First time report 4 - Islands of Adventure

September 6, 2017, 7:00 PM

So, if you haven’t seen my “addendum” to the Studios visit for the shows, make sure you see that one first.

We did have a bit of a “preview” of Islands of adventure on the Sunday, but with 90 minutes to go until the shuttle we wanted to take and queues 30-50 minutes we decided not to risk riding anything and come back the next day, figuring it wouldn’t be quite so busy.

This paid off, we only saw queues of around 20-30 minutes or so on the Monday. The layout of IoA is simple enough as to not get lost. We started with Superhero Islands, where else?

Although the “bones” of the theming in Superhero Island are good, the Cutout super heroes I thought looked pretty cheap and detracted from the theming.

The Hulk I found to be an extremely pleasant coaster, and if rebuilding it is what has made it this smooth, then RipRideRocket needs to be becomeRipRebuildRocket. I was however left disorientated at the end (I think this was more dehydration and not the coaster’s fault).

Next up was Spiderman. I felt this was on par with Transformers in Studios in term of combining live action, film and Simulation. I had few, if any, problems with the 3d as they were the new style glasses.

I’m not keen on Drop Towers, and the 25 minute wait successfully dissuaded my Fiancee from dragging me on there, so we headed to Cartoon Lagoon.

As my Girlfriend was opposed to riding a water ride (although I successfully negociated that she would ride JP) there didn’t appear to be too much here for us. It was nice to see Hagar, Phantom, and a few other old favourites… but this just seemed to be “Just a bunch of random successful IP”

Next up on the journey was Kong. If there’s any experience that truly has the spirit of the Universal Recreation Department it is Kong. He was there pretty much at the beginning (when the Tour became more than just a sideline) and its good to see him updated for today.

In line with Universal’s current oft used “trick”, the trucks are taken into Skull Island where ride is combined with 3D movie. This is an all ages ride though with no restraints, so there’s none of the intense movement that other similar rides do… but its no spoiler at the end to say that Kong is there in his full Animatronic form, linking the old universal with the new. He is impressive.

We then headed over to Jurassic Park. The river adventure was great, although the Ultrasaurus looked a little tired, the other dinosaurs looked very lifelike and the final tyrannosaurus attack was well done. Well worth the 35 minute wait.

The Visitors centre was a bit of a letdown… I was expecting it to be just like the movie… and it just seemed to be a bunch of cheap science centre rippoffs.

Now, on to Hogsmeade. I can see why this (along with Diagon alley) is seen as the model for theme parks to emulate. We did sample the butterbeer and it was nice… However, Universal, you need to sort out the whole unlimted drink think. I’m a full supporter of the no-cokie-in-the-wizarding-world policy, but some other drink needs to be offered to souvenir cup holders to help stave away dehydration… just some butterbeer or something will do.

Olivanders… I can’t deny I enjoyed this, but it does just seem to be an elaborate way of pushing parents into making a purchase that they may not want. The actors are certainly skilled, and the theatrics of “wrong wand” amusing… but there really isn’t that much to it.

We were there for the final day of Dragon Challenge, and its passing will surely be lamentable. The ride on Blue itself was smooth (if again disorientating - again I blame creeping dehydration due to the lack of ICEE in Hogsmeade) and a great inverted ride, on par with Nemesis and Nemesis Inferno. I hope another park salvages them (even if they wont duel or be together). As I mentioned in the comments on the article, its sad to see its passing, but without the Dueling, it doesn’t have its “jaybang” or reason to exist anymore.

Now, the moment you have probably been waiting for… Forbidden Journey, our last real ride in the park (if you exclude the Hogwarts Express). The University of Glasgow, my alma mater is jokingly refered to as “hogwarts” due to its architectual style… I would be suprised if Universal didn’t spend some time looking at our main building as the arches, carvings, and windows looked awfully familiar. This ride seems to be the pinacle of Universals “trick”, with the additional live effects very welcome. When it comes to “riding the movies”, Universal certainly has it figured out.

Not wanting to ride Posiedon’s fury, and having felt a bit too big for Seuss land when we walked through it the previous day, we headed back to the Studios park for souvenirs and the shuttle back to base.

Overall, I think I felt a bit let down by Islands of Adventure. I felt like I did everything I wanted to do in about half a day, whereas Studios I had to come back to (and would have gone back to MK and studios again if I had the opportunity). The rides are solid.. but the park seems more cramped, and the theming not quite up to studios/MK level. Don’t get me wrong, its above any regional park standard, but its clearly second fiddle to the studios.

Replies (6)

September 7, 2017, 6:50 AM

Thanks for Posting.... I like IOA more than yourself.

There is stuff for everyone... Big rides, small rides, dark rides....

You need to hit some classics like One Fish Two Fish, Cat in the Hat, Trolley in the Sky, Dr Doom, Storm Force, and so on....

September 7, 2017, 7:48 AM

"I’m not keen on Drop Towers"

Dr. Doom isn't really a "drop tower" per se. It's a launch tower where the carriage starts at the bottom and is thrust upwards. It has a drop tower aspect once you reach the top and begin a freefall back down, but to me I wouldn't call it a drop tower.

Also, I'd note that the single rider line (accessible through the arcade if it's open) moves really fast, and a posted 30 minute wait through the standby line is probably less than 10 minutes through single rider. Because of the orientation of the seats on the attraction, there are frequent opportunities to fill single empty seats, assuming you're fine not riding right next to the rest of your party.

I do think IOA can use a bit of some TLC. Marvel Super Hero Island is what it is, and unfortunately Universal can't really do anything with it without losing their Marvel licensing. It will be interesting to see how long they leave the area as-is before re-branding it to a new IP (if they ever do).

Toon Lagoon is similarly disappointing and the fact that there are only 2 water rides over there can be a bit frustrating. IMHO, water rides should be scattered around a park. At IOA, the 3 water rides are within a 5 minute walk of each other. From an operational/maintenance perspective it's probably nice for the park, and it allows Universal to charge for lockers for these rides (loose articles are permitted on all 3, but risk getting soaked), while still offering free lockers for rides where loose articles are prohibited. Dudley Do-Right is a very nice dark ride, but the soaking you're subjected to makes it a tough ask for guests.

I actually like the JP Discover Center. It's definitely a nice spot to cool off on a hot day, and the exhibits are engaging enough for kids to occupy them for at least 20-30 minutes. I'm not sure what else they could put in there and still stay on theme. Obviously the holograms shown in Jurassic World would be pretty incredible, but I don't think the technology is there quite yet to do something like that in a real theme park.

Poseidon's Fury is not a ride, it's a special effects show (the only one operating right now in Orlando with Disaster being transformed into Fast and Furious). I wouldn't go out of my way to see it, but it's certainly worth a ten minute wait if you're passing by close to showtime (operates on a schedule, not a continuous load cycle). You didn't mention Sinbad. That stunt show is really quite good, and while not nearly as impressive as Waterworld at USH (that uses real Hollywood stuntmen), it's still worth seeing.

I think IOA is going to see a major transformation over the next 5+ years beyond the addition of the new HP attraction. The question will be whether HP takes over more real estate (into Lost Continent), how long Marvel will last, and if Universal utilizes other IPs in the park. IOA was revolutionary when it opened, but is starting to show its age.

September 7, 2017, 8:30 AM

Maybe I missed it but I did not see him mention the water rides like Popeye and Bluto rapids and Rip Saw falls...

Hey Russ - I went on a Drop ride on the top of Stratosphere tower in Vegas.... Scariest thing I have ever done...
1,200 high, then you go up another 200 ft... Yikes....
So glad I did it....

Edited: September 7, 2017, 10:56 AM

Yeah, the Big Shot is quite a ride. What's interesting is that installation is one of the smallest S&S power towers in the world, but being on top of the Stratosphere really sells it. Honestly, for my money, XScream is the best ride up there.

Chad did mention that his girlfriend/finance isn't fond of water rides, though he managed to convince her to get on Jurassic Park River Adventure. That's part of my point, that having all those water rides so close to each other, while practical from the park's perspective, is a bit annoying from a guest perspective. Also, how wet those rides are can be a real turnoff. Most traditional log flumes result in guests getting a little spray in their face or maybe some drops on the shirt, but Dudley Do-Right is a SOAKER with jets of water pelting you from both sides down the final drop. Similarly, traditional river raft rides at least give you a 50/50 shot of coming off mostly dry or at least not soaked from head to toe. Popeye is an equal opportunity drencher, and I've never seen anyone come off that ride not ringing cups of water out of their shirts. JP River Adventure is not nearly as bad, though if you're in the front row or the end, it's unusual to not end up pretty wet. I'm all for cooling off on a hot day, but rarely do I want to walk around a theme park with 10 pounds of water soaked into my clothes.

September 7, 2017, 12:34 PM

Big Shot is decent, I prefer some of the even smaller S&S towers like the ones at Canobie and La Ronde. Dr. Doom is pretty forceless.

S&S makes good drop towers but Intamin makes em better.

Edited: September 7, 2017, 2:36 PM

Russel said "I think IOA is going to see a major transformation over the next 5+ years beyond the addition of the new HP attraction."

I think you hit the nail on the proverbial head on this. Everyone is focused on a new park, but IOA will be undergoing a major transformation. Marvel could be re-themed to a different IP or replaced. Toon Lagoon should be removed and something else put it that space. Jurassic Park should be upgraded to include Jurassic World (although I hope they keep the current attractions including Discovery Center). And they need to decide if Lost Continent is still something, or not (and if not replace accordingly). Suess Landing could use some upgrades as well.

Port of Entry is perfect, I hope they never change it. Everything about entering Islands is magical, particularly the music. I get excited every time I'm waiting in line and hear "bing, bing, BONG, bing, BONG, bing, bing bing..."

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