This story was originally published in the first edition of The Lion’s Tale (October 6, 2020).
With the development of the coronavirus, most theme parks such as Universal and Disney were forced to shut down to do their part in preventing the spread of the virus.
During the time they were closed, each park had different plans for their annual passholders. Normally, the parks offer a monthly payment plan but with COVID-19 they had to alter this. Universal decided passholders did not have to pay for the months the park was closed. On the other hand, Disney provided multiple options for guests, such as postponing monthly payments then getting passes extended for the months lost, or just refunding passes altogether.
To make up for the closure, Universal is offering a special for Florida residents. If guests buy a one day pass before September 30th, they can visit both parks anytime through December 24th.
As of June and July, the parks reopened for guests to attend. Disney is only allowing guests with preexisting annual passes, as well as resort guests, while Universal is allowing all guests in until they hit max capacity. With this, the experience has been markedly different for visitors. While following social distancing guidelines, the parks are still trying to make guests’ trips as enjoyable as possible. Sophomore Peter Donnelly was excited to return, but felt a bit apprehensive.
“I do think they still opened a bit too early, especially with Florida being a COVID-19 epicenter,” Donnellon said. “But they overall have done a good job keeping everyone safe.”
Donnellon, who has annual passes to Disney, personally thinks that they reopened too soon, but with the proper social distancing guidelines and requirements to wear a mask, it still feels safe. Specifically, Disney requires guests to have a face covering on at all times unless they are eating or on a ride. There are also reminders to remain six feet apart from other guests, sanitizing stations throughout the park and roller coasters have blocked out seating to spread out riders. Universal has similar guidelines, with slight differences, but overall is making similar efforts.
History teacher Kaitlin Darling owns passes to both parks, and talked about her experience visiting Disney during the pandemic.
“They have social distancing; people distanced better at Disney than students do at school.” Darling said with a laugh. “They have the dividers where everyone has to stand six feet apart, and they have the plastic barriers in between the lines if we’re ever that close.”
Disney and Universal have vast resources at their disposal, and are therefore able to take drastic precautions to stop the spread of the virus. When considering the massive amounts of visitors they receive, this is a very important objective for the parks.
Although there were safety precautions enforced, Darling feels as if it may not be smart to return to either parks during this time. This not only protects herself and her family, but also her students.
With both parks closed, many frequent visitors found they had taken their trips for granted and missed being able to visit whenever they wanted.
“I have missed going to the parks so much,” said sophomore Shay Buckman. “Especially being able to ride Thunder Mountain at Disney.”
According to Darling, who used to visit Disney regularly, suddenly being unable to go at all was a huge change.