Theme parks have been popular vacation destinations for many years. This year has obviously been challenging for the parks. Disneyland in California has been closed for months with no definite timeline to reopen. The major parks in Florida have reopened with limited occupancy and strict safety guidelines in place.
As a travel agent, I normally have no hesitation encouraging people to travel, but this year has been different. Before encouraging others to travel, I wanted to get out and experience some of the current situations.
At the end of September, I found someone to watch the dogs (that was not an easy task) loaded up the truck and met my parents at Universal Studios Florida. My parents had not visited since the original park opened and wanted to see the “new” Harry Potter areas. While there we also got to celebrate mom’s birthday. (Just an FYI the day after I got home, I left again for a week in Mexico and I’ll be sharing that experience soon)
Since none of us felt like dealing with driving or parking while on vacation, we stayed at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort on the property and took advantage of the shuttles. It was a very comfortable place to stay. The room was comfortable and very clean. We upgraded our room to a view of Volcano Bay (don’t tell Dad since he paid the bill 😊). I’m fairly confident that mom would have been happy sitting in front of the floor to ceiling window watching all the lights on the volcano and from the attractions on International Drive. During our three days at the resort, we only saw other people in our tower one time. I could not prove that there were other people in the building. The resort is following special cleaning protocols and avoiding renting the rooms back to back. They are remaining empty for at least 24 to 48 hours between guests.
I’ll admit that I don’t visit Universal very often. Disney is so good at marketing it is easy to forget that there are other options in Florida. Universal is a great park for adults and older kids. The rides have a higher level of excitement and thrill than most of the Disney rides. Mom felt like she was one of the oldest people in the park, but she did great and seemed to love the theming and atmosphere even though is not a person who enjoys rides.
The resorts, transportation and parks were all conducting temperature checks. They offered daily wrist bands, so you only had to get checked one time a day. Masks are a requirement nearly everywhere in the parks and resorts. I won’t debate the importance of masks, but I will say that wearing them was much less of an annoyance than I thought they would be. Pick masks that have some room inside. They are more comfortable when they are not touching your nostrils.
The social distancing practices that have been implemented have actually made the park more comfortable than it was before the pandemic. It was so nice to not invaded by other family groups while standing in line. There was not a single incident where someone was pushing past us in line to “catch up” with their family. It was also wonderful to not have anyone bumping me while standing in line. We could have conversations, catch the breeze and enjoy the surroundings. The lines during the week were incredibly short. Most rides were 15 minutes or less.
Dining options were plentiful, but some venues are still operating on a limited schedule so stay flexible when picking where you want to go. Most of the shows were open and there were cast members to help guests find seats. They spread everyone out and made sure that people still had good views of the stage.
Universal is a beautiful and fun park. I highly recommend a visit. I am a person who takes COVID seriously but believes that we can live reasonably normal lives by following simple safety precautions such as wearing masks and avoiding crowds. With that said, I personally was very comfortable visiting the park and actually plan to visit again next week.
Dad says that he does not like roller coasters but watched the Hulk and The Rip Ride Rockit with great interest. He went straight to all the family-friendly coasters and I heard him giggle (in a manly way of course) while on the Mummy. I’m sure he did not know it was a coaster before getting to the end of the line. We will see if he steps up to the big ones this time 😊
What do you want to know about the park or the safety policies in place? Let me know!
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