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Disneyland News: Hotel Reopening & Future of Masks, Distancing, Vaccine Reqs or Rules

We’re back with a round-up of the latest news from Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, with a range of interesting stories including the reopening of Disneyland Hotel, extended hours, and Matterhorn’s refurbishment. Plus, we’ll look at the evolving health safety rules, and what’s likely to happen on June 15, 2021 with face masks, physical distancing, and vaccine recommendations and/or rules.

Let’s start with the continued phased reopening of the Disneyland Resort, which moves another step forward with the announcement that Disneyland Hotel will reopen on July 2, 2021 with limited capacity. You can now make room reservations for your next vacation at this landmark AAA Four Diamond hotel located right outside Downtown Disney and within walking distance of both parks.

You might recall that in our last Disneyland news roundup, we discussed the reopening of Paradise Pier Hotel and didn’t have many flattering things to say about that property. Disneyland Hotel is a different story altogether. Disneyland Hotel ranks #6 in my Anaheim Hotel Reviews. The only reason it’s not higher is because the hotel is very pricey, but it’s arguably worth it.

During the closure of Disneyland Hotel, the upholstery and fabrics throughout guest rooms, meeting rooms, and lobbies were refreshed and updated. The guest rooms now feature a fun new fireworks pattern in the carpet and upgraded platform beds to help maximize storage.

The corridor flooring features new patterns inspired by the art of Mary Blair with graphic elements recalling the park lands each of the towers are named for. This comes ahead of the new Disneyland Hotel Disney Vacation Club addition, and if recent precedent is anything to go by, Disneyland Hotel will probably see more common area upgrades in the coming couple of years.

When Disneyland Hotel reopens, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, Tangaroa Terrace Tropical Bar & Grill, and the Coffee House will all reopen with it. If you’re curious about the food pictured above, might I interest you in our Tangaroa Terrace Tropical Bar & Grill Review? That was published last May and for some odd reason, was among our least popular posts of the year. Still can’t quite figure out why.

Guests will be able to use mobile order on the Disneyland app for added convenience at Tangaroa Terrace and the Coffee House. It’s unclear whether any of these locations will be open to non-hotel guests. Currently, dining locations at Grand Californian are only open to guests staying in the hotel or DVC units. Hopefully that will change on June 15, 2021.

Speaking of June 15, expect a lot to change on or around that date. The first announced change is the end of temperature checks. From the Reopening Information & Health Measures page on Disneyland.com:

“Based on the advice of the CDC and our local health officials, and given Orange County is now in the Yellow Tier and the State of California is preparing to reopen the economy on June 15—the Disneyland Resort will end onsite temperature screenings for Guests and Cast Members starting June 15, 2021.”

There will likely end up being several other changes on June 15, 2021. What’s unclear is whether Disneyland will rip the band-aid off on that date or slowly roll out changes over the course of a couple weeks leading up to the peak summer tourist season in July.

There are compelling arguments for both approaches. As a cautious company that has taken a measured approach to safety throughout the last year, gradual and incremental changes make sense. That gives Disney the opportunity to see how minor modifications impact operations, ensuring a smooth guest experience with minimal hiccups.

From a PR perspective, doing everything at once makes a ton of sense. There will be a flurry of business changes throughout California on June 15, and while Disneyland will undoubtedly make headlines, some of that will get lost in the shuffle because there will simply be so much to cover on that date. (Especially for media that is not Disney-centric.)

This is better than a slow trickle of news about changes, each of which have generated headlines and been met with concern and online handwringing despite none of the worst-case fears ever playing out. The downside to this approach is that there will almost certainly be some operational hiccups the first few days, and social media “critics” might feel falsely vindicated by that.

Between California’s low case and positivity rates coupled with its high vaccination rate and overall population immunity due to prior infections, the latter approach sounds perfectly responsible–as does the state’s reopening plan as a whole. Beyond that, Disney has extensive experience with all of this, as Walt Disney World has functioned as “proving grounds” for most of these same rule relaxations over the last month-plus.

Our expectation is a hybrid approach. It seems likely that Disneyland will relax physical distancing in an almost identical manner to Walt Disney World while increasing park and ride capacity at the same time. In Florida, this was announced but has been implemented gradually. Expect the same to occur in California parks when the state allows it beginning June 15.

When it comes to face masks, California will fully align with recent CDC guidance on that same date. However, what that means for theme parks is not totally clear. While the overwhelming body of scientific evidence indicates that outdoor transmission is unlikely regardless of age or vaccination status, even the new CDC rules stop well short of stating that.

Disneyland’s rule as of that date might mirror the new ‘outdoor optional’ policy at Walt Disney World, which is based on the aforementioned science and Orange County’s phased plan and expert recommendations. That’s our expectation, but we have a low degree of confidence on that. It’s possible California will differ, though. Maybe Disneyland will start with masks off for outdoor photos and go from there in July.

Another thing that’s unclear is whether Disneyland will require proof of vaccination. Theme parks are considered outdoor mega events under the next phase of California’s reopening framework, which means they have special guidance in addition to the general public health recommendations.

Verification of fully vaccinated status or pre-entry negative test result is strongly recommended for all theme park attendees. Guests who do not verify vaccination or test status should be asked to wear face masks. Attendees must follow CDPH guidance for face coverings (said guidance has not yet been updated following the new CDC guidance–see above).

You’ll notice there that proof of vaccine or negative test is not required, only recommended. This means that California is not mandating Disney or any other theme parks check vaccination or test status. There are already a ton of things California recommends people avoid due to risk of cancer, but they don’t require people not do any of it. Same idea here.

In theory, theme park operators could go above and beyond and require proof of vaccine or negative test, but they stand nothing to gain in terms of added capacity or relaxing other rules. Additionally, Disney won’t want to confuse families who might misinterpret policy and assume their unvaccinated kids cannot attend the parks. There’s no way Disney will prevent or even present obstacles to families with small children.

Checking vaccination or test status is thus a no-win scenario for Disney. It costs them additional money in terms of staffing and will discourage some guests from visiting. Accordingly, it’s highly unlikely Disney or any other business in California will have vaccine rules. Unless there’s additional constraints or conditions California has provided to park operators that it hasn’t made public, this just isn’t going to happen. It would be counterproductive for most businesses to implement unless they’re required.

June 15 is not the only date on the horizon that’s significant for Disneyland. Both parks will have longer hours beginning July 1, 2021. Currently, both Disneyland and DCA are open from 9 am until 9 pm every day.

Starting July 1, Disneyland will be extending its operating schedule by 2 hours per day and Disney California Adventure will be open an hour longer. Disneyland will be open from 8 am until 10 pm, and Disney California Adventure will operate from 8 am until 9 pm. If reservations keep booking up even after capacity increases, we wouldn’t be surprised to see these extended again.

Additionally, Matterhorn Bobsleds is set to reopen on July 2, 2021 per Disneyland Resort’s official Daily Events Schedule. The ride has been undergoing refurbishment since prior to the parks reopening back in April, but should be ready before the peak of summer season.

Ultimately, it looks like there are a couple of significant dates on the horizon. June 15, 2021 is the obvious one, as California retires its Blueprint for a Safer Economy and replaces it with a far more lax framework that, essentially, consists of recommendations rather than rules (plus some signage with boilerplate warnings that’ll be required). Then there’s Independence Day weekend, which is less a substantively-significant milestone, and more a date that is realistically viewed as when summer travel will really start heating up. We’re expecting a lot more changes to be announced as occurring between those two dates, so stay tuned for future updates!

Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think of this Disneyland and DCA news? Excited for the return of Disneyland Hotel? Think Disneyland will drop its rules to the extent possible and mirror Walt Disney World on June 15, 2021? Think it’ll be like ripping off a band-aid, gradual, or somewhere in between? Do you expect that Disneyland will require guests be vaccinated or test negative–or simply “pass along” California’s recommendation to guests? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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