Tropical Storm Nicole is causing closures & cancellations outside of the theme parks at Walt Disney World and in Central Florida. We’ll update you on the storm’s impact on WDW operations, and help you decide whether to reschedule your trip, cancel entirely, or ride out the storm at a hotel. (Updated November 9, 2022.)
The National Hurricane Center updates its Tropical Storm Nicole Advisory every few hours, at which point it shifts the ‘cone of uncertainty’ representing the range of possibilities for the storm’s center that extends up to five days into the future. The cone of uncertainty predicts the hurricane’s path, but even outside of the cone, ferocious winds, storm surge, heavy rains, and other intense weather can be felt.
Now, Walt Disney World has shared its first closures and warnings for Tropical Storm Nicole, with the following announcement:
“Walt Disney World Resort is currently operating under normal conditions. We are continuing to closely monitor Tropical Storm Nicole and are making necessary operational adjustments to maintain the safety of our Guests and Cast Members.”
Walt Disney World Operational Updates for Tropical Storm Nicole
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon will close temporarily Thursday, November 10, 2022. (Disney’s Blizzard Beach is currently closed for the season.)
Winter Summerland Miniature Golf and Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf & Fairways Miniature Golf will also temporarily close Thursday, November 10, 2022.
Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been removed from the entertainment schedule on DisneyWorld.com and in the My Disney Experience app for November 9, 2022. (No official update cancelling it has been made, and other nighttime spectaculars are still scheduled to occur–for now.)
Extended Evening Hours scheduled at Magic Kingdom have been cancelled for Wednesday, November 9, 2022.
Disney Resort Hotels: For the safety of our Guests and Cast Members, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, Copper Creek Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort will be closed Wednesday, November 9 through Friday, November 11. Disney is contacting guests with current and upcoming reservations since these locations will be closing.
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue performances have been canceled November 9-11 in light of the temporary closure of Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Guests with pre-paid reservations will be automatically canceled and refunded.
In a rare twist of events, Walt Disney World is NOT closing any resorts yet. This comes as a reversal to a previously-announced decision earlier today (hence the strike-through text above). Again, this decision has been reversed and those resorts will continue to operate as normal (for now).
Walt Disney World Theme Parks are currently operating under normal conditions. Please continue to monitor news outlets for the latest weather information.
Disney Springs is currently operating under normal conditions.
Disney Skyliner gondolas are operating as normal at present, but typically close for inclement weather–so expect a lot of downtime starting Wednesday.
Walt Disney World is currently monitoring weather conditions and will communicate any changes to park operating hours or special events at a later time.
Orlando International Airport announced that it is closing due to Tropical Storm Nicole: “Together with our partners, a decision has been made to cease commercial operations at 4:00 pm on Wednesday, November 9th, until circumstances permit operations resume.”
In response to a question about when the airport will reopen, MCO indicated: “The time for reopening our airport is fluid as it will be determined by an assessment of damage to airport property & facilities. Please feel free to keep an eye out on our social channels for updates regarding the reopening of our airport. Thank you.
Walt Disney World has not yet announced that its hurricane cancellation policy has been activated. However, it’s typically the case that the company begins quietly allowing penalty-free cancellations at this point on a case by case basis. It should be pretty simple given that the airport is closing, but as always, it’s more effective to be polite when dealing with Cast Members than it is to be aggressive and rude. (And being kind is just the right thing to do.)
When in effect, Walt Disney World’s hurricane cancellation policy applies to reservations booked by the Walt Disney Travel Company or Disney Destinations, LLC. (In other words, if you booked through Walt Disney World directly–either by phone or Disneyworld.com–you’re eligible. Same goes for reservations booked via an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner or travel agent.)
Most room-only and vacation packages can be modified, or cancelled online, including changes to travel dates, without fees. Packages including air transportation or other services provided by third parties, or those with travel protection, cannot be modified or cancelled online. Guests with these reservations will need to call Walt Disney World for assistance. (Expect longer-than-normal hold times.)
What’s not clear yet is whether this includes Disney Vacation Club Members or those booked using DVC points. Normally, that’s the case, but we have not yet heard any updates on the Disney Vacation Club side of things.
Another unknown is whether Walt Disney World resort hotels has lifted the pet restriction policy for arrivals between now and November 11, 2022. Even if this hasn’t officially happened yet, it almost certainly will occur. This is done because Disney’s resorts are a popular relocation option for coastal Floridians who must evacuate from their homes. (During Hurricane Irma, we met several families from the coast who brought their pets–seeing all of the pups was easily the biggest silver lining of being stranded here.)
Should You Cancel or Reschedule Your Walt Disney World Trip Due to Potential Hurricane Nicole?
That’s a personal question and the answer largely depends upon your arrival and departure dates, expectations, and myriad other factors that are unique to your specific trip.
Rather than being presumptuous and making broad and sweeping statements, we’ll offer thoughts from our experience being stranded at Walt Disney World during Hurricane Irma several years ago as out-of-state tourists, and during Hurricane Dorian as locals a few years ago. From that, you can reach your own conclusions.
Hurricane Irma caused Walt Disney World to be closed for two full days and resulted in some damage around the resort. We got stuck in Walt Disney World after our Disney Cruise Line Bahamas sailing was canceled. The cancellation of this itinerary occurred relatively last minute, and rather than being proactive and cancelling the trip ourselves, we took a wait and see approach.
That was a mistake, and one we immediately regretted. By that point, we were unable to rebook our flight due to the mass exodus of people trying to leave Florida. We spent countless hours on the phone with Delta, and checked constantly as flights were added and modified, but kept coming up empty. Instead of going home, on a cruise, or to the parks, we spent a few nights “getting to know” the rooms at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.
If you’re on the fence about whether to cancel or reschedule a Walt Disney World vacation right now, we’d strongly encourage you to read our more detailed Our Hurricane Irma Experience at Walt Disney World, which covers what we did to prepare for the storm, how Walt Disney World’s “ride out” Cast Members handled operations, and much more.
One thing we will stress here is that, contrary to popular reassurances, Walt Disney World is not the safest place to be during a hurricane. Wherever you live–where the hurricane isn’t–is safer.
Despite losing around 3 days of park time (and that’s not counting the hours spent wandering around Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios essentially doing nothing while on hold with Delta), our experience with Hurricane Irma turned out fine. Cast Members were great, we felt safe throughout our stay, and Disney went above and beyond to make the most of the situation via entertainment and activities.
The hurricane itself didn’t cause much damage beyond some downed trees, which meant everything was back up and running quickly. Things could’ve gone worse; the parks could’ve been closed longer or attractions could’ve gone down, etc. Moreover, MCO could’ve stayed closed longer, and we could’ve had more difficulty booking a return flight home.
Things could’ve just as easily been far worse for us, and could still be worse for Hurricane Ian. Unfortunately, that’s something truly unknowable in advance. Walt Disney World is located in Central Florida and is less likely to see the same levels of devastation as coastal areas, but that doesn’t rule out catastrophic damage.
A few years ago, the circumstances were similar with Hurricane Dorian. That storm reached Category 5 status, and was the strongest hurricane in modern records to make landfall in the Bahamas. While portions of Central Florida were in the cone of uncertainty, models didn’t call for it to make landfall in Florida–and it didn’t.
Despite that, Walt Disney World’s parks closed at 3 pm on the day that Dorian worst impacted Florida. It was mostly uneventful–lots of rain and wind, but I don’t recall anything else. What I do recall were deluge of disruptions, and the Duo of Delightfully Dead Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party nights that we attended. Due to cancellations, crowds were low both before and after Dorian.
So it’s possible the same scenario will play out for the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party events on November 10 and 11, 2022.
Unfortunately, it’s also possible that the subsequent parties will be busier, as guests are allowed to reschedule to other dates–including ones that are already sold out. (Note that this is not yet official–just something that we’ve observed happen in the past.)
How Tropical Storm Nicole will play out remains to be seen. At present, it does not appear that it’ll be as bad or similar to Dorian, Irma, or even the recent Hurricane Ian. The latest path projection predicts landfall for potential Hurricane Nicole in between Palm Beach and Brevard counties as a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph sustained winds and 90 mph gusts. It’s then projected to move northwest across the state south of metro Orlando similar to how Hurricane Jeanne and Hurricane Frances crossed the state in 2004.
The size of Nicole means the entire state of Florida could feel effects as tropical-storm-force winds extend out 380 miles. As such, the National Hurricane Center warns of dangers that expand hundreds of miles away from its center and cautions against focusing on the cone of uncertainty. The NHC also indicates that hurricane conditions are expected across portions of east-central Florida beginning late Wednesday. Nicole will produce heavy rainfall and flash flooding on Wednesday and Thursday across the Florida Peninsula.
With Tropical Storm Nicole, the best case outcome is the the storm weakening significantly, in which case, the biggest effect on Walt Disney World trips would be several days of torrential rains and heavy winds at Walt Disney World, but no theme park closures. One way or another, lots of rain is probably the base-case scenario–and something that’s going to happen regardless.
It seems that whenever there’s a hurricane forecast to impact Walt Disney World, it’s met with a lot of positive wishful thinking and people touting the best case scenario outcomes. This is probably a mix of reassurances to those who are freaked out, and naivety about the potential dangers of hurricanes. We’re not here to fear-monger, but we’re also not here to offer rosy platitudes about the magic of Disney or safety. Whether to cancel or reschedule is obviously your call, but traveling to Florida when a hurricane is forecast is a decision you should not make lightly.
Are you currently at Walt Disney World or Central Florida? Have you visited during past hurricanes? Any additional info, thoughts, or first-hand experiences to share about riding out a hurricane at Walt Disney World? 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!