Tuesday 26th May 2009
For our third day in Orlando we left the world of Disney and swapped it for the Universal Studios experience. We had bought our tickets back in the UK (14 day, 2 park tickets - though we were only going to use one day) including Universal Express Plus Passes for today only. Having elected to print them out at home, we ended up having to carry the two A4 sheets of paper - each - around with us for the entire day - as we were unable to swap them for the smaller park passes. This minor inconvenience was easily made up for by the decision to buy the Universal Express Plus Passes - which operate in pretty much the same way as the Disney FastPass system, with the following exceptions:
- They are only available to those who have bought them, not everyone entering the park.
- You can only use them once per ride (not an issue for us - we were attempting two parks in a single day, we weren’t planning on redoing anything…)
- There is no getting a FastPass ticket and coming back later to use it - you just go straight through. Hence there is no limit of one FastPass at a time either.
Although Universal Studios was fairly quiet first thing on the Tuesday morning, the Universal Express Plus Pass did get us in to The Simpsons Ride a lot faster. Where it really shone though was in the afternoon at Islands of Adventure - which was a lot busier - and negated an hour wait at Ripsaw Falls as well as between 15 minutes and a half hour on most of the other attractions.
Louisa outside Universal Studios, Florida
The Delorean from Back to the Future
The train from Back to the Future, Part III
Blues Brothers vehicle
Louisa on Marvel Super Hero Island
I'm going to need a vacation from this vacation!
Universal Studios Florida®
We arrived at the park bright and early - so early in fact that most of the attractions hadn’t opened yet - so our first experience was Shrek 4-D™. After an uninspiring lead in by one of the park attendants in the waiting chamber we entered the cinema proper for a wild cinematic experience. Not content with simple 3D effects and gimics (spiders, blown air, water spray) - the chairs actually move! Combined with the on screen antics of Shrek and Donkey, it was very easy to get caught up in the action and feel like you were actually there, galloping along with them as they seek to rescue Princess Fiona, again.
Next up, my favourite for the day - The Simpsons Ride. Probably the longest wait, even with our express passes, but definately worth it. A roller coaster ride with a difference (actually, I am not sure that it actually *is* a roller coaster), the ride sees you on a roller coaster in Krustyland alongside the Simpsons family - with the added twist that Sideshow Bob is destroying the coaster *while you are on it* in another attempt to kill Bart. The ride is enclosed, so all you can see is the projected Simpsons cartoon, as whatever mechanics make up the ride convince you that you are actually living through the mayhem - including drops, turns, missing track and giant robots - not to mention Springfield and all the characters you know and love.
After the fun of the first two rides, I found the Men In Black™ Alien Attack™ ride was a bit of a let down - being more frustrating than fun. Armed with a blaster, you mission is to kill as many invading aliens as possible. I found spotting and hitting the aliens difficult - and I’m sure my “big red button” didn’t work on the end boss. Lou fared better, comfortably beating my score. All in all the Toy Story Midway Mania of Disney’s Hollywood Studios was a lot more fun.
Our next stop was the Jaws® ride. Unlike with Shrek, the attendant here (who admittantly is actually part of the experience) was very enthusiastic about his work - which was the highlight of the ride, as, well, its just difficult to spruce up a boat on rails and a mechanical shark.
Continuing around the park landed us at Revenge of the Mummy®, an actual bonafide roller coaster. This was a fun ride, without being exceptional. The effects were different (for a roller coaster) and characterful, though perhaps let down by seeming a bit fake.
We headed back to Disaster! as it hadn’t been open when we passed it on the way to the Mummy, but we had missed the session. Instead we headed over to Mel’s Drive-In for lunch as well as checking out the Delorean and train from the Back to the Future movies.
Last stop for us here was the Terminator 2®: 3-D attraction, which was “Super!”. The mix of live action, special effects and 3-D film was very well done - and like the Jaws ride, the attendant entertaining us before the actual show did a great job of her character.
While there is a lot more to the park than just the rides we did above, the two main attractions we missed were the E.T. Adventure® (part of the Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone®, which we didn’t feel the need to visit) and the Hollywood Rip, Ride Rockit! (which hasn’t been completed yet).
Universal’s Islands of Adventure®
Having finished with Universal Studios we headed across to Islands of Adventure for the afternoon. Deciding to get the wet rides over with first, we skipped the Marvel Super Hero Island and headed straight to the Toon Lagoon, where our first port of call was Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges®. And wet we got! My shoes didn’t dry out until the following day. This ride was a lot of fun and reminded me of the Grizzly River Run at Disney’s California Adventure® Park in Anaheim.
Next up was Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls®. Bypassing an hour long queue via our express passes, this reminded me of another Disney ride - Splash Mountain from the Disneyland® Park in Anaheim - complete with the same style (yet different) wacky cartoon characters, the same calm and safe atmosphere punctured with occasional drops and rapids and the same death defying drop at the end.
Completing the trifecta of wet, we moved on to the Jurassic Park River Adventure®, which also reminded me of a Disneyland® Park attraction - the Jungle Cruise. Except this time there were some distinct differences. For one, there is no tour guide on the Jurassic Park River Adventure (though there is audio). Secondly, there is no long drop on the Jungle Cruise (or dinosaurs for that matter). The start of this ride was actually quite atmospheric. The lead up to the drop, less so (it felt like they were trying too hard). The drop itself was quite an adrenaline rush - but as per ususal, was over too quickly.
Having done the wet rides, we continued around the park. Next up was the Dueling Dragons® - a roller coaster with a difference in that two coasters go at the same time, and the carriage is connected at the top so your legs dangle. Waiting in the queue, Lou was not too sure about this one - but we eventually made it on, riding the Ice (blue) dragon into battle. Lou survived - no doubt helped by the fact that we were in the middle of our carriage, making it difficult to see what was happening in front of you. Unlike some of the roller coasters we have been on, this one actually felt quite long. Interestingly, the area this ride is in is undergoing a Harry Potter transformation - so it may be themed differently in the future.
Moving on, we walked through the Lost Continent and Seuss Landing without stopping, bringing us back to Marvel Super Hero Island where we enjoyed our last ride for the day - The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man®. This was yet another slightly different experience - merging 3-D and mechanical in a more open environment as we witnessed (and took part in) a battle between Spider-Man and several of his foes. An excellent end to our day at the parks.
Again, there is a lot more at the park than what we did - though possibly the only rides we missed of note was The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad® Stunt Show and The Incredible Hulk Coaster® - which we were simply too coastered out to bring ourselves to do at the end of the day.
It was only coming up 3pm as we left Islands of Adventure, so we headed over to the local AMC to watch Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Afterwards we had perhaps the best dining experience of our holiday - quality, quantity and price - at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co Restaurant. We finished up with some souvenir shopping - t-shirt and hoodies for myself and Louisa. All in all a great day!