My Trip Report: HRH, US, Margaritaville, CityWalk (verrrrrrry long and detailed)

mirthmaiden

<font color=blue>Toss her some tic tacs and take h
Joined
Jan 9, 2001
Cast:
Me - Alida (35)
DH - Jaime (38)
DD - Katie (6)
DS - Austin (5)

Day 3 – Thursday March 1st 2001: HRH, USF, Margaritaville, CityWalk

Set off early for Orlando and the Hard Rock Hotel. My folks were nice enough to drive us there from Zephyrhills. We passed much evidence of the devastating fires on the way. Mom explained the difference between fog smoke, old smoke, muck smoke, and new smoke. She has become a smoke connisseur. You could still see and smell it everywhere, but thankfully I-4 was open.

Arrived at HRH approximately 9:30am. What can I say? This hotel is absolutely stunning! Just gorgeous. We were treated 1st class from the moment we pulled up. The valet immediately took our bags and didn’t once call me “maam.” The kids were each given their own leopard-skin print bag with some goodies including rock-star sunglasses. They felt like big stuff strutting around that lobby with the cool shades on. I immediately noticed the classic rock playing in the lobby area and thought to myself, “I could stay here a while and be happy.” Let me sum it up like this: you know how when you’re just regular people and you’re staying at a chi-chi posh place, you feel kinda like the Clampetts pulling up to the front door? We didn’t feel like that.

Check-in was a breeze. The desk clerk was very cheerful, friendly and made it a pleasure to be there. I booked a pool-view room using the Entertainment rate around mid-January. At the time of booking, I was told my credit card would immediately be charged for one night. My card was never charged (at least up until the day we left home – the last time I checked). I paid cash for both nights right then. NOTE: when paying cash, they will not let you make any phone calls, use video games or charge anything to the room. This was not a problem for us, but just thought I should mention it because this is different than Disney’s KTTW card on the ship where you just give them the c/c number but they don’t actually charge until the end of your cruise. The clerk did not ask to see my Entertainment Card, which was a cryin' shame since I had purchased the Entertainment book specifically for this. Thought about showing it to him anyway. He let us know that the room would not be ready until 3pm, but that our luggage would be set aside until then. I thought about asking what security measures they would take to protect it, but then decided if anyone really wanted my underwear they could have it. He gave us our passes allowing FOTL access and explained how it worked, that it was UNLIMITED all day for both days. I gave him the thumbs up sign and felt like the Tom Cruise about to blast off.

We decided to go to US that day. We had taken out a second mortgage and bought 2-day Escape passes ahead of time through AAA. Arrived at the park just past 10am after a short walk from the hotel. You journey through a winding pathway set among beautiful gardens and bridges, meant to bring zen harmony and balance to your life (ok, I embellished, but it’s nice). There is also a water taxi dock at the beginning of the path. Since the taxi had just left, we opted to walk. Had the path almost completely to ourselves, with the exception of some ducks who weren’t the least bit afraid of us.

There seemed to be a lot going on to celebrate Mardi Gras. I had the impression that the real action didn’t start until the park closed, but this was good. There were clowns, a small parade, beads being tossed out, and great music throughout the park all day. If I could have purchased a cd of those tunes I would have. Very cool mix of zydeco & blues. I always notice background music and it really adds to my overall enjoyment. I was not disappointed here.

This was our first time inside the parks at USF. So far, so good. Everything was clean. If I had seen any bits of paper lying around I would have done my duty and photographed them (wink wink nudge nudge). It was uncrowded and we had no trouble blazing our path forward. Debated whether or not to rent a double stroller, but didn’t and it was OK. It was hot and the kids did get tired toward the later afternoon, but overall they did fine with the walking, which didn’t seem as bad as some other parks we’ve visited.

Our first stop was at The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera. I presented all of our hotel cards to the greeter and, just like in the movies, we were shown the way to the Express entrance. As would be the case most of the day, we probably didn’t really need to use our FOTL privileges because lines were minimal, but it just felt good to do it anyway! I had some concern about this ride since it is a simulator. I usually feel sick on these things, but I had taken Bonine that morning and was fine. The kids enjoyed it, especially the interactive play area at the end.

Next was the Nickelodeon Studios tour. This was something the kids had been looking forward to. They were mightily impressed with the slime machine outside and asked to get tickets for Slime Time Live, but I just explained that it would take about a hundred bazillion hours standing in line for tickets and they let it go without any argument. Those kind of numbers carry a lot of clout with kids. I have to admit I am somewhat of a Nick junkie (I think I might have been Angelica Pickles and/or Debbie Thornberry in past lives), so I enjoyed this too. I would have liked a bit more time to linger and admire the artwork and scenery as we toured. I was too busy keeping track of the kids and managing not to get run over by others to look at most of what we passed.

The props, costume, and food areas were OK. Not really too interesting. But the games at the end of the tour were a blast. Both kids were able to participate. DS competed against some other 5yr-olds in a sommersault contest and won. The giant grin on his face was priceless! DD was chosen to participate in a game about The Wild Thornberrys (don’t understand exactly what the objective was, but it was loud and fun and she enjoyed it). The CM hosting the games repeatedly asked, practically begged, the adults to show some enthusiasm, but most of them just sat there like wet rags. This seemed to be frustrating to the CMs and they finally just quit trying to get the grown-ups involved. Maybe they should have dumped some slime over our section. Might have helped generate some noise. NOTE: it was mostly older kids who were picked to participate in the games. This could be potentially disappointing for younger ones.

We skipped Alfred Hitchcock (although I would have liked to see this, there just wasn’t time and I knew the kids wouldn’t like it), Stage 54 and the Boneyard.

Next it was the Monster Café for lunch. It was about 11:30 when we entered and we literally were the only ones there. I kept looking around wondering if we had accidentally come in while it was closed or maybe stepped into another dimension of sight and sound or something. Loved the theming. Did you ever want to eat chicken with the Creature from the Black Lagoon? Fulfill your fantasy here. It was difficult to keep the kids focused on eating since there was so much to see. Very cool. I would have liked to take more time to really look around since there are several different sections full of monster stuff. The prices, on the other hand, were not too cool. DH had the roasted chicken plate, I had a pizza (these are small “personal” size), and the kids split a pizza. With 4 drinks and 2 cookies the total was nearly $35! I know, I know. It’s a theme park and eating at a theme park is expensive. I still feel that we paid waaaaaay too much for what we got. They did give the kids free Dracula teeth, though. That scored high points with them. DS wanted to eat lunch wearing his. Managed to convince him it wasn’t a good idea.

Next we blew over to Twister (ha ha ha). I expected to do the baby-swap thing, but DH decided to wait outside with the kids. I was surprised by this since Twister is one of his favorite movies, but oh well……his loss. Used FOTL, but it didn’t gain me anything since we all ended up in the same place waiting what seemed like a hundred bazillion hours for the doors to open. I’m sure it was only a few minutes, but when you’re standing there, time does not fly. Once again, the theming inside the building was interesting, but it was nearly impossible to see any of it without risking being trampled by the mass of people all anxious to get in and jockey for position. I stood on the bottom section right in front of the fire hydrant. I vaguely remembered reading something about getting wet if you stood in a certain place, but couldn’t remember exactly where so I just stepped toward the back of that area rather than stand right at the railing. I felt a few raindrops when the “roof” shifted, but no major water.

Twister was definitely intense and memorable. It made me appreciate how utterly terrifying it would be to experience a real tornado up close. I’m not sure why, but I was expecting it to be more like a show and last longer (could probably say that about a lot of things in life, eh?). The whole thing was over so quickly. If I had waited in line for a long time, this would have been a little disappointing. That’s one of the real benefits of FOTL – you haven’t invested a huge chunk of time so it’s no big deal if something isn’t exactly what you expected.

After Twister, we turned the corner going toward Kongfrontation. The Blues Brothers had just started playing, so we stopped for a couple of minutes. The Blues Brothers is one of my all-time favorite movies and I play their music often. The kids know most of the words so we had fun singing along. I could have spent serious time here kicking back with some cold brew, but there was still much to see. We pressed on.

Kong was next. DH did want to do this one so we used FOTL and baby-swap. DD pitched a huge fit because she couldn’t understand that we weren’t making her go on the ride. If I had it to do over, I would have sat down with the kids before we got there and explained baby-swap so we wouldn’t have had to go through that ordeal. As it was, DH had to pick DD up and carry her into the waiting area while she is sobbing very loudly and creating a huge scene. I was cringing, imagining that everyone in line thought we were the world’s worst parents dragging our terrified child on this ride. Dealing with a child’s irrational fear is one of the most challenging things one has to deal with as a parent. It can be so frustrating when nothing you say will convince them, never mind trying to stay cool when about 100 people are watching and evaluating your parenting skills.

DH went first and DD finally calmed down somewhat while we waited on the platform (not completely because she could still hear the sounds from inside the ride). Seeing DH return safe and sound was a great comfort to her. I sat right in the front near the ride operator, which was nice because you could see everything. The dialogue was corny, but I did enjoy the ride overall.

On to San Francisco/Amity………

We all did the first 2 parts of Earthquake. DD was very apprehensive, but I think she knew better than to repeat the scene from Kong. DH and kids waited while I went on the last part in the subway. It was OK, nothing really blew me away about it. Given the choice between the two rides, I would choose Catastrophe Canyon at Disney/MGM, but the actual effects are very similar.

Skipped Beetlejuice and Jaws. DS bragged at great length about how he was going on the Jaws ride, but there was no way I was letting him go and then dealing with nightmares for weeks after! He seemed OK with my saying “no.” Must be he had second thoughts when it came time. Jaws is another of DH’s favorite movies, but he didn’t want to do this one either. The kids were in awe of the giant shark hanging outside the attraction. Posed for the obligatory photo.

Would have liked to see the Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show, but we had just missed the 1:00 show and the next wasn’t until 4:15??? Seems like they could fit in another show in between those times. It wasn’t worth backtracking for later as we were all fairly tired by 4:15 and we still had to go back to the hotel to check into our room.

DS couldn’t wait to ride Men In Black. Tried in vain to talk DD into riding. She insisted it would be too scary, so DH waited with her while DS and I rode. We were in and out in less than 10 minutes using FOTL. Loved it! What a hoot! I followed the advice to hold down the trigger and scored about 44500 (don’t know how that ranks, but it was fun regardless). We were seated in the back of the car. DS could barely see over the “dashboard” but he had fun anyway. I could’ve ridden this over and over. Shooting aliens satisfies something deep within my soul.

We exited through the gift shop (I hate how they do this…. There should be a no-toy/no-candy express exit like at the supermarket). Tried to convince DS to go back on with dad, but now he had set his sights on Back to the Future. By the time DS decided he’d like to try MIB again, we were at the front of the park and it would have been a long hike back. This is where a sky-tram or train-type ride would have been nice. We could have gone back to the Wild West show and done MIB again.

FOTL worked beautifully on Back to the Future. There were significant lines, but we were on in just a couple of minutes. Did the baby-swap. DS and DH went together and liked it. I was concerned about DS getting sick but he seemed fine. It was DH who was woozy. This was where my Bonine got its real test. I knew if I could pass the BTTF challenge, I would have no problem on the Disney Magic next week.

BTTF was cool, interesting, and VERY intense. I was seated next to a very young child – I doubt he was over 3 yrs old. I had visions of the child getting sick all over me, but he did OK. I had a few moments of wooziness, but I just looked down into the car until it passed. Overall I got through fine. I’m glad I did it, but I don’t know that I would go again. I am definitely not a wimp when it comes to rides. The bigger, faster, taller, steeper, the better I usually like it. I guess simulators just aren’t my thing.

Still reeling from BTTF, we made our way into Woody Woodpecker’s Kid Zone. The area looked like more fun than a barrel full of monkeys, but it was somewhat disappointing for us. We had just missed the Barney show by about 15 minutes (darn…my fault for not checking the guide; after BTTF, I thought Barney might just push me over the edge and make me throw up), the kids couldn’t do anything in the Curious George area because they weren’t dressed for getting wet (my fault for not thinking ahead and dressing them in their swimsuits). Neither of them wanted to ride Woody Woodpecker’s coaster and ET was not working. They played in Fievel’s area for a few minutes before we moved on.

By now it was after 3pm (the time our room was supposed to be ready for check-in). We had planned to go back to the hotel to check in, go eat at Margaritaville around 5pm, then head back into the park for the Mardi Gras parade, but we decided to stay in the park for another hour or so because we hadn’t done T2 yet. Paused briefly for ice cream at Schwab’s Pharmacy. I had a hot fudge sundae that really hit the spot. DH got a table while I waited in line. It’s good that I got in line when I did because a minute later, the place was mobbed by a huge group of French-speaking people and total confusion set in as they tried to communicate their orders. It was nice to sit down in the air conditioning for a few minutes.

DS was really cranked about T2. DH and DD passed on it (big surprise there). Used FOTL but didn’t need it here either. Once we got our 3D glasses we waited in the queue area for what seemed like a couple hundred bazillion hours. During this time DS asked me over and over to leave because he was starting to get nervous about the show, but I just kept reassuring him and finally we were able to move into the inner chamber where the very exuberant woman comes out and does her little show. I realize it’s part of the whole attraction theme, but I could easily have done without the additional 10 minutes listening to her. By this time the entire group was growing very impatient. I heard quite a few rude, sarcastic comments from the crowd. The woman responded by threatening to withhold opening the theater doors even longer. We were hot and tired and just could not get into the whole Cyber-whatever thing.

The T2 show itself was pretty good and LOUD. DS opted not to wear his 3D glasses. I wore mine and was impressed with the effects. This ain’t like those chintzy 3D movies of the past. The effects were outstanding! DS was in awe of the machine-gun robots since we were seated at the end of the row only a few feet away from one of them. Overall, we both enjoyed it. He is raving about the experience now that he’s had a few days to think back on it.

One thing I found funny is that the host woman repeated several times that guests were supposed to quickly move all the way to the end of the rows. When the doors opened, she went up on the stage and repeated this several more times. Yet, right there in the middle of the back row sat a group of about 4 or 5 corporate-looking people with clipboards and name badges. I got the impression that they were doing some kind of evaluating or marketing stuff. Anyway, I purposely chose this row and made them all stand up so that DS and I could get past them and move all the way to the end of the row. Everyone else stopped before them so the row was empty between us and the corporates. Little things amuse me.

Would have like to see the Gory Gruesome & Grotesque Horror Make-up Show. I think the kids would have liked that as well, but it was now about 4:15 and we had all had enough.

Went back to the hotel to check-in. Our room was #6028 – way at the very end overlooking the pool. I was very pleased with the quality and décor of the room. Everything about it was cool, right down to the sink fixtures shaped liked music notes. Having the cd player in room was great. Never opened the mini-bar so I can’t really comment on that. The view was outstanding. The beds were clean (no blood, no pubic hair, no dead people underneath) and ultra-comfy. Definitely money well-spent. We called the bellhop to bring up our bags, which arrived about 15 minutes later. No underwear was missing. We quickly freshened up and headed back out to get dinner.

We are die-hard Parrotheads so Margaritaville was a must for us. I had made PS arrangements ahead of time for 7:30, but we just walked up about 5:30ish and were seated immediately without having to present our room card. It wasn’t all that busy, probably because it was early yet. This was our second visit to this Margaritaville Café. Last time we had a bigger group and were seated in the corner by the doors to the kitchen where we had trouble seeing everything. This time we were seated right in front of the stage, which actually was a better all-around view, but the volcano was mostly blocked by a wall. The kids enjoyed watching the margarita stuff slide down the volcano and hearing the mountain burp at the end. That was the one thing they really remembered from our last visit so they were delighted when the volcano erupted. We all enjoyed singing along to the music. DS received much admiration when he stood up and danced and sang along with Jimmy to “Sea Cruise.” I like to call DS “Fozzy Bear” because he is always performing – telling jokes, singing, clowning around. How many 5yr olds know all the words to “Sea Cruise” and “Soul Man”?

On our previous visit I tried the Last Mango frozen margarita and loved it. I ordered the same again this time and promptly made it gone (I think it took about a minute….) Would have loved to order several more, but they are not inexpensive so I showed restraint in the interest of keeping costs down. They really need to offer a gallon size margarita. You know, buy in bulk quantity, save money? I also re-ordered the Cheeseburger in Paradise. I remembered it being very tasty the first time, but today it was dry and flavorless. I only managed to choke down half of it because it was so blahhh. The big kosher pickle was super tasty though. It was interesting to note that the total bill here was under $50, including one frozen drink and several beers and lots more food than lunch at the Monster Café.

After dinner we browsed through the café store. It was too crowded and you can get the same stuff on the website, so we didn’t stay there long. We had decided against going back into the park for the Mardi Gras parade. I’m sure it would have been nice, but we just didn’t feel up to it. Instead we took our time browsing through some of the shops in CityWalk. There was one thing in particular I wanted to find at Captain Crackers, but it was sold-out. I’m still kicking myself for not buying it the first time we were there. Pulled in for a pit-stop at the Nascar Café and played some arcade games. I’m not a Nascar fan, but I enjoyed the theming at this restaurant.

We ended up going to see the 9pm showing of “Recess: School’s Out” at the Cineplex. The whole place was virtually empty (I think I saw 1 other person in the lobby). We were the only ones in that particular theater until right at the start of the movie when 2 other people came in. How often does that happen? It was cool but kind of creepy too. I really love the Recess show on TV. I’m sure the movie was good, but I had a difficult time enjoying it because it was sub-zero in there and I was freezing. DD was too. Not to go off on a tangent here, but why do theatres need to keep the temperature at minus ten? People are sitting still when they’re watching a movie. It seems like the HVAC system could be designed to adjust based on factors like time of day, occupancy, etc. It’s frustrating to pay big bucks for a movie ticket and sit there the whole time wishing it was over so you could go back outside and warm up. The kids stayed awake and enjoyed the movie. I dozed off a few times because it had been a long, exciting, tiring day. In retrospect, we probably should have gone straight back to the hotel after dinner and taken a swim instead. Caught the water taxi back to the hotel and, needless to say, we all slept soundly that night.
 
I LOVE TRIP REPORTS LIKE THIS. I LIKE ALL THE DETAILS THAT WAY I CAN PICTURE IT IN MY MIND. YOU GUYS HAD A GOOD FIRST DAY. CAN'T WAIT TO READ ON. WE ARE GOING TO US IN AUGUST. I AM GOING TO MAKE PS FOR MARGARITAVILLE, AND GET ME A MANGO MARGARITA. YUMMEE I CAN TASTE IT ALREADY <IMG WIDTH="15" HEIGHT="15" SRC="/infopop/emoticons/icon_razz.gif" alt="razz">
 
Thanks so much for the details on check in at HRH. We are staying there in August and I booked a pool room view too. Did you like your view? What number room were you in and would you suggest that area for a room request.

We love Margartiville too!! Hubby & I could have stayed there all night and slurp down margaritas.
They are the best and go down so easy. But like you, we had $$ restraints and kids awaiting to go on to the next adventure. Looking forward to reading all your other reports.

minijeanie
 



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