On June 3rd we went to Universal Orlando for their passholder preview day before reopening to the public on June 5th. Universal has made plenty of changes in this COVID-19 world, and we felt they did a fanatic job with handling things.
- Masks must be worn at all times; with exception of eating, drinking, or in mask free zones
- Social Distancing markers have been placed in all queues and at performances
- Rides are mostly done with virtual queue, however stand by at most attractions still exist
- Hand sanitizer given to everyone as they load attractions
- Attractions are loaded either every other row, single cars, or normally on roller coasters
- Temperature is taken prior to entering CityWalk
- Mobile Ordering is encouraged for quick service locations, you may eat at table service restaurants with a reservation
- Limited Capacity for the park
Almost everyone was following the mask requirement. I say almost everyone because I saw maybe 5 people the entire day who had theirs off without a food or drink in their hands. Which for 7 hours in a theme park, that number is very low.
Social distancing on the attractions and in the queues was super easy. The Team Members were great about giving you the hand sanitizer and sending you on your way. I didn’t see anyone cleaning vehicles while we were there, but with all the hand sanitizer I was comfortable. For rides like Fast and the Furious, they loaded every other row. For Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit they loaded normally, but without a single riders line. There were also markers for where the live entertainers were, like the Blues Brothers, and shows in Diagon Alley.
We were able to walk onto every attraction we did. The most we waited for anything was about 5 minutes, it was quite magical. The lines seemed longer, but because of the social distancing markers being so spread out. The app wouldn’t let us do the virtual queues for whatever reason, but that was okay as standby still existed at almost every attraction.
For stores, they had queue markers so that they could keep a handle on how many people were in at any given time, that way to increase social distancing. The only hiccup we hit with this was when we wanted to go into Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley and were turned away as we had drinks and they didn’t want us to take our mask off while we were in there. When I said I wouldn’t take a drink I was still turned away. I am unsure if this is going to be the standard or if it was just a specific shop or Team Member enforcing that.
Dining in the restaurants was incredibly easy. They had all the tables very spaced out and the servers were so happy to have people back. The menus were limited, but they were still able to accommodate us at Confisco at Islands of Adventure. Our server did note that they may not have the tofu for long as it was for an option they have on their regular full menu, so it is not guaranteed. We also had the Hummus here (ALWAYS ask about the bread here) but I didn’t get a photo of it because we were too hungry.
We also went to Finnegan’s at Universal Studios for drinks, as the bars at this time are closed (bars reopen in Florida for phase 2 which begins June 5th) and they still had the vegan options there on the menu, which is a Shepards Pie. We did need a reservation to go here. So if you are looking for a table service be sure to stop there early on to get a time you’d like.
Characters were still out. They did have them propped up away from you, but you can still take pictures of/with them. You can also take your mask off for photos if you want.
As mentioned before, we couldn’t get the app to work for the virtual queues. All four of us tried and it wouldn’t work for us. I don’t know if it was an app issue, or something to do with the amount of passes they allowed per attraction just all already being gone by 10am.
Certain areas that are notoriously crowded were still crowded. Specifically over at the Beat Builders show in Universal Studios. There were markers for where people should be standing during the show. Some people were following them, but this left a large crowd behind those few spots. Additionally, when we got off the Hogwarts Express into Island of Adventure, Hogsmeade was a bit busy. Nothing you couldn’t navigate to keep your distance, but just a typical busier area in the park.
Parking was the worst part of our day. We first arrived with no line to get into the garage. We got into the garage and headed where we were supposed to be, the Team Member was directing cars down the lane, which happened to be the end of all the rows. There was no Team Member at the end of the row directing anyone, so people were no longer parking every other spot and we were forced to exit as there were no spots left.
Once we exited the garage, turned around, and headed back to the parking garage, the line was incredibly long and slow (I assume this is just due to the passholder check in times we were designated). We finally got in and parked with direction of the Team Members just fine this round. Once parked we went to the level for Attractions where we were met with an incredibly long line to get our temperature checked. This line had no social distancing enforced, and this is where I saw most people not wearing masks (as this was not enforced yet, and I don’t count this number in the ones I mentioned previously). The line moved quite fast though, and once we were closer to the temperature check there was social distancing markers. The actual temperature check was fine. I think it was just a mess due to so many people arriving for park check in at the same time.
A few things to note
When riding the Jurassic Park River Adventure, you actually take off your mask for this attraction since there is water.
Volcano Bay is open as well, here they are recommending masks in places where you can not social distance (lockers, ordering food), but no masks are to be worn in the pool or on the slides.
I didn’t see strict enforcement for young (ages 2-4) children for masks, which as a parent of a kid in that range makes me feel better knowing that keeping a mask on someone that age is a struggle. Additionally for younger kids, the playgrounds are not open during this time.
Take breaks from your mask. There are designated no-mask (U-Rest Area) zones in the parks. Or you can just drink some water and take a seat on a bench every hour or so. We brought extra masks in case we felt the need to switch them out. But the day we were there was pretty nice so we weren’t too hot. Universal does have masks for sale too.
So was it weird being there? At first it was. But once we were in the park, heard the music, waved at the Team Members, things felt totally fine. It’s a bit of an adjustment, but I think it is still just as magical as before. Everyone was incredibly friendly, excited, and careful with each other.
I felt that Universal did a fantastic job. I think there were absolutely times that it felt “crowded” given that I was expecting it to be pretty empty. But being able to walk on the attractions definitely meant the crowds really were low. They had their usual bottle neck busy areas, which were hard to avoid. But as a whole, I applaud how Universal has handled this.
When does Disney World reopen?
Walt Disney World is doing a phased reopening. Currently Disney Springs is open under similar guidelines as Universal. They check your temperature upon arrival, masks are enforced, and there are social distancing markers throughout. Then Disney Vacation Club Resorts and Fort Wilderness will be reopening on June 22nd. On July 11th we’ll see Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopen. Following that will be on July 15th where Epcot and Hollywood Studios will reopen. Disney will be doing a reservation system to enter the park, which is unlike Universal. Currently (as of June 4th) the reservation system for Disney World is not open. There is no word on when Disney Resort Hotels (that aren’t DVC) will reopen just yet.