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Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

P. 623: Universal's Mardi Gras 2023 details announced!

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Yesterday Theme Park Review had the opportunity to get an in-depth look at this year's Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida. The event sports new parade floats, a new lineup of performers for the famous concert series and plenty of great food and atmosphere to support the themed festivities!


We were given the unique chance to go behind the scenes to see the Mardi Gras parade floats during the daytime including the three newest floats (plus one that underwent a partial upgrade).


The Dia de los Muertos float is a new addition to the parade and it looks amazing (both during the day and at night)!


And it wouldn't be a Mardi Gras parade without stilt walkers.


The New Orleans Bourbon Street float was also new and possibly the most elaborate. The float features real fire, changing lights in the Jazz Club and stylized architecture inspired by the real Bourbon Street.


On our way to the next stop, we couldn't help but notice the nearly complete building facade for Transformers: The Ride.


The talented live band setup is now located next to the French Quarter Courtyard near Revenge of the Mummy.


Upstairs at Lombard's, Corporate Executive Chef Steven Jayson (the man responsible for Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice) introduced our night's food selections.


There was an authentic crawfish boil (spicy but amazing) as well as a thick gumbo (equally spicy but delicious)!


The jambalaya was great!


Lombard's offers a great view of the Universal Cinematic Spectacular!


So much great food!


There was King Cake, praline cheesecake and bread pudding.


I was floating on cloud nine with that praline cheesecake.


Next we were escorted to an elevated media box for a unique view of the first Mardi Gras parade of the season.


You wouldn't believe how big some of the floats are!


Another of the new floats for the year was the Year of the Dragon float, featuring bright lights and neat fog effects.


And here's the awesome new Dia de los Muertos float we saw backstage.


So much confetti!


I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this parade!


The evening wrapped with a performance by Lifehouse on the Universal Music Plaza Stage.


And they were surprisingly very entertaining!


Thanks again to Universal Orlando for hosting us for the first night of Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida!

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Comcast seems to be good for Universal. Let me say that again to let the gravity of the statement sink in. Comcast... seems to be... good for something. Outstanding.


Haha I'm shocked! I never thought that "Comcast" and "good" would be used in the same sentence! But it's nice to see, and hopefully it continues!

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It seems like they've really stepped up with the bands/musicians as well. It's a really decent lineup they've got for Mardi Gras in Orlando!


BTW, I was kind of laughing about Adam eating King Cake...just imagining you biting into Baby Jesus!!!

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Very Impressive looking floats indeed. Just saw the ORIGINAL Baccha-Gator float last night(the big alligator float) that appears in the Bacchus parade here in New Orleans. Universal did an excellent job of recreating it, as well as the other floats look great too. They really capture the grandiose of a Mardi Gras parade!

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Attendance and visitor spending continued to climb at Universal Orlando and other NBCUniversal theme parks in 2012, parent company Comcast Corp. said Wednesday.


The Philadelphia-based cable company said operating cash flow at its theme parks – a measure of financial strength – surged 9.9 percent in 2012, from $867 million to $953 million.


That included a 9.7 percent increase in the fourth quarter, which covered the busy Christmas travel period, when cash flow jumped from $223 million to $245 million.


Total revenue rose 4.5 percent for the quarter to $498 million, and 4.8 percent for year to nearly $2.1 billion.


Comcast once again attributed much of the growth to Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where a fan frenzy that began nearly three years ago shows no signs of ebbing. The company also said a new Transformers-themed ride at Universal Studios Hollywood drove gains at its West Coast park.


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Comcast Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts praised the parks' "outstanding results" on a conference call with analysts to discuss the company's fourth-quarter earnings.


"The Universal theme parks have been a real standout, and we see great potential in the years ahead," Roberts said.


Comcast announced Tuesday that it will pay $16.7 billion to buy General Electric Co.'s remaining stake in NBCUniversal. Comcast acquired a majority stake in the media conglomerate in early 2011 and had always said it would buy GE out eventually, though it is doing so much sooner than expected.


Comcast said it will continue to ramp up construction of new attractions at its theme parks.


Total capital spending at NBCUniversal ballooned 80 percent in 2012 to $763 million, in part because of spending on attractions such as the Transformers ride in California and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem in Orlando.


And Comcast said NBCUniversal's capital spending will rise another 25 percent in 2013, almost solely because of parks spending. The company will open a copy of the Transformers ride in Orlando this summer and is working on a second Harry Potter land. It is also building copies of Wizarding World and Despicable Me in California.


"Investments in our theme parks over the last few years have actually reset the level of their performance," Comcast Chief Financial Officer Mike Angelakis said on the call. The new attractions, he added, are "dramatically expanding the potential of our theme-park business."

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Newsplusnotes.com said this perfectly. This is nothing to complain about and good news all around. And look at the spending versus Cedar Fair. Quality > Quantity.


"Recent earnings releases for 2012 point out that the Universal parks had an amazing year, with attendance and in-park spending up once again. Operating cash flow rose almost ten percent to $953 million, and overall revenue from the parks was up just shy of five percent to $2.1 billion.


That $2.1 billion comes from the chain's two North American resorts, for comparison both Cedar Fair and Six Flags have yearly revenues right around $1 billion with 19 and 17 properties, respectively. That's a lot of butterbeer!" -Newsplusnotes.com

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^It's probably a pretty insignificant amount of the $2.1 billion, but that number probably also includes whatever fees they collect from Singapore and Japan for the licensing rights as well.


Steve Burke is a former Disney executive with a theme park background (EuroDisney), so I'm sure he understands the value of having a strong theme park business.

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I can agree on the Harry Potter argument. The two days I was there the Wizarding World was always crowded while the rest of the parks had quite low crowds.


As I was walking from Revenge Of The Mummy up I overheard some bored midway games guys talking with one pointing toward the Harry Potter expansion construction saying: "As soon as this will be finished we'll be very busy here...."

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I decided to look back at past trip reports from Orlando, and I just now realized how much themeing Universal just got rid of by getting rid of Jaws.


Of course, J.K. Rowling is going to require even more themeing be put in WWoHP Part 2.


Also, does anybody know what other attractions will be put in other than Gringott's and another Ollivander's. What is Universal even going to call the land? The Muggle-ing World of Harry Potter?

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Hey, Guys,


I've been a Member of TPR for a while now, but I usually just watch the conversations, never posting anything. But now, I have a question.


A buddy and I are thinking of going to USO/IOA for Spring Break during the first week in March. We'll leave Nashville TN on Tuesday, the 5th of March and stay till the following Saturday, March 9th. We're going to get the 2 + 1 ticket deal, and are planning on doing IOA on day 1, USO day 2, and finish up at IOA on day 3.


Now, here's the question. We're contemplating paying a little extra for a Vacation Package through USO which will give up an extra hour in the park, City Walk Passes, and transportation. However, after looking over the budget, if we book a cheap hotel on Hotels.com, we can save some money. So, are the passes/early admission worth it? Should we buy the package or split things up, get a hotel on Hotels.com and tickets at the park?


Also, can you guys give us some tips on what to do whilst we're there? We're both 21 now (first SB that we can drink), and neither of us have been to USO/IOA since we were very young, so I'm sure things have changed.


Much appreciated, guys!

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But what are the City Walk Passes? Will they cover the cover to all of the clubs at City Walk?


Enjoy unlimited one-night club-to-club access and incredible music and entertainment at Universal CityWalk = CityWalk Party Passes

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So today I went and did a lap of both parks, since there's quite a bit of construction and stuff going on. This is what I saw...


First off, on my drive into the park (This is the Turkey Lake side), you can see that Cabana Bay Beach Resort hotel is coming along nicely!


Yup, hello. I'm here. Let's see what's going on around the resort...


First off, it's PACKED today! WTF?!?! It's February! I thought this was supposed to be the off-season in Orlando? Oh well...


The adventure begins.... with a LOT of other people!


They are still offering two different virtual queue options. Not sure if this is confusing to guests or not...


But we recommend this one!


If the rumors about a new Jurassic Park expansion are true, this view could look much different at some point soon!


Universal cracking down on loose articles now.


Holy crap! This is a Wednesday in February! And they were running three trains also!


I'm not sure what has happened to Hulk, but I took two rides on it today (Single rider line, thank you!) and it was some of the roughest B&M rides I've ever had! I know this coaster has lots of potential, so I'm hoping I caught it on a bad day.


Awww....Remember when Bill & Ted was in this theater? That was awesome! Hopefully we'll get to see that again someday....


I remember reading somewhere recently people complaining about how bad Toon Lagoon looked, but I gotta be honest, I thought it was looking really nice!


Maybe it was re-painted recently, I dunno, but I thought the area looked very vibrant and "toony" (is that an official term? I guess it is now!)




No ripping or falling today. Ripsaw Falls is going through re-hab. It will make him a better person when it's all over.


Construction walls and things...


Not much to see here. Random work being done... I should start another rumor that they are re-profiling the drop...but I won't! lol


This is a fairly decent quick-serve which I normally don't see open. Guess it's busy enough today!


Who can say they have this credit?


I'm told that Triceratops Encounter is really down for the count and everything in this area has been removed. Not sure how true that is, but if it is true, maybe those expansion rumors aren't far off?


Walk way to Triceratops Encounter all closed up, and has been for some time.


Remember having to go through those gates to get to the attraction?


Still the best thing to happen to Universal!


All the Peach Fanta I can drink all day for $10! DEAL!!!!


We'll take a quick look in here. If those expansion rumors come true, this building could look a little different.


Still think the Discovery Center is one of the more underrated areas of the park.


It's like Innoventions...but all Dinos!


Yes, they have real baby dinos that you can see!


Still the best game show in a theme park! lol


That's the bridge they built when Potterverse was under construction. Do they ever use that anymore?


And speaking of Potterverse...that's the line for Butterbeer!


What the hell!!?!? It's a WEDNESDAY!!! In FEBRUARY!!!! So much for the "recession!" lol


Ooooh! Construction!!!


Looks like they've knocked down a couple small buildings to make way for what will eventually be the express train taking you to the "other" Potter land.


Behind the wall is a giant mound of DIRT! Hooray!


Here's another look at what is going on behind the walls.


Looks like Sinbad and the annoying fountain are staying! =)


1999 - 2005. =)


Here's the current menu. Don't recognize most of the items on it. Haven't been here in a while now...


Anyone remember when this used to be an AOL kiosk? lol


Here's how Mythos looks today...


I sometimes forget these dudes are still here!


Seuss Landing was also looking very good!


New paint job maybe?


LOL! Probably still one of my favourite store names!


I noticed that most of all the "little" things in Seuss Landing seemed to be working. That's great!


Overall, I thought IOA looked really good. They seem to be a doing a great job keeping it up.


Just outside of the ticket booths, this was under construction. Not sure what this is going to be. Probably more ticket kiosks.


Time to take a lap of the Studios....


Yup, it's busy here too!


With the recent closure of T2 in California, do we think it's days are numbered here in Orlando also?


I spy something with my little eye...


It's hard to believe that just a couple of months ago, this building didn't exist, and BAM! Now it's here and only a few months before Transformers opens!


Some work being done on the exterior of the building still.


I'm assuming this is going to be the entrance to the ride?


This may very well be the fastest "big ride" to ever go up at a theme park anywhere!


I think it will be something like 9 months from when they broke ground to opening!


And there's Transformers...building is pretty much done!


Across the way there is even MORE construction going on! Let's go check that out...


This view looks pretty different now.


Seriously, Coke Freestyle machines all over the park is AWESOME!!!!


So this will eventually be the new Potter land...


As you can see, they still have a LOT of work left to go!


The big building will house a new roller coaster...


And I'm sure there will be lots of Potter wands and things to buy...


I'm still secretly hoping that Jaws gets his revenge somehow! =)


One final look at Amity...I mean.... new Potter area....


Still one of the best (if not THE best) shooting dark rides ever made!


On the other side of the lagoon there is even MORE construction going on!


The Simpsons area is getting a small expansion of it's own!


You'll see some new shops that you may recognize from Springfield.


Not exactly sure what these new buildings will be...


Maybe Moe's Tavern or Krusty Burger? One can hope!


I've just heard that it will be locations you'll recognize from the show!


All the Spongebob stuff you could possibly want...


Still can't believe how fast this building went up! Insane!!!


Ok, so I just gotta ask the question, because I REALLY like the Hollywood Drive-In Mini Golf....


Is it doing well? Because every time I pass by it, I don't ever see anyone playing it! I think there was one group on the course that I saw today. Please go and play this mini-golf because it is REALLY good!


That wraps up a sort of current state of things at Universal Orlando! Thanks for reading!!! POST YOUR COMMENTS!!!!

Edited by robbalvey
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Awesome report as always Robb.. Just a thought regarding lines.. This is the big vacation week for the North East and New England area.. Seems like everyone I know that has a government job is off this week locally. That might account for the lines.



Another thought- I might be easily impressed, but they've done a great job with theming the cube that is the new transformers ride.. Cool to see they did something other than just theme it to a "sound stage"..

Edited by Chroniq
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^^ It hasn't been just this week. We've been to parks pretty much every week since Christmas and there really hasn't been a "slow" time. I wasn't actually "questioning" why the parks are crowded, I was just more saying "What the hell!??!" As you remember January and February, even during holiday times, would be "THE TIME TO GO!", but now, it seems like the Orlando parks are just busy all the time.


I mean, I'm not complaining, this is GREAT for the area! More people means more new rides!

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