To say that 2020 was a tumultuous year for DVC would be an understatement. The global pandemic led to the temporary closure of the Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland on March 16, all the DVC resorts at Walt Disney World, Hilton Head, and Vero Beach on March 20, and Aulani on March 24. While all but the Villas at the Grand Californian have reopened, it has been a rollercoaster of a year, and I don’t mean the fun kind like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. To quote the safety announcement on Big Thunder, “If any of you folks are wearin’ hats or glasses–best remove ‘em! Cause this here’s the wildest ride in the wilderness!” Here’s a recap of some of the biggest DVC headlines during the wild ride that was 2020:
New Borrowing Restrictions
Although our DVC contracts include clauses that state borrowing and banking can be suspended at any time, DVC never had a need to instate those rules until 2020. With the surplus of unused points that resulted from the closure of the resorts, DVC determined that the best way to balance out the points was to restrict borrowing to no more than 50% of your points per contract. Based on the 2020 DVC Condo Association Meeting, there is no end date yet for this temporary policy.
Jambogate was a saga of lost villa availability at Jambo House at Animal Kingdom Lodge through the end of 2020, followed by the mysterious reappearance of availability in a matter of days. Mixed messages from Member Services about the reopening date for Jambo House only added to the confusion. The news happened to break right around the same time that MLS announced its players would be staying at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort for the MLS Is Back tournament. Coincidence? We may never know for sure. Just when we thought the coast was clear, and Jambo House was listed as opening on July 10, it magically disappeared from the list on the Disney World website. A few days later, the DVC website once again listed Jambo House as opening July 10–not confusing at all! Currently, Jambo House villas are open along with the pool, but the hotel side, gift shop, and restaurants (including The Mara, Boma, and Jiko) do not yet have reopening dates.
The Possible Cancellation of Reflections
Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge was slated to open in 2022 as the 16th DVC property. The resort was to be built on the land that was formerly part of River Country. Reflections was proposed as a nature-themed hotel and DVC property with A-Frames, treehouses, and a restaurant themed after The Princess and The Frog. While construction had begun, it came to a halt in June, and Disney quietly removed any references to Reflections from its websites. Reflections was not even mentioned during the condo association meeting. The proposed resort may have fallen victim to the financial hardships Disney faced due to the closures.
One-Time-Use Points and Transferred Points Added to Online Accounts
In September, the DVC website got a nice upgrade with the latest feature: one-time-use points and transferred points now appear online. This should make it much easier to use both types of points to book reservations though members have reported some difficulties with using transferred points at their 11-month booking window. Note that as of now you still have to call to purchase one-time-use points.
Minimum Points for Blue Card Perks Were Increased to 125
As of October 19, 2020, DVC members need a minimum of 125 points purchased directly through Disney Vacation Development, Inc. to have access to membership extras. These include benefits like access to the Epcot Lounge, discounts on dining, merchandise, and annual passes, and Moonlight Magic events. Will this increase in the minimum requirement lead to better perks in the future? With sales of new annual passes on hold and Moonlight Magic events paused, one would hope that DVC will create new perks for blue card holders to justify the change. The minimum points required for direct benefits has increased substantially over the past few years, rising from 25 points to 75 points in 2018, then to 100 points in 2019, and now 125 in 2020.
In the fall, DVC made some odd changes to the resale restriction language included in its waivers for resale contracts. The waivers notably stated: “Effective January 19, 2019, only Members who purchase directly from Disney will be able to use their Vacation Points at the 16 existing Disney Vacation Club Resorts or future Resorts—such as Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge. Resale contracts purchased for the existing 16 Disney Vacation Club Resorts will only be able to exchange Points into those 16 Disney Vacation Club Resorts.“ This change seemed to imply that resale points were valid at Riviera. Ultimately, the waivers reverted back to the original verbiage, making it clear that the Riviera resale restrictions still remain in effect.
Did we have enough “gates” this year? Apparently not. As DVC Fans started planning their trips for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, they ran into some unusual booking patterns that couldn’t be explained by walkers, maintenance, or guaranteed weeks. Some DVC members found that even at 8am at the 11-month mark, they could only book a few days out instead of the full 7 days you are normally able to book. To make matters worse, it appeared that DVC was breaking the 11-month booking rule and pulling inventory for cash stays. Member Services did not have any concrete answers for the missing availability.
The Grand Floridian Walkway Finally Opened
Now for some good news: on November 20, the long-awaited walkway between the Grand Floridian and Magic Kingdom opened! The walk is about 0.75 miles and offers a nice alternative to the monorail and ferry, especially when aiming for rope drop or trying to escape crowds at the end of the night. The opening of the walkway means that you can also walk from the Polynesian to the Grand Floridian and on to the Magic Kingdom. This route is about 1.3 miles.
Disney threw us a final bonus “gate” in December: Keister-Gate! When the Keister Coaster slide at the BoardWalk’s Luna Park Pool closed for refurbishment in September, rumors swirled that the infamous clown would be replaced by a Mickey and friends theme. Sure enough, on December 15 we got our first glimpse of the newly themed slide featuring Mickey and his pals through images shared by Imagineer Zach Riddley. However, we also spotted a little spelling goof in the slide’s design with the words “Kiester Coaster” prominently displayed instead of “Keister Coaster.” By December 17, the typo was fixed though DVC Fans were left to debate whether the clown was a better thematic fit for the BoardWalk than this seemingly lackluster new design.
I don’t know about you, but I am more than looking forward to a fresh start in 2021. Cheers to a great big beautiful tomorrow, DVC Fans!