Walt Disney World is re-opening! Passholder previews begin today prior to the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom opening to the general public this weekend! We were able to snag a “sneak peek” at the park’s new safety procedures and Guest protocols. Here are 9 things to expect when planning your next visit to Walt Disney World!
1.) Some locations will still be closed.
While most of Walt Disney World’s rides and attractions are officially re-opening, some locations may remain closed for Guest and Cast safety. For example, some food locations and stores may be too small to allow for social distancing adequately. Certain attractions (especially those including up-close character interactions) will not be opening in the foreseeable future. Finally, interactive play zones will be closed until further notice. However, in Orlando, all the adjoining facilities for tourist attractions are going through similar changes and taking precautionary measures. Your time spent at the spa, private surfing, or restaurants won’t be the same. But, there are clean, affordable hotels nearby available for the guests, such as the Westgate Towers Resorts and others. Although all resorts are equally maintaining almost the same safety procedures, this chain’s post-COVID program brings together the highest standard of updated housekeeping policies.
2.) The queues will look different.
If you’ve attended or followed any of the other theme park openings, most of this won’t come as a surprise to you. Queue lines look very different in a post-COVID world. First of all, each party is appropriately socially-distanced using stickers/markers on the ground. If each party stays on their marker, everyone will remain six feet apart. Of course, due to the “down and back” queue system, it isn’t always as simple as placing stickers an exact six feet away from each other. In order to keep parties from being too close together in opposite facing “down and back” areas, some stickers are placed much farther apart. In other areas, Disney has placed plexiglass panels between queue sections to avoid this inconvenience.
Disney is using additional numbered stickers to better control Guest flow and to improve communication. For example, carousel rows are numbered and Guest parties are directed to individual rows. Other times, the numbered stickers are used to help Guests better organize themselves before being loaded into boarding areas.
You’ll also notice that, unlike other Orlando theme parks, there are no virtual queues at Walt Disney World. Whatever ride you want to experience will require physically waiting in the full, standby queue.
3.) You’ll need to wear a mask on ALL the rides!
Yes, even if it’s a water ride (I wore mine on Splash Mountain) or a roller coaster (I wore it on Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train), you’ll need to wear your mask. Honestly, my mask never bothered me on a ride. I was too happy to finally be experiencing these awesome attractions again to even notice the little piece of fabric on my mouth.
4.) There won’t be any meet and greets, but you will still see characters.
Character meet and greets (up-close meetings often including a hug or high-five, picture, and autograph signing) are cancelled for the foreseeable future. It will probably require a vaccine or, at the very least, widespread herd immunity for these experiences to be considered “safe” once again.
However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t see characters during your trip to Walt Disney World, you’ll just encounter them in different ways! Instead of entertaining a large line every minute of the day, characters will now welcome Guests from a distance. You might see Cinderella’s step-sisters hanging out near the Castle or the “Royal Princess Processional” heading down Main Street USA. Basically, characters will still be a big part of the Disney experience, but they will be more removed from Guests – either standing on platforms or riding vehicles around the parks in short processions (no full-length parades).
5.) Your monorail ride will be a lot less crowded.
If you’ve ridden the Walt Disney World monorail before, you know that Cast Members used to fill these vehicles until they were practically bursting. People were sitting, standing, and falling all over each other until the ride finally ended and they reached either the park, their hotel, or the Transportation and Ticket Center.
These sardine can-like rides are no more, of course. For now, the monorail will only allow two parties per gate, with a divider between car sections. While this new system might result in some higher than normal wait times, it’s definitely the only way to ensure Guest safety in such an enclosed environment.
6.) Mobile order and contactless payment will be encouraged.
Wherever possible, Disney is encouraging Guests to use contactless payment methods like Apple Pay and mobile ordering. These measures will decrease Guest crowding in indoor areas, limit touch-points, and keep interactions with Cast Members to a minimum.
7.) Some ride elements may be missing (like the Haunted Mansion’s stretch room).
Some preshow or unnecessary elements might be eliminated in order to keep Guests safely distanced. For example, the Haunted Mansion will not be running the infamous “stretch room” for the foreseeable future.
When boarding a ride vehicle, Cast Members will do whatever necessary to keep Guests distanced and safe. For example, sometimes Guests might skip a row or only one party will be allowed per vehicle. In rides where that type of distancing isn’t possible, like the Jungle Cruise, plexiglass barriers have been installed to enforce social distancing.
9.) You CAN take your mask off in designated “Relaxation Stations.”
If you need a break from your face covering, you can visit a designated “Relaxation Station.” Inside this area, Guests can remove their masks while remaining at least 10 feet away from other parties. Outside of these areas, however, mask wearing will be expected and enforced.
While some of these changes may be cumbersome when dealing with a large crowd, Disney has made every possible effort to keep Guests and Cast healthy and safe – without sacrificing too much of the “magic.” During my visit to the Magic Kingdom, I was surprised by how “normal” the day felt despite the obvious precautions taken. While I’m nervous about the reservation system and how long it may be before I can visit the parks again, I’m pleasantly surprised at how well Disney was able to preserve the experience. I’ll be back ASAP! 🙂