Universal Orlando’s New Attractions, Rides, Hotels…Oh My!
While some theme parks are seemingly aimed at pleasing younger guests, Universal Orlando Resort has its sights set on providing universally appealing entertainment. My recent trip to both Universal parks—Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure—saw me swatting away three-dimensional comic book villains on The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride, zapping aliens on the Men in Black: Alien Attack ride and ducking for cover from Imhotep on the Revenge of the Mummy ride—experiences I enjoyed just as much in my youth as I did during this recent visit.
In the past few years, Universal Orlando has launched 18 new experiences between both parks, an onsite hotel, and Universal CityWalk venues, and with a record-breaking 62 million travelers visiting Orlando in 2014, demand for new attractions is certainly there.
Universal Orlando is meeting this demand by increasing its hotel inventory to 5,200 rooms this year with the opening of the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort—a number that will soon rise to 5,600 when the retro-themed Cabana Bay Beach Resort completes its 400-room expansion in 2017.
I had the opportunity to stay onsite at Cabana Bay and experience a slice of 1950s Americana right down to the continental breakfast served at the Bayliner Diner food court, where I watched black-and-white commercials from yesteryear while munching on freshly made omelets and homestyle potatoes. Sitting there, I couldn’t help but wonder, if Universal Orlando’s newest build has its own lazy river, Galaxy Bowl bowling alley and Jack LaLanne Physical Fitness Studio, then there’s no telling what will be in store for guests at the Caribbean-inspired Loews Sapphire Falls Resort when it opens this summer.
What I can tell you is that the new 1,000-guestroom property will feature a 16,000-sq.ft. resort-style pool, a Calypso Game room, and multiple dining options, including poolside bar and grill Drhum Club Kantine, with a seafood-laden, tapas-style menu and an adjoining fire pit area; and destination lobby lounge Strong Water Tavern, where guests can sip rum and chow down on ceviche. As with other onsite properties, the hotel will be connected to CityWalk via a complimentary water taxi service and/or shuttle bus transportation so “guests can go from park to pool in two seconds,” says Russ Dagon, executive v. p. and executive project director, Universal Creative.
Guests of Sapphire Falls—as well as those staying at the other onsite properties—receive early theme park admission, resort-wide charging privileges with their room key, and complimentary delivery of merchandise to their hotel purchased throughout the resort.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to improve the guest experience,” notes Dennis Quinn, v.p. of destination sales, Universal Orlando Resort. “I think it helps to have some of the most relevant characters and stories, and then you couple that with the latest technology and it ends up being a great experience—an experience that you can go to and enjoy as an adult and enjoy as a child whether you’re a 6-year-old, a 12-year-old or a 56-year-old.”
For example, the jungle-themed Skull Island: Reign of Kong ride, which opens this summer, will feature actors in the ride’s queue—a first for Universal.
The news of a reimagined King Kong-themed ride is huge, but something even more explosive is on the way. In 2017, two attractions will be added—Fast & Furious: Supercharged, a high-octane journey based off of the “Fast & Furious” action-film franchise; and the Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon ride experience inspired by the comedian’s “Tonight Show” segment. Plus, Universal will be introducing what is being dubbed as its third theme park, Volcano Bay. At just under 30 acres, this water park will offer a tropically themed immersive environment segmented into villages, with some geared towards adventure-seekers and others geared towards relaxation-seekers.
Agents take note: Universal is updating its travel agent website, which is set to launch in a couple of months.
Universal Orlando Resort: universaltravelagents.com