It’s happening! Theme parks across the nation are starting to open their gates for guests to enjoy once again. This past week, Universal Orlando theme parks reopened with a surprisingly well-received set of guidelines and safety procedures. There are rumors swirling around that Disneyland is nearly ready for a big announcement of their own. We’ll take a good look at that rumor, and also at other things happening in the Wonderful World of Disney this past week. Let’s get this show on the road!
It’s been a wild ride being a theme park fan during these unprecedented times. Many theme park fans and experts alike speculated that theme parks would be closed through the end of summer at the earliest, or at least until there was a viable therapeutic available. That certainly was a hopeful aspiration at the time, but the timeline for the reopening of theme parks has been significantly sped up as some parks across the nation have already reopened to the general public. This past week, we heard some rumors that Disneyland is preparing to make an official announcement regarding a reopening date. Here’s what we know so far.
Governor Newsom announced on June 5 that California will be entering Stage 3 of the state’s 4-Stage reopening plan starting June 12. Mark Ghaly, California’s top health official, announced new guidance about the reopening of higher-risk businesses like gyms, bars, schools and day-camps. According to the new guidelines, these businesses can open as soon as June 12. Although we’re still technically in late-Stage 2 through the next few days, we’re getting closer and closer to approaching the next stage when theme parks can reopen! With that said, there are still some businesses that will not be opening right at the start of Stage 3, namely theme parks. I’m sure we’ll be getting more info about what it means to be in Stage 3 later this week, and hopefully a plan for when theme parks can begin reopening.
With Stage 3 around the corner, signs are pointing towards a mid-July Disneyland reopening. This speculation comes directly from some of the Cast Members who have returned to employment after a two-month furlough. Last week, we reported that reservations for the Disneyland Resort hotels were available starting July 16 and David Koenig hypothesizes that an official reopening date of July 17 would be a special and ceremonious way to celebrate the Resort’s 65th anniversary.
This week Disneyland unions met with park officials, but the only announcement was that there was still no definitive information about a tentative return-to-work date. That said, it could potentially open as soon as 30 days from an initial reopening announcement. Logistically, it will take Disneyland a much shorter time to prepare for reopening compared to Walt Disney World. Disneyland is significantly smaller, employs fewer workers, is geared towards a local audience and employs primarily locals. It’s possible that an official statement of Disneyland’s reopening could be released very soon. For a more detailed look at this rumor, be sure to check out the article below:
If these rumors are true, it’s possible that Disneyland could institute a change to its booking process similar to Walt Disney World. After the announcement of WDW’s opening, all reservations prior to the opening of the resort’s hotels were canceled, and canceled reservations were given priority for rebooking. For the time being, Disneyland is taking hotel reservations across all three of its properties. If you’re hoping to be one of the first people to visit Disneyland on its speculated reopening on July 17 or beyond, you’ll want to make a hotel reservation as soon as possible! Our travel partners at Get Away Today can simplify that process for you by offering the most flexible Disney travel options and guaranteed low rates. Disneyland Booking Options with Guaranteed Best Pricing (HERE)
This week, we took a trip to see what’s been happening at the Disneyland Resort. Construction crews continue working on the upcoming Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway in ToonTown. We’re hoping to have some new aerial photos to share with you soon as well (check back next week for those).
The rest of the resort area remains empty. It’s still so strange to not see anyone around… Although the current stage of California’s reopening plan allows for all retail stores to reopen, there has still been no update to when Downtown Disney will be open again. Further, Orange County now allows all restaurants to open for indoor dining as well. With malls and most shops and restaurants now opening in the Orange County area around Disneyland, we aren’t sure what’s holding Disney back.
Do I spy a giant Dole Whip? Looks like Disney is preparing to plus the parks with some photo props when they reopen.
Reopening of Universal Orlando
The biggest news this week comes from a non-Disney property: the grand reopening of Universal Orlando. As the first major theme park resort to fully open, it was an opportunity to experience how large theme parks will operate in current times. Dusty Sage took a last-minute trip out to Orlando to cover the reopening first-hand for our readers. Universal Orlando spent the majority of last week testing its new safety measures in a staff preview on June 1st and 2nd, and a passholder preview on the 3rd and 4th. Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay officially opened to the public on the 5th.
Universal Orlando implemented a wide array of new safety practices in the parks in order to make it a safer environment in the midst of a worldwide health crisis. To our surprise, virtually all of the new guidelines were followed by both employees and guests. The most noticeable operational differences are the addition of markers on the ground to encourage social distancing and the requirement of wearing a face covering for both guests and employees. High traffic areas were being continuously cleaned, signage was posted EVERYWHERE advising guests to keep their physical distance and frequently wash hands, and staff members throughout the parks gently reminded guests to follow Universal’s safety guidelines.
Additionally, there have been some updates to Universal’s entertainment offerings that will likely carry over to its competitors. For the time being, parades, nighttime spectaculars, playgrounds, and some indoor shows have been canceled in an effort to keep people from congregating in large groups. Instead, there are some altered entertainment experiences to make up for it. There were far more characters than anticipated out and about. Plus, there were strategically placed parade floats and stages for characters to use as alternatives to the closeup meet and greets of old. Many of the characters were wearing face masks to normalize the idea of wearing face coverings and allowed characters to walk around.
When Dusty was planning his last-second trip to Orlando, he had a lot of concerns. On one hand, since it’s a major theme park he felt that he owed our readers the coverage. But on the other hand, he’s been very cautious about practicing self-quarantining and social distancing for the last three months. Visiting a theme park (requiring air travel no less) meant potentially coming into contact with large groups of people. HOWEVER, after his trip to Universal and seeing how proactive the staff were about making sure other staff and guests were following guidelines he actually felt like it was a safer environment than our local grocery store. There were certainly more precautions and better messaging involved. This has given us the confidence to book a return trip for July to be at the opening of Walt Disney World.
While Dusty was at Universal Orlando, he did tours of all three of the parks at the resort. To see the videos of Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure (they’re personal tours of the parks and over an hour-long each!), and to read his thoughts on the reopening, check out the article below.
We’ve included his visit to Volcano Bay, the water park on the property, here for you to watch. Temperatures were in the 90s in Central Florida this week with massive storms. There was even a tornado spotted in the Orlando area! This video was shot on the stormy day of the tornado, but it was also a good opportunity to visit the park without crowds.
Walt Disney World Updates
After Disney submitted plans to reopen the Walt Disney World theme parks, they left potential guests with LOTS of questions but very little information. It looks like some info is just starting to come out from the Disney folks:
New “Before-You-Go” Info Shared
There are a lot of changes coming to Walt Disney World in the very near future. The initial announcement about some of the big changes included items like canceling current dining reservations and all FastPass+ selections and mentioning a new reservation system. More details about what to expect have been shared to the Disney Travel Center’s website on a special “Returning to a World of Magic” page. Normally, this website is reserved for travel planners, but Disney has encouraged travel agents to share this info with guests who have a WDW trip coming up. As WDW prepares to open July 11 and 15, this website has some interesting insights about what changes are ahead.
Here’s what you can expect:
- Facemasks for guests 2+ years of age.
- Temperature screening required in some locations.
- Some experiences –including theme parks– may be modified or unavailable to allow for physical distancing and limited contact.
- Helpful technology and My Disney Experience app will help make the most of the magic.
- Attendance will be managed through a new reservation system that requires a park reservation and valid admission for the same park on the same date.
- We have not been able to find reliable information about park hopping.
- No new ticket sales. Existing ticket holders & APs will be able to make reservation requests in phases before new tickets are sold. More details to come.
- No new Disney Resort Hotel reservations yet. Existing reservations will be accommodated first. We’ll likely hear about additional access once those guests have been contacted.
- And here’s the shocking one: Disney Resort hotel reservations do NOT guarantee theme park access!
Disney World Cast Members Receive Return-To-Work Notices
WDW Cast Members have been furloughed since April 19 with little word about their future employment at the resort. However, this past week thousands of Cast Members were told to expect to resume their work later this month. According to an update from one of the WDW unions, Local 362, all full-time attractions and custodial personnel will be receiving Return-to-Work notices this month, and a large number of part-time cast members will also be returning. Because cleaning and disinfecting are extremely important right now, it makes sense for all the custodial teams to return.
With that said, WDW is going to look quite different for a while. A significant portion of WDW’s workforce was comprised of Disney College Program participants. In the program, participants learn the roles of Disney Cast Members throughout the theme parks and resort hotels to gain experience for future employment (at Disney or elsewhere) through hands-on interactive learning. However, due to the unexpected shutdown, WDW’s College Program ended abruptly back in March and there are no immediate plans to restart the program. As a result of all the missing College Program and International Program participants, staffing for reopening could be a bit difficult. So, it’s possible that some Cast Members that are being called back to work may need to be moved around to fill in gaps where needed.
Additionally, EPCOT is going to be pretty different upon reopening. The World Showcase pavilions were previously staffed by international operating participants representing their countries (many of whom were there for the College Program). For the time being, the pavilions will be staffed by domestic Cast Members. Hopefully, there will be a way to bring back the operating participants in the near future.
The NBA Season Resumes at Disney World
The coronavirus pandemic caused total shutdowns in numerous industries. Obviously, theme parks were hit hard, but any settings that could draw crowds of people, including all sporting events, were nixed for an indefinite length of time. The National Basketball Association suspended its season back on March 11th, but there are now plans to resume the season next month . . . at Disney World!
July 31st will be the official continuation date of the season and will be held at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. There will be 22 participating teams (16 playoff teams, plus 6 more). The NBA was the first major North American sports league to suspend its season, so having it resume in the coming weeks is something that sports fans are looking forward to. And something ESPN needs to get fresh sports programming back on TV.
We’ve heard rumors that the teams will be staying at Walt Disney World’s Coronado Springs Resort. No word yet on if regular guests will also be able to stay at the hotel. But that would sure be fun.
Disney Donations and Accusations
This week has been monumental for bringing issues of social injustice and racism to the public eye. In a time of extreme unrest, it’s incredible to see so many people banding together to peacefully call for the end of police brutality and systemic racism. There were Black Lives Matter protests in all 50 states and all over the world! Last week, we voiced our support of the movement and mentioned Disney’s statement of support of the Black Lives Matter movement across all of their platforms. This week solidified Disney’s words with a pledge to donate $5 million to social justice nonprofits, starting with a $3 million donation to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Unfortunately, while Disney’s donation is an important step in their effort to support the Black community, there have been some disturbing reports of racism within the parks. This week, a viral post from Cooper Howell, who previously played Hans in Frozen: Live at the Hyperion, detailed the overt racism he experienced while working on the show. The post has been included below; it graphically describes discrimination and sexual harassment at Disney. It is heartbreaking and gutwrenching to read Cooper’s story and see how racism is still active and alive, even within the parks we all love so much.
While Disney does a lot of things right for social justice, there is always room for improvement. The $5 million donation to social justice nonprofits is a good place to start, but the work is clearly not finished when other Cast Members are suffering from similar experiences to Cooper Howell.
A personal note:
As a person of color myself, this has been a very emotional time. I’ve been both encouraged by the countless (mostly) peaceful protests in support of Black Lives Matter, but also increasingly worried that not enough leaders are proposing actual reform to the systemic racism in this country. We must keep hope alive and encourage our representatives to do the right thing and support Black and minority voices . . . and we must make sure that everyone is registered and actually votes! I’ll stop preaching for the moment, but I’m just not ready to give up the soapbox. There’s so much work left to be done! Now is the time for those who haven’t, to step up and evolve!
Summertime at Disneyland – MiceChat Reader Photos
I know I’m not alone in saying that I’ve lost all sense of time in 2020. I can’t believe that we’re already a full week into June. It seems like it was March just yesterday! But with the usual summer season now upon us, we asked our MiceChat Facebook group to share their favorite photos of summertime at Disneyland. The heat, the crowds, the food, the fireworks! We’ve got a lot of photos from our readers that we can’t wait to share with you!
Right about now, high schools from all around Southern California would be celebrating Grad Nite at the Disneyland Resort. While Grad Nite wasn’t feasible this year, we still want to congratulate all the new 2020 graduates!
Thank you to everyone who shared a photo with us this week! We had a great turnout on the MiceChat Facebook group with even more Disneyland summer photos there. These photos have got me craving a sundae from Gibson Girl and/or a treat from Jolly Holiday…
Disney Cruise Line Cancels 2020 Alaska Trips
For the last few months, the prospect of traveling has been very slim. Most airlines have more planes grounded than in the air, and cruises have largely been canceled —and likely will be for a very long time to come. This week, Disney Cruise Line has suspended all new departures from Canada through September 14th. This suspension effectively cancels this year’s Alaskan season. Currently, the available bookings for an Alaskan cruise are for 2021.
Disney currently has canceled all sailings through July 27th, but there could be an announcement coming soon about the status of a DCL itinerary opening or two in the near future.
This and That
A few last things on our camera roll that we want to share.
Knott’s Berry Farm has added tables on Grand Avenue in front of the Chicken-To-Go restaurant in the Marketplace. The street is obviously closed to traffic for now. But it does have us thinking how nice it would be if this were a pedestrian street all the time.
In an announcement today, Knott’s stated that additional stores and restaurants in its California Berry Marketplace will be reopened to the public. As of now, the list of things open at the Marketplace is Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, Starbucks, Peanuts Headquarters, Candy Parlour, Marketplace Emporium, and Virginia’s Gift Shop, in addition to Chicken-To-Go, The Knott’s Berry Market and Bakery that opened last month. On June 12 Cable Car Kitchen and TGI Fridays will reopen to the public, and Build-a-Bear on June 20.
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Beginning today, select locations of Knott’s Berry Farm’s California Marketplace have re-opened to the public. ?️ As a reminder, we ask that guests please follow the implemented health and safety guidelines when visiting. Locations and hours do vary, so be sure to visit our website for more information. Link in bio.
There are new safety measures in effect at Knott’s that include
- All associates and guests must wear a face covering while in Knott’s California Marketplace store locations and restaurants (masks not required while eating)
- Increased availability of hand sanitizer
- Signage posted to aid guests in the proper direction of travel and reminders to practice social distancing
- Guests are encouraged to make purchases with credit or debit cards. If a cash transaction is necessary, a cash tray will be used to avoid the possibility of hand to hand contact
- Limited store capacity of 50%. Queue lines outside of store locations with six-foot markers are present where applicable.
While in Orlando, Dusty noted that the Universal Parks were leaning heavily on happy, whimsical, and funny added experiences to keep guests smiling through their masks. Since parades would cause too much tight crowding, Universal randomly rolled out individual parade units, had the characters wave and dance a bit, and then rolled right backstage. These little unexpected bits of magic were very much appreciated.
Characters were everywhere, but safely away from guests. Though, guests were encouraged to take photos or selfies from a 6′ distance.
Meanwhile, over in Disney Springs (the only thing currently open at Disney World other than a golf course), Disney has taken a more ominous tone. They are using Stormtroopers to shout reminders at guests to keep their distance and wear their masks. While the idea may have seemed clever on paper, the authoritarian tone doesn’t feel appropriate for this moment in time we are living in.
Make Future Magic
Theme parks will reopen, and there’s no better time to lock in low rates on future travel. Special comeback rates are now available at some of your favorite theme park hotels – discounted up to $100 off their regular nightly rates.
Our travel partners at Get Away Today are here to help you with your theme park shutdown concerns and rescheduling plans. We know you’re as uncertain about the future as we are. That’s why Get Away Today is offering the most flexible Disney travel options available:
Price Protection – If a better special comes out after you have booked, you’ll get the better deal.
Peace of Mind – Make hotel changes, reschedule dates, drop nights, change ticket vouchers and more, as many times as you’d like for a small, one-time fee.
Layaway Plan – Lock in your 2020 or 2021 Disneyland Resort vacation for just $175 down. By booking early, you secure your availability and have the flexibility to pay as you go. Make as many interest-free payments as you’d like, whenever you’d like, with final payment due just seven days prior to travel.
Let’s Hear From You
These updates are therapeutic for me. As isolated as I feel at home and away from the activities I love, it really helps to see that there are still things going on which might bring our world back to life at some point. Do you think that Disney will announce a reopening date within the next few days? After seeing videos of the new operational standards for theme parks, do you feel more comfortable going to a theme park once they reopen? What do you think about the NBA resuming their spring season at Walt Disney World? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
A Few Notes From Our Editor
These are extraordinary times in many regards: the upswell in support for racial equality, a worldwide pandemic which has changed the way we live, a burgeoning financial crisis which is starting to force people from their homes. But times like these can also elicit toxic conversations and hurtful rhetoric. We have a note for you and an example of how we are dealing with a mistake of our own below:
Reader Note: MiceChat has zero-tolerance for racism, threats and hostility. Any hateful or bigoted speech in the comments will result in deletion and removal from the conversation. The MiceChat staff will be participating in a cultural sensitivity program to help our authors and support staff better understand the issues and emotions regarding race and equality. We hope to be able to sponsor some of our readers and fellow bloggers as well if they would like to take part in the program. If you haven’t joined our mailing list, please do so to be included in an invitation to expand your knowledge on race and equality issues. MiceChat Newsletter Sign Up HERE
Administrative Note: This week, a member of our social media team misused an offensive trending hashtag on the MiceChat Twitter account. While we believe their use of the tag was inadvertent, it should not have occurred in the first place. The message behind the tag is incompatible with MiceChat’s beliefs and mission. We have since suspended their access to our platforms and are requiring them to complete sensitivity training. Our Twitter will remain inactive while we interview a replacement manager for the account.