Hey, guys! This week my husband and I are here at Universal Studios with a group of friends. We have made the Universal trip an annual event because we love Halloween Horror Nights. As a former travel agent and regular visitor to Orlando, I would say I’m pretty much an expert. If you are making a trip this way, I highly recommend purchasing the 4 day 3 park hopper ticket. The 3 parks include Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and the brand new water park, Universal’s Volcano Bay.
The hopper ticket allows you to visit all of the different parks in one day. Since Volcano Bay opened this year, we had to check it out. First off, let me say that this was the first year we stayed at a hotel on the Universal property. Stay tuned for my full review of the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. The hotel provided a shuttle to Volcano Bay which was located near the front lobby. When we arrived at the park, the walkway leading up to the entrance was really elaborate and definitely fit into the island theme. This is a picture of the tunnel to the entrance of the park which was decorated with lanterns.
As you approach the entrance, you present your ticket and then are given a digital wristband. These are used around the park.
I think these watches are a great concept…but there were some major downfalls. I absolutely loved that you can load your credit card onto the watch. It was so simple when we were ready to eat lunch. All we did was tap the watch onto the card machine and like magic, we were able to pay without having our card. The downside? At each ride, there is a kiosk. If you want to ride the ride, you just tap the watch against the Volcano Bay symbol on the kiosk and your watch will tell you how long your wait is. For example, the first ride we rode contained two different colored slides. One slide had a 4-foot drop at the end and the other had a 6-foot drop. We tapped our watch to the symbol and it said we had a 25-minute wait. The watch counts down by 5-minute increments and then will buzz and tell you to ride now when the wait time has passed. At that point, you walk to the entrance of the ride, tap your watch again at the kiosk where the employee is standing so your watch will reset. One of the negatives we quickly realized was that we assumed the kiosks were the same and we could choose whichever slide we wanted to ride on. However, the slides had different names: “Ohno” and “Ohyah.” We had tapped our watches on the “Ohyah” kiosk and were required to ride the slide with the 4-foot drop. While the ride was fun, we didn’t want to wait another 30 minutes to ride the slide with the 6-foot drop. The park itself is gorgeous!
I absolutely love the Pacific theme and there were plenty of pools and beach chairs to relax in if you were waiting for a ride or you weren’t in the mood to go on any rides. The next slide we decided to go on was called Punga Racers where you had a mat that you laid on and held onto the handlebars going down headfirst. There were four different slides where you can race your friends. The three of us really enjoyed that slide, and I was the winner. The best part was we only had a 15-minute wait for that ride. We then decided the next ride we wanted to go on was Krakatau Aqua Coaster.
We tapped our watches and it told us we had an 85-minute wait. We decided since we had a long wait that we would tap our watches at a different ride because the wait was only 20 minutes. This is when we discovered the huge downfall of this park and the use of the digital watches. You can’t tap your watch at more than one ride. This means you are not able to ride any rides that require you to secure a place in line via the kiosk. There is no line you can stand in and wait either. You have to tap your watch at a kiosk or you can’t ride. So lame! This is a huge downside considering some of the main attractions at the park like the slide in the volcano that contains a drop floor and a 125-foot drop had over a 2-hour wait. It is just not possible to ride everything you want to in a day. However, there are a couple of rides that are just average water park slides that do not contain a wait time and instead say “ride now.” These are the only rides you can jump into line and just wait. While the slide was fun, it wasn’t as great as the attractions that required the watch.
Since we had plenty of time to kill before we could ride the roller coaster slide, we decided to eat lunch. I must say the food was amazing and decently priced.
Plus, it was really convenient that our credit card was loaded on the watch so we just had to tap the watch and go. It saved us a lot of time and didn’t require us to go back to our locker. After we finished eating, our watches told us we had 5 minutes left until we could ride when we were notified the ride was broken. The worst part is that when a ride gets shut down for an indefinite period of time, you can’t ride any other ride unless you are willing to give up your place in the queue. Luckily we only had to wait about 20 minutes for the ride to open back up and we got to ride right away. The four of us were planning to ride in the same boat, however, your group gets weighed on a scale at the top of the platform before the ride and the four of us were 30 pounds over the weight restrictions so we had to split into groups of two. I guess we shouldn’t have eaten lunch beforehand! I have to say this ride was my favorite of all the rides we rode that day. This slide was no kidding like a roller coaster. The boats fit up to 4 people and are magnetic which is what pulled it up the hills on the ride. This is the description of the ride on the website:
“Four-person canoes slide upward through the mists and into the dark twists and turns within the volcano before emerging with a plunge through a shimmering waterfall.”
All four of us really enjoyed it. We really wanted to ride some of the other rides, but we just weren’t willing to wait 2 hours to ride something else. It was really disappointing! The volcano is a great feature of the park and you can even walk through it.
We also enjoyed the lazy river which took us underneath the volcano. You can also rent a cabana when you arrive at the park and I think this is a great option if we come back to the park. Each cabana is a nice place where you can enjoy some relaxation and privacy with your family. You can order food and drinks and seek shelter from the sun. From what I saw, the price of the cabanas ranges from $299 to $599. Final thoughts? I love the theme and look of the park.
It is worth a visit. However, while I think the concept of the digital watches is great, it just isn’t utilized in the best possible way. It made for a somewhat disappointing experience and would be better if you could make two reservations at a time instead of only one. This would have allowed us to ride a short reservation ride while waiting for the most popular attractions. I would rather wait in a long line to ride an attraction than to be limited to one ride at a time and wait for two hours. Have you had the opportunity to visit Universal Studios’ Volcano Bay? Are you planning a trip soon? Let me know your thoughts below!