Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World opened on July 11, and Epcot and Hollywood Studios opened on July 15. We’ve been able to visit three of the parks so far, and here’s what you need to know.
Let’s start from the beginning – We checked in at Disney’s Pop Century resort at 7 am. We were able to get a room right away since the resort just opened the day before. We went to the front desk instead of checking in online. Check in seemed the same as usual, except we weren’t given a map of the resort and instead received a card with our room number.
Bottom Line – Online check-in doesn’t always work, we personally prefer to go to the desk to check-in.
After check-in we went to our car to get our bags, and looked at the line for the Magic Kingdom bus. Our plan was to take the bus to Magic Kingdom instead of driving but after dropping off our bags and going back to the bus stop, we realized that the same people were still there waiting for the bus. The bus line had at least enough people to fill 4 buses with the new physical distancing rules.
Bottom Line – If you can drive to the park, you’re better off. If you have to rely on the bus, plan for extra time.
Parking, Walking, Security
Parking was generally the same, but they do ask that you put your mask on before you approach the toll booths, and that you use cashless payments. As a passholder, we just need to scan our Magic Band to have access to the parks. They will ask if you have a park reservation but will still let you in to park even if you don’t.
At the parking toll booths, Disney is asking that you wear your mask, and have a cashless form of payment ready. They are parking every other spot, and cars are parked front to back. The parking lot trams have not been running, but the walk to the front of the park isn’t very long.
This has changed a bit as well, and they are not hand checking bags at this time. If you have an umbrella you will need to take that out of your bag before you walk through.
- At Magic Kingdom and Epcot we had to put the umbrella in a bin while we walked through a metal detector
- At Animal Kingdom we held them out in front of us.
- If necessary, you will then go through a secondary screening where they will check your bag.
Bottom Line – Parking and security are not too different but you will want to plan for extra time.
Ferry and Monorail to Magic Kingdom
When you approach the ferry loading dock you’re asked to stand on a green square with a One or Two printed on it. Ones will go to the lower deck of the ferry, and twos to the upper deck. You will also find green dots inside the ferry and each party is asked to stand on one dot. The upper deck is loaded onto the boat first, and the lower deck then leaves the boat first after you’ve crossed the Seven Seas Lagoon.
The monorail has a divider between the cars, along the seat that is back to back with the other half. You are seated in a car with others if you have small parties, but large parties will have their own section. Cast Members are filling the cars, you don’t get to choose your own.
Bottom Line – You will need to plan extra time for transportation since physical distancing means less people on the ferry or monorail.
Getting in the Park, Guest Services
Entering the park meant tapping your Magic Band and scanning your finger. The only difference is that you no longer scan your finger. If you have an issue with a ticket, you’ll need to go to Guest Services, and the lines have been very long for that.
Disney has done a great job adjusting the queue lines with physical distancing markers and barriers. In most cases they are seating every other row on ride vehicles. On some, like the Safari in Animal Kingdom and Living with the Land in Epcot, dividers have been placed inside the vehicle so they can seat every row.
The only issue we’ve had in the lines is when kids or people on their phones get too close. Other than a few instances of that happening, there were no problems on the rides.
Ride vehicles are being cleaned on a cycle, some rides after every guest, some rides every 1 – 2 hours, there didn’t seem to be any obvious rhyme or reason to the system.
Disney has hand sanitizer stations at the entrance to the attractions, as you go through the line, and before you board the ride vehicle, but they are not enforcing its use. This is where Universal has the advantage – they have a Team Member at the boarding station of rides putting hand sanitizer right into everyone’s hands.
Bottom Line – Ride vehicles are not getting cleaned between each use. Most of the time the only part of a ride vehicle that you touch is the seat. You will need to remember to use sanitizer on your own and hope that others are doing the same.
Quick Service dining, where you order from a podium, pick up your food and carry it to your table, is the one place where Disney needs the most work. You are required to mobile order through the phone app and receive the notification that your food is ready before being allowed to enter the restaurant.
There are a few issues here:
- The app doesn’t always work correctly and those notifications are not coming through. We received notifications that wouldn’t open, and the app wouldn’t update to show that our food was ready.
- A bottleneck is created at the entrance of the restaurant while everyone waits for their order to be ready.
- Unless you plan ahead and place your order before arriving at the restaurant, you may be in for a lengthy wait for your food. Mobile order does not necessarily mean your food will be ready faster.
The other issue I had was getting napkins in some locations. Usually, a sort of condiment bar would be set up with napkins, forks, etc, but now in some locations you need to ask for these items.
Bottom Line – Plan ahead! Place your order about 30 minutes before you plan to arrive at a Quick Service location. And don’t forget the utensils and napkins!
Table service dining, where you’re seated at a table, offered a menu, and order from a server who brings your food to you, doesn’t have as many problems as quick service. Depending on the location, you may be offered a disposable paper menu, or a card with a QR code to scan to pull up the menu on your phone.
One little quirk we noticed is that with a lack of menu and the ritual of taking it away once you’ve placed your order meant that… our server forgot to take our order!
Bottom Line – dining is still awkward. If you’re comfortable dining out at home, dining at Walt Disney World isn’t going to be much different.
The Downside to Dining
Menus at the Disney restaurants have been greatly reduced. You will find a lot of hamburgers, pizza, and chicken nuggets, while some of the more creative and interesting items have been taken off the menu. Some of our favorite menu items have disappeared – like the salmon and fried chicken from Pop Century – and not all restaurants are open – like Columbia Harbor House, the bakery in France, etc. Also, Disney had treats that were specific to each park, but what we saw in Magic Kingdom were the same treats they had in the case at Animal Kingdom.
These are a MUST! Each park has two relaxation stations. In Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, they both had one indoor and one outdoor.
Outdoor is in Adventureland between the Outpost kiosk and the sign up location for the Pirate Adventure (across from Pecos Bill).
Indoor is at Pete’s Silly Sideshow where you would normally go to meet Minnie, Daisy, Goofy, and Donald in Storybook Circus. There are tables with chairs and high top tables, and some of the best air conditioning you’ve ever experienced!
Outdoor is at Upcountry Landing, along the walkway between Africa and Asia. This one has gorgeous views of the Tree of Life.
Indoor is at Pizzafari on Discovery Island, near the walkway toward Pandora.
Outdoor is between Mission: SPACE and Test Track, and next to the Fish and Chips stand in the UK pavilion.
Indoor is at Akershus in the Norway pavilion.
Bottom Line – These are places where you can relax for a bit, take off your mask, and rest. If you’re not comfortable with that, then these areas should be avoided.
Changes are being made to the rules as the parks reopen and procedures are reevaluated. One important change to note is that you can no longer walk around with food or a drink while your mask is off. You can only remove the mask to eat or drink while you are stationary, and your mask must be in place unless you are actively eating or drinking.
Be sure to check Disney’s website, for up-to-date information on changes, new procedures, and policies: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/experience-updates
You must have a Park Reservation to enter any of the parks. Park Reservations are made through your My Disney Experience account online, and cannot be done on the phone app. If you’re staying in a Disney resort, there is a policy that states “you’re not guaranteed entry into the park…” but you really don’t have to worry. Aside from opening week, there are no days when all of the parks are blocked out for a resort guest. You will get into a park, the only one that may be difficult to get in is Hollywood Studios. Or, if you buy a park ticket separate from a resort stay, again you shouldn’t have any trouble getting into the park of your choice.
Bottom Line – Don’t even worry about the Park Reservations, especially if you have a room reservation. You will get into a park.
Want to hear more? Be sure to check out our podcast Episode #16 – “First hand park reopening account & Game: Bits and Pieces”, and find us on Facebook and Instagram @Ears4YouPodcast!