Disney World Skyliner Opening Trip Report Part 4

Welcome to our trip report covering the opening of the Disney Skyliner in Walt Disney World! The primary purpose of trip reports is to supplement our existing content to let you know how our strategies are actually working at a given time! This post covers a day at Epcot, with rope drop from the Skyliner and saying goodbye to IllumiNations, with some small diversions in the middle.

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About This Trip Report

This trip report covers a short, three-night visit to Walt Disney World for the opening of the Disney Skyliner gondola system. The full introduction is available in part 1.

Dueling Mornings at Epcot

One of the big questions with the opening of the Skyliner was how rope drop at Epcot would be impacted. If you’re unfamiliar, “rope drop” refers to the processes at very beginning of the morning—like when guests are let in the park, where they’re held, and what rides you’ll want to start with.

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The Skyliner drops guests off at the World Showcase entrance to Epcot, while buses drop guests off at the main entrance. This means guests coming from resorts on the Skyliner (Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, Art of Animation, Riviera Resort) face a decision as to which entrance to use.

So to demonstrate the issues here, Emily and I split our instagram story. She documented taking the bus from Caribbean Beach, typing in green. I documented taking the Skyliner from Caribbean Beach, typing in orange. I saved this as a highlight (“Epcot Skyliner”) on our instagram profile.

Because Test Track is the toughest FastPass+ to get at Epcot, our rope drop strategy typically focuses on Test Track. As we cover in the Epcot rope drop post, starting with Frozen Ever After isn’t a huge challenge. So today, we’re going to Test Track.

I’m going to cover the Skyliner more thoroughly before discussing Emily’s morning on the bus. Spoiler—the bus is better for starting at Test Track.

Epcot Morning (Skyliner Edition)

I left the room at about 7:40AM, walking from the Trinidad section of Caribbean Beach over to the Skyliner in about 5 minutes. I forgot my coffee in the room, which worked out perfectly because there is a Joffrey’s at the Caribbean Beach Skyliner station.

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We were allowed to get in line for the Skyliner at about 7:57AM. Epcot opened at 9AM and the Skyliner was scheduled to begin operations at 8AM. Arriving at 8AM wouldn’t have impacted my morning any, by the way.

Caribbean Beach is the hub of the Skyliner, with all three lines terminating there. You can sort of see from the picture how close the lines are—transferring is as simple as existing one, walking a few feet, and getting in line for another.

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The Hollywood Studios line is center, the Epcot line is right, just outside the picture, and the Art of Animation / Pop Century line is left a few steps out of frame.

The Skyliner began operating at 8:05AM, and I was on at 8:06AM. The trip to Epcot took about 13 minutes, and I was at the World Showcase entrance at 8:19AM.

The views from this leg of the Skyliner are great. But it’s much better—particularly for photos—to be in a gondola that doesn’t have a character wrap on it, as these greatly obstruct your views. My gondola was wrapped, so not many good pictures (sorry).

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We were let inside at 8:27AM and held at the UK Pavilion until 8:53AM. I didn’t look backward quite at 8:53AM, but I’m about 95% confident someone arriving to the group at that moment would have had just about the same schedule I did if they walked a bit quickly past the others in the group.

The walk from this entrance to either Frozen Ever After or Test Track is lengthy, mostly straight, and wide enough for comfortable passing. By the time I got to Mouse Gears at about 8:57AM, I was in the back of the Test Track crowd.

I hit the actual ride line at 8:59AM, boarding the ride at 9:22AM.

Epcot Morning (Bus Edition)

Before we get on with my morning, let’s compare how Emily did on the bus.

She boarded an 8:15AM bus at Caribbean Beach. There was a problem with the app not telling her the next time, which unfortunately left her waiting a full 16 minutes at the stop. The signage also recommended taking the Skyliner instead.

There’s no doubt the Skyliner is a better overall experience, but at the moment we’re more focused on having a great day at Epcot.

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She arrived at the Epcot tapstiles at 8:32AM. Rope drop was at 8:54AM and she get to Test Track at 8:56AM, boarding the ride at 9:07AM.

So even though her morning started later than mine—I was actually almost at Epcot when she was just boarding the bus—she still managed to get to Test Track’s entrance two minutes before me and to ride a full 15 minutes before me.

Epcot isn’t a particularly challenging park, so that 15 minutes isn’t crucial most days. However, on a busy day if you don’t walk as quickly as I did from the Skyliner, that 15 minutes could be 30 minutes, and that difference could be huge.

When your first ride takes a long time, you wind up letting waits for other rides go up. Getting off your first ride 15 or 30 minutes later will usually mean losing another 15 or 30 minutes (or more) on longer waits as the morning goes on. Rope drop strategy is entirely about staying ahead of the crowds to avoid this.

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Epcot Morning Recapped

Emily couldn’t stick around, but I continued my morning. Here’s what my itinerary wound up looking like:

  • 9:22AM Test Track

  • 9:51AM Soarin’

  • 10:06AM Living With The Land

  • 10:34AM Journey Into Imagination With Figment

Our Epcot mornings typically are built around a FastPass+ lineup of Frozen Ever After, Spaceship Earth, and Mission: Space. The big misses in this morning were Turtle Talk with Crush and The Seas With Nemo and Friends. (You can see a full one-day Epcot itinerary here.)

Typically I visit those after Living With The Land, but the posted 25 minute wait for The Seas (which I really don’t trust) made me nervous enough to head over to Figment (posted 5 minute wait) instead. I probably could have done the two skipped attractions by 11:30AM with little difficulty.

Now, if I were in a set of rooms at Caribbean Beach just off the Skyliner, I’d strongly consider taking the Skyliner even for a Test Track rope drop. Obviously life is easier with a Test Track FastPass+ in these instances, though.

If I’m not right next to the Skyliner, or if I’m coming from Pop Century or Art of Animation, I’m probably taking the bus to Epcot for Test Track rope drop.

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Afternoon of Park Hopping

I had nothing planned until the final IllumiNations performance at 9AM, so my afternoon was spent park hopping (mostly to get content for upcoming posts).

From Epcot, my first destination was Hollywood Studios. I didn’t need anything at Hollywood Studios, but I wanted to try the Skyliner trip.

I entered the Skyliner entrance at 12:04PM. A temporary shutdown had me boarding at 12:09PM even though there was no line when I arrived.

At Caribbean Beach, I walked right off the Epcot line and onto the Hollywood Studios line at 12:23PM, arriving at Hollywood Studios at 12:28PM. That’s a 19-minute trip, including transfer time.

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I decided to grab lunch at Docking Bay 7, our favorite quick service restaurant at Hollywood Studios. There was an available same-day reservation for Oga’s Cantina, but the 2:25PM time was later than I wanted to spend in the park.

I walked into Muppet Vision 3D just as a show was beginning. The recent changes in the resort remind me that it’s important to enjoy the things you like when you can—you don’t know how long they’ll be around!

I took the walking path over to the Walt Disney World Dolphin. Emily is a huge fan of working here, and I though I’d grab some coffee from Fuel (though I maybe forgot that their $6.92 cold brew is WAY overpriced).

I decided to head to Magic Kingdom, waiting over 20 minutes for a bus. You can only check bus wait times in the app at your own hotel, unfortunately.

One of the photos I got there was my favorite shot in the park, now with the new Tomorrowland sign:

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Exiting Magic Kingdom at about 4:45PM I saw a long line for the Express Monorail to Transportation and Ticket Center. I don’t like lines, so I decided to run over to the boat to Polynesian. Well, I missed that, so I ran over to the boat to Transportation and Ticket Center, which I caught.

From TTC, I took the monorail to Epcot, which meant I’d officially utilized all the free transportation methods at Walt Disney World today: Skyliner, walking path, bus, boat, and monorail! (Minnie Vans, which are operated by Disney, are a paid service.)

Back at Epcot I took some more pictures, including this one. Notice the “Odyssey” signage—it would be gone the next day as the space adopted its new logo and became temporary home to Walt Disney Imagineering Presents the Epcot Experience

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Meeting up with Emily, I walked a lap around Crescent Lake (the Boardwalk lake). I grew up coming to Yacht Club and Beach Club, so I’m always drawn to this area. And it’s beautiful:

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Back at Epcot, Emily and I grabbed two flights at the Appleseed Orchard space. With O Canada! now done, the theater is housing this Food & Wine “booth.” It’s a really cool use of the space, I think (but obviously no O Canada!).

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Final IllumiNations

We walked around the World Showcase before grabbing a spot at Norway for the final IllumiNations. While we occasionally used FastPass+ for IllumiNations, we never made a huge deal about grabbing the perfect spot, so why start now. Most angles in the park were good for that show.

We will definitely miss IllumiNations, Emily more than me (but we both loved it). The rain held off, and after some prodding people put their umbrellas away and a great final performance was enjoyed by all.

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The exodus from the park coincided with the Skyliner being down. I haven’t been able to find any reports of how long people actually waited, but I think it was probably around 30 minutes.

What’s interesting about this is that those guests who already left couldn’t re-enter the park to get to the main entrance and take a bus because the park was closed. They could walk to Beach Club and pay for an Uber, if they knew about/chose that option.

We took an hour to walk around before waiting 10 minutes for the Skyliner from just outside the Skyliner’s entrance.

When we arrived at Carribbean Beach (our final destination), we found out that the Pop Century / Art of Animation line was down. Guests going to that station had to take a bus. I had no interest in being a good blogger and testing to see how long that took.

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Some guests had walked into Caribbean Beach to pay $12 for an Uber to Pop / Art of Animation.

That same Skyliner line was down two days later for a few hours. If this is going to be an ongoing problem, Disney needs to have a way to let guests know via the app whether the line is running or not. Hopefully, though, the issue is resolved.

Coming Next In Part 5…Dueling Mornings at Hollywood Studios!

All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered

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Don't forget to master your Disney World FastPass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks! We've got park-specific guides as well: Magic Kingdom FastPass, Epcot FastPass, Animal Kingdom FastPass, and Hollywood Studios FastPass.

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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