New Park Safety Insights & Park & Hotel Registrations: The Perfect Storm
Disney News on Parade for June 29th 2020
Lots of news with events happening at Walt Disney World, not only from opening up the registration process, but also from the safety front. I’m your host, J. Jeff Kober. You can find our podcast here on Podbean, iTunes, Spotify, MyTuner, and ListenNotes. Key concepts and quotes are found below along with images, but my own thoughts and impressions are best laid out on the podcast. So please visit both.
New Registration Process
Last week we spoke of the new registration process and the dates. Since then, many of those dates have come and gone. How did it fare? Well, here are some of the highlights.
Monday, June 22nd. On the first day when it was made available to those who had confirmed reservations for hotels, it started awful, but got better in the evening.
Wednesday June 24th. The option was made available to grab reservations from January 1st 2021 through September 26th of 2021. If you have a very unique date or a very unique request, you need to start early. Otherwise, you probably have time in the next weeks to come to make a reservation.
Friday, June 26th. Annual Passholder availability began on this date at 6:00 am. Many venues were unavailable within minutes, as annual pass holders booked up to 3 experiences at a time. Again, the flow went fairly well, especially if you were up early.
Sunday, June 28th. The Disney Park Pass system opened to all other existing ticket holders to reserve dates to visit the parks. It was questionable how many openings there were, but there hasn’t been much negative feedback from this. Notwithstanding, making advance reservations makes it very difficult for hotels outside of Disney to draw guests when they will not be first to be able to reserve.
Monday, June 29th. Disney unexpectedly announced the availability of Annual Passholder Preview Tickets. This message was sent via text and email to almost all annual passholders. Within minutes the availability of these tickets were gone. There were only two days for previews, and only at Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
What still remains is the Cast Member Preview Tickets. Those will probably be made available on a first come first serve basis in the next day or two. They will have four days of previews, and will include Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The Perfect Storm: IT, Disney Reservations & Travel Planners
Disney is not Google or Amazon. Therefore, IT systems like MyMagic are secondary to their core business of attractions and resorts. They have never been solid software offerings. In that vein, they continued in some ways to be disappointing over the last week.
I believe that Disney has actually been planning for months what they should do. And I think that many of their plans were thoughtfully considered. But I wondered if they really paced themselves to give the IT groups time to do their role. Especially when that IT group might be a third party–or operating partner. I don’t have the specifics here, but I know something about spending so much time in the planning, that you end up making others suffer in the execution.
But the real problem was probably not IT but Central Reservations. My guess is that management was thinking something like the following:
- We are only going to have a small percentage who will be able to come into the resorts and parks up front.
- The booking will be way out into 2021, so surely Guests won’t get online to do it right away.
- We’ve added IT features to our apps, like making a park reservation, so it won’t need as many Cast Members to help make the reservations.
- People are skittish about even coming to the parks, so the inquiries will be less.
- We are working on less cash, so we really can’t afford to bring all Disney Reservation Center cast members back at this point.
If this is your paradigm, then you will probably make the mistake of not bringing all of your Reservations team back to work on these critical dates. And that’s what they did. Many are still furloughed. And that’s why guests and especially travel agents waited for hours to get someone to talk to. It was a perfect storm that eventually went somewhat away. But it left a lot of people frustrated on Day One.
The way to address these problems head on is to communicate up front. Communicate to your guests, to your travel agents and to your own employees. But because many of these issues were being addressed for the first time as they came down the pike, they didn’t do a lot of up front communication. This is a mistake, and it leaves everyone frustrated and unengaged. I myself had conversations with Disney reservationists. They were doing their very best, but honestly, I knew how painfully difficult all of this was. It really didn’t have to be.
Many Travel Agents are authorized Disney vacation planners. That is somewhat an equivalent of being an operating partner Not quite like Coca Cola, but they are an operating partner. Operating partners in Disney lingo really means third party operators in any other organization. But culturally, it’s supposed to be different. They are supposed to be truly partners. So they uphold your standards. They go through many of the same training that your own reservationists goes through. They share in the planning, operation and execution of providing travel for guests. Third party people are just contractors, and contractors do what they’re supposed to do based on the contract. No more. No less.
The problem is Disney would probably prefer a world where they didn’t have to use travel agents. They’d probably prefer to keep the percentage. They would like to think that software is good enough to book the experience without one. So they keep dismissing travel agents as third party contractors. This really doesn’t help the relationship. And it certainly doesn’t help the Guest experience.
New Safety Standards
Much has been said of safety protocols that will be in place when the parks reopen. We don’t need to rehearse the fact that you need to wear masks or socially distance yourself. But Cast Members have begun an extensive (and fairly impressive) training experience, and out of it we have additional insights as to what the guest experience will be like:
Different Zones. Disney has communicated that positions and locations have certain designations. These are largely for Cast Members to adhere too.
Zone 1. You are in a zone where you are free to remove your face covering as long as you remain socially distant from others and continue to observe other safe behaviors such as washing your hands. These are largely break areas.
Zone 2. You are in a zone where guests or other Cast Members may come as close as six feet toward you. In that space, you are required to wear your mask.
Zone 3. You are less than six feet away from guests and you are not only required to wear your face mask but also a plastic shield. Complimentary plastic shields are available to all Cast Members that would work in close proximity of a guest.
Masks. Cast Members will need to enter with masks that have been provided for them when in identified zones. They are basic solid colors. There may be some coordination, but just because your Jungle Cruise costume is beige doesn’t mean you will necessarily get a beige mask.
Fever Check. Cast Members will receive a fever check prior to clocking in for work. Moreover, Cast Members were given thermometers so if they were uncertain, they could take their temperature at home.
Break Rooms. Much has been said about Cast Members needing to bring their own food and not be dependent on internal food services or vending machines. However, they have made considerable effort to provide additional (and indoor) break areas not utilized prior. Again, some restaurants not opening at this time will be converted over to these spaces, and tables/chairs will be spaced so that a Cast Member can take a break with their mask off and not worry about being too close in physical proximity to others.
Queues. These have been combined together and distanced with marks on the ground separating out parties. When guests are being queued into a row for boarding an attraction like Frozen Ever After, only one party will be in that row at any time preparing to board.
Rides. It is my understanding that with thrill rides like Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or with an attraction like Soarin’ that guests will be spread out sufficiently that they can remove their masks while on that thrill ride.
Retail. Small kiosks like those that sell items that light up will not be in use for the foreseeable future.
Food & Beverage. Small vending areas like where you buy sodas or Mickey bars or a beer will not be in use for the foreseeable future.
Guest Green Zones. There will be places guests can get a break from wearing a mask other than dining locations. Disney has worked to provide indoor as well as outdoor green zones for guests throughout the parks. This is one of the reasons some restaurants are not in operation at this time. Tables will be spaced appropriately, and guests will be invited where to sit.
Bus Transportation. Bus drivers air out the bus for 5 minutes every 20 minutes. Physical barriers and numbered seats are on each bus. Handstraps are zip-tied up so they can not be accessed or utilized. It is expected that all guests traveling will be seated.
Monorails. According to WDW News Today, partitions are being placed inside of monorail cabins to better separate parties.
Drawn to Life: Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group announced today that it and certain of its affiliated companies have filed for protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (“CCAA”) in order to restructure its capital structure. Cirque spokesperson Melanie Fontaine told the Orlando Sentinel that, while no official opening date has been set, Drawn to Life could premier this fall, barring any government restrictions. Cast and employees for that show are still on temporary leave “to ensure a swift and efficient return as soon as the ban on gatherings is lifted and show operations can resume.”
NBA Black Lives Matter Statements
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are planning to paint “Black Lives Matter” on the court inside both sidelines in all three arenas the league will use at the Walt Disney World Resort when it resumes the 2019-20 season late next month in Orlando, Florida, league sources told ESPN.
New Tri-Circle-D Ranch opens at Fort Wilderness.
One of our family’s favorite places has been moved a little south and enlarged considerably. It reopened (only to guests staying on property) on June 22nd. Included is the 197 Dragon Calliope which was originally purchased by Walt Disney. Take a look at the video below:
Cars Route 66. This Dinoco guy has been pictured as joining the Catastrophe Canyon experience at the Walt Disney Studios Paris. It’s a hint of how they will transition that experience to more of a Cars-themed adventure.
Oga’s Cantina has been removed from the dining list. Wouldn’t be surprised (but would be delighted if it were used as a space for guests to relax without a mask on).
Phoenix, a new female Hartmann’s mountain zebra foal was born on May 7th. She is part of the zebra team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. She’s spending her time bonding with her mom whose name is Peebles. These zebras are part of the Species Survival Plan program, overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This program ensures responsible breeding and genetic diversity of thousands of animal species.
Epcot’s Garden Grill will offer a modified character experience. At this point, they are the only character dining option coming to the Walt Disney World Parks. I love this experience as it was where our autistic son first came to accept and eventually love the Disney experience.
Gideon’s Bakehouse will be opening anew location at Disney Springs later this year. I’ve seen these huge morsels offered at the East End Market in Orlando, and they look sumptuous.
Everglazed Donuts and Brew is another new offering coming to Disney Springs
M&M’s Retail Store, moving from the Florida Mall to Disney Springs has announced a planned opening for Thanksgiving 2020.
- UNIQLO opened on one of the first day Disney Springs reopened but has since closed temporarily until more traffic is coming through.
- Mulan pushed back to a later reopening date to August 21st. AMC Disney Springs has thus pushed back its reopening to July 30th.
- According to YakFace, new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge merchandise is coming to select Target stores.