Pirates of the Caribbean Back Row Roped Off – How Does That Affect Wait Times?

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Pirates of the Caribbean Closes Rear Row
Pirates of the Caribbean Closes Rear Row

Guy Selga, our trusty Disneyland in-park guru has confirmed that the queue leading guests to the back row of the Pirates of the Caribbean loading area is unavailable to guests. How does that affect the wait time?

Let’s say, on average, a Pirates of the Caribbean ride vehicle accommodates 20 guests including 2 adults in the back row. So, we can assume that on average, this new procedure means that Pirates will operate at 90% of its usual capacity (18 out of 20 = 90%). So what is the impact on the amount of time that guests will wait in line? Well, if you are like me you say that a 10% reduction in capacity should mean a 10% increase to the wait time. But that doesn’t work. Why not?

The capacity of an attraction and the amount of time you wait in line are inversely proportional. If capacity goes up, wait time goes down. If capacity goes down, wait time goes up. So, in our example, the Pirates ride vehicle went from holding 20 guests to 18 guests or 18/20ths (90%) of its usual capacity. The change in wait time is therefore 20/18ths of the normal wait time or 11% longer.

Hunh? a 10% reduction in capacity means an 11% increase in wait time?

When Capacity Changes, What Happens to Wait Time?
When Capacity Changes, What Happens to Wait Time?

Yes. Let’s look at a different example. Suppose the Magic Kingdom’s Dumbo: The Flying Elephant has a mechanical problem and only one of the Dumbos is working. That represents a 50% reduction in capacity. Makes sense. Would we expect to wait 50% longer in line because of the mechanical problem? No. We’d expect our wait to double, or be 100% longer than usual.

Same goes for an attraction like Tower of Terror. If one of the three elevator shafts becomes inoperational, that represents a change of two-thirds (2/3) the original capacity. To get the effect on wait time we flip it around and get three-halfs (3/2) the wait time or a 50% longer wait. If we are in line with an expected wait time of 60 minutes when one elevator shaft is shut down, our wait immediately jumps to 90 minutes.

In practice, the wait time at Pirates of the Caribbean may not change that much because the math comes with a lot of assumptions. Cast members may be able to make up the difference by seating guests more tightly in the other rows or by increasing efforts to match odd numbered groups together. Or perhaps that rear row isn’t used as often as we think and the impact will be negligible. No adjustments will be made to our estimates of wait time until we can observe the impact of the new procedure for a few days.

Fred Hazelton

Fred Hazelton maintains the crowd calendar, theme park wait time models and does hotel rate analysis for the Unofficial Guides. He's also done the models for the new mobile wait times product Lines. Fred Hazelton is a professional statistician living in Ontario, Canada. His email address is fred@touringplans.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @DisneyStatsWhiz.

18 thoughts on “Pirates of the Caribbean Back Row Roped Off – How Does That Affect Wait Times?

  • August 6, 2014 at 4:35 pm
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    But this really does beg the question: why would Disney deliberately decrease the capacity for one of its most famous attractions across the board. The only thing I can figure out is it has something to do with the guest who lost part of his fingers the other day at POTC but I thought that was at the Magic Kingdom, and don’t know where in the boat he was sitting. Curious.

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    • August 6, 2014 at 5:00 pm
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      We are just finishing a wdw vacation and I noticed that the back row is also roped off in Florida as well…

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  • August 6, 2014 at 5:05 pm
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    Yes, the decision has been made to do the same at Pirates attractions worldwide temporarily in response to the recent injury.

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  • August 6, 2014 at 5:33 pm
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    Wouldn’t queuing theory mean that in the early morning as the arrival rate is slow, the 10% decrease in capacity would mean slightly longer lines. But as the arrival rate picks up and the line builds, the 10% decrease in capacity would mean much longer lines- and those much longer lines would continue for longer as arrival rate slowed in the evening?

    So it’s not 11% increase in wait time at all times, it could be less or more depending on time of day.

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    • August 7, 2014 at 12:20 pm
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      Actually, the fact that we expressed the increase in wait time as a percentage covers us for the logic you are using Sarah. The wait time in the morning is lower and the wait time in the afternoon is higher. In practical terms, the 11% increase in the morning when the wait was 20 minutes means the new wait time is 22 minutes and in the afternoon when the wait was 60 minutes, the new wait time is 66 minutes. So the RATE is the same (11%) even though the number of minutes changes.

      Reply
  • August 6, 2014 at 6:03 pm
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    I bet it has to do with the idiot tourist who stuck his hand in the water while going down the waterfall at WDW and lost a fingertip. My guess is he sat in the back row.

    As always, it takes one idiot to ruin it for the rest of us.

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  • August 6, 2014 at 6:06 pm
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    They have been roping off the back seat to the POTC for quite some time now at Disneyland. Didn’t hear about the injury. We figured it was because the back seat was starting to retain water. For probably a little over a year now we noticed while sitting in the back seat water started filling up below our feet each time we rode. One boat we were in had to be pulled off because it was literally flooding. Tip: When both lanes are open go to the right lane, it is the path less traveled. 😉

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    • August 6, 2014 at 6:12 pm
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      Maybe it could be both? With water in the back seat and weight of people; that could change the dynamics of the vehicle and how it hits the bumpers. If it was just a matter of having a hand over the boat–they should be losing several fingers a day.

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    • August 7, 2014 at 12:54 am
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      We sat in the back seat in Disneyland at the end of June and it flooded, also.

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  • August 6, 2014 at 6:29 pm
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    1. I always trust Fred’s math.
    2. If Disney has pinpointed a “stupid guest trick” to the back row of the boat, kudos for their temporary response to having to protect certain guests from themselves. I trust they’ll come up with a “good show” solution soon enough.
    3. Everything does happen for a reason. And that reason is physics.

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    • August 6, 2014 at 10:25 pm
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      Well, physics and math. And I like math.

      Reply
  • August 7, 2014 at 3:22 am
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    Okay, I was wondering why that was happening today @ DLR; went about a week and a half ago and I didn’t remember that being the case. What I wonder is, what is it specifically about the sticking ones hands out of the back row (as opposed to any other rows) that is more dangerous? I’d have thought the potential for self-inflicted injury would be present in all of the rows, but I’m not familiar with the design of the ride vehicles. Well, it is Disney, so I’m sure they’re already working on a solution.

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  • August 7, 2014 at 12:08 pm
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    This post is confusing. The story is about the Disneyland version of the ride, but the graphic at the top is from the Magic Kingdom version of the ride, which has a completely different sign and entrance building. If you’re writing about DL, your graphics should be DL graphics, too.

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    • August 7, 2014 at 12:14 pm
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      Thanks Michael, it is true, the graphic is from the Magic Kingdom version but the post is really about how changes to capacity affect wait times. I found the math to be interesting so I wanted to share.

      Incidentally, the closure of the back row is a procedure that has been adopted by the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Magic Kingdom, Disneyland and Disneyland Paris so I felt the inclusion of the Magic Kingdom photo was appropriate.

      Reply
    • August 12, 2014 at 8:13 am
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      I urge you to see a proctologist about removing that stick, Mike.

      Reply
  • August 7, 2014 at 5:02 pm
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    Willy nilly decreases in capacity….

    But no corresponding decrease in admission prices!!

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    • August 8, 2014 at 2:12 pm
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      There will be an inversely proportional, corresponding 20/18ths change in admission prices coming soon.

      Reply

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