Good Afternoon from Walt Disney World!

We’re reporting live from Walt Disney World, where it has already been a busy morning (although it’s basically midnight to us given how long we’ve been awake…assuming time still has any meaning). We started today with the modified character breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace, bookended by Jedi Training Academy: Trials of the Touristerr, attempting to book Disney Park Pass reservations.

That was followed by a morning stroll around Disney’s Riviera Resort before heading over to Disney’s BoardWalk Villas and checking into our room. As you can imagine, things are a bit different from when we were last here a few months ago. We can’t take the Skyliner to Epcot to stroll around World Showcase or Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Boarding Pass Dash.

We’ve already been back to Disney Springs a few times since that shopping and dining district reopened, so a lot of what we’ve experienced thus far here is familiar territory. At the same time, it just feels different. I’ve made clear that I’m not a huge fan of Disney’s Riviera Resort, but the atmosphere thus far is, in a word, better. 

Disney Springs has become our local mall, where we went to see movies (back in the “normal times” when that was a thing) and where I’d go to buy socks. By mall standards, Disney Springs is very nice–but it still doesn’t exude the same charm and atmosphere as the resorts, especially the Crescent Lake ones.

To be sure, a lot is still very surreal about being at Walt Disney World right now. As with Disney Springs, there are visual reminders everywhere that we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic. Warning and liability disclaimer sandwich boards, ‘what to wear & how to wash’ signs, enter/exit info, and where to stand markers.

After seeing all of that several times, it’s mostly just white noise that our brains filter out at this point. (I’ve compared it elsewhere to California’s Proposition 65 warnings. That pretty much everything in the state may cause cancer freaks out visitors, but locals don’t even notice the signs anymore.

The bigger thing is seeing everyone in masks, which will take more getting used to.

Right now, Cast Members outnumber guests by around a 20 to 1 ratio (that’s not even remotely an exaggeration–maybe it’ll pick up more later today). All of them are wearing masks, many are waving giant Mickey Mouse gloves, and everyone is eager to welcome guests home.

Already today, I’ve had more in-person interactions with people not named “Sarah” than I have in total over the course of the last three-plus months. I’m normally fairly introverted, but talking to Cast Members has honestly been pretty great.

There is a palpable energy, and a lot of Cast Members are clearly happy to be back. I wasn’t quite sure whether that’d be the case, but it is with everyone we’ve encountered. Cast Members are incredibly high-energy, and their enthusiasm is contagio–uh, their joy rubs off on you.

As for other guests…we can’t really speak to that. Between Disney’s Riviera Resort and BoardWalk Inn, we’ve seen a totally of maybe one dozen other parties. Probably fewer than that. Disney’s Magical Express buses are out and about, and it’s still early, so I’m assuming more guests are en route.

I’m cognizant of the fact that this is a very optimistic tone to strike on the same day that Disney Park Pass went live to predictably catastrophic results. However, that was easily foreseeable by pretty much everyone who has any experience with Walt Disney World release day. My bar is so low with Disney IT that I was pleasantly surprised it didn’t eat away our entire day.

This isn’t to diminish your frustrations if you haven’t gotten through to make Disney Park Pass reservations. We feel for you. (Seriously–we’ve been in your shoes many times and it remains mind-boggling that Walt Disney World’s IT infrastructure still is this bad.) Take solace in knowing that the vast majority of dates are not going to run out of availability any time soon (if ever) and things will probably/hopefully be much smoother by tonight.

With that said, as cheesy as it might sound, there is a certain magic about being back at Walt Disney World, even if it’s just the resorts.

We’ve been grinning ear to ear all morning (not that anyone can tell!), and this has already been way more fun and satisfying than I anticipated.

It’s probably fair to say that pretty much everyone is in need of a vacation. After the last few months of only leaving the house for groceries and a handful of other occasions, this has already been fantastic.

Walt Disney World offers something uniquely reassuring and nostalgic. Even with some of the “illusion” blemished, it has already done us wonders to be back. This is the most relaxed and decompressed we’ve felt in months–like a weight has been lifted.

This is not to “pitch” you on booking a return trip to Walt Disney World as soon as possible. (It’s not like you can right now, anyway.) Our circumstances as locals and regulars are very different from once in a lifetime or infrequent visitors, and that’s worth reiterating. As we’ve said before, if this were our first/only trip to Walt Disney World, we would not be visiting in 2020.

It’s basically just to share how things are going thus far. We’ll have plenty more measured planning advice and commentary–this more more stream of conscious, heat of the moment excitement we wanted to share while we’re here.

To that end, let us know if you have any questions or want to see anything in particular from the Barefoot Bay Boarding Bailiwick (the “cool” name we gave the Riviera and Caribbean Beach Resort area that, shockingly, never caught on) or Crescent Lake Resort Area. Don’t expect real-time responses (same goes for the posts about Disney Park Pass–sorry!) but we’ll catch up later and incorporate answers into upcoming posts.

We plan on spending most of the day savoring our stay, making laps around Crescent Lake, eating sugary snacks, doing more laps to burn off said snacks, and taking photos. Our goal is 20,000 steps and 3,000 photos today to make up for lost time, so hopefully we can see and document quite a bit and return with a more thorough report in the next few days. If you’re at Walt Disney World today and happen to see us wandering, don’t be afraid to say hello–from a safe distance of more than six feet away, of course!

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

Do you have any questions about the resort experience at Walt Disney World right now? Anything you’d specifically like to see or know about Disney’s Riviera Resort or the Crescent Lake Resorts? Will you be attempting to visit Walt Disney World this summer or fall, or are you waiting until 2021 or beyond? 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!


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