LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (WFLA) – When guests start pouring in to Walt Disney World this weekend to visit two of the resort’s theme parks, their experience will be very different from their last visit.
Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopen to guests with park reservations on Saturday.
EPCOT and Hollywood Studios will follow next Wednesday.
“This is going to be different than what everybody is used to going to Disney World,” said Taylor Rippey, a Disney parks enthusiast and one half of “The WDW Couple.” “We just have to remember that this is only temporary.”
She, and her husband, Josh, post Disney-focused videos on their YouTube Channel.
This week, Rippey was invited to visit Animal Kingdom during cast member previews.
“Oh my gosh, we are finally back at Animal Kingdom and I cannot even believe it,” she exclaimed with excitement on her vlog.
She admits she was skeptical at first.
“You don’t really know until you get there. Everything actually went way better than I ever could have imagined,” she told 8 On Your Side.
According to Rippey, the changes begin in the parking lot, where vehicles entered in waves.
“I think because they sent you in waves to park, not everybody was rushing in all at once. I think that really helped to space out the crowd of people just getting all there at one time,” she said.
Crowds were low. Lines and ride vehicles were socially distanced.
For example, she showed plexiglass dividers on board the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride separating each row, allowing guests to remove their masks.
“It’s kind of nice to get back out there and do what we have always done and what we love to do out in the theme parks,” she said.
Face coverings are required for guests aged two and up.
New guidance from Disney states the face covers must:
- Be made with at least two layers of breathable material
- Fully cover the nose and mouth and secure under the chin
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- Be secured with ties or ear loops and allow the Guest to remain hands-free
Neck gaiters, open-chin triangle bandanas and costume masks will not be allowed.
Guests will also go through temperature screenings.
People with temperatures at 100.4 degrees or above, and the members of their party, will not be allowed entry.
Admission is allowed only with a park reservation, in addition to a ticket or annual pass.
Park hopping will not be allowed.
“I think it’s a little premature. I don’t think we’ve got a grip on it here in Florida,” said Ed Chambers, the chair of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1625. “If anybody can do the job Disney will but it’s a long shot.”
The union represents 5,000 Walt Disney World merchandise workers, florists and banquet employees, including bartenders and servers.
Many of them, their union chair told 8 On Your Side, are anxious about returning.
“We’ve heard that there’s going to be some places that are natural bottlenecks. They’re doing everything they can. They’re doing everything they can to space people out,” said Chambers.
Many are concerned about guests arriving sick or not following the rules, not Disney itself.
“I’m not as concerned about Disney doing something wrong as I am about the guests not prepared,” said Chambers. “There’s going to be exposure. I’m sure Disney will have the masks. They will have the hand sanitizer. But is that enough? We can only hope so.”
It’s a tough situation, Chambers said, because thousands of Disney employees never received unemployment benefits during the closure.
“I understand the economics behind it. I would have felt more comfortable if we had a better grip on it as a state,” he said.
Universal Studios Orlando, SeaWorld, LEGOLAND Florida and Busch Gardens reopened in June.
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