Universal Resort Orlando arrived long after World Disney World and has often stood in the shadow of the world’s most popular theme park. In recent years, Universal has stood up for itself by challenging its more storied opponent. Universal’s innovations have garnered acclaim, particularly at the new water park that’s staked a claim as the best in Orlando. Here are seven reasons to visit Volcano Bay, Universal’s spectacular water park.
While some would say that it took a while, Universal has undoubtedly learned from Disney. Like an insecure younger sibling, Universal wants to be taken seriously and forge its own identity. However, the company knows what works about their more storied peers.
One of Disney’s competitive advantages is its landmarks, the “weenies” that draw attention at the park. Starting with Sleeping Beauty Castle, Disney’s always built unforgettable structures that dazzle onlookers. The most famous of them are the man-made mountains that soar into the sky.
While designing Volcano Bay, the Universal staff recognized an opportunity to achieve something similar but slightly different. The titular volcano at Volcano Bay is called Krakatau. You’ll notice it from the parking lot, and it’s the focus of your line-of-sight as you enter Volcano Bay. This 200-feet-tall artificial volcano erupts with water rather than lava, setting the tone for the entire park visit. It’s the most engaging non-Harry Potter visual at Universal Orlando Resort.
The TapuTapu and line queue system
While designing Volcano Bay, Universal took note of Disney’s Magic Band system. The water park employs a unique version of the same premise. When you visit the water park, you’ll receive a wearable wrist band. This bracelet operates thanks to state-of-the-art technology that will enhance your visit in multiple ways.
For starters, you will connect a credit card to the device known as a TapuTapu. After doing so, you can tap the bracelet to pay for food and merchandise. Yes, that sounds the same as Disney, but the second part is actually an improvement on Magic Bands.
Universal approaches virtual line queues differently from its primary competitor. At Universal Orlando Resort, you can purchase a Universal Express Pass that takes you almost to the front of the line, something even Disney doesn’t do. With Volcano Bay, Universal’s created an unprecedented virtual queue system.
With a tap of the TapuTapu, you’ll identify that you want to wait in line for an attraction, only you won’t physically wait for it. Instead, the system recognizes that you want to ride at some point and will tell you when your turn arrives. While you’re waiting, you can relax in the wave pool, grab a bite to eat, or select a different ride with no significant line queue.
The TapuTapu reduces the number of items you must carry around the water park. And it also saves you the stress of waiting in line when you could be splashing around somewhere else at Volcano Bay. By the way, you can use the Universal Express Pass at the water park! Some attractions provide front-of-the-line access!
The Talking Volcano
The center of the volcano harbors a secret. No, there isn’t a secret treasure buried within or anything like that. Krakatau’s mystery surprise is even better than a fake hoard of gold. You see, the volcano itself is alive.
Universal has programmed the heart of the volcano with a personality. You can talk to it! As you wander through the inner caverns of the volcano, you’ll notice a mask that looks like a Polynesian totem. It will catch you by surprise because the face will talk to you.
Thanks to some impressive, immersive technology, Krakatau can ask you who you are, who your companions are, and whether you’re familiar with the volcano’s origins. The wall is giving you a hint. It wants to tell you a story, an animated tale that you will adore due to its child-friendly visuals and upbeat presentation. The talking volcano distinguishes Volcano Bay as a novel new kind of water park.
The Ride Now Options
Given the nuanced nature of the virtual line queue, you will have a large amount of free time while you wait for your favorite ride. Universal’s system deftly addresses this aspect of your park day. Volcano Bay hosts several Ride Now options, which will vastly improve your visit.
The way that the virtual system works, you queue for a wildly popular attraction with a long wait-time. You’ll then notice a list of attractions listed as Ride Now. You can jump on any of these rides while the system still registers you as waiting in the long line.
Signs throughout Volcano Bay will alert you to Ride Now options. You’ll never lack for potential rides, even on the most crowded days. So, you can remain active while you virtually wait. Ride Now will vastly improve your park productivity.
Krakatau Aqua Coaster
Let’s be realistic, though. You’re not visiting Volcano Bay for one of the Ride Now attractions. No, you’re here for the big two rides. Even out of those two, one towers above the other, literally and figuratively.
Krakatau Aqua Coaster is the Spaceship Earth of Volcano Bay. The landmark houses an attraction that embodies the theme of the park. It’s a water coaster that transports up to four guests in a canoe. The thematic coaster cart carries explorers through the colorful volcano tracks.
Thanks to linear induction, the water coaster pushes guests into the upper echelons of the volcano. Yes, unlike most coasters, you’re going up instead of down much of the time. But you WILL go down at the end.
The gradual ascension pays dividends when Krakatau Aqua Coaster pulls the ground out from beneath you for a spectacular splashdown finale. It’s clearly the best ride at Volcano Bay, although it does have some competition.
Ko’okiri Water Plunge
In recent years, several water parks have built survivalist attractions. These water plunges trap guests in a small tube for a time. The rider/victim may only cross arms and feel the dread build until the ride begins. And the “beginning” happens when the floor vanishes, causes you to drop straight down at high velocity.
Ko’okiri Water Plunge is one of the best of these rides ever made. It’s a 125-foot water slide drop at 70 degrees. You’re not riding in a canoe on this one, either. You don’t have a tube or raft, either. The only thing coming between you and the downward tubing is your bathing suit.
In fact, I can’t even promise that you won’t lose your trunks on the way down. The torque is that aggressive during your non-stop, one-way plummet to the ground below. The moment that the trap door at your feet disappears, your heart will leap into your throat as you take the plunge. It’s a brilliant demonstration that some of the best rides in the world are among the shortest.
As always, at theme parks, membership has its privileges. At Volcano Bay, when you pay more, you get more. Specifically, you can purchase a bit of cover on a scorching Florida day.
Universal sells two different forms of premium seating. The basic lounge version provides cover for a cost of $49.99, although that price fluctuates up or down depending on the season. The more expensive options are cabanas, which come in two forms.
The regular cabana starts at $199 and hosts six guests, while the family cabana charges $599 for up to 16 guests. The latter option is the party cabana when you want to invite a large group for an unforgettable day at the water park.
Presuming that you can afford the hefty price (which is nearly triple the admission price), you want a cabana. These covered sections are exclusive places where you can enjoy Volcano Bay in an uncongested area. You’ll get a stocked mini-fridge, complimentary bottled water and fruit, an exclusive storage area, and your choice of locations.
Some cabanas are on the ground floor close to the action, while others on the second floor offer a panoramic park view. You’ll even find some private cabanas which are away from virtually everyone. These are perfect when you want to avoid the crowds.
The best part of the cabanas is the TapuTapu kiosk. You’ll have the ability to schedule your rides from the comfort of your cabana! While everyone else stands in the line at the public kiosks, you can do it while you luxuriate in an intimate setting!