Impressions of Disney World During Pandemic - Day Two

By Erik Johnson

It’s important to have goals. In Disney vacations, just as in life, you really should know where you want to end up before you figure out how to get there. Our planners ask so many questions because we need to understand your priorities as we design your dream Disney trip.

My wife and I have been to Disney World a few times. We know our priorities pretty well these days, and some of them result in interesting experiments. This is part of the reason we are here in a challenging time in the first place. I hope to pass on some of this experiment to all of you readers, so here goes Day Two.

A lush and muggy morning

This day started with a quick run around the property. There are lots of great running paths around the Disney Resorts. At the Riviera, there is quick and easy access around the lake that takes you through the Caribbean Beach Resort properties as well. One lap was a bit more than a mile. Tomorrow I intend to leave earlier, as there were already a lot of people out and about just after dawn.

One of the popular activities at 8 am is getting in line for the Skyliner. Disney’s Skyliner is the most recent addition to the portfolio of travel options on the Florida property. It’s a gondola-style system that brings guests from several resorts to Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Read more about it here!

Anyway, the Disney World Parks are all opening up later and closing earlier than they used to pre-COVID. Just before the pandemic hit, the hottest ticket in town was heading to Hollywood Studios (or Disneyland) and entering the virtual queue for the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction. The virtual queue system currently goes live every morning at 10 am for anyone who is within the walls of the park. This leads to a surplus of people descending on the park early in the morning. When they get their virtual place in line (or don’t), they head off to every other attraction, forming huge lines elsewhere.

Pretty light on people

Back to priorities. My wife and I are not generally rope-droppers. We do not head to the parks early because we like being there at night. My late run this morning plus some work on yesterday’s blog led to us reaching Hollywood Studios after 10. Not a big deal, as our priority was to try out the new, secondary virtual queue that hits at 2 pm and to eat lunch at the Brown Derby. We wanted to have another go at Rise, but we knew it wasn’t at the top of the list. One of our favorite restaurants was. That, and “journalism” (blogging).

Hollywood Studios is almost entirely filled with E-ticket attractions these days. Everything is a big deal that people are willing to wait for. And if you show up right at the start of the day, be ready to start waiting for something. Even Starbucks. We chose to wait for the excellent launch coaster, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. The streets of the park were nearly empty, but only because every single person in the park was in line for something.

Lines were interesting. Since the queues extend far beyond the original confines of the standard switchbacks, Cast Members stood at the ends of each with a sign to guide traffic. Signs on the pavement demarcated zones in which people could stand as they waited. Guests at Disney are very good at following lines and arrows on the ground, so this worked out well. There were some interesting areas where the guides were far longer than six feet apart. This generally meant there was a concern where people heading in the opposite direction might get too close. Keep an eye on the ground, everyone! Shouldn’t be too hard if you are really into your phone.

Line separators at the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster

Once we got closer to the end of the line, we found out how Disney keeps its guests safe in the crucial final feet of the queue. Robust but temporary, the metal and plexiglass partitions ensure nobody is breathing on each other at the end of the road. They also allowed for families to take up a full ride car or to have couples spaced out far enough. Partitions were even present on Star Tours, allowing the ride to keep most of its former volume.

Some other quick mentions on safety. Hand sanitizer is everywhere you would want it and we only found one empty dispenser all day. If you touched a rail or a ride car or a doorway as a necessary part of your enjoyment of the park, there was gel sanitizer nearby before or after. It became normal to get a squirt. And this is the good stuff, too. My hands did not feel as scoured as after use of some of the cheap alcohol sanitizers.

For your safety, don’t sit there!

Shops and restaurants generally had entrance and exit doors specifically marked. This did not really apply once inside said spaces, but Cast Members kept the population inside down with a quick wait if necessary. Theaters like Muppets 3D had new pre-show areas with specific waiting spaces. Once inside the theater, some rows were off-limits. Others had specific seats blocked. Plenty of room! Sit-down restaurants have altered their reservation system. When you show up, you must tell the staff via your My Disney Experience app. When your table is ready, you will get a push notification. No need to crowd around the host(ess) desk!

We avoided Runaway Railway due to lines that never dropped under 75 minutes. Same for Tower of Terror. We did get our shot at Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster a second time, Muppets 3D, and Star Tours. We had a great meal at the Brown Derby, and had a quick drink a few hours later at Baseline Tap House.

OK. Back to the 2 pm virtual queue.

Ah, back to the old Derby!

Just as we were finishing our meal at the Brown Derby, we hit their 2 pm time. Prepared for battle, I refreshed my screen every few seconds, waiting for my chance to hit that magic button and get our boarding pass. Then the screen switched from a message that we should try again at 2 pm to a message that all passes had been distributed for the day. From what I understand, the ride was down a lot in the afternoon during the rain.

My advice: if you want to ride Rise of the Resistance, go for that 10 am time slot. The 2 pm might never open at all.

In the end, a couple hours of rain dampened our enthusiasm for the park. We did some shopping, wrung out our clothes, and hopped a Skyliner back to the Riviera. We showered and had a nice, quick meal at Bar Riva downstairs again. We had a FaceTime chat with our nieces. When we got back to our room, we popped on Nightmare Before Christmas from my phone to our room TV (which is also a thing you can do now) and drifted to sleep.

Too close for comfort? Toy Story Mania keeps guests separated while in line.

Tomorrow is another day! I’m starting earlier with my run and we will see how many times we can hit up Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom. I doubt we will ever beat our record of seven runs through Everest in one day, but we might get close tomorrow. Plus, we have a great dinner at The Edison in Disney Springs in the evening. It’s going to be a good day.

If you want to work on your Disney priorities, give our travel planners a call or send a message! We are here to help you understand what you want out of a day. Start with that and we can plan anything!


See you tomorrow!


This blog is part of a series! If you missed Part One, check it out here!

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