How Disney Can Make Us Feel Safer at the Parks
Okay, now that a Disney theme park has returned, we’re all almost ready to go back.
Disney must do a few things to make us feel more secure about a park visit, though. Here are a few things that we need from Disney to make us feel safer.
Clean Hotel Rooms and Grounds
Let’s start with an honest evaluation. Most of us, including me, are willing to risk a lot to get back to the parks.
I’m not saying this opinion is right or wrong, merely the truth about our love for Disney theme parks.
Even so, we’re not stupid. We know that an airborne virus presents a persistent threat right now.
Disney needs to provide us with enough safeguards that we can relax and enjoy our time in the parks.
For starters, we must believe in the Disney Bubble again. It’s that intoxicating immersion we feel when we reach our hotel and realize we’re at Disney.
To maintain this illusion during a pandemic, Disney must sanitize its hotel rooms and campuses to an unprecedented degree.
Hotel leaders must emphasize the parts of the campus that remind people of beloved Disney characters and movies.
Right now, we need escapism like never before. A hotel that looks clean but still delivers delightful theming will immediately remind guests of the greatness of a Disney vacation.
Reliable Transportation to/around the Parks
Orlando International Airport is where most guests will arrive at the start of their Disney vacation. Disney cannot control anything that happens at the airport…with one exception.
Starting with Magical Express, guests must believe that Disney is protecting them as much as possible. This part won’t be easy, as Mears Transportation operates Magical Express.
Still, cast members are the first people guests will see when they wait in line for Magical Express. So, they can set the tone for the trip.
Afterward, Disney must persuade guests that buses, boats, monorails, and the Disney Skyliner are all safe from infection.
I previously speculated on how Coronavirus concerns will impact each form of transportation. I’ve also noticed that park officials are tight-lipped on the subject thus far.
Still, I have complete confidence in Disney on this topic.
Their top officials can discuss ideas with all the top transportation officials in the world. They’ll come up with something trustworthy.
Safe Admission Practices
The first step each day occurs on Disney transportation. But the most critical step occurs at the park.
Guests need to present their valid park admissions and pass through a security check.
Also, Disney will require people to finish a temperature check. It’s a multi-step process that Disney can’t do entirely without contact…yet.
So, park officials must streamline the current entry system.
Thankfully, cast members can meet these needs with only a few modest changes.
Gloved security members can escort guests through metal detectors without making any direct contact.
Then, other gloved security officers can check your bags, thereby protecting all potential guests.
One of the most challenging parts of Disney’s opening is remembering that you’re only a single guest out of thousands.
Your safety matters most to you, but it’s only a single piece of a giant puzzle to park officials. So, their task requires them to make everyone feel safe.
The security gate is where much of this will happen. Afterward, guests will advance to the lines where they show park admission.
I’ve stressed that Disney’s fingerprint verification system is particularly problematic right now. Park officials haven’t acknowledged any changes yet, but I suspect they’re coming.
So, safety practices need to limit all physical contact while maintaining reliable security practices. And Disney needs some sort of park admission verification that doesn’t require touch.
These are achievable goals. Still, I think/worry that fingerprint authorization will remain in place when Walt Disney World reopens.
A Viable Park Experience
Here’s the primary worry for park guests. Will a Disney trip feel the same during the pandemic?
Everyone has a strong opinion on this topic, and they’ll happily express it to anyone who will listen.
From Disney’s perspective, the solution exists on two levels. The parks must protect guests from a secondary Coronavirus outbreak.
If Disney fails in that regard, the company’s brand reputation will take a permanent hit. Since all eyes are watching, park officials cannot mess up here.
Even so, a former Imagineer recently stated on CNBC that an equally important matter is the “perception of cleanliness.” It’s an extreme example of perception becoming a reality.
This person’s argument is that Disney must do more than create a hygienic campus for guests.
Disney’s staff also must draw attention to that fact so that people don’t arbitrarily dismiss the thought of a Disney vacation.
Yes, this perspective is cynical, and I don’t like to think in those terms.
As a Disney fan who plans to visit this year, possibly more than once, all that matters to me is that I have fun in a reasonably safe environment.
Can Disney deliver that experience? After watching Shanghai Disneyland’s opening day, I feel much more comfortable that the company can.
Guests who visited the Shanghai park bore witness to a structured environment wherein many safety precautions were hidden in plain sight.
Even better, these early birds definitely got the worm. The most popular rides at the park came with wait-times of 15 minutes or less throughout the day.
That’s what matters most to me. I want an authentic Disney experience during my visit, and that means lots of rides.
Disney can apparently meet this goal while still maintaining…
Tolerable Social Distancing Practices
Yes, social distancing is a term that gets thrown around so much that we’re all sick of hearing it. Unfortunately, it’s part of our lives during the pandemic, though.
During a park visit, guests must believe that they’re not getting mobbed. Personal space is more critical than ever right now.
Thankfully, the measures that Disney has displayed in Shanghai meet this goal.
Disney has drawn symbols on the ground to show guests where to/not to stand. And yellow markers work similarly in line queues and restaurants.
As functional adults, none of us loves the idea of a “stand right here” sign. However, we’ll accept the idea if it keeps us safe.
I’m quite impressed by the social distancing practices in place at Shanghai Disneyland. Presuming that those carry over to America, I feel quite confident about a park visit.
Protection from Misbehaving Guests
You know how warning labels say crazy things like “don’t pour this bottle of acid in your ear”? Those labels are there because some moron did that very thing.
Stupid and reckless people ruin good things for everyone else.
At a Disney theme park, the worry is that some folks will blow off the social distancing signs. These people will crowd others and increase the risk of infection.
Generally, cast members look the other way as much as possible with poor guest behavior. Still, Disney jail is a thing.
Misbehaving guests do get called to the principal’s office, so to speak. There, park officials inform them of the penalties for misconduct, some of which involve criminal charges.
I say this to remind you that Disney already quietly takes care of misbehaving guests. I have no reason to believe that they’ll fall down on the job during a pandemic.
Instead, I fully expect cast members to chastise any guests who forget about social distancing.
In the likely event that the offender is an innocent child, employees will ask the parents to fix the problem.
I look at the situation as reasonably achievable overall.
Yes, some people will gleefully act like jerks. However, cast members will act more aggressively than usual in enforcing social distancing.
We might even catch a break and get some idiots permanently banned from the parks, a net positive if ever there were one.
Safe Restaurant Experiences
Have you eaten in a restaurant since the pandemic began? Statistics suggest that you haven’t.
During a Disney visit, you must change that behavior unless you’re willing to order room service for each meal.
To persuade you to embrace restaurant dining again, the staff must create a clean environment. All food delivery processes must seem safe and sanitary.
At many eateries, no change is necessary. At the ones where questions have arisen, Disney will introduce new policies to solve the issue.
For example, park officials have confirmed that buffet service will change for now. It’s a necessary step, as a salad bar sneeze guard won’t reassure anyone.
Also, the strangest issue that Disney must address involves masks. The parks will require guests to wear them all the time…except during meals.
How many people will eat comfortably in that environment? And what percentage of guests will forget to replace their masks when they exit the dining room?
Out of everything here, I have the most questions about restaurant safety.
So, these are the things that concern me as someone who currently has three Disney reservations remaining this year.
Which ones, if any, worry you? Is there anything Disney can/cannot do to entice you to visit?