A Guide to COVID-19 Safety at the Universal Orlando Resort
This post is written by Lucy Hess, Outside the Lines Travel's Orlando Consultant. If you are considering a trip to the Universal Orlando Resort to meet some wizards or enjoy some amusement, this article is for you!
When theme parks started to reopen in the summer of 2020, I became very interested in the measures that these parks were taking to make the experience as safe as possible for park goers. The best way to get information on these measures and changes was to go see it for myself, so in June of 2020, my mom, sister, and I went to the Universal Orlando Resort to do just that. Let’s take a look at what we experienced!
Guests are required to wear masks at all times except when eating or drinking while stationary and maintaining social distance. Masks with exhalation valves and/or holes of any kind are not permitted; neither are bandanas or neck gaiters. The only other times you are permitted to be without a mask in the parks are at the U-Rest Areas around the park (more on those in a moment), while on a water ride, or while partaking in water-based activities at Volcano Bay (more on that soon as well!). Universal has signs posted around the parks to remind guests of these safety measures as well as team members throughout the parks who are enforcing the mask policy.
At multiple locations in Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida there are “U-Rest Areas.” These are large areas where guests can take off their masks (while remaining socially distanced) and relax for a bit. When I was visiting, it was very easy to find a spot far away from other guests to take a break and still feel safe. My favorite U-Rest Area is in the Eighth Voyage of Sinbad Theater in Islands of Adventure - it’s shaded, massive, and pretty cool to look at, too!
Social Distancing and Ride Safety
All of the queues in the parks have been marked to allow for six feet between parties. Due to guest demand, Universal has recently started seating every row on some attractions. If the attractions are slow moving (such as Skull Island: Reign of Kong), there are plexiglass barriers in between rows to increase safety. On faster attractions (like the Incredible Hulk Coaster) there is no plexiglass in place on the actual ride vehicle, but there is plexiglass in between rows on the loading platform. If a ride is not boarding every row (depending on the size of the ride vehicle), you will either have your own vehicle or team members will seat guests in every other row.
Here are the plexiglass barriers in the loading area of Men in Black: Alien Attack.
This is what the social distancing markers look like in the attraction queues.
Temperature Checks and Security
Before you enter your Universal Orlando theme park of choice, you have to get your temperature checked and make your way through security. I stayed at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and the procedure there is the same at all other Universal Orlando hotels: on your way to your choice of transportation to the parks, you encounter a team member who is there to take your temperature for the day. Once your temperature is taken, you will be given a wristband signifying that you have been checked for the day and are safe to enter the parks. This is a daily occurrence for the duration of your stay at a Universal Orlando hotel. Security is the same as it has always been - it’s like a scaled-down of airport security. You place your belongings in a small x-ray scanner and walk through a metal detector. If you are staying on property, this happens before you board your transportation. If you are coming from off Universal property, your temperature will be checked at the gates to CityWalk and you will be security screened there as well.
Hand Sanitizer and Cleaning
Right before you board each attraction, you will encounter a friendly team member who is giving hand sanitizer to each guest. Right as you pass them, they will give you a squirt of hand sanitizer to ensure that you have clean hands before touching any part of the ride vehicle. Ride vehicles are cleaned periodically throughout the day. As you exit each attraction, there is hand sanitizer available to you in multiple locations throughout the ride’s exit. Hand sanitizer is also available all over the parks. If you are planning to eat in the parks, before you enter the restaurant to order, a team member will ask that you sanitize your hands with the sanitizer provided at the entrance.
Here is a team member at Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts - they have hand sanitizer at the ready for you!
Universal has also increased the frequency with which they clean high touch surfaces. Multiple times during my visit, I saw team members making their way through areas of the park with a spray bottle and cloth wiping down virtually every surface they could find.
There are two modes of transportation to get to the Universal theme parks if you are staying on property: the resort shuttle buses and the water taxis. Both have seen some changes to increase guest safety. On the resort shuttles, guests are directed to separate sections of the shuttle by a team member upon boarding. Seats are blocked off to ensure a safe distance between parties. On the water taxis, every other row has been made unavailable for distancing purposes. If a row or seat is unavailable, they are marked with clear signage.
You can also choose to walk on the paved, well-lit walkways that are between the parks and resort hotels.
Volcano Bay Safety
Volcano Bay (Universal's waterpark) was an interesting experience in terms of COVID-19 safety. Because you are partaking in mostly water-based fun at the park, it makes it difficult to wear a mask. The CDC recommends that you don’t wear your mask during activities that could get your mask wet, so at Volcano Bay, masks are to be taken off on attractions. Masks are required to be worn while ordering food or drink in the park, in merchandise locations, and upon park entrance and exit. Masks are encouraged while walking through the park, but are not required.
Around the park, there are signs that remind you of these guidelines. Though this park is currently closed, we expect these protocols to be in place upon its reopening.
Additional Safety Information
There are still multiple opportunities for Character Interactions throughout the parks. Characters come out onto little stages around the park and pose for socially distant selfies and pictures with guests. The Universal characters are fun and lively, so be sure to stop and say hello if you see them. In front of each meet and greet spot, there are a few social distance markers on the ground to keep both guests and characters safe.
Universal also has other forms of entertainment around the parks. Favorites like the Blues Brothers Show are back, but with social distance markers on the ground and increased safety precautions for the performers. The Mystic Fountain is still performing as well, just with some social distance markers on the ground so that guests can enjoy its jokes safely.
If you want to minimize your time in lines, you can always purchase the Universal Express Pass. Since rides have a wildly decreased capacity right now, lines are a lot longer than you may be used to, so the Express Pass is definitely worth the cost.. Most queues in the Universal parks are somewhat indoor, and though Universal has done a great job with increasing park safety, I still don’t like to be inside for too long, and the utilizing the Express Pass really helped with that.
Visiting Universal is a slightly different experience right now, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t lots of fun. I had a blast on my last trip and felt extremely safe on Universal property for my entire stay. Whenever you’re ready to travel again, Universal is waiting for you and working hard to keep you safe and comfortable. As always, you can reach out to the travel advisors at Outside the Lines Travel and they’d be happy to assist you in planning your next adventure!
-Blog contributor: Lucy Hess