Although the COVID-19 crisis is far from over, the Universal Orlando Resort is back in business, welcoming guests to its theme parks and hotels. But that doesn’t mean that things are back to business as usual; on the contrary, the current Universal Orlando experience is far different from previous vacations you may remember. We’ve spent the last few weeks exploring the resort’s new health and safety procedures, in order to bring you the first in-depth Unofficial Guide to a Socially Distanced Universal Orlando.
The global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 novel coronavirus has affected every aspect of life as we know it, and theme parks are no exception. Efforts to “flatten the curve” prompted an unprecedented three-month closure of all Central Florida attractions in the spring of 2020. Universal Orlando was the first major resort to emerge from quarantine in early June 2020, paving the path to reopening, which Walt Disney World plans to follow in July.
Currently, the majority of the Universal Orlando Resort is open for business, including both theme parks and the water park, along with CityWalk and most of the on-site hotels. However, visiting the attractions is now a much different experience than it was before, thanks to numerous new health protocols that Universal (in cooperation with the CDC and local authorities) has implemented across its property. Mandatory temperature checks and face masks, limited attraction capacities, and modified entertainment offerings are only the most visible ways in which the resort is working to balance its responsibility towards public health against getting employees back to work.
Hopefully, coronavirus will have been conquered by the time you visit Universal Orlando, and the restrictions discussed below will be little more than a memory. On the other hand, it may still be many months—or even years—before the attractions fully operate as they did prior to the pandemic; just as once-unfamiliar phrases like “social distancing” are now part of our daily vocabulary, we should expect that some of the extraordinary measures implemented to slow the virus’s spread might stick around long-term as part of our “new normal.”
Reading about all these new restrictions may make you wonder if a visit to Universal Orlando is even worthwhile under these circumstances. Although it’s probably not the ideal time for your first-and-only once-in-a-lifetime vacation, returning guests who can get accustomed to the alterations will enjoy the benefits of a much more intimate experience, minus the usual crushing mobs. If you don’t mind wearing a face mask all day but can’t tolerate anything approaching a crowd, you may consider the post-pandemic parks a paradise.
Even with all the precautions the parks are taking, you may also rightly wonder if visiting Orlando is really safe for your family. Universal Orlando explicitly warns on their website that “exposure to COVID-19 is an inherent risk in any public location where people are present; we cannot guarantee you will not be exposed during your visit.” Obviously, you’ll need to evaluate your own tolerance for risk, carefully considering any complicating factors that may put you or a member of your party at heightened risk. We can say that for the most part, Universal has enforced its social distancing policies with impressive seriousness (at least from a guest’s perspective), and this author feels far safer walking around Universal than his neighborhood supermarket.
COVID-19 Know Before You Go Checklist:
- Bring face coverings to wear at all times, and be prepared for temperature checks upon arrival.
- Be mindful of social distancing precautions; observe posted safety signs and spacing markers.
- Use hand sanitizer before and after experiencing attractions, and wash your hands frequently.
- Some attractions, restaurants, and amenities may be unavailable or offer modified experiences.
- Anticipate that capacity restrictions will slow down standby queues, and take advantage of Virtual Line options where available.
- Use the Universal app’s Mobile Ordering, contactless payments, and other smartphone features to minimize physical contact.
In the upcoming installments of this multi-part series, you’ll find complete details on the cornonavirus-related changes you will find at Universal Orlando as long as the current social distancing protocols remain in effect. The information is accurate at the time of publication, but Universal’s policies are constantly evolving. Before you visit, be sure to check out Universal’s Safety FAQs for the latest updates on the resort’s operations.
Follow these links to the further installments of our Unofficial Guide to a Socially Distanced Universal Orlando:
- The Basics
- Theme Park Entry and Attractions
- Shows and Entertainment
- Kids and Characters
- Shopping and Dining
- Resort Hotels
- Volcano Bay
For all there is to see and do at Universal Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Do you have any info on how the Universal hotels are handling visitors from the NY metro area?