Making our way through the regular queues, we also got a peek at the future of interactivity while waiting for rides. The queue for Dumbo is one of the most inventive that I have seen – after a short wait in line, you are provided a pager and directed into a large circus-themed room where adults can sit on benches in an air-conditioned space, while the younger ones can run through physical activities from climbing nets to going down slides. Once your pager goes off, you collect your party (which may not want to leave the area!) and head onto the ride. The regular queue for Haunted Mansion was also recently upgraded with many interactive elements, which easily makes the frustrating experience of waiting in a line much more enjoyable. It seems that the Imagineers are focusing quite a bit on queues lately, so much so that you may be missing a significant part of the experience by only zooming through the FastPass+ lines. At this rate, you will be looking forward to standing in the regular lines to interact with these inventive additions. This is a strong example of Disney implementing a greater balance between the rewards of quickly getting onto rides and interacting with more of the story of the ride by waiting in the longer line.
While some have encountered difficulties with their MagicBands and FastPass+ reservations, we had a near-flawless experience with them. When I bought a snack from a cart, paid for our meal at Be Our Guest, and bought a Vinylmation figure from the store on Main Street, I had little difficulty paying with my MagicBand. The sole bug that I came across emerged after I switched the riding time for Pirates – for some reason, although we had both been switched to a different time (and did not have any issue boarding the ride), there was a fourth reservation, for just me at the original riding time for Pirates. FastPass+ is still in testing, though, and it had no negative consequences, so it did not phase me. Granted, we only went to Magic Kingdom for one day, as part of our short stay, so we had far fewer opportunities to use FastPass+ and MagicBands than others.
The most important aspect to consider here is that both the FastPass+ and MagicBand programs are in testing. They may be closer to leaving the testing period now, but as long as Disney states they are working out the kinks, it is difficult to provide a complete evaluation. Considering the potential that is within grasp from the use of these, it is a very exciting time to visit Walt Disney World:
Non-Disney resort guests, including Annual Passholders, have had to rely on the FastPass+ kiosks at the parks on the day of their visit to make reservations. However, Disney has just announced that Passholders are slowly being invited to log their reservations online prior to their trips. Unlike those who can only vacation at Disney sporadically, most Passholders are locals, who obviously do not need to stay at a Disney resort, and visit more often. It is great to see that the Passholders, who are a loyal group of fans who enjoy returning to the Disney Parks throughout the year, are being given the opportunity to use the system to its full potential as well. They are some of the most passionate individuals about Disney and its theme parks, and they should receive these perks as well.
Disney continues to tweak the system, on its way to fully rolling out FastPass+ and MagicBands. It is a huge change for how the massive property operates, which makes trial and error an inevitability. One aspect being tested at the moment is separating the experiences at other parks into tiers, and allowing individuals to make FastPass+ reservations for an experience from one set, and two from another. As guests share their experiences with the services (make sure you do, as it is the only way that Disney really knows what worked for you), Disney is optimizing the services to serve their guests. If we had to choose just one thing that Disney excels at (there are many more than just one), it is clearly their incredible customer service which only furthers the transportation of guests to a fantastical place.
There have been some privacy concerns about the MagicBands, and how it seems that Disney is collecting more data about their guests than ever before. It is true that Disney may know more about where guests are within their parks, based upon the FastPass+ reservations, and will be able to see guests’ names and a few other details when MagicBands are scanned. However, the data collection seems to have beneficial uses. Disney now has a more accurate predictive system for which experiences will see more congestion, and can place more cast members there to handle the demand. Additionally, when guests scan their MagicBands, cast members can greet guests by their names and can congratulate them if they are celebrating something.
Work remains on ensuring that FastPass+ and MagicBands are fully functional for guests. There are still some bugs that need to be smoothed out, but given the scope of the project, that is not surprising. We stand at a time of major transition at Walt Disney World, where we will need to change how we have, for years, visited the parks and made plans. Nobody likes change, especially me – I have often held the belief that if something is working well, and I enjoy it, then maybe it does not need to be altered. Of course, I wish that I had the chance to collect more than 3 or 4 FastPass+ reservations at a park, but the truth is that with the correct planning, it will be more than sufficient for most, including me. I am confident that the benefits of FastPass+ and MagicBands are many, and that once we have made the transition over and the system is working at an ideal level, we will look back and wonder how we lived without them. This has been a huge gamble for the future of Disney Parks, but it is the future, and it is one that I am looking forward to.