Unsure about experience at WWoHP

Universal Orlando: Some thoughts/questions about my first visit to WWoHP today, including an unsettling incident while boarding Dragon Challenge.

From Renee Michelle
Posted February 17, 2013 at 3:49 PM
Being a Florida resident (living in Orlando!) it has been quite bothersome for me that I haven't visited Islands of Adventure since the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Today, I finally remedied that situation, but I was left with very mixed feelings. I wanted to share some thoughts, and in particular, I was wondering what your opinions would be on what I considered to be a very alarming occurrence right before boarding Dragon Challenge.

The very first thing I wanted to do upon entering the park was ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I was impressed with how quickly the line moved (the predicted 75 minute wait turned out to be about 40 minutes) and the queue was delightful. I would not consider myself a HUGE Harry Potter fan, but I do like the universe, and in particular have always wished I could visit the castle. So I was very charmed, trying to take it all in as we shuffled towards the ride.

I did not dislike the ride itself, but I can't say I loved it as much as I wanted to. The flying sensation is great, and I did like the scary moments coming face-to-face with the dragon and dementors. Still, we rode it twice and I wasn't able to make much sense of the plot. It seemed as though they tried to cram way too much chaos into one ride - The dragon, the spiders, Quidditch/Malfoy, dementors - All on top of one another, without much transition between scenes. There was also a bit with the Whomping Willow, where Hermione screams, "Look out!" But there was either a malfunction on the ride today, or I just missed something, because the tree was not "whomping" or moving at all. It was just a large, intimidating tree. The ride vehicle faced it for a moment and then turned away.. Does it normally do something more threatening than just stand there? I'll also say that I was put off my the motion simulator. Specifically, the ride's habit of doing an intense rocking motion, where you are tossed onto your back, and then swung back forward until you're facing down again. I do not normally get motion sickness, but that made my stomach turn, especially the second time I rode it several hours later.

My biggest concern was Dragon Challenge. I was already disappointed to learn that the coasters no longer duel, and to see that the statues had been removed. It was very disappointing to walk through the queue and see all its former glory reduced to cave walls. The queue was also very unkempt - I do understand that this was a Saturday and the park was pretty busy, but all throughout the queue, there were overflowing trash cans and (squeamish beware) a puddle where someone had gotten sick, that had not been cleaned up! I've been to IoA many times and have never seen anything like that!

Then, something happened right before the loading dock that I found a bit disturbing. I am curious as to what other members here will think/know about this type of situation.
We had made it to the line for second row and had one party ahead of us before we would board. Suddenly, there was a huge commotion, and I saw that a guest standing in line for the front row had fainted. Other guests immediately began calling for an employee, but there was no response. In fact, all employees seemed to have vanished, even the ones who were previously checking shoulder restraints right in front of us. I can only hope their disappearance was some kind of protocol, because it seemed very odd to me. A guest shouted for a doctor/nurse and eventually another guest came forward - Not sure if they were a medical professional or not. The man had regained consciousness and was trying to stand up, but there was obviously something wrong with him. The possible doctor/nurse (definitely a guest, not an employee) tried asking him some questions, if he had low blood pressure, diabetes, etc. He seemed too confused to respond. She began asking everyone around if they had anything with sugar, and immediately several guests handed over some candy. She helped the man get seated with his back against a wall, and urged him to eat some chocolate. Several minutes later, an employee finally appeared on the other side of the gate (where a full train of very confused riders had been waiting for launch). A girl in front of us frantically informed the employee of the sick guest, and the employee responded that it was "being taken care of." Several more minutes later, they sent off the train that had been waiting, filled another train, sent that one off, and then we boarded. The man was still sitting against the wall with a couple guests kneeling around him, but I did not see any park employees or medical personnel come to his aid. Unfortunately I did not find out what happened after that.
I was very confused by all of that. As I said before, my only thought is that there must have been some reason all the employees on the loading dock went missing while a guest lay unconscious by the gate. I know they probably are not supposed to touch a sick/injured guest or anything like that, but where did they go? Why did 15+ minutes pass without anyone but fellow guests tending to the man? It seemed that he just fainted for whatever reason, but what if it had been a serious emergency like a seizure?
I contemplated speaking to someone about the incident, but admittedly wasn't sure what to say. I also wanted to comment about the disarray of the queue, but I didn't end up addressing it to anyone. (I regret this now, but we were just trying to move on with our day.)

The last thing that got to me was not very dramatic compared to that, but was just strange and again, disappointing. Just before park closing, we dashed to ride Forbidden Journey for the second time. I got off the ride feeling a bit nauseous and ready to go home. On our way out of Hogsmeade, we saw two men holding signs and inviting us to a magic show. I had commented earlier that I thought a magic show would be fitting at WWoHP, so it didn't really occur to me that a normal show wouldn't be taking place within a half hour of the park closing. We were ushered into a tiny room, where the "magic show" turned out to be a fifteen minute long sales pitch for magic tricks you could buy in the shop. It was more annoying than anything, but we felt like we had been tricked.

Anyway, those were my foremost thoughts regarding WWoHP. I didn't get to try the butterbeer or eat at the Three Broomsticks, but I'm sure I'll be at IoA again relatively soon, and maybe I'll get more out of it.

Mostly, I am curious about what might have happened on the loading dock at Dragon Challenge - Is anyone familiar with employee protocol for such situations? Any explanation for the absence of employees? It wasn't as if they were present, but keeping their distance. Guests were shouting for help and looking all over. The other train continued to load/unload normally during the whole thing.

I'm also curious as to whether or not the Whomping Willow was supposed to be moving. Hermione seemed very upset about it even though it was just standing there. Perhaps that's just Hermione.

From Eli G
Posted February 17, 2013 at 6:04 PM
Wait...the man who fainted ate some chocolate to feel better?
THat's exactly what Lupin gives to Harry after he faints because he saw a dementor!
Just wanted to put that out.

I don't know if that's how people normally act, or if the WHomping Willow is normally like that, and I'm sorry I don't.

From Carrie Hood
Posted February 18, 2013 at 1:13 AM
I can't speak for Universal but I know some other theme parks used to have a set rule that if a guest went down in any kind of fashion that could be medical, your NOT to interfere. You where to call security and explain the situation, who would then call first-aid and EMS at the same time. This could take anyplace from 1-10 minutes, if you where the only person to see it that was still the protocol to be followed. If their was more then one, technically one should stand by and let people know help was on the way.

This not only protected the employee from interfering and possibly making something worse but also the guest from untrained but well meaning help. It also kept employees from getting sued in a world that is full of entitlement, sue happy folks. Even the most well meaning of people can get sued if something happened and when reported by the park those names become part of a case, you can see where this is going right?

Now I can't say if that is still the situation in said park but it was years ago.

Now, I'm not defending anyone but we don't know the protocol for this situation or this park. Frankly, at least one employee should have stepped forward and offered to call first aid or security at the very least. Not simply ignored it.

As for the Whopping Willow, It seems odd. It's a major show factor, perhaps they didn't know it was broken yet? The other situation is since it was near closing management may have made the call not to take the ride down and simply fix it after closure.
I couldn't honestly tell you.

From N B
Posted February 18, 2013 at 7:31 AM
Forbidden Journey is a very complicated ride, but the queue pretty much explians the story if you listen closely. Most people ignore the dialog for picture opportunities. It is a bit much crammed into 4 minutes, but they want you to experience as much of the Potter stories as possible.

I have no problem withe the FJ ride, but my wife seems to get a bit dizzy on all motion simulators.

When a component on a ride stops working, they just let it go for the entire day and fix the problem overnight in most cases. At some point, I have experienced every ride at Universal / IOA with something that was not working, but it was always fixed by the next day (except that one staue that refused to go upright in the Mummy) that hadn't worked for a year or so, but on our last visit, it worked every time.

We had MIB shut down mid ride and had to be evacuated after all the lights came on. We were almost exactly half way, so we were the absolute last to get off the ride. We took a bunch of pictures with the lights on, and the cast members actually gave us a mini "tour" on the way out. It was pretty cool to see our favorite ride in a completely different way.

Not sure what the park protocol for the person who fainted is..... TH would probably know more about this as Disney and Uni probably have similar rules.

We had RRR with no music once, the sign in Twister didn't move, a few of the animatronics in ET weren't functioning, Spidey had no spidey signal a few times, one of the sharks wasn't moving in Jaws etc... we have gone so many times over the years and did so much riding, I know every ride by heart.

This stuff happens at all parks, Disney has it's share of non-functioning components, but they have four parks to deal with instead of two.

From Dominick D
Posted February 18, 2013 at 8:30 AM
The only problem I have with FJ is the story. It's a messed up, lame excuse. Think about it. SPOILERS The story is we're touring Hogwarts, but Harry and Co. want us to join them for a Quidditch game. Since we have no other choice, we agree. We travel by Floo to the observatory and run into Hagrid's dragon, but we're still in Hogwarts. After the dragon blasts you with fire, we're in the forbidden forest, specifically Aragog's home (whatever the heck you call it). Huh? Argog's home is deep into the forest, there is no way we could get there that fast. Hermione pops up. Unless she apparated there (Hogwarts students can't go in the Forbidden Forest), there is no way she could have gotten there. After she sent us through the Floo network, did she just run over there waiting for this to happen? Heck, she could have been the whole cause of this! Regardless, she gets rid of the spiders, then we meet the Whomping Willow. I'll let this one slide considering it's pretty close to Hogwarts and is very powerful. Now we're in the Quidditch game, and suddenly Dementors pop up. What? Dementors didn't pop up in Half Blood Prince (if we're going by the movie storyline we're in HBP), so how are they here? We escape to the Chamber of Secrets. Last I checked, the Chamber of Secrets is in the dungeons of Hogwarts accesed by the girls bathroom, not the Quidditch Field! Regardless, Harry saves us, we get to Hogwarts, but there's a bunch of students there (including Hermione). What, did Dumbledore just say, "The muggles are down there, but don't worry, Harry will save them so let's run to the Great Hall!"? Most importantly, Hermione could NOT have gotten there that fast! Dumbledore sends us back to the Room of Requirement and we exit. Yeah, those things can be explained.

From Ashleigh Noad
Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:26 AM
I can't speak for Universal protocol, but at Disney, we were told to offer first aid 3 times to a guest who appears to be unwell. In extreme situations, then yes, you are told to call 911 straight away as this goes to an internal number in Disney. Having been a victim of fainting at Disney in the past and even rejecting first aid after 3 times, there was a first aid trained cast member with me within seconds!

Something sounds like it went wrong here.. the TMs may not be allowed to 'touch' guests but ignoring a guest in need of first aid is certainly not the correct protocol. If it was bothering me, I'd send an e-mail to Universal at least alerting them of the situation so they can speak to the relevant team and find out what went wrong here.

From Renee Michelle
Posted February 18, 2013 at 4:41 PM
Thank you for the responses, everyone. :)

I have been thinking about the incident a lot so I do think I'll take the advice above and send them an e-mail, if only to notify them of how the situation was perceived. (I could tell I was not the only guest feeling very concerned about the fact that there were suddenly no employees around.) I did figure the cast members are not supposed to touch the guests, or something along those lines, but there was an entire crowd of people loudly demanding to know why the employees had gone missing. It was alarming to everyone, so I hope Universal will look into it and at least make sure someone is around to say "Help is on the way" without disappearing for ten minutes first.

And I also suspected that the Whomping Willow was supposed to be moving. I was not really irritated about that or anything, as I do understand that it happens. I just hoped someone would confirm my suspicion. ;) I did understand the 'plot' as far as the fact that we were taking a tour of the castle, and sneaking off to a Quidditch game, etc. Like Dominick said, what was more confusing for me was how we kept bouncing from location to location without much clarity. How DID we get from the Quidditch pitch to the Chamber of Secrets? It's still a very cool ride, I would never deny that!
Motion simulators never make me sick, though, so that was odd. The only two rides that have ever made me nauseous were Forbidden Journey and Mission Space, the "orange" side. I guess I can handle it up to a certain degree of intensity. Just found it strange, I guess. The Hulk makes me feel like a million bucks, but a motion simulator makes me queasy? Come on.. :P

Thanks again for your responses!

From Dominick D
Posted February 18, 2013 at 8:08 PM
Every time I've been on FJ, the Whomping Willow moved it's branches and during the transition from the AA to screen you get a blast of air to make it like you were whomped, which makes sense.

From Michael B
Posted February 19, 2013 at 11:07 AM
Being a season pass holder me and my girlfriend go all the time, and were actually just there yesterday and the whomping willow was not working. Kind of a drag too because it does get extremely close (you could literally touch it) and it adds some intensity to the ride. Hermione there saying watch out when nothing happens is kind of weird. I actually had to read about the ride on wiki before I fully understood where I was supposed to be within the world. Still a fun ride, on par with Spider-Man. It was a little crowded though because of the long weekend

From N B
Posted February 19, 2013 at 9:41 PM

You take these ride stories too seriously.... just kick back and enjoy the Potter overload.

From Marie-Eve Landry
Posted February 22, 2013 at 2:39 PM
The "Magic Show" you are talking about could be the show at Ollivander's? (Basically, it's made to make you wanna buy wands) ...

And about the no-challenge-anymore of the dragons, I think they changed it about a year ago because some objects fell from one wagon and somebody on the other wagon got injured. Something like that.

From N B
Posted February 23, 2013 at 9:30 PM
The magic "show" is in Universal Studios. They have people asking guests to come inside for a magic show and it is exactly a sales pitch to buy overpriced magic kits in a tiny uncomfortable room.

I'm not sure if it is run by Universal or owned independently, but it is a complete waste of 15 minutes and everybody comes out annoyed.

I never noticed it until our last visit. I made a comment along the lines of "Seriously? This is a sales pitch for magic tricks?" after it was over. They were none too pleased and nobody stopped to view their junk on the way out.

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