This guest blog comes from the lovely Krysti over at Orlando Decoded.
Universal Orlando will officially re-open to the public on June 5th, but as an annual pass holder, I got to experience a special preview this morning. Here’s what to expect when visiting the Universal theme parks during this unprecedented time:
1.) It’s difficult to determine an estimated wait time for attractions.
Universal is using virtual queue lines for many attractions. Assuming this system would work similarly to the Tapu-Tapu at Volcano Bay, I expected the majority of my “wait” to occur between the time that I reserved my virtual spot and the beginning of my return time window. While I would not have been surprised by a short wait at the attraction (between 10-15 minutes), I was shocked to encounter an almost full queue at Escape from Gringott’s. Even after arriving at my designated time window, I waited 40 minutes in the (socially-distanced) queue for the attraction. As an added frustration, none of the “Wait Time” signs are operational. When you’re using a virtual queue there is no indication, either on the building or the app, what your actual wait will be until you are already in line for your chosen ride.
2.) You will sanitize your hands before boarding rides.
If you’ve ever ridden a roller coaster, dark ride, or literally any other type of attraction, you know it’s impossible not touch your seat and lap bar. These points of common contact are, understandably, an area of great concern when you’re dealing with a worldwide pandemic. Of course, time is also a consideration when there are thousands of people wanting to ride the same attraction. To solve this problem, Universal Team Members are distributing hand sanitizer to every single party boarding the ride vehicle. The sanitizer is given just before you board, so your hands are squeaky clean before riding.
3.) Your pictures will be selfies.
For understandable reasons, no Team Members are allowed to touch a guest’s cell phone or camera. Of course, this means that if you want a picture with a character or landmark, you’ll be taking it yourself.
4.) Speaking of characters, you’ll be distanced from them too.
Traditional character meet and greets, including hugs and close photo-ops, won’t be occurring any time soon. Instead, characters are on a stage, vehicle, or building to wave and pose for your picture.
5.) There are no pre-shows.
As you’re navigating these socially-distanced, winding queue lines, you won’t have the relief of amusing pre-show entertainment. To avoid encouraging people to group together while trying to view a single screen or experience, the staff have simply disabled all pre-show elements.
6.) Social distancing markers are not everywhere.
By this time, I’m sure you’ve seen the helpful “social-distancing” stickers on the floor of businesses, restaurants, etc. These stickers help people remember to maintain a distance of six feet between themselves and the party in front of them. While Universal has placed these stickers in some obvious areas, like the queue lines and turnstiles, they are missing from other high-traffic locations that really need these reminders. For example, the security line does not have these stickers, and it gets very busy as people are arriving for the parks. Without these reminders, many people forget to leave an adequate amount of space. This may make some people uncomfortable.
7.) If you’re tired of wearing your mask, you can visit a designated “relief area.”
Within each park, you can find two “U-Rest” areas to remove your face mask and take a short break. At Universal Studios, you can visit the Central Park Lagoon and Fear Factor stadium. At Islands of Adventure, you will find them at either the Sinbad theater or Port of Entry Landing. There areas are not intended for long-term visits and are not equipped with social distancing markers or any “comforts” at all. They are simply a place to take a few breaths of fresh air before returning to the park.
8.) Remember that the Universal Team Members are learning a “new normal” too.
Just as we are learning the rules of this new world, so are Universal’s Team Members. If you ask a question, they will give you the most accurate and educated information that they can, but it’s expected they will make mistakes. Please be patient and understanding.
Even with weeks to research, prepare, and train for this “new normal” and post-COVID shutdown world, it’s not surprising that there are a few hiccups and challenges to overcome. As theme parks continue to re-open all over Central Florida, it’s important to remember that these new stipulations and procedures are works in progress. As the world situation changes and theme parks learn new ways to cope, the experience will continue to improve.
Meet the Author.
A travel professional and theme park enthusiast, Krysti Reif has lived in Orlando for most of her adult life. With a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and her years of exploring the city, you can be sure that Krysti will help you get the most of Orlando’s attractions, culture, and foodie scene. Her Orlando travel blog can be found http://orlandodecoded.com
When she’s not enjoying a roller coaster or haunted house, you can usually find Krysti planning her next vacation. You can read about her other travels at http://worlddecoded.com