Entertainment

We Just Rode Disney’s New Skyliner Gondola System—And It’s Going To Be A Game-Changer

Is it fast? Scary? Where does it go? We've answered all of your questions!

There’s a new ride at Walt Disney World, and while it might not be as immersive as Flight of Passage or as nostalgic as Peter Pan’s Flight, this “flight” could have a much greater impact on your next vacation to the most magical place on Earth.

On Sept. 29, Disney’s newest transportation system, the Skyliner, will begin whisking guests through the skies in gondolas, transporting them to several of Disney World’s resorts and parks. I got the chance to take an early spin, and I am here to confirm this is a big deal for Disney World visitors.

Here’s what you need to know about the Skyliner before you plan or take your next trip.

Walt Disney World Resort

Where Does Disney’s Skyliner Go?

You’ve probably heard the term “monorail resorts,” which refers to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s Contemporary Resort, all of which are connected by monorail to Walt Disney World’s two most popular parks, Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The Skyliner effectively creates a new group of desirable resorts, already becoming known as “Skyliner resorts”: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and Disney’s Riviera Resort, a Disney Vacation Club resort opening Dec. 16, 2019.

These resorts will all be connected via Skyliner to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, home to recently opened Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Brooke Geiger McDonald

Why Is This Such A Big Deal?

Until now, only the “deluxe” resorts, Walt Disney’s World’s top-tier accommodation category (the others are “moderate” and “value,” in descending order), have been accessible to Disney World’s parks by any transportation other than buses. The Skyliner creates a new transportation mode to two of the four theme parks from Disney World’s two best value resorts, Art of Animation and Pop Century, as well as newly refurbished moderate resort, Caribbean Beach.

This will provide a new level of convenience previously reserved only for those who could foot the hefty price tag of a deluxe resort. If you’ve ever just missed your bus after a long day with screaming toddlers at Magic Kingdom, or tried to hoist several children and a double stroller onto a standing-room-only bus in 95-degree heat with 100% humidity, you know having an alternative to the buses is a very. good. thing.

Walt Disney World Resort

What’s It Like to Ride In The Skyliner?

When we called this Walt Disney World’s newest ride, we weren’t kidding. This is nothing like cramming into the monorail with a slew of other guests and counting the minutes to your destination. The gondolas hold a maximum of 10 guests, six with an ECV or wheelchair. A stroller, depending on its size, may also diminish the total capacity.

Boarding is a breeze thanks to the loading platform being level with the vehicle floor, so strollers, wheelchairs and ECVs roll on seamlessly. Note: Mobility aids and strollers must fit into a 30-by-48-inch area to be allowed on. Be sure to bear in mind that this is smaller than the stroller restrictions for Walt Disney World parks, so some large double strollers may not be accommodated.

Brooke Geiger McDonald

Once onboard, you’ll be treated to absolutely breathtaking views. We loved soaring over the water and getting a birds-eye view of parts of Walt Disney World we’ve only ever seen from the ground, including Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Boardwalk Resort, Caribbean Beach Resort and the new Riviera Resort.

But, a spoiler alert is in order here, too: If you don’t like to see the “backside” of the magic, you might want to close your eyes for certain parts of the journey, as you’ll catch glimpses of plenty of cast-member-only backstage areas that can spoil a bit of the magic for those who like to pretend this truly is a dream world where maintenance vehicles and dumpsters don’t exist!

Brooke Geiger McDonald

A cross-ventilation system kept the breeze whooshing through the vehicle as we rode, making the experience feel more ride-like and also helping to keep us cool.

Wait, They Aren’t Air Conditioned?

Nope. When Disney announced that the Skyliner would not have air conditioning, people got very nervous (remember that Florida heat and humidity we were just talking about?). We were right there with them, but the good news is it’s really not an issue.

Disney has long assured guests that the gondolas have been “specifically tailored to provide a comfortable ride for our guests in the Florida climate,” as a Walt Disney World spokeswoman told the Orlando Sentinal. The vehicles have reflective windows, and the aforementioned cross-ventilation really does create quite a bit of cooling airflow when the gondolas are in motion. Honestly, we barely gave a thought to the temperature because we were so comfortable.

Brooke Geiger McDonald

Will They Get Me Where I’m Going More Quickly?

Yes! The Skyliner whisks you from point A to point B so much faster than a bus, boat or even a private Minnie Van. Ride times will no doubt vary slightly — as with any resort transportation, unexpected delays will be inevitable — but travel time for each leg of the Skyliner’s routes seems to average between a little over two minutes to six and a half minutes. With continuous loading (and less of a sense of the unknown than you get when waiting for the buses, even with the newish bus time reporting system), we’ll be choosing this over the bus every time.

Brooke Geiger McDonald

Is It Safe?

It sure seems to be. Each vehicle is equipped with a speaker system as well as an emergency call box. The speaker system also supplies a pretty steady stream of fun facts as well as safety messages and messages from cast members when necessary, making you feel like you’re not too disconnected from system’s operators.

The main safety guidelines given are no standing and no rocking the vehicle, and we felt secure while we rode it. The trips are also so fast that you hardly have time to worry about anything!

In terms of weather concerns: Thunderstorms in Florida are very common, and service will suspend during storms in close proximity. Expect to see more service disruptions in the summer, when storms pass through almost daily.

The Character Gondolas Are So Cute! I Hope I Get One Of Those!

Actually, you don’t. Yes, kids will love seeing the adorable character wraps on many of the gondolas, and no doubt will watch them whiz by and hope they get their favorite character, but our pro tip is you actually want one that doesn’t have a wrap on it. The adornments partially obstruct the stunning views, so be happy if you don’t get one with a decal, especially if you’re hoping to take photos.

Walt Disney World Resort

Is There Anyone Who Shouldn’t Ride?

If you’re scared of heights, claustrophobic or extremely prone to motion sickness, you may want to give those concerns consideration before riding. But after our experience, we don’t imagine even those issues would be hugely impacted by the Skyliner. The vehicles feel very safe, are extremely spacious, and the only moments that could make you even slightly queasy are at takeoff and landing, but just for mere seconds.

For everyone else, we give the Skyliner a massive thumbs-up. You’ll save time, take in the views and add an extra “ride” to your day!

Brooke Geiger McDonald

What do you think of Disney World’s newest transportation system? Are you planning to ride it on your next visit?