First came word, in the middle of September, that Walt Disney World Resort’s two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, would remain closed until early next year; now, Universal drops the other themed shoe, having Volcano Bay possibly follow suit.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Reopening after the COVID-19 pandemic began has proven to be something of a bumpy road for all of the various theme-park operators in Central Florida, given the low number of people travelling across the country (and given the fact that a number of travel restrictions are still in place, of course). After seeing their parks, hotels, and resorts slowly rumbling back to life starting on May 14, the companies have been on something of a seesaw ever since, taking some steps forward while being forced to take others backward.
Universal Orlando Resort fits this description perfectly. Part of CityWalk welcomed guests back on May 14, followed by most of the hotels on June 2 and the three parks the next day – but throughout the month of August, Universal at least partially tightened up on its operating hours and on the seasonal availability of its various attractions and restaurants. More specifically, we saw half a dozen of the less-popular rides at the two theme parks getting temporarily shuttered on the ninth, while half of the hotels followed suite on the 21st (this includes Portofino Bay Hotel, which never reopened after the start of the pandemic to begin with, and Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites, which has gotten its grand debut indefinitely delayed).
Then September arrived, and the tourism fortunes seemed to shift advantageously. The company’s ability to salvage a small-but-substantive portion of its cancelled Halloween Horror Nights event resulted in two resurrected haunted houses, trick-or-treating (for the first time ever), a small torent of exclusive food and drinks, and large crowds that, at least on one occasion, filled the parks to (modified) bursting. And this wasn’t the only recent time that Universal saw such demand – several weekends required an extension of the (truncated) park hours, and Labor Day weekend marked the first time the capacity benchmark was hit since the resort’s coronavirus closure. (Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl, one of the just-closed rides, has even now come back online on select days!)
(We should reiterate once again here that it’s not just Universal that’s been forced to engage in these exact types of contractions [and re-expansions] – Disney similarly has a number of attractions and hotels that are currently shut down [including those aforementioned water parks], and several of its present and future construction projects have been scrapped altogether. SeaWorld Orlando, meanwhile, also had to move to a partial operational schedule for a period of time.)
The latest news on this front, however, is that Universal is being forced to take something of a step backwards yet again. After announcing on August 22 that it would slide Volcano Bay, its three-year-old water theme park, to a shortened week (it’s been closed every Tuesday and Thursday ever since September 8), the company today revealed that the home of the Waturi people will be entering into an elongated slumber starting on Monday, November 2. Yes, that’s right – Volcano Bay will be indefinitely shut down, just as Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach have been ever since March. While the Mouse House doesn’t expect this situation to change until at least March 7, 2021 (and, even then, it’s currently believed that only one of them will come back to life), Universal has said that it wants Volcano Bay to open either on or, even, before March 1.
Then again, given just how slow of a season the winter typically is for all of Orlando’s water parks – thanks to the usual dip in temperatures and the normal dip in tourism, anyway – the overall impact of Disney and Universal’s moves might be less than what they may first seem. Indeed, it’s not unusual to see these aquatic locations close for weeks at a time during the winter for annual refurbishment, and Universal has said that it’s going to conduct this routine maintenance during this four-month period, as well.
To keep up with our post-COVID-reopening coverage, please check out the following articles:
- Halloween Horror Nights 2020 cancelled in Orlando and Hollywood
- Walt Disney World has reopened
- Magic Bands: Their reopening present and possible future
- How Disney World’s new reservation system works
- SeaWorld Orlando: How the reopening works
- Review: The Bourne Stuntacular
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