With Disney World reopening and COVID-19 surging, here’s what to expect in Orlando parks

On June 3, Universal Orlando opened its theme parks – Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, and Volcano Bay – to the public after being closed for about 2.5 months. Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Disney World plan to reopen this weekend.

So far, the opening hasn’t gone perfectly. Crowds were thin at Universal at first, a team member urged people to crowd more closely, and COVID-19 numbers in that part of Florida have surged so high that even the union for staffers has called the opening unwise. 

But guests will undoubtedly show. Here are some tips from experienced travelers on what you need to know before you pack your bags and step foot inside these popular adventure parks again.

Parks have incorporated changes to how they train their staff, safety measures for guests going in and out of the park and added more protocols to provide the cleanest and safest experience possible.

At Universal not only are the staff getting regular temperature checks, but guests must also go through strict temperature checks before entering the park. Visitors with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will be sent home; according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a temperature that high is recommended to be checked by a doctor.

These new protocols have received positive feedback from the public. Britt Safstorm, a recent visitor who is originally from South Florida, said she did not find any faults in the way Universal Orlando carried out its new rules.

Britt Safstorm, a guest originally from South Florida, at the Universal Orlando garage walkway. (Photo courtesy of Britt Safstorm.)

“I have zero complaints,” she said. “Though I try not to ever touch handrails, I appreciated the frequent sanitization of moving walkway handrails.”

Along with incorporating new hand-sanitizing stations and encouraging visitors to sanitize before riding attractions, Universal is also relying on its app to focus on social distancing. The public must download this app in order to buy their tickets, reserve their ride times and view the map of the parks. This safety measure allows guests to not have to touch any screen with their fingers.

Antonio Ferreiro, another recent visitor from South Florida, was surprised with the outcome after finally deciding to enjoy some time away from home.

“I really respect and liked all their safety protocols, they did a great job of it,” he said. “I would highly suggest for people to bring several masks, as you can easily lose one or accidentally get one wet on water rides.”

Antonio Ferreiro and another guest wearing face masks inside of Universal’s Islands of Adventure. (Photo courtesy of Antonio Ferreiro.)

Since masks are now a necessity to be allowed inside the park, Universal added a face mask merchandise cart from which guests can purchase face coverings in case they forget to bring one or lose them. There will even be seasonal, themed masks for sale in the future. Limited attendance inside the parks, restaurants and shops is also being enforced. This allows visitors to stand six feet apart at all times.

Marina Lewis, who previously visited Islands of Adventure, said she felt so much better about having more space to shop around the stores and finding seats to eat since there were fewer people.

“I was able to find many things I was not able to notice before because of the big crowds, such as souvenirs and clothing to bring back to my family,” she said. “This definitely was a once in a lifetime experience, not to mention how safe I felt at all times.”

Disney will also require temperature checks and face masks for visitors over two years old as well as employees. Cast members will enforce social distancing. There will be no fireworks, parades, or meet-and-greets.  And the park will operate below capacity.

For Universal, additional information on new protocols can be found in safety guidelines. Bill Davis, president of Universal Orlando, wrote a welcome back letter on the Discover Universal Blog addressing how the theme park is well prepared to welcome guests again and how important it is to be informed about the risk of COVID-19 in order to properly prevent the spread of it.

“Things are going to feel a little different, and I encourage everyone to become well-versed in our updated operational guidelines but know that everyone at Universal Orlando is looking forward to having you back,” he wrote. “We’ll be here. We hope you will be here soon, too.”

Vivian Desme is a Florida International University student majoring in Broadcast Journalism and minoring in E-Marketing Analytics. She enjoys exploring new places in order to gain knowledge from the world’s different cultures, history, and stories.