Disney World and Universal Orlando closed due to Hurricane Ian

Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando will both close Wednesday and Thursday as Hurricane Ian approaches, the theme parks announced Tuesday afternoon.

Universal announced it would close around 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, followed by Disney just before 4 p.m. Major theme parks were hanging out SeaWorld and Legoland, which had already announced their closure on Wednesday and Thursday.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, the closest theme park to the hurricane’s expected landfall, closed early Tuesday, extending its previously announced two-day closure.

Orlando theme parks have reduced their hours of operation or closed entirely during storms in recent years, depending on the severity of the weather. Disney and Universal both closed for two days during Hurricane Irma, which brought 85 mph winds to the Orlando area in September 2017, but operated with reduced hours during Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 so that the storm was skirting Florida.

Before the theme parks announced their closures, visitors flocked there on Tuesday to enjoy below-average crowds as Hurricane Ian approached.

Visitors to Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park seemed unfazed by the impending storm.

Atlanta resident Damian Pressley, 31, said the storm could shorten his week-long family trip which was due to end on Saturday, but had had no effect so far.

“Until [the rain] starts to go down, it’s business as usual,” he said.

The only problem her family had because of the storm was finding bottled water at a local Walmart, Pressley said. The family had already filled their hotel room with provisions for the trip.

Two days before his flight, Alex Tracey, a resident of Montreal, Canada, decided to cancel his week-long vacation at a theme park on Monday after weather reports showed Hurricane Ian was closing in on Orlando. .

Seeing Florida residents post bottled water shortages and other storm-preparedness worries on social media was the ‘final nail in the coffin’ of the trip, which was supposed to include theme park outings. from Disney and Halloween events from Disney and Universal.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Disney and Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights are canceled during park closing days.

Tracey, 36, planned to spend over $2,000 on the trip and is working with theme parks to get her money back.

“Things happen. That’s all you can say, right? It’s going to be even more fun next year – and hopefully we don’t have a hurricane,” said Tracey, who runs a YouTube channel focused on theme parks.

Elsewhere in the Orlando tourist corridor, Rosen Hotels saw an influx of bookings at its properties as Florida residents took advantage of its Florida distress rates while evacuating the hurricane’s path.

Rooms were sold out at all Rosen properties before 4 p.m. Tuesday. Earlier in the day, spokesman Robert Hubler said all Rosen properties were at or near capacity, but rooms were opening as tourists and events were canceled.

More than 500 families had booked rooms at the discounted rate, which started at $69 per night and reached as high as $119 per night, as of noon Tuesday, Hubler said. Many of the guests were from the Tampa area, where authorities have declared various evacuation orders.

“Mr. [Harris] Rosen is sincere in making sure during difficult times or times of need that people are taken care of and we do everything in our power to make that happen,” Hubler wrote in an email. .

The hotel chain has emergency generators at its properties and maintains security and engineering on site to keep guests safe, Hubler said. Hotels with convention properties — Rosen Shingle Creek, Rosen Center and Rosen Plaza — are opening their ballrooms as gathering space for guests seeking updates on the storm.

Rosen also offers glow sticks to guests to provide lighting in the event of a temporary power outage and allows pets to stay on the property for free during the storm.

“Our goal is to make sure people and their pets are as safe as humanly possible,” Hubler wrote.

Orlando theme parks allow guests to reschedule or cancel their trip at no cost as long as their trips begin within seven days of a hurricane or tropical storm warning being issued by the National Hurricane Center.

Disney’s policy is available at disneyworld.com/weather. The theme park has also suspended its cancellation policies for booked experiences, including restaurant reservations.

Universal’s severe weather policy can be viewed at universalorlandovacations.com/general-information/severe-weather.

SeaWorld Orlando’s Inclement Weather Policy, available at https://seaworld.com/orlando/help/inclement-weather-policy/, allows guests to receive a free ticket valid for one year if a storm affects their visit. The park is posting Hurricane Ian-specific updates at https://seaworldentertainment.com/park-updates/.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is allowing patrons with tickets for dates during the park’s closure to return by Dec. 31. Annual passholders with passes expiring Sept. 30 will be allowed to visit until Oct. 16, according to Busch Gardens. Details are available at https://seaworldentertainment.com/park-updates/.

The Legoland Florida Hurricane Policy can be found at legoland.com/hurricane.

krice@orlandosentinel.com and @katievrice on Twitter

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