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Transportation at Walt Disney World (Part 2): The Underappreciated Ride

Walt Disney World photo
by Justine Fellows, PassPorter Guest Contributor and Author of PassPorter's Speed Planner
Last modified 10-28-2010

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Filed in Articles > Walt Disney World > Touring  

The transportation game rarely brings us to the ferry boats, but they are handy if you need to travel between the Magic Kingdom and the Ticket and Transportation Center. The ferry boats are not often used by those staying onsite, but if you have ever driven your car to the Magic Kingdom you are most likely have taken a trip on one (or opted for the monorail). There are three boats named the Admiral Joe Fowler, the Richard F. Irvine, and the General Joe Potter. Each name of course is significant to Disney. U.S. Navy Admiral Joe Fowler, an inducted Disney Legend, was a retired ship builder who Walt Disney recruited to lead the construction of Disneyland. Richard Irvine also worked on the construction of Disneyland, and headed the design of many Disneyland attractions. Without Joe Potter, most will say that there would have not been a Disney World. General Potter was responsible for transforming 300 acres of unruly Florida land into the Magic Kingdom. He was inducted into Disney Legends in 1996. So as you board these legendary ferry boats, head upstairs to enjoy the view and the nostalgia that their names inspire.

You would think that I might end my transportation tale right here, however, I would never finish this tour without mentioning my beloved Disney World buses, a staple in the transportation game. For most of us the daily convenience of boats and monorails is beyond our means (as they serve Deluxe resorts), but the Disney buses are our loyal friends. Almost every 20 minutes, (check your watch, it often feels longer when you are anxious), one arrives like clockwork to whisk us away to our favorite places. Over 1,000 cast members drive buses at the Walt Disney World Resort. The convenient bus stops and intimate interiors of the buses are perfect for meeting fellow vacationers and striking up conversation. Of course, as you may have guessed, I'm not shy. I have had wonderful experiences on the buses including great chats and memorable moments. With over 300 miles of paved roads and 40 square miles of territory at Walt Disney World, you can expect to spend a lot of time on buses.

My family has learned to make the best of it and to take the predictable wait, the crowds after the fireworks, and an occasional delay in stride. We're happy not to have to find our car and argue over driving directions. Our family's other claim to fame is creating laughable bus moments. The first was on a stay at Caribbean Beach Resort. Anyone who has visited this resort knows of the many stops that encircle the hotel. On a late night at the parks, with two sleeping children on my lap and a husband who ended up on the other side of the bus, I missed our stop. My husband was a bit panicked when he got off the bus and realized he was missing a wife, two kids, and a stroller. I think I must have been asleep as well, but awoke to the loudspeaker on the bus announcing, "Would the women with two sleeping kids please get off the bus, you missed your stop." My fellow passengers couldn't help but crack a smile and a few laughs with that one. Only at Disney would my husband be able to catch the next bus and have them call ahead. I thought it was hysterical and enjoyed a pleasant stroll back to the correct stop, sleeping babe in the stroller, and one on my back.

And to top that one, and to really make you think that I am inept, my latest bus story involves my poor husband in an ECV following knee surgery. For some insane reason I decided to remove his key from the ECV on a very crowded bus, thinking it would be unsafe to leave it in the ignition. Of course, the key went into my pocket and right out of my thoughts. The kids were tired and knowing that my husband would take some time to exit, I boogied ahead to get them into bed. Now picture this; a crowded bus with two more stops packed with tired passengers, my husband with a 350 pound ECV, and no key. Doh! Determination surely shows itself when one wants to be in bed. Three brave men stood up and dumped that sucker, and my husband, onto the pavement. Their backs are probably still paying for it. Only at Disney! One phone call later and I was sprinting back with the key! I am obviously not a night person. Moral of the story, bus mishaps make for great stories, and trust me, if you ride with the Fellows Family, you are apt to have a lot of good ones.

All Star Sports - Resort Buses photo
All Star Sports - Resort Buses

Buses waiting at All Star Sports. - photo by MissAndrea

So my guess is a bus ride may not seem like the adventure you were planning at Disney, but with the right attitude, some hidden secrets and an adventuresome spirit, Disney transportation can offer up some of the best memories!

Some Disney Transportation facts:

• There are 18 Walt Disney World Transportation cards that can be collected.
• Since 1971, the total miles logged by Walt Disney World monorail trains would be equal to more than 30 round trips to the moon.
• Walt Disney World buses travel more than 12 million miles a year.

Tip: Great Games
While waiting for buses from the resort to the park or waiting in lines at the park, we passed the time by playing what we called the alphabet game. Pick a category and everyone takes turns coming up with something that fits begins with a letter of the alphabet starting with A and working towards Z. The categories can be fun (Disney movie characters) or educational (international cities). Sometimes other people waiting joined to play. - tip contributed by Kathleen

Save This Tip

• If you are lucky, you can become a First Mate of a watercraft or a Co-Pilot of a Monorail - ask the driver!
• Walt Disney World buses drive enough miles to circle the earth at the equator more than eleven times each week!
• There are three ferryboats and each has two 85-pound Danforth anchors, one at each end. 

Magic Kingdom - Ferry Boat photo
Magic Kingdom - Ferry Boat

Picture of a Magic Kingdom Ferry Boat. - photo by home4us123

About the Author:
Justine, the author of PassPorter's Disney Speed Planner: The Easy Ten-Step Program, works in education in Connecticut. She is also the host of Travel Girl's(TM) Tips for Disney World podcasts.

Related Links:
Enjoying the Japan Pavilion at Epcot - A World Showcase Favorite last updated 2/24/2011
The Parades of the Magic Kingdom - A Plethora of Processions last updated 01/22/2009
Epcot's World Showcase - Pavilions vs. The "Real" World last updated 01/29/2009
Recent Changes to Disneyland - Part 1 last updated 02/12/2009
The Seas With Nemo And Friends - In Love With The Living Seas last updated 4/23/2009

Reader Comments:

I was told by more than one bus driver to take your key out of the EVC while riding on the bus. They have had kids take the key out and then you have no key and you are responsible for it. Plus you can't run it.
So I always take the key.

     OneLittleSpark on October 28, 2010 @ 8:07 pm
I always use an ECV when visiting WDW and want to share a very special bus ride my DH and I had one night. At the end of our day at AK we used the bus to go to dinner at Boma. After a wonderful meal we went out to wait for the bus knowing that to get back to the Pop Century at that time of the evening we would have to go to the Shopping Village and then wait for a bus back to the Pop Century. We were the only people to get on the bus so the driver called the dispatcher and got permission to take us directly to the Pop Century. Now that is real service.

Another time there were several people on the bus wearing their birthday buttons (including my DH and myself - we share the same birthday) and the bus driver had everyone sing happy birthday to us all.

Yes, I agree some of the "hidden" fun can be found on the various means of transportation at WDW. We have met some very interesting people and even when tired find that most people are polite and helpful to others.

     Wintersong on October 29, 2010 @ 12:32 am
We were told by a monorail cast member that since the accident when the cast member was killed they no longer allow guests to ride with the pilot.

     disneyjunkee on October 29, 2010 @ 10:39 am
as of now, you can no longer copilot at the front of the monorail, due to new safety concerns as a result of last year fatality of a cast member when two monorails collided...we were just there and asked.

     damtrek on October 30, 2010 @ 1:00 am
disneyjunkee;3474890 >We were told by a monorail cast member that since the accident when the cast member was killed they no longer allow guests to ride with the pilot.
This is true. smiley for :yes: The WDW Monorail is currently not allowing guests to "co-pilot".

You can still do it at Disneyland though! smiley for :)

     DopeyGirl on October 30, 2010 @ 1:18 am
The ferry boats are definitely underappreciated, especially during busy times. During slower times of the day, there might be only one or perhaps two ferry boats in operation. People who complain about how the ferries are much slower than the monorails would be correct at those times. In the morning and at closing time however, all three boats are in service and the ferries are WAY faster than taking the monorail. Even if there are large lines at both places, the ferry boats carry 600 passengers while each monorail carries just over 200 passengers. So while the monorails come a tad more frequently than the ferries, the ferries are carrying THREE TIMES the number of visitors per trip! You will get to the Ticket and Transportation Center MUCH quicker by taking the ferry.

One caveat: if you are arriving at the TTC PRIOR to opening and want to get to the Magic Kingdom, the monorails start earlier than the ferries.

     Watercraft CM on April 7, 2011 @ 10:06 am
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Updated 10-28-2010 - Article #535 

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