Disney Parks and Resorts Update for July 6th

This week, Walt Disney World’s theme parks will return after an absence of nearly four months.

Disney obviously has a lot going on to make this happen. We’ll examine some of the big stories in the latest Disney Parks and Resorts Update.

News That Could Impact DVC Members

Were you one of the unlucky people who had their Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) canceled?

While the parks were closed, Disney wiped out almost all existing reservations. Since many DVC members plan our meals well in advance, this turn of events disrupted those plans.

As an apology, Disney has just started a make-good effort. The company has opened an ADR booking window for certain impacted guests. Anyone who had lost an ADR from May 28 through September 2 is eligible to book now.

This window is exclusive to impacted guests. So, you should take advantage of it while you can. As a gentle reminder, Disney will limit restaurant capacity during the pandemic, which means that all these places will sell out twice as fast.

In my cursory searches, I noticed availability at virtually all the most popular Disney restaurants. Act now before your favorites get booked!

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

Similarly, Disney has enabled early bookings for other guests impacted by the pandemic. For example, anyone with a prior reservation for Droid Depot can call Disney’s customer service (800-800-9800) to reschedule now.

Disney’s enabling this ability for everyone with special events reservations. A lot of this stuff involves Fort Wilderness Campgrounds and resorts that offer boat excursions. However, it impacts guests who booked pool cabanas, too. If you’re affected, you can and should call to get everything set up again.

More News That Impacts DVC Members

That’s the good news. The bad news affects some annual passholders. If you pay monthly for your Disney admission pass, you may have gotten billed for four months.

Due to a system snafu, Disney unintentionally charged guests for all months during the park closure. The company has already apologized and started the refund process for impacted customers.

In layperson’s terms, you should have paid one monthly payment. Instead, Disney has billed you for three more but intends to refund you asap.

If you think you’re affected, you should check your billing statement carefully. Anyone with additional questions should contact Disney immediately.

The other significant DVC news involves Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas. Specifically, Jambo House will reopen on July 10. We’ve known this about Kidani Village for a while, but Jambo House’s return was shrouded in mystery.

The details are exciting for DVC members. You won’t share the resort with non-DVC guests. When this side of the resort reopens, the only guests will be DVC owners. Disney hasn’t indicated how long we’ll have the run of the place. So, enjoy it while it lasts!

Please understand that Jambo House will feature limited operations during this period. The check-in area and the pool will reopen. Beyond that, you must visit Kidani Village for anything else.

More Park Updates

I understand that people have many questions about the return of Disney theme parks. The company hasn’t disclosed every detail yet, but here are a few recent tidbits.

Walt Disney World will operate the Disney Skyliner and monorail systems. However, you should understand the important dates here.

Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom will reopen on July 11. EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios won’t return until July 15.

So, guests who visit the parks on July 11 won’t have Disney Skyliner access. Park officials won’t run the gondola system until the adjoining theme parks are operational.

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

Similarly, the monorail won’t utilize the EPCOT line until it’s needed. On July 11, the only monorail system in use is the resort one. Then again, as DVC members, that’s the only one you need when EPCOT isn’t open.

On July 15, the other monorail will go online. Really, these changes only impact four days of potential park visits. Still, you need to know them if you’re visiting this weekend.

By the way, in case you’re wondering, Disney appears committed to reopening. The company’s executives are aware that Florida reported its largest number of new infections over the past week.

For the first week of July, Florida announced 59,036 cases. The state also managed 318,851 tests, its most ever. This aspect explains why Disney officials are comfortable with the reopening.

Testing’s easier to get than it was back in March. Combined with the safety measures in place, Disney can protect its guests better than theme parks that have already reopened.

Around the Parks

Disney still has plenty to decide, some of which it can’t do until the parks have reopened. Nevertheless, management has recognized something. The Disney College Program is impractical during the pandemic.

Officials have informed applicants that the program is discontinued for the Fall of 2020, which shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Also, the Disney College Program will go on hiatus until two things happen.

One is that Disney can safely bring thousands of prospective employees to Florida without jeopardizing anyone’s safety. The other is that the economy has stabilized in Central Florida.

Executives understand that regular cast members desperately need jobs. Now isn’t the time to bring in cheap labor like fungible college kids. This decision will improve your park visit, too. It ensures that veteran cast members will fill all the park jobs for a while.

At Disney Springs, a lot is happening. Some businesses like Splitsville are ready to reopen. And one of them may shock you. Cirque du Soleil has started selling tickets for Drawn to Life shows in November.

You may remember that this show was scheduled to hold preview shows the same month that Walt Disney World closed. It’ll apparently debut in November instead, and that’s unexpected.

As you may know, Cirque du Soleil laid off – no exaggeration — 95 percent of its staff and declared bankruptcy last week. Apparently, this plan will allow them to rehire all those tumbling gymnasts and practice enough to host the show.

Speaking of layoffs, a couple of third-party vendors at Disney Springs have cut staff. Attendance at the entertainment complex hasn’t been high thus far, as COVID-19 concerns continue to worry potential customers.

Some companies have accepted that this behavior might be the new normal until a vaccine exists. Terralina Crafted Italian and Paddlefish Restaurant laid off 150 employees as a concession that customer demand may remain low for the rest of 2020.

Other Disney Theme Park News

Let’s start with a bummer. If you held tickets to either of the summer Moonlight Magic events at Typhoon Lagoon, you’re out of luck. DVC has canceled the July 27 and August 10 events.

Again, this move was long expected. Disney’s not hosting Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party this year. It would be a mixed message to operate the Moonlight Magic events.

Over at Disneyland, park officials can’t catch a break. Downtown Disney is scheduled to return on Thursday. Unfortunately, the governor of California has reacted to the state’s growing Coronavirus problem.

All counties in hot zones, including Orange County, must close indoor operations for now. Obviously, that’s crushing news for many Downtown Disney businesses.

Ballast Point Anaheim has already announced that it won’t reopen on July 9. However, Downtown Disney still intends to come back on that date. Many of the businesses here have outdoor patios where guests may safely eat and drink.

Still, this turn of events has fueled more complaints from cast member unions in California. They’re already worried about returning to their jobs. Now the state government has handed Disney two setbacks in two weeks. It’s a messy situation.

Speaking of which, The Void won’t reopen at Downtown Disney. The situation has nothing to do with the pandemic, though. Disney officials have posted multiple notices on the front door of The Void’s building.

These messages indicate that The Void has violated its licensing agreement with Disney. As such, the company has terminated the lease for The Void and will presumably do the same at Disney Springs.

I expect additional details to come out regarding what went wrong here, but it’s an aggressive action by Disney. I struggle to recall the last time the company terminated a lease at Downtown Disney or Disney Springs.

Final Disney Updates for the Week

Disney received some excellent news this week. Tokyo Disney Resort finally reopened to the public on July 1. With its return, Disney will once again receive lucrative licensing fees from The Oriental Land Company, the park’s actual owner.

Meanwhile, Tokyo residents and visitors are happy once again. Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are two of the four most popular theme parks on the planet.

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

They’re third and fourth behind Magic Kingdom and Disneyland. So, their return gives everyone involved a much-needed win.

Finally, Disney has emerged victorious in a longstanding feud with a property assessor. Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh has employed a specific accounting method to calculate Disney’s owed taxes in Florida.

For years now, Disney officials have argued that they’ve overpaid for these property taxes. In a groundbreaking ruling, an appellate court sided with Disney. Moreover, the judge determined that the accounting method was invalid.

So, Disney has already won back $128 million and will now sue for several other properties. This verdict involved Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort, which had its taxes reduced from $337 million to $209 million.

However, Singh has already appealed this decision. If he wins, the county gets the money back. If not, a wave of Orange County hotels will follow Disney’s lead and sue due to perceived tax overpayments. This ruling has far-reaching implications for Central Florida and bears monitoring.

Okay, that’s the update for this week. The next time we talk, Disney theme parks will be back in business!

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