Is Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean Ride Scary?

Pirates of the Caribbean” by HarshLight licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you’re heading to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, and you plan to ride the classic Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, then you may be wondering the following question: is Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride scary?  Well, as we examine this ride’s speed, theming, animatronic characters and drops, we’ll help you determine just how scary this ride really is.

How Scary Is Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean Ride?

Theming: Little ones might get nervous at seeing skeletons and lightning at the beginning of the ride. However, the theming throughout is light, fun, and engaging. Anyone should be able to enjoy this attraction.

  • Theming Scary Scale: 2/10

Story: You and your crew board a boat that takes you back to when pirates reigned across the Caribbean. Of course, Captain Jack Sparrow is there too. He’s searching for a great treasure hidden at the port. Overall, the story is pretty straightforward and does not feature any scares.

  • Story Scary Scale: 1/10

Ride Speed: You are on a leisurely boat ride, similar to It’s A Small World. The ride is approximately 9 minutes long, with a top speed of 3 miles per hour, and is manageable for everyone.

  • Ride Speed Scary Scale: 1/10

Ride Drops: There is one drop on this Disney World ride. The drop is in total darkness before plunging into the water below. There is often a scream or two of surprise on this part of the ride, but the drop is moderate compared to other attractions.

  • Ride Drops Scary Scale: 2/10

Best Ages For This Ride: Ahoy, mateys! Nearly any age will have a great experience on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

  • Overall Scary Scale: 1/10

Pirates of the Caribbean Ride Queue

pirates2” by Don Henry licensed under CC BY 2.0

Pirates of the Caribbean at Disney World is one of my go-to attractions. It’s a ride that puts a smile on your face, no matter how many times you jump on that boat. The excitement and anticipation always start as I turn into Adventureland at Magic Kingdom, just past the Jungle Cruise and into the queue.

The queue starts as you walk into a Spanish-style building named El Castillo del Morro. Passing through the switchbacks, you enter a large, antique door that takes you through the artillery building. You can see cannons, heavy metal chains, and rum barrels. You can also look down into the dungeon and see two skeletons playing chess (above), which is an apparent stalemate. This area isn’t necessarily scary, as Disney has tried to keep the aesthetic of dimly-lit hallways while still being walkable.

Pirates of the Caribbean Ride Boats

Once you reach the loading area, you enter the ride vehicle, which looks like a beaten-down vessel. You and some of the other guests board a boat, so you’re all on this journey together! There is strength in numbers, after all. Your vehicle is floating on water and may lean depending on how many people are on the boat. Sitting in the front will give you the best view and the most immersive experience.

Your ride starts by slowly winding through a cove, which looks like a skull depending on your view. The cave is dark, and you can hear eerie sounds and whistling winds. You see skeletons on your left, and in front of you is a skeleton dressed in rags, steering a shipwreck through a storm filled with lightning. Turning, you look to see a talking skeleton head warning you of your travels. He then flashes a bright light and laughs maniacally at you before you plummet down a waterfall.

This scene is probably the creepiest and scariest part of the ride, primarily because the theme gives an eerie, grim vibe due to the skeletons, weather, and drops. But, you still feel safe because there is a bit of distance between you and the scenery. The scenery and props are not interacting with you in any way, apart from the demonically-laughing skeleton head.

Pirates of the Caribbean Ride Experience

‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, Disney World” by Mrs. Gemstone licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

After plummeting down a pitch-black drop, you encounter a battle between Captain Barbosa aboard the Wicked Wench. He and his scurvy crew are attacking the nearby port, and cannon fire is everywhere. You’ll experience nearby water spray and plumes of water coming up next to the boats. This part of the ride is exciting and does not feel scary, except when you get (occasionally) wet from the splashing water.

Your boat floats past the chaos and into the town square, where sordid pirates are torturing the town mayor. The mayor’s wife tells her husband not to talk, and one of the pirates shoots at her, only causing the mayor to be sent down into the well for some persuasion. They’re looking for Jack Sparrow, who is hiding behind some barrels not too far away.

Turning slightly, you see an auction happening down the way. Some people are selling their goods, including chickens, portraits, and fine jewels. The pirates are heckling on the other side. Redd (another crewmate) shouts to the auctioneer that the pirates are there for the rum. A cheer roars among the crew, and you float into the next scene. The town square and auction scene are some of the most iconic in the ride, and they are not at all scary.

Moving on, you find your vessel in the residential part of the port, where pirates are trying to do what pirates do best – pillage. The only problem is that they aren’t doing a very good job. The women of the town have them running away. You spot a portly man with a key, mentioning to a nearby dog that he has the treasure map that Jack Sparrow seeks. Lo and behold, Jack is hiding behind him in a barrel listening to everything the man says. On your right, you’ll find a vanilla-scented man talking to a group of cats.

From there, it seems like things are moving in favor of the pirates. You encounter a city on fire! (Clearly, the pirates over here did something right compared to their counterparts.) You see a musical group singing the iconic theme shanty of the ride, “Yo Ho, A Pirates Life For Me.” Pirates are looting, rifling, and plundering all sorts of jewels and clothing. A duo of pirates sloppily sing along to the musical troupe, and a dog and a donkey are he-hawing and barking away. A man on your right is contentedly sleeping in a pile of pigs.

The last scene of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride takes you into a jail, where a group of unfortunate men tries to lure the cell keys away from a guard dog to no avail. On your way to the exit, you spot Captain Jack in the treasury reveling in his newly-found fortune alongside a characteristic parrot. You then ascend slightly up a hill before reaching the unloading area.

The three scenes described above should be seen more as amusing than frightening. They feel more fantastical than scary. Being in a ride boat somewhat creates a barrier between you and the action. Unlike some newer attractions, Pirates of the Caribbean makes you feel more like an observer instead of an integral part of the story. That story-telling aspect is characteristic of most classic Disney attractions.

Overall, is the theming at Pirates of the Caribbean scary? Honestly, I believe most guests can handle the ride’s theming. The attraction is not as loud as other rides, and you are on the side of the action rather than embedded directly in it. Yes, there are some loud and dark elements in the beginning with the skeletons and cannons. But, the overall theme is manageable for nearly everyone.

Pirates of the Caribbean Ride Speed

The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is very leisurely and the entire ride lasts about 9 minutes. I consider it to have a similar speed as “It’s A Small World.”  As for the ride speed, your boat glides along at a very slow and steady pace of 3 miles per hour.

To put it in perspective, a human likely walks faster than these ride boats float. I’m pretty sure even the PeopleMover at Disney World moves quicker than this ride! In addition, there are no swirls or quick turns like other Pirates of the Caribbean variations. This ride is in no way as bumpy or jerky as the Dinosaur ride, either. 

So, will the ride speed be a factor for scaredy-cats? It’s pretty doubtful.

Pirates of the Caribbean Ride Drops

There is one 14-foot drop on this attraction. Fourteen feet is certainly not as big as other attractions, like Splash Mountain. The drop is in the first quarter of the attraction, where you encounter the dreary, damp caves and skeletons.

The drop itself is a little disorienting. Before you descend, there is a talking skeleton head that flashes a bright light at you (which also happens to be your ride photo). Your eyes are trying to readjust, and you plummet into a waterfall in total darkness.

So, will some folks be scared of the drop at Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean? There is often a scream or two during the descent (I know I am one of them), but overall most will find it exciting rather than scary. You plunge into the pillaging scene, where Barbosa is commanding an attack on a port. The excitement and relief of coming into this scene make the drop manageable for everyone.


Is Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride scary? No, and it receives a definitive 1/10 on the Scary Scale. Pirates of the Caribbean is one of my favorite slow-moving rides at Disney World. It’s an overall light-hearted attraction that will inspire and wow guests more than frighten them, even with the laughing skeleton head and waterfall. Even if you only ride it once, it’s sure to be memorable and fun. If you can, I suggest adding this ride to your must-do list when you visit Walt Disney World.

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This article was written by Angela and edited by Michael.

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