Is DisneyWorld a preview of Post Covid Disneyland or will it all fall apart?
DisneyWorld reopened in Phases starting with Disney Springs and then a phased reopening of the parks starting July 11, 2020. Disneyland, the crown jewel of the Walt Disney Company remains closed. If you are willing to pay $10 you could park and shop depending on the mood of California’s Governor Gavin Newsom. Disney CEO Bob Iger is, according to his book, a news guy, not a Disney guy. It is starting to show in how the parks are handling the pent up demand.
The Preview of Social Disney-ing – The New Disney Religion?
Given that we aren’t allowed to go to Disneyland this week while the surf was a bit too angry for us, we went to Disney World.
On the flight out we had to laugh at the magazine that was “treated with an antibacterial formula”. Covid-19 isn’t a bacteria if you haven’t heard. Walking into our room at DisneyWorld, there was a nice sign telling us how the room has had extra cleaning. In the past we have never had a issue with our rooms at any Disney property. There wasn’t anything that screamed “we are killing the virus”. Even the remote was treated with an “antibacterial” according to the little sticker on the baggie it was in.
Immediately after walking into the gates we started asking if this is what Disneyland will look like, and if so, why? For months now, we have been asking why anyone keep spraying poisons that may or may not work because wiping down the surfaces my not give enough time to kill viruses. Specifically the Covid-19 virus. It is well documented that UVC light is much more effective.
The next thought is “Why do I need to waste a baggie on the remote?”. I fully get a clean remote. I’ve seen those videos with the UV light and all the stuff they find in hotel rooms. Ironically I have one of those lights. I have it to cure SolarRez when I ding a surfboard. Maybe I should have brought it. What I wonder is why Disney doesn’t just use a UVC light to kill the virus in the rooms before I arrive? I did decide that that is exactly the next travel purchase.
The Social Disneying Experience.
Upon arrival, our room wasn’t ready at 6pm. Check in time was 4. Stuff happens, we get it, Our flight was an hour behind schedule too. The problem was our 7 pm dinner reservation. Just as we decided to leave our bags with the bellman, the room opened up. We ran our bags to our room, rolled them in the door and then literally ran out to dinner.
Having worn the mask for 9 hours already my face was starting to itch. Five minutes in the park, my wife got her first warning for dropping her mask to drink water while walking. You must be “stationary” to lower your mask and drink. Already my fun meter was sliding the wrong way.
Oh yeah, we needed a reservation just to get into the park to go to our dinner reservation. At least it didn’t cost us an extra $10 like parking to shop at Downtown Disney.
A nice Stroll
Walking the Parks at DisneyWold was about the most pleasant experience that my wife and I have had at a Disney park in the 25 years we have been married. This is at least our 15th trip back since our Honeymoon here. This is very different than the shopping at post Covid Downtown Disney, which is what we expected. My fun meter was starting to perk up. With a few rare exceptions, we could stroll at our speed.
The next morning we entered the park to hit some rides. The first thing you notice is that lines are literally a mile long because everyone is standing on markers that are six feet or more apart. We arrived at the Animal Kingdom 20 minutes before the official opening and were in line for Avatar at the Harambe bar at 7:58. It only took 25 minutes to get on the ride.
After all that spacing, and a quick moving line, I thought this was going to be very different then shopping Downtown Disney. Unlike Downtown Disney every line moved all day, and 99% of the time everyone was six feet apart. But then i got on the Avatar ride and sat right next to the lady that is coughing up a storm. Every seat was filled.
The Rules are Rules. Sometimes.
Throughout the day we learned that different rides had different methods of “social distancing”. Some rides left a full car between groups, some a row, others no space at all once you were on the ride. It was like going to different grocery stores and trying to figure out which ones clean the carts, which ones want you to do it, and which ones let you use reusable bags.
The biggest downside to the whole mast thing is of course wearing a mask for up to 9 hours a day. It’s so bad they made “relaxation areas” where you can just sit and take off your mask. As soon as you stand up, someone rushed in to spray the table.
We quickly realized that you can’t get a beverage and walk around. That has got to be a noticeable shift in income for all of the parks. Why spend $3.50 on a Coke® when you have to stop and drink it. If I want to drink a soda to drop my mask I can do that at home or practically anywhere else. Even in California, walk around the malls. If someone has a coffee in their hands the mask is down. Everyone hates them and yet no one is calling for the “leaders” to drop the stupidity.
The EPCOT that isn’t.
Even more sad is that the employees at EPCOT don’t represent the host countries. After riding Ratatouille at Disneyland Paris, we were very hopeful it would be open. The entire section is still locked off. You can’t even look in the windows. None of this matters to post covid Disneyland though does it?
The good news with the lines is that you only needed to slow your stroll a bit and you would never stop walking. The first day we covered 11.1 miles according to the Apple Watch and hit every ride in the Animal Kingdom. After seeing three plus hour lines for Avatar and not being able to get a FastPass, the thirty minute line was a bargain.
Shopping Spree Time
Sadly about half of the shops were still closed but truthfully we wouldn’t have bought more stuff anyway. With the temperature about 10 degrees below what the weather guessers has put in the 10 day forecast we bought jackets the first night. Sadly we were in a park and the quality of the jackets is just poor. I still have a jacket and a long sleeve shirt (at home) that I bought on my honeymoon here 25 years ago that are very high quality.
One of the big differences between Disneyland and DisneyWorld is where the guests come from. Will those numbers be different at a Post Covid Disneyland? I have heard rumors that nearly 80% of the visitors every day at Disneyland are local pass holders. The same sources say that DisneyWorld is the opposite with just 20% of the guests as pass holders.
DisneyWorld has a massive lead in the shopping areas with Disney Springs and all of the parks. At the Columbia store I found a great jacket for half the price of the cheap nylon thing I bought in the park. 90% of the stuff we saw in the stores was a repeat of the other stores. I know that Disney parks had a huge percentage of the income coming in from merchandise. The Mickey LED bubble blowers are clearly a top performer.
Follow The Money
Unlike every other trip I have made to a Disney park, I just don’t see people buying a lot of merchandise. Is it a sign of the times? Or is it a temporary setback due to the pandemic and social distancing? Personally I can say I would have gladly paid way more for a quality jacket if there were any available in the park. We did spend a small boatload at Pandora. There is also a high probability that another Disney themed Dooney & Burke bag will grace my wife’s closet next week. This is our 25th Anniversary trip, just 7 months late.
It’s pretty clear that the parks are losing money still even though they are open. I am betting the same is true at Downtown Disney even with the Buena Vista Street extension. The Disney hotels and parks appear to be at about 25% capacity here in Florida. The big question is obvious. Can Disney take advantage of this situation and re-open as a super premium destination, or will they continue to pray for volume and an unrestricted social distancing future after offering to be a Vaccine POD in SoCal?
At the end of the day the only thing that keeps the Disney parks going is profit. They either need a lot more profit per person (I’ll pay if it stays this empty and open) or a lot more people in the parks opening their wallet. Time will tell which way it goes.
Jan 14th, 5 pm update
Disneyland president Ken Potrock sent out an email to pass holder to announce that the passport program is ending at Disneyland. Will this be the end of the SoCal Local Babysitter passport? Has Mr. Potrock realized that locals visit but don’t spend real money? The email mentioned “new membership options being considered.” Will it be a real membership like a Yacht Club or Country Club? Will there be minimum quarterly spending requirements? I wouldn’t say that is a bad thing. I look forward to seeing what they come up with.