Walt Disney World Resort Update for February 23-28, 2022
You can view a larger version of each of the photos included in the Update by clicking on the photo. Each photo will open in a separate tab without a caption rather than a slideshow-type gallery like we had in the past.
News, Views & Writer’s Note
The busy Presidents’ Day weekend lived up to its usual billing around Walt Disney World Resort, and then some, crowds-wise. It came right as Disney followed public sentiment and the broader amusement industry (rather than the Centers for Disease Control, as Disney Parks had previously said was guiding its actions) and made indoor requirements for face coverings voluntary effective February 17 for those that are fully vaccinated for the COVID-19. Since checking on customers’ vaccine status violates current Florida regulations, it’s really just up to guests now everywhere on Disney property what health and safety steps they personally take regarding COVID-19, with the only requirement for face coverings while traveling on enclosed transportation (buses, monorails, and Disney Skyliner), per Federal transportation guidance.
Coming up this weekend, crowds will probably also be large, as it’s the 2022 edition of the runDisney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. Add into that crowd mix starting Friday at Magic Kingdom with the return of the Cinderella Castle Stage show, now entitled “Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire,” featuring Mickey Mouse and friends celebrating the park and Resort’s 50th Anniversary along with a new original song. My Disney Experience lists the showtimes daily at 12:15 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:45 p.m., 4:35 p.m. and 6:10 p.m. (currently posted through March 5). As of this posting, Disney Park Pass reservations are unavailable for any park for Passholders this Friday, February 25 according to the Disney World website, suggesting it ought to be very busy around the Resort (and remember, Disney limits park hopping to after 2 p.m. and also reserves the right to pause park hopping for those with that benefit, and has done so, at least, at Magic Kingdom).
Speaking of Passholders, there has been no indication that Walt Disney World plans to restart sales of new passes. Sure, it could happen, but, so far, there has been no indication that it will at anytime in the near future. There were a round of ticket price increases instituted this past week, but there are so many different pricing possibilities, to go through them all here really isn’t feasible. Suffice it to say, expect to pay more per day just to get in to the parks if you haven’t already bought your tickets, and remember, a ticket (even an annual pass) does not guarantee park entry: you still need a reservation. Having said that, MousePlanet’s travel partner, Get Away Today, still has some lower-priced options available for those who book before March 1, 2022.
For those folks who still are Passholders (like me), yesterday, Walt Disney World announced the first new in-person passholder magnet giveaway since before the pandemic. These new 50th anniversary “themed” magnets will be available at Disney Springs starting March 2 (while supplies last or through March 30). If you’re a Passholder, keep an eye on “The Passholder Buzz” section of the My Disney Experience app for news of this sort, since it doesn’t appear on the Passholder benefits pages of the Resort’s website (at least as of this Update). Unlike past in-park magnet distributions where you just got in line, this one has a rather complicated virtual queue process that’s in the deeper parts of “The Passholder Buzz,” so let me summarize for you here:
- Starting on March 2 and through March 30 (assuming supplies last), the Virtual Queue will open daily at 9 a.m. in the My Disney Experience app under the heading “Annual Passholder Magnet Pick-up” on the Home screen. The Virtual Queue may reopen from time to time during the day, and Disney may discontinue the use of the “Virtual Queue” system depending on demand.
- To enter the virtual queue, you must be within “approximately” 45 miles of Disney Springs, and you can enter the virtual queue with a party of folks you have linked in your My Disney Experience account, so long as everyone you enter the Virtual Queue with has an annual pass as well.
- If successful in entering the virtual queue, the app will provide an “estimated wait time which may be as soon as 30 minutes.” Return times will be between 10 a.m.. and 10 p.m. Avoid the need to keep checking the app by enabling push notifications.
- Once it’s your “turn,” you have an hour to join the physical queue at Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories shop in the Marketplace neighborhood at Disney Springs. You lose your spot in line if you miss that one-hour window. If that happens, you have to join the virtual queue again and wait for another one-hour return window in (that is, you can’t just make another virtual queue and assume you can stay in the physical line). To pick up your magnet, you need your Pass (which, in the past meant Magic Band or such and probably still does, and even the mobile edition of the AP stored in your smart device’s electronic wallet) plus your matching photo ID to show to the cast members
- While you’re waiting your turn for pickup, Disney PhotoPass, The Ganachery, and Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar also have limited time Passholder offerings (where you also need to show your Pass and ID). In other words, there are ample opportunities to spend money at Disney Springs, as always, and lots of opportunities to put your Passholder discount to work.
My educated guess is that this complex Virtual Queue process was put in place as a result of the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts Figment Popcorn Buckets that sold out during the Festival’s opening weekend to actual queues that took some up to six hours. Not only is a six-hour queue a bad guest experience, that’s also time guests aren’t spending money. Last week, I reported that the popcorn buckets, reappeared on Valentine’s Day at EPCOT with Mobile Order as the only way to get them. By the way, those sold out in one day, too, with no more appearing at EPCOT in the week since.
2022 EPCOT International Festival of the Arts Ended: Flower & Garden Festival Starts March 2
The EPCOT International Festival of the Arts concluded on Presidents’ Day, this past Monday. One of its final day’s highlights was the Disney on Broadway Concert Series Special Performance finale featuring Ashley Brown (Broadway’s first Mary Poppins), Josh Strickland (Broadway’s first Tarzan), Kissy Simmons (Florida native and long-time Broadway Lion King performer), and Michael James Scott (Florida native and Genie in Aladdin on Broadway). I had an EPCOT park reservation for what was a busy Presidents’ Day at EPCOT, and caught the first show at 5:30 p.m. by getting in the standby line at, yes, just before 3:30 p.m., and yes, I thought it was worth the wait. With the repeated success of this Festival since its inception, it will almost certainly return next January: who knows, maybe those Figment popcorn buckets will be back too (if not sooner).
Lead by conductor/arranger Jim Abbott on the grand piano, a small band accompanied all fo the Disney on Broadway Concert Series singers during the run of the Festival. You can also see Jim Abbott and many of the other performers in the 2016 concert film “Disney’s Broadway Hits at Royal Albert Hall” streaming on Disney+.
Disney on Broadway performers Michael James Scott, Ashley Brown, Kissy Simmons, and Josh Strickland took the stage together for the final three performances of the 2022 Concert Series on Monday night, including the 8 p.m. show which was streamed live on Disney’s official social media channels.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
Preparations are already underway in the park for the 2022 EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival which starts March 2 and runs all the way to July 4. The Garden Rocks Concert Series returns to the Festival this year after being interrupted just after it started during the 2020 Festival by the temporary closure of Walt Disney World Resort. The better-known acts are scheduled on “weekends” (which may include more than just Saturdays and Sundays), with local bands filling in on other days. At publication of this Update, FreshEPCOT.com, part of DisneyWorld.com, still shows some acts to be announced during the run of the Festival and note (at least as of right now), the first concerts are not scheduled until March 4.
Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.
Like the other EPCOT Festivals, Flower & Garden Festival features numerous specialty food and beverage offerings. At the nearly 20 kiosks around the park referred to as “Outdoor Kitchens” during this Festival, some of the menu offerings will vary as the Festival continues from Spring into Summer. Disney Parks Blog published its “Foodie Guide” featuring the Outdoor Kitchen menus and their seasonal variations just this past week.
I hope none of our readers fell for the practical joke going around on social media this past week that there would be a February 29 soft opening at Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. While testing is going on at the attraction, February only has 28 days this year (clue one), and Disney has made no announcements regarding the attraction opening earlier than “Summer 2022” (clue two). In recent memory, absent cast and Passholder previews, there have been no soft openings of attractions months ahead of announced timeframes (clue three).
The exterior of the entrance to the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction has additional paint detail that I have not previously noticed; the exterior of the pavilion no longer features the rainbow stripes of when the building was the Universe of Energy. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka
Distanced character appearances remain the norm in all of the parks, even in meet and greet locations.
Daisy Duck made a distanced appearance on Monday afternoon outside the future home of Connections Café and Eatery near where one of the doors to the temporary Mouse Gear location was prior to the opening of Creations Shop. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Regular readers may recall that I often liked to share photos of Illuminations from outside the park walking back to my car. I finally had an opportunity to watch the fireworks of Harmonious from the parking lot, and it did not disappoint.
Fireworks on World Showcase Lagoon from Harmonious surround Spaceship Earth when viewed from the parking lot’s tram lane. As of this Update, the trams have not returned to service at EPCOT, but are running at Magic Kingdom’s parking lot. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Opens March 1
The much-discussed Star Wars: Galactic Starrcruiser immersive two night experience officially opens to guests on March 1. As of this Update, I am aware of a number of folks that have been invited to stay there, but, so far, no one has been allowed to share details of the experience. Later this week, I have been invited to a tour (but not an overnight stay).
On Friday, I expect that I will be able to share more information—in fact, you may just want to stream along with The Garry Meier Show Cocktail Hour LIVE on Friday evening (starts at 6 p.m Eastern/3 Pacific) to hear what my first thoughts are, since I produce that show too (though it’s not necessarily a show that’s suitable for all audiences). As always, the next Walt Disney World Resort Update will focus on the “news” aspects of the experience; my opinions mostly will be shared separately if my thoughts on the subject are extensive.
In the meantime, Disney and Lucasfilm have shared more details about the story surrounding the guest experience aboard the Halcyon this week.
And, of course, Disney also shared further news about the merchandise available for purchase by those journeying to the “far, far away” Starcruiser experience.
Wondering what to wear during your Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser adventure? Search no further than The Chandrila Collection, a boutique located just off the Atrium of the Halcyon starcruiser. For more outfit inspirations that fit your style, visit https://t.co/dbrakjSO3B ✨ pic.twitter.com/mOINpBsQXs
— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) February 23, 2022
This & That & Reminders…
…The Mobile Cast Compliment feature in the My Disney Experience app has been “enhanced” to make it easier to recognize a specific cast member for making the magic.
…Disney Vacation Club announced the return of its Moonlight Magic events in 2022. As before the pandemic, eligible DVC Members can get complimentary after-hours access to these in-park events on select nights by advance registration. Eligible DVC Members with resort reservations get earlier registration access and the possibility of more complimentary admissions based on the number of guests on a qualifying resort reservation. In the past, the balance of the eligible membership has had an opportunity to register as well though capacity sometimes filled quickly. The 2022 announced events are:
- EPCOT: March 17, 2022 and March 31, 2022
Registration opens today for DVC Members with resort reservations; subject to availability, registration opens to all eligible Members on March 8
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios: May 24, 2022, June 16, 2022 and July 14, 2022
Registration details to be announced
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom: July 26, 2022, August 31, 2022 and September 28, 2022
Registration details to be announced
…Reminder: The Walt Disney Company’s annual meeting of shareholders is coming up March 9 and will be streamed via webcast at disney.com/investors. The annual meetings don’t necessarily address new offerings for the parks and resorts (those usually come at D23 EXPO or, to a lesser extent, Destination D events), but it may provide some interesting viewing.
…Magic Kingdom saluted a World War II veteran celebrating his 100th birthday at a flag retreat ceremony.
Disney honors WWII Veteran celebrating his 100th birthday at Magic Kingdom! 🏰 🇺🇸 William McCroskey was honored with a flag retreat & his own parade down Main Street U.S.A. along with fellow Veteran Disney cast members & guests recognizing his service: https://t.co/kxj0npggUR pic.twitter.com/a1tTvEmYt9
— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) February 22, 2022
…The Mighty St. Patrick’s Festival is back in full swing this year from March 11-17 at Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant at Disney Springs with top Irish bands flown in for the celebration. “The most authentic Irish festival in America” will be on the street outside Raglan Road with five outside bars, St. Paddy’s merchandise, and more. According to Raglan Road:
This year’s Mighty Festival musical lineup will shine with top bands flown in from Ireland including Jig Jam, known for their captivating brand of CeltGrass; and the Lisa Canny Band, blending pop and hip-hop with traditional Irish rhythm. Rounding out the lineup will be: Emerald Shore, rocking the house with their vibrant trad music; Men of Aran, charming audiences with electric energy and sublime musicianship; and Blain Curtis, a talented Dublin songwriter/guitarist mixing Irish ballads and modern Irish songs. The Raglan Road Irish Dancers, plucked from the casts and stages of the world’s greatest Irish dance shows, will perform throughout the festival.
Reservations are encouraged for guests who plan to celebrate at Raglan Road. On St. Patrick’s Day only, March 17, Raglan Road will open at 10 a.m. with a $20 cover charge for guests 18 and older; (first-come, first-served—no reservations on this day only); younger patrons may enter free of charge.
…Patina Restaurant Group is holding an in-person hiring event today, February 23, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs for its operations at both Disney Springs and EPCOT including: Enzo’s Hideaway & Tunnel Bar, Morimota Asia, Tutto Italia, Maria & Enzo’s, Space 220, The Edison, Via Napoli, and Pizza Ponte. A list of opportunities is posted here (and the job application must be completed online). At the time the notice was emailed, it included the requirement that a face mask be worn to the interview—while Disney policy has changed since the email, I have not been informed whether the interview requirement has changed.
One More Thing…
…The grand opening for the World’s first Peppa Pig Theme Park is tomorrow, February 24, 2022, over in Winter Haven, Florida, steps away from LEGOLAND Florida Resort. The new park is crafted with preschoolers in mind, from their first roller coaster rides with their parents and free fair games for the whole family, to an all-terrain course where they will pedal tricycles through a sensory-rich trail and a colorful splash pad that celebrates “muddy puddles” jumping fun! Day tickets, Annual Passes and Vacation Packages are now on-sale for families with excited “little piggies” to start planning their preschooler’s day of adventure. The all-new park has six rides, six themed playscapes, a water play area and even more “oinktastic” experiences. Tickets are available online at PeppaPigThemePark.com/Florida, and are discounted to $30.99 when purchased online rather than $34.99 at the gate.
In partnership with The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards, the park is set to open as a Certified Autism Center. To earn this accreditation, the park conducted staff-wide autism sensitivity and awareness training and co-developed a Sensory Guide that features a review of every attraction, providing insight on how a child with sensory processing issues may be affected by each of the five senses. Each attraction has a Sensory Guide posted at its entrance. In addition, attractions and playscapes across the park have been built with accessibility in mind. A comprehensive Accessibility Guide, as well as the Sensory Guide is available for families at Guest Services or online.
MousePlanet was invited to a media preview at the park last week, and provided coverage on Social Media. (If you would like to know about the food options, I can share that too – I have to say that the adult offerings I sampled were quite tasty). I also produced a brief wrap up video that I shared on The Garry Meier Show Cocktail Hour LIVE on Friday, and on MousePlanet social media. Embedded below, the video also includes the Super Bowl celebration parade at Disneyland, the Disney Wish float-out in Germany, and the announcement of the new “Storyliving by Disney” business venture where Disney plans to partner with residential developers on new communities across the United States, starting with Rancho Mirage, California (think Celebration with the lessons Disney learned along the way and Golden Oak: in this new venture Disney is a contributor and not the developer/builder but will run a voluntary membership-fee funded clubhouse with a pay-per-day access option as well).
The Usual Writer’s Note
The health and safety protocols in the State of Florida remain unchanged: there is no statewide vaccine mandate, COVID-19 testing or face covering requirements or business capacity restrictions. The State repeatedly has blocked enforcement of municipal and county-imposed restrictions as well during the course of the pandemic. Private property owners, like Walt Disney World Resort, set requirements for visiting their property that you must be aware of if you decide to visit.
If you’re traveling to or from overseas, be sure to check with the places you’re visiting and traveling from or through for the latest rules. Though the United States government loosened international travel restrictions for entering the U.S.A. at the end of 2021, it remains important to check on and abide by the most up-to-date COVID-19 testing and vaccine requirements for entering the United States whether as a citizen, permanent resident, or visitor (and be aware of who needs a visa).
As for visiting the Walt Disney World theme parks, Disney Park Pass reservations are required for admission in addition to a valid ticket. If your tickets have the Park Hopper option, Park Hopping only becomes available after 2 p.m. daily, and only after you have first visited the park for which you have made a reservation that day. There have been instances where Magic Kingdom has reached capacity and paused admission of Park Hoppers, and Disney reserves the right to do so at all the parks.
Sales of new Walt Disney World Annual Passes continue to be paused in all categories except the Florida Resident Pixie Dust Pass. Disney reserved the right to pause those sales when it reintroduced its new Annual Passes. Current Passholders may continue to purchase renewals in all tiers regardless of the pause in new sales. We have not heard any suggestion, as yet, that new pass sales will resume. As we noted earlier this winter on MousePlanet.com, Florida Residents can purchase discounted two, three, or four day tickets for weekday theme park visits (with additional restrictions and, yes, reservations are not included but still required).
As discussed above, face coverings are optional for all guests in outdoor locations around Walt Disney World Resort. As of February 17, face coverings are optional for fully vaccinated guests in most indoor locations; non-vaccinated guests are expected to wear face coverings indoors (though, as previously noted, Florida does not permit businesses to ask customers to prove their vaccination status). Face coverings remain required on enclosed transportation such as buses, monorails, and Disney Skyliner. Walt Disney World Resort encourages eligible guests to get vaccinated.
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Resort Reservations, Ticket Advice & Special Offers
Note: MousePlanet does not edit past Updates to reflect price increases; for up-to-date prices, check the most recent Walt Disney World Resort Update.
This page of DisneyWorld.com features all the offers the Resort has publicly announced.
Annual Passholders can save up to 25% and Florida Residents can save up to 20% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights through March 10, 2022.
Thinking about Hawaii? Walt Disney World Annual Passholders also can save on stays on select rooms over at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii, through April 8, 2022: up to 30% for stays of 5 or more consecutive nights, and up to 25% for stays of 4 consecutive nights (from my personal experience, even as a repeat visitor to Oahu, a week is a good amount of time to spend on the island, particularly if you have a rental car or other transportation arranged).
You’ll probably have an opportunity to see more Aulani on “American Idol” this week too…
Our travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages, and include its complimentary Concierge Services. More details are here. With Get Away Today’s complimentary Price Monitoring, any time a special comes out, it will automatically price check it for each of its guests. If the new special is better, it will automatically apply the new savings and let the guest know. If it’s not a better deal, they will leave everything as is, and keep their eyes peeled for future promotions that could save guests more. And, yes, Get Away Today has the Florida Resident ticket offer available too.
You can get a vacation quote from Get Away Today here. (Responses provided in 1 to 3 business days.) You can also call 855-GET-AWAY during regular business hours (Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. MT) and tell them MousePlanet sent you!
Be sure to check out Get Away Today’s Universal Orlando Resort ticket offers too. Right now, if you buy 3 days, you can get 2 days FREE at Universal Orlando Resort! By May 5, purchase a select promo 3-day ticket for travel by December 15, 2022, and you’ll get 2 extra days free! The ticket usage must occur on or before December 15, 2022, when the ticket will expire in full and any unused days will be forfeited. Ask Get Away Today about additional restrictions which apply.