Genie+ Really is Paid FastPass+ at Disney World
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.
This new warning (of sorts) comes after Walt Disney World moved Individual Lightning Lane attractions to Genie+ through August 7, 2022. That should improve the quality of the Genie+ experience, adding availability, and (theoretically) how many standard Lightning Lane selections you can score in a day when attendance is higher.
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.)
This change also comes as the Genie+ system comes under greater stress due to elevated attendance at Walt Disney World. We’ve gone over this in a number of recent reports, but winter was (nearly) a return to pre-closure highs, and February was the busiest month in the last two years at Walt Disney World.
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.
We’ve also shared recent full day experiences with Genie+ at both Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (see My Day Using Genie+ Lightning Lanes in Peak Crowds at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and My Day Using Genie+ for Spring Break 2022 at Magic Kingdom).
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.
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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!
TL:DR – Genie+ isn’t even FastPass+ with a paywall. There’s zero pre-booking allowed and 87 times more stress involved with using it. Just not worth it at any price, including free.
Oh, and I forgot to complain specifically about there being no ability to choose return times with Genie+. That part peeves me most of all.
I find the argument that G+ is unfair to novice users laughable considering a much greater disparity existed under FP+ with power users exploiting loopholes to reride headliners multiple times while everyone else had huge waits.
FP+ was terrible for last minute travelers and offsite guests, Genie plus has leveled the playing field and I think that’s a big part of why certain people rage about it. That and people who refuse to bring a phone to the park.
I don’t disagree with your sentiment–and we’ve pointed out multiple times that FastPass+ was a counterintuitive, guest unfriendly system that didn’t work for many Walt Disney World guests. It just *did* work for those who plan far in advance, which is disproportionately readers of sites like this one.
With that said, FastPass+ being bad for different reasons doesn’t make Genie+ good, or that it has actually leveled the playing field. It has just shifted it and created new headaches.
I’m not naive enough to think there’s a perfect solution that would make everyone happy. So long as crowds are through the roof, there will be problems and complaints. Longtime fans who visited when attendance was half of what it is today will continue having unrealistic, outdated expectations. I just don’t think Genie+ even comes close to being a ‘best case’ solution.
Fair points, Tom. I appreciate your evanhandedness.
Or perhaps to use terms from the excellent defunctland video terms, the old FP+ monster had a lot of friends and a lot of its enemies did not know they were being eaten.
The new G+ monster has made enemies of a lot of the old monster’s friends, but has not made many new friends to offset this.
We literally hate G+, we got anywhere from 2-5 rides, but a lot of the rides were like tier 3 types and it added more stress to what is supposed to be a relaxing vacation. I would have much rather them keep FP+ and charge $25 per day (not per person) for it, over this piece of garbage G+ We like to stay late at the parks and not get up early every day, but with G+ You’re forced to get up by 7 if you want a shot at a tier 1 ride, and what’s worse, you have absolutely no control over the time for the rides:( Between this garbage and park reservations we will take our future trips to UNiversal.
Monday March 21: Magic Kingdom – Pirates, HM, Buzz,
hop to Epcot – Living with the Land, Mission Space
For LwtL, I forgot to hit confirm, but was able to show the screen where it was almost complete, and they let us in… probably would not have worked at a busier attraction. It let us skip what was maybe a 10 minute line.
We did Mission Space Green, and the line was super short. G+ would have been more useful for Orange I think. I wish I would have booked Soarin’ instead of Buzz (can’t remember if it was available or not at 1:30 that day).
Wednesday March 23: Epcot – Test Track for early afternoon (1:20?)
Hop to MK – Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan, small world, Winnie the Pooh
We had 5 park days, and only got G+ those 2 days. For AK, we bought the $ILL for FOP.
We ended up not doing Slinky or Navi River.
There were several rides we skipped due to people in our group not wanting to ride more intense rides.
We were there Jan 1-Jan 7. We were able to get the following on Genie +
1-1 AK: EE, Navi, Dinosaur
1-2 MK: Space Mountain, Buzz, Pooh, Barnstormer, Under the Sea, Haunted Mansion, Philharmagic, Big Thunder, Pirates
1-3 HS: Tower of Terror, Slinky Dog, Frozen
1-4 Epcot: Soarin, LWTL, Figment, and Mickey/Pixar Shorts
1-5: MK Same as above minus Space Mountain and add Jungle Cruise
1-6 AK: Kilimanjaro, Dinosaur, Tough to be a Bug
Definitely noticed a difference if we started to use early or later in the day. Toward end of week all the runners were onsite and it became extremely hard to get anything.
We visited last week (March 26-Apr1) and used Genie + for 3 out of our 6 park days. We also paid for Rise, Remy, and Flight of Passage. I picked my first selections right at 7:00 and usually got an early return time but found my second selection was usually nothing before 3:00 and we like to leave the parks in the afternoon and return to a different one in the evenings. I would add another reservation or two for the evenings, so the 2-3 rides was pretty accurate for us. If you stay in a park from open to close I’m sure you’d get more reservations out of it. I found the combination of Genie +, paying for the ILL headliners, and a good touring plan worked great and we ride everything we wanted and often more than once. Also, the extended evening hours helped a ton too! We resort hopped to take advantage of that and then save money on a less expensive resort to stay longer. With it being our first time back since 2019 and 3 cancelled trips before this one due to Covid, I would have been happy with any system. My only wish is that you could pick the passes early so the morning stress the day of could be less!
Genie plus is the worst , here for 10 days want a mistake the magic is gone ! On the phone all day , fighting for everything ! Something wrong with this picture ! I am the guest, not Disney ! Thinking of selling all my DVC , so you pay for GP and at 7:01 two rides are sold out , At 7:15 , 4 rides are sold out and others rides have late afternoon times , if any , but Disney had my money and I have 0 .
We were at WDW March 20-25 (in the parks Mar 21-24). I purchased ILL for Remy at Epcot ($9) for a 9:15 AM entry on Monday, Mine Train at MK ($10) for a 8:40 PM entry on Wednesday and Avatar at AK ($14) for an afternoon entry on Thursday. I was unsuccessful in my attempt to purchase ILL for Rise at DHS. All purchases were made at 7 AM. At Epcot I used Genie Plus successfully to do the rides that I cared about (Soarin, Land, Earth); I had opportunities to use G+ for other rides but did not wish to go on them. (This was our 19th visit to Epcot; so we know what we like.) I was unhappy at DHS (at 7 AM purchased a 3:40 PM G+ to Millennium Falcon. Two hours after park opening I purchased Runaway Train with G+ and two hours later purchased G+ for Indiana Jones, but arrived just after the last show because I had to walk from Galaxy and didn’t make it in time. I had to wait 160 minutes, yes, almost 3 hours to go on Rise) At MK I got all the G+ that I cared about (we have been to MK 17 times), but I also used standby lane efficiently by arriving early to do Splash & Big Thunder mountain. At AK I had a 10 (ten) minute wait at the rapids. I got Navi River on G+ an hour after my Avatar time; there were two problems at AK, it was pouring rain most of the day – consequently many shows were canceled and Safari was down at the 11:20 time of my G+ (which I selected at 7 AM). I did get to ride Safari later, but did not see many animals. I did walk the animal trails.Because of the rain, I left AK early.
I guess that my internet connection in the Disney Resort was too slow.
As you may have surmised, I am a “senior”; consequently I no longer am fond of the shake em up rides.
Next time we will go to Epcot, take a pool day, and then go to AK. The main reason that I went to DHS was to do Rise. The main reason that I went to MK was to see the new show Enchantment and to eat at Be My Guest. Consequently, I waited for the Enchantment show for 90 minutes rather than concentrate on rides. I probably could have saved the ILL price for mine train, because the standby line was short when I arrived (after fireworks but still within my 60 minute window before 9:40 PM), but I definitely am glad that rode Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and do not consider the ILL purchase a waste of money.
I considered G+ worthwhile at Epcot. Spending less time in line gave us plenty of time to spend in the countries and to have a leisurely lunch at Coral Reef watching the fish in the tank in front of us.
I’m terribly disappointed in WDW. On our visit in March I found more people on their phones…suddenly stopping in the walkway to look at their. We almost ran into several who just suddenly stopped. In the Hall of Presidents it was embarrassing how many people were on their phones..looking for the next thing on the list. Disney is losing the magic. No one is looking at Disney because they are looking at the phone. We most likely are done going on our annual visit there
Exactky why we will not be back until they stop this carry your phone all day nonsense. We leave our phones in our rooms. We buy they picture making app do no need for a phone. Unless they change this and let us get our rides in BEFORE we arrive, we won’t be back. Not spending my day taking any time away from my grandkids
March 17 at Magic Kingdom, we got 5: BTMRR, Splash, Haunted Mansion, Buzz, Monsters Inc (didn’t really need that one). Rope dropped Space Mountain and had a leisurely day going to shows, watching the parade, and riding the PeopleMover. Our goal was prioritizing must-dos and minimizing walking. We left at 4:30 for dinner and Moonlight Magic at Epcot (a disappointment), but if we had stayed all day at MK we definitely would’ve gotten a few more.
Since we park hop, I actually like Genie+ a lot better than fast pass. We had no problem getting on 5-6 rides each day of our spring break a week ago because we would start at rope drop each day and get on several rides before 2 at the park we started and then would hop to whichever parks had ride availability. We don’t mind hoping a few times a day though even back and forth to the same park. That’s why we like Genie +. With fast pass it only worked for 1 park a day: boring.
Disney visit Jan 29-Feb 6. Bought Genie + for MK on Sun Jan 30. Used it for 6 rides and we even missed a booking window due to confusion about 2 hours vs scanning in. Bought it for HS on Feb 2. Our plan was to buy an ILL for ROTR instead but it was sold out, so we got Genie at 705 am and got Smugglers for 250 pm. Got another 4 LL so 5 in total. So more than the 2-3 listed. Also, we relied heavily on your blog for our trip, which was AMAZING! so thank you. We also have now booked the Disney Norwegian Fjiord cruise for Sept 22, which I had never heard of until I read your blog comparing it to the Galactic Starcruiser. Not sure whether to thank you or hate you for that one…