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(7/20/160 Volcano Bay Hydro-Magnetic Slide Spotted (MORE...)
(7/16/16) Universal Orlando's Sapphire Falls Resort Welcomes First Guests (MORE...)
(7/12/16) Universal Orlando Evacuated Pathway From Garage To CityWalk (MORE...)
(7/7/16) Halloween 2 Coming To Halloween Horror Nights 26
Click here to read the full Screamscape review of Halloween Horror Nights 25!
Reminder - Universal Orlando has announced that they will be closing down the famous Wet 'n Wild Orlando waterpark on December 31, 2016. It will be replaced by the new Volcano Bay waterpark opening in 2017.
General Resort News - (7/12/16) Universal Orlando was forced to evacuate the pathway / bridge that runs from Citywalk to the parking garages on Monday afternoon when a suspicious package was spotted in the south parking structure. Access to the garage was restored by Monday evening, though Citywalk itself and the two Universal Orlando theme parks were unaffected and remained open.
(6/1/16) Universal Orlando has put into effect a similar "seasonal" based pricing schedule for those who pay at the gate on the day they visit, much like what we saw the company launch in Hollywood earlier this year. According to the reports an Adult one-day / 2-park ticket purchased at the gate is now $169 (up $14), and a Child version is $164. One Day / 1-Park tickets purchased at the gate also seem to have gone up about $14 to $119 and $114.
However, this are just the walk-up prices at the gate... if you buy your tickets online ahead of time you will still be able to pay the old price. So be sure to buy your ticket in advance.
(5/29/16) Midway Mayhem...formerly Mako Madness, has posted a new construction video from the Universal Orlando resort. Shortly into the video they take a look at the changes to the outside of the new Race Through New York ride in the former Twister building, as well as checking in on the upcoming Fast & Furious attraction area.
Then it's out to CityWalk to check on the exterior work being done to theToothsome building, which is expected to be ready sometime in the Fall. Then we go into Islands of Adventure for some Hulk Testing footage as well as new footage of Skull Island: Reign of Kong which apparently has been seen testing with some human rides aboard (opening crew & management).
(5/19/16) I’m not sure if this move has any deeper meaning behind it, but it seems Universal Orlando will begin to convert all the old paper annual passes into new more durable plastic cards starting on June 3rd. This has led some to wonder if these new passes are simply plastic cards, or if they will contain some kind of RFID chip inside them like Disney uses. If the later is possible, it could make the cards more functional in other ways such as linking them to credit cards for payment systems, guest movement tracking, or even future ways of adding new personalized content to the attractions as we are just starting to see Disney roll out on select attractions this year.
(5/6/16) The start of Summer is just on the horizon and we already have our first frivolous lawsuit against a theme park for the season. In this case a group of three people have filed a lawsuit against Universal Studios after they claim they were left stranded in Orlando "dangling upside-down" on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey dark ride for over an hour. Never-mind the fact that at no point does the ride invert the riders into an upside-down position, but this also happened nearly two years ago, making everyone wonder about the reason for the delay in filing if they truly felt they were somehow wronged.
(5/5/16) Universal Orlando is offering Florida Residents a special "Wet 'n Wild Last Splash" pass deal right now. For the month of May, Florida Residents can, for $39.99, which is less than the price of a regular one-day visit to the Wet 'n Wild waterpark, get a pass to visit for the rest of 2016 for free. This will give all your locals plenty of time to visit Florida's original waterpark and say your goodbyes before it closes down forever.
(5/3/16) Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando has unveiled an all new room design this week.
Inspired by the theme of staying at a luxury island resort, the rooms at the resort have now been completely renovated to feature a new and very tropical South Pacific look to them.
I've probably stayed at the Royal Pacific half a dozen times over the past decade and always enjoyed my stay, including the old look of the rooms, but this new look is also very appealing with the brighter colors and floral patterns as well. Of course, having stayed at all four of the Loews Resorts at Universal Orlando, no matter how they look, I've always found the rooms to be extremely comfortable, especially the beds. I've said it before and I'll say it again, hands down, they've got the best beds of any hotels I've stayed at, and I always sleep like a baby and wake refreshed for the new day. So now I've got something else to look forward to the next time I drop into the Royal Pacific, though I really can't wait to try out the new Sapphire Falls too...
(4/30/16) Universal Orlando posted this video last week, but it’s pretty darn funny as they shoot guest’s facial reactions as they taste the various flavors of Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans. If you’ve never tried Bertie Bott’s before, what you get is a box of jelly beans in a mixed variety of flavors (like Jelly Bellys), but in this case about a third to half of the flavors are NASTY and VILE while the others are sweet and yummy. How vile? Watch the video to see guests react to the flavors of Earwax, Dirt, Boogers, Vomit, and more, while the person next to them is enjoying a tasty bean.
(4/21/16) Universal Orlando has raised the prices of their Annual Passes this week, where the cost of your basic Florida resident AP has bumped up $20 to $235. The next tier up that adds free parking and no blackout dates only went up $10 to $310. The tier tier pass with extra benefits went up $15 to $445.
(2/12/16) Universal Orlando raised their ticket prices slightly on Wednesday, with the price of a single day / single park admission going up from $102 to $105 for adults and a child ticket went up from $97 to $100. The price of a 1-Day / 2-Park ticket has gone up from $147 to $155 as well. However, there are some good deals online right now for US and Canada residents that can score you a 3rd day free with the purchase of a 2-Day / 2-Park pass for $219.99… so that’s 3-Days / 2-Parks for just $9.99 more than it would cost you to buy two 1-Day/1-Park passes at the gate, which isn’t too shabby, especially if you can also take advantage of staying on-site and all the perks that come along with that as well.
(9/23/15) According to this news story, there is now a plan in place as part of the I-4 revamp plan under way as it passes Universal Orlando to build a pedestrian bridge that will go across Kirkman from Universal Orlando towards the small grouping of hotels across the street.
Summer 2016 - Sapphire Falls Resort - NOW OPEN - (7/16/16) Universal Orlando’s new Sapphire Falls Resort is now open and they went all out to roll out a special red carpet when the resorts very first guests arrived. Check our just what happened below, along with a second video tour of the resort posted to UO’s Facebook page.
(6/30/16) During my trip to Universal Orlando I was invited out to take a Water Taxi tour over to get an up close look at the new Sapphire Falls Resort which will open in about 2 weeks, on July 14th. The new hotel is adding another 1,000 rooms to the overall capacity of the Universal Orlando resort, and at the moment they told us that 750 of those rooms were already set and ready for guests at this time. The main work taking place right now is primarily landscaping work to finish up the outside look of the resort, finish building the rockwork of the large waterfall itself that runs through from one side of the resort to the other, and just the overall final shine and polish that needs to be done just ahead of the first guests stepping through the door. We were asked not to take any pictures from the water taxi tour, so I'm honing that request, but I do have pictures I took from the Cabana Bay resort to post instead.
From what I can describe to you, I will say that I was fully willing to be let off the boat right then and there to stay in the Sapphire Falls at that moment had they let me. The large buildings are beautiful to look at and fit right in with the overall tropical atmosphere Universal is building on this side of the resort, first with the Royal Pacific next door and next year with the opening of the Volcano Bay waterpark. While we did not get to see the pool area on the other side of the resort, they did say that it would have the largest pool area of all of their resorts. As a unique feature, it not only features a zero-depth entry system into the pool, but there is also a similar style water pathway that leads from one section of the pool over to the outdoor bar area.
The look of the resort will make it appear that the waters of the pool transform into the resorts signature waterfall feature, cascading down into the lagoon on the other side of the resort where guests will arrive and depart to CityWalk via Water Taxi. Overlooking this lagoon area will not only be views from the resorts signature restaurant, but also from the rum bar on the upper floor above the restaurant. Here they are taking a serious look into the historical culture of rum beverages and this will be a serious stop for those not only wanting to partake in some sampling of the various styles of rum and rum beverages, but the area will also have an outdoor patio area overlooking the lagoon, as well as a large fire pit style feature that will lend a healthy glow at night to the area, making it a relaxing place to sit and watch the waters below and gaze out at the horizon, from the buildings of the nearby Royal Pacific and CityWalk as well as the roaring attractions from nearby Islands of Adventure. Good times for sure… and you can be sure I’ll be dropping by to experience Sapphire Falls the next chance I get.
(6/22/16) Universal Orlando has confirmed that their new Sapphire Falls Resort will officially open on July 14th.
(3/22/16) If you scroll down a little over half-way on this page you can find fairly new aerial photos of the Sapphire Falls Resort under construction, and don't miss the Volcano Bay pictures below that as the volcano structure and many slide supports are all taking shape.
(2/5/16) Universal Orlando has begun accepting early reservations to their new Sapphire Falls Resort for dates starting with July 14, 2016. If you reserve between now and May 31st, they are offering a special $150 dining credit if you book at least a 4-night length of stay between July 14th and Dec 31st, 2016. Keep in mind that the actual opening date of the resort is still fluid and can open earlier if they are ready to do so, the July 14th date is just a solid date that they feel comfortable with enough to start accepting early reservations. They’ve also posted a new promotional video that features a lot of concept art for the new resort.
(2/1/16) Thanks to a reader for sending in a new picture of the Sapphire Falls resort construction taking place at Universal Orlando.
Looks like they still have a ways to go to get this one up and running for Summer 2016.
(10/21/15) A reader staying at Universal Orlando managed to get a couple of very good shots of the new Sapphire Falls Resort under construction, which I've added to our collection. Check them out.
(10/3/15) I forgot to post these, but when I stayed at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort for Halloween Horror Nights two weeks ago, I had a great view of the construction site for the new Sapphire Falls Resort, which is rising very quickly into the sky. Check out great photos.
(8/5/15) While Universal Orlando still has not been willing to comment on the issue of having Universal Express access for guests of their new Sapphire Falls Resort, a reader did call the reservations hotline who did confirm that Universal Express would NOT be an included amenity for the Sapphire Falls Resort. While checking rates for rooms, it also seems that while Sapphire Falls is in the same "Preferred" tier as the Royal Pacific, the current room rates for Sapphire Falls are being priced at about the mid-point price between the room-rates for Royal Pacific and Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
So why no Universal Express pass for Sapphire Falls? Certainly this seems to be the reason why the room rates are cheaper than the Royal Pacific, but couldn't they just add it in and charge the same rate as Royal Pacific? According to one Screamscape source, Universal's first three on-site resort hotels were not just a partnership between Loews and Universal, but apparently included Hard Rock as a minority partner as well. According to this tale, the Universal Express amenity is somehow tied to this deal with Hard Rock as an exclusive amenity of those first three resorts: Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort. So as long as Hard Rock remains as an active partner, we may never see Universal Express offered at any other Universal Orlando Resort project.
(7/30/15) I've got a few more details about Universal's new 1000-room Sapphire Falls Resort. A new description of the resort issued mentions a number of new features guests will be interested in:
"Guests will be captivated by a vivid retreat that evokes a free-spirited, Caribbean sense of ease with a modern yet timeless feel. The unforgettable island escape will feature Universal Orlando’s largest on-site, zero-entry pool at 16,000 square-feet, with two white sand beaches, a water slide, cabanas and a fire pit. Dining options will include Amatista Cookhouse, a Caribbean-inspired restaurant with open exhibition kitchen and outdoor dining; Strong Water Tavern, a destination lobby lounge offering daily rum tastings and a tapas-style menu; Drhum Club Kantine, a poolside bar and grill serving a menu focusing on fresh fish and specialty tropical cocktails; New Dutch Trading Co., a quick-service marketplace; and 24-hour room service. Loews Sapphire Falls Resort will be a Preferred on-site hotel."
Now about that last part... Universal will be reclassifying their resorts with the pending launch of the new Sapphire Falls Resort. The Hard Rock Hotel and Portofino Bay Hotel are being classified as "Premier" level resorts. Sapphire Falls will join with the Royal Pacific Resort in the new "Preferred" tier, while the Cabana Bay Beach Resort will remain as the resorts sole "Value" level resort.
What is odd however, is if you look at the list of guest benefits for Sapphire Falls, it lists Early Park Admission, water taxi and shuttle bus service to the theme parks and CityWalk, comp delivery of merchandise purchased to be sent to your hotel, charging privileges with your room key "And more!". While the "And more!" leaves things open, I've got to point out the one curious and very important benefit not listed here... Universal Express access to the attractions. Currently Universal Express is listed as a benefit to guests of the Royal Pacific Resort, which will join the Sapphire Falls in the "Preferred" tier, and Universal Express is a benefit for all Universal Resort guests, except those staying at the Value level Cabana Bay Beach Resort. So I guess the question is... can the Universal Express program handle the impact of another 1,000 rooms to be added to the service without negatively impacting the program.
I've asked Universal for some clarification on this subject, but so far I haven't heard anything back yet, so I can only assume that either the "And more!" will include the addition of Universal Express for the Sapphire Falls guests, or perhaps consider the idea that Universal Express stands a chance of being dropped as a benefit for Royal Pacific guests sometime next year and reserved only for those staying at Premier level hotels. Hopefully Universal Orlando will be able to clarify the issue in the near future.
(9/10/14) Universal Orlando pulled a huge surprise rabbit out of their hat a few hours ago with the surprise announcement of their 5th on-site resort hotel project with Loews. As we saw in the earlier permit filing, this one will go in right across the street from the new Cabana Bay Beach Resort, filling up the available space between it and the Royal Pacific Resort.
They call it the Sapphire Falls Resort, and it is a beauty to behold! This should add another 1000 new rooms to Universal Orlando’s line-up as well as featuring a 131,000 meeting/special event space. If that wasn’t enough, it will be connected via an air-conditioned / covered bridge to the Loews Royal Pacific Resort who’s own special events area is being renovated and expanded in 2015. Mix them both together and your special event can take up to 272,000 square-feet of room.
Enough about that though, lets look at the concept art of the Sapphire Falls Resort itself. Beautiful buildings, inspired with a mixture of old Caribbean stone-architecture with modern resort towers, set in a lush tropical hideaway atmosphere. The lobby will feature floor to ceiling windows offering views out to the postcard blue water outside along with a towering waterfall that will run down into a large lagoon area, where Universal Orlando’s boat taxi service will come to pick you up for a cruise to CityWalk.
The resort will feature a unique pool with a waterslide, cabanas, a sand beach, poolside bar & grill, a full service restaurant inside and much more. This looks nothing short of amazing… and it’s just not fair, because I already had a hard time picking which one of Universal’s resorts is my favorite, and this one looks just as fantastic as the rest. Maybe more so! I certainly know where I’m going to be staying in Summer 2016!
(8/12/14) The Orlando Sentinel has confirmed that documents filed last week with Orange County indicate a “notice of commencement” for excavation work to begin soon on the property were Universal has previously filed plans to build a new 1,000 room hotel between the Cabana Bay and Royal Pacific.
Fall 2016 - Halloween Horror Nights 26 - (7/7/16) Halloween Horror Nights - Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield
Universal just confirmed that little "Halloween 2" themed rumor we heard about awhile back, where the masked Michael Myers will return to terrorize guests in a recreation of the film Halloween 2. Look for this new maze to play out to HHN guests in both Hollywood and Orlando, where the majority of the film takes place in the Haddonfield hospital.
(6/16/16) A great bit of extra detail all about Chance and how the fallout from last year’s HHN chaos under Jack has seen Chance incarcerated for the crimes has been posted to the Universal Blog. “...this is not a tragedy for her. This prison is a toy box. It’s within the confines of her cell that she enters her horrific “theatre of the mind”. She knows that the acts committed inside her mind will manifest in the real. Both equally deranged and gothically beautiful.”
This also explains the two looks Chance has in the teaser video… one of Chance in her glory and the other locked away in prison garb, where her eye wounds especially take on a much more frightening look I think. Give it a read and take a moment to get to know Chance.
Meanwhile on Twitter, the HHN puppet-masters have also let us know that Chance will be featured in her very own maze as well as the theme for one of the scare-zones.
(6/10/16) The new icon for Halloween Horror Nights 26 is now official... and quite familiar. No, this isn't the return of a previous icon... but rather a cohort of one that is now stepping up to take control for the first time. We're talking about Chance... the female sidekick for much of Jack's twisted carnage is now stepping fully into the spotlight to let us know she's got her own twisted plans and we "wont stand a chance".
While they don't confirm it right off, I had been hearing rumors of a Jack and Chance themed maze for several weeks now. With this announcement, I'm guessing it may be entirely themed around Chance herself, though I wouldn't be surprised to see some Jack references in there as well if they do build it.
(6/6/16) Universal Orlando confirmed it on Friday that The Walking Dead would return once again to Halloween Horror Nights 26. This time the maze will be themed to elements from all six seasons of the hit TV show and placed inside of the large soundstages.
(4/27/16) Another rumor comes true as Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando and at Universal Studios Hollywood will bring The Exorcist to life as a new intense haunted maze experience this fall. For many, The Exorcist represents one of the most frightening movies of all time, so it should be interesting to see how they opt to tell the story and make the horror personal, especially when much of the film's most intense moments all take place in the same little bedroom.
(4/16/16) In perhaps the earliest that I can recall a maze being revealed, Halloween Horror Nights 26 in Orlando has released the details of their first maze this year, one exclusive to Orlando. As rumored, the latest maze creation that will go back to the original source material to bring it to life for guests will be The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, based entirely on the 1974 original film.
Just like how the team brought Halloween to life, you will "Experience every scene, every kill, every bone-chilling rev of the chainsaw from the original masterpiece." While I have a soft spot for the sequel in my own heart, I have confidence that the original film will be bring the terror of Leatherface to you like never before. Now watch the preview video below to see just what you are in for.
(4/9/16) HHNUnofficial has posted some detective speculation work based on the twitter postings and travels of the head-honcho's of HHN in Hollywood (Murdy) and Orlando (Aiello) which met in Hollywood this week for pitch meetings (and the opening of Potter in Hollywood) followed by HHN Orlando's Mike Aiello stopping in Vegas before returning home. This last bit ties in nicely to previous rumors that may see the return of Penn & Teller to HHN this fall. Meanwhile other rumors they have posted about also tie up nicely with some of Screamscape's previous rumors that would see a Leatherface/Texas Chainsaw Massacre maze and a Krampus maze. If what HHNUnofficial is hearing is also on the right track, we may add a maze themed to The Conjuring to the mix as well this year.
(4/1/16) According to Screamscape sources the rumors of a Tremors themed haunt or scare zone for Halloween Horror Nights are false. Instead they tell us that haunts based on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist are in the works however. While I'm good with seeing Leatherface once again, rumor has it they may try to theme the haunt to the very first film... which in my opinion was a little "Meh..." compared to the utter carnage and chaos we saw from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, where the family complex and underground bunker would make for a much better haunt theme in my opinion.
Meanwhile... The Exorcists... sorry but I've got to say "Meh" on that one too. Personal choice, but I never found that film to be the least bit frightening. Intense? Yes... but scary? Nope... though I've found that how scary the film is to a person usually depends on how intense of a religious family upbringing you had as a child.
Either way, sounds like both of these projects could come to life in both Hollywood and Orlando this fall.
(3/21/16) HHNUnofficial has posted a fun rumor this weekend, claiming that one of their rumor sources mentioned the cheesy but classic fun Universal horror flick, Tremors, was under consideration for a HHN Maze this year in Orlando. While the original film Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and Michael Gross hit theaters back in 1990 the Tremors storyline has been quietly kept alive over the past 25 years with a TV Series and at least four more direct to video sequels of various quality. This could make for an interesting maze experience, as you can think of the "graboid" creature(s) attack as being similar to that of Jaws... except it all happens on dry land with the thing digging through the ground below you. Various sub-species were different traits and abilities were introduced by the sequels and series, but lets not get ahead of ourselves. Would you want to see Tremors brought to life for HHN?
(3/1/16) Could Penn and Teller be planning a return to Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando this year? According to some interesting detective work posted to HHN Unofficial, some similar show schedules and traveling timelines have been noticed taking place this year, similar to what happened in 2012 when the duo got involved to help design the Penn & Teller New(kd) Las Vegas 3D haunt.
(2/22/16) This is mostly just speculation on my part about what we might see from HHN26 this year, along with a few early rumors. For example, it is extremely likely that Krampus will be one of this year’s haunts, along with the return of The Walking Dead universe yet again. Actually, I’m still hoping we may take a little break from the east coast, and maybe get to experience the early days of the zombie apocalypse in California, as being told in the spinoff series, Fear The Walking Dead. Personally, I'm also crossing my fingers we get to see Ash VS Evil Dead brought to life, as we've never really been treated to a full blown mazes themed to the classic Evil Dead world, only the Ash free maze from 2013 themed to the rebooted film. Oh, and don't forget that the third Purge film (The Purge: Election Year) is coming out this July. The Purge has been a fun theme for scare zones and mazes for HHN in the past, and as a Universal branded film (much like Krampus) it makes it a likely candidate.
So what else may be a good fit? It's hard to say, and some things could be tapped for HHN Hollywood and not HHN Orlando, or vise-versa, but if you look into the list of upcoming films that sound interesting a few names stand out to me that could be interesting. For example we will soon see the return of the Cloverfield universe, with new added human drama, Rob Zombie has an interesting project coming out called 31 that sounds perfect as the theme for an HHN Maze (captured people forced to play a 12-hour survival game called 31 against clown themed maniacs) though at the heart, it may be too similar to what Purge has become. A rebooted Hellraiser film is said to be in the works from Cliver Barker but I don’t think it will be ready in time for 2016. Universal is tied to an interesting Legendary Pictures project called Spectral that is about a high tech, military version of a Ghostbusters concept to battle supernatural forces invading our world. This later one could be a winner as well, as it would fill the gap of a more modern or sci-fi themed haunt experience nicely, and Universal has done some great work with this genre over the past few years with Aliens Vs Predator, The Thing, and Cabin In The Woods (in Orlando) and I'd like to see more.
Late 2016 - Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen - (6/7/16) Screamscape sources tell us that Universal has posted some interesting casting roles for the new Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. They were seeking two actors to play roles comedic roles at Toothsome:
A reader sent in two new pictures of the future Toothsome Chocolate Factory building, which is quickly undergoing a transformation to the outer structure.
Penolope Toothsome - A female, 5'7" to 6' tall with a British accent, simply described as having traveling the globe to gain the knowledge of "all things chocolate".
Jaques - A male, 5'8" to 6'1" tall, described as a robot companion to Penelope who will wear a costume that will cover their entire body, including face, but still will be able to speak.
All said and done, looks like we're looking at a female version of Willy Wonka with a C-3PO style robot companion.
(5/6/16) Universal Orlando's latest Blog report takes us behind the scenes to go over the inspiration for the new "Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen" project under construction in CityWalk. And yes... this is also the official announcement that Universal has opted to slightly change the name of the attraction, by dropping the word "Factory" entirely. Follow the link to see the new logo as well as renderings of the building exterior.
(4/28/16) OrlandoParkNews has posted a new look at the construction progress of the Toothsome Chocolate Factory in CityWalk this week.
(3/14/16) Chocolate fans will be seeing what may look like the second coming Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory at first glance staring at them as they enter CityWalk at Universal Orlando before the end of the year. Universal has just announced that the former NBA City restaurant building will be transformed into the “Toothsome Chocolate Factory and Savory Feast Emporium” and open before the end of the year. The building will receive a massive makeover to give it a Steampunk theme, covered in gadgets and towering smokestacks (that will probably pump out an irresistible chocolate smell throughout CityWalk).
Inside, served by staff in Steampunk inspired costumes, will be a full restaurant experience, featuring steak and seafood specialties as well as burgers and pasta items, and much much more. Included in the later category will be an enormous list of special desserts,milkshakes and sundaes. The list includes items like the Chocolate X5 Milkshake, Bacon Brittle shake, a Red Velvet Shake topped off with a Red Velvet cupcake, a Key Lime Pie milkshake, Salted Caramel Flan (Mmmm!), and the list goes on. In fact, Universal has posted a ton of pictures of the new dessert creations for you to drool over on the Universal Orlando Blog. It may be irresistible.
(10/3/15) The giant basketball player statue and signage on the closed NBA City restaurant was also removed in the past few days. With the NBC Sports Grill ready to open, looks like they are ready to turn their focus on renovating the NBA site next. I've got to wonder if the old Cheesecake Factory rumor will still hold true.
2017 - Volcano Bay / New Waterpark - (7/20/16) Wild Gravity Travels has posted a couple of very interesting new photos from the Volcano Bay construction site showing off what appears to be a new Hydro-Magnetic Waterslide being installed into the park. Looks like they have build a load/unload platform up high and rather than use a conveyor lift to the top of a hill, the boats will drop down a hill to gain momentum out of the station and right into the first magnetic hill. If this is the same as the ProSlide versions I've been on, you can expect to ride in something that looks like a 4-passenger bobslide style raft, and trust me... these are a lot of fun.
After being wowed by the new preview video of Volcano Bay earlier this week, I was able to take a look at the construction of the real thing, as seen from the Cabana Bay Beach Resort where I was staying. I tried to get as many pictures as I could of the various features I could identify, and it’s hard to believe that this massive Volcano themed waterpark will be full of guests by this time next year. In fact, I asked about that June 1st ticket sale date that was mentioned before and was told that the plan was to indeed have it open by then, it was just too early to know when the actual GRAND OPENING official date would be, but they felt confident enough that they could start selling tickets for June 1st, 2017 in the near future.
There is still lots of new information about Volcano Bay that will be released over the next 11 months that will prove just how much of a game-changer this new waterpark experience will be. One tidbit of information sent in by a couple of readers this week visiting Wet ‘n Wild was about the rumored virtual queue system. While the original waterpark will still be closing down at the end of the year Universal is actually testing out the new virtual queue system right now for guests at Wet 'n Wild in the morning hours.
All guests are given wristbands that are used to make a virtual reservation at the park’s slides one at a time, and then you are told to go experience one of the park’s wait-free attractions like the wave pool or lazy river while you wait to return to ride the slide at your intended time. Once you are done you can make another reservation for another slide and return to play in the water while you wait.
Our reader, who claimed to be a frequent guest of Wet ‘n Wild over the years loved how this worked for them. Without the new wristband system they claimed they would usually go to the park for the day, spend up to an hour hanging out in line for any given waterslide, and average maybe 4 major slides in any given day and the rest of the time in the non-wait attractions. With the wristband they were able to experience 8 different slides during the test period, with the the average wait in queue being only 5 minutes, allowing the majority of their day to be spend relaxing and playing in the water instead of waiting in long lines.
The way Universal has already mentioned how they were going to change the waterpark experience to remove the process of standing in long lines entirely makes it sound like every guests will in Volcano Bay will be able to use this system to make the most of their visit which is incredible sounding. If it works in the tests at Wet 'n Wild it will be a true game-changer for the waterpark industry. (Now if only they could do something about all those stairs….)
On the subject of those amazing construction photos I was able to take during my visit... you can see a ton of the new slides under construction all over the park, the fake rock-work going up on the volcano and even a slide of two peeking out from the inside of the volcano structure itself. You may want to pay close attention to those "white" slides next to and in the mountain structure, as I don't believe that they are truly white, but simply clear slides covered in a protective white vinyl wrap. While you see them spiraling down near the backside of the volcano, you can also see a section of that slide is a VERY interesting location... sitting along the bottom of the deep end of the wave pool. Yep... take a close up look and you'll see a section of that white tube coming out of the concrete wall on the left side of the wave pool and curving around towards the other side, where it is still incomplete. Talk about a rush as sliders will suddenly find themselves sliding under all the guests floating above them in the wave pool... but where will this slide end? Given the depth, I'm thinking it could end in an under-ground splash-down area on the right side of the wavepool, where you have to take a pathway or stairs back up to ground level perhaps. Just something to think about.
(6/22/16) Universal Orlando has released an incredible new video preview for their new Volcano Bay waterpark opening in Summer 2017. This is our first look at the initial attractions they are willing to show off so far, and be assured that there are some very impressive attractions within the volcano itself that they aren't quite ready to show off just yet that will knock your socks off.
Keep an eye towards the end of the video (see below) where we get our first glimpse of what the expansion towers being added to Cabana Bay Beach Resort will look like, which appear to be somewhere between 10-12 story tall cylinder shaped towers with rooms looking off into the heart of Volcano Bay itself.
Universal released some new details on their blog this week, including what may be the mantra of Universal's 3rd park which is, "Water is Life. Life is Joy." They go on to set the story and theme for the island themed park as being from the "fabled Waturi islanders". They also mention that there wont be any standing in long lines, or the wrangling of inner tubes at Volcano Bay... "no waiting for the fun to begin".
This ties in with early rumors that the park would have some kind of new queue-free slide reservation system in place, and if you look carefully at the video below when the children are running towards the camera you will notice each of them has a greenish armband on their right wrist... the perfect thing to contain the needed RFID chip to make that work.
Now on to the park... there is the heart of the park... the volcano structure itself which have been named Krakatau, a 200 foot tall Fire and Water Volcano that towers over the entire park, with lush waterfalls raining down all day long and promising some kind of fire/lava effect at night. Inside Krakatau "the Waturi people dare you to brave a variety of pulse-pounding water slides." Several are named, like the Ko'okiri Body Plunge (70ft fall from a trap door and 125 feet of screaming, themed to Vol, the Volcano God), Kala & Ta Nui Serpentine Body Slides (two more trap door slides down clear interwoven tubes), and the Punga Racers (race down four-lanes through undersea caves on manta ray themed mats). There is a rumored big B-I-G slide to rule them all from within the Volcano that has yet to be named as well.
Beyond the volcano are three themed villages... Wave Village where the surf is always up at Waturi Beach at the base of Krakatau. Then there is River Village which has a lot of the fun attractions for the kiddies like Tot Tiki Reef and Runamukka Reef. They also offer multi-rider tube slides called Honu ika Moana. There is also time to enjoy the Kopiko Wai Winding River, a slow relaxing laxy river adventure that promises many surprises along the way, including a trip beneath the lava rocks and into Stargazer's Cavern to see "the magical night sky above".
The final village is Rainforest Village which will be home to the Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides. The Ohyah slides come to a thrilling end four feet above the pool below, while you can cross a rope bridge to get to the Ohno slide that ends six feet above the pool. Take a deep breath before the end so you can scream loudly as you fall. You will also find the Maku Puihi Raft Rides here, a thrilling six-person raft adventure through one of two adventures... Puihi goes through a dark tunnel before hitting a stomach-flipping zero-gravity hang while Maku will drop through a volcanic gorge before spinning "around bowl-like formations." There is still more here... the "TeAwa, The Fearless River" described as "a roaring, waterly onslight of churning rapids and choppy waves hanging tight to your inner tube", or try Taniwha Tubes, offering four twisting and turning slides where the Moai statues spray jets of water on you as you pass.
While they don't have a set date to open the park, elsewhere Universal did mention at a travel convention this week that they would begin to sell tickets into the park starting June 1st, 2017. While it is possible the park COULD be ready to open by then, this is not an officially opening date... only when they will start to sell tickets ahead of the Summer 2017 grand opening.
Honestly though, Summer 2017 can't get here soon enough... take one look at this video and I think it's pretty clear you are looking at the most fantastic looking waterpark ever built in America... if not the world. Seriously beautiful... and what I wouldn't give for a room in the new Cabana Bay tower overlooking it all at night.
(6/16/16) Waterslide pieces in a storage lot near Wet ‘n Wild that had slide pieces for the new Volcano Bay waterpark somehow caught on fire and burned up. Some great footage of the fire being put out and charred slides pieces can be found here. I’ve yet to hear if they ever determined just how these fiberglass slides pieces in an empty lot somehow caught fire.
(6/3/16) A new collection of construction pictures of Volcano Bay has been posted to WildGravityTravels this week. Check it out.
(5/13/16) Another photo report from Wild Gravity Travels shows off the progress on the Volcano Bay waterpark this week. There are a lot more slide pieces now in place, as well as the growing steel framework for the massive Volcano itself.
(5/7/16) A fantastic new set of photos showing off the current status of Volcano Bay along with some looks over at the new Sapphire Falls Resort construction site as well have been posted to Facebook by Coaster Crew.
(4/26/16) A new short video showing off more of the construction of Volcano Bay, as seen while driving down the nearby roads, has spotted new slide pieces now up at the park.
(4/22/16) A few new pictures of the Volcano Bay construction site have been posted this week to WildGravityTravels.
(4/11/16) A new video showing off the Volcano Bay construction site has been posted by Mako Madness, which includes a look at some slide pieces now installed in the volcano structure itself.
Meanwhile, if you scroll half-way down this page at OrlandoUnited you can find a couple of picture of what looks like possible pieces of the outer volcano rock-work or molding for it, sitting down at Orlando's Nassal company, providers of finely themed environmental structures and props for the themed attraction industry.
(3/30/16) Mako Madness has posted a new construction update for Volcano Bay, with a look at the slide pieces in storage and a good look at the angled steel going up that will form the huge fake volcano structure itself.
(3/22/16) If you scroll down a little over half-way on this page you can find fairly new aerial photos of the Sapphire Falls Resort under construction, and don't miss the Volcano Bay pictures below that as the volcano structure and many slide supports are all taking shape.
(1/27/16) A new video from Mako Madness dropped by Wet 'n Wild to shoot a quick video of the Volcano Bay waterslide pieces sitting on site this week.
(1/22/16) I forgot to mention this last week, but early building plans filed from Universal Orlando now show that they intend to build a dedicated "tram road" that will run from the southern parking garage along a path close to the freeway to shuttle guests from there to the new Volcano Bay waterpark. I'm guessing that some of this will be a reconfiguration of the existing roadway built for the seldom used Southern parking toll plaza that will run guests over to dedicated shuttle stop south of the new Sapphire Falls Resort. From there guests will pass through an underground pathway under Adventure Way to get to the waterpark itself.
While I'm sure Universal will likely just run buses along this route, similar to how they transport guests from Cabana Bay to Citywalk, the narrow pathway here would also be ideal for some kind of dedicated light rail / trolley system that could be sure and give it some personality.
While on the subject of Volcano Bay, a couple of pictures showing off the big collection of new waterslide pieces over in a Wet 'n Wild storage lot can be found on Twitter.
(1/21/16) Screamscape has been told that a bunch of new light green, blue and yellow waterslide pieces were spotted in the Wet 'n Wild parking lot yesterday. Looks like some of the first slides for the new Volcano Bay park have finally arrived, but not sure when they will be ready to put them up. We hope to see photos of these soon.
(11/12/15) In an article about how the price of parking in Orlando has jumped from $15 to $20 at most of the major theme parks, hitting an almost taboo level of pricing, the article mentions an interesting factoid about Universal’s new Volcano Bay waterpark. According to the plans submitted to the city, guests intending to visit Volcano Bay will be asked to park in Universal Orlando’s two giant parking structures, along with the guests going to the two theme parks and CityWalk. From there they will “take a tram” over to the waterpark itself, so for everyone wondering, it seems there will be no on-site parking at Volcano Bay itself.
(5/28/15) Universal Orlando confirmed this afternoon that Volcano Bay will be the name of their new waterpark to open at Universal Orlando in 2017.
According to the blog posting by Universal Creative Big Cheese, Mark Woodbury, "This is one of the most exciting projects we have had the opportunity to be part of because Volcano Bay will completely redefine the water park experience for our guests.
The park will feel as if it is set in picture-perfect tropical islands, formed by a massive volcano – and it will have something for every member of the family. It will feature radically-innovative attractions, peaceful moments of relaxation and an experience that we hope will change the way guests think about water theme parks."
As Screamscape readers have seen, construction has already begun on this project just South of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
(2/16/15) ParkScope has posted a new image of the rumored Volcano Bay waterpark site as taken from a permit application. The drawing is a bit vague to me, with various structures here and there on the site, though I can make out what clearly looks like a slide tower and slides at the bottom of the image.
(1/21/15) A little more information about Universal Orlando's waterpark seems to have leaked out in the form of a new permit document uncovered by ParkJourney and posted to their Facebook page. This one is interesting because it refers to itself as an Administrative Master Plan and is filed under the name "Universal Project N",
The descriptive below still refers to Project 533 however, and it also says that the 34 acre site will feature approximately 13 "resort amenities" that will range between 20 and 200 feet in height. The 200 foot height limit also seems to tie in nicely with Screamscape's previous rumor that the park may be themed to resemble a large volcano, which should be quite stunning and massive looking as it is located next to the I-4.
(1/12/15) Today let's delve into the mysterious new Universal project under construction to the south of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, known officially as Project 533 on the various permit paperwork filed with the county. While nothing has ever been confirmed, this project is widely considered to be a new on-site waterpark for the Universal Orlando Resort. A few trademarks have also been filed over 2014 with names like Volcano Bay and WonderSea Island that many assume are attached to this project as either possible names for the park, or perhaps as names for themed lands within the park.
According to Screamscape sources the new Universal waterpark project will be unlike any other waterpark seen before. In addition to being designed as a collection of highly themed environments with unique themed attraction, I've heard rumors about it having some kind of nighttime show in the evening (possibly with pyrotechnics of some kind). I've also heard rumors of a possible "indoor section" of the waterpark that would allow for more comfortable year-round operations on the cooler winter days as well as a place for guests to go in the summer when a typical summer lightning storm passes through in the afternoon. On top of this, I'm hearing about it potentially being a more premium waterpark experience that will put RFID bands on all park guests for not just cashless purchases, but to also offer a queue-free park experience allow you to hang out in the wavepool, lazy rover, catch some rays or chill at the bar until your time to slide.
With words like Volcano and Island being tossed around so far in the trademarks, a Pacific Island theme (much like the nearby Royal Pacific hotel) seems to be the most likely overall theme for the park. I have to admit, it would be very interesting to see a giant fake Volcano built right alongside the I-4 right there, helping block the view of the outside (non Universal) world from the rest of the waterpark, as well as serving as quite the attention getter to all the tourists passing by. Hopefully we'll find out more soon as the Universal Orlando resort moves to take things to the next level once again.
(12/4/14) What appear to be more permits and plans to build a new waterpark (Project 533) on Universal Orlando property have begun to leak out through ParkScope, detailing the possible future use for the 53-acre property directly South of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort. The listed timetable for the work permits is November 2014 through to November 2016, though that could possibly just be the window of time START work with this permit, and not to finish it.
(7/3/14) Is Universal Orlando still hard at work designing a new themed waterpark experience? While the general thought was that any plans to build their own waterpark went out the window once they fully purchased Wet ‘n Wild, but the rumors of continued development are still very strong. ParkScope may have uncovered another piece of the puzzle this week by finding a new Trademark filing by Universal for the name, “Volcano Bay” sent in on June 26th.
This would be fitting, as one of the rumored themed for a Universal themed waterpark was to build it around a large fake Volcano mountain structure that would give them a reason to add fun chaotic elements of themeing to the park’s slides and attractions. Steam vents, pyro and mist projection screens full of virtual flames. According to the filing, they name is intended for use in “Amusement park and water park rides”, “entertainment in the nature of a water park ride”.
2017 - Cabana Bay Beach Resort Expansion - Confirmed - (9/1/15) Universal Orlando dropped another bomb of an announcement a few hours ago... one that I had actually heard about being more of a long-term plan than something immediately pending, but Comcast is pushing pull steam ahead to grow their new theme park business.
So what is it? A large expansion to Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort was announced earlier today, as proof that the hotel's retro concept has been a huge hit. A pair of new hotel towers will be built on the South side of the property near the end of the Continental and Americana Towers that will add 400 more guest rooms to the property (for 2,200 in total I believe), some that promise to offer incredible views of Universal's new Volcano Bay waterpark. Both the new room towers and Volcano Bay are expected to be complete by 2017.
(4/16/15) I’m not sure how much I’m buying into this at the moment, but the latest rumor coming the Universal Orlando campus claims that once the new Sapphire Falls Resort is finished in 2016, work crews may turn their attention towards an expansion of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort that could see a pair of towers added onto the ends of the Americana and Continental wings that would feature rooms with views facing the Volcano Bay waterpark. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
???? - 6th Resort Hotel - Planning - (7/2/16) While Sapphire Falls isn't even open yet Universal Orlando has submitted plans for a smaller 600-room sixth hotel on the left over land between Sapphire Falls and the I-4 freeway. According to the Orlando Sentinel the plans have the hotel's rooms located within a single tower "connected to a parking garage". I'm not sure if the hotel will have it's own garage, or if they mean it will be connected to the new garage built next to Sapphire Falls.
Nintendo Attractions Deal - (6/27/15) During this year’s E3 gaming convention Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto was asked a bit more about his dealings with Universal to bring the world of Nintendo to life. His comments were centered around Mario and the Mario universe, saying that they’ve had discussions about Mario has a character, the world and Nintendo’s vision for it all, conveying to all to Universal Creative so they can turn “it into something that could exist within that park.” With Mario as Nintendo’s flagship character icon, it is no mystery that any land or attractions build around the Nintendo universe would begin with Mario.
(5/7/15) Talk about a strange piece of news to wake up to this morning, but Nintendo and Comcast have announced a new agreement that will see the worlds and characters from Nintendo video games brought to the Universal Parks & Resorts in both America and in Japan. While they have no details of how this may be realized, or what park may get it first, they did say that Universal will create, “spectacular, dedicated experiences based on Nintendo’s wildly popular games, characters and worlds.”
So while adding some kind of Nintendo game themed attraction or land to Universal Studios Japan is almost a no-brainer, how to add them to the US parks may be a bit more tricky. The Hollywood park is fairly land-locked and has been moving heaven and earth (literally) to bring the world’s of The Simpsons, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Fast & Furious to life, all within the same general time-frame, which means Hollywood may be the last stop for Mario and friends to land.
Future Expansion Projects - (5/25/16) According to the Orlando Sentinel, Universal Orlando will soon begin talks with Orange County to set up zoning for their new 475 acres of property down by the convention center. They would like to look into setting up a special "theme park" zone for a large section of it, similar to the special theme park zoning set up for the SeaWorld area that includes Aquatica and Discovery Cove.
Everything I've heard so far is clear about one point... that Wet 'n Wild will be closed down at this point, and you can probably expect some of the bigger/newer slides added to the park over the last decade (Disco H2O, Brain Wash, Aqua Drag Racer, and The Storm) to be moved over to the new park as well as Phase 2 additions if they are still in good shape.
(12/23/15) According to this news report the huge property deal to sell over 450 acres of property to Universal Orlando has been completed, according to comments made to the Orlando Sentinel from an attorney to represents Colony Capital, who was selling the property. Universal Orlando was not willing to comment on the sale.
(12/4/15) The news is all in a tizzy this week about the idea that a third major Universal Orlando theme park could be on the way down by the convention center. A couple of major points were also make amid the various reports... that the majority of the land they would be buying is ALREADY zoned for theme park use... and quite a bit of it is already zoned to allow structures as tall as 400 feet. Sounds like a perfect fit, doesn't it?
(12/2/15) Surprise! It came to light on Tuesday afternoon that Universal Orlando now has an "option to buy" the 474 acre property off Universal Blvd, just north of the Convention Center's North Concourse. If this all sounds familiar... it should... because Universal Orlando once owned this property along with the rest of the nearby land all around here which was purchased from Lockheed Martin years ago and underwent a large clean-up effort to make it suitable for development. Vivendi, who owned Universal near the start of the 21st century was facing some dire financial problems at the time and opted to sell off all this property that was once earmarked for future Universal Orlando theme parks, golf courses, and resort hotels.
With that in mind, it would be great to see Universal Orlando retake this segment of the property, which is pretty much what's left over that hasn't already been developed by others over the last decade.
(2/17/15) I've been promising to discuss this for some time now, so lets address the elephant in the room. If Universal opens a brand new waterpark... what will become of Wet 'n Wild?
So what will happened to the Wet 'n Wild Property? As you can see from the two maps I've attached, the amount of property Universal now owns over by Wet 'n Wild is far larger than just that taken up by the waterpark itself. Put together, Universal actually has more than enough property over here to build yet another massive resort property, which is exactly what the rumors are claiming that they may be prepared to do. So far the plan seems to hinge around not only adding another Universal resort, but also one that would have a mini-CityWalk area of it's own.
From here things get interesting... because once they go this route, I've heard that they are on the look out for other properties to purchase. In fact... according to one source they would love to gobble up several of the smaller properties on the other side of I-Drive, because this would give them property on both sides of I-4, which would only help them link the main Universal Orlando property to any new developments they place on the Wet 'n Wild property.
(9/12/13) The Orlando Sentinel reports that NBCUniversal President and CEO Steve Burke told investors that their studies of the Universal Orlando resort shows that they could have between 10,000 to 15,000 hotel rooms on site and maintain a profitable occupancy rate. Much like the Walt Disney World expansion in the 90s, they believe that a built-up of on-site hotel rooms will also increase attendance and profitability at the theme parks.
Currently Universal Orlando has 2,400 rooms between the three existing resorts (Portifino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel and the Royal Pacific) and jump to 4,200 rooms next year when the Cabana Bay Beach Resort opens. By comparison to Walt Disney World’s 26,000 rooms, this isn’t much, but if Universal Orlando were to aggressively double or even triple the number of rooms they have on site, I’m certain this could certainly send a shockwave that would be felt by Disney’s own occupancy rate.
In addition, Burke says that parent company Comcast will accelerate the pace of new rides and attractions at the parks, as recent investments have been paying off. Attendance at Universal Studios Florida has been up close to 20% since Transformers opened in June. NBCUniversal will elevate Capital Spending to almost $500 million this year… a figure that the the Sentinel notes will likely because the company’s new baseline, as the goal is to now open a new attraction every single year at both Universal Studios Hollywood and at the Universal Orlando Resort.