Hello, friends! I was surprised and delighted when Touring Plans asked me if I’d like to try out Volcano Bay and report on my experience. I’m a huge fan of water parks and had high hopes for the newest addition to Orlando. I normally try to keep everything positive in these posts, but I can’t be dishonest with my review. So let’s start off with my first “Not So” Best Week Ever.
Arriving to Volcano Bay as an offsite guest was painless. We quickly parked, hopped a shuttle, and were directed to the entrance. We had purchased our tickets online and in advance, they worked perfectly and we were in the park about ten minutes before park opening.
There’s much more to hear about my day at Volcano Bay. Click to read more! 🙂
EDIT: Many folks have suggested that I contact Universal and give them a chance to make right what you’re about to read. I’ve done that and have been offered… two free tickets to Volcano Bay. Please keep in mind the kind of customer service you can expect from Universal. Your mileage may vary, but this has been a rotten experience for us.
As we entered the park we were given our Tapu Tapu and I found it to be surprisingly comfortable on my wrist. It’s hard to believe something so big and clunky can feel like it isn’t even there. I found it to be more comfortable than my Apple Watch. We tried the first photo spot we passed by and liked the concept of these photo tikis. So far the park was lush and beautiful. I was delighted!
We encountered a rope up with Team Members only allowing early entry guests into the park. We saw that a sales desk for cabanas was available just past the rope and asked if we could purchase one for the day. They said only one of us could go to the sales desk… uh ok? I took photos of the scenery while my husband inquired about a cabana. A few minutes later the park opened and I was able to join him.
As I walked up a host was just joining us to walk us to our cabana. Which unfortunately turned into a grand tour of half the park. Our host finally admitted he didn’t know where our cabana was after walking us through several. He left us to wait while he found out. Eventually we made it to our home for the day. Amenities included: locker, refrigerator, towels, 12 bottles of water, food and drink service, and the ability to make Tapu Tapu reservations.
Also included was the welcome amenity featured below. There were issues with our cabana right from the beginning. The entrance faced a walkway and other guests kept wandering inside. With no exaggeration we explained the private cabana 25+ times before just permanently leaving the rope up across the doorway and hopping over it ourselves. With the rope up people just walked up and asked us about the cabana, cost, and where to purchase. There were curtains we could close on the other three sides, but not on the walkway facing side where we needed it. When we asked if they could do anything to block that side were were told that side had to stay open because they didn’t want people “getting busy” in the cabana.
While our amenities were all in working order, the cabana next to us wasn’t as lucky. They did not have a working station to make Tapu Tapu reservations. A host brought them to us and asked if it would be a problem for them to come into our cabana all day to use ours. Uh… ok? How could we say no? So we had another six folks in and out throughout the day because of Universal’s broken systems. That wasn’t the only thing poorly thought out, as there was no way to reach any service staff from the cabana. (no phone, not from the touch pad, nothing) Not really the premium service I was expecting. So how much would you pay for this?
Something else we didn’t appreciate, as a couple we were given a cabana facing the kids area. If we’d been told this in advance we wouldn’t have paid the premium. However, my husband described the scene as chaotic when he purchased. Someone literally had a sheet of paper marking what spots were still available. He was assured it was in a nice spot, so off we went. Have you thought about it? What would you pay for this level of service and location? Ready? It was $425! They’re lucky I wasn’t allowed to go with my hubby when he made that choice! 😉
I was irritated at the whole cabana experience, but shook it off. I was excited to go try the slides! First up on the list was Krakatau because I heard it would get a massive wait later in the day. As we walked up it was marked as “ride now” so we eagerly ran for the queue. We waited, and waited, and waited. After 30 minutes and still much more line to go we gave up. The ride was running, I’m not sure why the line was so incredibly long. Hot and frustrated we looked for something else to do and ended up taking a couple laps on the lazy river.
Once we emerged from the lazy river we realized all the wait times had ballooned to 40+ minutes while we were relaxing. We scanned our bands for the first slide we passed in an effort to ride something and went on checking out the park. When our Tapu Tapu buzzed we had no idea where we were going. Asking Team Members didn’t really help and the slide name was difficult to pronounce. We just picked a direction and walked until we found a directional sign. When we arrived to the ride, we figured out something even more confusing. While there is a single name (Honu Ika Moana) for the below attraction, there are two slides. There were lines stretching out in all directions, we weren’t sure which one to get in. Luckily we guessed right and got our first ride of the day! It was a perfectly fun slide. But Tapu Tapu made everything more stressful. I’ve never actually waited 40+ minutes for anything in a water park. Is it really helping?
Now, I’ve said a lot of negative things. I have to also give credit, Volcana Bay is a beautiful park. I had lots of time to appreciate it while we were waiting around for our Tapu Tapu times to come available! 😉
Below is a photo of the lazy river (Kopiko Wai Winding River), but they also have a not so lazy river (TeAwa The Fearless River). The fearless river has sections of six foot waves and was the thing I was most looking forward to in the park. Unfortunately, the waves were not working on the day we visited which was a huge let down. They also were only letting very few tubes on the lazy river. We were instructed to swim and find a tube even though there were several available in visible storage. We made it a full lap without getting a tube. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t add more? Things you could see along the banks of the lazy river included: wheelbarrows, bags of cement, and tarps. I was shocked the things that were left in clear view.
While we didn’t get to ride Taniwha Tubes it took a photo of the pretty entrance. The park really is stunning. I’ll be excited to head back in a year or two once they work out all the kinks.
We scanned for another Tapu Tapu, again not really sure what we were getting and walked around a while. The photo tikis are placed in such pretty spots. We didn’t end up taking a photo here until much later in the day when we looked pretty sad and defeated!
When our wrists buzzed we headed for Maku Puihi, which again was two different slides. I was concerned, because the yellow slide looked fun, but I wasn’t sure I was up for the green one. Again, dumb luck prevailed and we were on the yellow slide. It was my favorite of the day! I was surveyed at the exit and I told them I couldn’t keep any of the attraction names straight. They were so confusing. There was also slimy, gross, wet sand everywhere! How can there be grimey sand up five flights of stairs? I don’t think they’ve been cleaned since opening!
At this point we took in some of the sights as we strolled back to the cabana for lunch. Once there we waited about 20 minutes for someone to come by before I gave up and walked to the nearest guest services booth. There I was asked if I knew my servers name or could at least describe her. Really? If I didn’t pay attention then I should just go back to the cabana and sit on my hands? It isn’t like they’d checked on us often. It could have been an hour before we saw anyone. Once we decided who my servers was I was told they’d look for her. So I went back and waited. At least the place is pretty! 😀
By this point it was roughly 1pm and we realized with many wait times over 100 minutes and rain rolling in we didn’t have much more time. We used our Tapu Tapus to each get a return time for different slides, so my husband could use them both. We ordered lunch and he was able to eat before heading for the rides. He chose the Ohyeah and Ohno drop slides which ended up breaking later while he was in line, leading the two rides to take about 45 minutes to experience.
When we were finally able to order food everything was quite good. I’ll detail the meal and the rest of the afternoon over the next few photos. Below is the Strawberry Ginger Lift in a souvenir glass. It was tasty! Since storm clouds were rolling in we decided to break the one hour rule and go swimming in the wave pool. Before leaving our cabana we grabbed a return time for Krakatau, for 145 minutes later. We held our breath we’d still get to try it.
Below is the coconut curry shrimp I ordered. It was surprisingly good, even for theme park food. I would order this again at a sit down restaurant. While I was impressed with this dish, we weren’t wowed by the wave pool. The second we stepped in the water we both looked at each other with disgusted faces. The water was so warm it… didn’t feel like a pool. We didn’t have long to see if we liked it, though. The skies opened up and rain started pouring down. We bolted back to our cabana.
Below is the hamburger my husband ordered. Again, he was impressed. I tried a bite and agreed it was good enough that I’d be pleased if I’d ordered it at a sit down restaurant. That’s pretty amazing for water park food! We made it back to our cabana, toweled off, and snuggled while we enjoyed watching the storm. This could have been really nice, except a group of lifeguards chose to occupy the cabana next to our and loud is an understatement. At least they looked appropriately horrified when they realized we’d been next to them listening after the storm passed.
Below is the last item we ordered, a flatbread. We both agreed this was gross and threw away most of it. Enough said! 😉 After the storm passed our Tapu Tapu was still not working. We asked our server about it when she brought our check and she explained they all shut off in the rain and we had to walk to guest services to have it reset. We were frustrated there was no way to handle this for cabana guests, but were getting used to it so we hiked to guest services. When we returned to our cabana our server told us there was a problem with the Universal system and while she could charge our bill to our card, it wasn’t allowing her to include her tip. We asked where the nearest ATM was and there’s only one… outside the front gates of the park. So, another walk to go get cash. At that point we tipped our server and gave up for the day. The weather looked like rides could shut down again any minute and we’d had enough. However, our server was the best thing about our experience so we wanted to be sure she was properly compensated.
With heads hung, we left Volcano Bay defeated. Of course, we could have done more research in advance but I surprised my husband with the tickets. I’ve never had to prepare for a water park visit. I just expected it all to be a little easier. We’ve visited all other local theme parks on days they’ve hit capacity and navigated with no trouble. I found the Tapu Tapu only complicated things, and I’m a person that has navigated airports and theme parks all over the world. We’ll see how the technology side of the park shapes up. I hope they get the kinks worked out in the coming months because the park is stunning. I’d love to be able to enjoy this park. (When I try again… in many, many, many months)
That’s it for this time. Thanks for joining me this week! Have you tried Volcano Bay? What did you think? Was I expecting too much as a cabana guest? Please let me know if you have requests next time around. Until then – I hope you’re having the best week ever.