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---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(6/22/17) City Approves Wet 'n Wild Site Resort Plans (MORE...)
(6/22/17) More Volcano Bay Operational Updates (MORE...)
(6/17/17) Volcano Bay Changes (MORE...)
(6/9/17) HHN27 - All Our Times Will Come. Soon. (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 - (5/23/17) Universal Orlando has announced that they will live stream the grand opening of the Volcano Bay water theme park on Thursday morning through the Universal Orlando Blog. You’ll see the opening moment as well as exclusive content from inside the park including the story the inspired the park, insider tips and even a cooking demonstration from Chef Robert Martinez, Jr. showing off some Volcano Bay signature food dishes. There will also be a chance to enter to win tickets to Volcano Bay as well for those who tune in, The live stream starts at 8am on May 25th. Click here for more info.
On a fun related note, I just got back from a quick tour from inside one of Cabana Bay’s new 11-story resort towers where we visited one of the new two-bedroom suites that also had a jaw dropping view right into Volcano Bay itself. JAW DROPPED… simply amazing to have a view like that from a room that is literally just a few feet away from actually being INSIDE the park itself. While the room follows the same decor design concepts that you’ll find in the other rooms at Cabana Bay, the view here is unparalleled.
While I’d love to show you myself exactly what I just saw… unfortunately I can’t. They asked us not to take pictures of the view from the room since Volcano Bay technically doesn’t open to guests until Thursday and there was essentially still an army of people inside putting down all the last touches and making sure everything is spot on for when the guests arrive.
One other fun note however is that a new benefit to ALL Cabana Bay Beach Resort guests is that they will have their own resort exclusive special entrance into Volcano Bay out back by the new tower rooms, giving you your own unique entry experience into the park away from all the other guests, which is only fitting as no one else is closer to Volcano Bay than the Cabana Bay guests.
(3/30/17) According to Universal Orlando, a new weekly Caribbean Carnival special event will begin taking place every Wednesday night (starting Apr. 5th through to July 5th) at their Sapphire Falls Resort featuring an interactive island festival featuring the music, drinks and island foods of the Cuba, The Bahamas, Barbados and more. Seating and dinner starts at 6pm with the show portion starting at 7pm. Tickets will cost $69 per person for adults ($35 for kids 3-9, under 3 are free) and you don't need to be staying at the resort to attend.
(3/21/17) A very interesting article has been posted to Orlando Weekly going over many rumors, both old and new, about what the future may hold for CityWalk over the next few years as older venues look like they could be leaving to make way for something new once again.
(3/6/17) Universal Orlando posted an interesting but cryptic photo last week of a strange device now sitting in the lobby of their Cabana Bay Beach Resort. The image was of a strange little kiosk looking device with the name Relay on the top.
What this is however is something else entirely... as Relay a new robot assistant created for the hotel industry that is said to be now testing in about a dozen hotels across the US. What happens is that when a guest calls the front desk and needs an item sent to their room (shampoo, toothbrush, clean towels, etc...) the front desk employee can load the item into the Relay, punch in the guest's room number, hit the "GO" button and off Relay will go on it's own directly to the guests room door. Unique on-board WiFi systems, GPS, camera and sensor systems allow the three-foot tall podium looking robot to navigate through the hotel where it can even wirelessly call for an elevator to change floors, as well as alert the guests to it's presence once it arrives outside their room. Once there guests can retrieve their item, and even use the touch-screen to type messages and interact with Relay for a bit before it runs back to the lobby to charge and await another mission.
(2/18/17) Such is the nature of life... we are born, we grow older, and each year we seem to pay a little more for admission into the theme parks in Orlando. As usually, shortly following Disney's lead, Universal Orlando has now raised their own ticket prices this week. A 1-Day / 1-Park ticket to Universal went up $5 to range between $110 - $124 (depending on if you visit in Value, Regular or Peak season), while a 1-Day / 2-Park ticket went up $10 to range between $165 - $179.
Universal has also released some new multi-day / multi-day ticket options when buying in advance, for example a 2-Park / 3-Day Park to Park Ticket good for Universal Studios and Islands of adventure will cost you $274.99, while a new 3-Park / 3-Day Park to Park ticket that will also include Volcano Bay will cost $314.99, or roughly $105 per day. Either way, this is a lot cheaper than the $179 per day cost of a 1-Day Park to Park ticket, so as always, the cost savings add up when you opt for Multi-Day passes purchased ahead of time.
2017 - Volcano Bay / New Waterpark - (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!
(5/22/17) During Screamscape’s visit to Universal Orlando for the grand opening of the Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon attraction, we were treated to a tasty edible display of the many new menu items that will be made available to guests visiting the new Volcano Bay waterpark that opens this Thursday morning. They served up far more food options that it was possible for us to consume in one sitting, but we did sample a good number of them while taking pictures to share. If you follow along with our Instagram, Twitter or Facebook you may have seen some of the initial comments and feedback on these reported live at the time in April, but with the grand opening just a couple of days away this makes the perfect time to show them off again here on Screamscape as a preview of what's to come.
(5/20/17) For those wondering about the various height requirements that will be posted for the attractions at Volcano Bay, a fun video has been posted by Best of Orlando showcasing each attraction's height requirements.
Oh, want more Volcano Bay goodness? CNN got a sneak preview of the park last week, posting a wide assortment of images taken within the park that we haven't seen yet, and also uncovered an exclusive major bit of news. A 5-acre expansion to the waterpark is already in development and it may be coming sooner than later... in fact, "it could start in three weeks." They also mentioned that the park will feature a unique soda flavor developed with Coca-Cola, a custom "mixed-berry' flavored beverage to be called Kunuku Cola.
(5/11/17) Who's ready for a nice view of Volcano Bay? A fantastic video clip showing off the giant waterfall coming down the face of the Krakatau volcano was posted to Twitter on May 8th. Check it out below.
(5/8/17) Who's ready to see the latest images from Volcano Bay? First off, check the video below to see some amazing new aerial footage shot over the park showing off a number of the slides actually being tested by park staff. Then be sure to check out the photo updates posted to WildGravityTravels this weekend as well, where they note the plastic covering on the steepest drop slide at the top of the Volcano has been removed and you could can now see that this will be a CLEAR tube you drop through (at the top at least) and water was seen testing through it.
Not everything is all rosy however, as workers were seen taking a big chunk of one of the Honu slide's wave-walls down for some reason. Lets hope it wasn't damaged with the park being so close to opening day.
(4/24/17) With only a month to go before Volcano Bay opened to the world, we take another look at the progress of the park... this time from the air as part of another discovered drone-cam video posted to YouTube discovered this week.
In other Volcano Bay news, the park has released some details on the pricing options for premium seating as well as cabana rentals. Premium Seating? Yup... think of it as a value priced version of a cabana rental, getting you a pair of reserved lounge chairs, a large umbrella over your head and a storage locker box for $29.99. Private Cabana rentals will go for between $159.99 for one big enough for six people and there are even a few 16 people super-sized cabanas for $299.99 that come with concierge service, a fruit and snack basket, a small pre-stocked fridge, locker space, towel service and access to some exclusive menu items you can order that no one else can get.
(4/23/17) A great new photo construction update from Volcano Bay was posted by WildGravityTravels the other day showcasing more of the finer details of the park being installed all over as they rush to get it complete in time for the grand opening just one month away! I think they are getting close to finally finish installing those giant stairs up to the top level of the volcano itself, which should finally let them remove all that white plastic wrap from the slides inside and let the colors shine.
(4/5/17) Time for another look at Volcano Bay, because lots of things in the park are now finishing up, or close to being finished, all in time to allow for all those final touches to be added. You can see the latest pics and a video over at WildGravityTravels.
(3/31/17) Universal Orlando has announced the individual ticket prices for the new Volcano Bay park as well as the costs to "add-on" the third park to an annual pass, and price differences between the old 2-Park APs and the newly offered 3-Park APs. There are four different levels of AP to choose from with different price points, but increased black-out dates get added to the lower prices AP options. The cost of the 3-Park APs range from $383 for the Seasonal Pass up to $688 for the Premier Pass, and a little cheaper for Florida Residents. Visit the official website for details on each pass offer.
For the big question... a 1-day adult pass to Volcano Bay will cost $67, clocking in $5 more than it costs for one of Walt Disney World's two waterparks, and $7 more than SeaWorld's Aquatica. To my surprise, Universal is also offering an add-on "Express Pass" upgrade offer, allowing you to skip even the virtual lines and enjoy the park's attractions whenever you want. The price for the "Express" add-on will start at $19.99 per person.
(3/9/17) Universal Orlando posted a new video yesterday that details the story behind the theme of Volcano Bay and the story of the Waturi people and their quest that will serve as the background behind your experience as a guest at Volcano Bay. Check it out below.
(2/20/17) A fantastic and detailed photo report from Volcano Bay was posted by WildGravityTravels this week, as the final themeing, access pathways and small details are now starting to show up in the park.
(2/8/17) The official Universal Orlando site has now released more exciting information all about the new TapuTapu interactive wristband system coming to Volcano Bay. We actually get our first true look at the device itself, which is a simple plastic wrist-band device with a watch sized LCD screen.
Every guest who enters the park will be "welcomed" into the Waturi family and given a TapuTapu wearable for the day. Guests will use the device to "unlock the wonders" of Volcano Bay by looking for special totems throughout the park where you can tap your TapuTapu. By doing this you will be able to place yourself into the Virtual Line queue allowing you to explore the rest of the park until it is time to ride, but your TapuTapu will also allow you to activate special "interactive surprises" located throughout the entire park. And for those wondering... you will have to return your TapuTapu at the end of the day when you exit the park.
Meanwhile one of our readers also snapped a great new picture showing off the backside of Volcano Bay as seen from the freeway, which shows off a new 'temple' looking structure built into the side of the Volcano on this side of the park that I've never seen before.
(1/27/17) The big news from Universal Orlando this week was the announcement of the official grand opening date for the Volcano Bay themed waterpark. Following a media event, the park is slated to open to the public in grand fashion on Thursday, May 25th, forever changing the waterpark landscape of the Orlando market. See you there!
(1/1/17) It's 2017 and Wet 'n Wild has now closed forever, but with the mighty Volcano Bay structure looming on the horizon set to open in about 6 months, Midway Mayhem has posted another video construction report on the new waterpark, along with a quick check in on the nearby Aventura and Cabana Bay expansion towers as well which you can check out below. I've got to say that as the majority of the park's slides are now complete, it is facinating to see the themed elements added to not only the volcano, but to the individual slide towers as well, as the towers appears to have a unique looking roof structure being placed on the top of each as well.
(12/24/16) Screamscape sources have confirmed to us that the Krakatau Aqua Coaster slide being built into Volcano Bay will indeed have some kind of “show scenes” along the route, that are sure to make this one of the more popular attractions in the park. Good thing for TapuTapu.
(11/21/16) WildGravityTravels takes a look at the Volcano Bay construction site this week as some new developments are taking place around the park's entrance area, as well as building infrastructure just inside, and several of the waterslides are also quickly growing towards completion. The mighty Krakatau volcano structure is also looking even more impressive as more and more of the textured rock pieces are being installed, and making it look like a towering volcano instead of just the steel framework.
(11/4/16) A huge new release from Universal Orlando came out this week offering up some very cool new details about Volcano Bay. For starters they released an all new promotional video that talks about the park's marquee attraction: Krakatau Aqua Coastrer.
This is the official name for the hydro-magnetic water coaster slide we've seen under construction that will take guests for a really amazing ride inside the park's iconic Krakatau volcano structure. Seated in a four-passenger canoe you'll be blasted uphill and into the interior of the volcano, twisting and turning through dark caverns, launched through sparkling waterfalls and see much more along the way. And yes... this isn't the MasterBlaster style water coaster that shoots you uphill via water, this is done through magnetic Linear Induction Motor technology. The feeling is simply amazing as you just don't expect a waterslide to shoot you uphill with enough force that you can actually get a little airtime at the top just before you plunge back down into darkness. Think of it as being similar to the thrill of the launch on Revenge of the Mummy... but on a water slide.
Another key feature of the Volcano Bay experience was also released: TapuTapu.
TapuTapu is the name of the wristband every guests into the park will given to wear, and this is included with your park admission and not an extra cost item. Through use of the TapuTapu you will be put into a Virtual Line for park attractions, like the Krakatau Aqua Coaster, allowing you to float in a lazy river or play in the wave pool until TapuTapu alerts you that it is your time to ride. TapuTapu also has another unique use as well... interactivity!
Much like the wands you can buy to use in the Harry Potter areas of the theme parks, the TapuTapu will also be functional to trigger various special effects in the park. From magical lighting effects in the dark caverns under the volcano as you pass by on the lazy river to triggering a water cannon to blast at guests standing nearby and much more is promised to be released about the uses for TapuTapu over the months ahead.
While Volcano Bay will open in early Summer 2017, tickets will officially go on sale for this stunning new waterpark starting November 15th. Until then I can only say "Wow!"... just still picking up my jaw from the floor every time I see new information about how this new waterpark experience is just shattering all expectations to create an experience like no other.
(10/24/16) Some new photos of Volcano Bay have been posted this week to ThemeparX, this time showing off the installation of the drop pods at the top of the volcano structure, along with a look at what seems to be the park's entrance plaza.
(9/23/16) According to the latest photos of Volcano Bay construction taking place, the volcano structure itself has been topped off at last, as indicated by the mounting of flags at the top of the structure. Meanwhile various sections of steel-work are still being hoisted up top to fill in the gaps and create the basic infrastructure shape of the volcano. One photo gives a pretty clear look at the open platform that was created near the top, and you can see how two drop-pods will eventually be put in place up there to connect to the two white plastic-wrapped slides that will twist and turn inside the volcano structure. This really is going to be one helluva waterpark when they open it next summer.
(6/27/16) 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.
(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.
(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."
(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.
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.
2017 - Halloween Horror Nights 27 - (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 -
(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.
(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? 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.
(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.
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.
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.