Psst! Avast there! It be too late to alter course, mateys—and there be plunderin’ pirates lurkin’ in every cove, waitin’ to board.
If you’re seeking adventure on the high seas, it doesn’t get much better than Pirates of the Caribbean — one of Disney’s most ICONIC rides!
But maybe it’s been a while since your last voyage, so here’s a refresher (as well as a little background info) on one of our absolute FAVORITE attractions at the Disney parks!
Type of Attraction
Pirates of the Caribbean is a slow, dark boat ride. It’s such a classic attraction, you’ll find a version of it at all the Disney theme parks except for Hong Kong Disneyland! We’re going to focus on the two versions of the attraction in the United States.
Pirates of the Caribbean originally opened at Disneyland on March 18, 1967 in New Orleans Square. Nearly double the length of Disney World’s attraction, Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean clocks in at 14-1/2 minutes long and has TWO drops instead of only one! These were built not as much for thrills as for necessity — the drops take guests under the Disneyland Railroad to the main show building beyond the train tracks.
Speaking of those drops, the waterfall you drop down is 52′ long, the first drop is only about 18 feet. The second drop is an even shorter 13-foot plunge!
The Disneyland version actually features a unique reverse waterfall at the end of the attraction as well. After all those drops, Imagineers needed a way to get guests back up above ground, so a slow-moving ramp hidden in rushing water was conceived to return guests to the loading area.
Another key difference is how Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean starts! Looking around, you’ll notice the setting looks more like a Louisiana swamp, complete with an antebellum mansion you float past, than the Caribbean Islands!
That’s because the theming of the Pirates attraction was based on real New Orleans pirates like Jean Lafitte, making the New Orleans Square setting appropriate. And that antebellum mansion? That’s because Blue Bayou Restaurant shares a building with the ride!
That means you can actually DINE INSIDE Disneyland’s version of the attraction! Once you disembark, you’ll exit next to Pieces of Eight — Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean-themed gift shop! There’s usually some cool Nightmare Before Christmas stuff inside too!
Walt Disney World
Pirates of the Caribbean is located in Adventureland’s Caribbean Plaza at Magic Kingdom, just past the Jungle Cruise. The ride opened at Disney World on December 15, 1973, and lasts 8-1/2 minutes.
Only one 14-foot drop takes place at the beginning of the ride, and although it has fewer scenes than Disneyland’s, you’ll still see 125 Audio-Animatronics figures, including 65 pirates and villagers and 60 animals and birds! The New Orleans storyline and a large portion of the pirates’ lair section of the ride were cut for Disney World’s version. After you ride, check out the Plaza del Sol Caribe Bazaar gift shop for some sweet pirate-themed merch!
Learn more about February’s Minnie Mouse: Main Attraction’s Pirates of the Caribbean-themed collection here!
Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland normally has an average 20-40 minute wait time while Disney World’s version typically has a 20-60 minute standby line. For the shortest wait, try riding Pirates of the Caribbean before noon or after 5 PM.
There is no age or height requirement to ride Pirates of the Caribbean at either Disney park.
Guests using an EVC or wheelchairs can ride Pirates of the Caribbean at both parks if they are able to transfer. Audio description and handheld captioning devices are also available for guests at Disney World and Disneyland.
While you can’t get a FASTPASS to ride Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney World’s version is FastPass+ eligible.
On both versions of the ride, you’ll explore a damp pirates’ cave and witness an enormous galleon ship exchanging cannonball blasts with a fortress! You’ll hear them whiz over your head and maybe even get splashed by a few as they land!
Once inside the village, you’ll encounter the marauding pirates and revel in their escapades, which includes a lot of RUM and SINGING!
Pirates of the Caribbean has undergone several modifications over the years. While both Disneyland and Disney World’s version of Pirates of the Caribbean existed long before the popular movie franchise that began in 2003, Captain Jack Sparrow and his rival Barbossa were added to both rides in 2006 following the success of the films.
The 2006 additions included a waterfall made of mist that guests floated through, featuring projections of some of the films’ villains. This effect was later removed in 2018 in both parks.
The 2006 addition in Disneyland also included a notable prop from the first Pirates film — the treasure chest of Cortés prop was placed in the pirates’ lair section of the ride atop a mountain of pirate loot.
Jack Sparrow was added in multiple locations throughout the village scene of the ride, including one of the ride’s more controversial moments — the barrel scene. Originally a smarmy pirate resting near a barrel gloated as he admired a woman’s undergarments he held, with the woman hiding in the barrel behind him popping up from time to time. Now, he holds a key and Jack Sparrow resides in the barrel!
Speaking of controversial — this ride has many scenes that have caused a ruckus over the years. Many guests also remember the original Pirates of the Caribbean’s “chase scene” know that it showed male pirates pursuing the village’s women. The scene was first altered to show the pirates chasing after the women in pursuit of items they were carrying, and not just the ladies themselves. The scene was later altered EVEN FURTHER to show the women angrily chasing the men with rolling pins and other objects in their hands!
Most recently, and perhaps most controversially, the “Take a Wench for a Bride” scene was altered at both Disneyland and Disney World. The famous Mercado scene used to display women being auctioned off to pirates along with the chant, “We wants the Redhead!”
The scene was swapped in 2018, and the “Redhead” is no longer a villager but now a plundering pirate named Redd! She’s no longer being auctioned off — but she’s helping to oversee the auction of the village’s goods to increase their rum supply instead!
A few smaller additions have been introduced over the years including the short-lived underwater mermaid effect in Walt Disney World’s version in 2012. This was tied into the release of Pirates of the Caribbean — On Stranger Tides, which featured siren-like mermaids. A tied-up mermaid skeleton was added to the beach scene nearby as well. The effect was difficult to maintain since it was completely below the water and it was rarely working, so it was ultimately removed in 2018 along with the mermaid skeleton.
Pirates of the Caribbean in Disney World receives a couple of overlays throughout the year for special events. We use the term overlay loosely here — it’s really just a few costumed real pirates in the queue and in scenes of the ride! This still makes the experience more engaging and keeps you on your toes looking for who’s actually REAL!
You’ll find this overlay as part of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Villains After Hours. The two events’ overlays are basically the same, but we did notice for the most recent Villains After Hours it felt like there were a few more pirates than we’d seen at the Halloween Parties.
Look for pirates hiding in the more open areas of the queue, as well in a couple spots on the ride. They can speak and interact with guests, so don’t be surprised to hear them try to talk you into helping them hunt for treasure!
Walt Disney originally designed the attraction in the 1950s, but back then he imagined it as a wax museum and a walk-through adventure! It was one of the last attractions with which Walt Disney was intimately involved. and originally Disney World was never going to have a Pirates of the Caribbean attraction!
Imagineers thought Florida was too close to the actual Caribbean Islands, and that people wouldn’t be interested in it. But when Disney World opened in 1971 WITHOUT the ride, guests were adamant about getting Pirates of the Caribbean! Guests consistently asked Cast Members where Disney World’s version of the ride was located only to be told there wasn’t one! Disney listened and put it in a few years later in 1973!
As you prepare to exit the grotto at Disney World (and encounter the drop) — there’s an on-ride camera that will snap your photo to your left! (Smile and say “CHEESE!” at the talking skull and crossbones.) View it later on the My Disney Experience app where you can download or purchase it!
There are also several hidden Mickeys in the treasure room where Jack Sparrow sits at the end! Look for them on four metal lamps –the lamps are located on each column and two more located on either side of the archway walls.
We hope you’ll get to ride Pirates of the Caribbean soon! Until then, how about joining us in a rousing chorus of “Yo Ho! Yo Ho! A Pirate’s Life for Me”? Any takers?
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Is Pirates of the Caribbean one of your favorite rides at the Disney parks? Let us know in the comments below!