September 19, 2009
My mother had booked a cruise for her, my dad, my brother, and myself in September of 2009. This would be their 2nd, mine and my brother’s first. Since we were leaving out of Florida this gave mea chance to visit at least one theme park in Orlando, and since I had a free 7 day 2 park ticket to Universal Studios parks from a Super Bowl promotion, that was the winner for this trip. In fact, this would be my 2nd visit to the parks, and thus far Universal Resort Orlando’s parks still the only theme parks I’ve visited in Orlando. The plan was to drive down to the Savannah area on Friday, dropping my grandmother off in Salisbury NC then head in to Universal early on Saturday morning, visiting the 2 parks during the day before picking my parents up from the airport later that evening.
Sure enough, early Saturday morning I woke up and headed the rest of the way south. I was excited because I really liked the parks the last time I was there, and was anxious to do the attractions that I’d missed last time, as well as the new coaster that just opened at Universal Studios. But once I arrived at the parks I knew it was going to be a hectic day as there were already long lines of cars just waiting to pay to get in and park. Once I did get in to the parking buildings, though, I headed over to Universal Studios first. This was a mistake.
I had to trade my voucher for a ticket, and to do that had to wait in the regular ticket line, which at this point at about 10:30 AM was already about an hour long. I texted someone to see if going over to Islands of Adventure would get me in quicker, and he said it wouldn’t. Having said that, I still kind of wish I would have went to Islands first and finished it up as there were far fewer people there and I could have gotten more done in less time.
Upon finally arriving at the ticket counter I was drenched with sweat and very hot, but happy to finally be getting somewhere. I asked the very nice girl at the ticket booth about the Express Pass Plus and she informed me that they were running a special of $25 for both parks instead of the normal $55. Granted, this time of year was far less busy and the pass was really just that cheap to get people to pay money for it, but I decided that since I was getting in for free I’d buy it and see what I could do with it. Sadly, they’ were still working out kinks on Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit, so no Express Pass line for that.
I grabbed a park map and headed into the park. And since there was no Express Pass line for Rockit, I headed there first to see if I could get in on the single rider line. Just as soon as I asked about it the guy told me he had room for me and could put me right on…Jimmy Neutron. I didn’t realize that I’d gotten in the wrong line. So I quickly jumped out and went around to Rockit where the line was over 2 hours and the single rider line was closed. Bummer. I didn’t want that to be my first wait of the day, although in hind sight I probably should have. Instead I went to the park’s other adult coaster.
Revenge of the Mummy–I did use the Express Pass for this and it took me through the single rider/Express Pass queue, which saved a lot of time. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have had a problem waiting in the slightly longer air conditioned line, but I walked right on to the back row. Mummy was so much better than I remembered. I mean, there was ejector air on EVERY hill. Every hill. Even the launch up had crazy airtime. I really love the layout anyways in the dark, and twisting around itself. Its themed well, has a decent storyline, and both coaster sections are just incredible. It would be in my top 10 if they would have put in a better backwards section like they did in Hollywood.
After my quick ride on Mummy I headed to my first new to me attraction, the recently renamed Disaster. I love walking through Universal, though, because the theming is so immersive. There are alleys in the New York section and everything. There wasn’t really a line for Disaster, but they made the Express Pass group wait the maximum of 15 minutes before they let us in.
Disaster-I only knew that part of the ride was basically the underground earthquake scene from the Hollywood Studio’s Back Lot Tour, which was good, because I liked it on that attraction. I didn’t know there was a ‘preshow’ in the first room, and then 2 other rooms before that. I was amazed at the interaction between the Director (Kristopher Walken) and the actor on stage. I loved the Pepper’s Ghost effect. Then there was the next room, with different ‘scenes’ acted out with people picked from the crowd. It was kind of silly, but not terrible. Finally we moved to the subway station and onto the ride vehicle. Moving into the stage area was quick and painless. As for the earthquake attraction itself it was just like the earthquake scene on the Backlot Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood. I was disappointed that we backed out of the subway tunnel instead of just going around.
There was a good 30+ minutes used on one ride. I was hoping JAWS wouldn’t be quite as long, so that was where I headed to next. And with my handy dandy Express Pass Plus, I was able to skip thru the longer queue and get on the next boat that was leaving.
JAWS-I was expecting about the same type of attraction as the small JAWS section in Hollywood, which I was not impressed with at all, but this was an actual ride with a storyline. After setting out on a trip around Amity we rounded the corner and saw the horrible accident. The ride just picked up from there and was really fun, with the shark coming out at every instance. I really liked the indoor section, and at the end the steam on my side of the boat really made for a cool effect. JAWS was a lot of fun and I’m glad I finally got to ride.
I headed over for the final ride that I was interested in that I missed last time, stopping at another new attraction along the way. I had ridden Back to the Future in Hollywood and was not impressed, but I was really looking forward to The Simpsons ride since I’d heard many good reviews. And boy did the Express Pass save me here. The line was very long, but I skipped right up to the end of the line. The preshow queue area was fun, but it seemed like the real preshow in the room just before you enter took forever. Eventually, though, we were on and I honestly didn’t even realize that this was the old Back to the Future attraction until getting to the ride vehicle.
The Simpsons-A much better use for this kind of attraction. The story was funny, Krustyland was interesting, and unlike BTTF, I was not ready to get off. The ride had been calibrated and was not rough at all. I think this was definitely the right move for the park. As much as I like the BTTF franchise, The Simpsons has more staying power, and the ride was far better.
Okay, so now it was finally time to ride Men in Black. Another ride that the Express Pass saved me on, as the queue was far shorter to maneuver thru, and the line was significantly shorter to wait in.
Men in Black Alien Attack-This was a blast! The scenes were well done, the movement was great, and the spinning was fun. The guy beside me got the initial huge amount of points, but I was just so enthralled by the ride I couldn’t pay attention to shooting, I enjoyed the scenes. I did make sure I shot at the other vehicle as soon as we could. I’d love to see more dark rides like this. The Sally Shooter dark rides are fun, but when you’re spinning and moving about, it adds so much more to the ride.
I had thought about going to Twister next, and even Shrek or Jimmy Neutron, but since Rockit was running and it was a credit, I headed there instead The line was 90 minutes. I was not happy. The queue was huge, but very well done. At one point the ride did break down for a few minutes, but it was quickly reopened. A lot of the rides extras weren’t working, like the moving platform and some speakers. Still not sure why they took the banner on the lift hill down either, but eventually I did make it on to the back row, and having selected Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, I was ready to go.
Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit–The vertical lift was quick and painless. The first drop was really great and the music was loud, but not obnoxious. I couldn’t hear anyone else’s music either. The non-inverting loop element was different than I expected. Fun, but weird. After the first brake run the vertical drop comes at you and throws you over like it’s nobody’s business. I liked it. As you head back by the station, there was a seemingly overbanked section that was the only major spot of airtime. Then you dive down behind the station and out towards CityWalk, heading thru trenches, a helix, and thru some decent bunny hops. It’s a fun ride for sure, but I’d never wait that long ever again.
Thankfully there was a park exit right near the Rockit exit, so I swung around the ‘street’ and headed out. I booked it over to Islands of Adventure. Upon arrival I just knew it probably would have been better to have gotten in line here since the park wasn’t busy. Even if I would have been in the ticket line as long, I think I could have gotten more accomplished, but oh well. My first destination was the closest coaster to the front of the park, HULK.
The Incredible Hulk–There were some foreigners that couldn’t figure the Express Queue out and weren’t letting people by, but I just walked right past them and up into the station. In fact, I walked right on to the back seat of the coaster. Hulk was a lot better than I’d remembered. The launch up was still great, but the inversion and then cobra roll were much better. The first half of the ride was brilliant but even the 2nd half was a lot more fun than the last time. All three trains were stacking on the brake run/station block.
Next up was another oldie but goody, this time with a new twist for me, though. It was finally time to ride Spiderman and for that matter, my first 3D attraction without my glasses. Again, another Express Pass Save as I was able to maneuver thru the much shorter Express Queue.
The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman-I like that even though you didn’t go thru the entire queue, they still had the shorter queue themed. That was really cool. After I got my glasses and arrived at the station I was directed into the car and off we were. Spiderman without my real glasses was much better because the 3D effects played out better. I did like this better than DarKastle, because you can follow the storyline better. Still, I wish more parks would add such an immersive ride to their lineup. Spiderman still kicked butt and made you feel like you’re in the comic book. And the falling sequence was just wonderful.
Since all of the Harry Potter construction was going on, I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk around the park thru Toon Lagoon, so I didn’t even head to that section. Instead, I went back thru Port of Entry and headed through Seuss Landing to Cat in the Hat, another dark ride I missed from my last visit that I was looking forward to.
The Cat in the Hat-Another Express Pass save. The regular line wasn’t long, but again I walked right onto the ride and sat in the front seat of the vehicle. Cat in the Hat dose a fairly accurate retelling of the story with scenes acted out from the movie. It’s not anything dynamic by any means, but it was a lot better than “it’s a small world”, after all. The scenes were quite fun, with only one not working correctly as Thing 1 was stuck. Again, the spinning and moving around was great, and the ride does a great job of putting you in the book.
After getting my Seuss on, I took some pictures of Seuss Landing I walked back towards the Lost Continent get to the attraction I’d looked forward to most and wasn’t able to ride last time.
Poseidon’s Fury Journey to the Lost City-I knew some effects weren’t working and that the storyline now was different than when it originally opened but I really wanted to experience Poseidon. My Express Pass didn’t seem to save me here as I waited almost 30 minutes in the Express Pass line. Eventually we were invited into the first large room. My first complaint about the actual attraction is that there were too many people. I understand why, but there were just far too many in each room for it to be as effective as something like Star Trek The Experience or even Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The first room was interesting but nothing amazing. The second room was kind of neat and furthered the story nicely. I really think the water vortex would have been interesting to see, but alas, it wasn’t on. The final room and all of the surprises and effects were great. Having said that, though I won’t say I was disappointed, the wait to ride, especially with an Express Pass was far too long to make it worthwhile.
Had I not been held up by the long wait I could have gotten to have some time in the Jurassic Park area. I walked back towards Sinbad’s stage and got turned around due to construction. I made my way thru a small section of Jurassic Park and back to Dueling Dragons. This area was very confusing due to the Harry Potter Construction, so maneuvering thru was not so pleasant. I walked the long walk to the castle and flashed my Express Pass to get to Ice Dragon. Walking right in, I rode in the 2nd row, but thankfully a spot in the first row came open as it was my turn to ride.
Dueling Dragons (Ice Dragon)–I’d forgotten how good the ride was. The first inversion under Fire was really fun, especially if you looked towards your feet when you’re upside down to see the train flying above you. The race to the loop was incredibly amazing because you really felt like you’re going to hit the other train. Then the cobra roll against the castle had a major foot chopping effect. Ice Dragon gave an intense and wonderful ride, and I was ready for more once I got off.
Sadly, though, that was not meant to be. Nor was a ride on Fire Dragon. I had to head out as I was going to be late getting to my parents, who’s flight had arrived about 10 minutes early. I kept getting lost in Jurassic Park until I finally made my way to the exit. I was tired, hot, and thirsty, but I still had to walk thru CityWalk and then find the car.
Eventually I made it and drank most of the bottle of water I’d left in the car. The drive to the airport wasn’t bad, but I got stuck in traffic and had to pay tolls. Once I arrived, there was confusion with mom and dad about how to get to the main terminal to get picked up, but they eventually made it and after driving to get gas and checking in to the hotel, we made it back to the airport to pick up my brother, even though his flight was delayed. After he landed we ate a Cracker Barrel before heading back to the hotel for the nite. Tomorrow we were heading out on our cruise and had to get up early to drive to Port Canaveral and check in.