Orlando Trip Report

Universal Orlando: A trip to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Disney's Hollywood Studios.

From David L.
Posted May 3, 2012 at 8:32 PM
This past weekend(April 28-30th) I was able to spend 2 days at Universal Orlando Resort and part of a day at DHS(before flight). The last time I was at Universal was at least 12 years ago so I had a lot to look forward to. I will add more details latter, but here is a short(well, kind of) overview:

Islands was a great park with amazing themed areas(Port of Entry and Lost Continent), great rides(Jurassic Park, Spiderman, and Hulk), and good food. The Port of Entry was amazing, a beautiful land that began before you got into the park. Sues-landing had a great theme, but lacked in the ride department. The Lost Continent had an amazing theme, decent food(Mythos), and an amazing attraction, Poseidon's Fury. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter had a neat theme(nothing revolutionary though) but lacked in the ride department. The Forbidden Journey had a great line with a decent, non-thrilling ride. Jurassic Park was neat with a great headliner attraction. Toon Lagoon had lacked in the theme department but was still enjoyable. Marvel Super Hero Island was poorly themed(massive cardboard-like cutouts?) but held some of the best rides. Overall, a neat park where nearly every one of my expectations were flipped. They need to fix the obnoxious music though.

Universal Studios seemed about on par with Disney's Hollywood Studios, but I realized how the theme is kind of mash up in most areas. Favorites included the Mummy, Men in Black, Disaster, and Rip Ride Rockit. The night time show was good, but not great. I enjoyed the New York section the most. The entrance, while nice, was about as well themed as my Six Flag Over Georgia's entrance. Overall it's a nice park, but it needs more.

Disney's Hollywood Studios was my highlight with great rides(like usual) and great theme throughout. One main thing I noticed was how the park was relaxing(especially compared to Universal).

More commentary coming soon...

From Dominick D
Posted May 4, 2012 at 10:25 AM
Nice report. What was your favorite at DHS?

From David L.
Posted May 4, 2012 at 2:19 PM
Dominick, I have been to DHS many times before, but the new Star Tours blew me away. Either that or Tower of Terror are my favorites.

Back to Islands. Port of Entry was one of my favorite lands, about on par with AK's Oasis, and even better than Main Street. I just loved the eye candy everywhere. I enjoyed the theme in Suess Landing very much. I loved all there was to see and explore, but the music was too loud, loud enough to be distracting. The Cat in the Hat was a decent dark ride on par with Snow White or Peter Pan, but it could have been so much more. The fish ride was neat, as was the Caro-suess-el. My sister and brother-in-law enjoyed the Trolly Ride but The line was too long for the rest of the group. Overall, Suess-Landing was a great land!

The Lost Continent was a whole new animal. The level of theme was amazing(apart from Poseidon's rear end). I loved exploring here more than anywhere else. My family also was able to enjoy Mythos. Is it the best theme park restaurant? no, but it's still good. For appetizers, we got the mushroom flat bread and the sushi, smiles all around. The Pad Thai was very good, but the bbq chicken wrap could have been much better. One of the salads(I forget which one) was ok, and the chicken sandwich was nothing to write home about. The desert was alright and i enjoyed the sampling. The signature alcoholic drink who's name escapes my minds(something potion I think?) was good as well. Poseidon's Fury was one of our favorite attractions. Amazing exterior, great acting, slightly cheesy, and amazing effects. We did not get to see Sindbad.

More to come...

From Melanie Howe
Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:45 PM
Looking forward to reading the rest of your report... particularly if you can explain how DHS was relaxing compared to Universal. It sounds like you found DHS to be more so, while I've always experienced it to be the opposite. Very interested to hear the rest of your take on both parks :-)

From David L.
Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:18 PM
Melanie, First of all, the general opinion of my report is based on what i gathered from my whole family's opinion. 2 of which are 100% Disney Fanatics with a 3 month old child. The rest of us enjoy all(most) parks, but tend to think Disney is the best. We all judged City Walk to be more like a nice shopping mall without a theme. My experience with malls is not very relaxing and city walk was no exception. Another factor was that we visited Universal on a Saturday and Sunday while DHS on Monday, so, less crowds at DHS. We found that sound was a problem at Universal. The music in some places was not enjoyable. In particular, Suess-landing had very loud music on the rides(Caro-suess-el was WAY too loud) and in the area in general. The Hulk was far too loud as well(not just for the baby). You could easily hear it in many lands across the lagoon. The cast member were very nice, but most didn't have the Disney touch of friendliness. Music in a theme park should be background music(exceptions include the entrance and some appropriate attractions). I found it to be perfect at DHS, while at Universal it was too loud. I guess it's all a matter of taste, but my whole family had the same opinion. Though we are slightly Disney-biased, sound is the primary reason we feel more relaxed at Disney. I hope that made sense and I'm glad there are people who enjoy Disney's competition more!

From Melanie Howe
Posted May 5, 2012 at 6:15 AM
Makes perfect sense, David. Thanks for the explanation!

The last time I was at DHS was a Saturday... the week before Christmas....so, yeah, that was probably a factor in my experience :-)

From Dominick D
Posted May 5, 2012 at 8:09 AM
I agree 100% with what you said David.

From David L.
Posted May 6, 2012 at 10:33 AM
On to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. My expectations were that I would be in a crowded themed land unlike any other. I expected Dragon Challenge to be an improved version of Batman:The Ride and the Forbidden Journey to be an amazing thrilling ride unlike any other. The area wasn't as crowded as I expected, so that was great, but the theme wasn't any better than the Lost continent, or many other lands from other theme parks. Butterbeer was great! Everyone loved it. The stores were neat, but far too small. The Flying Broomstick restaurant was good. Awesome theme, and good food. The Shepherds Pie, Fish and Chips, chicken, and ribs were all good. Flight of the Hippogriff(sorry about spelling) was a neat kiddie coaster, but not the best. Dragon challenge was a big letdown. The theme was great in the line. The Hungarian Horntail was a letdown. Batman and Six Flags was far better. The Chinese Fireball was only on par with Batman.

Now for the Forbidden Journey. The exterior was great, I wish the forced perspective was better, but I loved the detail. The Line is one of the best lines I have ever been in. I'll go so far as to say that it moved too quickly so I couldn't enjoy all of the things to look at. The ride itself was alright. The thrill was minimal. The part with the screens was great, it felt almost as fun as Soarin'. The rest was fun, but not scary or thrilling. I wish some of the AAs actually jumped out at you instead of just sitting there. I also wished they hid the base of other vehicles better. On the ride I could see the next vehicle's base and arm. Overall, I don't get the hype of the ride. The praise for the exterior and queue is understandable, but not for the ride. Here's some questions: Is the dragon head supposed to do anything other than just sit there? Do most people find the ride scary or thrilling? Were my expectations too high?

More to come...

From David L.
Posted May 6, 2012 at 2:46 PM
Err...Three Broomsticks, not Flying Broomsticks. Sorry about that.

From Melanie Howe
Posted May 6, 2012 at 2:51 PM
Scary...no. But then I don't find any ride "scary" -- I enjoy them too much :-) Thrilling -- yes, usually, in parts.... Though even I, a dedicated Universal fan and Potter-phile, have to admit that the excellence of the attraction comes mainly from the combination of all its elements, not just the ride itself.

Regarding the dragon -- usually, the head spouts a a mouthful of "flame" as you go past; the person in the third seat tends to be the victim of lots of wet, warm mist. Was it not working during your ride? I know that some parts of the ride don't always work (i.e. - I think they've given up on the riders' faces being reflected in the dementor's mist....), but the dragon is usually dependable.

From David L.
Posted May 6, 2012 at 7:41 PM
Neither of those things worked...But at least the dementors moved some. I guess I'll enjoy it more next time I go! As for scary, I guess I'm talking about the fun and surprising kind of scary.

From David L.
Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:25 PM
Jurassic Park. I enjoyed the theme here, but I only walked through quickly to ride the main ride and attempt to see the Discovery Center, which was closed. The River Adventure was quite an adventure (pun intended of course). The AAs could have been better, but were still great. The climax and drop were thrilling and fun. It was one of the best rides in the park. However, I wish they could add more to the land in the ride department for all ages.

Toon Lagoon. Overall, my least favorite land, but that's not to say it wasn't fun. The theme could have been much better throughout, but at least it was consistent everywhere. Popeye was a great ride, but the river feels(maybe it is or isn't) so small. I guess it's just a personal preference, but I like it so much more when the river is at least decent in size. Regardless, it's the best rapids ride I've ridden, and you will get soaked(except for 2 or so people). Dudley Do Right was a little bit of a let down, but still a great ride. The ride's drops were great, but that doesn't make up for mediocre show scenes that are easily missed.

Sadly, we didn't have too much time in Jurassic Park and Toon Lagoon so I may have appreciated them more if I had had the time.

More to come...

From David L.
Posted May 15, 2012 at 3:59 AM
I'm going to finish this up quickly. Marvel Superhero Island was poorly themed in a way that the visible backstage areas worked perfectly with their surroundings. Hulk was great, but the line was rundown. Dr Doom had a fascinating line and a lame ride. Spiderman, while great, does not deserve the hype that it gets. It's thrilling, state of the art, and fun, but doesn't have near as great a theme as many other rides.

Universal Studios did not have a good a theme as Islands, but the San Francisco, New York, and Hollywood lands were well done. Shrek was a surprisingly funny and enjoyable show. Rip Ride Rockit was a blast, but the first hill was way too rough. Once you got inside, the Mummy was great, but isn't too thrilling of a coaster. I still enjoyed dark ride scenes, launches, and thrills put together. Twister was alright. However, the main show needs to either be updated or scrapped. ET was fun, but it also needs to be updated or scrapped in the next 5 years. The Simpson's Ride was a big letdown. I was hoping for a thrilling motion simulator. Instead I got a rather lame one with a few good laughs. Men in Black was a blast. A good mix of a shooter and mild thrills. Disaster was really fun. The main actor (guide?) was good and it was a fun experience.

Overall, Universal is a great resort, but it doesn't come close to Disney. I will be back though!

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