How Walt Disney World Takes Care of Guests in Hurricane Weather
Hurricane Ian appears poised to disrupt Walt Disney World visits this week. Obviously, vacations aren’t at the forefront of our thoughts as we worry about friends and loved ones in Florida and other impacted parts of North America.
Still, many of you likely wonder how Walt Disney World takes care of guests in hurricane weather. Here’s what I can tell you from recent history.
Recent Hurricanes Closures at Walt Disney World
Since 2016, Disney officials have proactively closed the parks early or entirely to protect guests from inclement weather. We have three recent examples when Walt Disney World shut down due to hurricane conditions.
Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Hurricane Irma in 2017, and Hurricane Dorian in 2019 forced Disney to close the parks. These decisions left guests in an odd spot wherein they were on a Disney vacation but couldn’t go to a theme park.
While Disney Vacation Club members know about the joys of resort days, the vibe isn’t the same when you have no other choice. For this reason, park officials have gone out of their way to provide guests with entertainment during their downtime.
Disney Entertainment during Hurricane Park Closures
When guests cannot enter the parks, Disney transfers more cast members to the resorts. They gain temporary assignments to feed and distract the guests who are stuck.
Some of them don costumes at the resorts. Yes, Disney hosts costumed character interactions to pass the time. You’ll often find these characters in the hotel lobbies, entertaining children and adults alike.
Here’s a video from Disney’s Contemporary Resort during Hurricane Dorian:
That’s Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, and Goofy greeting customers at Bay View Gifts. Much of what you’re watching is improvisation. The costumed cast members play a game of Hide and Seek for the enjoyment of a handful of guests.
This visual alone demonstrates that you’ll never have better access to the Sensational Six than during a hurricane day at the resort. It’s all hands on deck for cast members with character training.
I’ll make two other points about this video. The first is that it’s theoretically a terrible time for these guests. They’re stuck in a different city during a possible hurricane.
The smiles on their faces belie the tension of the surroundings. Also, the crowd gradually forms as people realize this rare character interaction opportunity. This is pure Disney magic.
Disney will also break out the board games and other interactive competitions. In fact, some lucky guests during 2017’s Hurricane Irma played against a celebrity.
The fabulous Kristen Bell, Anna herself, played bingo with other hotel guests. There’s still a picture on her Instagram feed.
Dining during the Hurricane
The park closures leave guests without access to countless Disney restaurants. So, the resort eateries must pick up the slack, and Disney also sells box lunches.
During recent hurricane events, guests could buy Hurricane Meal Kits for $12.99. These packages usually include some sort of sandwich/wrap, chips or carrots, and a dessert. The packages vary and often contain fruit options as well.
Breakfast menu items have cost less, sometimes as little as $8. However, Disney has raised the prices on most items since 2019. You should expect to pay a bit more during Hurricane Ian.
Also, keep in mind that a family of four would pay more than $50 for a single set of box lunches, which are basically glorified Lunchables. Therefore, you should view this as a last resort.
Thankfully, the hotel restaurants serve terrific meals at discounted prices. For example, in 2019, Disney’s BoardWalk Villas sold a breakfast buffet for a modest $15 per person, a vastly superior deal to the box lunch.
Similarly, Whispering Canyon Café ordinarily sells its bottomless skillets for $34.99. However, during Hurricane Dorian, management sliced the price to $14.99 per person. That’s a tremendous value for anyone staying at the DVC properties at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
The My Disney Experience app should update the prices for all the available menu options this week. So, keep an eye on it to discover the best meal deals.
Disney will do everything possible to take care of any guests impacted by Hurricane Ian. The company has been terrific about this during other hurricanes, and I expect the same this week.
Still, the first thing you should check is whether you bought travel insurance. If so, that’ll make the process painless for you. Just tell the cast member that you do and contact your insurer immediately.
Otherwise, you should expect to stand in line for a while at your Disney resort. Cast members can assist you with tickets, DVC stays, and other incidental issues arising from the weather event. However, it’ll take a while since everyone else in line faces the same problems.
Remember that you don’t need to resolve everything during your trip, either. You can always contact DVC member services after you return home.
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