How Well Is Disney Transportation Working Right Now?
You’re thinking about a Walt Disney World trip, but you’re worried about the logistics of it.
I know this from reading your comments, listening to your questions, and scanning social media.
Understandably, you worry that the always mercurial Disney bus system will let you down more than usual.
Well, I just returned from seven magical days in Orlando, and I’m here to answer your question. How well is Disney transportation working? Well…
Disney transportation takes several forms. You’ll possibly/probably use Magical Express to reach your Disney resort.
Then, you’ll rely on some form of buses, boats, monorails, and the Disney Skyliner to traverse the massive Disney campus.
You may even employ ride-sharing services, including Minnie Vans, during a typical Disney visit.
Alas, Minnie Vans aren’t operating at the moment, and some wonder whether the service will return anytime soon.
As for Lyft, Uber, and the like, you may not desire the risk of violating social distancing policies with a complete stranger.
Both companies have suffered severe financial losses stemming from the pandemic, suggesting that many customers feel this way.
So, we’ll evaluate the basic types of Disney transportation today, the ones that the company owns and operates.
Disney’s naval fleet has mostly remained on the sidelines during the early phases of the reopening.
That situation changed at the start of November, as Friendship Boats returned to the EPCOT/Disney’s Hollywood Studios area.
Guests may once again utilize boats to ride between those two parks and the nearby official Disney resorts.
Given the arrival of the Disney Skyliner, the Friendship Boats have lessened in necessity. However, many guests still prefer the serene nature of these rides.
Also, when you ride from EPCOT to Hollywood Studios or vice versa, you have a solid idea of how long your journey will take.
At Disney, this sort of time certainty is a huge plus. And the social distancing measures on the boats will deliver a carefree ride experience.
The campus includes other boating options as well. Some resorts offer this service to and from the parks.
In fact, renovations at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort have taken the monorail station offline for a few months.
Boats and buses represent the only means to travel to and from Magic Kingdom.
Still, the prominent way guests will use the boat system involves the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTL).
Guests may board boats here and ride them to Magic Kingdom.
Overall, the fleet at Walt Disney World operates as you remember, albeit with safety precautions due to the pandemic.
However, you’ll probably use it less than usual unless you’re staying at specific Disney resorts.
A weird aspect of the pandemic is that guests don’t veer off the beaten path as much.
So, you’ll only use the transportation that’s right in front of you for the most part.
Let’s start with the bad news. The TTL monorail line to EPCOT isn’t operational at the moment and appears likely to remain out of business.
Disney doesn’t view a significant need for this service with the parks at limited capacity and Park Hopping unavailable.
While I understand that perspective, my party certainly wished we’d had access to the EPCOT line.
The lack of that option vastly reduced our ability to navigate between the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and EPCOT areas.
We were fortunate enough to ride the Resort Monorail system during some resort hopping excursions.
Our party loved the safety measures in place and discussed how much we’d like them to become permanent.
We were also the last monorail out of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort before the station closed for the next six months.
The following day, when we were at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, we commented on the strangeness of the situation.
Cast members there happily announced other ways to navigate the monorail resort area to reach other potential destinations.
Still, they acknowledged that the situation felt strange to them as well and noted that guests had complained some.
Obviously, Disney needs to make this move to improve the Polynesian in time for the 50th-anniversary celebration in October.
A lack of a monorail stop at the Polynesian is just something we’ll need to get used to being a fact.
Overall, the monorail system seemed like it was running at half-mast, which it really is.
Fortunately, Disney has taken up the slack elsewhere…
I can only speak as to six different instances of Magical Express usage this trip.
We had three groups in our traveling party. Each of them utilized the service both ways.
Anecdotally, the system works differently. My wife and I wanted to finish our Christmas shopping at Disney.
So, we foolishly packed five pieces of luggage that we had to drag through Orlando International Airport (MCO).
There were only two of us, and my wife is small. It wasn’t pretty.
At one point, I saw a piece of luggage come flying down the escalator at my ankle. I’m lucky I didn’t spend the trip on crutches.
I’m saying this to warn you to learn from our mistakes. Don’t pack extra pieces of luggage right now. You’re responsible for their transfer to the bus.
Beyond that, Magical Express includes a few more oddities. Some of the dropoff routes are modified since a few resorts aren’t open.
At Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, you’ll stop at Pago Pago instead of the Great Ceremonial House, which may have caused one person to miss their flight.
Also, one of our drivers openly begged for tips. I mention this because Mears has performed a ton of layoffs.
PLEASE remember to tip your Magical Express driver. They need the money AND the positive reinforcement at the moment.
Overall, Magical Express felt slightly different, but it operated with remarkable efficiency.
We scanned our bands and were in our hotel room 45 minutes later. It’s hard to beat that!
On the way out, we had some struggles with paperwork. You should be aware of this. Disney’s layoffs have left some hotel front desks shorthanded.
Check your documents to make sure they list the correct number of Magical Express guests. Some mistakes are being made.
The Disney Skyliner
Remember the first week that the Disney Skyliner opened? It suffered that embarrassing incident that left guests stranded in mid-air for hours.
Well, that happened more than 13 months ago. Since then, the news about the Skyliner has remained universally positive. There’s a reason for that.
When park strategists envisioned a Walt Disney World gondola system, they believed it would elevate the full guest experience. They were right.
Due to the changes with buses and boats, we relied on the Skyliner more than ever during this trip.
To our surprise and delight, the system came through every time. The Skyliner is basically an Omnimover in that it’s always in motion.
Ergo, guests know that they’ll arrive at a destination in a matter of minutes.
Somehow, the Skyliner still feels like more of a ride than a functional logistics system, making it that much better.
One afternoon, Magic Kingdom’s lines struck us as excessive. So, we went on a Skyliner trip instead. It was more magical than the parks would have been.
We roamed the grounds of Disney’s Riviera Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.
Our party delighted in this opportunity to appreciate other hotels while riding the sky trams to and from our destinations.
I highly recommend this strategy for a lazy day during your vacation.
A few years from now, guests will rely on the Skyliner for travel across the Disney campus. And it’ll be amazing.
Okay, here’s the topic that matters the most. I saved it for last because you’ll ride buses more than anything else during your visit.
I’m about to shock you with our review of the Disney bus system.
Park officials have done the impossible during the pandemic. They’ve perfected busing.
Yes, I’m serious. During our week-long visit, we waited more than five minutes for a bus exactly twice.
We couldn’t believe our luck at first, and we actually started out poorly.
On our first night at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, we wanted to travel to Disney Springs.
To our frustration, one bus “filled up” right in front of us, which means that it reached about 25-30 percent capacity.
Disney has taken a safety-first approach to busing, which means that you may need to wait for a second or third vehicle, especially near park opening/closing.
However, the bus system makes it up in volume, as the entire fleet swarms the open resorts and parks across the campus.
That first night, three buses awaited us. The driver from the first one informed us that he couldn’t take us but pointed to the other buses.
To our frustration, neither of those buses went to Disney Springs. We naturally thought, “Ugh, here we go!”
After all, many people have worried about the bus system during the pandemic. It’s notoriously mercurial during standard times.
Well, a couple of factors have changed the calculus here in favor of park guests.
Fewer resorts are in operation, freeing up drivers to focus on the rest. Also, with fewer guests on campus, it negates the capacity limits on buses.
In short, you’ll find a bus whenever you need one.
Buses Part Two
On that first night, we never got a bus to Disney Springs. After the third one drove off, we rolled our eyes and decided to shop at Bay View Gifts instead.
From that moment on, our bus luck qualifies as the best we’ve ever had at Walt Disney World.
In fact, I kept referring to it as luck through the first five days. Afterward, I gradually accepted that Disney’s simply doing that well right now.
We traveled with two other groups and compared notes about transportation issues each day. Universally, our party marveled at Disney’s efficiency.
For example, we left two parks at closing time and expected the usual long waits. Instead, we were on a bus in a matter of minutes.
For that matter, we noted that the other resort bus waiting areas were ghost towns. Disney had already carried those people back to their hotels.
On another occasion, we left for Disney’s Animal Kingdom at 6:20 in the morning. Yes, we’re insane.
Anyway, we all expected an extended delay for a bus, which would have jeopardized our entering the park by its 7 a.m. opening.
Instead, TWO buses appeared within minutes, more than satisfying the crowd in line.
By the way, that’s the other significant change here. You must line up for resort buses now to honor social distancing. You get used to it quickly.
So, our three groups tested the bus system well before park opening, after park closing, and at weird times on Halloween.
On each occasion, Disney aced the test. It’s like we had our bus on-call throughout the trip and elevated our entire vacation experience.
Overall, our bus dealings were so positive that I felt the need to share them.