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Volcano Bay Water Theme Park - Universal Studios Orlando


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This week, TPR was invited to join in the festivities of the Volcano Bay media day and grand opening event at Universal Studios Orlando! We have a TON of pictures to share with you and our thoughts on the park will be interspersed with the pictures throughout the trip report.

 

Spanning 25 fully immersive acres and featuring something for everyone – from perfected relaxation to incredible thrills – Volcano Bay is unlike any other water park in world. It offers an immersive environment filled with unbelievable detail and innovative technology to enhance fun and remove hassles. Volcano Bay features:

More than 30 experiences including 18 unique attractions such as a multi-directional wave pool with sandy beaches, a peaceful winding river, twisting multi-rider raft rides, speeding body slides that drop from the top of the volcano into the waters below and more.

The TapuTapu wearable – included with guest admission and specifically designed for use within Universal’s Volcano Bay. Features of TapuTapu include:

Virtual Line Access: TapuTapu allows guests to virtually wait in line for rides while enjoying other areas of the park. Their wearable will simply alert them when it’s time for their ride.

TapTu Play: Guests can enjoy many TapTu Play experiences throughout the park - like controlling streams of water spurting from whales in Tot Tiki Reef, shooting water cannons at guests snaking down Kopiko Wai Winding River, illuminating images in the volcano’s hidden caves and more.

TapTu Pay: Guests can make purchases throughout the entire park with their TapuTapu wearable, eliminating the need to carry cash, credit cards or a wallet throughout the park.

TapTu Snap/My Universal Photo Access: Guests can take advantage of special interactive photo opportunities and selfie-spots throughout the park as well as photo opportunities on Volcano Bay’s attractions. Their wearable will automatically link those photos to their account so that guests can view, share and purchase them at their convenience.

Locker Access: After renting their lockers, guests will be able to access them with a touch of their TapuTapu wearable.

Beautifully-themed dining locations featuring more than 60 delicious, South Pacific-inspired dishes – ranging from jerk mahi sandwiches to fresh island chicken salad to decadent chocolate pineapple upside down cake.

For more information about Universal’s Volcano Bay, visit http://www.universalorlando.com.

 

 

 

First things first - the park is BEAUTIFUL! Lush and tropical horticulture everywhere you turn with some very unique tropical plants as well. The park also has a GREAT selection of water slides that run through the full list of what you would expect in a world class water park. The food is also phenomenal - you will see in the report how they have a better selection and quality of food than you will find in many non-Orlando theme parks!

 

On the flip side, they have work to do with the TapuTapu virtual wait system. Think of it like Fastpass - you can reserve ONE "basic" slide and possibly the water coaster. The basic slides have had waits in excess of 60-90 minutes and the water coaster has been in the 200-300 minute range. Here is where the downside comes in - while you are waiting for those, you can't do ANY other slide. You can experience the wave pool, lazy rivers or lounge on the beach. Then once your time comes up, you still have a wait (usually to the bottom of the slide tower - 30 minutes or so) before you can ride. That is leading to some frustration with their guests and will need to be tweaked as their operation continues. They are also having some normal grand opening jitters with efficiency and continual downtimes which hopefully will get tweaked over the coming weeks.

 

I'm looking forward to returning when some of these bugs are worked out and the park is a little less crowded. It is a GREAT "hang out" kind of water park. I didn't notice a shortage of chairs of beach space and the cabanas (for an upcharge) are beautiful. Express Pass is available but it doesn't bypass the line at the slide, just the virtual wait.

 

Anyways - on to the photos! Please feel free to ask questions about our experiences!

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OMG! I *LOVE* themed USB drives. How cute is this tiki one? This really shows the care that went into branding this park.

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This big boat will be the ticket sales location if you don't buy them in advance or in the parking garage.

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I AM HUNGRY TIKI GOD! GIVE ME YOUR PLANTS!

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Height requirement signs for those interested!

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At the entrance the Universal Team Member will scan your ticket, your fingerprint and issue you your TapuTapu.

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It uses RFID technology to link it to you.

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And this is the first view of the volcano.. HOLY CRAP that is beautiful!

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Mandatory selfie time!

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We are checked in and ready to go!

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To get to Volcano Bay you must park in the main Universal Orlando parking structure. A shuttle bus is then provided to the drop off point.

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Where you walk underground?!!?!? In Florida!?! This is already starting to be an adventure!

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It is time to take the tunnel! This is feeling very Indiana Jones-esque.

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Hello tiki gods! Don't let this tunnel collapse!

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We made it!

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I really like this entrance plaza. Lots of room and a cool photo op.

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And I love the fountains at the entrance signs. You can get wet before you even buy your tickets!

Edited by disneyfan1313
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Part TWO!

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Lockers are plentiful throughout the park and use your TapuTapu to unlock.

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Simply tap, pay the $12 or $15 depending on size and you have a locker for the day!

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Even the changing rooms are VERY nice with private rooms.

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Time to check out some slides! These are the "normal" tube slides. Lots of fun!

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Wheeeeee!

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Gotta check out the water coaster next! KRAKATAU! What cool themed vehicles!

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NOTED!

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The coolest part of the water coaster is going INTO the volcano. Unfortunately there isn't theming inside, but it is cool to see!

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There are lots of airtime opportunities on this.

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It is a LONG ride!

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All the slide areas have great theming at pool and ground level.

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These stations are set up at every slide entrance point.

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You tap your TapuTapu band and you will get a return time loaded onto it. These waits have been hovering in the 60-250 minute range since opening.

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The TapuTapu band was surprisingly comfortable and secure.

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You can also use it at two "selfie spots"!

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Scan your TapuTapu and the tiki statue will take your picture and you can view and purchase it later!

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Time for a snack...how about Volcano Bay exclusive Dippin Dots!

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Part 3!

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Volcano Bay has some amazing bars and drinks - not surprising for a Universal Studios park! This watermelon drink was to die for!

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Even Moana has a slide here! ;)

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The large raft rides were GREAT! Lots of thrills!

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Stacey is getting nervous...

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This is her OMFG face!

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OK - now she is having fun again... :)

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Can't wait to try these again when all the water effects are working.

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You really work up an appetite at water parks... time for lunch!

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The menu is extensive and tasty at each location.

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OMG! BBQ! I know what I am getting.

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No joke - these were some of the best ribs I have EVER had. And the chocolate pineapple cake is worth going out of your way to get.

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They are also doing these grab and go options at each location. Perfect for a water park.

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Too many choices!

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I had a burger the next day and it was great also.

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Cabanas are hugely popular at water parks around the world and Volcano Bay was built with this in mind.

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Two story ones are a great idea, you can choose if you want the top or bottom or you can rent both with a large party!

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The slides at the front of the mountain are integrated so well to the rock structure!

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Each slide has a check in point at the entrance where they will scan your TapuTapu.

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Part 4!

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Almost every view in Volcano Bay at ground level is lush and tropical!

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I haven't ridden one of these slides since River Country closed!

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Of course if you are brave, you can DROP all the way from the top of the volcano!

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PLENTY of seating on beach chairs throughout the park. It didn't seem to be an issue getting a spot either day.

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Even the bridges are themed!

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There are also a couple of large themed bars with plenty of shaded space to hang out.

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Both themed to boats! These are proving to be popular already!

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TOO MANY GOOD CHOICES!!!

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Everything we tried was DELICIOUS!

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Each slide also has a nicely themed sign.

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They were still working on some paths, but this will eventually take you through the volcano.

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You really can't get enough photos of this!

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The wave pool is generous in size with a good size beach to match. Even on capacity days it shouldn't feel too crowded.

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The new tower at Cabana Bay Resort overlooks the park - that would be a cool room to have!

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Time to wrap up Media day with a yummy Waturi Swirl ice cream!

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As you leave you must drop your TapuTapu in the provided box. It then deactivates.

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We return a few hours later for the grand opening VIP event. This was supposed to be in the park, but Mother Nature had other ideas!

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Creating a sand castle logo in real time!

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...and carving a tiki statue with a chainsaw!

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Part 5!

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We even got to meet some of the "residents" of Volcano Bay!

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You could even get a hat made out of palm fronds.

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Universal does impressive displays at their events. The one for the sushi table had a fish ice carving and a huge real fish!

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Giant roast pig for the pork sliders!

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Huge volcano made of chocolate for the deserts!

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Their events team does a really great job!

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Musical guests included an authentic Hawaiian "swing" band.

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I AM GIANT ICE TIKI!!

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We also enjoyed music from an award winning folk duo from New Zealand.

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OMG! This guy was crawling around surprising people!

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The highlight of the night was the authentic tribal group that Universal flew in from New Zealand from the opening.

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They had an intense performance that felt like it was out of a movie!

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This guy will haunt your nightmares!

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Heading out to see the sand art is complete!

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And so is the tiki statue! How cool!

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We are back bright and early for the grand opening ceremony. We get to be some of the first to ride in the new Volcano Bay busses!

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Wow! Even with a slightly overcast sky it is incredibly beautiful!

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The Today Show was filming throughout the morning.

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The drummers from last night are set up and ready to go!

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Part 6!

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The kids area is really nicely themed and opened up around 1pm on opening day.

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Lots of interactive elements and bright colors!

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WOAH! It is a little busier today!

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WAY busier. As of now, this doesn't get you right on. You will still have to wait in the normal slide line of 30 minutes once your time is up.

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You can see the lines going down the slide tower.

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Those are folks who already waited in the "virtual line".

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The opening ceremony was authentically Polynesian - including the blowing of the conch shell!

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HASHTAG THE PANDA SPOTTING!

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Huge crowd of media from throughout the world and invited VIP guests!

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All these talented performers made the opening very special.

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Oh no! It is the scary tongue guy again!

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This is probably the only time you will see canoes in the wave pool!

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Volcano Bay is officially open!

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I can't lie - I really want to stay in one of those rooms in the new Cabana Bay tower and watch the park overnight!

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After a quick break we are back to see what the park is like with guests!

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OMG! It is busy! The entrance process is slowed down by the TapuTapu issuing.

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Fun trivia - this means Wet Wild - an homage to the old park!

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Splash down time! Can't wait to ride!

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Time to check out the kids area.

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Part 7!

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One of the lazy rivers was not ready for opening... you can tell. ;)

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Mr. Frog says "clean up my water please!".

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The other lazy river however was ready for fun!

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Lots of good views, but a tube is required!

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You even go through the volcano!

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The water and mist effects were not working yet, but I am sure that will add to the experience!

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Mr Frog says "I like this clean water better!".

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A tube is required for everyone in the river and you must stay on it at all times.

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I finally reached my virtual wait time for the Aqua Coaster! Unfortunately I still had another 40 minutes in line.

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It is fun to watch while you wait!

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It is deceptively long because of how it winds into the volcano!

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Woah! The lines keep getting longer!

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Unfortunately downtimes kept plaguing the attractions - many almost constantly.

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I love the tiki god with starfish boobs!

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The merchandise stores are very nicely themed with large selections of interesting products.

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This one you have to walk through to get to the other side of the park... smart!

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Part 8!

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They have a ton of great merchandise! Love the angry tiki shirt!

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Things for everyone in your family!

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The park also is having some challenges with guests crowding around return points - similar to what WDW used to experience with Fastpass.

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The park didn't reach capacity on opening day, but many parts felt very crowded since guests had nothing to do.

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Yowsers! It keeps going up and up!

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And by 3pm, if you hadn't reserved your time for the Aqua Coaster, you were out of luck for the day.

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Good thing I had min reserved, although I ended up deciding to leave before that time since I couldn't do anything else.

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You can see the slide lines going up the volcano stairs.

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It is very nice to not have to carry your raft up any slide!

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They hadn't nailed down their GoPro policy by opening day, some slide operators would let you, some wouldn't. They will need to figure this out soon!

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Part 9!

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Pathways in some parts of the park felt fine, others overly crowded.

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Horticulture is insanely beautiful!

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The theming is really fun and detailed throughout the park.

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It is really tough to not get a good photo with the volcano in the background!

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I am looking forward to coming back and visiting the park at night. See you soon Volcano Bay!

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So media day went well but as soon as it was open to the public everything they were banking on being "revolutionary" (read - done years ago by Disney) failed miserably? Sounds about right for Universal.

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I really hope they figure out the virtual queue. It looks unusable right now from your report and a ton of other people online. I'm also a little bummed that you have to have a tube for the lazy river. I never understood that policy especially as it seems so random that some parks do it and some parks don't. We're really looking forward to trying the park out once they get all of the issues fixed, it looks great!

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If you read on Twitter the park is getting absolutely murdered due to all the problems with Tapu Tapu. I don't understand why they just don't turn it off right now at least for ride reservations and let people stand in a normal queue until they get things fixed. Aside from that, people seem to be enjoying the park, so why not remove the one issue that seems to be frustrating so many people?

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I've made my negative feelings clear on reservation only in another topic when some Korean water parks or theme parks have tested by making 3 rides/slides in the park reservation only but I do worry that a lot of the problems in your TR are one's that never seemed to go away here when it was tried even months later.

 

1) Even with reservation hitting a standby line. Big roller-coasters running 3 trains would still have 15-20 minute lines with reservation only so obviously with a water slide it was going to be worse. They can reduce the numbers but that leads me to point 2...

 

2) The reservations here would run out stupidly early on busy days. And again this is a coaster with a much higher PPH than water slides. If they did adjust the numbers to reduce standby I can see them running out stupidly early. I should point out that the systems here didn't use wait times like VB but return time slots, same as fast-pass but it's essentially the same. On peak days the tickets around midday were gone.

 

3) Sometimes you'd only be there for the coaster and if you had a ticket for 6 hours later, you kind of just ending up sitting around or giving up. I know they say it reduces your wait but I'd rather just stick it out for 90 minutes at 2 P.M. than sit around until 6 P.M. for a 20 minute line.

 

4) This one might sound stupid but it always felt like the time-slots controlled my day and I lost my freedom in the park, constantly checking the clock. I know using q bots/fast pass is also on a time slot but i still had the freedom of choice to hop into standbys. For VB you have to gamble grabbing the short lines first and risk the longer ones selling out or grab a long slide and sit around.

 

5) This one doesn't apply to VB so much but it was incredibly frustrating to see half empty trains go round at times because the next slot hadn't started yet. If I was to make this a VB situation I guess something similar would be seeing empty-ish body slides with 5 minute wait times and not being allowed on because you have a 180 time elsewhere.

 

Honestly, I really hope they work it out as they get more data and can adjust but I really hope it doesn't result in reducing numbers and affecting guests from waiting. People moaned enough that Jimmy Fallon would run out, I can only imagine being told 4-5 hours into your water park day that half the slides are now off limits.

Edited by Garet
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Great report, thank you very much! This park looks beautiful and well done in every way that doesn't involve Tapu Tapu. It seems our fears were well founded, especially as you mentioned you left the park due to not being able to do anything for 4 hours while having Krakatoa reserved.... It's also a pretty terrible thing to still have to stand in line even after having virtually queued. That's not a good guest experience at all. Being frustrated in a beautiful space is not exactly what people are going for.

 

Hoping by the time we get to Orlando they have all this fixed. If not, there's Aquatica and the two Disney waterparks, and we can spend our waterpark day at one of them instead.

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Having to wait an extra half hour after you've been told that you're "ready to ride" on your wristband is...unreal. I'd deal with ten minutes or even fifteen on a busy day, especially if it's for an attraction where the queue is used for story set-up, but not a half hour. That would make me very upset as an uninformed guest, as my "virtual queue" turned out to basically just be a "queue queue". Waiting in line to wait in line.

 

Is the children's area on the virtual queue system? Please say no.

 

The park environment looks pretty good though. The attraction entrance signage is probably my favorite part, followed by all the different funny "costumes" for the tikis.

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I'm really impressed how many little details there are considering how quickly this park was built. The slides all look great, and I think there seems to be a really good use of space meaning the park doesn't appear to be cramped. I'm also happy to see all the food and drink options; this definitely gives the park an edge over similar water parks.

 

Regarding Tapu Tapu, hopefully a lot of the problems are teething problems (both with the system and also the park in that there are a lot of tech problems), but even if it functions as it should, I am not on board with the idea of having my day essentially planned for me. I like spontaneity and being able to adapt my day depending on my mood. I would want to do the wave pool when I'm in the mood for it, not just because I'm killing time waiting for a slide. Sometimes I'm in the mood for something thrilling, sometimes I just want something calmer. It just seems like such a buzz-kill to have to be a slave to a watch all day.

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Does this park not have any standby lines? If not, then the solution to Tapu Tapu is simple, add them. Right now a completely reserved system will have capacity issues, unless it's a near empty park. The park wasn't even at full capacity and look what happened. How was this not foreseeable? The only way I see the current system working is to charge substantially higher admission and limiting guests, but that's not going to go over well.

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How in the hell is a waterside line, virtual or not, 5 hours long. I can , sadly, understand the water coaster as its a seperate reservation, but how do the other slides even get that long??? Like, is that the longest line for a regular tube slide in the history of theme parks?

 

 

Tapu Tapu is so far the worst possible scenario. Can you imagine going to any water park in the world where you are told you can't ride any slide in the whole park for at least two hours? That's not even a thing and somehow they've created this problem.

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Tapu Tapu is so far the worst possible scenario. Can you imagine going to any water park in the world where you are told you can't ride any slide in the whole park for at least two hours? That's not even a thing and somehow they've created this problem.

 

Seriously. It's like Universal was so preoccupied with ripping off Magic Bands they didn't even look at other water parks that have extremely efficient operations, namely Wild Wadi and their Master Blaster queue system. Yeah, it's not for every slide there but the fact that you can sit in a tube for-friggin-ever and constantly slide around the park is wonderful.

 

As for the insane line length for the coaster slide, how does Holiday World have two immensely popular LIM water coasters with lines that move faster than any I've ever seen? Seriously, I hardly stood in place, just constant movement through the queues. Universal needs to send out some recon teams FAST.

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