Just the Facts about Walt Disney World’s Reopening
Theme park history will remember May 27th as one of the most significant dates ever. On this date, Walt Disney World officials announced that the parks would reopen.
Since this presentation, Disney employees have released a slew of new updates about the return of the most popular theme park in the world.
I realize that you can’t possibly keep up with everything. That’s MickeyBlog’s job. So, here are just the facts about Walt Disney World’s reopening.
When and Where
The Walt Disney Company has employed a phased reopening at Walt Disney World. Disney Springs returned on May 20th, with official Disney stores coming back on May 27th.
Disney will employ the same approach with its theme parks.
On July 11th, a Saturday, Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom will reopen to the public.
On July 15th, a Wednesday, EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will reopen.
Interestingly, the first official Disney resorts to return aren’t ones at Walt Disney World.
Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort reopen on June 15th.
The first Walt Disney World hotels to return are Disney Vacation Club properties and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.
These facilities will reopen on June 22nd. However, Bob Chapek has confirmed that some of Disney’s 20+ hotels will remain closed for now.
How the Reopening Will Work
Disney will follow all governmental and CDC suggested policies on social distancing. To do so, the parks will reopen with “limits on attendance and controlled guest density.”
As a concession to these changes, park officials will not operate “high-touch experiences” and “large gatherings” at this time.
So, Disney parks won’t host parades or fireworks presentations when they return.
Regarding “high-touch experiences,” the company states that:
“makeover opportunities, playgrounds and character meet and greets will remain temporarily unavailable, but characters will still be in our parks to entertain and delight our guests.”
You may wonder how Disney intends to control crowd traffic. The parks will limit attendance by focusing on core customers while requiring reservations.
The Parks Blog describes the process as:
“a new theme park reservation system that will require all guests to obtain a reservation for park entry in advance.”
Chapek indicated that customers have previously booked a large volume of Walt Disney World hotel reservations. Those customers receive first priority.
Disney has also opened Disney Vacation Club bookings again. These two groups and annual passholders will comprise the majority of the first wave of returning guests.
Walt Disney World has stopped new ticket sales and Disney hotel reservations for a while. Your best bet here is to contact a MickeyTravels agent to book a room for you.
These dedicated professionals will know when and where you can stay for your next Disney vacation. Plus, their service is free.
Disney states that “Theme park reservations will be limited due to attendance limitations and will be subject to availability.” So, you’re playing the lottery if you try booking on your own.
The Steps Disney Will Take
Jim McPhee, Senior Vice President of Operations at Walt Disney World, had the honor of revealing the company’s park reopening strategy.
Hours after McPhee spoke, Jerry Demings, the mayor of Orange County, approved the plans and sent them to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for final acceptance.
Here are the pandemic response aspects of McPhee’s proposal.
Walt Disney World will employ five safety measures to protect guests from Coronavirus. They are:
- Enhanced protective measures
- Physical distancing
- Enhanced cleaning/sanitation
- Temperature/health screening
- Limited-contact enhancements
About These Measures
Enhanced protective measures will include face mask requirements, readily available handwashing stations, and physical barriers where necessary.
Physical distancing means honoring the state of Florida’s guidelines for social distancing along with theme-park capacity limits. Signs will also remind guests to maintain social distancing.
Enhanced cleaning/sanitation involves heightened cleaning protocols at the parks. Disney will wipe down high-touch areas much more frequently.
Note that these standards don’t apply exclusively to customers. Disney will also maintain higher standards in cast member areas backstage.
Temperature/health screening references the temperature checks that guests must perform and pass to enter the parks.
Cast members will go through the same process before starting the workday. Anyone who shows signs of COVID-19 will be sent home and paid to self-quarantine.
McPhee added that the company will ask cast members to perform temperature checks at home, too.
Through this measure, Disney won’t risk the safety of temperature checkers as much.
Other Smart Changes
Limited-contact enhancements will reduce the number of places where customers come into contact with employees. Character meetings are an excellent example of them.
Another smart cast member decision is that workers get assigned costumes that they can keep rather than exchanging at the end of the workday.
This step reduces the number of people contacting a costume.
Disney will also train some cast members as specialists. They will become a social distancing squad whose sole purpose is to remind guests to follow guidelines.
McPhee actually describes the process as “inspiring” guests. He adds that they’ve proven successful at Disney Springs, which has encouraged Disney to expand to the parks.
The contactless payment means that Disney will encourage Mobile Ordering. Also, the company will ask (but not require) guests to pay with Magic Bands or phones.
As another initiative, Disney will open more restaurants for Mobile Ordering than ever before.
The parks and resorts already offered more than 20 options. However, Disney needs to expand in anticipation of a protracted pandemic problem.
To Be Determined Aspects
Disney has indicated that some of its transportation options will operate on a limited basis.
The company didn’t spell out many details. Some sites report that monorails and ferry boats will run when the parks open.
We don’t know anything about buses and the Disney Skyliner yet. So, Disney must reveal details about park transportation later.
The other remaining mystery involves the water parks. Disney specifically hasn’t said anything about an opening date.
Most people are assuming that the water parks won’t return with the theme parks. However, until Disney specifically comments, we’re left guessing rather than reporting.
If you have any additional questions, feel free to ask them in the comments. I’ll try to get to them in a later column.