Disney Parks and Resorts Update for August 17th
This week has included a lot of useful information for Disney Vacation Club members.
We’ve learned about reopening dates for several popular locales and amenities. Disney also provided some clarity regarding hotel policies during the pandemic. We even got some updated details about Disney’s international resorts and some Universal Studios changes.
Let’s talk about all of it in the latest DVC Parks and Resorts update.
I’ll start this edition with some marvelous news. Stormalong Bay will reopen soon. The mini-water park at Disney’s Beach Club Resort didn’t return with the hotel.
Instead, guests have utilized the quiet pool options. For many DVC members, they’re always a good fallback choice, even when Stormalong Bay is operational. Still, we all missed our favorite DVC pool.
On August 24, Stormalong Bay will finally reopen to guests. It’ll be a day of celebration for DVC owners. The timing is impeccable since Disney will reduce theme park hours of operation on September 8. So, people can come back to the hotel and hang out at the pool at night. For some great deals on Beach Club stays after Stromalong Bay is open, please check out our page on DVC Reservations, where you can get a 50% or more discount on retail rates.
While we’re on the subject of returning favorites, I’ve got good news for fans of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Tambu Lounge has reopened. The bar located right by ‘Ohana will serve drinks and a tightened food menu from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Similarly, a few places at Disney Springs are back in business. The AMC Dine-In Disney Springs 24 comes back on August 20. Meanwhile, Maria and Enzo’s Ristorante and its siblings, Pizza Ponte and The Edison, have already returned. And I have a pro tip for those of you who want to guarantee a table.
You can book on OpenTable.com if you can’t find anything on the official Disney pages. Advanced Dining Reservations are somewhat challenging to book at the moment due to capacity limits. For whatever reason, some Disney Springs establishments keep additional inventory on OpenTable.
At EPCOT’s World Showcase, another beloved restaurant has announced its comeback date. Teppan Edo will reopen on August 24. Oh, and if you want to do some shopping afterward, you can walk over to the China pavilion. House of Good Fortune is finally back.
Less Exciting DVC/Disney News
We should accept that Disney faces some tough decisions during the pandemic. It’s far from business as usual, and Walt Disney World changes are prevalent.
One that impacts DVC members is late check-out. Until recently, Disney has generally shown leniency to people who need a bit more time to pack up their stuff.
Unfortunately, late check-out isn’t possible right now. Housekeeping employees need the extra time. They use it to perform the comprehensive cleaning practices that prevent COVID-19.
So, if your check-out is at 11 a.m., you must be out of the room by 11. Remember that Bell Services will hold your luggage if you want to jam in one final park visit.
More bad news involves the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. You may know that the attraction didn’t reopen with the rest of Magic Kingdom. For several days afterward, park guests peppered cast members with questions about the ride’s status.
Well, Disney finally updated the official page to show that the ride is undergoing refurbishment. Nobody will ride the PeopleMover until November 1…and since I check out on November 3, it will probably get delayed another three days, what with PeopleMover being my favorite Magic Kingdom ride and all.
The final bit of possibly terrible news involves the DVC resort that may not happen. The Disney Parks Blog has retroactively removed Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge mentions from its D-23 updates.
Scott Gustin tweeted a side-by-side graphic to demonstrate the changes:
NEW: Disney has updated its 2019 D23 Expo announcements blog post and removed Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge. BEFORE and AFTER screenshots attached.
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) August 10, 2020
Disney still hasn’t announced that this project is delayed or canceled. However, this latest action hints that we won’t be seeing Reflections anytime soon.
Disney executives continue to face upheaval due to coronavirus. The company recently canceled all Adventures by Disney trips through September 30, and only a handful remain through the end of October.
At Disneyland, guests have received cancellation notices for all hotel stays through September 5. However, the news coming out of California isn’t all bad.
State officials have indicated that they’re exploring safe reopening plans for Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland. Disney will miss its intended reopening date by at least six weeks, but this revelation indicates forward progress.
Meanwhile, the news is even better in Florida. Reported daily infection rates over the past week were the lowest since early July. On Sunday, August 16, Florida confirmed 3,779 new cases, which is still a lot. It’s a substantial improvement from daily increases over the last month, though.
In fact, let’s all take a moment to appreciate a bit of great news. Yesterday, the United States reported a total of 36,843 new cases. That was the lowest total since June 23!
As a society, we’ve gotten better at avoiding outbreaks. As long as that remains true, Disney visits will be perfectly safe…even if you fly.
Speaking of infections, Walt Disney World finally did something long overdue. Disney added a COVID-19 testing facility near Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Better yet, cast members can take tests for free.
The lack of free testing had caused friction between Disney and one of its cast member unions, the Actors’ Equity Association. Employees from that group hadn’t agreed to Disney’s terms yet.
This divide had forced theme parks to modify several park experiences, removing the actors. Well, now that Walt Disney World has free testing, the Actors’ Equity Association has confirmed its satisfaction. These cast members should return to work immediately.
I know that many DVC members take dual trips to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. Well, I have a few updates that you should know.
Comcast has struggled financially during the pandemic, and Universal’s second-quarter attendance numbers horrific. Park visits dropped almost 95 percent. So, cutbacks seemed inevitable.
Sure enough, Universal has laid off an unannounced but significant number of employees. As an added measure, Universal will close Loews Sapphire Falls Resort and Universal’s Aventura Hotel on August 21.
These shutdowns are obviously temporary, but we have no idea how long they will last. Universal doesn’t want to operate hotels when attendance doesn’t justify it. Disney has done the same thing by reopening its Walt Disney World resorts in phases.
Disney and Universal Ticket Changes
To boost attendance, Universal has introduced some new offers that may entice some DVC members to make the drive. Premier Annual Passholders can take one guest to a Universal theme park for free. Keep in mind that it’s a one-time-only offer. It’s fantastic news if you have a friend who has never been, though.
Another passholder change involves the Universal Express Pass. Previously, Premier Annual Passholders could access this service after 4 p.m. Alas, that’s not helpful with the parks closing by 6 p.m.
So, Universal has thoughtfully bumped up the hours until 2 p.m. It’ll give you three or four hours of Universal Express Pass, depending on the park. That’s plenty of time to knock out some of your favorite attractions during a visit.
Disney is similarly testing some ideas for ticket sales increases. Some DVC members in Florida own the EPCOT after 4 Pass, which entitles the owner to park admission after 4 p.m.
As you learned last week, EPCOT will close at 7 p.m., starting on September 8. This reduces the value of the EPCOT after 4 Pass by a significant amount. Disney officials recognize this and will modify the rules on that date. When EPCOT reduces its hours, owners of this pass may enter the park at 2 p.m.
So, EPCOT after 4 starts at 2 but not until 9/8. Got it?
We’re living in strange times, my friends.
Two Final Updates
Anyway, there are two other updates we should discuss quickly. The first is that Mears has laid off about 200 employees since the start of June. Yes, some of them were Magical Express drivers. It’s too soon to say how much this impacts DVC members. Realistically, Magical Express usage must be way down right now, though.
Finally, Disney has completed its foundation pylons at the front of EPCOT. They are absolutely breathtaking to the point that I was surprised by how much they moved me emotionally. You can and should watch this Instagram video, which shows Imagineers putting the pylons in place.
Okay, that’s all the significant Disney and DVC news for this week plus some Universal stuff thrown in for good measure. Stay safe and smart, everyone!