Thursday, February 16, 2006

 

Universal Express a Thing of the Pass

Universal Express, Universal Orlando's answer to Disney's FASTPASS, is a thing of the pass...I mean, past.

In a move that is sure to be branded as unalloyed corporate greed, Universal is dumping the free pass machines but keeping the paid Universal Express Plus program, which allows visitors to pay for the privilege of getting front of the line (FOTL) privileges on the parks' rides.

The passes which vary in price from $15 to a whopping $50, depending on crowd levels, allow one FOTL access per person per ride. Guests at the three resort hotels continue to get unlimited FOTL privileges during their stay by flashing their room key card.

 

Jaws Bites...Again!

Hooray, Jaws is back and better than ever at Universal Orlando.

One of my favorite rides, Jaws has been closed more than open the last year. At least, they took the down time to do a complete refurbishment. Then, bowing to vociferous fan pressure, Universal brought the ride back full time.

There have been rumors that the ride was on the way out, but there are also indications that it will be around for a good long while.

Steven Smith, a former Universal employee and now operations manager at Baker Leisure Group, an Orlando-based theme park consulting firm, said the ride is unlikely to lose much relevance because the Jaws brand is an "evergreen" known worldwide.

He also said the ride is valuable to Universal because its capacity -- reported at 2,500 people an hour -- is phenomenal by thrill-ride standards. A typical major ride at most theme parks would do well to handle 1,800 people an hour, Smith said.

 

Here We Go Again

The Orlando Sentinel is all in a tizzy over another accident at Disney World, this time involving a 70-year-old man in the Peter Pan ride boarding area. It was no big deal.

The Sheriff's Office began investigating the incident but backed off when it was determined the man's injuries were not life-threatening.


Which obviously upset the Sentinel reporter who then went on to recap four -- count 'em, four! -- more serious mishaps at the parks.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

 

'Blue Horizons' Gets Lit at SeaWorld Orlando

Blue Horizons, the popular new SeaWorld show is about to get a technological upgrade.

The show, which mixes performances by dolphins, macaws and an assortment of other animals, has been a popular draw since its debut last Memorial Day. But it has been limited by the lack of a lighting system at the Whale and Dolphin Theatre.

That's about to change, with the park's new strategy "SeaWorld at Night" aimed at boosting attendance during extended evening hours this summer. The lighting should be installed this spring -- in time for the summer hours, when the park will be open until 9 or 10 p.m. each night.

 

Orlando is Bass Fishing's Magic Kingdom

If you missed the fact that Orlando has great fishing, not to mention a small army of bass guides, Bassmaster magazine, via ESPN, has now made it official:

As if Walt Disney hadn't already brought fantasyland to Orlando, Dean Rojas weighed in five bass that averaged more than 9 pounds each at the BASS Florida Top 150 Tournament on West Lake Tohopekaliga in January 2001. It was the greatest single-day catch in BASS tournament history.

 

Pirates Gets A Makeover

Johnny Depp, or at least Jack Sparrow, is coming to Pirates of the Caribbean, when Walt Disney World shuts the ride down for a complete makeover.

Time to start saving up for your next visit!

Friday, February 03, 2006

 

Popeye Walks The Plank

Some famous characters at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios are getting pink slips, but others are being brought on board, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Betty Boop is being booted. Fred Flintstone is getting fired. Popeye is being popped. Hard times are coming for a handful of Universal Orlando characters and some of the actors who play them.

Universal is ending the roles of 10 of the 120 or so costumed characters and some show hosts at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, spokeswoman Cynthia Gordon confirmed Tuesday. Twenty-nine actors who play the parts full and part time were given 30 days' notice last week that their roles were ending.


There is some good news for Lucy and Desi fans, though.

The Zorro and Elena characters from two recent Zorro movies, and the penguins and other characters from the movie Madagascar were introduced this past fall on a test basis and will become full time. Lucy and Ricky were seasonal characters and now will become daily, and a full-time band is being added to join them, Gordon said.

 

World Fair For Kids, April 15 - 23

If you thought marketing to kids was getting a little over the top, you ain't seen nothin' yet. here are some excerpts from a press release announcing the "Orlando World's Fair For Kids 2006":

To be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida from April 15-23, this historic event marks the first time a World’s Fair has been developed for a specific niche group, and represents the first World’s Fair in the United States since the 1984 exposition in New Orleans.

“Just like the first World’s Fair in London in 1851, every aspect of the Worlds Fair for Kids is designed to enlighten and inspire kids and their families to explore things around them and to imagine the potential they have in this world, ” said Brian Sockin, the event’s visionary and executive producer. “Our young event-goers should expect to see and do things that will touch and change their lives today and in the future.”

For just under half the cost of a day at a theme park, at $29.95 per day, the Orlando World’s Fair for Kids 2006 ticket provides access to an expansive range of themed and interactive experiences, in addition to one of the single-largest assemblies of kid and family entertainment around. Some main fair features include:
• Six worlds of interactive experiences including the World of Adventure, World of Creativity, World of Entertainment, World of Creativity, World of Technology and the World of Health & Fitness.
• Several interactive pavilions themed around everything from sports and fashion, to technology and adventure.
... snip ...
• Various world record-breaking attempts documented by Guinness World Records representatives.
• An impressive stadium hosting sporting events and various competitions.
• A real A-I “artificial intelligent” robot named Quasi, created by college students of Carnegie Mellon University.

“Orlando World’s Fair for Kids 2006” tickets are available in single-day, two-day or multi-day passports. Single-day tickets cost $29.95, two-day tickets are $44.95 and multi-day passports are $59.95. Children under three are free. Tickets can be purchased online at www.wfkids.com or by calling (407) 852-9341. In addition to the Orlando World’s Fair for Kids 2006 ticket, VIP upgrades may be purchased for preferred access to the performance areas, VIP Lounge, VIP character meet and greets, and a 15% discount on all Orlando World’s Fair for Kids 2006 licensed merchandise by going to www.wfkids.com and clicking the VIP icon.

Additional information on the “Orlando World’s Fair for Kids 2006” is available online at www.wfkids.com or by contacting the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau at (407) 363-5872.


One part of me wants to say, "Yuk!" The other part wants to say, "Oooh, Daddy, Daddy, when can we go?"

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

 

"Are Your Kids Trying To tell You Something?"

Universal orlando, which already has pretty solid reputation as the "adult" theme park complex in Orlando is trying to broaden its appeal by bringing in younger visitors. Actually, anyone who has visited the parks knows that both Universal Studios and, especially, Islands of Adventure already have a large teenage following.

But the Orlando Sentinel is reporting on a clever new ad campaign aimed squarely at the younger set.

To drive home that point, one of Universal's new TV commercials, which started airing Monday, features a young girl standing in front of the Incredible Hulk coaster at Islands of Adventure, declaring, "If I had to hug one more princess on my vacation, I was going to hurl."

That cuts to a young boy at Islands of Adventure's Doctor Doom's Fearfall declaring, "Sure I liked fairy tales. When I was 5." Then a girl stands in front of the Jurassic Park River Adventure and says, "In case you forgot, I'm not 8 anymore; I'm 81/2." The commercial then asks, "Are your kids trying to tell you something?"


The campaign is most likely in response to the 8.5 percent decline in attendance posted last year. But that was most likely due to the overwhelming marketing juggernaut launched by Walt Disney World's 50th birthday celebration, so the numbers are probably not as dire as they look.

 

Entertainment Card Changes at Resort Hotels

Seem like getting a good deal at the resort hotels using the Entertainment Card is not a slam dunk.

An alert reader reported the following:

We called the Royal Pacific Resort (407-503-3000) hotel and they said they have no arrangement with the
Entertainment Card. We then called the Entertainment Card organization (888-231-7283) and they said their books only have discount coupons for park admission and spending points/dollars in the parks but they referred us to another part of their company at 800-504-6835. We called and were told that their is no discount available but that if we made our reservations through them, we would get discount coupons available at area attractions and businesses and would be guarenteed the best rate if we learned of a price lower than the rack rate.


I contacted Loews and a spokesperson responded:

In 2005 we participated differently, by referring members to book via the card's on-line system. The program became paperless last year, hindering our ability to verify membership validity. If an entertainment card member logs onto their member website, they can make reservations for participating hotels. This web [site] links the booking through Hotels.com and then to us.


So it would seem that it is still possible to get some sort of Entertainment Card deal, but that doesn't explain the runaround the reader reported. Hmmm.

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