When I arrived at the on-site hotel, my temperature was immediately checked. If I failed, I would be placed in an air-conditioned room and tested 2 more times. If I failed all three, I would be advised to seek “medical attention” and would not be allowed on site. Thankfully, I passed! I was given a bracelet to wear for the day that exempted me from all other temp checks including at the theme parks. There were signs and hand sanitizer everywhere. For example, the elevator bay had a sign that stated only one family or travel party in the elevator at a time. Since the hotel was only about 1/3 full, it was never a long wait.
As I made my way to the parks, all transportation options were available including the buses and boat shuttles. Seats and rows were marked off to maintain social distancing, but since there was a limited number of guests at the hotel, it was never an issue catching the next bus. The buses and boats bypassed the temp check station and took you directly to the park entrance.
I was immediately greeting with a recording asking people to wear masks and maintain 6 ft between you and the group in front of you. This repeated about every 30 minutes over the loudspeaker. Just in case you forget, there are floor markers all over the place. They are marked about 12 feet apart due to several parties being 4-5 people. However, I was amazed at how empty the park felt. I visited last October and felt overwhelmed with the crowds in Harry Potter world. There were lines all over the place. That was not the case this time. Several times I was able to take a photo with very few people in the way.
To answer the line question, most rides were only a 10 to 20-minute wait compared to the normal 30 to 40-minute wait. Another big upgrade was the use of Virtual lines for more popular rides. Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure, which was drawing crowds when it opened last fall, was only about a 20-minute wait if you were lucky to secure a virtual line return time. The wait time in October was between 3-4 hours! I secured one each morning and was able to ride it 3 times each with only a 20-minute wait. Since all the waits were so short, I rode 19 rides the first full day. This is roughly 1 ride every 30 minutes and included breaks for food and drinks. If you are an avid theme park goer, 1 ride every 30 minutes is impressive! Before every ride, a staff member would give each guest some hand sanitizer. This got a little annoying after a while as your hands started to feel gritty, (19 rides will do this to anyone) but honestly it was a small price to pay for a short line.
Overall, I was willing to trade the mask wearing for what felt like an empty park. For Universal, I do not think their nighttime shows, parades, or characters meet and greets are that disappointing to miss out on. I went with two recent high school graduates and they are more about the rides that anything else.
This past week Disney opened and similar experiences with wait times and park traffic was reported. However, I would argue that almost half of the fun at Disney are the fireworks, meet and greets, and parades. It all depends on who you are and what you are looking for in the parks. If you want to do all the rides, then this might be the perfect time for you!
PICK THE RIGHT MASK