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Walt Disney World fanatics eagerly anticipated the arrival of Disney’s Skyliner service. Here are all the details you need to know about the gondola transportation system at Walt Disney World Resort, including which two theme parks and four resorts it serves.
Before you head out on your next Disney World vacation you need to know that there’s a new way to get around in Walt’s hood. The Disney Skyliner aerial gondolas are a welcome new option for Disney World transportation. While we love the new gondolas, there are definitely some things you need to know when riding them – including what resorts will now be your best bet, what that means for bus service, and when you should get a Minnie Van instead.
Disney Skyliner Stops and Lines, A Route Overview
The Disney Skyliner service has five stops, including two theme parks and four resort hotels. These stops are along three distinct lines – the Epcot Line, the Hollywood Studios line, and the Pop Century/Art of Animation Line. Although the Skyliner doesn’t stop at Disney BoardWalk restaurants, it’s a short stroll from EPCOT near the International Gateway entrance.
Think of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort as the “Ticketing and Transportation Center” of the gondola system. It acts as the hub of the Skyliner system. All three lines go through this station. It’s also where you can switch from one line to another.
Disney Skyliner Pop Century and Art of Animation Line
This Skyliner station is located on the bridge crossing Hourglass Lake that connects Disney’s Pop Century Resort with Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. The Pop Century and Art of Animation Resort Line runs to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort where you can catch a “connecting flight” to the Epcot Line and the Hollywood Studios line.
Disney Skyliner EPCOT Line
The EPCOT Line runs from Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort to EPCOT. It is the longest line and stops at Disney’s Riviera Resort. The ride takes roughly 11 minutes during which you circle around another “station” that turns you due north.
You’ll come into EPCOT near the International Gateway entrance. This puts you within an easy walk of Disney’s Boardwalk area restaurants and the Yacht Club and Beach Club resorts. The International Gateway entrance leads you into EPCOT between France and the United Kingdom in the World Showcase. Keep your eyes open while you are riding this route. Just before descent, you’ll be able to catch a birds-eye view of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in France. Due to open in Summer 2020, this attraction is based on the ride at Disneyland Paris.
Disney Skyliner Hollywood Studios Line
The Hollywood Studios Line runs directly from Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, home of Star Wars Galaxy Edge. On arrival at Hollywood Studios it drops off between the park entrance and the bus stops. The ride takes roughly 6 minutes.
Bathrooms for Skyliner Guests
There are restrooms available (with changing tables) at all Skyliner stations. Ask a cast member to direct you to the nearest one.
Disney Skyliner Hours
Stations have signs posted stating when operations will start each day. We had heard an hour before a park opening time the Skyliner would start running. This was not true for us. One day it started 45 minutes before park opening and one day it was 30 minutes prior. Skyliners continue to run after park closing time and during Extra Magic Hours.
TravelingMom Tip: If you are using the Skyliner as an offsite or driving guest and you park in the EPCOT parking lot, plan to leave BEFORE the parks close. The Skyliner drops off at the back entrance of EPCOT. The parking lot is located at the front entrance. So if you can’t walk through the park to go out the front, you’re out of luck. You’ll need to take a bus or Minnie Van to EPCOT if you’re staying after EPCOT closes.
About the Gondola Cabins
Gondola cabins are brightly colored with Disney character wraps on some cars. Kids will love stepping into a gondola adorned with Mickey, Minnie or one of their favorite Pixar characters. These cable cars are spacious and can comfortably seat 10 passengers. There are wooden benches on either side of the gondola that each seat 5 people. During my March visit, we never rode in a gondola that was at capacity.
There is no air conditioning in the gondola cabins. At first, I was concerned that they would be like tiny terrariums in Central Florida’s sun. After multiple rides in humid weather with temperature above 90 degrees, I can report that the Skyliner gondola maintained a comfortable climate. The vents maximize airflow. You feel wind blowing on you for the whole ride.
TravelingMom Tip: The gondolas can reach heights of 60 feet above ground! Combine this with the fact that they are designed to maximize airflow and those with a healthy fear of heights may want to avoid this transportation option.
Do the Cabins Come to a Stop for Boarding?
The Disney Skyliner cabins do NOT stop during the boarding process. Think of the system as one based off of Spaceship Earth. The “cars” continue to move (albeit slowly) during the loading process. The speed at the time of embarkation and disembarkation is minimal and mosts guest should be able to manage it.
What You Need to Know About Strollers and Wheelchairs
The Disney Skyliner system’s gondolas can accommodate strollers and wheelchairs. You do not have to collapse single strollers to ride the Skyliner. Double strollers may need to be collapsed depending on width. As a parent, this makes the Skyliner system a preferred method of Disney transportation over the buses where you have to collapse the stroller for every ride.
There is a designated queue for groups that include someone using a wheelchair or mobility scooter. These gondolas come to a full stop for boarding then rejoin the rest of the continuously operating cabins. At the next stop, your cabin will enter the handicapped boarding area so you can disembark from a stopped cabin.
TravelingMom Tip: When a wheelchair or stroller is in the gondola, capacity of the car drops to just 6 passengers, including the person in the stroller or wheelchair. Families with more than 6 members will need to split their party between two gondolas.
Will I be Able to Ride the Skyliner if I get Motion Sick?
Honestly, this depends on the person. I have minor motion sickness. I can fly, but if I’m in a car and not driving, it gets bad. Disney’s Skyliner and I got along just fine. The biggest jolts are at the beginning when it speeds up at “take off” and when you’re coming into the stations and abruptly slow down. The rest of the ride was extremely smooth. Definitely sit facing the direction you are moving in (just like in a car) to minimize nausea.
What Happens if the Skyliner Gets Stuck?
This question is high on many people’s list in part because of the malfunction that happened shortly after the Skyliner opened. In that October 2019 case, some guests were stuck for 3 hours waiting to be rescued. After that incident, phone numbers were added into all Skyliner cabins. A second malfunction happened in December 2019.
Does anyone want to be stuck on the Skyliner? No. Is it extremely unlikely to happen? Yes. Did we make jokes about being trapped on the Skyliner while we rode it? Most definitely. The good news? Disney has its very own first responders – the Reedy Creek Fire Department – and they are trained and ready to assist if something does happen.
My own husband is a paramedic in Texas. I asked him what is the most important thing to do if you’re stuck on a gondola? “Stay calm,” he said. Sounds like sage advice.
Find yourself in a stalled Skyliner? Call the number provided on the Skyliner and take note of your cabin number. The cabin number can be found on the Skyliner door glass above all the no-no decals of what not to do. If someone in your party is experiencing a medical emergency during a shutdown, mention it so they prioritize the response. Each cabin is equipped with an emergency kit including water packets, note pad, light stick, cups and a barf bag. If nature called while you’re stuck, you could use the barf bag to answer it clumsily.
Best Disney Resort for Skyliner Use
Some of you may find yourself basing resort choices around the Skyliner. While resort choice is always subjective, here are my resort rankings in order. Keep in mind that the Skyliner’s operation is more weather dependent than other modes of Disney transportation. The Skyliner will close down during storms that involve lightening.
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort comes out as the clear winner here if you want to ride the Skyliner repeatedly during your Orlando vacation. Not only is that Skyliner station the hub, but the resort itself was just renovated. From Caribbean Beach, you’ll be able to hop a gondola to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios without having to change lines. You can still take the bus to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom.
Parents will like that fact that Caribbean Beach is a moderately priced resort. Rooms at Caribbean Beach also frequently pop up over on Priceline. Kids will love the pool with two water slides and the pirate shipwreck water play area for younger kids. There are also pirate-themed rooms available.
TravelingMom Tip: This resort is large and spread out. To top it off, the Skyliner station is near the Jamaica section of the resort and the bus stop is near the lobby. No matter which room you choose, you’ll do some walking to get to the Disney transportation.
TravelingMom Tip 2: In the morning folks line up waiting for the first Skyliner gondolas to launch. There’s a Joffrey’s coffee stand near the station so have one of the adults in your party do a java run while you wait!
Disney’s Pop Century and Art of Animation
Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Art of Animation are in my second place slot. The Skyliner adds a lot to these resorts and the view of the Disney Skyliner gondolas soaring over Hourglass Lake is beautiful. You can capture some stunning sunset images with the cute cable cars in the shot.
Pop Century is a value resort offering great prices for families and was recently renovated. These renovations offer a fold down Murphy bed in the room which I found comfortable on my last visit.
Art of Animation is considered a value resort as well. Personally, I like the theming at Art of Animation better and the larger suites there fit my family of 6. For both resorts, the bus transportation is near the lobby. On the other side of each resort is the Skyliner transportation, so some walking will be required here as well.
TravelingMom Tip: If you like to travel with Fido consider Art of Animation. It is one of four Disney resort hotels that allows dogs.
Getting There: What to Know About Rise of the Resistance and the Skyliner
When the Skyliner opened, Disney reduced bus service to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios from resorts with a Skyliner station. Buses now run only once an hour at Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach and the Riviera Resort. We didn’t find this to be a problem most of the time since the Skyliner was very efficient.
However, if you’re excited about getting onto Rise of the Resistance in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, you may be pushing your luck riding the Skyliner. A virtual queue system is used for Rise of the Resistance. Your MagicBand has to be scanned into Hollywood Studios before you can try to join a boarding group. Boarding groups open when the park opens and go quickly. The day we used the Skyliner we cut it really close getting into the park in time. If the lines had been longer to get in, we wouldn’t have gotten a boarding group. Consider a Minnie Van from Lyft if this attraction is important to you.
Disney’s Riviera Resort
Looking for a Deluxe resort? Disney’s Riviera Resort opened in December 2019. It’s not heavy on character-theming and feels more like a Mediterranean getaway. With rooms ranging from Tower Studios that sleep 2 to family villas that can accommodate up to 12, Riviera certainly has options. It is smaller than most Disney resorts meaning your walk to transportation, food, pools and more will be shorter.
Check out the murals when you are heading to the Riviera Resort station. Millions of mosaic tiles create these stunning pieces of art. They remind me of the murals you see when you walk through Cinderella’s castle.
Now I know this resort is in last place among the Skyliner resorts on my ranking. Again, personal preference. For me it just doesn’t have the most bang for your buck. However, it’s a Disney Vacation Club property. This means you might be able to snag a room for a fraction of the nightly sticker price by renting DVC points.