Disney resort during Hurricane Ian was 'like the Twilight Zone,' according to guest




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A Disney resort during a hurricane is basically like the Twilight Zone.

That's how Jan Tuckwood, who has a home in Lake Worth but spends much of her time in Charlotte, North Carolina, described Tuesday and Wednesday at Disney's Swan Reserve.

No valet met her at the door when she arrived. Housekeeping and other staffing were limited. Restaurants were closed or had reduced menus and boxed meals.

While Disney parks remained closed Thursday as officials assessed Ian's impact and cleared debris, hotels weren't allowing new guests. But those who arrived earlier in the week or evacuated to Orlando from Florida's Gulf Coast stayed, making do with the help of pared down Disney Magic and cocktails.

"My grandchildren and I were planning a trip, so we already had reservations," she said.

She and her daughter spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights in the Swan Reserve hotel before moving next door to the Swan on Thursday.

Thursday, she didn't see much damage, mostly standing water and debris from trees and plants.

"Disney World is as you would imagine it to be if an incredible amount of children have been pent up for two days and basically had their hopes dashed by the ultimate villain, Hurricane Ian," she said. "But I have seen fewer kids screaming and having tantrums than on other trips."

The hotels opened their ballrooms to host children's activities, playing movies and handing out coloring books.

With limited staffing on duty, Jan Tuckwood and her daughter Anna Rodriguez, right, were on a first-name basis with those who were working, like Kai Hymes of Orlando, left.
With limited staffing on duty, Jan Tuckwood and her daughter Anna Rodriguez, right, were on a first-name basis with those who were working, like Kai Hymes of Orlando, left.  

Thursday morning, Disney's Yacht Club Resort brought characters into the lobby for a dance party with the children. The Ale & Compass Lounge was open, and several poncho-clad adults were enjoying an early cocktail.

Tuckwood said she and her daughter, Anna Rodriguez of Denver, spent Tuesday and Wednesday hitting the fitness center, watching the Weather Channel and getting to know the skeleton crew staff that remained on duty.

Wednesday night, their room on the 14th floor of the Swan Reserve, which opened last year, developed a leak.

"As the rain kept coming, there was substantial water on the floors, so they moved us to the ninth floor," she said.

Children run through the puddles at the Swan hotel Wednesday morning as Hurricane Ian approached Orlando.
Children run through the puddles at the Swan hotel Wednesday morning as Hurricane Ian approached Orlando.  

Thursday, Tuckwood and Rodriguez were awaiting the rest of their family. Parks are expected to reopen starting Friday, and they're hoping for nice weather.

Tuckwood had nothing but praise for Disney, the hotels and their staffs.

"This is a good lesson for kids to learn about flexibility and how to handle adversity," she said. "You're not going to get to see Cinderella today, but you get to have a Cinderella poncho and can go jump in a puddle."

The latest statement from Disney officials

Disney officials issued this statement at 2:40 p.m. Thursday:

"Walt Disney World Resort will resume theme park and Disney Springs operations in a phased approach starting on Friday, Sept. 30. Operating hours will be updated later today on DisneyWorld.com/Weather."

The closures include Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon water park, Winter Summerland Miniature Golf, Fantasia Gardens and Fairways Miniature Golf, according to Disney's website.

Disney's Blizzard Beach water park is currently closed for the season.

Guests who have not used any portion of tickets intended for the days the park was closed were directed to contact Disney to modify their travel plans, according to usatoday.com. Guests with partially used multi-day theme park tickets will be able to use their remaining ticket days through Sept. 30, 2023.

Guests who had tickets for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party on Thursday will automatically receive refunds within seven business days if they booked through Disney. Guest who booked through travel agents or other parties should reach out to those providers.

Disney Springs remained closed. "Drawn to Life," the Cirque du Soleil show in residence at Disney Springs canceled its Thursday performances, and the 5:30 p.m. Friday show has been rescheduled for 8 p.m.

Those with reservations for Disney hotels and resorts for Friday are asked not to arrive any earlier than 3 p.m. Fees will be waived for those who need to reschedule or cancel trips.

Hurricane Ian's effect on SeaWorld, Universal

SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando and Discovery Cove also remained closed Thursday. "Guests are encouraged to check back on our website and follow our social media channels for updates," according to seaworldentertainment.com.

Discovery Cove will reschedule or refund reservations booked online or from the call center with no fees. More information is available at 407-513-4600.

Universal Orlando Resort, including CityWalk, plans to reopen Friday. Universal hotels are currently at full capacity.

Suzy Fleming Leonard is a features journalist with more than three decades of experience. Reach her at sleonard@floridatoday.com. Find her on Facebook: @SuzyFlemingLeonard or on Instagram: @SuzyLeonard

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Disney, Universal, Seaworld in Orlando remain closed Thursday

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