Theme Park Insider

Orlando area and theme parks under curfew as Hurricane Matthew strikes

October 6, 2016, 8:20 PM · The Orlando area is under a mandatory curfew now, until 7am on Saturday. It's going to be a long night tonight, and day on Friday, as Hurricane Matthew moves through the area.

All of the local theme parks are closed on Friday, but thousands of people remain on property tonight and tomorrow, staying in and working at the hotels at the Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando resorts. The guests include visitors who could not (or would not) change their travel plans, as well as some Floridians who chose to evacuate to the resorts rather than stay in their homes.

The Orlando area long has been a refuge of choice for Florida residents when hurricanes strike, as people look to flee the coastal areas that bear the most damage in such storms. But this time, it's the Orlando area's turn to face Mother Nature. With the resort areas lying some 40 miles inland, they won't experience the Category 4-force winds that Matthew was packing offshore on Thursday night, but hurricane-force winds and many, many inches of rain are expected.

Hurricane Matthew is forecast to move through the area on Friday, with the weather clearing on Saturday. But this might not be the last that Floridians see of the storm. Due to conditions in the Atlantic, Matthew is forecast to make a U-turn after moving north off the Georgia shore, with many models showing Matthew returning toward Florida. The storm is forecast to have weakened to a tropical storm by then, but it is possible that the storm could strength back to a hurricane when it reaches warmed waters. So even as the skies clear on Friday night, Orlando-area residents and theme park fans might not yet be in the clear.

This is the first time since 2004 that the parks have closed due to weather, and emotions might be raw as people are confined to homes and hotel rooms — potentially without access to services — for more than a day. Access to food became an issue on Friday evening, as the hotels faced the highly unusual situation of having everyone booked at their properties actually being there at the same time. When a hurricane is raging outside, there's no heading over to another hotel or to the parks for a meal. You're stuck with the food service at your property... along with everyone else.

Some fans complained about long lines for food at the Disney resorts. Others complained about the $12.99 box that Disney was selling to guests, many remembering when Disney provided four box lunches to each room for free during the 2004 closures.

At Universal Orlando, the hotels set up hot buffets for guests, charging $25 per adult and $15 per child at the Sapphire Falls, according to one guest.

Other non-theme park hotels in the area offered a better deal for their stranded guests.

Thankfully the @doubletree over by Disney Springs had a $10 Italian buffet going on! Pasta, chicken, salad, cookies, drinks and more!

A photo posted by @littlepinchofmagic on

If you are in Central Florida and have the ability to share your experiences with us, please respond in the comments, tweet to us @ThemePark or email us at themeparkinsider@gmail.com.

We are wishing for everyone's continued safety and hope that all our friends can maintain a positive attitude in such a trying situation. And here's a huge "thank you" to all the cast and team members and emergency personnel who are staying on the job during the curfew to provide the assistance than everyone needs.

Replies (25)

October 6, 2016 at 8:36 PM · Disney's meal look like something you would find in a school cafeteria, but for 4 times the cost. I get that Disney is likely having to pay their employees overtime, but that's no excuse. Disney should be selling those meals at cost, or $1 more at the most. I hate to criticize a company that I love, but they've gotten ridiculous. Their them park prices are one thing, but overcharging guests when don't have any other food options is a new low. This article shows why staying at a non Disney hotel is the way to go. Universal's meal is overpriced too but at least it isn't a school lunch.
October 7, 2016 at 3:45 AM · FYI, dedicated employees are also riding out the storm at Animal Kingdom, SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, and Aquatica to ensure the safety of the animals that they all care for. Animal Care professions, water quality specialists and divers, maintenance crews, horticulturists, paramedics, and security personnel and stay at the parks to assist in any way possible. Big thanks to all of those passionate employees as well!
October 7, 2016 at 5:30 AM · Was that a Disney meal, or the worlds worst airline food? I can't tell the difference.
October 7, 2016 at 6:06 AM · Now you wished you were stranded at the local Sweet Tomatoes with their 8.99 buffet
October 7, 2016 at 6:11 AM · Disney and universal are taking the P. Making money out of people's misfortune. They should be ashamed of themselves.
October 7, 2016 at 6:49 AM · Nobody forced the guests to buy the Disney meal. Disney also provided hot meals last night.

My tweet was also a little bit of a joke. We are lucky enough to have a car. All convince stores and supermarkets closed around 4 yesterday. Our hunt for pizza was a failure.

So far, the weather hasn't been as bad as described at Disney.

October 7, 2016 at 7:32 AM · My family and I live in Windermere and are delighted that for one night, they're won't be any fireworks to wake our newborn.
October 7, 2016 at 8:04 AM · What a joke ,making money on a bad situation ,shame
October 7, 2016 at 8:17 AM · @Anthony Murphy that type of reasoning is exactly why price gouging exists. It is an unethical practice that plays on the needs of people who either have to pay an exorbitant price or go without. There is no reason during an emergency that this company should charge its guests 13 dollars for that "meal".
October 7, 2016 at 8:22 AM · As a visitor to Florida from the UK I arrived with my daughter late Thursday evening into Miami a short sleep then early morning drive up to Disney Orlando. Staff have been excellent under very difficult conditions. Supplied a meal that was reserved in the resort that we took back to the apartment to eat. We made sure that on the way here we bought food and drink to see us through till Saturday. So pre planning is essential and I am sure that tomorrow all will be much better and hopefully the hard working staff manage to get home to their families. I am impressed how the authorities have prepared for this hurricane. I know back home we would not have had the resources and ability to do the same!! Big thanks to everyone
October 7, 2016 at 8:51 AM · Nobody forced Disney to charge those guests a ridiculous amount of money for some meal that hardly has any cost to it. Disney chose to gouge during a time of crisis. If people would take off the rose colored glasses, and stop defending what is clearly a wrong, Disney wouldn't be able to engage in this shady practice.

Now Disney won't pay their employees who were supposed to work, and instead will make them to use paid time off. When will people see the dirt?

October 7, 2016 at 9:01 AM · >>> Nobody forced the guests to buy the Disney meal.

Except the whole "need to eat, but unsafe to go elsewhere" thing

October 7, 2016 at 9:06 AM · I don't know about Disney but I know a lot of departments at Universak are still paying their employees (even hourly ones) their hours for today and yesterday.
October 7, 2016 at 9:08 AM · The people on the Themepark Review twitter are all supporting this practice, some saying that it is NOT price gouging. I love going to the theme parks as well and I expect to pay more there, but having to shell out the amount they want for THAT meal? Come on and that the followers there have the nerve to call people upset ingrates? Well when paying 13 dollars for that and not even getting a drink when already spending a damn good amount to stay at the resort and can't leave due to everything being closed, I think they have a right to be a little upset.
October 7, 2016 at 9:47 AM · I understand nobody is forcing people to buy the boxes. What angers me is that Disney would actually charge their guests for food who are stuck there. Disney needs to be boxing up food for people on the East Coast right now. FREE. People will be losing their lives, and those not affected need to be helping those in need. Disney probably can't afford it though. I have been on five cruises with my wife and have run three races. I won't step foot on that place ever again. Disney you're a joke.
October 7, 2016 at 9:54 AM · Disney also warned people that they would likely be on their own for food.

Love how this thread has turned from a hurricane safety to Disney bashing.

You do realize that Hati has deaths in the hundreds. We are really going to keep up the $13 sandwich argument.

I am actually here. I'm sitting in Old Key West during this hurricane. Disney did NOT just offer the sandwiches. There were many more options plus their well stocked general stores found in every resort.

If you want the actual blame, blame the grocery stores that closed early. People got whipped into a frenzy for next to nothing. I understand we are extremely lucky that it could have been worse, but it didn't happen.

October 7, 2016 at 10:11 AM · I am actually Proud Disney has food ready for these types of situations..

Many folks have no food or decent water in this messed up world so be happy to have something no matter the cost...

Heck we pay $12.95 for a damn turkey leg.... Which is enjoyable BTW.....

October 7, 2016 at 10:12 AM · Our resort shut down all restaurants so at this point I'd probably be happy to pay that to at least get something!
October 7, 2016 at 10:49 AM · Anthony seems to be in the wrong thread. This piece has nothing to do with Hurricane safety nor people killed in Haiti. It does however have everything to do with food...

The fact is Disney gouged prices on a meal that costs less than a dollar for them to make. They chose to sell that food to people stranded at the resort, many of which don't have the option to leave. Now Disney could have taken the high road and given these meals out for free, or even chose to sell them at cost or slightly above cost without anyone batting an eye. Instead they chose to sell it at an extremely inflated price. Not only did they upsell it, they chose to sell it to those that are stranded, to those that are taking shelter from the coastal areas, and to those that thought it was there only option.

It's simply wrong and it's taking advantage of people. Yes you should be upset by it, Disney is in the wrong. Should it make you care less about Haiti? No, because that's a totally different heart breaking and completely unrelated issue.

It's like saying I was just taken advantage of in a Nigerian email scam, but there is a war in Syria so I guess I shouldn't be upset because of that.

You should be upset by both, and try not to divert the issue to a completely unrelated issue.

October 7, 2016 at 3:30 PM · If there were other food options, why did Disney feel the need to offer that meal at such an inflated price? Disney offered similar meals for free in the past, but this time around they charged $12. I have nothing against Disney operating their parks and resorts to make a profit. Yes Disney and places like it normally sell food at higher prices than elsewhere. But in the event of people being unable to leave like yesterday evening, Disney should have put their usual price markups on hold, and just sold those meals for what they cost. Diseny won't have the customers they desire if they keep price gouging at every opportunity. Hopefully people will finally start to catch on.
October 8, 2016 at 12:38 AM · This is not an example of price gouging. From the FL Attorney General Price Gouging website:

"2. How do I know if I'm being price gouged?
The law compares the reported price of the commodity or service during the state of emergency to the average price charged over the 30-day period prior to the declared state of emergency. If there is a 'gross disparity' between the prior price and the current charge, it is considered price gouging."

Flame Tree Barbecue sells a sad looking turkey sandwich with fruit for $9.99. The price of the pretzels and cookie shown above would certainly cost more than $2. Based on normal prices, Disney might actually consider this to be a discounted meal.

Is this insensitive? Probably. But, it's unequivocally not price gouging.

October 8, 2016 at 8:28 AM · Gouging is very, very personal (I don't care what the AG says) so I wish people making excuses for Disney would stop and ask themselves if they would like being treated that way.

What if your kid's school decided you had to pay $13 for the school lunch and you didn't have any other option I'm sure you'd be expecting everyone you told to be as angry as you were.

What I would like to see is the Disney fanboys step back and recognize that these moments do not help the Disney image and should be stopped.

Just because you like a company doesn't mean you have to blindly accept or defend any and everything the company does. This just keeps empowering the management and executives to do these kinds of things.

I really wouldn't be surprised if Iger or the other executives are sitting in their large comfy homes saying "what are they complaining about, I pay more that $13 for a cup of coffee" to themselves.

At some point we all have to stand up and say that we like/love Disney but we expect better behavior from them.

There are times when a company should step up and do the right thing and this time Disney didn't.

October 8, 2016 at 2:02 PM · No, it's not personal. At least not as far as the law goes. This is simply not an example of price gouging.
October 8, 2016 at 4:19 PM · "Price gouging is a pejorative term referring to when a seller spikes the prices of goods, services or commodities to a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair, and is considered exploitative, potentially to an unethical extent." -Wikipedia

"The practice of raising prices on certain types of goods and services to an unfair level, especially during a state of emergency." -Legal Dictionary

"Charging customers too much money." -Miriam Webster

"Price gouging is often hard to define, and is often described vaguely as charging "unconscionably" high prices." - USLegal

It's definitely price gouging, there is just no legal recourse to take against Disney. There shouldn't be any legal recourse. It's not something that deserves legal recognition. It does however make Disney look completely out of touch and greedy. Economics and capitalism are one thing, but this comes off as borderline unethical.

October 8, 2016 at 4:56 PM · While those meals are not technically price gouging, it is poor customer service on Disney's part to sell that for the same price as a regular theme park meal. While they are under no obligation to provide food for free (and I wouldn't expect them to), if they sold the same box meal for $5-7 they would probably have received almost no backlash while still likely making a (small) profit.

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