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Not all vacations to Orlando are planned for perfection. In part one of our story, we met MousePlanet reader Jeremy who was hell bent on taking off to the theme park capitol of the universe for the weekend. With only four days to prepare for his trip, we managed to find Jeremy a flight, hotel room, car rental, and pick which parks he was likely to attend. Our valued MP reader also managed to send me on a major stress trip of my own.
How did it all turn out? Did a knee jerk decision to make a major trip on minor effort result in an expensive weekend not to be repeated? Let's let find out from the brave traveler himself.
Thank you once again for your kind assistance last week. I don't know what I would have done without your help! Bet you are wondering how it all went? Got your Email about the dining situation and my dog after I returned home, but thanks for trying anyway.
My trip didn't exactly start off as planned. I totally spaced off finding a home for my dog Hanna during the trip, and had to scramble to find her suitable accommodations. She requires lots of special care and is not an easy little girl to take care of. Thankfully, I have a neighbor with the heart of a saint! However, as a result of my last minute dealings with Hanna, I didn't have a chance to pack and ended up just throwing things in a bag and taking off for the airport late.
LAX is NOT fun, at least when you need to find a place to park that won't cost you more than your trip, and you are running waaaay too late. Did you know that most of the long term parking isn't on the airport property at all? I didn't even think about this before hand. But I found a place called Wally Park not too far away and they shuttled me to the plane just in time. The only good thing about being in a panic before you leave is that you sleep really well on the way to your destination!
Orlando International Airport, on the other hand, was pretty nifty. They whisk you away from your plane to the baggage terminal on a monorail kind of a thing. Fun, I felt like I was on my vacation already. But that didn't last long. Do I have you worried???
My reservation at (car agency name deleted) was totally messed up. They couldn't find my name and didn't have a car for me that was in my price range. On top of that, the counter next to them wouldn't rent to me because they don't take debit cards! A very nice lady suggested that I take a Mears shuttle instead. And that is exactly what I decided to do. Of course this did end up changing my trip a bit.
After what seemed like a very long journey of looking at one amusement park billboard after another, we finally made it to the Portofino Hotel at dusk. WOW! This place is amazing. I could spend my whole trip at this hotel and be a very happy camper. It is built to look like a series of romanticized Italian seaport buildings all wrapped partially around a placid lake. Check-in was quick and the room was quite comfortable. I'm an interior decorator, and even I could live in a room like this. I did a little exploring before hitting the sheets and was absolutely impressed with the entire complex. Thank you for the suggestion!
The desk clerk reminded me of the front of line pass that I could use the next day at Islands Of Adventure, and told me to be there at opening time. So I hopped on a nice little boat at the hotel marina and was ferried to the park. This is the part of amusement park vacations that I like least, getting up early. But it was so completely worth it.
I have to admit that I didn't know what to expect from this park, except what you had told me in your e-mails, and hadn't even heard of Islands Of Adventure until last week. From the moment I entered IOA's mythic Port Of Entry village until I was nearly dead from a day of walking, I was in complete awe of what has been accomplished by Universal in this totally impressive park. If you had dropped me blindfolded into this park and asked me where I was, I would have guessed that it was some fantastic new Disney park.
I'm rambling a bit, so I'll stick to the highlights. Taking your suggestion and that of everyone I met at the hotel, I rode Spiderman first. It blows your mind away with what has to be a whole new generation of special effects. I've never seen anything like it. So, with front of line pass in hand, I got back in line three more times before I remembered your suggestion, to do as many big rides as possible before the crowds showed up.
The Incredible Hulk coaster was close so I rode it next. Again, a knock out attraction. Even if the park had just these two attractions, I'd come back and visit again soon. That isn't to say that the park doesn't have a few duds. Dr. somebody's Fall thinggy (Editor's note: Dr. Doom's Fearfall), just next to the Hulk, looked like just another space shot, so I didn't waste my time. But most of the attractions looked really cool.
At this point, I had to examine the map because I had no idea where to go next. The park is laid out in a big circle around a large lake, so there isn't any cutting through the middle like at Disneyland, so I decide to just go around the circle as quickly as possible riding just the big rides and then go back and re-examine the "islands" later.
My cell phone rang and my friend Chip from Miami had FINALLY arrived at the park to join me. The funny thing is that I was having so much fun that I had almost forgotten that he was coming!!! He met up with me and we headed off to the Toon Lagoon, even though Chip really wanted to ride the Hulk and Spiderman. Sometimes you just have to be evil.
For whatever reason, Toon Lagoon is like the water ride capitol of Orlando. Both the Dudley Do-Right log ride and the Popeye rapid type ride were in this land. Both were fun and super well themed, but ensured that we would remain wet for at least an hour.
It was getting to be lunch time and we asked Island's version of a cast member where the nicest restaurant in the park would be. Turns out that it is a place called Mythos half way across the park. So off we plodded ignoring everything around us so we could enjoy it later. I was not let down. This restaurant was an escape from the hustle and bustle of the park. Set in what looks like a cave or ruin of some sort, this place just oozes with atmosphere. But the real test was whether or not they would have a selection of vegetarian items for me. I was pleasantly surprised at my options here. I had a wonderful pasta and veggie dish, Chip had some sort of dead animal thing, I didn't even want to know how it was as I can't stand seeing people eat meat. But I'll get down off my soap box now and get on with the real story.
I really didn't want to leave Mythos, it is one of those dark relaxing lunch spots that you just want to curl up and take a nap in. But Chip still hadn't been on any of the coasters and was ready to go.
Instead of heading off through the Marvel and Toon area of the park again, we decided to stay on the side of the park we were already on, and went to Seuss Landing next. For two guys hot to find the next coaster, we sure did end up spending a lot of time in this whimsical little world. Everything in this land looks just like it popped out of a Dr. Seuss book right down to the queues and walkways with their curvy Seuss-ness.
I was crazy about Dr. Seuss as a child and was completely enthralled by the sights and sounds here. Instead of a carousel, they have a crazy "Caro-Seuss-el" with all the funky little Seuss creatures on it. The only attraction that we actually rode here was the Cat In The Hat dark ride. I never thought I'd ride something like this in a non-Disney park.
My day was rapidly becoming evening and we hadn't even made one full loop yet! Chip STILL hadn't been on a coaster, and I was starting to get that hazy, crazy, stagger that you get when you've been at an amusement park toooo long. But we persisted as there were coasters yet unseen and Dino's lurking just around the bend.
The Lost Continent was next on our journey and contained what Chip had been seeking, Dueling Dragons. Two completely different inverted coasters which are all twisted around each other. Even though each track is entirely different, in fact they call them Ice and Fire, they still race each other! How cool is that? If you go, you have to ride both! Wait for the front at least once, because you see all sorts of cool things and near misses, that you won't necessarily see further back in the train.
Lost Continent does have two other attractions which we decided not to wait for. One of which, Poseidon's Fury, I've since heard is actually very good. Last on our Island tour was Jurassic Park. No coasters here. In fact, the only real ride is the Jurassic Park River Adventure. Since it was getting late and I have been on this attraction at Universal Hollywood, we decided to skip it and head back to the Hulk and Spiderman before heading out of the park for dinner in the City Walk.
The entire day was fantastic. I can't believe that I didn't know this place existed! The park wasn't too crowded, had tons of awesome attractions, and best of all, I still have lots of stuff to do on my next trip that I didn't have time for on this one.
The rest of my trip was fun as well, but not as incredible as Islands. Day two required a bit of a change of plans. I had intended to go to Disney's Animal Kingdom which I have never seen, but since I didn't rent a car, decided to stay at Universal and see the Studios instead. I'll save you the details for now and may send you a full trip report on another occasion. Although I did enjoy my day, I couldn't help but think how it didn't quite capture the character that the Hollywood park has. It was also a little bit lonely for me since Chip had gone back to Miami the night before. I suppose it wouldn't have bothered me so much if I had spent the entire trip alone. I cut the day short and spent a very relaxing afternoon at the hotel pool. I've never seen so many adults using a pool slide before. Granted this was a pretty cool slide and even I made a few runs.
After the pool, I took a stroll over to the the little cafe by the lagoon, and had a coffee and just watched the ferries glide across the bay. In a way, this was one of the most relaxed and enjoyable parts of the trip. It is so easy to forget to just take it easy on an amusement park trip. Well, after a short jaunt to the City Walk for dinner and a bit club hopping, I went back to the hotel to pack and get ready for my flight home Monday morning.
All in all, this trip was the break that I have been needing for so long. Who would have thought that you could decided on a Monday to haul yourself to Orlando for the weekend and have such a fantastic time? In spite of the hassles getting ready and the last minute changes, this quick trip was better than many longer and better planed ones I have taken in the past. I might just take another one of these journeys very soon.
Thanks again for all your kind help. I brought a little something back for you from Seuss Landing. Take care, see you on MousePlanet!
There you have it folks. All that worrying for nothing. Aside from a couple little glitches, Jeremy proves that if you are willing to be flexible and aren't tied to a restrictive plan, you can still have a fantastic time in the parks, even if it is short notice. I've learned a lot from this experience:
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