We Visited One of the First Disney World-Area Resorts to Reopen—Here’s What It Was Like

As COVID-19-related restrictions continue to ease in many parts of the country, families are finally beginning to consider traveling again. Most of Florida moved to Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan on June 5, and many tourist hotspots around the state have begun welcoming guests back.

We’ve been spending time in Orlando to see what it’s like to visit resorts, theme parks, and restaurants around the top travel destination in the US, and here’s what we discovered.

Top of mind for most families planning a trip to Orlando: Walt Disney World. The so-called “Most Magical Place on Earth” won’t begin a phased reopening of its theme parks until July 11. Resorts open a bit sooner on June 22 but are limited to Disney Vacation Club (DVC) properties that aren’t currently available for booking by non-DVC members.

But, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck! Eager to get back, we decided to check out a newly reopened resort in the middle of the nearly 40 square miles of Walt Disney World property to see what it’s like to stay at one of the first Walt Disney World-area hotels to reopen in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek might not be an official Walt Disney World Resort, but you still pass beneath Disney World’s iconic archway on your approach, making you feel like you’re right in the middle of the magic. A stone’s throw from Disney World’s official EPCOT-area resorts, the Wyndham is a Walt Disney World “Gateway” hotel, providing bus transportation to Disney’s theme parks and Disney Springs along with great views of Disney World fireworks from many rooms (when the parks are open and nighttime spectaculars are happening, of course).

We checked in for two nights at the resort and loved it so much, we stayed for four! Here’s what it was like.

“You May Notice Some Changes”

At check-in across a plexiglass divider, signs remind guests that things may feel a bit different from their last vacation getaway. Extensive health and safety guidelines put in place for the safety of guests and staff are shared before arrival.

“We have implemented our ‘Count on Us’ initiative and partnered with Ecolab and other suppliers, to provide our hotel with access to the highest industry-standard cleaning and disinfecting supplies and will be training all of our team members in achieving the highest standards of cleanliness, disinfection and hygiene,” the resort’s guidelines explain.

Per the guidelines, guest rooms are rigorously cleaned and sanitized with hospital-grade disinfectants. We felt safe and comfortable in our spotless, spacious guest room, which included a king-sized bed, a sofa bed and an adorable little nook with bunk beds for our two sons, ages 4 and 6.

Around the Resort

One of the most noticeable shifts from our last vacation was, of course, the use of face coverings. Here, face masks are worn at all times by hotel staff. Guests are not required to wear face coverings, but they are required to maintain 6 feet of distance from any other traveling party.

Distance markers dot the ground in higher-traffic areas like the elevators and coffee bar queue. Prominent signage instructs guests to limit elevators, which are outfitted with air purifiers, to two passengers or a single-family.

During our stay, distancing was no problem. The hotel was uncrowded enough that we never found ourselves in a scenario where we were unable to maintain safe social distance from other hotel guests. Out of courtesy to hotel staff, we often kept our masks on in places we might interact with others, such as when traveling through public areas or while placing an order at the coffee bar.

Dining

The resort’s typically robust dining options are currently reduced to just a few spots—but there was plenty on offer to keep us more than content. For breakfast, we grabbed delicious Belgian waffles, coffee and breakfast sandwiches to-go from the lobby coffee bar, The Barista, and brought them back to our room.

Open-air pool bar Back Bay is a perfect poolside lunch spot. Frozen signature cocktails, draft beers and delicious bar food are delivered to your pool chairs or served in the restaurant at breezy but covered tables (ideal when one of those unexpected Florida downpours hits). Start with chips and house-made guac followed by tasty burgers, salads and wraps.

Generously distanced tables are fully sanitized between guests and standard precautionary measures like paper menus and single-serve condiments are supplied.

Back Bay also serves dinner but for a little variety, Bar 1521, just off the lobby, serves a hybrid menu featuring upscale casual dishes like a Grande Croque Monsieur and Roasted Chicken Sandwich as well as higher-end dishes normally served at Deep Blu, the more formal restaurant next door that’s temporarily closed. We were blown away by the Pan Seared Flounder, dusted with cornmeal and served golden brown on a bed of mixed mushrooms and topped with tangy capers. Grab a table on the terrace overlooking the pool for a memorable vacation dinner al fresco.

Servers are diligent about following CDC guidelines, and they explained to us at every turn what they were doing and why. For example, servers will not hand items to or take them directly from guests. Instead, they place them on or pick them up from your table. At the Barista, even the pen for signing your check gets sanitized right in front of you!

When you’re ready for a break from Wyndham’s restaurants, Disney Springs, with its wealth of dining and shopping offerings, is a mere 8 minutes away by car. Don’t miss our full report on what it’s like to visit Disney Springs right now.

Pool time!

After months of sheltering in place, we were desperate to hit the pool. When fully operational, Wyndham guests have access to five pools, two lazy rivers and two kids’ splash pads. During our stay, two pools were open, operating on a reservation system—if and when necessary—to control capacity, with guests able to reserve pool time in three- and four-hour slots, depending on the pool. Crowds were low enough during our stay that we were able to visit the pool closest to our hotel room as often as we wanted.

Upon arrival, guests must first visit a check-in station where an attendant then escorts them to assigned poolside chairs which are spaced out at a safe social distance from other guests. Towels are provided and poolside food and drink service is offered. The expansive pool was spacious enough that we never had any trouble maintaining more than 6 feet of distance from other guests.

The resort plans to open additional pools and lounge areas as the number of guests increases to allow for additional pool capacity.

The Takeaway

Indeed, we’re all still getting used to this strange new world of travel, but we were delighted by how natural and relaxing our stay at the Wyndham felt. Without the distance markers, masks, and other subtle cues that we’re still carefully navigating a pandemic, things felt downright natural and our family felt not only very safe, but also like we’re finally starting to see the light of normalcy at the end of this long tunnel.

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