Walt Disney World Resort Update for August 3-9, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for August 3–9, 2021

 Writer's Note & News (Combined)

The big news for Disney Parks fans today is Disneyland Resort's introduction of the Magic Key program to replace the four-decades-old Annual Passholder program it ended during a year in which the global pandemic and California's statewide response to it saw the closure of both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure. Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix gave readers of our Disneyland Resort Update a heads-up about the program yesterday after an email went out to Disneyland Resort Legacy Passholders. Full details will be released at some point today, Tuesday, August 3, no earlier than 1 p.m. Pacific (4 p.m. Eastern).

Here in Central Florida, Walt Disney World Resort's Annual Pass program continues to offer renewals to those who held passes before the Florida theme parks' briefer total shutdown (which ran from March through July 2020) and have continued to hold them during the Resort's phased reopening. Personally, I renewed my annual pass a little less than two months ahead of its expiration (which had already been extended by Disney to cover the time the parks were closed and an additional month in consideration of keeping, rather than cancelling, the pass during the permitted time).

Perhaps the Disneyland Magic Key roll-out will provide some clues about the future of annual passes on this coast but, as those who have been to the Disney Resorts on both coasts know, the population of passholders is quite different between the two. Historically, a greater portion of Disneyland passholders has been local to the area in comparison to Walt Disney World passholders, with Disney Vacation Club Members and other frequent visitors who don't live in Florida also making up a significant portion of the passholder population. Indeed, I have had a Walt Disney World Resort Annual Pass many more years than I have lived in Florida.

By now you probably also know, since our last Walt Disney World Resort Update, that Disney Parks on both coasts followed the updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. Disney again requires everyone ages 2 and up to wear face coverings in all indoor locations, attractions, and queues regardless of vaccination status. Outdoors, face coverings remain optional in most locations for vaccinated guests. Guests continue to be required to wear face coverings on buses, monorails, and on Disney Skyliner.

You've probably seen that COVID-19 infections, along hospitalization rates, are rising here in Florida—and, in particular, in Orange County, where Orlando and Walt Disney World Resort are located. The Delta variant is spreading quickly, with media reporting the increased number of younger unvaccinated people with serious illness in the ranks of those hospitalized.

If you haven't been vaccinated and you're eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, do yourself and the rest of us a favor: get vaccinated. As was widely reported in the news this week, as well as in our Disneyland Resort Update, the Walt Disney Company is requiring its salaried and non-union employees working at any U.S. site, including theme parks, stores, and offices, to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Cast members that are not yet vaccinated have 60 days to complete the process (and need to be mindful of the time between doses of the three vaccines available plus the additional 14 days the Food & Drug Administration says is necessary following the final dose to achieve the full effect of the vaccine). New hires must be fully vaccinated before starting work, and Disney is expected to discuss the application of the policy for unionized workers in the coming weeks with the various unions that represent cast. Cast members can receive the vaccine at no charge at employee health centers at the resorts on both coasts.

As a guest, no matter your vaccination status, as I advise each week, because the rules and policies evolve around the Resort as Disney consults with health experts and government officials, be sure to check the "experience updates" page of Walt Disney World for the latest information you need to know before your visit:

It's time I also say it: if you can't visit within Disney's rules and extensive accommodations, stay home or go somewhere else!

(And, yes, this is why the "Writer's Comment" section is combined with news these days.)

Disney Parks Blog also teased this week that "The World's Most Magical Celebration" merchandise will soon be available as well. More details will be announced this Friday, August 6. Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom is now fully decorated for the 18-month-long celebration of the Resort's 50th anniversary starting October 1. Photo courtesy Disney Parks.

As you have probably also heard by now, Walt Disney World Resort turns 50 years old in less than two months, and is marking the occasion with the 18-month-long World's Most Magical Celebration starting October 1. The Resort's phased reopening continues, but, of course, remember that the Resort is not operating as it did before the pandemic. In last week's Update, we shared the upcoming dates of entertainment offerings returning to the parks, and the final dates to catch "EPCOT Forever" and "Happily Ever After," ahead of the October 1 debuts of the new nighttime entertainment, "Disney Enchantment" at Magic Kingdom and "Harmonious" at EPCOT. Since our last Update, Disney Parks Blog shared the latest dining locations reopening August 5:

  • Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney's Yacht Club Resort (reservations now open)
  • Toledo – Tapas, Steak & Seafood at Disney's Coronado Sprins Resort (reservations now open)
  • Columbia Harbour House at Magic Kingdom

Since our last Update, Pizzafari at Disney's Animal Kingdom reopened yesterday, August 2. Check the My Disney Experience smartphone app for whether what you would like to visit is expected to be open and what hours.

Speaking of "Harmonious," Disney also shared a "Behind The Scenes" video of the new EPCOT nighttime spectacular that it calls, "One of the largest ever created for a Disney park and unlike anything that's been seen before." I'll let the video speak for itself here:

"Harmonious" makes its "grand debut" on October 1, and the show will have three distinct chapters: gathering on the shores of World Showcase Lagoon, celebrating the countries and cultures of the world, and uniting to create a bright tomorrow. Video courtesy Disney Parks.

Finally, my usual words about Central Florida summer weather: the daily average high temperature is above 90° F all month and it's the rainy season here around Walt Disney World Resort, with frequent daily downpours and dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning. If you plan to be out and about, be sure to have a good weather app to keep you apprised; as the National Weather Service says on my NOAA Radio here at home every time we have storms with significant cloud-to-ground lightning, if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to get struck by lightning, and, in fact, lightning can strike the ground as far as 10 miles away from a storm. The good news, for the moment, is that while we are also in tropical storm season, the forecast this week is for no expected activity in the region. The bad news is that the height of the season, which runs until the end of November, is just around the corner in September and October.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser To Open Spring 2022

The Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, the first-of-its-kind "all-immersive" hotel experience is now scheduled to open Spring 2022 at Walt Disney World (conveniently near Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Disney's Hollywood Studios). This past week, Disney Parks Blog shared some additional details about the unique 2-night/2-day experiences this new resort will offer.

Disney Parks Blog posted a video discussion among some of the Disney Imagineers working on the project, including Portfolio Executive Scott Trowbridge who was the leader of the overall Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge project as well. The 19-minute video provides some additional story detail beyond what has been revealed previously. One of the new "factoids" is that during Starcruiser guests' excusion to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, they will see details and learn backstory not otherwise necessarily apparent to ordinary Disney's Hollywood Studios guests. The Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run attractions will both tie in to the stories told during the overall Starcruiser experience as well.

To my eyes and ears, the team seemed to spend a good deal of effort trying to balance their discussion with the role play/cosplay story immersion completely within Star Wars canon that will be available to guests of this resort experience with the reassurance that those who aren't studied deep in Star Wars canon and detail will be able to enjoy themselves as well. Indeed, all guests will be free to chose to remain a spectator rather than a role player during some or all of the experience (or, if you are talking about the parent, partner, or spouse of an active guest, enjoy an adult beverage in the lounge while other activities are played out).

Disney has not revealed pricing nor when reservations will become available. With "spring 2022" being only seven to 10 months away, announcements about both should be forthcoming pretty soon.

The two-night, immersive adventure in the Star Wars universe, is scheduled to open in Spring 2022. Video courtesy Disney Parks.

This & That…

…Humphrey, a Masai giraffe calf, made his savanna debut July 29, 2021, at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Humphrey has been backstage bonding with mom Lily since his birth in June, and now joins the tower on Kilimanjaro Safaris. Guests may identify Humphrey by a unique butterfly marking over his right shoulder and the heart-shaped markings dotting his coat.

Humphrey, a Masai giraffe calf, made his savanna debut July 29, 2021, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Photo courtesy Disney Parks.

…This Friday, August 6, is International Beer Day. To celebrate, Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant at Disney Springs will celebrate by offering a special $5 deal on all Signature Brews, which normally sell for $9.50. The Signature Brews are crafted in collaboration with local brewing partners and are available only at Raglan Road. The brews include:

  • Raglan Irish Stout (Coppertail Brewing Co.)
  • Bloomsday Pale Ale (Orange Blossom Brewing Co.)
  • Tri Wishes Grand Irish Red Ale (Crooked Can Brewing Co.)
  • Blagger Organic Blonde Lager (Orlando Brewing)
  • King of Shoals NE Style IPA (Crooked Can Brewing Co.)

The Signature DeCider Belgian White Cider (Vermont Cider Co.) is also eligible for the $5 special deal.

…REMINDER: Masquerade Ball returns to The Edison at Disney Springs Friday, August 20, from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. Live entertainment will be accompanied by trays of passed appetizers, food stations, and a dedicated menu of exclusive masquerade-themed cocktails. Tickets are $150 per person (plus tax and gratuity) and guests must be 21 or older to attend. VIP booths and couches are also available for an an additional $250 for guaranteed seating and a dedicated server. VIP information is available by emailing OrlandoEvents@patinagroup.com or calling (407) 560-8155.

…REMINDER: The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic returns Friday, October 29 and Saturday, October 30, offering an outdoor festival featuring unlimited food tastings from the resorts' culinary team, and wine, beer and other sips from around the world. Overnight packages and event-only tickets are now available at FoodAndWineClassic.com. Overnight packages start at $580; event-only ticket options are $165 per person (including tax and service fees). Reservations are also available in the resort's new tower, Walt Disney World Swan Reserve.

…Speaking of the Swan and Dolphin Resort, it will host eight job fairs over the next two weeks and is hiring for culinary, front of house, back of house, housekeeping, and additional hospitality positions. More information on careers at the Resort is available at http://bit.ly/swandolphinjobs. Job seekers have the option to apply ahead of time at https://bit.ly/3xdUrmj, and open interviews will be held in the Swan Ballroom in the Walt Disney World Swan Resort, 1200 Epcot Resorts Blvd. Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830, as follows:

  • Front Office and Housekeeping Job Fair – Wednesday, August 4, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Culinary and Food & Beverage Job Fair – Thursday, August 5, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • All Positions Job Fair – Friday, August 6, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • All Positions Job Fair – Saturday, August 7, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Front Office and Housekeeping Job Fair – Wednesday, August 11, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Culinary and Food & Beverage Job Fair – Thursday, August 12, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • All Positions Job Fair – Friday, August 13, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • All Positions Job Fair – Saturday, August 14, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

…And, finally—since we're more than halfway to the 2021 Holidays—Give Kids The World Village announced a return of its highly popular "Night of a Million Lights Holiday Lights Spectacular" for its second annual showing, November 12, 2021 through January 2, 2022. Tickets are already available at www.gktw.org/lights for timed entry for the 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. nightly opportunity to visit the 89-acre nonprofit resort with a sparkling tree trail, larger-than-life holiday displays, one-of-a-kind step-in frames and backdrops, as well as a guided storytelling tour of 100 lit villas from the comfort of a tram. Enhancements this year will also include a 360-degree dancing lights show encompassing 21 buildings set to music with six three-minute holiday vignettes playing each hour, a holiday marketplace with upgraded food and beverage experiences, holiday merchandise, and an opportunity for children to meet Santa in an elaborately designed Florida home. VIP packages are available, as are discounts for groups of 25 or more. Proceeds support Give Kids the World Village (located at 210 South Bass Road in Kissimmee, Florida), which provides critically ill children and their families with weeklong wish vacations at no cost.

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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.

Summer Florida Resident ticket options available through September 17 allow Florida residents to visit the parks for $54/day (plus tax) with the $215 (plus tax) 4-day Florida Resident Summer Fun Ticket. The ticket is one park per day and Florida proof of residency is required. Specially priced two and three-day Florida Resident Summer Fun Tickets are also available. All tickets can be used either on consecutive or non-consecutive days. Add-ons, like Park Hopper are also available. Park reservations are also required to visit a park in addition to a valid ticket.

Florida Residents hotel rates for bookings through September 4, 2021, are available on this page of DisneyWorld.com.

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

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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.