DVC Parks and Resorts Update for January 4th, 2021

Living Seas Monorail at EPCOT in Disney World

We’ve entered a new year and left the nightmare that was 2020 in the past. After just one day, 2021 had already introduced something that put a smile on the faces of Disney Vacation Club members. I’ll explain in the latest DVC Parks & Resorts Update.

We Can Park Hop at Walt Disney World Again!

At one point, coronavirus caused the closure of all Disney theme parks in the world. When Walt Disney World reopened, management needed to protect the safety of guests. Simultaneously, the parks needed to deliver a similar experience to before the existence of COVID-19. Otherwise, nobody would want to visit.

So, Disney engaged in a series of policy shifts to do the best that it could in impossible circumstances. Due to CDC social distancing guidelines, the parks reduced maximum capacity. For most of 2020, Walt Disney World only allowed 25 percent of its maximum occupancy.

Sharing the Magic bench statue of Roy O. Disney and Minnie Mouse at Magic Kingdom

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

This step ensured that the parks would operate safely. Nobody would stand too close together. However, these restrictions required executives to monitor park attendance carefully. Disney introduced Park Passes to guarantee that crowds remained under control.

The reason for the existence of Park Passes also negated any possibility of Park Hopping. Disney couldn’t very well restrict capacity at the start of the day but then allow everybody in later. Chaos would ensue, disrupting Disney’s carefully laid plans.

After Walt Disney World returned, a trend developed. The attraction lines were shorter than ever. Guests got more done in a shorter timeframe and then left early. In the 120 minutes before the parks closed, crowds were much smaller.

For management, that’s a terrible situation. When the parks are open, Disney relies on steady business. The skew was messing with the bottom line. So, Disney has done something smart. As of New Year’s Day, we can Park Hop again!

The 2021 Version of Park Hopping

Obviously, we’ll remain in a pandemic for several more months while everyone awaits vaccination. Until then, the parks will employ modified Park Hopping practices. Don’t worry, though! The most important rule remains.

You can Park Hop anywhere after 2 p.m! Theoretically, you can visit all four parks in one day, something several influencers already proved this past weekend. You should understand park operating hours before you try, though.

For example, Disney’s Animal Kingdom currently closes at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. on most days. You’ll have a limited amount of time to enjoy Pandora – The World of Avatar. These are the types of decisions you’ll face in the coming weeks.

You should also know about the logistics of traveling from park to park. The EPCOT monorail system remains offline. Disney hasn’t announced when it will return. Those DVC members staying at monorail resorts must take the bus to EPCOT.

EPCOT with Spaceship Earth Ride at Walt Disney World

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

Of course, that’s the good news, too. Since the parks reopened, Disney hasn’t offered park-to-park bus service. Why would they? Nobody could Park Hop anyway. Now that Disney allows the amenity once more, the buses have returned.

The only sticking point right now involves park capacity. Disney will maintain its current 35 percent maximum occupancy restriction for the time being. So, you cannot Park Hop to any park that has reached full capacity.

Disney has set up special park-to-park lines at the bus depots. You’ll usually find a cast member there. Feel free to ask them whether your preferred park destination is currently accepting guests. Disney also offers phone service to verify capacity. You should add (407) 560-5000 to your phone contacts list for the time being.

As a reminder, Park Hopping is only three days old in its current form. Park officials will make changes based on how well the system works during the early days. I will update as needed if/when Disney modifies the process.

EPCOT Food Studios Announced

Do you miss the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays? The event ended on New Year’s Eve, leaving guests without a festival for only the second time since the pandemic began. Despite the pandemic, EPCOT operated for only a handful of days without some sort of exhibition in 2020.

So, you may be missing the experience. Fear not! Another festival’s just around the corner! The Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts will start on January 8th. Yes, that’s this week! It’ll run through February 22nd, giving DVC members plenty of time to experience EPCOT’s most underrated festival.

France Pavillion at EPCOT in Walt Disney World

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

Disney recently released the list of Food Studios, and I warn you. This list will elicit drool. Here’s the current group of Food Studios:

  • The Artist’s Table
  • Citrus Blossom
  • Cuisine Classique
  • Decadent Delights
  • The Deconstructed Dish
  • El Artista Hambriento
  • Festival Favorites
  • Goshiki
  • L’Art de la Cuisine Francaise
  • L’Arte di Mangiare
  • The Masterpiece Kitchen
  • Mosaic Canteen
  • The Painted Panda
  • Painters Palette
  • Pop Eats
  • Vibrante & Vívido

You can check your favorite Disney fansite for menus. Only some of them were available at the time of publication. Also, I have a bit of good news. The Festival of the Arts illustrators who do live drawings will return. Similarly, chalk art is back, too.

Like the previous two pandemic-impacted EPCOT exhibitions, the Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts won’t be quite the same this time. However, it’ll still provide plenty of enjoyment during your winter DVC trip.

Speaking of the World Showcase…

Do you know who Emily Jacobsen is? This TikTok performer became an overnight viral sensation for her creative idea, a Ratatouille musical. This premise proved so popular that celebrities like Wayne Brady and Adam Lambert starred in the New Year’s Day charity event, Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical.

Disney officials loved the attention that Remy received, especially with a new Ratatouille ride in the offing. So, the company invited Jacobsen to visit EPCOT’s World Showcase. She received a special tour of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and other parts of the impending France pavilion expansion.

You can watch some of the highlights here:

You can find extended videos on some Disney influencer YouTube sites, too. The important takeaway here is that neither Jacobsen nor her Imagineer host is wearing a construction hat in the video. The logical inference here is that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure has finished construction.

Obviously, that doesn’t prove park officials will open the attraction soon. After all, we’re still living through a pandemic. So, Disney may delay Ratatouille until the summer. However, based on this video, the France pavilion expansion and its E-ticket ride look ready to open!

Disneyland Outlook Remains Bleak

On New Year’s Day, California health officials reported 47,118 new COVID-19 cases. That total represents more registered cases than the Golden State noted through April 28th last year. Suffice to say that another outbreak has devastated California.

As such, the prospect of Disneyland reopening anytime soon appears grim. California Health and Human Services, the state’s leading health department, recently extended Southern California’s stay-at-home order indefinitely.

In other words, no end date is in sight for the lifting of the stay-at-home order. For this reason, the parameters for Disneyland’s reopening appear unattainable in the short term. The best hope right now is that the vaccine rollout goes smoothly in California. This would allow government officials to relax their stance on public businesses like restaurants, stores, and especially theme parks.

Disney/DVC Reminders and Updates

First of all, please remember that the deadline to pay 2021 Membership Dues occurs on January 15th. Yes, that’s next week. As a reminder, Disney offered Membership Dues credits for 2020 overbilling on some properties. Your Membership Dues may not be as much as you expect.

Also, as I mentioned last week, Magic Bands are no longer free to Disney resort guests as of January 1st. Interestingly, Disney has updated My Disney Experience to reflect this change. The plain-colored Magic Bands only cost $5, which is less than half of what I’d expected. Even for a family of four, a full set of Magic Bands is just $20.

Along those lines, Disney won’t ship souvenir luggage tags for free as an amenity anymore. However, you can still request them from a desk clerk at the hotel lobby. They’re free there, which is just as good. Similarly, you can avoid the need for Magic Bands by requesting a Key to the World card, which works similarly and is free at the front desk.

Finally, the 50th-anniversary celebration at Walt Disney World is now less than nine months away. DVC members who own at Walt Disney World resorts should consider booking now before we reach the seven-month window on March 1st. All bets are off at that point.

Have a lovely 2021, my friends!

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