Walt Disney World Resort Update for July 14-20, 2020

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer
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Walt Disney World Resort Update for July 14 - 20, 2020

Writer's Note & News (Combined)

This past Sunday, Florida reported the highest number of new COVID-19 cases for any state: more than 15,000 new infections. Yesterday, Hong Kong Disneyland announced that it is temporarily closing down again, as COVID-19 cases rise in that region of the world as well, as Orlando Sentinel reported:

"As required by the government and health authorities in line with prevention efforts taking place across Hong Kong, Hong Kong Disneyland will temporarily be closed from July 15," a Walt Disney Co. spokesperson said. The resort's hotels will remain open at "adjusted levels of service," the spokesperson said.

According to Orlando's WFTV-9 TV News last night, Florida's "Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said if hospitals start to exceed capacity in the region and COVID-19 cases are being linked to Disney or any of the other theme parks, he will ask them to close." In the video segment posted by WFTV, Mayor Demings also praised the steps Disney has taken in connection with trying to ensure safety in connection with reopening the parks: "They have taken four months. So, I believe that if there is any place on Planet Earth that can pull this off, it would be Disney."

Over the weekend, at Walt Disney World Resort, Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom kept on schedule with phased reopenings, entering their respective "new normal" on July 11. Cast Member and guest previews got underway at at Disney's Hollywood Studios and EPCOT yesterday, and both parks are scheduled to begin their respective "new normal" operations tomorrow, Wednesday, July 15. (The term "new normal" is my term, not Disney's.)


On Wednesday, ahead of Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom's phased reopening, Disney shared a heart-touching "welcome back" promotional video for Walt Disney World Resort. Video ©Disney.

As regular readers and, hopefully, most of the park-going public knows by now, the "new normal" at Walt Disney World is that the parks operate, in Disney's words, "with significant reduction in capacity." The capacity reduction is maintained by the new Disney Parks Pass System which requires guests not only have a ticket, but a date-specific reservation to visit a single park on any particular operating day. The Disney Parks Pass System currently has reservation dates all the way until September 2021.

The parks also feature new heightened health and safety protocols: from requiring guests and cast members to wear appropriate face coverings at all times except when eating and drinking while dining, requiring temperature screening, and enforcing other physical distancing and capacity measures at indoor locations (like shops and queues) and transportation (courtesy parking lot trams are not operating at this time). Cashless transactions are encouraged whenever possible, including at auto plazas. We will discuss some of the physically distanced entertainment and such in the next section of the Update.

New Dining and Experience Reservations opened last week. The advanced-booking window is now 60-days; note: dining reservations do not guarantee park entry, you still need both a park ticket and Disney Park Pass reservation for in-park dining options. Guests may also now opt to check in to table service dining in the My Disney Experience app, as announced by Disney Parks Blog (and podium check-in remains an option as well). Limited contact menus and on-line options will be the norm; the food options available on restaurant menus may be limited or different than in the past too. For example, the Patina Restaurant Group advised us that it will offer abbreviated menus at its venues at EPCOT's Italy Pavilion (Via Napoli: noon to 8 p.m.; Tutto Italia and Tutto Gusto: 2 p.m. to 8 p.m).

Last week, Disney also resumed 2020 park ticket sales and Disney Resort Bookings, which you can read more about on Disney Parks Blog or you can discuss with your travel planner, like MousePlanet's travel partner, Get Away Today. The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort announced that it plans to reopen to guests on July 29. In any event, be mindful that Florida still requires travelers from the New York tri-state area self quarantine after arriving in the state for 14 days, and several states and other governments (like the City of Chicago) have imposed restrictions on travelers arriving from Florida (requiring those arriving to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival which could impact, for example, your return to work or school or such after a trip to Florida).

Reports from reputable social media reporters from the July 11 park reopening were largely positive. A few crowding issues were reported rather virally, led by those clamoring to get in the gates in the early moments of operations. The overall sense of the reopenings, though, seems to be that Walt Disney World Cast Members were able to work out issues not long after they arose. Most of the social media posts we saw over the weekend included guests complying with physical distancing requirements and appropriately wearing face coverings. Indeed, amongst my friends that made their way through the parks during the soft opening days and the opening days, the consensus was that they "felt" safer than at the local grocery stores. I have little doubt that the hardworking cast members were doing everything they could to promote the Disney feeling of "Magic" by taking all the new health and safety protocols as seriously as possible. Viewers of our weekly "Fun at Home" MousePlanet LIVE! Streams may recall that I have chosen to not yet visit Disney Springs or make Disney Park Pass reservations, and I declined an invitation to join friends at a preview. As many pages of DisneyWorld.com (and signs posted around the resort) now remind guests, "An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present."

As you can see from some of the Disney-released photos above, the "royal makeover" of Cinderella Castle is also nearly complete. The castle's new paint scheme includes a new sapphire shade of blue, some rose gold, and more gold trim. For a look over at Disney's Animal Kingdom, the folks at ParkSavers.com invited us to share a link to their opening day report, which includes a photo of the heavy clear plastic between rows on the Kilimanjaro Safari vehicles that we discussed with Leah from OurFloridaProject on "Fun at Home" Show #14 last Wednesday. As Disney announced, when physical distancing is not possible, Disney has installed physical bariers in places that guests may be near each other.

Along with limited park capacity, the parks reopen without FastPass+ reservations for attractions. Over the weekend, of course, social media reports were that most attractions were little-to-no wait. Even Avatar-Flight of Passage at Disney's Animal Kingdom posted only a 5 minute wait time in the My Disney Experience App quite a bit during the weekend.

With the reopening of Disney's Hollywood Studios tomorrow, and given how many dates that park has already "sold out" on the new Disney Parks Pass System (at least for Annual Passholders), it is not surprising that a modified version of the Star Wars: rise of the Resistance virtual queue will be used to maintain distancing in the very popular Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge attraction. Guests will no longer need to arrive at park opening to request to join the virtual queue (as, indeed, requiring all guests to arrive at the park pre-opening would have promoted crowding at a time Disney is trying to avoid drawing crowds). Instead, there will be opportunities to join the virtual queue at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Disney Parks Blog provides the following details to "know before you go" try to join the fight against the First Order:

  • First, make sure you have the My Disney Experience app. Once you enter the park, log in to your account at one of the distribution times (10 a.m., 1 p.m. or 4 p.m.).
  • Once you have logged in, select "Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Virtual Queue" on the home screen. You will be able to view the current status and next steps for joining the virtual queue.
  • The app will indicate when there is no availability for a specific distribution time. Some guests may join backup groups.
  • As long as your My Disney Experience account is linked to park tickets for you and the others in your group, you can enroll everyone in the virtual queue at the same time. In order to give as many guests as possible the opportunity to join the Resistance, each guest can enter the virtual queue no more than once per day.
  • Make sure push notifications are turned on for My Disney Experience so you will be alerted if your group is called to return. You'll have up to an hour from the time of the alert to go to the entrance of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
  • Please note that joining the virtual queue does not guarantee the ability to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

EPCOT also opens tomorrow, and with it, the debut of the new "blended" festival that we reported on a few weeks ago: The Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival. It will carry over some of the "floral fun" of the Flower & Garden Festival that began just before the park's temporary closure, and it will bring more of the food and beverages from the usual fall Food & Wine Festival. It will feature more than 20 global marketplaces, and additional tables will be available around the park where guests can remove their face coverings to eat and drink while still maintaining physical distancing. Flower & Garden Festival merchandise will be available as well.


The new Remy topiary, which debuted just ahead of the Flower & Garden Festival this year, will be on display for guests when the park reopens. File Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

As we continue to advise, folks planning to visit the parks and resorts should, in particular, keep an eye on the "Know Before You Go" pages of DisneyWorld.com.

Modified Entertainment Experiences in the Parks

With traditional parades, meet and greets, and nighttime spectaculars all "on hiatus" because they draw crowds rather than promote physical distancing, the theme parks reopen with some "reimagined" experiences. Some of the new character-based entertainment will be more of the "pop up" nature. A press release, for example says that Captain Jack Sparrow may suddenly appear in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom. We saw social media reports from the Cast Members Preview at EPCOT of Winnie the Pooh wandering a World Showcase lawn hunting butterflies, within sight of the Promenade, but physically distanced. Since Disney Springs reopened this Spring, Stormtroopers occasional made appearances on balconies above the shops, and over at Magic Kingdom, for example, Cinderella's Evil Stepsisters appear from time to time on a balcony of Cinderella Castle.

Some live entertainment also returns to the parks. Previously announced groups include: Main Street Philharmonic at Magic Kingdom, Mariachi Cobre and the JAMMitors at EPCOT, and Discovery Island Drummers at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Our friend, Carol Stein, last seen at EPCOT as the Pub Musician at Rose & Crown in United Kingdom pavilion has publicly posted that she will be performing atmospheric music from the gazebo at the UK pavilion during weekdays. Over at Animal Kingdom, a reader told us to expect a new version of the bird show at the Caravan Theatre (and social media reports are that UP! characters continue to appear, but the "UP! A Great Bird Adventure" show is on hiatus).

Each of the parks also offer new character cavalcades several times a day, offering a parade-like, physically distanced way to see favorite characters. The announced viewing opportunities are:

Magic Kingdom

  • "The Royal Princess Processional" – Several times daily, favorite Disney princesses travel through the streets of Magic Kingdom. Princess Merida leads the way on her steed Angus, followed closely by a gazebo float and crystal castle carrying Cinderella, Tiana, Belle, Jasmine, Snow White, Rapunzel and others.
  • "Mickey and Friends Cavalcade" – Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and their pals pop up throughout the day, inviting everyone to "Get Their Ears On" as they wave to guests along the park’s parade route.

Disney's Animal Kingdom

  • "Donald's Dino Boat Bash!" – Donald Duck, Daisy Duck and Launchpad McQuack wave to guests from their party boat as "Donald's Dino Bash!" moves from DinoLand U.S.A. to Discovery River.
  • "Discovery River Character Cruise" – Throughout the day, guests can see Timon and Rafiki or Pocahontas with Meeko, who will set sail on the parks' waterways.

EPCOT

  • "Mickey and Friends World Tour" – As guests travel around World Showcase, they may come upon Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto and Goofy all out sightseeing and waving to their friends.
  • "Frozen Promenade" – Queen Anna and Elsa venture into the unknown around World Showcase, journeying from country to country and waving hello to guests along the way.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • "Pixar Pals Motorcade" – Some of the biggest stars from Pixar Animation Studios’ films arrive on Hollywood Boulevard, from The Incredibles to Toy Story pals and more. They’ll wave to their fans as they head down the avenue accompanied by a celebratory musical score.
  • "Disney Junior Stars Motorcade" – Throughout the day, Disney Junior stars including Fancy Nancy, Doc McStuffins and Vampirina will cruise down Hollywood Boulevard waving to fans from colorful custom convertibles.

In addition, at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in Disney's Hollywood Studios, guests may also see "Heroes of the resistance" like Rey, Chewbacca and Vi Moradi appear on platforms above the garage in Black Spire Station, or surveying activity around the spaceport where the Millennium Falcon landed. First Order Stormtroopers and Kylo Ren may appear at the landing platform beneath the TIE Echelon assault vehicle at the Docking Bay.

Join us Wednesday for MousePlanet LIVE!

Join us tomorrow, Wednesday, July 15, at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 p.m Pacific, for "Fun at Home" Show #15, our MousePlanet LIVE! stream, where Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix will share her experience at Downtown Disney District at Disneyland, and we will have the latest Disney Parks news from both Coasts along with any other late-breaking Disney news.

Our featured special guest this week is Deb Wills, probably the most-respected Disney Vacations reporter over more than the past couple of decades. Though now retired from actively reporting, she will share stories from her years of Disney Vacations, and we expect a good number of other guests to drop in to say hello and share stories. Some of our regular MousePlanet Contributors will also be on hand for our usual physically distanced chat about "All Things Disney."


"Fun at Home" Show #15 begins at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 p.m. Pacific, Wednesday, July 15, 2020.

A countdown clock and brief pre-show will begin a few minutes before showtime. If you have loaded this page before the pre-show begins, be sure to refresh your browser to see the show. If the embed isn't working below, you can view the show directly on this Facebook page, even if you do not have an account.

During our live shows, share comments with us: @MousePlanet on Facebook, Periscope and Twitter.

Continue to Support Give Kids the World Village

Give Kids the World Village, the Central Florida-based non-profit resort that helps fulfill Wish trips for critically ill children and their families, has launched a Virtual Challenge For Hope fun run. For the past three years, the event had hosted more than 1,000 participants at the Village's 84-acre resort, resulting in nearly $400,000 raised.

"The safety of our wish families, supporters, staff and volunteers is always our top priority, so this year our Challenge for Hope fundraiser will be completely virtual," said Pamela Landwirth, Give Kids The World president & CEO. "Were thrilled that with this change our supporters around the world will have the chance to participate, bringing the spirit of Give Kids The World to wherever they are."

Participants can register to become a "Challenger” for $39 and are encouraged to fundraise to reach incentives. They will receive a kit in the mail with everything needed in order to complete their challenge from home, including a commemorative medal featuring wish kid art and a race bib. Past events hosted at the Village boasted an inclusive and accessible fun run where all were welcome to "walk, run, roll, or stroll." They say this year's event will feature the same inclusivity, but from home. "The virtual challenge you complete is up to you. Walk, roll, run, stroll, swim – or even jump rope your way to complete your event," said Landwirth.

Give Kids The World announced an extended closure due to COVID-19 in early June. They say that fundraising events like Challenge for Hope will allow them to reopen as soon as possible. "While our resort is temporarily closed, more than 700 children each month wait for their life-changing wish. By participating, you'll join a community of supporters who will help us emerge from these challenging times and resume fulfilling these wishes as soon as possible," said Landwirth.

For more information and registration, visit https://www.gktw.org/challengeforhope/.

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Resorts Availability, Ticket Advice & Special Offer

Note: MousePlanet does not edit past Updates to reflect price increases; for up-to-date prices, check the most recent Walt Disney World Resort Update.

With Disney now accepting Resort Hotel reservations for 2020 and 2021, our travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages. Disney has resumed new park ticket sales, but, at present and for the foreseeable future, requires guests to use the Disney Parks Pass System to reserve dates for guest park visits in addition to having a valid admission.

As always, we remind our readers that Walt Disney World Resort theme park tickets are rarely offered at deep discounts unless you are a resident of Florida or eligible for U.S. Military Personnel benefits. Historically, non-Florida residents tend to benefit the most by purchasing tickets in advance (and, of course, being mindful of the rules relevant to those tickets). As prices go up, it becomes even more important to pay heed: Don't get scammed! Never buy tickets from an unofficial or secondary outlet, such as through eBay or Craigslist. Never rent or purchase tickets from people approaching you outside Disney property stating they have remaining days or leftover tickets. This practice is against the terms of use for Walt Disney World Theme Park admissions, and may result in denial of entry. There is no way to determine if these tickets are valid until you try to use them to enter the parks. When available, only purchase Disney theme park tickets directly from Disney, an authorized seller, or a travel agency like MousePlanet travel partner Get Away Today.

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NOTE Universal Orlando Resort reopened June 5, and Get Away Today still has a great Universal Orlando Resort ticket offer available:

You can get 2 days free when you buy a 2-day, 2-park ticket.