Podcast No. 0040 What to Expect at Walt Disney World during Covid
This month on Dispodopolis, we discuss the changes that have come to Walt Disney World brought about by the introduction of Covid. The most notable changes are social distancing and face masks that most areas have adopted. There is also a change to the schedule of attractions, entertainment, and restaurants. We also review the changes in the level of cleanliness and the hotel room changes. Lastly, we discuss a few new experiences that we can't wait to share and hope you will also enjoy. Overall it was a safe experience, but it may not be for everyone.
We start in the parks and talk about all the changes that have occurred over the last months. Disney has gone above and beyond what any other large company has tried to open and stay open. They don't want to shut down again, and they don't want to be the center of an outbreak. You need to commit to their requirements that they are asking of all their guests. The minimum is the procurement of a facemask, and there are limitations on those allowed in the park. You need to wear a two-layer mask that does not vent outwardly. Gators that wrap around your neck and you pull up are also not allowed. There will be a temperature check before you are allowed to enter, and a third party, AdventHealth, is conducting it.
Once past the temperature check, they have a new contactless bag check system, Evolv Express. This system may be one of the most notable additions to come to the Walt Disney World. You will want to remove cameras and umbrellas from your bags before going through the scanners. These items will set off the alarm, and then they will need to go through your entire bag. Hand those items to a family member that is not carrying a bag or backpack. This way, you will walk through the new scanner checkpoint with little to no surprises. I can't wait for this method to be rolled out everywhere, and I mean everywhere. It is ten times faster than a traditional checkpoint. You simply walk between the detectors, and a cast member, at a pedestal inside the area, reviews the scan on an iPad.
When you reach the entrance turnstile, you will notice that you no longer use your finger to scan after you tap your band or card. The cast member has an iPad where they can view a picture of your face. This process decreases the spread of any viruses or bacteria. I wonder how much we were sharing before the new procedures were in place. It is good to be exposed to some bacteria and viruses, so we shall see what happens when we return to a typical flu session.
Inside the park was a much more relaxed and casual atmosphere. The crowds are definitely reduced, and that helped relieve any doubts of coming. Main Street is beautifully decorated for Christmas time, and Mickey and the gang were hanging out on the train station platform that overlooked Main Street. The trains are still closed due to construction on Tron. Along Main Street, only one side of the shops were open. When entering the park, the shops on the right were mostly closed except the Main Street Confectionery. The Plaza Ice Cream Shop and Casey's Corner were both closed at the end of the street.
The entertainment was small and to the point. Disney borrowed some of the smaller floats from the Christmas parades and created five short cavalcades that continuously ran through the parks while still effectively spreading them apart. It made it easy to catch all of them during the day. It kept people from stopping and standing too long in one area and made it a lot easier to move through the parks. The entertainment was equally well handled and continuous throughout the day in the other parks. Each park has a collection of cavalcades, including the opportunity to see Santa sitting atop of a sleigh, barge, carriage, or car. The sleigh was in the Magic Kingdom, the barge was in Animal Kingdom, the carriage was in Epcot, and the car was in Hollywood Studios.
All the meet and greets were from afar, and numerous characters could photobomb your images. We saw Winnie-the-Pooh and friends on the lanai at the shuttered Crystal Palace, Buzz Lightyear at the Tomorrowland Terrace, Jiminy Cricket on the entrance's balcony to Pinocchio's Village Haus, and Joy walking among the floral arrangements near the Imagination Pavilion in Epcot. In each of the transactions, the character was on a raised area or standing behind a barrier.
Most of the attractions were up, running, and moving at a quick pace. The boat rides were running at a much-reduced capacity, with two rows between families on It's a Small World and the Pirates of the Caribbean. The larger roller coasters, Big Thunder and Rock's Roller Coaster would also have a minimum of two rows between families. Then you would have a situation like the Haunted Mansion that would be running at a regular pace because each of the cars only holds one family or two to three family members. We saw greatly diminished lines. One example is Peter Pan's Flight that would regularly hover around 20 minutes. The cast members had a hard time anticipating wait times and could be off as much as twenty minutes. One example was Splash Mountain. We stood in line with a wait time of 45 minutes but were only in line for 25 minutes. I'm sure they were trying to error on the side of the line being shorter than longer.
Keep in mind that there is a lot of attractions and entertainment choice that are currently closed. The entertainment choices currently closed are the shows that involved talent and actors like the Festival of the Lion King and Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage. Most of the stratosphere shows are also unavailable, like the Citizens of Main Street and Hollywood. The Dapper Dans are available to listen to as they ride along Main Street on the trolley. All the nighttime performances are also unavailable at this time, but they have the Cinderella Castle projection available to view and beautiful. It is hard to keep people from conjugating to see the castle. Of the attractions, the ones currently unavailable are where a live cast member is working with an audience, like Turtle Talk with Crush and Monster Laugh Floor.
When attraction lines would head inside buildings, Disney had created substantial metal barriers between rows with plexiglass tops so you could see around you. Many of these rows had an illusion of being very narrow with the raised walls and may cause some individuals with claustrophobia to have anxiety. All the lines moved relatively quickly due to the six-foot apart spacing, and they would only be lining families up to one car deep to enter the vehicles. These barriers were well made to last a long time but were carefully placed on the existing railings to be removed without damaging the features and decor.
The transportation between the parks, the hotels, and the airport was well organized and divided. The Magical Express divided the families nicely, leaving three to four rows between each group. The buses between the hotels and parks were sectioned off for multiple families with plexiglass dividing the areas, and no standing was allowed. The boats between the parks and hotels were also well sectioned, so every other row was inaccessible, and only three to four guests per seat. They had a lot of buses and boats running to handle the crowds, and there was only one time we had to wait for a second bus, but it was there within five minutes.
The only time we felt uncomfortable was when we had to wait outside a counter service restaurant for our food to be ready. Many groups would crowd around the one entrance in anticipation of their text message being next. We would hold back and cut through the groups to get in when it was our turn. There weren't as many restaurants open, but the wait times were short, and Diseny had adequately spaced the seating. Most of the counter service restaurants only had food ordering available through the My Disney Experience App. Where they allowed transactions, they would only have one to two cashiers available. They really encouraged the app to make it a safer experience inside for all the guests. One of the reasons people wanted to use the cashier is because they were paying with cash. My Disney Experience App needs a credit card to confirm payment.
We did pick up one fun tip on this trip that I'm hoping will work in the future. Disney was releasing table reservations as they arose during the day and would mention a wait time for specific sit down restaurants and lounges. We noticed this at the Magic Kingdom with Tony's Town Square and the Skipper Canteen; we were able to get a table at the Skipper Canteen for lunch on a Saturday. We picked up this fun new trick at the Animal Kingdom while making a reservation for the Nomad Lounge, adjacent to Tiffins. If you go to your My Disney Experience App, click on the map arrow, which is the second option from the left, on the bottom navigation, and choose Dining from the top dropdown menu. Choose the restaurant from the map that you wish to visit, and they will have a Join Walk-Up List if this is a possibility for the day. If the option is not available at the moment, check back frequently or keep refreshing. It will be available once the wait time drops below an hour, which frequently happens at some locations. We also discovered that a fifty-minute wait actually meant thirty minutes. So be ready to be flexible.
We also quickly discussed two new to use tastes at the French pavilion and the Nomad Lounge. We discussed the most fantastic macaron at the French Pavilion in Epcot. It was a larger than typical macaron with fresh raspberries, raspberry jam, and a fresh lime filling that was scrumptious. Every member of our family enjoyed this treat, and we went back for seconds. Keep in mind that Disney is currently not running their college intern program nationally or internationally. Many cast members are still learning all the different amenities, merchandise, food items, and services offered at each pavilion. Our second discovery was the Nomad Lounge in Animal Kingdom adjacent to Tiffins. It was such a nice escape from the day and a realizing retreat along the river that encircled Discovery Island and Life's Tree of Life. We ate outside and enjoyed the beef sliders and Korean inspired noddle bowls. We will absolutely be returning to this outpost.
During this time of covid changes is not the time to take that once in a lifetime vacation to the Happiest Place on Earth. I would definitely wait until the Covid changes have been lifted and life returns to a more comfortable normal. If you are comfortable with having a smaller, more personable family experience without the meet and greets and night shows, please jump on the next plane and have a blast. We had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of our trip.
Before we discuss the many changes that have occurred at Walt Disney World due to the outbreak of Covid, we will talk about what we are excited to return to the parks once the restrictions are lifted. We focus a lot on the closed attractions and experiences and the many entertainment options that are shuttered. What are you looking forward to returning to the parks?
We would love to hear from you and your family. If you have any comments, questions, or fun and fancy-free thoughts, email us at email@example.com. Please enjoy our latest podcast, Dispodopolis.
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