Open, says me! If only it were that easy. The big question of every Disneyphile and all travelers alike is, when Disney World reopens what should we expect? It’s the million, no billion-dollar question. At the moment, due to COVID-19, Walt Disney parks around the globe are closed for the foreseeable future. However, we never know when we could make it around the bend and see that light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s see if we can connect the dots and outline what we’ll see when Disney World reopens.

Entrance - Rent a Car at Disney

Gather Around

Words that we hope we will be saying soon. When looking at when Disney World reopens the pink elephant in the room is social distancing and creating a safe environment for everyone. So how could we create more space? We’re glad you asked. One of the rumors out there is reducing park capacity by 50% for all Disney World parks. Yes, 50%. Only for a short time well everything gets back to normal. Fewer guests mean more space and make it easier to respect social distancing.

But wait there’s more! Who else just read this line in a Ron Popeil infomercial voice? Oh, we know you did. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ron’s work, please take a moment to Google the phrase “set it and forget it”. You can thank us later. Back to the article!

The Muppets Looking Around

The Show May Go On?

We’re not lying, there’s more. One of the reasons for reducing guest capacity when Disney World reopens is related to indoor shows. There are two schools of thought around how indoor shows could be impacted when the gates reopen. The first school of thought is that Disney World may not open attractions that require guests to gather in a theater setting. We’re looking at you Finding Nemo, Festival of the Lion King, Muppet Vision 3D, Monsters Laugh Floor, and the list goes on from there.

The second is around running the shows at half or less capacity. According to Len Testa, one of the ideas being floated around is leaving open seats around the theater to ensure social distancing. We could see this as the second phase of reopening the parks. With the former being the first step.

Beyond the indoor shows, rumors are Disney may hold-off on the following productions to help reduce guest gathering and increase safety. The productions would include the nighttime spectaculars, parades, stage shows, and only have non-face characters meeting guests.

Riding Solo

No, we’re not talking about flying the Millennium Falcon, sorry Chewy. We’re talking about ride capacity and the adjustments we could see when Disney World reopens. According to Jack from DSNY Newscast, one of the ways Disney could switch the rides to accommodate social distancing is to move to an “every other” method. This method would be either leaving every row open on attraction like Big Thunder Mountain, or every other vehicle open on rides like Haunted Mansion. Additionally, we would fully expect single rider options would not be available right away. It’s expected that Disney would only offer guests to experience rides within their party.

The question that’s on all of our minds is, what about the queues? By far this will be the hardest aspect for Disney to solve for, however, it is possible. As we spoke about in a previous article, one of the ways Disney could be looking to solve for this problem is expanding its virtual queues. With fewer guests in the parks, a virtual queuing system could be the solution.

Kona Cafe

Food Time!

Let’s continue our theme with dining. Did you guess it? Oh, we know you did. When it comes to dining the rumor is that when Disney World reopens the dining will too. Well, kind of. The thought is Disney will run all restaurants and dining establishments at half capacity and will look to create space by leaving tables empty around guests who are sitting to eat. For quick service dining, Disney could lean heavily on the mobile ordering to minimize the amount of queueing.

Our Thoughts

It makes a lot of sense! By reducing the capacity as a whole, it will be easier for Disney to lower the capacity of the attractions, rides, and dining services. The biggest unknown is how they will determine access to the parks when at half capacity. Would guests staying on Disney property have priority? What about the local annual passholders? We’re sure Disney is looking at all aspects and planning accordingly. As the days pass more and more details will continue to surface. Most importantly we’ll get closers Disney World reopening!

UPDATE: On April 7, 2020, an interview with Bob Iger was released by Barron’s. Within the interview, Bob spoke about the measures Disney is considering when they reopen. One the of measures is around potentially taking the temperature of guests before entering the parks. This is a step that Disney has taken at the Asian parks (in the limited open areas) and could consider in the early stages of reopening Walt Disney World. You can find the full Barron’s article here.

UPDATE: On April 21, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had the following to say regarding Disney World and the ability for the resort to reopen, in a Fox News interview:

“It’s amazing the ideas that the businesses are already thinking about. They’ve been thinking deeply about this for weeks and weeks… there’s a lot of great ideas that I’ve already seen put on the table. I’m in discussions with places like Disney. They are so far ahead of the curve, and I think everyone wants to make sure we do it safely.

In addition, Josh D’Amaro, President of Walt Disney World is part of the Florida task force for reopening the state of Florida. Among the other task force members are other government officials, and business leaders from Publix, Universal Orlando, and many others. At the moment, Florida’s stay at home order runs through May 2, 2020.

UPDATE: On April 22, 2020, the task force for reopening on the parks met for the first time. The call included John Sprouls, CEO of the Universal Orlando Resort and Executive Vice President of Universal Parks & Resorts, as well as Josh D’Amaro. The following information was discussed on the call:

  • Actions will be guided by Local Officials and Health Officers
  • Theme parks are different than sports venues by their ability to social distance guests and pace their movement through the parks and resorts
  • Screening of every Team Member (employee) daily
  • Allowing or encouraging face coverings for guests
  • Enhance their overnight cleaning and clean throughout the day
  • Make cleaning visible to guests to help them feel safe
  • Utilize technology such as mobile ordering for contactless transactions
  • Expand Virtual Queues to more attractions
  • Utilize more outdoor queues vs indoor queues
  • Staggered seating for attractions and shows, perhaps only filling every other seat or row
  • Putting limits on park attendance to encourage social distancing
  • Reconfiguring queues to ensure social distancing in all directions

It should be noted that Josh D’Amaro did not speak on this call. These ideas were presented by John Sprouls. It’s unknown if Walt Disney World would follow suit. According to reports, Governor Ron DeSantis has set Friday, April 24, 2020, as the deadline for the task force to provide recommendations on how the tourism industry within Florida can reopen.

UPDATE: On April 28, 2020, the Orange County task force released its draft of the recommended guidelines for reopening the Florida theme parks, both large and small. Below is a breakdown of the guidelines and mandates for reopening in both a Phase 1 and Phase 2 capacity:

Theme Park – Guidelines

  • Ride and attractions should have tape marking 6 feet part within the queues
  • Staff members should wipe down surfaces at random
  • For Phase 1 and 2: Staff members who are 65+ years old are encouraged to stay home

Theme Park – Mandates

  • Staff member are required to wear face masks
  • Prior to every shift staff member will have their temperature checked (temperature above 100.4, will not be allowed to enter)
  • Staff members will flu-like symptoms are advised to stay home
  • Touchless/hands-free sanitizers at every turnstile and ticket entry point
  • Touchless/hands-free sanitizers at every ride or attraction entry and exit point
  • All railings and surfaces to be wiped down after every use
  • Phase 1: 50% capacity
  • Phase 2: 75% capacity

Dining/Restaurants – Guidelines

  • Touchless/hands-free sanitizers at every entry point
  • All menus will be paper and disposable
  • Mobile Ordering and take-out orders will be recommended
  • Phase 1 and Phase 2: Staff members who are 65+ years old are encouraged to stay home

Dining/Restaurants – Mandates

  • Staff member are required to wear face masks
  • Prior to every shift staff member will have their temperature checked (temperature above 100.4, will not be allowed to enter)
  • Staff members will flu-like symptoms are advised to stay home
  • Staff members behind counters are required to wear gloves except for bartenders. Bartenders are required to sanitize their hands after each drink order.
  • There will hand sanitizer at every table
  • There will be hand sanitizer at entry and should be in plain visible sight
  • All doors will be wiped down regularly
  • Tables will be set six apart
  • Phase 1: 50% capacity
  • Phase 2: 75% capacity

Hotels – Guidelines

  • Recommended for touchless/hands-free sanitizer at all entries
  • Recommended and promote social distancing for all guests and staff
  • Increase cleaning services and add additional sanitation services (use outside services where needed)
  • Recommend mobile check-in where ever possible
  • Housekeeping to limited during a guest’s stay to minimize both guest and staff exposure
  • Housekeeping to only clean up upon a guest checking out or upon request
  • Staff members to work from home where possible, if they are not directly involved in serving guests
  • Room service to only be delivered to the guest’s door
  • Provide self-parking instead of valet
  • Phase 1 and Phase 2: Staff members who are 65+ years old are encouraged to stay home

Hotel – Mandates

  • Staff member are required to wear face masks
  • There will be hand sanitizer at entry and should be in plain visible sight
  • Prior to every shift staff member will have their temperature checked (temperature above 100.4, will not be allowed to enter)
  • Staff members will flu-like symptoms are advised to stay home
  • Front desk staff members are to sanitizer themselves on a regular basis
  • Sneeze-guards to be added to the front desk
  • All guest areas to be consistently cleaned
  • All service items to be removed from guests room, items that would include glassware, coffee cups, dishware, etc.
  • Removal of coffee makers, collateral (magazines, etc.) that is not single-use from all guest rooms and public areas.
  • No self-service food options
  • No mini-bar service
  • Pool chairs and gates to be sanitized on a regular basis
  • Pool chairs and furniture to be space according to social distancing
  • All door handles, elevator buttons and railings to be sanitized on a regular basis
  • All bell carts to be sanitized after each use
  • All non-disposable room keys to be sanitized both before and after each use.
  • Phase 1 and Phase 2: No conferences

At the moment this is the proposal from the Orange County task force. Nothing has been confirmed. However, it does gives us a rough idea of what to expect when the Walt Disney World parks and resorts reopen. Additionally, guidelines and mandates could be added from the state level.

UPDATE: On May 5, 2020, during the quarterly earning call Bob Iger announced Shanghai Disneyland would begin reopening on May 11, 2020. Shortly after the earning call Disney Parks released an announcement around the reopening of Disney Parks around the globe. Below are the areas the article addressed, you can find the full article here:

  • Phased reopening: We’re looking at all of our locations and how best to begin the reopening process, including a gradual reopening and/or partial reopening of certain locations. For example, the opening of retail and dining locations prior to the opening of our theme parks.
  • Physical distancing and capacity measures: As you can imagine, managing guest density in queues, restaurants, hotels, ride vehicles and other facilities throughout the park and across the resort is a major focus, as we implement physical distancing guidelines based on guidance from health authorities, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and appropriate government agencies. This will likely include implementation of guest capacity measures to comply with state and federal guidelines. We’re also exploring ways to use technology to aid us in these efforts, like with our Play Disney Parks App and through virtual queues at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
  • Cleanliness and sanitization: We’re planning increased cleaning and disinfection, determining where that should take place (for example, in high-traffic areas), and the cleaning products and processes we’ll use.  
  • Screening and prevention support: We’ll follow guidance from the government and the medical community regarding enhanced screening procedures and prevention measures, including those related to personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face coverings. Some measures, like adding hand sanitizers and handwashing stations across our resorts, have already been implemented.
  • Cast training: We’re further emphasizing our strong culture of health and safety amongst our cast members, and will continue to provide new training and reinforcement as we get closer to reopening.

The takeaway from the article is Disney has confirmed they will be moving to a virtual queuing system at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. One of the early rumors is that the virtual queuing system could include entrance into each of the parks. This is still 100% a rumor and not confirmed by Disney.

We are expecting the reopening of Shanghai Disneyland will give the other parks the necessary insight to adjust their process and producers. This would be similar to how Disney used the opening of Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland to guide them on the opening of Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World. When possible, Disney has shown they prefer to test new processes and producers at other parks before deploying them to Walt Disney World.

UPDATE: On May 7, 2020, Disney Parks announced that Disney Springs would begin its phased reopening on May 20, 2020. The initial phase of reopening will limit capacity, parking, and operating hours and a select number of shopping and dining experiences will open, while everything begins to ramp back up. As part of the opening, all cast members and guests will be required to wear masks. Additionally, safety and cleaning measures will be put into place for everyone’s safety.

UPDATE: On May 16, 2020, Disney Parks released information around what to expect when Disney Springs reopens on May 20, 2020. Below is a breakdown of the guidelines:

  • Parking and Entrances: During this initial phase, guests will be directed to self-park in the Orange and Lime Garages. All surface lots will be closed. We will also reduce the number of entrances for Disney Springs to four locations: Orange and Lime Garages, along with the Hotel Plaza Boulevard pedestrian bridge and ride share location.
  • Appropriate Face Coverings: All guests 3 years of age and older, along with cast members and third-party operating-participant employees, will be required to wear an appropriate face covering while visiting Disney Springs. This is an important part of protecting both our guests and our cast. Please be sure you have an ample amount of face coverings for yourself and your party before you arrive, as you’ll need to wear them over your nose and mouth at all times (except when sitting at a dining table).
  • Temperature Screenings: Once you arrive at Disney Springs, you and your party will be required to undergo temperature screenings. Based on guidance from health authorities, anyone displaying a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will be directed to an additional location for rescreening and assistance; those who again measure 100.4 degrees or higher will not be allowed entry, nor will those in their party. I encourage you to check temperatures of yourself and your party prior to leaving home, as an extra layer of precaution.  
  • Physical Distancing and Capacity Measures: To maintain appropriate physical distancing throughout Disney Springs during this initial phase, we will limit the number of guests visiting the property, as well as within each location. In addition, ground markings will help promote proper distancing when queuing is necessary. We will also add physical barriers in select places where it’s difficult to maintain physical distancing. 
  • Cleanliness: We’ve increased cleaning and disinfection procedures in high-traffic areas such as elevators and escalators, handrails, benches, tables, handles, restrooms and more. We will also have hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer available, and encourage you to use these frequently.
  • Cashless Transactions: We’re recommending you use cashless payment options whenever possible during your visit to Disney Springs, including debit cards, credit cards, Disney gift cards, etc. You can also opt for contactless payment options or use cash to purchase a Disney gift card at the Welcome Center and select merchandise locations. 

Additionally, within the release Disney Parks announced that World of Disney, D-Luxe Burger (mobile order) and the Market Co-Op would be reopening on May 27, 2020.

Continue to check back as we will continue to update this article as more information becomes available.

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