Walt Disney World Resort Update for May 18-24, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for May 18-14, 2021

 Writer's Note, News & Views (Combined)

Our Walt Disney World Resort Update this week is in the unusual position of having been "scooped" by the special report I assisted Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix publish on Friday night, and you probably have already heard about our main news story from multiple sources. In short, following the revised safety protocols guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Florida's modifications to its COVID-19 guidelines, Disney further modified its policies over the weekend.

As you may recall from our Update last week, as of May 8, Disney phased out onsite temperature screenings at Walt Disney World Resort for cast members, and by May 16, temperature screenings for guests ended as well. Added to that, effective Saturday, May 15, face coverings for guests are now optional in outdoor common areas throughout the resort except while in line for an attraction, starting at the entrance to the attraction and all the way to the exit, even if the queue is outdoors. Face coverings are still required aboard resort transportation, at all attractions (including outdoor theaters), and in all public indoor locations (stores, restaurants, hotel lobbies and common areas) for all guests ages 2 and up except when the guest is actively eating or drinking while stationary.

The current Walt Disney World Resort policy is posted on this page of DisneyWorld.com. It is similar to the policy also announced by nearby Universal Orlando Resort - and remember, Disneyland Resort in California is operating under very different, more stringent California state government-mandated policies.

Other businesses and private property around Central Florida have their own rules, so it is more important than ever to inform yourself of them before you arrive and, indeed, in these fluid times, to check again immediately before arriving at a location. Of course, it would also be wise to be mindful that the CDC's guidance says that only fully vaccinated people (those that have received either the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or both doses of one of the two-dose vaccines and have achieved their maximum effectiveness two weeks after the final dose) do not need to wear face coverings nor mind physical distancing in most circumstances. Those who have not been vaccinated or suffer other immunodeficiencies should continue to wear face coverings and mind physical distancing both outdoors and indoors to protect themselves against COVID-19. Florida Governor DeSantis has prohibited businesses from requiring proof of vaccination from their customers.

Disney's CEO Bob Chapek also noted toward the end of last week in an earnings call that the Florida parks' capacity limits have been raised above the previously-announced 35% caps, though he did not share a precise number. Having said that, though, enhanced health and safety protocols in place during this phase of the Resort's reopening, including that park attendance remains limited by caps below maximum park capacity such that the Disney Park Pass reservations are still required for theme park admission in addition to a ticket. Park Hopping also remains an option for those with that benefit, but it still begins at 2 p.m. daily (subject to change based on capacity).

Even before Bob Chapek's acknowledgement of the increased attendance caps, and before the policy modifications over the weekend, Disney Springs seemed to have a crowd size approaching pre-pandemic levels last Wednesday night. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

If you are considering a visit to Walt Disney World Resort, you really need to do your homework now more than ever. Make those Park Pass Reservations: without them, you will be turned away at the park gates. Spots do open back up as cancellations occur, so, check again and again if there is a day you want to go and have not secured a reservation. Spots may open up if and when the capacity limits are raised, but, we do not know when that may happen and, so far, Disney has not publicly announced any of the recently acknowledged increases. Pay attention to official statements from Disney about the requirements for visiting Walt Disney World Resort and, in particular its theme parks, water park (only Blizzard Beach has reopened), and Disney Springs. Walt Disney World is private property, and its rules will govern your visit. As we did this week here on MousePlanet.com and our social media channels, when the Resort announces changes and their effective dates, we timely pass them along.

More Views Around Disney Springs

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.


A post shared by MousePlanet (@mouseplanet)

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Reminder: 2021 Florida Resident Discover Disney Tickets Remain Available

Walt Disney World continues to offer its 2021 Florida Resident Discover Disney Ticket. The $199 plus tax ticket provides four days of park visits. The ticket can be used on consecutive or non-consecutive days through June 18, 2021 (but it is blocked out May 28-31). The Park Hopper option can be added for $42.50/ticket plus tax.

There is also a 3-Day version (with same blockout dates) available for $179 plus tax (add $42.50/ticket plus tax for Park Hopper).

Like other ticket types, guests must also separately make Disney Park Pass reservations for a specific park each date they wish to use a Discover Disney Ticket (and, for Park Hopper, must visit that reserved park and may only Hop when that day's window opens subject to capacity).

This & That…

…A Hartmann’s mountain zebra foal was born on the savanna of Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom yesterday morning. The healthy baby boy was standing and nuzzling with mom within minutes of birth. The foal was born as part of the Species Survival Plan program, which is overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and ensures responsible breeding and genetic diversity of hundreds of animal species. The pair will rejoin the herd on the savanna in the coming weeks.

…Also at Disney's Animal Kingdom, as we mentioned last week, "A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King" officially opened at May 15, following last week's soft-opening performances. As the title suggests, the show is a slightly altered version of the pre-pandemic long-running show. It was streamed live by Disney Parks Blog (as a one-time-only stream) at its debut performance, and, as social media reports during the soft opening performances had said, the tumble monkeys are not part of this version of the show. Also, the aerial performance during "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" has been replaced by dance choreography, and other show choreography during the show has been modified for physical distancing. The show runs numerous times daily (check the times guide, My Disney Experience app, and signage) with more-limited attendance per show than before the pandemic. Guests are required to wear face coverings in the indoor theater.

…In addition to the limited time pop-up shop in Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs (in the Views above), Disney Cruise Line merchandise is now also available at Disney's Yacht Club Resort for a limited time.

…Purchase a Walt Disney World Golf gift card between now and June 15, and you can receive an extra gift card worth 10% of the purchase value. Walt Disney World Golf gift cards can be used towards purchases of golf or FootGolf on any of the courses, pro shop merchandise, and golf instructional programming. For more information, please call the Walt Disney World Golf Merchandise Line at (407)431-0070, or visit its Gift Card page to process a purchase. The promotional gift card will be mailed along with your order and its value will expire on 12/31/21.

…In celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, join Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs on Tuesday, May 25 at 7 p.m. for a Suntory Morimoto Luau. The traditional Hawaiian-inspired feast will feature hula dancers, gourmet food stations including sushi and poke bars, a whole roasted pig, hot items like the Kahuku Food Truck’s Famous Garlic Shrimp, desserts, and specialty craft cocktails. Attendees will also each receive a lei upon entry and be treated to vibrant themed decor made up of orchids and Hawaiian rainbow patterns during this immersive dining experience meant to evoke the spirit of Asian American Pacific Islander culture. Morimoto Asia will also have Suntory Asian Whiskey available for purchase. Seats will be assigned to all guests for this event. Call the restaurant after purchasing a ticket to request special seating on the patio or to arrange to sit with another party. Reserve your spot on this page of Patina Restaurant Group's website. Tickets are $125 per person, including tax and gratuity. The event is open to guests of all ages.

Suntory Morimoto Luau at Disney Springs is $125/person, including tax and gratuity. Image courtesy Patina Restaurant Group.

…As we noted the past few weeks, May 15 was World Whiskey Day and, to celebrate, from May 12-15, our friends at Raglan Road at Disney Springs featured a special flight of small-batch, premium, limited-release whiskeys from Ireland, Japan, Scotland, and the United States. That particular special is over, but did you know that Raglan has 75 different whiskeys available? And to highlight that, at the media preview we were invited to on May 12, Raglan Road featured a number of whiskey-enhanced food items - some of which are currently on the menu and some of which will be featured specials in coming weeks. Be sure to visit the Raglan Road website for its latest offerings and nightly live entertainment schedule.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka. And there are a few more that we shared on our Instagram Story, now archived as part of this set of Disney Springs Highlights.

…Though Walt Disney World Resort hotel reservations no longer include complimentary MagicBands for guests, if you have a hotel reservation, you can still pre-purchase MagicBands for any or all of the guests on your reservation at a discounted price. There are also several resort-exclusive MagicBands available for purchase.

The Disney's Grand Floridian MagicBand is available for purchase to guests with a hotel reservation. You can check the details of which MagicBands are available for sale in your My Disney Experience account linked to your hotel reservation on the browser-version of the website. Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

…At long last, we have a grand opening date for Portillo's Orlando. The fast casual restaurant chain from Chicagoland will open its Lake Buena Vista location on June 15th at 10:30 a.m., just a few minutes away from Walt Disney World Resort at 7715 Palm Parkway (at Daryl Carter Parkway). Portillo's serves up Chicago-style hot dogs, fries, shakes, Italian beef sandwiches, its famous chocolate cake, and more. The chain has had two locations in the Tampa area for the past several years. Its first location in the Orlando area is in the same new development with that huge White Castle that has been seeing record sales and drive-thru lane waits of hours since it opened earlier this mont. I'll be over at Portillo's for a complimentary sneak peek meal before our next Update.

Portillo's first Orlando restaurant is scheduled to open at 7715 Palm Parkway on June 15th at 10:30 a.m. File photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

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Resorts Availability, Ticket Advice & Special Offers

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.

Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels are recognizing educators and first responders by offering them special hotel rates. To honor their hard work, the Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels which include B RESORT & SPA, DOUBLE TREE SUITES BY HILTON, HILTON ORLANDO BUENA VISTA PALACE, HILTON ORLANDO LAKE BUENA VISTA, HOLIDAY INN, and WYNDHAM GARDEN INN LAKE BUENA VISTA, are giving them an exclusive offer starting at $79 per night for travel between now and July 14, 2021, if booked by July 10. The special rates include Bus Shuttle to the parks, a "Passport to Savings" booklet with discounts and specials from Disney Springs merchants, and advance tee times at Walt Disney World Golf Courses. For more information, restrictions, and to book, visit the Disney Springs Hotels official website.

Florida Residents can now save up to 30% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights through 7/10/2021. More information is available on this page of DisneyWorld.com.

Walt Disney World Resort Vacation Packages can now be booked up to 500 days in advance on a rolling calendar, and a package can be held for just a $200 downpayment with final payment due 30 days prior to travel.

Our travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages, and include its complimentary Concierge Services. Get Away Today can also assist you with the new Walt Disney World Resort offer that became available back in January: two free theme park days when you purchase at least a 4-night Disney Hotel stay and 3-Day Walt Disney World Resort tickets (the new offer is valid for vacation packages for travel through September 25, 2021, and does not apply to ticket-only orders). For all theme park ticket holders (day guests, resort guests, and Annual Passholders), though, for the foreseeable future, all guests are required to use the Disney Parks Pass System to reserve dates for guest park visits in addition to having a valid admission.

Get Away Today can help you book Disney's latest promotional offers

Get Away Today can also help you book other discounted Disney hotel stays for travel in 2021. For example, guests can save up to 25% on rooms at select hotels for stays most nights between July 11 and September 29, 2021, when booked through August 28, 2021. More details are here. With Get Away Today's complimentary Price Monitoring, any time a special comes out, it will automatically price check it for each of its guests. If the new special is better, it will automatically apply the new savings and let the guest know. If it's not a better deal, they will leave everything as is, and keep their eyes peeled for future promotions that could save guests more.

You can get a vacation quote from Get Away Today here. (Responses provided in 1 to 3 business days.) You can also call 855-GET-AWAY during regular business hours (Monday - Friday 9am-5pm MT) and tell them MousePlanet sent you!

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Only purchase Disney theme park tickets directly from Disney, an authorized seller, or a travel agency like MousePlanet travel partner Get Away Today! 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). 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.

Be sure to check out Get Away Today's Universal Orlando Resort ticket offers too.