Volcano Bay Opening

Volcano Bay Opens! The Competition Goes On!

Enough superlatives cannot be given to Universal’s Volcano Bay, which opens today. There is much that is well imagined, well crafted, and simply fun! We did three Facebook Live videos from the opening of the park this morning.  This is the fourth part in a series of articles that has chronicled Disney’s effort to reign supreme not only with the water parks, but with other resort efforts. It is not just a story about Disney versus Universal. It’s about Disney versus everyone else. You can read the previous posts here:

Part I: The Real Story Behind Miss Adventure Falls

Part II: Crush ‘n’ Gusher Competition

Part III: Blizzard Beach: Cold War Competition

I’m going to give a more thorough review on another day. Today was not the day to critique this park, any more than reviewing Epcot on its first day would have been fair (see this article for that insight). There was filming going on with huge media coverage, there were still attractions waiting to go online, and there were some online that were going down. But what was up and running was very cool in every imaginable way.

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Whimsical water features and plenty of slides. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

I will mention 3 things that were impressive, and that should concern Disney’s own water parks if they want to stay king and queen of the water park industry.

1. Lots of Things to Do. There are so many attractions at Volcano Bay that Universal is calling it a third park. If that’s the case, Disney should consider Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach their fifth and sixth park. But, there is enough to enjoy the day. Seriously, this place is on steroids. It makes the Disney water parks seem really tranquil, as well as way overdue for adding more attractions.

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Krakatau Aqua Coaster, one of Volcano Bay’s most popular attractions, building on technology that has been at the heart of this water park competition. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

2. Extended Hours. With so much to do, Universal is extending its hours–especially in the summer–up to 10 pm on certain nights. I haven’t had a chance to see this park at night, but I’m sure that volcano will look amazing. Why this is so important is that it becomes a must-do activity for locals in the area after work. I expect there will be an entire wave of people coming in after 5:00. This is a group that Disney really isn’t paying attention to. It offers annual passes to the water parks–even after 2 passes. But in the summer, you get thunderstorms in the afternoon. The window between 2 and 5 is sometimes non-existent. Disney has some days in the summer where it is open until 8, but still, this is about being in the park at night.

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Two story cabanas–a feature worthy of consideration when you are staying a much longer time frame. All this adds up to more per cap for the park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

3. Tapu Tapu Wristband. This is a biggie. When you enter the park, you get a free wristband. It allows you to do most everything that the Magic Bands do at Disney. But there is a difference. You can also get a FastPass return time. The idea is that you can tap your Tapu Tapu wristband and get a return time to board the slide. This should have been something Disney instituted a long time ago. They have announced that they are doing something like this, but I haven’t seen it come to fruition. This is a real miss on Disney’s part. I believe that it will make Universal’s per caps go up because people will have more time on their hands to do other things than stand in a line. And that’s good, because there is a lot of available retail, as well as food & beverage at Volcano Bay.

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Tap-to-Play Location for Krakatau Aqua Coaster. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
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Tap the medallion on the bottom to receive your return time. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
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Use your band to touch the medallion down center in the photo. Your tikis come to life with water and effects. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
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Tap this photo totem with your band to take a photo of your family. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

There were also a few major flaws with the park. Again, we’ll cover that another time. Just know that as is, Volcano Bay is serious competition–not just to the water park industry, but for any visitor’s–and especially local’s–attention. And the good news for you? Competition only makes for better parks. It will be exciting to see what happens in the months and years ahead.

Meanwhile, Disney does have one serious distraction from all the excitement of Volcano Bay. Pandora – The World of Avatar is a must-do experience. And it will be filled with people wanting to visit. Check out our complete guide to this new land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You will want to know what to do and what to see–so you don’t miss any of it! Just subscribe to Disney at Work in the left hand column, and this 24 page guide with photos is yours! Check it out today!

Volcano Bay

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