Son of a Beach – Day 6

My alarm goes off at 6:30am and jump I do.  This morning is about me and nothing else since I am the only person with any Universal tickets on the trip.  Staying on site lets me get into the park early and I have to be back at the hotel before 11:00am.   It’s a hundred and six miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.  Hit it!

IMG_2513I sneak out of my room as quietly as possible at 7:20am and head toward the lobby to find a bus waiting for me.  A handful of other people board the bus before we are well underway.  Drop off is located by the taxi stand outside of Citywalk.  up the escalator, through security, and under the rainbow.  I find myself at IOA gate at 7:45am and the turnstiles are already churning.  Once in we walked through Port of Entry and make our way towards Seuss Landing where we find we are roped off other than a couple of Team Members checking resort I.D.’s. Those who apparently didn’t realize the park opened until 9 without were pushed off to the side as us 1%ers made our way to Hogsmeade.

We wind through Seuss Landing knowing Q is for quan, and quan is for quandry.  Beyond Seuss we blast through the Lost Continent and finally reach the town of Hogsmeade.  I have seen Hogsmeade many times over the years and it still impresses as if it were the first time seeing it.  No other environment I have visited has been as immersive as what Universal has created here.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWith such limited time I wanted to focus on my favorite attractions and ultimately proving the best tip you could ever embrace for any theme park; be there at rope drop.  I proceed to enter the stand by queue for Forbidden Journey and pretty much walked right on.  Much like the impression left when Hogsmeade is revealed, the queue never ceases to amaze me.  I have seen it so many times, and to this day it always exceeds the memory.  After enjoying the attraction, I realize I have plenty of time to ride it again.  This time I headed into the single rider line and once again just walked right on the attraction.  The single rider line bypasses much of the queue, so make sure you don’t use single rider as a rule.

After a 2nd ride, I still had more time to kill since it was only 8:40am and the rest of the park doesn’t open until 9:00am.  I could have jumped into the single rider line again but decided to instead take some pictures of the area and explore the shops.  The shops here are often missed and besides the obvious merchandise among the stores you can find some fantastic displays from the films.  A better plan for me would have been to enter the Olivanders queue as I did notice there were less than 30 people in it as I marched by first thing.  Then  I would have snuck in one more attraction and maybe still had 2 rides on Forbidden Journey.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAlas, whats done is done and I can’t dwell on that now because it was 9:00am and The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman is quite a walk from this location.  As I twist and turn through Jurassic I can’t help but feel like they are not taking advantage of the space.  Yes, it’s a long walk through it feeling like you have passed by not much of interest.  The vegetation is beautiful naturally, and serene for sure, but still feels like something is missing.  A giant ape perhaps?  Next up I make my way through Toon Lagoon and as much as I enjoy the Bilge-Rat Barges and Duddly Do right, this is the land I feel should be removed.  I rarely stop in the area unless the goal is to get absolutely drenched.  With strong rumors of another water park coming, I feel they would be better served to reclaim this space for something else.  Finally approaching Marvel Superhero Island.  I know the area is constantly debated of wether or not they achieved the goal of making the area feel like a comic universe but they hit it out of the park with the background music in this area.  I could sit and listen for hours.  It’s heavy metalish, electronicish, its… Whatever it is, I love it.

There it is, the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman in all its glory.  Truth be told, this is my favorite attraction anywhere.  If I could only ride one more attraction ever, it would not be a difficult choice for me at all.  So on the attraction I go and after helping Spidey defeat the villains I realize it is now 9:25am and I opt to skip Hulk so I can get over to Studios as soon as possible.

I make my quick exit and stroll across the quiet side of CityWalk to gain entry to the Studios where I hope to accomplish quite a bit more.  As I enter I realize that Minion Mayhem is already posting a 45 minute wait at 9:45am so I take that one failure in stride and head toward Optimus Prime.  Transformers is a walk on with single rider so I fared well here.  Naturally this is a close second to my favorite attraction because it is the same sort of technology as used at Spiderman.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI immediately make a break for the Mummy and once again find myself getting through quickly.  Now I make my way towards MIB but take my time admiring the changes in construction to the Diagon Alley section which is almost complete during this trip.  What a difference from my last visit to the park.  It is absolutely beautiful and no doubt it will exceed expectations just as Hogsmeade did.  On to MIB I go in the single riders line and my arch enemy team member is here again.  We have a history.  I have this mini Universal Studios pack that slips through my belt.  This is the only guy that has ever asked me to remove it and today is no different.  This guy has been here for years, cant he get promoted to someplace where he will not be messing with me?  It is a small pack that slides through my belt, but for some reason he decides it is no different than a fanny pack which is not allowed.  Not sure why I tried to reason with him as it fails every time, but I assured him the reason fanny packs aren’t allowed is because they have flimsy plastic clasps while this sucker is laced through my leather belt.  I let him know, as I always do, he is the only person to ever make me undo my belt to remove it but he seemed unmoved.  I mentioned all the attractions I have been on today but it makes no difference and so I just hurried along and put the bag in my pocket and boarded the ride vehicle.

IMG_2517Despite my least favorite team member of all time I had a blast as always on the attraction.  I love this so much more than the comparative Disney equivalents of Buzz and Toy Story.  My scores are not going to win me any awards but I generally beat 500K.

Now it is getting close to 10:30am and I need to be checked out at Cabana Bay by 11am.  So I continue the counter clock wise walk so I can enjoy the Simpsons area scenery.  After taking in as much of the Springfield sights and sounds as time would allow I hastily pushed on and exited the park and made my way to the bus stop where I would be lucky enough to find the bus waiting there for me and only me.  The bus dropped me off and I made it in time enough that the angry looks of the family would not be multiplied since I was there to do the heavy lifting.

In basically 2 and 1/2 hours, I rode Forbidden Journey twice, Spiderman, Transformers, the Mummy, and MIB.  If attractions are your thing it bears repeating.  Be there at rope drop.

If things were not interesting enough for today, they would be now.  We drive to the supermarket to load up on supplies and check in at the Beach Club resort on WDW property.  Only I drop off everyone but my dad because we are now going to return Big Bertha at the airport and use Magical Express for the two of us to get back.  Crazy? Absolutely, did it save a ton of money to do this? You betcha.

IMG_2518So after dropping off the van, my dad and I need to have lunch before it gets to late.  We just basically picked a direction and started walking not knowing what we would come across.  The macaroni grill met the two criteria we were looking for.  #1 it had beer, #2 it had food.  Although ultimately my dad didnt pick anything off the menu to eat I did get a chicken caesar salad that was ok, but the Stella was cold and delicious.  I hit the beer pretty hard since I had no worries any more about driving.  After we had our fill we made our way to the extreme opposite end of the airport where we checked in with Magical Express and it was not long before we made our way toward the Beach Club.  We were the third and final stop but they are pretty efficient so it was not that much of a problem.

Getting back with the family only to find the room is still not ready.  Fortunately after only a short rest in the air conditioning in the very comfortable lobby, we got our text message informing us the room was indeed ready now.  Over to Bell Services to request our luggage be moved and then onto our home for the remaining time of our vacation; a gorgeous 2 bedroom villa.

Ready for our first experience with magic bands and we find that 3 of our group of 6 can’t get in the room.  Fortunately mine is working so I sent the 3 down with their bands to get it sorted.  Fortunately what I expected to be a horror story turned out ok.  Not only did they deal with the problem, the cast member even escorted them back to the room to make sure each one of them worked, which they did.  Problem resolved but would there be more?  Let me jump ahead and let you know that the magic bands from that point forward worked flawlessly for us on reservations, fast passes, and of course entry to our villa.

IMG_2533Once settled in, my parents have their rented scooters, we are ready to trek off to Epcot for our dinner reservation at Via Napoli.  It was great as it always is.  For me the only problem with Via Napoli, is we always go there and I like to switch things up.  So honestly its quite good praise since its the only fault I have with it.  The food is great and there are some good wine options as well as some good beer offerings.  The plan originally was to eat at Beaches and Cream but we could only get a later time slot.  So the fall back plan was to eat at Via Napoli, enjoy a couple of rides, and then take on the Kitchen Sink!

After dinner, we had made just a couple of fastpass+ reservations; for Spaceship Earth, and Test Trek, after we which we began our exit and take on the sink we did.  Well at least some of our group did.  I personally was enjoying a couple of beers watching them take that thing on.  The beer of choice that evening was Flat Tire Ale and I did enjoy it.  The kitchen sink honestly is insane, and they pretty much did defeat it, albeit it took four of them to do so.  So we pretty much rolled ourselves out of Beaches and Cream and made our way back to the room to call it an evening.  Hard to believe this novel was a single day but it was.  This really was a day I will remember.





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