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Mike’s 50th Trip to Siesta Key, Disney’s Boardwalk, Universal and New York, June 2014 - Part 11

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Mike, Jul 15, 2014.

  1. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    DAY 11

    Tuesday 17th June

    I stir a couple of times overnight but all in all not a bad sleep, and I awake at 4:50am, just before the alarm goes off at 5:00, when Amanda also rises. We breakfast on the last of our bagels and orange juice then go down to the Boardwalk for a last, short wander. Back in the room, we shower, and finish the last of our packing before leaving this lovely place at 6:30.

    It takes a bit longer to reach the Royal Pacific Resort than it should, even though the traffic is free moving, due to missing the turning and having to do a u turn further up the I4!

    We enter the car lot and self park at 7:10am. It is already hot and sunny. On arriving at reception we are delighted to discover that our room is available, number 1415, (tower 1, 4th floor, which is pretty close, as reception is on level 3) and go straight up for literally 30 seconds to dump the bags!

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    Back down to reception, we use the photo pass machines to generate our Express cards, and then leave the hotel by the man entrance to walk the short distance across to Citywalk and our chosen, first park, Islands. It is 7:45, warm and sunny.

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    The reason for such an early start is to take advantage of the residents' 8:00am entry perk for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so we can ride the Forbidden Journey attraction. There's a modest crowd waiting at the entrance and we join the line. Having seen quite a few people sporting convention style ID lanyards to hold their Express Passes, I buy a couple from a vendor at $5 each.

    The gates are opened at 7:50 and we walk quickly to the far side of the park where TWWOHP is located. This was in the early stages of construction when we last visited, in 2008, so I am looking forward to seeing the finished article.

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    It doesn't disappoint. The theming is convincing, and even though we are very definitely not HP fans, it still enchants.

    Some of the crowd splits off to the wand shop, but most head into the ride. Even after many years experience of Disney and Universal crowd management, I am staggered by the sheer length of the hidden line area for this attraction! It takes several minutes to pass through. The final wait for loading is about 10 minutes, although it usually reaches 2+ hours when the park is fully open.

    Well, we are very impressed by the ride. We had absolutely no idea what to expect, having done no research, but it is first class. The technology is advanced enough that it is difficult to work out exactly how some of the scenes are generated/built. I will refrain from a more detailed description to avoid plot spoiling for anyone else who has little idea what to expect.

    The only other attraction of interest here is the old Dueling Dragons, now re-themed as Dragon Challenge. We ride twice, the second time using our Express Pass access, as the ‘old’ return door onto the platforms (to avoid a lengthy re-entry walk) seems to have disappeared in the remodeling. My only grumble here is that although they are running both Dragons, they are not synced, so you miss the exciting near-miss experiences during the ride.

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    After a bit of a browse to admire the craftsmanship in this island, and to kill a few minutes while the rest of the park opens, we leave Potterland just after 9:00am. A virtual torrent of non-resident guests are now streaming in to the land, heading for the Forbidden Journey, where the stand-by time is already 50 minutes!

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    In conversation with a cast member near the new Hogwarts train-transfer to the new extension in Universal Studios, we learn that when WWOHP opened a few years ago, there was a 12 hour line just to get into the area, let alone ride the attractions!! He advises us quite seriously to avoid visiting the new section until it has been open a few months. (Editor’s note: the new area opens a week or two after our return, and although the early birds are reporting short waits at the very start of the day, using hotel guest early entry, the lines reach an unbelievable 6.75 hours on one day I mid July when I check some forum posts!!)

    We head back towards the park entrance, intending to start ticking off our favourite rides and coasters with Hulk, but on impulse we head into Cat In The Hat first.

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    There is no wait, (but we use our guest passes anyway!) and we enjoy this daft and timeless ride through Dr Seuss’s mind. It’s fun, but seems slower than I remember, with less spins and turns.. anyone else noticed this?

    We arrive at Hulk, stow our bags in the lockers and ride twice within 10 minutes. We witness the potentially scary sight (thankfully on the ride before ours) of a plus-sized lady being literally compressed into her seat by two CMs, who have to lean on her with all their combined weight to get the harness to click even once. The safety strap only just catches, and is stretched as tautly as a guitar string when the ride sets off. Personally there’s no way I would ride anything restrained in such a precarious fashion.

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    We recover our bags from the lockers (a repeated irritation today is the congestion around the locker stations, there is definitely room for improvement here, Universal) and continue down to Spiderman.

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    The crowds are building up, and the standby line has already grown to 25 minutes, but of course we waltz straight past the day visitors and are loading within a few minutes. And we are surprised and delighted – there has been a makeover here, with completely new graphics and CGI, and we didn’t know a thing about it! One of our all-time favourite attractions is now 100% better!! Brilliant! We leave the ride, buzzing, at 10:00am.

    Hot and sunny seems to be the order of the day. Although not stifling (the normal requirement for me to get wet) we decide to do the water rides next, to give ourselves chance to dry out. We make our way through Toon Lagoon to Popeye & Bluto first…

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    ..where, much to Amanda’s disgust, I bottle it and pull a poncho out! I therefore remain lovely and dry, but my lady gets a touch damp!

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  2. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    Dudley Do-Right next… I remain poncho’d!

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    And through Jurassic Park to the River Adventure…. Still poncho’d!

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    Amanda still soaked…

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    I know, I know! I’m a wimp. But I’m a very DRY wimp!

    Most of our boxes are ticked here at Islands now, and we’re starting to feel peckish even though it is only 11:00am. We leave the park and cross CityWalk to Universal Studios, collecting the essential image along the way (thank you, kind American lady)

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    It is now 11:15. We decide to get a ride or two under our belts before lunch and head to one of the nearest, Minion Mayhem. The standby wait time is posted as 75 minutes, and the UE line looks suspiciously long too. We join it anyway, and when we reach the first cast member, ask how long the UE wait is likely to be. He looks genuinely contrite as he informs us that it could be 30 minutes!!! What?? I’m mildly appalled! When questioned further he tells us that this will probably only get worse as the day progresses, so we decide to live with it. There’s not likely to be anything else with serious delays for UE today, so at least we can get this one wait out of the way while we’re still fresh.

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    The actual wait time turns out to be a more palatable 20 minutes, and we enjoy this latest remodelling of the old Jimmy Neutron ride. It’s fun, but not worth even close to an hour of our precious time here.

    We leave the ride at 11:45 and walk round the corner to Mel’s Drive-In for a simple lunch of burger & fries (me) and chicken sandwich & fries (Amanda), taking the meal-deal option by including two large lemonades. Preferring to be outside as much as humanly possible, we leave the crowded, air-conditioned interior and eat our food on the sunny terrace.

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    The nearby Transformer’s ride isn’t open yet, (puzzling) so we make for The Mummy next. Another round of mania at the locker station, then past the 75 minute SB line to experience a roughly 10 minute wait using our passes.

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    The time is coming up to 12:40. We recover our bags once more and start heading towards Men In Black. Lots of changes since our last trip, with the extension to Simpson Alley across the lake, but most dramatic of all is the replacement of Amity/Jaws with a London Street, part of the continuing Harry Potter development.

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  3. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    Another bag-stowing melee here, then into the ride. UE isn’t quite as delightful a perk as it used to be – clearly, more people are staying onsite, or buying daily passes, and the effectiveness is noticeably diminished. MIB used to be a complete walk-on with UE, but now each ride includes 5-10 minutes waiting. Not bad, compared to the 60 minutes SB at the moment, but it does make us reduce the number of repeat rides we do. We ride twice, with Amanda beating me both times! I blame the second failure on my ride neighbor, an 80 year old American lady (the whole family are separated by utilizing the Single Rider line. I have my suspicions that it’s because none of them wanted to ride with granny!) She hasn’t the faintest idea what the attraction is, what she’s supposed to do or how she’s supposed to do it, and questions me constantly, all the way through the ride experience!

    Continuing clockwise we walk over to Krustyland and UE our way into the Simpson’s Ride. I find the pre-show animated ‘posters’ a bit more entertaining than the actual ride if I’m totally honest, but it’s still fun.

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    After leaving the ride we walk with interest through the new alley, inspecting the different shops and stores from Springfield.

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    Ok, time for a couple of new (to us) attractions- first, Rip Ride Rock-it, which was only under construction when we last visited. I’ve heard mixed reports from both the web and friends, so not sure what to expect. It certainly looks the business!

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    We ride twice in quick succession, waiting less than 5 minutes each time, even though the standby line is very long. I love it! Definitely helped by the accompanying music track (you pick your own) but respectable regardless. The completely vertical climb is pleasantly un-nerving, followed by great dives and loops! Brilliant! Amanda did feel a bit chucked about though!

    2:30 now, and after a quick restroom stop we enter Transformers using our passes – the standby line is long and mostly outside in the heat. We aren’t fans of the Transformers franchise, and have never seen a film, nor do we know what the ride is….we discover that it is essentially Spidey with robots! Great effects and quite enjoyable overall! We leave the theatre at 3:00pm, and cross the park for an old favourite, E.T. Sadly it is closed due to technical problems. That’s a pity.

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    We continue round the park and have another go at MIB (better scores this time, no old ladies being present) and then anticlockwise to Disaster! Amanda has never been in this attraction, in any of its inceptions, and I’ve pretty well forgotten it.

    To be honest, I think I preferred the original version. Perhaps I’m just getting a bit weary, but the creative section before the subway train wreck just leaves me a bit cold.

    Right, it’s 4:20, and apart from ET there’s little left here that we feel we have to do, so decide to call it a day. We walk out of the park and cross CityWalk to our intended dining destination, Bubba Gumps.

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    As it’s early (4:40) we are seated immediately. We are Forrest Gump fans of longstanding, so this has been on our to-do list for several years. We order drinks – a large beer for me, and Sauv Blanc for Amanda….

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    … Bourbon Mahi Mahi for me…(blurry pic, apologies)

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    …and ‘After The Storm’ for Amanda – essentially a large bucket of seafood!

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    Both dishes are delicious! We decide to try and squeeze a dessert in. Amanda has (a slab of!) Key Lime

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    ..and I select ‘the Sampler’ (usually small portions of different desserts, yes? Nope. 3 full size desserts!)

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    I’m not complaining! I struggle happily through mine, and then, a major sacrifice, I finish Amanda’s too!
  4. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    The damage to our purse is probably less than the damage to our waistlines, at $87. We wobble out at 6:00pm and cross over to the Lone Palm Airport Bar opposite (and part of) Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. This is a favourite people-watching-after-the-parks spot for us. We take one of the last few tables and order two Margaritas.

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    We enjoy our drinks and watch the weary guests leaving Islands. I also use the free wifi to check in for our Delta flight to New York tomorrow. After another round of drinks, we pay the check and wander back slowly to the Royal Pacific.

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    I like to eat breakfast in the lovely central garden with its elephant fountains, but sadly we’ll be up too early tomorrow, so we have a sit now instead.

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    We’re too tired to party-on tonight, conscious of our early check-out, so head up to the room at 8:00pm. We shower and sort our bags for the flight, and then hit the sack at about 9:30.

    Goodnight folks.

    Mike & Amanda x

    TOMORROW – New York, New York!
  5. uscwest
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    uscwest Senior Cast Member

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    We've never been to Universal but it certainly sounds like the guest pass you got by staying at Royal Pacific was well worth it. That was on of the best set of pictures of Universal I have ever had the pleasure of seeing.
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  6. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    Thank you. To be honest, in most seasons, i wouldn't consider visiting Universal parks without the FOTL. Most of the lines were measured in hours rather than minutes, and you would probably struggle to get more than 3 or 4 decent attractions done in a single day, never mind doing both parks.
  7. BUTTERHEAD1
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    BUTTERHEAD1 Addicted to Mickey

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    We've been going to US/IOA in February for the last 3-4 years and outside of Harry Potter the ride times are pretty reasonable(30 minutes or less). Although it doesn't reach the magic of Disney we love Universal Studios. Another great trip report Mike. I am looking forward to report on New York City. As a lifelong resident of Manhattan I enjoy hearing reading visitors view on our magnificent city.
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  8. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    Thanks. :) I hope your expectations aren't too high for the NYC days... we've been twice before, and love it dearly, and have ticked most of our 'must-do's' off now. This, fairly short trip at the end of the Florida sections was different to our commando-style raids of the past, as we met up with our best friends (who visit NY every year, sometimes twice or more) and, I am ashamed to admit, spent an awful lot of time in bars!:wink: I only really accepted this when typing the first NYC day earlier (should have it up tonight or tomorrow) and started calculating the cocktails we consumed! Ah well! It is what it is! :) We do get lots more done on the subsequent days though, including the Highline, Central Park, Governor's Island, brooklyn Heights, DUMBO and more... Amanda and I want a full week next time, so we can get to some of the slightly more remote attractions and outer boroughs.
  9. BUTTERHEAD1
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    BUTTERHEAD1 Addicted to Mickey

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    I grew up a half a block away from the highline but back then (70's-80's)it was a rarely used freight railroad track. I think a train would come by once or twice a week.
    There is nothing wrong with spending some time in the local watering holes, God knows I have spent many a nights quenching the thirst. The funny thing about living in Manhattan is that you rarely visit the other boroughs. I've been to Staten Island 5-6 times, I've been to Florida many more times than there. I only really drive through Brooklyn, other than work I never go there. Other than Yankee games and the rare visit to the zoo I stay away from the Bronx unless I am working and now that I am retired I will almost never go there.
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  10. sarah
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    sarah Addicted to Mickey

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    I'm just loving reading your trip reports
    I am ashamed to say we queued for hp ride for 90 min !!!!
    We will definatly stay at one of the universal resorts next time as what you experienced with fp sounds great (although I am tied to school holidays)
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  11. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    Thanks Sarah. We've been in August and at Easter too, and they were very similar to this trip, certainly no busier. I think the Potter phenomenon has significantly increased the interest in Universal, and for me, UE or resident guest FOTL is the only way to go, unless you can get there out of season, which you've said you can't. It's a couple of hundred pounds for the room (but that is up to 4 people) so not much in the general scheme of things.
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  12. sarah
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    sarah Addicted to Mickey

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    That is not a bad price
    Definitely worth it
    Thanks
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