Seven Things I Love about Disney Visits Right Now
Do you know what’s worse than Tragical Express? It’s getting home from your Disney vacation, only to watch others livestream from the parks.
Yes, I currently feel the sting of my latest Disney trip ending. Fortunately, I’m not that far away from another one, but it’s still depressing.
Rather than dwell on the fact that I’ve left the Disney Bubble, I’m choosing to linger on Walt Disney World’s greatness, even during a pandemic.
Here are eight things I loved about Disney this visit.
The Cast Members
Let’s start with an awkward subject. While we were in the middle of our trip, Disney confirmed thousands of layoffs at Walt Disney World.
I’ve been in a corporate call like this where people suddenly discover that their job is in danger, and it’s incredibly stressful/tense.
I’d expected cast members to lash out at times, as people understandably let their emotions get the best of them during challenging times.
To my complete surprise, I only witnessed three instances of less-than-Disney customer service during my trip.
And two of those incidents stemmed from the awkward combination of safety measures and cast members’ faceguards.
Some guests didn’t understand directions about where to stand/when to board an attraction. So, they failed to follow the rules.
Employees took the necessary steps to prevent such actions, albeit in unusually aggressive ways.
I presume that this issue occurs several times an hour, which must make for a tense work environment.
Even so, legitimately, 95 percent of my cast member encounters dazzled me. It was like the entire staff decided that they would do their best no matter what.
Workers gave me park tips, magical moments, and valuable insights into Disney park behavior in 2020.
They did so with a smile and a genuine intent to make the trip better for my party and everyone else who read my writing.
We should all aspire to demonstrate such exquisite grace under pressure.
I always say cast members represent the most outstanding employment team on the planet. They lived up to it this trip in a way I’d never seen before.
To those workers I met this time, I thank you for your professionalism and innate decency.
I’ve written quite a few articles recently about the wait-times at various Disney theme parks. Suffice to say that a lot of randomness comes into play.
During this trip, we didn’t quite know what to expect. However, we armed ourselves with plenty of knowledge so that we’d keep our options open.
What we discovered was a series of parks that each had a distinctive ebb and flow.
I think everybody knows by now that Disney’s Hollywood Studios experiences the largest crowds and wait-times.
Even allowing for that, we rode everything at the park, which was also true for the most part at the other three locations.
Disney posts wait-times that are generally about 20 percent longer than the actual line time. It does this since stringent ride cleanings occur every two hours.
The idea is to prepare guests in case they get stuck in line during one of those periods.
As long as you’re aware of that, you’ll looooove the wait-times, especially on weekdays.
There were only three rides at Walt Disney World we skipped this trip: Star Tours, Mission: SPACE, and TriceraTop Spin.
All of those were by choice. We’d done the Aladdin and Dumbo versions of TriceraTop Spin. So, it seemed redundant.
Meanwhile, two members of our party are prone to motion sickness. On humid days, we chose not to risk Star Tours and Mission: Space.
We had no difficulty riding anything else, save for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which comes with its own unique rules.
To the best of my knowledge, we never waited more than 35 minutes for any ride on our trip, save for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the newest ride.
Of course, many rides showed substantially longer wait-times. We chose not to get in those lines, picking our shots instead.
The Operating Hours
I’m a theme park maniac. If a park is open for 12 hours, I sometimes stay for all 12 hours. I get sweaty and gross and look like a soused hobo.
I always suffer back pain and sore ankles. So, it’s 17 kinds of stupid for me to act this way.
In a way, the modified park hours saved me from myself. Some places opened for as little as seven hours while we were there.
Then, there was Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which opened the front gate at 7 a.m. (technically, a bit before then).
Since it allowed guests to walk in early on Halloween, we had literally everything done at the park by 11:30 in the morning.
We stayed until 1:30 because there was a baby gorilla, but we took our time. You can do that when you’ve ridden both Pandora rides by 8 a.m.
Conversely, EPCOT didn’t open until 11 a.m. while we were there.
This delayed entrance allowed us to catch up on sleep and do some early morning shopping.
In short, Disney altered its park hours out of necessity. However, this change encouraged us to take a slower, less aggressive approach.
My body was thankful for this. We still reached 20,000 steps every day of our trip and even hit 30,000 once. It didn’t feel like a grind at any point, though.
Okay, this one’s a biggie. I live in an area that’s, let’s say, ambivalent about masks and other aspects of pandemic safety.
As a somewhat high-risk person, I’ve stayed inside to avoid contracting COVID-19.
I’d go out and play a lot more if others in my neighborhood honored social distancing measures and wore masks.
Apparently, what I need to do is move to Walt Disney World. Everything is better there.
While I was at the parks, I never worried about my health or safety. Sure, some isolated instances popped up, usually ones involving children.
Kids naturally want to rush the line as quickly as possible, and tired parents cannot possibly stop them each time.
Beyond that and the occasional misbehaving adult, Disney has solved virtually every other pandemic-related problem.
For this reason, I felt like I’d escaped the real world when I entered the Disney Bubble.
I timed our trip for the week before the Presidential election, coincidentally more than everything.
While friends and family members stressed the outcome, we mostly went without news reporting the entire time.
As such, we never agonized over every refresh like so many in the country did.
I enjoyed this bit of escapism so much that I’ve already told friends we should make group trips each election week.
Of course, that’s only part of the story. The pandemic has reduced everyone’s joy in 2020.
While I was at Disney, I avoided all those dark thoughts as well.
Those of you who feel like you need to escape your current environment should plan a trip to Disney right now! I’m so glad we did.
I’ve got a full article lined up about the current state of transportation at Walt Disney World, but I’m unsure which of these pieces will publish first.
The gist is that we had the best experience with Disney buses that we’ve ever had, and that’s not hyperbole.
On the rare occasions when we missed a bus, another one rolled around the corner in a matter of minutes.
Disney’s not messing around with customer satisfaction during the pandemic.
With less traffic on the roads, the company has prioritized its fleet and eschewed everything else to keep resorts swimming in buses.
I seriously watched in awe at least ten times in seven days as a seemingly impossible situation got solved with the heroic, timely arrival of a bus.
Frankly, Disney spoiled me with its bus service this trip. I’ll expect that level of service next time, and I’m honestly dubious that it’s sustainable.
However, those of you on the fence about a visit should know that I’m sincere. Right now, buses are the least of your worries at Walt Disney World.
How refreshing, right?
First, let’s talk about face coverings. Over the course of a week, I saw only four people wearing masks improperly.
One of them was one of those weirdos who wears a mask thong that doesn’t cover the nose.
Two were sitting at tables but weren’t eating. In both instances, cast members asked them to replace their masks.
The other person kind of lost their mind and took off their mask to sneeze. They got chastised mightily.
Disney cares so much about people’s health that they actually strengthened their measures the day after we left.
You can no longer eat or drink while standing in line for a ride, something I must admit I’d done a couple of times.
When thirsty, I snuck a sip of water occasionally. Disney won’t even allow that now, which shows how safety-focused it is.
As for the other measures, Disney’s done everything possible to protect guests. The barriers in line queues prevent the spread of droplets.
Some of the “stand here” signs on the ground demonstrate such a staggering knowledge of crowd behavior that people looked at them quizzically.
At times, you will wait for an entire row to clear before you advance. The purpose is to prevent side-to-side social distancing violations, too.
Everything at the parks demonstrates this level of thoughtfulness.
I felt sooooo much safer at Walt Disney World than I do on my own block.
The Disney Bubble is alive and well and better than ever during the pandemic.
We should place Disney in charge of the entire country’s COVID response. It’d save lives.
New Restaurant Procedures
Like many guests, we eat two or three meals a day at Disney restaurants.
We worried about this aspect quite a bit, as Disney has altered the rules at many of its establishments. Also, several of our favorites had closed.
So, we faced many new procedures during our trip.
To my delight, I found the changes smart and user-friendly.
I loved that we could check-in at a Table Service restaurant without going to the front desk.
Even better, I liked that we could scan a QR code to lead the full menu. This step saved us so much time and needless interactions with servers.
In other words, the new tactic made our ordering more efficient while eliminating risk for cast members.
Also, we controlled the speed of our meal better. I frequently travel in large groups, and it includes people I don’t see often.
We like to catch up, but we also don’t want to be late for anything. By knowing what we want, we can order all three courses at once.
Then, we can request the server to expedite the meal…or not rush it. A sit-down meal can take as little as 30 minutes now!
Conversely, you can spend more than 90 minutes chit-chatting if that’s your preference. We did both on this trip, and I loved the diversity.
In a couple of days, I’ll follow up with an article about areas where Disney has room for improvement.
However, I’m being totally serious when I say that I’m in awe of how well Disney is managing the first pandemic in a century.
The park experience is ever so slightly different, but the broad strokes remain unmistakably Disney, and that’s a remarkable achievement.