New Character Buses at Disney World & Wait Times Update

This summer, Walt Disney World announced that new “Sensational Six” character buses would arrive with next generation features, including USB charging ports and more. We’ve finally had a chance to ride this transportation, and offer some thoughts on that, as well as an updated look at My Disney Experience bus wait times.

If you’ve been around Walt Disney World recently, you’ve probably spotted the new Sensational Six buses, which sport wraps with Donald Duck, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Minnie, and Mickey Mouse. In addition to giant heads of each character, the designs evoke each, with red and yellow colors of Mickey’s attire, Minnie Mouse’s polka dots, pastel hues of Daisy, sporty stripes of Goofy, and good doggo style of Pluto.

We’ve seen a growing number of these buses around Walt Disney World for about the last month, but it wasn’t until last week and this week that we finally had a chance to ride them. (And we ride Walt Disney World buses a lot!) Previously, the buses were primarily used for “VIP Cast Members” but now that it appears more of the blank, white buses are receiving the character wrap, they’re finally being rolled out into circulation for resort transportation, too…

Note that while these buses will replace some of the existing Walt Disney World transportation fleet, the Sensational Six buses won’t be the only ones in use. It’s our understanding that Walt Disney World currently had around 375 buses in its fleet before the addition of these roughly 75 new buses that will feature the new character wrap.

These new Gillig buses will join a mix of styles, with around half of the oldest Nova buses (just under 50) being replaced. That means the total number of buses in Walt Disney World’s fleet will increase to just over 400. That’s a net increase of around 25 buses.

This is good news on a couple of fronts. First, Walt Disney World needs more buses as it adds new hotels (as we recently witnessed with our stay at Gran Destino Tower).

Second, if you have a favorite style of bus for some odd reason, you’ll still be able to find it. (Since I’m that odd type, I’m happy to know I’ll still be able to find some of my favorite mid-90s buses with purple interiors!)

Personally, I’m a bit torn on the style of the Sensational Six bus designs. First, I have to acknowledge that these are just buses, so they’re probably not worth getting super worked-up over.

Moreover, I like seeing a variety of bus styles. Mentally ‘collecting’ the different varieties helps break up the monotony and my growing frustration while watching 8 buses to Disney’s Hollywood Studios pass me by as I’m waiting for one to Magic Kingdom.

I also like the idea of featuring classic characters. It’s nice to see Disney embracing its roots, especially at a time when the brand name “Disney” is become populated by so many acquisitions that it’s a nearly meaningless term.

When you think of Disney characters, Mickey and friends are not necessarily what comes to mind any longer. That’s something the company should work to remedy.

With that said, I think the styles could’ve been a little less heavy-handed with the approach. Having them subtly evoke the characters with color schemes and patterns would’ve been cool.

Having the wraps actually fit the contours of the bus (a la Disney’s Magical Express) also would’ve been nice. That’s simply a matter of personal preference, though.

Nevertheless, these Sensational Six next generation buses are cool.

Not as cool as the “Sorcerer Class” NextGen prototype buses (remember those?!) that Walt Disney Imagineering teased a few years ago, but still a change of pace from the rest of the fleet.

On the inside, the Sensational Six buses have modern interiors that include blue seats, laminate floors, and USB chargers.

The seats are thin and remind me of flying Frontier. Uncomfortable seats for a four-hour flight, but pretty good by bus standards!

As for bus wait times, we thought it was to revisit this topic as it’s been slightly over a year since we published our In-App Bus Wait Times Review & Testing for Walt Disney World.

If you haven’t read that and are unfamiliar with this feature, start there–this builds on that review and assumes you already understand how the feature works.

As noted above, we use Disney’s buses a lot, and have stayed at a number of on-site hotels in the last couple of months. I haven’t seen any other blogs take an updated look at the wait times feature this year, which I think is worth doing.

So let’s see how this My Disney Experience bus wait times function works about a year after going live…

To put it succinctly, the only thing that’s consistent about in-app bus wait times is complete inconsistency. 

We’ve had entire visits when the app just showed “Times Currently Unavailable” for every single park whenever we checked. (I’ve taken this to mean the system is ‘disconnected’ from My Disney Experience.) We’ve had other visits where every time was always listed, and always spot-on accurate.

As with all things My Disney Experience, first hand assessments are going to be all over the place.

I’d believe pretty much whatever people said about their experience with the app and this feature, from the most absolute accolades to the most abysmal.

Most of the time, wait times will display for about half to three-quarters of all destinations, and will be close to accurate. By this, I mean that the original posted “next bus arrival time” will be within 2-3 minutes of when the bus actually arrives. Since this is real-time tracking, this time does increase or decrease (usually the former) due to traffic and other stops.

The most common scenario in which it increases is when at a resort with multiple bus stops. Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs, in our experience, are especially notorious for this.

It frustrates me that even after bus wait time boards rolled out several years ago and this feature has been added to My Disney Experience, we still don’t have times at the park bus stops. Nor do we have this information in-app.

One hack that I’ve found particularly useful is reverse-engineering bus departure times from the theme parks by looking at the next “estimated arrival at park” time.

The only problem with this is that it doesn’t always work. Early in the day, some buses are “drop-off only” and even other times buses are reallocated from one route to another.

However, it’s the best proxy we have right now, and I’d say this is a reliable measure of when the next bus will arrive. It works about 75-80% of the time.

Overall, this might read mostly as criticism, but it’s meant as a supplement to our original bus wait times review. That was largely glowing, as I found the app functionality to be a good resource to determine when to leave our room and head to the bus stop. My assessment of the My Disney Experience bus times feature remains positive, and I still think this is an excellent resource for determining when to leave your room each morning. We use it a ton, and even though it can be frustrating at times, it’s great when it works right.

The tone of this updated review mostly stems from my disappointment that the reliability of the in-app bus wait times feature is not quite as good as it was at launch. This was a resource I expected to be refined and improved over time, with even better real-time bus tracking, updates, and other functionality. It could’ve been a wonderful tool for transportation planning, but instead, it’s just hit or miss. In retrospect, this being My Disney Experience, I’m not sure why I was expecting anything more.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

What do you think of the Sensational Six character buses rolling out around Walt Disney World? Have you used the new bus wait time feature in My Disney Experience? If you’ve used it frequently, do you think it has gotten more or less reliable over time? Any best/worst resorts for this feature? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Did it improve your transportation experience at Walt Disney World? Any questions we can help you answer about WDW transportation? 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!


61 Responses to “New Character Buses at Disney World & Wait Times Update”
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