Well, we’ve made our second trip back to Walt Disney World since they re-opened late this summer after being closed in reaction to the 2020 virus.
You can read about our first trip back which took place shortly after WDW re-opened near the end of the summer. There we detail all of the measures that are in place during this abnormal time.
In this post we will be noting the differences from our last trip and making new observations.
This second trip back took place in mid-November 2020.
UPDATE 6 Feb – 2021 Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets
UPDATE 3 Dec – Disney has announced 2021 Disney Armed Forces Salute Info
Since the first trip some things have changed at WDW, but sadly most have not.
While Florida has been at Stage 3 for quite a while, with no State mask mandates, Disney has stuck firmly to requiring masks and enforcing social distancing rules.
See our Planning and Executing Your Walt Disney World Vacation During These Trying Times post for all of the specific details you need to know.
This post will be an overview and our general thoughts and observations.`
Since our last trip attendance levels have increased as more people have become comfortable with traveling again.
When Disney World originally re-opened they set their temporary new maximum theme park attendance at 25% of normal maximum capacity, they have recently increased this to 35%.
During our first visit we experienced attendance levels that were probably at 5 to 15 percent of max capacity. This trip, levels were much higher, with Hollywood Studios (still the busiest park) maxing out for park reservations (no more available) on 4 of the days we were there.
Please keep in mind that in normal times, Disney World’s theme parks are almost never at 100% capacity and are closer to 40% to 60% much of the time.
The levels we experienced now look more like average normal attendance, but with all the stringent social distancing measures in place the atmosphere was definitely not magical!
Attraction queues stretch way out into the parks due to less of the queue switchbacks being used inside the attractions and the 6 feet required between parties in line.
Wait times have increased on all rides from the very short waits this summer to 60 to 120 minutes or even more for all of the big E Ticket rides like Flight of Passage, Slinky Dog, and Run Away Railway.
We found some wait times to be exaggerated and some not, with no way to tell which was which. For example: a Big Thunder 45 min posted wait time only took only 15 minutes from getting in line to exiting after riding, while a 45 min posted wait at Jungle Cruise took right around 40 minutes to board our boat.
A Disney supervisor confided in us that while they have increased the maximum attendance allowed in the parks, they have not increased manning to cope with it.
Virus Reaction and Measures
Temperature!!! Our last trip was in August/September and temperatures were in the very high 90s with real feels around 103! This trip it was much easier (though not enjoyable) to wear masks with temps in the high 70s and low 80s.
Almost all mask and social distancing measures we noted during our first trip are still in effect, with the new addition of signs in the theme parks and additional PA messages that guests not wearing approved masks properly will be asked to leave. We did not observe anyone being asked to leave in our 7 days there.
Almost all cast members are now wearing plastic face shields (like you wore in shop in high school) over their full face and mask. Only a few did this our first trip. It is often very difficult to hear what they are saying causing you to have to sometimes get just inches from each other in order to hear them. So much for social distancing… Put a Plexiglas shield in between and communication is often impossible. At the Beaches and Cream take out window both I and the cast member had to bend down and put our faces by the small pass through at the bottom of the plexiglas to talk to one another.
One step in the right direction is the removal of signs outside Resort Hotel elevators stating only 1 party or no more than 4 people who share a room can ride together. And elevators are now again are stoping on intermediate floors to pick up others, which they did not do last trip.
We were able to experience some pool time during this trip as Stormalong Bay is now open. Once you enter the pool area and are inside the fence, masks are not required.
Air travel has picked up to about 50% full flights from almost no one on board, though the Orlando Airport still looked empty.
Our bags were again off of the conveyer and waiting for us when we arrived at baggage claim. Checking your bag at your departure airport and having them arrive in your Disney room is still not an option.
Disney’s Magical Express service was still excellent with reduced numbers of separated guests on board. Wait and corresponding travel times were not noted to be any longer than normal, in fact both trips waits were shorter than normal.
On property bus service is still less than ideal with not enough buses for the right parks during each theme park opening rush.
The Skyliner Station at Caribbean Beach is still a nightmare!
Those arriving at the Caribbean Beach Station via Skyliner from other resorts during theme park opening hours are required to go to the back of the line of those waiting to board at the Caribbean Beach Station after having already waited in line at their departure station.
There were 4 or 5 buses standing by at the Caribbean Beach Station if you wanted to take one to Epcot or Hollywood Studios instead of waiting in line for the Skyliner. If I’d wanted to take a bus I’d have done so at my resort, not walked to the Skyliner, waited in line then ridden the Skyliner only to then board a bus at the Caribbean Beach.
Disney needs to solve this problem!
How about FastPass for those who already waited in line at their origination station!!! Merge these guests into the brief line in the station. Don’t send them to the end of the Caribbean Beach line!
See our Skyliner Page for more info.
We did not use the monorail or any watercraft this trip.
The walkway from the Grand Floridian to the Magic Kingdom has finally opened!
Disney World Resorts
There are some changes at the resorts from our first trip besides the elevators we mentioned earlier.
Some dining locations remain closed, which somewhat to severely impacts your options depending on your location. Specifically at the Epcot Resort area there are only 3 restaurants open for all 3 resorts (though there are also a couple grab and go locations).
Thankfully, Room Service has resumed. When your food arrives it will be placed (along with the bill) on one end of a rolling cart that will be pushed towards you in your doorway. The server will be on the far end of the cart.
Maid service remains at every other day unless you decline and the service is only towel and expendables replacement and a vacuuming if needed. No bed service. And you can not receive maid service if you are in the room, though they will hand you the items you need at your door.
Disney World Security
The very positive changes noted with no bag checks and the fast walk through metal detectors we reported on after the last trip remain awesome!
Disney World Theme Parks
As noted before, crowds have increased especially Friday afternoon/evening and the weekend with locals augmenting the on site guests.
We recommend avoiding Hollywood Studios and Epcot on the weekends, and even taking Saturday as a pool/down day as we did this trip. We hit Animal Kingdom on Sunday and it was fine.
The new Cavalcades, small surprise groups of characters in a mini parade, are still going strong.
These are not scheduled so people won’t congregate waiting for them. You just have to listen for the loud music to start up along parade routes.
- Magic Kingdom: Through Frontierland, Liberty Square, around the hub, and then down Main Street
- Epcot: Around the World Showcase
- Hollywood Studios: Up Hollywood Blvd, around Eco Lake, and out to the left of Star Tours
- Animal Kingdom: Cavalcades are on pontoon boats that circle the park on Discovery River
Other characters will pop up in a location where you can’t get near them, but might be able to pose for a pic with them in the background. The also appear on balconies.
Regularly scheduled attraction refurbishments are still taking place.
The Liberty Square Riverboat in the Magic Kingdom is being refurbished as is the waterway it travels on. Also in the MK My personal favorite the WedWay People Mover is being refurbished.
Epcot is still a mess in Future World, with the center spine still demolished and long detours around it.
Relaxation Stations, where you can take off your mask are still open in the theme parks, but as we noted before, you are allowed to stop anywhere, stay socially distanced and take off your mask to sip your water or nibble a snack. We did this extensively both trips. You are not allowed to do this while moving!
Many merchandise locations are closed, putting pressure on the ones (especially the big ones) that are open. This causes sometimes long lines just to enter locations such as the Emporium on Main Street through their single entrance.
We recommend getting to your chosen theme park very early and getting some of the most popular rides accomplished before the lines build. You might want to take a mid-day break as we’ve noted that the parks tend to empty at dinner time and remain so. Disney has also noted this as they are bringing back Park Hopping after 2 pm starting 1 January 2021.
Disney World Restaurants
Mobile Order has expanded to even more Quick Service locations and to some Resort Hotel Table Service ones as well for take out.
More dining locations have opened, though not all.
Disney Springs was Much more busy than we experienced last trip. Mostly due to locals. Especially on Friday afternoon through Sunday night.
You are much better off going on weekdays!!! Or early on the weekends.
World of Disney has long lines to enter. We experienced a 45 minute wait to get in on Friday evening. The store actually looked to be at normal capacity inside! However lines to check out were horrendous!
I used to brag that going on a trip to Walt Disney World was a magical experience where you could forget the outside world. A real important thing for our community!
Sadly I can’t say this is true at this time. All the measures Disney has put in place constantly remind you of the covid debacle.
As I’m finishing this post up Disney World had all 4 parks reach capacity last weekend. The measures in place make these normally low crowd levels hard to take.
We can’t wait for Walt Disney World to get back to the Real Normal after this Temporary Abnormal! It just isn’t the magical place where you can forget the worries of the outside world it was just 8 long months ago.
Planning a Disney Trip? Want to get the best military discounts that are available? Feeling a little confused?
See Our Great Disney Discount and Planning Info:
- Disney Veteran & Military Discount Eligibility Guide
- The Military Family’s Walt Disney World Comprehensive Vacation Planning and Preparation Guide
- Military Disney Tips Disney Packing Checklist
- Disney Military Tickets – Your Start to Finish Guide
- Resorts/Hotel Overview Page
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