What To Do When Your Disney Vacation Day Is Not Going So Great.
Normally your days on vacation at Walt Disney World will be filled with magic. But even at the happiest place on earth things can go awry.
Note: this is a “classic” MDT post. while older, it’s info and ideas are still valid. It’s been updated with current info (1/11/2020)
A Not So Magical Day
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been to Disney World, I’ve been going since 1971. Each and every time presents its own different magical moments and at times challenges.
During one particular trip I experienced the absolute most challenging day ever in my experience in WDW’s Magic Kingdom.
The issues experienced were a huge amount of attraction breakdowns/closures.
Let’s look at first my planning and expectations for the day, then we’ll see how the day unfolded and everything that went wrong, and finally what we did to deal with our challenges and make the most of the day.
Planning and Expectations
Quite a while back I started planning for a late May Disney World vacation. We were meeting family from another State for four park days and one down day at WDW. The timeframe available for me to pick from was the weeks prior to and after Memorial Day based upon the schedule of the couple we were meeting.
I chose the week after as the crowds were projected to be lower than the week prior to the holiday.
When planning a Disney vacation the first thing I do is check the projected attendance on several sites for my proposed dates, in order to decide when it would be best to visit Disney World.
I settled on 27 – 31 May as our dates. The day in question that we will be discussing is Friday 29 May which was our Magic Kingdom day.
For the 29th Touring Plans predicted an attendance level of 5 out of 10 for the Magic Kingdom and Easy WDW listed the MK as the #1 park to visit. Your First Visit offers weekly projections vs daily and called the week including the 29th a 9 out of 11.
During the day as we toured the Magic Kingdom it was obvious that attendance was well above medium (5 out of 10).
It should be noted that with the advent of FastPass Plus, there are now less people standing in line not only for the E-Ticket rides, but also for the lesser rides. This moves those who used to be waiting in the queues out into the common areas of the parks making days of equal attendance now and in the past seem quite different, it looks more crowded now.
Having said that, during the day I felt the attendance was more like a 7 or 8 than a 5. While my wife thought it was more like a 10!
Touring plans, during their look back at the day called it an 8. And the whole week was overall much busier than they’d thought it would be.
Our Planned Schedule for the Day
Sixty days out I lined up our FastPass Plus Reservations for the trip, they were:
I also made an Advance Dining Reservation for the Be Our Guest lunch at 12:55
Plans for the rest of the day were to do whatever the other couple wanted as it came up, as one of them had not been to WDW since they were a young child.
Our Magic Kingdom Experiences
After arriving at the Magic Kingdom we took some pictures on Main Street and then headed into Adventureland. We made a B-line for Aloha Isle to get our Dole Whips.
Aloha Isle – Shortly before this post was originally published Aloha Isle had exchanged locations with the less popular (but larger) Sunshine Tree Terrace, giving the bigger location to Aloha Isle with its more popular treat, Dole Whip.
In the old location Aloha Isle had 1 line which fed 2 small walk up windows with 2 registers, now they have a huge open counter with 4 registers. But during our visit they had only one line and 2 registers open, completely negating the benefits of switching to the new location!
Another bummer was that they no longer serve Dole Whip/Vanilla Swirl, frozen pineapple slush swirled with vanilla soft serve ice cream. They only serve Dole Whip plain, much less palatable in my opinion! If you still want your swirl, you can get one at Captain Cooks in the Polynesian Village Resort. NOTE: Swirl is back at Aloha Isle, Captain Cook’s no longer has Dole Whip it has moved to the Pineapple Lanai at the Polynesian.
Pirates of the Caribbean – We had time to kill prior to our first FastPass (about a half hour), so we checked out Jungle Cruise which had a 50 minute wait. We decided to ride Pirates of the Caribbean instead as it only had a 30 minute wait. The actual wait was less than posted and we boarded our boat and set sail for the Caribbean.
We enjoyed the initial scenes and the short plunge to the Bombarding the Fort scene, then on to Sacking the Town. As we went through the scene where captive women are being auctioned off we bumped into a backed up line of stopped boats.
There were numerous boats ahead of us all touching back to front, lined all the way up to the ride exit. Soon 2 more boats lined up behind our boat.
This happens from time to time, but as each boat in the front of the line is unloaded you move forward one spot. Unfortunately, this time there was no movement.
In all we waited about 40-45 minutes while stuck on the ride.
The ride was “brought down” in various stages while we waited, each proceeded by a PA announcement.
First, after about 10 minutes the full interior lights were turned on. This provided an awesome opportunity to get some great pictures of the scenes around us.
Next, after another 10 minutes the sound track was turned off, followed eventually by the ride “motion” being turned off.
Pirates’ boats are free floating and non-motorized. They are propelled along through the water between 2 guide rails by water jets shooting below the water’s surface in the direction of movement.
When they turned off the pumps for the jets, all the boats which were being crammed together in a forward direction all began to drift slowly backward. We drifted quite a ways back, all the way into the Bombarding the Fort scene.
One thing that was not shut off on the ride were the water cannons. These are submerged water filled tubes which have a blast of air injected into the bottom, propelling the water in the tube up into the air. These are used on the ride to simulate cannon balls falling into the water.
Well guess where my boat stopped? Right next to one of the water cannons, which was right next to the track!
And who do you think was closest in the boat to the water cannon? Yours truly!
I sat there for 10 minutes or more getting splashed on a constantly repeating schedule. Mostly my right shoulder, arm, and right thigh got wet. The cannon was just behind me to the right. I could not scoot over, as the couple behind me did, as we had 4 adults in our row.
Finally they began turning all of the ride functions back on and we got on our way.
As we exited our boat WDW Cast Members were passing out old style paper FastPasses, which were good all day at many attractions (there were exclusions).
Splash Mountain – Once we got off Pirates we headed right to Big Thunder as we were within our FastPass Plus window. But on our way we saw that Splash Mountain was stopped as well and that people were also stuck on those boats!
Big Thunder Mountain – We got to Big Thunder and redeemed our FastPass Plus reservations. The FastPass line stretched half way down the hill from the building to the FastPass entrance. It was about a 20 minute wait. The long line was due to all of the extra paper FastPasses being handed out at broken attractions.
Be Our Guest Advance Dining Reservation – Disney World requests that you arrive 15 minutes prior to your Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) time. After riding BTM we quickly crossed the park and arrived at Be Our Guest 10 minutes prior to our ADR. The cast member working the ADR line said that she could not check us in until 5 minutes prior to our ADR time.
So we waited 5 minutes and then she checked us in.
I’d had lunch at Be Our Guest previously under the old FastPass System that they first used before adding the restaurant’s lunch meal to the ADR system. Back then when you checked in, you bypassed the standby line and went right to the front door where you then joined the line of perhaps 20 to 30 people ahead of you.
Now, once you check in you immediately join the standby line, which stretches from the building to the check in stand and you’ve got about 80-100 people in front of you. People who were standby guests joined the line during the 5 minutes I had to wait to check in!
The food and atmosphere was good, but the wait is way shorter at all the other MK Quick-Service locations!
If you want to see the highly publicized interior you can walk in and tour the restaurant and take pictures without a reservation…
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – After lunch, while waiting on our Mine Train FastPass time, we saw Mickey’s Philharmagic, this attraction takes big groups in every 20 minutes, never a long wait. Then we our paper FastPasses to ride Peter Pan’s Flight (the paper FastPasses from Pirates).
It was then time for Mine Train. We redeemed our FastPass Plus reservations and got in line. Again there was a long wait in the FastPass line, it stretched half way from the building to the FastPass return stand.
After waiting about 15-20 minutes we reached what Disney cast members call “The Merge” the point where FastPass and standby riders merge into one line. Just as we got to that point there was a commotion amongst the cast members.
After another 10 minutes waiting in the same spot, they announced the ride was closed and gave us paper FastPasses as we exited.
Space Mountain – Next on our list was Space Mountain, which only 2 of us were going to do. Guess what?
Space Mountain was closed too!
We accumulated some more paper FastPasses here too!
A Huge Amount of Paper FastPasses – A big issue caused by these ride closures was the huge amount of paper FastPasses that were being passed out. I’m not saying it was wrong for Disney to pass them out, they absolutely should have because you either had a FastPass or waited in the standby line to ride an attraction which then closed. But the big number of attractions which experienced closures during the day caused a huge amount of “All Day” FastPasses to be given out.
Also if an attraction is down when your FastPass return time comes up, the system automatically changes your existing FastPass to an all-day one which you can use at the attraction of your choice (with exceptions).
All these FastPasses just clogged up the running rides!
There is a limited amount of capacity each hour for all of the attractions. The FastPass plus and standby lines use all of this capacity. Throw in a large volume of additional FastPasses and you’ll get longer lines, both FastPass and Standby.
These are additional FastPasses because for each hour the planed capacity has already been allocated. The additional FastPasses are taking usage which should have been earlier in the day and moving it later into the afternoon and evening on top of the already planned out capacity.
Things We Did to Ease the Situation
First and foremost, if you are having an issue, or had a less than magical experience at Walt Disney World speak up!
Whether that entails speaking to a nearby cast member or asking to speak to a Lead, Supervisor, or Manager, you should do so. No matter what the issue, everyone’s job at WDW is guest service and improving the guest experience.
When I exited Pirates of the Caribbean the cast members were giving out 1 paper FastPass per person, I explained about getting soaked, pointed to my wet clothes, and said “I’m going to need a few more of those.” To which he asked, “How many in your party?” When I told him 4 he gave me 4 more, then as I walked away he said “Take some more.” He then handed me 2 more and then a third. So between us my party wound up with 11 extra FastPasses.
Waiting in line only to be told the ride is shut down when you near the front of the line is so frustrating, but you can’t let it get you down!
You’ve got to keep moving forward, whether that means heading to the next FastPassed attraction or coming up with something to do in the meantime.
Not being able to do a ride that you wanted to do is frustrating! You’ve then got to adapt your plan for the day for when you can circle back to try to do that ride after it re-opens.
We used our My Disney Experience smart phone app to both check wait times on rides to see if we could ride using the standby lines or if we wanted to use some of our paper FastPasses and also to watch the closed attractions to see when they came back online.
The My Disney Experience app is a free iTunes download.
We saw that the Mine Train was back up and running and went by to use our paper Fastpasses.
We hit lots of attractions, some twice and even some that we might not have.
- Mickey’s Philharmagic
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Undre the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority
- Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (twice)
- Haunted Mansion
We’d planned on a long day and already had a dinner dining reservation outside of the theme park. This is a great way to get away from the crowds and heat in the park, to relax and de-stress a little. You can then head back to the theme park refreshed and ready for the rest of the night.
We hopped on the monorail and had dinner and drinks at the Kona Café in the Polynesian Village Resort.
When we returned to the park it was less crowded, lines were shorter, and we finally did get on Space Mountain
P.S. the next day at Hollywood Studios, I received an email from My Disney Experience before we ever left the room saying that Rock n’ Roller Coaster was closed and that our FastPasses were now good all day at an attraction of our choosing (with exceptions). We had also made FastPasses for Tower of Terror, but when we got there it had a 2 hour wait for both standby and FastPass Plus Lines.
Over to you
How about you? have you had a bad day at Walt Disney World or Disneyland?
Share with us in the comments section below!
This MDT Post By: Steve Bell
Steve is the the Military Disney Tips Founder. He a retired U.S. Military Member who's been touring the Disney Parks since 1971! Steve's mission is to help military families with their Disney vacations in every way. Check out Steve's Bio.
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