Last week Disney announced that they will not be bringing back the FastPass, FastPass+, or MaxPass systems, and will replace them with the brand new Disney Genie systems.
Disney’s FastPass and its iterations have been around for decades now, and Disney Parks announced last week that it will not be coming back. This is actually not a surprise, as Disneyland Paris announced a pay-per ride policy a few weeks ago (we even did a podcast episode on that topic at that time). The Disney Genie service is also not a surprise, as Disney announced it would be coming to the parks back at the 2019 D23 Expo.
Let’s get something clear- Disney is NOT charging for FastPass! This is a completely new system. While it might be semantics, it’s important to note that this will not be the same as FastPass so you should not expect it to work in the same way! And while I love the idea of shorter wait times, I have been a proponent that Disney Parks needs to update their FastPass system for quite a while now.
That being said, the new Disney Genie is a little confusing at first glance. One of the best ways to learn about the Disney Genie system is to watch the official Disney video on it, you can do so here. In this blog I will overview the Genie system and give my take on how it will work and what I think. When the Genie system is launched (sometime in the fall of 2021) I will try it out and give an update.
Disney Genie – What is It?
The Disney Genie is a no-cost planning service, providing personalized itineraries based on what you select. It’s based on your individual preferences, and will help guide you through the theme parks in a way that makes sense so you don’t miss your favorite attractions and/or shows. It’s also designed to maximize your time and give you a personalized touring plan so you can minimize wait times.
It will also be on-the-fly, sending you real time updates and tips, and can help steer you away from a parade or toward a particular restaurant or less crowded area. It will also send you forecasted wait times so you will know if you want to ride a particular attraction now or later. When using this app, you’ll definitely want an extra battery pack charger until we know how much it will drain your battery!
The Disney Genie+ is the extra service, more akin to the former Disneyland MaxPass.
From the official Disney announcement: “For the price of $15 per ticket per day at Walt Disney World Resort and $20 per ticket per day at Disneyland Resort, Guests can choose the next available time to arrive at a variety of attractions and experiences using the Lightning Lane entrance. Guests can make one selection at a time, throughout the day – from classics like Haunted Mansion to thrill rides like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and newer favorites like Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (attractions subject to limited availability). This convenient option is the next evolution of the fan-favorite Disney MaxPass service from Disneyland Resort. Disney Genie+ will also include Disney parks-themed audio experiences and photo features to capture your memories – augmented reality lenses for those visiting Walt Disney World Resort and unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads from your day if you are visiting Disneyland Resort.” (from Disney Destinations)
Lightning Lane is the new name for the FastPass entrance! Select attractions are included in Genie+ – but not all of them! Certain popular attractions will have a separate, as-yet-unnamed, a la carte option for access to Lightning Lane. (See below.) Rides that use virtual queues such as Rise of the Resistance at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and Web Slingers in Disneyland will continue to use the Virtual Queue system AND will be part of the a la carte paid option.
Did you catch the part about photos? “augmented reality lenses for those visiting Walt Disney World Resort and unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads from your day if you are visiting Disneyland Resort.” PhotoPass photos are ONLY included at Disneyland! At Walt Disney World, it is just the augmented reality lenses. What does this mean for Memory Maker? We don’t know yet!
A few more things to highlight! Unlike FastPass+ when guests could book up to three FastPass+ reservations in advance, Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations can only be made one at a time, on the day of your visit. Staying on-site? You can make your first Disney Genie+ reservation at 7:00 am. (Hope you didn’t want to sleep in on your vacation!) Staying off-site? You must wait until official park opening time AND you are in the park to make your Disney Genie+ reservation. No more having to decide what attractions you want to experience months in advance! This will hopefully allow for more spontaneity in your day.
Disney Genie+ will work with the Park Hopper option.
À La Carte Attractions
Certain attractions will be able to be purchased a la carte to get you access to Lightning Lane. These are different from those in the Disney Genie+ service. You can purchase up to 2 per day, per guest. Prices will be different based on theme park, attraction and seasonality. You can purchase individual attractions even if you don’t do the Genie+ service, so that might be a more favorable option if you can’t afford or don’t want to use the Genie+ service for everyone.
Which attractions? We don’t know yet! Disney has been stingy with the details on this option.
This is the service that I’m least excited about, because I feel like all attractions that have Genie+ should have the front-of-line access. And because we don’t know the cost yet it makes it a harder pill to swallow. Maybe once we know the price and which attractions are included I might change my mind, but for now I think I’ll stick with the Genie+.
Comparison with Universal Express Pass
Universal Orlando and Universal Hollywood have always charged for their front-of-the-line passes. And, it works much better than the FastPass systems did! However, one interesting thing is that Universal includes Unlimited Express Pass in the cost of their Deluxe Resorts, and Disney has not announced any plans to include the Genie+ attractions in their Deluxe Resorts at this time. That’s a mistake in my opinion, as the perks of staying on-site are dwindling.
Here’s where a little bit of math comes in. For a family of three vs. a family of four, five, or six, there will be a difference. For my family of three on a 4-day Disney trip, we’ll have to pay $180 extra for the Genie+ service. This does not include the a la carte rides, but let’s just say that will be an additional $100 to make it easy. That’s $280 total for Genie+ and Lightning and a 4-day trip.
The price of Universal’s Express Pass varies seasonally, but the cost is between $110 and $230 PER PERSON for two parks, PER DAY! That is for staying off-site or in one of Universal’s non-Deluxe hotels where it’s included. That is a huge amount of money for the Unlimited Express Pass, and would cost my family almost $700 per day.
With that math in mind, Disney Genie+ is a no-brainer! But, Universal’s Express Pass is included at three of their hotels, and at this time we don’t think Disney will include the Genie+ in their Deluxe hotels.
I’m honestly excited about the Genie and the Genie+ services. I am ok with paying more for the Genie+ and I really think it will work out much better than FastPass or FastPass+ did. I’m on the fence about the pay-per-ride a la carte option, and how this will all work with Disney’s technology systems. But I’m excited to see what happens, and for the most part, I think this is a great change to the theme parks!
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