Disney World Reopening Update: More Cancellations & June Opening for Universal!
In this Walt Disney World reopening update, we’ll cover the latest meeting by the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force (which includes a bombshell from Universal Orlando), what came from VP Pence’s meeting with Florida’s hospitality and tourism leaders, and more. It’s been a busy couple of days, so let’s get started!
This was the first meeting of the task force since Governor Ron DeSantis held his press conference last week announcing that Florida would enter “Full Phase 1” of reopening the state’s economy. At that time, DeSantis also indicated that theme parks in Florida could submit their detailed reopening plans (which would require a target opening date) for review and approval.
In the lead-up to today’s Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force meeting, a few Orlando journalists tweeted reports that Walt Disney World, Universal, and SeaWorld would all be presenting their plans, including proposed reopening dates. This was quickly picked up by CNBC and immediately caused a spike in share prices of the Walt Disney Company’s stock. A rep for Disney corrected this–but then further reports emerged that maybe they’d be presenting…
Suffice to say, yesterday was a whirlwind day. In addition to this roller coaster of reveals and walk-backs about whether Walt Disney World would present its target opening date and plans at the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force meeting, there was also the successful reopening of Disney Springs, plus Vice President Pence’s meeting in Florida, which was attended by representatives from Disney.
Before we get to the good news, let’s start with the bad: more cancellations for Walt Disney World reservations. The second week of June 2020 is now officially out; park hours have been removed from the calendar and cancellation emails have now gone out to those with vacation arrival dates between June 7 and 13, 2020.
This is consistent with Walt Disney World’s standard practice of week by week rolling cancellations. As with all email notifications from Walt Disney World, it’s entirely possible not everyone impacted received one—either check your spam folder or attempt to view the reservation directly on My Disney Experience if you didn’t get an email but should have.
It also squares with Walt Disney World Delaying New Reservations Until July 1, 2020. At this point, it seems like all of the parks and resorts being operational in June is a long shot. It’s entirely possible we’ll see a phased reopening beginning next month given Universal’s bombshell announcement at today’s Orange County Economic Task Force meeting (see below), but the entirety of Walt Disney World being up and running before July still seems like a long-shot.
On the plus side, the reopening of Disney Springs was largely successful. While there were a couple of odd occurrences, the consensus of social media reports was that crowds were far lower than anticipated and the experience was generally pleasant and smooth (despite the heat and humidity).
We were actually shocked to see so many photos of Disney Springs almost entirely devoid of crowds. We expected pent-up demand to last through (at least) the holiday weekend, especially with no turnstiles acting as a monetary barrier to entry. As we noted previously, concerns about crowds were our main motivation for staying home.
Also yesterday was Vice President Mike Pence’s meeting with Governor Ron DeSantis and executives from Florida’s hospitality and tourism businesses. Per media reports, Walt Disney World advised the vice president that they are considering reopening the parks with a 20-30% cap on attendance.
If Disney Springs is any indication, organic demand may limit the number of guests at or below those levels. We’ve been pretty consistent in our belief that the parks would reopen to a short period of pent-up demand from locals before seeing a lull due to a lack of tourists (resulting from a mix of the lag between booking trips and actually traveling, unemployment & economic uncertainty, and lack of demand for a “compromised” guest experience).
The non-existent crowds at Disney Springs has us wondering whether even our pessimistic projections for Walt Disney World’s theme parks are inflated? Perhaps the safety measures and reduced entertainment will significantly suppress demand, even among locals?
Next, let’s jump to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force meeting (watch here), where John Sprouls, Chief Administrative Officer, and Rich Costales, Executive Vice President of Resort Operations at Universal Orlando presented the reopening plan for their theme parks, which will begin in early June 2020 in a phased soft opening.
Even if you have zero interest whatsoever in Universal, this is HUGE NEWS! The health protocol plans here are certain to be collaborative in nature between Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World. While some diehard fans of both companies project their own aspersions and view the competitors in an oddly adversarial light, that doesn’t reflect reality.
As you might’ve noticed, the reopening health screening procedures and policies at Universal’s CityWalk and Disney Springs were nearly identical–right down to policies and the specific verbiage on the on the liability disclaimer warnings at the two resorts. While CityWalk opened a week earlier than Disney Springs, we would expect similar timing and policies when it comes to the respective theme parks.
In other words, if Universal is opening at the beginning of June 2020, it’s almost certain that Walt Disney World will begin reopening around the same time or shortly thereafter. There are obviously other variables at play, but it’s not as if Universal’s parks will reopen in June 2020 and Walt Disney World will wait until January 2021. Early July for WDW is now the pessimistic prediction, with the more optimistic scenario being that Magic Kingdom (and maybe 1-2 other parks) opens a week or two after Universal.
Universal Orlando’s plan is to open Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Florida, and Volcano Bay to team members on June 1 and 2, followed by Annual Passholders on June 3 and 4, and then to the general public on June 5, 2020.
During the presentation, Universal’s executives laid out a “guest journey” (above) that would stress the importance of communication, engaging guests and building confidence to encourage visitation.
Next up, Universal highlighted their preventative measures plan (above), which was put together with government and health official input, consumer research, competitive benchmarking, scenario planning, and demand modeling.
Significantly, Universal stated that masks will be required at all times for employees and guests. They indicated that if a guest arrives without a mask, Universal would provide a disposable mask free of charge.
Other modified practices are identified above, including the elimination of single rider lines, character meet & greets, and parades. Another noteworthy thing is that 3D attractions will still be operational (contrary to rumors), with glasses for those attractions handed out individually.
Universal indicated that social distancing signage and graphics have already been installed throughout both parks (above) so guests know where to stand and where to avoid.
This is similar to what can be found throughout CityWalk (Walt Disney World has a comparable version of the same at Disney Springs).
Following the presentation by the Universal executives, a presentation was made by local health officials who did a field inspection of Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida earlier today.
In summary, the Orange County health officials team had no concerns about Universal’s plan. From there, the full Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force voted on the plan (with Walt Disney World and other ‘conflicted’ members recusing themselves), approving the plan and essentially giving it the green light to proceed to Governor DeSantis.
Given that Governor DeSantis has repeatedly expressed an eagerness to reopen Florida’s theme parks and other attractions, it seems like a foregone conclusion that he will approve of these plans and the June reopening date. (In fact, it’s likely that Universal executives discussed this yesterday before publicly unveiling the plan.)
It’s also noteworthy that Universal Orlando’s plan only addressed the theme parks and not the resorts. However, it is possible to book hotel stays at Universal Orlando beginning June 2, 2020. It’s unclear whether that’s intentional and the hotels simply were not mentioned during the presentation, or an error.
As we’ve stated previously, we think it’s plausible for Walt Disney World’s theme parks to begin reopening before the hotels, which could then follow in waves. Central Florida locals can sustain theme parks (to a degree) and help get the ball rolling there, whereas they will not sustain two dozen-plus hotels. Tourists will take some time to return for a variety of reasons, the most noteworthy of which is that there’s a lag time between booking a trip and actually traveling.
Above is a look at the tentative reopening dates of other Central Florida attractions. Local health officials also conducted field inspections of most or all of these amusement parks and attractions today (May 21, 2020).
During the task force meeting, neither SeaWorld nor Walt Disney World presented reopening plans. It was previously reported that both parks (in addition to Universal) had prepared plans for the review of Mayor Demings, but he didn’t mention that on the call. Moreover, Walt Disney World’s (newly-promoted) President of Signature Experiences Thomas Mazloum did not speak on the call. Regardless, the news that Universal Orlando will be reopening at the beginning of June 2020, and we’re consequently now much more optimistic that Walt Disney World will begin greeting guests before July 2020!
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!
Will you be visiting Universal Orlando when those two parks reopen in June, or will you wait? Surprised to see Universal’s three parks reopening at the same time Walt Disney World is cancelling vacation packages? Optimistic that the WDW parks and/or resorts will reopen in July? We welcome a variety of viewpoints here, and will not delete anything on opinion alone. However, we will not tolerate insults, arguing, or politically-charged comments. Don’t ruin a 95% fine comment with an unnecessary cheap shot—that 5% will get it deleted. Additionally, please do not incessantly harp on the same point across multiple comments. Respectfully share your opinion and move along.
I would love for Disney to be up and fully running by October. Wearing masks is getting overrated, and yes in the Florida heat it will be very uncomfortable, I think the distancing and the hand sanitizers are a great idea all over the parks. People need to be a little more diligent about keeping their hands clean and stop touching their faces. I have plans with my grandson and sons and daughter in-laws for October. I am hoping that this vacation doesn’t get pushed out again. We had plans originally for April and that totally went down the tubes.
I’m hoping for some great discounts and a true Disney vacation as we have had in the past.
We had reservations for Disney mid June and are both season passholders and Florida residents. We have moved our reservations to mid September now hoping that the mandatory masks for guests will be removed. I also agree with others who have posted, that is a main reason people will not attend not fear of getting the virus. It’s just too hot in Florida to wear a mask all day long at the park, not healthy for anyone, and not how I would like to spend my vacation. People will be touching their faces much more because they are uncomfortable than they would without the masks. The CDC has already noted that you can’t get the virus from surfaces now as well. That is great news. Wish someone would let Disney know the mandatory guest face masks are a bad idea. Legoland is not requiring them for guests. Hoping by September this will have changed for Disney.
Looking for any updates on Disney World opening and restrictions. Have a trip planned with grandchildren in November 2020.
Thank you so much. I heard that travel restrictions for quarantining ends on July 7 for my state to be able to travel to Florida. I happen to have reservations that start that day if Disney is open. Just another stressful thing to think about. I know it sounds selfish with all that is going on.
So how long after the parks open in 95 degree heat with 100 percent humidity will it be before you and other news outlets start tallying all the sick and dying from heat exhaustion at the parks? On average, it is the largest call for medical attention on Disney property. So in sweltering heat, americans who are VASTLY out of shape are going to be breathing heavily through a filtered mask that will cause shortness of breath, over-heating, sweating, and agitation. And you want them to do that from 9am till 10pm? Lol, have you ever seen the average family waiting in line for 2hrs on a normal day? Good luck getting this to go over well. Oh, and add into the fact that most experiences will be drastically impersonal. The “show” is what makes Disney grandeur. Not barriers, and divides and non-touching. Kids wont hug characters after or before each photo. No laying on a princesses lap by a child who just wants the magic. Nope, we live in a new norm. Chin up kid, you missed your chance. Everyone is scared, so you are out of luck, keep your snot filled fingers to yourself. Sad day america, sad day indeed.
I was speaking with the wife about this yesterday, and although we’d take a look at any amazing offer WDW comes up with, it’d have to be pretty amazing to get us to change what we want before returning.
What we require?
1. No masks. Seriously, wearing masks for hours outside in Florida heat and humidity will sooner or later kill someone.
2. All parks open, including waterparks (season permitting, of course).
3. Parades, fireworks, character meet & Greets, the full park experience.
If you think that sounds like the old normal, then you’re right. This virus does not spread well outdoors, and when you throw in the impact of Florida heat and humidity, the masks will be little more than a CYA move by July and August.
I think that with 39 million and counting having filed for unemployment, the impact on WDW is going to be more severe than many of us feared. We’re looking now more at 2021. WDW would have to have one hell of a deal to get my wife to put up with wearing a mask; they’d have to have one hell of a deal for her to go without parades and firework shows.
I think we’re the typical draw for WDW in these respects; People aren’t going to fork over the ton of dough it takes for a typical WDW vacation when they’re getting an atypical and reduced experience. This isn’t going to be solved by giving a special set of collector pins like some of the construction projects have done.
I think most people aren’t going to go unless they have the full experience…and that doesn’t even factor in the change in economic circumstances so many tens of millions of people around the world have sustained. Or the uncertainty of what will happen with this virus. It’s looking more and more like the experts who think that this virus is going to reduce drastically over the summer are correct, though it’s not a guarantee. The big question is will we get another dose of this come the fall and/or winter, which again, wrecks havoc on long term plans, which is what a WDW trip is for most of us. Do I want to reserve for May/June, 2021 when we might be back to another shutdown? I think trip insurance companies are going to be a good investment for years to come.
So instead of WDW for the kid’s senior graduation year (at least they’re going to have a real ceremony even if it’s delayed by months…and prom), we’re looking at National Parks, mountains, beaches and/or combo. We’re not going somewhere to wear a mask. I have to put up with it to go to Costco. I wear it at the grocery and pharmacy. I had to wear it while visiting my dying relative in hospice and at her graveside service. I’ll endure it in church. I’m not going to wear it on vacation and no way in Florida’s heat and humidity for hours on end.
I think you brought up a valid point and one that I’ve been thinking about. My 6 year old son LOVES character meet and greets. Like that’s what he lives for at Disney World. Part of what we love seeing is how the characters interact with all my kids, but there’s something pretty special about Snow White hugging my son and giving him a big kiss on the forehead.
Character dining also comes into play. With the hefty price tag of character dining, would it even be worth it if the kids can’t give Mickey Mouse a big hug? Probably not. Let’s face it, we aren’t paying $100 an adult for the high quality buffet food. We are paying for the character interaction and experience.
Masks seem to be a big talking point. While I’ll gladly wear one, I also fully understand people saying they won’t go until they won’t have to wear masks. I don’t think it comes down to the “no mask” group being difficult or not wanting to protect others. The more I’ve thought about it, I think it boils down to $$$$$. Do people want to pay $5,000+ to go to Disney World when 1.) attractions will be limited. 2.) no fireworks or parades 3.) masks will have to be worn in the Florida heat. I totally get it if people want to wait until these three things are back to normal
I will be in line to visit the parks when they first open but it would be a trip without the kids. I’d like to see how things are in the parks before taking three kids along too.
I know this has been said but as a people we truly are all in this together. Disney is going to do its best in ensuring the public is safe and will also do its best to deliver the magic to the guests that visit the parks during all this craziness and uncertainty.
I’m not going to pay close to full dollar for less than a full experience. And having to wear a mask in the July and August heat…the number of cases of heat stroke and heat exhaustion will explode. My wife is somewhat claustrophobic, as is the kid, with both having difficulties wearing the mask though they have different degrees of claustrophobia (for example, the wife could never handle the closeness of Mission: Space, while the kid loves it). Plus going atm is a moot point anyway, since, despite the rapid decline in cases in our state, we’re still a state FL requires for visitors to self-quarantine.
But I think my first sentence is key: For the vast majority of people, they’re not going to go if they’re paying anywhere close to full price. 39 million Americans have filed for unemployment. And those of us who know, know that the masks, while better than a placebo, are not a panacea.
Thank you for all of the helpful information. I’m very excited for Disney to reopen and I look forward to reading your post about it!
We are from Georgia and plan on going to Disney Springs this weekend in our way back from the beach. We plan on going to WDW when it’s back up and running. You are right, though, that given the distance from our home to the parks and the benefits of staying on property, we will have to wait for the resorts to re-open. Therefore, sustainability for the parks will have to emanate from central Floridians initially.
We are from Georgia and plan on going to Disney Springs this weekend on our way back from the beach. We plan on going to WDW when it’s back up and running. You are right, though, that given the distance from our home to the parks and the benefits of staying on property, we will have to wait for the resorts to re-open. Therefore, sustainability for the parks will have to emanate from central Floridians initially.
I for one am glad they are requiring masks be worn, precisely because so many people think they don’t “need to wear one. My family and I wear them to protect other people from us, and would appreciate the same consideration from other people to protect us from them. And we will happily wear masks (and gloves) when we go later this year, and would appreciate others wearing them to protect us from them. If people don’t want to go because they don’t want to wear masks, so much the better for us to have fewer people there. So I hope the mask rule sticks around for a while, and they don’t lift it any time soon just to pack more bodies in the parks, like Florida’s governor wants to reopen everything just for economic considerations.
@Andrea, you realize the SAME argument could be made in reverse, right? If you don’t want to be around those who DON’T wear masks, then (as you said) “… so much the better for us to have fewer people there”.
For all who think masks are a great idea at WDW in the summer– TRY IT. I dare you. The first 15 minutes in 96 degrees with feels-like above 110, you’ll start to realize how difficult the day ahead will be. Shortly after arrival, you’ll be red-faced and panting. Every exhale of humid breath will blow more moisture back against your covered face, and that plus heavy perspiration will make the mask wet. The intense tropical Florida sun against your wet mask will feel like a blowtorch on your face. You’ll desperately want to rip it off to breathe fresh air before you pass out, but you can’t without being ordered to leave the park. You’ll feel like you’re drowning in heat and humidity, nauseous, light-headed, hoping you can get to the exit without falling down. Others around you will pull theirs off because they just can’t stand another minute of it.
How do I know all this? Because I’m in my 50s and have lived my entire life in this climate. A typical July/Aug day is tough enough for us natives. For tourists from cooler climates, in masks, it will be brutal… and a serious health risk of heat exhaustion or (worse) heat stroke.
Some lessons cannot be taught. They can only be learned… and in this case, learned the hard way.
Do you know when travel restrictions to Florida will be lifted?
Hi Mary, you can sign up for a daily Coronavirus Newsletter on Orlando’s news station website WESH.com
Scroll down a third to a large red block to enter your email.
You can also watch their news broadcasts live or on demand.
I watched the Orlando Tourism Task Force meeting last Thursday through their site. At the conclusion of the meeting, it was announced the next Task Force meeting will be next Wednesday. I’m hopeful Disney will make their presentation then.
I’m excited that Universal is opening even though I couldn’t afford to visit soon. I also want to wait to visit until masks are no longer required.
Looking forward to Disney Parks reopening! We have already moved our vaca package from the end of June to mid-August. HOWEVER, we most likely will move the visit once again to early summer 2021 IF masks are required by guests. It does not sound at all enjoyable to any of our group – no matter how much we love Disney – to be wearing masks in that heat/environment. I can understand why crowds are lower than expected at Disney Springs simply due to the “mask rule” in effect.
I just read where Disney submitted a request for a reopening date of June 5th to the task force. Theme parks only, no resorts. I’m not sure if it’s all parks or just one or two. I expect it will be approved since Universal has already been approved for reopening for that same date.
I also saw that Disney Springs is practically empty compared to what it was during reopening day. I wonder if it’s because people are erring on the side of caution or because they don’t want to wear masks. I’d go with the latter.
Where did you read about Disney requesting to open June 5? Was this official Disney news? Thanks
Yes, where did you read this? Would love to see!
I found this info on the All Ears site. I jumped the gun in saying Disney had already submitted to the task force. They are submitting next week. I feel pretty certain though that they’ll be reopening the same time as Universal. I doubt they’ll let Universal get ahead of them time wise.
Ok. Thanks for replying @Barbara!
I apologize if this was asked and answered in a precious comment but has Universal said how they will limit attendance? Do you have to reserve your ticket in advance for a certain day or is it first come first served on the day of? As an out of state visitor, I would not want to risk showing up and not being able to enter the park.
Universal is limiting their attendance according to an email I received today. I don’t know about tickets.
I was a bit surprised at Universal’s early reopening. Florida is still stuck at around 47 covid-19 deaths every day, and while infection seems largely to have been limited to places where people are kept in close quarters (prisons, nursing homes, assisted living), I’m uncomfortable being in so much as a busy supermarket.
If Disney does a no-hotels reopening, I might do a day trip, as an opportunity to do a look-around under non-crowded conditions, heat or not. I think it would be reasonably safe.
Disney did itself a favor by making the parking decks at Disney Springs “smart” with a system to detect and guide to parking spaces. That makes it easier for managers to keep track of how many cars are on hand, and whether capacity is being reached.
My son & his girlfriend went to both CityWalk and Disney Springs in the last few days. Their #1 hint? Wear a light colored mask…. the dark ones soak in the heat like a pizza oven!
They are terribly excited about things opening … both cast members, both waiting to hear where and what will be going on.