Skyliner Gondola Update: Racing to Opening

We’re back on another stormy day at Walt Disney World’s Skyliner gondola resorts for an August 2019 update as this new aerial transportation system races (glides?) towards its official grand opening date next month. In this photo report, we’ll take a look at the stations at Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation & Pop Century, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Our Disney Skyliner Gondola Update: Summer Storms, Station Progress, and More covered Epcot and Disney’s Riviera Resort in addition to the ones in this report. That last update is less than 2 weeks old, and nothing has changed at Riviera or Epcot, so no need to revisit them here. (That last update also has a rant about the Skyliners operating in storms and lightning of Central Florida, in case you missed it.)

This go-round, we’re more focused on what has happened and still needs to happen in order for the Disney Skyliner to meet its official grand opening date at the end of September 2019. Or, from our perspective, how feasible it is for this work to wrap up in the next few weeks for a soft opening date in time for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge…

In terms of work that needs to be finished, the Skyliner hub at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is probably where the most work remains. Not that there’s a lot that remains to be done here–just more than at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Art of Animation/Pop Century, which are the only two other stations we’d anticipate soft opening.

In our recent Barefoot Bay Resort Area Update: Caribbean Construction & Riviera Revealed post, we covered a new walkway that was being built between Old Port Royale/Barbados and Trinidad. At the time, we didn’t think much of this, but it turns out that this is actually a path that veers to the left, leading over the bridge and connecting Trinidad to the Skyliner station.

Above on the left side of the frame is a look at where this pathway will connect to the station.

This portion is finished, and the path near Trinidad is also nearly completed. However, it’s still incomplete over the bridge. (Apologies for the lack of photos; there’s nowhere to stop for pictures and this is only evident while you’re literally on the bridge in a vehicle.)

Changing perspectives for a moment, here’s a look at the Caribbean Beach Skyliner hub, as viewed from near Spyglass Grill, which is “only” a quiet pool restaurant but is nonetheless one of Walt Disney World’s hidden gem counter service restaurants.

It might be tough to tell here, but in under 2 weeks, a solid amount of progress has been made here. Grass and shrubs have been planted, and a lot of landscaping work has been done around the station. There are still some random piles of dirt and a bit of landscaping, but nothing that would take more than a few days to complete.

Here’s an elevated side view showing where the buses will enter the main Skyliner station area at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.

We know that structure is a bus stop and this area is only for buses (and other authorized vehicles) because there’s now signage up that states as much. The bus stop structure itself looks like it’s in the process of having additional “stuff” installed on it (even zooming in, I couldn’t tell what–maybe Disney advertisements or a wait times screen).

In response to our last Skyliner update, some readers asked whether this bus station will serve as a ‘final destination’ transportation option when extreme storms cause a Skyliner closure.

That’s one possibility, but our expectation is that Walt Disney World’s storm monitoring coupled with the relatively short ride times won’t require such a reactionary approach. We’d expect the Skyliner to stop loading new guests when there’s lightning in X miles, but to allow guests who have already boarded to continue to their final destination.

Over at Art of Animation and Pop Century, here’s a look in pretty much the exact opposite direction as the last Caribbean Beach Skyliner station photo.

These stations are actually surprisingly close to one another, to the point that you can now see Art of Animation from Caribbean Beach, and vice-a-versa.

Here’s a wider look at this Skyliner station.

As we’ve said before, this station has been in near-finished form for months. Construction walls are still up on Generation Gap Bridge, but the hasn’t been any significant physical work to the station in ages.

The walls are also down around the new restrooms on the Art of Animation side of the Skyliner.

In addition to the cones, there are signs adjacent to each door that say “NOT IN SERVICE.” (I assume the doors are also locked.)

One very exciting change this week is the installation of Disney Skyliner signage. Above is a look at the sign on the Pop Century side of the station.

I know what you’re thinking–that looks like the aerial tramway emoji! I thought the same, and I’m very optimistic that once the Skyliner opens and everyone is posting selfies aboard it, this beloved underdog emoji will rise from the cellar of emoji rankings to claim its rightful throne as #1 emoji. We can at least dream it.

This signage is likely to display hours, instructions, or perhaps a map of the Skyliner system. Not that the last detail is particularly important here–this line only goes to Caribbean Beach. It’s there where instructions and a map might be more essential.

Operating hours are another question we’ve received several times. The short answer is that we don’t yet know. The longer answer is that Walt Disney World posted a job listing for Skyliner Cast Members, and it stated that Disney employee hours would be as early as 5 a.m. and as late as 3 to 5 a.m. In that same posting, it’s noted that the Walt Disney World Resort operates round the clock, even if the parks aren’t open.

This is interesting, albeit not conclusive. Cast Members working as early/late as 5 a.m. doesn’t establish the operating hours of the Skyliner, and we would not expect it to run from 5 a.m. to 3 a.m. on a regular basis.

However, we will say that Walt Disney World transportation hours are always later and earlier than what’s published to guests. When it comes to transportation, the general rule is that if there are guests somewhere who need to get somewhere else for a legitimate reason (e.g., home from the park after shopping on Main Street for an hour after closing, to an early morning ADR, etc.) transportation will be running.

A more succinct version of that general rule: Walt Disney World won’t leave you stranded without transportation. Why Disney is so conservative with its officially published transportation times is beyond us, because those limited hours are literally never true. (Take it from someone who is often last out of the parks or in need of a sunrise bus ride somewhere.)

Our expectation would be that the Skyliner will begin running over an hour before the start of Extra, Extra Magic Hours. Likewise, we’d anticipate it continuing to run until the last guest is off Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is officially cleared. There’s always the possibility that they’ll switch to bus service at some point super late in the evening, but Walt Disney World is not going to leave you stranded.

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

Any expectations on operating hours for the Skyliner during Extra, Extra Magic Hours? Think progress here is far enough along for a late August soft opening? Any other thoughts on the Skyliner? Will you be using it, or sticking to buses? 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!


43 Responses to “Skyliner Gondola Update: Racing to Opening”
  1. Katherine September 15, 2019

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