Walt Disney World's Pirates of the Caribbean ride to close May 11 through Sept. 25, 2015

click to enlarge The Pirates of the Caribbean ride at the Magic Kingdom - wikipedia
The Pirates of the Caribbean ride at the Magic Kingdom

You might recall last year that a tourist decided to not listen to the rules at Walt Disney World and got their fingers chopped off while on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at the Magic Kingdom. It now looks like Disney is making sure that doesn’t happen ever again: The iconic boat ride will close in a few months for upgrades, and it won’t reopen until well after the summer rush.

The problems seem to have started a few years ago, when the older boats began bottoming out in certain parts of the ride due to the increase in the number of, um, shall we say more “plump” tourists than visited the park when the ride first opened decades ago. New, lighter boats were added to resolve the problem, but their smaller design caused them to take on water. On top of that, the drop that used to provide a brief bit of excitement on an otherwise slow-moving ride was now soaking tourists when the boats splashed down.

Complaints about the boats were already mounting last year when two separate incidents made the news. One involved a 12-year old boy who had four of his fingers lacerated after dangling them off the edge of the boat. Then, a British guest in his mid-40s got two fingers completely cut off by doing the same thing. At that time Disney closed the ride for inspections but reopened it a mere five hours later with a new rule, which is still in effect now, barring anyone from riding in the last row.

Pirates went down for a short two-day closure two weeks ago, likely for ride for a checkup to make sure everything is ready for the update happening this summer. The coming rehab will last from May 11 through Sept. 25.

It’s believed that the rehab will fix these nightmare boats and return the ride to its former, safer self. The question is whether it will be the boats or the track that Disney upgrades. The rehab will also likely mean improvements to the special effects that have been installed over the past decade or so – mermaid effects in one scene, Jack Sparrow audio-animatronics and a fog screen are just a few of the additions made to the ride in recent years. Many of the effects are breaking down on a regular basis, so hopefully they’ll all get a good checkup.

The surprising thing here isn’t really the closure itself, but the timing  of it. To have one of the most famous rides in the park closed during one of the busiest times of the year isn’t typical. The fifth movie in the Johnny Depp-anchored franchise is open ing in theaters on July 7, 2017. It’s fair to say that Disney would want the ride in full working order by that time.


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