Magic Kingdom Afternoon Touring After Reopening
We pick up our day at Magic Kingdom, which remains the Park’s busiest since it reopened, at 11:19am, on Saturday, July 11th, 2020. Even after Disney reallocated more Park Pass availability to passholders, opening day remains the most crowded. That means what you see is still “worst case scenario.” That’s good because this represents the least amount you could expect to do, the highest waits thus far, and the most people you’ll run into, at least over the first week of reopening. If you missed the preceding parts in this series, you can pull up the previous update, here.
So far, this is what I’ve accomplished:
- 8:20am – 8:45am: Standing at guest services trying to fix a Park Pass/ticket issue.
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 8:53am – 9:04am
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 9:05am – 9:11am
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 9:12am – 9:21am
- Haunted Mansion: 9:23am – 9:34am
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: 9:39am – 9:59am
- Splash Mountain: 10am – 10:44am
- Pirates of the Caribbean: 10:50am – 11:15am
That’s seven priority attractions in a little over an hour. I would have been able to add a couple more attractions, or been ahead of the game, if it weren’t for my morning spent at guest services. The timing may better reflect your own arrival time as you wait to cross the water from the parking lot, either via monorail or ferry.
Historically, I’d be on my way to some high capacity/low priority attractions at this point in the morning. Standby waits at most attractions would ordinarily be prohibitive given so much capacity going to FastPass+. By 11:15am, the average wait for Pirates of the Caribbean over the last couple of years is 45 minutes. I waited about 15. We’ll visit Tiki Room later, but we should have an opportunity to experience a couple more Adventureland rides without waiting too long. I’m squarely in “wait and see mode,” so I was willing to wait five minutes or two hours. We’ll see how things end up going.
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin were flying at least half empty, so I should have some time to get over there.
Long waits at Jungle Cruise may surprise you if you haven’t been paying attention over the last couple of years. Virtually no capacity has gone to standby since ~2015 or so, resulting in 60+ minute waits even given few people in line. I’ve waited over a half hour at 9:30am before. Here, I’m arriving almost two hours later here, when waits should be even longer as more people have an opportunity to arrive and gtt in in line.
Of course, FastPass+ is out, so most of the ride’s capacity will go to standby.
But we’re also looking at a reduction in capacity of around 30% at Jungle Cruise.
That’s better than a lot of attractions, which are operating around 50% of their capacity given physical distancing measures.
Circling around the queue was pretty easy.
You’ll have an extra moment to dedicate to examining some of the detail in the queues.
And the line moves pretty constantly, so scoping out the next physical distancing marker around the twists and turns becomes a sort of game in itself.
It’s sort of hard to tell, but there’s a plastic barrier in between parties on the boat.
I’ve marked some of the dividers, which allow Disney to be more aggressive about seating guests. You’ll also note that there is a hole in the boat’s canopy where guests enter and exit the boat. This is not tremendously important, but it will come into play momentarily.
Cast don’t seat anybody in the middle section. That’s actually nice, given the fact that it makes for some awkwardness and lousy views for those in the center.
I’m not entirely sure what these short plastic barriers are expected to do. It does at least provide some mouth-level protection from the people sitting next to you, other than all of the room around and in between the barrier and the pole. There’s also the whole up and over thing.
For the skipper’s protection, and ours, we’ve got a pull-down plastic guard. Our skipper, Ben if I’m remembering correctly, was great, mixing in classic jokes with some that play well given our current situation.
The ride is otherwise exactly what you would expect. I didn’t find the barriers to be distracting, and if anything, the spacing between people improves the views across the boat:
I was the last guest seated on my particular vessel, which meant I sat right underneath where the canopy wasn’t. About half way through the ride, it began to pour. This was less important for those covered by the safety of the roof, but I sat there on the boat, becoming increasingly wet as the skipper threatened an additional squirt of water from a rogue elephant. At that point, they could have sprayed the boat for all I cared. I was already soaked. I got in line at 11:19am and boarded my boat at 11:35am, for a wait of right around 15 minutes. With the constant movement, and queue details, it’s not bad at all. You can see my towel covering my camera to the right.
My wait ended up being half of what’s posted and less than 20% of the average posted wait over the last few years. If you were to get in line at noon at this time last year, the posted wait would be 75 to 100 minutes. 15 minutes is better.
Since the rain continued streaming down, I thought I would make the clever decision to hurry over to Enchanted Tiki Room, where the pre-show and show are pleasantly protected from the elements.
This also turned out to be an unintelligent choice. Cast only allow 18 guests to stand and watch the covered pre-show due to physical distancing. I was about the 23rd guest to arrive for the following show.
That meant that I would have no problem getting into the theater, but I’d miss the pre-show and also stand there as the rain continued coming down. After ten Florida summers in a row, You would think that I would be smart enough to carry an umbrella, but being incredibly masculine, I don’t.
To their credit, guests continued lining up outside for Pirates of the Caribbean outside with the rain coming down and physical distancing in place. Nobody rushed the covered entrance as the umbrellas go up. You may remember my umbrella/poncho recommendation as you may find yourself waiting outdoors more often, even if there are relatively few people waiting in front of you. The actual wait for Pirates right now would be lower at this point in the afternoon than just about any date over the first eleven weeks of the year, but it’s also stretched out the furthest.
As with other shows, Disney has closed rows and added very obvious signage to places where guests aren’t supposed to sit. While there wasn’t room for the pre-show, cast were able to seat everyone waiting inside the theater.
Given the unprecedented times, it make some amount of sense to avoid indoor, enclosed spaces as much as possible. That isn’t very possible at Walt Disney World, where at a minimum, part or all of an attraction is indoors. The indoor shows are one big place where mask compliance wanes. Once the lights go out, it’s a lot easier to pull your mask down without a cast member chastising you. At least three people in my show had already taken their masks off before the show started, and a couple more did after it began. Disney stations a cast member inside the theater. It would have made sense to make a generic announcement that masks needed to be worn throughout the show. People might still disregard the first announcement, but once the second hits, and people start scanning the room for non-compliance, people typically fall in line.
Once you’ve entered a theme park, you’ve resigned yourself to a significant amount of exposure, even under the best of circumstances. Sitting indoors, in a poorly ventilated room, with recirculated air, is not the best place to be.
I sat and enjoyed the show nonetheless:
I arrived at Enchanted Tiki Room, wet, at 11:47am. Upon exiting at 12:07pm, the rain had moved on.
This was very good news for me, as it meant I now had a dry-ish opportunity to board The Magic Carpets of Aladdin.
What a life pic.twitter.com/CCloDfEPad
— josh (@easywdw) July 11, 2020
With about four other people.
Aladdin took all of five minutes – a worthy investment for the views, even if you don’t routinely experience the ride. Since the rain dispelled, it “felt” like more people were now out and about, seeking out their next walk-on attraction.
I figured I’d walk Swiss Family Treehouse.
This one is a bit awkward in the physical-distancing age. The Treehouse is an “at your own pace” walking attraction with no physical distancing markers to speak of. Some people move relatively quickly through, like it’s step three in their CrossFit routine, while others take a selfie every couple feet. Ordinarily, it would only be slightly awkward to squeeze by slower individuals. These days, it’s probably even more so. With only a handful of people walking up and down the stairs at any given time, it likely won’t be an issue. You may gauge how many people it looks like are walking through, and if it’s more than 15 or 20, return later. I slipped by our Instagrammer as they took some pictures in that nook on the lower portion of the picture above.
I got in line at 12:15pm, and after passing the first couple, enjoyed free reign on my walking tour.
As usual, there’s an automatic hand sanitizer station at the end of the line.
Walking Swiss Family Treehouse took all of six minutes. That’s another worthy time-investment. The views from the top, out at Cinderella Castle and down at Adventureland, are among the most picturesque from inside the Park. It’s still no Magic Carpets of Aladdin.
The line for Jungle Cruise has backed up on the left. The actual wait should be under 25 minutes, or about a fourth of what it would be under “normal conditions” with average crowds and FastPass+.
If you think I didn’t have a reservation for lunch at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant on day one, you would be mistaken. Crystal Palace, like Cinderella’s Royal Table, remains closed. The only two character meals you’ll currently find at the Disney-operated theme parks and hotels are Garden Grill at Epcot and Topolino’s Terrace at the Riviera Resort. And even there, the characters keep their distance.
I appreciated how vibrant Magic Kingdom looked and how well the grounds had been maintained during the ~4-month closure. There were some trickier areas to get to where a palm tree here or there could probably use a trim. Just about everything else looked great. Even the palm trees ended up adding more shade.
Casey’s Corner also remains closed, likely because it’s so cramped inside the kitchen and ordering area.
Disney started on what is expected to be a bypass around Main Street on this side in between Casey’s and Crystal Palace. You’ll remember that there’s a similar bypass on the other side of Main Street. On that side, Disney completed the walkway between Plaza Restaurant and Tomorrowland Terrace a couple of years ago. Disney typically opens them to allow guests to enter and exit the Park in the evening before and after the fireworks. With so many people congregated on Main Street, it can be troublesome to move about people who are both stopped and holding their spots and trying to move through the crowd. With no fireworks scheduled any time soon, it’s unlikely that Disney will complete the bypass work in the near-term.
Hopefully, they’ll at least complete the on-stage portion and remove these big, ugly green walls.
Casey’s closure meant there were plenty of empty seats outside. Five months ago, this area would be packed with people eating $15 hot dogs.
Disney makes social-distancing easy by not only putting placards on unavailable tables, but also moving the chairs away from them.
This is a shot down Main Street on Magic Kingdom’s busiest day thus far at 12:30pm. At least half of the people in this picture run blogs or vlogs. The other half work there.
I had about an hour until it was time to risk my life at another lunch at Tony’s. I continued on to Tomorrowland to see how things looked there. If I fall out of my rocket on Astro Orbiter, I have a valid excuse for skipping Tony’s. Plaza Ice Cream Parlor is also closed, likely due to the confined space. That means plenty of empty tables outside.
The upper part of Tomorrowland Terrace is a “Relaxation Station.”
It’s possible that the bottom section would be open given higher demand. I don’t see any placards or chairs removed from unavailable tables. It seems like you would both want to give people the option of spreading out, and also not have to do as much cleaning. Disney has gone with the latter. Officially, the Relaxation Stations are where you’ll be distanced enough that it’s “safe” to take off your face mask.
Work “continues” on the Tomorrowland redo. With Disney now investing considerably less money, and cancelling a number of projects outright, it may be some time until we see this work completed.
One wonders how long we’ll see these tarps, walls, and half-finished projects. Cast haven’t finished painting Cinderella Castle – a project that has taken about six months. Of course, a major part of that came during the closure.
To say crowds remained low in Tomorrowland at 12:32pm would be an understatement. This is still “as bad” as it’s been since Magic Kingdom reopened on July 11th.
Disney finally confirmed internally that Stitch’s Great Escape would not be returning. The sign here says that he has “left the building,” since no meet and greets are open. We’ll still see him out and about momentarily.
Other than Enchanted Tales with Belle, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor is the one title attraction that isn’t yet open. That’s probably related to the Equity union. Disney continues to negotiate with many of its cast members in entertainment. You can see that Disney installed physical distancing markers in the queue and hand sanitizer outside the doors. They’re ready to run it. They just don’t have the voices.
The Lunching Pad is another outlet that’s currently not operating.
One problem I’ve run into is a lack of “free cups of water” available. As you’re either aware, or will read on somebody’s “TOP TEN THINGS I BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT DISNEY,” any quick service location with a fountain beverage machine will provide a cup of water at no charge. Unfortunately, a large number of these venues, many of which typically see short lines, remain closed. At other locations, like Pecos Bill, where the number of people requesting free cups of water is high, cast typically set out trays of cups or large water dispensers where guests could grab their own cup at their convenience.
These days, it’s difficult to get into quick services without a confirmed, completed mobile order on the My Disney Experience app. At Cosmic Ray’s, you basically have to beg your way in to get to the water bottle refill machines or to the counter to make a beverage request. Of course, you can purchase a drink in the $3-$6 range, but that quickly adds up in the heat, in addition to wasting a considerable amount of plastic if you go the water bottle route. Ordinarily, I hit up the water fountains, but I’m not too keen on that at the present time.
The point here is that you may want to plan on bringing your own refillable bottle of water. Also, request cups of water at locations that serve fountain beverages and have short lines. That’s rare in Tomorrowland, with The Lunching Pad and Cool Ship closed. Auntie Gravity’s and Cosmic Ray’s are your options, and both would take some time in line to make happen. I’d love to see Disney set up more water stations around the Park, with cast filling cups to go. Of course, Disney is also in the $5 bottle of water business, so it’s unlikely that we’ll see it. I’ve noticed myself feeling much more dehydrated than in the past with less access to free water. You’ll also note that I very rarely take my own advice.
For sanitary reasons, I haven’t seen the usual water dispensers set up, either. Typically, you’d find water available near the check-in podium at restaurants. That offers some relief for guests waiting for their table. At Tony’s Town Square, cast hide the water to the right of the check-in podium. No such water was there. At Crystal Palace, the water jugs are out to the right of the doors leading into the restaurant. Since Disney has shuttered the restaurant for the time being, it makes sense that there isn’t water there. It sure would be nice if there was, though.
In the summer, I’ve seen water stations set up all over, from outside Pinocchio Village Haus, to inside Gaston’s Tavern. By limiting the number of people bugging cast for free cups of water, it frees them up to do their jobs quickly and effectively. I’ve both been the person waiting in line to order five cups of water, and been behind the guy standing in front of me, waiting for his order of five cups of water to be filled, as I watch my food congeal under the heat lamp. It’s a give and take situation. I don’t think any of what you see would be possible without the joy that is alprazolam.
Along with our list of ickiest rides to experience when you don’t really want to be touching things in enclosed places, we could also build a list of the best operating locations to pick up a cup of water. Typically, the best spots are the smaller quick service outlets that serve limited menus. If you see a menu with $4.50 sodas, it’s likely that they’re bottled, and they won’t have the ability to provide cups of water. Should you be more aggressive, you can typically walk right up to the counter/pick-up window and ask about cups of water there, instead of waiting in line first. If you’re not ordering anything else, a cast member will typically direct you to the window after waiting, anyway.
At 12:33pm, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin was a walk-on.
During the first nine weeks of the year, the median wait at this time was 65 minutes.
I waited about 30 seconds to board. As I’ve pointed out in the past, the front of most attractions is where you’ll run into at least one cast member where it will be impossible to keep six feet of distance. Here at Buzz, there’s the gentleman on the moving walkway, pointing people towards their vehicles. Nobody is doing anything wrong here, but it’s the reality of the situation. Likewise, the grouper at the front, who will ask your party size, will also be within a couple feet of you at the end of this walkway. I point this out largely for those who are wondering if they’ll be able to stay six feet away from everyone throughout the day. The answer is no, even on attractions where everyone follows the physical distancing rules:
I arrived at 12:33pm, boarded at 12:35pm, and was back out front at 12:42pm, for a total experience time of nine minutes. That’s easily a few minutes less than the ride typically took with FastPass+.
While traditional meet and greets are out, several characters still appear around Magic Kingdom. Here, Buzz Lightyear stands on Rockettower Plaza Stage for socially-distanced selfies.
Stitch switches off with him. We’ll see even more characters on Main Street when we make it back over there.
Tomorrowland PeopleMover remains closed. It hasn’t reopened at all since cast previews began on July 7th.
All of eight people were waiting for Astro Orbiter, so I got in line there next.
There are far more people waiting for the seated, air-conditioned Carousel of Progress. Very wholesome.
Only one party rides the elevator up or down to/from the platform at a time.
While this may limit capacity, it is certainly nice not to be stuffed inside an elevator with eight other sweaty tourists at 1pm.
The dream is alive pic.twitter.com/roAgNSBzmd
— josh (@easywdw) July 11, 2020
As you can see from this video, I basically had the ride to myself.
Tron is one project that we can certainly hope Disney completes by the 50th anniversary on October 1st of next year.
Space Mountain was posting a 15-minute wait as the queue snaked around outside just before 1pm. When we swing by again at 4:30pm, the wait will be five minutes.
If you somehow don’t like anything on the Starbucks menu, or would prefer to wait less, or simply find it more convenient, the Joffrey’s Revive kiosk remains a solid choice. It’s still across from Space Mountian.
We’ll pick things back up in Tomorrowland and then head off to Main Street in the next part.