It should be noted that no public place is entirely safe during a global pandemic, and the safest place to stay currently is within your own home. Those will health complications, immunocompromised systems or of older ages should not currently travel for any reason.
With that being said, Walt Disney World® Resort is considerably different at this time than it had been prior to closure. While the fundamental changes have long been reported on, the objective facts cannot always paint a clear picture of what it is like to vacation to Walt Disney World Resort under the current circumstances. Even once COVID-19 cases decrease and the virus’s effects wear down, it is possible that some restrictions and regulations may temporarily continue to best ensure guest safety.
Safety is of the utmost concern when visiting the theme parks, and is heightened during times such as these. While temperature checks before entering locations and general cleanliness certainly help, my greatest peace-of-mind came when navigating the parks themselves. Distance markers, fiberglass dividers and mask regulations created an environment that not only felt secure, but one that allowed me to feel safely distanced from other guests who could still potentially be causes of risk. Safety implementations worked not only to help keep things clean, but to keep guests physically distanced from one another. Never before have I had so much free space in the theme parks, and never before have so many guests seemed dedicated to a common cause: the safety of those around them.
Granted, guests are not perfect, but the efforts of some of Disney’s best cast members helped neutralize concerns that some guests would not follow rules. Cast members were swift to address guests improperly wearing masks or disobeying social distancing guidelines.
Though I myself tend not to be out-and-about during the current times, Walt Disney World Resort is the safest place I have felt outside of my own home thanks to such efforts.
From checking in to viewing menus and ordering food via the My Disney Experience smartphone app, the transition to interacting digitally with many of Disney’s services was exceptionally smooth. Periodic notifications regarding health and safety information helped to ensure an environment of safety.
Despite this emphasis of digital technology, I found myself checking my phone considerably less. With FastPass+ being currently unavailable, there was less need to constantly interact with my phone, and it instead served as a tool to periodically help with cleanliness and space.
Crowds and Wait Times
With the regulations and concerns over the virus naturally comes lighter crowds, but those lighter crowds aid in safety. In most cases, crowds were light enough that there was never need to wait extended times due to the necessity for additional spacing. Most major attractions were walk-ons or had exceptionally short waits, and all stores aside from World of Disney were so open that it was easy to pass through aisles or look at merchandise without standing near anyone else. The only park I encountered fairly standard wait times in was Disney’s Hollywood Studios®, which is where crowds felt heaviest, too. Still, no attraction’s wait ever exceeded 70 minutes, and it was still easy to navigate the park’s tighter walkways without having to actively avoid anyone else. There was a lot of seating available at all dining locations, and surrounding tables were always free of other guests.
Even in the Florida heat, wearing a mask all day became as normal as any other article of clothing by my second day. I always carried an extra or two in my backpack in case things got sweaty or wet with rain, but rarely did I feel like my mask had gotten disgusting and demanded immediate switching.
The heat rarely became an irritant where having a mask on was concerned. Yes, it was hot, but wearing a mask made little different in how I experienced the heat. The mask had become such second nature that it did not significantly alter my experience in any way, and I would look forward to this being a part of the new normal for a significant amount of time. In no way did it ever hinder my ability to experience or enjoy anything around me, and the freedom to remove it when stopping for food or drink often provided plenty enough rest.
Finding the value in a trip under the current regulations becomes more difficult. Without nighttime spectaculars and theater shows, I found myself doing everything of interests in most of the theme parks before even the earlier closing hours. Still, I was able to ride every major, new attraction, along with my favorites numerous times. It is the most I have ever been able to ride consistently, even if I did miss some of the grander experiences.
Dining value is at an all-time high with great deals across property and plenty of space to enjoy a dinner-centric conversation. Meals are paced, and dining cast members take extra time and care.
The intangible Disney magic is as present as ever, too. High-seniority, managerial cast members can be seen more frequently in the parks and the standard front-line cast members are as wonderful as ever. Random parades and floats boast characters in one of my favorite new features in the theme parks in years, and the musical entertainment in World Showcase brought some semblance of normalcy.
Still, the unavailable experiences means it likely is not the best opportunity for first-timers to plan a trip, but guests familiar with the parks can still experience the magic in ways both familiar and new. All guests can still have a once-in-a-life vacation, but concerns over the virus should still be taken seriously.