21 March 2010, 7 a.m., I was up already from my bed. My heart pounded so fast. It was the day that I've been waiting for: the 4th day of the soft opening of Universal Studios Singapore! As a newly opened theme park, Universal Studios Singapore is having their soft opening session for approximately a month, or until they're satisfied with the technical and service adjustments. As such, the number of tickets are very limited during this "sneak preview" session. Thing is, I had even no idea that this "sneak preview" thing means that I'd have a blast in the park that day.
During this soft opening period, there were no same-day tickets sold. Everyone has to buy the tickets in advance, either from telephone, website or straight from the ticket booths. As this was the soft opening period, the park is giving 2 additional vouchers, a SGD10.00 food voucher and a SGD5.00 retail voucher, to be spent at the park.
I went to the theme park with public transportation. Unlike the ones in USA, Universal Studios Singapore is easily accessible through the extensive transportation means in Singapore. For this trip, I used MRT (the subway system) and Sentosa Express (the monorail service from mainland Singapore to Sentosa Island). And do you know how much does it cost? SGD5.00! Which roughly translates to USD3.50!
The weather was mostly cloudy when I arrived at the park's main gate at 8.30 a.m. Surprisingly enough, there were almost no one there! I roughly estimated there were probably only 120 people there! Even more surprising, there were WAY more seniors than teenagers or young adults or families. Oh for your information, tickets for seniors are half the price of the normal admission rate. Thus, I kinda understand why seniors are visiting the park. So at exactly 9 a.m. sharp, the security guards opened the gate and everyone who had been waiting for 30 minutes bursted into the park. What I meant by "bursted" in was bursting in Singapore manner: no running, no yelling, no trampling, etc. It was done in a very orderly manner. Nice
My first destination of the day was of course the Sci-Fi City. Come on, everyone headed that way anyway! Why? Because everyone was dying to try the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA dueling coaster. As the world's tallest dueling roller coaster, it has been hyped as one of the best roller coaster experience in the world (although I highly doubt this since I went to Cedar Point last summer). At first look, Sci-Fi City is very neatly made. Sponsored by Panasonic, Sci-Fi City is probably one of those areas where Universal Studios Singapore excels. They even have signs in language that I don't understand (like the cylon language) everywhere. It's these small details that really count.
Now let's head up to the main highlight of the park: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. No carry-on bags were allowed, so everyone had to leave their bags with non-riders or lockers. Lockers were free for 30 minutes. After that, users will be charged SGD3.00 for every 20 minutes. My first ride was the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: CYLON as the line was 5 minutes. Looking at the theming in the queue line, I hoped the very best for this ride. The queue line was extensively designed as if you're going through the headquarters of the Cylons. With this "carnivore-looking" design on the wall and the cylon armies, the queue line generally gives the feeling of cyclon-pride. Then, I was directed to go upstairs and then... the ride itself. I was lucky to get the first row. All I can say for this coaster was that it's so much fun! The launch uphill was incredible, probably better than Islands of Adventure's Incredible Hulk Coaster. The airtime at the top of the hill was a bit disappointing though. The inversions were very smooth. My favorite element for this ride would be the vertical loop. Close to the end of the ride, the riders would go through a 5-meter-deep pit and do the vertical loop through the water mist. It was a fun experience. Well... pretty much.
Next stop, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: HUMAN! As I had done the more intense side of the coaster, I expected this to be rather more relaxing. The queue line was quite empty compared to that of Cylon's. There were propaganda posters on the wall, the airplane as well as other computer stuff filling up the queue line as props. Once again, I headed up for the ride, and I was once again lucky to get the first row (duh, another 5-minute wait). I must say I was so surprised by how fun this ride was. Battlestar Galactica: Human actually has much more airtime at the very top of the hill, immediately after the launch. The airtime pop was so crazy that everyone who previously put their hands up grasped the lap bars immediately to keep themselves on the seats. Unlike Cylon, the Human side of the coaster focuses more on the G-force. As such, people will find it typical to have some "grey-out" or "black-out" during the ride, especially on the tight turns. By the end of the ride, I concluded that BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: HUMAN is better than BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: CYLON. I'll give HUMAN a 9/10 and CYLON a 8/10.
Located next to the Sci-Fi City is the Ancient Egypt area. The area is very extensively themed with the Egyptian statues that stand approximately 15 meters up to the air. The main highlight of this ride was of course the Singapore's version of REVENGE OF THE MUMMY. Now I know what does this mean: a carbon copy of Orlando's? Well here's what I think of it. Unlike the USA's version of the ride, Revenge of the Mummy in Universal Studios Singapore is much more serious. There's no Brendan Fraser in this ride. There's no prank where the cast member is eaten by the Mummy himself. In this ride, the riders are absolutely in a tomb and they're trying to escape the curse of the Imhotep. The ride's backward motion took everyone on the train by surprise (since this is probably the first coaster in Asia to have backward motion, excluding Vekoma's Boomerang). At the end of the ride, everyone on the train that I rode clapped, while the 2 children cried as if they've just been really cursed by the Imhotep. As a studio theme park, Revenge of the Mummy would sure be the main highlight of the park. Everyone will spread the word. I'm pretty sure the line for this ride would be very long when the park is having it's "real" opening. A perfect 10/10 for Singapore's Revenge of the Mummy.
Located at the very north of the park, it's THE LOST WORLD area. As the biggest themed area in the park, Jurassic Park actually looks very small compared to that of Orlando's. This, however, was due to the extensive area coverage of the main attraction of this part of the park. The ride is called JURASSIC PARK RAPIDS ADVENTURE. Unlike the Japan's and USA's version, Singapore's version uses the tubular rapids system. Not only it's aesthetically more beautiful, but it's also much more thrilling! The rapids ride was very wild. There are parts where the currents are so fast that the rapids would spin uncontrollably and hit the wall very hard (I'd say it's twice as fast as that of Popeye's & Bluto's Bilge-Rat-Barges). And then comes the dark part... I must say the dark-ride section of this ride is much scarier than those of Orlando's, Hollywood's and Osaka's. It was completely dark and you can't see anything. Not even the flash lights that are attached to the rapids. And when you think it was about to be over, the rapids stop! You go up vertically using the elevator system (I think there's one other rapids ride in Europe that uses this elevator feature) and then... the T-Rex is right above you. As you go closer and closer to the T-Rex, your rapids suddenly stop. That was when I realized that apparently the T-Rex is so small compared to the ones in USA and Japan Well... it's a rapids ride anyway. So never mind about that. Then the door opened and... SPLOOOSH! The drop for the ride isn't that big. Approximately 25-30 feet tall. Surprisingly, the boat managed to get a much bigger splash at the end of the ride compared to the typical river boats in the original version. Everyone in the boat was wet, 3 of them completely soaked to the skin. And that was it. Jurassic Park The Ride would absolutely be the most popular attraction in the park. It's family-friendly, fun and most of all... it's gets you soaked (very very soaked). In case you're wondering how wet is this ride, I'll just give you this: riding Dudley-Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls twice in a row. I'll give this one another perfect 10/10. So much fun!
The next ride was the CANOPY FLYER, an inverted coaster designed for kids located opposite of the Rapids Adventure. By then, the crowds have reached the Jurassic Park and the line was 20 minutes for the ride. I decided to go on it, though. The ride itself was pretty much thrilling. While the 1st half of the ride was pretty much all about "flying above the Jurassic Park and look at the nice views", the 2nd half of the ride was all about speed, force and small drops. I'm quite surprised by how nice this small coaster was. The only problem that people have with this ride is... well, guess what? There were a lot of people who didn't want to be on the backward seats of the coasters. So, the cast members were unfortunately forced to let the train go with unfortunate 2 seats empty, which decreases the capacity by 50%. I'll say Canopy Flyer is a great small coaster that not only the kids will enjoy, but also the whole family as well. A 7/10 should be fine for this ride.
Done with the Jurassic Park, I headed for the Far Far Away section of the park. This part of the park was very nicely themed. And it has the Far Far Away Castle! Inside it is the ultimate attraction of the area, SHREK 4-D. Pretty much, the attraction is a complete copy of USA's version, with the exception of having a more extensively themed queue line. When I was in the ride, the visual of the movie wasn't focused enough. The images of the movie were quite blurry. But I understood this as it was still in "soft opening" mode, thus I got away, pretty much... satisfied. I'll give this one a 8/10.
Next, the ENCHANTED AIRWAYS. This is a junior coaster based on the dragon's flight from the movie Shrek as well. For a junior coaster, this one packs a lot of thrill. It has a lot of near-misses with the stations, a lot of tight turns, head-chopper and pretty tall first hill. But what really surprised me was how fast this ride goes! Maybe it's like... 30mph, I guess? It was pretty cool to have a thrilling junior coaster! Finally! A 7/10 for this little coaster. Everyone loves this ride!
After that, I went to the Madagascar section. Pretty much it was empty there. This was because the highlight attraction of this section of the park hadn't been opened yet. MADAGASCAR: A CRATE ADVENTURE would be opened in June 2010, as it wasn't ready for operation. This ride would be located in a huge cargo ship, that is about... 6 to 7 stories tall. At first, I thought it's gonna be a flume ride which has a 5-story tall main drop like Splash Mountain. But then I asked the cast members that were waiting in front of the ride.
"So what kind of ride is this?" I asked.
"Oh, it's a flume ride. It's going to be opened in June. We're sorry about this."
"Oh it's all right! So how tall is this ride going to be. Like um... 6 stories tall?"
"Oh no no. It's only 2-story tall!"
I was utterly disappointed. Oh well, the drop would be only 2 stories tall? 20 feet tall? Wow, what kind of flume ride is that? For your information, though, the ride is going to be 9 minutes and 30 seconds in duration. So yeah... Splash Mountain with a 20-foot drop? Hm... weird.
It was 11 a.m. and I was already back at the main entrance of the park. By then, I was extremely confused on what I was going to do. Thankfully, I wasn't aware that there are 2 additional attractions in the New York section of the park.
The next attraction was LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION! HOSTED BY STEVEN SPIELBERG. With a 15-minute waiting time 2 hours after the park opened, I was quite surprised. So I went in and... oh, there were probably 50 to 60 people already, so it was very good. Apparently, most people wanted to be in the first row. That was until the cast member told them that the people in 1st row would get wet and about 30% of them move back to the 2nd row. Hahaha. Typical Singaporeans. They don't like to get wet in air-conditioned building. The attraction basically gives us a behind-the-scene look on how to create visual effects. This time, it's all about how to create visual effects for a level 5 hurricane in New York City. It was done with a preview presentation by Steven Spielberg himself, followed by the main presentation. I was very impressed by the attraction. All effects worked wonderfully and everyone was totally impressed by the effects. Those who stood on the first row got wet... very wet. I got very wet as I was in the first row. And I was completely unaware of this! So yeah... too bad. As a studio theme park, I personally think this attraction would be a popular one in the future. This is what Universal Studios is all about! This what makes the Universal a studio theme park. A 9/10 for this Steven Spielberg attraction.
By then it was 11.15 and I went to lunch at the Mel's Drive In. Ordered a double burger combo for only SGD9.80, which I paid with my meal voucher (so I got my lunch for free). After that I went circling the park to ride the rides again. I was very surprised to see that most rides have very short waiting time. For example...
Battlestar Galactica: Cyclon --> 10 minutes
Battlestar Galactica: Human --> 10 minutes
Revenge of the Mummy: --> 5 minutes
Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure --> 10 minutes
Canopy Flyers --> 25 minutes
Shrek 4-D --> 15 minutes
Enchanted Airways --> 10 minutes
Lights, Camera, Action! Hosted by Steven Spielberg --> 15 minutes
So I was like, "Where is the crowd?!" Shocking!
Returning back to the Hollywood section of the park, I decided to go circling the park once again, this time looking at the shops and small details. I found out that Universal Studios Singapore has very nicely themed shops. The best one that I found was the Fairy Godmother's Potion Shop. Very extensively themed with colorful potions and candies. They even have a ferris wheel ride inside the shop, which is amazing!
By the time I finished my 3rd circle, it started to drizzle. Everyone was heading for covered areas. I was very lucky to standing in front of the Pantages Hollywood Theater that was showing UNIVERSAL MONSTER HORROR ROCK SHOW. Well, actually, a lot of people went into the theater to watch the show just because it was drizzling. While the theater wasn't full (it was only half-filled with audience who watch it because of the weather), the show was a hit! The people actually did their very best to impress the audience and it paid off greatly. As one of the two PG-13 shows in the park, the musical successfully changed the once-not-so-eager audience to so-eager-I-wanna-watch-again-and-do-standing-ovation audience. It was very surprising that this show is a hit amongst Singaporeans, who are unusually not very reactive towards the Western culture. As such, I valued highly the efforts of the musicians of the show who tried their very best to impress. A 9/10 for this amazing show. Would be a chart-topper when the park really opens.
Going out of the show, the sun was shining in all of its glory. Well, Singapore has very extreme weather changes... By 12.45, I could've called it a day! But I didn't. I kept circling around the park to look for some more small details that I had missed before. Also, I rode the rides twice or three times more. So, pretty much I'm an expert right now on the park.
At 5 p.m., it started to rain heavily and everyone was trying to get out of the park. All rides were closed, except Revenge of the Mummy, Shrek 4-D and Monster Show. They're very popular when it's raining! The rain was so hard that everyone decided to go to the shop to get ponchos, umbrellas, etc. And guess what? I was forced to spend my SGD5.00 retail voucher for a SGD5.90 blue poncho because I was at a section of the park that has no covered areas. So I was like, "Oh no!"
By 5.10 p.m., I was outside of the park. It was a blast! It was a nice day, considering that the park wasn't jam-packed as I thought it would be. By the end of the day, I count the number of times I rode the rides and it came out like this...
Battlestar Galactica: Cyclon --> 6 times
Battlestar Galactica: Human --> 6 times
Revenge of the Mummy --> 8 times
Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure --> 2 times
Canopy Flyer --> 1 time
Shrek 4-D --> 1 time
Enchanted Airways --> 1 time
Lights, Camera, Action hosted by Steven Spielberg --> 1 time
Monster Rock Show --> 1 time
Nice, eh? I kept rocking back and forth between Sci-Fi City and Ancient Egypt.
During the visit of the park, I learnt a few things as well...
1. NEVER RIDE A COASTER DURING THE RAIN. I rode Battlestar Galactica: Human right before it was suspended due to the weather. I rode it when it was drizzling and oh boy, I felt as if my face had just got pinched by 1,000 needles or something like that!
2. ALWAYS GET READY FOR SINGAPORE'S EXTREME WEATHER CHANGES. Let's say it rains heavily. 10 minutes later, the sun is shining so brightly you'll feel as if you're gonna get sun burns. This is a very typical weather change in Singapore. At around 3 p.m., I almost got sunburns due to exposure to sunlight. Sun-block is highly recommended. And never bring umbrellas. Singapore is the capital of thunder in this world. Umbrellas would be deadly to have in this park. In addition, a lot of rides are often closed when the bad weather occurs. Given the fact that weather changes a lot of times in Singapore, rides can be closed-opened-closed-opened a couple of times a day.
3. ALWAYS GET A PONCHO IF YOU DON'T WANT TO GET WET ON JURASSIC PARK RAPIDS ADVENTURE. Like seriously, this ride will get you soaked if you don't wear poncho. Some people even reported that they still get wet even when they wear their plastic ponchos. So yeah...
I also have my top 5 attraction list...
5. Battlestar Galactica: Human
4. Universal Monster Rock Show
3. Lights, Camera, Action! Hosted by Steven Spielberg
2. Revenge of the Mummy
1. Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure
Things that I was ultimately disappointed with was the UNIVERSAL EXPRESS. Unlike the other Universal theme parks, this fast-pass systems is sold as another sets of tickets in Singapore for SGD68.00. This was useless during my visit though. I mean... 10 minutes for Battlestar Galactica?! Come on! Who need a fast pass for that?!
Overall, I think Universal Studios Singapore is a great addition to Singapore's tourism. I'm strongly sure that this would be a slap in the face for Hong Kong Disneyland. I actually think Universal Studios Singapore, despite the fact that the park is the smallest of all Universal theme park, has the potential to be one of the most popular parks in Asia (considering the fact that they'll have 2 new rides in the next 12 months, Madagascar and Transformers). I'll highly recommend Theme Park Review to come to Singapore and visit this small, packed theme park. I'm sure you guys will have a blast in this park... well... only if the rides don't have long lines.
P.S. If it's all right, may I upload the photos on Theme Park Review's Facebook profile? All of my pictures are in 1600 x 1200 format.