Spring Break in Orlando, 3/6-3/11

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Last Christmas, my aunt Ro gave my aunt Ginny and uncle Pat's family a trip to Orlando for polyana. As surprising as it sounds, it really isn't far fetched, as Ro is a district manager for GAP, and has no immediate family of her own, and my aunt Ginny and Uncle Pat never really get to go away, as they are both Philadelphia grade school teachers. Anyway, along with Ginny and Pat's family, my aunt also invited my cousin Kristen and myself to go along with her, as we were her two godchildren, and the trip was booked during our spring breaks. Kristen and I lept at the opportunity. 5 days in Orlando, staying at the 7th floor (club level) of the Hard Rock Hotel; 3 days at the Universal Parks, a day at Discovery Cove, and a day at Seaworld all for free. Other than myself, it was everyone's first trip to all these parks (except for Discovery Cove which no one had been to), and I couldn't wait.

Unfortunately for me, I was the last one booked for the trip and was on a flight that left Philly an hour after my other relatives, so the plan was for them to get checked into the hotel, and I would just meet up with them there. Then, after an hour and fifteen minute wait at baggage claim, 45 minute wait for a Mears shuttle, and then a 45 minute shuttle ride to the Hard Rock,,, they just decided to head over to Islands of Adventure without me. Finally, I arrived at the hotel around 3 in the afternoon. They came back from the park to meet up with me (all they did was eat and do spiderman twice) at the hotel, and we spent some time watching my little cousins Hannah, Emily and Patrick swim in the pool, as we jsut soaked up some sun in the 80 degree weather. Around 5, we decided it was time to shower and head back over to Islands of Adventure around 6, giving us just one hour to do some rides before closing at 7.

First thing we did was the Incredible Hulk - and man I always forget how awesome this ride is. It's not the tallest or fastest, but everytime I ride it, it leaves me with the, "Damn that was awesome - let's do it again!" feeling, which we were able to do. As you know, when you stay at a universal hotel, you get the fastpass devices, and lucky for us, they did not scan our passes once during the entire trip! So we had unlimited fast pass rides all week! AFter riding the HULK twice, we headed over to Spiderman, and there's just nothing to say other than it is the best ride on the planet, hands down. After Spiderman, we hit up Dr. Doom's Fear fall real quick, and then headed over to Seussland, as the little cousins wanted to head over to do Cat in the Hat and One fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish before calling it a night. 5 rides in under and hour,,,not bad - thanks fast pass.

On Monday we headed to Discovery Cove. It was about 75 degrees all day and a bit windy, but the chilyl weather didn't scare us of, since we figured it was about the best we woud see all week. As soon as I walked into Discovery Cove, I was just blown away by the beauty of it. It really is a tropical oasis in the heart of Florida, and it is quite a sight to see. I hadn't really known what to expect of the park, since I did not know anyone who had ever been there before, and any expectations I had dreamed of - it blew them all away. We spent 3 hours snorkling in the "coral reef" before lunch time, snapping all kinds of crazy photos with our underwater cameras. At one point, they started feeding the fish even, and all of a sudden we were engulfed in aquatic creatures = amazing. After lunch, we took a few laps around the lazy river, admiring the tropical aviary as we passed by, and then snorkled for a few more hours till about 3:30, when we had to go for our lesson before swimming with the dolphins. Lemme tell you, it is just incredible. We had just the 8 of us in our own group, and it was hands down the highlight of the trip. The dolphins were extremely tourist friendly, and we got to give her a little kiss, do a few commands, and then ride it in for about 50 feet. Totally worth the 100 extra bucks. Discovery Cove was just an amazing experience, from swimming with the tropical fish, to relaxing in the river to swimming with Dolphins, nothing can compare to it in Florida. The staf was incredibly friendly, and the fact that they limit the park to only a thousand people was also a plus, as you felt like you were there by yourself. Pictures will be posted as soon as I get them developed and scanned.

On Tuesday we used our free passes from Discovery Cove to head over to Seaworld for the day. It was a bit cold, with a high of only 68, but when it's snowing back here in Philly, I can't seem to find room to complain. First we headed over to Kraken, and did it twice in a row as it had no line. Having never been on Kraken, i didn't know what to expect but all in all I'd have to say that it really didn't do anything for me - felt it was slow and un-intense for the greater part of the ride, leaving me a bit dissappointed. After Kraken we headed over to the Penguin exhibit before heading to the always entertaining Seymore and Clyde take over Pirate Island sea lion show. In my opinion it was the best show in the park, as the actors and sea lions kept messing up (on purpose or not I'm not sure), but they kept laughing and making fun of themselves the entire time making it a very enjoyable experience. After the show, we headed back over to do Journey to Atlantis, and I was a little dissapointed. Last time I was on it was in 1999, and I remembered it being bigger and faster than it was, but I guess that's what a 6 year difference can do for you. Unfortunately the dolphin show was closed until May as they are preparing for a new routine, so we headed back around to do the shark encounter before heading to the Shamu Show at 3:30. Now the Shamu show is always one that leaves me dissappointed. I wish that they would do more jumping around and tricks with the whales than just splashing people all the time - I dunno, I just do not find the current routine very entertaining. After the Shamu show, we made reservations to "dine with Shamu" at 5:15, and then headed back over to do the Wild Artic ride. The ride alone is kind of, well, blah i guess is a good word to describe it, but the polar bears were very cool to see. 2 of them were swimming right in front of the glass under water, and they were kind of chasing one another around - a game of tag if you will. Finally, it was time for us to go eat with Shamu. For 35 bucks a person, I'd have to say that it is incredibly worth it. The bring the whales right up next to your table, and we were able to get some great photos of the whales with their mouths open, literally 10 feet away - just awesome. Finally, it was time to leave and just head back to the hotel and swim in the pool. The vacation was only half over, and we still had two awesome parks to conquer.

Wednesday, March 9 - Universal Studios. This day was the only unpleasant weather day of the entire trip, as it only reached a high of 62 degrees, and a steady drizzle came down all day long. Lucky for us we were doing Universal, as all of the rides were indoors, so we donned our ponchos and headed out. We started off the day by fastpassing our way through Shrek 4-d and the new Jimmy Neutron ride. Shrek was a nice show with a pretty funny pre-show (our actor was just a riot the way he told us we would be "tortured"), but I was a little dissappointed by Jimmy Neutron, and wish they would have kept the old Hannah Barbera ride there instead. From there we proceeded on to Twister - Ride it Out, and even though it loses it's glamour after experiencing it in the past, I was still very impressed with the special effects - like when you see the Twister in background just screaming towards you.

Finally, it was time to do the Revenge of the Mummy. Now don't worry, I'm not going to spoil anything for anyone, but I will say that I was dissappointed by the length of the ride, as it left me wanting more. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the coaster and everything that went along with it, but I would have been dissappointed if I waited in the hour-long line that it had, since I felt it was too short - thanks again fastpass. After riding out the Mummy, we headed over to a burger joint in "San Fransico," and proceeded onto Earthquake, where my aunt so kindly volunteered me to take part in the special effects demonstration - and yes, I was the moron who gets totally soaked; like I needed any more water on the already soaking wet day. After earthquke, we skipped Jaws just simply because it's an outdoor ride and I assured everyone else that they weren't missing anything other than an incredibly fake shark, and headed straight for Men In Black: Alien Attack! Having never been on this ride myself, I was extremely anxious to try my hand at slewing the aliens. Unfortunately for me, I was flat out horrible. We must've done the ride 4 times, and the highest score i could muster up was 142,145...while my Uncle Pat scores 359,321 and the ride op tells him that it was the highest score on our particular machine all day - trust me, he was extremely keen on rubbing it in all day. After a few rides on Men In Black, we headed over to Back to the Future before heading over to T2: 3D.

T2: 3D is one of my favorite rides in all of Universal, as I have always been a fan of the terminator movies, and think it is just so cool as to how the actors go from on screen, to live, and back to on-screen again. After Terminator, we realized that we had conquered pretty much the entire park and all the rides we wanted to do (E.T. was the only one we didn't, as it was closed for rehabilitation) in just a mere 4 hours - man that fastpass is incredible. So, my cousin Kristen and myself went back to do the Mummy 2 more times before leaving, and everyone else headed back over to the hotel to get out of the rainy weather. Once kristen and i got back, we had the consierge of the club level order us some movie tickets to see "Hitch" over at citywalk, and they even delivered us umbrellas to the room so we would stay dry. Hitch was an ok movie, but I'm just a Will Smith fan, so I may be biased.

Finally, Thursday came around, and it was back to Islands of Adventure. The weather was pleasany, hovering around 70-75 degrees, with a mostly sunny sky - perfect day for a theme park. We started the day off by heading right towards the Lost Continent, since we had already conquered Marvel Superheros land a few days earlier. The first attraction we did was Poseidon's Fury, and I was quite anxious to see how they had changed the story line since I last rode it a couple of summers back. Honestly, I can't say that the changes improved the attraction at all, but I am still blown away at the technology of using the water to act as a canvas for the battle, just an awe-aspiring experience. After Poseidon's Fury, we chatted with the talking fountain outside of Sinbad for a bit, and then headed over to do Dueling Dragon's, using our fastpass' to head to the front of "Fire's" line. Unfortunately, they were running only one train per side, and stacking - so even with the fastpass, it was about a 30 minute wait for the front. The unfortunate ironic thing was, as soon as we stepped off the coaster, they put an additional train on both sides - what a kick in the pants eh? So then we proceeded over to do the Flying Unicorn for the little one's, and finally ventured into Jurassic Park. In my opinion, it is the coolest themed area in the park, and yet also the most dissappointing, as it has but one solid attraction. Now, even though it was a bit chilly outside (70 degrees, but there was a steady wind), we knew that we were going to do the river adventure no matter what, and so we hoped in line. Man did we immediately regret that decision! SOAKED! Haha, as always, but since we were wet, we had no hesitation in heading right on over to toon lagoon to ride Dudley Do Right's Rip Saw Falls, and Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges, both of which are the best rides of their kind I have ever been on. Nothing better than a log flume that delivers a few pops of airtime, and a raft ride that leaves you a bit dizzy and totally drenched! After riding Popeye, we ate some lunch in the Comic's cafe (not sure what it's real name is), and headed over to Marvel Comics land.

As we were on our way over, something we did not expect to happen occured. All of a sudden, tons of people started looking towards the sky. As curiosity began to set in, we too turned our heads towards the big blue, only to see a streaking object flying through the air. It was a rocket! Apparently Kennedy launched something into space, what it was I'm not sure, but it was quite a site to see. After watching the sky for a bit, we had to bypass The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman as it was experiencing some down time, and headed right on over to The Incredible Hulk. Unfortunately on this ride, i lost my room key! I don't know how, as it had never seem to venture out of my pockets on any of the roller coasters before, but as it was, I was locked out of my room, but more importantly, I had lost my fastpass! Thankfully however, my Uncle Pat decided that he was all rided-out, and let my use his key to fastpass the Spiderman line, which had re-opened after we left the Incredible Hulk. After leaving Spiderman for the final time , we headed back over to the Lost Continent and took the front seat on Dueling Dragons "Ice," before saying goodbye to Islands of Adventure.

As we still had a bit of time to kill, we decided to jet on over to Universal for a few more rides on Mummy and Men in Black. But as they say, time flies when your having fun, and it was 7:00 before we knew it. It's a sad feeling, knowing your vacation has come to an end, but looking back, I'm proud to say that we made the most of it. Friday my flight wasn't until 7:30, and so we just layed around by the hotel pool all day, before shopping at City Walk and leaving for the airport at 4:30. The flight home believe it or not was the scariest ride of the trip believe it or now, as we had to fly in a holding pattern above Philly, because there were too many storm clouds, causing bad visibility. While we were in this holding pattern, we experienced several "electrical discharges" (they were lightning flashes, I don't care what the pilot kept calling them), and sudden rapid drops in altitude - not very pleasant. But any flight that you can walk away from is a good flight I guess, and it was a fitting end to a great spring break.

Good TR. I was down there two months ago. Earthquake and Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges were closed for rehab. Your description wants me to head back now to catch them. :) E.T. was open for me -- it was good, especially if you like the movie.

IMO, Jaws deserves a bit more respect. Yes, the shark is fake (just like the dinosaurs in Jurasic River Adventure). But if the boat captain has enthusiasm and talent, the cheesy adventure is very entertaining. The non-shark F/X are pretty good too. I rode it twice.

You're right about the boat captain making the JAws ride, as I have had some good ones and bad ones in the past that make the ride worse...but it was really just not an option to do an outdoor ride like Jaws,,,,just not worth being more cold and wet imo.

For photos of Discovery Cove, Sea World, and Universal Studios, click the link below!!

http://community.webshots.com/album/297322955toIAWu *** Edited 3/17/2005 1:16:56 AM UTC by mikepierson***

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