We’ve been referring to Genie+ as “paid FastPass” since before its debut at Walt Disney World, and now the company is offering a tacit confirmation of this via a new caveat aimed at lowering expectations. In this post, we’ll take a look at the language change, why it was likely added, and more.
That move mimics one made for the Christmas season last year, and was one of many problems with Lightning Lanes and the paid FastPass service. Those range from increased technical difficulties to limited ride reservation inventory with the whole system and infrastructure placed under greater usage. In any case, here’s the “expectation lowering” official verbiage from DisneyWorld.com’s Disney Genie+ Lightning Lane Entrance page:
When you take your day to the next level by purchasing Disney Genie+ service, you may choose the next available arrival window for Lightning Lane entrances at select attractions and entertainment. This unique service lets you use our new Lightning Lane entrance at select attractions and experiences at the Walt Disney World theme parks. On average, guests can enter 2 to 3 attractions or experiences per day using the Lightning Lane entrance if the first selection is made early in the day.
You can enjoy a Disney Genie+ Lightning Lane entrance once per day. If you’d like to re-ride an attraction or see a certain show again within the same day, you are welcome to use our regular standby line.
The pertinent new text is this: “On average, guests can enter 2 to 3 attractions or experiences per day using the Lightning Lane entrance if the first selection is made early in the day.” (H/t to Scott Gustin for spotting this change.)
This sentence has been added in a variety of locations around DisneyWorld.com and in My Disney Experience, including on the various in-app pop-ups that appear prior to purchasing the Genie+ service. From that, it’s very clear that Walt Disney World wants guests to see this message, and is attempting to manage (read: lower) expectations about how much they can accomplish via the Lightning Lane line-skipping service.
The reason this is a tacit admission by Walt Disney World that Genie+ is really paid FastPass+ is likely obvious to longtime fans. In case not, 3 is the number of attractions that could be reserved in advance under the free FastPass+ service. This means Genie+ is essentially a $16 daily ticket price increase by a different name.
Actually, it’s not just a $16 daily ticket price increase. As Disney notes, this is the number that can be accomplished if the first selection is made earlier in the day. In other words, you’ll need to wake up at or around 7 am each day of your vacation. Oh, and you’ll also need to overcome the MDX app’s error of the day. (Will it be a deluge of email confirmation codes, random crashes, linking errors, or something else? Who knows! And isn’t that the thrill of it?!?)
In other words, Genie+ has higher costs than free FastPass+, both monetarily and in vacation time and frustrations. (Some of these same faults existed with FastPass+, but at least they were shifted a month or two ahead of your trip and thus couldn’t ruin your day while actually on vacation.)
Spoiler alert: March 2022 is going to “dethrone” last month for that dubious distinction, with an average wait time across all Walt Disney World attractions of 47 minutes. That’s 2 minutes higher than last month, which may not seem like much, but definitely adds up in aggregate. If Disney Park Pass reservations are any indication (they very much are), April is going to be on par with–or maybe even worse than–March and February.
As a result of our experiences with in in the last couple of months, we’ve been warning that Genie+ is becoming less useful and is not the end-all, be-all of park touring strategy. To that end, we published Genie+ v. Savvy Standby Strategy at Walt Disney World, which is the result of extensive ‘testing’ to determine the best and worst ways to beat the crowds right now. (We put a lot of work into that, and it should be incredibly useful for planning, while not being too overwhelming.)
The only park where Genie+ was the clear-cut winner was Magic Kingdom. Everywhere else, there were superior strategies for saving time waiting in line. That’s true even with Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where we had previously strongly recommended buying the Genie+ service. For DHS, we called Genie+ the “option of last resort” because it’s headache-inducing, but not any more so than standby lines, which are just brutal at DHS.
If you read those, you’ll notice I accomplished significantly more than Walt Disney World’s caveat suggests. Keep in mind that the company’s statement is prefaced with “on average.” I’m anything but average when it comes to using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. That might sound like a humblebrag, and I guess sort of is, but it would be a pretty lame point of pride. I doubt my parents are bragging to their friends that their son has mastered an unnecessarily complex queueing system.
More than anything, this is an acknowledgement of the complexity of Genie+ and the differential between its power users and first-timers. There’s a reason we have a ~4,500 word Guide to Genie+ at Walt Disney World & Lightning Lane FAQ along with another dozen-plus posts for those who want to thoroughly master the new paid FastPass system. It isn’t easy, but knowledge can help significantly in achieving better results.
With that said, I do think Walt Disney World’s stated 2-3 average is way low for Magic Kingdom. Even with only a cursory understanding of the system on high crowd days, guests should easily be able to accomplish double that number of attractions via the Lightning Lanes. That’s the benefit of a more ride-dense park. The other 3 parks are probably in the 2-3 range if you only care about headliners.
(Now this has me curious. If you’ve used Genie+ in the last two months or during the holiday season, how many Lightning Lanes were you able to book? Please share numbers–even if just ballpark estimates–in the comments.)
Even while it has worked for us, we’ve been incredibly disappointed by Genie+ and Lightning Lanes as a whole. Prior to launch, our original perspective was that paid FastPass was an inevitability, and that “it could’ve been worse.” My biggest frustration at that time was messaging; Walt Disney World failed to communicate just how the system would work and the different Lightning Lanes would work. (Something that still hasn’t been sufficiently remedied, in my view.)
I’ll admit to being more bullish back then about Genie+ than the average Walt Disney World fan. I was wrong and feel like I owe you an apology–I expected better of Walt Disney World with the Genie system. This optimism was based on our experiences with MaxPass at Disneyland, which were largely positive.
For a blog known for overthinking literally everything, I should’ve given that analysis more thought. Disneyland is a terrible comparison to 3 of the 4 parks at Walt Disney World because it actually has a healthy number of rides. (Like its predecessor, Genie+ works great at Disneyland…minus some new tech issues and rule quirks.)
I also didn’t foresee some of technical difficulties, frustrating user interface, and lack of obvious features. Call that one a “failure of imagination,” as I should absolutely know better when it comes to all things related to Disney IT. (In my defense, MaxPass was right there as a template and didn’t have this level of problems. Leave it to Disney to reinvent the wheel and make it square.) I also dramatically underestimated the number of guests who would purchase Genie+ at Walt Disney World; as more people purchase Genie+, Lightning Lane availability decreases and competition grows.
Ultimately, that’s the tough and sad thing about Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. “Success” with the system comes at the expense of tech novices or less knowledgeable guests, many of whom will drop $16 per person for next to no advantage. This isn’t just theoretical–we’ve received feedback from literally hundreds of guests at this point who have reported exactly that.
If a third party blog is receiving this type of negative reviews for Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, there’s absolutely no way the company isn’t hearing the same from guests. We’ve noticed longer lines at Guest Relations and have heard of refunds issued for Genie+ becoming commonce. They’re undoubtedly receiving negative feedback online via social media and surveying.
Speaking of which, company executives have praised Disney Genie for improving per guest spending and its high popularity during recent earnings calls and at various conferences. One rather conspicuous omission from this commentary has been guest satisfaction scores. The first few quarters after Walt Disney World reopened, the resilience of these numbers was regularly touted. They’ve been silent on that topic in the quarters since Genie debuted. Any guesses why?!
Ultimately, whenever language like this ‘2-3 attractions’ warning is added to lower expectations, there’s a reason for it. Disney has a sophisticated survey and research apparatus, and my strong suspicion is that the “results” there from guests who have bought Genie+ in the last few months are anything but positive. Of course, that’s just a guess–maybe guests lowkey love Genie+, and the backlash here and on other corners of the internet is incorrect. (That’ll likely go down as the best unintentional joke this blog has ever told.)
In fairness to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, there is no perfect solution. FastPass+ likewise had a steep learning curve, and it was counterintuitive to most guests to plan out rides 30 or 60 days in advance of their vacation. Paper FastPass was physically-demanding, requiring people to criss-cross the parks (remember runners?!). Neither of those were this stressful and confusing, and at least those were not directly monetized (a lot can be forgiven when it’s free!). I certainly hope Walt Disney World is paying attention to guest satisfaction and feedback. Even though Genie+ works well for me (and can for you), it shouldn’t require being a power user who has taken a crash course in the system’s strategy to have a good day in the parks.
Thoughts on my Walt Disney World’s warning that guests can only experience 2-3 attractions via Lightning Lanes on average? Thinking we’re making too much of this language tweak, or is it a fair to point to this as the paid FastPass system not being able to handle guest demand and meet expectations? If you’ve purchased Genie+ in the last ~2 months (or over the holiday season), how many Lightning Lanes were you able to reserve? Are you planning on buying Genie+ or sticking to free standby lines at WDW? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!