Walt Disney World Hints That it May be Anticipating Opening Around June 1st

Walt Disney World did a couple of things yesterday that hint that the powers that be may be seriously thinking about opening the resort at or around June 1, 2020.

Yesterday,  Walt Disney World announced a free dining plan that states –

The Free Dining Plan offer is available when you purchase a non-discounted package that includes Theme Parks tickets and accommodations at a select Disney Resort hotel. It is valid for arrivals June 1 – September 30, 2020, with booking available though May 31. The offer is valid only for guests who booked a vacation package or room reservation to stay at a Disney Resort hotel during the dates Walt Disney World is closed. Offer not valid for reservations canceled before March 1 2020.

Walt Disney World also announced that they are accepting reservations starting June 1st –

For Guests who are interested in modifying their existing travel dates or making a new reservation for a future vacation, reservations are currently available for travel dates June 1 and later. As always, Guests are able to modify these bookings if Walt Disney World Resort opens before or after that time.

This is only my opinion, so until Disney actually announces a re-opening date, this amounts to being only speculation.  I personally find it hard to believe that they would announce this and rebook vacations/reservations only to have to rebook them at a later date because they haven’t opened.  We need to remember though that things could change they may not actually open around June 1st.

It also needs to be mentioned that even if the resort open, there is no way to know or anticipate to what degree the resort will be open and functioning.

I know that I don’t like to propagate rumors or rely on too much speculation, but to me this just make too much sense.  But what do I know…I could be totally off base on this.  I could also be biased because we have a trip for mid-July, so subconsciously I probably want this to be true.

Disney Announces Walt Disney World/Disneyland Resorts Will Remain Closed Until Further Notice

Disney announced this afternoon that its domestic theme parks, which include both Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California, will remain closed until further notice due to the impacts of the coronavirus.

In the announcement Disney states –

While there is still much uncertainty with respect to the impacts of COVID-19, the safety and well-being of our Guests and employees remain The Walt Disney Company’s top priority.

As a result of this unprecedented pandemic and in line with direction provided by health experts and government officials, Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort will remain closed until further notice.

The Walt Disney Company has been paying its Cast Members since the closure of the parks, and in light of this ongoing and increasingly complex crisis, we have made the decision to extend paying hourly parks and resorts Cast Members through April 18.

What this means in terms of cancellations, modifying reservations, and rebooking is currently evolving.

DisneyWorld.com’s notice has been modified in several spots, and now reads:

To provide additional flexibility, we are waiving Disney-imposed change and cancellation fees up to the day of check-in for reservations with arrivals through June 30, 2020. And soon we’ll share additional options for booking and modifying vacations.

If no action is taken by you before your check-in date for arrivals during the closure period, Disney will automatically cancel your reservation within 7 days of the original check-in date and process any refund due to the original form of payment.

Since the closure period is now currently undefined, this presumably means that auto-cancellations will simply occur on a rolling basis a week before check-in.

 

Important Update: More Disney Closures due to COVID-19

Late Sunday night Disney announced that they would be closing all Disney Stores in North America beginning March 17. Guests will still be able to shop at shopDisney.com. Disney will also be closing all of it’s owned and operated locations at Downtown Disney in Anaheim and Disney Springs in Orlando, beginning March 17. Individual tenants […]

Late Sunday night Disney announced that they would be closing all Disney Stores in North America beginning March 17. Guests will still be able to shop at shopDisney.com.

Disney will also be closing all of it’s owned and operated locations at Downtown Disney in Anaheim and Disney Springs in Orlando, beginning March 17. Individual tenants will be making decisions on whether to close, continue operating or adjust operations.

In addition, all Disney owned and operated hotels at Walt Disney World Resort and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort will be closing at 5 PM on March 20.

Disney Confirms Postponement of Mulan, New Mutants and Antlers

Mulan, Disney’s live-action version of its 1998 animated movie, is the latest Hollywood blockbuster to be postponed as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the entertainment industry.

Disney also confirmed that the release of the movies The New Mutants and Antlers will also be postponed.

Part of a statement from Disney is below –

As you know this has been a rapidly evolving situation and we wanted to make you aware that we are postponing the releases of MULAN, THE NEW MUTANTS and ANTLERS out of abundance of caution.  Media preview screenings will be rescheduled once we have a new release date.

Director Niki Caro announced via Instagram late Thursday that Mulan will not roll out globally later this month as originally scheduled.

“We are so excited to share this film with the world, but given the current ever-shifting circumstances we are all experiencing, unfortunately, we have to postpone the worldwide release of Mulan for now,” Caro wrote. “Our hearts are with everyone the world over who is affected by this virus, and we hope that Mulan’s fighting spirit will continue to inspire those who are working so hard to keep us all safe.”

 

Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort to Close due to COVID-19

As you may have heard the Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Paris Resort will be closing until the end of the month due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  In addition the Disney Cruise Line will suspend all departures until the end of the month.

In official statements Disney stated –

Disneyland  Resort-

While there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 at Disneyland Resort, after carefully reviewing the guidelines of the Governor of California’s executive order and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park, beginning the morning of March 14 through the end of the month.

The Hotels of Disneyland Resort will remain open until Monday, March 16 to give guests the ability to make necessary travel arrangements; Downtown Disney will remain open. We will monitor the ongoing situation and follow the advice and guidance of federal and state officials and health agencies. Disney will continue to pay cast members during this time.

Disneyland Resort will work with guests who wish to change or cancel their visits, and will provide refunds to those who have hotel bookings during this closure period. We anticipate heavy call volume over the next several days and appreciate guests’ patience as we work hard to respond to all inquiries.

Please contact The Walt Disney Travel Company for questions and cancellations at (714) 520-5050.

Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris & Disney Cruise Line –

Disney made the decision to close the Disneyland Resort following guidance from the state of California on restricting mass gatherings.

At the Walt Disney World theme parks, Disney has installed portable hand-washing stations in addition to the hand sanitizer stations that have been in place for the last few weeks.

Walt Disney World has also installed new signage around the parks giving public health recommendations, including frequent hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and to seek medical attention if experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Walt Disney World has also added an FAQ section to their announcement:

PARK TICKETS

May I get a refund on my ticket?

Unexpired multi-day theme park tickets with unused days, or date-specific theme park tickets with a start date on or before March 31, 2020 will automatically be extended to use any date through December 15, 2020.

If you are unable to visit by December 15, 2020 you may apply the value of a wholly unused ticket toward the purchase of a ticket for a future date.

Will the spring special Florida Resident Discover Disney Tickets be extended?

Florida Resident Discover Disney Tickets may be used through July 31, 2020.

What about tickets for special events slated to occur during the closure?

Guests who have purchased tickets for Disney After Hours, Disney Villains After Hours and Disney Early Morning Magic from March 16, 2020 through March 31, 2020 will be automatically refunded.

Will Annual Passes to Walt Disney World be extended?

Walt Disney World Annual Passes will be extended by the number of days the parks are closed.

RESORTS & HOTELS

I have a future stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel while the park is closed. What does that mean for my vacation?

Guests who have not checked in for stays between March 16, 2020 through March 31, 2020 may modify or cancel their Disney Resort room reservation or Walt Disney Travel Company package up to their original check-in date.

If no action is taken, Disney will automatically process a refund to the original form of payment within seven days of the original check-in date. If you did not book through Disney directly, please contact your travel professional.

What if I want to cancel a Disney Resort hotel reservation after the parks reopen?

Disney will waive all Disney imposed change and cancellation fees up to the date of check-in through June 30, 2020.

DINING & OTHER EXPERIENCES

I have a pre-paid dining reservation or experience reservation like Droid Depot or Savi’s Workshop while the parks are closed. Will I receive a refund?

Yes.

All pre-paid dining and experience reservations will be automatically refunded if scheduled between March 16, 2020 through March 31, 2020.

What happens to FastPass+ reservations made during the closure?

They are automatically canceled without replacement.

What happens to dining reservations that required a credit card at the time of booking?

Reservations made at locations impacted by the closure will not be charged a cancellation or no-show fee.

What follows is not official information that Walt Disney World has provided, and is instead opinions made by the Disney Tourist Blog

Will the Walt Disney World theme parks reopen on April 1, 2020?

That remains to be seen.

While the official FAQ answers are treating this as everything magically returning to business as normal come April 1, 2020, we would caution you against having that expectation. It’s simply a matter of Disney wanting to be cautious and not triggering a wave of cancellations beyond then.

It’s moderately instructive to see how this outbreak has played out elsewhere, particularly in countries that have not engaged in aggressive early-stage containment. Japan is a decent example, and original 2-week closures there were just extended another 2 weeks, to be reevaluated at that time.

If the closure is extended, expect Walt Disney World’s official answers above to be modified in accordance with any subsequent extensions.

When do you think Walt Disney World will reopen? 

I don’t have the slightest idea. This such a dynamic and evolving situation–and one that remains in its early stages in the United States. I’m hopeful it can be resolved as quickly and safely as possible with aggressive measures and diligence, but I’m skeptical.

With all of that said, my personal best case scenario is Walt Disney World reopening at some point in mid to late April 2020. If I had a trip planned in or before May 2020, I’d begin processing the very real possibility that it might not occur.

Will Disney Springs remain open during the closure?

Officially, yes.

However, that’s because the vast majority of businesses there are owned and operated by third parties. Expect those to independently announce closures in turn, effectively rendering most of Disney Springs substantively closed.

What about the resort hotels?

Officially, those are remaining opening for existing bookings–primarily guests who have already arrived. Walt Disney World cannot exactly kick guests, many of whom came from literally all over the world and cannot instantly rebook return international flights, to the curb with two days’ notice.

Depending upon the actual duration of this closure, we anticipate resort operations to wind down at some point.

What about Disney Vacation Club points? 

As DVC members are not doubt aware, there are a lot of intricacies and nuance (for lack of better terms) governing the rules of DVC point use years, banking, holding accounts, and so forth.

We have a trip starting in 4+ days and I have a unique question, what should I do?

Wait and see.

The above FAQ was posted as Walt Disney World scrambled to address common questions because they’re website went down last night and call volume was so high that the lines were literally busy. Unless your trip is starting in the next 2 days, we would encourage patience (and we know that’s difficult).

You’ll save yourself stress and headaches in calling, waiting on hold for 5 hours, only to find out the answer is “I don’t know yet.” Everything we’ve seen thus far indicates Disney is going above and beyond to make things right here, and your answer will probably come to you if you’re just patient.

We have a trip slated to start during the closure but continue when the park is slated to reopen in April. What should we do?

Wait and see. (Are you spotting a trend here?)

As noted above, there’s no guarantee that the parks will reopen at the beginning of April 2020. Moreover, you have some time before you “need” an answer, so we’d encourage waiting for more info–it’ll be released as it becomes available.

We have a vacation scheduled for April 2020 or beyond, what should we do?

Wait and see.

There’s truly no benefit to acting preemptively. If Walt Disney World reopens and you’re comfortable to travel, great. If the parks do not open or you’re not comfortable to travel, you will certainly have the option to cancel or postpone without penalty at a later date.

UPDATE: The Walt Disney Travel Company is requesting that anyone with a check-in date after March 2020 not call right now so the lines are clear for more urgent travelers.

Should I call Walt Disney World now for [insert question or concern]?

Phone wait times in the next couple of days will be measured in hours, and will put Free Dining release day to shame.

Before calling, ask yourself what your time is worth, what the likelihood is of receiving an answer that satisfies your question, and the chances that Disney won’t proactively address your concerns at some point in the near future.

I spoke with a clueless customer service rep after waiting on hold for 6 hours, should I scream at them?

There’s a good chance that “clueless” customer service rep was totally in the dark about this (and to a large degree, still is) until arriving at work. There’s an even stronger probability they’ve been dealing with not-so-patient customers all day, and that they are overstressed, underpaid, and overworked.

Finally, there’s 100% certainty the person at whom you’d be yelling did not personally and unilaterally choose to close Walt Disney World or craft the policy you dislike. If the idea of kindness for its own sake is too much to grasp, just remember that (selfishly!) you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

We booked tickets/hotel/etc. via a third party, what is their refund policy?

We’d recommend contacting them directly. No third parties were consulted or notified about Walt Disney World’s plans to close, meaning all of them were caught off-guard and left scrambling to come up with policies.

This is an unprecedented and already catastrophic event for businesses–they’re figuring it out on the fly. We’d stress patience.

Normally we don’t report news from “that park down the road” aka Universal Studios Orlando, but they will also be closing –

Out of an abundance of caution and to assist with our nation’s preventive efforts, Universal Orlando Resort will temporarily close its theme parks. The closure is effective Monday, March 16th. We anticipate remaining closed through the end of March – but will continue to evaluate the situation.

Universal Orlando’s hotels and Universal CityWalk will remain open.

We have created flexible programs for those guests who have booked travel packages or tickets with us. Guests can call this number for more information: 877-801-9720.

 

 

Walt Disney World Announces Details and Opening Dates for Disney Parks Experiences

For some time we’ve known that Walt Disney World Resort is probably undergoing its most significant period of growth in quite some time.  Today, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Bob Chapek made public some exciting updates on a few of the experiences currently in development across the resort.

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will be opening on March 4, 2020, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!  On Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, you’ll step through the movie screen and join Mickey, Minnie and friends like never before – bursting into a world where mouse rules apply.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will begin “transporting” guests to a galaxy far, far away in 2021!  In this new type of immersive vacation, guests will become the hero of their own adventure in an experience that surrounds you 24/7 in Star Wars storytelling.

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will open summer 2020 in the France pavilion at Epcot. Today Disney shared the image above showing Disney Imagineers at work creating the immersive attraction. The attraction brings guests on an adventure with Chef Remy through Gusteau’s restaurant.

Mickey Shorts Theater in Disney’s Hollywood Studios will show an original short film in the style of the popular Disney Channel animated series “Mickey Mouse,” and will feature photo-opportunity locations for guests.  Today Disney shared a rendering that shows the interior of the theater, including fun Mickey Mouse-themed seats.

Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure is coming to Epcot!  Guest are now invited to join Scrooge McDuck, Donald, Launchpad, Webby and the nephews in search of priceless treasure. Using the Play Disney Parks mobile app, guests will take a trip around World Showcase discovering exotic destinations, exciting mysteries, and maybe even a few thieves, villains and supernatural guardians of ancient artifacts.

Epcot will debut three new films on Jan. 17, 2020:

“Awesome Planet” in The Land pavilion showcases the Earth’s beauty and diversity in a 10-minute film featuring spectacular imagery, in-theater effects and an original musical score from Academy Award-winning® composer Steven Price.

“Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along” in the France pavilion is directed and produced by Don Hahn, producer of the animated and live-action “Beauty and the Beast” films, and invites guests to participate in a twist on a tale as old as time. It also features narration from Angela Lansbury, who played Mrs. Potts in the original film. The new sing-along will run in rotation with “Impressions de France,” which will receive an upgrade to 4K projection.

“Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360” in the Canada pavilion is an update to the previous “O Canada!” film with new scenes, a new musical score by Canadian composer Andrew Lockington and new narration by award-winning actors Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy.

Space 220 Restaurant will be debuting this winter!  Space 220 is a new table-service restaurant at Epcot that will be located next to Mission: SPACE. When guests enter the restaurant, they will step into a special space elevator that will take everyone 220 miles above the earth’s surface and offer incredible celestial views.

Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue will be the new fast-casual restaurant that’ll open this winter at The American Adventure in Epcot serving classic barbecue and home-style craft brews. Regal Eagle will celebrate American backyard barbecue with flavors from different regions around the United States. This is a restaurant that I’m really looking forward to eating at.  This is a restaurant that many people have longed for for some time.

Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant will be coming to Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2020 and invites guests to a rootin’, tootin’ rodeo right in Andy’s backyard! This immersive restaurant will provide yet another unique, fun, family-friendly dining experience that could only be had in Toy Story Land.

 

 

Disney Releases Statement Regarding Disney Skyliner Closure

Yesterday Disney finally issued a statement regarding the “malfunction” that occurred last week on October 5th.

In the statement Disney states….

Following a complete review with the manufacturer, we’ve made adjustments to our processes and training, and we are improving how we communicate with guests during their flight with Disney Skyliner. We again offer our deepest apologies to the guests impacted by the malfunction that resulted in extended operating delays on Oct. 5.

Beginning today (October 15), guests may travel aboard Disney Skyliner from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. However, system updates later this week will result in the following modified operating hours for Oct. 16-18:

Oct. 16: The Disney Hollywood Studios line will be closed while the other two lines will be available from 1 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Oct. 17-18: All lines will be open from 1 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Similar to ski lift systems, Disney Skyliner may slow or come to some stops during the ride, particularly when we need to accommodate guests who require additional time to load their cabin. We want to assure you that the comfort of every guest is important to us.

As a reminder, Disney Skyliner connects Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios to four Disney resort hotels: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort (and the forthcoming Disney’s Riviera Resort, a Disney Vacation Club resort set to open Dec. 16, 2019).

We greatly appreciate your ongoing patience and understanding, and we look forward to welcoming you back aboard Disney Skyliner.

Without saying so, it sounds like it to me that they’re blaming this on “Cast Member Error” related to either training or their loading/unloading procedure….or both.

While it’s great to finally see some sort of an official statement, the fact that it took ten days from the date of the incident to get anything other than a brief statement indicating that there was a “malfunction” I find alarming and bad guest relations.

It’s quite apparent to me, at least, that whatever testing they conducted, and more specifically the “soft opening” with actual guests was inadequate.  Let’s hope Disney has learned their lesson from this.  I understand that accidents happen, but it’s how a company handles the communication with customers, or in Disney’s case guests, is crucial.  I don’t think anyone can commend Disney on how this was “handled.”

Disney Skyliner Remains Closed

The Disney Skyliner remains closed after a collision of a few of the gondolas in the Riviera Resort station Saturday night. Reedy Creek Emergency services used scissor lifts to evacuate stranded guests.  Some guests were posting on Twitter that they had been stranded up to three hours.

Other than a single statement Disney, they’ve been pretty mum on what happened and when the Skyliner will resume operation.

In a statement Disney stated,

“One of the three Disney Skyliner routes experienced an unexpected downtime Saturday evening. As a result, the Skyliner will be closed while we look into the details surrounding this downtime. We apologize for this situation, and we are working with each guest individually regarding impacts to their visit with us.”

According to reports, Cast Members at the Epcot station have said that they expect the Skyliner to be closed through at least Tuesday, although no decision on a reopening date has yet been made at this time.

Disney is suggesting that guests use other modes of transport, including the walkway, Friendship boats and busses.

There are things about this all that are bothering me about all of this.

While I appreciate that Disney is investigating this and trying to figure out what happened and insuring that it’s fixed and doesn’t happen again, Disney’s statement comes off…at least to me…that this isn’t as big of a deal as it really appears to be…almost like, “No Biggie.” Disney terms this collision as a “malfunction” and nothing more.

It needs to be stated that I have not ridden the Skyliner yet.  I’ve only seen the videos of people riding it.  So I have no first-hand experience with it.

Whether this was Cast Member error or a serious malfunction of the system, what bothers me most about this is that they Disney Skyliner system had not been running “live” even a week when they happened.  Yes…less than a week!  Nothing is failure proof….but how does something like this happen this soon into its implementation.

Now comes up the topic of testing.  Unless something broke….how was this not picked up during the months of testing?

Disney also assured guests that in the event of a problem that they had procedures in place to evacuate guests in a timely manner.  I’m sorry…but nearly three hours is not “in a timely manner,”  it just isn’t.

While a lot of the Disney fandom is still excited about the Disney Skyliner, Disney is going to have to do some fancy spinning and public relations in order to assure guests, especially guests who were hesitant to begin with that the system is safe and in the event that something happens that they won’t be stranded for hours.

 

Pictures, Videos and More Pictures…Oh My!

I first of all would like to apologize for not posting anything for a few months, but things have been a little hectic around here.  I was away at the D23 Expo in late August and visited the Disneyland Resort on that trip.  Immediately after I got home we had to take my daughter back to college.  Along with this…since I don’t due rumors and try to stay away from speculation the Disney news cycle kind of dried up just prior to the Expo.

When I go to the Disney parks….I take pictures and videos….a LOT of pictures.  It takes me a while to process all of these images and videos…because there are a lot and because processing the images around my job that pays the bills and allows us to eat.  I know….I need to re-evaluate my priorities…right?

Anyhow….I promise to get back into the swing of things and start posting again…very soon.

In the mean time, here are links to a collection of images and videos that I took while at Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and the D23 Expo 2019.  Enjoy!

Videos

Disneyland Resort/D23 Expo in Black & White

Disneyland Resort

D23 Expo 2019

 

Walt Disney World Announces Magic Kingdom Attractions Getting New Holiday Twists for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

What is better than Christmas in July?  Christmas in July news for Walt Disney World!

For the first time during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, some Magic Kingdom attractions will be receiving special enhancements just for the holidays!

In Tomorrowland, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor will have a new show as the crew is putting some “Ha Ha Ha” in their “Ho Ho Ho” into the show.  

When guests get behind the wheel at the Tomorrowland Speedway, they’ll find that they will be cruising a festive freeway filled with thousands of lights and stylized décor.  Space Mountain launches will be launching guests on a trippy jaunt through the cosmos, filled with dazzling lighting and high-energy holiday tunes.

The Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland becomes a wild and wacky Christmas party, as guests spin their teacups to one of four new holiday combos of lights and music.

Also happening will be the brand new “Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks” show.  Of course there will be plenty of returning favorites like “A Frozen Holiday Wish,” “Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration,” “A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas,” Club Tinsel, the Disney Junior Jingle Jam and “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade,” not to mention the complimentary treats and a magical snowfall on Main Street, U.S.A.