Seemingly, just after the cases of Covid-19 were tapering off and Walt Disney World (WDW) made plans to reopen their parks, Florida got hit by surging cases. Hard. Other theme parks in Orlando reopened in June, but WDW pushed their reopening into July, in an effort to do so as safely as possible. In the final days and hours before the WDW reopening, Florida reported the highest cases of Covid-19 in the country. Walt Disney World made the responsible decision to close their gates to guests in March, 2020. However, they have been planning, researching, seeking medical advice, and more in preparation for reopening. WDW is thorough. They follow every safety measure possible and are passionate about safety in their parks and other venues. Despite the immense hatred, judgement, and fallout WDW experienced after reopening during the most recent surge, I am here to tell you that they are doing an extremely good job keeping people safe.
I decided to use my tickets on July 17, 2020, in the heat of the Covid-19 spike. Why? Am I some selfish, horrible person? Well, I’d like to think not. You see, Disney has been a ray of light in my life since I was a small child. Despite a tumultuous home life, Disney provided a moment in time, each year, when my family was a normal, functioning unit. It provided countless memories. It was a place of safety where I could just be myself and also enjoy very unique time with my family that did not exist in any other universe or reality. Really, that was Walt’s dream; to create a place where the American family could have fun together. My Fantasyland was the ability to be a normal kid and feel like I had a normal life. At Walt Disney World, I got to experience what it felt like to be normal, for a brief moment in time. I attribute most of the positive memories I have of my family to Disney. It is truly a magical place.
For me, Disney is not just a tourist theme park to spend money. It helped me hang on to hope, to wonder, to my dreams. It helped shape who I am today. I remember as a small child looking at Cast Members like they were true heroes, there to make sure I experienced true magic. So, when WDW closed, I actually experienced emotional pain. The pandemic became real. I was also unable to start my dream job and now Disney was gone too. Now, please don’t get me wrong. I am extremely lucky in that no one I know personally has been affected by Covid-19. I know it is a real, and very serious disease. I don’t mean to impune the experiences of others who have been hit by true loss during these difficult times. However, my school of thought is that we can defeat this virus by following the guidelines of medical professionals. Wear a mask. Limit your contact with people. Use good sanitation practices. I was able to do all that much easier at WDW than I can at my local Walmart. Now, I will share with you what you should know before you go!
What has changed at WDW?
Everything. This is the most simple and complicated answer I can give you.
This changed for both guests and cast members. Guests are required to wear a face mask AT ALL TIMES. This is a requirement, not a suggestion. This means your entire nose and mouth must be covered at all times. If you are offended by this, or feel that you may not be able to breathe in the hot, humid, Florida weather, please plan to go at a later date. They do have “relaxation areas” (these can be found on the map) for mask breaks. You can take your mask off inside restaurants. If you are walking around drinking water, your face mask must stay on except in the brief seconds it takes you to sip your water. You will also notice that all Cast Members will be wearing masks. Most of them also don face shields as well.
For right now, you cannot meet and greet with characters. However, they do make random appearances. While we were there, the ugly stepsisters did make an appearance on the back balcony of Cinderella’s castle. It was great. There was comedy. I loved it. Honestly, it makes the characters seem even cooler.
This point should say lack of crowds. I walked on every ride. The most I had to wait was 15 minutes. It was incredible as a ride lover. You will feel like you rented out the park for yourself. Right now means a capacity of 50%. And that feels desolate. It also felt eerie at times.
These are asleep like Aurora for now. However, remember when you had a fast pass and it was the best thing ever? What about the time you had to wait in line and watch all the fast pass people pass you? Well, now you don’t have to do the latter.
Mobile ordering is encouraged. Some restaurants may not be open. Those that are will require safe distancing between tables. Honestly, I had to mobile order to get a Dole Whip and it was really easy and convenient. You just put in your order on the app and it tells you which window to go to pick it up when it is ready. It’s awesome! It definitely beats waiting in line. The best part? You can pre-order and pick a time if you know when you want to have lunch. I think this is a definite upgrade from standing in a long line.
The lines involve moving from spot to spot to enforce social distancing. The waiting spots are spaced out so that you are at a safe distance from everyone. This includes spacing to the sides as well. As a result, the lines may look long, but they go really, really quick. Where once 40 people were crammed, there are four. It is really great and makes waiting in line a breeze.
This is not possible, for now. This may change in the future. If you have an existing park-hopper ticket, you can use it to go to one park. However, you do this knowing that you lose that extra perk. There are benefits of this restriction. For one thing, you will not have to worry about a bunch of park hopper people coming to your park at the end of the day. That is cool.
You cannot just show up and go to Disney without a reservation. I recommend making an reservation in advance, though it could be possible to make a reservation at the last moment. You can only make a reservation with a valid pass or ticket. You can make a reservation here. You can also look at the calendar to see which days are available at the four parks.
Don’t worry, the rides are running. However, the experience is better. Remember that smelly B.O. guy you had to ride Space Mountain behind? He’s gone. Well, I mean, he probably still exists, but you will not have to smell him. Hooray! This is thanks to social distancing on rides. They are seating in every other car or every other row. They have installed safety shields in group rides like Jungle Cruise. Introverts/personal space lovers rejoice! They are also cleaning between riders. (Makes me realize how gross life was pre-Covid!)
Sanitizer is EVERYWHERE. They have it at every entrance and every exit. They also have hand washing stations throughout.
The traditional shows are on pause right now. This means no fireworks. There is no castle show. Traditional parades are also on pause. However, periodically, characters will walk the streets or appear in various places at a safe distance from guests.
My experience going to WDW during a pandemic was A+. The crowds were extremely low. I was able to ride everything multiple times. I have been spoiled as a rider and now it will be difficult to go back when crowd levels go back to normal. If you have ever dreamed of renting the park out to yourself, go now. This is your chance to experience the wonder of fewer guests. The thing that stuck out most to me about this visit was how safe I really felt. People were walking around enforcing mask rules. I did not feel like anyone got close to me all day. I felt like all the people who were there with me also cared about protecting others from this horrible virus. Disney shows us the utopia we could have if everyone followed doctor’s orders. The end.
Have you been to Disney or another theme park post pandemic? What was your experience?
Have questions about Disney? Just ask!
Have you heard about SeaWorld?
Disney Springs is open!