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Orlando - March/April 2022 (done)

davidm

Strata Poster
Bit out of practice on these long rambling TRs, also gonna try to be a bit more brief as there's a glut of similar ones floating about at
the moment. :)

Anyway, way back in the days-before-covid I had organised stuff (flights/car/hotels/some park tickets) for an Autumn trip to Orlando to
take in a bit of HHN, the (seems like the last ever) US-Live and a few days staying with my Dad at his condo in Sanibel (he'd had this
condo for a few years and he went out a couple of times each year for a few weeks at a time but I'd never been inclined to go there myself,
but it seemed like a reasonable thing to do as he would have been out there the same time I was off gooning and it would have made a little
bit of a break in my planned 2 weeks trip and a reasonable diversion from Orlando if I went via Tampa for that new RMC they were planning
for 2020).

So none of that happened of course, hotels were cancelled, flights rebooked for 12 months later. That did not happen either (just missing
out on the US opening up in Nov'21) but the opening date of Gwazi hsd been announced by then for March so when rebooking (again) the flights
I figured sooner rather than later (and like us all I was just wanting to do SOMETHING) so plumped for what I hoped was a small gap between
spring-break-season and Easter. Of course no HHN, no US Live and we had even sold the condo by then as my Dad was not wanting to do that
trip anymore - that left me with 2 weeks in Orlando, more than I'd ever had in one stretch before - so figured I better do "everything" then.

Saturday 26th March - Travel etc

There had been nightmare stories of big queues at Manchester Airport, so I got there stupid early to give me enough time - stories were
basically true, bag drop-off was fine but took an hour to get through security at 730am - ugh!



But flight was uneventful and quiet, maybe half full so plenty of room to spread out. US-Border/immigration was surprisingly quick and faff
free, picked up a (not very cheap) car from the airport and by evening local time was located in my first hotel, which was cunningly located
just over the road from Universal. I'd stayed nearby the last time I was in Orlando (2016) and had found the location pretty good - liked
being able to nip across the road and be on Universal property within a few minutes, arguably closer to the parks than several of the on-site
hotels even. Still not a cheap hotel though, just not quite as pricey as the resort ones.

Crap pic of the view from my room;



But I can see Velocicoaster from there, it was only early evening, I had a 2 week ticket for Universal so off we go...

About a 15min walk to CityWalk and then another trek over to Islands and trek around the place - was very excited by now - my plan was just
to get a quick night ride in, start the holiday off so to speak, so I wasn't particularly bothered by the advertised 60min wait (was in fact
the longest I had to wait for it over the entire trip).



and the wait might let it get proper dark by the time I ride?







Minor disaster though, I discover that somehow in my sleep-deprived-cred-enthused taking of some pictures in the queue line, that I had
managed to lose my glasses strap out of my pocket, definitely had it when I left the hotel, did not have it as I approached the locker-faff
area of the queue. Burden.

Erring on the side of caution (major disaster would be losing my glasses) I stick them in the lockers too and experience a very blurry
pre-show and first ride on Velocicoaster. Ha ha :)

But even in my blurry state - loved it ; fab ride. Really liked the twisty first half, Taron+ I think, genuine "oh wow" moment when the
second launch kicked-in, top hat was great (I was riding mid-train), second faster half of the ride great fun, although I did not really rate
the stall much and the final roll was good but not earth-shattering.

I approve anyway. A lot.

Thought I'd get some food in CityWalk; Islands was closing at 8 that night - I think there might have been a private event later as most of
CityWalk was also roped off which kinda scuppered my food plan (huge queues at what was left open in CityWalk) so I just went into the
Studios park instead to grab a burger and a beer, like you do.



Right, good start, busy first day though what with all the intercontinental travel and a splendid +1 ; back to hotel to sleep now.




Sunday 27th March - Universal

Back over the road again then. They have installed a pedestrian bridge since I was here in 2016 so you don't even have to wait for the lights
across the busy Kirkman road anymore. :)



Had another +1 to get at Islands though, so headed for Hagrid's first thing - annoyingly the line for this was advertised at 120m and started
off well outside the Wizarding World, winding its way through the old Sinbad show - great.



It wasn't really a 120m queue, over an hour though, but what are you going to do?





Really liked this too - its really good fun, if not very thrilling, ride. Verbolten+ then.

Couple of morning rides (with vision this time) on Velocicoaster followed, could appreciate it more being able to see! Was advertised as 60m
queues but was less, say 40m - much less than the previous might anyway.









The dino-water ride was walk-on, so did that. Got quite wet.



Then wandered round the rest of the park, rode Spidey, Fear-Fall and Hulk in quick succession, using the single-rider on Spidey and Hulk but
the main queue on Fear-Fall - actually don't think I had ever ridden that more than once before and had used the SRQ then, so oddly the
pre-show was all "new" to me.



There was "new stuff" over at Studios though, so I got the potter-train (vile queue, should have walked) over there. Quick SRQ lap on
Gringotts, Simpsons, ET (just because you have to do ET or Spielberg gets upset), Men in Black.

Felt I was getting a lot done for a weekend day at at a busy couple of parks, so paused for a mid-afternoon beverage break at the
high-quality establishments here before going to see the "new stuff".



First up was the Bourne show which replaced (the lovely) T2. Was quite sad about that as I really liked T2, I've even been known to watch
it a couple of times in the same day - well not anymore can we do that.

And the Bourne thing wasn't bad at all - technically very clever and slick. Just isn't T2. Does anyone care about the Bourne-IP in the way
that they (used to) care about Terminator? Don't think so. Bourne was worth watching then, I'd do it again in the future but wouldn't
worry too much if I had to miss it out.

Next "new thing" was the Jimmy Fallon ride. This was awful, bring back Twister (bring back Ghostbusters for that matter). Slick presentation
and queue line themed like the backstage of the Tonight show, but awful motion simulator business, terrible film, annoying personality
(but I guess if the ride is themed after one person/TV show you have to be on-board with that show to get anything out of it)

So yeah, terrible, burn it down.

Next up was the last "new thing" and I can't say I was desperately optimistic about this.



Again the pre-ride bit was all expensive looking (crap photo though) as the queue takes you though all these cars and stuff, but the
pre-shows was painful and the ride itself just a crappy immersive tunnel thing, same ride system as the older Kong thing at Islands but with
a much less engaging film (and IP).



The Fallon ride was better than that was.

Back to Islands, get some food and ride Velocicoaster a few times as it gets dark. Great stuff.









Lights not working on the coaster you'll notice. Hope they don't start having more maintenance problems with this.



Did well with those rides on VC I think, one lap the queue actually started inside after the dino-statue thing, but otherwise it was just outside the inside bit which ended up being around 30m each time.

That saw out the day though, I've had my initial fix of Universal. Next up some Gwazi-goodness...
 
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Eyebrows

Hyper Poster
Lights not working on the coaster you'll notice. Hope they don't start having more maintenance problems with this.
They’ve been having problems with this for a few months now. My (vague and unqualified) diagnosis is that it’s something with the capacitors in the train, because the lights work fine when the train is connected to power in the station.

Obviously I hope it gets fixed because the lighting package looks incredible, but these problems resulted in one of my favorite coaster photos I’ve taken:

707149BD-753E-49DA-9FEB-A790117012A8.jpeg
 

davidm

Strata Poster
Monday 28th March - Busch Gardens

OK right the big-draw for this trip was the RMC down the road in Tampa, so headed off nice and early and got into Busch Gardens not long
after opening. Headed straight for Gwazi obviously, no chore as it's right near the park entrance - hard to imagine how painful it must have
been for anyone visiting here the last couple of years with this great big huge thing standing over the front of the park and just not
running. :(

The queue was advertised at 30mins - that's good and started part way down the ramp up into the station. Was getting quite giddy with goony
excitement I'll have you know as the trains were rattling around the track.



After about 10 mins of queuing I was in the station proper, where there are a few switchbacks in the line (not a great design) mostly over
where the unused track from old-Gwazi was. Annoyingly (IMHO) there are screens over the air gates running videos for the ride - mostly OK
but one of the video was a full POV of the ride - way to spoil the ride for anyone wanting to be surprised Mr Busch! I don't have a problem
with the video of the ride at all, one that shows a few of the things going on, just a full POV so you see everything in sequence is such a
bad idea. :(



Anyway, minor annoyance over (not like I've not seen the POV a few times anyway), then a MAJOR annoyance as the ride goes down. After a few
minutes waiting about they announce its going to be down for a while :(



At this point I'd have expected significant cred-anxiety to hit me, but I was apparently too relaxed for that (being right at the start of
my holiday so even if its broken for the day I'd just be able to come back later). Headed off to "do" the rest of the park then.

There was another +1 here though - Tigris. So headed for that, ~30m queue which was a pain, but not as painful as those god-awful restraints
on this thing.



The ride is OK, good even - I've ridden a couple of other ones of these (Holiday Park, Lake Compounce) and they'd been OK. HP's is the best
for me with its slightly less crap restraints and indoor launch.

Carrying on around the park, Kumba, Scorpion, whatever the mouse is called these days and the drop tower done in quick order (Sheikra was
down)...





...before I spot a heart-warming sight in the distance...



So yes, rush back to the front of the park and its all back running. Yay.



First ride is back row. Lovely.

And boy is it good. Very good.

Great drop (something other RMCs can be lacking I think), some fantastic hills before that twisty-death-drop-dive-crocodile-thingy, which is
awesome - possibly RMCs best mini-sequence of elements? But its not finished yet with some overbanks, stalls (bit underwhelmed again by the
stall though - think I've been ruined by Zadra's) and then lots of that ejector airtime hills to finish you off.

Hmmm yes I like. Lots.

I'm obviously going to ride it a lot more but before that I round off the rest of the park - fairly long wait for Cheetah Hunt, fun but they
need to get their ops working better, its obviously a popular ride but slow despatches giving a 40+ minute wait (and I saw it much longer
than that) is not good. Randomly bump into an ACE-goon in the line for Cobra's Curse (who I randomly bump into a couple more times this
week - ha ha) and a quick lap on Montu before I head back for some more RMC.







Randomly get assigned the back row again for my second ride, make a point of sitting on the other side of the train tho' - the chap I'm
riding with seemed to be an off-duty ride-op (he certainly knew all the ops) as he knew how to get the restraint set with maximum room (a
good 6 inches space) and the ops did not pull him up on it?

Back round again, and wait for the front this time



Very good in the front too, which isn't always the case with RMCs I think. The view down the first drop is just amazing.

Sheikra had reopened by then, so ride that - strangely I feel really nauseous at the end of that. Sat on the brake-run feeling like I am
going to throw up. Fine once I get off the ride though. Weird.



Not going to let that stop me so head back to Gwazi to close out the day, get another front row ride and a row 2 ride where the people in
the front row are ejected for being too large (should have tried the test seat fools) and they don't fill the row so that's a virtual front
row ride. :)









Since I'd not ridden it in the middle by then, opt for that as the final ride of the day - its still very good in the middle!

Bit of a trek back to Orlando (traffic) then, had earned my hotel-bar-beer after that.

 
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davidm

Strata Poster
Tuesday 29th March - Seaworld

So I'd planned to visit Seaworld on the middle-Saturday of my holiday, because this "festival" thing was on...



...and I could ride some coasters and drink some beers. A fine plan I thought.

But since I realised that @Rollercoaster David had arrived in Orlando the day before, we arranged to meet up on the Tuesday at Seaworld too -
which seemed like a good plan to get the coaster-part of my Saturday plan out of the way in a more leisurely fashion.

Did not take many pics today (took a few more on Saturday I think, but we'll get to that in a bit) so this will be a bit brief.

Anyway, once we'd managed to meet up I needed my +1 (Dave had got it the previous evening) so a few laps on Ice Breaker started off the day



And it's OK. Nothing very exciting but what it does it does well enough. Apart from the restraints (same as Tigris), which are just vile -
not only uncomfortable (comfort-collar my arse) but hard and cramped to get into and then hard to get out. Just awful.

The ride has some nice back and forth launch business going on, accompanied by some surprising pops of family-friendly ejector airtime
followed by a mini top hat and some twisty stuff before you are back in the station. Nice enough without being essential.



We rode most of the other stuff too I think, was pretty impressed by the new-ish rapids, even if we got wetter from "leaks" when the raft
went under the lift hill than from any splash effects on the ride itself.

Got fairly wet on the smallest drop on this though - pah.



Kraken had a new coat of paint, not sure it works. Noticed a lot of the old-theming had been removed too (monster heads and eggs and such)
but glad to see no-sign of the VR anymore.





Mako was glorious though - walk on trains and lovely B&M hyper-ness - we rode this a few few times during the day and it's such a good ride.







Did a couple of the shows; Sealions and Orcas, they were a bit "meh" I think.

And the, now only walk-through, penguin thing was just a glorified penguin toilet.



I was flagging a bit though after a few solid days gooning with little downtime so snuck off a bit early (Dave was meeting up with random
people off the internet later - stranger danger and all that, but he's a grown adult so didn't need my supervision)

I managed some downtime in a bar near my hotel, had a few beers which then made me sleep poorly - so much for that plan then.

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davidm

Strata Poster
Wednesday 30th March - Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios

Going to be a bit of a strange report today, did a lot of stuff but took virtually no pictures (no usable ones anyway).

Met up again with David in the queue for his first ride on Velocicoaster, and one of the (not quite so random) random people off the internet
was with him too - @MartyNZ who is also on here but just lurks ;)



After VC Dave needed his +1 so we braved the line for the Hagride again - not as bad as it was on Sunday when I rode it but still an hour
of slow shuffling. Luckily its a fun ride at the end of it though.

Marty had never done the main Potter-ride so we did that, deliberately not telling him anything about it - a few of the effects were not
working but its still an impressive bit of kit.





More of Dave's strangers-off-the-internet then turned up, all of whom were quite lovely but it was all a bit of weird experience for me
spending time at these parks that I've been to many times on my own, just this time with other human beings - not the most sociable me! :)

Anyway en-masse we rode Kong ride, FAR superior to the Fast&Furious effort next door, but still a bit of an expensive filler ride, and had
another lap on splendid Velocicoaster before entering what was advertised as a 25m queue for Dudley's log flume thing. After about 40m in the
25m queue and we were only half way through it appeared that they were sending 4x as many Express-line people though the ride than the
standby line we were in. One of the local internet-strangers had a moan at the cast members but they did nothing. I was having a bit of a
sense of humour failure by that point so bailed and headed over to the Studios to try to pick up what was left there that I had not ridden
and get some food.





Bumped into the ACE-goon from a few days ago and stood chatting to him for a while - he'll never see this but "hi Craig"!



I knocked off Minions and Transformers (the former being "meh" the latter OK) but due to winds, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit was down which
was the other thing I needed to ride - I hung about a bit but nothing was happening so headed back to Islands for some night stuff on VC.

Got a back row ride on the train though - that counts?



Anyway, Velocicoaster's queue looked like it was about a beer's length, which was a good plan



And after that I bumped into Dave and his internet-strangers again and spent the rest of the night riding Velocicoaster. Internet-strangers
knew some ops and a couple of them (not with us) blagged a re-ride at one point saving them some time and we (all) tried it again at the last
ride of the night (and should have got it too as we were stood talking to the ops on the offload platform) but we were talking too long
and the ride had closed - ha ha ha very amusing.

So another really good day in the end ; thank you internet-strangers for being pretty lovely all round. :)

Thursday 31st March - Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure

So since I still had not ridden HRRR this trip I headed into the Studios first thing. It was running this morning so I rode it, can't even
remember now what track I put on - something rock-y anyway. It was not a good ride - one of the well-informed internet-strangers from the
previous day had remarked about how they currently have to block off one of the seats on every train because of some safety-violation
that came up after the ride running for a dozen or so years so I ended up riding the open seat in that row. Ha ha.

That was all I needed to do in the Studios so got the train again back to Islands as I fancied another go at the Hagride before messing about
on Velocicoaster again.

Line was long but not as bad as the previous attempts, I even tried to get back in line for it again, but gave in when they would not let
me in the single-rider entrance (was full they said).







Used the SRQ on Velocicoaster a couple of times (had always been shut off previously) - you get your own locker-area and the line comes up
into the preshow area in the middle of the main queue. Saw one chap use the SRQ to get to the preshow area then jump the barrier back into
the main queue and then (presumably to not piss off the people he had just jumped into) walk back through the main queue for a little bit -
sneaky. I think the SRQ worked the first time I used it but not the second time, so I wasn't bothered that they then closed it.



Wasn't planning a full day today, but wanted to get some other pics of the thing, so spent a bit of time wandering around snapping away.



Definitely good vantage points from over by Popeye.







It was actually broken for quite a while mid-afternoon, had to hang around before it started cycling again. Intamin-reliability for you?











Grabbed a final ride on Hulk as I left the park, very happy with my Universal-experience this trip in all then.



--

Another reason for booking the hotel I had booked was its proximity to CityWalk and its refreshment opportunities - none of which I had
managed to avail myself of so far on this trip, so I was making a point of doing that on my last night in that hotel. I plumped for the
"NBC Sports Grill & Brew" place (having been to a few of the other places in the past) being attracted mostly by the "brew" aspect mostly.

It was pretty good, most of the beers I had (was drinking flights so I could try a few) were good and the food was good enough. The "house
brews" that they had on were probably the best though - which surprised me a bit.



Suitably lubricated I spent a bit of time in the "legacy store" - lots of old-ride-merch and stuff - some interesting displays as well
including a few panels on the history of the whole place;













Some pretty sh*te merch as well though;



--

Thus concludes the Universal part of this briefer-than-usual report - to come, some randomness, some more SEAS and then Di$ney shenanigans.
 
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Thekingin64

Strata Poster
Love the idea of the discontinued store for the old merch from old rides. If I ever get out to Florida, I'll have to a look round.
 

davidm

Strata Poster
^ its not so much "old merch" as "new merch for old rides", but I liked it. Maybe because I was a little inebriated I have brought a Jaws T-Shirt and mug home with me :)
 

Coastergeek82

Roller Poster
Wow Dave looks like you had a great trip and something I’m hoping to replicate myself, not sure my body can cope tho with a Bp pleasure beach late night riding session binning off my trip to towers 😂
 

davidm

Strata Poster
Friday 1st April - Fun Spots (mostly)

Checked out of first hotel, grabbed a IHOP breakfast and mooched around the top end of I-Drive for a while.

Got a wristband at the first Fun Spot (having checked that I could add the second Fun Spot onto it for $10 later in the day) and spent a while
on White Lightning a a couple of laps on the kiddie-invert (had done this place the last time I was here, so no +1s here).







They even let me on their little Ferris wheel as a solo-rider, that doesn't happen often these days.



Gators, they have a few.



Ok then, I always make a point of visiting this odd mall-place up near Fun Spot when I am in Orlando. I have a morbid fascination with it; it
was originally a fully functioning mall (albeit a bit quiet) "Festival Bay", then a failing mall (lots of empty units) and then a re-imagined
(but empty) mall with a load of "artisan" vendors ; "Artegon Marketplace" and now its an indoor amusement park "Dezerland". I wonder what it
will be next time I visit?


The BassPro shop there has always been a constant though (although now the entrance back into the mall is blocked off)



Dezerland contains a bunch of indoor attraction things ; axe-throwing, trampoline park, e-karting, crazy golf ; all of which looked ok, but as
with its previous personalities, all lacking in punters (to be fair was still early in the day though)

Seemingly the main attraction (certainly taking up the most room) was a car-museum place - seemed to be the collection of Mr Dezer who
owned the place. I didn't do the museum but you could see plenty of the cars from outside and it did look like a pretty extensive collection
if you are into that sort of thing I'd think it would have been pretty good.





Next stop was Icon Park - I'd done the wheel here last time I was here (was OK) but they had built some other stuff since then. Obviously
the big drop tower was closed due to the awful accident a couple of weeks before but I wanted to ride the StarFlyer there. I actually got a
bit confused about which tower was which and ended up by the drop-tower - TV vans were still parked up there; it was all still a bit of a
constant on the local news.



All very sad of course.



Eventually found the StarFlyer (like its not a huge big obvious structure Dave, come on) and took a spin.

Now I'm usually fine on these things, I've ridden a couple of really big ones too (Texas,Stockholm) and this one is only a bit bigger...



...but I was absolutely terrified on it. Just wanted it to end. How strange. Needed a bit of a sit down after that. Wow.

Good view from up there though. Which I struggled to appreciate at the time. :)

Right moving on, down to the other Fun Spot, which did have a few +1s for me. I'd ridden the old WIndstorm there many years ago (but that
has gone) and in the last few years they had added a few other coasters. Nice of them to do that then.

Get this out of the way first, they all count. Was a bit less shameful than other kiddie-creds. A bit.



But next to that was the real attraction of the place; Mine Blower :)



An inverting woody? In Florida? What were they thinking?

Whilst probably not the most sensible ride choice for a Florida park, I quite enjoyed this. Had a load of rides (barely any other punters around).



Sure its a bit brutal, but what do you expect from a woody in Florida?

In the location where the Windstorm was is Hurricane, which I've just realised I've seen before; back when it was at Celebration City in
Branson, but never ridden (as CC was standing closed by then).

Had to find a ride-op to even operate this thing, so no pics of it in action as he vanished again straight after the lap. Ha.



Wasn't a good ride, kinda Wildcat-esque but with a distinct enough layout.

Last coaster here was a bit more popular with punters so had actual ride-ops working it. Had ridden it at Cypress Gardens many years ago so
not a +1, the ride-op seemed impressed when I told him I'd ridden it there.



Right, randomness done, go off to find the next hotel: near Seaworld, but with a less enticing view than the last place



There was a sketchy bar nearby where I thought I'd get some food, but it looked too sketchy for me so went to an Indian place nearby instead.



Wasn't great.
 

davidm

Strata Poster
Saturday 2nd April - Seaworld

As I mentioned earlier, plan for today was to spend it at Seaworld, do a few coasters and eat and drink my way through some food and beer
festival that they had going on.

My new hotel was cunningly located about 15mins walk from Seaworld gate, only as I crossed the road to cut through to the Seaworld parking
lot did I spot the "no pedestrian access" sign on the route I was taking. I looked at the road I wanted to walk down, decided that there
was no good reason that it should be "no pedestrian access" and carried on regardless. :)

The other complication for the day was that rain was predicted for the afternoon. A lot of rain. All afternoon. Better get a head start on the
coasters then...

Couple of laps on Ice Breaker to start up the day





Did not reride this though, didn't want to get wet before I had too



A few laps on Mako, because it's lovely,



Sky Tower was open, it had not been on Tuesday. $5 upcharge as well, pah.







Rode Manta and then Kraken at the front



(Kraken was delayed quite a bit as they had a biological incident and seemed to take an age to clear that up, poor guy was stood on the
offload platform throwing up the remains of what he had failed to throw up over himself on the ride, into a bin for a good 20 minutes)

This had got me to early afternoon, rain had not started yet but I got my festival ticket and had a few snacks.







The idea of the festival is that you can get an "item" at each of the festival stands per token - the item either being a snack-sized food
portion or a small beverage (maybe 1/3 pint of beer) - you could purchase any of these as well, just the lanyard/token was better value if
you were going to have a few.

I'd sat down with my first beer-only selection when the rain started. :(



And it wasn't messing about. All the outdoor festival locations shut down (I was in a semi-indoor one near Wild Arctic by then).

The rain eased briefly and I dashed across the walkway to a bar back on the other side of the lagoon which had a wider beer-selection than
the one I was hiding in initially. Got reasonably wet walking over there though.





And the rain kicked in again, for a long long time and several beers (was reading my book too, not just drinking!)



After a few hours it eased a bit again and I relocated again to another indoor bar.



But the rain came back and I was stuck there for a while too.



Oh well.





Eventually it eased, even stopping for a bit so grabbed a few more laps on Mako while I could





More snacks - this was the best food item I had;



I'd almost eaten/drunk my way through my tokens by then, had a final coaster-cocktail to finish me off.



Only then did I notice that the evening's show - part of the festival event - was about to start so headed in to see what on earth a "Lindsey Stirling" was.



Turns out she was a violin-player/dancer person.

Watched that for a while, it was OK but I quit it early, got a bit repetitive to be honest.

That put me, somewhat merry, standing outside Mako and it had started to rain again.

But Mako was running in the rain.

So why the hell not?

Absolutely fantastic - empty (zen ride at the front) or almost empty (me and one other idiot) trains, proper painful rain, ride ops just
laughing at us. Seriously some of the most fun laps on a coaster ever there. Awesome.

The park wasn't due to close for a few hours but they closed it early while I was still riding Mako. Ha ha.

Stumbled back to the hotel down my "no pedestrian access" road again, not a care in the world.

Plan worked then, despite, or perhaps because of, the torrential rain for most of the day. :)
 
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davidm

Strata Poster
Sunday 3rd April - Di$ney

Been in Orlando a week and had not done anything Disney-related; mind you my last trip to Orlando I only had one quick visit to Disney Springs
as the only Disney stuff I did. In fact its almost 10 years (~9.5 really) since I'd been to any of the Orlando Disney parks - blimey.

And what a faff it is to visit the parks these days, everything done on their app. I have no doubt that the app (and the backend system it
runs upon) is very clever indeed, it just sucks all the joy out of visiting the parks (IMHO). I work in IT, I'm very familiar with apps and
using computers and I just hated it.

I had reserved Animal Kingdom for today then (you currently have to pre-book the park you want to visit on any given day, what extra special
magic that is) and headed off nice and early to try to get a run on the crowds.



Well that didn't work well, and 8:30 in the morning I'm already in a stupid queue for their stupid (new to me) Pandora-ride thing. Ugh. Hated
the queue, hated the land, borderline hated the ride - I mean you are on this flying lizard thingy and the seat is all clever pretending you
can feel it breathe and stuff, but the film ahead of you has no sign of the thing you are riding upon. WTF.







I mean WTF is mecha-droid things doing in "Animal Kingdom"





Suck up another huge Q for the boat ride thing here;



And that's awful too. Its a Small World clone with a posh animatronic at the end.

I used to kinda-like Animal Kingdom, but not today. Its hugely busy, multi-hour waits for the safari thing (so I don't do it), food places
all busy, pathways heaving with people wandering around with nothing to do ; I mean there are 3 LESS roller coasters here today than the last
time I was here - just pitiful.



Everest was down for maintenance, but I knew that before I came. In hindsight I think Everest is the only thing worth coming to this park for.



Watched this show because it was just starting as I walked past. It was crap.



I did the animal walkthrus, which were OK (but I think their bat population is hugely declining, used to be hundreds of the things, bow
only a couple of them?)



And I rode Dinosaur with a bearable Q before I stormed out of the place in a foul mood as soon as the "park hopper window" opened (2PM) - I
mean WTF you can only park-hop after 2PM - soul sucking joy killing Disney at the moment.

--

Right what's going to help improve my mood, I know a trip to one of my least liked parks in the world. Magic Kingdom it is then!



At least Magic Kingdom has a lot more things for the vast crowds to do and it handles the large crowds a heck of a lot better than the
previous place. So I did manage to chill out a bit for the rest of the day! :)

Did Space Mountain then a lap on the peoplemover (both reasonable Qs though) to have a look at the Tron build;



Oh god that means I'll likely come back again in a few years doesn't it. :(

More (bearable) Qs later...



Pirates good though and I did Haunted Mansion as well.



Had been keeping an eye on the advertised Q line for the real reason I'd come to the Magic Kingdom, the elusive Disney +1, which for me today
was the Seven Dwarfs (it existed last time I was in Orlando, but I did no Disney then). It was sitting at a constant 2 hours all day, but it
was getting late so I just headed in, firing up the kindle app on my phone to occupy me.

Some trickery afoot though as it was only 45mins or so - and it was probably a bit better than I expected it to be ; decent kiddy mine train
affair then.



I was so amazed by the shortness of my wait I did the Ariel dark-ride to see if I could recall how much it matched the one in California
which I have done at least twice. Turns out couldn't recall anything much as I rode it, but it was walk-on so no great waste of time.

With that I sulked off back to the hotel - easily the worst day of the trip, Animal Kingdom is just an aberration at the moment, day only
rescued by being at a well run park for the remainder of the day.
 
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davidm

Strata Poster
Monday 4th April - Hollywood!

When thinking about this trip (like 2.5 years ago), the major contributing factor in my mind was the Star Wars stuff. Had been following all
the announcement through construction through initial opening and then Rise opening with some amount of goony enthusiasm.

Anyway TODAY was the day. Will admit to being very excited by the prospect of the Star Wars stuff.

Like a good Disney-drone I booked up Genie+ on the app-of-awfulness before I checked out of the hotel (moving to a new hotel later), which
was not error-free but seemed to sort itself out after a bit of prodding. But I was not able to then book any "Lightning Lane" (great name
folks, what are you going to wow us with next) - just getting a "we can not retrieve your details" when I tried.

Oh well, thought I, nothing I can do right now and zoomed off to the park for its 8am opening.

Got into the park shortly after 8am and goon-rushed to Rise of the Resistance and joined an advertised 2 hour (yes at 8am, 2 hours) queue.
(Disney guests get an 1/2 hour early entry so I just figured that's where the 2 hour's worth of people came from, those who got into the park
before I did)



The (early morning) Q is pretty evil - it starts out near where Rise's entrance is, goes into the entrance and then straight back out again,
then runs back out of the whole Galaxy's Edge area and into the backstage queue area for the Muppets show. Eventualy it comes back into
Galaxy's Edge (probably been queuing an hour by now!) and rejoins the proper outside Q for Rise, eventually making its way inside of the ride
building where there is now at least some queue-line-themed to look at.

I bide some of the time in the queue trying to get my Genie+ to work but its having none of it - steadfastly refusing to let me book any of
the LightningLane things that I have paid for. Hmmmm.



Eventually (yes the full 2 hours) you get to the "lightning lane" merge point and then into the first preshow.



Stone-me that was an ordeal, but its all forgotten now as I'm on the Star Wars!!!!! :)



Preshow done, then you are whisked into a little transporter ship for part one of the ride



Couple of the effects (the animatronics) were not working on the transporter, but there was still visuals going on and you felt like you were
moving all the time. As long as you paid attention to what was going on it all made sense and the "big reveal" at the end of that section is
just fab.

Oh no we've a been captured.



A little bit more queue-ing and then you are processed in groups into a prison cell - all very well done.



The resistance arrive then to rescue you (very slick) and you are loaded into the ride vehicles for the ride proper. Which is great, even
with a couple of the effects not working (static guns and no Kylo-Ren animatronic at the end).

We escape to the planet surface and unload. Phew.



And that was amazing. The whole ride experience is a good 20mins from the pre-show - feels like a real adventure. It's well written and the
cast members are all right in character, just really top notch stuff from start to end (even with the few missing effects)

Loved it then.

I've not seen anything of the rest of the land yet so have a wander around - it's very good, lots of details, lots of things to look at. Lots
of people though, its heaving busy.

Get through to the Millennium Falcon bit and spot it has a single-rider queue (not sure I realised that before?) which brings joy to my heart.

As a SRQ, you are batched at the point where they assign the 6 riders per vehicle and so usually get the rear seat (engineer) but I also got
the gunner thru the SRQ later - and just saved myself a 90min standby queue for the 5min SRQ experience. You don't see the preshow on the SRQ
though, will come back to that.



I liked this too - the film does react to what the passengers do and it's good fun (although it's "just" a simulator ride, unlike Rise which has
all sorts of practical-stuff going on)

So after a couple of SRQ rides on that I've "done the Star Wars". Happy Dave.

Some other tosh in the area, build a lightsaber (no thanks don't be silly), build a droid (no thanks don't be silly)



Look at the Star Wars stuff (yes please)







Oh there's a bar here too? Makes mental note.

Also "new to me" is the Toy Story land, so go and have a look at that.



Slinky Dog is posting a 2 hour queue though and I've had enough of long queues for now. So carry on through the park to find a "Guest
Services" point to tell me what I'm doing wrong with my Genie+ (its midday by now and its still not letting me do anything).

Have a chat with a nice Guest Services chap and it all gets sorted. The trick is (something that they (deliberately?) don't tell you) that
you need to be "on" Disney-wifi (not your cellular data) to use it. What the actual **** is that about? Clearly a way to prioritise
availability for on-site hotel guests as they'll all be able to use it outside the park and only off-site guests (like me today) when at the
park itself (the wifi is pretty available in the park, just I had not connected to it as I had mobile data). As soon as the Guest Services
guy "suggested" I try the wifi (he clearly knew what the issue was) the Genie+ abilities on my app leapt into life, but everything that I
wanted to get a fastpass for was gone for the day by now. FFS.

The Guest Relations guy sorted all this though after I clocked what was going on and started to have (a bit of) a moan. He booked a couple
of (for me un-bookable) slots for me in the afternoon and also added a couple of "wildcard fastpass" entries for me (which I could use at
anytime of the day but only for select attractions). he couldn't/wouldn't give me a Tower of Terror pass though as it was running at half
capacity and they had been told not to add anymore "freebies" to the line. Hmm fair enough- he'd vastly over delivered on what I'd paid for
by what he added for me so not complaining, he genuinely saved the rest of my day from frustration and angst into something much more
pleasant.

But why did I have to go through all that to get a result? I'd played the Genie+ game, tried to follow the rules to make my "magic day"
happen and just ended up with problems that they needed to (and did) solve. What an awful system. I proffered some constructive feedback
to the Guest Service guy - that I knew what I was doing with IT and theme parks and I hated the system, he said that they got a lot of that
feedback.

OK rant over - Genie+ is horrible, we all get that now.

TL;DR - use the (Disney) hotel wifi or in-park wifi otherwise it will not work.

I SRQ RockNRollerCoaster then to relieve my frustrations - still was 45min SRQ but better than the 90 advertised standby (don't think I
could use my wildcard Genie+ things for that)



Still good, even if the IP (which I like) is increasingly irrelevant these days.



Tower was write-off though ; 2 hour stand by for something I've walked onto multiple times - not today I think then.

I did have a booked slot (not one of the wildcards) for Star Tours though, so that was nice.



And I could use one of my wildcards back in Star Wars land to do the Millennium Falcon ride again with the pre-show, which was worth doing as
it was pretty good and did explain the story :)



Since I was in the normal/express queue I could also get the pilot seat. I was rubbish though, kept crashing into stuff - ha ha. But I did
get to pull the level that took us into hyperspace. Achievement unlocked. :)



I also had booked (via the nice Guest Relations chap) a express for the other major (new to me) thing here - Mickey and Minnie's Runaway
Railroad. Must admit I knew very little about this, not even realising until the train had left the station that it was not, in fact, a train
at all but a bunch of trackless vehicles (so with Rise and Toy Story as well in the same park, that's a lot of trackless things!)



It was weird - really good in places but a bit incoherent? Gonna have to watch some YouTube vids of it at some point to understand what was
all going on I think.

OK right, Disney +1 needed, suck up that 2 hour queue (no fastpass option for this for me unfortunately). Don't think its particularly high
capacity, which creates the stupid long line. :(



Wasn't quite 2 hours but well over an hour. Kindle app came into use again then. Also some teenage girl a bit ahead of me with all her mates was
sitting on the barrier like you are expressly told not to do, and fell off backwards. Fell onto some sharp bit of themeing and created a huge
gash down her back - like 10 inches long gash - didn't break the skin but she had a massive red mark all down her back, looked really nasty.
The wait was so long she had time to leave the line to get some medical attention then come back later and rejoin her friends. She did not
appear to be too phased by the experience but looked like she'd end up with a scar to me. Anyway, don't sit on the barriers folks!

OK, got on eventually, it was fun enough but not worth that queue again. +1 and done.



My second wildcard fastpass I used on Toy Story, just because it still had a big queue and I wanted to leave the park to check into my next
hotel. Was somewhat curious to see how they had switched the entrance to the ride right around from where it used to be to the new land - if
you didn't know where it used to be you'd have no idea.



So in the end a pretty good day, did the Star Wars and got my Genie+ problems super-resolved which saved the rest of the day for me. Happy.

My next hotel was just over the road from Disney Springs (had stayed there before, about 15 years ago so I knew it worked well) but the new
view (of I-4) was even less exciting than the last one! :)



I headed into Disney Springs for some food/beer (which was a main reason I was at that hotel) and almost immediately decided I hated the place so much more than when it was Pleasure Island / Downtown Disney.

Got some food in The Edison, which was meant to be posh burger but was not great, but at least sitting at the bar I got served quickly otherwise
it was an hour wait for a table at most places :(



Had a look at the City Works place there, which seems like it would be right up my street, lots of craft beers and bar food but I looked
around it and decided I hated it! Go figure?!?



So sated my thirst with an expensive margarita instead and called it a day.



A good day though, let's do it all again tomorrow then? :)
 
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HeartlineCoaster

Theme Park Superhero
I mean WTF is mecha-droid things doing in "Animal Kingdom"
All the military tech bits in the area are remnants from the events of the film and now the land is meant to be 'reclaiming' it all because the bad humans are gone and the locals are all about that nature.

Also Animal Kingdom was always intended to have a 'fantasy animal' section but they ran out of money/people back in the day. Many years later they thought "Avatar - that will be as popular as Harry Potter down the road" and here we are.

To be fair, none of this gets explained on park and you have to actually care to notice any of the cool details around the place, so that's totally on them. It's a weird one.
 

davidm

Strata Poster
Yeah I know about all the "Beastly Kingdom" stuff, but IMHO its a huge difference between that and the sci-fi-desparate-for-an-IP mess that they have ended up with. Just ruins the whole "Animal" vibe of the place. :(

(just salty because Everest was down really :) )
 

Nitefly

Hyper Poster
Thanks for the write ups @davidm - enjoying it 👍

The info you were provided by the customer services chap was misleading, as you absolutely don't need to use 'Disney' wifi to get it to work properly; any solid internet signal (hotel wifi or otherwise) will suffice. That said, the in-park Disney wifi is extremely good and should always be used (when in-park).

I still don't know what to make of Disney+. It can be useful if you know it's 'tricks', but it commands a need to learn them and then time spent obsessively applying them (throughout the day - even when you are unable to book anything, simply to observe genie+ drop patterns to influence your 'acceptance strategy'*). We were able to do well out of it but the time/effort was substantial. For anyone waltzing into a park not knowing what they are doing, it could be terrible.

*For example, a ride like Tower of Terror may say 'no rides left' or 'evening only' for 99.95% of the day, but people cancel bookings and sometimes there appear to be extra drops. By refreshing all the time and refusing to book until the right time slot appears, you can pretty much get any time slot for any ride, if you are patient. By deploying this strategy from 7am, when bookings are first available, we were able to line-up lightening lane bookings to leisurely walk-on every ride at Hollywood Studios from around 5:30pm until 9pm, despite the horrible posted standby waits (120 mins for TOT and Slinky Dog, etc). On one hand, great, but very un-holiday like... perhaps only for people that find some twisted enjoyment in the challenge of the 'game'.
 
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davidm

Strata Poster
Tuesday 5th April - Hollywood!

Lets do that again then.

Now my new hotel, while not a Disney-hotel, is a Disney-Partner-hotel, which means I get (or rather have paid for) a bus service to the parks,
wi-fi that the app-of-awfulness works upon but most useful this morning - the 1/2 hour early entry perk.

So I am up stupid early to get on a bus at 7am and into the park ahead of the great unwashed masses (like myself, yesterday)

I book Genie+ again of course and try to see whether I can get a slot for Rise when they go on sale (another upcharge, not on Genie+) at 7am.
Of course I'm on a bus by then, so the app is not letting me actually buy any, but I refresh and can see the day's slots for Rise all
sell out by 7:03am. Blimey.

Once I'd got into the park and onto their wifi, I booked a slot for Tower later in the day though.

Anyway there I am 7:30 in the morning, heading into another advertised 2 hour queue. What is my life?



While the Q said 2 hours, and it did wind its way around all the same outdoor overflow areas as yesterday, the actual line started just
outside the ride building so I was pretty sure it was not going to be the full 2 hours like yesterday.



And my confidence was well placed as after about 50mins I was into the preshow and away. Yay.





Great stuff again.

Due to early start, had not eaten, so had some Star Wars breakfast c/o Ronto Roasters - was good.



Quick lap (SRQ) on the Millennium Falcon follows - not a bad start to the day and its still pretty early.

Round off the Star Wars stuff for a bit with a journey on Star Tours, had to Q a bit for that though so I booked another Genie+ slot for it
later in the day (much later was the only one I could get at the time).

Sucked up the best part of an hour's wait in the SRQ for RockNRollerCoaster - still quicker than the standby line.

And because it was next door, new to me, just starting and I had no idea what it was*, went into the Lightning McQueen Racing Academy thing.



*And what it was, was rubbish.

I had, the previous evening, booked a reservation for the bar in Star Wars land around lunchtime. It wasn't quite time but I headed back
to Star Wars and faffed aroud the area for a bit.

Expensive (alcoholic) blue milk - the butterbeer of the area I guess.



My Disney-ticket had a photopass built in (i.e. I had already paid for photopass), consequently got a few pics. Here I am being assauted by an augmented reality Porg. Howie would be so impressed.



Right, Oga's Cantina time - yay.



The way this works is you book a 45-minute slot, no guarantee of a table so I'm just stood at the bar. But its all pretty cool, the bar staff
are all in theme and full of banter and most amusing.

There is food as well as drinks in the Cantina, but only a cheese/meat platter or some crispy snack things. I have the crispy snack things
for lunch then (they were OK, expensive obviously) as I work my way through their Star Wars beers.





I've had my allotted 45mins and a couple of beers but the bartender upsells me another one (was not hard to do) I check with him that they are
not going to throw me out for overrunning my slot first though - they aren't. :)



Well that was a lot of fun for a few beers and a packet of crisps. :)

Suitably happy then I go off and watch a few shows.

Indy! Cool, seen it many times before though.





Beauty and the Beast. Not cool, pretty dull. Clearly not my scene!



But kills the time until my Tower slot has rolled around.



Taken much better pics in here 10 years ago (see here)



Half-capacity gets you 135 minutes standby!



Use my Genie+ slot of Star Tours, but the standby line is not bad so have a couple of tours on it. Really reridable that because of all the
segment variations - think I only got 1 repeat segment over the four times I rode it this trip.

Spotted then that they have a taphouse (bar) nearby, so spend a bit of time there (they are only small beers so doesn't really count)



Opposite the taphouse is the Muppets and that's literally about to start, so why not?



Head back to Rise - the external overflow queue has disappeared during the day (as it had yesterday for that matter) but the sign still said
120mins. I ask the CM at the entry whether that was a real 120m or just something to dissuade people from joining it. He reckoned they were
pretty accurate so I set off for some food before I brave it again.



To complete my day of only eating Star Wars food, I get something at the Docking Bay 7 place which also serves the one Star Wars beer that I
did not have at the Cantina earlier in the day.



Take my beer into the 120min queue then.



Its not 120mins of course, CM lies again. It would have been about an hour, only the silly thing breaks down just before I get get to the
batching area before the preshow (like 20 people short of it, pah!)

Its broken for about 20 minutes though and then starts up again - yay.

Night ride! (like that makes any difference)



Non-functional animatronic :(



Oh no, captured again, what bad luck.



It broke down a bit when I was on it too - was stuck in the cell block (before the rescue by the resistance) for a while - just added to the
tension :)

--

Park had closed for the day, so off for my bus back to the hotel - thoroughly enjoyed all that I did. :)
 

Howie

Donkey in a hat
I mean, it's not an Ewok, but you're right - I am quite impressed by the Porg. 👍
Excellent reporting, Sir!
 
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