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A Disney-Free Florida November 2016

Serena

Miss CoasterForce 2016
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As I've failed spectacularly at my primary new years resolution to eat more veg, I'm going to take a stab at my second resolution: write more trip reports.

So here is a tale from a few months back, where I went to an exotic land to get some of the worlds most elusive creds...You probably haven't even heard of this place, tbf. But it goes by the name of Orlando, and let me reveal to you, it has some pretty nifty theme parks (let's keep this between me and you, don't tell the GP!)

Speaking of the GP, I made the mistake of going to Universal with three non-goons. What's the worst thing about going to theme parks with non-enthusiasts? Turns out, it's everything.

They arrived late at the meeting point, one wearing a t-shirt with a big, bold swear word on the front. Me: 'they won't let you in the park wearing that'
Them: 'Nah it'll be fine'
Me: 'Trust me, they won't'
They bounded ahead towards security. Who did not take kindly to the t-shirt. I don't quite know how, but it escalated into an argument with security threatening to ban our group from entry. FFS!! We hadn't even entered the park yet! Eventually the issue got resolved by her turning her shirt inside out. Then second non-goon took FOREVER to put his contact lenses in "these themed toilets are too dark, I can't see what I'm doing!" he wailed.

Then WHY didn't you put your lenses in at the hotel? Before you left?! Hours later, we finally stepped into Universal Studios. You know, the dull one. Where everything is a building.

Rode Rip Ride Rock it first. I don't understand why people Rip Ride Knock It, the wonderful inverted loop is to die for! Plus on board audio always jazzes up a coaster. Of course, non goons didn't understand that 'Put everything in the locker' means put everything in the locker. So back and forth we traipsed, whilst they reluctantly parted from their phones for the 10 minute queue.

Next we ride Transformers, a new to me dark ride. I dislike Michael Bays take on Transformers, so the theme didn't do much for me. The ride is ok I guess, obviously very similar to Spiderman. I prefer Spiderman because the transitions between set and screen feel more fluid. That ride has more depth and humour than this macho, clanky thing.

Onto Revenge of the Mummy which was in my top ten years ago, before I had ridden hundreds of coasters. Would it still hold up now? Well, let me tell you, in terms of a complete experience, it's still the best ride in the park. The queue, the effects, the coaster itself were all running perfectly and as a completely useless barometre: it was also the ride the non-goons loved the most. Spoiler alert: Brendan Frasier does not get his goddamn cup of coffee.

Anywho, me: lets head over to the Diagon Alley area! Wahoo! (secretly inside: blub, I miss Jaws)
Them: no lets go to Starbucks and have a sit down cup of coffee.
Me: WHY?!

Starbucks is everywhere! Diagon Alley is only to be found here! WHY ARE WE WASTING TIME DOING BORING STUFF THAT YOU CAN DO ANYWHERE?

...(nb: at least someone got their damn cup of coffee, I suppose)

Finally, we got to Diagon Alley and it was truly mesmerising, enchanting stuff. From its unassuming brick wall entrance to its fire breathing dragon, this area is perfection. Words don't do justice to how well Universal have captured the magic of Harry Potter here. We mooched into every shop, and it was lovely; but I couldn't escape the feeling of a big old cred looming beneath Gringotts Bank.

The inside of Gringotts is an animatronic wonderland, those goblins look so real. The queue is super impressive but the whole decent into Gringotts feels rather faffy. The actual ride station is a beautiful stalactite-ridden cave, but the ride vehicles...EUGH! So bulky and gross! You do not want to be sat in the back of these ugly babies, with their obstructed view and clunky manoeuvres.

On to the ride itself: what a disappointment. It certainly doesn't put the 'grin' into Gringotts. It's crap as a coaster and crap as a dark ride. The flow is very start / stop, and the screens just overpower the experience. It doesn't feel immersive, more like an incredibly hi-tech 4D cinema.

Boarded Hogwarts Express to the better side of the park (Islands of Adventure) Hogwarts Express is quite cool, it ties the two park areas together very well. The sun was beginning to set (already!) but it was lovely to wander around a dusky, lit-up Hogsmead.

Oh, and when did Dragon Challenge Fire get so good?! It was breathtaking to ride in the front row. We dawdled into Hogwarts and rode Forbidden Journey, arguably one of the best dark rides ever made. Just, wow. The bit with the Whomping Willow <3 so, so good.

Obviously, Kong had a MASSSIVE queue so we finished up day one at Marvel Island on the newly refurbished Hulk. New queue is excellent, and the ride has found a new lease of life with on board audio (yay) and a (slightly) smoother track. It's nice to see this iconic coaster getting the love it deserves.

Day two: lets start with the better park this time. Headed straight for Kong. I adore what they have done with this area, the queue is immense (actors managed to get several jump scares out of my unsuspecting non-goon friends) The ride vehicles are huge, I was lucky to get a 'window' seat (trust me, you want one of these) The ride is very cool, another great blend of screens and real sets. My only criticism is that it doesn't have a showstopping finale.

Things got super faffy when the sun came out and people couldn't decide which water ride to ride. Ugh. In the end we went for Dudley Do Rights. This ride is like Chiapas' older, cartoony brother; sitting in his bed of explosives dreaming of the days when he was the steepest and most impressively themed log flume. Not anymore, son, not anymore.

Where was I?
Oh yeah, I was riding Jurassic Park on my own because the rest wanted a big sit down lunch and us goons don't have time for that. We ended up basically doing the day we did before, in backwards order, but throwing in a dated T-2, and finishing up in Springfield which is my fave part of Universal Studios. So many in jokes! It's amazing.

However, after two days of ambling around Universal with three non-goons in tow, I came to this conclusion:

- The majority of rides here place the rider in the position of the inconsequential spectator. When you ride, you are witnessing Transformers, Harry, Spiderman, Kong...defeat an evil opposition. The rider is themselves is irrelevant, they are watching a story rather than becoming involved with it.

- The binary oppositions. How many times does good have to triumph over evil at Universal Studios?! Serious, how about a little character nuance?! Or a ride that doesn't involve a simplistic battle between the goodies and the baddies. Now that I would like to see.

- I miss Jaws. Jaws didn't have screens. Jaws involved the riders. Jaws is still the best ride Universal have ever made.

Having previously visited as a hatchling goon in 2010, Universal isn't as impressive once you have visited hundreds of parks and ridden loads of others coasters. Shame.

Day three:
Non-goons didn't want to go to Seaworld and I had a lovely day without them. I whored Mako all morning, laughed to myself about how god-awful Kraken is, and watched the hilarious Sealion Academy show. It was fantastic. Seriously though, when did Seaworld become such an enjoyable park? I remember thinking it was super bland in 2010, but now? It's lovely!

As usual, Manta have me a the old headache / boobache combi-assault that B+M Flyers like to inflict on women. I ate loads of pretzel-based snacks in the pretzel hut (wow, who'd have guessed!) and then had the best coaster experience ever:

Riding Mako in the front row as the sun set over the twinkling lights of Orlando. It was so stunning. This coaster is perfection, the airtime is glorious, the layout is nice and snappy; and this thing is just glass smooth. It beats Fluch Von Novgorod out of my number one spot because it is so damn re-ridable. You could sit on Mako all day and it wouldn't lose it's charm. At least, that's what I Mako it, anyway.

Day Four: had a "day off" at the water park, Aquatica. It was fun. But it wasn't creds. So I headed up to Fun Spot at night to ride White Lightning and the tedious SFC.
White Lightning is made by GCI, which stands for Great Coasters Intermittently. It doesn't look like much from the ground but this woodie is utterly brilliant. Just relentless from start to finish. Almost top 10 material, if only it were themed...*sigh*

And in other news, Fun Spot is a dump.

Day Five: Spiteful Busch Gardens Tampa.

I had a lousy day at BGT back in 2010 and I had a lousy day this time too. I mean, what is wrong with this place?! Why, despite it's towering B+M's and majestic hippos, does the park feel so...lacking? Hell, I've seen Chessington have more atmosphere. I just don't get it.

The park was busy, loads of school groups bounding around in their matching t-shirts. Opted for Cheetah Hunt first, which was new to me, as I was spited in 2010. What a non-event! I mean, what even is this coaster supposed to do?! It's all sluggish and meandering. Moving on, I hit up the NEW FOR 2016 Cobra's Curse. Oh my God, it's LAUGHABLY BAD.

Looked at some animals, then rode Montu, which is a pretty cool invert. Doesn't grace my top 5 B+M Inverts, but you know, it was nowhere near as turd as everything else in the park.

Here's way the day started to get stupid. Headed over to Kumba, queued 2 hours, it broke down. Got an exit pass. Headed over to Sheikra, queued 40 minutes, it broke down. Got an exit pass. Ooh, I'll go and see if Kumba's running then....no, it is not. Hmm, maybe Sheikra's back open? No, it is not. They said I could use my exit pass on any ride. But, these are the only two creds I need! And I did not have the guts to ride Falcon's Fury! FFS!

Ended up using one on re-riding crappy old Cheetah Hunt just for something to do, where I got stuck next to a guy who started questioning me on my tattoos during the excruciatingly long brake run. Neither creds were reopening so I called it a day and went to iHop.

Spent my final day mopping up bits of Universal Studios that non-goons didn't want to do (met the Lorax, whored the coasters, watched the parade and braved Doctor Doom) and that was the end of that chapter. What a funny old trip. Sorry for lack of photos, but @davidm went to Florida too last year so you may as well just look at his, let's be fair.
 

Hixee

Flojector
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Haha, this report had me smiling all the way through.

Great to hear about both the good, and at least entertaining to hear about the bad!
 

gavin

Administrator
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Stopping for lunch/coffee/a cup of tea and a nice sit down is the absolute worst. It's why I only ever do parks with non-enthusiasts that I've already done before relatively recently.
 
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