Universal Studios: A review by Dan

Associated parks:

Arrived in Olando early Sunday morning, hopped on the airport/hotel shuttle and got to the Royal Pacific at around noon. I was informed by the desk clerk that my hotel key-card was an unlimited express pass, which I already knew. Anyway, let me start by saying that the Royal Pacific is one mean resort hotel- swanky looking lobby and rooms to die for. Really set the mood for the parks. I boarded the water taxi and soon after we were pulling up to the dock of Citywalk- great nightlife!

Universal Studios...

I will be rating the attractions on a 1-crap to 10-outstanding scale.

Upon entering, I went immeadiatly to Shrek 4-D where I noticed a rather long line. Probably about an hour and a half wait- this is when I first realized just how great my trusty hotel key-card was. I walked up to the express entrance, flashed my card and was inside in seconds- instead of hours! The looks on the faces of the other patrons in the regular line- as I walked in ahead of them- was priceless!

Shrek 4-D

Lord Farquaad- having been eaten by the dragon in the first film- is now a ghost. He still want's Fiona for his bride, which is strange considering that Fiona turned out to be an Ogress. You'd think Farquaad wouldn't want anything to do with her- but he is still after her for some uknown reason. Anyway, since he is a ghost, there is only one way to have Fiona for his bride- and that's to maker her a ghost too. Get it? He plans to kill her by having his masked henchman send her over a waterfall on a raft. Enter Shrek and Donkey- and you of course. What results is a 4-D fun filled mini sequel to the first film. Hilarity and laughs and 4-D fun with the special "Ogre-vision" glasses that you recieve at the entrance. The graveyard scene with Shrek doing his zombie impersonation is a classic. Rating 9

Jimmu Neutron's Nicktoon Blast

This is right across the street from Shrek- so I went ahead and got it out of the way. Can't say I thought as much of this as I did Shrek. No 3-D glasses, but a lot of knocking around in Jimmy's motion based simulator cars. All your favorite Nicktoon characters like Spongebob, Rugrats and others put in appearances on a wild ride through the world of Nicktoons. This is probably gonna be a bigger hit with the kids than with the adults. Rating 7

As I made my way around the park, my next stop was E.T. Adventure.

This is based on the movie and has some cool moments like the forrest scenes with the flashlight weilding "adults" looking for E.T. More cool moments include flying over the city and finally arriving on E.T.'s home planet. Interesting population of wierd looking aliens. This should keep the kids happy, though a coaster enthusiast like myself might find it a tad dull. Rating 6

Back to the Future

Quite a long line here, hotel card to the rescue! I went to the express line and was on in about 2 minutes!! Seems like Biff Tannen has stolen a time-traveling De Lorean, so you- in another time-traveling De Lorean- must find and bring him back. I can see why this used to be the parks top attraction, great use of motion simulation and a really good film. you rocket through Hill Valley in the past, present and future. Ice age scenes, Dinosaur scenes and more familiar scenes of Hill Valley from the movies. But be warned!!! There's some serious head banging at times, especially in the back seats. Rating 8

Men in Black: Alien Attack!

Ok, I'll admit that this is one addictive ride!! There must've been a minimum two hour wait for the average man- but I ain't the average man!! Key-card, do your thing!! I flashed my hotel key and waltzed- non stop- right past the throngs and onto the ride in seconds. I noticed some of the peeps seem to be giving me dirty looks when I walked on for the 5th TIME IN A ROW!!!! Too bad! They should have stayed at a Universal hotel- then they wouldn't be waiting 2 hours a pop. Anyway, your an M.I.B. trainee cought in the middle of an Alien attack. Not to worry cause this ride is interactive- your packin' some heat baby!!! So grab your trusty blaster and start zapping those aliens. This is amazingly fun!!! Two six person cars compete against each other for the highest scores. My best of the day was 196,000- ok, so I'm new to this ride- I haven't had that much practice. I especially love the part where you get to shoot at your competition in the opposite car. Hit their car in the right spot and make it spin out of control- but be warned- they can do the same to you!!! Rating 10

Next I made my way up to Amity- and Jaws!

This boat ride through the town of Amity comes complete with it's own Great White shark. Be forwarned!!! If you have small children they may be terrified on this ride. The kids I rode with were all crying their eyes out at the end. The heat can be rather intense during the lake of fire scene, which only serves to further frighten the kiddies. Anyway, you are on a boat tour when suddenly Jaws appears. Not to worry, your tour guide has brought along his/her trusty grenade launcher ( hey, did they steal that thing from Jill Valentine in Resident Evil?), unfortunately- your guide is a terrible aim. So we spend the majority of the ride trying to evade Jaws, until he finally bites a power cable at the end and electrocutes himself- sort of like the scene in Jaws 2. The themeing works fine for me, and the shark looks just like the one in the films. Rating 8


Means just what it says!!! This attraction starts off as a demonstration of various special effects techniqes used by film makers. Such as adding milk to water in order to make it more visible to the camera when a particular scene calls for rain. This is a rather lengthy display of movie magic, complete with a bit of blue screen effects and stunt work thrown in. But best part is the last part where you board a subway trian bound for hell. The themeing here is particularly effective as your train moves into an underground station (ok, it's not really underground- but that's the idea). Next, the earthquake begins!!! The FX are amazing to watch, the floor tears apart, your train shakes back and forth. Next the roof collapses and a tanker truck slides down, hits a support collum and bursts into flame!! But the best part is the tons of water that rushes down the stairs and hits your train in the side- giving the impression that your a gonner!! I can't help but wonder how many gallons of water are used for this effect. Finally, the op steps out of his control room and tells you to give yourself a hand for braving and "8 point 3" earthquake. Rating 10

From one natural disaster into another....


I just loved everything about this attraction!! The themeing is astounding, from the authentic looking vehicles from the movie- to the car sticking through the roof of the house which appears to have been hit by a tornado- it's windshield wipers still going! I just loved the theming here from start to finish! Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt appear on the monitors to tell a bit about tornados, and the rigors of making the film. Aftwards, the tornado begins as you hear warning sirens and the winds begin to blow. Next you enter a room that appears to be a replica of the Galaxy Dirve-in scene from the movie. Lightening strikes a tree and the twister slowly appears behind the drive-in screen, which is actually showing a horror movie. It slowly makes it's way toward the spectators- and you! Next comes one of the most amazing effects I've ever seen!!! An actual tornado is created in front of you using steam and some kind of fan or suction device in the roof. The effect is astounding!!! Rain falls, the sign blows away, the truck carrying "Dorothy" starts to move. Then "Dorothy" is carried away as the wind rips through the scenery- next a cow is carried away (not a real one)! The roof above you starts shaking violently as the wind picks up even more. Next some pyrotechnics give the impression of a gas station on fire. Then suddenly- amid rain and violent winds- the floor beneath you jolts, scaring the crap outta most of the peeps around you! Finally, Bill Paxton's voice thanks you for experiencing Twister. It was my pleasure Bill!! Rating 10

Terminator: Battle arcoss time!!!

Yet another masterpiece of theming, and even some great acting by your host. 3-D glasses bring all the action to life!! Your on a visit to Skynet were you are shown a rather lenthy intro film. This is subsequently interupted by Sarah Connor and John Connor, who warn you that Skynet will try to derstroy all humans if comes online. They inform you that they intend to destroy Skynet and that you must evacuate immeadiatly. However, your female host re-appears and tells you to ignore Sarah and John and to proceed into the theatre for a demonstration of their latest technology. This demo involves six robotic terminators and a sharpshooting display. Next, Sarah and John appear as live actors this time. They are confronted by the T-1000 (also a live actor). They are rescued by Arnie himself, curtesy of a live actor and 3-D film. Next John and the Governor of California race off through a time protal to the future and Skynet. This extemely long 3-D film is a mini sequel to the 2nd Terminator film. At the end, our heros are confronted by the T-1 million- a larger more powerful version of the T-1000. Live actors combine with 3-D film for an oustanding finale that left the entire audience- myself included- applauding!! Rating 10

Revenge of the Mummy!!!

I always save the best for last, and this latest attraction is definately the best indoor coaster I've been on. Once again my trusty hotel key-card came to my rescue. I managed 10 rides on RotM during the parks last hour of operation!! Let me start by saying that mere words aren't enough to describe this ride. It is so impressive that I dare say new standards have been set for the indoor coaster. Move over Space Mountain!!!! The theming is really amazing in the que line. But I didn't have much time to admire it because of my express pass getting me on so fast every time. Anyway, the coaster which holds a small crowd of peeps for a single car rather than a train, enters the track. Here you are confronted by the robtic mummy who informs you that he needs your souls to ensure that he will "rule for all time". Next your car rolls into another chamber where you are treated to a bit of film advising you to join forces with the mummy or be...well...you'll see. Next you roll foward into another darkened room where you narrowly escape from those man-eating scarabs. Your car moves bacwards next where you are again confronted by the mummy telling you that resisting him carries a price! Your car spins around and heads up a lift hill, at the top of the hill the mummy appears again and blairs at you "YOUR SOULS ARE MINE!!!!". What's happens next will be talked about by coaster enthusiasts for years to come!!! About half way up the lift you are launched into a sudden drop in total darkness. You car is now out of control and whipping at blinding speeds around darkend curves and turns where you are confronted by flashes of demons and other creatures along the way. Finally, you arrive at a station where an op's voice tells you "thanks for riding", but it's another of the mummies tricks!!! He appears in the control window and tells you "DEATH IS ONLY THE BEGINNING!!!". What happens next is classic!!! You are propelled foward where you suddenly drop fast and hard through some orange mist so thick that you can't see your hand in front of your face!!! Then a few more blinding turns through some more creatures and scenery and the mummy screams "NOOOOOOOO!!!" indicating that you have eluded his grasp. You next pull into the real station where you are treated to an end of ride movie on a big screen. Brendon Frazier appears on screen to thank you for riding, he then makes some remark about not getting his coffee, and is attacked by the creatures. All of this makes for a humorous ending. Rating 10+

Overall park rating 10+

This park has so many great attractions- it's no wonder that people come from all over the world to visit. The themeing is spectacular throughout- and that nightly fireworks display is to die-for!!!

Way to go Universal!!!

Next up Islands of Adventure!!!

Stay tuned, the fun is just starting!!!! *** Edited 7/23/2004 7:43:27 AM UTC by Dan1***

good TR... It sounds to me like the express pass is a horrible system. Not that I wouldn't enjoy doing what you did with it, but this seems about 1000x more unfair than any other system. I think there has to be at least some element of waiting to keep people like you :) (no offense) from riding a ride 5x in a row when the ride has a 1+ hour line. Just my thought...
I suppose it's Universal's way of saying thanks for staying at a Universal hotel. There are a plethora of hotels in the area, and Universal is in compition with all of them. So Universal decided to offer something the others couldn't, an express pass. I'll admit to feeling a little guilty at times, but I also felt as if I owned the park. It was a feeling I'll never forget.

BTW, regular express passes are available to all patrons, just like Disney. They are however limited to the times you can use them, and number of uses per day. The hotel express pass is unlimited in all areas.

He probably payed out the you know what to stay at that hotel. I remember looking at prices down there and seeing prices in the $200 and over range for a single night. It makes Q-bot seem like a bargain.
Jeff's avatar
It's not that expensive. I've stayed at Royal Pacific the last two years at around $125 a night and it was worth every last penny, even in November when the crowds are lighter to begin with.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

Soggy's avatar
As it turns out, almost all of Florida (at least in and around Orlando) is pretty darn expensive. You'll drop a pretty penny at any hotel, unless you are going for some bargain basement place (Motel 6, Super 8) and that's not where I'd want to spend my Florida vacation. Sounds like money well spent to me, also sounds like the hotel is nice enough on its own accord, add the express pass and it's a no-brainer for me. Whenever I go to FL, I'll be staying at a Universal hotel.

Also notice he never said he stopped at the rental car place? He was able to save that $$$ by hitting shuttles and water taxis, another perk of staying on-site.

Sounds like the park is a whole lot of fun, despite having only one coaster. It also sounds like you really enjoyed The Mummy a lot more than the average review I have read. Good for you, have fun and don't concentrate on the negatives.

Pass da' sizzrup, bro!

Universal Studios just might be my favorite park. It was a pleasure reading your TR and re-living the adventure.

Each of my three trips to Orlando in the past two years included a stay at the Universal Resort and I wouldn't stay anywhere else. Both stays at the Royal Pacific were outstanding. The Hard Rock...not so much, but that had little to do with the hotel itself. Unlike Jeff, I've never paid less than $239/night for a room - Feb and April trips are high-season so few discounts to be had - and worth every penny. I have balked at the Portofino prices, though. But one day....

Universal Express is the best queue jumping system around. Of course, I'm a HUGE fan of any system that let's me bypass the line (legally, of course!) and never feel guilty about doing it. Stand in line, guests of the park, I'm a guest of the resort and with that comes this perk. And it don't come cheap. Deal. ;)

Universal Studios is a GREAT park! Other than Disney parks, it's definately one of the best parks I've ever been too. I like it much more than IoA. This is how I would rate the top five for me...

1) Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride

2) Jaws

3) Twister: Ride it Out

4) MIB: Alien Attack

5) E.T. Adventure

About Revenge of the Mummy. Wow. I was blown away when I first experienced this attraction, and I even knew everything that was going to happen! The queue inside the Paradise building is verrrry long, and even longer inside the actual show building, but it's very nice and it keeps you entertained. The ride itself was amazing! I still get chills whenever I think about the turntable, then slowly rolling forward, up the incline, then hearing Imohtep scream "Your souls are MINE!" and then launching into his mouth and getting GREAT airtime. The coaster part was very awesome. I have to say though, I didn't care for the false unload, the fire was kewl, but that was about it. And then the drop (great airtime again) into the fog was probably my favorite part! I couldn't see a thing! Overall, a great attraction!

Hersheypark: The Sweetest Place on Earth!
Jeff's avatar
Other perks include being able to charge stuff to your room anywhere on the property with your room card, even at a churro stand and in City Walk. For the three-night stints we've done, we were able to walk to the parks (or take the boat), dine and party at City Walk (also walking), enjoy the pools, take mid-day breaks from the parks... all combined to make a great stay.

And has anyone mentioned skipping lines?

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

For my money, some of the best dining expereinces to be found in Orlando. I think we've tried every restaurant at City Walk as well as most of the hotel dining facilities and all have been wondeful.

I'm getting an itch to start making some reservations....

Soggy, now I know Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster ain't much...but it is a credit!

Honestly, leave I-Drive behind and abandon Kissimmee and book a night or two at one of the Universal properties. You won't be sorry. *** Edited 7/23/2004 7:16:48 PM UTC by IBsteve***

eightdotthree's avatar
I cant wait to go in October! Spending three nights there, then on to Siesta Keys for the rest of the week!

Seriously, for being a resort the Royal Pacific is pretty cheap in the offseason, its cheaper than Cedar Point for crying out loud!

Soggy, it was indeed money well spent! I think those hotel express passes are the greatest idea ever. I went on the American airlines hotel package, it wasn't as expensive as you might think. ;)
Great tr Report! When i went to the parks late june early july, I had a ball! The two parks have a lot to offer.

I didn't stay on the property, but i stayed at the Peabody Hotel on International Dr and that hotel was really posh, very nice not that bad a night maybe around $130 a night.

Orlando is a great place to visit i urge anyone that reads this, Stop reading this and book a Hotel and flight A.S.A.P! A truly great gem IOA and Universal studios!

Your Park only has 1 good coaster! That's too bad!
Okay, I just had to post a reply: Nothing again any line-skipping hotel key express pass somethin holders personally but NOTHING can ruin any great day at a fun park more than such a kind of a system. And, I really have to say this, the way you talk about those poor "avarage" people who have to wait for hours while you just skip everthing for five times in a row really makes me angry because it seems just plain arrogant to me. Let me say, if there´s anything I don´t like about the Great universal parks in Orlando, it is this stupid system of "paid-for" line-skipping. If everybody gets the same chance of getting a few of these express tickets, what name they might have in one park or another, that´s okay with me. But as soon as there are people just spending money for them (or the hotel connected with getting them) it´s making anybody else mad.

Apart from that, "not that expensive" is a very relative expression, and "being worth every last penny" is so, too. I, for my part, am only a University student for whom it´s already quite expensive to pay for the flight to the US and those admission tickets allone are not THAT inexpensive for someone like me. And, even better, my brother lives in Orlando, so naturally I stay at his place while I´m there so these overprized "Resort Hotels" aren´t an option for me anyway. But even if I had the money I would probably not be willing to pay more then for any standard $40-bucks motel over in Kissimmee.

Anyway, I think this whole system sucks bigtime, and the way you talk about walking by those poor little non-hotel guests does even more and really makes my angry. Any of these people paid a hell lot of money for admission, so everybody should have the same right to enjoy the attractions instead of waiting in line for hours. And only because you like to spend your money on some luxury style hotel doesn´t make you a better person, who has the right to save time in line. That´s only my opinion and I didn´t want to offend anybody in person, just the system itself.

Wow!! Don't hold back Berlin- tell me how you really feel!!

Yes, those patrons did pay a good bit for park admission- but I paid a good bit more to stay at a Universal hotel. I was treated like a V.I.P. the whole time I was there, it's a feeling I'll never forget.

Ranting and raving on you part isn't going to change things. Universal has a right to offer certain benefits to their hotel guests as way of saying thanks for choosing a Universal hotel. I think it's a great idea which allows Universal hotel guests to experience a one-of-a-kind vacation that they'll never forget. *** Edited 7/24/2004 7:26:05 PM UTC by Dan1***

Jeff's avatar
Well I guess you can respond by just not going there. It's capitalism... not a charity.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

I just think that what you want to spend for-and how much you expect of- your accomodation choice is one thing and there´s nothing wrong if you want to stay in a nice hotel. But the park experience is another thing and it´s just an insult for all "simple" park guests who spend enough money for admission if there are some people who just skip all lines while others have to wait for hours. At least, they also paid their full admission and so want to experience as much of the attractions for their money as possible. And, as for the extra incentive to stay at the on-property hotels: Wouldn´t it be enough to let the hotel resident in an hour earlier and afterwards its the same system for all guests? I think many parks are handling it like this, at least that´s what I´ve experienced at Cedar Point last fall and that´s quite okay. Doing it this way you have those hotel guest get their special treatment and still all "avarage" guests still don´t have to feel like idiots later. And, by the way, with the Breaker´s Express Cedar Point at least offers a place that is still affordable and not that incredibly high-priced as those park-hotels in Orlando.

Oh, and about the simple economic idea behind it: I didn´t get the impression that I am the only one being pissed standing in line while otheres skip all lines five times in a row. At least, that´s what I heard very frequently from guests who had to que dor hours with me on a very busy day in IoA last fall. And, considering this, I ´m not so sure if those extra guests in those Resort hotels ar worth making almost ALL other guests angry. I didn´t mean to make this a personal complaint about Dan because it´s his right to use those benefits if he pays for them of course. I just think in general the whole system itself shouldn´t work like this.

Jeff's avatar
I can think of a lot more serious things to get "pissed" about like war, cancer and bigotry.

It just sounds like because you don't want to pay for it, it's wrong. Well my friend, those that are willing to pay for it think quite differently.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

Didn't we just have this discussion in another thread? Basically you get what you pay for. If you pay more for something, you get more.

People that want to get better perks and are willing to spend the cash to do it is great. Heck I'd like to go and only stay a nite in the hotel there (I'm one of those that its still a bit expensive for, but I'd be willing to do it if I can find the $$$) just for this service. It would be worth it to me. Of course I'd have at least one or 2 other people with me when I did it.

I can't understand how when it comes to concerts, paying more cash for a better seat, or in a hotel paying more money for a nicer room with more amenities is okay, but let a theme park offer something like this and its just plain greed. Kinda reminds me of Coasterbuzz games, sheesh!

Guess what! The parks are in it to make money in the first place...

First of all, it´s not only that I don´t WANT to pay for it, but that I just CAN`T because as a student it´s hard enought to get the money for travelling and the admission price. And I´m pretty sure that will be the case for, lets say, the avarage family with two kids who also have to wait for hours and watch some "VIP guests" just walk by and might not be able to afford one of the deluxe on-site hotels. And I think, it´s their right too to make as much of their day as possible because everybody pays when entering the park, no matter in which hotel they stay.

There´s nothing wrong with getting some extra treatment and a certein level of luxary if you are willing to pay a hell lot of money for your hotel. What makes this different, though, is the fact that others have to wait longer for that and get a pretty bad feeling about waiting if there are others who just walk by.

In my eyes, this way of doing it makes the whole "express entry" system a big laugh. the first time I experienced a system like this was at Cedar Point and, though I think it´s arguable whether it makes your day at the park better or not and whether it´s worth stting up the whole system, at least it seemed fair and nobody had to feel bad looking at those guys skipping the line, bacause at least you knew that everybody has the same chance to get those handstamps. With PAID express entries the whole thing get annoying to the big majority of guests.

But, of course, it´s your right to tell me that you feel different about it and I really don´t intend to argue about it because that´s one of these things you just can have different opinions about. Just wanted to let you know my opinion and that´s all.

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