In this post, we’re going to give an overview of the Disney World “Skyliner” gondola system. This new transportation option began connecting Epcot and Hollywood Studios to four resorts on September 29, 2019. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the Disney Skyliner!
Note: Closure Following October 5 Incident
Update: The Skyliner reopened on October 14, but with limited hours some dates. Please check with hotel and park staff for the latest updates. We will leave this note up until normal operations resume.
Following an incident on the Skyliner on October 5, the Skyliner has been indefinitely closed. You can read more about the incident here. Of course, we will try to make sure we remove this note as soon as the Skyliner re-opens, but you should check with Disney (or search on Google) for the latest.
What Is the Disney Skyliner?
The Disney Skyliner is a gondola lift transportation system that will connect Epcot and Hollywood Studios to four Disney resorts. The below video shows them in action:
When Did the Disney Skyliner Open?
The Disney Skyliner began operations September 29, 2019. Information on the operational hours can be found here.
What Resorts and Parks Are on the Skyliner?
The Skyliner connects Epcot and Hollywood Studios to four resorts: Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, Art of Animation, and Riviera Resort (opening December 2019). Pop Century and Art of Animation share a single station between the two hotels. If you need to know more about these hotels, we have the following reviews:
We haven’t reviewed Riviera (opening December 2019) and have no plans to do so.
Map of the Disney Skyliner
Here’s a map of the Disney Skyliner (numbers are Disney’s estimated travel times, more about these below):
Where are the Disney Skyliner Stations located?
The Caribbean Beach station is located across the lake from the Trinidad section of room. This is also just south of the Jamaica section of rooms.
The Riviera Resort station is located between the Riviera Resort and Caribbean Beach Aruba Rooms. This means all guests staying on the west side of Caribbean Beach, farthest from the main building and pool, have easy Skyliner access.
At Art of Animation and Pop Century, the station sits between the two resorts on Hourglass Lake.
At Hollywood Studios, the Skyliner station is unmissable outside the front of the park, on the way to the buses.
The Epcot station is located at the World Showcase entrance. If your unfamiliar with this entrance, it’s accessible via the bridge between the UK and France pavilions.
Disney Skyliner Lines and Transfers
There are three distinct Skyliner lines (rumors initially indicated two):
Line between Caribbean Beach and Pop Century / Art of Animation (purple above)
Line between Caribbean Beach and Hollywood Studios (red above)
Line between Caribbean Beach and Epcot with stop at Riviera Resort (blue above)
As you can tell from the map and the descriptions of the lines, the hub of the Disney Skyliner system is at Caribbean Beach. If you need to “change lines” you will have to transfer at Caribbean Beach.
Transfers are incredibly straightforward. The lines are all terminate right next to each other at Caribbean Beach, so to transfer you just exit one line and get in line for your destination.
Disney Skyliner Travel Times
Disney has given the following estimates for how long the Skyliner will take to get from point to point (we’ve rounded up, where applicable):
Caribbean Beach to Hollywood Studios: 6 minutes
Caribbean Beach to Pop Century/Art of Animation: 6 minutes
Caribbean Beach to Riviera Resort: 5 minutes
Riviera Resort to Epcot: 9 minutes
Here’s a resort-by-resort look at the estimated Skyliner travel times to the parks. Note that Disney estimates Caribbean Beach to Epcot at 15 minutes, but to keep things “simple” we’re adding 9 and 5 to get 14 minutes.
Disney’s estimated times are a bit conservative—our actual experience tends to be about 10% faster. However, as discussed more below, there is enough risk of unexpected delay—e.g. stops mid-ride, that using Disney’s estimates for planning is a fine option.
Transfer times have so far been minimal, with midday waits being between the 30 seconds it takes to walk from one line to the other and a few minutes. If a park is opening or closing, you may encounter transfer times of 5 or even 10 minutes.
Caribbean Beach Estimated Disney Skyliner Travel Times
Caribbean Beach to Epcot — 14 minutes
Caribbean Beach to Hollywood Studios — 6 minutes
Pop Century / Art of Animation Estimated Disney Skyliner Travel Times
Pop Century / Art of Animation to Epcot — 20 minutes (plus transfer time)
Pop Century / Art of Animation to Hollywood Studios — 12 minutes (plus transfer time)
Riviera Resort Estimated Disney Skyliner Travel Times
Riviera Resort to Epcot — 9 minutes
Riviera Resort to Hollywood Studios — 11 minutes (plus transfer time)
Best Resort for Disney Skyliner
Caribbean Beach is the best resort when it comes to Skyliner access. Riviera Resort has comparable travel times, but with a required transfer if you’re going to Hollywood Studios. (And if you’re deciding between Riviera and Caribbean Beach based on the presence of a Skyliner transfer…you’re doing it wrong.)
That said, there are smaller factors you might not consider that can impact how you feel about any resort. We cover these next as part of our Disney Skyliner FAQ.
Disney Skyliner FAQ
There are a lot of factors that impact a Skyliner trip. Here’s just a few things along with our best answers from the time the Skyliner has been running…
Can I ride the Skyliner without getting off (round-trip)?
Sort of. If you just want to ride the Skyliner for fun, you will have to get off at a destination—you cannot just stay on through a station—but you can usually just walk right back on going the other way. Of course, during peak times (park closing, particularly) this might be a bad idea.
Can you take the bus instead?
Yes. Disney has continued to run buses connecting the Skyliner resorts to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. In fact—we really recommend buses in certain situations. We discuss one such situation—Epcot rope drop if you’re starting with Test Track—below.
How Long Are Waits?
The Skyliner waits have been mostly manageable and not a reason to avoid the Skyliner. From outside the entrance to the Epcot Skyliner station, for example, we waited only 10 minutes. The biggest problems arise at park close and when lines go down (or, worse, when both those happen at the same time):
The #DisneySkyliner logistics at the end of the night at Epcot are a mess. At this point, we can't recommend using the system as a reliable form of transportation. From frequent stops to managers who weren't prepared for park close, there are plenty of growing pains pic.twitter.com/wQrbqxU1C6— BlogMickey.com (@Blog_Mickey) October 4, 2019
At Epcot, the situation is even more complicated. Once you exit after close, you’re just stuck waiting for the Skyliner (or paying for an Uber from Beach Club) no matter what. At Hollywood Studios, you can see a long line and then opt for the bus instead.
Our biggest wait time question mark is the Riviera Resort station. Once that resort opens, it will be interesting to see how they allocate space on the gondolas since they are initially loaded at Epcot or Caribbean Beach.
What happens when a Skyliner line goes down?
Based on what we’ve seen on social media and in our own experience, stoppages of 5 minutes are “common” while stoppages for 15+ minutes are “rare” but have been happening multiple times a day.
So far there hasn’t been any need to evacuate the Skyliner, but obviously people who had to sit in the Skyliner for 15+ minutes have not been happy about it.
When a line has gone down, we’ve seen buses operate from next to the Caribbean Beach station to get people to their destination. This was a huge problem on night two of the Skyliner. The Art of Animation / Pop Century line went down, so guests coming from the park got to Caribbean Beach only to find out they had to wait in a long line for the bus (or pay $12 to Uber).
The most curious problem that we haven’t encountered yet is what happens if the Epcot line is down for a significant amount of time. When the park is open, guests can / will have to walk through to get to buses.
But when the park is closed, that isn’t an option. And guests without park tickets may take the Skyliner to the Epcot station for a meal at the Boardwalk. It’s unclear how these cases will be handled. Keep in mind if you’re stuck at the Epcot station, you can walk right over to Beach Club and catch an Uber there (hat tip to WDW Prep School for reminding me that not all guests will realize this immediately).
How Do Transfers Work?
Transfers are smooth and straightforward. Guests exiting one line simply get in line for the line they need to transfer to. So far all guests—transfers and Caribbean Beach guests—have used the same lines, but this hasn’t caused problems.
Do I have to visit the parks?
No, you don’t. This is most notable for the Epcot station. If you had a meal or wanted to grab drinks around the Boardwalk, this station is a great option for access from the Skyliner resorts. Keep in mind you will be limited by the Skyliner operating hours, which are tied to park operating hours.
Your best best will be days when Epcot has Extra Magic Hours. The extra morning hour means you’ll have better options for breakfast times, and the extra evening hour means you might be able to take until midnight to enjoy the Boardwalk.
How Do Riviera Resort Guests Get Spots?
The Riviera Resort stop is along the Epcot line. Presumably, Cast Members will leave a few empty seats in each gondola to accommodate these guests. While the stop is open to service some Caribbean Beach guests, we won’t really know how this works until Riviera Resort opens in December.
Does Room Location Matter?
Buses at Caribbean Beach make several stops around the resort. The Skyliner has one station at Caribbean Beach. If you’re based far from the Skyliner, you’ll have to account for extra walking time.
Likewise, if you’re much closer to the bus stop at Pop Century or Art of Animation, it will be usually faster to take the bus (assuming you time it right) than to walk all the way to the Skyliner.
Which Epcot Entrance is better?
This topic is discussed in much more depth in our Epcot rope drop strategy post. Epcot has two entrances—a World Showcase entrance for guests arriving by boat, foot path, or Skyliner, and a main entrance for all other guests (including those by bus from Skyliner resorts).
In general, guests with a FastPass+ for Frozen who need to start at Test Track will prefer the main entrance. Meanwhile, guests with a FastPass+ for Test Track who need to start with Frozen will prefer the Skyliner entrance.
Since Frozen FastPass+ space tends to be better than Test Track most guests will probably prefer the main entrance in the immediate term. (You can read more about Epcot FastPass+ strategy here.)
And if you want to get really into it—this is all going to change in 2020 when Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opens in the World Showcase. And then again in 2021 when the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster opens in Future World (or whatever it’s called now). (You can read more about Disney World construction projects in a one of our other posts.)
Will the Disney World Skyliner be air conditioned?
No. They have vents that allow air to pass through them, but the gondolas are not air conditioned. As long as the gondolas are moving, they’re pretty comfortable.
How Many People Does the Skyliner Hold?
I don’t know about the overall system capacity, but each gondola holds up to ten people.
How Will Bad Weather Be Handled?
When Hurricane Dorian came to Florida, the Skyliner was in testing phase, and all the gondolas were stored at Caribbean Beach. Presumably if the weather is bad enough, the Skyliner will have to be evacuated, and if the weather is really bad enough, the gondolas go into storage.
Unfortunately, we don’t yet know what “bad” is. Weather in Disney World can get really awful for short spurts—it would be unfortunate for something that passes in 5 minutes to impact the entire system, particularly because…
We don’t really know where people will go if the system gets evacuated. There shouldn’t be any challenge getting them all off in a quick manner given the number of stops—but if lightning is 5 minutes away will a guest going from Pop Century to Hollywood Studios have to exit at Caribbean Beach and wait? Will extra buses be deployed to accommodate these people?
Isn’t a Gondola A Boat?
The word “gondola” originally referred to the long, narrow boats used to navigate the canals of Venice. Over many years, the term came to be used to refer to different, similar shaped containers, including those used in rail transport, those handing from the underside of an air vessel, and eventually those suspended by cable.
All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered
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Just starting out? Check out our Walt Disney World planning guide! If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.
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Know what to ride with our guides to: Magic Kingdom rides, Hollywood Studios rides, Epcot rides, and Animal Kingdom rides! Plus learn about the water parks with our guide to Blizzard Beach and our guide to Typhoon Lagoon! And for some some fun prep, check out our Ranking of Every Ride at Walt Disney World.
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