We opted to do a hybrid fun/relaxing honeymoon and stayed at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort rather than a value hotel to go to Universal Studios in Orlando. Staying at Loews really provided us with some perks that I'm not sure how to get otherwise, nor do I know what they cost, so keep that in mind when reading this review!
Because we stayed at Loews and we were in a Tower 1 room, we were very close to the walking path access to the parks. In a very short walk, no more than 5-10 minutes we were out of our room and in line for early admission to Islands of Adventure. From the minute we arrived at the park we were blown away by the friendliness of the staff, the way they interacted with the crowds, and went above and beyond to keep everyone happy. One thing Islands of Adventure did that we aren't sure if other parks do or not is a "First Family" where they basically choose a family from the crowd and bring them in first to read the welcome to the rest of the crowd. This was pretty neat and it was great to see big smiles on those kids faces.
Even though we went during a rare slow period, we still took the advice of Paul, or bell hop at the Royal Pacific and made sure to be at the park and in line by around 7:15-7:30 for early admission that began at 8:00 a.m. When we arrived we were one of only about 15 groups there, so it definitely paid off.
They opened the park gates just a few minutes before 8:00 a.m. and had staff stationed throughout the path to Wizarding World making sure everyone knew where to go. One thing that was a little irritating was once you got back to Suess Land, they made everyone pull out their tickets again to verify the early admission, which I think would be better handled at the front gates, but it moved quickly and then we were on our way.
Early admission is THE way to do Wizarding World. We went straight back to the Forbidden Journey ride first, and actually got through the non-existent line so quickly that we barely got to see a lot of the details inside the castle. We literally walked right through and onto the conveyor belt to get strapped into the ride. The rides themselves were fantastic, especially Forbidden Journey. As a huge Potter fan, and wary of anything that deviates from Rowling's original work (looking at you, Half Blood Prince film...) I was thrilled at what a great job they did incorporating the original characters and story lines into a new story and detailed ride that left you feeling like you really got to experience all of those Potter elements that fans love, quidditch, dementors, dragons, and of course, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, Malfoy, and Dumbledore.
Even after getting all the way to Forbidden Journey and riding it Wizarding World was still pretty light on people, so we were able to ride Flight of the Hippogriff (kids coaster) as well as the Dragon Challenge (for the grown up kids) back to back, even doing Dragon Challenge twice in order to ride each "Dragon's" coaster.
After this we relaxed, grabbed a couple of butterbeers, and took some photos of Hogsmeade. We did not line up for Ollivander's this day as we planned to return on Wednesday specifically for that (which we did!) I can honestly say my heart was bursting with the level of attention to detail here, it was a dream come true for a grown up that still adores any and all things HP. The wand choosing ceremony at Ollivader's is exceptionally well done and worth the wait, and choosing your wand in the shop next door is a blast. All of the staff members get really into character and are a lot of fun as well as helpful. I was also pleased with most of the souvenir prices as I expected much worse!
The rest of Islands of Adventure was an absolute blast as well. Because we did all of Harry Potter part in just under 2 hours each day, we were still venturing into the rest of the park right around the time all of the general public was heading back to Wizarding World so the rest of the park wasn't too packed yet.
Here is one of the major, major perks of staying at Royal Pacific. With our package we received an Unlimited Express Pass. This. Was. Awesome. The longest we waited in line for a ride all week was just around 5 minutes, and this express pass allows its use an unlimited number of times per ride, compared with the standard express pass which is just 1 per ride. This allowed us to get off and basically right back on a ride (although you did still have to walk all the way back around the long way!) as much as we wanted, which really helped us get our monies worth out of the parks everyday.
Some favorites and highlights of our IoA days:
1. Forbidden Journey (WWoHP)
2. Dragon Challenge (WWoHP)
3. Ollivander's Wand Ceremony (WWoHP)
4. Breakfast at The Three Broosticks (WWoHP)
5. Moaning Myrtle haunting the bathrooms! (WWoHP)
6. The Incredible Hulk (Marvel)
7. Spiderman (Marvel)
8. Scenery/attention to detail (Seuss Land)
9. Ending the day with a splash (We enjoyed the Jurassic Park River Adventure and Dudley Do-Right's Rip Saw Falls)
10. Plenty of rest areas, water fountains, and refreshments reasonable priced throughout the park.
The only downfalls:
1. You HAVE to accompany a child to ride Pterandon Flyers, so grown ups alone cannot ride (sad!!)
2. When you travel during slow periods be prepared for the park to close earlier than expected. We had looked forward to returning to the park to ride some of the attractions at night, but during our week of travel IoA closed at 7:00 p.m.
All in all we had a BLAST and can't wait to return when the second part of WWoHP opens!