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It was my best friend’s last weekend in Germany before moving back Stateside.
“I know, we should all go to Europa Park!” She said.
During this time of Covid, I have found Germany’s responses and approaches to the Coronavirus a welcome change from the passive US’ ambivalence to the whole pandemic. For the first time in months, I felt “safe” going to the grocery store or even out to eat (something I wasn’t even fathoming back when I was in America).
But the largest Amusement park in Germany (and Europe’s second most visited) ?? Uuuh, that had me nervous. And to top it off, we were going with our two small kids. You know the ones? The ones that touch EVERYTHING.
Regardless, at the end of the day, the group voted and that’s where we went. So, how did it measure up with cleanliness and safety during Covid? What did WE personally do to help keep my family safe and healthy? Here is my take on it.
The Usual Covid Rules
Not surprisingly, there were a few regulations that are just commonplace in Germany right now.
- Social Distancing: Keep 1.5 meters distance between you and others that aren’t in your own group
- Group Sizes: Only 2 households are supposed to sit/be together at a time
- Masks: Masks are mandatory (I’ll elaborate more on this below)
Limited Tickets Per Day
They say they are currently limiting the number of visitors per day. Now, this was my first time to Europa Park but yeesh. If this is what a limited number of people looks like, I can’t even imagine pre-covid amounts of people! As of the current writing, Europa-Park said that they are starting with 15,000 people a day and then slowly letting in people off of that. In my opinion, that’s still A LOT of people!!
There were definitely times where there just wasn’t any way to social distance because there were too many people.
Pre-Booked Tickets Only
In order to monitor the number of tickets, you must pre-purchase your date-specific ticket online in advance. We had 6 adults and 6 children and we were able to book a week out for a Sunday, but if you know your dates, it’s obviously best to book as soon as you can.
When you book your tickets, they’ll use your information for contact tracing, just in case.
Social Distancing Signs and Lines EVERYWHERE
It felt like no matter where you looked, they had a sign up reminding you to social distance. On the benches, they would have a cute little sign reminding you to keep space. Looking around, you’ll see signs just about everywhere.
Social Distancing in Line
Here is where I struggled. The park itself did a great job of putting down yellow social distancing lines at all the rides.
HOWEVER, it seemed like few people took these seriously, which was pretty frustrating and disappointing. I’d be standing on my line and someone would come and stand RIGHT next to me. Uuuh…hello!? Stand on your line!!
Now, there were several times where I did catch myself doing something similar. This whole social distancing thing is still new to us all after all and we are all in “Theme Park Mode” where we want to get on the ride as fast as possible. But then, I’d catch myself waaaay to close to someone, and then I’d be particularly mindful the rest of the ride line to keep my distance. But sometimes, I think people just didn’t even care.
I think it would be helpful to have someone monitoring the lines and kindly reminding people to space out. I think this could be a huge help.
I did notice that where there used to be the twisty turny lines (the ones that wrap around and around) were often closed and instead of winding around, they just made the line go straight out and down the sidewalk. I thought this was a good option as well to help attempt maintaining the social distancing.
It made the lines LOOK long, but really they weren’t in reality.
Limited People In Certain Places
In areas where people might congregate, for example, kids play areas, there were signs up showing the max amount of people allowed. Nobody was patroling these, so it was more on the honor system. The problem with this is that theme parks are fast moving places. I’d look into a playground and it looked like they were far exceeding the max number for that particular location, then, 2 minutes later it was empty. I’m not sure if there really is a better solution though, and I’m sure Europa-Park can at least say, “Hey, the sign said 6 people, we did our job!”
This. Was. Awesome!
This new App allows you to “reserve” times for certain rides. You are limited to availability, but once you get a time slot, all you have to do is show up at your time and walk RIGHT in with almost ZERO waiting time!
As far as Covid is concerned, this is fantastic because you aren’t waiting in a line with dozens of others in close quarters. You just show up and walk right in.
Things To Know About the Virtual Lines
- You need a smartphone and to download the App
- You can only queue up for only one ride at a time. This was a bit unfortunate because a time slot for a particular ride might not be for a few hours. By the time you get done with that ride, the next ride might have a really long queue as well. This just made it a bit inconvenient for backtracking in the park a lot. But, it was still worth it
- You’ll scan your tickets and get to reserve for however many people you had on your ticket
- It’s free!
Right now, there are only a handful of rides that have virtual lines
- Blue Fire
As with all of Germany, masks are required for adults and kids who are over 6.
At our time of visit, you had to have a mask on (not scarfs, not handkerchiefs….MASKS) in waiting areas, in lines and ON the ride itself but could take it off when walking around. However, I found that there were areas that were so congested that there was no social distancing possible so we decided to just wear our mask the whole day. Was it uncomfortable? Sure. Was it hot and stuffy? You betcha. Did I feel safer? YUP!
I’m a little bit torn on if I think the park did a sufficient job at enforcing mask rules though. On one hand, the majority of people just simply followed the protocol, but sure enough, there were plenty of people who thought it was acceptable for them to remove their masks in lines or on rides. Again, I found this slightly disappointing, especially when those same people were the ones not staying on their own yellow 1.5 meters lines, but I suppose this is the risk you take when choosing to go to a theme park during Covid times.
Only once did a worker come THROUGH the line enforcing the mask rules.
At the African raft ride, the employer was reminding all guests to keep their masks on the entire ride (this was the only time I saw this instruction being given).
One of our kids forgot his mask at the Iceland boat ride and I was happy that the worker made him return to get it.
Therefore, several employees were doing their best to enforce the policies, but unless 100% of employees are actually doing so, it can be quite difficult to maintain enforcement with so many people. Where I think the park fell a bit short was that there probably needed to be more unity in this (or even have some designated workers whose sole responsibility was to walk the lines).
Tip: Have Backup Masks! There are several water rides where you might get soaked (mask included). Alternatively, if it is a particularly hot summer day, you’ll probably just want fresh ones to have to swap out as you get hot and sweaty.
Not All Food Stands Were Open
I’m not 100% sure if this was Coronavirus related or just normal, but not ALL food stands were open. However, there was still PLENTY of options to choose from. I couldn’t quite figure out why some were closed and others not (it didn’t seem to be a socially distancing thing, but I’m not sure). Regardless, if you are wanting to purchase food in the park, you won’t be lacking in available options.
Bring Your Own Food
If you are concerned about food handling and Covid, I was really happy to know that you are allowed to bring in your own food and drinks. We had our PB&J sandwiches, sooo many snacks to last our ravenous kiddos the day, and water bottles all packed and ready for our long day.
Cleaning in Between Riders
There were some rides that it seemed like workers were cleaning between almost every round. Other rides, we’d be in line for quite a while and I’d never see it wiped down once. I contacted the park afterward to ask if there was any particular rule the employees were supposed to follow for cleaning the rides and was told that they are supposed to clean all surfaces of the ride at least once an hour.
So, again, this is a bit of a mixed review because on one hand, some areas I felt were exceptionally well maintained and cleaned, while others, not so much.
Spacing Out Roller Coaster Seats
I sort of found this one funny. Here we are, sitting on a roller coaster. I am clearly not 1.5 meters away from the person in the row in front of me.
And truth be told, as much of an adrenaline junky as I am, I’m a screamer! I just can’t help it!
So, here are a bunch of us are. Not 1.5 meters and yelling with our mouths wide open (albeit with masks on).
But all that aside, I will say that I noticed many rides doing their best to space out riders. For example, if just my friend and I were riding together, they would put one seat between me and another rider from a different group.
Other rides (that weren’t roller coasters), for example, the above-mentioned raft and boat rides, they limited to just your group, even if that meant an almost empty boat. I was quite impressed with this.
On one hand, is putting ONE seat in between me and a stranger actually doing anything? Meh. Probably not. On the other hand, I at least appreciated the gesture of the park attempting at social distancing.
Note: If they are not filling up EVERY single seat, this obviously means that not as many riders get on one ride at a time, meaning lines are a bit more slow moving than usual.
Also Note: I said “Many rides.” While it felt like the majority did their best, some rides (or I’m assuming employees) didn’t seem to really care and would just load her up. Again….we are at a theme park, not a hospital, so I can’t expect the highest of standards I suppose?
I was surprised that I didn’t see more hand sanitizers throughout the park. I was expecting to see them after most of the rides but only found a few here and there. Sadly, several were empty!
Luckily, I keep a bottle of sanitizer with me, so after every ride, we just used our own.
While I truly hope that everyone knows how to properly wash their hands at this point in the game, I appreciated Europa-Park posting proper handwashing tips in each bathroom as gentle reminders.
Pro Tip: If you are anything like me, all that alcohol based sanitizer is going to dry out your hands. Bring a bottle of lotion with you, or risk your hands being chapped and raw by the end of the day!
I didn’t know this at the time of being in the park, but apparently, there is a “Distance Radar” that you can follow along on your App. It’s actually more like a game where you’re phone will track you and the more social distancing you do, you can win Virtual Line passes.
It is actually these small things that Europa-Park did that showed (in my opinion) that they actually really WERE trying their best at limiting Covid exposure, not just “checking off the boxes” to meet regulations.
Restricting Certain Travelers
I’m not exactly sure how this is monitored or enforced, but supposedly, if you are coming from “High risk areas,” traveled to/from certain locations that require the 14 day quarantine, etc then you actually must show that you have had a negative Covid test that isn’t older than 48 hours.
There were a few things that were not open at all. Rooms like the ball pit room or the luggage room were completely closed and certain shows were not running or were limited. I’m sure this will continue to change as we learn more about Covid, but just know that there may be a few things that just simply aren’t operational right now. However, I will say that I didn’t feel like this impacted our day at all.
At the Hotel
(This is all at the time of our visit- July 2020) We ended up staying off site, but the on site hotels have made some changes to their policies. For example, there were not buffet options for breakfast and instead, you must make reservations for meals so that they could limit numbers.
The pools are only allowing for a certain amount of guests at a time and are limiting pool time to 1 hour. Unfortunately, you can’t (currently) make reservations for this. In addition, the sauna has limited hours of operations.
Similar to at the park itself, kids areas have max capacity rules as well.
SO, Is Europa-Park Safe and Clean During Covid?
If I had to give it a rating, I’d say Europa-Park gets a 7 out of 10 for Covid risk reduction.
Overall, I was generally impressed with the attempts being made to help lower Covid risks. I firmly believe that if I am choosing to go out and do things, I am also choosing to potentially put myself at risk, so I know this going into places like Europa-Park. That is also why I personally take responsibility for my own actions as well (masks, hand washing, social distancing, etc) and think that you should as well.
As with most things in life, it takes time, money, resources, and personnel to fully implement and follow through on things like strict Coronavirus policies. Would I have liked to have seen a little more cleaning in between rides? Yes, at some of them (especially the higher trafficked ones) but could you also see a real attempt by many employees? Also yes. Could social distancing in lines have been enforced more? Yes, but again, that takes more employees (which takes more money), so I get it.
I felt like Europa-Park was making a real and authentic effort at doing their best and for that, I was appreciative.