Walt Disney World theme parks increase capacity but see longer waits and less physical distancing

Oct 02, 2020 in "Disney's Hollywood Studios"

Disney's Hollywood Studios - October 1 2020
Posted: Friday October 2, 2020 1:03pm ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

Capacity at Walt Disney World's theme parks has been increased, and the near walk-on ride conditions from the summer are now long gone.

When the parks reopened in mid-July, it was like entering a new (and very different) world for guests, which included wearing masks, temperature screening, physical distancing and a drastic reduction in entertainment. But something that made all of that seem OK was the open space and very short wait times. Guests could see and hear details in the parks that were usually lost in a sea of people and strollers. Ride wait times were so minimal that the vast majority of attractions were walk-on. It was like everyday was a 'Disney After Hours' ticketed event. You have no doubt seen many reports from that opening time, and may be wondering what the current situation is.

Fast forward a few months, and things have changed. Part of Disney's phased reopening plan, the theme parks are now admitting more guests than in July, somewhere close to 50% of their usual capacity. That may sound like it is still a lot less than normal, but when you add physical queue distancing, it can mean lines snake through the park and look more like what you would see on July 4 or a New Year's Eve. The parks are starting to feel busy again.

Tower of Terror's line is so long that it now frequently uses the Fantasmic queue as overflow. Rock 'n' Roller Coaster's line extends along Sunset Blvd.

Inside the hugely popular Star Wars Galaxy's Edge, physical distancing becomes a problem. Just walking through the land you will find yourself much closer than the 6ft ideal spacing between other groups. Thankfully distancing in the queues and rides is still working as designed.

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance continues to be the hot-ticket, and its virtual queues are now reaching capacity typically within 8 seconds of being opened at 10am and 2pm. 

Wait times for the major attractions are now in the region of an hour, with the minor attractions typically in the 20 to 30 minute range.

With plunging revenues due to the park closures and subsequent lack of attendance due to COVID-19, Disney is obviously eager to restore capacity to approach something like normal. But looking at the parks today at 50% capacity, it is hard to see how in the current environment this can be done in a way that gives guests a good experience. Mass layoffs at the theme parks indicate that Disney sees little chance of things returning to normal anytime soon, and it remains to be seen how the guests will respond to what many will see as a diminished park experience, void of the classic entertainment and touches that made the parks Disney.

To give you a feel of the parks now, here is a hyper-walk around Disney's Hollywood Studios from earlier this week, shot just before midday.

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TinkwingsJan 28, 2021

Probably a good idea to take a picture of it on your phone to keep copy in case you misplace it.....and make a photocopy to store too?

Da Bird is Da WordJan 26, 2021

At the end of the day, if you're really that terrified of the virus, then you shouldn't be going to WDW. I hope things return to normal soon. I'm hoping to go to Disney at the end of the year, but am not sure because of the cancelled fireworks, character meet & greets, mask requirements and whatnot.

cgersicJan 26, 2021

My Dad was given his card when he got his first dose at the VA on Saturday. They told him he would continue to carry that card as long as needed as proof of vaccination.

GoofGoofJan 26, 2021

So it looks like masks will be required at the water parks: When Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park reopens, it will operate in alignment with the health and safety protocols implemented throughout the Walt Disney World Resort, including reduced capacity, temperature screenings, physical distancing markings and face coverings. Face coverings will be required in designated areas for each Guest age 2 and up, including but not limited to the park entrance and exit, retail areas, and food and beverage ordering areas. Face coverings will not be permitted while experiencing water slides or in the water. You may also remove your face covering while actively eating or drinking, but you should be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing. They are not using the park reservation system so not sure if they just don’t see an issue with capacity or if they will just close the gates once they reach their target. Interesting development. Maybe a sign that the reservation system will be phased out sooner than later. No point in setting it up only to have it phased out shortly after.

Chi84Jan 14, 2021

https://thehill.com/policy/technology/534228-tech-coalition-working-to-create-digital-covid-19-vaccination-passport A few big names working on this.

TrojanUSCJan 11, 2021

The people who did my vaccination were careful to tell me those CDC cards are an official record of the vaccination and not to lose it, as it may be needed one day as the serial numbers for which doses you got and will verify your status, should there be a problem with their records, etc.

Chi84Jan 10, 2021

I'm afraid of the virus and have been for the better part of a year; I couldn't care less what people make of that fact. I believe Disney will be at the forefront of vaccination requirements. Disney needs (or wants, take your pick) capacity crowds watching fireworks and parades shoulder to shoulder without wearing visual reminders of a contagious disease. Letting in only people who are protected against being infected is the best way to achieve that and to keep its guests safe and healthy.

_calebJan 10, 2021

I’m still not sure where I stand on vaccination registries and certifications, but I just wanted to thank you for posting “afraid of spreading the virus” rather than something like “afraid of the virus.” That little nuance is important to me. EDIT: Wanted to add that it’s other posters, not you, who often try to uncharitably summarize this position.

Chi84Jan 10, 2021

We'll figure it out. I laughed out loud when I got to the concerns about social control. In the past year, I've been ordered not to leave my house unless it was absolutely necessary and to wear a mask in public - even outside - if I came within 6 feet of another person. Church services were suspended or severely limited even if you had no access to online services. Restaurants were (and some still are) closed to indoor dining, and I had my temperature taken to get into a furniture store. Businesses in my area have been ordered to implement mask mandates and social distancing. There are lines on the floor telling people which way to walk and where to stand. Gatherings of people from different households were banned or limited. People are not traveling because they are afraid of spreading the virus. The app doesn't hold a candle to the virus when it comes to social control. People can get lazy or make excuses for not doing things they don't like, even if there is no good reason. Requiring proof of vaccination so we can live freely again will give them some incentive.

DisneyDebRobJan 10, 2021

The limited access to the vaccine will solve itself but will take time. The verification will be the biggest problem I think.

Chi84Jan 10, 2021

The problems they note are limited access to the vaccine and to online verification tools, which are certainly problems that need to be solved. I'm less concerned about people who fear social control; I'm much more worried about controlling the virus and restarting the economy. Others will have different opinions, and governments will just have to work it out.

DisneyDebRobJan 10, 2021

It’s already out there and being used. I know some NY businesses are trying it out. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2020/12/13/technology/coronavirus-vaccine-apps.amp.html The problem, as the article states is creating a world with the haves and have nots with the pass. Somehow, hopefully they can work it all out.

Chi84Jan 09, 2021

The one my son in law received was not a reminder; it certified completion of the vaccination. But yes, we will definitely have to develop a health pass or immunity passport that certifies people are immune for purposes of travel or going to theme parks, sports events, etc. From what I've read, several companies are working on that technology.

_calebJan 09, 2021

The “vaccination cards” being given to vaccine recipients are really just handwritten reminders of which vaccine they received and when to come back for the second dose. It is not a certificate, verification, or passport. “A COVID-19 vaccination card won't be the same as an immunity passport. Instead, it'll serve as a reminder to get your second shot of the vaccine. It also details which vaccine you received -- but that's all. It can't be used for any other purpose. Immunity passports have been used in other countries for different diseases, like polio, to give international travelers the OK to travel. The immunity passports would certify that an individual is immune to the coronavirus and can then give people more freedom to travel and socialize in public.” Source