Just returned from WDW on Saturday. Going to try to give some thoughts and observations for those of you still awaiting trips. First, I want to thank everyone who helped me with my many questions prior to the trip. It went very smoothly with your help! Second, I apologize if anything here is old news, I confess I haven’t been keeping up with the forum for the past week. This report is based on 4 adult travelers, so I don’t really address some issues that may be important to families with young children. Ok, here goes:
Busy and crazy as usual. Return flight was at 7:30 PM on a Saturday, and the Airside Gate areas were insanely busy and congested.
Nothing to complain about here. A little longer wait than usual upon arrival, but still good service. Hate to see this benefit end. Retrieving our bags and transporting them to ME upon arrival was really not terribly difficult. Everything went smoothly.
The Riviera was new, clean, beautiful, and convenient. We love this resort! We had a 1BR Villa and the room was very well appointed, comfortable and spacious.
This was the view from the balcony of our 1 BR Villa (Standard View):
The staff was friendly and accommodating. Great experience here. My family said the pool was not quite as fun as SAB, but still very nice overall. If I had one suggestion for improvement, it would be to add a more interesting souvenir/gift shop like the ones at the Contemporary. The gift and sundries shop is small.
(FYI, a Riviera CM stated that the resort was booked at 95% capacity upon check-in, which kind of surprised us. With parks supposedly operating at 30% capacity, I did not expect the resort to be that crowded. I guess they are jamming guests in to the open resorts.)
Day 1 (arrival) pleasant weather. Day 2 pleasant but getting hotter. Days 3, 4, 5 very hot and humid. Days 5 (evening) & 6 cloudy, humid and some light drizzle, Days 7 & 8 perfect, breezy and sunny (but not too hot and humid) weather.
I have seen/read lots of different opinions on this. The parks felt crowded to us, particularly in the afternoons. Then again, we have never gone to WDW at a “Level 10” time, so I can’t compare. When I look back at the actual crowd levels for our days, the numbers look low, but we felt like they were much higher when we were there, particularly in the afternoons. I think some major reasons for this are the extended queues for social distancing, no shows or meet and greets to absorb the crowds, reduced capacity on the rides, and NO FP’s! We have always used FP+ to our great advantage, and are not used to waiting in standby lines at busy times of the day. As much as I used to complain about the FP+ system, we really missed it on this trip. Except for very early morning and late evening, plan on waiting at least 30 mins in each queue for popular attractions. On the days we arrived well ahead of park opening, we accomplished a lot in the early AM. On days that we ran a little later (and I mean, at official park opening time), we had to keep re-optimizing and felt behind schedule all day. We always struggle with RD, but especially now, it is so very important to arrive at the parks well ahead of official park opening time. So, unless things have changed, that means 7:15 for MK and AK , 8:15 for HS, and 10:15 for Epcot!
This was one of our biggest challenges on the trip! We absolutely love the Skyliner, and last year, it worked like a charm. It is cool and breezy, a welcome relief from the heat and crowds. Here is a photo from the Riviera station:
However, with 1 family/group per gondola, and social distancing, the lines were very long at park opening and park closing times. Try to be at the Skyliner station way before official park opening times, and don’t leave the parks at the official park closing times. The line leaving Epcot at park closing stretched almost all the way back to the Beach Club. One guest told us that rather than waiting in the Epcot departure line, he took the ferry to HS, and then got on the Skyliner at the HS station, (which was empty at that time because HS closes at 8 PM), then on to the Riviera. Check the Skyliner schedule if you want to try this. Buses were running fine and felt safe, but with social distancing, they filled up quickly. No standing. Also, the buses did not seem to run as frequently as last year, especially at park opening times. This is one reason why we arrived later than planned to MK and AK. We missed the first buses and had a long wait for the second. So, plan to be at the bus stop very early because you might have to wait at your resort another half hour for the next bus, which will completely mess up your plan!
The flowers (as usual) were spectacular:
We tried some of the festival food booths. Our favorites were the Northern Bloom (Canada) Beef Tenderloin Tips, the Lotus House (China) Bon Bon Chicken Skewer, the Citrus Blossom (near Canada) Citrus Shortcake, the Sunshine Griddle (near TT) Fried Cinnamon Roll Bites, and the Pineapple Promenade (front of WS) Dole Whip with Fanta.
Future World is just a huge mess… seems like the project is never going to end. The 11 AM opening time for Epcot just makes things worse. We used to zip through Future World in the early AM and then on to World Showcase by lunchtime. Now, you can maybe get one attraction in before the afternoon queues build up.
We really missed some of the CM’s from their native countries this time in World Showcase. The experience was not nearly as immersive. Still, the remaining CM’s tried their best to make the experience worthwhile.
If you like Voices of Liberty (and we do), they are now performing on stage at the American Gardens Theatre across from the American Pavilion. They have changed their attire from Early American to Modern, which at first I didn’t really like because it looked kind of sloppy. But the performers seemed to be much happier and more energetic with the new show, and their individual personalities really shone. So, it turned out to be a really good show.
For some reason, they are not running Impressions of France until after 8:30 PM, even though my personalized TP said it was available after 6:30 PM. This seems ridiculous to start it so late, and we don’t really care for the Beauty and the Beast Sing-a-Long. So if Impressions of France is a must-do for you, plan to stay late in the evening at Epcot.
On both of our HS days, WiFi beat out Cellular for the RotR BG. And it was a different family member each time. On Tuesday, we got BG 57, which worked out great because it freed up our AM to do other attractions. We knocked SDD and TSMM out before park opening. BG got called after lunch. On Thursday, we got BG 4 , which was also fine, because of the 1 hr return window.
If TOT is a must-do for you, you need to get there ASAP in the AM. The queue builds up very quickly, and it is atrocious through most of the day.
Something interesting happened to us in the queue for MMRR… we got in the extremely long line around 6:50 PM because it was the last attraction of the day for us. At 7PM, some CM’s came along and told everyone in the queue that the ride was down, and they did not know when/if it would be back up. They said we could stay in the queue if we wanted, but they strongly encouraged us to leave the queue and enjoy the rest of our day at HS. It seemed suspicious to me. I asked one of the CM’s if they were having technical difficulties with the ride, and he was evasive, and just looked at me and said “the ride is down and we don’t know when it will be back up”. We opted to stay in line. As the queue shortened (from guests leaving) they began closing off the ropes. At 7:30, the line was pretty short (only out to the building entrance). Magically, at 7:30, the ride was up and running again . We honestly believe they were “dumping the queue” before park closing at 8 PM. Take heed if you plan to jump in a line before park closing…
Not much to report here (sorry @OBNurseNH ) except that we did not arrive until 8AM and blew our chance to get on FOP before the line built up. We had to rearrange our plans and go on it before we left the park. The new Feathered Friends in Flight show is an improvement over the former “Up!” show. More birds, less silly characters.
Pretty typical experience for both of our MK days. Knocked out a lot of attractions before park opening on our 1st MK day. Lines became long in the afternoon. We took a break at the resort, which helped. The ugly pink color on the castle is starting to fade to a softer pink now, so it is less obnoxious.
LTT has always been one of our favorite places to eat at WDW, but we usually do lunch. Now they have family style (Patriot’s Platter) for both lunch and dinner. I have to say the experience was pretty bad this time. All 4 of us heard the host call our name (which is not a common last name). As we walked up, another family followed him into the restaurant. When I mentioned it to the hostess, she curtly said “Ma’am, yours is not the only family dining in our restaurant tonight!”, which I thought was a bit nasty. But I do think CM’s are exhausted. They were very understaffed. It was noisy and chaotic. We had 4 adults, and they brought out all 3 meats and the green beans on one plate for all of us which was about the size you would typically get a hamburger on. The rolls were cold and dry. For all 4 of us, they brought out 2 pieces of the Oooey Gooey Toffee Cake, each split in half. I thought I was just being overly critical, but another family from our resort spotted us eating there and asked what we thought of the meal. They said it was the worst meal they ever had. I asked if this was their 1st visit to WDW, and they said “no”. So I guess it wasn’t just us.
Masking and other Behavior:
Overall, compliance with masking was pretty good, but of course there are always exceptions. You would not believe how many people thought that covering their mouth but not their nose was ok, despite repeated announcements over the PA system that masks must cover both the mouth and nose. We started calling them “nosers”. An entire family sitting in front of us on the Safari did not have their noses covered. When we were in a very long line for 7DMT, a whole group of young cheerleaders and their moms had their masks pulled down around their necks throughout the queue. They were talking and laughing the entire time. My blood was boiling by the time we got to the front, since the rest of us were suffering in the heat with our masks on. Much to my kids’ dismay, I discreetly mentioned it to the CM, and pointed them out to her. She went over and yelled at them and threatened to boot them off the ride if they didn’t pull their masks up. I did not feel the least bit bad about ratting them out.
I’m not going to lie… wearing the masks all day in the heat and humidity was tough and exhausting. Ironically, on our day of departure, the outdoor mask requirement was lifted. We spent the day at Epcot. Three of us opted to remove our masks when we were outdoors and not in a crowd (we are all fully vaccinated). DS opted to keep his mask on at all times because he is concerned about the Brazilian variant. What a relief to have the mask off and breathe fresh air! And we could actually smell the flowers at Epcot! So, even though you guys will still have to wear masks inside and on the rides, at least you will get a break outside! And I know some of you must be very happy that the requirement about being stationary while eating and drinking has been lifted too, so that will be a huge advantage.
We did have a nice time, and it was great to escape the house after a year of isolation. Was it our best trip ever? No. A lot of experiences were missing this time. I will be happy to see some sort of FP system return. That will make a huge difference. However, it was the only week available for us all to get away together for the foreseeable future. If I could have waited for a more complete WDW vacation, I would have. But it was still enjoyable, and wonderful to ignore the nightly news for a week and pretend that the world is actually sane. It was stress-relieving not to have to think about anything except our plans for the day! I hope you all enjoy your upcoming trips as things (hopefully) start to get back to normal. Sorry for the long report, and thanks for reading!