Recommend July 2017 - 25

Opposite page: Pandora-The World of Avatar. Below: Universal's Volcano Bay.

Iger. "It just felt so real to me, and I wanted to
visit there like millions of other people whose
curiosity and wonderment drove 'Avatar'
into the record books as the highest grossing
movie of all time.
"'Avatar' introduced us to a stunning new
world, breathtakingly beautiful and exotic.
Today, some years after its release, it's still
captivating us as we eagerly await this next
chapter. Working with Jim [Cameron] and his
team was a dream come true for all of us as we
pushed the limits of creativity and innovation
to bring the digital world of Pandora to the
real world of Disney's Animal Kingdom. And
now everyone, including me, who has ever
dreamed of visiting this extraordinary world,
could explore its astonishing landscape and
ecosystem, see the Na'vi, soar on the back
of a banshee, and become part of the Avatar
adventure. Pandora is just as great in person,
as it is on the screen."

Universal's Volcano Bay
With a racing heart and shaky hands, I
nervously gave an attendant the thumbs up
to release a drop door that would send me on
a winding journey down the Kala Serpentine
Body Slide at Universal's Volcano Bay.
The grand opening of the new attraction,
Universal Orlando Resort's first water theme
park, wouldn't be until the following morning
(May 25), but on this special preview day, I
had the welcomed task of experiencing this
slice of tropical paradise spanning 30 fully
immersive acres, sans crowds.
"Because it is a water theme park, we've
upped the ante everywhere," said v.p. and
executive art director, Universal Creative,
Dale Mason against the backdrop of the
park's centerpiece, a towering 200-ft.-tall
volcano known as Krakatau, which boasts
its own 4-person coaster that takes riders
into the volcano's dark twists and turns
before emerging through a waterfall. "The
attractions themselves have their own special
elements within them that you don't find in
traditional water park experiences. The resort
level of amenities here are really important.
The food is way beyond anything you're going
to get anywhere else...and the customer
service is way, way up there, and of course
we've wrapped it all in this amazing story of
our own of the Waturi people."
Like the father-and-son duo who took the
plunge before me, as soon as my feet made
"waterfall," signaling the end of the ride,

I was racing back to the slides' entrance
for a go on Kala's partner slide Tai Nui. Yet
rather than wait in a long, and equally as
sinuous line, I was able to tap my waterproof
TapuTapu wearable bracelet at a designated
post by the rides' entry point to virtually hold
my place in line. I also used the TapuTapu
wearable to rent a complimentary locker and
make purchases throughout the park. Keep
in mind the device does not serve as ID, so if
your clients want to partake in an alcoholic
beverage or specialty drink, such as the rum
and cranberry-infused Tiki Punch (and why
not?), they'll need to have their ID proving
their age handy.
During my short 5-minute interval, an
employee manning the entrance regaled
me with the park's fabled history, a Romeo
and Juliet-esque tale of lovers, Tai Nui
and Kala, who were separated (and later
reunited) by Tai Nui's protective father, the
fiery god Krakatau. The length of my wait
was due, in part, to the park being open to
finite number of guests. On my return trip
on opening day, I found wait times ranging
from 35 minutes to over an hour. While
they rest, park-goers can go on a scenic ride
along the Kopiko Wai Winding River, take a
dip in the sparkling blue waters of Waturi
Beach complete with wave pool, or sample
some of the South Pacific-inspired cuisine
cooked up by Universal Orlando Resort's
corporate executive chef Steve Jayson, and
executive sous chef, culinary research and
development, Robert Martinez, Jr. With
more than 60 delectable dishes and five

themed dining locations to choose from, I
thought it best to ask chef Martinez, Jr. for
his recommendation.
Though he didn't have a favorite per
se, chef Martinez, Jr. did tell me that "The
coconut curry chicken [on coconut rice] is
one of my favorites. If you like a little kick
at the end you're going to have to try this."
He also suggested the BBQ pulled pork
sandwiches with caramelized onions, mango
slaw and mango BBQ sauce or any one of the
park's healthier grab-and-go options, which
include an island chicken salad, tropical fruit
salad and sushi packs. I ended up opting for
the taco sampler with carne asada, chipotle
firecracker shrimp and pulled chicken mole
at The Feasting Frog, sorry chef; but the good
news is, it too, was delicious. After some
downtime, I was ready to take on the calmer,
sloping Honu ika Moana (green) multiperson slide rather than its more intrepid
counterpart (blue), which sweeps riders up
two massive walls like surfing a wave...maybe
next time.
A 1-day Volcano Bay ticket starts at $67
pp. For more exclusivity, update to a private
cabana, complete with padded lounge
chairs, concierge service, towel service, a
complimentary fruit and snack basket, a safe
and small fridge stocked with bottled water,
starting at $159.99. ■

Contact Information
Universal Orlando Resort:
Walt Disney World:

july 2017 25

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