FastPass has been around at Walt Disney World since 1999. Now as the NextGen system starts to come online, guests will be able to take part in FastPass+. FastPass+ allows you to reserve certain attractions in advance of your arrival at the Park. This way, if you don’t make it to the Parks for rope drop, you can still enjoy your favorite attractions without having to wait in line or rely on FastPasses that may no longer be available.
FastPass+ tested this week at Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. For the Magic Kingdom, testers were able to receive four FastPass reservations, and three for the Studios. I was able to test the FastPass+ system this week and saw the good and the bad of its current incarnation.
Each participant in the FastPass+ party received their own RFID card with their name on it. FastPass+ reservations were booked in advance via a website, so if the majority of your party wants to ride the Tower of Terror while one person (myself) values their life too much, the smart guest can individualize their FastPass+ reservation for something much more grounded (in my case, the Great Movie Ride). If you find you need to make a change while in the Parks before your reservation, you can do so using a mobile website.
When you make your FastPass+ reservations, they are tiered. For example, you are given the choice of using a reservation for reserved viewing of Wishes or the Main Street Electrical Parade or you can choose from a certain list of attractions. You cannot use all of your FastPass+ reservations for Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Peter Pan’s Flight and Wishes; some of your reservations must be used on attractions such as the Jungle Cruise or the Haunted Mansion. Think of it as choosing an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert from a Prix Fixe menu.
You will receive an emailed schedule of your attraction reservations. If you forget your schedule, it is easy to go to a FastPass+ entrance at an attraction, where they can scan the card and tell you where you have a FastPass+ at that time.
Most attractions at Walt Disney World now have two RFID reader poles. A Cast Member will be stationed nearby. Walk up to the RFID reader and place your card against it. If you are at the right attraction at the right time, the FastPass+ logo will turn green and you are welcomed into the attraction. The Cast Member will greet you by name as you enter.
In Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I used FastPass+ for Toy Story Midway Mania and the Great Movie Ride. Toy Story Midway Mania functions just as a paper FastPass would have, except you now scan your FastPass+ card. The Great Movie Ride had a new FastPass+ entrance, where you were routed through the theater lobby, bypassing the queue. You rejoined the queue at the entrance to the theater room. I was surprised that the merge point for FastPass+ was at the entrance to the theater room and not at the bottom of the theater room where it would make more logistical sense and you would avoid more of the queue.
The next day, I used FastPass+ at Magic Kingdom for the Haunted Mansion and reserved viewing for Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade. Most of the FastPass+ readers are themed for their attractions, and at the Haunted Mansion you are greeted by an eerie sound as you scan your RFID card. FastPass+ takes you directly to the Mansion, bypassing the interactive queue.
I was very interested in trying the new reserved viewing areas for Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade, and I have very mixed feelings about them. The Wishes viewing area is in the Rose Garden. The night I did this, there had been rain throughout the day and night. I don’t know how the landscapers will keep the Rose Garden in pristine condition if there are strollers rolling through the mud waiting to watch fireworks. You have a beautiful view of the castle, and Tinker Bell literally flies over your head. However, you lose the effect of seeing fireworks go off behind the castle because of your viewing angle. It was nice to beat the crowds, but in the future I’d rather stake out a table at the Ice Cream Parlor 90 minutes in advance because I think the view is better.
Main Street Electrical Parade viewing is in the Hub, right across from the castle. At both viewing areas, Cast Members used handheld RFID readers to admit you. The setup for the parade viewing is awkward, as you stand by while the Cast Members frantically set up the ropes and poles and their card readers. You are slowly walked into the viewing area, once it is cleared of all guests. It’s one of the best parade viewing areas I’ve seen, but there’s also something to be said for standing along Main Street and watching the parade.
We’ve got a long way to go before FastPass+ is entirely rolled out. The system is still quirky, but it has its benefits. Disney still has not announced who will be eligible for this or if it will be reserved for resort guests. If you do get a chance to try FastPass+, meet me in the Parks and tell me what you think. You’ll find me at the yellow tables by the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, waiting for Wishes.
Have you experienced FastPass+? Are you looking forward to it or dreading it? Let us know in the comments for an additional entry in our Jim Shore Holiday Giveaway!