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  1. #46

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    "We had a technical problem on the attraction. Our ride vehicle bypassed most of the games, and just sat in the spot between screens. I had to really argue with a cast member to get a re-ride. He didn't believe me, because no one else in our ride vehicle complained. I can see his point, and I didn't understand why no one else said anything. I also imagine, with the wait times being so long, people may try and scam their way into an extra ride. Regardless, the ride did malfunction, and I did not appreciate that my legitimate complaint was dismissed. The cast member was not helpful or friendly. We got our re-ride in the end, but it was a negative experience.

    When we had a similair problem later on at Universal's Islands of Adventure, we encountered a staff member who addressed our issue in a completely positive manner. That's right, when it comes to top-notch customer service, it's no longer a given that Disney is the best. In my experience, they weren't even close.

    I also question whether this attraction needs a refurb. Maybe if the park had a decent number of rides, they could close Toy Story, but as it stands, with Star Tours being down, they need everything else up and running."

    Unfortunately the cast at Toy Story have been told by their leadership that guest service is no longer priority, while all that matters is numbers. I've had multiple friends who have worked that attraction and all of them have told me that these directives come from the top of the park, Rilous Carter. Toy Story Cast have been told that they don't even have to smile at guest and some have been scolded for stopping to talk with guest.

  2. #47

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    Thanks for the TR!
    Good morning, son
    In twenty years from now
    Maybe we'll both sit down and have a few beers
    And I can tell you 'bout today
    And how I picked you up and everything changed
    It was pain
    Sunny days and rain
    I knew you'd feel the same things...





  3. #48

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    Day 07: September 27

    Magical Express, free on-site transportation, the dining plan, and park admission that gets cheaper by the day, the longer you stay.

    Are the above ways Disney strives to provide value? Not a chance, these are the ways Disney tries to keep you on property, giving them your money, and nobody else. Okay, they admittedly do offer value, but the true motivation is clear.

    We would not be thwarted. We would escape the clutches of the Disney Empire.

    A note about rental cars. On a previous trip, I picked up my car at the location near the Magic Kingdom. It's not so great, as you have to make use of a taxi or the rental car companies shuttle service. It turns out, The Buena Vista Palace is a much more convenient location. It's a short walk from Downtown Disney, so you just hop on a bus headed that way, and shortly thereafter, you have your rental car.

    We got our rental car shortly after 9:00, and made the short drive North to Universal Studios.



    We got to Universal's Islands of Adventure about an hour after opening. We headed left through Marvel Superhero Island. Since the Hulk coaster and Spider-Man attraction were still walk-ons, we did them both.

    The Hulk coaster is a little intense for my tastes, but it's fun. Spider-Man remains one of the best theme park attractions out there. It's a great combination of fast-moving ride vehicle, 3D film elements, and physical effects like heat and water.

    For all the excitement over Radiator Springs Racers coming to Disney California Adventure, I wonder if the real excitement should be for Transformers, coming to Universal Studios Hollywood. It will utilize the Spider-Man ride system, and will probably blow people away.

    Now, when I visit Orlando I don't always visit the Universal resort. It's expensive after all, to not only pay for a rental car, but pay for one or two days admission. They set their prices too close to Disney in my opinion. When a Disney park hopper is considered, I typically end up paying twice as much per day to visit Universal. Sure, they discount multi-day passes like Disney does, but most people don't want a six or seven day ticket to Universal, where at Disney it makes more sense.

    It's one of the reasons I skipped Universal in 2008. It's not that the cost of admission isn't worth it for what you get, just that it can be hard to pay for a full-priced ticket to Universal when you can just add an extra day at Disney for virtually nothing, instead.

    Of course, this time, skipping Universal was not an option. Not with their latest heavily hyped, and positively received, new addition, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.









    We arrived in the area mid-day, and the wait time for the signature attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, was posted at 70 minutes.

    Like many Universal attractions, you can't bring bags with you, so free lockers are provided.

    70 minutes may seem like a long time, but it wasn't bad at all. Since Express Pass cannot be used on this attraction yet, the line was continuously moving. Express Pass is Universal's version of Fastpass, except it is only available to hotel guests and those willing to pay extra.

    The queue itself is also highly entertaining, as it should be. Mirrors, statues, and other elements from the movie are incorporated. The pre-show scenes with Dumbledore, Harry, Ron, and Hermoine are well done. The scene with the latter three in the classroom has a few surprises as well.

    I'll throw in a *spoiler alert* here for anyone who doesn't want to know what the ride is like, but I knew going in what the overall experience would be, and didn't feel like anything was ruined.

    And the ride itself? You've heard the hype? Believe it. This is the best theme park attraction in existence today. They take new technology (the Kuka arms seen earlier at Epcots' Sum of All Thrills) and put it magnificant use.

    They could have done a straight-up motion simulator, but I was really pleased that they chose to combine motion simulation with physical elements. It makes sense to convey Quidditch via a film, but other elements such as the Whomping Willow and Dementors were present in physical form.

    The robot arms allow for a wide range of motion, unlike any other attraction you've seen. It's fast-paced, without being completely nauseating. It's thrilling, without being frightening. It's just a fantastic experience.

    *end spoiler alert*

    On our first ride-through our ride vehicles' sound wasnt working, but when we told a cast member (or whatever Universal calls their employees), he was friendly and got us a re-ride without fuss. This was in stark contrast to the Disney cast member when Toy Story Midway Mania failed on us. The ride was still good without sound, and I was itching to ride again, so I wasn't bitter over the technical malfunction.

    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  4. #49

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    Next up was the obligatory Butter Beer sampling. I didn't even think twice about paying $10 or so to get it in a souvenir mug (it's under $5 I think in a regular cup). I'll pay a premium for what I consider a special, or magical experience.



    It bears mentioning, that when it comes to delivering that hard-to-quantify magical experience, I wasn't feeling it as much at Disney this time around. I certainly felt it at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.



    I've heard great things about Islands of Adventure' signature dining location, Mythos, so that was next on our list.



    It did not disappoint. I don't complain about Disney's food prices too much, as I know I'm going to pay a premium to eat in a theme park, but again Universal provides an experience obviously superior to Disney. The food was good, and more than reasonably priced. At Disney, one cannot be faulted for thinking their high prices exist largely to fool you into thinking the Dining Plan is a bargain.

    Continuing Clockwise through the park, we pass through Suess Landing, one of the more delightful lands of any theme park:







    I love this next attraction. It's like Dumbo, but the ridiculously catchy on-board song offers instructions on how to avoid getting wet from the water spitting fishes:



    One reason Universal will probably never do the business that Disney does, is that they just don't have as many family-friendly attractions. The ones they have are great, but there just aren't that many. The Cat in the Hat ride is a fun, lengthy darkride.

    Upon exiting the Cat in the Hat ride we encounter...a gift shop filled with...Cat in the Hat merchandise?! Now we know we're not in Disney World. Remember when Disney stocked their stores with attraction or land-themed merchandise? Back then, every shop was a new adventure, with exciting new things to purchase. I would actually stop to see what they were selling. Now it's all harmoginized. Once again, Universal does it better:

    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  5. #50

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    We headed over to Universal Studios Orlando. Here's another example of why Universal struggles to match Disney's attendance. They just don't have beloved characters like Disney does. These stars of Magagascar will never be the same draw that Mickey, Donald, Goofy, et all are:



    Ah, E.T. Such a cheesy attraction, but I love it. Steven Spielberg treats the affair far too seriously in the pre-show.



    What will we find in the E.T. shop? Generic Universal merchandise? Plush toys of every character one can imagine other than E.T?



    Nope, once again we find ride-specific merchandise in abundance:

    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  6. #51

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    The excellent Men in Black attraction:



    Once again, an Irish themed shop...



    ...actually sells, Irish-themed merchandise:



    We made our way back to Island's of Adventure, hoping to ride Harry Potter once more to end our day. While it was a 70-minute wait earlier, it was now a walk-on.

    Some shots from the queue:





    Ah, off-season, how I love you:





    The living paintings were amazing, just like they were in the movies:



    The sorting hat animatronic is fantastic:



    And thus ends another day.
    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  7. #52

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE your IOA photos! And I agree. I will pay a premium for a premium experience.

  8. #53

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    Very Nice. This gives me an idea of what to expect when my family goes to Orlando for our first trip there in a few years. (Want to wait till the kids are 5 or 6 first.)
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  9. #54

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    Two things...

    1. I don't really see how the TSM CM let you down or whatever? You got a reride and you said yourself you understood his side of things. It seems like because he didn't pat you on the back as the Universal one did you were displeased with your TSM experience?

    2. Could you elaborate a little more on your dining experience at Universal, because it seemed like you thought it was far superior, but my mouth is watering after all those photos of delicious treats from various WDW restaurants.

    ANYWAY......

    I think this has been the best TR I have ever seen on MC, I can only hope for more! It was especially refreshing to see all the recognition the food at WDW got. Lately the food has been getting a bad rap and trust me I feel your pain with Cape May at the Beach Club, but from the pictures it seems like you had a tremendous dinning experience. Also I am jealous of your Keys to the Kingdom Tour!
    Marquis d'Bod of the RCMC... always and forever



  10. #55

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    Quote Originally Posted by Maverick View Post
    Two things...

    1. I don't really see how the TSM CM let you down or whatever? You got a reride and you said yourself you understood his side of things. It seems like because he didn't pat you on the back as the Universal one did you were displeased with your TSM experience?
    He really did have an unpleasant demeanor. It wasn't like he said "I'm sorry, but I have no way of knowing your ride vehicle malfunctioned", which would have been understandable. He didn't come out and call me a liar to my face, but his attitude clearly implied he was thinking it. I really had to push, and argue the point, more so than seemed reasonable to me at the time.

    I've had things like McDonald's missing part of my order. When I've gone back, they fix it, even though they cannot be certain I'm telling the truth. I believe they do so because they're aware that sometimes mistakes are made. Surely TSM cast members are aware the ride screws up from time to time. Unless they can say, with absolute certainty, that the ride never malfunctions, erring on the side of the customer seems reasonable.

    In all fairness, although the cast member did seem rude and unfriendly, part of my reaction was that a ride I waited a long time for, didn't work properly. I used a Fastpass, but if I'd waited in the 120 minute stand-by line, and the ride didn't work, I'm sure I'd be furious. I honestly don't know why no one else complained, as the malfunction was obvious. We skipped half of the ride, not just one game.

    2. Could you elaborate a little more on your dining experience at Universal, because it seemed like you thought it was far superior, but my mouth is watering after all those photos of delicious treats from various WDW restaurants.
    The food wasn't necesscarily superior to Disney's offerings on average, but it was very good quality, in a nicely-themed environment, with good service, and not at a ridiculously inflated price point.

    Maybe I should have included a few photos.

    Here's the appetizer we had:



    And the restaurant interior:



    ANYWAY......

    I think this has been the best TR I have ever seen on MC, I can only hope for more! It was especially refreshing to see all the recognition the food at WDW got. Lately the food has been getting a bad rap and trust me I feel your pain with Cape May at the Beach Club, but from the pictures it seems like you had a tremendous dinning experience. Also I am jealous of your Keys to the Kingdom Tour!
    Thanks very much. I will be posting more over the next few days.
    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  11. #56

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    My second Photopass CD arrived today, so I'll flashback to September 26th for a moment, and give Disney some props for customer service.

    When I got home and checked my photos online, a few were missing special effects. Silly me, I waited and waited before bothering to e-mail them to ask about corrections. I think I e-mailed Disney on Oct 29th, and since they had a coupon for the CD, I had to place my order by the 31st to save some money.

    So, I ordered the CD, and the online photos were subsequently fixed on Nov 02 or so. It was my own fault for not dealing with it sooner, but I sent them an e-mail anyway. I explained that my photos were set to expire so I couldn't delay placing my order, and asked if I could get digital copies of the corrected photos.

    It turns out, they just decided to send me a second CD. Kudos to Disney on this one.

    Was it worth it to get the corrected photos? You decide:



    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  12. #57

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    Day 08: September 28

    Still in posession of our rental car, once again we escape the clutches of the Walt Disney World empire, and head to the Kennedy Space Center. It's just under an hour and a half away.



    We started our day with the bus tour to various locales. The Space Station portion of the tour was closed that day.

    This is at the viewing platform where you get a view of the Shuttle launch pad:



    Sadly, the tower blocks the view, but it was still cool to see the actual space shuttle out, prepped for its' final voyage:



    As we got off the bus at the next stop, the Orlando rain was back and in full force:



    Some spiffy artwork in the waiting area of the next part of the tour:



    I think this used to be the actual mission control, but don't quote me on that:

    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  13. #58

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    Next up, a giant hangar houses a giant rocket:





    Astrounaut Snoopy:



    Another spacecraft:



    And another:



    You can touch an actual piece of moon rock:



    One of those Apollo spacecraft used for re-entry:



    A space suit on display:

    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  14. #59

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    You'll need one of these babies to drive on the moon:



    One of the old vans used to transport astronauts to their ship. It is not called "Nasa's Magical Express", but perhaps it should be:



    Back at the main complex, we explore a lifesize replica of a Space Shuttle:









    An overview of the Space Center:

    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

  15. #60

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    Re: 12 Days in Orlando: Walt Disney World, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center

    The emotional memorial to the astronauts in the line of duty. I think we all remember the Challenger and other Shuttle disasters, or felt the danger of space travel through the movie 'Apollo 13'. It's hard not to get emotional here:



    My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

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