As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, like most big areas, events and social gatherings in the United States, The Walt Disney Company announced that they would close their American theme parks including Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort. They also closed Disneyland Paris and suspended operations for Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney.
The Theme Parks
I was at Walt Disney World up until the day the parks closed out of an abundance of caution over the coronavirus. Since then I’ve been asked by many what it was like to be there up until the closure. I can honestly say that things were very normal at the parks. Slower crowds for Spring Break time for sure.
Lines were smaller, Toy Story Mania was 45 minutes which is very low for even an average day. I jumped in line just to test the 45 minutes and found that I was on the attraction in 20 minutes.
Even the line for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway was much smaller than I thought it would be for a brand new attraction. In fact the line for Slinky Dog Dash was longer than Runaway Railway. Same went for Rise of the Resistance.
Over at EPCOT, Frozen Ever After was a 40 minute wait and Spaceship Earth was walk-on. FastPass+ reservations were popping up all the time for bigger attractions.
Disney did a great job with having additional Cast Members out and about helping guests as well as having several hand sanitizing stations throughout the parks. The only unfortunate thing was that most Cast Members couldn’t answer questions about the closures because they hadn’t been given much information.
Although Disney had previously announced that each finger print scanner would be cleaned after every use by a guest, this was not happening. I think they gave up once it was announced that the parks were closing.
I spoke to several Cast Members at the parks and resort hotels about what they thought and many of them had differing opinions. Some thought the parks shouldn’t have closed unless there was a case of coronavirus there. Some thought it was a good idea in order to prevent the spread of it. Mostly though, the majority of them were scared or worried about what the future held for their jobs.
I hadn’t thought much about this as Disney’s official announcement stated that Cast Members would be paid during the closure. But what did that mean? A full 40 hours per week of pay? An average of their last 2 paychecks? 20 hours a week?
One DVC Cast Member I spoke to said they had not heard anything about what their pay would be. He told me he had a brand new baby, a mortgage and regular bills to pay to he was quite worried about how things were going to turn out. Mostly, I was somewhat shocked that Cast Member had been left in the dark concerning this.
The more Cast Members I spoke to, the better understanding I had about their fears of the future. When a big company, like the Walt Disney Company, suffers a major financial blow like these closures, they may save face to the public by saying they are still paying their employees. But what happens after all this blows over and they’ve suffered financial losses?
Most Cast Members believed there would be layoffs or a massive reduction in hours, to the point that it wouldn’t even make sense to work because 4 hours a week doesn’t pay the bills.
Whatever ends up happening, I hope the Walt Disney Company does everything in their power to keep things normal for Cast Members and their families. They absolutely deserve the best.
What The Future Holds
If I had it my way, April 1st, 2020 would see the highest attendance the resorts have ever seen and things would be right back to normal. Of course I have no idea what will happen when the parks reopen that day but I really hope that guests will continue to visit the parks and reschedule their vacations.
It may be that April 1st, 2020 is one of the slowest days in resort history and guests are still leary of going out. If this is the case, April 1st, and the weeks beyond this could end up being one of the best times to travel. It’s all going to come down to Disney’s response, assuming that April 1st will be the opening date still and how they’ve taken care of their guests during the closure.
Of course guest travel is going to be dependent on…the guest, and whether or not they feel comfortable traveling again or not. I would suggest doing what your gut tells you. If you think there is still high risk, stay home. If you feel like the worst part is over and you’d like to take a nice vacation, head on out to the parks!
I know that several companies including Get Away Today for Disneyland and ourselves for Walt Disney World are offering great discounts right now for guests who are planning a trip beyond April 1st, 2020. It’s a great time to plan a future trip while taking advantage of special airline sales, tickets sales and hotel sales.
Disney, in the meantime has been touting the opening of Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park happening this Summer. Construction on new attractions including Ratatouille, a Guardians of the Galaxy’s Roller coaster, Tron and others continue to move forward for openings this year and next.
Dean has been writing and blogging for over 10 years. He specializes in Disney theme park news including updates, openings, special events and general advice for travelers. He doesn’t shy away from the good, the bad and the ugly. His previous work includes being a Cast Member at Disneyland and working as a travel agent.