Our Experience with Hurricane Irma at Disney World

I hate to break it to those of you who have stuck with us this far, but the story does not get any more exciting. Our actual experience at Walt Disney World during Hurricane Irma was not particularly noteworthy one way or the other.

When we woke up the next morning, it was lightly drizzling, but no worse than what you might encounter during an afternoon shower in Florida any month of the year. The only difference here was that it never really stopped at all that day, gradually building in intensity.

There was a full slate of entertainment scheduled at BoardWalk Inn throughout the day, from magicians to character dance parties and more. Of greater interest to us, there were a ton of dogs throughout the hotel. Florida’s governor had implored hotels to accept pets, and Walt Disney World had obliged, making the hotels temporarily pet-friendly…

Obviously, this was great for the owners of the pets, who would be forced to make a really tough decision otherwise. It was also nice for other guests (like us), who were stressed out about the storm. Dogs have a therapeutic effect, and just having so many around was soothing. We made a ton of new canine friends over the course of that day.

Due to my hyperactive tendencies, I bounced back and forth between our room and checking out the dogs in the lobby. I posted several of the dogs I met on Twitter throughout the day.

Aside from meeting dogs, we didn’t do a whole lot. The scheduled entertainment was always busy with families, so we elected to skip those.

We figured people with kids–whether they be displaced from other parts of Florida or having to alter their vacation plans–needed that entertainment more than we did.

Instead, we wandered the halls, met dogs, and spent the vast majority of our time in the room. I also held a lizard.

The rain definitely got worse as the day wore on.

We watched a ton of the new Mickey Mouse cartoons (very hit or miss, in my opinion) and several hours watching the Weather Channel, trying to figure out what the heck Jim Cantore and the other reporters in the field were thinking being out there. We also ate a lot of reheated pizza from Boardwalk Pizza Window.

In mid-afternoon, we headed down to the Boardwalk Convention Center for an early dinner. This was $15/person, and was fantastic.

I’m guessing this is the same food used for corporate events, as it was really high-quality, and would’ve cost well more than $15/person in the real world. There was prime rib, salmon, and a ton of other exceptional entrees and desserts.

Side note: the Boardwalk Convention Center is really nice and well-done thematically. When Disney Tourist Blog dot com finally achieves its goal as dethroning Google, we’ll definitely have our corporate retreats here. And by that, I mean Sarah and I will rent it out and play Dunderball against one another for a day.

We didn’t stick around the Boardwalk Convention Center long, as it started to get really busy after we finished our entrees. We overheard Cast Members talking about how they were running out of space and would soon have to start telling people to come back later in the evening, so we decided to take our desserts to-go. I’m not sure if they did run out of space, but our experience with the buffet rated very well.

That was really the most excitement we had all day. At one point later in the evening, neither of us wanted to get out of bed, so we watched Duffy’s Bedtime Story on loop. When we did change the channel, the Weather Channel was then advising that the storm was tracking west, which would put Orlando directly in its path.

Having no experience with hurricanes, this was really disconcerting. We could see the rain really coming down outside our window, and the wind was blowing it around like crazy. Although the photo doesn’t really to it justice, I was entranced watching the water cascade off of the swans over at the Swan & Dolphin.

We worried about whether we should put our bed’s mattress in front of the balcony doors, and went down to the front desk to inquire about this. They advised us not to do this, stating that the doorframe was built to withstand the winds.

Concerned that the Cast Members at the front desk might not really know, we continued to weigh whether we should move the mattress anyway. After watching another hour of local news coverage that was bordering on hysterical, we decided we should err on the side of caution and just move the mattress.

Unfortunately(?), the decision was made for us. They must’ve weighted that thing down, as there was little chance the two of us were going to get it up against the doors without potentially accidentally breaking something else in the room in the process.

The other possibility was that my body was already starting to deteriorate from a day’s worth of Boardwalk Pizza Window pizza, because I’ve moved mattresses by myself before.

With moving the mattress off the table, we closed the curtains and went to bed. This was the last I experienced anything of the storm. One of my greatest strengths is my ability to sleep like a champion, and I didn’t wake up once during the storm. Sarah did, and says the wind was by far the most intense she’s ever heard.

The next morning, the storm had passed. The first thing I did was go to our balcony to see if there was any visible damage to the hotel. There was a ton of debris visible in the pool and branches all over the place, but even the fabric awnings above the balconies on some rooms were intact. For the most part, everything looked good.

At this point, we were able to walk around BoardWalk and Crescent Lake, but the local curfew had not been lifted, so we couldn’t do anything more than that.

We did a couple of laps around the lake, taking photos of the damage. There really wasn’t much.

The “coolest” damage was this tree. As we lingered in this area, no fewer than 4 families set their kids on this, for what I can only assume will be the coolest Christmas card photos ever.

After walking around a bit, we went back to our room to work, and then later had to call Delta to reschedule yet another flight after MCO announced a delayed reopening. Dealing with Delta was beyond frustrating once again, but since I already complained about this for several paragraphs, I’ll just say this: our flight was originally a direct flight to Los Angeles scheduled to depart at around 7 a.m., yada yada yada, we moved to Beach Club for an extra night and flew out the following morning through Detroit.

The rest of this day was also fairly uneventful. We returned to the buffet (noticeably lower quality offerings this time), and walked around the BoardWalk at sunset.

There was one of the most beautiful double rainbows over the BoardWalk leading directly to Epcot right as we started our walk…but unfortunately, my lens was entirely fogged up. Once I finally was able to capture a shot, the intensity of the rainbow had faded quite a bit. Still, gorgeous to see.

That was really about it. I know that this has been a really long report about an event that was fairly uneventful, so my apologies if there’s been too much exposition here.

My biggest concern going in was the reports during Hurricane Matthew last year. At the time, social media was abuzz about huge lines for crumby and overpriced box lunches and clueless Cast Members. Our experience couldn’t have been any different from that. The food was good and fairly priced, and there was an abundance of it in gift shops and at various places throughout BoardWalk. Even if that buffet ended up having people come back later, it was one of many dining options at the BoardWalk.

Cast Members were nothing short of exceptional. They deserve every possible superlative, and we never had an experience with a Cast Member over the course of our time at the BoardWalk that was nothing short of top-notch. This was amazing for a couple of reasons.

This was new territory for all of them, and presumably is not something that normal training would cover. Beyond that, there were a lot of people in the hotel at all times, meaning Cast Members were constantly dealing with a higher than average number of guests. (To their credit, every guest we encountered was taking the storm in stride.) Most importantly, they were all away from home and their families, and likely had the stress of those worries weighing on them while taking care of guest needs.

Part of the reason our story of riding out Hurricane Irma at Walt Disney World is not all that interesting to read is because it was dull. As far as the actual experience goes, I will absolutely take dull. This was not “fun vacation time” but rather, a time for safety and shelter.

Even with that in mind, Walt Disney World and its Cast Members did an exemplary job making lemonade out of lemons. It also helped that other guests were upbeat (even those who no doubt worried about their homes), and the resort escaped with relatively minor damage in the grand scheme of things. The experience could’ve been far worse than it was.

That’s also why I was a bit concerned with sharing our experience. Read in isolation, it might encourage, rather than discourage, people from rescheduling future visits during a hurricane. With that in mind, I want to again underscore just how much time we spent in our room, watching the Weather Channel and Mickey Mouse cartoons. I didn’t give the full play-by-play on that because it was a boring part of our two days, but it was the bulk of that time.

I’m guessing no one takes a Walt Disney World vacation to watch the Weather Channel. Having done exactly that, it’s not something I’d recommend. Even though our situation worked out fine in the end, keep in mind that things could’ve been worse, and we still paid (albeit in points) a lot of money for a Walt Disney World experience that did not include the theme parks for over two days. If you can avoid having a similar experience, you absolutely should. Anyway, hope you “enjoyed” reading about our experience during Hurricane Irma at Walt Disney World.

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

Were you at Walt Disney World during Hurricane Irma? What did you think of the experience? Any praise or complaints for how Disney handled it? Have you experienced a hurricane at WDW in the past? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

99 Responses to “Our Experience with Hurricane Irma at Disney World”
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