Disney World News: Starbucks at Epcot, Airport Transport Sales Suspended, More Normalcy

We’re back with another Walt Disney World news roundup, wrapping up the peak week of Spring Break 2022! This one covers the latest extensions to park hours, more on Connections Cafe at Epcot, return of another hard ticket event, suspension of airport transportation sales, and more returning to normal in the parks & resorts.

As usual, we’ll start with the latest release of new and modified operating schedules. All four theme parks have had hours for another week added to DisneyWorld.com’s park hours, and the current calendar now runs through May 29, 2022. Here are the hours for the newly-added dates in the lead-up to summer season in May 2022:

  • Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 10 pm
  • Epcot: 10 am to 9 pm
  • Hollywood Studios: 9 am to 9 pm
  • Animal Kingdom: 9 am to 7 pm
  • Disney Springs: 10 am to 11 pm (11:30 pm on Fridays & Saturdays)

As always, these are boilerplate hours that are simply a placeholder that’s subject to change if or when internal forecasts show higher attendance at Walt Disney World. (For example, several hours per day have been added to mornings and evenings for the current weeks around spring break.) Nevertheless, it’s good to see that Magic Kingdom’s “standard” closing time is moving to 10 pm starting May 16, as 9 pm is simply too early for Walt Disney World’s most popular park.

In addition to these boilerplate hours for May 2022, there are also extensions to park hours from now through April 9, 2022. These are more or less the same extensions that’ve been occurring since the start of spring break season. Magic Kingdom has had its closing extended until 11 pm on many of those dates (from 9 pm), with Extended Hours until 1 am on select dates.

For its part, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is now opening at 8 am on some mornings and 8:30 am on others, and Animal Kingdom is now operating from 7:30 am until 8:30 pm. Epcot now opens at 8:30 am daily instead of 10 am through then, which is relatively unprecedented. Given that Easter isn’t until the following weekend, it’s safe to assume all of these same extensions will soon be made through at least April 17, 2022. What happens after that is the big wildcard–we’re hoping to see crowds let up to some degree, but that may not happen.

One potential red flag is that Disney Park Pass availability is already limited on April 19, 2022. Both Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are currently unavailable. This seems like something of an anomaly, given that the calendar is all-green for April 12-18, 2022.

The week leading up to Easter is usually busier than the one after the holiday, and it’s also pretty rare for random weekdays to book up one full month in advance. Either that week is also going to be busy and other dates around it will soon follow suit in booking up, or there’s some random error with that particular date and it’ll go back to being green soon. Either way, it’s worth booking your park reservations sooner rather than later to hedge your bets if visiting Walt Disney World in the next month-plus.

Next, Walt Disney Imagineering has shared some new details about Connections Cafe & Eatery opening Spring 2022 in World Celebration at Epcot. The latest update features a new piece of concept art offering another look inside the soon-to-open counter service restaurant from another angle.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have even realized this was new concept art if it wasn’t labeled as such. Just as boring and bland as the previous piece, but now from a different perspective. Electric Umbrella’s aesthetic was definitely dated and in need of an overhaul, but at least it had theme and personality. Connections Cafe looks like it would fit right at any mixed-used urban development. (In other words, a perfect thematic fit for the new tower at the Polynesian!)

Additionally, the company has officially confirmed that Epcot’s new Starbucks will be located inside Connections Cafe & Eatery. This has been pretty well unofficially assumed for the last couple of years, but with radio silence from Walt Disney World about the subject even a month or so ahead of the counter service restaurant’s opening, we were beginning to wonder if that was bad info.

It’s safe to assume that the current Starbucks (Traveler’s Cafe) near Honey Bee-stro (near the entrance to World Showcase) will close when Connections Cafe opens. No official word on that yet, but it’s unlikely Epcot will have two Starbucks locations.

Here’s hoping the menu for Connections Cafe is more inspired than its interior design. It’ll have to be pretty good to compete with Epcot Sunshine Griddle and Farmers Feast, the nearby food booths that are both top tier.

Next, a positive development. It’s being reported via multiple sources on social media that the siren, flashing emergency light, and loud announcement have all returned to Beaches & Cream when the Kitchen Sink Ice Cream Sundae is delivered to a table. This has been absent since Beaches & Cream reopened in June 2020, and made for a quieter–but also less amusing–experience at Beaches & Cream.

We are all for the ruckus returning. When the reimagined Beaches & Cream reopened, one of our biggest complaints was the loss of personality–the Kitchen Sink fanfare might be loud and over-the-top, but no one is going to Beaches & Cream expecting a quiet, romantic dinner. It’s good to see some of the spunkiness restored. Unfortunately, I cannot independently confirm with 100% certainty that the Kitchen Sink celebration is back (those social media videos could be deepfakes). I guess I’ll have to convince Sarah that we need to make an ADR and go order the Kitchen Sink again…for research!

During the first episode of the planDisney podcast, the hosts dropped the news that H2O Glow Nights would be returning to Typhoon Lagoon in 2022. That’s literally all they announced–nothing about dates, details, tickets, or anything else. It was a simple one-line tease with a ‘stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for more information soon.’

We are not particularly excited about H2O Glow Nights (although Typhoon Lagoon in the evening is fantastic), but we are interested in the implications for other events. Between this and the recent return of Moonlight Magic (speaking of which, didn’t hear great things about the first night at Epcot!), it seems like a summer After Hours event is within the realm of possibilities.

The bigger wildcard is what happens with the Halloween and Christmas events. As we’ve said before, we could see this going either way–the full Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party could make their triumphant returns, or the holiday After Hours events could come back for another year.

It really all depends on what Walt Disney World is expecting for crowds from October through December. The After Hours events have later start times, allow for Magic Kingdom’s regular fireworks to be shown, and don’t screw with attendance dynamics nearly as much. Regardless of what it’s called, expect the Halloween event to get a stage show and Boo to You Parade, minus some performers.

In some odd news, the Walt Disney Travel Company reported that it is suspending new bookings for private ground transportation to and from Walt Disney World resorts and Good Neighbor Hotels. This Walt Disney World vacation package add-on (which just started less than 2 months ago!) will be unavailable until further notice.

According to the company, this is “due to unforeseen circumstances” and some existing private ground transportation reservations may be impacted–meaning that they will be cancelled. Affected guests and/or their travel agents will receive a phone call if their reservation has been cancelled. In that event, guests will be responsible for booking alternative transportation. Walt Disney World advises that options include taxis or rideshare services.

We don’t really know what to make of this. Don’t get too excited or start reading between the lines that this means the company has rethought its decision on Disney’s Magical Express or Minnie Vans. While those would be good ideas, that’s probably not what is happening. (At least with DME. Minnie Vans are another story.)

The explanation here is probably far less exciting and interesting.

As one resort option goes, another returns. We’ve been following the “Modified Mousekeeping” saga in What’s Up With Housekeeping at Walt Disney World? and recently shared that Deluxe Resorts had returned to their normal, pre-closure schedules at the start of this month.

Tomorrow, some Deluxe Villas will follow suit. Disney’s Riviera Resort, Old Key West Resort, and Saratoga Springs Resort will soon be tending to guest rooms more frequently, as the original cleaning schedule will be officially restored at these resorts on March 20, 2022. Note that this applies to cash bookings and not reservations made with DVC points.

Finally, Walt Disney World has started to slowly remove plexiglass barriers from various locations around the parks and resorts, including at checkout locations in gift shops and interpersonal interaction areas, like restaurant host stands. That’s right–no more leaning around a giant piece of plexiglass to hear what a Cast Member is trying to say.

This is probably a much bigger deal to me than it is to any of you, as the plexiglass has irritated me to no end. I’ve come to realize that I’m slightly hard of hearing and unknowingly rely on reading lips, so these barriers have resulted in “I’m sorry, could you please repeat that” becoming one of my most-used phrases in the last couple of years.

On top of that, Walt Disney World has been much slower to remove all of the pointless plexiglass (the ones mentioned above don’t necessarily qualify as that) in queues and elsewhere that were health safety theater all along. Disneyland did this all virtually overnight last June 14. Walt Disney World began removing these dividers last May…and just sort of stopped later in the summer. Last I saw, there were still barriers in the outdoor FriendShip boat queues outside International Gateway, among many other locations.

In case you missed it, Walt Disney World and Disneyland both dropped indoor mask rules last month. Earlier this week, Walt Disney World further relaxed transportation mask rules for the Skyliner gondola system and the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Batuu transport. I’m still not sure how they managed to do this given the DOT/TSA order extending the transportation face mask mandate for conveyances until at least April 18, 2022. I guess Walt Disney World found an exemption for the Skyliner and Batuu bus?

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think about all this Walt Disney World news? Pleased to see plexiglass barriers coming down, or were you a fan of them? Thoughts on the company already suspending third party airport transportation sales after less than 2 months? Expectations for crowd levels the week after Easter? Excited for Connections Cafe & Eatery? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? 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!

41 Responses to “Disney World News: Starbucks at Epcot, Airport Transport Sales Suspended, More Normalcy”
  1. erin March 23, 2022
  2. Chris March 21, 2022
  3. Garry Wallis March 21, 2022

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