Disney Parks and Resorts Update for July 28th

Cast members helping guests at EPCOT Food & Wine Festival

All four theme parks at Walt Disney World have operated for at least 10 days. So, we have a better understanding now about the post-pandemic landscape in Orlando. Let’s talk about what’s different in the latest DVC Parks and Resorts Update.

What’s Different at the Parks

The first thing you’ll notice when you visit some parks is a new security system in place. Technically, Disney’s still in the testing phase, but Disney’s Animal Kingdom has torn down its old bag check area and started anew.

The updated process offers contact-free checks. You don’t need to stop and have a security guard rifle through your stuff. Instead, you walk through a metal detector and only need to stop if you trigger the alarm.

Disney has needed this change for years, and the pandemic finally gave the company a reason to modernize security. Technically, it’s still in the trial phase, but the early results are positive.

To wit, EPCOT has added a similar system. The other day, a mother tried to enter the park with some stuff she shouldn’t have had. Security guards noticed a handgun in her belongings. A more detailed search revealed a second loaded gun. So, the new process has already done its job.

France at Disney's EPCOT

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

As a DVC member, you’re probably more interested in what’s happening at the back of the park, though. I mentioned last week that EPCOT is already hosting a food festival. Well, it’s technically not the one you’d expect.

A Taste of Food and Wine

The decision-makers at EPCOT faced unprecedented circumstances. The pandemic closed the park only a few days after the 2020 Flower & Garden Festival opened to the public. So, fans of that exhibition felt shortchanged.

Meanwhile, the mid-July return of EPCOT meant that the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival wouldn’t debut for another six weeks. Some enterprising executives realized that the World Showcase could combine the two events.

For the first and probably the only time ever, you can attend A Taste of EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival. It marries some of the horticultural elements and Outdoor Kitchens from Flower & Garden with the old standards from Food & Wine.

Even the most diehard EPCOT festival fans will experience a bit of confusion as you explore the park for the first time. Some of the stuff that you’re used to seeing there won’t be available, while many surprises await.

Even the World Showcase music will disorient you. Obviously, the Eat to the Beat concert series isn’t possible due to coronavirus concerns. So, Disney has improvised.

The Jammitors and Mariachi Cobre acts currently aren’t playing around the parks. They would draw crowds that might cause social distancing violations. However, they can sing and dance at the spot where the Eat to the Beat concerts usually are, as ample seating is available in this area.

Similarly, Disney’s doing something mind-blowing along the streets of the World Showcase. Cavalcades will drive past the seating areas. You can grab some of the food and beverages available at the Taste of Food & Wine. Then, you can sit down and await the show as floats and vehicles parade by your section.

DVC Items of Interest

Since the DVC resorts at Walt Disney World are open, we’re somewhat back to business as usual.

A couple of properties haven’t reopened yet. The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa cannot return until Disneyland Resort gets the okay from the state government.

Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas, faces a different challenge. The islands of Hawaii still haven’t fully embraced tourism yet.

Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii

The state suffered its worst outbreak this past week, which forced officials to reconsider reopening plans. So, Aulani and the Grand California remain in stasis for the time being.

As a DVC member, you may find yourself with extra points as you plan for 2020. Well, I have a possibility for card-carrying program participants.

According to the Disney Cruise Line Blog, DCL will soon open the reservation systems for trips during the fall of 2021. Members have exclusive early access to some of them.

The blog lists the following dates for cruise bookings:

  • “Monday July 27th – Platinum Castaway Club members & Disney’s Golden Oaks residents
  • Tuesday July 28th – Gold Castaway Club members
  • Wednesday July 29th – Silver Castaway Club members, Adventures by Disney Insiders, and DVC members who have not previously sailed with DCL
  • Thursday July 30th – first time cruisers will be able to book.”

I recognize that many people are skittish about the thought of going on cruises. However, you’re booking for 15 months from now, a time when scientists expect COVID-19 treatments to be readily available.

Other Recent Changes

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the park has already modified one important attraction. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance claims the most demand for anything at Walt Disney World, and its popularity has caused ongoing issues for cast members.

During the ride’s earliest days, Disney changed the rules several times to satisfy demand. Rise of the Resistance utilized Boarding Passes that gave everyone an equal opportunity to book the equivalent of a FastPass.

Rise of the Resistance ride boarding pass updates

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

The catch was that guests had to be at Hollywood Studios when the park opened. Anyone who slept in was out of luck. And that became a subject of many complaints among DVC members.

When Hollywood Studios reopened, Disney changed the Boarding Group rule. It initially offered these digital passes three times a day. However, this number of opportunities led to capacity issues on the attraction.

So, the magic number of daily Boarding Group attempts is now two. You can try to schedule a Boarding Group at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day. It’s great news for late sleepers and those who aren’t lucky on their first try.

Also, guests face a limit of one ride a day. You’ll face less competition at 2 p.m., as the people who booked 10 a.m. Boarding Groups cannot try again.

Disney has also changed its rules elsewhere. We’ll have to switch coasts, though. While Disneyland Resort’s parks remain closed, Downtown Disney has reopened.

Unfortunately, some guests here have exhibited the same behavior as those at Walt Disney World. They’ve used snacks and drinks as an excuse to avoid wearing masks.

This behavior has led Downtown Disney officials to adopt the same policy as at Walt Disney World. Unmasked guests may no longer walk around the entertainment complex, even if they’re carrying food or beverages.

Instead, Disney asks that anyone without a mask remain in a stationary position, preferably out of any walking paths. It’s the safest strategy right now.

More DVC Updates

Disney has emailed annual passholders about refunds and date extensions. In case you own an annual pass but missed the email, here’s what you need to know.

Disney has given everyone who already paid in full a 30-day extension. So, that’s a free bonus month on your pass. You receive this in addition to the extension for the dates the parks were closed, March 16–July 10. That’s a total of 147 days added to your annual pass.

You also have the right to request a refund. Disney will pay you back for the 117 days the parks weren’t open. If you have a monthly payment plan, Disney will extend you by 30 days if you don’t cancel or let you out of the agreement if you haven’t already stopped.

Remember that Disney opened an annual pass hotline a couple of years ago. If you have questions or concerns, call the company at 407-939-7277. I would suggest going this route rather than contacting DVC member services. It’s not their area of expertise and could take longer to settle the matter.

Finally, I would like to bring your attention to a recent Disney Parks Blog update. The site published a DVC quiz! It is not a gimme, either. I’m not ashamed to say that my lack of horse racing knowledge cost me on one of the 13 questions.

Okay, that’s everything happening in the world of DVC/Disney right now. Have a great week, everyone!

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