Several Important Walt Disney World Changes You Need to Know
As near as I can tell, today is March 173rd, 2020.
This year’s complete disruption of society has caused the year to drag.
In fact, by October 5th, many social media users were already calling this the longest October ever.
With everything going on, you can’t possibly keep up with all the stuff that’s happening at Disney.
Here are a few changes you might have missed at Walt Disney World.
No Monorail to EPCOT
When Walt Disney World confirmed its reopening plans, it decided on some reasonable transportation changes.
Coronavirus-related safety measures and forced attendance restrictions have led to some unexpected changes.
For example, Disney doesn’t have enough guests staying at its resorts to justify the usage of the so-called EPCOT monorail.
This system carries guests from the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) to EPCOT.
This monorail line proves especially valuable to guests who drive to EPCOT and those staying at monorail resorts.
However, Disney has chosen to take this opportunity to renovate the trams a bit during an unprecedented instance of extended downtime.
So, we’re all temporarily inconvenienced, but the potential long-term benefits justify the decision.
Closing Monorail Station at the Polynesian
On November 2nd, the oldest monorail station at Walt Disney World will close for roughly eight months.
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort opened with Walt Disney World in October of 1971 and has operated ever since.
Over the next several months, Imagineers will renovate the Great Ceremonial House that contains this monorail station’s entrance.
As part of the refurbishment, the monorail will go offline until next summer.
This change isn’t the only one at the Polynesian, either. The main lobby will undergo sweeping renovations that have forced another shift.
The check-in desk has temporarily relocated to Pago Pago, the building closest to the TTC.
Thankfully, you can still go to the Great Ceremonial House to shop in the stores and eat at the restaurants.
Sometimes, when I write articles well ahead of publication date, I live in fear of policy changes.
This section definitely falls under that umbrella, but here’s what we know.
While Walt Disney World remained closed, many analysts – including me – expected the parks to employ virtual queues when they reopened.
Disney went in an entirely different way. The company didn’t introduce any sort of new queuing system and eliminated FastPasses.
Park officials had a good reason for taking this approach. During the first two months that the parks returned, crowds reached historic lows.
Now that the crowds have returned a bit, Disney may bring back FastPasses soon…or they may be gone forever.
The company had previously announced Disney Genie, a virtual assistant that will handle your entire itinerary.
A virtual queue system probably features heavily in the upcoming design. However, it’s not ready yet.
So, FastPasses aren’t currently a thing at Walt Disney World. Will they ever come back? Only Disney can say for sure.
No Dining Plans Available
Here’s the other significant removal at Walt Disney World. Most of the park changes fall between welcome updates and long overdue.
However, Disney has done something that inconveniences those of us who are Disney Dining Plan loyalists.
Disney has removed these plans as purchase options for the time being.
The company has done this due to capacity limits at parks and restaurants.
Since Disney cannot guarantee that you can eat at these places as desired, the dining plans are frankly more trouble than they’re worth during the pandemic.
As someone who almost always books the dining plan, it’s a disappointing choice but an understandable one.
Frankly, I don’t blame Disney for anything they’re having to do during the pandemic. The company’s faced with any number of difficult choices.
However, some restaurant-related changes will make you forget about the lack of dining plans.
Right now, Disney doesn’t have its usual firm group on restaurant attendance.
The capacity limits at parks and restaurants wreak havoc with such projections.
Disney faces an awkward situation wherein the restaurants are sometimes too full but then too empty. This sometimes happens on the same day!
So, restaurants have introduced something called the Walk-Up Waitlist.
You use this waitlist via My Disney Experience. When you look at a restaurant on the app, you can check wait-times.
If nothing is listed, the restaurant claims too many bookings and doesn’t have space.
If you can join the waitlist, it’ll show how long the expected wait will be, allowing you to plan your itinerary around an unexpected meal reservation.
The system’s flawless and smart…and something Disney should have done years ago.
Table Service To Go
Speaking of which, I’ve actually complained about something in previous MickeyBlog articles.
When Disney introduced Mobile Ordering, this feature wasn’t available at Table Service restaurants.
So, you could order a meal to grab and go at Quick Service eateries. However, nicer restaurants weren’t available…until now.
Over the past two weeks, Disney has introduced Table Service To Go, which is just what it sounds like.
Yes, you can now use Mobile Ordering at a select few Table Service restaurants.
As I type this, the only three options are at Disney resorts – Sanaa, Kona Café, and The Wave – but I expect the options to increase over time.
Character Meals Have Returned
Here’s a big one. Character interactions at the parks remain mostly unavailable.
The Wicked Stepsisters and Cinderella recently started appearing sporadically at Princess Fairytale Hall.
Meanwhile, the Cavalcades feature their fair share of waving characters.
However, standard character meetings remain a no-go due to the pandemic.
Thankfully, park strategists have come up with some ways for character meals to work.
Five different Disney restaurants feature character interactions. They are:
- Chef Mickey’s (characters return on December 16th)
- Hollywood & Vine
- The Garden Grill
- Topolino’s Terrace
Obviously, these experiences differ from the ones you’ve always known. The characters maintain social distancing.
Still, the entertainment value remains extraordinarily high.
New Security Measures
Disney used some of the unexpected downtime to construct new security systems at some parks.
I cannot link to a video of these processes as the company frowns on the filming of security measures.
From a visitor perspective, nothing really changes on your end. In fact, at some parks, you’ll have an easier time than ever.
You won’t have to set down your bags as security guards rummage through them. Instead, a high-grade detection system will scan your belongings.
You don’t even need to slow down as you walk through these scanners. They’re like the deluxe version of ones you’ve seen at airports.
Overall, Disney has changed due to the pandemic. However, I would describe many of the modifications as welcome ones that enhance a visit.
As always, Disney’s made the most of a challenging situation.
Feature Image Rights: Disney