DVC Parks and Resorts Update for March 8, 2021
Disney’s Blizzard Beach is back! Will Disneyland follow soon afterward? The answer has changed this week. I’ll explain in the latest DVC Parks and Resorts Update.
Water Parks Are Back in Orlando!
Over the past few days, the landscape of Orlando tourism has changed dramatically. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World are both operating water parks again!
Universal’s Volcano Bay
You may recall that Universal’s Volcano Bay reopened with the other parks on June 5th. Unfortunately, attendance remained lackluster for months afterward. On November 2nd, Volcano Bay closed for “seasonal maintenance,” which was really just an excuse to cover for poor attendance. The water park had operated year-round until then.
Given the recent administration of COVID-19 vaccines, Universal felt comfortable enough to reopen Volcano Bay. Amusingly, the decision hasn’t come with smooth sailing yet, as the water park closed due to cold weather this weekend.
Universal also restarted construction on its upcoming project, Epic Universe, an unexpected bonus. Executives have indicated that the pandemic shutdown has delayed the third (fourth by Universal’s count) theme park until 2025.
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon
Meanwhile, Walt Disney World is running a water park again for the first time in nearly a calendar year! In January of 2020, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon closed for annual maintenance but has yet to return.
Disney’s Blizzard Beach
In March, at the start of the pandemic, Disney’s Blizzard Beach closed along with the rest of the campus but hadn’t reopened again until now.
On Sunday, the water park finally sprang back to life after a year away. Park officials have added COVID-19 safety signs throughout the park and modified the rules slightly.
Disney must walk a fine line between protecting guests from droplets and ensuring that nobody drowns. So, Blizzard Beach’s face mask policy differs from the theme parks. You can and should remove your face covering at Blizzard Beach when you’re swimming or riding waterslides.
Water parks are back!
The Happiest Place on Earth Could Return Soon
Disneyland Resort just experienced a dramatic week. The excitement started when demand for A Touch of Disney vastly exceeded expectations. A deluge of users flooded the virtual queue system, leading to messages indicating the event had sold out. It hadn’t.
Instead, demand crashed the system temporarily. Afterward, Disney execs happily extended A Touch of Disney for two more weeks. The ticketed event at Disney California Adventure will now last through April 19th.
I’d expected this bit of serendipity to be the significant Disneyland news of the week, but the governor called…almost literally. After months of criticism and a nearly complete recall petition, Governor Newsom finally loosened the parameters for California’s COVID-19 tiers.
Emboldened by the vaccine rollout, the politician altered rules enough that theme parks and sports stadium can return. These changes go into effect on April 1st, meaning that Disneyland could feasibly reopen on that day. Don’t plan for that, though!
Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock posted the following statement:
— Disney Parks News (@DisneyParksNews) March 5, 2021
“We are encouraged that theme parks now have a path toward reopening this spring, getting thousands of people back to work and greatly helping neighboring businesses and our entire community. With responsible Disney safety protocols already implemented around the world, we can’t wait to welcome our Guests back and look forward to sharing an opening date soon.”
Please remember that Disney had already planned for closed parks through April 19th, the last date for A Touch of Disney. Also, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa had scheduled a reopening date of May 2nd.
I’m confident that park officials have spent the weekend feverishly debating the quickest, safest return date for the theme parks. However, you should keep something else in mind.
A Realistic Evaluation of Disneyland’s Reopening Plans
The updated California guidelines would limit Disneyland to 15 percent of maximum guest capacity. That’s the new rule for the Substantial Tier, the Red one Orange County is currently in.
Attendance may increase to 25 percent in the Moderate Tier. As such, Disney could feasibly target that range for its reopening. That’s the same maximum occupancy approach park officials took with Walt Disney World and other Disney theme parks. As a reminder, Orange County isn’t even in the Substantial Tier at the moment. It narrowly missed during the most recent evaluation. So, the Moderate Tier would require more health improvements.
When I referenced this data last week, the American average was 1.65 million doses a day. That number has since improved to 2.08 million, and it should only spike from here. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be readily available later this month.
President Biden recently suggested that every American who wants a shot should have one by the end of May. Barring something unforeseen, that statement appears correct, meaning that we could witness the pandemic lessen to an epidemic by the end of summer.
Disney possesses all this information and will make decisions based on it. As such, you should probably ignore the headlines that indicate the park will return on April 1st. Disneyland would struggle to turn a profit at 15 percent capacity, and even that step requires Orange County to switch to the Substantial Tier quickly.
We’ll all obsess on every story coming out of Anaheim for the next few weeks. For now, I expect a theme park opening after A Touch of Disney ends. But a single Disney press release could make me look like a total idiot.
I’d honestly prefer that. We need the Happiest Place on Earth open!
DVC Resort Updates
We’ve got plenty of updates specific to Disney Vacation Club members. The most impacting one involves a policy change. Actually, it’s more of a policy restoration. Disney altered several membership rules due to the pandemic. Well, as of April 1st, those changes will reset.
Here’s the applicable update from the official site:
“Some of the temporary adjustments made last year to certain Disney Vacation Club policies will end April 30, 2021. Previous policies will be reinstated on May 1, 2021. Please visit the Member website for details about policies related to reservation cancelations, the borrowing and holding of Points, exchange fees and more.
As a reminder, Members who want to borrow Points to complete a reservation will temporarily only be able to borrow up to 50 percent of their future Use Year Points per contract. Doing this will help manage inventory and accommodate more Members who want to schedule their vacations. Learn more about these policy changes.”
So, most adjustments have returned to normal. However, the restrictions on borrowing points remain in place for the time being.
Hilton Head Island Resort
This article also features an interview with the current General Manager, Jerome Smith. In a trial by fire, Smith took the job mere weeks before a hurricane struck the area!
For guests at Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas, I have two updates. The first involves airport arrival/departure. Guests staying at the resort now have access to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. It’s only available to tourists staying at Ko Olina resorts.
Also at Aulani, the luau is back! Starting on March 27th, the resort will host the KA WA’A Lu’au once again. It’s been absent throughout the pandemic until now.
Bottom Line: Disney is Preparing a Return to Normal
The overall theme of today’s update is that Disney is prepping to return to normal. This week marks the first anniversary of an NBA player touching some microphones and accidentally triggering a national shutdown. We’re all ready to put the pandemic behind us. Thanks to vaccine distribution, that day has almost arrived!
Have a great week, my friends!