DISNEY WORLD DURING THE COVID PANDEMIC – PART 1
I think I was 5 when I made my first trip to Disney World and over the years I’ve been lucky enough to visit the most magical place on earth, more times than I can count. I’ve also had the honor of working there – Let me know if you want to hear about my experiences in a different blog!
This blog however, is about my recent trip to Disney World during Covid-19; is it safe to do so? Is Disney following social distancing rules? Are masks required? And how are the crowd levels?
As I’m writing this piece, Disneyland (California) is not open, so I won’t be commenting on that, and since #travelrestrictions, I haven’t been to Disneyland Paris to know how they are progressing during this pandemic. If anyone has been to Disneyland Paris or has information, please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below!
Most of you probably felt the shock that I did when Disney decided to shut down all of their parks. It’s something that has only ever been done for major natural disasters and terrorism threats, but even then, never for THAT long. That’s kinda when I knew things were getting real, Covid-19 wasn’t just all hype, and something serious was really going on.
I was very apprehensive to go back to the park but as a travel agent, I know the protocols certain places have to follow, and I believe it is my job to find out all the important information so I can better help guide my clients to make the best decision for their health and safety. (Plus, selfishly, I wanted to make the most of no crowds - I’m only human!)
In the beginning of August (Florida was out of lockdown by May) I bought the 4-day flex Florida resident ticket for my family of four, as Disney was not selling new annual passes, and took advantage of the Florida resident rates on the rooms at Pop Century - one of the only resorts on property that I’ve never stayed at before. The park we chose, since you now have to pre-book, was Animal Kingdom. It has my all-time favorite rides -The Kilimanjaro Safari and Flight of Passage! We got there right at opening, and the crowd level was pretty non-existent. Yes, we were wearing our masks and yes, they must be worn on all rides.
We were able to walk right onto the Safari ride which was great, and they had added plastic partitions between each row, while waiting for the truck, as well as on the truck #plasticeverywhere. I always love seeing the animals, it’s never the same ride twice!
I carried hand sanitizer with me (thank you Bath & Body Works), but they also had multiple stations all over the parks, including before getting on and off the rides. They had hand washing stations dotted around the park which was super reassuring to me and my family, that Disney IS taking sanitization seriously.
After our Safari, we then went to Asia and rode Everest.
I know, a LOT of travelling for one day.
We walked right onto Everest which was amaaazing, as this ride typically has a 45min/1hr long wait! They were loading guests in every other row but keeping parties together, but then alternating the rows for the next car coming into the loading station.
Next up, we walked to the Dinosaur area and the playground, which my big kids still love at ages 12 & 10, was unfortunately still closed and not allowing guests in to play. My kids decided to ride the Triceratops Spin ride and got on immediately. They were loading guests into every other dinosaur, keeping parties together and, like Everest, were alternating the dinosaurs every other go around. I believe this is a super beneficial way of managing social distancing and it seemed to really work.
We then took a little break to rehydrate and drink some water as that Florida heat made an appearance. After the Dinosaur ride, I realized that pre COVID you would stop and watch a short video, but seems they now have you walk right through the room without ever seeing the video – slightly disappointing but understood.
The Bugs Life show was awesome (as always), and they enforced social distancing by adding circles on the ground, and the recurring plastic partitions.
After exiting, we finally made it to Pandora. If you haven’t been, then please do yourself a favor and GO! It’s such a beautiful area, and I think Flight of Passage is one of the best rides ever. We waited about 30 mins, totally worth it, and they left one seat in between parties.
At this point it’s 12.30pm and the crowds were starting to pick up, but still nothing like your typical day at WDW...
There were some restaurants that were still not open, like Pizzafari, so they use that area as a "relaxation station", which all parks have, with signs on the tables nearby letting you know that they were off limits. We grabbed some drinks and popcorn and were able to take our masks off while we were sat to eat. To take your mask off at Disney, you must be actively eating or drinking, and they prefer that you be sitting or off to the side away from other guests.
We then decided to ride Kali River Rapids as our last ride before we left the park. It said it was a 15-minute wait, but it ended up being a longer wait as they stopped the ride to sanitize all the rafts, which I appreciated. They do this about every two hours on ALL RIDES at EACH PARK, again confirming that Disney is highly committed to everyone's health and safety.
Kids will be kids, and obviously mine were super excited to get absolutely DRENCHED. But Disney had other plans and it turns out they had turned the water wayyyy down to keep it ‘mask friendly’. We got a few droplets on us, but nothing like usual. Needless to say, we understood, but the kids were still a little bummed!
We can never come to WDW without buying an overpriced snack, and it seemed frozen lemonade was the choice that day. The Family decided it looked like a typical Florida afternoon (massive thunderstorms lurking in the distance) so we left around 2:30 having done almost everything in the park. A productive day I’d say!
I believe at this time they are still not running the Lion King, or the Nemo show. We can only hope this changes soon, as it did slightly feel like there was a Lion King show shaped hole in my day, didn't quite feel complete without the magical singing and dancing.
In my opinion Disney is doing a great job at enforcing the social distancing rules in the parks, as well as at the hotels. I noticed a few cast members reminding guests who removed their masks in the wrong locations, to put them back on immediately. It was reassuring to know all the guests listened, and we didn’t see anyone being combative or arguing. Unfortunately, there have been reports about that behavior, and thankfully we weren’t exposed to the negative side of this situation.
Disney is using lines, or circles, on the ground to promote social distancing while waiting in lines and, like I mentioned, partitioned the seating on some of the rides. Again, they have plenty of access to handwashing stations and hand sanitizer throughout the park.
I’m heading back to Disney World at the end of October to use another day of my tickets, this time staying at Caribbean Beach Resort. I love this resort, 1) Because it’s awesome, but 2) It’s actually where I used to work! This time we are headed to Epcot, my husband’s favorite park.
I’ll be sure to do part 2 of this blog once I return, and report back with any changes…. Stay tuned folks!