Yesterday was Opening Day of Walt Disney World’s newest resort-area transportation option: the Skyliner Gondola System — and I was there to experience it in all of it’s Disney glory!
Let’s start off with the Skyliner routes and locations of stations:
- You can board the Skyliner at Epcot (via the International Gateway), or you can board at Hollywood Studios (entrance to the station is centrally located at the park entrance and parking lot); these are the two theme parks with boarding stations.
- From Epcot, the Gondolas will take you to Disney’s Riviera Resort (opening date: December 2019), then on to the Caribbean Beach Resort station.
- From Hollywood Studios, the Gondolas will transport passengers to the Caribbean Beach Resort Station.
- The Caribbean Beach Resort Station serves (in my opinion) as the “master hub”, taking passengers to Disney’s Art of Animation and Pop Century Resorts, or returning passengers to Hollywood Studios or Epcot (by way of Riviera Resort). I say this station is the “hub” based on how you can travel from this station to any of the other destinations, using any one of the three Skyway carousels.
My husband and I had time yesterday to enjoy two of these “branches” of the Skyway, beginning at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and traveling to the Caribbean Beach Resort station, disembarking to board a second Gondola to Epcot, passing through the Riviera Station.
Boarding the Gondola at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park was super simple. After parking in the main Hollywood parking lot (Buzz Lightyear, Row 408), it was just a short hop, skip, and a jump up to the Skyway entrance.
The Gondolas operate on a continuously moving carousel, slower moving in the passenger boarding area, and speeding up at take off (ultimately tracking along at 11mph is what I’m reading elsewhere on The Interwebs).
How Easy is it to board one of these new-fangled Gondolas? How does it work exactly?
Very easy! When you reach the front of the line, a friendly Disney Cast Member will ask you the number in your party, then they’ll direct you to the next Gondola, which awaits you with open doors.
I promise they’re not moving that quickly at the loading dock. You’ll have plenty of time to step right on — and the threshold from platform to Gondola is easy to master — as simple as stepping onto an escalator or moving sidewalk.
But wait, back up. What if I move a little slower than you, Speedy McSpeedster? What if I have three young children in tow — and a stoller? Will we have time to make it onto the Gondola?
Yes, absolutely! If you find you don’t have quite enough time to herd everyone onboard or finagle a two-seater stroller, the nearest Cast Member will kindly stop the carousel, allowing you all plenty of time to enter.
What about a wheelchairs and EVCs? Will passengers with mobility issues have any … well, issues?
Not at all. The folks at Disney have thought of everything, including a specialized docking area for people with mobility issues. This area features stationary Gondolas that won’t be moved into the carousel queue until all passengers — and their assistance vehicles — are safely onboard. Upon arrival at the next station, these Gondolas are outfitted to auto-magically swing into the special disembarking area for safe (and stationary) disembarkation.
Wait, so how many people can fit into one of these Gondolas?
The Gondolas are surprisingly spacious! Each one is designed to transport up to 8 adult-sized people, or up to 6 adults with a stroller. Parents with six or more child-size people can rest assured they’ll seat up to eight children plus two adults (for a total of ten).
Will they make me ride with strangers in one of these things?
I don’t have an official answer for this, but I do know it’s a possibility. My husband and I rode four separate Gondolas yesterday, and on two occasions we shared our flight with up to two other parties of two; but for the other two Gondola rides were on, it was just the two of us. I think it’s up to the Cast Member how they load folks into a Gondola, so if you’d rather ride with just your family or partner, you can always request to do so.
What are these Gondolas like inside? Will I get to sit down, or do I have to stand?
The passenger interior is super comfy. On either side are two long wooden benches, and windows all around. Everyone inside the Gondola is asked to stay seated the entire journey — and there’s plenty of roomy, ergonomically comfortably seating for everyone.
It’s Florida. Florida is hot. Do the Gondola’s have A/C?
Disney’s Skyliner Gondolas are cleverly designed with maximum air flow in mind. They’re not traditionally “air conditioned”, but with louvered vents up top and dotted grates behind the seats and underneath the benches, air flows freely. It’s actually quite breezy! Yesterday had a high of 93 degrees F, and my husband and I both found the air temperature inside each of our Gondolas very pleasant.
Our ride over to Epcot from the Caribbean Beach Resort station was perfectly uneventful — but seeing the Epcot Skyliner station for the first time was a real treat. It’s beautiful! Every detail, from the Art Deco-style painted murals of birds and water fauna, to the greenish patina of copper piping and ironwork — all of it was a lovely sight. Even the ground cover and landscaping was visually appealing.
We waited in line again (moving surprisingly quickly, I might add) to board our next Gondola, back to Hollywood Studios (by way of the Riviera Resort Station and Caribbean Beach Station). The sun was just beginning to set a deep orange, painting the sky in beautiful cotton candy pinks and periwinkle blues.
So what is riding in the Gondola really like — really really?
Honestly, it’s very enjoyable. My husband, who has absolutely no fear, was in pure heaven, thoroughly delighted by our ride from point A to point B. It took me a little longer to feel entirely comfortable with the journey as I tend to be a little more skittish where heights are concerned — but by the time we were leaving Epcot, I was nestling in to enjoy the ride. The Gondola cabins are quiet and peaceful — with views that will absolutely take your breath — in every wonderful way.
Will we have to disembark when we reach each separate Skyliner Station? What if I just want to ride on from Epcot to Hollywood Studios in the same Gondola?
Right now, you will have to disembark your Gondola upon arrival at the Caribbean Beach Resort Skyline Station, then board a separate Gondola go on to either Hollywood Studios or Epcot, or to Art of Animation or Pop Century Resort .
It appears you will not have to disembark upon arrive at The Riviera Resort Station (which is fully operational even though the resort won’t officially be accepting guests until December of 2019). The doors merely open, you move gently through the turnstile without exiting, and then the doors close again, taking you onward to the Caribbean Beach Resort Gondola Station.
Overall, I found the entire Skyliner transportation a wonderful experience that I can’t wait to repeat — at nighttime next time! Because I have a feeling watching the fireworks from up there just might be the most magical thing ever.
Have you tried Walt Disney World’s Skyliner Transportation System? Leave a comment below with your thoughts and initial reactions.
All views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or any other group, company, or individual.