ORLANDO — Universal Orlando opened its third park on Thursday, this one a resort-style water attraction called Volcano Bay that features a waterproof wristband that promises to eliminate lines.
The wristband, called a Tapu Tapu, has a read-only feature that alerts visitors that their time is coming up for rides they have selected. It also can be used as a credit card, opens lockers and can set off water features around the park. And there are selfie stations around the park where you can tap your device, get your picture taken and decide whether to buy a photo package.
"Talk to anybody who goes to a theme park and they will tell you waiting in line is always the biggest hassle," said Chris Crayner, senior vice president and chief digital officer for Volcano Bay who led the team that developed the wearable technology. "When you start with that premise to eliminate that from the ground up, you can explore some new ways of doing things."
As with many of Universal's best features these days, the service starts by downloading the theme park app. That sets up your account and credit card, and when you show up, the wristband is waiting for you. Tap it on a kiosk to reserve a time on a ride, and you can then play in the lazy river, beach or splash in the wave pool at the base of the 200-foot volcano called Krakatau.
The wristband will alert you when your ride is ready.
Universal is estimated to have spent $200 million on the 30-acre park off Interstate 4 in Orlando, more than twice the usual price of a new park.
It has 15 water attractions, including an "aqua coaster" ride in the volcano that uses magnetic forces to propel riders up and down the slide inside the volcano like a rollercoaster. At a media preview Wednesday, that ride was by far the most popular, but also out of commission for a few hours. The volcano also has a drop from 125 feet in the air, the tallest and fastest trap-door slide in the world.
The picturesque volcano lights up at night, when the water looks like lava coming out of the top, shooting more than 100 feet in the air. The lush setting surprisingly blocks out the noise and sight of I-4 that zooms nearby.
Visitors should note that there is no parking lot here. Access comes through shuttles at the CityWalk parking garage or Universal's on-sight hotels.