DVC Parks and Resorts Update for July 20

Mickey pictured in a cavalcade at Disney World

All the parks at Walt Disney World are back in business. Overseas, the news isn’t as good, but that shouldn’t deter Disney Vacation Club fans from relishing this moment of joy.

And the positives don’t stop there! A couple of other projects close to the hearts of DVC members are either open or moving forward.

We’ll talk about these topics plus 2019 theme park attendance in the latest DVC Parks & Resorts update.

All Four Parks Are Open

Walt Disney World closed on March 16, one of the darkest days in theme park history. Since then, those of us in DVC have felt frustrated by the absence of our favorite vacation destination.

Last week, the tide turned when Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom reopened. On July 15, Disney’s Hollywood and EPCOT joined them, meaning that four Walt Disney World theme parks are operational once again.

Rey Skywalker and fan at Disney World's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

Obviously, Disney’s changed a lot of aspects of the parks to maintain the health of park guests. Some experiences like Savi’s Workshop and Oga’s Cantina will seem slightly different than you remember then.

Savi’s Workshop doesn’t have any actors right now due to union issues. It’s still a Pick Your Own Lightsaber experience. You’ll receive a list of options, and then you can test them before deciding. You’re not really building one, though.

Storm troopers and fan at Galaxy's Edge in Disney World

At Oga’s Cantina, you can no longer walk up and ask to go inside. Instead, you must book a reservation. Should you get to enter the cantina, you’ll have a terrific time. Until now, the place has suffered overcrowding issues. During the pandemic, you get your own table, and it’s far away from guests.

The EPCOT Changes

EPCOT has returned with a pleasant addition. The 2020 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival is open and serving guests. However, its presence has forced some changes at all Walt Disney World theme parks.

Guests were taking advantage of Disney’s face mask policy. According to the initial rules, people could remove their masks while eating and drinking anywhere in the parks.

At the Food & Wine Festival, guests abused the rules by ordering something, removing their masks, and then walking around for hours. So, Disney has updated the face mask policy.

Cast members helping out at Disney's Food and Wine Festival 2020

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

Guests must wear these coverings everywhere except when sitting down to eat at restaurants. If you want to eat something without sitting down, park officials expect you to stand off to the side and remain stationary while eating.

The rules allow people to eat and drink sans a table. However, you must get out of the way of park traffic so that you don’t risk their safety. Walking around the parks without a mask is now totally against the rules.

Children's masks for sale at Disney Parks

Importantly, this policy applies to all four parks. Yes, it’s mainly happening because of EPCOT. Still, enough park visitors are doing it elsewhere that Disney has changed to this more restrictive rule.

Clearly, park officials care more about the safety of all guests than any individual’s dining comfort. We should all be grateful for that. In fact, I noticed that a California vlogger said something interesting. While visiting Walt Disney World, he indicated he felt safer there than in his own grocery store.

The DVC Member Lounge Is Open

I’ve got one other EPCOT update for you. The DVC Membership Lounge HAS reopened along with the rest of the park. Some members had expressed concern that it wouldn’t.

Thankfully, Disney continues to support this oasis during humid park days. Disney has understandably changed some aspects, though. First of all, the lounge comes with assigned seating now.

As you enter, a cast member will give you a table name. That’s where you will sit, and you will have no trouble remembering the name. Disney is using DVC resorts for table identifications. So, if you’re like me, you’re hoping to sit at the Polynesian.

Also, you no longer serve yourself at the Coke Freestyle machine. Instead, cast members host a table with refreshments. You’ll speak with one of them and request a drink, which they’ll retrieve for you.

While seated, you’re expected to wear your mask unless you’re eating or drinking. Disney has socially distanced the tables, but the DVC lounge isn’t a mask-free environment like the Relaxation Stations. Cast members will stop you if you try to move any of the chairs, too. So, the safety precautions are in full effect inside the lounge.

I should add that I’m unsure whether this issue is temporary or not, but Disney has removed the coffee machine. A cast member indicated that they were still serving hot beverages, but I’m unclear as to what those are. Finally, the tablets and shared cords aren’t available, but you can obviously bring your own.

Meanwhile in California…

We must switch coasts for the other colossal DVC news. The City of Anaheim Planning and Building Department has approved the announced Disneyland DVC hotel project. Since Disney apparently still has the funding for this development, it should move forward in the coming months.

However, I must stress that this approval is merely the latest step in a long list of governmental procedures. Recently, the Disneyland DVC hotel has passed its traffic study and some other potential hurdles. Even so, after the previous DVC project fell apart at a late stage, I suspect we’ll all eye this situation warily until a building exists.

Of course, regulatory committee evaluations aren’t sexy stories. You know what is, though? Disneyland just marked its 65th anniversary on a day when the park was closed.

One day, years from now, we’ll look back on July 17, 2020, as a strange historical football. At the moment, it truly sucks, though. The only part of Disneyland that could host guests was Downtown Disney. And attendance there was lower than it had been, presumably because some potential visitors feared potentially large crowds.

When 2025 and 2030 arrive, I can’t help but wonder whether park officials will throw lavish celebrations to make up for what we lost with the 65th anniversary.

2019 Theme Park Attendance

While we’re on the subject of Disneyland, the park managed something remarkable in 2018/2019. According to the Themed Entertainment Association’s annual report, the Happiest Place on Earth totaled the same number of guests both years, 18.67 million. Disney California Adventure was similarly consistent with 9.861 million each year.

All four parks at Walt Disney World either matched or slightly surpassed their 2018 totals. EPCOT claimed 12.44 million for the second straight year, while Disney’s Animal Kingdom increased 1 percent to 13.89 million.

France and Eiffel Tower at Disney World's EPCOT

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

Disney’s Hollywood Studios earned the most substantial increase in park traffic, albeit only a two percent gain. That park registered attendance of 11.48 million. Finally, the theme park alpha remains Magic Kingdom, which once again earned the most traffic of any theme park on the planet. For 2019, Magic Kingdom greeted 20.96 million guests.

Obviously, 2020 won’t match the attendance of 2019…or any other recent year for that matter. The pandemic-related closures and attendance restrictions assure that theme park ticket sales will drop precipitously.

DVC Miscellany

I have two other tidbits for you this week. The terrific one involves annual passholders. If you own a Walt Disney World annual pass, you’re currently entitled to a 30 percent discount on most park merchandise.

Disney will offer this deal through August 14. It’s legitimately the most significant discount I can remember in a looooong time. So, take advantage of it while you can!

The less great news isn’t surprising. Registration for the Moonlight Magic events scheduled for Disney’s Hollywood Studios is currently on hold. Members were supposed to book starting on July 15 for events on September 15, September 22, and October 6.

At this point, it’s fair to wonder whether DVC will hold events, especially since Disney has already canceled six of them this year.

Okay, that’s this week’s DVC news. Please stay safe and smart, everyone!

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