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First visitors to reopened Walt Disney World reveal the changes

Annual passholders have been exploring the reopened Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom theme parks at Walt Disney World ahead of the general public being let loose inside on Saturday.

And they’ve been revealing what the experience is like with the new coronavirus rules in place…   

Socially distant car parking

Annual passholders have been exploring the reopened Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom theme parks at Walt Disney World. And the parking was the first change they noticed

Annual passholders have been exploring the reopened Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom theme parks at Walt Disney World. And the parking was the first change they noticed

One of the first differences that visitors noticed on the preview day, on Thursday, was when they pulled into the parking lot.

One annual pass holder, Giovanna Gorra, told News 6 in Orlando: ‘They parked you really quick, there is social distancing with parking, so they are parking you in every other spot, which is really cool.’

Disney said that new ‘guest density procedures’ will be in place for ‘park entry, attractions, dining, retail, transportation and more’.

Small crowds and short lines

Disney says that it is limiting the number of guests it allows into its theme parks each day

Disney says that it is limiting the number of guests it allows into its theme parks each day 

After entering the park, visitors told News 6 they were surprised at how few people were inside, with Gorra adding she even had time in front of Cinderella’s Castle to snap photos.

Guests also said that small crowds meant that at the Magic Kingdom, no rides had waits of longer than 30 minutes. 

This was a special preview day so crowds and lines would naturally have been thinner and shorter with or without coronavirus measures.

But regular guests should notice extra space and short queues too, because Disney is limiting daily capacity.

Disney explained: ‘Limits will also be in place for indoor locations within the parks, such as retail shops and dining locations. Ground markings will help promote proper physical distancing throughout the parks, including attraction queues.

‘Physical barriers will be in place in select locations where maintaining a proper physical distance from others may be difficult.’ 

Mini parades

Guests said that instead of planned parades, there were pop-up mini parades that took place at random

Guests said that instead of planned parades, there were pop-up mini parades that took place at random 

Disney confirmed that character greetings and parades would be on ‘hiatus’ when the parks reopened but said: ‘Disney characters will appear in new and different ways throughout all four theme parks.’

Those visiting yesterday said pop-up mini parades would randomly take place instead.

Williams also told the news station: ‘It’s all random. This keeps the crowds from gathering.’

Constant cleaning

Disney says that high traffic areas will receive 'increased cleaning', with guests encouraged to frequently wash their hands

Disney says that high traffic areas will receive ‘increased cleaning’, with guests encouraged to frequently wash their hands 

Guests yesterday reported seeing staff at both theme parks cleaning seats and attractions after every ride.

Disney says that high-traffic areas ‘will receive increased cleaning’.

It added: ‘Guests will be encouraged to frequently use hand-washing stations and hand sanitiser available in the theme parks.’

Masks are hot

All guests over the age of two have to wear face masks in the parks. One guest said wearing one is 'definitely hot in the heat'

All guests over the age of two have to wear face masks in the parks. One guest said wearing one is ‘definitely hot in the heat’ 

Face masks have been made mandatory for all guests over the age of two – in contrast to Disneyland Paris, where it’s the rule for over-11s – ‘and they have to be worn ‘at all times unless eating or drinking’.

Some visitors told the news station that wearing them at all times was hot.

However, Williams told News 6: ‘It is definitely hot in the heat with a mask, but they have designated areas where you can take off your mask and take a seat to cool off.’

The Disney magic remains

Disney says that despite the changes to its theme parks 'the fundamentals of the experience remain the same'

Disney says that despite the changes to its theme parks ‘the fundamentals of the experience remain the same’ 

Despite the new rules and regulations, News 6 reported that all guests it spoke to said they could still feel the ‘Disney magic’ in the parks, with Gorra saying ‘the magic is 100 per cent there’.

Disney said: ‘With all these changes, the fundamentals of a Disney theme park experience remain the same. Stories will come to life through favourite attractions and beloved characters, as signature Disney creativity and innovation deliver new ways to enjoy these experiences.

‘Cast members are starting to return to work and carefully preparing for their roles, donning their costumes and pinning on their nametags for the first time in months. Because even with everything that’s happening in the world around them, they’re ready to help guests discover magic is here again at Walt Disney World theme parks.’

Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot parks will reopen from Wednesday, July 15.

 

Two miles of plexiglass and 2,000 hand sanitisers: MailOnline gets a sneak peek of coronavirus-ready Disneyland Paris before it reopens on July 15 for face-mask-wearing visitors 

By Ted Thornhill 

Twelve miles of safety signage, about two miles of plexiglass and 2,000 hand-sanitising stations.

When Disneyland Paris reopens next Wednesday, July 15, after a four-month coronavirus-prompted shutdown, it’ll look a bit different.

But, as MailOnline Travel discovered during a sneak peek tour – not that different. 

MailOnline's Travel Editor, Ted Thornhill, in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland Paris today during a sneak peek tour

MailOnline’s Travel Editor, Ted Thornhill, in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland Paris today during a sneak peek tour

MailOnline Travel had a socially distanced character interaction with Mickey, Donald and Goofy

MailOnline Travel had a socially distanced character interaction with Mickey, Donald and Goofy

For anyone worried that the park’s cheerful and bright facades and thoroughfares are going to be marred by stern safety signs, worry not.

Everything looks as happy and magical as ever.

There are, of course, lots of said safety signs and social distancing alerts – on the walkways and at restaurant and ride entrances – but they’ve been blended in subtly. 

There are also plexiglass screens – around reception desks and across take-away counters, for example – but they don’t ruin the atmosphere.

A plexiglass screen on the counter at Casey's Corner, which MailOnline Travel can confirm, sells very good coffee

A plexiglass screen on the counter at Casey’s Corner, which MailOnline Travel can confirm, sells very good coffee

And the hand sanitisers are easy to find – but they won’t spoil those all-important shots of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

What will affect the Disneyland Paris photo album are the face masks, especially for those all-important selfies.

They are mandatory for all cast members and visitors aged 11 and over – except during meal times. Guests are encouraged to bring their own, but shops in the park will sell them – both the washable and disposable varieties.

They can also be bought from shopdisney.co.uk.

The social distancing rule, meanwhile, means that character interactions have had to be tweaked.

There are lots of safety signs - put end to end they would stretch for 12 miles

There are lots of safety signs – put end to end they would stretch for 12 miles

For anyone worried that the park's cheerful and bright facades and thoroughfares are going to be marred by stern safety signs, worry not

For anyone worried that the park’s cheerful and bright facades and thoroughfares are going to be marred by stern safety signs, worry not 

But Disney has come up with some nifty surprises here.

Guests will be given a chance to take socially distanced selfies with characters via ‘selfie spots’, as Disneyland Paris Show Director Emanuel Lenormand explained – and demonstrated – on our tour.

He said: ‘They’re going to be very immersive. For example at Walt Disney Studios, we’re going to give the guests the opportunity to get into the world of Frozen and invite them to enter the Ice Palace to meet the princesses, Anna and Elsa. We’ve created a new immersive experience, a Marvel experience, and the guests will be in the theatre, stepping on stage, into that new immersive experience to meet their superheroes. We’re going to give the guests the opportunity to step into the sets of that beautiful Mickey and the Magician set area and meet Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother.

The social distancing signs blend in with the Disneyland ambience and don't spoil key Instagram moments

The social distancing signs blend in with the Disneyland ambience and don’t spoil key Instagram moments

A hand sanitising unit at the Disneyland Paris guest relations counter

A hand sanitising unit at the Disneyland Paris guest relations counter

‘And we’re transforming the Meet Mickey show, where Mickey will be onstage with his favourite pals and, once again – selfie spots.’

He also explained that photographers around the park would invite guests to take part in a ‘magic shoot’, where, for example, you might be asked to strike a pose with your hand out.

‘When you get the picture,’ he said, ‘you’ll find Tinkerbell sitting on your hands.’

Emanuel’s talk was interrupted at this point by three very special guests – Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy, who bounded across for that all-important Disneyland Paris selfie.

MailOnline experiences the magic, virus-free: A face-masked Ted takes a selfie in front of the Disneyland Paris main thoroughfare

MailOnline experiences the magic, virus-free: A face-masked Ted takes a selfie in front of the Disneyland Paris main thoroughfare

The entrance to Casey's has a different look and feel to it now, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic

The entrance to Casey’s has a different look and feel to it now, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic

And to show off their dance moves.

It was a joyous moment – one of many.

Everywhere we went groups of cast members, from cleaners to restaurant staff, cheerily waved (we just couldn’t see their smiles).

A Plaza Gardens Restaurant team meeting was taking place when MailOnline Travel dropped by

A Plaza Gardens Restaurant team meeting was taking place when MailOnline Travel dropped by

How many Disneyland Paris cast members does it take to clean a bin? Three apparently

How many Disneyland Paris cast members does it take to clean a bin? Three apparently 

A few of the rides were whirring around – apparently on test runs to make sure they’re in good shape for the grand reopening – and chirpy music from various Disney productions wafted from loudspeakers as workers put the finishing touches to the paintwork and cleaners scrubbed trash cans.

Particularly enjoyable was the chance to walk right through the castle alone – something that apparently is quite rare for non-staff members.

The lasting impression was just how spick and span and pristine everything looked.

We were told that this was down to the hard work of the ‘magic keepers’, the workers who over the four-month lockdown kept the lawns trimmed, the flowers watered, the paint jobs glossy and the walkways clean.

Ted said he particularly enjoyed the chance to walk alone through the iconic castle

Ted said he particularly enjoyed the chance to walk alone through the iconic castle

Disneyland Paris Show Director Emanuel Lenormand speaking to the press

Disneyland Paris Show Director Emanuel Lenormand speaking to the press 

Natacha Rafalski (pictured), President, Disneyland Paris, said in a pre-tour speech that despite all the changes, 'the timeless magic and unique storytelling will remain'

Natacha Rafalski (pictured), President, Disneyland Paris, said in a pre-tour speech that despite all the changes, ‘the timeless magic and unique storytelling will remain’

Natacha Rafalski, President, Disneyland Paris, said in a pre-tour speech that despite all the changes, ‘the timeless magic and unique storytelling will remain’.    

She’s very probably right, even with ‘adjusted’ experiences and services.

These also include Single Rider and Fastpass services being unavailable, along with makeover experiences.

When the park reopens, all the rides will be operating, apart from those already shut for refurbishment

When the park reopens, all the rides will be operating, apart from those already shut for refurbishment 

Hyperspace Mountain is one of the most popular rides at Disneyland Paris

Hyperspace Mountain is one of the most popular rides at Disneyland Paris 

The Disney Parade is also not coming back for the time being and restaurant buffets will become new all-you-can-eat table service offerings.

Plus, you’ll need to reserve a table in advance.

However, those that go – and it will be best to book early as attendance is limited – will discover a Disneyland Paris full of the usual energy, goodwill and thrilling attractions.

All the rides will be open, The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands and Jungle Book Live shows are back later in the summer, Alice will be hanging out with her friends at the labyrinth, Snow White will be by the wishing well and the castle is looking as timelessly mesmerising as ever.

Now, more than ever, a bit of cheer is needed and Disneyland Paris is clearly ready to step up to the plate.

As Natacha said: ‘Creating memories that are going to last a lifetime has never been so meaningful and the magic of the Disney experience is more special now than ever.’           

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