While we’re growing more used to our new normal with every passing day at home, we’re still having trouble imagining what the parks will be like when they reopen.
We’ve already explored which new protocols Disney might use to ensure only healthy guests are allowed entry, and we recently got more information about how Shanghai Disneyland will handle their reopening on May 11th.
Armed with information about how other theme parks and vacation destinations are handling reopenings, we may finally be getting a few answers to our questions about what Disney World will be like when it reopens.
We’ve also been keeping track of everything that’s being discussed at the Re-Open Florida Task Force meetings in hopes some new details pertaining to the Disney theme parks might emerge soon. After all, President of Walt Disney World Josh D’Amaro is among the group of leaders hand-picked by Governor Ron DeSantis tasked with re-starting Florida’s economy.
But until we know for sure how things will look once Disney World reopens, here are some of our biggest questions — and even a few ANSWERS.
Question #1: Will We Have to Wear Masks When Disney World Reopens?
While many of us are looking forward to Disney World reopening soon, a lot of us are wondering if we’ll have to wear a mask. After all, some locations are now requiring the use of face coverings by residents when self-distancing practices aren’t enough.
Right now, Governor DeSantis and the reopening task force are only ASKING all Florida residents to wear masks in public areas. This is not a requirement, but a recommendation in accordance with CDC guidelines.
Florida’s task force has stated they’ll be re-evaluating and possibly modifying their recommendations on at least a weekly basis. The CEO of Universal Studios, John Sprouls, indicated Universal theme park employees might be asked to wear masks, but he didn’t speak to the topic of Disney World’s Cast Members directly.
And According to Shanghai Disneyland’s reopening protocol, the resort is requiring guests to wear masks at all times, except when dining.
Sprouls also mentioned that employees will be encouraged to employ sanitation practices at home and at work. Universal is also implementing mandatory temperature checks for all employees, but no word from Disney yet if similar measures will be taken.
To date the primary information we have about healthcare protocol in the Disney Parks is what we’ve learned from Disney’s Chief Medical Officer in a recent public letter. She notes that, though no official decisions have been made, Disney is officially considering measures like limited capacity, health screenings, and virtual queues for implementation when the parks reopen.
Masks and other appropriate PPE have been mentioned as a potential requirement for cast members.
Question #2: Will They Be Selling Face Masks at the Parks?
Disney currently has Face Masks available for pre-order online. Designs include Pixar Pals, Princesses, Mickey and Minnie, and Star Wars characters, including Baby Yoda. We’re not sure yet if face coverings will be sold inside the parks yet, but Florida’s Task Force has already told us airports MIGHT be selling masks.
Since Disney World sells almost everything else a person could need on vacation including medicine, rain ponchos, and more, it seems possible they could sell masks if guests desired them or if they were required for entry.
Question #3: Will This be the End of Drinking Fountains and the Rise of Bottle Filling Stations?
Disney World likely won’t do away with their drinking fountains entirely without a viable replacement. Many guests don’t realize that Disney offers free cups of ice water from almost any fast food restaurant. And a similar system could potentially be implemented at a larger scale.
We often recommend bringing a refillable water bottle to use at one of the touchless refill stations that have begun popping up throughout the parks, but not everyone likes to carry a bottle around all day, and these stations are still VERY sparse throughout the parks.
In the interest of responsibility, Disney would likely provide several accessible free water options for all guests. We might see more water stations with spigots and disposable cups, like those sometimes brought out on hot days, until more permanent accommodations can be made. These can generate a lot of paper waste, but could be a viable temporary option!
And we’ll most likely see several additional hand sanitizing and hand washing locations, especially near drinking fountains, which we saw Disney World implement before the parks temporarily shut down. They even added a feature to the My Disney Experience app which provided guests with turn-by-turn directions to the nearest hand sanitation station based on their location in the parks.
Question #4: Will We Still Be Able to Use Our Refillable Popcorn Buckets and Refillable Mugs?
Refillable items pose a unique challenge in that the act of refilling the items could be a health concern.
Cast members could use disposable gloves for each customer, but the scoop used (in the case of popcorn) would need to avoid accidentally contacting the container or the gloved hands of the Cast Member that already touched the refillable bucket. The chance of germ transmission could be still high.
Paper popcorn carton refills could be easily distributed as a refill in lieu of actually refilling the containers, which would reduce contamination if gloves were still utilized.
If Disney World could automate its soda dispensers with sensors so that you didn’t have to touch the buttons, this would also make filling up your refillable resort mugs possible. Otherwise, they could station a Cast Member wearing gloves at the soda fountain to dispense your beverage for you.
In both cases though, ensuring the cups don’t accidentally make contact with spigots or parts of the soda dispenser would be vital to success. In both instances, Disney will need to carefully weigh its options.
Question #5: How Will We Stay Six Feet Apart at the Parks?
While we don’t yet know what Disney World will do, Shanghai Disneyland is experimenting with signage designating how far guests should be standing apart while waiting in lines. They are also employing the temporary use of portable barriers to control the flow of guests. It’s unclear if we’ll see the same thing happen at the U.S. Disney parks, but it’s something to consider.
Shanghai Disneyland is also running some social distancing trials on performances of its Frozen: A Sing-Along Celebration live show. Guests are being seated every other row in the theater while each family is being given a group of seats between them and the next party.
John Sprouls said in a Task Force meeting that Universal theme parks are considering using more technology (likely similar to Disney’s Mobile Order System [which we’ll talk about more in a sec] and Mobile Pay), increasing the use of virtual queues (which Disney World currently uses with Rise of the Resistance, and which they are officially considering using more broadly), using primarily outdoor queues, and staggering seating on rides and in shows.
Again, Disney has not announced any confirmed decisions, but they are officially considering measures like limited capacity and virtual queues for implementation when the parks reopen.
Question #6: Will Transportation Be Running in Disney World? What Will It Be Like?
Even if Disney World’s theme parks and resorts don’t re-open at the same time (Disney World is considering a phased reopening), guests will need a way to get from A to B. So it seems likely Disney World will still need to operate several modes of transportation to accommodate its guests.
How many buses, ferry boats, monorails, or parking trams will be in service when the parks reopen is unknown at this time. Delays on transportation could be possible, especially if Disney plans on sanitizing between pickups and drop-offs and will likely have plans to space out guests.
Question #7: Will More Restaurants Utilize Mobile Order on My Disney Experience App?
We briefly touched on Mobile Order above when we mentioned some of the ideas Universal Studios’ CEO mentioned about practicing social distancing in Universal’s theme parks, but let’s explore the option as it would apply at the Disney parks. Mobile Order is a contactless way to pre-order and pay for your food without standing in the typical lines, which a number of quick-service restaurants already offer at Disney World.
But there are many popular spots that aren’t currently available on Mobile Order such as Main Street Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, Sleepy Hollow Refreshments, Hollywood Scoops, and Pongu Pongu — all of which frequently have lengthy lines.
Many of these fast-casual spots are rather small, so having enough space for a Mobile Order pick-up window could be problematic, unless they made Mobile Order the only option.
But now that many of us are a lot more familiar with ordering meals using food delivery apps (since many restaurants around the country have continued to offer carry-out and many of us are trying to practice social distancing measures), maybe we’ll see more of Disney World’s dining options added to Mobile Order in the near future.
Question #8: Will We Have to Wait in Line At All?
Disney has stated that expanded use of virtual queues is a definite possibility when the parks reopen. And Universal Studios has noted the same.
So how will that work? We don’t have confirmed details yet. But Disney World might modify or develop a virtual reservation system in order to limit guests in the stand-by queues, or it could utilize their own virtual queue system (like they were currently using for Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood Studios until the recent shutdown).
Whatever they decide, it’s likely that guests will still face at least a somewhat short line that Disney will have to configure so that guests remain a safe distance apart at all times.
Read our thoughts on why we think exploring a virtual queue system at Disney World makes a lot of sense!
Question #9: How Weird Is It Going to Feel?
We’re quite curious about that ourselves! Can Disney implement safety measures without diminishing (much of) the magic? If you’ll recall, the parks closed while several guests were just finishing up their spring vacations.
The parks introduced a lot of hand washing signage, provided additional hand sanitation locations, and put material regarding the transmission of the virus at their First Aid Centers.
All of this was done without much imposing on guests’ overall experience. Governor DeSantis said, “[Disney was] doing a lot of stuff behind the scenes that they weren’t given credit for. And I don’t think you can tie a major outbreak from the people there, at least that I’m aware of. And so certainly I think that they did things that really were effective.”
Things could look and feel a little different than we’re used to for a while. We trust Disney will provide a safe environment while keeping our overall guest experience and enjoyment in mind. It’s still going to be Disney World, after all. You’ll still get to walk down Main Street, U.S.A. and stand in front of Cinderella Castle. It’s just unclear the steps it will take to get us there and, once there, keep us safe.
Click here to see what our readers said when we asked when they’d feel safe going back to Disney World
Question #10: Will I Be Able to Hug Mickey When I See Him? WILL I Get to See Him??!
You could still hug your favorite Disney character at the U.S. parks before they closed, although some character meals were modified. And while character dining has resumed on the weekends at Lumiere’s Kitchen in Shanghai Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland has reopened Enchanted Garden, it looks like no hugging is being permitted yet.
Character meals and greeting locations in the parks might need to operate differently for a little while for everyone’s safety. Again, we will need to see how Disney chooses to handle characters coming in contact with guests.
We know some of this stuff can sound a little scary right now. At this time, much is unknown about what a reopened Disney World will look like or even WHEN a reopening will happen. Disney will work to keep its Cast and guests safe and make calls that facilitate that accordingly. We’ll keep you posted as we learn the answers to any of these burning questions, so check back with us for updates.
Click here to find out ways the Disney World parks might be even better the next time you visit them here!
Which questions are you hoping Disney will answer soon? Let us know in the comments below!