Traveling in the time of Covid – Part 2 Universal Orlando – The Three Park Experience
November 3, 2020
By: Carrie Fulton
As I said in my last blog, we decided to head to Universal Studios Orlando as a family because needed a change of scenery and some structure on our Summer vacation. We had become all to used to the lack of motivation to do something so we figured if we had a few things loosely planned, we would have more fun.
We picked Universal for this trip because we wanted to be somewhere we felt safe and protected. Universal has done an amazing job of limiting capacity to be successful for the guidelines they’ve set up AND they followed through with them.
We didn’t walk 10 feet into the lobby of Sapphire Falls before we reached the security checkpoint to have our temperatures taken. The rule is that your temperature must be below 100.4 to be allowed on Universal property. Once you have had your temp checked, you receive a color coded band to wear which allows you to not have it checked again until the follow day when you receive a different colored band.
If you happen to have a higher temperature, they check it again with the other non-touch thermometer at the checkpoint just in case it’s a calibration issue. If you have a higher temp again, they let you sit in a sectioned off place in the lobby for 10 minutes so you can cool down in the AC and have a drink of water before they check you again. If you still aren’t below 100.4, they give you another 10 minutes.
Someone who isn’t able to have a temp below the threshold after four tries, is given a list of nearby rapid Covid testing sites where they can go. That person is not allowed back on property without proof of a negative test or a letter from their doctor explaining a preexisting condition that would medically explain the higher temp.
Of course, I like to test limits and theories so I can understand thresholds so I opted to continue my running on vacation. The first morning we woke up on property, I got up to run early. I went and had my temp checked before heading out and received my band. However, after I ran a few miles in the Florida heat of 80 degrees and 1,000% humidity, I returned to Sapphire Falls, and asked to be checked by the same security person and same thermometer. I registered a 99.4. That tells me that you can feel safe that a healthy person who was melting in the heat should still be ok to be on property.
Because of everyone (including team members) being checked, every day through all the Universal resorts, three theme parks, all resort-wide boats and buses as well as CityWalk (an area with several restaurants and stores adjacent to the parks), we felt that the probability of coming in contact with someone how is sick would be as minimized as it could be…and likely even safer than my weekly trip to the grocery.
Once we were in the resort, there were socially distancing marks on the floor, elevators were restricted to one person or one group at a time, and hand sanitizing dispensers were everywhere throughout the resort. We were required to wear masks everywhere aside from the pool once we were seated and Volcano Bay (Universal’s water theme park).
Within the parks, queues were marked with tape indicating safe social distancing spots, hand sanitizer was administered before entering a ride vehicle and there was an opportunity to get hand sanitizer after the ride with dispensers on the wall after the ride exit. For rides with 3D glasses, those were handed out by a team member with gloves as well as a mask on from a clean rack then returned in the usual bins after use. So there were dozens of fewer hands touched the glasses.
Queues looked long, but they moved quickly! The longest wait we had was for the Hulk rollercoaster for about 50 minutes…in JUNE! That would normally be closer to 90-120 minutes. Ride vehicles were spaced with rows between riders, single riders had rows to themselves, families were seated together and fun was had. The best addition is the virtual queue on many popular rides available on the Universal app. This allows you to “reserve” a time to ride a ride before waiting in line so you can continue to ride other rides or even grab a bite to eat or water rather than standing in line.
Volcano Bay, Universal’s water theme park, was the only pace that felt a bit confusing. Chairs and tables as well as queues were spaced out. However guests were allowed to remove their masks to ride water rides so that left us walking around most of the day sans face covering. Because we went on a very noncrowded day, we felt ok. But it just felt weird seeing strangers’ full faces after not seeing them the rest of the week.
Overall, we enjoyed time tremendously. Between the lower capacity and desperate need for a change of scenery, we made some new and very unique memories. And I can report that we’ve been back two weeks and remain Covid-free!
Next time, I’ll be writing about our experience with airport transfers, renting a car and doing college visits during this trip.
If you’d like to check out videos I did during this trip, go to www.facebook.com/CFulton.WFT or email me at CFulton@WishesFamilyTravel.com to plan your trip to Universal Studios Orlando. You can also learn more about me at https://wishesfamilytravel.com/carrie-fulton-concierge-agent/