What’s New at Disney?

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Rendering of the top floor event space at The Walt Disney World Swan Reserve. (Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resorts.)

Take note of these new happenings at Walt Disney World, from new health protocols for meetings and events to new resorts, meeting spaces and group experiences.

As part of ongoing steps to help instill confidence for the meetings market, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort is offering a selection of health protocol options, including COVID-19 testing. These optional health protocols build upon initiatives already in place.

The optional health protocols include:

  • Self-administered COVID-19 tests taken by the guest prior to travel
  • COVID-19 testing administered by a third-party testing provider on site at the hotel
  • Daily and/or pre-arrival health screening questions via a dedicated mobile application
  • Daily temperature checks to enter the event area

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort announced its Commitment to Clean in early 2020. The new optional health protocols supplement existing best practices already in place, including guest and cast member face covering requirements, physical distancing policies, reduced seating capacities for meetings, frequent cleaning of high-touch areas, hand sanitizing stations throughout the hotel, mobile technology and hybrid meeting options.

The hotel is also offering the protocols as part of a buyout or a controlled environment event. In the summer of 2020, the resort successfully served as host accommodations for Major League Soccer’s MLS is Back Tournament for six weeks, becoming one of the first professional sports “bubbles.”

Additionally, scheduled for a summer opening is the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve, a new addition to the the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. The 14-story, 349-room hotel will feature a top floor event space, Vue, with floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Swan and Dolphin, as well as two Walt Disney World theme parks, EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The property is also home to two ballrooms and 12 meeting rooms within 15,000 sf of meeting space and 13,000 sf of outdoor event space.

Among the guest rooms are two Presidential Suites and 149 additional suites, all with floor-to-ceiling windows, which can accommodate families or groups of 6-8 people, or can be accommodated for executive business meetings. The hotel will offer its own signature restaurant and bar, lobby lounge, grab-and-go market, health club and pool with an elevated deck and fire pit. In addition, groups will have full access to all the amenities at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, including the Mandara Spa, five pools, 18 restaurants and lounges, preferred tee times at nearby Disney golf courses, plus complimentary transportation to all four theme parks and Disney Springs.

New Luxury Disney’s Riviera Resort

Disney’s Riviera Resort
opened this past December, offerings groups a Parisian-style coffee shop, Le Petit Cafe, which turns into a wine bar by night, as well as Primo Piatto serving up breakfast and lunch, and Topolino’s Terrace—Flavors of the Riviera, a signature dining venue with panoramic views of Walt Disney World, and featuring a poolside bar. On the outdoor terrace, groups can take up a game of bocce ball, giant chess, or lawn snooker, or take a dip in the zero-entry pool featuring a 30-ft waterslide.

The guest rooms all feature a refrigerator, microwave and access to laundry. Guest rooms with at least one bedroom include full kitchens and in-room washer and dryers—a good fit for long-stay business guests. And, the 3-bedroom Grand Villas also feature a dining room.

The new Disney Skyliner—a gondola transportation system—easily transports guests from Disney’s Riviera Resort to nearby resorts, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT.


EPCOT’s Renovation

The resorts aren’t the only ones releasing something new for 2021, as EPCOT is currently undergoing a transformation. “The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure” is now open. Attendees visiting the park can enjoy a musical tour of the U.S. as they learn more about this musical genre. This new exhibit features Joe Gardner, the musician, mentor and teacher from “Soul,” as he shares the rich and surprising history of jazz from several influential cities: New Orleans, Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In creating the exhibit, Walt Disney Imagineering collaborated with historians and curators from top jazz institutions, including the Historic New Orleans Collection and the New Orleans Jazz Museum in Louisiana, as well as the Louis Armstrong House Museum in New York. The exhibit showcases historic artifacts from world-renowned jazz musicians, including jazz legend Louis Armstrong’s Selmer trumpet; “Skin Deep” percussion sheet music of Duke Ellington drummer Louie Bellson; and drumsticks of Gene Krupa, member of influential jazz groups such as the Benny Goodman Orchestra and Tommy Dorsey’s band

Guests will also soon be able to use the Play Disney Parks mobile app to interact with the exhibit and test their knowledge of jazz.

Rendering of the terrace at JW Marriott Bonnet Creek. (JW Marriott Bonnet Creek.)

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