Volcano Bay

Universal Orlando Preview – Week of January 6, 2018

by on January 5, 2018

Orlando is letting out a collective sigh as the holiday and marathon season comes to a close. Crowds are receding and decorations are being packed up all around the resort. Universal is looking forward towards A Celebration of Harry Potter, Mardis Gras, Fast & Furious Supercharged, and beyond.

Universal Orlando recently teased more announcements this year:

  • New nighttime show in Universal Studios Florida and nighttime projection show on Hogwarts Castle
  • Replacements for Dragon Challenge and T2:3D
  • CityWalk additions
  • What’s up with Nintendo?

2018 is shaping up to be an incredibly exciting time for the resort.

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2017 (No Matter How Hard We Try)

by on December 30, 2017

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2017 (No Matter How Hard We Try). With the new year upon us, it is time for another SATURDAY SIX annual tradition of looking back at some of the most “memorable moments” of the previous year. Now we already covered some of the great things that happened during the past 365 days, and some of the worst as well, so today let’s look at six theme park stories that fall into a different area. Events that are almost hard to believe actually happened, but we promise they did, and we’re here with the proof. So let’s kick it off with…

# 6 – That Time Disney Wanted To Change The Name of DHS

Believe it or not, a lot goes into the actual naming of our beloved theme parks. You may think, “it can’t be that big of a deal,” but in 1999 when Universal opened Islands of Adventure, it rebranded the entire resort as Universal Orlando Escape. Many potential guests were confused by the new name, not realizing Universal had opened a completely new park, and instead thought they had just added some new attractions to Universal Studios Florida. The mistake cost Universal dearly, and weren’t on solid footing again until a decade later with the opening of the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is currently going through a massive changeover. Originally created in the late ’80s solely to cut the legs out from the coming Universal Studios Florida, the park has completely moved away from its opening day purpose of providing guests a behind-the-scenes look at how movies are made. The “new” DHS will a lot more like most other parks, just a collection of cool rides, all having absolutely nothing relating an overarching theme for the park. So late this summer a survey was conducted to gauge reaction on some possible new names for the park. Names such as Disney Kaleidoscope Park, Disney XL Park, and Disney Storyverse Park were offered as options.  These names may seem odd to you, Dear Reader, but there is an actual industry term for them: next level bananas.

(photo by @MickeyViews)

If this part of the survey doesn’t have you remembering back to the “Itchy & Scratchy focus group“, nothing will. (photo by @MickeyViews)

I could sign off on this one. (photo by Rob Yeo)

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Universal Orlando Resort Preview – Week of December 9

by on December 7, 2017

Winter is coming early with a cold front all across the eastern United States, including Florida. This week debuts a new Marvel character dinner at Islands of Adventure and Blue Man Group is performing a special autism-friendly show.

Weekly Crowd Levels

The weeks between Thanksgiving and just before Christmas are one of the quietest times to visit the Orlando parks and our crowd calendar shows that. Enjoy the low wait times and have a warm Butterbeer for me.

Detailed crowd level information can be found here.

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Volcano Bay: the Lines, the Waves, and the Waturi

by on October 2, 2017

A few months ago, Daisy took an initial run at Volcano Bay, Universal’s new water park that I still refuse to call the third theme park (sorry, Universal marketing). She did not have a great experience, but the park was new, and it was still getting used to swimming without its floaties. So we gave it a few months and then tried again.

I visited the park on a relatively nondescript Tuesday in August–the 22nd to be exact–and my colleague David Davies was there a few weeks before me, on July 27. This post is an amalgamation of our two experiences, which had a few differences but the same general result: it’s not great, folks.


Heading to the Parking Buses Around 4:15 PM

David and I each arrived differently. I was lucky enough to have an overnight stay at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which is where some of the photos of stunning Volcano Bay views in this post came from. For me, getting in was easy: there is an entrance specifically for Cabana Bay guests about 50 feet from the Bayside Tower. Since I entered during Early Entry (more on that in a bit), the entry process was quick and simple.

The alternative for everyone not at Cabana Bay or the neighboring Sapphire Falls is to take a shuttle bus. The other Universal resorts have their own shuttle, and there is one that delivers guests from the parking area. The latter was the path that David took, and he wasn’t too thrilled. Here’s what he says about the process:

“Having to park and go through security on the first floor of a garage is very industrial and non-water-parky. I guess it conditions us to get used to crowds and lines, but forcing driving guests to take a bus isn’t fun and takes a good chunk of time. The bus’s path doesn’t seem especially direct, either, and the buses from the garage (vs. from the hotels) park farther away from the park entrance, so immediately I was feeling second-class. After exiting the bus, we had to corral ourselves into a narrow path and then through through a nicely decorated tunnel to get to the park. Then we had to take an escalator (or switchback path) up a hill to get to the entrance. I know Universal has land constraints, and the workers were doing a good job with the processes dictated to them, but these complexities can make negative first and last impressions on guests as they arrive and depart the park.”

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Universal Orlando Resort Preview — Week of August 5

by on August 3, 2017

The Universal Orlando Preview is brought to you by Storybook DestinationsStorybook Destinations specializes in Disney and Universal travel, is consistently highly rated by our readers, and is owned by our own blogger extraordinaire, Tammy Whiting. Storybook also offers free subscriptions to TouringPlans to clients with qualified bookings.

Hello again! Time to check out what you need to know if you are visiting Universal Orlando Resort this week!

Weekly Crowd Level

Crowds are not dropping just yet…but Sunday sure does look like the best day to visit this week! If a crowd level of 9 intimidates you, create a customized Touring Plan for a stress-free day!

Weekly Weather Report

Weather in Central Florida in the summer changes rapidly – don’t forget to check out the latest forecast before you head out!

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Universal Orlando Resort Preview – Week of July 15th

by on July 13, 2017

The Universal Orlando Preview is brought to you by Storybook Destinations. Storybook Destinations specializes in Disney and Universal travel, is consistently highly rated by our readers, and is owned by our own blogger extraordinaire, Tammy Whiting. Storybook also offers free subscriptions to TouringPlans to clients with qualified bookings.

So you want to go to Universal Orlando, you say?

This week, you say?

Well you’re in the right place!! Each week, I’ll have the most important things you need to know, all in one place, to help you make the most of your time and have the most epic day ever!

Weekly Crowd Level

Overall, crowds will be pretty consistently summer-dense throughout the week. Do I hear a Sunday Funday calling??

Weekly Weather Report

It’s summertime in central Florida! You know the routine….scattered thunderstorms, they come and they go! *Disclaimer: though my name rhymes with weather, I am not in fact a meteorologist. So arm your smartphone with your favorite weather app (Dark Sky is my personal favorite) and check the forecast before you go!

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Volcano Bay and the Psychology of the Queueless Theme Park

by on July 11, 2017

The TouringPlans blog is pleased to welcome guest author Laurie Breen to share some insights about the psychology of the queueless theme park. 

Enjoying a theme park with no lines sounds like every theme park fan’s dream. But does the current iteration of the queueless theme park really translate into a better experience for the average park-goer?

With Universal Orlando’s new Volcano Bay water park, the global theme park giant launched its first “queueless” theme park. But did they miss the mark? It’s true, the lines are soooo long these days. As Jason Surrell, a creative director at Universal, explained to thestar.com, “We’ve known for years that waiting in line is one of the biggest dis-satisfiers in our guests’ day.” And of course, the pay-to-play line-cutting access offered by Express Pass goes against the egalitarian ideals upon which our great nation was founded. However, theme park queues serve many purposes within the operations of a theme park. By overlooking the psychological effects of standing in a line, as well as the way that people are accustomed to “touring” at a theme park, Universal may have thrown the cow out with the cattle pen.

Crowd Control vs. Chaos


Waiting in a queue may not be fun, but it is an orderly way to control crowds.

Queues act as crowd control, essentially designating a place for hundreds or thousands of guests to stand each hour as they progress through the line, waiting for their turn to ride on their chosen attraction. This takes crowd pressure off the walkways, stores, and restaurants, allowing the park to increase capacity while adding more fun attractions. Imagine that you are in a theme park store where 100 or 200 guests are shopping at one time, wandering around, slowly browsing what’s on offer — the store starts to feel very crowded and claustrophobic. But now imagine the Greenhouse at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey — in this space, each person is allotted a specific position to stand in and social norms dictate that people will line up in an orderly fashion. They (generally) maintain their place in line, they are all moving in the same direction, and they all keep a pretty consistent spacing between themselves and the next line-waiter. In this situation, a crowd of 100 or 200 people does not seem overwhelming at all.

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Daisy’s (Not So) Best Week Ever, June 15, 2017: Volcano Bay

by on June 15, 2017

Hello, friends! I was surprised and delighted when Touring Plans asked me if I’d like to try out Volcano Bay and report on my experience. I’m a huge fan of water parks and had high hopes for the newest addition to Orlando. I normally try to keep everything positive in these posts, but I can’t be dishonest with my review. So let’s start off with my first “Not So” Best Week Ever.

Arriving to Volcano Bay as an offsite guest was painless. We quickly parked, hopped a shuttle, and were directed to the entrance. We had purchased our tickets online and in advance, they worked perfectly and we were in the park about ten minutes before park opening.

There’s much more to hear about my day at Volcano Bay. Click to read more! 🙂

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