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(4/25/18) Aventura Hotel's New Interior Design Details (MORE...)
(4/15/18) Endless Summer Surfside Inn & Suites Construction (MORE...)
(4/14/18) Halloween Horror Nights - What's Next To Creep From The Darkness? (MORE...)
(4/12/18) Universal Orlando Buys More Property and Settles Lawsuit Over Expansion Site Development (MORE...)
(4/6/18) Expansion Property Filings and New Resort Name and Details
Click here to read the full Screamscape review of Halloween Horror Nights 27!
VOLCANO BAY IS NOW OPEN - Read the official Screamscape Review!
Click here to read the full Screamscape review of Halloween Horror Nights 26!
General Resort News - (3/30/18) Universal Orlando has announced a special ticket offer for this year's Halloween Horror Nights event taking place on select nights from Sept. 14 through Nov. 3, 2018. The details of this year's event are slim, but they did confirm that it will feature nine all new haunts and five scare zones.
(3/26/18) Universal Orlando fans take note... the new Voodoo Doughnuts location in Citywalk apparently opened quietly on Saturday. You can check out some great photos of the new location and their delicious looking creations on Facebook here.
Now here is the deal offer... if you pre-purchase a ticket to HHN now through June 6th online, you will get a second admission ticket to come back again in 2018 to HHN on any night except a Saturday. Visit the official website for details and to make your purchase.
Universal also rolled out another great deal for general daytime tickets in case you are visiting this Spring or Summer. Currently you can buy a 5-day pass for as low as $45 per day, they just need to be used by Sept. 17th.
(3/8/18) The Universal Orlando “Close Up” blog has unveiled a drool inducing collection of photos and details about what we can expect to find on the menu of Voodoo Doughnut when it opens this Spring. Out of the line-up of more than 50-doughnuts they show off five of the most popular, including the iconic Voodoo Doll shaped one, complete with a pretzel “pin” jammed right in the poor little guy’s jelly filled belly, the Portland Cream (Mmmmmm!), the Grape Ape, the Bacon Maple Bar (covered with real strips of bacon!) and the Oh Captain, My Captain creation, smothered with vanilla frosting embedded with Captain Crunch style breakfast cereal bites. Other popular creations include the Eight Mile (smothered with canilla frosting embedded with mini M&Ms), Diablos Rex (Devil’s Food with chocolate frosting, red sprinkles and a vanilla pentagram), the Memphis Mafia (fried w/ banana chunks with peanut butter and chocolate drizzle), Dirt, ODB, the No Name Doughnut, Chuckles, and of course the rainbow themed Pride Bar.
Ok, I’ve got to stop now! Thanks Universal, now I’ve got an insatiable craving for doughnuts!
(2/24/18) Artwork showing off the new covered pedestrian bridge to cross over Kirkman Road from Universal Orlando near the Major Boulevard intersection has been posted by the local news. Countless pedestrians cross through this busy intersection from the hotels and restaurants opposite Universal on Kirkman and elevating them to cross via bridge rather than at ground level will not only be safer, but improve traffic conditions on the ground by removing pedestrians from the streets. Some construction work for the bridge has already been completed at the site, and they are actually hoping to fast-track the project and have it ready by Summer 2018 if possible.
(2/18/18) What's that old saying? "Monkey see... Monkey do..."? Of course, when you’ve got the world’s biggest primate in your employ (Hi Kong!) then “Monkey Do” just about what ever he wants to do. Ahem...
Now as expected, about a week after Disney increased their ticket prices, Universal Orlando has followed along as well, with an average 1-Day/1-Park ticket prices raised $5 to range between $115-$124, and a 1-Day/2-Park ticket up $5 to range between $170-$179, with slight increases for certain peak-dates and better discount for 2, 3 or more day tickets that can also include admission into Volcano Bay.
(2/9/18) Universal Orlando has completed their concert line-up list for the Mardi Gras 2018 event, adding Jason Derulo on March 10th and Jessie J. will take the stage on March 24th.
(1/18/19) Universal Orlando has announced that a new Voodoo Doughnut location will open in Citywalk by Spring 2018. While the small home-grown chain started in Portland, Oregon the creations took Universal Hollywood by storm in 2017 when they opened their first California location inside CityWalk Hollywood. "Loved for its sinfully delicious, delightfully weird lineup of fried creations, Voodoo Doughnut will feature signature originals and one-of-a-kind delectables such as the Dirt Doughnut, the Bacon Maple Bar, Grape Ape and, of course, Voodoo Doll doughnuts."
Universal confirms that Voodoo Doughnut will be located next door to the NBC Sports Grill & Brew, which would place it in the former Element store location. This will be the first Voodoo Doughnut location east of the Mississippi.
(1/3/18) Universal Orlando dropped a few hints about upcoming announcements that will be made in 2018 for new projects. Without going into details, they do hint about 7 project announcements.
Islands of Adventure - In addition to details about the new ride that will replace Dragons Challenge at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade they also mention that another new projection mapping experience will be coming to Hogwarts Castle. (If I had to guess, I'd say it would be something for the Summer season.)
Universal Studios Florida - Expect an announcement soon about the new nighttime show that will replace Universal's Cinematic Spectacular on the lagoon, as well as what they are planning to do with the former Terminator 2: 3D site. Looks like some new details about the upcoming Super Mario World are also to be expected.
Other Resort Projects: They mention 'a new venue' is coming to CityWalk where Element was, as well as more details about the ongoing expansion of Universal Resort Hotels... in this case, more details about the two planned for the former Wet 'n Wild site.
August 2018 - Universal’s Aventura Hotel - Under Construction - (4/25/18) Universal Orlando have posted their latest update regarding the unique design of the new Aventura Hotel to their blog, with a focus on the interior design choices that will feature polished concrete floors mixed with "warm woods" all around the lobby and registration desk. Oh... and of course there will be an on site Starbucks location and a bar in the Lobby... in addition to the top of the world view at Bar 17 Bistro. Make the jump and read all the details for yourself, as the first guests will check in this August.
(3/28/18) Universal Orlando has released a few more details about the new Aventura Hotel... specifically this time all about the rooftop lounge which will be called the "Bar 17 Bistro". 17... because it's on the 17th Floor.
Bar 17 Bistro will open in the evenings, just in time to catch the sunset and will be accessed by a dedicated elevator from the lobby. It will actually be open to everyone not just guests of the Aventura. Once inside you'll be wowed by the impressive views, relaxed by the beverage options and can select from a range of small plate dishes.
Check out the latest images posted to the Universal Orlando Blog for more preview images.
(2/28/18) Universal Orlando has posted a new detailed article about the creation of their new Aventura Hotel at the official Universal Orlando Blog.
(10/20/17) Universal Orlando is showing off the first look at how the rooms at the new Aventura Resort will be furnished in the latest post to Universal Orlando's CloseUp Blog. In addition to those floor the ceiling windows, the rooms will feature wood flooring and a lot of white and wood furnishings. Oh... and a master tablet on the nightstand to control the room's TV, AC, show off park information (maps, hours and current wait times) or you can even order a pizza to be sent to your room. Sweet!
Universal is also now accepting bookings for the new hotel with dining credit benefits as well for when it opens in August 2018.
(8/21/17) An interesting picture on Twitter shows off the current state of Universal's new Aventura Resort hotel tower, which is said to be about half-way built.
(7/29/17) A new tweet shows off the current progress on Universal's new Aventura Resort tower and the installation of the first sections of glass to the exterior. Note that the blue color of the glass is not the final color, just the color of a layer or protective plastic covering.
(6/7/17) A few new details about the Aventura Hotel were released from Universal Orlando this week, promising some new tech-savvy experiences for the hotel guests. Each room will apparently come with an in-room tablet that will allow you to remotely control the TV, Room Temperature and “more”. The Aventura will also feature a new “virtual reality game room” and a dive-in movie experience that will include an underwater speaker system in the main resort pool. More announcements of other new amenities are forthcoming, so keep your eyes open here at Screamscape as we follow along.
In the meantime, enjoy the new Aventura Hotel VR experience below, which works best on the Chrome browser, or open the video on your mobile device with the YouTube app, where you can also put Google Cardboard to use to see 360º concept art of various sections of the new hotel in VR.
(5/11/17) Universal Orlando has already announced that they are accepting reservations for their sixth resort, Universal's Aventura Hotel, for dates starting on August 1, 2018. It will feature 600 rooms in the highrise style hotel tower, complete with floor to ceiling windows and a special rooftop bar that will boast perhaps one the best views of the glowing mighty Krakatau volcano, centerpiece of the new Volcano Bay waterpark.
If you book now for a stay of at least four nights, Universal will throw in a free $50 hotel dining credit. Book a seven-night stay and you'll get a $100 hotel dining credit. Look for rates to start as low as $97 a night.
(11/7/16) Universal is moving quickly these days... and not much longer after we had just began to hear the early reports that another new hotel was on the way, now Universal has confirmed it with their own official announcement.
The Aventura Hotel will open in Summer 2018, located right next to the parking garage for the Sapphire Falls Resort, directly across the street from the expanding Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Unlike the other Universal Orlando resort hotels, this one will have a unique look to set it apart from the rest, seeming to almost be more inspired by a Las Vegas tower style hotel.
The Aventura will be a glass highrise hotel tower, standing 16-stories tall, and will actually feature a rooftop bar with a clear almost eye-level view of the mighty Krakatau volcano that serves as the centerpiece of the Volcano Bay waterpark. Like the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Aventura is being advertised as another "Value" prices hotel option, where the 600-rooms will feature floor to ceiling windows, offering you an incredible view that will be hard to beat.
Upon entering the resort, you’ll find yourself inside an open loft-inspired lobby, bathed in sunshine from 18-foot tall windows that also offer a great view of the pool level below, where you can relax in a hot tub, perhaps with a nice beverage in hand from the nearby pool bar as you watch the kids play on the splash pad or swim in the crystal clear pool. Off the lobby level, the Aventura will also offer a casual dining food hall with five different cuisine options to choose from, or just get caffeinated with a stop into the on-site Starbucks.
Guests staying at the Avenutra can take advantage of walking pathways or complimentary shuttle service to get to Universal CityWalk, the theme parks, or even the new Volcano Bay waterpark. Like Cabana Bay and Sapphire Falls, guests staying at the Aventura will have the advantage of Early Park Admission into the theme parks as well, but not complimentary Universal Express which is only for guests of the Royal Pacific, Hard Rock and Portafino Bay resorts.
(10/13/16) According to the Orlando Biz Journal new permits have been filed for Universal Orlando's next hotel, which is being officially called Project 927. Project 927 has been described as a 600-room hotel, all contained in one large tower on a small section of property between the Sapphire Falls Resort and the freeway.
The location is kind of interesting however, as the majority of the property is taken up by a large retention pond, and some of that site is also supposed to be used as the tram roadway to transport guests from the parking structure over to the entrance of Volcano Bay. I just happened to be looking over this very spot during my stay at Sapphire Falls last month and took some pictures of it from the top of the Sapphire parking structure, where construction vehicles were already hard at work moving the dirt around the edges of the retention pond where they have already increased the size of the nearby retention pond behind the Royal Pacific, which I assume has been done to make up for the fact that the one behind Sapphire's parking structure may soon be filled in and used for the new resort tower.
For a size comparison, the Sapphire Falls Resort has 1000 rooms on a much larger piece of land, so the new tower is likely to be much taller than anything we've seen Universal build in the past.
The name "Aventura Hotel" has also been rumored to be attached as the current likely name for the new resort, though things can change between now and when they announce it.
(7/2/16) While Sapphire Falls isn't even open yet Universal Orlando has already submitted plans for a smaller 600-room sixth hotel on the left over land between Sapphire Falls and the I-4 freeway. According to the Orlando Sentinel the plans have the hotel's rooms located within a single tower "connected to a parking garage". I'm not sure if the hotel will have it's own garage, or if they mean it will be connected to the new garage built next to Sapphire Falls.
2018 - Halloween Horror Nights - (4/14/18) With Stranger Things confirmed for Halloween Horror Nights in 2018, the airing of laundry lists of what else could be added has begun. As Behind the Thrills has pointed out this week, another highly popular and requested addition to the HHN lineup will be Steven King's IT, based on the popular new adaptation of the material that hit theaters in 2017. I have to agree, if the stars allign just right, Pennywise could very well be coming to life in Orlando and Hollywood later this year to terrorize the masses.
(4/4/18) Universal dropped the bomb a few hours ago by making their first company wide announcement for the first maze to be featured at the 2018 Halloween Horror Nights event... and there was much rejoicing across the internet. If you haven't already read in our tweet or Facebook post earlier, you will be able to venture into The Upside-Down this fall as a new awesome maze themed to the hit Netflix series, Stranger Things, will be brought to life at Universal Orlando, Hollywood and Singapore parks for HHN.
Universal bought the world to life in front of our eyes already in the form of a custom teaser trailer that shows off the entrance to the theme park, as seen from inside The Upside-Down. According to the final details, this maze will stick to the story told in Season 1, allowing you to venture into the Mirkwood and then on into the Hawkins National Laboratory... and you know things just go horribly wrong from there, because the Demogorgon is never far. Just take a look at the awesome preview poster art they made as well featuring the boys on their bikes in front of the park's iconic entrance portal... or at least The Upside-Down version. I can't wait for this one.
2019/2020 - Universal’s Endless Summer Resort - (4/15/18) Construction is already well under way on Universal's new Endless Summer Resort Surfside Inn & Suites, where you can see the foundations and first vertical concrete work already going up for the two hotel towers, plus they appears to be nearing completion on a massive parking structure for this resort as well.
(4/6/18) Universal Orlando has officially announced the names and timelines for the new resort properties to be built on the site of the former Wet 'n Wild waterpark. The overall site for both resorts will carry a single theme and be called "Universal's Endless Summer Resort". Like all the other Universal Orlando Resorts, this will be another partnership with Loews Hotels, with the resorts broken into two sides... the Surfside Inn and Suites, which will open first in Summer 2019 to be followed by the Dockside Inn and Suites in 2020.
The resorts will offer "a relaxed and easy vibe", featuring plenty of surf and beach style themeing. Best of all, these two resorts will launch an all-new "Value" level hotel for Universal Orlando, with rooms starting as low as $73 a night. About half the rooms on the property will be 2 Bedroom Suites, which will start at $111 a night. Like the other Universal Orlando Resorts, free shuttle transportation to Universal Orlando is included as well as Early Park Admission perks.
(11/9/17) Universal Orlando has confirmed their plans to add two more hotels to their resort line-up… this time just outside the existing resort on the former site of the Wet ‘n Wild waterpark at the intersection of International Drive and Universal Blvd. The good news is that these hotels, while slightly off-site, will be high-value options for families looking to visit Orlando with room-rates starting at less than $100 per night.
Between the two hotels, there will be a combined 2,800 new rooms (including 1,450 2-bedroom suites) along with complimentary transportation from the resort to the Universal Orlando theme parks and Citywalk. One hotel will offer 2,050 rooms while the other will just be 750 rooms, and between the two there will be three pools, two food courts, coffee bars, fitness rooms and more when they begin to open in Summer 2019.
“Brought to life by the same Universal Creative team behind the incredibly-themed Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort and Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, these all-new options will be destinations unto themselves. Guests will enjoy the sun, surf and sand with a laid-back coastal feel. Towering exterior murals with vibrant and natural colors will set a free-spirited and beachy tone, inviting guests to hang loose throughout their stay.”
(6/22/17) According to the local news city planners have given their approval for Universal's plans to build two resort hotel projects on the former Wet 'n Wild property on International Drive.
(5/22/17) A better collection of images showing off the layouts of both of the new resort hotel projects slated to replace Wet 'n Wild were posted to the Orlando Business Journal site that are worth checking out. The side on the former parking lot side of Universal Blvd is much larger of course, but there is an interesting surf board shaped pool you can clearly see in the layout of the resort that will go over the Wet 'n Wild site. The proposed towers also seem fairly tall in the images, up to 11 stories on the smaller one, and up to 13 stories in the artwork for the bigger resort.
Given the shape of the buildings and the direction they point, I do wonder if there might be some kind of rooftop feature, like a lounge perhaps. Nothing so far has been mentioned about any possible plans involving the lake behind the waterpark site, which was used for years for a wakeboarding attraction.
(5/20/17) According to the latest update from the Orlando Sentinel they pulled a piece of concept artwork showing off what Universal's initial proposal for new hotels on the former Wet 'n Wild site might look like. The proposal calls for 2 hotels on the site (up to 4,000 new rooms) plus all the expected Universal style resort amenities and connected retail and food outlets to the complex, along with connected parking structures.
According to the updated report, Universal's initial plan to transport guests from this site to the main Universal Orlando Resort will be done via a simple shuttle service, operated by Universal. The current plans calls for 1,200 rooms to be located on the West side of Universal Blvd (the Wet 'n Wild park site) and the other 2,800 rooms on the East side (the old Wet 'n Wild parking lot side).
(3/27/17) The first early plans for Universal Orlando's mega hotel project to take over the former Wet 'n Wild location have been filed by the company. The plans call for the land Universal owns on both sides on Universal Blvd to be transformed into a massive 4,000 room resort project.
(1/7/17) With the gates locked for the final time at Wet 'n Wild Orlando, the only remaining questions are what Universal plans to do with the unique International drive property. The long running rumor on Screamscape has been that Universal had been looking into plans that would include a large resort hotel with a mini CityWalk style retail and restaurant component.
Now the latest report from the Orlando Business Journal seems to be backing up that rumor, with their sources claiming that design/bid requests have gone out for the property for an "upper scale hotel of up to 4,000 guest rooms". Also, since this resort is just off-property from the rest of the Universal Orlando resorts, they are looking at this as idea for an economy class resort that would still offer many of the same style of amenities as the rest of the Universal Orlando resorts, but for a lower-price range of around $100 per night.
The OBJ article is also quick to point out that for size comparison, to fit 4,000 rooms on a property that size, they will have to go with a much taller resort building to do it, but that should fit in just perfectly along the I-Drive corridor. Perhaps the most interesting riddle to be solved with this resort location will be how Universal will solve the problem of being able to transport guests to and from the main Universal Orlando resort from here.
So how soon could it be until we see this latest hotel project open? According to Screamscape sources, following the opening of the new Aventura hotel in 2018, Universal Orlando's long term plan has slotted 2020 as the opening date for their next hotel... wherever it may be located.
Future Expansion Site / 3rd Theme Park - (4/12/18) Universal has not only cleared the way to add their next theme park at the expansion site, but added even more property to what they own. According to a report posted by MyNews13, Universal has filed a deed with Orange County showing the transfer of property to them from former owner: Stanley E. Thomas. Thomas was also the one who was putting up a legal fuss about Universal not being able to build a theme park on the former Lockheed-Martin property, but from the looks of things Universal has simply opted to buy him out along with much of the remaining pieces of property he owned all around the expansion site. I haven't seen a map yet, but the report claims the new parcels are along Universal Blvd on the one side, south of Sand Lake on the northern side, and sections east of the current property towards John Young Parkway. With Thomas out of the way, so are any and all issues regarding restrictions of what can be built on the property.
(11/1/17) A couple of big announcements have come out this week regarding the future expansion of the Universal Orlando Resort down near the convention center. Late last week Universal quietly mentioned that they would be converting a couple of their smaller parcels closest to the Beach Line and Convention Center into surface parking lots. Why? No one is sure at the moment, though they could be used a parking for a team working on the likely 3rd park plans, putting them close to the site.
In another report from the Orlando Sentinel, they confirmed that Thomas did retain a few parcels and signed new mortgage agreements on these sections, also the land sale to Universal from Thomas took place the day after Universal settled the lawsuit Thomas had ongoing against them regarding future theme park development of the property. While Universal has yet to comment on their future plans for the site, an attorney for Universal did reference future theme park plans to the judge, but mentioned they were still too "super, super secret" to be discussed further. Elsewhere, it was also mentioned that Universal's lead attorney did mention to the judge that the site could hold "two large theme parks".
For reference, you can see a map published in 2017 by the Orlando Sentinel here that marks the property Universal had previously owned in blue, and the property owned by Thomas in red. While we don't know exactly which of the red parcels have been sold to Universal, I would suspect most of the sections bordering the property they already own in blue were sold.
(4/6/18) According to the Orlando Sentinel, Universal has filed various plans for their new expansion property that will allow for "mass grading", site prep for new development, adding new water retention ponds, new canals, as well as the removal of various small existing structures on the site.
(4/2/18) It's been awhile since we talked about what Universal may be planning for their next big theme park in Orlando, and this week Disney & More has posted their own story and findings that are worth a quick read. Bottom line however, whenever I try to do some digging myself into this subject matter, it seems like the contents of this future park and always in a state of flux, with various IPs included at one point, and then replaced the next by others... only to sometimes come back again. It's great that Universal has such a big vision to choose from to get the combination right, but this also says to me that the contents are still very much in flux, and it's hard to lock in any IPs for sure, unless they are owned by Universal themselves.
The DreamWorks Animation characters, for example, are not mentioned in this report, and I've always heard that we should expect them to be in this park one way or another. Either in their own DreamWorks land, or spread out into a few individual lands (Kung Fu Panda Land, How To Train Your Dragon Land, etc...)
There is also an interesting mention of dragging the entire Nintendo themed land or projects into this park, which I admit I've also heard was being talked about as well. Of course the first phase of Super Nintendo World could stuff go into the existing park as originally intended, and a second phase of attraction ideas could also end up in the new park as well. Like I said above... it's all a big shuffle until they are ready to lock it down and send out the bulldozers.
Of course, I also like to think that the constant shuffle of ideas is also intentional... as leaks on a project this big are sure to happen, and keeping an excessive number of wild and crazy ideas floating around is a sure way to make the competition a bit nervous themselves. After all, they wont know what they should be preparing to build to compete against it until the last second.
(2/6/18) Universal Orlando has also filed new plans to make use of some of their new property. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Universal is putting plans to build a couple of large warehouse buildings and a new multi-story office building onto the section of property that touches Sand Lake Road. (Note: This would be the red section of land on the map we made below.) The office-space is interesting, as it isn't known if this is just new office space, or if the plan is to retire any existing office space at the existing Universal Orlando property in order to allow for future park expansion.
(12/11/17) I'm not sure how accurate this report is, but OrlandoParkNews mentions that another report on GrowthSpotter claims that a rep from Universal told them that their vision for the new Universal property includes "two new theme parks" and not just the one we've been talking about thus far.
As I said... I'm not sure how accurate that claim is, or if perhaps it was just more of a forwarding thinking statement, perhaps claiming that the size of the property would allow for two new parks rather than a plan to build two, but it does give you something to think about. However... even if long term plans do point to extra park, I’d say you would be looking at a 2035-2040 opening date at best, so far enough away it isn’t worth getting excited for just yet.
(12/8/17) According to the Orlando Sentinel, more property next to Universal new expansion site may soon find itself being put up for sale, as investors are pushing to foreclose on eight parcels of property (200 acres total) around the Orange County Convention Center and the Lockheed Martin complex owned by Stan Thomas' "Universal City Property Management Company III" company. They apparently stopped making payments on the property back in June and I've got a feeling Comcast has their checkbook at the ready. As with much of the rest of the property Universal has been buying down that way, this was already owned by Universal years ago before it was sold off under Vivendi's leadership.
The big news drop came on Monday however, when it was announced that Universal has closed on a $27.5 million land purchase deal to buy up another 101 acres of property along Sand Lake Road that is connected to their big main parcel just to the South. All together, with both of these main sites combined, plus the acreage from a few random spots here and there along Universal Blvd, Universal is said to now own about 576 acres down on this side of the tourist corridor... not counting the former Wet 'n Wild site that will soon be used for two more resort hotels.
If you check out the rough map I've put together showing off the various property Universal now owns, the picture of just how they may expand is becoming more clear and even includes a couple of options I can see for building some kind of transportation system that could eventually connect them all.
(5/25/16) According to the Orlando Sentinel, Universal Orlando will soon begin talks with Orange County to set up zoning for their new 475 acres of property down by the convention center. They would like to look into setting up a special "theme park" zone for a large section of it, similar to the special theme park zoning set up for the SeaWorld area that includes Aquatica and Discovery Cove.
(12/23/15) According to this news report the huge property deal to sell over 450 acres of property to Universal Orlando has been completed, according to comments made to the Orlando Sentinel from an attorney to represents Colony Capital, who was selling the property. Universal Orlando was not willing to comment on the sale.
(12/4/15) The news is all in a tizzy this week about the idea that a third major Universal Orlando theme park could be on the way down by the convention center. A couple of major points were also make amid the various reports... that the majority of the land they would be buying is ALREADY zoned for theme park use... and quite a bit of it is already zoned to allow structures as tall as 400 feet. Sounds like a perfect fit, doesn't it?
(12/2/15) Surprise! It came to light on Tuesday afternoon that Universal Orlando now has an "option to buy" the 474 acre property off Universal Blvd, just north of the Convention Center's North Concourse. If this all sounds familiar... it should... because Universal Orlando once owned this property along with the rest of the nearby land all around here which was purchased from Lockheed Martin years ago and underwent a large clean-up effort to make it suitable for development. Vivendi, who owned Universal near the start of the 21st century was facing some dire financial problems at the time and opted to sell off all this property that was once earmarked for future Universal Orlando theme parks, golf courses, and resort hotels.
With that in mind, it would be great to see Universal Orlando retake this segment of the property, which is pretty much what's left over that hasn't already been developed by others over the last decade.
(9/12/13) The Orlando Sentinel reports that NBCUniversal President and CEO Steve Burke told investors that their studies of the Universal Orlando resort shows that they could have between 10,000 to 15,000 hotel rooms on site and maintain a profitable occupancy rate. Much like the Walt Disney World expansion in the 90s, they believe that a built-up of on-site hotel rooms will also increase attendance and profitability at the theme parks.
Currently Universal Orlando has 2,400 rooms between the three existing resorts (Portifino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel and the Royal Pacific) and jump to 4,200 rooms next year when the Cabana Bay Beach Resort opens. By comparison to Walt Disney World’s 26,000 rooms, this isn’t much, but if Universal Orlando were to aggressively double or even triple the number of rooms they have on site, I’m certain this could certainly send a shockwave that would be felt by Disney’s own occupancy rate.
In addition, Burke says that parent company Comcast will accelerate the pace of new rides and attractions at the parks, as recent investments have been paying off. Attendance at Universal Studios Florida has been up close to 20% since Transformers opened in June. NBCUniversal will elevate Capital Spending to almost $500 million this year… a figure that the the Sentinel notes will likely because the company’s new baseline, as the goal is to now open a new attraction every single year at both Universal Studios Hollywood and at the Universal Orlando Resort.
Screamscape Reviews - Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
(9/25/16) I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days at Universal Orlando’s newest resort hotel, the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, positioned comfortably between the wonderful Royal Pacific Resort and the fun themed Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Like the Royal Pacific, the Sapphire Falls Resort is connected to the rest of the Universal Resort via the boat taxi waterways. While Royal Pacific brings to life the wonder of the South Pacific islands, Sapphire Falls is all about the Caribbean Island lifestyle, from the music in the lobby to the colorful themeing that encompasses the entire resort.
Entering the resort from the main entry the first thing you may notice in the large atrium style lobby is a giant chandelier overhead, themed to look like it was made up from several dozen giant colorful beach balls. If the mood strikes you, or you are waiting on a shuttle as you leave, there is plenty of room in here to pull up a chair, sit and relax. At the rear is a special lounge area just outside the Strong Water Tavern which in addition to having a wonderful view out the windows of the Royal Pacific Resort, it also has a large video wall playing news or perhaps one of the big games on TV at the moment. With the Strong Water Tavern just behind the video wall, it makes it easy to get yourself a beverage or an appetizer and sit and relax for a spell. Speaking of the Strong Water Tavern, this has been designed to be a well stocked Rum Bar offering more styles of rum than you can imagine, as well as a wide assortment of rum inspired beverage options. Flag down a rum captain and you can look into getting a flight of different rums. It also has a cozy outdoor patio with a view down upon the bay below and the water as it tumbles down the falls.
Off the main lobby is the Universal Studios Store that is always stocked up with the latest themed merchandise from the parks, as well as the Dutch Trading Co., where you can stop in to pick up a snack or beverage to-go (from milk to soda to beer and wine) as well as pastries in the mornings as well as various freshly made sandwich items that change throughout the day from breakfast, to lunch to evening options.
As the lobby is actually on the 4th floor of the resort, you can journey down to the first floor where you will find your water taxi over to CityWalk and the Universal Orlando theme parks, but you can also stop into the Amatista Cookhouse for a regular sit-down meal. They offer both indoor and outdoor seating options for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the day, typically opening at 6am and serving dinner until 10pm.
It wouldn't be a true resort at Universal Orlando without a fantastic pool area and the Sapphire Falls does not fall short in this area. The large pool area features both stair and zero-depth entry options, a waterslide and while deeper towards the two far ends, the center area of the pool gets shallow and features an ankle deep pathway for guests to cross from one side of the long pool to the other. This is useful to not only get to the hot-tub area, but also to the Drhum Club Kantine feature features a full bar as well as a Tapas menu with fresh seafood options. With the aforementioned hot-tub area as well as a comfy fire pit seating area nearby, this makes for a nice little hideaway to get away, sip a beverage and unwind after a busy day at the theme parks.
The basic layout of the rooms themselves are quite similar to what you may find over at the Royal Pacific or Hard Rock Resorts, featuring two large beds, a giant screen TV and a desk you can sit down to do any work or email at… or pull up the latest Screamscape news update for a quick read. While the room is a little smaller feeling than what you may have at the Cabana Bay, they also feature a wonderful walk in shower over the bathtub / shower combo found at Cabana Bay, complete with a nice little bench so you can sit and relax under the water.
The resort also features a fairly large gym if you want to work out, a video game arcade, as well as an assortment of outdoor games and activities out by the pool area. At night I noticed they would set up a giant projection screen facing the pool so those swimming at night could enjoy a movie as well which was a nice touch. If you get a chance, be sure to venture down the lookout pathway to view the lit up falls after dark as well.
All said and done the Sapphire Falls Resorts offers a very complimentary themed resort that fits right in with the theming, while not repeating it, of the nearby Royal Pacific resort and the upcoming Volcano Bay waterpark opening in Summer 2017. One thing to remember however, one major difference between the Sapphire Falls Resort and the Royal Pacific is that guests here do not get the benefit of Universal Express access to the theme park attractions. Universal Express access is only included for guests of the Portafino Bay, Hard Rock and Royal Pacific Resorts. Sapphire Falls and Cabana Bay Beach Resort guests get early admission into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter only. Keep this fact in mind when deciding which Resort to stay at. If the theme parks are expected to be busy during your stay, it may be much more beneficial to stay at a resort where Universal Express is included, as the cost to add it onto your park admission later on is typically at least $80+ per person for the day.
I do have one tip however. In the evenings, if you are coming back to the hotel late after an all day stay at the theme parks, or an evening out at Citywalk, be forewarned that if you return after 11pm the store and Dutch Trading Co in the lobby do close down. So if you feel like you need to pick up a light snack, a soda, or perhaps wanted to get some aspirin or lotion to soothe that sunburn, you may want to grab something at Citywalk and bring it back with you as after 11pm I was unable to find a vending machine anywhere in the halls, and the only drink option open that late was the Strong Water Tavern.
Enjoy your stay at the Sapphire Falls Resort and see if you enjoyed it as much as I did.