Archive | Theme Parks

Starbot Cafe: Human Refueling Center

Starbot Cafe is the latest F&B outlet at Universal Studios Singapore. Located at the Sci-Fi City zone, the cafe sits in nicely in the middle of two major blockbuster attractions: Battlestar Galactica: Human vs Cylon and Transformers: The Ride. It does not appear to be solely themed to Transformers (although the crew here wear NEST uniforms), but instead designed to be part of this bustling futuristic zone. Which is why this place is also commonly referred as the Transformers Cafe!

Starbot Cafe - Overview

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Transformers: The Ride

UPDATE: Transformers: The Ride has officially opened!

Transformers: The Ride started its technical rehearsals today at Universal Studios Singapore. I am pleased to say that it is an amazing ride, and you can read all about it right here! Where else, huh? 🙂

This extended entry features a photo tour of the pre-show elements, a detailed description of the ride elements and some technical bits, followed by my review of the ride.

LATEST: Differences between Hollywood and Singapore versions (see below)
– Recent changes to the ride added (under Technical Info)
– Preshow videos added!
– New section on safety instructions
– More videos added
– New section on preshow
– More photos – panoramics added!
– Correction: Transformers character names fixed
– Ride Transcript and On-ride Audio Recording now available. Check below!

Differences between Hollywood and Singapore versions

This entry is written with information from the ride at Universal Studios Singapore. Here is a comparison with the ride at Universal Studios Hollywood.

– Entrance to ride building is completely different. Hollywood version has a giant billboard of Optimus and Megatron in an explosive duel, and guests enter the building from the front (or extra switchbacks from the side). In Singapore, the actual ride building is obscured and guests enter the queue via a gate at Sci-Fi City.

– Queue layout is entirely different but similar rooms exist. Such as the Allspark Containment Chamber (which is larger in Hollywood).

– Crew members are dressed as military personnel, with combat fatigues in Hollywood. In Singapore, they are dressed as NEST personnel, but appear more like support staff wearing office dress.

– Hollywood version uses the new Infitec 3D glasses (also used in the recently updated “The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man” at Universal’s Islands of Adventure). The Singapore version uses the – unfortunately older and cheaper – polarized 3D glasses.

– First scene in Hollywood has working bullet ricochet effect (the effect is out-of-sync and incomplete in Singapore).

– Finale scene in Hollywood has a burst of fog before the ride vehicle passes under Megatron.

– Unloading platform in Hollywood looks more “damaged”, with more areas, such as ceiling vents, being “ripped apart and destroyed” during the exciting parts of the ride.

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Universal Studios Singapore – Update 11/2011

Transformers: The Ride is now open for technical rehearsal.
For the review/report and photos of the attraction, please go this entry.

Transformers: The Ride
Previews for all Annual Passholders
On 25th and 26th November 2011
During Park hours (10am to 9pm)
No reservation is required.
All annual passholders will be able to visit both dates and enjoy unlimited access during park hours.

(For more info please click on Read More and scroll to the bottom)

TTR - The Poster!

This month’s update to the new stuff at Universal Studios Singapore include:
Christmas Decor at the Park
Transformers: The Ride Entrance
Transformers Supply Vault (Retail Store)

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Overview of the new USS Annual Passes

The new Annual Pass programme for Universal Studios Singapore (USS) was finally announced on 6th July 2011 – three days after the pioneer batch of Annual passes expired. Here is their official page. As I found their information to be jumbled – difficult to weigh the cost and benefits of each Annual Pass, I have decided to write this entry to help readers make sense of the new programme. All prices are in Singapore Dollars.

Note: The Annual Pass programme has been completely revamped in November 2012.

The three Annual Passes documented in this entry are no longer offered. Information here will be kept for reference.
Please refer to this entry for the latest programme.

Annual Pass Office
At the Annual Pass office, May 2011

New Annual Pass Programme – Comparison Chart

Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS) has introduced the new programme this year, which includes a reasonable price adjustment to the Superstar Pass and brings in a new tier known as the Action Pass, which has the same benefits as a Fun Pass but does not have any black-out dates, granting the Passholder 365 days of unlimited access to the park. In the mean time, the price for the entry-level Fun pass has increased by $20 across the board.

  Superstar Pass Action Pass Fun Pass
Adult Price $638 $488 $338
Child Price $558 $408 $258
Senior Price $508 $358 $208
Welcome Gift (Lanyard + Pins) 4 Pins 2 Pins 2 Pins
Access via VIP Turnstile into USS ✔ ✔ ✔
Monthly E-bulletin from RWS ✔ ✔ ✔
Sneak previews of new attractions ✔ ✔ ✔
Discount at all retail and F&B outlets in USS 10% 5% 5%
Discount at selected retail outlets in RWS 10% 5% 5%
Discount at KT’s Grill and Hollywood China Bistro 20% 20% 20%
10% Discount for all USS tickets (max 6 per transaction) ✔ ✔ ✔
20% Discount for USS VIP Tour ✔ ✔ ✔
10% Discount for USS events and selected RWS events ✔ ✔ ✔
Unlimited admission with no black-out dates for 365 days ✔ ✔
Unlimited climbs at Amber Rock Climb ✔
Unlimited Universal Express access to all USS attractions ✔
Complimentary rental of strollers and wheelchairs ✔
Room upgrade for Festive Hotel (Deluxe Room to Deluxe Family Room) ✔

Click here for the black-out dates for Fun Pass.

Terms and Conditions apply for some benefits. Do check the details at the Annual Pass info page.

Park Crew
Annual Pass office around this area of the Hollywood zone. In case you’ve forgotten!

Renewal Rates for Expired/Expiring Annual Passes

Universal Studios Singapore offers a $20 renewal discount for holders of existing (and for some, expired) Annual Passes. They can choose to keep or change their current type of Annual Pass.

  Superstar Pass Action Pass Fun Pass
Adult Price $618 $468 $298
Child Price $538 $388 $238
Senior Price $488 $338 $188

Some points to take note:
• Renewals requests are accepted from 9 July 2011 onwards.
• Annual Passes can be renewed 2 months before the expiration date at the Annual Pass Office located inside the park.
• Annual Passes may be renewed up to 30 days after the last day of validity at the Guest Services Office at the entrance of the park.
• A renewed Annual Pass will be valid for one year after the last day of the current (or previous) validity period, regardless of the actual date of renewal.
• Renewal benefits are non-transferable, non-exchangeable and non-refundable.

You may want to refer to the official page for renewal information.

At the Annual Pass Office!
Friends getting their shiny passes, May 2011

Comparison between the 2010 and Mid-2011 Programme

Lastly, you might be interested in the other differences between the new and old programmes, including the prices. I have only listed the benefits that have changed at this section; do refer to the chart above for the full list of benefits.

Superstar Pass Comparison

The original Superstar Pass introduced a bundle of benefits as it was priced as the ultimate, “first-class” Annual Pass, providing passholders with a “Superstar level” of benefits. With the new reduced price, there are definitely many changes with the pass’ perks. The most important features of the Superstar Pass, such as year-round unlimited admission and unlimited use of Universal Express, remain unchanged.

  2010 ~ Mid-2011   Mid-2011 onwards
Price (Adult) $1098   $638
Price (Child) $828   $558
Price (Senior) $738   $508
Resorts World Sentosa gift voucher $100  
Discount at all retail and F&B outlets in USS 5%   10%
Discount at selected retail outlets in RWS 5%   10%
Discount at KT’s Grill and Hollywood China Bistro   20%
USS Day Pass discounts Birthday Month: 10% discount on all day passes during birthday month, up to 5 passes per passholder   Discount extended to 10% all year round, up to 6 per transaction
Complimentary ticket to Halloween Horror Nights One ticket per Passholder
*Removed in Mid-2010
Discount for RWS VIP Tour 30%   20%
Complimentary hotel room upgrades Festive Hotel: Deluxe Room to Deluxe Family Room
Hotel Michael: Deluxe to Club Deluxe Room
  Festive Hotel: Deluxe Room to Deluxe Family Room
Complimentary rental of strollers and wheelchairs   ✔
Access via VIP turnstile into USS   ✔

Fun Pass Comparison

There aren’t many changes for the Fun Pass, however the 10% discount could be an easy draw to bring more friends into the park.

  2010 ~ Mid-2011   Mid-2011 onwards
Price (Adult) $318   $338
Price (Child) $238   $258
Price (Senior) $188   $208
Discount at KT’s Grill and Hollywood China Bistro   20%
Resorts World Sentosa gift voucher $25  
Discount at KT’s Grill and Hollywood China Bistro   20%
USS Day Pass discounts Birthday Month: 10% discount on all day passes during birthday month, up to 5 passes per passholder   Discount extended to 10% all year round, up to 6 per transaction
Discount for RWS VIP Tour   20%
Access via VIP turnstile into USS   ✔

Annual Pass Office
Accompanying my sister for her Annual Pass renewal, July 2011

Annual Pass Office
These are the pins that passholders are able to choose from. Only two pins (The Purple Star and Gold Globe) are exclusive to Annual Passholders. The rest is available for sale in the park.


Q: Can I borrow someone’s Annual Pass to enter the park?

A: No, it is not transferable and each Annual Pass has the Passholder’s name and photograph printed on it. The entrance crew has the right to refuse admission if the credentials do not match up. Believe it or not, I’m always asked this question from a lot of people who are new to the park.

Q: How do I get an Annual Pass?

A: You will need to pay for the full price of the Annual Pass at the park entrance, then proceed to the Annual Pass office with your temporary ticket. After the registration process in the office, you will receive your welcome gift and the actual Annual Pass card. Alternatively, if you have a day ticket and wish to upgrade, see the next question.

Q: Can I upgrade my normal day ticket to an Annual Pass?

A: Yes, simply visit the Annual Pass office and pay the difference to upgrade to an Annual Pass. However, do note that some promotional tickets, like complimentary passes, may not be upgraded to an Annual Pass. For confirmation, please ask at the Annual Pass office.

Q: Is there a “Family” Annual Pass?

A: All Annual Passes are designed for personal use only. You will need to buy separate passes for each family member.

Q: Are there discounts for Annual Passes?

A: Not at this moment. However, you might be able to find people online selling Annual Pass Certificates (or Vouchers) which can be redeemed for an Annual Pass, as low as $240 for a Fun Pass (Adult). However, do take note that the authenticity of such vouchers may be unverified. If you do chance upon a good deal, I would recommend meeting the seller at RWS and verifying that the certificate/vouchers are valid before handling over your money.

Edit (6/12/2011)

Good news! Christmas Promotion for Annual Passes:
From now till 2nd January 2012, enjoy 10% off the Fun Pass, Action Pass and Superstar Pass (annual passes), up to 12 per transaction.

Christmas Promotion Prices (Adult, Child, Senior)

Fun Pass ($304, $232 $187)
Action Pass ($439, $367, $322)
Superstar Pass ($574, $502, $457)
Promotion Ends 2nd January 2012!
Buy at or at Universal Studios Singapore Park Gates.

Q: Which Annual Pass is right for me?

A: It really depends on how often you wish to visit the park and your preferred days of the week to visit. The Fun Pass is the cheapest option if you plan your visits during off-peak weekdays and weekends, avoiding all peak days completely. It would allow you to comfortably enjoy the attractions as much as you wish.

The Action Pass allows for more flexibility with no black-out dates, but you may be caught in long queues during holidays and other peak seasons.

The Superstar Pass completely eradicates any reservations to visit during a very crowded day as you will have priority access to almost all attractions, plus you may actually have an easier time dealing with the free rental period for lockers in the park (see “locker trick” below). However, you will not have any priority access for F&B outlets or stores, so some planning may still be necessary.

Q: What are main differences between the Superstar Pass and Fun Pass?

A: The main benefits of Superstar Pass that the Fun Pass does not offer: Unlimited access to the park during day-time operations with no black-out dates, unlimited Universal Express access, 10% discount on food and merchandise (5% more than Fun Pass) and complimentary climbs on Amber Rock Climb ($5 for other guests), Festival Hotel room upgrade and rental of strollers and wheelchairs.

Q: What are main differences between the Superstar Pass and Action Pass?

A: The main benefits of Superstar Pass that the Action Pass does not offer: Unlimited Universal Express access, 10% discount on food and merchandise (5% more than Action Pass) and complimentary climbs on Amber Rock Climb ($5 for other guests), Festival Hotel room upgrade and rental of strollers and wheelchairs.

Q: What are main differences between the Action Pass and Fun Pass?

A: The Action Pass has the same benefits as the Fun Pass, except that it also includes Unlimited access to the park during day-time operations with no black-out dates.

Q: Which are the least-crowded days of the week to visit?

A: During an off-peak season, the usual good days are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. Peak periods are usually in Late May ~ June and Late November ~ December period (School Holidays) and around public holidays. Of course, there are some unforeseen events, such as family days or foreign public holidays or similar events that do not show up on the park’s monthly calendar.

Q: How many times must I visit to “break even”?

A: It really depends, but generally after 6-7 visits, the Annual Pass would “pay for itself”, including the more expensive annual passes. More details about this will come in an upcoming entry “Universal Studios Singapore – Tips and Tricks”.

Q: What is the “Superstar Pass Locker” trick?

A: The free rental period for lockers at Battlestar Galactica and Revenge of The Mummy are linked directly with the waiting time for the attraction. The locker exploit gives Superstar Passholders a huge advantage during visits on high-peak days, as they can leave their bags for a longer span of time without renewing their locker box (opening and rehiring), maximizing the number of ride counts between locker renewals when Universal Express is used by the Superstar Passholder.

Q: What is the difference between the Superstar Pass and Universal Express Pass?

A: Universal Express Pass is an add-on to day passes and the Fun/Action Annual Passes. It offers guests priority access to attractions. Each pass can only be used once per attraction. The Superstar Pass offers unlimited use of Universal Express.

Q: What is this “VIP Turnstile”?

A: The VIP Turnstile is located at the left end of the entrance gateway to the park. It is for Annual Passholders and rather possibly, VIP Tour guests. It is only available in the first three hours after the park opens. Usually there is no queue at this turnstile, which is a godsend to Annual Passholders – The regular turnstiles sometimes have lines leading up to the Universal Globe!

If you have any other questions do post in the comments and I will try to find the answer for you

Personal Thoughts

By offering the passes at 3 levels, with a difference of $150 between each level, the park provides customers with clearer options to pay for what they want. This is certainly an improvement from the old Annual Pass which had a large gap of $780 in between Fun Pass and Superstar Pass.

It appears that the park has enjoyed its success during soft-opening and is shifting its strategies to pump attendance rates – by luring as many regulars as possible. It might be a good time to start work on seasonal programme now if the park wishes to retain large pools of long-term passholders. Perhaps the park could offer complimentary parking in the future for the upper-tier Annual Passes, or sell it as an add-on.

As for the Action Pass, I felt that it was a right move. In my opinion, it doesn’t make much sense to get a Fun Pass anymore as a year’s access only cost $150 more. While the Fun Pass’ validity dates are very generous (Black-out dates on those high peak days that you’d wish you’re never at the park anyway), from personal experience it can become a hindrance when you have to bring a group of friends into the park and half of them can only make it on a black-out day. It happens. However, if you only want to visit during off-peak periods then there is really no point in spending the another $150 for access on black-out dates.

Other nice touches include a VIP turnstile into the park which will be very useful to get into the park quickly, as Annual Passholders do not have “idiosyncratic ticketing issues” at the park gates. This VIP turnstile is at the extreme left end of the park entrance. Just scan your Pass card and enter!


Trip to Hong Kong 2011 – Day 2

The second day in Hong Kong was mostly spent at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Just like Universal Studios Singapore, Hong Kong Disneyland is located far away from the busy city center. It rests on reclaimed land at Lantau Island. There are a few options to travel to the park: the most popular being public transport, the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) of course.

Day Tickets at Hong Kong Disneyland goes for HK$350, which is equivalent to about S$56. The price is the same for any day in the year and can be used on most days, anytime 6 months after date of purchase. However, for some special days, such as public holidays, tickets will need to be purchased with a confirmed date of use.

The park also offers Annual Passes, called the Magic Access which is split into 4 tiers of membership and is priced from HK$2400 to HK$650.

Sunny Bay MTR Station
Disneyland Resort Line Train

The Disney experience begins the moment one arrives at Sunny Bay, the interchange station between the Tung Chung line and the Disneyland Resort line. Typically, the iconic Disney train will be there waiting for eager guests to run across the transfer platform.

There is a little fanfare during the ride to Disneyland Resort, with a special message being played in the train cabins. It is all part of a thematic journey, transforming from “modern city of Hong Kong” to the “magical world of Hong Kong Disneyland”. Visually, the stations were designed very differently as well – with the Sunny Bay station having a lot of glass and white roof work, looking like most of the other stations in Hong Kong. Visitors will be surprised with a spacious Modern-Victorian design at the Disneyland station.

The entrance area of the park has been decorated for the park’s 5th Anniversary festivities, Celebration in the Air. It is quite a cohesive theme and includes some tweaks to the park’s merchandising, decorations and is supported by a very impressive daytime parade show and night castle show.

Esplanade Gateway

It was a Tuesday when my family went to the park – although marked as an off-peak day, there was a lot of people. FASTPASS is no longer a novelty, it is a necessity if you wish to do the rides multiple times. As for the park crowds, it’s comparable to a school holiday weekend at Universal Studios Singapore.

If you are wondering why the photos below show an empty park, here is the explanation: The main gates of Hong Kong Disneyland opens 30 minutes before the scheduled timing (usually 10:30AM). Only the Main Street area is accessible, for some quick bites or (hopefully not) overly well-planned shopping. A rope is held in place at the end of Main Street, just before the roundabout (where Sorcerer Mickey is) in front of the castle. Moments before 10:30AM, there is a ceremony called “First Family” where a family is chosen to open the park by “cutting” a ribbon. The First Family thing is an opportunity is given out to families with small children who at the gates during park opening. Apart from this little fanfare and some special photo-op moments, I recall reading somewhere that the First Family also rides down Main Street before a parade starts, but I’m not sure if that is done anymore during the 5th Anniversary Celebrations.

The Castle
The backdrop

The location for Hong Kong Disneyland is unlike any other Disney parks. The lush mountain backdrop frames the park beautifully, masking any hints of the outside world. While yes, the park is entirely artificial and built on reclaimed land, the surrounding landscape creates an illusion – a “magical” one that is reinforced with thematic music – to trick the guests that they are in some other world. I really wished Universal Studios Singapore had the large walking spaces between park zones, which offers breathing space between each zone’s thematic design.

Tinkerbell Castle
Tinkerbell Castle
Tinkerbell Castle

As part of Celebration In The Air, Sleeping Beauty Castle has embellished with golden trails and sparkly pixie dust by Tinker Bell! The “sparkly” effect is made out of shiny metallic discs that moves with the wind, creating a graduated shimmering effect. This is similar to the kinetic art by Ned Kahn, which has been replicated at many places, including the Wind Arbor at Marina Bay Sands. Hidden behind the curtains of discs are LED lighting arrays. The evening castle show, known as Tinker Bell Castle Illumination, is a dazzling spectacle.

Another important element of Celebration In The Air is the Flights of Fantasy Parade which unfortunately I have no photos to provide. It is a stunning parade and has been compared to some of Tokyo Disneyland’s parades by some theme park fans. There are 7 parade floats in total: Dumbo + Mickey and Friends, Winnie The Pooh, Disney Princesses, Jungle Book/Lion King, Tinker Bell, Lilo and Stitch – and lastly, Toy Story. The theme song is very catchy, memorable and uplifting (well, it’s about flying, after all).

Flights of Fantasy Parade, © Disney

Flights of Fantasy Parade

Main Theme – English Lyrics

It’s a sky high celebration,
So come on! come on! come on!
Let’s fly away!

Take a flight on imagination,
So come on! come on! come on!
It’s a brand new day!

We’re chasing rainbows,
Wherever the wind blows.
So come on, come on,
The Flights of Fantasy!

Hey, Hey, Hey

I can only grasp this line from the Cantonese version of the song:

我會帶你飛越萬里, 常飛起,飛起,飛起!

Interestingly, the parade theme music is also used in the original Disneyland Park in Anaheim but with a different narrative altogether. It is called Mickey’s Soundsational Parade. In the chorus instead of “The Flights of Fantasy!”, you get “It’s Soundsational!”

Notable Attractions at Hong Kong Disneyland

it's a small world
Excited girl

it’s a small world

Originally created for the UNICEF Pavilion in the 1964 New York World’s Fair, it’s a small world is one of the few attractions that exists in all Fantasyland zones around the world. It is a gentle indoor boat ride that sails through various colourful scenes with animated characters singing the same tune. Although the music might drive some people crazy, this attraction is well-known for its very high-capacity per hour, which has influenced future Disney attractions in their design, such as Pirates of the Caribbean (from a walkthrough attraction into boat ride). In Hong Kong Disneyland, it is also one of the most comfortable rides to enjoy in a hot summer day.

Space Mountain
Space Mountain queue
Space Mountain queue
Space Mountain queue
Space Mountain queue

Space Mountain

In contrast to Universal Studios Singapore, which has several roller-coasters, Space Mountain is now the only high adrenaline adventure in Hong Kong Disneyland. One commonly heard rationale is that the locals prefer photo opportunities compared to intensive rides. This is set to change with the construction of new attractions in the three new themed zones, to be completed in 2013.

Despite being a smaller, more compact version compared to the other Space Mountain attractions in the world, this ride has a slightly different theme and queue design. There is also a lot of detail in the design of the loading/unloading area. The ride safety video is also carefully done to be both succinct and heavily themed, something which was perfectly executed for Battlestar Galactica in Universal Studios Singapore back in 2010, but was unfortunately altered in the 2011 reopening with “real-world videos” spliced in between themed sequences.

Other activities

Apart from rides, shows and parades, there is also a special summer event going on called Rev Up Your Summer Fun! which is tied closely with the new CARS 2 film.

Cars Secret Mission
Cars Secret Mission

Cars Secret Mission is an activity that involves finding game stations scattered around the park and playing minigames. Players will need to get a little leaflet from a cast member (My sister’s holding it in the photo above) that has a QR code on it. At each station, players will need to scan their leaflet and proceed on with a simple minigame, which varies from memory to “spot the difference”/”find a character” style games. Cast members will invite players to get a stamp on their leaflets. Upon completion of all game stations… you actually get nothing except for a (presumably) random Cars character profiling and a certificate which you have to print online on your own. Well, you didn’t pay to participate in this anyway.

There are also Cars photo opportunity zones (which are actually, just large 2D installations) themed to certain cities around the world. It doesn’t just stop there – the theming continues with snacks offered at each zone, such as sushi rolls for sale at the “Tokyo” zone, for example!

Seen around the park

Theatre in the wild
Queues for Festival of the Lion King, a short musical performance of the popular hits and compressed narrative from The Lion King.

The area behind the Castle in Fantasyland

Dumbo: The Flying Elephant ride

Moving bin
Talking Bin in Tomorrowland

Lantern at the interactive zone in Adventureland

Royal Banquet Hall
Royal Banquet Hall – We had lunch here.

Royal Banquet
Mixed Grill Set

Main Street snaps
Happy couple at Main Street

While not exactly comparable to the other larger Disney Parks in the world, Hong Kong Disneyland still retains Disney magic – with the successful formula in designing and running theme parks that Disney has decades of experience to rely upon. I have visited the park a handful of times for the past five years and the park has always been improving, with exciting seasonal and milestone events. Things will get very exciting at the resort when three new themed zones – Toy Story Land, Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point – are completed in the years to come.

After spending almost a full day in Hong Kong Disneyland, we got tired of the heat and went back to Kowloon. Yep, we gave the evening shows a miss.

Garden Street
Garden Street

My family went to this night market street called “Fa Yuen Street” which translates to “Garden Street”. There’s always those usual night market stalls selling cheap clothes, souvenirs and trinkets. The more interesting parts are actually the shops hidden out of the florescent glow of the night markets though. My sister goes to a random shop and after some bargaining and trying them out – if I remember correct – paid S$80 for 4 pairs of shoes.


I witnessed this interesting incident of a billboard being sabotaged and the canvas was flapping dangerously in the wind – it was fixed the next day though, which was good as the Typhoon warnings started coming up the next morning.

All photographs were snapped using my NEX-5 with a rather old LEICA Summicron-C 40mm f/2.

The complete flickr album can be found here.

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