Today George brings us a triple threat of subjects. He just returned from Walt Disney World and shares his mini review on the ups and downs of the MyMagic+ system. Next he takes a ride on the Jitney! Finally, he runs into Phil Holmes, Vice-President of the Magic Kingdom.
I just returned from a week at Walt Disney World. I wanted to try out the Magic Band and I needed to interview some people (but more about that later). If you’ve kept up with the great articles from MiceAge (MiceAge Disney Parks Update: Iger’s Ire) and Kevin Yee (Privacy at WDW Waning), then you know that not everything’s going as planned for the Mouse House. I spoke to a high-level manager who reinforced the current thoughts on My Magic + and the Magic Bands. He said that that front-line cast members were frustrated about the training and the anger and confusion of the guests. But there’s a billion dollar plus price tag, there’s no going back now.
I made some observations during my visit that I’d like to share. I hit all four Disney parks and made my first visit to Islands of Adventure as well (more on this later). I did spend two days at Magic Kingdom and saw the most obvious changes there. Getting into the parks did seem about the same, although not having to negotiate turnstyles seemed to make it easier. Disney did a great job with the colors on the scanners. It was apparent, at a glance, whether it was working and what the status was. I did find out that blue isn’t a color you want on Mickey.
The best thing I heard all week was from a little guy waiting in the Fast Pass + line for Big Thunder Mountain. He was behind me and after his sensor turned green, he exclaimed, “Mickey said yay!” Honestly, that’s what Disney wants us to experience with My Magic +.
The first hiccup that I ran into was near the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad queue. The area in front of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has always had congestion issues because of the Frontierland Railroad Depot, BTMRR and Splash Mountain. I’d never seen it like this, though. The Fast Pass + return snaked at least fifteen minutes into Frontierland and almost to the walkway to the riverfront. I heard so many comments from guests wondering why the Fast Pass line was so long and why would Disney do this. This happened twice at different times of the day, as well.
The other issue was that the exit for BTMRR needed to bisect the queue for FP+ causing more consternation, confusion and general irritability. Disney is going to need to fix this before the busy Spring Break season. The queue for BTMRR was the most obvious culprit, but My Magic + still caused issues at most every other attraction. The first week of December has always been a slow period historically, but the Mountains all had more than a 45-60 minute wait for most of the day. When I had to schedule three experiences a day I found myself really disliking the thought of sticking to a schedule to the detriment of experiencing other attractions or just the park itself.
Since I was on my own at Walt Disney World, my experiences were different. When I gauged what my family would have wanted to do based on availability and wait times, it was a fairly depressing situation. If I’d spent $3,000-$6,000 for a week for my family of four and we were relegated to planning at this level, I know that we would have missed a lot more than a typical vacation. Especially with the limited Fast Passes and the longer queues for the D- and C-ticket attractions.
It seemed obvious that the waits for standby were longer than should have been, Both Pirates and Mansion were over a half hour with barely anyone using the FP+ entrance. One of the bigger disappointments was the change in the queue for Pirates. The standby queue used the entire plaza entrance to the attraction, which I’ve not seen since a Spring Break 2007 trip. The left queue has some minor modifications and the right queue is solely for FP+. The left side has always been themed as the living quarters for the solders of Castillo Del Morro while the right side was the dungeon (and the famous pirates locked in a chess stalemate). Not sure if it was just my nerdiness that was disappointed that I needed to make a FP+ to see the dungeon side for an attraction that should never require a FP reservation.
So, what did I like about My Magic + and the Magic Bands?
It did seem pretty easy to get into the parks. Once people understood that there were two scanners on each side and it was okay to step in front of the person using the scanner in the back it seemed to flow. Using the band as a room key was handy (although I kept looking at my band to tell me the time; it felt similar to wearing a watch), especially when I was tired and didn’t want to dig into my wallet for my room key. Using the band to get into the resort was alright, although I needed to remove the band for the security cast member to scan it. With the Extra Magic Hours, there were cast members at each attraction with a handheld scanner that verified you were a resort guest. It didn’t take up much extra time, but still required cast member interaction. It did make me wonder if large scale readers could be used to pinpoint guests that weren’t staying at a resort for easy identification.
Honestly, there didn’t seem to be a good reason to use My Magic + unless you wanted to reserve experiences well before your trip. If you’re family had one attraction that was a must do, then you could do it. But, if you’ve got seven to eight attractions (like at the Magic Kingdom) that are must dos, then you are going to miss some things or spend more time in queues. I’ve heard extremely mixed reactions from friends but that’s to be expected with a new program. In my case I found myself watching the clock more than enjoying the parks because I was afraid of missing an experience.
Also, it was disconcerting to have the cast members yelling at the FP+ entrances for the guests to have their Magic Bands or tickets out to speed up the process.
Another issue was that I needed to use the Disney World app all the time to keep up with my reservations. Of course, that killed my battery and had me messing with my phone more than enjoying the parks. Overall, I’m not too thrilled with all of the features and it feels like it kills the spontaneity and excitement of the parks. It’s nice to know that you’ve got one big attraction scheduled, but it’s a bit demoralizing to realize you could miss so much more due to the aftershocks of FP+, My Magic + and the Magic Bands.
I ran into the Jitney on my first morning at the Magic Kingdom and it made my heart glad. It seemed like the vehicles weren’t being used as much on recent trips. I snapped a few photos of the yellow Jitney. Enjoy!
Phil Holmes LIVE!
I happened to see Phil Holmes, Vice-President of the Magic Kingdom, three times during my trip. Each time was on Main Street USA, though. I was able to catch a few photos. Too bad I didn’t have my stalker lens.
So, it looks like Phil is wearing a Magic Band and he chose the blue one!
How many Fast Pass + reservations does Phil Holmes get to make? I wonder if Iger uses it to track his whereabouts?
So, what do you think about My Magic + and Magic Bands?
ImagiNERDing is written and edited by George Taylor
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