On June 11, all of the Florida based parks that are part of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment reopened. This included Busch Gardens Tampa. I’m a longtime Passholder with the company, and I was itching to drive to Tampa to see how things were handled. Busch Gardens didn’t receive great reports for the first few days, so I decided to wait a little while to see if things improved.
My daughter and I headed to Tampa on June 22. I will admit that Busch Gardens is the local park that I know the least. In the past couple of years I’ve only been there for Christmastown. Even though it was one of the hottest days of the year so far, we put on our required face coverings and braved the heat.
Like SeaWorld, you need to have a reservation in order to visit Busch Gardens. This was not a problem. I was able to easily grab two spots a couple of days before our visit. If you plan to head to Tampa, keep in mind that Busch Gardens is currently operating on a limited schedule.
The team members were fantastic. From the temperature check tent staff, to the woman at to ticket window who helped me with a question that I had about my account, to the ride operators, they all did a great job. The problem was that there just were not enough of them. There were long stretches where it was impossible to find an employee. Those who were there were trying to enforce the rules, but it just was not happening. They were severely understaffed.
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We arrived in the middle of the afternoon, and Busch Gardens was not crowded at all. There were short wait times for the rides, although several rides were either closed or were down for technical issues. Hand sanitizer was everywhere, but no one was encouraging people to use it before a ride. We always did, but I like the way that they do it at Universal Orlando Resort better, because there someone will put it in each person’s hand before getting on.
The other thing that bothered me to no end was that the face coverings rule was out and out being ignored by at least half of the guests. It was hot, I get it, but numbers in Florida are higher than ever right now. This includes in the Tampa area. If guests do not start taking this more seriously, more people are going to die. It is as simple as that.
Busch Gardens has at least three Face Covering Relaxation Zones. These are where people can sit down and take a breather without the mask for a few minutes, as long as they follow social distancing guidelines. I don’t think I saw anyone in any of these zones. There was no need to use them, because people were already walking around without their faces covered properly.
The lines are spaced for social distancing. This was also something that was not enforced, especially in the ride queues. It is easy to follow, you stand on a spot until the party in front of you moves forward, and then you can move ahead. The team members were doing their best, but they can only do so much. Guests need to do their part as well. It’s not difficult to look down and stand on a dot or line. I don’t know why this was a problem.
Even though people were not following the rules, I still felt safe. That said, if the park was more crowded I don’t think that I would say the same thing. We didn’t eat at any of the restaurants, although we did go inside and get cups of water. From what we could see, people were following the rules in the restaurants. Then again, there were more team members inside the eateries, so that might have made a difference. A lot of the restaurants were closed.
Busch Gardens Tampa is a beautiful park, with thrill rides, children’s areas, and animal encounters. Even though I had a good time today, I feel that they need to do more. Hand sanitizer should be used before getting on each ride. Team members need to enforce the face covering rule. Social distancing has to be practiced. When the crowds get larger this summer, Busch Gardens needs to be ready. There is a lot of room for improvement right now.