Walt Disney Company Clears Latest Safe Reopening Hurdle

Disney Security team saluting the American flag in Town Square at Magic Kingdom Park
PHOTO: Disney Security team saluting the American flag in Town Square at Magic Kingdom Park. (photo courtesy of Walt Disney World News)

The Walt Disney Company announced Thursday it had reached an agreement with its employee union on a new set of health and safety guidelines to protect workers from coronavirus.

According to Reuters.com, Disney and the Service Trades Council Union (STCU) agreed to a series of new preventative measures designed to safeguard employees, including social distancing practices, increased cleaning and mandatory masks for workers and guests.

The STCU represents around 43,000 workers at Disney World in Orlando.

Company officials recently announced Disney Springs would reopen on May 20 with a limited number of shops and restaurants open and altered hours of operation to control crowd size.

While the agreement with its employee union and the reopening of Disney Springs are positive steps, no date for opening Disney World back up to the public has been revealed. Earlier this week, though, the company’s official website began accepting hotel reservations for July.

Disney started closing theme parks in Asia, France and the United States in late January as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, a move that cost the company more than $1 billion between January and March.

In addition, Disney was forced to furlough around 120,000 employees, but positive signs from the reopening of Shanghai Disneyland this week has the theme park industry cautiously optimistic for the near future.

Disney World is planning a phased reopening with enhanced safety measures, but there is no set date for any official reopening.

Disney World Eyes Phased Reopening With Limited Capacity, Enhanced Safety Measures

Main Entrance to Walt Disney World Florida photo credit Dave Jones.

Disney Springs has announced it will begin a phased reopening on May 20 with limited capacity, parking and operating hours.

Under the initial phase, a limited number of shopping and dining experiences owned by third-party operating participants will open.

Walt Disney World Resort also issued an update on its overall reopening strategy on Thursday, stopping short of announcing a reopening date but confirming that it will limit capacity and encourage social distancing in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“Upon reopening, theme parks, Disney Resort hotels, restaurants, attractions, experiences and other offerings may be modified and will be limited in capacity and subject to limited availability or closure, based on direction from health experts and government officials to promote physical distancing,” Disney said.

“Additionally, attractions, experiences, services and amenities may have limited availability or may remain closed. We will provide more information as it becomes available. We reserve the right to cancel any reservations, admission media or purchases and provide applicable refunds. Please also see our policies regarding cancellations by guests,” the update reads. “Our focus remains on the health and safety of the entire Disney community—including the well-being of the cast members who are caring for and securing our parks and Resorts during the closure. We’re currently evaluating new and enhanced safety measures to help us all stay well.”

The update comes on the heels of a message from Disney Parks Chief Medical Officer Dr Pamela Hymel outlining the steps the company will take to safely reopen.

Shanghai Disneyland is scheduled to reopen with controlled capacity on Monday.

Disney has reported massive losses since temporarily closing its parks in mid-March. However, a new report predicts a positive long-term outlook for theme parks in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

Disney’s Magical Private Caribbean Island

Image result for castaway cay

Imagine having your own private island.

Well, Disney has done just that with its enchanted Castaway Cay. This tranquil retreat is just for Disney cruisers and embodies the perfect island paradise.

I’ve often said I’d take a Disney cruise just for a stop on this magical isle. The rest of the family heartily agreed after we returned from our 3-night sail on the Disney Dream, celebrating our grandson’s birthday.

The cruise itself was one fantastic experience. Food, service, staterooms and entertainment were all top-notch Disney-esque.

Our first port of call was Nassau— a fun place we’ve visited in the past—teeming with Bahamian and British flavour, miles of spectacular beaches and stretches of vivid coral reefs perfect for snorkelling.

Excitement, however, started to build as our ship slowly approached Castaway Cay. The tropical island hideaway located just 225 nautical miles from Port Canaveral, Florida is a stop on all Disney’s Bahamian and Caribbean cruises.

There’s no shortage of things to do here. (Actually, we found it impossible to do it all in a day.)

Ships dock right on the island, allowing Disney cruisers to disembark directly onto the pier. A short 15-minute walk leads to unbelievable amenities, including our first stop: powdery white and sandy Castaway Family Beach. The beach area is quite extensive with points and coves along the shoreline.

Trams are available for those who need them (or want to get to the beach faster) and traverse all Castaway Cay amenities. Beach towels are provided by cruise line members at the pier, so no need to pack those in your suitcase or beach bag.

Beach and Water Fun

After securing our chairs and umbrellas, the kids scurried to the bay’s turquoise crystalline waters. Snorkeling is available to those wanting to explore the Caribbean’s undersea marine habitat in Snorkeling Lagoon just off Castaway Family Beach.

Two submerged submarines from Magic Kingdom’s retired 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction add an element of adventure for intrepid snorkelers.

We found it impossible to resist Pelican Plunge, the 2,400 square-foot floating platform with two bending twisting water slides dropping squealing riders directly into the lagoon. A giant “bucket dump” of water delivering hundreds of gallons brought more anticipation and laughter. Four water cannons provided sharp-shooting fun with floating nautical targets.

Game pavilions near the Family Beach offer a variety of sand and shaded games like volleyball, tetherball, foosball, ping-pong, pool, shuffleboard and basketball. And there are also places where each age group can hang out with their peers that include planned activities like Teen Hideout or Scuttle’s Cove kids club for the younger cruisers.

Inner tubes, snorkel masks and fins can be rented from Gil’s Fin and Floats or Flippers & Floats on the beach, while kayaks, paddle boats, paddle boards and Aqua Trikes can also be rented for use in this water wonderland.

Hammocks are located beachfront and very popular with visitors. And while my husband was clowning around in one with our grandson, that wily, notorious pirate Captain Jack Sparrow snuck up on them, grabbed our camera and started snapping photos.