After much debate yesterday it was agreed that we would make Disney Hollywood Studios the first park that we visited and so we set off at 08:15 this morning to get to the park before the crowds and the heat arrived.
In previous years we have learnt to use the Fastpass system to our advantage. This allowed you to skip the lines by effectively pre-booking your place for a particular hour time slot. You couldn’t get another Fastpass until the start time of your first Fastpass had gone meaning that in theory you could hold two at anyone time. We used the Fastpass system to neatly glide past the lines and always wondered why so many others spent hours stood in the sun.
Now we find that the Fastpass system has gone, replaced by Fastpass+. Presumably Disney intended the “+” to imply better but I am not sure that I would agree. The way that the system now works is that you choose three things that you want to book Fastpasses for and the system allocates you times – it gives you four options to choose from.
On the plus side you can now do this in advance using Disney’s mobile app so you can book a number of days before if you wish. The downside is that you now have a lack of control over what and when the Fastpasses are for and how many you can have.
This leads to compromises that I don’t want to have to make on holiday. For example, the best time to go on the safari ride in Animal Kingdom is first thing in the day when the animals are more likely to be out and about. When trying to book for tomorrow the only time the app would allocate was over lunch. Similarly at EPCOT two of our favourite rides were in the same group and so couldn’t be picked together so you couldn’t hold a Fastpass for both.
All this feels like a step back to me but I am sure Disney has a good reason for it, one of which looks like the move away from paper to chipped entry cards or wristbands for those staying on site (or willing to pay $13 per person for a band).
All that said the park was reasonably quiet and so we were able to get onto the Star Tours ride straight away and without a Fastpass. This is a family favourite ride and there was much disappointment when it was closed the last time we came in 2011. Now it has been updated and there are a number of scenes that are randomly chosen meaning it is different every time you ride. Essentially it is a big simulator holding about 30 people and now it is in 3D too. One neat thing is that part of the story line is that the ship is carrying someone vital to the rebel alliance and a picture of someone from the audience is shown – in this case me, it made my holiday!
A meal out at the Cracker Barrel really highlights the cultural differences between the UK and the US. It’s a place that we have been to before and is a bit different in that it offers home-style cooking, is alcohol free and cheap, a meal for the four of us came to only $50. But it is a whole other world. You are, for example, offered “biscuits or corn bread” to accompany your meal. Now, I like a digestive but having one with my roast beef wouldn’t be my first choice. Turns out a biscuit is more like a scone here and the corn bread is like, um, well a bit like a savoury cupcake (without the icing).
Other surprises were the dumplings. We spent several minutes explaining to Mat about the delights of suet dumplings that accompany stews in the UK only for him to receive some white rectangular things! And gravy is white and definitely not from the house of Bisto. Made for an exciting evening out.