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Monday, June 8, 2020

Disney Experience Updated: Parks Reopening and What It Will Look Like

by Ray Keating
June 8, 2020

The process of a phased-in reopening of Walt Disney World is under way, and it promises to be a slow endeavor.

It began on May 20 with Disney Springs. Next week, on June 15, reopening will start at Disney Vacation Club properties in Vero Beach, Florida, and Hilton Head, South Carolina. A week later, Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground are scheduled to open for members and guests.

The Disney Deluxe Resorts reopening are:

• Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
• Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
• Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
• Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
• Disney’s Beach Club Villas
• Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
• Disney’s Old Key West Resort
• Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
• Disney’s Riviera Resort
• Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
• The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

Regarding hotel stays, among the points Disney spells out, here are a few worth highlighting:

• “Complimentary airport transportation via Disney’s Magical Express service will be available for Guests arriving and departing from Orlando International Airport.”

• Inside rooms there will be: individually wrapped glassware, double-cased pillows, and “additional items that have been cleaned and wrapped in single-use packaging.”

• And during stays, rooms “will receive a light cleaning service every other day,” including trash and used towel removal, replenishment of towels and other amenities, “wiping and cleaning of the vanity and counter surfaces,” and if needed, vacuuming. (Unless guests prefer not to have their room serviced as frequently, and they can then decline if they wish.)

• “Feature pools may operate with reduced hours; leisure pools will be open 24 hours a day.” (Except for Stormalong Bay at the Yacht Club, which will not be operational.)

This all points to reopenings starting at the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11, followed by EPCOT and Hollywood Studios on July 15.

We still have no word on when Disneyland in California, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, and Hong Kong Disneyland might be reopening. Shanghai Disneyland began reopening on May 11. 

Regarding Disneyland in California, under the state’s four-stage plan for reopening, Disneyland originally seemed to fall under Stage 4: “Gradually open larger gathering venues at a pace consistent with public health and safety, such as nightclubs, concert venues, and live audience sports.” However, at the end of last month, state officials said that theme parks would fall into Stage 3 as long as the rate of COVID-19 spreading and hospital rates remained steady. The state currently is in Stage 2, and Stage 3 is scheduled to begin on June 12.

Disneyland has pushed back reservation dates at its three hotels to afterJuly 15. Meanwhile, Legoland California and SeaWorld San Diego have targeted July 1 for reopening to start.

As for how things will be working at Walt Disney World, following are a few bits of information courtesy of here and elsewhere:

• “Initially, park attendance will be managed through a new park reservation system. To enter a park, both a park reservation and valid admission for the same park on the same date is required.”

• “At this time, new ticket sales are temporarily paused. Existing ticket holders and Annual Passholders will be able to make reservation requests in phases before new tickets are sold.”

• “At this time, new reservations at Disney Resort hotels are temporarily paused so we can focus on Guests with existing reservations (Disney Vacation Club Members can still make new reservations).”

• Disney is also beginning the process of contacting guests who have upcoming reservations between June 22 and July 4th with an “action required” email, asking them to indicate whether they would like to confirm, modify, or cancel an existing reservation.

• Disney has also updated the wording of the cancellation policy that was announced just a short time ago as well, and the new cancellation fee policy states that Disney is “waiving Disney-imposed change and cancellation fees up to the date of check-in for reservations with arrivals through October 3, 2020.”

• “Upon reopening, theme parks, Disney Resort hotels, restaurants, attractions, experiences and other offerings may be modified and will be limited in capacity and subject to limited availability or closure, based on direction from health experts and government officials to promote physical distancing. Additionally, attractions, experiences (such as shows, parades and fireworks), services and amenities may have limited availability or may remain closed.” Sadly, this also includes the Electrical Water Pageant.

• While Magical Express will be able to get you to and from the airport, Minnie Vans will not be available in the short term. Valet parking will only be available to guests with disabilities. Disney busses will run from your resort hotel to Disney Springs, and once they open, to the theme parks themselves, but be aware that social distancing and reduced capacity will be in place, so transportation may take a bit longer than usual. Pack your patience.

• “Face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) and Cast Members; temperature screenings are required in some location.”

• As DisneyBizJournal.com already reported, dining reservations; offerings and experience bookings such as behind-the-scenes tours; dining plans included in packages; and all FastPass+ selections have been cancelled.

• “We will also shift from a 180-day booking window to a 60-day booking window for dining and experience bookings going forward to allow Guests to make their plans closer to their visits.”

• “We will reopen dining and experience bookings with more limited numbers closer to when the parks reopen.”

• As for Annual Passholders who have paid in full, Annual Passes will be automatically extended for the number of days the parks are closed, or if seeking a partial refund, holders can contact Disney to do so (by contacting V.I.PASSHOLDER Support at (407) 939-7277). Monthly payments for Annual Passholders were automatically stopped and waived on April 5 due to park closures (and refunds made for March 14 through April 4), with payments resuming when the parks reopen.

• Locals in particular need to be aware that, when Disney first reopens, you will not be able to enter one of the resort hotels without either a room reservation or a dining reservation – no swing-bys to grab zebra domes or Dole Whips, at least in the beginning!

• Disney is encouraging the use of contactless/cashless forms of payment from guests, either with Magic Bands, credit cards, or prepaid Disney gift cards that can just be scanned to eliminate some of the points of contact.  Contactless menus have already begun at some Disney Springs restaurants, where guests can scan a QR code to call the menus up on their phones, or view menus on stationary signs at quick serve locations. Locations that previously had self-serve options, such as beverage fountains, will now be served by cast members. Guests are being encouraged to use mobile order as well to reduce time spent in lines.

• Sadly, character dining is on hiatus as well – except for a modified experience at Topolino’s Terrace at the Riviera Resort. Details are expected shortly as to what we can expect for the new arrangements. Dinner shows are not being offered at the moment, either, and private dining and in room delivery have been temporarily halted.

• Regarding merchandise shops, a favorite service of our family will be halted: “Package delivery to the front of our theme parks or to Disney Resort hotels will be suspended. However, shipping merchandise to Guests’ homes continues to be available.”

But in case you were unaware, you can still play golf at Walt Disney World on a regular schedule. Stay out of the Mickey Mouse bunker. However, hula lessons will be suspended. So, golf, yes; hula, no.

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Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution (now available at a deep discount) and the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.

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