Disney Parks and Resorts Coronavirus Update: March 21st

Filed in Coronavirus, Disney Vacation Club

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Exit at Disney reading "See Ya Real Soon"

Last week, I didn’t sugarcoat anything. I told you about the park closures at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World, along with the less-heralded shutdown of Disneyland Paris. I thought that I had given you the worst news. However, some situations have degraded from there. It’s been that kind of month for The Walt Disney Company. Here’s the Disney Vacation Club update for this week.

Closures and Terminations Part One

The header tells the story. Disney executives have spent the past 10 days deciding where to cut back on staffing and other expenses. The coronavirus outbreak has damaged virtually all phases of the company.

None of the parks are operating right now, ESPN has no live sports programming to air, and several movies required delays. The top three movie theater chains in North America aren’t even open right now, which has forced Disney to give up on Onward’s box office revenue. I’m watching it on Vudu right now, and it’ll be available on Disney+ in less than two weeks.

Disney has lost so much revenue that the company bit the bullet and raised $6 billion through debt offerings yesterday. Lean times are ahead, and so the parks have received a slew of cutbacks. Some of them were Disney’s choice. Others came from outside sources.

Last weekend accidentally became both the final weekend for Walt Disney World and a disaster for many employees. Last Saturday, Disney suddenly announced that the Walt Disney World College Program would stop. The decision seems perfectly understandable, given that the parks are no longer open.

Still, this closure introduced a bit of chaos at the parks. Confused college students learned they had to retrieve their belongings from their housing complexes and move out by the following Wednesday. Some of them reportedly abandoned their posts at EPCOT and left regular cast members short-staffed.

The following day, a couple of popular World Showcase shows closed abruptly. Matsuriza Taiko Drumming at the Japan pavilion, one of the oldest shows at the park, performed for the last time, with all cast members laid off immediately. The British Revolution rock concerts at the U.K. pavilion are also part of the budget cuts. Disney even fired Sergio, the Master Juggler!

Closures and Terminations Part Two

I really don’t want this onslaught of news to depress you. I understand that the world’s grim enough right now. Here’s that video of the penguins hopping down the stairs to boost your spirits.

Okay, let’s back to the bad stuff. This week started with Raglan Road canceling its St. Patrick’s Day celebration, something unimaginable as recently as two weeks ago.

On the same day, the Disney Wonder had to return to shore. At that point, all Disney Cruise ships were docked. Also, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort closed during the week.

Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa will close beginning 5:00 PM on Tuesday, March 24th through Tuesday, March 31st. Disney is also waiving all Disney-imposed change and cancellation fees up to the date of check-in for these impacted reservations, as well as those rescheduled reservations with arrivals through June 30, 2020.

Entrance to Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa

On the same day, Ample Hills Creamery filed for bankruptcy. It was the first of several third-party vendors on Disney campuses to brace for the worst financially.

Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ terminated its entire staff. Rainforest Café, Yak & Yeti Restaurant, and T-REX Restaurant reportedly did the same. In fact, all Orlando bars and nightclubs have closed and will remain that way for the body of a month.

One Disney ally took the brunt of coronavirus’ financial impact. Cirque du Soleil has laid off 95 percent of its employees around the world. Obviously, the upcoming Disney Springs show is on hold indefinitely.

Disney even lost one of its potential positives from the shutdown. Park officials had hoped to perform construction and maintenance during the downtime. Alas, the company has had to honor CDC recommendations, which prevents construction from occurring.

Honestly, the only good news that I have right now is that those penguins were able to hop back up the stairs.

What We Know Right Now

Over the past week, we’ve also learned that three different Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at Orlando International Airport have tested positive for COVID-19. Others are self-isolating right now as a precautionary measure.

Also, Disney’s absorbed some savage media headlines this week, a rarity for the company. A Mississippi woman took a Disney cruise while unknowingly having coronavirus. Critics assailed the company for the massive crowds on Magic Kingdom’s final day before closure. And TMZ ran with a headline that a recent Walt Disney World vacationer had died of COVID-19.

Two of those three situations sound worse than they are. You can decide for yourself about the Disney crowds. But it’s been a series of never-ending headaches for Disney’s new CEO, Bob Chapek.

As a DVC member, you might have gotten some good news over the past few days, though. Disney will extend the expiration dates for annual passholders by the number of days that the parks will remain closed. For example, if your annual pass ended on the last day of May, the extension could possibly last through July 4.

Similarly, Tables in Wonderland will add all closed park days onto your current expiration date. So, you have newfound availability for some trips later in the year or early next year.

We’ve already taken advantage of this fact by scheduling another Halloween trip. Our passes would have expired on October 30 if not for the schedule. And that’s something that has made us feel happier during a depressing time.

Updates Directly from Disney

The Disney Vacation Club has released two additional updates about how the program will address this unprecedented situation. I’ll close this week’s update by cut-and-pasting both for your perusal.

“Dear Members,

As we continue to make timely decisions based on guidance of health agencies and our medical teams, and adjust our precautionary measures at Disney Vacation Club for the safety of our Members, Guests and Cast Members, I want to provide you with an important update.

In alignment with this guidance, Disney is temporarily closing its resort hotels at Walt Disney World Resort, including all Disney Vacation Club properties. The closure also includes Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. The closures become effective at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 20, and will extend through the end of the month. This will give Members and Guests the ability to make necessary travel arrangements or book alternative accommodations. At this time, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, and Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort will remain open.

We know that you have questions about your membership during these uncertain times. Please know that our teams at Disney Vacation Club are committed to assisting you and providing you with as much flexibility as possible with your future vacation plans. Disney Vacation Club Member Services will continue to assist you with reservation changes during their regular operating hours. As we anticipate high call volume in the days ahead, we encourage you to visit disneyvacationclub.com for general information and ask that you contact Member Services only if you need assistance with an existing reservation.

Regarding your reservations, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify a few important points in order to make the change process as smooth as possible. As we have shared, Disney Vacation Club has lifted the close-in reservation cancellation restrictions and will return any of your points back as vacation points or reservation points without placing them into holding. In the meantime, all points banking rules remain in place. While we understand the banking policy might create some frustration, please realize that this is in place to ensure that the membership as a whole avoids future inventory constraints.

Clearly COVID-19 is impacting us all in numerous ways – and I want to thank you for your patience and understanding during this challenging time. Our team at Disney Vacation Club is focused on serving you, our Member community, as we plan ahead for a return to normal operations.

With appreciation,

Signature

Terri Schultz

Senior Vice President

Disney Vacation Club, Guided Adventures & Expeditions and Golden Oak”

 

Obviously, some of that information quickly became dated. The follow-up email reflects the changing circumstances.

 

“Dear Members,

In an abundance of caution and in the best interest of our Members and Cast Members, we have closed the theme parks, water parks and ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World Resort from March 16 through March 31, 2020. Additionally, Disney owned-and-operated hotels and Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World Resort, as well as Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, will close beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 20 through the end of the month. At Disney Springs, we will be closing all Disney owned-and-operated locations beginning Tuesday, March 17, through the end of the month. For the latest Walt Disney World Resort travel information update, click here.

Should you have a reservation at a Disney Vacation Club resort during this timeframe, you have the following options available if you wish to change your plans:

  • Many reservations can be canceled or modified on the Member Online Booking Tool.
  • If you take no action and do not check in as scheduled, your reservation will automatically be canceled.
  • In light of the unusual circumstances and to provide more flexibility, Disney Vacation Club will return your points to your current Use Year without placing them into holding.
  • If you have a future stay at a resort in the Disney Collection, any reservation points will be returned to you for your future enjoyment.
  • For the latest DVC travel information update, click here.

We thank you for your understanding during this unprecedented time.

Sincerely,

Disney Vacation Club”

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