It’s time for another Walt Disney World news round-up. We have an update on November park hours, the reopening plans (or lack thereof) for Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, hotel construction, restaurant deals for Magical Dining Month, plus the return of fireworks and a night parade…but not at Walt Disney World.
Let’s start with some bad news. Walt Disney World has updated its calendar with park hours through November 14, 2020. This is the second time in as many weeks that the hours have been updated incrementally, so this is essentially only another week’s worth of hours. Unfortunately, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios all maintain their previously-reduced September and October schedules (see Fall Hours Cut at Walt Disney World).
Last week we wrote this off because November 8, 2020 would’ve been the start of the holiday season at Walt Disney World, including the first night of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. It thus made sense to release hours up until that point, with a “reset” coming thereafter. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and this is starting to get a little concerning…
That makes sense. It’s not just possible–it’s probable–that Christmas will start later than normal. (Maybe Disney will embrace the “turkey before tree” mantra for once?) In which case, longer hours for the holiday season could still be on the horizon. What’s concerning here is that Veterans Day is November 11, and that holiday is notorious for spiking crowds.
While our November 2020 Crowd Calendar for Walt Disney World has been fairly decimated, the general ‘crowd contours‘ remain accurate. Which is to say that the week of Veterans Day will be busier than the week that follows it. Even the first week of November should be busier than the third, despite some events being cancelled or drawing fewer guests.
Not only is this reduced schedule concerning for guests traveling the second week of November, but it suggests these are likely to be the hours for the third week of November as well. It’s possible that Walt Disney World will extend park hours as we near November, but that seems unlikely.
In hotel news, the reopening of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort has been quietly delayed from October 4, 2020 until “sometime next summer.” This is to accommodate some refurbishment work at the hotel (expected to begin in early October 2020), including enhancements to the Great Ceremonial House and guest rooms. The Villas and Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort will remain open during this refurbishment.
Guests who will be impacted by this should be receiving emails shortly indicating that Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is “no longer planned to be open” during their vacation. Additionally, the correspondence will contain info about re-accommodating guests at a different hotel at no additional charge.
Walt Disney World isn’t stating as much, but this is almost certainly being dictated by a lack of demand rather than an urgent desire to accomplish the refurbishment. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Disney push back the reopening dates of other hotels, as well. Above is the message you get right now if trying to book Coronado Springs or Art of Animation Resorts for dates they should be open. (H/t to reader Darlene in the comments.)
While it’s clear that Walt Disney World originally over-estimated pent-up demand among tourists, the current course of action is confounding. Travel right now is a non-starter for many people for a number of reasons, and Disney cannot remedy much of that.
However, discounting remains a viable option for filling hotel rooms. We’re not even talking some massive “fire sale” that could devalue the brand–just basic deals on par with historical norms. It was understandable that Disney didn’t do this initially, wanting to avoid negative PR in “luring” people to Florida. With the state’s case numbers steadily declining, that’s no longer the case.
On top of that, so much remains to be seen between now and Summer 2021. Despite that, it’s starting to feel like Walt Disney World is in some ways writing off the remainder of 2020 and even Spring 2021…which all feels very premature. Time will tell–perhaps Walt Disney World has some savvy strategy here that we simply do not comprehend from the outside looking in.
Also coming next summer is the upcoming addition to the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, which has reached a key construction milestone with the topping off of the project’s top floor. The achievement was honored with the installation of a steel beam on the 14th story.
In addition to that, the new tower has been renamed from “The Cove” to “The Walt Disney World Swan Reserve.” I probably would’ve gone with The Reserve at Walt Disney World Swan Resort,” but that’s just me. Captures the sense of pretension without guests confusing it with a rehabilitation area for waterfowl. (Joking aside, the official new name is definitely better than the Cove.)
The Reserve is scheduled to open in Summer 2021 as a 349-room hotel to complement the iconic Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin’s two original hotels. Once completed, The Walt Disney World Swan Reserve will offer two presidential suites and 149 spacious suites with floor-to-ceiling windows, aimed at families of 6-8 people.
In brighter (suns!) news, Batuu has now been open at Walt Disney World for one year. It somehow simultaneously feels like this debuted an eternity ago and was only yesterday. (Just the latest sign that time has lost all meaning.) It’s truly been a roller coaster year–we still fondly remember our 20-Hour Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Opening Day Experience and the great times last September and October during the sparsely-attended Extra Extra Magic Hours (those were the days!).
While we acknowledge it’s not perfect, we are big fans of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. We’re looking forward to seeing it evolve over the years with new events, entertainment, and tie-ins. Speaking of which, a few noteworthy developments occurred in the last few days on this front.
First, Electronic Arts announced “The Sims 4 Star Wars: Journey to Batuu,” a new pack for the popular life simulation game. Journey to Batuu sends The Sims to Batuu’s Black Spire Outpost, the bustling hub of galactic activity in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Check out the trailer above, which teases some of the pack’s features and highlights, from lightsaber building to appearances from Vi Moradi, Rey, and Kylo Ren. I’ve never played the Sims, but the trailer is interesting and it gives Galaxy’s Edge even more of a “lived in” quality than it has. Oddly enough, I’d like to see some of the ideas from the video game find their way to the real land!
We love Magical Dining Month and usually take advantage of it a few times per year. We normally even do a full post breaking down the menu highlights. However, there’s not many locations or menus that interests us this year. We love Jaleo and always highly recommend it–their 5 course menu looks great!
In some Tokyo Disneyland news that could bode well for Walt Disney World, fireworks and one of the park’s light parades are both returning. Disney Light the Night Fireworks and Nightfall Glow will both perform nightly showings as of September 1.
Fireworks are not so much a “spectacular” at Tokyo Disney Resort, as the pyro appears between the two parks for a few minutes with music but without additional in-park elements. No one stakes out a spot for the brief show, which does not result in crowds anywhere and is often cancelled due to sea breezes. (We’ve gone entire trips without seeing it.)
Nightfall Glow is the more noteworthy returning entertainment. This is Tokyo Disneyland’s “backup” nighttime parade (that’s right, they have two night parades to Walt Disney World’s zero) presented on rainy evenings. It’s a shorter parade performed in place of the blockbuster Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights.
With Paris, Shanghai, and Tokyo all scaling up their entertainment offerings, Walt Disney World should follow suit and do the same by the holiday season. What could return in the near-term is unclear–projection shows, more elaborate cavalcades, fireworks at EPCOT, and a return of outdoor stage shows are all plausible candidates.
This is not to say any or all of those things will return; at some point it’s going to be less about safety and more about saving money. Unfortunately, Walt Disney World has already gone the cost-cutting route a couple of times–but if the company wants to see business bounce back, they’ll start trying to regain a sense of normalcy by restoring some of what’s been lost.
What do you think of this Walt Disney World news? Concerned about the November 2020 park hours? Hopeful that Tokyo Disneyland bringing back fireworks and a night parade bodes well for Walt Disney World…or think it’s a matter of money at this point? Thoughts on the Poly’s delayed reopening? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!