Walt Disney World continues its return to normalcy while also gearing up for the 50th Anniversary celebration that starts on October 1, 2021. To those ends, Disney has announced the reopening timeline ALL currently closed hotels with new dates for resorts that were previously TBD. This looks at the schedule and offers commentary about why this is such great news! (Updated July 8, 2021.)
Let’s start with a quick recap of where things stand right now. Several resorts reopened last year, with that number inflated by the Disney Vacation Club properties that all returned last year. There were a handful of hotels that reopened with the parks, and then another trio that returned once the NBA was done using Walt Disney World as its bubble site. That’s all distant past now, and feels like it happened way longer than a year ago.
Fast-forward to this summer. Within roughly the last month, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Wilderness Lodge, and BoardWalk Inn have all reopened. Along with these resorts, occupancy has increased property-wide and Walt Disney World has begun addressing staffing shortages, which has facilitated the return of more restaurants and other amenities at previously-opened hotels, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves–more on all of that in the commentary. Now let’s turn to the hotels that have reopening dates in the future…
Within the last couple of weeks, Walt Disney World has set reopening dates for the following hotels:
July 19, 2021 — Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
August 26, 2021 — Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge — Jambo House (hotel side)
Today, Walt Disney World released a new 2021 reopening timeline for the remaining resorts that are currently closed:
Disney’s All-Star Music Resort for arrivals beginning September 16, 2021
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside for arrivals beginning October 14, 2021
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter for arrivals beginning October 28, 2021
Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort for arrivals beginning December 9, 2021
These four hotels will all start accepting bookings tomorrow, July 8, 2021.
Anyone who has been following Walt Disney World’s resort reopening roller coaster knows that this is huge news.
We truly cannot overstate the significance of Walt Disney World giving all of these hotels reopening dates all at once. Even if you hate the All Stars and Port Orleans Resorts, this is significant even for you. (Also, hating Riverside and French Quarter?! Sorry to hear you have poor taste!) Here’s why…
Have we mentioned that there’s a labor shortage in Central Florida? Perhaps once or twice.
As explained approximately seventy-one times by now on this blog, staffing is the reason Walt Disney World has been so slow to reopen more restaurants and resorts (or anything else!). If you’re wondering why something has yet to return, there’s around a 90% chance the answer to your question is “staffing shortages.” (Supply chain issues, cost-savings, and health theater round out the other 10%.) The biggest impediment to the return of just about anything is how quickly Walt Disney World can hire, onboard, and train new Cast Members.
As we’ve also mentioned repeatedly, help is on the way! The College Program officially restarted in mid-June and will grow further in August 2021. Tons of students have already moved in, gone through Traditions, and been assigned to locations around Walt Disney World. We’ve seen a number of these fresh faces in the last couple weeks, and they should help alleviate some issues once fully trained.
Additionally, Walt Disney World’s hiring blitz continues. The company is running job opening advertisements and even offering significant signing bonuses. It’s starting to pay off, as Disney is holding colossal training classes at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex and new Cast Members are all over the parks right now. However, it’s not an instant fix. There’s a lot of on-the-job learning, and it’ll take some time before all of these new Cast Members have the knowledge/skills/etc. necessary to make a big impact.
We’ve been consistently predicting that the aforementioned staffing shortages would mostly work themselves out by late September. In theory, this would allow Walt Disney World to reopen considerably more locations and scale up operations resort-wide just in time for the World’s Most Magical Celebration. If you take All Star Sports out of the equation (which is probably reopening later due to the room renovations), that prediction was pretty close to accurate.
Laying out a resort reopening timeline for the remainder of the closed resorts suggests that Walt Disney World is incredibly optimistic about its staffing outlook. While it’s possible that these reopening dates could be delayed, we doubt it. Disney would not be releasing all of these dates unless the company had a high degree of confidence in hitting those targets.
The difference between now and the previous reopening timeline that was delayed multiple times last summer and fall is demand. The hotels that had their dates pushed back had that happen due to a lack of demand. The guests booked at those hotels could easily be accommodated elsewhere, and in many cases received free upgrades. (Many going to Grand Floridian!)
The circumstances are dramatically different now. For one thing, there is no such lack of demand. Occupancy rates are sky-high and Walt Disney World will have no trouble filling the Port Orleans and All Star Resorts to levels sufficient to justify their operations. Consequently, there’s also little wiggle room for relocating guests. If one of these resorts were for some reason unable to meet its reopening target, that would cause problems since there is not a surplus of unfilled rooms elsewhere.
As we’ve also stressed repeatedly, the demand is there for bookings starting around September 26, 2021 and beyond for the kickoff week of the World’s Most Magical Celebration—Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary event. Hotels are busy now, but the last three months of the year will be bonkers.
In fact, some hotels are totally sold out for fall and the holiday season. We won’t belabor that point, because this trend and its ramifications are discussed at length in What’s Up with Sold Out Walt Disney World Hotels?!(That post is fairly “important” for planning purposes, so we trust that you’ve already read it.)
The return of these four hotels should alleviate many of the aforementioned availability woes. Combined, the two Port Orleans Resorts have over 3,000 rooms, which would make it the largest resort at Walt Disney World. The two remaining All Stars are even larger, totaling over 3,500 rooms.
Once you include the Poly and Jambo House, there are nearly 10,000 more hotel rooms coming online at Walt Disney World between now and October 28, 2021. That’s over 30% of Walt Disney World’s total room inventory! (The Swan Reserve will also open by this fall, further bolstering Walt Disney World’s on-site room count.)
Obviously, this is a very significant number of rooms, and Walt Disney World has limited turn around time to book them. Most visitors to Walt Disney World book approximately 5 to 6 months in advance of traveling, and right now there’s roughly 3 months between today and October.
We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but the combination of that limited lead time coupled with the sheer number of rooms that’ll be returning around the same time is good news for Walt Disney World vacation planners. This might be a recipe for more aggressive discounts than what we’ve been seeing.
That’s not really saying much, as the general public discounts of up to 25% off rooms at Walt Disney World for late summer and early fall are abysmal both in terms of savings and availability. We had many readers report finding nothing at all—or higher prices—for their travel dates.
In our searches, we found few options at the Value and Moderate Resorts. Where there is availability, it often requires a room upgrade (e.g. from standard to preferred view…or the dreaded Pirate Rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort), thus at least partially negating the benefit of the discount.
If past precedent and historic trends are any indication, discounts for September through December 24, 2021 should be released in mid-July 2021. In other recent posts, we’ve commented that we wouldn’t be surprised if that discount release occurs later than normal this year, potentially not until August 2021.
We also said that was probably for the best: “The sooner discounts are released, they worse they’ll be. If Walt Disney World waits to drop deals until the Port Orleans and remaining All Star Resorts have reopened, there’s the potential for better deals. So don’t be too impatient for the next round of special offers!”
It’s too early to get excited about the prospect of strong discounts for this fall, but we’re now much more (cautiously) optimistic than we were when writing those words last week. It’s starting to feel like the stars are aligning, which could bode well for deals. (I’d still prefer a bit of delay before the next round of deals is released.)
Rather than nothing but Pirate Rooms and “upgraded” views, there’s now a reasonable chance we’ll see discounts that are good by normal standards–not just relative to the last round of weak discounts. (Keep in mind, October through December discounts are usually the lowest of the year, often topping out at 20% off for the general public.)
July 9, 2021 Update: After perusing Walt Disney World’s online booking engine throughout the last couple of days, I haven’t run into any issues with Stitch eating the page, or anything else for that matter. (I have not–and will not–called to see what phone wait times are like.)
Yesterday, there were issues with both All Star Resorts being sold out of all room categories for every day, which we assumed was a technical glitch. That appears to be the case, as All Star Music and Sports once again have wide open availability for all dates we’ve checked.
Likewise, I don’t see any dates that are sold out of any room categories at Port Orleans Riverside or French Quarter. My searches have not been comprehensive, so it’s possible there are some sold out dates (but it would be pretty early for that). Let’s hope availability sticks around so we see some good deals within the next few weeks!
In addition to this being good news on its face as it relates to these hotels, that also bodes very well for restaurants, entertainment, and literally everything else. (EDIT: Many of you have inquired in the comments here about specific things, but we don’t have any updates beyond the timeline and predictions in What’s Returning to Walt Disney World in 2021 & 2022.)
If Walt Disney World is projecting that it’ll have enough Cast Members to staff 3 of the 4 remaining hotels by October 2021, there are likely similar internal projections for many things that are yet to be announced. That’s potentially good news for anyone anxiously awaiting the return of the Disney Dining Plan, Fantasmic, or just about anything else. It’s been a couple weeks of some dispiriting Walt Disney World news and rumors, but this announcement is cause for optimism!
What do you think about these reopening dates for the All Star and Port Orleans Resorts? Any surprises on this list for you? Excited that Riverside and French Quarter now have dates? Are you likewise now cautiously optimistic about the prospect of discounts from late September through late December 2021? Will you be attempting to visit Walt Disney World this year, or are you waiting until 2022? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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!