Walt Disney World’s President Jeff Vahle recently announced that all Florida and Hilton Head cast members, both back at work and on furlough, will receive a free one-night stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel. This, as Disney states, is a gift of thanks for cast members’ continual hard work throughout the stressful year. But alongside this announcement came another reveal: theme park block-out dates for all of May for cast members and their families.
Cast members have been blocked sporadically throughout the past year during the limited capacity openings at the parks. This was usually done at only one or two parks; Disney’s Hollywood Studios was blocked out the most, due to the incredible popularity of Star Wars: Rise of Resistance and its boarding group procedure. Now, unless cast members go on the day of this article’s posting, there is no date in the foreseeable future that they can enter the Disney Parks as part of their employment.
Cast members receiving a free hotel stay is a first. This is to be a moment of rest as Disney heads into their 18-month-long 50th anniversary celebration. While cast members have gotten discounts on hotel stays in the past, this free offer is new, and will allow many to check out (possibly for the first time) one of the many hotels at Walt Disney World. Disney did not disclose exactly which hotels would be offered. Cast members are told to head to Disney’s employee-only website, The Hub, to learn more.
You don’t have to be a Disney cast member to see their block-out window for park admission. Based on the information given, cast members cannot access the parks by themselves or with family. Gifted one-day Park Hopper tickets for guests are also fully blocked out.
On the other side of the world, the block-out dates are not the same. In fact, at Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland, cast members and their families are given access to parks for the entirety of April, May and June. Of course, they are in different situations as far as pandemic conditions, as well. Walt Disney World’s block-out calendar only goes to May, so we do not yet know the availability for June in the Florida parks.
The initial announcement by Vahle about the free resort stay was taken very positively, but some cast members took to social media to express their anguish about losing the park admission perk. When we asked Disney about cast member block-outs, they told us they know most of their cast like the parks as much as the guests, but with the lower capacity, they have to limit them for now. The current block-outs may open up if space becomes available, so they aren’t set in stone. Disney said they understand how some cast members may be upset.
Walt Disney World currently limits park admission to promote physical distancing and safety in their parks. The Disney Park Pass system requires anyone who wants to visit the parks to get a reservation online prior. In January, Walt Disney World brought back the Park Hopper option. As long as the park’s capacity is not reached, visitors can switch back-and-forth between parks if they have the Park Hopper option on their ticket.
Are you a cast member, or family or friend of one? How do you feel about the opportunity for free hotel stays, but the loss of park admission? Let us know in the comments below.