Disney fans all over the world are talking about the new digital service “Disney Genie” that launched at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, USA in October. This new service updates the former apps and tools that guests used to use. It will allow park visitors to book time slots for popular attractions, plan itineraries, etc.
Read all about this new app, what it means for the park, a bit of drama, as well as how to acquire the ESTA needed for travel to the USA.
Long Lines at America’s most popular Theme Park
Walt Disney World Resort is one of the most iconic and popular tourist attractions in the USA, and long lines have always been the biggest complaint among guests. The park was and continues to be very, very popular, and it was considered an unavoidable problem. All this changed in 1999, with the introduction of the Fast Pass, and was basically the method of minimising your wait time at busy attractions for a majority of the last 20 years.
The Fast Pass allowed customers to manually make a reservation at a specific attraction and come back later. This system eventually became the standard which most other theme parks would follow, with a few changes here and there. Originally a paper ticket, the Fast Pass eventually became digital.
However, there has always been a limited number of these Fast Passes that could be obtained. It was usually acquired on a first-come, first-served basis. As the popularity of the parks have continued to grow, the issue of long lines has become more and more of an issue.
The New System
Although the system had been modernised, the Fast Pass was the standard until last year, when Walt Disney World shut down because of the Covid-19 global pandemic. The park reopened this year in July, and announced that the Fast Pass was going to be suspended and that guests had to simply wait in the standby lines. After this suspension, Disney announced the introduction of the Disney Genie and Genie+.
There are two versions of this mobile phone feature. The free tool is available to everyone and helps with planning your day at the park. Some features include recommendations for the specific day you are visiting, as well as park opening hours, and a forecasting tool for when the best time to visit certain attractions is. It also provides information on current wait times. The app also helps in making dining reservations, and suggests restaurants near you based on preferences you can fill in. The app will give you new recommendations throughout the day based on your activities and interests to make the most of your experience.
The paid portion of this app is called Genie+ and is a bit more controversial. Genie+ costs 15 USD per ticket, per day. This price will give you faster access to 40 different attractions throughout the resort, such as the Haunted Mansion and the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. However, this portion of the paid app excludes the current most popular rides, such as the much hyped Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. For these rides, you must pay à la carte.
Yes. You read that right. On top of the 15 USD cost of the app for each person per day, certain coveted attractions will require an additional payment that will vary by date, attraction and which theme park. These prices will vary, but roughly seem to be between 7 USD and 15 USD so far per ride.
Controversy and minor backlash
This decision to charge both a daily fee and an à la carte service has certainly made many dedicated fans upset. Many people feel that they already pay enough for the ticket entrance, food and travel, and they do not want to add more charges. Famously, the YouTube video announcing this service has a very disparaging ratio of 13,000 dislikes to only 948 likes.
While some fans feel that this is an unfair and far too expensive method, it is worth noting that this is a common staple at many of Disney’s theme park competitors throughout the USA. Some fans also are just happy to be able to fit more activities into their tighter schedules to get the most out of their holiday at the parks.
ESTA application for the USA
Orlando, Florida is one of the most common travel destinations in the USA. There are tons of theme parks, roadside attractions, museums, nature parks, and sunshine to make for a memorable holiday. Travellers from the UK or EU must apply for an ESTA in order to visit Orlando. Most tourists meet the requirements of the ESTA, which is a much simpler and cheaper option to a visa, since there is no need to make an appointment at the US Embassy.
Babies and children also need to have their own ESTA as well as their own valid passport. The ESTA is easy to apply for online and while the application can be done per person, you can also make a group application for up to 10 people. This makes the application process for a family easier, because you only have to fill in the contact and travel information once.