9 changes to expect when Disney World hotels reopen

Jun 14, 2020

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When you think of Disney World, the first thing you might think of is the iconic castle and other elements of the theme parks themselves. But, Disney World also runs a massive hotel operation with thousands and thousands of on-property hotel rooms spread across more than a dozen hotel resorts.

On 11 July, when the Disney World theme parks, such as the Magic Kingdom, begin to reopen, we know there will be many dramatic changes in store for guests from pre-coronavirus operations. But what will that new altered state look like at the Disney hotels themselves?

Disney resort hotels will reopen on a staggered basis

So far, the announced reopening plan for Disney World resort hotels is that select Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will reopen first on 22 June.

This lineup of Disney World hotels with a set reopening date includes:

  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  • Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
  • Disney’s Old Key West Resort
  • Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
  • Disney’s Riviera Resort
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
Disney's Riviera Resort (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Disney’s Riviera Resort (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Disney has not yet announced when other on-property resorts will reopen, and in fact, based on online reports in various Disney fan groups, the company is moving some guests with June and July travel dates from other Disney properties to one of the ones listed above.

At Disneyland, Disney’s Grand Californian and Paradise Pier have reopening dates of 23 July, with no announced reopening day for the Disneyland Hotel.

No new bookings or changes right now

To focus on assisting guests with existing reservations, you can’t make new Disney World resort hotel reservations at this time (other than Disney Vacation Club members). Unless Disney initiates the request, in many cases, you can’t alter your current plans right now, other than to cancel.

For a near-term Disney resort reservation, you need to reconfirm your booking within seven days of arrival so that Disney knows you actually intend to travel.

Skip the front desk, please

Disney is highly encouraging resort guests to skip the front desk and minimize interaction with hotel staff during their stay. A linked MagicBand, or My Disney Experience app with a digital key feature, will open the door to your room when it’s ready.

Beginning 22 June, you’ll also be able to chat with a resort hotel cast member via the My Disney Experience app for assistance during your stay.

Related: 19 mistakes to avoid making at Disney World

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

No full daily housekeeping

While Disney will increase the level of housekeeping done in common spaces and between guests to focus on high-touch areas, like TV remotes and door handles, steam cleaning the floors, offering individually wrapping glassware and double-casing pillows, you’ll no longer get full housekeeping (er, mousekeeping) service each night — at least for a while.

Instead, you’ll get a light cleaning service every other day, which includes removal of trash and used towels, the wiping of counter surfaces, vacuuming and restocking amenities. (So, be ready to make your bed.) You can also choose to decline the every-other-day service completely.

Masks required

Face masks will be required in the Disney World hotels, just like in the Disney World theme parks, for guests ages 2 and older. The only exceptions will be when you are in your room, while swimming or while seated for dining.

Services that will be temporarily unavailable

Many of the services you may have been used to at Disney hotels will, at least temporarily, be unavailable at reopening. This list isn’t all-inclusive, but some suspended Disney resort hotel services include:

  • Club-level service
  • In-room celebrations
  • Dry-cleaning and valet laundry services; though self-service laundry will remain available
  • Shipping services
  • Resort airline check-in service may be temporarily unavailable
  • Package delivery from the theme parks
  • Arcades
  • Campfires
  • Character experiences
  • Dog parks will be closed
  • Electrical Water Pageant
  • Marina rentals
  • Playgrounds
  • Spas, salons and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
  • In-room child care services
  • Mermaid school
  • Special classes and programs, including culinary, cultural and animal programs
  • Deliveries will only be made to occupied rooms
  • Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts will not be available during the initial reopening period; Guests of this Disney Resort hotel may enjoy the leisure pool at Disney’s Beach Club Villas or the Luna Park Pool and leisure pool at Disney’s BoardWalk
  • Valet service, other than for guests with disabilities
  • Minnie Van service
  • FastPass+ and Extra Magic Hours

It’s also worth noting that it seems old-fashioned resort hopping will also be unavailable without a confirmed room reservation or confirmed dining reservation, so no cruising around to check out all the different resorts.

Related: What Universal’s reopening day was like 

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
No campfire singalongs for now (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Services that will be available

Now that you have a flavour for what won’t be available at Disney resort hotels when the properties begin to reopen later this month, here are some services that will be operational.

  • The complimentary Magical Express bus service will be operational to and from the Orlando Airport for resort guests.
  • Bell Services will deliver luggage to rooms, but will not escort guests to their rooms.
  • Pools will operate with reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing.
  • Some resort dining will be available, while other restaurants and bars will remain closed.
  • Before the theme parks reopen, bus transportation will be available between your Disney Resort hotel and Disney Springs area.
  • When the theme parks reopen, complimentary transportation will also be provided between Disney hotels and Disney theme parks.
  • Transportation will operate with physical distancing measures in place, reducing capacity. As a result, you may experience delays.

You can head to the resort updates section of the Disney World website for additional info on services that will be available at specific on-property resorts. For example, trail rides, outdoor movies and bike rentals are listed as available at Fort Wilderness upon reopening.

Pony rides at Fort Wilderness (Photo by Melissa Ann Photography for The Points Guy)
Pony rides at Fort Wilderness (Photo by Melissa Ann Photography for The Points Guy)

On the flip side, the popular ‘Ohana restaurant at the Polynesian is not listed as available at reopening.

Disney resort reservation won’t guarantee theme park admission

Both Disney World and Disneyland are going to severely cap guest capacity when the theme parks reopen in July. While there will likely be some sort of priority reservation system for those who have had trips cancelled due to the multi-month closure, unfortunately, Disney World has stated that simply having a Disney World hotel resort reservation does not guarantee admission to the theme parks.

We don’t yet know exactly how the Disney park reservation system will work, but just a head’s up that staying in a Disney hotel doesn’t ensure walking down Main Street USA.

Quarantines still apply

Not surprisingly, Disney asks that persons who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, have been in contact with someone with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 symptoms without completing a 14-day quarantine, or who are under quarantine orders must not enter Walt Disney World Resort.

But there is a little more to the story. While it could change before the reopening, keep in mind that Florida still has a mandatory 14-day quarantine for those coming from Louisiana as well as the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut tri-state area. This means that those residents could not go to Disney World without first self-quarantining in Florida.

Bottom line

A stay at a Walt Disney World resort hotel is typically an extended part of the magic of the theme parks — and while that may still be true when the properties begin to reopen in a few weeks, much will be dramatically changed from what we knew before the world shifted.

Featured image by Ryan Wendler / Walt Disney World

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