Thursday 12th October 12 – Final Day at Universal

Okay so I’m gonna make this a quicker one, as I’m currently waiting in the hotel lobby with just under the weight limit bags, unwashed hair, and 2 hoodies tied around my waist, waiting to be makeshift plane pillows.

Yesterday was good in its own right, but Oli’s been fighting off a cold, and yesterday it hit him really hard. After no voice in one park, and a really funny tummy in 2 others, yesterday he had the full course. Sore throat, funny tummy, really painful head. So we didn’t really go on any really cool rides, and instead took it easy.

We started anticlockwise, doing the cat in the hat ride (cute first time, wouldn’t go more than once unless in a giggly mood). Then we proceeded to talk in rhyme as we headed to the duelling dragons, planning to do the one we missed last time, while still speaking in rhyme, in the meantime. Unfortunately, the other one was closed thou! Just like Gwazi.

So we did the first one again, walked around a bit, and queued up for the the Sinbad show. The queue took forever, waiting in the hot sun, and with lots of people forming queues, then asked not to queue. Once we got in, it was a little like a stunt show with cheap tricks and jokes alike. It really didn’t get the audience going, but I personally quite enjoyed it. Lots of fire and flying through the air!

Then it was on to Poseidons Fury. A walk through adventure with a (no way it was) 20 min wait time. After a very long time standing in the dark with nothing to keep us amused, the actual thing was again good, but kinda dated. And with the characters or screens saying ‘quickly! Into the next chamber!’ you could tell how invested everyone was as they walked INCREDIBLY slowly into the next room. I felt like I was surrounded by zombies again! Pushing and shoving and elbowing slow zombies. I think they try to cram too many people into each showing, so you spend more time watching your possessions and your face than enjoying the old videos and fire and water. A little disappointing, but maybe in a new light?

Then it was on to have some food in the dino grill place. Again, nice food, and the best ribs I’ve had so far, but on plastic ware which was far to flimsy. To my delight, they did have sanitary wipes so fingers time! Then it was on to walking around, buying a few more souvenirs for people, oh and the fountain! Forgot to mention the fountain in Sinbads place, which spoke to the kids, and squirted them at different intervals. He didn’t have a lot of material, repeating himself a little, but my favourite bit was when one kid exclaimed ‘oh my god!’ and the fountain replied ‘no I’m just a fountain. But I appreciate the compliment little buddy’

Anywho we finished our day with reading some of the comics in the superhero world (found an interesting Spiderman one myself) and started back. By then the sky was darker, and you could see a beautiful purple haze over Hogwarts in the distance. The camera couldn’t really catch this one, but it was really pretty. And then it was back, walking through the throngs of people. I felt that I had accepted that we were leaving, on the condition that we would come back one day, but as soon as I saw the one way turnstiles I admit something snapped and tears were soon falling down my cheeks. I did get a nice distraction on the coach back though, as they were playing the end of the Avengers (puny god) and then it was back to the room where Oli conked out quick and made funny noises, and I sat reading a book online, trying to prolong my final night here. For now. This morning was more of a mad dash to pack, and stay within the weight limits.

Final thoughts:
Universal and Busch Gardens were the winners.
Not only with their easier transport, bigger portions, more reasonable prices, and free refill cups, but also their park layouts which were easier to navigate, better people management (apart from Sinbad), better rides, and all the little added surprises. Like the talking fountain who squirted unsuspecting kids, the loose baby kangaroo whom you could just walk in and pet, the Jurassic Park and Busch Gardens adventure playgrounds which were extensive and available to adults, and the helpful nature of almost every member of staff we met.

Overall, always keep an eye out for what the picture schemes are for rides, Busch Gardens really let us down on this one, but Universal excelled.

And you will never be too far from popcorn, dippin dots, turkey legs, fizzy, or ice cream.

All water is drinkable straight from the tap here, but it tastes nasty and can improve a little if you let it sit in a cup.

Only buy cold water as again it tastes nasty if it’s been left to stagnate in the sun (Disney were very guilty of this one) feel free to try out the kiddy things or the signs to a seemingly boring attraction, as they can often surprise you, and are likely to have shorter queues as they are less advertised.

Lockers are a big concern, as it’s best you don’t bring someone along just to hold the bags while you do stuff (not really fair on them) Disney don’t cater very well here, but there’s less opportunity to fly though the air at high speeds anyway. Busch Gardens and Sea World had a locker system where you use 2 quarters and use the key. However this is for a single use. So if you get thirsty (as you’re bound to) prepare to fish out another couple of quarters for the next ride. Universal have a more future driven idea, and you can technically not pay a thing for locker use. But it uses you fingerprint to unlock it when you’re back, and sometimes the sensors forget you exist. Tis then precedes a laborious hunt for a locker attendant. They also have a 30/40min free time, depending on the ride, after which it asks you to pay money to get your money out… Wait a minute…. Rubbish idea. On the rare occasion this did pop up though, they did seem to be getting your stuff out for free, but again, another hunt through a throng of sweaty people, trying to find an attendant. It’s really not that bad, and very cost effective if you remember to get your stuff before revisiting the gift shop (don’t get caught).

There is also the issue that the pictures from your ride are in the gift shop. My advice: Exit the ride, have one of you ask for a piece of paper with your picture number on it, send the other person with the fingerprint to retrieve your belongings, and meet back at the gift shop. Then, to save time, ask for all of your pictures together at the end of the day. Please keep in mind though, this only works at Universal, and Sea World.

America:
Tips for America also include remembering that chips are crisps (seriously, wouldn’t chips go better with a turkey leg than a random packet of Doritos?)

If you really don’t like the water, remember to ask for no ice in your drinks, and try to have someone who’s good at math with you. Always working out the currency conversion, and adding the tax every time! The signs lie!

Hotel:

And my thoughts on the hotel? The hotel was good. I enjoyed the breakfast buffet but Oli got bored of it. Might not have helped that he had no sense of smell for the second week, and is allergic to the fruit section.

The shops nearby do a lot of the souvenirs you might have missed in the parks, so don’t panic.

And the room itself was fantastic. If you want the best view at the Quality Inn, try and swing a pool facing upper floor room. You’ll get woken up by splashing and laughter in the morning, but I feel that’s well in tone with the holiday, and is preferable to a quiet car park.

They have strong air conditioning so if you have a girl and a boy in the same room, prepare for some on again off again temperatures, and the TV channels were numerous. Although if you have an adolescent sense of humour, cartoon network and adult swim are all you really need.

The staff are friendly, but double and triple check how you’re getting places, as you don’t want to find yourself getting admonished by a grumpy driver. And if you’ve been caught in the rain and are frozen solid by the blaring air conditioning afterward, keep in mind that one, the maids always leave or turn on the air conditioning, and two, they sell hot chocolates. Mmmmmmm.

We didn’t try the dinner buffet, but it did look and smell good too. The showers are a little difficult to turn on, as you need to pull the thing toward you, standing in the bath, and ours at least was a little stiff.

And I’d suggest that you bring your own drink to breakfast. The food really nice, but the drinks were limited to one apple or orange juice each, and tea or coffee. Anything more than that and you have to pay. And of course the tap water tastes nasty, and the juice comes in quite tiny plastic cups.

One perk is the slight assault course to get to your room too. There are little straight paths to reach your room, but they’ve got a bit of a leaky thing. So as long as you keep your eyes on the floor and walk around the wet bits of floor, you won’t get dripped on. I know this sounds bad, but honestly it wasn’t a problem. Just a nice cold surprise if you forget, and at the end of the day you need a little waking up!

Overall:

And overall, a fantastic experience. Laughs, smiles, panicky bits, hot humid times, tears, and for me at least, a big old dollop of nostalgia. With more knowledge under my belt, I feel a little more confident about what I’d like to do next time. And although I know that it’s far off, I’m happy (mostly) to come home, build up more funds, try other adventures, and come back with renewed vigour.

As Universal reminds you on the way out, ‘the adventure continues’ and that’s exactly what I plan to do.

Jaa ne?

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