Universal Orlando’s new water theme park, Volcano Bay, is impressive. In addition to its 18 attractions, magnificent theming, and pleasantly surprising dining options, the park offers a few upgraded options if you want to take your visit to the next level. Let’s look at what promises to be one of the more popular options, the Premium Seating Package.
We’ll start with what should be included with the premium seating package:
- A pair of padded lounge chairs with an adjustable shade canopy
- A lock box
- An area attendant to provide food and drink service
So how should the whole process work? First, reserve your seats in advance. The day we visited, premium seats were sold out before the park even opened. Once you enter the park, go to one of the concierge locations to check in for your reserved seating. There is a concierge location at the front of the park and another toward the back of the park. The line will likely be much shorter at the back of the park. The concierge attendant will check your reservation and escort you to your reserved seats. You will be given a flag that attaches to your canopy. This flag is used to signal the area attendant that you would like food or drink service. Your concierge escort will explain how the canopy and flag system work and make sure your lock box is linked to your TapuTapu wearable for easy access.
Universal lists the price for these premium seats starting at $29.99. Given that a locker alone will run you up to $15, that is an excellent price point for reserved seating under a nice canopy with poolside food and drink service available. The price varies, however, based on your travel dates, ranging from $29.99 up to $69.99. At $70, the overall value of this package comes into question.
Now, let’s look at how our actual experience with the premium seating unfolded. We were staying on-site at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort for our visit, so we were able to get into the park at 8 a.m., an hour early. We were directed by a team member to the concierge desk at the front of the park to check in for our premium seating. This would have been an excellent opportunity for the team member to point us toward the back concierge desk as the one we were directed to had a considerable line. After waiting about 15 to 20 minutes in the line, we were checked in and stood waiting another 10 minutes for an escort to take us to our seats. Once our escort arrived, he proceeded to take us in the wrong direction to a full cabana rather than to our reserved seats. Only after we corrected him and explained that we had premium seats and not a cabana did he realize his mistake. Now, we were on the entirely wrong side of the park. Once we arrived at our actual seats, which were right next to the concierge desk we had started at, our escort explained nothing about the lock box, the canopy, the area attendant, or anything. After he left, we discovered that our lock box didn’t actually lock at all. At this point, it was 8:45 a.m., and the park would be open to general admission in 15 minutes. We decided to try and hit a few rides while we could and deal with the issue later.
We had some fun and made our first TapuTapu virtual line reservations of the day before returning to our seats. Luckily, nothing was missing from our unlocked lock box. We went to the concierge desk and explained the problem. A team member came to our seats and also couldn’t get the box to lock. An area supervisor came to our seats and couldn’t get the box to lock. We were told a maintenance team member was coming to switch out the locks, but we never saw anyone.
While we were waiting on the lock box issue to be resolved, we decided to eat an early lunch and get back to the rides. We searched for a while for our area attendant, found her, told her where we were seated, and requested some menus. She never returned. After chatting with the family at the seats next to us, we discovered that we should have received a canopy flag so that the area attendant could find us, which of course never happened. We ended up walking over and having tacos at the Feasting Frog, and they were spectacular!
The only other issue of note was that the canopy itself, while listed as adjustable, wasn’t as adjustable as expected. It will raise as pictured, and it will lower to leave the loungers completely exposed. It will not, however, angle forward at all to adjust for the moving sun. So after about 1:30 p.m., we were sitting fully in the sun with virtually no shade on our chairs.
Based on our experience, it is clear that this is a new park and that this service still has some issues to work out. To Universal’s credit, everyone we spoke to was incredibly nice and wanted to help. With everything being so new they just didn’t seem to know how yet. Ultimately, guest services refunded us our money for the premium seating since none of the perks we paid for were actually delivered. If everything had worked as expected, this option would definitely appeal to certain guests. Anyone arriving later in the morning when the free chairs are all taken would love to have a pair of loungers reserved and waiting for them. For anyone arriving at park open or during early access, however, there are plenty of chairs available in multiple locations under large umbrellas that would be perfectly comfortable. Or if you really want to splurge and have a super relaxing day, spring for a full cabana with complimentary snacks, a water-stocked refrigerator, and your own private TapuTapu station for all of the rides throughout the park.
So here are your quick tips if you want to give the Premium Seating Package a try:
- If there is a line at the front concierge desk, check the back concierge desk for a shorter wait.
- Make sure your concierge escort gives you a flag for your canopy and fully explains the process for ordering food and drinks from your area attendant.
- Double check that your lock box works properly before your concierge escort leaves.
- If there are issues with your seating, don’t let it ruin your day. Relax. Don’t waste your park time worrying about it, and know that the Universal team members will do everything they can to make it right in the end.
Even with some new park hiccups, we thoroughly enjoyed our day at Volcano Bay. Whether you reserve premium seats, rent a full cabana, or just enjoy the free open seating, this beautifully themed water park has a great deal to offer.
For more tips on planning your park day, check out “Making The Most of Volcano Bay” and discover how to survive capacity crowds at Universal’s newest park.