Walt Disney World Resort Update for May 11-17, 2021
Writer’s Note, News & Views (Combined)
Following publication of last week’s Update which came on the heels of Florida’s modifications of COVID-19 guidelines, My Disney Experience pushed notice to those using the app that Disney would “evaluate this latest guidance and maintain our current health and safety measures at this time, including face covering requirements.” Disney also said it “will continue to make thoughtful adjustments” to policies, and that “[a]s COVID-19 vaccines become available, we [at Disney] encourage people to get vaccinated.”
The first of the “thoughtful adjustments” pretty quickly followed that notice. As of May 8, Disney has phased out onsite temperature screenings at Walt Disney World Resort for cast members. Effecitve on May 16, temperature screenings for guests will end as well. As of publication, no other changes have been announced regarding the enhanced health and safety protocols in place during this phase of the Resort’s reopening: park attendance remains limited by caps below maximum park capacity; guests on Disney property, and, particularly in the parks, public areas of resort hotels, and at Disney Springs, must properly wear face coverings except when stationary while eating, drinking or posing for an outdoor photograph.
Disney Park Pass reservations are still required for visiting the theme parks, and as I have written the past few months, they can be scarce. Park Hopping also remains an option for those with that benefit, but remember that it begins at 2 p.m. daily (subject to change based on capacity). If you are considering a visit without much advance planning, you really need to do your homework now more than ever. Make those Park Pass Reservations because without one, you will be turned away at the gate. Spots do open back up as cancellations occur, so, check again and again if there is a day you want to go and have not secured a reservation. Spots may open up if and when the capacity limits are raised, but, right now, we do not know when that may happen or even if Disney will publicly announce that it will happen.
I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: Now, more than ever, it is important to pay attention to official statements from Disney about the requirements for visiting Walt Disney World Resort and, in particular its theme parks, water park, and Disney Springs. If you rely on rumors and unofficial news reports, you could be disappointed. Walt Disney World is private property and Disney has a history of being more cautious than others in the leisure industry; when the Resort does announce changes, the changes tend to have effective dates in the future (to allow time for Cast Members to be informed and/or trained on new policies).
It still looks to be a busy Summer at Walt Disney World Resort, and stay tuned for official announcements regarding changes to park capacity limits: we, at MousePlanet, will only pass along that news from official channels. From a temperature standpoint, it already feels like summer here most days. The regular, daily thunderstorms are still probably about six or eight weeks away, but, oh yeah, it’s hurricane preparedness time – though tropical storms can form anytime, the “season” when they occur most starts on June 1!
First Disney After Hours Events of the Phased Reopening Celebrate Halloween
Since the phased reopening of Walt Disney World Resort got underway last summer, the more restrictive, physically distanced, enhanced health-and-safety minded operations around the Resort during an unprecedented global pandemic have not included any of the various after-park-close events from Extra Magic Hours, to Disney Vacation Club Moonlight Magic, to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or Mickey’s Not-So-Scarry Halloween Party, to Disney After Hours or anything else. That changes on select nights from August 10 through October 31 when Magic Kingdom hosts the new Halloween-themed Disney After Hours event named “Disney After Hours BOO Bash.”
As described by Disney Parks Blog so far, this new Disney After Hours event will “include Halloween-themed cavalcades, character sightings throughout the park, special performances by the Cadaver Dans, décor, lighting, music, treat stops with plenty of candy and so much more!” Unlike the Mickey’s Not-So-Scarry Halloween Party of the past, there is no mention of fireworks, stage shows, or character meet-and-greets. The inclusion of “cavalcades” also suggests that there will be no “Boo-To-You” parade, but probably will be elements of or inspired by it.
Like prior “Disney After Hours” events, this separately ticketed event will allow those with tickets to “mix-in” to Magic Kingdom as early as 7 p.m. Guests with these tickets will not be required to have a day park ticket or Disney Park Pass theme park reservation to enter before the scheduled event start time. The event itself will run for three hours after park closing (which will be either 9 p.m. until midnight or 9:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. depending upon the specific date).
Also like prior Disney After Hours events, the limited number of tickets sold is supposed to offer “low wait times at more than 20 attractions” during the event. Our experience with this at prior Disney After Hours has been uneven at some events (like Disney Villains After Hours), but the attendance cap, in theory, should be lower during the continued “phased” operations during the pandemic. Like prior Halloween parties though, all guests may dress in costume – but while the same approved types of face coverings all park guests must wear in the parks must be worn during the event (at least, as of publication), costume masks are not permitted for adults or children 14 or over.
Tickets will go on sale next month. Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests will be offered an early purchase window. Keep an eye on this page of DisneyWorld.com and Disney Parks Blog for updates and ticket sales.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Now Expected to Debut in 2022
On the day now often referred to as “Star Wars Day,” May the Fourth, Walt Disney World announced that the two-night themed immersive/interactive hotel/resort/activity/adventure is now expected to get underway in 2022. Further celebrating that this new vacation experience “goes beyond anything Disney has ever created before,” Walt Disney Imagineering Research and Development’s new type of lightsaber was included in a video released with the announcement. (The same lightsaber we talked about earlier this spring when it was shown at a virtual media event largely promoting the new Avenger’s Campus opening next month at Disney California Adventure.) This new lightsaber is something guests should expect to see characters in the experience wielding.
As the storyline of the experience goes, after guests check in at the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser terminal at Walt Disney World (located conveniently next to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the “rear” of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge), guests enter a special Launch Pod to “make a hyperspace jump to a galaxy far, far away.” Viewports in the pod will show guests their approach to the Halcyon starcruiser, their home for the two-night adventure. A model of the Halcyon is now on display inside Walt Disney Presents at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for a limited time.
Disney Parks Blog has teased a bit more about the characters guests may encounter aboard the Starcruiser, including its “charismatic captain, a plucky ship’s mechanic and a galactic superstar who can captivate an entire room with the crook of one jewel-encrusted purple Twi’lek finger.” Guests will dine in the “Crown of Corellia Dining Room” which will have entertainment and is named as an homage to the planet “known” for its shipyards which built the Millennium Malcon in addition to the Halcyon.
The official website for the experience is: StarWarsGalacticStarcruiser.com. The website includes lots of concept art and you can sign up there to get updates.
Additional Health Care Resources Coming to Walt Disney World Resort
Last week, Walt Disney World Resort’s long-time alliance partner, AdventHealth (formerly Florida Hospital) announced that it has become the Official Health Care Provider at Walt Disney World Resort, as well as the Official Virtual Health Care Provider. The new “AdventHealth World of Wellness” will provide additional resources for guests with pre-existing health conditions to plan their vacations and receive care when visiting the resort. New online planning tools will provide assistance with doctor’s appointments, urgent care, and medical equipment or prescription delivery to Walt Disney World Resort hotels. (Some elements are now available and others will be phased in over time.)
Resort guests will also have “facilitated access” to AdventHealth Virtual Care telemedicine service. Guests will be just a few clicks away from access to treating AdventHealth physicians via computer, tablet or smart phone. In addition, a new emergency room is under construction at Flamingo Crossings Town Center which will be staffed by a clinical team including board-certified emergency physicians and emergency nurses.
Over at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, the Arena which opened just a few years ago, is now named AdventHealth Arena. Additional Disney touches have been added to Walt Disney Pavilion at AdventHealth for Children (Children’s Hospital in Orlando) as well. More information about the alliance and the enhanced services is available at WonderMeetsWellness.com/.
Reminder: 2021 Florida Resident Discover Disney Tickets Remain Available
Walt Disney World continues to offer its 2021 Florida Resident Discover Disney Ticket. The $199 plus tax ticket provides four days of park visits. The ticket can be used on consecutive or non-consecutive days through June 18, 2021 (but it is blocked out May 28-31). The Park Hopper option can be added for $42.50/ticket plus tax.
There is also a 3-Day version (with same blockout dates) available for $179 plus tax (add $42.50/ticket plus tax for Park Hopper).
Like other ticket types, guests must also separately make Disney Park Pass reservations for a specific park each date they wish to use a Discover Disney Ticket (and, for Park Hopper, must visit that reserved park and may only Hop when that day’s window opens subject to capacity).
This & That…
…”A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King” officially debuts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on May 15, 2021. Reports are that it soft opened over the weekend, and you may find show times listed in My Disney Experience through out the week. This limited attendance, modified version of the show that has been closed since the parks shutdown last March as the pandemic began, is designed to be “mindful of the current environment,” with adjustments made both onstage and backstage; some parts of the show have been “paused” (social media reported over the weekend, for example, no tumble monkeys) and some choreography changed to allow for physical distancing. The show features music and characters from the classic Disney film The Lion King.
The modified show, “A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King” is opening at Disney’s Animal Kingdom this month. My Disney Experience already shows multiple showtimes daily. Image courtesy Disney Parks.
…As Walt Disney World’s phased reopening continues, three more restaurants plan to reopen with some modifications along the lines seen at other operating locations. First, Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort will reopen May 16 with an “all-you-care-to-enjoy family-style dinner” which will include “no touch” appearances with Mickey Mouse and his pals appearing in each of the dining rooms (souvenir character signatures and colorful artwork like that provided at other character dining locations will be provided). Over at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, on May 18, Cape May Café will reopen for breakfast and dinner, but without Minnie’s Beach Bash Character Breakfast or the Seafood-and-More Dinner Buffet (breakfast will be “all-you-care-to enjoy family-style”; dinner offerings will include house-made Parker House rolls and corn bread, a seafood boil, The Turf Platter with steak and chicken, and lobster mac and cheese). At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Tusker House Restaurant will reopen this summer with a modified character experience featuring Donald Duck and friends along with family-style entrees inspired by the flavors of Africa. Reservations are now open for Cape May and Chef Mickey’s.
…The “Capture Your Moment” Disney PhotoPass offering at Magic Kingdom is being expanded to Disney’s Animal Kingdom on May 17. The reserved in advance 20-minute photo session with a Disney PhotoPass photographer takes place on or nearby Discovery Island. Check-in for the experience at the ticket and information desk outside of Island Mercantile; discuss available locations with the photographer and discuss customization; then you and your party are escorted to your chosen shoot location for up to 20 minutes. Each session is $50 for up to eight guests and, as before, neither prints nor digital downloads are included but those that purchase a Memory Maker package and Annual Passholders with that benefit can download the photos taken during the session at no extra cost. Sessions can be booked up to 60 days in advance by calling (407)939-7758 or online (limited same-day reservations may be available at Guest Relations).
…The new Gelateria Toscana a walk-up window offering gelati, sorbetti, gelati floats opened at Italy pavilion at EPCOT last week. It is located along World Showcase Promenade near Patina Restaurant Group’s Tutto Italia Ristorante and Via Napoli at the Italy pavilion.
Bob Wilson (Group President, Delaware North, parent of Patina Restaurant Group), Kartika Rodriguez (Vice President, EPCOT), Mahmud Dhanani (Vice President, Operating Participants Department) & Mickey Mouse were on-hand last week for the ribbon cutting at the new Gelateria Toscana. Photo courtesy Patina Restaurant Group.
…REMINDER: May 15 is World Whiskey Day and, to celebrate, from May 12-15, our friends at Raglan Road at Disney Springs will feature a $25 special flight ($45 value) of small-batch, premium, limited-release whiskeys from Ireland, Japan, Scotland, and the United States. We have been invited to a preview tomorrow, May 12, and we’ll share more details on social media. Of course, Raglan Road always features a long list of whiskeys on its menu as the Irish claim to have invented it.
…Through May 14, 2021, those over 18 years old and legal residents of and located within the United States or Washington D.C. can enter Freeform’s Cruel Summer ’90s Sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip for two to Walt Disney World Resort for four days/three nights. Entering requires liking the sweepstakes post on the @Freeform Instagram Page, following the @CruelSummer, @Freeform, and @WaltDisneyWorld Instagram accounts, commenting #CruelSummerWDWSweepsEntry, and tagging a friend. Read more details on Disney Parks Blog and the full Official Rules.
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Resorts Availability, 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.
NEW Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels are recognizing educators and first responders by offering them special hotel rates. To honor their hard work, the Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels which include B RESORT & SPA, DOUBLE TREE SUITES BY HILTON, HILTON ORLANDO BUENA VISTA PALACE, HILTON ORLANDO LAKE BUENA VISTA, HOLIDAY INN, and WYNDHAM GARDEN INN LAKE BUENA VISTA, are giving them an exclusive offer starting at $79 per night for travel between now and July 14, 2021, if booked by July 10. The special rates include Bus Shuttle to the parks, a “Passport to Savings” booklet with discounts and specials from Disney Springs merchants, and advance tee times at Walt Disney World Golf Courses. For more information, restrictions, and to book, visit the Disney Springs Hotels official website.
Florida Residents can now save up to 30% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights through 7/10/2021. More information is available on this page of DisneyWorld.com.
Walt Disney World Resort Vacation Packages can now be booked up to 500 days in advance on a rolling calendar, and a package can be held for just a $200 downpayment with final payment due 30 days prior to travel.
Our travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages, and include its complimentary Concierge Services. Get Away Today can also assist you with the new Walt Disney World Resort offer that became available back in January: two free theme park days when you purchase at least a 4-night Disney Hotel stay and 3-Day Walt Disney World Resort tickets (the new offer is valid for vacation packages for travel through September 25, 2021, and does not apply to ticket-only orders). For all theme park ticket holders (day guests, resort guests, and Annual Passholders), though, for the foreseeable future, all guests are required to use the Disney Parks Pass System to reserve dates for guest park visits in addition to having a valid admission.
Get Away Today can also help you book other discounted Disney hotel stays for travel in 2021. 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.
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 – Friday 9am-5pm MT) and tell them MousePlanet sent you!
Be sure to check out Get Away Today’s Universal Orlando Resort ticket offers too.