Weather: Hot as hell, scattered thunderstoms
My first time at IOA and I must admit, it is now the second best themepark I have ever set my ass in. The only reason it is not first is my sentimental attachment to Great Adventure, but I digress. I had to take a vacation since I just had a major Critical Design Review at my job that had me stressed. I hate presentations, and I had to give three in front of these old middle-aged Navy civilian engineers whose prime focus was to tear you apart at the first sign of fear. Anyway, I survived, and I was heading to Orlando with the GF right after. My plan was to hit IOA and BGT, and with any time left over hit Epcot or MGM or one of the gazillian parks owned by Disney.
We were lucky enough to get to use the vacation house of the girlfriend’s Aunt (who seems loaded) So I got the Chevy Classic with the navigation system (neverlost). . . . nice touch. I was spoiled by the DVD nav system of my FX and this one worked out just as well. We got up early on Monday and drove from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando. Three blasted hours with Black Eyed Peas blasting (good album) It seemed like the navigation system routed us through every possible toll crossing. Either Florida is engaging in thievery like New York, or Hertz has an agreement with the gov’t. Who knows.
Anyway, we got to Universal Studios at around 9:30 and immediately I am blown away by the beauty of the place. This is definitely larger and grander than it’s Hollywood counterpart. It was so blasted hot there too! Jeezaloo. I stepped out of the car and I started sweating in five minutes. Thank God I decided to show off the guns and only wear a tank and some cargo shorts. We parked and rushed into the park. Upon entering we saw that the admission price was 69.95. I nearly wet my Calvin Klein’s. Boy did I feel like an idiot. We had an opportunity to get tix at the YeeHaw discount agency for $61 dollars with parking included and we turned it down. Blast.
Anyway, I forked out the cash and hoped that this place would be worth it. I remember Rollergator giving me advice to head to Dragons first, so I dragged the girlfriend over to the back of the park. GOD!!!! This park is so well decorated! I had to stop for a minute at Poseidon’s Fury and take some pictures. Then I made a right and there in all its glory was the coaster I most anticipated. That area of the park was still empty so I took some pics in front of the dragons, trying some acrobatic poses etc. I advised the chica that we should ride ICE first since it is the tamer of the two. We walked through the long bahind queue (damn you guys were not lying, this took forever) I was amazed at how much detail was given to the presentation of this ride. Sorry, BTR and Alpengiest doesn’t even come close in terms of theming. We decided to hit the front since there was only a three train wait.
Battle bravely, onward to your Doom!
The ops gave their farewells and we were off. The train slowed down so that Fire Dragon could catch up. Even as I am here writing this I am reliving the anticipation and excitement I was feeling as we crested the lifthill and then parted ways. The first drop was kick ass. The kumba-thingy was kick ass, the Cobra into the wall had me bending my foot backwards. I thought I was going to lose the puma’s. Anyway, the highlight of the ride was the head on collision at the vertical loops. This alone my friends, was worth the 150 dollars I paid to get in the park. In one second I was looking in the throats of FIRE’s victims, and the next I was looking at their feet. And because I was busy looking at the other train I was hurled over the loop as if to say mind ya own bidness. I loved the flatspin at the end, and on the breakrun I had to wipe the drool from my face. How can Fire possibly top this? ICE immediately went to #1 on my invert list. I staggered off the train and the girlfriend was shrieking with glee to ride again. So we found some secret shortcut, which I think we found by accident because that station has so many friggin doors.
Battle bravely, may the dragons spare you all.
Still not fully recovered form the previous ride, we limped on the front fangs of FIRE. Now even though Rollergator said FIRE was the best steel in Floridie, nothing prepared me for the onslaught I was about to experience. First of all the first drop was longer, the Immelman had so much snap I yelped. The camelback…mmm mmm good. The next immelman was even more snappier and I almost grayed out on the helix into the vertical loop. The two spins after the vertical loop took me by surprise. I can now see why people rate FIRE so high, it is just damn good. We ride it six times throughout out the course of the day, 3 ICE, and three FIRE, all in the front. I could never get enough of this duo. Some of the little things I liked about this ride….1)the costumes that the Ops had to wear 2) they call the restraints “claws”. . . I thought this was cute 3) the ominous music 4) three train op…and they were dispatching trains pretty fast. 10/10
We then headed to Dudley Do Right. I read reports that this was the best flume is existence. And yes, I concur wholeheartedly. The GF didn’t too much care for getting wet, but I persuaded her that I would be very grateful if she went with me ;). The line was pretty long (about 45 minutes) This is definitely an awesome ride to watch from the queue. I liked the dive underground on the big drop, the moving planks, splashing water and sound effects. Nice touch. We finally boarded, after watching the horrid cartoons for what seemed like an eternity. Before the big drop we were treated to two drops inside the building that took us totally by surprise. I liked how they made it a flume rollercoaster hybrid. Smooth ride, with tons of air. After meandering for some time we made a right and there loomed an enormous lift hill ahead of us. At the top they had the misters on full blast. Sweet. The plummet seriously took my breath away, and in an instant there was darkness, then water splashing in my face. Well worth the wait. 10/10
Our next ride was the much anticipated Spiderman. After hearing all the accolades given to this ride I was not going to let the long line dissuade me from riding. I was glad that they had a DJ in line…even though the music was wack…it helped pass the time. They had a little dance contest which provided us with mild entertainment. I really dug the theming of this ride. The path through the office of the Daily Bugle was well done. The line moved faster than I thought. Soon I was able to see the odd looking vehicles we were riding in. I can see how this ride cost 500 mil beans. The cars themselves look like 200 mil alone. Anyway, I really liked this ride. I liked the multiple screens, the pyro effects, the water splashing in my face etc. I didn’t like the sound. It wasn’t really clear and it was more noise than anything else. Still the best dark ride I have ever experienced nonetheless. 9/10
Our next ride was the Incredible Hulk. After hearing lackluster reviews of this ride I wasn’t really expecting much. I can see also that Universal didn’t really blow the budget trying to theme this ride (compared to the other installations). The cartoons that they played over and over became old really fast. Again, the outfits the ops wore for this ride was a nice touch. Much to our dismay, they shut the ride down right as we were about to ride due to inclement weather. Drat! We opted to wait since we figured Dragons would also be closed and Spidey’s line would probably balloon. The ops had a grand idea of having a limbo contest, with the winner getting a free exit pass. That was fun to watch, and a good way to pass the time while the thunderstorm blew over.
After about 20 minutes, the storm passed, and we boarded. Now I was always under the impression that the trains were launched from the station. (atleast it did in RCT) Imagine my surprise when we crept towards the kumba-thingy, then WHAMMM!!!…we were thrown right into it in an instant. My God, that must have been one of the most thrilling moments I have ever had on any coaster. That loop was intense also. No hangtime there….we were pasted to the seats as if were on an Anton original. The first 2/3 of the ride was good. Really good! The last third was blah at best. That must have been the shortest post MCBR course on any BMer. Anyway, we rode it three times, and by the end, my voice was gone. I rate the launch right up there with Xcelerator’s. It was powerful and quick. The whole ride experience was pretty good too. . . definitely a top ten’er for me.
Our next ride was Fear fall. I thought to myself, “self, this is just another SS tower, about 2/3 the size of CP’s so it should be a yawner”. SIKE! That launch took me by surprise, then seconds later we were thrust back to terra firma. Damn are all the rides here good or what.
In planning the trip I wanted to eat at Mythos. But in the midst of hunger we forgot and ate at Captain America Café. The food there was good, and a full meal only cost us 10 beans each. While we were eating there was another thunderstorm. IT lasted only 15 minutes, but by the time we were done, the park was beginning to look sparse. Good, perfect time for re-rides.
We tried Poseidon’s Fury. . . surely a ride looking so impressive from outside had to be good. We didn’t know what to expect. It ended up being a walk through dark ride with a lout for a tour guide. The story was pretty corny, but the special effects were again off the hook. I remember at one point there was a flash of lightning, and then they changed the backdrop and we were faced by rocks, splashing water and more pyro. I felt like I was in the middle of a movie production. I also liked the ending when we had to walk through the water tunnel. . . . well executed.
We walked around the park some more, took more pictures and then at 9:50 we watched the fireworks over at USF. We were dead tired at this point, so we decided to head to the hotel, and rest up for BGT the next day.
This was perhaps one of my best themepark experiences to date! The rides here are pretty damn good, and well themed too. I have never been awestruck at any park (well except for Disney) as I have been at IOA. The GF was learning pretty quick about coasters too. She guessed that Hulk was created by the same guys who made Medusa. She went from a person who was afraid the ride coasters to fighting with me for the corner seats. Criminy, I think I created a monster. BGT tomorrow, more surprises.
*** Edited 8/8/2005 12:22:37 AM UTC by Antuan***
I went in '00, when it had first opened, and boy, it was incredible. I was a little young then too, I was just getting into being a coaster whore, so I really want to go back and compare things now that I've been around to some places.
Thanks for the excellent memory making machine! :)
Hulk is pretty boring for me... I'd venture out to say its the most boring B&M I've been on. The ride running at capacity is also a joke, they have to stack trains badly just to run a 3rd train! That is due to the late placement of the block brake.
I also always felt that Spiderman relied too much on 3-D effects and that some of the real effects are not too reliable. When I rode it back in June, the flame effect during the Hobgoblin sequence was missing. Such an important effect missing is ground for closing the ride at Disney till repaired... not here.
IOA for me is just a pretty Six Flags, nothing more, nothing less.
USF is a bit better, but removing a classic ride cause you didn't have the budget to build a new building your new dark ride/coaster is pretty bad. Retheming of the New York section is also in order. Twister and ROTM have nothing to do there. Too bad its the best themed section in the park!
We only did 1 day at both those parks and had time to do everything we were interested in and it will be years till we go back to that place. My parents saw a brochure of Cypress Gardens after our visit and they said they would have preferred to go there! *** Edited 8/6/2005 6:00:12 PM UTC by Absimilliard***
I doubt very much that Kongfrontation was removed because they needed a place to stick Revenge of The Mummy. They had no problem building a new building for Men in Black. The way I hear it is that Kong just had poor ridership.
You can do both parks in a day each during the off-season, no question about that. For me the place is still about the whole package, including an on-site stay. Many good times there!
The five day ticket and resort stay is where it is at, although in the off season you hardly need to use the fast pass the hotel gives you.
To build ROTM, build a new ride building, paths to it, new restrooms, etc. for only 40 millions? Impossible... that's why they had to gut Kongfrontation, which as far as I know, had no ridership problems. By that account, why did USH remove ET? That ride has no ridership problems at all! MIB had a bigger budget and didn't exactly require a whole new ride system, like ROTM.
Are you kidding me? Would you let someone build a store in your front yard and not take a significant cut of the profit? I don't know the details of the arrangement, but I'm sure Universal is doing just fine with those properties.
Too bad the hotels are not owned by Universal and so Universal does not reap the profits from them!
Remember, I'm sure they're paying a rent, but to Loews agreeing to those resorts, the contract must have been pretty good for em! Like I said, Disney got the same kind of deal with Hotel plaza BLVD (near Downtown Disney) and the Swan and Dolphin, but Eisner realised the mistake and instead, Disney gets either WDW or Disney Vacation Club to build and operate them, that way, all the money stays in the company!
But $69? Really? That's WAY to much for the average person to afford. Even when one uses the excuse that it's a once in a lifetime experience, I still think that is overpriced.
Glad you had a good time. I need to get back down there sometime. I really miss IOA.
As for IOA, in my july version, a friend got me the florida resident deal: a 1 day 2 parks ticket, at the price of a 1 day 1 park ticket. Disney is doing booming business at this time (180 minutes stand by for Test Track and Soarin, ouch!) and as far as I know, does not need to give away a theme park like Universal (and Disney for DCA in CA) is doing! Actually, Disney's latest move (magic your way ticket) is pretty much a way to cut park hopping, as most guests I talked to at Disney didn't buy park hopping option on their tickets.
Jeff, I know you hit Six Flags pretty hard for "giving away" the gate. Well, in my book, with the 5 straight days for the price of 2 on the internet and AAA 3 days for the price of 2, no expiration tickets, that's exactly what they're doing. Also, they have a "cheap" (by Orlando standard) annual pass called the Power Pass. It barely costs more than the 2 days ticket, but has blackouts during christmas and busy summer time. If you don't go during those periods, that pass is quite the deal! Also, Universal owns Wet n Wild, right? Well, they're also giving away the gate... by selling a 45$ weekday annual pass.
Then, like Six Flags, they gouge you for anything in the park, unless Disney lowers the price and they're force to follow suit... Like the soft drinks thing. Before, they were 2,50$ at both parks for a normal size plastic bottle... then, Disney, due to guest complaints, lowered the price to 2$ a bottle for both water bottle and soft drinks (a pretty good price actually... at SFGADV, they were 3.35$ a bottle!). When I left Florida, Universal had only followed suit on the water bottle and this year? On the soft drink too. Counter service food is expensive, but if you go full service, then the price is right! The filet mignon at Mythos was better than outside the parks and cheaper too, so that's a good point.
Regarding Universal Express, Universal Express ran out fast and then for Gold (use 1 time at each attraction) was 45$ per person. How's that for gouging the people in the park?
I just don't see Universal Orlando, any part of it, as a failure. If I did, I certainly wouldn't go back there year after year.
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