Walt Disney World Resort Update for August 10-16, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for August 10–16, 2021

 Writer's Note & News (Combined)

It's the second week of August, and here in my neighborhood and most of Central Florida, public schools go back in session today. In pre-COVID-19 times, these hot, humid, scattered thunderstorm days of summer have tended to be rather quiet times around Walt Disney World Resort. But Halloween celebrations are underway (Disney After Hours Boo Bash starts tonight, for example) and EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival has started, plus there are still some Florida Resident ticket offers that all combine to possibly change past trends. As I discuss below, I visited Disney's Hollywood Studios on Saturday, and it felt (mostly) crowded.

At the same time, Florida continues to be among the leaders in the counts of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations spurred by the Delta variant. An alarming number of young people are now becoming seriously ill as well. Indeed, AdventHealth, the official healthcare provider of Walt Disney World Resort, and the major hospital/medical facility operator in the region, has again postponed elective surgeries and limited visitation due to very high bed-occupancy rates. Disney Parks (on both coasts) continue to follow the updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control: everyone ages 2 and up are again required 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. 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 I advise each week, no matter your vaccination status, be sure to check the "experience updates" page of Walt Disney World for the latest information you need to know before you visit. The policies are in flux, and while it's unlikely the Resort will shutdown again in the near-term, Disney may very well impose guest restrictions that are stricter than those imposed by the State of Florida.

Turning to the weather beyond the hot, humid, daily scattered thunderstorms part, it's tropical storm season, and, right on schedule, we are getting to its most active time. As I type the final sentences of this Update just ahead of our usual Tuesday publication, Central Florida, including Walt Disney World Resort, is forecast within the "cone of uncertainty" for a tropical storm being monitored in the Atlantic Ocean; per the latest forecast, it may impact the region starting this Saturday, August 14. If you are heading this way (or live in the region), please keep yourself informed of the latest forecast and get prepared.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Sample Pricing and More Revealed

Following last week's discussion of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser details, this past week, Disney Parks Blog debuted the first commercial for the unique 2-night/2-day experiences coming to Walt Disney World Resort starting in Spring 2022, and then updated the official www.starwarsgalacticstarcruiser.com website on DisneyWorld.com with sample itineraries, cabin types, dining experiences, and sample rates for late-summer/early fall 2022 (that traditionally quiet period mentioned above). As expected, the experience will be priced like a cruise (at price-points starting above even a premium Disney Cruise Line voyage), and includes accommodations, a MagicBand, meals and a planetary excursion to Batuu (admission to Disney's Hollywood Studios), and will offer opportunities to be enhanced with extras you can pay for (like dinner at the Captain's table, or costumes you can order from ShopDisney.com in advance, or the build-your-own lightsaber experience at Savi's, and so forth).

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

The key takeaways from the updated information now available about the experience include:

  • The starcruiser features 100 cabins and suites.
    • Standard Cabin sleeps 4 to 5 guests: queen bed, 2 berth-style bunk beds for one adult each and a wall pull-down bed for one adult. Cabin includes a mini-refrigerator, hair dryer, in-cabin safe, phone with voicemail, interactive TV (including entertainment from Earth), bath amenities. The cabin has a window with a view out into space and a pull-out table.
    • Galaxy Class Suite is a one-bedroom living space that sleeps 4 guests: queen bed and 2 wall pull-down beds for one adult each. Cabin includes the same amenities as Standard Cabin plus a living space with an integrated seating area, a double vanity bathroom, bar area, and two windows with views of space including "a few extra" Star Wars surprises.
    • Grand Captain Suite is a two-bedroom living space for a family of 8 guests: 2 queen beds, 2 berth-style bunk beds for one adult each and 2 wall pull-down beds for one adult each. Cabin includes the same amenities as Standard Cabin plus a main suite with a double vanity bathroom, a second bathroom with a single vanity, a bar area, and 3 windows with views out into space including "a few extra" Star Wars surprises.

Rates at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will be based on a cabin room for the 2-night experience. Screenshot from www.starwarsgalacticstarcruiser.com.

  • Dining Aboard the Starcruiser will be in the Crown of Corellia Dining Room.
    • Like a cruise ship, there will be two seatings for dinners. Guests may state a preference when booking.
    • Dinner the first night will be as a table-service supper club with "a special musical appearance by a galactic superstar."
    • Dinner on the second night will be "The Taste Around the Galaxy" which will feature food from "iconic destination planets throughout the galaxy" and each course will be presented with a brief introduction.
    • An up-charge dinner at the Captain's Table will be available, with extra courses while seated in a prime location in the center of the dining room.
    • Breakfast and lunch will also be available in the Crown of Corellia Dining Room.
  • Dining During the Excursion to Batuu
    • Guests can enjoy a quick-service meal at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo (or can wander beyond Star Wars-Galaxy's Edge to other not-yet-specified Disney's Hollywood Studios quick service locations) and have an entrée and beverage (age appropriate); guests ages 3-9 can have one combo meal from children's menu offerings in the park.
  • To enjoy some of the immersive experiences, guests will be required to use the Play Disney Parks mobile app and may need to use or wear a MagicBand (referred to as a databand during the experience). Play Disney Parks app requires access to a mobile device with a Wi-Fi or mobile carrier data connection with the Play Disney Parks mobile app installed, and guests need to be signed into the application with their Disney account, with Bluetooth and other permissions enabled.

Views of (and about) Disney's Hollywood Studios

A friend was in town and asked if I would meet at Disney's Hollywood Studios on Saturday. I'm pleased to report that with just a few days' heads-up there were still Disney park pass reservations available as an annual passholder (I didn't check the other categories). It's unclear to what extent there remains any attendance cap below full capacity, but a valid ticket and reservation are still needed to visit, and park hopping does not open to those with that benefit until 2 p.m.

My out-of-town friend wanted to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. My friend had only the one day to visit the park and had an early evening flight to catch. We tried to join a boarding group when the virtual queue opened at 7 a.m., but it filled practically instantly. We were able to join a "backup" group at the 1 p.m. opening of the virtual queue, but the rate at which boarding groups were called during the day meant that my friend would be unable to experience this landmark attraction.

As a local annual passholder, I can pretty easily shrug off the days when I visit the park and do not get to experience Rise of the Resistance because I can try again and again (and, indeed, in full disclosure, I have had other special-invitation opportunities to experience the attraction, as I have shared here on MousePlanet before thanks to media previews and such). The virtual queue system seems rather flawed, though, when someone like my friend, visiting only for a day, is unable to experience it at all. In fact, it was when our boarding group was called at around 7:30 p.m., after my friend's flight departed, that I realized the really glaring flaw in the operation of the virtual queue.

We tried and failed at 7 a.m. to join a Boarding Group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. At the 1 p.m. opening of the virtual queue, we were able to get a "Backup" group assignment. I was able to enter the attraction at just after 7:30 p.m. Photo and screenshots by Alan S. Dalinka.

When I reached the attraction entrance and had my MagicBand scanned to confirm my boarding group, I was sent down the abbreviated queue corridor built (but never used for) the Disney FastPass+ service. This immediately indicated to me that there were not many guests inside the attraction.

(Very light spoilers follow but nothing that was not publicly revealed by Disney before the attraction opened to the public in December 2019.)

After my transport was captured by the First Order and my fellow passengers and I were ordered off the transport, I walked quickly past the stormtroopers in the hangar and down the hallway to interrogation. There were no other guests queued in the hallway leading to interrogation, and, indeed, when I was assigned an interrogation room, because I did not linger in the hangar as most guests do to admire the stormtroopers (which I have had ample past opportunity to do), I was placed in interrogation completely alone and then got to experience the remainder of the attraction completely alone (not just alone in my ride vehicle, the only person in the 16 seats that travel the experience the rest of the way to the attraction's conclusion).

I thoroughly enjoyed this unique way to experience the attraction. I rank it only behind my very first full time through the attraction. But when I got home that evening, it dawned on me just how bad that sort of guest-flow through the attraction is for those guests, like my friend, who did not get to visit it at all. There must be a way to distribute this excess capacity to more guests. Indeed, if you watch the front gate of Disney's Hollywood Studios, you see a good number of guests stream out the exit well before park closing time, leaving shorter waits at many attractions around the park as closing time approaches.

Personally, I would like to see a virtual queue system that looks more like FastPass+ did at its best—where I could pick a time of day and didn't have to get up hours before the park opened to attempt to get a time assigned. Sure, there were busy times where FastPass+ availability seemed scarce when making those attractions reservations in advance, but that was managed by the park holding back some availability and releasing it as operations permitted. If nothing else, if Rise of the Resistance has no internal wait time and is dispatching empty ride vehicles, is there any reason the park can't reopen the virtual queue as a surprise a delight moment? Wouldn't that, perhaps, entice more guests to stay in the park later (and, perhaps, spend more on food and beverage and whatnot while they stay)?

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

This & That…

…As the start of "The World's Most Magical Celebration" approaches with the October 1 marking of the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Parks Blog welcomed back Steven Miller to its roster of authors this past week with what will be a trip down memory lane of visits to Walt Disney World Resort for the 23-year veteran cast member and former Walt Disney World Resort Ambassador. Until Steven took on his current role at the Resort, he was frequently one of the representatives we got to speak with at media-invited events around the resort (and often featured video of him talking about the latest merchandise on our social media channels). Keep an eye out for his very thoughtful and nostalgic posts.

…As promised last week, Disney Parks Blog shared a first look on Friday at some of "The World's Most Magical Celebration" inspired merchandise that will soon be available as part of the Walt Disney World Resort's celebration of its 50th Anniversary.

…Magic Kingdom is all decked out for celebrating Halloween now through October 31 because the new hard-ticket Disney After Hours Boo Bash kicks off tonight with its select-nights, limited-attendance event schedule. Day or night, of course, all four parks and Disney Springs will offer up food and beverage Halloween treat offerings, and Disney Parks Blog shared the best bites for the season (some coming soon), including news of a Mickey Mummy Popcorn Bucket coming soon to all four parks and Disney Springs, and, starting today, August 10, Minnie’s Halloween Dine returns through November 3 at Hollywood & Vine at Disney's Hollywood Studios with Disney characters and friends making special appearances in costumes for the season.

…Yesterday, runDisney revealed the medals for finishers during the upcoming 2021 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend. The theme is "wickedly delicious," meaning the medals feature Disney Villains.

…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.

…REMINDER: the Swan and Dolphin Resort continue to host job fairs this week, 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 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.

…REMINDER: 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.

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.

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 to Friday 9 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. MT) and tell them MousePlanet sent you!

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  1. By wdwchuck

    Hey Alan, Thanks for the report but just a warning. We got shut down the other day by a Mouse Planet moderator for commenting on the vaccine.
    It turns out this is not the place to post about that. There are definitely two or more sides to what is going on including that the vaccine is causing the variants and that you can still get very sick and transmit the virus even if you have been vaccinated.
    Look at the data coming out of Israel and other places. Also, the national media HATES Governor DeSantis and they are getting caught smearing him with all sorts of falsehoods including about Florida Covid data.
    Things will be more clear very, very soon, until then, unless you get a medical degree real quick, I would lay off urging people to get the vaccine. There are tons of downsides to it and not much upside it appears.
    It is still experimental and for a lot of people, the experiment has failed.

  2. By carolinakid

    I despise the national media.

  3. By Dave1313

    My out-of-town friend wanted to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. My friend had only the one day to visit the park and had an early evening flight to catch. We tried to join a boarding group when the virtual queue opened at 7 a.m., but it filled practically instantly. We were able to join a "backup" group at the 1 p.m. opening of the virtual queue, but the rate at which boarding groups were called during the day meant that my friend would be unable to experience this landmark attraction.

    As a local annual passholder, I can pretty easily shrug off the days when I visit the park and do not get to experience Rise of the Resistance because I can try again and again (and, indeed, in full disclosure, I have had other special-invitation opportunities to experience the attraction, as I have shared here on MousePlanet before thanks to media previews and such). The virtual queue system seems rather flawed, though, when someone like my friend, visiting only for a day, is unable to experience it at all. In fact, it was when our boarding group was called at around 7:30 p.m., after my friend's flight departed, that I realized the really glaring flaw in the operation of the virtual queue.

    Folks, we have a winner! That's been my problem with this virtual queue system since they announced it (and it is of course exacerbated now with the park reservations that Disney seems to want to keep since people so willingly accepted that new hoop to jump through during the pandemic).

    I've not yet been on RotR since I was only there for a short 3 day trip one time after it opened. I was focused on holiday decor viewing with someone who is not as much of a Star Wars nut as I am, so I did not want to drive the course of the trip with this, even if I could have possibly obtained a boarding group. So being the Star Wars nut that I am, I'd be perfectly willing to invest my time to get to experience it the next time I was to go down there. Meaning I'd be fully OK with having to wait in a standby line for a couple of hours once or twice if necessary if they still don't do FP+ for this ride.

    As a previous (non-local) annual passholder for my 2-3 roughly week long trips a year pre-COVID, the change in the dynamic of the entire WDW experience with the elimination of "park hopping at will" (meaning the 2 PM limitation that Disney seems to want to keep) along with the virtual queue is the deal breaker. Having to plan to start at DHS every day just to try to get a boarding group would be fine.... IF I could still just go to any other park I wanted on days I don't get a boarding group. But now I'm committing to being at DHS (or at least not being in another park) every day I want to try for a boarding group until 2 PM, whether I win the MDE lottery to get a boarding group or not. And I guess I'd better not make any ADRs that are not in DHS while I'm trying to do all this, because I'm sure Mr. Murphy would visit and make my boarding group time conflict with a lunch or dinner reservation that might be in another park.

    Back a year ago when they offered the extension vs refund for APs, I did think about it for a while. At the time, I was fairly confident I did not want to visit while we were still in the pre-vaccine era of needing to wear masks, keeping 6 feet away, etc. I never dreamed that Disney would intentionally keep the park reservation nonsense as a form of crowd prediction after they re-opened to higher capacities (fully understood the need when they were TRULY limiting to 25% of capacity - many pictures/videos over the last 8-9 months seem to indicate that limit is long in the past).

    So any one of these things alone probably would not be a big deal in my mind any more. I had (until the requirement to wear masks even if vaccinated came to be a few weeks ago) been warming up to attempting a hastily scheduled trip around the 50th. The combination of masks, limited hopping, and park reservations finally made it where it's not fun any more(at least for me), so I'm pretty sure I'm not even going to look into it anymore at this point. Congratulations, Disney! (not blaming Disney for requiring the masks, that is probably a good idea for the inside areas right now, it's just the cumulative effect, and Disney has full control over the other 2 items, neither of which likely has anything to do with COVID safety at this point)

    On a brighter note, I'll have to look at some old pics I probably have for the RRC pre-show room to see what is on those chairs. I think I've probably taken some limited pictures in there before, the cables on the floor in the shape of a Hidden Mickey comes to mind (though I regularly stow all my gear in a locker before getting in line for this due to the inversions, I am pretty sure I took my cheapie point and shoot or iPod on the ride with me (in my cargo shorts pocket for the ride itself) once or twice to get some pics of the queue area and pre show).

    Thanks for the update. Sorry for the rant in agreement with the virtual queue. As impressive as the experience may be (I may never know ), IMHO, Disney really screwed up if they designed a ride that physically cannot handle the volume caused by having a standby queue.

  4. By wdwchuck

    Thanks Dave, I can really identify with your reasoning here. I am pretty certain that we are going to see some big changes soon. One way or another. WDW is not much of a priority right now for us. Stupid move keeping the park reservation thing and also requiring their employees to get the vaccine.

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