Ruminations of a Disney World Fan . . . and Critic

My wife retired, and they gave her a free button.

After 40 years of being classically overworked and underpaid, my lovely bride retired happily from teaching special education, and from dealing with all the trials and aggravations created as a bureaucratic byproduct. I wanted to take her somewhere special to celebrate her newfound freedom. Key West, her first choice (and always my first choice) has become too damn expensive. Hotel rooms that are ordinarily $300 a night now cost between $600 and $950 a night, even during the off season, due to hotels overcharging (price-gouging, to be honest) in order to make up for their losses during the worst of the pandemic. (Their greed not only made us change our immediate vacation plans, but I had been hoping to have a reunion with some of my best friends from my days at the University of Miami, in both Miami and Key West, in either 2020 or 2021. The pandemic changed those plans once; the prices in Key West changed those plans a second time. It remains to be seen if we’ll be able to have a reunion any time in the near future. Almost $1000 a night for a hotel room worth $300 is simply insane. Is something wrong with Florida? By the way, rental cars that are usually about $35 a day are now about $100 a day. The FUCK?)

Key West. Home away from home. But not until they lower the hotel rates.

After Key West (our perennial favorite vacation location and my spiritual home), our go-to place is Lake Buena Vista, Florida, where other big kids like us will find a manufactured world of fantasy that adults enjoy just as much as children. And so we flew to Walt Disney World in July, settled into a perfectly-cooled air-conditioned room at Disney’s Beach Club, and enjoyed four nights of fun, food, and spending way too much money (but at nowhere near $600 a night).

Here’s the sad thing:

We never should have gone.

Don’t get me wrong. We had a wonderful time and loved Disney World, as usual. We’d never before experienced the Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT, and we had a great time noshing on tapas and small bites all around the world, having a Bass Ale at the Rose & Crown, exploring the new Riviera hotel (not all that impressive, sorry), drinking at Jake’s Bar in the House of Blues while B. B. King played in the background, watching the disappearing act at the Abracadabar, and imaginerding out at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, in the still beautiful Polynesian Resort (our honeymoon hotel).

Now that Disney has gotten rid of the best place on property, The Adventurers Club, Trader Sam’s has taken the top spot.

But after we got back to RVA (a day late, thanks to American Airlines—and we’re still waiting for our reimbursement. However, our United flights from Richmond to Orlando were PERFECT!), Maria and I looked at each other and realized that, if we hadn’t made our vacation plans months in advance, we wouldn’t have gone.

See, after experiencing the unexpectedly huge size of the Disney crowds, it seemed to me that the fantasy land of Walt Disney World is actually Ground Zero for COVID.

The TSA’s mask policy is in full force at the Orlando airport. Despite the threat of penalties, we saw too many people there maskless and refusing to social distance.

Even with some rides, attractions and restaurants still closed, due to the pandemic, I have NEVER seen the Magic Kingdom so crowded, except on New Year’s Eve. I sincerely believe the spread of COVID from Florida is like a crime evidence board webbed with red strings . . . and it emanates directly from WDW . . .

From the maskless idiots weaving through the queues in the Orlando airport to the maskless idiots packed like sardines in the queue lines of the Jungle Cruise and the Haunted Mansion, the virus is thriving like Dengue fever in the subtropical fantasy landscapes of Florida. I don’t know if tourists think they’re immune on Disney property—I know, there are still some who don’t believe there are snakes or alligators on property—but it wouldn’t surprise me that they think nothing bad could ever happen here at Disney World. No masks; no social distancing. It is no surprise that, now almost four weeks after we got back, Florida leads the U.S. in COVID cases.

After experiencing the daily, unexpectedly huge crowds at WDW last month, I can only conclude that Disney World is a super-spreader—a super-spreader not just for Florida, but for the entire country.

Think about how the unmasked flow into and out of the Orlando airport; congregating at Disney World, mixing and mingling, maskless despite the TSA regulations demanding masks in the airport (there were too many without protection)—and how many unvaccinated?—then returning from days of daily, uninterrupted exposure in the theme parks to the overcrowded Orlando airport, to get lam-packed onto airbuses and go back to their homes.

How many vaccinated are carriers? How many unvaccinated are infected? How many have connecting flights and layovers at the country’s airports, where they mingle with thousands of other tourists?

Why would any of us take a chance traveling like this, madly, carelessly, if we don’t actually have to?

Red strings. Long, red strings, spreading across the map.

Like I said, if we hadn’t been locked into the vacation we wouldn’t have gone. As it was, after we got home, we both worried for a few weeks if we had done something wrong; if we had been exposed and were carrying the virus unknowingly.

We’re safe, thankfully. Science is a good thing, and our vaccinations are working.

But we can’t get vaccinated for the disease of greed.

Here’s how to understand Florida gubinator, DeSantis:

Florida depends on dollars. Tourism dollars. Disney dollars.

If Florida’s own governor doesn’t give a damn about the lives of his own constituents, then he certainly doesn’t give a goddamn about any out-of-state tourists.

But he does want their disposable cash.

So does WDW. Just days ago, Disney World relaxed their masking policy for guests:

“Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida announced this week that park guests will no longer be required to wear face coverings while outdoors, including on outdoor attractions and lines. Masking in these areas is now optional, according to a report by ABC News. The easing of restrictions only applies to Disney’s Florida parks; visitors at Disneyland in California are still required to mask up.

Everyone who enters Disney World ages two and up must still wear masks while indoors, including while waiting in any indoor queues. The announcement comes as Florida reported a record-high number of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.”

Why would Disney relax their masking requirements? Perhaps to make people feel more comfortable (despite the facts)? To make potential guests feel like everything is normal in Disney’s World?

Hmm.

The Walt Disney World company is focused now on making the parks ready for the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, which begins officially on October 1, 2021.

That’s less than two months away.

Nothing can be allowed to go wrong. Right?

Like the guy said in Stephen King’s Cujo—you know, the horror story about a rabid, murderous, unstoppable monster—“Nope. Nothing wrong here.”

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