Taking the Kids: A dispatch from a visit to Walt Disney World
Take your pick — Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Stitch, the Mandalorian, Star Wars Stormtroopers, Disney princesses, etc.
No, we’re not talking about where you might see your favorite characters and at which attractions at Walt Disney World, we’re talking about the masks you’ll see adults and kids buying and wearing throughout the parks and Disney hotels, often with mouse ears to match.
Disney has been strict about health safety, including mask wearing in the parks, with unfailingly polite cast members reminding guests to pull them up over their noses. It’s nice to see guests are having fun with them — and they are affordable ($9.99).
With the CDC now saying those who are fully vaccinated can put aside their masks, Disney watchers are waiting to see if the mask rules change, though children under 12 aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine.
“They are the most comfortable we’ve found,” said Ashley Bissonnete, from Atlanta, whose three sons were sporting Disney masks as she was purchasing more. She and others applaud the efforts to keep guests safe. Besides, she added, she and her kids have to wear masks at school and work, so they are used to wearing them.
Masks are just one change you will notice if you visit this summer. You will also need reservations to enter the park and you will not be able to park-hop until 2 p.m. It may take longer to get a bus as they are scrupulously social distancing riders. There aren’t as many live shows.
Character meet-and-greets have been suspended, replaced with mini parades like The Royal Princess Processional several times a day and the Mickey and Friends Cavalcade in which Mickey, Minnie and their pals pop up along the parade route in the Magic Kingdom. Donald and Daisy Duck wave to guests at Animal Kingdom as their party boat moves from DinoLand to Discovery River, while at Disney’s Hollywood Studios a contingent of First Order Stormtroopers join Kylo Ren patrolling the landing platform at Star Wars” Galaxy’s Edge. Pixar Pals, including The Incredibles, Buzz Lightyear and Woody, wave to fans as they stroll down Hollywood Boulevard.
Rather than wait in a long line for food, you order remotely through your My Disney Experience App and then pick up at a designated time and place or make a reservation for a sit-down restaurant.
And rather than racing to an attraction, as soon as you enter a park, you can open your app and join boarding groups or virtual queues.
Some of these changes are downright improvements. As for the rest, guests say, it’s a small price to pay for the chance at some normalcy during a pandemic, even if kids aren’t yet vaccinated.