If you follow along on my social media channels, you know two weeks ago I attended Walt Disney World's Annual Passholder Preview for Magic Kingdom, opening day at Animal Kingdom Park and another day at Magic Kingdom after reopening. These Annual Passholder Previews are always announced VERY last minute but I was thankfully able to work it out to attend.
I have always felt it is important to experience destinations first hand, when possible, to be able to give my clients the best reviews I can, based on my own personal experience. Now more than ever as we return to travel in a different way than what we have grown used to, I think that stands and is even more important. Keep in mind, I already had a trip to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando booked with some agent friends for late July into early August so while I could have waited a few more weeks to experience the new modifications at Walt Disney World, I didn't want to wait.
What an experience it was. The crowd levels reminded me of 10 years ago, but even better and the resorts were fairly quiet. I did a 3 resort split stay. I originally planned to only go for the Preview and stay 2 nights. When I decided to stay two more nights to experience Animal Kingdom on opening day, I chose to move resorts to Animal Kingdom Lodge, which happened on the day it reopened. While there, I decided I could switch flights easily and with 2020 bookings reopening, I could add another night and visit Magic Kingdom again on day 2 of public reopening.
I started my stay at Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort. I did this so I could walk to the park for Passholder Preview as Disney had said they would not be offering transportation for this event. If you don't know, Bay Lake Tower and Disney's Contemporary resort have their own walking path to the entrance of Magic Kingdom. On a normal day, you would also have the monorail that can take you to Magic Kingdom and even the ability to hop on the Epcot monorail from Ticket and Transportation Center. The Contempo Cafe (Quick-Service) was open and mobile ordering is recommended. You can order straight through the My Disney Experience app or you can scan the QR code to see the menu by using your camera on your phone. So easy! I personally love mobile ordering so this was no problem at all. Photo below is of the yummy BBQ Chicken Pizza I had there.
On Friday morning, July 10, Chef Mickey's reopened but in a difference capacity. Only breakfast is offered, it is no longer a buffet but now family style instead and of course, no characters. You check-in on the My Disney Experience app and will be notified on the app when it is your time to be seated. If I am honest, Chef Mickey's is one of my least favorite meals on property but because many of my clients enjoy it, I wanted to try it out and see how the new changes compared to the original experience. The food was still so-so in my opinion but it was nice to be back and have a table service meal. Everything was brought to the table and it is unlimited so if you want more of something, you can ask for it. The pricing was also much lower, because of the lack of characters. Adult Breakfast is $25 per person and Kid's Breakfast is $14 per person plus tax and gratuity. My server was a sweet lady named Carol who has worked for Walt Disney World since 1972. I enjoyed talking with her about her experiences throughout the years and she said she was glad to be back. A few new things I noticed was the salt and pepper packets that replaced the shakers normally on the table and the paper check folder. See photos below.
On Saturday, July 11, Animal Kingdom Park and Magic Kingdom both reopened. Animal Kingdom opened at 8am, but I decided to take my time and go in a little later, just in case there were crowds at the gate that morning. I arrived at 8:40am and walked right in after temperature checks and walking through the new security process. The park felt empty. I know Disney reduced capacity but this was amazing. I did everything I wanted to twice and felt no need to stay until close. It was easy to physically distance myself from others and never really felt crowded.
Sunday, July 12 I went back to Magic Kingdom to see how the crowds compared to Passholder Preview. Again, because I didn't want to possibly be stuck in a line and because I had to pack up my things again, drop bags off at Bell Desk to be transferred to my 3rd resort later that day, I took my time going in to the park. I arrived somewhere between 10:30-11am and again, walked right in. Wait times were a little higher on Sunday in comparison to Passholder Preview but still very manageable. Now, I don't know if that is something that will stick, because the last time I checked earlier that week, the park capacity was not fully sold out, so as more guests decide to visit again, waits may increase, but when I say it was practically no wait, it really was!
Where Mobile Ordering is available, you do have to place your order and wait outside for the notification that your order is ready to enter the Quick-Service building. There is no longer the option of walking in and sitting at a table just to relax in the AC, you'll need to order something first. I think this was a great change because there was never an issue getting a table this time like there has been in the past. Since there are tables blocked off to keep physical distance, it was nice to know there would be tables available for guests ordering food. There are Cast Members stationed at the doors that check to make sure your order is in fact ready upon entering.
A note on Magical Express and Resort Airline Check-in: At the time of my visit, Magical Express was not offering their bag service, meaning you must get our own bag off the carousel and bring it with you onto the motorcoach. Resort Airline check-in is not available at this time so you will again take your bags onto the motorcoach with you when you return to MCO.
Bell Services was delivering bags but I was instructed to wear my face covering before opening the door. I had originally been told they would not deliver to the room but I did not have that experience. I say go with the mindset that things may change along the way.
The shopping experience has changed a little. You can only enter in one door so they can keep a count on the number of guests in the shop and you must exit out doors marked for that.
One last thing to keep in mind, not everything has reopened. There were shops, dining and some attractions in the park that remained closed, and even at your resort not everything has reopened. My experience at Animal Kingdom Lodge was that only the pool was open. The marketplace, the front desk, and all dining was closed. I had to take the shuttle to Kidani to get snacks at the marketplace there and only one dining option was open. Another option is dining at Disney Springs, but if you want to avoid more congested areas, I would avoid Disney Springs in the evening time on weekends.
Stay tuned for more updates when I am back beginning July 31!