We got up on Monday morning, turned on the news, and marveled at how frequently the weathercasters were using the word "wallopped". It was the meme of the day: every channel, whether national or local, decided that that was the most appropriate adjective for the President's Day Storm that had already slammed into DC and was rapidly bearing down on home. So we called Eliz and Dan, and asked them to give the cats lots of kibble and water, and not worry about getting to the house on Tuesday.
We then headed back to Universal, this time to go to Islands of Adventure. If Universal Studios can be usefully compared to Epcot (or maybe MGM), Islands of Adventure is rather obviously modeled on the Magic Kingdom, and is roughly the same size and complexity. The analogy is a little imprecise, but roughly speaking:
- Seuss Landing == Fantasyland;
- Marvel Island == Tomorrowland;
- The Lost Continent (the pseudo-Arabian Nights section) == Adventureland;
- Jurassic Park == Frontierland;
- Which sorts of leaves Toon Lagoon == Liberty Square, but hey, I did say it was imprecise.
Despite being a tad derivative, it was a broadly enjoyable day. Some random highlights:
Marvel Island is, frankly, too damned loud. I like my rock music as much as the next person and more than most of my friends, but msmemory and I could barely hear each other talk. This worsens the relatively low volume in most of the pre-shows; we couldn't hear a thing in some of them. I'll get back to the rides later (I'm running in chronological order), but we basically ran for the hills as quickly as we could. Fortunately, the sound insulation between the Islands is astonishingly good, considering that they're right next to each other and have no apparent walls.
Over in Toon Lagoon, I was very taken with the look of Dudley Do-right's Sawmill Falls, one of the flume rides. She wasn't deeply enthusiastic -- the temperature wasn't all that warm, and this looked like one of those rides where you get very wet. I'm afraid I wheedled a bit, and talked her into buying one of the rain ponchos that they were conveniently selling right outside the ride (never missing an opportunity to make money). The preshow for this one was mildly entertaining, although not as good as the real cartoons. The animatronics on the ride were mediocre, very reminiscent of Disney's now rather dated Song of the South ride. But the flume itself was rather fun, and we did, in fact, get good and wet. (The poncho saved her from anything worse than a general dampness, but it took me a good three hours to dry off.)
In Jurassic Park, she was very attracted by the Pteranodon Flyers, which are sort of like a fast ski lift swinging overhead. However, it turns out to require children (no adults allowed without a child in tow). Of course, a number of grown-up couples were obviously ignoring that rule, but we're a little too lawful good for our own good.
General note: the food joints were all wildly understaffed. We gave up standing on line for both pizza and burgers (both of which looked to take at least half an hour to get our food), and eventually wound up just getting hotdogs. (Which only had a ten-minute line.) Also, alcohol flows rather more freely than in the Magic Kingdom.
Fury of Poseidon: This one is more show than ride, but was fairly entertaining. The plot was totally hokey (basically a haunted house type scenario involving sorcerors and gods who behaved very much like comic book superheroes), but the effects weren't bad at all. The Tunnel of Water was very neat, even if it did steam up my glasses something fierce -- basically a round tunnel with water shooting around the walls at such speed that it goes right around you. And it made creative use of water as a projection screen. Not remarkable, but fun.
Ran across a rather interesting pair of guys in Lost Continent, who were striking coins using more or less period techniques. They had 100 or so designs, and you could choose any two and get it struck in bronze. (Or silver for a few times more money, or gold if you were feeling truly wealthy.) Sadly, while they had a a laurel wreath, they didn't have a pelican, and I didn't come up with anything I really wanted on the obverse of a laurel.
Spider-man, rather to my surprise, lives up to its billing -- it totally kicks butt. It neatly combines a track ride, a motion simulator, 3D glasses and full-surround screens to create the most immersive ride I've ever been on. The plot is, of course, utterly idiotic, but one doesn't expect Proust in an amusement park ride. Wildly neat, and the only ride that we went on a second time. (Advice: either get to the park early and get an express pass before they sell out, or plan to go on the ride late in the afternoon once the crowds begin to die down.)
The Hulk coaster, while not quite as fabulously cool as Spider-man, also kicked butt. msmemory didn't want to go on this one -- while she doesn't mind coasters, she doesn't like being turned upside-down, and she counted six loops/corkscrews in this one. So I went on it by myself, and was able to inform her that there were actually nine. (Several smaller ones were hidden in the back forty.) It starts with a linear accelerator, which took me by surprise -- it starts cranking you up the hill, so I was expected a conventional start, but halfway up we suddenly accelerated up the rest of the way. The pre-show for this one was completely weak, but fortunately the line was short in the late afternoon. (Total time, including the ride itself, was 17 minutes.)
For dinner, we decided to go to The Latin Quarter again -- I felt slightly like a wimp for going to the same place twice, but figured that we weren't likely to be lucky enough to find two restaurants that good in Orlando. The salsa this time wasn't quite as fabulous (it appears that they make it themselves each night), but was still head and shoulders better than most. I had the snapper chorizo for dinner, and that was excellent -- while I would have liked a touch more cilantro, it had vast amounts of yummy sausage to go with the fish. She had sea bass with lobster sauce, which was also very good.
And so ends our time at Universal. As we sort of expected, the place is really a two-day affair while you're learning your way around, and you can probably hit all the highlights in both parks in one day if you focus on them...
Tomorrow: we cheat on the ground rules of the trip.