (as Rob noted) and there is no official live date yet announced.
Everything I have written here may be changed by the time the system goes live.
If I shell out the big bucks at Universal and stay on site, I get front of the line access. That works great for my son and I because we can go hit all of the thrill rides that we want while my wife, a night person, is sleeping in and then getting ready at her leisure. Then when she's ready, we can hit the rides that we all can ride. All in all a pretty leisurely vacation.
If I shell out the big bucks to stay at the hotels on the monorail line at Disney, I pretty much lose out with the current system unless I rush over to the parks, get fastpasses for the whole family, and hope that she will be ready when our fastpass time comes around. Then I spend the rest of the day either waiting in long lines or rushing around the park trying to get to an atrraction during a fastpass window. That totally sucks and is not my idea of a relaxing vacation.
Now if Fastpass+ fixes that problem, I quess I'm for it because I can have a more leisurely visit with a little advance planning. But, I see problems.
The first issue I have with Fastpass+ is a lack of spontaneity unless I want to pay the price of waiting a long time for an unplanned attraction or restaurant. It also leaves me little flexibility to adjust my schedule if the weather doesn't cooperate, and we all know that the weather doesn't get unruly in Orlando. :/
The next issue with Fastpass+ is that it doesn't address the basic problem at Disney - lack of attractions for the size of crowds they have coming in the gate! Evidently Disney's interpretation of the number of rides and attractions that you should experience in a visit differs tremendously from mine.
Disney needs more attractions in their parks. So instead of farting around with crowd management tricks why don't they just admit the truth and build more attractions? The Fantasyland expansion is a great start, but where are the new attractions in the other three parks? The Univerasal Orlando complex is a fraction of the size of the Disney World complex, yet Universal's park expansion and modernization efforts make Disney's look paltry in comparison.
So, for those of you who say that Disney's Fastpass system is free and is available to all, I disagree. Your time is worth something, and your self respect is invaluable. Universal respects me as a patron and tries to meet my expectations. Disney on the other hand views me as a revenue source to be exploited for the maximum output with the least input, and the only reason I go there is for my wife and grandkids.
I'll be over at IOA with staying at an 250 dollar room on site. Where we can go on the Spider-Man ride 10 times in that day when we want at no wait on the same day. Who cares if those variables that I mentioned come up. We can plan our day to our own specific needs as they arise. We can change it on the fly as always is the case with 4 people. Everyone is happy.
With Universal you get Freedom if you want to pay just 150 dollars more for a family of 4. Disney your given a one time per ride fast pass that is so structured that if anything goes wrong you ruined and adding in the fact that you get a taste of no wait time but don't get to do it again that day. That's cruel and unusual punishment.
If you like freedom than there is Universal, and there is plenty to do at Universal, Top restaurants in CityWalk, nightclubs, world class entertainment, world class pools, a river walk, excellent on site hotels, and did I mention two of the best theme parks all in walking distance. Oh and by the way they are always updating these and improving with new attractions every year. You can easily spend 10 days here.
If you want to go for a strict scheduled exhausting vacation where your forced to something at sometime so that its good for everyone. Like a true communistic state like North Korea than sure a vacation at Disney is fine.
I like Freedom and I like America so I'm going to Universal!
If I could have scheduled these two events, we may not have had to waste nearly an hour getting these times and could have spent them happily doing something else. Since we try and go about once a year sometimes twice to a theme park, we like having a game plan instead of wondering around trying to decide what to do.
Now we do some things spontaneously, but only after we have made sure we have done all that we originally hoped to do. But if I was not such a planner, we wouldn't have gotten dinner reservations at Be Our Guest, character dining during the MVMCP, nor had down time to swim. My boys like schedules too. Each evening they wanted to know where the next day would take them. We had a great time on our schedule.
the vast majority of guests don't want to go on Spiderman 10 times in one day... Once was enough for me...
Overall, though, as I have been stating all along, I agree with you, Tadd, Universal Express Pass for onsite resort guests is the best, "free", cut-in-line, theme park perk money can buy.
@Amanda, I also love to plan my trips to an extreme... so I find Fastpass+ to be tremendously intriguing. One thing I have considered is actually getting the Park Hopper option (something I have never done before) and using my Fastpass+ reservations at the park to which I will hop instead of my starting park. So, I could visit DHS at park opening, ride the headliners and d-tickets until mid afternoon, then hop over to the Magic Kingdom (on a magic hours night no less) where I have reservations for all the rides that normally are out of fastpasses by noon due to the Magic Kingdom being the most popular theme park on the planet. I could also reserve a great spot for the evening parade and fireworks show. Talk about stress free!!! That would be a great perk on my travels.
This is an associated FP+ vs Univ. Express issue. However UOR APers don't get any Express Passes and WDW is maybe thinking APers do get FP+. Since WDW already has the regular FP that APers can use, this new system will be implemented when FP+ takes over for the present FP by the end of 2013.
Regular ticket buyers that stay off-site will get to use only the regular FP system or maybe none at all if the present FP system is completely over-ridden by FP+.
I find Express isn't even needed at IOA from open until about noon since everyone wants to see Potter, even during peak Summer. Spiderman and Hulk waits are usually 15-20 minutes at that time.
Once it hits noon to 1PM, those waits quickly become 50-75 minutes.
Purchasing Express before you enter the parks is nuts, especially during off-season. I would wait until I got in, check out the wait board, then decide whether to buy them.
It doesn't save you anything buying them at the gate vs in the park at one of the designated locations.
I can guarantee you it will be the same when Potter London opens at Universal. The rest of the park will be a ghost town, except maybe for Transformers, until early afternoon.
I see Fastpass+ being a disaster if the rumors are true. On-site guests have 180 days to reserve rides where everyone else has 60. I can guarantee that the die-hards and thier knowledge of the Disney parks will have grabbed all the FastPasses long before the second group has an opportunity to reserve them.
I agree that people spending money in the Disney owned hotels should have a perk, such as priority FP booking, but the AP holders and locals will be up in arms on the forums when the paper ticket versions have been removed.
This is great news for the annual Disney vacationers who stay on-site, but bad news for everyone else. The biggest plus about the current FP model is everyone is on a level playing field, regardless of income or what you spend on Disney property.
In short, Universal Unlimited Express doesn't come cheaply, but it does rock...
However, Disney could keep the total number of FP tickets at 800 giving out only 600 regular FP tickets and allotting the remaining 200 tickets to FP+. In this scenario, the two systems can exist side by side, there will just be less regular FPs to give out, which should be offset by the number of visitors using RFIDs without access to "regular" FP.
Furthermore, Disney is adding FP to attractions that currently do not use or need FP, such as Haunted Mansion. This move should further even out the demand between day guests and advance reservations.
But eventually, I agree that FP as we know it today will go away. Which I guess is okay since the die hard Disney geek has been complaining about it since day one, wishing for something different - be careful what you wish for, the old adage goes....
However, in terms of those on vacation, it completely takes out the spontaneity of a visit. As we currently are reading TPI, and many of us read similar theme park/trip planning boards, a lot of us are 'in the know' about the parks and its attractions. So many guests are first time visitors who turn up to Disney expecting the 'Disney experience' with no prior research done - many of them are unsure of the park they are in, but merely at 'Disney World'. It is easy for us to see the benefits of FastPass+, but to those 'regular' ;) folks, who turn up expecting a magical time, work all year, or for many cases, their whole life (we must remember that Orlando for is often a 'trip of a lifetime'!!) - they are going to be extremely unhappy. Whereas if no-prior-research-family turn up at Universal, stay on-site - is this a problem? No.
I'd just like to say I am neutral. I don't see the benefits of staying on-site at Universal or Disney. I've been to the parks enough to know what to do and not be upset by what I miss. My family and I can stay at a villa which means we all have our own bedrooms, our own swimming pool and some privacy after spending a long day together! All this for the same price that I'd get staying at Disney Value - Moderate. No front of the line benefits will ever convince me otherwise - it just isn't worth the money for me.
However, at some point the onus has to be on the customer to do at least a little research, don't ya think? I mean who spends $3k to $5k on a purchase and doesn't take time to research what they are buying? Honestly, that person gets what they get, as another old saying goes...Ya pays yer money ya takes yer chances!
A little research goes a long way, and the folks at Theme Park Insider are here to help!
"TPI: We Help The Hopeless"!
I think the issue is that most families save a lot for Disney. They want the whole experience.
I presume all your TPI friends can accompany you, right?
P.S. Guest Assistance Cards are going away, which makes up about 40-60% of the Fastpass line at any one time.