Walt Disney World Resort Update for June 8-14, 2021by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer
Walt Disney World Resort Update for June 8-14, 2021
Writer's Note, News & Views (Combined)
According to the meteorologists, summer is underway. It's harder to tell here in Central Florida. It's been hot here for quite awhile, and we are slowly moving from the dry season (yes, we really have one), into the wet season with more days where spotty rain showers pop up. From my time here in Central Florida, experience suggests we are still about four weeks away from the guaranteed daily rain downpours, but it varies so widely through the region, be prepared because, oh yeah, it's Tropical Storm season too (but, so far, fairly quiet). But it must be summer since most of the neighborhood public schools have gone on break, and I sure have seen my personal social media feed filled across the country with friends' kids celebrating graduations and last days of school.
Over at Walt Disney World Resort, since just after Memorial Day, my big neighbor just down the road has started making a bit more noise and lighting up the sky more than it has during this global pandemic and the phased reopening that's now been in place for almost a year. While we have yet to see an official announcement for the resumption of nightly fireworks at the parks, here, at my house, I heard (but did not happen to see) a major fireworks production around midnight a few nights ago that was widely reported to have been a pyro test of Harmonious, the new nighttime spectacular at EPCOT. As I was finalizing this week's Update at 1:30 a.m. this morning, I stepped outside on to my driveway and saw a new very bright lighted beacon in the sky coming from the general direction of EPCOT, less than five miles as the crow flies.
As I reported before Memorial Day, Orlando International Airport has been seeing passenger levels returning to (and exceeding) 2019 levels. Orange County Florida lifted the local state of emergency put in place at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday. News sources report that Mayor Jerry Demings said that approximately 60% of the eligible population is now vaccinated in the county and the Department of Health projections indicate that the 14-day rolling positivity rate in the area is at or below 5%. The County moved to "Phase 3" of its reopening plan and lifted all coronavirus restrictions effective on Saturday. The State of Florida removed its restrictions (and took away violation enforcement from counties back in May).
Now, having said that, the Centers for Diseases Control still has mask and social/physical distancing guidelines in place for unvaccinated people, so businesses can still require masks and, of course, folks can still opt to wear them regardless of status. As of publication, Disney has continued to require that guests wear masks and distance at all attractions and indoor locations except when eating or drinking while stationary. Last month, Walt Disney World Resort ended mandatory guest and cast temperature screenings, and ended its requirement that face coverings be worn in all public locations. Up-to-date information you need to know if you visit is updated on this page of DisneyWorld.com.
Disney Park Pass Reservations are still required to visit the theme parks. Attendance capacity is still limited, but the cap has not been shared with the public. There are many days that there are no park 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 still 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.
The increase in capacity has resulted in visibly higher attendance. Again, Disney does not publicly share the numbers, but what is clear, as I wrote last time, with most of the largest "people eating" live entertainment offerings not yet reopened, operating attraction wait times seem to be climbing and the parks can feel crowded. Disney has said more live entertainment will return this summer, but has yet to announce specifics. There are also still quite a few food and beverage as well as merchandise locations that have not yet reopened.
I spent my first night in a Disney Resort on Saturday night since January 2020, using my Disney Vacation Club points at The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The enhanced cleaning was well in-evidence in the room and around the common areas. To me, and the other vaccinated friends I invited to join me, it did start to feel like before the pandemic again except when stepping back into the indoor common areas. The continued existence of the Park Pass Reservation system, with its maximum of three reservations for Annual Passholders on days when not staying in a Disney Resort hotel are another reminder. (Maybe more on that in a future Update.)
Oddly, the graphic on Disney Resort televisions for Disney Springs continues to include images like DisneyQuest and the old version of the Characters in Flight balloon that have been gone for more than a couple of years. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Disney After Hours Boo Bash! Ticket Sales Getting Underway
As we shared on our Facebook page last Wednesday and as shared by Disney Parks Blog, this year's hard ticket Halloween offering "Disney After Hours Boo Bash" will have its tickets go on sale to the public on June 15 online or by calling (407)939-4240. Guests at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels can book tickets starting today. The event will be offered on 23 select nights starting August 10, and running through October 31. Most of those nights, the event is scheduled 9 p.m. to midnight, with some nights in August and September scheduled 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.; tickets include entry to the park as early as 7 p.m.
Disney After Hours Boo Bash runs on select nights from August 10 to Halloween and is premium priced. Image Courtesy Disney Parks Blog.
Remember, this is not a Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Rather, this is a "Disney After Hours" event, and as was true before the pandemic, "After Hours" were a premium priced ticket and, in theory, a more limited attendance event (though our experience with Disney Villains After Hours did not seem as attendance-capped as other Disney After Hours events). The premium price for this event varies by date, and starts at $129-139/person plus tax for nights in August and September, nudges up to $159-169/person plus tax for October nights except for Halloween, which is $199/person plus tax. Annual Passholders and DVC Members can get a $10/person discount for August and September events. Guests do not need to make a Disney Park Pass reservation to use these tickets.
The event will include pop up character cavalcades, including: "Mickey's Happy Halloween Cavalcade," "Disney Villains Halloween Cavalcade," "Jack's Nightmare Cavalcade," and Maleficent the fire-breathing dragon parade float from the still-on-hiatus "Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade." More socially distanced character pop-up appearances will include Miss Carlotta outside The Haunted Mansion, Goofy, Chip and Dale, and other surprises. The Cadaver Dans will perform too.
As with prior "After Hours" events, admission includes complimentary popcorn and ice cream novelties as well as select beverages. An assortment of specialty food and beverage options will be available for purchase, some will be event-exclusive. More than 20 attractions will be open to attendees, though, unlike the earliest "After Hours" events that advertised "little or no wait," all that Disney Parks Blog says is "enjoy less time waiting in line."
As noted at the beginning of this week's Update, there is no mention of any fireworks as part of this run of "After Hours." Indeed, unlike the parties, these events have not included fireworks in the past. There will be candy and guests can wear costumes (subject to Disney's rules).
EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival Begins July 15
As we noted earlier this spring, EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival gets underway July 15. It is noteworthy that the "Taste of" moniker that has accompanied all the EPCOT festivals since the park's phased reopening last summer has been dropped, but, so far, Disney has not announced the restoration of the popular pieces of the Festival that have been on hiatus to promote physical distancing and crowd control.
The Festival is scheduled for 129 days this year, July 15 through November 20. Last week, Disney Parks Blog announced that this year's festival is presented by CORKCICLE, which is new as a sponsor at this level. The Shimmering Sips Global Marketplace (and four other locations) will offer sparkling beverages available for purchase in an exclusive keepsake CORKCICLE premium beverage container. Other announced returning Global Marketplaces include Hawai'i, Australia, Germany, Canada, and Greece. New concepts are coming to Morocco, The American Adventure, and elsewhere in July, and more marketplaces open in the fall.
The entertainment announced so far includes additional performances by EPCOT mainstays Voices of Liberty, Mariachi Cobre and Jammin' Chefs. On Fridays through Monday evenings, local bands will play popular music on the America Gardens Theatre stage. The usual rounds of "Eat to the Beat" headliners have not been announced, but maybe, just maybe that is ahead, with some of the other theme parks in the region increasingly hosting bigger and bigger concert events and, indeed, some of the acts that have performed at prior EPCOT festivals now touring again (like Herman's Hermits).
Views Around Magic Kingdom
In connection with my stay at The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort, I made a Disney Park Pass reservation and visited Magic Kingdom for a few hours (between occasional rain downpours).
Jungle Cruse sported a 50 minute standby time at mid-afternoon on Saturday. The reimagined scene of explorers climbing a pole to avoid a rhino appeared overnight a few days earlier. (I chose not to explore the standby queue.)
The scattered showers provided the perfect backdrop for a photo of The Haunted Mansion which had only a 15 minute posted Standby time (and, with the stretching room scene serving as part of the queue as a walk-through, the queue typically moves continuously and quickly).
Even before the pandemic, Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant operated seasonally, with an often changing menu. It is currently operating with a menu featuring items that guests usually expect over at Columbia Harbour House which has been serving as the extended queue for Peter Pan's Flight and not as a restaurant.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
Views Around Magic Kingdom Resorts
Since I stayed at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, I have views to share from there too this week, as well as the other two monorail resorts. As you may recall, as May wrapped up, Disney Vacation Club announced that it plans to convert Disney's Grand Floridian Resort's Big Pine Key (building nine, which is within view to the north the current DVC building) into approximately 200 Resort Studios, each accommodating up to five guests. The new Villas will be an expansion of The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and part of its current condominium association, projected to open summer 2022.
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
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. A walkway opened last year connecting Magic Kingdom to Grand Floridian where it joins with existing walkways all the way to the TTC.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
Practically next door to Disney's Grand Floridian Resort, Disney's Polynesian Village Resort remains only partially open with DVC accommodations available. Construction continues on the Resort's reimagined Porte Cochere, Monorail Station, and main entrance to the hotel lobby in the Ceremonial House.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
Disney's Contemporary Resort
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
This & That…
…Yesterday, on Disney-owned ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" comedian and actor Jon Stewart announced that he will host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2021 Department of Defense Warrior Games at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort on September 12 and 22. This is the first time ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will serve as the venue for the Games where hundreds of "elite athletes" will compete in 12 "adaptive sporting events," including sitting volleyball, powerlifting, wheelchair basketball, archery, track, and field. The Games will be open to the public but details have not yet been announced. More information is available at DODWarriorGames.com.
…Starting July 16, Disney+ subscribers can view all ten episodes of "Behind the Attraction," a new original series looking behind the scenes of attractions and destinations at Disney Parks and Resorts around the world. The series, narrated by Paget Brewster, promises "archival and never-before-seen footage and photographs" of the development and refinement of attractions over the years from The Jungle Cruise to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. The series also includes rare interviews with Walt Disney, Disney Legends, and past and present Imagineers including Bob Weis, Jeanette Lomboy, Kim Irvine, Scott Trowbridge, Tom Fitzgerald, Scot Drake, Carmen Smith, and Joe Rohde.
The full 10-episode "Behind the Attraction" series debuts on Disney+ on July 16. Image Courtesy Disney Parks Blog.
…Speaking of Imagineers, Zach Riddley, Creative Portfolio Executive, continues to provide little bits of details on his Instagram page about the on-going "historic transformation" of EPCOT. In the past couple weeks, he has posted about some of the color design and flooring choices for the old CommuniCore/Innoventions East building which will be home to the new "Creations Shop" (replacing MouseGear) and the new "Club Cool" (Coca-Cola Store).
…Over at Disney Springs, on Wednesday, June 23 at 7 p.m., if you're 21 or over, you can join Maria and Enzo's Old Fashioned Evening at Maria and Enzo's Ristorante, "an upscale affair," with the opportunity to sample the best Knob Creek whiskey, with barrels specifically chosen for Maria and Enzo's, and dine on Italian-influenced bites. Tickets are limited, and are available for $85 per person plus tax and gratuity on this page of the Patina Group website. The full menu for the event is posted there too.
…Away from Walt Disney World Resort but also in Central Florida, an all-new, family-friendly music festival is coming to LEGOLAND Florida Resort this Labor Day Weekend, September 4 through 6. DJ L.L.A.M.A – the musical "superstar" behind LEGO VIDIYO – will be making a special appearance at LEGOLAND Florida Resort for one weekend only as part of his newly announced world tour. Event activities are included with general admission and select annual passes. For more information, visit LEGOLAND.com/florida.
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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.
Walt Disney World Resort continues to offer Florida Resident ticket specials with savings up to 40% on 4-day, 1-park tickets. Visit this page of DisneyWorld.com for more information and availability (which varies by date). Florida proof of residency required, and there is now a way to provide it electronically.
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.
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