Universal Studios Singapore

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Time flies when you’re having fun. That’s a cliché, but it’s true. After our stay in Australia and our few days in Hong Kong, the end of our holiday is getting nearer. The last stop on our itinerary is Singapore, an ultra-modern city state on the southernmost point of Continental Asia. Singapore is characterised by stunning architecture, a vibrant nightlife and super hot temperatures. That’s why I’d like to describe it as a sweaty city of the future where weekend nights rarely ever end before 5 AM. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? And it gets even better, because Singapore is also home to a renowned theme park.

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Not exactly a theme park, but definitely worth a visit: Gardens by the Bay. This is Singapore’s twenty-first-century take on a classic botanical garden. The park’s most striking features are these enormous structures at the Supertree Grove. The suspended walkway between those Supertrees can offer some unbeatable views, but there is an admission fee and queues can get rather long.

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Singapore is a well-known hot spot for tourists. Lots of tourist stuff takes place on Sentosa, a tropical island south of the city. Sentosa offers super expensive resort hotels, beaches, cocktail bars, cable cars, golf courses and even a monorail.

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Sentosa is also home to Universal Studios Singapore, the only Singaporean theme park in operation today. To get to the park, just take Singapore’s amazing MRT-network to the station called HarbourFront. From there, you can continue on a monorail or cable car to access Sentosa. Those who can handle the heat, may also walk to Universal Studios. The walk between HarbourFront Station and the park’s entrance takes approximately 25 minutes and shade is provided.

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And there is is: Universal Studios Singapore. If you’re used to Universal theme parks, this main square may look familiar. There’s a slowly turning Universal globe, a huge gate and recognisable movie soundtracks are played throughout the area.

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Singapore’s climate can be quite brutal, but luckily Universal provided shelter. Some of the park’s areas, including Hollywood Boulevard, are designed to escape from the heat or those intense rain showers.

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Universal Studios is currently celebrating Trolls Topia, an event inspired by the DreamWorks animation movie Trolls.

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I haven’t seen Trolls, but if the movie is just as bad as the decoration at Hollywood Boulevard, I’m definitely not interested.

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We didn’t come to Universal Studios for Trolls Topia. I’d rather make a ride on that Vekoma masterpiece in the background.

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Another covered walkway is provided at the New York City part of the park.

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Although New York City isn’t a huge area, I really like the level of detail. These facades look simply stunning.

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One of the attractions in this section is called Lights Camera Action. This is Singapore’s take on classic Universal rides like Twister or Backdraft. After a pre-show starring Steven Spielberg, it offers a behind-the-scenes look at a special-effects stage. Lights Camera Action doesn’t feature any effects we haven’t seen before, but it’s a nice attraction and queues are rare anyway.

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New York City’s main attraction is Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase. I’d describe it as Universal’s version of Peter Pan’s Flight at Disney theme parks. This suspended dark ride takes us on a journey to space hosted by Elmo. It’s full of clever lighting effects and cute audio-animatronics. You might think that a Sesame Street-themed attraction is childish, but that’s not the case. On the contrary: I liked Spaghetti Space Chase a lot and it’s actually one of the best medium-sized family dark rides on Earth.

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Let’s move on to Sci-Fi City, some kind of Universal-style Tomorrowland.

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Sci-Fi City is home to Transformers – The Ride, an extraordinary 3D experience. This is one of Universal’s most immersive dark rides. The atmosphere is very dark, but that doesn’t seem to scare off visitors. Despite a super-high capacity, the queue is already estimated at an hour early in the morning. Luckily, we’re able to ride it within a few minutes thanks to the single rider line.

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Universal Studios Singapore is a very young theme park. It officially opened in 2011, so most areas still look brand-new and shiny.

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One of the park’s internationally acclaimed rides is Battlestar Galactica, a Vekoma duelling roller coaster.

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Unlike most duelling coasters, Battlestar Galactica offers two totally different ride experiences. It consists of a family-friendly red track (sit-down) and a grey inverted coaster for thrill seekers.

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The red Human track turns out to be somewhat underwhelming. The lay-out feels rather pointless and it’s rougher than I remembered from my previous rides.

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The grey Cylon track, however, is awesome. The lay-out is surprising, it’s got some very good pacing and the ride is smoother than its red neighbour. Unfortunately, Universal doesn’t really seem to care about the duelling effect today. The racing aspect is only used during a very limited part of the day.

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Universal Studios Singapore is one of the smallest theme parks I know. That’s clearly noticeable in the transitions between different lands. Supports of a science-fiction themed rollercoaster right next to Egyptian Anubis statues? It’s all perfectly possible here in Southeast Asia.

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Revenge of the Mummy is Egypt’s main attraction. This Premier launched coaster is nearly identical to its Florida counterpart: it includes the same treasure chamber, a short backwards part, a powerful launch and some very cheap-looking cardboard theming elements. However, I like this Asian version better because of its magnificent exterior and the nicer queue line.

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Just take a look at the enormous size of this temple… Universal Studios Singapore features some very elaborate theming, that much is clear.

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Egypt is one of the park’s most stunning areas. Thrill seekers will especially like Revenge of the Mummy, while families can enjoy a gorgeous old-timer ride. Treasure Hunters is definitely more than just an ordinary infill attraction.

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Am I the only one who starts humming Jurassic Park’s iconic soundtrack while looking at the picture below? Probably not?

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I have to admit that Singapore’s Jurassic Park area isn’t as impressive as the one at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, which is mainly due to its small scale. However, theming is once again superb and the tropical climate makes it even more convincing.

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The theme parks in Hollywood, Orlando and Osaka all feature a huge shoot-the-chute ride at their Jurassic Park sections. In Singapore, however, designers came up with a new idea: a rapid river. The ride is beautiful to look at, but I actually hate the fact that they didn’t choose Intamin. Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure is manufactured by Hafema, a German company which is mainly known for its tame, rather unremarkable rapid rivers. Just imagine a rapids ride like Intamin’s Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges with Jurassic Park theming. That would create a considerably more spectacular result, if you ask me.

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Universal isn’t scared of some serious wordplay. But personally, I do prefer Disney’s version of Soarin’.

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Universal Studios Singapore offers a total of 3 inverted rollercoasters. Do Asian people have some kind of fetish for inverted coasters? I don’t know, but the Canopy Flyer is clearly not as breathtaking as Battlestar Galactica’s Cylon. There’s some good news for credit hunters, though. In contrast to Pteranodon Flyers at Islands of Adventure, you’re perfectly able to ride the Canopy Flyer without bringing a child.

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Does anyone remember the 1995 movie Waterworld? No? Me neither, so I really don’t understand why this uninteresting film got a stunt show at a theme park which opened 16 years later. The Waterworld show was a huge success at other Universal parks, but I really think that it needs to be replaced soon.

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Waterworld’s story line is difficult to understand and one of the most spectacular features (the plane) has been removed. The result is a very chaotic show that doesn’t meet the park’s high quality level.

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The next area is called Far Far Away and it’s based on DreamWorks’ blockbuster Shrek.

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Shrek contains a ton of subtle (and unsubtle) references to Disney and that’s not any different here at Universal Studios Singapore. Unbelievably, but true: Shrek’s fairy-tale castle is actually 3 or 4 times larger than the one we saw at Hong Kong Disneyland last week.

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Is this a medieval village or is it Hollywood? It doesn’t matter; Far Far Away is one of the park’s most dynamic areas.

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Far Far Away reminds me a lot of Parc Astérix, mainly because of its abundance of hilarious details and funny references.

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Puss in Boots’ Giant Journey is the park’s third and last inverted coaster. The ride was added in 2015 and unfortunately, it doesn’t meet Universal’s high quality standards. Theming looks quite artificial and they didn’t manage to hide the ride’s ugly hardware.

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Puss in Boots’ Giant Journey is surprisingly popular among park visitors, though. Queues of up to 45 minutes aren’t exceptional. And believe me: that’s way too long for this ordinary Zamperla machine.

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Another unmemorable ride is Enchanted Airways, a Vekoma family rollercoaster. However, decoration makes up for the rather standard ride experience. Enchanted Airways is themed to a medieval airline and it features some very funny details. Airplanes have been exchanged for dragons (the D380 is obviously the largest model), while Pinocchio and the wolf fulfill their roles as ground staff. I never thought I’d say this, but this Vekoma junior coaster is actually a must-do because of its original theme.

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Once this huge cargo ship appears, you’re getting closer to the Madagascar-themed section of Universal Studios Singapore. Interested in a tropical atmosphere and swinging dance beats? Then this might be your place to be.

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I like to move it, move it. You like to move it, move it. The Madagascar trilogy was a huge DreamWorks success and music plays an important role in the movies. Those cheerful songs definitely add some fun to King Julien’s Beach Party-Go-Round. This elaborately themed carousel features Alex, Melman, Gloria and Marty, as well as almost every other character that made appearances in Madagascar.

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The area is also home to a large dark ride called Madagascar – A Crate Adventure. This attraction features rather simple audio-animatronics and some scenes are mostly static, but the atmosphere and the music are very nice. Don’t expect any Indiana Jones Adventure or Mystic Manor goodness, but it’s a perfectly fine dark ride for the entire family.

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The loading platform and the catchy songs seem inspired by It’s A Small World, but there’s no need to worry: those are the only similarities.

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Universal Studios Singapore has a parade and a fireworks display, but only during weekends. If you’re visiting on a weekday, the day ends pretty abruptly. That’s not a problem for us: we should be going to the airport quite early, anyway. While travelling to the beautiful Changi Airport, I decide that Universal Studios was the perfect place to end our holiday. I’ve loved this park since my first visit in 2013 and it’s still one of my favourites. I always considered it as a small-scale version of Islands of Adventure. It has a few world-class attractions, theming is superb and the park offers a good atmosphere. You shouldn’t come here if you’re interested in film studios, though. Despite its name, Universal Studios Singapore doesn’t feel like a studio-themed park.

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And that concludes our 3-week holiday. After seeing some of the world’s most amazing cities and riding some of the greatest rollercoasters on Earth, we’re heading back to Belgium. Bye tropical temperatures, bye daily cocktails, bye pure vacation feeling and see you, Singapore. You’re still my favourite city on the planet, so I hope I’ll be back soon.

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