Ever since Volcano Bay was first announced two years ago, there has been one overriding question that keeps inundating us here at OI HQ (and Universal’s Guest Services department and, we’re pretty sure, every other part of the online themed community, as well): “Will my annual pass work at the water theme park?”
We now, at long last, have our answer: yes, it will – with a catch. A pretty big, (somewhat) pricey catch.
Would you like the short-and-sweet version? All currently-existing passholders are welcome to purchase an upgrade that will make their two-park pass into a three-park one. Which of the four APs you possess will determine how much this fee will be.
There is, of course, a longer answer, one that includes a lot of fine-print details that are actually pretty important to how the whole process works and will help you determine whether you should plunge into Volcano Bay’s waters now or wait until a little later on. We can’t emphasis this last point enough: by reading all this information, you can potentially save lots of money.
Let’s get down to brass tacks, then, shall we?
Upgrading your annual pass
For all those who are already annual passholders, you can pay a one-time charge that will grant you access to Volcano Bay from the day of its opening, May 25, until the day that your AP expires, whenever that may be (more on this in just a moment, as this could be a make-or-break point in your decision-making).
The cost for the three lower ticket options – the Seasonal, Power, or Preferred Pass – is $99; upgrading your Premier Pass will cost you $149.
(Please note that this is for upgrading your admission without upgrading its category – for example, making your two-park Seasonal Pass into a three-park Seasonal Pass. If you want to, say, upgrade your two-park Preferred Pass to a three-park Premier Pass, you’ll have to pay a completely different amount [more on this, once again, shortly].)
Why the difference in price for the highest echelon of annual pass? Easy – Premier holders will be getting an extra perk that the three other variations won’t be receiving, and that can be summed up in two words:
Yes, when it comes to the theme parks, only the bottom two annual-pass categories have blackout dates – but Volcano Bay is a whole different story, and those blockouts will extend to the Preferred Pass here, as well. This leaves Premier passholders as the only ones who can come and go freely at the new water park throughout the year.
What do these new blackout dates look like? For now, at least, not much; Universal’s official listing just has all of July blocked out for the Seasonal, Power, and Preferred Passes.
KEEP YOUR EXPIRATION DATE IN MIND
This is probably the single-most important part of this whole new three-park annual process, so please pay close attention.
Let’s say your annual pass – whichever tier you happen to have – expires in June. That means you would have to pay the $100 or $150 fee for access to Volcano Bay… and then you’d have to purchase a whole new year’s AP the following month. Yes, that’s right – all that extra money would just buy you a few weeks’ worth of water-park admission, and that’s that.
Of course, if you just have to be among the first to brave the Krakatau Aqua Coaster or splash in The Reef, then that upgrade charge will be worth it to you. Or if your renewal date is in July or, ideally, even later in the year, then the decision to pay the Krakatau price would also be a no-brainer. But for all those who are trying to keep a careful eye on their bank accounts – especially considering that Universal increased ticket prices by a not-insignificant amount just last month – holding off on the upcharge and just waiting until their next 12-month period starts will be the better way to go.
Speaking of renewing…
RENEWING YOUR THREE-PARK ANNUAL PASS
All those passholders who will eventually wish to renew their three-park AP, once this next 12-month cycle ends, will receive a 20% discount off of the standard price (i.e., what it costs for first-timers to buy an annual pass).
UPGRADING AND CHANGING CATEGORIES
If you already thought things were complicated, hold on tight.
As touched on before, if you wish to upgrade to a different category (using that example of going from a two-park Preferred to a three-park Premier Pass again), the process is completely different and not at all a flat rate. When changing the level of your admission, you’ll pay the difference between the cost of your current two-park pass and the new three-park one you’re going for. (Universal has been kind enough to create the handy table above to help you run the numbers of how much this might be.)
Here’s a quick example scenario: if you wanted to upgrade your two-park Preferred Pass (currently priced at $384.99) to a three-park Premier Pass ($688.99), your cost would be $304 (the difference in the two prices). This is for out-of-staters, we should probably add – Florida residents would fork over $289.
HOW CAN I UPGRADE?
Here’s another important point to ascertain in all of Universal’s fine print: every pre-existing annual passholder will need to physically get him- or herself to Universal Orlando and head to Islands of Adventure’s Group Sales window in order to upgrade his two-park ticket to a three-park one. Furthermore, you won’t be able to upgrade your family members’ annual passes without them being there with you.
The “Passholder Upgrade Center” (Universal’s official title for the operation) will open on April 3 and run through April 30, with the daily hours of service being 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
While no one will be able to purchase the Volcano Bay add-on over the phone for the time being, we do believe that Universal will eventually allow APs to do so telephonically – at some point, later on in the year, once the tidal wave of transactions subsides to a more manageable flow.
Buying a new annual pass
In case having four different types of annual passes wasn’t confusing enough, Universal has essentially doubled that number by making all four different categories come in two different options: two-park (just Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure) or three-park (the aforementioned theme parks and Volcano Bay).
As one might expect, the two varieties have quite a difference in price, as you can see here:
And before you ask, yes, you’re able to purchase these brand-new, three-park passes over the phone by calling Universal’s Guest Contact Center.
Changes in previous annual passholder benefits
EXPRESS PASSES AT VOLCANO BAY
Yes, just like the two theme parks, Volcano Bay will be getting Express Passes. Unlike either Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure, however, there are a few differences in how the overall line-jumping process works.
For starters, there’s the actual process of how this will function – instead of getting into a different, shorter line than the standby queue, you’ll simply skip the return-time part of the process and get right in line for the watery attractions (you can read all about that here).
Now for the catch: whereas Premier passholders have gotten used to getting complimentary Unlimited Express Passes after 4:00 pm at the theme parks, they’ll be getting no such privilege here. It’s a bummer, we know, but – on the flip side – hopefully it’ll help to keep the (return) wait times for all the slides as low as possible during this inaugural summer.
EARLY PARK ADMISSION TO VOLCANO BAY
Here’s another traditional AP perk that will be rescinded at the new water theme park: annual passholders won’t be eligible for Early Park Admission. Instead, they’ll need to stay at an on-site hotel, along with all the regularly-ticketed guests.
Throwing a bone to annual passholders
Here’s one positive for you, however: a “passholder experience” is currently being planned for Volcano Bay – but we have yet to hear the date or time, or what kind of registration may or may not be necessary beforehand.
One last thing
A friendly piece of advice for all of the Premier passholders out there, once you’ve upgraded to (or renewed at) the three-park version of your ticket.
Even though Express Passes and Early Park Admission might have been removed from your cadre of bonuses at Volcano Bay, your free valet parking privilege is still in good standing. Here’s the thing, though – we recommend that you don’t take advantage of it on those days that you visit the water park.
The reason why goes a little something like this: valet parking is, of course, stationed right next to Hollywood Drive-In Golf at CityWalk, but the shuttles that head over to Volcano Bay are located on the first floor of the Transportation Hub’s south parking structure – meaning that you’ll need to backtrack quite a bit, and you’ll probably end up fighting through swarms of people on the way there (especially in the mornings). It’s best to eschew valet altogether and, instead, self-park.
We realize this is a lot of information and can be pretty confusing. That’s why we’re devoting most of this week’s Orlando Informer Podcast to discussing this news and answering your questions. The podcast will be recorded live on our Facebook page today at 5:30 pm EDT.
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