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Florida - Part 9: Sea World


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Apologies in advance for the lack of jungle mouse coasters and Jinma spinners in this report.

The last time I went to Florida was nine years ago, at the same time of year. It’s Chinese New Year, so I always get a decent chunk of holiday (usually 10-12 days), but every few years it falls a bit differently and I ended up with a straight two weeks this time. Obviously, Florida is a very long-haul trip from Hong Kong, so those extra days are needed for the travel time (24 hours of travel plus a 13-hour time difference).

Last time I’d been, this was a relatively quiet time of year. I’ve since read many times that quiet periods just don’t exist anymore, and this turned out to be true. The CNY dates this year also fell during a UK half-term holiday and there were a bunch of local school trips and cheerleading groups around as well. That's all fine. I don't get to choose my holidays and I'm sure it was still better than trying during the Easter or Summer holidays. Weather-wise, it's perfect as well.

As I’d done before, I stayed at a Disney hotel for the first few days to take advantage of the transport and early park entry, which turned out to be pretty essential to having a decent day. I stayed at All Stars Music last time and didn’t like it much at all. I chose Pop Century this time, which is in the same bracket as All Stars, since the prices were reasonable and it now has the cable car for very quick connections to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

I was at the hotel by around 8am, left bags and immediately jumped on the bus to Animal Kingdom. On the way, I bought a "Lightning Lane" pass (new words for fast pass) for Flight of Passage since I could see on the Disney app that it already had a decent-sized queue, and I was not going to do that after being awake for around 36 hours by this point.

Animal Kingdom

I didn’t take a huge number of pictures here. The only new stuff was Pandora, but I obviously wanted a few rides on Everest as well.



I’m not sure how familiar people are with the current fast pass system at Disney World, but there’s basically a paid system, called Genie+, which works like the old free one, where you can select a ride every couple of hours. A handful of the most popular rides aren’t included, but an “individual lightning lane” can be bought separately. This was the case for Flight if Passage. This worked out for me since I didn’t want/need the whole Genie+ thing for the whole park. I think I paid $15 for it.




With the individual passes, you choose your own time based on availability, so I gave myself around an hour, joining the regular, 30-minute queue for Navi River Journey in the meantime. I didn’t take pictures of/in the rides themselves, just general “Pandora” pictures. You’ve all seen these a million times before, which will be true of literally everything I post in this report, but here they are anyway:




I really liked Navi River Journey. It doesn’t seem to get much love, but as a “ride-a-boat-and-look-at-stuff” attraction, it’s very good. It goes without saying that the final animatronic is amazing, and I thought the soundtrack was gorgeous. It's just an overall lovely experience. Flight of Passage was very good, but I was expecting more based on the unanimous praise it always gets. “You can feel it breathing between your legs!!” You can feel (and hear) some very obvious bits of machinery moving somewhat in sync. It’s excellent for a simulator, but honestly, it’s just a ‘roided-up flying theatre when it comes down to it. Meh.

Like I said earlier, I didn’t take many pictures, so I’ll just throw them in randomly and punctuate them with bits of unconnected text describing other stuff I did.



I got three rides in on Everest using the single rider queue and waiting about 5 minutes each time when it was on a 30-45-minute queue. I really enjoyed it before, and maybe even more so this time. I’m not a fan of how the backwards “surprise” is executed – there’s literally nothing else that could happen at that point and you’re held for more than enough time to figure it all out – but the backwards section itself is fab, as is the big drop out of the mountain.



I did the safari ride thing, but didn’t really see very much this time. Not that bothered since it really is just generic zoo animals presented somewhat nicely.

I did the two shows, Lion King and Nemo, neither of which I’d rated very highly before. Lion King was still crap, just so cheap-looking and lacking any form of real cohesion, but I enjoyed the Nemo show more than I had last time, which isn’t saying much.

Tough to be a Bug is always vastly entertaining when the kids inevitably start screaming in absolute terror. Such an underrated attraction which will likely disappear soon.







Dinosaur was a bit of a disappointment. I’d really enjoyed it before. I don’t know if things have been removed or don’t work anymore, but I don’t remember so much of it being in total darkness with f**k all to look at last time. I think it’s fairly safe to say that this is on its way out.

It doesn’t seem like it, but I’d had a pretty full day here by the time I left an hour or so before closing. It was definitely the best choice of park given the complete lack of sleep since it’s generally not as busy as the others and, with less to do, is a bit more relaxed.

Next up: Magic Kingdom

Matt N

CF Legend
Great report @gavin! I thoroughly look forward to reading the rest of this; as commonly visited as Florida is compared to your usual destinations, I do always enjoy reading a Florida report, as someone who’s been numerous times!

It’s been nearly 5 years since I last visited Animal Kingdom, but I do echo some of your thoughts.

Upon first riding Flight of Passage, I had very similar thoughts to you. While it was absolutely excellent, I couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed, and be left wanting a tad more, given the absolutely obscene hype it receives. One thing I will say in hindsight, though, is that having ridden two new flying theatres since, it is absolutely my favourite of that style of attraction by a fair margin!

The area of Pandora is stunning, though, and your photos reminded me of just how stunning it is!


Staff member
Social Media Team
One awful/good thing about being f**ked up from travelling was waking up stupidly early. For an Orlando visit, this is now pretty much essential, so yay for jet lag.

Today’s plan was Magic Kingdom, with Tron being the essential cred. Being the newest, most popular attraction, it doesn’t have a regular standby queue. Instead, you have two options: register for a timed entry or pay for an individual lightning lane. The reservations open at 7am on the dot and disappear within seconds, but I’d looked into this ahead of time and was ready for it, managing to score a boarding group for that afternoon. If this was unsuccessful, I would’ve just paid anyway.

That done, it was time to head to the park for early entry, which starts half an hour before general entry. In practice, the park is open much earlier. You can get into the Main Street area and then head to the entrance of either Fantasyland or Tomorrowland and wait for those areas to open to the early-entry crowd. I’d also paid for a Genie+ for this day, so combining that with the early entry made the day much more manageable. Another perk for hotel guests is that you can make a Genie+ reservation at 7am. Not that anything is open then, but it means you can make your first choice before you head to the park. Non-hotel guests can’t start using it until after the park opens.

Anyway, I used the early entry to immediately hit up Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I’d done it before, but I quite like it and knew it would have some of the worst queues all day. That done within 15 minutes, I then headed over to Jungle Cruise for official park opening, which I also knew would have silly waiting times later, getting that knocked off quickly as well.











From there it was to Big Thunder Mountain, I think it had around a 30-minute queue at this point, but was hovering at around an hour later in the day. I ended up fast passing a reride later. From there, it was a walk-on to the Enchanted Tiki Room (Pirates was down all morning, but I grabbed a ride later in the day) and a half-hour queue for Haunted Mansion, which also got up to over an hour and stayed there for most of the day. I love these attractions. They’re some of the very few Orlando attractions that still elicit a sense of nostalgia for my first trip there as a kid.











The Splash Mountain redesign was looking good. It was kind of annoying to miss it by a few weeks, but that’s always going to happen in Orlando when there’s always something under construction.



I’ve got the Barnstormer cred, so there was absolutely no need to wait 45 minutes for that or waste a fast pass. I hadn’t ridden Little Mermaid since it was closed for regular maintenance last time. I’d done it in California though. It doesn’t get much love or attention, but I think it’s decent enough.










Small World. Oh dear. It really is looking a right state. Maybe it always has, but my childhood memories of this have been well and truly destroyed. It’s terrible. It had the audacity to have a half-hour queue as well. At around this time, I also did Peter Pan with a fast pass I’d booked that morning. I could’ve skipped it really.






Onto Tomorrowland. Space Mountain had queues of well over an hour all day, but I used Genie+ to get two rides in. It’s still my favourite of Disney’s Space Mountain coasters. I just feels so ridiculously janky and borderline unsafe. I used Carousel of Progress as an excuse to sit down. Rode the People Mover since it was closed last time, and then moved onto Tron.














I think Tron’s fab, but I can understand some people’s disappointment given the extremely long construction time and the far superior Guardians of the Galaxy coaster opening at Epcot before it. I almost considered paying for a reride, but it’s $20 and I’d ridden it about 7 or 8 times in Shanghai; it’s exactly the same thing apart from the location of the lockers.

After that, I did that huge riverboat thing, which I’d never done before in any of the parks that have it, went back to Pirates which was now open, did a Haunted Mansion reride, sat through the godawful Hall of Presidents to take a break and headed back to Tomorrowland for a Space Mountain reride, finishing off with the Buzz Lightyear shooter thing, which is absolute s**te.










By this time, it was about half an hour away from the fireworks, but the crowds were ridiculous, so I decided to just get a head start out of the park and onto the hotel bus before everyone else arrived.

I’ve got a friend living in Orlando (met up with me in Animal Kingdom and some other parks later) who has an annual pass with the photo pass. We’d linked accounts earlier, and I found some surprise ORPs on my Disney app that evening.



This one was even more of a surprise. Who the f**k are they?


Magic Kingdom then. Hmmmmm. I think on my next visit, unless there’s something really major added, I’d possibly skip it. I had a very productive day, including getting on my favourite rides (Big Thunder, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion) twice each, but that was purely down to using early entry effectively and shelling out for Genie+. Without those, I would’ve been hard pressed to have a decent day here. I’d go as far as saying it would be pretty much impossible to do the park in a single day if you had to wait in all the standby lines. Having said that, I left “early” before the fireworks; the park was still open for a couple of hours after that. From memory, those post-firework hours were a fair bit quieter.

It’s also feeling a bit tatty in places to be honest, especially Small World, Peter Pan and most of Tomorrowland. Even Tron, which is clearly new and is impressive to look at off-ride, suffers from being plonked next to that noisy, smelly speedway thing. Why that still exists is beyond me.

Epcot next. Previously my least favourite Disney World park. Will it be any better this time around?


Donkey in a hat
You make it look and sound ok, but I gotta say, Magic Kingdom is not only my least favourite Disney park, it's one of my least favourite parks full stop. I actually think it's a bad park with sh*t attractions (Tron excepted) and unbearable crowds. How they have the audacity to charge 150 bucks for a day ticket is beyond me.
Actually I'll rephrase that, I know exactly why they have the audacity to charge that - it's because people pay it. What I meant to say is, why so many people actually pay that much to go there is beyond me.
Sh*thole. Won't be going ever again.


Roller Poster
Out of all the Orlando Parks, Magic Kingdom is probably my least favourite, too. Just because of the crowds. Not that the other Disney Parks are empty, by any chance, but Magic Kingdom was on another level. And I went on a supposedly rather quiet day.
But when you have to resort to apps to maximize the efficiency of your day, it's not really that fun and relaxing to explore the park. It always felt like I'm in a rush from one ride to the next, to try to get everything in.
On my next visit to WDW, I'll probably just get the ride on Tron and then head to another park. I actually enjoyed EPCOT very much.


Strata Poster
I don't always read the Disney reports as most of the rides I'm not generally interested in, but yours are easy to read and to the point. Also, I never fully understood how Genie+ and Lightning Lane works, but you clearly laid that out so thanks for that (though I never made the effort to find out for myself lol).

I'm due for a revisit of those parks... haven't been to a couple since 2010 and it's been two decades (!) since the other two. No idea when that would be though. I just haven't had any desire to go back since they're always so swamped now, plus the rest of Orlando has more exciting parks anyway.

Maybe I just dip my toe in and do Animal Kingdom and Epcot... but I'm missing creds at all four. Plus Star Wars sounds incredible.


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On to Epcot then.

Honestly, were it not for this park finally getting a coaster, I probably would’ve skipped it on this trip. I’ve always categorized it as a glorified food court, and that still stands to a large extent, but I definitely appreciated it more this time around.

Guardians of the Galaxy had the exact same system as Tron: no regular standby queue at all, so this meant hitting the app at 7am to get a boarding group. This time, I ended up with a group that was boarding very soon after park opening. I think that the throughput on this is probably better than Tron, and the park was nowhere near as busy as MK, so getting a boarding group is likely a lot easier. I also knew that I’d want a 2nd ride at some point, so spaffed more money away on an individual Lightning Lane, which was $15 as opposed to Tron’s $20, again likely down to demand and throughput. I didn’t bother with Genie+ for other stuff though.

I headed out for early entry again, using the skyliner. The station was literally a 2-minute walk from my hotel room and the system is excellent. I think it took me about 15 minutes to get to the park.


One disadvantage of it is that they clearly don't care about "ruining the magic". You come in over the Eiffel Tower and see it's just a bit of metal stuck on a concrete roof. All forced perspective is well and truly f**ked.

First priority was Ratatouille, another new-to-me ride that I knew was going to be very popular. After they opened up the path, I was on the ride within about 10 minutes.






This was ok. As far as Disney’s trackless rides go, it’s one of the weakest, but that’s not to say it isn’t a decent ride. At any non-Disney or Universal park, it would be amazing. I should’ve gone back later for a 2nd go really, but the queue was already up to 45-minutes when I got off, and would go up to at least an hour all day after that.

Frozen Ever After had been under construction on my last visit, or at least Maelstrom was closed in preparation. It already had a 40-minute queue, but it was still just before proper park entry, so I figured it wasn’t going to get any lower than that. We’ve now got this attraction in Hong Kong, and it’s been reported that it’s basically a clone with better animatronics. There’s more to it than that. Get ready for a long and boring comparison of a ride that nobody gives two s**ts about.


First up, the Epcot version is very clearly plonked in an old building that used to have something else. There seems to be a lot of empty space in sections, black walls and clear sightlines to emergency exits etc. Hong Kong’s feels a bit “fuller” and more deliberate if that makes sense. The animatronics are, as reported, LOADS better in Hong Kong. Those projected face things are horrible, especially on the two animatronics in the end scene where the colour of the faces doesn’t match the rubber necks at all.

Something that I haven’t seen mentioned is the drop. I’d assumed the layout of the ride was cloned, but there are some differences. The drop in Hong Kong is profiled differently and is, I think, higher. It’s also on the other side of that snow monster thing. At Epcot, the drop is on the right of the monster, but in Hong Kong, it’s on the left. On Epcot’s it’s a very shallow, short drop and you can see the whole thing. In Hong Kong, the drop is steeper, has a “hump” at the bottom and feels taller/longer. I’m pretty sure the lift hill earlier in the ride is taller in Hong Kong, so that would make sense. You can’t see much of Hong Kong’s drop before/while riding it either. It’s definitely an “Oh s**t” moment as opposed to Epcot’s “Is that it?”

Hong Kong’s ride also has a better capacity with two boats being loaded at a time. I think the boats are also bigger, but I couldn’t really remember that detail.

Anyway, for anyone heading to Hong Kong Disney, don’t skip Frozen thinking it’s the same as Epcot’s. It’s been changed from a filler to a headliner attraction.

Onto Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind then.



I loved this. It’s not particularly intense, but is loads of fun. It’s really disorientating without being nauseating. On the first ride, I was with the friend I mentioned earlier, and he asked the ride op to give us row 9. I’d highly recommend that. On my later reride, I just went along with where I was put, and ended up with row 10. I also ended up with the same song bother times – Conga, which I actually really like, so that was fine – meaning that I basically got the exact same ride twice. Unfortunately, under the way it’s currently being run, there’s no way to get more than 2 ride in in one visit. Anyway, it’s a great addition to the park and arguably Disney’s best coaster if you’re taking it as a whole package.

See, look how chuffed I am:


I’ll just give a quick rundown of other stuff and dump a few pictures.

I single-ridered Test Track. This was the highlight attraction for me last time, but it didn’t do as much for me on this visit. I still gave it another go later. I did that boat-in-a-greenhouse thing which I’d pretty much hated before, but appreciated more this time around. Old people like greenhouses I guess. Soarin’ was by far the most popular attraction last time. I think I waited about 90 minutes. This time it didn’t seem to go above 30 for the whole day. I didn’t like it then; I don’t like it now. Nemo aquarium thing? Meh. Journey into Imagination was closed last time. I’d done it as a kid back in the day, but I can’t remember a thing about it. The song at the end rang a bell, but that’s it. I'm pretty sure that whatever “Figment” is didn’t exist back then. The Moana water thing was cute. It’s a good way to fill a small bit of space that can’t be used for much.












Then it was back around to World Showcase, which I’d already done a lap of, but hadn’t stopped in since I was rushing through to get to Ratatouille, Frozen and then out to Guardians. It all looks nice enough, but this is really where my glorified food court comparison comes in. I don’t really see the appeal of spending craploads of money to get into a theme park and then spend the day spending craploads more on overpriced food and drinks. Ok, I’ll be generous. If you’re here on a 7/10/14 day ticket, then sure, I can maybe see that.










The ride in “Mexico” is cute. That show in the Chinese pavilion is an embarrassment in how bad and ridiculously outdated it is. It was outdated when I saw it 9 years ago, now it’s worthy of starting an international incident with China.






The American Adventure show is entertaining for the production value and the ridiculously over-the-top patriotism. I was feeling so proudly American as I was leaving that I was getting the urge to shoot up a school and then die of an obesity-related illness. At least it fits the whole Epcot theme, unlike Hall of Presidents, which has no business being in a “castle” park.








I had my 2nd ride on Guardians and did Spaceship Earth, which I quite like. There were still a few hours until closing at this point, but with no prospect of another reride on Guardians, and no desire to reride anything else, I decided to head out early and polish off some nearby creds at Fun Spot.

I liked Epcot more than I had last time. I’d probably visit again just for Guardians really, but if that weren’t there, I couldn’t see myself going back. Like Magic Kingdom, too much of it was just feeling incredibly tired.

Fun Spot

On my last visit, I’d done the Fun Spot up near Universal, but not the one closer to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. This was before Uber/Lyft were a thing, so getting there looked like a pain in the arse and there wasn’t much there anyway. Now there’s a woodie.

I put enough money on the prepaid card to ride each of the 4 creds once each. The spinner and kiddy were clearly +1s.







I’d heard nothing but terrible things about Mine Blower, but I actually kind of loved it. I went for the back row to get the best/worst it had to offer. It’s violent, and the noise it makes is legitimately terrifying, but I didn’t find it to be a painful ride.









The coaster at Old Town is now listed on RCDB on the Fun Spot page since it’s now run by them. The prepaid card thing is used in both places. Fun Spot had been very quiet, but Old Town was completely dead. I knew Hurricane was open, but it looked closed. I had to get a ride op from a nearby kiddy ride to come and run it for me.





I thought it was surprisingly alright. I did back row and got a bit of airtime in places. The best thing was that the ride op didn’t charge me for it. He told me he’d scan my card after the ride, but then just waved me off when I tried to pay as I was leaving. This meant that I had $12 left on the card, so I used it for a reride on Mine Blower before heading back to the hotel.

I remember not being particularly enamoured with the other Fun Spot park, and had heard that this one was worse, but I thought it was ok. It’s very expensive for what it is, and I can’t imagine getting all-inclusive wristbands and spending more than an hour there, but it was worth the slight detour.

1 more Disney park to go in the next bit.
I was feeling so proudly American as I was leaving that I was getting the urge to shoot up a school and then die of an obesity-related illness.


Nice report! I, too, enjoyed hearing all the kiddies scream in terror on Tough to be a Bug. In fact, I think my kid was more horrified with that ride and would've rather died than put his 3D glasses back on than he was on Tower. Unfortunately I do also agree that Magic Kingdom is losing a bit of the magic in that it seems tatty in places, but Splash Mountain is looking much better now than it did nearly a year ago. Looks awesome, and it does always suck to miss a ride by just a little bit.

I have never seen you looking so delighted than on the Guardians ride, so I'll spare the ride my insults because you look like a peach :p


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And on to the final Disney park of the trip: Hollywood Studios. There’s no virtual queue at this place, but it was still an early morning to get there in time for early access, again taking the skyliner from the hotel. I knew I’d want more than one ride on Rise of the Resistance, so paid for an individual lightning lane on that one as well as forking out for Genie+ for other stuff.

With early access, I headed straight to Rise. There were a bunch of staff in front of it, saying that it wouldn’t be opening on time and that people should go and do other stuff. This had also happened with Seven Dwarfs, which ended up opening a whole 5-minutes late, so I decided to wait it out. Lo and behold, it opened exactly when it was supposed to. It’s almost as if staff are instructed to move people to other areas/rides to avoid overcrowding…

Anyway, since I’d waited, I was straight in and into the first preshow within about 5 minutes. By the time I got off, the queue was only up to 30 minutes (realistically only about 20), so I figured I’d jump in for an immediate reride since it wouldn’t get that low again. I’d booked the lightning lane for later in the afternoon.






Nobody has ever taken these pictures before, especially the view from the side, so you’re very welcome.






Does it deserve all the hype? Yes, absolutely. I’m not into Star Wars at all, especially the newer stuff which this whole area is based on, but it doesn’t matter. The whole ride experience is just top notch, including the various preshows. I hate the word “immersive” when it comes to theme parks since it’s so overused and used as some kind of benchmark for quality, but it’s a very apt descriptor here. The attention to detail is immense. The “arrival” on the enemy ship is spectacular, partly down to a misdirection of the guests, and that’s all before you hit the actual ride, which is itself phenomenal.

The land itself is also very impressive, but I think this is maybe where my “don’t give a s**t about Star Wars” mentality kicked in as it didn’t really connect with me on any personal level. Having said that, I don’t give a s**t about Harry Potter either, but always love those areas at Universal, so I’m not sure what it was here.







Smugglers’ Run only had a short queue, so I decided to use that instead of the single rider to get the full experience. I still ended up as an “engineer”, which probably went a long way in explaining my dislike for the ride. It’s all very clever, especially the illusion that you’re the only riders when there are dozens of ride pods, but it’s basically just a massively overcomplicated simulator.










I walked through Toy Story Land. I’d used Genie+ that morning to book a slot for Slinky Dog. Despite doing this not long after 7am, I only got a slot later in the afternoon, and not long after park opening, there were none available at all. The standby queue stayed at between 90 and 120 minutes for pretty much the whole day.




My plan was to Genie+ Runaway Railway later in the day, which I did, but I ended up just joining the regular line, which was around half an hour at that time, but was hovering around an hour for the rest of the day.



I really liked this. I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the negativity towards it is because it replaced a classic ride, but if that ride needed to be replaced, this is a suitable replacement. It is quite jarring to still have the Chinese Theatre façade and lobby, though. I’m not saying they should get rid of those, but there’s a real disconnect between that and the ride.



Tower of Terror is still one of the best rides in any theme park. I sucked up the regular queue for the first ride, but had a fast pass lined up for a reride later. For a ride that is quite old now, it’s still way up there with the best in Orlando.







The ORP for the first ride was amazing. I’m on the top right, behind that bloke’s hand. For the second ride, I got a much better seat. I don’t often do ORPs, but like I said earlier, my friend had linked me to his account, so I wasn’t paying for them.



What annoyed me was that I couldn’t fastpass it more than once. I’d used it twice for Space Mountain, but for ToT I just got a “used all your available blah blah blah” message. By the afternoon, the line was up to 90 minutes+, so a third ride wasn’t going to happen.

At some point, I was walking past and saw no line for some “Edna Mode Experience”, not knowing that it was just a character photo op. I hate character photos, but felt awkward since there was nobody else in there, so went along with it.


The next bit was a pure nostalgia trip with the Indiana Jones show, Star Tours and Muppetvision. These were all here when I came as a kid – they were pretty much the highlight attractions back then - and that whole area feels basically the same. Obviously, Star Tours has been updated, but not to the extent that makes it feel too different. Star Tours is better than Smugglers’ Run. There, I said it.









By this stage, it was time to use my paid fast pass for Rise of the Resistance. It was kind of unnecessary given that I’d ridden it twice, but it was paid for and is an excellent ride. I got the “B mode” for this ride though. The animatronic near the end was covered and we just got some extra screen faff instead. Honestly, if you didn’t know about it, you’d never realise anything was wrong.







It was back into Toy Story Land for Slinky Dog. It’s a decent family coaster, but just a touch more power to that launch would make it so much better. It kept threatening some small pops of airtime, but never quite got there. This ride does not deserve the insane queues, though.









Toy Story Mania was done because it was there and because I had to use fast passes for something now that my plan to use it for Tower of Terror whorage had been thwarted. I was confused at first since I knew I’d done it before, but this whole land was new. It didn’t take long to figure out they'd just moved the entrance to the other side of the building.


I still had a bit of time until I could use my Runaway Railway pass, but had little else that I wanted to do at that point, so joined the regular line in the meantime and used the pass right after. From there it was back into Star Wars Land (or whatever the name of it is). I rerode Smugglers’ Run, using Genie+ since I had to use it on something, and despite getting a “better” seat as a gunner, didn’t really change my mind that it’s not a particularly good ride. It serves a purpose in reducing the queue time for Rise I guess. I’ll just dump some pictures to finish.














And that was Disney done. I’m still really unsure how I feel about the resort as a whole now. Yeah, there were some new attractions since I was last there, including some truly excellent ones, but the whole thing just feels like work. If you’re allowing / can afford multiple days per park, you might be able to just relax a bit, but if you’re allowing one day per park, you really need to research it, be organised and wake up very early to have a chance to ride some of the attractions.

Early entry for hotel guests is almost essential these days, as is the use of paid Genie+ for some parks/attractions if you don’t want to stand in multiple 90 minute+ queues throughout the day. While I understand it, it still annoys me that a service that used to be free is now being milked for profit. It’s already a very expensive trip without adding on the extras. My mentality was, “F**k it; I’ve already spent this much money, so what’s another $15/$20/$25?”, which is probably exactly the way of thinking Disney are relying on people to have. I was just a solo visitor though. A family of four would be adding $100+ a day if they wanted Genie+ for Magic Kingdom, when this used to be free.

I used early entry very effectively to knock off popular rides, and used Genie+ to line up rides on attractions I knew would have long waiting times, but if you hadn’t put in the work beforehand, and just showed up at the parks when – or God forbid after - they opened, your day would go very differently.

I suppose I shouldn’t really be complaining since I actually did play the system correctly and absolutely got the most out of my time at each park, including getting out before park closing, so f**k the plebs I guess. I’ve also seen a lot of complaints about spending the whole day glued to your phone, but I didn’t find that to really be the case. Yeah, you need your phone to book Genie+ etc., but that’s literally a once-every-two-hours thing, which I didn’t really find to be too intrusive. Let’s face it, people are constantly on their phones all day anyway; let’s not pretend Disney are causing that.

What I will say is that the Disney World app is excellent. For better or worse, you can now spend your entire Disney trip not speaking to a single person, including hotel arrival/check-out and ordering food. The parkwide Wi-Fi is also very good, no doubt because it encourages spending, but still.

Anyway, I was about to start ranting about the f**king mobility scooters, but I've gone on enough and I really can't be arsed with that debate. To avoid parks at the weekend, I headed down to Miami, so I’ll quickly throw that into the next bit and then get on with the other Orlando parks.
I agree about Genie+... It does require some work beforehand, and the panic of trying to get a stupid virtual queue slot before they all disappear is a little annoying, but once you get there it's not too bad and I'd rather that than wait in ridiculous lines. Curious, was the price the same every day for you? I think ours was $17 each day which was not bad at all.

I want them to get rid of that Indiana Jones show. I just don't get the love for it. Plus I had too much beer and came very close to peeing my pants so that could've had something to do with why I disliked it last time.

Tower <3 Rise <3 Runaway Railway <3 It's definitely Disney's best park, in my opinion. As a whole though, I agree about the Disney resort. I'll go every few years and still really enjoy it, but I'm looking forward to going to Florida and just sticking to the other parks like Universal, etc. Which can also be work, but I think I enjoy them more. Also still need to do Iron Gwazi and Velocicoaster, which is a slap in the face since I can see the parks most of the time I go to work :'(


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I can’t be arsed to include the Miami stuff. Basically, I took the new Brightline train, which the locals are losing their s**t over as some massive innovation, saw what there was to see around the downtown area that afternoon, went out with an old friend that night and spent the next day around the South Beach area.

The orginal plan was a late afternoon train back on the Monday in order to get another day in Miami, arriving back in Orlando in the evening. I’d quickly realized that I really didn’t need that extra day, so changed to a morning train to get back to Orlando in the early afternoon in an attempt to alleviate some cred anxiety.

Annoyingly, the hotel couldn’t find my reservation, which I’d already paid for, so I had a few phone calls with the booking agent to get it fixed. To be fair, they were very good about it – I made my own booking there and then with the hotel, paid for it myself, and then had it refunded by the booking site later – but it was still an hour wasted.

This was the hotel. If you’ve been to Universal and/or Fun Spot, you would’ve seen it. I chose it specifically for its proximity to Universal. There were shuttle buses, but it was only a 15-minute walk, so I just did that because I’m not American.


Islands of Adventure

The original plan was for a day each at the Universal parks, but the ticket I’d bought gave 2 extra days for free, so I decided to head in and grab the creds I needed before heading back a couple of days later for the full day. When I’d first arrived in Orlando, Velocicoaster was down for 4 days, but luckily it was back up by this time. I ended up getting into the park at around 4, with a 6pm closing time. I stupidly missed the nearest pathway and ended up walking through Hogsmeade to get to it.






It was on a 120-minute queue – this would be pretty much the standard – with no single rider line open, so I just sucked it up. It turned out that I was on in an hour, which I took to be a good sign, but later the queue times were, unfortunately, pretty accurate.



It’s rather good, innit? I asked to be sent to the back row, which they were very accommodating with. The first half is very good as it is, but the second half is pure ridiculousness. It’s been a while since I felt a bit scared on a coaster, but that final roll definitely did it for me; it’s terrifying.










I don’t really rank coasters, but if I did, it would be right up there and I think it’s very fair to see it at or near the top of lists. It really is something quite special.

I headed across to Hagrid’s since I also needed that cred, but soon after I joined the 80-minute queue, they closed it down for nearby weather. It was so close to the end of the day that I decided to stick it out – the alternative was to jump back into the 2-hour Velocicoaster queue - figuring that I’d either get on it or get a fastpass or something.



I stuck it out for an hour, they announced that it wouldn’t reopen, stupid people left the queue at the nearest available exits and I walked the whole queueline and got a fastpass for any attraction for my trouble, so that was a result of sorts. I’d been waiting in that line for a much shorter time than most at least. So yeah, missed out on ticking off the cred, but I’d be back later anyway.

Thus concludes my 1-ride visit to Islands of Adventure.


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Despite some Hagrid’s cred anxiety and the immediate desire for more Velocicoaster, I decided to head into the other Universal park for my first full Universal day. I’d been debating whether to bother with it at all really since, unlike at Islands of Adventure, they hadn’t really added anything hugely significant in the 9 years since I’d last been.

I wasn’t staying at a resort hotel, so couldn’t take advantage of any early entry. I was still there for opening though and had the good sense to walk past a bunch of stuff and head into Diagon Alley first. Here’s some stuff I walked past:











This whole area blew me away 9 years ago, and it hasn’t lost any of its impact. I saw the first Potter movie when it came out, and later read the first 2 books, but that’s it. That doesn’t matter though. The whole area is still amazing and you can still fully “get” it with little to no knowledge of the source material.





I’d planned to single-rider Gringotts, but it only had a minimal queue, so I joined that for the full experience.







I like this attraction a lot, but can see why it’s seen as inferior to Forbidden Journey. Personally, I’m a bit sick of Journey seeing as it’s been cloned across most of the parks now, but I guess it’s objectively the better ride. Gringotts has fab Helena Bonham-Carter though, so…

From there it was to a new-to-me attraction. Would Fast and Furious be as bad as everyone says?




Yes. Yes, it would. What an absolute steaming turd of an attraction. “You’re family now. Come to this really s**t party in a warehouse and then look at some really s**t graphics and get shaken around a bit.”

Utter, unimaginable, irredeemable s**te. Embarrassing.

Thankfully, Mummy is nearby though.



I’d only recently reridden the clone in Singapore, but the fire effects seemed bigger here. Maybe they always were and I’m remembering things differently, or maybe Singapore’s aren’t working as well anymore and it was another sign of that park letting things slip. The second option seems more likely. Anyway, great ride regardless.

Another new-to-me attraction:


This was also s**t, but I found it more forgivable. As a simulator, the ride tech was decent. No, this park didn’t need another screen-based simulator, but at least with this one it’s just been (I think) shoehorned into an existing small space. Some kind of special effects show replacement for Twister would’ve been s**tloads better though.

I didn’t know this Minions shooter thing existed. It’s nothing amazing, but it’s better than what was here before. I skipped Minion Mayhem though because I couldn’t be bothered queueing for it and had done it just a few weeks prior in Beijing anyway.



I’d completely forgotten Men in Black existed, so that was a pleasant enough “surprise” since it’s a decent enough attraction. Does it have much life left in though? It’s still fun, but didn’t have much of a queue and is starting to feel a bit dated. Does anyone really give a crap about Men in Black anymore? It’s a perfect example of a film/films that were massive at the time, but haven’t really stuck around.


Simpsons. I almost skipped it, but I’d only done it a couple of times before and it had been years. It’s alright for what it is. I remember being absolutely wowed by Back to the Future back in the very early ‘90s, and it’s kind of cool that the same old ride system is still kicking around and is actually still decent.




ET for the pure nostalgia trip. This is the only attraction that still exists from my very first visit as a kid (not including rethemes on a couple of simulators), and that forest queue line is still just magic.



I don’t think it’s got much time left though. The area right next to it is being redeveloped as a DreamWorks area, so they must be eyeing the ET building for a future attraction to tie in with that. It’s the right thing for them to do really - unless they put another bastard simulator in there - but I’ll still be sad to see ET go.

Rip Ride Rockit had been closed for most of the morning, so had silly queues when it finally opened. It died down a bit later though and I think I waited about half an hour for it, going back for a reride later. I don’t get the hate for it honestly. The layout is decent enough and the roughness complaints are massively over-exaggerated. Would I be sad to see it go? No.







Transformers. I’m honestly f**king over it at this point, but did it anyway to confirm my feelings.


It’s clearly an excellent attraction, but each time I ride it, I like it less. I was amazed by it when I’d first ridden it in Singapore years ago, but it’s now in so many of the parks and just doesn’t have much of a reride factor. I just find the film tedious; the epitome of CGI smashy-smashy that I detest in films these days. Yes, I get how that actually works well for a simulator attraction, but it’s just boring.

Back to Diagon Alley for a single-rider reride on Gringotts and to have a bit more of a look around since I’d pretty much just done the ride and headed straight back out that morning.










Onto a couple of shows then. I know I’d heard something about the Bourne thing, but had forgotten all about it. I’m glad I had though since it meant that I was going into it with no information whatsoever other than recognising the building as the old Terminator show.


Why haven’t I seen people raving about this? It’s amazing! I’d seen a couple of the Bourne films, but couldn’t remember much about them or give a crap either way, but it doesn’t matter. The tech for this show is seriously impressive. If you’re going to use screens, and we know that Universal are going to use screens, this is how you use them. It’s one of the best attractions in the park. I said what I said.

I also did the horror make up show since I’d never bothered before. It was nice to sit down for a bit.



That was pretty much it. I was kind of glad that I headed back here, but this place needs work. Diagon Alley is amazing, but it's now 10 years old. I think a lot of us were expecting it to be the starting point of some major regeneration for the park, but it hasn't really happened.

I really don’t understand the thought process when it comes to following Diagon Alley by continually adding more simulator rides when the park was already full of them. Sure, update the film/theme on old simulator rides like Simpsons and Minions, but replacing a physical effects show like Twister with another screen is laziness, and Fast and Furious is unforgivable, especially when you look at the size of the show building, which is similar in size to Gringotts. It’s just such a waste.

Also, can we stop spraying water at riders on EVERY F**KING ATTRACTION?

Next up will be the full day at Islands of Adventure.


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Back to Islands then. As I’ve already posted, I’d called in here a couple of days earlier for a couple of hours at the end of the day, but this would be the full day here.





Again, no early entry, and I was very torn about whether to head straight to Velocicoaster while it wasn’t too busy, or to head to Hagrid’s which had already built up quite a queue, but for which I needed the cred. Since we were being held just outside the entrance to the Seuss area, I grabbed a few pictures.









Anyway, Hagrid’s won, and the hour-long queue only ended up taking about half an hour. I was with a friend again, so didn’t single-rider it. This queue time had jumped to 90 minutes by the time I got off, and hovered around there for the rest of the day.

The coaster was excellent. I’d completely forgotten about the drop track, so that was a good surprise, and it was longer than I’d been expecting. Some minor criticism in that the animatronics are a bit crap, but you’re not really looking at them for that long. All-in-all, it’s hard to think of a better family coaster.









Back to Velocicoaster then. The queue time was posted at 100 minutes. The end of the queue line was at exactly the same spot I’d joined it two days prior when it was posted at 120 minutes and I’d only waited an hour, so I took that as a good sign. It took 100 minutes. Ugh.









Yep, still amazing.

Jurassic Park River thing had been closed last time I was here, so I walked straight onto that with single rider. I got very wet. I’d never got wet on the ones in California or Japan, and the splashdown seemed bigger here. They’re also not bothering to keep up with the maintenance with this one, are they? Will there be a Jurassic World retheme like the one in California coming up at some point?

Some general pictures of the area. I really liked how they’ve themed the Velocicoaster fences at that side to a Jurassic Park enclosure. It's also really impressive how they've managed to seamlessly add this ride to an area that already felt complete, and to make it seem like it was always meant to be there,







Kong was new. I wasn’t particularly bothered, but I hate leaving stuff unridden. It had also been closed for most of the day up until that point and had gained quite a long queue. The single rider queue didn’t have too many people in it, though.


Anyway, it broke down right as we got to the front. I decided to stick it out since we hadn’t waited too long, and I had ideas of another fast pass (still had the one I’d got from Hagrid’s on that first visit). 30 minutes later it was a “nope” and we were given fast passes. Amazing. But they didn’t include Velocicoaster or Hagrid’s. Bollocks.

Dudley Do Right’s only had a 5–10-minute queue for most of the day – I’d waited an hour last time – but I wasn’t in the mood for a drenching, so skipped it. You have to take these pictures, though, don’t you?



We did Spiderman at that point, which they were loading though a side entrance/exit for some reason. It’s still fab. Loads better than Transformers.

Hulk. What the f**k? It’s new; how can it be rough as tits (for a B&M at least). Ok, just checking the dates and not that new now, but still. It felt worse than the original. One and done.




Cat in the Hat was a walk-on. I think it’s a really cute little ride, but you have to question them keeping it with such low ridership. The is-it-a-cred trolley thing had a consistent 30-minute+ queue, so it’s not like there weren’t people in that part of the park.





Lost Continent? It’s got f**k all in it now, hasn’t it? They’ve got craploads of space with both Poseidon’s Fury and that stunt show (Sinbad? Never saw it) being permanently closed. I’m placing bets on something big happening there after Epic Universe opens.


It was a reride on Hagrid’s and onto Forbidden Journey, which didn’t get a queue above 30 minutes anytime I was there. I also used one of the not-so-great fastpasses I got at Kong for a quick ride on Hippogriff, skipping the hour-long line and waiting about 10 minutes.


The friend ditched at this point, so I joined the 2-hour queue for a Velocicoaster reride (Ugh, but worth it since it was dark by the time I got on), and headed back to Kong just before closing time, getting straight on with no queue. The sensible people were in the Hagrid’s and Velocicoaster lines for final rides at this point, but I couldn’t face another 90–120-minute wait.

Kong is s**t, but not as s**t as Fast and Furious. Apparently, there’s an outdoor section? This didn’t happen.

Just chucking in some final pictures:













Not a bad day then. I was pleased to get two rides in on both Velocicoaster and Hagrid’s given the ridiculous queues for both, but those queues were a bit silly. Hagrid’s seemed to be handled better. Velocicoaster seemed to be constantly adding and removing trains and was frequently being sent out with empty rows for some reason. They also never opened the single rider line, which was annoying, not that it would have made a massive difference given how so many people use the single riders, but it could have helped get the main queue down a bit at least.

I’d head back here at the end of the week, so will throw some final thoughts in then.

Next: Busch Gardens


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I used the free shuttle bus to Busch Gardens, which left from a nearby hotel. It did another pick up at Sea World and then headed straight to the park, arriving a little after opening.

Getting into the park was a total s**tshow. There were a lot of people, queues right back off that entrance plaza and into the car park, and only one security scanner for people to file through one at a time. Staff just said, “Oh, it’s busy because a lot of buses just arrived.” Yeah, buses that arrive at the same time every morning and have been pre-booked by guests, meaning you know exactly how many people are arriving. What a f**king mess.

I went straight for Iron Gwazi, knowing that it would be quite busy given that it’s right near the entrance, but also knowing that if something happened and I missed it, I’d be gutted.



This was another total s**tshow. It wasn’t even all that busy (queue time stated at half an hour – was actually less), but there was just one staff member, who seemed to be on his first day, trying to deal with fast passes (took ages to scan each person) and the regular line (totally ignored them) while not actually dispatching people into rows anyway. F**king useless. When I got to him, I just walked straight past and filled an empty spot in the back row. Train dispatches were really slow as well, with no sense of urgency whatsoever as that timer on the platform ticked past 3 minutes every time.

Anyway, it was an absolutely excellent ride which fully deserves all the praise it gets and is definitely up there with Zadra and Hakugei as the best (for me so far) RMCs.

When I got off, the queue was up to an hour, so I panicked and bought a fast pass from the machine right outside. This would prove to be unnecessary, but slightly useful later. At only $30 to skip all the lines (though Gwazi only once), it wasn’t like it was a huge amount of money. I obviously wanted a Gwazi reride, but figured that I’d wait to use the fast pass later in the day for a more “warmed up” ride, and instead headed round to Sheikra.


This was also a bit of a s**tshow since there was a long line, no staff at all until you get to the ride platform, meaning a confused free-for-all in the station, seats going empty because of it and only one train running. I was on within 10 minutes with the pass, but still, it shouldn’t be like that. I didn’t want to deal with it for a reride, even with the pass, so moved on.

And then everything was suddenly better. Crowds must’ve dispersed more since pretty much everything from that point became a walk-on.

Tigris, ugh. I needed the cred. The first time I did one of these, I liked it, but I’ve been progressively less impressed each time since, with this one being by far the worst because of that stupid collar/restraint thing. Why?! It was a walk-on at least.




And continuing around to Kumba, which was a walk-on but decided to break down for 15 minutes. No big deal really, especially since I was realizing that the massive faff at opening was now pretty much over with.




Yeah, it’s still an excellent coaster and definitely worth a few rerides. It’s so much better than Hulk. Yes, of course I got the obligatory Busch shot:


There were pretty much no signs of anything happening with the new coaster:


Onto the Pantopia area. I hadn’t been a huge fan of Falcon’s Fury on my last visit, and my opinion didn’t change. Yeah, it’s quite cool to do that tilt at the top, but the drop itself really isn’t up to much and feels quite controlled. I enjoyed Scorpion more this time around though. I’ve no idea why, but I just appreciated it more. The panic-bought fast pass was slightly useful here at least since there was a 2-3 train wait for it with one ride op doing everything.






Given its size and location within the park, Gwazi is a right pain in the arse to get decent pictures of.


My fast pass gave also gave me a ride on the cable car, which apparently had only recently reopened and was an upcharge. It closed early though, so by the time I’d headed back to it, it was closed already. The fast pass was at least useful for Cheetah Hunt, which was holding a 20-30-minute queue which was made walk-on with the pass. It also meant skipping a cycle of the screaming swing and getting on immediately. On the swing, I was sitting next to a fab 82-year-old woman whose teenage granddaughter was watching and holding the bags.








Cobra’s Curse, one of the creds I needed here, was down. It had apparently been down for over 2 hours by the time I got around to it, and the ride op out front basically said not to get my hopes up for it to open. Well, s**t.





Montu, another ride that refuses to let you take pictures, was walk-on and good for a couple of back-to-back rides. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been on a B&M invert, so it was good to get back on one, and one of the best ones at that.



I then basically circled back the way I’d came, getting some use out of the unnecessary fast pass by walking onto Chunt a couple of times.



I looked at some animals and accidentally found a semi-decent spot behind an aviary to take a few pictures of Iron Gwazi. Yes, they’re somewhat repetitive, but I’ve uploaded them now, so…














Sheikra was now dead, but was running two trains at this point. I rode it three times without even having to get off, so the “Yeah, whatever” attitude of the staff worked out to my advantage here. I like a good dive machine.






I went back to Gwazi, which was also down to a walk-on at that point, and did 5 back-to-back rides, mostly staying at the back. I’ve already included all the pictures of that, so here’s another of Scorpion that’s in this order in the uploads.


About an hour before park closing, they actually got Cobra’s Curse open. Obviously, it got a big queue since everyone still in the park headed to it, so the fast pass was worth having again. I waited 5 minutes of a 60-minute line. It was alright. Very good for a spinner at least and a bit substantial than it looks.






I went back to Gwazi to get a couple of rides in before I had to head out for the bus (they’re timed to leave shortly after park close, so you’re not missing out on anything), but it had broken down. I waited it out for 15 minutes, but couldn’t really risk any longer. Oh well, I’d got 6 rides in. Considering the hour-long queue it had had at one point, this was much better than I’d expected.

I could’ve sworn these alligators didn’t have this tall fence around them last time? I’m going to guess an idiot did something idiotic and ruined it.



After that first hour of being utterly dreadful, I ended up having a really good day. Yeah, the fast pass had turned out to be unnecessary, but it definitely helped out for a few rides and meant that everything turned into a walk-on, so I was glad I’d got one in the end.

It’s a very good park in terms of ride selection and quality, but the operations were a bit jarring after coming straight from Disney and Universal. Yes, I know that’s an unfair comparison. The operations were still a hundred times better than 90% of the parks I go to in China. They also seemed to be excellent when there were no people around (no holding back trains for more people etc.), but were a disorganized mess when there was more than a train’s wait for anything. Cheetah Hunt seemed better in that regard, but maybe because it always holds a queue.

Maybe they know that that initial morning f**kery doesn’t last too long, so don’t bother doing anything to alleviate it. It does make me wonder how they cope on busy days though. I know it’s rarely busy, but it must happen. Maybe they have more staff?

Anyway, I’ll stop moaning. Like I said, they’ve got some excellent coasters and it really was only the first hour of the day that caused any problems.


Donkey in a hat
Enjoying these. Nice to read a Gav report that one can actually relate to, having not long been to Florida myself. Makes a change from all that Asian nonsense. 😉
Some main points I wish to convey my agree-ance with you:
Yep, The Bourne Stuntacular is brilliant and criminally overlooked. Initially sad to see T2:3D go, and the pre-show was too long, but was hugely impressed with the main attraction.
Yup, new Hulk is rougher than old Hulk. Don't understand that at all.
Spidey is still waaaay better than Transformers.
Fast n Furious is embarrassingly bad.
And Iron Gwazi is the dog's bollocks.


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Yeah, Bourne Stuntacular is arguably the best attraction at Studios. I'm not really into shows at theme parks that much so I think I still prefer stuff like Mummy, Gringotts, and even Transformers, but the show has a bit of a wow factor.

Busch Tampa kinda fell a little for me, even with the addition of Gwazi. I love the ride (and still really enjoy the rest of the lineup), but some cracks are starting to show in the park with regards to not having any urgency to operate some rides. Plus I dislike how the maintenance area is in the center, and it doesn't help that that's basically Gwazi's plot when the other coasters are actually pleasant.

I think I just need to return on a quieter day (jealous of your walk-on Gwazi rides). At least the park is big enough where you're guarenteed easy rides on Kumba no matter the crowds.


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Enjoying these. Nice to read a Gav report that one can actually relate to, having not long been to Florida myself. Makes a change from all that Asian nonsense. 😉
Don't worry; they're coming back imminently.

I think I just need to return on a quieter day (jealous of your walk-on Gwazi rides).
Yeah, it was great to see it drop from an hour soon after opening to a walk-on in the afternoon. That time around opening was shockingly badly run though.

Right, let's get this thing polished off...

The only park left was Sea World, which had 3 new creds since I was last there, plus one that had been closed on my last visit. I got there for opening – it wasn’t too busy at all – and headed straight for Pipeline.



Locker faff happened though – the machine was playing up – and it took 20-minutes and three members of staff to fix it. I needn’t have bothered with the locker it seems. At Busch, it was essential to get a locker, but at Sea World not so much. Good to see the consistency. Whatever. At $10 for the day, I’d rather do that than leave stuff on ride platforms anyway.

Luckily, it was still quiet, and although a steady stream of people had been heading into Pipeline, it was still a walk-on and was already running 2 trains. I did three rides back-to-back while it was quiet and really enjoyed it. I don’t think it heralds the return of the stand-up coaster (unless China goes all “wing-rider” about them at some point), but it’s a definite improvement over the old models. It’s especially good on rerides when you’ve figured it out a bit and jump into the airtime slightly.









I needed Ice Breaker and, figuring that the throughput wouldn’t be great, decided to do that before Mako.




The path across the lake was closed until a bit later though. Why? So stupid. Anyway, since I now had to walk past Mako, that became the next coaster. Penguin Trek was annoyingly close to opening, and Mako is annoyingly camera shy.




It’s excellent, but has maybe been overhyped slightly. I did 5 rides on it, all quite early in the day, and enjoyed it a lot each time, but it didn’t quite wow me. It could be a case of needing to ride it again later in the day, or might be a case of Velocicoaster and Iron Gwazi being that good that this wasn’t going to quite get up there. Take those two out of the equation though, and sure, it’s probably the best coaster in Florida.

I did the shark tunnel thing and destroyed my childhood amazement. It was such a big thing at the park back in the early ‘90s, but it’s all a bit sad now.



I mostly avoid rapids rides these days, but this one has (I think it still has?) the biggest drop on one. It was pretty good, and wet without being ridiculous.





I finally got round to Ice Breaker and hit the first queue of the day, taking around 40 minutes to get on it. I liked it a lot more than I’d been expecting to, but one thing f**ks it. It’s a fun layout with surprisingly decent airtime, but the trains are dog s**t. Apparently, it used to have those same awful collars that Tigris still has. It’s bad enough now with the awful ankle restraints, so I can only imagine what it was like before. It’s also a massive pain in the arse to get in and out of.






I’ll just throw in some pictures that I took as I carried on walking around the lake. The orca show was closed for renovations which was fine as I’d have skipped it anyway, but it would have been a perfect time to move people away from the coasters.
















Manta had an hour-long queue, and I couldn’t be bothered at all. I like the ride well enough, but not enough to wait an hour for it when I’ve done both that and Acrobat enough times already. Kraken was a walk-on though, so I did a few rides on that before moving onto the final cred that I needed.







Journey to Atlantis had been closed on my last visit, which wasn’t a huge problem since I knew that would be the case from the website. It had had no water in it back then, but this time, it did.


However, it was f**king closed again. Bastards. By the time I ever get back to Orlando, I’m expecting it to be gone. I’m sure I’m not missing out on much, but it’s still really annoying.



By this point, the queues for Mako and Pipeline were much longer (an hour for Mako), and they were really the only coasters I felt like reriding at that point. The observation tower had been closed last time, so I had a go on that despite generally refusing to pay for upcharge attractions, the cheeky t**ts.

Have some more repetitive pictures:















At this point I was done, so decided to head back to Islands of Adventure (remember I had those two free days?) to finish up the trip there. I’d held back a couple of the fast passes I’d got after ride closures (one good one with no exclusions, and one crapper one with no Hagrid’s or Velocicoaster), so it would’ve been a shame to waste them.

It’s a 10-minute drive between Sea World and Universal, but thanks to the absolute worst Lyft driver on the planet, it took me an hour. I can’t be arsed going into all the details, but you’d think that someone driving a Lyft around the I-Drive area would know how to get to the Universal drop-off points and not join a 30-minute queue to get into the car park. Dozy c**t.

I’ll chuck in some pictures which were taken on that last visit but are more or less identical to the others I’ve already posted. I ended up riding Hagrid’s and Forbidden Journey again, using the crapper fast pass for Spiderman (now using the proper entrance) and the better fast pass for Velocicoaster, which still ended up taking an hour. I was done at that point. The park was still open for a couple of hours, but I was just knackered and had to leave for the airport at around 4am, so just called it quits there.











Overall then. A Florida theme park trip is always going to be amazing but exhausting, especially if (like me) you don’t/can’t chuck in some days for downtime. I’d given myself 3 days away from the parks, but the Miami weekend was still quite full-on, with early mornings and lots of walking, and I ended up at a park on that third day anyway.

I’ve just had a quick check, and I got 16 new creds - which is pretty impressive given that I only went to one new-to-me park - some of which are undoubtedly up there with the world’s best at the moment.

One thing that was a little surprising and a bit disappointing were the huge crowds of people. My last visit had been at the same time of year, and it had been perfect. Disney and Universal were still busy, but very manageable and without any ridiculous queues. That just wasn’t the case this time around at all. Maybe people are getting clued up to the fact that, in terms of the weather, it’s pretty much the perfect time to be in Florida. Maybe those quiet periods just don’t really exist anymore. Even Busch and Sea World were getting 60-minute+ queues for some rides.

When it comes to those crowds, Disney are doing a much better job at managing them than Universal, even if that means that paying for a Genie+ is almost essential at at least a couple of the parks. Selecting time slots means both queues, Lightning Lane and Standby, are being managed pretty well. I know that one of the complaints about a Disney visit these days is that it’s lost a lot of spontaneity, but it all still works in your best interest. The standby line isn’t going to be affected by a sudden influx of people with lightning lane, and those with lightning lane aren’t going to have to wait long after joining their queue. Also, when those fast passes have gone, they’ve gone.

At Universal however, if you’ve got a fast pass, which seem to be sold in unlimited (or at least very high) numbers, you just show up whenever you want. I know this is the theme park standard and that Disney is the outlier here, but it makes both the standby and fast pass lines very unpredictable. As I mentioned before, when I showed up with a fast pass ticket for Velocicoaster, it still took an hour to get on, which was only about half the time of the regular queue. If I’d have paid for that, I would’ve been a bit pissed off. The price of those fast passes is quite ridiculous, especially if you want the one that allows multiple rides. People were obviously willing to pay, along with hotel guests getting them included, but realistically, there are only a very small handful of rides which warrant using it even when it’s busy. I know that all fast passes basically do this – bundle in a load of crap you don’t need to make it seem like better value for money – but at IoA you’re really just paying for Velocicoaster, Kong, Spiderman and Hulk and even those latter three could be done quite easily without it. People are essentially getting it for Velocicoaster, but when hundreds (thousands?) of people are doing that, it makes the queue for that ride horrible for everyone.

Anyway, the Disney vs Universal stuff could go on forever, so I’ll leave it there. I’m not saying that Disney is better – I don’t think it is – just that they handle the crowds better.

I shouldn't complain about operations at all really considering my next reports are back to the Chinese parks.

Matt N

CF Legend
Great series of reports @gavin; I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading them!

I find the crowds on your trip surprising. I went in June 2023, and I did not experience waits like the ones you describe here. By all accounts, June should be busier than February, but I don’t think I personally waited longer than an hour for anything on my recent trip. Even in the case of Hagrid’s, which was advertised with longer waits, I never waited over an hour for it. Well, other than the time that it broke down and I got evacuated, but I think that was more down to the breakdown and evacuation than the queue length.

My only thought was; could American Spring Break have fallen during your trip? I certainly know that the one time I went to Florida during Spring Break in 2019 was by far the busiest I’ve ever seen the parks. I went at the start of April, and Easter was particularly late in 2019 (nearly a month later than Easter 2024), so given their long holidays, it’s not unthinkable that their Spring Break could have started in February this year.

On a side note, I must ask; out of VelociCoaster and Iron Gwazi, which one would you say you preferred?


Staff member
Social Media Team
It was definitely not Spring Break, much too early for that. It did hit a UK half term though, so I'm sure that had a bit of an effect, and there was some big cheerleading thing going on.

I can see how June would be an excellent time to go as well. In terms of when I could potentially get to Florida (which is school holidays: Christmas, Chinese New Year, Easter or Summer), the CNY holiday in Jan/Feb makes by far the most sense.

It's a tough call between Gwazi and Velocicoaster since I loved both. As a coaster, it's probably Gwazi, but then as a whole package, it's Velocicoaster. I'm going to give it to Gwazi. No wait, Velocicoaster.