By Courtney and Scott Kahler
We checked into the Beach Club Disney Vacation Club Villas on Wednesday and attended the Annual Passholder Preview of Animal Kingdom on Thursday. Some new things when you get to your room include a map that shows you where Enhanced Cleaning of high-touch areas has occurred and your TV remote comes enclosed in plastic with a “Cleaned” sticker. We did bring our own wipes and wiped down all surfaces before we unpacked. The hotel gift shop is also selling hand sanitizer and face masks.
There are signs everywhere and hand sanitizing stations at all entrances and exits of shops and restaurants. They also have designated certain doors as “entrances” and others as “exits” to help with flow and avoiding close contact. We’ve seen several people either ignore or not notice this and go in and out the wrong ways, so please be mindful.
The main pool, Stormalong Bay, is closed. The Dunes Cove pool and the Tidal Pool (the quiet pool) are both open. Dunes Cove is where daily activities like trivia are. We were lucky enough to have the Tidal Pool area all to ourselves both times we went down!
We arrived at Animal Kingdom 1.5 to 2 hours after the park opened and had no lines for parking, at the wellness check or to enter into the park. Security has changed to hands off metal detectors. If you set one off, the computer linked to the detector indicates the shape of the object and where it is located on your person. You are directed over to a security officer who asks you to remove certain items from your bag and show it to them. The entrances are band scans only, no fingerprints. If you do not have your mask on, you WILL be told to put it on by Cast Members (CMs). We witnessed this only a couple of times and the person was usually standing over in an empty space with no one else around.
We walked on to almost every ride in the park, including Flight of Passage (FOP). The wait time said 25 minutes, but, I swear, it’s only because it takes you that long to walk through that queue line. They have condensed the pre-show to only one video to save time and instead of standing on your assigned number your party stands together on a big red sticker on the floor to provide distance between parties. They seat parties together with one empty seat between parties.
The longest we actually waited in line was 25 minutes for Na’vi River Journey (NRJ), because they seat one party per boat. In all queue lines there are stickers spaced out on the floor telling you where to stand for social distancing. In certain areas, like right before the video room of FOP, they have installed plexiglass between the rows. In other lines, like NRJ, they skip an entire row, because they can’t put up the plexiglass, so you REALLY need to pay attention and be more aware of your surroundings than normal. The person in front of us in NRJ was glued to her phone and kept moving with the line when she shouldn’t have and then had no appropriate place to stand. Don’t be her.
The Kilimanjaro Safari ride was the most “meh”. They have added plastic dividers between the rows, but they still sit every row. Even with the plastic there, a lot of us would have felt better if they sat every other row. There was a gap between the seat and the bottom of the plastic and it may just be our mental state, but especially seeing how this is one of their longer attractions, we recommended to Guest Services that they space the seating out. His response to us made us think we were not the only people with this same feedback.
At It’s Tough to Be a Bug, there are big circles positioned on the floor while you wait to go in where your party should stand for social distancing. Once inside every other row was roped off and there were four seats together for seating with three blocked off between them for space.
Dinosaur’s pre-show video room is marked up with tape on the floor to add additional queue lines. The video does play, but you don’t gather inside to watch it anymore. If you happen to be inside the room in line while it’s playing then you’ll see it. Otherwise, you go right past it to “get that dino!” (We rescued that baby twice in a row, thank you very much!) The ride vehicle has plexiglass installed between the front row and the two back rows, with the middle row being blocked off.
There is plexiglass in front of every cashier station and all flaps to trash cans are positioned open so there is no need to touch them. There were hand sanitizing stations at the entrance to ride lines, at the load stations to get on the ride, and right when you get off of the ride. They were also at each entrance and exit at shops and restaurants. Every so often an announcement would come over the park speakers reminding you to wear a face covering, socially distance and wash your hands, frequently.
We did find at least one “Relaxation Station” which was removed from the general public where you could sit down and remove your mask while at your table. The downside here was that while there was a CM letting you know what to do and monitoring the number of people there, no one was cleaning the tables between parties. So, we highly recommend bringing some wipes to do it yourself.
They found really creative ways to have characters travel through the parks, most notably, by boat with music playing.
At the end of the day we were quite pleased and made only two suggestions to Guest Services. The first being the change to seating on Kilimanjaro Safari and the other regarding men’s restrooms, where the urinals were unchanged and strangers could stand within 2-feet of each other. I suppose they could always add plexiglass between them, but who really wants to clean that?? We recommended blocking every other one off. (It’s about time they had to wait in line for bathrooms, right ladies?! ?)
As the resort began to fill up a bit more that evening, we did notice more people trying to walk around the Boardwalk without their masks fully on. Seriously, don’t do this. Disney is private property and their rules can and will be enforced everywhere. During a conversation with a CM, she mentioned that, technically, walking around holding a drink or a snack doesn’t mean you can have your mask off, which is something a LOT of people seem to believe they can do. Obviously, you’ll need to take drinks in this heat, so we would briefly lower our mask, take a swig or a bite when we were secluded from others and promptly put our masks back on.
If you have a trip planned or are a Passholder, please wear your mask, pay a bit more attention and respect other’s space. We definitely owe it to all the amazing Cast Members to keep them safe! ✨