Theme Park Bits: Photo Changes, Electrical Water Pageant On Hold, And More

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Changes to how guest photos work are happening at Disney.
  • The Magical Express will return.
  • And more!
  • It's strange times in the world of theme parks, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, putting it lightly. Theme parks are preparing to limit capacity, characters will be wearing masks, and that's not to include the sure-to-be very strange sight of a large swath of the NBA holing up in resorts like the Grand Floridian while they complete their truncated season. (That the best NBA teams aren't the ones staying at the fanciest hotel is mystifying.) But for guests, changes will persist at the Walt Disney World Resort once the parks open up on July 11. For one, consider the photographic experience. In the past, you could have ensured that you'd get a good photo with a character whether or not you have the paid PhotoPass option, thanks to Cast Members using your phone. Well, those days are gone (for now, at least). Per the Orlando Sentinel, you can ask a Cast Member to snap a photo with your phone ... and they will politely decline. Fireworks, parades, and meet-and-greets are on hold anyway, so just get used to lots of selfies.

    One of the many shows affected by the closures is the Electrical Water Pageant. For those of you who haven't had a chance to see this show in person, you'll want to head over to YouTube because the nighttime water spectacular is not coming back on July 11 or July 15. The charming, old-fashioned program is very much like the Main Street Electrical Parade, if said parade took place entirely in a massive lagoon. It's a shame to see this show on hold as well – unlike many character experiences, this one takes place at a distance already, well beyond that of a Main Street parade. But this is where the abundance of caution is best utilized.

    When you do arrive at Walt Disney World, you'll likely be showing up from the Orlando airport, which means you'll need to get some transportation to your hotel. In the pre-pandemic times, you could always rely on the Disney's Magical Express bus service to take you to and from the airport, and for free. Well, good news: Disney's Magical Express is coming back. Details are scant in terms of how the bus service will operate – before, you might be wedged into a full bus, or a half-empty one, entirely based on what time your flight arrives, when buses are available, and how many other people need to get to their resort. Either way, make sure you know your flight arrival and that you're already hooked up with a Magical Express confirmation.

    With the parks set to reopen beginning on July 11, you may well wonder: when exactly do the Disney Cast Members have to return? Well, it's a fair question and the answer is, "Sooner than you might think". In fact, some Disney World Cast Members are being called back as early as June 21, and no later than June 28. The gap between when they arrive and when the parks reopen no doubt reflects the crash-course they're all about to get in terms of new social distancing guidelines, new sanitation procedures, and more. As much as it's important for all of us to know the impending changes, it's doubly important for Cast Members to be able to speak to those changes to anyone who ends up confused. Good luck to all of those folks – you no doubt need it.

    Topolino's Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera at Riviera Resort ...

    Wrapping up today's column, let's talk about the Topolino Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera restaurant at Disney's Riviera Resort. Because the hotel itself is fairly new, you may not have heard a whole lot about this swanky dining location, but you're going to hear more about it in the days to come. Why's that? Well, for the time being, it's the only Disney restaurant with character dining. In spite of that added luxury, the menu has gone through some changes, specifically losing some of its shared food items. Even though the menu has been trimmed down, the price will still be $42 for adults and $29 for kids; it may seem steep, but again...when you're the only character-dining location in the entire resort, there's an added premium now.