Hurricanes and your Orlando vacation: 4 things to know

Hurricanes and your Orlando vacation: 4 things to know

Hurricanes and your Orlando vacation: 4 things to know

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Last updated: September 13, 2017 8:45 am

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13 UPDATE:

SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando, and Busch Gardens Tampa all reopen today at 10:00 am. Discovery Cove will remain closed until Friday, September 15.

Down at Legoland Florida Resort, meanwhile, Legoland Hotel opens its doors once again today, with the theme park and Beach Retreat following in its footsteps tomorrow. It still remains to be seen when Legoland Water Park will be up and operational once more.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12 UPDATE:

Update on Volcano Bay: while Volcano Bay reopened today, Tuesday, September 12, several of its attractions have been affected by Hurricane Irma. TeAwa the Fearless River is closed due to debris in the rapid river, and Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides are similarly down. The Feasting Frog is currently undergoing repairs (the titular frog lost his eyes in the storm), and, finally, Kunuku Boat Bar may reopen a little later on today.

Although all Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando theme parks opened at 9:00 am today, there is continuing fallout from Hurricane Irma’s presence over the weekend. For starters, several attractions will remain closed for the immediate future at Disney, including Jungle Cruise, Walt Disney World Railroad, and Tom Sawyer Island at Magic Kingdom and Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safari, and Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Animal Kingdom; both Jurassic Park: River Adventure and The Incredible Hulk Coaster over at Universal, meanwhile, are similarly closed. (Universal has said that the resort saw “relatively minor damage overnight involving fences, trees, signage, and building facades,” and that seems to be true at least in Jurassic Park: the bridge linking it to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade is blocked, requiring guests to use the bypass bridge instead.)

Disney World’s on-site hotels begin normal operation again today, as well, with the twin exceptions of Fort Wilderness Campground (including all its various shows, such as The Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue) and Saratoga Springs Treehouse Villas. There is no word on when the former will reopen, but the latter is scheduled for Thursday, September 14.

Both Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Halloween Horror Nights will remain on schedule for this week. However, SeaWorld Orlando, Legoland Florida (which still remains without power), and Disney World’s water parks will remain closed for today; expect them to open later on in the week, if not sooner. Busch Gardens Tampa will reopen tomorrow, Wednesday, September 13.

We will keep this past weekend’s cancellations and updates intact below, as a record of Hurricane Irma’s passing and to help answer any questions that you may still have regarding the storm’s impact on your vacation.

CANCELLATIONS FROM THE WEEKEND:

Friday, September 8, 2017

Starting today, Disney is temporarily closing the second of its two water parks, Blizzard Beach. It is currently expected to reopen Tuesday, September 12, but this is entirely dependent – obviously – on the weather.

Additionally, Disney has lifted its cancellation fees for any dining reservations that might be pulled from today until Monday, September 11, and it has delayed the unveiling of new models that were meant to give guests sneak peeks at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. The exhibit was meant to debut this weekend at Walt Disney Presents, a new attraction at Hollywood Studios; it is currently expected to arrive sometime next week.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Disney’s Blizzard Beach and ESPN Wide World of Sports, along with Aquatica Orlando and Adventure Island – SeaWorld’s two water parks in Central Florida – will be closed on Saturday, as will Legoland Florida and its second on-site hotel, Legoland Beach Retreat (its guests will be routed to Legoland Hotel). Both SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa will close early, at 5:00 pm; Universal Orlando Resort follows at 7:00 pm, although its on-site hotels (which are at full capacity, incidentally) will remain open; and, lastly, Walt Disney World Resort’s various destinations will have staggered closing times, starting with Typhoon Lagoon at 5:00 pm, going to Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom at 7:00 pm, and ending with Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney Springs at 9:00 pm (all the on-site hotels remain open, but with limited amenities).

The second (and final) night of Disney’s annual Christian music fest, Night of Joy, has been cancelled. Similarly, Universal has pulled its own version of the event, Rock the Universe, for the same day.

NOTE: if you have a ticket for Rock the Universe on Saturday, Universal has several options for you, including the possibility of going Friday instead or, in certain circumstances, extending the validity of your pass all the way up to December 20, 2017 – or, of course, of just getting a refund. Call Guest Services directly at 407-817-8990. For those with Saturday admission to Night of Joy, Disney will likewise allow you to attend Friday – just head to the ESPN Wide World of Sports box office after 4:00 pm on Friday to exchange your pass. Disney will also refund either night’s Night of Joy, if that’s more to your liking. The phone number is 407-939-7818.

Finally, Disney is shutting down both Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa starting at 2:00 pm.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A number of area theme and water parks will be closed for the entirety of the day: Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando, Discovery Cove, Aquatica Orlando, Legoland Florida, Busch Gardens Tampa, and Adventure Island. (The various resorts’ on-site hotels, however, will remain open, with the sole exception of Legoland’s Beach Retreat; its guests will be routed to Legoland Hotel.)

Rock the Universe’s early-morning Sunday Worship Service is no longer being held.

Over at Disney World, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has been suspended, revoking its only appearance for this weekend.

NOTE: if you have a ticket for Mickey’s Halloween Party on Sunday, Disney will allow you to exchange it for any other MNSSHP date, any Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party date, or an one-day Park Hopper theme park pass that is good for the next two years. Alternatively, you can simply get a refund.

Lastly, Disney is no longer taking new dining reservations for both this date and Monday, September 11.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A number of area theme and water parks will be closed for the entirety of the day: Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando, Discovery Cove, Aquatica Orlando, Legoland Florida, Busch Gardens Tampa, and Adventure Island. (The various resorts’ on-site hotels, however, will remain open, with the sole exception of Legoland’s Beach Retreat; its guests will be routed to Legoland Hotel.)

As a reminder, Disney still won’t be accepting new dining reservations for this day.

Now back to the article proper…

As of writing this, Hurricane Irma is steadily making its way up the western shore of the Florida peninsula. Originally entering the area as a category-five hurricane, it has since been downgraded to a “simple” tropical storm as it makes it way up to Alabama, but its after-effects are still thought to be extremely dangerous – torrential rains, strong winds (which reach more than 400 miles from its center), and storm surge are expected to wreak havoc in the Central Florida region, particularly in Tampa. Residents (and tourists) are still recommended to take shelter, as electrocution from downed power lines is among the leading causes of death in hurricanes.

It’s still a good idea to keep the following points in mind as the area theme and water parks slowly start to come back to life starting tomorrow.

1. You may be able to reschedule or receive a refund

Your safety is the top priority of every theme park in Central Florida. Due to this, they all have similar severe-weather cancellation policies in place.

With that said, however, none of the cancellation policies include airline tickets, car rentals, or vacation insurance; you’ll need to check with those specific parties for their own policies.

Walt Disney World Hurricane Policy

If a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area, or for your place of residence, within seven days of your scheduled arrival date, you may reschedule or cancel your vacation package and most room-only reservations (booked directly through Disney) without any cancellation fees.

Select special events and dining experiences are not eligible for refund.

Call 407-939-7675

Universal Orlando Hurricane Policy

If you are not able to arrive at Orlando due to an active named storm impacting your travel, you’ll be able to reschedule your vacation or receive a complete refund. This policy is for the on-site hotels only and does not include theme park tickets. However, in many cases, these park tickets can still be used at a later date.

Reservations must have been booked a minimum of seven days in advance and cancelled before 6:00 pm the day prior to arrival.

Call the same number you used to book.

SeaWorld Parks Hurricane Policy

In the event a named tropical storm or hurricane approaches Orlando, Tampa, or your hometown, the parks will reschedule or refund any vacation package and/or individual park tickets booked through SeaWorld Vacations, Busch Gardens Vacations, DiscoveryCove.com, SeaWorld.com, Aquatica.com, BuschGardens.com, or the call center.

Call 888-800-5447

2. Outdoor attractions will close

Perhaps chalk this one in the “obvious” category, but outdoor attractions at all of the theme parks will be closed in the event of inclement weather, while outdoor entertainment will be moved inside or cancelled.

Indoor attractions, including the haunted houses at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, continue to operate during severe weather. The only exception is the occasional occurrence of a queue or house flooding.

3. Theme parks may close

Busch Gardens Tampa frequently closes due to severe weather, but it’s extremely rare for the Central Florida theme parks to do so. With this being said, it can happen if they are directly threatened by a hurricane. At the end of last year, Matthew’s presence in the area forced all of theme parks – Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando, and, even, Legoland Floirda – to close early on Thursday, October 6 (by 6:00 pm) and remained shuttered for all of Friday, October 7. A similar situation happened with Hurricane Charley in August 2004, and Hurricane Floyd prompted the parks to open late in 1999.

Floyd ended up not having a large impact on Orlando; Charley, however, brought 145 MPH winds. It would become the sixth most costly hurricane in the United States’s history, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Prior to Charley in 2004, the last time Orlando took a direct hit was Hurricane Donna in 1960.

All theme parks attractions in Central Florida are designed with the threat of a hurricane in mind. This means if the worse came to fruition and the parks did close due to a direct threat of a hurricane, it’s unlikely for there to be a large amount of structural damage – the theme parks would reopen shortly after this worst-case scenario.

4. You may be asked to take shelter at your hotel

If a hurricane is bound for Orlando while you’re staying at one of Disney’s or Universal’s on-site hotels, you may be asked to take shelter in your room. Historically, the staff has done an extraordinary job at keeping guests calm and informed. They’ll ensure everybody is fed and will, likely, put extra entertainment in place. In emergency situations, guests may be asked to gather in a large, enclosed space with no windows.

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Taylor Strickland Taylor Strickland is the Owner & Editor at Orlando Informer, the internationally awarded independent resource for guests visiting Orlando. In this position, he leads the website's overall direction and day-to-day operations, working with a team of writers, editors, developers, and producers.

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