(Warning: this is going to be fairly long since this was a new park for us!)
We had decided we wanted to go see Universal's new "Islands of Adventure" theme park, and on Wednesday night we'd learned that Kevin and Amy wanted to go on Friday, too, so we arranged to meet them there.
It wasn't a very long drive from Disney property (though we were running late and hadn't had breakfast yet), and we were able to park fairly quickly, but then we had a long, long, long, long walk to the park entrance. Universal has some of those moving sidewalks (like you see in airports) to help speed people along, and I guess they save money by not running trams like Disney does.
We got our tickets and rushed into the park and met Kevin right outside the "Adventures of Spiderman". We were just about to head into the building when we heard someone calling our names, and there was Amy - she hadn't thought she'd be there until 11:00, but she was able to meet us earlier.
But before I go on, a little about Islands of Adventure...it is divided into 5 themed "Islands" - Seuss Landing, Lost Continent, Jurassic Park, Toon Lagoon, and Marvel Super Hero Island. You enter the park at the Port of Entry, and then the Islands are grouped in a circle around a lagoon - going clockwise it's Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, Lost Continent, and Seuss Island. From Port of Entry you can go to Marvel Super Hero Island to the left, or Seuss Landing to the right. There's a bridge connecting each Island to the one next to it, and as you cross the bridge the theming changes - you can even hear the background music change as you are crossing the bridge. (Thanks to Amy for pointing that out to us!) Each island was very well themed and features several attractions, shows, restaurants, shops, etc.
Ok...back to the trip report...
The line for The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman was pretty short - less than 10 minutes and we were on. This ride combines a moving motion simulator (ala Indiana Jones at Disneyland) with 3D video, wraparound audio, and other special effects. It's truly state-of-the art.
We got in the car and put on our 3D glasses, and were about to enter the ride when it suddenly stopped. We sat there for about 10 minutes before it got going again. It was pretty incredible - the combination of the 3D and the motion simulator really plays tricks on your mind. There were a couple of effects that didn't work, and they asked us if we wanted to ride again. We said sure, so we went through a door straight back into the loading area again. This time we got into the very last room of the ride and it stopped again, and we sat there for 5-10 minutes until they got it moving. The fire effect still wasn't working and they asked us if we wanted to ride again, but we decided to quit while we were ahead! :-)
Lee and I still hadn't had breakfast, and we all went back to Port of Entry and had something at the "Croissant Moon" bakery. Loved the name. :-)
From there we went to Seuss Landing, which I was pretty sure would be my favorite. I LOVED it - it's wonderfully done, with all the color and whimsy you would expect in something inspired by the works of Dr. Seuss.
There's a restaurant that actually serves Green Eggs and Ham, though we didn't try it. :-) (It's a sandwich with normal colored ham with green scrambled eggs on top.) I gotta take my parents there one of these days...
We rode "The Cat in the Hat"...and along the way we seemed to pick up not only a "Tigger in a Hat" but also Thing1 and Thing 2. :-)
The "One Fish Two Fish" ride was a lot of fun - it's similar to Dumbo
in that you go around in cars (fish) that you can make go up and down.
But there's a song that goes with it, and if you don't listen to the
song you have a good chance of getting squirted. :-) Lee and I
stayed dry, but I think Kevin and Amy got a bit wet. (Who was piloting
that fish? :-) )
Then we rode the "Caroseussal" - a carousel made up of Seussian creatures. It was wonderfully detailed and fun.
I probably could've hung out at Seuss Island most of the day, but we
had other things to see/do...so we headed to The Lost Continent.
I thought the "Temple of Atlantis" or whatever it is that houses the "Poseidon's Fury" show was beautifully designed. We didn't have to wait very long for the show. I don't think any of us really enjoyed the way they packed us into a relatively small room for the pre-show, though. They had a really cool effect as we walked from the second room to the main show room - we were walking through a tunnel of water. Hard to explain, but somehow they had water going around us in a circle along about a 10 foot tunnel. The rest of the show had some interesting special effects (water and fire), but the plot was rather obscure - and it ended quite abruptly.
The guys wanted to ride the "Dueling Dragons" roller coaster - these are two suspended roller coasters on separate tracks that run quite close to each other - and at one point look like they are about to crash into each other. They represent two dragons - "Fire" and "Ice". Amy and I didn't ride the coasters but went through the queue with them - the queue was really interesting, though it was too dark in a lot of places. Because there was almost no line we zipped right through it, too. I was amazed at how LONG the queue was - I sure wouldn't want to be there when it was full!!!
Kevin wanted to ride in the first row, so they waited about 10 extra minutes to do that - they said it was worth it, though!
We wanted to make it to the "Eighth Voyage of Sindbad" show, so they didn't ride "Ice" at that point, and we went to the show instead. Sindbad is a stunt show, with lots of pyrotechnics. It was entertaining and we enjoyed it.
After that we headed back to Dueling Dragons so the guys could try "Ice" - there was NO wait to ride unless you wanted to ride in the front row, so they rode in the second row instead. (You can see them in this picture - they are in the two center seats.) "Ice" didn't seem to have the same impact on them as "Fire", though that may have been because they weren't in the first row...or maybe they were just a bit blase. :-)
The next "Island" is Jurassic Park. We played in the "Dinosaur Discovery" area for a while...there were a couple of fun exhibits (like performing various tests on dinosaur eggs to determine what kind of baby dinosaur is inside), but there were some things that were broken and not working.
Kevin, Lee and I rode the "Jurassic Park" water ride after that. Lee and I had ridden the one at Universal Studios in CA, and gotten pretty wet, but they've toned this one down a lot, and we got wetter from the spitting dinosaurs than from the drop. That last drop is great fun. You *don't* want to be standing on the sidewalk very close to that drop, though - all the water that *doesn't* go on the riders now goes on the bystanders instead!
We had a late lunch at Thunder Falls Terrace - rotisserie chicken and BBQ ribs, corn on the cob, etc. Lee and I should have split the chicken and ribs combo, and that would have been plenty of food!
Toon Lagoon was the next "Island", and, as you might expect from the name, was cartoon-themed. There were lots of displays from lots of pretty old comic strips, too - like L'il Abner and Tumbleweeds and others that I haven't seen for years. Very fun and colorful.
But if you ride any of the rides in Toon Lagoon...you get wet. VERY wet. Dripping wet. Soaking-down-to-your-underwear wet. Did I mention that you get wet? :-)
Kevin, Lee and I rode Dudley Do-right's Ripsaw Falls - no wait, and a great drop down, then up hill and SPLASH into the water. I wore a poncho and didn't get very wet, but the guys did - though Lee was able to hide behind me and got somewhat shielded. It was great fun.
Then we went to Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges...this features the 12 person round rafts like at Kali Rapids at Animal Kingdom...but this is what Kali Rapids SHOULD have been. All 4 of us did this one, and we all got *drenched*. I had my poncho on, and I was *still* soaked from the waist down. Lots of drops and curves along the way to dump a wall of water over the poor unfortunates on that side of the raft (but we all had equal opportunities to be the dumpee!)...and then there were the kids spraying us with water cannons from Popeye's boat, "The Olive". We had to wait about 10-15 minutes to ride this one, but it was worth it, and we were all laughing when we got off (and trying to wring our clothes out!)
Marvel Super Hero Island was next - though we'd been in part of it earlier that day when we rode Spiderman. Lee and I talked Kevin into riding Dr. Doom's Fearfall. The first five seconds of the ride were really cool - you sit in a seat with your feet dangling in the air and it shoots you 150 feet up a tower, then you fall about 75 feet, then go back up about 50, then down, and you're supposed to kinda bounce around like that until you're back at the bottom. But when we were on it there was some sort of problem, and rather than bouncing us around several times as we went down, we hung motionless for a while (expecting to be dropped any second), and then we were lowered to the ground verrrrrry slowly. Since we'd never ridden it before, we weren't sure what to expect, but Amy was watching from the bottom, and she later told us that wasn't the normal behavior. Bummer. It took quite a while for the attendant to come in and unstrap us, and Lee and Kevin were getting pretty antsy! When we got off, there was a maintenance guy standing right outside...not a good sign. :-)
Kevin and Lee rode "The Incredible Hulk" coaster after that while Amy and I went back over to Seuss Landing so I could take some pictures. Lee wasn't as impressed with Hulk as he was with Dueling Dragons, though.
By then it was time for us to leave since we had a dinner date back at Walt Disney World (and we didn't dare be late, or we'd never hear the end of it from Jeff :-) ), so Lee and Amy and I said goodbye to Kevin and headed out.
A few final thoughts on Islands of Adventure...
It was a beautiful day and crowds were minimal - I don't think we waited longer than 15 minutes for anything, and usually 5 minutes or less. Some of the queues are incredibly long, though - so they must get some pretty big crowds - there's no way we'd want to be there when they are that crowded!
The theming is excellent - it's really a beautiful park. I was especially impressed by Seuss Landing (in case you couldn't tell :-) ) and Lost Continent. I've seen people say on the newsgroup that a lack of maintenance is starting to show, and we did see some signs of that, unfortunately.
We did get around the entire park, but we didn't have time to do anything except Spiderman more than once, even though the lines were short.
We had a great day and I think it's definitely a place we'll go back to sometime, but not on every trip.
Ok, back to the trip report again...
We stopped by Old Key West to do a quick clothes change - Lee was still wet from the "Bilge Rat Barges" (I think his shorts were *finally* dry by Tuesday...don't you just love that Florida humidity?), and we showed Amy around a bit since she'd never been to OKW. We dropped her off at Wilderness Lodge before heading to the Polynesian Resort to meet Jeff Spencer and the Teixeiras for dinner at the Kona Cafe.
The guard at the gate of the Polynesian actually checked to make sure we really did have priority seating at the restaurant before letting us through - we've never had that happen before. As we had experienced the night before at Artist Point, the restaurants and waiting areas were *packed* - everyone was trying to eat at the same time, I guess. (We found out from our server that the Magic Kingdom had closed at 6:00, plus there was a Mickey's Christmas Party that night, so there *were* a lot of people trying to eat at the same time, and the Christmas Party is also why they were checking people at the gate to the Polynesian.)
We checked in at the Kona Cafe and Lee got another vibrating pager (heh, heh, heh), and we waited for the rest of our party to show up. Pam, Fernando and Mark arrived first, and Jeff arrived about 10 minutes later - I'm sure some would say that we should excuse his being late because he did just drive in from Alabama that day, and had to set up his camper all by himself since the rest of his family was flying in that night...but since he wouldn't excuse us if the tables were turned, I'm not going to. ;-) JEFF WAS LATE!!!!!
But I guess it doesn't matter since it was still another 5-10 minutes after Jeff arrived before we were finally seated. Our server Diane quickly determined that Lee was going to be the troublemaker (took her all of about 30 seconds), and she ragged on him unmercifully all night. It was very funny. Something was said about "froo-froo drinks with umbrellas in them", and when she brought him his pina colada she put about 6 umbrellas in it.
We had a very good dinner - unfortunately Mark was tired and not feeling well so Pam and Fernando didn't get to stay for dessert. We said goodbye to them, since they were going home the next day, and then Jeff and Lee and I had dessert. Jeff had the KoKo Puffs - several cream puffs filled with chocolate hazelnut mousse - and Lee and I split the Kilauea Torte - sort of a chocolate cake filled with warm, oozing chocolate hazelnut syrup. Yummy. We chatted for a while after dinner, and then Jeff headed back to Ft. Wilderness to finish setting up the camper before going to pick up Susan and the kids at the airport, and Lee and I headed back to OKW.
The restaurant had REALLY cleared out by the time we left, we unfortunately had just gotten caught in the dinner crush. Note to self: Don't schedule dinner at any Magic Kingdom resorts on nights when there is a Christmas Party going on!
Whew...was this part long enough for all of you? Thanks for making it this far!
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Text and photographs copyright © 2000 by Laura Gilbreath. All rights reserved.
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Last updated 1/7/00