Disney announces more resort reopening dates — what to expect at Disney World Resort hotels
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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 summer 2020, some of those hotels began to reopen — not only to regular guests but at first even to players inside the “NBA Bubble.”
I was there for the reopening of the Magic Kingdom on July 11, 2020, and stayed for a couple of nights at the reopened Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Since the early reopening days, I’ve returned a couple of times, experiencing a changed Disney World resort each time. Even now, it’s still not yet business as normal. And in fact, some Disney resorts remain closed to this day.
Here are nine changes to expect if you’re planning to stay at a Disney World hotel anytime soon.
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Not all Disney resort hotels have reopened
Now, almost a year into the reopening process, most Disney resort hotels have reopened. But most isn’t the same thing as all. And in fact, some properties have had moving target dates, so things are still evolving.
The Disney resort hotels with published reopening timelines include:
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn (July 2)
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (late July) — hotel rooms (Disney Vacation Club (DVC) has reopened)
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (Aug. 26)
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House (Aug. 26) — hotel rooms (DVC has reopened)
The resorts that still don’t have published reopening dates include:
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans — Riverside
- Disney’s Port Orleans — French Quarter
Disney has been taking this opportunity to complete some hotel resort renovations, such as the Polynesian’s Moana retheming. But beyond that, without some of the large-scale events and conventions that Disney is used to hosting, some of its rooms and resorts simply haven’t been heavily needed yet in the parks’ reopening journey.
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Renting DVC points can save you money
In a few cases, such as at Disney’s Polynesian Village and Animal Kingdom Lodge, regular hotel rooms have not reopened but Disney Vacation Club villas have. The DVC villa portions of these properties have reopened to allow for Disney Vacation Club members to use their points — but guests can also book these villas directly from Disney, as available.
Renting DVC points is always worth exploring as it can sometimes save you money, but right now it can be an especially great choice for a couple of reasons.
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 some fixed-date rentals going for $15 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 $15 per point, you are effectively getting at least 30% 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. Shown below were some insane deals we saw more frequently in 2020 than we have so far in 2021.
But beyond that, renting points can be a way to get into these resorts that haven’t fully reopened and enjoy them before the crowds really return. As an added perk, you don’t have to pay for parking when you rent points either.
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.
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 still won’t get full housekeeping (er, mousekeeping) service each night.
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 though they still do a brief room check.
Masks are optional if vaccinated
Disney recently updated its mask requirements. Vaccinated guests have the option to go maskless most places in Disney World theme parks and resorts — both indoors and outdoors. But you’ll still want to pack one or two for your trip. The only area where vaccinated individuals are required to wear masks is during transportation (Disney buses, monorail and the Disney Skyliner).
Unvaccinated guests are expected to comply with wearing a mask when indoors (including at the resorts, with the exception of your rooms and while you’re actively eating or drinking), on attractions and on transportation. The only exceptions are outdoor common areas and pool decks, where masks are optional.
Multiple services will be temporarily unavailable
Many of the services you may have been used to at Disney hotels are still unavailable. This list isn’t all-inclusive, but some suspended Disney resort hotel services include:
- Club-level service (Club Level returns to some resorts this fall)
- 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
- Character experiences
- Dog parks will be closed
- Marina rentals
- 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
- Valet service, other than for guests with disabilities
- Minnie Van service
- FastPass+ and Extra Magic Hours
And it’s worth noting that you won’t be able to resort hop. To visit a resort, you still need a confirmed reservation to stay, or a confirmed dining experience reservation.
In-room dining has not yet fully returned, though it has returned to some select resorts. On a recent April 2021 stay at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, there was a room service menu for breakfast and dinner that had returned to the room. In-room dining is also again available at the Grand Floridian. You can also order meals to go in the Disney app from the reopened resort sit-down restaurants, just prepare to place your order well in advance if you want it during peak meal times.
Not all resort restaurants have yet reopened. For example, the iconic and popular ‘Ohana at the Polynesian’ remains closed until July 9. The restaurants that have reopened require reservations in most cases, and you’ll want to have your smartphone ready to check-in and electronically view the menu via a QR code.
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. (Be prepared for a line during peak times, though there is a mobile wait option if waits get long.)
- 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 still not a lot to do at night at Disney World once you’ve had dinner as the parks are mostly closed by 8 – 9 p.m. (except Epcot), be aware the resort pools do fill up. I recommend swimming at off-hours if you can if you want to avoid crowds.
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 available at Fort Wilderness. And outdoor movies have returned across the resorts in the evenings.
Disney resort reservations don’t guarantee theme park admission
Disney World has 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. In fact, if you aren’t planning several months out, you may not get the park you want.
Make a Park Pass reservation as soon as you know you’ll be going to Disney World and have your tickets in hand.
It’s busy and service isn’t always perfect
On a recent trip to Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, we had a great two-night stay overall.
However, I overheard some unhappy travelers at the resort complaining more than once. If you aren’t prepared for the current reality of a Disney hotel, you too might walk away disappointed after paying $500+ per night at the deluxe properties and not having access to the full normal list of amenities.
Because of capacity restrictions, there may be a wait to get in the pool, you won’t have traditional housekeeping (though you will have your room lightly cleaned every other day) and could experience delays at mealtime due to reduced options that create bottlenecks. If I were taking a longer trip to Disney, I would likely change resort hotels after three nights or so. This probably isn’t what Disney hopes you’ll do, but it would allow you access to a clean room. Additionally, the reduced amenities and closed restaurants may not bother you as much when you get a fresh slate to work with at a new resort after a few nights.
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-pandemic reality, I can safely say that Disney resort stays continue to be one of the highlights of my trips to Disney. Things aren’t yet back to normal at the Disney resorts, but if you know what to expect, you can still have a magical stay.
Featured image by Summer Hull.
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