Disney World Reopening Plan Next Week, Disneyland Status, Universal Details & FAQ
In this update, we’ll cover the likelihood of a reopening proposal by Walt Disney World to Orange County leaders next week, Universal’s official plans to welcome back guests, Disneyland’s status, and more. Suffice to say, it’s been a busy few days for Florida theme park news!
Let’s start with Universal, as that’s the big and juicy, substantive news. After receiving approval on their plans from Orange County and the State of Florida, Universal officially released a “welcome back” statement announcing Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay would all reopen to the general public on June 5, 2020.
This lengthy release included information about health safety procedures, temporary rules, a surplus of liability disclaimer warnings, and temporary policies as the parks get back up and running. As we’ve noted before several times now, Universal and Disney generally collaborate on safety policies. Even if you don’t care about Universal, this is interesting to the extent that it offers a sneak peek into what Walt Disney World will likely announce…
Universal Orlando’s Frequently Asked Questions page is extensive, and we are not going to reproduce that in full here. If you’re curious about every single policy, please refer to that.
Instead, we’ll focus primarily on new ground that is not redundant to policies implemented at CityWalk and Disney Springs…
Face masks are one of the top questions on the FAQ, and we have some new info on that front: “With regard to face masks, If you have a disability that prevents you from wearing a face covering you will be referred to guest services to discuss ways we can accommodate you. If you do not have a face covering, we’ll have them available for purchase. Also, per CDC guidelines, children under the age of two are not required to wear facial coverings.”
Universal is likely to allow modified face masks to the extent feasible (think face shields). Beyond that, the ADA requires no “reasonable accommodation” here, as doing so would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others. This comes directly from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission–it’s not a matter of opinion.
Also on the topic of face coverings, Universal’s FAQ states that they’ll be available for purchase at a merchandise cart in the screening area within CityWalk. At this time, face coverings are available in one size. Note no mention of the free disposable face masks that Universal executives stated would be available during the task force meeting.
Additionally, Universal has arranged tables and seating so that guests can remove their face coverings while they eat. Masks need to be worn them at all other times. This goes for Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.
At Volcano Bay water park, it’s a different story. There, face coverings are recommended when guests cannot socially distance. They will not be permitted on slides and in pools.
As a practical matter, the likely scenario is that guests will need a mask to enter the park, and they’ll be recommended while in shops and lines for food, but otherwise it’ll be a matter of social distancing. Since masks are not permitted on slides and in pools, this means guests also will not be wearing them to/from or in those lines.
Reservations will not be required or available to visit Universal Orlando’s theme parks, but they are limiting attendance. This means that there may be times when the parks reach capacity and additional guests will not be admitted.
This has been a frequent area of concern for readers, but it’s worth noting that reports from CityWalk and Disney Springs thus far indicate that both have been ghost towns. If Universal viewed theme park capacity and demand as a concern, they’d almost certainly be taking reservations to avoid complaints and backlash.
The majority of the attractions and experiences within Universal’s theme parks are scheduled to open on June 5. Select experiences will not be available during this first phase, and some queue experiences may be slightly altered as the parks implement new procedures.
Guests will be required to wear face coverings on attractions. The only exception will be for attractions that include significant amounts of water as part of the experience.
Select attractions at Universal Orlando will utilize Virtual Line to help facilitate social distancing. (If you check out the Universal Orlando Resort app, you can see where it’s been added.)
Virtual Line allows guests to select a time to experience an attraction via the app so they’re minimizing the time they’re actually waiting in the queue line. Guests can make Virtual Line selections while they’re onsite at the parks on the day of their visit.
Hotels were not brought up in the task force meeting, and while it’s possible to make reservations beginning June 2, Universal Orlando has not announced anything official on that front.
Per the FAQ, Universal is still finalizing hotel reopening plans and will contact those guests with reservations as soon as plans are available. The grand opening of Universal’s Endless Summer Resort — Dockside Inn and Suites has been delayed indefinitely from its March date, as Universal “continues to evaluate our offerings during this time.”
Following the the splashy announcement of Universal Orlando reopening, Walt Disney World made its own non-announcement announcement. (When we say Disney has done a poor job with communications and transparency, this is exactly what we mean.)
None of this is anything new to anyone who has read the updates on this blog. Members of Walt Disney World leadership have said the exact same things in interviews and task force roundtables for the last couple of weeks. Nonetheless, it’s the first time Disney has released this info via official channels, and a couple things do bear reiterating since not everyone reads every single reopening update (we don’t blame you!).
First, while Walt Disney World is “currently accepting reservations starting in July 2020 at both resorts, as this situation evolves, timing may continue to shift.” In straightforward speak, this means that just because you can make a vacation package or hotel reservation for July dates doesn’t mean Disney won’t cancel on you.
Second, Walt Disney World “may also need to make real-time adjustments to booked experiences, park tickets and park passes.” This means that your FastPass+ selections and Advance Dining Reservations may be cancelled, even if they’re for a time when the parks are open, due to modifications in capacity or queuing.
It also mentions restricting the use of tickets, which means a reservation system could be implemented. This has been implemented at Shanghai Disneyland, which is currently utilizing date-based tickets plus a reservation system for Annual Passholders during its Advance Reservation Period. That system allows APs to make a new reservation once they’ve used a previous one (judging by the online calendar, reservations are easy to book on short notice).
Notably, Shanghai Disneyland has not “restarted the clock” on Annual Pass expiration dates during the Advance Reservation Period. All days during the initial reopening phase are a bonus, whether passholders visit or not. We’ve received a lot of question from Walt Disney World APs about this same issue for the Florida parks, and we don’t have a definitive answer. The best we can do is point to Shanghai.
If the domestic parks were to deviate from that approach, there will be significant backlash, as many fans quite clearly don’t want to visit during the initial reopening. We thus suspect Walt Disney World and Disneyland will both adopt the same approach; the less likely scenario is offering forward-looking prorated refunds on Annual Passes.
Of course, all of this is speculative, and nothing is certain until Walt Disney World announces its reopening plans. Even then, expect some ambiguity and mixed-messaging at first. We’d once again stress patience during this unprecedented time; while Walt Disney World could improve its communications, fans would also be well-served in improving their “chill levels.”
Speaking of reopening plans, it’s expected that Walt Disney World and SeaWorld will be delivering reopening presentations to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force next week. Both were expected to be presenting a couple days ago (and rumors are still swirling that they will soon privately submit plans to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings).
For his part, Mayor Demings appeared on CNBC to discuss Universal’s reopening. Unsurprisingly, the question of when Walt Disney World will reopen came up. Here was what Demings had to say about Disney:
“Disney has given an indication that next week they will submit their plans. Once they do, we will schedule that for a full briefing before our Economic Recovery Task Force as well. So at this point, it’s an undefined time or date, but we do look forward to seeing that sometime next week.”
The task force voted to unanimously approve Universal Orlando’s plan, but to our knowledge, there was no requirement of a public presentation. DeSantis is requiring the mayor’s approval before submitting plans to the state (which Demings gave following the task force meeting), but task force approval is not a necessary prerequisite to the mayor’s approval. Nevertheless, it sounds like Walt Disney World and SeaWorld will present next Wednesday based on Demings’ interview.
Both the task force and Demings previously indicated that they would defer to Disney and Universal with regard to reopening plans, so it’s little more than a rubber-stamping at this point. Demings could deny Disney’s plan if it included something absurd like, “we will hand out a flamethrower to every guest to ‘disinfect’ surfaces.” Even that might get approved, though. Florida leaders are very eager to have the tourism industry start recovering.
Finally, we’ll conclude with a non-update update on Disneyland since many readers have asked about this. Our ‘Disneyland Delays Reservations Another Month’ post covers California’s timeline for that state’s economy, as well as San Diego’s plan to fast-track the reopening of that city’s theme parks and zoos. Nothing noteworthy has changed since then.
As before, we anticipate Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood testing the San Diego approach, but there’s probably a month or two lag between what happens in Florida and what happens in California. It wouldn’t be surprising to see plans announced for CityWalk and Downtown Disney in the next couple of weeks, but don’t expect their respective parks open in June. At this point, July also seems like a long-shot.
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!
Will you be visiting Universal Orlando next month? Hopeful that Walt Disney World will announce its reopening date next week? Thoughts on Disneyland? We welcome a variety of viewpoints here, and will not delete anything on opinion alone. However, we will not tolerate insults, arguing, or politically-charged comments. Don’t ruin a 95% fine comment with an unnecessary cheap shot—that 5% will get it deleted. Additionally, please do not incessantly harp on the same point across multiple comments. Respectfully share your opinion and move along.
Bottom line Disney is hurting for money. The bigger they are the harder they fall…. Do really think these CEOs care about anyone other than themselves and their bank account. Numbers are more important than you and me. I don’t use numbers and percentages to compare deaths and virus count because that is a slippery slope. You better have your numbers right or else you look stupid. CEOs and their billions, mega yachts is all they care about is my point in a nutshell. Just like they don’t care about these posts. If I was in their shoes I might not care as well. Money makes life easier. The more you have and if its lots of it you can influence whatever you want in your favor. Everyone has a price and can be bought. Everyone.
I have a trip planned for late August early September. We have been to Disney multiple times. I have only been to Universal once but am thinking about switching this trip to Universal. Disney will always be my favorite but I am thinking Universal might be able to handle all this a little easier with it being smaller. Any thoughts?
I have reservations for late July at the Military Resort on Disney World property,Shades of Green. The operator on the line When I called, may have slipped when I asked if the parks will be open during July and she gave a definite yes. I said are you sure? She said it was moved from June to July but yes they will be open. Hmmmmm, maybe this is a news scoop we’ve been waiting for?
Thanks so much for your diligent updates on this Tom! Travelling from the UK to Disneyland in Nov so should be able to go ahead still for that trip (fingers crossed) but its v interesting to see what measures are being rolled out. We would be happy to wear a facemask, I’ve started wearing cottons ones to go to the supermarket etc and find them quite inoffensive. As preivously noted by other readers we are wearing facemasks to protect others from our germs and I think anything is better than nothing in terms of allowing us to get back to doing the things we enjoy quicker than having to wait for a vaccine. Last week should have been our first trip to Shanghai Disneyland (the last one to tick off!) but obviously had to cancel due to travel restrictions. Following your blog definitely helps comb through all the noise about when and how various reopenings may occur. All your hard work is very much appriciated!
What do you think about character interaction, one of our favorite things is to get the photo with Donald and be really close to the characters, how is this going to work and specially between kids, we have seen lines of kids gathering to have the character photos. I’m just wondering what will be the new protocols and if some of the old habits may be delayed for a long period of time.
It’s unclear whether there will be ‘intimate’ meet & greets–even with fur characters–when the parks reopen. I would not expect them to return right away.
Any news on Vero Beach?
By the sounds of all of this it looks like my September 28th scenario will be wreaked with face masks and social distancing issues. I am not going to spend all that money to come to Disney and not get the full experience. It’s sad that we have become so afraid to breathe outside that we are going to further hurt ourselves by breathing in our own breath in 90 plus degree weather for hours and probably get sicker than if we just used hand washing and smart hygiene. I mean people with have heart attacks and stuff. I can’t imagine anyone will visit with the stipulation of having to wear face masks all day and not having the full Disney experience. Can you imagine a 3 or 4 year old keeping a face mask on. NOT!!! just not happening.
Exactly we are from Florida and can agree there is no way to safely wear a mask in summer for hours and hours. Hopefully they will be smart w that.
Thanks Tom. I very much appreciate this blog.
Any idea how it will work for AP holders that haven’t activated passes yet? We have had a DVC Poly resort reservation for December for many months now, but recently purchased new AP’s. Will we be counted in for park admission due to having a resort reservation? I love our resort and all, but it’s not the reason we go to Disney!
Your AP won’t be activated until you use it to scan into a park! So if you aren’t going to any parks it won’t activate.
We all got to die of something right?? Disney and Universal need your money. Both parks have said you get the virus while visiting they are not responsible. So, let’s all pile in Disney World and Universal like the beaches and see what happens. I personally think this is a terrible idea. But, what do I know??? I have love one’s and kids. Let’s expose ourselves to a possible early death. Who doesn’t have health problems these days?? Let’s just add several thousands unnecessary deaths because we got tired of staying home and Disney World and Universal wants our money. Disney World and Universal are going to go by the rules… Sure…. It’s all about money. I don’t know what the capacity numbers will actually be but the parks can’t watch everyone. I mean we got sick individuals who are actually sick with the virus and just go to work knowing they’re sick like that hair salon employee that exposed everyone to the virus on purpose. Same will happen at the parks unknowing people and knowing individuals will go to the parks and infect others. So, yea open the parks up. You might as well open up Cruise Lines and all Air Travel at whatever minimal capacity to be fair to whatever destination. Those that go and get infected and infect others that’s on you. Sleep well at night with that decision. I can’t feel sorry for those that inflect bad mistakes on themselves.
I hear you. However there is something humans need to survive, food and shelter. In the world we live in, one obtain food and shelter by paying for them with money, and one gets money by trading their time, talents or labor, or usually a combination of all three. Disney world employs 62,000 people who rely on those jobs to exchange their time, talents or labor in exchange for money, which they will then exchange for food and shelter, which is necessary for them to stay alive. So, I guess I am saying, I s not purely greedy to reopen. Not entirely, I guess.
I love this idea! It’s been working well for the last 200+ years. Unless, of course, you count the 300,000 people in the US who die of obesity related issues each year. Definitely could use some government crackdown there. Can you imagine the good ideas they would have if we let them decide how to protect us from unhealthy weight? No more Mickey ice cream bars allowed in the parks because they are way too tempting for some of us weaker willed individuals.. I mean truthfully, how many of us parents have caved to a second Mickey bar in a moment of Disney desperation? CDC and WHO would not condone that type of bad parenting decision,, for sure.
I forgot to add this PSA. Mickey ice cream bars are BOGO at Publix this week!
Comfort, there are many cast members afraid to be called back to work. They fear people will be careless with all of the reopening requirements. They are also afraid for their families. If they don’t go when called, they will lose their unemployment and risk being fired. Maybe due to Universal reopening, Disney feels pressured to open before they’re quite ready. Other states that have reopened are again seeing an increase in the number of cases. No doubt Florida is also seeing the same, but sorry to say, I don’t trust any virus info that Florida releases, which I think may cause a false sense of security.
As it stands now, most cast members collecting unemployment are able to pay their bills. If fired because they’re afraid to return to work, no bills will get paid. All that being said, I think (I hope) Disney uses common sense in reopening and doesn’t rush it.
Barbara, I think the points you raised are valid, and I think they are rational concerns. I probably laid it on pretty thick with my comment. I guess I just advocate for balanced ideas being expressed. I don’t think the virus is a hoax, and I wear a mask to protect others and I wash my hands until they bleed to protect my family from me getting infected. But we have to get people back to work, and everyone knows that but some people somehow pretend like it’s not true. I feel like we need to take it seriously and cautiously, but we have to move forward.
This might be one of the most over reactionary posts I have ever read.
I could pick apart your post.. but.. I’ll just leave you with these two facts.
1. The average age of covid 19 death > average life expectancy
2. The CDC just released the newest mortality rate. 0.3%
And when you remove end of life care facilities.
So… (you better get ready to gasp!!). Its like a bad year of the flu.
Also. When states like colorado are including alcohol poisoning as a covid 19 death (look it up). I dont trust those percents either. They are probably lower.
But freak out over every death story. Because for every 30 year old that dies from covid. I can give you stories from previous years about people that age dieing from the flu. Stroke. Heart attack. But you didnt care then.
I understand your concerns but…no one is forcing you to go to these places or taking your money at gunpoint or anything like that. If you or loved ones work there or are planning on going there you could simply quarantine from them as everyone has been doing for several months, or look for a different profession with less social interaction. You are right that we all have to go sometime, and some people would like to go to Disney World first. I think that’s a valid life choice also.
When do you think Disney Hilton Head will reopen? South Carolina is open and Marriott hotels are open. Thanks!