What a Carry On! Part 9 – Monday 25th August 2008. Woken by the alarm at 6.00am, I stick the telly on to check the forecast. Should be ok, by all accounts, but they warn of another system building in the Atlantic somewhere below the horizon… hopefully we’ll be gone before it arrives in Orlando, if it does! I learn the ‘interesting’ fact that TS Fay was Number 9 in the All Time Top Ten of rainfall incidents – only one of the others was not a hurricane! The slow moving Fay dumped 24” (yep, that’s TWO FEET!) of rain on Florida last week! (The record, should you be interested, was twice that!) Anyway, apart from ‘normal’ thunderstorms and rain possible after 3pm, we should be hot and bothered by the sunshine today. I turn off, and we go down for breakfast about 6.30. Everyone else is up and around shortly afterwards, and we relax with a coffee outside, watching it come light. We’re off to Universal today, and, having booked two rooms at the Royal Pacific to ensure Front of Line access at the parks, we pack a couple of changes of clothes each to see us through until Tuesday afternoon. After showers and a quick tidy round, we leave at 8.00. It’s clear and warm already, with the promise of heat later as we head off down the I4 towards Orlando. The local ‘rush hour’ doesn’t slow us down much, and we are pulling into the lush entrance of the RPR at 8.35. The enthusiastic porters and valets try their best to spend our precious dollars by offering various assistances, but I firmly reject them, and assure them that we can carry our own small holdalls and, yes, I know where the self-parking is, thank you! They lose interest quickly thereafter, and I send the team off to check in while I park the car. Our rooms are already available; we are given 3346 and 3350 on this level in Tower 3. They are typical of the rooms we’ve seen here on previous visits: well appointed without being luxurious, and will serve nicely for one night (I must add here, though, that the thought of sharing a room like this with either or both of my kids for a week or more sends a shiver down my spine! How the heck do you do it?). We have already agreed to host the smelly one (Adam) while mum and dad will share with Bethany. Quick unpack and toilet visit and it’s time for the off. I’m hoping the parks are mega busy so I can be extra smug as I flash my FOTL pass at the standby crowds. We round up the other 3 from next door and walk out of the hotel at 9.10. The kids are moaning about taking the boat to Citywalk, but as there isn’t one in dock, and the stroll only takes about 5 minutes, I ignore them and hustle everyone onto the scenic, guest walkway. There’s a fairly basic security check at the entrance to Citywalk (the path leads to the side of Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville). The plan is to ‘do’ IOA first, so we turn left and join a modest throng waiting to enter. Our passes work ok and we are admitted quickly enough. I pop over to Guest Relations to pick up our tickets for the Blue Man show this evening. On with the fun. Thrills await the pleasure seekers: Amanda, Bethany & I leave the other 3 to their own devices while we stow our bags and hit Hulk three times in quick succession. I’m chuffed that there is already a 30 minute or so Standby line, and we (ok ‘I’) grin like a dervish as we pass the same people on our repeat rides! This is a highlight for us: one of the finest coaster experiences anywhere. Wonderful. Recovering our bags, we meet the parents and Adam returning from Spiderman. They are happy to ride once more, and we flash the cards to bypass the 20-minute queue. It’s getting on for 10.30 when we exit the ride and walk through this lively and noisy ‘island’ towards Toon Lagoon. Hot and sunny now, and getting more crowded. Adam only has one request in this park, and that’s’ our next stop: possibly the wettest wet ride you’ll ever do: Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges. In anticipation, I visit a nearby restroom and change into spare shorts and vest. Sadly, there’s next to no line, so I’m not able to gloat at anyone as we walk straight on. We are seated on a wheelchair accessible raft, without a central column to hide your feet under, which bothers Amanda and I not at all, as we are wearing sandals.. Adam on the other hand will be squelching round in soggy trainers for the rest of the day! A family of South Americans ride with us, and we all end up totally soaked! As we approach the rotating loading platform, there is no one waiting, and I ask if we can stay on; the CM takes a quick look at the entry ramp, sees no-one and waves us off again! We leave after round 2, wet in places that don’t normally see water in the bath, but happy! It’s hot, and I don’t bother to change, assuming that I’ll dry out eventually. My dad records our sogginess for posterity: It’s still not 11.00 as we carry on through to the next Island, Jurassic Park. I manage to persuade my parents and Beth to join Amanda and I on the River Adventure, but Adam doesn’t do big drops, so he waits for us. Our FOTL access sees us boarding without a wait, in front of perhaps a 10 minute standby queue. Everyone enjoys it, and we are only slightly splashed (irrelevant for my dear wife and I, but pleasing for the other three!). Mum and Dad thought it was excellent, but Beth concedes it is only ‘ok’ and wouldn’t do it again. We carry on round to Duelling Dragons. This area is suffering considerable disruption and confusion at the moment, due to the construction of a new land, themed on the Harry Potter stories, due to open in 2010. Only the three regular coaster fiends are riding here, and we leave Mum, Dad & Adam sitting in shade near the lockers. We walk straight on to the loading platform but, as we want our first ride to be front row, it takes a few minutes to climb aboard our Dragon – we choose Ice. We survive the front row on Ice – fabulous! – and then, second row on Fire: having read much about the supposed differences between the two, after many visits and sessions here, I have to honestly state that they are virtually the same ride when you’re dangling in the air, swooping downhill at 60 mph pulling 5 Gs! Recovering the reserve troops from their resting spot, we decide that it’s time for some food. The first couple of places we look at have very limited veggie options (chips or fries, essentially) and we eventually fetch up at Circus McGurkus to ‘feast’ on a basic range of burgers, spaghetti and salad. It’s ok, but only just. We leave to slightly duller conditions, and use our cards to access FOTL at the Cat In The Hat ride. Great fun! 12.30 now. We start hading out of the park but decide to slip back across to Marvel and do Storm Force Acceleratron – a T-cups variant, basically, but none the worse for that! My dad sits off, but the rest of us have a good laugh. We leave the park in sweltering heat at 12.45, crossing to Universal Studios. It’s busy, but we flash the plastic and walk on to Jimmy Neutron, bypassing a 20-minute standby line. This, and Shrek, were not open when my parents last came in 2003, and they think it’s great! Straight over to Shrek, and even with the FOTL this takes about 10 minutes to get inside. I think the ride is a little dated now, but it still makes me laugh! As we leave at 1.40 the temperature seems to have gone up even more, although there’s an ominous build up of cloud in the distance. Over to the Mummy next, with Dad and Adam electing to watch the bags while the rest of us ride… I reckon the new Simpson’s ride has affected the wait times here: two years ago it averaged an hour by midday, but is only showing 10 minutes now. Not that we are affected, of course…. 1.50 pm, and we can hear distant thunder as we exit. Walking on towards the Simpson’s attraction, we restroom at Amity and leave to discover the first, heavy raindrops. It’s so warm that Amanda and I don’t bother trying to cover up. We proceed over the bridge to the park’s latest headliner: The standby time is showing 30 minutes – we enter with our passes at 2.05 and are back out by 2.20. This is a worthy replacement for the old Back To The Future experience, although there are clear signs that much of the infrastructure and technology has been retained. Everyone enjoys it immensely. We continue round to Men In Black. This is a family favourite, and continues to stand the test of time, due to its interactive nature. After stowing our bags in the lockers, we ride three times in 20 minutes.. my scores, should anyone be interested, were 171,000, 129,000 and 159,000. The rain has stopped and the kids are demanding E-numbers, so we secure teeth-achingly coloured frozen drinks for them.. .. before walking round to Starbucks for more adult refreshment. This has had a complete revamp since my last visit. We take our coffees to the sidewalk chairs. It’s getting on for 4.00pm and we chat about the timings for the rest of our day. We reckon we can fit another couple of rides in before we finish, so it’s round to Jaws first. The UE passes prove essential here, as there’s a 30 minute standby line, but we are on our boat within 5! The guide is very enthusiastic, and the slightly updated ride is great fun! No one gets wet, to Beth’s relief and Adam’s disappointment! There’s only on way to finish off at Universal Studios – my dad’s favourite attraction, the E.T Adventure! Our passes ensure that we are only held for a few minutes outside and then it’s into the lobby, trying to think of a daft name for the Passport… Amanda and I settle for George & Mildred. There’s moderate confusion inside, with the UE line getting blocked by regular Standby-ers, but a grumpy CM soon sorts them out and we are fast-tracked to our family sized bicycle. We exit to hot sunshine, and, after a brief browse of the ET store, we leave the park. It’s time for an early dinner, at Pastamore (a safe bet for everyone) – we are admitted just as they open at 5.00pm and shown straight to a table… which proves to have a very loose top! We request a move and are accommodated without a problem. The server takes our drinks order (wine for Mum, Dad & Amanda, OJ’s for the kids and an AmberBock for me) and brings warm garlic bread rolls while we choose our food. Amanda & I select a spicy, seafood pasta, Mum, Dad & Adam play safe with lasagne, and Beth goes for a mozzarella salad. The food is pleasant enough when it arrives and we have no complaints. Desserts follow.The damage is about $200, including a tip. We leave at 6.15 and walk over to the boat dock: although it is fine, there’s a sign saying that the service is suspended “due to inclement weather” so we turn round and stroll back to the hotel along the resort walkway. (For anyone with moaning teens, I timed the journey, and it takes exactly 8 minutes!) We split off to our separate rooms and take showers before changing for the evening. I notice through the window that it has now (6.45) started to rain heavily. There’s a rather snazzy, Keurig, capsule coffee maker in the room, complete with take-out cups, so I make us both a coffee to take downstairs. We head down to the lounge at 7.00 to wait for Beth and my parents. The Orchid Court Lounge now boasts a smart, sushi bar at one end. The menu looks interesting, and it’s a shame we probably won’t have chance to try it on this visit. We leave the hotel at ten past seven, into a tropical downpour. There are no water taxis to be seen, so we huddle under brollies and head down to Citywalk. The Aquos Theatre is situated between the Hard Rock Café and Universal Studios. Given the weather, we head straight in and take our seats at the front of the auditorium, in the first block behind the splash zone, and to the right hand side. There’s plenty of activity, including cast members wandering around and draping paper ribbons over everyone.. they will glow in the dark, apparently. A couple of people we ‘know’ from various Disney forums are likely to be present tonight, and one, Darren (Bozza) spots us and pops over to say hello. He and his DD, Mads, and partner, Wendy, are seated a few rows behind us in the centre block. We had limited knowledge about this show, although a few online reviews had raised our expectations.. we are not disappointed! It is a glorious, noisy, humorous and talented performance by an outstanding company, and the time flies by! The only photo I managed to take, at the end of the performance, may give you some idea of the interactive elements! The white mass comprises several tonnes of paper that was dragged across the theatre by all of the guests! I won’t attempt to review it in detail, due to both the impossibility of that task and also because I would just wish you to see it yourselves! Go on, you know you want to! I spot Sue from the boards, seated with her group on the front, centre row, and after the show we make our way over to say hi! Sue doesn’t live far from us, and we’ve been threatening to meet for coffee for a couple or more years, but thus far we keep missing each other at the Trafford Centre! As the crowds leave we join a large group in the foyer who are having photos taken with the Blue Men. We say ta-ra to Sue for now, but arrange to meet later for a drink in the Hotel. After restrooming and final pics, we walk back to the resort (it’s still raining, but not as hard), arriving about 10.30. Mum, dad and Beth are all tired, and go to their room: Adam sits with us for a while and I order a round of drinks. Sue rolls up, accompanied by her sister, sis’s husband, and their elder son. (Younger DS has gone off to bed in a huff, as he’s not 21 and can’t have a drink!) We chat and drink: Sue’s rellys say goodnight after one round and leave the three of us nattering until after 1.00am. Another good day…. Mike & Amanda Tomorrow: more FOTL then back to the villa, before WISHES later.