MAGIC KINGDOM – Walt Disney World welcomed annual passholders Thursday in the first step toward reopening two of its parks to guests for the first time since mid-March following closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
News 6 spoke to several guests who were the first to experience Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom under new protocols including temperature checks, due to the ongoing health risks.
Here are seven things they noticed:
SOCIAL DISTANCING PARKING
As soon as guests pulled up to the parking lots at both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Thursday they saw the first changes Walt Disney World has done since their historic closure back on March 15th. Cast members guiding cars to park in every other spot for social distancing parking.
“I got here about 30 minutes after they opened and it was flawless,” said annual passholder Giovanna Gorra. “They parked you really quick, there is social distancing with parking so they are parking every other spots which is really cool.”
Walt Disney World does not disclose how many people it takes to reach capacity inside its theme parks or how many they are limiting as part of their phased re-opening, however annual passholders welcomed back for two preview days Thursday said they were surprised at how small the crowds actually were within the park.
“I expected to leave at noon because it was going to be too hot and too crazy but honestly it’s been an unexpected surprise,” Gorra said. Gorra went on Thursday with the goal of also taking pictures in her cap and gown in front of Cinderella’s castle to celebrate her recent Master’s degree.
“I had time in front of the castle by myself, and I’ve never been by myself in front of the castle,” she said.
LITTLE TO NO LINES
Small lines meant little to no wait times. Guests Thursday said at Magic Kingdom all rides were less than 30 minute wait.
”Everything that we wanted to ride we rode before 1 p.m.,” said guest Tori Kate Williams.
News 6′s Troy Campbell also spent his Thursday morning at Animal Kingdom where he got on the popular Avatar’s Flight of Passage ride in less than 20 minutes.
”It said 20 minute wait but we walked right up,” Campbell said. “But it’s pretty much walking on with the social distance markers, so you are stopping at each marker which slows down the pace, but you just walk through the queue which keeps a steady flow the entire time.”
CAST MEMBERS HUSTLED TO CLEAN ATTRACTIONS
Both at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, guests told News 6 Disney cast members cleaned seats and attractions after every ride. At Animal Kingdom, Rick Buencamino sent video of cast members wiping down all the seats and sides of the vehicles at the Kilimanjaro Safari ride.”Also, Disney put screens on the Safari ride,” he said. Over in Adventure Land in Magic Kingdom, Gorra sent a video showing cast members wearing face shields and holding a hose cleaning down Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride. “In between people they actually hose it down and they do all this stuff and send it up in the air for one rotation and then they bring it back,” she said.
POP-UP MINI PARADES
Walt Disney World has said they canceled all parades, character meet-and-greets and fireworks shows but that there would still be surprises for guests. Many guests believe that surprise could be the mini-parades and cavalcades that come through at random times so guests don’t gather. “It’s fun to be walking to a ride and you stumble upon a cavalcade that doesn’t have a lot of people waiting,” Williams said. “They don’t have set times to when they go out, it’s all random. Which keeps the crowds from gathering and everyone staying a good distance away.”
MASKS ARE NOT EASY ON A HOT DAY
Walt Disney World is requiring all guests 2 and older to have a face mask on and knows it could be tough on a hot summer day. Because of that they have added ‘Relaxation stations’ throughout the park, though the annual passholders today said the masks were not easy to wear. “It is definitely hot in the heat with a mask but they have designated areas where you can take off your mask and take a sit to cool off,” Williams said. “I’m sweating and I have a fan and I’m shoving my fan in my mask trying to make the best of the situation,” Gorra added.
DISNEY MAGIC IS STILL THERE
Despite the changes, all of the annual passholders News 6 spoke with Thursday said the still felt the Disney Magic. Videos show as soon as guests walked in cast members lined Magic Kingdom’s famous Main Street to welcome them.
”The magic is 100% here. Honestly, I’m having like the best time because the cast members saying ‘Welcome home’ and ‘Welcome back’ or they saw me taking pictures and they were doing goofy faces and having fun, it’s just a happy place to be,” Gorra said. “Happiness is something I needed after these past few months being locked up in my house, so if I have to do it 6-plus-feet away from people I’m happy to do that.”