REVIEW: The Disney Skyliner Gondola System is a Really Fun and Terribly Frightening New Way to Get Around Walt Disney World

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So, I finally rode on the Disney Skyliner gondola system. After all of the speculation, the worry, the people who told me it would be air-conditioned and that I was wrong, today marked my very first trip aboard Walt Disney World’s “Most Magical Flight on Earth” (as the on-board narration calls it.) We took one ride on each line of the system and I’ve compiled my thoughts below for you:

The character decals on the gondolas turned out to be a pretty bad idea. While they are awfully cute from the outside, they ruin the views from inside and any chance of taking cool pictures or video of the breathtaking views. Just watch the video below to see what I mean. You can view what it’s like to board and ride along each line in our video post here.

This review won’t be all negative, and honestly, I think there are a lot of positives to the Skyliner, too. The views, when not obscured, are mostly great. An aerial view of Epcot from behind World Showcase filled me with child-like glee. Seeing Spaceship Earth across the World Showcase lagoon brought back memories of old television specials and vacation planning videos which showed similar views recorded from a helicopter. Mind you, you do see some stuff that you probably shouldn’t, and the mostly un-themed, very green show building for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in Epcot is the greatest oversight of them all. You come very close to it, almost passing over it in fact. It really kills the sense of immersion, especially since you’re disembarking moments later and might be taking a short jaunt to the Parisian pavilion within minutes.

 

 

 

 

Flying over roadways, lakes, and more evokes the magic of the monorail at times, while bringing back some nostalgic memories of the Skyway that once soared over The Magic Kingdom. Those similarities do come with the same problems the Skyway presented, though. If you are afraid of heights, I can’t imagine a scenario where you will be OK riding this. It gets quite high above the ground at some points, and the glass surroundings offer you nowhere to hide from the outside view. If you are prone to motion-sickness, you may want to think twice about riding for prolonged periods. They are gondolas hanging from a wire, so they do sway in the wind and the exit and reentry at stations can be a bit rough. Those who are claustrophobic might also find issue being sealed in a glass box in the sky. While they were not pairing groups today, it would be idiotic to think that there will never be a line long enough for Disney cast members to pack up to 10 guests inside one of these gondolas. They pack buses, boats, and monorails full of guests, why would this be any different?

The gondolas stay in motion while loading, but at a slow-enough speed where I think guests of nearly any age will be able to board with ease. The benches inside are comfortable, but the decision to have them facing inwards is a strange one considering how much Disney has advertised the views from inside. Instead, you’ll awkwardly face the folks across from you, with your only view not obscured coming from side windows or the smaller glass portals on the doors. A center bench with seating on both sides would have sat just as many guests and solved this view issue.

The hub at Caribbean Beach has three lines loading and unloading within feet of each other.

A cast member preview doesn’t offer the best idea of how long or short lines will be at the stations on a typical day, but the intersection of guests at the hub at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort will be interesting to watch. Every line converges here and there are small queues ready to hold guests at each line. The gondolas also continually load like the Peoplemover or any Omnimover-style ride, but that also means the entire line stops if something goes wrong (guest standing up, fails to load in time, etc.). Wheelchairs, ECVs and such load at special platforms that then merge onto the existing lines, so there will be no hold-up there, nor rush for these guests with special needs to get onboard quickly.

The audio spiels inside each gondola are pretty annoying. Why do we need a constant “musical ding” to tell us that the announcer has something to say when it’s going to be that constant? Can’t we just hear it the once before she begins her initial announcements? Otherwise, the spiel is a nice touch, giving facts and quick tips along the way, in very similar style to the Walt Disney World Monorail.

In the video, you can hear some wind noise, and that’s because the passive ventilation system works… for the most part. The motion of the gondolas and the many open vents provide more than enough cooling power for a 78-degree day. That being said, the one time we stopped for about 20 seconds and when we slowly passed through the turn station at Disney’s Boardwalk, it got pretty hot. I don’t mean it just got warm, it got awfully muggy and noticeably harder to breathe. Today is not one of the hotter days Orlando will experience throughout the year, and it is undoubtedly going to lead to issues if the system stops for any lengthy amount of time with guests onboard. If this thing stops for any length of time over a few minutes on a day hotter and more humid than today, I think Disney is in for some serious trouble. Our short stop on the way back to Hollywood Studios in direct sunlight was scary, and there was only three of us in the cabin, to boot. I am genuinely afraid of getting stuck in one of these in July, and that is not some anti-Disney rhetoric created just to spite current management (because I’m sure someone will claim that it is and that when they stopped it was perfectly cool in their gondola.) An immobile glass box in the sky in Central Florida is going to get warm. I’m not sure how it couldn’t.

All in all, if you don’t have the aforementioned phobias, the Disney Skyliner is fun and a really cool way to see Walt Disney World. If it keeps at full speed, it’s a fast way to get around, too. It undoubtedly increases the value of staying at Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, and the soon-to-open Riviera Resort, offering an alternative to the mostly unreliable Disney World bus system.

Unlike the buses, it is also more of an attraction, at times feeling a special as riding monorails or various watercraft around the Vacation Kingdom of the World. If it can keep cool, the Disney Skyliner is sure to become a guest favorite for decades to come. Well, as long as you don’t mind the heights…

 

About the author

Tom Corless

Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World.
Contact Tom at [email protected]

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Brian
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Brian

A center bench in a gondola would hold much less people. Think about it.

Becky
Guest
Becky

Pretty excited to ride this during our upcoming trip – and if fear keeps the lines down…so much the better for me! ;)

Anise Leinen
Guest
Anise Leinen

It will be closed indefinitely after the accident. I think you should be glad you weren’t one of those stuck up in the air for 3 hours.

James
Guest
James

Any idea if they are going to decrease bus service to resorts that have gondola stations?

Tarik GHIRADELLA
Guest
Tarik GHIRADELLA

We rode the skyline with one of the Disney maintenance girls that works on the Gondolas. I asked her the same question. As far as she knew, there were no plans to expand the skyline to other parks or other hotels.

Kevin M Hallin
Guest
Kevin M Hallin

The center is empty to allow for wheelchairs.

Heather
Guest
Heather

An empty center is also much easier to board and unboard passengers. And the doorway doesn’t need be as wide.

mark
Guest
mark

if you can time it right , it might be a fun place to see some fireworks !

Timothy Scott Fodor
Guest
Timothy Scott Fodor

I can’t believe some of the people who get paid to write these articles

Austin Ray
Guest
Austin Ray

So what part did you specifically disagree with? And have you ridden the Skyliner?

Amy
Guest
Amy

First line of the article: “So, I finally rode on the Disney Skyliner gondola system.” He then goes on to very specifically discuss the specifics of what he likes and dislikes. You could read before commenting?

Austin Ray
Guest
Austin Ray

Amy, if that’s in reply to me I wasn’t questioning Tom or his article. I was asking Timothy. He acts like this was written as a paid article by Disney but didnt say what he didnt agree with.

Amy
Guest
Amy

Got it. That was unclear.

Timothy Scott Fodor
Guest
Timothy Scott Fodor

Yes I rode it. We had a group of three and were placed with another group of three or four each different ride. We stopped for five minutes in the heat and it was warm but comparable to being in the shade outside. The decals were there to keep it cool and you couldn’t see them from the inside. You enter from the middle so it would be impossible to have seats there. The ride is very smooth and really enjoyable.

Hilly
Guest
Hilly

Hey Timothy Scott Loser. It’s an opinion of his experience on the Skyliner. Start your own blog and write your own opinion of it if you don’t like it. In fact, no one is forcing you to read “these articles”, so just don’t.

Timothy Scott Fodor
Guest
Timothy Scott Fodor

Real creative. I’m just tired of people making it popular to complain about everything Disney does. And I will stop reading thanks

greg
Guest
greg

<>

If the author’s description of a stop and slow down on a 78 degree day is accurate, then I hate to imagine the effect of a stop on a 95 degree day with 95% humidity. This could easily be overwhelming for small children, the elderly, and anyone with respiratory and/or cardiac problems.

Michael
Guest
Michael

I’m curious why you feel the buses are mostly unreliable? Sure, they’re not the most glamorous and certainly not the most nostalgic, but they are the most reliable transportation in property. Monorails go down multiple times per week or even per day, boats can’t run in inclement weather, and the same will be said with the Skyliner. Buses are what bails the other modes of transportation out and never stop running.

Doug
Guest
Doug

Thank you for the warnings about the height and the heat. If this thing ever gets stuck on a hot, humid day, I feel really sorry for the passengers.

Tarik GHIRADELLA
Guest
Tarik GHIRADELLA

My family ride the skyline a half dozen times last week. Was a bit jarring at first. I’m not great with heights and neither is my daughter. When the gondola stopped mid flight, about 150 ft up, presumably to let someone off at the station who needed help, my heart practically stopped. It was the furthest thing from relaxing and my daughter was seconds away from a panic attack. Luckily we only hung there for 2 or 3 minutes before it began moving again. Not fun when it stops. It stops often enough to give me reservations about it.

Craig Cudmore
Guest
Craig Cudmore

I’m just happy to see an article written by Tom using the spelling “buses” :-)

SLB
Guest
SLB

Pretty much confirms my suspicions. Those who choose to ride this thing had better be prepared for a LOT of stops. Between families having to coax a little kid to get on, people getting on and then tripping/stumbling/having to wait for other people to sit down and preventing the doors from closing, and wise-guy teenagers jamming the doors on purpose, those gondolas are going to be halting every couple of minutes. And if they stop, you’re stuck in an oven with no moving air for who knows how long. I can’t believe Disney didn’t run a few cars on the… Read more »

Shane Riddles-Hill
Guest
Shane Riddles-Hill

The passive air system is precisely because there are ventilation windows that open. It’s no surprise that Disney has been extensively testing evacuation procedures–they know what to do to get people out, and I would bet they even know the ideal response time.

That said, the Skyliner isn’t a unique system–it’s manufacturer has similar gondolas _without air conditioning_ worldwide.

Nicky Degirolamo
Guest
Nicky Degirolamo

Yeah at ski resorts where’s it’s cold out not in 95-100 weather these things are death traps AC should honestly been required Ik in CA they would have been

Jack
Guest
Jack

I agree that it will get hot in these boxes if the system stops for more than a couple minutes on a hot day. Another thing that worries me, and a time when I will avoid the Skyliner, is the chance of getting stuck on one with a bunch of drunks leaving Epcot at night (and possibly the chance of one of them throwing up in the box and being stuck until the next station).

Shane Riddles-Hill
Guest
Shane Riddles-Hill

Fortunately, you should have sufficient heads up in advance whether it seems like Disney is combining groups. I wouldn’t necessarily expect it on an omnimoving loader, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. That said, the solution is entirely self-controlled: if a bunch of rambunctious drunks get in line behind you at Epcot, let them and several people pass–problem solved.

Brian M Gajewski
Guest
Brian M Gajewski

I can’t imagine Disney will operate these saunas in the summer. I’d hope these are seasonal and they only run when the weather is cool enough. It only takes 10 minutes for a child to die of heat in a parked car, if these things break down in the May – August brutal heat — someone is going to get hurt. The last Disney skyride was shut down due to a fatality (of an employee).

Aaron Gordon
Guest
Aaron Gordon

If you stop and think about it, the only real ‘sauna’ times would be an afternoon jaunt back to your hotel/resort, as mornings and evenings should have lower temperatures, yes? Also, since you’re already in the heat of the day, going from “outside” to “skyliner” shouldn’t be too much of a temperature difference. Also, we should probably stop thinking of the Skyliner as something that everyone is going to use after the initial opening. This is the equivalent of the “locals” line of the monorail. While the resorts it serves are quite large, they’re going to be the primary users.… Read more »

Mouse has my money
Guest
Mouse has my money

Orlando native and local here, there are plenty of 85-degree mornings and 90-degree evenings throughout the year, so it’s a bit naive to think only the afternoons will be overly hot in these things. The difference between being outside and inside a glass gondola is heat entrapment. While I agree with you that these are mainly going to be just a parlor trick and not a means of mass transportation for the crowds, it’s still concerning that these were designed without heating/cooling like many of the gondolas found at ski resorts and such.

Heather
Guest
Heather

And the diminished temperature difference on a hot humid summer day doesn’t improve heat risk physically because a hot day also increases the likelihood some guests are already partially dehydrated.
Stuck in a hot box for any significant time can induce anxiety and further hasten dehydration.

If system stops become frequent in the summer, people will need to consider which option they prefer:
-Drink plenty of fluid to offset potential dehydration
-Don’t drink plenty of fluid so you don’t get stuck needing to pee up there!

Seattleite
Guest
Seattleite

I hope they will add fans to the gondolas as I’m sure they will quickly over heat being in the sun all day. Also, I’m worried about how clean they will stay. People will leave their garbage, spill stuff and other human accidents.

Dan
Guest
Dan

Anyone know the hours of operation of the Skyliner, and whether all stations keep the same hours?

Jack B
Guest
Jack B

Tom- While I’m sure it hurts the view, do you think the wraps help keep the cabins cooler? And thanks for the videos.

Wayne Zawila
Guest
Wayne Zawila

I thought it was interesting they waited till Autumn to open the Skyliner. It certainly is several degrees cooler here now going into October.

Heather
Guest
Heather

It’s possible they won’t run Skyliner midday next summer. Over a year that only reduces operation by 5-7%

Frank J Stefanec
Guest
Frank J Stefanec

So the Skyliner services 4 resorts. All that money and the ugliness of the cables strewn all over WDW for 4 resorts??
I saw the running times on line. For a 6am EMH opening at the Studios, they start up at 545am. Can only imagine the backlog of humanity waiting. Epcot is a bit better with the start-up an hour before opening.
I don’t get it. Disney could have dedicated busses at every stop on the pick-up line and saved tons of money in doing so, not to mention the unsightliness of poles and cables everywhere.

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

Oh my word, what is that terrifying creaking sound these things are making?!?!

Austin Ray
Guest
Austin Ray

If you’ve ever ridden a gondola system that doesn’t I’d like to know. This is the best system I have seen hands down. I’m even more surprised they don’t rock like crazy going over the towers – something that is all too familiar when you ride the tram/gondola to Ober Gatlinburg at Gatlinburg, TN.

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

It sounds like it is going to be just like I thought it was; multiple lawsuits! This was poorly-planned, just like everything else. When my husband and I were there one out of every three rides we went to on broke down. Then, I read about the monorail breaking down and the monorail doors falling off. ( inside the Contemporary ) I would not be one of the people getting inside of a Disney Death Box! Disney can’t even organize the construction. The rides are always broken, the monorail is not reliable and doesn’t use the air conditioner half the… Read more »

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

Probably time to stop going to Disney then.
Have fun at Six Flags.

Austin Ray
Guest
Austin Ray

Lawsuit from what on the Skyliner. I also highly doubt 1 in 3 rides were broke down. That doesn’t happen even on their worst day. “Death boxes” thats pretty laughable as they’re safer than driving, walking or taking the monorail.

Lauren
Guest
Lauren

I was at Disney several years ago in July or August with my 5 year old, we were there for a week, several rides at magic kingdom stopped while we were on them….pirates of the carribean stopped twice both for at least 5 mins (may not seem a lot but it kills the magic) then we were stuck in the dining room of the haunted mansion for 10-15 mins as well as stopping inside splash mountain. I blame the stops on the water rides over crowding the parks and cramming people onto rides so the boats etc can hardly move.… Read more »

LAUREN
Guest
LAUREN

My point is maybe rides dont break down where people need to get off but the park doesn’t run as smoothly as it used to, your paying more money for a less enjoyable experience and as someone who loves disney I actually prefer universal for quality and caring about guest satisfaction at this point. Thats my opinion.

Vinnie
Guest
Vinnie

Well now we see what happens when they fail. Fortunately it was night and there were no serious issues. Next time in the middle of the afternoon in July you could have people in a serious situation. So as a Floridian I agree with the concept that they are potential “death boxes.”

Nicky Degirolamo
Guest
Nicky Degirolamo

Lawsuits from overheating and if they stop in July there will be deaths it only takes 5-10 mintues to die in a hot car imagine these in 95 weather in the summer there death traps

Paige
Guest
Paige

Somebody is having a not so magical day.