We were lucky enough to get a preview of the Disney Skyliner at Walt Disney World this week and I thought I’d share my thoughts on them before they officially open to the public on September 29th. I know there have been a lot of concerns about the comfort and the experience itself, so I’ll do my best to go into as much detail as possible of our experience on the Disney Skyliner, and what I think you need to know before you go!
Our experience on the Disney Skyliner
What is the Disney Skyliner?
The Disney Skyliner is a gondola system that stretches between two of the Walt Disney World theme parks as well as three of the Disney Resorts (four if we’re being technical, since one stop services both Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort). This is yet another complimentary transportation system offered to Walt Disney World guests, and you don’t have to enter any of the parks or be staying at the connected resorts to ride the Skyliner if you just want to try it out.
Where does the Disney Skyliner go?
The Disney Skyliner has five stations at Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Disney’s Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts (who share a station), Disney’s Riviera Resort (which opens in December) and the main hub at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.
The station at Hollywood Studios is right outside the main entrance, whereas the station at Epcot is not at the main entrance, but instead at the International Gateway (otherwise known as the back entrance to the park). This makes it perfect for those staying at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, and the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin.
The Skyliner has a few different routes, all linking to the main hub located at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. If you want to travel to multiple destinations on the Skyliner, you’ll have to disembark and get back in line to either go back the way you came or go somewhere different. This is all something to bear in mind if you’re using the Disney Skyliner to get to your destination in a hurry; between transferring at different stations and the lines the Skyliner is likely to have in the first few weeks, you might end up taking longer than you anticipated.
How long does the Disney Skyliner take?
The Disney Skyliner actually moves pretty quickly, so the journeys between stations don’t take that long at all. We got stopped several times during our experience so it was hard to accurately time them, but as a general rule, most of the routes took less than five minutes, with only the routes to and from Epcot being longer at about 10 minutes.
Is the Disney Skyliner wheelchair and ECV accessible?
Yes! The Disney Skyliner is completely wheelchair and ECV accessible. Cast Members have the ability to take certain gondolas off line (therefore not disrupting the rest of the cars) in order to completely stop them to load wheelchairs and ECVs. Once on board, a Cast Member will place blocks at the back of the your wheels so that your wheelchair or ECV will stay put during the ride – then at the other end, they’ll take the gondola off line to help your disembark.
Our experience on the Disney Skyliner
We boarded the Disney Skyliner at Hollywood Studios, where you’ll park in regular guest parking if you want to ride. The Skyliner station here is right outside the entrance before you even go through security, and is one of the smaller stations. We stood in line to wait for our gondola and once it was our turn, we stepped right aboard!
The gondolas were definitely more roomy than they looked on the ground, and our party of six was perfectly comfortable. The maximum capacity for the gondolas is 10, so no more than that will be allowed to board at once, and I would think with 10 adults, it would be a bit more of a tight fit. If you have a smaller party then you may be seated in a gondola with another group.
I have been watching these gondolas testing for months, and have been excitedly anticipating riding in one of the cute themed cars – and with about half of the fleet of 300 gondolas featuring the character wraps, I figured the odds were pretty good. However once we were actually aboard our first wrapped gondola (Winnie the Pooh, which was very cute from the outside) I realized that being in a wrapped car actually really obstructs the view. The images below show the difference in the view from a wrapped car to a plain one, and as you can see, it makes a huge difference. I can’t imagine Cast Members are going to allow guests to wait for specific cars in those first few weeks when things are busy, but don’t be disappointed if you get a plain car – the view will be much better!
One of the biggest concerns I’ve heard voiced over the gondolas was the lack of air conditioning; with temperatures in Central Florida reaching triple digits in the summer and not dropping by much the rest of the year, the idea of riding in a gondola with no air conditioning was definitely something I was worried about. I’m pleased to report that the gondolas are actually very well ventilated, and there was a pleasant breeze during our first journey from Hollywood Studios to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, which was just a few minutes. It wasn’t the kind of cool you’d get from an air conditioned building, more like the breeze you feel when you drive with the car windows open. It was comfortable and very pleasant.
On our second journey from Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort to Disney’s Pop Century Resort, however, we were facing the direct sun and somehow this made a difference; there was still a breeze, but it did feel warmer inside the gondola. This was the first trip where our gondola also stopped for a few minutes, and we discovered that when the gondola stays still and there is no breeze, the temperature creeps up quickly. This stop was a short one but we got stopped later coming back from Epcot for a longer period and it got very warm, almost bordering on uncomfortable. I wouldn’t let this impact your decision to ride; even when we did stop and it got warm, it was only that way for a few minutes and it did cool down again once we started up again. But bear in mind that it’s not going to be the same cool relief you get when boarding one of the Disney buses! On the flip side, on the few occasions that it does get really cold at Disney World, then it’s going to be very chilly in those gondolas!
The gondolas have an intercom system so announcements can be made during your journey. In some cases this was just a narration about the journey, but they also made announcements when the gondolas stopped and when they were about to begin moving again.
The view for most of the journeys was fairly unremarkable since the gondolas don’t go all that high. There were some great views of the new Riviera Resort however, and it was fun to travel over some of the waterways. We took our final journey back about 30 minutes before sunset so the views at that time of day were really pretty, and I think it’d be a lot of fun to ride at night, especially if you timed it right with the fireworks!
Overall, we really enjoyed our experience on the Disney Skyliner! It was a pleasant journey that took a lot less time than a bus and was much more convenient than driving. If you’re staying at one of the resorts on the Skyliner line, then this is a great addition to those properties as well.