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Disney World launches new annual pass: The latest on global Disney parks

There are four options for customers to choose from.

Disney World castle

Disney World's new annual passholder program launches Sept. 8.

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Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, unveiled its new annual passes on Monday, which will be available starting Sept. 8. The program comes ahead of the park's 50th anniversary celebrations kicking off this fall. 

Customers can choose from four options: The Pixie Dust Pass costs $399 plus tax and lets Florida residents visit one or more Disney World Resort theme parks on most weekdays with an advance reservation, subject to blockout dates. The Pirate Pass costs $699 plus tax and allows for a visit to one or more theme parks on most days with an advance reservation, subject to blockout dates, and is also limited to Florida residents.

The Sorcerer Pass costs $899 plus tax, and is similar to the Pirate Pass but is also open to Disney Vacation Club members. Lastly, the Incredi-Pass rings up at $1,299 plus tax, and lets any members visit one or more Disney World theme parks on the same day with an advance park reservation. There are no blockout dates for this option.

This comes after Disney unveiled its Magic Key program on July 3 for Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Magic Key replaces the park's annual pass that was canceled in January due to the "continued uncertainty of the pandemic." It includes four options, ranging from a $1,399 per year Dream Key that includes reservation-based admission to one or both theme parks every day of the year, to a $399 a year Imagine Key, which offers reservation-based admission to one or both parks select days of the year for Southern California residents. The program kicked off Aug. 25.

The launch of the new pass programs coincides with other changes for the global theme park, which has reopened many of its attractions that had closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Aug. 18, Disney introduced its Genie service, which is designed to help with planning a visit to the parks. It includes a personalized itinerary feature to help map out the day. Genie is built into the My Disney Experience and Disneyland apps and rolls out this fall.

"We've made significant investments in this cool new technology, which guides you through our theme parks with tips that can help you reduce time in lines, discover magic around every corner and take the guesswork out of 'what's next,'" the company said in a release. "From specific attractions, foodie experiences and entertainment, to general interests like Disney princesses, villains, Pixar, Star Wars, thrill rides and more -- just tell Disney Genie what you want to do and it will do the planning for you."

Guests can also choose to pay $15 per ticket per day at Disney World and $20 per ticket per day at Disneyland for access to Disney Genie Plus, which grants them the ability to choose the next available time to go to attractions and experiences using the Lightning Lane entrance. Customers can make one of these selections at a time throughout the day, and will also have have unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads at Disneyland Resort. 

The Genie system replaces Disney's FastPass, FastPass Plus and MaxPass services, which were suspended since the parks reopened following COVID-19 shutdowns. Guests can also pay to schedule a time to arrive at up to two highly in-demand attractions in a day using the Lightning Lane entrance. Prices will vary by date, attraction and park, and will be shared closer to launch, Disney says. 

Other park updates

On Aug. 23, Disney shared details about the big changes coming to Splash Mountain at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The company said last year it would be transforming the popular ride after activists criticized it for being based on the racially problematic 1946 movie Song of the South. Now Disney is turning the attraction into one inspired by the 2009 film The Princess and the Frog.

"The story will take place after the final kiss as Naveen and Louis join Tiana on her latest adventure, hosting a one-of-a-kind Mardi Gras celebration where everyone is welcome -- during which some original music inspired by songs from the film will bring guests into the story," Disney shared in a Parks blog post. "Tiana is leading the way and fans will be able to encounter old friends and make new ones along the way as well!"

To guide the ride's design, Disney said its Imagineers dug "deep into the culture of New Orleans to tell a story that's as authentic to the region as it is to the characters' stories."

On Aug. 16, reporter Scott Gustin tweeted that Disney Springs is permanently closing its NBA Experience venue. He added: "Disney says this will not impact their other partnerships with the NBA or their business relationship with the Orlando Magic. Disney will share an update about the future of the NBA Experience location at a later date."

The NBA Experience opened in August 2019, and Disney is now "moving in another direction," Gustin tweeted. The decision to close the venue was made with the NBA. 

Disney describes the NBA Experience as having "13 unique games and activities" that let people "embark on a full player journey, from training drills to competitions to championships and beyond." The Disney Springs website still lists the experience as being "Temporarily Unavailable."

Safety updates

Both Walt Disney World and Disneyland are once again requiring face coverings in indoor areas for all guests age 2 and up, regardless of vaccination status. The mandate, which took effect in July, extends to passengers on Disney buses, monorail and Disney Skyliner. Face coverings are also required when entering the parks and throughout attractions. They're still optional in common outdoor areas. In August, they also became optional at Disney World on outdoor attractions, in outdoor queues and at outdoor theaters.

The masking rules are a revision on a June 11 announcement in which Disney World said masks were optional for guests who are fully vaccinated, except while on the monorail, Disney buses and the Skyliner. The change comes as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus spreads throughout the globe. It's now the dominant strain in the US and many other parts of the world. In late July, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that fully vaccinated Americans should return to wearing masks indoors if they live in an area with "substantial or high" transmission of COVID-19. California and Florida both have areas with high transmission rates.

The Walt Disney Company also said last month: "We are requiring that all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the US working at any of our sites be fully vaccinated. Employees who aren't already vaccinated and are working on-site will have 60 days from today to complete their protocols and any employees still working from home will need to provide verification of vaccination prior to their return, with certain limited exceptions."

All six Disney parks around the globe have reopened after their shutdown last year due to the spread of COVID-19, and the resorts are slowly bringing back some of their pre-pandemic entertainment offerings, including the nightly fireworks show at Disney World. In its earnings report on Aug. 12, Disney said its parks, experiences and products segment returned to profitability for the first time since the start of the pandemic, but the parks aren't yet profitable on their own. The company's revenue in the parks, experiences and products segment rose 307.6% to $4.3 billion, CNBC reported.

Here's the latest on COVID-19 rules at Disneyland, Disney World, Disneyland ParisTokyo DisneyShanghai Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland, and what you can expect when visiting.

Disney World: Fireworks are back

Disney world: Reopened July 11, 2020

Walt Disney World brought back its fireworks show as of July 1. The night-time spectaculars, called "Happily Ever After" in the Magic Kingdom and "Epcot Forever" in Epcot, will entertain guests nightly with fireworks, projections, lights and music.

It follows Disney World slowly relaxing its COVID measures through 2021. Disney announced on May 12 that it's gradually removing the social distancing requirements from Disney World in outdoor areas. It will maintain the 6-foot requirements only in areas like stores and indoor dining locations. As of May 15, it became optional to wear masks in outdoor areas and pool decks.

Disney reopened Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom about a year ago, on July 11, 2021, with Epcot and Hollywood Studios following on July 15. The Orlando Disney parks have a new reservation system to limit capacityDisney World resorts and hotels began reopening in late June 2020, while the Disney Springs shopping and dining area reopened May 20.

Disney World announced it will begin using iPhones and Apple Watches as tickets to the parks this year, with the Florida resort set to celebrate its 50th anniversary in October

Read more: Disney World reveals new Boo Bash Halloween party

Disneyland Paris: Marvel hotel suites open

Disneyland Paris: Reopened July 15-Oct. 29, 2020; June 17, 2021

Disney's Hotel New York: The Art of Marvel opened June 21, taking on an NYC-themed hotel and adding more than 350 pieces of Marvel artwork to its halls and rooms. There's also a selfie spot with Spider-Man, other photo stations, the Marvel Design Studio for kids to learn how to draw superhero comic books, a Hero training Zone, Marvel-themed cocktails and meals, and 25 suites themed for the Avengers.

The hotel opening followed Disneyland Paris reopening on June 17, including the new Cars Road Trip attraction at Walt Disney Studios Park, Disney's Newport Bay Club Hotel and the Disney Village shopping and dining area. 

The new Cars attraction will transport guests "into a Cars-themed version of a road trip on Route 66," where they'll encounter "natural wonders like The World's Largest Lugnut and the Cars-tastrophe Canyon, while encountering popular characters such as Lightning McQueen and Mater," Disneyland Paris said.

Both theme parks at Disneyland Paris had originally reopened July 15, 2020, but the French parks closed again on Oct. 29 in line with new guidance following another wave of COVID-19 cases across the continent. Disneyland Paris had hoped to reopen from Dec. 19 until Jan. 3 in time to celebrate the holidays, but was forced to remain closed. The next plan was to reopen on Feb. 13, but this was pushed to April 2 -- and then again to June 17.

Disneyland Paris Marvel hotel

Disney's Hotel New York: The Art of Marvel is now open.

Marvel

Disneyland: Open to all guests

Disneyland: Reopened April 30, 2021, for California residents; fully reopened June 15

Under new California theme park guidance issued March 5, Disneyland reopened on April 30, but only residents of California were permitted to enter the parks until California removed the tier system June 15.

Avengers Campus opened June 4.

You can read everything on Disneyland's reopening here.

Avengers Campus
Disney

Hong Kong Disneyland is open

Hong Kong Disneyland: Reopened June 18-July 15 and Sept. 25-Dec. 2; reopened again Feb. 19

Hong Kong Disneyland reopened on June 18, 2020, with reduced capacity, enhanced health measures and a new reservation system -- but then closed down again on July 15 after a spike in coronavirus cases in the region. The theme park reopened Sept. 25, but remained closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays and required advance online reservations.

Hong Kong Disneyland was forced to close down for a third time on Dec. 2 due to a resurgence in cases. "As required by the government and in line with preventive efforts taking place across Hong Kong, Hong Kong Disneyland park is temporarily closed," the park said. "We are in close contact with health authorities and the government about the situation and will announce a reopening date once they determine it is advisable."

Disney Parks then reopened Hong Kong Disneyland on Feb. 19 to continue celebrations for the park's 15th anniversary. Hong Kong Disneyland is open five days a week, remaining closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. To attend, you can make a reservation seven days before arriving -- or nine days if you're a Magic Access Platinum member of the theme park. You'll also need to undergo a temperature screening, wear a face mask and scan the "LeaveHomeSafe" QR code.

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Tokyo Disney Resort is open

Tokyo Disney: Reopened July 1, 2020

Disney Parks announced on June 23 that it would be opening Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea on July 1.

The Tokyo Disney Resort said June 4 that the opening date for the Tokyo Disneyland major expansion area will be determined once the situation can be gauged after reopening both parks." The extensive expansion -- which includes a Beauty and the Beast-themed area and a Baymax ride -- was originally slated to begin opening on April 15, 2020.

Disneyland Shanghai is open

Disneyland Shanghai: Reopened May 11, 2020

Disney CEO Bob Iger announced May 5 that the Shanghai park would reopen Monday, May 11. It has limits on attendance, a reservation system to gain entry to the park, an entry control system, social distancing requirements, tape markings keeping guests distanced while in lines for rides, masks, temperature screenings, contact tracing and government-required health procedures. It increased capacity from 30% to 50% of the park on Aug. 24, and also restarted its fireworks show.

Shanghai began opening restaurants and stores on March 9 in Disneytown, Wishing Star Park and at the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, requiring all guests to undergo temperature screening, present a green Shanghai QR health code at dining venues, constantly wear a mask and "maintain respectful social distances at all times."