Take my money Universal,You’ve earned my trust back.
A little over a month ago I decided to postpone my families 2 week August holiday to Universal’s Cabana Bay, this decision was heavily based on next years availability and restrictions that I thought would be in place. While my family are feeling positive about postponing our trip I am definitely regretting it.
I would never have thought that I would be willing to sit 9 hours on a plane, spend a lot of money and walk around a theme park in a facemask all day but the longer I am away, all sense goes out the window. As someone who already struggles with the Florida heat and if you follow me over on Instagram you will probably have noticed that I have sunburn on every personal photo, I couldn’t imagine that I would be willing to wear a face covering in Orlando. Besides from being very impressed with Universal and how I view the preview days have went, the realisation that face masks and social distancing are likely to be the new normal for the foreseeable future makes me appreciate that if I can wear a mask and other PPE at work then I can definitely wear one in my favourite place and still have fun. PPE is a big part of my job and has been for the past 4 years, I am very used to wearing N10 respirators,PVC and paper suits and gloves etc in excess of 40 ome hope that I could cope on holiday.
Universal Studios Orlando opened on June 1st and 2nd for Team Members and June 3rd and 4th for Annual Passholders, and it has been amazing to see actual footage from inside the parks again. Over the past few days I have been watching as many vlogs on YouTube as I could find, the best of which were RixFlix who I usually don’t watch. RixFlix had attended both the Team Members preview and Passholder preview days, as you would imagine the Team Members preview day was significantly less busy which was absolutely visible in both crowds and wait times.pandemic aside the Team Member preview seemed like an absolute dream way to spend a day with most rides being walk ons and there being generally very few people wandering about. Don’t get me wrong the pass holders preview was not without its faults but the way Universal has acted during this Pandemic has made me very jealous of everybody lucky enough to be back in the parks.
I expressed my biggest concerns and questions about the parks re-opening a couple weeks back in my first post and I fully expected these to become moot points once the parks re-opened which has definitely been the case. I am genuinely blown away by how in control I feel Universal have been and how overwhelmingly positive the theme park experience remains. Here are a list of changes that Universal Studios Orlando have made,
• Masks must be worn around the parks except for when eating, drinking or whilst on water rides.
• Masks can be taken off for a bit of relief in “U Rest areas” these are spaces such as the Central Park area in Universal Studios where masks can be removed as long as social distancing is maintained.
• Virtual lines are available for most attractions alongside stand by lines, this does however not apply to Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure which is exclusively a virtual line ride only.
• Buffet style options are no longer available.
• Contactless payments and mobile ordering is strongly encouraged, as of right now Annual Passholder discount is not available via mobile ordering although this is expected to be implemented soon.
• Meet and Greets and street performances are still taking place, all meet and greet opportunities are socially distanced and are mostly taking place on podiums so that the characters are higher up and so far have made for some great photos.
• Coke freestyle machines are still operating however Team Members are positioned nearby to clean the machines after every use.
• There is an in and out system for using the ride lockers, Team Members will allow one party at a time to hire/withdraw from a locker in each locker section.
• Extra lockers are being erected next to Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey, the lockers for all Harry Potter rides have actually been an issue for a long time they are dark, cramped and entirely too small for the amount of foot traffic they experience, this is a very welcomed alteration.
• The Horror Make Up Show is currently not being shown, this is a very interactive show which I can definitely see returning soon presumably with script alterations and losing the interactive elements.
• Although Universal will be running at a reduced capacity expected to be around 10,000 all Universal Orlando Resort guests are GUARANTEED entry to the parks.
• Single rider lines have been eliminated.
• Temperature checks are required to gain entry to Citywalk,Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
• Social distancing is observed on ride vehicles and some rows are missed out.
• Masks and face coverings are not required in Volcano Bays pools or water slides.
So far I think that the new changes are very positive and may even create a much more enjoyable experience for visitors, even in a post social distancing World I can imagine that people will be desperate to keep the virtual line system which already worked fantastically for Race Through New York and Fast and Furious Supercharged as well as the TapuTapu system at Volcano Bay which allows you to enjoy your day so much more and ensures that you don’t feel like you have spent the whole day waiting in line. Universals enforcement of social distancing has so far been exemplary and will no doubt be the standard that other theme parks will try to emulate, I also believe that the way in which Universal Studios Orlando has re-opened is the fairest system with great understanding shown to its visitors. As someone who is not in the Disney bubble and have many disappointed friends with holidays to Walt Disney World booked the overwhelming feeling of disappointment and having every single penny squeezed out of them with the cancellation of fastpasses,dining reservations, dining plans and extra magic hours etc is the opposite to the overwhelming optimism I see for Universal Orlando, I think Universal will really win some fans over during this time, particularly as they have an almost 6 weeks head start to Walt Disney World reopening and the way in which they are requiring reservations.
I would also just like to express how amazing Universal Studios have been, Universal has been my happy place and somewhere I escape to particularly in recent years for various personal reasons, the social media team have had an almost impossible job on their hands of entertaining thousands of followers without the park being open but the POV videos, quizzes etc have been an amazing source of positivity and have helped on days where I have really missed the parks. Guest services have also been so helpful regarding questions I had about the parks and my annual pass, I have a seasonal pass which is exceptional value I seriously could not recommend it highly enough and guest services have said they are very happy to allow me to use my pass whenever I can eventually get back to the parks. After seeing photos of the Vintage Universal Studios merchandise I almost instantaneously emailed the merchandising team to see if it would be at all possible to have the T-shirt shipped to the UK and they were happy to fulfil my order, I am so excited for this T-shirt if you haven’t already seen the new range then prepare to part with some money because it is absolutely beautiful and some of the best merchandise I have ever seen Universal release. My travel plans were changed greatly by Covid-19 I had planned on visiting 4 times this year and doing the VIP tour on my birthday as I am just desperate to explore the Revenge of The Mummy show building. So far I have a week long stay booked at the Endless Summer Dockside Inn in January, however I have a recurring transfer set up to my Revolut savings account (which I use for travel),face masks at the ready and deliveries of holiday clothes coming pretty much every week, once the travel ban is lifted I getting on the first available flight I can get and heading back home to Universal Studios Orlando.
Have you experienced the re-opening of Universal Studios first hand or been keeping up with the latest footage? Let me know how well you think things are going and if it has changed your mind about visiting while social distancing is required. Thank you for reading and stay safe.