Recent Park Changes That Are Here to Stay
We’ve entered the final week of 2021, which means we’re looking back as we prepare to move forward.
For Disney fans, the past 18 months have come with plenty of confusion as longstanding policies suddenly collapsed.
Then, new ones arrived, and nobody’s quite sure which ones are temporary vs. permanent.
So, let’s talk about the recent park changes that are apparently here to stay.
On the one hand, the requirement for Park Passes seems like a subtle shift. For longtime Disney visitors, it’s a cataclysmic change, though.
Many of us, especially frequent DVC Points users, have relished having the run of Walt Disney World’s theme parks for many years now.
Suddenly, Disney has removed that option. Now, we must pick a park rather than showing up wherever we want.
On top of that, if Park Passes aren’t available there on a given day, we’re out of luck.
You can understand why management would take this approach. Disney gains a much more accurate headcount about expected park attendance.
This information helps in assigning staff dynamically, saving the company lots of money.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek has indicated that Park Passes are here to stay, and I suspect that we should believe him, at least until 2023.
This one ties directly into what I just discussed…and for many of the same reasons.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve Park Hopped after ONE ride before. I wanted to ride Soarin’ while I was staying at Disney’s Beach Club Villas.
Then, my wife and I went and caught a bus to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This was possible because we purchased an annual pass with Park Hopper as an amenity.
That’s still theoretically the case under the new annual pass system. In fact, all four tiers of Walt Disney World’s passholder program include Park Hopper now.
The issue is how Park Hopper works. Historically, we could switch parks whenever we wanted.
During the first six months after Walt Disney World’s reopening, Park Hopping wasn’t an option.
When Disney brought the amenity back in 2021, it came with a new rule. People couldn’t Park Hop until 2 p.m.
Is that an aggravating change? The answer depends on who you ask. Most people don’t mind it, but some folks hate the new rule.
Due to the Park Hopping time delay, visiting all four parks in one day is extremely challenging now.
While Disney may change the start time, the general rule appears permanent. Even at Disneyland, Park Hopping doesn’t start until 1 p.m.
If we do experience a Park Hopping update in 2022, I suspect it’ll be a modest shift like that rather than a return to pre-pandemic Park Hopper rules.
Longer Operating Hours
When Walt Disney World returned in July of 2020, its operating hours were NOT what DVC fans had expected.
We were used to 12-14 hours at the parks. Alas, Disney lacked the staff to operate that much daily. On top of that, it lacked the incentive, too.
Guests could do everything at the parks several times in a day during those first few months after reopening. So, there was no need for longer operating hours.
Toward the end of 2021, attraction wait times have crept up again, presumably because Disney isn’t limiting capacity as much as before…if any at all.
Concurrently, Walt Disney World’s four theme parks have gradually increased their operating hours.
The early 2022 calendar suggests that longer operating hours will remain.
Even in mid-January, all the parks but EPCOT will remain open for at least 12 hours. In case you’re wondering, EPCOT shows an 11-hour day.
So, we’re returning to pre-pandemic standards with the operating hours. This change seems at least semi-permanent.
Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Hours
You can stretch your park hours even more thanks to these new amenities.
In 2021, guests staying at official Disney resorts regained a previous benefit. Longtime Disney visitors remember Extra Magic Hours.
Under this program, people could either enter Walt Disney World’s theme parks an hour early or stay an hour later. On some dates, we even had both!
Early Theme Park Entry isn’t quite as good, but the song remains the same. People spending the night at Disney resorts can enter the parks half an hour early.
That’s plenty of time to experience at least one if not two attractions before everyone else enters the parks. So, it’s a phenomenal head start to your park day.
Extended Evening Hours is that much better. It’s like a mini-version of DVC Moonlight Magic.
For two hours, guests at Deluxe Disney resorts — which is all of us using DVC Points – get to stay for an extra two hours after the parks close to everyone else.
On Mondays, this amenity is available at EPCOT. Then, on Wednesdays, you get the run of Magic Kingdom after everyone else leaves.
In situations like this with empty parks, two hours is an eternity. These amenities are spectacular, and they do appear permanent!
Here’s the happiest news of all for many of us! During the pandemic, Disney couldn’t host its usual array of park parades.
Desperate for entertainment, park officials turned to mini-parades that they called Cavalcades.
At Magic Kingdom, they consist of one or two floats that quickly roll down Main Street, U.S.A. and other spots at the park.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios offers motorcades that include your favorite characters riding down the streets in stylish themed sports cars.
At Animal Kingdom, characters sail in boats on Discovery River. Meanwhile, EPCOT is Disney Princess-centric with its performances.
All of them are showstoppers to the point that fans have asked Disney to make them permanent.
Thankfully, park officials have heard this request and provided some wish fulfillment. Cavalcades are here to stay!