Disney World delays some hotel reopenings — 9 big changes to expect when you visit

Jul 28, 2020

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When you think of Disney World, the first thing you might think of is probably the iconic castle, the rides 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.

In late-June, some of those hotels began to reopen — not only to regular guests but even to players inside the “NBA Bubble.”

I was there for the reopening of the Magic Kingdom on July 11 and stayed for a couple of nights at the reopened Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Here are nine changes to expect if you’re planning to stay at a Disney World hotel anytime soon.

Disney resort hotels may not reopen when you thought

Disney World resorts haven’t all reopened. In fact, some continue to have no published reopening date or have a now further delayed reopening date. Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground reopened first on June 22.

These include:

Other Disney World hotels that have since reopened include:

  • Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort

Related: How to use points to stay at Disney World

Disney's Riviera Resort (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Disney’s Riviera Resort (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is scheduled to reopen on July 29, followed by Disney’s Yacht Club Resort on Aug. 24, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa on Sept. 21, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort on Oct. 4, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort on Oct. 14 and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort on Nov. 1.

However, know that the dates are likely subject to change.

The dates for Polynesian Village and Art of Animation were just recently pushed back to later in the year from their originally scheduled August reopening dates. Several Disney World resorts still have no reopening date.

Related: How to choose the best Disney World hotel


Renting DVC points may be much cheaper than ever

You may have noticed I mentioned stayed at Disney’s Polynesian Village even though it isn’t set to reopen until October. Some resorts, such as this one, have both regular hotel rooms that may not yet have reopened and Disney Vacation Club villas that are reopened. The DVC villa portion of the property is reopened to allow for Disney Vacation Club members to use their points or for guests to book available villas directly from Disney.

Lanai for Disney Polynesian Resort
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Renting DVC points is always worth exploring as it can sometimes save you money, but right now it can save you a ton.

While it normally costs $18 to $19 per point to rent DVC points from a large service such as David’s Vacation Club, right now we are seeing many fixed-date rentals going for $9 per point. To give some basic reference to this, when we rented points to stay at the Polynesian in early July, it was 26 points per night. Some resorts and dates can be much lower than that, starting at just 9 or 10 DVC points per night required.

If you can rent points at around $9 per point, you are effectively getting at least 50% off normal rates if you can make the fixed dates and resorts work for your schedule. Look for Dedicated Reservations listed under DVC Guest on David’s Vacation Club page if this interests you.

Screenshot courtesy of David's Vacation Club
Screenshot courtesy of David’s Vacation Club

Related: My experience saving money by renting DVC points

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.

You can also 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

No full daily housekeeping

While Disney has said it has increased 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.

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

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.

Related: What a reopened Disney theme park will look like

COVID cleaning signs
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Masks required — and maybe temps, too

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

Even then, there’s no real reason to take it off while ordering — you can just wait until your drinks and food arrive. Also, know that just as you have to have your temperature taken to enter the Disney World theme parks and Disney Springs, that check may soon be expanding to sit-down restaurants, including those in the resort hotels based on some language changes we’ve seen on Disney’s website.

Girl sketching at Disney Polynesian Resort
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Related: Do kids need face masks on the plane?

Multiple services will be temporarily unavailable

Many of the services you may have been used to at Disney hotels will, at least temporarily, be unavailable if you’re visiting anytime soon. 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 

During my July stay, in-room dining was not yet available at the Polynesian, and know that some resort restaurants remain closed. For example, the iconic and popular ‘Ohana at the Polynesian remains closed with no published reopening date. Those restaurants that have reopened require reservations, and you’ll want to have your smartphone ready to check-in and use to electronically view the menu via a QR code.

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

Available services

Now that you have a flavor for what won’t be available at Disney resort hotels in the near future, here are some services that should be operational.

  • The complimentary Magical Express bus service is 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.
  • Monorail, bus, Skyliner and boat transportation is available — but not until 30 to 45 minutes before the parks open.
  • Transportation will operate with physical distancing measures in place, reducing capacity. As a result, you may experience delays.

Since there’s no longer a lot to do at night at Disney World once you’ve had dinner as the parks are closed in the after-dinner hours, be aware the resort pools do fill up. I recommend swimming at off-hours if you can if you want to avoid crowds.

Disney Polynesian Resort pool
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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. Outdoor movies were shown at the Polynesian during our stay.

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)

Related: Ultimate guide to visiting Walt Disney World

Disney resort reservations don’t guarantee theme park admission

Disney World has severely capped guest capacity to aid with social distancing. It now requires reservations via a Park Pass reservation system and simply having a Disney hotel reservation doesn’t guarantee you’ll get theme park admission, though your odds are pretty good.

Just be sure and make a Park Pass reservation as soon as you know you’ll be going to Disney World.

Screenshot courtesy of Walt Disney World
Screenshot courtesy of Walt Disney World

Related: How to make a reservation to enter Disney World

Quarantines still apply

Not surprisingly, Disney asks that persons who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or 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 the Walt Disney World Resort.

But there is a little more to the story.

While it could change at any point, keep in mind that Florida still has a mandatory 14-day quarantine for those coming from 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.

Related: State by state guide to reopening and travel

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 many things have changed from a pre-coronavirus reality, I can safely say that the Disney resort stay was one of the highlights of my trip to the reopening. It felt great to be back, it was noticeably much quieter than normal and while some normal amenities were still paused, there was plenty of magic and visible precautions to make it enjoyable for us.

Featured image by author

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