Significant Walt Disney World Changes for 2019
Walt Disney World experiences so many exciting improvements each year that it’s sometimes hard to keep up with everything. With 2019 almost halfway over, this seems like a good time to take a look at what’s different. Here are the most significant Walt Disney World changes of 2019 to date.
Guest Experience Teams in the Parks
Since the introduction of My Disney Experience, Disney theme park visits have become much easier. Guests can do almost everything through their smart tablets. Not everyone is great at using smart devices, though. Disney’s learned this the hard way.
When Magic Bands became integral to Disney parks, the lines at Guest Services would stretch out the door on busy days. While My Disney Experience reduced the level of customer stress, technology still scares some folks.
In 2019, cast members started appearing in new roles. They were members of the Guest Experience Team. This group had a single person: eliminating all aggravation that can happen at a theme park. At Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’ll see these Disney employees. They’re your new best friends!
Whenever you need some help, ask a Guest Experience Team member. They can help you book a FastPass, book an Advanced Dining reservation, assist you with Mobile Ordering, or tell you ride wait-times. These cast members know everything! Find them and let them help you.
Magic Band Plussing
Historically, one of the most exciting parts of booking a trip to Walt Disney World is ordering Magic Bands. Nothing reminds you that your trip is approaching as much as that glorious day when your Magic Band box arrives. As great as it is, everyone knows it could be better.
When you’re at Walt Disney World, you have your choice of dozens of potential Magic Band designs. At the My Disney Experience website, however, you may only pick the color. The limited options were depressing for so long that guests would get excited about the special ones…like purple. I’m not joking.
Recently, Disney enabled the selection of specialty Magic Bands on the website. For a fee of $14.99 per Magic Band, guests can select one of more than 20 different options. These stylized Magic Bands are like the ones that you’d find at stores at Walt Disney World. And most of them cost $20 or more. Ordering them as upgrades is actually a better deal!
Mobile Ordering Expands to More Resorts
Last year, for the first time, Disney added Mobile Ordering at one of its official resorts. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort has had the service available for a while now, and it’s run smoothly.
Encouraged by their success, Disney has expanded Mobile Ordering to three more resorts. Guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and Disney’s Pop Century Resort can use the service at three popular restaurants.
The Mara, the Contempo Café, and Everything POP Shopping and Dining are the latest Mobile Ordering options. Through your smart device, you can order an entire meal. Then, when you’re near the restaurant, you’ll receive a message asking whether you’re ready to eat. When you say yes, cast members prepare the meal and leave it at a special pick-up spot.
Mobile Ordering is one of the best time-savers at Walt Disney World. Whenever you stay at one of these hotels or visit these restaurants, you should take advantage of it.
Three of the changes on this list are extremely controversial. It’s not up to me to say which one proved the most divisive. Many Disney fans have strong opinions about all of these topics, though.
The first of the argumentative changes involves PhotoPass. These pictures are the highlight of any Disney trip. You’ll remember them for the rest of your life since digital photography is eternal. You don’t have to worry about film degrading like in the olden days.
The thing about technology is that it cuts both ways. Sometimes, change is inevitable, whether people want it to be or not. In the modern world, photographers aren’t necessary for certain environments. Businesses can simply install automated systems that record pictures and video instead.
At nine different character greeting locations, Disney’s done just that. They’ve removed cast members from their previous jobs as photographers. In their place, camera kiosks record literally hundreds of images during character encounters. Then, the system selects the best ones as your PhotoPass options.
The reality of this move is that the new system is better for customers. Computers can do more with photography than humans ever could. They can take dozens of images for every set that a photographer could manage. Still, some park guests prefer the human element. For them, Disney has plenty of remaining photo ops where cast members take the pictures.
Resort Delivery Fees
When hotel guests at Disney resorts discovered delivery services, problems arose. Hotel management had to expend resources delivering these goods to hotel rooms. They had to pay staff to do these jobs, and they had to hire more employees to perform the duties that the delivery team was too busy to do.
We all knew that this setup was too good to be true. Sure enough, Disney has added hotel room delivery fees this year. When you want a package from Amazon or Garden Grocer or wherever, you’ll pay $6 to have it brought to your room.
The good news is that you can avoid this fee. Your packages get delivered to the hotel lobby. Then, a delivery person brings them to your room. When you agree to pick up the items at the lobby, Disney won’t charge you the $6. So, you keep your money in exchange for a bit less convenience. It’s entirely up to you whether you pay the fee or lug your package across the hotel grounds.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory albeit controversial. In recent years, park officials have reduced the number of designated smoking areas on the Disney campus. They’ve done this for health reasons, sure, but they have ulterior motives as well.
When you look at park maps, you’ll see that smoking sections take up a large footprint that Disney would prefer to use for other forms of entertainment or commerce. By banning smoking, they reclaim that space for better usage.
Once Disney executives decided to ban smoking, they fully committed to the idea. They eliminated smoking at all North American theme parks and water parks. It’s banned at the entertainment complexes like Downtown Disney, too. Even the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex no longer allows smoking.
Also, Disney banned all forms of smoking. So, vaping, e-cigarettes, and 4/20 stuff are obviously not allowed, either. They even put the kibosh on dry ice, which tends to smoke. Then again, they banned loose ice as well, so the two bans aren’t really related.
Stroller Sizes Enforced, Oversized Strollers Banned
The third and final controversial Disney change in 2019 involves strollers. As a family-friendly business, theme park entertainment is big business for stroller manufacturers. In recent years, some strollers have become the equivalent of SUVs if not vans. They’re ridiculously large.
The idea of the oversized stroller is simple. Manufacturers build these things as command centers for parents. They can store a large stash of supplies for their kids and sometimes even themselves. At parks, the wide loads cause problems, though. Guests without strollers sometimes get bullied out of the way.
If this were the only issue, Disney might look the other way. Unfortunately, some folks have ruined it for everyone else. Cinderella carriages and the like have become the go-to stroller for some parents. They rent these oversized monstrosities and shove them into the middle of walking lanes, causing logistics issues for park officials.
Disney had no choice but to create new stroller size rules. According to the official site, here are the updated stroller laws at Disney:
- “Strollers must be 31” (79cm) wide and 52” (132cm) long or smaller.
- As a reminder, wagons are not permitted in our parks. Stroller wagons will also no longer be permitted.”
While some parents lamented the changes, the honest evaluation is that they’re fair to everyone. Nobody will get knocked over by a double-wide stroller from now on.
As you can see, these Walt Disney World changes hint at a better tomorrow for all park guests. Disney’s always thinking about its customers and the best ways to improve the overall park experience.