Yep, you read that right...I hope Disney never returns to its pre-COVID normal. Now, I certainly don’t mean that toward the thousands who have lost their job. My heart breaks for those cast members; but when it comes to pre-COVID Disney, I hope it never returns.
Hear me out.
I hope buffets never return. Don’t get me wrong, I never complained while piling my plate with half a dozen Mickey waffles, but Disney can do so much better than buffets. First of all, buffets are a breeding ground for germs. Aside from that, they’re average. Rather than cooking up a bunch of average food, I’d love to see Disney concentrate its effort on a great menu of items. Instead of 30+ offerings, narrow the menu down and do family style all-you-care-to-eat. Each buffet-turned family service would differ based on its theme. I’d love to see Boma become an African-inspired version of 'Ohana. Chef Mickey’s would keep its new family style service and bring back the characters. Cape May Cafe would change from a buffet to a “crab boil” for dinner, laying out the butcher paper you’d find at your favorite all-you-care-to-eat crab house, along with other New England specialties.
While on the topic of restaurants, I hope more table service restaurants allow for takeout or even on-property delivery. Guests spend months, sometimes years, planning out their Disney vacation, only to miss out on dining reservations at their top choice of restaurants. Sure, a lot of the experience is the ambiance, but imagine being able to swing by ‘Ohana and pick up the bread pudding before going back to your room for the night; or enjoying fried chicken from Homecomin’ on the balcony of your hotel room. It would free up some reservations, as well as create jobs in the kitchen and for delivery drivers in and around property.
Of course I want nighttime entertainment to return, but I will never miss the crowds and complete disregard for personal space that comes with it. How many people have staked out a spot for a parade or show an hour or more in advance, only to have someone step in front of you minutes before the show started? You’re all probably raising your hand. Unfortunately, bringing back any type of entertainment is going to lead to higher crowds; and even if you decrease capacity in the parks, people will still flock to Main Street or clog areas of the park to watch the show. And while we’ll forever be scarred by 2020, we do have short memories. And within months of Disney returning to “normal,” we’ll be right back to packing out Main Street or the Castle Hub before Happily Ever After. I’m not saying we should do away with nighttime entertainment, but I’d love for Disney to solve the glaring issue created by these shows. They tried to do it with dessert parties and giving guests a FastPass+ for shows and parades, but that didn’t help much.
I can’t wait to return to Disney in a mask-less world. No, that’s not a complaint about wearing a mask, but being able to enjoy the park sans mask signifies that the pandemic is over. Pandemic or not, I hope that Disney continues the same level of cleaning and sanitizing in and around the parks; and keep sanitizing stations and reminders to wash your hands even in a post-COVID world.
I’m not saying that cast members should stop rides to sanitize every half hour, but I’d love to see Disney encourage cleanliness and keep the parks safe during cold and flu season. I know Disney can’t prevent people from getting sick, but having had trips derailed by a stomach virus and the flu, I do hope that some semblance of masks or hand washing and sanitizing remains in a post-COVID world.
Of course character meets are nice, and I hope they return in some way, but those cavalcades sure are fun. The character cavalcades are a nice surprise and delight for guests and give the old school Disney feel of when you’d randomly run into a character while walking around the park. So while I hope normal character meet-and-greets return, I do hope Disney doesn’t return to “normal” in the sense of doing away with character cavalcades.
And yes, I hope Park Hopper and of course FastPass+ returns in some way, but I do believe it needs to be reimagined. Having visited Disneyland last Christmas, I preferred MaxPass to FastPass+. I understand that Disneyland is a completely different park when it comes to attendance, who is visiting the park, and more; and allowing guests to make FastPass+ selections 60 days before their vacation is a huge perk to staying on-site; but it’s also a disadvantage in some ways. As a type A personality who makes tons of spreadsheets and itineraries for trips, I can tell you that over planning leads to far too much stress and often takes the fun out of the vacation. One of my favorite trips was an impromptu three-day vacation in Disney in which we grabbed whatever FastPass+ selections we could get and dined at quick service locations. It was so free flowing and relaxing to not have to run from attraction to attraction or worry about getting to our dining reservation in time.
I’m not saying I don’t want the old Disney World back. It’ll certainly return in some ways, but I think this pandemic has been a perfect opportunity for Disney to assess what’s working and what’s not. As Disney fans, we’re a rare breed. We take a strange pleasure in planning out our trips and creating the most efficient itinerary possible. Planning a Disney vacation can certainly be confusing and intimidating to first timers. And as Disney looks to rebound from the pandemic, they won’t be able to just rely on free dining to bring back guests; they’ll need to make it more welcoming to first timers who don’t understand FastPass+ windows or virtual boarding passes.