We have a major question about the reopening of Disney World — and some ideas about how it might play out!
We can look at the reopening of Disney Springs, as well as Shanghai Disneyland, for an idea of what to expect when the Disney World parks welcome back guests. But we have one HUGE question for which Disney hasn’t yet set a precedent.
Here’s What We’ve Learned So Far
We have several models to reference for a picture of what it may look like inside the reopened parks. There are some standard procedures that we’ve seen in the reopenings of Shanghai Disneyland, Disney Springs, and Universal CityWalk. Each of these locations has implemented safety measures including temperature checks, required face coverings, limited hours and offerings, and social distancing. So, we expect to see these precautions when the Disney World parks reopen as well.
But even though we have somewhat of an idea of what the INSIDE of the parks might look like, we still have one major question about the reopening of Disney World.
What About Transportation??
With many vacationers flying in from out of state, transportation is a huge part of the guest experience at Disney World. In fact, sometimes Disney transportation is unavoidable.
With so many guests reliant on Disney transportation, that often leads to enclosed spaces packed tight with people. As a part of their proposed reopening plan, Disney noted that we may see modifications to the way that transportation is run. According to WDWMagic.com, Disney World will be offering limited transportation services such as the monorail and Friendship ferryboats.
So, how will Disney address these limitations? Let’s take a look at the different forms of available transportation, along with potential solutions.
Disney buses are one of the primary modes of transportation around property, especially for hotel guests. And if you’ve ever been on one of these buses around park open or close, you’ve probably experienced just how many people they can pack in. So, with the importance of distance, how would the buses operate?
Well, let’s take a look at how other bus systems have adapted.
According to the BBC, the buses in London have reduced capacity to 13-15% of their normal number of passengers. The largest, double-length Disney buses can typically carry over 100 passengers, so, in theory, this would need to be reduced to about 15 passengers per bus if Disney were to follow the same reduced capacity measures.
The CDC has also recommended that bus drivers take precautions in order to ensure their safety. In addition to requiring both the passengers and driver to wear a mask, it’s also suggested that passengers enter and exit through a rear door, and that hand sanitizer be made readily available.
So, based on the precedent set by other bus operations and recommendations from the CDC, if Disney bus service is made available, they would need to greatly reduce capacity, change the loading and unloading procedure, and sanitize regularly.
While buses might be more widely used, the Monorail is certainly an iconic form of Disney transportation. But similar to the issues with buses, the Monorail is often incredibly crowded, with little ventilation. So, what changes might we see to Monorail transportation?
We can look at the adjustments made to train and subway systems for some potential clues. In New York City, the subway service is suspended from 1 AM to 5 AM to allow for deep cleaning, and even daytime service is reduced to 25%. In 2016, Orlando Sentinal reported that the Disney World Monorail carries roughly 150,000 guests per day. If capacity were limited to 25%, that would be only 37,500 guests per day.
Luckily, sanitation could be done at night when the monorail isn’t already running, so that should not cut into the amount of guests who can be transported. Also, given the importance of distance (and the size of each Monorail compartment), Disney could place each party in their own compartment.
In theory, it would be easier to implement health and safety measures on the Disney Skyliner than other forms of transportation. Since each gondola can only hold up to ten guests, Cast Members could seat one party per gondola. Also, the windows on the gondola allow for airflow and ventilation.
But, if the Skyliner gondolas must be sanitized after each party, we could see the line running much slower to give Cast Members the time to wipe down the surfaces. Depending on how much slower they would need to run, this could become uncomfortable for guests suspended in the air for an extended period of time.
There’s still a major question as to how/if Disney will sanitize transportation compartments between riders on the Skyliner and Monorail.
There are also several boats that transport guests around Disney property, including the ferryboats that travel between the Transportation and Ticket Center and the Magic Kingdom, and the Friendship boats which connect Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, and Disney Springs to surrounding resorts.
Most of the boats have better ventilation than the buses and Monorail — some of them are even open-air. So, while guest distancing would still need to be practiced with staggered seating (or standing, in the case of the ferryboat), in theory, the boats should provide a safer travel environment than enclosed forms of transportation.
As with the other forms of transportation, services would need to be reduced to allow for regular sanitization and cleaning, and capacity would likely be limited, resulting in possibly longer wait times.
While this isn’t a free form of Disney transportation, Minnie Vans allow guests to request a rideshare service within Disney World property or between Disney World property and the Orlando International Airport or Port Canaveral. The service is run through the Lyft app, but all Minnie Vans are driven by Disney Cast Members.
Minnie Vans don’t come cheap, but we could see more guests opt to utilize them if other transportation changes cause extended delays. This form of transportation has built-in social distancing since guests pay for a private ride.
As reported by CNBC, Uber has recently started requiring that all drivers and passengers wear masks, and it’s likely that Minnie Van drivers and passengers would need to wear masks as well. In addition, the vehicles would need to be regularly sanitized between parties.
While many of the Disney World hotels require some form of transportation to get to the parks, there are a few that guests are able to walk directly to the parks!
There’s a path from Disney’s Contemporary Resort to the Magic Kingdom and resort guests can walk to the park in five or ten minutes. And guests at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort all have access to walking paths directly to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
What appears to be a walkway connecting Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa to the Magic Kingdom was under construction pre-closure. If completed, it would allow guests at the Grand Floridian and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort to be able to walk to the Magic Kingdom as well.
All of the resorts that do have access to a walking path directly to one of the parks are on the pricy side. But guests who are able to stay in one of these resorts can bypass Disney transportation all together — for certain parks at least!
Now that the first steps are being taken towards reopening theme parks, we are starting to get a picture of what operations in the park might look like. But given Disney World’s unique transportation needs, we’re waiting to see how buses, boats, the Monorail, and the Skyliner might change! And based on the precedent set by other transportation systems around the world, some of these are set up for success more than others.
Which form of Disney transportation would you feel most comfortable using? Let us know in the comments!