Disney Parks and Resorts Update: May 12th

Filed in Coronavirus, COVID19, Walt Disney World Reopening

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Shanghai Disneyland's Cinderella castle at night

Ladies and gentlemen, I bear good tidings. A Disney theme park is back in business! Oh, and some restaurants at Disney Springs will return in a matter of days!

The latest DVC coronavirus update is easily the best one so far!

Welcome to Shanghai

If you watched a morning news show yesterday, you likely watched highlights from Shanghai Disneyland. All major networks have covered this story due to its importance.

The reality is that Disneyland bills itself as the Happiest Place on Earth. When it closed, the metaphor was impossible to ignore. Coronavirus has shut down all our joy.

Ergo, the news of a Disney park reopening is cause for celebration. Overnight, Twitter users like Chris Explorer and GourmetDYY posted videos of the park.

You can watch these clips to appreciate how much has changed.  One Disney official even took reporters on a tour of the facilities the day before it opened. I highly recommend that you watch this 15-minute video:

During the clip, you’ll notice all the measures that Disney employees have taken to safeguard park guests. Before guests enter, they must pass a temperature check to verify that they’re healthy.

In China, the government requires its citizens to carry QR codes that verify their health, also. Once everyone has finished this step, they proceed to the admission gate, where the admission process works nearly the same as previously.

Gloved security officials check bags, and then allow the guests to walk to the admission gates. There, customers show their valid park tickets and enter. Most of the process is contactless, which should reassure people.

More Changes at Shanghai Disneyland

Inside the park, Disney has added yellow markers at most locations. These symbols indicate where guests should stand. It’s a social distancing tactic.

The markers are visible on rides, at restaurants, and in show viewing areas. The idea is that people should stand on/near the markers to maximize distance from other guests.

Interestingly, Disney has taken a different tactic with some of its line queues. According to park officials, testing indicated that guests wouldn’t stand on ground symbols.

So, Disney has signs on the ground telling people where NOT to stand. This strategy has worked much better.

I have no idea whether the American parks will implement the same tactic. It strikes me as counterintuitive, but then I remember that internet dress that people can’t decide is blue or gold.

Anyway, the symbols aren’t applicable for the staging area. Instead, park officials have drawn yellow boxes where people should stand. These precautions appear reasonable and easy to follow.

Perhaps the best idea involves indoor restaurants. Due to tight spaces, the line queues require a bit of modification. So, the yellow markers aren’t side-by-side.

On row one, they’re in different locations than in row two and so forth. This tactic maximizes spacing.

Park officials have canceled character greetings for now. Instead, they’ve placed characters in staging areas where they can put on quick shows.

Similarly, full parades aren’t operating right now. However, floats surprise guests by appearing at seemingly random times.

I’ve watched several hours of videos from the opening day of Shanghai Disneyland. The only issues I’ve seen are the expected ones. Some children are difficult to control and blissfully unaware of social distancing.

Also, some people get overly excited and forget the rules/pandemic. Other than that, the opening feels like a triumph.

What Happens Next?

Let’s talk about Shanghai Disneyland and how it relates to other Disney parks. For starters, we know that the Chinese government stipulated that the park may only open at 30 percent capacity.

Interestingly, Disney officials chose not to do that. Instead, they reopened Shanghai Disneyland with fewer than 20,000 guests. Signs show wait-times of 10 minutes or less for massively popular attractions like Tron Lightcycle Power Run and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

Robert Iger interviewed with CNBC today. He indicated that Disney will add 5,000 in capacity every so often until the park reaches China’s current occupancy threshold. By that point, maximum occupancy could have feasibly increased to 50 or 75 percent.

By taking a methodical approach, Disney can test its measures while protecting guests. It’s the kind of responsible leadership we’d expect from the company.

We also know that Disney will double its testing in a matter of days. Hong Kong Disneyland hotels are now accepting reservations starting on May 15. The park’s reopening is clearly happening soon. At that point, Disney officials can study two different parks to validate the social distancing strategies in place.

How will these parks impact the American ones? Obviously, we’re all merely speculating here.

What I will say is that Disneyland recently stopped taking reservations until July 1. This change occurred in the aftermath of California’s governor stating that large gatherings wouldn’t be possible until the fall.

On the plus side, California did enter the second stage of its reopening strategy last Friday. That’s faster than anyone had predicted, and I think we’ll all take any positive sign we can get right now.

As for Florida, that’s a longer conversation…

Disney Springs Is Back!

In last week’s update, I said: “Theoretically, several Disney Springs restaurants and shops could reopen any day now.”

On May 20, this will happen! On the official parks blog and the Disney Springs website, the company announced the return of everyone’s favorite entertainment district.

However, there’s a giant asterisk here. The only places that will reopen on May 20 are third-party businesses. Obviously, some of these companies are still debating whether to reopen.

Florida’s Phase One guidelines limit indoor occupancy to 25 percent. Many business owners have expressed frustration that they can’t earn a profit with those limitations. So, they’re choosing not to open until Florida reaches Phase Two or possibly even Phase Three.

What Will Reopen On May 20?

At Disney Springs, the confirmed list of returning restaurants on May 20 is:

  • Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream
  • STK Orlando
  • Wine Bar George
  • Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill

This list is current as of 2 PM EST on May 11. I will update the list again on Friday with the Disney Parks Status update.

However, I do want to mention that Disney is doing something incredible.

Even though none of its businesses will open, the company has brought back many of its Disney Springs custodial cast members. These dedicated professionals will have the job of keeping Disney Springs hygienic during its reopening.

Almost 120 cast members will return to their jobs by May 20. Some of them will start working this Friday in preparation for cleaning the Disney Springs campus for guests.

Disney will do this at a financial loss and deserves a great deal of credit for taking this step.

When Will Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts Reopen?

You may wonder whether the return of Disney Springs means that Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts will reopen soon. I still don’t have a good answer to this question.

Disney stopped taking general hotel reservations until July 1. The DVC online booking tool will let me pick a room and set up a reservation for mid-June, at least to the final page. I didn’t want to finish the booking for obvious reasons, but I found that interesting.

Simultaneously, the company sent surveys to a handful of guests who have June reservations. These polls asked what the company could do to comfort guests about their vacation plans.

The fact that Disney took this approach indicates that the company is at least contemplating a June return, although July appears more likely. Shanghai Disneyland closed for 107 days.

Since Walt Disney World shut down on March 16th, 107 days from then is…July 1. The timeline fits.

I know that some of you have wondered about the non-Disney DVC resorts. Again, I don’t have anything specific to report.

The belief is that Disney won’t reopen its Aulani, Vero Beach, and Hilton Head locations until executives have more input about the returns of Shanghai Disneyland and Disney Springs.

I wish I could tell you more than that. I’m emailing the hotels today for additional information and will relay any responses in Friday’s update.

Let’s focus on the positives, though. Overall, this week has brought plenty of good news for DVC members. We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Unfortunately, Coronavirus stressors aren’t going away anytime soon. However, the return of a Disney park gives us all hope and a bit of joy during a difficult time.

For now, let’s watch lots of Shanghai Disneyland social media updates and savor them! Until next time, please stay safe and smart, everyone!

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