What are your chances of getting into a soft opening of Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter?
Published: June 1, 2010 at 10:56 AM
Let's try to figure that out. (Warning: Unconfirmed speculation ahead!)
Universal Orlando hotel guests are getting into The Wizarding World for two hours, between 8 and 10am, each morning. The Wizarding World did open to non-hotel guests this morning, for the first time. Here's what I think happened:
Remember that Universal's trying to "load test" Forbidden Journey. It wants to see that the new ride can handle its targeted number of riders each hour, without going down. Also remember that downtimes aren't always the result of a mechanical failure. The operations crew is learning how to load and unload people from the ride as swiftly as possible, while remaining safe. That takes practice. If people are getting on or off too slowly, that slows down units on the track, potentially leading to a downtime, which Universal wants its crew to learn to avoid.
But to do this testing, and for the operations crew to get this experience, Universal needs a steady stream of people flowing through the queue. Yesterday and this morning, Forbidden Journey drew down its queue to the point where the ride became a walk-on. That's not good for testing and why (I suspect) Universal let some "day guests" into the land this morning - to fill up the Forbidden Journey queue.
If the Forbidden Journey queue reduces to a walk-on any other mornings between now and June 18, expect the same thing to happen.
According to our report yesterday, Universal's also scheduled its team members to keep the Wizarding World open throughout the day, provided that Forbidden Journey can hit its capacity and uptime targets for a certain amount of time. We don't know how long that time is, but Universal's operated Forbidden Journey for the entire two-hour window two days in a row now. If I were in charge (and I'm most certainly not), I'd want to see three to five days of flawless operation for the hotel guests before extending operations later in the day.
Also, I wouldn't want to extend operations for the first time on a weekend. I'm sure Universal doesn't want local annual passholders slamming the park on a weekend before it's sure that Forbidden Journey and its crew are good to handle those crowds. That's why I'm looking toward the week starting next Monday, June 7, as your best bet for when Universal might keep the Wizarding World open past 10am. (It could happen Thursday or Friday this week, but the odds get better with each passing weekday.)
If the Forbidden Journey performs well and keeps hitting its numbers next week, then Universal might be inclined to keep to open to day guests the weekend after next, June 12-13. That also might help draw locals to the park a week ahead of the official opening, taking some of the crowd pressure off the park the following weekend.
After the 13th, though, the chances of a public soft opening begin to diminish. Universal's scheduled its press event for June 16-17, so I strongly suspect that there will be no access on those days to anyone who's not a hotel guest. Given that Universal will need to set up for the press event, I wouldn't get my hopes up for a soft open on the 15th or 14th, either.
So if you're not pressed for time, I'd wait until next week before going on #Potterwatch at Islands of Adventure. If you'll only be in Orlando this week, and really want to see Potter, be at Islands of Adventure before the park opens at 9am, walk directly to the Wizarding World, through Seuss Island, and hang out until a little past 10, hoping that the hotel guests linger over breakfast at the Three Broomsticks and that the ride ops need to let in some days guests (like you!)
Any Universal Orlando team members care to comment on all this speculation? (Remember, you can comment anonymously, though those are screened for approval before going live on the site.)