In the middle of April, I mused about what Walt Disney World will be like when it reopens. Many others did as well, so I put together some of those theories in a post. You can imagine we received a lot of feedback on our “What Will Walt Disney World Be Like When It Reopens?” post. Now that Disney Springs has partially reopened, we get a glimpse of the “new normal” being practiced at Walt Disney World.
So let’s take a look at the theories we discussed in our post last month to see what came true and what hasn’t. It is important to note that procedures and policies will change as the situation evolves. It should also be noted that Walt Disney World and all major Orlando area businesses have been working very closely with local and state agencies throughout this process.
Reduced Capacity of the Disney Theme Parks – TRUE
Although the theme parks have not opened yet, Disney Springs is indeed at a reduced capacity. The only places to park are the Orange and Lime garages; all surface parking lots are closed. Once the garages are full, no additional parking will be opened up. Pedestrians can still enter, and while the capacity of Disney Springs is not being monitored and “shut off” at some point, having parking reduced to only two garages definitely reduces the capacity. Entryways are reduced to the following locations: Orange and Lime garages, along with the Hotel Plaza Boulevard Pedestrian Bridge and the rideshare location. In accordance with the State of Florida, restaurants are at 50% capacity for indoor seating, and all tables (both inside and outside) must be at least six feet (two meters) apart.
Controlled Directional Flow Throughout Disney Property – TRUE
Although not the case everywhere you turn at Disney Springs, there are quite a few areas with directional arrows. These areas are generally small spaces, like bridges, and all high-traffic areas. Like going to a grocery store nowadays, the directional flow is meant to help with social distancing. As someone who frequented Disney Springs a lot in the “Before Time” I rather appreciate this practice. There are Cast Members, most of which hail from the Kids’ Activities and Recreation department, whose new sole purpose is to help guests practice social distancing – may Tinker Bell grace them with plenty of pixie dust.
All Hands Off Deck and Cleaning Stations – TRUE
Just as we saw in the last few days before the mid-March closure of the parks, hand washing stations as well as hand sanitizer stations are placed throughout Disney Springs. Disney Parks around the world are known for their cleanliness and the hard working Custodial Cast who make it happen every day. These invaluable Cast Members are working harder than ever with even more stringent practices and frequent sanitation measures.
Required Masks and Temperature Screening – TRUE
This is the most talked about measure of all. Guests who wish to enter Disney Springs must have a face covering on at all times, aside from when seated at a table for dining. Additionally, guests will have their temperature scanned at the entrance to Disney Springs; each entryway has a scanning station set up. This temperature screening is conducted by one of the biggest healthcare and hospital companies in Florida: AdventHealth.
If anyone in a guest’s party scans with a temperature of 100.4 or more they will be retested a second time. If they still present a higher temperature, they are given the option to wait in a tent for a few minutes to see if another scan shows a better temperature. You can imagine this practice itself has received lots of comments. All Cast Members and managers are wearing marks and subject to a health screening prior to the start of their shift.
By Reservation Only – FALSE
While Disney Springs itself is not by reservation only, it is advised that you make reservations at the restaurant at which you desire to eat – though not all restaurants accept reservations at the moment. Currently only third-party-operated restaurants are open, and some of them do accept reservations via OpenTable. At the time of writing this post, dining reservations were not available for Disney owned and operated restaurants at Disney Springs. Worth noting, a dining reservation does not guarantee access to Disney Springs, should the parking garages close at capacity.
While Disney Springs does give us a good indicator of some of the practices that will be in place once the theme parks open, we will not know for sure until Disney makes their announcements what other practices will be put into play. Shanghai Disneyland has opened with modified practices, but even those practices could be different for the domestic parks, which may be based on whatever new health and safety advisements are out at the time.
- Designated Days for Each Theme Park – TBD
- Reduced Shows, Attractions, and Character Experiences – TBD
- Restricting Access to Resort Hotels – TBD
Each of us has our own experience during this time. As an Orlando native, and someone who used to frequent Walt Disney World multiple times a month, it is difficult to stay away right now. Both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando have posted signs in multiple places, as well as verbiage on their websites. On Disney Springs’ website it reads: “An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, senior citizens and Guests with underlying medical conditions are especially vulnerable.”
I fight an internal battle every single day, wanting to return to both Disney Springs and Universal CityWalk. Both destinations are working very, very hard to keep things as safe as possible. I truly commend both companies for their hard work and dedication to the matter. As someone who has certain health factors to be mindful of, now is not the time for me personally to return to either of these places (the pictures included in this post were provided by another wonderful member of the TouringPlans team). Those that choose to visit, I hope have a wonderful and safe time.