Orlando TR WK1 - read it and weep!
Well, there's good news and there's bad news. Bad news is we only made it to two parks last week. Unfortunately I got real sick on the drive down... stopped into an urgent care center in GA, by Wednesday felt up to a trip to AK, but still felt terrible.
This was our oldest son's first visit to AK, and he really liked Everest, where we started our day and ended it as well. Also really liked Lion King (one of the best shows anywhere IMO). The nature attractions went okay as lines were tolerable.
From the bridge to Africa we could see new construction off to the left, which I assume will be the Avatar/Pandora attraction. From what I've read, word is that James Cameron has been "difficult to work with" (DUH!).
Thursday I sought out another Dr who changed my med... still not sure how well this will work. Friday we went to DHS mainly to see the Osborne lights again. There's a rumor that the light show will be moved for next season. Crowds were surprisingly heavy, so had a long wait for TOT and skipped RNRC and most of the shows entirely.
We did do Jack Sparrow, which I think is the only new addition since our last visit two years ago. Basically it's a hologram of Johnny Depp, sort of like the Walken character at USF's Disaster (formerly Earthquake). Others we spoke with agreed our "that's it?" reaction, as everyone thought the hologram was just the pre-show, and honestly thought we would then move on the the "real" attraction, rather than the exit.
Over the weekend we drove over to Clearwater to visit my M-I-L, went to the beach just to get our feet in the sand (the gulf is always too cold at this time of year). We're back in Kissimmee now and plan to visit USF and MK this week. We're trying to take it easy and relax, rather than fight crowds to be the first ones in the parks. This is after all a vacation, and I was sure to add the no-expire option to our tickets, as we will be back in years to come, and pretty sure that WDW will still be here.
And so we get to the good news. While most of the rest of the country is suffering extremely cold weather and heavy snow from winter storms Cleon and Deon, central Florida in the midst of a tropical heat wave. Orlando has been having near record high temperatures. They say they haven't had a December like this since sometime in the 1990's. Typical highs have been 85 degrees with no rain whatsoever. Honestly, we did not plan it this way, but no one is complaining.
"Wish you were here"!
The construction you saw at Animal Kingdom is not for Pandora. It is for the relocated Festival of the Lion King that will open next summer. Rumor is, the current show will close in january to allow for Avatarland construction.
Yesterday we hit Universal, arriving around eleven. Though we have done Orlando previously in Novembers, this is the first time we've seen Universal decorated for the holidays. Their decorations are nowhere near as lavish as is Disney... giant Macy's stars and their elf/jester/nutcrackers figures here and there, with Mannheim Steamroller playing everywhere, but little or no holly or twinkling lights to be seen.
The walkways appeared crowded, but rides and attractions were very light, with posted wait times at 10 minutes for most. Rides were walk-ons for the most part. Our only waits were either just the pre-show or a couple train loads for Mummy and Simpsons.
We could see new construction nearing completion at the far end where JAWS was formerly. Another guest told us it is a Harry Potter expansion, which will be Diagon Alley with a scenic train ride that will somehow interface with HP in IOA.
We all agreed that Transformers was just okay. Later in the day we rode Spidey again just to compare. T2/3D was only about a third full... still a good show, but I think we've seen too many great IMAX 3D movies in recent years, so this show is not as impressive as it was fifteen years ago.
We hopped over to IOA around 2PM. Here again, the walkways were crowded, but posted wait times only 5-10 minutes. Seussville was just awesomely decorated. Colors everywhere, with Who-ville characters interacting with the crowd. We just had to do Cat in the Hat as this has previously always been to crowded.
From there we did the Sinbad show, then Dragon Challenge. Zero wait for Fire Dragon; near empty trains with riders only in the first and last rows. Still a great ride, but as with many of the other attractions here, the walk thru the queue seems endless when it's nearly empty.
Next we did HP, which seems to be slightly improved since we last rode it two years ago (though we could not put our finger on just what it was). A quick walk thru Jurassic Park (I love the ambiance) and Toon Lagoon to ride Spiderman. We agreed that this is indeed still better than Transformers, having more actual props and feeling a bit more of a cozy and "up close and personal" experience. Stan Lee now makes two cameo appearances, which none of us could recall having ever noticed before. Finally we ended the night with two rides on Hulk... a bit rough but still tolerable, and still a great coaster.
Today we head over to Magic Kingdom.
Still, by using timing and only one fastpass, we were able to get into most attractions in twenty minutes or so. We even did a couple we'd never done before - the paddleboat excursion and the Hall of Presidents. Unfortunately BTMR was over an hour all day, and we did POTC twice, not by choice, but because we were blocked in by the parade.
Voyage of the Little Mermaid was new to us since our last visit and is very well done. This movie has always been a family favorite. Disney is building a new mountain in the middle of the new Fantasyland and the fencing made navigating the park that much more difficult.
We managed to get "stuck" mid-ride on just about everything we rode other than Space Mountain (which went well BTW)... stuck in that the transport stopped for several minutes one of more times while on board. I assumed it was for boarding a handicapped guest, but seemed too long for that.
We ended the day on Splash Mountain, which stalled just before the disembark platform... but fortunately we were able to watch the fireworks from where our boat had stopped. The longest wait of the day was getting out of the park. It took a full 90 minutes (yes, an hour and a half) to get back to our car.
We all agreed among ourselves that we prefer Universal, not only as having more fun attractions, but generally we have had better crowd experiences there than at Disney. On our visits to Disney we have found the park more and more crowded every year, with fewer and fewer English speaking people and generally more rudeness exhibited by the guests. Eating establishments and park associates seemed the be overwhelmed. Having worked in a park myself I know there are days when, even though you are expected to smile and look happy, all you can think about is, when will this ever end?
By Wednesday night the long promised cool front finally moved in, ending the near record streak of 85 degree weather. With the approach of winter storm Electra possibly affecting the drive home, we decided to leave a day early. BTW, thanks Absimilliard for the info on Avatarland.
RNRC should have a single rider line. That could've helped cut down the waiting time for that. TOT, that you definitely need the fast pass for.
MK, yeah that new mountain will likely be the 7 dwarfs mine train coaster. I can't wait to ride that. I don't think I've been back to MK since they started the new fantasy land expansion. Now i have a reason to spend at least half a day there than typically a few hours just for the big 3 mountain rides.
POTC was a big let down. After all the hype from the movies, I'd figure they'd incorporate more of the movies into the ride than just a projection of the main bad guy from the 2nd and 3rd film and a few jack sparrow figures. The ride is basically the same boring self it was years before. Ideally they could've had the kraken attack the pearl and the fights b/w the pearl and the flying dutchman. That would've incorporated the movie much better for the ride and been a real fresh update. I just think they dropped the ball and figured a few changes would be enough.
omg, I hear you on the long waits to get out of the park. I always take the monorail and it's worse than my morning commutes in nyc. By rudeness, is it because they don't understand you or they are just plain rude and don't give a damn? Shame to hear about that, but yeah Everyone knows of Disney world. Universal is still more 'usa'.
Agreed totally about spiderman over transformers. Stan's cameos are the truck driver and i forgot the other one, but somewhere towards the end on the streets. I can't wait to see how the HP train ride will work and if it's gonna be like you need to show your ticket is good for both parks or if they intend to make both parks one large park and the train being the shuttle b/w them both.
* This post was modified at 12/13/13 4:21:15 PM *
I liked POTC as it was. Adding Jack Sparrow did nothing for me, though I'm not the one they're catering to... namely, kids who grew up on those movies. In that regard, they probably hit an appropriate balance between those who expected more and those who feared they would ruin the ride.
Stan Lee's second appearance is as a pedestrian or bystander who covers his face with his forearms near the end to avoid injury when the SCOOP nearly collides. Spidey's graphics seem much clearer and more brilliant than they used to be. They probably upgraded everything about the optics when they were working on the Xformers attraction. We like Spidey because of all the physical props and smaller venue, where the Xformers ride just seems like one cartoon after another.
When I mentioned rudeness it wasn't overt maliciousness or shoving or anything like that. Just stuff like using cameras or Ipads during shows, flash photography where they say "absoluto prohibito" (how can you misunderstand that?) but mainly talking, and talking loudly during presentations and such. Just seems rude to me. It's like a lack of common courtesy.
Until they build a Disney Rio or something like that, there will probably always be large groups of Latinos celebrating Christmas here. I know WDW is well known the world over, but the number of Spanish speaking guests far outnumber any other ethnic group. Perhaps it's a cultural thing, and I admit to a certain ethnocentric bias which is hopefully short of outright bigotry, but at times I felt I was in the midst of a soccer mob.
In the past we've always left Orlando with more fond memories of USF than of WDW, yet we keep going back. There is an undeniable charm to the place, and I'm a stockholder for Pete's sake. Yet I often myself enduring Disney more than enjoying it.
Ah yes [on Spiderman and the stan lee sightings, I keep forgetting where exactly. But yup, sounds about right. I always look for the ironman easter eggs :) Also agreed that another thing why I like SM over TF is because of the additional 'props' and effects. I love the flame shooting out from when hobgoblin's bomb hits a building and the levitation ray lifting up a box to liberty's head. I dunno if the water effects were improved over the years, but now i can feel it when hydroman attacks.
Ah, thanks for clarifying about the DW and 'rude' folks. Yeah I like taking pics, but not like all these 'selfies' where everyone has to stop and get a photo of themselves in the park. "You don't need to stop every 2 feet or something." One of the reasons i hate the cellphone cams. everyone's busy clicking a pic and then sending it to their friends and family. I'm not old, but I still prefer the actual cameras and get decent quality images over some cellphone cams. Also agreed that it would be nice if people wouldn't keep talking all the time and interupting. Once in a while fine, but not when it goes on for the whole duartion of the ride/show.
I share your sentiments on USF vs DW. For some reason, I've always enjoyed myself a lot more at US/IOA than I do Disney. And it's not just because they have rides that I like. I mean there everyone is having fun and everything [plus most of the folks are older anyway, teens/20s etc.], but DW, there's always some group of teens that are giving an attitude or something. One time when going down the fast pass line at Space Mountain the folks on the regular line were sorta heckling at us either mockingly or because it's venting at us since we didn't have to wait on line as long as they did. Same thing for ToT at DHS. I dunno, for the 'happiest place on earth' there were some folks that had to ruin the experience... But maybe that's just me focusing too much on the negatives [but I don't think i've seen people give an attitude at others at other theme/amusement parks if someone has some express pass]. For the most part I have enjoyed my stays at DW, but it's always the negative stuff that sticks out more.
* This post was modified at 12/16/13 12:34:54 AM *
I am interested to get back to Spidey since you said it's been revamped a bit! I love that ride. Also, I HEAR you LOUD AND CLEAR about the guests at Disney. When I was last there, in 2010, I was constantly bombarded by arabic families. The let their kids run wild when really, it was just uncalled for and bad parenting. Unfortunately Disney to me, is ALWAYS crowded, and it takes a certain level of tolerance or blindness to not have any issues or quirks with people getting in the way, or being a little rude and what not. So I usually turn my awareness up knowing going into a trip to Disney that random people are going to push my buttons, and I have to focus on having a good time.
It shouldn't be that way, but with the sheer amount of people who visit the park, it's going to happen.
Thanks for highlighting what you enjoyed! I need to go back. I need to check out the Little Mermaid ride AND transformers. Maybe one of these years I will be able to visit during the winter. Must have been nice to avoid the cold for a bit!
157 Coasters -- Favorite Coaster -- Nitro (SFGAdv)
117 Steel -- 40 Wood -- Home Park: SFGADv
Magic Kingdom is seeing big crowds, but in between the fact that capacity at the park hasn't really grown in 20+ years and that the fast pass put a lot more people into the paths, the park is barely liveable when crowds are light and insane when it is crowded. Less americans are visiting due to the insane prices, so they are instead tapping heavily into the british and latin america markets. Since many of them are "first timers", they figure that keeping stale and expensive will fly, since they don't know any better.
Maintenance wise, things are also pretty rough. Big Thunder Mountain was supposed to get new trains and new track a 2 years ago, but the project was cancelled at the last second because the park VP wanted his ride back for the holidays. So, they found more issues than expecting when rebuilding the station and the track itself? Spot repairs without a single new track piece in sight. He also pulled the same stunt for Space Mountain. They even went as far as painting the cut marks on the ride supports, but the same VP struck again and cancelled the new track and trains. Instead, spot repairs and two new track section that were that bad. Space Mountain is now so bad they installed magnetic brakes to trim it a lot before the big drop and ending helix so the structure can last a little longer.
Little Mermaid was a total flop in California and it never see more than 5-10 minutes wait there. Disneyland themself admitted they missed the mark and will go back for the second time to fix the issues. Meanwhile at WDW, Magic Kingdom is so lacking in attractions and Fast Pass mean it has a minimal 60-90 minutes wait all the time!
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will be nothing more than a Vekoma Roller Skater with slightly swinging cars and a small dark ride section. It is also the slowest building roller coaster ever, taking over 3 years to build!
Little Mermaid seems a lot like it's the new Small World. The animatronics are very good, but we got stuck for about ten minutes at the last scene, and I had the music stuck in my head for days afterwards. The movie has always been special to us, as it was our oldest son's first in-theater movie experience when he was a toddler.
It occurred to me that there needs to be another Magic Kingdom next door to the current one, then crowds would probably be about right LOL. It isn't really one ethnic group or another. We've encountered clueless white chics and black/Af/Am's being rude, and I'e sure I've done things that others considered rude as well. As I tell my kids, the world is full of Aholes, and sometimes I am one of them.
Oftentimes it's just the perception of demographics. For a long time it seemed that the worst drivers always seemed to drive Toyotas, but I just dismiss that as probably being due to there's a lot of Toyotas on the road. More people of one group means its more likely some of them will stick out as being offensive. Probably all very nice people if we were in a different setting.
Thanks for reading my thoughts on our experiences there. I am never happy with what I write, but just throw something together and try to avoid going back and changing what I've said, even correcting typos. And I hope everyone enjoys your holidays!
It is also the slowest building roller coaster ever, taking over 3 years to build!
(*COUGH*) Flying Turns! (*COUGH*)
Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist...
Another interesting tidbit about maintenance and Walt Disney Imagineering at WDW. You know the Yeti that was the focal point of all the publicity about Expedition Everest? That poor thing hasn't worked in 5+ years and is now just a static figure hanging over the track and like in the Dark Knight Coaster that some here love to make fun about... the "big effect" is having a strobe in the dark room to give the illusion anything is happening! The Yeti wasn't installed correctly and estimates are that it would require closing the mountain for months to fix her. Since Expedition Everest is the only reason for 90% of people to go to Animal Kingdom in the first place, it won't get fixed until Avatar open I think.
WDI (Walt Disney Imagineering) are the champions of wasting money. To put this in perspective: New Fantasyland with a relocated Dumbo, a second Dumbo and new waiting line. A new restaurant. A new indoor food counter. A omnimover dark ride. A family coaster in a small hill and the two new meet n greet experiences cost over 400 millions and took over 3 years to build. Meanwhile, Universal can build the first phase of Harry Potter for 200 millions.
As I explained to our son (who had the same "first ride no see" experience) they built the Yeti, then built a coaster around it, then built a mountain around that. I can't imagine anything taking months to fix... well, except maybe healthcare.gov
That is disappointing to hear the yeti still doesn't work and to take months of shut down to get it working? What a waste of money. Disney doesn't seem to be investing their money wisely if all that is true. Then again they've turned their marvel shows (live action to cartoons) to crap, so it doesn't seem to be an isolated case.
* This post was modified at 12/17/13 11:50:13 AM *