We spent yesterday at Universal Orlando attending a special Annual Passholder preview!
And while we had some idea what to expect based on the new health and safety measures we’d already experienced when several CityWalk stores and restaurants began to reopen on May 14th, we knew our first time back to an ACTUAL theme park was probably going to look and feel A LOT more different!
We had prepared ourselves for temperature screenings, social distancing, and wearing a face covering for the duration of our stay, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t thrown a few curveballs along the way! Here are a couple of things that really surprised us the most about our visit to the newly reopened Universal Studios!
Which Attractions Are Harder to Ride with Face Masks
We were totally expecting our face masks to fly off on Universal’s most-thrilling rides such as Hollywood’s Rip Ride Rockit or The Incredible Hulk Coaster (luckily we brought some back-ups, just in case!). But strangely enough, the speed of these attractions actually helps to hold your face mask in place!
The rides that proved to be the most challenging for us were ones where you had to wear 3D glasses such as Skull Island: Reign of Kong or Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Our breath kept fogging up the lenses until we figured out if we wore our glasses over our masks, it helped cut down on the fogginess!
Mobile Order Was Glitchy
Universal’s Mobile Order was having a rough go of it yesterday! Even though Universal offered Mobile Order at select restaurants before the temporary closures, a bunch of new locations have been added to the app — even the walk-up spots at Diagon Alley!
But all of these extra locations really added a lot of strain to the already struggling system (we even had some issues with the Virtual Line Experience in the early A.M.). The app was crashing a lot or not work properly throughout the day. This was the first day of Annual Passholder previews though, so hopefully Universal will be able to work out the kinks over the next few days.
Characters Were Everywhere
Even though we couldn’t walk up and hug our favorite characters, we were really shocked by how many of them were out!
Several sectioned-off stage areas have been set up throughout the parks where you can watch and wave to your favorite characters! We saw a bunch of Dr. Suess dudes (including the Lorax and the Grinch!) hanging out in Suessland yesterday along with some of The Simpsons, Blues Brothers, Hello Kitty, Beetlejuice, Spiderman, and lots MORE! Many of these characters wore masks, but there were also a few who did not.
While Disney has shared that character meet-and-greets will be suspended, we’re eager to see if they interact like the character at Universal did.
Water Rides and Misting Effects Were Running
While earlier Universal had stated some of their rides that involve water such as Jurassic Park River Adventure might not reopen with the rest of the park, we were surprised to see it running yesterday! Guests are permitted to remove their masks once they board water rides and are they seated in an every-other row!
One note on water rides, do hold onto your mask in your lap because it would be very easy for it to fly away!
We were also told water effect features on some rides (such as misters) would be deactivated, but on The Incredible Hulk Coaster and Escape From Gringotts, they were STILL working!
Personal Wand Shopper at Ollivanders
Something we were truly amazed to see was how Ollivanders Wand Shop is operating now!
To keep the shop from becoming too crowded, each guest is given their own personal attendant! You can’t handle the wands like you could before, but we think the one-on-one service is pretty nifty!
Virtual Lines Aren’t the Same as FastPassses
Since we’re so used to using Disney World’s FastPass+, it took us a little time to figure out Universal’s virtual queue system is a bit different. We traveled with a group of two and since the apps aren’t linked, we were able to make two reservations at one time. There aren’t any tiers so our two reservations could be made for the same ride.
And despite having a guaranteed ride time, there were still about a 20-30 minute wait to ride each attraction (unlike FastPass where you usually just walk-on). With no preshows, for the time being, the wait can feel a little long.
But similar to the My Disney Experience app, once you use one of your reservations, you can make another. We also noticed when we refreshed the app, sometimes new Virtual Line Venues appeared like they sometimes do when you refresh the available FastPasses.
We’ll be back at Universal tomorrow reporting all day once the theme parks officially open to the public, so stay tuned! And if you have any questions on the new processes that theme parks are implementing, please let us know!
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Did you attend Universal’s Annual Passholder preview? What surprised you the most? Let us know in the comments below!