We attended Disney’s Passholder preview on July 9th at the Magic Kingdom. We wanted to get a good idea of how things might be at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on July 15th when Galaxy’s Edge reopens. Florida’s COVID19 numbers have been on the rise and with Disney finally reopening we wanted to see how they were responding. Here is are the top 5 things to know about Disney’s reopening.
1. Safety is Built to Grow
While walking around the Magic Kingdom we noticed that Disney is thinking ahead. Attractions like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train have queues set up to scale. Right now the Magic Kingdom is operating at limited capacity. Guests have to book reservations ahead of their visit. Disney is playing the long game. All of the markers for social distancing do not appear to be temporary. In our opinion, Disney will be using them for some time.
But as the COVID19 situation gets better in Florida, Disney will slowly increase its daily capacity which may create longer lines for popular attractions. Longer lines means that the queue will have to extend further from the ride entrance. Disney is keeping social distancing in mind and has placed markers on the ground 6 feet apart for all attractions. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train has a queue that can wrap around the mountain if crowds required it.
In our opinion, a similar set-up should be in place for the Galaxy’s Edge attractions. The attractions in Galaxy’s Edge have already experienced large crowds since the land is relatively new. Disney has policies and procedures in place that seemed to work at the time which may have to be tweaked due to social distancing precautions. We think based on what we have seen at the Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs that social distancing markers will be in place well outside of the main queues even if they are not used right away. We should see signs posted and a ton of hand sanitizer stations should be available.
2. Safety is Taken Seriously
Disney has everyone safety in mind with their reopening plan. We noticed a few keys things that show they are not taking the COVID19 situation lightly.
Cast Members Not Always in Character
Disney is known for being an immersive theme park. Everything they typically do is themed and cast members play a part. We noticed yesterday that due to the Pandemic, social distancing, and no preshows for attractions cast members do not play it up as much. We visited the Haunted Mansion which is one of our favorite rides at the Magic Kingdom. The cast members who work in that area usually are in character. They usually play up their roles and embrace the darker feel of the attraction.
Yesterday because the stretching room preshow was taken out of the experience due to having too many people in an enclosed space we lost some of that. The hosts and hostesses didn’t have that intimate interaction with guests.
Required Mask Policy
Disney has said from the beginning that masks would be a requirement to visit their theme parks but we didn’t know if guests would follow the policy or if cast members would actually enforce the policy. Yesterday we didn’t see anyone without a mask or some other kind of face covering. This included guests and cast members. No one was complaining and everyone we saw was having fun. We wore masks that are sold by Disney. Their masks are lightweight and very comfortable. We wore them all-day had had no issues due to discomfort or the weather.
Social Distancing Being Enforced
Social Distancing Markers
Disney is taking social distancing very seriously. The markers are placed in the queues and cast members are enforcing that people use them. We saw a few instances where a group of people just weren’t paying attention in line and either didn’t move up to the next marker or moved too quickly. Cast members are stationed in the different parts of queues for more popular attractions to make sure people are following the markers.
We also saw a virtual queue being used at the Splash Mountain store. Disney recently announced that they will soon be re-theming the attraction after The Princess and the Frog causing a surge in merchandise sales. So in order to keep crowds under control and prevent a long line a virtual queue was put in place. A cast member takes you information and inputs it in an iPad. When it is your parties’ turn to enter the store you receive a text message. We have seen Disney do this at Disney Springs at The World of Disney store. We suspect that if its needed Disney has a plan in place to implement a virtual queue for other stores.
Quick Service Food Locations
All quick service food locations are not available. Yesterday at the Magic Kingdom, restaurants that had low roofs or small spaces were not available to guests. The quick-service options were limited and a mobile order was necessary to order food. Cast members will not even let you in the restaurant until you have confirmation that your order is ready. You are able to eat inside the restaurants but tables are limited due to social distancing.
Disney is also requiring guests to choose an arrival window of time on the My Disney Experience app to visit quick-service restaurants. When we were there only a few quick-service options were available Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, Pinocchio Village Haus, and Peco’s Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe.
What Does This Mean for Galaxy’s Edge?
Galaxy’s Edge does not open up until July 15th. So we do not know what the exact details will be for the reopening of the Star Wars themed land. But based on what we have seen at Disney Springs and now at the Magic Kingdom, we believe we will see a lot of social distancing markers that may extend outside the main queues, signs posted about how to remain safe, a ton of hand sanitizer stations, and virtual queues for stores like Dok-Ondars Den of Antiquities.
We know we will see cast members wearing masks but we aren’t sure if they will be themed to the land or not. We also don’t know if cast members can break character for a minute if they are asked about COVID19 since that doesn’t exist in the Star Wars Universe.
Quick-service food locations like Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo will most likely be mobile order only and guests will not be able to gain entry unless your order is ready. We also might not see retail locations like the Resistance Supply open because of it being an open-air kiosk. Many of those were closed at the Magic Kingdom.
3. Everything is a Work in Progress
In our opinion, Disney is doing everything they can to make the reopening as magical as possible. Everything at this point is a work in progress. A lot of policies and procedures have been put in place and now is the time to see if they are working or if they need to be tweaked.
One thing we noticed at the Magic Kingdom was that ride vehicles are being cleaned in between uses. Which is great but it can hold up the line. It was not that bad yesterday when we experienced it on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain. But we can see how that might not scale if the park was busier.
Snack Options are Limited
When we were walking around yesterday we noticed that a lot of snack carts and eateries were closed. We are not sure if it was just like that because it was the annual passholder event or if it will be different when the parks are open to the public. There were not a lot of places to get snacks, drinks, or a quick bite. Hopefully, as Disney figures out ways to provide safe options for guests we will see more locations open up.
How Will This Work in Galaxy’s Edge?
Galaxy’s Edge attractions may have longer lines due to ride cleaning. At the Magic Kingdom, this policy did hold up the line a little but didn’t really impact our overall experience. We suspect that Smuggler’s Run and Rise of the Resistance will be cleaned in between uses. Cast members at the Magic Kingdom seemed to get this done rather quickly.
There are not a ton of snack options in Galaxy’s Edge. We already know that the Marketplace will not be open so that Kat Saka’s Kettle will not be open. All of the other restaurants are listed as being open. Oga’s Catina will be open but the experience will be modified.
4. It’s Not the Full Experience but it Feels Normal
If you haven’t been to Walt Disney World lately your experience could be very different than in the past. The magic is still there but some of it is missing. Attractions that have preshow elements have had the preshows removed. We went on the Haunted Mansion and the entire bit with the stretching room has been taken out of the experience. Guests still walk into the room but its already fully extended. Guests simply walk through the room and straight to the loading area with the ride vehicles.
We suspect that when Galaxy’s Edge opens a similar experience will happen with the attractions if they are operational. Smuggler’s Run has a few elements that we don’t see happening. Guests are brought into a room with an animatronic Hondo Ohnaka right before they are placed in the line for boarding. We suspect that preshow will be eliminated and it will become a walkthrough. The line afterward should have social distancing markers and only allow a few groups at a time. We are not sure how they will handle the Millennium Falcon lounge area that guests enter before they get on the ride.
Disney has stated that Rise of the Resistance will be operational. Rise will use a virtual queue system like it did before the park shut down. The difference is that set times are given for guests to try and get a boarding group (10am, 1pm, and 4pm) so there is no need to get to the park early. All the boarding groups will go through the My Disney Experience app. We suspect that there will be social distancing markers, plexiglass dividers, and hand sanitizer stations as COVID19 precautions.
The experience isn’t the same but as a guest, it felt normal. Some of it might have been because we have been trained over the past few months to wear masks and distance ourselves from others so none of that seemed weird. I was surprised that so many stores and snack carts and eateries were closed. Hopefully, as conditions improve more and more of the store and food options can open up with precautions in place. At the Magic Kingdom, all the attractions were open.
5. Less Magic is more Magical
Some of the stand out experiences missing from the day were character meet and greets, parades, fireworks. We did see a few characters at a distance, Jack Sparrow and the Evil Step Sisters from Cinderella. Jack Sparrow was on the small stage across from Pirates of the Caribbean. He did his little performance and then went backstage. When we saw the Evil Stepsisters they were on the back balcony of Cinderella’s Castle. They were wearing microphones and interacted with the crowd.
The big Disney parades have been taken out of the park experience. Disney does not want large crowds gathering to watch parades. So they figured out a workaround. At random times during the day, guests hear music coming through speakers and shortly after will spot a one float mini-parade with dancers. On the float are a variety of different characters. We spotted a Mickey and Friends, Disney Princesses, and Goofy floats. The floats go along the main parade route giving guests a chance to see some of their favorite Disney characters.
The fireworks have also been removed from the parks. We even show that in the entrance tunnel to the Magic Kingdom the poster that highlighted the fireworks show was removed from the wall. Because social distancing is going to be in effect for the unforeseeable future we don’t expect the fireworks show at the parks to return for some time.
Even though elements of the park’s magic are missing the park as a whole is still magical. We had one of the best Disney days we have had in a while. Don’t get me wrong we did miss some of the whimsical fun that the park generally brings but somehow knowing that Disney was trying that hard to keep everyone safe made it seem more magical.