Disney Springs Falls Behind on Safety as Theme Parks Set a High Bar

As we look back on two weeks of theme park operations, a divide between operations at Disney Springs and the theme parks is becoming increasingly clear. While Disney Springs may have opened first, it’s the theme parks that are leading the way in terms of guest safety and reliable enforcement of the rules that Disney has put in place to help mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19 while on vacation. In this article, we’re going to attempt to highlight the increasing contrast between Disney Springs operations and the theme park operations.

Messaging

It’s impossible, literally impossible, to forget that you’re on vacation during the middle of a pandemic while visiting the Walt Disney World theme parks. A message plays throughout the day, pretty much everywhere you go, that reminds guests about the importance of physical distancing and to wear a mask.

Even walking down Main Street USA, the cheery background music dims and a safety message plays as a constant reminder that you’re visiting a Walt Disney World theme park during the middle of a pandemic.

This type of establishment-wide safety message doesn’t exist right now at Disney Springs. Guests entering from the garages might hear it if they are entering Disney Springs when the message plays (every 10 minutes or so), but guests won’t hear the message played around Disney Springs because it’s only played at the garage entrances. If background music is played around Disney Springs, safety messages should be played around Disney Springs as well.

Enforcement

Perhaps the biggest safety shortcoming at Disney Springs is the utter lack of enforcement. In our observation, there are two main issues that need to be addressed.

First and foremost, Disney needs to do a much better job staffing the Incredi-crew (or Social Distancing Squad, as many people know them by). We’ve visited Disney Springs multiple days and at different times and see the same thing: there aren’t enough Incredi-crew Cast Members roaming the walkways of Disney Springs. While we’ve seen some good enforcement from the Incredi-crew when they are around, the Cast Members seemingly have too much ground to cover and are understaffed. This isn’t the case in the theme parks. The theme parks are so well staffed with enforcement Cast Members, that there is even a position at EPCOT where two or more Cast Members pace the same 200 yards carrying signs to remind guests of the rules and to enforce proper mask usage where necessary.

We observed the same Incredi-crew Cast Member make a single lap in 45 minutes in The Landing at Disney Springs without any other Cast Members walking by in that time period. This was at dinner time on a Saturday evening, a time when Disney should be properly staffing Disney Springs.

That said, a lack of enforcement isn’t just the fault of staffing, it’s also the fault of third-party “operating participants”. This is critical – everyone in a theme park is on the same team, enforcing the same rules. While there are some exceptions where there are third-party operating participants in the parks, just about every Cast Member is representing the Disney brand and name while in the theme parks. That means that everyone from Attractions to Dining, Custodial to Security, is trained in the same safety procedures and enforces safety measures when they see that the rules aren’t being followed. That simply isn’t the case at Disney Springs.

We went to a popular restaurant on Saturday evening and saw a guest walk up to the host stand, inquire about a wait time, put in their name and number, and go stand nearby all while wearing their mask under their chin. The operating participant working the host stand didn’t ask the guest to put their mask on correctly, something that would have been an immediate request from a Disney Cast Member at a host stand within a theme park. That’s not to say that all operating participants aren’t enforcing the rules, because many are doing a wonderful job. In our observation, there simply isn’t the consistency in enforcement by third-party locations as what you see at Disney-owned locations or in the theme parks.

Environment

Another big thing where we see it become more difficult to have safety compliance is in the environment that Disney Springs operates in. That is, an outdoor shopping mall with easy access to grab-and-go food and drinks.

It’s amazing to think about how quickly Disney acted when they realized that eating and drinking while walking would be a problem after the first few days of the Taste of EPCOT Food and Wine Festival began. Just a few days after the start of the festival, Disney had signage installed around World Showcase, reminding guests that they need to remain stationary and physically distanced when eating and drinking. Yet, Disney Springs had been open for over two whole months allowing guests to do the same thing.

Now, there is signage in places around Disney Springs that is similar to the one seen at EPCOT above, but for two months this was allowed to go on without any clear messaging from Disney. Speaking of messaging, we’ll go back to our first point about the lack of a Disney Springs-wide audio message playing to remind guests that they can’t walk and drink/eat. Of course, it’s all moot without the proper enforcement, our second point above and something that Disney needs to improve upon if Disney Springs is going to be considered a safe place to visit.

But we go back to the same point about the environment of Disney Springs and how locals and tourists alike are used to walking around, drink in hand, enjoying the atmosphere. We used to love grabbing a moonshine to-go from Homecomin’ and strolling Disney Springs as the sun set on a warm summer night. Now, we see guests still continuing that behavior in the middle of a global pandemic and not a single Incredi-crew Cast Member in sight or third-party operating participant willing to intervene.

In our opinion, Disney Springs is on the verge of becoming a problem for Disney’s safe reopening plans. Disney Springs is, quite simply, falling behind when compared to the theme parks. It’s a stark contrast that we hope to see remedied with audio reminders that play throughout the entire complex (not just periodically at the entrance), and more staffing of Incredi-crew Cast Members combined with more consistent enforcement from third-party operating participants.

There’s no doubt that Disney Springs provides its own unique challenges, but if Disney is going to be successful in reopening Walt Disney World, there can’t be any weak links.

Mike
Mike is the owner and writer for BlogMickey.com. Visiting the parks daily allows him to keep up with the latest Disney news, reviews, and photos from around the Disney Parks. You can reach him at [email protected]

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Some people are truely sick and tired of being told what to do and being treated like children. Mask wearing and social distancing has become a political tool by many people and quite a few people don’t want to play political games any more if you are over 18 and don’t want to wear a mask or social distance no one should be able to tell you you must comply. If you choose to wear a mask you should be protected from those who don’t according to the people that champion mask wearing.

  2. As a private company, Disney has the right to ask you to wear a mask. Just like shoes, shirts, and pants. If you don’t like it, stay home and quit whinning about it.

  3. The problem with our American society today is pure selfishness. People, do research! Masks have never been about protecting YOU!!!! You may be a Typhoid Mary…carrying the disease and not know it. You talk, you spray saliva, you make the person near you sick. See how easy that is? If the person near you wears a mask you won’t get the spray. See how easy that is! My five year old gets this. People have made it political to divide Americans. You can’t demand businesses reopen and NOT be required to follow new rules. Wear a mask and save someone ELSE’S life. Hopefully someone does the same for you. United we DON’T stand and divided we ARE falling.

  4. Ignorance is bliss, Vincent. Keep sticking your head in the sand. The refusal to wear a mask while in public is not a “political tool” or a freedom of choice issue. It is a massive show of selfishness by those like you who are naive beyond belief. If you don’t choose to wear a mask with all that is going on in Florida these days, you are stupid beyond words. Just stay home. If you think wearing a mask is bad, just you wait until you’re lying alone in a coma in the prone position with a ventilator down your throat without anyone allowed to visit you while you’re in a hospital’s overcrowded COVID-19 unit hoping you don’t die as those all around you are. Or is that a “political” statement too, Vincent?

  5. If you don’t want to be treated like a child, don’t act like one. Put on your big people pants and follow the rules that are in place for everyone’s safety. The longer people fight the rules, the longer this will go on.

  6. I recently got back from Disney and while I noticed more features in the parks than Disney springs, I will say 97 percent of people are following the rules, and the ones that aren’t are adults. We have to take personal responsibility as well(don’t start a fight but when the one women behind me at POTC kept cutting corners short or going past the marker, I had no issue turning around and saying “you need to back up” and she clearly felt embarrassed that she got called out and complied).

  7. We just left our trip and this is 100% accurate.

    Disney Springs was a bit of the wild west, whereas the Disney resorts and parks feel locked down. Also, I feel most guests have a mutual respect for each other to abide by the rules. We did encounter one-offs in the parks, but not like at Disney Springs. If Disney is putting their name on this, they need to get it under control.

  8. One of the things I noticed about the walking while eating and drinking at DS is that there are very few spots where you can stop and eat. And those that are there are taken up by those who are exhausted or trying to get out of the heat. They need to set up some more zones where one can sit and enjoy their food and/or drinks.

  9. If you don’t want to be treated like a petulant child, then simply don’t act like one. It’s insane to me that people feel entitled to disobey rules and regulations to enhance everyone’s safety and kill this pandemic. Covid doesn’t care about your political views. Stop acting like an entitled brat.

  10. We went to DS a few times the week the parks opened. The first few times (inluding a Friday night) it was fine – plenty of space and people properly wearing masks – even in the rain. The Friday night before we left a week later- it felt entirely too crowded and not spaced out at all. We ended up having dinner at Paddlefish which was fine but when we walked around the area by World of Disney, Lego, Co-op it was jammed.

  11. I find it funny that you are pointing out the speakers just at the garage areas,but are in all their parks.Go to Universal where there are no speakers anywhere,and so many guests with half masks,no masks,eating and drinking and walking everwhere.Lets be fair guys.

  12. Vincent… I guess wearing shoes and a shirt when your out somewhere is childish then? Try going into a store/restaurant without either one… No shoes, no shirt, NO SERVICE. Pretty simple concept. Wearing a mask is no different in that sense. If you don’t like how the business operates then it’s your right not to go there…again a pretty simple concept.

  13. Cheers to Disney Springs for letting us get back to a sense of normalcy. I hope what happens in Disney Springs will bleed over to the parks. Please please let’s get back to old normal.

  14. Vincent, did you wear a seat belt when you last drove anywhere? Congrats, you live in the matrix already.

  15. […] In anticipation of this issue, Disney has positioned yellow-shirted members of the “Incredi-Crew” — named for the Pixar animated films — to hold up smile signs and remind guests to properly don masks at park entrances each morning. Compliance during my time in the parks was surprisingly high, as much removal didn’t appear to be malicious but simply a gasp for air in Florida’s humid heat, though willingness to mask up seemed to wane toward day’s end. (Rule adherence at Disney Springs appears to have more uneven results.) […]

  16. Lets not think about Disney right now… Anybody who feels that they need to be told by anybody to put on a mask while being out, shopping etc is truly part of the problem why this Virus keeps going in the US with no real end in sight. Look at other countries where people came together put on the mask and wow look at the results their way of living is much better and they are getting the virus under control and are banning Americans from entering their country….. let all that sink in.
    So if a company no matter which one asks you to put on a mask to protect others and their employees; guess what they in the end even care about the one fighting the mask…. Like previous posts … UNITED WE STAND….. SPLIT WE FALL…. so lets be UNITED….. isn’t our country called the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ? Let make that name finally proud.

  17. I actually disagree with this. In the 2 months Disney Springs has been open, I have been there 6 times and I have absolutely seen Cast Members of all positions from the Incredi-Crew to a Custodial telling guests to pull up their masks or cover their faces. Stormtroopers were also put in full force on the balconies and announcements played over the PA. I was actually impressed with the job that the Cast were doing to make sure that every protocol was met. The independent stores also has their own staff making sure people were following the rules in and around the stores. I did see some guests walking and drinking but this was before Disney amended their policy. Disney Springs was one of the first park properties I visited and I actually felt safer there than my local supermarket.

    • Hi Lynn, thanks for your comment. Disney Springs was doing a good job when they first opened, they have gone downhill since the parks opened, which is why we wrote the article

  18. Ho about if you see someone not properly wearing a mask make the right choice on position you travel so to stay 6+ feet away. Wow take care of yourself and your group tough option huh. There is only so much an hourly person can do and will subject themselves to knowing they dont have a management team to back tbem when the guest gets bligerant cause they pointed out the rules. Dint blame disney blame the ones that wont follow the rules go ahead and shame them out yourselves and see how well that goes.

  19. OMG what I am tired of is people saying that masks are a political issue, taking away your freedoms. This is a PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE. The longer that you childishly behave, the longer life won’t get back to normal. In addition, with this being a new virus, doctors are discovering more about it as time goes on. People with relatively mild cases that recover are having complications months later. It’s not to be taken lightly. It’s not “living in fear” as many of you say, it’s living smart.

  20. Vincent stay home if you don’t want to wear a mask at a private business like Disney. Do wear pants when you go to the grocery store ? Or is wearing pants a political statement. Its because of people like you that the pandemic in the US is out of control.

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