The 2024 Mardi Gras Tribute Store at Universal Studios Florida opened on Thursday for Annual Passholder previews. We now bring you a full tour of the river cruise-themed store, which is located in the Hollywood section of Universal Studios Florida.
Mardi Gras Tribute Store Facade
The facade of the Mardi Gras Tribute Store resembles a dock with crates, ropes, and lanterns. An archway reads “Tribute Store & River Cruises.” The entrance and exit have been swapped from previous stores, with Williams of Hollywood operating as the entrance.
There are posters featuring various Tribute Store references like the Black Cat Club and Gerg the Llama. Most of the posters are about the P.S. Songbird, a boat offering cruises on the Mississippi River. The P.S. Songbird is the setting of this year’s Mardi Gras Tribute Store.
Guests “board” the boat via a fake ramp into Williams of Hollywood.
A preview video shared by Universal Orlando Resort featured the following narration about the ship’s lore.
Welcome aboard the P.S. Songbird, legendary steamer of the Mighty Mississippi. The cruise may seem a party at first but be warned, not all is as it seems, for the ship you’re sailing on met its end nearly 100 years ago. To this day, its ghostly horn can still be heard in the night as it carries unsuspecting travelers deep into the heart of the bayou to a place where many spirits linger. Some make music, some cause mischief, some are adventurous, and some are playful. Tread lightly, friends, you never know what you might face.
Boarding the P.S. Songbird
The first room of the Mardi Gras Tribute Store features art deco wallpaper and a banner reading, “Welcome Aboard The P.S. Songbird.” A chandelier hangs from the ceiling. Plants and retro lights sit atop the merchandise displays.
The wallpaper is blue with gold details. The doorway into the next room is also lined in gold.
A framed certificate on the wall details some of the P.S. Songbird’s history and references Captain Victor Pavo.
The P.S. Songbird
Built in Pittsburg, PA on June 1st, 1890, this beautiful vessel traveled up and down the Mighty Mississippi River as well as the Grand Ohio River for more than thirty years. Piloted by Capt. Victor Pavo this “Peacock of the Mississippi” is one of the most illustrious paddle steamers to grace these waters. With its luxurious dance hall, dining room, and spacious cabins, this vessel continues to have the finest accomodations that are the envy of those still on dry land.
“…I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi-Gras in New Orleans.” – Mark T.
To the left of the entrance, red curtains frame two alcoves full of vintage-style suitcases and bags. The suitcases have travel stamps, and brochures and playing cards litter the ground.
A poster on a stand also welcomes guests to the boat, which travels from New Orleans to Hannibal.
The poster is white with green details including birds and candles. Captain Victor Pavo is referenced at the bottom, as is First Mate Gergorio.
A tall wooden shelf near the door is covered in statues, Mardi Gras masks, and other knick-knacks.
The Captain’s Ghost
The wallpaper continues into the next room of the Mardi Gras Tribute Store, where there are more merchandise displays topped with wilting dried flowers. Two tall lamps are sculpted statues of women holding sconces.
Potted flowers are sitting on some of the central merchandise displays, which are brown wood.
The displays on the walls are white. There are short red velvet curtains along the top and wheel-like decorations in the corners.
The captain’s desk is in this room. Behind it is an ornate chair and a menu board.
The carved wood desk is covered in vintage items like a glass decanter, rotary phone, and binoculars. There is a bell to the right and a clock to the left. A curtain hangs behind the menu board.
There are several bagge room tickets and P.S. Songbird brochures on the desk. “The Explorer’s Journal” is sitting on the chair.
Also on the chair is a captain’s hat and, standing on the hat, a small figure of a sailor.
The menu lists hors d’oeuvres like oysters and cream of barley, starters like filet mignon, and entrees including lamb, roast duckling, boiled potatoes, and Waldorf pudding. The desserts are chocolate and vanilla eclairs, French ice cream, and the Skipper’s Flambee.
Across from the desk is another alcove framed by red curtains and blocked by a velvet rope. It’s here where guests will encounter the ghost of Captain Victor Pavo.
His blue smoky specter appears, tips his hat to passersby, and then disappears. See the effect in our video embedded below.
The alcove also has a suitcase, flowers, a clock, and more props.
On the walls throughout the room are framed portraits. A white bust of a bearded man is in one corner.
As you move further into the Mardi Gras Tribute Store, the riverboat appears more dilapidated, with vines creeping over the walls.
To the right in the next room is a wall that appears solid, with a vine across it and two light sconces mounted on it.
However, as the lights flicker, the wall turns translucent.
On the other side of the ghostly wall are ferns and grass growing around a statue and glowing lantern.
The statue wears Mardi Gras beads.
The vines also run along the Mardi Gras Tribute Store merchandise displays, which are more weathered than the ones in the previous rooms, and around pots.
The curtains of the merchandise displays are also faded and torn. A teddy bear peeks through a hole in one curtain, maybe referencing the Halloween Horror Nights bear.
Shirts hang from wrought iron displays. There is an art deco mural on one wall, which features a woman in 1920s attire with tree branches hanging over her.
More playing cards are strewn across the floor and on this cabinet. Atop the cabinet are vintage-style knick-knacks, a clock, and a case with cobwebs across it.
The peeling wallpaper is the same beautiful design as the previous rooms, but it’s now dirty and peeling.
In one corner is a couch with a damask fabric. A fur throw is draped over one arm. A framed portrait on the wall above the couch is crooked. Beneath the couch is a torn-up menu.
Into the Bayou
As you enter the next room of the Mardi Gras Tribute Store, look back and you’ll see that you’re exiting the crashed riverboat, which has now become one with the bayou. Ferns are growing on the side of the boat. Ropes crisscross the ceiling of this room.
Spanish moss and torn fabric hang from the ropes. The merchandise displays appear to be made from broken pieces of the boat.
Above one shelving unit is a set of windows with flashing lights.
Parts of the floor here appear flooded, with drops of rain causing ripples in the water. It looked so real, we found ourselves standing on the fake wooden planks for safety.
Sometimes, an alligator appears to swim beneath your feet.
There’s also a crashed fishing boat with torn sails and netting. An old crow’s nest is against one wall. Fireflies light up throughout the room.
A gator figure is hidden in this tall grass growing over what appears to be an old dock.
The Mardi Gras Tribute Store snack counter is located in this room and looks like a small boat itself. The name on the side is the S.S. Sabol. Bayou plants and trees grow behind the snack counter.
Treats are displayed in what would have been the window of the boat.
There are wanted posters for alligators. There’s a reward of $200 for the “Prince Gator,” dead or alive. He’s drawn in a cartoony style labeled as an “artistic interpretation.” A more realistic-looking gator is named “Roof Gator Linsberg.” This poster and some other decorations are recycled from last year’s Cursed Coconut Club.
Skeletons in the Dock House
The next room of the Mardi Gras Tribute Store houses the cash registers within an old dock house. Skeletons sit on the rafters overlooking the room. Thunder and lightning crash. Projections and moving black lights reveal different voodoo symbols.
There’s a giant wheel on the wall above the registers. There are ropes and crates throughout the room.
The wheel spins and bright flashes of light make different symbols appear on it.
The Baron, an icon of Mardi Gras, sits on a crate in the rafters. He moves his head and laughs. A spotlight sometimes illuminates him. The Baron wears a black suit with a top hat.
Some of the projections are also reused from Cursed Coconut Club. On this wall are bright voodoo skulls.
They change colors under the flashing blacklight.
There is a skeletal band in one corner.
Here, we spotted a reference to our intrepid reporter Annie.
To reach the final room and exit for the Mardi Gras Tribute Store, guests walk through a broken wall.
The wall is revealed to be the side of another ship that has wrecked in the bayou.
A cannon sticks through one wall. There are crooked frames on the walls. Melted candles are on the crates and barrels.
A trident, perhaps a reference to the now defunct Poseidon’s Fury, is near the entrance to this room.
There are more candles between the planks of the wall, with wax dripping down to the floor. An old map of Florida with playing cards tucked behind it is framed.
Framed artwork of alligators has a crown drawn on one.
Crates and a red velvet couch block access to a desk. Behind the desk is another skeleton figure that moves and laughs. It has glowing red eyes.
Rain patters on the windows behind the skeleton. An effect in the ceiling here also makes it appear rain is leaking through the ship. See all the effects in our video below.
Near the skeleton is a bust and the helmet of an old diving suit. There are large bottles and various spoils a pirate might have collected.
The rain effect is behind the bust and helmet.
On the desk is a map and gold coins, as well as the Key of Hamunaptra from “The Mummy.” There’s a pistol, large goblet, and journal.
We spotted Earl the Squirrel hiding behind a gator’s skull.
Check back later for our full tour video of the 2024 Mardi Gras Tribute Store.
Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval officially begins on February 3, 2024, and runs through April 7.