From hotels and resorts to flights and cruises, we’re expecting a lot of new procedures to be set forth across the travel industry, and theme parks will likely experience the most change.
On May 11, Shanghai Disneyland became the first major theme park to reopen with modified operations. Guests visiting that Disney resort must purchase tickets in advance as occupancy is now limited to 24,000 people; wear face masks; have their temperatures taken upon arrival (those warmer than 99.3ºF will be denied entry); and are required to maintain six feet of social distancing throughout the park. Expect even more frequent sanitization and disinfecting of touch points, too. Disney is using its findings from Shanghai to help in creating guidelines for the rest of its resorts worldwide. Six Flags has announced that when its parks reopen, visitors will have to make advance reservations and prepay for parking spaces.
Orlando, the theme park capital of the world, is slowly getting its attractions back online.
On May 14, the resort's shopping, dining, and entertainment district, CityWalk, was the first area on property to reopen. On May 22, the resort officially announced a government-approved plan to reopen on June 5. Capacity will be limited, though an attendance cap has not been made public, and admittance will be on a first-come-first-served basis with no reservations required. Park hours will be limited for the time being: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for its Volcano Bay water park, and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for CityWalk.
Visitors will be met with plenty of changes – the most visible being increased signage throughout the resort indicating social distancing and health reminders. Those making the trip must wear face masks, get their temperatures checked – you won’t be admitted if yours is higher than 100.4ºF – and adhere to six feet of social distancing (certain areas will have floor markings indicating where you should stand).
As for attractions, which are high-touch areas, there will be a virtual queue for most, and single-rider lines will be shuttered (you will not be separated from your party). On the dining front, expect mobile ordering, the ability to use contactless payments, temporary menus at sit-down restaurants, and the elimination of buffets and self-serve options. Universal's onsite resorts remain closed.
Disney Springs began its phased reopening on May 20, debuting plenty of signage for social distancing cues and health advisories. Its reopening was led by shops and restaurants like Uniqlo, Basin, Vera Bradley, Chicken Guy, Frontera Cocina, Planet Hollywood, The Polite Pig, Wine Bar George, and STK Orlando, just to name a few.
World of Disney and Marketplace Co-Op became the first Disney-owned stores to open on May 27. D-Luxe Burger is also open, but requires mobile ordering. Disney Springs guests must also wear face masks and have temperatures taken, and Disney’s encouraging the use of cashless payment options.
On May 30, Walt Disney World's reopening plans were approved by the Florida government. The reopening will occur in phases, with Disney Vacation Club resorts and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort opening on June 22, followed by Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11. Epcot and Hollywood Studios will follow suit on July 15.
There will be limits on theme park attendance, which will require guests to make advance reservations via a new system (Disney did not provide further details on this). Currently, future ticket sales and hotel reservations have been paused, though annual passholders and those with existing tickets will be able to make park reservation requests; members of the Disney Vacation Club timeshare program may continue to make reservations. New tickets and hotel reservations will open after a certain period of time. Those with valid theme park admission and hotel reservations will get priority access; those with only hotel reservations and no tickets will be able to make their reservation requests with the general public.
Safety measures include requiring guests to wear face masks and have their temperatures taken. There will be fewer touch points between them and cast members, frequent reminders to wash and sanitize hands, signs for social distancing, and recommended cashless transactions. Aside from the parks themselves, capacity will be reduced at restaurants, stores, attractions, and transportation options. For the time being, large-gathering events like parades and firework shows will be suspended, as will be character meet-and-greets. More information on the resort's new procedures can be found here.
Check back here for more developments as this post will be updated with any news from the Orlando theme parks.