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Trip Report +video - A first-time visitor to Orlando


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Okay, so a couple of weeks ago I came back from my first-time visit to Orlando, and my first US trip since 2008. As I’m starting to recover from the post-Disney depression, I figured it was time to start writing a trip report.

 

Here is the list of parks and attractions we did the trip:

09/13 - Arrival

09/14 - Disney’s Hollywood Studios

09/15 - Universal Studios

09/16 - Aquatica

09/17 - Busch Gardens Africa

09/18 - Magic Kingdom

09/19 - Kennedy Space Center

09/20 - Fun Spot

09/21 - Discovery Cove

09/22 - Disney’s Animal Kingdom

09/23 - Islands of Adventure

09/24 - EPCOT

09/25 - Sea World and flight home in the evening

 

Post updated with full video list:

 

 

I brought my videocamera with me on the trip. Some of the days I have limited or no footage from, so I might not cover all the parks in this trip report. But I have finished up my Disney videos so even though the four Disney parks were spread throughout the trip, I will start by covering these parks. Videos from Busch Gardens/Universal/SeaWorld will not be anytime in the near future, so I will probably cover these parks later when I get to that stage.

 

Anyway, to get off to a flying start, here is my compilation video from all four Disney parks.

 

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Okay, a little back story required first. Before going I did not really know a lot about the Frozen movie. I had heard about it and I knew it had become a big thing, and also that it was giving Norway additional international attention. So since I was on my way to Disney, I figured it would be a perfect movie to watch on the plane so I did. Ended up really liking the movie and its soundtrack, and boy did it set me up for the next day...

 

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

 

First park of the trip and boy did we have a fun day. We arrived at the park a little before 11 am if my memory serves me right. Already at the gate was plenty of advertising for “Frozen summer fun”, and we entered the park with just a couple of minutes to spare before the “Frozen” parade. I thought it was fun, we didn’t watch the stageshow as we were not quite in the Frozen mood yet. That would change in the evening though...

 

I can’t remember the order of the rides we did, so I will just list them here together with my comments as they spring to mind:

 

Star Tours: It’s always fun going into a ride knowing next to nothing about it. I was pleasently surprised by this ride, very fun and the effects worked really well.

 

Rock’n Rollercoaster: First rollercoaster of the trip and it was a pretty good one. The launch and first inversions had some good forces. Layout is a bit repitive with the constant turning, but it’s limited what you can do in such a small space. We rode a total of 3 times, twice in the back and once in the front. I preferred the front seat as it was smoother, but I would not call the backseat rough.

 

Tower of Terror: My expectations were high for this ride, but unfortunately the ride did not quite live up to it. The theming was top notch, but the drop sequence just seemed a bit weak to me. Maybe my expectations for thrills were a bit high considering we were in a Disney park. Still I enjoyed the ride and thought it was fun, but I couldn’t help feel a bit letdown after riding. This ride also had the longest wait later in the day, with 80 minutes posted on the sign. Due to this we only rode once.

 

Lights, Motors, Action: This was a pretty cool stunt show and it was nice to spend some time in the shade. And as if the Orlando heat wasn’t hot enough, you really felt the heat of the blast at the end.

 

Backlot Tour: I have no problems understanding why this ride is now closed. The canyon scene was pretty cool, but other than that it doesn’t really offer much. Looking at movie props from a tram isn’t really that exciting.

 

 

With a couple of hours to spare until the fireworks and long lines, we felt done with riding so we headed towards the stage area to find something to occupy us while waiting. When we arrived at the stage, they had started the “Coolest summer ever dance party” with DJ Chill. There wasn’t a whole lot of people there, but the kids seemed to be having fun dancing with the Disney characters. After a little while the band “Icemen of the North” came on stage. They did an okay job, though the crowd at the stage was still quite small so it didn’t quite live up to a party atmosphere.

 

 

BUT....

 

As darkness fell on the park and DJ Chill hit the stage again, the crowd rapidly increased in size and the atmosphere quickly lifted. The Disney characters came back dancing in the crowd. Maybe it was because I did not know about this before going, but the dance party was so much fun. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, kids, adults and seniors alike. I was having a total blast.

 

Here’s my video from the dance party with DJ Chill.

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Then it was time for the highlight of the day, Frozen fireworks!!! My opinion is probably influenced by this being the very first day in a Disney park, but this ended up being my personal highlight of the trip. The fireworks were amazing and I enjoyed the stageshow as well. Of course with me becoming an instant Frozen fan, it was truly spectacular with the fireworks synced with the music from the movie!

 

Here is my video of the full fireworks show + parts of the stage show.

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Overall we had a great first day with an amazing ending! I was sad to leave the park, but at the same time I could barely stop smiling as I went to bed with what can probably only be described as a massive crush on Queen Elsa....

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Magic Kingdom

 

We had selected to visit Magic Kingdom on a Thursday, as the park was open late and we wanted to go on a day with fireworks. Due to some other errands earlier in the day, we arrived at the park around 3:30 - 4:00 PM. We were all hungry so we decided to start our day at MK with dinner. This we had at “The Crystal Palace”, which was really nice. The buffet food was excellent, and it was great fun with Winnie the Pooh and his friends wandering around the restaurant.

 

We wandered around the park in a clockwise direction. We skipped past Splash Mountain as it had about an hour queue, and went for a ride on Big Thunder Mountain. I think we waited for about half an hour to ride. Overall I really liked this classic ride, it was great fun, a couple of surprising pops of airtime and laterals, the ride was comfortable and the theming was great.

 

Here is my onride video taken from the backseat (with permission):

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Next ride on our schedule was Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Being a brand new ride, I was quite excited about this. My impression after riding is that this ride is pure quality. I loved the theming in the queue line, and the interactive elements were really cool. I hope this is something we will see more of in the future. As for the ride itself, the coaster parts were better than I had thought. We rode it the backseat, which was very fun going down the “big” drops. Also after the second lifthill there was a blinding light in our face going down the drop, which made it even more fun as we could not see where we were going. The indoor part was also really good, but I do wish it could have been a bit longer. Still I was very impressed by this ride. Our wait time for this was about 45 minutes.

 

After that we headed off to Space Mountain, which had about a 30 min wait. There were some thunder and lightning in the sky, so it was perfect for an indoor ride. This was another very fun ride. I was also very surprised by the length of this ride. Everytime I was expecting the ride to end, there was another drop or turn.

 

When we had finished our ride, the rain was pouring down outside. After waiting a bit in the store we decided to bring out our jackets and head towards the castle. We arrived to see the last few minutes of the projection show, which was quite spectacular. The rain had eased up a little, but still it was raining pretty good and we were rather wet. It was nice and warm though, so nothing to worry about there. Unfortunately a few minutes before the fireworks were scheduled to start, it was announced that it was delayed due to weather. We killed the time in the stores on Main Street, which became very cold due to the aircondition and us being wet.

 

I can’t remember how long the delay was, but it must have been in the 30-45 min range. But once it was announced that the fireworks were going to start in a few minutes, we ran outside and took our positions on Main Street. I had seen videos of the full Wishes fireworks show, but it was still a magical thing to observe in real life. Some of the explosions were absolutely gigantic and you could really feel it even from far away. Overall I loved the show, and while it didn’t have any surprises in store for me, the Wow- factor was really there.

 

Here is my video of the Wishes fireworks:

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Overall it was a good half-day at Magic Kingdom. I wish I could have spent a full day there, but we got on the main rides, we got to see the fireworks and the rain didn’t stop us from anything so we all left the park happy.

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As always clips from all four Disney parks are featuered in the compilation video in the first post.

 

 

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

 

The third Disney park on our trip was Animal Kingdom. This was also the closest one, being only a 5 minutes drive from our rental apartment. We got there about half an hour after opening and with the parking lot being only a third-full it was a good sign of how our day would be. No queues to get into the park either. Once inside the park there’s one thing that stands out... this park is GREEN! You really feel immediately cut off from the outside world. Of all the Disney parks in Orlando, this might be my favorite, and the scenery played a large part of it.

 

We headed off to Expedition Everest quite early. It has quite an imposing look with the large mountain looming over the park. The queue line was beatifully themed, and it was great fun throwing coins and trying to hit into the cups (which I failed repeatedly on). Unfortunately the ride broke down while we were waiting, so we had to return later in the day to ride...

 

With Expedition Everest down, we decided to head towards Harambe Theater to watch the Festival of the Lion King show, since we had chosen to get FP for it. This definately seemed like a right decision, as it was pretty full when the show started. Overall it was a great show, with all the famous music and impressive artistry on center stage. This was probably my favorite show of the trip.

 

Here is my video of the highlights from the show.

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After the show we were getting hungry, so we decided to have dinner at Yak & Yeti Restaurant. Quite anonymous from the outside, I was really impressed by the size and beatiful theming of the place once inside. As always with Disney, service was impeccable and the food was absolutely fantastic. All four of us had different meals, and none of us had anything bad to say about the food. One of the best meals of the entire trip.

 

After eating we headed back to Expedition Everest, which was now open again.The line was not very long and moved quite quickly. We rode in the backseat for all of our rides, which proved to be great fun. I ended up really liking this ride, it is smooth, has some decent forces and is surprisingly fast. Easily the best of the Disney coasters in Orlando.

 

We did the Kilimanjaro Safari, which was also really good. A nice, long safari trip, with lots of animals and the driver was also pretty entertaining.

 

The only part of Animal Kingdom that I did not like was DinoLand U.S.A. I understand what they were attempting with making it look like a parking-lot fair, but it just doesn’t fit in at all in this park and was a rather big letdown. It might have been different had it been in a small park, but here its just feels completely out of place. We went on the right side of Primeval Whirl, which was a complete walk-on. Unfortunately the ride was heavily braked, so the excitement factor was low.

 

Towards the end of the day it started raining, so all rides closed down an hour before park closure. Still there were plenty of things to do in the park, with lots of animals to look at. Overall we left the park in a good mood, despite one poor area it was a really good park and it will be very exciting to see what it will be like when the new Avatarland opens in 2017.

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EPCOT

 

The last of the Disney parks on the trip. Started the day by parking at what can only be described as very close to the front gate by Disney standards. This is always a good sign, off-season is awesome! Once inside it doesn’t take long to get a feel of how freakin huge this park is. Surely this must be one of the largest parks in the world??

 

We started by getting a ride on Spaceship Earth, which was probably a bad idea as it had about half an hour queue. I quite liked the ride, but starting with the ride closest to the entrance is never a clever move when it comes to queues. The moviemaking part at the end was pretty funny.

 

Continuing on we headed to Test Track. It had about an hour wait, so we went for the single rider line, which put us on the ride in less than 10 minutes. Overall a very fun ride, but having seen videos of the old theming I have to say that the old version looked alot better. After test track we took a spin on The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Pretty fun ride, and the special effects at the end with the Nemo characters looking like they were in the actual aquarium was a really cool effect. After that we skipped Soarin due to another hour-long wait and headed to Illuminations, which was also pretty fun and the song is guaranteed to get stuck in your head.

 

As we started to get hungry, we headed towards World Showcase. Walking in a counter-clockwise direction. After walking through the shops in Canada and United Kingdom, we decided to eat at Les Chefs de France in.... France! Good food and excellent service, which we had become used to when eating at Disney.

 

Walking through the other pavilions was enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed watching the opening of oysters inside one of the shops in Japan, that was highly entertaining thanks to the wonderful cast member behind the counter. Stopping for a beer in Germany is also a must, the Altermünster Oktoberfest beer was really good. We also stopped in China to watch the street-performers Dragon Legend Acrobats, who were very skilled and also quite funny.

 

After that we headed off to my hometown Bergen.... errr, the Norway pavilion (see pictures below). Theming-wise it was another very good-looking pavilion. I liked the small Stave church, and it was also great fun to see a piece of my hometown here. The shops included the standard tourist stuff that I see here at home, plus some Frozen stuff. The fact that all the workers are Norwegians helps boost the atmosphere.

 

EPCOT

 

My hometown Bergen

 

 

I wasn’t really planning to ride Maelstrom as it had a 30-minute wait, but fortunately I had people in my group who had been here before and knew that as long as you speak Norwegian you get to use the fastpass queue, even if you don’t have a fastpass. Turns out this still worked, which meant a near walk-on for us. Somehow I doubt this will be a possibility once the Frozen ride opens...

 

As for the ride itself, it was a bit fun, but nothing to write home about. I also found the theming a bit strange and confusing, going from trolls to oil-platforms. Oh, and polar bears dosn’t exist on the Norwegian mainland just to mention it. As for the movie at the end, I can understand why they let people have the option of just walking through. Highly outdated and mostly embarassing. As a Norwegian I’m very excited about the Frozen ride, it will definately be interesting to see how they will make it. As for those complaining about lack of education in the Norwegian pavilion, I will say that the most educational part of the pavilion is the Stave church where they are showing various historical clothing, tools and items, and how they inspired the Frozen movie. What a great way to get the kids interested as well.

 

 

After a quick snack in Mexico, we went back to Norway where we watched the Illuminations; Reflections of Earth from. While not the most spectacular in terms of large fireworks, it’s a really awesome show with the combination of fireworks, lights, music and other effects. See highlights video below.

 

Illuminations; Reflections of Earth

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EPCOT provided us with yet another fantastic day at Disney. We didn’t have to to check out the whole park, and I would have loved to try various stuff of the Food & Wine festival, but being a first-time visitor it was about seeing as much as possible. I can really understand why people love this park so much, and I’m definately going back sometime in the future. Currently aiming for 2016 when Frozen opens in Norway.

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I'm enjoying your trip report this far.

 

keep it up!

 

 

Thank you, I'm glad you're enjoying it. With Disney finished it's time to move onto our visit to the Universal Parks.

 

 

Universal Orlando resort

 

While there was 8 days between our visit to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, I I had to put it together to one compilation video as I did not have enough footage to make a video from each park. Still I was quite pleased with how the result, check out the video below.

 

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Part 1 - Universal Studios

 

This was the second park on our trip. The whole Citywalk area looked great, and I thought the entrance to Universal Studios was really beatiful with the Universal globe to the left of the entrance. Since it was Monday and off-season we decided not to purchase Express passes. This turned out to be a good decision, as there was no need for it.

 

Our first ride of the day was Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit. A very imposing ride with the vertical lift and the strange non-inverting loop, so I was quite excited to ride. This ride definately had the strictest “no loose items” policy I have ever experienced. No less than three places along the queue line were ride staff asking/checking for loose articles. I don’t really have any problems with this as there are free cabinets provided outside the ride, I just found it surprising that it was so strict.

 

The line was only 10 minutes so it didn’t take long before we were on the ride and selecting music. My choice on the first ride was “Gimme All Your Lovin" by ZZTop. I can’t remember which row I was seated in on my first ride, but I tried both front, back and middle during the day. Vertical lifts are always a strange sensation and always surprising the first ride. That moment when the majority of your weight shifts from your butt to your back always gets me a little.

 

Once over the top, the first drop was a little dissappointing. I had been expecting a bit more air. The non-inverting loop was pretty fun. I will not go into detail on every single element, but overall I thought the layout was pretty cool. The turns at both ends of the layout surprised me with their strong positive G-forces, particularly the final helix. In the frontseat the ride was pretty smooth, but it got quite a bit rougher towards the back. The lights on the trains was a cool detail at night.

 

Moving on we took a spin on Twister...Ride it Out, which was pretty fun. We then headed off to Revenge of the Mummy for another short 10-minute wait. The queue was very well themed, but we did not get to enjoy it for long before we were on the ride. Not that it’s a bad thing... The ride itself I thought was very well done. The coasterpart was very fun, and the effects were good. The fire effect was awesome!

 

 

Moving on to one of the highlights of the entire trip; Transformers: The Ride 3D. HOLY BALLS what a ride!!! It’s crazy how the 3D screens blend in with the theming on the ride, and the picture is very clear. I absolutely LOVED this ride, heck it was probably more intense than most rollercoasters on the trip. We had to wait about half an hour for our first ride, but towards the end of the day it was down to less than 10 minutes.

 

We then ventured into Diagonal Alley. Wow, this area was breathtaking! I don’t think there are many words to describe it, it pretty much has to be seen in person. The dragon on the rooftop was amazing! After looking around for a bit we took a ride on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. I think our wait again was about half an hour. Once past the outdoor queue, things start to get really spectacular. The animatronics in the bank was simply the best I have ever seen, the realism was incredible. The remainder of the queue was also really good with the preshow and the lift down to the station.

 

The ride itself was very good. I liked the coaster section at the beinning with the tilt-track, but its very short. Throughout the ride the 3D special effects are really good, but I would have liked a little more coaster in there. Still a really good ride, but not quite on the same intensity level as Transformers.

 

Before leaving Diagonal Alley we had a very enjoyable dinner at the Leaky Cauldron.

 

 

Moving on we went on Men in Black: Alien Attack, which was pretty much a walk-on. Shooting rides are usually always fun, and this was no exception. Lots of spinning also.

We also took a ride on The Simpsons Ride. Had to wait for a bit here, but with Simpsons clips and preshow running on the monitors it was far from a boring wait. The ride itself was also great, but I found it a little more dizzying than the other simulator rides. Still I enjoyed it very much, but I don’t know how well I would have handled multiple rides.

 

Before leaving the park we had another spin on Transformers, and we also watched a funny little magic show. I love the look of themeparks as darkness descends on the park, and this was no exception. Overall I had a great day at Universal Studios, they have some truly impressive rides when it comes to simulator, and while they lack a really good rollercoaster you only have to go next door for that.

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As for the ride itself, it was a bit fun, but nothing to write home about. I also found the theming a bit strange and confusing, going from trolls to oil-platforms. Oh, and polar bears dosn’t exist on the Norwegian mainland just to mention it. As for the movie at the end, I can understand why they let people have the option of just walking through. Highly outdated and mostly embarassing. As a Norwegian I’m very excited about the Frozen ride, it will definately be interesting to see how they will make it. As for those complaining about lack of education in the Norwegian pavilion, I will say that the most educational part of the pavilion is the Stave church where they are showing various historical clothing, tools and items, and how they inspired the Frozen movie. What a great way to get the kids interested as well.

It's nice to hear this from an actual Norwegian. We've been telling a lot of the Disney fans the same thing, but they refuse to listen. I mean, we've only been to Norway several times, what do we know, right? But they just insist that the ride has some sort of "educational value" that will be lost. SMH

 

It's actually ironic to hear to say that you feel the most educational part of the pavilion is the stuff that is tied into Frozen already!

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Now just to mention it I'm not completely neutral when it comes to Frozen as I happen to quite like the movie. This was of course also helped by our experience on the first day at Hollywood studios, see my first post in this thread.

 

Now I think I wrote this somewhere else, probably on your facebook page, but the Frozen movie has actually created an increase in US tourism to Norway. I have my doubts that Maelstrom was ever able to do the same. I firmly believe that with a ride based on Frozen in the Norway pavilion, it will take the interest in the pavilion, and the country of Norway itself, to a whole new level for visitors coming to EPCOT.

 

As for Maelstrom, its definately time to let it go....

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Loving this TR and your perspective. You started posting it on the exact same day I began booking my 2015 trip to Orlando. I've been hanging on every word you type.

 

Thank you, I'm glad you are enjoying it. I'm very much enjoying writing it, all the good memories spinning in my mind. Are you going for the first time or have you been there before?

 

Nice videos

 

Thank you!

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Great report so far, I'm looking forward to watching the videos when I get home! I can't get enough Disney stuff now, getting myself so excited for my own trip in a couple weeks!

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Great report so far, I'm looking forward to watching the videos when I get home! I can't get enough Disney stuff now, getting myself so excited for my own trip in a couple weeks!

 

I hate you so much right now! Of course that also goes for everyone else who is currently going to Disney, but that's only because I'm super jealous and desperately want to go back! Hope you enjoy the videos.

 

Anyway, onto the next part...

 

Universal part 2 - Islands of Adventure

 

*this is a repeat videolink of the video posted in my Universal Studios post on the previous page, as the video covers both parks

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8 days after visiting Universal Studios we headed back, this time to pay a visit to Islands of Adventure. We had saved this park for one of the last days to ensure the trip would end with some good rollercoasters. I must say that Islands of Adventure delivered pretty good in this category.

 

After entering the park we headed directly to Incredible Hulk. Visually this is one of the most impressive coasters there are, with the tall zero-G roll looming over the path, and the beatiful placement of the cobra roll and vertical loop over the water. After putting our stuff in one of the free cabinets, we headed into the queue. For our first ride we decided to wait for the front seat, before grabbing a few backseat rides. Looking up the launch tunnel and see the track go into a sharp twist and dissappear is definately a strange experience. The ride gets going pretty fast, and overall I think the first half of the ride is pretty good. Unfortunately the last part of the ride is really weak, which means that you feel a little dissappointed leaving the ride. The ride was a little shaky in a few spots, but not bad at all and I will not say it was rough by any means. Kudos to IoA for running all three trains, keeping waiting time to a minimum unless you were going for the front row.

 

Doctor Doom’s Fearfall was closed so we moved on to The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. Another impressive simulator ride, but not quite on the same level as Transformers. Still very enjoyable no doubt, but to me it just seemed to lack that extra quality found in the neighbour park.

 

We continued to Toon Lagoon and decided to take a ride on Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, with the exception of one clever member of our group who decided to stay behind. The ride was awesome, but bloody hell this was one wet ride. Each of the three drops along the ride made me absolutely soaked where I was sitting in the front seat. I dont think I have ever come off a waterride this wet before, only my underwear still had some dry spots. Thankfully it was nice and warm outside, but it still took a little time to dry off.

 

Of course it didn’t help that the next ride was Jurassic Park River Adventure. Being a massive JP fan, there was no way I was going to pass on this ride. Unlike its very wet neighbour in Toon Lagoon, this ride was pretty much a walk-on so in a few minutes we were sat down on the last row in our boat. Now I have seen full onride videos of all the Universal JP rides around the world so for me there were no surprises on the ride. Still I enjoyed it very much. The animatronics are not quite up to todays standards and some updates would be nice, but theres no immediate need to do so. The drop was fun as expected, and the splashdown got us more wet than expected.

 

Next stop was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. While not quite as immersive as Diagonal Alley, it’s still an extremely good-looking area and Hogwarts might be the single most impressive building I have ever seen in a themepark. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was about half an hour wait, which wasn’t bad at all. The ride was quite interesting, I liked that there are some physical props during the ride and not just all projections. The movements also made the ride very interesting and fun. The story is a bit confusing, to me it almost seems to be just riding though a bunch of various scenes from Harry Potter, but its still a very enjoyable, high-quality dark ride with some absolutely stunning theming.

 

Now onto one (or should I say two??) of the stars of the entire Orlando area; Dragon Challenge. It’s such a shame that this ride no longer duels, because it’s an amazing coaster and I can only image how awesome it was with the dueling aspect added. Both sides were running two trains and no lines at all, which was great. Got backseat rides on both and loved every second of it. Like most others, my favorite side was Chinese Fireball. That second immelmann has to be one of the greatest elements B&M has ever created. I also loved the first drops, the whip effect in the backseat was great. Overall both sides were super smooth and provided excellent rides!

 

Before leaving The Wizarding World of Harry Potter we had a very enjoyable dinner at Three Broomsticks.

 

The skies were getting darker, rain started to fall and rides were starting to close so it was time to head indoors. Continuing in our clockwise direction around the park, we went to see The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad Stunt Show. Quite a good show, with some funny moments and plenty of pyrotechnics!

 

When the show was over it was pouring down outside. We made our way back towards the park exit by running from roof to roof, and from store to store, returning to the same soaked state that we were in after Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. The rain never let up, so it was a bit sad to have the day cut short by an hour or so. Still it was an enjoyable day, we got to do all the major rides we wanted to do, and particularly Dragon Challenge proved to be one hell of a great ride!

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Slowly working on video from Busch Gardens and SeaWorld. In the meantime here's a short summary of the other attractions we did on the trip which does not have any video footage to go with it.

 

 

Aquatica

 

This was the only waterpark we did on the trip, and we had a pretty good day here. I have never been a big fan of intense waterslides so I didn’t really care much for the trapdoor slides. But I absolutely loved the eight-lane racing slide, so much fun and the drop was surprisingly good. Racing against the clock really added to the fun. The other slides were okay, but we kept coming back to the racing slide.

 

 

Kennedy Space Center

 

Well worth a visiting, seeing the rockets and the space shuttle up-close was really fascinating. The bus-tour around the facility was really good, seeing the crawler and launch pads up-close was very exciting. Our bus driver was also great, very fun listening to all his stories. We almost managed to catch a real rocket launch during our stay, but unfortunately it was postponed for 24 hours due to weather and that meant it would conflict with other planned activities.

 

 

Fun Spot America

 

A cute little park. While I had never expected any big crowds, I was surprised that there were no lines as we visited on a Saturday. Are there more people in the evenings since the park is open until midnight? After getting our wristbands we grabbed a ride on Freedom Flyer. Having done Kvasten at Gröna Lund, I knew what to expect on this ride. While it doesn’t have the same beatiful views and various interactions throughout the ride, it was still very fun and I absolutely love how there are more and more high-quality rollercoasters being built for kids.

Moving on we took a couple of rides on White Lightning. Very fun ride with good speed. I was hoping for a little stronger airtime, but maybe I was expecting a bit much from a small ride. Still I enjoyed it very much and it’s a perfect fit for this park.

We also did a couple of the go-karts and the tilt-a-whirl before we ended our short visit with a couple of more rollercoaster rides. Overall I liked the park and with all the “big boys” in the area it’s great to see a small park expanding and hopefully they will continue to do well in the future.

 

 

Discovery Cove

 

First time ever arriving at a park before 7:30 AM, but bloody hell was it worth it. Easily the most relaxing day I have had in a very long time. We had the dolphin-swim included, which was awesome. Loved snorkling with tropical fishes followed by a frozen margarita on the beach. I want to say it was one of the highlights on the trip, but I think I could say that about most days. My only complaint is that we thought the pricing for the photos they take was somewhat on the pricey side so we decided to not buy any, but other than that we had an amazing day!

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I'm getting close to finishing my trip report now. Here is my report from Busch Gardens, after that only SeaWorld remains. Due to limited footage I had to create a combined video of Busch Gardens and SeaWorld, but I'm pretty pleased with the result.

 

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Onto the trip report...

 

Busch Gardens Tampa

 

Sometimes you gamble and you loose. Sometimes you win. This day was definately the latter. We knew it was going to be raining in the morning this day, but as we drove from Orlando to Tampa it was absolutely pouring down. Speed on the interstate was down to 20 mph at times. When we arrived at Busch Gardens it had let up a bit, but still raining pretty good. We were discussing at the gates if we should return home and come back another day, but the weather forecast said it would stop raining so we decided to go for it.

 

Since it was raining and it was on a weekday in the off-season, the parking lot was almost completely empty. In fact it was so empty that they guided all cars to the disabled parking closest to the park entrance. Once inside the park was completely dead so we got our dining passes and went off to have a snack. Rain was not letting up, and with all rides closed there was only one thing to do and that was to go watch Motor City Groove show. While it was far from full, I think every other person in the park had the same idea. It was a fun show with some semi-catchy music, but not among my favorites.

 

Not a single outdoor ride was open when we left the show, but the rain was letting up and the sky was getting lighter so we were starting to get our hopes up. We headed up towards the back of the park and ended up at Kumba. After hanging out in the area for a little bit, getting very eager to ride, we were informed that the ride would open in a few minutes. I don’t know excactly what time it was, but it must have been at least an hour and a half after we arrived at the park. After watching a test run with an empty train and listening to the wonderful B&M roar, they opened up the line and we headed directly to the front row.

 

I can’t remember the exact number, but the first train of the day probably had 6-8 riders. It was our group of four in the front row and a couple of people in the back. There was still some light rain at this point, which made our rides really awesome! I will not go into detail about every element on this ride, but Kumba is a proper rollercoaster. Intense, fairly smooth considering the age, and it just never lets up. After our first ride there was only a few people waiting for the front row, so we headed straight to the back row without having to leave the station. Awesome! I went for the magic seat and loved every second of it. Riding Kumba in the back is quite a strange experience because you see the train shuffling all over the place, but for some reason it doesn’t feel rough. Oh, and the zero-G roll was absolutely fantastic. Before heading off, we got another backseat ride, this time I was sitting on the left side. They need to check the vegetation around this ride, I smacked my left hand on some branches climbing into the dive loop. No injuries caused, but I could definately feel it for a few minutes after riding.

 

After some fantastic rides on Kumba, we decided to move on. Sheikra was not open yet and had some people working on top of the drop. Falcon’s Fury also had some technical problems and was only doing some slow testing close to the ground. We grabbed a ride on Scorpion, which was fun, but being surrounded by high-quality rollercoaster, it has a hard time making an impression. I would describe this as a great starter coaster for kids who want to experience their first looping coaster. It was a bit bumpy, but not bad at all considering it’s an old coaster. Ride was a walk-on with the traing being less than a quarter full. Two member of our group went for a second ride and had the whole train to themselves.

 

The next ride was also the big surprise of the day; Cheetah Hunt. It doesn’t do anything extreme or intense, but what it does it does so very well. Very smooth and just very fun. I also really liked how long this ride is, makes it feel like a very complete coaster. This is one of those rides you feel you could ride all day. Scenery around the ride is also very nice. The ride was running three trains and was the only one close to having what you could call a line. By that I mean you had to wait 4-5 trains for the front row, all other rows were 1-2 train wait. Later in the day a complete walk-on, we once rode it twice in a row without leaving our seat in the last car.

 

Sheikra was now up and running so we headed in that direction. Two trains running, occassionally full, but no line at all so we got several both front-and backseat rides. This was my first dive coaster, and I must say that coming around the turn and watching the track just disappear is definately one of the most unique coaster experiences I’ve had. The drop was great fun, although I couldn’t help but think if it would have been even better without the holding brake. While not on the same intensity level as Kumba, I was still surprised by the speed and forces of this ride. I think the reason being that because the track and trains are so huge, it doesn’t give the impression of speed in videos. Overall a great ride!

 

With Falcon’s Fury having been running for some time now, it was time to head in that direction. Easily one of the most intimidating rides I have ever experienced. At least pre-ride, I was actually more nervous than I have been on a ride in a long time. With the park being completely dead, this ride was a walk-on like all others. In fact, I never saw it being more than half-full. The seats and restraints are comfortable, and once you get going it does become less scary. The tilting effect at the top was pretty cool, particularly that moment where you feel your weight shifting from the seat to the restraints. Looking down from 300+ feet in the air is definately an interesting experience. Unfortunately it comes with a major disadvantage, and that is the fact that the drop itself does not create nowhere near the same dropping sensation as the traditional droptowers. I think it’s something with going in the direction you are looking, and you don’t get the feeling of lifting from your seat and having your stomach in your throat. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the ride, but it definately did not live up to the hype and traditional droptowers are in my opinion far better.

 

We then headed off to Montu, which did not disappoint at all. Only one train running, but that was all that was needed since the park was completely deserted. Since this ridden is a bit hidden from the rest of the park I don’t know how it was earlier in the day, but when we were in that area the train was running about a quarter full. There was a one-train wait for the front row, all other rows were walk-on and mostly running empty. We rode both front and back, and I can definately understand why this ride keeps ranking so high. Very intense ride and smooth as a baby’s bottom. That is incredible for a ride from 1997. Loved the usage of trenches along the ride. Only slight complaint is that the ending is a bit on the weak side, but overall a really great ride! I can’t think of any other parks that have a better collection of high-quality B&M coasters.

 

We saved the worst for last and headed to Gwazi. One train running, walk-on with train running about half full. The layout was pretty good actually, but that is pretty much the only positive thing I can say about this ride. Needs to get a complete makeover. Or die... If they were to tear down Gwazi they would have a huge plot of land to build on in a very good location. Either way they need to do something about this ride.

 

For the last hour I walked around the park getting some footage while the rest of my group did some more riding. Overall it was a fantastic day. It was a bit short, with the rides only being open for about 5 hours or so due to the rain in the morning, but with the park being absolutely deserted we got to do everything we wanted to do multiple times without waiting in a single line. Our gamble in the morning really paid off. Busch Gardens have a fantastic collection of rollercoasters, with some proper old-school B&M’s, and I would absolutely love to have this park as my homepark! Definately a park to come back to.

 

 

SeaWorld coming up later this week...

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Great report so far. I'm normally not a fan of videos but these are pretty cool.

 

Thank you!

 

With only a few hour left of October I guess it's time to post the last day of our trip...

 

Sea World Orlando

 

With our flight back to Norway not departing until 10 PM, we had pretty much a full day to enjoy before going home so we decided to save Sea World for this day to ensure that we would have some good rides to look forward to also on the last day.

 

Please note this is a duplicate videolink from the Busch Gardens post above.

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I must say that visiting Orlando in the off-season was really great when it comes to crowds, and Sea World was absolutely no exception. Being a Thursday and with weather being somewhat cloudy there were few people in the park.

 

Once inside the park we headed straight for Manta. The wing-dip splash effect looks really cool from offride and is a definite eye-catcher. It is also strategically in a neat location, being the first part of the ride you pass by when heading towards the entrance. I also really liked the various paths going under different parts of the ride, giving a lot of good views of the action. After putting all of our stuff in a cabinet we headed for the entrance. I really liked the theming in the queue line with the aquariums, it looks really good. But with no line in this area, there was no stopping to enjoy it. We hit the queue at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the station, unfortunately the ride suffered a break-down at that time. We decided to wait it out and after about 15 minutes the ride was up and running again. With two trains running it didn’t take long to get to the station.

 

I have ridden Superman; Ultimate Flight @SFGADV once back in 2008, and to be honest I could not really remember much of what the ride was like. Therefore I was rather excited for Manta. With the front row having a bit of a queue, we decided to head for the last row. I must say that the seats and restraints on B&M flying coasters are super-comfortable. The angle you’re positioned in going up the lifthill is so comfortable that I could probably have fallen asleep in that position if the lift had been longer. It doesn’t take long to get to the top though, and things get going. The first drop is nice, nothing intense or really spectacular, but it gets the job done. But the next element makes you forget all about the drop...

 

It is not often I’m taken by surprise by rollercoasters these days, but the rapid acceleration you experience in the backseat when going over the top in the pretzel loop is one of the more intense moments I have experienced in a rollercoaster. Normally I keep quiet or go “weee” through inversions, but here it was more like “ooooooooohhhhhh” followed by a bit of profane language. We rode in the front seat after, but it was nowhere near as good as the backseat through the pretzel loop. The rest of the ride is pure fun, maybe a tad repitive with all the rolls, but still great and with some good close-encounters with surrounding scenery towards the end.

 

After riding Manta we saw that it was only 5 minutes remaining until the Shamu show, so we hurtled across the lake and got seated in the stadium just as the show was about to start. While not full, there was a good crowd at the stadium and it was pretty much the only time of the day we got the feeling of being in a park with a larger crowd. We were seated high up towards the edge of the stadium, but still we had a great view of the action as can be seen in the video above. I enjoyed it very much, and it was great fun watching the people in the splash-zone getting soaked.

 

After Shamu we saw that “A'Lure, The Call of the Ocean” was scheduled to start pretty soon so we did that next. Pretty good show with some nice effect and highly skilled performers, overall I enjoyed it.

 

Next we went for some rides on Kraken. Unfortunately they were only running one train, the ride-ops were very slow and with two full rows reserved for Quick Queue it meant that the line was moving very slow. We probably waited 20-30 minutes even with a short line. The ride itself was great fun, but it doesn’t quite live up to the Tampa B&M’s. Very smooth ride, not much of a B&M rattle here. I wish the first drop would have been steeper as it doesn’t quite deliver even in the backseat. Later they added a second train, and after that the ride became walk-on with most trains being three-quarters full or less.

 

We had dinner at Sharks Underwater Grill, which was great. The food was really good, so was the service, and the huge aquarium windows made it a unique and awesome dining experience. We had many good meals during our stay, but this was one of the best.

 

With skies getting darker and with some occasional light raindrops falling from the sky, the park got very empty towards the end of the day. This made it perfect for us to do some mini-marathon riding on Manta. They were still running both trains despite there never being riders to fill more than half a train at the time, so we rode 5-6 times in a row during the last hour. They did not allow rerides so we had to leave the stadion and walk all the way around each time despite there being no riders waiting for our row, so we also got some excercise. With the exception of one front seat ride, all our rides on Manta were in the backseat. I think the pretzel loop is my favorite element ever, it managed to get me every ride. Definately one of the best coasters of the trip.

 

Leaving Sea World was a very sad moment as our next stop was the airport. I don’t think I’ve ever been this sad about going home from a vacation before. Still it has to be said though, we experienced a hell of a lot during our 12 days and every single day ranked from “awesome” to “magical”. A couple of years ago I would have called myself a coaster enthusiast, but now I'm definately much more of theme park enthusiast. Particularly the Disney parks really mesmerized me with their impresside dedication to quality and service. In addition to all the parks, we also did a couple of evenings in Downtown Disney, which was awesome. Dinner at Planet Hollywood was also one of the highlights of the entire trip. I also made sure to get some souvenirs along the way, here's how my fridge looks after coming home.

 

 

So that was it for my trip. I have now been home for 5 weeks, and I miss Orlando like crazy. I’m not going to complain about living in Norway, but going from Florida to a country that only gets darker and colder this time of year is somewhat depressing. I don’t believe I will be going back next year, but maybe in 2016 when I can go to EPCOT and have Anna and Elsa teach me about my own country...

 

I hope you have enjoyed my report and videos, I know I have enjoyed very much writing this and editing the videos. Please feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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I don’t believe I will be going back next year, but maybe in 2016 when I can go to EPCOT and have Anna and Elsa teach me about my own country...

I love this plan! lol

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So I decided to do a short recap of the entire trip and list the highlights.

 

First here’s the full video list:

 

Here is my top 10 memories in a completely random order:

1) Disney is AMAZING! Period!

2) Our best evening was at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, attending the “Coolest summer ever dance party” with DJ Chill followed by Frozen fireworks.

3) Elsa at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was freakin gorgeous!!! (see Frozen fireworks video)

4) Yak & Yeti restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom provided us with the best dinner of the entire trip.

5) Dragon Challenge Hungarian Horntail was my favorite rollercoaster of the trip.

6) TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D was probably my favorite ride of the trip. WOW!

7) Going in the off-season with dodgy weather is awesome! Walk-on on Kumba, Montu, Cheetah Hunt, Sheikra, Kraken, Manta, Falcon’s Fury, Dragon Challenge and more...

8) It was definately time to let Maelstrom go. Do you wanna build a better ride??

9) Manta’s pretzel loop in the backseat is my new favorite rollercoaster element.

10) Swimming with dolphins followed by a frozen margarite on the beach equals an amazing day at Discovery Cove.

 

 

Bonus picture! Ref point 3 on my list above, my friends thought I talked a bit much about Elsa after our day at Hollywood Studios (not going to deny that at all). So when we visited Magic Kingdom 4 days later they got this one made for me without me even noticing. I have such great friends...

 

 

 

For me it’s not a matter of wanting to go back, I need to go back! I’m probably repeating myself now, but after being home for 5 weeks I’m still struggling to express with words how amazing our trip was.

 

Thank you for following my trip report and videos!

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  • 2 weeks later...
Tower of Terror: My expectations were high for this ride, but unfortunately the ride did not quite live up to it. The theming was top notch, but the drop sequence just seemed a bit weak to me. Maybe my expectations for thrills were a bit high considering we were in a Disney park. Still I enjoyed the ride and thought it was fun, but I couldn’t help feel a bit letdown after riding. This ride also had the longest wait later in the day, with 80 minutes posted on the sign. Due to this we only rode once.

 

Tower of Terror has a random sequence selection, One of them is lame and then there are some with awesome airtime. You need to ride it more than once to really appreciate it

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Tower of Terror has a random sequence selection, One of them is lame and then there are some with awesome airtime. You need to ride it more than once to really appreciate it

 

I'll keep that in mind for 2016...

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