Rai Fox wrote: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
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
MarkJWilson wrote:Great report so far. I'm normally not a fan of videos but these are pretty cool.
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.
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.
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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