As we slowly move toward expanding our bubble and taking baby steps toward travel, many people want to be reassured that they will feel safe enough to do so. I can’t answer that for you, but I can share with you EXACTLY what we experienced when visiting the Orlando theme parks during Covid-19. Both Universal Studios Orlando and the Walt Disney World Resort practiced health and safety protocols to make us all feel overwhelmingly safe.
- RESORTS– We stayed in the Loews Royal Pacific Resort in Universal Studios and both the Caribbean Beach Resort and the Contemporary Resort in Disney World. Upon arrival at the Royal Pacific, we were required to stop for a temperature check before entering the lobby. After our temperature check, we were given a color-coded bracelet to wear so that we could enter and exit that and any other resort without stopping for a temperature check again that day. This check happened daily and the bracelets were a different color each day. At check-in, we stood on line on socially distanced markers until it was our turn to approach the podium. Guests and team members wore masks (there was a lot of signage reminding us to do so) and there was a plexiglass divider to separate us from the team member as well as one to separate us from the other guests who were at the podium. The elevator to the rooms had multiple contactless hand sanitizing stations in the area. There was signage reminding guests to social distance in the elevators by only riding with people in our party or with up to 4 members who were not traveling together. The guest room seemed thoroughly cleaned. The TV remote control was wrapped in a plastic bag with a sticker indicating it had been sanitized. There were no glass cups in the room. Instead, there was disposable paper drinkware. The procedures in the Disney resorts were similar. Unlike the Universal resort, there were no temperature checks in the resorts. Instead, a health check disclaimer was activated on our mobile devices as soon as we entered on the property, but we were not required to sign it or acknowledge it in any way. We were, however, encouraged to ONLY complete the online check in form and bypass the front desk altogether. We chose to check in at the desk and the health and safety precautions were the same as in the Universal Resort, with social distance markers, mask requirements and plexiglass dividers. The process for the elevators was the same as well. However, we did notice that the wait time for an elevator from the 4th floor of the Contemporary Resort up to our room on the 10th floor was excessive as this floor had all of the dining and shopping areas so there was more traffic from here. We had a much easier time getting on an elevator on the ground floor. The rooms at our Disney resorts were well sanitized just as the Universal room was. Full disclosure: we did opt to bring Clorox wipes with us to wipe down the high traffic surfaces in our rooms. You can never be too careful when visiting the Orlando theme parks during COVID-19.
- CITYWALK AND DISNEY SPRINGS- Guests arriving to these eating and shopping districts via car were required to go through security and temperature checks before entering. Guests arriving to Disney Springs via resort transportation were also required to go through temperature checks before admittance. In Universal Studios, guests arriving via resort transportation or on foot were able to bypass a temperature check if they were wearing a bracelet from the resort, but still had to go through security. Masks are required at both venues and there was ample signage throughout the area with health check information and reminders to socially distance, wear your mask, and avoid the areas if you show any symptoms.
- TRANSPORTATION- Universal Orlando was great because we were able to walk almost everywhere, eliminating the need for transportation. This was a huge perk of staying in one of their premier resorts. Nevertheless, we did utilize their boat and bus options. The queue for the boat was well spaced out with social distance markers and contactless hand sanitizers. Seating was at 50% capacity so it was one group or family per bench seated in every other bench. It was great. Buses were the same. There were hand sanitizers at the bus stop and the driver told us where to sit on the bus to maintain social distancing. There were plexiglass partitions between groups of seats. Queue and transportation times did not feel any longer due to these precautions. In the Walt Disney World Resort properties, we were able to experience the buses, monorail, Skyliner as well as Uber. Our experience with the buses was the same as on Universal property in terms of the capacity and physical partitions aboard, but there are some differences between the two Orlando theme parks during COVID-19. Wait times were much different. Disney is a much larger resort than Universal. Whereas on Universal property, you had a lot of guests arriving by car as well as walking from nearby resorts, the Disney property transportation was required to travel from the resort to each theme park. Wait times were excessive for all means of transportation when we were traveling at peak times (i.e. park open or close). The Skyliner (as was the case pre-COVID) accommodated one single group or family so social distancing was easy. The monorail sat on party or group of up to four on each bench so there was plenty of distance between us. Uber drivers and passengers were required to wear masks and some cars had plexiglass dividers between the front and back seats. This option was our quickest mode of transportation by far. Also of note- the monorail was not running to Epcot so bus transportation or Uber is the only option from monorail resorts.
- RESTAURANTS AND STORES- Restaurant locations at the Orlando theme parks during COVID-19 are all utilizing mobile ordering. In most of the venues, we were not even able to view menus unless it was via our mobile devices. This would be problematic for people without smart phones. Restaurants in Disney were taking reservations which was very helpful. Quick service locations were not and, especially in the theme parks, these locations seemed to overwhelm the system during peak times as many venues remain closed still, thus limiting the options for guests. If you want a guarantee for lunch, it is likely in your best interest to make a reservation in advance and rule out a quick service meal. All venues had contactless hand sanitizing stations at the check in and many had plexiglass dividers between tables and booths. Many restaurants had limited menus across the board. Contactless hand sanitizers were located near the store entrances in both Universal and Disney. Contactless payment options were offered. Capacity was limited in stores in both theme park locations with employees monitoring entrances and exits and social distance markers outside of the shops for queues. Shoppers within the stores didn’t always adhere to social distancing guidelines, though, and there were no cast or team members to monitor that.
- THEME PARKS- Entrances to the Disney theme parks now include BOTH health checks AND security checks. Temperatures are quickly taken by Advent Health employees using contactless thermometers. Masks are checked and there were vending machines where guests could purchase single use masks for $2. Security no longer handles guest bags. Instead, we were asked to remove items such as metal water bottles, umbrellas and items with lithium batteries and then we could proceed through metal detectors with whatever else remained in our park bags. Lines were very quick and efficient. Universal had similar protocols, but guests staying on property and who had bracelets indicating they’d already had a health check were able to bypass that step. Ride queues in both the Universal theme parks and Disney theme parks were well marked for social distance. Disney uses the space in their FastPass lanes to accommodate overflow of guests and then markers continue outside of the ride queue with plenty of cast members guiding the lines and monitoring social distance. Universal guests are able to utilize Express Pass and Standby and both lines were well marked and socially distant. Disney had contactless hand sanitizers located before you boarded your ride vehicle as well as when you exited the attraction. You MUST keep your mask on at all times on all attractions. In Universal, a team member actually stood at the ride entrance and gave each guest hand sanitizer before you were allowed to board the ride vehicle. This was GREAT and did not slow the queue at all. Contactless sanitizers were also located at the end of each ride. Masks were required at all times in this park as well. Character meet and greets were limited and socially distanced. In Disney, there were many character cavalcades with opportunities to see characters from a distance in a series of “mini parades”. These cavalcades occurred frequently throughout the day and were not scheduled so crowds did not gather. Although team members were present to monitor social distancing, there were guests who did not follow the rules. There were many opportunities for pictures by PhotoPass photographers. They are no longer able to take photos with your camera and you must wear a mask at all times. In Universal, characters popped up in specific locations throughout the parks with an opportunity to pose with them from a distance.
All in all, when visiting the Orlando theme parks during Covid-19, we found they are doing a great job making their guests feel safe. They are managing to do all of this while offering as close to a pre-COVID theme park visit as possible. These MousekeMoms really felt no different than we do visiting our local grocery stores. Have questions? Let us know!