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Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

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Part of the greatness of Universal (and why our family ranks it ahead of Disney) is the convenience. We typitcally stay at the Hard Rock or the neighboring Portofino, where we can walk to anything. It does not appear that you can walk or take a water taxi to Volcano Bay. Can anyone confirm?

Just take the garden path to cabana Bay to walk there, cabana bays shuttle as it's right next door or take the boat to sapphire falls and walk from there. I assume they'll have shuttles from the parking garage to volcano Bay as well.

 

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Part of the greatness of Universal (and why our family ranks it ahead of Disney) is the convenience. We typitcally stay at the Hard Rock or the neighboring Portofino, where we can walk to anything. It does not appear that you can walk or take a water taxi to Volcano Bay. Can anyone confirm?

 

Those deluxe properties at Disney are pretty darn convenient, and you get to ride a monorail.......

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There are pieces of a large Tannish/Brown slide already installed inside the Volcano at the park. I'm surprised the usual suspects aren't blogging much about it's construction. The Taiwana (sp) racers are already installed as are all the slides on the backside of the Volcano. It's shaping up but the park most certainly looks a year away at least.

 

This park definitely looks like it will take the crown for Orlando Water parks mostly by having all of the major points in one park (convenience, employees, theming, atmosphere, slide quality).

 

I'm very excited to hear that there's some ride reservation tests going on at Wet N Wild, I only hope there is some elevator system inside that volcano to raise people up 200 feet to the top!

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Part of the greatness of Universal (and why our family ranks it ahead of Disney) is the convenience. We typitcally stay at the Hard Rock or the neighboring Portofino, where we can walk to anything. It does not appear that you can walk or take a water taxi to Volcano Bay. Can anyone confirm?

 

Those deluxe properties at Disney are pretty darn convenient, and you get to ride a monorail.......

Yeah, after paying like 600 per night.

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Part of the greatness of Universal (and why our family ranks it ahead of Disney) is the convenience. We typitcally stay at the Hard Rock or the neighboring Portofino, where we can walk to anything. It does not appear that you can walk or take a water taxi to Volcano Bay. Can anyone confirm?

 

Those deluxe properties at Disney are pretty darn convenient, and you get to ride a monorail.......

Yeah, after paying like 600 per night.

 

I mean the Hard Rock and Portofino Bay are both in that same range. Heck I Just did a quick search for Disney and Universal on the same nights and Disney's Polynesian is less than Royal Pacific and only like $40 more than Saphire Falls. I realize some of the Universal Deluxe resorts come with the front of the line pass and all but the pricing and convenience of the higher end properties really isn't that different.

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Call me crazy, but when I go on vacation I prefer not to have to pick my meals months ahead of time, or predetermine which rides I’ll go on (and when) because all of the popular Fastpasses book up so quickly. The Disney Deluxe hotels are convenient for getting to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot but good luck getting to Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios in under an hour via the inferior bus system in the middle of summer. Contrast that with Hard Rock, Portofino or Royal Pacific where I can walk (yes walk) to each of the hotels in 5-7 minutes. I can leave either park whenever I want and have lunch poolside, just by walking. Same goes for City Walk and probably Volcano Bay. You just can’t beat that convenience.

 

And then there is the Fastpass v Express Pass comparison. The reality is there is no comparison. Express Pass Hands down. They could charge double for that thing and I’d still pay it. We've always left Disney missing out on certain rides because the lines were too long and we didn't have a Fastpass (because they run out). That just doesn't happen at Universal. Sure, Harry Potter fills up quick, but that's when early park entry comes in handy - yet another convenience factor.

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Call me crazy, but when I go on vacation I prefer not to have to pick my meals months ahead of time, or predetermine which rides I’ll go on (and when) because all of the popular Fastpasses book up so quickly. The Disney Deluxe hotels are convenient for getting to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot but good luck getting to Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios in under an hour via the inferior bus system in the middle of summer. Contrast that with Hard Rock, Portofino or Royal Pacific where I can walk (yes walk) to each of the hotels in 5-7 minutes. I can leave either park whenever I want and have lunch poolside, just by walking. Same goes for City Walk and probably Volcano Bay. You just can’t beat that convenience.

 

And then there is the Fastpass v Express Pass comparison. The reality is there is no comparison. Express Pass Hands down. They could charge double for that thing and I’d still pay it. We've always left Disney missing out on certain rides because the lines were too long and we didn't have a Fastpass (because they run out). That just doesn't happen at Universal. Sure, Harry Potter fills up quick, but that's when early park entry comes in handy - yet another convenience factor.

 

I agree with all of this. I don't really want to complain about Fast Pass and My Disney Experience because it's free, but it was so frustrating at first that I just wanted to throw money at them like I can at Universal so I didn't have to deal with the B.S.

 

I started to like Disney's system more once I got more familiar with it but at first it's a pain in the ass. Especially if you're not staying on property so you have to scan the codes on every admission ticket to add everyone to a group to book FastPass. And if different people in the group want different FastPasses because some people like thrill rides and some don't but then we want to share some other ones it's insanely annoying if you haven't used it before.

 

We enjoyed the setup at Universal much more, and City Walk blows Disney Springs away just because of it's convenient location (which isn't Disney's fault of course) so I agree in regards to dining also. Plus they have a Margaritaville and I'm a massive Parrothead.

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Call me crazy, but when I go on vacation I prefer not to have to pick my meals months ahead of time, or predetermine which rides I’ll go on (and when) because all of the popular Fastpasses book up so quickly. The Disney Deluxe hotels are convenient for getting to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot but good luck getting to Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios in under an hour via the inferior bus system in the middle of summer. Contrast that with Hard Rock, Portofino or Royal Pacific where I can walk (yes walk) to each of the hotels in 5-7 minutes. I can leave either park whenever I want and have lunch poolside, just by walking. Same goes for City Walk and probably Volcano Bay. You just can’t beat that convenience.

 

And then there is the Fastpass v Express Pass comparison. The reality is there is no comparison. Express Pass Hands down. They could charge double for that thing and I’d still pay it. We've always left Disney missing out on certain rides because the lines were too long and we didn't have a Fastpass (because they run out). That just doesn't happen at Universal. Sure, Harry Potter fills up quick, but that's when early park entry comes in handy - yet another convenience factor.

 

Don't get me wrong here I'm not saying there is anything wrong with Universal's approach at all, it is different than Disney's for various reasons but it is perfectly fine. Personally I do kind of enjoy picking my meals and making dining reservations and fastpass+ reservations months ahead of time, I completely understand how some people prefer the spontaneity but for me planning out the trip out in advance is kind of part of the fun. Even when I make last minute short weekend trips (which are most of my trips) honestly I've never had a problem getting fastpasses/dining reservations for anything I wanted with a few exceptions like 7 Dwarves Mine Train, Be Our Guest, Ana Elsa, TSM but honestly even those attractions I've gotten FP+ the day of many times. Heck I had a FP for Frozen Ever After even though I couldn't make it down that day.

 

And the Fast pass+/ Express Pass comparison well there isn't a comparison because they are completely different. Next time I go to Universal (it's been a while) I'm going to stay on property and get an Express Pass because it's been so long since I've been, but it is nice at Disney to know that I can reserve 3 or 4 of my favorite attractions ahead of time anytime I want without having to drop an extra $100 a day to do so. Sure it is nice to throw some more money at Universal to have a great day, but it's also nice to have an AP to Disney where I don't have to spend extra money to get on whatever I want whenever I want to on a dozen trips per year with just a little bit effort in planning.

 

Again I'm not knocking Universal's approach at all, I'm looking forward to staying on property and getting Express passes, just gonna have to wait a few years until my kids are taller than 40" so there are more than 3 rides I can take them on..........(that part was me throwin some shade at UO)

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Call me crazy, but when I go on vacation I prefer not to have to pick my meals months ahead of time, or predetermine which rides I’ll go on (and when) because all of the popular Fastpasses book up so quickly. The Disney Deluxe hotels are convenient for getting to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot but good luck getting to Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios in under an hour via the inferior bus system in the middle of summer. Contrast that with Hard Rock, Portofino or Royal Pacific where I can walk (yes walk) to each of the hotels in 5-7 minutes. I can leave either park whenever I want and have lunch poolside, just by walking. Same goes for City Walk and probably Volcano Bay. You just can’t beat that convenience.

 

And then there is the Fastpass v Express Pass comparison. The reality is there is no comparison. Express Pass Hands down. They could charge double for that thing and I’d still pay it. We've always left Disney missing out on certain rides because the lines were too long and we didn't have a Fastpass (because they run out). That just doesn't happen at Universal. Sure, Harry Potter fills up quick, but that's when early park entry comes in handy - yet another convenience factor.

 

Don't get me wrong here I'm not saying there is anything wrong with Universal's approach at all, it is different than Disney's for various reasons but it is perfectly fine. Personally I do kind of enjoy picking my meals and making dining reservations and fastpass+ reservations months ahead of time, I completely understand how some people prefer the spontaneity but for me planning out the trip out in advance is kind of part of the fun. Even when I make last minute short weekend trips (which are most of my trips) honestly I've never had a problem getting fastpasses/dining reservations for anything I wanted with a few exceptions like 7 Dwarves Mine Train, Be Our Guest, Ana Elsa, TSM but honestly even those attractions I've gotten FP+ the day of many times. Heck I had a FP for Frozen Ever After even though I couldn't make it down that day.

 

And the Fast pass+/ Express Pass comparison well there isn't a comparison because they are completely different. Next time I go to Universal (it's been a while) I'm going to stay on property and get an Express Pass because it's been so long since I've been, but it is nice at Disney to know that I can reserve 3 or 4 of my favorite attractions ahead of time anytime I want without having to drop an extra $100 a day to do so. Sure it is nice to throw some more money at Universal to have a great day, but it's also nice to have an AP to Disney where I don't have to spend extra money to get on whatever I want whenever I want to on a dozen trips per year with just a little bit effort in planning.

 

Again I'm not knocking Universal's approach at all, I'm looking forward to staying on property and getting Express passes, just gonna have to wait a few years until my kids are taller than 40" so there are more than 3 rides I can take them on..........(that part was me throwin some shade at UO)

 

If I was an annual pass holder who lived locally I would love Fast Pass at Disney. If you're a day guest on vacation though I prefer Universal's system because it's easier, more exclusive, there's no initial setup like with Disney's system (though is is much easier if you stay on property) and when you're on vacation you don't care about dropping some extra cash which wouldn't be at all feasible if I were a passholder that just dropped in for a few hours at a time.

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Just got back from a week long Orlando trip, My first time there. I was able to get 1 day in at Sea World to ride Mako and see what it had to offer, then a 3 day pass to the Universal Resort.

 

First let me say I was very impressed with Sea World, it was very well themed and the shows and rides were all very good. Mako and Manta were the two favorites. I have ridden a few hyper coasters and both the giga coasters having now moved to the east coast and I would say Mako fits into exactly what I was expecting. B&M make great coasters and this one is right there with the others. The First drop, overbank second hill, and low airtime hill are easily the highlights of this ride. I wish the had done more with everything past the mid course brake as it seems to just kinda cruise into the brake run. I do love the music that is played outside the que when the train comes flying through, its very startling.

 

On to my Universal trip. Everything was great! I was loving the details in theming and I cant say I didnt like a single ride I went on. IOA was a dream park of mine and I loved every second of it. Each area was visually amazing and has at least one ride that I had to do at least twice. The only ride I felt was a little lack luster was the Jurassic Park River Adventure. I guess I was expecting more having ridden the Hollywood one and thinking IOA would have had a bigger budget to plus the ride up a bit more.

 

When we scheduled our trip we knew there was a chance that Kong would be open, but we weren't sure. The first day there we were told that the ride would be down and was not expected to open so we moved on through our trip. Day two came along and we were at the studios side and thought it was worth a Hogwarts Express trip over to the park to check on the status. We walked up to the ride and noticed that all the outdoor effects were on, so I asked the attendant and she said that the ride could open but no promises. I decided to wait just a bit due to the odd amount of activity happening behind the barriers by higher level looking people. After about 25 minutes a nice man came up to the fence where we were standing and said "follow me" and we did. So here is my experience and thoughts on Kong.

 

***** SPOILER REVIEW******

 

Walking into the que under the large rock formation of Kong is really neat, but the rest of the outside que to the left of the main building was a surprise. You take a trail over to the left of the main building that really feels grown in and tropical, they have misters all along the ground to simulate low hanging fog. Sounds of the jungle are piped in to really make you feel that you are not in Kansas anymore. Every now and then a large expedition truck would lumber by followed by the loud booming sound of the large gate opening and closing swallowing its sacrifices. Past the outdoor que finds you in a quassy outdoor/indoor que with a 1920's NBC radio loop playing through the speakers. If you listen to the broadcast it really gives you a good run down of whats going on. Apparently an island has been found and a team of scientists have been dispatched to explore and retrieve items in the name of science. The 8th Wonder Expedition is what they have been dubbed and the individuals in the party are introduced through various news briefings. This plays very well into the ride as you meet a few of these people through the ride and one of them will be introduced to you as your driver at the platform. Now into the more intense part of the que.

 

Walking under the large black stone opening we find ourselves in what looks like a small temple. Large carvings are on the walls with various bones and sacrificial offerings placed in front, we head deeper. You pass by a large opening in the wall where a pissed off looking native stares back at you and growls. After a few switchbacks we make our way into a room where what looks to be a ritual is taking place. The room is tall and surrounded by large skulls carved into the rocks above us. A very cool orange glow comes from the empty eye sockets that get brighter as the ritual reaches its climax.

At the front of the room is a native witch/shaman chanting something that is obviously raising tensions in the room, this animatronic is amazing and you get very close to her. She gets louder and louder and the room shakes when she says the name Kong. This loops over and over and I would say it lasts about 15 minutes from start to finish, its really cool and definitely sets up the next part of the que.

 

We journey up a hallway that starts to get smaller until we are in a hallway bookended by dried up corpses. This hallway is dark for a reason as there is something waiting for you. Screams can be heard around corners and behind you. It looks like that pissed off native is back and doesn't want you around anymore. He appears through holes in the walls scaring you when you least expect it. Its like having a little bit of year round Horror Nights in the que, he got my wife really good on our second go round. Now we have reached the loading dock complete with crates and specimens ready to be shipped back for study. Most of the boxes have really cool labels and some of the boxes you can hear collected specimens. One box of course contains a large worm that watches you and reacts as you walk by.

 

We collect our safety glasses and are led to the dock where our huge vehicle has just pulled in. We are loaded up and our driver, in this journey it was "Frank" introduces himself to us and gives us a few warnings. This is where I really was blown away. Apparently each truck is driven by a different character so your experience changes slightly per trip depending on who you get, remember these people were introduced in the news reels earlier. You can clearly see someone in the cab but the glass is just dirty enough to not make out specific details. You can see them moving, talking, getting the truck into gear, and driving. Off we go!

 

The truck heads around the outside of the large temple past columns of rock and flames, chanting can be heard and Frank does his best to make light of the situation. A radio distress call comes through and Frank lets us know we need to make a detour to go get his pals. We enter the wilderness through the large gates that slam shut behind us. Frank lets us know that there are some strange things on the island but he has never seen anything to big. We see remains of a large ape to our left and large bats have taken up residence on the cave wall to our right. We move deeper and find our friends off to the left, they are in need of assistance and Frank offers to help. The bats have now awoken and are attacking. One picks up Kate (?) and flies her over us. We drive forward to find her, she has fought off the bat and is now in a ravine to our left. Large bugs and worms start to come from the ground and Kate fends them off with her machine gun, bug juice is flying everywhere. She tells us to get out of there and we do as she is grabbed by a claw and taken away. Driving forward we find ourselves in the jungle on either side, but not alone. Small raptor like dinosaurs have found us and begin chasing us as we drive away at high speed. As with all animal attacks, there is always a bigger one waiting and we are now in the midst of three large T-Rexes. They dispatch the raptors and turn their attention to our vehicle. They begin smashing into our truck with their large heads, their saliva hitting us in our faces. Just as it looks like we are finished Kong smashes through an old temple and saves us. This scene is amazing and having been on the Hollywood one I can say this is truly more immersive. The screens are closer to you and being that you are not in a huge train they can focus the action into a smaller area. Stuff is happening all around you and the movements of the vehicle match perfectly. Kong dispatches the dinos and we are free to drive away. As we turn the corner we get one last visit from Kong, there in all his humongous glory. I recommend taking off you safety glasses at this point so you can really see the detail involved with this amazing animatronic. Im also glad we get to spend more that a fleeting moment with this thing as its just amazing to watch. The sound is insane as well, you can feel him breath and his roar pierces you. Frank lets us know we have to get out of there and we head back to the loading dock.

 

My impressions? This will be a massive hit and I didn't see one person come off the ride that wasn't smiling. Its a little rough for small children, especially the que. We were able to get two rides in and each time I saw something new. I cant wait to do it again. Now for a few really bad pics:

kongentrance1.thumb.jpg.0984adbf5e7a66c01c4ae6f9e6b56b6c.jpg

kongwalkinginque2.thumb.jpg.83ce14dd1db4775079e0e13721263085.jpg

Followed the Rep through the que

kongswamp3.thumb.jpg.9bffe299995bd194ee4854ee900d23ae.jpg

misters all over the ground

kongquestatue4.thumb.jpg.d6a6a21b46a7f678fa5c31dd3694056f.jpg

898524303_kongwitch5.thumb.jpg.30f9a00304b0a9bcfc4414d1a1552d1c.jpg

kongworm6.thumb.jpg.b28199e7faa9b43e0dbeecf2f0995012.jpg

kongridestationA7.thumb.jpg.2e4c7a50330b519fe0b88edbab151411.jpg

load station

kongridestationB8.thumb.jpg.d7fd0d83ab709316e7b59d341e8e3c7f.jpg

kong8thwonder3.thumb.jpg.3d28a54bf80756a1039a38b6dd71f304.jpg

kongtruckincomming9.thumb.jpg.659bf970c3d10bed13e3da0e06449042.jpg

truck incomming

kongtruckloading10.thumb.jpg.66b61b2304fce13acf47dd4ae803f1b5.jpg

kongonride11.thumb.jpg.aaf8eb0c2b261ffefe4239f1501fd135.jpg

kongsign12.thumb.jpg.856ddfb941072e5ab9a2f15feb5eb5c2.jpg

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Call me crazy, but when I go on vacation I prefer not to have to pick my meals months ahead of time, or predetermine which rides I’ll go on (and when) because all of the popular Fastpasses book up so quickly. The Disney Deluxe hotels are convenient for getting to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot but good luck getting to Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios in under an hour via the inferior bus system in the middle of summer. Contrast that with Hard Rock, Portofino or Royal Pacific where I can walk (yes walk) to each of the hotels in 5-7 minutes. I can leave either park whenever I want and have lunch poolside, just by walking. Same goes for City Walk and probably Volcano Bay. You just can’t beat that convenience.

 

And then there is the Fastpass v Express Pass comparison. The reality is there is no comparison. Express Pass Hands down. They could charge double for that thing and I’d still pay it. We've always left Disney missing out on certain rides because the lines were too long and we didn't have a Fastpass (because they run out). That just doesn't happen at Universal. Sure, Harry Potter fills up quick, but that's when early park entry comes in handy - yet another convenience factor.

 

This is the biggest paragraph of truth in this topic! haha

 

A close friend and her family went to Disney last year for the first time, and they couldn't believe just how "micro-managed" their trip was. Trying to pick what you will be riding, when, at what park, months ahead of time was quite shocking to them. They ended up liking the parks, but LOVING Universal for this very reason. They didn't need to plan every tidbit, the express passes were far better to use and they just enjoyed their visit more. Mind you, this is a husband and wife and four kids (6-16 years old or so). Kind of the ideal Disney clientele.

 

In my personal experience, I have been to Disney World quite a few times, but never really love it. It's fun, sure, but they just fall so flat for me in terms of overall experience. Insane lines, sold out fastlane or I need to stop back 6 hours later or something silly. I dunno... Beautiful parks, great employees and all that... Sure.. Even a nice selection of rides at a few of those parks... I just don't get the "magic" most others do.

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^^^Thanks for that report! This is the first thing I've heard that really makes me take more interest in this. I love Universal and know that they always theme everything to the nth degree, but I was having a hard time getting excited for another attraction that requires me to wear special glasses.

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Hey everybody, so sorry to be the uniformed guy here but I have a question or two! I haven't been keeping up with every new update on Hulk's progress, but I'm assuming that the only work left to be done is final touches, queue theming, and an overall sprucing up of the area. Can anyone bring me up to speed on the possibility of soft openings and when they could happen? I know officially Hulk opens in "Late Summer," but given that the ride has been testing for quite some time, is an earlier opening possible?

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Assuming Kong isn't fully open yet? I'm surprised at the lack of updates for such an anticipated ride.

Nope. Still in soft openings with lots of bugs to still work out.

 

Hey everybody, so sorry to be the uniformed guy here but I have a question or two! I haven't been keeping up with every new update on Hulk's progress, but I'm assuming that the only work left to be done is final touches, queue theming, and an overall sprucing up of the area. Can anyone bring me up to speed on the possibility of soft openings and when they could happen? I know officially Hulk opens in "Late Summer," but given that the ride has been testing for quite some time, is an earlier opening possible?

The queue has a long way to go, so even though the ride has been testing, the queue house won't be suitable for the public for a long time. I don't see softs until at least late July, maybe August.

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