On this post
In this analysis of new transport from Disney, we'll share a few dozen photos, offer first impressions, and be honest about whether the failure predictions came to fruition (as we've already seen some issues happening in Skyliner who even left it closed for many days after its opening).
It's true that both me and Nath are great cheerleaders in the Disney Skyliner. As such, you might doubt that line of honesty when it comes to conceding defeat over Skyliner's problems.
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Let's delve deeper into the positive and negative aspects of the inauguration of the Walt Disney World's new air transport system, the Disney Skyliner!
We'll start with some quick basics about Disney Skyliner gondolas.
Basic information about the Disney Skyliner
Dubbed ?The Most Magical Flight on Earth? via in-cabin audio, the Skyliner serves two Walt Disney World theme parks (Hollywood Studios and Epcot) as well as four resorts (Art of Animation & Pop Century, Caribbean beach and Caribbean Beach (again) & Riviera Resort) through 5 seasons.
One of Caribbean Beach's stations is the hub, from which you can reach all destinations. It connects directly to the Hollywood, Art of Animation / Pop century and Epcot through the second season of Riviera Resort / Caribbean Beach.
At most, you'll get a transfer while riding the Disney Skyliner, as Riviera station is en route to Epcot and doesn't require disembarkation.
In travel times between stations, the Skyliner varies. It's about 3-4 minutes from Pop Century/Art of Animation or Hollywood Studios to Caribbean Beach.
On the other end of the spectrum, it's 10-11 minutes from Caribbean Beach to Epcot (or 4 minutes from Caribbean Beach to Riviera, plus 6 minutes from Riviera to Epcot).
Add to that the time you wait in line at the original station and at the Caribbean Beach Resort's central station.
The use of Disney's Skyliner is “free“, in the same sense that all other Walt Disney World transportations are free.
You don't pay a fare directly on departure, but it's best to believe that guests at resorts served by Skyliner are seeing their infrastructure and operating costs built into their nightly rates. (Indeed, this has already happened, and we’ll talk more about fare increases in 2020 soon.)
There were "rumors" that the Skyliner would be for resort guests only Disney and that would be applied with the MagicBands. This is not true. There are no rules about who can ride the Skyliner or leave where.
You can ride the Skyliner for 16 hours, making an hourly stop to pick up the Tie-Dye Cheesecake at Pop Century and nothing will stop you (maybe just the fact that you'll be wasting travel time for nothing eheheheh).
This covers everything in basic terms you need to know for now.
Disney Skyliner Review
First, the view from the gondolas. They are spectacular – better than I expected.
My biggest concern here was seeing too many unsightly areas behind the scenes, parking lots and nothing.
There are definitely a lot of the latter two, and it would be nice if better landscaping was done along the escape routes. However, there is no reason to look directly at the ground to look for parked cars or paths.
Along each leg of the journey, there is something different and engaging that instead captures your attention as you can see in many of the photos in this post.
Disney's Hollywood to Caribbean Beach is kind of “boring” if you're looking at the resort, but cool if you're facing the park or looking at Epcot in the distance (see photo above).
From Pop Century and Art of Animation to Caribbean Beach, you'll walk over Hourglass Lake and have the resort's massive icons on either side.
On the way to Disney's Riviera Resort, you've got the rooftops and scenery of Caribbean Beach, and gliding over them is way cooler than expected.
Traveling from Disney's Riviera Resort to Epcot is my favorite stretch, even if it's ostensibly the most boring and likely to "ruin the magic." For most of this journey, you are traveling on roads and parking.
However, for a long time, you will also be directly behind the World showcase, and it's really cool to see the icons of each nation with the SpaceShip Earth in the background. Also, aside from the (temporary) construction of the France expansion, you really aren't seeing much behind the scenes.
As with many things, much of this is a matter of perspective. If you're looking directly at parked cars or dirt, it's not an interesting trip.
However, there is almost always something of visual interest in some direction.
Otherwise, seeing the other Skyliner cabins with characters is an option as the cabins are very beautiful and very different.
The seat situation on the benches can be a little strange. If seated “normally”, your views will be from a side window or to the front, looking out at the other guests. The latter is not ideal and can make everyone feel needed for an uncomfortable conversation. (Is not.)
Instead, we recommend facing the window where you are sitting. There are a few reasons for this. More importantly, views are best when you have a direct unobstructed view of other people.
Also, it is essential that your lens – phone or camera – is flush against the cabin glass to avoid reflections. For that reason, I like to be seated backwards and facing backwards ? to have a vision of moving forward. (Makes sense????)
A relevant information is that he can swing much more than you might think. So this is something to keep in mind if you are prone to motion sickness.
Character gondolas are definitely a mixed bag. Watching your favorite characters walk past your cabin is cool, but you absolutely don't want to be inside a gondola with a character wrap.
Views are significantly hampered and you can totally forget about photos. (Something positive is that these cabins are a little cooler than the unwrapped ones.)
In theory, you can request a cabin without a wrap. But if you are going to ride more than once, we recommend that you take one with and one without the character stickers, so you can judge for yourself.
We recommend using common sense when it comes to making or not making such a request, if the queue is too long, it is better to leave it for another opportunity.
The Disney Skyliner Queues
Speaking of lines, they move quickly. Skyliner has incredibly high capacity, so we never wait in line for more than 10 minutes.
At the moment, it's hard to say how long the queues will actually be – clearly many residents and Annual Pass holders were on hand to take a Sunday trip to see the gondolas.
Leaving Epcot after IllumiNations, there was a long line for the Skyliner, and this will no doubt be a common occurrence.
Our recommendation, as always, is to stay at Epcot, because nights at World showcase after the guests leave are sublime.
Unquestionably, the biggest controversy over the Disney Skyliner has been the lack of air conditioning in the cabins.
I will reiterate over and over that, to my knowledge, of the tens of thousands of Doppelmayr gondola systems installed worldwide, only one is climate-controlled. It is located at Wynn Palace Macau, a 5-star luxury resort in Asia.
Fortunately, there is no longer any need to keep looking at past precedents or spin our wheels by offering predictions.
Skyliner is open and we have our verdict. The external enamel reflects heat sufficiently and the passive ventilation system works.
It provides a fresh and consistent breeze. In other words, the Skyliner is perfectly comfortable.
If you've taken a random guest off the street who doesn't read blogs like this or rages at Disney via social media and puts them in a Skyliner cabin, you're unlikely to bring up the air conditioning issue.
Air conditioning is simply an issue while driving and is no more likely to arise than concerns about a colossal gorilla appearing and ripping the tram out of the sky. (A terrible tragedy, which Florida has really suffered in the past. Watch the video here)
The Disney Skyliner is more comfortable than sitting in a shaded bus stop and more or less comfortable like the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover.
It is less comfortable than air-conditioned buses and “it depends” when it comes to comparing it to monorails.
We've recently had those where it seems like the air conditioning barely works - which, along with a crowded cabin, has led to some unpleasant road trips in the sky.
Depending on the time of year, it is true that the air conditioning on Disney buses may not be able to accommodate the number of people.
All of this assumes that the Skyliner is in constant motion, and that's where our biggest problem comes in. That's also a big part of why this is a preliminary review that offers first impressions.
As the movement is critical to passive ventilation, it became a little uncomfortable during some stops.
We never stopped for more than 3 minutes, but we've heard of significantly longer stops. On longer stops, with the sun shining directly on the cabin and no breeze, I could easily imagine the Skyliner cabins becoming very uncomfortable and even quite unpleasant.
This is not what we experienced, but it is easy to see it happening.
The question therefore becomes why the system is stalling and how often this will happen when Skyliner is running smoothly.
We have ridden many cable cars and aerial trams such as the Skyliner and have never experienced another one stopping like this. (As it is a detachable gondola, the entire system does not need to stop for wheelchairs, ECVs or other guests who need special assistance, so this is not the explanation.)
Disney's Skyliner is still new, and we're just beginning its operations with guests. Cast members are still working to load guests quickly without having to interrupt the entire line.
Other possible explanations are that Walt Disney World guests are materially different from those using gondolas elsewhere in the world.
Disney guests have more strollers, kids and other reasons to board slower than usual, but I still don't think that's the root cause. As for the system itself, Doppelmayr has installed thousands of aerial trams around the world, so that explanation also seems unlikely.
However, we will see how this happens. If in the heart of next summer, the Skyliner still stops at 25% from its travels for more than a few minutes, we'll come back and change the review.
There are probably other pros and cons that I'm forgetting, but the post is already pretty long.
Some quick observations:
- We thought the gondola audio had a nice touch, but could have been “more attractive”.
- The stations are well designed and suited to the environment.
- The Caribbean Beach hub looks like a central/union station, which is fun.
- Walking is still the fastest option between Epcot and DHS.
- Overall, even if it's not perfect (yet?), the "Magical Flight on Earth" moniker is entirely apt for Disney Skyliner. It's everything we hoped it would be, and I predict we'll spend a lot of time riding it in the future. For us, this is the new addition of the year to Walt Disney World that we will enjoy the most.
I want to be careful to avoid being hyperbolic here, because I don't think this is objectively "better" than Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge or greater than Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. It's just different. These low-key atmospheric experiences are part of our favorite Walt Disney World tours, and the Skyliner is up there with the PeopleMover for us.
We hope you enjoyed our review and we would love to hear your comments and questions in our comments section below!
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About the Author Carlos Braga:
Unparalleled experience in Orlando and Disney! As a former Universal Orlando team member and a passionate devotee of the magic of Disney, I have become a true Orlando travel expert. Before becoming a renowned travel consultant dedicated to Orlando, I had already made hundreds of visits to the parks, cultivating my knowledge and passion mainly over the last 7 years as a consultant and specialist in Disney travel.
My journey into this enchanted world began in 1995, when I took my first trip to Orlando. Since then, my love for Disney and the city has only grown. In 2023, we celebrate the sixth anniversary of 'Partiu Disney Parks', consolidating our role as one of the main sources of information about Disney and Orlando Parks.
During these six years of existence, we have continued to offer quality and updated content, being the reliable source for all those looking for essential information to plan their trip to Disney and Orlando. With my vast experience and passion for this magical destination, I am here to guide you every step of the way towards the most incredible Orlando and Disney experience!