Monday, September 26, 2016

Universally Awesome! April 2016 Trip Report, Day 3: Smorgasbord Day! Part 1

To see the first part of the previous day, please click HERE.

I never go to bed at 9:30, and now I know why…

…for starters, my brain simply never shuts down, and I have to get myself good and tired before going to bed.  I had some school stuff on my mind, but I was able to eventually fall into a restless sleep, even though the bed was great.  Around 1:30, I was woken up to the sound of boys’ arguing over how much of the bed each one was taking.  I put a quick end to it but then couldn’t fall back asleep.  I spent the next 2 hours or so doing school work and crawled back in bed around 4 am…and, of course, was back up at 6:00.

This is going to be a greeeeeaaaaaaat day.

We were going to start the day with a tour of one of the other Loews resorts on-site: the Royal Pacific resort!  With Islands of Adventure opening at 8 that morning and the restaurant we were going to dine at opening at 7:00, it was going to be a tight fit on the schedule, but I thought we could to it.  At 6:45, we headed out and grabbed a quick water pic:

We then headed down to the lobby and successfully were able to get another privilege of staying at a higher-end Loews resort: the free on-site town car service!  We walked up, grabbed a ticket, and were at Royal Pacific in just a few minutes…for nothing more than the gratuity we gave to our driver.

We were just a couple of minutes behind my internal preferred schedule, so all we had to do was rush to the restaurant and get in quicklhhhheeeeeeyyyyyyyyywaitaminute!!!

This place is BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

It evoked essences of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

I could easily see us staying here!

We found Islands restaurant, and I was pleasantly surprised to see only a 3- to 4-minute wait to get seated.

Sheri and I immediately commented about longing for the 100% kona coffee in a pressed pot from the Kona Café.  I know that it’s not fair to compare the two restaurants (or the two resorts, for that matter), because they’re not the same; however, I think it is hard not to.  Royal Pacific looks to be an absolutely amazing choice for many people who want a taste of South Pacific theming!

I got the closest thing I could find to my beloved Tonga Toast…the Tahitian French Toast a L’Orange.  Sheri opted for the Hawaiian pancakes.  The boys, seeing unlimited food, ran to the buffet.

Our entrees were good – just different from what our palates were expecting.  Again, it’s really hard to NOT compare this place to Kona Café down the road.  They are different restaurants with different experiences and different entrees.  Sheri’s pancakes had a LOT of coconut, which I liked.  The orange flavor of my French toast was good – just different.

We all got a kick out of the condiments…

I really wish I would have suggested that we stay to look around some more, because this truly is an amazing-looking resort!  We had a park to get to, though, so we paid and said our goodbyes to Royal Pacific for this trip and made our way out to the boat launch.  We got a good view of the construction of the Loews Sapphire Falls resort on our ride over to City Walk.

We arrived into Islands of Adventure around 8:10…not a bad time at all, considering we left our room at Portofino Bay less than an hour and a half before.  We got through the turnstiles and found the park to be nice and quiet once we got through the Port of Entry.

We headed left and made our way towards Hogsmeade when we saw a walk-on queue for Spiderman.  We threw the touring plan out the window for a few minutes and hopped in line for this one.

LIKED IT!!!  Loved the Stan Lee cameo, too.  It has its roots in the same format as several of the other attractions (3D glasses, vehicle that careens to different screens, etc.).  Perhaps having a break from similar attractions helped, because I felt completely fine after this one.

We continued on through Toon Lagoon...

...and past Skull Island, listening futilely for a “SOFT OPENING!” announcement (I was about a month or so early) and continued through Jurassic Park to the other entrance into Hogsmeade.  It seemed a little disjointed, with a little bit of whiplash as we transitioned into the new area.   I think that a counter-clockwise touring of this park works better, purely in terms of theming.

We immediately headed to Dragon Challenge and remembered our Express Pass cards this time.  With Sheri with us, we opted for the red coaster and LOVED it!!!  We were still feeling okay and contemplated hopping back in line for the blue coaster again, but we decided to spread things out and do it tomorrow.  We then took our time to do a little touring of Hogsmeade.

After we were done touring Hogsmeade, we headed towards the Lost Continent to check that area out some more.  The fountain wasn’t active, and we weren’t close to a show time for Poseidon’s Fury…okay….we made an executive decision to skip Seuss Landing since we had already walked through it the previous day and still had Potter on our minds.  We turned around and made a beeline for the Forbidden Journey.  The line moved relatively quickly through the greenhouse and into the castle, but we got stuck in Dumbedore’s office for a while and then again for quite a while in the holding room where Harry, Ron, and Hermione talk to the queue (I think we got snowed on 4-5 times).  Finally, we got going again, and, within a couple of minutes of the bottleneck, we were making our way to our seats.  I stopped my TouringPlans timer and did a quick submit…37 minutes on the wait.  I remembered to take my Crocs off before getting in, and I placed them behind me as I sat down.  A Team Member noticed my lack of shoes, and I pointed behind me with a smile.  The approving nod told me that what I did was pretty common.

We got going, and I was looking forward to seeing a lot that I missed the first time we rode it.  As the attraction started, I definitely was thinking that Forbidden Journey was my favorite attraction at Universal…

…and then it became the Forbidden Journey through Hell.

We soared through the first couple of scenes, and the ride was even more awesome than the first time we rode it!  We made it into the Quidditch field and were rocking and rolling, yawing and pitching…and then….

We stopped.

We were all leaning forward in our seats, resting on the restraints.  Sheri was the only one that had her sandals on still, and I was sure that, with the position we were in, she was going to lose them.  I made a joke about one of the beaters knocking the sandals back to her.  We were all in good spirits…No worries – we thought we were going to be back on our way in a minute or two.

…five minutes later, the lights came on, and we got to see the attraction’s guts.

We passed the time having fun with the acoustics of the screen that we were dangling over; one of us could whisper, and the person on the far end could hear it as clear as a bell.  I looked around to see if there were other ride vehicles nearby, and I was able to see a couple of the other Kuka Arms frozen in time.  Luckily, the people in those arms were more upright or slightly leaning back.  I was fully expecting our very first evac as the time ticked away, and I listened for voices behind and below us.  I was also a little concerned about Sheri getting a little claustrophobic, but she endured it with no real lasting damage.

After about 20-25 minutes, we felt the Arm start to move, and, as we transitioned to the next screen, the lights popped off, and the movie and audio kicked back on.  Being stationary in that forward/down position messed all of us up a little bit in terms of balance, and the quick movement back into the attraction had us all feeling a bit wonky.  The on-board pic is definitely worth a thousand words LOL!!!

We made it back to the unloading platform, and we all nearly kissed the ground as we got off of what we feared would be our deathbeds.

It happens – with the technology that goes into that attraction, it’s surprising that it doesn’t happen more often.  We weren’t mad; just a little bummed at the experience.  Universal had a number of Team Members at the exit to greet the guests getting off of the attraction.  As they apologized for what happened, they offered us front of the line access to any attraction.  We thanked them (they seemed appreciative that we did that – my guess is that a number of folks laid into them, though they had nothing to do with the attraction going down) and meandered our way outside.
I was fully expecting to have problems getting our stuff out of the locker, as it had been much, much, MUCH more than the anticipated time that we were supposed to be done with the ride.  The locker opened with no issues at all, though; they have downtime taken into account for the locker timer programming.  Kudos to the tech folks for that!


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