Updated: Nov 13, 2021
Despite setting the alarm for 6.30am, my body clock was still adjusting and so I was up with the kettle on when the alarm went off. This morning we were planning to leave at 7.20am for a day at Islands of Adventure which was 30 minutes’ drive away.
The traffic wasn’t too bad and there wasn’t any queue at the car park entrance. I almost choked when asked if I wanted to upgrade from the extortionate $27 normal to the $50 prime parking. I politely declined but was then asked who we had hired the car from. As it was Avis, and they are a Universal partner we were given the upgrade for no extra cost. Our first win of the trip.
However, I think the only difference in the actual parking was that we were one floor lower than usual so there was little real advantage other than a way of getting extra revenue.
It had been several years since we had been to IOA, so our excitement levels increased as we made our way there along the ‘moving walkways’.
Our first stop was at Guest Services where we hoped to pick up 2 free tickets we had been promised from our last visit to Universal Studios. We had given them feedback about how much time we had lost trying to get lunch one day and they had offered us free tickets for another visit as compensation. It took about 10 minutes to collect them and using the other ticket we had purchased we were soon through the gates and into the park.
As usual Neil oversaw the order for the day and so the first ride was to be Hagrid. We were stopped getting to it though as it was only open for Hotel guests only until 9am. As soon as the time arrived, we joined a small crowd making our way to it. Already though the wait time show 75 minutes which I was very unhappy about. In the end though we were off the ride within 45 minutes.
In the queue I was grumpy. I now normally hate having wait anything longer than about 20 minutes. I was also grumpy as we had been told there was extra security inside the ride and that we had to leave had literally everything in the locker outside. I had no keys, wallet or phone on me and that worried me.
Much of this queue was inside. Unlike Disney, here the wearing of masks was only recommended and only about 50% of people complied. Both Karen & I felt very uncomfortable with the situation and contemplated leaving the queue3. Universal also didn’t seem to take every opportunity to have exits open to circulate air. Karen didn’t help by being vocal about why people should be wearing masks. Fortunately, the queue seemed to be moving all the time which made all just about bearable.
For all the problems, the hype for the ride was all worth it. I sat on the motorcycle and Karen in the sidecar. She screamed all the way round. It was fast with tight curves and amazing acceleration at different times. We were in the front carriage, and it was amazing. There were some surprises of reversing at speed at one point and then another where the whole track plummets down and you join another track. A big thumbs up to whoever designed this ride.
Neil was then keen to ride the other new attraction Velocicoaster. This is a large steel rollercoaster and now holds the title of the best rollercoaster in Florida. I had half intended to try it but decided after my back pains from yesterday to give it a miss. Neil loved it. The queue was minimal, and he rode it twice within 15 minutes. He was back from both rides before I could even return with to Karen with her first coffee of the day.
From here we went back to Harry Potter and rode that as single riders. Not sure how but Karen & I still managed to ride it together. I can only assume it had been updated since our last visit as it was much better than we could recall.
Then we rode Kong. A big ride that is a bit of a disappointment apart from the massive Kong at the end.
From here we made our way back to the Spiderman ride which again appears to have been upgraded. It’s a load of nonsense really but enjoyable, nevertheless.
I now needed a break as I could feel twinges in my back, so we sat down outside Starbucks. It took Karen longer to get some drinks than it did for Neil to ride Hulk and Dr Doom which shows the number of people in the park.
Whilst resting I had a message from Barry saying that he too was in Universal Studios but in Hollywood. The pictures he sent showed much bluer skies than we were getting.
After Karen and I had put on ponchos we rode the Jurassic Park water ride. We were glad we did especially as the family in the row in front of us got soaked. It was now time for lunch and so we headed to ‘The Three Broomsticks’ in the Harry Potter land (incidentally where Barry also had his lunch some 3000 miles away). Karen & I both had something off the Children’s menu which was still substantial but much cheaper than the adult’s meal.
By now it had started to drizzle. We recalled that it seemed every time we come to IOA it rains. It was like a fine mist though and rather refreshing as we headed to the Train in the Sky ride. This was something Karen & I had never done. We were not sure why. It was a bit like the Peoplemover at Magic Kingdom. I rather enjoyed it. This was followed by The Cat in the Hat ride, another piece of fluffy nonsense, but as it had no queue was fun enough.
The misty drizzle was now turning to light rain. We made our way back to Starbucks where I managed to get a table outside with an umbrella to shelter under. Karen & I decided to have another drink whilst Neil went off on his own. He managed to do all the roller coasters again at least twice and changed into wet weather gear to do the very wet Bilbo Barge rides.
We had a pleasant 90 minute people watching. I know I am no fashion guru but so many of the people were simply completely inappropriately dressed. Either what they had on for their body shape or just for visiting a theme park. I felt I should be offering a personal styling service. Much of my advice would have been – just go and look at yourself in a mirror until you see the error of your ways.
We heard no other British or even European accents all day and saw not one single person in a British football shirt which is unheard of in Florida theme parks. We felt quite the trailblazers. Another blessing was absence of the large (50+) groups of Brazilian tourists. I have nothing against Brazilians, it’s just in theme parks they all trail round together in matching T Shirts. When one of them joins a queue for anything you just know their 49 mates will be squeezing in to join them.
By the time Neil returned we were ready to move as we had stiffened up in the damp conditions and decided we were ready to make our way slowly out of the park after browsing in some shops.
Apart from the Hagrid queue, the park hadn’t felt too bad safety wise. There were hand sanitisers everywhere and mostly we had been outside. When inside we had always worn masks, and it hadn’t bothered us.
The constant use of hand sanitisers got me wondering if that could me the next big scandal once we have learned to live with Covid properly. Are we doing ourselves some damage by ingesting all that almost neat alcohol through our hands? Could this have been the sinister plot all along? I’m sure some of the conspiracy muppets are already working on that one.
We tried to get a table for a meal at Margaritaville but there was a 75 minute for a table, so we ended up in the NBC Sports Grill also on City Walk. The menu was the usual American fare. Karen had the Club Sandwich, whilst I went for an Extra Cheesy Wisconsin Burger. Neil had some beef concoction. He said I embarrassed them by asking what were the Tator Tots that came with the Burger were. Apparently, I should have known.
The food was surprisingly good and very tasty.
Before leaving the boardwalk, as the queue was short Neil finally after many years of trying managed to buy some Voodoo doughnuts. In the past the queue has been over a hour long - just to buy these special doughnuts. I repeat this queue was for doughnuts and not a ride. Sometimes I do despair of people who are prepared to do that sort of thing. They have acquired a cult following for some reason I do not understand. With Neil proudly carrying his large pink voodoo doughnut box we then made our way out of City Walk and back to our premier parking spot.
Back at the villa we sat for a while and Karen & Neil ate their Voodoo doughnuts and confirmed they were exceptional. But by 10pm both Karen & I were struggling to keep our eyes open and so left Neil watching Hanitty on Fox News and retired for the night. It had been another tiring but fun Florida day despite the dampness later on.