Dossa Does Orlando-May 2019

Discussion in 'Your Trip Reports and Plans' started by SirDossa, 17th May 2019.

  1. SirDossa

    SirDossa TowersStreet Member

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    Hi all!

    I just got back from an incredible 10 day trip to Orlando and thought I would write up some reports of the parks that I visited. The trip was amazing and was extended somewhat due to our original flight home being cancelled which resulted in us being put up in a holiday inn for the night with our revised flight taking off 16 hours later than scheduled..good old Norwegian airlines!Anyway,on to the parks..

    Day 1 (Saturday 4th May)

    We arrived at Orlando airport on Saturday afternoon (flew from Gatwick) amidst a rather brutal storm which delayed our luggage pick up by nearly an hour.I was super excited as we touched down as this was my first visit to Florida since I was a tiny tot and it was my girlfriend’s first ever visit to the US.The weather finally cleared up and we got a Mears shuttle bus to our accommodation for the trip.

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    We checked in at the Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista and dropped our stuff off before summoning an Uber to Fun Spot for the evening. The Clarion Inn hotel served us wonderfully well throughout our stay.Although it’s nothing fancy,our room was cleaned every day and the air con unit in our room was a godsend!The hotel is located in the centre of all the Orlando theme parks and the free hotel shuttle bus did come in very handy despite some of the pick up and drop off times not being all that convenient (the bus for Universal departed at 7.15 am every morning!).The hotel also has a very nice gift shop,2 pools (no time for a swim!)and a restaurant which we only sampled for breakfast but it was pleasant.Some raccoons were spotted one night in the outdoor undercover seating area and my initial thought was “they are scary looking cats!”.There are also lots of shops,bars and restaurants within a 5 minute walk from the hotel and we frequented some of these during our stay.I would definitely recommend the hotel to anyone wanting a very affordable stay at a hotel situated very close to all of the theme parks.

    Fun Spot- Not long after we arrived,another almighty storm struck and we had to seek shelter (and a couple of burgers!) in a nearby Burger King.The main attraction for our visit to Fun Spot was to get on Mine Blower and after nearly 2 hours of waiting and a couple of beers later,the storm passed and mine blower opened.We got 2 back row rides on it and it was an excellent ride packed full of air time and intense moments.My girlfriend found it a tad bit rough though!It was the first hybrid I’ve done and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.We didn’t end up doing anything else here as it had been a very long day of travelling so we headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest.

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    Posted 17th May 2019
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  2. SirDossa

    SirDossa TowersStreet Member

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    Day 2 (Sunday 5th May)

    We set off early and got the free shuttle bus from outside our hotel to Disney Hollywood Studios.

    Disney Hollywood Studios-

    Having left the process of downloading the Disney app and registering our tickets to the very last minute,fast passes appeared to be few and far between so we took the advice of our Uber Driver Dave from the previous evening and made a dash for the Tower of Terror which had just opened but was already on a 50 minute wait.This was a ride I had wanted to experience for many years and it definitely didn’t disappoint.The theming was sublime and I was really surprised by the amount of air time generated from the ride itself.We also really enjoyed the dark ride section before the drops kick in. This was an excellent first ride to kick start our Disney adventure.

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    We then managed to secure a mid morning fast pass for Rocknroller coaster so we set off for Star Tours which appeared to be on a 10 minute wait.On the walk over to there,I enjoyed watching the hourly empire show which involved a Stormtrooper procession with some crowd interaction followed by a mini show on a stage.

    I hadn’t experienced Star Tours since going on the one at Paris 15 or so years ago and the modernised version did not disappoint although a part of me did miss the nostalgia and retro feel of the original Star Tours. I had a peak at the construction of the new Star Wars Galaxies Edge area and I have no doubt that this will be a stunning area and I would love to one day get back out to visit it.Having spoken about this with a few people out there,it’s clear to see how hectic this park will be in terms of crowds once it does open and someone even told us that people will have a limit on how long they will able to spend in the area.

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    We then headed over to RocknRoller Coaster which was now on a staggering 85 minute wait but thankfully we only waited 5 or so minutes thanks to our fast pass.This was a great ride and the launch was more forceful than I expected although I think I prefer it’s French counterpart.

    We had planned to ride slinky dog dash but the queue was now 120 minutes and we were not willing to wait this long for a family coaster.The theme of it and the Toy Story land itself did look excellent though.

    The heavens then well and truly opened so we sought refuge in a couple of shows. Although not one usually for shows,I did enjoy the spectacle of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast and the missus loved them both.The rain/wind/lightning/thunder was still all around us so we decided to venture over to Epcot for the afternoon/evening.

    Epcot-

    Initially,we were in two minds as to whether or not we should do Epcot as we weren’t sure how many rides/attractions we would really enjoy there.It’s safe to say though that Epcot blew me away and we had a fantastic afternoon and evening there.We managed to get a fast pass for Spaceship Earth for the evening and started the afternoon off with a ride on Mission Space which was a very enjoyable interactive simulator attraction.Having successfully landed on Mars,we discovered that the sun was shining once again and Test Track was opening shortly.This was another very enjoyable attraction with the last section of the ride feeling quite forceful.

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    We then rode the underwater dark ride Seas which is themed to Finding Nemo and our fast pass ride on Spaceship Earth followed after this.I had no idea what to expect with this attraction and I can safely say that it blew me away.The sheer scale of it and the fact that it’s facade is the iconic Epcot centre golf ball is something to behold and the ride itself was a fantastic journey in to the world of technological advancement.

    We then queued up for Soarin which turned out to be another superb attraction.We had previously experienced Volatarium at Europa but this was the better experience in my opinion.The ride was simply stunning. We then tried to go on Land of the Living but unfortunately we were advised that the ride was closed for the day.This was at about 7.30 and the park was advertised as closing at 9 PM so it may well have been experiencing technical difficulties.

    We then explored some of the World Showcase and was once again taken back by the sheer scale of it and the general chilled out vibe compared to the other Disney parks.We had reserved a table for Coral Reef at 8 PM which concluded the day perfectly.This was a tranquil restaurant set to the backdrop of an aquarium filled with everything from sharks to stingrays.The food was yummy,service excellent and the beer went down very well.

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    Despite the weather and crowds during the first half of the day,we had a very nice day and got on quite a few rides.Epcot was definitely a surprise package for us and with lots still experience there,we put it on our radar for a potential return trip at a later date.

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    Posted 17th May 2019
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  3. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    Nice starting reports @SirDossa!

    Looking like a brilliant trip so far; what parks did you visit? I actually came back from Florida myself just under a month ago, and I did the WDW parks and Fun Spot Kissimmee on my most recent trip. Although I have done Universal, SeaWorld and Busch before as well.

    From what you've said so far, I can also echo Epcot being a hugely surprising park for me, and I can also echo many of your opinions on the attractions you've done so far!

    Can't wait for the next installment!
     
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    Posted 17th May 2019
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  4. SirDossa

    SirDossa TowersStreet Member

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    Thanks Matt N! Yes, I enjoyed reading your trip report too. We visited the 4 Disney parks, both Universal parks, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. Reports on all the other parks will follow in the coming days but spoiler alert- we enjoyed the Universal parks the most!
     
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    Posted 17th May 2019
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  5. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    You're very welcome! I also agree with you in enjoying the Universal parks the most; while Disney is great, Universal's theming is just as good, in my opinion, and the sort of product they offer appeals to me more than Disney's. There's a very good reason that both parks are in my top 3 theme parks; IOA in particular blows me away every time I visit!
     
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    Posted 17th May 2019
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  6. TPC

    TPC TowersStreet Member

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    Did you watch Illuminations if you were at Epcot at night?
     
    Posted 17th May 2019
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  7. SirDossa

    SirDossa TowersStreet Member

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    Afraid we didn’t..wish we had though.Hopefully get to see them on another trip.
     
    Posted 17th May 2019
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  8. AT86

    AT86 TowersStreet Member

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    You need to get back before the end of September then ;).

    Enjoying the report, thanks for writing :).
     
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    Posted 18th May 2019
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  9. SirDossa

    SirDossa TowersStreet Member

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    Day 3-Monday 6th May

    We set off early again and got the shuttle to Epcot before getting two monorails to the Magic Kingdom.

    The Magic Kingdom-

    We had scheduled our visit to the Magic Kingdom on a Monday thinking that the crowds may be relatively low and the park would be somewhat quiet.However,we soon discovered that this magical park doesn’t do quiet as the place was swarming with people which meant that queues were long throughout the day.However,we had secured fast passes for three main attractions so it was just a case of grinning and bearing the queues for all of the other rides.

    After a lovely stroll through Main Street USA and a few obligatory photos of and in front of the stunning castle,we took the advice of Uber driver Dave and got straight in the queue for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. It was already on a 45 minute wait but this increased to 120 minutes later on the day.The ride itself was enjoyable and is a perfect fit for families with young children wanting a bit of excitement.

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    We then headed over to Space Mountain which was the shortest wait of the day at around 25 minutes and this was another enjoyable coaster and the most intense ride of the day.I was pleasantly surprised by some of the airtime moments but I felt that it’s younger sibling out in France is definitely the better version.

    We then cashed in our first fast pass of the day on the classic Pirates of The Caribbean ride.The one in Paris is up there with my favourite all time dark rides (although I haven’t been on it since the recent changes) so this had a lot to live up to.It was a great ride and I was pleased to see that projections hadn’t taken over the ride although once again,I felt the ride experience and general theme/facade of the ride wasn’t as good as the Paris one.The theme tune is without doubt my favourite soundtrack to any ride though!

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    We then visited the Haunted Mansion which was on a relatively long queue which was slow moving at best.This would be a trend which would continue throughout the day.The ride itself was very enjoyable and it was great to experience a true dark ride without any gimmicks such as shooting guns or an overuse of projections.

    It was now the afternoon and the park really was heaving.It was at this time that a chilled out beer or 2 away from the crowds would have gone down a treat but alas,this was not to be! It’s also worth noting how “love bugs” appeared to be in season for our trip and they had well and truly descended on the Magic Kingdom.Although not vicious (thankfully!),their presence was somewhat annoying although they were preferable to wasps or hornets.

    After lunch,we had an old school dark ride session and rode “It’s a Small World”, “Peter Pan” and the “Little Mermaid”.The queue for Peter Pan really was hard work with it moving at a snails pace,largely down to mismanagement on the fast pass system.The rides have to be appreciated for what they are but ultimately we aren’t the target market and a queue of 70 minutes for Peter Pan wasn’t ideal (I can only imagine how much longer this would be in the height of the season/Summer!). My girlfriend also described It’s a Small a World as her..idea of Hell .

    We then stumbled across the “Bear Jamboree” show in Frontierland which turned out to be a wonderful (and slightly sinister) live music show performed by animatronic bears! This was a great way to spend 20 or so minutes away from the crowds and savage heat.

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    It was then time for our second fast pass of the day on the classic Splash Mountain.This was on a 90 minute queue and given the heat,it was a luxury to be able to pretty much walk on.The ride and theme of the ride was superb and was our favourite ride of the day.I was shocked to discover that it was a 4 drop special!

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    We then escaped the crowds and heat for a bit and tucked in to some ice cream before embarking on the Jungle Cruise which was meant to be a 45 minute wait.However,this queue was crawling along and we ended up waiting nigh on 70 minutes which was frustrating as the ride itself although a Disney Classic didn’t do much for us.

    It was now getting dark and we had our last fast pass on Big Thunder Mountain.I was looking forward to this as I do love the Paris one but again,this felt tamer and less interesting.Although it was an enjoyable experience,we didn’t get off wanting to go on it again.

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    We toyed with the idea of staying in the park til closing but the queue times had barely gone down and we were both pretty shattered after a day involving lots of walking,queuing,heat with little or no escape from it and last but not least hoards of screaming and crying children!We knew this is the territory and place for such going’s on but we made our escape via an Uber to the backdrop of the epic firework display and set off straight to a Hooters down the road from our Hotel for some much needed amber nectar and a good old chow down.

    Return visit-

    We decided to return to the Magic Kingdom on the evening of Sunday 12th May as we were desperate to witness the Happily Ever After nighttime show.We got in to the park shortly after 7 PM and enjoyed a very leisurely ride on the Peoplemover before enjoying a hot dog at the legendary Casey’s Corner.It was then time for the fireworks and it’s safe to say that this was a truly stunning spectacle.It’s crazy to think that this display is put on every night of the week!Crowds were busy but the atmosphere was buzzing and the temperature was considerably cooler than it was during our previous daytime visit.

    We had a fast pass for space mountain after the fireworks which was a definite bonus as the stand by queue was over an hour.After a thrilling journey through Space,we had a final ride on Pirates of The Caribbean.Adventureland and the whole of the Magic Kingdom is a stunning place to be in the dark and although the park was meant to be closing at 10 pm,some rides still had hour plus queues at 10.30!

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    We were definitely glad that we visited the Magic Kingdom again during our trip and it was an absolute joy to be able to witness the Happily ever after bonanza.

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    Posted 19th May 2019
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  10. Plastic Person

    Plastic Person TowersStreet Member

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    Enjoying the reports, @SirDossa, and equally enjoyed the reports from @Matt N recently. However, having not been to Orlando in a few years, both have served to underline the near military level of planning needed to properly enjoy the resort these days. I'm not sure I have the energy.
     
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  11. SirDossa

    SirDossa TowersStreet Member

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    Glad you are enjoying them! And yes,you do make a good point.Without booking advanced fast passes for all the Disney parks,it’s unlikely we would have been able to do all the rides.Re-rides were practically off the table too due to the queues although this was definitely not a problem at the other parks visited on the trip.Our days at the Disney parks had to begin very early as well in order to arrive at the parks for opening so was no chance of a holiday lie-in!


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  12. SirDossa

    SirDossa TowersStreet Member

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    Day 4-Tuesday 7th May

    Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure

    We decided to get an Uber to Universal Studios and arrived shortly before the park opened.As soon as the park opened,we realised how quiet it was on park as we managed to get back to back walk on rides on both Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket and The Mummy Returns.

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    Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket turned out to be a lot of fun and we both loved the gimmick of picking your own music to cruise around the coaster to.I enjoyed a bit of the Beastie Boys followed by Limp Bizkit and this definitely added to the overall experience of the ride.The ride itself was top notch and definitely exceeded expectations.This is a very unique coaster and is very re-rideable indeed.

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    It was then time for the Mummy Returns which took the crown of being the best ride of the trip (so far!).There was no queue for it at all and the theming of the queue line was top notch while the ride itself turned out to be incredible.We really didn’t know what to expect with this one but we both came off and just wanted to go on it again and again.The ride is incredibly well themed and combines so many surprise dark ride and coaster elements which in turn creates a stunning ride experience.It was like nothing else I’ve ever been on and is hands down one of the best rides I’ve ever experienced.

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    We then headed over to the Harry Potter themed area thinking that this would now be heaving but was pleasantly surprised to find a mere sprinkling of guests.The Diagon Alley themed area was a sight to behold and although not fans of Harry Potter,we couldn’t help but feel totally immersed in the area.The Escape from Gringott’s coaster was practically walk on and was another ride which blew us both away.The technology and theming on display here was superb and dare I say that I’m now tempted to watch all of the films on the back of this stunning area and attraction!

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    We then had rides on The Simpson’s and Transformers which both seemed to follow the same pattern of relying on screens and projections but there’s no denying that all of these rides are executed very well and fans of the respective shows/films will love the attractions.I for one had never really experienced anything on the scale of these rides in terms of the technology and ride mechanisms on display and was surprised at how much I enjoyed them.All of these rides were again practically walk on which was an absolute result.

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    We then walked round the Springfield area and plotted up in Moe’s for some lunch.This was a great experience as we are both big fans of the Simpson’s.However,my girlfriend was really excited to have a Duff beer but the barman there was very strict in that he was only willing to serve alcohol to individuals bearing valid ID.Despite us both being comfortably over the legal age to drink in the US,only I had ID on me so I enjoyed a Duff Beer whilst the missus had to have a soda!She did try mine though and we vowed to return again on another day of our trip with ID at the ready (sure enough on our return visit,ID wasn’t requested!).

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    It’s worth mentioning that the parks are very tight when it comes to serving alcohol to people but I guess it’s because of how big a deal it would be if they were found to be serving drink to people underage.I also enjoyed a very nice fried chicken burger in a waffle bun with some tata tots.

    After lunch,we had a ride on E.T which was another fun dark ride and we then made the decision to head over to Islands of Adventure for the afternoon.We had originally set aside solo days for both parks but we couldn’t believe how many rides we had already got in at Universal Studios in half a day and given the heat,we were desperate to get on some water rides next door as well as get on some of the other highly anticipated rides.We were having an amazing day and it was just about to get even better.

    Islands of Adventure-

    Islands of Adventure had been a bucket list park for me ever since Hulk appeared on my radar and I was filled with excitement upon entering the park.Unfortunately the Hogwart’s express was down for the day so we made the short walk over to IOA and once again,crowds seemed to be small but the park appeared to still have a great atmosphere.

    It was early afternoon and was about 32 degrees so we were desperate for a good soaking to cool down..Enter the Popeye and Pluto’s Bilge-rat Barges!Having seen vlogs on this ride before,I was prepared to get wet but I can safely this was the wettest ride I’ve ever been on.It was a much needed soaking session and the ride was great fun from start to finish.Our fellow passengers in our vessel made the ride even more enjoyable as I don’t think they had any idea how wet they would get whilst riding it!

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    We continued our water ride session with a go on Dudley Doright’s ripsaw falls which was the longest wait of the day.However,it was definitely worth the wait and was one of the best flumes I’ve ever been on.The main drop and theming that surrounds it looks great and is in a perfect location for crowds to observe.This was also another solid soaker!

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    After this,and whilst suitably soaked we had a ride on Jurassic Park River Adventure.This exceeded my expectations and was a thoroughly well themed ride with a great drop at the end.It really did feel like we were cruising through Jurassic park and some parts of the ride really do link in well with the original classic film.This ride turned out to be my girlfriend’s favourite ride of the entire trip!

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    It was then time to visit the Harry Potter themed area and once again,we were met with some truly stunning facades and theming.The scale of the area was epic and I couldn’t help but be blown away by the detail of the theming at hand despite not personally being a fan of the film franchise.There are two Harry Potter themed rides in this area and we had rides on them both.The Forbidden Journey really is an incredible ride and the combination of both dark ride set pieces and the use of screens was incredible.This combined with the unique ride system makes for a lengthly fun filled adventure with some fantastic scenes and forces and after multiple re-rides,I have to question whether or not I have ever been on a better dark ride!The flight of the Hippogriff coaster is the other ride in this area but this didn’t warrant any re-rides.It is very much geared towards families with smaller children and is a fun short ride for what it is.

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    We then rode Skull Island:Reign of Kong which was another very well themed dark ride crossed with VR.The ride itself was great fun with the ending being the standout highlight.

    We then headed over to Hulk which was definitely one of my most anticipated rides of the trip.On route,we had a walk on ride on Spider-Man which was another fun filled dark/screens ride.By now,we had come quite accustomed to Universal’s approach to these type of rides and were enjoying the uniqueness of them as they were quite different to anything else I had ever been on.However,for those who aren’t particularly big fans of the films/franchises with which some of the rides are themed to (myself included),I do feel that some of these rides aren’t particularly re-rideable.

    It was now time for Hulk which was on a very short queue.As expected,I loved this coaster and the launch was pretty forceful!The ride layout over the lake was fantastic and the general look and theme of the coaster was superb.I immediately had a second ride on it and was lucky to get on the front row.This proved to be a rather intense ride and I’d say that it is definitely a front row coaster.

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    After Hulk,I had a quick go on Doctor Doom’s fearfall.Once again,this ride was themed very well but the ride itself felt rather forceless.However,it did provide some great views from the top!

    Our day at the Universal parks had now come to an end and we couldn’t believe that we had managed to get on so many rides/re-rides in one day across both parks.The operations and atmosphere at both parks was great and we pencilled in a return visit on one of the reserve days later on in our trip where we planned on doing some of the rides that we didn’t get on as well as re-rides on some of our favourites from today.

    Return trip-Monday 13th May

    We spent our last full day of the trip at both Universal parks again and managed to get on all of our favourite rides again and also got on the Despicable Me and Men in Black dark rides at Universal Studios.Both rides were good fun although they were probably my least favourite of the dark rides across both parks.

    The parks did appear to be slightly busier than they were on our previous visit but the single rider queues enabled us to practically walk on most of our favourite rides including three rides in a row on the epic Mummy Returns coaster.The weather was unfortunately the worst it had been all week with the rain and storms refusing to go away until late afternoon which did mean a number of attractions were closed for a large part of the day.However,this didn’t dampen our day thanks to the abundance of dark rides at Universal and we once again enjoyed some duff beer and some lovely food in Moe’s during the height of the storm.

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    The Hogwart’s express was open as well and we got to experience this unique attraction.The theming was fantastic and it really did feel like being back in London what with the realness of the Leicester Square and King’s Cross station facades (although they were considerably more cleaner here!).The express serves as a great method of transporting people between both of the Universal parks and upon our arrival at IOA,we did back to back rides on the Forbidden journey before embarking on some very wet rides on Jurassic Park and Popeye and Bluto’s rapids.It was still raining at this point but the threat of a storm must have passed by as everything was open now.Our ride on the rapids was even wetter than our previous one and with hindsight,it may not have been the smartest move riding this in the pouring rain.However,when in Rome (I mean Orlando!!).

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    After an incredibly tasty Cinnabon,I took another ride on the Hulk which turned out to be a deserving and very enjoyable last ride of the trip.


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  13. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    Great report @SirDossa; I love me some Universal! IOA in particular is something to behold, but both parks are still my favourite two in Florida!

    As for your temptation to watch the Harry Potter films; watch them, they're great!

    Can't wait for the next instalment of your trip!
     
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  14. SirDossa

    SirDossa TowersStreet Member

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    Day 5-Wednesday 8th May

    Busch Gardens-Tampa

    It was now time for one of the most anticipated parks of the whole trip.Busch Gardens had been a bucket list park of mine for many years and I was looking forward to getting on some of the coasters that the park has to offer.We booked a Mears shuttle from our hotel and the journey to the park was roughly an hour and a half.

    We arrived at just gone 11 am and after making eyes with a few beastly looking gators,we hoped to get on Cheetah Hunt first thing.This was a coaster that I had wanted to ride for a long time but unfortunately it didn’t open all day due to being down for technical reasons.This wasn’t the best start to a day which would ultimately end up being rather underwhelming.

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    Our first ride of the day was Cobra’s Curse which does have a good theme to it.It was on a 20 minute wait although we ended up waiting considerably longer than this and the ride didn’t do much for either of us although it is definitely a fun family coaster.We then headed over to the legendary Montu which was walk on.I had heard lots of good things about this coaster and i found it to be a very solid and intense inverted coaster.The first drop was great but the rest of the ride relies heavily on inversions and as someone who prefers coasters that aren’t too inversion heavy,Montu hasn’t made its way in to my top coasters list.

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    The locker system enforced at both Busch Gardens and Sea World is somewhat more complicated than it need really be, particularly if there is a large crowd of people milling around the locker area in a rush to put their things away. It was fine once we understood it but I didn’t think it was as practical as Universal’s system, not to mention the fact that it also cost 6 bucks! It isn’t helped by the fact that the first screen on the system is there to try and sell quick passes for the rides which complicates the process of trying to obtain a locker. The option of being able to use multiple lockers across each park has its pros and cons with one of the cons being that you have to keep one eye on the time as well as having to plan your day according to where your bags may be stored.

    After Montu, my girlfriend needed to go get her bag from a locker located by Cheetah Hunt and she also said she wanted to go see the Hippo’s. I set off for the imposing structure that is Falcon’s Fury.Standing at nearly 400 feet, it really does look quite intimidating and it was another ride that I had wanted to experience for a long time. It was definitely the one ride all trip which genuinely scared me a bit as I completely forgot that you get tilted forwards at the top of the descent. The views at the top were incredible and although the actual drop didn’t feel all that forceful, it is definitely my new number one drop tower.

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    We then headed for the new for 2019 coaster Tigris. When we booked the trip, I didn’t think this would be open in time but was happy that it was despite the ride and its layout not exciting me all that much. Unfortunately, the coaster lived up to my pre-ride expectations in that it just felt a bit flat and due to the one train operations, the queue crawled along which wasn’t much fun in the scorching Tampa heat. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad ride at all and given the space restraints of the area, they have done well to build a pretty unique and forceful coaster but ultimately, I didn’t feel the urge to rush back on it after this sole ride.

    A coaster which I did want to get back on almost immediately after riding was Sheikra which was another coaster I had wanted to go on for years. This lived up to expectations and was my favourite ride in the park. I loved the layout of the ride and I think it’s my new favourite dive coaster.

    After a late lunch, we were desperate to cool down and had hoped to get on the Log flume. We were made aware at the start of the day that the Rapids would be down for maintenance but unfortunately the Log Flume was also out of action for the afternoon. I know these things happen at parks but it really wasn’t the ideal day for it as we were desperate for a water ride in what was the hottest day of our trip so far.

    We then had an intense ride on the classic B and M coaster Kumba which was relatively smooth for such an old inversion filled coaster. This was followed up by rides on the other two coasters Scorpion and Sandserpent which were both fairly forgettable.

    We got the cable car back to the other side of the park and enjoyed the views of all the animals and rides that were on offer. The skyline of coasters does look impressive and it was interesting to see the half torn apart structure of the woody formerly known as Gwazi. We had hoped by now that Cheetah Hunt would be running but no trains were going round and the sign remained in place outside the ride entrance saying that the ride was ‘temporarily down’’. We did see an engineer working on the track as we were leaving but unfortunately it did not open which was a shame as it was one of the most anticipated rides of the trip.

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    Unfortunately, our day at Busch Gardens didn’t hit the high notes that I had so wanted (and expected) it to do. On another day, my views may have been different but even without being able to get on Cheetah Hunt and the water rides, the park lacked any real atmosphere and operations were lacklustre. The coaster line-up and Falcon’s fury is great but the majority of rides appeared to be operated by ops with zero interest or rigour in the task at hand which resulted in ridiculously slow ride dispatches and queue times which did not reflect the level of crowds on the day. I guess this was always going to be an issue having spent the previous few days at Disney and Universal parks! Another issue was the complete lack of dark rides which again we had come fairly accustomed to over the previous few days. It is a park I would visit again though and would like to think that operations and ride availability may be better during a future visit.


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  15. SirDossa

    SirDossa TowersStreet Member

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    Day 6-Thursday 9th May
    Seaworld

    We arrived at Seaworld at around 10.30 having travelled there on the free Hotel shuttle bus. Upon realising that Manta was already on a 60 minute wait, I feared for the worst in terms of the crowds and queue times that lay ahead. We set off towards the back of the park looking to get on Mako first thing only to discover that during the off peak season, this area of the park doesn’t open until 11 am. I wasn’t overly impressed with this at first but we soon realised just how quiet the park would be as the day went on so it is justifiable. It also explains why the queue for Manta was so long as it was practically walk on for the remainder of the day.

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    We decided to wait with the crowd that had assembled by the pathway leading to the back end of the park and we were let through bang on 11 am. We headed straight for Mako which was the coaster I had been looking forward to most throughout the trip. It looks fantastic off ride and we were excited for our first ride on it. We started with a back row ride on it and immediately followed it up with a front row ride. This coaster definitely did not disappoint and is exactly what I look for in a coaster. The first drop is amazing and the airtime is relentless throughout wherever you sit on the train. It really is a fun filled air time machine of a coaster which maintains its speed throughout and it leaves you wanting to ride it again and again. This ended up being my number 1 coaster in Orlando and my new number 2 favourite coaster (Shambhala still sits on the throne). It’s also worth mentioning that having experienced the rather inadequate operations at Busch Gardens the previous day, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Mako was running 2 trains despite being practically walk on all day. This was also the same case for the other major coasters at the park.

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    After multiple rides on Mako we made the short walk over to Infinity Falls. We were both excited for this one having seen videos of it before the trip and again, it didn’t disappoint. It turned out to be a solid soaker and a really fun ride with some very unique features including the elevator style lift hill which results in a fairly sizeable drop. It’s a perfect attraction to cool off on in the Orlando heat!

    We then headed over to Kraken which was another coaster that I was looking forward to riding. It proved to be a very solid ride with some great elements and I’m glad to have been able to experience it without the VR as personally, I feel the use of VR on a coaster like this is pointless. After Kraken, it was time for a ride on Journey to Atlantis which turned to be one of my favourite rides of the whole trip. You really get your money’s worth with this one in the sense that it combines dark ride, water ride and coaster elements which in turn creates a stunning attraction. The façade looks very impressive and it also has a very catchy soundtrack to it.

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    It was now time for a ride on Manta which again looks a very impressive coaster off ride.My only previous flying coaster had been Air at Towers and I don’t think I was fully prepared for the experience and intensity that Manta has to offer.It had a walk on queue but it did take quite a while to dispatch our train due to the ops having to check that everyone was in position and ready to go.I imagine this has a knock on effect on the queue times for the ride.At first,I found the flying position relatively pleasant as we ascended the lift hill and thus continued during the large first drop.However,as soon as we entered the first inversion,I felt my body completely transform and the rest of the ride was one of the most intense rides I’ve ever had on a coaster.It was great fun but it was the only ride of the trip which left me feeling rather nauseous coming off it.I wouldn’t recommend riding it after lunch!

    We then had a spot of lunch and observed the incoming storm whilst dining.The parks out in Orlando are very much on the ball when it comes to the weather and the major rides stop operating if there are reports of any storms (mainly lightning) close by.Throughout our trip,it was quite obvious when a storm was coming and I have to say they were pretty well received on our part as they cooled things down for a short while!Sure enough,the heavens opened just as we were finishing lunch and the rain stayed for an hour or so.We used this time to chill out and have a beer in a fantastic bar called “Shark’s” which was located near Mako.We got chatting to some of the people propping up the bar and were surprised to hear that this was bar was some people’s “local”.I wish my local had Mako opposite it!It was a really nice bar with lots of fish to observe and they were also showing both the Europa League semi finals on the screens which was a surprise.

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    We then checked out the Dolphin show which was very enjoyable and followed this with a few more rides on the fantastic Mako show.We ended our day by watching the Whale show which was fascinating to see.In terms of the animal welfare at Seaworld,I understand both sides of the argument but I will say that staff and cast members really do their best to educate people on the positive things that they believe they are achieving with regards to the animals that reside there.

    All in all we had a superb day at Seaworld and returned a few days later for more re-rides on all of the major attractions.


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  16. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    Location:
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    Favourite Ride:
    Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
    Great report as always @SirDossa! Glad to see that Mako thrilled you as it did me; still sits as my number 1 coaster nearly 3 years after that first ride in August 2016, so I'm glad to hear it seems to have aged well! I haven't ridden Shambhala, but I'm sure I'd love that just as much!
    EDIT: On a side note, what is it about Shambhala that you still prefer over Mako?
     
    Last edited: 25th May 2019
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  17. SirDossa

    SirDossa TowersStreet Member

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    Thanks Matt!Ah it’s a close call to be fair but Shambhala edges it due to its first drop being higher and more forceful and I think the layout is slightly better and also a bit longer plus I love the water splash effect on Shambhala.I do think that the lap bar was looser on Mako though which made for some insane airtime.I do recall some of the ops in Portaventura really slamming it down on a couple of the rides I had on it which did make a bit of a difference to the ride experience.
     
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  18. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    Ah right. Thanks for the clarification @SirDossa; I seem to remember my row 2 lap bar being particularly loose on the first ride; I was practically standing up at points!
     
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  19. SirDossa

    SirDossa TowersStreet Member

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    Day 7-Friday 10th May

    Animal Kingdom

    It was now time for our much anticipated visit to Animal Kingdom which was the fourth and final Disney park of the trip. We arrived for park opening and headed straight to the Avatar themed land Pandora to join the queue for Flight of Passage. Having checked the app throughout the week, the queue for this ride was averaging 120 minutes throughout the day and we did well to follow Uber driver Dave’s advice once again and get on this first thing. Before I go into more detail about our day at the park, word of warning to anyone who dare wear a Universal Studios t-shirt to a Disney park- prepare for some ‘’banter’’ from fellow guests as well as Disney employees! I had no idea it would cause such a stir.

    The queue for Flight of Passage was about 60 minutes when we joined and was 130 when we came off! First and foremost, the theming of this area is simply stunning and the attention to detail on display is arguably the best theming I’ve ever seen and this is despite having not seen the Avatar film before (another film added to the list!). There is so much to look at whilst in the queue and this continues indoors which helps pass the time as well as build up excitement for the ride that awaits. After a rather lengthy interactive pre-show, it was time to board our customized ‘’Banshee’’ ready for take-off on our flight of passage. The ride itself was very enjoyable and the effects on display are fantastic. I particularly enjoyed the smell pods and use of water during the ride. However, I didn’t come off thinking it was the best dark ride attraction I’ve ever experienced and it wasn’t the best of the trip for me. My feelings may well have been enhanced had I been more familiar with the film itself but I still did find it to be a very enjoyable and unique attraction.

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    After Flight of Passage, we headed over to the dark ride Dinosaur. We really didn’t know what to expect with this ride but it definitely exceeded our expectations. This is a fantastic dark ride which packs some real thrills and it really sets the scene of being on an action packed Dinosaur adventure. This is definitely one of the best dark rides I’ve ever experienced. We then had a ride on the spinning coaster Primeval Whirl which was a fairly middle of the road coaster designed to thrill families with young children. The area that it is located in did strike us as being a bit out of place given the funfair style theme to it, especially when compared to the other more tranquil and picturesque areas of the park. However, we returned to the area later on in the day and the atmosphere was great with lots of street style entertainment on display.

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    We had a fast pass for Expedition Everest coming up but before this we had a ride on it via the single rider queue line. This was one of the rides I was most looking forward to getting on and thankfully it didn’t disappoint. The exterior of the ride is another example of the stunning theming on display and this standard is maintained throughout the coaster itself. The views as you ascend the lift hill up to the peak of Everest are fantastic and I love the gimmick of the track being torn up by an angry yeti. The backwards section in the pitch black proved to be quite intense but my favourite moment of the coaster is the quite sizeable drop out of the mountain itself. This is also the perfect scene for people to watch the ride and get some off ride shots of it. We followed up this ride with our fast pass ride on it and I got in a few more rides via the single rider queue as the day went on.

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    We then went to see the Festival of the Lion King show which is a musical style show celebrating the classic Disney film. Although not one usually for shows, the scale of this was very impressive and everyone in attendance appeared to enjoy it. We then went and got some lunch nearby before our second fast pass of the day which was on the Kali River Rapids. This proved to be yet another awesome rapids ride and we were thankful for our fast pass given that the stand by queue was 90 minutes. I don’t think this Rapids was as enjoyable as Popeye and Bluto’s at IOA or Infinity Falls at SeaWorld but it is still a quality rapids with some great theming and some solid splashes!

    We then explored the park some more and enjoyed some more rides on Dinosaur and Expedition Everest before our final fast pass of the day on Kilimanjaro Safari. This is a safari style ride in an authentic jeep which lasts around 20 minutes and takes guests all around the Africa themed area. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see all that many animals but we did get to see some Hippos, Giraffes, Zebras and a few others. It was a very enjoyable experience and the driver/guide did very well to keep everyone on board engaged throughout the ride.

    We then toyed with the idea of leaving the park but we decided to stick around as we wanted to see Pandora in the dark and were hoping to experience the Na'vi River Journey. We had a few drinks whilst the sun was setting and noticed that the queue for the Na'vi River Journey had reduced significantly and was on 20 minutes. We figured that by the time we had come off the ride, the park would be in full night-time mode. The Na’Vi River Journey was a very pleasant boat ride with some immaculate theming and despite not being very familiar with Avatar, I enjoyed the ambience and atmosphere of the ride. As we returned to the world of Pandora, it was now fully dark and the world was glowing with enchantment and even the ground was sparkling. It felt like a magical place to be and it was definitely worth staying to see.

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    Our day at the Animal Kingdom had now come to an end and we summoned an Uber back to our hotel. It had been another great day and although the park doesn’t boast loads of rides, the rides that they do have our fantastic with Expedition Everest and Dinosaur being my two highlights. The atmosphere and vibe of the park was wonderful to experience and it ended up being our favourite Disney park of the trip.



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