Disney World officially received approval from the Orange County Economic Recovery Task for its proposed July reopening. Loyal Disney guests and new visitors alike should expect many changes to the parks in this COVID-19 era.
Staggered Reopening on July 11 and July 15
According to Jim MacPhee, senior vice president for operations at Walt Disney World, the parks will open on a staggered timeframe. Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will reopen on July 11, while Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot are set to reopen on July 15.
Before approving Disney’s reopening plan, the Orange County Economic Recovery Task force heard from local health officials about the risks of allowing such a large tourist attraction to commence operations. Though cases of COVID-19 are on the rise in Orlando, the number of hospitalizations continues to decline, marking an important turning point.
However, as Dr. Raul Pino, with Orange County’s Health Department, pointed out, “The question is not if we are going to have more cases or not. We are going to have more cases as social activity increases.” Pino believes the solution lies in testing and contact tracing to control outbreaks and protect the region’s hospital system.
Significant Changes to the Guest Experience
Upon reopening, Disney World faces the monumental task of balancing fun, positive Disney memories with sufficient health and safety precautions.
As the Disney Parks system explained in a statement, “In preparing to reopen during this unusual time, we have to manage our theme parks in a very different way from what we’ve known before. As we begin to reach out to our cast members and call them back to work, they will be focused on operating our parks in a responsible way that continues to give our guests opportunities to create magical Disney memories.”
Disney World guests should expect the following changes this summer and beyond:
- No parades or nighttime spectaculars until a later time
- No “high touch” experiences such as makeovers, playgrounds, and character meet and greets
- Mandatory face masks or face coverings for all guests over 2 years of age
- Mandatory temperature screenings prior to entering a theme park
- Temporary suspension of FastPass+ reservation system
- Cancelation of dining reservations for the remainder of 2020
Disney is also taking extra measures to maintain a touchless experience by discouraging cash transactions and creating physical distancing strategies. MacPhee explained, “We’re developing a social distance squad, a dedicated team of highly energetic and informative cast members who are committed to engaging and inspiring our guests to follow the appropriate guidelines.”
Ticket Reservations Required
In an effort to manage park capacity, Disney World now also requires guests to obtain all reservations for park entry in advance. At this time, new ticket sales and Disney Resort hotel reservations are unavailable while Disney staff focus on guests with existing tickets and reservations. Only Disney Vacation Club members can make new reservations.
“We’re doing our part, and we need our guests to do their part, too, as we work together to focus on safety,” Disney Parks wrote.
Though a coronavirus era trip to Disney World is sure to look different, with any luck, dreams will still come true.