As we enter the tenth month of the phased reopening of Walt Disney World, we’re taking a look at what it’s like visiting right now. Last week, we gave an update on the struggles guests are having securing park reservations for late spring and summer 2021. This week, we’re taking a look at dining availability throughout Disney World and will look at the opening status of some of the hotels on property. Catch all the details below.
1 – Many Dining Locations Are Still Closed
We’ve heard from guests that one of the biggest surprises (after the lack of park reservations) is the limited number of restaurants to choose from, which includes both quick and table service restaurants. There are still a handful of quick-service locations in the parks that are closed, making dining a challenge (more on that in a bit). For example, the popular Casey’s Corner and Columbia Harbour House remain closed at Magic Kingdom, and Dockside Diner and Fairfax Fare remain closed at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The limited number of restaurants open in the parks can prove challenging when using the Mobile Order service (see #2). Because of the physical distancing requirements, finding a place to sit is just as difficult as ever. This is one area where we are eager to see improvement!
Not surprisingly, many popular buffet-style table service meals are noticeably absent from the open list. Fan-favorite restaurants such as Boma, O’hana, and Cape May Cafe remain closed. We love Trails End at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground, and that location has also not reopened. Some restaurants such as Chef Mickey’s have transitioned from a buffet to a fixed menu, and we hope more restaurants will do so, even just temporarily. Chef Mickey’s, Topolino’s Terrace (breakfast and dinner), and Cinderella Table are the most difficult reservations to secure. No matter what table service restaurant you wish to dine at, be sure to make your reservations as soon as the sixty-day window opens (see more on this at point #3).
2 – Mobile Ordering is Required at Most Quick-Service Restaurants
When Mobile Order was rolled out a few years ago, Disney encouraged guests to use the service as a way to “skip the line,” much like a FastPass for dining. We loved the service and used it every time we dined at a quick-service restaurant. While it was optional, many guests were unaware of the service or simply preferred to stand in line and wait to order their food. This option really doesn’t exist anymore. Most quick-service restaurants are basically requiring guests to use the service. Most guests now have a smartphone with the MyDisney Experience app and so requiring guests to use it is not all that surprising. The service also cuts down on close contact with guests and Cast Members.
If you plan to visit Walt Disney World soon, be prepared to use this service and order your food early in the day. When you tap “Order Food” on the My Disney Experience app, you’ll be given a list of restaurants to choose from. Additionally, you will be selecting an ‘arrival window’ to pick up your food. Arrival windows are 30 minutes long and a new window opens every 15 minutes (i.e. – 12:00-12:30 pm; 12:15-12:45 pm; 12:30-1:00 pm; etc.). Disney now sets aside a select number of orders per ‘arrival window,’ so once a time slot is full, no more orders for that time will be accepted.
On particularly busy days, prime arrival window time slots will fill up quickly. So, if you go to order your food at noon, the first arrival window you can choose may not be until 2:00 pm. For example, I recently park hopped to Disney’s Hollywood Studios from EPCOT on the Disney Skyliner. On my trip over, I decided to get a lunch box tart from Woody’s Lunch Box. It was about 2:20 pm, and the first ‘arrival window’ available wasn’t until 3:50 pm. I was quite surprised, but thankfully I could wait since it was just a snack. But if you’ve got a hungry family, a delay of hours might make for a rather grumpy day!
For this reason, we strongly suggest that you order and choose your ‘arrival window’ early in the day and place your order for lunch and/or dinner as soon as you have an idea of where you’ll be dining. Of course, you can always modify and cancel your order if needed, so there is no risk in getting that order in early!
3 – Securing Table Reservations at Prime Locations is Extremely Difficult
Securing a table service dining reservation can also be a challenge right now. Usually, the booking window for dining reservations is 180 days. During the phased reopening, the booking window is 60 days. This means that more guests are trying to secure reservations at the same time on a particular day, making it harder to get a reservation. As we noted, not all restaurants have reopened, so guests are also competing for a smaller number of available reservations. If there is a restaurant that you want to dine at, be sure to set alarms and reminders so that you can book online right at 6:00 am, 60 days before your arrival. Disney Resort guests still have an advantage because, at 60 days, they can book for their entire vacation once they hit the 60 day mark, not just one day at a time like other guests.
Disney table service restaurants occasionally have walk-up service, but for the very popular restaurants, do not count on getting in.
4 – Many Resorts Are Still Closed
Some guests are surprised to learn that many Disney Resort hotels are still closed and have not reopened.
The following Disney Resort hotels are now open and accepting new reservations:
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
The popular resorts missing from this list include Disney’s Port Orleans Resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (the DVC section is open), Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort, and Disney’s All-Star Music Resort. The two sections of Disney’s All-Star Resort and Disney’s Port Orleans are the resorts we hear guests miss because they offer value and moderate resort pricing. We hope that with the (rumored) increase of capacity, more resorts will soon be added to the reopening list.
5 – Upcoming Resort Openings
Here is a list of Disney Resort Hotels scheduled to Reopen:
May 30, 2021 – Disney’s Beach Club
June 6, 2021 – Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
July 2, 2021 – Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
Late July 2021 – Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Future reopening dates are subject to change, and guests’ reservations could still be modified to other Disney Resort hotels if needed. However, Disney has stated that they will continue to assess the situation and will reopen resorts as needed. We certainly hope more resorts get added to this list sooner rather than later!
We will continue to update you on the conditions of the phased reopening as time goes on. Also, be sure to sign up for our newsletter, so you don’t miss news, musings, and of course, Disney Parks and Disney Cruise Line trip planning.
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