Saturday 24 August: 9th full day. Universal Studios and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
To take advantage of the early entry and Express passes at IOA/Universal we had booked a night at Universal’s Portofino Bay hotel. We did the early check in at 7.15 and fortunately we were able to leave our bags in our room. We collected our Express Passes and caught the boat up to Universal It was all very straightforward. The theming of the hotel was brilliant. Just like an Italian resort.
The gates at Universal opened at 8.00 am. Only a limited number of rides are open for the early entry, so first we did Despicable Me attraction that replaced the Jimmy Neutron simulator ride. Apart from DD10, none of us have seen the film, so we had no real idea what it was about. However, it was very well done. This still seems to be one of the most popular rides in the park. By mid day this was the busiest ride in the park. The Q times were showing 70 minutes.
After this we did the new Transformers ride. This is a very similar format to the Spiderman ride at IOA. Again it is a well done, although I don’t know the story. Also whilst the Spiderman ride was at the cutting edge of this technology when it first opened, it does not seem to me that the Transformers ride has substantially moved the technology on.
By now Rip Ride Rockit had opened. We were one of the first on. It is now a family "tradition" that we all select Gloria Gaynor’s 1970’s disco classic, “I Will Survive” to sing along to. The ride starts off by heading up a straight vertical, it is a very smooth ride and great fun, especially as you can sing out loud at the top of your voice. Not sure that everyone else on the ride would agree that it is singing when they heard me. Me and the kids went on a 2nd time.
Overall a great ride. Superb theming and the music really adds to the experience.
One of the rides always near the top of the “Must-Do list” is “Revenge of the Mummy”. We had express passes but at this time there was hardly any Q’s, it was just really a walk on ride and so we did it a couple of times. One of the best rides in the park.
Next we went on Men in Black. A good ride, but in my view nowhere near as good as Toy Story at DHS. On MIB the scoring always seems a bit ht and miss. (especially as Sam’s score was about 10 times my score!). Also I could do without all the spinning at the end.
By now the Q’s for the Simpson ride were building up, so we used our Express Passes for this. Even with Express Pass the Q’s were slow. I think this was because they only had 3 of the 8 lines open.
In the pre-ride show it’s always good especially when Homer is told the ride is radioactive and he replies “I’ve waited 60 minutes for this ride and no one is stopping me riding it now”. I like the ride, but once on this type of simulator ride is enough for us.
After all these thrill rides we wanted something a bit more relaxing, so we did ET. Again hardly any Q’s. We played one of our favourite games of all selecting different names. This time we all chose names from Friends. We found it hilarious, but it probably is a sad reflection on the age of the ride, that we need to make up our own entertainment on it. The operator said it was the only remaining original ride at Universal, and unfortunately it shows.
Me, DS16 and DD14 then did Terminator show. It is a long time since we have done this, but it is very well done. A good combination of film, 3D and live actors.
We watched the 11.30 Barney show. DD10 was still keen to see this and it is always a really happy trip down memory lane for us.
We then did the 12.00 am Animal Actors shows. Similar format to previous years, although the dogs were not as well trained as in previous years. No monkey doing the mind-reading/bra trick.
By now it was 12.30 and with a combination of the 8.00am early entry and the Express Passes we had pretty much done everything we wanted to do. We had not explored the Curious George area, but the kids have now outgrown this area.
A lot of development seemed to be going on in the old Jaws area so hopefully this will be open next year.
Went to NASCAR for lunch. This was the first time we had been there. My food was Ok. Bumped into an old work colleague, who I had not seen for nearly 10 years, watching the Liverpool game. It was really good to see him.
Caught the water bus back to the Hotel.
We then went to chill out by the pool. However the threat of lightning meant the whole pool area closed.
We had Dinner reservations at the Bob Marley restaurant on City Walk. As it was still raining we had to catch the Universal hotel bus to City Walk, rather than the water bus. The restaurant was not busy and lacked some atmosphere, however, we were eating at 6pm so it was probably a bit early. The restaurant had some good Bob Marley pictures. Me and DD14 bought Bob Marley T Shirts.
Overall a very successful day.
Sunday 25 August: 10th full day; Islands of Adventure.
We checked out of the hotel at 7.30 and caught the water bus to Island of Adventure. Early entry was scheduled for 8.00am but by the time we arrived at 7.55am, they were just opening the gates and were letting people in. With everyone else we headed straight to Forbidden Journey.
The Q was very short but seemed slow, it looks like they don’t operate all the cars first thing in the morning. I’ve no idea the reason for this.
Kids had left the flip flops with DW who had walked with us through the line but was waiting in the child swap area. One of the attendants made us get off the ride and collect the shoes. Seemed a bit of a waste as the kids then had to sit on the shoes.
Overall an absolutely fantastic ride, the walk through the castle, the pictures on the wall and the attention to detail in the whole of the Hogsmeade area are all outstanding. However, whilst I do love Forbidden Journey, I now find that one go on the ride in is enough for me.
We all went on Dragons Challenge. We had Express Passes, but it was not needed, the ride at this time was just a walk on. Had a good overview of the building works going on. It seems to be progressing well.
As always the Q for Olivinaders wand shop had quickly built up and it looked like it would be an hour long, I did hope that a lot of these people were not going to be as disappointed with the show as we were when we had seen it in the past.
We had some croissants and fresh fruit and then headed to Cat in the Hat. Just a walk on ride. Great fun and DD10 really enjoys it.
DD10 bought some “Thing 1 and Thing 2” converse.
We then went on the rest of the rides pretty much in order:
Hulk – Me and DS16. Great ride, we used Express Pass on this, but to be honest at this time it was not needed, as it was more or less a walk on ride
Dr Doom’s Freefall – we all went on this. Express pass was useful on this, as it is a slow moving ride and we were quickly at the front of the line. Had great views over the park.
Next we went on Spiderman. Again a superb ride.
By now it was about 10.30 and it was time to cool off a bit and hit the water rides. We went on Rip Saw Falls first. I was sat in the front and got very wet.
Next we went on one of our favourites Bilge –Rat Barges, by the time I came off this I was absolutely soaked. Me and DW all went on it a 2nd time. We could not persuade the kids to go on a 2nd time. They chilled out and had the usual dipping dots.
We were all absolutely drenched. Unfortunately it was slightly overcast so we did not dry out as quickly as in the past.
We continued the theme of getting soaked by going on Jurassic Park River Adventure.
All 3 of the water rides are brilliantly themed and great fun.
We had some lunch whilst we dried out and then headed back to the Harry Potter Area where the girls browsed in a couple of shops.
By now we had been on all the rides we wanted to go on, so we headed out of the park and caught the water bus back to the Hotel to pick the car up.
Our original intention was to go to Aquatica in the afternoon but we all seemed tired so we just went back to World Quest Resort
Went back to Uno for tea. Good food.