Saturday, July 11, 2020

Returning (Safely) to the Magic...

A big thumbs up for today's park experience!
Just a few months short of a year since my last post and oh my, how things have changed! It was a long four months for The Anderson Adventure team to stay away from the Walt Disney World theme parks, but we understood it needed to be done. Yesterday, the kids and I were part of an Annual Passholder Preview at the Magic Kingdom. Park hours that day were from 9am - 7pm. Our time spent there was from 11:30am - 6pm. We spent most of the morning at a nearby resort (a separate post to come about how awesome our stay was at the Saratoga Springs Treehouse Villa) and wanted to enjoy that until it was time to check out. Yes, I understand that there are risks involved in venturing out into a public venue. Yes, I know that Florida has increased cases of COVID-19, especially within the last two weeks. As a currently healthy adult, along with two healthy teenage children, I decided that it was the perfect time to see the enhanced safety protocols, especially since my family has worn masks in public venues for quite some time (not that we are going out every day, but we wear them as advised, especially since our county has had a mandate in effect since late April). As a travel agent and educator, I am not encouraging anyone to head out and go straight to WDW. This post is to inform you of how we spent our day and to determine if visiting the parks is right for your family in the near future. I will try to do my best to break this up into categories:

Entering the Park: Temp check, then to bag check, which is now done differently, where you are asked to take everything out on your own, so that security is touching very little of your items (they are wearing gloves). Plastic tubs are also being used to store items (think more like airport security). I was also "wanded down", which was a first. At the express monorail station, a cast member assigns your group/family to a number. Gone are the days where you can select your own "cabin" and one group per section. This may create a slow down of service in the weeks to come. Also, partitions are now placed in between sections in each cabin. A cast member greeted us at the gates and scanned our bands away from traditional
turnstiles (no fingerprint needed). Once in, that's when the changes become clearly visible.
The new partitions in place on monorails. Not 100% covered
Main Street U.S.A:
This is where it felt REALLY different, cast members in masks and face shields, no lines anywhere, especially for meet and greets. No characters anywhere. It was silent. I don't remember hearing any music at all, except for the Magic Kingdom marching band that playing later that afternoon. 

Tomorrowland:
We headed over to Tomorrowland with expectations of a long wait on Space Mountain. It was close to noon on a Friday afternoon and there wasn't many people at all in the park. No shoulder to shoulder crowds, strollers running into the back of your legs, cool mist air to help cool off...it's all gone. Wait for Space Mountain was 10 minutes. Once again, masks are on at all times, even while riding the attraction. For this reason, all masks must have ties or ear loops (neck gaiters are not a permitted face covering in the parks).


Entering Tomorrowland
Mask Wearing 101:
I understand this is a highly debated issue. I get it. Florida is super hot and these masks get uncomfortable. Yes, you must wear them while in the parks - that is non negotiable. Bring LOTS of water and take some time to utilize the relaxation stations. Here, you can take off your mask and have a seat at safe socially distanced table. They are also sanitized down after each family leaves. This is a much needed service and I am curious to see where these are located in the other parks. Also, please bring more than one mask per person since it might get wet and sweat soaked (ewww). I recommend the lightest mask possible. The medical/disposable ones have worked best for us. Cloth has been way too restrictive.
Relaxation Station. A MUCH NEEDED break!

Line Queue Spacing and Cast Member Safety:
Love the wait times!

Each family gets it's own train. 3 people= 3 separate lines. :)
Honestly, this is my favorite feature and I hope it stays for awhile: there are markings at each attraction as where to stand. This would have been beneficial in a pre-COVID world. I don't like being super close to strangers to begin with. This prevents smelling some pretty funky odors, too. We all know that's it's not super fresh, especially during the summer months. Also, any of the interactive line queues have been temporarily roped off. Most cast members who work in the line queues are wearing masks, as well as face shields. 
"Don't stand so close to me" :)

No touchy!

No more interactive activites while you wait in line
The Sad and the Not So Magical
Our biggest complaint was the hand sanitizer stations. They should be used often, but I don't think Disney is using Purell anymore. This brand was thick and sticky. After several applications, the stuff started to flake off our hands. It was gross! So, we utilized the bathrooms sinks and washed our hands with soap and water A LOT! The saddest part was the attendance numbers. Yes, this is a risk to enter an amusement park. Yesterday's visit was a "test" to see how the reopening will go in the weeks to come. I've heard many clients and friends say, "I would love to go to an empty park", shoot, I've said it several times, too. However, this is eerily different. Tatum said, "Mom, this just doesn't feel right. It's way too quiet here." What broke me (and put me into tears) was the desertion of Fantasyland. The pictures will say it all...
Kids were the only ones on this attraction, rode it twice in a row, all alone

Empty line queue at Dumbo

I almost didn't take this picture, but it proves that social distance can be done at Disney


Final Thoughts:
The kids and I had a GREAT day; so many memories created. One that I told them would probably never happen again (crowd level wise). We felt safe, but nothing will protect us 100% from this virus and we know that. We miss seeing families create memories for themselves and seeing children experience the park for the first time. I LOVE and MISS that tremendously! For my valued clients, I am here to answer any questions you may have. There are still many attractions and food venues that are and will remain closed for some time. Character interactions and pictures with Mickey? Nope, that's not returning for some time, too. Not being able to say hello and give our good pal Mickey Mouse a high-five definitely took away some of the magic. In the meantime, we will practice healthy habits and spend time with our friends at Walt Disney World when we can. See ya real soon, friends!
Love,
Jess, Tatum and Brady
Even with the changes, it felt good to be "H-O-M-E"
I think the castle looks gorgeous, Tatum disagrees with me. :)

Heading back home on a socially distanced ferryboat. Markers are present and no sitting on the benches (2nd Floor)