Universal Orlando - 11/18/04 - 11/21/04

Associated parks:

Jeff's avatar
We (as in Stephanie and Jeff) stayed at the Royal Pacific Resort for the third year in a row, coinciding with the IAAPA trade show down the street. We love this place, and the only serious regret this year is that I had to make the trip a day shorter for volleyball tryouts.

After spending time at the show Thursday, we checked in at the hotel. I signed-up for the "Loews First" program a couple of months ago, because it had some nice perks, among them being a room upgrade, when available, and complimentary beverages and nuts. Despite booking on the Loews site (they operate all three Universal Orlando hotels), apparently it was a discounted rate and the perks weren't available. They upgraded us to a pool view anyway (which was pretty awesome), and promised us the beer and nuts as an act of good faith since their Web site doesn't really detail the conditions of the "amenities." It never happened. Not a big deal, really, but it was still kind of irritating. They need to figure that out.

Overall, this is one of my favorite hotels I've stayed at anywhere (only the Sheraton Kauai would rank higher for me). For the most part they do earn their four-diamond rating. It's clean, fairly new, the housekeeping is fairly transparent, the pool is very nice, and you can't beat the tropical feel, right down to the faux beach. Like everything in Universal, they tend to hide everything and submerge you in the theme. The only thing endangering their rating is scuffed up hallways. Paint and carpet cleaning are in order.

That night we hit City Walk and ate at Margaritaville. City Walk has been just slightly more crowded every year on Thursday nights since 2001, and we'd find out later that Orlando tourism is certainly back in style.

I'm no Parrot Head, but the food at Margaritaville is really pretty good, and the vegetarian choices for Stephanie were adequate. The live entertainment was a nice touch, and their walk-up beer service on the side of the building never seems to have a wait.

We did find a shortcoming about City Walk that night. As best we can tell, there are only two restrooms that aren't inside one of the clubs or restaurants. One is hidden between The Groove and Latin Quarter, the other is tucked under the movie theater next to the NASCAR Cafe. Both are poorly marked with inadequate signage. If there are others, we couldn't find them. Doesn't that seem kind of odd in a place where you can buy alcohol approximately every 100 feet?

We drank quite a bit and did a great deal of people watching. There aren't many places I can think of where you can safely do this every day of the year outside. Even on this non-crowded evening, there was security and police everywhere. If places like Cleveland's Flats or Baltimore's Inner Harbor had this kind of presence, they'd be far safer and attract more people.

Friday was theme park day. We started with the character breakfast at the Confisco restaurant in Islands of Adventure. No, it's not cheap, but the food isn't bad and you can eat until you barf. Plus you get photos with Spiderman, Wolverine, Cat-In-The-Hat and the budget costumed Grinch.

We defected over to Universal Studios from there and went straight for Revenge of The Mummy (warning: spoilers ahead). Much has been said about this ride, but as far as I'm concerned, it's not enough. This ride kicks more ass than Dakota Fanning on a Ritalin-speed cocktail. I think that as far as themed coasters go, this one is a home run.

The loading platform arrangement is very well done, with express pass guests loading on the opposite side of one of the dual-loading platforms, while the main queue comes up the middle between the two. We did the main queue the first time to see what was in it (hotel guests get express access to everything), and had a walk-up. I got enough of the story to get it, but I'm sure we missed a lot.

The cars are comfortable despite the Premier foot canisters. The cars appear to be propelled by some kind of flat LIM's in the center of the track. I noticed for the big launch that there were vertical "sandwiches" on both sides of the track, but I couldn't tell if those were brakes or the traditional LIM's. The first part of the ride is all flat, with no incline, so the cars are moved after the station switch by these flat devices, not kicker tires.

The first encounter with the mummy (the creepy bastard from the first movie) is really impressive. He's not overly animatronic looking at all. In the next treasure/mummy room, however, it's a little disappointing that these critters don't have any movement at all (unless that's the point). That's the only real fault I can pin on the ride.

The bug room is impressive because of its audio component more than anything. The projected images might not otherwise be as convincing. One element I didn't notice was the physical beetles coming out of the center of the front wall until the third time we rode. It was pretty seamless with the projected images. Steph kept talking about a beetle slot machine jackpot and I didn't get it until then!

The movement from there, with the reverse and the track switch is very smooth, and very crazy. The top of the launch pops you out of the seat hard then throws you into the side before you come back down. Excellent. I have no idea what the track does from then on, and it doesn't matter. It feels very out of control.

I knew ahead of time about the fake ending, but wow, all three rides we took, the people with us fell for it every time. The shot out of the fake exit platform is really fun, down into the mist. Unfortunately the mist doesn't cover the entire ending helix on every lap, so it's a little less impressive if it's thin.

Overall, I really dig the ride. It's a lot of fun, and I feel really good about the ride element of PKI's Italian Job being in Premier Rides' hands.

We didn't want to spend a ton of time in the studios, so we hit a few more things before leaving. We missed Woody Woodpecker's coaster last year, so we snagged that for the credit. Steph had never been on E.T., so we walked on to that. For 15-year old technology, it's still kind of impressive (especially the queue). We also did Men In Black because it's a blast. We finished with the second and third Mummy rides, this time bypassing the line and walking right on.

Back at IOA, we caught lunch at the place in Jurassic Park next to the splash down area of the River Adventure. The food wasn't bad... Steph had some kind of wrap without the chicken, and I had roasted chicken, corn and new potatoes. Not really that pricey for the portion size. We had fun watching a couple of young families mess around in the water after they finished eating.

Finally, for the first time in three years, Pteranadon Flyers was operating. Unfortunately, it had a 45 minute wait and no express entry, so we skipped it. Foiled again!

We made our way back to Dueling Dragons and took a lap on each. The park by this time had a fairly significant crowd. Needless to say, even with "only" four trains, the dragons just eat people. Really good crews certainly help.

The Sinbad show was one of the few attractions we had not seen, so we made it a point to hit that. Not bad. Yeah it had the corny family-friendly jokes, but the stunts were cool, and the female lead really kicked ass.

Looping through Seuss Landing, we stopped at One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, another ride we never hit before. It's a fairly typical circular ride where you can raise and lower the sweeps of your car, the trick being the water spouts at all levels that can tag you when you least expect it. Anyone know who built this?

It was warm enough, so we did Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls. Best. Flume. Ever. This is another ride where the express pass is nice just to bypass the huge queue. Did they change the boats? I don't remember individual seat backs before. After a five minute ride restart, we rode with a little girl from Maryland that was skipping gymnastics practice to be there, along with her mom. She was ridiculously excited. Unfortunately, the little girl and her also little mother got in at the back, which put my relatively heavy ass in the front. I knew that would be bad news, and I got soaked. To make matters worse, they put those coin-op water cannons right next to the trough, so the spectators can nail you point-blank. Lame! Still, what a blast. The only flume I know with floater airtime.

After ringing out, we got our obligatory lap on Spiderman. The heat effects helped us dry off a bit. Dr. Doom was next, my favorite S&S towers anywhere, followed by Storm's "tea cups."

We finished our day on The Hulk. Ouch. What the hell are they doing with this ride? It's ridiculously rough. The road wheels were visibly not in good shape, and the springs are so loose that you can see the trains shift all over the place if you sit in the back. It's not comfortable at all. Normally on any B&M you can press your head against the shoulder restraint and it will be quick movement without the head banging, but not on this one. I actually had a minor headache getting off. This ride needs a little love.

We ended the day with a stroll through the Port of Entry shops.

After a day of theme parking and drinking the night before, we settled for just dinner at Pastamore on City Walk. Steph's primavera wasn't bad, but the alfredo I had sucked. Worst I've had in awhile. The waitor was a moron as well. Maybe he wasn't a moron, but he couldn't multi-task.

Saturday was all about chilling. We left the grounds for breakfast at Denny's. I hate that dump, but we wanted to go cheap this one meal, and surprisingly the service wasn't bad.

We hit Pirate's Cove for some mini-golf. They really have the best courses. The only negative was that the waterfalls weren't running. I won. :)

Back at the Royal Pacific, we did some pool lounging and ordered food. This is why I love the hotel... they're very attentive to your needs. They had no problem doing grilled cheese for Steph even though it wasn't on the menu, and I had some of those "gourmet" chicken fingers to satisfy my fried food craving. Towels were plentiful, the service was great, the spas were hot and shade was adequate if you wanted it. Plus there was the B&M roar of Hulk and the S&S hiss of Dr. Doom. Beautiful settings.

That night we finally hit the Hard Rock Cafe. Another perk: priority seating as a hotel guest. The line was absolutely huge. Whatever doubt I had about the rebound of tourism in Central Florida was erased. City Walk was packed. This is apparently the largest HRC, and I believe it. The memorabilia collection is also impressive. Many of the servers are "our people" (the well-groomed pierced and tattooed types). Food was excellent, and there's a lot of stuff for vegetarians to eat. There was an impressive bar mitzvah taking place in one of the private rooms, complete with light show and a DJ.

City Walk was hoppin' like I had not seen it before. So much eye candy. Again, quite an impressive show of security and police. The "street" performers were doing their thing, every club and restaurant was packed, and if I was an NBC exec I'd have a huge smile on my face.

We closed out the evening, and really our trip, by chilling on the "beach" watching the boats deliver party people back and forth between the hotel and City Walk. It was a short, but really fun trip. I could easily spend a week there and never leave the property. It's hard to believe it's all so self-contained, on a relative postage stamp to the size of the Disney property. We might go back next year, even though IAAPA will be in Atlanta. We've yet to have a bad time as a Universal guest, and IOA is easily my favorite theme park on the planet. Good times.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

eightdotthree's avatar
My GF and I were just talking about our trip there this August and we said the exact same thing. We had such a great time there that we are planning to return next winter, and it couldnt come sooner.

We loved the Mummy as well, when we were there they had ops running through the express ques scaaring people. Got us good a few times. I only wish the second coaster section was a little longer or more intense, they kind of launch you slowly and that kills the speed for the ending.

Thanks for the TR, brought back some memories. *** Edited 11/22/2004 5:40:50 AM UTC by eightdotthree***

Jeff, We are going to the RPR in two weeks and was wondering how are the food options and pool area's at the hotel. And were you able to use FOTL all day or only after 300pm like in summer???
Yeah were going in a couple of weeks too. It should be fun. Were hitting Universal and all of the other parks as well down there for about a week. Do they still do the Grinchmas or whatever? *** Edited 11/22/2004 8:13:53 AM UTC by Kyle Fobe***

Kyle Says: Diamondback was a lot of fun! Made his first time at Kings Island worth it all!

This brings back memories of the great time we had there this summer, also staying at RPR. Our experience was that even though it was mid August, the only ride consistently enforcing the "one ride before 3pm" rule was The Mummy. We sometimes had our cards checked on MIB but other than that no other ride in either the studios or IOA swiped the cards at all.

As for the hotel, the pool is fantastic so long as you are not wanting to swim long distances, its huge but its more of a fun /wallow in the water type pool. Fantastic for relaxing after a day at the parks before heading out again! As for the food, there were loads of options. we always ate at the breakfast buffet which was perfectly good and the food from the barside grill was delicious. We didn't try any of the other hotel restaurants, chosing instead to eat in City Walk, or at Mythos in IOA.

Grinchmas starts on December 10th.
eightdotthree's avatar
City Walk has more options at a much better price than the hotel for eating.
Jeff's avatar
Yeah, I think in three years we've not had food at the hotel itself, except for pool-side.

They weren't swiping our cards at any ride in either park.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

rollergator's avatar

Jeff said:
We defected over to Universal Studios from there and went straight for Revenge of The Mummy (warning: spoilers ahead). Much has been said about this ride, but as far as I'm concerned, it's not enough. This ride kicks more ass than Dakota Fanning on a Ritalin-speed cocktail. I think that as far as themed coasters go, this one is a home run.

Went to USF yesterday, first time at *the complex* since Mummy's grand opening...(wow, it really HAS been awhile, LOL). Yes, Mummy IS fantastic, it was hard for me to not say TOO much about it, since I really TRY not to give spoilers.

With that intro: SPOILER warning, LOL...;)

I will say that a few of the *tweaks* since the Technical Rehearsal days left me questioning the decisions...my FEELING is that there's less time in the bug room than previously, and for all of the excitement about the *fire trick* ;), I was surprised to see that that effect seemed to be "toned down"...

Anyone else ridden RotM enough to comment on the adjustments?


Mummy indeed rocks! I was blown away with every ride I took on it last month. The flat LIM sections (or SLIMs)do move the cars very smoothly.

The uphill launch uses LIMs like those found on other Premier coasters like Flight of Fear. The coaster portion of the ride was MUCH more wicked than I thought it would be.

It wasn't until my 5th ride or so that I realized the cars do articulate. At first glance I thought the ride vehicle was one large single car but later noticed the first two rows moving differently than the last two.

I have no idea what happend to Hulk. When I last rode it just a few weeks ago, it was running as smooth as it ever was. It felt like it had just gotten out of rehab or something.

-Sean(who loves to visit Orlando, but could never live there)

Jeff's avatar
I can't say enough how disappointed we were with Hulk. Perhaps it's partially through a rehab, because I noticed some of the cars from the third train were fully off the track. They've gotta get rid of the square wheels and loose springs.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

rollergator's avatar
Hulk is *exceptionally* tempermental...I suppose it's the Gamma radation or something...;)

I too have noticed on MANY occasions bad wheels on Hulk, and the *butter-smooth* rides of IoA's inaugural season seem to be gone for good....bummer, cause even though the Discovery Channel's #1 rating was truly laughable, the WAS a time when Hulk was "really good". Yesterday, bypassed the big green guy altogether, only took 1 lap on my baby Fire Dragon and a lap on Cat in the Hat...that ride NEVER gets old...

With single rider lines (and Express), we got in 3 MIBs, 2 Mummys, walked thru the Van Helsing exhibit, rode *Jiminy Neutron*, and got over to IoA for CitH and Fire, and STILL left the complex in under three hours....

On my last visit I stayed on Disney property, and ended up spending more time at Universal, Busch Gardens, and Sea World.

I agree with you about Dudley. That is by far the best log flume. I'd love to see more of those pop up. The theming goes right with the ride. I hate those cannons. There are some people there that are excellent with them. Whats with those people that go into parks, and spend all day spraying people that are riding.? ;)

I am looking forward to riding the mummy. Hope to get to in a few more years. Have to wait for Expedition Everest, and BGT's new B&M to open.

Regarding Pteranodon Flyers... I got 3 rides on it... How? Simple: check opening time for Jurassic Park. When its opens, rush to PF, politely ask the greeter and usually. cause its a walk on, they'll let you on without a kid!

Jeff said:
I got enough of the story to get it, but I'm sure we missed a lot.

Yeah, the Mummy has to have one of the longest pre-ride spiels I've ever seen. All of the times we rode it last month were either walk ons or we used the single rider line so we never really got to stop and find out what exactly the story was. Before one ride, we decided to stop and watch the monitor for awhile but after what seemed like 10 minutes or so, it kept going and we said screw it. We had pretty much figured out how everything tied into the ride. I mean it's good that it's long if your in a hour plus line but yeesh, this thing was taxing to just stand there and watch it.

Having gone the past couple of years in a row, I have to say that Islands (the restaurant inside RPR) has one of the best buffet breakfasts I've ever had. Worth the money and I often felt that I didn't need to rush into the park until I digested a bit (yes, that didn't stop me, but that's besides the point).

I definitely think the hotel is the best one I've stayed at so far, and I'm wondering if Portofino Bay would be worth the extra money to stay at.

*Mummy spoiler*

As for the Mummy, I wasn't too bothered by the fact that the second room mummies didn't move after they popped up. I do think that second coaster segment was too short, but it was good and the breath of fire effect was much more impressive than I expected. Despite the budget and space constraints, it's a truly awesome job.


I had first ridden the coaster during one of the IOA soft-opening days. Back then you didn't need a kid and could stood all day in line if you wanted to. Since then the policy has been changed, as most of us know.

I had heard the rumor that adults are allowed to ride during the first hour or so after the park opens. A group of 4 of us walked back to the coaster as soon as the park opened and got on with no problem. When we asked the ride operators if there is a certain time frame when adults can ride, we were told that usually the first hour and fifteen minutes the park is open adults can ride.


Jeff's avatar
I'll have to keep that in mind. I'm just curious to ride it. I won't shed a tear if I can't.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

We stayed at the Portifino a couple of years ago and the place was great!!!! We liked it better than the Beach Club at wdw where we stayed beforehand.
The rooms are very big, excellant pool area and just a excellant all around ambience and we felt well worth the money.
rollergator's avatar
Jeff, unless and until IoA eases up on ALL the braking, PF is merely a kiddie credit....the bird-cars are really cool, but the ride itself is lackluster....once there's any SWING going on, the brakes hit. Meh, it IS supposed to be a kid's ride, LOL...:)

You must be logged in to post

POP Forums - ©2023, POP World Media, LLC