We predict the four biggest complaints about Diagon Alley

We predict the four biggest complaints about Diagon Alley

We predict the four biggest complaints about Diagon Alley

As we get closer and closer to the grand opening, and as Universal continues to reveal more and more of the new land’s contents, we can now, for the first time, start to get a very real sense of just what the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will be like.

And while most of this produces only tingles of excitement, it can also elicit some gnashing of teeth. Why? The huge deluge of crowds is a very real concern – the first Wizarding World had lines that lasted some eight or nine hours, and that was just to get into the area – but there’s also the growing realization of just what Universal’s limitations are.

Today, we set aside our admiration for the Harry Potter expansion and share our predictions for the biggest complaints guests will have about Diagon Alley.

 

Too many stores, not enough rides

While Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and the Hogwarts Express will undoubtedly be two of the most immersive, amazing rides in the history of the theme park industry – they’re certainly already among the most expensive – they are, at the end of the day, just two rides.

Yes, a new (and expanded) Ollivander’s will be on hand, and there’s going to be at least one new show at the Carkitt Market area, but will that be enough to satiate the rabid fans?

Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment - Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando.
Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment looks to be one of the most magical of all the new stores.

There are two additional issues that may make this an even stickier problem for Universal than it might otherwise seem. Firstly, the roughly 15 stores – that’s three times the number over at Hogsmeade – are being billed by the company as another attraction, providing a slew of unique experiences and merchandise that should, in theory, extend the guest’s level of immersion (and line of credit, but of course). Secondly, the RFID-equipped magic wands that will allow Muggles to interact with store displays all throughout Diagon Alley (and, according to rumor, Hogsmeade, as well) have gotten delayed, possibly until next summer.

As such, the vast majority of an individual’s time in Diagon Alley will consist of looking at, being in, or waiting in line at shops. And while this is already largely the case at Hogsmeade, it may end up feeling more deliberate or manipulative in this instance, as if the occasional ride or theater show is there to merely help propel you from one store to the next, creating an overwhelming expectation – especially for young fans – that spending money beyond the purchase of theme park admission is an absolute requirement to enjoy the Wizarding World.

 

Express Passes & Early Park Admission are worthless

While our readers are likely to be better educated in this matter, it goes without saying that thousands of less-prepared guests will unwittingly pay upwards of $129 per person, per day for Express Pass access this summer or pay a large premium to stay on-site to get Express Passes and Early Park Admission benefits.

However, just as with Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey over in Hogsmeade, neither Escape from Gringotts nor the Hogwarts Express are expected to feature Express Pass access (though they might at some distant point in the future). Those ill-prepared guests who paid more for daily Express Passes than they did for daily admission will be furious – and, despite Universal’s efforts to communicate EP restrictions, their numbers are likely to be in the tens of thousands by the end of the expansion’s first year.

Similarly, if Diagon Alley implements return time tickets as Hogsmeade does during peak times, this is yet another wall that Express Passes will not get you through.

And what about Early Park Admission? To the disappointment of everyone, it is quite possible that this benefit is going to be almost completely mitigated, as well: with the opening of Cabana Bay Beach Resort this summer, an additional 1,800 rooms will be filled with individuals who are all also guaranteed early-hours access.

Actual crowds rushing into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Morning crowds rushing into Hogsmeade, taken one year after it opened.

That means there will be at least another 5,000 people crawling all over the Wizarding World before rope-drop – and that’s not even including Universal’s 20 partner hotels, which are afforded the same benefits (or the rumored fifth on-site resort, for that matter, which might open as early as next year).

The only faint glimmer of hope here is the rumor that Universal will somehow stagger the huge number of guests staying at Cabana Bay (and, eventually, the fifth hotel) during early park admission, although we have absolutely no idea how this could be instituted in practice.

 

Hogwarts Express = a $176 pass to wait in line

The Hogwarts Express attraction will actually consist of two trains, each seating roughly 200 passengers. Given a six-minute ride time and another approximate four minutes for loading/unloading, that’s 400 people being processed every 10 minutes – not bad, but nowhere near the level necessary to handle the crowds that will swamp the Express for the foreseeable future.

If we should expect a consistent wait of two to three hours at any time throughout the day at both King’s Cross Station in Universal Studios Florida and Hogsmeade Station at Islands of Adventure, then that means an intrepid traveler attempting to experience both legs of the journey will spend a mind-numbing six hours in line (for 12 minutes of ride-time).

Given that a two-day park-to-park ticket, which Universal is already positioning to be the de facto ticketing option, now costs $175.99 (if you purchase it online), you can see how the single biggest complaint about Diagon Alley will be paying a premium to wait more in line.

Hogwarts Express coming to Universal Orlando.
Hogwarts Express, as depicted in the Diagon Alley concept artwork.

This will also more than likely be the biggest source of frustration for Universal itself, given that this is the option that is most out of its hands; it can always attempt to throw more man-hours at finishing the construction or have altered its plans to reduce the number of storefronts and increase the number of attractions, but the Hogwarts Express, by its very definition, is precisely what it is: a train that can only carry so many guests at any given time between two points. If it had even tried to alter it, author J.K. Rowling and license holder Warner Bros. would have pulled the plug instantly.

 

Not knowing when the Wizarding World will open

This may be something of a short-lived problem – visitors this time next year won’t have to worry about Diagon Alley’s exact opening date – but it’s certainly the number one complaint of vacation planners everywhere at the moment, and its ramifications can possibly continue to wreak havoc on travel plans for a good while to come.

London waterfront at Diagon Alley - March 13, 2014.
London waterfront at Diagon Alley – March 13, 2014.

It’s been widely expected that Diagon Alley will open in June, just as Transformers: The Ride 3D did last year and the first Wizarding World did four years ago, but the closer we get to that time frame, the more widely-divergent information keeps popping up. Theme Park Insider, for instance, recently published a report that they had received “credible” word that soft openings will begin on May 14, meaning that June is certainly still in play.

But we here at Orlando Informer have heard back from one of our trusted sources that, given the amount of cycling time that is required on Escape from Gringotts before it can open (that’s 3,000 hours, in case you’re wondering), Universal may be looking at a September debut.

For now, all we can do is what we have been doing for two years already: speculate what the grand opening date will be. While it was fun for the first year or so, it’s starting to get tiresome for us – and we’re not even trying to plan a $5,000 summer vacation.

 

Despite the inevitable complaints, can there ultimately be any doubt that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will be one of the most magical experiences to be had at any theme park the entire world over? After almost exactly four years of incessant crowds and raised ticket prices, guests still flock to Hogsmeade, happily riding the same attractions and dropping loads of Muggle cash on the likes of chocolate frogs and non-interactive wands.

And this is precisely what all of us will do all over again starting this summer. To learn more, visit our Complete guide to Diagon Alley in the OI Universal Center.

Now you’ve heard our predictions. What are yours?

 

[sws_author_bio user=”msunyata@yahoo.com” size=”105″ authorposts=”More OI posts by Marc” name_format=”About the author”] [/sws_author_bio]

Marc N. Kleinhenz Marc N. Kleinhenz’s first dream in life was to be an astronaut. His second was an Imagineer. While neither completely worked out, he now works exclusively for Orlando Informer as a writer, editor, and podcast co-host. He’s also written for 32 other sites (including Screen Rant, IGN, The Escapist, and California Informer [OI's sister site]), has had his fiction featured in several publications, and has even taught English in Japan. Imagineering school won’t be too far behind.

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Connie Rodriguez-Frias
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Connie Rodriguez-Frias

With the lack of being able to use express passes, do you think there will be pass holder sneak peaks?

Janine Isles
Guest
Janine Isles

I will be giving this a total miss as it’s not my thing. Hopefully, most people will be flocking there so that leaves the rest of the park less busy 🙂

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

I think that will come down to when exactly Diagon Alley opens. If it is on time (June), then I believe Universal will etch out a little extra time for Passholders. If Diagon Alley opens later (July or after), then I think there’s little chance Universal will set extra time aside for Passholders.

Stuart Nielsen
Guest
Stuart Nielsen

I’ll grant you the two many stores and not enough rides but the $176 Hogwarts Express is silly imo. Sure some people will come just for Harry Potter but the majority of the crowds come for the entire Universal experience. Not having a hard date is only a hassle if you where set on traveling to Florida close to or on the opening. I have a word for those people, “crazy”. Personally I sold my family on another HHN + HP. October stay, smaller crowds and all the kids happy to miss a little school. 🙂

Milinda Lee Mueller
Guest
Milinda Lee Mueller

For the insane price and long lines, I don’t know if I’ll be making my way away from WDW to spend a day there like I was planning. Seems hectic, crowded, and just not worth it. I lovvvve HP but I can’t stand even looking at that picture.

Lucy Batochio
Guest
Lucy Batochio

Count me in as one of those complaining about the lack of Express Pass for onsite guests. If they built the rides with EP lines, why wait to use them? It’d be a great perk for those staying on site.

bev13
Guest
bev13

I’m excited and already starting to think of a touring plan that might work for my family.  We will stay onsite in January and have a 3-day park to park ticket.  We will go to all three early openings.  I’m think of going to Studios on the first day and getting on the Hogwarts Express first thing (so at least I know we’ll get on it) over to IOA.  Then head to Forbidden Journey, it is a constantly loading attraction so at least the line keeps moving.  We have already experience Hogsmead twice so we won’t have to spend as much time if it is super crowded. Then spend the rest… Read more »

Suzanne Torrey
Guest
Suzanne Torrey

Waiting until 1/ 2016, which hopefully, will mean lighter crowds.

Demeter04
Guest
Demeter04

May I recommend, if you are doing a 3 day park to park ticket looking into the annual pass? It has great discounts(including on site hotels) and it is cheaper than the 3 day park to park ticket. I have had mine for 3 years and I love it. I pay $24 for it a month(but you can just pay for it all at once) and I have enjoyed many a discount thanks to it. January usually has big discounts for pass holders as well. Just something to think about.

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

I would actually articulate the Hogwarts Express issue slightly
differently than the article did. Instead of guests complaining about
the overall cost, I think the complaint may be that Universal sold them
on paying the park-to-park premium over a single-park ticket, only for
those guests to find that the line for the Hogwarts Express is so long
they never end up using the park-to-park benefit. In other words, the
paid the upgraded price for nothing.

bev13
Guest
bev13

Demeter04 Thank you!!!  I didn’t even think of getting passes.  My husband might not like it because if we get passes I’ll probably drag everyone into the park on arrival day instead of just chilling at the hotel. 🙂

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

bev13 Sounds like a mighty fine plan to me. Also, surely by next January we will have fully updated our 3-day touring plan for on-site guests: http://bit.ly/oitouring plans.

Regarding Demeter04comments, that’s a very solid recommendation too. If you do decide to go the AP route, we have a whole page to assist with getting the best on-site hotel discounts: http://bit.ly/oiuoaph.

As far as the loading procedure for Gringotts, I think, functionally, it will be fairly similar to Revenge of the Mummy.

DougJenkins
Guest
DougJenkins

Going to be great time to see the rest of the park, however during the summer they will probably reach capacity at some point.  As an AP holder, I think I will stay away from HP until late Fall.  HULK here we come!

Demeter04
Guest
Demeter04

It also has discounts in the CityWalk including the AMC. It’s a great investment and it is something I recommend to everyone going for anything longer than a day.

Jason Schuck
Guest
Jason Schuck

Agreed the lack of capacity on HE will probably be its downfall. Not so sure fans will mind the stores–they don’t in Hogsmeade (granted, partially because they were so new and unique), and some should have displays that effectively make them walk-through attractions. One point I think you missed–parking. Toll booths can’t handle a busy HHN night or a Foreigner concert. If US and IoA both get record crowds, I’m not convinced the parking infrastructure (not just number of spaces but ability to get people to them quickly) is in place to support that.

Mike Carlo
Guest
Mike Carlo

Im going next month and hope all the people that are staying away in hopes that the new area will open soon will make the park less busy.

tayxoca
Guest
tayxoca

I still think that Hogwarts Express will release soft open at April!

CaptainAction
Guest
CaptainAction

bev13, Demeter04 is offering some excellent advice. The Universal Annual Pass is a great deal with discounts of around $50-$100 per night on rooms, 20% on food, beverages, merchandise, and movie ticket discounts, free parking (even valet) at the parks, just to name a few. 
Easily pays for itself over other passes. 
After about 10 months and the urge to go back hits you, you’ve already got the passes, so you call and get the AP discount again on the resort rooms and you have a prepaid chunk of vacation already covered.

Michael Wahrer
Guest
Michael Wahrer

Well going in October this should be interesting

Stuart Nielsen
Guest
Stuart Nielsen

I’ll grant you that Dan but how many people buy 1 park tickets? I know I don’t just doesn’t make any sense to me but then again I always have an Express Pass.

Susana Wednesday
Guest
Susana Wednesday

I was looking for flights to August but if there are possibilities to open the main ride in September, I think I must pass this year and wait for the next summer, with pain in my heart. I cannot risk my money (I come from Spain). When they say something for sure, the flight tickets will be much more expensive than now (1400 dollars the cheapest today). What a pitty! One year more waiting! T_T

Tryphena Kimball
Guest
Tryphena Kimball

Happy my vacation is planned for Oct of 2015! Hopefully lines will be down, maybe some rides will take express pass (i can hope), glitches will be fixed, and you will have more info to help me plan this trip. I am mainly doing universal for the potter stuff, so not thrilled that it is largely stores, i will be warning my son that purchases will be limited. Im thinking to give him a daily allowance. Also hoping this date will allow WDWs new express plan time to get adjusted so it works better then it sounds like now!

Alicia Soueid
Guest
Alicia Soueid

I didn’t realize Cabana Bay guests also get in an hour early. That makes staying at Royal Pacific pointless. I am not upset about the number of shops in Diagon Alley, however. And let’s not forget that there is supposed to be a fantastic show in Carkitt Market, as well as the new Ollivanders performances. I’d rather spend an hour shopping in Diagon Alley than “riding”the Shrek, E.T., or Twister attractions.

OrlandoInformer
Guest
OrlandoInformer

The parking problem is a very good point, as that is an ongoing complaint about Universal that will almost certainly be magnified by Diagon Alley.

Matthew Lynch
Guest
Matthew Lynch

I thought in September with express passes I’m hoping on EP rides we will queue very little throughout the day. Thus leaving lots and lots of free time to queue for Diagon Alley. If you see how I’m thinking 🙂

Matthew Lynch
Guest
Matthew Lynch

I think that Universal should have had an EPA at the deluxe hotels for Diagon Alley but only other areas for Cabana. Rooms at deluxe hotels bookings would have gone through the roof!

redneckotaku
Guest
redneckotaku

I still see the value of staying at the RPR or the other hotels with the rest of the parks Express Passes. Being able to have short lines at those attractions still makes it worth staying at the three other resorts (Not Cabana Bay). The others seem to be minor issues. If it doesn’t open until after prime season, they will have a lot less crowds overall this year due to many families not able to take kids out of school.

BrianArmstrong
Guest
BrianArmstrong

The not enough rides I see where it is coming from but the thing is the Harry Potter experience is going to take plenty of time to go through and I would rather have a few top notch rides then 5 mediocre rides. The number of people is going to be insane so the lines are going to be insane. Only way to kind of avoid this is to wait for the off season even though it is going to shatter all crowd records.

graspthesun
Guest
graspthesun

This is a big reason why I’m not returning to Orlando until Fall 2015.

graspthesun
Guest
graspthesun

bev13 I imagine that the loading procedures for Gringott’s won’t be much different from those of Revenge of the Mummy considering what we know about the ride and the ride vehicles.

PratikshaShrestha
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PratikshaShrestha

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