Walt Disney World Park Updates for May 30, 2021
Walt Disney World remains in flux as park officials try to balance customer desires versus pandemic safety measures.
We’ve witnessed several modifications this week. I’ll explain what’s different in today’s Walt Disney World Parks Update.
Adjusting to Larger Crowds
Disney CEO Bob Chapek recently appeared at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference.
Park Capacity with new CDC Recommendations
During his interview, Chapek commented on park capacity changes.
Half of American adults have received COVID-19 vaccinations. As such, the CDC has loosened its rules. Since Disney executives have communicated frequently with the CDC during the pandemic, those updates filter back to the parks.
Chapek indicated that a byproduct of these alterations involves attendance. Capacity has increased “low double digits” in recent days.
When is the Impact Coming?
The CEO believes that Disney’s fiscal fourth-quarter will benefit the most. So, we’re looking at gradual increases through the start of October.
However, Orlando International Airport recently stated that it projected Memorial Day Weekend crowds at 90 percent of pre-pandemic travel numbers.
Tourists have flipped the switch on travel, forcing Disney to accommodate the heightened demand.
If park managers maintained the status quo, wait times for attractions would surge to unacceptable levels during the holiday and the upcoming summer.
Attraction Boarding Changes
So, Disney altered seating practices on several attractions.
This has happened especially at shows.
Places like A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King had already done so. This past week, the floodgates opened, though.
At Magic Kingdom alone, three show-based attractions returned to pre-pandemic seating practices.
Guests on Country Bear Jamboree, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, and Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress filled every row.
This modest change adds hundreds of guests’ worth of throughput each hour.
The strategic improvement impacts rides, too. For example, Journey into Imagination with Figment now loads each row, too.
Another area of concern involves Disney transportation.
The gondola trams on the Disney Skyliner may seat ten guests.
During the pandemic, park officials refused to board guests with strangers, meaning that solo guests or couples would get a tram to themselves.
This strategy worked well during the first nine months after Walt Disney World reopened.
Recently, lines for the Disney Skyliner have swelled, with park guests reporting waits of an hour or longer at times.
So, Disney has returned to its pre-pandemic practice of slotting multiple guests on the same tram.
The days of isolated Disney Skyliner rides are over. I should mention that guests still have the right to ask for a private tram, though.
Cast members often acknowledged this request even before the pandemic. They know that some people won’t be comfortable amongst strangers for a while.
If that describes you, don’t worry. Disney won’t force you onto a tram with a stranger. By asking for a solo ride, you are delaying others, though.
Relaxation Stations Ending
The next time you visit Walt Disney World, you won’t see any Relaxation Stations. Cast members are in the process of phasing them out.
All the Relaxation Stations at Magic Kingdom are gone already, as is a popular one at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Star Wars Launch Bay
Star Wars Launch Bay shut down during the pandemic. Park officials used that space for a spacious Relaxation Station.
Well, it’s gone now, and Star Wars Launch Bay has sort of returned. It’s a walkthrough experience currently, but that’s better than nothing.
Speaking of Star Wars, Black Spire Outpost has altered one of its practices. Black Spire Outpost stalls now host two parties per stall.
Until recently, each stall would only allow a single party, which made shopping there something of a bottleneck.
Seriously, the most claustrophobic I felt during my pandemic visits was when my wife wanted to shop at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Those days are over now, as guests have spread throughout the park.
Speaking of which, wait times at Twilight Zone Tower of Terror shrank from an average wait of 55 minutes to 25 minutes over the past week.
Presumably, the changes in boarding practices have helped. Also, the background refurbishment must have completed or at least become less of a detriment.
Two Other Pandemic Notes
Remember when Disney demonstrated forethought by adding a COVID-19 testing site at the Maingate Complex?
Obviously, with half the population vaccinated, Disney has no need for it now. Also, it’s a reminder of an unpleasant era for our society.
The parks have already removed many (most?) signs of pandemic measures. Now, the COVID-19 testing site has closed, too.
At the time of publication, Disney hasn’t changed two other policies that bear monitoring, though.
SeaWorld Orlando announced that its vaccinated employees may go mask-free as of now.
Meanwhile, Orange County, Florida’s infection rates have thankfully fallen under five percent for the past two weeks, indicating that the worst is over.
While the Mayor didn’t remove the county’s face mask policy, he could have. Based on the updated statistics, one park did make a move, though.
Universal Orlando Resort has dropped its face mask policy for vaccinated guests. As long as you’ve had your shot(s), you don’t need to wear any face covering.
This update applies to indoor areas, too. So, it’s a full-fledged rollback of the most significant Coronavirus policy.
Universal won’t require proof of vaccination, either. It trusts guests to be honest about their health status, as they’re the ones who will bear the onus.
As of May 29th, Universal employees don’t need to engage with guests about face masks at all. It’s totally up to the park visitor.
Disney hasn’t commented at the time of publication, but this dam could burst at any moment.