Walt Disney World Resort Update for May 25-31, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer
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Walt Disney World Resort Update for May 25-31, 2021

 Writer's Note, News & Views (Combined)

With Memorial Day Weekend coming up next weekend and local news reporting that Orlando International Airport is seeing passenger levels returning to (and sometimes exceeding) 2019 levels, it is likely going to be busy around the Walt Disney World Resort. The good news here in Orange County, Florida, the COVID-19 testing positivity rate has dropped below 5% for the first time since last October, and half of the population of Florida has received at least one COVID-19 vaccination. As for the weather forecast: hot temperatures ahead, with daily highs at or above 90° this coming week and hurricane season's official start coming up on June 1.

At Walt Disney World Resort, Disney is no longer screening guest body temperatures, and face coverings are now required only indoors (except when eating or drinking while stationary), at all attractions (including their queues), and aboard resort transportation. Up-to-date information you need to know if you visit are posted on this page of DisneyWorld.com.


A sign at the entrance to Disney's Animal Kingdom emphasizes that masks are required at all attractions and indoor locations. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney Park Pass Reservations are still required to visit the theme parks. As we noted last week, Disney has acknowledged raising the park capacity beyond the previously announced 35%, but it is still limited. Plan accordingly, as there are days that there are no reservations available in one or more of the ticket categories: day tickets, resort guests, Annual Passholders. New Annual Pass sales have not resumed, but existing passholders can renew (and downgrade pass type if desired - such as from Platinum to Gold or Silver for Floridians). Park hopping for those with that benefit begins at 2 p.m. (subject to capacity), with the added requirement that the hopper must first have a Disney Park Pass Reservation for one of the parks and visit that park before hopping to any of the others.

While park attendance is going up with the capacity increases, most of the largest "people eating" live entertainment offerings have not yet reopened. As we noted in recent weeks (and visited this week in the photos below), the physically distanced "A Celebration of The Festival of the Lion King" is now open at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Finding Nemo: The Musical, however, has not returned. Likewise, parades have not yet returned; nor have nighttime spectaculars.

We will continue to keep our eyes and ears open for announcements, but, barring major news here in Florida this week, we'll skip posting an Update next week. Lots of attention will be focused on Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort next week anyway, as its Avengers Campus will open on June 4. And, at least as of right now, California's COVID-19 guidelines are very different that Florida: face coverings are required in more places, and only California Residents may visit the west coast parks. With Disneyland Resort hotels expected to be reopening this summer and California's COVID-19 guidelines due to change on June 15, if you plan to head that direction, make sure you keep on top of our Disneyland Resort Updates like yesterday's and get the latest information from official sources like Disneyland.com.

More Disney Vacation Club Villas to Replace Some Hotel Rooms at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort

Last week, Disney Vacation Club, Disney's version of a timeshare vacation ownership program, announced that it plans to convert Big Pine Key (building nine) at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa into approximately 200 Resort Studios, each accommodating up to five guests. The new Villas are an expansion of The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and will be part of its current condominium association. The project is projected to open in summer 2022, with sales and rental booking information to become available at a time to be announced.


Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, a Victorian Themed luxury resort on Seven Seas Lagoon near Magic Kingdom (and on the monorail loop), opened in 1988. Guest accommodations are located in several separate buildings with shared amenities. Disney Vacation Villas were first added to the Resort in 2013. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

For those that have followed Disney Vacation Club developments around Walt Disney World Resort, several of the existing DVC properties were also replacements of rooms or buildings that had previously been hotel rooms. For example, the Villas at Disney's Polynesian Resort, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jambo House), and Copper Creek at Disney's Wilderness Lodge each converted former hotel spaces; Bay Lake Tower replaced the entire north wing of Disney's Contemporary Resort; Disney's Riviera Resort was built upon a portion of land that had previously been part of Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort; and Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort replaced the old bungalows of The Disney Institute.

Disney PhotoPass Service Teaming Up with Snap

For the 50th Anniversary celebration, Disney PhotoPass Service is teaming up with Snap to provide new augmented reality experiences that can be shared. Special Mickey and Minnie "Lenses" are available in the Snapchat app (available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store). These new Lenses may be tried out anywhere in the United States through June 3, and, after that, only at Walt Disney World Resort. These and other special features can be found in the Disney PhotoPass Snapchat profile and the World Disney World Snapchat profile.

Within the My Disney Experience itself, a new feature Disney PhotoPass Service is developing with Snap, will enable guests "to place your favorite image captured by Disney PhotoPass photographers on the iconic castle with augmented reality." The camera lens in the app will allow guests to see a "mosaic of special moments shared by guests to celebrate the 50th."


New Snapchat Lenses are coming to celebrate Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary. Video courtesy Disney Parks.

More special Lenses will be available in My Disney Experience (powered by Snap) this fall.

More Views Around Disney's Animal Kingdom

This week, I visited Disney's Animal Kingdom on what, by Central Florida standards, was one of the last "cooler, drier" days, with temperatures in the low-to-mid 80s with low humidity and a nice breeze. The animal residents seemed to have enjoyed it too.


The Vacation Planning Booths (A/K/A Ticket Windows) at Disney's Animal Kingdom, like the other parks, are used much less now that park guests must make Disney Park Pass Reservations in advance of visiting. (There was at least one open which is not shown here.)


Inside the park, at least as of Thursday, safety reminders have not yet been updated to include the latest policy changes. Many of the recommendations are still good ideas for maintaining health and safety.


A bit harder to see without clicking to open full screen, but this photo shows the moon rising over Expedition Everest.


Character flotillas continue to appear on Discovery River around the center of the park without a published schedule.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

"A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King" officially opened on May 15. The show is a slightly altered, physically distanced version of the pre-pandemic long-running show. The audience is also limited, with parties staggered: gaps are marked on the bleachers keeping physical gaps between parties on the sides, front and back. Guests are required to wear face coverings from the time they enter the portion of the queue at the entrance to the theater; guests are not required to wear face coverings in the extended, physically distanced queue beyond the theater toward the restrooms and the bridge to Pandora: The World of Avatar.

Cast members never touch or pass each other closely in the show's current choreography. The audience interactions have been eliminated. The popular tumble monkeys gymnastics are not part of this version of the show and the aerialist has been grounded with dance-only choreography. The show runs numerous times daily (check the times guide, My Disney Experience app, and signage) and retains its appeal (in other words, if you liked or loved the show before, this version is satisfying too).


Performers are more spread out during the show than before the pandemic.


The fire-twirling sequence is part of the show.


The aerialist routine has been replaced by a dance number where the dancers never touch nor get very close to one another. The dancers do leap a bit.


Timon still hosts the show - and most of his dialogue remains unchanged, even in the absence of the tumble monkeys.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The show retains its emotional spirit and is entertaining. With limited seating, it is necessary to get in line well-before your desired showtime. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.


Physically separated boarding of the Kilimanjaro Safari vehicles remains in place; guests are still required to wear face coverings in the queue and aboard the vehicles.


The black rhino looks out at guests from some of the large rocks in the center of its habitat.


Local Central Florida vultures in large number seem to really enjoy the hippo habitat.


Nile crocodile keep cool through their mouths. (See below for an interesting contrast with the American crocodile in its habitat over in Dinoland U.S.A.).


The mandrills were quite active as the truck passed (the recently born baby was out but I could not get a photo through the trees and shrubs).


One of the white rhinos just finished applying its version of sunblock: mud.


The male lion was even fairly active on a cooler afternoon. This particular facial expression almost calls out for some sort of Muppets-type comment.


The lioness was also active. Of course, she lept to the next rock just after the truck passed a point where I could get another photo.


When exiting the safari trucks, I always take a moment to see whether any of the bachelor silver back gorillas are relaxing near the falls.


The Okapi along the Gorilla Falls trail does have a head that resembles its genetic relative: the giraffe.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.


The American crocodile in the enclosure in Dinoland U.S.A. raised up its head, opened its jaws and yawned. Just after this photo, it put its head back down and closed its eyes. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


The sand sculpture is on the stage on Discovery Island. Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Additional Views Around Disney Springs


The top of Lime Garage provides some unique views, like the LEGO brick dragon (serpent) in Village Lake looking toward the LEGO store.


From atop Lime Garage, not only can you see above Paddlefish restaurant, and over to Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort across the lake, but in the distance, the tops of Disney's Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower rise above the tree-line.


Tinker Bell stands atop a small globe on the roof of World of Disney.


In Amorette's, a special tart celebrates Asian American Pacific Island Heritage Month.


Amorette's also has a petit cake celebrating Mulan.

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…

…The Walt Disney World Resort 50th Anniversary cast member nametag designs have been unveiled. As Disney Parks Blog describes them, they have "a Touch of 'EARidescence' for The World's Most Magical Celebration." The new nametags feature the 50th Anniversary castle logo with gold accents and "a touch of pixie dust." Cast Members will get their new nametags this fall. The World's Most Magical Celebration begins October 1.

…The third of the four Walt Disney World Gateway Hotels developed by Yedla Management Company, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott at FLAMINGO CROSSINGS Town Center plans to open in July. The new 273 room hotel (which includes individual and conjoining rooms) is located minutes from the theme parks, and will offer on-site fitness and laundry centers, a business center, grab-and-go snacks, complimentary Wi-Fi, parking and breakfast. The development also includes additional on-site dining options, a soccer field, batting cages, a basketball court, pools and slides, a splash pad, outdoor grills, firepits and more. A Disney Planning Center desk is also located within the development. Earlier this month, Disney and its alliance partner, AdventHealth, the Official Health Care Provider at Walt Disney World Resort, announced that they are building a new emergency room at Flamingo Crossings Town Center as well to serve Resort guests and the surrounding community.

…As noted last week, 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 month. Yesterday, I was able to enjoy a reservation for a complimentary sneak peek meal and I thought it spot-on to the Chicago flavors I expected of the hot dog, Itallian Beef, and french fries! (And yes, the neighboring White Castle, had a drive through queue that looked to be well-over an hour based on the posted signs along Daryl Carter Parkway).


The entrance to the new Portillo's is on Palm Parkway, just minutes from Disney Springs at Walt Disney World.


The Chicagoland-based chain has operated two restaurants in the Tampa area for the past several years. This is its first location in the Orlando area.


The new restaurant has indoor seating, outdoor seating, a double-drive thru, and curb-side pick-up options. It also plans to offer delivery to a limited area.


The Italian Beef sandwich and french fries traveled well in my car for the 15 minute ride home from the drive thru.

Photos 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!

Get Away Today Logo

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.

 

Comments

  1. By jcruise86

    THANK YOU for this update!

  2. By carolinakid

    Just booked a stay at the Dolphin from 12/7-12/15!

  3. Discuss this article on MousePad.