NBC Universal / Comcast
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(1/23/17) HHN 27 Dates Leaked (MORE...)
(1/18/17) Volcano Bay Construction Update (MORE...) / and Mardi Gras Concerts (MORE...)
(1/9/17) Volcano Bay Construction Update (MORE...)
(1/7/17) Universal Orlando Already Planning 7th Hotel (MORE...)
Click here to read the full Screamscape review of Halloween Horror Nights 26!
General Resort News - (1/18/17) Universal Orlando has announced the official 2017 Mardi Gras concert lineup on their website.
Feb 4 - Trace Adkins
Feb 11 - Ne-Yo
Feb 18 - Collective Soul
Feb 19 - X Ambassadors
Feb 25 - Fifth Harnomy
Mar 4 - Kool & The Gang
Mar 5 - Olivia Newton-John
Mar 11 - UB40
Mar 12 - Toby Keith
Mar 18 - Jason Derulo
Mar 19 - Earth, Wind & Fire
Mar 25 - The All-American Rejects
(1/2/17) So sad... Wet 'n Wild Orlando has closed for good... and Midway Mayhem was there as the last guests stepped out at the end of the day. You can check out their video report of the park's final day below.
2017 - Volcano Bay / New Waterpark - (1/18/17) A new Volcano Bay construction update has been posted to OrlandoParkNews this week.
(1/8/17) Another fun photo update of the Volcano Bay construction site was posted by WildGravityTravels this week. Lots of progress everywhere as the race is on to finish up the park over the next few months. So impressive to watch something like this come together.
(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.
(12/12/16) Midway Mayhem is back with a new look at the Volcano Bay construction site as well as a peek at the future site of the Aventura Hotel as well as the progress on the Cabana Bay expansion towers as well. Check it out below.
(12/7/16) A new construction update from Volcano Bay was posted to WildGravityTravels this week, showing off the progress on the huge volcano itself as well as a look at a few of the park's slides.
(11/30/16) Want to get what may be the best look at Volcnao Bay to date? A new video surfaced on YouTube a few hours ago shot by a camera-drone that appears to have flown right over the park itself, giving away a view like no other of this amazing new waterpark.
You can find it below. UPDATE - The video was removed by the user.
(11/28/16) An interesting collection of photos showing off the latest construction progress at Volcano Bay, along with a view of the Cabana Bay expansion and new Aventura hotel site can be found on Facebook here. Included is the first really good look at the tunnel made to go under the roadway for guests to get to the entrance of Volcano Bay from the future tram stop.
(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.
(11/7/16) Another fun construction update showing off the swift progress taking place over at Volcano Bay has been posted by WildGravityTravels over the weekend. Check it out and enjoy!
(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.
(10/28/16) The latest look at the Volcano Bay construction site has been posted by Midway Mayhem. Check it out below.
(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.
(10/12/16) WildGravityTravels has posted a new set of construction photos showing off the latest changes taking place at Volcano Bay.
(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.
(9/1/16) The latest Volcano Bay construction video has been posted by Midway Mayhem. Check it out below for a look into the new waterpark construction site as the top steel framework for the volcano are being put into place, as well as a view of the new expansion towers rising onto the Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
(8/25/16) A great new photo update for Volcano Bay construction progress has been posted to WildGravityTravels this week. Lots of interesting parts and pieces going up on and inside the volcano structure itself. It's also worth mentioning that the slide pieces that were previously seen sitting in the bottom of the wave pool have now been moved away, likely installed elsewhere on the slide. I guess you wont fly under the wavepool after all, but it would have been an interesting concept.
(8/17/16) Another great construction video from Midway Mayhem showing off the progress being made at the Volcano Bay waterpark was posted this week. While the slides continue to grow, the volcano texture sections are spreading on the structure, and many of the support building structures are now going up.
(8/2/16) A new photo update from Volcano Bay has been posted to WildGravityTravels this week as the park's ProSlide Tornado Wave (TN-Wave) is now quickly going up.
(7/26/16) New construction pictures from Volcano Bay have been posted to WildGravityTravels this week, including a look at the new hydromagic watercoaster slide that is quickly growing bigger.
(7/20/16) Wild Gravity Travels has posted a couple of very interesting new photos from the Volcano Bay construction site showing off what appears to be a new Hydro-Magnetic Waterslide being installed into the park. Looks like they have build a load/unload platform up high and rather than use a conveyor lift to the top of a hill, the boats will drop down a hill to gain momentum out of the station and right into the first magnetic hill. If this is the same as the ProSlide versions I've been on, you can expect to ride in something that looks like a 4-passenger bobslide style raft, and trust me... these are a lot of fun.
After being wowed by the new preview video of Volcano Bay earlier this week, I was able to take a look at the construction of the real thing, as seen from the Cabana Bay Beach Resort where I was staying. I tried to get as many pictures as I could of the various features I could identify, and it’s hard to believe that this massive Volcano themed waterpark will be full of guests by this time next year. In fact, I asked about that June 1st ticket sale date that was mentioned before and was told that the plan was to indeed have it open by then, it was just too early to know when the actual GRAND OPENING official date would be, but they felt confident enough that they could start selling tickets for June 1st, 2017 in the near future.
There is still lots of new information about Volcano Bay that will be released over the next 11 months that will prove just how much of a game-changer this new waterpark experience will be. One tidbit of information sent in by a couple of readers this week visiting Wet ‘n Wild was about the rumored virtual queue system. While the original waterpark will still be closing down at the end of the year Universal is actually testing out the new virtual queue system right now for guests at Wet 'n Wild in the morning hours.
All guests are given wristbands that are used to make a virtual reservation at the park’s slides one at a time, and then you are told to go experience one of the park’s wait-free attractions like the wave pool or lazy river while you wait to return to ride the slide at your intended time. Once you are done you can make another reservation for another slide and return to play in the water while you wait.
Our reader, who claimed to be a frequent guest of Wet ‘n Wild over the years loved how this worked for them. Without the new wristband system they claimed they would usually go to the park for the day, spend up to an hour hanging out in line for any given waterslide, and average maybe 4 major slides in any given day and the rest of the time in the non-wait attractions. With the wristband they were able to experience 8 different slides during the test period, with the the average wait in queue being only 5 minutes, allowing the majority of their day to be spend relaxing and playing in the water instead of waiting in long lines.
The way Universal has already mentioned how they were going to change the waterpark experience to remove the process of standing in long lines entirely makes it sound like every guests will in Volcano Bay will be able to use this system to make the most of their visit which is incredible sounding. If it works in the tests at Wet 'n Wild it will be a true game-changer for the waterpark industry. (Now if only they could do something about all those stairs….)
On the subject of those amazing construction photos I was able to take during my visit... you can see a ton of the new slides under construction all over the park, the fake rock-work going up on the volcano and even a slide of two peeking out from the inside of the volcano structure itself. You may want to pay close attention to those "white" slides next to and in the mountain structure, as I don't believe that they are truly white, but simply clear slides covered in a protective white vinyl wrap. While you see them spiraling down near the backside of the volcano, you can also see a section of that slide is a VERY interesting location... sitting along the bottom of the deep end of the wave pool. Yep... take a close up look and you'll see a section of that white tube coming out of the concrete wall on the left side of the wave pool and curving around towards the other side, where it is still incomplete. Talk about a rush as sliders will suddenly find themselves sliding under all the guests floating above them in the wave pool... but where will this slide end? Given the depth, I'm thinking it could end in an under-ground splash-down area on the right side of the wavepool, where you have to take a pathway or stairs back up to ground level perhaps. Just something to think about.
(6/22/16) Universal Orlando has released an incredible new video preview for their new Volcano Bay waterpark opening in Summer 2017. This is our first look at the initial attractions they are willing to show off so far, and be assured that there are some very impressive attractions within the volcano itself that they aren't quite ready to show off just yet that will knock your socks off.
Keep an eye towards the end of the video (see below) where we get our first glimpse of what the expansion towers being added to Cabana Bay Beach Resort will look like, which appear to be somewhere between 10-12 story tall cylinder shaped towers with rooms looking off into the heart of Volcano Bay itself.
Universal released some new details on their blog this week, including what may be the mantra of Universal's 3rd park which is, "Water is Life. Life is Joy." They go on to set the story and theme for the island themed park as being from the "fabled Waturi islanders". They also mention that there wont be any standing in long lines, or the wrangling of inner tubes at Volcano Bay... "no waiting for the fun to begin".
This ties in with early rumors that the park would have some kind of new queue-free slide reservation system in place, and if you look carefully at the video below when the children are running towards the camera you will notice each of them has a greenish armband on their right wrist... the perfect thing to contain the needed RFID chip to make that work.
Now on to the park... there is the heart of the park... the volcano structure itself which have been named Krakatau, a 200 foot tall Fire and Water Volcano that towers over the entire park, with lush waterfalls raining down all day long and promising some kind of fire/lava effect at night. Inside Krakatau "the Waturi people dare you to brave a variety of pulse-pounding water slides." Several are named, like the Ko'okiri Body Plunge (70ft fall from a trap door and 125 feet of screaming, themed to Vol, the Volcano God), Kala & Ta Nui Serpentine Body Slides (two more trap door slides down clear interwoven tubes), and the Punga Racers (race down four-lanes through undersea caves on manta ray themed mats). There is a rumored big B-I-G slide to rule them all from within the Volcano that has yet to be named as well.
Beyond the volcano are three themed villages... Wave Village where the surf is always up at Waturi Beach at the base of Krakatau. Then there is River Village which has a lot of the fun attractions for the kiddies like Tot Tiki Reef and Runamukka Reef. They also offer multi-rider tube slides called Honu ika Moana. There is also time to enjoy the Kopiko Wai Winding River, a slow relaxing laxy river adventure that promises many surprises along the way, including a trip beneath the lava rocks and into Stargazer's Cavern to see "the magical night sky above".
The final village is Rainforest Village which will be home to the Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides. The Ohyah slides come to a thrilling end four feet above the pool below, while you can cross a rope bridge to get to the Ohno slide that ends six feet above the pool. Take a deep breath before the end so you can scream loudly as you fall. You will also find the Maku Puihi Raft Rides here, a thrilling six-person raft adventure through one of two adventures... Puihi goes through a dark tunnel before hitting a stomach-flipping zero-gravity hang while Maku will drop through a volcanic gorge before spinning "around bowl-like formations." There is still more here... the "TeAwa, The Fearless River" described as "a roaring, waterly onslight of churning rapids and choppy waves hanging tight to your inner tube", or try Taniwha Tubes, offering four twisting and turning slides where the Moai statues spray jets of water on you as you pass.
While they don't have a set date to open the park, elsewhere Universal did mention at a travel convention this week that they would begin to sell tickets into the park starting June 1st, 2017. While it is possible the park COULD be ready to open by then, this is not an officially opening date... only when they will start to sell tickets ahead of the Summer 2017 grand opening.
Honestly though, Summer 2017 can't get here soon enough... take one look at this video and I think it's pretty clear you are looking at the most fantastic looking waterpark ever built in America... if not the world. Seriously beautiful... and what I wouldn't give for a room in the new Cabana Bay tower overlooking it all at night.
(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 - (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.
2018 - 6th Resort Hotel / Aventura - Planning -
(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 Resort Hotel - Planning - (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.
(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.
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.