Will These Beloved Disney Park Amenities Return? Let’s Talk about It!
For many years, Walt Disney World visitors could expect the status quo on many aspects of a vacation.
Then, Coronavirus forced changes throughout the parks. Some things have yet to return to the way they were. Will they ever?
Let’s look at some popular Disney amenities to decide whether they will or won’t return.
Some of Disney’s recent decisions hint that management is kicking the can down the road a bit.
Projections call for a significant drop in COVID-19 cases by late July, which is still two months from now.
Park officials don’t want to commit to any course of action until they know how accurate those projections are.
We don’t have much scientific data supporting that notion for all our talk about vaccinations lasting a year or longer.
So, Disney doesn’t want to commit resources until it has collated more data about public safety.
That’s not what people want to hear, but it’s the intelligent approach as well as the considerate one.
I mention this because Disney has stuck to its capacity limits longer than most had expected. Also, guests will need Park Passes for at least 18 more months.
Until Disney allows more park visitors, FastPass remains unnecessary. It’s a waste of resources, and I say that as someone who tracks wait times regularly.
However, the moment that Disney does increase park capacity, it’ll need some form of digital queuing pronto.
Otherwise, guests will experience unreasonable waits in line for attractions.
The FastPass discussion also comes with more nuance, as the Disneyland equivalent, MaxPass, remains a possibility. That’s a paid FastPass system.
Also, the previously announced Disney Genie virtual assistant software remains in development. It was supposed to launch this year. Maybe it still will?
Disney Dining Plan
In reading comments about the dining plan, I know that it’s one of the most popular amenities currently unavailable at Walt Disney World. Why is that?
Well, I’m one of many people who believes that a Disney visit feels weird without the Disney Dining Plan (DDP).
The strange part is that I visited the parks several times before the advent of the dining plan in 2005.
Since then, I’ve appreciated the stress-free nature of the DDP, which allows me to pay for my vacation meals long before I arrive.
This tactic works effectively for Disney, as it can keep a larger share of vacation budgets. People on the dining plan rarely eat at other places.
Disney earns a lot of money from the DDP, which makes its return all but inevitable.
The only reason I believe it wouldn’t return is if park officials came up with something even better.
I would have said something different a few days ago, but my opinion has evolved.
Disney just announced that Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party won’t return this year.
In its place, Magic Kingdom will host Disney After Hours BOO BASH, a similar ticketed event.
However, the official statement made no mention of parades, only cavalcades.
That’s strange since the parks have moved away from cavalcades this spring. EPCOT only hosts one right now.
We’ve apparently entered a transitional phase wherein park officials aren’t ready to host parades yet. But they’re souring on cavalcades, too.
Something’s gotta give. My vote’s for cavalcades, but I suspect that’s the minority opinion.
Walt Disney World works a bit differently than Disneyland. The Orlando park’s character meetings aren’t random.
Disney Princesses and other beloved characters hold court in assigned spaces. Well, that was true until 2020.
After Walt Disney World reopened, it adopted the Disneyland policy of roaming interactions, leading to magical moments that were complete surprises.
Which strategy will Disney prefer once traffic returns to normal?
Personally, I’d rather Walt Disney World theme parks keep the random encounters, as I find them delightful and joy-inducing.
However, Disney will likely return to the old ways. Park traffic across the Disney campus requires careful management of crowd flow.
Assigned character interactions keep guests off the main throughways at the parks. This one’s just math.
180-Day Dinner Reservations
Here’s another way that my opinion has changed during the pandemic.
Before 2020, I was devout about booking my Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) 180 days in advance.
In fact, since I take longer trips, I’d often be scheduling 190 days (!) before my vacation.
Since we travel as part of a larger group as a rule, I’d need to talk with other traveling parties.
Then, we’d all need to set a meal itinerary. I won’t lie. It got old at times.
During my pandemic visit, Disney canceled all my ADRs due to capacity limits.
One night, I was riding on a bus at 6:50 p.m., and I had no dinner plans. It was Halloween.
I pulled out my phone, checked for available tables, and fell into an exquisite experience at The Edison.
I did no planning whatsoever and enjoyed a stress-free day before lucking into a romantic dinner.
At that moment, my opinion about 180-day dinner reservations flipped. The current 60-day system is perfectly fine, and I wish Disney agreed.
Alas, park officials want to know how many people will dine somewhere each day. The extended reservation window provides more information.
As such, I expect the 180-day dining window to return. And I’m such a creature of habit that I know I’ll go back to using it!
These last three are easy. They’re all coming back, even though the first two have reasons not to do so.
Disney will bring annual passes back because the profit margin is so high for the product.
I’ll explain from my perspective. We travel to Disney a lot. So, we buy annual passes.
However, I’d probably spend less money out of pocket if I paid for tickets each day. And I’m a high-volume customer.
Now consider the people who renew their annual passes but rarely, if ever, visit. That’s found money for Disney. And it does happen.
On the other side of the equation, people who travel to Disney all the time will still spend money at the parks even after they’ve broken even on passes.
Let’s say that someone spends 50 days at the park. That’s a diehard Disney fan, right? Disney has lost potential admission ticket money on this person.
That sounds bad until you remember that this person has visited the parks 50 different times.
Imagine how much money that individual has spent on food and merchandise!
Legitimately the only reason Disney won’t bring back annual passes in 2021 is if the pandemic suddenly takes an unexpected turn for the worse.
There’s too much money in annual passes for Disney to keep them off the table.
Remember what I said about parades earlier? The same thing applies to fireworks.
Disney After Hours BOO BASH made no mention of a nighttime presentation of any kind.
In other words, Disney still hasn’t pulled the trigger on fireworks yet, and it may wait a while longer.
Symbolically, the return of fireworks would mean the most on October 1st, the 50th birthday of Walt Disney World.
Analytically, these nightly presentations might not qualify as the best use of resources for Disney, which remains at least somewhat cash-strapped.
Still, I expect fireworks to return…and probably by October 1st.
Hotel Lobby Check-In
Serious question: why would anyone want this back? It’s a waste of time, and I say that as someone who worked in the hotel industry for a while.
When you reach your Disney resort, you don’t want to waste time standing in line at the check-in desk.
You want to drop your bags and rush to Space Mountain, right? You’re only a few minutes away from making that dream into a reality!
Hotel check-in delays that experience. Disney knows this, which explains why you can check into your hotel room weeks before your arrival.
The resort will email and/or text you the needed room information. Then, you can use your Magic Band or smartphone to unlock the hotel room door.
Hotel lobby check-in is as archaic as the fax machine at this point. I have no understanding of why some people are begging for its return.
There’s no viable reason why Disney would go back to a less efficient, slower system.
Feature Image Rights: Disney