My wife and I have been to WDW and Busch Gardens in Tampa many times.
Shea had been to Universal several times and the Harry Potter park once last year shortly after it opened. I finally had the chance to do both Universal parks this last weekend(4/2-4/3) for our anniversary(3 day resident's pass). She warned me that I will probably agree with her that she wishes that HP had been done by Disney instead. I now agree.
I also agree that Universal is inferior to Disney on all counts.
- Even though we did research beforehand that said crowds would be "moderate", I found it above average, especially in HP. (We do not do WDW on busy dates). Lines to get into stores. Crowds inside the stores so thick it was impossible to move.
- At Hogsmead, we ate supper. Although we could see our plates cooling on the shelf behind the no less than eight people standing around doing nothing, we had to wait about four minutes to get it. The customer in front of me was immobile waiting for something the whole time.
- At the other end of Hogsmead at the bar, the line was interminable long(all the way out on the patio) and interminably slow with only two bartenders. We would have enjoyed a late afternoon brew, but gave up after standing in the sun going nowhere. We got a beer on the way out in Citywalk. (We also planned to eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., but after being told the wait was 45 minutes, we decided we had waited enough for one day and stopped at Taco Bell before our ride home.)
- The line going into Hogwarts Castle was long, mostly out in the sun and actually wound out into a back paved area behind the castle between two sun soaked walls and temporary fence walls sloppily placed. Once inside the castle, it was entertaining enough to be enjoyable.
- The hanging plants in the greenhouse were sadly untended with brown dead leaves on almost every one.
The Dragon Challenge coaster: I went to the gate where there were two of the staff. They explained that the gate was not being used, but that I had to go in the exit path. A sign indicating this, and other important things, like "This ride is broken" would make it unnecessary for the staff to repeat this hundreds of times. As I walked up that exit path, against the flow of exiting riders, (I passed a mystery line of people that doubled a couple times with guide ropes, that seemingly went nowhere and wasn't moving, reminding me of a level in Dante's inferno where errant theme park visitors are sent for not turning off their cell phones.) I continued on, not sure where I was going until a staff member guided me and others to pass though and across the exiting crowd and up another path.
- Simpson's ride: Another ride where Disney style logistics would help. Long lines are boring. It's easy to put up something to entertain the people while in line. A collection of Simpson video clips would be better than nothing. One of the rooms where we were waiting for several minutes had alternating video screens around the room that did cute things, but they were short and had long interminable pauses between them. Then once we were in the simulator, there was a short intro followed by an endlessly repeating animated dancing Krusty and a monkey before the ride started.
- Spiderman: In the large anteroom was a video that was probably supplying some back story. The large room's poor acoustics and sever hundred chattering guests made it impossible to understand any of it. Subtitles on the screen(like they did on the screens further inside) would have helped.
- About seven rides were down with technical difficulties
- Charging extra for Express passes(Busch does this too). Disney uses the Fastpass system that we prefer. We used the Express pass on Saturday and it helped at some rides, but not all. On some of them it didn't seem to make that much of a difference.
- Bottlenecks. On one of the rides, all riders exited by one stairwell. The booth to see and order your ride photos were right at the bottom of the stairs and it was difficult to pass by it. The lockers were in cramped spaces with too few terminals. Many of the lockers were full and attendants had to fix them constantly. I'm leaving my good camera and camera bag behind next time.
- Overall confusion and seemingly random arbitrary routing of people in different ways, confused employees giving incorrect information. Staff and cast members out of uniform. Crowd management, landscaping, facility management, giant cockroaches crawling out of cracks in the restrooms . . .
- There is now a non riding Hogwarts tour that allows you to bypass the line, keep your bags with you, travel at your own pace to see all the interior scenery, animated portraits, etc.
I thought that overall value per dollar was better at WDW, and I hate to say it, but if HP and the Univ. parks are such a popular success, maybe they should raise their rates to make the crowds smaller and give them more money for maintenance and upgrading.
I think we'll go back in sweltering August for our 3rd day and hope the crowds are smaller.
I think that Universal staff should go spend some time at WDW for research.