Disney's Hollywood Studios and America's Worst Airline
Walt Disney World is impossible to fully experience in two days. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about that. The resort simply has too much awesomeness. Normally I’d give myself a week, but I now have the opportunity for some spontaneous weekend trips through a high school friend.
His spouse works at Walt Disney World, which means he has guest passes available whenver he visits the park. That’s a coaster enthusiast’s dream to hear! Since he has a normal Monday-Friday job, the visits are restricted to weekends he’s free and when there's cheap airfare available. Naturally I took him up on an offer to visit amidst the northeast's wintery weather.
But first the whole trip was almost ruined by Spirit Airlines, aka the Greyhound Bus of the Sky. Skip the next few paragraphs if you just want to read about the Mouse.Travel Start
To maximize my time at Disney, my ideal flight would depart late Friday and return late Sunday. And wouldn't you know Spirit offered a $30 one way flight to Orlando at 6:45 pm on Friday. That was perfect. With any luck I may even have enough time to pop into Fun Spot on the way to the hotel. Spirit simply laughed. They had a reputation to uphold as America's worst airline.
I knew Spirit was notorious for two things- ridiculous bag fees and lateness. Both are expected for such a bargain price. I avoided the first by cramming everything into a tiny drawsting bag. After going to Europe for 2 weeks in just one backpack, this was child’s play. I was at Spirit’s mercy on the latter. It was so bad I couldn't help but laugh at the insanity of the situation, except when my flight seemed largely at risk of being cancelled.
Prior to reaching the airport, I received an alert my flight was delayed 2.5 hours. Well that axed Fun Spot, but still would get me to Orlando at a reasonable hour. Then on the way to the airport, I received an alert my flight was delayed another hour. Well I was already on the way, so I figured I mind as well keep going. After getting through TSA in less than 5 minutes (figures that happens when I’m in absolutely no rush), my departure was now midnight. Needless to say I was skeptical it would even take off.
I was one of many who swarmed the Spirit Gate. There had to be another option. And there was! A flight to Tampa at 8:30. It was inconvenient but at least I could make it to Disney. As I was about to switch, I received an alert my flight was now set to depart at 8. I was bewildered but wasn't going to complain!
Not even 20 minutes later, I received an alert the flight was again scheduled for midnight. I had seen enough. I switched to the Tampa flight for no extra cost which was at the gate and ready to board.
The rich part is why my flight to Orlando was delayed. The plane was on the tarmac. Spirit had borrowed a crew from JetBlue. So what was wrong? Apparently the flight path from Boston to Orlando brought us by Winter Storm Mateo. For those keeping track of weather, Mateo was in the midwest. So let me get this straight. A plane traveling to Orlando was grounded yet a plane flying 60 miles west was unaffected and boarding. Wtf?
I landed just after midnight. Getting a one-way rental car was a nuisance, but I deserved it for my frugality. In the end my Spirit flight plus the rental car cost as much as a JetBlue flight. But at least I still made it to Orlando and got a true Spirit experience in the meantime.Travel End
With just 2 days at the resort, we planned a greatest hits tour of Walt Disney World. I chose the 2-3 rides at each park I absolutely wanted to ride and anything else would be gravy. Batting leadoff was the park that would be the shortest visit, Hollywood Studios.
As we approached the park, I caught glimpses of both Star Wars Land and Slinky Dog Dash. Without a doubt, I’ll be returning later this year for the wiener dog themed coaster but today I had two rides on the agenda- Tower of Terror and Rock “n” Roller Coaster. While I also love Toy Story Mania, it already had a sizable queue as we entered the lot.
After passing through the front gate around 9:30, we made a right hand turn down Sunset Boulevard for the resort’s top thrill ride combo. Since it lacked a single rider line, we both agreed to start with Tower of Terror, which was a 13 minute wait (aka a walk-on).
Tower of Terror is the pinnacle of Disney imagineering. The facade is iconic. The interior queue and pre-show set the tone for the ride to follow. And then the ride itself is still the best drop tower in the world by far. Sure towers like Hurakan Condor and Lex Luthor have better drops, but none of them offer the same theming and ride length as Tower of Terror.
I’ve ridden the version at Disneyland more often than the one at Hollywood Studios. While that one is still incredible, it's missing two things- the ominous 5th dimension room and random drop sequence. The latter was particularly refreshing. I got the perfect mix of stomach wrenching drops and rapid airtime filled ascents.
We were hopeful to encounter an equally short wait at Rock “n” Roller Coaster but were stunned to see a 90 minute wait this early. No thank you. Instead we used the single rider line. Through a stroke of luck and no one in the normal queue when we reached the station (the pre-show timing was off), they had to fill half a train with single riders. So we ended up in the same row 20-30 minutes later.
For an indoor coaster, the theming is quite good, particularly in the launch area. For a Vekoma looper, it's also remarkably smooth. Going in, I had remembered the coaster being equal to Flight of Fear and Poltergeist. Unfortunately it was a bit weaker than I remembered. The launch didn't have the same kick I remembered and it meandered around quite a bit, but the inversions were strong and it's still a fun coaster. 7.5 out of 10
We wanted to snag another ride on Tower of Terror, but the queue had creeped up to 45 minutes. Because neither of us had been on Star Tours since the Last Jedi scenes were added, we waited 25 minutes to see Kylo Ren, Finn, Poe, and mysteriously no Rey.
As a huge Star Wars fan who actually enjoyed Last Jedi (I seem to be one of the few), I was impressed. Star Tours has always been one of my favorite simulators so I’ll always welcome new scenes. I’d especially welcome my pipe dream scene of Jar Jar being executed, but that may be a tad out of place at a Disney park. Then again this is the company who regularly kills off the parents and villains in animated flicks.
We had Space Mountain fastpasses at 1 so we decided to park hop over to Magic Kingdom. To be continued...