Sunday, March 13, 2011

Universal Studios Singapore

Officially opened in the 2nd half of 2010, Universal Studios Singapore is still a work-in-progress.  After 11 months of being grounded, the theme park's main attraction - the Battlestar Galactica, re-opened only recently in February 2011.  Other up-and-coming attractions include the Madagascar Crate Adventure boat ride (slated to open in mid-2011) and a Transformers ride expected to open at the end of 2011.  The Transformers Ride should be part of Sci-Fi City, but it isn't marked on the current version of the Studio Guide.

Since the Battlestar Galactica was not operational yet, many Singaporeans (self-included) chose to put off making a visit to the park.  Must get the most out of my money, mah!  Having missed the opportunity to visit USS via a corporate event last year, and being a huge fan of theme parks, I decided to take the plunge anyway and headed for the park back in January this year (told myself that it was for my birthday, nevermind that I would be paying to enter an incompleted park).  Plus, there was a credit card promotion for a 20% discount on entry to the park that month!  With two such compelling reasons, the only thing that could have dissuaded me from going would be the haphazard rainy weather this tiny island has been experiencing for the past few months.  Thankfully, the clouds held back on the day of my visit, woot! \(^o^)/
Battlestar Galactica @ Sci-Fi City - Re-opened in February 2011

Planning Your Day at USS
Despite its humble size of 20 hectares, you can still easily spend up to an entire day in the park.  Since the attractions are relatively close to one another, you can walk back and forth between the different attractions without much effort.  At my estimation, it should take about just 15 to 20 minutes to walk one round the entire park (without stopping for anything).  Rides are pretty short as well, and the queues move relatively fast.  At the most popular rides such as the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure and Revenge of the Mummy, expect to wait up to or over an hour during peak periods.  If you're intending to spend an entire day at the park, this should not be a concern.

Park operating hours:  Mon - Sun: 10:00 am to 7:00 pm
Ticket prices:  Click here to see official website.
Time needed:  I'd estimate at least 3-4 hours to explore just the good stuff.
Getting there:  Click here to see official website.  If you're leaving from Harbourfront/VivoCity, I recommend taking the bus, RWS 8, as it is $2 for a round trip as compared to a $3 round trip ticket on the Sentosa Express (monorail thingie).  Both bring you right to the doorstep of Resort World and the bus tends to have more seating, although the ride is less scenic and less of a novelty.

Universal Express Pass
Like most mega theme parks, USS gives you the option to purchase an additional ticket - the Universal Express Pass, which allows you to join a priority queue on pre-determined rides where long queues are expected.  However, priced between S$30 to S$68, and usuable on each ride once only, I personally would not advise spending the extra money on the pass.  For starters the park is not that big, there aren't that many rides, and if you have one whole day to spare at the park, it is probably more than enough time for you to sit on each ride at least once, even if you have to queue an hour for the popular rides.  Unless the park gets insanely crowded in the future when all the rides have opened, even then I would suggest getting a two-day pass instead.  It's more economical and you get to enjoy the rides as many times as you like.  Take the time to bond with your friends/family while you're queueing. :)

Attractions with Showtimes
I frown upon the current version of the Studio Guide, mainly because it does not inform you which attractions have limited performances per day, nor a separate leaflet providing the show timings.  My memory is a little fuzzy on this, but if I am not wrong, there is an electronic board with the various show timings located around the end of the Hollywood stretch - either at point 'L' or point '11' on the map.  It would be a good idea to find out the various timings of the performances so you can better plan your route around the park.  To my knowledge, current attractions with limited showtimes include WaterWorld and Pantages Hollywood Theater.  Do check with the ticketing counter for updated information at the point of your visit!  As a value-added bonus, this blog has marked out the locations of timed shows on our copy of the Studio Guide!  Look out for the red coloured movie clapper symbols!
FromTwoPassports's Studio Guide with exclusive info!

Free Lockers
Near some rides like Revenge of the Mummy, the lockers offer free usage for the first 30 minutes, and it costs about $2-$3 for the next hour or so. Do remember to bring along some cash/credit card with you in case you end up spending more than 30 minutes on the ride.  Some rides like the smaller coasters also have cubby holes for riders to place their bags when it's your turn to ride.

1)  Revenge of the Mummy [Ancient Egypt] If you had time for only 1 ride, this would be it*.  Not only is Ancient Egypt one of the more intricately designed and built-up areas in the park, the Mummy ride has a good storyline and sufficient speed/surprises to get some adrenaline pumping.  The walkway into the ride is about a good 3 minute walk.  If you find yourself queueing near the entrance to the ride, expect the waiting time to be over an hour, I'd imagine.
*Note: This is without consideration for the Battlestar Galactica & Transformers rides which were not yet open at the point of my visit.
A gianormous Anubis statue standing tall in Ancient Egypt

2)  WaterWorld [The Lost World]
A live action show with excellent effects and even the routine to warm-up the crowds before the actual show starts is entertaining.  Depending on how dry/wet you would like to end up, find yourself a seat in the splash/dry zone and enjoy the show (seating zones are differentiated by the colour of the benches).  The show arena is quite large and could probably accomodate a few hundred/thousand spectators at a time, so do not walk away from the ride if you see a large crowd in the queue - the guides at the entrance will probably inform you if the seating capacity has been reached.

As aforementioned, the performance only runs a few times per day at certain timings, so you'll have to check this out before you begin wandering around the park.  You wouldn't want to miss this! 
Warming up the crowd at WaterWorld

3)  Lights, Camera, Action! Hosted by Steven Spielberg [New York]
Experience a major hurricane in the safety of this show-ride.  Warning, you may be blown away at the end of the show - by the awesome special effects, that is! 
The hurricane is legen..wait for it... dary!

4)  Enchanted Airways [Far Far Away]
I would call this a kiddy coaster, but the queue clears relatively fast and the coaster is still quite speedy to stir up some excitement.  I find the ride is a tad short though, and it felt like the ride ended prematurely just as the adrenaline was kicking in.  I suppose with the limited land space, this was the best they could do~
Far Far Away

The B-Side Rides/Shows
If you have time left after visiting the above 3 attractions, you may want to consider these next few rides:

1)  Shrek 4-D Adventure [Far Far Away]
Story progression wise, it gets a bit slow if you're already familiar with the Shrek movies.  The 3-D visuals are not too fantastic, but some of the 4th-D effects were quite realistic, enabling this ride to be even part of the B-list.  I found the seats a bit too hard as well, and it got a bit painful when the seats rocked - but this can be overcome by leaning your head slightly forward, no biggie.

2)  Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure [The Lost World]
Touted to be one of the most popular rides in the park, I really didn't care much for this spinning raft ride.  Not only is the spinning rather redundant and bordering on annoying, this ride leaves you a 30% chance of getting SOAKED from head to toe.  And by head to toe, I mean your scalp will be wet, and your feet will be ankle-deep in water.  Leave your bags in a locker unless you want them flooded (assuming you're in the seat which gets you soaked).  I have a hypothesis on how to choose the seats which leave you the driest, but that would spoil the only fun this ride has to offer, wouldn't it? ;)

3)  Canopy Flyer [The Lost World]
An overhead coaster which gives you the option of being seated faced forwards or backwards, I'd choose the backwards option to up the thrill factor.  Not much to scream about, but it's a good ride to be on to blow-dry yourself if you've just been soaked on the Rapids Adventure. ;)

4)  Pantages Hollywood Theater
Limited performances per day, the rock-n-roll musical wasn't too entertaining either.  And what is up with the usage of The Wonder Girls' 'Nobody' song in USS?  This wasn't the only attraction which made references to that song... A little passe, isn't it?  Maybe it was still amusing at the point when the choreography was being put together... but it's 2011 now, perhaps emulating a SNSD or Super Junior hit is more relevant??

I usually have to be restrained by weary friends at the merchandise shops in theme parks to limit my buying, but it was almost the exact opposite situation at USS.  We were given two $5 retail coupons with our pair of admission tickets (1 coupon per ticket), and you could only use 1 coupon per purchase so we had to make 2 separate purchases to make use of both coupons.  S didn't see anything to buy in ANY of the shops at all (we went to every single shop, mind you), and I myself barely managed to spend my own coupon.  Is the quality of merchandise in USS really that unappealing?  Or maybe I've just been spoilt by Disney / Lotte World / Everland...
Not suitable for consumption

1)  Loui's NY Pizza Parlour [New York]
I've not been to NY before so I've no idea what the 'Original NY Pizza Slice' should taste like, but the one you get here is a very thin crusted pizza slice.  Cold pizza is never nice, so ask that your pizza slice gets warmed up if you find you've been served a slice that's been sitting out for awhile.

2)  Fossil Fuels [The Lost World]
Junk food with a cute Woody Woodpecker lunch box for the Kid's Meal.  I'm an '80s kid so I'm a sucker for anything that reminds me of my childhood, and Woody Woodpecker was part of my early years. :)
Refueling at Fossil Fuels
 3)  Mel's Drive-In [Hollywood]
Classic all-American comfort food, 'nuff said.

To wrap up this post, I'd say I would definitely make a return trip back to the park, but perhaps only when all the other rides have opened.  Despite its humble size, USS is still quite entertaining for a day trip.  The only risk though, is the erratic days of rain Singapore has been seeing in recent months.  Feedback from friends who have experienced the park on a rainy day reveals that the park does not seem to be able to handle a heavy downpour too well - some of the waiting areas to the indoor rides were flooding even!  A good number of the fun rides are also outdoors, and would probably not be operational in the event of heavy rain.  Make sure the sun is brightly shining before you decide to make a trip down to the park.  And even then, you'd best be praying for good weather throughout the day! ;)

See ya next time, Universal Studios Singapore!
Posted by dawn.wong on 3/13/2011 01:56:00 AM in , , , , ,