Got up this morning promptly at 8am and threw G-Fan out of bed...literally in order to arrive at DAK for our chance to preview WDW's newest attraction, "Expedition: Everest". Got to DAK at about 9am and the place was already buzzing with APers and DVCers eagerly anticipating to ride EE.
***MANY SPOILERS AHEAD*****
We went thru the main DAK gates and towards the Asia entrance, turned right and there just a bit farther ahead from the newly built DVC kiosk, we encountered our first view of the masses ahead walking towards EE at a brisk pace. First up, several Guest Relation CMs were on hand to check our APs and photo IDs in order to allow us to access the ride. This was being done in order to hold back the regular guests from intruding into this special preview for those of us who are lucky enough to give WDW some business in a more repetitive way than your average tourist. After all the ID and AP checks were done...we were off towards EE's queue.
As we approached the entrance to the ride, we noticed signs advicing guests to obtain a gift ticket and/or FP to ride... We got both. The FP allowed us to return later and ride again. The Gift Ticket, also being dispensed thru the regular FP machine was to receive our free AP/DVC lanyard and pin, one per person. Who knew the FP machines were so versatile??? After obtaining both ticket and FPs, we headed towards the Stand-by Line which was posted at 25 mins long.
Here is where the fun began. As we entered the queue, we could not help notice the more than elaborate surroundings and architecture, a queue that takes you thru a Himalayan village and temples, a Museum dedicated to expeditions up into Everest Peak, and such. The queue takes you thru what appear to be mini temples of Yeti gods of sorts... adorned with colorful cloths and flags and the like. Many artifacts and even thur an expedition preparation warehouse..where we see expedition gears, attires, pots and pans.. and the like. Then we go into a Museum and it is here where the story behind the ride can be better appreciated...as we reads about the Yeti legend and myths..as well as photographic evidence of the Yeti and even the story of a a lost expedition that never returned back from the mountain, leaving behind only artifacts and photos which are evidence of the dangers they encountered while up in Everest... this was our first clue of danger ahead.
After several more minutes of twists and turns, we finally arrived at the boarding platform. I noticed that the deboarding and the embarking take place at two different areas of the long and curved platform which makes for very efficient and expeditious turning of guests thru the ride. While the boarding area is under a roof, the opposite side of the train's track is open air and affords a most enjoyable view of the garden and bamboo forrest just outside the ride. We were assigned row 14 for our first trip up the mountain, got on quickly taking our seats and stowing our belongings in pouches in front of our legs and lowering the restraining bar. Each guest gets a retraining bar, making it safer and more efficient for guests as the bar securely holds guests of difference sizes in the same row (no more 'loose fitting lapbar' if your companion is bigger than you in the tummy...) Anyways...
We are dispatched off the platform as the sound of...nothing but fresh cool air can be heard upon hitting our ears.. The ride at this point is very smooth and silent. A quick U-turn to the right and we are going up the first hill which again..is very quiet in mechanism... no more clink clink of the lift chain as we climb... very smooth and silent. At the top of this quick lift, we then drop into a small hill banking to the left and passing by the bottom of a waterfall on the side of the mountain, turing around a rocky area, thru some hilly terrain and picking up a bit of speed as we turn left and start going up the main lift. Once on the main lift, as we got thru a small village teetering at the top of a small mountain, we can view some more artifacts and cool south asian style painting of the Yeti as we climb.. The climb up the main hill affords some stupendous views of other areas of WDW... Look to the left..there is TOT and Spaceship Earth.. Look right, there is DAK in all it's splendor. Look back..and.. well.. I didn't look back, sorry.
Once we arrive at the top of Everest, now we find ourselves in a most chilly state of glee, as the surroundings have turned icy and perilious in nature..adding to the feel is the chilly fog that seems to permiate from the icy walls around us. We make a hasty left turn and go thru a small foggy tunnel and slightly upward when... *GASP* ..the train tracks ahead of us are torn apart severely. We spot a flying hawk at the top of the mountain but are not sure what this means... We sit there pondering what we'll do next, but suddenly, we start going backwards into a dark tunnel where our train picks up speed and goes thru some twists and turns until we come to a complete stop into a huge cave... It is here where we see a projected shadow of the Yeti, standing on top of the tracks, roaring and then tearing the tracks apart in delight... Upon such sight, our train then pushes forward out of the cave an into a huge drop and helix out the side of the mountain... We SCREAM!!.. the our speedy train re-enters the mountain... we see a pair of glaring eyes go by on our right side, then we plunge again thru darkness...out the mountain in a speedy left turn bank and then end up inside the mountain...where we pull at full speed into a huge cave where our terror of Everest, Mr. Yeti himself, in all his hairy glory can quickly be seen standing over our heads in what appeared to be a menacing stance and ready to attack. He goes by quickly and before we know it...the train comes out of the cave and breaks into a slower mode...and we arrive back at the boarding station. Once we disembark, we are ushered quickly into the Bazaar, where you can go shopping after such hair-raising encounter with the Yeti and living to tell (or shop). ..and *that's* Expedition Everest to you.
*MY OPINION ON IT NOW*...
OK, I am the first to admit that I enjoyed Expedition: Everest a lot.. for what it is: a cool coaster ride thru some heavily themed areas and lovely gardens. Even the queue was enjoyable, and dare I say..more heavily themed than the ride itself. It is during the queue that you learn a lot about the ride's story and get to see some cool props thrown in for the sake of great story-telling. I urge you to go thru the Stand by line at least on your very first time so you can immerse yourself into this adventure. Please note...there is also FP *and* a single rider line as well.. but that queue is not as enjoyable and heavily themed as the stand by queue. Close by the FP line, you will also find a train car sitting there by the wall, with the purpose of measurement. Those who may be a bit too big or too small in body size to ride, may try sitting here to see if you are able to safely ride within the lapbar and space limitations. If you need to use this service, you will need to ask a CM to direct you to it since this "sample train" is not quite visible from the outside of the queue.
Anyways... I did enjoy the little details, down to the whistle of the train as it departs the station and goes up hill, and the smoke effect of the train's engine. All very cute touches that enhance the experience greatly. As you ride (and even thru the queue) the landscapping is simple but yet very effective, where bushes and bamboo are put to great use to enhance the mood and beautify the area.
As for the ride experience itself... The trains are quite smooth and silent, even when going uphill. I hardly noticed any chains noises as we went uphill during the ride. However...there are some theming technicalities here... The change from bamboo to icy caverns seemed a bit abrupt as there was no building up in scenery...meaning... no patches of ice or signs that we are going into cold temperatures... Once at the top, the effect of being in an icy cavern is convinging enough. The torn tracks is a great fear enhancer and the faux bird of prey floating by the icy peak, while a bit too static, is a cute touch.. but made me wonder if such bird do exist in such hard cold enviroments... Then there is the backward portion of the ride.... while fun to go in reverse at somewhat fast speed, the effect was killed to me by the fact that you can see thur huge open cracks thru the sides of the track itself where I got glimpses of what appeared to be "backstage" areas within the mountain and thru which a bit of outdoor light filtered thru.. It would have been a much more enjoyable thing is we had been totally in the dark and unable to see anything as we raced backward...and I am sure it would be best if this portion of the ride was experienced at night... maybe.
The Yeti projection inside the cave is quite nice and fluide...as I believe it may be done thru digital projection.. so that was quite cool.. I was not sitting in the front seat so I could not see the dreaded track switch many have talked about here, but I would not let that bother me one bit.
The big drop off the front of the mountain is thrilling enough to make you scream in joy and much to my surprise..it was quite smooth as well as I had anticipating this moment to be a neck breaker, but in reality, it was well executed and I *loved* it. Back into the mountain...if you don't look right, you will miss a pair of eyes looking at you...
Then the train picks up speed outside the bottom of the mountain (with minimal theming here, just gardens which was not apar with the rest of the ride I'd say..) but the g-forces do enhance the joy of those who love coasters... mind you. This is not neck breaking speed but Disney-enjoyable and faster than those other Mountains at the MK. When we go back into the mountain...again, we re-enter at somewhat high speed for our encounter with Yeti, which is seen just above us as we zoom by. The Yeti itself was more "cute" than "scary". Very hairy with a monkey like face of sorts... Kind of a dark redhead... It made me heart go *pump* since I am into redheads... and he reminded me of G-Fan, right down to the hairy chest. However, much has been said about this AA being the biggest Disney has ever created... Hmmm... where? at WDW? Because frankly...the Lava Monster inside TDS' JTTCOTE seems bigger than this hairy guy. But maybe it's the angle and the speed in which we travel that made the yeti appears smaller than I thought it would be. Still, it is an enjoyable moment in the ride but...remember to look *UP* and don't blink, or you will miss him.
Quickly, and kind of anticlimatic...we are back at the boarding platform. TOTAL RIDE TIME: 2 mins and 45 secs.
In typical Disney fashion...we get off the ride and the queue takes you into the gift shop which today, I found to be quite crowded and somewhat difficult to navigate as merchandise stands seem to block the way out for those who'd prefer to just walk past it and out the door promptly. The merchandise in there is Ok at the very least...your average stuff such as tee's, pins, post cards, a cool everest snowglobe and photo frame and other plushes and things...
IS IT WORTH IT??? You may ask... Yes it is. EE is simply a fun fun fun coaster adventure and one that can be enjoyed over and over...one of those mindless rides you just have to do when you go into DAK, and one that will definitely become very popular as word spreads out, and deservedly so...at a rumored $100 million price tag. This is not Disney at it's very best but it's definitely a delightful ride that will tickle your funny bones and make you return to the Peak for more. Go check it out
TDLFAN rates it a B+
Now here are the obligatory photos to go with this post... Enjoy.
Questions and comments welcomed.