Volcano Bay employees offered guests free soft drinks and suggested buying a Universal Express Pass so they would only have to wait in one line, rather than two during the grand opening weekend of the new water park.
That happened at Universal’s newest theme park, which was hyped for months before opening Thursday with the promise of no lines. Even kiddie slides had waits of two hours or more, compared to the up to five-hour waits for signature rides like the Krakatau Aqua Coaster.
Scott Withers posted a video on Facebook and said he had wasted nearly $200 for tickets and parking to look at water attractions that they couldn’t ride. He called the experience an “epic failure.”
“I feel sorry for the Universal employees, they don’t know what to say,” said Withers in the video. “For an amusement park company that is operating two major parks, they should have known better.”
The water park went head to head with Disney’s new Pandora – The World of Avatar, which opened Saturday. However, Disney held nearly a month of soft openings for their annual pass holders, VIPs and media before the public opening. And while there were waits of two and three hours for Pandora rides, Disney never promised no lines.
Universal launched its TapuTapu wristbands, which were designed as a virtual line system where guests could reserve a time for up to two rides. “No more standing in long lines to experience an attraction,” read Universal’s marketing information about the tech bands.
Some guests complained that the wait times on their waterproof bands went up rather than down, while waiting. And once they waited the two to four hours for a chance to ride, they had to stand in line another 40 minutes to access it.
Universal turned away guests, who were not staying in their hotels, as early as 11 a.m. Sunday. Many that tried to Tapu into a ride after 4 p.m. received a “ride full” message that showed the wait time would not end before the park closed at 8 p.m.
Universal employees suggested guests purchase a Volcano Bay Express Pass for an additional $19.99 that would allow them to skip the regular line one time per ride on select rides.
Universal spokesman Tom Schroder blamed the waits on opening day glitches and said they are working to resolve the issues. He added that the theme park “conducted extensive tests on every piece of the Volcano Bay experience, from our rides to TapuTapu.”
“The most successful part of grand opening day was that thousands of our guests had an incredible time with their friends and families inside Volcano Bay,” Schroder said.”We’re sorry for any inconveniences we may have caused them and we have been grateful for their patience.”
Orlando resident Phillip Morris posted on Facebook that the grand opening weekend may not have been the best time to try a new attraction.
“One thing I learned about theme parks is you never go to anything opening weekend ever!,” according to Morris’ post. “Not for rides or a park. Your setting yourself up for failure!”
A message on Universal’s website warns that due to the grand opening along with the holiday weekend, guests should watch Universal’s social media channels or call 407-817-8317 to see if the park has reached capacity.