I am an avid Disney-park fan and have visited all the Disney and Universal Studios (including IOA in Orlando but except Osaka) parks with different friends and family members. Therefore, imperatively, I will compare the attractions at Universal Studios Singapore with Disney’s. The Singapore park opened on 18-March-2010 (Thursday). They call it a “Soft Opening” as only limited daily advance tickets are sold, and during this period S$15 is rebated to the guest in the form of meal and retail vouchers. Initially, tickets are not sold for same day visit at the gate, but soon they realised that forward ticket sales are sluggish and within 3-days after opening they u-turned on their policy on advance tickets. Hence, from Monday 22-March-2010, tickets may be bought at the gate (subject to park capacity).
My friend and I took a day off from work and visited Universal Studios Singapore (USS) on Monday 22-March-2010 which is a regular working and school weekday. We arrived at the park at 9:20am and there was hardly anyone at the entrance. After the entry turnstiles (oddly, they use a bar code scanner for admission, instead of inserting the ticket into the gate for entry at all Disney parks), we walked right onto Hollywood Boulevard.
“Hollywood” zone does not have a ride attraction. This area has all the shops and food outlets just like Disney’s “Main Street”. We walked thru Hollywood as we knew that the shops would open even after the rest of the park closes for the day, so we will leave the window shopping till the end. Inside the park entrance, Guest Services are on the extreme left, whereas strollers, wheelchair and lockers for rent are on the extreme right side. At USS there are no motorised convenience vehicle or scooters available for rent (whereby these are common in the US for people or seniors with walking difficulties and the morbidly obese).
We walked down Hollywood Boulevard towards Lake Hollywood…errr… did they made a mistake? It looked more like a POND. Well ok, I have to admit that land scarce Singapore could not afford the same huge lake like the one at EPCOT. Along Hollywood Boulevard you can see the Walk of Fame Stars on both sides of the side walk inscribed with names of celebrities just like the real thing in LA. At the end of Hollywood zone (after making a right turn) is the “Pantages Hollywood Theater”. Currently on show is Monsters Rock musical with show times at 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm. It is quite an entertaining rock musical that runs for about 18-mins. Across the street and opposite Pantages is the very attractive pastel blue Mel’s Drive-In with replica of cars from the 1950s. It is quite popular with park visitors for photos opportunities. “The Brown Derby” shop selling an array of funny and silly hats (just like Mad Hatter shop in Fantasyland) is also popular with many people trying on the different hats for a quick photo and putting them back.
As we decided to do the park anti-clockwise. The next section after Hollywood is “New York”. The New York scene street is re-created in this small land. Again, there are no ride attractions in New York. There is a show attraction called “Lights, Camera, Action!” on the immediate left as you walk into New York. In this attraction, there is a pre-show followed by the main show which features the special effects of a major hurricane. Guests may get wet in the front row in the area marked in blue. The total run time for both pre-show and main show is about 10-mins. This attraction reminds me of “Twister” at the Orlando park. The Public Library Building of New York is replicated at the end of the street along with Palace Theatre at Times Square. Although in the New York zone on the park map, there is a “Stage 28” show attraction, but we just couldn’t find it on location!
We moved on to “Sci-Fi City” from New York. Sci-Fi City has 3 ride attractions. First, the Accelerator, which is similar to Mad Tea Party tea-cup ride. Accelerator would be the futuristic tea cups that spin guests round and round. No thanks! The 2 other ride attractions in Sci-Fi City are the scarily high roller coasters of Battlestar Galactica of Cylon and Human. The Human is a seated coaster on the red track, whereas the Cylon is a suspended roller coaster on the blue track. Both of these are not for the faint hearted, seniors and people with health issues. Our hearts amost poped out during the ride at the initial plunge.
In the “Ancient Egypt” section, my favourite ride is the Revenge of The Mummy. It is a roller coaster ride in the dark that is very much similar to Space Mountain. Due to the fast loading, we hardly waited for more than a minute to get into the car on the 3 times we took the ride. However it is an extremely long labyrinth walk from the front of the pyramid to the ride loading proper. It definitely took us longer to walk to the ride than the actual time we actually spent being on the ride. A photo would be taken in the final part of ride after the pause. You would see notice a bright flash light at the final drop. Remember to do a funny pose on camera! Unlike the Disney parks, USS staffers are over zealously aggressive in trying to block us from taking a picture of the screen shot that showed us on the ride. This never happened at Tokyo Disneyland when everyone would whip out their camera phones and took pictures of their ride photos displayed on the screens that you could purchase as a photo souvenir. This is a low-down of USS. They charge S$18 for each souvenir ride photo and S$30 for 2 copies.
Opposite the pyramid, the “Treasure Hunters” ride attraction is targeted at the little ones. “Treasure Hunters” is the mini version of Tomorrowland’s Autopia. The cars run on a fixed track.
In “The Lost World” section, we loved the Canopy Flyer. We took the ride twice, once back-facing and the second time front-facing in the direction of travel. The ride soars high above the Jurassic land of The Lost World at a fairly high speed. We felt like we were flying. The front-facing ride was more enjoyable than going backwards as we were able to see the direction of movement. The back facing seats were a little scary as we couldn’t see where we were going and could not predict the drop and turns. The ride time for this attraction is less than a minute and the loading is slow. Our wait time was about 10-mins each time. It is like an outdoor Peter Pan Flight but three times the speed. Next to Canopy Flyer is Dino-Soarin’. It is a jurassic flying creature merry-go-round ride just like the classic Dumbo The Flying Elephant ride in Fantasyland. We skipped this ride as weren't interested in merry-go-rounds.
The main attraction in The Lost World is Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure. This ride is strikingly similar to Kali River Rapids of WDW’s Animal Kingdom. The loading for this ride is slow as there is always confusion at boarding. We experienced the longest wait time here at 20-mins. Passengers climb aboard a circular 9-seater raft to begin a choppy drift down the waterway to the Hydroelectric Generator compound. Along the way prehistoric creatures roam free in the Jurassic Park area. You would travel in darkness thru the generator building and a plunge of 20-feet awaits guests at the end of the ride. You will get wet and may be even be soaked. It is part of the fun and we indeed were soaked at where we sat. Some guests bought disposable ponchos for this ride. The USS version differs totally from the other Jurassic Park water ride at other Universal Studios where they are a log flume water ride.
The Waterworld stunts spectacular show which opened in 1995 in the US was brought to USS. Currently 3 daily showtimes at 12noon, 2pm and 4pm. The duration of this live action show is about 20-mins. There are thrills and spills with some explosions and you may get wet when you are seated in the marked front sections of the amphitheatre. The show ends with the crash landing of the seaplane.
“Far Far Away” land is dominated by the Duloc Castle of Lord Farquaad. Within the castle is the show attraction, Shrek 4D. This attraction is similar to “Honey I Shrunk The Audience”, “Muppet Vision” and It’s Tough to be a Bug!”. Pre-show is about 7-mins followed by the main show in the cinema. The 3D glasses are for the main show only. The cinematic ride is 4D with movable seats, air jets and other special effects. The short film is about 10-mins in duration.
The Donkey LIVE attraction is an interactive live show in Far Far Away land. Guest can have a real-time conversation with Donkey in a cosy small intimate theatre. The setting is exactly the same as Disney's “Turtle Talk with Crush” and “Stitch Live!”.
There are two show attractions and one ride attraction in Far Far Away land. Enchanted Airways is a mini steel roller coaster. This ride looks quite bare with not much of an interesting theme to it. It looks and felt like one of those roller coaster rides in a touring fun fair. Loading is fast and the ride duration is less than a minute.
Currently in “Madagascar”, the only ride attraction is the boring King Julien’s Beach Party-Go-Round carousel. A Crate Adventure boat ride will not open until late 2010. I figured that this soon-to-open ride would be somewhat like It’s A Small World.
We were able to cover the park in 4-hrs. The park is very small. A complete walk around the park would probably take under 15-mins. As we wanted to enjoy a full day we went round the park 3 times over and covering some of the rides a couple of times.
The Universal Studios Store at the front of Hollywood is the largest theme park merchandise store that is similar what Emporium is to the Disneylands.
Tips to enjoy your Park Visit :
1) Leave your shopping at Hollywood till the end of the day. Shops will open until the last guests leave.
2) If you are going to stay till the park closes, schedule the Monster Rock 5pm show at the end of the day.
3) Generally most of rides have a wait time of 5-min or less, therefore it is totally not necessary to purchase the Express Pass.
4) Visit the park on a weekday.
5) Avoid lunch time between 12:30pm to 2pm for your meals. Either go before 12 noon or after 2pm. I had to wait 20-mins for a hot dog.
6) Water cooler fountains are available around the park. BYO disposable mineral water bottle to save on having to purchase drinks in the park.
7) Lockers are available in many places around the park. I am not sure why as this is unusual at Disneylands and Universal Studios in the US. First 30-mins of locker use is free.
Dislikes about the park:
2) Slow F&B service during lunch time (I’ve never waited so long, 20-mins, for food at a theme park before)
3) Small theme zones and the lack of attractions in each theme zone (I understand this is also a common grouse amongst visitors to the Universal Studio parks in the US as many are saying that it is not worth the price they are paying for their visit)
4) Cost extra for Express Pass unlike Disney’s free FastPass which is based on first-come-first-serve basis.
Positives about the park:
1) No crowds
2) Short wait times for rides due to few people in the park, and it is likely to stay that way.
Overall I enjoyed myself for the day. However, I am satisfied with just only a one-time visit to the park.
The over 100 photos of the park are available here ---> …photobucket.com/albums/…