Before we start on today's blog post, let it be known that I think Disney Genie and Genie + are terrible ideas but they're not all bad. Let's break down the good, bad, and ugly of it all.
What is It?
Disney Genie is a new app that compliments (err replaces?) the MyDisney Experience apps for Disneyland and Walt Disney World. A free version of the app allows guests to use basic features of the tool to plan their day with attractions, information, and dining options. The Disney Genie + version is a paid version that allows for the use of Lightning Lane (a partial FastPass replacement), digital downloads of PhotoPass and some additional selfie magic shot capabilities.
For the most popular attractions in each park, Lightning Lane bookings will likely NOT be included in the daily price of $20 per day at Disneyland and $15 per day at Walt Disney World (in US dollars). For those attractions, you will need to pay a separate fee to ride using Lightning Pass.
The best parts of the Disney Genie app are basically the features that allows guests to see what wait times are projected to be throughout the day (similar to Touring Plans) and to look at walk-up availability at popular dining locations. That's basically it for the good stuff.
The bad elements of the app are numerous.
At the top of the list is the fact it requires you to keep your phone on at all times (with Location Services on) using up data for it to work. For those international visitors, this isn't always realistic or desireable, especially with the known WiFi issues in the parks. For international visitors who don't have roaming plan, this could get extremely costly and for those not interested in Location Services being left on, it makes the app features virtually useless.
Next on the list is the premise of the app being clearly misrepresented. The app is pitched to guests as an improvement over the current system that requires you to plan in advance what FastPass and dining reservations you want and to get up early 30-60 days ahead of your vacation (depending on whether you stay on or off Disney property) to secure them, making your entire trip planned with military precision.
The fact is, there is an equal amount of planning that needs to go into your trip between the need to make theme park reservations to even get into the park you want well in advance and then having to plan out in advance how you are then going to get up early each day of your vacation so you hit a 7:00 window for Disney resort guests to purchase Lightning Lane reservations for the most popular attractions (which you're now scrambling to get a boarding group for, and if unsucessful at that, paying unknown amounts to secure a paid reservation). Guests will also essentially have to rope drop parks each day of their vacation in order to get their first Lightning Lane reservation under Disney Genie +, since your only allowed 1 at a time. This leaves guests doing more planning for their "spontaneous" day in the park, which simply won't work for late arrivals.
It's also worth noting that your "spontaneous" day now requires more planning between park reservations, then boarding group scrambles on a daily basis for rides, followed by a battle throughout the day for Lightning Lane reservations. I thought this was supposed to be easier?
Then the Ugly Rears it's Head
When we get to the ugly, it's super bad.
The costs associated with this new system and the constant sales pitch to buy more is what makes this downright awful.
If we take a family of four of 2 parents, 1 10-year old and 1 child (3 tickets + one free child) at a cost of $109 base ticket + park hopper ($174 USD) and the $15 Genie+ fee, we're at $189 USD before we purchase any Lightning Lane reservations for a ride. If we assume a conservative $10 USD for the Lightning Lane reservation for a single ride, we're at $199 USD.
That's per person! Our $109 USD ticket is not $199 with a Park Hopper and the FastPass option. Multiply that by 3 and you're at $597 for admission and FastPasses for a day at the park.
For most guests, it's going to be a multiple day vist and the price will drop per day. So, that same family with a 5 day option would work out as follows:
Base Ticket $440 ($88 per day)
Park Hopper Ticket $525 ($105 per day)
Genie + $75 (that's $600 per person)
1 Lightning Lane per day $50 (assume $10 per day)
That means a person will pay $650 for 5 days in the park, multiply by 3 is $1950 USD.
This doesn't include food or souvenirs. It doesn't include After Hours parties. That's just to get in.
And the app is going to try to constantly sell you more Lightning Lane reservations and direct you to eat and shop all day long!
The reviews that have come in are bad and they're not wrong. The down vote ratio on the Disney Parks YouTube channel is currently around 70%.
I'm hopeful this changes. Reaction to the $249 After Hours parties, Disneyland Paris Lightning Lane costs, and now this are hopefully a sign to the management at Disney that they've hit the limits of what guests are willing to pay. Only time will tell though.