Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Sapphire Falls Resort Opening in 2016

by on September 10, 2014

Only a few months after opening the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Universal Orlando has announced that its fifth on-site hotel will be called the Sapphire Falls Resort and will open in summer 2016.

Universal’s latest Loews-branded hotel will sport a Caribbean theme and contain 1000 rooms, 77 of which will be suites. Landscaping will feature a tropical lagoon and large waterfall. The new resort is located between the Royal Pacific Resort and Cabana Bay Beach Resort, on the south side of Hollywood Way just east of Adventure Way.

Sapphire Falls concept are wide shot

Concept art of Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando. Cabana Bay Beach Resort can be seen at the top center, with IoA’s Ripsaw Falls ride at the top right. (Images courtesy Universal Orlando/Loews)

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Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report – August 31 to September 6, 2014

by on September 8, 2014

Wait times at Universal Orlando skewed lower than expected last week although not significantly so. We correctly predicted the crowd level within one index level every day with only one exception. The week after Labor Day, like at Disney World, is the single slowest week of the year at Universal Orlando. If you can handle the hot summer temperatures you will experience near empty touring conditions.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:

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Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report – August 24 to 30, 2014

by on September 5, 2014

Welcome to the Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report! Here we take a look at how our crowd predictions performed the previous week and take a brief look at the week to come.

Last week, no park reached wait times higher than a level ’5′ on our scale and most days stayed around a ’3′ or ’4′. Predictions tended to be high rather than low which is consistent with what we observed at Disney World last week. An early return to school for some school districts is pulling the annual September lull in attendance a week earlier than usual.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:

 

Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Levels – Daily Breakdown

Sunday, August 24, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Universal Studios
4
4

Our predictions for attractions at Islands of Adventure were high by an average of 3 to 10 minutes. However, we correctly predicted most attractions at Universal Studios.

Islands of Adventure
4
2

Monday, August 25, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Universal Studios
4
5

Another slow day at Islands of Adventure on Monday. Only Ripsaw Falls (35 minutes) and Spider-Man saw wait times above a level 2 on our scale.

Islands of Adventure
4
2

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Universal Studios
5
4

Crowds remained low on Tuesday including a 23 minute average posted wait at Forbidden Journey and a 25 minute average at Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket.

Islands of Adventure
5
3

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Universal Studios
4
3

Low waits at Islands of Adventure again on Wednesday. No attraction reached an average posted time above 40 minutes (Ripsaw Falls).

Islands of Adventure
5
2

Thursday, August 28, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Universal Studios
4
3

Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem averaged 44 minutes (predicted  54) on Thursday but otherwise wait times were low.

Islands of Adventure
4
2

Friday, August 29, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Universal Studios
4
3

Hulk, Jurassic Park River Adventure and Dragon Challenge were among the Islands of Adventure attractions that had an single-digit average posted wait on Friday.

Islands of Adventure
4
2

Saturday, August 30, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Universal Studios
5
5

We under-predicted Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket (49 minutes, predicted 37) but every other prediction was within 5 minutes of what we observed on Saturday.

Islands of Adventure
4
3
What to Expect This Week
August 31 to September 6, 2014
How Crowded is Universal Orlando Resort?

How Crowded is Universal Orlando Resort?

The first week of September is typically a great week to visit the Universal Orlando Resort. Crowds are lighter with most schools in session and summer vacations concluded for most families.

To see Universal Orlando Resort Crowd predictions for the days of your vacation, check the Crowd Calendar.

To get details about our predictions of future crowds or details about crowds in the past check out the Crowd Calendar and select “Jump to Date” on the left margin.

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Universal Merchandise: The Film Vault in Universal Studios Florida (Kong, Ghostbusters, BTTF)

by on August 31, 2014

Earlier this month Universal Studios Florida opened a new store called The Film Vault which offers products featuring a wide assortment of fan favorite Universal properties including Ghostbusters, King Kong, The Godfather, Back to the Future and more. The store is located across from Transformers: The Ride 3-D and replaces the Delancey Street Preview Center, where guests were used as test audiences for upcoming television shows. The preview center has been moved closer to the front of the park near Schwab’s Pharmacy.

FilmVault1

The Film Vault (photo by Seth Kubersky)

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Universal Orlando Early Park Admission Changes Starting September 2 [UPDATED 8/30/14]

by on August 30, 2014

Early Park Admission Sign

Big changes are coming in September to Universal Orlando’s Early Park Admission perk (Photo by Seth Kubersky)

As the summer season comes to a close, we’ve gotten word of some upcoming changes to Universal Orlando Early Park Admission policies that are scheduled to go into effect early next month.

While no details have been officially announced, we’ve confirmed this information with guest service leads at both parks, and we believe the following modifications will be made to Universal Orlando’s early park admission perk (otherwise known as “early entry” or “early admission”) offered to guests at the resort’s four on-site hotels.

We will be on hand to report on the new procedures, and we will update the information on our Early Park Admission page as policy changes develop.

[Note: Universal Orlando has recently confirmed an update to the off-season early entry, see below for bolded changes]

Early Park Admission General Information

Universal Orlando offers admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas at Islands of Adventure (Hogsmeade) and/or Universal Studios Florida (Diagon Alley) one hour before regular park opening. This perk is given for free to all guests staying at a Universal Resort Hotel. Guests with certain types of “vacation packages” (most commonly sold by Universal Parks & Resorts Vacations and involving both accommodations at a Universal partner hotel and theme park admission) are also allowed in early.

The turnstiles to the park(s) participating in early entry should open approximately 90 minutes before the official opening time. Both hotel and day guests will be admitted to the park, and each eligible guest will need to show his or her own room key to pass beyond the park’s entry plaza during the early admission hour. Guests not eligible for early admission will be held in an alternative area to await the official opening time.

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Halloween Horror Nights and Howl-O-Scream: A Primer

by on August 29, 2014

Ed. – if it’s August, it must be Halloween in Central Florida. Today we’re running articles on Walt Disney World’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, along with this one on Universal Orlando Resort’s Halloween Horror Nights and Busch Gardens Tampa’s Howl-O-Scream.

Halloween Horror Nights and Howl-O-Scream 2014

Hello, tender lumplings everywhere! If you believe that life’s no fun without a good scare, chances are you’re a big fan of Halloween. Luckily for you, Florida is one of the best places to enjoy the Halloween season, and I’m not just saying that because literally anything is better than back home in Canada, where all the kids have to wear parkas over their costumes. (If you look at my childhood photo album, you might assume every year I was a skier. I was a fairy princess, curse you!) In fact, two of the biggest Halloween events happen less than an hour away from each other… Busch Gardens Tampa’s Howl-o-Scream, and Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights

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Crowd Calendar 4 Launched for Universal Orlando and Disneyland Resort

by on August 23, 2014

New Crowd Calendar methodology arrives at Universal Orlando Resort

New Crowd Calendar methodology arrives at Universal Orlando Resort

 

The methodology used for the TouringPlans.com Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar since November 2013 takes over the Universal Orlando and Disneyland Resort crowd calendars starting today. Crowd Calendar 4 has worked well for Disney World so we are confident it will perform equally well for Universal and Disneyland. See below for a synopsis of how the calendar has performed since November 2013. When we predict the crowd level (between ’1′ and ’10′) we see that about 95% of the time the actual crowd will be within two index points, and about three-quarters (3/4) of the time within one.

 

Disney World Crowd Calendar Error Results since November 2013

Disney World Crowd Calendar Error Results since November 2013

 

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Kongstruction: Skull Island Announced, Jurassic Park Arch Removed

by on August 23, 2014

Kongstruction project 340 Jurassic Park arch

Kongstruction has consumed an iconic Jurassic Park arch at Islands of Adventure (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Well, it looks like the monkey is out of the bag. For months, we’ve been mentioning the movement on Project 340, or as we like to call it, Kongstruction. Universal’s officially unannounced construction in the expansion pad behind Jurassic Park‘s Thunder Falls Terrace at Islands of Adventure recently required the removal of an iconic Jurassic Park archway.

 

The rumors we’ve reported regarding King Kong returning to Universal Orlando in a new attraction located in that plot have prompted some readers to question why the resort would revive a character with no major pop culture presence since Peter Jackson’s 2005 film. As if in response, Legendary Pictures announced at Comic-Con that Skull Island, an original prequel to the Kong mythos, would be released by Universal Pictures on November 4, 2016.

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Counter Service Restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on August 23, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Top Six Counter Service Restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort. Last year we looked at the overall top six restaurants on property, and because both the Three Broomsticks and Fast Food Boulevard made that list, they were ineligible for this one. Speaking of which, later this year when The Cowfish opens in CityWalk we may have to revisit our original list because there have been some pretty impressive venues (including Antojitos and Vivo) who have made quite an impression since their debut. However, today we are looking resort wide for the counter service restaurants that we love the most, starting with….

# 6 – Thunder Falls Terrace (Islands of Adventure)

Thunder1

Thunder Falls Terrace

 

Located in Jurassic Park, Thunder Falls Terrace has several things going for it. The first is its menu. Unlike your typical theme park counter service, this location eschews traditional fare like hot dogs and chicken fingers and instead has items such as charbroiled ribs and rotisserie chicken. It is also one of the only counter service locations where you can get a mixed green salad made in front of your eyes.  There are several large seating areas inside (along with  tables outside as well) with one area has a fantastic view of where the Jurassic Park River Adventure boats splash down. This is even more fun to watch when guests walk by this area not realizing they are about to be in the Splash Zone and get soaked.

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Review of Loews Loves Pets at Universal Orlando Resort

by on August 15, 2014

Loews loves pets goody bag

The goods. Photo – Laurel Stewart

Fact: I travel. A lot.

Fact: I like my pets more than I like most people.

Fact: Until my pets get opposable thumbs and learn to Face Time me while I travel, I will miss them terribly when I’m on the road.

With this mind, I decided on my last trip to Orlando that it was time to bring the dog along. Lucky for me, Loews Hotels, the company that runs the four onsite resorts at Universal, is pet friendly – a program called Loews Loves Pets. And, as this trip was especially to visit Universal and Diagon Alley, it seemed a natural fit to take advantage of this policy.

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