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(9/15/17) Universal Orlando Sets 2018 Dates for A Celebration of Harry Potter (MORE...)
(9/12/17) Universal Orlando has confirmed that Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay should be ready to reopen to park guests on Tuesday at 9am. Their official website also confirms that Halloween Horror Nights will kick-off on Friday night as planned.
(9/9/17) Hurricane Irma Operational Update - Universal Orlando has announced that their parks will close early at 7pm on Saturday and then remain closed all of Sunday and Monday due to the hurricane. The Rock The Universe concert slated for Saturday night is now cancelled as well as a Sunday morning service.
(9/1/17) Universal Orlando Shows Off Four Amazing Original Content Haunts for HHN27 (MORE...)
VOLCANO BAY IS NOW OPEN - Read the official Screamscape Review!
Click here to read the full Screamscape review of Halloween Horror Nights 26!
General Resort News - (9/15/17) Universal Orlando has set the 2018 dates for the fourth annual A Celebration of Harry Potter fan event. Look for it to take over the Universal Orlando Resort from January 26-28th, 2018 with interactive exhibits, displays of props and costumes from the film series, special guest panels and more.
(7/13/17) A much requested new feature has been added to all of Universal’s major Harry Potter themed attractions. I’m told that Forbidden Journey, Escape from Gringotts and the Hogwarts Express have now all been added to the Universal Express line cutting program.
2017 - Volcano Bay / New Waterpark - (6/26/17) Our friends at Attractions Magazine have posted a new video showing off a number of new interactive elements now open at Volcano Bay somewhere within the Krakatau volcano structure. Check them out below!
(6/22/17) Some interesting new gossip has been sent our way about the evolution and improvement of operations at Volcano Bay. According to our source the sale of the upcharge "Express" passes for Volcano Bay has been suspended as it was causing the lines at the attractions to become longer than necessary. Also we've heard rumors that the park may have taken two slides off the TapuTapu system (possibly as a temporary test) to allow them to simply be used by anyone who wants to wait in line for them. I don't know which slides are involved in this, I'm just told it was done to one of the family raft slides and to one of the smaller tube slides. As a result of these and other tweaks made to the system, I'm hearing that the wait times at the slides "have dropped considerably" compared to what was reported from the opening week. Much like most other queue management systems, you can still expect about a 15 minute wait at the attraction once your TapuTapu sends you to go ride.
There is also talk about how once they get a handle on things, Universal would like to expand the use of the TapuTapu system to allow for guests to reserve 2 attractions at once again, and even expand it to try 3 and 4 reservations at once in the future if the system will allow for it.
As always, this is a new concept being tested in real-time, so additional changes, tweaks and experiments are still to be expected while they determine what system will eventually give the best experience to the park guests.
(6/17/17) As expecting, changes and tweaks are in the works at Volcano Bay in regards to tuning the TapuTapu slide reservation experience. I don't know all the details, but some have speculated that Universal may have dialed down the maximum number of guests to be allowed into the park each day, as reports that the park has been closed due to hitting capacity have increased since it opened. Cutting back in this area would be sure way to help the virtual line system if there were less guests to juggle at any given time. Also helping out, I've heard from several guests that you are only allowed one TapuTapu reservation at a time for the time being. Previously guests could have one regular attraction reservation as well as a second reservation just for the Krakatau Aqua Coaster.
VOLCANO BAY IS NOW OPEN - Read the official Screamscape Review!
2017 - Halloween Horror Nights 27 - (9/1/17) Universal Orlando has announced the details about the last four mazes at Halloween Horror Nights, all original content creations from the awesome HHN crew who slave away all year to bring you the best in fear and terror. While these may not have the brand name recognition of an IP haunt, sometimes these are the best haunts of all, because you really never know what to expect. After all, we all know what to expect from Freddy and Jason... what they look like, how they stalk their prey... but you have no clue what to expect from these gems. Lets take a closer look at each:
SCARECROW: THE REAPING - Inside an abandoned farmhouse in Nebraska something evil lurks. The farmers are long gone... or rather removed, after their plows "spurred anger in the Land" and gave rise to the Scarecrow guardians who rose from blood-soaked soil to reap their own harvest.
HIVE - This is a throwback to the vampire themes of old... tossing out all of the sexy, cute or dare I say it, sparkling vampire tales from the last decade or two in favor of some good old fashioned Nosferatu style gross vampire beasts. Oh... and you're about to enter a whole lair of the nasty (and thirsty) evilspawn... so are you ready to enter The HIVE?!
DEAD WATERS - In a rare circumstance, one of HHN's most controversial scare zones in recent memory has inspired a whole haunt this year as the Voodoo Queen returns from the Bayou of Blood scare zone to welcome you in to explore her realm in DEAD WATERS. As early guests to HHN24 may recall, the gory exploits of the Voodoo Queen were deemed too much for guests to handle out in the open... so it's time to revisit and get an up close and personal audience with her if you dare.
THE FALLEN - You are caught in the middle between an ancient and eternal battle royale between the forces of good and evil. Beware The Fallen which are described as "flying, jumping, and crawling up from the kingdom of darkness" to lay waste across all in their path... which is where you always seem to find yourself. And yes... they did say FLYING!
Halloween Horror Nights 27 kicks off the terror on September 15th and will run on select nights through to November 4 this year, so buy your tickets now.
(8/30/17) Universal Orlando has confirmed our last rumor, that a Blumhouse themed anthology haunt will be coming to Halloween Horror Nights this year. The characters and themes to be featured inside "The Horrors of Blumhouse" in Orlando will be Insidious, The Purge and Sinister. Check out the teaser below.
(8/25/17) Universal has tapped well-known horror director, Eli Roth, to direct this year's Halloween Horror Nights commercial with his commercial directorial debut with the spot titled, "The Mourning After". While the commercial will begin airing nationally starting on Labor Day Weekend to promote Halloween Horror Nights in Florida and California, you can see a behind-the-scenes video about the making of the spot, as well as the spot itself in the videos posted below.
Note, an extended cut of the commercial is included at the end of the Behind the Scenes video, showing off many hidden references and tributes to the horror properties that guests will experience at this year's HHN event.
(8/21/17) Universal Orlando has confirmed that two of their Scare Zones for HHN27 will be themed to film properties: The Purge and Trick r' Treat. They also confirmed that we will see the return of the Academy of Villains group in a new live show called Academy of Villains: Afterlife.
As for the Scare Zones... they actually have confirmed the themes and locations to all five of them: In addition to Trick r' Treat (Central Park) and The Purge (New York streets), the other scare zones will be called Altars of Horror (Avenue of the Stars), Festival of the Deadliest (Hollywood) and Invasion (San Francisco). Oh... and there will be Roaming Hordes again this year, featuring chainsaw wielding clowns of doom and destruction.
(8/17/17) Sad news from Universal Orlando came this week as they confirmed that this year's Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure show will be the last. The comedy show had been a staple of the Halloween Horror Nights festivities for the past 25 years and this year's Farewell Tour for Wyld Stallyns will be the duo's 26th annual performance before they jump into the phone booth one last time and vanish from our lives forever. So be sure to gather one last time at HHN27 to bid a fond farewell to Bill and Ted, as they strive to teach the world one last time how to 'Be Excellent To Each Other'. Party On Dudes!
(8/15/17) Universal Studios has confirmed that SAW: The Games of Jigsaw will be coming as a maze attraction to Halloween Horror Nights in both Orlando and Hollywood parks. The new maze will bring you into a personal encounter with Jigsaw and a trip through some of his most famous and terrifying traps seen in the SAW film series, as well as a sneak peek at some of the traps to be see in the upcoming Jigsaw film hitting theaters on October 27th.
Check out the announcement video below!
(8/14/17) The HorrorNightsORL Twitter account shared a few images late on Friday from some of the maze locations, as well as a great bit of information. They confirmed that there would be just 5 IP themed haunts this year, and 4 Original concept haunts, instead of the 6 / 3 ratio we had been having the last few years.
So this means that besides American Horror Story, The Shining and Ash Vs Evil Dead, there are only two more IP themed haunts to be announced, and based on the last two rumors sent in I've already said what I think those last two will be: Blumhouse of Horrors and Jigsaw. If this follows suit, then another interesting rumor will prove true as well.. that HHN will be taking a long overdue break from The Walking Dead this year.
So if we assume the hunt for IP haunts is over, lets take a look at those photos I mentioned were posted to Twitter and see what we can make out that could be original haunts.
Up first would be this one which doesn't show much other than what appears to be a skull in the foreground of a dense setting of plant-life. Fortunately this matches up with a quiet rumor I had already heard claiming that one of the original haunts concepts would feature a "swamp" style setting.
The second teaser photo is more obvious... a picture of an old reel to reel tape recorder with the quote, "I believe I have made a significant find..." which is a quote from Evil Dead 2 when the group finds that exact same recorder with a log entry message from Professor Raymond Knowby who talks having made this find at the Castle of Kandar where they found the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis... the Book of the Dead. If you've watched Ash vs Evil Dead you already know how this whole scenario is revisited with a twist as well for the series.
Teaser three is seen here, with an image of a grim looking corpse or creature along with the comment, "Dust to Death..." which I'm not sure exactly what this is, but it seems like a tie into another one of the original concept haunts. Something dark, gothic and grim. I Googled the quote, but the only hit seemed to be for a western themed comic book series called "The Sixth Gun" with Dust To Death being the subtitle of a spin-off issue. While the comic is a western, it is also about a special collection of six pistols with supernatural powers. We know this is an original creation so perhaps the quote could be a hint about a supernatural western themed haunt perhaps. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into it... which is just as likely.
Finally there is a forth and final teaser, which just shows off a close up of a typewriter that is clearly a tie into The Shining.
(8/12/17) Looks like one of the last mazes to be announced for Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights will be a best hits collection of Blumhouse horror productions. Why do I say this? Because we know Blumhouse has a long standing relationship with Halloween Horror Nights and Blumhouse just filed for a trademark last month for an "amusement park attraction" to be named "Blumhouse of Horrors".
A quick list of Blumhouse horror hits include: the Paranormal Activity series, the Insidious series, Sinister, The Purge series, Oculus, Jessabelle, The Lazarus Effect, Split and many others.
(8/7/17) A quick rumor update on what may be coming to Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando. If the rumors are true, the next maze to be announced may be one themed to JIGSAW, the newest chapter in the SAW film series. It helps that the trailer for the new film was just released not long ago as well, so the buzz on this one is already high. Beyond that is only more rumors, but we've got a good idea of who the suspects could be, with a new chapter in The Walking Dead almost being a certainty and a final IP haunt that could be themed to The Conjuring, another Insidious haunt or perhaps even the Leatherface haunt themed to the new prequel hitting theaters this October.
Beyond that, I'd expect the Orlando event to also feature three original concept haunts as well, which would bring the total up to 9 as usual. Summer is winding down and the haunt season will quickly be upon us, so I'd expect that these last announcement will start to roll out more quickly now as there are really only about five and a half weeks left until opening night.
(7/28/17) "Hail he who has come from the sky to deliver us from the terrors of the deadites!!"
Fantastic news today, as Universal announced that ASH vs EVIL DEAD will be used as the theme for a Halloween Horror Nights haunt in both Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando. You'll have to escape the hordes of Deadites who want nothing more than to "Swallow your soul" and there is just one man who can save the world as we know it... Ash Williams, played in the film and Starz Series by the always amazing Bruce Campbell.
According to the press release from Universal, the mazes will take you into the town of Elk Grove, Michigan and cover events and places seen in both Seasons 1 and 2 of the fantastic ASH vs EVIL DEAD series.
Hail to the King baby... I've been waiting years for a proper Evil Dead property to get the full HHN treatment. Now, we did get a maze themed around the EVIL DEAD remake a couple of years back, but that film lacked the most important thing that all the rest had... no sign of ASH. So time to pack the Delta and grab your Boomstick... and for the sake of your loved ones... stay out of the fruit cellar.
(7/3/17) Universal Orlando launched a new video and section of their HHN27 website featuring something called the Soul Collectors. There is a new teaser video to be seen, which ties in nicely to that video of the skull under the water surrounding by floating roses, along with the ongoing message that your soul is requested.
In fact, you can go to the official website to sign up to surrender your soul directly, which gives you the opportunity to become a Soul Collector yourself and work to collect more souls via social media. Collect enough souls and you will be granted the status of an Elite Soul Collectors and earn the right to "receive an item" identifying you are such, along with other "information and other revelations."
There is only a limited time to do this however, and the clock is ticking down with about 31 days left. Following that, I can only guess we'll get another announcement revealing the overall theme for this year's event and what the whole Soul Collectors theme is all about. Perhaps this year, we become the icons...
(6/9/17) The complete variety of ticket package options to Halloween Horror Nights 27 at Universal Orlando was released this week and posted to the official website along with some creepy new graphics showing a skull sitting under the water, with roses floating across the surface, and the cryptic message, "All Our Times Will Come. Soon."
HHN27 will span select nights from Sept. 15 to Nov. 4th this year, and they have confirmed that it will feature 9 new haunts (only 2 announced thus far), 5 scarezones, 2 live shows and all the great attractions the park has to offer.
(5/20/17) Universal has confirmed that The Shining will be brought to life for Halloween Horror Nights this fall at Universal Orlando and at Universal Studios Hollywood. Check out the preview video below for the gory details about how you will venture into the Overlook Hotel.
Over the past couple years we've seen Universal bring to life some truly stunning re-creations of classic revered horror masterpieces, constructed with loving care in a way that allows guests to feel as if they are walking in the same footsteps of the film's characters and bear witness to the horrors first hand. Now I can't wait to see a film considered to be one of horror's greatest masterpieces given this treatment.
(5/16/17) While the official announcement still hasn't been made, it seems a leaked announcement about The Shining being part of Halloween Horror Nights this year in Orlando was spotted on a travel agent site before being pulled shortly after. Captures of the post can be found here with the promises of a visit to the Overlook Hotel, facing the Grady Twins, and encounters with the axe-wilding Jack Torrance who will chase you through a hedge maze.
(3/31/17) Some facinating clues may have been found on the HHN Orlando website, hidden DEEP within the site's coding and uncovered by some readers of HHNUnofficial. While this may simply be nothing at all, or even worse... just a bit of trolling by the website's programmer to see if anyone is watching, a couple of odd keywords were spotted in the coding that were added since the latest update to the site.
"Jack" and "Texas". According to the article at HHNUnofficial where the name Jack now appears the coding use to say "Chance" and where Texas now appears, it used to say "Chainsaw". While Chainsaw turning into Texas could be an indication that the new Leatherface prequel movie may be tapped for maze treatment this year, it's the Jack code that I find really interesting.
While on the surface this could be an indication that Jack the Clown could be back once again to terrorize us in the fallout of Chance's appearance as the icon character last year, there could be more to this one. What if Jack is perhaps in reference to another character, or an actor that plays a character in a famous horror film?
Like perhaps from... The Shining? While this may seem like a stretch, I've also been following some clues posted by John Murdy's twitter over the past couple months, and he's the mastermind behind the Hollywood park's HHN experience. If they were to take on The Shining, it would be likely that both Hollywood and Orlando parks use it for their events and dear Mr. Murdy has taken a couple of interesting trips to Ireland where he secludes himself to work on a particular big mystery HHN project.
While he is there now and has been silent about it for the most part, he has mentioned a couple of interesting clues from his research trip in February.
"You'd think after writing 60 plus mazes for HHN, I'd be immune to Horror but this one still gives me the shivers after multiple viewings"
"So I've been writing this maze in Letterkenny, which is in Co. Donegal in Ireland, in a sitting room with an old fireplace..."
"Researching the next HHN maze in a suitable new environment, the blustery, rain-soaked north west coast of Ireland. Cold and creepy out!"
Oh... and the codename for one of the maze's this year is "Writer's Block".
If you haven't seen The Shining yet, watch it. Directly by Stanley Kubrick, it feature's Jack Nicholson who plays "Jack Torrance" as a writer who takes on the job of being a winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel, an isolated property out in the middle of the winter woods, where he plans on using the quite time to write a novel. Meanwhile the odd hotel built on the site of an ancient burial ground, begins to warp his mind in the worst possible ways. What better way research the experience of re-creating The Shining in maze form than to isolate yourself in a hotel far far FAR away?
Oh, and one more clue from Murdy... "working on a super iconic scene that is damn near impossible to realize in a maze..."
Sounds a lot like the elevator scene to me...
(3/30/17) Universal Orlando surprised everyone with the first official maze announcement for Halloween Horror Nights 27 a few hours ago. Sure to please many fans who enjoyed the first maze last year, American Horror Story will be back with an all new maze for HHN27 this fall. Like last year's maze, the new one will focus on scenes and scares from three different seasons from the show: the nightmare happenings behind the walls of (and below) Briarcliff Manor, as seen in AHS Season 2: ASYLUM. Then it's off to the streets of New Orleans as you get caught in the magical fallout from the ongoing power struggle between the Witches, VooDoo Priestesses, and other local legends and restless spirits from beyond as seen in Season 3's COVEN. Then it's time to relive the horrors told in the latest season's story of ROANOKE, where you will be at the mercy of Piggy, the Polk family and the ghosts of the blood moon.
(2/28/17) After several early leaks, Universal Orlando has released the official dates for Halloween Horror Nights 27, taking place on select nights between Sept. 15th and Nov. 4th. Even better, for those who don’t like to wait until the last second… you can already buy your tickets now on the official website.
(2/13/17) Backing up those dates leaked out in a guest survey back in January, the dates for HHN27 were again leaked out through the Universal employee web portal according to HHN Unofficial. As rumored, HHN27 will kick off on Friday, September 15th and run through to Saturday, November 4th. The only change from the previously leaked dates was the removal of a final Sunday, Nov. 5th date.
Follow the link to see the complete list of dates, though always remember that things are still subject to change until Universal officially releases them to the public along with advanced ticket sales.
(1/23/17) I'm told that Universal Orlando leaked out the dates for Halloween Horror Nights 27 the other day as part of a guest survey sent out for the event. Assuming the dates posted in the survey are the legit real dates of the actual event (and things are always subject to change until officially announced) we could see HHN 27 kick off on Friday, September 15, 2017 and run all the way through to November 5, 2017.
Also mentioned in the survey was that the event would feature 8 haunts. You can see some screen captures from the survey posted over at HHNUnofficial.
August 2018 - 6th Resort Hotel / Aventura - Under Construction - (8/21/17) An interesting picture on Twitter shows off the current state of Universal's new Aventura Resort hotel tower, which is said to be about half-way built.
(7/29/17) A new tweet shows off the current progress on Universal's new Aventura Resort tower and the installation of the first sections of glass to the exterior. Note that the blue color of the glass is not the final color, just the color of a layer or protective plastic covering.
(6/7/17) A few new details about the Aventura Hotel were released from Universal Orlando this week, promising some new tech-savvy experiences for the hotel guests. Each room will apparently come with an in-room tablet that will allow you to remotely control the TV, Room Temperature and “more”. The Aventura will also feature a new “virtual reality game room” and a dive-in movie experience that will include an underwater speaker system in the main resort pool. More announcements of other new amenities are forthcoming, so keep your eyes open here at Screamscape as we follow along.
In the meantime, enjoy the new Aventura Hotel VR experience below, which works best on the Chrome browser, or open the video on your mobile device with the YouTube app, where you can also put Google Cardboard to use to see 360º concept art of various sections of the new hotel in VR.
(5/11/17) Universal Orlando has already announced that they are accepting reservations for their sixth resort, Universal's Aventura Hotel, for dates starting on August 1, 2018. It will feature 600 rooms in the highrise style hotel tower, complete with floor to ceiling windows and a special rooftop bar that will boast perhaps one the best views of the glowing mighty Krakatau volcano, centerpiece of the new Volcano Bay waterpark.
If you book now for a stay of at least four nights, Universal will throw in a free $50 hotel dining credit. Book a seven-night stay and you'll get a $100 hotel dining credit. Look for rates to start as low as $97 a night.
(11/7/16) Universal is moving quickly these days... and not much longer after we had just began to hear the early reports that another new hotel was on the way, now Universal has confirmed it with their own official announcement.
The Aventura Hotel will open in Summer 2018, located right next to the parking garage for the Sapphire Falls Resort, directly across the street from the expanding Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Unlike the other Universal Orlando resort hotels, this one will have a unique look to set it apart from the rest, seeming to almost be more inspired by a Las Vegas tower style hotel.
The Aventura will be a glass highrise hotel tower, standing 16-stories tall, and will actually feature a rooftop bar with a clear almost eye-level view of the mighty Krakatau volcano that serves as the centerpiece of the Volcano Bay waterpark. Like the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Aventura is being advertised as another "Value" prices hotel option, where the 600-rooms will feature floor to ceiling windows, offering you an incredible view that will be hard to beat.
Upon entering the resort, you’ll find yourself inside an open loft-inspired lobby, bathed in sunshine from 18-foot tall windows that also offer a great view of the pool level below, where you can relax in a hot tub, perhaps with a nice beverage in hand from the nearby pool bar as you watch the kids play on the splash pad or swim in the crystal clear pool. Off the lobby level, the Aventura will also offer a casual dining food hall with five different cuisine options to choose from, or just get caffeinated with a stop into the on-site Starbucks.
Guests staying at the Avenutra can take advantage of walking pathways or complimentary shuttle service to get to Universal CityWalk, the theme parks, or even the new Volcano Bay waterpark. Like Cabana Bay and Sapphire Falls, guests staying at the Aventura will have the advantage of Early Park Admission into the theme parks as well, but not complimentary Universal Express which is only for guests of the Royal Pacific, Hard Rock and Portafino Bay resorts.
(10/13/16) According to the Orlando Biz Journal new permits have been filed for Universal Orlando's next hotel, which is being officially called Project 927. Project 927 has been described as a 600-room hotel, all contained in one large tower on a small section of property between the Sapphire Falls Resort and the freeway.
The location is kind of interesting however, as the majority of the property is taken up by a large retention pond, and some of that site is also supposed to be used as the tram roadway to transport guests from the parking structure over to the entrance of Volcano Bay. I just happened to be looking over this very spot during my stay at Sapphire Falls last month and took some pictures of it from the top of the Sapphire parking structure, where construction vehicles were already hard at work moving the dirt around the edges of the retention pond where they have already increased the size of the nearby retention pond behind the Royal Pacific, which I assume has been done to make up for the fact that the one behind Sapphire's parking structure may soon be filled in and used for the new resort tower.
For a size comparison, the Sapphire Falls Resort has 1000 rooms on a much larger piece of land, so the new tower is likely to be much taller than anything we've seen Universal build in the past.
The name "Aventura Hotel" has also been rumored to be attached as the current likely name for the new resort, though things can change between now and when they announce it.
(7/2/16) While Sapphire Falls isn't even open yet Universal Orlando has already 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.
2020 - 7th/8th Resort Hotels - Planning - (6/22/17) According to the local news city planners have given their approval for Universal's plans to build two resort hotel projects on the former Wet 'n Wild property on International Drive.
(5/22/17) A better collection of images showing off the layouts of both of the new resort hotel projects slated to replace Wet 'n Wild were posted to the Orlando Business Journal site that are worth checking out. The side on the former parking lot side of Universal Blvd is much larger of course, but there is an interesting surf board shaped pool you can clearly see in the layout of the resort that will go over the Wet 'n Wild site. The proposed towers also seem fairly tall in the images, up to 11 stories on the smaller one, and up to 13 stories in the artwork for the bigger resort.
Given the shape of the buildings and the direction they point, I do wonder if there might be some kind of rooftop feature, like a lounge perhaps. Nothing so far has been mentioned about any possible plans involving the lake behind the waterpark site, which was used for years for a wakeboarding attraction.
(5/20/17) According to the latest update from the Orlando Sentinel they pulled a piece of concept artwork showing off what Universal's initial proposal for new hotels on the former Wet 'n Wild site might look like. The proposal calls for 2 hotels on the site (up to 4,000 new rooms) plus all the expected Universal style resort amenities and connected retail and food outlets to the complex, along with connected parking structures.
According to the updated report, Universal's initial plan to transport guests from this site to the main Universal Orlando Resort will be done via a simple shuttle service, operated by Universal. The current plans calls for 1,200 rooms to be located on the West side of Universal Blvd (the Wet 'n Wild park site) and the other 2,800 rooms on the East side (the old Wet 'n Wild parking lot side).
(3/27/17) The first early plans for Universal Orlando's mega hotel project to take over the former Wet 'n Wild location have been filed by the company. The plans call for the land Universal owns on both sides on Universal Blvd to be transformed into a massive 4,000 room resort project.
(1/7/17) With the gates locked for the final time at Wet 'n Wild Orlando, the only remaining questions are what Universal plans to do with the unique International drive property. The long running rumor on Screamscape has been that Universal had been looking into plans that would include a large resort hotel with a mini CityWalk style retail and restaurant component.
Now the latest report from the Orlando Business Journal seems to be backing up that rumor, with their sources claiming that design/bid requests have gone out for the property for an "upper scale hotel of up to 4,000 guest rooms". Also, since this resort is just off-property from the rest of the Universal Orlando resorts, they are looking at this as idea for an economy class resort that would still offer many of the same style of amenities as the rest of the Universal Orlando resorts, but for a lower-price range of around $100 per night.
The OBJ article is also quick to point out that for size comparison, to fit 4,000 rooms on a property that size, they will have to go with a much taller resort building to do it, but that should fit in just perfectly along the I-Drive corridor. Perhaps the most interesting riddle to be solved with this resort location will be how Universal will solve the problem of being able to transport guests to and from the main Universal Orlando resort from here.
So how soon could it be until we see this latest hotel project open? According to Screamscape sources, following the opening of the new Aventura hotel in 2018, Universal Orlando's long term plan has slotted 2020 as the opening date for their next hotel... wherever it may be located.
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.
(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.
(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.
Screamscape Reviews - Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
(9/25/16) I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days at Universal Orlando’s newest resort hotel, the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, positioned comfortably between the wonderful Royal Pacific Resort and the fun themed Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Like the Royal Pacific, the Sapphire Falls Resort is connected to the rest of the Universal Resort via the boat taxi waterways. While Royal Pacific brings to life the wonder of the South Pacific islands, Sapphire Falls is all about the Caribbean Island lifestyle, from the music in the lobby to the colorful themeing that encompasses the entire resort.
Entering the resort from the main entry the first thing you may notice in the large atrium style lobby is a giant chandelier overhead, themed to look like it was made up from several dozen giant colorful beach balls. If the mood strikes you, or you are waiting on a shuttle as you leave, there is plenty of room in here to pull up a chair, sit and relax. At the rear is a special lounge area just outside the Strong Water Tavern which in addition to having a wonderful view out the windows of the Royal Pacific Resort, it also has a large video wall playing news or perhaps one of the big games on TV at the moment. With the Strong Water Tavern just behind the video wall, it makes it easy to get yourself a beverage or an appetizer and sit and relax for a spell. Speaking of the Strong Water Tavern, this has been designed to be a well stocked Rum Bar offering more styles of rum than you can imagine, as well as a wide assortment of rum inspired beverage options. Flag down a rum captain and you can look into getting a flight of different rums. It also has a cozy outdoor patio with a view down upon the bay below and the water as it tumbles down the falls.
Off the main lobby is the Universal Studios Store that is always stocked up with the latest themed merchandise from the parks, as well as the Dutch Trading Co., where you can stop in to pick up a snack or beverage to-go (from milk to soda to beer and wine) as well as pastries in the mornings as well as various freshly made sandwich items that change throughout the day from breakfast, to lunch to evening options.
As the lobby is actually on the 4th floor of the resort, you can journey down to the first floor where you will find your water taxi over to CityWalk and the Universal Orlando theme parks, but you can also stop into the Amatista Cookhouse for a regular sit-down meal. They offer both indoor and outdoor seating options for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the day, typically opening at 6am and serving dinner until 10pm.
It wouldn't be a true resort at Universal Orlando without a fantastic pool area and the Sapphire Falls does not fall short in this area. The large pool area features both stair and zero-depth entry options, a waterslide and while deeper towards the two far ends, the center area of the pool gets shallow and features an ankle deep pathway for guests to cross from one side of the long pool to the other. This is useful to not only get to the hot-tub area, but also to the Drhum Club Kantine feature features a full bar as well as a Tapas menu with fresh seafood options. With the aforementioned hot-tub area as well as a comfy fire pit seating area nearby, this makes for a nice little hideaway to get away, sip a beverage and unwind after a busy day at the theme parks.
The basic layout of the rooms themselves are quite similar to what you may find over at the Royal Pacific or Hard Rock Resorts, featuring two large beds, a giant screen TV and a desk you can sit down to do any work or email at… or pull up the latest Screamscape news update for a quick read. While the room is a little smaller feeling than what you may have at the Cabana Bay, they also feature a wonderful walk in shower over the bathtub / shower combo found at Cabana Bay, complete with a nice little bench so you can sit and relax under the water.
The resort also features a fairly large gym if you want to work out, a video game arcade, as well as an assortment of outdoor games and activities out by the pool area. At night I noticed they would set up a giant projection screen facing the pool so those swimming at night could enjoy a movie as well which was a nice touch. If you get a chance, be sure to venture down the lookout pathway to view the lit up falls after dark as well.
All said and done the Sapphire Falls Resorts offers a very complimentary themed resort that fits right in with the theming, while not repeating it, of the nearby Royal Pacific resort and the upcoming Volcano Bay waterpark opening in Summer 2017. One thing to remember however, one major difference between the Sapphire Falls Resort and the Royal Pacific is that guests here do not get the benefit of Universal Express access to the theme park attractions. Universal Express access is only included for guests of the Portafino Bay, Hard Rock and Royal Pacific Resorts. Sapphire Falls and Cabana Bay Beach Resort guests get early admission into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter only. Keep this fact in mind when deciding which Resort to stay at. If the theme parks are expected to be busy during your stay, it may be much more beneficial to stay at a resort where Universal Express is included, as the cost to add it onto your park admission later on is typically at least $80+ per person for the day.
I do have one tip however. In the evenings, if you are coming back to the hotel late after an all day stay at the theme parks, or an evening out at Citywalk, be forewarned that if you return after 11pm the store and Dutch Trading Co in the lobby do close down. So if you feel like you need to pick up a light snack, a soda, or perhaps wanted to get some aspirin or lotion to soothe that sunburn, you may want to grab something at Citywalk and bring it back with you as after 11pm I was unable to find a vending machine anywhere in the halls, and the only drink option open that late was the Strong Water Tavern.
Enjoy your stay at the Sapphire Falls Resort and see if you enjoyed it as much as I did.