Friday, January 20, 2012

Queue to pay to queue

I guess it’d be rude to go to Florida without visiting at least one of the world-famous tourist sites. I was put off Disney in Orlando partly because I’ve no real desire to meet a seven-foot mouse, and so Beloved Wife and I settled on Universal Studios.

We arrived in Orlando having failed to locate any suitable motorcycle gear for Muggins, and descended upon a ginormous outlet mall. Most of the population of Florida had seemingly decided to do the exact same thing, so around and around we drove until we found the empty parking space. Beloved Wife was desirous of purchasing shoes. And ships and sealing-wax? No, but if there were blue jeans… I must say that the delights of clothes shopping began to pale after two hours or so, which I think is pretty good going for someone with a Y chromosome.

The shops, seething with bargain hunters, still had their Christmas decorations on display. Such decorations included life-size versions of what happens if you cross anthropomorphic reindeer with Christmas trees.


The mall was close to Universal Studios, so after exhausting the delights of crowded shopping – it’s like Dubai Mall on a Friday evening – we drove around the block to check where the main entrance to the theme park was, and then sought accommodation nearby.

This is one of the problems of simply turning up at a holiday destination during holiday season. No room at the inn. The problem was compounded by a Hand-Egg match: The Cotton Bowl, or Citrus  Bowl, or some such. We drove in ever increasing circles, accidentally finding ourselves on a toll motorway, before locating an expensive flea-pit Motel 6 in Kissimmee. Beloved Wife had already rejected the Bates Motel lookalikes. Grotty it might have been, but the guy on the front desk was very helpful in that he overheard our plans to go to the cinema and called the room after about ten minutes to say that he’d printed off the movie schedules for the local multiplex.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was huge fun, and not just for the “I can see my house from here.”  We had also learned our lesson, and got online to book the following night’s accommodation.

Arrival at Universal Studios was very well organized. Having paid our $15 to park the car, we joined the influx and were marshalled into a generous parking space in ‘Cat in the Hat 2’. The pedestrian slidewalks propelled the multitude towards the main entrance. Do words like ‘tourist sites’, ‘crowded’, ‘holiday season’, and ‘multitude’ appear to be building up to a perfect storm?

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are two adjacent theme parks with a single one-day admission to both of $120. As it’s $90 each if bought separately, and as we both wanted to see stuff in both parks, we bought the $120 tickets. The complicated fare structure included priority passes to jump queues for certain rides, which is something I regard as shockingly unfair. It’s easily possible for a family to lash out $1000 for a day’s entertainment, and then spend two hours queuing for a ninety-second rollercoaster ride. And that family has to wait while a similar family essentially pushes in front having paid a further $500. What they need is a system like getting served in a bank. Take a timed ticket and then come back at the correct time. That way the punter can have fun and spend money elsewhere in the park.

Fairly hairy

The much-publicised “Magical World of Harry Potter” was so popular that punters were queuing for three or four hours just to get into that particular Island of Adventure. Many were outraged that their expensive priority passes didn’t work. The queue wound its way back from the entrance to Hogsmeade back and forth in front of Jurassic Park. I was outraged that nobody was told at the entrance that “You do realize that you’ll have to waste half your day queuing just to get into Harry Potter, don’t you?”

So Beloved Wife and I checked out the rather tame Jurassic Park instead, which was more like a downmarket natural history museum than a theme park. Then we took in a live show. “The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad” was a rollicking pantomime of swinging from the rigging, swordfights, pyrotechnics, water, a hero, a damsel in distress, a comedy sidekick, and a villainous sorceress. Huge fun, however cheesy.

Heroic entrance

All together now: "Bwahahahaha!"

After accidentally finding the exit from Harry Potter, Beloved Wife bewailed to a park employee how we’d travelled from the middle east just to see this…etc, and his colleague turned to me with an, “Excuse me, sir. I think you just dropped this.” It was a re-admission ticket. Result! We were in. I took photos, and even persuaded Madame on to a small and innocuous rollercoaster. Neither of us are rollercoaster junkies, so we found no need to queue to ride on the “awesome” big ride.


Tame ride

Hogsmeade, seething with happy Muggles


Food time, and green eggs and ham in the Dr Seuss area didn’t appeal. The restaurant where we ended up served the usual burgers and fries, but also did fajitas. And the big jug of sangria set us both up to leave Islands of Adventure and go next door to Universal Studios.

I do not like green eggs and ham

The latter’s conceit is that, unlike Islands of Adventure that is mostly thrill rides, Universal Studios consists of movie lots. Shrek was a 3D short film, but with cinema seats that vibrated and squirted water mist and air blasts in time with the film, to startling effect. ‘Disaster Movie’ took the audience through how a film is made, and then put us in an underground metro train during earthquake and flood. We the punters were extolled to act for hidden cameras. At the end of all this, we got to see the finished disaster (or possibly disastrous) movie that we’d watched being made.

We waited for the next show and killed time looking at exhibits from Ye Olde Frankenstein films, The Wolfman, and Norman Bates’ mum. ‘Horror Makeup’ was essentially a lighthearted lecture with props and effects that included the animatronic werewolf head from An American Werewolf in London and some trick knives. An audience volunteer put on a motion-capture suit, and her movements were duplicated by a seven-foot tall version of Wile E. Coyote. The poor volunteer jumped out of her skin when Wile E. turned out not to be quite as he appeared.

Marvellous teeth you have there, Mrs Bates

That's gotta smart!

Animatronic Wile E. Coyote

Animatronic werewolf head

We had little desire to go on the thrill rides owing to the typical 60 to 90 minute wait for each. And I was particularly insulted at being unable to get the mock-up safety harness for one of the rides to close. I’m fat, but not THAT fat! Obviously only beanpole-thin yoofs are s’posed to go on the rollercoaster with the combined loop-de-loop, barrel roll, and loss-de-lunch.

Rollercoaster by night

Exhaustion finally set in after dark, and we wended our weary way back to the car park. Plans for tomorrow involved a whole different genre of theme park. Our hotel was forty miles away in Titusville.

Back to the main post.

More pictures here.



Mme Cyn said...

This was Beloved Wife's fault. For some reason I had had no idea that a world famous child-friendly destination would be packed in the week between Christmas and New Year. Duh. I have been assured that on 'regular' days, we would have gotten on the roller coasters. Which is good, because otherwise, I thought the Universal amusement park was too much money for too little amusement.

Grumpy Goat said...

I am assured by a colleague who 'used to live in Orlando' that the best way to visit the theme parks is to buy a season ticket.

Then turn up at the crack of sparrow-fart and ride one rollercoaster or two. After this the queues get too long.

Come back another day for further rides.

This option is obviously not available to Orlando's tourists.


The opinions expressed in this weblog are the works of the Grumpy Goat, and are not necessarily the opinions shared by any person or organisation who may be referenced. Come to that, the opinions may not even be those of the Grumpy Goat, who could just be playing Devil's Advocate. Some posts may be of parody or satyrical [sic] nature. Nothing herein should be taken too seriously. The Grumpy Goat would prefer that offensive language or opinions not be posted in the comments. Offensive comments may be subject to deletion at the Grumpy Goat's sole discretion. The Grumpy Goat is not responsible for the content of other blogs or websites that are linked from this weblog. No goats were harmed in the making of this blog. Any resemblance to individuals or organisations mentioned herein and those that actually exist may or may not be intentional. May contain nuts.