A lot of questions were left unanswered following the big announcement that Walt Disney Wold parks would start a phased reopening on July 11th. Answers to these questions have been trickling in since the announcement and will continue to come for some time. It’s not surprising that Disney is trying to ease us into these changes. These Disney World park changes are BIG and will have long term effects on Walt Disney World vacations. There has been a lot of confusion with information coming from a lot of different sources. I will break down exactly what Disney has told us and what we still do not know.
Disney Parks and Resorts Reopening
Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will reopen on Saturday, July 11th.
Epcot and Hollywood Studios will open Wednesday, July 15th.
Admission to the parks will require advanced reservations and a valid park ticket. I will explain this more below.
We now know that there will be some soft opening dates prior to this with Cast previews and affinity groups. These days may also include Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club Members, and Club 33 Members. Advanced reservations may be required but more information about has not been released.
Disney Vacation Club properties and Walt Disney World Resort and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground will begin to reopen to Members and Guests on June 22.
Ticketing and Admission
No new ticket sales or Disney Resort hotel reservations will be taken at this time. Disney will focus on accommodating Guests with existing tickets and reservations. These guests will be contacted by Disney to make park reservations.
What is a park reservation? To manage park attendance a new park reservation system will be put into place. To enter the park you must make an advanced park reservation for the day and have a valid ticket. Initially, Disney will be setting up these park reservations for Guests with current resort reservations.
Information being released is still vague about how Disney will prioritize who gets first dibs on these reservations. So this is the best guest that most Disney insiders have come up with so far.
- 1st – Annual Passholders and Dinsey Vacation Club members with reservations at Disney Resort hotels and park tickets from July 11th through the end of the year will be the first Guests to get the option to make park reservations for the dates of their trip
- 2nd – Any other Guests with reservations at Disney Resort hotels and park tickets from July 11th through the end of the year
- 3rd – Guest with valid park tickets from July 11th through the end of the year but not staying at a Disney Resort hotel – priority may be given to Guests staying at a Disney Springs hotel or a Good Neighbor hotel
- once all of the Guest with valid tickets from July 11th till the end of the year have been accommodated either with park reservations for their dates, rescheduled dates or trip cancellation new ticket sales will begin
The assumption is that once new ticket sales begin they will be tied to a park reservation. So if you purchase a ticket for a specific date/s that automatically gives you a park reservation.
Of note, there has also been no solid information on park hopping although it will not be allowed through the end of the year.
Basically, if you have tickets purchased for dates July 11th – December 31st, 2020 Disney will be contacting you about making park reservations for those dates or sadly, telling you that they can not accommodate your party on those dates due to limited park capacity.
Disney Vacation Club properties at Walt Disney World Resort and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and & Campground will begin to reopen to Members and Guests on June 22. This is the extent of the information the Disney has shared regarding Disney Resort hotels. There is no mandate by Orange County about limited capacity at hotels but that does not mean Disney may not choose to limit hotel capacities. With only Vacation Club properties and Fort Wilderness opening, there will clearly be significantly fewer rooms available for Guests. Since we have no official news, we can only assume that Guests with reservations at a non-Vacation Club hotel from July 11th through the end of the year will be moved to Fort Wilderness Resort or a Disney Vacation Club resort. Again, Annual Passholders and DVC members will get first priority.
Disney World Park Changes
For those that will be going to the parks through the end of the year, there will be A LOT of changes. This will definitely not be the Disney experience you may be used to. Personally, I have faith that Disney will do everything they can to make accommodations and introduce some new experiences to keep the magic alive. Here are the changes happening in the parks.
Dining experiences in the parks are taking a big hit. Disney has not released much specific information about hotel dining but we can assume these changes will be consistent in hotel dining locations also.
All Advanced Dining Reservations have been canceled. At this time, there will be no dining reservations. They will resume at a later date. If you had a pre-paid dining reservation you will automatically be refunded. When dining reservations resume, the reservation window will change from 180 days to 60 days. Third-party dining locations reservations such as those throughout Disney Springs may not be canceled. (My reservation at the Boathouse, a third-party-owned restaurant at Disney Springs was automatically canceled however I still show a reservation for Toledo at Coronado Springs at this time 5/31 🤷🏻♀️)
Also on the chopping block – Character Dining. At this time, Disney is suspending all Character Dining. Their official statement reads-
“As a result of physical distancing, capacity in restaurants and availability of dining experiences is very limited and certain experiences such as Character Dining can not be provided”
In response to this lack of dining experiences, they have also canceled and will not be offering Disney Dining plans at this time.
Guests dining plans will be removed from packages and Guests that have paid in full will be reimbursed. I have read that this is effective from May 28, 2020, to September 26th, 2021 😳 I have seen those dates reported by several reputable sources but honestly cannot find that information from Disney so we will wait and see. As an accommodation, the price of the package will be adjusted to reflect a 35% room discount. NOTE : Disney has removed language regarding this discount on rooms. As they start getting more information out to Guests we will see if this holds true.
To help limit contact Disney will be further enable mobile ordering at more dining and beverage locations.
Meet and Greet
At this time Walt Disney World resort will suspend all character Meet and Greet experiences.
As I mentioned earlier, I trust Disney to do what they can to find new ways to keep the magic alive in the parks. They may implement a few of the character experiences being used at Shanghai Disney. Here are some examples of these modified character experiences and their official descriptions.
Mickey Avenue Characters : In Mickey Avenue, you will find the gang, including Duffy and his friends greeting you from atop the entry portal, next to the clock tower, as you enter Shanghai Disneyland.
Princess Balcony Greeting : As you wander around the Enchanted Storybook Castle, be sure to look at the castle balcony about where you may see some of your favorite princesses waving hello.
A cornerstone of planning an effective Walt Disney World vacation is securing those coveted FastPass+ reservations. For now, you won’t have to worry about that because they are being suspended. With capacities being so low (although we really don’t have an official figure for that either) this should not be a concern for now. Wait times should be pretty short. I honestly think it will be a good step towards more virtual line queues like Disney has been using for Rise of the Resistance. Implementing more virtual queues and eventually scrapping FastPass+ would be something I would be in favor of. From a financial standpoint, it makes sense to have people milling around in the park instead of being trapped in a line.
Extra Magic Hours
One of the main perks for staying on Disney property or at a Disney Springs hotel was having access to Extra Magic Hours. For one hour in the morning or 2-3 hours in the evening, select Disney parks would be open only to Guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel or a Disney Springs hotel. This perk is being eliminated for the time being. Again, this is one of those things that are just not necessary at this time with the reduced park capacity. There are some rumors that extra magic hours may be one of those things that are permanently cut. This is the perfect storm for allowing Walt Disney World to make some changes they have been toying with for a while. Read more about that below.
Reduced Park Hours
Further limiting your time in the parks is reduced park hours. These are the park hours that are listed from July 15th – October 31st. No park hours are listed past October 31st which may indicate that they anticipate making some changes at that time depending on how the previous months have gone. These are the daily hours for each of the parks.
9:00am – 7:00pm
11:00am – 9:00pm
11:00am – 8:00pm
8:00am – 6:00pm
Fireworks, Parades and Stage Shows
Yes, you read that right. Firework shows, parades, stage shows, and any entertainment that would create a crowd have been temporarily suspended. This will be the absolute deal-breaker for a lot of people who are considering going back to the parks when they open. These entertainment staples are the cornerstone of Disney vacations for many Guests. In the absence of these offerings, clearly the Disney experience being offered will not be the same for some time. One can easily assume this will include all of the “streetmoshere” throughout the parks such as Dapper Dan’s, the Trolley Shows, Casey’s Corner Pianist, all of the entertainers throughout World Showcase, Tree of Life Awakening 🤷🏻♀️–geez, now I’m depressed. All of these things are such a big part of what separates Disney from all of the other “amusement” parks.
There is good and maybe bad with this one. But, of course, it is hard to know since we have very few details about this as well. At this point, it does not look like Disney is ready to give up on Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. The park hours have been updated and MNSSHP remains on the calendar. My assumption is the parties are sold intentionally at a reduced capacity already so maybe attendance will be within guidelines? Let’s be real. The parties are big money makers so I am sure if they feel like they can safely have them they will.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party tickets, however, have typically gone on sale by now. At this point, there has been no mention of it. Dates were released at one time but they have since been taken off of the Disney World website. You can see the dates that were originally posted HERE- Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2020
Positive Changes Ahead
Things will never be the same at Walt Disney World. Even when fireworks, parades, Meet and Greets and all of the other experiences return, things will never go back to the way they were. This is not all bad. In fact, I think we will see some great changes coming.
The FastPass+ system has been flawed from its inception and Disney has been looking for a way to address its flaws for years. Now that Disney World has canceled all FastPass+ reservations and will have lower crowd levels this offers them a great opportunity to test different ways to manage queues. Previous attempts to fix the system have only led to more frustration. Multiple attraction tiers, booking months in advance, available reservations booking within minutes, and booking frustrations for foreign guests are just a few of the issues with FastPass+. Several other Disney resort locations use a paid FastPass system that is highly regarded by Guests and could be an option for Walt Disney World.
The most promising option would be implementing a new, Disney World resort-wide virtual queue system. Doesn’t that sound dreamy? There are several reasons we can hold out hope that this will be our new normal in the parks! Shanghai Disneyland opened to Guests last month and they recently introduced a new virtual queue system called Disney Standby Pass. Disney describes the Disney Standby Pass as “an online reservation tool to help Guests better plan their queuing schedule”. Also, back in August of 2019, Disney announced that they would be releasing the new Disney Genie app that would “revolutionize the Disney vacation experience”! It was rumored that the functionality of this app. would include changes to the FastPass+ program. You can read more about the Disney Standby Pass and Disney Genie app here.
The parks will be clean again. I’m not going to sugar coat it, the cleanliness in the parks had taken a nosedive over the past several years. This is totally my own opinion but I bet those of you who have been going to the parks at Disney World for many years would have to agree with me to some extent. With the increased sanitation requirements, I assume the frequency of cleaning surfaces will increase. For me, the cleanliness factor was one of the things that really set Disney apart from other “entertainment venues” and I was disappointed to see it slipping. This will be a welcome change.