This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a trip over to the Universal Orlando Resort! A lot has happened this week over at Universal, both good and bad, and we’re here to check it all out, starting with…
# 6 – Passholder Benefits
This past week showed a striking difference in how Universal and Disney are courting Annual Passholders. Disney seemed to be encouraging APs to give up their passes, even allowing APs to opt out without a penalty. Many on social media were reporting waits of several hours on hold trying to cancel their APs over the phone. It’s worth noting that until very recently, there have been extremely limited dates that Disney APs could go to the Disney parks, while there is wide open availability for those staying on-site or buying day tickets. Effectively this is punishing people for having APs. Universal went the other way, and rolled out even more benefits for their Annual Passholders. In fact, Universal has started a promotion titled “Passholder Appreciation Days,” which is running until the end of September.
One of the newly added benefits was a dedicated lane at the parking toll plaza.
Similar to how both Universal and Disney have dedicated lanes for Annual Passholders at the theme park turnstiles, UOAPs holding the Premier Pass now have a faster way to get to the parks as well. For regular readers of this fine blog series, you may remember that I personally upgraded my Universal AP from “Preferred” to “Premier” back in July (Premier passholders have no blockout dates).
Several dining locations across property have introduced new options for Passholder Appreciation Days, including our beloved Voodoo Doughnut in CityWalk.
The new doughnut is perfect for photo-ops.
How is the doughnut overall? Well, it certainly doesn’t come close to the greatness which was the specialty doughnut for Mardi Gras earlier this year. First of all, the actual design of the doughnut’s icing can be hit or miss. The bright colors are to evoke the “retro” neon logo of old school Universal Studios Florida. SATURDAY SIX photographers are trained through years of vigorous
beatings motivational techniques to make sure they choose the best options for photos. As you can see in the doughnut photos above, the “UOAP” logo is done really well. However, that’s not always the case and the icing can at times look like an item made on the Netflix show Nailed It.
The strawberry lemonade custard filling is certainly appropriate for the summer, but I’m more of a “peanut butter” or “chocolate” type of filling guy. Around this time last year, Voodoo offered a specialty doughnut themed to the Secret Life of Pets 2, and that was more my style. Love the concept though, and the heart shaped doughnut is perfect for the love Universal has for its APs.
Several other restaurants in CityWalk and the parks have passholder options as well, including this Chocolate Waffle entree at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium.
Or this Mediterranean Lamb Bowl at Mythos in Islands of Adventure. Earlier this summer, Confisco Grille in Islands of Adventure began letting UOAP’s dine in the Navigator’s Club, which was a nice surprise.
There are several ticket promotions at Universal right now, all of which are pretty great. Every Annual Pass purchase is getting three months free. Premier Passholders now get one free ticket to bring in another guest, while Florida residents can “Buy 1 Day, Visit Every Day Through Dec. 24th For Free”! We can contrast that with what Disney did for my family’s Annual Pass situation. My girlfriend’s WDW AP was going to expire at the end of April. As we all know, the Disney parks closed down mid-March. Because of the shut-down, so naturally Disney added on days to everyone’s Annual Pass. My girlfriend’s AP was blocked out to all four WDW parks for every single day that was added to her pass. You can’t make stuff like that up.
# 5 – Central Parks Crêpes
With the amount of dining options at the Orlando parks which are still not open, it seems next level bonkers that NOW would be the time which Universal opens a new crêpe station at USF… but here we are. This past week Central Park Crêpes opened right outside Central Park (across from Cafe La Bamba) and it’s fantastic.
With crêpes ranging between $6.99 and $7.99, this is a good option for a to-go snack that tastes great and is filling.
# 4 – Hagrid’s Fire
As if this summer couldn’t get any worse for the theme parks, the two biggest E-Ticket attractions in Orlando both had disastrous weeks. Over at Disney, Rise of the Resistance had extended downtime (no, even more than usual) after apparently being struck by lightning. If an actual smiting the Heavens wasn’t weird enough, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure suffered several days of downtime after a fire broke out backstage.
# 3 – Attraction Closings
The hits kept on coming as Universal also announced it would be temporarily closing several attractions at the theme parks. Just as it was surprising to see Disney officially pull the plug on it’s Rivers of Light show at Animal Kingdom, not many were expecting Fast & Furious – Supercharged, one of Universal’s newest and most hyped up attractions, to be among the first cut. I personally am not a fan of this attraction, and would like nothing more than for Universal to cut bait on it and just use this area to extend the Wizarding World, but I’m also a realist and understand how much the company has spent developing this ride that just opened in 2018. With a new Fast & Furious film coming in April, 2021 (which was supposed to open this year but was moved back because of the coronavirus) it will be interesting to see what Universal does with this area in the coming months.
All of the attractions which were closed down got their own unique sign alerting guests.
A Day in the Park with Barney was also closed. This was actually a super cool show for kids, which also had a incredible interactive area attached to it. With the Barney IP becoming less and less known by the day, one can imagine that this area of the park will not be returning in it’s current form.
For me, the biggest loss at USF was the closure of Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘N’ Hurl. This spinner has some of the funniest gags at any theme park. Let’s hope it comes back soon.
Over in Islands of Adventure, Storm Force Accelatron was closed in Marvel Superhero Island. It’s a fun “Tea Cups”-style ride, but you can understand why this one was an easy cut to make.
However, Poseidon’s Fury – the only attraction left standing in The Lost Continent area of the park – feels like a bigger loss. Again, similar to Twirl ‘N’ Hurl let’s hope this one comes back sooner rather than later (and with the water vortex running Universal…)
# 2 – Odds and Ends
There was a significant sale on some Wizarding World-themed snacks. It appears that 50% off discount is because the expiration date for some of them is coming up in a couple months. For those who read the monthly Outlet Report, we covered the Universal Garage Sale in July and they had many snacks from the parks at a huge discount as well. The amount of unique branded snack options in the Wizarding World, Seuss Landing, and Toothsome Chocolate Emporium in CityWalk is almost shocking. There is really nothing to compare it to over at Disney.
The awesome Universal branded candy bars are on sale. It’s pretty amazing the amount of candy bars they offer, including ones themed to Jaws, Back to the Future, Spider-Man, the Avengers and E.T.
We mentioned earlier that some dining venues remain closed at both Universal and Disney. Some did reopen with the parks and then closed. We saw this recently with some restaurants in the Morocco Pavillion at EPCOT, and at Universal this included Circus McGurkus in Seuss Landing. What Universal has done for some of these areas is move menu items over to another restaurant. So now you can find the Bacon Cheeseburger that was at Circus McGurkus over at the Green Eggs and Ham quick service location.
Steps have been made to make the mobile ordering process more efficient as well, as we’ve noticed it has taken much less time to receive our orders after ordering.
Even though it’s a huge part of IOA, most guests probably don’t spend any time looking at the actual water that makes up the middle of the park. You may be surprised by what you see….
I mean, who would have though large mouth bass were in there? Maybe Universal can get some of that fishing excursion money that Disney hotels make.
It’s generally not a great sign when you have to alert people you are open, especially a place like Toothsome which was packing them in before everything wen to you-know-where back in March.
Also in CityWalk there was a wide variety of Halloween Horror Nights related merchandise.
# 1 – Jurassic Park Velocicoaster Construction
While Supercharged may be currently closed, one thing that is still going “fast and furious” is construction for a new roller coaster in Jurassic Park, and what we are seeing looks incredible. The Jurassic World sequel Dominion made the news this past week for it’s safety protocols used for filming. With the movie scheduled to be released in June of 2021, it seems like Universal will have a natural tie-in with the ride being ready by that point. For the best coverage of the upcoming Velocicoaster, be sure to follow Alicia Stella on Twitter and check out her fantastic vlogs.
Here’s a good example of how fast things are moving. The above picture was taken on Wednesday this past week. By Friday the show building was pretty much completely enclosed.
This past week it was also discovered that an osprey has decided to build it’s next at the tallest point on the Jurassic Park coaster. When visiting Florida, you may seen osprey nests in other similar high areas, such as at the top of power poles. I can’t even imagine the time and patience it must take for these majestic birds to go back and forth with the material just to build a nest, but on top of a roller coaster track?!
Honorable Mention – Tribute Store
It still hurts that Universal official cancelled this years Halloween Horror Nights, but thankfully we still have the HHN Tribute Store to give us a small “HHN fix.” Filled with details, photo-ops, and HHN merchandise, this a store that will both break your heart about what we are going to miss this year, but also gives a little hope as to what we can look forward to next year.
So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX Stops By the Universal Orlando Resort! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles covering the latest from the Disney Outlet Stores. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.