I’m tired, ya’ll. This year has taken it all out of me, and then some. I don’t know what 2021 will bring, but I’m always hopeful at the restart and reset of a new year.
But if you’ll indulge me for a minute, I want to share some bright spots with you post COVID.
Let’s start where it all began.
I’ll never forget being on the Disney Dream, our last full day at sea, before heading home, and the Captain coming over the loud speaker. Everywhere. Everywhere on the ship.
In the Staterooms, on deck, in the theater. Everything paused for those few minutes that seemed to last forever, when he told us a world wide pandemic had been announced.
It was shocking.
We knew things were not all well when we decided to board the ship, but this took my breath away. And honestly? I really didn’t want to get off the next day. HA!
Protocols and changes went into place IMMEDIATELY. Disney is so good at this. At keeping people calm and cool and smiling. So grateful. I looked around at each family member I was travelling with, and you know all those thoughts start bombarding every side of your brain and it’s a mixutre of, ‘What if this is the last time we are all together?” and , “How will this change our lives?”
We had no idea that nine months later we would be fighting this things, STILL.
But as COVID progressed and the pandemic has raged on, parks and entertainment found a way to bring back the fun, SAFELY, with extreme caution.
I was NOT the first to jump on the bandwagon, I’ll be honest. After seeing trip after trip and reschedule after reschedule, I was really disheartened. Travel is my LIFE. This is what I do to clear my head, REST, disconnect, and care for myself.
I finally got on a plane in late August and didn’t tell many people. I didn’t even really post about it on my page, but I figured if there was anywhere that would be okay to visit, it would be Disney or Universal. And let me tell you–I was BLOWN AWAY by the protocols Universal had put in place.
You see, many of their Reps (we call them UReps) got on Facebook and began to interact with us. They made posts, made us laugh, gave us purpose, and provided glimpses of hope and excitement with live, real time, information on how things were going at the parks. How they would make a great come back and reopen. IT WAS GLORIOUS.
I’ve been three times since August, to visit Universal Orlando. On these visits I have frequented Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, City Walk, and MANY of the resorts including Hard Rock, Portofino Bay, Royal Pacific, Surfside and Cabana Bay.
Did they do everything perfectly? Honestly, no. My first stay at Hard Rock was a little unnerving (and slightly gross) because we all had to put our trash in the hallway to be picked up. They only picked up once a day so it could be sitting awhile. Due to COVID, maid services can not enter your room–this is right and safe, but it took us ALL awhile to adjust to this new normal.
But yall, THIS IS NEW. IT IS A PANDEMIC. We are all trying to figure this out, and make the best of what we can. I did not see this at the other four resorts I stayed in. And even tho maid service wasn’t running, they were doing everything else AMAZINGLY well.
My favorite thing was the texting. At check-in, they texted your phone to welcome you, and you could text ANY question ANY time of day for a quick response and turn around. They were 100% on their game, and told me where I could get sunscreen, when the gift shop opened, how much the tubes were to float in at the Lazy River, sent me extra shampoo up–it was GOLD. I adore this feature and hope they keep it around forever. We even checked out via text.
Room Service was also up and running. This is not the case many other places–they safely deliver to your door in to-go containers and never skimped on the extras and condiments. Very well done, Universal!
I have been in park on crowded days and empty days. They were all amazing. One of the most frequent questions I get is, “If I go, will it still be magical?” My short answer is ABSOLUTELY.
The first time seeing Diagon Alley was monumental for me. It was everything my Harry Potter loving heart had hoped for. Up until this year I had only been to Hogsmeade (I KNOW YALL!). The butterbeer, the fishy green ale, the constant epic music playing in the background made me feel like at any turn I was going to run into Ron, Harry and Hermione so we could talk about Snape’s latest potions assignment and what we were going to wear to the Yule Ball. It was everything.
Right before Christmas, right at dusk, we were visiting the Universal Orlando park, rounding the corner near Jimmy Fallon, where the Macy’s Balloon exhibit stood, and the Holiday Tribute Store beckoned. Christmas lights were strung everywhere, donning each building in the most festive way. Cocoa in hand, it truly and completely gave me the chills. It was beautiful, and my cup felt full for the first time during the pandemic. Pure joy.
There are so many more moments that stand out. Taking pics on the ET bike. Screaming and laughing so hard on the Simpsons Ride. Clare riding minions for the first time. Casting spells. Eating chocolate frogs. Hogsmeade at NIGHT TIME, quiet and full of wonder and hope. It gave us an escape. A mental break and put the world on hold for just a moment, while we immersed ourselves into fantasy and PLAYED.
“Okay, it sounds like it’s still magical, but is it actually safe?” I always say I feel safer going to Universal than I do my own grocery store. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s how I feel. You see people cleaning everywhere, dolling out the sanitizer into everyone’s hands before you step onto any ride, temp checks, distancing and markers everywhere. Also, the mask free safe zone? GENIUS and totally necessary. Love these.
Now hear this for SURE. You will ALWAYS have the human factor. There are guests that don’t care or read, or just don’t understand. That is just going to be a given. Some days we saw workers enforcing lines and distance, other days we didn’t. We almost always saw Universal Reps reminding people to wear masks. Everything is clearly marked, checked and employees are all wearing masks and in a lot of cases shields and gloves as well.
“Should I wait, if it’s my first time to visit? I want to be able to experience all the things.”
Honestly, GO. You will love having the break, you will get epic pictures wearing masks that will go down in your Facebook memories forever to remember this insane year by and that we SURVIVED ALL THE THINGS, and you’ll really enjoy the lower park capacity. You will. You will be spoiled with shorter wait times.
Not every single ride is open, and not every single restaurant is serving, but to me it hasn’t been enough to put me out. We have tried so many things we normally wouldn’t have, if I’m being honest. We were more relaxed, took the parks at a slower pace, and enjoyed taking in some epic scenery and details we normally would not have noticed.
I hope this helps you decide. Yes, this is my life, my business, my livelihood. But if you’re ready to travel again, I can honestly tell you, from someone who never leaves her house—it’s as safe as it can be, it’s still as MAGICAL as it can be, and you will not regret it for one minute.
You don’t have to just take my word for it. Here’s what my clients are saying:
“This was exactly the mental health break we needed.”
“It felt so good to immerse ourselves in a whole other world for a week. Even though we were wearing masks, it felt so normal.”
“I kind of prefer COVID themeparks to regular times. The crowds were so low and everyone was just so happy to be there.”
“I’m so glad our memories of this awful year won’t just be sitting at home. It was different but worth it.”
Have you traveled post COVID? Let us know in the comments!