If there is one thing we know about the Walt Disney Company is that they are always finding ways of surprising us year after year. 2019 was no different, as it was a year full of surprising changes for the Walt Disney World Resort theme parks.
As with all Disney changes, some guests were huge fans and others…not so much. Today, we are sharing Disney’s most surprising moves we were NOT expecting in 2019.
The Ban on Ice
In a move that many considered “cold as ice”, Walt Disney World and Disneyland banned guests from entering the theme parks with loose ice and/or dry ice. Disney stated that the ban on ice was put into place to streamline security bag check and entry processes, ease congestion, and improve guest flow.
It’s not too uncommon to see a guest with a small cooler in the parks, but the ban seemed oddly specific. Disney recommends the use of reusable ice packs in place of loose ice, so you CAN still bring your coolers to the parks. Additionally, don’t forget that FREE cups of ice are available at food and beverage locations at all four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks!
The Ban on Stroller Wagons
In early 2019, stroller wagons were the hot items of the year for parents everywhere. The popularity of stroller wagons quickly made its way into Walt Disney World and Disneyland, as stroller wagons became the “way to roll” around the theme parks.
Local stroller rental companies could not keep them in stock. There were entire online groups dedicated to stroller wagons and decking them out in advance of Disney theme park visits.
While wagons have been banned from Disney theme parks for many years now, Guests were getting away with entering the theme parks with stroller wagons because they were pushed, not pulled.
Well, slow your roll, because Disney put the ban-hammer on the popular stroller wagons (whether pushed or pulled) on May 1st, 2019! According to Disney, the reduction of stroller sizes is intended to ease guest flow and reduce congestions. Doing so makes the park experience more enjoyable for all who visit.
Not only were stroller wagons banned, but the size of strollers allowed in the parks was reduced. Strollers must now be 31” or less in width, and 52” in length or smaller to enter the theme parks. Fortunately for parents of multiples, most strollers (including many popular double jogging strollers) still fit within these guidelines (whew!).
At many security checkpoints, there are now guides on the ground so you can double-check if your stroller fits! If your strollers do not fit within these guidelines, strollers are always available for rental at all of the theme parks.
The Ban on Smoking
For some smokers, Walt Disney World may not be not the “Most Magical Place on Earth” any longer.
On May 1st, 2019, in an unprecedented move for the Walt Disney Company, smoking and vaping was banned inside all Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort theme parks, water parks, and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. All designated smoking areas were moved outside of the theme parks.
Smokers were UP IN FLAMES about the news. The ban meant that smokers would need to exit the theme park to smoke or vape. Guests are also allowed to smoke and vape in specified areas at Disney Resort hotels and Disney Springs. However, the majority of guests were happy with this change. It is nice not having to walk through smoke clouds with our families while at our happy place!
The FuelRod Swap Fee…That Never Came to Be.
If you are unfamiliar with FuelRods, allow us first explain what they are.
FuelRods are portable cell phone/mobile device chargers that can be purchased for $30 plus tax in Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and may airports, malls, and other theme parks used to “fuel” your device on the go.
Once you’ve used your FuelRod, you can then swap it for a new and fully-charged FuelRod at any of the FuelRod kiosks.
Sometime in October, FuelRod added signage to their kiosks which indicated that the “unlimited” swaps would now cost $3 per swap as of November 1, 2019. Guests were FURIOUS!
BUT…less than a week and one class-action suit later, the FuelRod saga came to an end when FuelRod and Disney backtracked on the $3 per swap fee.
Skyliner Emergency Kits
When the Disney Skyliner had its first large (and widely publicized) incident, pictures of the Skyliner Emergency Kits took the internet by storm! People had many thoughts about what was included in the kits, and what was not.
Guests who were stuck on the Skyliner were instructed to open the emergency kits (which many people didn’t even know existed) and were surprised to find pouches of water, a pencil and notepad, a light stick, a small whistle, a cold pack, and blue “emesis” cups (a.k.a. vomit bags).
Many Guests speculated that these emesis cups could double as waste cups. We’ll let you exercise your imagination on that one…
We would have loved to see a privacy blanket or a blanket for cooler weather (yes, it does get into the 30s and 40s in Orlando on occasion!), snacks, and toilet paper (or other clean-up items) in this kit. You know, just in case nature calls.
Removal of Star Wars names from Menu Items in Galaxy’s Edge
Bright Suns…’Til the Spire…Friend Endorian Tip Yip?!?
Communicating in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge can be a bit of a challenge for guests not down with the lingo. It appears that was especially the case in Galaxy’s Edge dining locations like Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, where Cast Members were finding that the Star Wars-inspired names were confusing some guests. As a result, Disney changed the menus to remove the whimsical Star Wars-inspired dish names.
But wait, they then brought them back…sort of (oh Disney, you confuse us) by creating hybrid names instead. Having trouble following along? So are we!
For example, Fried Endorian Tip Yip was first changed to Fried Chicken (boring!) and was then changed to its ultimate and most current name, Endorian Fried Chicken Tip Yip. While many Guests may still not know what ‘Endorian’ or ‘Tip Yip’ mean, they definitely know what Fried Chicken means!
Removing the Star Wars-inspired names also removed a lot of the uniqueness of visiting a galaxy far, far away, especially since every menu item had a description of the dish directly under it. However, we’re glad they settled on hybrid names in order to bring back some of the magic of visiting Batuu! In fact, we could definitely go for some Batuuan Beef Pot Roast right now. 😉
MagicBand Slap Bracelets
MagicBand Slap Bracelets made their entry to Walt Disney World Resort on November 12th, 2019…and were gone 2 weeks later.
Why? We don’t exactly know, but we’ve heard reports of guests having issues with the RFID chip’s capabilities.
Guests had mixed reactions to these surprise MagicBands. Many thought they seemed “cheaper” than regular MagicBands. Others thought they’d be easier for little ones to lose these than the regular ones, especially because of the “novelty” of the slap band itself.
We hope to see them return soon — while keeping the concerns of guests in mind — as we thought they were a fun new way of wearing our MagicBands.
Cast Member Benefit Changes
One of the greatest benefits of being a Disney Cast Member is the Main Entrance Pass. This pass allows Cast Members to take family and friends to the parks, for FREE, barring blockout dates.
However, in 2019 it was announced that Cast Members will need to choose between a Disney+ bundle and their Main Entrance Pass benefits in 2020. Say what?!?
Regardless of their decision, Cast Members will still receive complimentary self-admission.
It doesn’t take a math genius to realize that there is no comparison between these two options. The Disney+ bundle is approximately $13 per month or $156 per year. A 1-day Park Hopper theme park ticket is worth MORE than that — and with the Main Entrance Pass, Cast Members have access to multiple 1-day Park Hopper theme park tickets for up to 3 Guests!
While we can understand Disney giving Cast Members the choice between a Disney+ Bundle and the Main Entrance Pass, especially for Cast Members who don’t have friends or family nearby, it seems easy to just give Cast Members access to BOTH perks instead of having to choose (they are the ones makin’ that magic happen every day, after all!)
Disney certainly kept us all on our toes last year! Who can say what the new year will bring, but we’ll be keeping out ears to the ground for the next big “whoa!” change to happen at Disney World!
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In your opinion, what is the most surprising move Disney made in 2019? Please let us know in the comments below!