I recently went to Animal Kingdom for the first time since the Disney parks reopened. I was a little nervous and excited to not only get back into a Disney theme park, but also to see all the new health and safety protocols Disney is implementing.
From the time I parked all the way until I left, I felt safe and comfortable. My husband and I walked up to the entrance of the theme park from the parking lot, and arrived at the Advent Health tent where they were doing the temperature screenings. The Cast Members were friendly and took our temperatures. I was actually running a little hot, so they took my temperature twice; once on my forehead and then the second time behind my ear. We then proceeded to the security check point. Disney is no longer doing manual bag checks- instead you walk through a machine with all of your belongings. It was quick, easy and felt safe. We then proceeded to the front entrance where we scan our Magic Bands to enter the park. There were no lines at all! After being greeted by a Cast Member, we simply scanned our bands and entered the park!
Something I noticed during this whole process is that the Cast Members that interact with a high volume of Guests, such as the Cast Members at the main entrance and the ones monitoring the security check point, were not only wearing face masks, but also face shields for extra protection.
We took the opportunity to stop for a lot of pictures and utilize Photopass. There were a lot of photographers scattered throughout the park and since the park capacity is currently limited, there wasn’t a line at any of the locations. We noticed that because of this, the photographers took more photos of us and were very creative with poses. It was a lot of fun!
We headed to Pandora — The World of Avatar first and went straight to Flight of Passage. The wait time was only 5 minutes! While there was a decent amount of guests heading into the line at the same time as us, we all walked through the queue and went straight into the loading area, without any stopping in the line. The first pre-show was eliminated and we went directly into the second room, where the Cast Members reminded all Guests to stay physically distanced from each other. My husband and I were spaced out two to three seats from the family next to us, once seated for the ride itself.
We experienced similar treatment on the other attractions we went on, as well. For Na’vi River Journey, we were the only guests on our boat, and same with DINOSAUR, being the only guests in our ride vehicle! Kilimanjaro Safari was done really well! They have implemented barriers between each row of the safari buses, with one family or party per row. There were also a lot of plexiglass barriers along the queue line and between each loading area.
On Expedition Everest, the Cast Members loaded every other row and there were plexiglass barriers between each row on the loading platform while you waited for your train. Also, any attraction photos are being automatically loaded onto your My Disney Experience account, so no one ends up congregating in the area where they typically show your ride photos.
All attractions, gift shops and dining locations had markers on the ground showing how to physically distance while in the locations, as well as outside in case lines are to form. There are also Relaxation Stations spread out throughout the park; we noticed three of them while we were there, although we did not use them this time since we had only spent a few hours in the afternoon at the park. Some of the smaller Relaxation Station locations were outside in shaded areas, and the main one was located inside in the ‘Pizzafari’ restaurant building.
We also had the opportunity to see some of our favorite characters! Minnie, Mickey and Pluto popped up as we were walking over the bridge leading out of Pandora and into Africa — they were smiling and waving from a boat in the river so we stopped on the bridge to wave hello and show our love! We have definitely missed our Disney friends! It felt very magical, even though we could not approach them. They were dancing to music and waving to everyone nearby, and they seemed just as excited to see us as we were to see them!
The Disney magic was back! From the moment we stepped inside the park, we felt the magic and excitement again! Yes, it definitely felt a little different, but it still felt like how I imagined it: special. We enjoyed our visit and felt safe the whole time. Wearing our masks constantly with the heat was not as bad as we expected. Between the Relaxation Stations, gift shops, dining locations and attractions that are indoors, there are quite a few places to either enjoy the air conditioning or to take off your mask for bit of a break.
There were also a lot of hand sanitizer locations and hand washing stations scattered throughout the park. There were sanitizers before you enter an attraction line queue and another one once you exited. They also have them in gift shops, dining locations and spread out in the main areas as you walk through the park. I always bring hand sanitizer with me wherever I go, but I didn’t even use the one I brought because there were so many opportunities to clean and feel comfortable with what Disney has provided.
All the Cast Members were friendly and welcomed us back with excitement. We enjoyed the whole experience and can confidently say we plan to go back to the Disney theme parks very soon!