We’ve seen a number of things change or new things be announced at Disney World since it reopened.
A new Table Service Mobile Order option has been introduced, virtual walk-up waitlists have started to be used at some restaurants, and more. There are a few things that were unexpected, but there are quite a few things that we’re surprised Disney didn’t do sooner. Today, we’re sharing our list of the top 5 things Disney is doing NOW (or will be doing soon) that we’re surprised they didn’t do sooner!
1. Bringing Characters Back to Chef Mickey’s
We’re starting off with a pretty big one — Disney characters! Right now, kids (and kids at heart) can’t hug or high-five their favorite Disney characters like they used to. Character meet-and-greets are currently suspended, but we have seen characters greeting guests in some modified ways, like from above the Main Street, U.S.A. Train Station.
We’ve also seen characters gradually returning to certain dining locations in Disney World. When the parks first reopened, Topolino’s Terrace Character Breakfast à la Art was the first to offer a modified character dining experience.
But, since that time, we’ve seen characters return to various spots, including Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table in Magic Kingdom, Garden Grill Restaurant in EPCOT, Hollywood & Vine in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Ravello at the Four Seasons Orlando Resort.
Chef Mickey’s, located in Disney’s Contemporary Resort, was a character dining experience prior to the park closures, but it reopened a few months ago without ANY characters at all. As more and more modified character dining experiences started to open up, we were surprised to hear no news from Chef Mickey’s. How much longer would we have to wait before we could see our favorite friends at this spot?
Not too much longer apparently! Just a few weeks ago, Disney announced that Mickey and his friends will FINALLY be coming back to Chef Mickey’s in December! We’re surprised it’s taken Disney this long to bring characters back to this spot. We’re not sure what exactly caused this delay. Perhaps there were some backstage adjustments or other arrangements that needed to be made to ensure the safety of all Cast Members in order to bring back our friends.
Regardless, we’re happy to see character dining returning to this spot and you better believe we’ll be there as soon as we can be to tell you ALL about it!
2. Bringing Back a Meet-and-Greet with Anna and Elsa
The second item on our list is another character-related change. Besides the character dining spots and meet-and-greets from the Main Street Train Station, we’ve also seen characters saying hello to guests in a slightly more personal, but still socially distanced manner. Over in the United Kingdom pavilion, you can have a practically perfect time chatting with Mary Poppins, or practice your curtsy with Alice.
All of these character interactions have been from a socially distanced spot, but still have allowed us to have a little bit more of one-on-one time with our Disney friends and get some great selfies! So, you can understand why we were surprised that we hadn’t gotten the same opportunity to have quality character time with two of the most popular princesses (or queens) around — Elsa and Anna. We’d seen them walking past us in the character cavalcade in EPCOT, but it’s not the same.
But, recently Disney made all our Frozen dreams come true! Just last week, we got the chance to say hello to Anna…
…and Elsa at the Norway pavilion in EPCOT in a new modified meet-and-greet experience. The sisters stand behind these gates at an appropriate social distance, but you can still chat with them about how things are going in Arendelle and get those much-needed selfies.
Again, we’re surprised Disney didn’t hop on this sooner considering the number of other character meet-and-greets that have popped up around property, but we’re happy they finally added this experience for guests to enjoy! It’s definitely magical to walk past the pavilion and see these sisters out.
3. Plexiglass Dividers on More Attractions
We’ve seen a number of measures used to ensure guests remain a safe distance or are otherwise divided from one another while in line or in certain attractions. We’ve seen social distancing markers placed in pre-show areas and throughout queues.
We’ve also seen plexiglass barriers or other dividers installed in various attraction queue lines…
…and on attraction ride vehicles.
For example, we’ve seen dividers used on the DINOSAUR vehicles at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for quite some time.
So, we were honestly surprised it took so long for Disney to install plexiglass dividers in some of its other attractions where guests are in relatively close quarters with each other like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney’s Hollywood Studios…
…in some of the queue areas at Slinky Dog Dash…
…and in various queue areas…
…and on the vehicles on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
These new plexiglass dividers are allowing Disney to increase capacity on Rise and on top of that they are rolling out a whole NEW system!! Guests can now get a boarding group OUTSIDE of the park at 7AM!
4. Free Water
In order to promote social distancing, Disney has been encouraging guests to use Mobile Order at many of its quick-service locations.
In particular, this is meant to help prevent a large number of guests from congregating in one space while ordering or picking up their food.
But, what if you just want to grab a cup of FREE water at one of the quick service locations in the parks? As of right now, you won’t be able to grab free water from certain spots that tend to be busier, particularly at certain times of the day, but there are a number of other restaurants or stands where you will be able to get some much-needed H2O.
We started noticing some restaurants were directing us to get free water at other spots in early October, but now we’re starting to see this policy more clearly enforced throughout our visits to the parks.
We’re surprised that it’s taken Disney this long to coordinate this change. It makes sense to restrict free waters to other areas that are not as crowded so Disney can limit the number of guests going in and out of restaurants like Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe when things get really busy.
Overall, however, we’ve found that whether or not you can get free water depends on the business and time of day. If a location is busy with Mobile Orders, we’ve found that guests will generally be redirected to another location for water.
If things are less busy though, a Cast Member may be able to get you a cup of water if they’re able to. You can always ask, but be prepared to make an extra stop at another location to grab free water particularly during the busiest times of the day.
5. Releasing Vacation Packages for Disney World’s 50th Anniversary
One of the other things that really surprised us is how long it took Disney to release vacation packages through the end of 2021, including dates that cover Disney World’s 50th Anniversary (October 1, 2021).
Cinderella Castle has already gotten its makeover in advance of this huge celebration, and renovations at the Magic Kingdom entrance sign and the iconic Walt Disney World entrance signs are also underway. But Disney World isn’t the only one getting ready for the 50th Anniversary, the fans are too! Many were eager to plan their trips and make sure they could get the hotel reservations or park tickets they wanted to participate in all of the anniversary activities.
Previously, reservations were only available through the end of September of 2021, but reservations through the end of 2021 finally became available in mid-October. We could already book our Disney cruises for 2021 sailings in July, so we were surprised it did take that long for Disney World to make their vacation packages available for late 2021.
We also expect that getting a better idea of how many guests book hotels or packages around the 50th anniversary in advance will help Disney to better plan and give them a clearer idea of how many guests they should be expecting (spoiler alert: probably a LOT). But, the wait is over now and you can officially get planning for your 50th anniversary or other late 2021 trip!
Well, that’s our list of things we were surprised Disney is doing now (or will do soon) that it didn’t do sooner! What’s one thing that you’re surprised Disney didn’t do sooner? Or one thing you’re surprised they aren’t doing yet? Let us know in the comments!
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