Orlando Adventure Part I: IOA/USF 7/20-23

Associated parks:

Note: Since this is a multi-day trip report I decided to depart a little from the normal format. I’ve divided this report up into three sections. First I give short summaries what we did each day, essentially the ‘story’ part of the report. Second I give short reviews of the major rides at each park and the parks themselves. And finally a short summary of the entire trip (surprises, disappointments, favorite ride, etc.) for those who only want the details.

Day 1: Arrival and IOA
We left from home at 11:30 PM Alabama time and started the 12-hour trek to Orlando. Stopping twice for gas/bathroom breaks and once for breakfast we arrived at the Universal Studios resort at about 11:00 AM Orlando time. We stayed at the brand spankin’ new Royal Pacific resort. Check-in wasn’t until 4 (more on that later) so while my parents decided to do some running around (Wal-Mart) and hang around the hotel, my sis, her fiancée, and I decided to hit IOA for a few hours until it was time to check-in.

Once we entered the park we quickly discovered the place was packed. The first ride we came to was the Incredible Hulk, which had a wait time of 75 minutes. Fortunately we were about to learn the joys of Universal Express. The wait time for us, being guests at a resort hotel, was only about 15 minutes. And no, I wasn’t a ‘smug bastard’ about it. ;) They have now implemented the system that makes Universal Express pass available to anyone in the park at stations similar to Fastpass. However, I don’t know if they’re free, but they appear to be.

After hitting Hulk we hit Spiderman followed by the Jurassic Park River Ride and the Ice Dragon of Dueling Dragons. By that time it was time for us to get back to the hotel for check-in, or so we thought.

Before I get into my short complaint about the hotel let me stress this: all the employees were extremely friendly and helpful. However we had requested early check-in when we made our reservations but knew that it wasn’t a sure thing for us to be able to check-in right at 11, however we surely expected to have our room by 4:00. We had to call a phone number 3 times instead of working with the people at the front desk and finally get them to change us to a room that was ready. At 4:45 we finally got into our room. OK, so 45 minutes may not seem that long, but if we were there at 11, you’d think they would have a room ready by 4, maybe even before 4. And we weren’t the only ones in this position; the lobby was full of people waiting, so this wasn’t just an isolated case. In contrast, our room at Port Orleans at WDW wasn’t supposed to be ready until 3, but we called at 11:30 and they had it ready. The hotel was nice and the employees were helpful, but it does need to be managed a little better. Granted the hotel has only been open a few months, so hopefully these quirks can be worked out.

While we were waiting on our room a very intense thunderstorm passed over Orlando. Lots of lightning, thunder, and heavy rains, just like at home. :) After getting our room and waiting for the worst of the storm to pass, we headed back to IOA with our parents. It was still raining off and on while we were in the park. We hit Hulk and Spiderman quickly. Afterwards it started raining a little harder so we decided it would be the perfect time to hit the water rides. First we hit the Jurassic Park River Ride since my parents hadn’t been with us when we hit it earlier. We were going to hit Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls but it was closed so we hit Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges. Needless to say we were thoroughly soaked by then and the park would be closing soon so we headed back to the hotel to dry out and rest for our next day.

Day 2: USF (morning)/ IOA (evening)
The next morning we decided to hit USF for the first part of the day. Getting to the park shortly after morning we hit Terminator 2 (“Super!”), Back to the Future (“Hurry up and get out, before you see yourself coming in!”), and MIB Alien Attack (98,000 points). With Universal Express we had all this done by shortly after 10 AM. We then checked the time for the next Wild Wild Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show, and decided we had time to hit Twister(“Cow!!”) and Jaws before the show. After the enjoyable and humorous show we hit Earthquake and Kong. I certainly wouldn’t be upset if these rides made an exit in the next few seasons. Their technology is starting to look dated and they just aren’t that much fun. We finally hit ET (He didn’t say my name! :( ) and caught the Monster Make-up Horror Show. This was a very fun show and shouldn’t be missed.

By this time we were tired and ready for lunch so we went back to the room to eat some sandwiches and take a nap. While we were at the hotel another afternoon thunderstorm hit (which would become the norm for our trip). After the storm passed we went back to IOA and hit The Cat in the Hat, Poseidon’s Fury, both Fire and Ice Dragons, Jurassic Park, Spiderman, Dr. Doom’s Frearfall and Hulk. By then everyone but my dad and I went back to the hotel to watch the fireworks from the pool. Meanwhile my dad and I went and caught 4 final laps on Dueling Dragons, including the last ride of the night on the front seat of Ice.

Day 3:USF/City Walk
We went back to USF in the morning to hit what we had missed the day before. We started with the Hannah Barbera ride at the front of the park. We then hit MIB two more times (111,000 and 175,000) before going back to catch the Alfred Hitchcock show. We walked around the park again just soaking up the atmosphere and headed back to the hotel to rest a little while. That afternoon we purchased the Dinner and a Movie Deal where we could eat dinner at a City Walk restaurant and then catch a movie all for $18. We were going to eat at the Hard Rock Café but it was reserved for a private event. We ended up at the Motown Café for what was an excellent meal with ribs, chicken wings, and barbeque potato skins. Fortunately our plan had worked out well since the bottom fell out for most of the evening and the rides were closed. We caught The Sum of All Fears and got out just in time to purchase a few adult beverages and watch the fireworks from City Walk.

Day 4: IOA/USF/City Walk
This day we started at IOA and it was HOT and HUMID. We ran around and hit every coaster and thrill ride again and left the park a little after 12. We then went back to City Walk to catch dinner at the Hard Rock with another Dinner and Movie Ticket. Good food and good music made for a very enjoyable dinner. Afterwards we went back to IOA and caught the Eighth Voyage of Sinbad (the talking fountain is a nice touch), walked through the Jurassic Park Visitors’ Center and hit Dueling Dragons. Kudos to the ride ops on Dueling Dragons that evening, especially Coasterjammin who spotted my Coasterbuzz shirt and talked to me briefly between rides on Fire. It was nice to meet him, very nice guy and excellent ride-op. After meeting up with everyone again my parents decided to go catch the Road to Perdition while we stayed in the park. After hitting Hulk one last time we went over to USF and hit Back to the Future and MIB twice (280,000 and 250,000 points…getting better). Then left the park at closing to catch Men in Black II at City Walk.

Ride and Park Reviews: (1 worst ride ever – 10 perfection)
The Incredible Hulk: Amazing launch and Zero-G roll to start off this coaster that doesn’t let up until the mid-course breaks. After the break it’s a little anti-climatic, but still a great coaster. This easily makes it to the top of my list as my favorite coaster. Rating: 9.5

Ice Dragon: I love the dueling effect on both coasters. The cobra roll against the castle provides a great ‘foot-chopper’ effect. However the coaster lacks the intensity of Batman, Montu, and even Fire, but still a great coaster. Rating: 8

Fire Dragon: This is by far the better of the two coasters. The drop and the bunny hill are the best parts for me, providing surprising air for an inverted coaster. This coaster seemed much more intense and was my favorite of the two. Unfortunately both were two forceful for my sister so I ended up riding most of the time with just my dad. Rating: 9

Spiderman: Probably my favorite ride of the trip. Everything I had heard about this ride was true. Simply an amazing ride. Rating: 10

Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges: Very fun and very wet white water raft ride. I really enjoyed it, however I’m not big about getting wet at a park so I only hit it once. Rating: 9 (for a water ride)

Men in Black: Alien Attack: Extremely enjoyable ride. I got better the more I rode, but still have work to do. Of the 8 rides the car we were in won 7 times and we rated Galaxy Defender 6 times. Once we rode with an USF employee and he got 540,000 points, so I’ve still got a long way to go. Rating: 9.5

Jurassic Park: Fun drop and cool dinosaur effects. Rating: 8 (for a water ride)

Dr. Doom’s Fearfall: Seems a little more intense than the Stratosfear tower at Visionland, but almost identical to the space-shot at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center not far from where I live. Rating: 8.5 (for drop rides)

Islands of Adventure: The park itself is very beautiful. The theming is so detailed and intricate that you could easily lose yourself in the atmosphere. My favorite areas were the Super-hero island and the Jurassic Park area. Being in the Jurassic Park section was a real treat since I am a big fan of the movie (could do without the sequels). All the rides were first rate and I can’t wait until I get to go again. All the ride ops were quick and ran the rides very near capacity at all times. By far the best park I have ever taken a trip to.

Universal Studios Florida: Great theming and a very fun park to just walk through. The rides vary from Ho-Hum (Earthquake and Kong) to fun and exciting (Back to the Future and MIB). A very fun alternative to Islands of Adventure making for an exciting and fun resort for all types of riders.

Trip Report Summary:
Biggest Surprise: Men In Black: Alien Attack

Biggest Disappointment: Hotel Service, Back to the Future (still good, but not as good as I remembered).

Favorite Rides: Spiderman, Hulk, Fire Dragon, and MIB: Alien Attack

Least Favorite Rides: Kong, Earthquake, Jaws

Favorite Show: 8th Voyage of Sinbad

Favorite Place to Eat: Motown Cafe

Pros: Just about everything, these parks are very well maintained and very fun. Universal Express made the trip a success, this alone makes it worth staying at an on resort hotel.

Cons: Hotel Service needs to be improved, but hopefully will improve with time.

Coming soon (tomorrow hopefully) Part II: WDW

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What about Dudley do Right? I think it's the best chute-the-chutes ride I've ben on.

Great trip report. Good thing you stayed on-site.

Good TR. Last time I was in Orlando they were building Islands of Adventure :(. I got to get back there.

Steel: 1)MF, 2)Goliath, 3)Magnum
Wood: 1)Villain, 2)Beast, 3)Roar(SFMW)

Nice TR! When I was there this past May, we somehow did both parks in one day. Unfortunately these parks are so nice, that one day just doesn't do it justice. We had to skip some of the smaller things, like the Monster Makeup Show. Fortunately, we are going back in October for two days this time.
the thrill: Unfortunately we didn't get to hit Dudley. The one night we were doing water rides it was closed and I never was in the mood to get wet the rest of the time there. Gives me something new to hit next time I'm there.

Pale Rider: If you stay on resort you can hit everything with Universal Express (including most of the shows) in two days easy. With the rain while we were there it would've been tough to do half as much as we did in the four days we were there.

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