Theme Park Ranger
8:23 AM EDT, April 17, 2014
After months of chatter about MagicBands and weeks of testing at Walt Disney World, I had my first full day of the MyMagic+ experience.
I wasn't expecting to give a grade of A+ to FastPass+. The Disney system that allows visitors to make reservations for theme-park attractions remains solidly in test mode, and I haven't been eager to wear the MagicBand, which also can be used as a park ticket, FastPass+ organizer, charge card and even hotel key.
In addition, grumpy emails I received about foiled FastPass+ experiences held down my optimism.
But I had no real problems with the system on a recent weekend outing. Maybe I was lucky.
I primarily was interested in securing a reserved spot for Festival of Fantasy, the new afternoon parade at Magic Kingdom. Parade reservations are new to Disney, and I had noticed that it was a hot ticket via the My Disney Experience app.
On Saturday afternoon, I saw that Sunday parade tickets were still available. I snagged one and picked two other experiences. I wanted to see Enchanted Tales With Belle, a charming attraction I hadn't visited since the earliest days of New Fantasyland, and I also selected It's a Small World.
The app assigned me Sunday afternoon times for those selections. I was hoping for earlier, so I considered other options the app presented, one of which wanted to reassign me to the Peter Pan's Flight ride instead. I stuck with Plan A.
This trip was also the debut of my MagicBand. At the entrance to the park, the stretch where the turnstiles previously stood, I had a brief delay when the scanner didn't read my wristband. A nearby Disney employee told me to press the Mickey Mouse icon on the band against the icon on the scanner, and with one more tap I was given the green light.
Once in Fantasyland, there were no issues with my icon-tapping skills. There were a handful of folks in front of me in the Enchanted Tales FastPass+ queue, which bypasses a couple of rooms of the regular — or "standby" — line but includes the areas with the mirror that morphs into a gateway and the Madame Wardobe animatronic. The wait was less than three minutes.
After Belle, it was time to get into position for the parade. A segment of sidewalk near the base of Cinderella Castle was roped off for FP+ users. The posted reservation time for the 3 p.m. parade was 2:45 p.m., but when I arrived, dozens of people were already inside the ropes and seated along the curb.
To me, arriving early defeats the purpose of a reservation, but I guess these people really wanted front-row seats. A Disney worker said they had started allowing visitors into this designated space about 2:30 p.m.
The FastPass+ parade section wasn't crowded. One row of guests stood right by the street while another row stood several feet farther back against a railing. There was ample room to move around, even if you were pushing a double-wide stroller. It's a good spot to take pictures, too, with Cinderella Castle as the backdrop.
Folks without FastPass+ credentials were kept separate from us, and employees monitored that situation. But as the last float approached, I watched a woman jump into the area and dash to the curb. The irritation level increased when she started video-recording the float with her full-size iPad. File that under "inconsiderate tourist."
That incident did not change my mind about the great value of parade FastPassing. The experience was far better than the typical, uncomfortable sidewalk stance usually associated with parades. Disney now offers reservations for the nighttime Main Street Electrical Parade and "Wishes" fireworks, too.
For a finale, my Small World experience went without incident as well, although the FastPass+ wait time neared 15 minutes. The attraction was slammed because Peter Pan's Flight was not operating, and rejected guests drifted across the sidewalk to Small World.
My FastPass+ tryout was fairly uncomplicated, but Disney has plans to address a couple of common complaints. Look for changes to the FastPass limits — it's currently three reservations a day within a single park — to emerge from this testing period.
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