Though we knew that Volcano Bay was opening some time this year, Universal Orlando Resort announced yesterday that this brand new park (which they are still referring to as their “third” theme park instead of just a water park) will be open a lot sooner than we all thought: May 25th. This announcement definitely came as a shock as much of the park is still heavily under construction, but it seems that Universal is committed to getting Volcano Bay open for guests before the busy summer tourist season starts. And it looks like they’ve still got a lot of work to do, which might give some more seasoned theme park tourists pause before they book their tickets...
1. Tapu Tapu still needs to be extensively tested
It seems crazy, but Volcano Bay will be the first theme park in history to open without physical lines or queue structures. Guests will simply use a wearable wristband (called Tapu Tapu) that will alert them when it is time to experience an attraction. And while Universal has been testing a smartphone-based return time system in its current theme parks over the past few weeks, the Tapu Tapu system specifically has never been tested. And that could be a very bad thing.
As any Walt Disney World veteran can tell you, the rollout of MyMagic+ was far from smooth. Even when Disney relegated their new system to those staying on-property, guests experienced a host of issues, from technical problems with the My Disney Experience app to malfunctioning MagicBands and even widespread outages. Fortunately, after nearly two years of refinement, Disney was finally able to get this system working consistently for all guests, which was certainly a welcome relief.
While we don’t know what kind of technology is powering Tapu Tapu, the fact that the entire Volcano Bay park runs on this (as yet) untested technology definitely gives us pause. While Walt Disney World had the paper FastPass system and standby lines five years ago to back it up if MyMagic+ went on the fritz (which it often did), there is no such fallback measure (at least, that we're aware of) at Volcano Bay. No standby queues have been built to house guests, and there is no paper system that could be substituted for a Tapu Tapu alert, should the system fail.
Unfortunately, it looks like the biggest beta test for Tapu Tapu will be the first guests who enter Volcano Bay. And though it is possible that this system could work flawlessly on day one, such a scenario seems like it would be quite unlikely. If you’re interested in a visit to Volcano Bay, it might be best to wait it out just a little while and see how this new system works during normal operation before running out to the park.