Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Opportunities for Improvement

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We all know Universal Orlando is full of world-class rides, spectacular shows, amazing hotels, and great dining, but during our Touring Plans testing, we noticed some aspects of the resort we found lacking. This is especially true when you compare and contrast it to its competition down the road. Today I will cover several areas of improvement at Universal Orlando that will improve the guest experience. Come in Universal, close the door, sit down, and consider this a part of an annual performance review for the resort.

More Character Dining Options


We love Universal’s Marvel Character Dinner and Grinch Character Breakfast, so why doesn’t Universal have more character dining options? Universal previously had a Minion character breakfast prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting it down, and that was all the character dining Universal had. If Universal is serious about developing kid-friendly regional parks and expanding the offerings at Universal Orlando then they should create more character dining options. Bring back the Minion breakfast, but now in the Minion Cafe or capitalize on the new DreamWorks Land with a Shrek, Trolls, and Kung Fu Panda breakfast in Cafe La Bamba.

Unified Ticket & Key System

Disney receives a lot of criticism for the complex and error-prone My Disney Experience app and MagicBands. Despite all the issues and complexities of Disney’s system, the ability to have all of your ticket media, keys, and payment methods on a single card or band is amazing. While Universal avoided the pitfalls of FastPass+ and MagicBands they missed out on adopting a unifying system of tickets and keys.

For example, it is possible to go to Walt Disney World and only carry your MagicBand and a photo ID for a full day at the parks. At Universal, you need to carry separate cards the size of a credit card for the following vacation functions:

  • Hotel Key
  • Theme park admission
  • Express Passes
  • MyUniversalPhoto card
  • Special event admission (Halloween Horror Nights, etc)

That many options lead to mistakes at entry points and frustrated guests. I’d love to see a “Universal Pass” RFID card that links to my hotel key, admission, and other add-ons. Orlando Park Stop reports Universal is moving to a photo verification process for theme park entry. This begs the question, would this finally unite all our Universal admission media? I can only hope.

Improved Resort TV Loops

(photo by Brandon Glover)

Universal offers world-class hotel in-room entertainment with fast WiFi internet speeds, a large assortment of television channels (including Disney), smart TV features like DVR, and guest check-out on your final day. But Disney has one leg up on Universal with their extensive WDW Resort TV channels. First is the iconic WDW Resort channel, the first thing many kids tune to on their check-in day, I sure did. These TV show-length infomercials showcased the whole resort including transportation options, all the major theme parks, shopping, nightlife, and more.

The final form of resort TV was Stacy’s Must Do Disney, which takes a checklist format covering the parks, hotels, and. Disney Springs. I will always prefer the older magazine format more but this one has a huge fandom.

Disney’s Resort TV was comfort food for generations of guests – my family would put on the Resort TV channel as we were getting ready for bed each day of our trip. This was one of several resort TV channels with other channels featuring looping videos on DVC, other Disney Destinations, and an information channel with park hours. Dozens of hours of WDW Resort TV are uploaded to YouTube by true Disney heros.

So what is Universal’s resort TV like?

Yup, that’s it. Ok, there is also a Volcano Bay channel but it too has a short, looping video.

With Epic Universe around the corner, now is the perfect time to expand Universal’s Resort TV offerings. Where is the charismatic host or the segments focusing on each park? Hire someone like Keenan Thompson to narrate this big infomercial and walk new guests through each park. There should be a theme park information channel with weather, park hours, show times, and more.

More Drinking Water & Bottle Fill Stations

Universal Studios Florida. Front of Park.

We love how Disney and Universal are updating their drinking fountains with new bottle refill stations – we just want to see more of it! Update all the drinking fountains and add new ones to all attractions with outdoor queues. Cokefreestyles offers free water and ice too but the machines sometimes have their own queues to use. Orlando, FL is becoming hotter and more humid over time, more water fountains and bottle refill stations will be needed to keep guests hydrated.

Character Signatures

Disney is known for their character meet and greets, but Universal quietly gives them a run for their money. Mimicking the classic days of Walt Disney World meet and greets, Universal characters meet in the walkways of the parks and dance with kids during parties. Encounters are casual and frequently impromptu, it’s common for kids to naturally run into characters during touring.

But Universal’s characters cannot do signatures. When I was recently told this for the first time I had to do a double take – the character signature was such a huge part of the meet and greet I just assumed Univeral characters signed too. Now, some characters can’t do signatures, understood. Brand standards and contracts likely hold back other sets of characters, like Scooby-Doo and the Gang, from doing signatures.

Universal, to their benefit, does offer signature stamps for some characters. But as my friends found out when they toured with their daughter, not all characters have stamps and the disappointment is real. We wonder if there is a middle ground where character signatures are allowed for some and all other characters always have a stamp.

Fine Dining

Universal has good food, heck, even great food. But what it lacks is true fine dining similar to Disney’s Signature restaurants. While Toothsome might have a big menu that guests love, the dining experience isn’t driven by a close culinary team focusing on fresh ingredients or unique styles. This wasn’t always the case, up until 2018 Emeril Lagasse had two fine dining restaurants on the property – Emeril’s in CityWalk and the much-loved Tchoup-Chop at Royal Pacific. Neither of those locations was replaced with fine dining and the resort has lacked a true showcase restaurant.

With Epic Universe and the new Helios Grand Hotel around the corner, we hope Universal takes another chance at true fine dining. While the era of celebrity chefs is over, Orlando is a hotbed of culinary talent spanning many culinary styles so Universal Orlando should draw from its home for inspiration.

What do you think Universal Orlando can improve in the future? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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Joseph Matt

Joe covers theme parks through the lens of his quality engineering day job. He has over five years of writing experience at Touring Plans and has gone on dozens of trips to Orlando over his life. When not at amusement parks you can find Joe at breweries, enjoying live theater, playing video games, and cooking.

2 thoughts on “Universal Orlando Opportunities for Improvement

  • We were there today and both Shaggy and Velma signed our books. Maybe we just got lucky?

  • To me Wdw’s biggest edge over UOR is memory maker. Way way better


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