Walt Disney World Resort Update for July 28 - August 3, 2020

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for July 28 - August 3, 2020

Writer's Note & News (Combined)

The phased reopening of Disney's Florida theme parks proceeded on schedule earlier this month, following the June reopening of most of the other "attractions" in Central Florida (like the Universal Orlando theme parks). Some news outlets, like WFLA-TV in South Florida, have published a "CNN Newsource" report saying that "County Health Officials in Florida" say that they are not seeing any coronavirus outbreaks associated with reopening of theme parks. WFTV-9 in Orlando published an Associated Press report noting that while there have been "isolated cases of workers and visitors connected to the theme parks getting sick with COVID-19," according to Dr. Raul Pino, health officer for Florida's Department of Health, says "we haven't seen any large number of positive cases that come from any of the parks."

Cast Member Safety

That AP report also notes that leaders of some of the Walt Disney World "workers' unions" describe the coronavirus-related safety measures Disney has taken as "exemplary." Specifically, Julee Jerkovich, an official with a United Food & Commercial Workers union which represents Disney merchandise and banquet works said:

Singing their [Disney management's] praises seems so strange. As far as this grand experiment, I would have to say Disney has done a really good job.

But, indeed, as we reported earlier this summer, Actor's Equity Association, the union that represents actors in many shows around the Resort, continues to argue that working conditions are not sufficiently safe for actors to return. Florida continues to report record numbers of positive COVID-19 test results and deaths attributed to the virus. Because of the impasse between Disney and Equity, none of the shows involving Equity performers have yet reopened and those cast members have not been recalled to work. On social media this week, we saw a rather vigorous debate amongst some of the Disney performers we know, with some arguing that conditions are appropriate to return notwithstanding the union's position, and some arguing in favor of the union's position (that includes the demand that Disney provide on-site testing for actors that must perform without face coverings and physical distancing). The union, saying their 750 members have been locked out of returning to work, has filed a grievance over the issue, and that likely will take time to be resolved.

Musicians, character performers, and other "parade" performers are not represented by Equity, and, as we have previously reported, have returned to the reopened parks in various settings that promote physical distancing from, at least, guests (and often fellow performers).

Disney Resort Hotel Reopenings

This week, Walt Disney World Resort also posted revisions to its plans for the reopening of its hotels on the know-before-you-go webpage we have been advising readers planning or considering travel to keep an eye on: https://disneyworld.com/experience-updates/resorts. Specifically, Disney has decided to delay reopening of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort (other than the Disney Vacation Club portions that already reopened there), to delay the reopening of Disney's Art of Animation Resort, and to postpone indefinitely the non-DVC portions of Disney's Beach Club Resort and Disney's BoardWalk Inn. Guests impacted will have their reservations modified to other Disney Resort hotels, and the webpage also notes that all future hotel reopening dates are subject to change as well. The revised reopening schedule is:

  • July 29, Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
  • August 24, Disney's Yacht Club Resort
  • September 21, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • October 4, Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
  • October 14, Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
  • November 1, Disney's Art of Animation Resort

The reopening of Disney's Beach Club Resort has been indefinitely postponed, though the Disney Vacation Club Villas at that Resort have reopened. December 31, 2019 Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The following Disney Resort hotels are currently accepting reservations:

  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
  • Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  • Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
  • Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Old Key West Resort
  • Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
  • Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Disney’s Riviera Resort
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

In addition, Disney's Vero Beach and Disney's Hilton Head Island Resorts have reopened. Aulani, the Disney Resort and Spa in Ko Olina, Hawai'i, remains closed and it has not identified a reopening date (and, fortunately, Hurricane Douglas appears that it has not impacted the resort this weekend either).

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Virtual Queue and New Galaxy's Edge Book

The Virtual Queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney's Hollywood Studios was also modified again, effective last Friday (July 24). When Disney's Hollywood Studios reopened to guests on July 15, the park had announced that it would offer three opportunities spread out over the course of the day (morning, early afternnon, and late afternoon) to join the Virtual Queue for the still hugely popular attraction that opened this past winter, rather than the single opportunity at park open. Of course, the attraction, like everything else at the reopened parks, has reduced its operating capacity as well to promote physically distancing of guests. Social media reports during the first operating days were that the spots in the Virtual Queue filled quickly in the morning and early afternoon opportunities and that there did not appear to be spots available in the late afternoon opportunity. The newly modified Virtual Queue now officially only opens for booking at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. according to Disney Parks Blog

As has been the case since the Virtual Queue was introduced, a spot in the Virtual Queue does not guarantee a ride. Guests will see an estimated ride time in the My Disney Experience app and that time may change throughout the day. Guests have one hour to return to the entrance to the attraction when it is their boarding group's turn to visit the attraction.

While we are talking about Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Scott Trowbridge, Portfolio Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering (also known as the principal Imagineer responsible for Galaxy's Edge) shared on Disney Parks Blog on Friday that the new book The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge was announced as part of Comic-Con @Home. The behind-the-scenes look at the creative process for the new land built at both Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios is due to be released on April 27, 2021, and was authored by Amy Ratcliffe with a Forward by Trowbridge. The $50 hardcover 256 page book containing 300 color illustrations is available for pre-order from ABRAMS publishing.

Disney Parks 2019 Attendance

Finally, though Disney does not publicly announce its park attendance figures, the Themed Entertainment Association and the Economics Practice at AECOM annually report estimates when they report on the entire industry. For 2019, they report that Disney Parks global attendance fell less than 1% (as a result of its efforts to reduce attendance to improve guest expereince and tourism disruptions in Hong Kong) while overall attendance at the 10 biggest theme park operators in the world grew by 4%.

According to the report, Magic Kingdom remained the world's most visited park, with 20.9 million visits in 2019 (a 1/2% increase over 2018), followed by Disneyland in California with 18.6 million visits, Tokyo Disneyland with 17.9 million visits, and Tokyo DisneySea with 14.7 million visits. The report estimates that theme park attendance for 2020 could be anywhere from a third to half of normal business volume.

You can read more about other park operators in this Associated Press article published by WFTV-9 Orlando, and you can download and read the entire report in PDF format from the aecom.com website here.

With Magic Kingdom's version of Shanghai Disneyland's TRON Lightcycle Power Run! likely still on track to open in time to celebrate Walt Disney World Resort's 50th Anniversary (October 1, 2021), Disney Parks shared a #DisneyMagicMoments video ride aboard the original attraction. Video ©Disney.

Join us Wednesday for MousePlanet LIVE!

Join us tomorrow, Wednesday, July 29, at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 p.m Pacific, for "Fun at Home" Show #17, our MousePlanet LIVE! stream, where we will update any news that breaks between publication of this Update and guests and MousePlanet Contributors virtually visit for socially distant chat about all things Disney. This past week, Disney Parks virtually celebrated Christmas in July, so we've even decorated the cover of this week's show with Santa riding down a snowy Main Street U.S.A. from the 2018 edition of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom. The LIVE show starts at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 p.m. Pacific.

"Fun at Home" Show #17 begins at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 p.m. Pacific, Wednesday, July 29, 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.

Disney Cruise Line Virtual Viewing and News

Also for some fun at home, Disney Cruise Line this week released a #DisneyMagicMoments opportunity to watch a recording of the original cast performing "Tangled: The Musical" which has been exclusively presented aboard Disney Magic since 2016. As an invited member of the media, I have been privileged to see the Broadway-style show twice: in port in May 2016, and at sea in January 2019. Like the Disney animated feature upon which it is based, the show has a score by Alan Menken, and it also has  three new songs he composed for this Disney Cruise Line stage production that mixes actors, puppets, physical sets and digital elements.

Watch the original cast perform "Tangled: The Musical" from the exclusive Disney Cruise Line production. Video ©Disney.

Sailings of Disney Cruise Line ships remain suspended through September 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, DCL announced its Fall 2021 Cruise Itineraries and Featured Ports. Booking opens on Thursday, July 30 (with advanced booking now open for Platinum Castaway Club Members).

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.

Get Away Today Logo

When you book your Walt Disney World Resort vacation* with Get Away Today for travel through September 26, 2021, you'll get a $100 Booking Bonus! Your booking bonus includes a $50 Disney Gift Card for your trip + a $50 Get Away Today credit for future travel valid for any of our destinations.

Plus, when you book with Get Away Today, you'll receive all of the perks that come standard with your Walt Disney World® Resort package and these bonuses:

  • Complimentary Concierge Services, including detailed planning assistance. A certified Disney Travel Agent is more valuable now than ever before as there have been many changes to the Park experience.
  • Complimentary Price Monitoring. If Disney releases a discount or special that can be applied to your reservation, we will do so automatically!

*Walt Disney World Resort vacation must include 2-night or longer Disney Resort Hotel and at least two theme park tickets to qualify for $100 Booking Bonus and complimentary concierge service.

You can get a vacation quote from Get Away Today here.

Get a vacation quote from Get Away Today.

As shared by Get Away Today on our "Fun at Home" MousePlanet LIVE! Stream last Wednesday, July 22, 2020, MousePlanet readers can also save on the purchase of dresses by using special codes and following this link: https://bit.ly/mp-getaway-dress.

Note the special codes and visit https://bit.ly/mp-getaway-dress.

ALSO 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.