Wondering what it’s like to stay at a Disney Resort right now? Our full review of our 2020 Pop Century Resort stay has all the details about what you can expect from staying at a Disney Resort hotel now that they have reopened.
This article covers all of the changes at Disney Resorts that have occurred since the global pandemic. If you’re looking for a complete guide and detailed review of Disney’s Pop Century Resort, click here.
One of the biggest questions we hear from those who want to visit the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is whether or not they should stay on property at a Disney Resort. This question is perhaps even more important now that the events of 2020 have drastically changed life in many ways – especially when it comes to travel and vacations. Walt Disney World has also greatly changed since reopening in July, and the Disney Resort hotels on property have particularly been affected by these changes.
We recently stayed several nights at Disney’s first Value level resort to reopen – Pop Century – and did some first-hand research to give our readers a detailed look at the changes and what it is like to stay there now (if you want to know more about what our visits to the parks were like during this time, check out “Our Full Experience Visiting Walt Disney World In 2020”).
Things are ever changing in this current environment, so your experience may differ at times. We’ve done our best to provide you with the facts you should know – as well as some of our own personal experience – so you can get an idea of what to expect if you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel in the near future…
As always, we encourage you to visit Disney’s website for all official information and to make sure that none of this information has changed since this article was written. Disney frequently makes changes and updates to their parks and offerings. Because of this, the information in this post was current at the time of publishing and is subject to change at any moment. We update our website and articles as often as we can, but it is always a good idea to double check Disney’s official website before planning your trip or visiting the Walt Disney World Resort.Last Updated October 31, 2020
Resort Check-In, Common Areas, and Room
If you’ve ever used Disney World’s direct-to-room check-in before, the process is essentially the same. We’ve taken advantage of this easy check-in option for some of our past stays, and it is usually a breeze. Once you check-in on the My Disney Experience app, you are able to use your MagicBand to enter the room as soon as it is ready (official check-in time is 3:00PM). The ability to skip the front desk and go straight to your room really helps the if you’re wanting a more contactless experience, and it also eliminates the need to wait in line with all of your luggage in order to check in.
Visiting the Lobby
If for some reason you still need to visit the lobby check-in area, their are new health and safety measures in place there as well. We visited the front desk to ask for birthday buttons (Disney is still giving out celebration buttons at this time if a guest would like one), and there were physical distancing markers on the ground and line guides to help guests know where to go and where to stand. Once we got up to the front of the line, a Cast Member standing at a distance asked us how she could help. She was more than happy to retrieve two birthday buttons for us and wrote one of our names on each (they also sanitize everything often and are being very cautious about what they touch and then hand to a guest).
Once she was finished, she extend her hand out all the way and leaned back a bit in order to give us some distance while we reached out and took the buttons from her. We noticed similar procedures being used in other cases, and the front desk itself had clear barriers between the Cast Members on one side and guests on the other (similar to what you’ll see at most grocery store checkouts now).
Overall, we were impressed by how much thought they had put into every interaction – even something as simple as picking up a celebration button – and we felt very comfortable in general with the entire resort check-in process and our visit to the main lobby.
Visiting Other Common Areas
Our visits to other resort common areas were similar experiences. In order to enter the shop and dining hall from the main lobby, guests might have to stand in a short line outside the entrance before entering. So long as there weren’t too many people in the shop or dining hall (depending on which you wanted to visit), the Cast Members standing at the entrance would allow you to enter and go wherever you like. From our experience, we found that usually we would just tell them what we were there to do (look around in the store, pick up food, etc.), and they would let us right in. There weren’t many people staying at this resort when we visited, so this might change depending on whether the store or dining hall has reached a certain capacity level.
You will find hand sanitizer dispensers in most areas that require guests to come into more contact with certain things, such as near the beverage stations in the dining hall. We also saw them in the lobby near the check-in desks and near entrances to stores. Oddly enough, though, we didn’t find any near the pools aside from one in front of the main pool bar. This seems strange since guests have to touch the pool gate in order to enter, but perhaps that is because the pool is chlorinated. If you’re concerned about this, though, we’d suggest bringing along your own sanitizer to the pool to keep with your other pool deck items.
Shopping and Dining
Shopping at the resorts is just as it always has been, aside from the fact that now the checkouts have clear barriers between the guest and the Cast Member. They also prefer that you use your MagicBand, credit card, or gift card to pay in order to limit contact, but this is not a requirement. Once in the store, we were able to walk around freely and look at whatever we wanted. We also noticed that at the Contemporary Resort, there weren’t any Cast Members standing at the entrances as there were at Everything Pop. We aren’t sure why that is, but perhaps it is because the stores at the Contemporary are quite a bit larger and not attached to the dining areas. This might change depending on how busy the resorts are, however, so keep this in mind.
Resort dining halls have seen the most drastic change through all of the new health and safety procedures. You can still eat both inside and outside at Pop Century, but with physical distancing measures in place. All walk-up counters have been closed and replaced by a single bar where Cast Members will assist you with picking up your food. The self-serve stations are now blocked by tables at which Cast Members will fill your beverage cups for you. We also noticed that anything that is still self-serve, such as utensils and napkins, all utilize limited contact dispensers, which is definitely a plus. We think it would be great to see these new utensil dispensers offered at every restaurant outside of Walt Disney World as well as they seemed much more sanitary than the standard options.
Throughout our stay we used mobile ordering for all of our meals both in the parks and at the resorts (aside from our table service dining at California Grill), and it was a fairly simple process. It is important to note that many quick service dining have a limited menu for the time being, and this was certainly the case at Everything Pop.
If you’ve read our review of Disney’s Pop Century Resort, you know that Everything Pop dining received high ratings from us in the past – even compared to Disney’s Moderate level Caribbean Beach Resort. This time, however, the food options were quite limited and the quality wasn’t the best, which was disappointing. Several of the Cast Members here also seemed more flustered and confused, which usually isn’t the case, and the whole process seemed a bit unorganized overall. We hope that this is just due to the unusual nature of dining during these times and that it returns to what it once was as soon as everything goes back to normal.
Resort Hotel Room
When we arrived at our room after we checked in with the My Disney Experience app, we were pleased to see that the room was quite clean. Thanks to the resort’s recent refurbishment, we didn’t have to worry about carpet cleaning measures since the floors are now laminate. All of the more concerning areas like the beverage station, mini refrigerator, and bathroom appeared to be cleaned thoroughly, though we wiped every square inch of the room down with cleaning wipes just as an extra precaution (when you have chronic illness you can never be too careful).
We were very pleased overall, though, with the condition of the room and felt as comfortable as we possibly can be during this time. Much of this is thanks to Disney’s enhanced cleaning measures, which you can see a a list of in every room. This includes things like cleaning the remote and wrapping it plastic, which is then sealed so that guests know it has been sanitized (we actually just left the remote in the clear bag and used it that way as an additional measure for ourselves to feel more comfortable).
There were guests in the rooms directly adjacent to our’s, so you might want to be aware of this since some of the room doors are closer together. So long as both parties aren’t trying to exit or enter their rooms at the exact same time, however, this shouldn’t be an issue. You are supposed to wear your mask when leaving your hotel room, although sometimes people forget (it’s not always an easy thing to remember to after a lifetime of never wearing them).
Elevators are still operational, but we opted not to use them (it seems they just ask that you ride only with your own party or with as few people in one elevator as possible). We stayed on the first floor, but had we needed to we would have used the stairs on either end of the building we were staying in. Keep in mind that you can request the lowest floor if it makes you feel more comfortable. It’s not a guarantee that your request can be met depending upon availability, but from our experience Cast Members try their best to accommodate whatever they can.
The main feature pool is always more crowded (though at this time it isn’t nearly as crowded as it normally is), so we chose to visit the smaller pool closer to us. At all pools, Disney has set guidelines in place so that physical distancing is still possible. Should a pool reach these capacity limits, you may have to wait until another party leaves before you can enter.
When we visited, hotel occupancy was so low that this wasn’t even the slightest issue at the smaller pool, but on a particularly busy night it may be more likely that capacity is more of a concern (especially at the feature pool). Cast Members all wear masks no matter where they are (even on the pool deck), but they did not require any guests to wear a mask while on the pool deck (or in the pool, obviously, as that would be dangerous). Disney Resort rules have stated that masks must be worn in all areas at all times, but this rule seems to have been relaxed for the pool area. This might change should the pools become more crowded, but during our visit pool-side mask wearing wasn’t a requirement. You are expected to put your mask on as soon as you leave the pool, however, so keep this in mind.
Mask Rules (And A Note About Mask Wearing)
As we mention above, everyone is supposed to wear a mask at all times – even outside. However, if guests forget to do so, Cast Members just kindly remind any guests they see to put their masks on (from what we’ve witnessed), and this seems to be more of an issue if these guests are near other people.
So long as you aren’t anywhere near anyone else, it didn’t seem to be a problem if someone needed to breath for a moment because they felt overheated or have a breathing condition like asthma. We always encourage following the rules at all times, but it was nice to see that if someone needed to stop and breath for a moment without their mask that most all Cast Members appeared to notice the difference between these instances and those in which guests were deliberately breaking the rules (like walking around with no mask on whatsoever). As long as you are trying your best to follow the rules and take the necessary measures to protect those around you, most Cast Members seem very understanding overall.
Many people with health conditions like us decide to visit the parks during this time because we actually feel safer with all of these current health measures than we expect we will when large crowds return and measures are lifted. We appreciate all the steps the Disney Parks have taken to make everyone feel safe and comfortable, and we are grateful for the opportunity to enjoy some fun times in the parks during an otherwise difficult year.
However, it is still important to keep in mind that a mask can be quite restrictive to breathing for many, so there are times that compliance with the rules may not be 100% for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that everyone we see is uncaring or unwilling to follow the rules. It can be easy to get caught up in frustration with those who truly don’t care, but we have to be careful that this does not cause us to loose awareness or compassion for those who may have legitimately forgotten to pull their mask up or may have issues that come up unexpectedly and affect their breathing.
As always, we believe everyone should follow the rules to the best of their ability and encourage you to do so, but we also want to keep a healthy, balanced narrative in our own discussions since we have personal experience with the challenges and difficulties that come with these drastic changes to everyday living we have all experienced in 2020.
I say this just to reassure those who want to visit the parks during this time (especially those with breathing concerns) that you’re not going to get thrown out of the parks if you make a mistake or have to take a moment to breath due to a health condition. Sometimes there’s no relaxation station in sight (they are surprisingly quite far apart from each other in the parks and there really aren’t any at the resorts), and you may have to pull over into an unpopulated area and rest a minute (we’ve actually heard of some Cast Members suggesting this if it is needed).
Just always do your best to follow the rules at all times, and if you have an issue or honestly forget to put your mask on (it happens to most all of us at one point or another), be kind and explain that to the Cast Members if they remind you of the rules… and remember to give them some grace as well – their job isn’t an easy one right now and they can also experience frustration and exhaustion from long hard days.
Most all Disney transportation options are up and running right now except for Minnie Van services. We chose to use our own car while staying on property, but we have seen Disney buses picking up and dropping off guests each day (bus hours have a tendency to change during this time, so be sure to keep an eye on the daily schedule). Buses have new measures to accommodate physical distancing, including assigning parties to certain sections with numbered floor markers, barriers between seat sections, and select seats blocked off.
Ferryboats are also operating at Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, and Grand Floridian, as is the Ticket and Transportation Center ferryboat to Magic Kingdom. The ferryboats connecting to Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and Disney Springs are currently unavailable, so you’ll need to drive or take a bus to these locations. Much like the buses, certain sections of the ferryboats are unavailable for seating/standing and there are markers on the floor to help guests maintain distance from each other.
The Disney Skyliner is also up and running to and from the Skyliner resorts, Hollywood Studios, and EPCOT. Cast Members are currently loading only one party per cabin, which means if you’re a party of one you’ll have the entire cabin to yourself.
Monorail transportation is currently available for Magic Kingdom, but not EPCOT. If you’re familiar with Walt Disney World, you know that Magic Kingdom is different than the other three parks in that you won’t be able to park right outside the gates. The parking lot for Magic Kingdom is actually located at the Ticket and Transportation Center on the opposite side of the Seven Seas Lagoon, so you have to take the monorail, ferryboat, or bus (if their running) to get to Magic Kingdom’s gate. We chose the monorail as the wait was minimal at the time and Cast Members are currently loading only 1-2 parties in each compartment.
Each time we boarded the monorail we shared a section with one or two other people who sat directly across from us, but there was enough space between parties that we felt comfortable (especially since everyone is required to wear masks on Disney transportation as well). There may be another party riding on the other side of the same monorail car (the cars have seats in the middle that sit back-to-back), but Disney has placed dividers between the two sections that extend from the backs of the seats toward the ceiling.
As far as we are aware, these transportation options are not being cleaned between every party, but with fewer people using these options each day and the new safety measures we felt comfortable overall. We generally just clean anything we are going to touch a lot (like the outside of our park bags) as soon as we exit the monorail (bus, etc.) as an extra precaution.
Resort hopping is what Disney fans call visiting any resort that they do not have a reservation for. In the past, we have often visited two or three resorts during our stays to see their theming, experience unique offerings, view seasonal decorations, shop, or dine. You can also visit Disney resorts if you are staying off-property or are a local.
As of right now, Disney is technically requiring either a resort reservation or a dining reservation in order to visit any resort on property (We’ve also heard that having a Mobile Order pick-up at a Quick Service location in a resort is also acceptable to enter that resort, but we aren’t completely sure if this the case every time). While you could easily “hop” from one resort to another in the past without any reservations, it seems Disney is trying to limit the amount of people at any given resort at this time. So for the time being, if you want to be sure you can visit a resort you are not currently staying in, you’ll need to make a dining reservation and eat at one of the restaurants that is currently open in that resort.
We made a reservation at the California Grill in the Contemporary Resort while we were staying at Pop Century and had no issue getting in. When we pulled up to the entrance of the Contemporary’s parking lot, we confirmed our dining reservation with the Cast Member at the parking lot entrance and they let us right in. We were also free to roam about the resort and visit the shops while we were there as well. What you’ll be able to do each time can sometimes change depending on what the Cast Members say at that time, but our personal experience has been that we are generally free to do what we would like at the resort so long as we have a reservation of some sort.
Our check-out experience at Pop Century was essentially the same as our check-in experience. We didn’t need to go to the front desk, and all the information we needed was provided through the My Disney Experience app. Should there be an issue with your check-out you can always call or visit the front desk, but it’s generally a pretty smooth and easy process.
While these are uncertain times and it’s impossible to guarantee 100% health or safety at any given time, we personally felt very comfortable staying at Disney’s Pop Century Resort. The new measures put in place for physical distancing and limited contact were very helpful, and our room was quite clean overall. As we mention above, we also did some cleaning of our own just as an added precaution, but we feel that Disney has done a commendable job in their efforts to make guests feel as comfortable and safe as is possible right now.
Our dining experience at Pop Century was by far the worst part of our stay – not in terms of health and safety but more so in terms of it feeling somewhat unorganized and extremely limited in options. This was really more of a minor thing, however, and we expect that it will get better as time goes on and things begin to go back to normal. If it’s in your budget, we would recommend visiting Moderate or Deluxe level resort dining locations during your stay whenever possible instead or in addition to your Value level dining hall so you have more options. We had an excellent experience at the California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort and are really glad we decided to add this one signature dining reservation to our week staying on property.
Even though it’s hard to fully relax anywhere with so many health and safety concerns surrounding us at all times, we still had a very enjoyable time during our stay at Walt Disney World. When you choose to go and how your visit looks should depend entirely on your own comfort level and isn’t something we can or can’t recommend for you personally, but based on our own experience we can say that we were pleased overall with how Disney has handled this difficult transition and the effort they have put in to make guests feel safer.
We are very grateful that we have still had the opportunity to experience Walt Disney World this year, and we are happy overall with the experience we had staying on property. We would feel comfortable staying at a Disney Resort again under the current conditions, although we truly hope that everything can return to normal soon!
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