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Universal Studios Orlando

Universal Orlando Resort will become the biggest theme park location to reopen to the general public when it welcomes guests tomorrow for the first time since mid-March. However, yesterday, Universal welcomed a number of guests back for the first time during a special soft opening. A number of annual passholders were welcomed back to the park and while it appears the day went pretty well, all things considered, there were the normal stumbling blocks you might expect from a park that hasn't been open for nearly three months.

The biggest issue of the day, based on reports, was simply the crowd. While the park was open to a limited number of guests, some undefined fraction of max capacity, it was still clearly a lot of people. And a lot of them got there nice and early to be among the first to get back in the park, unfortunately that meant the first thing that guests had to deal with was one of the things the park was trying to avoid, lines.

While everybody in the images appears to be wearing a mask, as per current park regulations, it certainly doesn't look like parties are keeping distances of six feet from each other, which makes the entire exercise somewhat less valuable. Social distancing was better in attraction queues and on the attractions themselves. The results were some oddly empty attractions, and a few unexpected hiccups, like the fact that 3D glasses had a tendency to fog up due to masks.

Character interactions were also a little odd more than likely. Face characters, those that aren't wearing full costumes or masks, were wearing face coverings of their own, though they were out and about in the park to say hi to guests.

Reports vary regarding how crowded the Universal Orlando parks actually were, while some told the Orlando Sentinel that the park seemed quite empty, others are saying it didn't feel like it was all that different from a normal day in the park. Although, it's possible that crowds varied between the two theme parks, and even within the various lands of the parks. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was, by most accounts, much more crowded than other places, as per usual.

With this many people in one place, even an artificially capped number, there are going to be some problems here and there. For the most part, people took them in stride. There were no major issues with people wearing masks it appears, everybody seemed mostly ok with that. Of course, there are always going to be some people who aren't happy about something.

While crowd control may have been an issue, for the most part it looks like Universal Orlando's first soft open day was a success. We can probably expect lessons learned yesterday to be implemented as soon as today, when more annual passholders will be back in the park. Then things get real, when the general public is welcomed back on Friday. Tickets for reopening day are still available.

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