Disney Parks and Resorts Update for September 28th

Disney Vacation Club members finally received some good news about a resort. Meanwhile, Disneyland remains in a holding position, but the state of Florida just returned to pre-pandemic standards. Also, I’ve got a modest update on the Polynesian in the latest DVC Parks and Resorts Update.

Aulani Returns

Over the past few updates, I’ve discussed the reopening status of Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa. Thankfully, there’s finally some movement on this front after weeks of frustration.

Disney announced that the hotel will begin a phased reopening on November 1st. On that date, guests may return to the resort after an extended absence that dates back to March. However, you should know something before you travel.

The state of Hawaii has introduced new safety measures to prevent additional COVID-19 infections. Guests who want to travel to Aulani must pass a COVID-19 test first. You won’t do this on the island, though.

Instead, you’ll accept responsibility to take and pass the Coronavirus test before you depart for Hawaii. Once you arrive, you must present proof that you’re COVID-free.

Also, you must take this test within three days of your arrival. So, if you’re visiting on November 1st, you must have proof that you’re not infected. And that confirming test result must be from either October 30th or October 31st.

You can read additional details on the official tourism site. I’ll add that United Airlines has introduced an innovative new amenity at its San Francisco airport location. Travelers may take a COVID test on-site the day of their flight for $250, a convenient way to overcome the new hurdle. The Mercury News suggests that other airports will follow United’s lead.

Disneyland Goes on the Offensive

Last week, I suggested that Disneyland may receive some good news. That…didn’t happen. Local lobbyists petitioned the governor of California to announce the requisite reopening guidelines for theme parks. Thus far, he has chosen not to do that.

Disney executives appear frustrated by this stalemate, as they went on the offensive this past week. Ken Potrock, the new President of Disneyland Resort (and former head of DVC), said the following: “We are ready to open responsibly, it is the time to open responsibly, and it’s important to open responsibly.”

Potrock also added that without reopening guidelines, Disneyland will remain stuck “in limbo.” He delivered this message to the Southern California News Group editorial board, guaranteeing that his words would trigger headlines about Disneyland’s overall dissatisfaction.

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

Josh D’Amaro, the Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, also weighed in on the matter. He held a press conference to express his concerns over the current holding pattern, which he believes is causing Anaheim’s lackluster economic performance this quarter.

D’Amaro argued that “the longer we wait, the more devastating the impact will be.” He noted that theme parks are responsible for 80,000 jobs in the area. For this reason, Orange County’s mayors also asked the governor to publish the reopening guidelines to kickstart the economy.

Since no one has made any headway yet, Disney went ahead and canceled all Disneyland hotel reservations through October 10th. The company has taken a weekly approach to its cancellations thus far, a signal that it believes the parks could reopen quickly if allowed.

Disney has added most of its requisite pandemic precautionary measures at the parks already. So, it shouldn’t take long to restore the parks after they receive authorization to get started. I hate to keep saying, “Stay tuned,” but it’s the truth.

Florida Enters Phase Three

The governor of Florida has gone a different way from his counterpart in California. The Sunshine State has entered Phase Three of its Coronavirus reopening plan, which is to say that businesses can operate full capacity.

Until now, restaurants and bars have faced capacity limits as a method of guaranteeing social distancing. During Phase Three, these establishments may go back to normal. They may book up to 50 percent of their seats and tables anywhere in the state.

In jurisdictions without outbreaks, restaurants and bars may host full capacity. Here’s the language from the Reopening guidelines:

“Bars, pubs, and nightclubs that derive more than 50 percent of sales from alcohol should operate at full capacity with limited social distancing protocols. Businesses should maintain adequate sanitation practices among employees and patrons during all hours of operation. Menus, if laminated, should be cleaned after each usage. Paper menus should be designed for single use and then disposed of immediately after use.”

The governor clarified some policies.

“We are today moving into what we initially called phase three and what that will mean for the restaurants is that there will not be limitations, from the state of Florida and in fact, we’re also cognizant about the need for business certainty. There have been some local closures and other types of restrictions and so the order that I’m signing today will guarantee restaurants operate, will not allow closures. They can operate at a minimum of 50% regardless of local rule. And then, if a local restricts between 50 and 100 (percent), they’ve got to provide the justification and they’ve got to identify what the costs involved with doing that are.”

The Impact on Walt Disney World

The Orlando Sentinel has published a few clarifications that may assist you in planning your next trip.

The essential topic here is how Disney addresses capacity. I’m speaking about restaurants and bars, as it’s unclear whether the modified rules apply to theme parks. Now, Disney has the option to expand from 50 percent attendance in restaurants to full capacity.

However, the company doesn’t have to do that. In fact, the company asserted on Sunday that all rules remain the same for the time being. Disney requires masks and will maintain current social distancing policies.

Also, there’s a secondary discussion here. Local officials cannot prevent businesses from running at half-attendance, but they can dictate that large gatherings stop there. The local governments would need the state’s approval to lock capacity at 50 percent, though.

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

I’m saying all this to clarify that while Disney could theoretically increase attendance in its stores, it may not do that anytime soon. Disney enjoys a strong working relationship with the mayor of Orange County, who doesn’t sound enthusiastic about this change.

So, you shouldn’t assume that restaurants will have additional tables available anytime soon. I’m just speculating here, but I expect Disney to increase capacity gradually over the next several months.

Still, if you didn’t get an Advanced Dining Reservation that you wanted, you should use My Disney Experience often during your visit. Seat availability seems fluid.

On the theme park side of the discussion, guests are anecdotally reporting attendance increases on weekend days. Disney had reportedly started with a maximum attendance of less than 30 percent capacity. That number has apparently bumped upward in recent weeks. Expect that trend to continue as long as Florida avoids additional outbreaks.

More about the Polynesian Renovations

This past week, Disney was unusually forthcoming about its plans for refurbishing Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Park officials posted new concept art for the lobby entrance, and it’s quite breathtaking.

The new image suggests that the port cochere, a kind of fancy doorway, will feature a remarkable accent piece. Imagine a giant inverted V or a down arrow, and you’ll get the idea. Disney wants to add a bit of grandeur to the Polynesian, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in October.

So, the changes will restore some of the luster of old while adding a new glam style that fits the theme. In fact, this style will carry over to the monorail station. Disney promises this area will feature “geometric patterns in bright, tropical colors that complete an exciting new composition that will greet you when you arrive.”

How These Changes Impact Your DVC Stay

Of course, Disney needs some time to introduce these modifications. Starting on September 28th, several changes will occur as a concession to the hotel’s renovation phase. For starters, the hotel’s front desk will relocate to Pago Pago, a DVC building adjoining the parking lot. It’s the one closest to the Transportation and Ticket Center.

Obviously, Disney must close the main entrance to the lobby before Imagineers can work their magic on the port cochere. Much of the work will occur after hours, which forces Disney to close the lobby at 10 p.m.

Disney has indicated that Kona Café, Moana Mercantile, Pineapple Lanai, and Tambu Lounge will remain open. However, they will operate with adjusted hours, which will likely change multiple times over the next few months.

Similarly, the monorail station at the Polynesian must close on November 2nd. Sadly, you’ve already looked at the Great Ceremonial House’s current version for the last time. Also, you only have a few more weeks to enjoy the Polynesian’s monorail stop as is. It’s a bittersweet realization, isn’t it?

Realistically, if you’re like me and staying at the Polynesian at some point over the next nine months, you should expect some inconvenience. In a way, it’ll circle back to the introduction of DVC rooms at the hotel a few years ago.

Thankfully, construction won’t be widespread like it was then. Still, your enjoyment of the Great Ceremonial House may suffer a touch. Of course, as long as the fragrant Polynesian aroma remains and you can still buy a Dole Whip right outside, you probably won’t care.

Good News and Bad News for Disney Fans

I’ll end this week’s update with a story that will rip your heart out, followed by one that will make you happy.

The emotional update involves The Grand Floridian Society Orchestra. Recently, Disney removed the bandstand area from Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Fans hoped that the musicians would receive a new workspace soon.

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

In the interim, Disney brought back the band as The Disney Society Orchestra. The musicians performed at Theater of the Stars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Alas, that gig will end soon. The band’s official Facebook page announced that this show will end on October 3rd.

On that date, The Grand Floridian Society Orchestra will stop playing at Walt Disney World. The post includes this comment, “So after 32 years of playing together and playing music we love… we’re done.” It’s the end of an era for fans of the Grand Floridian, especially those among us who own points there and delight in these live music concerts.

Of course, the beauty of Disney is that even when something ends, something else begins anew. At Tokyo Disneyland, New Fantasyland received an unexpected soft opening this past week. For this reason, we already have a video of its signature attraction, The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast. Here, take a look:

Also, a thoughtful YouTube user added English audio if you’d like to watch it that way:

Finally, while the Beauty and the Beast ride will receive the lion’s share of the attention, I’m in love with the adorable secondary attraction. Here’s The Happy Ride with Baymax:

As with Alien Swirling Saucers, its American clone, this ride features six different songs. The above clip shows each one.

Okay, this was a massive update. So, I appreciate your sticking with me until the end. Stay safe and smart, everyone!

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