Disney in the time of 'Rona'
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
Navigating life as we move forward through this rollercoaster that is 2020, many people are beginning to venture out of their bubble to experience the world in it's new normal of enhanced cleaning, social distancing, and facially protected state. We've seen most of our favorite destinations return to operations with decreased capacities and enhanced public health safety measures. One of the largest names to return to business has been Disney's Parks and Resorts.
The state of Florida, and Walt Disney World in particular has been a big name nationally during this pandemic; while many aren't too sure about returning to the happiest place on earth just yet, others have already made the magic carpet ride back to Disney's Magic Kingdom. At this time no outbreaks of Coronavirus have been traced back to theme parks in Orlando! If you want adventure in the great wide somewhere like my girl Belle, then get excited because Walt Disney World has some magically enhanced procedures for promoting public health in their parks, resorts, and transportation.
Approved Face Coverings will be required for all guests ages 2+ in all guest areas, with the exception of swimming pools and when seated for dining. Parks will also have select areas designated as mask free relaxation stations.
If you're flying into Orlando International Airport, your first contact with WDW is going to be Disney's Magical Express. Once you make your way down to baggage claim and grab your bags (at this time Disney is not collecting your bags and taking them for you) you will head toward the Magical Express Check -In. In line (if there is one) you will see clearly marked lines spaced 6-feet apart, hand sanitizer dispensers, signage reminding you to wear your mask and stay distanced. Plexiglass will separate you from the cast member scanning your DME Reservation and directing you to your bus line. Again in these lines you will see 6-foot markers, and the lines are separated each by 6-feet. With lower capacities, there will most likely be a quicker wait (which wasn't too long to begin with) for a bus to your resort.
When traveling from your resort to the parks or Disney Springs your options for provided transportation (depending on resort) are: Bus, Monorail, Skyline, Ferry. No matter the mode of transportation you select, all are running at reduced capacities, increasing their cleaning procedures, and have added plexiglass/partitions where able, to accommodate further public health distancing. At this time the Minnie Van Service is suspended for the remainder of 2020.
In line with the minimized contact guidelines, Disney guests are directed to check in via the My Disney Experience App and receive your room number then use your Magic Band to unlock your door. "Mousekeeping" has been updated to follow enhanced cleaning procedures as well; rooms will have their floors steamed between guests, remotes and wall mounted shower products will be bagged and stickered as cleaned, high touch surfaces will receive extra attention, and pillows will be double cased. To reduce exposure risk, during your stay rooms will receive a light cleaning every other day (trash disposal, replenishment of towels/bathroom products, wiping of counters/surfaces,vacuum if needed) or you can opt out of housekeeping completely.
While the Walt Disney World water parks are not open at this time, you can still enjoy your resort pool! Dining at your resort will also look a little different right now, the food courts will be run through mobile order on your My Disney Experience App, with pick up being in the court via grab bag; distanced tables will be open for seated dining at the court.
Due to reduced capacities and staffing, not all resorts are open at this time.
Visiting all four parks throughout your stay at WDW is always the goal, and typically park hopper passes can allow for multiple trips to each park in less time; during this period of enhanced public health safety measures, the park hopping system has been suspended. In addition to purchasing your base ticket that grants entry to your park of choice, it is now also required to reserve your spot for the park you are going to visit in advance, using the Park Pass Reservation System; this can be done in your My Disney Experience account/app. The Park Pass Reservation System allows the parks to keep a count on park attendance and ensure they are keepinging within the reduced capacity guidelines.
When entering your park you will still go through security, they are encouraging clear bags to minimize contact, as well as temperature check to ensure no one with a fever is entering the park. Main gate entry will still involve scanning your Magic Band/ticket, but you will not be scanning your finger.
In the parks you will notice changes in dining, queues, and attraction/entertainment offerings. Dining menus will be through your mobile devices - quick services will run through mobile order and at table service you will be given a QR code to scan to pull up your digital menu on your devices. Payments are also requested to be contactless through your Magic Bands. Seating will be distanced and limited to reduce exposures. Speaking of distancing, all queues will have marked 6-foot spots for parties to follow. Fortunately with the decreased capacities, wait times have been drastically lowered across the board and not requiring the use of the fastpass system; the exception still being Rise of the Resistance which will require a Boarding Group reservation on your MDE. In some attractions you will even see plexiglass partitions between parties (Jungle Cruise, Kilimanjaro Safari).
Due to the nature of many entertainment offerings (character meet and greets, stage shows, parades, and fireworks) viewing styles, there will be some not available. Fortunately we have seen more unique displays of characters in the parks with frequent cavalcades, placement on platforms (above train station and country bear jamboree), and placed in non guest areas (that famous image of Pooh in EPCOT and the river boat in Animal Kingdom).
Making the choice to head to Walt Disney World in the time of "rona" is a big one, and is definitely up to each family to decide for themselves if it is the right choice, but if you were on the fence I hope this information is helpful to see what measures are being taken to promote safe travel.
Walt Disney World Public Information: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/experience-updates/