Disney Skyliner ... Taking flight over WDW

September 30, 2019, 9:28 AM

Saturday was a great day …. it was my grandson’s 1st birthday party, although it was difficult to believe he was actually 1. Crazy how time flies by. The Saturday celebration left me with a Sunday wide open, and so there was only one thing to do …. It was the Disney Skyliner’s opening day, so I headed for WDW and “The most magical flight on earth”

I’m sure most of you have read the many comments/blogs that are online, posted by the CM’s, and for the most part they are valid. The underlying one being, the dread of stopping for any length of time during a hot and steamy Orlando afternoon. Unperturbed, I dropped into Mickey’s of Hollywood to purchase my souvenir passholder pins, before exiting soon after, and heading for the station. It was close to midday and the local weather app put the temp. at 85deg. Clear blue skies, and a little breezy, would make this Skyliner ride a good test of what to expect.

There was a relatively long, but fast moving line at the DHS station, so I basically walked/shuffled straight onto the gondola. The single line split into a double line at the top, and loading was quick and efficient. I saw no indication of the CM’s trying to load the gondolas to capacity, so my first flight was in a half full cabin. I sat facing the direction of travel, as I’d been told that’s the best place to get the full flow of air, and I must admit it was a strong breeze that came in thru the slatted vents. The 2 at the front were wide open, and above my head were 3 more. What you don’t realise until you’re in the cabin, is there are small vent holes near the bottom of the gondola, and these also produce a good air flow, but this time it’s around your feet and lower body. There’s also a row of vent holes located at the back of the seat, so they allow air up and onto your back. The full effect of these is only felt with your back to the direction of travel. So it would seem the gondola design has been optimized to give the best air flow no matter where you sit. The flight to the CBR took about 5 minutes, and was a breezy and surprisingly cool ride.

The hub at the CBR is impressive, and seems more like a main line train station, with people hurrying and scurrying to get onto a gondola to take them on the next stage of their journey. The Pop Century Resort line was no wait, so I decided to head that way and see where it took me. That trip is mainly over water, and it was interesting to see the rescue platform raft moored on the shoreline ….. just in case !! The gondola for this flight had wraps, and the view is nowhere near as good compared to the non-wrapped versions. So if you want to take photos, a gondola with no wrap is the way to go. A little trivia point …. whilst at the Pop Resort station I saw gondola #001. It’s red in case you’re interested …. :) There and back from the CBR I was in a cabin of only 3 people.

The line to get on the Epcot flight was again long, but we continually shuffled along so within 15 mins I found myself in a cabin of 7 people. No wraps, so a good view. It was now just gone 1pm, and the weather app put the temp. at 88deg. I find the non-moving station platform a little odd, and I’m sure for some it could be a problem. I did find getting off a little bit trickier, but for me it didn’t present any real problems. Whilst in line at the CBR, I did notice the long and very slow moving line for wheelchairs and ECV’s. There was about 10-12 groups waiting and I can see some frustration creeping in for those people. They have 2 gondolas set aside for disability access, and as one enters the regular line, another one enters the side loop to take its place. The other thing of note was the amount of fans at the station. These worked really well when we were slowly passing thru the Riviera resort station as they seemed to be perfectly aligned to keep the air flowing thru the cabins. Off we went on our way to Epcot and not too long after we came to a stop. Fortunately it was quite a breezy day so we had a fair airflow coming thru the cabin even though we were stopped. The gondola certainly sways in the wind, so if you suffer from motion sickness, a stalled gondola on a windy day may not be the place for you. The one thing I did notice from our lofty perch above the Caribbean Beach Resort was how on earth would they rescue us if we became stuck-stuck ?? Below us was a sea of roofs, and no clear indication of how they would reach us. Fortunately I didn’t have to ponder that conundrum much longer as the gondolas started to move again. I’d survived my first stop, although I still feel it could be a precarious position on a blazing hot mid-August afternoon. Time will tell on that one.

After the hard right slow turn station pass thru, we stopped again, but this time it was only for a few minutes and off we went. A trip that should have taken 10mins took almost 20, but we had arrived safe and sound at the International Gateway at Epcot, none the worse for wear considering we had stopped twice. I wandered around Epcot for a while and boarded the gondola back to the CBR around 3:30, with the temps now just nudging 90deg. Just as I was about to board, the Skyliner stopped for 10-15 mins. It was still windy, but bright blue skies and a beating down sun could have made it an uncomfortable wait in the gondolas high above WDW. Once it got back up and running everything went smoothly, and I found myself back at DHS just after 4:15.

Here are a few final takeaways from my first ever flight on the Disney Skyliner …….

1) On a breezy day like Sunday, the direction of travel makes a huge difference to the air flow in the cabin, but at no time did it ever get warm and uncomfortable during any part of the flight. In fact during some parts the flow of air was so strong it was odd to see the lady’s long hair being blown all over the place, much to their annoyance. I don’t have that problem … LOL … :)
2) The speaker system is too loud, to a point of almost annoying. Fortunately it’s not on continually, but you have to stop holding a conversation when it comes on, unless you want to start shouting. Also, we didn’t need reminding every minute that we were stopped, and the Skyliner would be up and running shortly.
3) One couple had been on it at night (during CM previews) and said it was a great place to see the fireworks. Do I see a Disney upcharge event being offered in the future ??
4) Even though the gondolas look to be moving fast when viewed from the ground, when you’re actually in them it doesn’t seem to be traveling at a high rate of knots. The speed obviously generates the air flow, and just how cool inside the cabin gets. I’d have to say kudos to the engineers for getting their calculations just right from what I experienced.
5) Gondolas with no wraps are so much better if you want to take photos.
6) For my 6 flights, I sat in cabins with 3 to 9 people. Even with 9 people the cabins don’t feel full, but I could see it being a bit of an issue if someone suffers from claustrophobia. Supposedly the max height of the Skyliner is 60ft, so unless you have a morbid fear of heights I can’t see it being that much of a problem ?? Although I can see the swaying in the wind exasperating that issue for a lot of people.
7) The glass on the windows gets dirty really quickly. I did see a cabin with a single CM working feverishly cleaning the inside as it passed thru the Epcot station, so maybe this is how Disney plans to combat the ‘greasy pawmark’ glass issue.
8) The benches are just about OK comfort wise, considering the length of each flight.
9) It’s takes a couple of entries into a station to get used to the speed at which it approaches. You’d swear it wasn’t going to stop, but at the last second it pulls up and all is well. It’s also a little unnervey to see it fast approaching as you’re sat in a gondola in the station.

All in all a great time was had by all on the inaugural flight of the Disney Skyliner. It was a 50/50 split with the people I rode with, either tourists or local passholders curious like me. Will I ride it again ?? Maybe with my grandson for what would be a fun ride for him, but I can’t see me doing a solo flight again. But hey, never say never.

Replies (1)

Edited: October 1, 2019, 8:46 AM

I've read similar reviews of the system. The heat doesn't seem to be as bad as initially feared, but you do have to wonder what it will be like on a mid to upper 90 degree day with 60-70% humidity. All of the circulation in the world is not going to help guests cool down while on the system. I think that's the problem here - Guests have been known to take refuge in buses and the monorail on oppressively hot days, and while the system's main purpose is for transportation, guests are naturally going to want to have some refuge from the heat while on the system. It seems that the interior of the pods are not hotter than the outside air, but they're also not cooler than the outside, so 95 degree air temps are not going to be much fun even with brisk airflow within the pods.

You noted some of the travel times on the system, and I think that's where a lot of guests are going to get frustrated. Once you're on, the pods move very briskly and efficiently to the next station, but with most guests needing to make a transfer at Caribbean Beach, it's going to lead to an additional wait time that will annoy most guests. It certainly sounds that the lines move pretty quickly, but the simple fact of having to wait a second time is going to be frustrating. I guess the hope is that demand will eventually decline once all the APs get their fill of the system and the novelty wears off, but it's definitely something to watch. Early reviews do not make it sound like this will be a good system for park hopping between EPCOT and DHS.

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