Here’s What’s Happening at Disney During Hurricane Ian

Walt Disney World has closed its theme parks entirely on consecutive dates only twice in its history before 2022. The first instance occurred during Hurricane Francis in 2004, followed by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Multiple day closures are that rare.

Now, Hurricane Ian has forced park closures on September 28th and 29th for sure and possibly longer, depending on what happens next. So, you’re likely wondering what’s happening at Disney during Hurricane Ian. Here’s what we can tell you about this tense moment in Disney history.

Disney Officials Announce Policies and Closures

If you’re impacted by the theme park closure, you should familiarize yourself with Disney’s official hurricane updates page. Disney indicates that the following parks and activities will stay closed on Wednesday and Thursday:

  • Magic Kingdom Park
  • EPCOT
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park 
  • Winter Summerland Miniature Golf
  • Fantasia Gardens
  • Fairways Miniature Golf

Note that Disney’s Blizzard Beach had previously shut down for renovations. Disney didn’t have the demand for multiple parks during the pandemic anyway. So, it’s technically not affected by the closure. Everything else will stay offline until the weather clears and park officials determine that the activities are safe to operate.

Senses Spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa also closed early on Wednesday. It will remain that way until Friday. In addition, Disney has also chosen to close specific DVC room types. Those are: “Copper Creek Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort from Wednesday through Friday.”

DVC Resort Guests Must Shelter in Place

In addition, management has requested the following:

“Guests that are checked in by 3 p.m. Wednesday will be asked to shelter in place at their resort for the duration of the storm, this includes any resort-to-resort transfers.”

Sheltering in place means that Disney strongly discourages guests from leaving the hotel due to the inherent risk. For this reason, the Minnie Van service closed at 3:30 p.m. ET today (Wednesday). However, Disney expects service to return on Friday morning.

As an aside, those DVC members who still plan to arrive on Friday should be aware of this policy update. “For Guests with a Friday, Sept. 30 check-in, please arrive at your resort no earlier than 3 p.m. ET; Guests who arrive before 3 p.m. will not be able to check in.” 

In other words, nobody will be working at the check-in desk, and the system will remain locked until 3 p.m. on Friday. So, you shouldn’t try to check in early. It’s not happening.

What Are Cast Members Doing during the Park Closure?

Disney cast members have experienced a tumultuous week already, and it’s only Wednesday. Workers at the parks spent part of their Monday and Tuesday removing any decorations susceptible to high winds. 

Cast members tethered other potential flying objects to ensure they remained in place. One of the best aspects of Disney parks is the ready access to trash cans. Unfortunately, those are so light that employees must add weights to prevent them from getting swept away by the wind. 

Conversely, the mega-expensive touchpoint entrance scanners at the parks are vulnerable to flying objects. So, workers spent part of the day wrapping them in preventive plastic coating to protect them.

With the parks closed, cast members have turned their focus to the resorts. Obviously, all the guests will remain at the hotels today and tomorrow. So, Disney’s staff must cater to the customers’ needs. 

Disney has confirmed the appearance of costumed characters to provide some entertainment. As I previously mentioned, management will host games and other interactive entertainment. 

The Fryer Family at Disney’s Contemporary Resort Lobby during Hurricane Ian

However, meal preparations and satisfying other basic needs come with the job, too. In addition, employees must ensure that all guests are safe and preferably able to maintain contact with their loved ones. Disney’s recent expansion of 5G towers at DVC resorts has proven prescient with the benefit of hindsight. 

Nobody has lost cellular service as of this writing. Similarly, Disney’s solar farms could take damage during this event. However, Walt Disney World guests are more likely to maintain power than the rest of Florida. That’s the benefit of Disney creating its own sustainable energy. 

What Is Walt Disney World Like for Guests during Hurricane Ian?

We will provide more specific examples of cast member entertainment as they appear on social media. Members of The Lost Bros, a partner of World of DVC, are currently staying at Disney’s Beach Club Villas. 

You can follow their activities on their Instagram account. I won’t speak for them, but their pictures today indicate they are making the best of a bad situation. They’re all smiles here

According to their updates, Stormalong Bay opened for a while today but understandably closed early. Disney also made all the arcade games free to play, which is how I’d spend my time if I were there.

Photo courtesy of The Lost Bros

Management emphasizes grab-and-go dining options, which come in the form of Meal Kits. At Beach Club Marketplace, another friend captured some photos of the menu offerings. Items like Roast Beef Sandwiches and Chicken Salad Sandwiches cost $7 each. Disney hasn’t forgotten its meat-averse friends, either. A Vegetarian Wrap is available for $7. 

For breakfast tomorrow, guests will eat a Boxed Meal including “Bagel, Cereal Bowl, Fresh Fruit, Milk, Yogurt Parfait, Simply Orange Juice, Cream Cheese, Butter, and Jam.”  This breakfast box costs $5. A “Kids Breakfast Boxed Meal” is also available for $4. You’ll find child-sized portions of some of the sandwiches as well

Disney is opening/closing hotel restaurants on a case-by-case basis. Generally, the grab-and-go options like marketplaces and general stores will remain open. However, others may temporarily close to encourage guests to stay in their hotel rooms or public gathering areas. 

 

 

 

Currently, Hurricane Ian has officially made landfall and could reach Central Florida by the time you read this update. So, we’ll know more soon about the resorts and the entertainment options for the guests sheltering there.

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