Walt Disney World Resort Update for June 15-21, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for June 15-21, 2021

 Writer's Note, News & Views (Combined)

With Avengers Campus out west at Disney California Adventure continuing to be the focus of Disney Parks last week, along with the further easing of pandemic-related restrictions in California, it was a rather quiet week for Walt Disney World Resort news here in Florida. Pandemic-related restrictions in Florida were always less stringent than California, and the Walt Disney World Resort's operations had been more measured than the state and Orange County required.

This past weekend, in light of the latest revised governmental and health-expert guidance, Walt Disney World Resort noted that it was further easing its resort-wide policies for fully vaccinated guests. Effective today, June 15, except for while at the entrances to and aboard all Disney transportation (monorail, bus, boat, and Disney Skyliner), fully vaccinated guests are no longer required to wear face coverings. The State of Florida does not permit businesses to request proof of vaccination, and Disney is honoring that by stating: "While we do not require proof of vaccination, we expect Guests who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing face coverings in all indoor locations and upon entering and throughout all attractions and transportation."

While the Walt Disney World Resort information page has since been further revised on its website, the announcement looked like this as of Saturday, June 12:

Nearby, Universal Orlando Resort announced this week that it has ended its capacity reductions at its parks. As of this posting, Walt Disney World has not explicitly announced that it has followed suit, but, as we noted in past Updates, Disney CEO Bob Chapek acknowledged on the company's earnings call that the previously-imposed 35% cap had been raised to an unspecified level. The Disney Park Pass reservation system remains in place, with reservations available throughout the calendar year.

Contrary to some reports I saw on the web last night, Bob Chapek did not comment on whether the reservation system would remain permanently in place during his virtual question-and-answer session at the Credit Suisse 23rd Annual Communications Conference yesterday, Monday, June 14, 2021. He did say that the Disney Parks & Experiences business used the pandemic-caused shutdown to fully reconsider every aspect of its operations, from both a guest experience and a from a financial yield management perspective. In particular, he said, it gave the business an opportunity to build and expand processes and systems (virtual queues and mobile order, for example) that were much more difficult during regular operations. He discussed changes made in terms of improving the company's return on investment capital without putting more guests in the parks, and talked about how data informs ticket pricing, but he did not explicitly talk about the Disney Park Pass reservation system. To view this mainly financial discussion, as of our publication, a replay is available on this page of The Walt Disney Company website.

On a personal level, as a recently renewed Platinum Annual Passholder, my personal frustration mounts. Under the current system, I am only allowed to hold three Disney Park Pass reservations at a time to visit the parks absent a hotel reservation. In other words, a pass that theoretically allows 365 days of admission subject to capacity restrictions (that, in the past, only kicked in on the highest attendance days like Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and the opening of something big and new,) now does not always allow me to agree to meet friends and family in the parks anytime they visit, and, particularly, at the last minute. (Granted, my frustrations are not as pronounced as my California colleagues and friends who cannot buy Annual Passes to Disneyland right now at all, nor my local Central Florida friends that cannot buy new APs like former Cast Members that no longer have park privileges and those that cancelled APs during the pandemic and phased reopening but are now vaccinated and ready to resume park visits.)

At the same time, as is true for all guests visiting the parks, though the in-park attendance has increased, the actual "capacity" of the parks remains limited by the attractions and other live entertainment and character meet and greets that have not returned, the shops and restaurants that have yet to reopen, and so forth. In other words, when I have visited the parks, the open attractions generally have had high posted standby times (Jungle Cruise, for example, had a 50 minute standby time when I was last at Magic Kingdom) because guests who might otherwise be off enjoying a parade, waiting for a character encounter, or be sitting in a few hundred or a couple thousand seat theater for a show, are now all standing in line for attractions. And for all folks' past criticisms of FastPass+ attraction reservations, Walt Disney World parks have returned to the days where many guests end up spending much of their day waiting in lines rather than enjoying the parks.

I did receive a new Annual Passholder Mickey Mouse magnet this week following my recent AP renewal. (Donald Duck is just an illustration on the mailer.) Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

This past week's Disney Parks Blog posting of its June 2021 "Foodie News," Walt Disney World shared news of the reopening of a few more Disney dining locations. No other venue reopenings have been announced, but some may be forthcoming, as rumors persist.

  • Sebastian's Bistro at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
    Nightly walk-in availability from June 24 through July 4.
    Reservations now open for seatings starting July 5.
  • 'Ohana at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
    Opening July 9. Reservations now open.
    Characters will not be hosting breakfast, but a strolling musician will entertain dinner guests. Meals will be "all you care to enjoy" family style, and, after some hubbub following their omission from the original announcement, yes, noodles, pot stickers, crispy soy chicken wings, and the signature bread pudding are all on the menu.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

  • Tusker House Restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom
    Opening June 20. Reservations now open.
    Donald Duck and friends will welcome guests and the food will be family-style service.
  • BoardWalk Ice Cream Shop
    Now open, having replaced AmpleHills Creamery which closed with the pandemic and, as a result of its bankruptcy filing, ended its Disney location participation.

Lately, it seems, Walt Disney World Resort likes to make announcements on Tuesdays, so it may be a particularly good day to stay tuned to our social media channels if you like to know the latest as soon as we do. In any event, when we hear official news, we'll share it and then we'll recap it here in the next Walt Disney World Resort Update. And, as always, if you are headed to Central Florida (or, really, anywhere along the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico), remember that it is Tropical Storm season: at publication, three systems are under observation, with one in the Gulf of Mexico likely to send some extra rain toward Walt Disney World Resort late this week. If you have not been vaccinated and you are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, do yourself and the rest of us a favor: get vaccinated.

UPDATED TUESDAY AFTERNOON (as predicted in the prior paragraph, Disney Parks Blog made a major announcement about the return of fireworks on both coasts in July)...

Disney After Hours Boo Bash! Adds Five More Event Dates but Halloween is Already Sold Out!

When tickets go on sale today for this year's hard ticket Halloween offering "Disney After Hours Boo Bash," there will be five additional dates guests can choose from beyond the original 23 dates announced, but Halloween itself has already sold out to those that had early access by having reservations at Walt Disney World Resort hotels. For more information about the event and its tickets visit this page of DisneyWorld.com or call (407)939-4240. The event will be offered on 28 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
Disney After Hours Boo Bash runs on select nights from August 10 to Halloween and is premium priced. Image Courtesy Disney Parks Blog.

As we wrote last week, 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 (and already sold out). 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.

Maleficent made her nighttime debut at Disney Villains After Hours events before the pandemic. File photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

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." There is no mention of any fireworks as part of this run of "After Hours," and, indeed, unlike the parties, such events have not included fireworks in the past. There will be candy and guests can wear costumes (subject to Disney's rules).

This & That…

…Looking for a last minute Father's Day gift? Walt Disney World Golf is offering a 10% value bonus on its gift cards through today, June 15.

…Speaking of Father's Day, Maria & Enzo's and Enzo's Hideaway both have some Old Fashioned specials on the menu: limited time drinks available through June 20. Both Disney Springs venues are open for reservations on Father's Day too.

…REMINDER: As of publication, tickets are still available for the "Old Fashioned Evening at Maria and Enzo's Ristorante," its "upscale affair," featuring the opportunity to sample the best Knob Creek whiskey, with barrels specifically chosen for Maria and Enzo's, and dine on Italian-influenced bites on Wednesday, June 23 at 7 p.m. at Disney Springs. Guests must be 21 or over. Tickets 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.

…REMINDER: 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.

Disney+ Behind the Attractions
The full 10-episode "Behind the Attraction" series debuts on Disney+ on July 16. Image Courtesy Disney Parks Blog.

…Away from Walt Disney World Resort but very nearby, today, at 10:30 a.m., the doors officially open at the Lake Buena Vista Portillo's restaurant following a 10 a.m. ribbon cutting. Known for its menu of Chicago-style favorites like Chicago-Style Hot Dogs, Famous Italian Beef Sandwiches, Char-Grilled Burgers and Portillo's Famous Chocolate Cake, the new location is located in the Village at O-Town West at 7715 Palm Parkway (intersection of Palm Parkway and Daryl Carter Blvd., about a five minute drive from Disney Springs). The 7,800-square-foot restaurant features double drive-thru lanes as well as two large covered outdoor patios. The interior features a diner theme, with an ode to rock 'n roll with an electric guitar ceiling installation. If you sign up for Portillo's Birthday Club you can get a free slice of chocolate cake on your birthday. The chain has two other Florida locations in Tampa and Brandon.

Portillo's held some free, invited preview days in recent weeks, and this former Chicagoan was very pleased with what he tasted. File Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

…Further away from Walt Disney World Resort, down I-4, Busch Gardens Tampa has resumed nightly fireworks through August 8, and then will show fireworks on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, until a final Monday, Labor Day show on September 6. Closer to Walt Disney World, its sister park, SeaWorld Orlando will begin nightly fireworks later this week, and run nightly June 18 through August 8. Universal Studios Orlando has already begun showing its "Cinematic Celebration" on select nights that includes fireworks over its lagoon, and recently added "A Celebration of the Olympics" ahead of the Tokyo Games (which will be televised domestically by outlets affiliated with Universal's parent Comcast, such as the NBC-TV network). Meanwhile, Bob Chapek, in the Credit Suisse Q&A, did note the obvious: work continues on EPCOT's new nightly spectacular, "Harmonious," but he provided no details about when fireworks will resume at Disney Parks.

…And from home, you soon will be able to explore more of the world of Pandora in an upcoming game, "Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora." A trailer was released this week.

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Resort Reservations, 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.

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.

Walt Disney World Resort Summer Room Offer for Select Disney Resort hotels provides savings up to 25% on rooms for stays most nights July 11, 2021 through September 29, 2021.

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. 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.

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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.



  1. By wdwchuck

    Hey Alan, Great report as always and I agree 100% with your rant. I was able to see how Disney managements views were in direct opposition to Disney's customer views in the paragraph just before you started your rant.
    "From both a guest experience and a from a financial yield management perspective..."
    I have experienced first hand how Disney just wants to extract financial yield from me and my family. I feel very strongly that the Disney Theme Parks should move to the Costco model and away from the financial yield model ASAP.
    Costco treats all of it's stakeholders with dignity and respect. Its customers, its suppliers, and its employees are all highly valued and this is how they reward shareholders/Wall Street. Not by trying to scrape every nickel and dime they can from those stakeholders just to reward Wall Street and the shareholders. A lot of the joy has gone out of going to WDW and not just for the reasons you describe in your complaints. Disney focuses far too much on rewarding it's big shareholders/hedge funds and not enough on the other stakeholders in the mix. There are other ways of doing business than squeezing suppliers to the bone, skimping on employee salaries and jacking up the costs of your product every few months while you make the product less attractive and fun.

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