It’s less than 24 hours until we say goodbye to 2019 and hello (and please be better) to 2020. As the new year gets closer, we want to recap all of the amazing things that 2019 has brought us in Disney World!
From the addition of the long-awaited Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to the opening of the Skyliner, we’ve seen a lot of BIG changes at Walt Disney World this year—like the opening of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance earlier this month! Now, though, we want to hone in on some of the smaller changes that could have been overlooked or swept up in all the big news. Here are 10 changes that seemed tiny, but they all made a big difference this year!
1. Now More Than Ever
Disney World introduced a new theme for 2019 called “Now More than Ever,” campaigning that now, more than ever, is the best time to visit the Walt Disney World Resort.
In honor of Mickey’s 90th birthday, he and Minnie donned new celebration outfits, and Magic Kingdom became home to Mickey and Minnie’s Surprise Celebration. This, of course, resulted in a character meet and greet with our two favorite mice at Town Square Theater, as well as tons of treats and colorful merchandise!
Not only that, but the “Move It! Shake It! Dance & Play It!” Street Party was given an update to match the new campaign, becoming “Move It! Shake It! MousekeDance It!” For frequent Disney-goers, this is a great opportunity to see something new at the parks, and the celebratory atmosphere makes the day even more special!
Disney definitely enjoys switching up their themes to celebrate special occasions, and we can expect even more for its 50th anniversary in 2021.
2. Fountain View
Epcot’s got A LOT going on but we wanted to focus in on this smaller change that, sadly, meant no more Starbucks in Epcot. Each of the parks has one Starbucks location, and removing Epcot’s has resulted in many confused and noncaffeinated guests.
Those willing to can try Joffrey’s at several locations throughout the park, but for our Starbucks die-hards, a temporary Starbucks location, Traveler’s Cafe, FINALLY just opened near the Refreshment Port. The coffee gods have heard our pleas! We can one again sip our venti caramel lattes in Epcot!
We haven’t heard about a permanent replacement for Fountain View just yet, but we’ll be keeping our ears open!
3. Resort Expansions!
If you’ve been to Disney World recently, you’ve probably noticed that it seems PACKED no matter what time of the year it is. Luckily, 2019 saw the additions of the Riviera Resort and the Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs Resort.
The Riviera Resort just opened on December 16. Inspired by the European Riviera, it’s categorized Disney Vacation Club Resort but is available for booking at the Deluxe Villa level for non-DVC guests.
What makes it so enticing? It’s part of the Epcot Resort Area, has views of both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and has a Skyliner station at the resort, making it more accessible to Disney guests. It also features a new type of room: a Tower Studio, which sleeps two adults and an infant, making it a great option for couples and smaller families in particular.
Meanwhile, the Gran Destino Tower brought 545 new rooms to Disney property as well as new dining experiences like Toledo. While this location isn’t as central as the Riviera Resort, Coronado Springs has its benefits as well. The resort houses a convention center, making it convenient for business trips and has plenty of dining options. It’s also classified as a moderate resort—it’s the Goldilocks of Disney resorts, providing a more economical option than some of the deluxe resorts.
It’s always nice to see Disney putting energy into not just the parks, but where the guests stay as well, and at multiple resort tiers!
4. Updated Park Rules
Last spring, Disney Parks introduced new policies regarding strollers, smoking, and even ice. Smoking areas were removed from the parks, including the water parks, Downtown Disney, and ESPN’s Wide World of Sports; however, there will still be designated smoking sections outside of parks and on resort property.
Strollers cannot exceed 31″ inches wide and 52″ inches, and wagons were outright banned from the parks in an attempt to clear congestion within the parks. Don’t worry though, double stroller fams! Most double strollers fit within Disney’s new size limit, even those popular double jogging strollers many guests rent or bring along!
In addition, both loose and dry ice were banned from the theme parks. While this seems like an odd choice, according to Disney Parks Blog, this was done in order to “streamline” security checks. You can still bring ice packs in coolers though!
Each of these changes—while inconvenient for some—were made in order to enhance guest experience, something always appreciated by Disney-goers. Disney Parks Blog even listed tips to assist guests in finding alternate solutions for each of these changes.
So enjoy strolling the parks without bumping into mega stroller wagons, walking into clouds of smoke, and…loose ice? Lol!
5. Dole Whip Galore
Of course we can’t resist talking about some of the tasty treats 2019 gave us! Disney rolled out a bunch of new themed Dole Whip flavors that had Disney guests on the hunt for them all. The cones change based on the season as Disney introduces new featured flavors, which include raspberry, lemon, lime, strawberry, and mango.
There are also options to get character cones, which are based on Disney movies like Moana, Tangled, Up, and Monster’s Inc. and include decorative features like candy or flowers. These are primarily found throughout Magic Kingdom and at the Polynesian Resort.
We always love a new treat, so these tasty, adorable, AND affordable snacks have really taken the cake (er, the cone?). The fact that Disney made so many different Dole Whips options definitely speaks to how they’ve seen Disney junkies latch on to certain snacks.
Most importantly, by adding Dole Whip to different locations and expanding the selection of flavors, they’ve made them even more accessible and more appealing to guests!
6. Changes to My Disney Experience
My Disney Experience is the ultimate compass of Disney World navigation, allowing users to book and change FastPasses, create dining reservations, place Mobile Orders at select locations, and view Photopass photos and other plans.
One of the updates included a more intuitive navigation system and made upcoming plans more prominent. Another more recent update changed the FastPass creation process. Users can now search for FastPasses by the hour instead of just morning, afternoon, and evening.
These are definitely tiny changes, but because My Disney Experience has become such a huge part of planning a trip to Disney World, it’s a big deal.
You can do so much from your phone that it should be more of a help than a hindrance, and it’s evident that Disney is definitely looking to minimize any frustration while using the system.
7. PhotoPass Wins and Fails
PhotoPass has had its ups and downs this year, that’s for sure! Disney World received huge backlash in September when PhotoPass photographers at select character meet-and-greets were replaced with automated cameras. These cameras are placed inside a box themed to match the location and were in use at Mickey, Anna and Elsa, and Tinker Bell’s meet-and-greets, among others.
Guests were upset, claiming that the new cameras weren’t getting all of the same candids and that part of the magic of PhotoPass was the interaction with the cast member. They even petitioned to get PhotoPass cast members back, and while there’s been no official update, PhotoPass cast members have been spotted back at Mickey’s meet and greet at the Town Square Theater, Anna and Elsa’s meet and greet in Epcot, and more.
On a more positive note, PhotoPass also introduced some awesome new experiences. Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios each feature a “Super Zoom” shot that comes along with an animated video! These take magic shots to a whole new level! These can be found on Main Street and in Batuu, and a variety of animated videos can be found around property.
Capturing memories is such a big part of Disney trips, so we love seeing more opportunities to do so. We’re hoping that the boxes are a thing of the past, seeing as how quickly Disney was to put PhotoPass photographers back in some locations, and hopefully we’ll see more magic shots pop up with the success of the super zoom shots!
8. FuelRod Changes
The automated PhotoPass camera situation certainly wasn’t the first time guests made their opinions known. Recently, Disney announced a change to its FuelRod system that was met with A LOT of backlash. For those who are unfamiliar, FuelRods are portable chargers available for purchase at the Disney Parks for $30. Once you’ve used up all of the power in it, you can swap it for a new rod for free at any machine in the parks.
It was announced earlier this year that swapping would now cost $3 per swap. Well, Disney-goers didn’t react well to that. Only a few days after a lawsuit was announced, Disney and FuelRod reversed the fee.
Though the change was certainly supposed to be a small one, it definitely blew up in Disney’s face. While the decision to reverse the fee might not last forever, it just goes to show what can happen when you make your opinions known!
9. Going Green!
In the past few years, we’ve seen an environmentally-focused shift in a lot of places, including Disney World.
In 2018, it was announced that Disney would do away with single-use plastic straws and stirrers, and in 2019, they did just that! Resort-wide, plastic straws have been replaced by paper ones.
This comes along with the discontinuation of the use of plastic bags in Disney Stores nationwide, and the parks now serve most drinks without lids. Additionally, resorts are in the process of transitioning from single-use toiletries to refillable pumps. Reusable straws are also for sale at the parks for those who prefer that option, and for those who bring their own water bottles, refillable water stations (a.k.a. hydration stations) have popped up at parks and resorts.
Only a few years ago, it was just Animal Kingdom that offered paper straws and lid-free cups for the safety of the animals. Now it’s everywhere!
While all of these things seem small, and even a bit controversial, it’s important that such a huge company is taking these steps to help reduce waste and preserve our environment. (Just be careful carrying that tray loaded up with drinks without lids. Yikes!)
10. Skyliner Mugs
Sounds like just another cup to you? Not quite! It’s actually part of Disney’s Refillable Mug Program, a.k.a. Rapid Fill. While regular Refillable Mugs are made of plastic, these are made of stainless steel and claim to keep drinks cold for 12 hours or hot for four hours.
The new Skyliner mugs are $29.99 versus the typical $19.99 for a plastic one (or $10 to upgrade if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan and receive the free plastic one), but you do get a better quality cup with the newer option. While they may not be for everyone (see the lack of handle for juggling multiple mugs), we love seeing that the mugs are evolving after so many years of the same mug design, and maybe we’ll see even more options in the future, like the newly released Star Wars mug.
2019 has been an exciting year full of changes, big and small. A lot of these tiny changes are focused on enhancing the overall guest experience—from making sure Epcot guests have their Starbucks fix during the construction to reversing the FuelRod fee. It shows the power that Disney-goers actually have when they make their voices heard since some of these changes were inspired by guest reactions.
Disney’s conservation policy, meanwhile, is one change on a bigger scale, helping benefit the outside world. What do ALL of these things have in common though? They all mean that bigger and better things are coming for Walt Disney World, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store!
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What are you looking forward to most in Disney World? Let us know in the comments!