It’s almost that time of year again! Walt Disney World will once again be closing the Skyliner gondola system for maintenance in early 2024. This post covers refurbishment dates and details, plus why we wouldn’t book an impacted hotel during that timeframe and recommended resort alternatives.
This routine downtime of the “Most Magical Flight on Earth” affects all of the Skyliner routes and resorts. These gondolas service two Walt Disney World theme parks (Hollywood Studios and Epcot) plus four resorts (Art of Animation & Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, plus Riviera Resort & Caribbean Beach again) via 5 stations.
The Skyliner gets annual preventative maintenance at about the same time this year, the duration of which and approach (all lines at once or in phases) has varied from year to year. The 2024 closure is the longest downtime that Disney and Doppelmayr have done since the Skyliner gondolas opened.
During the Skyliner refurbishment, Walt Disney World will offer bus service between the impacted hotels and the parks. Hopefully, this means increased frequency, as our past experience using and testing bus routes between the Skyliner resorts and parks left a lot to be desired.
Before we get to the recommended resort alternatives and other commentary, let’s start with the details of the Skyliner refurbishment, per the correspondence sent out by Walt Disney World…
In order to maintain the highest quality standards, Walt Disney World must conduct refurbishments from time to time. To help guests plan for vacations early next year, Disney is sharing that Disney Skyliner will be closed for routine maintenance in January 2024 for the below date ranges:
January 16-21, 2024
- The Skyliner gondolas line between Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation, and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort will be closed.
- The Skyliner gondolas line between Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be closed.
January 16-27, 2024
- The Skyliner gondolas line between Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Riviera Resort, and the International Gateway at EPCOT will be closed.
If it helps to visualize, here’s how those stations look on a map:
There’s only one line to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT, so park access is unavailable via Skyliner when those lines are down for maintenance. Bus transportation will be available at all Disney Skyliner Resorts throughout the planned closure so guests can reach their desired destinations across Walt Disney World.
Despite Walt Disney World indicated that this is to help guests plan in advance, these dates are actually being released over two months later than last year. I’m guessing that many/most guests traveling to Walt Disney World in late January 2024 already booked trips given that special offers started coming out over a month ago. Kinda disappointing that Disney waited so long to release these dates, especially given that they’re relatively consistent from year to year.
Looking forward to early 2025, we’d expect a similar Skyliner closure during roughly the same date range.
This year, the Skyliner was closed for routine maintenance from January 22 until January 29. Last year, the closure was January 23-28. In 2021, there were a series of single-day downtime for individual routes between January 24 and 28. There was no closure in 2020 (well, unless you count the multi-month one when all of Walt Disney World was ‘temporarily unavailable’), but the Skyliner was also brand new, then.
Suffice to say, it seems safe to assume history will repeat itself and this will be an annual thing for some or all routes during the last full week of January 2025, 2026, etc. That week tends to be a slow time at Walt Disney World, so plan accordingly.
To each their own, but our recommendation would be to not stay in a Skyliner resort during the refurbishment. The reason for this is quite simple: all of the Skyliner resorts have a significant pricing premium due to the gondola service.
While you might think it’s impossible to quantify what each amenity actually contributes to the rack rates at each resort, this is not simply conjecture on our part. With the exception of Riviera, all of the other hotels pre-date the Skyliner, so it’s entirely possible to track their pricing both before and after the Skyliner.
Every single hotel has gone up in price since 2019. This is true both in terms of rack rates and when it comes to effective pricing after discounts. However, not all resorts have gone up by equal increments.
Two of the biggest ‘offenders’ in all of Walt Disney World in terms of percentage cost increases are Pop Century and Caribbean Beach. This is particularly pronounced at Caribbean Beach, which went from being one of Walt Disney World’s more aggressively discounted resorts to one that is frequently excluded from special offers or in one of the lower-tiers of savings.
It’s possible that this is not entirely attributable to the Skyliner. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort also had a massive reimagining prior to the Skyliner’s debut, which likely was not fully reflected in its pricing by late 2019. Maybe the low menu prices for that glorious family-style feast at Sebastian’s Bistro are subsidized by higher room rates!
Moreover, the addition of Disney’s Riviera Resort–while arguably adding visual blight and reducing the seclusion and ambiance at Caribbean Beach–expanded the slate of Barefoot Bay amenities and added both Signature and character dining within walking distance.
Suffice to say, if you’re visiting Walt Disney World during the Skyliner closure, we recommend staying elsewhere. The obvious alternative is Coronado Springs, which itself saw a similar reimagining and expansion a few years ago. That Moderate Resort added the Deluxe-caliber Gran Destino Tower to its grounds, bringing many of the same improved amenities that Caribbean Beach saw added with Riviera Resort.
The biggest downside of Coronado Springs is the all-bus transportation, and one of the few reasons we hesitate to recommend that Moderate Resort to those reliant upon Disney to get around. (Those with their own vehicle, rental cars, or who will use Uber or Lyft should strongly consider it.) That disadvantage obviously still exists, but during that timeframe it’ll exist at Caribbean Beach, too.
In most other regards, Coronado Springs surpasses Caribbean Beach at this point. Where it really matters for most guests looking at the Moderate Resort tier–pricing–Coronado usually wins handily thanks to better discount availability. Not only that, but one of our biggest complaints about Coronado Springs normally is that its buses and pool are overcrowded–two things that are unlikely to be true during the last week of January when occupancy tends to be low, and temperatures too!
When it comes to other Value Resorts, the obvious alternatives are the All Stars. Music would probably be our go-to no matter what you’re considering at Pop Century or Art of Animation, as it’s the most recently updated and has family suites. Again, this is all bus transportation, but that’ll be the case with Pop and AoA that week, too.
The other reason we’re picking All Star Music is because late January might have some group bookings for ESPN Wide World of Sports youth events. Currently, the 2024 Sand Dollar Invitational, Youth Flag Football Championships, and 2024 USA Field Hockey Sunshine Showcase are on the calendar. I have no clue how large any of those events are, but they’re almost certainly not as big/bad as all the cheer and dance summits that normally occur in the first few months of the year.
But that’s not the point. The point is that All Star Music is less likely to host those groups than All Star Sports, so staying at Music is a good hedge against youth events. Another option is upgrading to one of the Moderate Resorts. Discounted rates at one of the Port Orleans Resorts or Coronado Springs often aren’t much more expensive than the Little Mermaid rooms or Pop Century.
Ultimately, we still absolutely love the gondolas and would choose one of the Skyliner resorts over their counterparts just about any time of year…except when it’s down for refurbishment or more likely to be impacted by storm season. Even the latter doesn’t make it a non-starter (the monorail also isn’t 100% reliable!), it just makes awareness of the weather more important.
For those who visit Walt Disney World regularly throughout or during different months of the year, our ideal times to stay at Skyliner resorts are November through May. Obviously, minus that 1-2 week stretch in January. As a matter of personal preference, we’d probably also remove the holiday season. Not because there’s any issue with the Skyliner then–to the contrary, that crisp breeze feels even nicer–but because none of the Skyliner resorts get decked out for Christmas all that impressively.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Would you pay premium pricing to stay at Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, Art of Animation, or Riviera Resort while the Skyline is closed for refurbishment? Are you a fan of the gondolas, or do you prefer a different ‘type’ of resort? Have you used the Skyliners at Walt Disney World recently? What has been the good, bad, or ugly for you? Any issues with Skyliner downtime during storm season? What about buses as alternatives from those resorts? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!