14th June 2023 (Universal’s Volcano Bay)
We went for something slightly different today… unlike the last two days, we went to a waterpark! And it wasn’t just any waterpark, it was one that none of us had ever visited before… Universal’s Volcano Bay! The last time we drove down the Universal end of the I-4 in 2016, this park was under construction, so we were interested to see what the park was like now it was open.
Before I get started, I should apologise in advance for the fact that there are no photographs in today’s report. As Volcano Bay is a waterpark, the experience is not terribly conducive to whipping out a smartphone and taking pictures, so I’m afraid you’ll have to rely on only my writing today.
We set off for the park at around 8am and got to Universal’s parking structures at around 9:15am, as per usual. Unlike with the other two parks, though, we did not set off over the travelators and into CityWalk. Due to Volcano Bay being separate from the other two parks, we had to take a shuttle bus over to the entrance. There was no wait for this at all, and it only took a few minutes, so it was very convenient and got us to the park in good time.
We then arrived at the park and got given our TapuTapu wearables, which we would get very well acquainted with over the course of the day. After getting changed and renting a locker, we headed to the main wave pool to reserve a set of chairs to store our things on before my dad and I headed over to Krakatau Aqua Coaster to reserve slots, as we’d heard that the ride was prone to getting very long virtual queues. When we arrived, the virtual queue was already on 125 minutes, but we decided to reserve it anyway in case it got any longer. This later proved to be a very wise decision, as the virtual queue did nothing but get longer during the time we were in the park, eventually peaking at almost 5 hours. This reservation did mean that we were unable to reserve any additional queue spaces for another 2 hours, but thankfully, there were a fair few slides showing as “Ride Now”, so we headed to…
Both sides of Taniwha Tubes were showing as “Ride Now”, so me and my dad decided to try the blue slides. The virtual queue worked well here, as it meant that we only had a couple of boats’ wait at the top of the slide tower. But how was the slide? Well, I thought it was great fun! The tube gained surprising speed in places, and although there were no additional bells and whistles like some of these tube and raft slides often have, there were some really fun twists and turns and it was overall a very fun slide!
After Taniwha Tubes, my dad and I wandered back over to the main wave pool so that my sister could join us on some slides. My mum and grandparents were not keen on doing slides, but my sister was keen to join us on some, so when she was with us, we headed over to another “Ride Now” attraction…
Maku was showing as “Ride Now”, so we decided to give it a try. As with Taniwha Tubes, the virtual queue worked well here, meaning that the slide had a reasonably short standby line when we arrived. So, how was the slide? Well, I thought that this was a fun slide; even though I think it was probably less intense than the green slide on the same tower whose name currently escapes me, it was good fun, and I liked the open helixes that went around water jets!
After Maku, we headed onto another “Ride Now” slide…
Punga Racers was showing as “Ride Now”, so we gave it a go. One interesting thing to note here is that any kind of cotton clothing or non-swimwear was not allowed, so I had to remove my goggles and my sister had to remove the cotton t-shirt she was wearing over her swimwear. I was unsure why this was the case when it wasn’t the case on any of the other slides, but I guess it could be down to these generating friction with the channel, what with it being a body slide.
After Punga Racers, we headed back onto the blue side of Taniwha Tubes, which were still on “Ride Now”, so that my sister could have a go on the ride. Once again, it was great fun.
After our Taniwha Tubes reride, we went back to the main wave pool to meet back up with my mum before the four of us headed into…
TeAwa: The Fearless River
We were interested to try TeAwa: The Fearless River, as it was billed as great fun in other reviews and we were intrigued to try out a slightly more thrilling lazy river. We ended up taking 2 circuits in total, and I have to say that I thought this was great fun! The current was nice and fast, and I really enjoyed the additional touch of waves coming along to spice things up every now and then. It wasn’t overly intense given you needed a life jacket, although having spent many hours on Center Parcs Longleat Forest’s often “rough and ready” Wild Water Rapids as a child, anything else probably seems pretty tame by comparison!
After our circuits on TeAwa: The Fearless River, we met back up with my grandparents and headed for a quick dunk in the main wave pool. While the waves did not quite match “The Wave” in Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon for pure spectacle, they were still really good fun, and were much easier to have a leisurely relax in.
After the wave pool, we sat down and relaxed in our sun loungers for a few minutes before me and my dad headed over to our slot for…
Krakatau Aqua Coaster
After a 125 minute virtual wait, me and my dad’s slots on Krakatau Aqua Coaster were finally beckoning, so we headed over and gave it a go. As per usual, there was a short physical wait, and we were on the ride quickly. So, how was it? Well, I thought that the ride was excellent, with some good pops of airtime and much punchier launches than I’d experienced on Typhoon Lagoon’s Crush’n’Gusher, an earlier iteration of the same ride style. The ride was also very long, with many fun twists and turns!
After Krakatau Aqua Coaster, we headed back to the main wave pool to collect my sister so that we could re-ride Taniwha Tubes. We did the green side this time, and I have to say that it felt faster than the blue slide had earlier, with the outdoor sections also providing an interesting touch!
We then went to reserve slots on Honu. The ride had a 10 minute virtual queue, so we reserved a slot and went to ride another attraction that was showing as “Ride Now” while we waited…
Ika Moana was showing as “Ride Now”, so seeing as it was on the same tower as Honu, we decided to take a ride on it. The standby queue for this ride took a little longer, as our slot for Honu vibrated while we were waiting. So, how was the slide? Well, it was good fun, with some fun twists and turns and nice outdoor sections!
After our ride on Ika Moana, Honu was showing as “Ride Anytime”, as our slot had opened up quite a few minutes ago by the time we came off. As such, we went to ride…
Honu was ready for us to ride, so we entered the queue and started to ascend the tower. As with Ika Moana, there was a lengthier standby queue for this ride, with us waiting a good few minutes to get on. But how was the slide? Well, I thought it was excellent, with the two walls providing great exhilaration and the initial drop providing some interesting airtime!
After our ride on Honu, we headed back to the main wave pool to meet up with my mum and grandparents. By this point, it was well past 2pm, the floors and the sand were getting uncomfortably hot to walk on in bare feet (our final walk from Honu on the concrete paths in Florida heat felt as though it was physically burning our feet, and the sand was little better), and the wave pool had just been evacuated due to a “waterfall incident” (?), so we decided to head home.
So, that just about wraps up our day at Universal’s Volcano Bay! I had a great day; I had 8 rides on the slides and a go on TeAwa: The Fearless River, and it was just nice to visit a brand new waterpark! Personally, I’d say that Volcano Bay was every bit as enjoyable as any of the other Florida waterparks I’ve visited (for reference, I’ve been to both Walt Disney World water parks and Aquatica Orlando); the rides were really good, there’s a wide range of different things to do (there were a number of things that we didn’t cover today), and the theming was also lovely, with the central volcano itself being particularly impressive!
The park was also an interesting one for me because it was my first ever experience of wholesale virtual queueing in a theme/water park setting, and I have to say that it worked a lot better than expected! It wasn’t perfect (I don’t think the queue times for Krakatau Aqua Coaster would have been nearly as high had it been a physical queue, for instance, and one or two slides did still have a not insignificant standby wait when our time slot arrived), but overall, I did enjoy not having to physically queue as much, and I thought that my overall experience of virtual queueing with TapuTapu was pretty positive! With that being said, I still don’t think that wholesale virtual queueing is something that you could just take, slap into any old theme park and expect to work well. I think the reason for it working reasonably well in Volcano Bay was because the park had quite a number of non-ride activities to keep you occupied while waiting, as well as a number of slides with no wait, and I think the waterpark in general lends itself to the sort of copious non-ride entertainment that virtual queues require better than the theme park does.
Overall, though, I had a brilliant day at Volcano Bay, and my family really enjoyed it as well! There is a chance that we may be returning to the park next week, so there may well be a second report from Volcano Bay!
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed today’s report, although I apologise for it probably being less interesting (after all, you’re on here to read about theme parks, not water parks, and I was unable to take any pictures). We’re not doing anything tomorrow other than going for a meal in Disney Springs for my nan’s birthday, so I won’t write a report tomorrow, but the next report on Friday will be from SeaWorld Orlando, where I hope to take my first ever rides on new rides like Ice Breaker and Pipeline and see if Mako, my current number 1 coaster (yes, it’s still on top, even post VelociCoaster and Hagrid’s!), still stacks up!