Wednesday, June 27, 2001 5:13 PM
TR: IOA/Universal/WDW 6/15-6/23
Part I: IOA/Universal
Ok, I won't bore anyone to death on all the details from all six parks I went
to. I will of course touch on the coasters and some other misc. points I wanted
to make. I first went to Universal and WDW back in 1996 and since then two more
parks have been added to that whole cluster of Orlando parks. Whew boy, six
parks in about seven and a half days.
Took off from Pittsburgh Intl. airport Friday night (6/15) couple of minutes
after 9. Arrived in Orlando around 11. Got Rental car, checked into hotel, etc.
Somehow we found ourselves hitting our pillows around 2:30 AM at Hard Rock
Hotel. Why it was this late? I don't know, but when you factor in Baggage
claim, waiting for a rental bus transport, waiting in line to get a car,
finding the car, finding the hotel, checking in, finding the room, and prepping
for bed. Vacations are work.
Since Hard Rock is a Universal on site hotel we got to walk to the parks
through a neat little path way and enjoy Universal Express. I really like HR
because the hotel seemed really modern and what not, kind of a new generation
of hotel. I also like the Express feature. Actually I loved it. I admit I
haven't followed Universal and Disney's actions as I've had with other parks. I
just known the basics from previous trip or from mainstream media. So that is
why I didn't find out about Ex. until when we booked our trip and I saw "front
of line access and priority seating" I was sort of looking forward to IOA and
Universal rather than WDW at that point.
I suggest if you have the money, you really should stay on site. I think Ex.
alone is worth it. Like Fastpass, its great and not so great at the same time.
With FP, mostly all the major rides have FP and wait time is very little. But
you can only have one at a time. With Ex, mostly all the major rides support
it, but if you are a one day visitor to Universal, you can only have (I think)
one at a time whereas FP is unlimited in a way. But if you do stay on site at
Universal, the pass is unlimited.
After about five hours of sleep, we arise after 7AM, get ready, and arrive at
the Park after 9. We then get in a pretty long line to exchange our travel
voucher for tickets. I prayed it wasn't a sign of things to come. It felt kind
of weird as I stepped in going in a park that was only two years old and trying
to help Universal top the Disney conglomerate. It was already hot out and we
headed towards Hulk since it was close and a major ride. We got close to Hulk
and I marveled in the green beauty of a B&M. The launch looked pretty awesome
from the ground, but I wondered how intense it could be with a roll right after
We flashed our room key to walk in the Express line passing by the 75 minute
long standby line. After a maze of ropes, we ended up waiting behind a small
group of people right at the foot of the stairs. After a few minutes we were
directed to our seats, too bad we couldn't pick them. I noticed the familiar
restraints as I got ready for my coaster of the 2001 season. Like I've said
before, I hadn't followed the details closely of the Orlando stuff as I do with
CP and KW. I knew Hulk and Dragons and what not existed and knew the basics.
But for Hulk I wasn't sure on the launch. So when we started climbing normally
and then WHAM!, it was a nice surprise. I had to close my eyes once we went in
the roll thanks to the intense Florida sun being in my eyes [the truth ;) ]
After going through the cobra roll and loop, I was loving it. Actually it was
more of acceptance as I expected the ride be like this thanks to being a B&M.
After the brake run (nice air there) it kind of reminded of Mantis going
through the tights turns and the corkscrews. But Hulk was way better than the
only B&M I'm not really fond of. I must mention that Universal's locker system
is really cool. Seems like remembering a number is easier than worrying about a
Next we went to prob. the ride at IOA I was most looking forward too-Spiderman.
I was first amazed by it when first appeared on Extreme Rides 2000. We used our
unlimited Express privilege to basically cut down our wait by about 3/4 than
the standby time. Great theming in the queue as it really seemed like a
newsroom. Nice work. I went in ready to be amazed and walked out amazed, maybe
even a little more. Spidey blows its fellow simulators Back to the Future, Body
Wars, and Star Tours out of the water. This is one of the best attractions/ride
out there, on par with some coasters.
Next was Dudley Do Rights' Ripsaw Falls just because we needed a cool down.
Leave it to Disney and Universal to take the log flume staple and make it into
a theme machine. We came upon the last "mini" drop and the last drop before the
big one. I sat in the second seat and I got soaked on that little drop of about
twenty feet or something! It just wasn't me, but it everyone else in my party
was as too. I thought if we got soaked on this puny drop, what would happen on
the big one? Luckily nothing happened as we walked off waiting to dry off. The
highlight of hour trip would, however, come at the other log flume in
Next was the Jurassic Park River Ride. Ever since I saw the JP ride at
Universal Hollywood, I so wanted to ride on it or any JP related ride. Once
again we used the Express to go directly almost to the individual seat queues.
Oh man, I walked disappointed. I mean the ending where you escape the T-Rex's
jaws was cool, but other than that it seemed almost like Jaws. Boat ride starts
calm, gets a bit hectic, and one "splashy" finale. But Jaws does that scenario
After that we headed to a ride(s) that I know would be at least good. I'm
talking about the Dragons. I love B&M Inverteds [who doesn't?] (I would say
inverted's in general, but I won't go near a SLC) and I've heard good stuff on
Fire and Ice. We joined the standby line right before you get to pick what side
you want to go on in the castle. The queue certainly was a sight. We picked
Fire Dragon for a reason I forgot. We picked the third to the last car. Now I
noticed the dispatch time for the ride altogether seemed a bit slow and also
seemed like they stack the trains in taking too long. Is that normal, or is
that how the ride was designed? Once again, I'm not really up-to-snuff on the
details on the Orlando parks, so a little help is needed.
The trains looked awesome up close. I sat in the second seat (Think of a ride
op standing in front of you when you are seated. Second seat from the end-their
left) and noticed two seatbelts, while everyone else had one. Why is that? Once
we started descending down the first hill, I knew Fire was a winner. The
dueling elements seemed a bit scary at times, especially when the Dragons go
into their respective loops. The duels get into more perspective when you view
them from an external view. I got a nice little picture of the "Wall Kick".
After that we got off...and got right back on for Ice. I will say that after
riding both sides twice [not all one day] I liked Fire a tad bit better than
Ice. Both were great, though a tad short though. The other members of my party
like Fire better just because Ice was rougher according to them. I was too hot
to argue so I didn't. My group was fickle as it was this same group of people
that took nearly five minutes of me convincing them that both Fire and Ice were
different rides. Yeesh.
As we made our way around the park, we stopped and got a pretzel and a
smoothie. Then we traversed into the Dr. Suessville. I must admit that they did
a great job with this part of the park. So colorful and Suess references
everywhere. Too bad I wasn't a kid again :( Then we looked at our watches and
it was around 3PM. Wow. We had hit ever major ride at once and it was only 3PM.
I mean we kind of took our time walking around and stuff since IOA and AK were
the only new parks to us on this trip. Since we were tired, hot, and hungry, we
decided to venture our way down the path back to our hotel to take a dip in the
The ads were right, I could hear the music underwater! I mean it is kind of
useless unless you are a fish and can stay under water for a whole song or two.
I also went down the water slide twice. Why doesn't the pool go deeper than
4ft? I am about 5'8 and after going down a slide and splashing in 3.5 feet of
water isn't that good. Oh well.
So that ended our first day in Florida in five years. I thought the mini heat
wave the Pittsburgh area had a few days before we left would have prepared
us....BUZZZZZ! Wrong. The sun feels different, the humidity just clings to you,
and storms come as if someone sets an alarm on a clock and it does it same
time...every day. You step in the AC for a mere 15 seconds and just take a step
out of the doorway and it feels like you are standing at the tip of your open
oven on Thanksgiving. Oh well, 7 more days of this I thought. It ended up some
days were just terrible heat wise, and some days felt "normal" to me.
I won't go in much detail in this day. We went to Universal Studios and enjoyed
mostly everything we went on, including MIB. That was so fun, we went on it two
times in a row. My highest score was 116,000 I think. It was hot again of
course and crowds seemed normal for the Studios. We ended kind of early, so we
decided to go next door and hit Hulk and both sides of the Dragons before
leaving for our Disney resort. IOA seemed to have a light crowd. How light?
Well in the middle of the day, the standby line was about 20 min and was all
inside. The Express didn't even had a line as we walked through the ropes and
up the stairs...and there was an empty train that just pulled up! We were
seated right away. I have never been on an immediate walk on like this before.
Had another enjoyable ride on Hulk even though the sun was in my eyes through
the launch and roll. The standby line for Dragons was shorter than Saturday but
we still waited in the same amount of time in the Express line as yesterday. My
opinion on which side was better was cemented by the time we walked out of the
castle after riding Fire for the last time and our last ride overall at IOA.
I liked IOA, I really did. Great theming throughout, two (or three) world class
coasters, and a cool flume ride among other things. I know I will pay more
attention to IOA's doings from now on. If Disney wasn't around, I would say IOA
would compete with BGT with best theme park in Florida. But WDW has them all
beat, of course and unfortunately. One final question for this part: Were those
cranes near the very back of the park building their third resort or something
Coming soon: Part II: 4.5 Days at Disney, celebrity ( I guess) sighting, an
adventure unlike the one on Splash Mountain, tornados, and finally some
"inside" ;) source news!
No, those aren't teasers or a plot to a sitcom, but what really happened. Tune
in to find out!
Kennywood Park Unlimited www.kpunlimited.com