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For those who have travel plans to Orlando’s theme parks, here’s what you should know as Hurricane Irma is under officials’ watch.
At Universal Orlando Resort, the parks’ hours are operating as normal as they monitor the weather but visitors can reschedule or seek refunds, according to spokesman Tom Schroder.
“We have an affirmative, no-questions-asked policy for guests who tell us they want to change plans or seek a refund because of a named storm involving the Orlando area or where they are traveling from,” Schroder said in an email.
Walt Disney World Resort policy allows people to reschedule or cancel their vacation packages and most room-only reservations without any fees if a hurricane warning is issued by National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area or a visitor’s residence within seven days of the traveler’s scheduled arrival, according to Disney’s website.
“The policy does not apply to certain special events or dining experiences,” the company said, adding the Walt Disney Travel Company Magic Your Way vacation package and hotel rooms must be booked directly with Disney.
It’s a similar policy as Legoland, which tells visitors it allows people to change or cancel tickets and vacation packages when a hurricane warning has been issued in Polk County or where tourists are traveling from.
SeaWorld Orlando also has a “peace of mind” hurricane policy and will reschedule or refund vacation packages or park tickets without any fees, according to its website.
Theme parks can take a financial hit during hurricane season.
“During this time of the year, particularly with the Halloween events going on, literally millions of dollars can be lost,” Dennis Speigel, president of the International Theme Park Services consulting firm, told the Sentinel last year about the threat of hurricanes.
Disney is in festival mode with Mickey’s Not-So-Scary-Halloween at Magic Kingdom and the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. The Halloween events at Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights and at SeaWorld begin later this month.
In 2016, Hurricane Matthew temporarily shut down the theme parks.
Disney and Universal Studios both closed early on a Thursday and did not reopen the next day, while SeaWorld shut down for a full day and two partial ones.
Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association was not yet aware of any plans for reduced-rate hotel rooms for evacuees, as often is initiated when storms hit the area, but is monitoring.
Airbnb used a disaster-relief program after Harvey hit the Houston area last month and Matthew passed close to Florida’s Atlantic coast last year, a spokesman said. If used, the homesharing app sends notifications to active hosts about the program and gives them the option to participate.
Airlines and airport officials are on standby, watching the latest updates.
At Allegiant Air, for instance, no flights have been canceled as of Tuesday evening but the airline was allowing people to change their travel plans at no cost if they were flying out of Orlando Sanford International Airport Tuesday through Saturday, a spokeswoman said.