Loews Portofino Bay

Check out that view! Wouldn’t you swear you were sitting in Portofino, Italy enjoying a day by the water? Think again! Located in the heart of bustling Universal Orlando, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is a picturesque resort where you can unwind and relax.

Portofino Bay is a premier, onsite Universal resort. This means that you have Unlimited Express Passes included for each person in your party during your stay! This is an incredible perk and such a timesaver, especially during busy times in the parks. Guests also receive early park admission, resort-wide charging privileges, and priority seating at restaurants. Portofino Bay is very convenient to all three parks and CityWalk, which are accessible via complimentary water taxi. There is also a walking path from the hotel over to CityWalk making it very easy to access.

This resort has approximately 750 guestrooms, ranging from standard options to suites. All accommodations have Italian style furniture with marble accents, consistent with Portofino Bay’s theme. Standard rooms are available with two queen beds or one king. Rooms with two queens can accommodate up to 5 with a rollaway bed! There are garden views available, or for an extra cost you can reserve a room overlooking the gorgeous bay. These rooms also feature large bathrooms, complete with marble countertops, dual sinks, and a large tub/shower combination. Deluxe rooms are another option for families that want some more square footage with their accommodations (490-square-feet as opposed to a standard room’s 450). 

Looking to indulge even further with your accommodations? I highly recommend booking one of Portofino Bay’s Club Level rooms or suites. These accommodations include personalized concierge service and nightly turndown service. As a Club Level guest, you also have access to the exclusive Portofino Club Lounge. Here you can enjoy complimentary continental breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres, along with drinks and snacks throughout the day. 

Loews Portofino Bay is home to a variety of suites, including Despicable Me Kids’ Suites! In these suites, parents have their own master bedroom with a king sized bed and bathroom. Meanwhile, the kids have their own Minion themed oasis, with two twin beds (with the option for an additional rollaway). These are the ultimate family accommodations!

Keeping with the Italian theme, this hotel has no shortage of wonderful dining options. Mama Della’s Ristorante serves quintessential Italian fare, and everyone is treated like family. It is important to note that as of this blog post, Mama Della’s Ristorante is currently closed but expected to reopen soon. Looking for a more elegant meal? Bice Ristorante serves Northern Italian cuisine, including fresh pasta made daily. Trattoria del Porto is a casual, family-friendly option for breakfast or dinner, where indoor and outdoor dining is available. I love dining here and looking out over the harbor! Sal’s Market Deli is an excellent quick service option that serves homemade pizza, sandwiches, salads, and more. I recommend ordering your food to go and eating out by the water! The Thirsty Fish and Bar American are two spots for adults to unwind and grab a beverage. No Portofino Bay vacation is complete without a stop at the Gelateria where you can get delicious gelato, yummy milkshakes, and more. Want to dine from the comfort of your room or suite? Room service is available.

There is no shortage of swimming options at Portofino Bay. You have not one, not two, but THREE swimming pools to choose from! The Beach Pool is perfect for the entire family. There is a Roman aqueduct themed slide, sandy beach to play on, as well as a smaller pool for younger kiddos. At the Villa Pool, you can experience elevated amenities, including upgraded chairs and cabanas for rent. The Hillside Pool is the quietest option, where you can relax and enjoy the serene surroundings. To really indulge, definitely visit the Mandara Spa. The spa features 16 treatment rooms, a hydro-therapy pool, steam rooms, a full-service hair salon, and a full-service fitness center!

One of my favorite things to do at this resort is to take a stroll around the Harbor Piazza. It has beautiful cobblestone walkways and views of the water. The area truly transports you to Italy! The resort also has some great shopping options, including Alta Moda, Le Memories de Portofino, L’ancora, and the Universal Studios Store.

Are you ready to experience the beauty that is Loews Portofino Bay and all of the amenities that come along with staying here? Contact me today for a free quote!

Interested in a FREE quote? Contact me today!

Lauren.Gigliello@MarvelousMouseTravels.com

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Volcano Bay Reopening Date!

Are you longing to relax on Waturi Beach? Well in ONE WEEK you’ll be able to!

Volcano Bay is reopening from their seasonal closure on Saturday, February 27, 2021! If you have been driving down Interstate 4 and seeing the volcano wishing you could visit again, your wait will soon be over!

From enjoying the TapuTapu system to relaxing in a private cabana, it will all be back very soon!

If you need a place to stay while visiting, why not stay within walking distance at a resort that has its own private entrance into Volcano Bay? That’s exactly what you’ll find at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which has rooms that overlook Volcano Bay. To see an inside look at those rooms and an overview of that resort, watch this video:

So contact your Marvelous Mouse Travels agent today, to book your fantastic day at Volcano Bay!

Want a free quote from Ginger? Contact her here.

Universal’s Water Taxi

Did you know Universal Resorts have a Water Taxi that takes you straight to City Walk?

They sure do! The water taxi is available at the Top 3 Premier Resorts and Loew’s Sapphire Falls Resort. This is an incredible way to get to the middle of the excitement of your vacation.

Royal Pacific, Hard Rock, Portofino Bay and Sapphire Falls each has their own location to catch the taxi to head over to the parks. At the end of the day this is a great way to rest your feet and enjoy the scenery while you head back to your resort.

During the pandemic Universal has taken great measures to keep everyone safe even when on the Water Taxi. Each family is assigned a seat number to sit in and the rows are marked off every other row to keep every one socially distanced. We felt totally safe when we road the taxi to and from the parks.

So the next time you think about taking an Epic Vacation to Universal Orlando be sure to stay at one of the resorts that offers the Water Taxi option!

Ultimate Guide to the Best Photo Spots: Wizarding World of Harry Potter Edition

If you’re anything like my family, when you go on vacation, pictures are a must! Our family likes to find places to grab amazing shots. Today, we are starting a series of the BEST photo spots around Universal Studios. We are going to begin our journey in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Who here is a fellow “Potterhead?” Go ahead…tell us your Hogwarts House in the comments! (Proud Hufflepuff, here!) The first time I explored Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I was amazed! There is so much to do there and so many fun places to find, especially for photos! Let’s start in Diagon Alley, shall we?

First Photo Spot: Gringott’s Bank

Grab your wand, your butterbeer, your robe, or whatever you have, and stand on the steps of the Gringott’s Bank and under the Dragon! This is an amazing spot to grab a photo!

*Pro Tip: try to time the photo just right for the dragon to breath fire!

Second Photo Spot: Hagrid’s Motorbike

Hargrid’s Motorbike is parked out side of Gringott’s Bank for a fun alley shot! Check out how amazing this photo spot is!

*Pro Tip: Book with a Marvelous Mouse Travel Agent for Early Park Admission to get amazing photos without the crowds!

Third Photo Spot: Ollivander’s Wand Shop

If you have an opportunity to purchase a wand from Ollivander’s or bring one from home, stop outside of the shop for an amazing photo opportunity!

My husband purchased a wand from Ollivanders on our last trip! Love how this photo turned out!

Fourth Photo Spot: The Hogwarts Express

The next spot on our journey is going to take us to the King’s Cross Station/Hogsmeade Station. Be sure to pause in front of the train when you get to the station for an amazing photo!

King’s Cross Station: Just before loading the Hogwart’s Express!

Moving right on over to Hogsmeade!

Fifth Photo Spot: Hogwart’s Castle

Any photo around Hogwart’s Castle is amazing, but my favorite spot to take a photo is when you are exiting Hogsmeade and heading to Jurassic Park! There is a bridge between the two lands, and if you stop on the bridge, you get a perfect, people free shot!

My favorite view!

Sixth Photo Spot: The Butterbeer Cart

After you get your butterbeer, make sure to head over to the butterbeer cart for a photo! Usually the carts are open, but you can still pose next to them for a quick photo! We lucked into this photo with the cart being closed!

Frozen Butterbeer is the BEST!

Final Photo Spot: Posing with Butterbeer

Our last spot, is not so much a spot, but rather a suggestion! Did you even buy a butterbeer if you didn’t post a picture with it? Find an empty area or a wall nearby and pose with your butterbeer! These photos always turn out so cute!

A wall we found in Diagon Alley!

These are just a few of my favorite photo spots around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. There are so many other places to grab photos in these two areas!

I hope you follow along over the next few months as we continue our series on the best photo spots around Universal Studios.

As always, if you are interested in a FREE quote to Universal Studios, I would love to help you!

You can reach out by emailing me or messaging me on Facebook!

Katie.Eadie@MarvelousMouseTravels.com

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What Are Express Passes? Are They Worth Purchasing?

Purchasing an Express Pass is one of my top tips to anyone visiting the parks at Universal Orlando. Just what is an Express Pass and how does it work? Let me explain.

Express Passes allow you to experience more, while waiting in line less! With rides, you will enter a special queue, different from the standby line. While it is important to note that this is not “front-of-the-line” access, most waits are only a maximum of 5-10 minutes. Some of the popular attractions can have a longer wait than that, but it will almost always be considerably less than the standby line. When using an Express Pass to see a show, it’s important to arrive prior to the standby line being let into the theater (which is usually about 15 minutes prior to showtime). Those with Express Passes are able to enter prior to the standby line, ensuring that you’ll get the best seating available. Be sure to keep your Express Pass handy while in the parks, as a team member will scan it upon arriving at each attraction’s entrance.

Express Passes are convenient for every type of traveler. If you only have one day to hit the parks and want to get the most out of your visit, Express Passes are a must! These passes will ensure that you are able to ride the attractions that are high on your priority list without wasting such a large chunk of the day waiting in long lines. They are also perfect for families with young children who don’t have the patience to wait very long in lines. Having young children myself, I know that we are certainly going to be utilizing these on our upcoming vacation. Are you just someone who is planning on spending several days in the parks, wanting to experience as much as possible during your time? The Express Pass is worth every penny, especially during busier times of year that have extended wait times.

Express Passes are a separate cost from your park admission ticket, and are priced per day. Universal Express gives you access to skip the standby line one time per participating ride. Universal Express Unlimited gives you access to skip the standby lines an unlimited number of times per participating ride. The Express and Express Unlimited are able to be purchased as 1-park or 2-park passes, and can be used at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Volcano Bay has a separate pass available for purchase that allows you to bypass the virtual lines there.  Attractions that do not have Express Pass access are Pteranodon Flyers at Islands of Adventure, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and Fievel’s Playland at Universal Studios, and Ko’okiri Body Plunge and Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides at Volcano Bay. I highly recommend purchasing Express Passes ahead of time, as these do have limited inventory and can sell out.

A HUGE perk of staying onsite at a Universal Orlando premier hotel is that you get Express Unlimited Passes complimentary for every day of your stay! Not only do you get the benefit of staying at world class hotels and being close to the parks, but you don’t have to purchase these passes on your own. Premier hotels include Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, and Hard Rock Hotel. If you stay at an onsite hotel that is not in the premier category, you can choose to add Express Passes to your vacation package to have your vacation components bundled together. 

As you can see, there are multiple options for Express Passes and you may be debating which is right for you. We can help with that! Feel free to fill out a quote request form and we can assist with booking any components of your Universal Orlando vacation.

Interested in a FREE quote? Contact me today!

Lauren.Gigliello@MarvelousMouseTravels.com

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Five Unique Shops at Universal Orlando Resort

If you’re anything like me, you LOVE shopping! Shopping takes on a new level of excitement while on vacation and I always enjoy finding fun and unique purchases to take home as memories from my trip. Universal Orlando Resort has tons of shops to choose from- whether at the parks, resorts or CityWalk. In no particular order, here are my five favorite shops to be sure to hit while on vacation.

Islands of Adventure Trading Company

Located in the Port of Entry at (you guessed it!) Islands of Adventure, this store is filled with souvenirs for everyone in your group. Islands of Adventure Trading Company has the best variety of merchandise in the park- from apparel to gifts to toys and more. This store is huge, and features items from many Universal brands including Harry Potter, Marvel, and more. You can also pick up Universal Orlando Resort gear here. I love the details in this store, like the giant dinosaur skeleton on the ceiling. If you’re staying on site, you can even have your merchandise sent directly to your hotel! This is a perk available at shops around Universal Orlando.

Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes

I LOVE this store and always find such neat gifts. Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes is located in Diagon Alley in Universal Studios. Run by pranksters Fred and George Weasley, Harry Potter fans shopping here will feel like they stepped inside of the movie. I love browsing around this store, and there are so many things to choose from between magical tricks, toys, and jokes. Be sure to check out the ceiling where you can see fireworks exploding “outside” of the shop! I recommend stopping by Gringotts Money Exchange prior to shopping to get the full Harry Potter experience. Here, you can exchange your US currency for Gringotts bank notes in $10 or $20 denominations. These bank notes can be used for purchases throughout both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. This is just another part of the immersive experience that you can have visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! 


SpongeBob StorePants

Located in Universal Studios, this interactive gift shop is a fun place to pop in and cool off from the hot Florida sun. There is SpongeBob merchandise abound, such as apparel, plush toys, hats, mugs, and more. I especially like all of the areas designed for kids to explore, including a replica of SpongeBob’s pineapple house! The interactive areas make this gift shop stand out from others, making it a fun shopping experience.

Mythical Metals

Mythical Metals located in Universal’s Islands of Adventure is the perfect place to stop if you are looking for a one-of-a-kind memory from your vacation. You are able to customize your own bronze, silver, or gold medallion with the symbols of your choice, and a skill artisan will create it right before your eyes! It is a neat experience and it is especially exciting to be able to create your medallion to your liking. I enjoy creating a new medallion on each trip to add to my collection- they make for great memories!

Owl Post

Situated in the heart of Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Owl Post is a unique shop that is a must-do for Harry Potter lovers! Inside, you’ll be able to find stationary, quills, seals, ink, official Wizarding World of Harry Potter stamps, and more. You can even purchase your own personal owl! I love being able to send postcards from here, because you are able to get a special Hogsmeade postmark on your piece of mail. 

There are so many other fun shops to browse and these are just some of my favorites. Be sure to comment with your favorite store at Universal Orlando…I would love to hear your thoughts! 

Interested in a FREE quote? Contact me today!

Lauren.Gigliello@MarvelousMouseTravels.com

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5 Must-Do Attractions for Thrill Seekers

Are you a fan of high-adrenaline, action-packed adventures? Then this blog post is geared for you! Universal Orlando Resort is home to a wide variety of world-class attractions, including many specifically for those who are thrill seekers. While it is so hard to only choose five thrilling attractions, I chose my favorites (in no particular order) throughout Universal Orlando’s three theme parks to talk to you about.

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit (Universal Studios)

Get ready for the ultimate rush on this insane roller coaster! Upon strapping in, you’ll choose the song that you want to hear on during your ride. Once you begin moving, you’ll head straight up a 90-degree angle followed by an insane drop. You reach speeds of up to 65 miles per hour cruising through the rest of the attraction! With your feet safely back on solid ground, you can view your adventure as a photo or music video to purchase as a memory. 

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (Islands of Adventure)

If you are a Harry Potter fan, this new attraction is a must-do! On this exciting coaster, join Hagrid and travel into the Forbidden Forest reaching speeds up to 50 miles per hour. You will experience seven launches throughout your journey, which means that you are propelled forward when you would typically begin to plateau. I love the seating on this ride- you either are seated on a motorbike or attached sidecar. I recommend trying to experience both seating types, as it changes the feel of the ride. Even if you are not familiar with Harry Potter, coming face-to-face with the rare magical creatures on this attraction cannot be missed. 

Krakatau Aqua Coaster (Volcano Bay)

Looking for a ride that combines water and thrills? Look no further than Krakatau Aqua Coaster at Universal’s Volcano Bay. Board a canoe and get ready to be soaked! You will be launched up hills and slide down them, experience dark twists and turns, and face a large drop at the end of the ride. This attraction is fun for your family or friends to experience together, as your canoe holds four people!

*Please note that Volcano Bay is currently closed, but is scheduled to reopen on March 1st!*

Revenge of the Mummy (Universal Studios)

This indoor coaster is sure to get your heart pounding! You will ride through darkness, reaching speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, all while trying to flee from Mummy Imhotep. There are so many special effects that make this coaster the ultimate thrill. Just when you thought you would make it out unscathed, the coaster takes you plunging straight down into a pitch-black abyss. This attraction always gets my heart racing, and I love the adrenaline rush!

The Incredible Hulk Coaster (Islands of Adventure)

With speeds reaching 67 miles per hour and seven inversions, you can count on The Incredible Hulk Coaster to leave you breathless. The attraction begins with you entering a compound run by General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, where you have volunteered to be a test subject for a science experiment. The ride starts out with a bang, catapulting you upside-down into a zero-gravity roll. You’ll have to hang on tight with superhuman strength as you speed through the sky. 

Are you ready to brave these attractions, along with many more at Universal Orlando Resort? I’d love to help! 

Interested in a FREE quote? Contact me today!

Lauren.Gigliello@MarvelousMouseTravels.com

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CityWalk at Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Resort is WAY more than just theme parks. CityWalk is known as “The Epicenter of Awesome” and is a mecca of dining, shopping and entertainment. It’s the perfect place for everyone in your travel party to relax and unwind. Universal CityWalk does not have an admission fee, so you are free to roam around and explore as much as you’d like!

With dining options abound, there is something for all taste buds. Universal CityWalk offers a variety of dining experiences, from quick service to themed dining. Quick service options include Red Oven Pizza Bakery where you can get your own Neopolitan-style pizza fired up in 90 seconds or less, and Bread Box Handcrafted Sandwiches where you can get your favorite hot melt or deli creation. Many quick service restaurants offer mobile ordering from the Universal Orlando Resort app as well, making mealtime super convenient. Full service restaurants range from All-American meals at NBC Sports Grill and Brew to Italian specialties at VIVO Italian Kitchen. One of my favorite places to dine at CityWalk is Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, where you’ll feel like you are on island time. I love listening to the live music play while enjoying a meal…and a margarita, of course! There are so many dining spots that it can be tough to choose, but I love trying out somewhere different each time that I visit.

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy a scrumptious dessert to end your day- especially on vacation! At CityWalk, you have several options to satisfy your sweet tooth. Voodoo Doughnut serves over 50 types of doughnuts every single day! There are so many yummy creations that it’s hard to pick just one. Another place to enjoy a variety of sweets and a meal (in no particular order…shh, I won’t tell anyone!) is Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. This full service restaurant, bar, and confectionary hosts an all day brunch menu, along with lunch and dinner menus. I must say though, the dessert is the best part. I recommend one of their delicious sundaes or artisanal milkshakes. Or better yet, split a couple of options with your fellow travelers! 

Who loves to shop while on vacation?! I know I do. At Universal CityWalk, there are several shopping options to browse and find the perfect gifts to bring home with you. The Universal Studios Store is stocked with all kinds of merchandise featuring your favorite Universal characters and mementos from the parks. Another fun shopping experience is at Quiet Flight Surf Shop, a store where it’s always summertime! Brands at this shop include Ray-Ban, Maui Jim, Billabong and Oakley. You can even get a permanent souvenir at Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company featuring artists from around the country. Whatever your style, every member of the family will be sure to find the perfect treasure to take home as a memory from your vacation.

CityWalk is such a great place to take in entertainment as well. Blue Man Group is a world famous, multi-sensory show that is unlike any other. It is important to note that as of publishing this post, the show is on a temporary hiatus, but is expected to return in the near future. There are also several nightclubs where you can dance the night away. Please note that these are temporarily closed as well, but are expected to reopen soon. 


Ready to challenge your family and friends to a round of miniature golf? Be sure to visit Hollywood Drive-In Golf, where there are two larger-than-life courses. The first is The Haunting of Ghostly Greens and the second is Invaders from Planet Putt. They are inspired by classic horror and sci-fi movies, respectively. Once you’re done with miniature golf, you can take in one of the latest movies on the big screen at Universal Cinemark. You can enjoy sitting back in relaxing chairs with stadium seating to enjoy the latest blockbuster. Universal Cinemark also features an IMAX Experience Theater, which is state-of-the-art and takes watching movies to the next level.

Universal CityWalk is easily accessible from all on-property Universal Orlando hotels. It is reachable via water taxi from Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and Hard Rock Hotel. It is also a short shuttle bus ride from Sapphire Falls Resort, Aventura Hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, and Endless Summer Resort (both Dockside and Surfside). 

Whether you are looking to take a break from the parks during the day, or want to grab dinner and a movie after a fun-filled day, Universal CityWalk has you covered. I love walking around and exploring, and always find something different each time that I visit. Are you ready to start planning your next adventure? I would love to hear from you! 

Interested in a FREE quote? Contact me today!

Lauren.Gigliello@MarvelousMouseTravels.com

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Dine with your favorites at Universal Orlando!

Whether it be for Breakfast or Dinner, feast with your favorites for a once and a lifetime experience! Character Dining is one of my favorite things to when we visit the parks. Right now, the Character Dining Experience has yet to open back up and once it does we will let you know! But I just wanted to give you information and show you the options you have once they are ready to dine with you!

Did you know all the Character meals are a buffet style meal, plus plenty of Character photo opportunities and a Free Digital Download! Also, be sure to check your calendar because some meals are only offered on certain days of the week.

Spend Saturday morning dining with your favorite Minions at Loews Royal Pacific Resort. Breakfast will be served in The Tahitian room with delicious buffet of morning favorites. As you take in tropical surroundings, some of the Despicable Me characters will stop by to wave hello and pose for pictures. **Characters subject to change without notice.

Do you have a Marvel fan in your family? Then you definitely do not want to miss out on feasting with these Super Heroes! You’re dining at Cafe 4™ when in walk Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Storm and Rogue. This is no ordinary dinner. This is the Marvel Character Dinner, an experience that no true believer can miss.

**Separate theme park admission is required. Characters are subject to change without notice.

Breakfast with the Grinch is by far one of my favorite Character Dining experiences! Who doesn’t love the Grinch?

After you choose from delectable buffet selections, get your camera ready. The Green One himself will make the rounds, stopping at every table to pose for photos. Will his heart grow three sizes bigger that day? Or will his belly? All we can say is watch out—he’s been known to steal his share of bacon here and there.

**You will need to purchase theme park admission to attend the character breakfast, and reservations are required. Annual pass discounts may apply.

Tapu Tapu

Have you recently been to Volcano Bay? If you haven’t then let me tell you about the Tapu Tapu Wearable band! When you arrive at Volcano Bay for your Epic Water Park Adventure you will be handed a Tapu Tapu wearable band. This band is your key to an amazing day at the park! You will use it to ride most attractions, activate interactive surprises, open rental lockers, make cash-free payments and so much more!

All the rides at Volcano Bay feature a Virtual Line. The virtual line gives you the ability to roam the park and enjoy other activities till its time to hop on the ride you are waiting for!

Here is a little about how it works:

  1. Tap in at an attraction with your TapuTapu wearable and you’re in the Virtual Line.
  2. You’re free to explore the park while your TapuTapu counts down the minutes to your return time.
  3. When your TapuTapu vibrates, it’s time to return to your attraction with just a short wait before you ride.

Keep your wallet dry while visiting Volcano Bay by going cashless. You can pay for food, drinks and merchandise with a tap of your TapuTapu wearable. Here’s how:

  1. Go to The Official Universal Orlando Resort App to set up your account.
  2. Link and assign the ticket numbers and names for each member of your party.
  3. Add a credit card and set a security PIN.
  4. Then, when you’re in Volcano Bay, you’ll enjoy the ease and convenience of making most transactions with a simple tap of your TapuTapu.