Universal Orlando’s Exclusive Passholder After-Hours Party: 2018 vs. 2017 vs. WDW’s AP Events

For the past couple of years, Universal Orlando has hosted Passholder Appreciation Days, which they call “a seven-week love letter” to their annual and seasonal passholders with exclusive offers, special events, discounts, opportunities, etc. Some of these passholder opportunities include discounts on food, Blue Man Group, Express Passes, hotels and special events, early park admission, a free passholder exclusive gift, etc. The event that always excited me the most was their exclusive passholder after-hours party. I had gone to last year’s event at Islands of Adventure and was interested in seeing how this year’s event, held at Universal Studios Florida, would compare.

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This year’s event was held on Sunday, August 26th, from 8pm to midnight. Last year’s event was held on a Thursday. Both nights were “school nights,” but at least with it on a Sunday, more people could spend the day, instead of rushing there after school or work. So I’d say that was a plus. The Universal event was also open to anyone who had any type of annual or seasonal passes to Universal Orlando. The AP events Walt Disney World has offered to its passholders so far this year have only been open to those with the highest tiers of passes. Mere mortals who didn’t spend as much money on their WDW passes simply weren’t invited. So one more brownie point for Universal, who made this event available to people with ANY level of annual or seasonal pass!

Photo Aug 26, 5 37 42 PMThe way to get into the park for the event was completely overhauled from last year. As I wrote last year regarding the 2017 event, the park closed to regular customers at 7pm and annual passholders weren’t allowed into the park until then, which made for longer lines and larger crowds to get in as it got closer to 8pm. This year, passholders were encouraged to check in early and spend the day. In fact, there was even a special entrance for UOAPs, to the far right of the main entrance. They had a secondary place to sign in and get your wristband, over by Transformers, in Battery Park, so if you were already in the park, you didn’t necessarily have to walk all the way to the front, exit and re-enter to get your wristband. Well done, Universal! (WDW has done something similar during their various DVC exclusive Moonlight Magic events and it too works well).

The line to get wristbands was pretty crowded when the park first opened, but within an hour was just an ongoing dribble of people. That speeded up again as the event officially started at 8pm, but it was always a controlled situation, unlike last year. So again, kudos to Universal!

As we entered the park, we were wristbanded and offered a UOAP car magnet. The Team Members sometimes told entering passholders that they could get a free UOAP button over by Men In Black and that the new Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration would be at 10:30pm, sometimes not (but both were announced several times by various DJs around the park so if you were listening, you heard and knew). Unfortunately, just as last year, there was nothing on paper to let you know what was open and happening, and what wasn’t. I was ready this year though – I saved the email that had a link to their web page that listed everything:

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Not included in the list for some reason, most things in the Simpsons area were also up and running/open.

The event was fun, with really, REALLY short lines (5-10 minutes) for just about everything (it was the first time in I don’t know how long that Despicable Me didn’t have a 25-to-45-minute wait).

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They had special meet and greets and photo ops for characters you may not see very often, or in groups. And with a few exception, the lines were almost non-existent. That could have been because there was nothing written that said where the characters could be found. The Men In Black setup was easy to find, because it was brightly lit and visible from all around the lake. Hence, it had a line a few dozen people long. The penguins and lions from Madagascar were off in a corner across from the Horror & Makeup Show – if you didn’t happen to see them, you missed them – meeting them was a “walk up.”

Take a look…the MIB performers even had Frank the Pug!!!

Besides the meet and greets, they even had a few shows running on a regular basis – The Knight Bus, Celestina Warbeck & The Banshees AND The Tales of Beedle The Bard at Diagon Alley, and The Blues Brothers Show in the New York area. That’s a lot of professional performers to have to pay and I commend Universal for that!

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During last year’s passholder event at Universal, there was no event merchandise, or even passholder merchandise, which I thought was a missed marketing opportunity on Universal’s part. I looked around the stores during the event and unlike WDW (they’ve come out with a ton of merchandise to label a passholder), there was still nothing I could see that was a “passholder exclusive.” However, starting at 8pm, guests were invited to get a free 1.25″ UOAP button. It was cute but frankly, it didn’t even say anything about being a passholder.  Ummm…I guess it’s a start? But I think Disney still wins in passholder merchandise.

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Left: magnet that won’t go on my car because people steal them Right: UOAP button

As I mentioned earlier, Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration ran at 10:30pm. It was the first time Joe and I had seen the show and we were very impressed! Seating/standing room was plentiful, there were spaces for this pint-sized person to see the show relatively unobstructed, and the show itself was very well done and enjoyable. We look forward to seeing it again soon!

Overall, the night was a whole lot of fun! There were improvements made from last year, most for notably getting in! I would still like to have some sort of printed version of the what, where and when, and I feel badly about their missed opportunity with the merch, but they didn’t ask my opinion, so…LOL! All the photo ops and and shows were a whole lot of fun. And, of course, it’s just cool to be able to stay in the park late enough until when it’s almost empty. Assuming they do it again next year, I’m in! 🙂

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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