Trip Report The “Is it safe?” Trip Report

Some of you might recognize the quote from the 1976 film, “Marathon Man”. It occurs during a scene considered by some film critics to be one of the most terrifying in movie history. In this "Age of COVID-19", I thought the quote appropriate. After all, if you are reading this trip report, the foremost question in your mind is, “Is it safe to go to Walt Disney World?”

There are two ways to address the question: with words or pictures. I decided that no matter what I write, it will be biased. Therefore, I decided the best way to answer this was with pictures, many pictures. I will add comments, where appropriate, but I want you to see what the parks look like.

Please keep in mind, this is not your typical trip report. “I did this, I ate that, etc.” Instead, it’s primarily a series of images showing you what I saw as I visited the Walt Disney World for the first time since the theme parks reopened. Ultimately, I wanted you to be able to judge crowd levels based on these photos.

Some general impressions from our trip:
  • The parks have become more crowded. 3 of the 4 theme parks had crowds that were well below normal, the lightest crowds in years. Still, wait times for most attractions have increased significantly since July when many rides were walk-on.
  • It is impossible to maintain 6 feet of social distancing all the time. Epcot was much less crowded than normal yet there were numerous places where people bunched up. Until the rains came, Disney's Hollywood Studios felt nearly as crowded as an average late September day. (We have been to WDW the same week for several years and have a good sense of what crowds are like for this particular week.) The Animal Kingdom had, by far, the least crowded walkways. The Magic Kingdom was a mixed bag. Light crowds throughout most of the park but areas where people bunched up, particularly near the Haunted Mansion. Frankly, if you feel you need to be separated by 6 feet all the time, then don’t go to the theme parks. With everyone walking about, it's just not possible to social distance with any consistency.
  • I consciously watched for mask compliance. Mask compliance was extremely high. I saw 2 adults walking with masks pulled down below the chin, plus another 5 with masks below the nose but covering the mouth. Over my 4 days at WDW, I passed thousands of other Guests who were wearing their masks correctly. When someone isn’t wearing a mask correctly, it’s really noticeable. Note that many were not wearing masks when eating and drinking, but these people were standing or sitting still, well distanced from other Guests.
  • Cast Member interaction was mixed. Some were cheerful while many were glum, even morbid. No one said a word to me but I suspect the layoffs are having a devastating effect on morale.
  • It was much easier to maintain social distancing at the Disney hotels and pools. Deck chairs were well-spaced and Guests seemed to be careful not to approach others while in the pool or on the pool deck.
  • I saw Cast Members cleaning surfaces on a few occasions. I cannot confirm how regularly surfaces are cleaned, only that some surfaces were being cleaned.
 
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ParentsOf4

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Original Poster
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Wanting to avoid crowds, we arrived at the Riviera on Sunday at 12:30 and immediately headed to the main pool. Many chairs were available and we quickly found one to our liking. The water was pleasant and we never felt our 6-feet were being invaded.

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ParentsOf4

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Original Poster
Our room was ready at 3 PM and, after unpacking, we headed to Epcot via the Skyliner. There was no one else in line when we arrived at the station at 5 PM, so we boarded immediately. We entered Epcot via the International Gateway, which was relatively empty.

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ParentsOf4

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
The mood was rather morbid walking into the World Showcase. No loud voices, no adults walking about with alcoholic drinks in hand. Our first 20 minutes felt joyless, and my wife and I both questioned our decision to visit WDW under these circumstances.

For comparison, here's the crowd I encountered at the World Showcase in late September 2020 on a Sunday evening:

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Here's the crowd my son encountered on a Sunday night about 1 week after WDW reopened in July 2020:

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Here's what I saw on the same September Sunday night in 2019:

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ParentsOf4

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Original Poster
Some other images of the World Showcase on Sunday, September 27, from about 5:30 to 7:00 PM. If I wanted to, I could have framed photos to show near-empty walkways, or walkways that looked overcrowded. The reality is that there was an ebb-and-flow. Hopefully, this mix of images is an honest representation of what it was like.

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ParentsOf4

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Original Poster
Day 2 (Monday) was spent at Disney's Hollywood Studios. We were greatly turned off by the immense crowds for the 10 AM opening. The increased crowd levels along with reduced ride capacity resulted in lines that were 60 minutes or longer on Rock n Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railroad, Slinky Dog Dash, and Smuggler's Run. Even Star Tours was over 30 minutes for much of the day.

The days of short lines are over.

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ParentsOf4

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
After a pleasant poolside lunch and dip in the refreshing water, we stretched out and watched the expected clouds roll in. It started to rain around 3 and thunder soon after. The lifeguards instructed us to leave so we headed back to the room, with plans to return to Disney's Hollywood Studios that night for our 6:50 reservation at SciFi Dine-in.

We were surprised, shocked really, when this notice appeared on my wife's iPad. (I never received a notice on my phone and although I was ready at 10 AM to join a Boarding Group, my phone had a meltdown when I reached the last screen. Since I never received a notice, I thought I had lost out. Boarding Groups were gone within about 7 seconds that day.)

We immediately got dressed and took a bus to Disney's Hollywood Studios. (The Skyliner was closed due to the lightning).

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ParentsOf4

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Original Poster
When we arrived at Rise of the Resistance at about 4 PM, Cast Members let us in after checking our Magic Bands, even though our window had expired (Boarding Group 63). I did not time it but estimate that we waited 20-30 minutes in the Rise of the Resistance line.

We rode Rise of the Resistance twice in December so this was our third time on.

Stated simply, Rise of the Resistance is the best attraction I have every experienced.

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ParentsOf4

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
The heavy rain had cleared out a lot of the crowd, and we were able to experience both Smuggler's Run and Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railroad before stopping by an almost empty Baseline Tap House to pick up our favorite brews. We had an enjoyable dinner at SciFi and then walked out a closed Disney's Hollywood Studios (closing time was 7 PM), boarding the Skyliner at 8 PM to return to the Riviera.

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ParentsOf4

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
We checked out of the Riviera on Tuesday and headed to the Animal Kingdom. Arriving at around 11, crowds were impressively light, the lightest we've seen since the post-9/11 years. Several rides were walk-ons and the pathways were pleasant.

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