As we discussed in Part 3, Disney has done a great job implementing safety policies to operate in this new environment, but there is always room for improvement. Here are my suggestions for improving safely in the parks. Note that my experience is based on the policies in place in August. These may have changed since then. I am leaving off the obvious suggestion of moving all dining outdoors until community spread is at a low level as I don’t think Disney has any intention of doing that.
Have the Incredi-Crew patrol choke points
The cast members specifically charged with enforcing mask rules are very engaged and sincere. Their placement is usually at the front of the park checking that guests are complying when entering. Disney should also have some dedicated to clearing out guests loitering in the middle of choke points. Most guests follow the eating and drinking while stationary rules, but their choice of location can be almost passive aggressive. The narrow paths between Frontierland and Adventureland are good examples. The Incredi-Crew should be urging guests to stand clear for traffic flow. Guests should also not be allowed to sit and eat within six feet of ride exits.
Further limit the number of guests in retail locations
Disney is already limiting the number of guests inside retail locations, but you could be forgiven for thinking this is not the case. Just a glance inside the Emporium around park closing is the stuff of viral pandemic shaming tweets. I don’t know how Disney came up with the number of guests allowed inside of stores, but it is a bit too many.
Add queue markers to narrow ride exits
This one may seem odd. Why add queue markers when there is no queue and the ride is over? Disney World guests are conditioned throughout the day to maintain social distancing by using floor markers as a cue. There are a number of ride exits that spill out into a very narrow corridor. These then back up behind hand sanitizer stations. I don’t expect all guests to follow the queue markers exactly, but some will and to others, it is an important reminder to at least try to distance. Not all rides need this, but many of the indoor rides could benefit.
Rethink hand sanitizer dispenser positioning
Disney has done a great job including many hand sanitizing locations throughout the parks and resorts. On ride entrances and exits, however, there need to be some lessons learned on how guests actually use them. Hand sanitizers placed immediately prior to sitting down on a ride sounds logical, but in reality, it doesn’t work. Few guests have the wherewithal, me included, to tell a frantically waving cast member trying to load a ride vehicle, to please wait for their whole party to dispense hand sanitizer. Better positioning would be several queue markers back as guests are already paused and distanced. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway had this configuration and it worked great. Ride exit dispenser placement is even worse. The dispensers are hands-free which is ideal, but there is a painful delay between each dole out. This causes inevitable logjams at ride exits. Disney often places the hand sanitizer directly in the path or just offset of a narrow exit. Guests are not social distancing here. Disney needs to move them off to the side and out of the walking path. They could even put them several yards away from the attraction exit. Social distancing is more important than getting immediate hand sanitizer.
Demolish the Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Ok, this one is wishful thinking, but the pandemic does illustrate just how destructive this attraction is to crowd flow. Everyone likes a good Dole Whip, and right now they are all enjoying them around this attraction. This makes less than six feet contact with unmasked guests all but guaranteed. So let’s demolish this attraction in the name of thematic integrity…I mean safety.
Close Sunshine Seasons
I know, I know. This is a tough one since there are no other open dining locations in Future World besides Coral Reef and Garden Grill. If you have been in the Land Pavilion during the lunch rush though, you know why this is on the list. Disney has strict rules on entering quick service locations until your mobile order is ready. Well, in Sunshine Seasons everyone that wants to get to Soarin' has to walk right through the seating area! Not only that, but they are still employing the mobile order rule which causes groups of squatters to absentmindedly block the only path through the lower pavilion. It is not uncommon to see tables of unmasked diners with waiting groups leering over them. Pro tip: During busy times, ride Living with the Land first since the entrance is after the down escalator and the exit is on the same side as Soarin.
Institute a virtual queue for the Mexico Pavilion
The Mexico pavilion is indoors and consists of only choke points. La Cava del Tequila is also open which leads to many unmasked guests sitting around the shop enjoying a drink. The queue markers in here make no sense as there is no room to both queue and have guests pass. The pavilion really needs to limit capacity and a virtual queue would be less disruptive than an outdoor line. Disney proved they can institute one of these quickly when the ebay pirates sacked the Splash Mountain gift shop. There is no reason not to do one here.
Remove the Epcot weekday Park Pass requirement
Wait, isn’t this a list aimed at improving safety? Well yes, but I believe this can be done without adding undue risk. There really are only two problematic indoor areas in Epcot that I addressed above. I would only recommend this if those two actions are taken. The Seas pavilion may also need some tweaking if that proves too crowded with this change. Epcot, in general, is great for social distancing. It is mostly outdoors and huge. The removal of the park pass requirement on weekdays would also be a much needed fig leaf to the embattled local annual passholders. Higher traffic from locals would allow Disney to justify opening more dining in World Showcase. The park capacity at Animal Kingdom also seems overly restrictive so this could work there, too. Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom unfortunately have too many problematic areas for social distancing and high demand to ease these measures yet.