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Walt Disney World Hurricane Matthew Update


Update: 10pm – Hearing that tomorrow night’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has been canceled, but Disney is still planning to keep the parks open on Thursday. Sounds like they’ll play it by ear on Friday based on how much, if any, damage there is. Taken with closures at the water parks, this seems sensible to me. How about you?

Update: 8pm – Both Walt Disney World water parks are now marked as closed on Friday, Blizzard beach is also closed on Thursday. So far the four main theme parks are still operating with normal hours.

Update: 5pm – Disney Cruise Line has provided the following updates:

The October 3rd sailing of the Disney Dream has been extended by one day and will now arrive in Port Canaveral on October 8th, once the Coast Guard has determined that the port is safe for cruise ship operations. Disney is working with guests on board to adjust their travel arrangements.

The October 7th sailing of the Disney Dream from Port Canaveral has been cancelled. REfunds are being automatically processed back to the original form of payment. Guests can call 866-325-3905 to rebook a future cruise at a discount. Phone lines open on Monday Oct. 10.

The October 7th sailing of the Dinsey Magic will now be a Canadian itinerary. Guests can opt to rebook a future sailing at a discount or cancel for a full refund if they don’t want to take this revised itinerary.

The Disney Fantasy sailing on October 8th from Port Canaveral to the eastern Caribbean is expected to sail as normal.

The Walt Disney World resort has not yet announced any closures (they’re pretty optimistic looking at the latest projected path), not even water parks. (correction, Blizzard Beach now shows as closed tomorrow but not Friday)

Update: 3pm Wednesday – Disney’s Hilton Head, Vero Beach and Fort Wilderness resorts have all been closed due to Hurricane Matthew.

Update: noon Wednesday – Orange and Osceola counties are now under a hurricane warning. That means hurricane force winds are probable in the next 36 hours. Please take this storment seriously.

It has been more than 10 years since a Hurricane tore through Central Florida. Yesterday, to refresh people’s memories, we gave some basic advice to people who are either in Orlando already or planning to arrive before Hurricane Matthew does. We posted our advice because there was a chance that central Florida would be impacted by high winds as the hurricane made its way up the east coast of Florida. Unfortunately, since that time, the prediction models look even worse for the attractions area (see image above), and other tourism friendly destinations in Florida. It could be a direct hit from a major hurricane as soon as Thursday. We continue to hope for the best, but urge everyone to prepare for the worst.
As of this writing Osceola County and Orange County, where Disney’s four parks are located (not to mention SeaWorld and Universal), are both under a Hurricane Watch (one step less serious than a Warning). This is the point where theme parks start to decide if they need to put into place severe weather plans. Usually that includes securing items that might blow away (such as holiday decor and outdoor vending carts) and preparing backstage areas for support.

Potential closures

Be prepared. Water parks and theme parks may close early on Thursday and, depending on the amount of damage, open late, or not at all on Friday. History has shown that some parks are easier to open after a major wind event than others. Magic Kingdom and EPCOT are more likely to open first. Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which has a lot of flora that tends to get scattered everywhere and needs to be cleaned up, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which relies a lot on entertainment shows that may recover a bit slower than rides that are safe inside buildings, tend to take a day or two longer. The last park closure from a named storm was in 2005 when Wilma passed through the area.

Disney has notified guests staying at Fort Wilderness that they may have to evacuate on Thursday. If the order is given, all campers, tents, etc must be removed. With lots of trees and its close location to water, you can see why Disney might be concerned.

Disney also has to take staffing into account. Over 60,000 people in central Florida work for the Mouse. After a storm not all of them will be able to make it into work, nor would Disney ask them to if safety of them or their family is at risk.

If you are a guest of a Walt Disney World resort while the parks are closed, Disney usually goes out of its way to bring some entertainment options to the hotels when it is safe to do so. In the past, this has included special a ‘character bus’ where costumed characters stop by for meet and greet sessions and entertainment cast members are on hand to perform and lead games. In times like this, it becomes clear that cast members are the real heart and soul of the resort, so be sure to give them your thanks for showing up when the parks do reopen.

Under its Hurricane Policy, Walt Disney World currently is offering resort guests who booked a package to make changes to their travel, such as postponing, with no fees.

Disney Cruise

Although the website says no changes are expected for any of the Disney cruises that depart on the 7th and 8th, the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream may have to find someplace other than Port Canaveral to dock at as the port has announced that it will be closed to all incoming ships on the 6th and 7th (at least).

Once again, please stay safe during this server weather event. Hurricane Matthew may require some change of plans, but if you keep your risks low, you’ll get through with few or no problems. Here’s hoping it misses Central Florida entirely. Please keep those it has already affected in your thoughts.