Thursday, January 2, 2014

Islands of Adventure

I am never going to Islands of Adventure again! 

With my parents, I was in Florida for Xmas time to get away from the cold Chicago weather. Since I used to work for Disney in 2000 as part of the WDW College Program, I feel that going to Orlando is like coming back home.

Since my family has year passes to Disney, it was Xmas time, and my parents had the Prius, I wanted to go to Islands and/or Universal this trip. I tried to go to Universal in August 2012, but with the ticket price at almost $100 a day and needed transportation to the park going to cost $50, it just wasn't worth it that trip. I asked my parents to go to Islands and Universal for my Xmas present and my wish was granted. I especially wanted to visit since I follow Tim Tracker on his YouTube Channel and often see them going to Islands and Universal and I wanted to experience it myself.

My smart father got a 2 Day pass for $123 each from AAA for Universal and Islands. The best part is that it came with a bonus 3rd day to the pass.

On the morning of December 27th 2014, I had breakfast at my parent's hotel (Embassy Suites on Jamaican Court)  and we headed over to Islands of Adventure getting to the parking gate around 8:00 AM. We paid the daily $16 parking feed and parked on the top of the parking garage, level 6. We used the elevator and moving platforms.

We were in the park not too long after we were walking with hundreds of people towards the back of the park to Harry Potter. I felt like I was walking forever as we had to go through Dr. Seuss, some other island and finally got to Harry Potter. As we entered into the village, we first got in line for Olivander's Wand Shop.

Harry Potter Land
My relationship with the Harry Potter books
My parents do not know Harry Potter very well. My mom read the books, but over 10 years ago while I was in college. My dad was clueless and only knows Harry Potter in passing. I had to read the 4th book as part of my Middle School Teaching of English course. Our professor *suggested* we start with book #1, but it wasn't going to be a requirement. I started with the first book in the series borrowing copies from my mom's co-workers or the local library.

Olivander's Wand Shop
The wait was going to be 30-45 minutes. While waiting, my mother went to the bathroom and we saw the line for Forbidden Journey increase rapidly and the line swirl around the area. Olivander's was cute, but my session was mostly adults.  I think it is something that every Harry Potter fan needs to see, but I would not wait an hour or more to see it again.

Forbidden Journey
The line for Harry Potter was 160 minutes. There is no bathroom in the line. The line winded through part of the Jurassic Park area of Islands. There was an "exit" door and I used that for a bathroom break after about 40 minutes in line and met my parents up in line after using the facilities. Since my last two trips to Florida has been as a single rider, it was nice to have my parents rescue me in the line. The line moved swiftly and you rarely stood in the same spot very long. I am a person that would rather walk than stand in the same spot and since I was almost constantly moving, I enjoyed this type of line and the line did not seem as long as it should have.

After about an hour, we entered into the building where we had to put our bags in the lockers. The staff members tell guest to only have one person put things in the lockers. The lockers were small and we needed two of them. It was also very hard to move around the lockers with all the people getting in and out along with the lack of lighting. Also, Islands staff members could not differentiate if you were coming or going and I could see this is the place where you could sneak into the line. You use your fingerprint to lock up items in your locker and you need to remember your locker number. If you do not, the machine will look it up for you using your fingerprint (I tried this a few days later with the same locker system when going on MIB at Universal). There has to be a better system for these lockers and monitoring when you are coming or going. In college, they have cubbies and staff member gives you numbers and you get back your possessions in the cubbies. 

After the lockers, we are put back outside for the line. I asked a staff member how long the wait was now and he said about a half hour. He was very accurate. Most of the line actually was outside and as soon as we got into the building to see show elements, there was no line at all besides everyone stopping to see things. I wish that the line would have gone more into the building rather than outside. I did ask a staff member if there was a "drop" on the ride and they assured me that there was no drop. I don't like the drop even on Pirates at Disney (I love the Maelstrom one though. It must be the angle of the drop that I don't like on Pirates). When I got to the vehicle, I was very nervous. Since I am a curvy girl, they would have probably preferred that I sat at the far left  or right of the vehicle, but I ended up in one of the middle seats. The female staff member was great as she noticed that I was nervous and she said, "You don't have to go on it." I asked her if there were any drops and she said no. She was very pleasant, patient, kind and reassuring. I was clicked in and ready to ride. Hermoine is the first character you see...

I don't want to spoil the ride, but I loved it. It is similar to Spiderman and Terminator, but less movie screens and more moving parts. No 3-D glasses because they would probably fall off. I was afraid of losing my flip flops. In fact, I wanted to go on it again immediately. Since there is that "locker" issue, my dad and I were able to ride almost immediately. My mom wasn't feel well after the ride and she goes on everything at Disney, so she sat down and took our stuff.  We did not wait in the long line outside and just went right in at the lockers again for single riders. I do not feel bad about it since there was only a few people in the single riders line. In fact, if you take that line, you miss many of the line show moments in the building so I would only recommend going into the single riders line after going in the regular stand-by line. After our second ride, my dad wasn't feeling well and he also goes on everything at Disney.

Three Broomsticks
At this point, we were getting hungry. It was about 11 AM and we waited outside to get into the Three Broomsticks. After waiting about 15 minutes, you are placed at one of the several registers to order from the cashier. Then, you move towards the kitchen and the numbered line and get your food. We ordered a butter beer while eating here. Hint: Butter beer is cheaper inside the Three Broomsticks. The best thing about this restaurant is that you are not allowed to "save" tables. You cannot sit until you get your food. I wish some places at Disney would do this as often people are saving tables for thirty minutes waiting for their family to go through the line and get their food while other families have their food and only find a sea of tables with one person sitting there saving a table. A staff member does pick you a table and brings you to the table after you got your food.
The food was good. I liked the corn on the cobb and my half chicken with potatoes. The chicken salad was also very good. I liked the Butter Beer. I got the regular one and not the frozen one.
Regarding the decor, I was slightly disappointed. I felt it was pretty bland. The Hog's Head Pub looked better with the atmosphere.

Flight of the Hippogriff
Since I don't like drops or roller coasters,  I did skip Hippogriff and especially with the 25 minute wait. In fact, my parents got on within a few minutes. I didn't even have time to go to the bathroom until they were looking for me. They liked it and would go on it again.

High Demand causes Shut Down of Entering Harry Potter. 
The bathroom line was long for the women so I decided to leave and use the bathroom in Jurassic Park as I used it before while I was in line for Harry Potter. This is when I found out that they closed the section of Harry Potter to more people and you had to have a "timed" card to get into the area. I told the girl that I was just using the bathroom and that my family was in line and she gave me a card to get right back in immediately which was nice. Also, I came back to her within a few minutes to get back into Harry Potter from Jurassic Park.

Sinbad Show
When I think of Sinbad, I think of the African-American comedian that is in Jingle All the Way. Rather, this is a cheesy, poorly written and acted stage show where Sinbad has to rescue Princess from the evil witch. The puns and jokes need help. Where is Bruce Vilanch when you need him? My suggestion, get the real Sinbad to do a comedy show. Only benefit, I got to sit down for a half and hour to recharge after waiting in line for hours.

My disappointments in Islands of Adventure
By 3:00 PM, I had only done three things: (Olivander's, Forbidden Journey and Spiderman). All of the roller coasters had shorter waits than the rides that appeals to most of the public. Most of the rides are roller coasters and upside down ones (My parents do not go upside down. and I do not do coasters.). As a result, I saw very few things and the wait times for Forbidden Journey and Spiderman were over 1.5 hours. There are a lack of rides and shows to sit down at. As much as I enjoy walking, I need a break. Sitting for thirty minutes at a show helps recharge my body and feet.
I think it is because there was just too many people allowed to enter in the park. Also, the "Islands" are themed well, but there is little walking space between the boulders, gift shops and rides. I felt claustrophobic. There is not enough to do at Islands of Adventure. I felt that they squeezed in this park, but did not make encourage space for people to actually walk.

Why is there such high demand to be in the Harry Potter section?
Well, this is the best and most coveted area of the park. I think this is the only reason I would want to go to Islands and I would only recommend it.

This is why I would never go to Islands of Adventure again especially in peak season (Xmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Summer). There was poor crowd control; I was claustrophobic and there are not enough attractions or shows to appeal to more people that had decent wait times. I used to work at Disney on Xmas and NYE so I know the crowds and expect them and longer wait times, but I did not expect the lack of space for the people to go. If you only have a few days in Orlando, skip Islands. In fact, my parents and I met a couple in line at Haunted Mansion that went to Islands a day or two after us. They said that they only saw three things while they were there and left because they felt t he park was too small to handle the amount of guests. They also used the work claustrophobic to describe Islands saying that they was just not enough space to walk. They paid almost $100 each and felt it was a waste for the money, the amount of things they were able to do, and the crowded atmosphere.

I would go back to Universal, but that post is coming.

Park for Teenagers and Thrill Seekers
One of the things I noticed about Islands was the lack of wheelchairs and strollers. In some ways, it was nice not to have to dodge strollers in the park. In fact, there is little walking room area in the park and if you added the amount of strollers Disney has, you would probably be even more frustrated that I already was. This park is truly for teenagers and above with all the upside down roller coasters. I would not recommend this park for young children. Yes, the Seuss section was cute, but there were crazy lines for only a few rides that would appeal to this age group. All of the rides for children are only in this section. There are no good shows (Sinbad - not a good show) for the kids also in other areas of the park.

Suggestions for Improvement: The Moving Walkways
I'm from Chicago. We stand on the right and walk on the left. Why don't they have similar signs and ideas for the moving walkways at Universal? I like to walk and prefer it to standing. However, I do like to save time and I would prefer to walk slowly on the moving walkways. Universal needs to add signs showing that you can stand on the right, but allow people to walk on the left. One guy even said, "Walkways are for walking!" as he was frustrated by all the families spreading out and not leaving room for people to pass by.

Lost and Found
I thought I left my shoes at the bathroom on Level 3 one night. The phone number is not on the guidemap, but I was able to do an Internet search for the 407 number. I tried to call Universal at 8:10 AM. Lost and Found doesn't open until 8:30. How can they open the park at 8:00 AM, but have no one staffed at Lost and Found? I did end up finding my shoes in my parent's car under my mom's jacket.

Disney's All Star Resort - Santa on Xmas Eve

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