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Old 12-20-2013, 07:12 PM   #1
Teknik_DC2
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Becoming Universal AP Holders and our Carnival Dream September Trip Recap

Hi everyone. Back in September we went on a wonderful 13 day vacation last night that included Many days at the Universal Orlando Resort and a 7 day Easter Caribbean Cruise on the Carnival Dream.

*Please take note now that I will cover MY ENTIRE VACATION in this review. Not only the Universal portion. I do this not only for my own record but to give pre or post cruise ideas to those who may be sailing out of Port Canaveral, or Tampa or any other Port that may be located near these locations. The Universal portion of this recap will begin on Day 1 and run thru Day 4. We returned again on Day 11 thru 13 as well. If you'd like to get an idea of how I write my reviews please feel free to click the links to my past reviews located in my signature. I have slightly changed how I load my reviews opting for shorter multi-part recaps of each day instead of one large recap so that its not such a photo overload for your computers. The recap will take a while to complete but please be patient.*

Returning to cruising was something we had hoped to do for a while now. But the birth of our Son in 2011 kind of prevented that. In 2012 we made it a year of Disney instead of cruising visiting all the US Disney and Universal parks within a calender year. Obviously our 1 year old at the time loved the parks and what they offered.

But no matter how fun the Theme Parks are we still had a desire to Cruise again. And we thought 2013 would be a good year to do so as we would celebrate our 5th year of marriage. Over a year ago those plans to cruise for our anniversary started to fade as Kieras Family was tentively planning a big family trip the Theme Parks in Orlando. With how hard it would be to do this trip in the future we abandoned our cruising plans to do this trip with her family instead.

Well come spring her family started to get cold feet about the trip and in June finally gave the confirmation that the trip was cancelled and wouldn't be happening this year. Since we had already saved the money we decided that we would still be vacationing and there was really no other option other then a cruise on the table. Especially at the rates that were being offered at the time. I was already eyeing the 9-7-13 sailing of the Dream to the Eastern Caribbean out of Port Canaveral and when I scored some amazing Flights into Tampa for that time period it all but confirmed we would be cruising.

As many of you who have read my past trip reports know though we are also huge fans of the Universal Orlando Resort and usually spend a few days there prior to our cruises. That would be no different this time with the exception that we decided to purchase Annual Passes to the parks. Not only would it give us options to visit the parks before and after the cruise we would also get food/merchandise discounts, and free parking. But the big perk will come when we return Next spring for the Opening of the Harry Potter expansion. But more on that later.

The dates for this trip would be 9-4 to 9-16. We would fly from Utah to Tampa on the 4th and head to Universal to activate our Passes that night. We would spend 2 days in the park before heading to Port Canaveral on 9-7. After the week long cruise that returned on 9-14 we would spend the remaining time back in Orlando at Universal again until we flew back to Utah from Tampa on 9-16.

For those who don't remember us my name is Jeff and i'm 30 years old. My wife is Kiera and she is 25. On our Honeymoon back in 2008 we fell in Love with not only cruising but traveling in General and have been doing much of it since. This cruise was our 5th voyage but the 11th vacation we've had since we got married. Joining us for our cruise though for the first time would be our Son Daniel who is almost 2. The last cruise we took was when Kiera was pregnant with him. We were very interested in seeing how cruising would be with a toddler.



Originally I had booked an Inside cabin for our trip. But with a promotion I was able to upgrade to a Deluxe Ocean View room for the same cost. This was a surprise I kept from Kiera until right before the trip. We also opted for Late Dinning on this trip.

Anyways I think that gets all the basic info out of the way. If you'd like an idea of how my trip reports tend to go please click on of the links in my signature to my past trip reports. They are long and detailed and take a while to complete but pleas bare with me.

With that said let me say thanks to all of you checking out this tread. If you have any questions or comments please ask as I will be happy to answer them as quickly as I can. thanks again and I hope to get started on it very soon.
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Click Dates below for Links to Past Trip Reports

February 2008: Carnival Pride Mexican Rivera Cruise - Hollywood - Santa Monica | December 2008: Disneyland - California Adventure - Universal Studios Hollywood - Knotts Berry Farm - Las Vegas | October 2009: Universal Studios Florida - Islands of Adventure - Carnival Glory Eastern Caribbean Cruise | October 2010: Islands of Adventure - Universal Studios Florida - Carnival Legend Western Caribbean Cruise | April 2011: Epcot - Carnival Dream Western Caribbean Cruise - Charleston S.C. | April 2012: Magic Kingdom - Epcot - Hollywood Studios - Animal Kingdom - Islands of Adventure - Universal Studios Florida | December 2012: Disneyland - Disney California Adventure - Universal Studios Hollywood | May 2013: Myrtle Beach S.C. - Charleston S.C. | September 2013: Universal Studios Florida - Islands of Adventure - Carnival Dream Eastern Caribbean Cruise | June 2014: Magic Kingdom - Epcot - Hollywood Studios - Animal Kingdom - Universal Studios Florida - Islands of Adventure
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Old 12-20-2013, 07:28 PM   #2
Teknik_DC2
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Day 1: Travel to Florida

It was early but finally the Wednesday that would start our vacation was upon us. It was 6am and we were very tired. We had only got about 3 hours of sleep as we were up late getting everything packed. Soon enough though we were packed and ready to go. The suitcases and bags were in the car and the only thing left was to awaken the Child. Daniel likes to sleep in till usually around 10am so waking him up at almost 7am was not something he would like. Good thing he was so tired that he practically fell back asleep right when we put him into the car.

After doing a final check of the house we were on our way and officially on vacation. We would be driving 20 minutes to Kieras Parents house where my Brother would be meeting us to drive us to the airport. We would be leaving the car at Kieras parents. For once in our life we were actually on time. And my brother was early so we were able to unload my car and reload his and be on our way to the airport sooner then we originally anticipated. Daniel woke up briefly while we were switching cars but fell back asleep as we continued the drive to the Airport.

We got the airport a little bit before 8am where we would get be catching a 9:35am flight to Denver. As those who have read my reports in the past know we fly pretty exclusively with Southwest Airlines. We love the service they provide plus there cheaper fares and free baggage is a huge plus in our books. It also doesnít hurt that we have a Southwest Rapids Rewards Visa ether. The best part of the Visa card though is that we had enough points saved to cover both of our Flight Tickets on this trip. When I booked this vacation I did so because Airfare got ridiculously cheap to Florida. So cheap that had we had to pay for the airfare it would have been the cheapest weíd ever paid. It would have been about $240 round trip per person. Or roughly 22,000 Rapid Rewards Points. Not having to pay Airfare on this trip was a huge savings. And since Daniel was still 3 weeks away from turning 2 he could still fly for free as a lap child.

Check in took a bit longer then normal on this trip but it wasnít bad. Weíve had longer. With Daniel being so close to turning 2 they did a more thorough check of his Birth Certificate before printing our boarding passes. Also traveling for nearly 2 weeks with a toddler meant that we had 4 full bags, plus our carry on items, plus a stroller and car seat to deal with. Soon enough though we dropped the bags off and continued on thru security which was a breeze this morning.

For those traveling with Infants or Toddlers we brought a small Horizon Milk for Daniel to drink in the morning. It was still sealed and unopened as we got to security. Just a heads up that anything in a sealed container like this will need to be opened up so that they can test it. Luckily I was carrying some empty sippy cups in my back pack that we could pour the milk into to be tested so It didnít turn out to be an issue. But had we not had another cup they would not have let it go thru security.

We were finally at our gate with plenty of time to spare. We found a place to sit and wait near the child section that had kid shows playing on a TV and a little table and toys that kids could play with. This area kept Daniel farely entertained until our flight. Since none of us had eaten anything yet we decided to grab breakfast before the flight. I opted to grab a Chicken Biscuit from Popeyeís while Kiera got a Breakfast Sandwich from Wendyís. We tried to get Daniel to eat some of our stuff but he wasnít having it at this time.





As soon as we were finished with Breakfast it was time to start boarding our plane. We had B boarding passes but since we were a family we would be able to board between the A and B groups. The flight was full so we gate checked the stroller and car seat and then found a row of seats for our short flight to Denver. Daniel feel asleep right as we were taking off so it was a mellow and easy flight to Denver for us. And from Salt Lake the flight only takes about an hour so it was quick too.



Daniel woke back up right before we landed in Denver where we would have a short Layover. Now weíve passed thru Denver before going to and returning from other vacations. But each time we had before we never actually got off the plane. So this was actually our first time stepping foot into the Denver Airport. We made a quick stop at the restrooms and tried to find something to snack on but there really wasnít any food locations in this terminal of the Airport. And what was there was very expensive. We had plenty of snacks so we opted to not buy any food at this time and would just wait until we got to Tampa to eat. Yes I just said we would be flying to Tampa. Not Orlando. That was the only draw back to the cheap (or in our case Free) airfare. The flights would be to Tampa as Orlando was pretty pricey at the time. Not a big deal breaker we thought as the drive from Tampa to Orlando is only about an hour. Daniel loved waiting to board by looking at the airplanes. We could also see our luggage waiting to be reloaded.







The flight from Denver to Tampa was not full so this time we only gate checked the stroller and were able to bring Daniels Car Seat on the plane with us as he could have his own seat. We once again used Family boarding and found a row to sit in. It was kind of a pain to get Daniels Car Seat buckled in but I was finally able to in which he was soon buckled in as well. He usually does fine in the car in his seat but he was not happy about it on the plane. I think he has been so use to being able to sit on our laps and move around that he didnít want to sit in his seat. Good thing this was really the only time he got fussy on the flight.



This flight would be just over 3 hours long and was obviously the stretch we worried about most when traveling with a Toddler. But we came prepared. We had many of his Movies loaded onto the Laptop that kept him pretty entertained during the flight despite him not being able to hear it as he wouldnít wear the headphones. We also brought our Kindle Fire which has many little learning games that he likes to play and a bag of Toys and Snacks to help too. Overall other then a little fit here and there he did pretty well on the flight. He did get out of the seat once and enjoyed the freedom. For the last leg of the flight though he actually fell asleep once again. That of course was after he kicked Kieras tray table accidentally and knocked her drink onto her lap.






We soon started our decent into Tampa where we were on a tight schedule to get to Orlando. As many of you know we are big fans of the Universal Orlando Resort and typically will spend a few days there before our Cruises out of Port Canaveral or Tampa. For this trip though (and for a future trip next spring) we opted to pay a little extra and buy Annual Passes to the Resort. One of the passes gets free parking privilages however you still have to pay for your first day of parking. After 6pm parking in the parks is only $5 instead of $16 and with a closing time of 8:30 for the Studios and 7pm for Islands of Adventure we wanted to get to the Parks as quickly as possible to get our passes activated and not have to pay for parking again later in the trip. Plus we were really craving Butterbeer so if we could make it before 7 we could get into Islands and get the wonderful drink.

That plan was off to a slow start though when our flight landed in Tampa about 10 minutes later then it was scheduled. The race was on as we got off the plane and retrieved the stroller and made our way to the baggage claim. This was where the next delay came into play. At the baggage claim there were people everywhere with about 3 turntables going. But none of them had the flight information listed. It took us probably 20 minutes to find the correct turntable and then push our way thru the crowds of people to actually claim all of our luggage.





Once we had the luggage it was time to head to the Rental Car. On our trip to California this past December we tried Alamo rental car for the first time and became very big fans. We loved the automated machine to check out our car so that we didnít have to deal with pushy sales clerks. And we really loved that you get to pick the car you want. Its not assigned to you like other rental locations. So I was very happy when I scored a Costcotravel deal on the Rental Car for a 1 way Mid Size Car rental from Tampa to Cape Canaveral for 3 days for only $62 bucks with Alamo.

At the Alamo location in TPA I went strait to the automated machine and got us checked in. This is where another delay came. As I finished up none of the rental contract info printed out that we need to claim a car. So we ended up having to wait in the line after all to get somebody to come over and fix the machine. Once they did though they couldnít get our information to print out so back in line we went to get the info printed out at the main desk. For the troubles though Alamo upgraded our Rental to a Full Size car for the same price. Something I didnít expect or ask for but a huge plus for Alamoís Customer Service in my Opinion. Its another thing that will keep me coming back.

While we were renting the car the skyís had opened up and it was a huge downpour of rain that was making the whole parking garage rumble from the rain drops. The Clerk out in the garage directed us to the row where the Full Size cars where but the car we ended up getting was actually right up front as it had just been returned from being cleaned and ready for use. I looked at the full size row but this one up front is what had my eye from the beginning. It was a 2013 Ford Fusion that was black. Inside it was fully loaded with Leather seats and pretty much everything but navigation. Iím not a big Ford fan but this thing was a very good looking car. We got the car loaded up where everything except for the stroller easily fit into the trunk. We were then on our way to Orlando.




It was a little after 6pm when we finally hit the road. About 45 minutes later then I had planned on. We decided to once again hold off on finding food until we got to Orlando as top priority was getting those Annual Passes activated. But the delays werenít over yet. Remember that rainfall. Yeah it had gotten worse. And it progressively got worse the further from Tampa we got.



I have never driven in rain like this before. It was like a monsoon. The wipers were going full blast but you could barely see in front of you. The speed limit on the freeway was 70mph and we were stuck going about 35mph. Many cars were pulled over under overpasses trying to wait out the storm instead of driving thru it. Something that crossed my mind a time or two as it was bad enough to drive in something like this but it was even nerve racking doing it in a rental car that you declined the additional insurance protection on.



It became very evident with the delays and now this monsoon that there was no way weíd make it to Universal Orlando before 7pm to get Butterbeer before Islands of Adventure closed. But we would still have till 8:30pm to get into the Studios to activate the passes. As the rain wasnít letting up though as we slowly drove to Orlando the thought also entered our minds. What if its still raining this bad in Orlando too? We wouldnít want to go to the parks in rain like this. I figured Iíd at least brave the rain and run to the park to activate my pass for the free parking but we likely wouldnít stay that night.

Luckily for us though as we got closer to Orlando the rain started to let up and by the time we were pulling into the Universal Orlando parking garage the rain and completely stopped. Whatís normally an Hour drive ended up taking us nearly an hour and 40 minutes to make. But at 7:45 we paid our $5 for the after 6pm parking and would be heading to Universal Studios Florida where we would be able to get our Annual Passes activated tonight.

So why did we decide to buy Annual Passes to Universal? I mean we live on the other side of the country. We are much closer to the California park then we are the Florida ones. Well it really wasnít a huge cost to pay extra for the annual passes. Kiera got a Power Pass which is the cheapest annual at $199. This pass has no discounts and also has black out dates. Not a big deal as we donít plan to visit during blackout periods anyways. The pass that I got was the Preferred pass which costs $279. However mine has no blackout dates plus I get Free Parking (after first use) and a 10% discount on all Food and Merchandise purchased in the parks. We ended up visiting the parks 7 times on this trip so just do the math there and the cost difference was made up in the parking savings alone. Not to mention what we saved on food and goods. The longest Ticket Universal sells now is a 4 day ticket which costs $179 so forking out extra for the Annual Pass is a pretty good deal. Plus with my ticket you have the option to make payments over a year on it at no extra charge.



For those looking at doing a day trip though keep in mind that tickets are pretty pricey for a 1 day pass. A 1 day, 1 park ticket I think is $95 per person now. A 1 day, 2 park ticket is I think $130. However from there the price per day drops dramatically. Unlike Disney where there multiday tickets still get pretty pricey. I mean my Preferred Annual Pass at Universal cost the same as a 4 day NON park hopper ticket to Walt Disney World.

We made good use of the Annual Passes on this trip however the big savings will come next year. Really the whole reason we bought the Annual Passes on this trip is because we plan on returning next June to Orlando when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion is completed. So we paid a little extra now to save a significant amount of money next June when we return.

Those who follow my reports and are not in the loop of the Theme Park world likely donít know the massive expansion and renovations that the Universal Orlando resort is going thru right now. The parks are only a shadow of there former selves that we first experienced back in 2009. Harry Potter has done wonder for the parks and the new owners Comcast are investing 1.5 billion dollars into the parks over the next 5 years. To give you and idea of how much change has happened in just over a year. We visited the parks last in April of 2012. In the 17 months since then Universal has opened 3 new rides (Despicable Me, Transformers, and Kudos and Kangís Twirl and Hurl), Opened the New Springfield Mini land, Debuted an all new Night Time Show in the Studios Lagoon, and debuted an all new Parade. That doesnít include the refurbishments other rides have received or general park upkeep as well.



And there not done yet. As I mentioned the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is expanding. Currently on the former land where the Jaws ride was located they are building London and Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books and Movies. Gringotts Bank will be the big new ride and supposedly the most technologically advanced ride out there. But the interesting thing Is that Diagon Alley is being built in the Universal Studios Florida park. The current Wizarding World is in the Islands of Adventure Park. In a groundbreaking attraction they will be connecting the 2 parks and 2 Wizarding Worlds with an actual Hogwarts Express ride that will transport you between the 2 areas. This is an expansion that will have any Harry Potter fan jumping for joy and it will be open in less then a year from now.

But thatís not all. Insiders say There is also a Jurassic park expansion in the works. As well as a Lorax Ride, Kong will be returning in place of Disaster, and rumors of a Kidzone remodel and Toon Lagoon replacement. And yes that is all within 5 years. itís a very exciting time to be a fan of Universal Orlando. Theres much going on and each year the parks change more. If you havnít been in a while its really worth checking out if you have a couple days to spare.

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Click Dates below for Links to Past Trip Reports

February 2008: Carnival Pride Mexican Rivera Cruise - Hollywood - Santa Monica | December 2008: Disneyland - California Adventure - Universal Studios Hollywood - Knotts Berry Farm - Las Vegas | October 2009: Universal Studios Florida - Islands of Adventure - Carnival Glory Eastern Caribbean Cruise | October 2010: Islands of Adventure - Universal Studios Florida - Carnival Legend Western Caribbean Cruise | April 2011: Epcot - Carnival Dream Western Caribbean Cruise - Charleston S.C. | April 2012: Magic Kingdom - Epcot - Hollywood Studios - Animal Kingdom - Islands of Adventure - Universal Studios Florida | December 2012: Disneyland - Disney California Adventure - Universal Studios Hollywood | May 2013: Myrtle Beach S.C. - Charleston S.C. | September 2013: Universal Studios Florida - Islands of Adventure - Carnival Dream Eastern Caribbean Cruise | June 2014: Magic Kingdom - Epcot - Hollywood Studios - Animal Kingdom - Universal Studios Florida - Islands of Adventure
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Old 12-21-2013, 07:19 AM   #3
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Great start...I'm enjoying all the details and can't wait to hear about the cruise portion as I'm considering my first cruise next year combined with the darkside, of course.
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Old 12-27-2013, 02:47 AM   #4
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With that said lets move on with the actual review. By the time we got to the parks gates we only had about 35 minutes until it would be closing for the night. Our number 1 goal for the night was just actually getting there and getting the Annual Passes activated. Anything else we did would be a bonus. The skyís still looked like the rain could start again at any time but that wouldnít damper our spirits as we were now in one of our happy places.



We did have one ride on our mind that we wanted to do this night. Its right at the front of the park and one of the rides that has opened since our last visit. That ride is Despicable Me and we were very happy to find it with only a 20 minute wait. Although its not the newest ride anymore this thing will still typically pull very long waits do to it having fairly low capacity. It opened up last summer and replaced the old Jimmy Newtrons Nicktoon Blast ride. The ride still uses the same ride system as Jimmy Newtron as itís a basic motion simulator. But with Despicable me they redid all of the pre show rooms and added 3d to the ride.







Daniel is a huge fan of the Minions and we figured we would love this ride. Although it does have a 40inch ride height so he wouldnít actually be able to ďrideĒ it. Instead they do have stationary seats where you can sit with younger children and watch the ride video as if itís a movie. Obviously this is what we had to do. The plot of this ride is that Gru has recruited you to become Minions and in the ride you get turned into Minions as chaos ensues. It is a very fun little ride that any fan of the movies will enjoy. Thereís not much to the outside que but the indoor pres how rooms look like your inside Gruís house and are very detailed and cool to see. After the ride is a Minion dance party area that many kids seemed to enjoy. This is also where you can meet 1 of 4 different Minions however being so close to park closing none of the Minions where out at the time. This is a ride that should not be missed. And the Pre Show videos are very funny. Daniel really seemed to enjoy the video but we couldnít get him to keep the 3d glasses on as it would have made it even better for him Iím sure.





By the time we finished with Despicable Me we had less then 5 minutes until the parks official closing time. So I got the idea to quickly run to the other new nearby ride. Transformers. Now this ride is new to Orlando but I rode it in Hollywood this past December on our California trip. I wasnít sure if weíd make it before closing but I was gonna at least try. Kiera just told me to go ahead as she didnít really care to ride it that night. So I walked quickly and made it to the ride right as they were about to close the doors and shut off the lights for the Night Time show on the Lagoon. Iím pretty positive that I was the very last person of the night to ride it.



Just by comparing the 2 building between Hollywood and Orlando its pretty obvious that the Orlando building is themed much better. The whole building is themed to a military type base but the best part is the Life Size statue of Optimus Prime standing over the entrance. In Hollywood the ride is clearly in a Soundstage with a Mural of Optimus Prime and Megatron. Nothing too special about it. The indoor ques are themed the same and have the same props inside. However this was the one area where I think Hollywood was better as there que is much longer and felt more like you were going dip into a secret military base.







There was no wait when I got to the Loading platform for the ride and being basically the only one in the building I got a ride vehicle completely to myself. It was very interesting to go thru and experience such an amazing ride by yourself. The ride itself is exactly the same as the Hollywood version. With the exception that you could tell that Orlando had newer and better projectors and it seemed like to me that Orlandos set pieces had more to them then Hollywoods. But I could be wrong there. This ride is an absolute do not miss at Universal Orlando.



However you canít help but compare it to Spiderman right next door in Islands of Adventure. Transformers uses the same ride system as Spiderman and was suppose to be the ďsuperiorĒ version. When Transformers was designed it was designed specifically for the parks that didnít already have Spiderman. So it was ment for Singapore and Hollywood. In Florida instead Spiderman got a major upgrade last year where they completely reanimated the ride video and went to 4k HD like Transformers. Apparently Universal Orlando made too much money last year and instead of paying a huge Tax they fast tracked Transformers for there park as well. From the teardown of Soundstage 44 to the opening of Transformers was only about 11 months. A build time that is unheard of for such a major attraction. So which do I prefer? Well honestly I think Spiderman is still the much better ride. Especially after all its upgrades. But Transformers is a ride that the Studios desperately needed and it really livened up what was once a dead area of the park.

When I finished with Transfomers the park was officially closed and the Nighttime Show was going on. In my original plan I wanted to stay this night and watch the show. But getting to the parks much later then we originally planned and having now missed the start of the show we decided we would do it another night. I meet up with Kiera and Daniel and we made our way to the parks exit. We would be spending the next 2 days at the parks prior to the Cruise so we would have plenty of time to spend in them later. Plus we still needed to find dinner, check into our hotel, and go get some groceries.










You would think there would be a ton of Fast Food places on International Drive. But weíve found over the years that there really isnít the best selection. Instead if you go down Sand Lake Drive you will find many Fast Food places at None Touristy prices. We decided tonight just stop at Chick-Fil-A for dinner. Plus they had a Play area where Daniel would probably like to stretch his feet for a bit after a long day of travel. Unfortunately for him though he never did get to play. He yet again didnít want to eat anything (really hadnít ate much all day long) and trying to teach him thereís consequences for his behavior we didnít let him play unless he would eat. We did feel bad about it as you could tell how sad he was to not be allowed to play. But we are hoping that following thru with what we tell him will teach him later on.

We then drove over to our Hotel located just off I-Drive on Universal Blvd. We would be staying at the Best Western Plus Orlando Gateway for our pre cruise stay. I got this 3 star Hotel off Hotwire.com for $44 a night. And as with almost all of my vacations in the past 2 years I was able to figure out what Hotel it would be by using Betterbidding.com. As many of you know with Hotwire the hotel isnít revealed to you until after you book and pay. However based on the area, star rating, trip advisor rating, and amenities list you can go to Betterbidding.com and typically narrow it down to what Hotel it would be. Iíve done this in both Florida and California and so far I have never got a hotel that I wasnít expecting. It is extra work but to me its worth being able to find what hotel it is and read reviews before actually booking and being stuck with it.

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Click Dates below for Links to Past Trip Reports

February 2008: Carnival Pride Mexican Rivera Cruise - Hollywood - Santa Monica | December 2008: Disneyland - California Adventure - Universal Studios Hollywood - Knotts Berry Farm - Las Vegas | October 2009: Universal Studios Florida - Islands of Adventure - Carnival Glory Eastern Caribbean Cruise | October 2010: Islands of Adventure - Universal Studios Florida - Carnival Legend Western Caribbean Cruise | April 2011: Epcot - Carnival Dream Western Caribbean Cruise - Charleston S.C. | April 2012: Magic Kingdom - Epcot - Hollywood Studios - Animal Kingdom - Islands of Adventure - Universal Studios Florida | December 2012: Disneyland - Disney California Adventure - Universal Studios Hollywood | May 2013: Myrtle Beach S.C. - Charleston S.C. | September 2013: Universal Studios Florida - Islands of Adventure - Carnival Dream Eastern Caribbean Cruise | June 2014: Magic Kingdom - Epcot - Hollywood Studios - Animal Kingdom - Universal Studios Florida - Islands of Adventure
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Old 12-27-2013, 02:48 AM   #5
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As for the hotel itself we thought it was pretty decent. Typical of what you would expect from a 3 star hotel. We especially loved how close it was to Universal as it was less then a 5 minute drive from the hotel to the parking garage. Our room was located on the 3rd floor and had a view of the Wet and Wild water park across the street. The room was nice and clean and had a microwave and fridge. It also had free wifi. We were very satisfied with this hotel and would stay there again. Especially when only doing a Universal trip or staying in Orlando before a Cruise. The following pictures are from multiple days. The Pool area was large and nice and they had 2 hot tubs and a sun bathing deck.






After getting our luggage and settling into the room for a bit we ran back out and down the street to the Wal-Mart on Turkey Lake Road. One of the bad things about this hotel is that it did not offer a free breakfast (not many resort area hotels do though) so we wanted to grab some breakfast items to save that expense in the parks. For being almost midnight I couldnít believe how packed this Wal-Mart was. Iím sure it was mostly tourists doing the same thing we were. Its also funny how much Disney stuff they have right up front for those not wanting to spend that money in the parks.

We got all that we needed (and then some) and headed back to the hotel. Weíd have a full day in the parks ahead of us tomorrow and needed to get our rest. One thing that was nice about having the Annual passes though was that we wouldnít be in a rush to get to the parks. We would just got whenever we were ready to go. No need of doing any open to close touring on this trip.

One other thing I didnít like about the hotel I didnít discover until we were asleep. I really didnít like any of the pillows. None of theme were soft enough to my liking. But I delt with it. Also in the middle of the night though Daniel made it a hotel stay now 2 for 2 of falling off the bed while sleeping. We really donít understand where at home in his Toddler bed he wonít move an inch. But put him in a full size bed and he keeps falling off. He was just fine, a little startled, but fine and fell right back asleep. After this we made a barricade of pillows around the bed and he didnít fall off again.
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Click Dates below for Links to Past Trip Reports

February 2008: Carnival Pride Mexican Rivera Cruise - Hollywood - Santa Monica | December 2008: Disneyland - California Adventure - Universal Studios Hollywood - Knotts Berry Farm - Las Vegas | October 2009: Universal Studios Florida - Islands of Adventure - Carnival Glory Eastern Caribbean Cruise | October 2010: Islands of Adventure - Universal Studios Florida - Carnival Legend Western Caribbean Cruise | April 2011: Epcot - Carnival Dream Western Caribbean Cruise - Charleston S.C. | April 2012: Magic Kingdom - Epcot - Hollywood Studios - Animal Kingdom - Islands of Adventure - Universal Studios Florida | December 2012: Disneyland - Disney California Adventure - Universal Studios Hollywood | May 2013: Myrtle Beach S.C. - Charleston S.C. | September 2013: Universal Studios Florida - Islands of Adventure - Carnival Dream Eastern Caribbean Cruise | June 2014: Magic Kingdom - Epcot - Hollywood Studios - Animal Kingdom - Universal Studios Florida - Islands of Adventure
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Old 12-27-2013, 05:39 AM   #6
CW1872
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Enjoying your report! Our first trip to Universal Orlando is in June '14.
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Old 12-28-2013, 08:05 AM   #7
marylandteachergirl
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Ooooh! I was reading this last night on cruise critic. Glad to see it here, too! Great first day photos and details. Looking forward to reading the rest.
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Old 01-08-2014, 01:00 PM   #8
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soooo glad to read your thread! i am currently planning to do the same as you--visit universal and then do a cruise (royal caribbean since they have the same characters). doing a great job! keep up the great work!
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Old 11-14-2014, 02:27 PM   #9
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Hey everyone. I know its been a very long time since i've posted in this trip report. But since i'm now over half way done with a trip report from my most recent trip and about to go on another one. And the fact that I actually did complete this report on another website I figured I would finish the report off here as well. So here comes the remainder of this trip report. With the entire day posted at one time.

Day 2: Islands of Advenure

Our first full day in Florida was upon us. We had 2 full days to spend in Orlando prior to our Cruise and we would spend both of them at the Universal Orlando Resort. If you've read my past theme park trip reports you know that we are typically the types who like to be at the parks right at opening and stay past closing. That would not be the case on this trip though. With our Annual Passes and so much time that we would have to spend in the parks on this trip we decided to take it easier and would tour the parks more leasurly.

Because of this we weren't in a big rush to get to the parks at opening. Besides it was now the slow season so crowds should be managible anyways. Kiera and I got up and were completly ready for the day before we finally woke up Daniel. It always figures that kids will sleep in the days you have things planned but when you can sleep in they are up bright and early. With it daylight now we could see our view of Wet and Wild and if you look close enough you can even see Islands of Adventure. We ate some breakfast in the hotel and at around 10:30am we finally left the hotel to drive over to the parks.



The thing we loved about our Hotel was is location to Universal. If we were gonna do a strictly Universal visit again we would highly consider this hotel again as the drive from our Hotel to parking in the Garage at Universal took only about 5 minutes. We even saw many people walking to the parks as the resort was probably about 1 1/2 miles from us.




We parked the car and packed up the stroller and then made our way to start our first full day in the parks. Although we arrived over 1 1/2 hours after the parks opened there were still a ton of people pouring into City Walk. And most of the them were heading the same direction we were. To Islands of Adventure.




With our Annual Passes in hand we walked strait to the gates and after once again having issues with Kieras finger print we entered the park for the day. The parks entrance is truely a site to behold and is so incredibly themed. I honestly think its only rivaled by the Magic Kingdoms Main Street and Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure. There are just so many little details everywhere you look. And the music in the area really makes it feel like you've been wisked away to some land of fantasy. Its too bad many people don't stop to take in the details as all thats located here are shops and restaurants.








As the majority of the people walking into the park with us were doing you would think that we would go strait to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter just like we have in the past. But with a few dark clouds floating around the sky and knowing rain is forecasted for later in the day I found it better fitting that maybe we should focus on the Outdoor rides first just in case they get closed later in the day. Now Universal and Disney typically won't close there outdoor rains because of Rain. However anytime Lightning is detected within 5 miles of the parks all Outdoor rides are closed for Guest safety.

So today we would begin touring Islands of Adventure at Marvel Super Hero Island. An Island that has 2 of the parks best rides located in it. Those 2 rides are pretty amazing but I really wish Universal could go back and do some redesign or updating of the Island as although it looks nice and upkept, it also looks pretty dated. The land was designed and built before Marvel movies became popular so it could be so much more. Unfortunatly since Disney now owns Marvel I doubt we will see anything other then general upkeep done with the Island as Disney would have to ok any changes or additions. And since Disney is not allowed to Use Marvel in any of there parks East of the Mississippi river they diffenitly don't want Universal bennifiting from there films success. The theme park rights to Marvel are different in California though as Disney can build Marvel attractions in the parks out there.



Our first ride of the day would be on one of those amazing rides in Marvel. The Incredible Hulk coaster. And the line was only 5 minutes long at the time so it was practically a walk on for anything other then the front row.





Now obviously Daniel wouldn't be able to go on a ride like the Hulk (or the majority of the rides in the parks) so Universal has a program called Baby Swap that allows parents to switch off to ride the rides there children aren't tall enough for. Typically you enter the que for an attraction and wait out the time like everyone else with your party. Including the child too small to ride. Near the end of the ride before loading into the vehicles there is a Baby Swap room where a parent and the too short child go and wait as everyone else in there party goes on the ride. After the ride the party returns to the Baby Swap room and then the person (and anyone else in the party tall enough) can go back to the ride loading area and they ride. The Baby swap at Universal has its advantages and disadvantages. With a young child like Daniel its great as he doesn't know what he's missing out on at the end of the ride. However for an older child I think it could suck for them to wait in a long line and then not get to ride at the end. Take note though that the Baby Swap is done slightly differently at the Hulk though. Instead of waiting in the regular line with everyone else, the parent and too short child walk up the exit ramp and wait in the room until there group is finished.

I walked pretty much right on to the ride. I was even ahead of those that were entering the express lane when I was entering the regular lane. I waited only 1 train before I was loaded an on my way to experiance the Hulks rage. This coaster is intense. If your not a fan of roller coaster or they scare you then this is one you should avoid. This coaster is just raw and mean. What starts with a slow lift up the hill turns to a fast launch as your shot out the tunnel and immidiatly into 4 of the rides 7 inversions. This ride is intense from start to finish and still probably the most extreme coaster i've been on. It seems to be showing its age though as each year it seems to get more and more rough. I'm not even sure if a long referb would be able to make it smooth again. Its a ride that I consider a Do Not Miss at Islands of Adventure. Unless of course your not a fan of Roller Coasters. I meet Kiera and Daniel in the Child Swap room and then she took a turn on this beast.









The next ride we did was actually one that we had never done before. Yes in 3 previous visits to the resort there were still attractions that we hadn't done before. This ride is Storm Force Acceletron and its one of the few rides that doesn't have a ride height so Daniel would be able to go on it. This ride is simply Universals version of Disney's Tea Cups. Its the exact same thing just themed differently. The ride was a walk on and we though Daniel would really enjoy it. Before the ride he really got a kick out of us spinning the vehicle around and around. He was laughing and loved it. But that changed quickly once the ride started and the vehicle was moving in addition to our spinning. Yeah Daniel really didn't like this and was ready for the ride to be over as he clinged on to Kiera. Kinda funny we thought as He loved the Tea Cups in Disneyland back in December. This ride is great for the kids who aren't tall enough to ride anything else. However its not something thats a must do.



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Click Dates below for Links to Past Trip Reports

February 2008: Carnival Pride Mexican Rivera Cruise - Hollywood - Santa Monica | December 2008: Disneyland - California Adventure - Universal Studios Hollywood - Knotts Berry Farm - Las Vegas | October 2009: Universal Studios Florida - Islands of Adventure - Carnival Glory Eastern Caribbean Cruise | October 2010: Islands of Adventure - Universal Studios Florida - Carnival Legend Western Caribbean Cruise | April 2011: Epcot - Carnival Dream Western Caribbean Cruise - Charleston S.C. | April 2012: Magic Kingdom - Epcot - Hollywood Studios - Animal Kingdom - Islands of Adventure - Universal Studios Florida | December 2012: Disneyland - Disney California Adventure - Universal Studios Hollywood | May 2013: Myrtle Beach S.C. - Charleston S.C. | September 2013: Universal Studios Florida - Islands of Adventure - Carnival Dream Eastern Caribbean Cruise | June 2014: Magic Kingdom - Epcot - Hollywood Studios - Animal Kingdom - Universal Studios Florida - Islands of Adventure
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Old 11-14-2014, 02:34 PM   #10
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We continued on thru Marvel Super Hero Island and made a turn down Doom Alley towards Dr. Dooms FearFall. This ride is your standard launch tower that you will find at Amusment Parks around the country. However Universal did try to theme the ride and give it a story. The Alley the ride is located in is actually all themed to some of the Villans in the Marvel Comics Universe. In one area you can even here one of the hero's being killed (i've heard its supposed to be Captain America). Kiera had never actually done this ride before but I did it last year when we came. Last year I just used the Single Riders line but hearing that the que is actually themed pretty well and cool to see I figured we could just wait out the posted 10 minute wait. Well that wait turned out to be more like 25 minutes and the line is pretty cool and well themed. But its not worth that kind of wait. Its kinda interesting that the child swap area for this ride is located outside. Although the ride is your standard launch tower what makes it a bit different and cool is that you actually buckle into your seat in a little room of sorts. The ride then launches you out of the room as you get some great views of the resort depending on which way you are facing. Its a cool and unique ride and if the wait is low and if you're not afraid of these things then it would be worth checking out. Other wise I wouldn't wait that long for it again.











There was one attraction left in Marvel Superhero Island. And its a ride that I don't only consider to be the best ride in the Island, Or the best ride in the park, Or even the best on in the Resort, Heck not even the best one in Florida. This is the ride that I consider to be the Best ride of All Time and is number 1 on my top rides list. The ride is the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman and the absolute Do Not Miss of the resort.




The wait posted for the ride was 25 minutes. But instead of waiting that out we would be using the Single Rider line. The Single Rider line is something we really have come to love about Universal as practically every ride there has it. As long as you don't mind being split up from your party for the actual ride (you still wait together) then you can drastically cut your wait times down. And the best part for those traveling with a toddler like us is that you can use Baby Swap with Single Rider. So our whole party waits together in the Single Rider line and then Kiera and Daniel would go to the Baby Swap room while I would head to the ride. Most rides have the Single Rider option however it may not always be open as we would find out later in the trip.

Spiderman has always been an amazing ride. But last year it became even better. Since the West Coast was getting the Transformers ride and introducing some new 3d technollogy Universal Creative took that same technology and applied it to Spiderman since they weren't getting Transformers at the time. The ride was closed for nearly 2 months as the ride film was completly reanimated, ride vehicles reprogramed, and a new soundtrack added in addition to everything being refreshed inside and out. The result was incredible. What once looked very cartoony now looked real and life like. My one complaint of the original ride fixed. It was almost like it was a completly new ride. And with the 4k HD from transformers you could make out every fine detail. Of course with Transformers now also being in the resort you could say the refresh is redundant.

But I say no its not because an amazing ride got better and I honestly believe its still the better ride of the 2. Although Transformers brought some amazing technology (like the elevators as the attractions takes place on 2 floors) I think Transformers relies too much on the screens. Spiderman had less screens then Transformers and more physical sets and props. Because of these sets the flying portions are much more believeable. It also uses Fire effects that you don't see in Transformers (which uses fake fire effects). Spiderman was once again amazing and the Must Do ride in the resort. After riding Transformers and Spiderman mear hours apart thats something I can diffenitly say Spiderman is the better of the two. In my opinion anyways.




We were now done with Marvel and walked into the next area of the park. This area is called Toon Lagoon and other then a couple Water rides theres not much else here. The area is themed to the cartoons you would find in the Sunday newpaper and is frankly filled with Properties that kids these days have never heard of. There are some great photo ops here though but we didn't stop for any of them at this time. The 2 water rides that are located here are amoung the best as well. Popeye and Bluto's rapids is possibly the best rapids ride I have ever been on. Its incredibly themed and you will not walk off that ride with a dry spot on you. Dudly Do Rights Ripsaw Falls is a Log flume ride that is decent. What it lacks in story telling and decent themeing inside it makes up at the end with major thrills as the drops on this ride are much steeper and faster then any other. It too will drench you. These are rides we havn't done since our very first trip 4 years ago. I wanted to do them again on this trip but I wouldn't be today as I really didn't want to get soaked yet.









The third Island we came to was once my favorite island in the park. And who knows maybe with the upcoming expansion it may become my favorite once again. This Island is Jurassic Park and it will make you feel like your inside the movies.


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Old 11-14-2014, 02:36 PM   #11
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This island is one of the largest and is very well themed. But the expansion is very needed. For how big the island is there really is only 2 rides right now and a kids play area. And 1 of those rides adults can't even go on unless accompaning a child. The rumors say that they will be adding a Family mine train coaster with thrills on par with Big Thunder Mountain at Disney. The old Tricaratops encounter area will also be gutted and redone with additonal food options and maybe some more kiddie type flat rides. I really hope this expansion will also add some more Dinosaurs that can be seen just while walking around the Island instead of the River Adventure being the only place you can see the Dinos. Construction is expected to start soon with a completion rumored for 2015 so it will be interesteing to see what comes. Especially since it will coinside with the release of the 4th film.



By the time we got to Jurassic Park we were getting very thirsty so we stopped into the Thunder Falls terrace to get some A/C as well as some cups of water. We came in at the tail end of the lunch rush so we still had a decent wait to get the water though. This was the first we had been inside this restuarant and it had some pretty cool themeing. It also over looks the splash pool for the river adventure so you can sit and watch the boats soak people. We didn't eat here but I heard its pretty good.




Since Daniel had been pretty cooped up in his Stroller most the day we decided to take Daniel over to the Camp Jurassic area so that he could get out and run around for a bit. Camp Jurassic is huge and in my opinion is one of the hidden gems of Islands of Adventure. Its alot of fun for Kids and Adults and is incredibly well themed. Probably the best themed play area of any park i've ever been to.






Daniel really enjoyed being able to get out and run around. He enjoyed the slides the most out of everything. At the bottom of one of the slides there are some Dinosaur footprints that if you step on them it will make sounds as if Dinosaurs are in the bushes. He wasn't a fan of this lol.






In addition to Camp Jurassic being the loading area for Ptaradon Flyers which is the ride only kids can go on you will find many different buidlings that you can walk thru and view the area from. Down below are the Amber Mines which you can explore and find the Misquitos used to bring the Dinosaurs to life.







Theres an assortment of rope courses that the kids can climb up and play on. As well as a water area for kids to get wet in if they'd like. Theres even a water gun war area where people can spray water guns at people below. But those down below also have water guns that look like the spitter dinosaurs to spray back at people up top.







The last part of Camp Jurassic is a large network of caves that are really cool to explore. Although it is dark and it really seemed to scare Daniel so we didn't spend much time in them. After the caves Daniel was pretty much done with the area so we left to continue on with the park.



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Old 11-14-2014, 02:39 PM   #12
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I mentioned that theres really only 1 ride in the Large Jurassic Park Island. But its a good one. The ride is the River Adventure and its easily my favorite flume type ride ever. We stopped by the splash pool first to see how wet people were getting as just like the Toon Lagoon rides I really didn't want to get too wet. And it seemed to be hit and miss with people getting soaked. Some boats were, some boats weren't. There were a ton of kids to side getting the most drenched in the splash of the boat. Kiera knew for sure that she didn't want to chance getting any wet but I decided I would do it. I figured that if I could get a seat towards the back of the boat I should be fine.





Kiera took Daniel to see the displays in the Jurassic Park Discovery Center. The River Adventure only had a 10 minute wait posted at the time but I figured I would just do Single Riders. Well this was one of those rides where the Single Rider line wasn't open as it was too slow for it. So I had to wait in line with everyone else. The wait turned out to only be about 5 minutes instead. I hoped I would sit towards the back of the boat but I got placed in the corner of the very front row. One of the worst spots you can sit if you hope to stay dry.




The ride was great as always. However I really hope as part of the islands expansion that the ride goes down for a long referb to get some love. This ride is still a do not miss in my opinion but after riding the version at the Hollywood park in December its obvious to me that the Hollywood ride is not only the better of the two but its also in better condition. The T-Rex at the end of the ride in Hollywood is much better as I like how its hidden behind a waterfall before crashing thru it and lunging at the boat. In Florida the Rex is already there waiting in some smoke. The drop is amazing though on both rides and this time It was just my luck by where I was seated that I got pretty wet as the boat crashed into the pond below.

My entire front side was now soaking wet as I walked towards the Discovery center to meet up with Kiera and Daniel. Off the side of the path you can see the first signs of the expansion as some new Carnival type games are being constructed in Jurassic Park. These games will open very soon and will eventually replace those in the Lost Contenant which will be replaced by a new plaza area for the Wizarding World once the Hogwarts Express is completed. In the Discovery Center Kiera and Daneil were looking at the different exhibits and he thought the large dinosaurs were pretty cool. well until they roared anyways.




I got there right in time as the alarm went off at the hatchry indicating that a Baby Dinosaur was about to be born. Daniel and I were able to get a spot pretty close to watch this cute little show. They have a bunch of eggs in the Hatchry that at some point will hatch. These eggs look solid but they will actually crach and start to move as the baby Dinosaur will break out of the egg. This is a cute little show that Daniel was pretty amazed by. I'm sure many of the little kids watching thought this was real. The scientest then asks a child in the crowd to actually name the baby Raptor which the child came up with the very original name of Raptor for it this day. If you have young kids this is something they must see. Its pretty neat.






One of the advantages of coming to the park later in the day was that by the time we were ready for lunch we had already missed the Lunch rush. We decided to keep tradition going and grabbed lunch upstairs in the Discovery Center at a place called Burger Digs. Each year we've come we have had lunch here. Theres really nothing special about it. Just your regular burgers and chicken. To help save on costs Kiera and I get just one double burger that we split. She will dress the patty up with veggies and eat it with a fork while I keep the buns as I don't put much on mine. Being new Annual Passholders I completely forgot to use my AP discount on it though. Something I didn't mistake again.




With our stomachs full and having finished with everything in Jurassic Park it was time to continue on into the rest of the park. There was a castle towering in the distance. and frankly we were surprised it had taken us this long to get to it.



We had finally arrived to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. A land that is possibly the most well themed area of any theme park. Its what we look forward to every visit as Kiera and I are both very big Harry Potter fans. We came the year the area opened and now this is our 3rd time visiting. The area was a huge hit for Universal showing that they truely could compete with Disney and turned the entire resort around which has lead to the investments that Comcast is now making thruout both parks.





As we walked into Hogsmead we caught part of the Tri-Wizard Prep Ralley taking place. This is one of 2 little shows that takes place every hour and it features the boys from Durmstrang Institute, and the girls from Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. The show mimics the scene from when the schools enter Hogwarts from the 4th film in the Harry Potter movies. We had already messed the men do there portion of the show but we were able to see the girls do there part. The show is a cute little diversion and worth taking a look. It was also nice to finally see these shows take place on an actual stage. The peformance area use to be on the ground. But earlier this year an actual stage was constructed which elevates the performers and make it much easier to watch.




After the performance we made our way the next attraction which is one of our favorite. It is located in the majestic Hogwarts Castle and is called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Although practically every attraction had a single rider line that we used this is one ride that you must take a trip thru the regular que at least once. The line for the ride is truely an attraction in and of itself.




To make the line even better the wait time posted for the attraction was only 20 minutes long. We have never seen the wait times that low for this ride. You can usually get a feel for how long the wait will be based on how full the greenhouse area (that you can see from Jurassic Park) is. The greenhouse holds the majority of the wait so if its full and all the switchbacks are in use your looking at about an hour wait. Today though not all the switchbacks were open and we hit the line just 2 ramps below reentering the castle.



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Old 11-14-2014, 02:41 PM   #13
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Once you're in the Castle the line moves very quickly. Which is odd considering the castle is the part of the line that you'd actually like to spend a lot of time waiting in. Its pretty much a mini tour thru the castle which sets up the story for the ride and you pass many recognizable things from the movies. Pay close attention to all of your surroundings as there are some really cool effects and surprises. Especially how well done the moving portraits are.







For the first time Muggles (non magical people) have been allowed into Hogwarts school of Magic. You go the Professor Dumbledor's office where Dumbledor actually speaks to you about your visit and that you would attend a lecture about the history of Hogwarts. You then got to the Defence against the Dark Arts room where Harry, Ron, and Hermione sneak and convince you to ditch the lecture to come watch a game of Qudditch instead. There are a few cool effects in here and the one we got while passing thru was when Ron made it actually snow in the room. Daniel thought this was really cool.








You eventually get to the Griffindor common room where more moving protraits give the safety info for the ride before passing the Sorting Hat (which actually moves and talks) and entering the Room of Requirement where you board your enchanted bench for the ride. This was where Kiera and Daniel were sent to the Child Swap room and I continued on and boarded the ride.





I have read that over the last few months that Universal has been tweeking the ride slightly to try and make it easier on those who get motion sick easily. You may notice that the ride will occasionally stop for a short period of time. This isn't because theres a problem with the ride but usually because somebody got sick on the ride and may have lost there lunch. So they have to shut down shortly for a cleanup. To combat this the motions of the ride vehicle have been slightly toned down and the frame rate of the videos slowed down and made slightly brighter. The ride vehicle you sit in is attached to a large Kuka arm which is a large robotic arm that can swing you in all directions and tilt you around. In addition to passing thru large physical sets you also go thru three film domes where the Kuka arm then acts as a motion simulator. This ride is truely incredible and a techilogical breakthru. Its still hard to pathum that Gringots is supposed to be more technilogically advanced then this is.

I think I officially have more ride logged on this then I do any other ride in the Universal Orlando resort so i've become very familiar with it. So I was interested to see if I could spot the changes. The first change is really the only blatent obivous change and thens when you first enter the fire place and travel by floo network that instead of seeing projected brickwork you now see a green vortex. The vortex works so much better then the fake brick. The next noticible difference was the video in the domes. It was much brighter and clearer then it was before. Again something that works much better. The newer movements of the bench weren't as noticible as I thought they would be but I swear it puts you on your back nearly upside down much more often now then it did before (I thought it use to do this only at the whomping willow scene). I was very suprised to see that the dementors kiss projection was working as well (its almost always broken) and the image was now in color instead of black and white which was also cool. But there was some bad with the good but its something that seemed to change on each ride over the course of this trip as it seemed they are still messing with the lighting thruout the building. On this ride the lighting was WAY too bright. You could see everything coming up in the darker scenes. Especially in the Forbidden Forest, Whomping Willow, and Chamber of Secrets scenes. You could see the Dementors much sooner then you were suppose to. The lighting was just way off. And there didn't seem to be as many spiders in the Forbidden Forest. Luckly the lighting issues were better for future rides.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is up there as one of the absolute must rides in the resort and so long as you don't get sick on it, its sure to be one that you will want to do again and again. The best part is that you don't even have to be a Harry Potter fan to enjoy it. It is so well done that its fun for everyone. I mean who doesn't like to feel like there flying. But yes it makes a lot of people sick. So keep that in mind if you get motion sick easily. Still the que is a must see as well. And if nobody in your party is up to riding then they actually have a seperate "Castle Tour" line that you can enter to walk and view the castle with out actually waiting in line for the ride portion.

After Child Swapping Kiera went and took a ride as well and also noticed the lighting issues in the showbuilding. We then exited the ride and retrieved the stroller before making our way into the town of Hogsmead. As we passed by the stage area again the other show was now taking place which is a small performance by the Hogwarts Frog Choir.







I'm still shocked that it took us this long but it was finally time for Butterbeer. This drink is like liquid gold for Universal. It is incredibly good and very addicting. We spent a lot of money on the drink over the course of this vacation lol. There are 2 versions of the drink. The regular version which is like a soda with foam topping, and a frozen version which is a slush drink. We actually prefer the Frozen but I know many who like the regular too. The drink taists like a mix of Butterscotch and Cream Soda which doesn't sound like the most appealing drink. Especially if you not a fan of ether. But the combination works here and makes a very taisty drink.




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Old 11-14-2014, 02:43 PM   #14
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There are two carts in Hogsmead that you can buy the drinks from. However you can also get it from the Three Broomsticks Restaurant and the Hogs Head Pub. I actually recommend buying it from one of the Indoor locations listed above as the waits inside are much shorter then the outside carts. Not only that but if your a Preferred Annual Passholder like I am you can get your 10% AP discount on the drink at the indoor locations. You can't get the discount at any outdoor locations. You can get the drink in a regular cup or pay extra for a suvinour mug. We had bought 2 mugs in past trips and had them with us so we just got those refilled each time. Back when the Wizarding World open there was a discount given if you refilled your own mugs. Unfortuantly that discount no longer exists and the cost to refill the mug is the same cost as a regular cup.





With our stomachs full of the delecious drink we continued on to another ride located in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Dragons Challenge Roller Coasters. These coaster are themed around one of the tasks of the Tri-Wizard tournament. The wait was only posted as 5 minutes but its probably a little longer then that. And not because there was a long ride inside. But because this ride has the most rediculously long que ever created for an attraction. The walk surely takes longer then 5 minutes lol. Instead of walking the que with me, Kiera took Daniel (who was asleep) and went to the rides Child Swap room thru its exit. There are actually 2 roller coasters that make up the attraction so right before where you load onto the ride you have to decided which side you want to ride on. Both coasters are very good but I perfer the Hungarion Horntail (blue) side more then the Chinese Fireball (red) side.








Both of the coasters are very good and shouldn't be missed if your a roller coaster enthusiast. To this day I think the Blue side is still my favorite suspended coaster. However I can't help but think these coasters are only a shadow of there former self now. This coaster actually opened with Islands of Adventure and was once known as Dueling Dragons. Luckly I got to experiance the ride as Dueling Dragons still back in 2009 before Potter opened. The que was still long back then as well but it was possibly one of the most well themed ques ever. The que really got dumbed down when it became Dragons challenge. Only a few things were added for the Harry Potter overlay such as the Champions Tent and Goblet of Fire, as well as the Dragons eggs and Champions cup. But then it seems like there are endless walks thru empty caves to get to the ride. These caves use to be filled with cool themeing that were removed.





But dispite the lackluster que at least the best part of the coaster remained. The dueling aspect. The 2 coasters would leave the stations at the same time and then "duel" thruout the tracks as they were set up to have I think 5 near misses with one another. The dueling took too good coasters and made them unlike anything else. Well it did until a couple years ago anyways. Theres always has to be somebody who ruins it for everyone else. Somebody decided to take items on the ride and throw it at the other train during the near miss sections. One man was blinded from being hit with an item. Another was seriously injured a few days later from the same issue. Because of these incedents the dueling feature was removed from the Dragons and they will never duel again. A feature that is very missed.





The best way to ride is on the front row which will typically have a longer wait. But if your willing to wait it will be worth it on these suspended coasters. I waited it out and rode on the front row which gives a great view of the ride. As well as the construction of the Hogsmead station for the Hogwarts Express. After my awesome ride Kiera took a turn as well. But I wasn't done yet. While she took Daniel back to the town I jumped over and also rode the Fire side of the ride. I always liked the Ice side more do to some near misses it has with the building that Fire lacked. However that is all changing with the Hogwarts Express station as the station had now added multipule near misses to that track. Both are very good and again worth the ride. Even without the dueling feature.

We were now finished with the Wizarding World for the moment. We would be back again later for Dinner so after trying to get some shots of the Hogwarts Express construction we continued into the next section of the park. The Lost Continent.







There really isn't much left to the Lost Continent as the Wizarding World took over about half of the original land. There are no longer any actual rides located here but the themeing in place are among the best of the entire park. There are 2 sub sections now. One is an arabian themed area that has the Sinbad Stunt show. We wouldn't watch the show on this trip but we have in the past and its not something that you really need to see unless you want to get out of the sun for a bit. The set peices are pretty immaculate but the stunts and acting fall very short.




The other area is Greek Mythology themed and has some of the most amazing facades in the resort. The attraction here is Posidon's Fiery but its also not a ride. Its a walk thru attraction that uses some cool effects but really isn't worth seeing unless the wait is 10 minutes or less. We did this for the first time on our last trip but we wouldn't do it on this one as the wait was always 30 minutes or higher. I don't think people realize that its not a ride and then leave dissapointed. Still though it can be a good place to run if you get caught in a rain storm and want to get out of the rain for a bit. The restaurant Mythos is also located here. We still have never ate at it but it has been named the Best Theme Park Restaurant for many years in a row. Still its too expensive for us.



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Old 11-14-2014, 02:48 PM   #15
Teknik_DC2
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We finally made it to the final Island of the park and the one we were heading to. Suess Landing. This area is themed to the wimsical world of the Dr. Suess books. And it was an area that we thought Daniel would really enjoy as Dr. Suess books are amung some of his favorites and there were many rides here that he could actually go on.







The first of which would be One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. This ride wouldn't just be a ride Daniel could go on but it would also be the first time that I went on it too. Red Fish, Blue Fish was Universals take on your standard Dumbo style Spinner ride. But they added an interactive feature to the ride in the form of water spraying at you. There is a little song that plays while the ride is in motion where if you listen to the song closely you will supposedly be able to avoid getting wet. But do to the chance of getting wet Kiera decided to sit this one out.





This was another ride that we thought Daniel would like and he couldn't wait to get into the ride vehicle. He was all smiles and could even reach the lever to make the ride go up and down. And then the ride started. And just like with Stormforce he was no longer happy with the ride. He was ok if we stayed low but when we were in the air he didn't like it. I was fighting trying to keep him seated. Of course this ment that I also couldn't focus on the words of the song so we got blasted with water a few times. I said that if you follow the words of the song your supposedly gonna stay dry. However the 3rd verse of the song is pretty much a free for all with water spraying randomly so really you likely won't stay dry. Its still a cute litte ride that I perfer to Dumbo as the interaction makes a tame ride more exciting.





We were gonna go to the Cat in the Hat ride next but we noticed that a little show featuring Dr. Suess characters was taking place called "Oh, the Stories you will hear". We thought this would be something Daniel might also like so we stopped to watch. He loved pointing at and seeing the characters dance around on stage. I'm not sure if the show changes at all but the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and 2, The Grinch, Sam I Am, and the Lorax were the characters that were a part of the show. After there little dance the person leading the show read the story of the Lorax to everyone and then another little dance number the show was over. It was a cute little show that pretty much every kid there enjoyed. Especially when the characters came down and were dancing with everyone.






After the show the characters stay out a little while longer for some meet and greets. Again Daniel loved Characters last year when we came so we hoped he would again this year but he loved them from a far. Not really so much up close. Which was sad as last year the Lorax was his favorite and we have a lot of cute pictures of him with the Lorax. Time to meet the characters were limited so we only had time to meet with Sam I Am, The Lorax, and the Grinch.







Finally it was time for us to ride Cat in the Hat. This is one of only 3 rides that is the closest thing to a traditional Dark Ride on Univesal Property. Its a ride that we really looked forward to taking Daniel on as the Cat in the Hat is a book thats a favorite of his. The line said it was a 5 minute wait but we walked right on with no wait at all. This ride is traditional in the fact that its a smaller scale ride that is fun for the whole family. Much like the dark rides that dot Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland. Of course old Universal had to try to make it more extreme then what Disney does though so the ride features a lot of spinning. And some of the spinning can be pretty rough. And thats considering that a few years ago the spinning on the ride was toned down. As with the other rides so far too Daniel wasn't in to it at all. He just wanted to sit on our laps which was hard to fight as he had to stay seated by himself. The spinning really took him by surprise and he really didn't like it. He was happy when the ride was over but he really enjoyed the gift shop lol. Cat in the Hat is a cute ride though and is something that I consider to be a do not miss as the ride is really well done.



While Kiera ran to the restroom I took Daniel over to a little play area in Suess Landing called "If I Ran the Zoo". This little play area had exhibits and thing to climb on and push that featured some of the strange creatures found in the Dr. Suess books. There is a small portion of the area as well that has water so pay close attention to your kids here if you don't want them getting wet. Daniel really enjoyed the area and was really having a blast until I heard the call come over the Team Members radio. Something we had managed to avoid so far today. There was lightning in the area. All Outdoor attractions were to be shut down immidiatly. The TM quickly cleared everyone out of the area and the play area was shut down. Daniel was not happy about it.



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