10 Things That Will Be Different at Walt Disney World When It Reopens July 11
There will be several major changes in place to protect guests and cast members alike when the Orlando resort welcomes back visitors
Walt Disney World is preparing to reopen to the public in July after being closed for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic — but the park experience will look and feel very different when they do.
Disney plans to reopen the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11, and Epcot and Hollywood Studios on July 15, according to a proposal presented to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force on Wednesday.
The plan included a detailed roadmap for how they will do so safely. If Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sign off on the proposals, the four parks will open according to plan with a number of new protocols in place in order to keep visitors and employees safe and healthy.
“Cast members will work with guests to make the experience as real, and as magical, as possible,” Jim MacPhee, Senior Vice President of Operations said on Wednesday. “We hope everyone will do their part to bring the magic of Disney World back into this new environment.”
MacPhee detailed several ways the theme park experience will be different, for the foreseeable future — all of which he says have been vetted by health and safety officials. Here are 10 of the most noteworthy:
1. Face coverings will be required. All guests over the age of 3 will be required to wear a face covering at all times while inside the park. They will also be mandatory for staff members. According to MacPhee, the company is “looking into relaxation zones so guests can take their masks off for a moment” in order to prevent overheating.
2. There will be no parades or fireworks. Disney’s famous parades and fireworks shows draw tightly packed crowds, so the company has decided to cancel them for the time being in order to maintain social distancing protocols.
3. Temperature checks will be mandatory upon entrance. Guests and staff will be asked to check their temperature at home before heading to the park to make sure it is at a normal level. Their temperature will be checked again before they enter the park, and guests will not be allowed inside if they do not meet the health requirements.
4. Food purchases will be contactless and preferably cash-free. Restaurants and food locations at the park will be organized to ensure food is delivered to guests with the least contact with staff possible through the use of pick-up zones. Cash will still be accepted for payment throughout the park, but MacPhee indicated that “magic” wristbands — digital bracelets which guests can tap to pay for items — will be available to every guest to promote a cashless environment. Plexiglass barriers will also be in place to promote social distancing in food and retail locations.
5. Meet-and-greets will be canceled. Characters will still be out and about throughout the park, but guests will no longer be able to interact with them — unless it’s from a safe social distance. That means no selfies, no hugs and no makeover experiences in Cinderella’s Castle.
6. A “social distance squad” will be out engaging with guests. Disney is training a group of highly energetic cast members who will educate and encourage guests to stay the recommended six feet apart. The tactic is already in practice at Disney Springs, their shopping and dining destination in Orlando, which began a phased reopening May 20, and where MacPhee says the squad has "been a hit." Signs that read "help us protect the magic" will also be placed throughout the parks.
7. Capacity will be reduced around the park. The number of guests allowed in the park will be significantly lower during this first phase of the reopening, MacPhee announced. They will also be reducing capacity on attractions, on methods of transportation and in restaurants and retail stores.
8. A new reservation system will be in place. According to MacPhee, Disney will be “Managing attendance demand through a new theme park reservation system,” and guests will now have to plan and reserve their tickets in advance.
“At this time, we are temporarily pausing new ticket sales and Disney Resort hotel reservations so we can focus on guests with existing tickets and reservations (Disney Vacation Club members can still make new reservations),” the company shared in a press release. “Existing ticket holders and Annual Passholders will be able to make reservation requests in phases before new tickets are sold." They'll be reaching out to those guests with additional information.
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9. Interactive play areas will not reopen. Social distancing is near-impossible in these sensory-focused playground areas meant for young visitors, so they will be closed for the time being to ensure no children are at risk.
10. Water effects will be limited or eliminated. According to MacPhee, water effects tend to draw tightly packed crowds, so most water areas will remain closed for the foreseeable future. Scientists can't yet say with certainty how the coronavirus may spread through water.
Universal Orlando Resort presented a reopening proposal to the task force last Thursday, and SeaWorld Orlando also shared their plan on Wednesday. Universal will open June 5, and SeaWorld plans to open June 11.
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