Theme Park Insider

Universal Orlando officially opens Volcano Bay to the public

May 25, 2017, 6:16 AM · ORLANDO — The Universal Orlando Resort opened its new water theme park, Volcano Bay, to the public this morning with a South Seas-inspired ceremony.

Built next to the Cabana Bay Beach Resort on the southern end of Universal Orlando property, Volcano Bay is the home of the seafaring Waturi people, in Universal's backstory. That South Seas influence was felt in today's opening ceremony.

Volcano Bay effectively replaces Wet n Wild as Universal's water park, though the theming, rides and service - including all virtual queuing - take Volcano Bay to another level. Tickets are $67 a day, with lower prices available in multiday ticket packages with Universal's other parks. And with its first real load test today, we will find out how Volcano Bay's TapuTapu virtual wait system holds up under a full guest load.

We invite you to check out our review of the park and to rate and reviews the attractions at Universal's Volcano Bay.

Previously:

Rate and Review:

Update: Our friend Sandra at the Orlando Sentinel reports some opening-day glitches, but a lot of satisfied fans, too, at the first day. Without soft-opening ridership data, it seems that Universal has some algorithm tweaking to do with TapuTapu to eliminate creating backlogs of fans waiting to ride because the return times weren't properly spread. And there's still construction to be finished on the periphery of the facility, even though pretty much all rides were open for at least part of the day.

Replies (37)

May 25, 2017 at 6:35 AM · Can you walk there from Cabana Bay?
May 25, 2017 at 5:24 PM · No walking to the park at this time. Only shuttle buses, from the hotels or from the parking structures. *Strike that. Just heard they opened the Cabana Bay path.
May 25, 2017 at 7:28 AM · Other sources, as well as Universal, have stated that Cabana Bay will have a direct, exclusive entrance to Volcano Bay. It's not open now, but will be soon, so the rumor mill says.
May 25, 2017 at 8:05 AM · Wow. Terrific opening ceremony and the park is actually open to the public. No boring corporate speeches. A more theatrical presentation. No reason to not buy Universal's Park to Park pass. Get Hogwart's train ride for free. Staying at Cabana Bay is an advantage and the cheapest place, the best of both worlds.
May 25, 2017 at 8:28 AM · Except Cabana Bay doesn't include complimentary Universal Express (big deal breaker IMHO).

"Get Hogwart's train ride for free"

The only way to ride the train is to get a park to park pass, so it's not really "free" since a guest MUST upgrade to a park to park ticket in order to ride (not a separate, incremental charge if a guest JUST wants to ride the train and not actually park hop).

May 25, 2017 at 8:50 AM · Guests won't JUST ride the train especially since the water park is also a theme park, but you won't be able to do it the FULL day. There's one extra reason to get the park to park pass and get the train ride for free.
May 25, 2017 at 9:50 AM · But you're NOT getting the train ride for free. You're paying for a park to park pass JUST to ride the train. Each park is easily a full day park, so you're paying for the park hopping benefit is essentially just for the train (or if you really do want to park hop). As James Rao would say, it's the biggest racket in the theme park business today.

Also, to include Volcano Bay in your UO park to park pass is an up-charge above the standard 2 park P-P pass. In a quick check, I found they're charging an extra $40 to add Volcano Bay to a 3-day park to park pass over a pass to just go to IOA and USF. Quite pricey IMHO to add a water park, especially considering what Disney charges for their plus passes (with the choice of 2 different water parks, WWOS, and the golf/mini golf courses), which is only $15 extra.

I think you need to reexamine the economics of the UO passes Anton.

May 25, 2017 at 10:29 AM · "complimentary Universal Express" explains everything.
May 25, 2017 at 11:20 AM · No it doesn't....You're paying extra to stay at Royal Pacific, Hard Rock, and Portofino Bay because they're nicer hotels (like value to mod to deluxe at WDW) with closer and more convenient access to the parks. Also, Universal Express is a perk non-resort guests can purchase separately without staying in one of the three designated resorts.

The park to park pass is the ONLY WAY guests can ride the Hogwart's Express. Guests can't just walk up to King's Cross or Hogsmeade Stations and ask to ride the train back and forth for a price less than the park-park upgrade cost. You could theoretically argue guests get it for "free", but you could also argue that guests are upgrading to ride the Hogwart's Express and getting park to park privileges for "free". There's some nuance there, but it is a pretty clear difference between the Hogwart's Express and Universal Express. One you can pay to upgrade to without going "all in" (Universal Express with deluxe resort room) while the other up-charge you cannot separate (park to park privileges and Hogwart's Express).

Also, what UO is charging to add Volcano Bay to a park-park pass is pretty absurd (an up-charge to the up-charge), and the new water whatever park should not be an up-charge for guests purchasing 3+ day park-park passes, especially not until it establishes a loyal following. UO has set the bar far too high IMHO.

May 25, 2017 at 2:48 PM · FYI I was thinking IMNSHO that WDW and UO are LOL and even ROFL thinking WTF because $ is going to be expensive any place you go to in the two multi parks so why are you guys arguing? BTW I love abbreviations in caps so I HTH and EOM. {g}
May 25, 2017 at 3:33 PM · Guests must pay $55 to ride the train at Universal. Russell is 100% correct, it is the biggest racket in the theme park business today (one of the most lucrative too, proving the old saying about a sucker being born every minute) . If you don't pay the $55 you cannot ride. Period. Stupidest policy Universal ever implemented (they should have gone with a round trip ticket for single park visitors like they were originally going to do until greed overcame them). And if you are going to Universal during a busy season, the ONLY place to stay is at one of the three on property hotels that provide Universal Express. As Russell said, it is a "deal breaker" for the other, lesser resorts...unless you are ONLY going to the water park. But why go to Florida just for a water park? Good ones are a dime a dozen all over the country (which is a lot less than the $40 - $67 Universal is charging).
May 25, 2017 at 3:45 PM · Here's the pricing.
2 Park + 2 Day = $199.99
Volcano Bay $67.00
Total $266.99

Or
3 park + 3 Day P2P = $314.99

Park hopping between 3 parks is more of a value proposition than 2 parks. You're paying $48 more for parking hopping and get the train ride. The added bonus is doing Volcano for at least 2 times.

Do you want to add an extra day?
3 Park + 4 Day P2P = $324.99. Just $10 more.

May 25, 2017 at 4:32 PM · Do the math on one park per day for two days, Royal Pacific resort pool, no water park and no rip off train. All the good stuff and none of the uncharges. Heck do one park, three days.... put that saved money to good use.
May 25, 2017 at 7:14 PM · Want better math. My corporate benefits ticket discount is $289 for 3 Park 3 Day P2P or $294 for the 4 Day. That's just $21 extra for the train ride or $25 for the extra day.
May 25, 2017 at 8:28 PM · At least now you realize the train isn't free.
May 25, 2017 at 9:00 PM · Are u people really this stupid? So you can get an annual pass, with Volcano Bay access, park to park access for an entire year for less money than a 5 day single park pass to Disney and are complaining how much it costs?
My family of 5 decided after 4 years of Disney in cheap value hotels we can spend less money and enjoy better hotels and no waiting in line and have 10x more fun at UO than we can at the Disney and the FP MINUS disaster.

Stop the fanboy #2 and just do the math, if you are able?
May 25, 2017 at 9:12 PM · Free with park hopping. Free Universal Express. Free Disney Dining.
May 25, 2017 at 11:37 PM · Why didn't the site delete the comment from the anonymous jerk up there, calling everyone stupid because we don't want to spend our entire vacation at one resort with just two theme parks? He's probably on Universal's payroll...

No matter how wonderful Volcano Bay may be, it's definitely price gouging when Universal makes us pay a premium just for the privilege of adding the water park to a multi-day ticket. It should be included as an option on any multi-day ticket, period. That's as big a ripoff as asking us to pay $55 for a train ride.

And, the last time I checked, you have to pay more for an annual pass that includes Volcano Bay.

May 26, 2017 at 3:41 AM · @24.235.75.136 As Still A Fan noted, why should I have to buy an annual pass for a two, maybe three day resort? Moreover, it would be five annual passes if I wanted my whole family to be able to ride that silly train. Please show me the budget where that ridiculous math makes sense! The reason Universal Orlando's annual passes are so "cheap" is because no one outside of Orlando wants one! Also, I never said Disney was a less expensive option, I just said Universal was ripping people off by charging an extra $55 to ride a train. In fact, I never even mentioned Disney in this discussion thread. Please actually read the posts before spewing out nonsensical venom while cowering behind a somewhat anonymous IP address.

PS If the Disney FP+ system is such a disaster, why is Universal following their lead and implementing it at their parks as well?

May 26, 2017 at 6:27 AM · Anton also side-steps the obvious price gauging to add Volcano Bay to a multi-day pass. $40 to add a single day at a water park?? Come on UO - that's a complete rip-off, especially compared to what Disney charges to add water parks to their multi-day passes ($15 for as many water park days as you put on your base pass - 5-day pass = 5 days at water parks, all for $15).

I can perhaps give them a pass on a single day ticket to Volcano Bay ($67 versus $62 for single day to Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach), but they should be encouraging guests to extend their vacations an extra day with this new water whatever park, so the discount to add Volcano Bay to a 3+ day pass should not be so high. Certainly it's better than the resort pools, but $40 better, sorry but no.

May 26, 2017 at 7:08 AM · James, I was wondering when you go to Disney do you purchase the park hopper option. If you do what is the difference between that and the Universal park to park, except UO lets you have a different ride.

Russell, I just checked on the Disney web site and to add the park hopper plus option, which gives the access to the water parks, is $15 per day so a 5 day pass would increase by $75. If your family is like mine we only spend 1 day the Disney water parks so we'll just buy the day pass for $62.

May 26, 2017 at 8:07 AM · This increase is not $15/day, it's $15/person (5 day park hopper is currently $445, while a 5-day park hopper plus is $460, plus tax of course). Also the number of water park days you receive as part of the park hopper plus option is equal to the number of theme park days on the pass (5 day pass = 5 days of water parks and more, 6 day pass = 6 days of water parks and more, etc...).

Now, Disney does require you to purchase a park hopper in order to add the "Plus" feature, so you could calculate the up-charge from the base non-hopping pass. Disney charges $75 to upgrade from a 1-park per day pass to a park hopper, so if you were to compare a 5 day non-park hopper ($370) to a 5-day park hopper plus ($460), it's technically a $90 up-charge. However, in addition to guests getting 5 theme park days, they also receive 5 water park days for that $90 ($18/day). Since the hopping and plus options are flat fees, the per day costs decrease the more days you purchase, meaning a 10-day park hopper plus pass aggregates to $9 per water park day (though I don't know anyone who actually uses 10 theme park days and 10 water park days at WDW, and if you were to, you'd probably be better off with an AP), while a 3-day park-hopper plus aggregates to $30 per water park day.

Still, the $40 Universal is charging to add a single day at Volcano Bay to a park to park pass is a bit pricey for a single water park option, whereas WDW offers 2 different water parks, a golf course, Wide World of Sports, and 2 mini-golf courses available for your "plus" admissions.

FWIW, we typically use park hoppers when we visit WDW, though we are finding it less valuable as parks get more crowded (can't "complete" most parks in a half day anymore). It's nice to have the flexibility to hop away from an overcrowded park and be able to make dining reservations in different parks in a single day, but now that all of the parks are crowded all the time there are fewer and fewer reasons to park hop.

May 26, 2017 at 8:41 AM · Disney's park hopping adds $65 to $80 to the price of a multi-park multi-day ticket. Then they're adding $15 on top for the water parks. The price gouging has already happened. Both Disney and Universal can't add water parks without park hopping. Disney's passes are already pushing from near $400 to almost $500 and somehow Russell is hung up on paying $40 for for Volcano.
May 26, 2017 at 9:08 AM · Russell, thank you for the clarification. For my family it's still a better option to just purchase the day pass as we will only spend one day at the Disney water parks. May spend a day at Aquatica or at Volcano Bay, depends on what the family wants and what the wife tells me I want.
May 26, 2017 at 9:55 AM · Looks fantastic. How awesome would Disney be today, if Steve Burke replaced Eisner instead of that bean counter Bob Iger?
May 26, 2017 at 10:00 AM · Anton - Let's compare apple to apples here...

Walt Disney World - 3-day park hopper plus (6 full admission days - 3 theme park days across all 4 WDW parks and 3 water park, golf, WWOS admissions) costs $364.

3 day hopper (no plus, but access to all four parks across 3 days) costs $349

3-day non-hopper (one theme park each day) costs $289.

Universal Orlando - 3-day park to park with Volcano Bay (3 admission days that can be split however a guest wants between IOA, USF, and VB) costs $315.

3-day park to park standard (no VB) costs $275

3-day standard (one park per day AND no Hogwart's Express) costs $220.

2-day park to park (no VB) costs $255

4-day park to park with Volcano Bay costs $325.

Certainly, the Universal theme parks are cheaper even with hopping, but when you look at adding Volcano Bay, Universal starts really gouging customers. Not only are they charging an extra $40 to visit Volcano Bay, but guests have to give up one of their theme park days (or split it with VB) to visit the new water whatever park. So in reality, you're paying $40 plus the differential in cost between a 2-day ($255) and 3-day ($315) park to park pass with Volcano Bay, which is $60. That's cheaper than a single day admission to Volcano Bay ($67), but it's still WAY more expensive than what WDW charges to add water parks to their passes, which do not take away theme park days. The way UO has priced Volcano Bay is pretty outrageous IMHO, and they're aiming far too high for this new water park.

I never said WDW's prices were great, but the way they've priced their water parks is a great value compared to where Universal has chosen to price Volcano Bay. They're treating VB as if it were even better than their existing theme parks, thus the premium to use one of your multi-day pass admissions to enter it. That's really backwards thinking, and I don't understand how you can defend that.

BTW, Universal will allow you to add Volcano Bay without the park-park privileges, but you can only do it on passes 3 days or longer ($40 standard up-charge regardless of the number of days, but entering VB still counts as using a theme park admission day).

Vaughn, if you don't add park hopping to your WDW admissions, it's definitely cheaper to just buy a single water park day (plus you can usually find discounts), but if you're already adding park hopping, the extra $15 is a steal, even if you're only using 1 or 2 of your plus days.

May 26, 2017 at 11:40 AM · Russell, we have never got a park hopper the times that we have made the trip tot WDW, but if you do then yes $15 for the water park is the way to go.
May 26, 2017 at 2:50 PM · Disney isn't charging anyone a premium to enter their (reportedly) great new Pandora land. Any regular admission ticket will do.

Ever since Potter, Universal has taken the arrogant attitude that "if we build it, they will come...and we can charge them EXTRA for it!"

May 26, 2017 at 4:13 PM · I don't know about anyone else but when I bought my universal tickets, the 3 park option (universal,ioa and volcano bay) it was at exactly the same price as the 2 park option (universal and ioa). We are staying at cabana bay and whilst it doesn't have the universal express pass - it does have the free shuttle to the universal park, thereby saving rip-off parking fees.

I don't agree with theme parks increasing the cost of their theme parks entry whilst at the same time increasing and charging it's customer's car parking charges. 20 dollars for just parking the car in any of the parks is just outrageous, and it seems that SeaWorld has followed suit. We visited SeaWorld at least 3 times 2 years ago because we had tickets that were valid for 2 weeks and parking was FREE. Now it isn't I will only be visiting once. I understand that theme parks increase their charges to reflect new rides - apparently avatar cost Disney nearly half a billion dollars to build!! I'm sure it will pay for itself, but it is also an indication of how much revenue these parks take in....

May 26, 2017 at 7:23 PM · Russell: Not exactly apples to apples on the last 2 examples where there's no WDW pricing on the 2 day and 4 day tickets.

Disney is still charging a premium of $50 to $75 in comparison to Universal. A case could be made Disney's minor parks are hardly a good value. Disney has a tendency to starve their minor parks, and their water parks are hardly much better. Quantity is not quality. Thus why aren't more people adding park hopping and the plus option to their passes? It's just a bit more. Maybe they have no good reason. There's something quite special about Volcano and it seems Universal's pricing reflects how it perceives the whole resort's value.

With Avatar and Star Wars, Disney will increase pricing further, but this will make water parks even less of a priority for guests.

May 27, 2017 at 12:24 AM · Most guests spend a week or more at Disney, and that's when it becomes cheaper than a day at Universal. We just added two days to our park hopper (to make it ten days), and the extra price was laughable. Meanwhile, we'll be spending three days at Universal. As usual.
May 27, 2017 at 3:57 AM · Hahaha came to read volcano bay reviews and all I read is parking bs. I'll leave a review worth reading today :)
May 27, 2017 at 11:31 AM · I been here for 6 hours an only rode 1 ride. The taputapu is ridiculous!!!
May 27, 2017 at 4:09 PM · @172.56.27.65

TapuTapu is in its third day of operational. You can't expect it to work just like that, give it one to breathe

May 29, 2017 at 8:40 AM · If you have the Universal Express you can do everything in both parks in 1 day with a park to park pass. If they made the waterpark free for multi-day tickets it would be at max capacity everyday with no extra profit.
May 31, 2017 at 8:04 AM · "Not exactly apples to apples on the last 2 examples where there's no WDW pricing on the 2 day and 4 day tickets."

I added those as perspective, because as I noted, adding Volcano Bay to a 3-day park to park pass means that one of those 3 days (or at least part of a day) is spent at the water park. Universal is essentially taking away a theme park day to guests adding Volcano Bay to their ticket. Disney does not do that with their pricing scheme, and instead gives guests extra days on top of the theme park days to enjoy the water parks.

"Disney has a tendency to starve their minor parks, and their water parks are hardly much better."

I'm not sure what you mean by this or what you mean by "minor parks". WDW has 4 theme parks, none of which I would consider "minor", and none that have not received some sort of major addition in the past 3-5 years with the exception of DHS, which is being improved as we speak. I would agree that the water parks tend to be stagnant, but that is the case for water parks around the country. Once you build a water park, if it's complete, there's very little to add. Water park technology has changed very little over the past 20 years, and aside from the water coaster (Typhoon Lagoon already has Crush 'N Gusher) and the trap door slides, there's very little different about a water park built today versus 20-30 years ago. FWIW, Disney has continued to invest in their water parks, and add/replaces slides every 5 years or so. I'm not sure how you could categorize investment every 5 years as "starving".

May 31, 2017 at 6:21 PM · @Vaughn Miller Sorry, I did not see your question sooner, but no, I never buy park hoppers. Never. There is plenty to do at each of the Disney parks to occupy my attention for at least one day. I might also note that Disney visitors can use their transportation systems (bus, boat, monorail) for free - which I often do to resort hop or stop by Disney Springs.

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