After almost 3 months of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Universal Orlando Resort opened its doors to the public on June 5, 2020. I made a trip down with my husband to check out the new health and safety procedures and experience the parks at historically low crowd levels. Although each person has to decide for themselves when they feel safe traveling, I personally felt comfortable being at the parks again because of the rigorous procedures Universal has put in place to promote physical distancing and increased sanitization.
On Site Hotel Procedures
For this trip, we did a split stay between Royal Pacific Resort and Cabana Bay Beach Resort. We started our stay at Royal Pacific and, as soon as we began our approach to the front door, there was an attendant stationed to remind people to put their masks on. Universal requires that masks be worn in all common areas at the on site hotels. The only exceptions to this are the pool areas and when seated at a restaurant eating. Masks are also worn by all hotel employees.
Once we entered the lobby at Royal Pacific, we were greeted by a security officer who took our temperature and gave us a colored wrist band to wear. The color of the wrist band changes daily to ensure that guests get their temperature taken each day of their stay. Temperatures must be 100.4 or lower. If guests cannot pass the temperature check, they and their entire party will not be allowed to check-in at the hotel. Once your temperature is taken in the hotel lobby, you don’t have to have it taken again at the parks. The temperature check was a very quick and easy process.
Once we were in the lobby, we went to the check-in desk and received our room keys which, at Royal Pacific, also serve as our express passes. There were social distancing markings on the ground as well as ample signage reminding guests to stay 6 feet away from each other. The front desk staff were separated from us by clear partitions and hand sanitizer was readily available. We were informed that house-keeping would not be taking place during our stay, but that we could text the front desk if we needed additional linens or shampoo, etc. Our room at Royal Pacific was sparkling clean and we were told that the room is deep cleaned between each guest and kept empty for 24-48 hours between stays.
The check-in process at Cabana Bay Beach Resort was very similar to Royal Pacific. Temperature check stations were set up at each entrance, there were social distancing markings in place, and the front desk staff thoroughly sanitized their stations between guests. House-keeping was also not available at Cabana Bay, but we had the option to contact the front desk for extra supplies if needed. Rooms at Cabana Bay receive the same cleaning process as Royal Pacific.
Like the theme parks, the on site resort hotels are operating at reduced capacity. I felt as though there were less people staying at Royal Pacific than at Cabana Bay, but that is likely because Cabana Bay is at a more attractive price point than Royal Pacific. Even though the crowds were a bit higher at Cabana Bay, I still found it easy to remain physically distanced from others. Due to the reduced capacity and the desire to avoid large gatherings, some of the hotel offerings such as the Wantilan Luau and Despicable Me Character Breakfast at Royal Pacific were not available and the pools at Cabana Bay alternated their operating hours. However, there were still plenty of things to do and plenty of places to eat onsite.
Bus and water taxi transportation to the theme parks is running continuously from the hotels. Park shuttles are operating at reduced capacity to ensure that proper physical distancing measures can be observed. Guests are only placed in close proximity to their own travel party and are seated a safe distance from other travel parties.
Universal’s theme parks are employing a variety of strategies to promote health. The parks are operating at reduced capacity with admission on a first come first served basis. On site hotel guests are automatically included in the capacity limits for each day of their stay. Temperature checks are also being done at the entrance to each park and guests must have a temperature of 100.4 or lower in order to be admitted. If a guest’s temperature is higher than 100.4, they and their party will not be allowed to enter the parks.
Masks must also be worn at the theme parks and at CityWalk by guests 3 and older unless they are on a water ride or eating at a dining location. Masks must secure around the ears or behind the head, fit snugly under the chin and against the sides of the face, and cover both the mouth and nose. Team members are doing a fantastic job consistently yet kindly reminding guests to wear the appropriate face coverings. For guests who need a break from their masks, Universal has U-Rest areas located inside the theme parks and in CityWalk where guests can social distance and take their masks off for a while.
Social distancing markings and signage are plentiful throughout the parks and team members provide guests with hand sanitizer prior to boarding each ride vehicle. Guests are spaced apart in lines and on ride vehicles and many attractions are also utilizing a virtual queue system through the Universal app. Hand sanitizer stations and signs encouraging guests to wash their hands in nearby restrooms are also found throughout the parks. Team members regularly sanitize ride vehicles as well as high touch surfaces such as rails, benches, etc. Coke Freestyle machines also have self-serve sanitary wipe stations available for guests.
Restaurants are encouraging guests to use mobile ordering to cut down on face to face time with team members. When food is brought to the table, team members bring it on a tray and allow guests to remove their items themselves. Like the parks in general, the restaurants are operating at reduced capacity and spacing guests apart appropriately when dining.
Characters are still very much a part of the action at the Universal theme parks! There are character photo ops throughout the parks allowing guests to pose and take pictures with characters at an appropriate distance. I found that I actually preferred this approach to character interactions to the typical character meet and greet opportunities.
Should I Travel to Universal Right Now?
That’s a question that every person has to answer for themselves, but I have no personal qualms about traveling to Universal right now. The trip that I took with my husband shortly after the parks reopened was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken! We got to enjoy the parks we love with significantly lower crowd levels and we didn’t feel that we missed out on any of the experience. With our express passes we had no wait times at all and we were able to ride our favorite rides (some more than once) and still have plenty of time to take in the sights and stop for a bite to eat or a bit of shopping. The longest line we waited in all day was for Hagrid’s (the newest and most popular ride in the parks) which doesn’t accept express pass. From the time we checked in for our virtual queue for Hagrid’s to the time we were getting our stuff back out of the locker, a total of 50 minutes had elapsed. Compared to the wait times for Hagrid’s at regular park capacity, we hardly waited at all! With historically low crowd levels and rigorous cleaning procedures in place, I think that now is a great time to take a trip to Universal Orlando Resort. I’m already planning my next trip!