Last updated: 01:23 PM ET, Wed October 05 2016

How Hurricane Matthew is Impacting Theme Parks in Florida

Impacting Travel | SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment | Donald Wood | October 05, 2016

How Hurricane Matthew is Impacting Theme Parks in Florida

Photo: Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World (Courtesy of Adventures by Disney)

As Hurricane Matthew continues on its trajectory toward the United States, residents and travelers scheduled to visit the popular theme parks in Florida are thinking twice as the facilities consider closing due to the storm.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Matthew is expected to begin dumping heavy rain and high winds on Florida Thursday night through Friday, and major theme parks like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld are all monitoring the situation closely.

With hurricane warnings issued for areas on Florida’s east coast and most of the remaining portions of the state under a hurricane watch right now, tourists need to be aware of the policies instituted by amusement parks in the area.

Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld all have policies that allow guests to cancel or reschedule vacations when there is an official hurricane warning in the area. For Disney World and Universal Orlando, the parks will not charge fees for rescheduled vacations or cancellations within seven days of the hurricane warning.

In addition, Universal Orlando announced it will refund the cost of arrangements that were not booked through the resort, and SeaWorld will allow cancellations or rescheduling if hurricanes approach Central Florida.

For those who visit DisneyWorld’s timeshare resorts in Vero Beach and Hilton Head Island, the cancellation and rescheduling policies are similar to those offered by the amusement parks in Orlando.

“There's a lot of factors that we use, including what local officials are recommending about travel and roads…how severe the storm appears to be, what's happening in the park at any given moment and a lot of other variables,” Universal Orlando spokesman Tom Schroder told the Orlando Sentinel about possibly closing the park. “There's no one set easy way to do this. We try to take everything into account.”

As the New York Times reported, the most popular theme parks in Florida have closed due to hurricanes in the past. Not only did Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld close in 1999 for Hurricane Floyd, but they also closed on three separate occasions in 2004 for Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne.


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