Monthly Archives: April 2015

Photo: Pokémon League Champion!

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Easter is Universal: Part 2

I follow the path out of Hogsmeade station and up the slight hill to the village proper. I’ve already done the castle ride and believe me I wasn’t about to do it again. I was up for a Butterbeer. I stopped at the rapidly growing line in front of the red wagon they sell them from, and as I was waiting a woman in a HP island uniform came by and asked who was “paying with CASH” which was myself and about three other people. She took our orders and told us to wait with the others in “the shady area” in front of The Three Broomsticks.

Sure enough, the same woman came back several minutes later with our drinks. I sort of wish they’d given us straws as it would make it easier to drink on the go, but since they didn’t I had to find someplace to sit down to drink it. The only open space I could see through all the people was at the base of a small stage outside “Flight of the Hippogriff.”

The second I sat down, I could feel a hand on my back.

“You’re not allowed on the stage,” the voice behind me said sternly.

As I try to recover and reassess my options I can see a young man who was also booted from the edge of the stage. I couldn’t tell if he was a teenager or a college student, but he makes eye contact with me anyway.

“I guess they must be preparing for a sh…dude, what the FUCK is WRONG with you?”

I don’t know why people keep asking me that – it’s never actually a “question,” and they clearly don’t care about the answer.

I’ve never had any real interest in comic books or roller coasters so Marvel Superhero Island had little to offer me. I did decide to try The X-Men themed “Storm Force Accelatron” as it was only a 15 minute wait. However as I snaked through the line, I grew increasingly irritated by a series of high pitched beeps that weren’t loud so as much as persistent and ultimately forcing me to leave the queue just so my headache would go away.

It’s 3pm, and I’m sitting on a concrete wall near Port of Entry watching various families getting their picture in front of the generic “Today’s Specials” statue outside Confisco Grill – the place I decided I’d be eating at when I left this morning – while waiting for my head to clear.

It was against my better judgement, but I went into “Poseidon’s Fury” while waiting for the next showing of The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad. The special effects were pretty cool, but the atrocious “acting” (by both the live host and the pre-recorded deities) made the “story” all but impossible to follow…not that it really mattered. I came out of the temple and realized I wasn’t THAT interested in reliving Sinbad’s “voyage.”

That brings me back to where I started this post – Hogsmeade Station. The line back to London moved just as quickly as its counterpart, but the theming didn’t seem quite as elaborate. Also, the movie on the train wasn’t nearly as good (not that the one into Hogsmeade was great, this was just worse).

Long story short: “Revenge of the Mummy,” “DISASTER,” and “Transformers: The Ride” still had long lines as did “Minions Mayhem” but when I walked dejectedly up Hollywood boulevard I ended up accidentally walking into a “third” line which claimed to have a “5 minute wait” (considering I was the ONLY person in it). When I tried asking staff members (back at the entrance as there wasn’t anybody back where I’d initially seen the sign) they told me there was “no such wait time:” it was either “85 minutes” for regular admission OR “60 minutes” for Express Pass holders. I left again and due to them cornering off the streets for their Mardi Gras celebration, I ended up in the same queue – this time there was someone stationed there.

“Yeah, the sign’s ‘accurate,’” she said with a shrug. “It’s the ‘Stationary’ line, for riders who want to see the film, but don’t want to do the motion sim” (kind of like how SeaWorld does with their “Wild Artic” ride).

“I guess I can handle that,” I said (considering the alternative was nearly an hour and a half wait).

The actual wait was probably closer to 10-15 minutes (even though I was still the only person in line), but aside from some of the usual 3D tricks, the attraction itself wasn’t all that bad. I left the ride into a small minion “dance party” and into the Minion store (meaning it was EXACTLY like every other gift shop in the resort…but with slightly more Minions stuff).

Anyway, now it was getting time to think about dinner so I went back to Kings Cross Station and just as I was finally about to board the train to Hogsmeade, I was pulled out of the front of my row and moved to another line on the opposite end of the platform. No explanation just an ominous “you must come with us” and that the end of the discussion.

Was it REALLY because they were “short” in this other row…or because someone in my original car didn’t want to share a cabin with a “crazy person” – either way I got no complaints from the people in my reassigned car.

I arrive back to Confisco Grill at Port of Entry at 6:09pm and as I go to enter the restaurant, I see a small red sign on the door reading: “open 8am-6pm.”

Great, now what? There’s a Starbucks and Cinnabon directly across from where I’m standing. I could go back to Superhero Island try Café 4 or Seuss Landing and go back to Circus McGurkus Café Stoo-Pendous which I had lunch at last time I was here.

Nah, I was too tired to backtrack and it was going to get dark soon so I figured I’d just start walking back to the trolley stop. As I approached the stop, I could see the trolley coming from the opposite direction and I knew I made the right decision…

Categories: florida, I-Ride Trolley, Islands of Adventure, Orlando, Universal Studios | Leave a comment

Easter is Universal: Part 1

Today’s adventure wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t woken up ridiculously early for no reason. Anyway, I’m largely happy I did so I guess it worked out okay. Otherwise, I’d be sitting at home all alone eating Ben & Jerry’s and crying about not having anyone to spend the holiday with.

As I said above, I woke up around 8am and went about my morning routines as usual ending with me forgoing my usual e-mail and RSS feed checking and went straight to the I-Ride app which told me the next trolley was coming in about 25 minutes. I could handle that, I put my shoes on, grabbed my wallet and keys off the counter and left.

I arrived at the iconic Universal globe (why they don’t have their photographers on that bridge is beyond me as EVERY family I saw had to stop and get their picture in front of it) at 10:15am and waited in line for over 30 minutes before getting a friendly ticket agent who tried to covertly slip the extra $80 Express Pass with my ticket. Nice try, but $142 is enough for one person for one day. This was actually a good move on my part as according to the fine print none of the Harry Potter attractions (my primary reason for coming to the park today) use this service.

The first thing I wanted to do was get lunch. No, first thing I’m doing is becoming a minion, but I wasn’t about to waste an hour and ten minutes on a single ride. Tellingly enough, the “Shrek 4D” attraction directly across from it only had a 15 minute wait, but so did “Twister: Ride It Out” which I remember being an unintentionally hilarious show and for the most part it hasn’t changed (though they moved the queue indoors and gave it an atmospheric setting that proved a little too much for at least one guest who took to the emergency exit just before the ride doors opened).

The next three attractions “Revenge of the Mummy,” “DISASTER,” and “Transformers: The Ride” all had long lines so like with “Minion Mayhem” I decided to skip them and come back later. As I passed “Transformers” on the way to Springfield USA, I finally decided to get lunch at Mel’s Drive-In. It was packed, and the service area is clearly not set up for lines like this. At least my food – when it finally came out – wasn’t bad…by theme park standards anyway.

I left Mel’s Drive-In around noon and just as I was about to cross the Sunset Boulevard, the backstage gate opened and a large parade float with Dora/Diego (along with a separate “Rescue Jeep” carrying Baby Jaguar) pulled midway into the street. I took one step into the street and was immediately chased back onto the sidewalk by a parade attendant.

“YOU are not allowed on the street in the middle of a show,” she said sternly. She then looks at me and cocks her head back disgustedly. “Do you need me to get you HELP or something?”

Yes, I know that’s her job, and she did eventually let me go (apparently crazy is above her pay scale). However, her clearly fake “question” still pissed me off – particularly since her likely idea of “help” (having strangers manhandle me, confiscate my tickets and forcibly ejecting me from the park without refund) would have only made things worse.

Springfield USA was kind of fun to walk through… but 35 minutes seemed a bit long for an over-glorified carnival ride, and I wasn’t waiting nearly an hour for “The Simpson’s Ride” either. I’d just missed the Animal Actors on Location show (which I’d already seen anyway) so I ducked into “E.T” and pretty much walked right onto the ride – ditto with “Men in Black: Alien Attack” (which was considerably more intense than I remember it being).

I won’t speak of the rest of the park’s areas, but I will say the interior of Diagon Alley was a lot bigger than its tiny façade would lead you to believe. Also, if I was wondering where the crowds were in the rest of the park, well I found them stopping and waving their wands at every window, statue and storefront in the newly opened wizarding area. Suffice to say, I didn’t get to see any of the window animations or what the various shops like the relocated Weasley’s Wizard Weezes looked like on the inside (couldn’t possibly be any worse than its initial incarnation at Islands of Adventure).

I stood at the crowded entrance to “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringott’s” unsure what to do. It was the primary reason I came to this park today, but the wait time was nearly an hour so I decided to skip it and went over to King’s Cross Station to ride the “Hogwart’s Express.” The wait was 45 minutes, but the line moved relatively quickly with a new train arriving mere seconds after the previous one departed (they must double track them for at least part of the journey).

Finally, at 1:31pm, I arrive at the famous platform and continue to snake my way through the queue area towards the awaiting train. When it pulled away, I was ushered to a row just in time for the next train to arrive (if only real trains ran like that), and just like that I was leaving London behind on my magical journey to Hogwarts…

Categories: florida, Orlando, Universal Studios | Leave a comment

March\April WDW resort suggestions

Now that I’m living in Orlando full time, I thought I would take the opportunity to introduce an occasional series offering commentary on Disney World and\or related attractions in the Orlando-Lake Buena Vista area (I was going to spin it into a separate blog, but this will do will for now).

  • Impressions de France has been at EPCOT since it opened (1982) and hasn’t had a line longer than 10 people since as far back as I can remember. However, Disneyland Paris is setting ridership records with “Ratatouille: The Adventure” which just happens to be housed in an area that’s approximately the same size with theming very similar to this pavilion.
  • Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the new Frozen flume under construction at the Norway pavilion. Look, I have zero problem with a Meet & Greet area, reskinning their cultural museum or even devoting half their store to Frozen merchandise, but World Showcase simply is not the right place for an Arendelle attraction which would be better suited to either MK or DHS (which already has a playground, store, and stage show devoted to this abominable movie).
  • Speaking of the Magic Kingdom, they could also put in a special area in Fantasyland (in a new space near Rapunzel’s Tower) to show off their newly announce Tangled: The Musical (on D-Cruise Line). They could probably also expand Merida’s “Fairytale Garden” as it looks like they might have enough room for a small amphitheater, but the theming for a Tangled show is probably better at the Tower/Restroom area.
  • Now that For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-a-Long has moved into the former American Idol Theater, they can covert the theater it was using – at the base of San Francisco Street – into a Big Hero 6 show.
  • It’s already been established that Disney removed the Studio Backlot Tour and Lights, Action, Motors Extreme Stunts Show for a Radiator Springs themed area (as seen in Disneyland and Disneyland Resort Paris). Now all they need to do is find a new theme for their “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure.” I have no problem with playgrounds (unlike WALT who built Disneyland as an alternative to such places), but this movie premiered (1989) well before most of the parents of the kids this playground is aimed at were even born.
Categories: disney world, editorials, florida, Orlando, ramblings | Leave a comment

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