Genie + vs Universal Express: what theme park supplement is worth the price to spice up your trip?

If we had told you two years ago that FastPass would be a thing of the past, you probably wouldn’t have believed us. But here we are on the precipice of the Year of the Genie. Disney’s new paid priority boarding system is being talked about, both for how it serves as a throwback to the tried and true rules of the past, and for how it requires a doctoral thesis to figure out. Now is probably a good time to take a look at how Disney’s line break system works. today… and compare it to its nearest neighbor, Universal’s Express Pass.

Today we dive in deep to dissect both Genie + and Universal Express to see how these two systems approach priority boarding in very, very different ways. We’re going to dig into the pros and cons of each, take a look at how each works, and ask your opinion – do you prefer Genie + ‘s low cost system driven by rules, reservations, technology and microtransactions, or Universal’ s high – cost all – in – one VIP solution for customers willing to spend big to get things done. things ?

Disney Genie + and Lightning Lane

Image: Disney

How it started

Disney Genie + is the once-in-a-blue moon product of a planetary alignment between free Disney Genie travel planning software pre-pandemic announcement, Bob Chapek, COVID-19, FastPass +, and age per capita – as-key-performance-indicator.

While the Disney PR team would prefer it not to be called a “paid FastPass,” there’s no doubt that the Disney Genie + story begins with our in-depth review of Disney’s FastPass service – a “service” free ”(meaning, included in the cost of admission) which allowed guests to join virtual queues at certain attractions and be given a one-hour window to return to the ride and join a queue. ‘Priority boarding’ waiting.

From its humble beginnings in 1999, FastPass has grown into a system monster, made worse by the FastPass + of 2013, which digitized the system, massively expanded its footprint, and led customers to reserve hour-long return windows. months before their trip, leaving offsite guests the equivalent of the leftover ride reservation.

Image: Disney

FastPass + certainly made savvy customers feel like they were getting away with a murder, skipping expectations at at least three high-demand attractions each day … but of course, outside of their three pre-booked FastPass slots, each other the wait was relegated to a slow, swampy “Standby” queue, each created as a toxic byproduct of FastPass.

COVID-19 gave Disney a rare chance to suspend FastPass entirely, while ensuring that if the system returned it would be very different. After just over a year of having good old-fashioned “lines”, shareholders came calling, officially killing another Disney guest benefit and replacing it with a new supplement. In October 2021, Walt Disney World launched Disney Genie + – essentially, a service that restores virtual queues to daily bookings like paper tickets of old, but works entirely through the My Disney Experience app. Which brings us to …

How it works

Image: Disney

Anyone who remembers the paper legacy FastPass will adapt to Genie + fairly quickly, as the new system is dictated by the same general rules: one-day, one-at-a-time, one-hour, distributed return windows. as the day goes by. In fact, Genie + is almost identical to the MaxPass based on a paid app that Disneyland tested from 2017 to 2020 (with the added complication of two high demand rides per park being excluded system and purchased à la carte, like the Disneyland Paris Premier Access system).

The day begins at 7:00 a.m., when anyone who has subscribed to the Disney Genie + service (regardless of whether they are staying on site or away) can book their first return window via the new Genie Tip Board in the My Disney app. Experience. Much like the days when guests were running around theme parks and running to a FastPass kiosk to get a time back for later in the day, the 7:00 am digital rush sees some high-demand attractions ‘selling’ slots. Lightning Lane ” right now – hours before the park even opens.

Image: Disney

Like in the days of FastPass, that high pressure first booking is just the start of a day that takes planning and work to get “right.” You probably shouldn’t have read our Genie + 101 Guides for Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom to get the most out of your money, but knowing the ‘right’ trips to choose in the ‘right’ order and knowing the ‘rules’ of Genie + can make or break a day and your wallet.

During a call to investors in November 2021, CEO Bob Chapek reported that about a third of Disney World guests chose to upgrade their tickets to include Genie + in the first month of service. If that’s true, it surely suggests that Disney visitors either didn’t care about the extra or – perhaps more accurately – reluctantly accepted the inevitability of change and found the cost of entry relatively low. that was worth it. Trust us: Disney agrees with one or the other.

What it costs

Image: Disney

Access to the Disney Genie + service costs $ 15 per person per day at Walt Disney World. Genie + can be preloaded for the length of a ticket like Park Hopper (for example, a five-day ticket can be upgraded to include Genie + for a $ 75 package), or Genie + can be purchased one day at a time, on day of its intended use. (For example, you can wake up at 6:55 a.m. on January 24, buy Genie + for that day for $ 15, complete the transaction in the My Disney Experience app, and then book your first Lightning Lane at 7:00 a.m.)

As everyone will tell you, even $ 15 per person per day is not enough recreate the FastPass experience of yesteryear. Remember that in each park two of the most requested rides are excluded of Genius +. Their Lightning Lanes can only be accessed with (funny name) “Individual Lightning Lane “, which range from $ 7 to $ 14 per person, per trip. (Note that Individual Lightning Lane access goes on sale for on-site customers at 7:00 a.m., but off-site customers must wait until the park opens, by which time Lightning Lane access to both premium rides may be exhausted, which requires standby waits.)

Image: Disney

In other words, if you go once a decade to Disney World and only spend a day at Hollywood Studios, it’s not outrageous to suggest that you could buy into Genie + ($ 15 per person) for make reservations for most Lightning Lanes, also opt for enhanced access to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ($ 14 per person) and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway ($ 10 per person). This grand total – $ 39 per person, or $ 156 for a family of 4 – will more or less restore the (free!) FastPass experience you may remember from 2010. Repeat that across Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Animal Kingdom and … yeah …

There’s no denying that the direct cost of Genie + – even including the individual Lightning Lane add-ons – is relatively low per day. But the real question is …

Is it worth it?

Image: Disney

If you asked 100 Disney park enthusiasts if Disney Genie + “is worth it”, you would get 100 different answers. After all, given that the overcharge service peaks roughly equivalent to the old “free” FastPass, of course, it doesn’t seem Well Where worthy of interest Where fair pay for something that was standard. For some, the argument stops there.

To further complicate the discussion of “value”, the second, third and fourth theme parks at Walt Disney World have surprisingly few rides to start with, so shoot two (and intentionally, the two most popular) of the programming of each park because the “Individual Lightning Lane” rides A) are of poor quality and B) considerably reduce the “value” of the system. At Animal Kingdom, for example, Genie + alone gives you access to four Lightning Lanes rides: Na’vi River Journey, Dinosaur, Kali River Rapids and Kilimanjaro Safaris – and that’s up to you to know what priorities, in what order to reserve them, and how to secure them.

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That said, without Genie +, you’re going to spend a very, very boring hour in line for Na’vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safaris, or both. Aside from an early morning wake-up call and a lucky drop position, Genie + is really your only chance to avoid this … and while you can absolutely complete all the rides in Disney’s Animal Kingdom in one day using Standby alone. , most people I probably feel like $ 15 per person isn’t such a bad deal if it can skip even some of the most painful sleep waits … The assurance that Genie + you gives means you can spend a low-key morning enjoying the Everest and Dinosaur walks, having coffee, or, you know, seeing animals. It’s pretty cool. So I guess in this regard, Genie + is “worth it.”

To be clear, Genie + is not a panacea. As its relatively low price should tell you, this is not an unlimited, VIP, “front line”, “jail free without jail”, “perfect Disney-day” system. Like the FastPass of yore, the “in the know” are much more likely to use the system to its full potential, and even this requires advance planning, education, technical skills, alarm setting and vigilance throughout. of the day, his nose buried In the phone. It’s a definite boost, but cynics might remind us that the main purpose of Genie + is to allow guests to escape the slow lines that Genie + ‘s existence creates …

Image: Disney

Ultimately, Disney knows that we the fans are going to whine, whine, whine, and whine, but most of us will go for the $ 15 a day. at least. Some would say this echoes the short-term gains of the late ’90s when executives cut costs and services, inflated prices, and then congratulated themselves on rising incomes … only to see it all crumble when decades of goodwill have collapsed. Will fans stop buying Genie +? Will customers come home with poor word of mouth about rising prices and having to pay for what was previously free? Or will the added “microtransactions” of Genie + and Individual Lightning Lanes be written off by tourists as an unavoidable cost of the visit?

In any case, Genie + is not the only “priority boarding” system in Orlando … Head for I-4 to Universal Orlando to dissect a completely different line skipping system …

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