Our Surreal Stay at Disney World: Sunset Funset

After a few months away, we return to Walt Disney World for the reopening of the Deluxe Villa Resorts, using our DVC points for a stay at the BoardWalk Villas plus meals at Topolino’s Terrace. In this quasi-trip report, we’ll share photos, what it was like to be back, and why we would not recommend planning a trip in the near future.

As the title suggests, it was surreal. That’s something we mostly cover in the other half of this post: Our Surreal Stay at Walt Disney World: Health Safety. The signage and protocol definitely give off a ‘trying to regain normalcy in a post-apocalyptic world’ surface level vibe. However, that quickly fades into the background.

Once all the signage becomes familiar, your brain begins to filter most of that out as white noise. At that point, the magic about being back at Walt Disney World takes center stage, and even the modified experience shines. It was reassuring and nostalgic, at once offering an escape from the daily barrage of depressing headlines and a return to some semblance of normal…

Originally, I planned on posting this the day after we returned from our stay.

While I could use the excuse that other news preempted this post, the reality is that I went a little wild taking photos. It turns out that capturing thousands of images means you have thousands of raw files to sort and process. Who could’ve known?

I still haven’t gotten through all of them, but wanted to at least edit and share some.

During our stay, we got really fortunate with some great weather (minus the 97 degree daytime highs).

Beautiful puffy clouds (a Florida summer trademark) during the day, plus spectacular sunsets, followed by an impressive lightning storm the first night. And virtually no rain!

Sarah captured a bunch of cool videos while I was taking photos–we’ll start sharing those on our Facebook page later today.

The lack of other guests probably should’ve added to the surreal quality of our stay.

Honestly, it didn’t too much for me. I’m used to staying out late and getting up at the crack of dawn for photos, and there are seldom more than a handful of joggers at those hours.

It was definitely odd for the daytime hours and sunset, but not incredibly jarring to me.

Your perspective here could differ dramatically, especially if you’re used to heavy crowds.

For us, it was like a ‘best of both worlds’ thing.

We had plenty of interactions with Cast Members inside the resorts where they outnumbered guests, and outside we were able to enjoy the ambiance and serenity of Crescent Lake without many other people around.

It was sort of like seeing an old friend from college–no matter how long it’s been or how much things have changed, you can pick up right where you left off.

And that’s exactly what we did. We walked around Crescent Lake, wandered through the lobbies, and enjoyed the peaceful promenade back at the Beach Club Villas.

We lounged in some of our favorite spots, decompressed, and simply enjoyed being there.

From what we heard, most of the resorts were operating at under 20% occupancy last week. That would certainly mesh with our observations.

We also did dinner at a nearly-empty Topolino’s Terrace.

We still haven’t reviewed this restaurant and are not really sure how to handle that. We’ll probably just review the modified menu at some point in the near future, and hold off on the full review since that does you no good at present.

It’s likely that resort occupancy will pick up on July 10, but we’re wondering to what extent that’ll actually occur.

Based upon what we’re seeing, every single Disney Vacation Club resort has availability for reopening weekend. Beyond that, there’s a ton of availability for July and August (way more than normal) and a lot of availability for September, too. (It’s a very different story in October and beyond.)

For both of these reasons–the low crowds now and the likelihood of it being more difficult to book DVC reservations October and throughout 2021–we’ve actually made more DVC resort reservations.

We don’t want to be in a position where we have a hard time using our points, and doing these quick escapes to resorts is a perfect way for us to rest and recharge.

We really cannot underscore how fun and decompressing this was after months of being stuck at home, only venturing out for groceries, doctor appointments, and late night walks around the empty streets in our neighborhood.

Being back at Crescent Lake had this detoxifying effect–we didn’t fixate on the news, social media, or any real world problems. Our cares melted away, replaced by the charm and allure of Walt Disney World.

Part of it is probably unique to us–as we’ve visited Walt Disney World more frequently, some of the “magic” has started to lose its luster. It’s really something how familiarity or over-exposure can result in taking pretty spectacular things for granted. We recognize that and realize we’re very fortunate.

For many people, four months is a short time to be away from Walt Disney World–and it really is not that long. But it being longer than normal for us–coupled with the trials and tribulations of the last few months–amplified how special it was to be back. Suffice to say, all of this gave us a new appreciation for Walt Disney World, and we won’t be taking it for granted ever again.

No matter how frequently or infrequently you visit, I’m pretty confident your next trip–whenever that might be–will similarly just feel different. More special. More cherished. And it won’t be about what Disney does or does not do–it’ll be about you.

It’s easy to be cynical about how Disney has been handling things, what’s being cut, temporary rules, reservations systems, etc. There are a lot of valid complaints. However, I’m confident most of that will melt away when you step foot back onto Walt Disney World property.

Perhaps I’m overly optimistic or still riding the high of this stay, but I think we–collectively as a society–are going through a transformative event that will change us for the better. That’s not totally evident yet as there is still a decent amount of conflict, angst, and fear. Understandably so.

I think this will crystalize in the coming months, and upcoming trips–or any sort of communal events with other people–will feel differently. They’ll feel better. People will be more grateful, less tense or standoffish, and with a renewed sense of togetherness and conviviality. At least, that’s my belief and strong hope.


Not to stifle the positivity by ending this on a sour note, but it’d be irresponsible to only highlight our fun while ignoring reality on the ground here in Florida. Frankly, we would caution anyone against traveling to Walt Disney World right now. With spiking cases in Florida, we simply would not visit from out of state for at least the next couple of months. We’d also be incredibly apprehensive about planning a trip for the fall, opting to wait and see how (or if) the state gets a handle on things.

Our circumstances as locals and regulars are very different from many reading this, and that bears reiterating. We can go in chunks of only a few hours, staying physically distanced and entirely outdoors where it’s objectively safer. (Attractions like Haunted Mansion are a non-starter for us.) If we were out of state visitors, the circumstances would be very different and we’d undoubtedly be pumping the brakes. As we’ve said before, if we were infrequent or once in a lifetime visitors to Walt Disney World, we would rule out the remainder of 2020. Florida is starting to make changes (closing bars, mask mandates, etc.) that will hopefully cause a decline in new case numbers. Until that actually happens, we wouldn’t book anything.

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

Are you eagerly awaiting your next vacation ‘escape’ to Walt Disney World, or still apprehensive about everything going on right now? Do you have any questions about the current resort experience at Walt Disney World? 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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