Disney World has been open for almost a month now and it definitely feels…different.
It is a new normal — and we’re not the only ones still adjusting. Disney is having to contend with some complex and unexpected situations in and around the parks. Already, we’ve seen a few changes to how Disney World is handling its reopening; let’s take a look at a few of the BIGGEST!
1. Changes to the Face Mask Policy
First up, we’ve got the changes to the face mask policy in Disney World. Face masks have been a pretty hot topic and the first weeks of the reopening we saw a LOT of questions about what does and does NOT qualify as a face mask in the Disney parks. As Disney learned more from health officials as well as guest use in the first weeks of reopening, they made several BIG changes to their policy.
Initially, there was a lot of back-and-forth about whether gaiter-style masks were allowed in the parks. Originally, they were A-OK in Disney Springs, but once the parks reopened Disney finally updated their face mask policy to officially exclude gaiters. But that wasn’t the last policy update.
Disney also changed the wording on when mask removal was allowed to specify that masks can only be removed when guests are eating or drinking while stationary and socially distanced. After this change was made to the policy, Disney made significant efforts to communicate the update to guests in the parks through the use of added signage and even Cast Members walking around to remind guests to wear their face coverings.
Similarly, we saw new signs pop up in the parks to accompany the most recent face mask update when Disney officially banned the use of face masks with valves, holes, or mesh. As you can see, Disney has done a LOT of fine-tuning with the face mask policy, so if you’re headed to Disney World soon, make sure you read up on the most recent iteration.
2. Changes to the Rise of the Resistance Virtual Queue
Another big change has been with the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Even prior to opening we saw some changes as Disney initially announced that virtual queues would not be used for attractions upon reopening — before backtracking to say that Rise of the Resistance would use a modified version of its virtual queue.
Thank GOODNESS! I can’t imagine what things would have been like without the virutal queue for Rise!
The modified queue introduced three different windows during which guests could try to grab a Boarding Group at 10AM, 1PM, and 4PM (instead of all at once when the park opens). After reopening, the three windows were used for a while until Disney changed the times to only two: at 10AM and 2PM — which is the way the queue is run now. Riding Rise of the Resistance certainly isn’t the easiest thing in the world, so it’s important to keep up with these changes!
3. The Addition of More Disney Park Passes for Annual Passholders
A park ticket isn’t the only thing you’ll need to get into a Disney World park nowadays. You’ll need to secure a Disney Park Pass theme park reservation too! This new measure was put in place to help Disney control the number of people in the parks and they’ve had to make a few changes to the way availability works since the parks opened.
Disney Park Passes have been especially difficult to come by for Annual Passholders, and there have been several instances of Disney adding Annual Passholder availability within the system after parks were fully booked up for Passholders. Disney CEO Bob Chapek explained that this was due to a lower than expected proportion of out-of-state guests coming to the parks in opening weeks, meaning they could make the adjustment to welcome more Annual Passholders.
So if you’re a passholder and things look grim park pass-wise, keep checking!
4. Changes to Hotel Opening Dates
Though several Disney World resort hotels have reopened with the parks, there are several that remain closed — including some that don’t have reopening dates at all! But even for those hotels that do have set reopening dates, things are not set in stone.
A few weeks ago, Disney made a pretty MAJOR change by delaying the reopening of four Disney World resort hotels. The reopening of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort was delayed two months to October 4th, the reopening of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort was delayed three months to November 1st, and the reopenings of Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Disney’s BoardWalk Inn were delayed indefinitely.
We’ve even seen some delays with the Swan and Dolphin Hotels too. That’s a LOT of changes! We’re always keeping an eye on those reopening dates though, so stay tuned to DFB to make sure you have the latest update on any hotel reopening changes!
5. Park Hours Changes
The most recent change on this list has to do with park hours! As of just a few days ago, Disney notified guests of an upcoming reduction in park hours for all four Disney World theme parks. Of course, park hours are always subject to change, and they do tend to shorten in the fall months; but now our Disney days are officially going to end even earlier.
Beginning September 8th, the theme park hours are 9AM to 6PM in Magic Kingdom (previously 9AM-7PM daily), 11AM to 7PM in EPCOT (previously 11AM-9PM), 10AM to 7PM in Hollywood Studios (previously 10AM-8PM), and 9AM to 5PM in Animal Kingdom (previously 8AM-6PM). All of the parks saw a reduction of one or two hours per day.
6. The Addition of Temperature Checks at Resort Hotel Restaurants
Last but certainly not least has been the addition of temperature checks at table-service restaurants in the Disney World resort hotels. When the resort hotels first opened back in June, we were surprised that temperature screenings were not in place for guests entering the hotels. It appears Disney wanted to add an extra layer of checks for guests dining in hotels.
Now, when you check in to a table service restaurant at the Disney World resorts, you need to pass a temperature screening with a temperature below 100.4 degrees. If your temperature is higher, you’ll be directed to a re-screening, just like at the parks and Disney Springs. This change definitely makes some sense to us considering guests have to go through temperature checks pretty much EVERYWHERE else accessible to the public in Disney World.
There you have it! Those are all of the biggest changes we’ve seen in Disney World since they reopened — and we might see a few more before things really settle. So, as always, stay tuned to DFB for all of the latest updates so that you don’t miss a beat!
Have any questions about these changes? Ask them in the comments!