After deciding to spend five nights on an impromptu trip to Florida, Stacey and I chose to spend three of those nights at Disney World. Some of our family members were booked at the Art of Animation Resort, and we ended up with reservations at the Pop Century Resort. They are connected to each other by a bridge and sidewalks along the parking lot.
Because of Covid, Disney is limiting the number of people in each park through a reservation system. My relatives already had reservations for Monday and Tuesday of this week, but reservations were full by the time Stacey and I started looking. We did find some openings at Epcot and Animal Kingdom for last Saturday and Sunday, so we chose to go to Animal Kingdom on Saturday. We would spend Sunday just relaxing at the resort with family. This would also be our first time flying since Covid hit.
Friday, March 26
We left Rochester for a flight from Buffalo to Baltimore. There were high wind warnings in effect. We saw a beautiful double rainbow ahead of a storm, just before reaching a rest stop. Sadly we did not get a picture of it. At the Buffalo airport gate, every other seat was taped off for social distancing. We found this ironic since the flight was completely sold out and as crowded as ever. Masks were required for the entire time on board the plane. As a private pilot, I was gratified that the wind was blowing straight down runway 23, per the windsock. The flight wasn't bad considering, bumpy mostly below the cloud tops. In Baltimore, all of the seats at the gate were available to sit in.
Once we arrived at Orlando Airport, we needed to retrieve our luggage as Disney Magical Express does not do luggage service anymore. Our wait for a bus to Pop Century Resort was about a half hour. Other people going to other resorts were in longer lines with longer waits. Seating capacity on the buses is reduced due to social distancing. They staggered the seats by assigning them to your group.
Checking in to Pop Century was done online through the My Disney Experience app. We were instructed to go straight to our room and unlock the door via the app. It worked. We later went to the front desk to pick up Magic Bands. Hungry after a day of travel, we were instructed to order food through the app, and received a text message when it was ready. We had the choice of taking it elsewhere or eating in the food court dining room, which had tables spaced out. Although we purchased resort mugs with unlimited refills, the drinks were actually handed to us in disposable paper cups.
Saturday, May 27
After having a light breakfast in our hotel room, we took a Disney bus to Animal Kingdom. For social distancing, the driver assigned us to seats. There were plastic dividers between seats. Upon arriving at Animal Kingdom, they did a quick temperature scan, we breezed through security, and walked right in, as our wrist bands had our tickets and park reservations on them. We were in the park 5 minutes before the scheduled opening time of 8:00 AM. We headed straight for Avatar, Flight of Passage, which already had a long line. Wait time 60 minutes when we arrived. The length was actually deceptive because everyone was spaced 6 feet apart by marks on the ground. For the most part, the line kept moving.
Once on the ride, I was concerned that having my mask on would steam up my glasses, thus preventing me from fully enjoying the view. But air blowing from the console in front of me helped keep my glasses clear. This was our second time on Avatar and we both enjoyed it more than the first time a year ago.
We then waited 25 minutes for the Na'vi River Journey and got in line for the Kilimanjaro Safari. The Festival of the Lion King show was not running, so with the Safari line being stretched for social distancing, they used part of the Lion King waiting area for the Safari line.
We spent the rest of the day with similar social distancing procedures as we made a big circle around the entire park. In Africa, we walked the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, and attempted drawing a cartoon at Rafiki's Planet Watch. In Asia, we saw Feathered Friends in Flight, walked the Maharaja Jungle Trek, and rode Expedition Everest. Yikes! In Dinoland, we went back in time on the Dinosaur ride. On Discovery Island, we watched It's Tough to Be a Bug.
Throughout the day, we took frequent breaks just to sit down, relax, and enjoy people-watching. The park was limited to 35% capacity so it made for an extremely enjoyable uncrowded experience. Stacey had made the right choice by choosing this park on a hot day because all of the trees provided plenty of shade.
After completing the circuit, we had enough time left to go back and visit Avatar again and the Na'vi River Journey.
After we got back to our hotel, we visited with family that had arrived.
Sunday, March 28
On Sunday, we slept in late, had breakfast, visited with family for a little bit, and then spent a few hours at Disney Springs. There was much social distancing required at Disney Springs as well as the parks. Some of the more popular stores had lines outside with people waiting to get in. The Disney Store itself had a wait of about a half hour when we went.
We had dinner with family, then spent a quiet evening at the hotel. On Monday morning, we had breakfast with my sister, checked out, and headed for the St. Petersburg and Clearwater area.
Disney is very strict about wearing masks and social distancing. There are markers on the ground everywhere showing where to stand. They even review photos taken for Photopass and will not release them unless the people in the photos have a mask on.
Although this was all instigated by Covid, I have to say that this was actually a very pleasant trip to Disney World. It was wonderful to be able to walk around Animal Kingdom without horrendous crowds and no Fastpasses. In my opinion, I think it would be fine if they got rid of the Fastpass system altogether. When you have the Fastpass line, what it's really doing is holding up the regular standby line. Sure, it's nice to be able to get in and use a FastPass for one or two rides, but then you pay back by waiting in long lines for everything else.