Walt Disney World Resort is all set to begin a phased reopening approach, starting on Saturday (July 11th).
Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will be the first parks to reopen on July 11th, followed by EPCOT and Hollywood Studios on July 15th.
Opening dates for Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park are still to be determined.
The theme park will be implementing new health and safety protocols to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- Employees and guests must wear face coverings and undergo a temperature check before entering the parks.
- Capacity in Disney’s parks and the resort will be reduced and parades, fireworks and other events that create crowds will be suspended (temporarily).
- Cashless transactions and contactless payments will be enabled.
- The presence of hand-sanitizing stations will be increased.
Is it safe to reopen?
Health and safety measures side, a lot has changed at Walt Disney World.
For starters, to enter a Walt Disney World theme park, each guest must have a theme park reservation—made via the new Disney Park Pass system—along with valid park admission for the same park on the same day.
As Florida is one of the hardest-hit states by COVID-19, there are valid concerns over the potential outcome of large mass gatherings.
To date, Florida has 232,718 confirmed cases, and 4,009 deaths, as reported by Florida Health. The state recently experienced a spike in new cases as venues and public spaces, like beaches, began to reopen.
In Orlando, where Walt Disney World is located, case data shows that there are just over 15,000 active cases of COVID-19 in the region.
As a result, Disney is taking extraordinary precautions to ensure that those who choose to visit are as safe as possible.
"An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any place where people are present," Disney writes on its website. "By visiting Walt Disney Resort, you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19."
The reopening hasn't been universally applauded by all Disney employees, however.
Last month, some workers started speaking out against Disney’s plans to reopen Walt Disney World, citing concerns around Florida’s rising cases of COVID-19 infections.
A petition to delay the opening was also started and to date it has garnered nearly 20,000 signatures.
Getting into the park
Visitors who do choose to visit Disney World can expect some changes.
As mentioned, guests now need to make a reservation prior to their visit, in order to enter the park.
Disney notes that at this time, guests can only select one park per day, and visiting more than one park per day will be temporarily unavailable upon the reopening of the theme parks due to attendance limitations.
Anyone with a multi-day ticket will be required to make a park reservation for each date of the visit.
Upon arrival, guests will also undergo a mandatory temperature screening prior to park entry. Those with temperatures of 100.4 F or above will not be allowed entry, and those in their party will not be allowed entry either.
Rides & attractions
Like many public places, Disney will have signage to promote safe physical distancing between guests all throughout the park, and that includes rides, and the lines to get on them.
The FastPass+ service has been suspended as a result, so that Disney can use additional queue space to manage capacity and maintain physical distancing. All previous FastPass+ selections have been cancelled until further notice.
Parades and nighttime spectaculars, character greetings and character interactions, and playgrounds have all been temporarily paused for the initial reopening.
Taking cues from health authorities, such as the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Disney has made some changes to its dining venues, and even the way that guests can dine in the park.
Disney states that during the reopening period, many dining experiences may be modified or unavailable in order to promote cleanliness and physical distancing.
Before guests can dine at Walt Disney World Resort, a face mask is required for guests two and up, and it must be worn in all public areas—including while entering and exiting dining locations. Of course, it can be removed while eating or drinking.
A confirmed dining reservation is also required for day guests (those not staying overnight) who plan on dining with table service, and it is highly recommended for guests staying overnight at a Disney Resort hotel.
To reduce contact, at quick-service restaurants, menus will be displayed on signage. At table-service restaurants, guests can scan a code with your mobile device to access the menu.
Plus, character dining will not be offered during the initial reopening, with the exception of modified character dining experiences at Garden Grill Restaurant and Topolino's Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera
For a full list of everything that's changed at Walt Disney World as a result of COVID-19, click here.
Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!