Disney announced their opening plans last week, and pending government approval will reopen with restrictions staring June 15th at their off-site resorts. Disney Vacation Club Resorts and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will open June 22nd, and the parks will start a phased reopen on July 11th.
Disney has released some information to the public and more detailed information directly to Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club Members, and those with current reservations. Based on this information, I thought we’d take a look at what we might be able to expect on our next Disney World Vacation. Some of it is speculation based on what Disney has released in their public plans and personalized e-mails, and some if it is confirmed. This is just a scenario, but it’s largely based on best guesses
While all of these measures are meant to mitigate the risk inherent in visiting crowded, public spaces, Disney cautions guests that there is no 100% guarantee of safety, which is true at this time and anytime. In an interview on Good Morning America on May 28th, CEO Bob Chapek said, “When we do open up, we will do it conservatively and responsibly” and said that the company will live up to the “inherent trust” that guests place in Disney World. However, Disney is confident that reducing their capacity to less than half will help reduce the risk as much as possible.
Let’s take a look at what it might be like in Disney World post-pandemic.
Speculation: If you drive to Disney World, the first thing you might notice is that Disney might not offer Valet Parking, which would put Cast Members inside guests’ cars and potentially directly exposed these Cast Members to germs. Instead, Disney Resort Hotels might opt for all self-parking.
Confirmed: Disney has already said that all guests are encouraged to use their online check-in feature on the MyDisneyExperience App. If you’ve used this before, you’re probably familiar with and might even appreciate the fact that you can skip the line at the front desk and go straight to your room. While this has been an option for quite some time, Disney hopes it will be used more frequently now thus limiting interaction with Cast Members at the front desk.
Speculation: It’s also possible that Disney might require you to carry your own luggage. They will still provide luggage carts, but they will be cleaned and sanitized between uses. However, when Valets touch your luggage, they are potentially exposing themselves to any germs on the luggage. What’s more, it’s unlikely that Cast Members will pick up luggage in your room; they might still pick it up at the door though while wearing gloves.
Confirmed: Disney Vacation Club Members were notified via e-mail that Mousekeeping will provide “enhanced cleaning of all rooms prior to arrival, including additional measures for dishware and appliances for Disney Vacation Club Units, along with the standard Disney Vacation Club housekeeping services during your stay”, which means the current housekeeping schedule will not change.
Confirmed: Disney has said that Guests staying outside of the DVC hotels (the only of which will be open right away is Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground) will have standard housekeeping. It’s unclear whether you will still be allowed to opt-out of daily housekeeping in return for a gift card, but you can be sure that they will provide the enhanced cleaning discussed above prior to the turnover of the room.
Speculation: Citing the law of supply and demand, some in-the-know people wonder whether the decreased capacity and increased demand will result in an increase in the per night rack rate. While this is certainly possible, it is yet to be seen.
Confirmed: When you head outside of your room, Disney says you will be required to wear a face covering. Not only are they just encouraging social distancing, they have even brought in a cheery but firm “social distancing squad” to enforce the rules. Cast Members can call Disney security if guests refuse to wear masks.
Speculation: Another way that social distancing might be encouraged is by reducing the amount of public seating available around the resort and specifically at the pools. Disney might also keep their gyms, spas, and fitness centers closed.
Confirmed: When you venture out of your room and to the parks, you will notice increase security screening to include temperature checks.
Confirmed: All guests two years of age and older will be required to wear a face-covering to enter and in all public areas of the parks. You can bring your own. Plus, all Cast Members will also be wearing face coverings, and some may wear gloves.
Confirmed: Disney will require guests to have reservations in order to enter the park for the day. It’s unclear how these reservations will be made or if additional guests will be allowed in if reservations don’t reach capacity. What’s more, the ticket booths will probably be closed because Disney has announced that they will not accept any new resort reservations and will halt ticket sales for the time being in favor of guests staying on property and Annual Passholders.
Speculation: Even still, it might be difficult to get a reservation with such a drastic decrease in capacity. However, in an interview on Good Morning America, CEO Bob Chapek said that he expects “shorter wait times”. Disney will encourage distancing between guests waiting in lines and will wipe down ride vehicles regularly especially high-touch areas.
Speculation: One major point of contact prior to the closure was the fingerprint scanners. While these scanners have been useful in linking a single person to their ticket, guests could opt out if they wanted to. Now, they could remove them (or more likely cover them) completely and not allow any guests to use them.
Confirmed: Disney hasn’t specifically said that there will be additional hand-washing and sanitizing stations available throughout the parks, but these started popping up before the closure was announced, so I’m going to count it as confirmed info. While you could and should absolutely use the wash areas in the restrooms, you will also have the opportunity to wash your hands or at least sanitize without going into the restrooms and before and after attractions, rides, and restaurants.
Confirmed: While you will need a reservation to get into the parks, you will not be using FastPass+ Reservations. FastPass+ has been suspended.
Speculation: In order to reduce the number of people waiting together in queue lines, Disney may use only standby queues and even then limit crowds by offering virtual queueing. What’s nice about virtual queueing is that you can enjoy other things while you “wait” in line.
Speculation: Once you do get on a ride, you might notice fewer fellow park-goers joining you. In fact, you might find yourself riding alone or with people only in your party or at least putting a row or two between you and other guests. Some people wonder whether this will increase wait times, but Chapek seems confident that wait times will in fact be shorter.
Confirmed: Another experience that has already been chopped, at least temporarily, is character interactions. There will not be any character meet and greets, mask characters or face characters, until further notice. However, Disney promises to find ways to entertain you with characters while limiting contact… they just haven’t told us how yet!
Speculation: It may be that Disney World will make characters available by using the same technique as Shanghai Disneyland – characters visible, but far away from guests, such as on second-floor balconies.
Confirmed: Disney has canceled all Extra Magic Hours for the foreseeable future and will hold only regular park hours, but since they will limit capacity and admittance to those who currently hold tickets, those with on-site reservations, and even then still require reservations to even enter the parks, Extra Magic Hours won’t be needed to avoid crowds.
Dining remains one of the most questionable areas especially since that industry has taken such a huge hit since the beginning of the pandemic closures.
Speculation: I recently reported on the future of buffets in Disney World. Disney hasn’t said what will happen with these table-service buffets yet, but there’s a good chance that buffets will be served family-style at the table instead of buffet style.
Speculation: Regarding counter-service dining, Disney will likely expand mobile ordering even more and request that diners order their meals on MyDisneyExperience. If you haven’t used this system, you should know that it works very well and not only increases your time waiting for your food, but now it limits your interaction with Cast Members, limits the touching of menus, and limits the number of people gathering at ordering stations.
Speculation: Will Disney also encourage outdoor dining? Many of the restaurants already offer outdoor tables, but they may be used even more now.
Confirmed: Employees and guests must wear face coverings. Employees will wear them at all times, and guests are required to wear them at all times except when actually eating.
Confirmed: When Disney announced plans to reopen Raglan Road, part of that announcement included the fact that plates will be covered while being transported from the kitchen to your table. This hasn’t been confirmed yet at other restaurants, but it will likely be rolled out to all dining locations as they begin to reopen.
Confirmed: Disney has also canceled all Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs), and new dining reservations will now be made 60 days in advance instead of 180 days in advance. It’s not clear whether this is a temporary change or whether it will be permanent.
Speculation: While some restaurants will be open with decreased capacity, you can use in-room dining, but Disney will probably adopt a similar delivery system as other food-delivery services including DoorDash and leave your food outside your door so as to limit the interaction between Cast Members and guests. The days of room service being delivered to your room and presented to you are probably, at least temporarily, suspended.
Confirmed: Disney has confirmed that they have are suspending Character Dining.
One thing that we’ve seen close completely are live shows and theaters because of the number of people gathering, mostly indoors, in these locations. It’s unclear whether live shows and theaters will reopen when Disney welcomes guests back, but there are some potential precautions that Disney could take if they do decide to reopen the shows. All of which, at this point, is speculation.
Speculation: Guests might be asked to skip every other row and leave space between parties. You won’t hear “please move down to fill all available space”! Cast Members might even seat guests.
Speculation: Disney could alter some of its shows to remove the 3D effects eliminating the need for 3D glasses, but personally, I think this is unlikely. I’ve seen the warehouse where they sanitize glasses after every single use, so the risk here is pretty low. However, they might alter the way that these glasses are passed out to guests so as to avoid multiple people touching the glasses that will end up on your face.
Confirmed: Disney has canceled all parades, fireworks, and character meet and greets for the foreseeable future.
Souvenirs are big business for Disney! How will shopping change? Well, we got a preview of this with the opening of Disney Springs.
Confirmed: Disney has installed plexiglass dividers at all point of sales in stores at Disney Springs, and it’s all but guaranteed that this will also happen in the parks and resorts.
Confirmed: Disney has requested that guests limit their use of cash. Instead, you can use contactless pay options including credit or debit cards or ApplePay. However, the easiest thing to do is to link a credit card to your MagicBand and use it to pay.
Speculation: Disney also could offer mobile purchasing of your souvenirs and sundries. While this is total speculation, it would be pretty easy for Disney to modify the MyDisneyExperience app to provide online shopping and room or home delivery of items.
Confirmed: In the early days and maybe even weeks of the phased reopening, only Deluxe Disney Vacation Club Resorts and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground will be open. Because many of these resorts have an alternative to bus transportation, bus transportation will probably be limited potentially in frequency and definitely in capacity. Guests will have access to monorail and ferryboat travel at these resorts. Information regarding the Skyliner hasn’t been readily available.
You may have heard by now that Disney is in talks with the NBA to host the remainder of the season at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Nothing has been confirmed on this yet, but Chapek said in his interview on GMA that he would be thrilled to see the NBA finish the season at Disney World and “certainly would like it to happen”.
How do you think a post-pandemic Disney World vacation will be different?