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Photo TR: A Visit for Universal Orlando's 30th Anniversary

PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2020 7:58 am
by jedimaster1227
Last week the Universal Orlando Resort reopened for guests for the first time since March 15th, just ahead of the resort's 30th anniversary. It was a surreal experience for me to visit after having not been to the parks for a few months, particularly because these two were the last two I visited right before all of the Orlando parks had shut down due to COVID. I hadn't planned it this way, but when I decided I was going to venture out for a visit, it turned out to be the park's actual 30th anniversary to the day. My goal for the visit was really just to make a lap of each park, get some photos, grab merchandise and if there was time and it was convenient, get a ride or two in while there.

Along the way, I was able to observe the changes found throughout the parks that have come in response to reopening restrictions including reduced capacity, temperature checks, required masks, U-Rest areas and virtual lines. I'll share these thoughts on my experience...

The temperature check process was ridiculously simple. I arrived at 10:30 am, an hour and a half after park opening and there was only one person ahead of me in the temperature check queue. My check took approximately 3 seconds before I could proceed through security, which due to the low crowds was an equally quick transaction. It impacted my experience in absolutely no way.

Most guests (85-90%) that I witnessed during my four hours at the resort observed and respected the park's new policies when it came to masks and social distancing in queues. Masks are required in all areas (other than designated U-Rest spaces) unless you are in the process of eating or drinking. The vast majority of people I saw kept their masks on, but every once in a while you'd see someone on the phone with a mask hanging off of one ear, or another sitting down in a more crowded area with their mask resting under their chin. No employees were walking up to guests to tell them that they needed to abide by the policies, though team members at the entrances of the shops and attractions were quick to remind guests that face coverings were mandatory. I felt safe enough since I wasn't physically anywhere near close to anyone that wasn't participating in the required policies. It was honestly better than I imagined, but not flawless either--about as good as I could expect, knowing that there are plenty of people that are only wearing masks because it is the park policy, not because they believe they need to.

And no, wearing a mask during your entire visit is not bad or experience-ruining. I visited a few of the U-Rest locations to check them out but the only time I took down my mask was when I'd grab a drink at a water fountain. I didn't get overheated or anything. I was used to the experience a few minutes in because I focused on everything else and that seemed to work out fine for me.

Regarding social distancing, I was impressed with how methodical the placement of the social distancing markers were in queues. With the reduced capacity and virtual lines in combination, moving through the lines and stopping on each six foot marker felt natural. I experienced this for Reign of Kong: Skull Island and Hagrid's Magical Motorbike Adventure. My only critique would be that the winding and sometimes dark nature of each of these queues, sometimes made it difficult to know if the next line marker was clear because it was around a corner or hallway... This would result in me stepping forward too soon and the people at the marker behind me following, for me to have to pause and step back a little. The fine line between thematic integrity in the queue and bringing up the lighting a little, but a minor observation--I share only because I felt like it was difficult to avoid a mistake as a result, not because anyone in the line was intentionally choosing to do something wrong by moving forward.

Hand sanitizer is given to every rider as a requirement before their board the vehicle. And riders from different parties are placed with empty rows in between them... This resulted in me having my own row on Kong, along with the row in front of me being empty. For Hagrid's, I was seated with no one to my side but one rider in the row ahead of me, which I didn't think would happen as we were in different parties.

The Virtual Line experience was solid though not always easy to win with if there's one attraction you're trying to get into... It is based on the same system that has been in use for Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, along with Fast and Furious Supercharged, for quite some time. I tried my hand at a virtual line reservation for Hagrid's as soon as I entered the park (the system requires your GPS to be enabled on the app) and was immediately met with a message that no times were available. This message would show consistently with my attempts for the next half hour. Once at the entrance of the attraction, I overheard others around me saying that they were just able to snag a time, and sure enough when I tried I successfully got a reservation for an hour later. The system lets you have two reservations for two attractions at a time, so I grabbed my reservation for Kong to help kill time without going too far. Kong's reservation was for five minutes after I booked it, and from the time I entered the queue with my app scanned to the time I exited the ride, it was 20 minutes. From the entrance of Hagrid's queue (which extends with barricades past the Hogsmeade entrance) to my leaving the ride totaled 27 minutes.

Overall, my four hour visit was an enjoyable one. People's fears about the new social distancing and safety policies really should be calmed by the reports coming out of these first few weeks of operation. Things all worked fairly smoothly. The vast majority of guests in the park obeyed the rules and were civil about the changes in procedure. The U-Rest spots offer an added safe space for those that feel they really need to pause from mask wearing along the way. And virtual queuing eliminates the fear of packed queues putting guests within a concerning distance. This is the new normal, but not the forever normal. To those that find these measures an inconvenience, it is a small price to pay for being able to have these parks in operation, these jobs restored and the businesses up and running to support and feed other businesses around them. I'm grateful the parks are moving in this direction... The alternative is far less enjoyable for everyone.

The Universal Orlando Resort has changed pretty dramatically over the last 30 years. And at some point in the next decade, a new park and even more resorts will open. It'll be quite the ride knowing what is coming next (Super Nintendo World and Universal's Epic Universe at some point) and wondering what else may surprise us...

Re: Photo TR: A Visit for Universal Orlando's 30th Anniversa

PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2020 9:34 am
by bert425
great update, and how wonderful to see pics of the new distancing requirements.

not bad at all, and nice that most are following the directions.

Re: Photo TR: A Visit for Universal Orlando's 30th Anniversa

PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2020 11:14 am
by coneyislandchris
Really encouraging to see such a good response overall from the guests. Seems like Universal really thought out how to properly implement social distancing procedures throughout the park. Great report and photos, thanks Jedi!

Re: Photo TR: A Visit for Universal Orlando's 30th Anniversa

PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2020 12:26 pm
by SharkTums
The idea of a virtual queue for Hagrid's that you don't have to get there at opening for is actually quite attractive for me to think about renewing my pass! I like the 30th merchandise but the dueling dragons merch seems a bit too soon! Thanks for the report.

Re: Photo TR: A Visit for Universal Orlando's 30th Anniversa

PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2020 1:48 pm
by coasterbill
I really do like that coaster. If you forget the insane marketing and the coaster that used to be there and just expect an unreliable Verbolten on crack it's hard not to have a great time.

I look forward to riding it again if we're ever allowed back in the state.

Re: Photo TR: A Visit for Universal Orlando's 30th Anniversa

PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2020 1:52 pm
by Satans Hockey
Same I enjoyed the hell out of Hagrids, I'm looking forward to going back and getting a night ride eventually.

That new Jurassic Park ride looks like a ton of fun. Nice report!

Re: Photo TR: A Visit for Universal Orlando's 30th Anniversa

PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2020 9:11 pm
by SharkTums
^&^^ I have such low expectations for this new coaster after Taron and this being at Universal that I'm sure it will exceed them and hopefully be quite good! Keep in mind, I'm like a super Intamin Fan Girl so that opinion should actually mean something! =)

Re: Photo TR: A Visit for Universal Orlando's 30th Anniversa

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2020 4:45 pm
by Electerik
This TR is super interesting and informative. Thank you.

I guess it's been a while since I was at IOA, because I had no idea that Sinbad was closed or that Green Eggs & Ham was all tater tots now. :p

Re: Photo TR: A Visit for Universal Orlando's 30th Anniversa

PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2020 11:27 am
by DoinItForTheFame
Very interesting TR. It was nice to see how Universal is handling this. Looks like they are doing a great job, and from the photos it looked like most people were obeying the social distancing. - Thanks for this report! Now others of us know kind of what to expect as we plan future park visits for this summer.

Re: Photo TR: A Visit for Universal Orlando's 30th Anniversa

PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2020 5:27 pm
by cparkes92
DoinItForTheFame wrote:Very interesting TR. It was nice to see how Universal is handling this. Looks like they are doing a great job, and from the photos it looked like most people were obeying the social distancing. - Thanks for this report! Now others of us know kind of what to expect as we plan future park visits for this summer.


Someone has to be the guinea pig and Universal seems to be doing a good job of being it, from what I have seen (I've seen TRs and the video Molly from AllEars.net put up on YouTube)