Universal Orlando’s new Volcano Bay water park does away with long lines and lugging rafts

Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay promises to do away with two hassles that are the bane of any water park visit: waiting in lines and carrying rafts up flights of stairs.

The new water park, set to open May 25, will occupy 30 acres wedged between an interstate highway and Universal’s Cabana Beach Resort hotel in Orlando, Fla.

Volcano Bay effectively replaces the Universal-owned Wet ’n’ Wild water park, which closed last year.

Volcano Bay, dubbed a “water theme park,” will stay open as late as 10 p.m. to show off the transformation of the centerpiece mountain from daytime waterfalls to nighttime lava flows.

Volcano Bay’s elaborate back story begins with the journey of the fictional Waturi Islanders as they search for a new home in the South Pacific. Guided by a magical golden-finned fish, the Waturi traveled by outrigger canoes to Bali, Tahiti, New Zealand and Easter Island before finding a mythical smoking mountain named after the fiery god Krakatau. The legend informed all creative decisions during the development of the water park, which combines the cultures, music and design aesthetics of many Polynesian islands.

Volcano Bay promises to eliminate lines with a Tapu Tapu wristband that is included with every admission. The virtual queuing system allows visitors to tap a wristband at a totem station to book a return time for the park’s major water slides.

An LCD touchscreen keeps track of all the booked ride times, and the wristband vibrates 15 minutes before visitors need to return to a slide. Extra time can be spent in the wave pools, lazy river, water play fortress, restaurants and shops. The wristband also triggers interactive water jets and lighting effects throughout the park.

The Volcano Bay wristband was developed by Britain-based Accesso, which also makes the QBot handheld device that powers the Flash Pass virtual queue system at Six Flags parks. The wristband’s capabilities include proximity-based marketing, push notifications, cashless purchases, photo tagging, locker rentals and keyless hotel room entry. Universal plans to roll out the technology to its other theme parks.

The 18 attractions in the park will be divided into four themed lands: Krakatau Volcano, Wave Village, River Village and Rainforest Village.

The park’s marquee Krakatau Aqua Coaster ascends the park’s 200-foot-tall Krakatau Volcano with the help of magnetic propulsion. The water coaster mimics the ups and downs of a traditional roller coaster with linear induction motors that power raft riders over whoop-de-do hills and down high-speed drops. The journey begins in an elevated jungle temple loading station where riders climb into four-seat inflatable canoe-shaped rafts. Following a brief drop, the raft ascends through the mist and into the volcano. The water coaster travels through a series of darkened passageways and twists before finally plunging through a waterfall.

Other attractions on the park’s signature volcano include a trio of trap-door body slides and a four-lane racing slide with mats designed to look like manta rays.

The Rainforest Village includes a whitewater inner-tube ride, four twisting raft slides, a pair of body slides with splashdown finales and a six-person raft ride with a zero-gravity wall.

The River Village features a pair of multi-person raft slides, a three-story water fortress and a lazy river.

The Wave Village, as you might expect, is home to a pair of wave pools.

Kohola Reef, the park’s tropical-themed sit-down restaurant, serves coconut curry chicken, glazed Hawaiian ribs and mango barbeque pulled pork sandwiches. Quick-service stands offer hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and tacos.

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