Orlando 2012 – Disney & Universal

In March 2012 I finally met Jules in person as we both spent 5 days at Disney and 2 days at Universal, including the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure, including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

(Apologies for the full photo galleries at the end of each day, but that’s the only way I could figure out how to get them here from my iPad while traveling.)

Click on the links to jump to a specific day, or keep reading for the full story as it unfolded day by day.

First day at Disney World!

Disney Day 2

Disney Day 3 – Hollywood Studios

Disney Day 4

Last Disney Day

Harry Potter Day!

Last Day of Vacation


First day at Disney World!

4 March 2012

Traveling again! This time I’m meeting Jules in person after being online friends for almost 5 years! She’s in Orlando at Disney for a conference and she knew I’d never been, so she invited me to stay with her after the conference was over. We’re staying at the Port Orleans French Quarter the weekend through Thursday, then changing to Universal’s Royal Pacific for the last 2 days to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter too!

lunch with JulesAfter a very long travel day including seeing lightning storms from above the clouds, almost an hour waiting for luggage, then another half an hour on Disney’s Magical Express bus service, I made it to our hotel just around midnight. Jules has been here since Wednesday but she left my towels in the Mickey formation so I could see. :) Port Orleans is definitely Disneyfied but very cute, with Mardi Gras color bedspreads, cute headboards, and teal and aqua iron railings. After chatting way too late for Jules’s early morning we got to sleep, and I enjoyed a leisurely morning of sleeping in after Jules left. She was free from the confernce at lunch so we headed to the Magic Kingdom and found a real sit-down restaurant to start our day. I asked what I could have besides fries with my Reuben and discovered a good portion of broccoli slaw. I think I’ll try making some at home.

Girls having fun! Britta, Melanie, Jules & Brooke
We met up with two of her co-workers also at the conference and spent the rest of the day with them. Here we are having fun wandering around Fantasyland: Britta, Melanie, Jules & Brooke. Most of Fantasyland is under construction, maybe the Agrabah castle from Aladdin, and definitely the Beast’s castle can be seen over the fence. After some quick line fun with me pegging a high score on Buzz Lightyear Blasters, Monsters Inc Laugh Factory & Snitch Encounter, it Cinderella'swas time to go back for our Fast Pass to Space Mounatin. It’s Cinderella’s castle here instead of Sleeping Beauty’s in Anaheim, and we had just enough clouds in the sky for a nice sunset on our way to the Haunted Mansion. Amazingly the line said 35 minutes but was probably shorter. I refrained from taking photos my first time through but the Escher staircase room was awesome, and I liked the library even though the bust illusions didn’t work as well in there, but I like the waiting in line portion better at Disneyland. Sure it’s a short line, but the spooky paintings are completely unlit so you cannot see them at all. Even just a subtle black light fading in and out could illuminate portions of them and not ruin the later black-lightning -revealed portraits later. Wish I could be a Haunted Mansion Imagineer! 😉

Fast pass area for fireworks
Back in Tomorrowland our group was approached by a cast member offering us a trial program for a Fast Pass area for fireworks, so that fireworkswas lucky! We were stuck behind the parade for a bit but we did reach our designated area in time and even though we had to stand, we had a great view. Before the fireworks there was a projection show on the castle, integrated with the architecture…very cool! Of course the fireworks were awesome with the castle changing lighting along with them.

Pirates was broken for awhile so we did the tiki room with some pineapple soft serve then headed for Splash Mountain. Since the parade was going again, after I got thoroughly doused, we were asked, “Would you like to stay seated and ride again?” YEAH! I didn’t want to get wetter so I ducked further the second time but still got my Soaked after Splash Mountainbackside doused. As we left the Disney Mobile Magic app finally worked saying 15 minute wait fo Pirates, so we got there right as it reopened! We got stuck right by the dog holding the keys, so maybe it shouldn’t have been opened yet? 😉 The ride is surprisingly much shorter than Disneyland though.

We saw the last show of the Country Bear Jamboree but missed the Hall of Presidents, so we headed back to the Haunted Mansion. We Space Mountainshould have taken the new cemetery line path in daylight since it was hard to see all the new interactive stuff! Lots of photos in the full gallery below. We ended the day by getting back to Space Mountain before they closed the doors, and I swear the other train is faster…whew that was fun! My favorite Space Mountain is still the Jules Verne steampunk style one at Disneyland Paris though. :)

A few technical notes…Getting the photos into the iPad was the easy part, but you can only file them into an album from the first camera import, nowhere else I can find, and I’m juggling iPhone pix too so I can’t put them in one place or reorder them. The WordPress app only allows individual photo uploads one by one and the browser version has a missing scroll at so if more than about 15 photos are in the same post, I can’t edit or rearrange them in the gallery view. If I’d had my laptop with me at would have taken about 15 minutes instead of well over an hour to upload, caption and reorder about 40 photos. Lessons learned!

Keep reading for more photos, especially new Haunted Mansion interactive crypts at the end! Day 2 will be Epcot until it closes, then back to the Magic Kingdom since its open late!


Disney Day 2

5 March 2012

On Sunday, Jules got out of her conference for good at lunchtime so we headed for Epcot. Impressive sculpted character topiaries of even the Peter Pan clan! The Disney Mobile App actually worked to reserve lunch at the Biergarten but not until 2:30 so we went to Mexico first. Pirates here has no Blue Bayou restaurant, but inside the Mexico 20120305-031829.jpgpavilion the scenic boat tour goes through the restaurant including a pyramid and erupting volcano. Cute market inside too. We arrived a little early to Germany so checked in, got our buzzer, and looked at the shops until we got inside. It’s always Oktoberfest in the Biergarten of course, with fall foliage on the trees and the moon in the sky. The authentic band was great, and we were seated with a prime view of the cowbell choir, precursor to the xylophone, and alpenhorns. It was a buffet so we filled up with nutrition to keep us going all day again.

Since so far we had gone to countries where I had actually been, we went to Norway next. I was disappointed that the only truly uniquely Norwegian food was lefse, but we were really full from lunch anyway. The line for the Maelstrom ride was long so we got a 20120305-032010.jpg Fast Pass to come back. We rode Spaceship Earth “through time” inside the geodesic sphere and found a really cool ride inside Innovations. Sum of all Thrills looked like motion simulator so we got in line. it was actually design your own roller coaster on an interactive touchscreen that did the 20120305-032106.jpgenergy calculations if your ride was physically possible. You only had 4 minutes to build your ride with 4 segments then you rose your ride. Ours went upside down do much it said it was a Super Looper. Haha!

By then it was time for Maelstrom and with our Fast Pass we walked right on. It was very cute with lovely scenery and funny trolls but no way was it worth a 50 minute wait like we saw earlier! After the ride a cute young Norwegian shop clerk in traditional vest & breeches nicely took our photo with a huge Norwegian troll. :)

20120305-032211.jpgWe kept strolling the World Showcase as the light was fading so I got some nice photos of Epcot at sunset. There were fantastic acrobats in the China pavilion, but the country movie in the round was a bit dated, like many other country movies here. Good thing the historical and natural wonders stay accurate, since anything showing technology or computers are definitely stuck in the 80s! 😉

20120305-032443.jpgThe Epcot night show is Illuminations, with a huge projection globe in the middle of fountains in the lake, and fireworks and flame pots too. Very impressive! However it was amazing the temperature difference from the day before! We were in shorts and tees riding Splash Mountain after dark on Saturday, but with the rain Sunday morning clearing the humidity, after dark it was downright chilly! I was in jeans, socks with my loafers, long sleeved shirt and my Jack scarf expecting it to be cooler, but we were both cold enough during the fireworks that we went to hour hotel for jackets since we wanted to stay until 2am at the Magic Kingdom. Too bad that took two whole hours for bus lines and transit. Everything is so far apart here there is no way to walk between parks or hotels even if you wanted to.

20120305-113326.jpgWe only had a pumpkin spice funnel cake since our late lunch so we were hungry when we finally for back to the Magic Kingdom at 11pm. Nachos and corndog nuggets were secured on Main Street, and a wide-eyed cast member asked me where on earth I got my cool Jack scarf! Funny thing is we found it later in the Pirates shop! For extra magic hours you have to show your room card to get on rides since they’re trying to clear the park of everyone else, but the lines were almost non-existent! In only 150 minutes we rode 10 attractions, many of which had huge lines during the daytime…definitely worth it! Philarmagic had the short wait until showtime and Peter Pan had a 5 minute line, but the we just walked straight on for Small World, Peter Pan, Snow White, the teacups (super fast the way Jeff J showed me years ago!), Space Mountain, Pirates, then just enough time before closing to ride the Haunted Mansion twice in a row. Happy Haunted Mansion girls both dressed in Jack! :)

All today’s photos are below..Hollywood Studios today!


Disney Day 3 – Hollywood Studios

6 March 2012

For Disney Day 3 we tackled Hollywood Studios all day. We didn’t realize everywhere cool gets booked for reservations way in advance, so we booked the SciFi Diner for Tuesday and ate at our hotel food court. We should have done that earlier since there’s a reusable cup for free refills during your entire stay…yummy hot chocolate and iced teas!

After rechecking in to switch reservations but stay in the sane room, plus bus ride, we got to Hollywood Studios around 1:30. As we were on our way to Fast Pass Star Tours, it was only a few minutes until the Indy stunt show was starting so we were able to sit in the back. Those were quite the explosions! We could feel the heat all the way in the back!

We got our Fast Pass for Star Tours then started looking for other attractions we could do in the meanwhile, but they all had long waits already. Toy Story the Claw!Mania was already out of Fast Passes and a 120 minute wait! Muppets 3D was only 10 minute wait so we headed for that, enjoying the hilarious spoof movie posters outside the building. The movie is the same as in CA but still funny. We found Pizza Planet food and arcade, and yes there were toy claw machines with aliens inside! Hahaha…We also found the San Francisco back lot, complete with accurate road signs.

Since we till had time until Star Tours, we took the Walt Disney walk-through exhibit with movie One Man’s Dream. The animatronics inside Lincoln were amazing, I spotted the Dipmobile model from Roger Rabbit, plus we found the art and description for the new Fantasyland area we had seen under construction.

Jack everywhere!In our wanderings we found the Jack mother lode at the villain shop! A lot more seletion than inside the Magic Kingdom! Jules bought stuff, and I bought 2 purple shirts and a hat and changed in to the sequin tank the next restroom we found! it was time for some food again, but my “mac and cheese truffle oil gourmet hot dog” also had bacon so overwhelmed any truffle that might have been there. Tasty though. Unfortunately waiting in our food line and eating at a table, we missed last Beauty & the Beast stage show for the day. It was only 5:45 but no Fast Passes left for anything, so we Brand-new Jack wear for Tower of Terrorstood in line for the Tower of Terror well over an hour since just as we got up to load, our elevator broke and had to wait to be fixed. The decor is the same, but there is more Twilight Zone theming inside the ride itself. No sunset photos today since it was when we were stuck inside the Tower waiting, but we did get to see it as we were falling down the Tower!

We finally got to Star Tours and the refresh is very cool. It randomizes where you go on the ride, and we went to Hoth, then through ring debris and inside the Death Star. I don’t think the 3D glasses did much though, and the Muppets 3D was better. Maybe my eyes didn’t like them? When we tilted too much, if you tilted your head at all instead of staying straight in with the screen, you could see the 3D banding colors. Definitely fun!

Ready for Fantasmic!After some more fun shopping, it was time to get a seat for the final Fantasmic show, some grabbed some cocoa & coffee as we went in. After standing for the past two nights while watching lightshows, we were very glad we could sit down this time! The Lion King and Pocahontas bits were different, but the rest was like Disneyland. great show projected on the water screen, flame pots, fireworks, and live action!

Munchkinland in the Great Movie RideNow it was Extra Magic Hours again so we were hoping for the park to thin out, but since it was only 9pm, plenty of families were still around. The roller coaster line was still long, so we tried everything else first. The Great Movie Ride is cute, a little hard for me to hear the live people vs the loud soundtrack, but I had to try to take photos in Munchkinland!

Hollywood Studios giant Mickey hatThat was longer thank we thought, so we caught the Little Mermaid show at 10pm instead. Undersea theatre indeed…we did get wet in the mist! Ariel sang great and had a fantastic costume, and the dancing fish were adorable puppets with the puppeteers all dressed in black so completely invisible. After that we headed for Toy Story, hoping some kids had pooped out by then. We got in line at 10:25 but it took all the way until the park closed at 11 before our ride was over so no coaster time. The Toy Story atmosphere was worth it though! It was all built of giant toys like old Tinkertoys and Scrabble board for a roof, all sorts of cards, blocks and dominos, including Viewmaster discs including vintage Tomorrowland with the giant eye Giant working Viewmaster card inside Toy Storythrough the microscope that I remember from my first trip to Disneyland when I was 6 years old! The ride itself is a ride-through 3D shooting arcade that was a lot of fun, and I slightly beat Jules with a score of 140700, nowhere near my Buzz Blasters score. Thankfully we got on the first bus load home that wasn’t too long a wait, so we were in time for a snack in the food court along with a free refill before they closed at midnight.

Trying to plan for our last two Disney days, I was complaining that my favorite Haunted Mansion Holiday graphic was on the back of the shirt. Final shirt!Luckily I keep my pocketknife with scissors in my suitcase, so I was able to do some late-night hotel crafting to transform my shirt into what I wanted to wear! That will be Tuesday’s shirt for our SciFi diner late lunch and hopefully the roller coaster, then I’ll bring my Lion King shirt to change into when we head for the Animal Kingdom later. :)

Keep reading for all the photos!


Disney Day 4

7 March 2012

Since our lunch reservation wasn’t until 2:45, we had a quick snack at hotel food court to tide us over until then, then we had to wait for the bus for a while so didn’t get to Hollywood Studios until 1:30pm. The Rock ‘N’ Roller Rock N Roller CoasterCoaster Fast Pass time was already 4pm so we just got in line, hoping we’d get out in time for our lunch reservation. Great indoor coaster and I like the “scenery” every so often, but the latter half kind of fizzled out. The pacing of Space Mountain is better.

We made it right in time to the Sci Fi Dine In Theater and only had to wait a couple minutes until our “parking spot” was ready. Very cute! We sat in the back seat of a vintage convertible and there was a 45-minute reel of classic trailers, news reels, cartoons and snack bar ads, including Amazing Colossal Man, Horror at Party Beach, and of course Ed Wood’s masterpiece Plan 9 Goofy girls with glowing cocktails at the SciFi Dine In TheaterFrom Outer Space! Jules had told me about the glowing cocktails, and they were tasty mango passion fruit coconut rum concoctions that were just opaque enough for the LED ice cube lights to light the whole glass. We kept our souvenir ice cubes of course. :) I’ve seen them online before and considered purchasing for Halloween, but the cubes look to big to fit into my skeleton goblets. Perhaps I’ll be able to find more sizes this year? It was a whole hour before we left after tasty burgers and sweet potato fries, then since Star Tours had no line (how’d that happen?!?) we rode it again with a completely new plot. Supposedly there are 56 possible combinations now. We had Hoth, Leia and the Death Star last time, then this time was the Tattooine landspeeder races, Admiral Ackbar, winding through a swarm of Star Destroyers, then landing in Coruscant. I still don’t think the 3D does that much since the movement timed with the screen is way more impressive.

Tree of Life at Animal KingdomNext we headed to Animal Kingdom for their one coaster, Expedition Everest, where we stood in line over 30 minutes then the ride broke right as we were next in line! They gave us a free fast pass to come back, so we will try again, since it sounds like the Matterhorn on steroids, even with its own yeti. Unfortunately we missed the last safari of the day too, so Animal Kingdom will be first on our catchup day. Since we knew we were coming back, we made our way out to the front, past the Dinorama carnival area and the Dinosaur motion track ride. Super lucky that the Dinosaur had no line, and all the warnings about Dark Places and Scary Dinosaurs cracked me up. Valid for the little kids of course but the phrasing was funny, like maybe it could be friendly dinos like Barney? 😉 Fun ride in the style of Indy in Anaheim, but Indy still takes the cake.

Topiary Mickey and Spaceship EarthThankfully we didn’t have to wait long for a bus this time so we were at Epcot in 20 minutes just as the sun was setting. We visited Imagination Labs just before it closed at 7pm, then saw the O Canada Circlevision movie with Martin Short. By then it was already 8 with closing at 9, so we accelerated our pace. We got Magner’s pear cider at the stand instead of waiting inside the pub, checked a couple of shops in the UK area, with it’s mini Hampton Court look-alike and teacup flowerpots, took a bridge photo of France since I’d seen it the other night, then we headed back to Future World in hopes of shorter lines during the fireworks.

Flightsuits had aqua trim ;)Test Track still had an hour line showing so since we knew if we were in line before official closing time they’d let us ride, we headed for Mission: Space nearby. Excellent gamble since there was no line there! I had heard horror stories about the barf bags in the ride and how they toned down the ride after it first opened, but I wanted to test myself, so I chose the more intense ride. Extra bonus was that the astronaut flight suits on display had aqua trim. 😉 We sustained heavy G forces enough for compression headaches and it was really awesome. I knew I could handle roller coasters and drops but it’s the more subtle motion that makes me sick, like big ocean waves or reading in cars or on planes, so I doubt I would do well in zero gravity even if I was fine for all the G forces during launch and re-entry…but maybe if my eyes weren’t so bad I could be a fighter pilot after all? 😉

We did make it in the line for Test Track just in the nick of time, stood in line for a bit, then when we zoomed outside we even saw some of the last fireworks! It was already the mass exodus for closing time when we got off, so it was standing room only on the monorail to the Magic Kingdom for one more hour.

Jules hadn’t done any Haunted Mansion shopping yet so we headed straight for Leota’s cart where we chatted with a couple Haunted Mansion cast members while Jules bought 4 shirts and a CD of the original ride record. I bought a purple, black and metallic aqua Haunted Mansion Liberty Square tee myself since I couldn’t resist! We took advantage of the lack of people to use my travel tripod to get a good photo of us outside the mansion, then we enjoyed playing with the interactive crypts again before we rode. As we were getting off the Doombuggies I was asking Jules if we Haunted Mansion 3 times in a row to end the day :)should just get back in line, when a cast member popped out of the dark, opened a secret door and said “Would you like to ride again?” We walked through the secret passage right to the Doombuggy loading line, bypassing the stretching elevator completely. We were already giddy enough that time through the ride, then as we got off again I said to the other cast member, “Too bad we can’t just stay in and ride again!” He replied, “You can if you want to,” so we jumped back in, rode the Doombuggy line around the bend and into the ride for a third time in a row! I’m sure both of us wearing Haunted Mansion shirts might have helped a bit. That was last ride of the day since the park officially closed while we were riding the last time, but that was awesome! 😀

Keep reading for all the photos!


Last Disney Day

8 March 2012

Successful Expedition EverestAfter picking up our purchases that had been delivered for us then more bus waiting, we got back to Animal Kingdom in time to Fast Pass the Kilimanjaro Safari, then headed for the Expedition Everest coaster again. We could hear the screams so at least it was running! Good ride, no loops but better drops than I was expecting from the restraints we had. Sure glad we had the Fast Passes since we definitely paid our dues in line yesterday.

nutritious yummy lunch with teal cocktails at Yak & YetiThere was still an hour before the end of our safari window, so we found the Yak & Yeti Restaurant for a sit down lunch and teal tropical cocktails. Finally some good protein and even some veggies to keep us going.

Majestic lionThe safari was fun, like the Jungle Cruise but with real animals, including the corny jokes. We saw an okapi, hippos, alligators, gazelle, giraffe blocked the road for a while and came right up to our truck, rhinos were very close, and even the lion was striking majestic poses while the lioness was snoozing on a rock in the sun. So glad my camera can zoom on far and focus so well & quickly!

Lion King live showWe had time to see the Festival of the Lion King show, then there was just barely enough time to walk over to the last live Finding Nemo the Musical at 6:15. Excellent shows! Lion King was more Cirque du Soleil inspired with acrobats and live singers and dancers, but Nemo had new songs and used puppets, flying on wires, bubbles and projection effects too! Definitely worth seeing!

Finding Nemo the MusicalAfter Animal Kingdom closed, we headed to Magic Kingdom to close out the parks, since there wasn’t anything left at either Epcot or Hollywood Studios I would miss. Soarin is exactly the same as California Adventure, Captain Eo is the same, the Nemo ride is like the new submarine ride, Tough to be a Bug is the same, and I’ve seen the full Beauty & the Beast musical on stage a few times now.

The monorail was closed so there was only the ferry boat to Magic Kingdom, but not even Jules had done that before. Too bad we could only see the castle when we launched and not when we were approaching. The fireworks were going as we scanned our tickets to get in but already over by the time we got down Main Street. What a crowd for swimming upstream! 😛

Haunted Mansion againWe finally ate some dinner, including Mickey sprinkles on our dessert, finally saw the Hall of Presidents, rode Pirates again since the Space Mountain line was reporting too long, and of course we closed our Disney days with the Haunted Mansion again, this time with new shirts showing the matching mansion behind us. :)

Goodbye Disney!Goodbye Disney! Can’t believe we had a 5 day pass and still didn’t see everything! We might have been able to if we got up early every day, but this is vacation and neither of us are morning people. 😉

Keep reading for all the photos! We head for Universal tomorrow to see Harry! :)


Harry Potter Day!

9 March 2012

We checked out on time from Disney, took a cab to Universal, and we were very lucky our room was ready. I changed into my student uniform for photos since we hoped Thursday would be less crowded than Friday. Too bad that instead of taking the walkway we waited for the boat that took us to the wrong park where we wandered around not finding Hogwarts and wondering why the maps don’t make sense. By the time we got into the correct park it was 1:30 already!

Kids in the candy store!
The sunlight was harsh with high clouds and directly behind everywhere we wanted to take photos, plus I was already melting from humidity, so we popped into Honeydukes for shopping and inside photos first. Thank goodness it was nice and cool in there! I bought way too much and took photos of everything else, and it all appeared in our room the next morning without waking either of us up! Nice not to carry stuff round in the park all day.

The Hogsmeade shop front windows are very cute, then the Three Broomsticks was only a 10 minute wait for lunch and frozen butterbeer so we took our chance when we were told this was most likely the slowest time of day. My cornish pasties were very tasty and came with a green salad. We sat inside but didn’t see any animations except the shadow of a broom. Since there was only a short line at the bar at Hogs Head on the way out, I got the normal butterbeer so I’d Lunch & frozen butterbeer at the Three Broomstickshave tried both. The frozen butterbeer tastes more like mine, but there is an odd metallic or weird artificial flavor I can’t place. The regular butterbeer has a bitter hit from the carbonation, and the foam they plop on top must have carrageenan or something since it remains slimy even after it cools down, like melted ice milk diet ice cream. I’ve never thought butterbeer needed a foamy head myself but I have tried keeping the bubbles in which is a challenge. Now I have a souvenir plastic butterbeer mug at least!

Hogwarts finally in sunshineWe decided since the light was still too strong for good photos that we would get in the longest line we expected for the big ride inside Hogwarts. It said it was only a 45 minute wait and the worst part was standing outside in the Herbology greenhouse. They do have fans and water fountains in line at least. Once we got inside it was moving just too fast for appreciating all the detail! I kept holding up the line trying to get good photos. Lots of moving portraits of course, many many details, and even the movie actors in character explaining the plot of the ride and inside the line. I also have never seen such a listing Hogsmeade at duskof warnings for any thrill ride! The ride itself was awesome enough that we rode it again in the evening with an even shorter line! The other rides are a kids coaster Buckbeak’s Flight, which had Hagrid’s Hut and an animatronic Buckbeak in his nest, and Dragon Challenge, a flying coaster with more cool stuff to look at but there was no wait so hard to see it all. We also stood in line for Ollivanders which is just a show where live Ollivander chooses a member of the audience to choose her wand with magical things happening in the walls.

Student Britta at Hogwarts at nightOf course the weather has been lovely all week, not humid at all and requiring jeans to stay warm after dark, until the day I wore all the layers meant for Hogwarts students in Scotland, when it was so hot and humid! I stuck it out in my robe over my long-sleeved shirt and necktie but tied the sweater around my waist until the night photos. I was asked a couple times for photos, and many times people assumed I was an employee and asked me for help. Sadly I just missed a photo with the Beauxbatons and Durmstrangs literally next in line when they said sorry we have to leave. Even my fellow Gryffindor pleaded for me, but to no avail!

Jules & Britta with their Mt Kumuneyewanadrinkya flaming cocktailWe stayed long enough taking photos that we got kicked out of Hogsmeade, and I took night photos of the other Islands of Adventure as we were walking out. We decided to check out the many restaurants here at the hotel and end up at Jakes American Bar, where I had my first flaming volcano cocktail and we got lucky with karaoke! It was a small crowd, one lady had already sung several songs before we were done with dinner, and when the crowd got even smaller, it was mostly her or me singing to keep it going. I ended up singing 12 songs, with Jules on 3, and Jules finally got up to sing by herself for 3 songs too! We were the last to leave and it was nice just to walk up to our room. Friday is our last night so we’ll try Universal Citywalk then, after trying to cram too many rides into a short window since the parks close at 7pm and we have an early morning to get to the airport.

Keep reading for more photos!


Last Day of Vacation

10 March 2012

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coasterDay 7 began with checking in via phone for my flight home while we saw rain outside our windows, then we headed for the other Universal park to see how many rides we could do in our limited time before closing at 7 again. Thankfully the rain had stopped by the time we got to the park, so first up was the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster right at the entrance, thankfully only a 20 minute line since it’s one of the few rides that don’t have an Express line. When we saw it, we thought we should ride first, then eat. Whoa! Straight up then straight down several times plus many loops and corkscrews. My hair was flying and my necklace was completely backwards!

Lunch at the Monster CafeWe Halloween girls couldn’t resist eating lunch at the Monster Cafe! Just basic cafeteria style food like pizza and hot dogs, but they let me replace my fries with steamed broccoli at least. Their lab setup had a lot of the same bottles as mine. 😉 Definitely fun atmosphere in crypt seating where we sat under a bust of Frankenstein with classic monster movie posters everywhere.

There were some shows we wanted to see that ran at certain times, so we headed next for the Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue at 2:30. Fun live but extremely loud rock show with the Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein and his Bride reimagined as a rock band Beetlejuice Graveyard Revueand bad jokes (Wolfie goes home and makes shirts for Team Jacob, etc), but a great Michael Keaton Beetlejuice impression!

Next was the Revenge of the Mummy ride, motion track traveling through lots of effects including fire, water & puffs of air, several copied directly from the big Indy ride in Anaheim, but the ending was clever. We walked right on using our room key for the Express line but main line was only 20 minutes anyway. Where were all the people? Lucky for us since we had too many rides and too little time!

The Terminator 3D show was next at 3:30 so we headed for that. For shows, Express lines were shorter and went in first to get better seats. Before going in we saw a promotional video from Cyberdyne, makers of the robotic soldiers and Skynet, and I had to laugh since for the remote tuck-in robot hands for the cute little girl, the mom was using an interface with menus in Chicago font…was Skynet developed on pre-OS X Macs? Is there something Apple isn’t telling us? 😉 The plot goes along with T2, with Linda Hamilton and Arnie in it, very cool effects integrated with live action in the theatre, and 3 giant screens across half the theatre that all worked with the 3D. Sometimes my eyes don’t cooperate with the different 3D styles, and some this trip were better than others, but honestly even though T2 is probably 15 year old technology or even older, that was the most successful 3D for me!

Krustyland for the Simpsons Ride I couldn’t miss the Simpsons Ride, and even funnier that I heard the SpiderPig choral version while taking a photo of the entrance. :) We got in the Express line just after 4pm and the ride is very cute in line as well as in the ride itself. Excellent motion simulation and the plot is absolutely hilarious for any Simpsons fan. I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but Johnathon absolutely has to see it someday, and not just for the Simpsons angle. 😉

Unfortunately while we were inside the Simpsons, it started raining again! We rushed nearby to Men in Black Alien Attack through drizzle, and that was fun scenery with a shooting game, but when we got out it was pouring with thunder for a while so we stayed inside the gift shop hoping the rain would at least slow down. We hadn’t brought our rain gear because that would require larger bags, and Universal runs a scam that for any of the popular rides, you must use lockers for anything that doesn’t fit in pockets or small bum bag, even just a water bottle. Disney at least has small Wet weather at Universalmesh bags in front on coasters and that works fine to hold most stuff. If you go over the free time they think the line and ride should take, you have to pay $3 or more to get your stuff. So we were trying to travel light, which means we got wet. I refused to pay $8 for a flimsy plastic poncho, but Jules did, then we headed out to see what might still be running, since all the outside coasters stop running in the rain for safety reasons. I got plenty wet but a thin tee and shorts usually dries pretty quickly when walking around, but I wished I had brought my new Jack hat after all!

We had pretty much lost an hour due to the pouring rain, so we decided to head over to the Islands of Adventure again and see what rides might run again before getting a last souvenir butterbeer mug on our way out. We did stop in at the Lucy tribute on our way out and took a On the Hulk coasterdripping wet photo with the giant Universal globe. Luckily by the time we got past the Hard Rock Cafe and into the other park, we saw a couple empty trains on the Hulk coaster finally, so we rushed to get in the quickly-growing line. Another great fast and looping coaster so glad we got our chance! We didn’t get out until 6:20 though, so we decided to skip the freefall ride and rushed through the long way to Hogsmeade to see how many rides we could do before closing at 7pm. Thank goodness for the Express lines since we got into the brand-new Spiderman 3D with motion track ride fast enough that we even made it all the way through Toon Lagoon and Popeye’s land to Jurassic Park in time to get even wetter than the rain earlier! Jurassic Park was pretty much the same as the one I rode in 1996 on my last trip to Universal Studios, but it is still a great ride and quite the high drop with giant splash!

Last call for butterbeer!There were no signs for Hogsmeade from Jurassic Park so by following exit signs we went the long way, but we still made it to the front butterbeer cart before they closed the line. Too bad we didn’t realize earlier I could have gotten a Strongbow cider in a souvenir boar mug since the bar was already closed by the time I found out. I did get a photo of the moving Sirius wanted poster and some other shots I’m not sure I got as well the night before. I even tried taking some backward shots of our soaked selves with butterbeer in front of Hogwarts, but it started raining again so I kept getting drops on my lens. At least it was worth a try for our last look at Hogwarts!

We definitely needed to change out of our wet clothes before Citywalk, but since I needed a shot glass for my collection we went to Hard Rock Cafe first so we were close enough to take the boat back to the hotel to rest our feet a bit. We were finally on the way to Citywalk at 9pm, walking to get some more photos since the rain had stopped again, and we made it past Margaritaville to Emeril’s Orlando at just the right time to be seated immediately. At Emeril's for last dinner of vacationNeither of us had eaten at any of Emeril’s restaurants before so we thought it’d be a fun splurge and it was. Tasty cocktails (why hadn’t I ever thought of a pineapple upside-down cocktail using butterscotch schnapps?), amazing appetizers of smoky exotic wild mushrooms and Emeril’s famous New Orleans barbecue shrimp, and good wine by the glass. I chose a Mosel Riesling for me, and since Jules doesn’t know wines but prefers dry over sweet, I suggested the South African Sauvignon Blanc for her and she liked it. I should have gone with my first choice for my entree though, since I changed my mind to the crab-stuffed flounder since it was a special and the description sounded nice, but it was very bland and not even much crab flavor. Maybe East Coast crab isn’t as flavorful as all the Pacific crab I’m used to? The peppery greens and the roasted Roma tomato halves as sides were fantastic though. For dessert we wanted to split the pain perdu bread pudding with maple ice cream but it arrived with a strawberry garnish and Jules is extremely allergic! She was hoping to eat carefully from the side the strawberry didn’t touch but our waiter insisted on bringing another one for her…so we ended up with a whole dessert each. Thankfully they were small, since it was so good there was no way I was letting any of that go to waste!

Universal globe at nightAll that wonderful dinner meant we were way too full for any goofy Citywalk bar action, like the huge alcoholic slushie machines at Pat O’Briens walk up bar. We saw lots of skin tight dresses and skirts barely long enough to hide anything, so this must be a big club scene. We tried to avoid all the smokers (so much harder at Universal than Disney!) and strolled around looking in the shops that were open, not buying anything. We were a bit tempted by the monster movie themed miniature golf, but since it as already close to 1am and we couldn’t sleep in at all, I was worried it would take too long. If I hadn’t already had a sore throat all day long and worried I was getting sicker since it wasn’t going away, I might have been more enthused to stay up later and still drag myself out of bed in time for our flights.

We took the boat back to the hotel, serenaded by adorable little tiny girls belting Adele’s Rolling in the Deep, and finally in bed by 2am. We set all our alarms for 7:30am (ugh!), dragged ourselves out of bed to get ready and repack, and we were in our cab to the airport on schedule by 9am, with a last fond look at the Royal Pacific Hotel, with gorgeous landscaping and comfier pillows & beds, but free wifi only in the lobby and only one sink in our room. Frankly I think Disney was a better deal for about half the price!

Keep reading for the last photos! Thanks for following my travels again! :)