The Disney Skyliner gondola is a brand new form of transportation for the Walt Disney World Resort. The Skyliner gondolas take up to 10 guests per cabin high above the Disney property on an expedited trip to Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and some nearby resorts.
UPDATE – 09/29/19: The Disney Skyliner is now officially open to all guests at Walt Disney World Resort!
The Skyliner has stations at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and the new Disney’s Riviera Resort that will open Dec. 16. Today, during limited testing, we were able to be among the first to check out this new system.
As soon as it was revealed the gondolas don’t have air conditioning onboard, everyone has been wondering how hot they will get. We took this to the test. The outdoor temperature today at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was 91 degrees Fahrenheit, with a real feel of 104 degrees in the direct sunlight. So, can these wind-cooled hanging glass boxes keep you relatively cool? The answer is yes!
We took a thermometer into the gondolas while riding them and saw 91 degrees as the average cabin temperature, the exact same as the exterior temperature. But, the real feel was significantly cooler, as the thermometer could not account for the strong breeze inside the cabin. These gondolas were built with lots of ventilation ports and windows. The best way to compare the real feel would be standing in full shade with a medium-to-strong wind blowing. For as hot of a day as it was, the gondola was honestly very comfortable for its temperature which was a relief to me. It isn’t as cool as AC, but it is certainly cool enough for the relatively short trip times.
But, what if you happen to get stuck in the air for a technical delay? On one trip, we were held in the air without movement for six minutes and 12 seconds and had one degree of temperature increase. But, this number also fluctuated from 91 degrees to 92 degrees in that time, and quickly went back to 91 degrees when movement began again.
Sizing and Safety
While the gondolas don’t appear very large from the ground, they are actually pretty roomy upon boarding. They are sized for a maximum of 10 guests, or six guests with a wheelchair or ECV onboard. Ten full-sized guests would fully fill the cabin, but the advantage of the gondolas are their capacity. The cabins are constantly loading and unloading, allowing for less cramped space and more privacy for families. That is a significant improvement over the monorail system, which could have numerous families taking up the same area.
As with all things Disney, safety is a huge concern that is clearly the forefront of this project. All cabins are equipped with an emergency call box and a speaker system to relay messages from the cast members to the guests onboard. Other than entering and exiting stations the gondola was very smooth and didn’t appear very affected by the wind. The wind speed during out trip today was 10 miles per hour on ground level. The cabins do have some tilting that happens when they enter and leave a station and get fully attached to the wires.
In the Skyliner stations, guests are held in a waiting spot until an available cabin has entered the loading area. From here, they’re guided to the cabin and quickly reminded of the safety rules, like no rocking or standing while the vehicle is in motion. The cabin is also equipped with graphics that will allow the rules to be understood by people of all languages.
The Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Caribbean Beach Resort, Art of Animation and Pop Century stations each also have a section of runoff track specifically built for guests that may need more time to embark. The Riviera Resort station may have this, but we were unable to see during testing to know for sure.
This track area allows the gondola cabins to leave the regular loading area to come to a complete stop. This allows guests plenty of time to board. The only negative would be for parties with numerous ECVs, which would then require numerous cabins to accommodate everyone. This special track has its own loading area with separate cast members and track controls to allow for an easy transition on-and-off the gondola cabin.
What use is an elevated form of transportation without a good view? Today we were able to test ride the gondolas from Hollywood Studios to the Caribbean Beach Resort, and then over past the Riviera Station to Epcot and back. The only line not testing today was the route from the Caribbean Beach Resort to the Pop Century and Art of Animation station.
While we weren’t able to take any personal photos or videos of the experience, Disney provided sample footage of the experience and we hope to return soon for a full-ride POV video.
The views above the Caribbean Beach resort are stunning, with looks out towards Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Bonnet Creek, Riviera Resort and much more. This will soon become one of the best ways to watch a sunset on Disney property.
Our ride into Epcot was one of the highlights of the trip, as we flew directly over the construction for the upcoming Ratatouille attraction and expansion of the France pavilion. We also flew by the Boardwalk Resort and right over the waterway at the Epcot International Gateway.
One issue with the views is that they show everything, including areas that are usually cast member-only areas backstage. These areas may need to be modified to hide the workers backstage who could be on break, or doing work that is deemed less appealing to guests such as garbage disposal.
A new transportation system is safe, fun and offers good views, but is it actually a time-saver over buses, the Minnie Van service or driving yourself? The answer is a definitive yes. We timed our trips to each station and got around the Disney property in record time. The longest station-to-station trip was from the Riviera Resort to Epcot at six minutes and 16 seconds.
We stopped only once during our test for those six minutes and 12 seconds that we mentioned earlier. But, Disney is still testing this new system and therefore we will not add that to our times. Our exact times to each station are as follows.
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort – 2:33
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort to Disney’s Riviera Resort – 2:17
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort to Disney’s Art of Animation/Pop Century Resorts – 2:57
- Disney’s Riviera Resort to Epcot – 6:16
- Total time in the air from Epcot to Disney’s Hollywood Studios – 11:27
Guests must disembark at Caribbean Beach Resort to transfer lines to another location. But guests may stay on to bypass the Riviera Resort station and continue on towards Epcot. We also gauged our average speed on the gondolas, which was 11 miles per hour in the air and one mile an hour around turns or in a station.
We think this will quickly become a fan-favorite Disney transportation option. From sporadic themed character cabins (which offer a somewhat obstructed view) to unbeatable sights, the Disney Skyliner gondolas should be the first transportation choice for guests in any of the connected resorts. The privacy of the cabins allows for quiet time or for the kids to get some excited screams out on the way to the parks. The high capacity should allow for quick access and less waiting for the next bus or boat to arrive. And, fans of Disney facts will love to hear some of the quick tidbits that are talked about on the overhead speaker during the trip.
We also believe that guests should be allowed to bring food and drink onto the ride. There is no signage against it and there is a Joffrey’s Coffee shop at the entrance to the Caribbean Beach Resort station.
The Disney Skyliner Gondola system will be fully operational on Sept. 29, 2019. Keep an eye on our socials for more coverage leading up to the grand opening of this new transportation option at the Walt Disney World Resort.
How do you feel about the Disney Skyliner transportation option? And, do you have any other questions? Leave your comments below so we can update this article with more info as questions arise.
You can watch our entire playlist of Skyliner videos, including an on-ride POV of every route here.