Skyliner Gondola Update – February 2019
Our Walt Disney World construction updates for February 2019 continue with photo progress reports the Skyliner, including video of the first testing of real gondolas! We also have current photos of all Skyliner stations: Art of Animation/Pop Century, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Caribbean Beach, and Riviera Resort. Before any of that, we’ll begin with a semi-brief rant…
As is by now plainly clear, the Disney Skyliner gondolas are a bottomless well of controversy. The latest outrage percolated when news came out of SeaWorld San Diego that passengers had to be rescued from the Bayside Skyride after being stuck for hours. Naturally, this provided “evidence” to the anti-Skyliner crowd that the forthcoming Walt Disney World transportation system is unsafe, ill-advised, and should be cancelled.
Contending that you shouldn’t use a state-of-the-art Doppelmayr gondola due to the breakdown of a circa 1967 bucket system is the equivalent of saying you shouldn’t drive a Tesla Model X because Ford Pintos are known to explode. The criticism of the Skyliner is just becoming farcical at this point. If you’re apprehensive (or worse) about the Skyliner, I’d strongly encourage you to read up on Doppelmayr gondolas being used elsewhere. As I’ve said numerous times, this system is a known quantity.
Now, I realize that I’ve been a fairly breathless defender of the Skyliner. Nevertheless, I can appreciate that the gondolas just aren’t for everyone. People have fears of heights, enclosed spaces, or other legit qualms. I totally get and respect that. Personal anxiety isn’t remotely the same as claiming, “this idiotic system is doomed to fail; I can’t believe these fools wasted so much money when they could’ve expanded the monorail!”
To some extent, my commentary in these posts is possibly an over-correction because I’ve seen so many zealously bad and premature opinions about the Skyliner. I’ll be the first to admit I’m really excited about the Skyliner (of all Walt Disney World’s current projects, this is #2 for me in terms of my hype level), and that enthusiasm probably colors my perspective a bit.
I’ll also concede that the way the Skyliner is being implemented is far from ideal; I have plenty of quibbles with it. I also don’t expect everyone else to be nearly as excited for a mode of transportation as me. I just can’t comprehend those actively rooting for it to fail, and assuming they’ve thought of all these potential ways it will fail that Disney never considered. It’d be the equivalent of Walt Disney World announcing they were adding double-decker buses to the fleet, and fans theorizing that they’d tip over on stormy days.
Anyway, we’ve got plenty of actual ground to cover here, so I’ll step off my soapbox…
We’ll start at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as that seems to be SKYLINER CENTRAL, where all the excitement is happening.
This was actually our fourth stop of the day, after Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach/Riviera Resort, and Art of Animation/Pop Century.
I mention this not to “disclose” that we’re going out of order here, as I don’t think anyone really cares.
Rather, because I was pretty disappointed that prior to this, the only gondolas we’d seen on the lines were in the road over Caribbean Beach’s entrance. I was super stoked and ended up going out of my way to take a ton of photos at that intersection, only to arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and see an endless line of them parked.
I was super excited by this, and spent way too long taking photos of a bunch of stationary gondolas.
My overly-long fixation ended up being a good thing, as loitering around this area for ~20 minutes gave us a chance to see this:
We were both beyond stoked to see the gondolas in motion, and had a general sense of it’s really happening!
My favorite thing about riding Slinky Dog Dash right now is looking to the right and seeing Galaxy’s Edge taking its final exterior form, which gives me that same feeling. The difference here is that these were gliding by right over head, giving a greater sense of immediacy to that it’s really happening sensation.
Again, I’m cognizant of the fact that a transportation project isn’t even mildly exciting to a lot of you. So, this enthusiasm might seem…misplaced?
However, I’m not exactly enamored with Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster, or a handful of other projects about which others are hyped. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.
In terms of visible progress on the Disney’s Hollywood Studios Skyliner station, there really isn’t any.
The finishing touches still need to be put on the Pan Pacific Auditorium (I’m assuming) style columns, but the rest looks pretty much good to go.
Walking between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot, this turn is visible from the pathway.
This has been done for months, and I’m not really sure why I’m still taking photos of it. To confirm that it hasn’t become…undone?
From there, we head to Epcot’s International Gateway.
It’s hard to ascertain any progress on this Skyliner station, but that’s mostly because it’s the only one that doesn’t afford any over or around the wall vantages.
Over at the resorts, we’ll start with Caribbean Beach for a look at its “major” Skyliner station. This will be the largest of the bunch, and handle the most traffic.
Some progress has actually been made on this station, which shutters and some trim work added since we last visited.
The cupola mirroring other architecture around Caribbean Beach is now taking more of a finished form.
This should end up fitting into Caribbean Beach’s existing style pretty nicely.
Across the way at Disney’s Riviera Resort, here’s what the progress looks like.
That beach on the left side of the frame is part of Caribbean Beach, so it’s more like a shared station that’ll be a short walk from both the Riviera and the Aruba section of Caribbean Beach.
We’ll finish up with Art of Animation and Pop Century, where there’s no visible progress since our visit last month.
As we commented then, progress on this station is incredibly far along, to the point that if you told me it was opening next month, I’d find that totally plausible.
Obviously, it’s not opening next month, but the point is that the station is nearly done…or perhaps completely done?
Work does continue on the structure across from the Skyliner station, which I’m 99% sure is a restroom. Or a DVC kiosk. Or a stand for selling wall-colored spirit jerseys. It’s literally gotta be one of the three.
Before you “worry” that this visit to Art of Animation was a total waste of my time (because I’m sure my time is your utmost concern), I was able to wander through Art of Animation and get some new photos of the resort–it had been a while since I got some nice blue sky day photos of this resort. It’s not for everyone, but I still enjoy Art of Animation for what it is, especially outside in the Cars section.
I also got photos of (what I believe is) a bunch of new Art of Animation merchandise. So stay tuned for that in the upcoming “sequel” to our New Walt Disney World Resort Merchandise post.
That’s it for this update on the Walt Disney World Skyliner gondola transportation network. Given that the system is already doing full speed testing with the final gondola cabins, what we’ve been saying about the Skyliner being ready to go well before Fall 2019 sure seems accurate. Perhaps we’ll see a lengthy soft opening well before the official debut…or perhaps Walt Disney World will deem that unnecessary without Riviera and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge open, and elect to wait on those.
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What are your thoughts on the Skyliner? Does the video of the gondolas in motion have you more excited to see and/or ride the finished Skyliner? Or have you already sworn off the Skyliner after the SeaWorld incident, or for some other reason? Thoughts on construction progress? 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!
Hi Tom…….we will be staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort in mid-July……my concern is Transportation availability. Can you update me on Transportation from Caribbean Beach to Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and any of the Water Parks?
Is there any updated information? An idea of when they will be operational? Looking forward to this new form of transportation!
I’m really keen to know if the gondola opening changes your Carribean Beach vs Coronado Springs debate? We stayed for 24 nights at Coronado this year but I think the Gondola is luring me towards Carribean Beach for our 2020 stay.
14 nights! 24 is a bit insane.
Thank you for the update Tom! Your commentary had me chuckling the whole way through! 🙂
Well said. And this griping about no air conditioning. Do people really think Disney has not thought of this? It isn’t like you are standing in the baking heat. They are natural shade and only being ridden a short distance.
I’m scared of heights & don’t like cable cars/gondolas.
Will the bus transport connection still be operating for people like me.
We are headed to Pop Century August 13! We SO hope that the Skyliner will be up and running by then!!!!!
I am all for the Gondolas and look forward to riding them. Anything that can move thousands of people per hour around WDW is a good thing. This will free up Epcot and Hollywood studio buses being deployed to Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation, and Pop Century too so hopefully there will be more frequent pick ups for the other resorts not on the gondola system.
Do you think there would be a chance for a July opening of the Skyliner? We are there the 5th-13th and were really hoping to experience these at Pop Century.
Gondolas being handicapped accessible ? I would assume that they would be, but my concern is that will I be able to have my ECV be driven on ? Does anyone have a definitive answer preparing for our August visit ? still waiting for a response.
Waiting for answer hubby uses scooter
I’m not a “gondola hater” and look forward to seeing them. I’m scared of heights, so choose not to ride at this time.
However, after seeing that terrifying video of the scary rescue at night over water via harnesses lowering the guests to the ground, I must say I have some reservations about the gondolas. I am wondering now how Disney will rescue people in an event like this? I know they have considered all the angles and safety measures, but……………….I would think that sEa World would too?
In any event, I might try them one day:)
There was a thread on the disboards about this with the video, and it was quickly taken away with no way to see it. There was another one on WDWmagic, and again, it was quickly taken off the site.
My question is: If Disney is not concerned about this, then WHY stop any discussion or videos of an event that Did happen at Sea World. It makes one think they are scared of what people will think about their gondolas. The covering up of this trying to make it a non-event only makes people think there is some concern.
I know there are a lot of people who will blow this out of proportion, but a lot of people will take it in stride and ride them anyway, so why censor it?
Just wondering what others think of this.
I really don’t understand some of these naysayers comments. Disney is not perfect and will never be. They will do the best for all of us whenever they can. If you want air conditioning, stay home or take a bus. If you can’t take the heat, why do you live in an area or take vacations to them during the hottest times? Stop the crying, pull the kids out of school and make adjustments to your lives so you can enjoy these things. If the gondolas, and I said if, are too miserable for you, stay off of them. Nobody expects everyone to be happy with everything all of the time, but stop the whinning people. Oh my gosh so many negative, half empty glasses. People, be happy and glad you can read and understand this because there are many who can’t. I personally will love the gondolas and can’t wait to ride them.
I find it very interesting that some comments point to Disney being expected to make everything available to everybody regardless of the issue one may have. Disney makes every reasonable attempt to accomodate everyone better than any other corporate entity in the world. Not trying to raise anyones ire, but I have a son and granddaughter with heart conditions. We can’t do everything others can and we don’t expect to. I don’t demand a company spend money just so I can enjoy a ride or activity. I get the fact that there are lots of things we are never going to get to do because of our conditions. I don’t feel entitled or owed anything by anyone and will never understand the entitlement some feel they are owned. The world revolves around all of us and not just one of us. Everyone is important but need to realize ones physical and emotional limitations. Like Pete stated, if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen and in this case Florida. Get real folks. Disney goes well above and beyond to accommodate everyone as best as they can.
We’ll be there September 7-15th and I’m hoping that they are running. I’m a little scared of heights, but this makes me feel very nostalgic. I used to ride them at Disneyland CA all the time as a kid before they took them out.
I have a question,in attempting to keep up with all the update changes at WDW I haven’t found any information regarding the gondolas being handicapped accessible ? I would assume that they would be, but my concern is that will I be able to have my ECV be driven on ? Does anyone have a definitive answer preparing for our August visit.
Now the back entrance to Epcot will be more crowded. That is why I loved walking in that way. Less crowd, easy fast access to Epcot and the countries. Hollywood Studios is too long of a walk from bus stops to park entrance. They need to work on that after they get this gondola going. Very important to reduce this walk.
I totally agree Hollie regarding the EPCOT entrance which I believe is called the Gateway. I have only entered there 3 or 4 times, but it felt like it was exclusive and I got an experience that was not privy to every vacationer. I stayed a few times at the Dolphin and strolling on that walkway at dusk over to the Gateway entrance was rather cool. Now I know why that area is one of Tom’s favorite in all of Disney World. I totally get why Disney is implementing the gondolas. Unfortunately, after this new mode of transportation is complete, the new throngs of people will abolish the one time peaceful presence that existed for many years.
How do you get enough airflow to cool , while at the same time, keeping out -at times – horizontal, wind-driven summer rain?
These will most likely be shut down during thunderstorms, meaning operation will be intermittent during the heavy rain months of June through August/September.