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Orlando Trip Thanksgiving Trip Report: Day 4

alpengeistno3

Posted:
12/10/11 at
4:51:28 PM

Black Friday at Universal
Hey guys. This is the 4th day of my Orlando trip. Since I had the car until Friday morning, I decided to do some Black Friday shopping. Between staying up and getting up early, I got around 3 hrs sleep, but scored a laptop, free Norton’s, 16 GB flash drive, and a shredder. With my Staples rewards, it was around $5 for all the accessories, so worth the trouble in the end. I had to rush the car to the Four Points Sheraton to return it by 8:00 AM opening (it was due at 7:00, but the place didn’t open until 8:00.) Taking the trolley to Universal the last 3 days allowed to get familiar with the area and see that I could return the car there and just walk to the park as it was right across from the trolley stop that I had been using (and saved me another costly trip to the airport.)

I taped up my toes with the cotton balls I had bought from Walmart (I had a blister the size of Timbuktu on my big toe and a small one on my 2nd toe!) and made the 30 minute walk over to Universal. Today, my friend and her family were to join me, but they were not getting up early enough to get there in time for the park’s 9:00 AM opening. I arrived at City Walk by 9:15 and decided to work my plan in IOA until they arrived.

The plan: Use the fact that Universal does not open the gates adjacent to Dueling Dragons to my advantage and head straight there while everyone else was milling around Harry Potter. I pushed through the already bustling crowds (Forbidden Journey already had a posted 60 minute wait.) and made my way to DD. As I figured, the ride was a walk-on. I rode DD, Fire and Ice a total of 5 times. Once again, no rerides despite several empty rows and the only shortcut was a steep stairway leading back to the mouth of the castle (apparently, the old door that led almost directly to the split point is being used for Express Pass now. The crowd didn’t start to show up until after 11:00, ironically, once Universal decided to open the gate up next to the ride so people could enter the Wizarding World from that side.

My friend had finally showed up and they wanted to go the Studios, so I left IOA to meet them. My friend was worst than I was for foot health and both her and her sister had got handicapped passes and wheelchairs for the day (both have foot problems to begin with.) They went to see Shrek while I was coming over from IOA (no loss for me there.) We then went to Rip, Ride, Rockit. They used their handicapped passes, so we skipped the 30 minute queue line. I was able to get 2 rides because her sister did a child swap with her husband and neither one of them wanted to ride again.

After RRR, they wanted to eat lunch as it was about 1:00. I was saving myself for dinner at the Brazilian BBQ again, so I went to ride Mummy while they had a sit down lunch in the Irish Pub. The wait was posted as 15 mins, but using the single rider line, I just walked up and was assigned a seat. I took 4 rides before they had finished.

Several things I noticed. The ride ops have to do a little acting as part of their job. When working the outside queue and ride exit, they act all “Disney” over-the-top happy. But when working the inner catacombs and the loading area, they try to act “evil” and “scary”. They even go so far as changing costumes for each position (turbans and the tunic for inside, white T-shirt and ball cap while outside). You can even see their ball caps attached to their belts while inside the tomb. Other parks have costumed ride ops, but I’ve never seen any other take it to that extent.

My friend and her family went to do Twister then went to Mummy. Using their handicapped passes got them access to the Express pass line, which was even longer than the single rider line at around 5 mins. I had seen the dual loading station, but never realized that they were using one side exclusively for Express pass as they would assign single riders to fill seats on either side. When we rode, the animatronic Ihmotep had stopped working, so they projected his face on his sarcophagus while he said his lines. Nice move by Universal to cover the snafu.

We then went to Earthquake (now Disaster). I had seen all the ads on TV back when Earthquake was new, so needless to say, it was pretty disappointing to see it was pretty much the same set-up as Twister on a “train” (which was really just a stage with seats). The handicapped car was all the way at the back, away from the main action, so I felt like I missed most of the show (the flood water did come down right in front of us, but that was little consolation for missing all the explosions.) Glad I didn’t wait the 45 mins for it the last time I was there. By the way, the host didn’t like all my back talk about his cheesy effects during the preshow, so he cast me in the show as one of the evil dudes. Great!! (*dripping with sarcasm*). My friend got a kick out of that.

We then went to ET, Simpsons, and Men In Black. The 1st two gave my friend return times rather than let her just board with her handicapped pass. Interesting neither of the coasters or Disaster did that with similar 30 min waits. MIB let us right in. I decided to focus my effort on shooting the target on the opposing vehicle, but it didn’t work. (Or at least didn’t appear to). They only spun the same time as we did, so I don’t think it was something I had done. Cute take on the shooter ride, but otherwise, just another shooter.

We did Simpsons, where this time we got a car on the lower level, so I noticed there were 3 levels above us (Tuesday, I rode on the 2nd level.) More kudos to the ride ops for being able to quickly load that many cars (even if they did allow some guests before us to go in the wrong room and did not realize it until they were out of seats in the car.)

Last ride I had not ridden was ET. I was shocked to see the queue line once we got inside the main line and being admitted as handicapped, we almost went to the wrong line as there was no one to direct us from the main crowd. Must be a great ride on a typical, busy hot Orlando day. This was another ride that I had seen the ads for when Universal opened, but I was shocked at what it really was. This time, my shock was favorable. I had expected to just hover over a screen ala Soaring, but the suspended dark ride vehicle was WAYYY better. I never liked the movie ET, but I would think this ride was probably as impressive back in the 1990’s as Harry Potter is today.

Back to IOA, I rode Hulk, Doom and Spidey with my friend before she decided to go do Harry Potter again (I was apparently the only one interested in eating at the Brazilian BBQ). After dinner, I went back to Studios to get 2 more walkon rides on Mummy. RRR was down and stuck on the final block brake before the station. You know it is done when they turned all the lights off on the trains. I went back to IOA and did a Hulk marathon of 7 no wait rides before leaving about 15 minutes before close so I could catch the last Trolley back to the hotel. I wanted to give Harry Potter another try, but I did that walk from that area of the park to the trolley stop Wednesday night and had no desire to relive that with limited time (the trolleys stop running at 10:30 and I just made it from Hulk; let me tell you, I got nervous when I saw one pass as I was walking over the I-4 bridge and did not see another until 10:45).

Overall, I was shocked at how NOT BUSY Universal was on Black Friday. Everyone from the shuttle driver, to the hotel concierge led me to believe this was going to be “hell day” for crowds and it was not only manageable, but the best riding day of the trip. I don’t know how often they have walkon conditions, but Universal could definitely stand to invest in some shortcuts for their coaster queues. Mummy, the single rider line cut out a good amount of the queue, but was still a fairly long walk. Hulk had the shortest walk, but was by no means short. And Dueling Dragons was ridiculous. If Universal wants to use the old short cut for Express Pass, they need to cut another hole in the wall for rerides.

I wonder just how much Universal’s addition of HP has affected Disney’s gate. Disney will always be Disney, but I am quite impressed how well “#2” was able to do the entire area as well as the ride (and how people have just flocked to it like Mecca). I think the whole Avatar thing is a mistake that will blow up in Disney’s face much like Wayne’s World for Paramount. Nice movie, but it just has no staying power.

Thanks for reading and one more part left: Sea World :)

Paul

Re: Orlando Trip Thanksgiving Trip Report: Day 4 by GoYanks34 GoYanks34 Profile at 12/10/11 6:45:49 PM

> I taped up my toes with the cotton balls I had bought from
> Walmart (I had a blister the size of Timbuktu on my big toe
> and a small one on my 2nd toe!)

OUCH!!

> My friend had finally showed up and they wanted to go the
> Studios, so I left IOA to meet them. My friend was worst
> than I was for foot health and both her and her sister had
> got handicapped passes and wheelchairs for the day (both
> have foot problems to begin with.) They went to see Shrek
> while I was coming over from IOA (no loss for me there.) We
> then went to Rip, Ride, Rockit. They used their handicapped
> passes, so we skipped the 30 minute queue line. I was able
> to get 2 rides because her sister did a child swap with her
> husband and neither one of them wanted to ride again.

Nice, using children and the handicapped to skip lines! I know, you were technically handicapped too with your toes falling off and everything!

> We then went to Earthquake (now Disaster). I had seen all
> the ads on TV back when Earthquake was new, so needless to
> say, it was pretty disappointing to see it was pretty much
> the same set-up as Twister on a “train” (which was
> really just a stage with seats). The handicapped car was
> all the way at the back, away from the main action, so I
> felt like I missed most of the show (the flood water did
> come down right in front of us, but that was little
> consolation for missing all the explosions.) Glad I
> didn’t wait the 45 mins for it the last time I was there.
> By the way, the host didn’t like all my back talk about
> his cheesy effects during the preshow, so he cast me in the
> show as one of the evil dudes. Great!! (*dripping with
> sarcasm*). My friend got a kick out of that.

LOL! That was one of those, "once you've seen it once, it's enough", attractions. I guess how people are describing Jaws. When did it change to Disaster? I think it was Earthquake the last time I went on it.

> We then went to ET, Simpsons, and Men In Black. The 1st two
> gave my friend return times rather than let her just board
> with her handicapped pass. Interesting neither of the
> coasters or Disaster did that with similar 30 min waits.
> MIB let us right in. I decided to focus my effort on
> shooting the target on the opposing vehicle, but it
> didn’t work. (Or at least didn’t appear to). They only
> spun the same time as we did, so I don’t think it was
> something I had done. Cute take on the shooter ride, but
> otherwise, just another shooter.

Last time I went on MIB there was a young kid in the car with me and he kept yelling at me and telling me I sucked, LOL!! It was hysterical - he was really getting pissed because we weren't winning and I was just laughing my ass off.

Last ride I had not ridden was ET. I was shocked to see the
> queue line once we got inside the main line and being
> admitted as handicapped, we almost went to the wrong line
> as there was no one to direct us from the main crowd. Must
> be a great ride on a typical, busy hot Orlando day. This
> was another ride that I had seen the ads for when Universal
> opened, but I was shocked at what it really was. This time,
> my shock was favorable. I had expected to just hover over a
> screen ala Soaring, but the suspended dark ride vehicle was
> WAYYY better. I never liked the movie ET, but I would think
> this ride was probably as impressive back in the 1990’s
> as Harry Potter is today.

I LOVE ET!! I really liked the movie when I was little too. And when it is hot out that is the BEST ride to go on - so refreshing! Didn't you get a little sentimental when ET said "bye Paul"?

I wanted to give
> Harry Potter another try, but I did that walk from that
> area of the park to the trolley stop Wednesday night and
> had no desire to relive that with limited time (the
> trolleys stop running at 10:30 and I just made it from
> Hulk; let me tell you, I got nervous when I saw one pass as
> I was walking over the I-4 bridge and did not see another
> until 10:45).

With the condition of your feet? I have no idea how you even pulled off another day at a park. At least I had pain medication when my ankle was sprained.

> I wonder just how much Universal’s addition of HP has
> affected Disney’s gate. Disney will always be Disney, but
> I am quite impressed how well “#2” was able to do the
> entire area as well as the ride (and how people have just
> flocked to it like Mecca). I think the whole Avatar thing
> is a mistake that will blow up in Disney’s face much like
> Wayne’s World for Paramount. Nice movie, but it just has
> no staying power.

I agree. Don't get me wrong, the scenery in that movie was spectacular in 3D but the story line lacked originality and staying power. I just don't think it will draw the kind of crowds they are expecting. Now if anyone builds a Lord of the Rings ride the wait will be 1 million years! Those are some hardcore followers (like Potter)!

Jen

Re: Orlando Trip Thanksgiving Trip Report: Day 4 by alpengeistno3 at 12/10/11 10:04:42 PM

> I taped up my toes with the cotton balls I had bought from
> Walmart (I had a blister the size of Timbuktu on my big toe
> and a small one on my 2nd toe!)

> OUCH!!

Yeah, it stung. But a good coaster enthusiast never lets a little blister keep him from his duty of riding the hell out of coasters with no lines :)

> My friend had finally showed up and they wanted to go the
> Studios, so I left IOA to meet them. My friend was worst
> than I was for foot health and both her and her sister had
> got handicapped passes and wheelchairs for the day (both
> have foot problems to begin with.) They went to see Shrek
> while I was coming over from IOA (no loss for me there.) We
> then went to Rip, Ride, Rockit. They used their handicapped
> passes, so we skipped the 30 minute queue line. I was able
> to get 2 rides because her sister did a child swap with her
> husband and neither one of them wanted to ride again.

> Nice, using children and the handicapped to skip lines! I
> know, you were technically handicapped too with your toes
> falling off and everything!

Remember my report on RRR? I would not have minded NOT GOING for a second ride, but no one wanted to go with him, so I was volunteered. Interesting tidbit, I left out: When we reached the boarding station, the op asked if my friends would be okay to walk over to the loading side (there is a staircase behind the operator's panel that crosses the track). The reason was that they could only stop the continuously moving trains when the computer said it was okay and implied that it would be a long wait before they could do so. They agreed to walk over. Ironically, every time there was some kind of delay in loading the trains, they stopped the conveyor anyway -around 4 times the whole time I was there. So it seems to me, they could stop it if they wanted to, but didn't.

> We then went to Earthquake (now Disaster). I had seen all
> the ads on TV back when Earthquake was new, so needless to
> say, it was pretty disappointing to see it was pretty much
> the same set-up as Twister on a “train” (which was
> really just a stage with seats). The handicapped car was
> all the way at the back, away from the main action, so I
> felt like I missed most of the show (the flood water did
> come down right in front of us, but that was little
> consolation for missing all the explosions.) Glad I
> didn’t wait the 45 mins for it the last time I was there.
> By the way, the host didn’t like all my back talk about
> his cheesy effects during the preshow, so he cast me in the
> show as one of the evil dudes. Great!! (*dripping with
> sarcasm*). My friend got a kick out of that.

> LOL! That was one of those, "once you've seen it once,
> it's enough", attractions. I guess how people are
> describing Jaws. When did it change to Disaster? I think it
> was Earthquake the last time I went on it.

I have no idea when the switch was made. I didn't realize that is what I was in line for until we boarded the Subway train (it kind of slipped my mind that was at Universal Studios since I had ridden the knockoff Catastrophe Canyon at Disney MGM.

Since you have only ridden it as Earthquake, I guess I should explain more throughly: the preshow consisted of some great director who needed extras for his latest, greatest disaster movie. Kinda Nostramos in BGE's now gone Enchanted Laboratory, this lackey dude was charged with finding and setting up the extras. They did an elaborate 3D wall thing where the director (who was recorded) was talking with and interacting with various props in the room before we went to film the extra scenes in the next room (kinda how Poseidon's Fury is set up with the different rooms before you get to the big show room.) Once we filmed the scenes, we boarded the subway train and went through the main show. As the train was returning to the boarding station, they showed how the clips were edited into the movie. I'm sure there was an option to purchase the movie for those so inclined, but we did not bother to check that out, despite my "starring" role.

> Last ride I had not ridden was ET. I was shocked to see the
> queue line once we got inside the main line and being
> admitted as handicapped, we almost went to the wrong line
> as there was no one to direct us from the main crowd. Must
> be a great ride on a typical, busy hot Orlando day. This
> was another ride that I had seen the ads for when Universal
> opened, but I was shocked at what it really was. This time,
> my shock was favorable. I had expected to just hover over a
> screen ala Soaring, but the suspended dark ride vehicle was
> WAYYY better. I never liked the movie ET, but I would think
> this ride was probably as impressive back in the 1990’s
> as Harry Potter is today.

> I LOVE ET!! I really liked the movie when I was little too.
> And when it is hot out that is the BEST ride to go on - so
> refreshing! Didn't you get a little sentimental when ET
> said "bye Paul"?

I totally missed it. I take it that is what the "passports" were for? We did have a mishap where they mixed up the wheelchair I had to wheel my friend in and someones own rented wheelchair, so we had to walk back to the boarding area. Perhaps that's why I didn't see it (unless it was on the ride and I was not paying attention.)

> I wanted to give
> Harry Potter another try, but I did that walk from that
> area of the park to the trolley stop Wednesday night and
> had no desire to relive that with limited time (the
> trolleys stop running at 10:30 and I just made it from
> Hulk; let me tell you, I got nervous when I saw one pass as
> I was walking over the I-4 bridge and did not see another
> until 10:45).

> With the condition of your feet? I have no idea how you
> even pulled off another day at a park. At least I had pain
> medication when my ankle was sprained.

The cotton helped. Plus, hanging with my wheelchair bound friend, I did not take the parks at nearly the same breakneck pace as I would have on my own.

> I wonder just how much Universal’s addition of HP has
> affected Disney’s gate. Disney will always be Disney, but
> I am quite impressed how well “#2” was able to do the
> entire area as well as the ride (and how people have just
> flocked to it like Mecca). I think the whole Avatar thing
> is a mistake that will blow up in Disney’s face much like
> Wayne’s World for Paramount. Nice movie, but it just has
> no staying power.

> I agree. Don't get me wrong, the scenery in that movie was
> spectacular in 3D but the story line lacked originality and
> staying power. I just don't think it will draw the kind of
> crowds they are expecting. Now if anyone builds a Lord of
> the Rings ride the wait will be 1 million years! Those are
> some hardcore followers (like Potter)!

Jen, you are a genius!! It is amazing that no park has decided to take on and milk the Lord of the Ring franchise. I suppose the fact that Peter Jackson ran the movies through so quickly and the story is pretty much over (in Hollywood's eyes), it is now a lost opportunity. But I bet if Disney found a way to work that in, it would do a lot better than Avatar as those "One Ringers" are a rabid, loyal fan base.

Paul

Re: Orlando Trip Thanksgiving Trip Report: Day 4 by beastmaster beastmaster Profile at 12/10/11 11:00:57 PM

" Today, my friend and her family were to join me, but they were not getting up early enough to get there in time for the park’s 9:00 AM opening."

Some people, I tells ya...

Good job on the reports Paul.

Mike

Re: Orlando Trip Thanksgiving Trip Report: Day 4 by alpengeistno3 at 12/11/11 12:23:29 AM

> " Today, my friend and her family were to join me, but
> they were not getting up early enough to get there in time
> for the park’s 9:00 AM opening."

> Some people, I tells ya...

> Good job on the reports Paul.

> Mike

Thanks, Mike. Not only were they late, but they stopped by Starbucks and dined in. I really didn't plan to get as many rides on DD as I did, but they didn't even reach Universal until around 11:30. Glad I didn't ride with them!!

Paul

Re: Orlando Trip Thanksgiving Trip Report: Day 4 by alpengeistno3 at 12/11/11 12:23:30 AM

> " Today, my friend and her family were to join me, but
> they were not getting up early enough to get there in time
> for the park’s 9:00 AM opening."

> Some people, I tells ya...

> Good job on the reports Paul.

> Mike

Thanks, Mike. Not only were they late, but they stopped by Starbucks and dined in. I really didn't plan to get as many rides on DD as I did, but they didn't even reach Universal until around 11:30. Glad I didn't ride with them!!

Paul

Re: Orlando Trip Thanksgiving Trip Report: Day 4 by Cyclone_Phil Cyclone_Phil Profile at 12/11/11 1:07:47 AM

When it comes to amusement parks: those are the only thing I'm getting up at 7am for. All I ask is a lift to the park, drop me off and I'm ready for at least up to 4-5pm. Much as how I should be with family to do the rides, I can cover way more solo than with them. that plus how put off they are about rides like the Hulk, Dragons, RRR, almost anything that's a roller coaster.

I don't know if anyone has brought it up, but Shrek replaced an Alfred Hitchcock 'attraction'. Basically the theater is the same, but rather than entering the gift shop, there was a bunch of props from his movies. I miss that. Sure Shrek was fun, but I kinda liked the AH stuff. Museum quality type feel and now no more.. :(

Mummy: yeah the sarcophagus is hit or miss. Sometimes you do get to see the animatronic mummy pop out and wave some crystal thing at the bandaged up director or as you saw, the image projected on top of it. I give them kudos for having a back up option. Sure better than just a non functional Mummy. Not sure if Animal Kingdom would do that for the yeti at the end of the ride.

Lol, i hate being on stage, I usually just wait towards the back to avoid being called on for Disaster. Of course for me that means I miss out on seeing the truck crash and burst into flames. But with the ride being the same, my main incentive is seeing the poor grandpa/ma that gets "zapped". Now that was hilarious!

RRR, I see you had been stopped short. I think I got stopped about that same point in the ride as well. I dunno if having a 4-car train would be too much of a strain for the lift hill, but I feel that they should've just had longer trains with fewer block breaks. That ride is already average, but then you add the multiple blocks and the ride becomes 'tollerable'.

I'm sorta the competitive type for MIB. I always try to aim for as high a score as I can get. My average is usually around the 200-300k without the bonus [100k]. I know the other riders are not gonna be as good, and the average is not really all that accurate anyway. They used to have specific 'praise' like you did great and they showed the suit, you did good and they showed the 'coach' with the 'zig zag' comment. But now it's usually just the latter no matter how good you did.
However, there was this one kid that sat next to me got like 800k, that totally blew me away. It takes quite a bit to impress me on that ride, and that did it.

fantastic TR, Paul!
=
Jen, that is brilliant! Lord of the Rings is still my favorite trilogy [better than the original star wars and far better than the "prequelogy">. That plus the Hobbit being made as two movies will mean LOTR has a presence.
Avatar was a visually wonderful movie, but I don't know how well the next one or two movies will do. Once the whole hype is gone, it's just another movie. LOTR has had decades on Avatar.

* This Post Has Been Modified *

Re: Orlando Trip Thanksgiving Trip Report: Day 4 by RobLec RobLec Profile at 12/11/11 10:24:41 AM

Thanks for another great TR, Paul. It's amazing that you were able to run around and get as many re-rides as you did, especially with the condition of your feet.

I must say that last month, Universal really impressed us. Disney was good, and everything one expects from Disney... friendly and efficient. But at Universal everyone just went a little further... like what Avis used to use as the #2 car rental slogan, "we try harder".